So this is the situation: Baby Malia is almost 9 months old, being super cute, crawling around and on the cusp of walking, blabbering away, downing loads of food and cutting down on breastmilk. Loving her cute gummy smile! And after 6 months of literally not sleeping at all, lucky for me she now sleeps 11-12 hours straight at night.
Leilani, who turns 3 in 16 days if off to 3 year old kindergarten literally the day after her birthday and is a walking, talking, beautiful little child who is obsessed with mermaids, fairies, the colour Aqua, snakes, ladybugs and ice cream (interesting mix I know!). My babies are growing up!
So me, the addict of cuteness – or Crazy-Nat as I am otherwise known, is preparing to bake another delicious cookie. Well, maybe not just this second but definitely in the near future…So yes, despite the chaos, the sleeplessness, the whinging, the dirty nappies, the tantrums, the mess, the financial hardship, the inability to go to the toilet when I need to – at the end of the day, the cuteness wins and the love wins!
Despite my extreme exhaustion and frustrations throughout the day, every night I go to bed with thinking “I just love my kids!” With that, there is a deep sense of satisfaction and an overwhelming feeling of love and content – why wouldn’t I want to do it again one day!
Back to basics: How healthy am I?
So to get ready for my aspiring, eventual third vegan pregnancy (and to help other future vegan Mummas get prepared) it is time to go back to basics and review our lifestyles. How healthy am I? Naturally, being healthy is a very important factor in conception and carrying a healthy baby whether you are vegan or not!
Lucky for us vegans, our diets are can be full of amazing things such as fibre, vitamins, phytochemicals and all wonderful things needed to grow a beautiful baby, and are lacking in harmful animal fats and cholesterol. We can get more than enough protein from legumes, nuts and whole grains (like quinoa) and there is plenty of calcium in tahini, dried figs, green leafy vegetables, fortified plant milks and almonds. Iron is abundant in green vegies, legumes and dried fruits such as prunes and apricots but remember to combine these foods with something that is high in vitamin C to aid the absorption.
How are my nutriets and vitamin levels doing?
After being pregnant and breastfeeding for the past 9 months I need to make sure my nutrient levels are up to scratch as both pregnancy and breastfeeding are renowned for depleting any nutrient stores, although even if you have never been pregnant before it is all just as important.
Questions that I have asked myself are how are my iron, DHA and B12 levels? Am I eating enough fruits, vegetables and unrefined complex carbohydrates? Am I consuming too much sugar, caffeine and not exercising? Am I stressed at all? As trying to conceive can be stressful in itself, doing all the right things to alleviate or manage stress can certainly help.
My Pre-Conception Checklist:
- Limit empty calorie foods such as cakes, cookies, chocolate and sodas and opt to snack on fruit, wholegrain crackers, nuts and seeds.
- Ensure my meals are nutrient rich by basing them on wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats from sources such as avocado and olive oil.
- Cut out caffeine. Drink water instead!
- Start doing some gentle exercise such as walking, yoga or swimming. Being fit will also be beneficial in labour!
- Manage stress by asking for help, taking a break from stressors if possible or at least lightening your load! If none of these are possible try taking some ‘you ‘time or start doing yoga or meditation.
- Start a folic acid supplement and make sure your DHA, iron and vitamin B12 intake is up to scratch!
Folic acid is very important, especially in early pregnancy as it can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. There are many vegan folic acid supplements on the market – I use Freeda Folic Acid supplement available from Cruelty Free Shop. DHA is a fatty acid and is extremely important for brain development. Udo’s DHA oil is readily available in Australia and is great to use as salad dressings or in smoothies. If you are unsure about whether your intakes or levels are adequate, visit a health professional to be sure.
How else can I prepare?
There are a few fantastic books on the market these days regarding vegan pregnancy and raising vegan babies that are well worth a read, such as The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book, Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven, Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, and Feeding Your Vegan Infant with Confidence.
Another good resource is PCRM, in particular this article relating to vegetarian pregnancies, which talks about vegan nutrition during pregnancy. These are all wonderful resources for pregnant vegan women as it is refreshing from generic pregnancy books and articles that advocate “proceed vegan pregnancy with extreme caution”.
For me, Feeding Your Vegan Infant with Confidence saved me and my family’s “veganity” as everything I was reading at the time was telling me that I was gambling the health of my baby by being vegan and raising it vegan. Being pregnant and hormonal tends to increase emotional vulnerability and instinctively you just want to protect your baby. I can’t recommend enough to read positive pro-vegan pregnancy/children literature, as once again I assure you it is completely safe and IDEAL to be vegan!
I can tell you from my experience that both my pregnancies and deliveries were healthy and uncomplicated and my children were both born well nourished. Leilani was just on 3 kg and came two weeks early and Malia came one week early and weighed 3.4kg. They both thrived (and continue to thrive) and gained weight rapidly – no steaks were needed – legumes were more than sufficient!
It is important also to remember that conceiving a child can take some time. With Leilani I got pregnant on the first go, and with Malia it took 7 months. There are many factors that contribute to conception and it can take up to a year or even more for it to happen for some people. It takes patience but the reward of a happy, healthy vegan baby is well worth the wait! If you have any concerns regarding conception you should always visit a trusted health professional to discuss them. Just remember that a vegan lifestyle is more than adequate, if not optimal for growing a healthy human being!