By Allison Martineau, Sweetpea Nutrition
So I’ve been noticing something lately that has me concerned. I do talks across the city on a range of nutrition related topics and the main focus generally includes ways to support women with their hormone health, help them recover from childbirth, improve their mood and deal with emotional eating. I love talking about these things…buuuut…the conversation usually tangents away from these topics.
For smaller talks I always start each one by asking everyone what their biggest nutritional concern or question is and without fail 90% of the questions I get are about their BABY! From picky eating to introducing solids, allergies, breastfeeding challenges…everything goes back to their little one. And I get it (and am happy to answer); we want what’s best for our kids and nutrition is super important for developing babes, however my frustration comes when you notice that moms are neglecting themselves entirely and won’t ask for help, even when I am asking them what THEY need. When I probe deeper, inevitably I will see moms struggling with food (either over or under consumption), hormone imbalance or nutrient deficiencies and yet still don’t prioritize themselves. It is NOT selfish to prioritize your well being…it is a NECESSITY as a new mom. Worse off are those who don’t even know that their nutrition is off but suffer from fatigue, anxiety or digestive upset and don’t realize the connection between these symptoms and their diet.
Routine postpartum maternal care is almost non-existentand moms are unfortunately not getting the help they need as a result. We are followed so closely during pregnancy and our babies have routine checkups at their doctor for the first year of life, but what about the moms? Why are they left on their own after 6 weeks? What is relevant about ceasing care at that time? Most physical recovery is still happening beyond that point, not to mention emotional and mental health, nutrient deficiencies that can develop and hormones that can become unbalanced within the first year after having your baby. We need more support from our medical care providers AND we, as parents, need to learn to ask for help more.
Beyond that though, here are some things you can start to focus on:
Restorative movement – Let’s start moving our bodies in a way that feels good (not for punishment over something we ate or to lose weight but because the activity and movement boost our mood and make us strong enough to carry around that baby we just had). Be gentle on your postpartum body and listen to it. For me, running has always been my favourite activity, but after the birth of my third son I started getting hip pain every time I ran. I tried to push through it but after awhile I sat back, listened to my body and found exercises that actually work WITH my new body, not against it. For now, be ok with change. Swimming, yin or restorative yoga, gentle stretching and walking are some of my current favourites… but you do you!
Solid Nutrition – Having a healthful nutrient dense diet is so important not just for physical healing after childbirth but to also give us the energy we want each day to help us care for our tiny human(s). We know when we eat crap we feel like crap, and it’s a vicious cycle. Solid nutrition helps us stay healthy, strong, vibrant and happy. Having said that, a few off days (or even weeks or months) will not damage everything and you can always start making changes today to help make yourself feel better. And remember this is not about restriction; this is about self awareness and fueling your body in a way that is in line with your preferences, goals, health conditions and lifestyle and that makes you feel great. No one size fits all approach here. Do what feels right for YOU.
Mindfulness practices – This can seem intimidating to some who are unfamiliar with it, but rest assured that you can make this area what you need it to be. It doesn’t have to be an hour long meditation (unless that’s your jam), but really it’s more about tapping in to your body and how it feels. A 3-5 minute meditation (deep breaths with your eyes closed) can be a good start and there are many apps out there that make it super simple. Journaling is also a helpful tool in my practice, with gratitude practices as one of my favourites.
Self care – Make time for yourself! While massage and a day at the spa are the obvious self care options, it doesn’t always have to be so grand. Some alone time, a long shower, a night out, learning to say no to stuff you don’t want to do…all self care.
Support other moms and support yourself. This may sound harsh but someone said this to me one time and it impacted me greatly (in a good way ….well maybe not at first) She said women act like martyrs and we need to stop. At first I disagreed and went through the laundry list of things I need to get done in a day and why I have no time for myself but then realized that I NEEDED to make the time. No one else was going to do it for me unless I asked. So stop playing the martyr card and ask your partner, family, friends, caregiver for extra help so you can take the time you NEED!!
And remember this is not a race to implement all these changes; this is your life. So include healthful practices that resonate with you and that bring you joy and above all else, enjoy the journey.
Feeling stuck? Have questions about your health or nutrition? Let’s talk! Book a free 20 minute consult here.
Bio: Allison Martineau is a nutritionist with a reproductive health focus; working with women during fertility, pregnancy and new parenthood. Allison practices an evidence based counseling style and is passionate about using mindfulness and intuitive eating to help her clients. She has her Masters in Nutrition and Public Health, has over 10 years of experience and sees clients in her private practice, Sweetpea Nutrition. Allison lives in Toronto with her husband and three young boys.