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"
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!!
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.
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!!
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.
Preparing for a new baby can be exciting and daunting all at once. It’s hard not to hold yourself to a certain standard before baby even arrives. Luckily, there is a slew of information out there to help you prepare for this exciting change in your life. Take breastfeeding for example: the general consensus regarding breastfeeding is that it is the best and most natural way to feed your baby. While that may be true, we have lost sight of how challenging it can be. Over time, we have developed an entire industry to supporting breastfeeding mothers. I’m going to take you through the general facts of breastfeeding, how it can benefit both you and baby, and how to master it.
Unlike our animal counterparts, human babies are born physically and neurologically underdeveloped. Breastmilk has a highly nutritional blend that benefits both baby’s mental and physical growth. You will notice a change in your nipples during pregnancy. Those little bumps on your areola will swell a bit, those are the Montgomery Glands. These glands are highly important in the process of breastfeeding. They secrete an oil to keep the surface clean, in addition to tracking your baby’s digestion needs. When your baby’s saliva comes in contact with the Montgomery Glands, they send a message to your body to produce certain nutrients for baby. They even alert your body of your baby getting sick, sending a message to your white blood cells in order to produce antibodies for whatever illness your baby contracted. According to the Center for Disease Control, breastfed babies are less likely to develop diseases early in life.
Pretty wild huh?! Our bodies have all the right mechanics to support the health of our offspring. We even gain information biologically through kissing our babies on the forehead-that is a whole other blog topic. It really does offer another perspective on a mother's intuition.
Next week I will cover coping with the first few days after delivery. I vow to stay diligent in posting, give or take the normal bumps in life's road. Thank you for participating, and I look forward to keeping the conversation going!!