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 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.
If you’re a new mother or a soon-to-be mom, you might already realize that breastfeeding can be an unpredictable journey. Many mothers and newborns face challenges with latching and effective feeding, and while these are perfectly normal, they can require the help of a counselor who has plenty of experience with breastfeeding.
When you’re tired, hormonal and experiencing more physical and emotional changes than you know what to do with, the challenges presented by breastfeeding can feel overwhelming. Sometimes mothers will have a very emotional response to breastfeeding, and the inability to get your baby to latch can feel like a personal failure.
Nothing could be further from the truth -and with the help of the right lactation consultant, you’ll have no problem remembering that.
Why consult on breastfeeding? Shouldn’t it be intuitive?
Breastfeeding feels wonderful and natural in many ways. It’s a time for a new mother to bond with her baby, to experience her femininity and maternal instincts fully, and to connect with her new identity as a mother. However, the most important outcome of breastfeeding is a healthy baby that is being nourished and gaining weight at a normal rate.
Sometimes –often in fact- some extra support is necessary to ensure that you’re optimizing feeding time for your baby. A breastfeeding consultant is not only highly helpful and instructive, but she’s also a major source of comfort if you’ve been finding the experience frustrating or disheartening. Your consultant can help you regroup and strategize effectively, while consulting on any of the following issues:
1. My baby won’t latch: If your baby doesn’t seem interested in feeding, can’t latch effectively, or doesn’t seem to be swallowing much milk, a consultant can help by introducing you to alternative breastfeeding techniques and tools.
2. Ow! Is it supposed to be this painful? While breastfeeding can initially cause some discomfort, one of your breastfeeding goals will be to eliminate pain. Your lactation consultant can offer you different latching techniques and natural remedies to help make breastfeeding more comfortable. She will also carefully analyze and help optimize your baby’s positioning and suckling.
3. I’m worried about my milk production: If you’re worried about low milk production, your consultant can advise you on how to effectively boost your supply with techniques like pumping between feedings and compressing your breasts to fully drain them of milk. Often the problem isn’t supply at all. It may be that you are producing plenty of milk- it just isn’t being effectively delivered to your baby. Getting a second opinion will better enable you to understand your supply, particularly weighed against your baby’s needs and feeding behaviours.
4. My baby isn’t gaining weight: If your baby is having trouble regaining newborn weight or is falling into a low percentile for his or her age group, it’s time to analyze and adjust feeding habits. Your lactation consultant will determine your baby’s suckling and swallowing patterns and help you to make any necessary modifications to your feeding technique and position. Sometimes babies need to be stimulated during breastfeeding, so your consultant might recommend that you alternate sides, re-position, or play with your baby’s hands or feet. This can help to keep the baby alert and suckling actively.
Building a relationship with your lactation consultant
Since your lactation consultant is meant to be a helpful and comforting presence to you, you’ll want to choose someone whose company and guidance you genuinely enjoy. Consulting on breastfeeding is an important postpartum process, and directly connected to your baby’s health and growth. Accordingly, we take breastfeeding seriously and sensitively. We’re thrilled to welcome Maria Lameiro of DoulaNatur Holistic Family Services to our team at Thrive Health as our on-site lactation consultant! Maria is a doula, lactation consultant, childbirth educator, and mother of three. She is passionate about holistic family health and loves to empower others to reach their parenting, birth, breastfeeding and lifestyle goals. She’d love to assist and support you on your breastfeeding journey.
You’ve been there. You walk out of the office feeling as if you might not live to see another day. In spite of feeling fresh and energized when you started your day, you might notice that by the late afternoon you are exhausted, sluggish, sore or nauseous. You don’t skip meals, you try to get a good night’s sleep and you don’t smoke or drink excessively. So what gives?
Some of the most common cause-and-effect health factors could be to blame. You might not see the harm you’re doing to your wellbeing and energy levels with every day habits. See if any of these behaviours could be taking a toll on your health or mood during the weekdays.
#1. Caffeine crashes: If you’re overindulging in coffee as a way to stay awake and alert, you might wind up feeling tired and lethargic. When you consume caffeine, it stimulates your adrenal glands. Adrenalin produces the boost in energy that you experience after enjoying your coffee-likely first thing in the morning. The caffeine also causes a slight increase in dopamine levels. When these effects wear off however- usually right in the middle of your work day- you might notice a marked drop in your energy and mood.
#2. Low blood sugar: When you’re working a full day, even if you’re seated for most of it, you need to properly fuel your body. Drops in your blood sugar could be making you feel tired, irritable, light-headed and unfocused. Try to remain very conscious of the nutritional quality of what you eat, and ensure that you get enough protein. You probably know by now that if you reach for something sugary as a pick-me-up, you won’t feel full for a sustained period of time. But beware- sugary doesn’t just mean candy. Take a hard look at your snacks- granola bars, juice cocktails, crackers and cereals can be very high in sugar. These simple carbohydrates won’t keep you full for long or provide you with any real nutritional value. Instead, opt for a high-impact snack that is low in sugar and contains protein and healthy fats. You might also try breaking up your munchies into several small meals throughout the day. This way you avoid the extremes of feeling drowsy or uncomfortably full after a large lunch, or experiencing a dip in your blood sugar mid-afternoon.
#3. Misunderstanding your sleep needs: Not everyone’s optimal night’s sleep is 8 hours. Many people require more, and others need less. Quality counts too. If you go to bed at 11 but keep the television on and drift in and out of consciousness for an hour, you aren’t benefiting in the same way as you would if you’d slept soundly for that same time period. Unplugging fully and getting the requisite number of z’s can be difficult, but when you make it a priority, you’ll notice the difference in your day.
#4. Poor ergonomics: Feeling stiff? Achy? Tight? Make sure that your office furniture is properly adjusted for optimal ergonomics! By following a basic office ergonomics guide, you can help reduce strain to your upper and lower back, neck, hips and wrists. You may not notice discomfort right away with a poorly arranged set-up. Over time however, muscle strain from distortions in your body’s positioning combined with the effects of poor posture will take its toll. Spare yourself long-term damage to your alignment and avoid sore muscles by taking the time to adjust your desk and computer.
#5. Eye strain + immobility: Too much of a good thing just isn’t good. No matter how focused you are on your projects, or how attentive you remain to your inbox, it’s always a wise idea to give your eyes a rest and your legs a stretch. Make sure your screen is about an arm’s length from your face, and adjust your screen brightness settings so that you aren’t squinting. Ensure your work environment is properly lit, and try to look up and away from the screen about every 20 minutes, even if it’s just for 15 seconds. Every hour you should aim to stand and stretch your legs. Take a walk to the washroom or water fountain to improve circulation, or stand and stretch for 30 seconds to loosen your muscles.
These practices have the potential to grow into habit. Implementing these manageable changes to your daily practices on the job can drastically improve the way you feel at the end of the day. When you leave work still feeling healthy and energized, you’re far more likely to have a productive evening. With the momentum to make a home-cooked meal, hit the gym, or tackle a household project, you’ll keep your energy flow up, your metabolism humming, and your body happy right until bedtime.
So think about your habits and empower yourself with small changes. We guarantee you’ll feel better for it!
A recent blog post from ‘An Avocado A Day’ provided a useful starting point for when and how to introduce your baby to solid foods. We liked the author’s mention of how surprisingly emotional the experience of weaning and starting solids was.
A lot of people don’t acknowledge that this can be a sentimental and sometimes emotionally difficult time for moms. Breastfeeding creates a unique bond between mother and child, and while the introduction of solid foods doesn’t mean an end to breastfeeding, it’s an important step in your baby’s development: one that should be treated with care.
Moms who are ready to start introducing solids will benefit from detailed research, a consultation with a doctor or dietician, or joining a group workshop, like the one we hosted in September.
It’s always a good idea to find intelligent articles online however, as a means of doing your preliminary research. This one included some helpful tips that mothers may not be aware of.
Iron is important: When your baby reaches 6 months, you may not realize that her need for iron increases. Start with:
- Root vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and beets
- Fruit: pear, avocado and ripe banana
Food sensitivities have many symptoms: Pick one food at a time every four days, and keep an eye out for reactions. This doesn’t necessarily just mean the ready associations we might have with food allergies, like hives or trouble breathing. Look for altered behaviours, shifts in sleep patterns, visible symptoms like rashes or dark circles under the eyes, and changes in bowel movements.
Be patient: Don’t be upset if your baby’s first reaction is to play with her food or throw it right on the floor. Like breast-feeding, this is a way to bond with your child and prepare them for the many meals you’ll share together. Have fun!
Like adults, babies have individual digestive systems. That means that what works for one baby might not be ideal for another. If you haven’t yet consulted with a trusted source, book an appointment for a naturopathic consultation. It’s an easy way to put your mind at ease and gain some valuable insights into food introduction that are accurately and insightfully tailored for your baby’s individual digestive system. Remember that if it’s a stressful process for Mom, it’s going to be stressful for Baby.
If solid foods are on the horizon for you and your baby, keep an eye out on the Thrive Health events page. We typically host food introduction workshops every few months.
With the right approach, introducing solids is an exciting developmental phase as your baby grows. It’s neat to discover what your child likes and dislikes, and you’ll find that new forms of bonding and routine come from sharing meals together face-to-face.