Eating Right After Baby: The Postpartum Diet

By Tracy Wright
Raw steak on cutting board with vegetables

You’ve had your baby, and all your focus is on your new bundle of joy. However, you have just gone through a grueling labor and delivery process, and your hormones are likely out of whack. That is why it is so important for new moms to focus on their physical and mental health — and a huge part of that is having the right nutrition. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, the correct postpartum diet is necessary to help aid in recovery and well-being.

The importance of eating right postpartum

The postpartum period can be miraculous, but it can also feel like survival mode especially when it’s your first baby. According to the Wellnest’s Chelsey Amer, a registered dietician, the condition known as “postpartum depletion impacts most women because the body has devoted so many nutrients to growing the baby.” This is even harder on moms who are breastfeeding. And let’s face it, sleep deprivation doesn’t help this process.

According to, a proper postpartum diet can help your body and mind and help aid in milk production. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises that breastfeeding moms consume an additional 500 calories per day.

“One way you can help your body is by fueling it properly through nutrition and supplementation. There are several key nutrients to focus on postpartum, especially in the early days,” Amer said.

The 5 key nutrients needed in a postpartum diet, according to Amer:

  • IRON: The loss of blood during childbirth means you lose iron so getting it back into your body is essential. You can find iron in foods like lean meats, beans and tofu, Amer said.
  • PROTEIN: According to the website ParentHelp123, protein is essential to help your body recover from childbirth. Protein-rich foods include dairy like milk and cheese, lean meats, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • CHOLINE: This nutrient is especially important for nursing mothers as it plays a role in baby’s brain and nervous system development, said Eggs, meat, chicken, fish, dairy, beans, nuts and whole grains contain choline.
  • VITAMIN D: This vitamin is essential for babies with nursing mothers, but a 2018 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that it can also help alleviate the symptoms of postpartum depression. Sun exposure can provide vitamin D to mom and baby, but it can also be found in foods like eggs, dairy, fortified orange juice and cereal, and salmon.
  • CALCIUM: The NIH reports that women loss bone mass while breastfeeding so it’s extremely important to be consuming an adequate amount of calcium per day. Dairy products like yogurt and cheese and other foods like broccoli and kale contain calcium, says Amer.

In addition to these nutrients, recommends including a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for boosting brain health in babies, and has also been shown to help reduce depressive symptoms in postpartum women. Opt for fish low in mercury like salmon and trout for themselves and their babies if they are breastfeeding.

Other important considerations

It’s also important for new moms to stay well-hydrated. “[Mothers should] stay well-hydrated whether or not you’re breastfeeding. Aim for eight to 10 eight-ounce cups per day, plus water from other sources like fruits and veggies, to keep you from getting dehydrated,” said “Even if your baby has moved on to formula, you still need about eight to 10 glasses of water a day as part of your recovery from childbirth and for overall health.”

Unfortunately, it may be difficult to focus on your own nutrition when your attention is on your newborn, and you may be sleep deprived or suffering from mood disorders. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends “preparing simple meals at flexible mealtimes.” also says it may be good for new mothers to continue to take prenatal vitamins even after childbirth to ensure they are receiving the correct mix of vitamins. It’s always vital that new moms discuss nutrition and vitamin options with their OBGYN especially if they have any concerns.

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