Nourishing Your Body During Postpartum, Pt. 1

*Written by team nutritionist Emily Blasik

The way that we approach the postpartum period here in the US does women a huge disservice, in my opinion. It’s all about how fast we can “bounce back” and shed the baby weight, rejoin our communities, and prioritize the caring of others. Very rarely are we told by doctors or society at large to take as much time as we need to recover from the physically demanding event that is pregnancy + childbirth. And, in fact, the faster we get back to work or return to life as normal, the better and “healthier” we are seen in the eyes of outsiders.

That is the mindset that I had after giving birth to my son, Jude. Only several days post-delivery, I was up and at ’em—doing chores around the house, cooking meals for our family, and busying myself with daily tasks—because I was a mom now and needed to be on my A game. It wasn’t long before the adrenaline high wore off and my energy began to steadily decrease, leaving me more depleted and exhausted than I had been in the entirety of my pregnancy. It’s also no coincidence that around this time, too, my breastmilk production started to slow down—a struggle that would accompany me throughout the next six months of breastfeeding Jude (and ultimately be the reason I quit earlier than I had originally planned).

Needless to say, I plan to do things differently with our daughter. Thanks to Amanda’s suggestion, I’m currently reading The First Forty Days by Heng Ou, a book about the fourth trimester that encourages mothers to approach the postpartum stage like our ancestors did, in a much gentler manner—prioritizing nothing but rest, warm comforting foods, bonding time with baby, and restorative activities for the first month or so after birth. For a lot of us, that may mean asking for extra help from our partners, friends, and family members with things like chores, meal preparation, childcare (for older children), and errands. If you don’t have a built-in community to rely on, consider hiring a postpartum doula to carry some of the burden. It really does take a village to welcome a baby into the world, and there’s absolutely zero shame in asking for support wherever you can get it.

In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the age-old practices of self-care that I am looking forward to implementing in my first forty days as a second-time mom. My goal here is not to “get my pre-baby body back,” lose any amount of weight, or return to my former self quicker—but rather to support healing and homeostasis and give my body what it needs to thrive later on. Because what helps mama to thrive helps baby to thrive! (As always, this is not health advice and should not be taken as such.)

Supporting Uterine Healing

Did you know that your uterus starts shrinking within minutes of giving birth, but it takes about six weeks to fully return to its previous size? During that time, most mothers will experience some mild-to-moderate cramping and regular bleeding (similar to a heavier period, especially during the first week or so) while the body returns to its former pre-pregnancy state. This is why it’s not recommended to participate in things like exercise, sexual intercourse, or heavy lifting for at least six weeks. Discomfort and soreness during this time is normal, but outright pain is not. That said, there are things you can do to make sure you’re supporting the proper healing of your uterus and vagina:

  1. Vaginal steaming or sitz baths: This may seem a little “woo woo” to some of you, but the practice dates back hundreds of years and can help to relieve soreness of the perineal area and cleanse the womb of toxins, blood, and discharge for easier healing. You can read more about how to start vaginal steaming here. (Not comfortable with the idea of steaming? Try a sitz bath: Sit in a shallow bath of water that covers the hips and relax for 15-20 minutes! That’s it. Feel free to add healing herbs like comfrey leaf, lavender flowers, red raspberry leaf, calendula flowers, or epsom salts.)
    1. This is our favorite steaming kit. Use code HormoneLove to get a discount!
  2. Drinking raspberry leaf tea: A simple ritual you can start in your third trimester and continue on through postpartum. Raspberry leaf tea has been shown to reduce bleeding, help tone and heal the uterus, and even support pelvic floor health postpartum. The high mineral content can also help boost breastmilk supply. Our favorite is the Traditional Medicinals brand!
  3. Castor oil packs: Talk to your doctor before implementing, especially if you have not utilized castor oil packs previously. Use code AMANDA for 10% off.
  4. Limiting or avoiding cold foods and beverages: It’s kind of crazy, but so many women we’ve talked to have experienced severe postpartum cramping after incorporating cold foods like smoothies into their diets during recovery. There’s no science to back this up (as far as we know), but according to Ayurvedic medicine, chilled foods throw off a mother’s internal balance, making her susceptible to “excess vata” issues like constipation, fatigue, low energy, nervousness, weakness, depletion, low appetite, and lack of enthusiasm (aka postpartum depression). It make sense if you think about it: Cold water or foods can hinder circulation, and blood flow to the uterus is extremely important for healing. What we’ve seen in our clients confirm this: As soon as those women switched to warm foods and eliminated anything cold, their cramps subsided. See our next tip for all of the warm, nourishing foods we recommend!
  5. Rest: The simplest in theory but sometimes the hardest in practice. But the more you stay off your feet during the first 1-2 weeks after giving birth, the better and quicker you will heal.

Nourishing Foods and Beverages

Warm, soft, and soupy foods that are that are easy to digest are said by Chinese medicine practitioners to balance vata (the dosha of air and space) and restore agni (the digestive fire).

That said, I know that I’m not going to be in the mood to slave over the stove in the month after baby’s born—and in the name of rest, I definitely shouldn’t be! So, to make things a hundred times easier on us both, my husband and I have taken to our favorite meal planning app (see my weekly obsession below!) to prepare a few rich and comforting meals that will sustain us through October.

Here are just a few that we have already made and frozen or are planning to make in the next few weeks. We also have a few family members who have kindly volunteered to cook up and freeze some of these for us! (Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help where needed.)

  1. Dreamy Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
  2. Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde Stew
  3. Nourishing Chicken Soup
  4. Broccoli Cheddar Soup
  5. Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Root Vegetables
  6. Mexican Shredded Beef
  7. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
  8. Thai Chicken Coconut Milk Curry
  9. Instant Pot Pinto Beans
  10. Crawfish Corn Soup (a family recipe made with lots of butter, cream, and milk)

As you can see, they are mostly slow cooker/Instant Pot meals. Not only do soups/curries/casseroles freeze well, but they’re hearty, nutritionally-dense, and packed with warmth. I’ll also be prioritizing oatmeal (made with raw cream, collagen, maple syrup, and cooked fruit), bone broth, herbal teas (like nettle, raspberry leaf, and fennel), and raw milk (warmed on the stove).

As far as macronutrients go, we do need more fat and carbs while breastfeeding to aid in the richness of our milk. Things like coconut cream/milk, butter/ghee, and fatty meats will be your best friend during this time.

Supportive Supplementation

I’ll be honest in that my supplements don’t really change from pregnancy to postpartum. As a recap, I choose not to take a prenatal but to “make my own”: I will still be taking desiccated beef liver and cod liver oil capsules to support my vitamin A levels naturally, as well as whole food forms of B vitamins and copper. I will also prioritize full spectrum vitamin E in supplement form, as well as both topical and oral magnesium—as these two micronutrients can be difficult to get through food. Lastly, I will continue taking a high quality probiotic to support my microbiome and whole food vitamin C to boost collagen and copper.

A few additional supplements I’m planning on incorporating once baby is here:

  1. Vitamin K: To support proper blood clotting, wound healing, and calcium balance in the body.
  2. Shilajit: A natural source of fulvic acid and trace minerals, as well as an abundance of antioxidants for supporting energy and reducing free radicals. I like this brand.
  3. Reishi mushroom: An adaptogenic mushroom that supports the body’s stress response, immune system, and reduction in inflammation. I like to add this one to my coffee.
  4. Digestive bitters: Taken before meals to aid in the production of stomach acid for healthy digestion.

As always, make sure you talk to your doctor before adding in any new supplements!

Here are some great podcast episodes to also check out from the Are You Menstrual? Podcast

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.