Mindful Eating in Postpartum

If you think about new motherhood and food, chances are you have an image of coffee by the truckload, cold cups of tea and toast crusts. But I’m here to tell you, as a postpartum doula who specialises in food, that those old cultural messages don’t have to be your reality: you can eat well with a newborn, and the more conscious you are with your food the more it will help heal your body after the marathon of birth or soothe your mind when you're dealing with a super-fun cocktail of sleep-deprivation and fluctuating hormones.

Simply stock up on a few key ingredients and get your head around what foods pack a nutrient-dense punch, and line up the rituals and support you’ll need to make sure you can actually get a full belly.

(Photo credit Jacquie Manning)

Cultures with a strong tradition of looking after new mothers have two things in common: the food is always warming, and there’s always someone making sure that mama is getting fed. The warming thing makes sense; during pregnancy, your blood volume almost doubles, but after birth you lose this warming blood which means that your circulation isn't quite up to scratch and your digestion is sluggish. Warming usually means both in temperature, and in essence - think things like simple, nourishing stews and spices that stoke circulation like ginger and cinnamon.

(Photo credit Jacquie Manning)

As for the feeding bit, think about what new rituals you might like to incorporate into this slow season of life: for me, my husband bringing me porridge with ghee and chai-spiced prunes and hemp seeds (and a lovely cup of tea) in bed was a beautiful way to get the day started. I also recommend partners prepare a portable snack station (with lactation cookies, one handed snacks, tea in a flask and a big water bottle) every morning once they’re back at work. 

If I had my way, every new mum would be drinking a steaming cup of bone broth within hours of delivering her baby and every day thereafter. Think of it as an infusion of everything you need to recover, in ultra-absorbable form: protein, collagen and magnesium to help your muscles and tissues repair (if you've had a caesarean or episiotomy this is even more vital), natural electrolytes to rehydrate after you've gone through a huge physical feat, and gelatin to help your wounds recover.

My second favourite warm drink for new mamas is a calming hot cacao: loaded with nerve-soothing magnesium, raw cacao is a postpartum pantry essential. I add the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha, known for its calming properties, warming spices, organic ghee and sweeten it with something unrefined. It's thick, fragrant and so  delicious. 

Could you prioritise a moment of mindful meditation with a hot cup of bone broth or cacao when the baby naps? Simply slow down for five minutes, and focus on the senses: what can you see, smell, taste, hear, touch.

Then it’s about thinking about what you can easily tweak. Toast may be a postpartum staple, but you can elevate your game by lathering it with some chicken liver pate in the days and weeks after birth (and beyond). Liver is loaded with iron, which is perfect if you've lost blood during delivery, vitamin A, choline, zinc, vitamin B12, folate -- all nutrients that support the healing process and go through your breastmilk so bub can benefit too. 

(Photo credit Jacquie Manning)

A nourished postpartum plate will contain protein (slow cooked meat is fantastic for all the glycine and collagen) and fat (the good ones, like butter, avocado, nut butters and the Ayurvedic postpartum superfood ghee). And it’s not the time to worry about cutting carbs, because sweet potatoes, pumpkin and congee are perfect for meeting your calorie needs. Your digestion and gut health could use a little extra love at this stage of the game, and probiotics get passed through your milk to your little baby's developing digestive system. Add fermented foods to your plate: my pick is sauerkraut, because it's a gentle way of eating veggies (yep, even cabbage) and it offers digestive enzymes, B vitamins, and vitamin C too. 

And just like that, you’ve mindfully up-levelled your postpartum eating habits!

Naomi Chrisoulakis is a postpartum doula and host of the podcast Tales from the Fourth Trimester. You can find her @cocoonbynaomi or www.cocoonbynaomi.com