Oppression and the Effects of Prolonged Stress on the Human Body

In order to understand the variables that led to our high percentage of maternal mortality, we need to break down the complications at hand and the consistencies with the outcomes people of color have when birthing their child. We must explore oppression and the physical affect on a person’s constitution, as well as look at the endocrine system and it’s reaction to stress. With all of this brought to light, I want to address the elephant in the room and our role as human beings in this prominent discovery. I will do my best to unfold the material with ease, but truly this sort of information should be shocking. It is important that we take our pride, and tuck it away for these discussions, admit our wrong doings, apologize, and do better. My hope is that this blog will give you the tools to do so.

In my research, I have learned that there are an abundance of side effects and health concerns caused by prolonged stress. What is oppression, if not a prolonged state of stress? It’s no surprise that our government has introduced a reparations bill, as this oppression began with the colonization of America. After decades of fighting for equality (still to this day), it has had negative effects on singled out populations. The history of racial oppression has defined feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. It only makes sense that depression and anxiety are also factors in this equation. This is the result of an overactive nervous system. If we spend our entire existence in a state of fight or flight, we will loose the ability to produce the chemicals in our body to quiet the nervous system.

It is impossible for a family to build roots on the fact that, no matter how hard you work, you still end up on the bottom. In my experience working with postpartum families, I have witnessed strong individuals outnumbered by the hoops they have had to jump through in order to be approved for financial/housing/educational support. It is defeating. This doesn’t just effect a family presently. We are now seeing in science that our everyday experiences shape our offspring’s DNA. Creating long lines of heart disease and diabetes.

Lets factor in financial oppression. In order to have a job, you must have a residence and reliable transportation. In order to feed your family, you have to work. African American history comes with the rights of individuals that got a late start to society. White supremacy is the reason for these financial gaps. Devalued, disrespected, and paid less. When you start already behind, it trends in several ways throughout the family tree. One of the most prominent trends is lack in morale. Take gangs and gang culture. If you corner an individual enough, they will rebel and begin to define how to survive. Survival is a powerful thing, and when family is involved we will do whatever it takes to make sure we make it. All of these factors are stressful, and our statistics are telling the story.

I want to focus on the two main health concerns of prolonged stress, heart disease and high blood pressure. According to The American Institute of Stress, if we look at this from an endocrine stand point, our adrenal glands produce more adrenaline and cortisol as a reaction to stress. High cortisol levels directly affect our cardiovascular system by making our heart pump faster, making the muscles work harder. A consistent raised heart rate will directly affect your blood pressure, and as a result will damage your arteries, raising the risk of heart attack. The liver also reacts to stress by releasing more glucose into your blood stream, giving you a burst of energy to fight. When our body has more glucose, the insulin may not be able to keep up, and this raises your risk for type 2 diabetes. “Every year, Americans suffer more than 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes. Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke” (CDC: African American Heart Disease and Stroke Fact Sheet) As for diabetes, African american adults are two times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic white american adults. *(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The science is there, and supports the disparaging effects of oppression.

As a birth professional, it is my duty to educate my birthing people of color, and honor their understanding of their own body. The continued stereotyping of people of color is literally killing people daily. This is another clear example of white supremacy’s effect on our culture. Women of color tend to be viewed as uneducated and outspoken, and this is creating a major disconnect in the full spectrum care of an individual. Rather than take their concerns at face value, they are ignored and brushed off with the assumption that they are just overreacting. Blood clots go undiagnosed until it is too late, causing strokes and heart attacks. These are treatable. Even more so in a hospital environment. It is the need to soften these issues and protect our pride that has cloaked such concerns. This is now fueling our struggle to care for birthing people as individuals

This is hard to learn about. It is hard to believe that humans can be so oblivious, but it is embedded in our history. It is our duty to know and understand these variables and change the way we lead our lives.

Keep an eye out for my next blog. I will be focusing on the Maternal Mortality rate, and the numbers for the US compared to International standards of care. Please feel free to reach out to me, I could always use other perspectives on these topics!

Can Doulas Uphold Justice?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a couple of circles of discussion about birth and the disparaging numbers that represent maternal mortality in the US. Most especially in my home state of TX. One of the speakers, Hermine Hayes-Klein, of Hayes-Klein Law Firm, specializes in maternal health & childbirth law. She has had the opportunity to study the stories of birth from all parts of the world. She spent some time in the Netherlands as a professor of law at Hague University, as well as the director of the Research Center for Reproductive Rights at the Bynkershoek Institute. She oversaw the dissertations of several doctorate students from an abundance of backgrounds, and through this work she began seeing similarities in the birth communities all over the world. All of this sprung a curiosity that sent her searching back into our history for some anthropological answers. My first experience hearing her speak, she spoke of writings as old as the bible (our incredibly overly translated modern version) exemplifying negative patriarchal control of a woman’s fertility and body autonomy. Her research paired with the true stories her students were researching shed light on the the history of oppressive movements.

Why is this information pertinent? The climate specific to woman’s rights is still littered with limitations within birth, economic suppression, sex, gender, and the family. These factors effect so many aspects of life, but in this blog I will focus on birthing and fertility. Thanks to our modern technology, the ability to track and calculate data, and programs funneling support and research to our communities. We now have numbers proving the disparaging effects of oppression. I will bring forth thoughts on racial oppression as an outsider, and utilizing both numbers and personal experience working with oppressed individuals to shed some light on the alarming maternal mortality rates. I will also explore medicine, protocol, and patients rights, as a means to support a possible shift in perspective and respect for the birthing experience. Most of all, I find the experience of a doula holding space for birthing and growing families essential in educating for an individuals birth journey.

So, Can doulas uphold justice? Yes. They have the ability to educate their clients, so that they are able to advocate for them selves. That doesn’t mean we stand quiet and allow for maltreatment to take place. We can speak out for all to hear, and even get video evidence of the incident. As discussed with Hayes-Klein in our workshop. Doulas do not have any liability in this space, and we can - and should do everything within our power to stop a situation from happening when a birthing person is in any danger or disrespected. Now, there is certainly a cadence that will be set from the moment we arrive to the hospital, and we mustn’t forget the most important piece in this puzzle - the partner! It is imperative we honor this person and give them the charge. Their word is lawful, legal, and will make the loudest statement in that room. A doula can provide guidance through mediation and conflict resolution, just by sparking conversation with the partner. This alone can change birth significantly. As with all these I will be expanding on the partners role, first trimester through 4th trimester.

I have been incubating this blog for quite some time. These are concepts that have felt bigger than me for a fair amount of my career, and truly - they still do. I think with every position we commit to requires evolution, and this theory and similar discussions around these numbers has had a huge part in broadening my view of both birth culture, and society as a whole. Keep your eye peeled for my next blog on oppression and it’s role in the maternal mortality rate. So, in the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Arnold in Jurassic Park, “hold on to your butts!”

Book Review: Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE

Pregnancy is just one chapter of a family’s story. How ever we enter this realm of life, its important to remember that there are a whole host of opinions on how to “be healthy.” Standards today don’t stem terribly far from the standards 50 years ago, and Lily Nichols RDN, CDE best selling author of, “Real Food for Gestational Diabetes” and now “Real Food for Pregnancy” has done her due diligence of sweeping study after study and finding some connections. She offers some insight on our current nutritional model for pregnancy, while shedding light on some findings that can benefit our children’s development.

Nichols changed the game with her research of gestational diabetes, and this book is no different. Admittedly I was swept up with the idea of eating up (pun intended!) every bit of information in this book, but I had to take my time to connect the dots, and I still am. She has taken into account both medical studies as well as cultural practices in prenatal diets. In addition to her highly detailed breakdown of nutrition, she utilizes the biological process of fetal development to support the statistics as well as cultural traditions.

She starts with a comprehensive look at nutrition as a whole, such as main sources of protein and how to plate your meals. It was very beneficial information as a non pregnant person, so this can have a huge affect not only on your developing baby, but also on your family as a whole. I will stress that if you are already pregnant and receiving this information it can be pretty overwhelming. That said, this book is great to have on your shelf, as it offers the ability to skim through and find clarification on the fly.

From an individual' perspective, a lot of the studies answered questions I had about my own balance of calories. This information has helped me be more mindful about the food I eat, and even how I eat it. She touches on fats and how essential they are in absorbing nutrients, as well as in the development of the fetal brain. Nichols is a saint for taking all of these incredibly extensive studies and translating them in such a cohesive text. This book is rich with information, but she offers a fluidity that nurtures your learning experience. She shows this through her insight on vegetarian and vegan diets, and how to fill any gaps in the growth and development of baby. It should be noted that a lot of the studies have shown that animal fats within the context of pregnancy and brain development are superior to plant fats. She takes the time to explain the science behind these findings, and offers practices outside of these texts for vegan or vegetarian individuals.

As a doula, I have a fair amount of discussions with my clients around nutrition. The common ones tend to be food aversions, forbidden foods, and nutrition for breastfeeding. Nichols makes a point to get down to the heart of pregnancy. It’s no surprise that the first trimester can be really tough on a pregnant person’s constitution. Some of the most common aspects are nausea, sensitivities to smells , and lack in appetite. In the words of one of my recent clients, “you get nauseous cause you haven’t eaten, but you can’t eat cause you are so nauseous.” In this circumstance, her recommendation is to just eat! You may spend some time on a starch heavy diet in the beginning, but this should let up over time offering a more nutritionally abundant diet. All aspects on growing a family requires grace, and this is no exception. I appreciate that aspect in her writing.

I would recommend this book as “THE” book in understanding the american dietary recommendations in comparison with other cultures. Topics like raw fish, soft cheese, alcohol, etc. are all covered and you’ll be happy to know that we have some more wiggle room than we thought. As a culture Americans have to vet out a lot of junk food, this certainly sets us apart from our neighboring countries. I really appreciated the clarification on these dietary choices and the strength in facts that supports them.

This book has me excited about getting pregnant, and ensures that I will continue to view my nutrition in a much brighter context and understanding. It has also opened a new avenue in which I can navigate with my clients during their pregnancies. I highly recommend this to anyone planning to be pregnant, or even just needing a change of perspective with their own body and nutrition.

Read More

Doulas and their Boundaries

My job as a doula is to help you grasp all of this information as best as you can. When you endure a major life event, it affects your ability to remember previous conversations. A doula chimes in and helps you recall your initial expectations, and then gently helps you shift your perspective to the present moment. This is where boundaries play in a doula’s role.

It should go without saying, that a doula’s opinions should not play into any aspect of their client’s birth. As with any boundary, these lines blur depending on the context. I can attest to growing more opinionated as my experience has broadened. My education allows me the ability to offer unique suggestions, but how do we know when to push for a little more effort, or to step aside and allow for the birthing person to make their choice?

I certainly step aside more often than not. Maybe that is where I’m at in my journey, or maybe that is just how birth should be supported. Birth is many things; Strength, vulnerability, shedding of old ways, and transforming into parenthood. Of all those things, I work hard to be empathetic to my client’s needs. I have had moments in which I felt compelled to push. Some clients follow that guidance, while others push back. Either way they are informed of their options. I have even had clients ask me (and partners) to leave. While it may seem like a slight on my skills, it’s truly just what that birthing person needs. The art of “doulaing” requires a person to set aside their pride, and support individuals where they are.

This is definitely a processing point for me as a doula. Was I enough? Could I have advocated more for this? Should I have advised differently? Is this safe for my clients? Just like everyone else caring for these individuals, I have seen birth many times. Our ability to to draw a line can be compromised. Empathetic roles require a high level of self care. When implementing boundaries that allow me a proper amount of self care, I can continue to grow my knowledge, and still be sensitive to my client’s needs.

Like any fiscal position, I have individuals question my value as a caregiver. These boundaries in particular are the groundwork to maintaining my career. This generally takes place in the interviewing process, but sometimes within the early stages of a professional relationship. Questions arise such as, How are you helpful within a planned c-section? What if you aren't available for our birth? These are valid concerns. This is a place where we sort of web all of our boundaries into a safe space, and through contractual agreements. It’s incredibly important that every person involved in this experience feels heard, so that they feel confident in themselves throughout the whole process. This experience will affect every aspect of their parenting relationship, and doulas are very sensitive to that.

Putting it into words almost feels like a juggling act, which is how I imagine most business owners feel, but most especially us empaths.

Boundaries with Friends and Family

This week’s topic is a follow up from last weeks post. For those that missed last weeks submission on placing boundaries in public scroll down!

Okay, so you have finally figured out how to leave the house  and not feel completely like everyone wants to tell you their life story. Whether you are physically concealing your belly, or simply asking people to mind their business, you are setting boundaries. This concept gets a bit hairy at this point. Now we need to think about placing boundaries with family. Just like pregnancy, birth draws people to you. Especially those that love you the most. The joy of a new baby is special, but we must be able to respect the process that takes place prior to baby’s delivery.

Consider your everyday relationships with these individuals. All interactions both negative and positive will play on a grander scale. You need to have the ability to focus on your body, and allow for the surges to carry you into a very vulnerable state of mind. Even the feeling of being watched or waited on can stall labor. So, if your parent had a traumatic birth experience and draws from that while at your birth, that can create a serious road block.  I have supported couples that didn’t tell family until they were home from the hospital, I have also supported couples that allow a fair amount of their family there, and interacting with the birthing person, and in the birthing space. It can be both a positive or a negative influence. It’s up to you to examine those relationships and start dialogue with those individuals, so that your boundaries are respected.

These are tough conversations, plain and simple. Remind them that your need for privacy is strictly for your benefit, and that it’s not personal. Every relationship carries different qualities. You know from the get go how these conversations are going to play out, so don’t dance around any details, just try and be direct.

I often recommend giving tasks to the individuals that want to be a part of it, but will likely stir up some emotions. Have them take care of pets, make sure that you have groceries to come home to, and tidy up the house. There are many things that will include them in the process, be creative!

When it comes down to it, it is imperative that they respect these boundaries. In the case you feel they will likely disrespect the lines you are setting, then you have every right to keep them out of the picture until you feel it’s okay for them to come. When it’s all said and done, that little bundle will be a nice bridge over sour feelings, and now you have all kinds of responsibilities to give them when you return home with baby!

Next week I give my perspectives of setting boundaries in Doula work, and offer some insight to the insecurities we face as care providers.

Setting Boundaries in Public

Boundaries. This is a concept we learn overtime. For me it was through a slough of embarrassing moments in my 20s. No lesson is ever learned without a mess. I say this often when I’m attending births. In my role as a doula, boundaries are a large part of the discussion that I continue to have, even on the day of the birth with my clients. Placing such distinctions for your birth is paramount in delivering your baby. Remember. These preparations will not change any potential curve balls in your expectations of your birth, but having a clear idea of the environment you need to have in order to feel safe and vulnerable will give you a leg up in the process.

On paper, that all sounds pretty doable. Now, we add in your current lifestyle. Whether you planned this for years, or your caught by surprise, this is a major change in your individual lives. The stress of finances, the pressure of responsibilities in your work lives, and managing schedules in the hopes of spending a day or two together. This climate isn’t always cut out for the efforts it takes to really come to terms with expanding your family. Naturally we turn to others that have been through it before. How did they cope? Where did they give birth? How was there experience in comparison to their expectations? Most of the time pregnant individuals don’t even get a chance to ask. Pregnancy tends to draw people near you regardless of how you are feeling in the moment. This is a great place to implement those boundaries. It sounds silly, but I always recommend having a specific statement prepared for the unwelcome interactions. “I respect and appreciate your experience, but have to be on my way” Simple, respectful, and concise. How they take that is on them.

Next week we discuss boundaries in your birthing environment. How to decide who you want in your space, and taking the steps to set those standards ahead of time.

Catching up!

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!

Bali, A Birth Story

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.  

Applying counter pressure to mother's hips while she rest off of her feet.

Applying counter pressure to mother's hips while she rest off of her feet.

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.

Applying counter pressure in an active labor position.

Applying counter pressure in an active labor position.

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.

Staying active in a supported squat on the birthing ball.

Staying active in a supported squat on the birthing ball.

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.

This weeks blog is featured with The Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas

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"

Implementing a Nighttime Routine

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.

The Ergonomics of Postpartum Recovery: Babywearing

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.

 

These would be an example of a more structured carrier. These designs come with specific weight requirements established by the company. (Top Left/Right) Ergo Baby has a universal carrier that can hold between 12-33 lbs. When purchasing for long term use, you will have to purchase and infant insert designed to prop baby higher and closer to the adult. The weight requirements with the infant insert 7-12 lbs.(Bottom Left) Boba has designed a simpler carrier that doesn't require the extra insert, but it would require you to by a newer model as baby grows beyond it's 7-15 lbs weight limit. 

These would be an example of a more structured carrier. These designs come with specific weight requirements established by the company. (Top Left/Right) Ergo Baby has a universal carrier that can hold between 12-33 lbs. When purchasing for long term use, you will have to purchase and infant insert designed to prop baby higher and closer to the adult. The weight requirements with the infant insert 7-12 lbs.(Bottom Left) Boba has designed a simpler carrier that doesn't require the extra insert, but it would require you to by a newer model as baby grows beyond it's 7-15 lbs weight limit. 

Forgive me for the photo quality, it's usually dark quiet time when I have a baby in a sling. These are a few examples of wraps. These are more conducive to a newborns needs, as they facilitate a tight squeeze helping them to feel secure. (Top Left) This is also made by Boba, here I have baby in a cradle hold, giving baby the illusion of being held in someones arms. (Right) This is a Mobi wrap, baby here is in an upright position tummy flat on my chest. I recommend this hold for babies with upset tummies. I also like being able to utilize the soft fabric to brace baby's head in a restful position. (Bottom Left) This is a  Rebozo.  I utilize this as a tool in labor support as well as postpartum. Baby is in an upright hold here as well. These slings require a bit more practice and assistance from another. You will have to learn how wrap these properly on your body, and knot them so as to ensure the safety of your baby. 

Forgive me for the photo quality, it's usually dark quiet time when I have a baby in a sling. These are a few examples of wraps. These are more conducive to a newborns needs, as they facilitate a tight squeeze helping them to feel secure. (Top Left) This is also made by Boba, here I have baby in a cradle hold, giving baby the illusion of being held in someones arms. (Right) This is a Mobi wrap, baby here is in an upright position tummy flat on my chest. I recommend this hold for babies with upset tummies. I also like being able to utilize the soft fabric to brace baby's head in a restful position. (Bottom Left) This is a Rebozo. I utilize this as a tool in labor support as well as postpartum. Baby is in an upright hold here as well. These slings require a bit more practice and assistance from another. You will have to learn how wrap these properly on your body, and knot them so as to ensure the safety of your baby. 

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!!

The Ergonomics of Postpartum Recovery: Nursing Support

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. 

 

Start with a decent chair, one with motion. A rocking chair or a glider are the common buy these days. They double as support during the feed, and then can facilitate soothing motion to help calm baby. The exercise ball you may have purchased prior to having baby. This encourages great posture, and is a great tool in soothing baby. The ball does all the work for you, rather than having to bounce your tired body. 

Start with a decent chair, one with motion. A rocking chair or a glider are the common buy these days. They double as support during the feed, and then can facilitate soothing motion to help calm baby. The exercise ball you may have purchased prior to having baby. This encourages great posture, and is a great tool in soothing baby. The ball does all the work for you, rather than having to bounce your tired body. 

A nursing pillow will help prop baby closer to you. These all can be used for both breast and bottle feeding. The Brestfriend has a clasp that you can adjust at any point on your torso, it also has a little pocket you can fit a water bottle, a pacifier, a nipple shield, really anything you have found helpful in your feeds. I included the Hiccapop because it is an awesome edition to propping baby higher, I personally use it on my lap under baby for bottle feeds. It allows for me to sit up straight and props up baby on an angle for feeds. This is really for pregnancy prior to baby's arrival, but I recommend as another full circle tool for both parent and baby. 

A nursing pillow will help prop baby closer to you. These all can be used for both breast and bottle feeding. The Brestfriend has a clasp that you can adjust at any point on your torso, it also has a little pocket you can fit a water bottle, a pacifier, a nipple shield, really anything you have found helpful in your feeds. I included the Hiccapop because it is an awesome edition to propping baby higher, I personally use it on my lap under baby for bottle feeds. It allows for me to sit up straight and props up baby on an angle for feeds. This is really for pregnancy prior to baby's arrival, but I recommend as another full circle tool for both parent and baby. 

Now for nursing positions. These positions above will be the more common holds taught immediately after baby's arrival. The football hold I recommend to larger breasted individuals, or with nipples that angle outwards. Breastfeeding will bring a whole host of new things to understand, and one of those things is the shape and placement of your nipples and how to best facilitate a feed with them.

Now for nursing positions. These positions above will be the more common holds taught immediately after baby's arrival. The football hold I recommend to larger breasted individuals, or with nipples that angle outwards. Breastfeeding will bring a whole host of new things to understand, and one of those things is the shape and placement of your nipples and how to best facilitate a feed with them.

These are some of the more advanced positions for nursing. I recommend the side lying position for parents that are comfortable with co-sleeping. It's a great night time nursing position, as it requires less effort in moving around. The laid back position I recommend to individuals with fast and heavy let down. When a let down is heavy it can cause some discomfort and frustration in feeding to baby. The laid back helps lesson the force of the let down and allows for baby to work the milk out at its own pace.  That twin hold is wonderful once mastered. Twins require an extra set of hands, so a helpful partner is essential in this position. Your nursing staff should be an excellent resource for you in postpartum recovery, but if you still feel like you need help, check out my blog series on   The Importance of Breastfeeding Support.

These are some of the more advanced positions for nursing. I recommend the side lying position for parents that are comfortable with co-sleeping. It's a great night time nursing position, as it requires less effort in moving around. The laid back position I recommend to individuals with fast and heavy let down. When a let down is heavy it can cause some discomfort and frustration in feeding to baby. The laid back helps lesson the force of the let down and allows for baby to work the milk out at its own pace.  That twin hold is wonderful once mastered. Twins require an extra set of hands, so a helpful partner is essential in this position. Your nursing staff should be an excellent resource for you in postpartum recovery, but if you still feel like you need help, check out my blog series on The Importance of Breastfeeding Support.

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.

The Ergonomics of Postpartum Recovery: Creating an accessible space.

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.

 

Here are a few examples of a diaper caddies and changing mats, to build changing stations all over your home.

Here are a few examples of a diaper caddies and changing mats, to build changing stations all over your home.

A few examples of co-sleepers you can take in bed with you and your partner. This allows for baby to be close, but also garuntees safety perameters for baby to sleep in. 

A few examples of co-sleepers you can take in bed with you and your partner. This allows for baby to be close, but also garuntees safety perameters for baby to sleep in. 

These are also co-sleepers on a larger scale that will cater to a lengthy co-sleeping relationship.

These are also co-sleepers on a larger scale that will cater to a lengthy co-sleeping relationship.

Surrender, a birth story

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.

Leap of Faith

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!!

Weaning Baby Pt. 4

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.

Breastmilk Storage

·      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

http://www.workandpump.com/

http://www.modernmom.com/f0263948-3b3d-11e3-be8a-bc764e04a41e.html

http://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/depression-and-weaning/

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/pumping-and-breastmilk-storage.html

http://www.lalecheleague.org/faq/weanhowto.html

Weaning Baby pt. 3

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

Weaning Baby pt. 2 Bottle Feeding

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!

Weaning Your Baby pt. 1

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.

 

 

The Benefits of Babywearing: Safety Tips

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!

http://babywearinginternational.org/what-is-babywearing/

http://www.bwiaustin.org/

http://babywearinginternational.org/about-bwi/chapters/

http://www.skintoskincontact.com/susan-ludington.aspx