Mothers put their children before anything-if you’re a parent, this probably isn’t news to you! The love, commitment and protectiveness we feel toward our children is truly transformative. But how much are moms sacrificing in the name of maternal love?
The degree to which moms are neglecting their own needs in favour of their families’ is impacting both their day-to-day wellness and long-term health goals. The worrisome results of a recent survey reveal that Canadian moms are not taking great care of themselves, instead prioritizing other responsibilities and the health of their children at a personal cost.
So what are moms foregoing in favour of their family duties? The research found that mothers will put off visits to the doctor, exercise and personal pursuits to better serve their children. Moms also make healthy eating a bigger priority for their families than they do for their own diets.
These are troubling findings- though easy enough to believe and understand. What’s important for moms to remember however, is that self-care is an important part of being a good parent. Here are some reasons why.
1. Taking care of yourself will lower your stress. Getting too wrapped up in your maternal duties can cause major burnout. Between bake sales, daycare, soccer lessons and laundry, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Without planned breaks you not only lose some of your personal fulfillment and pursuits- you can also begin to feel like you’re on a hamster wheel with no end in sight. The tasks and chores and everyday trials will never stop- so you need to. Instead of waiting for a break, take one. This will help you calm down, refocus, and return to your other tasks with more clarity and balance.
2. You’ll boost your energy. When you stop making things like nutrition, sleep and exercise priorities in your life, your energy is (unsurprisingly) going to dip. So don’t think of these things as sacrifices for the greater good- see them for what they are: unfair denials to yourself that will prevent you from being an active and energized parent. You need to fuel and strengthen your body properly for one of your most important jobs: being a mother.
3. You’ll see a rise in your mood and an increase in your patience. A rested mom is a calm, rational and patient one. You may not realize how a lack of sleep, a sore back, or low blood sugar are affecting your mood –and by extension, your parenting. Prioritizing your health will help you to keep a clear head, which is important in your role as disciplinarian, adjudicator and teacher.
4. You’ll set a positive example. Think about what your personal neglect is communicating to your children. By making their health a priority but not your own, you may be unknowingly teaching them double standards, or suggesting that their learned behaviours end with adulthood. Try taking a more holistic approach by demonstrating that things like good nutrition and sleep schedules are important for kids and grown-ups alike. In adulthood we also often mimic the parenting styles with which we were brought up. If you’re stretched too thin your children may come to view this as a normal expectation of parents and adults.
5. You have a responsibility to yourself and your family. Being an active, available, present parent requires that you be healthy. If you want to be around for your children for many years to come, it’s never too early to start taking your health seriously.
A lifting guide for new moms from BabyZone provides parents with an important reminder: many mothers suffer from repetitive stress injuries from the daily physical demands of lifting, carrying and loading their infants into the car seat, high chair and crib. Preoccupied with the demands of newborn care and postpartum recovery, many moms easily overlook the fact that the regular care of a new baby can take its toll on many parts of the body, including neck, upper and lower back, arms, hips and knees.
A guide such as this is an important resource for learning how to avoid injury and muscle strain. In addition to complementary care such as regular chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy, we highly recommend following an informed set of lifting guidelines. Here are some of the best practices found in the article that we support and advise to our new moms as well.
When carrying a car seat: many moms make the mistake of putting the car seat handle over their forearm. They lean sideways at the hip to accommodate the bulk and weight. This strains muscles in the back and will eventually cause pain to the arm holding the seat. Instead, grip the handle with both hands and carry the car seat in front of your body. Avoid standing and holding the car seat when it isn’t necessary- if you pause to chat outside your car, put the car seat inside first, or set it down at your feet.
When lifting your baby out of the crib: Make sure to lower the railing. BabyZone’s guide is right to point out that lifting and holding the infant at arm’s length puts too much pressure on your spinal disks. Your arms will tire much more easily the further the baby is from your body. Instead, lower the railing, bring baby close to you, and lift from your knees.
Another common mistake occurs when lifting your toddler up onto your lap. Most moms will lean forward and pick the child up while still seated themselves. BabyZone warns that this increases the weight of pressure on your spine anywhere from 3 to 10 times! To your spine, you’re no longer lifting a 15lb toddler- you could be experiencing as much as 150lbs of stress to your spinal discs.
Instead, get on the floor with your baby. Kneel on one knee and lift using your whole body. Then sit down together on the chair or sofa.
With any of these daily lifting scenarios, be mindful of your own discomfort- if you start to feel recurring pain or think you’ve injured yourself, don’t ignore it! Repeatedly stressing the same muscles and discs could exacerbate the problem quickly. Instead, treat your body well, be careful when lifting, and remember that caring for an infant or toddler can be a major physical demand.
Often when women think about labour prep they think about things like pain management, positions, and breathing techniques. One critical thing that can be easily overlooked is fuel! Giving birth is an enormous physical undertaking that will demand endurance and strength. As such, it requires that you prepare as you would for any other event: by fueling your body to succeed.
Now, of course you can’t eat throughout the entire labour and birthing process for a number of reasons. In the event of emergency medical intervention for example, general anesthetic requires that you have an empty stomach to avoid the risk of regurgitating food.
Secondly, as labour progresses many women simply don’t feel like eating. And lastly, once you have an epidural you aren’t able to eat or drink. Even with any one of these scenarios in mind, it’s still very important to be mindful of your physical needs pre-labour and in early labour. Here are some general tips that will help you stay nutritionally equipped for birth.
1. Fuel up in the final days: Toward the end of your pregnancy, stay vigilant about your eating habits. Make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates and proteins and rest as much as possible. This will allow your body to store glycogen to provide you with energy throughout labour and to prevent ketosis. Eat up to store up: Birth is a major event that will require plenty of strength!
2. Safe snacking during labour: In early labour, choose dry carbohydrates for the slow release of energy over the hours to come. If you can add some protein to the mix, do so. Snack suggestions include bananas, dates, yogurt and crackers. Avoid big meals in case of nausea and vomiting during labour.
3. Listen to your body: So much is happening during labour that you might find yourself solely tuned into the heart rate monitor and contractions, forgetting to properly address hunger and thirst. But remember that taking care of yourself is important so that you have the energy to push. Between contractions- especially in the early stages- stop and assess. Are you feeling nourished? Hydrated? Do you have supplies like water and sports drinks nearby?
4. Hydrate. Many women get thirsty during labour and you might find that your delivery room is extremely warm for the baby. Quench your thirst and cool yourself down with plenty of cold water or natural juice. Isotonic beverages are great too, as these will replace your electrolytes and absorb quickly. If you’re not able to eat during a long labour, these sports drinks can help keep your energy up.
5. Check with other moms. Ask around and see how far into labour other moms kept snacking, or how soon before contractions they had their last pre-birth meal. Check out registered dietician and blogger Kath Younger’s pre-labour breakfast here, and her full birth story here. She started labour with a full bowl of oatmeal, nuts and fruits, and later snacked on dates, banana slices with peanut butter, and coconut water. On her blog she notes at the start of labour “There’s no way I can do this hungry!”
As the arrival of your baby approaches, you’ll need to modify your diet according to many variables: the length of your labour, the wait time until you hit active labour, and the type of medication you use (if any). Whatever your birth plan, remember to have some fuel on-hand during the final weeks of your pregnancy!
One of the reasons we’re big-time advocates of chiropractic is that it’s useful for treating such a wide variety of conditions- many of which you probably wouldn’t think a chiropractic adjustment could fix. Many new patients think of chiropractic as a solution to chronic and crippling health problems and misalignments. But chiropractic is also a useful therapy to treat and prevent the most common complaints you can think of, including acute conditions like colds and headaches.
Headaches affect many people in different ways. In the course of your own experience you’ve probably encountered many types of pain in different locations, including the temples, forehead, top of the head, base of the skull and behind the eyes. There are tension headaches, pressure headaches and full blown migraines. No matter which type of headache-sufferer you are however, you would likely agree that headaches are irritating at best and debilitating at worst.
While reaching for an over-the-counter drug may help to ease the discomforts of your headache in the present, we’re advocates of finding a “bigger picture,” more long-term solution. With a chiropractic consultation you may discover that the root of your headaches is actually a lifestyle or health factor you’d never previously considered.
What you might not know is that spinal manipulations have consistently been known to improve headaches. Misaligned vertebrae and muscle strain resulting from poor posture can cause severe discomfort and contribute to the frequency and severity of headaches. These headaches are classified as cervicogenic, and benefit enormously from chiropractic adjustments.
Chiropractic adjustments coupled with massage therapy can also be highly therapeutic for misalignment and stress that are affecting your posture. When your body physically realigns and relaxes, it’s easier for your mind to follow suit. That means that these treatments can decrease your tension and encourage the release of feel-good endorphins, reducing or largely eliminating stress-related headaches.
While stress may be tricky to control, there are a number of other headache triggers that you could manage effectively- all it takes is some investigating. For example, your headaches could be related to ergonomics, caffeine or blood sugar. With the right lifestyle alterations, these would cease to be a problem. A consultation and a second opinion could be just the thing you need to determine which “headache type” you suffer from. No matter what your type, your goal should be to treat the cause, not just the effect.
One of the most overwhelmingly common first-trimester symptoms among pregnant women is –as we all know- morning sickness. The degree to which women experience nausea and vomiting will vary, not only woman to woman, but also from pregnancy to pregnancy. Some women will experience severe and intense morning sickness during their first pregnancy and milder, shorter-term nausea the second or third time around. This can make it hard to predict what your palate will and will not tolerate, at a time in your life when your health and nutrition are critical.
So what’s the deal with morning sickness?
When you get pregnant, your hormones peak. Estrogen and hCG begin to circulate in your bloodstream, and they’re at their highest concentration during the first three months. These hormones are believed to take the lion’s share of responsibility for triggering nausea, but evidence shows that other lifestyle factors can sometimes exacerbate pregnancy side effects as well, like stress, an empty stomach and fatigue.
While “morning sickness” is the term we often use for nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy, these symptoms can strike at any time of day, and certainly don’t encompass all symptoms (as anyone who has been through a pregnancy already knows). Heartburn, exhaustion, cravings and aversions can all affect nutrition and appetite as well.
What if I’m not eating enough (or keeping enough down?)
Naturally nutrition is a major worry for women who suffer from intense and prolonged nausea and vomiting. Sometimes women will even lose weight during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, which can be very alarming, especially for a first time mom. The good news is that in the initial weeks of pregnancy, your baby is getting most of his or her nourishment from nutrients already stored in your uterus.
Still, the full course of a pregnancy places completely new and important nutritional demands on the expectant mother. Here are some ways to ensure that your body is getting the nourishment it needs to take you and your baby through a healthy pregnancy.
Get plenty of sleep: If you have any opportunity to adjust your sleep patterns to cover your typical bouts of nausea, go for it! If you’re consistently nauseous at 7am, try going to bed later and sleeping until 8. If you get hit with morning sickness every day at 10am, plan for a snack and a nap at 9:30. For most women however, this isn’t an option- either because symptoms are too severe to sleep through, or because work and other commitments prevent so much rescheduling. In this case- sleep when you can. If you can take a 30 minute nap before dinner, do it. If you can get to bed earlier in the evenings, do it. Feeling overtired can sometimes make nausea feel even worse.
Avoid triggers: Since pregnancy nausea is often triggered by foods and smells, over time you may be able to identify the foods that consistently make you recoil. This can be difficult if you’re experiencing many different cravings and aversions. If it feels like a different food is setting you off each day, try keeping a “trigger” log. Monitor these foods for patterns or a common thread that you may have overlooked –are the turn-off foods primarily from one food group? Are they all breakfast foods? Do they have a similar texture? These might clue you in to some useful and consistent aversion factors.
Check with a health practitioner about herbal solutions. Always consult before taking a herbal course of action, but many remedies have proven effective at combating negative pregnancy side effects. These include ginger, elm bark and mint.
Supplement your diet with shakes, vitamins, or nutritional supplements. Again, make sure you consult with a health practitioner if you plan to take supplements. However, if you know you’re short on protein or vitamins from your diet, toss some ingredients into the blender or juicer.
Keep snacks on hand- Choose something dry and bland like crackers or dry cereal. Sometimes when women wake up they find that eating something immediately can help to offset nausea. Avoid any snacks that are heavy or flavourful. Keep it boring until the hormone-storm settles!
Hydrate. To make up for lost fluids, make sure that you drink plenty of water. Hydration is critical when you’re pregnant, and it helps to facilitate the absorption of nutrients to the fetus. Drinking lots of fresh water can also help to reduce swelling and retention.
Part of the challenge of meeting your nutritional needs and effectively managing morning sickness is the sheer unpredictability of it. After a few weeks of getting more familiar with your symptoms, you’ll be equipped to work out a plan of action. Occasionally women will suffer debilitating nausea for a sustained portion of their pregnancy. If you’re suffering this severely, we urge you to talk to a natural health practitioner! With the right assistance, you can regain activity and productivity while finding the right strategies to stick to a nutritious diet.
If, in spite of your very best efforts, you, a partner or your child has come down with a cold or the flu this winter, diet will play an important role in recovery. For this reason you need to be conscious of a few key nutritional guidelines to speed up recovery and continue to strengthen the immune system. Here are some general best practices for diet and nutrition during recovery.
The obvious: drink those fluids! As most people know, taking in plenty of fluids is key for flushing out toxins, staying hydrated and eliminating the by-products of your illness. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water and pure fruit juices. Avoid diuretics such as tea and coffee, and you may wish to avoid dairy which can trigger congestion and produce phlegm.
Eat easily digestible proteins. This will help to keep your energy up, and help to give you strength for recovery. If you don’t have much of an appetite, nut butters or eggs are easy-to-eat choices and are also great for kids. Avoid anything high in fat like cheese or red meat, or things that may trigger an upset stomach.
Avoid alcoholic drinks, even as you start to feel better. Chances are you won’t be doing any drinking while you’re sick, but even in the early or late stages of illness, alcohol should be avoided. Not only does it dehydrate, alcohol is also a strain on your liver which is busy doing the work of detoxifying your body.
Eat vitamin-rich foods. Aim to get plenty of vitamin C and zinc. You will also want to maintain your usual levels of regular minerals and nutrients as much as possible by eating salads, vegetable soups and antioxidant-rich foods. Fruit and vegetables may not be palatable to you, so try a smoothie instead. Consider using spinach, kale, beets, berries, bananas and oranges. Add a scoop of protein powder or nut butter if you haven’t had much else to eat. This will go down smoothly, and won’t irritate a sore throat.
When you’re feeling better, remember to eat smart to boost your immune system. Yogurt is a great choice, as its probiotics can help to fight off disease-causing germs in the intestinal track, and maintain healthy gut bacteria. Garlic is thought to be another immune-booster. Its key ingredient allicin fights infection, and it may ward off certain intestinal cancers. Omega-3, found in salmon, mackerel and other fish, is a great anti-inflammatory that also protects the lungs.
In addition to a carefully planned and nutritious diet, make sure to get plenty of rest, avoid strenuous activity and monitor symptoms closely. If you’d like more information on immune-boosting protocols, Dr. Heins works with families to help them find a nutrition plan to optimize health and wellbeing at any age. Winter may be on its way out soon, but frequent changes in temperatures and unpredictable weather can make many anybody a target for illness. Prioritizing a nutrient-rich diet is one of the best ways to keep your family healthy.
by Maya Hammer, M.A., Counselling Psychology | www.mayahammer.ca
We all know about the “baby blues”, a common experience of emotional ups and downs in the first week or two postpartum. Many of us, however, have never heard of the “baby pinks,” or The Highs, a feeling of intense happiness or euphoria following birth.
Symptoms of postpartum hypomania include:
-being very active
-decreased ability to concentrate
-impulsivity, e.g., shopping
-decreased need for sleep
These symptoms can be triggered by childbirth and usually subside after 6-8 weeks postpartum. In some cases, however, postpartum hypomania is an early indicator for bipolar disorder, depression, or psychosis. Therefore, it is very important to seek treatment if you or a loved one you know is experiencing.
Pregnancy and childbirth can trigger mental imbalance because of physiological changes such as stress, dysregulated cortisol, increased inflammation, decreased serotonin, and hormonal fluctuations. In addition, psychosocial factors can impact mental well-being including disrupted sleep, the demands of caring for a baby, lack of support, life stress, marital difficulty, or trauma. Genetics plays a part too: a personal or family history of mental illness, in particular bipolar disorder, predisposes a woman to prenatal and postpartum mental illness.
It is important to seek treatment immediately if you notice unusual behaviour in your partner or loved one. Treatment can involve:
1) mood stabilizer medication
2) therapy to stabilize mood and regulate daily schedule
3) support and education for partners and families
For further reading, check out these resources:
A blog post on postpartum hypomania and mania
A mom’s experience of hypomania induced by anti-depressant medication
A study on the prevalence of postpartum hypomania
And another study demonstrating that hypomanic symptoms can be used to correctly diagnose postpartum bipolar disorder.
As well, check out an article in Today’s Parent, and Maya’s appearance on CTV Canada AM talking about the baby pinks.
If visions of vicious neck twisting and spine cracking have you wary of chiropractors, you wouldn’t be the first to admit it. Misunderstood notions of chiropractic care can spawn fears and suspicions that delay patients from seeking the treatments they need. Typically it only takes a consultation and a few adjustments to put these fears to rest, and for patients to see how beneficial and transformative chiropractic can truly be.
But of course, in order to get there, you need to overcome the fears preventing you from making that first appointment! So in the interest of myth-busting and alleviating worries associated with chiropractic, here are some of the common concerns that cause potential patients to hesitate.
Fear: It’s going to hurt. This is perhaps the most common fear that discourages people from exploring chiropractic care as a viable treatment option. It’s natural to feel nervous about a physical treatment that you aren’t familiar with. However, you shouldn’t let your fear of discomfort (both during and between treatments) keep you from booking a consultation. This initial assessment will provide a no-pressure environment where your practitioner can get to know you, and you can ask any questions you might have about treatment. Also remember that sessions vary from patient to patient. Your practitioner will use a treatment and touch that is safe, comfortable and appropriate for your age and condition. Treatments are gentle and often therapeutic. Additionally, many patients feel an immediate sense of relief after adjustments. So if you’ve already been experiencing pain, chiropractic’s aim is to alleviate it, not cause you more grief!
Fear: I’m going to feel uncomfortable or awkward. As long as you have a good chiropractor, this should be one of the most unfounded misconceptions of all! A perfect balance between warmth, friendliness and professionalism should be every practitioner’s goal. Remember that your chiropractor wants to help make you more comfortable, and to that end, should be approachable and caring. If at any point during your treatments you feel uncomfortable, speak up! There’s lots your chiropractor can do –such as explain the treatment methods being used, reposition you, or clarify why you might temporarily be feeling some discomfort.
Fear: It’s going to cost a fortune. Chiropractic is covered under many health plans, so check yours to determine what type of coverage you might have. It’s also important to remember that chiropractic care is an investment that could save you recovery time, illness, money, and other preventable damage to your health in the future. You may have heard the analogy that chiropractic is like a regular car tune-up. You have to pay a service fee for it, but it could prevent your car from completely breaking down somewhere along the line. Chiropractic is a means of optimizing your central nervous system, which plays a critical role in your overall health and immune system functioning. A healthy system and proper alignment can help save your health (and funds) in the future.
The best way to put your mind at ease is from actually gaining some hands-on experience with a chiropractor- literally! Book a consultation, bring your questions and concerns, and discover what options are available to you to achieve your health goals!
When you find out you’re pregnant, you begin a mental checklist immediately. The list of things you could benefit from purchasing, eating and reading is endless. In spite of all of the advice and “to-do’s” available, there are a few smart investments and purchases that may be easier to overlook.
1. Orthotics: many pregnant women experience some common foot problems that may increase in severity over the course of their pregnancy. These include over-pronation, swelling and pain in the arch and heel. Weight gain puts a great deal of added stress on feet and orthotics are a smart investment to increase your comfort and health. As this awesome article “Pregnancy and Your Feet” from Mount Joy reminds us, hormonal surges cause ligaments in the feet to relax, which can flatten arches. New shifts in how you bear weight can also result in over-pronation, a condition we’ve mentioned before with respect to orthotics. This can make walking painful, and increase strain on the legs and lower back. Since many of these discomforts are already a concern for pregnant women, minimizing additional stress from foot problems is an important move for avoiding unnecessary and potentially serious discomfort and injury.
2. Pre-natal massage: While some pregnant women might see this as a luxury, having a pre-natal massage can be a highly effective treatment to lessen symptoms of pregnancy and its toll on your body. Massage reduces strain on muscles, nerve pain and swelling, while improving circulation, which is particularly important during pregnancy due to the elevated risk of blood clots.
3. A therapeutic outlet: whether it’s a psychotherapist, a support group, or a pre-natal yoga class, it’s important to have a space to relax and work through some of the more emotionally complicated aspects of pregnancy. The fact that you are undergoing a major (and exciting!) life change, in addition to onslaughts of hormones can produce any mixture of feelings including tension, stress, guilt, and anxiety. The proper form of therapy can help to foster a healthy and calm state of being, which will better prepare any expectant mom for labour, delivery and motherhood.
So don’t just be good to yourself during your pregnancy- be great! Tackle unaddressed discomforts- whether physical or emotional- with these natural, body-friendly treatments.
Deciding when it’s time to start weaning is certainly a subjective and personal decision. Some of the factors that help you choose when the time is right include:
> your lifestyle
> your child’s needs
> the demands of breastfeeding on your body
> indications that your baby is ready to wean
> the emotional connection you have to breastfeeding
Remember that weaning is a gradual process and one that should be undertaken with confidence and patience. Some mothers find that when it’s time to begin weaning, the resistance from their babies is an early and significant obstacle to the process. Here’s some general advice that you might find helpful if you’re struggling to start this transition.
Your baby may not be ready. If you believe in child-led weaning, then your cues for the right time to stop breastfeeding will come from your baby. Carefully assess the situation as you try to wean. Is your baby simply used to feedings and fussing out of habit? There is an expected transitional phase where you’ll need to introduce your baby to whatever new feeding routine you’re moving towards in the early stages of weaning. Since this will be an adjustment, some confusion, fussing or resistance is normal. If, after an initial attempt, your baby truly doesn’t seem ready to skip a feeding at the breast however, you might consider waiting.
Find new ways of nurturing. Breastfeeding is an emotionally rich experience for mothers, and an opportunity to bond with your child in a unique way. This is an experience that is difficult to let go of. But the special relationship you share with your baby doesn’t have to diminish at all when you stop breastfeeding. During the process of weaning, find new ways to nurture your child, whether it’s by rocking, napping together, singing, soothing or reading.
Timing is important. Since weaning is an emotional and physical transition that takes some adjusting, avoid beginning the process during other major changes in your family’s life. If you’ve just returned to work, for example, your child may still be getting used to new structures and routines. Adding in weaning may overwhelm both of you, and might be met with more resistance if too much else is changing simultaneously. You will also want to time weaning based on your own health. Your nutritional needs and metabolic rate will be changing, so begin weaning at a time when you’re ready to adjust your habits, exercise and diet accordingly.
Make your own schedule. Figure out a weaning process that works for you. Are there certain feedings that feel more intuitive to cut out? That’s the place to start. Consider the duration, convenience and time of day of each feeding. Check out this insightful and personal blog post from breastfeeding consultant Taya Griffin as an example. She shares her experience with night-weaning. She knew that she could benefit from more sleep, and that eliminating nighttime feedings was a good place to start the weaning process. We appreciate her reminder that her successful experience with night-weaning doesn’t mean that she’s ready to eliminate breastfeeding altogether. Remember, as she does, that starting your own weaning process doesn’t have to put you on a fast track to solely solids. Go at your own pace.
Talk to someone! As with many aspects of mothering and baby care, talking about your feelings, experiences and struggles can be enormously helpful. Talk to another mother, a breastfeeding consultant or keep an eye out for workshops and support groups. We host many! You can also chat with Dr. Heins about how to ensure you meet your growing toddler’s nutritional needs. Whatever path you choose, knowledge, patience and support will make this an exciting transition in your baby’s life.