The hardest part about pregnancy (for the foodie in me) was all its dietary restrictions – no alcohol, no sushi, no cold cuts or hot dogs, limit sugar, only pasteurized cheese and juices. It’s so tempting to load up the plate once the baby is born.
I remember “rewarding” myself post delivery with a huge box of chocolate macadamia cranberry cookies after the Kate was born, as I was told to limit my sugar intake during pregnancy. Is it a wonder that Kate was a very unsettled newborn? She was probably going through a sugar high!
Had I known what I know now, I would have been more diligent about what I ate AFTER giving birth. As the wise Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Choosing the right foods after giving birth can help with lactation, reduced swelling and faster healing. And if you choose to nurse, what you eat is also what the baby eats (and too much sugar is not a good idea).
Tip #2 - Eat Mindfully
According to Eastern medicine, a mother's body is in a particularly vulnerable and “cold” state when her major heat source during pregnancy (the baby) leaves her body. During the birthing process, she loses a lot of fluids, and suffers cellular traumas. Her digestive system is weak, as organs have been moved and pushed together to make room for the baby.
Thus, it is important to replenish the vitamins and nutrients lost during childbirth (through blood and fluid loss). In short, It is all about restoring the body’s natural balance (not too hot, not too cold, not too dry, not too damp....)
From a mindful diet approach, here are things some do’s an don’ts to help you rebalance your healing body.
1. Eat cooked leafy greens, vegetables, lean proteins and natural foods with essential fatty acids, including:
a. cooked spinach, kale, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and carrots have natural vitamins and minerals. Cooking them (versus eating raw) helps aid with digestion and maximizes nutrient absorption.
b. lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, and duck for healthy protein
c. cold water fish such as cod, flounder, haddock, grouper, sea bream, snapper, mackerel, tilapia and tuna steak for vitamins. Salmon, herring and anchovies are high in Omega 3, 6, and 9
d. if you are not a big fish fan, avocados, raw nuts (not roasted or salted), such as walnuts, almonds, macadamias), seeds (chia, sesame, sunflower) are loaded with good fat and high in Omega 3, 6, and 9
2. Soups and stews are ideal as they are easy to digest, easy to make (one-pot meals) and reheats deliciously.
Check out our bone soup recipes on the site for some starter soups.
3. Drink lots of liquids!
a. Plain water is best. There is a school of thought that suggests all water be boiled and cooled to room temperature before drinking to remove all bacteria. It’s even suggested that filtered, spring and reverse osmosis water be avoided as well as they too may contain chemicals and bacteria.
b. Teas! Given that water is best boiled, might as well add some flavor to it. There are a variety of teas that improve and digestion, replenishes lost vitamins, and helps reduce stress. Lactation booster teas are sometimes called “Mother’s Milk” or “Nursing Tea." My favorite was Yogi’s Woman’s Nursing Support. Decaffeinated green tea is tasty and loaded with antioxidants. Or make your own. One of our favorites is gogi berry tea.
c. Homemade broth counts too and is filled with calcium and nutrients.
Conversely, there are some foods you should try to avoid, or at the very least limit as they impede our natural healing abilities:
1. Fatty foods – potato chips, burgers, fries, bacon, fried chicken. Some of my favorite comfort foods, but heavy oils may cause digestion issues that can be also be passed onto the baby. When you need a bit of oil, try using olive or coconut oils.
2. Vine-grown vegetables and fruits – tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, watermelon and kiwis are some examples. Many of these fruits and vegetables (such as watermelon and cucumbers) have high water content that contributes to excess bloating. Drinking water flushes toxin outs, food with high water content is ingested and stored. Confusing, I know!
The nightshade variants, those vegetables that have a little vine “cap,” such as tomatoes and eggplants are known to contribute to joint inflammation, pain and soreness, especially after birth when the body is still flooded with relaxin and oxytocin hormones that stretch and soften our joints and uterus for pregnancy and birth. But after birth, by reducing or eliminating these fruits and vegetables from our diet, the body can more effectively conduct cartilage repair.
3. Dairy – cow’s milk is actually really hard on digestion, but yet a great source of calcium. Traditional advice is to have it only a couple of times a week and if possible, boil the milk to help breakdown the protein molecules. There are also other great forms of enriched milk to try – oat, nut-based, rice or soy.
To learn more about restoring your postpartum body naturally, from personal care to food, we recommend “The Mommy Plan “ by Valerie Lynn.
Stay tune for the next part in this series - resting properly after delivery.
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