All posts by Autumn Green

About Autumn Green

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

Young woman taking a prenatal vitamin

What’s In My Prenatal Vitamins? Find Out Here

If there’s one thing women can count on during pregnancy, it’s that someone somewhere will tell them to take prenatal vitamins. It could be their doctor, their mother or a well-meaning stranger; this advice is something we’ve all heard and may have even said ourselves.

But do you know what’s included in prenatal vitamins?

Moms-to-be tend to be very concerned about what they put into their bodies, so it’s only natural to be curious about these nutrients. Here’s what’s likely included in your vitamins and how to find the type you need:

A closeup of a woman's hand. She's holding five different vitamins in her palm.Prenatal vitamins supplement your diet to provide the nutrients you need for pregnancy.

The prenatal vitamins you absolutely need

These vitamins are especially important for your health during pregnancy and your baby’s development. Here’s what you need and how much, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Iron: 27 milligrams daily

It’s hard to get enough of this nutrient in your natural diet, which is why it’s in most – if not all – prenatal vitamins. Iron helps deliver oxygen throughout the body, which you and your baby need a lot of. If you don’t get enough, you could suffer from iron-deficiency anemia, which increases your risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery and infant mortality.

Calcium: 1,000 milligrams daily

Calcium supports bone, nerve and muscle growth for mom and baby, so you’ll need a little extra while you’re pregnant. Otherwise, you may lose bone density as all the calcium in your body reroutes to the developing baby.

Folic Acid: 60 micrograms daily

This vitamin is important for proper neural tube development. A defect seriously affects the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

In fact, it’s good for women who may be or are actively trying to become pregnant to make sure they get a good amount of folic acid, whether from vitamins or foods like leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and nuts. This is because neural tube defects develop before many women knowing they’re pregnant, so supplementing after a pregnancy test may be too late. 

Vitamin D: 600 international units daily

Like calcium, this fat-soluble vitamin builds your baby’s bones and teeth. Not consuming enough Vitamin D during pregnancy puts your baby at risk of a deficiency at birth. This can delay her physical development, cause abnormal bone growth or lead to rickets. 

A Vitamin D deficiency may also increase your risk gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. More research is needed to prove this link, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, after all!

Other vitamins that can help during pregnancy

“Over-the-counter brands may have some additional vitamins for pregnancy.”

Unfortunately, not all vitamins are created with the same ingredients. Prescription ones are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning they’re required to contain certain nutrients. However, over-the-counter brands may have some additional vitamins that support a healthy pregnancy and your baby’s development.

Copper

You won’t need much additional copper (experts recommend 2 milligrams a day), but given that this mineral helps form blood cells, you might want to look for it in your supplements.

Fatty acids

Most prenatal vitamins don’t contain omega-3 fatty acids, so you may need to use a separate supplement or add more to your diet. Natural sources of omega-3s include nuts, beans and seeds. Fish has a lot of omega-3s as well, but be careful not to consume too much as they also contain mercury.

Iodine

Given that about one-third of pregnant women in the U.S. are iodine deficient, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women add this vital nutrient to their diet and supplements to get at least 150 micrograms daily. Iodine helps your baby’s brain and thyroid development. 

Vitamin A

Another fat-soluble nutrient, Vitamin A helps your baby develop its heart, eyes, lungs, bones, kidneys and respiratory, circulatory and central nervous systems. It also helps you repair tissues after giving birth. You probably don’t need to supplement much as you can easily get enough vitamin A from a healthy diet. In addition, too much has been linked to birth defects. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to supplement this nutrient. The safest form of Vitamin A is beta carotene. 

Vitamin C

This is one of the easiest vitamins to get in your diet, and in fact, taking too much can be dangerous for your baby. According to experts, a pregnant woman requires 85 milligrams of Vitamin C per day, so keep this in mind when looking at your prenatal vitamin options.

Zinc

Zinc contributes to your baby’s cell growth and DNA production. As your child grows from a fertilized egg to a full human infant in approximately nine months, it’s no wonder many medical specialists recommend adding this mineral to your diet. 

Finding the right prenatal nutrients

You can get prenatal vitamins via a doctor’s prescription or over the counter. Prescription vitamins will likely contain the four essentials (iron, calcium, folic acid and Vitamin D), and possibly some of the others. 

So how do you know which ones to take? The answer, of course, is to talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend a mix of prescription and specific over-the-counter supplements to make sure you’re getting the proper nutritional requirements for pregnancy.

a kid rolling out some dough in the kitchen

Healthy Baked Snacks To Give Your Kids

When you have a young kiddo with a sweet tooth, you face the challenge of balancing healthy foods with sugary treats every single day. If that sounds like your kids, you’re going to love these three recipes for tasty, healthy treats for kids: trail mix muffins, gluten-free chocolate pumpkin mini muffins, and flourless chocolate chickpea blondies, yum!

Healthy Trail Mix MuffinsYour toddler will love making and eating these healthy whole-wheat muffins.

Trail Mix Muffins

This healthy mix is a perfect on-the-go snack. It’s sweet without being sugary, and the quinoa, whole wheat flour, and peanut butter are good alternatives to unhealthier additives. Keep these goodies on you when out and about, throw some into a weekend picnic basket or add one to your child’s school lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large, room-temperature egg whites
  • 1 large, room-temperature egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter cut into chunks
  • Extra butter for greasing
  1. Cook the quinoa by boiling water in a sauce pan, adding the grains, reducing the heat to low and simmering for about 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, making sure the rack is in the middle. Grease muffing pans lightly with the extra butter.
  3. Whisk the flours, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
  4. Beat the butter, brown sugar and peanut butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, beating until smooth once more, then beat in the quinoa. Reduce speed to low, then slowly add the milk.
  5. Fold the flour mixture with the wet ingredients. Then, fold in the chocolate chips and cranberries.
  6. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into the batter.
  7. Spoon batter into the muffin tins, then bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Gluten-free chocolate pumpkin mini muffins are tasty and nutritious.

Gluten-free Chocolate Pumpkin Mini Muffins

These flourless muffins make a great, gluten-free dessert. Packed with pumpkin, they serve up a serving of veggies. The almond butter delivers filling protein, and the flaxseed provides some of the Omega-3’s necessary for healthy brain development.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a 24-count mini muffin pan.
  2. Combine pumpkin puree, almond butter, egg, honey, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, flaxseed, cinnamon, and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl or non-immersion blender. Mix until smooth, then manually stir in half the chocolate chips.
  3. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, then top with remaining chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for eight to 10 minutes or golden brown.
Chocolate chip blondies.Made with chickpeas, these delicious blondies are a healthier option.

Flourless Chocolate Chickpea Blondies with Sea Salt

Chickpeas (also known and sold as garbanzo beans) add amazing texture and healthy benefits like fiber and protein to a traditionally unhealthy snack, so you can feel better about serving one of these blondies for dessert!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 ounces) of chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup, honey or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips, plus an extra 2 Tbsp.
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Cooking spray
  1. Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all ingredients minus the chocolate chips in a food processor, blend until smooth. Fold in the measured chips.
  3. Spread the batter evenly on the pan, then sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbsp of chocolate chips on top.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the blondies are golden brown. Do not overbake or you’ll have a pan of dried out blondies!

Grandparents playing with a heart frame shape

6 Ways You Can Help New Parents Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Remember being a new parent? Having a child brought a lot of love into your life, but it also brought a lot of work. You probably remember times where it seemed you and your partner were more like co-workers, both trying your best to take care of your baby but loosing track of your love life.

Now that your children have a little one of their own, they’re going through the same strain. Luckily, you can help them find their romance – and maybe bond with your grandchildren at the same time! Here are six Valentine’s Day ideas to help new parents have a lovely evening:

1. Offer to babysit

It’s a time-honored tradition, and one parents will always appreciate. Offer to take the little one off their hands for a night, giving the new parents an evening for just the two of them. Start babysitting early – think 4 or 5 p.m. as opposed to 9 p.m. This way, the parents can have several hours to themselves to relax, have a nice dinner, catch a movie or do whatever it is they want.

2. Cook a favorite meal

Nothing hits the spot quite like comfort food, and luckily, you know exactly what meals your child likes. Whip up a quick dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches, meat loaf, spaghetti, pancakes or whatever their favorite is. They’ll appreciate the love put into the cooking, and just the taste of their favorite flavors will help them relax.

A cook cutting chicken.Comfort food is appreciated by stressful parents.

3. Clean their home

Chances are the sleepless nights and constant diaper changes have prevented your new parents from keeping their home in order. Even if things are – miraculously – relatively neat, the bookshelves could probably use a good dusting, and the carpet a nice shampoo. Come over one Saturday morning and help the new family clean up. If you aren’t as able-bodied as you used to be, hire a cleaning service instead.

4. Surprise them with flowers and takeout

“Have dinner delivered from their favorite restaurant.”

Thanks to the concept of takeout, you don’t have to be at your child’s house to get them a great meal. Just call up their favorite restaurant and see if they deliver or have partnerships with a delivery service like GrubHub, Uber Eats, Door Dash or Amazon Restaurants. Don’t tell them about the surprise beforehand; just wait for the thank you call a day or two after. And if you want to go the extra mile, have another service deliver some fresh-cut flowers or beautiful chocolates, too!

5. Make a baby care kit

Parenthood is expensive. Many people underestimate the cost of diapers, bottles, burp cloths, pacifiers and other little essentials. Help alleviate some of this burden by putting together a personalized baby care kit. Throw in some essentials along with a few extras that are more fun than functional. A cute idea is to get a set of towels monogrammed with the family’s initials, which reminds the two new parents that they’re in this together.

6. Set up a wine tasting

This is a more traditionally romantic option, and it will remind new parents of what their love was like before the baby. Buy them two tickets to a local wine tasting, either at a vineyard or an upscale restaurant. Alternatively, for a more intimate evening, you can host a wine tasting at home. Grab a few interesting-looking bottles, arrange a nice cheese plate, hire a sitter for the night and head to the parents’ home.

A few quick tips for pulling off a great Valentine’s Day

As new parents, the recipients of your well-intentioned gifts may be too focused on their baby to really enjoy the romantic holiday. Here’s some advice for helping them relax for the evening:

  • Shut down any baby talk. This night is for them, not for their infant. Remind them that the baby is fine, and then redirect the conversation.
  • Prepare early. Give yourself time to get everything in order so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. Restaurants and babysitters book pretty quickly for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll be left out of luck if you don’t get a head start.
  • Do what the parents want. If they say they aren’t into all the romantic stuff, listen to them!

Regardless of which one you choose, any of these six ideas will help you create an amazing Valentine’s Day for the new parents in your life.

Mixed race happy family sitting with a snowman outdoors.

How To Make The Most Of Baby’s First Snow

Despite the brutal cold, the sloppy weather and the ever-present possibility of a snowstorm, winter can be a joyous time of year. It’s an excuse to enjoy your favorite hot beverage once again, take out your cute scarves and coats, have a snowball fight and go ice skating.

When you’re a new mom, it might not be immediately clear what you can still enjoy with your little one in tow. Here’s how to make the most of your baby’s first winter:

Bundle up

Staying warm is the most important part of having a wonderful winter, no matter what age you are. Babies have a harder time regulating their own temperatures than adults, however, making it more important that they’re dressed properly for the weather. Pediatricians generally recommend that parents dress their infants in one more layer than they dress themselves, Parents explained.

Happy little girl on winter walkBundle up your baby and take him for a walk.

Be sure to have all the right gear for your little one. Baby winter coats come in a wide range of styles, as do boots, hats, mittens and snowsuits. Find one that’ll keep your baby warm and protected from the cold against their skin. If your baby is one to suck on his or her fingers or thumb, keep an extra pair of mittens handy. Once the mittens are wet, they’ll only serve to keep hands cold, not warm, Baby Center pointed out.

Explore winter activities together

There are some winter sports your infant will need to wait to experience, like skiing or ice skating. However, you can start to introduce your baby to snow and winter activities early on. Get a small baby toboggan to go on a short snowshoe hike through the woods, or push your baby in a stroller for a walk around your neighborhood. On a nice day, go outside to show your baby the snow. Let her watch it fall and make a snowball for her to touch.

Keep skin hydrated

Most people notice their skin tends to dry out during the winter months. The same is true for babies, but remember: Your infant’s skin is more sensitive than yours. Because of this, you’ll need to pay extra attention to keeping your baby’s skin hydrated.

Remember that you don’t need to bathe your baby every day. This may do more harm than good, as the hot water and soap will dry out his skin faster. When you do give your little guy a bath, be sure to quickly follow up with a moisturizer.

Have fun indoors

When the weather outside is frightful, you can still enjoy winter inside. There are plenty of winter-themed activities you can bring indoors for your baby to enjoy:

Read a wintry book

Cozy up with your baby and a winter-centric book. A few excellent ones include:

  • “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jacks Keats.
  • “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen.
  • “Stella: Queen of the Snow” by Marie-Louise Gay.

Reading these books is a calming way to introduce your baby to concepts of snow, winter and the holidays you celebrate.

Go to a mommy and me class

Chances are, you’re not the only new mom looking for something to do with her baby during this time of year. Check out your local community center, library, university or other institutions to find mommy and me classes, where you and your baby can both socialize.

Explore winter festivals

If you have a winter carnival, a wintertime parade or a winter-themed festival in your town, make some time to explore it. There may be activities for you and your little one to enjoy there, plus you might find some yummy treats or fun purchases to make.

Baby Girl Is Sneezing

What You Need To Know About Baby Allergies

Do allergies run in your family? Unfortunately, your baby might have them, too. But don’t worry; as long as you know what to look for, you should be able to manage reactions with no problem.

Understanding seasonal allergies in babies

Babies usually don’t show signs of seasonal allergies until their early school years, but symptoms can show up as young as age 2. They can occur during every season, although they usually let up during winter. The most common seasonal allergens are:

  • Spring: Tree pollen, mostly from birch, cedar, maple, oak and pine.
  • Summer: Grass pollen, mostly from Bermuda, brome, orchard, rye and Timothy.
  • Fall: Weed pollen, mainly ragweed, nettle, chenopod, sage and plantain.

How do I tell the difference between baby allergies and a cold?

At first, colds and allergic reactions look a lot alike. Symptoms of allergies include:

  • Dark under-eye circles.
  • Itchy, runny nose.
  • Congested, stuffy nose.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Itchy, watery or swollen eyes.
  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • Ear pain.
  • Trouble sleeping through the night.
  • Fatigue.
  • Itchy throat and roof of mouth.
  • Difficulty breathing.

If your child says she has the last symptom, contact a doctor immediately just to be on the safe side.

As you might have noticed, many of these symptoms are the same as a cold. To help you tell the difference, look for these signs:

  • Symptoms last for more than a few weeks.
  • Symptoms don’t react to over-the-counter or prescribed cold medication.
  • Baby doesn’t have a fever.
  • Symptoms occur around the same time every year.
  • Seasonal allergies run in your family.

These are all indicators that what your baby has could be allergies, not a cold.

A little baby sneezing.If cold symptoms don’t clear up after a few weeks, your baby might actually have allergies.

Understanding food allergies

True food allergies are quite rare in babies; most, simply have food sensitivities. Moms can usually spot food allergies during breastfeeding, as baby will consume the allergen through mama’s milk. Many allergies take a while to develop, so symptoms might not show the first time baby ingests an allergen. When introducing a new food that might trigger a reaction, watch your baby closely for the following two hours.

Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Hives.
  • Rashes.
  • Swelling.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

And yes, these symptoms can show during breastfeeding, so observe what you eat to see if anything you ingest triggers an allergic reaction. Common allergens or foods that trigger sensitivities include:

  • Eggs.
  • Peanuts.
  • Tree nuts.
  • Soy.
  • Fruits.
  • Wheat or gluten.
  • Dairy or cow’s milk (check your baby formula!).

Other allergies

Food and pollen are the most common allergies you’ll come across, but here are some others to keep an eye out for:

  • Bugs. Bites and bee stings are uncomfortable but aren’t always allergies. Look for extreme swelling, hives in areas other than the site of the bite and trouble breathing.
  • Sunscreen, detergent, fragrance and other topical allergens. Babies with sensitive skin are particularly susceptible to the chemicals found in many home and health products. Switch to fragrance-free products designed for sensitive skin, and ask your pediatrician for recommendations.
  • Penicillin. Most babies are actually sensitive, but regardless of whether you suspect an allergy or not, consult your pediatrician if your baby reacts to this medication.
  • Pets and pet dander. Symptoms include watery eyes, runny nose, coughing and skin reactions when around pets or pet hair. That said, exposing your child to animals at a young age could reduce the possibility of a pet allergy developing.

Baby allergy testing

Allergic symptoms occur when a baby’s immune system aggressively reacts to a specific trigger by producing an antibody called IgE. This antibody marks the difference between an allergic reaction and a sensitivity, and it’s what allergists test for when looking at your baby.

There are two ways to test for allergies:

  • Skin prick test: Baby receives a small amount of the suspected allergen in the top layer of the skin. Results come within 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Blood test: A doctor draws blood after exposure to an allergen to measure IgE.

Treating baby allergies

Many allergies, including egg, wheat and dairy, tend to disappear as your child grows older. Others persist, but don’t worry. There are many steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms:

  • Use an antihistamine or prescription medication to control side effects.
  • Try immunotherapy to expose baby to small amounts of the allergen to build immunity.
  • Avoid trigger substances as best as possible.
  • Inform other caretakers of allergies.
  • Ask your doctor to refer you to a pediatric allergist.
  • Create an emergency plan which may include an EpiPen.

As long as you stay prepared, managing your baby’s allergies shouldn’t be a problem.

Beautiful blond Caucasian white pregnant woman and her sister, teenager girl, preparing food together

Fun Things To Do Toward The End Of Your Pregnancy

Think your third trimester is all about waiting for your baby to come? Think again! Just because you’re about to give birth doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. And with maternity leave and swollen feet, you’ve got to do something to take your mind off the boredom and aches.

We’re here to help! Here are some fun pregnancy activities to help pass the time until your due date:

Decorate your belly

If you’re a homebody (and who can blame you; you’re pregnant!) but still want something to do, well, just look down! Your belly is a beautiful canvas that’s a lot of fun to decorate. Here are some ideas:

  • Henna: This temporary dye is known for its rich color and the beautiful patterns that artists create on skin. Just make sure you choose henna formulated without lead.
  • Rhinestones: You can buy packets of all sizes and colors at your nearest craft store. After that, head to the beauty store and pick up some eyelash glue. Drop a small bit of the glue onto the back of the rhinestone, then adhere it wherever you want. The eyelash glue acts as a firm but easily removable adhesive, so you can make new patterns again and again.
  • Hand prints: If you have children already, have them dip their hands in body paint and then press them against your belly. This is a cute activity that’s definitely worthy of Instagram.

Go to the spa

Once your baby comes, you probably won’t have much time for self care. Best to get all your spa days in before the due date! Many traditional places have packages just for pregnant women, and some even have tables with openings for your belly, so you can still get a massage while lying facedown.

A pregnant woman getting a massage.A day at the spa is just what you need to soothe those pregnancy aches and pains.

A facial is also a great choice, especially if pregnancy hormones are ravaging your skin. And if your feet absolutely ache, a foot massage or reflexology appointment will do wonders. Some even say the latter technique can alleviate aches and pains in other areas of the body.

Have a mocktail party

Host one last party with your girlfriends, but put mocktails on the menu. While they obviously won’t have alcohol, you can make drinks at home that look just as beautiful as the ones at your favorite brunch place. Here are some drinks from Town and Country to add to your menu:

  • Rosemary blueberry smash: Muddle rosemary leaves, blueberries and honey syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, then add ice and lemon juice. Shake, then strain into a glass of fresh ice. Finish with sparkling water and a rosemary sprig for garnish.
  • Spicy watermelon mint agua fresca: Mix 2 cups cold water, 2 cups watermelon (seeded and chopped with rind removed), 1/2 cup mint leaves, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/2 jalapeno and juice from 1/2 lime into a blender and puree until smooth, then strain into a pitcher for serving.
  • Nice pear: Combine 2 oz. pear juice, 1 oz. lemon juice and 3/4 oz. rosemary-infused simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a glass and top with soda water.

Host a cooking party

Again, life will be hectic when your baby comes, so having some premade food in the freezer will definitely come in handy. Partner with your spouse, a parent, a few friends or whoever you’re willing to let into your kitchen and prep a bunch of freezable meals you can throw into a slow cooker. What seems like work will be a lot more fun when you’re in a group! Sweet Peas and Saffron has a great list of tasty slow-cooker recipes to get you started.

With activities like these, you’ll definitely enjoy the last stages of your pregnancy.

Shot of an attractive young woman cooking at home

Is It Safe To Follow a Diet While Breastfeeding?

A new diet trend crops up seemingly every year, leaving many moms wondering, “Is it safe to do this while breastfeeding?”

The ketogenic diet is one of them. An incredibly popular weight-loss method, it’s creators claim the high-fat, low-carb eating plan trains the body to use fat as its main source of energy instead of carbohydrates. This means meat, veggies, butter, nuts, cream and oils are OK, but beans, grains, fruits and potatoes are a no-go.

All things considered, keto sounds like the best the dieting world has to offer. You can eat lots of foods that are normally restricted, and the heavy fat content can make you feel full on fewer calories. Although it’s hard to find official studies, health experts caution against adopting a keto lifestyle while you’re nursing.

The main issue is that it’s simply too restrictive. Any extreme eating plan, keto or otherwise, prevents you from getting the nutrients you need to breastfeed. Keto in particular reduces starchy foods and fruits, starving your body of fiber and water. A lack of fiber causes digestive issues, while dehydration reduces milk supply. Plus, cutting out carbs can leave exhausted new moms feeling even more tired, as the brain needs carbohydrates to focus.

So if keto and other extreme diets are no good, what’s a healthy way to lose weight when you’ve got a baby attached to your boob?

A young woman holding an apple up to her face.Nursing moms need a well-balanced diet.

Dieting while breastfeeding: What you should know

Before you focus on losing weight, it’s important to know what nutrients you need while nursing. The last thing you want to do is alter your milk supply or its nutritional content.

What to Expect recommended nursing moms consume the following nutrients each day:

  • 5 servings of calcium.
  • 3 servings of protein.
  • 2 servings of Vitamin C.
  • 3 to 4 servings of leafy green or yellow fruits and vegetables.
  • 1 serving of other fruits and vegetables.
  • At least 2 to 3 weekly servings of Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • At least 1 serving of iron.
  • At least 3 servings of complex carbohydrates and whole grains.
  • Small amounts of high-fat foods.

Now, let’s talk about calories. Just the act of making milk burns between 300 and 500 per day, so breastfeeding is its own type of workout. If you’re trying to lose baby weight, you don’t really need to count or restrict your caloric intake. The average nursing mom needs between 1,500 and 1,800 calories per day, according to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kelly Bonyata. You only need to diet if you had extra fat before getting pregnant or you gained more weight during those nine months than your doctor recommended.

Finally, wait until your baby is at least two months before starting to diet to give your body enough time to get used to producing a healthy milk supply.

Now that you’ve got all that down, dieting while breastfeeding is really all about cutting calories. Decrease them gradually, as a sudden drop could reduce milk supply. This, of course, means you should avoid quick-fix solutions or diets that try to alter the body’s natural processes, such as keto.

Photo of a young family preparing breakfast together in their kitchen

How To Prepare for Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

Over the years, baby and parenting advice has changed quite a bit. For instance, a few decades ago, pregnant women were told that they should “toughen up” their nipples in order to prepare for breastfeeding. Not only was this not a helpful tip and made no difference once baby was born, but it also caused quite a few young moms some considerable pain.

Fast forward, and we now know much more about the process of breastfeeding and how to prepare for it. There are things you can do to get ready while you’re still pregnant, which will make things much easier once your little bundle of joy has arrived in the world.

Educate yourself

First and foremost, it’s important that expectant moms get as much information on breastfeeding as they can from reputable sources. Reading about the process, watching videos and even observing friends or family members during nursing can be incredibly helpful. The changes your body will undergo during milk production, the proper way to help baby latch, different breastfeeding positions you can use and how many times you can expect to feed each day are all good things to read up on.

In addition to doing your research and speaking with other nursing moms you know, BabyCenter noted that taking a breastfeeding class during your last trimester is definitely something you should consider. These classes are often hosted by local hospitals – check with the facility that you’ve chosen for birth to see what they might offer.

Close up of baby latched on to Mom, breastfeeding. There are a few things expectant moms can do to prepare for breastfeeding before the baby comes.

Buy the necessary items

As an expectant mom, chances are good that you’ve seen all kinds of parenting gadgets to help you after baby is born. Unsurprisingly, there are a few items that can make breastfeeding much smoother and easier and help you bond with your little one during feeding time. Go on a little shopping trip, or order these things online ahead of time so you’ll be ready and familiar with everything you need before baby’s birth.

A few items to consider include:

  • Nursing bras: These comfortable support garments include little flap closures so you don’t have to remove clothing before feeding time. As BabyCenter noted, expectant moms should wait until the last few weeks of their pregnancy before shopping for nursing bras, as this is when your chest will be closest to its postpartum size. It might also be helpful to buy at least a size up – your breasts will grow during milk production and you don’t want an uncomfortable bra that’s too tight.
  • Breast pump: You’ll definitely want to have this device, even if you don’t plan on pumping regularly. It’s even possible to get a breast pump with the help of your insurance.
  • Breast pads: These helpful items ensure that a little leaking doesn’t ruin your day – or your favorite shirt. There are both disposable and washable/reusable varieties available.

Make sure you have support

Especially during the first few weeks after birth, much of a new mom’s day consists of breastfeeding, resting and bonding with baby. This leaves little time for necessary household chores, so it’s good to have a system set up beforehand – tapping friends and family for assistance can be a blessing during baby’s first few days and weeks.

As Today’s Parent contributor Teresa Pitman noted, the same goes for nursing help: Looking up available resources ahead of time will make things much less stressful should a problem come up. Edwina Hoffman, a new mom from the U.K. who had just moved to Canada found help with La Leche League, an organization with local groups all over the world.

Breastfeeding is an important time for mom and baby, and being prepared ahead of baby’s birth can make the process much easier. Check out our tips to learn even more about how you can get ready for breastfeeding your baby.

Cropped shot of a pregnant woman preparing a meal on the stove at home

What Am I Supposed To Eat When I’m Pregnant?

Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is one of the top pieces of advice expecting moms hear from their doctors. Everyone knows that eating healthy is a good thing, but what are the specific benefits for mom and baby? And is mom really eating for two?

We’ve got the answers. Here’s everything you need to know about the foods you should eat while pregnant:

The benefits of a healthy pregnancy diet

Knowing how diet affects you and your baby encourages you to make healthy food decisions. Good food makes you feel great, but here are some specific reasons to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet.

Healthy diet benefits for you include:

  • Supporting a comfortable pregnancy: Proper nutrition minimizes uncomfortable side effects like constipation, fatigue and morning sickness.
  • Decreasing odds of complications: A good diet can prevent preeclampsia, anemia, gestational diabetes and other issues.
  • Improving delivery and recovery: Eating well increases your odds of a timely labor and delivery, as well as supporting faster postpartum recovery.

Healthy diet benefits for your baby include:

  • Encouraging proper health: Getting the right nutrients from mom increases the chance that your baby will be born at a healthy weight and supports brain development.
  • Decreasing risks of certain birth defects: Lacking specific nutrients while in the womb can affect your baby for life. For example, according to Everyday Health, a lack of vitamin B9 (also known as folate or folic acid) can lead to neural tube defects, which are developmental problems in the brain and spinal cord. Similarly, a lack of vitamins B2 and B3 increases the risk of your baby being born with congenital heart disease.
A pregnant woman posing with fresh fruits and vegetables.Fresh vegetables are full of the vitamins you need during pregnancy.

Foods to eat while pregnant

While you are technically eating for two (or more!), the baby growing inside your body isn’t a reason to eat anything and everything. It’s OK to eat more, but your diet should focus on getting the right amounts of nutrients rather than simply increasing calories.

On that note, you really don’t need to focus on gaining weight and increasing calories until later in your pregnancy. Per the Mayo Clinic, women at a normal weight should gain one to four pounds during their first few months, then about one pound per week (or an extra 300 calories per day) during the second and third trimesters. These recommendations will shift if you’re over- or underweight. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor before following these (or any) pregnancy dieting guidelines.

“The food you eat and the prenatal vitamins you take work together.”

On that note, be sure to take your prenatal vitamins as prescribed. While these nutrients are to support your baby’s development, they aren’t a substitute for healthy eating habits. The food you eat and the vitamins you take work together for optimum health.

As noted before, any food increases should be focused on adding more nutrients, not just calories. The ones you definitely want to focus on are:

  • Fiber: Necessary for baby’s development and helpful for relieving constipation.
  • Iron: Used to make hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen. Both you and your baby will need lots of hemoglobin during pregnancy.
  • Calcium: Builds baby’s bones and teeth.
  • Iodine: Supports baby’s brain and nervous system development.
  • Vitamin C: Helps you absorb iron and builds collagen, a protein in your child’s muscles, bones, blood vessels and cartilage.
  • Vitamin B9: Produces blood, supports enzyme function and prevents neural-tube and developmental defects.
  • Vitamin A: Creates the cells that make up baby’s internal organs and supports healthy eyes, skin and bones.
  • Complex carbohydrates: Provides both energy and fiber.
  • Fat: Provides energy and helps metabolize vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Zinc: Aids fetal growth.

What foods support these nutritional goals? We’re glad you asked:

  • Whole grains: These complex carbohydrates provide both fiber and energy. Choose brown rice, whole grain or sprouted bread, barley, oatmeal, millet and popcorn. Avoid simple carbs like white sugar and white bread, which are far less nutrient-rich.
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, lettuce and other dark green vegetables are some of the best foods for you. They’re jam-packed with vitamins like iron, folate, vitamin C and vitamin A.
  • Eggs: Provides healthy fats and vitamin D.
  • Lean meat and poultry: These are great sources of protein and iron.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are high in both fiber and protein.

On that note, here are the foods you should avoid:

  • Unpasteurized juice and dairy.
  • Raw fish.
  • Undercooked meat.
  • Undercooked or partially cooked eggs.

Any of these could contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, which is known to cause miscarriages.

In addition, limit your intake of the following:

  • Coffee.
  • Alcohol (Some doctors say an occasional glass of wine is fine, while others say to cut alcohol completely).

Finally, don’t let all this advice stress you out. In all likelihood, you won’t need a complete upheaval of your diet to have a healthy pregnancy. Just keep these tips in mind, consult with your doctor and maybe learn a few new recipes, and you’ll be right on track.

a plane flying into a sky

Top Tips on Traveling With a Toddler

The unofficial start of summer is here, and parents everywhere are packing up and taking their kids on vacation. But, if you’re one of the many moms and dads with a toddler on your hands, then the thought of traveling with your little one might leave you shuddering. Toddlerhood is both a blessing and a curse, what with your child growing both more curious and fussier than ever.

Don’t let these fears keep you from enjoying the most summer has to offer. Whether you’re driving for an hour or taking a plane across the ocean, use these tips to make vacationing a breeze.

General tips for traveling with toddlers

A little girl in a car seat.Keep your toddler happy with these general travel tips.

There are some ideas you’ll want to keep in mind regardless of your style of travel or your destination. Remembering these travel tips for every trip will keep your toddler happy and save you some stress.

  • Pack a spare change of clothes for your toddler and yourself. Accidents are bound to happen, meaning you’ll need a change of clothes or two. Don’t forget to pack some for yourself – the last thing you want is to spend several hours in a shirt covered in sticky snack crumbs.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes. Same as above: Accidents happen. Plus, if you’re taking public transportation like a bus or plane, you’re exposing your toddler to tons of germs. You don’t want your child to miss out on all the vacation fun because he or she is sick, so wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Travel in the morning. Everyone loves to sleep in, including toddlers. Kids are more likely to snooze through early morning travel, whereas they tend to stay awake during the afternoon.
  • Pack as much entertainment as possible. You may avoid iPads and video games on a normal day, but these will be lifesavers when traveling. Bring as many things as you can pack, such as:
    • Video games.
    • Coloring books.
    • Crayons.
    • Tablets with games or movies.
    • Story books.
  • Don’t bring what you can rent or buy at your destination. Airlines, theme parks, hotels and similar places often have strollers and child-friendly seats available. You can buy diapers, formula and other necessities at a convenience store, so only bring what you need for the actual travel time.

Tips for traveling by car

Road trips are an American past time, and they can be an enjoyable experience for you and your toddler if you prepare well.

  • Drive overnight on long trips. Your toddler will sleep soundly throughout the whole trip, and you won’t have to take nearly as many bathroom breaks. Of course, this is only feasible if you’re a night person and won’t get too sleepy yourself.
  • Use pull ups.  Even if your child is potty trained, a pull up gives you additional peace of mind.
  • Time your stops most effectively. Every pit stop should include a bathroom break and a chance to stretch your legs. If you’re stopping at a rest area, let your kids run around a bit to tire themselves out. Also, check your gas level before departing, and make sure no one is hungry before getting back on the road. It’s best to knock as many things out at once so you don’t stop every half hour.

Tips for traveling by plane

“Some kids are excellent fliers, but not all of them.”

Let’s face it – air travel is annoying. Yet, for as frustrated as you get going through security, finding your gate and sitting down for an hours-long flight, your toddler will likely be even more upset. Some kids are excellent fliers, but not all of them. Here are some tips for flying with children to keep them placated (and prevent you from tearing your hair out):

  • Take advantage of early boarding. Most airlines will call for parents with small children to board the plane first. Take advantage of the opportunity to find your seat easily without other passengers around. This also gives you more time to store your carryon luggage in the overhead bin, which tends to run out of space quickly.
  • Bring lots of gum, lollipops, pacifiers and/or sippy cups. Children have smaller Eustachian tubes, so the pressure changes during takeoff and landing can really hurt their ears. Chewing or sucking opens the tube to alleviate the discomfort.
  • Try to get a seat toward the front of the plane. You’ll be one of the first ones to deplane upon landing, which is great when you’ve got a fussy little one.
  • Be mindful of potty breaks. The pilots can’t delay the flight just because your child needs a potty break right before taking off. Make sure your little one goes as close to departure as possible. Also, keep in mind that the captain may not turn off the seatbelt sign for short-distance flights, meaning your toddler won’t be able to get up to use the bathroom.

Traveling with toddlers isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With proper planning, you and your family can enjoy a fantastic summer vacation.