I often get messages from my exhausted new-mom patients asking what they can do about their flagging energy. Usually they’re at the four to six-month postpartum mark and wondering why they’re still so tired. The baby is starting to sleep more, they’re exercising again, they eat well but they can’t dig their way out of feeling totally depleted.
As a new mom, myself, this is a state of being to which I can completely relate. The bottom line is that pregnancy, childbirth and the initial postpartum months take a huge amount from mom: nutritionally, physically, energetically, and emotionally. Repleting the body doesn’t happen in a few months’ time; as naturopaths, we typically like to give moms two to three years (or more!) to fully recover. But there are a few supportive strategies that can help the post-pregnancy body and spirit to feel energized.
Proper nutrient repletion is a good starting point. I typically evaluate my new moms to get a comprehensive assessment of the body’s stores of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. I often find many areas of depletion including iron, Vitamin B12, zinc, copper, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, fatty acids and amino acids. Where there is a deficiency, I’m quick to start therapeutic dosing. Most of my moms really benefit from a high quality source of omega-3 fatty acids such as cod liver oil to help repair the nervous system; it can also help fend off postpartum depression, which is incredibly common.
Delicious, nutrient-dense foods are essential to any postpartum recharge. New moms need to nourish themselves properly. Rebuilding, warming foods like hearty stews and broths full of root vegetables and good-quality meats are perfect sources of amino acids and collagen peptides that the body will use for connective tissue renewal and immune support. Fats are absolutely essential for the hormone balancing that takes place after childbirth; my favorite sources are avocado, ghee, nut butters and whole milk yogurt.
In these months after childbirth, adrenal support is very helpful. The adrenals take a massive hit from the sleep deprivation that comes with on-demand feeding, taking care of other little ones in the house, returning to work after maternity leave, and so forth. I recommend taking some adaptogenic herbal support to mitigate this. For moms who are more anxiety-prone, I recommend ashwagandha. Rhodiola and other adrenal adaptogens like holy basil (which also supports milk production) provide natural energy for new moms. Overdoing caffeine - easy enough to do when you’re sleeping a couple of hours at a time - further taxes the adrenals. Focus more on hydrating with nutritive herbal teas with herbs like nettles, chamomile and raspberry leaf.
One of the first lessons that new motherhood taught me was to slow down - and I pass that on to my patients. Prior to the birth of my daughter, I was often moving at high speed, lamenting that there aren’t enough hours in the day. In my postnatal period, I learned the value of slowing down and gently honoring the natural rhythms of my body. If I’m tired, that’s okay, and that’s actually where I should be after having created a human. I rest and spend time in ‘non-doing’. Being present with this beautiful little human - who is always growing and changing - is the true blessing of motherhood.
Bio: Dr. Maura Henninger is a board-certified naturopathic physician in private practice in New York City and Connecticut. With nearly a decade of experience treating all kinds of patients, she focuses on women's health and digestive imbalance. Dr. Maura incorporates the best of evidence-based medicine with traditional healing modalities to treat the whole person. You can find her on Instagram and find out all about her practice at www.DrMaura.com.
Holiday time is upon us! Even though the holiday season can be chaotic, managing your child’s sleep does not have to be! Whether taking a road trip or hopping on a flight, you can still keep naps on track without sacrificing sleep at night!