Updated: May 6, 2021
Do you want to be deeply depleted or deeply nourished? There is a saying from the Ayurvedic tradition that the way you live your first 42 days postpartum is how you will live your next 42 years. Whoa. That means that the first 6 weeks after giving birth hold immense power. For. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life.
Every indigenous tradition that I know of recommends keeping a new mother warm, letting her rest, and feeding her warm, mushy, food with dense nutrition.
Here in the US (and in other post-industrial nations) many new moms are disconnected from this wisdom, jumping into the 4thtrimester without getting much rest or time for recovery, eating salads and drinking smoothies as a way to be healthy, lose the baby weight, and get back to ‘normal.’ This mentality underlies the fact that we are becoming a society of deeply depleted mothers.
During the sacred window (the first 42 days postpartum), your digestive system is weak from being moved around and compromised during pregnancy. It needs gentle foods. What are gentle foods? I’ll explain below…
First, let me explain what ISN'T gentle:
Raw foods (salads, fresh fruit and veggies) take lots of energy to digest,
Dry foods (crackers/chips) require the body to hydrate them in order to digest them,
Cold foods (frozen fruit, yogurt, iced drinks) require the body to warm them up in order to digest them.
Wouldn’t you rather your precious energy go towards healing your body and making breastmilk than warming up ice cream or breaking down a salad?
“YES!” you say?
Well, without further ado, here are my 5 rules for postpartum diet. Following these rules will help you live those first 42 days in deep nourishment rather than depletion….which means depletion won’t be a chronic issue for you in the next 42 years!
1. Regularly eat only warm cooked food. While having any sort of schedule with a newborn is nearly impossible, eating at regular intervals (every 3-4 hours) is calming to the nervous system. Cooking food starts to break it down so that there is less work for your digestive system to do. Eating warm food also saves your body work and allows your energy to go towards healing!
2. Use gently warming spices to bring fire back to your digestion slowly. Digestion is weak after pregnancy and birth. You’re organs have moved all around to create space for a baby that has taken an incredible amount of energy to nurture for the last 9-10 months! Rekindling your digestive fire is key to getting digestion back on track. Warming spies include cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, etc. These spices help to increase circulation, improve digestion and restore energy. Besides being anti-inflammatory, Turmeric is also known as a uterotonic, an herb that gently stimulates the uterus which helps it return to its pre-pregnancy size. (Black pepper increases turmeric’s bioavailability).
3. Drink lots of warm liquids. Broth and herbal teas (infusions) are excellent for returning water to your body. Drink all day long, not just with meals. Filtered water without chlorine is ideal. Consume it warm or at least at room temperature. If you eat meat, bone broth is a wonderful postpartum food as it has a lot of minerals, collagen, and good fat to soothe your digestive tract and help repair tissues. Herbal teas are gentle medicines and keep flavor interesting. I have some recipes on my blog, but one that is simple and supportive is chamomile, nettles, oat straw, and fennel (fennel will help you poo!) Add fenugreek to boost milk supply.
Keep a jar, cup, or bottle of water/broth/tea near your bed and wherever you nurse or rest throughout the day. Making sure these watering holes are kept full is a wonderful way partners can support postpartum recovery.
4. Include good oils and fat. Ghee, butter, coconut oil, sesame oil, and olive oil are all wonderful. Beneficial fats help keep blood sugar stable, which is so important when hormones and sleep are unpredictable. These fats also help to lubricate and hydrate the digestive system, boost immune system function, and give you long-lasting calories. For those not familiar with ghee, it is the oil left after the milk solids have been removed from butter. It is safe for folks who are lactose intolerant and is medicinal in Ayurveda. To learn more about which fats are most beneficial and why, click HERE.
5. Eat sweet to be grounded. Grains and sweet tasting things are grounding. However, this is not permission to eat a bunch of pastries in the name of postpartum health! Avoid processed sugar and refined grains, and get your sweets from baked sweet potatoes, honey, stewed fruit, etc. Whole grains that have been soaked and cooked are great as well– rice, oats, quinoa, barley, millet.
So there’s a brief overview of how to be nourished with food in your first 42 days postpartum! Head over to my BLOG to check out all the awesome recipes there that meet these criteria.
The other part of the picture is making sure this awesome nourishment is not only digested, but eliminated regularly. Click to read about The Adventures of Postpartum Pooping.
If you are preparing for postpartum, print out this list, as well as my free Download “4 Recipes to Start the 4thTrimester Out Right.” These will remind you of what to eat as you recover from birth and are learning to breastfeeding. Share this info with those around you so that they know your preferences too.
If you gave birth a few weeks, months, or years ago, you can still benefit from following these guidelines and gifting yourself warmth, rest, and easily digestible nourishing food!
Blessings on your next 42 years of deep nourishment, mama! __________________________________________
Life Beyond Birth provides support for expectant parents, and new babies & their families, online and in-person. Find a class or contact Molly at www.lifebeyondbirth.com.