Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
If you’ve recently given birth, you may be wondering about your postpartum diet and if there are foods to avoid after giving birth. Here we break down foods to consider avoiding postpartum!
Postpartum Diet: Foods to Avoid After Giving Birth (And Why!)
During pregnancy, your healthcare provider likely explained which foods and drinks you shouldn’t have while pregnant. For example, you probably avoided sushi, deli meat, and alcohol.
While you can enjoy many of the treats you had to give up while pregnant, there are still several key points about the postpartum diet. So, if you are wondering if there are foods to avoid eating after giving birth, we’ve compiled a list just for you! We’ll break down foods to consider avoiding postpartum and also explain why.
Your Postpartum Diet: 4 Foods to Avoid After Giving Birth and What to Consider Instead
Don’t worry — the rules about alcohol during postpartum aren’t nearly as strict. If you’re craving a cold beer or celebrating the birth of your new baby with a glass of bubbly, you’re likely in the clear.
However, there are reasons to avoid alcohol after giving birth. The main two reasons are if you are feeding your baby your breast milk and if you are overtired. And let’s be honest; most new moms are exhausted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that no alcohol is considered safest for breastfeeding mothers because alcohol does transfer into breast milk. They also state waiting at least two hours after drinking is the safest if you are going to drink and feed breast milk. However, one drink a day is not known to harm infants.
Here are some points to consider, per the CDC:
- Alcohol is highest in breast milk 30-60 minutes after drinking.
- Alcohol from one drink can be detected in breast milk for 2-3 hours after drinking.
- Alcohol from two drinks can be detected in breast milk for 4-5 hours after drinking.
- Alcohol from three drinks can be detected in breast milk for 6-8 hours after drinking.
- Factors such as whether the mother drinks while eating and how quickly drinks are consumed affect the alcohol content in breast milk.
- Too much alcohol can impact the nursing or pumping mother’s letdown reflex and decrease milk production if too much alcohol is consumed regularly.
The final consideration is how sleepy alcohol makes you. As a new mom, you are likely up overnight with your new baby. If you haven’t had a drink for months during pregnancy and have a drink or two postpartum, you may become extra tired. This sleepiness could cause you to fall asleep with your little one in an unsafe position, such as on a bed with pillows, on a soft couch, or in a recliner.
Bottom line: a drink here and there is likely fine for most mothers as part of a balanced postpartum diet.
Fish High in Mercury
During pregnancy, your healthcare provider probably told you to avoid fish high in mercury. These include fish varieties such as swordfish, certain tuna varieties (canned light is typically ok), and orange roughy.
However, per the CDC, mercury can also pass through breast milk. So, if you are nursing or pumping milk for your baby, consider choosing fish to eat with lower mercury levels as part of your postpartum diet. These include, but are not limited to:
If you aren’t nursing or pumping, being cautious about mercury consumption is still a good idea. By choosing fish with lower mercury levels in your postpartum diet, you’ll get all the health benefits of eating fish without as high of a risk of mercury exposure for you or your developing baby.
Yes, your morning cup of coffee is perfectly fine. However, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) recommends avoiding caffeinated drinks to help with exhaustion. This includes coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate.
While you can certainly enjoy these treats in moderation, caffeine can make it challenging to sleep when you can close your eyes. Instead, UPMC suggests asking for help and simplifying home routines so you can rest.
We get that this is easier said than done. And sometimes, you do need that caffeine boost. Rest assured that per the CDC, your cup or two of coffee in the morning likely doesn’t harm the baby if you’re feeding them your breast milk.
While caffeine does pass through breast milk in small amounts, it usually requires the mother to consume large quantities of coffee — as in 10 cups or more — before their babies show symptoms of high caffeine intake.
So enjoy your morning cup or two of coffee as part of a balanced postpartum diet. However, if you’re tired and help is available, or the baby is sleeping, consider resting yourself instead of trying to fuel up with one more caffeinated drink.
Gas-Causing Foods and Milk
If you are nursing or feeding your baby breast milk, you have probably heard of foods that can cause gas. So let’s clarify this one a bit — we’re not recommending you give up all foods that may cause gas and tummy problems as part of your postpartum diet.
Texas Children’s HospitalⓇ explains that commonly blamed foods include:
- Spicy Foods
What they recommend is to pay attention to any patterns. So, if you love garlic, but notice that your baby is fussy when you eat a dish with garlic, consider cutting back and seeing what happens. Most babies tolerate most foods that mom eats just fine.
While mom's foods are often blamed for causing gas in babies and upset tummies, there are other causes. For example, if a baby eats too quickly and gulps, they can swallow air, leading to an upset stomach. A fussy baby who cries a lot will also swallow more air, which can lead to gas and tummy pain.
If you are nursing, a lactation consultant can provide support and advice. For example, if you have a strong letdown when nursing, your baby may try to gulp to keep up with the milk flow. A lactation consultant can help you try different positions and provide other tips.
The one exception to this is a dairy intolerance or dairy allergy. Texas Children’s HospitalⓇ describes how some babies may have a dairy protein intolerance that they outgrow as they age, and some babies may have a true milk protein allergy.
You will likely notice other symptoms if your baby has a true milk allergy. Per Texas Children’s HospitalⓇ, these can include symptoms such as:
- Dry or irritated skin
- Other skin issues, such as rashes
- Ongoing issues with gas
- Green stool that contains mucus or blood
If you are concerned your baby has a milk protein allergy, contact your child’s healthcare provider for advice. If they have an allergy and you plan to continue providing your baby breast milk, you will need to eliminate foods with milk proteins from your diet.
Babies who are formula fed and have a milk protein allergy will need to switch to a formula without cow’s milk in it.
Looking for more tips on the postpartum period? You’ll find these helpful:
- Postpartum Tips To Help You Through The 4th Trimester
- Everything To Know About C-Section Recovery And Aftercare
- Productivity Hacks For Work At Home Moms With A New Baby
- 6 Tips For Safe Sleep For Baby
- 5 Newborn Tips For Your First Week Home With A Newborn
What Should You Eat?
One thing is sure for all postpartum mothers — your body just went through a lot of work to grow and birth a baby and needs time to recover. It is essential to nourish your body with healthy foods to help healing.
So, while the occasional drink to unwind in the evening or coffee in the morning to get you going is fine, try to listen to your body and what it needs. Maybe instead of that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, you take up your friend or family member’s offer for help and close your eyes. Or, instead of that second glass of wine, you take a hot bath (if cleared to do so) and open a good book.
Mom’s mental health postpartum is essential, and nourishing, nutrient-dense food helps give your body the strength it needs to recover. Consider healthy food sources such as lean proteins, healthy fats, lots of veggies and fruits, and nutrient-dense grab-and-go snacks as part of your postpartum diet.
And remember, hydration is vital, too, especially if you provide breast milk for your little one. So, drink plenty of water. Many nursing and pumping mothers find themselves incredibly thirsty during those early days of nursing and pumping. Consider having water bottles around the house so you never have to go far for a drink.
Remember that you did an incredible and challenging job growing and delivering a baby. Your body deserves and needs recovery time. A healthy postpartum diet, full of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, will help improve energy levels and aid your recovery.
Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.
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