As a nutritionist, I have worked with everything from pre-conception to postpartum in my practice. I was so excited (and a bit nervous!) to be able to dive into my own knowledge when it was time for me to finally become a mama. I have dreamt of being a mom for as long as I can remember and I’m grateful to have made many friends in the natural birth and nutrition world over the last 10+ years. This spring, we welcomed our son, Orion, and I’m happy to share the experience and how we prepared for a nourishing and healthy postpartum period.
One of my main priorities was to make food for myself and my hubby before the baby arrived, because I knew nutrition plays an important role in postpartum recovery. Neither of us had immediate family nearby, so our help was limited. Therefore, I felt that preparation would be key to a successful postpartum experience. I made a goal to prepare an extra meal each week starting 3 months before we expected baby’s arrival. While I wasn’t perfect, I managed to get a decent rotation of meals stored away pre-baby.
What is the Postpartum Confinement Period?
As I continued my preparation, I became fascinated with the traditional postpartum period of Asian cultures, particularly the Chinese “confinement period” and I decided to do a version of my own (the book, The First Forty Days is a good modernized version).
In short, postpartum confinement is defined as:
|An extended rest period (roughly 30-40 days) for new mothers. During this time, mothers and their babies are cared for by others, cooked meals with special herbs, and confined to their homes to rest while their bodies heal — and they bond as a family — postpartum.|
What Should I Eat during Postpartum Confinement?
I was very intrigued by the nutrition aspect of postpartum confinement. According to my research, the best foods for recovery after having a baby are similar to what you would eat the fall or winter: homemade soups, stews, and curries. I also learned that it would be important to emphasize good quality proteins, root veggies, and healthy fats in my postpartum diet. Alternatively, cooling foods like salads, raw veggies, and fruits are not recommended.
After baby Orion was born, I began to incorporate warming foods into my diet, including an oxtail ginger soup that’s made with sweet vinegar. It sounds odd, but it’s one of the most well known Chinese postpartum recovery foods. I ate a small bowl every day for over 40 days! In addition to having benefits for mama, ginger is also supposed to help calm your baby’s tummy by decreasing gas. I ate pounds of ginger (literally!) in the first month postpartum.
You Know What's Best for You and Your Baby
When I expressed my interest in this confinement period, I was met with a lot of funny expressions and questions — especially regarding my leave situation because I am self-employed. Together, my husband and I self-funded my two-month leave (which I understand sounds luxurious to some, but being Canadian it was ghastly to most).
Then, when I announced to my family that I was planning on doing as little as possible for a month postpartum, they thought I was joking. Typically, I am a person who has many things going on. For me, having a baby was the perfect opportunity to embrace a new, slower pace. Thankfully, my husband’s family is from Hong Kong and they were very on board with the idea of postpartum confinement — they even provided us with meals postpartum and it was so appreciated. Looking back, 5 months later, that month of laying in bed and not being responsible for anything but the baby was the best gift I could have ever given myself.
My Support System
Thankfully, my husband was able to take some time off work when Orion arrived. He was my caretaker while I held and nursed Orion. We spent the first 9 days in bed, venturing out to the living room for an hour or two a day. That period is a bit fuzzy, but it consisted of hours and hours of nursing, diaper changes, skin to skin time, and feeling incredibly clumsy with everything. How can it be so difficult to get clothing on a newborn?!
Through this period, I always had a full water bottle, hot tea, and snacks beside me. I ate meals when I could, but I ensured that warm food was always cooked (even if I had to reheat the meal by the time I got the chance to eat it) – per the confinement guidelines.
With all of this prepared, I was left free to sleep, snuggle, and learn from this beautiful baby that was so new to the world. There were tears, laughter, and a tidal wave of love that nothing could have prepared me for.
|I feel like putting in the effort to take care of me allowed me to be more present and calm after birth — even when I tried to latch a hungry baby, while bouncing on an exercise ball, beside a cat that wouldn’t stop meowing...at 3am.|
The Best Advice I Could Give to a New Mom?
- Prepare for postpartum, not just labor and birth.
- Set things up to take care of YOU. You’re all the baby needs, but you need a lot more!
- Trust your body and your baby. Even if you’re a first-time mom, from day one you know your baby best.
- Don’t believe everything that Google or Instagram tells you about a new baby. You know best and your version of parenting doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s.
- Don’t follow a schedule, let your baby lead.
- Hang on to the things that help you feel like you. I remember putting mascara on a few days after Orion was born to have some thread to my former self.
- Being well fed and hydrated is the foundation of feeling good
I hope that our story can inspire you to focus on food and create some of your own rituals in your postpartum journey.
Mom to Mom
Majka is partnering with moms to create a Mom to Mom blog series. Here, we aim to highlight the unique stories and struggles of moms from all around the globe. We believe that as moms we share a common bond, allowing us to learn valuable information from each other, inspire one another, and connect through similar experiences.