ATLANTA - If you've just had a baby, you've earned the right to give your body a break.
Dr. Taz Bhatia, the founder of CentreSpring MD in Atlanta says new mothers need a minimum of six weeks of rest and recovery after childbirth.
Women who've undergone a caesarian section delivery may need at least 12 weeks to get back to a "functional" level.
Getting back to feeling normal may take longer, Dr. Bhatia, who goes professionally by Dr. Taz, says.
"So pregnancy is a really tough physical time for women," she says.
Babies in the womb draw their nutrition entirely from their mother's body, which can a new mom low on important vitamins and minerals she needs to recover.
"What we have found in our practice is that woman are often low in B vitamins, low in amino acids, which again are the building blocks for their energy, their brain, all that other stuff," Dr. Taz says. "They're low in good fats, and they're often very low in iron."
So, while it may be hard to find the time to eat, Dr. Taz says the right kinds of foods can help women heal.
"The number one thing with food, after pregnancy, is to really increase the amount of protein you're taking in," she says.
For protein, go for foods like lean meats, fish, chicken.
And load up on eggs, dairy, beans, soy and nuts and seeds, which are all high in protein.
Next, since many new moms have a hormonal imbalance, healthy fats like coconut oil and omega 3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish like salmon can help.
"Because fat is building block or hormones," Dr. Bhatia says. "So, if you're trying to get women back in hormonal shape, she needs fat."
Many new moms are also low on iron.
So, Dr. Taz recommends red meat, chicken, fish, whole grains, leafy greens and breakfast cereals fortified with iron.
Some of her patients sip bone broth, which is very high in iron and other nutrients, she says.
Most experts say it's safe for a woman to start exercising about 4 to 6 weeks after the baby is born.
Dr. Taz says she knows women face a lot of pressure to get back to their pre-baby bodies, but her message would be to slow down.
"You can fight your body, and fight your hormones and your chemistry and force it to lose 'X' amount of weight," she says. "But you will usually crash any time you ask the body to do more than what it's ready to do."
If you're breastfeeding, most experts agree you should be eating about 500 extra calories a day.
Go for nutrient-rich foods, drink plenty of water, and give yourself permission to rest. You've earned it!