Postnatal Nutrition - An Interview with New York City Registered Dietitian Megan Wolf
One of the things that I have found to be the most confusing about taking care of myself post-babe has been what to eat. When you are pregnant there are pretty universal guidelines about what not to eat, plus you are regularly seeing your doctor. But, as with everything else, I've found postpartum nutrition to be much more complicated. Can I drink coffee? wine? eat sushi again? am I allowed to lose weight if I'm breastfeeding?
Suddenly, after my 6 week check up visit I receive almost all of my medical advice from my pediatrician. She is amazing (I mean, I really, really value her), but pediatricians are trained to be doctors for children and doctors don't always receive specialized nutrition training. Since every mama has a different body that will interact with foods in different ways, it can be really important to seek advice from a certified nutritionist.
So, I am really excited to have had the opportunity to catch up with Megan Wolf from The Domesticated Wolf and pick her brain about some questions that have come up from my clients and my own experiences.
Megan is a New York City based Registered Dietitian and the owner of Megan Wolf Nutrition, a nutrition counseling and consulting private practice specializing in weight management. She holds a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and a Bachelors degree in Anthropology from Bates College. Megan is an avid cook, public speaker, and cookbook author. She is the author of the plant based cookbook, Great Meals with Greens and Grains and you can catch her healthy living tips and healthy recipes at @thedomesticatedwolf
Do you have any general nutrition tips for new moms?
The best advice I can give to new a mom is to be gentle with herself! Being a new mother comes with immense changes - both physically and emotionally. It can be overwhelming to feel as though we also need to overhaul our eating habits overnight to meet self imposed goals. Also hydration is often overlooked but staying adequately hydrated is so important. Especially for breastfeeding mothers, hydration (and frequent emptying) is key to success. Also eating with some frequency through the day can help to keep blood sugar stable and also keep us from getting too hungry or too full.
What foods do new mothers need to avoid?
I very rarely tell mothers that they need to avoid foods. Some babies are more sensitive to certain foods or ingredients. Caffeine, for example, can bother some babies more than others. Many mothers worry about including dairy in their diet if they have a colicky baby. There is little research that conclusively says to avoid such foods. In addition, very few babies have a real milk allergy. Others may worry about including too many fiberous food in their diet - but fiber is great to help with constipation (a common complaint for new moms) and help you to stay full through the day. High fiber foods are also unlikely to bother your baby. Of course you know your baby best, so follow your baby’s cues. Ultimately I find my clients are much happier talking about the foods they can eat, instead of the foods they cannot.
Is it okay to diet while breastfeeding?
It is okay to diet - mindfully - while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be depleting both emotionally and physically and it’s important to be sure that mom is getting all of the nutrients that she needs. This is why, in part, I always suggest that new moms continue to take a prenatal vitamin. It’s always important to try to incorporate lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains into a healthy eating plan. Don’t forget about fruits and vegetables! So often we are so focused on losing weight or meeting our health goals that we lose sight of the fact that we still need to nourish our bodies. This is especially true for the breastfeeding mother. There is research showing that the more varied mom’s diet is, the better palate a child will have because he or she was exposed to so many different flavors in breastmilk.
Do moms need to eat carbs while breastfeeding?
Many mothers can produce enough milk while reducing their carbohydrates intake. I’ve seen some mothers follow a ketogenic diet while still successfully breastfeeding. While a low carbohydrate is not for anyone, you may be able to met your breastfeeding goals while still following a similar plan. It’s always best to check in with a registered dietitian to confirm you’re adequately meeting your nutritional needs.
Do you have any advice for moms who are feeling too tired or too busy to focus on their own eating habits?
Find ways to take things off your plate - no pun intended. This might mean opting for online groceries so that we don’t have to find time to get to the market. Meal prepping is helpful. I always suggest that my clients should make their ovens work for them. If it’s on, it should be cranking out trays of roasted vegetables and lean proteins. Using the weekend - when most of us have a bit more time - is great to be sure you’re setting yourself up for success the following week. Stock your pantry with items that have a long shelf life - brown rice, Carrol, canned beans and tuna are excellent staples. Even something as simple as your refrigerator with two or three containers of roasted broccoli, sweet potatoes and steamed quinoa can make a world of difference when you have a fussy baby on your hip.