Postpartum Nutrition & Weight Loss (Prentice)

While taking care of your newborn, remember to take care of yourself. Good nutrition will provide you with the energy you need to keep up with the demands of your new baby, and it can aid in restoring your pre-pregnancy state.

  • Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables to maintain regular bowel function.
  • Include heart-healthy protein sources such as skinless chicken and turkey, fish, and lean cuts of beef and pork.
  • Continue to include skim milk and low fat dairy products or your calcium supplement to maintain your bone health.

If you would like to get more nutrition information from a registered dietitian, contact the  Northwestern Memorial Center for Integrative Medicine , 312-926-9355.

Weight Loss Guidelines

  • Eat at least three meals each day.
  • Limit your total fat intake, especially saturated fats found in such foods as bacon, butter and processed and fried foods. Add monounsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils, nuts, and avocados in moderation.
  • Do not follow fad diets or diets that eliminate entire food groups, especially if you are breastfeeding.
  • Consider substituting water and skim milk for other high calorie, low nutrient-dense fluids such as juice, Kool-Aid, soda or "gourmet drinks" like smoothies, mochas, etc.

Good Nutrition During Lactation

  • During lactation, it is important to eat well to provide the required nutrition for you and your baby. While breastfeeding, you will need to eat extra calories, protein and nutrients to provide for the growth of your new baby and maintain your health.
  • Five hundred extra calories above pregnancy requirements are needed per day while you are breastfeeding. This helps to build nutritious breast milk and keep you healthy too.
  • Because breastfeeding burns calories, weight loss still occurs with good healthy eating habits. At six weeks after giving birth, weight loss should not exceed two to four pounds per month. If weight loss is more rapid than this, it may affect your milk supply. If weight loss is too rapid, try adding one to two nutritious snacks during the day, such as fruit or yogurt.
  • Make sure that you eat two to three servings from the meat/protein group every day. Continue to get at least three servings from the milk group for your calcium requirements. Adequate protein and calcium in your diet will help maintain your body stores while providing what baby needs in your breastmilk.
  • Drink plenty of fluids - eight to 10 glasses a day. Water, low-fat milk and jices are good choices. Increase your fluid intake during exercise and hot weather. It is a good idea to have a beverage nearby while nursing, as you will likely become thirsty during this time.
  • Be careful of caffeine: Caffeine is passed through your breastmilk to the baby. Newborns cannot completely break down caffeine, and some research suggests that they can become irritable with large amounts of caffeine. Caffeine has also been known to inhibit the letdown reflex. Limit coffee to 12 ounces per day. Limit other lesser sources of caffeine, such as tea, cocoa, soda and chocolate.
  • Most commercially produced herbal teas that are purchased at the grocery store are safe. Be wary of teas found in health food or alternative stores, as they can contain herbs that may be harmful during breastfeeding.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake has been shown to affect the let-down reflex and may cause poor growth and development in your newborn.
  • Foods avoided during pregnancy, such as unpasteurized cheese and raw or rare meats and fish, are safe to eat while breastfeeding.
  • As part of a balanced diet, fish should be included weekly to provide Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have many health benefits for mom and are the building blocks of breastmilk. To avoid possible mercury contamination, the guidelines for all adults are no more than 12 ounces per week of tuna, mackerel, tilefish, shark or swordfish. You can also get Omega-3 fatty acids in certain eggs and other products.
  • Some prescribed medications, as well as herbs, may not be safe while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant before taking any medications or herbs.