Postpartum Nutrition: Tips to Keep Yourself Well-Fed After Baby


Photo of a mom eating over the sink while holding a baby. Postpartum nutrition isn't easy.

When you have a newborn in the house, it isn’t as simple as it used to be to keep yourself well-fed. Some non-Western countries, especially those that have preserved traditional cultural knowledge, have support built in to help new parents, especially those who have just given birth. This includes cooking traditional foods that are seen as healing for the postpartum body. Global communities as diverse as Morocco, India, China, and Mexico have retained the understanding that postpartum nutrition, care and support after giving birth are vital to health and well-being. In India, the first weeks after giving birth are referred to as the “sacred window.” In China, this same time period is called the “golden month.”  

In the United States, we have lost these types of traditions and supports. This can leave parents struggling to be well-nourished during those hazy newborn days.

Postnatal depletion

Keeping yourself well-fed after a new baby isn’t about “getting your body back” or seeing how fast you can return to running marathons. In fact, being well-nourished after birth should be combined with as many weeks of rest as possible. Failing to take into account a new parent’s needs for nourishment, rest, support and community can have a long lasting impact on a parent’s overall health.

Dr. Oscar Serrallach documented some of the challenges he has seen new parents face in his book, The Postnatal Depletion Cure.

Parents who aren’t able to rest and eat well when they have a newborn can find themselves struggling for years after first becoming a parent.

Dr. Serrallach has seen parents with children as old as seven to ten years who are still seeing the effects of postnatal depletion.These effects can include exhaustion, brain fog, and other problems we typically accept as “normal” for parents.  

Krista Maltais, an Advanced Postpartum Doula on the Seacoast, was intrigued when she first heard about postnatal depletion because it resonated with her experiences supporting new parents. She now includes information and help for depletion in her Mothercare support group at Relief Parenting. 

Arrange for help

It is functionally impossible for most of us to recreate the old village of support that existed for new parents for most of history. As a result, attending to your postpartum nutrition needs requires reaching out for help. All people who are birthing, adopting or planning to foster a newborn need to arrange for help. You can consider asking a family member, friend or postpartum doula. For many of us, asking for help is remarkably hard. 

But if you acquire just one new habit as a new parent, let it be this one: Learn to ask for help. It will be a valuable skill throughout your parenting journey.  

Once you have your help lined up, let them know the kinds of foods you like and want to eat after the baby arrives. If you have aversions, sensitivities, allergies or dietary preferences, communicate those. Darcy Sauers of Dover Doula suggests that postpartum families print out their favorite crockpot recipes and have the ingredients on hand so she can leave them a meal they will truly enjoy. This approach takes the guesswork out of cooking for your less culinarily talented friend or family members. 

If the pandemic or busy schedules make it difficult for your loved ones to support you in person, consider registering for food like you register for cribs, diaper genies and cute outfits. Ask people to gift you frozen meals you can reheat when you need them. Use an app like Meal Train, Give in Kind, or Take Them a Meal to set up a meal train. You can include information about favorite recipes and dietary needs here too. If at all possible, delegate the scheduling and coordination of these food deliveries to a family member, friend or coworker. Alternatively, purchase gift cards to local takeout spots!

Snacks as a source of postpartum nutrition

Now is the time for convenience. Pre-cut up fruits and veggies, pre-sliced cheese or cheese sticks, tuna pouches, individual containers of yogurt or apple sauce can make grabbing something quick easier. Luckily, there are plenty of options for convenience food out there. Next time you are grocery shopping in person or online, take a few minutes to note some healthier options.

Lori Pay of Nurtured Families Doula, suggests keeping pre-portioned snacks, like trail mix in a basket near where you tend to nurse, pump, feed, diaper or snuggle baby. If you are “nap trapped” under a sleeping baby that is a great time to munch on something. And don’t forget that staying hydrated is part of postpartum nutrition too, so include a big water bottle in your snack kits.

If you have older children at home, keep snacks in cabinets and sections of the fridge that they can easily reach so they can grab them for themselves and for you.  Here’s one nutritionist’s guide to healthy kid snacks and even more healthy snack ideas for your little ones.  And these aren’t just for the kids either. A tasty muffin or some homemade granola delivered by someone in your meal train is a great snack to grab when the baby naps.

Outsource your postpartum nutrition

Here on the Seacoast there is also a more comprehensive option for outsourcing postpartum nutrition. Small Batch Wellness, which is owned and run by Meg Whithed, who is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, offers multiple options to provide postpartum nutrition information and assistance to new parents. Purposeful Nourishment, is a local grocery delivery service that favors locally grown food and supplies from area small businesses.  For people farther away or those who want to prepare and stock up while they are pregnant, there is the Postpartum Kitchen, an online resource library that guides families on how to prepare their pantry, provides tasty and nourishing recipes, and guidance on understanding the postpartum body.

A modern-traditional postpartum approach

With all her offerings at Small Batch Wellness, Meg blends science with traditional knowledge from around the global. This is the approach that author Heng Ou describes in her book, The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.  Authors and mothers like Danett C. Dean, DAAM, who wrote A Taste of Our Own Medicine and Kimblerly Johnson, writer of The Fourth Trimester attribute these traditional foods and recipes with helping them overcome postnatal depletion. 

If you wish to incorporate traditional wisdom into your postpartum meal and snack plans, practitioners like Meg recommend that you incorporate more foods that are well-cooked and easily digestible into your diet. On the flip side, focus less on foods that are harder to digest such as raw or cold food. For a first meal after giving birth, Meg likes to make a birthing person congee and kitchiri. These Chinese and Indian porridges are a good base for nutrient rich items like avocado, dates, and seasonal and local vegetables.

After that first meal, soups and stews are a staple of traditional postpartum nutrition.  Heather Fletcher of Dragonfly Doula finds that new parents especially enjoy tasty and simple recipes like chicken stew, butternut squash soup and a traditional chicken and veggie.

Image shows a variety of foods good for postpartum nutrition including fruits, vegetables, shredded coconut, maple syrup and cocoa.

Foods for traditional postpartum nutrition

Meg also suggests stocking your kitchen with and encouraging your helpers to cook dishes that include:

  • Well cooked seasonal and local vegetables
  • Healthy fats, like avocados, ghee, coconut oil, nuts and seeds
  • Protein like chicken, shellfish, oily fish
  • Stewed fruits like apples and pears
  • Lots of Medjool dates (see below for a yummy date snack)
  • Warming spices like cinnamon, cardamon, Star Anise, cumin, nutmeg
  • Warming elixirs (basically a warm smoothie, since frozen smoothies are seen as too cold)
  • Maple syrup, honey, blackstrap molasses 
  • Ancient grains

For a more extensive shopping list of traditional postpartum food and recipes, check out The Fourth Trimester or The First Forty Days.

Don’t be a perfectionist

Try not to let food become one more area of stress. One of the major messages I try to give the families I work with as a doula is to release the pressure to be a perfect parent.  Such perfection doesn’t exist. Instead, we are all making the best choice we can in any given moment or situation. And we have to give ourselves a lot of grace. 

Make sure you apply this to your nutrition after you give birth.  Above all, your approach shouldn’t support the pervasive toxic culture of dieting and feeling bad about yourself and your body. The postpartum time is not the time to restrict your diet or deny yourself things. Eat foods that are nourishing as often as you can.  The rest of the time, just get some calories in your body and grab a nap!

A Postpartum Nutrition Powerhouse: Balancing Bites

Here is one of Small Batch Wellness’s favorite sweet recipes (with tons of nutrients) for new parents:

Base Layer:

3                  Medjool Dates, pitted
⅛ Cup         Goji Berries
½  Cup        Melted Coconut Oil
1 ¼ Cup      Raw Nuts (ideal combo of walnut, cashew, almond, hazelnut & pistachio)
¼ tsp           Pink Himalayan Salt (slightly less)
¼ tsp           Mixed Warming Spices (heaping): All spice, ground ginger, nutmeg & cinnamon)
⅛ Cup        Ground Flax

Top Layer:

½ Cup      Melted Coconut Oil
½ Cup      Raw Cacao
3 Tbs        Bees Knees Spiced Maple 
(regular REAL maple with a TEENY pinch of cayenne will be fine too)
Pinch        Pink Himalayan Salt
¼ Cup      Water
¼ Cup      Peanut Butter (optional)
Sprinkle   Raw Coconut (optional)


  1. Combine all items in the Base Layer in the food processor and pulse together.
  2. Once it starts to stick together, scoop out and press into a small baking pan lined with parchment  paper (or parchment cupcake liners). You can play with how thick or thin you might like this layer by adjusting the pan size
  3. Once pressed into the pan, you can add an optional layer of peanut butter to the top.  Work with warm peanut butter so it’s easy to spread

Mix together the items for the Top Layer with a whisk.

  1. Either use a warmed glass bowl or work pretty quickly so the mixture stays on the warm side so it’s easy to pour.
  2. Put water in a small saucepan, add mixture. Working quickly to combine and make smooth.

Pour top layer over base layer to cover completely. 

Again, feel free to play with the thickness here. 

  1. Some love a thick cacao layer and some like a hint of it.
  2. Pop in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then you can cut or move to the fridge.

These will store well in the freezer so it’s a great make ahead.

Small Batch Wellness is offering a discount to readers of Seacoast Moms. Get $50 off the entire local delivery series, Purposeful Nourishment using code: SEACOASTMOMS50.  Or get $25 off Foundational Prepare Pack with code SEACOASTMOMS25.