Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, eating healthfully is important during those first few postpartum weeks, since your body needs proper nutrients to heal. If you are nursing, eating the recommended 500 extra calories a day is pretty easy to do — you’re hungry! The key is to make sure it’s not all coming from junk food.
In her book Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding (Villard Books, 1992), Eileen Behan, R.D., cites studies suggesting that the extra 500 calories (resulting in a total intake of about 2,700 calories per day) may be too much for some women, preventing a steady loss of pregnancy weight. But going below 1,800 calories a day could affect your milk quantity and quality. Before altering your diet now, talk to a registered dietician or your doctor.
Got the blues?
Most women experience “baby blues” sometime in the first weeks following birth. This is a normal part of the postpartum cycle and is characterized by weepiness, irritability and anxiety. It will usually resolve itself within two weeks. However, about 10 percent of new mothers move on from the baby blues to postpartum depression, a more serious condition that may prevent the mother from being able to properly care for herself or her new baby.
“The emotional highs and lows of the postpartum period are most likely the least-prepared-for aspect of the arrival of the new child,” says Tami Jones, M.S.W., a counselor at the Christian Counseling Center in Boise, Idaho. “Visions of sugar plums fade rapidly when faced with the reality of a hungry, crying infant who needs a diaper change at 3 a.m. Realize that feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt and even anger toward the infant are normal for many women. Stop trying to avoid them, and seek out the professional help you need,” she says. “Denial of the problem will only make it worse.”
“Rest when the baby rests” is easier said than done; perhaps “lie down while nursing” is a more realistic recommendation. Some moms swear by freezing meals before the baby is born and keeping a list handy of restaurants that deliver. Another tip: Stay in your nightgown for at least a week to give unexpected visitors the message that you’re still resting.