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Special Postnatal Nutrition Needs

Asparagus, folate-fortified breakfast cereals, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chick peas, dried beans, lentils and spinach.

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Folate

Facts

    • Folate (folic acid) is involved in many chemical reactions in the body. It is essential for normal growth of all cells including blood and nerve tissue.
    • Your folate stores may be low after the demands of pregnancy and birth, therefore adequate postnatal intake is essential for your good health and sufficient transfer into your breast milk.
    • Folate  is essential for normal growth of your baby after birth and your diet is the only source if your baby is fully breastfed. 
    • Folate is found in small amounts in many foods so it is important to eat a variety of foods which are "best" and "good" sources to get the recommended daily intake of 500 µg/day (if breastfeeding, or 400 mg/d (if not breastfeeding).

Best folate sources

Asparagus, folate-fortified breakfast cereals, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chick peas, dried beans, lentils and spinach.

Good folate sources

Nuts, vegemite (and other yeast extracts), oranges, avocado, wholegrain bread, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, peas and salad greens.

Tips

To maximise the amount of folate you can:

    • Steam, microwave or stir-fry instead of boiling and try not to over-cook your vegetables
    • Eat raw vegetables and fresh salad leaves where possible 
    • Choose "best" or "good" sources of dietary folate at each meal to get the required 500 µg/day.
    • Discuss folic acid supplements with your doctor or dietitian if you are not sure you are getting enough folate.
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Vitamin B12 ------ 51991798

Facts

    • Adequate vitamin B12 is essential during pregnancy and breastfeeding for healthy development of your baby’s nervous system and red blood cells.  
    • Good sources of vitamin B12 are red meat (highest), fish/seafood, fortified breakfast cereals and dairy products.
    • Unfortified plant foods do not contain vitamin B12, so if you are a vegetarian or vegan you are likely to be have low vitamin B12 stores after pregnancy.

Tips

    • If you are a vegetarian or vegan you should take a vitamin B12 supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Discuss the dose with your health carer.
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Iron

Facts

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  • Your iron requirements after pregnancy depend on a couple of things - whether you are breastfeeding and whether menstruation has returned:
    • Breastfeeding mothers not menstruating = 9 mg/d
    • Breastfeeding mothers menstruating = 27 mg/d
    • Non-breastfeeding mothers = 18 mg/d

Best iron sources

Lean red meat, chicken and fish

Good iron sources

Grains, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts and iron-enriched breakfast cereals
*Consume these foods with a high vitamin C food (e.g. capsicum, tomato, broccoli, a piece of fruit or juice) to increase absorption of plant-based iron

If you are not consuming sufficient iron you may become iron deficient leading to fatigue, tiredness and reduced immunity – not ideal for a busy mother.

Tips

    • Consuming a balanced diet including both “best” and “good” sources of iron should meet your requirements. 
    • Avoid tea or coffee with or directly after your meal as it reduces iron absorption. 
    • If you are at risk of low iron (vegetarian, multiple pregnancy (e.g. twins) or a history of low iron) an iron supplement may be needed. Make sure you speak to your doctor about the dosage. Supplementation can cause stomach upset and constipation so guidance is recommended. More about iron supplements and nutrient stores

For more information see: 

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 ------ 96796792Calcium

Facts

    • Calcium is an important mineral to keep your bones healthy and strong.
    • During lactation, calcium is especially important.
    • Insufficient calcium intake will result in calcium being taken from your bones leaving you at an increased risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones and fractures later in life) 
    • If you are breastfeeding, to meet the extra demands your body's absorption of calcium from food through your intestines is increased (like in pregnancy) – you just need to consume enough calcium-rich foods for this to happen.

Best calcium sources

Dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, cheese), calcium-fortified soy milk, figs (fresh or dry).

Good calcium sources

Fish with edible bones (e.g. salmon and sardines), nuts and seeds
Small amount in fruit and vegetables.

Tips

  • To ensure you have enough calcium in your diet (1000 mg/day), you will need 2 serves of dairy foods per day. For example:
1 cup of reduced fat milk + 1/2 tub of yoghurt
  • If you do not eat dairy foods and do not replace these with calcium-fortified soy milk you will need calcium supplements. Please see your doctor or dietitian for advice.
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 ------ 87231202Iodine

Facts

    • Iodine is a mineral that is needed in small amounts but is very important especially in pregnancy and lactation for the normal growth and brain development of your baby.
    • For you, iodine is important to regulate your metabolism and to help maintain your central nervous system cells.
    • Iodine requirements are hard to meet via diet alone as our food supply is quite low in this mineral.
    • If you are breastfeeding you will need 270µg/day of iodine to ensure you are consuming enough for your own needs and your baby’s brain development.
    • If you are not breastfeeding you will need 150µg/day of iodine.

Tips ------ 95989864

    • All women should eat good sources of iodine every day - fortified bread, fortified milk, iodised salt, fish, seaweed and canned salmon.
    • Women who are breastfeeding or considering pregnancy should also consider taking a supplement that contains around 150 µg/day of iodine 
    • Iodine affects thyroid function, and women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should seek advice from their doctor before taking a supplement. 
    • Please note that kelp/seaweed tablets are not recommended as they contain varying amounts of iodine, often too much, which can be harmful to your baby. It is best to take supplements designed for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding to avoid these inconsistencies.

For more information see Iodine supplementation for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women (external, NHMRC)

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Vitamin D  ------ 4182265

Facts

    • Vitamin D is important to build and maintain bone and muscle strength. 
    • Evidence is increasing that vitamin D may also play a role in protecting you from other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers. 

Vitamin D for you:

    • Food provides a very small amount of vitamin D (oily fish such as mackerel and sardines, egg yolks, margarine, fortified milk) but you are unlikely to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from food.
    • The primary source of vitamin D is through exposure of your skin to sunlight.

Vitamin D for your baby:

    • Human breast milk and infant formula are  very low in vitamin D
    • If your vitamin D status was good in the later stages of pregnancy your baby should have enough vitamin D for the first few months.
    • If your vitamin D status was poor during pregnancy your baby may have low vitamin D stores and may be at risk of softened, deformed bones (rickets).
    • Beyond early infancy it is important for your baby to get a healthy amount of sunlight regularly to build or maintain their vitamin D status.

Tips

Check your risk of low vitamin D and that of your baby and discuss with your doctor. You and your baby are at risk if you:

    • Spend little time outdoors each week and/or ------ 72900430
    • Cover most of your skin with clothing and/or
    • Wear sun-cream on all exposed areas every time you are in the sun in any season and/or
    • Are naturally dark-skinned,  as you need more sun exposure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D.

A blood test will show if you are low in vitamin D, and supplements might be prescribed to normalise your levels.

Sun exposure is the best way to maintain adequate vitamin D levels but may also increase the risk of skin cancer. The Cancer Council Australia has provided guidelines to help balance the risk of low vitamin D and the risk of skin cancer:

Cancer Council Australia Guidelines on sun-exposure

Regular outdoor activity and incidental sun exposure is enough for most people with fair to medium skin tones.

If you live in the southern half of WA this equates to:

  •  
    • 2-3 hours per week of sun exposure in Winter (to face, arms and hands or equivalent area of skin)
    • A few minutes of exposure in summer outside of the peak times (10 am – 3 pm)
    • It is safe to be exposed to sun for this amount of time without protection (hat/ sun-cream). However, for most people, if the UV Index (external) is 3 or higher make sure sensible sun protection is used. 
    • This exposure should not burn your skin however it will look a little flushed as the blood flows closer to the surface of your skin.

If you live in the north of Australia you will only need a few minutes a day as the UV index is high all year round.

If your skin tone is dark:

  •  
    • You may need 3-6 times more sun exposure than fairer skinned people to get adequate vitamin D levels.
    • It is okay for you to go in the sun when the UV level is higher (between 10 am – 3 pm) especially if you usually do not spend much time outside

Safe sunlight exposure for your baby

The NHMRC recommends that infants be exposed to sunlight for “2 hours a week if just their face is exposed or 30 minutes a week with just a nappy on. With habitual small doses of sunshine, breast or formula-fed infants do not require supplemental vitamin D. However, the infants of dark-skinned and/or veiled women may be at higher risk of developing rickets”

It is paramount that parents are extremely careful that their child's skin does not burn therefore limiting exposure between the highest UV level times, 10 am and 3 pm, is wise.

 More about vitamin D and being Sunsmart (external, Cancer Council)

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>> Postnatal Healthy Eating Guide >>

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