How to Eat Well to Boost Your Post-Birth Recovery
The right food can help your body recover from the astonishing feat of childbirth. Nutritionist Larissa Beeby shows new mums how to nourish their bodies after giving birth
5 min read
The first two weeks following birth can be a difficult time for a new mum. There’s constant feeding, sleepless nights, and a body in need of rest and repair. The nutrients you include in your diet during this time can form a key part of the recovery process.
Go fuel yourself
Traditionally, many cultures have a period of total rest and bonding for mother and baby. In our fast-past world of 2019 this is often incredibly hard for many mums to achieve.
There is still a lot you can do to look after yourself and your health. Consuming nutrient-dense food can help you recover by supporting, nourishing, repairing and fuelling your body.
Recent research has confirmed how important this time is and has looked at nutrient depletion during pregnancy, breastfeeding and postpartum depression. A link was shown between nutrient depletion and key mood0-regulating neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. The study also showed that lower levels of folate, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, fats, and fatty acids have all been associated with a higher risk of post-partum depression.
All the more reason to eat well, mama!
Nourish your body after labour with foods & drinks from these groups:
Water and hydration is required for rebuilding and regenerating your body and it is essential for producing breast milk. Labour itself can leave many women dehydrated, which happened to me while in labor, so I made sure this time around we kept on top of my fluids from the start.
Soups are are a great way to load lots of different vegetables and nutrients into your body. I have been ensuring I have a cup of bone broth each day as it contains collagen which is great for rebuilding tissues and gut health.
Protein is necessary to build and repair tissue, for synthesizing hormones, enzymes and antibodies, and for many other bodily functions. It is a dense source of food so it also helps the body to stay full for longer.
I am adding pea protein and hemp seeds to my smoothies, snacking on natural nuts and roasted chickpeas, having eggs and salmon for breakfast, and using smoked salmon (I’m making up for the last 9 months!), or left overs for lunch such as quinoa, chicken, lamb or beef.
Carbohydrate requirements increase during breastfeeding as they provide the energy for the synthesis of milk and will continue to fuel you through these busy days.
Carbohydrates that are easy to prepare and quick to cook can still be nourishing. Try wholegrain and plant-based options such as:
- adding oats to smoothies or an oat based muesli
- sourdough or seed bread for toast or sandwiches
- a ‘microwaved’ baked kumara
- wholemeal or legume pasta
- soba noodles
- using leftover roast vegetables to make a salad for lunch the next day,
- and wholemeal couscous (which requires no cooking and is ready in 5min)
Fat is a concentrated source of energy and it provides the mechanism for absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and it also provides flavour for your meals.
Usually for breastfeeding mum’s, just over half the energy content of breast milk is fat. The fatty acids in breast milk are sourced from the maternal diet, maternal fat stores, or synthesised by the breast.
Here are some food options that contain healthy, nutritious fats that I recommend:
- avocado on toast,
- coconut cream in smoothies and chia puddings
- poached eggs and salmon
- homemade nut and seed slice.
Eating a colorful variety of fresh produce and foods will provide a range of nutrients such as Vitamin D, B12, Iron, folate, iodine, selenium and magnesium so I make sure I add seasonal vegetables and fruit which contain a lot of the nutrients I need in my postpartum diet.