Let’s talk about why it takes a village
In traditional cultures around the world, support is provided to new families by others in their community or ‘village’ to ensure that they not only survive, but thrive.
This kind of care and support provides room for healing and growth on both a physical and emotional level; encouraging the strengthening of the partnership between parents, and allows space to openly discuss both the joys and challenges that birthing people face.
All of this is as important as ever in today's society, yet it is less available than ever before. Postnatal mood disorders are increasingly prevalent, as we exist in a social climate that puts unprecedented pressure on mothers to appear like they “have it all together”. Whilst the need for professional help should never be overlooked, we truly believe that with the support of a like-minded village in place - be it virtual or real life - mothers and families are given the tools they need to be the best versions of themselves for their children and fellow village members. When a mother thrives, so does her baby - and all of that starts with her ‘village’.
“Allowing the hands and hearts of others to hold you, nurture you and nourish you through the postpartum will help you to feel supported on a physical and emotional level; encouraging you, your baby, your relationships and your village to thrive”
- Vaughne Geary for ‘The Birth Space’ (by Gabrielle Nancarrow)
Why is this conversation so new, but it's been around forever
In the past, the ‘village’ was essentially handed to us, as it was how traditional societies were built and functioned as a whole. Following the industrial revolution, when people dispersed from their villages to live in cities for work, our societal model shifted to living apart from our most trusted and supportive people.
Today, we are seemingly more connected, yet more isolated than we have ever been, thus it is up to us to create our own village with intention. This may look like hiring a Doula or midwife to support and guide you through pregnancy and early parenthood, as well as seeking out recommendations and referrals for care providers such as a lactation consultant, pelvic floor physio, counsellor, etc.
Beyond professional support, village building can sometimes look like taking the brave step of striking up a conversation with a stranger at the playground - you never know, they might just be your new mum friend.
What does “nourishment” mean for mum & bub?
When a mother is well nourished, so is her baby. In many traditional cultures around the world, focus is placed on ensuring new mothers eat warming, nutrient and calorie dense foods that will support breastfeeding, healing, emotional health and energy production. Some of the key nutrients required during this time include:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3’s
A mother’s diet that is rich in these will transfer via breast milk to her baby if she chooses to breastfeed, which in turn supports a newborn to receive essential nutrients required for optimal physical and mental growth and development. When a mother receives essential nutritional building blocks through the food she eats, this also supports her to be healthy on a physical and emotional level, which studies have shown to decrease postpartum mood disorders. When a mother is happy, this provides a safe and nurturing environment for her baby to be also.
This continues well past the first 40 days to introducing solids, which should also focus on including essential nutrients such as protein, omegas and iron which at various points of infant development are crucial for healthy brain development and reducing risk of health concerns in adult life.
Nourishment is important for play, and play is important for nourishment
From birth until 3 years of age, also known as the ‘first 1000 days’, is when the human brain undergoes the fastest rate of development in its entire lifespan. It therefore makes total sense to focus this time on providing infants with key developmental factors including quality food and essential nutrients, secure attachment and stimulating play which together support psychomotor skills, language, social and emotional development and cognitive functions including learning.
Certain foods have been scientifically proven to positively affect an infant's memory and capacity to learn. These include:
Essential Fatty Acids
The human brain is made up of approximately 60% fat, with almost all of its structures and functions relying on essential fatty acids which humans get directly from food. Studies have found that foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like DHA, including fish, unrefined plant oils, nuts and seeds may boost your babies cognitive function, which in turn supports their development and play skills.
Protein is an essential building block for babies and infants that supports not only their brain growth and development, but also healing. Protein also contains key nutrients required for cognitive health and learning, including iron, omega 3, zinc, B vitamins and Vitamin D amongst others. Wonderful food sources include eggs, seafood, dairy, meat, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Iron is vital for maintaining an optimal number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body, which are necessary to fuel brain growth and development in infants. Studies have found iron deficiency to be clearly linked with cognitive deficits in young children, making it an essential nutrient for all babies to develop healthy skills for play and learning. The best food sources include slow cooked meats, beans and lentils, dark leafy vegetables, baked potatoes and fortified cereals and breads.
Fruit and Vegetables
Quality produce contain powerful antioxidants, which are anti-inflammatory in the body and protect your baby's brain tissue from damage as they develop in the first 1000 days. Studies have found deep-coloured fruit and vegetables to provide the highest antioxidant punch, including dark leafy greens, blueberries, papaya and tomatoes.
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