Well Parent: Nutrition While Pregnant & Breast/Chestfeeding

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Well Parent Nutrition While Pregnant

Healthy eating is an important part of good health, and an integral part of disease prevention and immune system support.  It is important that you eat healthy to ensure you are at optimal health to grow and care for your baby.

During pregnancy and while breast/chest-feeding your body provides all the nutrients a baby requires, often at the sacrifice of the parents needs. Good nutrition is important to help you keep your energy, and replenish reduced nutrient stores so that you are feeling great while growing, caring for and feeding your baby. Eating a well balanced diet filled with vegetables and good protein is the best way to achieve this.

Healthy oils such as raw olive oil, coconut oil and other unsaturated fats. Raw nuts are an excellent source of healthy oils, and a great source of protein and other micronutrients

Protein is an important part of good health. When choosing plant sources, be diverse! Mix and match! By eating a variety of legumes, nuts and grains  every day your are providing all the building blocks for healthy bodies and brains

Complex carbohydrates These can include beans and legumes, whole grains, rice, quinoa, fruits and vegetables. But beware the easy trap of pre-made simple carbs such as pastas, breads, and crackers…although they do have *some* nutritional merit, and are a wonderful addition to the diet in small quantities, they don't offer the biggest bang for your buck for nutrient needs, and can fill you up quickly

Vegetables and fruits Eat lots! They are excellent sources for micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Don't forget the dark leafy greens, which are excellent sources of iron and folate: Spinach, Kale, collard greens…

Well Parent Nutrition While Breast/Chestfeeding

The beauty of breast/chest-feeding is that the nutritional content of breastmilk will always be exactly what your baby needs, but it is important to eat well so that you are getting exactly what you need.  

Many parents are often concerned about the nutritional content of their breastmilk, and worry that their babies are not getting what they need. Your body is made to breastfeed, and it will ensure that  your milk is filled with everything it needs for baby's growth and development. It will use all its resources to stockpile breast milk, regardless of parental nutrient levels. If your baby is eating well, and gaining well then your baby is very well fed.

All in all, parental diet has little impact on breast milk nutritional content (breast milk will always have the right stuff in it) (1).  However, there are a few exceptions:

Fat   Fats are incredibly important in brain development and growth, and although the amount of fats you consume has minimal impact on the amount of fat in breast milk, the type of fats that you eat IS important (1, 2). If you are eating the 'not so healthy' fats found in deep fried foods, potato chips and french fries the composition of those fats will be the composition of the fat in your breast milk. But if you are eating healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and olive or coconut oil then the fats in your breast milk will be that of the healthy fats. How neat is that?

Water soluble vitamins    The amount of water soluble vitamins (Vitamin C, B complex vitamins) found in breast milk depends greatly on maternal intake (2). These vitamins are not stored in the body, so both mother and babe are dependent on food to provide these vitamins (3). This is why it is important to eat a healthy well rounded diet so that both babe and mom are getting the vitamins they need. So, where can you get these important vitamins? You guessed it…Veggies! All those bright colourful veggies like red and yellow peppers, brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens are rich in those C and B vitamins. B12 seems to be the tricky one, most sources of B12 are derived from animal products, however alternative sources include nutritional yeast (I’ve got a great recipe for nutritional yeast popcorn..yum yum yum), fortified tofus and soy products.

Calorie counting? Often new parents find that they have increased hunger. The caloric need of a breast/chest-feeding parent has increased with the increased demand from breast/chest-feeding, this makes it so important that you listen to your body. Every person is different, and as a result what every person needs is different. The same goes for thirst; while breast/chest-feeding, a lot of the water consumed will be used to produce milk, and many parents often feel an increase in thirst. My advice? Drink when you are thirsty! Water, coconut water or natural fruit juices are great ways to hydrate. Eat when you are hungry! Or do both at once with a smoothie!

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It all comes down to the basics when growing and breastfeeding your baby…take care of you and your body will take care of baby.

If you are interested in learning more about eating well while pregnant or  breastfeeding, or looking for tips on how to manage feeding a baby while feeding yourself...give us a call at Rebirth Wellness Centre! We would love to have a chat with you about how we can get you feeling and being well.

xo Rebecca

References:

1.    Fraser, Diane, Cooper, Margaret. (2009). Myles Textbook for Midwives, fifteenth edition. Elsevier Limited

2.    Park, Eileen. 2012. Class notes-Nutrition and Biochemistry

3.    Baby Center  www.babycenter.ca

Rebecca Robertson, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Doula, Childbirth Educator

I am a birth advocate, a breastfeeding educator, and especially an advocate for mothers and the choices they make. As a doula my main role is to support mothers and partners to ensure a satisfying and positive birth experience. I am trained in providing emotional and spiritual support, as well as physical comfort during labor. I completed a DONA training course in 2009 and it sparked my love for supporting laboring women. Since then I have been inspired to continue my learning to provide the best support I can with additional studies in lactation and natural medicine. Some of the things in my tool kit include massage, acupressure, and items to help with visualization and relaxation.  I am trained in different stretches and birthing positions to improve pain tolerance and pushing efficacy, as well I give lots of encouragement! In 2012 I enrolled in a Lactation Medicine Program at the Centre for Breastfeeding Education. There I was instilled with this goal "To enable the mother to manage her own breastfeeding experience, so she will be empowered to achieve her own breastfeeding goals." I accumulated over 90 hours in lactation specific education, as well as hours in observation at their breastfeeding clinic. Since that time I have been supporting new moms as they transition to motherhood and begin the breastfeeding relationship. During my time studying Naturopathic medicine, I was fortunate to expand on my knowledge on lactation medicine as well as how naturopathic medicine can play a role in the perinatal care of women and their new babes. I am passionate about my job, and I bring lots of enthusiasm and love for what I do.  

A Healthy Period: What You Need to Know

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Fertility, women's health

A thorough history of woman's menstrual cycle is something I always ask my patients in practice: whether they are tracking it for fertility, just getting it back post partum, or slowly losing it during menopause. Understanding our periods can tell us so much about our bodies and yet all too often I get woman who are unaware of the signs of irregular hormone imbalance and claim that everything is... well, fine I guess.  When I start digging deeper, some admit to having such bad cramps they need to take time off work, some bleed between periods or have such a heavy flow they change a pad every hour. A period shouldn't be a time of suffering. Neither should the weeks leading up to it. Now I have to admit, there is no one fits all perfect period. Every woman will have a different cycle length and experience different symptoms. What is consistent for each woman though is important to evaluate because it's a window into what's going on with her hormones and the state of her general body.  

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Cycle Length

The average length between periods should fall between 21-35 days and be consistent each month. A day or two difference isn't much to worry about, but if you're noticing that your cycle was 21 days one month, then 40 days the next, and then possibly one month skipped, this is a sign of irregular hormone balance and can either be caused by stress, dieting, or PCOS.

Length of Bleed

Anywhere from 2-7 days of bleeding is typical for woman. A period will start on the first day of a true bleed, as in the need for a liner or tampon. Some woman may experience bleeding between periods, after intercourse, for only 1 day or for over 1 week. These again are signs of hormone irregularities and possible issues with the endometrial lining.

Quantity and Quality of Blood

The amount of blood can be a large predictor of just how much lining is being shed during a period. Often woman who have very heavy flows and need to change even a super absorbent pad every hour will need to rule out estrogen dominance and conditions like endometriosis or iron deficiency as a possible cause.  Heavy dark clots are also something that should be investigated. If on the other hand there is very little blood, this could be a sign of estrogen deficiency, often caused by menopause, smoking, dieting, and stress.  

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PMS/Pain

This may come as a surprise, but women should not be experiencing irritability before their period and intense pain during it! Excess pain during a period is another hallmark sign of endometriosis, fibroids, or inflammation and should be evaluated by your health care provider. Mild twitching and aches can be felt on the first few days, as blood loss is often that highest, but the pain itself should never be severe or debilitating. Some woman are so used to heavy painful periods that they assume it's the norm. I often ask patients if they require medication, such as Tylenol or Advil, and how many of them. If it's 8 a day to get by, it's too much. It is, however, common to feel a slight cramp in the middle of a cycle during ovulation, this can actually be a good sign that ovulation is occurring.

Cervical Mucous

This isn't specific to a period per se, but to the overall health of a full hormonal cycle. In the first two weeks after day 1 of your period, estrogen is rising. This should be a state of happiness as estrogen is linked with serotonin and rising libido towards ovulation. Often you'll notice cervical mucous will be white and creamy. As ovulation approached, your body prepares to thin out this mucous in order for sperm to enter. Leading up to ovulation, you should notice that your cervical fluid increases and becomes thinner, clear, and more slippery - somewhat like egg whites. After ovulation, it will return to a thicker consistency.

Temperature

This is again an indicator of ovulation. Temperature will fluctuate throughout the cycle, with it being the lowest before ovulation, spiking during ovulation, and then slightly higher after ovulation. If you track your temperature daily (best to be done first thing upon rising before eating or even brushing your teeth) and notice there is no spike or a very erratic fluctuation, this should be evaluated as well. This could indicate an issue with ovulation or even thyroid imbalance.

What if my period isn’t “normal”?

All too often birth control is used to try and "regulate" cycles. Unfortunately, birth control simply stops your body from producing these wonderful hormones and instead causes what is known as a fake bleed. Often times, woman will be on birth control for 10 years or more and then once stopping, their cycles can become irregular and conceiving may even be difficult. If you think your period pain and overall cycle could be improved, talk to your naturopathic doctor about safe, gentle, and effective ways to optimize your period health!

Dr. Natalia Ytsma

From a young age, I knew that a career in health and medicine was in my future. Having spent time in doctor's offices and hospitals to correct a congenital heart defect, the idea of providing care to families in need and educating them on their health was something that I knew I had to do. It motivated me to always be cautious of how I treat my body and I grew to really appreciate what being healthy was all about, a lifestyle that ensures you take care of yourself from the inside out. I focused my education on science and business and gained experience in teaching, which allowed me to help others empower themselves with the knowledge they acquire. Having also traveled throughout the world, I gained work experience in North America, Europe, and Asia, which allowed me to learn from different work ethics and cultures. I grew a passion to learn about natural medicine and how to help others use it to achieve optimal health. I learned to understand that there's almost always a root cause to a health issue and that you can use safe, gentle, and effective treatment to address it. Ultimately, naturopathic medicine was my calling.
 
EDUCATION
•            Bachelor of Science and Business: McMaster University, Hamilton 2009
•            Holistic Health and Skincare: CNM, London UK 2013
•            Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine: CCNM, Toronto 2015

With 8 years of post-secondary school complete, I completed my clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic - with a full year rotation on the paediatric focus shift- and the LAMP Community Health Centre both in Toronto, Ontario. 
 
After graduation, I moved to Beijing where my husband was working at the time. While there, I designed pregnancy and fertility workshops for a local spa and ran a health elective for local teens to educate them on proper nutrition, mental health, and fitness. While abroad, we got pregnant with our son and decided to return back to Canada to begin raising our family close to home. Currently we reside in London, Ontario and I am practicing at Rebirth Wellness Centre, a thriving place dedicated to empowering woman into motherhood and providing family based health care at its best.

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