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Nutrition and Sleep Postpartum: New Mom Services at UPMC in South Central Pa.

It is very important that you take good care of yourself after giving birth. Eating healthy foods and getting the rest you need will help you heal properly and produce breast milk for your newborn.

A Balanced Diet

Good nutrition is critical for new mothers. Nursing women need about 500 extra calories each day, as well as plenty of protein, calcium and fluids to stay healthy and produce nutritious breast milk.

You should aim to eat a balanced diet that includes lean meats, high-fiber foods, low-fat dairy products and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. For further guidance, you should refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate guidelines, which provide excellent information about your nutritional needs.

You should follow the USDA’s recommendations, which include:

  • Make the most of your fat sources from fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening and lard (and foods that contain solid fats).
  • Read the nutrition facts for food items that you purchase and avoid buying items high in fats, trans fats and sodium.
  • Choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars.
  • Eating healthy foods can help you lose up to 20 pounds after giving birth when combined with moderate exercise and a smart eating program, you may be able to lose even more weight.

Rest and Sleep

Lack of sleep is one of the biggest challenges for new parents. Your baby will need to eat every two to three hours around the clock, and will also need to be changed, rocked and held. Your baby may develop a sleep pattern that does not fit well with yours and he or she may also spend part of the day crying.

It is very easy for the joys of parenting to be overshadowed by the exhaustion and frustration that can result from prolonged lack of sleep in your baby's first weeks of life.

To avoid exhaustion, you should follow a few simple recommendations, including:

  • Prepare simple meals at flexible meal times.
  • Sleep (or nap) when your baby sleeps.
  • Prioritize getting your rest – chores can wait.
  • Keep your home routine relaxed and flexible.
  • Accept offers for help with shopping, cooking and cleaning.
  • Ask friends and family to help care for older children.
  • Postpone major household projects.
  • Avoid products containing caffeine, such as soda, coffee, tea and chocolate.
  • Ask for help when you need it.

If you find that you are unable to sleep when your baby is resting, it may be beneficial for you to lay quietly, read or watch a favorite television program. Relaxation exercises, where you alternately tighten and relax the muscles of your neck, shoulders, arms, legs and feet, may also be helpful.

Need more information?

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It is normal to experience the “baby blues” after giving birth. Learn more about postpartum depression or call your doctor for more information.

Learn more about our new mom support groups.

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