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Why Some Moms Feel Invisible After Giving Birth

10/07/2015 12:46 EDT | Updated 10/07/2016 05:12 EDT
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The moment you've been waiting for has arrived. That sweet bundle of joy has made its way into the world and changed your life forever. Life couldn't get any better. Cue image of beaming new mother caressing her perfect newborn.

"How's the baby?" you're asked constantly. "How's she eating/sleeping?" It doesn't take long for you to notice the monumental shift in focus, from you -- the glowing, pregnant woman -- to the baby. That seat that people jumped to offer you on the bus? Taken.

I'll never forget my first plane trip with our new little one, relatives snatching him from my arms without so much as a glance towards my face. Kind of like the pervy man whose stare is about six inches south of where it should be.

It's touching to feel such warmth and interest towards your newborn, don't get me wrong. But how about we save some of that for mom? Exhausted and overwhelmed, surely she deserves it. Let's face it, we're infatuated with pregnancy. Images of glowing pregnant women, hands clutching perfectly around baby bumps, are so much more appealing than the postpartum mom with her loose belly, bags under her eyes and several days worth of sweat and grease on her.

I doubt I'm the only one who felt slightly invisible after having my first child, at a time when I most needed to be seen. Fortunately, my skin is thicker now, the second time around.

As a dietitian working in the area of prenatal, postpartum and family nutrition, I'm well acquainted with the pregnant woman wanting optimal nutrition for her growing babe, or the keen parent preparing to feed their six-month-old solid foods. But what about the new mom? After all, she has endured nine months of pregnancy and the eating challenges that come with it; the marathon of labour and delivery; and finally, a massive transition from looking after her own eating needs to total focus on feeding a baby.

At a time when a woman's nutritional status is critical, not only for recovery from pregnancy and childbirth but for so many other reasons, her health hinges on how well she feeds her body. Breastfeeding moms have additional nutritional requirements to ensure not only that baby is well-nourished, but also that mom is. The postpartum period is also known as an emotionally delicate time. With such an intricate connection between food and mood, it only makes sense that we help women tend to their nutrition needs during this challenging time.

Yet we don't. We focus on breastfeeding and baby's latch. And formula feeding and perhaps why breastfeeding didn't work. And on the number of baby pees, poos and ounces gained. I guess "postpartum" doesn't have quite the sexy ring that its prenatal counterpart does.

"How are you feeling?" More like, "Are you back to your pre-pregnancy weight yet?" But don't worry, there's always mommy bootcamp!

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