The period after C-section is a painful time for you due to mental and physical exhaustion. This is the time you need to eat healthy both for yourself and your baby as you begin to breastfeed. While some say you can have solid foods after the surgery, some say you cannot. So, what exactly do you need to eat after a C-section? MomJunction tells you about the ideal diet after Cesarean delivery, and the foods to avoid during this phase.
Why Is Nutrition Essential Post Delivery?
Nutrition speeds up the healing processes and improves your energy levels after the C-section. Continue eating a well-balanced diet that includes high proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, and iron, as you were taking during pregnancy.
According to the Dietary Guidelines published by the US Department of Agriculture and endorsed by the American Dietitic Association, new mothers who are breastfeeding require a daily intake of an additional 500K calories. Caloric intake should not fall beyond 1,800Kcal per day. A higher intake is recommended for nursing women who are breastfeeding more than one newborn, underweight or who regularly perform physical activity (1).
[ Read: Breastfeeding After C-Section ]
Make sure you seek your doctor’s advice before planning the post-cesarean diet. She may have advised you to avoid certain foods during pregnancy, but now you may have to add them back to the list to regain your health and strength.
Ideal Diet After Cesarean Delivery:
In addition to nutrition, the other primary purposes of following an ideal diet after c-section are to enable:
- proper digestion
- easy bowel movement without any strain on the abdomen
- support the healing process
Here are the essential elements that you need to include in your diet (2).
1. Easily digestible foods:
New mothers accumulate excess gas after giving birth, so you should be careful not to eat foods that cause gas and constipation. Avoid carbonated drinks and fried foods, which produce gas. Eat fiber rich foods to stay away from constipation. Warm soups can be easily digested, and are nutritious as well. Cottage cheese, broth, and yogurt are also good.
Yogurt can restore the bacterial balance after the cesarean section (3). Fatty acids from primrose and flaxseed oil give relief from constipation. Avoid foods that are hard to digest, such as pasta. You can resume your normal diet when you stop feeling the pain while passing stools, and your digestive system is back to normal.
Proteins aid in the growth of new cell tissues and help in the healing process. Protein rich foods facilitate tissue repair and maintain muscle power after the surgery. You can eat fish, eggs, chicken, dairy foods, meat, peas, dried beans, and nuts. These foods are easily digestible, especially during your nursing time. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, and eggs provide zinc which is beneficial for your health. You can also include protein shakes.
[ Read: Foods to Include in Diet After Delivery ]
3. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C speeds up the recovery process and combats infections. The antioxidant nature of vitamin C helps the body repair the tissue. You can include lots of fruits and veggies like oranges, melons, papayas, strawberries, grapefruits, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli. The recommended daily allowance is 1,800mg for lactating women of age 14 to 18 years, and 2,000mg for those above 19 years (4).
Iron is essential to maintain hemoglobin levels and regain blood that you have lost during the delivery process. Also, it aids in the functioning of the immune system. Iron-rich foods include egg yolk, red meat, oysters, figs, beef liver, dried beans and dry fruits. However, limit your iron intake as excess iron can cause constipationThe recommended dietary allowance for iron is 10mg per day for women of ages 14 to 18 years, and 9mg per day for those beyond 19 years (5).
Calcium aids in the relaxation of muscles, strengthens bones and teeth, prevents osteoporosis and helps in blood coagulation. Good sources of calcium are milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, kale, and spinach. The recommended daily intake of calcium for lactating women of ages 14 to 18 is 1,300mg and for those beyond 19 years is 1,000mg per day. During breastfeeding, 250 to 350mg of calcium will be transferred to the newborn (6).
Milk is not only an excellent source of calcium but also promotes the production of milk. Yogurt supplies your body with calcium and zinc.
Fiber mitigates constipation, which, otherwise, causes undue pressure on the incisions and wounds. Rich sources of fiber are raw fruits and veggies, as they add roughage to your diet.
[ Read: Postpartum Constipation ]
Drinking lots of fluids is important to escape dehydration and constipation. Hydration aids in smooth bowel movement and recovery from the surgery. Consume at least eight to ten glasses of water every day and include fluids like low-fat milk, non-citrus juices (unsweetened), herbal teas, coconut water, buttermilk, and soups.
Fluids are also essential, especially when you are nursing your little one, as breastfeeding can make you thirsty often. Also, liquids such as calcium-fortified drinks, low-fat yogurt, and milk improve your breast milk supply. Cut off caffeine products as they can enter your breast milk and irritate your baby and affect his sleep.
Foods You Can Eat After C-Section:
Post delivery, you tend to feel hungry often with the energy draining out during the delivery process. Here is a list of foods which you should eat during the recovery period after C-section:
1. Low-fat dairy products:
Skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of protein, calcium, and vitamins B and D, which are essential for nursing moms. You need calcium rich foods for yourself as well as your baby as your milk strengthens her. Include three cups or at least 500ml of dairy every day.
2. Whole grains:
Whole grain brown bread, brown rice, wheat and brown pasta provide you the necessary calories and help supply nutritious milk for your baby. It boosts the energy levels and gives you the required nutrients and vitamins.
Enriched whole grain products contain folic acid, iron and fiber, which are essential in the early developmental stage of your baby. For new mothers who experience sleepless nights and wake up irritated in the morning, a whole grain cereal breakfast works.
You can also prepare a healthy breakfast by adding blueberries and skimmed milk into a serving of oatmeal.
[ Read: Post Pregnancy Diet ]
3. Fruits and vegetables:
Citrus fruits like oranges and antioxidant-rich blueberries are good for breastfeeding mothers. Citrus fruits contain vitamin C.
Green veggies like broccoli, spinach, pointed gourd, Indian round gourd, beans, fenugreek leaves and lotus stem are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, iron and dietary calcium. They contain heart-healthy antioxidants and low calories. They are good for both the mother and her baby.
Dark colored beans like kidney beans and black beans contain iron, which is essential for nursing mothers. They are also a source of non-animal protein. Mushrooms (fresh and dried), carrot and red dates are other good options.
You should consume three portions of fruits and two portions of veggies every day.
Oats are a good source of iron, calcium, proteins, carbohydrates and fiber (7). The high fiber content relieves you from constipation. You can have them along with milk, dry fruits or nuts. You can also chop some fruits such as apple, banana or mango, and eat them with oats.
Pulses are essential in our diet as they are good sources of proteins. Moreover, they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Include lentils and green gram as they are easily digestible and help you lose the extra weight.
[ Read: 25 Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk ]
Include turmeric in your dishes as it contains vitamins B6, C, fiber, potassium, manganese and magnesium. It helps reduce inflammation and heals internal and external wounds quickly. Add about a half teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of warm milk and drink it every day.
Almonds are rich sources of carbohydrates, vitamins B12 and E, fiber and minerals like copper, calcium, zinc, potassium and manganese. It is one of the must-have foods which benefit your health as well as beauty. Almonds can be taken in any form – raw, soaked, shakes, etc.
8. Ajwain (carom seeds or bishop’s weed):
Ajwain or carom seeds are a good source of thymol, which helps soothe pain caused by indigestion and gas (8). It also cleanses uterus and gives relief from the post-delivery pain.
The thymol is antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic and antifungal. You can include it in a variety of dishes like bread or use as a seasoning agent.
You can also drink ajwain water every day. In the book All Natural Antiviral Agents, Laurie Pippen writes that ajwain’s aromatic oil is released into the breast milk and regulates digestion in babies.
9. Ginger and garlic:
Ginger, both raw and dry (saunth), contains vitamins B6 and E, fiber, potassium, magnesium, manganese and selenium. It acts as an anti-inflammatory substance. Garlic aids digestion and helps reduce post pregnancy weight. You can add a little ginger-garlic paste to your foods while cooking.
10. Finger millet:
Also known as ragi or mandua, it is a good source of iron and calcium. New moms require calcium for bone health. It can be included in your diet as an alternative to milk and other dairy products. It is a great alternative for mothers who are allergic to dairy food.
Cumin seeds help in producing breast milk. You can add some cumin seeds in any food or powder white cumin seeds and add it to a glass of warm milk. Drink this twice every day to improve breast milk supply.
It is an excellent source of calcium, iron, minerals and vitamins. It is known to prevent joint and back pains. It can be added to a variety of dishes and fenugreek tea is good for lactating mothers.
[ Read: Fenugreek To Increase Breast Milk ]
13. White and black sesame seeds:
These are rich in iron, calcium, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. It significantly regulates bowel movement.
14. Asafoetida (hing):
You can add a little amount of hing to your foods. It eases out flatulence and gas and aids in better digestion. It, therefore, treats gastrointestinal issues that are common after delivery (9).
It is advisable to check with your doctor before you start a meal regime. Sometimes, she may suggest some vitamin or iron supplements.
Foods To Avoid After C-Section:
You should avoid all fatty and junk foods as your physical activity is low after c-section. They may just add to your weight. Avoid spicy foods as they can lead to gastric problems. Moreover, your baby will also receive the flavor in the milk.
Here are a few kinds of foods that you may avoid:
- Carbonated drinks which may cause gas and flatulence should be avoided.
- Citrus juices should be taken with caution. You can initially take them in small amounts, and then increase it to moderate quantities.
- Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea should be included in moderate amounts due to their diuretic properties. Also, the excess caffeine in them can lead to growth problems in your baby.
- Stay off from alcohol as it can impair your ability to produce milk and lead to developmental issues in your child.
- You should introduce gas-forming foods like white lentils, red kidney beans, chick peas, black-eyed beans, green peas and others gradually. Avoid other gas-forming foods like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lady’s finger and onions for the initial 40 days.
- Do not eat fried foods as they are hard to digest, especially in the first days after delivery. They can cause indigestion, burns and gas.
- Do not take rice for at least three to four days after cesarean delivery, especially if you are diabetic. The high blood sugars from rice can interfere with the scar and may prolong the healing. Take brown rice as it supplies energy minus the extra calories.
- Avoid cold foods and drinks. They may make you catch a cold. As a lactating mother, you cannot take medication for cold as it can pass into the breast milk.
[ Read: Pregnant After C Section ]
Things To Remember:
Follow these basic tips to ensure you get the best out of what you eat:
- Spread out your meals through the day instead of consuming three heavy meals. Try and have at least five to six small meals through the day.
- Have your meals at a gap of about two hours. In case you feel hungry earlier, snack on some fruits or nuts.
- Avoid gulping down your food and instead take some time to chew it slowly. It may be difficult for you to have a relaxed meal while having a newborn around, but you can ask your family members to look after your baby for some time.
- With a newborn, you will never get enough sleep. So, try to rest whenever possible. Sleep will help your body repair and heal better.
- Try to eat more home cooked meals as you can and include lots of fresh ingredients.
Now you know the importance of diet after cesarean delivery. Remember, a nutritious diet can help you recuperate from C-section as well as keep both you and the baby healthy.
What was your diet plan post-cesarean? Do share it with other mommies here.
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