I’d like to start a series of posts about postpartum care. Because I’m pretty sure people will not stop having babies anytime soon, these topics are important to everyone since we are all affected even if you aren’t a parent. We continue the march toward being kind humans to one another and the postpartum time is one of those magic moments to shower parents with kindness, support and education in celebration of their new baby. Why not do what we can to give each other a strong start?
Good nutrition an important part of the foundation of good health. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to eat like you want to, or even how you know you should, in the few weeks after giving birth. There’s just a lot to do with a new baby and self-care is sometimes pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. But with some advanced prepping and knowledge, eating right during the postpartum time doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here is a list of things to consider when preparing postpartum meals or instructing others who may be bringing meals to your family:
Continue to “eat a rainbow” and eat everything in moderation – eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, and whole grains will go a long way toward keeping you healthy and speeding recovery, and is a good habit to get into for the rest of your life. But don’t beat yourself up if you want to enjoy a piece of chocolate cake, but maybe don’t eat a piece everyday.
Easy to digest– cooked foods are easier to digest than raw and there are some nutritional benefits to eating cooked veggies. Plus, warm foods, especially healthy versions of comfort foods, have such a good effect on the sleep deprived mama and family. Stews, casseroles (with rice or quinoa), pot pie are all good examples.
Laxative effects– yup, you’re going to need help in this department. You may not go #2 for 1-2 days after the birth so you want this process to be as easy as possible when the time comes. Drinking plenty of water – breastfeeding makes you thirsty so you’ll need more than you think! – and eating foods high in fiber will help keep everything moving. Examples: dried fruit, leafy greens (but keep reading), whole grains, beets, carrots, nuts, probiotics, etc.
Iron-rich foods – everyone loses some amount of blood during childbirth and this loss affects everyone differently. Help your body replenish your iron stores with some iron-rich foods, especially when paired with Vitamin C, which helps our bodies absorb the iron. Another trick is to eat calcium-rich foods at a different time than iron-rich foods since iron and calcium compete for absorption in the body. Examples: meat, clams, dried fruit, leafy greens, eggs, molasses, etc. Some iron supplements can cause constipation and an upset stomach so you may want to stick to iron-rich foods or food-based supplements.
Foods that won’t make you, or your baby, gassy – not only can gas be uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing, but you could end up with a very unhappy, gassy baby. If you ate a bowlful of chili for dinner your once cute baby could turn into an inconsolable mess at 2am. It’s especially important to tell people who may be bringing food to avoid these gas causing foods. Not all babies are so sensitive to gas that they wake in pain so you can experiment with different foods. And the good news is that you don’t need to avoid these foods during your entire breastfeeding experience but mainly the first three months of your baby’s life. Examples: the cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, etc.) and beans are the big ones but some people are sensitive to onions, garlic, caffeine, or alcohol, plus anything you yourself are sensitive to.
Snacks!– snacks are just as important as meals because it can be difficult to sit down to a whole meal, plus you may be so hungry while breastfeeding that you need the extra calories. But it is so easy to find less than healthy snacks because you’re hungry, low on ideas and sleep and just reaching for the first thing you can find. One easy thing is to keep the bad snacks out of the house in the first place. Look for snacks with some carbs and some protein for both quick and long-term energy. Examples: nuts, veggies and yogurt dip, yogurt and granola, whole grain crackers and cheese or deli meats, apples and nut butter, popcorn, hard boiled eggs, protein bars, etc.
Foods that you can easily eat with one hand– it’s hard to cut your steak while holding a baby and you can’t always have someone do it for you. Foods that you can hold in one hand or you only need a fork to cut can mean the difference between getting your meal or going without. Examples: burritos, empanadas, quiche, meatballs, knish, etc. These are also great make-ahead foods that you can wrap individually and freeze.
Breastfeeding – there are foods that can help support a healthy milk supply and women all over the world have grown and eaten these foods while breastfeeding. Some women are sensitive to the effects of these foods and will see a dramatic difference in supply when they are eaten. Mostly though, to support a healthy milk supply you need to be eating enough calories, which basically includes three good meals and snacks. Examples: oats, barley, fenugreek (a spice that has a light maple syrup flavor), brewer’s yeast, fruits and veggies, healthy fats, etc. For some sensitive women, there are foods that can harm your supply. Examples: sage, parsley, mint, apples, caffeine, alcohol, etc.
Healthy fats– not only do healthy, natural fats support a good milk supply, but they are also important for mood stabilization like the kind that you need to help with postpartum depression. Examples: butter, lard, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, flax seed, fatty fish, walnuts, etc.
Bone Broth– while there’s the hype and the skeptics, bone broth is a very inexpensive, simple food that can be the basis comfort foods like soups, steps, or cooking grains, or can be drunk straight with a little bit of salt. It’s probably not going to hurt you, unless you are drinking too much sodium, but the possible benefits for a person healing from birth are numerous, such as anti-inflammatory properties, collagen to help rebuild tissues, calcium directly from the bones, electrolytes, etc.
Oh I’m hungry now! Here’s to our health!