Postpartum Recovery and Hair Loss

I’m breastfeeding. Are there specific foods I should eat?

The number one focus of any breastfeeding diet should be getting the right amount of calories. Your baby will take calories and nutrients before you will, meaning you need adequate nutrition to compensate for breastfeeding, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., FACOG, an ob-gyn in Westchester County, New York. She recommends aiming for 300 calories more than your pre-pregnancy diet daily, divided between fat, carbs and protein.

As with during pregnancy, you’ll also need an extra 25 grams of protein for a total of around 70 to 80 grams per day. “Protein is important for postpartum recovery and for the growth and repair of your cells. And baby needs protein for cell growth and immune function,” says Torey Armul, R.D., a nutritionist based in Columbus, Ohio, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Dr. Dweck notes that most Americans easily reach their goal every day, although you’ll have to make more of an effort if you’re vegetarian or vegan.) Good protein sources include yogurt, milk, lean beef, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and nuts.

Finally, getting enough calcium is still essential for your baby’s bones, and even more so for your own since your baby will take what she needs from you. What’s more, “estrogen is low when you’re nursing, so your bones are at risk for osteoporosis,” says Dr. Dweck. Many moms tend to cut out dairy right away if an infant is gassy, fussy or spitting up, says Armul — but don’t jump the gun. It may take a couple of weeks for baby’s gut to adjust to life outside the womb before the issue resolves itself.

My hair is suddenly falling out in handfuls. How do I stop it?

Don’t worry — postpartum hair loss is completely normal! It can be scary, but rest assured, it is temporary, and your hair will grow back. “Lots of hair loss can be notable six to seven months postpartum,” says Dr. Dweck, but talk to your doctor. She may want to check for thyroid problems or anemia, both of which are relatively common postpartum.

Dr. Dweck also suggests talking to your doctor about a biotin supplement. Since protein is what makes up hair itself, you’ll also want to ensure you’re eating 50 to 75 grams daily depending on whether you’re breastfeeding. And fill up on vitamin C-rich foods (bell peppers, citrus fruits, berries, spinach and broccoli), which your body uses to form collagen — the protein that makes hair strong.