Nourishing the Postpartum Parent: Creamy Butternut Squash and Kale Soup

Nourishing the Postpartum Parent: Creamy Butternut Squash and Kale Soup

Sitting the Month or observing the first 40 days postpartum is widely practiced in East Asian homes to provide deep nourishment to the new parent. For thousands of years, parents have embraced this time of sacred retreat, understanding that the days and weeks following birth supports one’s mind and body for the next 40 years, encouraging vibrant health well into the menopausal years. 

East Asian medicine practitioners support new parents in honoring this period, whether with gentle acupuncture, strengthening herbs, warming bodywork, or nourishing food therapy. The goal is to assist the new mother to rest, process her experiences, and regain her strength.  

Dietary recommendations may be suggested to support an individual’s unique pattern, and your practitioner can help identify what will be most beneficial for you. Oftentimes this will include specific ingredients, methods of preparation, and techniques to support digestion. 

When it comes to the postpartum period, warm and easy to digest foods are essential. Think porridges made with goji berries, stews slow cooked with jujube dates, baked seasonal vegetables, steamed dark cruciferous greens, bone broths made with ginger and spices, roasted meats and more. 

In the first 40 days, East Asian medicine practitioners will recommend including soup in at least one meal of the day. Why is soup so loved by acupuncturists? Warmth. Our Stomach and Spleen Qi (the energy that drives the strength and volume of stomach acid and digestive enzymes) thrive when we support our bodies with soft, moist, and easy-to-digest meals. 

Soups can easily be nutrient-rich and offer new parents the opportunity to incorporate plenty of seasonal veggies, herbs, and spices into their daily meals. Chinese medicine views food as medicine. Much of the body’s postnatal qi (lifeforce that is cultivated through lifestyle practices) comes from Gu Qi (food qi). So, it can be helpful to make one pot of hearty soup a week (or freeze several containers prior to the delivery date) to supplement the body and invite ease. 

Here is a creamy butternut squash soup recipe that is simple to prepare and abundant in qi and blood building components. One beautiful way to include those who want to support you in your pregnancy and birth is to ask for their help in preparing this soup or in picking up the ingredients from the local grocery store. The opportunity to help in this way often feels like a gift to your family or chosen family.

The main ingredients in this meal are butternut squash, carrots, and parsnips. These root vegetables are high in beta-carotene, which our bodies use to make vitamin A (a key immune-boosting nutrient). In Traditional Chinese medicine, we see these vegetables as sweet and full of the yang energy from the summer that has passed. Of all the flavors, sweetness has the strongest supplementing effect on the body. It promotes optimal functioning of the Spleen, aids in digestion, and helps our bodies produce ample qi. 

The warm spices in this meal (turmeric, curry, and garam masala – a blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper) gently tend to the digestive fire and hold anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Their warming and moving properties gently alleviate stagnant qi and blood in the channels that run through the pelvic region, supporting the healing and recovery process. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into chunks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped 
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock 
  • 2/3 cup of coconut milk (plus more for serving)

Step 1: chop the squash, carrots, parsnips, onion and garlic and add to a large mixing bowl. 

Step 2: drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, add salt, black pepper, spices, and mix to ensure each vegetable is well coated.  

Step 3: place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 4: wash and coarsely chopped the bunch of kale. Steam or bake as you like. 

Step 5: add roasted vegetables to a blender with the vegetable stock and coconut milk until you have a smooth and creamy consistency. 

Step 6: serve several spoonfuls into a bowl, garnish with a drizzle olive oil, saved coconut milk, and a serving of kale. Additional toppings include pumpkin seeds, red pepper flakes, and coarse sea salt. 

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