Nutrition in Pregnancy + Beyond: The Hospital Stay

In the days leading up to my due date (and then leading up to the actual delivery 10 days later), I dreamed about all the delicious, not-safe-for-pregnancy foods that I would eat.  Think raw sushi, potentially unpasteurized soft cheeses, and drippy eggs.  Fast forward to day 1 postpartum - I can't remember if I ate (surely I must have), what I ate (breakfast, maybe?), or if I enjoyed it (doubtful, as it was most likely hospital food).  While eating was at the forefront of my mind, it wasn't my eating with which I was concerned.  I imagine that's usually the case, especially with baby #1 when you're faced with a steep learning curve (or maybe that was just me?) and extreme sleep deprivation.  While I'm expecting sleep deprivation again, I'm hoping the learning curve with #2 isn't quite as steep (wishful thinking?).  Here's my plan for thriving (ok, surviving) during the whirlwind that is the first couple days postpartum.  

The choices:  The quality of hospital food varies, but it rarely competes with a gourmet meal or even a decent home-cooked meal.  The advantage of hospital food is that it requires minimal effort on your part.  Step 1: read the menu. Step 2: choose an item (or four) from said menu, usually while laying in bed.  That's it.  No planning, prep, or cleanup.  So, what should you choose?  While the chicken fingers and french fries may sound tempting, try to pick foods that will help boost your energy rather than slow you down.  You'll likely feel very hungry and very tired, which can lead to craving all the simple carbs.  Definitely include carbohydrates, but do so through whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and yogurt rather than donut holes, potato chips, fruit snacks, and ice cream.  

If you're wary about hospital food, particular about what you eat, or simply want to be extra prepared, add a few snacks to your hospital bag to supplement the hospital meals.  To guide your selections, check with your hospital to see if they provide a refrigerator for patients.  If available, refrigerator space is often limited or shared, so be mindful about packing complete meals.  Sticking to minimal-prep options like yogurt, string cheese, fresh + dried fruit, protein bars, nuts, and oatmeal should provide you with fast + reliable fuel at a moment's notice.  Remember to pack extra if you're sharing with your partner (+ no judgment if you choose to keep your stash to yourself!).

The strategy:  To combat constipation (which, trust me, will be a priority for your postpartum comfort), focus on high fiber foods and adequate hydration.  Quality fiber sources include oatmeal, berries, apples, pears, prunes, avocados, beans, lentils, ground flaxseed, bran cereal or crackers, chia seeds, and, of course, vegetables.  Many of these foods also help promote lactation (especially oats + ground flaxseed), so there are additional benefits to consuming them.  For hydration, take advantage of the hospital-provided large plastic cup, complete with lid and straw.  Keep it nearby to maximize water intake during your stay, and then take that cup home for simple, single-handed hydration on the go (the straw makes all the difference!).  If you're looking for liquid calories that promote both hydration and digestion, choose a fiber-filled smoothie over juice to help maintain stable blood sugar levels (read: to avoid a spike in energy followed by an energy crash).  You can sip on coffee or tea too (ideally sans sweeteners), but remember that caffeine does pass into breast milk, so watch the quantity and potency.    

The goals: While you may still look 4-5 months pregnant (I definitely did!), the first few days with a newborn are not the time to focus on cutting calories or getting back in shape.  Instead, focus on rest, recovery, and refueling to rebuild your stamina during what can be a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting time.  And of course, focus on that bundle of joy you just welcomed into your life!  

To the seasoned mamas, what wellness tips do you have for new moms?  Please share in the comments!