Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you likely have a very new little one snoozing on your chest (or crying while you bounce on a ball if you’ve got a newborn like mine!), or you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of the wiggle worm keeping you up with all sorts of kicks and twists all night. In either case, understanding how best to refuel your body after delivery is a huge piece of the recovery puzzle. And, unfortunately, I find that it’s often one of the last things on expecting and new mommas’ minds.
I get it; you’re focused on the end of the pregnancy, the delivery, breastfeeding, and keeping a new human alive. And as mothers, we quickly and consistently tend to put our own needs after everyone else’s. This leads to exhausted, burned out, poorly nourished, stressed out mommas who still need to find a way to “do it all”. My hope is that this article will give you some ideas on
how to make prioritizing your nutrition not just manageable, but also even enjoyable.
Nourished Postpartum: The Why
First, let’s take a moment to talk about why it’s so important to prioritize nutrition postpartum. Pregnancy is an exhausting, incredibly depleting event. It’s a 9 month marathon that culminates in a surprise triathlon. 😉 To say that your body is in need of some serious support and recovery is a massive understatement. Unfortunately, for most of the moms I work with, and even with my own best intentions for my postpartum experiences, your own needs tend to be completely overlooked or suppressed in favor of the new little person depending on you. Especially if you’re nursing, this can lead to even further depletion. While we can’t completely prevent fatigue, some stress, and often feelings of overwhelm postpartum, nourishing your body can have a huge impact on your recovery, mental health, milk supply, and more. You worked so hard to grow this little person; make sure you don’t forget to take care of that amazing body of yours!
And, if you’re nursing? Get this, you will actually be burning MORE calories than at any point during the actual pregnancy. In other words, it takes more calories to feed your new human than it did to grow him or her! Add in the nutrient and calories needed to recover from a major surgery like a c-section or significant vaginal tearing? Your needs for vitamins, minerals, protein, and calories are at an all-time high.
Nourished Postpartum: The What
I remember when my first was born. He cried. A lot. And I was reeling from an unexpected, emergency c-section. Nursing didn’t come as naturally as I’d anticipated, and since the baby never seemed to sleep, well, “sleeping while the baby sleeps” wasn’t even kind of an option. My husband and I would high-five at the end of the day if we had managed to eat 3 actual meals. And as a breastfeeding mom? Well, most of my eating had to be one-handed, which meant lots of carby-snacks that left me on a blood sugar roller coaster ride.
While the goldfish crackers and pretzels, M&Ms, and mini candy bars might be easy, quick, and tasty, they’re not doing much to actually support your recovery (and can actually make exhaustion and hormone swings worse from increasing inflammation and making blood sugar levels unstable). Instead, we ideally want to focus on nourishing foods that will give your body energy and nutrients in each bite. Ideally, we want to include protein with every meal and snack, to help keep blood sugar stable, as well as to provide the necessary building blocks for tissue repair from delivery and pregnancy. Whole-food protein sources also tend to offer a myriad of vitamins and minerals, as well, including iron, which is also in high demand postpartum.
PROTEIN – Eggs, fish, seafood, meat, chicken, organ meats, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, lentils, organic tofu, quinoa
Healthy fats are also essential. Again, this helps keep those blood sugars in check but also helps with hormone production and support, offers valuable nutrients and calories, and can even reduce inflammation when we prioritize omega-3 sources.
FAT –fatty fish, eggs, organ meats, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil
And while we do want to help keep those blood sugars balanced to avoid increasing
inflammation, energy crashes, and exacerbating hormone swings, carbs are still super
important to help your body recover, especially with the high energy demands of nursing.
Prioritize nutrient-dense, fiber-full options, and try to limit the processed ones. An occasional cookie, chocolate treat, or ice cream isn’t going to ruin your recovery, but it also isn’t going to support it very much!
CARBS – veggies, fruits, beans, lentils, and some complex grains like quinoa and oats
Oh, and don’t forget to hydrate! Not just with water, but with electrolytes. Nursing takes a TON out of you, as does the crazy shift in blood volume postpartum.
FLUIDS – bone broth, lactation-safe herbal teas, smoothies, coconut water, water with
electrolytes (like LMNT)
Nourished Postpartum: The How
Alright, so, how do you make this happen? Here are some of my top tips and tricks to make sure nourishing foods are available and ready.
1) Prepare before Baby – stocking the freezer ahead of baby’s arrival can be an absolute
i. Have a meal-prep party! Instead of (or in addition to) a baby shower, have friends and family come over/host a meal-pre event. Everyone brings ingredients to make a few batches of their favorite freezer-friendly dishes. Spend the day relaxing, laughing, and stocking that freezer of yours.
ii. Ask for food instead of another onesie. Send recipes to friends, co-workers, and family, asking them to make batches of your preferred recipes to bring to the baby shower or drop by the house and add to your freezer. (This is a great list if you’re not sure where to start – or check out my Replenished Postpartum e-cookbook)
iii. Do your own freezer prep! Buy in bulk or make a double (triple!) batch of your favorite meals as your due date approaches. Eat one batch for dinner, and freeze the rest for postpartum.
i. My rule for new moms? No one enters the house without food, coffee, or both.
ii. If people ask to visit – and you’re up for visitors – give a “We’d love for you to bring lunch at noon on Friday!”
iii. Don’t use your freezer meals on guests! Seriously. You shouldn’t
be hosting, period. You have a new human and yourself to care for. So if the family wants to visit the new baby? Well, their job is to support YOU, not deplete your food supply. Have your spouse coordinate meal
planning prior to the visit, or if that’s not an option, set some clear
ground rules so you’re not finding yourself in the kitchen, resentful, while someone else is snuggling your baby.
3) Ask for Help
i. Put gift cards for favorite restaurants, meal delivery services, etc. on your registry. I promise the baby won’t care if they have another sleeper!
ii. Set up a Nourished Postpartum Meal Train sign-up or have a friend or family member do so and share that link far and wide.
iii. Use meal delivery services, grocery delivery services, etc. to ease the load.
And remember to prepare for more than dinner! Breakfast, snacks, etc. should be considered and prepped as well! Below are a few of my favorite freezer-friendly postpartum recipes (they’re in my e-book, as well!).
Postpartum is beautiful, but also exhausting. Supporting yourself with good food and regular meals can make a huge, positive impact. And don’t forget to keep up a robust prenatal, especially if nursing! I recommend Full Well Fertility; they have a great fish oil, AND a lovely pregnancy and breastfeeding-safe sleep and stress support tincture (use MatrescenceNutrition for 10% off). And give yourself some grace. If today is a day of chocolate chips, too much coffee, and goldfish crackers, that’s ok; try again tomorrow.
Aubrey Phelps MS RDN CLC
Registered Functional Dietitian | Certified Lactation Counselor