Now that baby’s here, you probably have questions about weight loss, what you should be eating and if supplements are still necessary. MH speaks to the experts.
WORDS TEO KUAN YEE
After an arduous nine months of nurturing your baby bump, you finally get to meet your little bub and cuddle him close to your face. Other than settling the care arrangement for junior, you should also dedicate time and effort to power up your body with a healthy diet and exercise, and lose some flab in the process.
Dr Shamini Nair, specialist in obstetrician & gynaecology and consultant, Raffles Women’s Centre, explains that most mothers gain around 10 to 12kg during pregnancy, and right after delivery, mothers will lose some weight depending on how heavy the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid are.
Soon after delivery, a woman can lose up to 4 to 5kg depending on the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid and placenta, according to Dr Pamela Tan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist from TLC Gynaecology Practice, Thomson Medical Centre. Explains Dr Tan, “The additional pounds usually come from an increased blood volume, breast tissues, fat stores and the weight of the uterus which takes four to six weeks to return to normal size.”
One good guide to losing weight is the Body Mass Index (BMI), says Rachel Ng, dietitian, Gleneagles Hospital. Ng points out, “Women with a normal pre-pregnancy BMI should aim to return to a normal BMI, whereas women who were overweight pre-pregnancy should aim to return to their pre-pregnancy weight, then continue losing weight if possible.”
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Ng advises new mothers to choose from a variety of foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds to maximise the overall nutrient quality of their diet.
“Foods that are high in fibre such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, provides satiety (feeling full) for a longer period, and at the same time supplies the body with important nutrients. A helpful guide to plan a healthy balanced meal is to use the Health Promotion Board’s ‘My healthy plate’ model,” recommends Ng.
“For breastfeeding mothers, production of breast milk requires extra energy,
and an additional 5OOkcalories per day is required.
Most women will need to eat extra snacks to meet their energy needs
and are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids,” adds Ng.
Dr Nair too advises mothers to aim for a healthy diet with a balance of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, and ditto for snacks.
“Busy mothers sometimes do not have the time to sit down for a complete meal but keeping healthy snacks handy such as nuts, carrots, celery sticks or apples will stave off hunger and reduce overeating during the next mealtime. Breastfeeding helps with weight loss as some calories are utilised for breast milk production,” says Dr Nair.
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Losing to Win
“Weight loss is best accomplished by a healthy diet lower in calories combined with regular exercise. In other words, consume less calories and burn more calories,” says Ng. Some tips from Ng include selecting nutrient-dense foods and avoiding foods high in empty calories (such as sugar-sweetened beverages and candies).
Adds Ng, “Be reassured that exercise will promote healing, support emotional well-being and will not adversely affect breastfeeding. The appropriate level of exercise will depend on a woman’s medical history, level of fitness and postpartum recovery. Always consult with your doctor before embarking on a postnatal exercise programme. Some recommended postnatal exercises include brisk walking, swimming, yoga and pilates.”
Dr Nair advises that most mothers would be able to start exercising four to six weeks after childbirth. One good way to start is to go for a walk with the baby in a stroller. Exercise can be broken up into two sessions per day, for example, a morning and evening walk. Having sufficient sleep is important for weight loss as sleep deprivation increases cortisol and other stress hormones that contribute to weight gain. One practical tip – take a nap when the baby sleeps.
Says Dr Nair, “Apart from helping with weight loss, exercise has other benefits such as aiding sleep, relieving stress and reducing depression. Having an exercise buddy can make the activity more fun and gives new mothers a chance to have some social interaction. Kegel’s or pelvic floor exercises are useful to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles after delivery.”
Go Easy on Health Supplements
New mothers should aim to meet all their nutritional needs through a well-balanced diet without relying on vitamins or health supplements, although there are exceptions.
“It may be appropriate for women to take supplements, for instance, vegan mothers may need to supplement their diet with vitamin supplements that contain vitamin B12. For breastfeeding mothers, 1000mg of calcium is recommended daily. Calcium supplements can be taken if it is not possible to consume adequate calcium rich foods from the diet alone. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional for further advice,” says Ng.
“Most of the necessary vitamins and minerals are attained in a good diet, however, patients who had a caesarean section or heavy bleeding during delivery would benefit from multivitamins with iron and folate. Breastfeeding mothers would also particularly benefit from higher amounts of vitamins and DHA supplements as their nutritional needs are greater,” highlights Dr Tan.