For a lot of moms, finding a way to eat healthfully after having a baby can be challenging and stressful, if not a complete afterthought. Preparing meals for yourself between feeding your baby, changing diapers, and unpredictable sleeping can feel like a herculean task. When you pile on the cultural pressures to return to a pre-baby body overnight, many moms feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped, and inadequate. This outdated and unrealistic expectation is not only unhelpful, but, in my experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Nutritionist who works with perinatal women, can also be harmful. That’s why when working with pregnant women, I help them create a realistic postpartum plan that supports their transition to motherhood.
Those first few months after pregnancy are a critical time not only for bonding with your new baby, but to rest and focus on your own nourishment. Recovering from the trauma of childbirth is hard work for your body, whether it’s healing from a cesarean section or perineal stretching or tearing; or allowing connective tissue and ligaments that stretched during pregnancy to shrink back down. Pregnancy also leaves you nutrient depleted, and replenishing those nutrient stores can be difficult, especially while breastfeeding. Lactation is incredibly nutrient demanding and an important time to focus on adequate nutrition for both yourself and your baby.
Postpartum Eating: It Takes A Village
One of the most important parts of planning for the first few months with a baby is to figure out who might be able to support you, especially when it comes to meals. New moms can’t be the ones responsible for getting themselves fed, they must have help! Here are some questions you can ask yourself when creating your postpartum plan:
Will you have family staying with you in the first few weeks postpartum? If so, how do you want them to support you?
Do you have friends that can drop off meals or help with meal prep?
Can you hire a postpartum doula?
Can someone arrange a meal train for you, so you have people bringing over food?
Can you start filling your freezer with meals, soups, stews, casseroles, etc. so you have some prepared food on hand?
What grab-and-go snacks can you have on hand for the times you need something quick and healthy?
Food to Nourish Mom
When it comes to ensuring you get the right nutrients to help your postpartum body heal and generate enough food for your baby, here’s what’s really important:
Get enough fluids and salt to help replenish electrolytes. Warming foods, such as soups, stews and broths are great because they are easy on digestion and provide the body with essential nutrients such as iron, B12, zinc, and magnesium.
Eat enough Protein and Fat. Diets adequate in protein and fat are important in supporting optimal milk supply and helping to repair damaged tissues. Meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds are excellent options for getting adequate protein in the diet.
Eat frequently. I try to encourage clients to eat when the baby eats, especially during those early postpartum weeks. By keeping easy-to-eat, nutrient dense snacks on your nightstand, next to your rocker, or wherever you’ll be spending time feeding and snuggling with your baby will make it easier for you to get nourishment when you’re unable to move around much.
The first few months after having a baby can be difficult for a lot of reasons. Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be one of them. Making a postpartum plan, enlisting the help of your “village” and focusing on nourishing your own body can make post-pregnancy recovery smoother and more enjoyable.
Supporting women during pregnancy and postpartum was what inspired the creation of Mama Bar—a real food nutrition bar that is high in protein and an excellent source of essential nutrients iron, magnesium, and zinc. Made from cashews, dates, oats, flaxseeds and dark chocolate, Mama Bar is a delicious and convenient snack to have on hand.
Amy Kovner, MS, CN, LMHC