1. Prioritise your health
Putting yourself first – especially when it comes to those health niggles – goes against all mothering instincts, but by making this a priority, says Dr Jaci Schultz, an evidence-based integrative practitioner, your whole family will benefit. “Frequently, symptoms like fatigue, headaches, hair loss, constipation or diarrhoea, and skin breakouts, follow after birth, and usually you’re far too busy looking after everyone else to bother finding out why you’re feeling so ‘blah’. Very often, it’s a mild vitamin or mineral deficiency that’s the culprit, or perhaps an endocrine dysfunction, so making time to visit your healthcare practitioner will ensure you’re properly diagnosed and treated. The spinoff? More energy, less fatigue, and all-round general wellbeing, which will stand you in good stead in your motherhood role!
2. Watch those thoughts and emotions
We all know how positive thinking can heal both mind and body; but now, expert research has proven that this can grow a healthier child during pregnancy, too. “Cutting-edge science has revealed that the creation of receptors for the peptides (informational substances) on a baby’s cells are based on the feelings of the mother, so babies enter the world prepared for specific emotional conditions,” explains Dr Arien van der Merwe, MD of the Healthy Living Space in Pretoria (www.drarien.co.za). “These can be calm, relaxed and happy, or stressed, anxious and angry – it’s only the vibrations/radio frequencies that differ! Practising deep relaxation and monitoring your thoughts and emotions every day before, during and after your pregnancy, is a wonderful way to support yourself and your baby.”
3. Stock up on whole grains
Forget all the ban-the-carbs hysteria – whole grains are this year’s big health secret for the whole family, says Mayuri Bhawan, a registered dietician at Nutritional Solutions (www.nutritionalsolutions.co.za). “They’re important sources of vitamins, nutrients, minerals and dietary fibre, which may help reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health complications. They will also energise and keep you on top of your parenting game.
There are various ways to include them in your diet: having oats or oat bran for breakfast; and using quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur wheat or brown rice as a base for lunch. Whole grain crackers are an easy on-the-go snack spread with hummus or cottage cheese, while toddlers will enjoy them topped with peanut butter.”
4. Reach out and ask
The belief that asking for help means you’re weak and unable to cope – especially if you’re used to having your home and/or work ‘perfectly’ under control – is so last year, insists clinical psychologist, Dr Colinda Linde (www.thoughtsfirst.com). “‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is a great sentiment to buy into, since babies have their own personalities and tend to put even the best laid plans in jeopardy! A build-up of stress, anxiety, anger or feeling overwhelmed, is normal. Find someone to lean on for reassurance, emotional support, accurate information or advice, and companionship, so you don’t feel alone.”
5. Go back to basics
Yes, technology is the driving force of the world we live in, so it’s quite natural to want to be right up there with every new state-of-the-art technological development. Trouble is, says Dr Schultz, most new parents are so busy trying to suss out the latest gadget that makes parenting easier, that they tend to complicate their lives even more! Baby expos may be all the rage with their amazing offerings, but life will become a whole lot simpler when you get back to basics – grandma-style – and stop relying on techno-hype. “For example, instead of trying to source the most exciting, technologically advanced mobile for your child, try placing the pram or a blanket outside under the trees. You’ll discover that leaves, and the sky and clouds are actually the best attention-grabbing mobiles of them all!”
6. Stay active
Exercise remains a powerful trend this year, with its scientifically proved far-reaching health and wellness benefits. “No matter how tired you are, ensure that exercising is regularly slotted into your day. Not only will it keep you and your baby happy and healthy, it will also do wonders for your mood and those energy levels,” explains Dr Sheetal Daya, a registered homeopath. “During pregnancy, exercise increases circulation and blood flow to your baby, supplying all the oxygen and nutrients necessary for optimal growth, while preparing you for a quick and easy labour. After birth, exercise won’t only help you to get your body back to its pre-pregnancy shape, but will also help prevent the baby blues. In addition, it will help to regulate hormone and unstable glucose levels, and keep those energy levels high enough to enable you to cope with both a new baby and those irregular night-time demands.”
7. Invest in a juicer
It’s not surprising that juicers are trending right now, as they offer a great way of adding more servings of fruit and veggies to an already healthy diet, as well as those all-important phytonutrients that you and your family need every day to ensure optimal health, says Mayuri. “For a healthy combination, include more veggies, as fruit contains natural sugars and should be limited to one at a time, to prevent increasing your total calorie intake. Try juicing one carrot, some cucumber chunks, a beet or two, a few pieces of ginger, and a medium-size apple, and enjoy between meals or as an on-the-go snack to keep you in Supermom mode!”
8. Supplement for better all-round health
Boost your body and your baby’s by clever supplementation of those essential vitamins and minerals that may be depleted during and after pregnancy, says Dr Daya. “Top of the list is omega-3, which feeds the brain and is also very good for the skin, the digestive system, and the rest of the body. The most important minerals that you need are calcium and magnesium, as these are the two that your baby primarily uses while in the womb. Post-pregnancy stress can be easily dealt with by taking vitamin B complex, as it feeds the nervous system and will help you cope better when overloaded.”
9. Fill your tank
A happy mom = a happy baby, happy marriage and happy home, says Dr Linde. “In the never-ending list of balls to juggle daily, you can easily forget that you yourself need to be fed, get enough sleep, and be cared for. Being ‘selfish’ and indulging yourself daily (even a 20-minute break where you’re ‘unavailable’) will pay dividends. Use the time to nap, read, have a bath, chat to a friend, etc. Remember that you can’t give what you don’t have, and that self-care helps you to keep your energy levels and mood balanced, and fills you with enough to be able to give to others.”
10. Trust your gut
It’s natural to want to be the best mom you can be, so you have all the Apps, you’ve read all the parenting websites and books, and you do your best to put into practice what the experts suggest. While there’s nothing wrong with following professional advice and going by the book when it comes to parenting, it’s often far more valuable to simply follow your instincts. Remember that mom really does know best, and if something feels right (or, for that matter, wrong!), chances are, it is!