November 5, 2012

The City’s Coolest Pregnancy Guru: Latham Thomas


The Mama Glow expert lends expectant mothers support and advice–along with her signature shine.

By Angela Johnson


Photo by Karen Haberberg

When California native Latham Thomas first arrived in New York, she couldn’t help but feel that the city could use a little of the warmth she was used to back home.

“There were no trees and people were so much less open. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m needed here!’” Latham recalls. “So I decided to stay.”

After graduating from Columbia University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Latham thought she’d be using her skills in a laboratory. Instead, this vibrant Manhattan mom is coaching women through one of the most important times in their lives: pregnancy.

Through Mama Glow, her maternity lifestyle movement, Latham offers yoga instruction, nutrition counseling, and labor support to help women look and feel their best through those critical nine months (and beyond). Her wellness plan has garnered plenty of acclaim, with major influencers such as Dr. Oz, Christie Turlington-Burns, and Rebecca Minkoff singing her prenatal praises.

Her new book, Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy, takes a personal and holistic approach to this very special moment in a woman’s life. Latham serves as every reader’s highly experienced “glow pilot”—part nutritionist, part trainer, and part girlfriend—educating and encouraging expectant moms along the way. Each section covers the tools and information needed in the kitchen, on the yoga mat, and in the mind to have a healthier and more fulfilling pregnancy.

The inspiration for the book came from Latham’s personal journey to motherhood. “When I became pregnant, it was suddenly very clear that nature set up this process that could be governed organically and naturally,” says the mother to a nine-year-old son, Fulano. “I realized I was supposed to chill and let my body do what it’s supposed to do, because clearly it knows.”

Nutrition is a common concern for pregnant women. So rather than binging on pints of ice cream or jars of salty pickles, the Mama Glow lifestyle emphasizes a raw, plant-based diet rich in “glow foods,” such as green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, and mustard greens), protein (nuts and beans), and essential fats (flax oil and avocado). These foods are loaded with nutrients and promote fetal development. As an added bonus, they also help mom by managing many of the side effects and cravings frequently associated with pregnancy. Latham also promotes the use of organic fruits and vegetables as diet staples and outlines colorful, multi-ethnic recipes for each trimester.

Beyond nutrition, Latham believes that yoga is the ideal pre- and postnatal exercise, helping women become in tune with their changing bodies. “When I was pregnant, I found that some prenatal yoga classes were more like prenatal naptime,” she says. “I wanted to create a class where women feel powerful. We’re not handicapped, we’re pregnant.”

Along with diet and exercise tips, the “In Your Life” sections of the book are designed to help women feel good about themselves in spite of the uncomfortable symptoms their bodies may be experiencing. While much of the preparation for a new baby is left to the mother, Latham insists that a strong support network is important for keeping her in good spirits. Friends and loved ones can help by sharing the load of household chores, and push presents—meaningful gifts that can be anything from flowers to concert tickets—are a great way to motivate women for labor.

Additionally, Latham recommends having a birth coach or doula on hand for baby’s birth. “It’s like the cherry on top of your labor,” she says. When deciding on a birth coach or doula, she suggests choosing someone with adequate training and experience who works well with the rest of the birth team. A doula should share the family’s childbirth philosophy, acting as an advocate for the overall plan. “My job when I’m in that role is to make sure the mother remembers [her birth] in a beautiful way,” she says.

When the big day finally arrives, Latham advises moms to have their birth bags ready to go. Comfy clothing, essential oils (rose geranium, grapefruit, and lavender are a few of her favorites), music (don’t forget the iPod dock!), and protein-packed snacks will help mom stay comfortable and energized for the delivery. One birth bag must-have is a stash of thick maxi pads doused with witch hazel and placed in the freezer to help mitigate swelling and soreness.

Once baby is safe at home, many moms feel the pressure to bounce back to their pre-baby bodies in an unrealistic, modern-day celebrity fashion. Instead, Latham suggests new moms take time to appreciate their hard work and lose any extra weight at a steady pace. She also notes that breastfeeding and low-impact walks around the neighborhood with your stroller can help. “When you’re stressed, you’ll produce more abdominal fat. Relax and embrace the fact that you will gain some weight…and it will come off,” she says.

Moreover, adjusting to life as a new mom can cause some women to feel a little down at times. Latham recommends reaching out to friends and loved ones. “I think it’s a great exercise between partners to call out the things you love about each other and write them down,” she suggests. “You can go to that piece of paper when you feel less capable or sad.” However, feelings of forlorn and loss of interest in appearance and other normal activities can be a sign of postpartum depression and require a doctor’s help.

“A lot of the reason why moms go into postpartum depression is because they don’t feel supported,” Latham notes. “You held a baby inside for nine months; now you’re holding them out in the world. You need to feel held too.”

Ultimately, Mama Glow encourages readers to view their pregnancy as an incredible, unique experience and to trust their bodies with what they were made to do. “I think pregnancy takes 40 weeks for a reason. It’s symbolic of a period of personal growth, self-development, and introspection,” the glow guru says.

Most importantly, Latham makes it clear that while she’s not suggesting women ignore doctors completely, she challenges them to take a more active role in the way their children come into the world, trusting their instincts and getting second opinions on everything.

“You don’t have to apply all of the principles [in the book], but if you apply more of them, you will get more of what you need,” the maternity maven suggests.

At the end of the day, it comes down to figuring out what lifestyle choices and birth options are right for you. And Latham has some well-tested tips and tricks that just might make you glow.

After 10 years of working in the television industry, Angela Johnson is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

And for a peek at Latham’s top three yoga poses, click here.

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