Many cultures across the globe have many different traditions for post partum nourishment; some include eating pigs trotters (!) whilst others consume beverages such as seaweed soup. An old English tradition included ‘caudle’, a warming drink typically made with oatmeal, egg yolk, milk, honey and spices.
Whilst many of the traditional foods have different ingredients and proposed benefits, one theme runs through all of them - warmth. The post partum period is a time of healing, rest, recuperation, assisting with breastmilk supply if required - and this is all helped along by consuming good quality nutrient dense foods.
Below are my top tips for post partum nourishment:
Slow cooked meats are a very easy and satisfying way of consuming nutrients and protein to help with tissue repair after birth. Pulled pork or slow roasted lamb are my favourites and good sources of zinc too which is a vital post partum nutrient, and you can add in warming spices too that can also support circulation and digestion, perfect for healing. Rosemary, ginger, garlic, paprika, turmeric, black pepper are ideal.
Many new mummies and women in general seem to struggle to consume enough protein - we should be having a source of it at every meal. Good sources of protein include: organic meats (chicken, eggs, lamb, beef), lentils, hemp seeds, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and fermented edamame beans.
Hydration is essential for maintaining energy levels, facilitating good digestion and breastmilk supply. Water, alongside herbal teas that contain nettle, fennel, fenugreek and star anise is ideal. You can buy a great selection of herbal teas for new and breastfeeding mamas here.
Whilst our bodies are recovering we want to also be consuming a good variety and colour of veggies. Polyphenols and antioxidants in plant foods help maintain cell health, which is essential for successful growth and repair. A brilliant way to incorporate these into your diet is through warming soups, or vegetable and berry smoothies.
Depending on the birth circumstances antibiotics may also have been given, and whilst they are of great benefit in protecting mum and baby from infection, they do wipe out our good gut bacteria.
Following a diet low in sugars and processed foods, whilst taking a good probiotic such as Symprove, and eating prebiotic foods such as artichoke, onions, garlic, bananas, can help replenish gut flora.
There are certain foods that mum consumes that will directly relate to the amount of nutrients found in her breastmilk if she is breastfeeding. Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids are a good example of this and can be found in animal foods such as eggs, fish and meats. On a vegetarian/vegan diet I would always recommend supplementing these in a good women’s multivitamin or breastfeeding complex.
There are also certain foods which anecdotally have shown to help boost milk supply - these include oats, fennel, nutritional yeast and flaxseed. Starting the day with a bowl of oatmeal and chia porridge is a great way to incorporate these foods and also helps keep the bowels moving along nicely too which will also support the body’s detoxification process.
Snacks are imperative for mummies, and we can also use it as a time to get in some sneaky extra nutrients. My favourites are carrot sticks with hummus, boiled eggs & a little salt, apple segments and cheese or peanut butter, and of course our own yummy handmade snacks.
All too often I see mummies struggling after the birth of their babies because they have forgotten to look after one very important person, themselves! Eating well is a great way of assisting your mood, sleep, repair and energy. My one final tip - get in to batch cooking - it’s a great way of planning ahead to make meal times easy and nutritious.