Dietary advice is an extremely important part of promoting postnatal recovery. Constipation is one of the most common postpartum problems, which can lead to painful bloating, straining and haemorrhoids. In general it is important for all new mothers to consider the foods they are consuming.
Chinese medicine diet
Usually Chinese Medicine practitioners would be concerned about the “nourishment of energy (Qi), Yin (cooling and moistening) and blood”… but it depends on mum’s underlying health. For example, if mum is sweating too much at night then she might need to eat more salty and sour foods and be careful not to eat spicy and pungent foods or take too many heating drinks, such as coffee. Salty foods are seen as generating fluids (helping with lactation and replacing fluids loss by sweating). Whilst sour foods gather and hold in; think of your face if you sucked a lemon! This is helping to stop sweating too much. A good example of including more sour flavours is to add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a glass of water (with a drop of honey if desired) and drinking at different times throughout the day (if you want to protect your tooth enamel sip through a straw). Also nibbling goji or cranberries (unsweetened) or put in your porridge, are good additions. Ensure you are not dehydrated due to breast feeding and sweating. Look for signs such as dry lips, dry mouth, constipation and feeling thirsty.
Blood nourishing foods include all dark leafy greens, apricot, avocado, date, kidney bean, sesame seeds, egg and soya milk as well as the obvious iron rich foods such as red meat and spinach. Care with consumption of red meat is needed, as it can be very warming. Homemade chicken soup is especially nourishing in the first few postnatal weeks.
How food is cooked
Emphasis also needs to be placed on cooking methods. Foods that are cooked slowly or lightly are seen in traditional Chinese medicine as more nourishing and gentler on the digestive system. For example there is a vital difference between using raw oats in muesli and cooking them into porridge; the latter being much easier to digest. For some women, who have a tendency to feel the cold, they should avoid raw food and cold drinks and juices.
Looking after a newborn and eating well is challenging. Mum is going through tremendous physiological changes after birth which enable her to feed a baby. She may have endured major surgery (c-section) or suffered injury to her pelvic area, and these might be aggravating health conditions that were present before the birth. Post birth can be euphoric and then there is the hormonal let-down; emotions can be volatile in this time. Diet might not seem important in this whirlwind, so cook and freeze as many meals as you can before you go into labour, so when you are utterly exhausted, you’ll have a healthy option easily available.