Moms, why are we always the last ones on our priority list?

By Allison Martineau, Sweetpea Nutrition

So I’ve been noticing something lately that has me concerned.  I do talks across the city on a range of nutrition related topics and the main focus generally includes ways to support women with their hormone health, help them recover from childbirth, improve their mood and deal with emotional eating.  I love talking about these things…buuuut…the conversation usually tangents away from these topics.

For smaller talks I always start each one by asking everyone what their biggest nutritional concern or question is and without fail 90% of the questions I get are about their BABY!  From picky eating to introducing solids, allergies, breastfeeding challenges…everything goes back to their little one. And I get it (and am happy to answer); we want what’s best for our kids and nutrition is super important for developing babes, however my frustration comes when you notice that moms are neglecting themselves entirely and won’t ask for help, even when I am asking them what THEY need.  When I probe deeper, inevitably I will see moms struggling with food (either over or under consumption), hormone imbalance or nutrient deficiencies and yet still don’t prioritize themselves.  It is NOT selfish to prioritize your well being…it is a NECESSITY as a new mom.  Worse off are those who don’t even know that their nutrition is off but suffer from fatigue, anxiety or digestive upset and don’t realize the connection between these symptoms and their diet.

Routine postpartum maternal care is almost non-existentand moms are unfortunately not getting the help they need as a result.  We are followed so closely during pregnancy and our babies have routine checkups at their doctor for the first year of life, but what about the moms?  Why are they left on their own after 6 weeks? What is relevant about ceasing care at that time?  Most physical recovery is still happening beyond that point, not to mention emotional and mental health, nutrient deficiencies that can develop and hormones that can become unbalanced within the first year after having your baby.  We need more support from our medical care providers AND we, as parents, need to learn to ask for help more.

Beyond that though, here are some things you can start to focus on:

Restorative movement – Let’s start moving our bodies in a way that feels good (not for punishment over something we ate or to lose weight but because the activity and movement boost our mood and make us strong enough to carry around that baby we just had).  Be gentle on your postpartum body and listen to it.  For me, running has always been my favourite activity, but after the birth of my third son I started getting hip pain every time I ran.  I tried to push through it but after awhile I sat back, listened to my body and found exercises that actually work WITH my new body, not against it.  For now, be ok with change. Swimming, yin or restorative yoga, gentle stretching and walking are some of my current favourites… but you do you!

Solid Nutrition – Having a healthful nutrient dense diet is so important not just for physical healing after childbirth but to also give us the energy we want each day to help us care for our tiny human(s).  We know when we eat crap we feel like crap, and it’s a vicious cycle.  Solid nutrition helps us stay healthy, strong, vibrant and happy.  Having said that, a few off days (or even weeks or months) will not damage everything and you can always start making changes today to help make yourself feel better. And remember this is not about restriction; this is about self awareness and fueling your body in a way that is in line with your preferences, goals, health conditions and lifestyle and that makes you feel great.  No one size fits all approach here.  Do what feels right for YOU.

Mindfulness practices – This can seem intimidating to some who are unfamiliar with it, but rest assured that you can make this area what you need it to be.  It doesn’t have to be an hour long meditation (unless that’s your jam), but really it’s more about tapping in to your body and how it feels.  A 3-5 minute meditation (deep breaths with your eyes closed) can be a good start and there are many apps out there that make it super simple. Journaling is also a helpful tool in my practice, with gratitude practices as one of my favourites.

Self care – Make time for yourself!  While massage and a day at the spa are the obvious self care options, it doesn’t always have to be so grand.  Some alone time, a long shower, a night out, learning to say no to stuff you don’t want to do…all self care.

Support other moms and support yourself. This may sound harsh but someone said this to me one time and it impacted me greatly (in a good way ….well maybe not at first) She said women act like martyrs and we need to stop.  At first I disagreed and went through the laundry list of things I need to get done in a day and why I have no time for myself but then realized that I NEEDED to make the time.  No one else was going to do it for me unless I asked.  So stop playing the martyr card and ask your partner, family, friends, caregiver for extra help so you can take the time you NEED!!

And remember this is not a race to implement all these changes; this is your life.  So include healthful practices that resonate with you and that bring you joy and above all else, enjoy the journey.

Feeling stuck?  Have questions about your health or nutrition? Let’s talk! Book a free 20 minute consult here.

Bio: Allison Martineau is a nutritionist with a reproductive health focus; working with women during fertility, pregnancy and new parenthood. Allison practices an evidence based counseling style and is passionate about using mindfulness and intuitive eating to help her clients. She has her Masters in Nutrition and Public Health, has over 10 years of experience and sees clients in her private practice, Sweetpea Nutrition. Allison lives in Toronto with her husband and three young boys.

We had a super fun Halloween Pizza Party, with Pictonat Photography, at Kidnasium by Kidz Oasis!

I just love this time of year.. I can’t think of anything cuter than a room filled with babies & toddlers dressed up in Halloween costumes!

This year we got to see some really creative parents work their Pinterest magic, and had a very hard time choosing our favourite costumes!


Thank you so much to our awesome sponsors – Panago Pizza for providing such yummy pizza & drinks, and Baby Gourmet for the shakers & pouches!

I’m still blown away by how delicious Panago Pizza is! Moms that attended our Halloween Party keep telling me how much they LOVED the selection of pizzas & juices. Panago Pizza now offers 100% organic Italian tomato sauces, made with organic tomatoes, herbs & spices. Ham, Italian sausage, pepperoni & salami made from pork raised without the use of antibiotics. Hormone free meats, fresh dough made in store daily, no artificial colours or flavourings used, and a variety of vegan and gluten smart options available, makes sure there is something for everyone to enjoy!

**A very special thank you to our door prizing sponsors – Leslie Uy, Independent Stylist for Stella & Dot for the Stella & Dot earrings, Olilibaby for the mitten clips, and Jubie Jems for the teething jewellery!

Learn what foods can help regulate post-pregnancy hormones, and give you more energy, without breaking the bank. Reconnect to your body’s needs after pregnancy and be your most centered, energetic and vibrant self!

Join Mommy Connections Midtown Toronto and registered dietician, Nishta Saxena of Vibrant Nutrition, for a workshop that focuses on learning to feed and nourish yourself after baby arrives!

When: Thursday March 30th, 2017 (2:00-3:30)

Where: Gymboree Music & Play Toronto (1213 Bayview Ave, upper level)

Cost: $40 + HST

To reserve your spot, contact: /647-202-3633

**Is your baby mobile, up to 4yrs old? stay and play after the workshop for Gymboree Open Floor time, so your little one can blow off some steam as they explore the play floor equipment**


First, let me say; I remember when I was pregnant, becoming mentally exhausted (and slightly scared) from all the well meaning, but unsolicited, and often unwanted, advice I received. Unfortunately, most of the advice given is scary, negative, old-fashioned and “I know best” kind of advice. I can honestly not remember one person who simply told me how much fun this was going to be. Or, how delivering a baby doesn’t necessarily turn you into a shrieking, husband-hating monster. Everyone is always so happy for you, yet, they can’t come up with one positive thing to say.So, here is what I will want to say (if she asks…) to my future daughter-in-laws about how to survive, enjoy and graduate from motherhood (not that we ever stop being moms)

1.  Nourish yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically. You are about to become a mother, don’t lose yourself

While you are trying to become pregnant or are pregnant, pay attention to the little things that nourish you as a woman, a person and a friend and wife. What are the things that make you smile; make you feel happy and fulfilled? Is it time alone with

Practicing Self-Care helps you take care of you.
Practicing Self-Care helps you take care of you.

your spouse and/or friends? Is alone time important to you? Reading? Pick at least one of these and make time for it once the baby has arrived. You can do this AND be a wonderful, committed mother.

Prioritize your health. Learn what you need to about preparing for, pregnancy and recovering post partum. Find and see your local Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Learn about the inside of your body and pelvic floor. Do your Kegels and bind your belly immediately post partum.

2.  Treasure the moments

If you already have kids I am sure you have already heard advice like “don’t rush through it”, “enjoy, they grow so fast”. I heard it so many times, but still would think: “I wish he would walk soon”, “If only he could talk and tell me what he wants”

My oldest and I
My oldest and I

I can tell you as someone who has 4 grown children and just moved one of my youngest out – They are right! Enjoy the small moments and the wonder. I know it gets crazy at times with these little, not always cooperating, but adorable people. I now spend a fair bit of time reminiscing and enjoying those memories in my mind. You see, I listened to that advice, but not well enough. I really tried to still my day and sit down with my boys and just enjoy the story they were telling, the cuddle or simply watching them do their thing quietly, but I worried about my house-work too. Now that they are older I still look for any opportunity to sit down and enjoy time with my boys.

3.  Parent in a way that feels right for you and your partner.

I figured out early on that I really only wanted to ask for and listen to advice from certain friends/family members, namely, those with similar parenting beliefs and philosophies. So, I rarely give advice, unless asked. And I never asked for advice except from those specific moms. That way you are not getting judged simply for asking and you don’t have to listen to advice you have no intention of following. Except for from your mother and mother-in-law of course, because they will give you advice whether you want it or not. Just listen, smile and nod…and then erase from your memory so it doesn’t sneak up on you in a weak moment 😉

4.  Prioritize your marriage/relationship

Your marriage comes first! You got together and had a family for a reason, now you owe it not only to yourselves, but to yourP1000127 children to make this work. I am divorced, and I can honestly say, there is no hockey game or practice, ballet recital, or homework assignment that is more important than that. Parenting and maintaining your relationship are two equally important entities. Obviously you will meet your children’s basic needs of life and much more. Make it just as important to do something for your relationship with your spouse every day. It can be really small like sitting down for 5 minutes together – alone and just being together; a kiss and a hug at the end of every day; a sweet text to say you are thinking of each other. And yes, schedule date nights – often, even if that simply means going to bed early and not watching television… 😉

5.  Be a mother, not a friend to your children

I too often hear mothers brag about how they are “best friends” with their daughter. It is great if you are close and share and talk to each other openly, but your daughter is not your bff, nor are you hers. Being a mother is a true privilege and pleasure and a very unique place in life. You are a confidant, advisor and the one who loves them without condition or limitation. With you they are completely safe. Safe to be wrong, inconsiderate, apologetic, remorseful, wonderful, funny, goofy and so much more. There is a life long bond between a mother and child that doesn’t need the tag of “best friends” to have meaning. Because when we try to be best friends we try not to displease. We don’t say things that might upset or anger them, and thus we stop parenting. It is our job as parents to say the things they don’t want to hear when they need to hear it. It is their friends’ job to cheer them up when you do. My boys don’t think of me as their best friend. I am their mother. I am always there for them and they know that. I am their first call when they need something, or want to share an experience. I feel so lucky to be that. I know one day their wives will take that place, but I also know they will still call me and check in, because that’s what we do.

Walking behind them I could actually see their little toddler self.  I am so proud of the young men they have become.
Walking behind them I could actually see their little toddler self. I am so proud of the young men they have become.

Oh dear, this ended up being a little longer than I intended it to be, but thank you for sticking with me to the end. I would love to hear from you! What is the one thing you will tell a young mom one day?

With love, Elisabeth

elisabethELISABETH PARSONS is a pro fitness trainer, nutritional counsellor, and lifestyle coach to women. She is a mother of 4 very active boys, and enjoys sharing her life experience and knowledge about adding vitality to your life through healthy, active living.

Guest blog post by: Dr. Kate McLaird & Dr. Nadine Khoury

Probiotics and the Developing Immune System

Recently, there has been immense interest in the medical research regarding probiotics and how they influence the health of the body. Apart from helping heal gastrointestinal complaints (including Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis, IBS and Celiac disease), probiotics have been shown to relieve anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and also prevent antibiotic resistance to name a few. We are only beginning to understand the potential of our gut flora, and some of the most beneficial and promising research relates to newborns and how we can help optimize their health for their futures to come!

Probiotics and newborns: where is all begins…

The newborn gut is a perfect environment for microbes to live with food, moisture, and warmth. Its first inoculation of bacteria comes from the environment the baby is born into. It has been shown that vaginally delivered infants harbour bacteria resembling their own mother’s vaginal, rectal and skin microbiota which are Lactobacillus, Prevotella or Sneathia spp. dominant. To the same effect, infants born by C-section acquire bacteria similar to those found on the surface of the skin, such as Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium spp. as well as the hospital environmental microbiotia. The bacterial balance may also be influenced by antibiotic treatment as well as feeding choices (breastmilk, formula, food introduction, types of foods eaten)

The varying bacterial balances, have been shown in the literature, to influence the development of certain health conditions later in life. Children born by C-section, for example, have been shown to have a 2-fold higher prevalence of atopy (a tendency to develop allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema) than those born by vaginal delivery. Furthermore, there is evidence that more than 50% of young children with severe atopic dermatitis will develop asthma and approximately 75% will develop allergic rhinitis. This suggests a possible correlation between the type of bacteria in the gut and the presence of atopy. Several studies have been conducted to prove this theory correct using probiotics.o

Probiotics are “live organisms” which when taken orally, provide significant benefit by rebalancing the good and bad gut microflora. The gut has 400 trillion good bacteria and is up to 3000 square feet in surface area (as an adult). The good bacteria in the gut are responsible for healthy post-natal development. There are estimated to be 10,000-40,000 strains of good bacteria required to support healthy development of the brain, immune system and detoxification pathways with the research continuing to discover more interconnections. The numbers and types of bacteria in the gut is ever-changing due to their fast division rate and is strongly affected by the food we consume. In one particularly large study (215 infants aged 6-12 months), a comparison between formula milk with probiotic supplementation and formula milk alone was made and a series of health markers were monitored closely. Infants who received formula with probiotics showed a 46% reduction in the incidence rate of GI infections, 27% reduction in the incidence rate of the common cold and a 30% reduction in the total number of infections at the end of study period when compared to infants who were only fed formula (Maldonado et al J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2012).

Another large trial (454 mother-baby pairs), the Swansea Baby – Allergy Prevention Trial, was conducted to investigate the effect of probiotic administration in the prevention of allergy development in infants over 6 months and following up after 2 years. The results showed a 57% reduction at 2 years. This study was the first of this kind to show supplementation of good microbiota, for only the first 6 months of life, can positively shift the developing immune system to acquire the microflora as its own ultimately creating long lasting health benefits into adulthood. This finding is groundbreaking, as when starting to supplement with probiotics as an adult, the health benefits only last with continual probiotic supplementation (as seen in the research thus far.

Cough and colds are the most common infections we experience – often being a matter of “when” rather than “if”. Commonly adults catch a virus 2-3 times per year and children 3-8 times per year and probiotics have been shown to profoundly alleviate several aspects of inevitable annual sickness. The PROCHILD study evaluated 57 children aged between 4 and 6 years in a pre-school setting for 6 months and monitored illness. Total number of days with cold symptoms (sneezing, sore throat, cough, runny/blocked nose) had a 51% reduction in the probiotic group! The frequency of occurrence of cold symptoms reduced by 33% in the group taking probiotics. Most importantly, there was a 30% reduction in absence from preschool in the children taking probiotics! (Garaiova I et al 2014 Eur J Clin Nutr, doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.174)

The increasingly recognized profound impact that the microbiome has on human health cannot be underestimated – with impacts on virtually all aspects of human physiology.
Optimizing your child’s gut bacterial balance can be one of the most important things you can do to provide a foundation for health into their future. It is encouraged to talk to a naturopathic doctor or another health care professional who is educated in the latest research to help guide probiotic supplementation based on individual health needs. We are only beginning to understand the potential of this manipulation of gut flora and it provides a huge level of promise for the future.

Botanical Medicine and the Developing Immune System

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries all over the world and contrary to some belief it can be very effective in supporting a newborn’s immune system in a very gentle and safe manner. The best way to prevent infection in an infant is to grow a healthy baby during pregnancy. A healthy baby is likely to have a well-functioning immune system with optimal resistance to illness. Good nutrition during pregnancy is one the most important factors in decreasing a baby’s susceptibility to infection.

An effective way to stimulate a newborn’s immune system as they fight off a general infection is the use of botanical herbs, which have the ability to do so in a safe and gentle way without taxing the body. Botanical herbs will decrease the duration and severity of symptoms during an infection while still allowing the normal immune response to take place without suppressing it.

The following is a brief description of two herbs that the literature has found to be effective when treating general infections in newborns:

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): mainly known for its use as an antidepressant, antimicrobial, sedative and anti-inflammatory. In addition, to it’s commonly recognized use as an antidepressant, St. John’s Wort is also known to be a sedative and restorative nervine with a potent calming effect. Its antimicrobial properties make it very effective in the treatment of upper respiratory and intestinal infections. This herb is also particularly useful in the presence of inflammation. It may also be used as an earache oil to treat the pain as well as the infection associated with ear conditions in infants.

Echinacea spp.: Well known for its immune stimulating effects, it is also a very potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant. It can be very useful in treating upper respiratory tract infections as well as eye infections. As an alternative to providing this herb to the baby directly, a nursing mother can also take an Echinacea tincture some of which will pass through her breast milk to the baby. Echinacea decreases the duration of colds and reduces inflammation both internally and externally, and enhances overall resistance to illness. This herb is safe for young children as long as the dose is appropriate for their weight.
The previous descriptions of probiotics and botanicals are not meant to serve as a prescription, please see your Naturopathic Doctor to learn more about safety and dosages.

Dr. Kate Mclaird, ND & Dr. Nadine Khoury, ND.

Toronto Wellness Centre
12 Wellesley St. West
Toronto, ON
M4Y 1E7

Phone: 416-920-2722


Antibiotic resistance:
Plummer et al 2005, Int J Antimicrob Agents 26; 69-74

Anxiety: (Messaoudi et al 2011)
GI: ((Orel et al World J Gastroenterol 2014, Ghouri et al Clin Exp Gastroenterol 2014)
Blood pressure: (Khalesi et al, Hypertension 2014)
(Spergel JM et al, Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2010; Spergel JM et al, J Allergy Clin Immunol 2003)

Atopy 2 fold (Pistiner et al, J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008)

Naturally Healthy Babies and Children (Aviva Jill Romm; Pownal, Vt.: Storey Books, 2000, 2003).

Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine (David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG; Healing Arts Press, 2003).

How Much Food Should My Child Be Eating? Guest blog post by: Aviva Allen, Kids Nutritionist 

As parents we all go through periods where we worry about how much our kids are eating. This is especially true when dealing with a child who is underweight or seems to have a small appetite. It is also true when dealing with a child who is overweight and sneaking food. Yet even when we are dealing with a child who has a perfectly healthy weight, parents will often still wonder if their child is eating enough or too much and how this will affect their future growth and eating habits.

While it is not our job as parents to determine how much our kids eat, there are ways in which we can support them in their eating.

Don’t interfere

Young children are very good at self-regulating if we let them. This means not interfering with their quantities by the use of pressure tactics. They are the only ones who know how much their bodies need. Even though at times they may eat more or less than they need, they will usually make up for this by making the necessary adjustments at other meals.

Planned meals and snacks

Planning scheduled meals and snacks is one of our feeding responsibilities. Your child should be allowed to eat as much as they want at each sit down meal or snack and will be better able to regulate their amounts compared to being allowed to graze throughout the day. Snacks do not need to be what we tend to think of as “snack foods”. Think of them more like small meals and ensure the same balance that you would at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We should be offering our kids 4-5 opportunities to eat throughout the day so that would mean 1-2 snacks.

Proper spacing between meals and snacks

Use snacks to support mealtime and space them out properly to ensure your child comes to the table hungry, but not too hungry. If you wait too long, some children will be cranky and more likely to have a meltdown at the table while others may overeat. If your meals and snacks are too close together, your child will be more likely to reject what is offered at the table or eat only a small amount. This often results in parental pressure to eat in the form of negotiations and bribery. Your child may legitimately not be hungry and teaching them to ignore their internal huger cues can lead to trouble down the road.

Ultimately it is not our role to determine the appropriate quantity for our children to eat. We provide healthy and balanced meals and snacks. We provide them with a positive mealtime environment. We provide them with structure. Then we need to take a step back and let them do their job. Sometimes they will eat too much, sometimes they will eat too little and sometimes they will not choose to eat from all of the important food/nutrition groups but we need to let them make these mistakes in their eating and then learn to make up for them.

For advice on nutrition and feeding that is specific to your child and your family, call/email or book online to set up an in-office, phone or Skype consultation.


62_aviva-blog - CopyAviva Allen is one of Toronto’s leading Kids’ Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters.  Inspired by her two young boys’ adventures in food, Aviva helps children and their families establish healthy eating habits through her nutritional counselling practice located in Midtown Toronto, as well as offering consultations via phone or Skype for those out of the area. Aviva is also the founder of Healthy Moms Toronto, helping connect like-minded moms throughout the GTA.


Give your inbox a dose of delight.

Sign up to receive helpful parenting info, program updates, contests, and special offers - right in your inbox.