As a doula, I get asked LOTS of questions about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. One of the most popular things I get asked is what to eat during the postpartum period. Families want to know the best ways to nourish themselves without causing discomfort to their little one’s brand new digestive system (if they’re nursing). As someone who specializes in Ayurvedic postpartum cooking, there are some tried and true things I make for my clients to help them along in this very crucial state of healing.
Ayurvedic principles say that the first 42 days after giving birth dictate how the next 42 years of life will go. So it’s crucial to take it slow, and do all that you can to ensure proper healing. Along with cooking, I encourage my families to seek care in the form of massage (I do something with my Ayurvedic clients called abhyanga that is a big hit), acupuncture, regular chiropractic adjustments, and enlisting as much help as possible from family, friends, and/or hired help.
I also tell people all the time – money (or lack thereof) does not dictate how successful your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum go! Get creative if everything I’m listing here doesn’t fit within your budget. For example, there are wonderful Ayurvedic recipes online as well as articles going over acupressure points you can do yourself. If hiring a postpartum doula isn’t in the cards, enlist help from your parents, siblings, cousins, friends to come over and cook for you and to rub your shoulders. After you have a baby, people are eager to help but sometimes they don’t know how. So get vocal (or have your partner do it) to take advantage of all the help you can get!
Now, back to foods. Here are the main things I tell people to eat (and what to avoid) in those first six weeks after birth:
Warming. easy to digest foods
Without a doubt, this is the #1 thing I recommend. Eating warm or hot foods that are soft and moist and easy to digest is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you take anything from this post please let it be this. Drinking ice cold smoothies or treating yourself to ice cream every night of your fourth trimester may cause both you and your infant some digestive distress. Soups, stews, mushy rice dishes, oatmeal, super soft baked vegetables are all wonderful and delicious foods to incorporate into your diet.
Also, ghee. Ghee is pretty much liquid gold and I go through so much of it while cooking for my clients. Bonus: it’s really easy to make (check my instagram highlight stories for an easy tutorial on how to do it). My advice? Make all your dishes oily and you’re good.
Spices and herbs
Another important thing to incorporate into your diet are spices and herbs that are anti-inflammatory and encourage healthy digestion, circulation, milk supply, and hormone balancing. My go tos are cumin, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, cardamom, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, thyme, oregano, and saffron. Also, spices and herbs can take a simple dish from boring to delicious. Example: I love making simple white rice for my clients with lots of ghee, salt, black pepper, and chopped ginger. It’s amazing, but super simple to make and digest!
Another thing I use daily when cooking for my postpartum clients? Ginger. I put fresh ginger in everything from teas to soups and side dishes. It’s a super food in my opinion and so very important for not only the postpartum period but everyday life too.
Bone broth has been used for centuries to heal. Postpartum is the perfect time to get into a broth habit. Drinking one or two cups daily will not only bring you warmth and comfort, but the nutrients found in bone broth will help replenish everything you lose while nursing and healing from childbirth.
What to avoid
I want to touch really quickly on foods to avoid for the first six-ish weeks. I also want to caveat with this – we are only human and sometimes we want ice cream or something else that might not help us in our healing journey. I’m here to say that’s ok. Try your best and if you have a slip up, enjoy it and move on! I rather you spend those precious few weeks with your newborn than worrying about what to avoid.
Items to avoid are raw cruciferous veggies, cauliflower, cabbage, high inflammatory foods like grains and legumes that haven’t been soaked first, bad oils like vegetable oil, cold and frozen foods, tomatoes and other nightshades like bell peppers and eggplant. These foods make digestion hard and can cause your baby to have an upset stomach. Of course some of the “healthy” foods can also cause you or your baby to have unhappy stomachs and to that I say, everyone’s different and what might be deemed healthy by many might not work for you.
Healing from childbirth and learning to be a parent doesn’t have to be hard and stressful. By thinking through what your diet will look like and doing a bit of prep before baby comes can really help with a smooth fourth trimester.
Tell me, what did you eat postpartum that you absolutely loved?