What are some great snacks/foods for childbirth and labor?
August 26, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

What are some great snacks for labor? The baby is due in a couple of weeks, and we're getting ready for the (natural) birth.

We're planning on going to a birth center, not a hospital, so there won't be a cafeteria or anything like that (although I suppose we could get something like pizza delivered? I'd have to ask the midwife about that). There probably will be a fridge, so we can bring things that need to be refrigerated, although obviously things we can keep within reach will be even better.

I recognize that there's definitely an aspect of "each person is going to want different things" going on here, but nonetheless I'm interested in hearing tips and tricks about staying well-fed, especially if the labor time is extended.

If you snacked during labor, what snacks worked best? Was there any food that turned out to be a great idea or big mistake? I think hydration is probably going to be an issue too.

Note that this is both for the mother and the father. I'm planning on staying in place the entire time, not running off to get a meal, so even if my wife loses her appetite further along the process I might still be hungry. Ideally whatever I eat will only require one hand, so the other can remain free for hand-holding or shoulder rubbing.

Tag-on: at one birthing class the teacher mentioned baking cookies as something to do in the very early stages of labor. This sounds pretty awesome to me. Are there any simple, fast (just in case) recipes so we could actually make and bake our own labor snacks?
posted by Deathalicious to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
remember she may be puking it later. I'd avoid pizza for that reason. I'd reach for dense nutrition/ caories like granola bars, dried fruits, and cold stuff.
yay for babies!!!
posted by kristymcj at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

For mom: don't eat anything with red coloring in it like Jell-O. OR: if you do, make sure to make a note of it so that if you throw it up again later people aren't alarmed.

Pizza is a bad idea. Anything with an odor is a bad idea; when I was a lay doula for a friend of mine, she couldn't even bear the smell of Fritos when she was in transition. It might be a problem and it might not, but if it is, clearing the smell of a double-pepperoni with olives out of a birth suite is really hard.

We packed Clif bars, candies for me to suck on, raisins, stuff like that. A LOT of people throw up during transition, so give thought to how something will be when it's coming back up. But by that same token, do be sure to really eat; in my second birth, I knew I would be unlikely to eat anything once Real Galloping Labor got underway, so I ate a pulled pork sandwich while we were waiting for the midwives to get there (home birth) and it turned out to be a really good idea, because my labor, while fast, was very intense and draining.

Also bring something for the midwives to eat. The last thing you want is a midwife with low blood sugar. They will probably take care of it themselves, but it's a good eventuality to plan for.
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2011

What did you like when you were sick as kid?

Those are probably the things you will like best during labor, too.

For me:

Frozen fruit bars and/or frozen fruit chunks
Citrus flavored popsicles --- the citrus is important
Tomato soup
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Toast with really little butter or nothing at all
Graham crackers

Then add to that things that are good to get into you before a long/during a long exercise:

Protein bars
Water --- I liked really cold ice water
Maybe some tea if you want it
Dried fruit is good for, ahem, post-labor events

I too recommend avoiding anything with strong smells, beyond maybe homemade bread. I love the smell of bread cooking in the kitchen, so I may demand my husband makes some while I am in labor because it's so comforting to me. But I may also want nothing of the sort. He is to be prepared to make bread, however.

I also recommend avoiding anything with really strong tastes. And as a bit of side advice, make sure your partner has a toothpaste with a smell you can put up with. He may need to brush his teeth after eating something you can't stand, but then the toothpaste smell may be too much of an ick factor too.
posted by zizzle at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

My thoughts, depending on personal dispostion, go heavily towards calorie and nutrient dense foods, think smoothies, clif bars, bananas, yogurt, maybe nuts or peanut butter.

Then I'd also get some high quality "sucking" type snacks: homemade popsicles, sugar cane, frozen berries, those secretly awesome old fashioned candy striped sticks you can get at Cracker Barrel, lemon drops, whatever she is into.

As far as cookies go, when I am exhausted or expending a lot of energy, I don't like the way seriously refined sugar/wheat/whatever makes me feel. My mom and I make these great no bake cookies that are basically quick oats mixed with dark cocoa and a little bit of peanut butter to make them stick. You just dollup it out on waxed paper and let it cool. It has a really satisfying kind of crumb to it.
posted by stormygrey at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2011

Ask the birth center if they provide stuff. My birth center made me smoothies, cheese/cracker/fruit plates, chicken broth, etc. on demand.

I found that when I was in labor, stuff sounded good to me but I would only end up eating a tiny bit of what was made for me, so small portions of whatever you bring will be fine.

I ate what I mentioned above, and drank LOTS of water (the midwives made me take a sip after every contraction). Other things I ate: a California roll, yogurt, a bit of bread.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2011

OH! Sorry, you're the dad, not the mom. Yes to the above, anything cold and with little or no aroma would be best for you. My husband ate yogurt, granola bars, sandwiches, and pretty much everything I ate. Though he was also having trouble eating a lot because, well, it's a very intense thing to be in labor, even for dad.

My labor was 74 hours long, so we had a lot of cheese and crackers and smoothies. After the baby was born we were both like, CHEESEBURGERS!!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2011

Which, by the way (and I swear this is my last comment) the birth center took care of ordering for us. Really, talk to your midwife and your birth center before buying anything or making plans, they might have you totally covered.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:45 AM on August 26, 2011

When my water broke, the first thing I grabbed was a beer, as I'd not been drinking for 9 months. I ate a regular dinner, and frankly, once actual labor set in, I didn't care about eating. I had ice chips, mints, chocolate, but no solid food. I think my husband had a taco from some cart outside the hospital. Once I had the whopping 9lb baby, with no drugs, not even an epidural, I got that great adrenaline rush and felt like I could eat a horse. So my husband went out and got more tacos. Once my milk came in, I eased up on the spicy.

And no, poop in the delivery room was not a big worry for me.

No matter how carefully you plan, babies have a way of changing those plans.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:48 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just realized you are the dad, too. Sorry for the assumption!

You can eat whatever the heck you want. Just be sensitive that if you eat something that will leave you with some strong breath, you should brush your teeth with a mild smelling toothpaste the mother won't mind.

Other than that, for the mother, keep to simple but complex foods and anything she ever said she found good when she's sick is a good guide.
posted by zizzle at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2011

No pizza delivery. Smells, as mentioned above, and also you want to keep the environment relatively sterile for the birth and not have pizza delivery guys wandering in, or you having to leave the room to pay for the pizza and then wash and suit up again.

High-protein, easy to eat stuff is good for Mom if she is up to eating (the idea of food did not appeal to me AT ALL during labor). Pack yourself some sandwiches, beef jerky, granola bars, anything you can eat on the fly is good.

As far as making cookies, that does sound really sweet, but I don't know how practical it really is. Just about everyone I know started labor very late at night or early in the morning and used the early hours to try to get as much rest as possible. Then, after that, she'll probably really want to be walking as much as she can, or if she is in pain finding comfortable positions. I can't see actually wanting to stand around mixing cookie batter (and I really like to bake!) especially if she has back labor.
posted by misha at 10:51 AM on August 26, 2011

Nthing the "as soon as the hard work is over order a Chinese, Thai, Pizza whatever" but for the few hours before the birth your partner will likely not want anything but ice-chips, popsicle, etc.,

Strong smells can make her pukey too.
posted by Wilder at 10:52 AM on August 26, 2011


Yeah, I'm not the one going into labor but I am interested in foods for her primarily (and I'll just munch on what she's eating). I added the aside mostly just to stave off the "Honey, once she gets into labor she won't feel like eating anything at all" which may be true and also so that I could get useful tips on foods I can bring along.

The avoiding smelly things is a good one as I normally love smelly foods and might have brought some for myself. Good to know I should steer clear.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:53 AM on August 26, 2011

Watermelon is a wonderfruit. Lots of watermelon, for sure.

For something savoury, I'd recommend mini meatballs. If they're full of flavour and they're small then she can just snack on them when she's feeling like eating something with protein without commiting to an actual meal.
posted by h00py at 11:10 AM on August 26, 2011

Four things:

Bring mints or other breath freshening aides! Once she becomes uninterested in food you won't want to smell like food while you help her with her breathing!.

When your midwife tells you to eat because you won't get another chance to, follow her advice. At some point you won't be able to/want to leave your partner's side even if you are starving. Hopefully it won't be a long haul but you never know.

Have something glorious but easy to eat for your partner once the birth is over. Think chocolate milkshake, her favorite yogurt, something like that.

I've heard the "bake cookies in early labor" advice and think it works for two reasons: it's a simple comforting distraction and easy to do as a pair. The point isn't really the cookies. It's the act (and aroma) being calming and soothing. And then also you have cookies! Which you will need when the baby is up at 3 am.

Good luck!
posted by rosebengal at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2011

I ended up not really being able to eat for the 32 hours I was in labor, but I needed energy. Prepackaged protein smoothies (I think they got me Odwalla stuff), coconut water, honey sticks -- these were all great. I couldn't drink plain water, although I think I would have if it had had ice. Straws are useful.

These and the other things mentioned are also great to have on hand postpartum, too. In the first few weeks, I regularly found myself awake alone at 3 am, nursing a newborn and ravenous. Having protein drinks, Clif bars, bananas, and other one-handed snacks around meant I didn't need to wake anyone up or put the baby down to feed myself. Similarly, although I didn't intend to end up at the hospital, I'm grateful I did because they sent me home with a half-liter reusable water bottle with a straw, which was perfect for the extreme thirst of nursing. We filled it before bed, and, again, it meant I didn't need to wake other people up in the middle of the night to get me water.
posted by linettasky at 11:14 AM on August 26, 2011

i thought i'd be really snacky, but all i wanted to do was chew ice! (ice was my only pregnancy craving, too.) nth-ing that smells were pretty powerful for me. oh, & i ate a whole pizza afterwards -- totally agree with Ideefixe about the adrenaline rush of birthing an enormous (8lb 7oz!) baby with no drugs, incl. epidural.
posted by oh really at 11:17 AM on August 26, 2011

I went through massive amounts of coconut water and pre-cut mangos.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2011

I ate turkey sandwiches when I was in early labor-having avoided deli meat for nine months due to the listeria thing, it was what I really wanted and it had no smell and seemed easy for me to digest-hold the mayo, just turkey, lettuce, and tomato on bread. I also sucked on sliced oranges and drank a ton of water. For me, I didn't really think about whether high calorie or high energy stuff would help me but that sounds like a reasonable concern.

But like others have mentioned, once labor got serious...food was the last thing on my mind and my husband still talks about the look on my face when I woke from a five minute nap once the epidural finally started working and caught him with chips and salsa. I would have killed him if I'd had the power to get myself out of bed-the smell of that salsa was revolting. I made him leave the room to get rid of it, it was really bad. But for me, on turkey sandwiches, water and oranges, I didn't throw up at all.

Moreover, that was a great diet for me for afterwards too-I was pretty nauseous once the drugs wore off and the csection I ended up with after all that damn pushing probably didn't help so I stuck to that for several days and managed to keep from any digestive issues. Good luck!
posted by supercapitalist at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2011

I thought I was going to want food, but ended up being so sick I couldn't eat anything, so I'm not much help in what to bring, but do avoid red drinks, because otherwise, when she throws up later, it freaks out the nurses (or whatever will be there) who didn't realize you were drinking red things and think you just threw up blood.
posted by katers890 at 11:50 AM on August 26, 2011

I wanted a natural birth, but ended up in the hospital. They wouldn't let me have anything but ice chips and I was STARVING by the time I got ready to push. I was nauseated, but I'd have killed for some apple juice or something with calories. Pushing is hard work, and my empty stomach just made me more nauseated.

I'd say go with easily digested snacks for her - what did she eat during the first trimester heaves? That. For me it was fruit, cheese, nuts, etc. Good, caloric things to drink might be a good idea - smoothies and the like.

For you, think about energy bars and sandwiches - the one-handed thing is a good idea. Probably not pizza due to the smell.
posted by woodvine at 12:15 PM on August 26, 2011

I ended up being not hungry during labor, just thirsty. Really intense cravings for grape juice, lemon sorbet, and sweetened peppermint tea, so I think I must have needed the sugar too. My husband and step-mom both needed actual food though -- I think things like premade sandwiches, wraps, burritos and the like were what worked best. My best friend made a run to the store, so she was able to take requests. (You might figure out if you'll have anyone in the waiting room who can run errands -- it's really nice to have, and it's nice for them to have something to do while waiting hours, whether that's a good friend, male relatives, or in-laws.) You didn't ask, but I think stocking up on lots of prepacked things like lara bars can be really helpful for the first few weeks of baby. (Keep them within arms reach of a nursing chair.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:52 PM on August 26, 2011

Seriously, when my wife was in labor, eating was the very last thing she wanted to do. She pretty much subsisted on ice chips and crackers. Maybe ice cream during the lulls in the excitement.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:42 PM on August 26, 2011

I had my a water birth at a free-standing birthing center. I was alone with no family/friends, so I'm not sure how much this will help YOU. My midwives had great ideas on what to bring and gave me a list of things other parents brought. I didn't know what I'd want, and had no one to run out and grab me stuff, so I came with a HUGE cooler (and shockingly, I ate a TON of the stuff!)

Some of my favs during my full-on 30+ hour labor. I couldn't stop eating, right up until the end. Looks like this may not be the norm.:

**Miso soup (midwives told me repeatedly this was a favorite there)

**Yogurt. Easy to swallow, fills you up without being heavy. Helped with nausea a lot.

**Instant oatmeal. Nice little kick of energy, increases oxytocin.

**Peanut/almond Butter. I had intense moments of GIVE ME PROTEIN and would just eat a spoon of it. (maybe rice cakes for you to spread it on?)

**Popsicles popsicles popsicles!!! I was SO FREAKING HOT and these were fantastic.

**English muffins (no butter. ick, grease in labor!) Regular bread felt unappealing. These tasted more neutral.

**Vitamin Water, herbal iced teas, gatorade, water with orange slices. My doula joked that there was a full wetbar next to the tub.

I baked oatmeal granola cookies during labor and went heavy on the oatmeal. Increases oxytocin, which helps with letdown for nursing. Didn't eat them DURING labor, but a nice snack after.

I ordered pizza right after labor. Was still starving. Doubt I could have eaten something that greasy *during* labor, but it was awesome after.

Good luck!
posted by Lullen at 2:14 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amazake, horchata, kefir, scrambled eggs, toast, miso, plenty of water. As mentioned above, don't let support people eat stinky food and be ready to serve mama something very hearty as soon as the baby is born.
posted by serazin at 3:41 PM on August 26, 2011

Nthing the suggestion to keep it simple and to stay away from anything with strong scents or flavors -- go for cheese and crackers, oatmeal cookies, fruit cobbler or crisp (I like baked apples), sliced chicken or turkey. Our hospital stocked graham crackers, apple juice, ginger ale, soda crackers, bagels, peanut butter, and a few other simple things like that. A couple of Clif bars or Larabars are good in a pinch. Once I hit active labor I really didn't want to eat, so if you're worried about keeping energy up, snack well in the early stages.
posted by hms71 at 3:55 PM on August 26, 2011

More emphasis: Nothing stinky. I sent my husband out with that instruction and he came back with broiled fish and broccoli and tuna salad with onions--bleh. I wouldn't let him even open the bags in the same room as me!

I did greek yogurt with really good honey--honey being easy to eat and full of calories. We brought a whole container of honey and I sucked on spoonfuls of it when I couldn't handle anything else. We also brought fruit and nuts but I couldn't eat them during labor.

Afterwards I was starving hungry for the next three days and happily ate everything and anything.
posted by beckish at 6:29 PM on August 26, 2011

Didn't experience any puking, for what that's worth. Appetite wasn't high anyway though. Very early in the whole thing I had a tin of Guinness, and I might have had another post-birth, and that turned out to be a very nice idea.
posted by kmennie at 9:16 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I had Boy at home, I had watermelon during labour (not as much as I'd expected) and every last bit of a steak afterward, though even then I didn't eat much meat.
posted by thatdawnperson at 6:09 AM on August 27, 2011

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