The postpartum period, the first few years after birth, is a transformative time for women, both emotionally and physically.
After the incredible journey of pregnancy and birth, then comes the critical time of healing. The quality of that healing comes down to how well you are nourished and supported physically and emotionally.
In cultures around the world we see a profound emphasis on postpartum nutrition. After a woman has a baby, traditional cultures ensure that she is well nourished with nutrient-dense and easy to digest foods.
Here are some common types of foods postpartum mothers are given:
Soups, stews, curry, congee, porridge
Warm beverages like broths, teas
There is an emphasis on animal foods like tougher cuts of meat stewed for a long time, organ meats, animal fats like ghee, bone broth, eggs, full fat dairy, fish and seafood and vegetables, especially leafy greens.
From a scientific point of view, it’s interesting to break down what it is in those foods that support a mother’s body after birth.
Protein: Foods like meat in soups and stews, bone broth, eggs and fish as all important sources of protein. Protein is the building block of life and every cell within our body. It’s a key nutrient required for tissue repair, hormone production, recovery after birth and to simply maintain good health. This is why we see an emphasis on animal foods in postpartum - these offer excellent and easy to use forms of protein, amino acids and also micronutrients and minerals needed to support your body as well like vitamin B12, choline, zinc and iron.
Fats: Foods containing natural fat (like meat, poultry, dish, dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds) are also important for postpartum mothers. These foods are a rich source of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A and K2 and essential fatty acids especially DHA, which is essential for tissue repair, hormone production, immune function, brain health and overall wellbeing.
Nutrients that support blood/hemoglobin production: Blood loss is common and expected part of birth. It makes sense that we would feed mothers foods that promote blood production. We don’t just need iron, we need many other cofactors that support the body in using that iron effectively to make red blood cells - zinc, copper, retinol, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin C. And again we find these in nutrient dense foods like meat, liver, fish and seafood, leafy green vegetables.
Fluids: mothers need a lot of fluids after birth. Your body loses fluid during delivery and with blood loss, but also is reestablishing balance with hormone fluctuation, postpartum sweats and breast milk production. Our body is made up of 60% water and our brain is made up of 70% water - it’s a critical part of our body structure and functioning.
Heat and warmth: while this isn’t a nutrient it is worth noting that foods and beverages given to postpartum mothers in traditional cultures are warm. Both warm in temperature and include warming spices as well. Raw foods and cold beverages are avoided and instead served well cooked and warm. Teas, soups, etc. Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper - help to promote blood flow and circulation and therefore healing. They also provide antioxidants for immune support. Warm foods are easier to digest than cold and raw foods - which allows for optimal nutrient absorption and use in the body.
Prioritizing proper nutrition is essential during the postpartum period, especially right after birth. These principles are also relevant during times of increased stress or exhaustion in your life - like the first years with young kids or illness.
Nourishing your body after birth and during the years that follow is an act of self-care and self-love that will contribute to your postpartum healing journey, allowing you to thrive and embrace motherhood with joy.
Hope this helps!
Your dietitian doula
P.S. - want support in getting more nutrients into your body?
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