… We all know by now how completely unrealistic our expectations are of mothers and of newborns in today’s society. Yet grocery store tabloids continue to feature celebrities who are less than a month postpartum, and they look like they stepped off the runway. Today’s employers expect new mothers to be back at work only 6 weeks after birth. They are expected to arrive with the same focus, energy levels, and capabilities that they had before giving birth. We do all of this while completely overlooking the fact that this woman has just accomplished the greatest physical feat that a human being can possibly accomplish. Her strong, capable body has been pushed to the extreme, stretched – literally and figuratively, exhausted, and almost completely depleted of nutrients and energy in the process.
Does it even make sense to expect a woman to just bounce back from birth? Oh and remember she has 24-hours care of a very needy infant. Needless to say, it’s totally unrealistic. A woman who has recently had a baby has months of healing and readjusting to do – both emotionally and physically. More than any other time in her life, a postpartum woman needs rest and support. And what is often overlooked is that she is in desperate need of restorative nutrition.
We all know by now how completely unrealistic our expectations are of mothers and of newborns in today’s society. Yet grocery store tabloids continue to feature celebrities who are less than a month postpartum, and they look like they stepped off the runway. Today’s employers expect new mothers to be back at work only 6 weeks after birth. They are expected to arrive with the same focus, energy levels, and capabilities that they had before giving birth. We do all of this while completely overlooking the fact that this woman has just accomplished the greatest physical feat that a human being can possibly accomplish. Her strong, capable body has been pushed to the extreme, stretched – literally and figuratively, exhausted, and almost completely depleted of nutrients and energy in the process.
Does it even make sense to expect a woman to just bounce back from birth? Oh and remember she has 24-hour care of a very needy infant. Needless to say, it’s totally unrealistic. A woman who has recently had a baby has months of healing and readjusting to do – both emotionally and physically. More than any other time in her life, a postpartum woman needs rest and support. And what is often overlooked is that she is in desperate need of restorative nutrition.
In the Chinese culture, women are given 40 days of rest after giving birth. The literal translation of this down time means “sitting the month.” In this 40 days, postpartum women are resting, recovering, and learning to breastfeed. In the original ancient Chinese tradition, postpartum women were not allowed to even bathe or go outside for those 40 days. The woman’s aunts, sisters, grandmas, and mothers took good care of the new mom and her baby. These women would teach her how to breastfeed, they would clean her house, they would cook for her, encourage her to rest, and generally forbid her to overdo anything. They understood the necessity of recuperation.
During this 40 days, women were, and are, given only what are considered to be “hot foods” to balance her qi. We in western culture are not as familiar with this concept as it relates to health. In short, the eastern medicine school of thought relies heavily on balance between the yin and yang – the hot and the cold. Too much of one or the other causes health problems.
Along with this vein, birth is said to deplete a woman of all of her warm qi, so naturally, it must be restored. The new mother is only to eat warm nutritious foods because they understand that her body needs to recover. We in modern western civilization tend to turn our heads away from the notion of balancing one’s qi. We even turn our noses up at the notion of using nutrition as the answer to any kind of physical ailment. However, these Chinese women benefit in tremendous ways from the nutritional support that they get for those 40 days after giving birth. We in the west can certainly learn a thing or two about the level of importance that Chinese culture places on nutrition as a cornerstone of postpartum recovery.
In addition, consumption of the placenta (a very special organ that grows with and for the baby) in some form plays a big role in postpartum recovery for the Chinese. The placenta is like a big pile of hormones, nutrients, amino acids, and proteins. The baby is not the only one that benefits from the placenta; we now know that the mom benefits as well. The placenta has helped sustain this pregnancy – something that has changed her very physiology for the last 9 months. When the placenta detaches itself from the uterus, the mother instantly loses the benefits she was gaining from this incredible organ.
To put this into perspective, it’s rather like becoming malnourished overnight. All of a sudden, a huge life-giving part of her is gone. To remedy this, consuming the placenta is a great option that helps keep a mother balanced during the transition to the postpartum period. Consuming the placenta puts all of those lost nutrients right back into her body. That’s why so many women in the western world are starting to embrace the practice of placenta encapsulation.
Placenta encapsulation is the process of steaming a placenta (sometimes with herbs), dehydrating it, grinding it, and placing it into ingestible pills. By simply taking her placenta pills, a new mom can easily and safely put all of that lost nutrition back into her body to help stabilize her nutrition and hormone levels. Encapsulation is said to reduce the incidence of postpartum depression (by giving the body what it needs to function optimally), give mom increased energy, boost her mood, and increase her milk production.
When it comes to placenta encapsulation, there have not been enough scientific studies to confirm its benefits. This is mostly because nobody would benefit monetarily from the results of such studies. However, just because the scientific method controlled research has not been done doesn’t mean that the benefits don’t exist.
Placenta consumption has been practiced for thousands of years in many varying cultures. The anecdotal reports from mothers who have done it are overwhelmingly positive. Many times, these anecdotal reports are enough for modern women to be comfortable with choosing placenta encapsulation.
Women require physical restoration and rest after giving birth, and nutrition plays an undeniable part in that. Eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible during the postpartum period to help you bring balance to your postpartum body.
And for good measure, try to eat some of those foods warm for the first 40 days! Maybe the Chinese are on to something!
“Just take your prenatal and that should give you everything you need.”
Now, really, let’s think about that. A pregnant woman is growing a baby – she is making a human. Her very physiology is changing to create more blood flow, produce a placenta, feed and grow a baby… oh and nourish itself in the process.
And you think you can get everything you need to accomplish and support all of those complicated systems in one pill a day? Come, now. That doesn’t even make sense. A woman’s body desperately needs quality nutrition during pregnancy. Her very physiology changes and those systems need support. The baby needs certain things as they grow and develop. One pill cannot give you all of that. The body needs much more.
The leader in pregnancy nutrition is a man named Dr. Brewer, and the pregnancy diet he recommends is aptly named “The Brewer Diet.” An obstetrician, he designed the diet after researching pregnancy nutrition data dating back to the 1920’s. He has used nutrition to prevent and treat a number of dangerous conditions in pregnancy including preeclampsia, high blood pressure, intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR), and gestational diabetes.
In short, the Brewer diet consists of consuming large amounts of protein (120 gram a day), unrestricted weight gain, unrestricted salt intake, and plenty of calories. When you think about it, pregnancy really does require a lot of protein. Proteins contain the building blocks of life: amino acids. All of our organs require it for optimal function, so it makes sense that pregnancy requires large amounts of it as well. Dr. Brewer recommends that women get a large portion of their protein intake from eggs, particularly egg whites because egg whites contain albumin which is essential for liver support and kidney function in pregnancy.
As previously stated. a woman’s physiology actually changes during pregnancy. When you understand these changes, you can better understand why salt is essential to facilitate the increased blood volume. I’ll try not to make this too complicated.
First, the kidneys are working to increase a pregnant woman’s blood volume (by about 40%-50%), by reabsorbing salt and water. The kidneys return the reabsorbed fluid and salt to the circulation. In order for the kidneys to be able to perform this function correctly, the pregnant woman has to provide her body with a diet that includes plenty of water, albumin, and salt. Water intake helps keep pregnancy swelling within a normal range and helps protect the mom in case of excessive bleeding after birth. (In turn, this prevents her from going into shock.) Another essential piece of this process is albumin: a protein which contains essential amino acids that help keep balance in the blood stream. The combination of salt, water, and albumin promotes a healthy blood volume increase that is crucial to a healthy pregnancy, and Brewer recommends salt to taste. Meaning that if you’re craving salt, your body needs it badly.
Research is surfacing every day about the importance of various vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Vitamin C is said to strengthen the amniotic sac in addition to the whole host of previously understood immune support benefits. Vitamin D has been found to support just about everything in pregnancy, as well as prevent premature birth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Vitamin B is important for brain development in babies, as well as omega-3 fats.
This is not to say you shouldn’t take a prenatal vitamin. You and your baby will certainly benefit from it. However, you cannot expect to sustain a healthy pregnancy on just one pill a day while eating taco bell several times a week. Your body needs plenty of quality, whole foods, protein, healthy fats, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals. Be aware of what you’re giving your body – and your baby – because the health of two lives depends on it.
EXTRA BONUS: Download a weekly diet checklist from Plumtree Baby.
So you have made the decision to forego formula and breastfeed your baby. Congratulations to you and your soon-to-be newborn!
Breastfeeding is the most natural way to bond with your new baby and allow them the benefit of receiving nature’s gift for them through your body. This is the best way to bond with your new baby. Studies show that breastfed babies tend to have higher IQ scores, naturally form a strong bond with their mothers, and they also receive a potent dose of antibodies through the breastmilk that helps them to bulk up their immune systems, making them less prone to allergens, ear infections, and respiratory illnesses.
Now that you have surveyed your options, there’s one more choice to consider: scheduled or ad libitum breastfeeding? Both of these have their own benefits and shortcomings. The ultimate question is up to your personal preference, as it relates to your lifestyle, work schedule, and how organized you would like to be regarding the time your baby nurses. This can be the source of frustration for the new mother, if not considered carefully what the implications are to each choice, so we are here to help you in weighing the pros and cons of each, and hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be able to have a clear mind and direction in which you will move, as it pertains to what is realistic for your life and your baby’s health. Remember this: You are the mother, and everything relies on you and how you feel. Your baby will pick up on your stresses, so it’s much better to have a plan that needs to be revised than to have no plan at all to start with.
Scheduled breastfeeding could lend itself more to a mom that has a busy day and needs to adhere to specific blocks of time to complete certain tasks. This option lends itself mostly to working moms, entrepreneurial moms, or moms that have multiple children for which she divides her devoted love and attention. Bearing this in mind, your day is filled with various happenings, but above all else, as the old saying goes (even with your schedule) to “watch the baby, not the clock.” Although scheduled feeding is great for record keeping, so that you can record and trend exactly how much your baby drank and when for his or her health reasons, it is equally important not to nudge your baby into a schedule and to follow baby’s lead, and you adjust your schedule as needed and as baby’s sustenance thresholds change.
Scheduling is also great for your days, as you may set a time to pump or feed, in case your little one isn’t hungry. You may also be inclined to make this a time in your day, set aside from all of your other many distractions, to spend some one-on-one time with just yourself and your newborn. Scheduled feeding is not usually recommended. However, depending on if you are planning to schedule, bearing in mind the ever-growing needs of your baby, it may prove less difficult and stressful, for the newborn at least, to try ad libitum breastfeeding before ruling it out.
AD LIBITUM BREASTFEEDING
This method of breastfeeding typically relies on the baby and is mostly recommended by the medical community, namely lactation consultants. Their concern is for the child’s well-being, in that mothers that schedule nursing times are likely not able to anticipate appetite changes and therefore make for a loss of milk supply, as continuous nursing allows for a steady milk flow and continuous production. Also, the body will naturally bulk up on the milk supply naturally, as your baby’s appetite grows over time. Although not impossible, it may prove difficult for nursing schedules.
Because you would be essentially letting your baby and your body intuitively determine what your baby needs, it will give you less to worry about and allow you to comfort your baby with nursing whenever your baby needs it. Also, it gives your child the added benefit of growing properly and getting all of the nutrients available to them, as their body requires it. This would give pro-ad libitum moms a leg up in the race of getting to those very precious breastfeeding benefits.
Although there are numerous benefits of allowing your child to feed “on-demand,” there is only one caveat to this method: Ad libitum breastfeeding should be avoided after the first teeth erupt. Dental health professionals are worried that nocturnal ad-libitum breastfeeding can significantly increase the chances of the child having enamel defects, advancing up to cavities that will need crowns. This can simply be avoided by not allowing your child to breastfeed just before bed. It is also not a bad idea to start to clean the teeth with a little water and a soft baby cloth. The idea is to keep your child’s teeth relatively free of anything that would stick onto the teeth while (s)he sleeps and resisting the urge to feed just before bed will help exponentially.
Yes, there is a bit of a downside to everything in life. Your job is to weigh the pros and the cons. The thing is this: No-one can tell you what is best for your baby. Only you know for sure. As long as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, it seems like a great decision to start there and adjust as you go. Hope this guide made your decision a little easier!
Have more questions about what is right for your newborn? Check out the rest of the blog for more insights!
A+ Dentistry for Kids
Brian Palmer D.D.S