Is it Spring, or what? It seems I am surrounded by pregnancy! I feel like I have fallen into that scene in Bambi where the whole Natural World is about procreation . . . My recent examples: Readers have asked me, as a mom/midwife/nutrition educator, if I would share any sage advice for expectant moms. We have a new grandbaby on the horizon. My current course for my masters is "life-cycle nutrition". I have been consulting with a family in the marina that has been expecting a new baby.
So what do I recommend for a healthy pregnancy?
Ask for (and accept) help.
Eat Real Food (and don't worry about how much).
Does that seem too simple? Well, of course there are details (and yes, the devil is in the details, I know). But if you can remember those basic points, you are on your way.
Relax means to take care of yourself, to slow down. Look at your life now and see what can be pared away, because babies add an amazing amount of work, need for attention and tiny socks that have lost their mates. They do not want to compete with your weekly tennis match, your college roommate or even your job. If you really need the job, think now about how you are going to juggle--don't wait until you are a couple of weeks from your due date. Having the details nailed down early gives you the space to be fascinated with your changing body and life. Take bubble baths, walk barefoot in the dirt, start a yoga practice. Spend time alone with your sweetheart (this gets harder for a while--trust me).
Asking for help allows others to care for you, to "mother the mother". It is the natural order of things, as we can't do everything. Really. If you don't have a village, find one. But don't fret too much about it, because tribes have a way of gathering around new mamas. Just allow it to happen when it does. Look for like-minded women to share your mothering journey. Try out mom's groups and La Leche League--yes, while you are pregnant. Having this support will come in handy when you want to know if that's a foot poking through your ribs or you are so tired you can't think what to make for dinner. Other women who have "been there" will tell you that it's normal (no, the foot won't make it through to the outside, no matter what you think Little Guy's chances are on the soccer field) or bring you dinner (don't forget to ask) and will generally act like the aunties we are all missing in modern America. And that's something we all need.
The Real Food part of the equation: there are some great books out there (see http://www.realbabyfood.info/ for one) and, of course I recommend Nourishing Traditions for anyone, pregnant or not (there's a good introductory section on pregnancy nutrition under "Feeding Babies"). But beneath the details, which we'll get to, there is one really important principle: if you are eating REAL FOOD with no junk, no food empty of nutrition, you can trust your body to tell you what it it needs. Cravings almost always point to a need--you just have to learn what they mean. And aversions often point to an allergy or to something that really isn't good for you at that time. If you crave ice-cream, you might need more good fat. If you crave pickles, you might need . . . pickles! Just make sure they are the real deal, lacto-fermented goodies replete with good flora for your gut.
I know you want details, so here's my list of the basics:
75-100 grams of protein a day-- from meat, seafood, dairy and eggs
2 or more eggs a day, plus extra yolks (in smoothies, etc)
Dairy--a quart of milk or the equivalent in yogurt, cheese, etc
Fats--butter, coconut oil, Cod liver oil (1-2 tsp. daily of CLO)
Seafood--2-4 times/week. Especially fatty fish, shellfish and fish eggs.
Dark green vegetables--daily
Yellow/orange fruits and vegetables--daily
Sea Salt to taste--very important! This actually helps prevent hypertension
Ferments--such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, daily
Bone broth--including skin and cartilage, in soups and sauces, daily
Soaked grains--as tolerated, daily
Herbal infusions--such as nettle/oatstraw/red raspberry leaf, daily, liberally.
If dairy is a problem, use plenty of bone broth and make sure you are getting protein from other sources. You can use coconut milk for creamy soups and smoothies, which will give you good fat as well.
If grains/starches are an issue, don't worry--there are plenty of carbohydrates in vegetables, fruits and nuts. Remember, eat what you like that likes you!
Though this may seem like an enormous amount of protein, it has been shown to help prevent toxemia of pregnancy, in addition to supplying the building blocks of your new baby. It also may prevent swelling (which is a symptom of pre-eclampsia or early toxemia). So go ahead and eat a steak!
A word about quality: All of the animal foods should be pastured or wild--this is the only way to ensure that you are getting the proper ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. I know it's expensive, but sick kids cost more than pastured hamburger. It's good to have organic produce, but that is not as critical as getting the best meat and milk you can afford. The dairy should be raw (but go to the farm--is it clean? If you are not certain, get unhomogenized, low-temperature pasteurized milk, local if possible) or get raw milk cheeses. You can make kefir or yogurt from pasteurized milk, which will restore some of the good bacteria. Make ice cream with honey, egg nog, custard. Indulge in comfort food!
Meals don't need to be fancy, they just need to be nourishing and pleasing. There's nothing wrong with "cheap cuts" of meat--they have more flavor and nutrition, and some of the world's renowned dishes were inspired by them (think oxtail stew, lamb shanks, osso buco). What these require is time, to tenderize the meat and extract all of those nutrients, so use a dutch oven or crock pot and let your dinner cook while you soak in the tub!
Clearly, there is more to know than a short article can address. I really don't want to leave you high and dry. I know that when you are newly pregnant, many things seem highly improbable: How am I going to eat all of this? How am I going to manage those pins? And just HOW is that baby going to get out of my belly? Well, you will eat all of that and more--you will be SO hungry. I used pins and I have never poked a baby, but now they have these cool snappy things, so you don't have to learn if you don't want to. And, well, I can explain about that last one, but you might not believe me. Let's talk in nine months, ok?