This year has been pure madness. Some good some bad, but all in all necessary. I haven't had a ton of inspiration on the blogging front, but my Instagram game is pretty steady. Check out my World Doula Week Birth affirmations, for some insight on my year so far. Thanks to my avid readers. Please feel free to contact me personally with any insight or questions you may have!
I had the opportunity to visit Bali this year. I was there for 3 weeks working with a family and experiencing my surroundings when I had some time off. The streets in Bali are lively with motor bikes by the hundreds flooding the streets, even the sidewalks in times of congestion. The people smile, and busily sell their services to tourists on the streets. I had the opportunity to visit the city of Ubud, known to some from the book turned movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I did my best to live it up during this very unique experience. I haggled with men on mopeds for transportation services, walked, and prayed in a temple. I rode on the back of a motorcycle through the rice paddies, watching the flags and banners waving as we cruised by, the sun beating on my skin as the driver stopped and went with quick decisions through busy road ways. I’m not going to lie, I was concerned for my safety, but only a little. I spent an afternoon at a beach club drinking margaritas and listening to good tunes while meeting different people from around the world at a swimming pool bar. I even got to wash a grown elephant and feed a baby one. I mean, dream vacation, right? Funny thing is- none of those experiences topped the one I had at the Bumi Sehat birthing center.
While visiting Ubud, I had the opportunity to visit Bumi Sehat, a community birthing center started by Robin Lim. When I arrived in the city, I began asking around about Bumi Sehat, interested in hearing a story or two of births that had happened at the center. I was able to speak with two different gentleman who provided me with transport. The first gentleman in his 60s told me of his daughter who was receiving care at the center, and how grateful he was for the the facility as well as the staff. The other man was in his 30s. He and his wife in the process of trying to conceive. They attend fertility counseling offered in the center. He discussed how grateful he was for the affordability of the care. The center accepts whatever you can pay. How beautiful is that? Everyone receiving the same quality of care, for whatever they can afford.
I planned on getting there and simply offering my hands in any way. I was prepared to check in on postpartum recovery mamas and help them swaddle up a fussy baby, or establish breastfeeding. Heck, I was open to prepping food or folding some laundry, Wherever they needed me, I was ready to serve. The PR woman showed me around the center. Upon introducing me to the midwives on call that day, they immediately said, “Oh, you can support our birthing couple!!” I honestly did not expect this. I was floored. It turns out that this couple had wished for a doula, but were unable to attain one. The staff asked the couple if they would be ok with me providing doula services for them. They said, “Yes.”… I couldn’t believe it. Due to the nature of the work I was doing in Bali, I was only available to stay for 5 hours, so when I arrived I made it a point to make that very clear to them. It is important that boundaries are set, to not leave clients with disappointment. They still felt the time valuable, so I joined them in the room they were in, introduced myself, and got to work.
It was like a dream. The mother was originally from the Netherlands, her partner born and raised in Bali. She smiled at me with the glow of a laboring mother. Still talking and smiling in between contractions. It was a different dynamic than my other births, of course, as this was happening in a culture that exists on the other side of the planet from my usual domain. I get more time to get to know my state side clients before the birth. This birth support required a subtle dance between present, quiet support, and getting to know each other through conversation. One of my favorite aspects of international travel is the constant obstacle that language barriers provide. The art of communication is really chiseled down to the very raw details. Body language, eye contact, and listening. As a doula, I utilize these very aspects of communication in my work. As mentioned before, I make the time to meet with my clients a few times prior to the birth. However, there is still that aspect of uncertainty in the air. The unpredictability of birth permeates all aspects of the birthing room when the time comes. There is no way to know how one will react in that space, until we are actually there. I enter every birthing room with an open heart, ears, and eyes. When listening with all my faculties, intuition guides my hand and body where it needs to go. So, walking in here I felt virtually the same emotions as my state side births. The only difference is the comfort in imminent changes this community has. Imagine only having access to just what you need. No overabundance of materials or services to choose from, simply being comfortable with what you can have at that very moment. This couple welcomed me with trust and confidence. That confidence allowed me to just jump in and help, despite having just met at that very moment..
The environment was warm and muggy. The back door to the room open wide with curtains blowing in the wind. The sounds of motor bikes, children’s voices, and generations of families housed together, thriving as their own village. I could not believe what an opportunity this was for me, and how enriching it felt to participate in this one of kind experience. Aside from her partner, she had some close friends present at her birth. Very relaxed with them in and out making sure mom and dad had everything they needed. Her girlfriend even snapped some of my only photos present at a birth.
Mama was sitting on the bed when I came in, which was low enough to allow the space for her hips to ease open. As we were quickly getting acquainted, she began pacing the room. That is one of my most favorite aspects of birth. In staying present in that space, birth itself begins making certain choices for you. As a doula, this allows us the opportunity to get a sense of the mama’s rhythm. The last thing I wanted to do was walk in there and stand in the way of all the progress already done, so I just watched for a minute. I then began implementing some counter pressure during her contractions. She would beautifully float from bed to wall, placing her hands on it as a contraction came on. Her knees would weaken a bit allowing her to naturally squat into each surge as they came on. I acclimated her to my touch for about 30 min allowing her to brush the edges of active labor.
She asked for some relief for her hips and mentioned feeling sort of stuck. Feeling stuck can happen for all sorts of reasons, it could be the position of the baby, a nagging thought in your head, or maybe just an aspect of the waves of emotion you are feeling, keeping you from moving you forward. I got her on her hands and knees on the bed and went to my bag for my rebozo, calmly explaining to her how I would be using it. I wrapped the rebozo around her hips, tightening just enough to grip and gently shimmy them back and forth. This forced her muscle tissue to let go, easing baby lower. We stayed there a little bit after, swaying her hips back and forth while I applied counter pressure during contractions. We became a unit on the bed, with dad spotting us. She soon grew tired of this position, so I got out the birthing ball, giving her the chance to rest but still able to work her hips.
Before we knew if it, she mentioned feeling fluid leaking down her leg. This is a good indication of what we in the birth world refer to as SROM, or Spontaneous Rupture Of Membranes. For this mama it seemed more like a small tear, slowly emitting amniotic fluid with each contraction. This is can also be an indication of possible transition. When the waters break, the cushion between the birth canal and baby’s head disappears, which can intensify the birth considerably. This was true for this mama. She slowly stopped talking, and began pacing even more than before. Her close friend cut up some dragon fruit for the room and mama would stop and snack as often as possible. I was watching the clock pass time as she slowly drifted off into the most intense place she had been since the beginning of this journey. Her midwife, Robin came in to check on her. She was pleased with her progress, and without any intervention, other than some suggestions on birthing techniques, she took her leave to allow this birth to unfold. We got mama in the shower on a birth ball. She rocked her hips more intensely, dad and I taking turns running warm water down her back as she moaned beautifully. Her restless feelings grew bigger as she furthered her progress so she switched back to pacing, clearly her favorite method of laboring.
Her friends and husband spent some time observing me, and I teaching them some of my techniques so they could assist her closer to pushing. Soon, it was time for me to leave. Without taking away too much from their current moment, I gave them some words of encouragement and gratitude, and left knowing that they were soon to meet their little one.
The last couple of weeks there consisted of long hours as a babysitter, and quiet evening swims in the moonlight. It wasn’t long before I was packing my bags to return home. As beautiful as this island is, my heart belongs to Texas. The trip home is well over 24 hours, including an eight hour layover in Korea. I was exhausted by travel, my tummy sour with the acidity of my fourth cup of coffee, but I couldn’t help but smile at the joy I received in spontaneously supporting a beautiful mama through her transition from early labor to active labor. My life is forever changed for this experience and I will be forever grateful.
I was recently asked to brainstorm on a blog for The Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas. I wrote about the role of a postpartum doula, and the benefits in the sort of care. I reflect a bit on our society's mentality to internalize our needs, rather than vocalize for help. Here's a link to the full article, "Postpartum Doulas: The Support New Mom's Deserve"
Okay, so you are probably wondering by 12 weeks into development why your baby only sleeps an hour and half in between feeds some nights, and three and a half hours in between feeds other nights. The first year with baby can be a journey of the unknown, but it’s important to know that you are not alone in this venture. Many families struggle to attain a regulated schedule, even more so as we grow older and maybe even larger in number.
In terms of an infant, they have no concept of time or as my fellow Doula professional Allison Coleman of Austin Baby Guru says, “Babies don’t have a concept of your culture, in fact children don’t really gain an understanding of your family’s culture until the age of 5-7.” So, establishing a night time routine can be a good way to implement indicators that an infant can grasp.
Before we get into the thick of it, I want to make it clear. Night time routines are a practice, I can not guarantee magic with starting a night time routine as an infant’s needs are forever unpredictable. Also, consider the age of your baby. Babies younger than 8-12 weeks are often still developing so much, that it is unlikely they will trend anywhere near a regular routine. I encourage you to be patient, and more importantly to observe your child. You are already taking note of their likes and dislikes on an unconscious level, give yourself some grace, in order to tap in to your natural parenting instincts.
Infants are incredibly sensitive to their surroundings. Starting a nighttime routine can be as simple as turning the lights low, closing curtains, turning off any TVs or music playing in the house, and speaking in a soft tone of voice. When I work overnight with my families, one of the first things I do is go around and turn off unnecessary lighting. Believe it or not, your baby can tell a difference, even if they are not in the room.
One of my favorite things to do once the lights are low is run a warm bath for baby. Not all babies find bathing relaxing, but if your baby does a nightly bath is a great way to change the pace. No need to soap baby up every night, a warm water soak is just fine when baby isn’t too stinky. A nice segue from bath time would be a massage with lavender lotion. Make sure to diaper your little one first to avoid being tinkled on (this is advised for both boys and girls). I like to recommend coating baby’s bottom with either a mineral oil or any other food grade oil, so any yucky diapers filled overnight won’t irritate baby’s skin. Massage helps stimulates baby’s touch and smell senses and offers a form of aromatherapy. This practice can also benefit baby’s digestion, so you can lie them down on their back with less discomfort after a feed.
Once your little one is all soft and smelling delicious, you’ll want to dress them in clothing opposite of their daytime attire. I often recommend that parents dress babies in onesies during the day, and then switch them over to footy pajamas, or long-sleeved nightgowns at night. By juxtaposing the styles, it creates another indication in the change of day to night.
After baby is cozy you can do a few different things. This would be a nice place to implement any cultured practices already taking place in the house. Some families do story time, other families have a nightly prayer, it can be whatever your interpretation is, as long as it falls in the relaxed state of affairs.
Once your quiet interaction is finished you can start some white noise, or lullabies (if you so choose). Maybe you are an essential oils enthusiast, start a defuser with a soothing sent for baby’s room. Than nurse one more time, burp, swaddle and off to their bed they go.
This nighttime routine can take anywhere from 30 min-2 hrs, and can be as flexible to your schedule as you need. It should help baby sleep a bit longer into the evening, giving you a little break before their next feed. If they aren’t up in time for their normal feed, you can always keep them swaddled, and feed them in a sleep state. This is what we call a dream feed. I recommend doing this right before you go to sleep. This way baby will continue to sleep further into the evening, allowing you to attain more sleep before the next feed. One word of advice to any nursing parents, the feed may not be as full on as other feeds, so be sure to pump and empty before going to sleep.
A night time routine may not make any difference in your baby’s behavior at first. As stated before, this is a practice. Try and use it as an opportunity to check in with your baby daily and just enjoy some quiet interaction at the end of the day. You could even utilize it to implement your own nighttime routine some nights and pass the torch to partner. How ever you decide to utilize this information, make it your own. Parenting is about making confident decisions for your family and allowing yourself to change it up occasionally.
If you are a returning reader, then you probably have seen my previous series on babywearing. I will be covering a few basics, but mostly focusing on newborn specific info. When we are talking about ergonomics, we are addressing one’s efficiency. So, when we are talking about babywearing in this context, we are looking at it as a tool in making you more efficient.
Babywearing has many benefits. The one that stands out here is the ability to be mobile and hands free. Newborns require a lot of attention. Unlike elephants, human infants rely heavily on their parents to survive the early stages in life. Just like a good swaddle, babies really respond to close knit comforts. If we consider their tiny spaced environment prior to being earth side, it makes sense. Knowing this, it should be no surprise that baby longs to be close to you. There are even greater physiological benefits you can read about in my piece on kangaroo care.
Babywearing has grown in popularity over the years, here in the states. Ancient civilizations have been and continue to practice this in their villages. One of the first things I ask my clients is, “what kind of baby carries did you get?” More times then not, they assemble a handful of carriers new/gently used, brought to them by friends that have seen the benefit in this practice.
Like with all things parenting, babywearing is a learned practice. There are handful of guidelines you should be aware of when deciding what works for you. It's important to remember that you are in recovery, so be sure to clarify any weight restrictions with your physician (this will effect c-section recovery the most). Always make sure to have a partner when trying out new carries. They will be helpful getting baby into your choice sling/carrier, spotting you assuring baby's safety, and then helping adjust the straps so you are comfortable. For more basic safety tips, visit my previous blog series.
That is all I have for you at this time. Try to be patient with this. Nothing comes easy especially in the early stages, so give yourself some grace. For direct resources on babywearing, visit my final blog entitled Safety Tips!!
Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, our posture is a factor. You have spent the last nine months supporting a completely different center of gravity, so our tendency to slouch is much greater now. There is an abundance of accessories on the market that you can get to help prop baby up closer to you. More specifically for breastfeeding people a handful of ways you can hold your baby while nursing. A newborn eats a lot, so you will find yourself seated many hours a day feeding your baby. Consider the state of your posture and set up a functional space to support you and your baby.
When it comes down to it, fed is best. There is nothing more natural than a baby communicating it's needs and receiving it. How you choose to nourish your little one is completely up to you, and you should never justify that to anyone.
Next blog I will present the different styles of baby carriers on the market, and how to choose what is best for you. I will also include some helpful soothing techniques for baby.
Recovery! This is the operative word here. It is the 4th trimester after all, so giving yourself some grace throughout the early stages of recovery will help you tremendously. I will spend the next couple of weeks offering ways to help ease through your postpartum recovery. There are little things you can do around the house in order to make caring for both mother and baby more accessible.
Consider the layout of your home. Where will baby be sleeping? The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends baby sleep in parents room for a full year. Where is your bed located in relation to baby’s needs. Diaper changes, sleeping area, nursing area. Maybe baby has a room upstairs and parent’s downstairs. Consider setting up changing stations around the home with a blanket/changing mat, and a little caddy with salves/wipes/diapers/hand sanitizer. In short, put things in arms reach. You will need to conserve your energy.
Below are some examples of products you can utilize in building a newborn savvy home. Next week I will be posting about Nursing support, and building your nursing stations.
I have had the pleasure of attending several births in that last 2 years. All of them beautiful, in their own right. As mentioned in my last post, I will be sharing one birth story a month. My intention is to empower and educate in the diversities of pregnancy, birth, and doula support
Today I am going to share with you the most recent birth I have attended. To uphold privacy we will call mom Carrie and dad Eric. I met this couple through Enlightened Baby's doula date night. Living in Austin has really offered up great resources in being paired with new clients. Carrie had shared with me a sizable list of concerns, and I did my best to help alleviate some of her anxiety. She was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia early in her pregnancy. This immediately labeled her a high risk pregnancy, which for a first time mom can be very scary. On top of that, she also has a list of allergies that needed to be advocated for, and is not a candidate for an epidural. This couple was facing a little more complicated situation from the beginning, so they set out and learned more about birthing. I hope to share more on Blissborn, the practice in which Carrie and Eric learned in their birth class. In a nutshell, it consists of a list of things that partner reads to mom, with the intention of guiding her to a meditative state.
With pre-e, majority of physicians will induce around the 36-40 weeks depending on the stability of your blood pressure. Carrie was induced at 39 weeks, this is incredible for pre-e mamas. This meant that her blood pressure was remaining stable. The OB even made a comment during labor about Carrie's BP making her look silly with how well it maintained.
Carrie had a pitocin drip and broken waters early in the morning, so she was experiencing some sizable contractions when I arrived. Her choice methods of relief were heat on her lower back and counter pressure/massage. She seemed motivated, so I suggested we do hands and knees, so I could use my rebozo and shake her hips for a bit. A rebozo is a large scarf native to Mexico, I anchor it around mama's hips, and shake it (sort of like those old cellulite shakers from the 50s) in order help relax the muscles of her cervix and hips. The more relaxed your body, the further baby can come down. She felt the position had her too engaged, so I recommended the birth ball for a more supported position. We spent a good amount of time here, rubbing her back and encouraging moans. Eric was insistent on stepping in and helping massage and hip squeezes. I really appreciated it physically and mentally.
What a testament to their love for each other. It is certainly common for a partner to participate, but this was my first experience with a partner that insisted upon helping. Carrie's cervical check was slightly disappointing for her, she was still -2 effacement and only 3.5 cm. It just didn't seem like enough to her with the level of contractions she was experiencing. It's not uncommon for laboring mamas to feel discouraged by cervical checks, luckily some OBs and LD Nurses try and avoid them as a means of support.
With most every cervical checks comes the discussion, what to do next. In any case with previously broken waters, labor gets put on a schedule due to the risk of infection. Majority of care providers will give you a full 24 hrs before recommending any serious interventions. So, for Carrie they suggested doubling her dose of pitocin in order to avoid the drastic options down the road. Carrie calmly obliged, with a look of defeat. I suggested she lie on her left side, with a peanut ball between her legs so she could take a moment to catch up after all that work. I asked Eric to read some of the material from their Blissborn class, while I applied counter pressure during contractions. The reading walked her through an activity step by step. It begins by describing your environment and how that feels as you go through each suggested motion(all visual of course). The most amazingl thing happened, she looked like she was sleeping... I mean the monitor suggested avalanches of contractions, but she was calm and restful. It was like magic, and you best believe I praised partner for such an awesome job he was doing. They really had to dedicate some time to this practice in order to get such excellent results.
Soon, Carrie complained of feeling fully engaged in her pelvis even between contractions. I was stumped, how is she still so engaged in a rested position, and how can I alleviate this for her. I tried some more hip shakes, but by this point is was hurting more than helping. So, I asked the nurse what she thought. This is the beauty of having your doula, they can utilize your nursing staff in ways you never thought. They have seen everything, so when all else fails we ask for help. She suggested a rocking chair...huh...a rocking chair, how simple. In my head I thought, "well okay, we'll try it, although it seems it wouldn't allow for enough space for baby to come down..." Thankfully, the nurse made an executive decision to reduce her pitocin back to the original dose. The combination of all our efforts offered a form of relief for Carrie, and opened a space for her to trust her body.
The Rocking chair made room for Eric and I to apply massage on her lower back, it even made for a space to hang a towel with peppermint oil on it near mom, in order to help cleanse her space and clarify her air. Doulas make it their mission to create an environment for your birth. This process begins in our discussions leading up to labor and delivery. Essential oils are just part of what I bring to help augment the space. I also have a play list of binaural music (mostly white noise tone, and rain drops), I often put this on when mom hits active labor and doesn't already have something filling the space. It's a magical playlist, I use it to soothe myself to sleep and have had partners asleep within moments after proclaiming, "there is no way I can get any sleep right now." I was in no way prepared for the effect it had on Carrie.
Soon after she settled into a rhythm with the rocking chair, she began humming a lyrical tone in between contractions. Eyes closed, jaw dropped, and almost a wavering rocking in her voice carrying her away into the abyss. She was so in it, I had to reassure Eric that she is in the zone and doing amazing. There soon after the wavering humming turned into big wide open moans, I knew then she was making incredible progress. I was so floored by her focus and beauty in sound, it was clear this was one of the most indigenous births I will ever witness. I'm not joking, it was as if she was calling on her ancestors to carry her boy lower and lower!! Her nurse kept coming in to adjust the monitors, which is always a good sign. This means we have action and baby is moving. Such grace this nurse had, you could see in her face she knew it was going to happen soon. So, she slowly closed the gap in between visits and finally calmly asked, do you feel like you're pushing? The answer was yes!!!
It all happened so fast, Carrie got up mid screams to get on the bed...it was obvious that her baby boy was right there...CROWNING!!! Dr is being called, baby nurses coming in, surgical tech comes in.... I'm looking around and Eric has decided to go to the bathroom, so I hold my breath so as to not alert Carrie. I did one of those panic stricken reactions where you grab your phone to call, then take two steps, and then look at your phone... and then decide to go get them.... luckily him and Doctor had met in the hallway and returned soon after. I got Eric over to Carrie's side, Doctor sits down throws on gloves and 3 pushes later baby boy arrives. She had gone from a discouraged state of mind, to zen focus, to being completely enthralled in her labor, and finally pushing in a mere 5 hours! An entire 6.5 impressive centimeters!!
I'm so proud of Carrie and Eric, they are a true example of perseverance. Their road to meeting their boy was a rocky and sometimes unsure, but they harnessed all the knowledge necessary to help empower their very own birth experience.
Wow a new year, and so much in store for my Doula practice. For some of you that have stuck around since I went live, you know that it has only been roughly eight months in this web presence. You may also have noticed my blogs coming to a halt about three months ago. First and foremost, thank you to all those that have taken the time to read my posts. Last year proved to be extra challenging. At the time of the birth of this website, I had a much different perspective on how my business will grow. Truly, I was still working part time as a bartender, in addition to booking births and caring for families through several weeks postpartum. Which is the real reason my blog fell to the waysides.
You see, I thought I had already birthed this baby when I was just barely hitting active labor. Yes, I am going to use birth as a metaphor for my Doula journey - deal with it! The phrase, "leap of faith" has been ringing in my head ever since I chose to quit my bartending job, and go fulltime doula. This has been a goal of mine for the last 2 years, and finally in my 3rd year I did it! That's not to say that I have all the answers, and certainly don't have a calendar beyond 3 months from now, but what kind of doula would I be if I didn't at least trust the process.
Trust. This is a very prominent word in birthing. Trust your body, trust yourself, trust your baby, and trust your partner. These are all very primal tools for the mental state in birth. When a woman can surrender to the shudders of intense labor, and trust that her body is capable. Incredible progress can be made in the delivery of a child. So, why can’t we attribute this beautiful practice to our everyday endeavors. Trust that you know by letting go, and by trusting the journey, beautiful progress can be made.
Presence. This is also a word that plays a very important role in the birthing process. The birth journey grows strong and tough the longer you endure it. Staying present in each individual contraction, and allowing for it to work with you towards the greater goal. When you let your mind wonder ahead ailing about how much longer, and how much progress, and if only I did 'blah blah" before, your body and mind conflict causing labor to become irregular. This is also true for our daily lives. The second we start daydreaming about what we want and how it should be, we lose sense of the present and all the opportunity to grow right now.
How humbling to know that all the births I have attended, and all the families that I have supported contributed to this amazing life lesson for me. What unearthly primal examples these women have shared with me in trusting in my will to achieve greatness! I tell all my clients, "allow the journey to come to you." This year, I aim to follow my own advice.
With that said, I have some changes in store for this blog, and I'm truly excited to bring you all along on my leap of faith! I plan to post a birth story once a month, in addition to both formal and anecdotal posts. My goal is to show more of my personality this year. In all honesty, I never saw myself as a writer of any sort, and certainly don't have the strongest filter in the whole world. I aim to entertain as well as inform, and I always encourage feedback/conversation.
Cheers to 2017, and letting the journey come to us!!
Sorry for the delay on last month’s final blog. I’ve learned over the years to listen to my insides when I need to focus elsewhere. I strive to be transparent with all of my clients as a doula, and I plan to practice the same ethics with my blog.
So, last month we discussed various topics and incidents that take place with weaning a baby. Today we will simply talk safe breastmilk storage, and I will be listing all of my resources for last month’s topic.
· It can be stored at room temperature for up to 10 hours
· It can be stored in the fridge for up to 8 days. Be sure to keep the breastmilk stored in the rear of the fridge where it stays consistently cold. Storing them in the door can shorten its lifespan.
· It can be stored in the freezer (again, away from the door) for up to 3-4 months, as well as a separate deep freezer for up to 6 months.
Breastmilk has a tendency to carry a metallic smell/flavor after it has been stored. This does not mean the milk has gone bad. The active enzymes (that help baby break down the milk) will break down the fats, often resulting in what parents describe as an off smell or flavor. To avoid this, you can bring breastmilk almost to a boil, let it cool down, and then store it. This process is called scalding the milk. When breastmilk goes bad, it smells putrid, I promise you will know when its not suitable for baby.
You can store the milk in multiple containers. The most commonly used are the plastic bags. These are great for marking dates, and not taking up too much space in the freezer. Some parents prefer glass or hard shell containers. Keep in mind that milk follows similar rules to other frozen liquids. You will want to leave enough space for the breastmilk to expand when frozen. Be sure to store all breastmilk according to date, oldest first and newest last. Try and make the effort to store it that way, that way anybody can take the liberty of thawing and feeding.
When thawing breastmilk, keep it in the container and immerse the whole container in hot water. Be sure to swirl the milk to combine the fats and reduce any hot spots, and test the temp on your wrist before giving to baby. It’s ill-advised to use a microwave to thaw breast milk. A microwave oven heat kills many of the living immune cells that help fight disease, you are also risking hot spots in the milk that can burn baby’s mouth. Once milk has been completely thawed it can be refrigerated for the next 24 hrs. and then must be discarded.
Weaning Your Baby Resources
Now, for the later stages. Introducing solids is an exciting time for parents. By now baby is sitting up on their own, giggling, and even making demands. The timing of the introduction of solids varies for every baby, as well as every mother. Weaning a baby with solids is helpful, because it is an entirely different feeding process for baby, in comparison to bottle/breastfeeding. This way instead of refusing the breast and fighting baby to take a bottle, you can offer a new experience to share with mom, or whomever is feeding them at the time. This practice is often referred to as “don’t offer, don’t refuse.” Once you and your little one establish a rhythm with this, you can begin to utilize breastfeeding as a soothing technique. Maybe a tender intimate moment before naps and bed, or a nurturing moment after a bad spill at the park. This is often how mothers reestablish and/or continue the connection with their older children after bringing new babies home. Some of us can’t even fathom what it would be like still breastfeeding a five-year-old, or even a three-year-old. Oddly enough, a great deal of moms feel this way until they have found the love for these moments with their babies that is the pure joy of making the right decisions for you and your little ones. I commend mamas these days for offering encouragement and not judging other mamas for their choices. These decisions only grow into greater issues in the future, and we need to be able to feel confident that we have our children’s best interests at heart.
One aspect of weaning baby that often gets overlooked is the hormonal changes that come with reducing milk production. Prolactin, and oxytocin work in tandem to produce and bring milk down. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone brings on feelings of calm and comfort, it works as a bonding agent for you and baby. It is hypothesized that any abrupt stop of breastfeeding can cause an influx in your hormones inducing feelings of sadness, depression, and even irritability. Some mother's will be more susceptible to depression then others. This can be due to past history of mental illness, it could just be the current circumstance. Some ways to reduce the emotional drop would be to gradually decrease your feedings. Try and plan as far ahead as possible, removing one feeding a week and replacing with hand expression. Any sign of depression or change in normal behavior should be addressed. I have pasted a link below to a bonus blog of mine that will cover how to address depression and knowing your options.
Weaning takes patience and persistence, similar to teaching your body to produce you are now conditioning it to stop producing. The frustration often arrives when bay becomes frustrated, and mama is exhausted from the changes in her body. Remember to give yourself and baby a break every once in a while, that comfort you exchange will help nurture your experience. Find joy in letting baby taste new flavors, and have a camera ready, those moments can be absolutely priceless.
Next week we talk storing breast milk basics, in addition to my list of resources for this month's topic!
Here's a bonus link to my latest blog featured with Stork Maternity Consulting. Here I address the steps you can take to get help during times of emotional turmoil: http://storkmaternityconsulting.com/blog/your-new-identity-mom
Last week we discussed exclusive breastfeeding while working a full time job, and the challenges that can present with this style of care. What about our moms on medications unsafe for breastfeeding, or moms fed up with breastfeeding all together? Since we are eliminating the breast completely, you will no longer need to use a pump. Pumping will only encourage your body to produce more breast milk. Instead of pumping, you will want to hand express the milk until you feel more comfortable. When done as needed, this will significantly reduce the chance of engorgement, and will not cause any more milk production. Eventually you will be able to eliminate hand expressions all together. We will be addressing the two major decisions made with bottle feeding; what kind of bottle should i give my baby, and what kind of formula is best for my baby?
The best advice I can give parents when starting out, is buy 3 different types of bottles in the beginning. If you're still breastfeeding, pump for one feeding a day, and test out each bottle on your baby. They will tell you what they like. I want to be clear - start testing bottles and nipples only if you plan to bottle feed. It is best to stick to exclusive breastfeeding or exclusive bottle feeding within the first few weeks of development, so as to avoid nipple confusion.
We as a generation are fortunate to have all the resources we do for such a time in our lives, but like many things that have been fine tuned over time, the over-abundance of choices can be very overwhelming. Lets talk about some of the details to consider when choosing a bottle for your baby. As of 2012 BPA (Besphonal-A) a chemical that is said to create hormone-like substances was banned from the manufacturing of plastic bottles. Most of the bottle companies were producing products without BPA long before the ban, but with this is mind it is safe to say you shouldn't just use any old bottle lying around. With these developments the option between plastic and glass bottles has surfaced. Consider your activity level as a mom, traveling with glass can be risky. For one, it is gonna be the heavier option and can potentially break. Lets not forget your budget, glass bottles will certainly be a more expensive purchase. On a positive note, by choosing glass you are narrowing down your options a great deal, and they also last a lot longer than your traditional plastic bottle.
Now lets address nipples. Nipples are often a source of confusion for parents; You have slow flow, fast flow, orthodontic, traditional (bell shaped), or the latest on the market flat topped. These will vary with the manufacturers. They are produced in both latex and silicone, so you will want to consider any potential allergens you or partner have when deciding. NUK and Gerber produce the orthodontic, these nipples are said to be better for baby's teeth as the flat part rests on baby's tongue. The Bell shaped are said to be best for babies that both breast and bottle feed. It said to mimic the breast and reduce nipple confusion. The flat topped are the trendiest on the market currently being produced on most every new bottle, however the most popular bottles (tommee tippee, Comotomo, and Adiri) are still producing with the traditional bell shaped nipples. As for flow, this is often based on the child's development age. A newborn will require a slow flow as they are still learning how to feed. As the child develops over time you will notice cues that baby is not getting what they need, and you will want to consider the nipple flow when making changes as baby matures.
Just when you thought you were finished summing up all your options, we now will briefly address formulas. In this case you will want to seek out a formula that baby best responds to. One should watch baby closely after feedings and make sure they are comfortable and not having any issues digesting. This can be overwhelming to some, as not all babies respond to formulas the same way. Baby should seem rested, full, and keep the formula down post feed. Some babies spit up.- they just do. What we want to avoid are spit ups that are several ounces, as this can lead to acid reflux, discomfort, and lack of weight gain. Formula's are tough to nail down and are often chosen through trial and error. I would recommend doing your own research on what is available and most comparable to what you feel most comfortable feeding your baby. The marketing of formula's will seem focused on a few different brands (and while a topic for another day), this can make your decision making process a bit difficult. I urge you to search outside of the box, and ask your community how they made their decision.
As you can see, there are prominent challenges for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, and we are truly only scratching the surface on this topic. Try and practice patience with this process. Your baby is an ever evolving creature and this is just the first of many changes they will endure.
Next week we take a look at weaning with solid foods, and choosing food for baby. I will also be listing my direct resources for this months topic!
Since we kicked off this month with World Breastfeeding Week, I thought we should expand on how breastfeeding looks in the later postpartum months. These next few weeks will include topics on weaning baby, working and breastfeeding, as well as storing breast milk. These are things many don’t really even consider, even after the immediate arrival of their new little one(s).
Weaning a baby from the breast is a mother’s personal decision. I know I stress this in almost every blog I have posted, but mothers often allow the pressures of other people’s opinions to shape their choices for their own baby. It is important for every mother to know that she has the right to make every decision for her baby (within reason, of course, and in times of potential health risks). I also would like to point out that this decision (while it should be discussed with your partner) is solely up to mom, as it is her body.
There are various reasons why babies are weaned off the breast. The most common instance is the six-month mark, when it is recommended that you introduce solids. This process can take place earlier for mamas who have to take meds which are not safe for breastfeeding. Other moms may have to return to a full time job, and some mamas just don’t feel comfortable enough doing it, and have found more joy in bottle feeding.
How does this process look in the earlier stages of infancy? Starting to wean this early can often seem very tedious. However, it is important that you remain as patient as you can with this change. Baby will often challenge anything unfamiliar to them, especially a substitute to their favorite thing ever.
We will start by discussing the process for mamas that have to go back to work and want to continue giving baby breast milk. You will want to start preparing for this juncture at least 4 weeks out, maybe more (if you can). In order to increase supply and begin storing breast milk, try pumping once each morning. The morning is a prime time to pump, as that is when you have the most milk. The following week, start by replacing baby’s least favorite feed with a bottle. If baby refuses the bottle, it’s likely they can sense “their boobs” nearby. See if dad or grandma (etc.) will take them and try feeding. You will also want to replace that feeding with a pump session, this will help maintain your milk supply for baby, and will help build up your storage supply in the freezer. Your goal is to have baby used to exclusive bottle feeds in the afternoons while you’re away. You will have to work out a pumping schedule with your workplace in order to continue offering baby breast milk exclusively. This is very common in this day and age, and shouldn’t be an issue. One thing to keep in mind while pumping is where you are doing it. Try to arrange your pump session in a place that you are most comfortable. It is important that you remain relaxed during pumps in order to be as efficient as possible with your milk production. In addition to a pump schedule, you will also want to work out a system for storing the milk until you get home. Most, if not all, offices have access to a freezer, I recommend freezing your supply and labeling it at work, then toting it home in a mini cooler so it doesn’t thaw. Remember to date and initial your breast milk supply so as to not confuse it with another mama’s in the office. Any daycare/nanny/partner should have complete access to your breast milk through the frozen supply you will have built up by pumping instead of feeding. If it’s not too confusing for baby, you could keep your nightly feeds together on the breast and continue to use these moments as incentives for baby as they mature.
Next week we will discuss weaning baby off breastfeeding as well as breast milk, how to assess the right formula for baby, and avoiding engorgement and clogged ducts in the process.
As with all things baby, this concept also comes with safety tips in wearing your baby properly. Baby’s airway must be open at all times. By wearing baby upright, with their head close enough to kiss, you should be able to observe baby’s breathing. Their chin should be off their chest at all times. It is recommended that baby should only be in a horizontal or cradle position while feeding, otherwise baby should remain in an upright position. The baby’s head and neck should be properly supported in the carrier. A baby’s knees should be higher than its bottom in a squat position against the belly. This will change as baby develops into toddler stage and will not be attainable or necessary. A soft carrier (i.e. ergonomic, Mei Tai, Ring Sling, a wrap, or Moby Wrap) are good options for newborns shifting into toddler years. Always inspect your carriers for any loose threading, holes, or worn fabrics. It is always recommended that you purchase your carrier from a reputable source, although there are quite a few local communities that can offer trades and safe hand-me-downs for new mamas as well. Be sure to practice using your carrier with a spotter in a safe space, over a couch or bed preffered. Always practice good ol’ common sense- if it doesn’t feel right than it’s probably not safe for you or baby.
There are so many styles and shapes out there, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. Thankfully with resources like Babywearing International, we can find local chapters that can assist you through this process. See below for links and resources.
I will also say with every blog I post, there are many interpretations to parenting. I encourage you to use this information to find what works for you, and don’t allow for it to determine what you are doing wrong. There is no wrong way-only your way.
This concludes our monthly topic for July! As promised I will always list my sources for each month. Please feel free to be a part of the conversation!
Babywearing allows for a deeper connection between daddy and baby. Mommies get to wear baby inside for 9 months, so this gives daddy the opportunity to have such an influence on their new baby. This is also highly recommended for adoptive parents, as well as mothers enduring postpartum depression. Baby is able to get used to a parent’s voice, heartbeat, their facial expressions, and unique gestures.
Babywearing also allows for the more practical things in your life to take place. You can keep baby close, and still have your hands free. This allows for play time with the elder sibling, cleaning around the house, and prepping dinner. Imagine the freedom in a crowded neighborhood gathering. No need to push a stroller through large crowds of people, and you can go where a stroller can’t. This makes for nature hikes, and less complicated trips to and from airports.
So, what kind of baby carrier should you buy, and which one is best for you? Next week we discuss a few types of carriers and safety tips for wearing baby.
Last week we discussed the fundamentals of babywearing in your own home. Now, we will see it's benefits in a medical setting. The US has been fortunate enough to have the technology to support preterm infants. Other countries have had to come up with less costly ways to support these preemies in need.
Often referred to as Kangaroo Care (K-Care), hospitals with small budgets in areas like Guatemala have utilized K-Care in lieu of incubators. According to a study done by Susan Ludington at UCLA, having baby close allows mother’s body to regulate to baby’s needs. Preterm babies are placed between the mother’s breasts inside her clothing. This has shown proof of temperature regulation; it also improves respiratory function. Baby attunes to wearer’s heartbeat, breathing, and movement (walking, reaching, bending). This stimulation has proven faster weight gain, and k-cared babies prove to be healthier than babies who have not endured such stimulation.
Amazing what the human body is capable of! Next week we continue our discussion on babywearing and how this practice can benefit both parents in the home.
Babywearing is the practice of keeping your infant/toddler close to you while you go about your daily routine. This is a practice that was used throughout centuries of developing civilizations. Babywearing has developed over the years as a beneficial practice to understand your baby, facilitate their development, and their physical growth.
Studies have shown babywearing facilitates a closer connection with your baby’s needs. By having baby close, you will better understand their cues before they feel the need to cry. This instills not only confidence in you as a parent, but confidence in your baby in knowing that they are well taken care of by both mom and dad. A study published by The Journal of Pediatrics shows that babywearing for 3 hours a day reduces crying by 43% overall, and by 53% in the evening hours. That is a huge shift in your baby’s demeanor, and you can see why this will help you be a confident parent.
Babywearing is a good tool for a baby that cries each night at the same time for hours at a time. Wearing baby close to you for a few hours a day could be just the thing that breaks the cycle. Next week we will discuss this practice in a medical setting. Babywearing, more commonly called Kangaroo care is all some premi babies have.
I hope you enjoyed my first blog series this month! Next week I will begin a blog series on Babywearing! We will be addressing the benefits for both mama and baby, it's use in a more clinical practice, as well as how to find the best carrier for your family. I have listed some resources for my previous blog series. I often find myself checking and re checking sources when I read informal blog topics, so to make it easier for those that do - here they are:
"Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding" by Jack Newman, Teresa Pitman
Last week we addressed the first few days of being home with baby and breastfeeding. Between adding new responsibilities to your previous agenda and waiting for your milk supply to drop, you can accrue quite a lot of stress.
This is why breastfeeding support is so important in the early stages. Once you find a rhythm, it will simply be clockwork, but you have to put in the time to find that rhythm. Thankfully, most hospitals have seen the value in lactation support and now offer the support of a Lactation Consultant (LC). The LC will be able to show you multiple ways to find the best latch for you and baby. All latches vary because all breasts are different. Also, consider keeping your baby in your recovery room with you, this way you can allow for cluster feeding and nipple stimulation to bring your milk in faster. If your baby is placed in NICU and you are put on a schedule immediately, don’t let this discourage you, you can ask the hospital for a breast pump to stimulate between each feeding with baby. Some mothers will be asked to supplement with formula; again, don’t let this discourage you; You can continue to nurse in addition to the supplements. Once baby surpasses his/her birth weight, you should have no problem continuing to breastfeed.
Some women find the first few days home with baby a bit daunting. Those feelings of inadequacy come back, and they feel like the baby is always on the breast. They panic and forget the tips given, and with the lack of sleep, everything can be very overwhelming. Now a’ days, there are resources for the family to have in their own home. Lactation Consultants, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), as well as Postpartum Doulas will make house calls. Which one is best for you? An LC will help reinstate those tricks learned in the hospital before coming home. An IBCLC will virtually do the same; however, they will be able to assess baby’s latch, in addition to diagnosing a tongue tie on baby, and refer you to a physician that can correct it. Tongue ties are common, and easily corrected. IBCLCs are also great for assisting in better milk production. Some mothers experience low lactation due to meds they take, or previous breast reduction surgery. A Postpartum Doula can assist you in establishing breastfeeding in addition to helping you create the most nurturing space for you and your family. A PPD can be available in the afternoons to help you attain the goals you have for the house to give you time with the baby, or take the baby while you shower and nap. They even hang out with your other little ones and make sure they are adjusting to having a new baby home. PPDs also offer overnight assistance so you can maintain your feeding schedule, but still get adequate sleep.
It is important to remember that you are human, and you can’t do everything at once. These resources are put in place to help build your confidence as a mother, and to help ease you into the transition. Try and practice as much patience as you can muster, and don’t be hard on yourself, breastfeeding is sure to become an everyday thing added to your agenda.
Here's a list of some of Austin areas own Breastfeeding Support:
Last week we talked about the physical changes in our body that supports the nature of breastfeeding. This week we talk about how the process of breastfeeding begins.
Mothers produce colostrum in the beginning stages of baby’s life. Colostrum is a highly nutritional substance that helps prepare baby’s system to digest. It is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies to keep baby healthy. Women begin producing this in the late stages of pregnancy in preparation for the first feeding. It comes in small doses (measurable in teaspoons), yet it is highly nutritional and maintains baby until mother’s breast milk comes down. Colostrum will also help baby pass his/her first stools, which can help prevent jaundice. Breastfeeding is not only beneficial for baby, it helps in mother’s recovery as well. By stimulating your nipples it helps shrink the uterus, and prevents the potential postpartum hemorrhage. It also burns calories and can help in losing your pregnancy weight.
Breast milk will take time to come down. The time can very between 3-7 days; every woman is different. For some women this can seem alarming, or make them feel inadequate, but truly it is completely normal. In the first week, baby will do what is called cluster feeding. Having baby at the breast as often as baby wants will help your body to produce the amount of milk necessary for baby. The first few weeks can seem very agitating, with thoughts that you are not providing for your baby, or that your milk is not enough for baby. The truth is, your body and baby are developing a system for the best possible breast milk ever. By allowing your baby to be at the breast, the stimulation will bring your milk down in the amount your baby needs.
Your body takes cues from your baby and it's demands. Finding a schedule with your baby's feedings will be helpful in reducing the stress of making breastfeeding work for both you and baby. Next week I will fill you in on the many resources in support of breastfeeding, and how you can use them to best benefit your experience.