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Listeria - can I eat soft cheese during pregnancy?

Listeria hysteria is somewhat out of control it seems to me. I've even heard of some obstetricians advising pregnant women eat deep-friend food to reduce their risk, but obesity and poor nutrition carries it's own risks, and trans-fats are known to reduce breast milk supply. So what is all the fuss about soft cheese?

Listeria is a foodborne bacteria which can cause a disease is called listeriosis. If you eat contaminated food the bacteria may penetrate your intestines and travel throughout the blood stream. Listeriosis is a dangerous disease for pregnant women as it may infect the baby and cause misscarriage, stillbirth or blood infections. But listeriosis is extremely rare, read this if you are interested in details.

The main thing you need to know is that listeria can't survive high heats.

In Australia all dairy products are pasturised, it is illegal to sell anything unpasturised labelled as a food product (which is why you see raw milk at farmers markets labelled as bath milk or pet food). Pasturisation involves extremely high heat, which kills listeria.

But there lies a small risk is in poor storage and whilst you can store your soft cheeses in the fridge you can't be sure how the supplier has stored or transported the cheese prior to purchase.

There is also a small risk of cross contamination, which means the listeria bacteria contaminates a dairy product after it has been pasturised, so it helps to buy cheese in a sealed packet, not from the deli section.

If you really enjoy soft cheese there is no need to deprive yourself. Cooking cheese (like canneloni or pizza) will kill listeria, so poor storage and cross contamination can be negated anyway.

Finally two recent major listeria outbreaks have incuded rockmelon and airplane food so it's interesting to me that soft cheese gets so much attention.

In the end the choice is yours. Inform yourself of the risks of listeria and make up your own mind what you choose to eat.


Ayurveda during your last month of pregnancy

By 36 weeks you have a fully formed, tiny human being inside you, the main thing your baby will do in the last month of pregnancy is grow good and fat. During this time Ayurveda suggests pregnant women reduce fat, salt and water from their diet. And as is the often the case with traditional medicine, modern science is just catching up. New research has found that body fat (not only blood sugar as was previously believed) is a risk factor for growing very large babies.

Traditionally in some cultures pregnant women move to the birthing house during the last month of their pregnancy, and remain there until the baby is six weeks old. During this time the mother and baby and both mothered, with oil massages, heat treatments and specially prepared foods. This is a time of initiation for the mother, and great physical, spiritual and emotional healing.

Ayurveda considers fenugreek and pippali good for stimulating the uterus so you may want to gradually add these into you diet leading up to the baby's due date. Clary sage, dandelion root and raspberry leaf are all easily available herbs for gently preparing the body for labour. 

Sex is fun way to stimulate labour, but don't over do it. During the last month the baby is gathering ojas (the sanskrit term for juiciness or sap of life) from you, and sex uses a lot of ojas.

Rice porridge is an excellent light and nourishing food for the last month or two of pregnancy, as well as being the first food a mother should have after the baby is born. Cook rice in milk with a little ginger and cardamom and serve warm and soupy with some jaggary.

Your oxtytocin is on the up and up, peaking in mothers at birth, so embrace baby brain!

For more recipes for new mums, including lactation biscuits, check out my book Nourishing Newborn Mother - Ayurvedic recipes to heal your mind, body and soul after childbirth. Buy it now or click here for more info.

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ABC Babytalk Podcast with Penny Johnston

I'm interested to know how you feel about listening to me, instead of reading my words? I'm very happy to do some more audio content if you like it.

Maybe you prefer radio to books? Maybe you find it easier to put something on in the background whilst you fold laundry? Maybe you listen to it in the car?

Anyways, have a listen and let me know. Click the link to listen now:

Postnatal Doula podcast for ABC Babytalk.

Excuse my man voice! I had a cold.

Penny Johnston and I had a chat about all things postpartum. I only have one regret! Penny mentioned that having a doula may only be accesible to wealthy people and I wish I had emphasised that my clients are not all rich! They have just made a commitment to their babies to take care of themselves and because it is a priority for them they find the money. 

For more please download the two FREE secrets to avoid feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at www.newbornmothers.com.au


What is postpartum?

Quick word association game. I say postnatal, you say...

Let me guess, depression.

The word postnatal or postpartum comes from latin origins meaning literally after birth.

In a western medical sense postpartum refers to the six weeks after your baby is born, because this is about how long it takes for your uterus to contract down to it's normal size, and stop bleeding (called lochia).

Traditionally around the world postpartum refers to about 40 days 'lying in' after your baby is born. This is observed culturally in Guatemala, Korea, Lebanon... even in Victorian times in England women expected to observe a period on 'confinement' after giving birth. In China this time is called 'doing the month', in Greece it is referred to as 'fortifying' and in India some people use the word 'japa' which means a spiritual time spent reciting a mantra of devotion. How lovely is that?

All of these cultures and many more emphasise warmth, purification, nourishing food and rest. Massage, heat treatments, oil treatments, special soups and ritualised bathing are commonly a part of these cultural postpartum practises too. Mothers are excused from housework and socialising during this time.

But our understanding and expectations of women after childbirth are vastly different here is the West. In Australia birth is seen as a largely medical event, with women being discharged from hospital between 4 hours and 4 days after a normal birth. Gifts are given to the newborn and celebrations like baby showers and christenings are centred on the baby too. And women are expected to carry on without missing a beat.

However traditional cultures acknowledge birth as part of a holistic social, emotional and physical system. The birth of a mother is a time of deep initiation in a woman's life. She will experience more physical, social and psychological transformation during this transition than perhaps at any other time in her life.

I often wonder about the effects of this lying in period on bonding, establishing breastfeeding and emotional healing after birth. If we supported this sacred time I'm sure our mothers would be stepping forth with greater confidence in their new roles, and our whole community would benefit.

The word postpartum or postnatal holds little meaning or value in our culture, so is it any wonder it is so strongly associated with depression?


Four reasons why breastfeeding is like sex

Baby brain can sound like an insult, particularly in our task oriented, mathematical and rational society. But if you have been to my workshop you’ll know that baby brain is all part of natures grand plan.

As a postnatal doula time and time again I see women who want to breastfeed overloaded with task oriented, mathematical and rational solutions. Mothers are shown photos of correct attachment, read books full of conflicting information and shown videos of swallowing and sucking. They are told to go on special diets, weigh their baby, express milk at specific times of day, measures millilitres of milk and time feeds and count wet nappies…

It seems to me that the more we know about breastfeeding the harder it is to actually breastfeed.

This is because breastfeeding is a right brain activity, something we learn by feeling and doing. It is not an intellectual or academic activity, breastfeeding is emotional and relational. And the more a pregnant woman or mother knows about breastfeeding the more her brain will be filled with a hundred things that could go wrong and a thousand things to remember. A breastfeeding journey that begins in the left brain will inherently carry with it anxiety, competitiveness or lack of confidence.

Breastfeeding is a relationship, a journey. It is not something we can get right or wrong, or something we achieve. I feel it could help to think of breastfeeding with our right brain, just like sex!

1. Breastfeeding is a learned skill

Breastfeeding often begins with a few awkward encounters, but in a loving relationship mum and baby can get really, really good at it, without ever reading a sealed section. Forget about the mechanics of it all. Just get naked and hang out.

2. Prepare the mood

Low lights and relaxing music go a long way. Gaze into each others eyes. Chat and coo and cuddle. You may just find one thing leads to another…

3. Let your baby lead the way

Communication is the key. Babies have the advantage of not yet being conditioned by our left brain culture, they haven’t read all the books yet. They live in the right brain very easily and naturally and know instinctively what to do. Where breastfeeding is a learned skill for a mother, it is an inherent ability in a baby. If you don’t believe me watch Baby Led Breastfeeding by Christina Smillie- the best breastfeeding movie EVER.

4. Nourish your baby instead of feeding your baby

If breastfeeding didn’t work out for you don’t feel like a failure. The best nourishment you can give your baby does not come in a breast or bottle, it comes from your heart. This is true even if you are breastfeeding, don’t think of it as a transfer of nutrients from one body to another. Just feel and enjoy your loving relationship with your baby.

A few more article about right brain and breastfeeding: