Forest Trees

Postnatal nutrition and weight loss

Postnatal nutrition

Following pregnancy and birth, your body needs to be nourished and hydrated in order to support your recovery. Any nutrition that you take on board will also need to cater to the following postnatal requirements.

1.       Support the physiological recovery of your tissues.

2.       Replenish any nutrients that have been depleted during pregnancy, labour and birth.

3.       Provide enough nutrients to support the production of breastmilk (if you are breastfeeding).

4.       Support the loss of excess fat/weight accumulated during pregnancy.

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If you keep these requirements in mind and focus on consuming a nutrient dense, well-balanced wholefoods diet that is full of a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, protein, complex carbohydrates and hydrating fluids, then you will be able to adequately nourish your body. You can then also apply healthy weight loss strategies to help you lose any excess baby weight when you are ready.

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Postnatal recovery nutrition tips

The following nutrition tips are especially important during the 4th trimester (first 12 weeks post birth). This is the time when your body is healing and recovering and establishing your breastmilk supply (if you are breastfeeding).  The tips can then be continued to optimise your lifelong health.

  • Eat non-processed, wholefoods as often as possible.

  • Limit sugary, salty and junk foods as much as possible.

  • Fill up on a variety of colourful, fibre-filled vegetables and fruit (eat from the rainbow).

  • Eat complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal breads, pastas, brown rice and potatoes.

  • Eat a variety of pulses and legume.

  • Consume dairy or calcium rich products - tofu, pulses, brown (wholemeal) bread.

  • Eat a bowl of mixed berries every day.

  • Eat a little bit of lean protein with each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

  • Eat 2 portions of oily fish per week (mackerel, sardines, trout and salmon, sprats).

  • Add nuts and seeds to your meals or snacks.

  • Drink lots of hydrating water, herbal teas and non-caffeinated, non-carbonated such as milk, water or diluted fruit juice.

  • Consume collagen-rich foods, such a bone broth, bone-based stews or a collagen supplement.

  • Continue to take a prenatal vitamin (check it is safe for breastfeeding if required).

  • Take a Vitamin D supplement (10mcg) (unless it is already included in a prenatal vitamin).

Healthy Start vouchers

 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/breastfeeding-and-lifestyle/diet/

 

You can get Healthy Start vouchers if you're pregnant or have a young child under 4 and are getting certain benefits or tax credits, or you're pregnant and under 18.

These can be spent on milk and fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, or they can be put towards formula milk if you're not breastfeeding.

 

You can't use vouchers to buy fruit and veg with added fat, sugar and salt or flavourings, such as oven chips and seasoned stir fries. You can also get Healthy Start vouchers for free vitamin supplements.

 

For more information or an application leaflet, visit the Healthy Start website, or call the helpline on 0345 607 6823.  If you're already receiving Healthy Start vouchers, ask your midwife or health visitor where you can exchange the vouchers for vitamins.

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Breastfeeding nutrition

 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/breastfeeding-and-lifestyle/diet/

 

You don't need to eat anything special while you're breastfeeding. But it's a good idea to follow the tips above and then also consider adding 1-2 healthy snacks to ensure that you are taking on enough nutrients and calories to support breast milk production such as:

 

  • 3 litres of water per day (including milky drinks or a 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Fresh fruit.

  • Sandwiches filled with salad, grated cheese, mashed salmon or cold meat.

  • Yoghurts and fromage frais.

  • Hummus with bread or vegetable sticks.

  • Ready-to-eat dried apricots, figs or prunes.

  • Vegetable and bean soups.

  • Fortified unsweetened breakfast cereals, muesli and other wholegrain cereals with milk.

  • Baked beans on toast or a baked potato.

 

Small amounts of what you're eating and drinking can pass to your baby through your breast milk. If you think a food you're eating is affecting your baby and they're unsettled, talk to your GP or health visitor, or contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

 

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine is a stimulant and can reach your baby through your breast milk and may keep them awake or restless. Caffeine occurs naturally in lots of foods and drinks, including coffee, tea and chocolate. It's also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, as well as some cold and flu remedies.

 

It's a good idea for pregnant and breastfeeding women to restrict their caffeine intake to

less than 200mg a day:

 

  • 1 mug of filter coffee: 140mg

  • 1 mug of instant coffee: 100mg

  • 1 250ml can of energy drink: 80mg (larger cans may contain up to 160mg caffeine)

  • 1 mug of tea: 75mg

  • 1 50g plain chocolate bar: up to 50mg

  • 1 cola drink (354mls): 40mg

 

Try decaffeinated tea and coffee, herbal teas, 100% fruit juice (but no more than one 150ml glass per day) or mineral water. Avoid energy drinks, which can be very high in caffeine.

 

Breastfeeding and weight loss

Breastfeeding can help you to burn calories (as well as help your uterus contract and reduce in size) this is because your body utilises calories from your diet as well as stored fat to produce breastmilk.  In fact it is recommended that you consume an extra 200 calories per day (1-2 snacks).

 

However, the hormone prolactin (which promotes milk production) may cause your weight loss to plateau at a certain point, as it helps to maintain fat stores to support milk production.

 

This means that some women will lose weight quickly whilst breastfeeding, and some women may not. The important thing to remember when breastfeeding, is to prioritise the nourishment of both you and your baby. Fat loss can then be prioritised later on, once your breastfeeding journey has naturally come to an end.

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Prenatal weight gain

During pregnancy you will have naturally gained the weight of your growing uterus, amniotic fluid and baby. You may also have gained extra body fat, which is very common.

 

Prenatal fat gain is caused by many of the usual factors including eating habits, hormones, exercise levels, stress, sleep and genetic tendencies.

However, prenatal fat storage is also due to some specific physiological shifts that occur during pregnancy, such as the following hormonal changes:

  • Increased amounts of the hormone oestrogen, which promotes fat storage.

  • Resistance to the satiation hormone leptin, which makes you feel less satisfied and hungrier.

 

The amount of prenatal fat that you will have gained will vary from woman-to-woman and will depend upon your lifestyle choices and personal biology. General guidelines for healthy weight gain during pregnancy are as follows:

 

  • Underweight before pregnancy- may need to gain 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy.

  • Average weight before pregnancy- may need to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.

  • Overweight before pregnancy- may need to gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.

 

You may have gained more or less than these amounts.  No matter how much weight you gained, or why it occurred, it is important to remember that excess body fat carries with it associated health risks. In fact, excess prenatal weight gain that persists after pregnancy, is an indicator that you may also experience postnatal and midlife obesity along with the increased risk of developing other conditions and diseases such as:

 

  • Heart attack

  • Strokes

  • High blood pressure

  • Cancer

  • Metabolic disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Fatty liver disease

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Kidney disease

  • Depression

  • Gestational diabetes (in future pregnancies)

  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure in future pregnancies)

  • Caesarean section (for future births)

 

The good news is that you can do something about it now.  By making simple changes to your nutrition and lifestyle, you can nourish your body whilst burning fat and supporting weight loss.

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Postnatal weight loss mindset

A healthy and supportive mindset is a key aspect of any weight loss journey, but it is vital during a postnatal fat loss journey.  This is because you are a woman who has undergone the huge physiological requirements of pregnancy and birth. So, your first priority must be to deeply nourish your body and rest to facilitate the healing and recovery process.

 

So, it may seem counter intuitive if you are planning on losing baby weight at some point, but your first step is to make sure that you are eating enough, so that your tissues and hormones can recover and rebalance. You can do this by eating a nutrient dense, well-balanced diet as detailed above.

 

It is also important to have realistic expectations, set achievable goals and go easy on yourself by taking a slow and steady approach. This will allow you to embed new lifestyle habits so that you can achieve sustainable, long-term weight loss.

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You may find it helpful to download a weight loss app to provide extra guidance and hold you accountable.

 

Though your aim may be weight loss, try not to get too caught up on the number on the scales and instead consider how you feel and look as you embark on your fat/weight loss journey. This will help you focus on the holistic benefits as well as the measureable ones.

 

Try to make healthy habits as easy as possible by getting your family on board, planning meals in advance, creating shopping lists and batch cooking, so that you have healthy options readily available.

 

Be mindful that weight loss is a holistic process and can be affected by several different lifestyle factors so it’s helpful to make changes to nurture support yourself in several areas of your life.

 

  • Nutrition

  • Activity & exercise

  • Sleep quality & quantity

  • Stress levels

  • Hormone health

 

You can boost your results by being more active, moving more and getting out for walks to help burn extra calories and reap the benefits of being more physically active.

Postnatal weight loss timelines

If you are eating a healthy diet, with appropriate sized portions and exercising regularly then it is likely that you could lose most of your prenatal weight gain within the first year postpartum.

 

However, fat and weight loss will depend on whether you were a healthy weight before pregnancy, how much weight you gained during your pregnancy and how motivated you are to make long-term healthy lifestyle changes now.

 

There is no specific timeline for losing your prenatal weight but general guidelines for sustainable and safe postnatal weight loss would be a loss of 1-2lbs per week.

Weight loss nutrition tips

Caloric requirements will vary from woman-to-woman, but a general guide is that caloric intake should not fall below your daily calorie requirements and should be higher when taking into account breastfeeding, nutritional status, and your level of activity.

 

Insufficient calorific intake can cause fatigue and low moods, especially if you are breastfeeding.

It’s also important to be aware that postnatal dieting may result in a decrease in bone mineral density and increase in osteoporotic fractures if you have not replenished your nutrient stores enough.

Follow the nutrition tips above and then consider applying these weight loss strategies after the 4th trimester and when you have finished breastfeeding.

  • Prioritise vegetables and fill half of your meal with them.

  • Reduce or cut out snacks and eat 2-3 nutrient dense meals per day.

  • Eat a low glycemic (low GI) diet.

  • Consider quitting sugar and sugary processed foods.

  • Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice (extra fibre content).

  • Watch portion sizes and don’t finish your kids meals.

  • Reduce fatty foods and steam, grill, boil or bake instead of frying.

  • Eat more raw and wholefoods e.g. salad bowls.

  • Practice mindful eating and allow yourself time to notice when you are satiated.

  • Recognise any triggers for comfort eating: fatigue, stress, boredom etc.

 

Caloric requirements will vary from woman-to-woman, but a general guide is that caloric intake should not fall below your daily calorie requirements and should be higher when taking into account breastfeeding, nutritional status, and your level of activity.

 

Insufficient calorific intake can cause fatigue and low moods, especially if you are breastfeeding.  It’s also important to be aware that postnatal dieting may result in a decrease in bone mineral density and increase in osteoporotic fractures if you have not replenished your nutrient stores enough.

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Red flags - when to seek help

 

It is vital that you take care of yourself and focus some of your time and attention on your nutrition. This will help you to nourish yourself, support fat loss goals and spot any warning signs so that you can seek medical attention when required.  Familiarise yourself with the list below and make sure that you tell your health visitor or GP if you experience any of these symptoms, as they could indicate a problem that requires further investigation or support.

  • If you find it hard to manage your diet and make healthy eating choices.

  • If you have erratic eating patterns and struggle to nourish yourself regularly.

  • If you cannot afford to eat a healthy well-balanced diet.

  • If you are concerned about vitamin or mineral deficiency e.g. iron or vitamin D.

  • If you are continuing to gain weight despite eating a healthy well-balanced diet and appropriate sized portions.

  • If you experience emotional eating linked to stress, low mood, or depression.

  • If you are fixated on your body image or are experiencing severe distress about your body or weight gain.

  • If you have or develop an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa or binge eating disorder.

How you can support your partner

You can support your partner by ensuring that they are well nourished, well rested, have the supplies and emotional support that they need and are watchful of their health. Below are some ways that you can be supportive:

 

  • Ask your partner how you can help and support them.

  • Purchase and prepare the healthy foods listed above.

  • Remove or buy less sugary, salty or processed junk foods.

  • Prepare and batch cook healthy meals in advance so that mealtimes are easier.

  • Go on journey with your partner and start new healthy habits together.

  • Be non-judgemental and considerate towards your partners concerns or weight gain.

  • Encourage your partner to be patient and self-supportive on their journey.

  • Schedule walks and physical activities that the whole family can enjoy together.

  • Take baby for a few hours so that mum can spend some time exercising on her own.

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