Eating and Drinking for Birth

What can I eat and drink in labor?

One question that I hear a lot in Facebook groups and with my own clients is, “What do you recommend eating and drinking during labor?” A lot of mamas are actually surprised to find that you can, indeed, eat and drink in labor beyond the iconic ice chips. Unfortunately, there are some providers who still discourage women from eating anything in labor based on outdated policies. There is little to no evidence that suggests that it is harmful to eat and drink while birthing.

If you are looking to have a low-intervention or natural birth, and your provider doesn’t allow eating and drinking in labor, I would seriously question their support of your choices. How could you expect a mama to be capable of running the serious marathon of birth without any nourishment? Is this provider really expecting to support you in your birthing preferences?

If you hire a doula, they can help you prepare any snacks you might want. Discuss this ahead of time and you can plan your snacks as you get closer to labor. Your doula can help with offering snacks when you need or want them, as well as water or other drinks.

During labor, it is important to ensure that you are keeping yourself nourished. Could you run a marathon without food and water? What should you eat and drink during labor? Think of foods you might eat while recovering from an illness. Avoid anything overly fatty or full of sugar or salt.

Here are some ideas to help you stay nourished during birth: 

  • Smoothies: simple fruit smoothies can keep you nourished and are very easily digestible. They can also be easily sipped through a straw throughout labor if desired. 
  • Yogurt
  • Crackers or toast
  • Soft cooked warm cereal (oatmeal for example)
  • Soft fruits and vegetables
  • Simple soup or broth
  • Herbal infusions: red raspberry leaf and nettle infusions are great for nourishment during labor
  • Water, water, & more water!
  • Labor Aid: a homemade electrolyte drink to keep energy up during labor (see recipe)Coconut water or other electrolyte drink
  • Honey sticks can be helpful

Herbal infusions

Labor Aid Recipe

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup raw honey
¼ tsp sea salt
2 crushed calcium/magnesium tablets
*Mix all ingredients together in a quart sized glass jar and add water (or nettle/raspberry leaf tea) to fill to the top. Put in fridge.

After Birth Nourishment:

Plan a meal for yourself in advance that is packed with protein and extra nutrition to
help recover after birth. You’ll need extra calories, protein, and an iron boost to help balance your body. Warm foods can provide an extra boost of healing energy for recovery. It helps to plan this meal in advance and inform your support person or partner of your wishes. Water, coconut water, and herbal infusions after birth are extremely helpful and necessary in the immediate postpartum recovery time.
If you have a doula, they can help you prepare this meal after birth.


What did you eat and drink during labor? What was your post-birth meal?

Source: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

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