Nourishing Postpartum Women With Food

 © Sherry Rothwell, RHN

In the postpartum, a mother’s digestive power is weakened, yet her need for nurturing and vital nutrition remains strong. These instructions are intended for those who will be cooking for the mom while she tends to her baby in the first six weeks postpartum. Mother, you can help make this an easier task by filling your fridge and pantry with the foods that are to be emphasized during the postpartum period.

While in general refined sweets are never a good choice, during the postpartum period, adequate sweet flavour from unrefined sources is essential to help “sweeten” the experience of the postpartum. Some examples of nourishing sweet foods are root vegetables and fruit or wholesome desserts made with unrefined cane sugar, coconut sugar, organic blackstrap molasses, rice syrup, dark maple syrup and raw honey.

Easy to Digest!
The best foods to eat in the postpartum are whole foods that are easy to digest (warm, oily or moist, mushy or creamy textured nutrient dense and traditionally prepared foods) all of which increase the mother’s digestive capacities and the nutrition is more easily assimilated. For more information about traditionally prepared foods, please purchase the cookbook “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.


As well as fresh spring water (bottled at the source) or other purified water (not distilled water as it depletes mother’s mineral status!), moist and oily foods are ideal to replenish moisture and beneficial fats, such as soups made with homemade bone broth and lassis (an Indian Yogurt drink).

The process of gestating and giving birth tend to be quite drying on the mother, which is why daily massage with oil and oily foods given with pure water are essential to rebuild mother’s stores. Use healthy fats and oils more abundantly than usual. This is important for postnatal hormonal, lubricating, cleansing and rejuvenation needs. Fats sourced from compassionately raised and pastured (grassfed) animal foods in addition to vegetarian sources such as coconut oil, raw olives and avocado.

Emphasize ghee (clarified butter) for replenishing mother’s good saturated fat stores, and also as an ideal digestive tonic. Ghee helps the mother to optimally assimilate her nutrition. Ample saturated fats from grass fed animals, helps the mother to absorb fat soluble vitamins and minerals  which require saturated fats for absorption. In addition, essential fatty acids also require saturated fat for optimal absorption and assimilation.

Adequate minerals from almonds, seeds, seaweeds and green leafy vegetables are necessary to restore mama’s mineral status, especially now that she will be making mineral rich milk for her new baby! In addition adequate fats and minerals are essential to tone and soothe the nervous system to ensure that mom feels emotionally stable.

Warming Spices!
In addition, use generous amounts of sesame and toasted sesame oil, butter, olive oil (and coconut oil in the summer months) with warming spices such as ginger, garlic (not raw), pepper, cardamom and clove.

Food Made With Love!
As much as we want to consider the quality of the ingredients made to prepare the food, we also want to consider the quality with which we make the food. The person preparing the food is essentially infusing that food with their love and intention. The best food is made with fresh ingredients intentionally made with love by a happy cook!

Minimize Frozen Food, Leftovers and be mindful with Fermented Foods!
While I recommended to bring the family extra portions of food to freeze before the birth, this is not ideal food for the immediate postpartum for the mother. It can cause too much gas for both mom and baby! According to Ayurveda, leftovers and fermented foods are considered to have degenerative energy and are best minimized in the immediate postpartum. However, because bacterial imbalances seem to be so prevalent these days, we want to continue eating probiotic foods as directed by our intuitive longing (and sometimes our distaste for them). Eat only as much as you can tolerate without producing gas for you and baby. As little as 1 tsp with each meal is beneficial, so give it a try and see. If you crave a lot more than that, go for it, but be mindful to see how your baby responds. Slowly increase to 2-3 servings of probiotic foods per day as time passes.

To summarize, we want to give new mothers warming, moist, sweet, oily and mineral rich foods that are easy to digest. We also want to avoid drying, cold, heavy and difficult to digest foods such as crackers, ice cream and uncultured dairy or gluten containing foods.In addition, if mother suffers from leaky gut and food sensitivities then she should avoid all dairy or other foods that she doesn’t tolerate well. Otherwise these undigested food particles end up in her breast milk and can irritate baby. Some mothers who cannot tolerate dairy products do fine with raw milk or fermented milk, but dairy in general is typically a trigger for discomfort in baby, when mother doesn’t digest it well. Most mother’s tolerate ghee just fine though, because the most of the milk solids are removed.

These recommendations can go a long way toward preventing postpartum depression and anxiety. With mother optimally nourished and baby easily able to digest mother’s milk, stress is reduced for everyone. It cannot be overstated how important optimal nourishment is on all levels in the postpartum period. During this time, we want to make sure that cooking and household chores are taken care of, so that all that is required of the new mother is to bond with and nurse her new baby.

We also want to ensure that mother is being served proper postpartum food combinations so that baby can relax and bond with mother. A baby who is in digestive pain will find it difficult to fully open to the bonding and attachment process.

In all the reading and research that I have done over the years, I have never seen it mentioned, let alone emphasized that a mother’s diet in the postpartum has any effect on the bonding process. Yet it is blatantly obvious that if mother is exhausted because she is depleted, or if a baby is suffering in pain, both are apt to withdraw from one another to some extent.

Mother’s digestive capacities impact:
1) the quality of her milk
2) her mood
3) colic in baby
4) her ability to rejuvenate
 5) her strength
6) her comfort and natural expression of mothering

It should be our intention to replenish mother’s fatty acid and mineral status for the purposes of ensuring optimal development of the new baby’s brain, eye and nervous system. By doing so, we can also help prevent postpartum depression in new moms and ultimately promote optimal bonding for a well adjust human being!

For more info on Ayurvedic wisdom in pregnancy, please go to

For more great ideas for how you can nourish the postpartum experience for yourself or a new mama that you know, check out my e-book “Nurturing the New Family” which is available as an instant download @


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