This post is part of our New Mom Success Series, where we’re taking an in-depth look at the (1) physical-nutritional and (2) mental-emotional needs of brand-new moms, especially in the sacred first six weeks after birth.
To learn more about the whole series, and to set the proper foundation with a powerful vision-casting exercise, click here.
To learn more about the physical-nutritional component, click here.
Check out the other new mom nutrition myths: Myth #1, Myth #2, Myth #3, Myth #4, Myth #5, and Myth #7.
And now, welcome back to “Why common nutrition advice for new moms is all wrong (and what to do instead).” Here’s Myth #6.
New mom nutrition myth #6
“Welcome baby with your favorite foods—you deserve it!”
Why it’s faulty
Birth is miraculous.
It’s definitely worth celebrating.
But so many new families are doing it in the wrong way.
And at the wrong time.
Celebrations aside, what about the pure physicality of childbirth?
Labor is a workout!
It’s long, exhausting, calorie-consuming…
And you’ll be hungry at the end of it, so you might as well plan your feast now, right?
You do need ways to celebrate precious new life.
You do need nutrition to refuel after a harrowing, arduous, energy-depleting labor.
But the wrong foods in the wrong quantity at the wrong time set you up for new mom distress, not success.
Let me explain.
By now you know that key nutrition bolstered by optimal digestion is the centerpiece of a peaceful postpartum. (If you missed the first five of this series, be sure to check out Myths #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5.)
As you learned in Myth #1, tending digestion is high priority after birth. When most people think favorite foods, though, they choose rich meals prepared elsewhere, often with lots of ingredients and heavy ones, too. That’s a surefire way to kill that critical digestive fire, just as much as consuming cold and frozen food is.
I don’t know about you, but exchanging your newborn baby bliss for bloating, constipation, and a food coma doesn’t sound too appetizing. Nor does the likelihood that heavy foods after birth will have you dreading that first poop perhaps more than labor itself…
So how can you meet your intrinsic physical needs while both satisfying your hunger and memorializing the miracle of birth?
What to do instead
Right after birth, you don’t need a feast or your favorite takeout meal.
You need simple, soupy, hydrating fare with a little sweetness and a lot of soothing fats and digestive spices (see Myths #1, #2, and #3). You need a warm bowl of broth-infused basmati rice, slathered in ghee, and spiked with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and clove.
Not convinced? You won’t know until you get there, so take it from those who’ve walked this road before you.
Many new moms think they’ll crave their favorite foods after birth, but they’re so enraptured with baby and so exhausted from labor that Chinese takeout or decadent cheesecake couldn’t be farther from their minds.
But if they’re presented with something simple, soft, soupy, smooth, sweet, and slightly spicy? My heavens, how delicious! They didn’t know they needed it, but now they’ve tasted it, they know it’s perfect. It’s just what body, mind, and soul desire in this moment both primal and transcendent.
So rather than phoning for takeout in the aftermath of birth, plan ahead by putting a crockpot on when labor begins in earnest.
This is where planning takes center stage. (We at P2P are all about the planning!) Make sure you have all the ingredients prepped for your simple post-labor meal and a point person designated to watch the pot while you focus on the business of birth.
Worried you’re not prepared? Check out our full postpartum essentials guide.
This is a big one for partners, family members, and the rest of the new mom support crew. I have a gentle word for you all, too. Don’t be the ones offering mom what she doesn’t need. Support her well by making sure she gets what she does need (even if you want that takeout or cheesecake). After all, this isn’t about you. Mom and baby are the primary protagonists, and it’s a distinct privilege to serve their unique needs after birth.
Now what about that celebration piece? You want ways to acknowledge the special nature of this moment, which is understandable. But may I offer two perspective shifts?
First, we’re a food-pleasure culture.
In a sense, all cultures are. Feast days and festivals, milestones and memorials—life’s most luminous passageways often convene at the proverbial table. As they should! Humanity rallies around shared nourishment.
But it’s not just about what’s on the table. Celebration is more an attitude than an edible.
What’s more celebratory—a lavish meal that leaves you bloated and constipated, perhaps even grumpy with a gassy baby, or a simple soup that warms you from the inside out, allowing you to digest easy, rest well, and lavish love on your little one?
What’s more celebratory—a mom who recovers well from childbirth or one whose litany of ailments starts in this sleep-deprived season and plagues her for life?
(Yes, your behaviors immediately after birth inform the next several decades. Learn more.)
Here again, support crew, the onus is on you. Instead of foisting a hospital or takeout menu on a new mom suspended in that gap of void and abundance—the emptiness of a vacated womb and the fullness of life in her arms—let her bask in that ethereal moment, without having to decide between the chicken cacciatore or the roast beef sandwich (neither of which would serve her well).
Let her take it all in, the intensity followed by the calm.
Let her marvel at a newborn’s instinct to nurse.
Let her experience the strange sensation of meeting someone she already knows for the very first time.
Let her realize that she already knows how to respond, even if she’s never done this before.
And then, when she realizes that she, like her newborn, hungers for sustenance and something more, hand her a steaming mug ladled from a crockpot simmering on low. You’ll all realize a deeper pleasure in that moment beyond what any meal could satisfy.
Second, we’re an instant-gratification culture.
The baby’s here, let’s all rejoice—pronto!
What if, instead, we did a better job waiting?
Most traditional cultures do. They welcome babies into community life with ceremony. But it’s not instant. It’s only after a set confinement period, when mother and baby have been cradled together in the home, protected, recovering and growing together, getting to know one another, acclimating as one to life as two. Yes, the baby is here, but the baby, and mom, aren’t yet ready to brave the threshold.
Ayurveda recognizes a six-week sacred window. During these forty-two days, the new mom is gently mothered so that she can mother her baby. Warmth, quiet, freshly prepared food, gentle bodywork, and the companionship of wiser women surround her. From this chrysalis, a new woman emerges. From this foundation, the newborn becomes a more resilient infant, ready to face the world.
And so we celebrate. We invite mother and baby to take center stage; we honor them in their community. Not too early, but in due time: after the period of waiting, that peaceful six-week postpartum.
What would these perspective shifts look like if more widely practiced—in our cities and states, in this day and age?
We invite you, fellow nurturers and mission-minded women, to take these principles to heart.
How can we lavish our newly delivered women with the kind of care they really need, right out of the gate and when the nights get long and the going gets rough?
How can we acknowledge the sacred now and sound the trumpets later, when mom and baby are ready to receive and appreciate them?
We tend to get it backward these days. Birth is met with a glut of text messages and a Facebook feed gushing with “congratulations!” But the interest almost immediately wanes, and the new mom emerges six weeks later exhausted, depleted, and wondering if motherhood could possibly be this hard.
What if, instead of the initial burst of celebratory comments, we nursed her back to herself with quiet care and simple meals, saving the fanfare for later?
And what if we actually still remembered her six weeks later, and really honored her then for the tremendous rite of passage she’s endured?
The Preparing to Parent journey isn’t easy. And it isn’t meant to traverse alone. Let’s care for each other well through the toughest legs and celebrate together the mile markers.
We’re nearing the end of our myth-busting series but certainly not the end of the road. May the truths revealed help newly delivered mothers feel nourished and contented, peaceful yet powerful, able to celebrate this sacred season not in physical distress but with the tools for new mom success.
Do you want more? Check out our full postpartum essentials guide.
Would you like a personal strategist to guide your journey? Talk with us.
There you have it: Myth #6 in “Why common nutrition advice for new moms is all wrong (and what to do instead).”
But don’t stop with knowledge—take action.
If relevant, apply this tip now, for yourself and your family.
How can you ensure mom enjoys simple fare immediately after birth, saving the feast for six weeks?
Share what you learn with someone you know. Even if this tip doesn’t apply to you right now, it can likely benefit someone in your midst.
Did a friend just have a baby? Offer to put on a crockpot when she goes into labor—and let her know why: because a steaming bowl of simple soup will help her enter into the sacred moments after birth—and help kick-start her recovery.
Make sure she jumps on the bandwagon so she doesn’t fall into the feasting trap—or any of the other myths we’ll be unveiling in this series.
Let your voice be heard. What’s your take on Myth #6? Do you agree, or disagree? What’s your experience with first foods after birth?
Bring your comments, questions, insights, and objections to the Preparing to Parent community. We want to hear from you!
Stay tuned for Myth #7. Until then, together we are “Preparing to Parent: Growing Families with Purpose…on Purpose.”
Stacy Claxton, a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner, Ayurvedic Health Practitioner and Educator, and Perinatal Specialist, is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent, where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” This passionate sister pair loves caring for the tender and vulnerable bodies, minds, and souls of new beings and new moms and wielding words with impact on their holistic health blog. Join their family for free recipes and more.