Postpartum nutrition is very important but often overlooked. Prioritizing certain foods to nourish our bodies is more important than ever because they can help us recover faster and better, and they're not entirely the foods we might expect. Now is definitely not the time to diet, but it’s also not the time to exclusively gorge on junk food either. Science and centuries of collective cultural wisdom have taught us some great foods to help with postpartum recovery.
Why? Tissues have been stretched, torn, or cut, and your body needs to make collagen to heal them. This requires plenty of protein, especially amino acids.
What? Protein from animal foods (especially connective tissues, bones, and skin, which is why soups made of bone broth are such a postpartum staple across the world); fatty fish; seeds and nuts; collagen or gelatin powder.
Why? Inflammation can interfere with your postnatal body’s healing, so foods rich in antioxidants are important. They also boost your immune system, which is vulnerable during this period of sleep deprivation and healing.
What? Fatty fish; dark leafy greens like kale and spinach; colorful veggies and fruits, especially berries and avocados; nuts; eggs; whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice.
Why? You lose a lot of iron from blood loss during and after childbirth, and if you’re breastfeeding, your iron stores are important for your baby’s proper development and thyroid function. Having sufficient iron intake can also help manage fatigue.
What? Red meat, organ meats, shellfish like clams and oysters, green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, oatmeal.
Why? Pain medications, IVs from the hospital, and being more sedentary than usual can make you constipated. High fiber foods help get things moving. Also, excess fiber in your diet binds with excess estrogen, helping your hormones rebalance.
What? Beans, lentils, whole grains, pears, avocados, apples, berries, potato with skin, nuts and seeds.
Why? Progesterone and estrogen levels drop significantly during the postpartum period. Progesterone drops faster, resulting in what's called estrogen dominance. This can cause fatigue, moodiness, and make you feel "out of whack".
What? Progesterone-boosting foods include nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and almonds; beans; pumpkin; leafy greens like spinach and kale; cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage; seafood; fruits, especially bananas and citrus fruits.
Why? Energy needs are higher during recovery from birth as your body works hard to repair itself, and they are even higher for breastfeeding mothers, who need an estimated 500 more calories per day than they consumed pre-pregnancy.
What? Easy-to-digest foods, which your body can more readily extract calories from: slow-cooked meat, soft-cooked vegetables, well-cooked grains and starches such as oatmeal, rice, or sweet potatoes (with the starches eaten alongside fat and protein to stabilize blood sugar).
Hydration is important for tissue repair, avoiding constipation, and preventing headaches, especially for breastfeeding moms.
Try to limit to 200-300mg (2 cups coffee) to avoid dehydration, and because some breastfed babies may be sensitive to too much caffeine.
Take it easy with alcohol because it is dehydrating, and breastfeeding moms in particular should ideally limit intake to one drink at least two hours before the next nursing session.