A Guide to Postnatal Nourishment

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The experience of bringing new life into the world is life-changing, and new parents often have a whirlwind of new emotions, responsibilities, and priorities. After giving birth, new mothers are in need of extra care and support. But postpartum care can be challenging because we are often so focused on caring and providing for our newborn baby that we forget that we need to take time to heal and recover as well. Putting time and energy toward your healing and recovery post-labor will strengthen you, help you to bond better with your baby, and can also increase the health of your baby. In many countries the healing period directly postpartum is between 30-60 days. Many women don’t leave the house for the first 10-30 and take plenty of time to restore and repair after the profound experience of giving birth. Rest is imperative and if you’re able to call in outside support from friends, family, a doula or your partner - take full advantage. Let others nurture you while you nurture your newborn leaving daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, shopping and laundry to your caregivers.

Here are some postnatal tools to care for both you and your baby:

Eat nourishing, nutrient-dense comfort foods

After giving birth your body is in a state of recovery and rebuilding, so it’s important to load up on restorative, nutrient-dense foods to support it. Some important nutrients to pay special attention to are calcium, iron, and omega 3s (specifically DHA). Getting enough protein at this time is also absolutely vital. Most people find it difficult to cook and prepare food in the early months while adjusting to a new schedule of feedings, sleeping, and just a whole new way of life. If you’re able to call in outside support for the first 30-40 days (especially for shopping, cooking and creating warming meals) it can be one of the most helpful tools for healing and recovery.

Having items already prepared and stacked away in the freezer can help during these times if you’re able to make the time to prepare them beforehand. If not, there are a variety of food services available in most cities that provide healthy pre-cooked or ready-to-cook meals suited to individual clients’ needs.

Nourishing foods: Warming, easy to digest foods like soups, stews, broths and healing dishes are essential. Foods such as leafy greens, cold-water fish, root vegetables, eggs, whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, grass-fed dairy, and pasture-raised poultry + eggs should make up the majority of your diet.

Superfoods: Herbs such as nettle, red raspberry leaf, and moringa, along with flax seeds, ghee, and grass-fed butter, provide a great balance of nutrients and can be easily added to your daily diet.

*Consult with a holistic practitioner if you desire more individualized support

Breastfeed, if possible
Not all women are able to get their baby to breastfeed, but if you can breastfeed it helps not only your baby’s health but also your own. Breast milk is high in all the nutrients your baby needs for optimal development, and will help your baby to develop healthy gut bacteria and a healthy immune system. Breastfeeding moms also have a lower rate of postpartum depression and other postpartum health issues/disorders, and often have a quicker recovery time. If you’re having difficulty breastfeeding, there are a number of doulas and lactation coaches that can help guide you on your journey. If you’re looking for something to help increase milk flow, various herbs have a positive effect on lactation.

Some effective lactation herbs include:

Fenugreek- A common component in many herbal lactation teas, Fenugreek is one of the most common and effective herbs to increase milk production. It is a galactagogue that supports prolactin secretion.

Capsule form is best. 3 capsules, 3 x per day until the milk starts flowing.

Blessed Thistle- Helps to elevate mild forms of postpartum depression, which is linked to difficulties breastfeeding. This herb is best combined with Fenugreek.

Capsule form is best. 3 capsules, 3 x per day until the milk starts flowing.

Lactation-increasing herbal teas are also available for purchase.


Realize you do not have to do it all yourself
Raising a child literally takes a community, and it’s important to start utilizing this community as soon as you have given birth. There’s no need to try to do everything yourself. Join a new moms group or a Baby and Me group. Ask a friend to help you prepare freezer-friendly meals. Ask your partner to help take care of the baby while you get some much-needed shut-eye. Whatever it is, utilize and lean on your community.

Rest, rest, and rest
So many moms want to jump up and do anything and everything postpartum, but this generally ends up working against you. Right now your body needs rest and recovery. Try to take on only what you can comfortably handle, get as much sleep as possible (like when the baby is napping!), and don’t start trying to shed the baby weight immediately. Be gentle with yourself, and give yourself time to rest and recuperate. Remember, in most countries there is at least a 30-40 day restoration period.

Take time for healing after vaginal birth
If you were able to have a successful vaginal birth, there’s a chance that you may have experienced some tearing or had to have an episiotomy. If either of these is the case, healing is definitely needed. Using a spray bottle filled with water and lavender essential oil after using the bathroom or when you’re feeling uncomfortable will help to get rid of bacteria, cool the area, and speed up recovery time.

You can also do lavender sitz baths with Epsom salts up to three times per week once you feel healed enough & ready to do so.

Embrace all emotions
Something that is not often talked about is the ups and downs that you’re likely to experience postpartum. Your body’s hormones are all over the place, you’re probably sleep-deprived, and there is a new kind of added stress in your life. It’s normal to not feel your best - you don’t have to be a blissed-out new mom all the time. If you are experiencing more serious postpartum depression - seek support from a nutritionist, doula or your doctor. 

When you’re feeling low: try using essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and orange to uplift your mood. You can use an aromatherapy diffuser or mix the oils with a carrier oil such as jojoba and apply externally.

Spending 30 minutes outside daily with or without your baby will also help to uplift your mood as well as to balance hormones and cortisol levels. Whenever possible, try to take a few moments for yourself, whether it’s writing in a journal, napping, taking a warm bath, or having a friend or family member over.