Nurturing the Sacred Postpartum Space
There are many types of life transitions, and one of the major life transitions women will experience is birth. These are vulnerable times and should be supported with special attention and care. If you think about it, giving birth is really the biggest transition that a woman goes through in her entire life, even bigger than her own birth. After a woman donates such an enormous amount of energy to birthing a child she needs to be protected and nurtured.
We must understand that as the new mother is dealing with life transitions of birth she is as vulnerable as her newborn and needs special care and attention during the time of postpartum. Especially a mother who needs c-section postpartum care. Healing after a surgical birth is a very difficult time. However, today's society has somehow forgotten the time honored wisdom that the mother needs to be safely cared for during the “lying in”part of the 4th trimester. One of the ways to do this is through nutrition.
Nutrition is a very important part of postpartum recovery and to nourish a new mother she needs mineral and collagen rich foods. Nutrient-rich postpartum nutrition plan plays a pivotal role in supporting a new mothers physical recovery. Some beneficial foods include beef, chicken, eggs, dates, leafy green vegetables, and carrots. Also keep in mind the body’s needs at certain times of recovery will also need special attention. During the first 2 weeks the body is in a state of cleansing and breast milk production. Special but simple soups are a good way to start the postpartum recovery phase. In subsequent weeks soups and stews will need to shift from detoxification to fortification.
To create an optimal environment for restoration and breastfeeding to bring balance back as your body shifts from growing a fetus to nurturing a newborn. Eating foods high in protein and collagen help amplify and enrich breast milk. Nutritional needs shift after birth and just because you are no longer growing a baby inside of you doesn’t mean all thoughts of nutrition go out the window. It is important to ingest foods that are made specially to fortify and strengthen a body that is exhausted, encourage lactation, and calm the nervous system. Indulge in soups, stews, and teas that are filled with nutrients, stay away from the junk food, empty calorie snacks, or sugary treats. Healthy food rebuilds and revitalizes you as a new mother and helps you prepare for what’s to come after your lying in period.
The levels of stress and burnout women are feeling directly impact her ability to be there and care for her newborn with the energy necessary for the demand. Caretaking traditions have been tossed aside for the more “modern woman” which has led to feelings of isolation, exhaustion, and loneliness. When moms are rested and nourished they are more calm and centered and able to provide the patience and sensitivity their baby truly deserves. What if we redirected our beliefs back to tradition? What if we approached postpartum in a slower, more steady idea than the rushed and “bounce back” idea? Could we as women reclaim this sacred time? Could we heal our sick society that has become dependent on anti-anxiety medications? Could we shape a new way of nurturing the mother just as we nurture the newborn? I think so, but it takes support and a village. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant start to consider how you will prepare for your postpartum recovery.
Here are a few ideas to get you started. Soup, soup, and more soup in the first couple of weeks after birth. Make sure your soups are filled with bone broth. Think warm, soft, soupy, creamy, oily, for easier digestion since your digestive system is a little weaker and slower as your organs move back into their place. Using less energy to digest food also allows your body to use that energy elsewhere for healing and regenerating. Soups can be plain broth or filled with meat and vegetables. Creamy meals may be coconut-milk curries, lentil stews, or bowls of porridge. Try soaking beans and rice to make the softer and more digestible as well as cooking for longer and with more liquid so they become mushier.
Eastern tradition is to nix the cold foods since it slows down digestion and makes your stomach and spleen work harder. Setting out foods and drinks at least half an hour before consumption to let them get to room temperature is an option as well. Meals rich in healthy fats are essential for a baby’s nervous systems and they enrich breast milk, helping the baby's brain grow and thrive. They also give you more energy than any other food source. Healthy sources include grass and pasture raised meat and butter, sardines, oils like coconut, walnut, sesame, and avocado. These healthy fats enhance circulation which will help balance hormones, support your mood, and help your brain function. So many mothers notice difficulty remembering things after birth. A diet rich in healthy fats can help you think more clearly and confidently.
And of course hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You need to replenish yourself as you nurse your baby. Keep room temperature water near you at all times. Sip throughout the day and remember you can hydrate with your bone broth soups which also help replenish nutrients. Herbal teas are also another way to hydrate. A perspective from Ayurvedic practice is that drinking hot water throughout the day is nurturing and soothing to your gut which can decrease your impulsiveness to grab a package of processed snack foods.
Staple pantry foods you should have on hand in the first month after birth are specific to you and your tastes, but should include ingredients to make broths, porridges, coconut-milk based curries, beans, lentils, rice, egg noodles, and teas.
Easy Chicken Broth
2 lbs whole chicken
1 yellow onion
2 inch fresh ginger
2 whole garlic cloves
2 green onions
2 medium carrots
Clean and rinse the chicken then place in a large pot with 3 quarts of water or enough to cover the chicken by 1 inch or more. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Skim the scum as it rises. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 3 hours on low heat and uncovered. Strain and voila… you just made broth. You can store it in the fridge for 4-5 days, or you can freeze it for up to 3-4 months.
For more great ideas on postpartum meals try the first forty days by Heng Ou.
When it comes to meal trains it is important to give guidance to those who are going to bring you food. You want to have foods that are rich in protein and collagen not carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, or high sugar content which sometimes our comfort foods have. So keeping this in mind here is a letter you can give to those who are going to support you during postpartum.
Meal train participants letter:
Thank you so much for contributing to our meal train. Your help will be such a gift for us during this time of lying in with our new baby. To help make this a little easier for you and to take the guesswork out of what to make here are a few suggestions.
Three meals I love are:
Foods that I don’t eat/love are:
My favorite foods are:
I have allergies to:
Thank you so much for all your love and support.
Hi, I'm Marya Eddaifi
I was only 22 when I had my son. It wasn't the best experience but I didn't know better.
It wasn’t until after I became a Labor and Delivery nurse did I realize how badly I was treated and grieved over my birth. Did I tell you this was 15 years later?
After realizing how nurses and medical providers impact such a huge life event, it became my mission to change the world through beautiful birth experiences!