The postpartum period
Also known as the 4th trimester, is the 6-week period straight after birth.
During both pregnancy and delivery (be it natural or C-section birth), there are a lot physical (and emotional) changes that occur in the mother’s body.
Naturally, the consequences of these changes are very much present during the initial 6-week period, and to a certain degree, for many months (and years) beyond this phase.
Therefore, the postpartum period requires special attention to the nutritional support needed to nourish the health of both mother and baby.
Things to consider
When considering how to best nourish and support a mother’s body during this time, it’s worth thinking about some of the physical effects of pregnancy and birth, including:
- significant repair and recovery of body tissues
- breast tissue changes
- physical demands of breastfeeding
- disruption to sleep rhythm and regularity
- hormonal changes
- adjusting to caring for a newborn baby.
Nutritional postpartum nourishment – how does it help?
So, there is a lot going on in the mother’s body during the postpartum period, and nutritional nourishment is important for:
- the replenishment of nutrient stores
- providing the building blocks for the body to recover and repair (for the mother’s body and health, and also for future pregnancies)
- providing a good supply of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to make enough breast milk and provide nutrients that the baby needs, without depleting the mother
- helping the body cope with the physical and emotional demands of sleep deprivation and general adjustment to this life phase.
Foods for postpartum nourishment
To nutritionally nourish and support the body during the postpartum period, the best foods to include (based on individual preference and tolerance) are:
- ensuring the overall energy intake is enough to support the needs of both mother and baby
- soups, stews and curries with broth help provide collagen-building amino acids and nutrients
- protein from both meat and/or vegetarian sources to prove building blocks for tissue healing
- beneficial fats from seafood, eggs, grass-fed beef, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, cold-pressed oils to help baby’s brain development
- iodine-rich foods to support nutrient repletion (kombu, seaweed in bone broth and stews)
- soft-cooked vegetables to for a broad range of vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates
- grains and starches to help with daily energy levels and for maintenance of milk supply if breastfeeding (oats, sweet potato, whole grains)
- smoothies with a balance of protein (good quality protein powder), fats (avocado or nuts), fruits (as per preference), vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, broccoli or zucchini) and fermented food (kefir, yoghurt)
- plenty of fluids – filtered water, broths, teas.
Remember, the postpartum period is not about eating perfectly every day.
Start where you are and gradually add more nutrient-dense foods to your diet (like the ones mentioned above) as often as you can.
It’s more about overall diet quality than daily variations (for those days when the wheels fall off – which they will!).