Nutrition for the Fourth Trimester
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
Congratulations! Your body just created and birthed a human. You probably feel an intense combination of amazed, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Life is already complicated, and now you’ve added a new layer of complexity. All the normal, everyday life things you did before have become more challenging, and just cooking yourself a meal takes more time and energy than you may have.
So give yourself some space from any kind of expectations! If your first thought is, “I have to get my pre-baby body back ASAP,” then I encourage you to stop and examine that thought. Building muscle and losing fat are low on your body’s list of things to do. If you really desire it, you can do it later. You are in a unique place, where healing and nourishing is your body’s number one priority.
Instead, focus your attention on 3 very important things for healing and energy support in your fourth trimester. If you’re lactating, this applies to you even more!
Eat well. You’ve spent the better part of a year sending nutrients to your baby, regardless of how many nutrients you’ve received. Replenish vitamins and minerals with lots of vegetables, protein, omega-3 fats, and whole grains. Dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes without a lot of time spent cutting or mixing ingredients. An easy way to do that is to start a pot of wild rice (or reheat pre-cooked rice), steam some frozen veggies on the stove, and put a plank of salmon in the oven. Or, my go-to healthy dinner is to stir-fry onion, sweet potatoes, ginger, and garlic with thin slices of beef or cubed chicken. I add a couple of handfuls of spinach near the end of cooking and spice it up with cumin, paprika, rosemary, or curry powder.
Eat enough. Your energy and blood sugar will feel more balanced if you eat protein, carbohydrates, and fat at every meal and snack. It may be tempting to do a juice cleanse or go on the keto diet, but right after birth is the absolute worst time to diet. Healthy eating means eating enough calories to keep you going, and healing takes more energy than anything else. If you had a C-section, you need even more energy to recover from surgery. So avoid fads and just eat normal-sized meals of tasty, delicious food. If you don’t feel like you have the energy to prepare a meal for yourself, ask for help. When friends and relatives ask you if you need anything, tell them to bring you food!
Stay hydrated. Your fluid needs during pregnancy are high, and they are even higher for lactation. Drink a glass of water every couple of hours, and keep a cup by your bed at night in case you wake up thirsty. If you have swollen ankles or a puffy face, your lymphatic system needs extra support. Try putting lemon or cucumber in your water (avoid mint if you’re lactating) to increase circulation. Sodium deficiency can happen more easily if you suddenly increase your water intake, so be sure to salt your food if you cook at home. There are so many beautiful foods and herbs that can support you during this time, but the basics are most important: eat well, eat enough, and stay hydrated.
M.S. Nutrition and Integrative Health
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