Just a few days after a beautiful home birth to one of her beautiful babies, my healthy friend who eats great healthy foods suddenly started developing edema symptoms. Her body was swelling everywhere and she felt horrible. And all this while trying to enjoy her beautiful newborn baby after a peaceful homebirth.
After seeing her midwife, they realized it was from eating all of the foods church friends and family were bringing her! Foods brought with loving intentions, of course, but junk food nonetheless.
When it comes to our health, the thought isn't what counts anymore. It must be a loving action rooted in knowledge and wisdom if we are to help others and not harm them. We should not be bringing fried chicken and condensed soup casseroles to new moms who need all of the nutrition they can get to heal from childbirth and to nourish their newborn baby with their breastmilk!
So here are some simple tips on how we can do just that!
1. Skip the processed foods. Period. Take the time to make a homemade meal with only whole, real-food ingredients. If it has an ingredient's label the length of a dictionary with words you can't pronounce, leave it out! Just leave out the packaged broths, creamed soups, and the refined sugars! There are many things to watch out for and avoid on ingredients' labels, such as:
- Refined sugars ("sugar," "cane sugar," "brown sugar," "high-fructose corn syrup," "evaporated cane juice," etc.)
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-K/acesulfame-potassium)
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils (soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, etc.)
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Artificial colors (ie red dye #__)
But the easiest way is just to avoid food that comes in boxes, bags, and cans and instead choose one-ingredient foods and make a meal with those.
For lots of real-food ideas, recipes and delicious snacks/desserts without refined sugars, check out HFFG's Pinterest boards! http://pinterest.com/hffg/
For some ideas:
If it's summer, make a delicious summer salad with fresh produce from the farmers' market like one of these:
Cucumber & Chickpea Salad (Preferably use home-cooked garbanzo beans instead of canned; otherwise read ingredients' label and make sure that it does not contain any chemical preservatives.)
And serve with some pre-made burgers or baked meat from organic, grass-fed/pastured meats and a cut-up watermelon.
If it's winter, make a delicious nourishing soup with homemade bone broth, like one of these:
Nourishing Kale & White Bean Soup (use homemade vegetable broth for vegetarian families)
Serve with a delicious side salad, homemade dressing (made with healthy oils like olive oil, vinegars, etc.) and a naturally-sweetened dessert!
Don't forget to check out my Pinterest boards for more recipes and ideas!
2. Find out what foods the family prefers and whether they have any food allergies/sensitivities or any health problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.). Is the family avoiding gluten? Does someone have a dairy sensitivity in the family? This is important to note because you do not want anyone in the family getting sick or having an allergic reaction from the meal you bring! If mom is on Pinterest, use the recipes she has posted on there for ideas that are tailored to their family's likes and food sensitivities!
If there is a diabetic in the family, be sure that you avoid bringing meals with any sugars or starches like white potatoes, corn, etc. It is also best for diabetics to avoid any grains, even whole grains like whole wheat or brown rice. Look up Paleo recipes for ideas on meals that work well for diabetics that include healthy sources of protein and vegetables.
3. Make it kid-friendly and special for siblings without the sugar and junk. Serving a fruit salad is a great way to provide a family with a healthy side or dessert. For vegetables, choose dishes that tend to have them mixed in more when dealing with pickier children. Lasagna is a great kid-friendly recipe that you can easily sneaks things like spinach and zucchini into for a very healthy meal, and lasagna can easily be made without grains for those wanting/needing to avoid grains. (Check out my gluten-free Pinterest board for ideas on making lasagna with zucchini for the pasta!) Provide a salad with fresh romaine to give kids that crunchy texture their palates crave and a super health boost for the whole family.
You can also make it extra special for the kids by including things for them such as an individual box of raisins for each child, or even a simple gift like a pack of cool writing pens. Usually, children of families we serve are going through some confusing times and remember many of the things that happen during that time, including acts of kindness from others.
4. Don't make the meal delivery stressful. Find out the easiest and least invasive way to get the family the food and make sure mom knows she will not be expected to host or entertain. Sometimes new moms can have people constantly coming and going, expecting to be entertained and expecting to pass the new baby around, which can definitely cause more stress (which can raise mom's blood pressure and make her more fatigued, as well as expose baby to sickness from all of those people!), which is not healthy for mom or baby either (physically AND emotionally)!
According to researchers Stern and Kruckman, mother-focused support is extremely limited in industrialized countries and is a main cause of postpartum depression.
Traditional cultures took (and continue to take) a very different approach towards a woman’s postpartum period. In their report from 1983, Stern and Kruckman found that postpartum depression was virtually non-existent in traditional cultures.
These cultures had many practices to value new mothers and their babies by the way they took care of them and encouraged a period of rest and pampering. While these cultures differed in the way they valued the postpartum period, they all shared five protective social structures. They include a distinct postpartum period that is set aside and treated differently than any other time of life, social seclusion and mandated rest, and functional assistance.
In contrast, mothers in industrialized countries are encouraged to be as productive as possible and to entertain guests who come to see the baby. There is an inherent expectation for mothers in America to get back to life as normal as quickly as possible. We can help reduce rates of postpartum depression by valuing new moms and doing whatever we can to help them rest and concentrate on baby!
When scheduling a time to bring food, ask if mom would prefer that the food simply be dropped off or if there are chores that need to be done. Stress the fact that you do not want mom and baby to get out of bed while you are there!! If mom says no chores need to be done, arrange to leave the food at the front door (in a cooler if it is warm) so that mom and baby do not have to be disturbed.
Better yet, you can also bring mom some freezer meals BEFORE baby is born if she has freezer room!
5. Finally, don't neglect your own family at the cost of this service to others! Make doubles of the healthy food you make for the other family so you can feed your own family a delicious homemade meal as well!
Here are some additional excellent tips from moms on HFFG's Facebook page on favorite things others did for them/brought them after the birth of their babies:
BEETROOT juice and fresh drinking coconuts! Best things to replace blood loss!
A huge bpa free cup with straw. I was sooo thirsty in the beginning of nursing and needed water at all times... Individual snacks for my dd so I didn't have to make up snacks for her (hummus and carrots, trail mix, yogurt).
The first Sunday we were going to church after the birth of my second child, an older lady from church came over and bathed, dressed, and fed the 2 yr old so I could get myself and the baby ready.
Paleo, grain free, protein and veggie rich foods felt so good! My friend brought me an awesome raw salad like entree, included the recipe and brought it in beautiful dishes for us to keep! Plus she brought a gift for my 1st born, (a book) for me to read to him while I nursed. Super thoughtful! She and her husband came over, kept their distance from baby, stayed for maybe 45 mins and were gone. It was wonderful! Just right for this postpartum mom.
A Vietnamese chicken soup....all real food, it was so comforting and nourishing. The same person brought over a few frozen crockpot meals. I had a hard time with accepting meals from people who cooked with ingredients that my family doesn't eat.
I just had a baby a few weeks ago and my best friend brought me salad made mostly straight from her garden! It was delicious! There are definitely benefits to having a summer baby! Lots of good fresh foods right now!
Freezable meals that can be made quickly once the other spouse goes back to work! Oh and it doesn't have to do with food but bringing things in containers that you don't mind not getting back. Nothing like having to juggle a newborn and making sure folks get their stuff back to stress a new mom out!
I kept wishing someone would have brought a fruit tray for snacking on.
PAPER PLATES, cups, etc!! No dishes for new mama!!
I wouldn't mind receiving a few meals for the freezer BEFORE the birth, just so they're handy. I wish I'd had a breakfast in the freezer when my husband and the birth team had been up all night taking care of me in labor!
(This is a great idea! How about some homemade granola, which freezes well, to bring mom before baby is born! Lots of good granola recipes, including grain-free/gluten-free ones, over on my Pinterest boards!)
If you are a new mom or are pregnant, let me encourage you to stand up for yourself and your baby in your postpartum period! Do not feel obligated to host, entertain, and cater to guests. Allow yourself and your baby time to rest, time to be secluded if that's what you want, and do so without feeling guilty!! Make up a list of chores that need to be done and leave a checklist in your entryway, and ask each guest who comes with a meal to pick one chore to do! And let them do it while you and baby rest in your pajamas!