Whether you delivered vaginally or by caesarian section, your body needs extra support as it heals.
According Rachel High, DO, an obstetrician and gynecologist and urogynecology fellow at Baylor Scott & White Health in Central Texas, specific nutrients like “iron, vitamin B-12, and folate, or folic acid, can promote replacement of blood cells that were inevitably lost during an injury, or an event like childbirth.”
One way to do that? Broths.
In many cultures around the world, they use broths and soups to help with postpartum healing. Lizzy Swick, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian in Montclair, New Jersey also points out that soups and stews are incredible, nutrient-dense foods.
“For recovery, women need nutrients that are easily digested and assimilated to help to balance hormones and build blood,” she says.
Instead of spending extra energy on digesting raw roughage, “eating healing soups and stews allows your body to use its resources for healing and repair,” says Swick.
Here are five soups from around the world known to promote the healing process after welcoming your new baby, plus two more DIY soups for healthy nutrition.
1. Fortified seaweed soup
In Korea, families often give seaweed soup, or “miyeok guk,” during the postpartum resting period known as Saam-chil-il.
This resting period is dedicated to give new moms an opportunity to recover from general stressors without the overwhelming presence of visitors.
Tradition has it that seaweed soup is also known to be hydrating, which is especially important while breastfeeding.
- high in calcium (which helps to prevent bone loss usually associated with pregnancy and childbirth)
- got iodine (which aids in a baby’s brain development)
- full of fiber to help prevent constipation
- packed with iron to prevent anemia and promote overall well-being
“Seaweeds are some of the best foods you can eat to support healthy glands like the thyroid and adrenals — both of which require some extra attention in the postpartum period,” says Swick.
Seaweed is also rich in:
- the essential fatty acids omega-3 and 6
- vitamins A, C, E, and B
For a tasty miyeok guk that’s also packed with protein, try this recipe by Korean Bapsang. Created by a Korean mom, this recipe is sure to make you feel comforted and loved.
Seaweed and iodine levels A serving of miyeok guk may be high in iodine levels, but it all depends on what kind of seaweed you use. One sheet of seaweed can cover anywhere from 11 to 1,989 percent of your daily value. Since high iodine levels can be dangerous for the baby, be sure to check the nutritional label before purchasing.
2. Pork vinegar soup
Many Chinese people swear by eating a pork-vinegar recipe for postnatal healing.
The soup is commonly made to help with mothers’ breast milk supply, but it’s often brought by family members simply to celebrate a new baby’s arrival. Boiled eggs are also commonly included for additional protein.
“Adequate protein intake is essential for tissues to heal after injury, as well as after childbirth,” says High. “Ensuring your foods contain adequate protein (according to daily recommended levels) can help you heal if you have vaginal lacerations or an incision from a C-section.”
Try Mama Tong’s recipe for pork vinegar soup. Made from ginger, pork feet, and sweetened rice vinegar, it’s not light soup. Mama Tong recommends avoiding it during pregnancy and limiting your portions if you’re monitoring your weight.
3. Herb-filled tomato soup
This comforting classic can be more than just an American childhood favorite.
By adding fresh herbs and flavors, you can transform an average tomato soup into a comforting bowl that helps your body handle oxidative stress and inflammation.
“Herbs and spices are truly nature’s medicine and one of the easiest ways we can bump up the nutrient density in our diets,” says Swick.
She recommends trying these with your soup:
- basil, to help boost your mood (which is especially important for the “fourth trimester blues,” or postpartum depression that can affect many new mothers)
- parsley, as it promotes detoxification in the liver (and all new moms need a healthy detox especially as their bodies establish a new hormonal balance)
- turmeric, a potent anti-inflammatory that’s great for healing postpartum
- garlic, for its antibacterial properties
For a simple recipe, try Welcome Baby Care’s tomato basil soup. This postpartum recipe is all about comfort, warmth, and health.
4. Caldo de pollo, or chicken soup
In Mexican culture, the first 40 days after giving birth are referred to as the “cuarentena,” a period in which the mother is simply supposed to rest and feed and enjoy her new baby.
The reasoning behind the length of the 40-day period is that it’s believed to take 40 days for the mother’s reproductive organs to heal and regain their ordinary shape after giving birth.
During the cuarentena, carrots and chicken soup (of any kind) is often the approved foods of choice. Chicken soup is chosen because it’s known to not be too spicy or heavy for someone who’s trying to heal.
There isn’t a specific chicken soup connected with the “cuarentena,” so we recommend trying caldo de pollo, a traditional homemade soup. Food blog Muy Bueno calls it medicine for the soul. It’s got carrots, tomatoes, garlic, lime, and safflower.
5. Green papaya fish soup
One 2001 study concluded that women who ate 650 grams of puréed papaya, or 100 grams of grated carrots had improved vitamin A and iron nutrition.
Since breast milk naturally contains little iron, this boost could be helpful for both baby and breastfeeding parent.
Papaya is also a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals including:
- vitamins A, C, E, and K (to help boost immunity)
Benefits of papaya
- vitamins can help provide an immunity boost
- balances electrolyte levels
- regulates your blood pressure
- boosts energy
- maintains your heart health and muscle function
Try this recipe for green papaya fish soup to reap all the healthy benefits of this superfruit paired with other wholesome and flavorful ingredients including red snapper, scallions, garlic, and ginger.
Papaya and pregnancy caution
While ripe or cooked papaya is mostly safe, both tradition and science have noted that unripe or semi-ripe papaya during pregnancy can be dangerous.
Papaya contains uterine stimulant properties and through animal studies, researchers have determined that large doses could lead to uncontrolled contractions and may be high-risk, depending on one’s estrogen levels. A “large dose” for someone who weighs 150 pounds would be about 27.2 grams of papaya.
Create your own soup tradition
So many of the soup recipes we listed above aim to have the key nutrients for postpartum childbirth.
As Swick says, “During times of illness or stress [some key amino acids] can easily be depleted, so it’s best to get them from food. Consuming bone broth by eating healing soups and stews is an excellent way to build your resiliency against stress-related illness.”
If the recipes above didn’t delight you, you can also make your own collagen-rich bone broths and hearty vegetable soups.
Here are the foundations to simmering up your own hearty, healthy soup.
Collagen-rich bone broths
You can get the same healing benefits from cooking with premade bone broth or making your own.
For a clear, light-tasting broth use chicken, beef, or fish bones as a base. Pork or lamb can be used as well, though they may impart more gamey, rich flavor.
Bone broths can help with:
- keeping your post-pregnancy glow strong, thanks to the collagen intake
- fortifying your body with amino acids, especially if you’re getting little sleep or experiencing chronic stress after childbirth
If making your own soups, Swick suggests “looking for wild or organic, pasture-raised, free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat and bones whenever you can.”
Here’s one nourishing option: Yang’s Nourishing Kitchen’s recipe for healing oxtail soup. Inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, this healthy soup is packed with ginger, mushrooms, goji berries, and root veggies.
Another quick recipe option for busy parents is the chicken and egg “birth broth” by Jessica Austin, a birth doula. Using store-bought chicken broth, this soup packs protein and collagen into a bowl. Drinking this once a day can aid your body in tissue repair and joint support in the postpartum period.
Nutrient-rich vegetable soups
“Similar to meats, with any vegetables you add to soups and stews you’ll be reaping the benefits of the nutritional properties of the vegetables as well as any nutrient loss you’d encounter with steaming or boiling methods,” Swick says.
Vegetable broth is also known to be especially helpful for new mothers recovering from a C-section because it promotes healthy digestion, which in turn allows the body to focus on healing.
To start off, Swick recommends:
- root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, and onions for a healthy source of starchy carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, and minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc
- beta-carotene and antioxidant-rich squashes like butternut and acorn squash
- dark leafy greens like kale, chard, watercress, and cabbage for a healthy dose of folate, vitamins C and K, iron, magnesium, and calcium
“All of these vegetables can help to support healthy vision, fight inflammation, and supply your body with an abundance of mineral cofactors.”
Try this recipe for vegetable broth either as a vegetable soup base, or to sip like tea.
If cooking up batches of soup becomes too time-consuming, High recommends a simpler route. “Discuss with your doctor the option to continue your prenatal vitamin for 1 to 2 months postpartum.”
Emilia Benton is a freelance writer and editor based in Houston, Texas. She’s also a nine-time marathoner, avid baker, and frequent traveler.