After having my first baby, I was so proud of my body for bouncing back pretty quickly. I never quite got my pre-baby abs back, but my body shed about 20 pounds within a few weeks of giving birth, and lost most of the rest within about 6 months (honestly, I don’t know exactly because I don’t own a scale!). I nursed my daughter for a little over two years, and was one of those happy breastfeeding cases — I just breastfed myself back to my former body! (Read about my journey the first time around)
Five years later, the second time has been quite different. Though I’m doing everything the same as round one — extended breastfeeding, eating super healthy (give or take a bit of extra pandemic vegan ice cream), and working out way more than usual (hello, home all day!) — my body is stubbornly holding on to more extra weight than I’d care to admit… a full YEAR after giving birth.
Why is this happening??!?! Does breastfeeding actually help you lose weight? What can I do to lose some of this stubborn weight without compromising my milk supply?
When my husband and I were trying to get pregnant with our first kiddo, we ran into hurdle after hurdle. When all was said and done, we had gone through 8 (maybe 10?) cycles of IUI (intrauterine insemination), two surgeries between us, and a whole host of testing, stress, drama and strain on our relationship over the course of nearly two years.
Then, we took a trip out west, had a wonderful long weekend together planning for an eventual cross-country move, took all the pressure and stress off, and got pregnant naturally, with no interventions. I’m not going to say that getting out of dodge (or stressful NYC) was the magic bullet, but I will say that among the major fertility issues we experienced, stress and living somewhere that was just no longer making us happy was a big factor.
The second time around, 3 years later, we assumed we would run into the same issues. But lo and behold, we got pregnant on the first try. Again, I’m sure there were many factors that contributed to our success. Our lives were very different — we were settled in lovely Santa Monica, California; we had a much higher quality of life than we did in bustling New York, with much more exposure to nature, sunshine, and farm-fresh food; we were healthier, happier, and much more balanced (even with a precocious 3 year old in tow). And of course, we had the benefit of having remedied a lot of the fertility health issues that we had discovered the first time. But I was still astounded.
Needless to say, as a holistic nutritionist specializing in fertility and pregnancy, I’ve always strongly believed in a non-Western approach to boosting fertility. Looking at all contributing factors such as diet, stress, lifestyle, quality of relationships, happiness, is just as important to fertility as identifying and treating underlying medical issues, but these factors are all too often ignored, even by the best reproductive endocrinologists.
So let’s dig into them, and let me share with you the 5 most important things you can do, at any age (within reason), to boost your fertility and get pregnant naturally.
There is something magical about mornings. Before the kids wake up, before we start checking our email or dealing with our never-ending to-do list… there is quiet. There is calm. Taking time for yourself in the morning is one of the most powerful things you can do to cultivate wellness, ease, focus, and a sense of control in your busy day. By creating an intentional morning routine, you will find yourself making healthier choices for your body throughout the day, experiencing less stress, exhibiting more patience with your family, and getting more done in your work. Enter: your Morning Power Hour.
In Ayurveda, the daily self-care routine is called dinacharya, which is a customized set of practices (most of which take place in the morning) that drastically improve your health and mindset, balance your body, and set the tone for your entire day. Though the full, traditional dinacharya is rather extensive and can take multiple hours, I have had great success in creating a modified routine that takes no more than an hour (and can even be accomplished in less if need be), fits into our busy modern lives, and yields amazing results.
Below is a basic Morning Power Hour dinacharya that you can modify, add to or subtract from based on how much time you have to dedicate to self-care in the morning, and customize for your body/mind type (or dosha).
Traveling with a toddler is definitely no picnic (sometimes even bordering on a downright horror show), but with some solid planning and the right gear, the experience can be somewhat enjoyable (or at least not harrowing). We’ve traveled a ton with our munchkin, pretty much since she was a few months old (for my tips on traveling with babies, check out Must-Have’s and Tips for Airplane Travel with Baby), and I feel like we have toddler travel down to a science by now. Granted, every kid is different, but most toddlers need the same basic stuff to stay happy and engaged during a long flight — food, lots of fun activities, and yes, a screen (if you’re willing to go there). Hopefully our extensive list of toddler travel tips and must-have’s will help you keep your little occupied and happy (not to mention healthy!), and will help keep YOU sane!
Anyone who knows me know that, at my core, I am anything but a minimalist. Historically, I keep everything — I have clothes, jewelry, notebooks, diaries, and trinkets dating as far back as elementary school. I love stuff — I have stockpiles of unopened journals, stacks of books I’ve never read, and storage boxes full of trinkets, decorative items and pillow covers for seasonally swapping out. I love to shop, I love presents, I love information, and I love options. Needless to say, embracing minimalism does not come naturally to me.
But as I’ve gotten older (or, shall we say, more mature), and more tuned deeper into the wants and needs of my soul, I’ve begun to realize that not only does more stuff not lead to more happiness, but quite to the contrary, it leads to more anxiety, more distraction, and more physical and mental clutter.
Those of us with kids know that parenthood only exacerbates this phenomena. Having children seems to mean an endless accumulation of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. I felt this keenly shortly after little M was born, and I slowly began the process of KonMari-ing my life (for the uninitiated, that is the Japanese art of decluttering your life and paring down your possessions to simply things that bring you joy.. It’s the best thing ever. Even GOOP says so). I’ve donated and sold mountains of clothes, books and jewelry that didn’t bring me joy; I’ve thrown away stacks of old papers and notebooks; I’ve allowed my (super minimalist) husband to throw away long-kept household items that were broken, old, or otherwise no longer useful. It has felt great. Liberating. Clarifying.
But then the holidays roll around. Between the shopping, wish list creating, decorating, cooking, and celebrating, it’s so easy to forget why less stuff equals more happiness, more calm, and a happier family. So I am pausing my perusal of 12 Days of Deals on Amazon to remind myself (and hopefully inspire one or two of you!) of why I’m embracing minimalism, especially at this time of year.
Growing up, we were never a holiday photo card family. With the exception of school photos, we never had any professional photos taken — as a Russian-Jewish family, it just wasn’t something that was done. Secretly, I always envied our American family friends around the holidays — those adorable family photo cards that we received, with the little updates on the goings-on of the year just seemed like such a special way to celebrate family milestones and share holiday cheer with friends.
Now that we have our own little family, I finally have the opportunity to partake in this distinctly American holiday tradition, and every year since our little one was born, we’ve created our holiday cards with Minted. I love their beautiful designs, ranging from minimal and modern to traditional and glitzy; I love how easy the cards are to customize; and I especially love the awesome perks, like free address labeling and maintaining a digital address book.
Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season — often a time of overindulgence, guilt, and then backlash come January. This is a crappy cycle that I’m constantly working with my clients to break, but it’s a tough nut to crack, in part because it’s so deeply engrained in our culture. Here’s an interesting thought though, we can create the culture in our own families; we can literally create, right now, a paradigm of what our children know as “normal,” and we have a lot more control around it than we think.
We can’t shield our children from the big bad world of processed food, candy, and overindulgence, but we can 100% make healthier choices in our own homes that show our children an alternate path to what is essentially a two month food binge.
The kicker is that we have to make these choices for ourselves too. We don’t want to be those parents that hide our kids Halloween candy and then eat it ourselves after they go to bed. We’ve gotta practice what we preach, and that takes a general reframe around this fun, sugar-drenched holiday, and the holiday season in general.
Now we all have to decide where to draw the line and what works for our respective families, but here’s what I’m doing in our house to have a healthier halloween, and by extension, holiday season!
I don’t know about you, but picking out my outfit every day feels like a gigantic inconvenience, especially now that I’m a mom. I totally understand why so many mamas default to their signature easy, comfy leggings and t-shirt combo — we just don’t have the brain power to dedicate to fashion right now.
But I, personally, am not content to just give up and go for the easy way out. I want to look good, I want to feel good, and having a time/brain/emotion draining little human in tow is no excuse not to make it happen.
My solution for the last two years has been to shop. I buy more and more stuff, thinking that just this one new addition to my wardrobe will freshen everything up and motivate me to look the way I want to feel. But the reality is that now my closet is overflowing with clothes, and every morning, I’m still plagued with the eternal question: What do I wear?!??! (Followed immediately by: “I have nothing to wear!”)
For the first year of motherhood, I was on cloud 9. I loved this sh*t. I felt like I was made for being a mama. But life with a baby is verrrry different from life with a toddler. I can’t just put little M into her carrier or stroller and spend the day out doing what I want to be doing anymore. I don’t have the luxury of those two nice, long naps anymore, that afforded me to the opportunity to relax, get work done, and maintain some balance.
My little M is a full-fledged person now, with her own opinions and desires. And though I still follow all of my 5 Secrets to Happier Motherhood, suddenly, as we approached a year and a half, they just weren’t enough.
Breastfeeding is one of those aspects of motherhood that you just expect to come naturally. We’re mammals after all, right? Do mama bears and lions really struggle with low supply, sore nipples, and mastitis? Obviously our animal counterparts are spared the emotional and lifestyle dramas and sacrifices that come with choosing to breastfeed their young — the stigma of feeding in public or breastfeeding a toddler, the limits on alcohol and potential dietary restrictions, the feeling of being totally tethered to your baby at all times (especially if, like mine, they have no interest in drinking pumped milk from any receptacle). Even with those particularly human challenges aside, it just seems like it should be easier to do something our bodies were built to do. But it isn’t. At least not for many of us mamas.
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I'm Natasha Uspensky, holistic nutritionist, Ayurvedic practitioner and healthy lifestyle expert. I created The Organic Beauty to be your resource to celebrate and learn about everything from healthy eating and living for your whole family, to natural beauty and sustainable style. I hope to inspire you to live beautifully and healthfully, in a life you love!