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You’ve spent hours practicing your breathing in Lamaze class, have weighed the pros and cons of delayed cord clamping, and have a three-page birth plan detailing your intent on skin to skin, forceps, and drugs.

But hello, have you thought about your first meal as a mom? Sure, motherhood demands that we often put our needs last, but hey, a girl’s gotta eat. And when that girl just powered through the marathon of her life, she should be eating like a damn queen.

As a dietitian who loves food, it’s no surprise that I spent my entire pregnancy thinking about what I wanted to eat as my first postpartum meal. I imagined myself sitting in bed, babe on the breast (makeup on fleek, of course), scarfing down beef tartar, runny egg yolks, sushi, and a glass of Dom.

Well, it didn’t quite go down like that. While I was starving from not eating solids for 20 hours, throwing up for two of them, and hemorrhaging post-birth, the thought of eating much of anything gave me the heaves.

But eventually, you have to eat because labor is exactly that — really hard labor. For some women, it’s a sprint (lucky mothers), and for others, it’s a multi-day marathon.

Either way, it’s brutally demanding and exhausting. It’s estimated to burn up to 100 calories an hour! What we eat after delivery can help us muster up the energy for weeks (okay, months) of sleepless nights ahead, caring for a newborn, physical recovery, and breastfeeding.

So, from one hungry mom to another, here are my dietitian-approved suggestions on what to eat right after you give birth, and before you can squeeze in a hearty, balanced meal.

There’s a reason why women in the movies look like drowned rats by the time their baby is crowning. You’re going to sweat — a lot. It’s also common for women to sweat profusely in the weeks after delivery as the body is adjusting to dramatic hormone fluctuations.

While you may be given IV fluids during delivery, you’ll want to make sure you’re upping the fluid game when the little one is here. Especially if you’re planning to breastfeed: It’s estimated that lactating women need an additional liter per day of fluid compared to non-lactating women.

If water isn’t cutting it, I think chicken soup is the perfect post-delivery food. The broth is hydrating and salty to replenish electrolytes naturally, and the bland carb-laden noodles help ease you into eating.

Can’t find a good deli close to the hospital? Pack some of those instant noodle cups in your delivery bag and just add hot water in the ward. And it goes without saying that once you’re back home, it’s best to go back to homemade food, not the instant stuff.

If the mere thought of sipping something warm is making you sweat, eating salted crackers may deliver the same carb and electrolyte benefits to help you slowly build back energy.

Crackers are also a commonly recommended remedy for nausea during pregnancy. If you’re feeling a little woozy about the whirlwind that just went down, they might be an ideal choice. A sleeve of salted crackers would be a welcome addition to your hospital delivery bag snack haul.

There’s a lot to love about nature’s original sweet candy that can easily be packed into your hospital bag or purse. One small study found that consuming dates immediately after delivery resulted in significantly less blood loss and hemorrhaging than when given oxytocin. (I’ll add this to the list of “things I wish I had known pre-labor.”)

They’re also an amazing source of simple sugars to help give you a quick energy boost post-birth with a single date packing an impressive 16 grams. Calorie and carbohydrate needs also hit a high note while breastfeeding, and if your hungry hippo comes out anything like mine, you’re going to want to do anything to get that milk in as soon as possible.

If you think giving birth is scary, just wait for that first postpartum poo. No, but seriously, with the wear and tear of pushing a watermelon out of your lady flower, hemorrhoids are very common.

Constipation is also a common side effect post-delivery thanks to pregnancy hormones. You can also thank the slew of postpartum meds you’re often instructed to take, like iron supplements and pain relievers. If you have a C-section, it might be a week before you get relief as the bowels tend to slow their activity for several hours after surgery.

To help move things along down there, make sure you’re choosing foods rich in fiber. Oatmeal is another relatively bland, gentle carb for replenishing those worn-down glycogen stores with 4 to 6 grams of poop-promoting fiber. Top it with fresh or dried fruit for some extra healthy goodness.

Another plus to oatmeal is that it’s known as a galactagogue, a food that allegedly boosts breast milk supply. While these claims have not been substantiated in research, the combination of carbs, iron, and calories make them a respectably milk-promoting choice.

Most hospital cafeterias will have oatmeal at breakfast but bring a few packs of the instant stuff just in case.

Even if you don’t hemorrhage, blood loss is normal. Most women bleed for days, sometimes weeks after delivery. For that reason, iron deficiency and anemia are not uncommon and can interfere with recovery and breast milk supply.

If you’re not feeling up for a massive porterhouse steak immediately after birth, some shelf-stable homemade jerky would be a great choice. With 2.2 milligrams of iron per 2-ounce serving, plus sodium to help restore electrolyte balance, it’s a convenient way to get your protein fix.

If you think leg day warrants an extra-large post-workout protein snack, just wait until you’re forced to push hard for an hour or more without adequate rest.

Eggs are an essential source of protein to help soothe sore muscles that have literally been contracting nonstop throughout the whole birthing ordeal.

If you’re able to find a fortified egg, even better because you’ll be getting the added benefit of brain-boosting omega-3 fats. Research has found an association between low omega-3 levels and postpartum depression and that supplementation may help reduce your risk.

See if your hospital cafeteria offers any whole egg dishes or bring a few hardboiled eggs in a cooler for a postpartum nosh.

Oh man, what I would have done for a juicy sweet apple to clean the nasty film off my teeth from my 12-hour hard-candy and popsicle binge (and an inability to walk to the sink to brush my teeth).

While eating an apple is not a replacement for regular brushing and flossing, it has been shown to reduce salivary bacterial viability in a way similar to brushing our teeth. An apple also packs 4.4 grams of fiber for regularity, and they are super easy to pack away in your hospital bag.

Okay, so these don’t seem like the glamorous foods you’re likely dreaming about eating all pregnancy long, and no they don’t involve alcohol in every course, but based on experience, and a little science, these are the top picks to help ease you into eating (and drinking) like the super woman you are.


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Abbey Sharp is a registered dietitian, TV and radio personality, food blogger, and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc. She is the author of the Mindful Glow Cookbook, a non-diet cookbook designed to help inspire women to rekindle their relationship with food. She recently launched a parenting Facebook group called the Millennial Mom’s Guide to Mindful Meal Planning.