Post Birth Food
Once you’ve had your baby, postnatal nutrition is very important, whether you are breastfeeding or not.
Dealing with fatigue after pregnancy and giving birth as well as feeding and taking care of your baby will require a lot of energy and an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.
Enjoying a variety of foods from the core food groups is the key to healthy eating. Always start the day with a nutritious breakfast: breads and cereals for energy, dairy products for calcium and protein, fruits for vitamins and minerals and a drink to hydrate your body. Keep your fluid intake high by drinking plenty of water and meet your calcium needs by eating 3-4 calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt every day.
Meeting your needs
To guard against the risk of low iron stores, eat a variety of foods rich in iron. The iron in red meat, poultry and fish is absorbed much more easily than the iron in plant-based foods like legumes, vegetables and grains. You can help to increase your absorption of iron from plant based foods by adding a Vitamin C rich food or drink to your meal.
To help build up your reserves of magnesium, iron, folic acid and vitamin C, aim to eat a variety of foods from the examples below.
There is magnesium in:
Dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs), nuts (peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds), wheat bran (unprocessed and processed), soy beans, tofu, cocoa powder and chocolate.
You will find iron in foods:
Of animal origin: meat (e.g. beef, lamb, chicken, pork, kangaroo), offal (e.g. liver, kidney), fish and shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels).
Of vegetable origin: legumes (e.g. chick peas, lentils, baked beans), bran flakes, wheat flake breakfast biscuits, wholegrain bread, eggs, nuts (pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts) spinach and bok choy.
Excellent sources of folic acid (a B group vitamin) include wheat flake breakfast biscuits, corn flakes, bran flakes, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli and spreads made from yeast extract. Very good sources of folic acid include green beans, green peas, leek, parsnip, cabbage, beetroot, spinach, capsicum, cauliflower, chickpeas, peanuts, oranges, orange juice, oats and wholegrain bread. Other good sources include cos lettuce, avocado, carrots, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, wheat germ, bananas and canned salmon. As folic acid is destroyed by heat, eat these foods raw or try cooking them for short periods of time only.
You will find Vitamin C in many fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, kiwifruit, blackcurrants, strawberries, papaya) as well as in certain vegetables (parsley, capsicum, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, red cabbage, cabbage, spinach and watercress). Vitamin C is sensitive to cooking and therefore tends to be lower in cooked foods.
Nutrition for new mums
Pregnancy and childbirth places strenuous demands on your body. After giving birth, your reserves of iron and other minerals and vitamins may have been depleted. Take the time to “spoil” yourself and take care of yourself. A well-balanced diet is important in the recovery stage after the birth of your baby.
Good eating tips for breastfeeding mums
Breastfeeding mums need more kilojoules than bottle feeding mums – an extra 2500 kilojoules (that’s 600 calories) per day in fact! Producing milk uses up a lot of energy – which explains why nursing mums often lose the fat built up during pregnancy faster than those who bottle feed. The extra kilojoules you need when nursing should come from nutritious snacks like yoghurt, MILO with reduced fat milk, fruit (fresh, canned or dried) and wholegrain sandwiches with fillings like canned tuna, salmon, sardines, baked beans, hummus, reduced fat cheese and salad.
There are some extra goodies you need when you are breastfeeding.
An extra 16g of protein is needed each day for the first six months of lactation. This is equivalent to either 65g of cheese, meat, poultry or fish, or 2 large eggs.
In order to preserve your calcium stores in tact, you need an extra 400mg of calcium a day (on top of the usual 800mg of calcium). The additional 400mg of calcium can be found in either a large glass of milk, a 300g serve of yoghurt, or two slices of cheese. To learn more see Calcium.
You need an extra 6mg of zinc each day when lactating. The best sources of zinc include seafood and lean red meat, so include a variety in your daily diet.
The Vitamin C content of human milk can fall if your own intake of Vitamin C is low. Therefore, an extra 45mg of Vitamin C is needed every day. This can be achieved by having an extra piece of fruit each day.
Keep your fluids up by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Being well hydrated will help your supply of milk for your baby. Aim for around 1½ to 2 litres of fluid every day (or more if you feel the need).
Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and medications pass from your blood into your breast milk.
Keep a watch on the number of caffeinated drinks (e.g. coffee, tea, cola drinks) you have and limit or abstain from alcohol. If you wish to have an alcoholic drink, have it immediately after you have breastfed your baby to minimise the amount that passes into your breast milk.
Good eating tips for bottle feeding mums
Bottle feeding mums need fewer calories than breastfeeding mums. Nursing mums need an extra 2500 kilojoules a day to produce milk, whereas bottle feeding mums do not have any extra energy requirements.
The key to healthy eating for bottle feeding mums is the same as for the general population include a wide variety of nutritious foods, in the right balance. The guide to healthy eating provides an overview of what to eat.
Every day, aim to include a variety of:
Vegetables and fruits – fresh, canned and dried.
Wholegrain breads, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles.
Reduced fat or low fat dairy foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, custard and ice cream.
Lean meats, poultry, fish, seafood.
Legumes like red kidney beans, baked beans, lentils, chick peas, split peas.
Unsalted nuts and seeds.
Small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated margarines and oils.
Plenty of fluids, especially water.
Occasional treats for your pleasure.
To keep your energy levels high, try spacing your food over six smaller meals and snacks instead of three larger meals a day.
Some examples of tasty, nutritious snacks you could have between meals include:
Reduced fat or low fat fruit yoghurt.
MILO with reduced fat milk (served hot or cold).
Freshly cut fruit pieces drizzled with reduced fat vanilla yoghurt.
A handful of dried fruit and nut mix.
Plain pikelets or fruit pikelets with a scraping of real fruit jam and cottage cheese.
Wholegrain crackers with reduced fat cheese.
A slice of wholegrain toast topped with tomato and cracked pepper.
Iced coffee made with reduced fat or low fat milk.
For more information on nutrition while breast feeding see the MoH Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregant and Breast Feeding Women or Eating for Healthy Breastfeeding Women
For bottle feeding mums see the MoH Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Adults
This fact sheet contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.