Nourishing the New Mom

Ali Segersten May 21, 2009 36 comments

I have a special place in my heart for this phase of life. This is where it all begins, in utero, and then during those first precious days and weeks spent nursing while gazing into your little miracle. Making milk is truly amazing. I remember the first sensations of my milk coming in with my firstborn, and then the gulping, eyes rolling back..."punch drunk on mommy's milk" Tom would say. I didn't know I had it so easy. Lily latched on immediately without a problem, my milk came in so soon, she never cried (until I ate broccoli soup that is). I was well nourished. My mom was there to care for me and cook for me. My breakfasts arrived on a tray with a flower. Sweet rice cereal, toast with almond butter, sliced fresh fruit in a bowl. Lunches of homemade chicken noodle soup chocked full of kale and dinners of wild salmon, beets, yams, greens, and quinoa were on the menu. These are nourishing, breast milk-promoting foods.

New moms need to be taken care of.

They need to feel safe and secure so they can do the most important thing in the world, care for their new baby.

My mom was there for all of my births and then stayed for weeks after my babies arrived, cooking and cleaning everyday. When our twins were born, she added "playing with the girls" to the list.  Rest, water, and good food are the three most important factors to get that milk flowing. There are certain foods that can help promote the flow of breast milk (though most of the evidence is anecdotal). My knowledge comes from my own experience and from the stories of other moms.

Some foods can cause digestive issues in newborn babies.

There are also foods that can cause problems with the new breastfeeding baby and should be avoided for the first 3 months or so. Below is my list of super breastfeeding foods for the new mom and foods to avoid. Yesterday we got a call from a friend who just gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl. She had an emergency c-section and needed some help getting her breast milk to come in. It was my time to pay it forward. My friends came to my need for the first 4 months after my twins were born and brought meal after meal after meal (even with a number of food restrictions).

So the girls and I cooked up a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup, red lentil soup, brown rice, roasted yams, sesame halibut, a baby green salad with grated raw beets, ginger salad dressing, hummus, and cut raw veggies. Grace and I delivered the food just in time for dinner and were lucky enough to meet the sleepy new baby.

Good Foods to Nourish a Postpartum Mom:

  • Plenty of purified water
  • Wild salmon
  • Sea vegetables
  • Lentils
  • Carminative herbs and spices (cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, ginger, mint, fennel seeds)
  • Raspberry leaf tea (raspberry leaf along with fennel help to contract the uterus)
  • Nettle tea enriches and increases milk production
  • Healthy fats (avocado, extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, fresh flax or fish oil)
  • Organic chicken and vegetable soup with plenty of fresh herbs
  • Greens!! Fresh salad greens, dark leafy greens, and green smoothies
  • Sweet vegetables (yams, squash, carrots, beets)
  • Raw nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
  • Raw almond butter
  • Whole grains (quinoa, amaranth, oats, sweet brown rice, millet, teff)
  • Organic berries

Foods that may need to be avoided during the postpartum period (may cause upset in newborn baby):

  • Dairy products
  • Citrus fruit, especially juices 
  • Wheat / GlutenRefined soy productsCaffeine (coffee, tea, soda)
  • Chocolate
  • Prenatal vitamins (the iron may be irritating to baby)
  • Peanuts
  • Heavily spiced foods
  • Beef
  • Raw garlic and onions
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage)

I have included a recipe here that would also be nourishing for a new mom. It is also a great, simple recipe to make on busy days (and because I bet many of you reading this blog are not new moms!). If you have meals or foods that worked for you during this phase of life, please share!


About the Author

Ali Segersten

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States. She is a Functional Nutritionist, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Alissa is the founder and owner of Nourishing Meals®.

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I love this recipe :). I have a 3 month old baby and have made it twice. It is filling and delicious and easy on the stomach. It makes a big batch that lasts all week. Perfect! I didn't soak the lentils or rice, was I supposed to? I didn't have a big enough casserole dish so I put it in a lasagna pan covered with foil for 2 hours, and it didn't need the extra uncovered cook time. Thanks for a new staple for our family :)


I was wondering if it was possible to just cook this meal on the stove top instead of in the oven?? Like how you cook rice? Just boil it and then turn low til all liquid is absorbed??

The recipe looks delicious. I am a great fan of your cooking and recipes. However, where is your source for foods to avoid?? The idea that certain foods in any mom’s diet will cause gas in her baby is incredibly persistent but is not founded in research. Of course there are foods that DO cause gas in certain babies, but it will vary from baby to baby and there is NO LIST OF FOODS TO AVOID.
If a mother assumes that her baby reacts to something in particular in her diet, she should start a food journal and write down when she ate, what she ate, and her baby's reactions within 72 hours. True IgE allergic responses usually happen within a couple of hours, while food intolerances may show up up to 3 days after the food was consumed. If this is the reason, you will most likely notice other symptoms, such as excessive spitting up or vomiting, colic, diarrhea, rash, persistent congestion or runny nose.
About 5% of babies experience Cow's Milk Protein Intolerance which can be helped by the breastfeeding mother if she avoids anything with bovine protein in it for a couple of weeks to even a couple of months.
Gas and colic can also be caused by many other non-food factors such as mom having a strong milk ejection reflex, baby swallowing too much air, baby is overtired (usually happens at night) and has a hard time to settle, or many other reasons.

The coconut milk in a can is far different than the carton ones. The cartons are not really coconut milk, but an inferior flavored beverage with very little beneficial fat. If the canned isn't available near you, Azure Standard sells it as does Amazon, for great prices. Natural Value is what I use. No thickers or additives.

Can't wait to try this recipe... I am also wondering about how much coconut milk to use, if it's not sold in a can? Thanks!

What size of can of the coconut milk do you use?

I am a Lactation Consultant and I would really like to say that the list of foods to avoid is really not at all necessary and just makes a new breastfeeding mom's life seem even more difficult! There are no rules on breastfeeding, no rules about foods. If you ever time you eat broccoli or drink coffee for example, you notice your baby is gassy etc then dont eat it but otherwise please enjoy ALL foods!!

Barley is also a fantastic food for increasing milk supply :-)

Cocnut milk only comes in a carton where I live. How many ounces did you use in your recipe?

For some reason my mom had the attitude of, "No one helped me, so you need to do this all on your own", even though she lived right next door!
I love hearing about how other peoples' mothers helped them out. It lets me know that one day it will be okay for me to help my daughter when she has a baby.
This is a great list, thank you

I wish I had seen this post around the time of my babies birth. It was such a struggle for me to find food! My in-laws were here with us for two weeks but kept cooking for my husband! Very spicy hot dishes that I could not eat at that time. It made things difficult. I remember eating subway sandwiches and power bars and not feeling satisfied. It's so important in those early weeks to eat healthy, milk promoting foods and to also feel nourished and cared for. If I'm lucky enough to have another baby I will definitely make some things ahead of time and also have someone there who recognizes how important this time is for mother and baby. Thanks so much for this post! And your description of your experience with your first baby and the meals you ate is just beautiful. That's what I had been hoping for.

Just made this tonight. I have also made the one in your cookbook. I really enjoyed both but this was by far the bigger hit in the delicious! It was easy to make and I was able to have the kids help out. This will definite be a repeat meal for us. The only change I made was the addition of 1-2 Tbsp of honey since I like curry slightly sweet. But I think it would have tasted just as good without it. Thanks!

Yummy! Yummy! Recipe!! I soaked the lentils before hand and had some soaked and ready. I also already had some soaked and cooked rice leftover, so I sauted the onions and spices as directed and then put the mixture in the crockpot with the lentils, coconut milk, carrots and 2 cups of water since I was going to mix in the already cooked rice later. I cooked it all day on low. When I got home it was a bit runny, but I added in the cooked rice and let it sit to absorb the liquid and it was ready and so yummy and easy.

This is definitely a keeper and one I may make again soon for a new mommy I know! My baby is 7mnth and still nursing so it is nice to know this is a nice nourishing meal for us too!

This casserole is in my oven as I type :) My sis just had her 3rd boy yesterday, a good friend had her 2nd boy last week, and I'm having my 1st boy (after 4 girls!) in 5 weeks. I am keeping and freezing some for myself, and delivering the rest to my sis and my friend! I am also a vegetarian, so I was excited to find this great "post partum" recipe. Thanks!!

I'm going to have my first baby in March, so this is exactly what I need to know! Thanks

I am preparing to make this for our friend/pastor's wife who I believe is possibly having her fourth babe today. I soak my rice and lentils following NT protocols, and will figure out how to do this here as well. Any word on if this can be made ahead and kept chilled? I was thinking of not taking the lid off to let moisture evaporate so when she warmed it up it would stay moist... any thoughts on that? Thanks so much! What a great website!

Thank you so much for posting this! I have a friend who is a vegetarian, and I really wanted to bring her a nourishing casserole. I am so glad to have found this recipe. Making a BIG double batch so I will have some, too! Thanks again for posting! I am going to print this out for her, too.

So tasty! Flavorful and surprisingly light.

I made this last night in a clay roasting dish my husband and I brought back from Romania a couple of years ago. I may cook it for less time the next time I make it, it wasn't as moist as I think it's suppose to be.

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

Thanks for this post. Shirley from GFE sent it to me after reading that I am having trouble with my milk supply. My daughter is a little over 2 weeks old, and I'm still not making enough milk to satiate her. However, I'm doing my best to up my supply. I read/hear so many conflicting pieces of advice - and this post was so helpful. That's awesome that your mom came and took such good care of you. Moms are the best. :)

I was looking for something wonderful to share with my patients here in Sitka for the holidays and saw this posting for the first time! I could hardly read it through tears of remembered grief and deep, deep gratitude. I can never truly express how grateful we were that you, Tom, and your family cared for us when we needed not just nourishment for our bodies, but our souls too... knowing I wasn't alone or insane in my mixture of sadness, anger, fear, overwhelming joy, and a love bigger than you ever think possible all jumbled together meant everything -and Tom holding Jaya and whispering something about how the eyes of a new born baby are like the very eyes of God looking right at you - I wish I could remember exactly what he said - it was so beautiful. He also said he couldn't believe I'd let him hold her,she was so tiny! If any Dad was well experienced at baby holding and tiny babies, it would be Tom! I'll also never forget Gracie making me laugh when she was so delighted at tricking me about her age. We were completely overwhelmed and with not just the difficult birth and trouble breastfeeding, but Matt's recent injury and inability to walk. You were an answer to the prayer my heart cried out but I could not even form into words and a blessing we would never have expected. I hope to get to pay it forward over and over again; and how much easier with your fabulous guide shared here!... thankyou Ali and family! ~ Summer

Hi Ali, this is such a lovely post to read-and this recipe sounds so warming :)

Having just had my second baby I found this post really useful, thank you. I made the casserole this morning and it tastes really yummy. It was however definitely cooked and dry at 2 hours. Not quite sure what I did wrong. Next time I'll check it whilst it is cooking, make sure the le creuset lid is on fully (just in case that was the problem) and maybe reduce the temperature.

Thanks ~M, I think the recipe round-up idea is a great one. I usually forget to add that piece of info because I never get a chance to freeze much of anything. With four kids we are lucky enough to even have any leftovers after most meals.

I bet this recipe would work great with soaked rice. I'll give that a try next time, thanks. :)

This is such a great post, Ali! It would be great to see a roundup of your nourishing recipes that freeze well, like this lentil and rice mixture! It's also always helpful to know if a specific muffin or baked good freezes well.

My husband adores lentils, so I'm going to try this, with soaking the brown rice (I have brown basmati but I think that's long grain so it should be OK, right?) and maybe the lentils too.

I just forwarded this to my sister... she had her second child on October 9th. And wow, what a blessing that your mom helped you out so much!! It sure is a tough time as a mom, and any help you can get is sure welcome (I have 3 kids myself).
LOVE your blog! And will probably ask for your cookbook for Christmas (since I didn't win Shirley's giveaway -- ha ha).

I remember when we were new moms Ali. I can't wait to try this casserole receipe. I love any way to get coconut milk into my life!
I recommended your cookbook to my friend Napua who found out she has a gluten alergy and she LOVES the receipes. I can't wait to see the new cookbook. I am so proud of you Ali!

Jennifer L. - I bet your friend really enjoys your cooking! Food that you can eat with one hand is super helpful when you have a newborn breastfeeding babe in one arm. Nori rolls are great for that! Thanks for your sweet comment.

Kristen - Thanks!

Shirley - I remember feeling that same thing with all 4 kids - it is truly amazing! I bet your new mama friends appreciate your help. Thanks!

Alison - So glad you stuck with it even though it was tough. That's great. It is such a wonderful gift that we can give to our children :)

Alisa - Thanks, the recipe is yummy! We have made it 4 times since I created it!

Diane - It couldn't have been too long ago that you had kids - you look so young! :)

Thanks for your comments, Ali :)

You are a wealth of information that we all need to hear. I wish I would have had this info when my kids were born. That was so long ago I don't think blogs were even born yet. I'm sharing this with my niece who has one baby and I'm sure more to come. Thank you.

Great advice, and that recipe sounds wonderful!

I wish I had this post when I was a new mom! Making milk wasn't so easy for me, but I stuck with it through the tough times and my body adjusted. Maybe diet would have helped.

I will definitely send this post so any new moms I know.

What a lovely and informative post, Ali! I have to say that I've always felt the same about paying it forward for moms with new babies. I was overwhelmed when I had my son with everything, but the part of being overwhelmed that I was in awe of the most (other than our son--I kept thinking, so you are the little guy that was inside me all that time LOL) was the generosity that family and friends displayed. So, like you, I try to help out new mothers as much as possible. I'm sure you appeared like an angel to your friend when you arrived with your fabulous meal and your presence.

Thanks for sharing this info. I'll definitely share this post with new moms in the future.


Great post! Thanks!!!


I have been cooking yummy things to feed a second time mama these past few weeks, so this topic has been on my mind quite often as I tinker around in the kitchen. In addition to yummy and wholesome, I've been trying to come up with foods that can be eaten on the fly and often, only with one hand :-). Nori rolls have been good for this (with avocado, carrot and nuts or seeds). Roasted root vegetables with herbs have been good because they taste good warm or room temp.

I definitely agree that new moms need to be taken care of in order to do the essential job of taking care of their new baby. Sometimes the first weeks can be so engulfing and overwhelming that moms will give all of themselves without remembering that they too need nourishment. Hooray for feeding new mamas! It's a very sweet and simple (though slightly indirect!) way for us to participate in feeding the new baby our love and good wishes.

I am endlessly amazed at how small new babies are. Was mine really that small once? Mommy milk is truly impressive!

talkinglikerain - Thanks for the feedback on my other rice and lentil casserole recipe! I actually modified that one to create this curried version. :)

Deb - Thanks for your sweet comment. I think she did enjoy the food, it was fun to share! :)

-Ali :)

Dear Ali,
You are so right about new mom's needing to be nourished in so many ways. I am glad you included your list of foods to eat for breastfeeding and postpartum healing. I am sure your friend with the new baby greatly appreciated your fabulous nourishing meals made with loving care!

Ali - this looks so yummy! I can't wait to try it out. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

On another lentil note: I have to say that I tried one of the lentil and rice casserole dishes from your cookbook this weekend and was amazed at the flavor combination. I would have never thought to put thyme and garam masala together in a dish with spinach and lentils - it was amazing! I ended up spooning a bit of coconut milk over it just before eating it - YUM!

Thanks again!

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