Nourishing Your Body During Postpartum, Pt. 2

*Written by team nutritionist Emily Blasik

If you missed part 1 of this series you can find that here, you’ll want to save this post for later—as it’s jam-packed with info on boosting breastmilk production, incorporating therapeutic movement, and utilizing extra support during the postpartum period. It also includes a list of our favorite resources for the fourth trimester. As always, this is not health advice and should not be taken as such. Enjoy!

Tips for Breast Milk Production

This is a topic I’m extremely passionate about because of the supply struggles I experienced with my firstborn two years ago. I didn’t know back then what I know today about the body’s need for certain macro- AND micronutrients when it comes to adequate breastmilk production, and for that reason, I’m determined to do things differently this time around. Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up in my work with Amanda and will be incorporating myself to keep the milk flowin’:

  1. Eat enough calories: For most women, this is going to look like at least 2500 calories a day. Properly fueling yourself during the fourth trimester will not only aid in healing and energy production, but also serve in keeping baby well-fed. Obviously, feeding ourselves appropriately is easier said than done when we have an infant depending on us for their every need. That is why stocking up on pre-made meals and snacks in advance will definitely come in handy, so make sure to take a peek back at last week’s Part 1 of this series for comforting recipe ideas to prepare and freeze now! Or ask a girlfriend/relative to start a meal train for you. (If you don’t have anything to grab at a moment’s notice in those bleary-eyed weeks after baby’s born, chances are, you’ll forget to eat altogether.)
  2. Prioritize carbs and fat: Normally, I’m ALL about adequate protein consumption for optimal health, and while this still applies here, I think it’s worth mentioning the important role that fat and carbs specifically play in breastmilk production. Carbohydrates are our main energy source, and as you can imagine, producing milk takes a whoooole lot of energy. Don’t skimp on this macronutrient, as they are 100% essential for supporting the demands of a breastfeeding body. We recommend aiming for about 210 grams of carbs a day from sources like starchy veggies, fruit, and properly prepared grains/legumes. (If you’re concerned about your blood sugar, try to pair these whole food carbs with quality protein sources like slow-roasted meats, pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, greek yogurt, or cottage cheese—but keep in mind that digestion will be slower postpartum and you may want to consider extra digestive support in the way of apple cider vinegar or digestive bitters to help break them down.) Fat, on the other hand, is what boosts the fat content of the breastmilk, enriching that liquid gold to keep baby satiated and well-nourished with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Consuming stable—aka saturated—fats like ghee, butter, whole milk, coconut oil/milk/butter, and lard, and is preferable. As you start to breastfeed less and less frequently, you can lower your fat intake to support your metabolism and usage of carbs as your primary fuel. (This will naturally support fat loss.)
  3. Stay hydrated: Rather than sipping on plain water throughout the day, prioritize mineral-rich beverages like Adrenal Cocktails (recipes here!), bone broth, and teas that consist of fennel, fenugreek, and milk thistle. The sodium and potassium in the first two will help to support your adrenals during this taxing time, and the herbal teas will support lactation.
  4. Supplement with brewer’s yeast: Who would have thought that the ingredient used in the production of your favorite beer is chock full of beneficial vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and copper! It’s also considered a galactagogue in that it has been shown to increase milk supply in breastfeeding mamas. (This is most likely why drinking a beer a day tends to increase supply!) To reap the most benefits, shoot for consuming 2-3 tablespoons of this powder-like substance per day. You can add to smoothies, baked goods, or yogurt. (It can taste pretty bitter, though, so try to find the “debittered” version when shopping.)
  5. Feed on demand: When it comes down to it, the best way to regulate your milk supply is also the most intuitive: Simply follow baby’s cues. Your body will only produce as much milk as your child demands, and so it’s best not to ignore those cues in favor of sticking to a strict schedule. During growth spurts, your baby may want to eat every 30 to 45 minutes, and by following their lead, you will signal to your body to make more milk. While “cluster feeding” may seem daunting at first, try to make the experience a pleasurable one for both you and baby by picking a quiet and comfortable corner of your home that you look forward to cuddling up and getting cozy. Have a snack or a stack of your favorite magazines at the ready, as well as your pumping supplies (should you need them)! On the flip side, if you’re someone who has struggled in the past from an over-abundance of milk, it may be wise hold off on pumping for the few weeks while your production regulates according to baby’s hunger.
  6. Work with a lactation consultant: Your insurance company may cover a couple sessions with a lactation consultant (most of which are happy to come to you), and regardless of whether you’re a first-time mom or this is your fifth baby, taking advantage of this resource is a no-brainer. While most of us go into breastfeeding assuming that something as “basic” as feeding our babies will come naturally to us without effort or issues, this is unfortunately not what many women experience. Every baby is different, and a lactation consultant can assess their latch and positioning, and help to overcome common challenges such as difficult or painful latching, infant fussiness around eating, poor or excessive milk supply, etc. Breastfeeding support groups are also something to consider if you are looking for extra guidance.

Lastly, a word on stress: It’s a cruel trick of nature (and also our body’s innate intelligence at play) that the more stressed we are, the harder breastfeeding will be. According to experts, stress can inhibit let-down, fill your milk with cortisol, and impair a mother’s milk ejection reflex. Again, this is our body’s way of protecting ourselves at all costs and prioritizing survival over anything else—but it sure does make feeding our babies difficult in the 21st century, when stress is so ingrained into every fiber of our lives. Especially because, as new moms to tiny vulnerable infants, we can find ourselves worrying about so many things—including, yep, breastfeeding. It’s a catch twenty-two, really, and a vicious cycle: Milk supply slows for whatever reason (or we think it does), our anxiety levels go up, breastmilk production dwindles even more. Yikes!

The bottom line: The solution to a sluggish supply may come down to simply changing our thought patterns. Oxytocin—the “love hormone”—is our best friend when it comes to breastfeeding because it prompts the tiny muscles in our breasts to contract, squeezing milk into the ducts. So when you notice yourself becoming anxious, think loving thoughts, try playing some relaxing music, engage in deep breathing exercises, and nurse in a quiet room. You’ll be surprised how much these small changes can help!

Incorporating Therapeutic Movement

I hesitated to even include this section because I don’t want any new mama taking this as permission to begin exercising within the first six weeks of having a baby. Honestly, the word “workout” shouldn’t even be a part of your vocabulary before the first 40 days are up, as any sort of strenuous activity (including lifting older kids) could increase bleeding and halt healing. Remember, we do not want to put extra strain on our delicate postpartum bodies before they’re ready! Trust me on this—it will only lead to complications later on.

So, what do I mean when I say “therapeutic movement?” Simple, slow movements like stretching, gentle walking, and restorative poses to help relieve discomfort and encourage blood flow and lymphatic detoxification. I personally cannot go weeks on end without moving my body in some form or fashion, mostly because my anxiety levels will not allow me to stay still for that long. If you’re anything like me, and getting in some movement serves to instantly lift your mood when you’re in a slump, try some of these out and only prioritize what feels good!

  1. Heart-opening yoga poses:Prioritizing chest openers and focusing on deep breathing can do wonders for your mood, muscles, and energy. Here are a few you can try if you’re feeling stiff.
  2. Nature walks: Going for short family walks around our neighborhood while Jude slept in his stroller was one of my favorite activities when he was a newborn. It was also a great time for my husband and I to connect emotionally, as some of our best conversations unfold naturally on our walks. Make sure that you pay attention to the weather, and maybe skip this suggestion if it’s too warm outside or really bundle up if it’s cold. Luckily, both of my babies happen to be fall babies, when the temps in Texas start cooling off. Lastly, don’t push yourself to go too far or too fast.
  3. The Bloom Method: I have yet to try this fitness program myself, but it’s received a ton of praise by doctors, midwives, doulas, nurses, and physical therapists alike for its pregnancy and postpartum core-specific moves that support the pelvic floor. But don’t be fooled: This isn’t your average workout regimen, it’s all about recovery! According to their website, “expert guidance will provide you with the foundational strength needed to get you feeling like yourself again while adding an angle of rehabilitative care to re-connect, heal, and re-strengthen your postpartum body.” And the best part is that it’s safe for all stages—so you could technically start whenever you feel up to it.

Utilizing Extra Support

I included these in our prenatal series but I thought they’d be worth mentioning again for the postpartum period. Some chiropractors and pelvic PTs won’t even see you until you have your six-week check-up with your OB or midwife, but I think it depends on the practice. Regardless of how you feel postpartum, I recommend prioritizing both as soon as you can:

1. Chiropractic Adjustments: It goes without saying that carrying a baby for nine months and then giving birth both put a hefty toll on a mother’s body, but what comes afterwards—holding baby constantly, carrying a carseat, bending down to pick up/put down baby, breastfeeding in a suboptimal position, etc.—can also mess with your alignment and cause lower back, shoulder, and neck pain in the months after baby’s born. This is where chiropractic care can be so useful as a proactive tool to support your nervous system! Not to mention, babies experiencing problems latching, eating, sleeping, or eliminating can also benefit from the sort of bodywork that chiropractors can provide. That said, don’t wait to visit your local chiro clinic until you’re experiencing discomfort: The sooner you start (after the initial six weeks), the stronger your body will be and the better you’ll sleep/feel/etc.for the long road ahead.

2. Pelvic Physical Therapy: Pregnancy and labor put a LOT of pressure on our pelvic floor (aka the muscles, ligaments, connective tissues and nerves that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum), and if we don’t allow for the proper healing of these muscles through physical therapy and the right kind exercises, we can start to experience unwanted symptoms related to weakness or dysfunction. I saw a Pelvic PT after Jude was born, and within only a month or two (4-5 sessions), my scar tissue was almost gone and I felt completely back to normal “down there.” On top of that, my diastasis recti (or the separation of the left and right sides of the outermost stomach muscle) was 100% healed. Even though this type of physical therapy is under-utilized here in the States (a travesty, if you ask me), I can’t stress how important it is for recovering moms to prevent issues like incontinence, uterine prolapse, and diastasis recti later on.

3. Peanut App for Moms: Health is not just about the physical; in fact, I’d even go so far as to make the argument that our mental/emotional state is an even more critical piece of the wellness puzzle. That’s why I’m listing the Peanut App, a safe digital space for mothers, expectant mothers, and those trying to conceive to build friendships, ask questions, and find support. The postpartum experience can be a very isolating one, and the Peanut App works to counteract that feeling of loneliness by providing community for like-minded mamas. I recently signed up—it’s free!—and I’ve already made a few mom friends in my neck of the woods! This will be a lifesaver after coming out on the other side of that initial post-birth hibernation period.

Resources for the Fourth Trimester

Lastly, I want to leave you with some of my most-excited-about tools, resources, and products specifically created for postpartum moms. I want to try them all! #TreatYoSelf

  1. Noelle’s Naturals Postpartum Care Products: Includes quality-made herbal baths, recovery elixirs, bottom sprays, and baby balms.
  2. Milk Moon Herbs: Restorative tonics and tinctures to support the adrenals and nervous system of a new mama.
  3. MotherBees First Forty Days Bundle: This postpartum pantry collection (handcrafted by The First Forty Days author Heng Ou herself) includes jarred bone broths, dried soups, porridge blends, and herbal teas for a nourishing fourth trimester—with minimal work for mama. Delivered straight to your door if you live in the US.
  4. ModiBodi Postpartum Control Briefs: A environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable underwear for postpartum bleeding. More comfortable too!
  5. Bodily’s Care for Birth Box: The ultimate all-in-one postpartum care package that comes complete with nipple butters and cooling pads, maternity maxi pads and washable underwear, stool softener, peri wash bottle, inflatable cushion, warm socks, and a month’s worth of their recovery “latte.” Basically everything you need to create a cozy postpartum experience.

Congratulations, you are now well-equipped to not only survive the postpartum period but to THRIVE in it. But remember: No matter how “prepared” we think we are, there will inevitably be speed bumps along the way where a new baby is concerned—and that’s okay! Give yourself grace in knowing that not everything in the fourth trimester (and beyond) will go according to plan, and that you are an amazing mother regardless. You’re exactly what your baby needs.

Pssst…Not having a baby anytime soon but know someone who is? The resources mentioned above would make excellent gifts! Just sayin’.

Here are some podcast episodes from the are you menstrual? podcast that you also may find helpful!

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

Created by
Hormone Healing RD

what are you waiting for?

Your Health.