Postpartum and Breastfeeding

10 Healing Foods for Postpartum Recovery

Hillary Bennetts

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • Bone broth
  • Collagen Protein
  • Grass fed and pasture raised meat
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Grass fed dairy 
  • Eggs
  • Fruits and vegetables

0 min read

Intro

It is well established that good nutrition is critical to both mother and baby’s health during pregnancy. And most women take great care throughout pregnancy to nourish themselves through both food and supplementation. But how do these needs change after the baby is born? 

Actually, not much. Nutrient needs remain elevated as the body recovers from birth. Whether or not you breastfeed, the body requires nutrient dense foods to support the important process of healing that happens during the Fourth Trimester and beyond.

Postpartum is one of the most nutritionally demanding phases of life. So here are 10 foods to support healing throughout your postpartum journey. 

Bone broth

Bone broth is a warm liquid rich in collagen and amino acids. It also contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. 

The body undergoes quite a bit of disruption during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. No matter how active your pregnancy or how you delivered, your body’s tissues will go through a process of repair during the postpartum period.

Collagen and elastin are present throughout the body, including in the skin, abdominal muscles, and uterus. After birth they undergo a rapid breakdown and process of repair. The collagen and amino acids in bone broth can help support their repair. 

How to add it to your diet

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals. It’s fairly easy to make since it is mostly hands off as the broth simmers, but several high quality brands exist to purchase, like Kettle & Fire, Fond, and Bare Bones. 


Bone broth can be used in soups or stews, which freeze and reheat well. It can also be used to cook grains and legumes like rice, quinoa, and lentils. If you like the taste, you can simply sip bone broth like tea. 

Collagen Protein

Like bone broth, Collagen Protein is rich in both collagen and amino acids which support tissue repair. 

How to add it to your diet

Collagen protein is extremely versatile, mix it into any liquid or soft food, like tea, coffee, a smoothie, yogurt, oatmeal, muffins, or pureed soup. 

When mixing collagen into soft food, stir it in slowly, a little bit at a time. In recipes that involve mixing a liquid into a solid, like oatmeal, you can also whisk collagen into the liquid first before adding the liquid to the solid. 

Grass fed and pasture raised meat

Meat is rich in iron. A significant amount of blood is lost during delivery, and women continue to bleed for weeks following birth. Because of this blood loss, many postpartum women experience postpartum anemia. In many cases, it goes undetected since many of the symptoms are similar to those of new motherhood, like fatigue, headache, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating. Including iron rich meats helps to support iron levels. 

In addition to iron, meat is rich in B vitamins which support energy, metabolism, and normal cell function.

How to add it to your diet

Note that Iron comes in two forms - heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found only in animal sources while non-heme iron is found in plant foods. Heme iron is far better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron. Consuming vitamin C alongside non- heme iron can boost its absorption. 


The best sources of heme iron include red meat (like beef, bison, lamb), poultry (like chicken, turkey), and organ meats (like liver). 


As for quality, grass fed and pasture raised meats tend to have a more favorable fatty acid profile than conventional grain fed meats. 

Wild-caught salmon 

Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating sufficient Omega-3 fatty acids (and limiting excessive Omega-6 fatty acids) is important to maintaining a balanced Omega-3:6 ratio in the body, which supports a healthy inflammatory response.


One of the Omega-3 fatty acids, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plays a critical role in the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body through neural signaling. It also supports baby’s brain development, which is essential if breastfeeding. DHA cannot be synthesized by the body, so it must be consumed through diet or supplementation. 


Another Omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), has been associated with having positive effects on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  


In addition to Omega-3s, salmon contains protein, Vitamin D, and Selenium, all supportive of postpartum recovery and overall health.

How to add it to your diet

Wild caught salmon can be purchased fresh or frozen. Both are nutrient dense, and while fresh may be preferred when possible, frozen provides more convenience. Other options for salmon include smoked salmon, which has a more mild flavor and requires very little preparation, and canned salmon, which can be quickly added to salads or bowls, or made into salmon patties. Wild Planet, Bela, Safe Catch, and Season are high quality brands of canned fish. Salmon jerky is another option that is convenient for snacking. EPIC has good quality salmon jerky.

Another fatty, low-mercury fish option is sardines. Sardines have a distinct taste, but can be used in salad dressing or chopped in a salad. Sardines also provide calcium, an important nutrient for postpartum women.

Grass fed dairy

Dairy is rich in calcium. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and supports bone health and development for both mama and baby. Bone stores of calcium can become depleted during pregnancy and breastfeeding if mama is not consuming enough. In addition to calcium, fermented dairy can support gut health. 

How to include it in your diet

You don’t need to drink milk to enjoy dairy. Try yogurt, kefir, or cottage cheese as alternatives. 

Choose grass fed dairy when possible. Dairy from grass fed cows has elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This provides a more favorable balance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Grassmilk contains nearly a 1:1 ratio as compared to a 5:1 to 7:1 ratio in conventional whole milk.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in Choline. Choline is essential for all ages and stages of life, but is particularly critical for postpartum women to support their own brain and nervous system health and to support the brain development of their babies. 

Eggs also contain protein, fat, and B vitamins. The nutrients and fat are contained mostly in the yolk, while the protein exists primarily in the white. 

How to include it in your diet

Eggs can be prepared in so many ways. Hard boiled eggs are convenient, but if you are limiting cold foods in early postpartum, stick with warm cooked eggs like scrambled or over easy. You can also wrap up eggs in a tortilla or put them on a sandwich. If plain eggs aren’t your favorite, try egg heavy recipes like banana egg pancakes or egg muffin cups with veggies and cheese. Both are great to batch cook and save for later.

Opt for pasture raised eggs when possible, you’ll be able to see the difference with a yolk that is a rich orange color as opposed to the dull yellow of a conventionally raised chicken. 

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may support normal postpartum recovery. For example, many fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, which is responsible for synthesizing collagen and is necessary for proper wound healing. They also serve as a fiber rich source of healthy carbs. Fiber can help support digestion and regularity which can slow during postpartum. 

How to include it in your diet

There are so many fruits and vegetables to choose from, you can pick your favorites or you can pick what’s in season. If you’re able, aim for variety. Try to incorporate different colors onto your plate to benefit from different phytochemicals. For example, lycopenes are phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables a red color, beta-carotene is present in orange foods, lutein is found in yellow and green foods, and blue and purple foods contain anthocyanins. 

When possible, choose organic varieties. But if organic options aren’t available or are cost prohibitive, use the Dirty Dozen list. It’s a good resource that can help prioritize what to buy organic.
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Hillary Bennetts, Nutritionist

Hillary Bennetts is a nutritionist and business consultant focusing on prenatal and postpartum health. In addition to nutrition consulting, she provides business consulting and content creation for companies in the health and wellness industry. Hillary spent almost a decade in corporate consulting before shifting gears to combine her lifelong passion for health and wellness with her business background and nutrition education.