Atole de Avena and a Blessed Life: A Nutritionist’s Post Partum Tips.
I have missed savoring fall and the start of winter with this blog so very much. I took some time off last year to survive a home remodel and rest at the end of my pregnancy. I had my beautiful baby boy Cash Cooper in October and we are doing great!
Today I am enjoying time off with my boy. I am a breastfeeding mom at home on my 3 month leave. Although way to short it is an amazing time. As a nutritionist and new mom, I find it is very interesting to know that I am my child’s only source of nutrition (at this age), it is an amazing responsibility. I spend my days mostly living the eat-play-sleep cycles with my infant. I also find time for eating with one hand, cleaning between naps, typing with a baby asleep on my lap, planning easy meals and trying to stay connected with friends and family.
I am jumping back into life now and recommitting myself to my work and life in food and health. For me this means continuing my nutrition and food blog journey, restarting my dietetic internship and returning to my career as a public health nutritionist. Life is for sure going to be full and I am blessed.
The postpartum period is an important time for paying attention to ones nutrition and health. For nursing moms the equation gets a little more calorie and nutrient rich as you are producing food to sustain another little person. However, all moms need extra care and support during this important time.
In Hispanic cultures some women keep the cuarentena period of 40 days or 6-weeks of rest and careful post partum care of mom and baby. This period is about family caring for the new mother so she can focus on caring for her new baby. And to this I say-Where do I sign up? However, today real life for many of us may not look quite like this. Although we may be separated from our family and on shorter leaves we to can adopt some of the wisdom from the cuarentena.
The most important lessons of the cuarentena and post partum tips for today:
- Rest. We can all do a better job at taking time to heal, to be present with our new baby and rest our bodies that have done so much for us. There is no diet I can recommend that can replace rest. It may not look like the cuarentena with total rest but even a catnap with your baby will help. Embrace setting boundaries and new priorities that may mean sweeping less and sleeping more and asking for help.
- Eat well. Another part of the cuarentena is the preparation of healing meals for the mother. Many friends and family are more than willing to bring a meal to a new mother. Sometimes it may be as simple as asking for help. For myself toward the end of my pregnancy, I prepared extra of some of our Sunday suppers and froze them. This allowed me to pull out full meals and heat and serve, which has been very helpful. I was also able to put the word out that I was stocking the freezer and we had relatives drop off batches of marinara and chili verde to add to our collection.
- Ask your visitors to stay. Many people will have some relatives and friends visiting after the birth. Prepare and ask some of them to stay for a few days. You would be surprised how many will jump at the offer to help. For me I was luckily able to retirement-nap my mother for three weeks post partum. It was amazing and even after three weeks I was not ready to let her go-but I did. She allowed me time to care for my baby and really figure out breastfeeding. She ran errands in town for groceries, cleaned and kept my water bottle forever full. Even after this I had a friend bring me out some infant gas drops when she came to visit. Your friends and family love you and they will show you just how much.
- The importance of healing foods. When you do have time to cook concentrate on simple whole foods ingredients and healing foods. Make simple soups and stews with high quality protein, whole grains and lots of vegetables. Chicken soup for example is a wonder food and can really provide some great protein. Adding extra vegetables is a good way to add color which adds a variety of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Including whole grains like quinoa, brown rice or barley adds great texture and more vitamins, minerals, fiber and some protein. Understand that post partum meals often come together a little different than in the past. For me meals were prepped and cooked when my baby slept or when I was wearing him. I had days where I would be chopping all the ingredients for soup during his 9am nap and actually making the dinner with him bopping around in his carrier later that night.
- Eat Oats for balance and milk production: Some of the foods that I prepared in advance focused on the ingredient: Oatmeal, Oat morning glory muffins and oat based cookies. First let it be known that I love oatmeal and could eat it ever day. It is a super food and such a comfort food which makes it a perfect post partum combination. Oatmeal is a fiber rich whole grain with minerals and a little protein. One cup of oatmeal is about 150 calories with 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Adding a fiber rich food postpartum will assist the body in regaining hormonal balance. Another attribute of Oatmeal is that it is known as a galactagogue or milk maker and a supportive food for breastfeeding moms. In Latin cultures many will prepare avena or oatmeal for the new mother daily during the cuarentena, in order to improve or maintain her milk supply. I have included a recipe for atole de avena or a hot oatmeal drink that can be used in place of the usual bowl of hot oats.
- Include a prenatal or multi vitamin daily. Eating a diverse homemade diet will go a long way to meeting your bodies nutritional needs. However, during your post partum time and while breastfeeding a daily multivitamin is recommended. Many of us are still losing blood daily for several weeks and the body is redirecting resources for healing. Although you may feel better after six weeks I recommend this practice for at least six months, or as long as you are breastfeeding.
- Pay attention to Vitamin D or sunshine. One of the taboos of the cuarentena is going outdoors during those first six weeks. Ok so even having my baby in late fall I was not going to stay inside for six weeks. However, I was also not out running errands in crowded places with my newborn either. I would sit outside in the sun or walk wearing my infant on non windy days for ten minutes letting some of our skin get the sun. You need to be careful with this in the heat and strong sun of summer. Morning sun is the safest for this. Vitamin D can also come from a supplement and the foods we eat 600IU daily is recommended for women although some groups recommend more. Speak with your pediatrician about vitamin D and your baby-supplement drops are available and are currently recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. My prenatal vitamin has some vitamin d in it at 400IU. Foods that have vitamin D include; tuna (3oz-154IU), salmon (3oz-447), egg yolk (1egg-41), fortified milk (1cup-115-124), orange juice (1cup-137) and cereal (1cup-40). We are still learning about this important vitamin but so far we know we do not get enough from our diet alone.
- Movement. I want to emphasize number one on this list again…REST! As women we have a drive to get back into shape and be at our best again and that is awesome. I also challenge you to temper this with allowing yourself time for healing. I did some light walking before six weeks and it was great to get outside of the house, but honestly not much more than that. I was moving quite slow for several weeks and just doing laundry and cleaning to much in one day would cause me to pay for it the next. Initially walking even short distances would leave me sore. Each of our recoveries are different, but I hope you will look at movement in a new way-think small and remember this is time to heal and be with your baby.
- 1 cup thick rolled oats
- 4 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cups milk or almond milk
- Cinnamon, ground for topping
- Optional: Mexican Hot Chocolate Bar
- Optional: Brown Sugar
- In a blender or food processor pulse oats until chopped, but not powder. In a heavy bottomed large add the water and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Once boiling add in oats and return to a simmer. Reduce to low and cook 20 minutes stirring often. The oats will absorb the water and the mixture will thicken and be slimy and smooth. To this add in the 6 cups of milk and return to low heat until desired consistency about 10 minutes. Atole de avena is usually thinner when finished. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.
- The mixture can be sweetened with the addition of Mexican chocolate or brown sugar. Ladle it into your favorite mug and top it with ground cinnamon.
- Refrigerate leftovers and add by the cup to your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Don't get hung up about your oats. Whether it be Scottish, Irish, steel cut, thick rolled, old fashioned or instant they all contain the same thing and do the same thing. There are negligible differences in fiber content so make what you like, what you will eat and what your busy life permits and enjoy!