The pregnancy and postpartum period are unique times. And like many of life’s other transformative experiences, they require a unique approach across a number of spheres—including nutrition. This is the philosophy of pregnancy and postpartum meal delivery service Chiyo, a brand that sits at the intersection of traditional Chinese medicine and Western standards of nutrition. Featuring clinical nutritionists and trained chefs, Chiyo’s team assists in creating new realities for maternal health and wellness in the United States, namely through the design of stage-based, nutritionally-dense meals for all parts of the journey.
We recently spoke with Founder, Clinical Nutritionist, and Postpartum Private Chef Jennifer about Chiyo’s work in supporting postpartum care and recovery. At the core of their work are incredibly simple, yet powerful tools within the context of pregnancy and postpartum care. “One of the biggest things that was important to me in the foundation of Chiyo was that it eluded warmth and compassion,” says Jennifer.
And so, she weaves this warmth and compassion into the work in intentional ways—like ensuring that she she captures a vast group of people at all stages of the reproductive continuum. Jennifer deliberately chose a gender-neutral color palette for the brand to account for differing identities, familial arrangements, and the communal nature of postpartum healing and recovery. “I didn’t want it to only appeal to one person but to cross to all types of family members including partners, colleagues and biological family members.” In this way, Jennifer honors the sanctity of the brand’s message. Chiyo means “thousands of generations”, and everything they do keeps this in mind.
In addition to values of community, Chiyo’s work upholds the significance of addressing unique needs facing vulnerable populations. Rather than treat these unique needs as foreign, Chiyo leans on the sacred wisdom nestled within models of care outside of the United States. “This standard of care already exists throughout the world through postpartum hotels, confinement nannies or key policies in place to support the mother.” This is where Chiyo’s work starts—the baseline. Jennifer explained that Chiyo started their work with postpartum support because of the Western world’s growing knowledge of the importance of nutritional support at this stage.
The unique needs are multifaceted in nature, but Jennifer has a wide range of knowledge on the intricacies of nutritional support. “There are key nutrients needed for blood and tissue repair such as iron, collagen rich foods like spinach, broth, meat proteins, beans, legumes which specifically target muscle and blood building processes.” Through the meal delivery service, Jennifer and her team craft meals with the healing properties of these foods in mind.
The longitudinal nature of the pregnancy and postpartum period heightens the singularity of the process. Jennifer accounts for this in her work, too. For those that she meets in the third trimester, Jennifer’s consultation work includes setting a strong framework for labor and delivery into postpartum. For Jennifer, this means thinking about obstacles early on. This looks like educating expectant parents about the significance of iron intake, and designing personalized plans for accounting for it.
It’s important to note that her mode of care is not generalized to all birthing people. During our interview, Jennifer stressed the importance of stage and symptom-specific consultation. “Nutrition is bioindividual, which can be different from one person to the next. It’s important to learn what those levers are for each person to ensure they’re obtaining the right nutrition for their stage.”
At Chiyo, nutrition is not just a foundational tool for promoting healing. Through her work, Jennifer also leans on the interplay between Eastern tradition and Western nutrition to diversify people’s palates. “There are many key ingredients we use in our meal programs that many people have never been exposed to,” Jennifer explains. “Introducing new flavors and ingredients to our community is one of our favorite things.”
Postpartum healing is not limited to the physical. Chiyo looks to expand the accessibility of its offerings, as they have potential to assist in the treatment of conditions like gestational diabetes or hypertension. Their recent endeavors within the sphere of accessibility include promoting HSA/FSA coverage, and taking other measures behind the scenes to make their programs available to those in need.