Transcript: Following the Right Postpartum Diet for Recovering Mothers

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Following the Right Postpartum Diet for Recovering Mothers and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: Many moms that I speak with feel lost when it comes to the postpartum period, and I’ve spoken with a number of ladies on First Time Mum’s Chat who’ve related how alone they felt and what they went through. This week’s guest. Sarah Bilger is a mom with an engineering background. Sarah felt so strongly after her own experience with her lack of support and lack of talk on all things postpartum when her daughter was born, she decided to change her direction, becoming a postpartum doula.

Sarah also started her Entering Motherhood podcast to support other moms and to make a difference. In this episode, you’ll hear Sarah and I talk about postpartum nutrition and ways that food should be prepared to really increase and accelerate your healing process and recovery during that transition into motherhood, particularly during the postpartum period.

Why salads and other raw stuff such as smoothies are best avoided during your postpartum period, why you should prepare meals for yourself that contain as few ingredients as possible, and so, so much more.

Hi Sarah, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here and I’m really excited to hear all about what you do and how you help first time moms.

Sarah Bilger: Perfect. Yeah. I’m glad to be here. So I am a mom of two myself and a wife and I am also a mechanical engineer, a podcast host and I am a local birth and postpartum doula here in Greenville, South Carolina. So with that, I am certified in postpartum nutrition and I specifically also like to work with VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian) mamas, cuz I had a VBAC myself.

So I’ve been on, I guess, a mission of redefining the postpartum period and opening up the conversations that people don’t tend to talk about or maybe are uncomfortable to talk about because when I was entering motherhood, I felt like that was really the missing piece of what was going on.

Nobody was saying how they were feeling or what was going on and everything like that. So with me, for example, I had my daughter through an unplanned cesarean and since that wasn’t the plan, there was a lot of anxiety and mixed emotions and a lot just going on from the experience of the birth and so that’s why I started my podcast and really what made me start digging into different things in the postpartum period, and what I really found was that nutrition was such a huge factor in my mood, my emotions, my recovery, and was something that I really wanted to be able to share with other moms who were going through similar situations so that they can better heal and recover faster and just overall feel better in the postpartum period.

Helen Thompson: And how did you find out about the nutrition? Cause I’m also a great fan in natural therapies as well and nutrition, and I think it’s such an important part for everybody, not just postpartum moms, but particularly for postpartum cause you are feeding your baby, whether you’re breastfeeding or not, you’ve still got all those hormones that you’ve gotta deal with. So what did you find was the best way to support your nutrition?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, so I’ve always felt like I was somebody who was actively aware of my nutrition and seeking different things to help myself in those ways and like you were saying, it’s important in all stages of life for everybody but when I entered the postpartum period, it was a lot different, the ways that I was used to eating just didn’t seem to click the same way.

My body was not recovering the way I thought it would. My mood and hormones were all irregular compared to how I was before babies and so I sought out a certification specifically geared towards postpartum nutrition. So like I said, so I could heal myself and then I can use that information to heal moms that I was working with.

Helen Thompson: So what’s different about postpartum nutrition to regular nutrition?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, so there’s definitely certain foods and certain ways of preparing your food to really increase that healing process and accelerate it and hope to fully recover during that transition into motherhood and specifically in the postpartum period, we want to be making sure that our food is warm, we wanna make sure that it’s containing a lot of our healthy fats and protein and is high in those and you also want to make sure that it is fully cooked and you are looking for recipes that have as few ingredients as possible or items that you’re choosing are very few ingredients.

Helen Thompson: So you say cooked, so salads and stuff like that is not a good idea?

Sarah Bilger: No. Which is very surprising, right and also smoothies, things that are quick to go and everything like that because they’re raw, because they’re cold, they’re not easily digestible and they’re not able to be utilized by the body in a way that’s beneficial because our body is working on healing and it is overworking in so many other areas that this food that we’re putting into our body, we don’t have the capacity to break it down. We don’t have that load to be able to focus on, really taking those raw ingredients and processing them. It’s just gonna take longer and harder for us to do that. So when we’re fully cooking it, even with fruit, if you’re even just kind of tossing it on the pan, warming it up, it’s gonna help our body break it down faster and get the nutrients that it needs sooner because we’re doing that work beforehand, so that our body doesn’t have to do that work additionally, on top of healing in all of the places that that we have going on.

I mean, you think when you’re sick, what foods are you wanting to eat or what foods are typically associated with recovering. You’re gonna have soup or you’re gonna have warm tea. You’re accustomed to seeing those things when we’re sick, or, you have something going on that you know that you have to heal from. It’s the same situation in the postpartum period. We really want to be nourishing our body and giving it the best chance possible to do the least amount of work possible so that we’re getting all those nutrients as quickly as we can.

Helen Thompson: That’s interesting. What about things like meat? If you are vegetarian, which I happen to be. If you have vegetarian food and that includes fish. If you are a vegan, what’s the best approach for that?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, so a broth is gonna be really good for you. A bone broth or beef, chicken, anything like that, that broth is really going to be giving you that healing property and in the best broken down way as possible and you know, I don’t eat meat either, but I do eat fish but if you’re adding that healthy fat into a vegetable broth, if you’re adding coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, if you’re putting that healthy fat and mixing it in with the broth, that’s really going to help you too and you can just sip on it like tea. You can just have a cup of bone broth and it’s gonna be really beneficial for you.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I thought bone broth was bones from meat or bones from fish?

Sarah Bilger: It’s usually bones from chicken or beef.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. So if you’re vegetarian or a vegan, you wouldn’t want to be having something like bone broth.

Sarah Bilger: Right, so that’s when you can be doing the vegetable broth and then adding in a fat.

Helen Thompson: Like the olive oil or the avocado. I’m surprised by that because I really did think that salads and stuff were good, but I suppose you could make yourself a fish burger or a lentil burger or something like that, which is hot, and then have a salad. So is it you can’t have cold at all?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, I really like to phrase it. I don’t say you can’t have anything but certain foods are going to allow you to heal more efficiently. So nobody likes to be restricted, nobody likes to cut anything out but there’s definitely going to be those foods that are just overall going to increase your healing process.

Helen Thompson: And that’s things like the avocado oils and the olive oil, coconut oil, fish, meat.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, and temperature can be also in warming spices and things like that too. If you’re adding cayenne pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, things like that, really warming, nourishing spices into your food, that can also be beneficial and healing.

Helen Thompson: I know turmeric is very good for inflam mation.

Sarah Bilger: So that can be really good in healing too and you’re gonna be experiencing sometimes a lot of inflammation or just swelling from your pregnancy that’s really gonna help nourish you in that way too. And then, like I said, you know, also just like few ingredients as possible.

So if you are gonna have a salad, choose something that’s homemade, choose something that you are preparing or have prepared beforehand that you know where all those ingredients are coming from because when we’re incorporating processed foods and things like that, that also is gonna be harder to digest, and longer to have our body break down.

So we need our body to be working in other areas than using it to digest our food. So if we can really take that load off, then it’s gonna be helping us.

Helen Thompson: And it’s gonna be helping you to be more awake. If you are nurturing your body and looking after your body in that respect, you are more likely to have a bit more stamina to be able to cope with those nights. Did you find that as a mom when you started your nutrition?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, sleep deprivation and stress are probably the two top things that are going to cause the most stress on your body. Those two things are the most common things that moms, I would say are experiencing, the lack of sleep, sleep deprivation and just stress. You’re trying to navigate this new dynamic. Maybe it’s your first born, but it could also be your first time having two kids, your first time having three kids. No matter what child it is, it’s still a new experience.

It’s still your first time going into that, and so you’re learning a new structure and that can be causing stress. I’ve recently heard you’re kind of trying to aim for that four hour stretch of sleep. Obviously in the very, very beginning baby is waking up more often than that. But if you can be finding help or creating a plan with your partner to ensure that you’re getting four hours of sleep, then that’s going to help your body rejuvenate and really process and get the rest that it needs and there’s foods too that can really help with fatigue and stress and things like that too.

If you are deficient in choline, you’re going to see that as fatigue sometimes insomnia, maybe muscle issues and it can also cause memory loss. If you’re experiencing forgetfulness, things like that, that can be choline, and you’re gonna get that from egg yolks, broccoli, beef, soy, liver. Things like that are really gonna help you get more choline into your body without going to supplements. And supplements I would say are needed if you are very deficient in something to get you onto that level before you’re balanced out. But then once you’re at a good state, using food is so much better than, just taking a supplement for this, supplement for that because when you’re using the whole food, that’s really what’s giving you the most nutrients possible. And back to stress, magnesium is gonna help with that and magnesium, you can find in your seeds, nuts and tuna is a really good source of magnesium.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s good to hear, cause I eat a lot of tuna and I have a lot of nuts and things. I eat a lot of sunflower seeds.

Sarah Bilger: Do you find that helps?

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it does but I occasionally take magnesium supplements if I’ve gone for a bike ride or something.

Sarah Bilger: You can also do a magnesium salt bath and that’s gonna be really beneficial.

Helen Thompson: Oh, that sounds good, especially for a mom who’s just had a baby. It’d be nice to be able to soak in a bath and just relax. Even if they relax with the baby in a bath, it’s still relaxing.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah magnesium is best absorbed actually through the skin so if you’re having something like a salt bath or some sort of magnesium lotion that’s really gonna absorb a lot faster.

Helen Thompson: Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know you could have magnesium as a sort of bath. I’ve always thought of it just as a tablet or through food. So what about calcium? I would’ve thought calcium would be very important as well.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, calcium can be helpful and I usually like to focus on your iron, vitamin D and omega threes too. So with talking about iron, that’s really gonna be good for replenishing your blood loss and that one’s also really good for boosting energy. Iron is gonna give you that energy that you need to really navigate your daily tasks and everything. So that is usually seen in your fish. You can also get that through spinach, liver again is really good for iron and beans and eggs.

Helen Thompson: Oh I know some women, even before they’re pregnant, have very heavy periods and when you are losing a lot of blood, the iron is so important because it replenishes all that blood lost in periods. And after you’ve given birth, you will produce a lot of blood, so that therefore you’ve gotta replenish that and I think that’s where the iron comes in and I think a lot more women are deficient in iron and they don’t realize.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah. I believe that and I know for me specifically, when I was pregnant, they did test my iron levels, around 30 some weeks just to see where I was at and with my first, I needed to take an iron supplement because I was deficient and that was not something that I was aware of or knew that your body is really needing that iron in pregnancy and it still needs it in that postpartum period.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, cuz you’re carrying a baby.

Sarah Bilger: You’re producing a bunch of blood.

Helen Thompson: Your baby’s taking a lot of your energy so that you need to keep replenishing that to keep fit and look after your baby.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah and vitamin D is also, at least here in the United States, I wanna say 40 to 60% of people are probably deficient in vitamin D. It’s very big. It’s a very big deficiency and in postpartum specifically, that is going to be when you hear people saying, oh, I’m losing so much hair. That postpartum hair loss is most commonly seen in women that are deficient in vitamin D and it’s also been seen to be misdiagnosed as postpartum depression. So if you’re having a vitamin D deficiency, there has been studies seeing that they have postpartum depression, those women are also deficient in vitamin D.

Helen Thompson: And you get vitamin D from sunlight, don’t you?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, you can. That’s a super easy way, to just go outside. I say like midday 10, 15 minutes, just kind of walking around outside you can get your vitamin D, but then again, in your food, you’re gonna look for salmon, tuna, you can actually get it in mushrooms and your eggs, again. Eggs are probably gonna be the best for all of these.

Helen Thompson: With mushrooms, you also get vitamin B12, don’t you?

Sarah Bilger: I believe so. I think so.

Helen Thompson: Cause I think mushrooms, you also get a lot of yeast in there.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah and again making sure that they’re cooked, not just like raw mushrooms and stuff like that, but like really cooking them and if you don’t like the taste of mushrooms, there’s different recipes and things that you can look at that really kind of mask and hide that, that you can, you can put it in your soups and things like that and it will be a really subtle flavor when you’re mixing it with a bunch of different spices and other ingredients.

Helen Thompson: Yeah I totally agree with soups because I do that a lot in the winter. I just throw all the vegetables that have been left over into a pot and just put a bit of veggie stock in it and cook everything so that you’ve got the vegetable stock that you’ve made from the vegetables cooking, so you know you’re not throwing anything away.

We’ve mentioned vitamin D and the other one I think would be important if I’m right in saying would be vitamin C.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, with your immune system and everything, you wanna make sure that you’re boosting that up. It’s not one of the ones that I consider the most vital, but you wanna make sure you’re still taking your prenatal vitamins into the postpartum period for at least the first three months. Still be upping and taking those vitamins.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think it’s really important having somebody like you who can guide you, because I think a lot of nutritionists don’t think about nutrition at the postpartum part when the baby’s born.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah and it really is a whole different time period that you’re going through. It really needs to be, and there’s, there’s a lot of research going into it now and really uncovering a lot of different things, like I said, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed postpartum mood disorders. We’re really just seeing our deficiencies and more women are wanting to breastfeed for longer times and really make sure that their nutrition is giving your breast milk what it needs and your omega three is gonna help with your fat content and your milk. So that’s one that a lot of, a lot of women who are breastfeeding wanna make sure you know, their, their milk has a good fat content for their baby.

So omega three can really help with that.

And omega3 things like fish and tuna. Mm-hmm.

Yeah. Chi seed are also gonna have a mega, oh,

Helen Thompson: chi seeds. That’s good. Mm-hmm. . I have Chi putting A, which I, which I quite like, so I didn’t realize that at a Omega three, so that’s good. Yeah. Yeah. So are there any other sort of vitamins that we haven’t mentioned that you feel other postpartum nutritionist that moms need?

Sarah Bilger: Really just, yeah, those, those ones, like I said, like Iron Omega threes, magnesium, choline, and vitamin D, I would say, are the top five that you’re either most commonly gonna see deficiencies in, or those are the ones that are gonna be most beneficial in that postpartum period.

Helen Thompson: So is there any other tip that you would like to pass on to a first time mum?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah. I think just really taking a look at what you are doing to fuel your body and how it’s making you feel, and really trying to tap into that and say, is the food that I’m eating making me feel the way I want?

And it is a learning process of taking that into account and trying to really say that this is something that’s nourishing you and it’s benefiting you. And just the same way like we’re feeding our babies, take that time and self care into feeding yourselves. And I know it can be, you just wanna grab something quick but if we’re doing a little bit of preparation beforehand or we’re finding that help to give us that food that we need, then it’s really going to help us in the long run and you have to realize that is going to help your baby. I think a lot of the times we lose ourselves and we’re so fixated and focused on helping the baby that we forget, once they come out, we don’t have to worry about us, we just have to worry and keep them alive but we are a vital part of keeping them alive. We need to be functioning to the best of our ability, so that we can be there and provide for them. So I really think, making sure that you’re checking in with yourself and caring for yourself in maybe half the amount of energy that you’re caring for your baby and just taking a moment for yourself, I think is, is huge and something that is really overlooked and if you need to seek help to to get there, find a support group, or really just have conversations with friends and family, I think that just goes a long way.

Helen Thompson: It’s like that scenario on an airplane. I always love giving this scenario when people say that, that if you don’t give oxygen to yourself first, you’re not gonna be in a position to give oxygen to somebody else and that’s exactly what you’re saying with nutrition for your baby. If you don’t feed yourself. It’s not only about self care, but it’s self care, nutritionally self care, giving yourself that food, you’re not gonna be in a position to support your baby and I think those two things are very similar in that respect.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, a hundred percent and I think that’s something that maybe first time moms don’t realize, or like I said, it’s like when baby comes out, you think, maybe we’re on like a really good nutrition plan when you were pregnant and you were being told avoid these foods or watch out for those foods and you were really cautious of eating certain things and then you think, oh, baby’s out, I don’t need to focus on me anymore and you do. You still need to be nourishing your body and if you’ve already for nine months been taking those habits into account, just try to tweak them a little bit to be aligning for the postpartum period that you can still be caring for yourself.

Helen Thompson: So if anybody wants to get in touch with you, where would they go to get in touch with you?

Sarah Bilger: Yeah, so like I said, I’m a birth and postpartum doula, so I really take the nutrition into account there. But also I have my podcast Entering Motherhood that you can go ahead and listen in and I share a ray of different things dealing with postpartum, but I really like to focus on that nutrition and everything in that sense too. And then I’m on Instagram Entering Motherhood or Sarah Marie Bilger. You can find me there and then my website is

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Sarah. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I’ve actually learned a lot from you in regards to nutrition, so thank you. I appreciate you being here and supporting first time mums in the community and well done for doing your own podcast, I think podcasting is fun.

Sarah Bilger: Yeah. Thank you for having me. This was fun.

Helen Thompson: Wow, Sarah shared some great postpartum nutrition tips during our chat, and I learned a lot from her. It seems to me that during this often challenging postpartum period that you need to do your utmost to look after yourself, so you’re also fully present for your little one and following Sarah’s postpartum nutrition advice is going to help you achieve this. I highly recommend checking out Sarah’s Entering Motherhood podcast as well as her website and social media.

I’ve included links to these in the show notes, which can be accessed at