Book Review: Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE

Pregnancy is just one chapter of a family’s story. How ever we enter this realm of life, its important to remember that there are a whole host of opinions on how to “be healthy.” Standards today don’t stem terribly far from the standards 50 years ago, and Lily Nichols RDN, CDE best selling author of, “Real Food for Gestational Diabetes” and now “Real Food for Pregnancy” has done her due diligence of sweeping study after study and finding some connections. She offers some insight on our current nutritional model for pregnancy, while shedding light on some findings that can benefit our children’s development.

Nichols changed the game with her research of gestational diabetes, and this book is no different. Admittedly I was swept up with the idea of eating up (pun intended!) every bit of information in this book, but I had to take my time to connect the dots, and I still am. She has taken into account both medical studies as well as cultural practices in prenatal diets. In addition to her highly detailed breakdown of nutrition, she utilizes the biological process of fetal development to support the statistics as well as cultural traditions.

She starts with a comprehensive look at nutrition as a whole, such as main sources of protein and how to plate your meals. It was very beneficial information as a non pregnant person, so this can have a huge affect not only on your developing baby, but also on your family as a whole. I will stress that if you are already pregnant and receiving this information it can be pretty overwhelming. That said, this book is great to have on your shelf, as it offers the ability to skim through and find clarification on the fly.

From an individual' perspective, a lot of the studies answered questions I had about my own balance of calories. This information has helped me be more mindful about the food I eat, and even how I eat it. She touches on fats and how essential they are in absorbing nutrients, as well as in the development of the fetal brain. Nichols is a saint for taking all of these incredibly extensive studies and translating them in such a cohesive text. This book is rich with information, but she offers a fluidity that nurtures your learning experience. She shows this through her insight on vegetarian and vegan diets, and how to fill any gaps in the growth and development of baby. It should be noted that a lot of the studies have shown that animal fats within the context of pregnancy and brain development are superior to plant fats. She takes the time to explain the science behind these findings, and offers practices outside of these texts for vegan or vegetarian individuals.

As a doula, I have a fair amount of discussions with my clients around nutrition. The common ones tend to be food aversions, forbidden foods, and nutrition for breastfeeding. Nichols makes a point to get down to the heart of pregnancy. It’s no surprise that the first trimester can be really tough on a pregnant person’s constitution. Some of the most common aspects are nausea, sensitivities to smells , and lack in appetite. In the words of one of my recent clients, “you get nauseous cause you haven’t eaten, but you can’t eat cause you are so nauseous.” In this circumstance, her recommendation is to just eat! You may spend some time on a starch heavy diet in the beginning, but this should let up over time offering a more nutritionally abundant diet. All aspects on growing a family requires grace, and this is no exception. I appreciate that aspect in her writing.

I would recommend this book as “THE” book in understanding the american dietary recommendations in comparison with other cultures. Topics like raw fish, soft cheese, alcohol, etc. are all covered and you’ll be happy to know that we have some more wiggle room than we thought. As a culture Americans have to vet out a lot of junk food, this certainly sets us apart from our neighboring countries. I really appreciated the clarification on these dietary choices and the strength in facts that supports them.

This book has me excited about getting pregnant, and ensures that I will continue to view my nutrition in a much brighter context and understanding. It has also opened a new avenue in which I can navigate with my clients during their pregnancies. I highly recommend this to anyone planning to be pregnant, or even just needing a change of perspective with their own body and nutrition.

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Boundaries with Friends and Family

This week’s topic is a follow up from last weeks post. For those that missed last weeks submission on placing boundaries in public scroll down!

Okay, so you have finally figured out how to leave the house  and not feel completely like everyone wants to tell you their life story. Whether you are physically concealing your belly, or simply asking people to mind their business, you are setting boundaries. This concept gets a bit hairy at this point. Now we need to think about placing boundaries with family. Just like pregnancy, birth draws people to you. Especially those that love you the most. The joy of a new baby is special, but we must be able to respect the process that takes place prior to baby’s delivery.

Consider your everyday relationships with these individuals. All interactions both negative and positive will play on a grander scale. You need to have the ability to focus on your body, and allow for the surges to carry you into a very vulnerable state of mind. Even the feeling of being watched or waited on can stall labor. So, if your parent had a traumatic birth experience and draws from that while at your birth, that can create a serious road block.  I have supported couples that didn’t tell family until they were home from the hospital, I have also supported couples that allow a fair amount of their family there, and interacting with the birthing person, and in the birthing space. It can be both a positive or a negative influence. It’s up to you to examine those relationships and start dialogue with those individuals, so that your boundaries are respected.

These are tough conversations, plain and simple. Remind them that your need for privacy is strictly for your benefit, and that it’s not personal. Every relationship carries different qualities. You know from the get go how these conversations are going to play out, so don’t dance around any details, just try and be direct.

I often recommend giving tasks to the individuals that want to be a part of it, but will likely stir up some emotions. Have them take care of pets, make sure that you have groceries to come home to, and tidy up the house. There are many things that will include them in the process, be creative!

When it comes down to it, it is imperative that they respect these boundaries. In the case you feel they will likely disrespect the lines you are setting, then you have every right to keep them out of the picture until you feel it’s okay for them to come. When it’s all said and done, that little bundle will be a nice bridge over sour feelings, and now you have all kinds of responsibilities to give them when you return home with baby!

Next week I give my perspectives of setting boundaries in Doula work, and offer some insight to the insecurities we face as care providers.

Setting Boundaries in Public

Boundaries. This is a concept we learn overtime. For me it was through a slough of embarrassing moments in my 20s. No lesson is ever learned without a mess. I say this often when I’m attending births. In my role as a doula, boundaries are a large part of the discussion that I continue to have, even on the day of the birth with my clients. Placing such distinctions for your birth is paramount in delivering your baby. Remember. These preparations will not change any potential curve balls in your expectations of your birth, but having a clear idea of the environment you need to have in order to feel safe and vulnerable will give you a leg up in the process.

On paper, that all sounds pretty doable. Now, we add in your current lifestyle. Whether you planned this for years, or your caught by surprise, this is a major change in your individual lives. The stress of finances, the pressure of responsibilities in your work lives, and managing schedules in the hopes of spending a day or two together. This climate isn’t always cut out for the efforts it takes to really come to terms with expanding your family. Naturally we turn to others that have been through it before. How did they cope? Where did they give birth? How was there experience in comparison to their expectations? Most of the time pregnant individuals don’t even get a chance to ask. Pregnancy tends to draw people near you regardless of how you are feeling in the moment. This is a great place to implement those boundaries. It sounds silly, but I always recommend having a specific statement prepared for the unwelcome interactions. “I respect and appreciate your experience, but have to be on my way” Simple, respectful, and concise. How they take that is on them.

Next week we discuss boundaries in your birthing environment. How to decide who you want in your space, and taking the steps to set those standards ahead of time.