Hours after the birth of my first baby I followed advice given to me by friends and had my husband run out and buy me a huge delicious, much deserved meal. Hospital food would not suffice. I was really hungry after 24 hours of no eating and lots of hard work. So I went nuts, ordering all kinds of things including a massive bacon cheeseburger toppling with all the trimmings.
I cannot tell you how much I do not recommend a large, greasy, sodium-filled meal postpartum. Bad, bad idea. And likely not what my friends had in mind when they told me to splurge on some good food. I felt terrible almost immediately and wanted to sleep for a hundred years. My newborn had other ideas. Then there was the issue of having to process this meal. That would take days.
I now recommend to all pregnant women I meet that they eat, eat, eat– in early labor, after labor, even in labor it they want to– but keep the food simple, nutritious and on the hydrating/easy-to-digest side. In many cultures there are traditions of feeding women soup postpartum. Oxtail soup is a favorite. Most of the recipes call for broths over bisques or stews. Miso is an excellent postpartum soup. The point is to nourish, soothe, hydrate, repeat. Smoothies or fresh vegetable juices with ginger are great. And then of course there is tea.
Right around and after my second birth I drank a ton of red raspberry leaf tea. I am not much of a herbal tea drinker but I swear this stuff was awesome. It is known for it’s uterine toning properties– I am pretty sure it helped with my labor and afterwards, too. You can also get postpartum teas like this Earth Mama organic “monthly comfort tea” with all kinds of good things like mineral-rich nettles and alfalfa and rejuvenating ginger to help ease cramping. In fact, Earth Mama postpartum products in general are great.
Midwife and author Robin Lim has a recipe for postpartum tea in her terrific book After The Baby’s Birth. If you love herbal teas and are the type who might enjoy brewing your own, check this out:
1 teaspoon red raspberry leaf
1 teaspoon nettles
1 teaspoon yellow dock
1 teaspoon shepard’s purse
1 teaspoon motherwort
Add to one gallon of pure water at room temperature and leave in the sunshine for four hours.
According to Lim, here’s what all the ingredients have to offer:
- Red raspberry leaf is uterine toner.
- Nettles are good for decreasing muscle cramps.
- Yellow dock provides a non constipating source of iron.
- Shepherd’s purse helps with blood clotting.
- Motherwort helps with cramps, thought it’s worth noting this is a more serious herb, not recommended in large, frequent doses
Mother’s Milk Tea can also help with breastfeeding and is often recommended to nursing mothers hoping to boost supply.
I don’t think every new mother needs to be fussing around with herbs and recipes postpartum– ideally a village of women show up with some magical elixirs and brews. A friend of mine brought over five large containers of frozen soup after the birth of my second baby. (I think at some point she must have endured my oxtail soup speech and taken note.) But sometimes the village is otherwise occupied. In that case, you can freeze some good soup and/or buy some boxes of tea before you give birth. There is so much focus on preparing for the baby’s needs, but new mothers need mothering, too.