Here’s a tasty treat for you this March, Nutrition Month: We caught up with Toronto’s own, Alex James!
A postpartum doula and nutritionist, Alex is here to share with you her favourite postpartum nutrition tips.
Most expecting people are interested in what they should be eating for their pregnant body and growing baby. How you nourish yourself after baby comes is critical, too! Things like your physical recovery, energy level, mental health, and milk production are greatly impacted by what you eat. As a postpartum doula and nutritionist, I’m passionate about this topic, and today I’m sharing my top postpartum nutrition tips.
First, I need to start by saying that healthy postpartum eating is nearly impossible without good support. If you’re in the throes of feeding and taking care of a newborn, you will not have the time or energy to cook. Many people anticipate this and do a little bit of freezer meal prep in late pregnancy – this is great! Don’t forget, though, that you’re going to need help actually getting those meals in your belly, so make sure you have a good solid support team.
Now, here are my top nutrition tips for your postpartum period:
Nix the Salad
What? Aren’t salads healthy, though? Sure they are, but they’re not the most appropriate for a recovering postpartum body. According to traditional wisdom from many cultures around the world, the body needs warming foods after giving birth.
Practically speaking, for a little while after pregnancy, your digestion is slower and weaker than normal – all your internal organs have been rearranged to accommodate baby! Do your body a favour by feeding yourself warm, cooked foods, which are simply easier to digest than cool, raw foods.
Choose dishes like soups, stews, or curries – meals that will comfort you, nourish you, and warm you up from the inside. These types of meals freeze very well, too. Try to minimize cooling foods like green salads and raw veggies. Smoothies are typically cooling as well, so if you’re a smoothie drinker, consider taking a break during your postpartum period, or make some modifications to your smoothies so they’re a bit more postpartum friendly.
Don’t Forget Fat
Healthy fats are important throughout your lifespan, but there are a few reasons why they’re critical during your postpartum period.
Fat is important for your baby’s rapidly growing brain, as you might imagine, but it’s also important for your own brain, which undergoes a lot of change in late pregnancy and after birth. (Yes, “pregnancy brain” and “mommy brain” are real, physiological things!) So nourish your brain with the fatty fuel it wants and needs.
If you’re breastfeeding, a little extra fat will help meet your increased caloric needs, and help keep you feeling satiated throughout the day – most folks find their hunger level goes through the roof while breastfeeding! Additionally, fat will help lubricate your intestines, making for easier bowel movements…and if you haven’t yet given birth, trust me, you will appreciate anything that can make pooping a bit easier!
Include plenty of good healthy fat at every meal and snack: avocado, olive oil or olives, almond or other nut butters, coconut butter/oil/milk, and organic or grass-fed butter or ghee are all great options. Avocado is a favourite of mine because it’s also a great source of fibre. For a dose of DHA, the omega 3 essential fatty acid so crucial for your and your baby’s brain, fuel up with fish – in particular, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, and salmon.
Staying hydrated should be a top priority for anyone in the postpartum period. The body has just gone through a massive physical shift and water is needed to keep everything functioning properly, from your brain to your bowels. I’ve found the need to stay hydrated is instinctual for most postpartum folks. In my postpartum doula visits, I witness again and again the unquenchable thirst that a breastfeeding person experiences.
So how much water should you be drinking? Aim for at least 3 litres a day. An easy way to achieve this is to sip a tall glass (i.e. about two cups) every time you feed your baby – regardless of whether you’re feeding via breast or bottle. If you feed your baby about 8 times a day, you will absolutely meet your hydration needs this way. Place large bottles and jugs of water throughout your home – on your bedside table, coffee table or end table – in all of the places you camp out with your baby, so it’s always within reach. Doing this will also keep your water at room temperature, which is in keeping with our first goal of avoiding cold food/drink.
Your nutrition matters, mama!
I hope these few tips have been helpful! Please remember that having a baby takes a village. If you have friends and family asking how they can help out, don’t be shy to ask them to bring you food. Food is an incredibly tangible and meaningful gift for parents of newborns, and most people are happy to provide it. You can even set up a drop-off system (for example, a cooler on your front porch) if you’re not up for visitors.
Nourishing new parents is one of my favourite things! Follow me for more about postpartum nutrition and recovery, and if you’re in Toronto, connect with me for more support.
Alex James is a postpartum doula and nutritionist in downtown Toronto. She offers postpartum doula care, postpartum meal prep, and belly binding. Alex believes it’s possible for all birthing people and their families to have an amazing postpartum experience, where they are honoured, celebrated, rested, and well fed. Learn more about Alex at www.AlexJamesWellness.com