Despite anticipation and baby bliss, pregnancy is a great strain on the female body. Unfairly, new mothers struggle after birth not only with the sleepless baby routine but also with stubborn weight problems. How can you get your body back on track after pregnancy?
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Tips On Nutrition
Maintaining a pregnancy means a considerable effort for the maternal body. Biologically, the supply of the fetus has priority, so that mothers not infrequently suffer from slight nutrient deficiencies in the last months of pregnancy as well as after birth. In order to compensate for these and to provide the body with optimum support during breastfeeding, new mothers should opt for a balanced and nutrient-dense diet, even if they want to lose a few pounds quickly. It should be clear that the regression process proceeds step by step and takes its time.
Which Nutrients Are Particularly Important After Pregnancy?
Some nutrients are particularly important after pregnancy and also help with breastfeeding. These include, among others:
- Folic acid
Folic acid protects the unborn child from malformations during pregnancy and is essential for the formation of its neuronal system. Doctors, therefore, recommend that all women who wish to have children start taking folic acid supplements at an early stage. Even during breastfeeding, experts consider the additional intake of 200 mg of folic acid daily to be sensible. Those who want to support their body additionally should prefer foods rich in folic acids such as bran, legumes, lamb’s lettuce, spinach, and broccoli.
Pregnancy empties iron stores, and blood loss during childbirth adds to iron loss. Accordingly, after giving birth, new mothers should include plenty of iron-rich foods in their diet. According to DGE recommendations, breastfeeding mothers need 20 milligrams of the micronutrient per day. Excellent sources include millet with 9 mg per 100 g, lentils with 7.5 mg, and various types of meat with around 2.5 to 3 mg. Oatmeal (4.6 mg) and cocoa powder (12-15 mg) is also rich in iron.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The polyunsaturated fatty acids not only promote the development of the fetal brain during pregnancy, but with their anti-inflammatory effect, they can also help to regenerate the stressed tissue after birth. Scientists agree that the two omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most available to the human organism.
They are found primarily in fatty sea fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, and salmon. Breastfeeding women can meet their EPA and DHA requirements with two servings of sea fish a week. Those who do not want to consume fish can help themselves by taking fish oil capsules. Vegetable omega-3 fatty acids, which most likely cannot be utilized comparably well by the organism, are mainly found in linseed oil, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
Breastfeeding women have an increased iodine requirement of 230 to 260 micrograms per day. Good sources of trace element are sea fish, shellfish and algae, but some dairy products also have an increased content. Since Germany is still considered an iodine deficiency area, experts nevertheless advise nursing mothers to take about 100 to 150 micrograms of iodine in the form of dietary supplements. Individual recommendations are given to mothers who have their thyroid function examined by their family doctor or gynecologist.
Due to pregnancy, the female body releases calcium from the bone stores. To make up for this loss, mothers should consume dairy products frequently. A breastfeeding woman’s requirement of 1,000 mg per day can be covered by as little as 100 g of Emmental cheese. Soybeans (200mg per 100g), sesame seeds (738mg), kale (196mg), and chickpeas (124mg) are also good sources of calcium.
What Is The Effect Of Breastfeeding?
It is often said that with breastfeeding the pregnancy pounds automatically disappear. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the body has a slightly increased energy requirement during the breastfeeding period, and on the other hand to the fact that new mothers are sometimes so busy taking care of their offspring that they don’t get much time to eat.
In many cases, however, the pointer on the scale does not move by a millimeter during the breastfeeding period. However, anyone who wants to go on a diet during this phase often hears warnings that the baby could suffer a nutrient deficiency as a result or that harmful substances broken down by the body could collect in the breast milk. What is the truth behind these claims?
No Starvation Diet During Breastfeeding, But A Conscious Diet
When breastfeeding women severely restrict their calorie intake, the nutrients needed to make breast milk are drawn from maternal reserves. Fortunately, the milk quality remains constant, but the maternal body quickly feels the lack of micronutrients. However, with a moderate reduction in calories combined with a nutrient-rich diet, mothers can use the effect of breastfeeding to regain their normal weight.
After all, with today’s food availability, the body’s ability to build up fat reserves is hardly needed. Breastfeeding mothers should never reduce their daily energy intake below 1,800 kcal. Harmful substances only enter breast milk to a greater extent when energy intake falls below 1 500kcal.
Not Eating For Two
Doctors assume that the additional fat reserves on the hips and buttocks created during pregnancy are only mobilized after a breastfeeding period of at least four months. Young mothers should therefore relax if they do not immediately fit back into their pre-pregnancy pants.
However, the fact that breastfeeding mothers have to eat for two, so to speak, is a myth: milk production only raises energy requirements by 300 to 600 calories a day. Anyone who wants to take advantage of this to regain their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly should seek advice from experts: Doctors, lactation consultants, midwives, and specially trained nutritionists can offer tips on how to reduce calories easily without sacrificing nutritional intake.
Nutritional Approaches For The Period After Breastfeedin
When the breastfeeding period is over but stubborn extra pounds are still clinging to the hips, dieting in the classic sense is permitted again. After all, the principle applies: losing weight only works if the body burns more than it is supplied with. Crash diets are nevertheless conceivably unsuitable for young mothers: They make flabby, drive down the metabolism and promote a fast increase, if again normally one eats. Instead, those who want to lose weight should follow the following approaches:
- No light products: Even if the food industry likes to advertise that fat- and sugar-reduced products help you lose weight, those willing to lose weight should take a critical look at them. Some low-fat yogurts have a higher sugar content to improve taste, while other products contain artificial sweeteners. In a study, researchers found
- Proteins make you feel full: It has been scientifically proven that increased protein consumption releases the satiety hormone peptide YY. This messenger delays gastric emptying and the release of gastric juices and thyroid enzymes. It thus increases the feeling of satiety and prolongs the time we spend without hunger until the next meal. All low-carb diets benefit greatly from this effect. Within low-carb diets, there is often no counting of the number of calories consumed each day, since the protein-rich foods, through their satiating effect, ensure that this remains in check without any control at all. The draining effect of a low-carbohydrate diet provides additional motivation, especially when starting a diet.
- Better full than empty calories: Nutritionists refer to products that provide energy through sugar, fat, and protein but are low in vitamins, minerals, and trace elements as empty calories. This is true of many industrially processed foods based on processed flour, hydrogenated vegetable fat, and sugar. Young mothers after breastfeeding should instead prefer fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain products, which are rich in vital substances. They have the effect that even with reduced long-chain carbohydrates and fiber the blood sugar level and prevents cravings. For a long-term and durable reduction of weight is very helpful apart from the Low Carb beginning also the keyword Real Food which describes untreated food. This is about the fact that unprocessed foods are normally more nutritious.
that the body is not fooled by calorie-free sweetness and tries to compensate for the calorie savings elsewhere. Light products then lead to increased feelings of hunger and even weight gain.
Sport Yes – But How?
If you want to regain your vital pre-pregnancy body, you will have to resume or re-initiate your exercise and sports program at some point. The body goes through various changes again in the postpartum period. But what is the right time for this and what is the best way for young mothers to start training?
The Start: Postpartum Gymnastics
Gentle postpartum gymnastics supports the female body after childbirth by strengthening the pelvic floor and toning the abdominal muscles. The overstretched tissues of the pelvis and abdomen regain their elasticity. Here, the guidance of experienced midwives or physiotherapists is particularly important, because sometimes a perineal tear or incision caused during childbirth or the C-section scar cause pain.
Also the physiologically developed rectus diastasis, the drifting apart of the straight abdominal muscles requires special exercises to normalize. After initial instruction, postpartum exercise videos online and on DVD are especially helpful for effectively using the times when the baby is sleeping at home.
When To Start Exercising?
As a rule, exercise as such is taboo for new mothers six to eight weeks after giving birth. After a cesarean section, women should suspend their usual fitness program for at least twelve weeks. After that, doctors even expressly recommend exercise to strengthen the body and also stabilize the psyche.
Which Sports Are Suitable For What?
Mothers should start with gentle endurance and muscle training such as walking, cycling, yoga, Pilates, or swimming. On the other hand, they should avoid sports that place too much strain on the pelvic floor. These include jogging, tennis, ball games, and aerobics. Strength exercises with or without weights should also always be checked to see whether they overload the pelvic floor or abdominal wall in the case of rectus diastasis.
However, targeted strengthening of the abdomen and back is absolutely sensible – after all, the maternal spine and musculature often have to do hard labor in the infant years when cradling and carrying.
How Much Exercise Makes Sense?
How quickly young mothers get back to their usual exercise routine depends on their fitness level before and during pregnancy. Those starting from scratch should begin with daily sessions of 15 to 20 minutes maximum. Later, 30 to 45 minutes about three to five times a week will ensure that fitness, endurance, and muscles are built up.
Integrating Sport Into The Baby’s Daily Routine
If the doctor or midwife has given their approval, new mothers can exercise at any time – but this is easier said than done in the strenuous daily routine with an infant. In general, the period after a breastfeeding meal is ideal for a training session, because the baby is then (hopefully) asleep and the mother’s breast is not so tense during training.
In addition, studies show that the taste of breast milk changes somewhat in the period of one hour after a training session, so that babies then like to drink less. Of course, breastfeeding mothers should refrain from strenuous exercise, as it can inhibit the flow of milk.
Getting Fit Again With A Baby
Fortunately, gyms today have adapted to the needs of mothers. Numerous mother-child courses are designed in such a way that the baby can simply come along and have just as much fun as the sporty mother. Such courses also have the advantage that young mothers can meet like-minded people and exchange ideas.
In addition, many studios offer childcare for the time when the mother is in the normal course or on the equipment. Should the offspring become restless, the mother is always available. For those who prefer to walk or jog outside, a baby jogger is a right investment if it is adapted to the age group. If the child sits upright in the stroller, its back muscles must be appropriately trained for this.
Diet And Exercise Reduce The Risk Of Postpartum Depression
The so-called “baby blues” occur in a stronger or weaker form in the majority of all women, as their mood reacts sensitively to the massive drop in estrogen levels after pregnancy. Studies show that a healthy diet with adequate omega-3 fatty acids lowers the risk of developing postpartum depression. Exercise can also help stabilize mood through the production of serotonin.
Other Important Aspects For Physical Well-being
In addition to a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, the following tips will also help you to still feel good in the stressful everyday life of having a baby:
Find A Sleep Rhythm:
Newborns are rarely awake for more than two hours at a time, but they regularly demand breastfeeding meals over a 24-hour period. To help mothers get restful sleep now and then in the first few weeks, fathers should take over regular baby feedings in the morning with expressed milk. In addition, babies can already be gently accustomed to the difference between day and night in the first few months. From the sixth month, many then manage to sleep through the night for six to eight hours. This also makes the timeless strenuous again for overtired mothers.
Beauty Program For Mothers:
During pregnancy, many women are delighted with their clear complexion and full head of hair – after giving birth, these features sometimes disappear abruptly. The change in hormones favors skin blemishes and hair loss (postpartum effluvium); dark circles under the eyes are also a normal side effect. The stressful baby routine also makes mothers mentally thinner-skinned, so that they cope less well with physical changes. A visit to the beautician or hairdresser then helps to relax in between and to feel a bit more comfortable in one’s own skin again.
Problem Zone Belly:
Models and social media set unrealistic standards here – directly after giving birth, it is quite normal for a woman’s belly to still look as if she were six months pregnant. Subsequently, postpartum gymnastics, flushing out water and weight loss help bring the body closer to its usual contours. Special abdominal exercises counteract rectus diastasis while plucking massages with jojoba oil can soften stretch marks. At the same time, mothers should never forget the miracle their bodies performed during pregnancy. Those who still suffer from sagging tissue or rectus diastasis years later have the option of an aesthetic tummy tuck.
The Right Amount Of Appointments:
During the time with an infant, it is important for mothers not to take on too much but also not too little. Many women complain that alone with their child, they felt almost locked in during the first few weeks. Rushing from one appointment to the next every day, on the other hand, often leads to excessive demands on both mother and child. Babies need a routine to find their rhythm and to be able to calm themselves. The trick is to find the right level of activity that benefits both parents and their offspring.
Perfection Makes You Unhappy:
If you constantly compare your everyday life with your baby to the ideals that existed before the baby was born, you will inevitably notice that fantasy and reality are not congruent. Hardly any baby is peaceful all the time while its mother is having a perfect day: from sports to coffee with friends, to a “little bit of household chores”, to a romantic evening with her partner. Instead of emulating perfection, young parents should enjoy the situations with babies as they happen. A laugh, a new skill, or the first attempts at speech can only be duly experienced if they are not lost in the stress. After all, all parents can confirm at some point: Baby time goes by far too quickly.
Engaging in physical activity and eating healthy after birth has nothing to do with pressure to perform, but rather serves the health of mother and child. The baby receives all the nutrients it needs through breast milk, while mothers are better able to cope with the stress of everyday life with an infant. After all, most women want to be able to look back on a happy and relaxed baby time later on.
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