A Quick Guide to Postpartum Nutrition
By Jayme Jo Ebert
As postpartum doulas, we prioritize a mother’s rest, nutrition/hydration, and mental health. We know that when a new mother has what she needs in these areas, she will thrive. And when a new mother thrives, her whole family usually follows suit. You can support yourself through proper hydration and nutrition in the postpartum time and beyond. When we eat well, we feel well.
After pregnancy, one can feel like the world is her oyster (literally) in terms of what she can eat. Having just walked through ten months of a restricted diet, it’s so easy to dive back into whatever foods we most craved throughout pregnancy and couldn’t have, or just reach for whatever quick fix food is most accessible.
Life after a baby is challenging, and if you thought you were asking a lot of your body in growing a baby, you are actually asking much more of it in the early postpartum days. While you are tending to that sweet child, your body is hard at work shedding all that was made to grow and house new life. It’s healing from the space that was left from that babe’s absence, all while still making and providing all the nutrition they need in the way of breastmilk. This, as you can imagine, is a very demanding scenario: one that begs for support.
Hydration: Breast milk is approximately 88% water, which means that when your baby feeds, she is quite literally dehydrating you, which explains why so many find themselves totally parched while breastfeeding and as a result, drinking much more water than they did before. For these reasons and more, your hydration is paramount in the postpartum time. We can bolster your hydration even further by focusing on soups and stews during the postpartum period. These foods will provide additional hydration but also are much easier for your body to digest.
Speaking of digestion, here are some great foods to focus on in the postpartum time. These suggestions are aimed towards rebalancing the body’s nutrients, promoting healing, easing digestion, and helping your body to function at its best and most comfortable during a time of great transition. For the sake of ease, we’ve compiled a list with multiple examples to fit a wide variety of palates.
In your postpartum time, focus on eating the following foods:
-healthy fats: avocado, ghee, coconut oil
-probiotic foods: kefir, kimchi, yogurt
-iron-rich foods: quality meat, lentils, quinoa, oatmeal, dark leafy greens, bone broth
-nuts & seeds: pumpkin, pine, pistachio, sunflower, walnut
-fiber-rich foods: oatmeal, barley, figs, fruits and vegetables
Look for these qualities in the food you eat:
-warm, soft, moist: soups & stews, breakfast bowls, casseroles
-slow-cooked, home-cooked: roasted vegetables, crockpot meals
-one-handed, practical: breakfast cookies, wraps, lactation bites, pre-cut fruit & vegetables
-sour, salty, sweet: fruits & vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods
When incorporated into your diet, the foods and qualities above will give you the essential nutrients needed to ease your digestion, fight infection, and promote healing. In other words, these are foods that will work for you and fuel your body to do all of the hard work it needs to more efficiently.
When we talk about foods to avoid, we aren’t speaking as much to a “diet” as much as we are ways to prevent road blocks in your healing process. At one point or another, we all eat these foods, and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as we are mindful of quantity and moderation. The last thing a postpartum mother needs is another set of rules to follow. In this time of great change, allow yourself some grace in this and pay attention to how eating the following foods makes your body feel. If these foods aren’t serving you, feel free to let them go.
Try to limit foods that are:
-cold and dry: chips, crackers
-gas-causing: beans, carbonated beverages, some vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts)
-deep fried or heavily processed: fast food, store-bought breads/cakes/snacks
-high in added sugar: candy, fruit juice/soda, store-bought baked goods
If you are a postpartum mother, say thanks today to your body for all that it has done and is doing. She is truly miraculous!