Dieticians talk about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on nutrition for post-partum moms

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"What is most important is a focus on fresh and whole foods."
"What is most important is a focus on fresh and whole foods."

The six weeks after childbirth, known as the postpartum period, is a vulnerable time for women and their infants.

The impacts of the ongoing pandemic have only heightened concerns that new mothers in South Africa can access the care and resources they need as they step into motherhood.

It's not unusual for the need for post-partum follow-ups to extend for four to six months, especially in cases where there are physical and emotional issues and health complications.

Severe economic impact 

In South Africa, primary health care provides free services to pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as children under six years.

Given the severe economic impact of the global pandemic, this access to post-partum care has become particularly important to the country's new mothers. As with pregnancy, nutrition is a particular focus of post-partum care.

New mothers need the support to recover from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth so that they can cope well with the different challenges presented by infant care.

Exclusive breastfeeding, which means providing only breastmilk to the exclusion of water, tea, juice or food, from birth for the first six months of life, is crucial and requires ongoing support within the family and through community and healthcare connections.

Read: 'Bring dads into the fold' and other key advice for new parents

Major immune support 

According to ADSA (The Association for Dietetics in South Africa) spokesperson, Professor Lisanne du Plessis breastfeeding is not only the best source of food for babies; it is also a major cost saver for food-insecure families and major immune support for vulnerable children.

Therefore, we have to make sure during this Covid-19 time that our new moms are healthy and well-nourished.

She says, "Mothers should try and eat a healthy balance of fresh, whole foods including carbohydrates from unrefined, whole-grain starches; proteins from meat, eggs, fish, chicken, beans and legumes; healthy fats; fruit and vegetables as well as dairy that supplies vitamins and minerals."

"They should try to avoid fast foods and other ultra-processed foods that are high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and unhealthy fats," she says.

Breastfeeding moms need additional calories 

"It is interesting to note that breastfeeding moms need around 500 additional calories daily, which equates to an extra snack such as a wholewheat bread sandwich with cheese or peanut butter; one to two glasses of milk, and an extra vegetable plus a fruit.'

"What is most important is a focus on fresh and whole foods. New moms who are battling currently with household food insecurity need to raise this issue with their primary health care providers and get connected to a community-based or non-profit initiative which supports families through food parcel or other food security programmes," du Plessis advises. 

Submitted to Parent24 by ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa)


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