Long Days, Fast Years. I can't believe how true that statement is. Somehow we survived the frantic breast feeding challenges of the first days-weeks after Fredrik's birth, the sleepless nights of January through March, and the claustrophobia brought on by a bitter winter. Now summer is almost over, and my baby boy is 1yr old. So...what did we learn along the way?
Several years ago a co-worker told me she didn't think she wanted to have kids because of what pregnancy would do to her body. Recently another friend said she was inspired by my ability to eat healthy and exercise, and essentially get back to being "pre baby Brenna" all with a newborn! Well....here's the thing, I'm not "pre baby Brenna" and I never will be. This friend said I gave her hope that she will be able to maintain her healthy lifestyle and body someday after she has kids. This didn't sit well with me. I've seen things on the web about this postpartum 'get your body back' BS, as well as women struggling with accepting their changing body during pregnancy. I just didn't know I would have to tackle it myself. I sent her the kindest e-mail response I could with a few of my thoughts regarding this topic; and I want to share some of what I have learned the past 10 months with all you.
1. Whenever you are ready to have a baby just know your body will never be the same.
I have a scar from my c-section, and up until about 7month postpartum it still felt weird and a little numb. No one will see it when I'm in a swimming suit, but if they could, I don't care. I worked my butt off for that scar.
2. Yes I lost the "baby weight" within the first month, but my tummy doesn't look like it used to. How could it? That picture is me at 40 weeks. The skin is still kinda loose, and my belly button is different. I didn't lose the line down the middle of my abdomen called a linea nigra until about 8mo pp. The only pants that currently fit are leggings and my workout shorts. Everything else is loose because I lost a lot of muscle mass in my booty and legs from not working out like I used to. It's super frustrating because it limits what outfits I can wear. This is not the problem most women complain of when it comes to their postpartum body. I haven't told many people this because I'm afraid they will judge me, and just give me a dirty look. About 3-4 months ago I finally get the courage to purchase a YMCA membership where I get 2hr of "free" child care so I can workout more consistently and hopefully rebuild some muscle.
Why haven't I bought new pants? I hated clothes shopping before baby, so now it's even less fun with the pressure of trying to fit it in between naps, feedings, snow storms, and now wanting to be outside in the sunshine. So I'm sticking with a couple of new stretchy skirts and gym shorts and a pair of yoga pants for the summer.
3. Sleepless nights = sugar cravings. I thought I was done with the midnight eating, but it still hit at times when I was breast feeding. My "will power" to say no to sugary treats is much less than it used to be. However, after munching on 5-7 chocolate covered pretzels at church several months ago and then testing my blood glucose and seeing it at 155; I'm slightly more inclined to pass these treats up. Unless I deem it 100% worth it (brownies are typically worth it). Ryan and I have made it a priority to continue eating as much real food as possible, but there are weeks when the Byerlys taco bar and Thai take-out make more appearances than hoped for. I use more pre-cut and frozen veggies in our meals, and 'recipes' need to be 3 steps or less. There's a lot of instant pot shredded chicken in our lives at the moment.
This is just to say, that no matter what your diet and exercise is before and after baby, your body will be different. Not better, not worse, just different. There's a good chance it may not look how you want it to. Get rid of the expectations to 'get your body back.' You don't have the body you did when you were 16, 20, or 30, why would you have the same one after a baby. The old you has died; you are reborn a mom.
Yummy Yummy gluten and dairy free, no sugar added muffins! Seriously...these taste good. Fredrik is a fan of grabbing big chunks and shoving them into his mouth. Ryan likes to toast and top his with peanut butter, but that's how eats all flavors of muffins. I like mine with a big smear of butter on top.
1.5 cups almond flour or almond meal
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 cup mashed banana (2 large) or mashed sweet potato
2 Tbs room temp butter or olive/avocado oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut. (or use raisins, chocolate chips, chopped pecans...)
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Prep muffin pan with either paper or silicone liners. I still give my silicone liners a little spritz of oil, just to prevent ANY sticking. It's probably overkill.
2. Combine the almond flour, flax seed meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl.
3. In a blender, or a large bowl beat together eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Stir/blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then fold in the coconut.
5. Divide between the 12 muffin cups. Bake 20-30 minutes, until browned. (Mine needed about 23 minutes) Allow to cool completely before storing in a air tight container on your counter for a few days, or several months in a freezer.
1 muffin: 185 kcal, 15g fat, 9g carb, 3g fiber, 5g protein
A co-worker asked me recently, "What are you doing for yourself?" That's a big loaded question for a new mom. But here it is.
I finally grabbed my kettle bell and got back into the swing of things. I used to love going to my kettle bell class several years ago, until my instructor left for a different position. Since then, I've been lifting and swinging on my own at our local Snap Fitness. Now, as a mom, I wanted to get a membership to a gym with child care (LA Fitness), but they will not feed Fredrik if he gets hungry, they won't change a diaper, and if he fusses for more than 5 minutes, they will come get me. Not sure I'd ever get a workout in at that rate...
Instead, I've started following these workouts in the morning from Noelle Tar at Coconuts & Kettlebells. Either before Fredrik wakes up (after coffee of course), or after he is up and fed, I grab my bell and pray Samoa our cat doesn't walk in-front of me. I figure Fredrik will learn to count to 10 before any other babies with all the rep counting. My bell isn't very heavy; only 15#, but it's getting me moving in a way I haven't for at least 4 months. I tried to do a few things when I was 2 months postpartum, but found that many activities still aggravated my C-section, and just didn't feel good. I also didn't have the energy since November was a terrible month of sleep. So I stuck with walking.
My goal is 3 x/week, but I'm not holding myself to any strict schedule or standard. I know there is the possible 4mo sleep regression and teething in our future, but when I'm mostly rested and feeling good I plan to swing my bell and get a little sweaty. Wondering when I shower? I was too for a while... Since Fredrik is still so young he takes fairly predictable naps; and his first one lasts about 45-60 minutes, which is just enough time for me to shower and dry my hair. TADA! clean mom. I can honestly say that making these two activities (exercise & showering) back into my schedule has made me a better mom. I feel more patient and sane knowing I did something for me.
Even if you aren't a new mom, what are you doing for yourself that makes you feel good physically and mentally.
After 8.7yr of marriage I have learned that when we travel Ryan will ask me at least 3 times what we are doing, where we are going, and what he should pack. Even if I just gave him the itinerary information the day before. I finally got smart two years ago and started making a packing list. Not only has this reduced my frustration from the "Didn't I already tell you this?" and has actually made it easier for me to pack too. Ryan also started doing this for his annual ice fishing trip; and now that we have Fredrik, it's going to be indispensable. I've found it helps keep me from overpacking (as much), as well as prevents the inevitable forgotten item.
How do I do it?
1. List off the days you will be gone and what activities you will be doing.
Thursday - Drive to Grandmas (Lunch at rest stop - chicken salad wraps + Veggies & Dip)
Friday - Help with yard work
Saturday - Bake Pies, Brewery Tour, Christmas Caroling
Sunday - Drive Home (Lunch at rest stop - sandwich + veggies)
2. Begin to list what and how many of EVERY clothing item you will need. If anyone in your family/group needs a special item just for them make sure it's listed. Example:
Socks - 3
Underware - 3
3. List your toiletries. If you are staying in a hotel or going camping you probably don't need a hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner... But if you are staying at your brothers apartment, you might want to bring your own.
4 -6. Don't forget road trip snacks or other random items. This might include your gear list when camping/backpacking. If you are cooking meals you might want to include each days meal plan and ingredients needed. Or this might be included in your itinerary at the top of your list. (See above) During our recent trip to my hometown for Thanksgiving it included my spectra breast pump, milk bags, the charging cord, hush machine and charging cord, 4moms playard, etc... and the pumpkin pies!
7. If you have a pet(s) you may also want to list who is taking care of them, and if they have any special items besides food that you need to leave out or bring with to the boarding facility.
As you pack and load up your vehicle, cross off items or put a check mark next to them. Whatever works for you and your brain. After being printed, reviewed by Ryan, and actually used, the list ends up looking like this:
Even though it's an extra step, it's so worth it! If you save your list, you can always reuse or easily amend an old list for a new trip. What travel and packing tips do you have?
Need an easy and delicious dinner idea? Here you go, Crockpot Chicken Puttanesca! You can make it low carb by skipping the pasta, potato, or polenta; and even without the starch, this dish is very filling and satisfying. The anchovies add a touch of Omega 3 fats, as well as calcium from their bones. This is the perfect dish for a dreary, cold, fall evening; and would be great to serve to family or friends. I used the leftovers to make an Italian version of shakshouka, which is what I have pictured here, along with baby kale.
1.75-2# Chicken Thighs or Breast (2-3 cans drained chickpeas or white beans to make it vegan)
2, 15oz cans diced tomatoes (only use 1 can to make a less 'saucy' version)
1/2 cup chopped green or black olives
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2-1 Tbs Italian Seasoning
6 anchovy fillets
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes (optional)
1+ Tbs capers (optional)
1. Brown the Chicken in the olive oil
2. Combine the chicken with the remaining ingredients in your slow cooker.
3. Cook on high 3hrs or low for 5+ hours. Or Instant Pot, high pressure or poultry setting for 15 minutes.
4. Serve over pasta, baked potato, polenta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.
Feel free to sprinkle with fresh parsley or parmesan cheese.
Having a baby is hard work, bringing one home and having your life turned upside down is even harder. Between feeding, diapering, cuddling, and frantic attempts at calming a screaming baby, there's not always time to cook. However, mom and dad need to be well fed to keep up their stamina for that constant care giving. (Even when that's just snuggling on the couch-See picture) Living on coffee and dry cereal just won't cut it. The same could be said for people going through any major life change such as moving, home renovation, divorce. Or other stressors such as the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, someone having major surgery that impacts their mobility, chemotherapy and other medical treatments.
If you know someone who could use several meals I highly recommend starting a meal train. My MOMs club members used this takethemameal.com to organize a meal train and brought us 2 meals a week for 3 weeks. The website has great ideas for meals specific to different diets, but I've also listed some yummy links and ideas below. It was so nice to not have to think about going to the store, let alone cook a meal. Our favorite meals where ones that required very little assembly and could be easily re-heated in the microwave or pot/skillet. Leftovers were also HIGHLY appreciated, so consider doubling the recipe. Something else to consider is if the family has kids or food allergies/sensitivities, or other dietary requirements such as being Kosher or Vegan. Example: After my grandparents died several people brought lasagna or spaghetti to my parents house where we were staying. My sister is very lactose intolerant and canned tomato products also give her digestive issues, so she couldn't partake from any of these offerings.
Crock Pot or Instant Pot:
Buffalo Chicken + tortillas +ranch or blue cheese + carrots & celery sticks
Indian Butter Chicken + sliced cucumbers + Rice/Cauliflower Rice
Beef Roast + Fresh Veggies
Pulled Pork + Buns + Slaw
Chicken Puttanesca (with vegan option)
Vegan White Bean Soup
Picadillo + Rice/Cauliflower Rice + Plantain Chips
Eggroll in a Bowl + Sriracha Mayo
Sloppy Joes or Maidrite + Buns or Baked potatoes + Cole Slaw
Curried Lentils + Rice/Quinoa/Naan + Cucumber Salad
Egg Bake + Fruit + Salad
Meatloaf + Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie
Salmon Cakes + Green Beans (frozen or fresh) + Winter Squash
Black Bean Enchilada Casserole
No Cook/Store Bought:
Rotisserie Chicken + Bag Salad/Dressing, Frozen Sweet Potato Fries
Gyro Meat + Pitas + Tzaziki & Hummus + Fresh Cut Veggies or big salad
Smoked Salmon Salad (just buy pre cooked/peeled hard boiled eggs)
Canned or Store-Made soup + Baguette + Really Good Cheese
Sushi + Seaweed Salad + Frozen Edemame
Tuna Salad from the deli + Crackers + Fresh Fruit
Brownies, black bean brownies, keto brownies, vegan brownies
Fruit + Dip
Canned Cold Brew Coffee
Bottle of Wine or 6pk Beer
Nothing can prepare you for bringing home a baby. Your nursery may be decorated, your freezer stocked with meals, and a stack of newborn diapers and onesies neatly folded. While those things are great, the emotional, mental, and physical task of caring for a new baby is exhausting. I would not classify it as fun or magical. At least I didn't find it to be.
However, now that we are 8 weeks postpartum, I'm starting to really enjoy my time with Fredrik. At 2.5 weeks old Fredrik and I joined a new moms group put on by Amma Parenting. It was the best decision ever. During our last class we created a list of things we would tell ourselves or any new mom who was 3 days postpartum. The funny thing is, even if I had this list at that time, I'm not sure would have heeded the advice, or believed it. Here's our list any way:
As a dietitian I want to add a few more things to this list.
1. Eat meals not just snacks. So many websites and healthcare professionals talk about keeping snacks on hand for when you get hungry; snacks are nice but you need to eat a MEAL! Have a spouse bring you food on the couch while you nurse, have family bring you food, make dinner in the morning during nap time so you can re-heat at night. Snacks will not fill you up, and most snacks end up being crackers, dried fruit, pretzels, nuts, bananas, cookies... nothing that will actually satisfy you. Try to eat 2-3 actual meals every day. I find that a good solid breakfast is really important for me. Yogurt and smoothies just don't keep me full, but leftovers or eggs/meat + PB on toast keep me going.
2. Snack on Protein, but not just nuts. I've seen it with clients and started to fall into the habit myself. Even though bananas+peanut butter = delicious, it's not that filling. Neither is a hand full of almonds when you are running on 3 hours of sleep. Even though I just told you to eat meals, you're probably going to want/need some snacks. To keep your blood sugar stable, minimize cravings, and support whatever energy level you might have while sleep deprived, choose snacks that are high in protein and fat: hard boiled eggs, cheese, deli meat, salami, epic bars, pork rinds, protein powder + coconut milk, homemade protein balls, yogurt, cottage cheese, a packet of tuna, smoked salmon.
3. Join/create a meal train for the first couple weeks home or when your spouse/partner goes back to work. We had meals brought to us by members of the MOMs club I joined back in June. On Tuesdays and Fridays for 3 weeks moms brought us a complete meal (sometimes enough for leftovers). It was so nice to know that at least for that night we didn't need to come up with/thaw out something to eat.
4. Drink bone broth. I have no idea if this makes a difference....but it makes me feel like I'm doing something good for myself and supporting tissue healing. It's also something to drink that isn't water. I made and froze several quarts before Fredrik was due, but even Trader Joes now has bone broth if you don't want to make your own. Other brands that you can find at other grocery stores include: Pacific, Epic, Kettle & Fire.
5. Don't restrict, especially if breast feeding. If you are hungry eat; even at 2am. You have more important things to worry about right now than losing baby weight. If you had a long labor, c-section, or other complications your body has even greater calorie and nutrient needs when it comes to healing. This is not the time for Whole30 challenges, Sugar Detoxes, calorie counting or even my friend Katie's Best You Plan. Respect the carb/sugar cravings if you have them, and maybe make real food choices like fruit and sweet potatoes, or don't...and just dive into the tub of ice cream. I've decided to give myself a 3-4 month grace period before I really focus on making my usual 'healthy' choices and begin to say 'no' to so much sugar and processed carbs. Around 6 weeks I found this getting a little easier to do. For me these choices are not about weight loss, but about feeling my best. That means good digestion, good energy, and stable moods.
6. Stay hydrated. Water, Fizzy Water, Bone Broth, Kombucha, Diluted Juice, Tea (avoid peppermint if struggling with low milk production), 1-2 cups coffee, Zevia Soda. It's no joke that breast feeding makes you thirsty, you need a good 2 liters of fluids each day to support milk production. I've started filling up water bottles in the morning, and always pack a LaCroix when going out. The LaCroix cans fit better in the diaper bag pocket than my glass water bottle, and it's a nice treat.
Hope these ideas help, anything you would add to either list?
Breast Feeding...It's supposed to be easy and natural. It's this beautiful thing that babies can do the minute their born. It's supposed to provide them with all the food they need. BREAST IS BEST!
However, I know only a handful of people (my mom is one of them) for whom these statements were true. For everyone else, myself included, these statements do a disservice for how difficult breast feeding can actually be. From poor latch, excessively sleepy babies, newborns in a NICU, slow to come in milk supply, low milk supply, reflux, food sensitivities, inverted nipples, engorgement, mastitis, blisters....the list goes on and on. After attending several breast feeding support groups, it seems like almost every new mom struggles with breast feeding to one degree or another.
While in the hospital nurses and lactation consultants (LC) kept telling me Fredrik was just greedy and didn't like having to work at actually latching and sucking. (I don't think newborns can be greedy) They kept padding pillows and blankets around me to help with positioning, and then trying to shove his head onto my boob. By the end of our stay I think we were both a little traumatized. His weight dropped over a pound after 3 days; and during our last night I had to use donor milk to feed him through a Supplemental Nursing System. Even though they had already started me pumping and trying to syringe feed colostrum, my milk didn't come in until 5 days after he was born. This is fairly common for moms who have a C-section, but can make for very hungry babies. The following day we went home with the SNS and were told to continue pumping and using the SNS while nursing or attach it to a finger and have Fredrik suck on the finger. Since my milk still hadn't come in this didn't go over very well. During our first evening home he cried and screamed for over an hour. Finally my momma-bear instincts took over and I told Ryan to make a bottle with the formula we had received from my OBGYN. Needless to say my starving baby sucked it down in no time. As a crunchy granola dietitian, I had almost thrown out the formula and bottle thinking "I'll be breast feeding; why would I ever need this?" Thank goodness I didn't.
The following morning a home health nurse provided by the hospital came by. We were so fortunate that she was also a licensed LC and took one look at his mouth and latch and told us that he had a fairly significant tongue tie. I was so mad this went un-diagnosed in the hospital. There were plenty of qualified people who could have identified it. To get us through the weekend she showed us how to use a syringe not the SNS and finger feed him. This was a tedious process, but meant we didn't have to use all formula, or resort to a bottle 100% of the time. We were concerned using the bottle might lead to nipple preference and make future breast feeding even more difficult. For 3 days, Ryan sat on the couch for 40 minutes every 2-3 hours letting Fredrick suck on his finger while slowly feeding him through a syringe. I would sit next to them and pump milk for the next feeding. The following week our pediatrician also diagnosed him with a tongue tie, but also with a lip tie. No wonder he couldn't latch. She also encouraged us to start feeding him with an Avant bottle to help stretch his mouth and make feedings easier on us, and to find a dentist who would fix his tongue and upper lip; which is what we did.
Our dentist was amazing and the procedure took about 5 minutes. We were encouraged to work with a chiropractor to help correct some muscle imbalances in his neck from being squished sidewise in my womb. We've done that too and continue to work on helping Fredrik's neck relax so he can nurse properly on both sides
Have all these steps helped?
At just over 5 weeks Fredrik finally started to get the hang of nursing. This is so exciting for me since it means instead of pumping up to 12x day I'm down to 3+. WOOO!!! It's been quite the wild ride and even though we still need to work on his latch and getting him to open his mouth wider, it's a relief and blessing to know I can feed my baby by nursing, even if it's not 100% of the time. I know this isn't always the case, and have a taste for how disappointing it can be to think you won't be able to breast feed. It hasn't been easy, there have been many tears shed during the process, and we still have work to do. Once again I have a new found appreciation and empathy for new moms everywhere.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.