Do you recall that #WorldsToughestJob video, where they interviewed for a fake job? Interviewees were stunned by demands for broad skills, unusual dedication, and an increased workload around the holidays…with no rest or pay! The fake interview was actually an award-winning American Greetings ad, and the job, of course, was motherhood! I say “of course”, because although the ad was exaggerated, even frustrating in its portrayal of motherhood, it’s hard to find another role with similar pressures and demands. The craziest thing is, we cheerfully sign up for the job.
Motherhood can be a rewarding and incredibly rich experience, one more women wish to experience, if only fertility would cooperate. Carrying a child and giving birth to a healthy human being is a role so vital, in many traditions, women focus on nutrient-dense foods months before marriage and conception. And like motherhood, pregnancy is incredibly demanding, and incredibly important. Nourishing ourselves is such a smart thing to do! To give ourselves and our kids the best, I invite you to commit to fueling and feeding yourself mindfully, as women have done for generations. If you plan to have a child this year or next, it’s essential for great health! There’s no time when nutrition is more important than prior to conception, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Even before conceiving, it’s important to eat food high in protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins like C, D, and E. If both parents eat foods rich in DHA during this time, it can even help increase blood flow to the uterus and increase the chances of pregnancy!
During pregnancy, most women take a prenatal vitamin, and that supplies a lot of what they need, but eating well is still the aim. Not all nutrients fit easily into prenatal supplements anyway; some, like DHA, omega-3 and omega-6, are easier to get through food.
• Baby’s growth and development requires important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2. These nutrients are, of course, included in prenatal supplements, but not the fat crucial to use these vitamins. Be sure to get the fat to absorb them, too.
• EFAs. Essential fatty acids are specific types of fats that moms need but cannot make. These support your baby’s ability to see and think.
• AA is a kind of omega-6 that is critical for brain development, cell division, and signaling.
• DHA is a well-known omega-3 and one of the most critical nutrients for infant development and long-term health. Getting enough now (200-300 mg per day), can improve cognitive ability and eye-hand coordination so your child can have a better attention span and be more coordinated.
If mom does not consume enough omega-3 EFAs during terms 2 and 3 of her baby’s gestation, what is needed for baby’s brain development comes from mom’s own reserves, a.k.a. “baby brain”.
Most of us wish for more energy, better focus, and steadier moods, even if we eat well and live healthy. Our lives as moms are complex, and it is common to be tired, and to feel overwhelmed. Women are more often depressed, anxious, and tired than men, in fact they are depressed twice as often! Is it due to the frustrating array of expectations, or because our babies use up all our DHA? Omega-3s provide your body with brain fuel and reserves of energy, and some insurance to help combat postpartum depression before it starts.
If mom gets enough EFAs while pregnant, it is more likely her mental and emotional health during pregnancy and after will be better too!
Pregnant for the second or third time? The irony is, you’ll likely get less help this time around, although you have more demands with a child or two at home. Here is some great news: essential fats can help your young children sleep better so that you can sleep better, too. An exploratory pilot study showed that the children on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour (58 minutes) more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the children taking the corn or soybean placebo. An extra hour of our toddlers sleeping? Sign me up!
About those EFAs: great sources of the EFAs mentioned include fish, algae, and flax. The catch? None of these are complete on their own! Fish and fish oil have DHA, but miss others like AA. Flax and flax oil have AA and others, but no DHA or EPA. One simple way to get all critical EFAs is with an oil blend like Udo’s Oil DHA 3+6+9 Blend CA/US.
Of course, North American moms are celebrated in May, so take advantage of the chance to be pampered…acknowledge your importance, and focus on you. Sleep. De-stress. Nourish yourself. Why make it a one day affair? If you are a mother, give yourself a huge cheer for all that you do!