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From Pregnancy to Post-Partum: Best Foods for You and Your Baby

Boosting your parent superpowers

You’ve got superpowers! Little one cries and you crumble like a chewy chocolate chip cookie. Off you run to magically make a beloved stuffed animal reappear or heal a pinched finger with a kiss. In the eyes of our kids, parents have superpowers. And, you can boost yours – it’s just one delicious bite away!

Hold on there, Momma! Are you still thinking about the cookie? I hear you! Whether you’re enduring pregnancy cravings or are a busy parent simply trying to get something into your mouth while chasing your toddler around, nutrition can be challenging. Especially as a new parent. Here’s what you need to know to boost your parent superpowers, one delicious bite at a time.

What foods should you eat during pregnancy?

Cravings can drive one wild during pregnancy! The whole concept of ‘eating for two’ can mislead us to thinking it’s okay to gorge on unhealthy foods. But, is there any chance your craving is a nutritional need in disguise? Could that hankering for a tub of double fudge ice cream be your body’s way of saying it needs more calcium? Try a handful of almonds. (Heck, go on and add a few dark chocolate chips to satisfy your sweet tooth!) Could that yearning for another pickle be a sign your body’s dehydrated? Time to drink some water! When you’re longing for a mouthful of sinfully delicious junk food, as your hand reaches to yank open the fridge door, take a breath and consider if there’s a healthier alternative to quench your craving. Eating whole nutritious foods is like giving your body an energizing boost. 

According to researchers, most Canadian parents tend to lack in their prenatal and postnatal meals the following nutrients: iron, iodine, calcium, folic acid, vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Luckily, finding these nutrients is easy and part of a healthy, whole food diet. Eating whole foods (foods that haven’t been processed and stuffed into a box) is as easy as adding more lettuce onto your sandwich, snacking on a mix of nuts and seeds, or ordering a side of vegetables when eating out. It’s worth it! Eating a balanced diet is essential to ensuring both you and your baby are healthy. The first 1000 days of life (from conception to two years of life) are crucial for the prevention of adulthood diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Best nutrients to focus on during pregnancy & where to find them

DHA – fish, squid, algae, omega-3 supplements 

Iron – green leafy vegetables, legumes, meat and fish, liquid supplements 

Iodine – saltwater seafood, sea vegetables (kelp) 

Calcium – leafy greens, dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy 

Folic acid – leafy greens, citrus, beans, some whole grains, supplements 

Vitamin D – sunlight, fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, supplements 

How to naturally increase milk supply

Breastfeeding tends to cause a thirst with a ferocious intensity. Drinking water is key to successful breastfeeding. But if you’re needing a little boost, then you need galactogogues. Sounding a bit like a squad of superheroes, galactogogues are nutrients found in some plants that act like natural stimulants of breast milk production. The most commonly used source is fenugreek. This herb may work by increasing sweat production – the breasts are mammary glands which are modified sweat glands. Or, the phytoestrogens that fenugreek contains may be how it increases milk flow. The research isn’t sure exactly how it works, just that it does work.

Postpartum depression

Baby number two has arrived, and things are hard. Postpartum depression can happen to any parent. Here’s what you need to know. Postpartum depression lasts longer and is a deeper depression than baby blues that only last the first few days of birth. There are one to two cases of postpartum depression per 1000 births. Symptoms include trouble with sleep, mood, energy and body weight.  All of these are common occurrences in the state of chaos that happens post birth. 

Boost your fork! Serving up some gorgeous salmon on top of a crisp, colourful salad is first up. The good fat in salmon (omega-3 fatty acid) promotes healthy brain and nervous system development in babies. It is well known to boost mood in adults. Researchers are not sure if it’s effective for postpartum depression, but in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, eating fish regularly during pregnancy was linked to lower frequency of maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety. Not into fish? Read this for tips on navigating a vegan or vegetarian pregnancy.

As a new parent, there is hardly ever two hands available for chopping. But, a mason jar stuffed with your favourite nuts, seeds and dried fruits tucked into your diaper bag may be powerful boost when hunger strikes. Nuts and seeds are great sources of zinc and selenium. A few small studies suggest there could be a link between diets low in zinc, selenium and vitamin D (sunlight) and postpartum depression.

As a parent, you’ve got awesome superpowers. Boost them up by biting into foods rich in nutrients to keep you and your adorable bundle of joy thriving, healthy and happy.

Want to read the studies mentioned above? 

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