When I was on bed rest in the hospital with Liam, I started seeing an acupuncturist through the UCLA center for east-west medicine. As I worked through my pain, my acupuncturist asked me what my postpartum care plan was. I have to admit I hadn’t thought about it. I figured I’d maybe hire a lactation coach or night nurse if I needed it. Then he rephrased the question: “how will you take care of yourself postpartum?” I hadn’t thought about that. I figured I would hold on tight and try to survive. He suggested that I try to keep up my acupuncture and read The First 40 Days—The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou and co-authors, Amely Greeven, and Marisa Belger that includes tips for post-birth care and postpartum recipes. Let me tell you; I’m so glad I did both.
The First 40 Days is based on Ou’s own experience with Zuo Yuezhi—a set period of postpartum “confinement” where new mamas remain at home, focusing on healing and bonding with their baby for, you guessed it, the first 40 days after birth. The book includes 60 simple and delicious recipes for healing soups; replenishing meals and snacks; and calming and lactation-boosting teas, all formulated to support the new mother’s unique needs.
Since I was in the hospital for an extended period (and my poor husband was trying to get the house we had just moved into put together) I knew he nor I were in a position to get any meals ready. So, we hired a postpartum chef to make my breakfast and lunch. It’s important to note here that, as my husband’s best friend’s wife, she was providing this service at a discounted rate. I know this service isn’t a luxury everyone can afford but I can’t tell you how much I believe every mother should have this support. A postpartum chef can help prepare anything from postpartum recipes that help with milk production to quick and easy snacks to grab.
While writing this piece, I reached out to Ou to see if she would offer some of her favorite recipes and advice, and she obliged! Her book has been an enormous success and since then she has created MotherBees—a small food delivery service of handcrafted dishes that are hand-delivered from Ou’s kitchen to the doorsteps of new mothers across Los Angeles. Not only can you order postpartum food delivery, but there are also bundles for fertility, pregnancy, immunity, and simply broth! “Broth is the foundation of postpartum eating, and having a stash in your fridge or freezer becomes a lifesaver in the early days with baby,” Ou tells me. “Heat a saucepan of various broth and add in a medley of protein, vegetables, and noodles. Voila!”
During my deep dive into postpartum food delivery, I also reached out to Tiana Tenet and Jill Donenfeld of The Culinistas. The Culinistas is a full-service, in-home private chef company that can grocery shop, prepare postpartum recipes, and even clean up. “Our postnatal services are designed to keep everyone in the household well-fed and de-stressed,” Tenet tells me. “Having healthy food that anyone can grab while holding a baby, affixing a breast pump, and kindling speaking to the in-laws is necessary. We send a chef to the home twice a week to prepare dishes that are ready to eat from the fridge. That way mom is nurtured and taken care of as much as the baby.”
So much of postpartum care is overlooked. I hope one day we will all have access to post-birth support services such as a postpartum chef, a pelvic floor specialist, and a night nurse—maybe we should start a new mama registry? Having these tools allows a mother to face the challenges of sleep deprivation and so much more while nurturing the body and baby. When mama is supported, you can do what you need to do while taking care of your newborn baby.
I think our natural inclination is to eat healthy postpartum as we recover but there is actually more to it than just eating healthy. The types of food we choose directly impact our recovery. Tara Sowlaty Lehre, chef, nutritionist, co-founder of How You Glow, and one of my favorite content creators says it best “cold foods are not easy on digestion in general but after birth when your body is trying to heal and produce milk, you want to make digestion as easy as possible with warm foods and allow the body to heal and be nourished.”
So, with that in mind, here are five postpartum recipes I personally lived off during my postpartum period. Consider making them for that new mama to be in your life and I promise you, they will be a hit.
Oat & Chia Congee from Heng Ou
Oats provide a steady stream of energy while also boosting lactation and chia gives a necessary shot of protein. You can even make a big batch in the slow cooker and it freezes well too.
- 2 cups (180 g) rolled oats
- 1 1?2 cup (235 g) steel-cut oats
- 1-inch (2.5-cm) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and halved
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup (40 g) chia seeds
- 1/2 cup (50 g) quinoa flakes (optional; add another 1/2 cup/120 ml water if using)
- For the toppings:
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk (or cream, coconut milk, or nut milk of your choice)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup, or to taste
- Fresh or frozen fruit or berries, for serving (optional)
- Chopped almonds or other nuts, for serving (optional)
In a medium pot, bring 4 1/2 cups (1 L) water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rolled and steel-cut oats, ginger, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium and let cook—three-quarters of the way covered— for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for another 15 minutes; add more water if needed, keeping an eye on the pot so it doesn’t boil over. Add the chia seeds and quinoa flakes, if using, during the last 15 minutes of cooking, stirring occasionally so the seeds and flakes separate and incorporate into the mixture. Once the grains are soft and creamy, and most of the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat.
When you are ready to eat, serve warm with milk, coconut oil or butter, maple syrup to taste, plus fresh fruit and almonds if you like.
Portion-freezing option: After the congee is cooked (and the chia seeds and quinoa have been added), let it cool on the stovetop. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Portion the congee into 1/2 cup (115 g) servings in the cups of the muffin tin. Flash-freeze for 4 to 5 hours, or until firm. Twist or tap out each serving and place them in large zip-tight plastic bags. When you are ready to eat, add one or two to a saucepan with some milk or water and reheat over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, uncovered. Serves 6.
Ginger Fried Rice With Egg and Ginger from Food.com
Ginger has so many benefits in postpartum care. It helps warm the body and soothes indigestion. Plus the carbs from the rice give you a little energy boost as well. I like to call this meal the little piece of comfort food tasty and filling.
Now we all know you need to eat healthily but sometimes you need a sweet treat to get you going and calm a craving. This was a go-to for me when that craving hit. Cacao on its own is known as a powerful heart opener. Combined with rose, which is said to bring love, healing, and compassion, this hot chocolate can also serve as a moment to take some time for yourself and give yourself a beautiful affirmation. If you’re gifting the ingredients for any of these postpartum recipes to a new mama include an encouraging note to lift her up.
Simple Bone Broth
As mentioned above, broth is a staple in postpartum recovery aka a superfood for recovering mamas. Bone broth supports healthy brain function, combats fatigue, and supports skin and joints as hormone levels balance out after childbirth. We published a guide to making your own bone broth at home right here–trust us, it’s easier than you think!
Mama Complete Meatball from Daniela Kende
One of my favorite postpartum recipes was these meatballs; they really tick all the boxes! From digestive support in the flaxseed, oats to support milk production, healing greens, and vitamins that support the immune system. Not to mention they are incredibly easy to make in large batches to freeze and warm up as needed.
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