September 10, 2020
Postpartum Wellness

Hey, hey! Well, if this post isn’t a long time coming. My sweet Emery is now almost 6 months old (!) and having a baby during a pandemic has certainly thrown my postpartum wellness for a loop. I typically joke that I’ve got two speeds these days– things are amazing and I’m so lucky to have all this time with my babes or OMG, this is really hard. 

New baby or not, my guess is that most of you feel the same way.  It’s why I want to chat a little about postpartum wellness; the things I’m focused on and my tips for new mamas in this space.

I given birth twice in the past three years and found that while we often chat about prenatal and pregnancy nutrition, there isn’t as much of a focus around how we should be taking care of ourselves after baby is here.

Postpartum Wellness Needs

Even if you’re no longer ‘eating for two’ your diet still matters. I like to think of the postpartum period like I would for my athletic clients after they’ve completed a huge physical endeavor. Which, is exactly what pregnancy and then giving birth is. 

You’ve just spent the last 9-10 months growing another human and recovering from the demanding activity of labor. That’s to say nothing of the fact that right after you give birth, your body continues to provide nourishment for your new baby, which can be both physically and emotionally draining. 

Becoming a mother has left me in awe of all the mothers who have come before me. You give so much of yourself to have your children; something that I never really considered until I actually did it.

This all means that you need to continue to nourish your body with not only enough energy to heal and produce enough milk, but various micronutrients that are likely depleted after giving birth.

Continue with a Multivitamin or a Prenatal 

While it’s always a good idea to discuss supplements with your doctor, I recommend continuing with a multivitamin to cover any gaps in your diet, especially with a focus on B vitamins, and Vitamins A, C and D as those levels in breastmilk are all affected by mom’s intake. Continuing your multivitamin (like HUM Nutrition’s Base Control) is a great way to ensure you’re meeting the needs of both you and your baby.

Now, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll also want to up your intake a little. The average women needs about 500 extra calories a day to meet the demands of lactation, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that you are much more hungry breastfeeding then you were pregnant. {do yourself a favor and keep these energy granola bites in the freezer for quick-fix snacking} 

Say YES to Help

Instead of focusing too much on calories, give yourself grace knowing that you’ll need more energy during this time and to eat when you are hungry. As those first few months of baby’s life can seem like a round-the-clock feeding blur, this is a great time to employ help from family and friends.

If someone offers to help, have them bring food or cook you a meal. Not having to think about what you are going to make can feel like a godsend some days. We didn’t allow visitors for the few first months after having Emery, but several friends sent us dinner through postmates/delivery and it was AMAZING. I can’t tell you how great it feels to not have to worry about dinner when you’re struggling with balancing both a newborn’s needs and a toddlers. 

Getting enough DHA and EPA

In addition to calories and a daily vitamin, you’ll also want to focus on fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA.

These two fatty acids were important and pregnancy and important during breastfeeding. While ALA omega-3 fatty acids are also present in plant-based foods like walnuts  and flaxseeds, only preformed DHA crosses over into breastmilk. This is why I recommend that anyone who doesn’t consume fish 2x/week take a DHA supplement while breastfeeding (and during pregnancy!) 

DHA plays a major role in baby’s brain development and EPA may help reduce symptoms of postpartum depression. That’s why it’s recommended that breastfeeding moms supplement with at least 300mg of omega-3 DHA per day, especially if you don’t consume fish regularly. For fellow vegetarians, there are plenty of vegan DHA supplements out there! 

Beef up your B12

Lastly, you’ll want to beef up your B12. The need for B12 increases during lactation due to the expansion of tissues and baby’s need for b12. I wrote an entire post last month about the importance of B12 and why it’s not a good idea to rely on plant foods for your B12 needs. Check it out here. 

While your daily vitamin may contain enough B12 for the average omnivore, it’s recommended that breastfeeding plant-based moms take a daily supplement of at least 30mcg per day. It’s why I take HUM Nutritions B12 Turbo daily. It contains 1000mcg of B12 per tablet, which is plenty for breastfeeding moms. 

Give yourself some grace 

Let’s switch gears from nutrition and talk more about taking care of ourselves. From experience, I know that the postpartum period is challenging.

You’re suddenly responsible for this new person and their many demands typically fall squarely on mama’s shoulders: feeding them every few hours for the first month or so, bonding with them and then somewhere in there trying to also nourish yourself and sleep.

That’s to say nothing of the roller coaster your hormones gone on, which can leave you feeling more anxious and depressed. It’s OK to admit that it’s hard. 

I think it’s important for all of us to check in our our postpartum friends often to see how they are doing and if you aren’t feeling like yourself, be honest about what you need and how you are feeling. Our culture often expects mom to power through the first year of the child’s life, and while there is a lot of joy and happiness with having a new baby, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

Your health is important and if you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed and unhappy, talk with someone.

Exercise may help, but start slow  

There’s a large connection between mental health and physical exercise, but that doesn’t mean that you should jump back into your old routines.

There’s a reason were asked to wait at least 5-6 weeks before doing any strenuous exercise, even longer if you’ve had a complicated delivery or a C-section. Heading back into heavy exercise too soon can deplete your precious energy stores and leave you feeling even more exhausted. I remember crying to BL to come get me after I went out on a jog shortly after having Vander and didn’t think I could make it home; my body was completely exhausted and I didn’t have the strength to head back on my own. 

Light walks with your new baby and postpartum yoga are a great place to being before going back to your pre-pregnancy workout routine. This can also help you slowly build back up your strength and stamina along with a little endorphin mood boost.

Thankfully, there are so many wonderful online classes geared towards new moms these days, with many free options on youtube. I’ve been doing at-home classes through my old yoga studio in Sacramento and it’s fun to log in and be able to exercise at my own pace, in the comfort of my own home. Especially on days when I want just a little and can’t commit to a full class. 

Find some YOU time

The last tip I’ll leave you with is to try and find a little you time everyday. Even if it’s just 5 minutes alone to breath and connect with yourself, every little bit helps.

It can be demanding to give so much of yourself to your beautiful new baby and I’ve found that taking time to reconnect with what you need as well can be really helpful. 

What are your favorite postpartum wellness tips? 

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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