Jennifer is the founder of Jihi and a first-time mom sharing her personal struggles with pregnancy, baby blues, and breastfeeding. Jen made her bones in the technology world, building then selling a successful legal cannabis database business. Suddenly, she was at home with her daughter Emma, out of the high-speed flow of the tech/business world, and instantly placed in a brand new and unfamiliar role.
Pregnancy was difficult for Jen insofar as dealing with the fatigue and low energy that can come along with being pregnant. Taking her out of her “high performing space”, Jen had to learn how to navigate this territory while also experiencing worry over how the stress of her professional life was impacting her unborn child. Stress upon stress, worry upon worry, and no way to control any of it. Good times!
As mentioned in the podcast, here is the link to the Medical Gaslighting Episode
It was definitely a clash between the drive to succeed in business and the drive to have a family and be a mom. Prime business years are also prime pregnancy and mom years, so being between a rock and a hard place is a common thing!
Hormones matter! As much as it would be nice to disregard the role of hormones in pregnancy and childbirth, that’s just not gonna happen. The struggle is real when it comes to the effects of hormones on mood, energy levels, anxiety, and overall state of mind.
Breastfeeding is sometimes made to look amazing and full of love and magic. Jen’s reality was discomfort, sleep deprivation, and trying to get the process to actually work! There was nothing glamorous or lovely about the experience, but we rarely ever acknowledge this reality.
Jen and her family were definitely NOT prepared for coping with the extreme exhaustion and demands of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was a tricky beast because, although they had a relatively smooth breastfeeding journey (latching, supply, etc), they had to navigate Jen’s postpartum hypothyroidism (extreme exhaustion) and Emma’s first-year dairy and soy allergies (MSPI), which were undiagnosed for the first 6 months and prevented them from getting much sleep.
MSPI is a milk soy protein intolerance, which leads to colicky behavior like lots of crying and not a lot of sleeping, as well as vomiting, reflux, and weight loss. It is estimated that as many as 2-7% of babies under one year of age have an intolerance of cow’s milk, and many of these will also have an intolerance to soy proteins. If you’re having trouble getting your infant to sleep, this is something worth looking into. Emma remained undiagnosed for 6 months until blood was discovered in her diaper, at which point doctors began listening to Jen’s “colicky” complaints!
Once diagnosed, Jen was able to keep breastfeeding as long as she stayed on a strict dairy/soy-free diet. The Mealime app allowed Jen to put in dietary restrictions, and only displayed recipes that fit those restrictions. From there, you can pick your weekly meal plan and it will generate a grocery list for you. The meals are fabulous, largely plant-based, and really healthy. Jen and her family still eat Mealime recipes about 4-5 nights a week, even though Emma outgrew her allergies almost 3 years ago! The app has simply become a source of delicious, healthy, and easy-to-plan meals.
For families dealing with MSPI, Jen advises to not be afraid of the formula. Once they finally got on formula both Emma and Jen got stronger and their quality of life improved dramatically. Jen did experience a strong hormonal crash after breastfeeding ended, so don’t be afraid to wean gradually and say hello to some formula!
At 10 months Jen finally (very begrudgingly) put Emma on Similac Alimentum, and she quickly realized she should have done it way sooner. Emma did not want to make the switch and it took a few hard days to wean her – she literally refused to eat for a couple of very long, painful days. Eventually, Emma got hungry enough and started drinking it. Once she got used to it she loved it. It’s expensive. Giving up breastfeeding is emotionally and hormonally complicated, but it was a good decision once Jen and her family finally made the move.
The book Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International is a wonderful guide to breastfeeding that introduced Jen to co-sleeping, which can make breastfeeding (and surviving extreme exhaustion) much easier. Whether or not you’re interested in co-sleeping with your baby, it’s a very helpful book for anyone that is breastfeeding.
If you decide to co-sleep, or just want to be prepared in case you find yourself in a co-sleeping situation (like during an endless night with a sick baby!), Sleeping with Your Baby by James J. McKenna, Ph.D. is a fantastic book to help make sure you are prepared with a safe setup.
Be aware of the mom martyrdom trap. Jen found herself driving herself into the ground, losing weight, not sleeping, and drawing in stress, guilt, and unrealistic expectations centered around the distorted message that self-sacrifice defines “proper” motherhood. Things changed when Jen decided to start parenting from strength rather than martyrdom. Hard decisions had to be made that went against the grain of what “amazing moms” do, but in the end, these choices supercharged Emma’s health and development and put Jen back into a healthy place where she was able to regain her strength and get back on solid footing. When mom is strong, everyone wins. Being broken is not a badge of honor.
Jen’s experience led her to form Jihi, a CBD-based product company built on the principles of self-compassion, self-centered wellness, and spreading wellness and joy throughout the world from a position of strength. Check out my separate interview with Jen where we dive into the principle of self-care!
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