Nutrition After Pregnancy – Supporting Infant Nutrition

Nutrition after pregnancy focuses on establishing the ability of the mother to feed her newborn. It takes a few days after the birth of infant for mature breast milk to be produced. Initially the newborn receives immature milk called colostrum that is high in protein and immune factors designed jump start the newborn’s own immune system. About 2-3 weeks after the infant is born the mother’s breasts begin to produce mature milk for the infant.

There are several hormones that support maturation of the mother’s breast tissue and the production and release of breast milk. The pituitary gland produces two hormones prolactin and oxytocin. The infant’s sucking at the breast stimulates the release of prolactin from the pituitary gland. This release of prolactin stimulates the production in the breast tissue. The second hormone oxytocin allows the milk to be released from the mammary gland to the nipples to the infant.

In order to protect her own nutrition after pregnancy while providing nutrition for her infant, the mother must continue to consume a varied healthy nutrient dense diet, since the mother’s nutritional needs are as high, as or higher than they were during her pregnancy.

The mother must also call on her fat stores to supplement the energy provided by her diet since it takes a great deal of energy to produce milk. Losing weight should not be a major concern at this point since if the mother is well nourished then she will lose weight slowly at about 1 ¾ pounds/month. In order for a mother to successfully nurse her infant she must consume about 1800 kilocalories/day.

The mother’s dietary intake of protein should be about 26 grams/day, and higher intakes of vitamins and minerals are needed with the exception of vitamins D and K which remains the same for lactation as it was for pregnancy. On the other hand niacin and Folate levels should be lowered for lactation from the levels that they were at during pregnancy.

For minerals most mineral levels should be increased during lactation except sodium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, fluoride, and molybdenum. The need for iron actually decreases below nonpregnancy levels, since menstruation often does not return during the early months of breast feeding, and since iron that is normally lost every month through menstruation does not need to be replaced, since there is no significant loss at this time.

Women who are breast feeding require a large amount of water on a daily basis, approximately 8 cups per day and at least one cup each time she breast feeds.

In order to provide the proper amount of nutrients to support her own nutrition and that of her infant’s the mother should chose her foods in line with the myplate food groups recommendation for nutrition and have an intake of about 2000-3000 kilocalories/day.

It is recommended by health professionals that women who breast feed also continue their prenatal vitamins and mineral supplements to help meet the nutritional requirements of lactation.

During breast feeding it is also important to not engage in smoking, use of alcohol or other drugs since these substances can end up in breast milk and in the infant.

Infant Nutrition - The Lactation Stage

For more information about nutrition after pregnancy click on the link to

For more information about calorie needs before, during and after pregnancy click on the link to

For other information on nutrition including nutrition after pregnancy some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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