Pregnancy Hacks: Advice for how to make eating and sleeping feel ‘normal’

By April Wallace

So much changes after you see that little plus sign on a pregnancy test, and it goes far beyond all the doctor’s visits, the rearrangement of your home and life. For about 10 months, you’re housing another human being in your body and it affects just about everything.

Now that I’m on round two of this experience, I’ve got a better sense of how to make my life feel a little closer to normal while I’m waiting on my bun to get out of the oven. I hope some of these will make the pregnant phase of your life more comfortable, too.

Food and sleep are two of the most vital necessities.

Eating-while-pregnant hacks:

My single biggest life changer during pregnancy is the altered diet. Sure, it stinks to avoid sushi, cold cuts, alcohol and caffeine (to excess), but some restrictions hurt worse than others.

Here’s how I get by:

Dogear your cookbook and your load grocery list with mocktail recipes.

My favorite is a virgin Mojito. I simply replace the vodka or rum with club soda or soda water. It’s still a refreshing treat and a nice change-up from all that water you’re guzzling. What I do: pour 3 ounces of Rose’s Mojito Mix, 2 ounces of club soda and then load with crushed ice and a generous amount of fresh mint leaves.

One of my best friends is also pregnant, and she enjoys a virgin Bloody Mary. Food Network has a recipe for this that takes only 10 minutes to prepare.

Pinterest is a great source for other mocktail recipes. I like to use Ovia’s mocktail recipe board on Pinterest. It has a lot of ideas, including the various combinations of fruits or vegetables you can add to a pitcher to flavor your water for the day.

Learn early on where to get pasteurized cheese.

An OB nurse warned me against eating very much cheese during pregnancy because it’s fatty, but I grew up in a region known for dairy farming, so I’ve never shied away from it. And with both my pregnancies, I’ve had a consistent aversion to meat.

Nuts and beans are also fantastic sources of proteins. Almonds are my favorite, and it’s nice that it doesn’t take that many to make you feel full. But let’s face it: cheese is the tastiest form of protein and going without it for months is to be avoided.

You can find plenty of safe, pasteurized cheeses at Walmart. The President and Frigo brands both carry pasteurized Brie, feta and blue cheese that are routine purchases for our household.

Two of my favorite cheese dishes:

  • Bake the Brie with crushed walnuts, top with a simple syrup or honey (if desired) and scoop it up with a sliced pear—you’re getting both protein and fruit in a super yummy package. Win-win, I say.
  • Toss the feta in an omelet with a few vegetables, or add to a favorite stew (I love a good Shrimp Saganaki). Both are good ways to get your nutrients, but the cheese adds a flavor twist to savor.

Know which restaurants have pasteurized foods.

Probably my least favorite aspect of pregnancy is the difficulty of finding a Mexican queso that’s pasteurized. I avoided it entirely with pregnancy #1, but this time around I was determined not to go without.

Unpasteurized foods include a risk of listeria for an unborn baby, so I’ve started to ask around in the hopes I could enjoy some queso between now and the delivery day.

So far, I’ve found that Qdoba, Flying Burrito, Las Margaritas in Springdale and Las Fajitas in Lowell all serve pasteurized queso. Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe serves pasteurized feta in their gyros. Hugo’s has a Blue moon burger that has pasteurized blue cheese. I’ve also asked Fayetteville chain La Huerta, but staff members that day didn’t know the answer.

You can do this, too. Simply ask the restaurant servers or manager if they know whether the cheese they use has been pasteurized. Most are honest. If you ask your favorite Mexican restaurant, there’s a good chance they might say: “I don’t know,” or “No one’s ever asked that.” That’s when it’s best to do without the queso: until you’re sure of its contents.

Sometimes with packaged products, company websites will have the answer, or the food packaging may have a hotline where you can ask. I found myself doing this early on with a favorite blue cheese salad dressing.

Sleep-while-pregnant hacks:

Is there anything more frustrating than being unable to sleep before the baby is born? It’s a common problem that can happen at any point in your pregnancy, due to hormone production and frequent bathroom trips. It’s bound to get worse toward the end as your growing bump makes it harder to get and stay comfortable.

Three musts:

  • The first thing most pregnancy books will recommend is to make fitness a part of your routine. It may make you ready for bed sooner, or sleep a little more soundly.
  • If you haven’t met your daily water goal, then the last 90 minutes before bed isn’t the time to catch up on those ounces—if you want to get a good night’s rest, that is. Slow down on water before bed, and you’ll have fewer middle of the night bathroom runs.
  • Make time to eat a snack. It will tide you over in a better way than loading up at a huge meal, because you’ll have less heartburn overall and close the gap a bit from when you eat next.

By a certain point of pregnancy, no amount of fitness, less water and smaller meals will keep you entirely comfortable, because your bump is the problem.

Body pillows are life at this point, and they come in all manner of shapes and sizes. They may make your husband jealous as they take over your cuddles. Also, I’m told it doesn’t help if you name them “Pillow (whatever your partner/husband’s name is)”. But they will give you a comfy space between your knees to help with those achy hips and back; and provide support under your bump. If your leg/feet/ankle water retention is ratcheting up, they’re also great for elevating your lower half at night to mitigate the swelling.

If these still don’t do the trick, try establishing a bedtime routine to wind down your mind and ease your muscles. It could include a warm bath or a heating pad (as long as it’s on your back/shoulders and not your bump), getting a quick foot massage or shoulder rub from your partner, eliminating screen time a certain period before your ideal bedtime, reading for a few minutes or doing whatever relaxes you.

Note from the mamas: This post first published in December 2018.

April Wallace is a stepmom to one smart, funny teenager, mama to a beautiful and curious baby and wife to a very kind and generous man. She spent the past decade as a news reporter, sometimes lifestyle writer, and recently left her job at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to be with her baby while he’s still a baby. When she gets a few minutes to herself, April loves to run local trails and read fiction.