Postpartum Nutrition

by Saskia Kleinert, NC, CMT, from BirthWays Newsletter, Spring 2013

Now that your baby is born, what should or shouldn’t you be eating?

The objective during the postpartum phase is to replace the nutrients that were lost during pregnancy and delivery and to provide the energy needed for being a new mom.

General Guidelines

• Eat a wide variety of fresh foods with high nutrient density.
• Increase your protein intake, especially if you are breast feeding or had a C-sectionSalsa and guacamole recipe
• Increase intake of calcium and vitamin A rich foods, the body gets depleted of both during pregnancy. • Increase intake of vitamin C, especially if you had a C-section (needed for healing).
• Increase the intake of iron rich foods, especially if you lost a lot of blood during the delivery.
• Use foods and recipes that are easy and fast to prepare, but avoid fast food.
• Take in plenty of fluids through water, soups and caffeine free tea.
• Avoid fad diets and harmful substances such as alcohol.

Required Daily Serving Sizes

For Breastfeeding Mothers:

• Protein: 7 servings
• Vitamin A rich foods: 1 serving
• Vitamin C rich foods: 1 serving
• Other veggies & fruit: 2 servings
• Whole grains: 7 servings
• Dairy or other calcium rich foods: 3 servings • Healthy fats: 3 servings

For Non-breastfeeding Mothers:

• Protein: 5 servings
• Vitamin A rich foods: 1 serving
• Vitamin C rich foods: 1 serving
• Other veggis & fruit: 2 servings
• Whole grains: 5 servings
• Dairy or other calcium rich foods: 3 servingsTomato and mozzerella salad

1-Serving Equivalents

• Protein: 1 oz. fish or other seafood, meat or poultry, 3 oz tofu, 1 egg, 1⁄3 cup nuts, 1⁄2 cup dry beans
• Vitamin A rich foods: 1 carrot, 3 apricots, 1⁄2 cup greens, 1⁄2 cup yams or pumpkin, 1⁄4 cantalope
• Vitamin C rich foods: 1⁄2 cup strawberries, snow peas, bell peppers, broccoli, 1 orange, kiwi, 2 tomatoes
• Veggies/Fruit: 1⁄2 cup berries, green beans, zucchini, peas, corn, apple, pear, 2 plums, 1 cup lettuce greens
• Whole Grains: 1⁄2 cup brown rice, quinoa, pasta, 1 small tortilla, pancake, 1 slice bread
• Dairy & calcium rich foods: 4 oz salmon, 1⁄2 cup tofu, 1.5 oz hard cheese, 1 8oz yogurt, 1 cup cooked spinach • Iron rich foods: 1⁄2 cup cooked spinach, beans, lentils, 3 oz beef, shrimp, 1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
• Healthy fats: 1 tsp olive or canola oil, salad dressing, 7 almonds, 10 small olives, 1⁄8 avocado, 1 tbsp seeds


Mothers who are vegans will need to take vitamin supplements. Consult a nutritionist.


If you had a significant blood loss as a result of delivery, you will most likely need to supplement with iron. However here are some suggestions to help replenish your iron stores with foods:

• Iron comes in two dietary forms: Iron contained in animal tissue (meat, fish, poultry) called heme iron and iron in vegetable products, called non-heme iron. The body is better able to absorb heme iron, the kind found in meat, poultry and fish. This may therefore be the better choice for you.

• Vitamin C will enhance iron absorption: consume foods high in vitamin C at the same time as you consume foods high in iron, for example sprinkle some lemon juice on your greens or eat an orange after you had iron rich foods.

• Cook with cast iron pots to add more iron to your diet.


Your wellness as a new mother is closely tied to the well-being of the infant and, for those who breast- feed, to your their ability to do so. Certain nutrients are necessary for milk production, others, called “natural galactogogues”, can increase the production. There are also foods that are associated with causing intestinal distress and colics to the baby. We will take a look at all of them.

The nutrients necessary for milk production are iron, vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc.

Foods rich in zinc include eggs, beef, cooked oysters, legumes (beans/lentils), pumpkin seeds, whole grains, nuts, dill. Do not use zinc supplements unless you know that you are low in zinc, as overuse of zinc can lead to iron-deficiency anemia.

(See above for food sources of iron and vitamins A and C.)

Natural Galactogogues:


Fenugreek:  the most popular substance for milk production. Can be used in tea or spice form. Do not brew tea for too long, as it will become bitter. Use as a spice for chicken, curries, on sweet potatoes and squash.
Do not use if you are diabetic or have asthma. There have been some reports of allergic reactions to fenugreek.

Anise: use in tea form. Do not confuse with star anise, which could cause risks to the infant. Do not use if you are on estrogen.

• Fennel: use in tea or food form. Tea also eases afterbirth pain.

• Milk Thistle: use in tea form.

Other foods thought to increase milk production include: asparagus, green beans, apricots, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, pecans, leafy greens, parsley, watercress and oatmeal.

Baked coconut pear pudding

Baked coconut pear pudding with cinnamon and nutmeg

Foods Associated with Intestinal Distress and Colics
Foods that cause you to have gas will likely cause your baby to have gas too and hence be colicky. However, you may feel just fine and yet your child will not. When in doubt, avoid the following:
Anything from the cabbage family:
Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, etc.
Legumes: beans and lentils
Onions and garlic
Generally healthy, fresh, whole foods are a great postpartum choice for both mom and newborn. If you are unsure about certain foods, take cues from your baby. They will let you know if a food irritates them. Avoid the food for a while and see if things improve. Still in doubt? Consult with your health provider or a nutritionist.
Saskia Kleinert, NC, CMT is certified in many different styles of massage therapy, orthopedic therapy,health education and nutrition. She has studied in Europe, Asia and the U.S. She received her nutritional education from Hawthorn University and through courses from Dr. Andrew Weil’s Institute of Integrative Medicine. She is passionate about health and healthy living and loves to share her knowledge with clients. Her goal is to bring equilibrium to the body, mind and spirit through integrative health and wellness care. Learn more about her practice at

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