This article is intended for those who will be cooking for the mom while she tends to her baby in the first six weeks postpartum. Mother, you can help make this an easier task by filling your fridge and pantry with the foods that are to be emphasized during the postpartum period.
While in general refined sweets are never a good choice, during the postpartum period, adequate sweet flavor from unrefined sources is essential to help “sweeten” the experience of the postpartum. Some examples of nourishing sweet foods are root vegetables and stewed fruit or wholesome desserts made with unrefined cane sugar, organic blackstrap molasses, rice syrup, dark maple syrup and raw honey.
The best foods to eat in the postpartum are whole foods that are easy to digest (warm, oily or moist, mushy or creamy textured nutrient dense and traditionally prepared foods) all of which increase the mother’s digestive capacities while the nutrition is easily assimilated. For example coconut rice pudding and Indian dahl’s make delicious easy to digest foods when the rice and lentils are soaked overnight and cooked in homemade broth. For more information about traditionally prepared foods, please refer to the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
As well as fresh spring water (bottled at the source) or other purified water – (not distilled water as it depletes the mother of minerals) moist and oily foods are ideal to replenish moisture and beneficial fats, for example soups made with bone broth and lassis (an Indian Yogurt drink).
The process of gestating and giving birth tends to be quite drying on the mother, which is why daily massage with oil and oily foods, given with pure water are essential to rebuild mother’s stores.
Use healthy fats and oils more abundantly than usual! This is important for postnatal hormonal, lubricating, cleansing and rejuvenation needs.
Emphasize ghee (clarified butter) for replenishing mother’s good saturated fat stores, and also as an ideal digestive tonic. Ghee helps the mother to optimally assimilate her nutrition. Ghee can be made at home on your stovetop, purchased online or at an ethnic grocer.
Ample saturated fats from grass fed animals, helps the mother to absorb fat soluble vitamins and minerals which require saturated fats for absorption. Adequate minerals from almonds, seeds, seaweeds, cooked green leafy vegetables and fermented dairy such as kefir milk and yogurt (if they are tolerated) are necessary to restore mama’s mineral status.
The new mama needs even more nutrition now that she is making mineral rich milk for her new baby! In addition adequate fats and minerals are essential to tone and soothe the nervous system to ensure that mom feels emotionally stable.
Use generous amounts of sesame and toasted sesame oil, butter, olive oil (and coconut oil in the spring and summer months) with warming spices such as ginger, garlic (not raw), pepper, cardamom and clove.
As much as we want to consider the quality of the ingredients made to prepare the food, we also want to consider the quality with which we make the food. The person preparing the food is essentially infusing that food with their love and intention. The best food is made with fresh ingredients intentionally made with love by a happy cook!
While I recommend bringing the family extra portions of food to freeze before the birth, this is not ideal food for the immediate postpartum for the mother. It can cause too much gas for both mom and baby! Leftovers are considered to have degenerative energy and are best minimized in the immediate postpartum (great for dads and kids though).
Some unpasteurized apple cider vinegar in a glass of water before each meal can be beneficial to improve digestion and promote the growth of beneficial intestinal flora for both mom and baby.
While fermented foods are not generally recommended in the postpartum because of the potential to produce gas, because of the prevalence of bacterial imbalances we want to continue eating small amounts of probiotic foods such as lacto fermented foods (as dictated by our cravings), such as fermented vegetables, yogurt (brewed 24hrs minimum to break down all the difficult to assimilate nutrition) and kefir milk. Additionally, probiotic capsules can be included in the diet (preferable one that contains 10 or more strains of beneficial bacteria).
To summarize, we want to give new mothers warming, moist, sweet, oily and mineral rich foods that are easy to digest. We also want to avoid drying, cold, heavy and difficult to digest foods.
Here are some simple ideas….
Warming= cooked foods
Moist= soups, dahls and beverages like lassi
Sweet= cooked starchy vegetables and treats made with natural sweeteners
Oily= make the foods with plenty of ghee and butter
Mineral rich= crispy seeds, seaweeds added to soups and stews, cooked greens, home made kefir milk (48 hour brew) & yogurt (24 hour brew)
Easy to digest= soaking and lacto fermenting foods such as seeds and grains make them easier to digest (the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is a great resource to learn traditional food prep methods).
Want to learn more about nurturing new mamas? Check out my e-book ‘Nurturing the New Mama‘