Updated: Apr 16, 2019
I began running in my 30's and I quickly found myself a part of the 5K racing world. Every time I crossed the finish line I found myself exhilarated and exhausted. Every time I was amazed at the physical limits I pushed my body past. My lungs were burning and my legs were on fire. After one race, I was so spent that I dropped to the grass, a hot, gross mess, just passed the finish line. The organizers of the races know how much physical effort is involved in traveling 3.1 miles on foot. They know that our bodies are depleted. After so much physical effort, the runners need to replenish their electrolytes, their water, and their energy. So at every single race that I have ever been involved in, there is food on the other side of that finish line. Bananas, oranges, cookies, bagels, water, and Gatorade cover the tables as a very welcome reward to all who have pushed their bodies to their limits.
Now, if running a 5K is physically demanding, how much more physically demanding is childbirth? After you have crossed the finish line of childbirth, which is probably the biggest physical challenge of your life, you need to restore and replenish your body. But I have yet to see a goodies table stocked and waiting for all those brand new momma's in the delivery room.
If you deliver in a hospital, they have this rule that says you can't eat anything until your baby is delivered. They are worried that there might be complications and you might need a C-section. This is surgery and the medications involved in surgery can cause the patient to vomit if there is food in the stomach. But here is the problem...no food means no energy. No fuel. No energy and no fuel while you physically labor for hours (sometimes into the next day) isn't exactly the benchmark for the "Mommy Olympics". When you finally cross that finish line, exhausted and completely drained, you must refuel and restore.
Here's the next problem...Food isn't a high priority in a hospital. And if we do get hospital food, it's typically not that appealing. Hospital cafeterias run on a schedule and if you deliver after dinner has been served, you are out of luck until morning. OB departments can usually offer you red Jello or popsicles but that just isn't going to cut it after a day of physical exhaustion and pain. So you are stuck trying to send your husband out to find the only restaurant open at 3:00 A.M. Waffle House isn't exactly restoration type of food.
Food and water is our only way we can refuel and replenish our bodies. The right foods are healing. But once again, there is no plan in place for women to start replenishing their worn out and exhausted bodies until the kitchen opens again.
As we try to shine a new light on the realities and needs of postpartum health, we have begun to realize that as well as making sure we have our p.j.'s, makeup bags, and boppy pillows packed for the hospital, we also have to have a plan for our restorative nutrition immediately following our deliveries.
The types of food that promote healing are natural foods full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Hot foods are actually essential in healing your body so focus on hot soups and stews and herbal teas. Blueberries and oatmeal are great for giving you back some energy and revitalizing your body. Nuts and dried fruit are easy to snack on and full of nutrients that will help restore your worn out muscles.
Let's take back our health and healing - helping ourselves and our sisters in motherhood have the best postpartum ever!
Plan ahead. A couple of weeks before your due date, pack up foods that will stay fresh until your big day. Make small baggies of mixed nuts or dried fruit, such as craisins or raisins. You can bag up small portions of cheese and leave them in the fridge until go-time. Remember to add your favorite herbal tea bags to your stash. You can get hot water from the hospital. (Don't forget to pack your pretty mug from home if you don't want to use hospital Styrofoam!) Make hot soups or stews that you can freeze. Store them in individual sized portions and throw them in the cooler bag on your way out the door to the hospital. You can warm them in the many microwaves they will have there.
Have a friend ready to pack up your last minute foods that can't be packed early. When you make the "IT'S TIME!" phone calls, don't forget the call to your designated "food friend" to pack up some of the restorative foods that couldn't be packed ahead of time. She can make you a fresh salad and add some rotisserie chicken for that much needed protein. Packing up wholegrain breads and fresh fruit for the new mom are great for some of the first meals after delivery. If you didn't make any of those soups and stews in advance, maybe your "food friend" can whip up some chicken noodle soup or beef stew as a wonderful restoring meal.
Friends sometimes bring us gifts in the hospital. But most of the time, friends are not thinking in the frame of mind that we have to heal and replenish our bodies. While a basket of Skittles and Starbursts are fun, they do nothing to help us regain our strength. We can better take care of our new momma's in the hospital by making her a beautiful basket of blueberry muffins, or arranging cut fruit on a platter. Oatmeal cookies and hot tea are the perfect new momma gift! For millennium, food has been the center of celebrations. So go ahead and celebrate with your sisters in motherhood and bring her food and drink that will help heal and restore her to all her gloriousness!
All new momma's need to revive their bodies, but if she is a nursing mom, she is also needing nutrients to create and build up her milk. Remember that a nursing mom needs an extra 500 calories and LOTS of water to produce plentiful milk. Make sure you are feeding your body so you can feed your baby.
I know that most women are so excited to get their figures back after such a long journey and they are determined to start loosing baby weight as soon as the baby is born. But this just isn't the time to skimp yet. You have to regain your energy and strength before you can tackle the next step. Weight loss is a part of postpartum, just not the immediate postpartum. You have a lot of work ahead of you. Motherhood is busy and consuming. Feed your body. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break and eat a cookie (oatmeal raisin, not Oreo!). You finished the race! You've earned It!
Be kind. Be helpful. Be a sister.
That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil - this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:13