Moms who have just given birth need good nutrition to support their healing and recovery. And for mothers who are breast-feeding, their diet also has a direct impact on their baby's health and growth.
Registered Dietitian Melissa Mitri specializes in nutrition counseling for busy moms, helping them move away from restrictive, fad diets and find more sustainable ways of meeting their health goals. Today, she joins me to talk specifically about special nutritional needs during the postpartum period. In this interview, Melissa shares why nutrition is so important after childbirth and details the five most important nutrients for postpartum mothers. Below are highlights from our discussion. Click on the audio player to hear the entire interview.
5 Critical Nutrients for Postpartum Mothers
- Iron. It's important to replenish the iron you lose during childbirth. If you're breastfeeding, your iron stores supply your baby with iron for their proper development and thyroid function.Good iron sources include red meat, liver, clams, oysters, and green leafy veggies. If you’re a vegetarian, Melissa recommends an iron supplement.
- Vitamin B12. B12 is required for proper red blood cell development, energy production, and helping to form our DNA. Babies with inadequate B12 levels are often more irritable, and have an increased risk for failure to thrive, developmental delays, and poor brain growth. The best sources are animal foods, such as clams, tuna, liver, beef, and salmon. You can also get if from fortified dairy and cereals. Vegans are advised to take a B12 supplement.
- DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. Infants of mothers with a high DHA concentration in their breast milk have been shown to have improved brain and vision development. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, there has been research in the role of DHA in enhancing mental focus, and reducing inflammation and the risk of postpartum depression. Good sources include salmon, sardines, fortified eggs, and dairy. Most moms should continue to take a DHA supplement after pregnancy because many do not get enough in their diet.
- Choline. Choline is a nutrient similar to folic acid that is crucial for brain development. The needs for this nutrient increase during pregnancy and are the highest in breastfeeding moms. Choline is very important for infant memory and brain development. The best food sources of choline are eggs and organ meats like liver.
- Vitamin D. It supports the immune system, brain, and nervous system and reduces risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. The best dietary sources of Vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon and tuna, liver, fortified dairy and orange juice, and egg yolks.