Diet and Exercise for Recovery from Birth, a Sarah Jane Sandy Collaboration

Diet and Exercise for Recovery from Birth, a Sarah Jane Sandy Collaboration
Did you guys know that we have not one, but TWO, in-house nutritionists that can help you on your health and wellness journey? One of those lovely ladies, Sarah Jane Sandy, runs her own private practice, specializing in fertility, pregnancy, and all things women’s health related. She recently started a new blog series focusing on the new journey of Motherhood, and she wrote a little somethin’ somethin’ that we thought you guys might be interested in when it comes to nutrition, exercise, and recovering from birth. Note that this is just an excerpt, and the original blog post can be found here: Mama and Baby Blog Series : Recovery From Birth.

Navigating the world of motherhood can be overwhelming, exhausting, and … let’s be honest … the internet isn’t always filled with accurate information. I want to share with you my tried and true methods to help mamas in this new journey, and today I’m talkin’ all things postnatal recovery for Mama.

Whether recovering from a vaginal birth or a cesarean section, these tips and tricks are going to help you along the way. One thing to keep in mind – every journey is different. What works for one Mama may not work for the next. Listen to your body – what does it need? What does it want? What will promote healing for YOU? I encourage you to try everything at least once – if it doesn’t work, that’s ok!

During the days and weeks after the delivery of your baby (postpartum period), your body will change as it returns to its nonpregnant condition. As with pregnancy changes, postpartum changes are different for every woman.

Physical changes after childbirth

The changes in your body may include:
  • Contractions – called afterpains – shrink the uterus for several days after childbirth. Shrinking of the uterus to its prepregnancy size may take 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Sore muscles (especially in the arms, neck, or jaw) are common after childbirth. This is because of the hard work of labor. The soreness should go away in a few days.
  • Bleeding and vaginal discharge (lochia) may last for 2 to 4 weeks and can come and go for about 2 months.
  • Vaginal soreness, including pain, discomfort, and numbness, is common after vaginal birth. Soreness may be worse if you had a perineal tear or episiotomy.
  • If you had a cesarean (C-section), you may have pain in your lower belly and may need pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Breast engorgement is common between the third and fourth days after delivery, when the breasts begin to fill with milk. This can cause discomfort and swelling. Placing ice packs on your breasts, taking a hot shower, or using warm compresses may relieve the discomfort.

First thing – give yourself time!

You’ve literally just worked harder than you ever have! Mama, YOU GREW A BABY. That’s not an easy task. It’s long, exhausting, and the birth at the end will leave you depleted. Anticipate taking 4-6 weeks to concentrate on healing your body, nourishing yourself and baby, and while you’re at it – be gentle on yourself and your body.


I’m a nutritionist – you didn’t think you’d get away without adjusting your diet, did ya? This way of eating is critical to support optimal breastfeeding, stabilize your blood sugar, nurture your adrenal glands, support your organs of elimination, improve your energy levels, therefore ensuring a healthy, happy postpartum experience and a well nourished baby.

Focus on eating real, whole, fresh food that you cook yourself.
  • Eat tons of high quality fats from egg yolks, cold water wild caught fish & seafood, traditional animal fats, raw and unrefined coconut oil, full fat coconut milk, organic grassfed butter or ghee, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, and organic full fat dairy (if you and baby tolerate it).
  • Eat plenty of high quality, clean, pasture-raised animal protein like bison, beef, chicken, turkey, fish and eggs. Pick a rainbow of colors of organic vegetables and eat a lot of them. Make sure to get in enough grass-fed/grass-finished red meat products to replenish iron stores post-birth.
  • Eat small amounts of brightly colored fresh fruit.
  • Enjoy raw nuts and seeds and nut butters.
  • Use a variety of spices; and enjoy unrefined, unprocessed carbohydrates like starchy vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains.
Target 50-60% of calories from healthy fats. Every meal and snack should include a high-quality protein, a healthy fat, and vegetables. No skipping meals!

The easiest way to make adjustments to your diet is to make a menu. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Most people have great difficulty implementing these suggestions unless they sit down once a week (hopefully when your partner is present as well!), and plan every meal for the week ahead.
  • If you are working, a good rule is to prepare your meals ahead of time.
  • All you need to do is find at least ten recipes that you like. You might have to try ten recipes to find ones that you and your family enjoy, but that’s okay as it is all part of the process.
  • It is vitally important to have variety. Do NOT rotate between just two or three meals or you will burn out and return to your old habits of eating. Variety is the key!
The majority of your meals should look something like this:
  • 1-2 palm size of protein: eggs, fish & seafood, red meat, poultry, pork, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, lentils, or beans. Purchase the highest quality animal products you can afford.
  • Several servings of colorful vegetables, either raw, steamed, or lightly cooked.
  • Round out the meal with lots good fats from grass-fed butter/ghee, coconut oil, avocado, olive oil or a handful of raw nuts such as almonds, pecans, macadamias or walnuts.
For breakfast try 2-3 eggs cooked in butter & coconut oil with half an avocado and a big handful of greens. Starting the day with protein and fat leads to steady and sustained blood sugar so you plenty of energy for breastfeeding and your new babe! And please, no fruit juices which are simply concentrated sugars.

For lunch and dinner try spaghetti squash topped with tomato sauce and ground beef, roasted chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts, fish tacos made with sprouted corn tortillas, or eggs made any way you like them! Use things like organic raw cheese, raw nut butters, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, and tons of vegetables to round out your meals.

Exercise … but take it slowly!

Exercise after pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself … BUT, this is where it’s SUPER important to listen to your body. Only begin exercising again once you get the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife.

Benefits of regular exercise after pregnancy:
  • Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles and pelvic floor
  • Boosts your energy level
  • Relieves stress
  • Promotes better sleep
The first thing to take into consideration when easing back into a fitness routine is to be realistic and patient. It took around 40 weeks to form the pregnant body and it could take nearly as long to fully return to your pre-pregnancy physical self. Birth is a transforming event!

As a general rule, I recommend that mamas do not return to postnatal exercise until their bleeding has stopped. If a woman gave birth via cesarean section, she needs to wait 6 weeks before getting back into the swing of things. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you can actually be setting yourself back from real recovery. That of course does not mean you need to be held hostage in your house for 6 weeks. Taking you and baby outside for a long walk can be considered a good start to your road back!

A couple of things to be on the lookout for:
  • Once you do embark on some heavier activities, pay attention to signs from your body. Some women find that their bleeding that had tapered down starts to get heavier again, which is a sign that the body needs more time to heal.
  • If your pelvic floor is weak, putting intra-abdominal pressure (like crunches, pilates or general ab work) can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing or even lead to a chance of organ prolapse.
  • Relaxin – the hormone that is responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth – can stay in the body for up to six months postpartum. This can lead to wobbly, unstable joints and a loose pelvis. Just be mindful that the activity your choose is not too jerky in movement.
  • Once you do start to ease back into your routine, please remember to hydrate well and hydrate often, especially if you are breastfeeding. If you are out for a stroll with your baby, put your water bottle in the cup holder as a reminder to drink often.

To read more about ways to recover from birth, check out the rest of this post here: Mama and Baby Blog Series : Recovery From Birth.

A great way to get back into the swing of things with your exercise regime … check out a REBEL class! Obviously wait until your body is ready - don’t push yourself too hard - but know that we’ll be waiting for you, with our studio doors wide open :).

Another great option to ease back into things is by training one-on-one with one of our personal trainers. We are realistic in goal setting, and we can explain what to expect in each session. We can also optimize each session - with your end goals in mind. Our trainers get to know your body and what you’re capable of and tailor each session to YOU.

This post was brought to you by the best gym in Denver - The REBEL Workout.