Dawn Combs is an ethnobotanist and homestead herbalist. I previously reviewed her book Heal Local about creating a locally-sourced home apothecary, so I was interested in reading her other book, Conceiving Healthy Babies: An Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy, and Lactation.
Dawn and her husband Carson make herbal infused products, use biodynamic and chemical-free practices, and teach sustainable beekeeping methods on their medicinal herb farm, Mockingbird Meadows. Much of their farming business was shaped by their experience with infertility. In this book, Dawn and Carson share this experience and describe the changes they both made, primarily using whole foods and herbal remedies, which led them to conceive and overcome challenges with breastfeeding.
Dawn encourages both women and men to learn to understand their bodies and take charge of their fertility. She explains, “a baby is built from preconception all the way through lactation” despite the fact that society typically teaches us that we don’t really need to prepare until conception. For example, you might think that you can start taking a prenatal vitamin and folic acid supplement when you find out you’re pregnant, but Dawn recommends that both partners work to achieve optimal health well in advance of conception (a year or more, if possible). On the other hand, even if you’re already pregnant or breastfeeding there is still so much you can take away from this book. Dawn also explains how traditional medicine often attempts to apply “one-size-fits-all” treatments for infertility. Instead, she discusses physical, environmental, and emotional factors which she believes contribute to infertility and how they can be overcome with dietary changes, herbs, and alternative therapies.
The largest section of the book (about 200 pages) is a “Healthy Baby Herbal Reference Guide” which includes hundreds of plants, their purpose (e.g., useful for milk production or male fertility), the part of the plant to be used, safety ratings, alternatives, the reproductive phase when they are most useful (preconception, pregnancy, or lactation), and whether the herb is endangered.
Foods for Preconception
Since I’m really interested in food and nutrition, I particularly liked the section about foods to eat during preconception. Here’s a sneak peak of some of the foods included in this section, though there is lots more to read in the book:
- Superfoods – yams, spirulina, maca, walnuts, and bee pollen
- Grass-fed organic meats or if you don’t eat meat, you’ll need to supplement zinc, iron, and Vitamin B12
- Proper fats – grass-fed meats, butterfat, and soaked seeds and nuts
- Organ meats – grass-fed organic liver (you can add it to bone broth if you don’t like the taste or texture) or high-quality desiccated liver capsules
- Cod liver oil with high-vitamin butter oil – cod liver oil must be taken with some type of butterfat for proper absorption
- Bitters – dandelion greens and bitter melon, or other foods which stimulate your tongue’s “bitter receptor” and support healthy digestion
- Zinc – soaked, raw pumpkin seeds, liver, oysters, sesame seeds, yogurt, shrimp, and venison
- Magnesium – soaked, raw, organic almonds or bone broth
- Calcium – seaweed or fermented or raw milk products
- Whole grains – soaked, soured, or sprouted only!
I think anyone who is thinking about becoming a parent, is currently pregnant, or breastfeeding would be interested in the information in this book. Even if you don’t agree with or decide to follow all of Dawn’s recommendations, I expect you’ll be inspired to consider new ideas, continue to research, and learn more about your own fertility.
Want to win a copy of the book?
In addition to giving me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, the publisher of Conceiving Healthy Babies has agreed to give away a copy of the book to one of our blog readers in the United States. So, check out the giveaway instructions below. Be sure to use your real name when leaving a comment so that we can match it up with your entry in case you win. You’ll have one week to respond with your address if you win or we will draw another winner. Make sure to check back on the website when we announce the winner and check your spam folder so you won’t miss our email!
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Janie Hynson, MPH lives in North Carolina and works in public health and sustainable agriculture. She is particularly interested in how health can be enhanced by improving our food system and environment.
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