This article discusses dietary recommendations to support recovery post-Cesarean deliveries. The goal is to encourage wound healing and breastfeeding through an optimal diet. Please remember that this is for general information only. Always seek postpartum advice tailored for your case through a qualified professional. Find one here.
Childbirth is arguably one of the most heroic and selfless acts a woman can do in her lifetime, and C-section mamas are a whole league ahead. To be sleepless, feel the baby blues, sit up or even turn and nourish a brand-new human being, all while feeling like your bottom half has been sawed off, is no ‘easy way out’. While all mothers need an irreplaceable rest-and-recover postpartum phase, c-section mothers need special care as they simultaneously recover from major abdominal surgery. There are dietary conditions that need to be considered when one has surgery, and there are other nutritional tips to follow when one is postpartum. So, how do we combine the two to ensure optimal healing and nourishment during a CSPP(yes, I will call it that) phase? Read on to know the best foods to include, foods to avoid, and other unique tips to regain your health as a C-section mother.
Why is the right kind of nutrition necessary post-C-section?
Sound nutrition and diet after cesarean delivery are vital for your recovery. As with any major surgery, your body needs time to recuperate. This coupled with the fact that you are also responsible for nurturing a newborn, is why the right kind of nutrition is all the more important.
Diet immediately following your Cesarean
You will most likely not be given any solid foods right after delivery. However, since you would have experienced suboptimal hydration prior to and during your surgery, it is important that for the next 8-10 hours, you increase your intake of clear liquids, preferably water and broth. You may also be given ice chips. Medications can contribute to constipation, a typical complaint post-C-sec, so you want to sip on some hydrating beverages to help replete your hydration and help with nausea if present. Once your doctor confirms your readiness for diet progression, your diet will be advanced as tolerated until you are back to having solids.
Diet for the weeks following your C-section
Protein is going to be your friend for wound healing and regenerating all that blood you have lost during surgery. Protein promotes new tissue growth and repairs muscle post-surgery. Hearty bone broth feeds stimulating collagen to your connective tissue (skin, ligaments, tendons) and essential amino acids for cell building and repair. Plan to make a big batch of bone broth and freeze it ahead of time.
Protein-rich foods like poultry, grass-fed beef, organ meats, eggs, and seafood also give you the much-needed dose of iron for rebuilding those blood supplies. If you’re vegetarian, Greek yogurt, milk, tofu, slow-cooked lentils, and legumes are very nutritious options.
Don’t underestimate the importance of fluids in your recovery. Good fluid intake helps regulate bowel movements and aids in post-surgery recovery. Liquids such as coconut water, milk, non-citrus juices, herbal teas, and buttermilk are great options to amp up your liquid intake.
However, nothing beats a glass of water! If having plain water doesn’t seem appetizing to you, add a splash of citrus, chopped herbs, or a sliced cucumber for that fantastic infused flavor. Aim to have 2.5 liters of water daily, however, our individual fluid requirement varies, so it is important to work with a healthcare provider to understand what is best for you.
On the other hand, reduce your consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks as they work against hydration and affect your sleep patterns.
Fiber and High-Quality Carbs
Constipation is a common postpartum issue that many new c-section moms suffer from. Eating a balanced diet rich in fibrous foods such as green leafy veggies, fruits, oats, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts can help keep you regular. If you are still having a hard time going, consult with your health care provider.
Energy requirements during wound recovery also increase to support the accelerated cell processes that happen in the body when tissues are repairing. Therefore, pay attention to your fat and carb intake. Eat complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oats, and bananas and good fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocados, fatty fish to meet the energy demands for processes such as collagen synthesis.
Getting the complete range of nutrients is necessary when recovering from a C-section. Vitamins and minerals help repair damaged tissues and reduce oxidative stress on your vulnerable body. Make sure you eat at least one from each vitamin and mineral group daily.
Vitamin A-rich foods:
- sweet potato
- red peppers
- grass-fed cow’s milk
Vitamin C-rich foods:
Vitamin C speeds up the wound healing process of the perineum postpartum. It is also an antioxidant, which means it prevents cells from oxidative stress. You should take at least 100mg of vitamin C daily to help postpartum wound healing and in your diet you should include:
- e citruses
- green pepper
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
- green leafy vegetables.
- wheat bran cereals
Zinc is involved in DNA replication, which is important to repair wounded cells.
- Consume good quality red meat,
- grains to enhance zinc levels.
Amino acids like L-Arginine support the postpartum wound healing process by improving your metabolism and aiding in collagen synthesis.
So, include in your diet foods rich in L-arginine, such as:
- white meats
- pumpkin seeds
Additionally, If you are breastfeeding, you need to include galactagogues (foods that aid in milk production) in your daily diet. The following foods are known to help improve or maintain milk supply.
- Whole grains, especially oatmeal
- Dark, leafy greens (alfalfa, kale, spinach, broccoli)
- Fennel, turmeric, anise, Shatavari (asparagus)
Helpful Nutrition Tips for C-section Moms
Eat 6-7 times a day
Medication during recovery and breastfeeding will have you feeling famished! Eat multiple small meals throughout the day to help keep your energy levels up.
Take your time to eat
With a newborn, this is definitely a challenge. But take the time when they nap to eat your meals slowly and mindfully. Eating slowly and chewing your food well helps your digestive system and prevents discomfort.
Limit refined and processed foods
You really want to avoid processed foods, junk foods, and fried foods at this time. This time is all about recovery, healing, and getting your energy back. So, real foods and wholesome meals are the way to go.
Understand what your body is trying to tell you
Follow your own body cues and that of your baby to eliminate any foods from the groups mentioned above. If you feel a particular food is causing discomfort to either of you, stop it for the time being.
How Can Holness Nutrition Help Me?
C-section surgeries are physically, mentally, and emotionally distressing. Therefore, it is advisable to team up with a professional on this journey to recovery. Nicole Holness is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist experienced in helping women with their fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, gut health, and overall wellness. We work with new mothers like yourself and support them with sustainable nutrition, lactation, and wellness plans. Feel free to reach out for a free consult!
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27447105/ Importance of Nutrition in Wound Care Management
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25675797/ Early Versus Delayed Oral Feeding In Cesarean Delivery
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12070399/ The importance of Nutritional Status in Wound Healing
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15866086/ Early Oral Hydration and Its Impact On Bowel Activity Post Cesarean
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492314/ Interventions for Preventing Postpartum Constipation
https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/1/16/htm Importance on Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation
https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/494666 Use of Arginine Nutritional Supplementation to Enhance Wound Healing from a Cesarean