Labor nourishment


Evidence shows that, in most cases, the benefits of eating and drinking throughout labor far exceed any potential or perceived drawbacks.  Women need calories and hydration throughout the hard work of labor in order to birth optimally and avoid risks such as exhaustion (and consequential ineffective contractions), electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar, and other problems.  Furthermore, perceptions of pain can also be exacerbated when a mama is hungry and/or thirsty in labor.

We’ve written before on the importance of hydration during labor.  Today, we are going to talk about some possible snacks you may consider having on hand for mama during labor (and possibly the birth team—partner, doula, family—too).  If you are birthing at the birth center, you are responsible for bringing your own snacks and fluids for labor.  You’ll also want to bring or have a plan to order delivery of a post-birth meal that is more substantial than your snacks.

Recommendations on choosing labor snacks

You won’t know ahead of time what is going to sound good to you in the throes of labor.  However, you can make some wise choices ahead of time to have food on hand you think you might like to have on hand for the big event.  Having a few different options is a good idea, too, to increase the chances that what you have will sound good when you’re needing nourishment during labor.

  • Choose foods that you like and tolerate well
  • Consider foods that are comforting to you
  • Some suggest selecting the same kinds of food you might choose if you were getting over a cold or flu
  • Consider easy-to-eat, ready-to-eat (or easy-to-prepare) foods
  • Consider packing small quantities of the food you want to bring
  • Many suggest avoiding greasy, heavy, or really rich foods

 Possible foods for labor

Feel free to consider whatever on this list sounds good to you and ignore the rest!

1. Oatmeal

Warm, nourishing, gentle on the tummy and easy to make, oatmeal is a great choice for many mamas in labor.  Add fruit and honey if desired.

2. Fruit

Many women love bananas (a good source of potassium) during labor.  Some swear by frozen grapes.  Many do not care for citrus/acidic fruits in labor, though some do.  Choose whatever fruits you prefer and get them ready to go (cut into bite size pieces if possible) before labor or in early labor.  Dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries and apricots are also good choices.  Applesauce is also a labor favorite for many mamas.

3. Honey

Honey is a great source of instant energy (carbs) during labor.  It is also not something that requires chewing, which mama may prefer if she is having trouble keeping food down but needs energy.  Honey sticks are easiest for mom to suck on without changing her position.  You can find these in some stores.  We’ve also found them at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market (and perhaps they can be found at other farmer’s markets).

4. Yogurt

A great source of protein and carbohydrates, yogurt is also easy on the tummy.

5. Cheese

In cubes or slices, this snack has calcium and protein for lasting energy.

6. Protein, nut-fruit, or granola bars

Pure Bars and Lara Bars have fewer and whole, quality ingredients compared to other bars.

7. Miso soup or a light soup broth

8. Graham crackers, saltine crackers, other crackers

9. Eggs

Scrambled or hardboiled, eggs are light and contain protein for long lasting energy.

10. Nuts or seeds.

An excellent source of protein packed in tiny bite-sized bits. Try almonds, cashews, pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  You may want to make a trail mix, combining nuts and seeds with dried fruits.

11. Whole grain bagel or toast

12. Popsicles

Opt for a healthy option if possible.  You can also make red raspberry tea, cool it, sweeten, and make into popsicles for labor

What did you enjoy during your labor?