Changes in diet from pregnancy to one year after birth
Pregnancy and the first year after giving birth are marked by physiological and psychological changes. While it is well known that energy requirements change during this time, the question of how a woman’s diet actually changes from pregnancy until 1 year postpartum has been left virtually unexplored. The present study employs a longitudinal design to investigate these changes.

The diet composition and culture of eating of 110 women were assessed at 3 time points: in the 24th week of pregnancy, 3 months after giving birth (breastfeeding period), and 12 months after giving birth (after weaning). Researchers assessed differences in nutritional health (Nutritional Health Score, NHS) and the consumption of different food items at each of these time points. They also investigated associations between nutritional health and age, socio-economic status (SES), BMI before pregnancy, and previous births at all three time points.

The analyses revealed high correlations in the NHS values between the three-time points (rhot0/t1 = .55, rhot0/t2= .60). On average, nutritional health was lower in the breastfeeding period than during pregnancy. In more detail, women reported less healthy levels of treats and white bread consumption and a higher frequency of snacking in the breastfeeding period than during pregnancy. In contrast, overall nutritional health did not differ significantly between pregnancy and the time after weaning. Increased age was associated with a healthier diet during pregnancy, and a high SES was associated with healthier diet after weaning. Furthermore, the increase in nutritional health from the breastfeeding period to the time after weaning was significantly stronger in women with a higher BMI. We observed no significant associations between dietary nutritional health and previous births.

The present findings suggest that higher energy requirements in the breastfeeding period are met by consuming high-calorie and unhealthy food products rather than healthy and nutrient-rich food. Young mothers should be supported in taking care of their own nutritional health during the challenging time of breastfeeding and caring for a newborn child.