IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not medical advice, it’s what I personally did during my pregnancy and postpartum journey, and with Zoe. Always talk to your doctor before making any health related changes, or decisions with your baby.
I wanted to make a list of everything pregnancy and postpartum related so that I would remember for the next baby… AND I’ve received so many questions about my journey so far, so here it goes! I’m writing this 6 months postpartum.
An important note about this whole blog post, especially related to the non-toxic living, eating organic etc. sections: humans have babies all the time without doing any of these things, and their babies are perfect! Again, these are mostly notes to myself so I can remember for the next baby 🙂 but I wanted to share them with you in case anything is helpful.
Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, Feeding & First 3 Months Recap
Preparing Your Body
- The Egg: According to Jolene Brighten, your egg starts developing 90 days before it’s released – so what you do during those 90 days matters. Jolene recommends a paleo-style way of eating, and using non-toxic household and cooking products. I started switching over to non-toxic products the few months before trying to conceive, but I certainly wasn’t perfect by a long stretch (and am still not!!). I’ve also heard great things about this book, but I haven’t personally read it yet.
- Prenatal: Start taking your prenatal at least 90 days before trying to conceive. I took SmartyPants, but next time I hope to take FullWell.
For many products, use EWG’s guide to find options with the least amount of harmful chemicals.
- Pans – ditch teflon non-stick and opt for stainless steel, ceramic, and cast iron instead. I use cast iron (no special brand, but next time I buy I want to get Staub), Xtrema, Caraway, and OurPlace.
- Household products – we use Branch Basics, Seventh Generation dish soap and dishwasher pods.
- Personal hygiene – we use Attitude handsoap and laundry detergent, Honest Company shampoo & conditioner, Tom’s deodorant and flouride-free & non-whitening toothpaste, Dr. Bronner’s body soap.
- Follow these accounts for specific food & household product recommendations: CleanKitchenNutrition, FlavCity, and JustIngredients
- For other advice to limit baby’s exposure to toxins read this book. This Instagram account is also helpful – RaisingWellKids
Zak & I were very lucky in that we got pregnant quickly! Use these ovulation strips, they can work like a charm.
Foods to Eat
I’m so thankful that I stumbled upon Real Food for Pregnancy during my first trimester. I try to follow Lily’s advice as much as possible.
Here are foods I tried to eat (and continue to do while breastfeeding and postpartum healing) throughout my pregnancy:
- Probiotics at least once a day: sauerkraut, pickles (refrigerated, made without vinegar), tzatziki sauce, Greek yogurt, kombucha, to support both my and the baby’s immunity. Cleveland Kraut makes great dill pickles, Bubby’s sauerkraut is delish, and TwoGood Greek yogurt is sweetened with Stevia.
- Omega-3’s most days of the week: ~2 oz baked salmon (farmed actually has more omega 3s), wild caught canned salmon, sardines, omega-3 gummy. Omega-3’s support the baby’s brain and also may prevent pre-term labor. Trader Joe’s carries wild caught canned salmon – make a quick salad or salmon patties.
- Choline every day, to help the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly, and to protect against neural tube defects. Whole eggs (including the yolk!) are a great source of choline.
- Glycine every day to support the expanding uterus and skin, helps develop the placenta, manage blood pressure. Glycine is found in pork rinds, chicken with the skin (e.g. rotisserie chicken), ground beef, and bacon.
- Folate every day, found in leafy greens, nuts & avocado. Folate helps the neural tube form properly and help prevent brain and spine abnormalities.
- Organic: Choose organic as much as possible to reduce baby’s exposure to toxins.
- Dairy products: choose 100% grass fed, organic if possible. Organic Valley is a good brand.
- Meat: choose 100% grass fed, organic if possible. Trader Joe’s has cheap 100% grass fed ground beef and their grass fed filet steaks are delicious.
- Eggs: choose pasture raised, organic when possible. The Carol’s brand at Trader Joe’s is a good one to get, also Vital Farms at regular chain grocery stores.
- Supplements: I took SmartyPants, but next time I hope to take FullWell. I also took an additional vitamin D, and omega-3 if I didn’t eat fish that day. Next time, I will also try to take an organ meat supplement, e.g. PaleoValley.
- Iodine & Real Salt: Iodine is critical for baby’s brain development, and using unrefined salt helps with electrolyte balance. I use both of these salts at home: iodized salt; Real Salt.
- Caffeine: I switched to mostly decaf coffee before getting pregnant & glad I did! I only drink decaf now (if you’re drinking caffeine I believe you’re supposed to wait a bit before nursing or pumping, so by drinking decaf you can avoid this).
Meals that Worked for Me
- “Big Mac Salad” with spinach, ground beef, pickles, cheese.
- Tzatziki bowl with salmon and veggies.
- Cobb salad with eggs, salmon, bacon, and veggies.
- Salmon patties with canned wild salmon.
- Fried rice with eggs.
- Zucchini boats with melted turkey & cheese.
I had pretty terrible reflux the first trimester. Thankfully, it’s 95% gone now. Some things that helped me:
- Liquids were my #1 acid reflux trigger. Eating ice cubes was the best way I found to stay hydrated. I also stopped eating soups and chilis (liquids) during this time.
- Limit fat eaten by itself, e.g. one time I ate a few tablespoons of peanut butter (by itself, with nothing else) and was then sobbing in agony and throwing up minutes later.
- Fructose and added sugars: My doctor recommended I limit fructose. I was eating yogurt and frozen raspberries thinking “how could this cause a problem?” but when I cut out the fruit and sugar, my symptoms improved dramatically.
- Lactose: Similar to fructose, choose dairy products that are low-lactose, e.g. hard (rather than soft) cheeses, Greek yogurt, lactose-free milk.
- Posture: not lying down or hunching over after meals, and sitting up straight while eating were both very helpful.
- Psychological vs Physical Pain: After 3-6 months of physical pain, research shows that most chronic pain is psychological (instead of actually physical / something structurally wrong in your body). This book really helped me.
- Maternity clothing is actually nice to wear because it’s much more flattering than large t-shirts. I will invest in a few more maternity pieces next time!
- H&M has a pretty nice, inexpensive maternity collection. I’ve recently purchased some nursing tops from there that I like. Also Express!
- Use a belly band to not let the tummy drop too low (helpful for reducing diastasis recti).
Exercise & Physical Therapy
- I did a good job of walking about 10,000 steps per day during my pregnancy. I’m definitely proud of that!
- Next time, I would like to focus on core workouts (like reformer pilates) and see a physical therapist & pelvic floor specialist to preserve my pelvic floor.
With Your Partner
If you have a partner, I highly recommend going through these questions with them ahead of baby arriving. Zak & I did not do this, but I wish we had! It’s much easier to talk about important baby related topics before the baby is actually here. I also highly recommend this book.
Absolutely take medication if you need to, but it’s good to be aware that taking larger doses of acetaminophen/tylenol while pregnant has been associated with autism and adhd in children. Google it yourself to see the research studies and lawsuits. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you and your baby. And don’t stress if you’ve already taken it! I took tylenol a few times before I knew this info. Stressing helps no one.
- I recommend doing your baby shower around 7 months (rather than 8 months which is what ended up working out best for my friends and family). I was very tired.
- If you want to share photos (e.g. on Instagram) the day of your shower, I would recommend hiring a photographer and paying extra to get the photos THAT DAY or the next day! Typically you won’t get photos from a professional photographer for a few weeks. Also… phones are so good these days! You could even ask your photographer to take photos on your/their phone!
You want to be knowledgeable about what’s going on with your body & the baby – the lingo the doctors use, positions you want to be in, what medications you want/don’t want, etc.
- Take Pushing Power for a great guide on pushing out the baby.
- Take a general birthing class – if you hire a doula (recommended!!) they’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
- Here are my birth affirmations.
For the Hospital
- Pack snacks – we housed nuts, beef jerky, mini Kind bars, pork rinds
- I lived in this dress/robe right before, during (instead of the gown!) and after the birth – I have 2!
- Hire a Doula especially if you want an unmedicated birth – I LOVED mine!
- I used this visual birth plan
- Don’t worry about packing too many medical related things online lists say to pack – the hospital will set you up with adult diapers, etc.
- For yourself, pack some looser or maternity clothing, since your uterus may take some time to shrink back to it’s pre-pregnancy size (I still had mine for quite some time!). Nothing is wrong here, some bodies just take more time to shrink back.
- Bring swaddles (these velcro ones are our fave) and NEWBORN long sleeve zip (no snaps) PJs (this is my fave). 0-3 months clothing are too big for newborn babies.
- Wipe organic coconut oil on baby’s bottom so that when they have their first poop, it wipes off easily.
- You can opt out of giving a baby a bath until she gets home. This is what we did – to preserve the beneficial bacteria she had covering her from the birth.
- Many people (my physical therapist included) and cultures advise wearing a postpartum girdle to help your organs shift back to where they were pre-pregnancy immediately after birth. I didn’t do it, but I may try it next time.
- Use this to clean yourself in the shower.
- Wear these (or make your own/find a cheaper version) in your undies while you’re healing.
- Take it easy!! Your body just did an incredible thing – any way you gave birth.
- Diastasis Recti is very common – it affects nearly 2/3 of postpartum women. I had a “significant” gap (4 cm). I’ve been seeing a physical therapist/ pelvic floor specialist since ~ week 8 postpartum, and I would definitely want to do it again next time.
- If you don’t want to or can’t see a physical therapist, there are many online programs and YouTube exercise videos to help close your gap.
Weight Loss & Breast Feeding
- #1 talk to your doctor to get clearance
- #2 before (and after!) your breast milk supply stabilizes (which typically happens between 6-12 weeks postpartum), focus on whole real foods and listening to your hunger & fullness cues. Focusing on stopping when you’re full, and not eating when you’re not hungry is what will work best. To get the calorie goal that works for you, I recommend you join Best Body! And if your supply ever starts to decrease, of course increase your calorie intake.
- Make SURE you always stay hydrated.
- Make sure you’re eating very well to properly heal yourself, and supply your baby with the best milk. Lily’s book gives some guidance here.
- Some women lose their pregnancy tummies quickly, and others lose them slowly. Neither is “better”, everyone is different! My uterus & body shrunk back to their pre-pregnancy sizes more slowly. 4 months out, I’m ~10 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight (I gained 40 pounds with the pregnancy).
Meals for New Parents
- If you have any pregnant friends who are due soon, set up a 1-2 week “meal train” for them of family and friends who can send them gift cards or meals.
- We made a list of our go-to easiest meals (and groceries) and then ordered groceries online (Whole Foods via Amazon).
Gifts for New Moms
- Spoon Full of Comfort soup boxes are a huge hit – you can send a custom box for new pregnancies, new parents, etc.
- Etsy has a lot of cute new mom gifts. Some of my favorites are this necklace and this necklace. I also love jewelry from here!
Feeding the Baby
- Milk coming in: You want the baby to try to nurse as much as possible (vs giving formula) so that your milk comes in. My milk came in on Day 3. Colostrum is also very important first milk for baby to drink. You can try to use these to collect colostrum in between baby’s feedings and even at the end of your pregnancy. HYDRATE to help your milk coming in. Drink a minimum of 100 oz of water per day.
- Nipples: Use organic coconut oil to heal your nipples while they become sore during the first few days – your nipples will hurt & bleed, but they will heal!
- Spit up: You want to prevent spit up when possible so that the baby gets adequate nutrition and gains weight. Try to keep baby as upright as possible during and after feedings to prevent spit up. Have baby wear a bib (we use these, get at least 3 packs since you’ll use them at every feeding) so their clothes don’t get wet (& then you have to change them – which can also create spit up from changing their body’s position so much).
- Burping: put baby over your shoulder & make sure she burps at least once (preferably more than once) or else she’ll spit up.
- The “Let Down”: Especially when you have an over-supply at first, you want to get 2 Haaka’s (this is a link for 2, one for each boob), to suction onto your boobs when you’re in between feedings (and leaking) and also during feedings so you can latch it onto your non-breastfeeding-boob. You can seriously collect a lot of milk for a bottle this way!
- Tops: I mostly wear Zak’s full-zip sweatshirts while nursing. Similar to these.
- Bottles: We use Dr. Brown’s glass bottles and the Premie nipples. We still use the premie nipples today (she’s 4 months old, still gets overwhelmed if we try the 1 nipples). Glass bottles are great because not only do you limit plastic exposure to baby, but you can wash them in the dishwasher. We hand-wash the other bottle parts (nipples, caps etc.) with this brush and Seventh Generation dish soap. We do own this sanitizer machine, but try to not use it often. Babies develop their immune systems by interacting with germs!
- Bottle feeding position: Try to keep them upright as much as possible to prevent excess spit up. We also put Zoe in the bouncer after bottle feeding and nursing to keep her upright.
- “Make them a bottle”: Zoe probably only drank 0.5-1 oz at a time when she was first born, but now she drinks 3-5 oz at a time. Make them a bottle to finish so that you know how much they drank. We use these smaller glass Dr. Brown’s bottles. Another benefit of doing this is that if baby’s saliva touches a bottle, they’re supposed to finish that bottle within 2 hours [or else the milk is contaminated (supposedly)]. So this can save a larger bottle of breastmilk from going to waste.
- Mixing in the breast milk fat: The fat in breastmilk rises & sits at the top of bottles when it’s in the fridge. Swirl the bottle to re-distribute the fat (rather than shaking the bottle which breaks down some of the fat – which you don’t want).
- Drying Bottles: We use this 2-level rack for bottles and then let the other parts (nipples etc.) dry on a serving tray.