Epigentics, Breastfeeding + Diet, and Prenatal Stress

This post is part one of my CAPPA Re-Cap series.

CAPPA linchpins Laurel Wilson and Tracy Wilson Peters are co-authors of a new book, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever, that focuses on the depth, intensity, and value of the MotherBaby bond. As I noted, I listened to Laurel talk about Bridging the Nutrition Gap and to Tracy speak about the “accidental parent.” In both, they addressed the biological wisdom that mothers possess and of the deeply interconnected nature of the maternal relationship.

Laurel reminded us that there is a brain in our gut, essentially. This brain literally tells us how we should be feeling our emotions, based on the nutrition that we’re putting into our bodies. She discussed epigenetics–a term meaning literally “above the gene”—explaining that this is the “translator that ‘reads’ the book of instructions from our genome.” The translator tells the body to turn on or off the genes we’ve inherited from our parents. Epigenetics is essentially the environment–those things in our environment that influence our biology. Laurel pointed out enthusiastically that we want to create an excellent “translator” for our children. She also emphasized repeatedly that one important job of the placenta is to “train” the baby for the environment it will be experiencing. This is why prenatal diet matters, it is helping to prepare the baby to thrive in the environment into which it will be born. So, chronic stress leads to a stressful womb environment, which leads to a baby that is biologically primed to be born into a stressful postnatal environment. Mother’s body primes baby’s body for success in that environment. As I listened to her speak and discuss the things we’ve learned from science about genetics and how our bodies function, I kept thinking: science can do a lot, it can do wonderful things. Mother’s body can do even moreAnd, isn’t that just cool?!

So, what’s going on in the maternal habitat?

One important point Laurel made about prenatal diets was that prenatal diets high in hydrogenated oils predispose mamas to postpartum moods disorders. She said this is because hydrogenated oils essentially “leach” EFA’s out of the mother’s system.

She also noted that mice up to three generations are affected with PCOS by BPA and phthalates (in food packaging. Our food is literally making us sick). These influence change the endocrine system and are connected with reduced sociality and community engagement.

Laurel explained too that no artificial sweeteners are considered safe for pregnant women and that stevia too is linked to epigentic damage. She suggested using honey and molasses as sweeteners if needed.

One tip that I found funny, basic, but so true with regard to choosing healthy foods is to make sure to choose to eat foods that will rot!

In Tracy’s talk she passionately affirmed that we have to eliminate chronic stress from pregnant women’s lives because she is laying an emotional and physical foundation for another person’s life. This matters! Babies are feeling before they are thinking and we are designed to live in the environment we are being born into.

Also remember, babies don’t need to be in nurseries–they need to be with their mothers. This MATTERS!

2 thoughts on “Epigentics, Breastfeeding + Diet, and Prenatal Stress

  1. Pingback: CAPPA Re-Cap | Talk Birth

  2. Pingback: Bits of the (Birth) Net | Talk Birth

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s