Congratulations on your journey to motherhood! As an expectant or new mother, it is crucial to prioritise your nutritional needs for both your own well-being and the optimal development and growth of your baby. A well-balanced diet is essential during the prenatal period, postpartum recovery, and while breastfeeding, as it provides the necessary nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy, aid in postpartum healing, and sustain the production of breast milk.
Remember, every woman’s body and nutritional needs are unique, and it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to receive personalised guidance based on your individual circumstances. Our expert, Singapore Accredited Dietitian Eunice Tan, offers general advice and evidence-based information to help you make informed decisions regarding your nutrition during these transformative stages of motherhood. Eunice answers the questions asked by our participants during the first part of the webinar, “Baby Out! What’s Next? Postpartum Nutrition and Sleep Training for Happy, Healthy Babies.”
Nutrition topics with related questions you’ll find in this article:
- Nutrition Tips for Expectant Mothers
- Postpartum Recovery Diet and Confinement Tips
- Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers
- Nutrition Tips If You Have a Health Condition
- Nutrition Tips for Babies
Nutrition Tips for Expectant Mothers
What can an expectant anaemic mother eat to increase iron intake?
Iron rich foods such as beef, pork, chicken, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and chickpeas are some great options.
Is plant-based or marine-based omega 3 better during pregnancy?
Marine based Omega 3 is better.
What is the optimal weight gain during pregnancy?
Current General Guidelines for singleton pregnancy recommends a total pregnancy weight gain of a range between 11.3 to 15.9 kg in those with normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2) before pregnancy. However, an ideal weight gain is very individual depending on many factors such as underlying medical conditions, multiple birth, pregnancy complication and nutritional status. Thus, it is important to speak to a dietitian for your own personal target pregnancy weight goals.
Generally, the rate of weight gain during second and third trimester is about 0.5 kg per week for women who had normal BMI before pregnancy. However, an ideal weight gain is very individual depending on many factors such as underlying medical conditions, multiple birth, pregnancy complication and nutritional status. Thus, it is important to speak to a dietitian for your own personal target pregnancy weight goals.
I am near the end of the pregnancy journey, but was informed that baby needs to gain more weight. What food should I have to help with the weight gain?
Weight gain occurs when there is higher caloric intake compared to output. Thus, during pregnancy, it is important to achieve recommended additional calorie intake during the third trimester. Generally, this means that one should not skip meals, have regular meals and enjoy one to two servings of nutritious snacks per day.
Can I eat half-boiled eggs if these are pasteurised?
It is best to eat fully cooked eggs during pregnancy. While pasteurisation can reduce the risk of food borne illness, it does not completely eliminate it. It is still important to store your eggs properly in the refrigerator, cook eggs thoroughly, and wash your hands after handling raw eggs.
Can we eat food like soft serve ice cream during pregnancy? I was told we cannot eat soft serve but ice cream is okay.
Yes, it is best to avoid soft serve ice cream as it has a higher risk of listeria bacteria contamination.
Does having cold drinks or green tea affect the baby? I am unable to even drink plain water due to excessive vomiting.
Cold water or green tea in moderation will not affect the baby and can be a great way to hydrate yourself.
What food to avoid if I’m going for C-section? Is the food intake for C-section the same as for natural delivery?
Practise a healthy and balanced diet leading up to your date of delivery. It is best to avoid any Chinese herbs or excessive intake of ginger before the delivery as it has blood thinning effects and may cause complications during the C-section.
Certified dietitian Eunice Tan lists the essential nutrients that mothers need during the post-delivery recovery period
Postpartum Recovery Diet and Confinement Tips
What kind of diet should I follow after a C-section delivery?
A diet that is of high protein with adequate vegetables will help to promote wound healing from C-section.
After a C-section, am I not allowed to eat eggs for the first two weeks to avoid pus?
C-section wounds heal well with good nutrition and wound care. Eggs are a great source of protein which is needed in promoting wound healing. There is no scientific evidence that eggs will affect the healing process.
If I have slightly high cholesterol, can I still take the recommended two eggs daily?
If you have slightly high cholesterol, two eggs daily may not be suitable. You can obtain choline from other food sources such as your salmon, chicken, pork, shiitake mushroom, and edamame.
Are there fish that are not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding?
Yes. Fish that are higher in mercury and should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding such as Swordfish, Shark, Bigeye Tuna, and King Mackerel, to name a few.
Is canned tuna okay?
Skipjack canned tuna is a good option of fish rich in Omega 3-DHA but low in mercury.
Are canned tuna in the supermarket slip jack?
Not all canned tunas are skipjack tuna.
What about red grouper?
Red grouper is a good option for fish rich in Omega 3-DHA, recommended to have not more than 2 servings per week.
Can I eat crab?
You can eat crab in moderation as long as it is thoroughly cooked.
What’s the alternative if I don’t take fish?
Omega 3-DHA are found to be only abundant in marine sources.It plays a role in brain development in babies. If fish is not an option, the alternatives are low mercury containing seafoods ike shrimp, squid and scallop. .
As a vegetarian, what can I eat to get omega DHA?
As Omega 3-DHA are more abundantly found in marine sources, vegetarians can consider Omega 3-DHA supplements. Do discuss with a Dietitian or a Doctor on the appropriate dosage for you.
My wife is vegetarian. How can I help to ensure the good amount of nutrition for post partum diet?
During postpartum, there is a higher requirement for protein intake to promote wound healing. Thus, it is important to include a vareity of plant based proteins into her diet such as chickpeas, lentils, nuts, treenuts, legumes and taukwa. If she is a lacto-ovo vegetarian, it’s great to regularly include eggs and dairy into her diet regularly as well as these foods provide vitamin B12, zinc and iodine which is typically not available in plant based foods.
It’s mentioned we need hydration for recovery. Does that mean we can drink any kind of drinks or must we really stick to the red date tea during confinement?
You do not have to stick to only red date tea. You can obtain adequate hydration from water, plain tea and soups. It is generally recommended to limit sweet drinks as it contains excessive sugar.
Can you drink plain water during confinement?
Many confinement meal options out there seem to have a lot of herbs like with TCM. Can we go with other non-confinement options such as nutritious meal prep services?
To my knowledge, there are confinement meal providers who will provide confinement meals without herbs. You can always call in and enquire.
Can I take fruits during confinement every day?
Yes, you can. Fruits are an amazing source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folate, potassium, fibre and hydration.
To aid in your wound recovery, certified dietitian Eunice Tan gives a list of the key nutrients a mother should take in regularly
During pregnancy, we eat more calories to support weight gain. In postpartum, do we go back to maintenance calories at pre-pregnancy weight or stick to same calories at third trimester?
If you choose to breastfeed, the caloric requirements during postpartum is similar to your caloric requirement during the third trimester, which is about 500 calories more than your pre-pregnancy caloric requirement. This additional calories is needed to support you in breastfeeding your baby.
Can we take chocolate milk for calcium instead?
Yes, you can. However, it is important to note that chocolate milk carries additional sugar. Thus, it is best to keep it to one glass per day (without any other sweet drinks for the day) and incorporate other calcium-rich foods into your diet such as cheese, yoghurt, soy milk, or tofu.
Should I prioritise red date tea or soya milk?
If you have incorporated other calcium rich foods adequately such as tofu, cheese, milk, yoghurt, and anchovies into your diet, you do not have to choose one drink over the other. You can enjoy both depending on what you need for the day.
What is categorized under fortified milk or soy milk?
These are drinks that have more than 400 mg of calcium per serving.
Can vitamin supplements replace food intake for the required nutrients?
Supplements should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Supplements are there to supplement your diet when specific nutrients cannot be met via food due to certain medical conditions or needs. While supplements may help to provide additional nutrients, it is unable to cover all the different essential nutrients and bioactive compounds that are found in whole foods to support overall health and well being.
Can I get my DHA and vitamin D from supplements? Since prenatal supplements have these, can I continue taking them and ?
Yes, you can. It is best to have these supplements under the supervision a Doctor and Dietitian to avoid any potential vitamin toxicity
Mummies, don’t forget these key nutrients to help replenish your postpartum body!
Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers
What kind of food and drink should my wife specifically take to increase milk supply?
Popular foods with anecdotal evidence in increasing milk supply are foods like fenugreek, fennel, green papaya, ginger, and garlic.
How do I eat nutritiously to heal and breastfeed, but also try to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight? If I don’t eat enough, I won’t have breastmilk. If I eat too much, I will gain weight. How do I strike that balance?
It is important to prioritise on recovery. The better you recover, the better able you will be to continue breastfeeding and gradually increase in physical activity to support healthy weight loss.
Does the food eaten will directly affect babies when breastfeeding?
Yes, how well mothers eat will translate to the breastmilk. Specific micronutrients, antioxidants, and allergen exposure to babies are dependent on mother’s dietary intake
I’m breastfeeding. Could my eating ginger lead to jaundice for my child?
No. Jaundice in baby is not caused by eating ginger or any yellow/ orange coloured foods. The yellow colour of the skin is caused by the breakdown and accumulation of bilirubin in the blood, immature development of the liver and low stool output in the infant. Typically, Jaundice will resolve with time as the infant continues to breastfeed, increase stool output and undergo the treatment process recommended by the Doctor. There is no specific dietary restrictions for mothers as they breastfeed their infants during this time.
Will caffeine reduce milk supply?
There is no scientific evidence that caffeine will reduce milk supply. However, excessive caffeine intake may leak into breast milk and affect a baby’s sleep patterns, sleep quality and feeling of restlesness.
Ideally, how long should we eat confinement meal after give birth that helps with breastfeeding?
Confinement is traditionally practiced for a month after childbirth.
Do lactation bakes actually work?
Lactation bakes contain traditionally known lactogenic ingredients like brewer’s yeast. Anecdotal evidence show that it may be helpful for some mothers.
Is it okay to continue prenatal vitamins (multivitamins, calcium, and DHA) during breastfeeding?
Generally, you can and it may be helpful in supporting you as you breastfeed. However, prenatal vitamins should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Best is to consult your doctor or dietitian before taking or continuing any form of supplements.
Can I eat spicy food like curry?
Yes, you can. You can enjoy them as tolerated. There is no scientific evidence that spicy food will harm the baby.
Singapore is very hot. Can I have my beverages cold?
Yes, you can. Do hydrate yourself well during this hot weather. There is no scientific evidence that cold beverages will harm the baby.
Are oats also a very good source of milk production?
Oats is a also a traditionally known ingredient believed to support in breast milk production.
Can we consume alcohol when breastfeeding?
Avoiding alcohol completely is the safest. However, if you do choose to consume alcohol, it is best to wait at least two to three hours after consuming one standard drink of alcohol before nursing your baby.
When breastfeeding, am I allowed to drink cold beverages? I’ve been told not to drink cold water because my baby could catch a cold.
Yes, you are allowed to drink cold beverages. The temperature of the cold beverages will not be tranferred to the breast milk since our body is able to regulate our body temperature. Thus, the breast milk produced will be at body temperature and suitable for baby.
I’m five months postpartum. Will diet still help in increasing my breastmilk supply?
Diet is one of the factors you can consider in supporting your breast milk supply.
Nutrition Tips If You Have a Health Condition
I have type 2 diabetes and PCOS. I’ve been managing my diabetes well and staying away from Chinese herbs because I will spot. During my pregnancy, my glucose spikes like crazy even though I control the amount I eat. What do I do?
Type 2 Diabetes and PCOS affects the hormone insulin which plays a role in regulating blood glucose in our body. During pregnancy, this effect will worsen due to the pregnancy hormones. Working closely with a Doctor and Dietitian would help you manage it much better as they will be able to give you tailored advice in both medication and dietary aspects. Generally, diabetes is managed by switching refine grains to whoelgrains, practice regular meal timings and practice portion control.
Can I ask how am I going have a healthy diet as due to constipation I have to admitted to the hospital, as I am down with diabetes.
Consulting a Dietitian will be best as they would be able to give personalized recommendation to manage Diabetes while resolving constipation. Generally, diabetes can managed by switching refine grains to wholegrains, having regular meal timings and practicing portion control. On the other hand, constipation can be alleviated with adequate hydration and fiber intake from fruits and vegetables. Besides that, being physically active during pregnancy will help to promote healthier bowel movement and improve blood glucose regulation.
How important are carbs in a diet pre- and postnatal? Would a low-carb diet for diabetic mummies be safe during pregnancy and for breastfeeding?
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy during the pre- and postnatal periods. When carbohydrate is too low, mothers may have an excessive build up of ketones which can be fatal. However, a low carbohydrate diet planned by a Dietitian for diabetic mothers can be safe.
Wait until your baby is 6 months old to introduce these foods
Nutrition Tips for Babies
Can newborn drink water? When can baby start to drink water?
Do not give your newborn water. Newborns only need breastmilk. You can introduce water when baby is above six months old.
When do I introduce the nine types of foods to reduce the risk of allergies on my baby? Any recommended month to start?
As early as during pregnancy you can introduce the nine types of foods—fish, seafood, wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, and eggs—to your baby by including them into your meals.
When do I start introducing solid food (including those to build up against allergies) to my newborn?
The recommendation is to start introducing solid foods when your baby is around six months old.
About the Expert:
Eunice Tan is a Certified Dietitian at Tian Wei Signature. A Singapore Accredited Dietitian (ADS) certified by the Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association, Eunice is dedicated to assisting mothers on their confinement and breastfeeding journey. As the in-house dietitian of Relacto, an award-winning lactation meal catering service, she is committed to providing mothers with well-balanced and nourishing meals. She earned her Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Dietetics with Nutrition from International Medical University in Malaysia and is a Full Dietitian Member of the Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association and the Malaysian Dietitian Association. At Tian Wei Signature, Eunice meticulously reviews every fusion and traditional confinement meal, using her nutritional and menu planning expertise to ensure mothers have a healthy and nourishing diet to support their postpartum recovery and lactation.