5 weeks ago, we were blessed with our 3rd child and needless, to say the least, it’s not been easy. I have now slowly realized how much my mental health is affected by what I eat/don’t eat and how that reflects in how I am as a mother, wife & homemaker. I contacted Jalila whose first question was “Afra how are you nourishing yourself?”. She was kind enough to share knowledge on this as it’s so important for us mothers to feel nourished and have proper nutrition especially when breastfeeding. Please do leave a comment below and let us know how this has helped you and also visit Jalila’s facebook to see what she is upto.
This is a Guest Post from Jalila Krichi who is a Holistic Health Coach.
Ahh…motherhood! Full of pains, joys and lots of surprises!
It is supposed to be the best of times, but frankly, for a lot of new mothers, it can feel like the worst time of your life….because the one SURPRISE that no one was anticipating was chronic Anxiety/Depression.
I remember getting my “surprise” and feeling very alone and helpless because people dismissed my gnawing anxiety and depression as “the baby blues”.
And the one medical professional who I thought could give me some satisfactory advice, merely told me “we can prescribe you Xanax”.
Are you kidding me?! I am breastfeeding a new human being!
I am here to tell you something. No, you are NOT crazy. It is NOT “just the baby blues”. And NO, Xanax is not your only option.
You are probably suffering from post-partum nutritional deficiency as a result of creating and nourishing another human being with your body.
Nourishment is the theme of motherhood, but very rarely do we look a the mother and her nourishment post-partum. People will talk about mindset and emotions and maybe even hormones in relation to post-partum depression and anxiety, but the one thing that is missing is NUTRITION.
Studies are coming out everyday week looking at the link between our food and our mood, and as women, I think we know a thing or two about that connection. (Chocolate, anyone?)
Had a baby? Yeah, your body has just gone through a 9-month process of building another human being from your body’s reserves of everything. Add breastfeeding and that’s another 2 years of even more work. You are turning that (on average) 7 lb bundle of joy into a walking, talking 25lb toddler on a primary diet of milk made by your amazing body!
This is not even factoring in you chasing the little thing around the house, staying up at night, finding time to make food and eat it yourself. If you have more than one, and no help? HA! Forget it!
Okay, so what does this have to do with nutrition?
Our chronic moods are regulated by a number of available nutrients in our bodies. Certain vitamins and minerals are essential in keeping us alert, energized and stable. For example:
- B-Complex vitamins are essential for the production of healthy blood and nerve cells. Readily available for meats and fresh fruits and veggies and fermented grains.
- Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for almost 600 processes in the body! It regulates blood pressure, heart rhythm, gene repair and nerve function.Magnesium also regulates the absorption and synthesis of other crucial minerals such as calcium and vitamin D.
- Vitamin C is crucial for the formation and maintenance of connective tissue, immune system health and cell synthesis.
These are just a few of the vital nutrients we need to be functioning and healthy humans…the very nutrients your body is using up first to create that new life you have just birthed!
So what happens when -for whatever reason- we are not able to get enough of the building blocks of life in our diet while simultaneously making milk, mothering and then having more babies?
Our bodies start to let us know what’s up.
Your nerves get wrecked and you start feeling (appropriately) “nervous” all the time.
Your body can’t make all that lovely serotonin and dopamine because of the deficiency and so your moods get out of wack and you feel it in the form of emotional imbalance.
Make under-nourishment a lifestyle (because who has time to eat when you are a mom?) and you will have progressively worsening chronic Anxiety/Depression.
I know this whole cycle all too well because it happened to me.
When the doctor wanted to prescribe me Xanax while I was nursing my baby, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands.
…. but it took a while.
In the meantime, I got pregnant again while breastfeeding. Then I had my second little one, and after she was born I had insomnia and massive heart-attack-like panic attacks that would leave me quivering in the fetal position on the floor.
Needless to say, that was not a sustainable way for me to live with two kiddos in diapers. I started doing research on heart health (because I was convinced every panic attack was a heart attack, or that it would turn into one). I researched the connection between B-Complex Vitamins, Magnesium and heart health and decided to go to my local health food store and get the best quality whole-food based vitamins I could (for optimal absorption).
The night after I took the magnesium and B-Complex vitamins I slept a full 8 hours, interrupted only once by the baby needing to nurse.
That was my first time sleeping well in months.
My mood began improving and so I thought I had found the trick.
So I told myself I would take this as-needed.
Very quickly I learned that my body making milk and feeding my baby meant I needed to load up on minerals and vitamins because they were literally being sucked out of me faster than I could get them into me.
Also, my caffeine habit was not helping me retain nutrients (caffeine is a diuretic that leeches minerals out of your body).
So over the next year and a half, I proactively began building up my health and mood by adding more nutrients to my diet. Apart from the whole-foods based vitamins I was taking, I also began eating more local organic and fresh produce. I made a point to get more sunlight and produce vitamin D naturally.
All of these changes brought me out of moderate/severe depression and chronic anxiety (check out this post on anxiety parenting here), and into a more holistic lifestyle that keeps me balanced.
So here are some suggestions to get you on your way to feeling balanced :
- Take time to eat GOOD food. Veggies, veggies, and animals that ate veggies!
- Take good whole-foods based vitamins
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake because it is an added stress to your system.
- Get some Sun on your skin and Nature in your eyes.
- Don’t “should” on yourself. Keep YOUR priorities at the forefront of your mind. (ie: keep yourself and baby alive and healthy, dishes and laundry can wait till later)
- Listen to your body. If you feel out of balance, it is your body talking to you. Respond appropriately.
You are doing amazing things! They may be happening involuntarily on your part (like, forming a human being in your womb or making milk, the stuff of life itself!), but you are still using energy and nutrients to do extremely important work.
Nourish yourself, advocate for yourself and be gentle with yourself… if you don’t, who will?
And I will say this because I know you are a self-sacrificing mom…
Your family will be better for it.
Read more on taking care of yourself here.