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A Mama's Guide to Postpartum Eating and Appetite

After you’ve given birth to your latest little arrival, you may be thrilled to eat (and drink!) normally again. But your eating and appetite don’t - and shouldn’t - return immediately to normal postpartum. You may swing between having little appetite right after birth to being quite hungry and back again, and the foods you crave and need might occasionally be at odds with each other. 

Let’s get into what mothers can expect after giving birth, and what you should aim to eat both for your own health and your child’s. 

Is It Common to Have Little Appetite After Giving Birth? 

New mothers often experience a short loss of appetite in the first few days after giving birth. This may happen simply due to being tired or still in some pain, and you might just feel too busy and overwhelmed to eat properly. 

But eating enough and properly is important for your recovery, even if your appetite isn’t there yet. Sticking to nourishing snacks and small, frequent meals can keep you going until your appetite returns. 

Many mothers find that their appetite does return quickly if they begin breastfeeding, since producing milk requires quite a bit of extra energy and food. Increased hunger here is completely normal and healthy - you’re feeding both yourself and your baby!  

If you do experience a loss of appetite that lasts for weeks, however, you may want to ask your doctor about being checked for postpartum depression. Loss of appetite is a common symptom of depression, and it’s best to get an expert opinion if it lasts or if you have other symptoms of depression as well. 

What Are the Best Foods to Eat Postpartum? 

Eating choices postpartum aren’t that different from a normal healthy diet. You will want to stick to eating fresh, whole foods from a variety of food groups so you (and your baby, if you’re breastfeeding) will get a full range of nutrients. 

It’s vital for new moms to eat plenty of fiber and drink lots of water to avoid constipation, which is very common postpartum. Breastfeeding moms will also want to eat plenty of calcium, as babies require quite a lot of it in the first few months, and protein as well. 

Some of the best foods for postpartum moms include: 

  • Iron-rich foods like lean red meat, lentils, beans, oatmeal, and fortified cereals, since you may have lost a fair amount of blood giving birth and need additional iron 
  • Cut up fruit you can easily snack on or add to yogurt to get fiber and nutrients
  • Trail mix made with healthy nuts and grains for an easy one-handed snack 
  • A wide variety of veggies to boost your immune system and keep you regular
  • Plenty of complex carbohydrates like whole grains to add fiber and energy 
  • Vitamin C-rich foods like spinach, broccoli, berries, and bell peppers can help with hormonal hair loss if that’s an issue you’re facing

Essentially, you will want to eat a healthy and varied diet so you and your baby get everything you both need in those important first months. It may be hard to sit down for regular meals while caring for a newborn, so having ready-made snacks and meals at hand can help you eat well without exhausting yourself. 

Are There Foods to Avoid? 

After the restrictions on eating certain foods while you’re pregnant, such as sushi, deli meats, and caffeine, you’ll probably be happy to know that nothing is off-limits while you’re recovering from giving birth! Even if you’re breastfeeding, your baby can’t get sick from those foods through your breastmilk.  

That being said, if you’re choosing to breastfeed, you will want to limit your caffeine intake to 300 milligrams according to the CDC (that’s about 2-3 cups of coffee a day). It’s also recommended to wait 2-3 hours after having a drink to breastfeed, or feeding right before you have a drink. 

New Mom Nutrition Tips 

Many new moms worry about their babies developing food allergies to dairy, eggs, or peanuts, but food allergies are actually less common than you’d think. Babies do need time for their little stomachs to adjust to a more varied diet than they were fed in the womb, so it’s often wise to not cut out whole groups too quickly. If you do need to give up dairy, be sure you’re getting plenty of calcium from other sources like leafy greens and tofu. 

Planning ahead where possible can help you have healthy foods on hand so eating well is easy. You’ll be busy enough caring for a new baby without having to worry about your own food - healthy premade foods are a great option here. 

And the best tip is to remember to be kind to yourself! You will need time to recover from labor, and digging into a dessert a kind neighbor or family member has brought over to share is fine sometimes. Just be sure to get in plenty of healthy foods as well, and you and your baby will be just fine.