The food and drinks we consume have a profound impact on our health. And if you've just given birth, eating right would benefit both you and your baby.
For starters, a healthy confinement diet provides you with energy to power through the day. Pregnancy and delivery also put a lot of strain on a mother's body. By having nutritious confinement food, you speed up recovery and boost milk production.
What is Confinement Food? Do You Really Need Them?
Postpartum confinement is a traditional practice to care for newborn mothers for anywhere between 20 to 50 days.
Chinese confinement practice, for example, emphasizes the importance of nutrition to help mothers regain strength, provide energy, and recover from blood loss while preparing the body for breastfeeding. Herbs are incorporated in main dishes and teas based on traditional Chinese medicine’s century-old practice.
All mothers should get nutritious food during the confinement period. Generally, a good confinement meal consists of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
Top 15 Foods For Confinement.
If you're wondering what food to add to your shopping cart, look no further. In this article, we selected the top 15 foods for confinement to help nourish your body and support breastfeeding.
Multi-Grain Rice and Brown Rice.
Rice is a staple food in many Asian countries. It's a versatile source of carbohydrate that goes well with most proteins and vegetables.
Multi-grain and brown rice are much healthier than white rice. These kinds of rice contain more fiber, magnesium, and protein compared to white rice1.
Moreover, multi-grain and brown rice have a low glycaemic index. This means that they raise your blood sugar levels more slowly and steadily compared to white rice.
Although we do not recommend postpartum mothers to start a weight loss diet right after giving birth, these choices of rice can promote weight loss and maintenance while delivering the calories you need2.
Bread is another quick and easy food you can grab off the pantry for breakfast and snacks. Unlike white bread, whole-grain or whole-wheat bread maintains all components of the grain. So most of the nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats are retained in the bread3.
These nutrients are especially important for postpartum mothers. For example, fiber is needed to prevent constipation and improve digestion. On the other hand, B vitamins aid the production of red blood cells and prevent anemia4.
Maintaining adequate hydration is something many mothers neglect in the first weeks following delivery. Ideally, you should drink about 16 cups or 3.8 Liters of water if you're breastfeeding5.
Being dehydrated can cause tiredness, mood swings, and headaches. And if you're a nursing mum, not having enough water can change the composition of breastmilk and disrupt your milk supply.
A good rule of thumb is to drink one cup of water before and another cup after breastfeeding your baby. And remember to sip on water whenever you feel thirsty.
Nuts are great confinement foods. They are packed with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients maintain heart health and improve immunity6.
Some mothers even claim that walnuts, almonds, and cashews increase their milk supply. This explains why most lactation cookies contain nuts.
Snacking on roasted nuts and fruits is way better for your body than snacking on junk food. You can also use nuts to add texture to your salad or spread nut butter on your morning toast.
If you’re lactose intolerant or on a vegan diet, you can count on soy milk as a good alternative to cow’s milk. This plant-based milk has a comparable nutritional content to its dairy counterpart.
Soy milk has about 7 grams of protein per 8-ounce cup as compared to 8 grams of protein for the same amount of cow milk. Other plant-based milk like hemp, rice, almond, and oat milk has less protein than soy milk7.
In terms of calories, soy has less compared to rice and oats milk. And if you’re still worried about taking too many calories, you can always opt for sugar-free soy milk.
Tofu is another soy-based product that is often used as a meat substitute. They are easily accessible and can be used as a main course and dessert.
Tofu is an excellent source of protein that uses whole soybeans. And when it comes to confinement food, protein would help your body recover from giving birth while boosting your baby’s immunity.
It is also packed with vitamins and minerals without the added cholesterol or trans-fat. Recent studies even show that isoflavone in soy reduces the risk of developing breast cancer.
Chicken soup with noodles or rice makes a heartwarming meal, particularly on rainy days. Chinese confinement food often include this dish with the addition of traditional herbs.
After enduring labor for many hours, having a bowl of chicken soup will provide you with protein, vitamins, minerals, and immune-boosting antioxidants8. Onions and garlic in this dish contain organosulfides that strengthen your immune system.
Chicken soups are easy to digest and gentle on the stomach. By brewing whole chickens, you also make a bone broth that is proven to have anti-inflammatory effects and promote sleep and brain function9.
Fish and seafood.
Lean protein sources which are great to take during confinement are fish and seafood. Compared to other food, fish and seafood like prawns are packed with vitamin D, iodine, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)10.
It’s common for women to be deficient in vitamin D which is required for calcium and phosphorus absorption to build bones. Postpartum mothers are more likely to be vitamin D deficient if they spend their days indoors.
Iodine in fish is a key nutrient to support thyroid health. According to the CDC, breastfeeding mothers need 290 micrograms of iodine per day, compared to only 150 micrograms before pregnancy11. And if a breastfeeding mother is iodine-deficient, the baby is similarly at risk of being deficient and having cognitive and psychomotor impairments.
If you decide to breastfeed, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in fish and seafood is vital in supporting your baby’s brain and eye development. To find out what fish is safe to take as confinement food, check out this article on foods to avoid during confinement.
Navel oranges are high in vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. When it comes to snacking, navel oranges are sweet, juicy, and very good for your body.
Whether you had a normal or cesarean birth, all mothers can benefit from taking vitamin C durimg confinement. This nutrient has anti-inflammatory properties and is required in all phases of wound healing12.
Many new mothers struggle with constipation too. To regulate bowel motion and ease constipation, each navel orange gives you around 4 grams of fiber.
Rolled oats are often considered a postpartum superfood. Not only are they high in fiber, but rolled oats also contain protein, vitamins, and minerals like manganese, iron, zinc, and folate.
Oat beta-glucan helps to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar. Furthermore, taking rolled oats helps replenish your iron store and aids red blood cell production after childbirth13.
This food is also known for being a galactagogue. So many lactation consultants would suggest taking oats to help increase milk supply.
To incorporate oats into your confinement diet, make overnight oats and porridges. You can also add them to baked goods like cookies and brownies.
It is common for nursing mothers to constantly feel hungry. For this, you might want to reach for some yogurt as an easy and healthy snack.
Yogurt contains protein that may promote satiety for breastfeeding mothers. This food also provides nutrients like calcium and probiotics during confinement.
Pregnancy and lactation cause a temporary decrease in bone mass. So mothers need to ensure that they take at least 1000mg of calcium every day1. Like other dairy products, yogurt is an excellent source of calcium.
Apart from being good for gut health, some studies suggest that probiotics in yogurt may reduce postpartum anxiety and depression14.
Dark, Leafy Greens.
Other than carbohydrates and proteins, mothers need to consume enough vegetables during the confinement period. Dark green leafy vegetables are some of the best types of vegetables to take postpartum.
Compared to cruciferous vegetables, dark green leafy veggies like kale, spinach, and mustards cause less gas and bloating. They also contain high levels of fiber, magnesium, iron, and calcium that nourishes the body after childbirth15.
Eating dark green leafy vegetables is essential in your confinement diet. If you’re tired of stir-fried greens, you can try making a salad or adding these to soup or omelet.
Ginger is one of the most common spices in the world. Used in many recipes, ginger has many health benefits for postpartum mothers.
Gingerol in ginger contributes to most medicinal properties of this food. Studies have shown that ginger may help reduce cholesterol, improve digestion, and promote healing after childbirth16.
Taking ginger in the first few days postpartum has also been shown to increase milk supply in some women. You can add ginger to your diet by using it as an ingredient in food or brewing fresh ginger tea.
If you’re wondering what to keep in your kitchen to fix a quick meal or snack, you’ve got to stock up on eggs. Eggs are a source of protein, choline, vitamins, and minerals.
And it's even better if you can get your hands on fortified eggs. Fortified eggs have added omega-3 fatty acids. Studies linked diets low in omega-3 fatty acids with an increased risk of developing postpartum depression8.
Eggs are also the best food sources for choline which is required for babies’ brain development and memory. This makes eggs one of the best confinement foods as choline requirement is highest during breastfeeding.
After battling many hours of labor, you might want to nibble on something to give you instant energy. Dates are an excellent source of simple sugar, with about 16 grams of sugar per fruit8.
Apart from being extremely convenient to carry around, a small study has found that dates prevent severe hemorrhaging in postpartum mothers when taken immediately after childbirth.
So be sure to pack some dates before leaving for the hospital and save some for snacking when you bring the little one home.
Sample Confinement Meal Plan.
Now that you have a rough idea of the foods to eat, you might need some inspiration to plan your own confinement food menu. Here is an example of a healthy confinement meal plan to get you started.
- Overnight oats with low-fat milk and chopped fruits.
- 2 glasses of water.
- Brown or multigrain rice.
- Hua Diao Wine Steam Fish.
- Stir fry spinach and carrots.
- Korean Ginseng Soup
- Seven Treasure Tea.
- Brown or multigrain rice.
- Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken.
- Steamed Okra with Dried Scallop and Gojiberry.
- Ten Complete Tonic Soup.
- Rice Tea.
- Trail mix with dates and dried fruits.
- Apple slice with almond butter.
By getting enough macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins from whole grains, fish, and tofu, mothers get enough energy and prevent excessive tiredness. These nutrients are also necessary to help the body recover and get back into its pre-pregnancy shape.
Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals from a good confinement meal are important for making new blood cells, boosting the mother’s immune system, as well as supporting your baby’s cognitive and physical development.
For many mothers, food is the last thing on their minds after being up all night tending to their babies. Regardless, eating nourishing meals should be a priority, especially during the confinement period.
If you’re too tired to cook but want healthy confinement food, why not order them from us? At Phoenix Signature Kitchen, we specialize in everything maternal nutrition.
Whether you’re still pregnant or in the confinement period, our team of dietitians, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, and dedicated cooks will prepare the perfect confinement meal catered to your needs.
Click this link and have your first confinement meal delivered to you.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
- WebMD. 2022. Health Benefits of Brown Rice. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-brown-rice#:~:text=Adding%20brown%20rice%20as%20a,while%20taking%20in%20fewer%20calories.> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- Healthline. 2022. 9 Health Benefits of Eating Whole Grains. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-of-whole-grains> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- Koury, M. and Ponka, P., 2004. NEW INSIGHTS INTO ERYTHROPOIESIS: The Roles of Folate, Vitamin B<sub>12</sub>, and Iron. Annual Review of Nutrition, 24(1), pp.105-131.
- Eatright.org. 2022. Nursing Your Baby? What You Eat and Drink Matters. [online] Available at: <https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/breast-feeding/nursing-your-baby-what-you-eat-and-drink-matters#:~:text=As%20a%20nursing%20mother%2C%20you,time%20you%20breastfeed%20your%20baby.> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- Healthline. 2022. 8 Health Benefits of Eating Nuts. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-benefits-of-nuts> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- 2019. The Best Vegan Milks, According To A Dietitian. [image] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNw3qsZ55JE&t=83s> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- Healthline. 2022. 7 Healthy Foods to Eat Right After Labor (and Before a Sushi Binge). [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/best-foods-to-eat-after-labor> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- WebMD. 2022. Chicken Broth: Are There Health Benefits?. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-chicken-broth#1> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- Doh.wa.gov. 2022. Health Benefits of Fish | Washington State Department of Health. [online] Available at: <https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/food/fish/health-benefits#:~:text=Fish%20is%20filled%20with%20omega,iodine%2C%20magnesium%2C%20and%20potassium.> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- 2022. Iodine. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/iodine.html> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
- Moores, J., 2013. Vitamin C: a wound healing perspective. British Journal of Community Nursing, 18(Sup12), pp.S6-S11.
- Rasane, P., Jha, A., Sabikhi, L., Kumar, A. and Unnikrishnan, V., 2013. Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods - a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(2), pp.662-675.
- Desai, V., Kozyrskyj, A., Lau, S., Sanni, O., Dennett, L., Walter, J. and Ospina, M., 2021. Effectiveness of Probiotic, Prebiotic, and Synbiotic Supplementation to Improve Perinatal Mental Health in Mothers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12.
- Ars.usda.gov. 2022. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables : USDA ARS. [online] Available at: <https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/#:~:text=They%20also%20contain%20high%20levels,helps%20prevent%20certain%20birth%20defects.> [Accessed 22 June 2022].
- Ozkur, M., Benlier, N., Takan, I., Vasileiou, C., Georgakilas, A., Pavlopoulou, A., Cetin, Z. and Saygili, E., 2022. Ginger for Healthy Ageing: A Systematic Review on Current Evidence of Its Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Anticancer Properties. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2022, pp.1-16.