Special guest post by Dr. Jess Rivera.
What if I told you that there are some cultures that give a new mom the respect and reverence she deserves? Some call for the new mother to stay in bed, getting up only to use the restroom or soak in an herbal bath. She is kept hydrated with fresh water and herbal teas. Family prepares wholesome meals to help her body recover from the intense changes of pregnancy and labor. A new mom gets plenty of rest as well as ample time alone to bond with her new baby. And what if I told you that this goes on for around 40 days?
I don’t have to tell you that we are NOT living in one of those cultures. In our culture, 40 days is just shy of a “generous” maternity leave. (A maternity leave that isn’t even a guarantee, but I digress.) The postpartum focus in our country is about “bouncing back” as quickly as possible, but some things cannot and should not be rushed.
These first 40 days provide a window of time for bonding and attachment, for milk supply and a breastfeeding relationship to be established, and for a mother’s body to become accustomed to its new “normal.” Her uterus is slowly contracting and returning to its pre-pregnancy size. Her perineum or abdominal incision is healing. And her brain is being hardwired to meet the needs of this tiny human she created, even at the expense of her own health and well-being.
With so much going on during this postpartum window, it’s important for a support team to keep a new mom’s body nourished so she can navigate all this “newness.” Partners, family members, or even postpartum doulas can help a new mom thrive by making her nutrition a top priority.
Choose foods that minimize the amount of “digestive work” the new mom’s body must do. Feed her frequent, small portions to give her body time to properly digest. Foods that require lots of chewing (extra work) or foods that have been known to give Mom gas or constipation in the past (no matter how delicious they may sound,) are best avoided during this time. Warm, cooked foods are easier for the body to digest than raw foods. Fresh soups and vegetable stews are great places to start. You can also offer healthy carbohydrates like warm oatmeal, rice, quinoa, or cooked sweet potatoes. And iron-rich protein sources like lentils will help the body replenish itself. I’ve included one of my favorite postpartum recipes below. It’s easy to make, and it’s delicious.
2.) Bones are better.
Although a thick, juicy steak may be a little more work to digest (sorry, Nebraskans!) don’t underestimate those bones. Bone broth is one of the most nutrient-dense, healing foods you can offer to a postpartum mom. It is packed with minerals that are super easy for the body to absorb. It’s a great source of protein AND hydration. Like a gift that keeps on giving! It’s time consuming, but you can make a large amount at one time and freeze for long-term storage. Christina from Authentic Parenting has a basic recipe to get you started.
3.) Go for the gold.
Turmeric is a powerful spice addition to any recipe during the postpartum period. In herbal medicine, turmeric is known to tone the uterus, which will help it return to its pre-pregnancy size. Curcumin, which is the compound that gives turmeric its golden-yellow color, is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. And a growing body of literature is emerging that states curcumin’s efficacy is protecting the brain from depression. Use some turmeric to season eggs, stews, rice, or roasted vegetables. You can also make a healing golden milk by following the recipe I shared below.
Staying hydrated is a vital part of postpartum nutrition. You don’t need to go above and beyond to maintain a certain level of liters; you just need to make sure a new mom is drinking when she’s thirsty. But she will probably be thirsty a lot. Having water and teas readily available is a good idea. Offering fresh-pressed juices at room temperature is another way to offer hydration and nourishment. Juice vegetables and fruits in combination with herbs like ginger and fennel. Locally, you can even check out Juice 4 Life and signup for their delivery service!
5.) Supplement smart.
If a mother is eating a wholesome and complete postpartum diet, it’s likely she won’t need to waste her digestive energy on many vitamins and supplements. It’s easier for the body to gain its nutrients from fresh food, rather than from a synthetic vitamin or powder. However, the benefits of certain supplements just can’t be ignored. Natural anti-inflammatories like high-quality fish oils (DHA) will help combat pain and play a significant role in cellular healing. Likewise, high-quality probiotics will help to maintain a healthy gut environment, which improves immune function, brain function, and healing. Lastly, a study out of Creighton University found that breastfeeding moms should take 5000-6400IU of Vitamin D daily to ensure that their breastmilk had adequate levels for their babies. You can read all about Vitamin D & the Creighton study here.
The best way to help a new family is to nourish the new mother. Remember these 5 tips the next time you are given the opportunity to support a blossoming family.
- 1 cup almond milk
- ¼- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp-1 TBSP. maple syrup, to taste
Combine in saucepan and serve warm.
- a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh turmeric, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups french lentils
- 1 cup long grain brown rice
- 5 cups water
- 1 can coconut milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sauté onion in olive oil until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add ginger, turmeric, spices, and salt. Continue to sauté for another 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Place onion-spice mixture into a large casserole dish. Add carrots, lentils, rice, water, and coconut milk. Mix together well. Cover and bake for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, turn oven temp up to 425 degrees F. Remove cover and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes to let excess liquid cook off. Stir and serve!
Dr. Jess is a prenatal chiropractor and founder of The B.E.D. Conference for birth empowerment. She lives and works in Papillion with her husband Dr. Drew, and their two sons. You can follow Dr. Jess on through her website: www.thebumpdoc.comTags: new baby, nutrition, Omaha, Omaha Moms, Omaha women, parenting, postpartum, postpartum nutrition, women's health