When I became a mom for the first time (pictured here back in 2015), I never even considered that the foods I was filling my body with during those first few weeks would have such a significant impact on my healing process. It wasn’t until I interviewed Boram Nam, the founder of Boram Care, on my podcast, Message from Mom, that I learned that adequate nutrition plays such a crucial role in postpartum recovery.
I run a lactation ‘Kookie’ company to support moms on their breastfeeding journey, so I know firsthand the power that oats, brewers yeast and flaxseed have when it comes to naturally boosting moms milk supply. But it wasn’t until I started doing research on the vital role that foods play in the postpartum recovery process that I finally connected the dots. Fueling our bodies with the right foods, can actually help speed up postpartum healing, elevate energy levels, improve mood, boost milk supply and so much more!
The problem is, there still isn’t a ton of information out there when it comes to understanding the proper foods we actually need to fuel our bodies postpartum, so I thought I would do my own research and then share an overview of the best way to nourish our bodies for optimal healing and overall well-being.
I know there is a ton of information outlined here, so I also created a downloadable PDF that you can keep for reference and also share with your new mama friends. I hope this is a helpful guide for you!
It sounds so simple, but staying hydrated is crucial for new moms for several important reasons:
Recovery and Healing: Giving birth is physically demanding, and the postpartum period is a time of recovery for the body. Staying hydrated helps support the healing process by ensuring that bodily functions, such as tissue repair and cell regeneration, can occur optimally.
Breastfeeding: If you choose to breastfeed your baby, adequate hydration is essential for milk production. Breast milk is primarily composed of water, and dehydration can negatively impact milk supply. Staying hydrated helps ensure that you have enough fluids to produce an adequate amount of breast milk for your baby.
Energy Levels: Being a new mom requires a significant amount of physical and mental energy. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue and decreased energy levels, making it more challenging to meet the demands of caring for a newborn. By staying hydrated, you can maintain better energy levels and feel more alert and focused.
Promoting Overall Health: Hydration is vital for overall health and well-being. Water is involved in various bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, temperature regulation, and the elimination of waste products. Staying hydrated helps support these essential processes, keeping your body functioning optimally.
Preventing Common Issues: Dehydration can lead to common postpartum issues such as constipation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and fatigue. By maintaining proper hydration, you can help prevent these problems and promote better overall well-being.
Some Tips for Staying Hydrated:
- Carry a water bottle with you to have easy access to water wherever you go.
- Remember that beverages like herbal teas, coconut water, and fruit-infused water also contribute to hydration.
- Pay attention to your body’s thirst cues and drink water whenever you feel thirsty.
- Limit or avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, as they can contribute to dehydration.
- If you’re breastfeeding, drink water before, during, and after nursing sessions to ensure adequate hydration for both you and your baby.
2. Protein Rich Foods
Protein is SO essential when it comes to postpartum healing, muscle recovery, energy, breastmilk production and even balancing our hormones! Here’s more on this:
Tissue Repair and Healing: Giving birth puts significant strain on the body, and adequate protein intake is crucial for tissue repair and healing. Protein provides the building blocks for repairing and rebuilding body tissues that may have been stretched or damaged during pregnancy and childbirth.
Muscle Recovery and Strength: Protein is necessary for rebuilding and strengthening muscles. During pregnancy and labor, the body goes through significant changes, and maintaining muscle strength is important for postpartum recovery. Adequate protein intake supports muscle recovery and helps restore strength, which is particularly important if you plan to resume physical activity or exercise after childbirth.
Energy Production: Protein is a macronutrient that provides energy for the body. After giving birth, your energy needs may increase due to the demands of caring for a newborn. Including protein-rich foods in your diet can provide sustained energy and help prevent energy slumps throughout the day.
Breast Milk Production: If you choose to breastfeed your baby, protein is vital for milk production. Breast milk contains proteins that are necessary for your baby’s growth and development. Consuming enough protein can help ensure an adequate supply of breast milk and provide your baby with the essential nutrients they need.
Hormonal Balance: Protein plays a role in hormonal balance, which is particularly important during the postpartum period when hormones undergo significant changes. Consuming adequate protein can help support hormonal regulation, which may help alleviate postpartum mood swings and promote emotional well-being.
Sources of Postpartum Protein:
- Lean meats (chicken, turkey, lean beef)
- Fish (salmon, trout, tuna)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Nuts and seeds
- Tofu and tempeh
Remember that it’s important to include a variety of protein sources in your postpartum diet to ensure that you’re getting a wide range of essential amino acids and nutrients. As I’m not a healthcare expert, I always recommend consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine the right amount of protein for your specific needs and any dietary restrictions you may have.
3. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats can help nutritionally in so many different ways, including hormone balance and brain function
Hormonal Balance: Healthy fats are essential for hormone production and regulation. After childbirth, hormones go through significant changes, and consuming adequate healthy fats can help support hormonal balance, which is important for overall well-being and postpartum recovery.
Nutrient Absorption: Many important vitamins and minerals are fat-soluble, meaning they require fats to be properly absorbed and utilized by the body. Healthy fats help enhance the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as other fat-soluble nutrients. These nutrients are important for various bodily functions, including immune function, bone health, and tissue repair.
Energy Source: Fats are a concentrated source of energy. Postpartum recovery and caring for a newborn can be physically demanding, and having an adequate energy supply is crucial. Healthy fats provide a long-lasting and sustainable source of energy, helping to prevent energy slumps and support overall vitality.
Brain Health: The brain requires healthy fats to function optimally. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are essential for brain development and function. They support cognitive health, mood regulation, and may help prevent postpartum depression. Including omega-3 rich foods in your diet, such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can be beneficial for postpartum brain health.
Nutritional Support: Healthy fats provide essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce on its own. These fatty acids are important for cell structure, brain health, and inflammation regulation. Including sources of healthy fats in your diet helps ensure you’re meeting your body’s nutritional needs during the postpartum period.
Sources of Healthy Fats:
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds)
- Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter)
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- Full-fat dairy products (if tolerated and appropriate for your diet)
4. Iron-Rich Foods
Iron can help restore blood loss and energy levels…
Blood Loss Recovery: Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues throughout the body. During childbirth, there is typically some degree of blood loss, which can lead to a temporary decrease in iron levels. Consuming iron-rich foods helps replenish iron stores and supports the production of new red blood cells, aiding in the recovery from postpartum blood loss.
Energy Production: Iron is necessary for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule responsible for storing and releasing energy in our cells. Adequate iron levels help optimize energy production, which is essential for postpartum recovery and meeting the increased energy demands of caring for a newborn.
Tissue Repair: Iron is involved in collagen synthesis, a protein that plays a crucial role in tissue repair and wound healing. By including iron-rich foods in your diet, you provide your body with the necessary building blocks for tissue regeneration and recovery from any tears or incisions that may have occurred during childbirth.
Boosting Immune Function: Iron is a vital nutrient for the proper functioning of the immune system. It helps support the production and function of immune cells, enabling your body to defend against infections and promote a healthy immune response during the postpartum period when the body may be more vulnerable.
Preventing Iron Deficiency Anemia: Iron deficiency anemia is a condition characterized by low levels of iron in the body, leading to a decreased production of red blood cells and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity. Postpartum women are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency anemia due to the blood loss during childbirth. Including iron-rich foods in your diet can help prevent or correct iron deficiency anemia, promoting better overall health and vitality.
Sources of Iron-Rich Foods:
- Lean meats (beef, poultry, pork)
- Fish and seafood (oysters, clams, salmon)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard)
- Fortified cereals and grains
- Tofu and tempeh
- Nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
- Dried fruits (apricots, raisins)
- Iron-fortified foods (such as certain bread and pasta products)
Something important to note, is that pairing iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or bell peppers, can enhance iron absorption. On the other hand, certain substances like calcium and tannins (found in tea and coffee) can inhibit iron absorption, so it’s advisable to consume them separately from iron-rich foods.
5. Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are both crucial for postpartum recovery due to their individual and synergistic roles in supporting bone health, overall well-being, and various bodily functions. Here’s a more in depth look at why they are beneficial:
Bone Health: Calcium is the primary mineral responsible for building and maintaining strong bones. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, your body has increased calcium demands to support the growth and development of your baby. Consuming adequate calcium postpartum helps replenish your calcium stores, supports bone density, and aids in the recovery of any bone loss that may have occurred during pregnancy.
Muscle Function: Calcium is necessary for proper muscle function, including contraction and relaxation. After childbirth, maintaining healthy muscle function is important for postpartum recovery and daily activities. Adequate calcium intake helps prevent muscle cramps and supports optimal muscle performance.
Blood Clotting: Calcium plays a crucial role in blood clotting, which is particularly important during the postpartum period when the body is healing from any tears or incisions. It helps form blood clots to prevent excessive bleeding and supports the healing process.
Sources of Calcium:
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Fortified plant-based milk alternatives (soy milk, almond milk, oat milk)
- Leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens)
- Tofu and tempeh
- Canned fish with bones (such as salmon or sardines)
- Fortified cereals and juices
Calcium Absorption: Vitamin D plays a critical role in calcium absorption. It helps the body absorb and utilize calcium effectively. Without sufficient vitamin D, even if calcium intake is adequate, the body may struggle to absorb and utilize calcium efficiently. Thus, vitamin D is essential for maximizing the benefits of calcium.
Bone Health: Vitamin D is essential for bone health as it helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body, which are necessary for bone mineralization and strength. It works in synergy with calcium to promote proper bone formation, density, and strength.
Immune Function: Vitamin D is involved in the regulation of the immune system. It helps support the body’s defense against infections and promotes a healthy immune response. Adequate vitamin D levels are important for postpartum women, who may experience changes in immune function during the recovery period.
Sources of Vitamin D:
- Sun exposure: The body can synthesize vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Aim for safe sun exposure for about 10-15 minutes a day, with arms and legs exposed, outside of peak sun hours.
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- Fortified dairy products
- Fortified plant-based milk alternatives
- Egg yolks
- Mushrooms (exposed to UV light)
6. Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber-rich foods are important for postpartum recovery due to their numerous benefits for digestive health, preventing constipation, and supporting overall well-being.
Digestive Health: Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that passes through the digestive system relatively intact. It adds bulk to the stool, helping to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. After childbirth, hormonal changes, decreased physical activity, and certain medications can contribute to constipation. Including fiber-rich foods in your diet can help alleviate this common postpartum issue and support healthy digestion.
Postpartum Constipation Prevention: Constipation can be a common concern during the postpartum period, especially if you’ve had a cesarean delivery or are taking pain medications. Fiber-rich foods add bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass and preventing constipation. This is particularly important if you had stitches or episiotomy during childbirth, as straining during bowel movements can be uncomfortable and hinder the healing process.
Blood Sugar Management: High-fiber foods are typically digested more slowly than refined carbohydrates, leading to a more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. This can help stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing sharp spikes and crashes, and supporting overall energy levels and well-being during the postpartum period.
Weight Management: Fiber-rich foods tend to be more filling and can contribute to a sense of satiety, which may help with weight management postpartum. They can assist in reducing excessive snacking and overeating, as well as promoting a healthy balance in your diet.
Nutrient Absorption and Gut Health: Fiber acts as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is associated with improved nutrient absorption, immune function, and overall well-being. Including fiber-rich foods in your diet helps support a diverse and healthy gut microbiota.
Sources of Fiber:
- Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats)
- Fruits (apples, berries, pears)
- Vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- Nuts and seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds)
It’s important to gradually increase your fiber intake and drink plenty of water to help fiber move through the digestive system smoothly. Rapidly increasing fiber intake without adequate hydration may lead to bloating and discomfort. Aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of fiber-rich foods to obtain the benefits of different types of fiber.
7. Postpartum Superfoods
I know there is a ton of information outlined in this post, so I thought it might be best to conclude with a list of postpartum “superfoods” that you can refer back to when you’re looking for ways to fuel your body in those first few weeks postpartum.
Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D, salmon supports brain health, helps reduce inflammation, and provides essential nutrients for overall well-being.
Eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein, iron, choline, and other essential nutrients. They provide energy, support tissue repair, and help maintain hormonal balance.
Leafy Greens: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They provide nutrients like iron, calcium, folate, and vitamin K, which are beneficial for postpartum recovery and overall health.
Quinoa: Quinoa is a protein-rich grain that also contains fiber, iron, and magnesium. It provides sustained energy, supports tissue repair, and helps with digestion and bowel regularity.
Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and probiotics. It supports bone health, aids in digestion, and contributes to a healthy gut microbiome.
Berries: Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. They provide a natural sweetness, support immune function, and contribute to overall well-being.
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are nutrient-dense foods that provide healthy fats, protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. They support energy production, brain health, and overall nourishment.
Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of plant-based protein, fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. They support digestive health, provide energy, and aid in muscle recovery.
Avocado: Avocado is a nutrient-rich fruit that contains healthy fats, fiber, potassium, and vitamins. It provides sustained energy, supports brain health, and contributes to a healthy heart.
Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice with anti-inflammatory properties due to its active compound, curcumin. Incorporating turmeric into your diet can help reduce inflammation and support overall well-being.
It’s important to remember that these are just a few examples of postpartum superfoods, and a varied and balanced diet is key to obtaining a wide range of nutrients. Additionally, individual needs and dietary considerations may vary, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to tailor your diet to your specific requirements and ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs during the postpartum period.
Hopefully this was helpful for you to see how proper nutrition is SO vital for postpartum healing and recovery. I wish I had this information as a new mom, but I’m so glad I have it now to share with you! By focusing on hydrating and consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods, we can better support our bodies during the critical first few weeks postpartum.
If you haven’t already, we’d love for you to sign-up for our 8 week postpartum support series through this link. In our 8 week Postpartum Support Email series, we’ll cover everything from foods & recipes that will heal your body in the first few weeks, to getting baby on a sleep schedule, to pumping extra milk for back to work, easing back into a healthy fitness routine, and so much more!