Postpartum Nourishment Plan
A simple, professionally designed plan to support mum’s and baby’s health post-partum.
New mums need to be well nourished – full-stop! This is essential for the long-term health of both mother and bub, yet many mums find themselves in a state of exhaustion and overwhelm during this critical period, leaving no reserves for self care.
Also known as the 4th trimester, the postpartum period is considered the 6 weeks from birth, however I personally see it as the many months or even years beyond this. During both pregnancy and childbirth (be it natural or C-section) there are a lot physical and emotional changes that occur in a mother’s body, and extra nutritional support is required to nourish the health of both mum and bub.
Consider just some of the physical changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth… significant hormonal changes, changes to tissue throughout the whole body, blood loss, lactation, disruption to sleep and general adjustments required to care for a new baby. Where there are extra demands, there is definitely extra nourishment required!
There is SO much going on in the mother’s body during the postpartum period. The demands placed on her body are quite astounding really!
Nutritionally, the goal in supporting both mum and bub’s health in the early days include replenishing nutrients and providing the building blocks for the body to repair, recover and lactate. This includes ensuring the mum’s macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are adequate so she can support both her own health and cope with the physical and emotional adjustments of being a new mum, whilst also meeting the nutritional needs of her baby.
Astounding really…mums, do not underestimate how incredible your body is and how much support is required during this special time.
Essentials for nourishing mums (and therefore babies too)
1) Choose nutrient dense foods
It’s super important to ensure the overall nutrient intake is enough to support the needs of both mother and baby.
Protein from both meat and/or complete vegetarian sources are essential to provide building blocks for tissue healing and repair. Choose to eat pasture raised meats (such as 100% grass-fed and finished beef), organic chicken, fresh locally caught fish or organically farmed (avoid swordfish, shark/flake or anything imported), organic eggs, raw or activated nuts and seeds, quinoa and chia. Vegetarians, make sure you are combining your protein to ensure it is complete. Meals that include bone broth help provide collagen-building amino acids and nutrients that are really beneficial postpartum.
Beneficial fats from seafood, eggs, grass-fed meat, avocados, nuts, seeds, cold-pressed oils to help to reduce inflammation and support baby’s brain development
Iodine and zinc rich foods support nutrient repletion. Seafood, especially mussels and kombu/ seaweed included in bone broth and stews is great for iodine levels. Grass-fed meat, seafood (especially shellfish), and nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) are great sources of zinc.
Grains and starches help with daily energy levels and for maintenance of milk supply if breastfeeding (oats, quinoa, millet, brown rice, sweet potato, whole grains).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, warming foods that build qi (energy) and replenish the blood flow are essential in the postpartum period. This includes cooked vegetables for a broad range of vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates, meat (especially slow cooked on the bone), eggs and once again bone broth, soups and curries. Use warm spices such as ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, fennel, cardamon, turmeric, cumin and nutmeg when cooking.
Fermented foods are also great to support digestive health (kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables).
2) Drink plenty of fluids
Think of how a plant looks if it is not been watered – not much vitality right? You are no different; so you need to drink at least 2 litres of water (more if you are breastfeeding), sipped throughout the day, each and every day. This will help to support breast milk production and ensure you feel your best. Herbal (non-caffeinated) teas (check with your practitioner to ensure no contraindications), coconut water and broth are great too.
3) Choose SLOW food
SLOW or Seasonal, local, organic (if possible) whole foods are your best choice. Seasonal and local foods are the cheapest, freshest and most nutritionally loaded foods. Please avoid all imported fresh produce as it has often been stored for long periods (so lacks nutrients) and is treated with a variety of chemicals before it enters the country. Organic is always optimal if it is available to you (based on reduced chemical loading for you and your baby). Whole, real foods, carefully prepared to retain their nutrition, are the only nourishing choice. Packaged and processed foods, even when ‘organic’, have none of the nutrition or life force found in freshly prepared foods.
4) Balance your blood sugars
Eating small meals regularly is super important during this postpartum period both mentally (emotionally) and physically. Skipping meals will only hinder your milk supply, energy levels and mood. Making sure you have lots of healthy snacks on hand and even leftovers really helps ensure you can eat often.
There’s really is no substitute for it! I completely understand it can be tricky, especially if you also have a toddler or young children to care for, but carving out time to rest is essential for your long term health wellbeing. As a new mum, I failed miserably at this and my health suffered enormously (after a time) because I neglected this crucial part of wellness. Don’t wait until you are tired to rest!
Best to limit or avoid…
1) Processed foods which are all grossly lacking nourishment. Fresh is always best.
2) Caffeine including tea, coffee, caffeinated soft drinks and chocolate (even cacao). Babies are very caffeine sensitive, so if your baby doesn’t sleep well and you are ingesting caffeine, then it is best to stop. Caffeine also impedes the absorption of iron and most vitamins and minerals so is counterproductive to good nutrition. Sorry, as someone who loves the taste of coffee I understand many of you won’t like reading this. Try a Swiss water filtered organic decaf if you want to continue to enjoy the flavour of coffee.
3) Sugary treats are nutritionally ‘empty’ and again can stimulate your baby. They also cause blood sugar and mood disturbances.
5) Parsley and sage are two herbs that can dry up breast milk. So best to avoid whilst you are lactating.
A word about bio-individuality
Each and every person is an individual. So whilst some breastfed babies are sensitive to brassicas (like broccoli, cabbage, Chinese greens and cauliflower), garlic, onions, dairy and other whole foods, I don’t believe these foods should be completely eliminated unless it is indicated.
1) If you feel up for it and you have enough freezer space, prepare as many meals and snacks as possible before your baby is due. The plan below includes lots of breakfasts, meals and snacks that will suit your postpartum needs well.
2) Develop an efficient shopping routine. This might mean shopping at the farmers market once a week and stocking up on lots of nourishing, fresh, local and seasonal produce. When I shop at my farmers market weekly, I only need to visit the supermarket once a fortnight (when I stock up on basics like toilet paper, butter, cheese, oils etc). This saves time, money and energy! An online delivery service is also worth investigating especially for the early days whilst you’re establishing your babies routine. If you can send out a family member or friend to do the shopping for you, that’s a great option too. Write a very specific list of what you need (brand, quantity, how many tins etc) and put them to work!
3) Double up on everything you cook – one effort for twice the food. Doing this was my saviour in those early postpartum months. I generally had the energy to pull together one decent meal, so I doubled it and that did me for subsequent meals (such as lunch the next day) or stocking the freezer for a future pear-shaped day.
4) Get it prepped when you’re feeling up to it – make the most of any time you are feeling energised and motivated to cook. I often prepped for dinner at lunch time, so come dinner time (when I generally started to fade) cooking was way less effort as the prep was done. The Slow Cooked meals are great here as the prep is minimal, but the meals are tasty and really satisfying.
5) Keep it simple. Healthy meals don’t need to be complicated or gourmet. When you can’t be bothered, a simple piece of protein with steamed or baked vegetables or a salad is a beautiful, nutritionally balanced meal.
7) Accept help! All of the above can be done by friends or family. Often people say “let me know if I can help!” and then we hesitate to actually reach out. Don’t be shy to say, “Fancy whipping up this Farmhouse Lasagne for me?!” Create your village of support and you will all be richer in community for it.
8) Use the recipes in the plan below to create a plan that suits your tastes and needs. Try to batch bake a granola for breakfast and on the mornings where you have the time and space, perhaps cook up one of the egg based options.
As always, your questions and feedback are most welcome, it’s the only way I can meet you where you are at. So post them in the Well Nourished Family Facebook group or or post a comment below. My team and I are committed to making The Well Nourished Family a place for you to feel supported…leading a healthy life does not have to be complicated.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach to your health and diet. Please discuss changes to your diet with your health care practitioner to ensure they are suitable for you and your individual needs.