women’s health nurse practitioner guides us through nutrition tips for the fourth trimester (postpartum) in this article. links to nutrition for fertility + pregnancy at the bottom!
YOU DID IT!! No matter what your pregnancy was like, how smooth or difficult labor was, you are officially on the other side of pregnancy! I like to remind everyone that postpartum is forever, we really need to shift the mindset away from “bouncing back” to a graceful acceptance of ourselves and continue to move forward. This does not mean it is not entirely possible to lose all of the baby weight, get lean again or even healthier than before pregnancy but it is so important to protect your mental health during this fragile time frame. Remember, hormones are still adjusting, if you are nursing there are also factors we need to consider as well! The one thing that really is important to consider is TIME, it took us 9 months to get here so we must allow our bodies time to heal, recover and replenish as well!
In the immediate postpartum phase it is so important to prioritize nutrient dense foods and help restore essential levels of vitamins and nutrients that baby used up while in utero! I like to encourage high fat diets in order to support hormone health. This should be coming from healthy fats such as pasture raised meat (think Brisket, Chuck Roast in the crock pot) avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, nuts and seeds, salmon, sunflower or almond butter, high quality dairy and so on.
Sometimes the hunger can be really intense immediately postpartum, listen to your body and eat eat eat!! My nurse gave me her lunch one time right after delivery because the cafeteria was closed and I was RAVENOUS! So thoughtful on her end and I was so grateful. Sometimes after a long labor you may feel exhausted or nauseated and in this case a nutrient packed smoothie can be an awesome option if your partner can run out and grab you one. Make sure to have that smoothie loaded up with fats to help keep blood sugar stable!
Once you are home, the fourth trimester should be all about rest, bonding and restoration. Now is not the time to focus or think about losing weight! It is very normal for the first few weeks to have loose skin and even still look a bit pregnant. Your core will naturally begin to heal during this time frame and it is important not to put pressure or strain on the core with exercise while you are healing. If you are feeling restless and need to “do something” exercise wise (like me haha), breathing exercises that work on tightening the core with exhalation and ‘pulling up the vaginal floor’ are the way to go! I suggest lying on the floor and doing these slow and controlled movements and finding a credible trainer or program to learn how to perform these correctly.
Nutrition wise, for the first 6 weeks I suggest a very “traditionally wise” nutrient rich diet with items like bone broth, slow cooked meats in the crock pot (to help restore Iron!), fat packed smoothies and snacks and nutrient/antioxidant dense fruits and veggies. If you are nursing baby it is important to make sure your calorie intake is high enough- nursing itself burns about 500 calories a day! You don’t need to count calories, but please do not restrict. Keep healthy non processed snacks in the nursery or bedside. My go to was to leave a bag of cashews and a banana by our rocker and I would eat those while nursing babe in the middle of the night. Hydration is also paramount in this time frame to keep up with the milk supply. If you are not nursing, the priority is still to consume nutrient packed foods to restore vitamin levels in your body. While consuming these healthy non-processed foods, your body will begin to heal and you will likely see the scale move pretty quickly as your hormone balance returns to its pre-pregnant state and inflammation stays low due to the healthy foods.
Once you are cleared by your provider you can resume more regimented exercise – just be cautious about replacing these calories if you are nursing! If you were able to follow Nourished Momma’s nutritional advice for pregnancy the postpartum journey will feel comfortable and easy as you are used to consuming these types of foods. If you are starting now, that is okay too. A little mantra that always helped me was that time is going to pass anyways and in 6 weeks I can look back and say ‘Wow, I am 6 weeks in already’, or wish I had started, but we can’t get time back. So even if you start with small adjustments, in a few weeks from now, will you be saying, “Yay, I am already a few weeks in”, or wishing you started a few weeks ago! You have to start somewhere no matter when that is! It gets easier with time. The nutrients, thoughts and self care that you pour into yourself will directly impact your outcomes.
It was a pleasure sharing with you all some nutritional guidance throughout this series. I welcome you to reach out, ask questions, get started! I can be reached at OneNourishedMomma@gmail.com or on Instagram @NourishedMomma !
Hi there! I’m Steph, the founder and creator of Nourished Momma. I am a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and have been helping guide women nutritionally for over six years. I am a former Labor & Delivery Nurse and now, after obtaining my Master’s in Women’s Health, work in Reproductive Endocrinology as an NP, helping women conceive, balance hormones and understand their bodies. I have seen both sides of pregnancy in fine detail and have spent years researching what leads to beautiful, enjoyable pregnancies, and healthy snuggly babies. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to be alongside you in your journey. You can find me at nourishedmomma.com and follow me on IG @NourishedMomma.