The postnatal phase following the birth of a baby is sometimes called the fourth trimester. It’s an opportunity for mother and child to be looked after as they recover – and nutrition plays an important part in this. Eating well after giving birth has many benefits, but it can be hard to prioritise alongside the demands of caring for a newborn. This guide explains the value of good nutrition during the fourth trimester, and provides practical tips for eating a healthy diet when free time and energy are in short supply.


Discover all you need to know about pregnancy, including what you can't eat, a healthy pregnancy diet and what your food cravings really mean.

Why is it important for new mums?

Not only does good nutrition support a mother’s recovery after birth, it also boosts immunity, replenishing nutrient stores and supporting overall well-being. New mothers should focus on a balanced diet that's rich in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables; energy-giving, fibre-rich wholegrains; lean proteins and healthy fats.

Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals and fibre to alleviate constipation, which may occur postpartum. Opt for lean proteins such as poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and legumes, as these are essential for tissue repair and growth. Good sources of energy-rich, healthy fats include oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

It may seem easiest to refuel with biscuits for a quick sugary fix, especially when you’re exhausted, but processed foods offer negligible nutritional value. It can be just as quick to reach for a piece of fresh fruit or nut butter on an oatcake, and these will provide more sustained energy and nutrients to better support your recovery. Be gentle with yourself though. Now is not the time to aim for the perfect diet – just try to fuel yourself well whenever you can.

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Why is it important for baby?

If you are breastfeeding your baby, you should limit alcohol and caffeine, as these substances can pass into breast milk. Nursing mums require increased fluids to support milk production, often as much as an extra three or four glasses a day. Water is ideal, although other drinks count. Nursing mothers should follow a balanced diet, paying particular attention to increased calcium (in dairy products or fortified plant milks). Although two portions of oily fish such as salmon or mackerel are recommended as part of this balanced diet, limit your intake to just two if you are breastfeeding. You can read more, including nutritious meal suggestions for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in our breastfeeding guide.

3 things to know about the fourth trimester

1. Although getting back into your pre-baby clothes may be on your wish list, the fourth trimester is not the time to try to lose weight. Your body requires sufficient energy to get through tiring days and sleepless nights. New mums need between 1,800 and 2,200 calories a day, and 500 calories on top of this if breastfeeding.

2. Not eating properly can leave parents feeling drained, compounding the cycle of broken sleep and nighttime feeds. Don’t fret if you don’t manage to eat well for a few days – just eat more healthily when you can. Your newborn needs you functioning as well as possible, so ask friends or family for help when you need it.

3. Try swapping large, square meals for small, frequent snacks if this works better with juggling your newborn. Hummus and mashed avocado with veg crudités or peanut butter on wholegrain toast are easy, nutritious choices. Fibre-rich and filling jacket potatoes require little to no preparation and can be baked while you get on with looking after your little one. Wholesome soups, whether shop-bought or homemade, are an excellent standby.

5 nutrition tips for parents with newborns

1. If baby is being exclusively breastfed, partners can find ways to do their bit while the new mum has her hands full breastfeeding. Food prepping for the two of you is invaluable: think easy, prep-ahead meals that keep in the fridge until she can get to them, like overnight oats, salads and soups.

2. If family or friends are visiting, ask if they can bring something – prepared food is always welcome. New parent meal boxes make fantastic presents, too.

3. If someone has time to stock the freezer with pre-prepped food, try our best family batch-cook recipes and beginners’ guide to batch-cooking.

4. Fill your cupboards with long-life staples, such as pouches of rice and grains or wholemeal tortilla wraps. You can supplement these with easy to prepare fresh ingredients, such as chopped salad vegetables, pre-cooked lean protein, grated cheese or pesto. Canned tomatoes and pulses can become the bases to nourishing meals. Frozen fruits make nutrient-rich smoothies with yogurt, nut butter or oats. Prawns and peas can be cooked straight from frozen in speedy egg-fried rice, while eggs themselves are a nutritious, fast food.

5. Make no-cook energy bites that can easily be eaten with one hand during feeds or when you go out with the pram. Bags of nutrient-dense nuts and seeds do the same job.

Above all, be gentle with yourself and enjoy this precious time with your newborn baby. And, remember, individual requirements vary, so always consult your GP or a registered nutritionist for tailored advice.

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All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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