Can I Eat That If I’m Pregnant?

Ok, let's talk happy hour.

By now the newness of pregnancy may be wearing off.

How much reading have you done so far? The self-declared "bible" is What to Expect When You're Expecting. The subtitle should be "Horror Stories to Keep You Up at Night Between Bathroom Trips for the Next Nine Months."

Instead they just call it "America's #1 pregnancy book." Weird choice, but whatever!

I dutifully checked a copy out from the library and started reading, but I didn't even make it through the first trimester. This from someone who sat through the entirety of Battlefield: Earth in the theater.

The conflicting information out there about what you can and can't eat during pregnancy is enough to drive someone to drink - except that's off limits, too!

...Isn't it?

DISCLAIMER! I'm not a medical professional and I'm not saying you SHOULD do anything I say, I'm just telling you what *I* did. Please do what feels comfortable for you based on your research and professional advice, and don't sue me. I'm going to have to feed a teenage boy in a decade or so and need to invest that ish. Thanks!

The most common questions I hear are about alcohol, sushi, and soft cheese.

BOOZE, yay or nay?

blanc de blanc at gloria ferrer
Women in Europe are advised to have only a few drinks a week. Our litigious society in the Land of Malpractice isn't willing to say you can drink, but there's a difference between having a glass of wine and tossing back a 40 of Mickey's in the parking lot.

My husband likes to point out that if drinking any alcohol during pregnancy was harmful, we wouldn't have the French, Italians, Irish, Austrians, Germans, Russians... You get the idea. He also took his duty of "drinking for two" very seriously during my pregnancy.

That said, alcohol smelled and tasted awful to me for most of my gestational tenure. While I wasn't opposed to drinking in principle, it didn't appeal to me in practice anyway. I'm not saying you should take it up, either, but a glass of wine your third trimester can actually help you relax according to some midwives I know.

SAY CHEESE!

boucherondin cheese
Back away from the cheese plate of CERTAIN DEATH. Right?

Listeria bacteria are actually quite common, but pregnancy's immune suppressing qualities make moms-to-be 20 times more susceptible than average to falling ill from exposure. The concern is unpasteurized varieties of cheese, usually soft and blue ones. The irony is that the U.S. outlawed most unpasteurized cheeses that aren't aged for 60 days (figuring that soaking in salt for 2 months will kill off the bacteria) in 1949.

Heat kills the bacteria which is why cold cuts are also at risk, as are coleslaw, hot dogs, and chicken. Cold cuts aren't really doing you any nutritional favors, and listeria would just be the disgusting icing on the salty meat cake. Ewww.

The cheese probably won't hurt you, but there are a lot of alternatives since most cheese isn't a risk.

SUSHI

my favorite homemade sushi roll
Mmm, sushi. First off, "sushi" actually means "vinegar rice," so there are plenty of fish-free options no matter what you decide. The recommendation to avoid uncooked fish apparently stems from concern for a particular parasite found in fish. Specifically found in freshwater fish which aren't used for sushi. This parasite is killed by flash freezing, which is required for all fish (including sushi-grade) that's served in the U.S.

So don't eat sketchy back alley sushi, whether you're pregnant or not. My bigger concern would be avoiding fish with high mercury levels like tuna.

If you're afraid of food poisoning, it's anecdotal, but I know more people who have gotten food poisoning from fast food than from sushi, and no one is saying all pregnant women should avoid Wendy's. Well, that's not true, because I am. Consider yourself warned!

CLICK HERE for my favorite resource of "Things Pregnant Women Supposedly Shouldn't Do" over at Pregnant Chicken.

Wow, that was long.

You should go take a nap.

Congratulations, you’re growing a baby!

Isn't that crazy? And exhausting!

When you first get pregnant, your body kicks into baby-building mode by flooding your system with HCG. I like to think of it as a reverse hormone hangover (the higher your blood alcohol, the bigger the headache; the bigger the spike in hormones - twins, for example - the stronger symptoms you may have).

Did you know less than half of pregnant women experience morning sickness? If you were surprised that you weren't terribly sick, you're not alone. If you WERE terribly sick, you're a special snowflake and it sucks to be you. Sorry!

First up: growing a placenta.

Growing is HARD WORK you guys, that's why kids take naps. And so should you. Resistance is futile, so just cave in now -- you'll feel better, I promise. I was just lucky I work at home because I took 2 naps a day. I even turned down a job offer because it would interfere with my nap schedule. #naps4eva

So! There's a 50/50 chance you're nauseous, you're so tired you can barely sit upright, and now you have to feed yourself?

Well, crap.

A few thoughts on eating during early pregnancy

  1. A puppy dies every time someone says, "You're eating for two!" You are eating for 1, plus a clump of cells the size of a pea which requires no extra calories.
  2. Lightning should strike people who say, "The baby takes what it needs." The baby can't take what's not there, so if you are low on folic acid, so is the baby.
  3. There is no such thing as too much fiber during pregnancy. The same goes for water. True story: I once ate half a watermelon by myself one day when I was pregnant with no deleterious side effects. (Yes, then I took a nap.)

Do I really need to take prenatal vitamins?
As a health coach, I work with clients to get nutrients through whole foods. However, pregnancy is tough and exhaustion can take a toll on your desire and ability to cook. Taking vitamins isn't going to hurt you or the baby, and will probably help. Missing a dose will not cause your child to have webbed toes or something.

My first trimester diet staples were Greek yogurt and cereal because that's all I could tolerate or prepare. Taking a prenatal vitamin reduced my stress about trying to cook. There was also a major heat wave when I was pregnant and Ryan Gosling coming over for a home-cooked meal would not have enticed me to turn on any appliance.

Other ideas for easy, nutrient-rich foods:

  • Fresh fruit has fiber and water - double win! Dried fruit can be high in sugar, but is a great snack combined with nuts for slow-digesting fat and protein.
  • Green juice and green smoothies flood your system with nutrients but don't take much work. Especially if you just grab one at the juice bar. Make sure it's not too fruit-heavy.
  • If you normally cook a lot from scratch, don't feel guilty getting pre-cut fruit and veggies, or getting take out more often. Focus on getting enough protein and iron, then just try to eat as much fiber as possible.
  • Protein can help reduce nausea and fatigue, plus it keeps you full longer. I ate a lot of eggs. If you can only tolerate carbs, at least make them whole grain to prevent spiking your blood sugar.

Many pregnancy books suggest meal plans that are more food than many women want to eat. Your blood volume increases by 50% or more, and dehydration can masquerade as hunger. Drink a metric crap-ton of water (start with half your weight in ounces - so 140 pound woman should drink 70 ounces of water) every day, take your vitamins, and do your best.

Next time: What NOT to eat. ...Or can you?

Now go take a nap. You've earned it.

Are You Crunchy Enough?

Hey Mama! Welcome to the crunchy club.

I'm glad you're here.

No matter where your crunchy path began (or if you're still trying to find it), you're in the right place. We're all doing the best we can for our kids with the information we have at the time.

At least the information we can remember. We're a little sleep-deprived up in these parts.

(According to reliable source Urban Dictionary)

Crunchy parenting is a slippery slope. Your friend lends you a book and suddenly you find yourself injecting tea tree oil into your wool dryer balls for a load of organic cloth diapers, wondering how you got here.

But it doesn't happen all at once. Five years ago I lived on white pasta and coffee, took hormonal birth control, and had a cabinet full of pills for cold symptoms. Now, even my husband reaches for the neti pot and asks me where the essential oils are.

When I got pregnant with my son in 2012, I started to research. Like any modern pregnant lady I dutifully trotted my digital self over to BabyCenter and signed up for my birth club.

O. M. G. You. Guys.

There are some seriously crazy people out there, and they flock to BabyCenter like flies to honey laced with cocaine. A few of their articles are helpful, but most left me shaking my head.

I looked up attachment parenting (AP), but Dr. Sears' The Baby Book made me stabby. I wanted a drink, but that was out (or was it? So confusing!). Shouldn't something exist between the choices of "just do what your doctor says" and "only sustainably-raised organic virgin unicorn tears should touch your baby or he will die?"

So I decided to find and make it myself.

I'm a compulsive researcher, so friends who got pregnant after me started asking for my lists, compilations, and spreadsheets. They even sent them to their friends. That's when I decided to create the resource I wish I'd had in the first place.

I'm not here to tell you what to do. I want you to make educated decisions that work for you and your family, not just go along with mainstream advice because that's all you've heard. It's like the argument against abstinence-only education: you should really know what your options are--just in case.

...And that clearly didn't work because you're knocked up! (Congrats, by the way.)

I hope you feel comfortable here. I promise not to kick you in the ribs OR the cervix, so I'm one up on your baby already.

My Baby Sucks at Sleeping

No time for a video? Here are some highlights:

  • You can't MAKE your baby sleep and that's OK. You can HELP and support, but that's it.
  • Babies can't read and don't know they are "supposed" to be sleeping at/for a given time. Books give averages, but there is a wide range of normal.
  • It's NORMAL for babies to wake up a lot, and actually reduces SIDS risk in infants.
  • The books I read scared me into thinking that my child needed more sleep than he was getting because he needed to process new information. Some kids need less sleep than others, so as long as your child is happy, they're probably just fine.
  • Things that interrupt sleep: teething, illness, developmental and mobility milestones (especially crawling and walking), full moons (wish I was kidding).
  • Co-sleeping, bed-sharing, and nursing side-lying were the only way I got any sleep. My son happily moved into his own room at 20 months and is still nursing.
  • Starting my night in the guest room and having my husband help the baby back to sleep, or having my husband give him a bottle of pumped milk after 3am also helped me catch up on sleep.
  • Seriously, take a nap with the baby, or have a friend come play with the baby for an hour or two while you sleep. People want to help you.
  • Wear your baby so they can nap on the go, or at least you have two hands to get things done.
  • Change your mindset from "My child SHOULD be sleeping right now" to asking if your child NEEDS to be sleeping right now. They need to build up enough sleep pressure to help them stay asleep.
  • My son dropped to 1 nap by his 1st birthday, and stopped napping around his 2nd. He still naps occasionally during growth spurts and developmental leaps, but he sleeps WORSE at night if he has a nap.

Some resources I mention in the video:

These books helped me understand baby sleep, or came highly recommended:

A Holistic Approach to Gestational Diabetes

Special thanks to Francesca Orlando of Healthful Living San Diego for sharing her expertise. You can also reach her on her Facebook page.

Additional Resources

Going Back to Work After Baby

Check out the video above for Elaine's tips and tricks for going back to work after baby.

Links and resources we reference in the video:

Find Elaine at ThriveMomma.com. You can get her timeline for preparing to return to work by entering your name and email in the right sidebar.

CLICK HERE to get Elaine's Pump Bag Checklist and other resources for pumping at work.

Lose the Baby Weight


Apologies for the nauseating swaying as I corral my wild nursling for the first few minutes of the video. Thanks for sticking with us!

If you're pregnant or have recently given birth, you're probably thinking about getting back to your pre-baby weight.

  • What is a reasonable expectation for losing weight after giving birth?
  • How can you nourish your body to care for yourself and your baby, especially if you’re nursing?
  • What are the postpartum pitfalls you’ll want to avoid?

Stacy Spensley from Semi-Crunchy Mama and Center Stage Wellness and Kelly Bach from Full Belly Nutrition discuss postpartum nutrition and weight loss.

Where are the handouts mentioned in the video?

Right here!
CLICK HERE to download your healthy snacking tips and tricks
CLICK HERE to download your meal planning tips

Recommended Reading for Pregnancy and Birth

As an information hoarder, I love to read and research new topics. Pregnancy was no different. I polled some friends, filled up my Amazon cart, and cracked the books.

Quick note! These are generally aimed at "natural" childbirth. If you plan to have an epidural or pain management, or end up with a medically necessary Cesarean, that's totally fine! I still think it's good information to have and they address those, as well. I don't have time to judge you, I have to go figure out what my toddler just ate off the floor. Peace.

Here are the books I personally found most helpful:

  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is hard to beat. Ina May Gaskin is largely credited with the resurgence of midwifery in the United States and runs a birth center at the Farm commune in Tennessee. Skeptical of a commune resident in prairie skirts telling you about a process that will most likely take place in a hospital? She has authored many papers about childbirth and even has a delivery maneuver named after her. The first half is birth stories which show the wide range of "normal" birth experiences.
  • The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer was really helpful to me. The author starts out stating that she clearly has a bias, but her bias is based on the conclusions drawn from all the research she did. That's what she covers in the book. It's not about telling you what to do, but offers the studies and statistics that help you make an informed decision about your care.
  • The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year isn't written by well-known parenting experts, but it's not far off from the book I would want to write. Two attachment parenting moms offer an easy-to-read guide that validates following your instincts and back it up with science. It's not perfect, but I found it helpful.
  • Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England is the most "woo woo" of these, but I found it fascinating. There are also Birthing From Within childbirth prep classes available. She studies the circumstances which cause traumatic birth experiences and works backwards to help you prevent them by unpacking your fears around childbirth. I often suggest getting this from the library first in case it's too much.
  • Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck was an interesting read. Though the author is a follower of the Weston A. Price Foundation ("the raw milk people") who insist no vegetarian diet (mine) can possibly be healthy, I enjoyed Planck's grounded view of eating well during pregnancy to nourish you and your baby. She advocates a whole food diet without being overbearing and adds in her own pregnancy experiences for dimension.
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International is the go-to recommendation for nursing moms. I have not yet read it, but breastfeeding isn't completely instinctive or easy. If you plan to nurse, more support is always better!

No time (or attention span) for books? Here are some websites that offer great information:

  • Birth Without Fear posts a beautiful array of birth stories, and show that there isn't a right or a wrong way to meet your baby.
  • Evidence Based Birth offers information related to popular questions about pregnancy and childbirth with studies and citations to back it up.
  • KellyMom is an amazing breastfeeding resource which covers a number of topics and has plenty of outside links as well.
  • Pregnant Chicken, in addition to being pee-your-pants hilarious, also gave me some of the best advice I read during my pregnancy.

Baby-Led Weaning

If your baby is at or nearing the time to eat solid foods, you may be confused about the right approach.

  • Should you start at 4 months or 6 months?
  • With rice cereal or whole foods?
  • Purees or finger foods?

Your pediatrician may not be giving you updated advice. Learn what the current recommendations are and what you may want to consider in choosing the right path for you and your baby.

Check out a concise and info-packed 30-minute summary, or find the resources for the talk below the video.

When should I start solids?

How should I give my baby solids?

What should I feed my baby?

Other resources

Want more info?

Intro to Baby Led Weaning, Wednesday, March 23

If you want more details and time for live Q&A, join me on March 23rd from the comfort of your own home!

Want news on more events and info like this?

* indicates required


Tell me a little about yourself! Are you:

View previous campaigns.