I'm not sure about you, but when I provide birth support to my clients, I inherently know that I need to take care of myself first so that I can be the best for them, but I often forget! Thank you to Natalie for sharing this wonderful article with tips to help us all stay nourished and prepared for long births!
- Tanya Hill, Doula Canada administrator
Real Food for Labour Doulas
It is my belief that food should be real ... ALL the time. This connects us to what we eat, connects us to the earth, our fellow humans who have grown/raised/collected the food, the plants and animals that make up our environments and so much more. It helps us be conscious and it nourishes our bodies and our souls.
So when it comes to attending birth, of course I feel that rule should take priority. Try to avoid packaged, processed foods and drinks and just stick to real food ... things that have been grown, raised, collected and likely don't come in extensive packaging with a long ingredient list!
It seems simple, but it really is a very well rounded approach that covers many aspects of well-being. To start, it is important to remember that our diets need to be comprised of Macro-nutrients ... Fats, Proteins, and Carbohydrates (not the more commonly thought of 4 food groups). Before heading out to a birth, it's a good idea to be mindful that you attain all three of these in your meal.
Protein: Helps build/repair/sustain most tissues that make up our bodies. Having adequate protein in your meals will help you feel full, satisfied and maintain stable energy levels throughout the hours that you are at a birth. A serving the size of your palm is plenty for most people.
Fats: Fat is the densest form of energy. The energy from good fats will keep you going both physically and mentally without the typical 'crash' associated with sugar induced energy. Fat is also nutrient dense and wonderful for your body in many other ways. Examples of good fats include: Eggs, coconut oil, avocados, fish, olive oil, grass-fed meats.
Carbohydrates: I think everyone is aware that fruits and vegetables do wonders for your body and this is what you should grab when you are filling the carb portion of your meal. They will provide numerous vitamins, nutrients, energy and hydration to pull you through the long hours attending a birth.
When you are on call, have an idea of a few different meals ideas (depending on the time of day you are called, you may have different preferences) and have the ingredients on hand. That way you aren't leaving with an empty tank or grabbing something unhealthy just because you're in a rush and nothing else is available. It is also important to remember that in the same ways that good foods build you up, poor food choices will also bring you down, make you feel sluggish, fatigued and depleted.
Once you have arrived at a birth, food and food choices are likely the last thing that is going to be on your mind ... so, again, having a bag of snacks prepared ahead of time whenever you are on call can really go a long way. Millions of dollars of marketing campaigns will lead you to believe that snacks are only available to humans in package form ... However, if you stick to the rule of real food, you again will experience higher energy, better health and more mental clarity for the extended hours throughout your birth. I'll throw out a few ideas here, but really any real food will do when it comes to a quick snack.
1. Top of the list is the wonderful, glorious avocado! Avocados are the holy grail of snacks, packed with healthy fat and nutrients. You can easily slip a pairing knife, a spoon and an avocado in your bag and you instantly have a nutritious and delicious snack on the go. (Side note: avocados are shaped like a uterus and take nine months of growth from conception to ripening, so they really do seem like a fitting snack at a birth, right!? Plus, they are thought to aid the uterus in contracting and regaining shape postpartum so you can take an extra for your client to enjoy post birth).
2. Berries! Berries are wonderful, pop in your mouth snacks that are great when you need something fast. They are filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants and energy boosters. Berries are also great because they have a lower glycemic index than most other fruits, which allows your blood sugar to remain stable. Fresh berries are great, but if you are in a position where you want something more tidy, Goji berries usually come dried and really pack a huge punch nutrition and energy wise.
3. Homemade Chocolate. So easy, so delicious! Four ingredients: 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, 1/4 cup raw honey, 1 cup crushed, raw almonds (optional). In a saucepan melt coconut oil on low heat. Stir in cacao powder. Take off burner and stir in honey, then almonds. Pour into parchment lined 8x8 dish and cool in fridge/freezer. Cut into bars and store in fridge/freezer. This is a powerhouse of energy and loaded with nutrients. In my experience you should likely take extra because Mom's in labour love this snack and if there are midwives there they'll want some too :)
4. Eggs!!! Eggs are the most completely perfect food, full of protein, healthy fats and numerous vitamins. Note: Farm-raised, free-range eggs are superior nutritionally as well as ethically.
5. Any and all real fruits and vegetables. Whole fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, or cut up melons, and veggies such as peppers, carrots, celery, and cucumbers are the simplest form of snacks but they do wonders for your body. Along with a potent array of vitamins, fruits and veggies are filled with water and really help to hydrate your body (especially important in a hospital setting). Having veggies already cut up in your fridge ready to get tossed in your birth bag is a great idea when you're on call (make sure to eat them every couple of days and cut up new ones if you don't get called so they remain fresh). Cucumbers in particular are extremely hydrating and contain a nearly complete make-up of vitamins, including B vitamins which are fantastic for boosting energy. Taking a small container of full fat yogurt or homemade hummus is always a nice add (depending on the intensity of the birth you are attending you may or may not have time for dipping).
Hydration: Getting enough water to drink is something we are trained to help our clients with, but we need to remember for ourselves as well. It is crucial to stay hydrated in order for us to function at our best. Staying hydrated though out the birth will not only keep our energy levels up and allow us to support our clients better, it will also help carry us back into our everyday lives with an easier transition, shortening our 'recovery' time needed after a long birth.
Labour Aid is something you may have heard of as a great option for Mom's in labour, but it's great for Doula's in labour too :) Here's an example recipe ... 4 cups water or coconut water, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup raw honey, liquid calcium/magnesium (as per dosage instructions on bottle), 1/4 tsp sea salt (I like Himalayan Pink salt).
Coffee/Energy Drinks. The common denominator in most of these type of drinks is caffeine, which directly affects/stimulates your central nervous system, which links to your 'fight or flight' response. That jolt to your system is going to affect everyone a little differently, but for most people your body becomes a little (or a lot) more jittery, restless, anxious, instead of more calm, peaceful, relaxing, which is the energy we are trying to pass on to our clients. I personally am a coffee lover, I drink coffee most days, but not at births. Additionally, the sugar content in most of those drinks is atrocious and will likely lead to a pretty heavy crash that outweighs any of the initial energy benefits.
Following a birth, especially a long or hard birth, it is important to take time to gently reset your body. This is the time to eat foods that not only nourish your body, but are comfort foods that nourish your soul. Many people find soup to be one of those foods, but you will know what is right for you. I personally connect strongly with the Ayurvedic principals towards food during this time. “What you put in your body has a direct effect not only on your body but also on your mind and soul – on how you lead your life. If your food is full of Prana, life force, it will give you the ability to live your life to your fullest potential. Food that is pure, full of Prana and prepared with love, meditation and good healing vibrations gives you much more than just the feeling of satisfaction to the taste buds. It nourishes your body, mind, senses and soul while increasing physical energy, positive thinking, creativity, longevity and heightened awareness of like in all its beauty. It brings you closer to the Divine state.” - Darshana Thacker, Ayurvedic Chef.
About your Author:
Natalie is a certified HALO birth doula and in training to be a holistic nutritionist servicing the Prince Edward County, Belleville/Quinte, Trenton and Kingston area. You can find her business – Positive Birth Doula – on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/PositiveBirthDoula
Interested in sharing your thoughts on the Doula Canada page?