9 Ways To Make Breastfeeding Easier

9 Ways To Make Breastfeeding Easier

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things about being a mom and although your body and your baby are designed for it, that doesn’t always mean it comes naturally.

It certainly didn’t for me.

I breastfed both of my daughters for a little over a year, and there were unique challenges with each.

Not only is there a learning curve but between painful, sore nipples, problems with your latch and milk supply, and what seem like 24/7 feedings, I quickly realized breastfeeding was no easy feat.

Add to that challenges like breastfeeding in public and returning to work, and it’s no surprise that only about 50 percent of moms are still breastfeeding at 6 months.

Still, there are ways to make breastfeeding easier. Here’s my advice.

1. Start breastfeeding as soon as possible

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend moms and babies have skin-to-skin care immediately after birth or as soon as the mom is able to, and continue to do so for at least an hour.

Studies show moms of babies who have skin-to-skin care following birth are more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum.

Keeping your baby close right after birth also helps you to recognize when he’s rooting and ready to feed.

About 50 percent of hospitals have rooming-in practices, but if yours doesn’t, it’s a good idea to keep your baby in your room since studies show it can increases the initiation and duration of breastfeeding.

2. Ask for help right away

After you give birth, ask to have a lactation consultant come into your room to show you breastfeeding positions that are comfortable and how to get the latch right.

Although I found the lactation consultant in the hospital to be helpful, once we were home I still felt unsure about how to sit and hold my baby and I worried if she was getting enough milk.

One of the best things I did was return to the hospital for a private consultation with two lactation consultants. My husband and I spent more than hour with them learning what the latch should feel like and how to position her, and they weighed her to make sure she was getting enough milk.

The hospital or birth center you deliver in is a good place to start or ask your provider for a referral.

Support through La Leche League, a new mom’s group, or from a friend can also help you navigate the breastfeeding journey with ease.

3. Get the right gear

It’s more affordable than formula feeding, but getting some basic products can make breastfeeding easier.

I found nursing bras, receiving blankets, a double electric breast pump, breastmilk bags, nursing pads and the Boppie to be invaluable.

4. Know the signs of mastitis

Between 2 and 10 percent of breastfeeding moms get mastitis, an inflammation  of the breast tissue that can cause redness, tenderness, or firmness around the breast as well as fever, fatigue and malaise. Mastitis may or may not be accompanied by a bacterial infection.

Mastitis usually happens when a milk duct becomes blocked from engorgement, but it can also happen from wearing a tight bra or clothing.

To clear mastitis, make sure you fully empty your breasts when you breastfeed or pump. If you have pain, applying heat to the area can also help with let down.

Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms have been present for 12 to 24 hours or if you’re feeling ill.

It’s important to get plenty of rest, eat healthy and drink plenty of water too.

5. Get your spouse on board

When you bring your newborn home, you’ll probably be breastfeeding night and day, but just because you have the breasts doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

Your spouse can take one of the nighttime feedings with a bottle of your pumped milk, but you’ll want to make sure you pump so your milk supply doesn’t decrease.  I found that waking up to pump when my husband fed our daughter didn’t make breastfeeding easier for me, but you might be able to make it work if you can pump before you go to sleep, for example.

As an alternative, you can feed your baby and then let your partner take over with the diaper change and putting your baby back to sleep.

6. Eat protein

Breastfeeding places high demands for protein on your body so it’s important to make sure you’re getting plenty at every meal and snack you eat. Eating protein will also stabilize your blood sugar, give you energy, and help you lose the baby weight.

Excellent sources of protein include:

  • Lean meats
  • Liver
  • Poultry
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Tempeh, tofu and soybeans
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters

Related: 15 Easy and Healthy Snacks For Breastfeeding Moms

7. Drink plenty of water

A misnomer about breastfeeding is that drinking plenty of water is important for your milk supply, but upping your intake of H2O actually doesn’t increase your milk supply, according to Kelly Bonyata, an international board certified lactation consultant and founder of KellyMom.com

What drinking plenty of water can do however, is help prevent you from feeling even more fatigued than you probably already do.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine says the adequate intake (AI) for water while breastfeeding is 3.1 liters but notes there’s no data to suggest that kidney function and the amount of hydration breastfeeding moms need is any different than moms who are not breastfeeding.

Rather than keeping tabs on how much water you’re drinking, a good rule of thumb is to drink for thirst. Keep a water bottle near you during the day to make sure you’re staying well-hydrated and be mindful of symptoms of dehydration, which include dark urine, constipation, and fatigue.

If plain water isn’ your thing, add slices of cucumber or strawberry for a hint of flavor. Water from other sources count too: fruits and vegetables, soups, juices, milk, tea and coffee.

8. Get sleep—when you can

Let’s get real for a second: it seems that everything you read about having a new baby at home comes along with the advice, sleep when your baby does.

I don’t know about you, but after I had my daughters—and for several years later—sleep was a pipe dream.

My toddler and infant weren’t always on the same nap schedule and when they did nap, there were always things to be done like laundry, cleaning, bills, etc.

Still, it’s really important to sleep when you can because it’s important for your physical and mental health: it affects your hormones, immune system, appetite and your overall function. Although sleep deprivation is inevitable,  realize that it can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Related: 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression


9. Wean slowly


When I started to wean my older daughter after her first birthday, I landed in urgent care.

I already had been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) years earlier, but I had such intense anxiety and nausea I knew something else was going on.

The doctor I saw suggested I follow up with my primary care physician about gallstones, but I knew he was wrong.

Something that I think is not often spoken about is that weaning can cause sadness, depression, irritability, mood swings and anxiety, according to Bonyata.

Wean too quick and you can also set yourself up for engorged breast and mastitis (see #4).

When you start the weaning process, my advice is to do it slowly.

Try eliminating a feeding and waiting a few days until you drop another one. You can also gradually lessen the amount of time you breastfeed during each session.

Weaning can take 2 to 3 weeks to be complete so be patient—and enjoy this time with your child.

What are some things you’ve done to make breastfeeding easier? Let me know in the comments!

10 Best Healthy Pregnancy Snacks

10 Best Healthy Pregnancy Snacks

You already know that a healthy pregnancy diet is important for both you and your baby, but when hunger strikes and you have nothing on hand, you might be tempted to grab something quick and easy like a bag of salty chips or a package of cookies. Being prepared with list of healthy pregnancy snacks that are made up of whole foods and are nutrient dense however, is the way to go.

Healthy snacks will help satisfy your hunger, keep your blood sugar levels stable, and prevent fatigue, overeating and weight gain. Noshing on good-for-you options can also help satisfy pregnancy cravings and fill in nutritional voids if you have food aversions and morning sickness.

Despite what you may have heard about eating for two, during the first trimester you actually don’t need to consume extra calories. If you have a normal body mass index (BMI), an extra 340 calories a day during the second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in the third trimester is appropriate, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Need some snack ideas? Here are 10.

1. Guacamole and raw veggies

With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, avocado is also a good source of protein and fiber.

Avocado is also an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—healthy fats that can satisfy your hunger and help to reduce bad cholesterol and the risk for heart disease later on in life.

Pair carrots, celery, broccoli, jicama or your favorite raw vegetable with guacamole  or mashed avocado for a healthy, delicious and satisfying snack.

2. Tuna and celery or whole grain crackers

Studies show eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy is vital for baby’s brain and retina development.

Eating these healthy fats may even determine when your baby is born and prevent postpartum depression, according to a 2010 study in the journal Reviews In Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, are from fish.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say it’s safe to eat two, 8-12 ounce servings of fish per week.

Tuna, canned light and skipjack, are low-mercury options that’s are also easy and quick to pull together for a snack.

Pair tuna fish with celery, which is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. It’s also high in fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 2 grams. Or if you’re craving carbs, add a few whole-grain crackers.

3. Hard boiled egg and an apple

Eggs are an excellent source of protein—1 egg has nearly 7 grams—to satisfy your hunger and give you plenty of energy.


They’re also a good source of vitamin D, which is vital for your baby’s bone development and your own health.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 1,000 and 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D is safe.

Since most prenatal vitamins only have 400 IU of vitamin D, getting eggs in your diet is a good idea.

Eggs also have choline, which is important for brain development—so much so that the American Medical Association recently recommended pregnant women get more of it in their prenatal vitamins.

Pair a hard boiled egg with an apple and you have a healthy, delicious and portable snack.

4. Greek yogurt and berries


With 17 grams of protein per serving, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics, Greek yogurt is one of the best healthy pregnancy snacks.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

Top Greek yogurt with raspberries (fresh or frozen) which are high in fiber, and a good source of vitamins C and K, and magnesium.

5. Chia seed pudding with fruit

An excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an excellent choice to snack on when hunger strikes.

Chia seed pudding takes only a few minutes to whip up and you can store a batch in your refrigerator or in individual mason jars for grab-and-go snacks. Top with fruit for even more fiber and a hint of sweetness.

6. Iron fortified cereal with banana

Since your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, it’s important to get enough iron so you won’t become anemic.

Iron-fortified cereal is also a great choice but look for those that have an 80 to 90 percent daily value of iron.

Add sliced bananas, which are a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

7. Green smoothie

Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, K, iron, and B vitamins which are important for your baby’s brain development and nervous system.

They’re also good sources of calcium which is important to help your baby develop strong teeth and bones.

One way to get plenty of green leafy vegetables into your diet, especially if you’re battling morning sickness, is to make them into a cold green smoothie or green juice.

Related: [VIDEO] 11 Natural Ways to Deal With Morning Sickness

A good rule of thumb: choose an 80/20 ratio of vegetables to fruit and add a protein source like peanut butter or a protein powder.

8. Hummus and baby carrots

Carrots are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Pair carrots with hummus, which has nearly 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup, and you have a healthy snack anytime of day.

9. Homemade trail mix

Store-bought trail mixes make can he a healthy option but read labels carefully because many brands are packed with “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms—all sources of sugar.

You can also make your own trail mix with unsalted nuts and seeds, raisins, toasted coconut and granola, but be sure to stick to 1/4 cup.

10. Sliced pear with cheddar cheese

Pears are sweet and refreshing, a good source of vitamins C and K, and with more than 4 grams of fiber per serving, they can also help prevent pregnancy constipation.

Related: [VIDEO] How to Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

Add an ounce of sliced cheddar or Colby-Jack and you have one of the best healthy pregnancy snacks.

What’s one of your favorite healthy pregnancy snacks? Let me know in the comments!

14 Healthy Foods To Feed Your Baby Before Age 1

14 Healthy Foods To Feed Your Baby Before Age 1

After I had my first child, I couldn’t wait until she started solids.

I was so excited to make homemade baby food, try out all the different flavor and texture combinations, and introduce them to her for the very first time.

I realized that one of my responsibilities as a parent was to feed her healthy food and raise her to be an adventurous eater.

Just as I was helping her brain development by reading to her and her gross motor development with tummy time, feeding her in a healthy way was helping her to develop her food preferences, expand her palette and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

In fact, research backs this up and shows the earlier and more frequent you offer healthy foods to your baby, the better.

According to a July 2013 study in the Journal of Nutrition, infants who were exposed to a basic artichoke puree 10 times were more likely to accept and like it up to 3 months later than babies who were fed either a sweetened artichoke puree or an energy dense artichoke puree with more oil and salt.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend parents expose their babies to a wide variety of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables starting at 6-months-old. As babies grow, it’s also important to introduce a variety of textures to encourage chewing.

Here, read on for a list of 15 healthy foods to feed your baby before age 1.

1. Spinach

To increase the chances that your baby will love vegetables—not just sweet types like butternut squash—start out with the dark, green leafy types like spinach.

A good source of protein and fiber, spinach is also rich in vitamins A, C, E, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Since spinach is on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list for high levels of pesticide residues, consider purchasing organic spinach (fresh or frozen).

2. Nut butters


When my kids were babies just a few years ago, the advice from pediatricians was to avoid feeding babies nuts to avoid food allergies, but in 2017 all that changed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now say parents with babies who don’t have eczema or food allergies can “freely” introduce peanuts between 4 and 6 months of age.

I recommend you read all of the guidelines here and talk to your pediatrician before introducing nut butter—not nuts since they’re a choking hazard.

Once you get the green light however, nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter can be a healthy addition to your baby’s diet. 

They’re an excellent source of protein, high in omega-3 fatty acids which support brain and eye health, and vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that protects cells from the damage of free radicals.


3. Avocado


With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate, potassium, and magnesium, avocado is one of the best healthy foods to feed your baby.

Avocado is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are vital for brain growth and development.

It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids, or plant pigments, found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, an April 2015 study found.

4. Pumpkin


With 22 vitamins and minerals
including vitamins A, C, and E, plus fiber, pumpkin is a great first food for babies.

Pumpkin is also rich in lutein and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and plant pigment that gives the fruit its bright orange color.


5. Kiwi


Kiwi is a good source of fiber, vitamin E, potassium and copper, and an excellent source of vitamins C and K.

Since it’s sweet, juicy and soft, it also makes an ideal first food.

6. Eggs


Eggs are an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, protein and choline, an essential nutrient that is beneficial for heart health, brain and liver function and metabolism.

If you’re breastfeeding, feeding your baby eggs is also a great idea because the yolks are an excellent source of iron, and iron stores start to become depleted between 4 and 6 months old.

Eggs are delicious, have a delicate texture and are easy for babies to pick up. They’re also easily mixed into purees or meals with chunkier textures.


7. Carrots


Carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene, a carotenoid, or a type of antioxidant.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A, B6, C and K, and are a perfect first food for babies because they’re easily steamed and pureed.

Their mild, but slightly sweet taste is also favorable to most babies too.


8. Fish


According to a June 2019 study by the AAP, although fish and seafood are high in protein and other nutrients like vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids which kids need for their development, most aren’t eating enough.

Early introduction to fish and seafood may also improve a baby’s neurodevelopment, decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease and may even help prevent asthma and eczema, the AAP states.

Mercury exposure is always a concern, but salmon, and other types of low-mercury fish, are good choices.

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?


9. Broccoli

Broccoli is a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, iron and potassium.

When starting solids, you can make a broccoli puree or if you’re doing baby-led weaning, steam the florets until they’re very soft.


10. Sweet potatoes


Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber—a good thing if your baby is constipated.

11. Liver


It may not be a food you’ve eaten, but liver is surprisingly one of the best healthy foods to feed your baby before age 1.

Iron is an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamins A, B6 and B12 and minerals like zinc and selenium.

If you decide to try it, it’s a good idea to purchase liver that’s from pasture-raised, organic fed animals and from a butcher you trust.

12. Apples


Apples are healthy and delicious and a first food for baby that’s easy to digest.

A good source of vitamin C and fiber, apples also have quercetin, a flavonoid that work as antioxidants and may improve brain function, a March 2017 study in the Journal Behavioural Brain Research suggests.

13. Blueberries


Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K and manganese.

Blueberries also make for a quick and easy finger food, or as a puree, you can blend them with other vegetables, mix them into oatmeal or drizzle on pancakes.


14. Beets


Rich in antioxidants, beets are a good source of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, fiber, folate, potassium and manganese.

Studies show beets may also be beneficial for brain health. According to an October 2015 study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, drinking beetroot juice can improve cognitive performance.

While their bright red color will likely spark your baby’s interest, they can have a slightly bitter taste. To offset it, try roasting them, or mixing them with apples, pears, or sweet potatoes.

8 Tips for Traveling and Flying With Breast Milk

8 Tips for Traveling and Flying With Breast Milk

If you need to travel for work or you’re planning a getaway, chances are, you’ll have a lot of questions about traveling and flying with breast milk, whether or not your baby will be with you.

Breastfeeding and pumping are no easy feats even when you’re in the comfort of your home.

But when you travel and go through the airport, there are more things to think about.

For example, how much breast milk can you take through airport security? Can you bring your breast pump on the plane? How to store breast milk properly? And how to ship breast milk?

Here are questions to those answers and more.

1. Know the TSA rules for flying with breast milk

Breast milk doesn’t fall under the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, so you can bring more than 3.4 ounces through airport security and it doesn’t have to be stored in a quart-sized bag.

The TSA says “reasonable quantities” are OK, so although that’s not very specific to breastfeeding moms who count every ounce, you probably shouldn’t bring a freezer full of pumped breast milk, for example.

The TSA also allows breastfeeding moms to bring ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and cooler bags. If they’re partially frozen or slushy however, they will screen them.

Before going through airport security, remove your pumped breastmilk and present it to the TSA officer for inspection. They will likely screen the breast milk by x-ray.

If the breast milk is frozen, they shouldn’t have to inspect it.

If they decide to test the breast milk, they may ask you to open the container and pour some into another container.

Don’t want them to? They can do additional screenings of the breast milk but be sure to ask the agent to change into clean gloves.

2. Know the TSA breast pump policy

 

The TSA breast pump policy allows you to bring your breast pump in your carry- on bag or checked luggage.

Although the FDA says breast pumps are medical devices and as a result, they shouldn’t be counted as your carry-on item, some airlines may not consider them as such.

Since many airlines also charge baggage fees, it’s probably a good idea to confirm with them before your flight.


3. Pack your breast pump parts

 

If you’ll be pumping on the plane, make sure you bring everything you need including all of your breast pump parts, bottles, bags and a cover up.

Although I don’t recommend washing your pump parts in the airplane restroom, you can either wash them when you land in the airport bathroom or at your destination or use Medela’s breast pump and accessory sanitizer.


4. Map out a place to pump

Many airports have the Mamava lactation pods for moms to have a private place to pump. Some airports also have lactation lounges or nursing rooms.

You can also contact your airline ahead of time so find out if there is a private lounge or room you can use.

If all else fails, head to a family restroom and look for one with an outlet if your pump isn’t battery-powered.


5. Ask the hotel about a mini-fridge or freezer


Check with the hotel ahead of time to see if they offer a mini-fridge to store your pumped breast milk.

If they don’t, you may be able to request one or ask them to store your breast milk in a central refrigerator or freezer.

You can also ask them to freeze your ice packs or fill up your cooler with ice before you leave.

For specific guidelines on how to store breast milk, KellyMom.com has a helpful chart.


6. Look into breast milk shipping services


If you won’t be traveling with your baby and need to ship your expressed breast milk home, there are options.

You can try FedEx’s cold shipping service  or Milk Stork, a woman-owned company that also offers a “pump and tote” option

7. Bring what you need for traveling with breastmilk by car


If you’ll be driving, check to see if your breast pump has a car adapter so you don’t have to find a place on the road to pump.

Although it takes more work and isn’t as powerful as an electric pump, a manual pump can help.

If you’ll be taking a road trip and bringing breast milk with you, store your breast milk in a freezer bag or cooler with ice, ice packs or freezer packs.

If you’ll be traveling for several hours, you might consider using dry ice to transport your breast milk.


8. Plan ahead for traveling with breastmilk on a cruise


If you’ll be taking a cruise, it’s a good idea to contact the cruise line ahead of time.

Ask about the types of outlets available in the stateroom and if there is a mini-bar available to store pumped breast milk.

If you’re concerned that the mini-bar isn’t cold enough, so you can ask the stateroom steward for a larger refrigerator or ice for your cooler.

If not, ask the cruise line if they can store your breast milk in a central refrigerator or freezer.

What are your tips for traveling and flying with breast milk? Let me know in the comments!

 

6 Unhealthy Habits To Avoid During Pregnancy

6 Unhealthy Habits To Avoid During Pregnancy

From the minute you find out you’re pregnant, your brain gets flooded with questions. From what to eat and what to avoid, how to deal with morning sickness and pregnancy constipation, and which types of activities are safe, there’s a lot to think about.

When it comes to having a healthy pregnancy, you already know that smoking, vaping, alcohol and certain medications are off limits. Yet there are other unhealthy habits to avoid during pregnancy because they could affect you and your baby’s health now and down the line. Here are 6.


1. Eating too much


According to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), only 13 percent of people say they always stop eating when they’ve had enough, a trend which is affecting how many women start out their pregnancies.

In fact, only 45 percent of women have a normal weight when they become pregnant and new research suggests, when it comes to a woman’s risk for complications, pre-pregnancy weight is more important than pregnancy weight gain. 

During pregnancy, the “eat for two” mentality has also become an issue, with 47 percent of women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight.

Weight gain is associated with a higher risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, sleep apnea, preterm birth, birth defects, problems during labor and delivery and a higher risk for c-sections.

Research also suggests babies born to obese moms are more likely to be overweight themselves and may be at risk for poor developmental outcomes.

Excess weight gain can also make it harder to lose the weight after you give birth.

In the first trimester, you actually don’t need to consume extra calories. If you have a normal body mass index (BMI), an extra 340 calories a day during the second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in the third trimester is appropriate, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you’re carrying twins or multiples, or you’re underweight, overweight or obese when you become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you’re getting the right amount of calories for a healthy weight gain.

2. Not eating enough


It should come as no surprise that dieting is one of the unhealthy habits to avoid during pregnancy. 

While most women gain too much weight during pregnancy, a June 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 23 percent of women don’t gain enough to meet the recommendations.

Of course this could be due to hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), or extreme morning sickness, a loss of appetite or a medical condition, but some women may actually restrict their calories.

In fact, one survey found nearly 50 percent of pregnant women admitted to cutting calories, eliminating entire food groups and eating a lot of low-calorie and low-fat foods. A few women said they even turned to fasting, cleansing, purging and using diet pills and laxatives.

Low pregnancy weight gain is associated with delivering a premature baby, a baby who is too small and may have difficulty starting breastfeeding, and an increased risk for illness and developmental delays, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Low pregnancy weight gain can also increase a child’s risk for obesity.

According to a September 2014 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who had a normal body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy and gained less than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were 63 percent more likely to have a child who was overweight or obese compared to women who gained the recommended amount of weight.

You might be worried about gaining too much pregnancy weight or losing the baby weight after you give birth but pregnancy isn’t the time to diet.

Be sure to check out the pregnancy weight gain recommendations which take into account your pre-pregnancy weight and if you’re having one baby or multiples.

 

3. Being sedentary


Between morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, heading to the gym may not be on the top of your list, but being sedentary—even sitting at a desk all day—can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.

According to a March 2017 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, pregnant women spend 50 percent of their time in sedentary behaviors, which is associated with higher levels of high cholesterol, inflammation and fetal macrosomia, or an infant who is born significantly larger—more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces.

Fetal macrosomia affects between 3 and 15 percent of all pregnancies and is associated with pregnancy complications and health risks to the baby.

Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia due to diabetes, having a previous infant with fetal macrosomia, pre-pregnancy weight and pregnancy weight gain are all risk factors.

Yet studies show women who stay active during pregnancy have a lower risk of excess weight gain and macrosomia and are less likely to have a caesarean section.

Establishing an exercise habit during pregnancy will also make it more likely that you’ll stick with it after you deliver—and for years to come.

 

See: 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy [VIDEO]

 

4. Eating too much fake food and sugar


Cravings for salty and sweet foods may be in full force and although it’s probably OK to indulge occasionally if you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, avoiding fast food, processed, packaged foods and foods high in sugar is ideal.

Studies suggest a poor pregnancy diet can increase a child’s risk for allergies and preference for high fat, high sugar foods and affect behavior.

In fact, an October 2013 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found mothers who eat more unhealthy foods high in sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates have children with increased behavioral problems such as aggression and tantrums.

Eating a healthy pregnancy diet is critical to support your baby’s growth and development and prevent pregnancy complications.

5. Overdoing the coffee


If you’re like me and can’t talk to anyone in the morning until you’ve had a cup of coffee and then need several more throughout the day, breaking your addiction can be a tough one.

Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say the research is unclear as to whether caffeine consumption increases the risk for miscarriage and preterm birth, they advise pregnant women to limit their overall caffeine consumption from all sources (coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) to 200 milligrams a day.

To put that in perspective, an 8-ounce regular coffee is 95 milligrams of caffeine so have two and you’re at your max for the day. For specific recommendations about caffeine, check out this chart on BabyCenter.com.

6. Letting stress get the best of you


Between your hormones, physical changes and discomforts, and concerns about your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and how your life may change, there’s a lot that can make you feel stressed out.

It’s well known that stress can affect your health, but during pregnancy, it’s even more important to pay attention to.

Not to give you more stress, but stress can lead to high blood pressure and studies suggest high levels of stress, anxiety and depression can increase the risk for pre-term birth.

Finding ways to better cope with stress can help you have a healthy, happy pregnancy and establish a healthy habit when you become a mom.

Carve out time for yourself every day to do deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation, for example.

Go for a massage, take a yoga class, soak in the bath, listen to music, exercise and connect with friends.

For more tips, read 10 Tips For Being A Happy, Healthy Mom

If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed or just not like yourself, seek help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Postpartum Support International are two resources.

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

You know those moms on Instagram who have perfectly blown out hair and flawless make-up and they look like the happiest moms around?

Or maybe you know a mom like that in your local community or from your kid’s school.

I sure do and I don’t like it.

Most of the time, I’m a hot mess: my hair is in a ponytail, I have no make-up on whatsoever, and I’m dressed in workout gear.

I often fall into the comparison camp, wondering, why can’t I pull it together like they do? 

What I’ve learned throughout the years as a mom, is moms don’t have it all together and if someone tells you they do, they’re in denial or lying.

Being a mom is the hardest, most exhausting job you’ll ever have and one that never has a day off.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we can have it all, despite what society tells us. There will be some element of sacrifice, trade-off, or not feeling the same way you did before you had kids.

It’s uncomfortable and disheartening for sure, but I think it’s part of being a mom.

That’s not to say however, that you can’t be a happy, healthy mom. Here are 10 easy, realistic tips that can help you re-gain your former self.

1. Carve out me-time

A few years ago, my therapist told me that just like on a plane, “you need to put on your oxygen mask first.”

I knew she was right, but with all that I had to do in any given day, it seemed impossible—and most of the time, it still does.

I usually put everyone’s needs before my own and as a result, I feel depleted, anxious, stressed and overall, unhealthy.

I won’t suggest that it’s easy to find time for yourself, because it definitely isn’t.

I also don’t claim to do it well, but in the last year or so, I’ve done a better job at carving out time for myself.

Although it’s not trips to the spa or countless hours curled up with a good novel, it is more intentional: 20 to 30 minutes in the morning to read the Bible or a devotional and pray. Or 30 minutes at night to read.  Or blocking out my calendar to take my favorite classes at the gym.

It can be difficult to make time for yourself, but if you don’t do it, no one else will.

 

 

 

2. Eat healthy

When there’s so much to do and not a lot of time, or you have a new baby at home, getting healthy meals on the table can be challenging.

Avoiding fast food, and processed, packaged foods and a ton of sugar and focusing on fresh, healthy, whole-foods however, is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.

When you model how to eat healthy for your kids, they’ll be more likely to want to eat healthy too. You also won’t have to deal with a ton of picky eating and power struggles at the table.

A misnomer about preparing healthy meals is that it’s time consuming but nothing could be further from the truth. By doing some prep work on the weekends, cooking in bulk and sticking to the basics, you can get dinner on the table in no time.

3. Eat breakfast

You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your kids, but it’s for you as well.

A healthy breakfast is important because it gives you energy, prevents low blood sugar—and that hangry feeling—and prevents overeating throughout the day.

While the jury is still out on whether eating breakfast prevents weight gain, there is evidence that skipping breakfast is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

In fact, an April 2019 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who skip breakfast have an 87 percent increased risk of cardiovascular-related death compared to those who eat breakfast every day.

Starting the day off with breakfast can also make it more likely that you’ll make healthy choices throughout the day. According to a March 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight adults who eat breakfast are more likely to be physically active in the morning.

4. Keep healthy snacks on hand

When late afternoon hunger strikes, your energy levels are dipping and you’re vying for a pick-me-up, a coffee run can help but you should also fuel up with healthy snacks.

Instead of relying on something in a bag, box or canister, have foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and nut butters, or Greek yogurt on hand.

Take the guesswork out of snacks by washing, prepping and cutting up your fruits and vegetables ahead of time and setting aside individual grab-and-go containers or re-sealable plastic food bags.

5. Get moving

A sweat session at the gym makes me feel like a rock star. Not only does exercise prevent me from gaining weight, it has made me physically stronger.

Since I also deal with anxiety and depression, it’s a must-have to boost my mood.

Of course, the benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. But if all you can do is 15 minutes, it’s better than nothing.

If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you can still get a great workout at home or in your community.

Walking, running, biking, swimming or using one of the many fitness apps at home can be a fun and realistic way to fit it in.

To ensure it nothing else gets in the way, make an appointment with yourself and block it out on your calendar.

I like to work out in the early morning because I tend to lose motivation as the day goes on. But maybe after-dinner or your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find a way that works for you.

6. Prioritize your sleep

Sleep is important for your physical and mental health: it affects your hormones, immune system, appetite and your overall function.

But getting enough sleep is pretty much a pipe dream for most moms, whether they have babies or big kids.

Also, when you finally settle in at night, doing something for yourself may feel more important than sleep. Although it’s not easy, on the nights when you can turn in 30 minutes or an hour earlier, do so.

7. Find ways to relax 

Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to relax and cope with stress and anxiety, but it’s also important to find something that’s realistic and works for you.

Perhaps it’s reading, watching an inspirational video, doing a visualization exercise or calling a friend to talk.

 

8. Practice gratitude

There will always be someone else who is smarter, has more money or seems to have been dealt a better deck, but practicing gratitude as much as possible—even every day—is a proven way to increase happiness.

In fact, a May 2016 study in the journal Psychotherapy Research found people who wrote letters to others about gratitude reported improved mental health compared to those who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling.

 

9. Have sex

Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, sex is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.

Sure, you’re probably exhausted at the end of the day but sex is pleasurable, builds intimacy with your partner, and is associated with marital bliss over time.

Sex has other physical and mental health benefits: a stronger immune system, reduced risk of heart disease and hypertension, less headaches, improved sleep, better brain health, less stress, better self-esteem and a longer life.

10. Recognize when you need help

Postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 10 women nationwide but it often goes unrecognized and is not always an easy, clear-cut diagnosis, especially because the signs can be subtle.

While there’s a big focus on postpartum depression, what you should know is that moms also suffer with depression and anxiety when they’re pregnant or years after they’ve given birth.

If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed or just not like yourself, there’s nothing wrong with getting help, or at the very least, talking to a friend. To find resources in your area, reach out to Postpartum Support International.

What are some things that help you to be a healthy, happy mom? Let me know in the comments.

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

When I was breastfeeding my kids, I was hungry All. The. Time.

Hungry as in: I’d eat my lunch while my daughter nursed—yes, on a plate with a fork.

Breastfeeding torches some serious calories (more on that later) so having easy and healthy snacks at the ready was also important for helping to satisfy my near-constant hunger.

In addition to a healthy diet, keeping a stash of quick, easy and healthy snacks you can grab whether you’re at home, work or on the go will stave off hunger, fuel your milk supply and give you plenty of energy despite all those sleepless nights.

How many calories does breastfeeding burn?


According to KellyMom.com, the amount of calories exclusively breastfeeding moms need depend on their weight, nutritional status and activity level.

On average, women should aim for an extra 300 to 500 calories above what they were consuming to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight. That would work out to 1 to 2 healthy snacks a day, but my advice is to eat for hunger and don’t worry too much about counting calories.

Learn more in this quick video.

Wondering what to eat? Here are 15 healthy snacks for breastfeeding to try.

1. Hard boiled eggs

Eggs are some of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding because they’re loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 7 grams. Protein satisfies hunger and gives you plenty of energy.

Hard boiled eggs are also quick and easy to make so you can boil a dozen and have enough for the week.

Pair an egg with some cut up raw veggies or whole grain crackers for a healthy and delicious snack.

 

2. Greek yogurt and fruit

High in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics, yogurt can be a healthy snack for breastfeeding.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract.

 

3. Kale chips

Green leafy vegetables are healthy because they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Kale, in particular, is a superfood for breastfeeding moms. A good source of fiber protein, folate, iron, it’s also high in vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium and potassium.

Toss a cup of washed kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the over for 10 to 15 minutes a 350 degrees.

 

4. Popcorn

Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber to stave off hunger and keep your blood sugar steady.

Popcorn takes only a few minutes to make and you can stash it in your pantry anytime hunger strikes.

 

5. Apples and nut butter

Pair an apple with your favorite nut butter for the perfect combination of fiber and protein to satisfy your hunger—and your tastebuds—in between meals.

 

6. Avocado toast

Avocado is a superfood, especially for breastfeeding moms.

With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—the healthy fats that can help reduce bad cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease later on in life.

A half cup has more than 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Spread some avocado on whole grain toast for a healthy, delicious and satisfying snack.

 

7. Edamame

Edamame (soybeans) are quick and easy and one of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding.

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame are also high in calcium.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

 

8. Cheese, crackers and fruit

Pair cheddar or ricotta on whole grain crackers and top with sliced strawberries for a sweet and savory snack.

 

9. Chia seed pudding

An excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an energy-boosting superfood for breastfeeding.

Chia seed pudding takes only a few minutes to whip up in your blender and you can store a batch in your refrigerator or in individual mason jars for grab and go snacks. Top with fruit for even more fiber and a hint of sweetness.

 

10. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re a good source of magnesium, the “calming mineral,” and zinc known for immune boosting and wound healing properties.

They also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and mood—a good thing if you’re at risk for postpartum depression.

Three tablespoons of pumpkin seeds also offer a good combination of protein (9 grams) and fiber (2 grams).

Add pumpkin seeds to yogurt, on top of salad or eat them solo.

11. Green smoothie

One of the best ways to get several vegetables in at one time, especially when you’re short on time is to blend up a green smoothie.

To keep the sugar content low, stick with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. You can then add in chia seeds, protein powder or a nut butter, for example.

12. Homemade trail mix

Store-bought trail mix can be a quick and easy option, but read labels carefully since most are packed with salty nuts, a lot of high-sugar dried fruit, “yogurt” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Making your own trail mix only takes a few minutes and you get to control the ingredients. Combine almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins for a healthy and delicious breastfeeding snack.

13. Hummus and carrots

Another favorite snack combination of mine is raw baby carrots with hummus.

Carrots are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Pair carrots with hummus, which has nearly 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup, and you have a great snack.

14. No-bake energy bites

No-bake energy bites may take a few minutes to make, but they’re well worth it and you can make a large batch and freeze them.

Combine ingredients like rolled oats, bananas, dates, nut butter, raisins and seeds. Need a recipe? Here are 7.

15. Celery and tuna

Celery is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. It’s also high in fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 2 grams.

Add some tuna (or canned salmon) and you have a fiber and protein-packed snack.

Tomatoes and mozzarella

Tomatoes are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, choline and fiber: one cup has more than 2 grams. Add some protein with sliced mozzarella cheese and you’ve got an easy and healthy snack.

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Have you ever seen those women on social media who are 9 months pregnant running marathons, lifting huge, heavy barbells at CrossFit or managing impossible Yoga poses without breaking a sweat?

I have but no, I wasn’t one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was teaching Spinning classes and had completed my first endurance race—a 1/2 marathon—about 3 months earlier.

Since my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage however, my doctor suggested I cut back on exercise until the 3 month mark.

Once I was in the clear, I returned to the gym but not to a bike. 

Instead, I exercised several days of the week and did low-impact workouts like walking, strength training, stretching and prenatal Yoga.

More power to those women who can keep up with their intense workouts during pregnancy but let’s get real: particularly during those early months of pregnancy when you’re dealing with morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, the couch is much more appealing than the treadmill.

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Why? Because there are so many amazing benefits during pregnancy and way beyond those 40 weeks. Here are 9.

1. Lower risk of pregnancy complications

Exercise during pregnancy strengthens the heart and blood vessels and may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent, a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found. 

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have a caesarean section.

2. Cures pregnancy constipation

Between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with constipation during pregnancy.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary—another great reason to get moving.

Looking for more ways to prevent and cure constipation? Watch my video.

3. Eases aches and pains

Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are common during pregnancy.

4. May prevent postpartum depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent postpartum depression.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

5. Fights fatigue

Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

6. Improves sleep

When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with stress that might be keeping you awake. One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

7. Faster recovery from childbirth

Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

8. Supports postpartum health

Staying active during pregnancy can help establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

Exercise in the weeks after delivery may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn needs.

9. Helps you lose the baby weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs. Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis muscles.

If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery you can likely start to exercise a few days after you’ve given birth or when you feel ready, according to ACOG. If you had a c-section or complications or you’re simply unsure, you should always check with your doctor first.

Did you exercise during pregnancy? In what ways did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

7 Best Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

7 Best Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

When one of my friends was pregnant with her first child, like all new moms, she tried to do everything she could to have a healthy pregnancy, including eating right.

She talked to her doctor about her diet and read a book about a pregnancy nutrition.

But with all of the recommendations about getting plenty of protein, iron and calcium for example, she started to worry about getting enough of every nutrient and she ended up gaining 60 pounds!

Although your diet is really important for both you and your baby, all of the pregnancy nutrition advice can seem overwhelming and make you crazy.

Instead of worrying about following a set of rules, eating the “right” foods, and getting a certain amount of nutrients in your diet, stick to the basics.

Here are my best pregnancy nutrition tips and general recommendations that can go a long way in having a healthy pregnancy.

1. Get folic acid

Folic acid, the synthetic version of folate, is a must-have nutrient for a healthy pregnancy because it prevents neural tube defects (NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Although many women think they should start taking folic acid when they first see the plus sign on a pregnancy test, it’s important to take it before you even plan to become pregnant and especially during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.

Since nearly 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, experts recommend all women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of a folic acid supplement daily.

Although folate isn’t absorbed as well as folic acid, it’s still a good idea to get it from foods like beef, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and legumes and fortified foods like some cereals.

2. Don’t eat for two

The advice that you need to eat for two when you’re pregnant is outdated and incorrect.

In fact, following this advice may be why 47 percent of women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and sleep apnea, preterm birth, birth defects, problems during labor and delivery, and is linked to a higher risk for c-sections.

Research also suggests babies born to obese moms are more likely to be overweight themselves and may be at risk for poor developmental outcomes.

Excess weight gain can also make it harder to lose the weight after you give birth.

In the first trimester, you actually don’t need to consume extra calories.

If you have a normal body mass index (BMI), an extra 340 calories a day during the second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in the third trimester is appropriate, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you’re carrying twins or multiples, or you’re underweight, overweight or obese when you become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you’re getting the right amount of calories for a healthy weight gain.

3. Limit fake food

A whole foods diet can help ensure you get the right amount of nutrition to support your health and your baby’s growth and development.

Instead of fast food, processed foods and foods with refined carbohydrates, focus on getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, clean sources of protein, whole grains and healthy fats.

Since your blood volume doubles during pregnancy and you may feel more tired than usual, eating real food will give you the energy you need.

Whole foods are also more satiating, so you’ll be less likely to overeat and gain too much weight.

4. Get your omega-3s

Fish is an important source of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids which are important for your baby’s brain development.

In fact, a 2016 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found eating more servings of seafood each week was associated with higher cognitive scores and a decrease in symptoms of Autism.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it’s safe to eat two, 8-12 ounce servings of fish per week. Fish with low levels of mercury include shrimp, salmon, catfish and pollock.

Avoid those with high levels of mercury which include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. If you eat white albacore tuna, limit it to 6 ounces a week.

If you can’t stomach fish, try adding other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, DHA-fortified milk or peanut butter, or talk to your doctor about taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

5. Eat enough

Although many women gain too much weight during pregnancy, there are also those that may go in another dangerous direction.

In fact, a 2012 survey by SELF magazine and CafeMom.com found nearly 50 percent of pregnant women admitted to cutting calories, eliminating entire food groups and eating a lot of low-calorie and low-fat foods. A few women said they even turned to fasting, cleansing, purging and using diet pills and laxatives.

You might be worried about gaining too much pregnancy weight or losing the baby weight after you give birth but pregnancy isn’t the time to diet.

Be sure to check out the pregnancy weight gain recommendations which take into account your pre-pregnancy weight and if you’re having one baby or multiples.

If you’re unsure of what to eat—and how much—consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in pregnancy nutrition.

6. Eat iron-rich foods

In order for your body to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby, you need about double the amount of iron during pregnancy than you did before you became pregnant.

ACOG recommends 27 milligrams of iron a day which you can likely get from your prenatal vitamin, but it’s also a good idea to eat iron-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, beans and peas and iron-fortified cereals.

Eating iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C can also help your body absorb iron more efficiently.

7. Don’t stress

The thing about pregnancy nutrition is that no matter how well-intentioned you are to eat healthy, your pregnancy may not go as you had planned.

Whether you’re dealing with morning sickness or something more serious like gestational diabetes, you may have to tweak your diet.

My advice: eat whole, healthy foods and follow your nutritionist’s advice, but don’t stress.

Being a calm mama is so much more important than adhering to a strict list of pregnancy rules.

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained more than 40 pounds—something I attribute to eating whatever and whenever I wanted.

A bagel and cream cheese was my go-to breakfast and chocolate was an everyday indulgence.

I mistakenly thought—as many women do—that I should be eating for two.

When there was a family gathering or party, I wouldn’t think twice about taking an extra treat because, I figured I was pregnant and I deserved it.

As my belly grew, the number on the scale got higher and I moved into the final weeks of pregnancy however, people would ask me, are you sure you’re not having twins?

Not exactly what a pregnant mom wants to hear.

When you look at the research, it turns out that my weight gain, albeit unhealthy, was on par with other women. According to a June 2017 meta-analysis in JAMA, 47 percent of women gain more than the Institute of Medicine guidelines.

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is linked to a host of pregnancy complications, problems during labor and delivery and postpartum health conditions.

Unfortunately, studies also show that after pregnancy, the pounds linger.

According to a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they did before they became pregnant. In fact, 47 percent were 10 pounds overweight while 24 percent were 20 pounds overweight.

Of course, losing the weight reduces your risk for obesity, chronic health conditions, and things like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during subsequent pregnancies.

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew a lot more about pregnancy nutrition and by making healthy choices and not overeating, my weight gain was within normal range.

Although the weight was slower to come off the second time around, by eating healthy, exercising and a few other tricks, I lost the baby weight with both pregnancies. Here’s how I did it.

Breastfeed

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the nurse told me, if you breastfeed, the weight will come off in no time.

I had already made the decision to breastfeed because of all the amazing benefits, so I figured if that was the case, even better.

It turns out, that nurse was right.

I found that when I was breastfeeding I was ravenous all the time and I definitely ate when I was but by 6 months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

It’s definitely not a hard and fast rule, but exclusive breastfeeding can torch some serious calories—up to 500 calories a day or the equivalent of running 6 miles!

According to a December 2014 study in the journal Preventative Medicine, women who exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months, lost 3 pounds (by the year mark) compared to women who didn’t breastfeed or breastfeed exclusively.

Yet other studies have shown that breastfeeding may not lead to weight loss, since the hormone prolactin increases appetite and may lead women to consume too many calories.

Obviously, the decision to breastfeed shouldn’t be because of weight loss, but it could be an awesome extra benefit.

Eat whole foods

When you have a new baby at home, having time to cook, much less eat a meal can seem impossible.

A granola bar or a bag of crackers can help when you’re on the go, but if you’re relying on processed snacks all day, you’re not giving your body the nutrition it needs to lose the baby weight in a healthy way.

To lose the baby weight, I focused on eating whole foods which are not only packed with nutrition but also stave off hunger. Eating a salad every day for lunch proved a great way for me to stay on track.

I also made it a point to get plenty of protein, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts and seeds.

Exercise

After you have a baby, going to the gym is one healthy habit that can easily be put on the back burner.

Between back-to-back feedings, diaper changes, laundry and fighting through fatigue, working out is the last thing on your mind.

And if you have postpartum depression like I did, getting out of the house can be a struggle.

Yet after you get the green light from your provider to start exercising again, usually around 6 weeks postpartum, it’s one of the best things you can do not only to lose the baby weight but also for your health and your mood.

In the first few weeks of bringing my daughter home, I’d put her in the stroller and take walks in the neighborhood. When I was cleared to work out again, I started walking on the treadmill, then running and lifting weights.

If the gym isn’t your thing, there are so many ways to get in a workout.

Try the free or subscription-based workout apps or head to the park with your baby. At the very least, getting out prevents isolation and can help you meet other like-minded moms.

Don’t diet

To shed the baby weight, I never thought that what I was doing was a diet.

I didn’t count calories or put restrictions on what I was eating, although I did follow the WW (previously Weight Watchers) plan—more for the accountability than anything.

I knew that diets don’t work—it has to be a lifestyle—so I focused on giving my body what it needed—whole, nutritious foods. I ate when I was hungry, kept my portion sizes in check and always left room for treats.

Eat snacks

When you’re trying to lose weight, many experts say to stick to 3 square meals a day—no snacking allowed.

Since I was breastfeeding however, snacks helped to satisfy my hunger, especially between lunch and dinner and prevented overeating at meals. Also, since I have anxiety, low blood sugar is never a good thing, especially when caring for a baby and running around.

Experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding moms need an extra 300-500 calories, which can be built into your diet with snacks.

Drink water

Any time you’re trying to lose weight, experts will advise you to drink plenty of water. According to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters, while lactating women should get more—

3.1 liters a day.

Thirst can often look like hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it promotes fullness and can stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.

One trick that helped me to drink enough was to re-fill a re-usable water bottle and carry it with me everywhere I went.

[VIDEO] How To Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

[VIDEO] How To Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

When your hormones are all over the place, you’re exhausted and you’re already dealing with morning sickness, constipation—along with the gas, bloating and that uncomfortable heavy feeling—is one more pregnancy symptom you’d rather not have to deal with.

Constipation is a surprising common complaint during pregnancy—studies show between 11 and 38 percent of women are affected.

Blame it on the hormone progesterone, which is in full effect during pregnancy and can cause the muscles in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to slow down and prevent waste from moving through.

Pregnancy constipation can also be a result of the increase in water absorption from the intestines which causes stool to dry out and the growing uterus, which may disrupt the normal functioning of the GI tract.

A decrease in activity and lack of exercise as well as the iron and calcium in prenatal vitamins can also back things up.

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer for 9 months feeling miserable.

Here are some strategies that can help prevent—and cure—pregnancy constipation.

Short on time? Check out 3 of my top strategies in this video. 

 

1. Eat more fiber


Fiber-rich foods are the perfect antidote to pregnancy constipation but they can be hard to get in your diet especially during the first trimester, when all you can tolerate are saltine crackers, for example, and other foods with simple, refined carbohydrates.

As morning sickness subsides however, usually (but not always) around the second trimester, you’ll be able to start introducing healthy, high-fiber foods again to get you back on track.

Stick to vegetables, especially the dark, green leafy types that are packed with nutrition and fiber, as well as fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains and chia seeds and flaxseeds.


2. Drink up


During pregnancy, it’s crucial that you drink plenty of water but it’s even more important if you’re constipated because it will help move things along.

Aim for 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water each day, which the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend during pregnancy.

In addition to drinking plenty of water, a cup of coffee, black tea or a bit of prune juice especially in the morning may also do the trick.

3. Try magnesium


Magnesium relaxes the bowels and certain types are known to have a laxative effect.

According to an August 2017 study in the Advanced Biomedical Research,

magnesium may even prevent pregnancy complications.

Before starting any supplement however, always check with your provider about the type, dosage and safety.

4. Avoid refined carbohydrates


White, refined carbohydrates found in foods like rice, pasta, crackers, snack foods, and processed foods are binding so it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.

5. Get moving


Getting plenty of exercise not only ensures a healthy pregnancy, it can also prevent constipation.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend women with uncomplicated pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most or all days of the week. Walking, swimming and prenatal yoga are all good choices.

6. Talk to your doctor


If constipation persists after changing your diet, upping your water intake and exercising, talk to your doctor about changing your prenatal vitamin which may be backing you up.

Your doctor may also prescribe a fiber supplement, a stool softener, or a laxative. Although they’re generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to check in with her first since every woman and every pregnancy is unique.

What are some remedies for pregnancy constipation that have helped you? Leave me a comment.

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9, is well known as a vitamin that pregnant moms take to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Since the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy are when the neural tube is formed and when defects occur, and up to 45 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, taking folic acid before you get pregnant is vital.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day. During pregnancy, women should increase the amount to 600 mcg; breastfeeding moms need 500 mcg.

Although most women get enough folate, some women, such as those with the MTHFR gene variant, may not be able to utilize folate properly and may need to take the bioactive form.

Interestingly, research suggests folate and folic acid can actually be beneficial for all moms, whether they’re planning to become pregnant or not. Here’s what we know.

1. Folic Acid May Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is often seen as a man’s disease but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, accounting for approximately 1 in 4 female deaths each year.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, getting enough folate may actually ward off heart disease.

According to an August 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of The American Heart Association, folic acid supplementation is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke and a 4 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Folic Acid Acid May Reduce Cancer Risk

Some studies suggest that adequate levels of folate may prevent certain cancers. According to a large 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who had total folate intake of 900 mcg a day or more had a 30 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who only consumed 200 mcg a day.

Since some studies suggest that high levels of folate and folic acid may actually increase cancer risk however, more research is needed to determine whether or not taking higher doses is actually beneficial. 

3. Folic Acid May Prevent Depression and Postpartum Depression

Some studies have shown an association between low folate and depression.

Researchers have also looked at the link between folate and depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression.

According to a November 2017 study in the journal Nutrients, women who took folic acid for more than 6 months during pregnancy had a lower risk of postpartum depression than those who took it for less than 6 months.

Some studies also suggest folic acid, in combination with anti-depressants, may improve symptoms, but it’s unclear whether it’s effective or not.

4. Folic Acid May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s unclear whether folic acid supplementation may prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but some studies suggest it may have some benefit.

While observational studies have found an association between low levels of folate and poor brain function and a higher risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, folic acid supplements have not been shown to improve cognitive function or prevent these diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For people who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s however, folic acid may help, according to a June 2016 study in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.

What Moms Should Know About Folate and Folic Acid

Since folate is a water soluble vitamin, it’s not stored in the body so you need to get it in your diet, ideally through food.

Foods high in folate include dark green leafy vegetables, some types of fruit, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and grains. Some foods like breads, cereals, pastas, rice and other grains are also fortified with folic acid.

Although most women get enough folate, symptoms of a folate deficiency include fatigue, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, headache, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and pale skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It’s important to note that although the folate thats’s naturally found in foods isn’t harmful, high doses of folic acid and fortified foods may be. There are also certain medications that can interact with folic acid supplements so when in doubt, always talk to your doctor.