Nourishing Foods for Labor

Nourishing Foods for Labor

As I’m writing this, our labor bag is officially packed and we are (anxiously) awaiting our baby’s arrival. (Perhaps by the time this is published we’ll have a cute little bundle to share).

Birth is an extremely athletic event— labor can last from several hours to a few days (I’m hoping to be on the shorter end)— and like any marathon of an event it requires some nourishment to avoid exhaustion. Luckily, in Portland, most hospitals and birthing centers are open to eating during labor. Though, the longer you can labor at home, the more freedom you’ll have over food and movement.

We had a very supported and wonderful hospital birth with our daughter. I sipped on coconut water through contractions. Shane somehow conjured up a sandwich for himself.

We had an excellent doula, midwife, and nursing team and happily welcomed our baby girl just after 10pm. The downside of birthing in the middle of the night— the hospital cafeteria is closed. We hadn’t even considered that there wouldn’t be food available for us afterwards (partly because during our tour they hadn’t mentioned the cafeteria closing). We were doubly screwed, because I’d gone into labor, somewhat suddenly, while making dinner that— so I hadn’t eaten much prior to birth either.

Luckily my parents had driven down to greet their new granddaughter and kindly hunted down food for us. Care to guess what is the only thing open in the ‘burbs at 11pm? Jack in the Box. So I inhaled what I deemed the world’s GREATEST milkshake and teriyaki chicken bowl. It’s amazing what adrenaline coursing through your body will convince you is the greatest thing in the world.

During labor, I was busy contracting and such, so I wasn’t down to eat much and the trail mix I’d packed sounded like the WORST THING in the world. Thank god for coconut water, but I wish I’d been able to get more easily ingestible calories and electrolytes in.

So based on our experience last time this is what you can find in our labor bag…

  • Coconut Water

    • It’s nature’s electrolyte drink! Coconut water contains potassium, magnesium and other trace minerals making it perfect to replenish those electrolyte stores and help avoid dehydration. It also contains some naturally occurring sugars which will provide a good boost of energy through active labor.

  • Electrolyte Drink

    • You can make your own electrolyte beverage or snag these handy NUUN tabs. I prefer the tabs over the standard sports drinks because I can avoid excessive sugar, artificial flavors, colors, and other garbage ingredients.

  • Smoothies (prepped and frozen)

    • Part of my food preparation for this pregnancy has been stocking the freezer with pre-made smoothies. I want something calorie dense, easy to digest, and easy to sip through labor. We’ll bring two or three with us to the birth center and store them in the fridge, so we have something for post-delivery too.

    • I load my smoothies with pureed pumpkin, frozen cauliflower rice, mixed greens, frozen banana for some sweet, yogurt or avocado, coconut milk, almond butter, and vanilla protein powder from Equip Foods or Collagen Peptides, depending on my mood. I don’t have a real recipe (yet?), but it’s essentially equal parts pumpkin, cauliflower, coconut milk, yogurt.

  • Larabars or Epic Bars

    • Honestly, I can’t see myself reaching for an Epic Bar during labor, but having them on hand for my partner and for post delivery is comforting.

  • Bananas

    • PotassiYUM. Do you hate me for that? Get over it. Again, bananas are easy to digest, provide a quick source of energy, and are loaded with potassium.

  • Phat Fudge (or fat bombs)

    • Fat bombs are great for providing a long, slow-burning source of energy, perfect for early labor. You can make your own— there are a million recipes out there— or snag some of these packaged versions!