Watch our video to discover why certain nutrients are important after you’ve given birth, like iron, zinc and calcium
Nutritional therapist Stephanie Ridley from Fig & Bloom talks about three hero nutrients and how to work them into your postnatal meals, like this delicious recipe for a hearty beef and mushroom stew.
The first days and weeks after you give birth are a taxing time for your body. You’ve just been through pregnancy, which means some of the nutrients you ate then would have been diverted to your baby – leaving you with a smaller share. And now you’ve got to recover from the birth and have enough energy to care for your newborn too!
Want to know what else these nutrients do for your body? Here’s more.
You’ll need lots of iron after giving birth to help prevent iron-deficiency anaemia. This can be a problem for new mums, especially if you lose blood during the birth, both during a normal delivery and a C-section.
To help prevent this, and also build up your body’s iron stores, it’s important to include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet after the birth.
There are two types of iron in foods. The first is called ‘haem iron’, which is found in red meat, poultry and fish. This type of iron is easier for your body to absorb.
The second type of iron is called ‘non-haem iron’ and it’s found in plant-based foods, like pulses, dried fruits, fortified breakfast cereals and dark leafy vegetables.
Your body finds this type of iron harder to absorb, so make sure you partner your meals with a vitamin C-rich food or drink, such as berries, red peppers or a glass of pure orange juice, to give your body a helping hand.
Symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia are feeling tired and weak, a racing heart, breathlessness and low mood. If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned about your iron levels, speak to your GP or other health professional.
Our bodies need the mineral zinc to help produce and repair its building blocks of cells. So low levels of zinc may increase your risk of infection, and mean that any wounds from the birth will heal more slowly.
Scientists have also found a link between women with postnatal depression and lower zinc levels.
You’ll find zinc in fortified breakfast cereals, seafood, chicken, red meat, brown mushrooms (white mushrooms aren’t such a good source), pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and tofu.
If you haven’t taken in enough calcium in pregnancy, your stores of this mineral will have been diverted from your bones to your baby’s, making sure they grow healthy and strong.
When you’re breastfeeding, you’ll also need extra calcium so your body can keep producing milk – the British Dietetic Association recommends that breastfeeding mums consume 1250mg of calcium per day.
After the birth, it’s really important to consume enough food and drink containing calcium for both your baby and to rebuild your own reserves of this mineral.
Good sources of calcium are milk, yoghurt, cheese, sardines and pilchards (with bones), calcium-enriched foods, like orange juice, kale, watercress, bread and sesame seeds.
To help your body absorb the calcium, you need vitamin D. It’s found in sunshine so do get out into the sunlight for 15 minutes every day as often as possible. Top up your levels by eating foods containing vitamin D, for example fortified breakfast cereals, oily fish and egg yolks. If you’re breastfeeding, you need a 10mcg vitamin D supplement daily.
The right balance of nutrients should help you feel yourself again, and able to enjoy your early days with your newborn.
With thanks to the British Dietetic Association