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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Your recovery at home: Nutrition

  • Take time to eat. This will help you recover and feel both emotionally and physically well. Focus on eating healthful food. If you don't eat well, you will feel tired. That will make it harder to take care of yourself and your baby.
  • Nutritious meals can be simple and inexpensive. You can eat sandwiches, soups or meals prepared ahead and then frozen.
  • Limit junk food and snack on healthful foods: cheese, whole grain crackers, fresh fruits and vegetables, and yogurt.
  • Tip

    Severely limiting calories can decrease your milk supply.

  • Lose weight gradually, no more than one-half to one pound per week. You can lose weight slowly while you are breastfeeding. If weight loss is too rapid, you can't stay healthy and meet the demands of caring for your baby.
  • Ask your health care provider if you should continue taking the vitamin and mineral supplements you took in pregnancy.
  • Choose foods high in vitamin C. This vitamin is important because it helps your body absorb iron. Iron helps your body create new red blood cells, which carry oxygen. Being anemic can make you feel tired.
  • If you are breastfeeding, you need 500 calories a day to support breastfeeding in addition to the calories your body needs.
  • If you are formula feeding, your calorie and nutrient needs have returned to your pre-pregnancy levels. You must still eat well to recover and have the energy to care for yourself and your baby.
  • Focus on eating a healthful diet of:
    • fruits and vegetables
    • whole grains
    • fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
    • lean meats, poultry, eggs, and fish
    • beans and nuts.
  • A healthful diet has only small amounts of saturated (animal) fats, trans fats, salt and added sugars.

See the chart below for the number of servings you should have from each food group. For complete information, visit choosemyplate.gov.

Keep track of what you eat for two or three days and compare your intake to the suggested guidelines. This will help you know where you are doing well and how you can improve.

If you need to improve your diet to meet the guidelines work on one or two changes at a time. Doing so will make it easier to meet your goals. Once you have successfully made one or two changes, you'll be ready to make more changes, if necessary.

Tip

The caffeine content of soft drinks can vary. Check the label to find out how much caffeine is in your soft drink. Soft drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional benefits for you or your baby.

If you are breastfeeding, limit caffeine, smoking and alcohol. These substances enter your breast milk.

  • If you eat or drink more than small amounts of caffeinated beverages or foods, your baby may become wakeful, hyperactive, fussy and colicky. Limit yourself to 300 milligrams of caffeine a day. This is about the caffeine in two or three cups of coffee.
  • If you are breastfeeding, limit smoking. Substances in tobacco enter your breast milk. In addition, smoking can increase the effects of caffeine. Smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day can decrease your milk production.
  • Avoid alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit your drinking to one drink a day. In addition, drink just after you nurse rather than just before. Moderate-to-heavy drinking can slow milk let down and cause other side effects. Talk with your health care provider about the risks of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

Recommended servings each day

Postpartum: breastfeeding*

Postpartum: formula feeding**

Grains

9 ounces

7 ounces

Vegetables

3 ½ cups

3 cups

Fruits

2 cups

2 cups

Milk

3 cups

3 cups

Meats

6 1/2 ounces

6 ounces

Fats

use sparingly

use sparingly

* 2,600 calorie diet

** 2,200 calorie diet. For weight loss, you still need to eat the minimum number listed for each group.

Visit choosemyplate.gov to learn more about the food groups and what foods are best for you during your pregnancy.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/22/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts