A c-section is a major medical procedure a new mother undergoes. After a c-section, a mother’s body not only needs to heal from the surgery but also needs to provide adequate nutrition to a breastfeeding baby and to recover from nine months of pregnancy.
The right diet is essential in aiding recovery while providing the required nutrition for breastfeeding. According to the Dietary Guidelines published by the US Department of Agriculture and endorsed by the American Dietary Association, new mothers who are breastfeeding require a daily intake of an additional 500K calories. An even higher intake is recommended for nursing women who are breastfeeding more than one newborn, are underweight or who regularly perform physical activities.
What to eat after C-section?
#1. Dairy products
Include dairy products like milk, paneer, cheese in your diet as they are excellent sources of protein, calcium, and vitamins B and D. If you are lactose intolerant, you could have curd which will provide you all the benefits of dairy plus the goodness of probiotics.
#2. Fresh fruits and vegetables
Make sure to eat a variety of fresh seasonal fruits. Citrus fruits like oranges and berries contain Vitamin C and are good for breastfeeding mothers. Eat fresh salad and sprouts with your meals. Green leafy vegetables like methi, broccoli, spinach and gourds (bottle gourd, ridge gourd) are easy to digest and excellent sources of vitamins A and C, iron and dietary calcium.
#3. Whole grains
Eat whole grains like brown rice, wheat, oats and brown pasta to provide you the necessary calories as breastfeeding mothers need on 500 extra calories on an average. Whole grains will keep up energy levels and gives you the required nutrients and vitamins. Enriched whole grain products contain folic acid, iron, and fibre.
Also Read: 7 ways to treat C-section scars at home
Constipation is a common post-pregnancy issue and mothers with a c-section scar are afraid of damaging the stitches by straining. Oats, because of their high fibre content are the perfect addition to your diet and should provide relief from constipation. Oats are also a good source of iron, calcium, proteins, and carbohydrates. You can have a complete breakfast by having oats with milk, dry fruits or nuts or by adding some diced fresh fruit.
Pulses are essential to a well-balanced diet, especially a vegetarian diet which does not include sources of animal protein. Pulses are rich in fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Moong and masoor are easy to digest and can be made into sweet halwa or savoury khichdi.
Dark colored beans like kidney beans and black beans contain iron, which is essential for nursing mothers. They are also a source of non-animal protein.
#6. Finger Millet (Ragi or Nachni)
Ragi is a popular food in the south and west India for its multitude benefits including providing high levels of iron and calcium. It is one of the first foods given to children in south India when they are introduced to solids. For mothers who are lactose intolerant, it can be an important addition to the diet to provide adequate levels of calcium.
Also Read: 10 Necessary Precautions to be taken after a C-Section
Turmeric is not only a warming spice but one of nature’s greatest anti-inflammatory substances popular in both Ayurvedic and ancient Chinese medicines. It helps in speeding up the healing of both external and internal wounds. It also encourages the production of breast milk. Add about a half teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of warm milk and drink it every day.
#8. Ajwain (carom seeds)
Ajwain is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Ajwain water is highly beneficial to a new mother as it provides instant relief against gastritis, constipation, stomach ache, indigestion, heaviness in the stomach, etc. It also cleanses the uterus and gives relief from the post-delivery pain. Thymol, found in ajwain is an antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-fungal agent.
You can make ajwain water by simply boiling a spoonful of ajwain seeds in a glassful of water. You can include it in a variety of vegetable dishes or in rotis or parathas.
#9. Cumin (jeera)
Cumin Seeds are great for enhancing milk production. They have been used since ancient times as a Lactating Agent. Cumin seeds also aid and invigorate digestion in mothers.
You could drink cumin water by boiling a spoonful of cumin seeds in a glassful of water. Most Indian gravies/vegetable dishes also include cumin.
#10. Fenugreek (methi)
Fenugreek is an excellent source of calcium, iron, minerals, and vitamins and is known to prevent joint and back pains. It is also said to increase milk supply in lactating mothers. Fenugreek, cumin, carrom water can be made by boiling these three spices in a cupful of water.
Also Read: 10 most common reasons for a C-section
Ginger is a natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent which also speeds up healing. Add freshly grated ginger to vegetables or gravies to reap its benefits. Dry ginger powder (saunth) can also be added to laddoos and eaten to speed up recovery.
#12. Asafoetida (hing)
Gastrointestinal issues that are common after delivery. Adding a little hing to your vegetables/gravies will help relieve flatulence and aid digestion.
Almonds are a rich source of omega 3 acids, carbohydrates, vitamins B12 and E, fiber and a multitude of minerals. These power-packed nuts benefit both health and beauty (great for skin and hair).
Soak a few almonds overnight and have them the next morning.
#14. Water and fluids
Breastfeeding can make new mothers thirsty and tired. Drink plenty of fluids - milk, fresh juices and milk to ease bowel movements and to keep up breast milk production for the baby. You could drink green tea as it has lower caffeine levels than regular tea and will also aid in weight loss.
In India, new mothers are traditionally offered post-delivery ladoos (or pinni in Northern India). These are made with whole wheat flour, ghee and many of the above-mentioned ingredients like fenugreek, dried ginger powder, almonds, carrom seeds, sesame seeds, turmeric and many more. Eating these might be the perfect way to introduce many of these foods in your diet.
Also Read: Why are caesarean births increasing in India?
What foods to avoid after c-section?
There are several foods that should be excluded from a mother’s diet after c-section. It is best to avoid them for the first 40 day period and then reintroduce them gradually.
- Avoid food that is made from ingredients that prompt gas formation like, Urad dal, Chana or chickpea, besan/ gram flour, etc.
- Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, potato, etc. should be avoided as it can cause gas formation
- Beverages with caffeine, citrus juices, and carbonated drinks should be kept at bay.
- Fried and spicy food should be avoided as it can cause gas, heart-burn and indigestion.
- Avoid eating out and fast foods as their freshness and nutrition is debatable.
- Avoid cold foods for a few days and stay away from uncooked food too. While eating sprouts, it is best to stem them and not eat them raw.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks completely as they impact your ability to breastfeed the baby.