Postpartum Body Image

Postpartum Body Image
By Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD

Photo Credit: Adrian Dreßler via Compfight cc

I had a very easy pregnancy and felt great almost the entire time.  What I didn’t expect was the shock and roller-coaster ride of emotions and body image after giving birth.  Not a lot of people tell you about the intense ups and downs during the postpartum period, especially when it comes to your body.  Everyone says, “Enjoy every minute!!” and “They are only this small once!!”  I remember feeling guilty thinking I wasn’t a fan of the newborn stage and felt so uncomfortable in this new body post-baby.  I would ask myself, “Why do I feel so ‘blah’?”  All I’m supposed to be doing is sitting on the couch and breastfeeding.  The only expectation is to bond with baby Connor, how hard can that be?”

Throughout my pregnancy I told myself I would get back to my normal self as soon as possible.  I didn’t care much about my weight but just wanted to feel good about my body.  I’m a very active person who loves yoga and exercise.  It felt amazing to participate in those activities while I was pregnant.  I also enjoyed gaining weight, knowing that the baby was growing and I was eating to support a healthy pregnancy.  I went back to the doctor a week after giving birth and had lost twenty pounds right away.  “Well that was pretty easy,” I thought to myself as I walked out the door… “I bet I’ll have my ‘normal’ body back in no time.”  So five more weeks pass by, and I walk in for my six-week postpartum checkup.  Those five weeks were probably the hardest weeks of my life, as the initial “high” of giving birth wore off, and life with a newborn started to actually sink in: no sleep, no activity, and increased anxiety.  I get on the scale at my six-week checkup, and the nurse weighs me and says, “Well, we don’t see that too often!  You actually went up!”  I kept on telling myself that weight wasn’t important to me, but in that moment all I could think about was the annoying negative body image voice winning over my healthy self.

Life went on, but something shifted in me around the three-to-four-month mark. I went back to work and felt fulfilled in my career, Connor started sleeping more, and I started to introduce formula and wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding (which honestly took away a lot of stress).  I also asked for help with babysitting so I could get out of the house more often.  I started to not care as much about my postpartum weight loss and started to focus more on doing something each day for myself and self-care for a healthy body.  I felt myself change both mentally and physically as more self-care happened.  I am now feeling so blessed and happy, and my anxiety has decreased.  I am walking more with my mom friends and babies, going to weekly “Mommy and Me” yoga classes, and am training for a five-mile race on Thanksgiving Day.  I am also slowing down each day, cutting back on my “to-do lists,” and just taking it one day at a time with my son with no expectations.  My body feels strong as it has now fully recovered from childbirth, and I feel almost “back to normal.”  But guess what?  I weighed myself the other day out of pure curiosity and wouldn’t you know—my weight was the exact same number it was at my six-week postpartum checkup.  Thanks to a healthier attitude and lots of self-care, I feel incredible both physically and mentally.  I also feel blessed that I can teach my son what it means to love your body no matter what the scale says.

Food Cravings: Consuming Peanuts and Soy During Pregnancy

Originally published on NY Metro

Are you craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during your pregnancy? Did you religiously consume soy products like yogurt and milk before your pregnancy, but aren’t sure if you should continue to do so? Manhattan nutritionist and mother of two says it’s OK!

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc

My friends used to glare at me when I ate peanut butter and soy yogurt while pregnant. They, like many other moms, believed in the notions that parents should not introduce nuts or soy to children younger than 2, solid food to infants younger than 6 months, and food like nuts, nut butters, and anything with soy while pregnant.

I loved these foods too much though; peanut butter and soy yogurt remained a primary means for me to consume protein, fat, and calcium for the duration of my pregnancies. To my content, after giving birth, I received my Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network newsletter, confirming that there was no such relationship between these ingredients, food products, and allergies. Since then, neither of my boys has developed any type of severe food allergy either.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, your babies, and what the latest research says on consuming allergenic products while pregnant, breastfeeding, and in the first years of life.

Food Exposure While Pregnant

If you’re the kind of mom who, like me, relied on peanut butter sandwiches for simple grab-and-go lunches while pregnant, don’t feel guilty if your child has developed a food allergy. There is plenty of proof that ensures that this is not your fault.

Eliminating specific foods during pregnancy and/or while breast-feeding, prolonged breastfeeding, and delayed weaning have not been proven to prevent the development of food allergies. New research actually suggests the opposite—that this may be the ideal time to expose children to sensitive ingredients in order to induce a natural tolerance to such items.

Rather than obsessing over which foods to limit, focus on eating a variety of items on a daily basis. Identify your cravings, and be sure to consume enough calcium and omega 3 fatty acids in a moderate manner. Craving chocolate and peanuts? Don’t eat them in excess every day. Instead, rotate the foods you love and incorporate a variety of ingredients from one meal to the next.

If you are still afraid of what ingredients like nuts and soy may trigger, try using a four-day rotation that’s known to help individuals with food intolerances. For example, if you have eggs on Monday, don’t eat them again until Friday. While this may require extra thinking and work, the four-day rotation can help to calm even the most cautious mom’s fears.

Photo Credit: Ann@74 via Compfight cc

When to Introduce Food to Infants

Back in the 90s, when I studying nutrition and was pursuing my RD certifications, I learned that it was appropriate to introduce solid foods to babies between 4 and 6 months. By the time I had given birth to my first child in 2006, the word on the mommy block was to delay the introduction of solids until at least 6 months or older in order to prevent the development of allergies.

Current research conflicts with this proposal. Jonathan M. Spergel, MD, Ph.D., and chief of the Allergy Sector at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says, “Delaying food introduction after 6 months could be even more detrimental in regards to developing a food allergy.” One study, reported in Pediatrics, supports this theory, suggesting that introducing solid foods at a later age was associated with an increased risk for allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens by the age of 5. Another proved that introducing cow’s milk, chicken, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten before 6 months was not significantly associated with eczema or wheezing at any age.

So remember, while there are always exceptions, the general consensus is that introducing solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age is actually associated with the lowest allergy risk. In other words, it’s during this time, before the 6-month-old mark, that it may be best to incorporate solid foods during mealtime.

How to Introduce Peanuts and Tree Nuts to Toddlers

Based on current research, parents do not need to delay the introduction of peanut butter or nut butters until their toddler is 2 or older. However, you should wait to introduce foods that may put your child at risk for choking, such as the actual nut itself.

Also take note that nut butters are highly sticky and can get stuck on the roof of your child’s mouth. If you do choose to feed them nut butter, be sure that they have developed sufficient tongue strength and motor skills to swallow the spread. Serving these sticky products in between two soft pieces of bread may help prevent choking or difficulty chewing as well.

If there is a family history of food allergies to peanuts, nuts, or any other food, a medical physician and registered dietitian should always be consulted. Many times, the pediatrician will try exposing the child in a medical setting if anaphylaxis is of concern.  Another option to consider, of course under the recommendation or supervision of your child’s pediatrician, is to test the potential allergenic food at home with an antihistamine available in case there is an allergic reaction.

Feeding your pregnant body and your growing baby can be a joyful and exciting, not to mention delicious, period of your life. Relax knowing that you can dine on your favorite foods while sporting your bump, introduce solid foods to your bundles of joy between 4 and 6 months old, and even let your little ones nibble on some nutritious nut butter at some point before age 2.

To Breastfeed or Not To Breastfeed?

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a previous post from a guest blogger, Allison:

 

Guest Blog: Breastfeeding versus Bottle-feeding
By Allison Brooks

Photo Credit: nettsu via Compfight cc

Moms may differ in their opinions and or choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed. I personally think it should be the woman’s right to choose. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding both have pros and cons. We hear the many pros of breastfeeding such as less illness, possible greater intelligence of the child and so on. Many organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) promote breast-feeding here in the USA and abroad. However, I question whether this is always appropriate especially if the mother is deficient in micronutrients, deficient in essentially fatty acids, malnourished, stressed, had multiple births in a short period of time or perhaps is not the right choice for the mother. I was breast fed for 3 months and choose to bottle feed my children.

Below, guest blogger Allison Brooks shares her point of view at an international level. Allison studies biomedicalization in Bolivia. Here she presents an example of biomedicalization on breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding in third world countries. Allison shared with me that she too was bottle-fed.  Feel free to comment and share your opinions as well. All are welcome.

Biomedicalization of BreastFeeding: What is healthy here, might not be healthy for all

Biomedicalization is a term used to describe the way in which natural life processes, human conditions and problems are defined and treated as medical conditions. Aging, childbirth and breastfeeding are good examples of normal life processes which have come under the authority of doctors. Biomedicalization may bring benefits, but there are also costs. Philosopher Ivan Illich was one of the first to use the term “medicalization,” which he argued actually caused an increase in social and medical problems as a result of medical intervention. One example is the drive by manufacturers of baby formulas to supplant breastfeeding with formula.

When a mother dies in childbirth or cannot breastfeed for some reason, infant formula may be the only choice. However, in the underdeveloped nations of the world, breastfeeding serves a number of critical purposes. Breastfeeding protects babies from infection, provides them with near-perfect nutrition and acts as a natural birth control for the breastfeeding mother. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, ear infections and respiratory infections than infants who are fed formula. Breastfeeding also triggers beneficial hormone secretion in the mother, and the milk changes in amount and constituents to meet the needs of the individual infant.

The Nestle baby formula promotion of the 1970s urged mothers in less-developed countries to forgo breastfeeding in favor of formula, stressing convenience and nutrition. Nestle used strategies such as sending a new mother home with free samples; once the samples ran out, the child was habituated to formula and the mother’s milk had dried up, so the family had to buy formula.

Problems with this sort of infant nutrition quickly became apparent. Formula must be mixed with water and water in poor countries is often contaminated. Mothers could not read the instructions on water sterilization, or did not have the means to boil the water. Formula-fed babies were much more likely to die of diarrhea or pneumonia as a result of infections. Poor mothers would often mix inadequate amounts of formula for each feeding to make the expensive formula last longer, resulting in malnourished babies.

Nestlé’s marketing activities were considered so unethical that a boycott was launched by a group called the Infant Formula Action Coalition. In 1981 the World health assembly adopted Resolution WHA34.22, which bans the promotions of breast milk substitutes. Although Nestle agreed to accept the code, in 1988, formula companies were accused of repeating the unethical tactics and the boycott, which was still in force as of 2011, was launched. Other companies such as BordenSimilac and Wyeth have come under similar criticism for marketing methods that imply formula and breast milk are nutritionally equal. Most physicians and international organizations such as WHO and UNICEF recommend now breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

But the effects of biomedicalization do go way beyond the idea of breastfeeding. Pharmaceutical companies push new rules on societies regardless of their cultures, everyday. This is easy to see in America, because we are the only country that allows pharmaceutical companies to run ads and develop an image for people to follow. Without regards to the culture, the environment and so on, sometimes these “better” medications/therapies can actually be harmful for the people. With new drugs entering the system to promote beauty or health, or a better life-expectancy for cancer, traditional practices are be dropped by the wayside, and people and cultures are being negatively affected.

 

About Guest Blogger Allison Brooks:

Allison says “I was bottle-fed too, that’s why I say what is healthy to you might not be healthy to others (cultural relativism). Thats why I don’t push my beliefs onto people, I state what I know and allow you to do what you please, with no judgment.”

Allie went to the University of Mississippi. She earned her degree in biomedical anthropology and  is now studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures, but as it relates on other societies as well. She loves to guest blog on her time off to past time and spread the word. When she is not at her computer, Allie enjoys riding her  horse, Lilly and playing with her ducks, Alvin and Shirley.