“What should my postpartum diet look like?” is one of the questions all new moms ask at least once.
If you’re like a lot of new moms, you’ll be eager to start shedding the gained baby weight soon after childbirth. Not so fast with the aggressive postpartum diet, though.
Some of that weight is there to assist you in breastfeeding, and if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, then you’ll hit a point, usually around three months, where the weight will start dropping off by itself.
The important thing is to focus on healthy, balanced postpartum nutrition that nourishes you and your growing baby. Choose foods that keep your milk supply up, that sustain your energy, and that keep your mental health on the positive side.
Read on for the best postpartum weight loss plan, including exercises, to help you get your pre-baby body back in a safe and healthy way.
Healthy postpartum diet
For balanced postpartum nutrition, you’ll want to eat a variety of foods every day including protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Following are examples of each and how they help your body heal or keep up milk production.
Your muscles repair themselves using nutritional building blocks called amino acids. Your body gets those amino acids from protein.
You’ll want to stick to lean protein sources, however, as some meats, for example, can be too fatty.
Good protein sources include:
- Fish and seafood
- Low-fat milk
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Soy products like tofu.
Complex carbohydrates are crucial for postpartum diet
As much as you might want to stay away from carbs, they’re actually essential for regulating hormones, keeping up milk production, as well as for your mental health, and staving off postpartum depression.
Complex carbs are those that are higher in fiber and take longer to break down.
They won’t give you a sugar rush and crash as simple carbs do.
Great sources of complex carbohydrates include:
- Whole grains
- Bread and pasta made from whole grains
- Brown rice
- High-fiber fruits
- Starchy vegetables.
Your body gets a lot of essential vitamins and nutrients from fruit, but you’ll want to eat it in moderation.
Although fruit is healthy for you, overdoing it can provide too much sugar in your postpartum diet.
Some great high-fiber options are:
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
Watermelon is also highly nutritious as it provides a lot of fiber and helps balance electrolytes while hydrating with its high water content.
Vegetables to eat in your postpartum diet
Vegetables also provide a lot of vitamins, and their high fiber content prevents constipation and helps you feel full longer, which is a key part of any postpartum weight loss plan.
When it comes to vegetables, the common expression, “Eat the rainbow,” is great advice as it’s best to have as many different colors in your postpartum diet as possible.
You almost can’t go wrong with vegetables, but some of the best ones are:
- Bell peppers
- Spinach and other dark, leafy vegetables
Starchy vegetables, although given a bad rap in the past, are also very healthy for you.
Good options include:
- Potatoes, especially sweet potatoes and yams
Fats to include in postpartum diet
We get so bombarded with messages about how fat is bad for us and that we should eat low-fat diets. However, our brains need fat in order to function, and while breastfeeding, fat greatly aids in milk production.
That doesn’t mean you can fill up on ice cream and binge on your favorite cheeses, but in healthy portions, fat is an essential part of a well-rounded postpartum diet.
The best sources of healthy fats include:
- Walnuts and other nuts
- Peanut butter
- Eggs with the yolk
- Chia seeds
- Whole-fat milk and yogurt.
Fatty fish like salmon is also a great source of healthy fat, but make sure that it’s wild-caught and not farm-raised as farm-raised fish could contain heavy metals like mercury.
Foods to avoid in the postpartum diet
Although you don’t have to completely restrict yourself, there are some foods that shouldn’t be on your postpartum diet plan, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Others are okay in moderation, but best to keep them at a really minimum level.
Right off the bat are processed foods, fast foods, sugary snacks, fried foods, and soft drinks.
They’re full of sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and preservatives, which can affect your body’s ability to regulate hormones, among other things.
These shouldn’t be part of any kind of nutrition plan, but especially your postpartum nutrition plan.
Fish with high mercury levels
The fish that are at the top of the natural food chain also tend to be the ones with the highest levels of mercury. This can not only be dangerous over time to adults but can really be harmful to a baby’s brain development.
Fish that tend to be high in mercury include:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
Alcohol should be avoided while breastfeeding, but if you do decide to have a drink, either have it after you breastfeed or at least 2-3 hours before in order to minimize the amount passed to your baby through your milk.
If you’re breastfeeding a newborn to up to 6 months, it’s best to avoid it completely as it may not be possible to wait for 2-3 hours between feeds.
Caffeine can stunt a baby’s growth and development, so try to keep it to a minimum when breastfeeding. It’s best to limit the amount of caffeine to below 300 mg per day.
This includes coffee, caffeinated teas (green, black, and white teas), soft drinks, and energy drinks. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it at all. One or two coffees can be tolerated, but don’t overdo it!
Postpartum diet plan while breastfeeding
An effective postpartum diet plan, first and foremost, needs to be balanced.
While breastfeeding, it’s especially important to get all your food groups in, and your calorie needs will be higher than usual.
On average, a healthy diet for a woman would be around 1,800-2,000 calories a day. A breastfeeding mom, however, needs closer to 2,300-2,500.
Make sure to have a balance of both carbs and proteins at each meal, too, because carbohydrates increase serotonin (which prevents postpartum depression), while protein suppresses serotonin. That doesn’t mean skipping the protein, however.
A balanced diet means balanced hormones and a balanced mood and metabolism.
In addition to food, make sure to drink around 3 liters of water per day. This will not only help flush excess fluids from your body but will keep you hydrated so you can feel better.
Sleep is another important factor in an overall postpartum weight loss plan. Adequate sleep keeps cortisol levels down, which are also contributors to weight gain if too elevated.
Bellabeat’s guide to postpartum diet
Although you’ll need to take it easy at first, especially if you had a cesarean delivery or have diastasis recti, there are some exercises you can do almost right away after giving birth.
These exercises not only burn extra calories and help you lose weight, but they help your body and muscles heal.
Following are safe and effective exercises you can do as part of your overall postpartum weight loss plan. Just remember to ease into them and don’t push yourself too much.
You won’t have the same strength levels that you had before the baby, and overdoing it might cause injury to muscles and tissue that are in the healing process.
As boring and obvious as this sounds, walking is actually one of the best exercises you can do – postpartum or not.
For starters, walking helps put your body back into alignment. If you have diastasis recti, walking will help encourage your ab muscles to go back together as your core becomes stronger.
It also helps get your pelvis, spine, and knees back into healthy positions now that they’re not supporting extra baby weight. The movement from walking massages your insides, as well.
This can keep your bowels flexible and prevent constipation, and it can help your body to flush out any postpartum fluids that cause swelling.
Lastly, walking aids in weight loss, although you shouldn’t feel pressured to focus on this early on after childbirth.
You’ve likely heard of Kegels. They’re a popular exercise for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, which hold up your uterus, bladder, rectum, and part of your intestines. Carrying a baby for nine months, and then pushing it out in delivery, puts serious strain on your pelvic floor muscles.
Kegels are an easy and effective way to get those muscles tight again, and strengthening them will even enhance your sexual pleasure.
The great thing about kegels is that you can do them anywhere and no one will even know. It might take some getting used to in the beginning, but imagine that you’re sitting on the toilet to pee and then you want to stop the flow of urine. The muscle you contract to stop that flow is your pelvic floor muscle, and kegels are “flow-stopping” exercises.
Even just a few kegels here and there as you think of it throughout the day will help strengthen those muscles.
And an added side benefit? You won’t pee when you sneeze anymore! They’re one of the best postpartum exercises you can do.
Specialized postpartum exercises help your body get back to its natural state. They help regain the strength in your abdomen and strengthen the muscles in your body.
If you’re looking to start exercising after birth check out our 12 Best Postpartum Exercises guide.
Although the focus shouldn’t be on weight loss in the beginning, it’s understandable that you’ll be eager to lose that still-pregnant look as quickly as possible after baby comes.
Just remind yourself that the most important thing is your and your baby’s health. Everything else will come later in due time. The weight will come off. Just give yourself the space to heal and connect with your baby.
By following a safe and healthy postpartum weight loss plan, you can ensure that you’re eating the right foods and doing the right exercises to support your body. With balanced postpartum nutrition, you’ll keep your milk supply up, as well as your energy levels.
Let us know what other tips or suggestions you have that worked for you. Do you have a postpartum diet plan that worked particularly well for you? How about exercises?