Mothers In Motion


By Lisa Unger


Post-baby nutrition and fitness

The moment a woman becomes a mother, her infant’s needs become her uncontested first priority–followed closely by sleep and a hot shower! At least for the first few months, exercise may fall to pretty low on the “to-do” list, until the new mother realizes that even though she may be physically fit, her body may not automatically return to its pre-pregnancy shape.

The best way to get back into a favorite pair of jeans is to follow a healthy diet and add regular exercise. For a runner who maintained a regular workout program before, and maybe even during, her pregnancy, this should not be too hard. However, according to advice from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, dieting and exercise should not start right after delivery. Most doctors will say it’s OK to start exercising again at the six-week check up if there were no complications of delivery, or at eight weeks for c-section births. To be safe, be sure to check with your doctor before resuming any strenuous activity or starting any new diet.

With proper hydration, beginning at about six to eight weeks after delivery, exercising will not interfere with milk production. Studies have shown that exercising does not change the quantity or quality of breastmilk and should not effect baby’s acceptance of the breast once breastfeeding has been established. Though infant formula can be nutritious, it’s been proven that mother’s milk provides health benefits that formula cannot match. Breastfeeding protects the baby against certain diseases and infections, both in infancy and later in life. Protective substances in mother’s milk make breast-fed children less likely to experience ear infections, allergies, pneumonia, wheezing and meningitis. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breast-fed exclusively for at least six months, with new studies showing that each additional month makes a difference.

After the first six to eight weeks, the choice to breastfeed her infant should not deter a new mother from exercising. Nursing moms should keep in mind, though, that in order to produce enough milk her body requires about 500 calories a day more than pre-pregnancy (and not from brownies!). The average caloric intake is about 1800 -2000 per day for non-pregnant women. During pregnancy, women should increase their intake by about 300 calories, or about 2100-2300 per day. Breastfeeding women should then add another 200 calories for a total of 2300 -2500. Additional calories may be needed when the mom returns to a physical activity such as running. A mom may consider starting to reduce her caloric intake when she begins to wean her baby from breastfeeding.

Ideally, calories should come from a variety of healthy foods. Nutritionists agree that consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is key to any healthy diet, adding that we should consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. But does it make a difference which fruits and vegetables are consumed? For optimal nutrition, yes it does matter. Essentially, there are seven plant colors: red, red-purple, orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, green and white green. Each color is associated with a different health benefit. 2500 different phytochemicals determine the plant color, and work as antioxidants which enhance the immune system and reduce the risk of disease. If a diet consists of at least one serving of fruits or vegetables from each of the colors everyday, it will naturally lead to overall better health and weight loss. Moderate exercise and proper nutrition may be the best ways to avoid disease, maintain optimal health and regain a pre-pregnancy figure.