Caring and cooking for new mothers and parents is such a rewarding job! I always say that there is no more grateful customer than a tired mama who has been up all night breastfeeding her newborn. When I arrive in the morning and bring her a bowl of delicious creamy scrambled eggs, toast and a cup of tea in bed it can often bring tears to her eyes.
When I first start working with my clients during their pregnancies we always sit down and create a 'Slow Postpartum Plan' together. This is essential because I need to know what is important to them, what their family values are, what challenges they might be facing and who their 'village' of support is. Part of this conversation also covers the importance of postpartum nutrition. I explain to them that the foods that they eat in the weeks following birth can make a significant difference in their healing journey. I also give them shopping lists and meal ideas so that I know that the pantry and freezer will be stocked with the ingredients that I need to cook these meals.
I outline the slow postpartum food guidelines and some of my recipes in my new e-book 'The Slow Postpartum Kitchen'. I'd also like to share with you my top five ingredients that I ask all families to have on hand as they are so beneficial for postpartum recovery.
Ghee or clarified butter is a staple of postpartum care in the Indian tradition. It is said to be energetically sweet, balancing all of the five elements as well as being grounding and nourishing. Because ghee is oily it helps to aid the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals and facilitates the balance of hormones such as oxytocin. A spoonful of ghee stirred into soups, stews, dhals and puddings gives a rich delicious depth to meals. I always arrive with a jar of hand made organic ghee as a gift for the new mama that I'm working with on our first visit.
Often when I arrive for a postpartum visit it's not unusual for the new mama to not have eaten, having had her arms full of baby. In that case I need to get something prepared, cooked and ready within minutes! Eggs are often the perfect answer. Not only are they classified as a 'superfood' containing a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and good fats, but I can also whip up an omelette in three minutes flat! Use whatever else you can find in the fridge to fill it with or maybe create a frittata or some scrambled eggs with spinach or mushrooms and cheese. Eggs can also be used in baking and included in cakes and muffins.
Ok so not officially one ingredient as there are a range to choose from. However, having a well-stocked spice cupboard is essential for me to prepare the healing and nutritious meals that I like to cook for new families. Each individual spice will have it's own healing and therapeutic effects but I tend to use those that have warming properties such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper although I avoid chilli as this is too 'fiery' for the depleted postpartum digestive system. Always make sure that the spices you use are as fresh as possible.
4. Bone Broth
I always ask the families that I work with to have a stash of bone broth in the freezer. Not only is it densely nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals but the rich gelatinous qualities are so beneficial for tissue healing. I use the bone broth as a stock in soups and stews but you can also drink a cup full along with a snack to ensure that you are receiving all of it's many benefits throughout the day.
Rich, oily dhal, flavoured with warming spices and combined with vegetables is a postpartum staple for Indian mothers. There are various different kinds of lentils that you can use but I tend to stick to mung dhal or masoor dhal made from red lentils. Add in lots of ghee and flavour with ginger, slow cooked garlic and some garam masala then add grated sweet potato, carrot or courgette. All lentils should be soaked overnight along with rice if using to ensure that they are more easily digested.
** A note on plant based diets. You'll notice that four of the five ingredients I have listed are animal based. That's because, in the weeks following birth, a new mother or parent's digestive system is depleted of digestive enzymes which makes it harder to absorb protein and nutrients. Animal-based proteins are more bio-available over this time but if you are vegetarian or vegan you can focus on sources of protein and fats such as beans, lentils, tofu, coconut cream and olive oil. You may also need to take a supplement to ensure you have adequate levels of Vit B12 and Choline.
If you'd love some more inspiration on cooking for postpartum families including recipes and meal plans, check out my ebook 'The Slow Postpartum Kitchen' here.