The bonding process between mom and her newborn is often portrayed as an experience that begins once baby is born. Without a doubt, this magical connection is most intensely felt when mom holds her baby for the first time, skin-to-skin, and relishes in the miraculous new life she helped create. However, bonding is not exclusive to the postpartum period. This very special bond can begin the moment mom receives the wonderful news that she is expecting, and can be nurtured by the actions and choices mom makes during her pregnancy.
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For me, the bonding experience began the moment my husband and I realized the incredible reality that we were expecting a baby. From that point on, I made it my mission to make healthy dietary and lifestyle choices for my growing baby. Sure, I didn’t entirely abandon my occasional sweet tooth indulgences—give me a slice of carrot cake and there is no way I can refuse—but I didn’t veer too far from balanced, healthy and fresh.
Also, I was very fortunate to experience a joyous, high-energy pregnancy, and as a result, many moms and moms-to-be ask me what I did to stay on track. For infinite reasons, I recommend the following five bits of advice. What is so outstanding about making these purposeful dietary and lifestyle choices is that they can develop into a very powerful way to bond with your baby.
- Keep a stocked fridge and pantry of healthy ingredients such as Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, lean meats and fish (either fresh or frozen), seasonal vegetables (cucumber, carrots, yams, bell peppers, beets, tomatoes), organic greens (either spinach or arugula), hummus, eggs, almonds and quinoa. A tip when visiting your grocery store is to shop the perimeter where the majority of the abovementioned are found.
- Prepare large batches of healthy meals that you can refrigerate and reheat. Grill up chicken, pork tenderloin, shrimp, and vegetables that can be tossed in a variety of dishes like salads or pastas. Quinoa and wild rice became filing and wholesome bases for cold dishes that you can pack full of your grilled delights and that maintain their flavor even four to five days later.
- Get creative with smoothies. Load up your blender with a mix of plain Greek yogurt, organic blueberries and raspberries, organic spinach, cucumber, water, a splash of milk or cranberry juice. Smoothies are an incredibly refreshing, filling and nutritious go-to option during pregnancy and can fun for the whole family.
- Maintain a solid activity level that is doctor-approved. If you followed a regular exercise routine before pregnancy, continue with modifications as necessary. The elliptical machine offers a great low-impact cardiovascular workout. Local trail hikes and walks around the neighborhood provide nice outdoor options for keeping fit. A women’s body shifts and transforms so much during pregnancy, so it is important to remember to stretch, too. Exercise can serve as a great mental and emotional release during pregnancy, plus it may also help you be victorious with the heavy breathing and pushing of labor!!!
- Listen to your body! Whether with how much and what you eat or what activities you engage in to stay fit during your pregnancy. Be conscious of not overdoing it for the well-being of your growing baby. That means enjoying the journey of eating well and making intentional choices while that sweet bundle of joy grows and develops.
Now that my baby girl is here, I feel very thankful for being so dedicated to her well-being through good nutrition and fitness. My habits during my pregnancy have only grown and evolved now that I am a mom. Our mother-daughter closeness has been strengthened by numerous priceless moments, but my most favorite are those that involve feeding her nutritiously and knowing the positive impact it will have on her as she grows. I was very fortunate to enjoy bonding with Leah through the incredible experience of breastfeeding and ensuring that my diet remained wholesome and varied for her benefit. Now that we have introduced solid foods, we laugh and smile as peas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas and other nutrient-rich foods make their way into her sweet growing body (and all over her face, of course!) We have so much fun pretending the spoon is a choo-choo train cruising along the tracks or an airplane spiraling out of control! She giggles and thinks I am just the funniest person, and it truly melts my heart.
So for all you mamas and mama-to-be out there, embrace every opportunity to connect with your baby, whether you begin the bonding process during pregnancy or when the greatest love ever is pressed upon your heart with that first embrace.
- Meghan Lyons, MS, CredibleCravings Nutritionist and Mom.