Postpartum, that delicate time after giving birth, has become synonymous with depression, isolation, and sleep deprivation. But what if it didn’t have to feel like that? What if postpartum could feel like a gift to you from your baby? What if there was a secret to a postpartum that felt like thriving instead of simply surviving?
There just might be!
It might be as simple as the foods we consume during the first forty days after giving birth.
I always hear from new moms, or moms in general, that they often forget to eat. Or that they don’t feel like they have the time or energy to prepare food for themselves. I was the same way with my first baby. I hardly moved off the couch for the first week and survived on a diet of water and almonds. This was partly because my little one had a dairy intolerance and partly because I was obsessed with the idea of losing the baby-weight. Add in breastfeeding, a lack of sleep, and trying to heal from birth, it’s no wonder I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and devoid of energy. I wasn’t giving my body what it needed to complete all of its tasks! Without enough food, human bodies begin to rely on adrenaline and stress hormones to keep going. They go into full survival mode. They shut down all non-essential functions and divert energy to simply stay alive.
My body was doing the best it could with what I was providing.
But if you want to thrive postpartum, you have to feed yourself the appropriate things! And no, I don’t mean blue Gatorade and Oreos for a robust milk supply.
The great secret to a thriving postpartum period is warm hardy foods.
You might think that what food you eat is less important as long as you are eating something. And while some is certainly better than none, there are foods that can help with physical and emotional healing through those delicate early postpartum days.
Follow this logic:
Heat promotes healing. That is why we put a heating pad on a sore back or keep sick animals extra warm. Our bodies need to be warm to heal and postpartum requires a lot of healing.
As warm-blooded animals, our body regulates its own temperature. This requires energy even in our healthiest state. When we are sick or injured, such as recovering from giving birth, healing and closing those wounds also takes energy.
If we feed our bodies cold foods, our temperature might come down and our bodies will spend energy keeping that temperature at a normal level. That is less energy your body has for healing and repairing. Your body has to work to first bring up your temperature and then to heal the physical wounds.
If you feed your body warm foods, it has to give less energy to staying warm and can give more energy to healing.
By consuming warm foods, we are working with our bodies to heal rather than against them.
So what exactly should a postpartum mother be eating? She certainly can’t be expected to cook three warm meals a day for herself while also caring for a new human.
That is where some preparation and a village come in handy.
Have simple foods in the freezer or refrigerator that can be heated up. Set up a meal train rather than a baby registry, so that your local friends and family can volunteer to send or bring warm comfort food.
Make a large pot of oatmeal, stew, or even congee in the morning so that you can help yourself to food throughout the day.
When friends or family come over to snuggle that baby, kindly ask them to start some soup or warm up a casserole. They ought to be caring for the mother just as much, if not more than they are caring for the baby at this time.
My Favorite Resource
The First Forty Days – The Essential Art of Nourishing a New Mother
This book was my favorite place to start learning how and what to cook for myself postpartum. I sent some recipes to my friends asking them to make and bring them to me after my baby was born. They were very happy to oblige. I kept some of the more basic ingredients on hand and turned to these simple recipes when I needed to prepare something. I ate and drank only warm or room-temperature foods and beverages (yes, even my water) in the first forty days and I finally had a postpartum period that felt like a gift. Just my baby and me, in our cacoon, thriving.