By Amanda Rohwedder. Original version published in Family Foundations.
Edith Stein said that a woman “naturally seeks…to cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth…” and referred to this as a maternal yearning within every woman. The postpartum woman has a particular instinct to cherish, guard, protect, and nourish her child, but she would do well to remember (with the help of her spouse) to do these same things for herself: to cherish her body, and how it has changed, as service to the miracle of creating new life; to focus on eating foods that will guard and protect her recuperating body; and to nourish herself first in order to fuel her daily work and responsibilities.
There are specific nutrients that your postpartum body needs to recover and heal. It’s important to increase intake of foods with good sources of these, but it is also recommended to discuss the risk of deficiency with your doctor.
Iron – This mineral helps maintain healthy blood and can become depleted during childbirth. If breastfeeding, your milk supplies iron for proper development and thyroid function of the baby, further using your body’s iron stores. Iron is most easily absorbed from animal sources such as red meat, liver, shellfish, and canned tuna. Other good sources are beans, lentils, quinoa, and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. Pair with foods rich in Vitamin C to increase absorption.
Vitamin B12 – Many people are unaware that B12 is required by many cells in your body, including red blood cells, DNA and nerve cells. Babies with low B12 intake tend to be more irritable and are at an increased risk for failure to thrive and poor brain growth. This key vitamin can be found in beef, liver, salmon, and shellfish, as well as in eggs, dairy and nutritional yeast.
DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) – Research has shown DHA to enhance focus, reduce inflammation, and reduce the risk of postpartum depression. It plays a large role in brain and vision development; positive effects were found in infants of mothers with high DHA concentration in breastmilk. Good sources are salmon, shellfish, sardines, tuna, and fortified eggs and dairy. Supplementation is often necessary for postpartum woman as it can be challenging to get enough through diet.
Choline – Choline is crucial for brain development, similar to folic acid. Breastfeeding moms have an increased need for this nutrient because of its importance to infant memory and nervous system development. The best sources are eggs, organ meats, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and edamame.
Vitamin D – This vitamin plays a role in strengthening immunity and the nervous system, plus reduces risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. Pregnant and lactating women have increased vitamin D requirements. Dietary sources are fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and orange juice. Supplementation is often necessary as it can be challenging to get enough through diet (consider cod liver oil for natural supplement option).
6 Healthy Meal Plans for Busy New Parents
These meals are designed to provide rich sources of critical nutrients for both mom and breastfeeding babies, while also being easy to prepare and nutritious for the whole family.
Don’t Face Postpartum Alone
The beauty of an NFP community is knowing nobody has to face different stages in fertility alone. Fertility Science Institute offers Coaching for Postpartum and Nutrition and Wellness, in both English and Spanish.
Amanda is a degreed nutritionist, with a B.S. Nutritional Science and M.S. Medical Science with a concentration in Women’s Health. She founded Temple and Table as a way to nourish our culture by drawing a connection between physical and spiritual health. For more information, visit templeandtable.com.