Over the past couple of weeks we’ve looked at nutrition requirements to support fertility and pregnancy. This week we discuss nutrition for the fourth trimester (yes, there’s a fourth!). As a new mama it’s so important to continue to look after your health once bub is born!
Tabitha also shares her recipe for sweet potato, red lentil and wild salmon patties – yum!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part interview series with Tabitha McIntosh from Awaken Your Health and found it useful and informative.
What is the fourth trimester?
Your baby’s ‘fourth trimester’ starts from the moment they are born, and lasts for about three months. This term is used to describe a period of significant change and development in your newborn as they adjust to life in the world as we know it. This is also a time of significant change for the parents, in particular the mother who’s sense of herself can shift quite significantly as she learns to tend to and feed her newborn.
What are the key nutrient requirements for mum and bub during the fourth trimester? It’s the recommendation of the World Health Organisation that mothers worldwide exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. At about the 6 month mark, nutritious complementary foods can be given, with continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.
Newborns need to feed between 8-12 times a day, or every 2-4 hours around the clock for the first months of life to receive adequate nutrition. This means that in the first 6 months, an exclusively breastfeeding mum will produce somewhere between 800-1200mL of breast milk every day – this is an enormous task!
A breastfeeding mother’s body donates large percentages of essential nutrients to their baby to ensure them the best possible start in life. As such, daily nutrient requirements while breast-feeding are even greater than any stage of pregnancy: it is essential to replace the water, protein and nutrients lost in your breastmilk.
New mothers often notice their appetite increasing: every breast-feeding mother needs an extra 500 calories every day. Try to think about what your diet can do for your breast milk – quality control is up to you. In particularly, there is a significant increase for protein, which has a positive impact on milk supply. For example, a woman who is about 70kg, needs to eat a minimum of 84g of lean protein every day – which requires some significant effort. Consulting with a clinical nutritionist or naturopath for ideas and a meal planner can be a big help.
Breastmilk naturally contains Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), although the concentration can vary widely since the maternal diet ultimately influences actual composition. Breastfeeding mothers should be encouraged to continue to get adequate intake of DHA, especially during the baby’s first six months. In recent years, the scientific literature has emphasised the important benefits on the baby’s development and maternal health. DHA is a major component of nervous system cell membranes and, thus, is critical to the development of the baby’s brain and retina; and maternal intake of DHA during the post partum period may actually impact the child’s IQ and ability to pay attention in the following years. Not getting enough DHA omega 3 may also create a state of vulnerability that contributes to risk of Post partum depression in the mother.
Adequate intake of essential fats such as Omega 3 DHA can be achieved from regular consumption of small oily fish such as wild salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies, pilchards and sardines, as well as some marine algae. Pasture raised beef and eggs are also a reasonable source of omega 3 DHA. Supplementation is often warranted, discuss with your health care provider for advice.
The breastfeeding mother may also wish to pay special attention to her calcium intake, to decrease the loss of calcium from their own skeleton when breastfeeding. All of the nutrients discussed previously in weeks 1 & 2 remain relevant to the breastfeeding mother, and a little bit of zinc post-partum can go a very long way in enhancing healing and speeding recovery following delivery.
Finally, aiming for a minimum of 3 litres of spring water and herbal teas daily will account for the water lost in your breast milk, plus allowing for optimal function of other bodily processes.
Many mums have a really difficult time breastfeeding. Seeking support from your team (GP, clinical nutritionist, naturopath, lactation consultant) is a wise idea as there are many strategies, natural remedies, and interventions that can assist. In addition, there are some wonderful resources available such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association and the Breastfeeding helpline.
Sweet potato, red lentil and wild salmon patties
The patties are not just simple to make, but taste great and contribute very generously to the daily protein and DHA requirement of a breastfeeding mother. The salmon suggested here is Wild Alaskan salmon, known to have a significantly better omega3:omega6 ratio than our fresh farmed salmon from Tasmania.
As a bonus, these patties freeze well, so can be batch made and pulled out a couple at a time for a quick and nourishing meal. Enjoy!
Makes 8-10 patties
1 can of red lentils (drained and rinsed)
1 210g can of wild red salmon (drained) – I use Paramount brand
1 medium sweet potato 1 cob of corn, kernels cut off
1 medium Spanish onion (the purple ones)
1 bunch fresh coriander or parsley (chopped finely)
1 egg (to bind)
½ a cup of chia seed bran to dust (or gluten free flour can be used)
- Wash the sweet potato and onion and put them in the oven to roast at 250 degrees for one hour. After one hour, test with a skewer to see if soft. If skewer goes through, take out and let cool.
- When they are cool, take the skin of them and chop them up. Place into a large mixing bowl and mash.
- Add finely chopped coriander, raw egg, cooked corn kernels, drained red salmon, and the drained & rinsed red lentils. Mix well.
- Add Chia bran to the wet mix. This will dry it out a little and help it to stick together. Mix very well.
- Heat a frying pan on low to medium heat with some olive oil or coconut oil.
- Take handfuls of the mixture (around size of a golf ball) and place into hot frying pan.
- Lightly brown the patties (1-2 mins on each side) so they are warm through. You don’t need to cook them, just heat and brown them.
- Serve hot or cold with greens, tomato, avocado, tahini, or chilli sauce.