Postnatal nutrition

After the birth of your baby, there are so many life changes and new things to think about that the nutritional balance of your diet is probably the last thing on your mind. Grabbing something handy to eat and drink whenever you get the chance to make sure you don’t get too hungry or thirsty is probably your top priority.

But it is important to give the quantity and quality of the foods and drinks you’re consuming some thought to ensure you are receiving all the energy and nutrients you need to produce milk for your baby, and to optimise your own health. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, a well-balanced, healthy diet should help you feel more energised and less tired, preparing you well for the busy days ahead.

What does a healthy diet look like for new mums?

Well actually, it’s about the same as a healthy diet recommended for the rest of the population. There are plenty of places you can look for advice on this, but I can recommend the NHS website: might want to pay particular attention to the amount of dietary fibre you are consuming as this can really help if you have been affected by bowel issues or constipation after giving birth to your baby. And as always, make sure you’re drinking enough fluids, especially if you are breastfeeding (which increases fluid requirements by about 700mls (3-4 glasses) per day).

If you are breastfeeding, should you be careful with any particular foods? What about extra energy and nutrients?

Extra energy? - Each mum will be different. While breastfeeding does require energy, the amount depends on how much you’re breastfeeding and for how long. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months may increase your energy requirements by up to an extra 300 calories per day, but if you are combining this with some formula feeds, this will be less.

Extra Nutrients? – Again, this is very individual, but there are increased needs for some nutrients to bear in mind. 

• Protein requirements are increased during breastfeeding, but provided you include a protein source with each meal e.g. meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, you should be getting enough.

• Calcium needs special attention during breastfeeding as you need about 80% more than normal (1,250mg/day vs 700mg/day), so it’s important to include calcium-rich foods in your diet each day, such as milk, cheese, yogurts, tofu, dried fruits, lentils.

• A 10mcg daily vitamin D supplement is recommended throughout breastfeeding, especially in the darker months of October – April.

For advice on foods to limit and avoid whilst breastfeeding, including some fish and caffeine-containing drinks and foods, have a look here - To summarise the main points, you should:

• Limit oily fish (and some white fish) to 2 portions per week and shark, swordfish and marlin to just once per week

• Limit caffeine and alcohol as much as possible

• No need to avoid allergens, such as peanuts, unless of course you are allergic to them (speak to your GP or HV if you have any concerns).