Jaren Soloff RD, IBCLC talks to Kristin about her new book The Postnatal Cookbook and the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and especially postpartum.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask The Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Thanks for listening!  This is Kristin, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas and co-host of Ask the Doulas, and I’ve got Jaren Soloff with me today.  Welcome, Jaren!

Jaren:  Thank you so much for having me!  I’m excited to have this conversation with you.

Kristin:  Yeah, I’m excited to chat!  So Jaren, you are the author of The Postnatal Cookbook, as well as a nutritionist.  So you’re a registered dietician and an international board-certified lactation consultant?

Jaren:  I am, yes.  I love to be able to combine those two, and I use both of those credentials that I have in my private practice.

Kristin:  That’s fantastic.  So obviously you work with women throughout pregnancy and especially in the postpartum time, so it makes sense that you would be able to give your clients your cookbook and so on.  I know you shared it with me maybe about four or five months ago, and I love all of the recipes.  Everything is easy to do, and our postpartum doulas have even been able to make some of the snacks for their clients, which has been fantastic.

Jaren:  Oh, I love that!

Kristin:  So tell us a bit about your journey with creating the cookbook and about your passion in working with women, especially in the postpartum time.

Jaren:  Absolutely.  You know, my interest in my practice kind of aligns.  They’re all interconnected.  The cookbook is really something that falls so well within what I hope to offer women through my practice, which is simple, evidence-based tools to be able to support postpartum.  And I think like many of us in birth work, we either have always known that it’s something that we want to move towards and maybe we stumble a little bit through different career paths to get there or our own journey becoming a mother really just validates and solidifies that interest.  And I would say it’s kind of a combination of the two.  I studied women’s studies in college and then gradually transitioned to doing my nutrition studies, but I always knew I was going to kind of work in this area.  I wasn’t quite sure what specifically that was going to mean for me, but I knew that I was going to be somewhere along those lines.  And I had my daughter very long.  I had a pretty storied past with a rocky relationship with food and body image.  I struggled with an eating disorder, and my early journey of motherhood was still very early on in my recovery.  So I started to really understand a lot more about that layer of my recovery, of coming to find a new relationship with food, but also understanding how impactful my relationship with food and body image was going to be with having a daughter and becoming a mother, and thinking about not only breastfeeding but having to feed my daughter and how complex so many of those feelings really became when I had my own concerns around food.  So it felt really isolating at the time.  My daughter is 9 now, and I think there were probably people talking about it, but the eating disorder field is still very new, so we weren’t having a lot of these conversations about how postpartum can be a really vulnerable time for individuals in recovery or just any food or body image concerns overall.  So now I think we’re doing a better job of having these conversations, and that’s really my hope with Full Circle is bringing it full circle.  It’s about supporting women in their own healing with food and body image but also if they need support in feeding their baby so that we’re not passing on any of these concerns to our children and we’re really stopping that intergenerational cycle of dieting, of body shame, of food concerns along the way.

Kristin:  Right.  That is definitely a big concern with a lot of my doula clients.  I used to teach an eight-week class where one of the weeks in that was all about body image, and it was amazing how many women really struggle with the changes in their body during pregnancy and then how they perceive themselves or even society in that weight gain and the need to feel like you’re able to lose it quickly.  There’s a lot of stress around that.  I know in your cookbook, you talk about the importance of nutrition and just nourishing yourself, especially for breastfeeding moms.  Can you talk a bit more about the importance of even having some of the snacks and your recipes throughout the day to keep up the endurance dealing the healing time?

Jaren:  Absolutely.  You know, we kind of generally hear, in terms of nutrition for breastfeeding, I mean, all that I heard when I had my daughter is, make sure you’re eating an extra few hundred calories, and that’s about all I got.  And keep taking your prenatal.  Which is so generic and so minimizing of just how important that nutrition really is.  And, you know, we kind of term that postpartum period, as I’m sure you use in the language as well, as the fourth trimester.  And think about how much nutrition information you received during pregnancy.  I mean, every single trimester there’s, you know, focus on these foods and, you know, be mindful of this and be mindful of that.  And as soon as you arrive in the fourth trimester, you don’t really get any of that, when in fact I found in much of the research that our energy needs are just as high, if not higher, in the postpartum period which makes perfect sense because your body just went through this huge change and there’s a ton of healing that really has to happen on top of if you choose to and are able to breastfeed, it requires a lot more nutrition to be able to supply that.  So I’m saying energy needs, and I mean calories, and I don’t typically use language of calories, but more so just to emphasize that your appetite is usually higher during the fourth trimester, which makes complete sense, and it’s really important to — I use the term — I focus on intuitive eating, which I can talk about a little bit more, too, but of course nutrition is really important to me and important that I communicate that to my clients, but I use the practice of what I call gentle nutrition, which is, you know, we can be mindful of making sure we get enough protein, for example, or focusing on our omega-3s or calcium or vitamin D, but we’re also going to be flexible because postpartum, most moms don’t have very much time to prepare meals or eat.  So we’ve got to be flexible with it, as well.

Kristin:   Definitely.  So what about moms who either already have an allergy or need to cut out dairy based on how their baby’s responding?  What tips do you have for them?

Jaren:  Yes.  It’s a great question.  I’m sure that you see it often, as I do now.  It seems like it’s happening more frequently, and it’s hard to know if it’s the chicken or the egg.  Is it because we are more aware of it and we have some sensitivities to being on the lookout for it, or is the incidence really rising?  And I talked about it just briefly in the book because it’s such a common concern that I hear with my clients, and I shared some of the statistics which is the incident of food allergies, true food allergies, in infants is very, very low.  I’m forgetting the percent, but I think it’s down in the less than five percent of babies actually have a cow’s milk protein intolerance or some type of other food allergy during infancy.  That’s not to say that — you know, if you are under that small percentage, of course, that experience is still so difficult and really can be challenging to navigate, but just to point out that one of the patterns I’ve noticed in my clinical practice is that we are so quick to go to our diet as moms to think that that’s the cause of what might be upsetting our babies, but sometimes we’re not taking that full spectrum of, like, well, what’s normal infant fussiness, or could there be other factors we could rule out here?  We tend to kind of go to our diet and see if we need to eliminate anything, and I think that’s really concerning to me as a dietician because it is a very, very stressful process.  I never had any of these concerns with my daughter, but just the clients I’ve supported, it is so mentally stressful to think that what you’re eating could be hurting or harming your baby or is the reason that your baby isn’t sleeping well or is uncomfortable.  So I always say, if there is any concern around food allergies, if you have looked at some of the underlying causes — and I always recommend working with a lactation consultant because there could be body tension.  There could be some body work we could do.  There could be positioning tricks we could try.  There’s lots of different pieces that we might want to rule out first.  But try to work with a dietician and lactation consultant so that way you have the support if you do need to look at your diet and eliminate anything.  Because going it on your own can be so stressful and so isolating, and moms usually don’t come to me until they’re eating only a handful of foods and they are tearful and at their wit’s end because they don’t have anything to eat and they’re so scared of hurting their baby.  So there’s a lot of moving pieces there, but those are some of my thoughts on the food allergy piece.

Kristin:  And then another topic that a lot of my clients have concerns with is related to wanting to have a nutritious diet, and as you mentioned, not having the time or necessarily energy when you’re focused on healing and nourishing baby, but well-meaning friends and family members bring food, but it’s not necessarily the healthiest or best food for them to be having in the postpartum, the postnatal phase.  So what advice do you have to encourage family members, other than gifting them your cookbook, potentially?

Jaren:  I love that idea.  Yes, that’s come up a few times.  We talked about how great would it be to not only gift a new mom the cookbook but for someone else to, like — you know, for mom to tab some of the recipes and share it with her postpartum doula or share it with her family, if they’re offering to set up a meal train.  I think that would be my hope for every mom or new family is to have that kind of support.  But you can also use the postnatal cookbook prenatally and do some batch cooking.  I know most of my clients will start to do some batch cooking towards the end of their pregnancy just to kind of stock up a little bit.  But it’s nice to have the recipes in the postnatal cookbook because they’re already going to kind of meet your needs when you arrive home and you’re in that phase.  So that can be one option that you can consider, as well.

Kristin:  That’s great advice.  So I love the idea of batch cooking, and my clients do that.  They don’t necessarily have those recipes in mind; they’re just finding easy, freezable foods.  So thinking ahead about the nutrition that they need.  So what advice do you have for clients who again are in that — they’re pregnant; they’re nearing — they’re in their second or third trimester, and they’re really trying to keep as nourished as possible?  I know this is a postnatal cookbook, but you mentioned they can use the recipes throughout pregnancy.  So optimizing nutrition — yeah, I’d love some tips on that for my pregnant clients.

Jaren:  Yes.  So, you know, I think overall, in terms of what you can do during pregnancy to prepare for nutrition and for recovering postpartum, what comes to mind is some of the big ones, so making sure that you are stocked up on quick and easy proteins.  Those typically take the longest to cook and are really important, especially during the third trimester, as there’s a lot of growth and development happening.  Usually moms are pretty fatigued at that time and point in pregnancy, too, so having some quick options, and that might mean getting a rotisserie chicken and using some frozen turkey meatballs and having some of those maybe more prepared foods.  And you can be mindful about what you’re selecting, but it can be really helpful and really practical to kind of support that transition over as you’re kind of nearing the end of your pregnancy.  I also really encourage, towards the end of pregnancy, continuing to be really mindful about your omega-3 intake.  Omega-3s are primarily found in our fatty fish, like salmon, and of course you can take an omega-3 supplement, but it’s one of the nutrients that we know is so impactful for brain health for baby and also for mom during breastfeeding as one of the nutrients that can really change in their breastmilk.  So that’s one I really love to help moms focus on, as well.

Kristin:  Do you have any other tips or suggestions for our listeners?

Jaren: In terms of general postpartum, I really think having that support and having a postpartum plan, and you could probably speak to this as a doula and the postpartum doulas that you work with, is really thinking about and preparing for the fourth trimester.  I’m hopeful that we’re doing a better job of supporting moms and parents in moving towards that because I think the focus has been on preparing for pregnancy, preparing for birth, and when moms get to the other side, so to speak, it’s like, wow.  I wish I would have prepared and known what to expect in the fourth trimester.  I wish I would have had a lactation consultant on call.  I wish I would have hired a postpartum doula, and all those different pieces that really help you once baby is in your arms.  So I really think being skillful and mindful about having a postpartum plan and getting that support in place, whether it’s around how are you going to get your grocery shopping done or who’s going to be preparing meals for you, can be so, so, so helpful for that transition to the fourth trimester.

Kristin:  I agree.  We talk about that with our clients, that we do so much planning during pregnancy for the birth, but then thinking about communicating your needs with family and friends and setting up expectations and a plan for support after baby is so crucial.  So I’m glad you mentioned that.

Jaren:  Absolutely.

Kristin:  Jaren, I know that your book came out in December of 2020.  I’d love to hear about how things are going with the release, and our listeners would love to, of course, know how to find it and find you directly.  So if you could share some of that information, that’d be great.

Jaren:  Absolutely.  Yes, it’s going great.  I mean, I’m really enjoying actually seeing individuals cook the recipes and hearing thoughts and feedback.  It’s such a unique feeling to kind of put something out into the world and see how it’s really being received, so it’s been really cool to see how moms are actually using it in this way during postpartum.  So if you’re interested, on my website, I actually am sharing a free sample of the book, just so you can see my recipes and make sure that they sound good to you.  I put in a small excerpt from one of the chapters, as well, so if you’re not ready to buy, you can download that free excerpt first, and then you can also find the book on my website, as well, or you can go on Amazon.  It’s also available at some of the major retailers like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and some of those stores, as well.  But on my website is the best place to find it and get a little bit more information.

Kristin:  And you’re on some other social media channels, as well, correct?

Jaren:  Yeah, I’m more active on Instagram.  I use it to try to provide some quick tips and little mini tutorials for moms if you’re hopping on there.  So you can find that through my website or directly on Instagram.  I’d love to connect with you there.  Thanks so much for having this conversation with me!

Kristin:  Thank you, Jaren.  It was great to chat, and I hope you have a great rest of your day!

Jaren:  Thank you!


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