PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING

If you have children who share similar DNA as your own [or are on your way], you may know both the blessings and perils of childbearing. Of course, you may also be that lucky person who breezed through pregnancy without so much as a hiccup to disturb the permanent angelic glow that should be reserved for movies [and even then is make-up induced which is only fair to the rest of the pregnant world]. If that's you, well I'm trying to be happy for you, trying.

If, however, you are one of the many who have spent three months of solid days and nights hugging the porcelain throne, I've been there. If you have stared aimlessly into the refrigerator knowing you need to eat but realize hopelessly that nothing sounds appetizing and will send you right back to the throne you just found enough energy to pull yourself away from, I've been there. If you have watched in horror as your husband's face turns to one of angst and despair, desperately wondering who [or what] he married as an endless onslaught of cantankerous words uncontrollably fly out of your mouth landing on the one person you love the most, well unfortunately I've been there. If you've suffered from the chronic "C" word, wanted to wear a "touch me and die" t-shirt everyday for 12 weeks straight, or gazed in horror at the mirror that mercilessly reflects what can only be described as teenage prepubescent syndrome that has now taken up residence all over your face, I've been there too. If you barely found the strength to get out of bed and have tried to remember a night where you didn't wake up to pee five times but are certain no such memory exists, I've been there. You've cussed, you've pouted, and you've wondered, as you are barely hanging on a prayer, "will this ever end?". If you are reading this and thinking, yes! that is, or at one point was, me, then apparently misery loves company. Welcome to the club!

On the other hand, you may also have had the joy of experiencing the transformation that comes with the second trimester - evidence that miracles do exist and happen every day. The nesting [admit it, not only was it fun but can you believe what you got done?!], the decorating, the shopping, the name-hunt, the sleep [oh yes, the sleep], the showers, and finally, finally you have that glow. You wonder, ignorantly, why anyone would actually want to have their baby - this time is so much fun!

And then week 35 rolls around. The only thing I'll say about the later end of the third trimester is that I think it is necessary to get you to birthing desperation. Only then can a person withstand labor and delivery [of course if you are one of those people who's baby effortlessly "slipped" out, again I'm trying to be happy for you].

Let's be real, pregnancy is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, worry and faith. Growth happens within you, and within you, during pregnancy. Life becomes fuller and the world somehow becomes both darker and more beautiful at the same time. Jokes and lamenting aside, it is one of the greatest experiences known to womankind, full of empowerment, responsibility, and grace. 

This is what leads me to this page. As much as pregnancy, and nursing for that matter, can be a wonderful and exciting experience, it can also be confusing and daunting. All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye [or a passionate evening], you are now responsible for another being. You. Everything you do, your baby does. Everything you eat, your baby eats. Most of the time it can seem like quite a load to carry and, in all honesty, it should because it is. My hope though is that this page becomes somewhat of a road map - something to start you on the journey. Of course you won't find everything here and there is still much to be learned, but we all have to start somewhere and need someone to lighten the load.

May you find the ability to traverse the first trimester and come out glowing, may you relish in the second trimester and take the time to plan well, may you be brought to your knees by the third trimester and find endurance and faith there. May you experience the unmatched joy of meeting your child, may you let the tears fall, and may you be able to fully enjoy the bond of motherhood. Most of all, may your pregnancy glow shine each time you meet the eyes of your baby and may he / she know, in that instant, how great and deep and wide and constant your love is.

Congratulations!

[PREGNANCY]

"Detox" Your Body

I hesitate to use the word "detox" here as following a detoxification program while pregnant or nursing can be detrimental to the baby, even dangerous at times. By "detox" I am referring to changing any negative dietary habits, which is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby. It not only makes a healthier you and allows you to set a good example, but everything you put in your body goes directly to your child. By "detox" I don't mean taking on a rigorous or eliminatory diet. What I mean is eliminate known hazards from your diet and do it now. What might these things be? Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, prescription and over-the-counter drugs [unless specifically prescribed by your doctor under the knowledge of pregnancy], processed / boxed / packaged foods, additives / preservatives / artificial colors, non-organic meats / milk / eggs / cheeses, non-organic produce, and sugar. Herbs can be both helpful and extremely harmful during pregnancy. See the "Herbs" category below for specifics.

Diet

Organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts / seeds, and some organic meats are very healthful during pregnancy. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, be sure to properly combine your foods and take the appropriate supplements to ensure that you are receiving digestible, complete proteins and adequate amounts of vital nutrients.

There are some specific foods that directly aid in a healthy pregnancy: amaranth, poppy seeds, raspberry leaf, and yams are a few of those. Amaranth is especially good as it is a superior source of protein as well as calcium [and the nutrients that are essential for it's absorption, magnesium and slicon], phosphorous, iron, and zinc. All of these can easily be deficient during pregnancy. Poppy seeds aide in fertility and are recommend in eastern countries for pregnant women. Raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic, strengthening the uterus and easing childbirth. You will find raspberry tea in almost all teas recommended for pregnancy. Yams have compounds helpful in preventing miscarriage.

Use herbs like turmeric, garlic, parsley and cilantro [among many other culinary herbs] generously in your meals. Eating these, and other fresh foods, are a great way to keep your energy, get essential nutrients for both you and your baby, and help to aid in healthy weight gain.

Supplements

Of course every doctor will tell you that prenatal vitamins are an essential part of pregnancy care. You may, however, want to consult with a Naturopath physician or Holistic Health Practitioner to make sure there aren't other hidden deficiencies. Being deficient in folic acid or zinc, for example, can be harmful for your growing baby and may warrant additional supplementation. It is important to have your primary care physician give their approval on any extra supplements you may take.

Herbs 

Herbs can be both extraordinarily beneficial and dangerous depending on the plant. Some herbs have the power to strengthen your uterus while others can bring on contractions and even cause miscarriage. The later is the main reason taking herbs while pregnant has been strongly discouraged. This is unfortunate especially for herbs like raspberry leaf, chamomile, calendula, lavender, and fennel, all of which are generally considered not only safe but valuable for pregnant women. Raspberry leaf specifically is known as a reproductive, pregnancy, and childbirth tonic.

On the other hand, herbs like black and blue cohosh, buchu, cascara sagrada, dong quai, feverfew, lobelia, senna, false unicorn, pennyroyal, juniper berries, myrrh, rue, angelica, and wild ginger should be avoided during pregnancy. Some of these are emmenagogues which simply means they promote menstruation and, because of this, can lead to miscarriage.

Here is a link to more on herbs: Herbs During Pregnancy

The Bulk Herb Store has a wonderful tea, Mama's Red Raspberry Brew, if you are looking for a pregnancy-safe tea. You can also try making your own Chamomile Latte.

Water

Drinking enough water is always important but even more so when you have another life within. The general rule is, if you feel thirsty then you may already be dehydrated. Don't let yourself get to "thirst". Keep a water bottle on hand at all times and replace as many beverages as you can with water. To ward off any boredom, add lemon, lime, or orange slices. You can also add berries, cucumber slices, and mint to flavor your water.

You can also add a pinch [the amount should not effect the taste of the water - if it does, reduce] of celtic sea salt to your water. This will help reduce swelling, especially in those summer months, provide energy, flushes out your system, and aides in fighting off infections. The type of salt is important here. I only recommend celtic sea salt as it is left unrefined thus maintaining all of its trace minerals.

Exercise

Pregnancy is no time to simply put your feet up and enjoy "easy street". On the contrary, it is the time to be even more diligent about exercising appropriately. Of course, if you suffer from the first trimester blues in the form of nausea, vomiting, and extreme fatigue, give yourself a break and try low impact yoga moves if you can. In some cases though sleep may be the best thing you can give your body. As soon as you are feeling well enough, or if you were blessed by an easy first trimester, make time to add at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise to your day. Activities like swimming, walking, yoga [although not all positions are appropriate so talk with a certified yoga instructor], moderate weight training, stretching, and low-impact aerobics are all fantastic options.

Exercise not only keeps you fit but will also help prepare your body for childbirth, reduce pregnancy pains [especially lower back and hip pain], will increase energy, and keep you positive.

Safe Body Care Essentials

Toxins don't simply apply to food. Our skin is the where many of the environmental toxins actually gain access to our body. Paying attention to what you put on your skin is extremely important when pregnant and nursing. When I became pregnant with my daughter, one of the first things I did was begin making my own lotions, oils, salves, lip balm, and mouthwash. I switched our toothpaste to fluoride free and made sure my shampoo, conditioner, and cosmetics were made with non-toxic ingredients.

If you are interested in making your own body care essentials, check out this post.

As you are reviewing your lotions and make up be sure to look into other household toxins that can be found in cleaning supplies, dish soaps, laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, and any other items you use around the house. Switch any candles and room sprays to ones free of synthetic dyes and scents.

I highly recommend Organic Body Care by Stephanie Tourles for belly and stretch mark salve recipes.

Making Babies by Shoshanna Easling also has some great recipes as does Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar.

Morning Sickness

If you have suffered morning sickness, or all-day sickness for that matter, you know there is nothing like feeling nauseaus for months on end. Thankfully there are some ways to reduce this unpleasant fact of pregnancy.

Eat slowly and more frequent, smaller meals rather than quickly rushing through three large meals a day. Eating slowly allows your digestive system time to kick into gear. Thoroughly chewing your food is an important part of this process. Smaller meals keeps you from becoming too full which can exasperate an already sick feeling.

Avoid fried, spicy, and greasy foods, all of which are hard on the body anyway but are even moreso while pregnant.

Don't lie down immediately after eating.

If you feel sick first thing in the morning, have a plain, dry snack upon waking. Crackers, plain rice cakes, or a slice of bread are all good options.

Avoid any smells that trigger your nausea.

Chamomile, lavender, and peppermint teas are all helpful in combating nausea. Serve just warm or at room temperature for best results.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may actually need to eat meat. Sometimes protein can help eliminate the effect of morning sickness.

Try a ginger tincture, adding a slice of ginger to red raspberry leaf tea, or place a chunk of ginger in carbonated water. Add a little honey to your tea as some nausea may be related to low blood sugar.

Take a vitamin B supplement [specifically B6].

Bring on the rice cakes! And then never eat them again ;)

Plan Ahead for Baby Time

The mind reels with all of the things that are important and necessary to consider in preparing for a new baby. In the midst of all the clothes and diapers and cribs and wall hangings don't forget to plan a few freezer meals to make healthy cooking a cinch when sleep in the only thing on your mind. Prior to my daughter being born, I stocked my freezer with about two dozen meals ranging from marinated chicken to soup to curries to fajita fillings. This was a life saver when eating out would have been highly desirable.

You may also want to make a few salves and oils in advance for your baby. I chose to bring all of my own items with us to the hospital in exchange for the soaps and lotions that would have been provided. The nurses on staff were happy to use what I had made. Here are some wonderful baby body essentials.

Resources

Here are a few of my favorite pregnancy related resources. Of course, I didn't agree with them verbatum but for the most part these were crucial in keeping me sane pre and post-baby.

Making Babies Series by Shoshanna Easling
Raising Baby Green by Alan Greene
The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy by Shonda Parker
The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau
So That's What They're For by Janet Tamaro
What To Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
Prenatal Yoga with Shiva Rae
Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley


[BREASTFEEDING]


"Detox" Your Body

I hesitate to use the word "detox" here as following a detoxification program while pregnant or nursing can be detrimental to the baby, even dangerous at times. By "detox" I am referring to changing any negative dietary habits, which is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby. It not only makes a healthier you and allows you to set a good example, but everything you put in your body goes directly to your child. By "detox" I don't mean taking on a rigorous or eliminatory diet. What I mean is eliminate known hazards from your diet and do it now. What might these things be? Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, prescription and over-the-counter drugs [unless specifically prescribed by your doctor under the knowledge of pregnancy or breastfeeding], processed / boxed / packaged foods, additives / preservatives / artificial colors, non-organic meats / milk / eggs / cheeses, non-organic produce, and sugar. Herbs can be both helpful and extremely harmful during pregnancy and breastfeeding. See the "Herbs" category below for specifics.

Increase Milk Supply

There are some foods and herbs that have been used around the world to give a nursing mama's milk supply a boost. Some women tend to "dry out" prematurely and, if this is you, there are foods you can eat to help prevent that from happening. Above all drink plenty of water and then drink some more.

Foods: alfalfa, amaranth, arame, asparagus, breadnut, fennel, lettuce, nigella seed, oats, parsley, parsely root, sesame seeds, and yams

Herbs: alfalfa, anise, borage, dill, fennel, fenugreek, and parsley

Note: consuming moderate to large amounts of sage [outside of occasional culinary uses] may slow and even stop breastmilk production. If you are struggling with producing a sufficient quantity, you may want to avoid sage completely. If you are trying to wean your child, sage may be helpful in reducing fullness as you eliminate nursing times.

The Bulk Herb Store has a wonderful tea blend, Mama's Milk Tea, specifically formulated to improve the quality and quantity of your breastmilk. There is also a recipe [click on above link] if you would like to blend your own.

Breast Discomfort

I highly recommend Organic Body Care by Stephanie Tourles for breast salve and rub recipes.

If your milk has just come in and you are dealing with painful engorgement there are two things you must know:

1) DON'T PUMP. Whatever you do, resist the temptation you pump for relief. Pumping signals to your body that there isn't enough milk, so it creates more. Not exactly what you want. This will prolong your engorgement and make it even more painful. I pumped with my first child and was engorged for over a week. I resisted with my second and the engorgement only lasted a few days.

2) Use a cabbage leaf. Seriously. Place a cold cabbage leaf on your breast for 20 minutes or as long as you need. Repeat as necessary. This was one of the only things that helped me.

If you have a clogged milk duct: place a very warm [almost hot] wash cloth over the clogged duct. Let sit for a few minutes and then gently begin to massage the area for 5 - 10 minutes. Repeat as necessary as well as in the shower.

Supplements

Supplements are just as important post-baby as you are still feeding two if you are breastfeeding your baby. Many doctors will recommend that you continue your prenatal vitamins as long as you are nursing. You may, however, want to consult with a Naturopath physician or Holistic Health Practitioner to make sure there aren't other hidden deficiencies that warrant additional supplementation. Childbearing takes a toll on the body and it is vital that you restore what was lost throughout your pregnancy and delivery. You may also want to take additional Folic Acid / vitamin B12, vitamin D, and an Omega-3 supplement [like flaxseed oil].

Remember, it is important to have your primary care physician give their approval on any extra supplements you may take.

Water

Drinking enough water is always important but even more so when you are feeding an additional life. The general rule is, if you feel thirsty then you may already be dehydrated. Don't let yourself get to "thirst". Dehydration can lead to a reduced milk supply. Keep a water bottle on hand at all times and replace as many beverages as you can with water. To ward off any boredom, add lemon, lime, or orange slices. You can also add berries, cucumber slices, and mint to flavor your water.

Resources

I listed this under the pregnancy section as well but So That's What They're For by Janet Tamaro is my favorite book on breastfeeding. It's funny and informative and really a great read!

I also love the Making Babies Series by Shoshanna Easling. It is packed full of homemade herbal remedies as well as recipes and personal stories.

1 comment:

Jessica Lowe said...

thanks heaps this is very helpful! I'm breastfeeding at the moment so it's always good to know how to support the milk :)