Do I have to tell a new mom she may be depleted? Likely not!
No matter what you did before the birth of your baby to stay healthy, you are very likely going to feel exhausted and drained. This is why the postpartum period is so crucial in supporting a new mom.
In many cultures, the first 40 days after the birth of a baby are considered the 4th trimester. The time for mama to be nurtured and to strengthen the bond with her baby.
A huge aspect of this for many mothers is breastfeeding. We are well aware of the incredible health impacts breast milk has for a baby, but what may not be talked about quite as much, is that while it is so nourishing for baby, it can feel depleting to a new mom.
Especially to a new mom who was not quite nourished during pregnancy but also before she conceived.
At even 1 year postpartum I still can feel as though I am recovering. Providing breast milk this entire time keeps my self care and diet as a top priority for me to feel good... but that does not mean it is always easy! If there is a day I do not have enough water, or I maybe didn’t eat so well, I feel it a lot more than before I got pregnant. I already have such a heavy load that I am carrying that those "little" things that can seem so trivial actually can be the straw that broke my back.
Your demands on nutrients go up exponentially during pregnancy. But It doesn’t end there, if you are breastfeeding those demands are just as high if not higher.
Low milk supply is a common concern for many new moms that I work with, there can be a variety of reasons that can impact this. One of those influencers is having low nutrients.
After months and months of physical demands placed on you during pregnancy, afterwards, and well just in life in general, you may have not been able to keep up with a healthy diet. Protein needs, which are about triple the recommendations during pregnancy are still very high in the postpartum period. High quality fats from coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee can help sustain energy but also give you the calories you need since you will find yourself burning a lot more breastfeeding. And carbohydrates need to come from nutrient dense foods like root vegetables, fruit and some organic grains to help fuel you.
Although you can get away with a higher quantity of food while breastfeeding, since you likely burn up to 500 extra calories a day, you still want to make sure it is of quality.
You may be stressing about the extra weight, you may feel self conscious about how you look, but Mama I am hear to tell you to let that go for now.
The first few months after birth are not a time to be actively trying to lose weight or “get your body back.”
Trying to restrict calories, carbs or fat during this time can also cause your body to slow it’s milk production. Your body is trying to heal, rebuild, and support a new life! Give it a bit of a break. Many women who are breastfeeding start to see excess weight slip off naturally. A slow steady pace of .25-1+ lb a week can be achieved just by focusing on eating an unprocessed, healthy diet.
What you DO want to do is stay focused on a whole, natural foods diet. Listen to your body, eat when it is hungry (which may seem like is ALL the time) and try to eat a balance of nourishing foods.
If you are on a mostly grain-free diet, that does not mean a low carb diet. You can still get plenty of carbohydrates from vegetables such as sweet potato, beet, parsnip, carrots, leafy greens and fruit. I personally felt I needed to add in a little bit of rice to some of my meals to help keep up with my hunger and nutrient needs that my body was demanding of me.
It is important to keep up with nutrients that are held to a high priority during pregnancy during your lactation period as well, such as iron, B vitamins, Vitamin D & C and omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are taking a high quality prenatal vitamin, continue taking it while you are breastfeeding.
For those of you that are not yet pregnant or are in between pregnancies, one important way to help prevent these problems and keep your body ready for these demands is to prepare for pregnancy, and yes, even lactation, before you even conceive.
Eat a nourishing diet and make sure your nutrient levels are up where they should be before you even enter this journey of trying to get pregnant. If you are already depleted when you get pregnant you are then just playing an exhausting game of catch up, and for many they don’t ever really get there.
Low nutrients do not just happen overnight and may not have an immediate effect on your breastmilk supply but it can be a huge factor in the long game. If you are trying to breastfeed for the recommended time of at least one year OR you don’t want to end up with a shot adrenal system or low functioning thyroid and simply want some good energy, than let’s consider how we can best support your body along the entire journey into motherhood from before conception into the postpartum period.