by Katherine Gerster
I’ll never forget how hungry and thirsty–and tired!–I was in the months after each of my children was born. The demands on our bodies in the fourth trimester can feel every bit as strenuous as pregnancy, and just when we feel most depleted, the prospect of going to the kitchen and preparing a meal can be daunting.
I chatted with registered dietician Hava Ungar of Persimmon Nutrition about how to stay nourished in those first postpartum months. Ungar has been in those newborn mom trenches herself–her son is now eight years old–and as a nutritionist, she’s experienced advising both prenatal and postnatal clients. You may not know it, but dietician consults are fully covered under many health plans, and during transitional times like pregnancy and the newborn period, they can be especially helpful! Below is a summary of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Hava Ungar, R.D.
KG: What’s your advice for a new mom who’s constantly hungry and thirsty? What are the best things to eat?
HU: First, staying hydrated isn’t only about drinking water. It may not be intuitive that foods are hydrating, but foods like cauliflower, cucumber, watermelon, and other fruits and vegetables all have high water content. Those foods not only provide hydration, but they have fiber, which helps your good gut bacteria and it helps regulate your blood sugar. Broths and soups are hydrating, too. Often when you’re super thirsty from nursing, you’re also really hungry. We want to add some fiber to help us feel satisfied and also regulate our blood sugar.
Another type of food to focus on is healthy fats. Make sure you’re getting some healthy fats from things like fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Salmon and walnuts in particular are great.
Try to eat at regular intervals. You need a minimum of 1800 calories a day while nursing, which is a lot to keep up with! If you're not eating enough, nutrients are going to go to the baby first, through breastmilk, and the mom is going to be depleted.
Beyond eating and drinking, care for your body in other ways. Try to get yourself outside. That’ll help tell your body it’s daytime, which you can forget when you have a newborn. It’ll also get you moving, which can boost your mood. Getting sleep is important, too, though obviously prioritizing sleep is easier said than done!
KG: We’re all thinking about the baby weight. Any advice for how to lose it?
HU: A way to think about that is that weight is not a behavior. So let’s reframe that question: what can you do to be at your healthiest or to feel your best? A lot of that is actually related to lifestyle behavior, so there’s more to consider than just nutrition. Number one, social connection. Are you connecting to others? Are you feeling supported? Do you have an outlet for your community? Physical activity also impacts your feeling of well-being. Once you're approved by your physician, it’s great to exercise and get outdoors and just be active.
Nutrition is important, too, of course. What are you doing to nourish yourself? Are you getting the foods and the hydration that you need? We’d look at that, too.
All of that said, remember that everyone loses weight at a different rate, and a variety of factors will contribute. Activity is going to help, nursing is going to help, nourishing yourself is going to help.
KG: For moms who have trouble with their milk supply, can certain foods help?
HU: “Galactagogues” are foods that help increase your milk supply. There isn’t much research on them at this point, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they can increase your milk supply. Since they’re also nutritious foods, it can’t do any harm to add them into your diet. Some examples to try:
- Pumpkin, which is nice as a mix-in with oatmeal or yogurt
- Protein rich foods like eggs, beans, chicken, and seafood
- Fennel, on a salad or in a tea
- Fenugreek, usually in a tea
If you’re having trouble with your milk supply, though, try reaching out to a lactation consultant, too. Maggie Kler, IBCLC, at Healthy Horizons is a great one!
KG: Any shortcuts you can recommend to new moms who are too exhausted to cook?
HU: Try a meal kit service. They can be more expensive than buying groceries yourself, but if you can afford it, it can really be a time-saver. There are a lot of good ones out there, including Thistle, Gobble, One Potato, and Good Eggs. There’s even a service that’s targeted to new moms, Kitchen Doula.
Have a nursing basket prepared with a water bottle, some snacks, and some things keep your other child busy if you have an older child. It helps to have snacks and water at arm’s reach when you’re stuck under a sleeping baby!
If you still have time before your baby arrives, consider having a “cooking party” instead of a traditional baby shower, where you gather with friends to cook a couple of dishes to freeze to enjoy after the baby arrives.
Thank you, Hava, for your tips! BPC members, please remember that we offer “In-a-pinch” meals for new moms. In the program, a volunteer from the club will bring over dinner for your family to save you a night of cooking. We know this can be a lifesaver when you have a newborn at home! To sign up to receive a meal, or to prepare one for another club member, visit our Meal Train page.
Ignite Tennis Academy
Peninsula Temple Sholom invites you to a special education open house on Sunday, May 15th, 10:30-11:30 am. The open house is aimed at families with 4-year old children to acquaint them with our religious school program. The morning will commence with a light breakfast and informal time with other parents and religious school faculty. Then, participants will shadow the current kindergarten class and join the school for music time. Email Rabbi Liora Alban at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.