As the temps dip and days become shorter, we can’t help but want to cozy up inside. Throw a newborn into the equation and the urge to snuggle becomes that much stronger. But this shouldn’t be a surprise, according to Westchester-based acupuncturist and mama of three (newborn included!) Laura Hoffman, L.Ac..
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there’s an understanding that external seasonal shifts coincide with internal physiological shifts. By embracing the seasonal changes rather than resisting them, we can be better aligned for optimal health. In the hustle and bustle of our Western culture, on the other hand, we often ignore nature’s cues, living every season as if it’s the same before it, minus a layer or two of clothing here or there.
The same goes for motherhood. When a woman becomes a new mother according to Chinese wisdom, her body shifts over the 40 weeks of pregnancy and birth, and again in the fourth trimester as it indulges the many demands of a newborn.
As we lean into the slowing of the seasons, Laura guides us on the best ways expecting and new mamas can nourish their bodies during cooler weather.
In a Traditional Chinese Medicine, everything in life comes down to yin or yang. Light or dark, male or female, hot or cold. There can be one or the other, or combinations of both. In an ideal world, we are balanced between the two. But because of, well, LIFE, usually one has dominance over the other. So how do we cultivate balance? We try to take what’s dominant and shift it. Or we try to take what’s weak and build strength.
This is really evident during seasonal shifts. In the summertime, when it’s hot, we tend to crave cooler foods, like salads, juices, and smoothies. In the cooler seasons, we tend to crave warmer foods, like soups and stews.
“It’s important to lean into what our bodies crave, and this is meant to shift throughout the year.” — Laura Hoffman, Licensed Acupuncturist
As we enter Fall, we need to slow down and nourish ourselves with heartier, more grounded foods like squash and root vegetables.
Even every organ and meridian / channel has an associated season. Fall is the season of the lung and large intestine. Look around and most likely you or someone (everyone!) you know is suddenly catching a cold. This is an example of the lung needing some extra support. It’s time to pull out the scarves to protect the neck. And it’s time to add a cup of tea or broth to the daily routine and add some warmth.
The motherhood transition is parallel to this idea of shifting with the seasons. Throughout a pregnancy and postpartum, the body undergoes incredible physiological fluctuations. It’s important to go inward and adhere to what the body really wants and needs, knowing that what your body needs one day is totally different the next day.
“By flowing with our changing bodies’ needs during the season of motherhood, the more we help restore harmony within ourselves.” — Laura Hoffman, Licensed Acupuncturist
We’re so lucky that fall has an abundance of warm and grounding foods that nourish mothers in transition.
My first three food loves are a powerhouse combo that taste delicious together in a warm bowl of oatmeal or muesli (see recipe below!)—walnuts, pears, and white sesame seeds. Walnuts are also great for constipation, which is often an issue during pregnancy.
All potatoes—sweet, white, purple, and yellow—are fantastic throughout pregnancy and postpartum. They strengthen the stomach and spleen and aid in milk production. If you’re experiencing any morning sickness, potatoes add significant nutrition without any extra queasiness.
Lamb is a delicious protein that supports Qi, your life force, and blood. I prefer grass-fed meat for its anti-inflammatory properties.
And for a bonus, I love salmon, specifically wild-caught salmon. It strengthens the spleen and tonifies the Qi. Salmon often can help combat exhaustion…which mamas know too much about!
As a new mama, with two other young ones running around, I’m all about quick snacks! With the change of weather, my “I need energy right this second!” snack of choice is Ia small cup of walnuts, goji berries (which help kidney yang and have a ton of antioxidants), and mulberries.
But throughout the quarantine, a friend suggested making muffins in the morning. I throw everything into the mixer or Vitamix, add to a muffin tray and bake. Then I have healthy snacks to grab for myself (or to feed a hungry three and six-year-old!). I fill sweeter ones with protein, like nut butter. Or even bake savory muffins with egg, vegetables, and cheese.
I’m really into oatmeal for breakfast, especially for nursing moms as oatmeal helps boost milk supply. I love mu mu muesli, which is kind of like overnight oats.
No-recipe recipe: I mix equal parts oats and milk of choice, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a grated apple or pear. I soak overnight and in the morning add a bit of thick yogurt like Siggi’s. Sometimes I add a splash of hot water to take off the chill and sprinkle with walnuts and sesame seeds.
For savory breakfasts, I love eggs and leeks. Leeks are great for blood circulation and warming the body, plus they have a lot of calcium which mamas need in pregnancy.
No-recipe recipe: I sauté leeks in ghee (grass-fed clarified butter), then add two scrambled eggs. When done, I top with a scoop of whole milk Greek yogurt, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Going with ease on this one, because I’m in the newborn phase all over again! We’ve been getting steelhead trout delivered from Hudson Valley Fisheries. We usually serve it with pesto–yum! I’ve been really into butternut squash, roasted with some kale in a simple olive oil, salt and pepper combo. Our go-to grain as of late is Fonio, an ancient grain from West Africa. It’s in the millet family, but way more nutritious. Yolele is the brand we get, and they make one with greens that our whole family devours. It has moringa (another powerhouse food I love as it’s great for boosting breastmilk supply) and spinach. It’s healthy, but way more important, it’s DELICIOUS!
This is the season for long, slow, pensive walks! Taking deep breaths is nourishment for the lungs. I’m a big fan of long walks, especially when pregnant. There’s something about going for a walk that really allows you to get really inward and start to listen to what your body needs and wants. Plus, there’s no better way to take in this beautiful change of scenery and season!
It’s always nice to have a meal at hand when you are having one of those days…which we all have! So when the planets align and you have your cooking mojo, I always recommend making double the portion of whatever you’re making so you can have more for later.
Laura now offers nourishing meal delivery, featuring sustainably-sourced meats, for new and expecting moms in the Westchester County, NY area. See her sample menu offerings and connect with her here. You can also search our directory for nutrition support locally or virtually.