If you dealt with constipation during pregnancy, it can be frustrating for this situation to continue postpartum. Even if you never got constipated during pregnancy, you may experience it while breast-feeding due to hormonal changes. You are constipated if you have fewer than three bowel movements per week or have stools that are hard, dry and difficult to pass. You can make diet changes that are breast-feeding-friendly to alleviate this uncomfortable condition.
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Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Dietary fiber, although indigestible, plays an essential role in preventing constipation. It absorbs water to soften stools and provides bulk in your intestines to keep food moving through the body. Eating fruits and vegetables provides you with dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals to nourish you and your baby. Beans, such as garbanzo beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lentils, are another great choice to boost your fiber intake. Whole-grain foods, such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and whole-wheat bread and pasta, increase fiber intake as well. The Institute of Medicine notes that women under the age of 50 should get at least 25 grams of fiber daily.
Consume Prunes or Prune Juice
Eating prunes, also known as dried plums, or drinking prune juice may also help alleviate constipation. This dried fruit is high in dietary fiber, with 3 grams of fiber in just five prunes. Prunes also contain natural laxative compounds, such as sorbitol, that encourage bowel movements. According to an April 2011 study published in the journal "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics," eating prunes may increase the number of bowel movements you have per week, soften stools and decrease straining during a bowel movement.
Drinking more water can also provide relief from constipation. Water is absorbed as it moves through your digestive tract. Lack of water can lead to dry, hard stools. In addition, your need for fluid increases while you are breast-feeding. ChooseMyPlate.gov suggests drinking a glass of water every time you breast-feed. Plain water, herbal teas and no-sugar-added, all-natural juices are best for hydration. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol as they are not hydrating and can pass through your breast milk to your baby.
Your constipation may also be caused by a lack of physical activity. Your level of activity may have slowed now that you're caring for a newborn. If you had a C-section or episiotomy, you'll need to recover after birth before returning to exercise. Once your doctor gives you the green light to exercise, make time each day to take a walk or do gentle yoga. This increase in physical activity can stimulate bowel movements, relieve your constipation and promote weight loss after delivery.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Constipation
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Chemical Composition and Potential Health Effects of Prunes: A Functional Food?
- BabyCenter: Best Foods for New Moms: Constipation Conquerors
- Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Randomised Clinical Trial: Dried Plums (Prunes) vs. Psyllium for Constipation
- USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding