Updated: Jan 25
Healing & nourishing foods are incredibly helpful for recovering after birth, and like many other postnatal practices can set the stage for the long-term physical and emotional health of both mother & child.
In many parts of Asia, families traditionally practice a 30 to 40 day period, also called "confinement", where they will prepare special foods designed for a new mother.
Maybe you're a new mother getting tired of the same confinement foods, and want to expand your meal options. Maybe you're a new father wanting to cook up something special. Maybe you're handling postpartum recovery on your own, and need guidance. Either way we've got you! We found some recipes from around the world that sound absolutely delicious, make healing from birth feel like a holiday around the world, and aren't too difficult to make.
How nutrition helps you heal from birth
It sounds easy in practice, to eat well - but with a newborn, food (and showers) quickly fall to the bottom of many new mothers' priorities. Here's the reminder you needed to commit to eating well. A good diet helps you to....
Restore energy & strength, and get used to regular weight lifting (a 3-4kg baby in your arms is no joke!). The blood loss from birth can deplete your energy levels for a while, too. Feeling energetic earlier will get you out of bed and moving, which is great for overall postnatal health & fitness too.
Improve your mood, which naturally dips low in the first few weeks after birth (known as the "baby blues") and if not managed well, can worsen and extend in duration to become postpartum depression. Postpartum depression has a massive impact on baby's development - so if you won't eat for yourself, eat for baby!
Breastfeed. To be sure, what you eat is unlikely to determine breastfeeding success - practice with latching, on-demand feeding & social support are more important! Your body will take any nutrient it needs from your stores to make breastmilk for baby. Eating well protects you from losing too much of these nutrients.
Reduce postnatal fatigue, which is much needed to get you through sleep deprivation.
Many women report a lack of appetite after birth. If you need something to get your tastebuds going, here's a colourful, tasty postnatal meal plan, from us to you:
For that hot drink in the morning
Turmeric milks are a great way to start your morning. This beverage is traditionally drunk in India, especially by new mothers. The star ingredient is turmeric, which can:
Reduce inflammation, which may speed up recovery of wounds from birth & also reduce pain.
Aid digestion, which helps prevent postpartum constipation (a very common occurence!)
Increase breastmilk supply, for some women.
Boost immunity, being rich in minerals like zinc and magnesium. Sleep deprivation can drastically affect your immune system so you will need all the help you can get!
Improve mood & memory, according to this study.
Tip: Make a pre-mix of spices so that it's easy to prepare every morning. Here's a great recipe for that.
A warm, savoury breakfast
Chinese families traditionally include ginger in a new mother's meal. It's no wonder as this multi-tasking and safe spice has a long history of use across the world, and can:
Aid digestion and reduce gas, especially for women with cesarean wounds, and some believe the compounds pass on in breastmilk to improve digestion for babies as well.
Reduce inflammation and improve immunity, which promotes healing after birth
May be a galactagogue for some mothers to increase breastmilk supply
Stir fry ginger with rice and an egg, and you get it a quick, hot breakfast of protein and carbohydrates, starting your day with all the energy you can get after a bad night of sleep. This ginger fried rice recipe is a great one to check out, and includes a tip to pre-slice and store ginger so you can whip up this meal in less than 10 minutes.
A comforting, versatile soup over lunch
Koreans traditionally enjoy a delicious bowl of seawood soup after birth. Served with rice on the side, it is an easy, nutritious meal. It's also really versatile and you can add different meat/seafood to it as you like. Soups are fantastic after birth as they are easier on a new mother's weak digestive system, allowing her to absorb plenty of nutrients with less of the uncomfortable side effects like:
Gas (which can be painful especially with a cesarean wound)
Constipation (very common after birth!)
Heartburn (yes this can continue still after birth!).
If you're feeling hungry already, check out this recipe!
A sweet mid-day snack
Kurma, or dates, are enjoyed in many Muslim countries for festive seasons but also as part of the pregnancy & postpartum diet. Dates have been found to be great for postpartum for these reasons:
A source of iron to replenish blood lost during delivery
A source of calcium & magnesium to support bone health
A source of potassium to help with fluid balance
A source of manganese to support healing
A source of fibre to reduce postpartum constipation
Dates also have a low-glycemic index despite being deliciously sweet! This makes them great for a dessert as a mid-day pick me up. Here are a few recipes that combine dates with some other great nutrient powerhouses like nuts to create easy snacks & shakes.
A rich broth over dinner
A rich broth, if cooked long enough with meat, contains easily digestible gelatin, amino acids, and minerals. These nutrients support:
The regeneration of connective tissue (potentially damaged from birth)
Regulates thyroid hormone production, which stabilises mood.
Supports blood sugar control, giving you more stable energy levels over the day.
This fantastic Filipino recipe of a chicken tinola soup may help you to increase breastmilk supply too, with some known galactagogues like raw papaya, ginger, garlic, and moringa leaves.
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