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Building Nutrient Reserves with Diet

One of the classic medical textbooks on obstetrics, an imposing volume titled Williams Obstetrics (McGraw-Hill, 2001), devotes only three of more than sixteen hundred pages to the postpartum period. This makes sense in light of the fact that the average obstetrician (OB) does not participate much in postpartum care. For an uncomplicated birth, the OB shows up as the baby is emerging and zooms off as soon as he or she knows all is well.

Even if the OB were available to answer questions about how to eat during the postpartum months, he or she might not have much information to offer you. In those three pages on postpartum care in Williams Obstetrics, the only dietary advice the authors give is that women who have just given birth need not observe any dietary restrictions, and that they should eat an "appetizing general diet." Some women might find fried chicken, soda pop, and doughnuts to be the most appetizing foods around, but we know that these foods do not give a new mother's body the nutritional support it needs – and that nutrients drawn from her already depleted stores will be needed to process those foods, leaving her with an even greater deficit. Women need more specific information about how to nourish their bodies during postpartum recovery and breastfeeding. Advice on the ideal diet during pregnancy is easy to find in the average bookstore. It is much harder to find the facts on what to eat postpartum.

When you are engaged in baby care, putting nutritional advice into practice can be a formidable challenge. Some mothers give up on food preparation completely during the first months of their babies' lives, subsisting on takeout or ready-made packaged meals that do not meet their nutritional needs. However, it is important to eat nourishing, nutrient-replenishing foods during the pregnancy-recovery period to give yourself the best opportunity to avoid long-term nutrient deficiencies that may cause serious disease later on in life.

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.

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