When you’ve just given birth, the last thing you want to do is to think about having to shop, cook, and prepare meals and snacks!
But it’s also more important than ever for you to eat a healthy, balanced diet so that you can help your body recover from pregnancy and birth and give yourself energy to cope with the draining first few months as the mother of a newborn.
On top of all that, if you’re breastfeeding, you know that what you eat affects your milk and your baby, so you need to watch your diet carefully.
The only option is to ask for help! It’s time to swallow your pride and accept that you can’t do everything alone. If you are fortunate enough to have friends in the area and/or a supportive community, pull on those strings. You’ll do the same for others in the future, and/or you already did.
But it’s a lot easier to ask for help if you know what help you need. Most people are more than happy to bring over a meal for your freezer or pick up some snacks and groceries for you from the market. All you need is to decide what to ask for, and hey, sometimes that’s a lot harder than it sounds.
Between the lack of sleep, the complete shell-shock that comes with having just given birth, and your wildly fluctuating hormones, sometimes the question “what would you like to eat?” becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends you into floods of tears.
So let us help you out with this list of 7 delicious, nutritious foods and snacks that are ideal for postpartum mothers (plus 5 to avoid).
Lean Meat and Fish: High in Protein
Fish and lean meat like chicken, pork, and beef are all high in protein, which is a vital building block to help your body recover from giving birth, so ask people to bring you meals based on these foods. If you’re breastfeeding, you need a good source of protein to pass on to your baby.
Eggs are also protein-rich, and so are dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. They’re fast and easy to prepare and eat.
Dairy Products: Excellent Source of Calcium
Milk, cheese, plain yogurt, and other dairy products are excellent food choices for new moms. You need the calcium that they contain to keep your bones strong. Of course, your breast-feeding baby also needs it to develop healthy bones.
As a bonus, milk is also high in vitamin D, which improves your mood and helps you get over the “baby blues.”
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: The Healthiest Snack Around
Fresh fruit and vegetables are among the best snack options for new mothers, but who has the time to wash and prepare them? That’s why you should tell anyone who asks “what can I do to help?” to bring you a tupperware of ready-to-eat fruit and veg, or to prepare some of the produce that’s waiting in your fridge.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and you need all you can get. Oranges and other citrus fruits have masses of vitamin C, which improves your iron absorption and boosts your immune system.
Legumes and Beans: High in Iron
Legumes and beans, especially black beans and kidney beans, are excellent sources of iron, as well as being high in fiber and protein. Many women have low iron levels or become anemic because they lose so much blood during birth, and when you’re low in iron you feel tired and lethargic, so it’s important to do all you can to boost your iron consumption.
The only downside is that these foods can take time to cook and prepare, so you know what to do — ask someone else to prepare them for you! Stews, soups, and chillis that are based on beans and legumes are nutritious, warming, and help replenish your iron levels.
Other iron-rich foods include lean beef, and dark, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.
Whole Grains: Fiber-Rich
One of the less pleasant after-effects of giving birth is that you often experience constipation for a few days. Foods that are high in fiber, like whole grain bread, brown rice, and fresh fruit and vegetables, help prevent constipation and keep your digestive system moving smoothly. A slice of whole-grain bread spread with butter or nut butters is a quick and easy snack.
Nuts: Easy to Eat and Good for You
Nuts and nut butters are excellent snack choices, because they’re so easy to eat and prepare — all you need to do is take a handful of nuts or spread some peanut butter on a slice of toast. If you’re eating roasted nuts, look for low-sodium options so that you don’t consume too much salt. Nuts are rich in protein, vitamins, and healthy fats.
Healthy Breakfast Cereal: Fortified with Vitamins and Minerals
Healthy breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals like B-12, folic acid, and iron, which are all elements you need to eat to help your body recover and your breastfeeding baby to thrive. A bowl of cereal and milk is possibly the easiest meal ever.
Bonus: 5 Foods to Avoid When You’re Postpartum
If you’re breastfeeding, you need to be particularly careful because whatever you eat or drink goes straight into your milk and then straight into your baby.
Some babies are sensitive to certain foods even when they are nursing, so it’s a good idea to keep track of what you eat for the first few weeks and see if there’s a pattern to when your baby is fussing more than usual. Other foods are not recommended for any nursing babies.
Even if you’re not nursing, these foods can be unhealthy and affect your recovery time.
- Caffeine might help you feel more awake, but it can affect your baby’s growth
- Tomatoes and acidic foods can give your baby wind, and can give you pretty bad heartburn for the first few weeks after birth
- Alcohol is a bad idea when you’re a new mother, even if you aren’t breastfeeding, because it affects your judgement and awareness.
- Newborn babies don’t have robust liver yet, and if you drink too much alcohol, it can quickly overwhelm their tiny metabolisms.
- Tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel all have high levels of mercury, which is bad for you and worse for your baby, since it builds up quickly in their system and affects brain development. Make sure that you don’t have more than 6oz of canned tuna per week.
Now you know what to ask for, all you need to do is take a deep breath and tell your friends and family which foods you need, and that’s the hard part. Tell us your favorite postpartum foods!