Wellness Maven Britt Maren On fitness, food + donating her breastmilk.

Wellness obsessed and self-proclaimed arbiter of sweets, Britt is settling into new motherhood, from home. Stunning as ever, this superstar mom shares the feel-good details of donating her breast milk plus how they’re providing food to local hospitals in the wake of COVID-19, what she’s baking on the reg (cue sweet tooth), and her self-isolation fitness tips. 

Current state of mind?

Of course, I’ve been home with the baby on maternity leave for some time now and just as I was finally ready to go back to work fulltime… COVID. While, physically I’m feeling great and it’s lovely to have extra time with my son and as a family, financially I certainly didn’t need to take more time off. Plus, the government paperwork for financial aid and small business loans is completely overwhelming as this time is unprecedented.

Giving back during COVID?

My husband is in the event business and owns a catering company. In response to COVID, they launched a program to feed hospitals via go-fund-me called Feed Those Who Are Fighting. Yesterday they delivered to Elmhurst in Queens which is one of the hardest-hit hospitals, plus they are delivering to a couple of hospitals in Brooklyn, a fire precinct in the LES and NYU starting this week. It’s all about helping where you can when you can.

How did you feel throughout your pregnancy?

The first half of my pregnancy was extremely emotional and very different from the second. We knew we were pregnant early-on and at 8-weeks were told via a sonogram that it might be twins. However, it was too soon to make that call. There’s a condition called vanishing twin syndrome wherein there are two sacks, but one of the babies never fully forms. Apparently, it’s more common than we know but most people never realize it as they go to the doctor later after one has already vanished. Therefore when we went back at 9-weeks my tests came back abnormal. The doctor assumed this was the case, and while I was progressing well at every check-up it wasn’t until 20-weeks when we could do the amniocentesis (which is also risky), that our doctor was able to confirm our baby was safe. Up until that point, we were in a constant state of panic and worry. Finally, after we got the results and knew he was healthy, I was able to enjoy the pregnancy.

Otherwise, I felt great physically. I was healthy, worked out, drank tons of water, and ate veggies plus sweets equally. From the outside, if you didn’t know how emotionally draining the beginning was, it would seem as if I had an ideal pregnancy and birth. This, in many ways, is true, but the worry of the unknown for months was a lot to shoulder and after all of that we are so grateful that he’s healthy.

What was your birth experience?

I’d always hoped for a natural birth but was trying to keep an open mind. At four days past my due date, I went for a check-up and for fun, we took bets with the doctor on how far dilated I was, even though I didn’t feel as if I was in labor in the slightest. At best, I thought I was a half cm and the doctor thought perhaps 2 cm. As he’s checking me, he looks up and starts laughing. Turns out I was 5.5 cm dilated and had no idea! I didn’t feel anything outside of mild cramping but at that point, I was already in active labor.

He advised us to go home to labor and keep him posted. So we left and even ran a couple of errands on the way. Later that afternoon I was starting to feel more “crampy,” took a nap and started timing my contractions which were gaining in intensity. By early evening, they were coming more frequently, so we called the doctor and he said to come back to the hospital. We walked into the Labor & Delivery floor at 6:40 pm at 8 cm dilated. As they checked me in and hooked me up to an IV I was gripping my husband in pain. An hour later, I was 10 cm, and the doctor came booming into the delivery room declaring “let’s have a baby!” 

I wanted to birth him naturally and since I was already 8 cm upon arrival getting an epidural wasn’t an option. The doctor had me pushing in sets of three with a break in between and my husband was so supportive. I was seeing stars but just as I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, he started to crown. At 8:40 pm Dylan was born while Bohemian Rhapsody played with the lyrics “thunderbolts of lightning…!!” bellowing into the room.

Once the baby and placenta delivered, I continued to bleed a lot – the labor and delivery had intensified so quickly my uterus didn’t have time to expand properly. The doctor looked worried and asked if it was ok to give me medicine to stop the bleeding; of course, I said yes! He gave me medicine and then stitched me from the episiotomy and then I was fine.

Are you breastfeeding?

Yes, we’re going on 10 months now and I plan to keep going as long as it feels right. From the get-go, he took to the boob. I’m extremely grateful for this as I know many women struggle with either their production of milk or latching. In contrast, I tend to over-produce milk and started donating it a few months ago to parents in need.

We went through a little issue with lipase and learned that I can only keep a stash of about 6-weeks worth in the freezer and since I’m home all the time, especially now, we rarely use it outside of a bottle a day. Therefore I decided to start donating the extra milk originally to a woman that wasn’t able to produce milk and had a little girl around the same age as Dylan. She was super grateful and would come over regularly to pick up bags from me until she moved. Now I am donating to this gay man that’s about to adopt a daughter next month; I’m helping him build his supply before she arrives. He just came by 10 minutes ago for a contactless pickup! It feels good to be able to help men and women that need pumped milk for whatever reason.

What are lipases?

Lipase is an enzyme found in all breast milk, however, different women produce different amounts of it. When you freeze breast milk the lipases continue to develop and can change the smell and taste of breastmilk over time. For some babies this is fine and others reject it. Early on, I started to build a supply of milk in the freezer thinking I’d have to travel for work. We introduced a bottle with fresh breast milk early on so Derrick could help feed the baby at night and we could get him used to it before I went back to work. Although, the first time we tried frozen milk, Dylan refused it. I’d remembered reading that lipases could create a metallic taste and smell which was definitely noticeable. Apparently, there’s a way to deactivate the lipases by scalding the milk before freezing it, but all of mine was already frozen so that wasn’t going to work. Some people suggested mixing it with fresh to lessen the taste. Plus, I read that the longer it’s frozen the more pronounced the taste becomes which is why we limit our supply to 6-weeks worth.

How have you been eating?

I always joke that I live on veggies, desserts, and pasta. My husband is a classically trained chef and fresh pasta is “his thing,” so we tend to have a lot of pasta. Also, he has a sourdough starter and has been baking a lot of fresh bread. In short, we’ve been eating very well this COVID crisis.

Are you feeding Dylan solids?

We’ve been experimenting with solids which is exciting for us as we’re such a food-focused family. My husband will make purees for him such as cumin cauliflower roasted apple puree. We started with single ingredients but he seems to like more complex flavor combinations; he is a good eater.

Are you working out?

I remained active throughout my pregnancy. I walked the hills in our neighborhood plus did short pilates and yoga videos. I used to do BARRE when we lived in NYC and I continued with that in LA until I was about 6 months pregnant. However, when we moved to our new house the drive was too far so I’ve been doing yoga videos from home instead. One of my favorites is a 40-minutes pilates video on PopSugar Fitness with pregnancy and postpartum modifications.

Any self-care tips to share?

Selfcare is often seen as an indulgence, but it’s a necessity, especially now. With all of us at home, it’s important to take time for ourselves. A face mask, a walk alone, 20-minutes of yoga…these things make me feel better, they just do.

Plus, I love to bake. Baking in times of uncertainty is so comforting. There’s something about having a recipe, working with your hands and getting a specific result that is so rewarding. It’s my meditation.

Any advice you can leave us with?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I used to refer to this a lot in the modeling industry but it applies to motherhood too. You can read all the books and get all the advice, but every experience is so personal. What’s going to work for you is not going to work for someone else. While you can ask your friends for their advice, ultimately have to check in with yourself and trust your gut. Every baby (and mom) is so unique; it’s important to go with the flow and be easy on yourself.