postpartum | women's health | yoga

Tips for Making Exercise Accessible and Enjoyable with Kids

By on February 3, 2020

Here it is February. You know the year will fly by. How many New Year’s Resolutions or Intentions are already misplaced or lost? Has the motivation waned?

My life certainly ebbs and flows. I have good spurts, and not so healthy spurts. Having Mira added another layer of crazy to our family as I’ve posted about before. Our sleep has changed, our work life has changed, my oldest is homeschooling, so I have had to do a lot of adjusting and adapting to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise are always my “priorities”, however, they are sometimes the easiest to let go of when sometimes it feels as if every other piece of life is filled to the brim.

I am moving into my 9th month postpartum and historically this is when my life starts to balance out. The baby is mobile, she is sleeping better, and I feel more spaciousness. I remember this happening with my boys too. I think the change is because we are moving out of survival mode and adjusting to our new normal.

During this time, I have been able to find my love for physical activity. I truly like *certain* exercises (and if I don’t like it, I won’t sustain it) but I have a limited time in my day to get-it-done. I have decided that this season of my life isn’t for gym or studio classes. I have a wealth of knowledge, I have accessibility to gym equipment, my husband and I are yoga instructors, so I have the tools.

Making Time for Exercise

  1. Walk/Jog— This is my go-to exercise. For me this is the ultimate multi-tasking way to get my exercise in. I put my little kids in the stroller, strap them in, they get some sun and fresh air and I get my workout in. My oldest sometimes will go with me, so he gets time to chat/exercise too and we can end at the playground and let the kids burn off some of their steam. If the oldest isn’t with me, I can listen to a podcast or something inspirational to get personal development in my day. The only downside is weather. Luckily, I live in Florida so our weather is generally always manageable. If its cold, we just bundle up and go anyway.
  2. Yoga— I love yoga, it is always my default for strength, stability, calming, grounding– just about anything can be accessible in a yoga class. Self-motivation isn’t always my strong suit. So, how I am doing it now is by subscribing to Yoga International and doing a yoga class on my device. I have been using the time after I drop Ezra off at preschool to do a 30-45 minute class. At nap time or after the kids go to bed is also a good time. I like my YI subscription because I can set goals and pick what kind of classes I want to take. It is virtual accountability for me. Sometimes I will take a “live class” taught by my husband. He will run through a sequence with me and target certain areas of discomfort on. It is always nice to have him lead me through a class and provide adjustments if necessary.
  3. Family Hiking– One of our family New Year’s goals was to go outside and hike, enjoy nature one day of the weekend. We’ve been good over these several weeks taking family hikes. It’s great to go first thing in the morning after breakfast and spend a couple of hours outside. It gives us time to connect as a family, exercise, and the kids are exhausted after we get home so it promotes a very nice afternoon nap!

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postpartum

Essentials for Postpartum Mental Health

By on March 21, 2019

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Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are huge topics these days. I am in Facebook groups that have thousands of members, all of which are dealing with and healing from varying levels of PPD/PPA.

My Story

After my second son was born, I experienced Postpartum Anxiety. It was rather unspoken, and actually quite scary. My husband knew I was “off” for some time. We chalked it up to sleep deprivation, me dealing with a lot of change very quickly, and our son’s premature birth and NICU stay. I tried counseling for a few visits and never went the medical intervention route.

Luckily, I finally confided in one of my dear friends who is incredibly versed in holistic health and she helped me figure out what my body was asking for from a nutritional and hormonal perspective. I knew something was going on in my body– more than normal postpartum hormones.

Know this. If you are feeling off after pregnancy, you are not alone. The immediate drop in progesterone and estrogen in a mama’s bloodstream cause emotions that many of us have never felt. When these hormones drop our entire endocrine system is disrupted, our natural serotonin levels can be affected, and sometimes our body has difficulty finding homeostasis again. All of the emotional chaos is “normal” for a bit after pregnancy, when it persists more than a few months you may have more of an issue.

I am also NEVER suggesting you forgo medical advice, I am just a mama sharing my story. 

The things that helped me the most were simple changes and additions and just knowing in my heart that these small changes would help me feel like me again. The funny thing about motherhood is that when you have a “mental health” challenge, it is easy to feel you are a complete fuck up, your kids are suffering, and your husband hates you. It is how the mind works, and the thoughts keep the “funk” going when you are in a rut.

Be Gentle With Yourself

During the postpartum period, and when healing from any sort of issue, it is a step by step process. There will be ups and downs, nothing is instant. After a mom has been pregnant for 9 months; it takes time for physical recovery, adjustment to the “new normal”, hormonal rebalance, and emotional balance. It is not going to happen overnight. There will be good days and bad days. The better we get and the better we feel, more than likely the good days will outnumber the bad.

All of the tools I am sharing in this blog today are things that I am still doing throughout this pregnancy (which has been completely different and much easier than my last), and I will definitely take it beyond the postpartum period.

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Ways to Support Recovery

  1. Keep Self-Care Routines– This is something that I can not stress enough. If you are a mama who needs a shower every day to feel human, take one. Even if it means getting up 20 min early so your husband can entertain the baby. Don’t feel guilty if you must shower with the baby in a bouncer, crying for a few minutes. I am not one who can dry shampoo for 10 days and be okay with it. A shower, washed hair, and shaved legs make me feel like a better person, so I make sure it happens. Also, resting when baby rests is important, especially in those first few weeks. Sleep deprivation is real and the cumulation of lost sleep can cause damage. I have a difficult time napping, however sometimes just resting for 10-20 minutes quietly can really recharge my batteries.
  2. Get Outside– Luckily, we live in Florida where the weather is pleasant more days than not and we have easy access to nature. Fresh air, sunshine, and the sounds and smells of nature are incredibly mood boosting. My husband and I work from home, so sometimes we don’t feel the need to get out. However, making the effort to get out for a little bit each day is always on my schedule. As the newborn grows a bit, story-times or other mom & baby activities are great for mental health. Social support is often instrumental in feeling “normal” again.
  3. Good Nutrition– Diet is another thing that is incredibly important for health and wellness. Meal planning before baby is a good way to go. If that didn’t happen prior to birth, meal delivery services, Instant Pot meals, or even enlisting family and friends can take the pressure off. You can even grocery shop online these days and quickly drive by for pick up. Processed foods, sugar, and many grains really affect my anxiety levels. My friend said to me– “what if you can no longer say I am Lucy with anxiety and instead realize that I am Lucy and this feeling is how I interact with certain foods?” After eliminating the offenders from my diet, it is easy to feel that “interaction” when reintroducing the culprits.
  4. Supplements– Taking good quality supplements have been vital to my health and well-being. It is nearly impossible to get all we need from diet alone. I know I have written this and said it SOOO many times in my life– our soil quality is poor, it is difficult to find good quality meats due to factory farming, there are a lot of pollutants, and our food travels many miles to reach our grocery store and finally our plate. All of these affect the vitamin and mineral content of the food we consume. I will share supplements that are valuable for PPA/PPD and why.

Two time Nobel Laureate, Dr. Linus Pauling, said: “You could trace every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.” Approximately 99% of the human body is comprised of minerals, yet minerals are generally overlooked when nutrition is considered. Chromium is especially important for the postpartum period. Having an adequate balance keeps the insulin levels balanced and allows the body to use glucose as it is designed to, keeping stress from our major organs and maintaining our energy levels. Adequate magnesium intake is also important for mental health, and supplementing can calm the nervous system quite rapidly. I buy my mineral

Again I’ll suggest a probiotic. I have written many times about gut health. A short synopsis is that our gut is our second brain and serotonin and dopamine levels start in the gut. For me, I noticed a rapid change in my mental health after starting a good probiotic. My shakiness and racing thoughts calmed way down. Life 9 has a lot of the good mental-health strains of bacteria and is specifically encapsulated so that you actually receive the bacteria in the GI tract. I have tried many other probiotics. However, what I didn’t know is that many brands can’t actually survive the digestive juices to populate the gut adequately. Game. Changer.

Vitamin D3– The symptoms of a Vitamin D3 deficiency are vast. A quick google search will show you very quickly how bad you can feel with a lack of this essential vitamin. One of the first symptoms listed is depression/anxiety coupled with decreased endurance and exhaustion. It is also difficult to heal from wounds with this deficiency. I use Vitamin D3 throughout my pregnancy and beyond.

5. Uplifting Music & Books– A drive to the beach in my minivan with a good playlist is often my best therapy. Sounds like the epitome of motherhood, lol. I keep my phone stocked with good music & audios because when I am feeling down, flooding myself with positivity will help break the mental cycle of depression or anxiety.

My favorites are:

The Gifts of Imperfection or anything by Brene Brown

Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali is a book I found early in my motherhood journey. Even though I am not Buddhist, she had wonderful insight into living present-centered and releasing anger, worry, or fear.

Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Atomic Habits by James Clear

6. Journaling and Affirmations– These are tools I often use to change my mindset. When I am overwhelmed, anxious, or feeling down writing what I am feeling helps release the negativity and become aware of how my mind is circling around certain ideas. Affirmations of how I want to feel are also helpful. I will write them on post-its and put them on mirrors, on my computer screen or somewhere I look many times per day. I have even been known to make an affirmation the screen saver on my phone. What else do I look at more often than my phone?

“Be Gentle With Yourself, You are Doing the Best You Can”

“I am Doing an Amazing Job”

“I am honest with my partner”

“I am surrounded by love, and so is my baby”

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Being Well

There are many steps and tools to utilize during the postpartum period. Just know that if you are not improving while taking steps to nurture and recuperate, you may need to seek medical attention, and that is okay. Especially if you are feeling the impulse to hurt yourself or your baby.

I hope this information was helpful in any way and I am always here if you want to reach out. Understand how to get your supplements here for 24% off. You can find me through email, or on IG @integratedmama or facebook.com/integratedmama.

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postpartum | pregnancy | women's health

Preparing for Postpartum: Mama Essentials

By on March 4, 2019

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I had a moment of clarity that I was never preparing for postpartum the way I was preparing for my births.  January Harshe

I ran across this quote on Instagram and thought it was genius. I have had two boys, and of course spent a lot of time and energy preparing for their arrival. Both boys were born early, and as I shared in another post– I didn’t even have a hospital bag prepared. It is amazing how the third pregnancy is so different. I am not stressing anything. We have clothes, a bed, some accessories and I feel we are good to go. I do not have endless baby “to-do” lists, and it is quite a freeing feeling.

The thing I am preparing for is postpartum. With our last birth, I was out of sorts for many months after delivery. I could not quite get my balance back after my c-section, Ezra’s NICU stay, and adjusting to a newborn and sleep deprivation. This time I am going to make sure I have my main bases covered so that when I return from the hospital, our family can easily adjust to our “new normal”.

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Postpartum Recovery

Regardless of how the birth occurs, vaginal or cesarean, it takes the body 6 weeks or so to heal. Pregnancy stretches and changes our anatomy over a 9 month period and it takes time to rebound and recover.

A c-section is a bit slower recovery since we are dealing with an incision and surgical healing. Either way, there are many support tools to have around to aid in the recovery and make things feel as comfortable as possible.

  1. Postpartum Girdle— This was a newbie for me after my last birth and it made a world of difference with mobility. Some insurance companies will even cover the cost of one. I’m in awe with this bellefit girdle and am excited to try it after Mira’s birth (yeah, I know I’m weird). It doesn’t matter if you have a vaginal or c-section delivery, I’ve read many reviews on how the support helps with body mechanics, getting back into pre-pregnancy clothing quicker and general post-delivery achiness.
  2. Perineum careHerbal sitz bath, perineal spray, padsicles or ice packs. If you have a vaginal birth, these are a MUST. Caring for this delicate area and helping aid in healing is important and these tools will help you bounce back faster.
  3. Pads/disposable undies— Tampons and menstrual cups are a no-no and you will likely have a pretty heavy flow for some time. I like organic, chlorine free pads and have even been known to use mama cloth.
  4. Peri Bottle— This is an important tool for mama’s, no matter how you delivered. So important that they send you home from the hospital with one. The fact is, we all will have about 6 weeks of lochia, which is the bleeding and discharge after birth. It is nice to have something to help rinse it away from delicate skin after a vaginal birth and just for extra hygiene post-cesarean. I have heard great things about the Fridet by FridaBaby
  5. Water Bottle— Hydration is a necessity, I love my stainless steel cup and straw or a big mason jar with a stainless steel straw. I know that drinking 4 full glasses per day I’m staying hydrated and after birth and while breastfeeding the more water, the better!
  6. Constipation Remedies— I’m crazy about my probiotic and fiber supplements. They have withstood pregnancy constipation and will be the remedies I use postpartum. Drinking plenty of water is important to reduce constipation, I mentioned some essential oil remedies in this post, as well as the constipation tea from Pink Stork.
  7. Walking— Staying active and moving around after delivery actually speeds up recovery. Muscles will rebound quicker, and your joints and fascia will stay in top condition. Walking around the neighborhood with the baby in a carrier or stroller can do wonders for the psyche. I live near the beach and that was a place we frequented for fresh air and vitamin D.
  8. Meal Prep or Healthy Food Delivery Service & Healthy Snacks— I am prepping 2 weeks of dinners for postpartum. This is something I have not done with my past pregnancies and have learned this is an essential step for ease during the postpartum period. It is nice to not think too much about groceries, cooking and cleaning for the first days when you are bonding with baby, sleeping very little, and trying to regain strength. A food delivery service is another idea, and a gift we received after our 2 year olds birth. It was extremely helpful and took a lot of pressure off of meal prep. There are many food delivery services to cater to different dietary specifications and where we live, we have several local services. Stocking the pantry with healthy, nutrient dense snacks is also vital. Birth and breastfeeding is very depleting, so making sure to things readily available takes the mindlessness out of snacking.

What to Do After the Initial “Recovery” Period

I have never completely felt human until month 3 or 4 post delivery and will often put exercise on the back burner. It is a priority! Things to do after you are physically recovered are moving gently back into an exercise program. I plan on doing a Postpartum Recovery Class which targets pelvic floor and core.

I also kept chiropractic care in my routine, my body was misaligned for quite a while after my c-section and the chiropractor was a major help. Even carrying a new baby, sleeping differently, and nursing a baby can throw the body out of alignment, so maintenance checks are life-savers.

Making the decision to get out and join mommy and me groups, finding a tribe was another biggie for postpartum recovery. New mommyhood can be isolating and redundant (and full of joy and beauty, don’t get me wrong). Women need women, so making time for friends does wonders for healing and rebounding from birth.

Emotional Healing & Helpers

Being prepared for the emotional shift that happens with childbirth is also important. Baby blues is completely normal, however postpartum depression and anxiety are also very real. If your emotions feel out of control, please talk to your doctor and get support from trusted friends or family.

  1. Natural Mood Boosters— Essential oils are my go-to’s for mood uplifting. I use Young Living only, and my favorites are Valor, Peace and Calming, Joy, Frankincense.
  2. Enlist Help– Friends and family are invaluable. Having someone over to hold the baby so you can shower or nap is helpful. A postpartum doula is also a wonderful resource. An additional pair of loving hands can ease pressure and help you find balance in your “new normal”.
  3. Nutritional Support– I suffered from postpartum anxiety, and my major relief happened when I found that I was having many triggers from the food I was eating. I have posted about this many times in my blog. For me healthy fats, removing grains, sugars and processed foods and filling up on good veggies did a world of good for my anxiety. My baby also benefitted greatly, the of my milk improved, his weight improved and his jaundice reduced. Adding some additional supplementation was also a necessity.
    • B-Vitamin Complex– I wrote an entire post about the importance of b-vitamins. Research is now pointing to a vitamin-b deficiency as a link to postpartum depression/anxiety.
    • Probiotics– Oh my goodness, not another recommendation for gut-health. But, yes. There are actually strains of bacteria in our guts that affect our mental health. The probiotic I use is quite potent and contains all of the necessary strains for balanced mental health. The thing is, not all probiotics– no matter how wonderfully packaged and the price-tag– can survive the digestive juices and acids. Which means that you can take a probiotic and never actually receive the benefit. Clearer mind and a calmer emotional state are the first things I noticed with my current choice.
    • Collagen HA- I wrote another post all about collagen. This has been a game-changer in my life. Period.

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Nursing Mamas

Choosing to breastfeed is wonderful, and I am partial to it. Being prepared for it is important as well. Nursing a newborn is a round-the-clock experience and can be challenging at first. Having adequate support and supplies makes the transition much easier.

  1. Comfortable Nursing Clothes–  I basically live in nursing tanks and yoga pants those first few weeks. Being able to be accessible to the baby, having plenty of skin-to-skin contact and mobility make a difference.
  2. A Good Pump– A good pump is great to have around. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of one. I’m not a daily pumper, but I do like having a stash and I use a pump to increase supply when needed. It is also nice to have one to relieve engorgement.
  3. Cabbage Leaves– If engorgement does occur, which mine always happens around day 6, putting cold cabbage leaves in my bra alleviate it very quickly. I did not believe this would be the case, but am always happily surprised.
  4. Milk Production Support– There are many galactagogues, or things to help enhance milk production. My favorites are fennel essential oil, Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea, and power pumping. Having some yummy lactation cookies are also nice to make, freeze and have on hand. Most of the commercial brands are loaded with junk, so making my own or using the brand I linked above is my preference.

This post is quite long, and full of information and recommendations I have found and researched over my 3 pregnancies and doula life. I will follow-up with some freezer meal ideas, more breastfeeding tips, and anything else that is helpful that I find along the way.

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