In today’s world we have learned a lot about the importance of consuming “healthy fats”. You are probably familiar with “healthy fats” like olive, avocado, certain nuts, and fish oils that contain powerful omega-3 fatty acids. If you are pregnant or trying, you are likely familiar with specific omega-3 fatty acids like DHA which support the child’s brain development. You have probably also heard of mostly saturated fats like butter, coconut oil and other animal fats frequently described as “unhealthy fats”. The generalization that saturated fats are less healthy than unsaturated fats is misleading. It all depends on how you use it.
In the context of postpartum nutrition and recovery, and even breastfeeding, butter, ghee, and coconut oil are essential fats to consume. They supply important nutrients which are important for your physical recovery, aid digestion, and help relieve postpartum constipation (worsened by reduced sleep and a sensitive pelvic floor). If you choose to breastfeed, saturated fats are an important element for enriching breast milk. When your breast milk is high in fat content, your baby tends to be more satisfied which can help eliminate some fussing and also extend sleeping.
The grass-fed qualifier for butter is essential because cows fed a natural grass diet produce far more nutritious butter than grain-fed cows. Grass-fed butter is an excellent source of highly absorbable vitamin A which is highly beneficial. Unlike synthetic vitamin A which is toxic for your growing fetus or child, vitamin A consumed from natural food sources supports the development of your baby’s vision, heart, and major blood vessels. Vitamin A also supports your own healthy thyroid function, which can be depleted during pregnancy leading to long term metabolism changes.
Other nutrients you obtain through grass-fed butter include vitamin D, vitamin E vitamin K, iodine, and selenium. Packed with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and butyrate acid, two beneficial fatty acids, grass-fed butter can aid digestion, help to lower inflammation, and support metabolism for utilizing energy stores more efficiently (in other words losing weight).
If you’re highly sensitive to dairy and nervous about the introducing butter, consider adding grass-fed ghee to your diet. Ghee is what you get when you heat the butter to separate the milk proteins (caseins and whey) and sugars (lactose), leaving you with pure butterfat and fat-soluble vitamins. Ghee is even more packed with CLA and butyrate acid than grass-fed butter, given the higher concentration of butterfat.
Since it doesn’t have the milk proteins and sugars in butter, ghee has a higher smoke point so is more versatile and forgiving to cook with.
Coconut oil is a power food to consume during both pregnancy and postpartum. It contains lauric acid, a powerful anti-microbial fatty acid that protects the immune system of your fetus and newborn.
They are also beneficial for your own physical and mental function, fueling your body and mind during those restless first weeks after giving birth. Most fatty acids (including those in butter and ghee) are long-chain fatty acids, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently. They go straight to your liver from your digestive tract, where they are either used as a quick-source energy or they turn into ketone bodies, which boosts brain power and development. During pregnancy, by eating well to support the child’s brain development, you inadvertently benefit your own brain function. After giving birth, especially during restless days and nights, coconut oil can supply a quick boost of energy or support your brain while you make essential decisions.
We also love coconut oil for nourishing and healing your skin, whether you are healing stretch marks during pregnancy, stitches or skid marks from natural birth, or scars from a C-section. If you are breastfeeding, it also works to sooth your nipples when they become cracked or painful. Just as it soothes your skin, it can help battle your baby’s diaper rash. It’s as worth having a jar of this amazing oil in your baby’s changing room as it is in your kitchen.
If you already consume grass-fed butter, ghee, and coconut oil regularly, you don’t necessarily need to increase your consumption of these nutrient and energy dense fats. In moderation, they benefit postpartum recovery, healthy lactation, and metabolism without leading to unnecessary weight gain. However, if you do not typically consume them, we recommend introducing them during pregnancy or after giving birth so that you can enjoy their benefits and pass along additional benefits to your baby.