Dear everyone, "mom brain" is real. Moms are multitasking queens. Have you seen a mom find everyone's lost shoes/socks/bags while cooking breakfast, after waking up early to work out, have 3 minutes of alone time, get ready themselves, and coordinate 3+ schedules for the week? It's a miracle that occurs daily in many houses. Unfortunately, most moms are going too hard too soon without the proper mental, emotional, physical, and nutritional support. It's no wonder why moms end up with postpartum depression and anxiety. Instead of brushing off these feelings, or blaming them on sleepless nights, let's take a look at the real chemical and nutritional reasons moms lose their marbles.
Just because you're finished with maternity leave, you're not done healing or back to "normal". You're most likely at least nine months to a year away from feeling or being anywhere close to "where you were." Even then, "where you were" doesn't need to be the destination, because your new mom-bod is powerful and capable of amazing things. However, nutritionally replenished would be a great goal and something to work towards during your 4th trimester and beyond. Women aren't necessarily considering nutrition at this stage because society has brought other concerns into the spotlight: fitting into pre-baby jeans, jumping back in at work to avoid stalling a career, or returning to social butterfly status.
It's very possible that depression and anxiety result from (or worsen) as a side effect of severe nutrient depletion from creating a baby and giving birth.
If you're lucky, when you get home from the hospital or birth center you're showered in food from friends and family. It may be different where you are, but in the midwest, this food is rarely full of the nutrient dense vegetables, bone broth, and high quality grass fed meats that would actually fuel physical and mental recovery. While casseroles are filled with love, they might not have everything you need to conquer the nutritional deficit created by pregnancy and birth. How can you fill in the gaps to nourish your body?
Supplements are helpful, but are meant to be an addition to eating real food. Real, whole, foods like colorful vegetables, pastured animals, healthy fats, and starchy tubers should make up the base of your nutrition. However, even a diet of healing food might not be enough. There are a few complications that can contribute to nutrient depletion:
Conventional food: farming practices have depleted the soil in which we grow our food, causing the plants we eat to be less nutritious than they were in the past. Most food is also covered in some form of pesticide spray. Our bodies spend extra nutrients combatting the cellular damage pesticides create.
Medications: many postpartum women are taking thyroid medication or an antidepressant. I don't discount the value of these medications. Short term relief can be invaluable for a mom about to lose her mind. However, these medications deplete vitamins and minerals in order to perform their necessary chemistry inside your body.
Nutrients your Mom Bod Needs
Here are a few key macro and micronutrients your body needs to heal more efficiently:
You did the most amazing thing. You grew a baby (or multiple) and brought it earth side safely. This involved some stretching, tearing, and sometimes cutting of your body. These tissues require protein to heal, particularly amino acids like glycine and proline. Your body uses these to make collagen, the major component of your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen supplements are all the rage right now (we love Vital Proteins
), but you can also get plenty of these amino acids by eating high quality meat and bone broth - straight up, or used in soups, stews, curries.
Not all moms experience postpartum hemorrhaging, but replenishing iron is vital due even with minimal blood loss that occurs with normal childbirth. Iron is responsible for distributing oxygen to your tissues. Oxygen is vital for tissue healing, and energy production. You can replenish iron with red meat, organ meats, and a high quality postnatal multivitamin.
DHA (Omega 3's)
(docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid necessary for mental development. Your body instinctively gives your baby the DHA it needs to grow and develop vision and a big healthy brain, and your breastmilk is full of it. Consequently, baby takes DHA from your brain to grow their own. The levels of DHA in your breastmilk depend on how much you consume. Consuming some extra DHA and omega 3s in the form of fish oil
, wild fatty fish, eggs, and grass fed meat not only nourishes baby's brain but replenishes yours. Filling up on DHA helps ward off the dreaded forgetful and chaotic "mom brain" and postpartum depression. Interestingly, consuming flaxseed oil (a plant based source of omega 3s) does not necessarily increase DHA levels in breastmilk as efficiently as fish based foods and supplementation.
Babies need B12 (aka methylcobalamin) for meeting motor milestones, brain growth, and muscle strength. Mom needs B12 to make new blood cells, help neurons fire appropriately, create energy, maintain bone health, and remember things (yes please). Find it primarily in fish, meat, and eggs, or a high quality postnatal multi.
Heard of it? It's not often talked about, or included in postnatal support, but it's absolutely indispensable for brain development. Like DHA
and B12, it increases memory capacity. You can find it in eggs, organ meats, and lecithin (a plant-based source found in cooked brussels sprouts and broccoli).
This is another nutrient that needs boosting for both mom and baby, as breastmilk quantities of vitamin A depend on mom's consumption. Vitamin A not only promotes growth, but boost the immune system, preventing infections. It's so vital that in the first month of life, your baby gets 60 TIMES the amount they got during the entirety of pregnancy. It's important to consume the active and effective form of vitamin A through high quality animal products or via postnatal supplementation, signified by "palmitate" or "retinol" on the ingredients list.
Vitamin D is crucial for energy production, bone health, and immunity for both mother and baby. Yes, your body can miraculously make it's own vitamin D with sunshine and cholesterol. Even with this amazing built in technology, 69% of American women are vitamin D deficient. Are you spending time outside daily
with your belly and thighs exposed at peak sun hours? For most moms I know, that answer is no. If breastfeeding, you can provide enough vitamin D
for you and baby by consuming 8,000-10,000 IU per day. Checking with your physician, and evaluating with blood tests is the most effective way to determine your appropriate vitamin D
Like choline, iodine is often ignored in the postpartum period even though this nutrient naturally declines over the first few months postpartum. Babies need consistent and reliable amounts of iodine to develop their thyroid, brain, and metabolism properly. You need it for the same reasons, but particularly because you have a 23% chance of thyroid dysfunction after making a human. Supplementing iodine in addition to eating seafood or seaweed will help ward off thyroid malfunctions.
Know better. Do better. Take action.
If your diet isn't up to snuff, consider using our new Postpartum Bundle containing:
- Postnatal Multi (essential vitamins and minerals, plus iron, choline, and iodine to encourage healing and back up a diet that falls short from time)
- Vitamins D3 + K2 in a tasteless, odorless liquid that's easy to take, and long lasting
Well Omega (DHA in it's most effective form - fish oil from waters that haven't been over-farmed and won't give you that strange fishy burp afterward)
Bundling saves you 20% and peace of mind that you your precious babe will have more of the good stuff to not only survive, but thrive as you figure out this crazy thing called motherhood!
Want to know more? I highly recommend reading this book
by Lily Nichols. She's combed through the research and made it digestible.