Interview with Nutritional Therapist Josie Penn

As holistic midwives, we aim to educate and support women to optimise their health and wellbeing in the pregnancy and postnatal period. Nutrition is such an essential element for pregnancy and postpartum so we turned to the expert Josie Penn, a Nutritional Therapist specialising in Pregnancy and Postpartum to ask her some questions around optimal nutrition and the importance of it through your pregnancy and parenting journey.

Josie Penn- Nutritional Therapist

Josie Penn Headshot.jpeg

What made you want to be a Nutritional Therapist?

Before I retrained, I was working at a palliative care cancer charity in the UK called Marie Curie. Whilst working there, a close friends mother was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently treated within an allopathic (western medicine) framework.

Around the same time I had a chance meeting with a naturopath in London who really opened my eyes to to the power of naturopathic medicine in both a preventative and healing capacity.

Although I see western medicine as crucially important, in this particular context I became disheartened by western cancer therapies. The holistic approach of nutritional therapy just made complete sense, offering the patient an empowering and engaging healing journey in a way western medicine rarely does.

There’s a lot of mixed advice around on diet, what foods should women be eating for a healthy pregnancy and postnatal period?

Now thats a tricky question because no one food or even food group does it all. In pregnancy we need to be thinking about supporting growth, skin elasticity and boosting nutrients in high demand. In the postpartum we must factor in tissue healing, foods to replete our nutrient stores and support the production of nutrient dense breast milk.

So a very tricky question to answer, but I will hone in on oily fish.

Oily fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids which support in neural and visual development. If a mother is lacking Omega 3 fats in her pregnancy diet, her body will prioritise her unborn child and draw omega 3 fats from mothers brain to make up the deficit, scary but true, this is additionally true of other nutrients such as calcium.

Omega 3 fats from oily fish are vital in the postpartum period as your baby's brain is only 25% developed at birth, doubling in size during the first year. The omega 3 fat DHA makes up 1/4 of all fats found in the brain, so if you plan to breastfeed, boosting omega 3 fats in your postpartum diet will translate to higher levels of these brain building fats in your baby's diet.

How can we make eating healthy easy when women are at home with a new baby and tired?

Postpartum eating needs to be quick, easy, nutrient dense and possible to prepare with just one hand, so you might need to get creative!

My best advice would be to keep it simple with a real focus on whole natural foods simply prepared.

Wherever possible take an hour or so to do a little batch cooking to set you up for the days ahead, very quick options might include;

- 12x hard boiled eggs - keep in the fridge and eat as snacks/ add to sandwiches

- Slow cooked meat and vegetable stews

- Low sugar protein balls

Additionally, organise a meal train for the first few weeks postpartum, for local friends and relatives to bring around a meal once a week. This is such a supportive practice and one that I am always keen to recommend to clients.

As a new mum of twins, what were your go to snacks and meals?

Now I was HUNGRY and I wasn't always prepared but on the whole I made sure that my snacks were supportive of my needs breastfeeding two growing ladies and recovering myself.

My top snacks would have been chicken liver pate on chia crackers, cashew nuts and hard boiled eggs.

My go to meals would have been eggs in any form paired with veg, so frittatas, omelettes or scrambled eggs with whatever veg I had to hand. I would also make at lease one pot of bone broth, lentil and vegetable soup or chicken soup each week.

What is the importance of good nutrition in the postnatal period and breastfeeding?

Your diet as a breastfeeding mother will to some degree affect the quality of your breast milk. Nutrients including B vitamins, fat soluble vitamins DHA, choline, Iodine found in breastmilk will be reflective of mothers diet.

These nutrients are vital to support the ongoing development of your baby, so optimising your postpartum diet with the above foods and practices will help not only to support you in your postpartum recovery and nutrient repletion but will also help to nutritionally boost your breastmilk.

Josie’s Gut-Loving Sour Cherry Gummies

Josie’s Gut-Loving Sour Cherry Gummies

Sour Cherry Gummies

These little gummies are deceptively nutritious. This recipe incorporates tart cherry juice which is rich phytochemicals including melatonin, supportive of regulating the sleep-wake cycle in humans.


Additionally, gelatin powder is rich in the amino acid glycine; our requirement of which increases significantly during pregnancy to accommodate baby’s rapid growth. Glycine also plays a role in the synthesis of fetal DNA.

As such these gummies are great for pregnant mamas, especially in late stage pregnancy when sleep may be more disturbed and baby is growing at its fastest rate.

Ingredients

1 ½ cup of tart cherry juice (Complete Health ‘100% sour cherry juice’)

4 tbsp. Gelatin powder (Great Lakes ‘Unflavoured Gelatin Powder’)

1 tbsp. Honey or a little stevia if you prefer the gummies sweeter

Method

Mix ingredients in a small sauce pan and place on a low heat.

Stir as the mix heats to ensure the gelatin dissolves fully.

Once completely dissolved remove form the heat and pour into a silicone mould or glass dish.

Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge until set.

Pop out of the mould or cut into bite-size pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Enjoy x


* Josie works from Five Elements Clinic in Melbourne and is also available for Skype consultations to inter-state and international clients. If you would like to book an appointment with her, visit her website at www.josiepenn.com or head to our ‘Contact Us’ Page for more information.

Instagram vs Reality... why too many women weren't prepared for bringing their newborns home

I was in a book store the other day searching for books to recommend to my clients. There were two books front and centre on the display shelf of the parenting section and this really caught my eye. Here were two books with similar themes about having a regimented ‘routine’ from birth. One, urging mothers to get their babies into a routine as early as possible, and the other recommending giving baby a big bottle of formula before bed so both Mum and baby can have a long, uninterrupted sleep.

It made me feel for the women who are pregnant and preparing to have a baby as these were two very popular and commonly recommended books (usually from well-meaning friends and instagram celebrities).

As I searched through more book stores, I realised these books were featured at eye level on display in all of them. So pregnant women will no doubt be buying these books and going into parenthood with the mindset that they will have their baby in a strict routine and will get uninterrupted sleep at night, believing that these things are actually the norm! I thought to myself… “why does this sell?”, and I realised… because it’s what women want to believe! These authors and “experts” aren’t selling reality, or facts, or genuine support, they are selling the dream!

It’s like when you see the ‘Instagram vs Reality’ posts… it’s the dream, but it’s not reality… it’s edited, filtered and the absolute perfect version. I know I sound like the bad guy saying it, but I’ve heard too many women say; “I wasn’t prepared enough for this” about bringing their newborns home from hospital.

I was talking to a woman recently, she was pregnant with her second child and had an almost two year old. In her first pregnancy she was adamant she would have a routine. She had planned that when she got home from hospital she would go to sleep at night, her partner would bath the baby and feed the baby a bottle of formula, and they would all sleep peacefully… she said ‘It doesn’t work’! It really doesn’t!’ She also said a pregnant friend of hers has an excel spread sheet of her unborn baby’s strict routine… and that she is actually worried about her friends’ mental health when she has her baby and realises that babies do not follow spreadsheets.

After hearing over and over from women at home with their babies, saying they weren’t prepared enough for life with their newborn despite reading all the ‘books’, it has made me ponder how as midwives we can better prepare women for success. When writing down my purpose recently, I wrote;

‘To prepare women in pregnancy for life with a newborn and support couples after birth in their most vulnerable time’.

It breaks my heart visiting new parents at home and seeing women in tears saying ‘I wasn’t prepared for this, I didn’t know how hard this would be’.

So to pregnant women/ new mothers; your newborn will wake and feed frequently, it will be hard and you will have broken sleep, but try to remember that this doesn’t last forever and try to enjoy your precious newborn moments. Soak up all of the cuddles that your baby is endlessly wanting, without being fixated on the lack of ‘routine.’

Prepare yourself in pregnancy for this messy, unscheduled moment in time with your newborn, instead of drawing up a spreadsheet for your baby to abide by. Set up your support network! The modern mum now, thinks she has to do it all on her own, and so many women struggle to ask for help as they see it as a sign of ‘weakness’. I love the saying ‘it takes a village’, we need to bring back the village!

With postnatal depression rates rapidly rising, we need to prepare women more than ever for reality with a newborn baby. We need to teach women in pregnancy about breastfeeding, normal newborn behaviours, nutritional depletion, postpartum recovery and SO MUCH MORE!

So if you are pregnant or know someone who is - ask your midwife for recommendations on books that will help prepare you, invest your time in antenatal classes, not only for birth preparation but for baby preparation, stock your freezer full of healthy meals, remembering how much having a baby and breastfeeding depletes you nutritionally. Ask for help! Book one-on-one midwife appointments to find out what to expect and how to transition at home with your baby!

Find your loving, supportive, encouraging friends and family and call on them when needed to help you… whether that be bringing you groceries, doing the washing, cooking you healthy meals or just cuddling your newborn in between feeds so you can have a nap!

Remember if you’re home with your newborn and you need support, call a midwife to come out to your home to help you!

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