Friday, July 22, 2016

The Importance of Postpartum Planning

These days, modern expectant parents are overloaded with information when it comes to childbirth. They attend childbirth classes, read books about what labor will be like, they hire a birth doula, and they practice labor skills. They can spend hours researching options for their birth plan... and they should! The birth process is so important!

Then the baby arrives. Now what? Now parents are befuddled. What’s the plan now? What do we do now that baby is here? There needs to be as much attention given to postpartum planning as there is for birth planning.  

Now, it’s important to note that some things can not be planned. For instance, you cannot plan what temperament your baby will have. You can't know which breastfeeding positions your baby will latch the best with for the first 6 weeks. You can not plan which type of pacifier you are going to need because you don't know which one the baby is going to take - or if they are going to take one at all!

However, what you can plan is an environment that caters to you having time to figure out all of these things. This is where postpartum planning comes in.

The first several postpartum weeks should be focused on spending time with your baby. This is a sensitive time where you both recover from birth and learn how to breastfeed.  You get to know your baby's personality. You might even take out a comfortable baby carrier and put baby in it for a walk around the block. You catch up on some sleep, and heal from birth. Your first several weeks at home with baby should NOT be full of of demands and stress. "Have I eaten today? Who is coming to see the baby today? Is the house a mess? Have I showered in a week?”

What all moms need is a postpartum plan, so here are a few simple things you can do to plan for the postpartum period.

1.) Hire a postpartum doula. The postpartum doula is a professional that cares for a new family as they transition during the postpartum period. Her expertise is in helping and affirming new mothers, and creating an environment where moms can relax, heal, and just be with their new baby.

2.)  Before birth, go through your house while you do regular chores and make a "how-to" list for each of them.  What one specific chore makes you feel like the house is in order? Where do you store your bathroom and kitchen cleaning supplies? Where do you store all of your bath towels? Is your washing machine easy to use or does it require a few special instructions?  Where is the extra dishwashing soap? Take your instructions, along with a list of chores that need to be done on a regular basis and put them on the fridge. Then, when you have visitors that want to see you and the new baby, they have ready instructions for how to help you out.

3.) Make extra meals during your pregnancy and place them in the freezer.  When you cook dinner during the last few months of pregnancy, cook a double sized batch, and freeze half of it. Crock pot meals are especially helpful since they are so simple.

4.)  Set very clear boundaries about visiting times. This is a time for you to focus on recovering from birth, resting, and bonding with your new baby. It is NOT the time to be entertaining. Set visiting hours and communicate them clearly to your family and friends what their allowed visiting times are.

5.)  Have a trusted friend or family member organize a meal train for you. There are many different ways to do this.  Some people will use a free website like or something similar. Others will organize one on their own. With a meal train, you have the first several weeks - or longer - of dinners covered. Then when friends and family come to drop off your dinner, they can also help with chores because you have a list on the fridge!

6.)  Be flexible.  It's tempting to speculate during pregnancy what the postpartum time is going to be like. You cannot fully understand what it’s like to help a new tiny person adjust to life outside the womb. It never goes exactly how we think, so be ready for unexpected changes.

Having a baby is the biggest life change you’ll ever experience. Plan to give your baby and yourself as much rest, grace, and attention as possible for several months after birth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Healthy Travel Tips

Summer is the time for travel, sunshine, beaches, and fun. But all that travel can often times cause stress - and when there is stress, sickness is too quick to follow. Nothing is worse than planning a week of relaxation, only to spend it feeling crummy. So here are some travel health tips for your summer vacation.

  1. Plan Ahead.  The worst thing you can do to your health when traveling is to find yourself hungry in the middle of nowhere, and resort to convenience store food. Bring a cooler in the car with you full of healthy snacks from the grocery store (or your garden!) from home. If you are flying, pack snacks in your purse or travel bag that will help you resist the temptation to grab quick and easy food. In addition, planning ahead is better on the budget.
  2. Stock up on Vitamin C. For a few days prior to leaving, stay away from too much sugar (see below), and do a little immune support. Pack some Emergen-C along with your healthy snacks and mix one into your water bottle on the go.
  3. Eat healthy snacks. This is actually not as difficult as it sounds. Pack bananas, carrot sticks, packs of almond butter, dried fruits, hummus, and lunch meat to graze on in the car, airplane, or hotel.
  4. Avoid sugar. This one requires some planning, but it’s vitally important - not just when traveling, but all year round. Drink water instead of soda, and eat fruit instead of sugary pre - packaged snacks. Read my blog about sugar for more information. Sugar is the worst thing you can do to your immune system, so avoid it as much as you can.
  5. Get some good sleep. An unfamiliar bed can be a nuisance, and it can be tempting to stay up late for all hours of the night catching up with friends and family. But lack of sleep is killer on the immune system, and the last thing you want is to spend the entire trip sleeping - because you got sick.
  6. Get adjusted before you go. Plan a wellness visit before you leave on vacation. A single chiropractic adjustment can increase your immune function by 200%. Increase your odds of optimal immune function by getting a quick wellness adjustment in the days before you leave.
  7. Don’t overbook yourself. It’s tempting to fit all the fun things available into your short time off, but overdoing it can be stressful, leaving you needing a “vacation from your vacation.”
  8. Practice extra careful hygiene. This should be done every day, not just when vacationing. However, extra care should be taken with little ones when you are in a new place. Small hands like to touch things, and that can be a little extra risky when you are out and about on vacation.
  9. Get some sunshine. Read my post about the sunshine vitamin: vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for optimal immune function, and fortunately it’s easy to come by on vacation!

Enjoy your summer - it always goes way too fast! Make sure to take extra steps to support your health while you do so.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

How Do You Define Health?

Most people on any given day would define health by saying something to the the effect of: “I feel fine, therefore I’m healthy.” Conversely, when they are lying in bed with a  fever, they would say: “Oh man I’m so sick.”

Neither of these definitions of health and sickness are necessarily accurate. Let’s revisit this. What if we define health through a lens other than our “feeling” on any given day? After all, are “feelings” ever an accurate description of one’s actual health status?

Try this on for size. Let’s redefine health by saying this: if our bodies are functioning optimally, we are healthy. That makes sense now, doesn’t it? Our bodies were designed with very careful and deliberate functions. When those function cease to operate, that is when we really get sick.

So what does this look like on a daily basis? Let’s say you get the flu. Your fever spikes to 103, your throat hurts, and you’ve got a nasty cough. You’re sick.

Except you’re not. Your body is working perfectly to get rid of that virus.

What would happen if you got that flu virus and your body did NOT respond to it with fever (kills viruses and bacteria), increased white blood cells (sore throat), and mucous extraction (cough)? Friend, you’d be very VERY sick if your immune system did not respond to a virus. In fact, you likely wouldn’t survive. The fact that your body is responding to a threat - even though you feel miserable - means that it’s actually functioning optimally: it’s HEALTHY!

Now, let’s say that you are “feeling fine,” but you go for a checkup to find that you have cancer. All this time you’ve felt normal, but your immune system is out of control (which is the essence of cancer… that’s for another post.) Your body is not functioning optimally, so you are sick.

Doesn’t it make sense then, to focus your own health efforts on supporting your body’s various functioning systems?

So how do you support your body to function optimally? Or, better stated, “How can you be healthy?”

The good news? This is not news. You know the answer. You eat whole foods, exercise, get some sunshine, get adjusted, make sure to get enough sleep, reduce your stress, and avoid toxin exposure. (Each of these deserves its own post, so make sure to keep an eye on my blog for upcoming related topics.) A healthy lifestyle does not come in a pill - nobody ever got a headache for a lack of Advil.

A final thought. Your body is your own. You alone bear the consequences of what you do to it. Your doctor doesn’t, so it’s up to you to make the best decisions for you. “As you sow, so shall you reap”, as the parable goes. Taking personal responsibility for your health is a tremendous empowering gift - one that needs to be taken seriously. Fortunately, you already know how to do it. You already know how to be healthy. Now, just do it.