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Best Foods For Postpartum: The Top 8 Nutrient-Rich Options for New Moms

The next step after pregnancy and giving birth is taking care of your new baby and yourself. If you choose to breastfeed, finding a postpartum diet that works for you can be challenging.

Picking the ideal postnatal diet can take time and effort. Even if this isn't your first child, being a mom is hard work, and it's easy to be focused on your baby to the point you forget about taking care of yourself and your body.

Your road to recovery and motherhood will go more smoothly if you take care of your nutritional needs. Making a well-thought-out plan is a big first step in this direction.

Why Should Moms Care About Their Postpartum Eating Habits?

There are many things to think about when you become a new parent. What will you name your baby? How will you decorate the nursery? But one of the most important—and easily overlooked—things to consider is what you'll eat.

The first few months after childbirth are called the postpartum period. During this time, your body is healing and recovering from the pregnancy and delivery. You may be feeling tired, emotional, or out of sorts.

These effects can be partially explained by the fact that during postpartum, a mother's body is still undergoing many changes. Hormones are fluctuating, breast milk production is starting, and the body is healing from the delivery. All these changes require extra energy and nutrients, so mothers need to eat healthily.

Some pregnancies may increase the risk of certain health problems, such as infections, depression, bleeding, changes in the body, or hair loss. Although your eating habits won't necessarily cure such problems—and you should always talk to your doctor if you experience them—taking charge of your postpartum nutrition may make it easier to confront your challenges confidently.

8 Best Foods for Postpartum - Our Top Picks

Every mom – and each pregnancy – is unique. The following food choices can help most mothers get on the right track for a healthy recovery from childbirth, but remember: Talking to a registered dietitian or certified nutrition specialist who knows your case history is a must before making any eating changes.

1. Water

Water is essential for all bodily functions, including healing after childbirth. It can help you reduce swelling, speed up recovery time, and prevent constipation. Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water daily, aiming for more if breastfeeding.

Water helps replace what you lose during milk production and it can help prevent bladder infections, provided that you go to the bathroom regularly. However, drinking more water than usual can reduce your blood sodium concentration, so talk to a dietitian or doctor if you're unsure how much is appropriate.

Bottom Line: You need water to thrive, and it's an essential part of postpartum recovery, especially if you're trying to maintain an adequate breast milk supply.

2. Protein-Rich Foods

Protein is essential for the healing and repair of tissues. It can be found in things like beans, tofu, nuts, and a range of other common foods.

Protein-rich foods help keep your energy up. Even though eating more protein might not impact the amount of protein in your breast milk, you still need it to conserve muscle tissue. However, not all protein sources are of the same quality, so ask a dietitian about achieving a good amino acid balance.

Bottom Line: Protein is essential to a healthy postpartum diet, and your nutritionist will likely advise increasing your intake.

3. Iron-Rich Foods

Iron helps transport oxygen in the blood and is essential for energy production. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, iron needs increase. Good sources of iron include dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Iron-rich foods power healthy energy production and offset iron reduction due to blood loss. Iron can help lower your odds of suffering cognitive issues like postpartum depression and is essential to combating anemia. But breast milk has very little iron, so even if you take more iron, your baby may still need a supplement. If you're taking iron in supplement form, you may also benefit from taking stool softeners.

Bottom Line: Planning your nutrition after giving birth is important, especially since you are more likely to be iron-deficient during this time.

4. Vegetables

Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber – all postpartum moms need. They can be enjoyed cooked or raw, making them one of the most versatile foods.

Vegetables are packed with nutrients, they include lots of fiber to help you avoid constipation, are suitable for snacks and full meals, and are generally inexpensive. However, some people don't like the taste or texture of some vegetables, and cooking them may take longer to prepare than other options on this list.

Bottom Line: Eat your veggies! They're packed with the nutrients you need as a postpartum mom (and they're good for you too). Add them to soups, salads, snack platters, or side dishes.

5. Soup

Soup is another easy-to-digest food that's perfect for postpartum moms. It's packed with nutrients and can be easily made in advance. Just heat and eat when you're ready!

Soup can be made to accommodate your unique nutritional needs, it helps replenish the water you've lost, and it’s easy to prep in advance and have ready on the go. But it may not be filling enough for some people.

Bottom Line: Soup is a warm and comforting option that's easy on your stomach. Make a big batch to have leftovers for later in the week.

6. Peanut Butter Toast

Toast is simple but satisfying—especially when topped with peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter). It makes for a minimally fussy breakfast or snack that will give you sustained energy throughout the day.

This food is quick and simple to make, it’s satisfying and easy to customize to keep it from getting boring – add fruit, agave nectar, or even maple syrup if you're feeling wild.

But it may not be enough protein for some people, and not all bread is equally nutritious, so stick to whole wheat bread with low added sugar content.

Bottom Line: Toast with peanut butter is easy to get some complex carbs and protein in your diet. Enjoy it as a balanced breakfast or a snack later in the day.

7. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. They make a great snack or addition to any meal – watch your portion size! A little goes a long way when it comes to nuts and seeds.

This option is a good source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber, and can be added to any meal. However, nuts are often high in calories and easy to overeat because they aren’t immediately filling because of how small they are. 

Bottom Line: Nuts and seeds are nutritious but calorie-dense foods that should be eaten in moderation. Enjoy them as part of a balanced diet or as an occasional snack.

8. Fruit

Fruit is another quick and easy snack packed with vitamins and minerals. It's also high in natural sugars, giving you a much-needed energy boost when you're tired.

Fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals, natural sugars can give you an energy boost, and it’s generally inexpensive.

But beware, some fruits are high in sugar (grapes) and may not be enough protein/fat for some people

Bottom Line: Choose fruits that are lower in sugar (like berries) or pair them with nuts or yogurt for a balanced snack or breakfast.

How Top Nutrition Coaching Can Help

Your postpartum nutritional habits set the tone for your experience as a new parent but there are benefits to working with a pregnancy nutritionist early on too. While most moms know they should skip soft drinks and fattier dairy products, it's not always easy to choose postpartum foods you can adjust to—or stick to.

Having a solid ally in your corner helps, but your friends and relatives shouldn't be your only sources of postpartum nutrition knowledge. Talking to a Registered Dietitian or Certified Clinical Nutritionist is the smart way to get better informed.

Final Thoughts

Eating a healthy variety of food during the postpartum period is essential for your recovery and your baby's health. Include some of these nutrient-dense foods in your meal plan to help your body get through this time.

Also, remember that you might need to increase your caloric intake: For example, if you're breastfeeding, some clinicians advise that you should eat as many as 500 extra calories per day, while others recommend adding at least 300-400 calories.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which food is best for after delivery?

High protein foods are a must for a healthy postpartum recovery, and you should increase your intake even more if you're under 18, were previously underweight, or have been advised to do so by a clinician.

What foods should I avoid postpartum?

Avoid processed or packaged foods (and beverages) high in ingredients like saturated fats, extra sugars, or salt. While caffeine is safe while breastfeeding – and who are we kidding, if anyone needs it, it's a new mom – some babies may be sensitive to it, so limit your intake to 300 milligrams or less.

What foods increase breast milk?

You may be able to increase your breast milk production capacity by consuming more postpartum foods like dark leafy green vegetables, fennel, chickpeas, almonds, flaxseed, and brewer's yeast – along with making sure your eating habits are well-balanced overall.

Find your personal nutrition coach today.

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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