postpartum nutrition’s role in healing
Many new Moms assume that once baby is born they can eat whatever they want. Well, you might be surprised, but nutrient needs are actually higher for breastfeeding Moms than during pregnancy. Technically, you are still “eating for two” - the baby is just outside of the womb. Even if you choose to bottle feed, the importance of nourishing yourself does not diminish once you give birth - your body needs to heal – and this happens through an appropriate postpartum diet.
Nutritious food is the key to nourish your healing body, recover properly, and increase your energy levels. Pregnancy and childbirth take a major toll on your body. It continues to undergo a lot of changes due to blood loss, wounds such as perineal tear or C-section, milk production, recovering connective tissue, and skin adaptation. In the first few weeks after delivery it’s vital to focus on postpartum nutrition.
A proper postpartum diet also helps reduce potential postpartum depression and helps you get back to feeling more like yourself. You can also highly benefit from gentle postnatal exercise to awaken your pelvic floor muscles and soothe your postpartum back pain.
Build a postpartum diet plan based on healing food
Postpartum food traditions around the world
There’s so much our modern world can re-learn from traditional cultures when it comes to the vulnerable postpartum period. 40 days of rest to recover, establishing breastfeeding, and replenishing nutrient stores with special foods are a common thread to the traditional approach to postpartum recovery.
Let’s dig into the healing postpartum diet!
What to eat after giving birth
Don’t let fatigue and life negatively impact your postpartum diet quality. Instead of reaching for sugary snacks or caffeine to get you through moments of stress or fatigue, it’s important to choose healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
Of course you may not feel like cooking… there's a lot going on in your life and body, and cooking is certainly not a job for you right now! Hopefully you have some help at home or you stocked up some homemade, nutrient-dense meals in the freezer.
Here’s a few principles of postpartum nutrition:
• Eat warm, easily digestible foods.
In China, yang food is considered as warming, while yin foods are cooling. In the Immediate postpartum period, your body is considered to be in yin state, so it’s best to rebalance your system by eating more yang food (warm – not hot).
Soups and stews are great postpartum meals. Plus you can keep a whole batch of it in the fridge and heat it whenever needed! I know that it’s easier to stack a bunch of frozen pizzas in the freezer to make the few first days/weeks easier, but soups and stews are so much healthier and nourishing than a frozen pizza.
• Hydrate well
There are countless benefits to staying hydrated in daily life, but it is especially important for new Mothers. Be sure to drink at least 10 glasses of water (2 liters) every day. Ten to 15 glasses for breastfeeding Mamas (2-3 liters)!
• Pack in the Protein
Protein is important for postpartum recovery and for the growth and repair of your cells. Good protein sources include yogurt, milk, lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and nuts. Aim for five to seven servings of protein every day.
• Eat collagen-rich foods
Collagen is a protein in the body that makes up joint-supporting connective tissues, is responsible for skin elasticity, supports tissue repair and rebuilding... a much needed protein at this stage!
Here are some foods to boost your collagen production naturally. Note that these foods don’t contain the protein itself, but they deliver nutrients your body uses to make it: bone broth, meat, fish, eggs, leafy greens, citrus, kiwis, berries, avocado, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds.
• Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
In short, anti-inflammatory foods are those that nutrition experts would encourage you to eat. They include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins like nuts and beans, fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices.
In other words, try to avoid anything highly processed, overly greasy, acidic, or super sweet!
• Appropriate supplements
Appropriate supplements such as prenatal vitamins (some brands make postnatal vitamins too) may help you maintain the daily intake requirements for certain nutrients. I personally chose the ones made by "Garden of Life" Raw Vitamins because they are made with REAL food (you’ll recognize every ingredient!)
What NOT to eat after giving birth
Here are some foods to avoid after c-section or vaginal birth:
• Limit cold drinks and foods
Especially avoid ice creams and icy water.
• Limit foods that are difficult to digest such as highly processed foods.
At this time your system is already running slow – eating difficult to digest foods makes things even harder on your body and denies it the nutrients it needs to recover efficiently. This being said, if you feel like having a donut, go for it, but don’t let that be the norm. Moderation!
• If you are breastfeeding
Limit/avoid caffeine, alcohol, and seafood or fish that's high in mercury. Other then that, you don’t have to avoid anything unless you can pinpoint something that is directly affecting your baby when breastfeeding.
Foods to prioritize in your postpartum meal plan
Let’s enhance recovery
Your postpartum diet should allow you to eat meals and snacks consistently throughout the day to ensure your body has the building blocks it needs to heal tissues and keep you satisfied.
Choosing mostly real whole foods limits your exposure to undesirable additives and helps to keep your energy levels stable.
Some examples include:
Slow cooked meat
Foods rich in Omega 3
Warm herbal tea (such as herbal lactation teas)
Weight loss diet after c-section or vaginal birth
Regardless the way you gave birth, a postpartum weight loss plan should NOT be the priority in the early weeks. Allow yourself some time and your body some grace. Stay away from rigorous crash diets.
New Moms lose about 12 to 13 pounds at delivery and another 5 pounds from normal fluid loss by the 5th day. The rest of the weight comes from your breast tissue, blood supply, fat stores and enlarged uterus.
You will progressively lose weight, but I highly recommend you to wait until after your check-up to begin a postpartum weight loss plan with your Doctor’s advice to set a safe and reasonable goal. In the meantime, don’t feel disheartened, think long term and remember that a nutrient dense after pregnancy diet is so important for healing!