Those first few weeks after your baby is born, known as the fourth trimester, are challenging no matter how prepared you are or how many times you’ve given birth. Caring for a newborn is hard work and leaves little time to care for yourself. Angela Hollett, a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Certified Holistic Private Chef based out of Vancouver, understands this juggle well. She has two young children and knows that intentional nutrition and certain foods allow new mothers to heal and best care for their babies, their bodies and their mental health.
Symptoms of nutrient deficiency often show up as fatigue or irritation. While sleep is disrupted with a newborn, nutrition can be easier to control and a great way to regulate.
Angela shared seven essential nutrients every postpartum body needs, and the foods to get them from. In addition, she recommends a pre-natal vitamin throughout pregnancy and for at least six weeks postpartum, or however long you breastfeed if that’s what you choose to do.
1. Vitamin D
The regulator of calcium and phosphate in the body, Vitamin D keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Good sources are wild salmon, sardines, fatty fish and pasture raised eggs (the whole egg, including the yolk.) Daily supplementation is recommended.
2. Omega 3
“Mom Brain” can actually be a deficiency in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with brain health and the development of eye and nerve tissues. Fish roe, sardines, grass-fed beef, algae are all great sources. Recommended consumption is 2-3 times per week.
Your gut needs a diverse colony of bacteria that come from active probiotics. Some yogurts contain active probiotics and other good sources are kombucha and fermented vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut. Milk or water kefir, tempeh, miso and blue cheese are also good options. Daily consumption of some variety is recommended.
In the last six weeks of pregnancy, 80% of baby’s calcium stores are built which leaves mama needing more. While your ability to absorb calcium doubles, calcium will leach from mom’s bones to ensure baby has enough making it very important postpartum. Great sources are broccoli, collard greens, dark leafy greens, beet greens, nuts and seeds, in particular sesame and brazil nuts – just one a day is enough. Also, organic yogurt is a good source. Daily consumption of some variety is recommended.
This cousin of folate is shown to prevent Alzheimer’s in babies and can affect liver health. It’s essential for infant memory and brain development so is important for breastfeeding moms. Eggs, liver (think pate on a cracker) and salmon are all good sources. Daily consumption of some variety is recommended.
The mother’s thyroid hormone levels affect baby’s neurological development and iodine keeps the thyroid in check. Kelp, kombu, cod, haddock, yogurt and cottage cheese keep iodine levels where they should be. Recommended consumption is 2-3 times per week.
Many women enter pregnancy with low iron, and it gets lower through those 40 weeks and into postpartum. Red meat, liver, bone marrow, lentils and black strap molasses are all great sources of iron. Daily consumption of some variety is recommended.
If all of these nutrients seem overwhelming, give yourself grace, and perhaps a glass of water; hydration is important too. Pick something simple: yogurt, an egg, a handful of nuts, some leafy greens, or even sushi from any one of your favourite local shops. During those first weeks postpartum, your body is recovering so nourishing yourself with whole foods and kindness is the best thing you can do for your baby.
Learn more from Angela about nurturing mamas at all stages through intentional, empowering, and evidence-based practices that blend science-based approaches with traditional wisdom at www.bloomnaturalnutrition.com
Jenn Wint is a writer, communications strategist and a public relations specialist. She is passionate about storytelling and community. Jenn lives in East Vancouver with her husband, 3yo son and 1yo daughter. You’ll find them hanging around Vancouver’s playgrounds, water parks, coffee shops and anywhere that bakes fresh cookies in-house!