The Basic Postpartum Diet


Omega-3 fatty acids

The basic postpartum diet is a simple but healthy and wholesome one. It can best be summed up by the following guidelines:

  • Eat foods that supply your body with essential fatty acids, like fresh salmon, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eat whole, preferably organic, foods – whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, unprocessed meats, nuts, and seeds, for example.
  • Avoid refined sugars and flour, during pregnancy and postpartum.
  • Eat foods that supply your body with antioxidants (mainly fresh fruits and vegetables).
  • Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.
  • Eat a source of nutrient-laden fiber, such as ground flaxseeds.
Eat Foods that Supply Your Body with Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are the final breakdown product of fats in the diet – the part of the fats you eat that is either stored or used in the cells for energy. Fatty acids were once viewed as nothing more than a source of stored calories, but modern research has shown that the quality of fatty acids in the body has profound effects on human health. Diseases related to inflammation, hormone imbalances, the immune system, behavioral problems, and the heart can often be partially or completely resolved if essential fatty acid levels are balanced through dietary changes or supplementation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
When you are pregnant, the developing fetus requires large amounts of two specific fatty acids, arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), to build brain and nerve cell membranes. Once a baby reaches about six months of age, his or her body will be able to make DHA and AA from other fatty acids, but while still in utero and in the first six months of life, these fats must be supplied in exact form by the mother's body – first through the placenta, then through breast milk. More than half of the nerve connections in baby's brain form during the first year of life, and the integrity of these connections is dependent upon the fatty acid supply from the mother. Ideally, mother's milk supplies DHA and AA to her baby through nursing for at least a year.

The fats you eat are transformed into hormonelike messenger molecules called prostaglandins, and how the balance of essential fats in your diet dictates the balance of prostaglandins in your body. These fats are also needed for proper brain and nervous system function in people of all ages, but are needed more than ever during gestation and in your baby's infancy, when those systems are undergoing their fastest period of growth.

The omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is the most important structural and cognitive (brain-function-related) fat for your brain and for your baby's brain. The placenta draws DHA from the mother's body like a vacuum cleaner, and the milk ducts continue to drain her stores for as long as her baby nurses. If you do not keep replenishing your supply, your emotional and physical well-being will most likely be compromised in the postpartum period and beyond.

The research of Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a psychiatrist, lipid biologist, and senior clinical investigator with the Section of Nutritional Neuroscience at the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse's Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, beautifully illustrates the connection between omega-3 lack and postpartum depression. Dr. Hibbeln examined fish consumption and the incidence of postpartum depression (PPD) in several countries, and found that the more fish women ate, the less likely they were to develop PPD.

Other research has shown that with each successive pregnancy, blood levels of DHA fall further, and that this dramatically increases a woman's risk of pregnancy complications. This is why it is especially important to build up your reserves of these good oils if you are thinking of having another child. Pregnant mothers with the lowest levels of DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), another important fatty acid, in their red blood cells are nearly eight times more likely to develop preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy characterized by elevated blood pressure, than are women with the highest levels of DHA and EPA.


More on: Postpartum

excerpted from:

From A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock, Robert Rountree, and Virginia Hopkins with Melissa Block. Copyright © 2002 by Dr. Dean Raffelock. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

Pregnancy Day by Day

Tell us your due date to receive our daily newsletter and find out what is happening in this day of your pregnancy!

Already a member? Log-in here

Name of the Day


Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

© 2000-2015 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.