Sunday, August 21, 2011

Newborns Basic Needs

 A newborn baby has only three demands.  They are warmth in the arms of its mother, 
food from her breasts, and 
security in the knowledge of her presence. 
Breastfeeding satisfies all three
~Grantly Dick-Read

Babies are born with such basic needs. They need food, warmth, safety and comfort. The baby business industry would have a new mom feel inadequate. They push products and programs for everything from feeding to learning. A new parent can easily feel overwhelmed at the amount of marketing, disguised as information. Unless a woman needs to pump her breasts for medical reasons or to go back to work, it is not even necessary to purchase an expensive breast pump. 
Frequent nursing in the arms of her mother, spending time in her arms or sling and co sleeping all encourage the babies neuro development and growth. 
The time will come soon enough when her baby will venture out into the world. But for now, let her snuggle in the safety of her mother's arms.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Increasing Your Milk Supply

Making enough milk for your baby is a concern all new mom's face. While some could pump enough for multiples, many women find that their milk supply less than what their growing baby needs.

First: Determine if there is a real need for more milk.
Is baby gaining enough weight?
Is he/she eliminating appropriate for her age? 

Successful breastfeeding tips:
  1. No artificial nipples! (no pacifiers, bottles, etc) for the first few weeks.
  2. Rest. Making milk is a new mom's primary occupation, resting gives the body a chance to focus.
  3. Hydrate. Drink a 10-12 ounce glass of water every time you nurse. Water in helps milk production. 
  4. Herbal tea. Fenugreek, mother wort and red raspberry leaf  herbal teas can help increase milk production.
  5. Nursing-In. Take an in house retreat, by taking baby to bed for 2 days, mom and baby naked from the waist up. Skin to skin contact, frequent nursing, extra fluids for mom, healthy meals and snacks, lots of naps for both can help restore a diminished milk supply.
Relax. Get help when you need it. Take care of yourself.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Early Labor To Do List

Labor. Just the sound of the word sounds like work to me. While having a baby is labor intensive (pun intended!), for some there are hours of prodromal (early and light) labor. For me, my labors always started with hours of light contractions that I could easily function around. My philosophy has always been to stay engaged with what you were doing before labor started as long as you can. There will come a point when your body will no longer allow you to be distracted. But in the meant time, find a labor project to keep the mind busy while the body gets things going.

Here is a partial list of some of my early labor activities with my six babies:

  • shopping (with my first baby, early contractions started while birthday shopping for family members at the mall).
  • walking around the block with my kids 
  • playing in the back yard with my kids
  • cooking
  • taking my daughter to the DMV for her license (funny story!)
  • shopping for nursing bras
  • grocery run for last minute items
  • scrubbing the floor
  • making the labor bed
  • fixing last minute snacks to hold the kids over
  • laundry
  • reading with my kids
  • picnic in the backyard
  • crocheting
  • watching movies (on tv)
  • pelvic rocks
  • scrubbing the bathtub
  • out for Mexican food
  • eating
  • making red raspberry leaf tea
  • drinking water, juices, herbal teas with honey
  • napping
  • cuddling
  • making love
  • relaxing in our pool
Remember, these were all things I COULD do.
The conditions must be favorable to continue such activities, such as:

  • bag of water intact
  • contractions light and infrequent
  • always with another adult (my husband accompanied me on the walks, and grocery shopping)
  • no alarming signs such as heavy bleeding or fever
For me, there was plenty of real life to keep me busy in early labor. Of course, if my life hadn't been so full, I could have worked on a baby blanket or scrap booked our latest vacation. And  of course, the active work such as scrubbing the floor and walking actually help labor along.

Then there  are the women who head straight into active labor with no smooth climb up the mountain. They do not have time to think about a labor project. They already have one!

For those of  you who had long early labor, what activities did you do?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy BIRTHday, Sam!

Sam turns 11 on August 12. My baby, my youngest kiddo. And, of course, does not like being referred to as "my baby." But he is. My labor with him was a little crazy. After nightly contractions for nearly a week  past my due date, I was ready to throw in the towel and agree to just keep him in there a little longer. On Friday morning, I woke up with a "to do" list longer than my arm. Light contractions that I heartily ignored kept coming all morning. At 10 am I drove Angela, my 16 year old daughter to the DMV to take her drivers exam.  I tried to help calm her nerves while silently calming my own nervousness inside. Here was my oldest child taking her drivers test while my body pleaded to bring forth my youngest the same time. Crazy! We made it through her test, managed lunch and play dates for the afternoon, and took Angela to the mall for her part time job. She was surprised when I got out of the car to run for some last minute items. (Unfortunately the department store didn't have my size nursing bra in stock and would order for me. When would I need it? Uh, we could barely contain our laughter....) After a dinner of pizza delivered by our local pizza shop, I was ready to deliver this baby. Finally, I decided it was time to actually lay down, maybe rest a bit somewhere around 9 pm. At midnight my husband called the midwife, saying it was time. She was on her way to a home where they were having thier first baby. She promptly turned the car around and headed to my house. She arrive just in time to catch our healthy baby boy, born just before 1 am on August 12. Angela was my doula, a job she didn't ask for, but willingly did. And she was amazing! I love retelling my kids birth stories. No matter how old they are or how old I become, those days will always be some of the best days of my life. Sam, Happy Birthday buddy! I love you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Breastfeeding: What's In It for Mom?

We all know that breastmilk is the perfect food for newborns. The American Academy of Pediatrics enthusiastically supports breastfeeding for today's infants. Breastmilk is  a live food, easily digested, and helps prevent allergies and ear infections in little ones.

But what about the benefits for mom? Beyond the obvious benefits of convenience (no bottles) and low cost (free), how does breastfeeding benefit a new mom?
  • Biggest loser. Breastfeeding moms lose their pregnancy weight easily since they are burning an extra  500 calories a day.
  • Keep the tata's. Breastfeeding helps reduce a woman's chance of getting breast and other reproductive cancers.
  • Chill time. The hormones responsible for milk production also help mom relax. Oxytocin, relaxin and other hormones released when breastfeeding are calming.
When it comes to taking care of mom and baby, breastfeeding accomplishes both.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Labor Tips for Dads

Most guys come to my childbirth class totally wondering how they got dragged there in the first place. Not for lack of love and caring for their wife and new baby, but because they are out of their comfort zone. I reassure them that they are already the best labor support for their partner. After all, she chose him to be her partner in life. For better or worse. Having a baby is about as much "life" as it gets, and encompasses both the "better and the worse."

Here's a few tips for guys who find their palms sweaty at the thought of supporting their beloved during the most intense and wonderful day of their lives together:

  •  Go ahead.....attend childbirth classes and learn along with your expectant wife/partner.
  •  Be as involved in her care as you are comfortable, such as going to some of the appointments, helping her make healthy food choices and offering to take walks with her.
  • Make plans ahead of time for how your place of employment will handle your sudden absence for the birth. Anything that can be done ahead of time should be taken care of well in advance of her due date.
  • Take the guess work out of helping her in labor. Ask her what helps her relax, exactly how she likes to be massaged, etc. Open communication is essential.
  • Talk to the belly. Your interest in her growing belly is another way for you to bond as a growing family.
  • Take the time to read some of the things she is learning, and ask questions about things you don't understand. Respect her feelings and her wishes on certain subjects, but don't be afraid to engage conversations about sensitive issues. 
Above all, be open, receptive and interested. Your baby's birth is a big event for both of you.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Why I Teach Bradley Childbirth

    (This is a copy of an essay I wrote on Facebook the other day...just a repeat here for anyone who might have missed it!)

    I have been teaching birthing classes to expectant moms and their partners for over two decades. Mostly my classes were held in my living room, turned classroom. The kids and I would spend class day sweeping, dusting and transforming our family room area into a peaceful and clean oasis for the new mamas and papas. This year I moved my class room to an off site location so that my kids could feel a measure of privacy in our now very small townhome. There just isnt't the space for big classes in the smallish living room, filled with rock band accessories, musical instruments and art supplies.

    But I did decide to go ahead and teach my private classes in this smaller setting. So on Monday this week we were doing our "deep clean" ritual, right down to the yucky crumbs under the couch. As we were all grumbling about cleaning, it dawned on me why I still teach. When my first beautiful baby was born by Cesarean section, my body responded by shooting my blood pressure up to dangerous levels. I was sedated and drugged for nearly a week as the doctors and nurses tip toed around my bed, hoping to avert any seizure activity in this young mama. I was numb and out of it. I guess that was to my advantage, because I didin't know until much later how dangerous my situation had become......

    Fast forward two and half years. At the suggestion of a friend, I took a Bradley Childbirth Class. Short story, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy on August 2, 1986 with no drugs or surgery. I was ecstatic! We had decided that if I had a repeat of the first dangerous birth, then he would be our last child.

    Happily, the story doesn't end there. With a beautiful strong birth story under my belt, I trained to become a Bradley teacher myself. And went on to have four more awesome babies.....alll without drugs or surgery. .....

    So, when my three YOUNGEST children were helping me clean for Bradley, it was a sobering thought...if not for my successful Bradley birth with thier older brother, they might not have been born. With that change of heart and perspective we joyfully cleaned right down to the dustboards and cobwebs.

    My heart is full, and I am so grateful that I have the awesome privilege to mother 6 great kids!

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Youtube Homebirth

    I have no words to add to this. It speaks for itself.

    B I R T H.

    Pure and simple.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    The Bottom Line: The Basics of Perineal Massage

    The practice of perineal massage is helpful in preventing tears during second stage. While exerting force to push the baby down the birth canal and over the perineum, the tissues must stretch to accomodate the baby's head, shoulders and body. By applying gentle pressure and stroking during the last two weeks of pregnancy, a woman can prepare her body for this intense time of birth. 

    Benefits of perineal massage:
    1. Helps the tissue to become supple and stretchy.
    2. Gives the woman a chance to become accustomed to relaxing when slight pressure is on the perineum.
    3. Enhances the birth by providing a tactile focal point for pushing.
    This is a simple exercise, but might be easier accomplished with the help of a partner or spouse.
    1. Wash hands and trim nails carefully.
    2. Use a mild oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond or olive oil to lubricate the index finger.
    3. Gently massage the perineal tissue, holding it between the index finger and thumb. 
    4. Use mild pressure, which should feel like stretching.
    5. Eventually use two fingers, expanding the tissue as you gently massage. 
    6. Do not apply too much pressure. 
    During birth, it is sometimes helpful for the midwife to apply mild pressure on the perineum to help a woman focus on where to push. By working the tissue ahead of time, it should be more stretchy and pliable.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Comfort Measures During Labor

    Women take childbirth classes for a variety of reasons. Typically, learning how to deal with the discomfort of contractions is at the top of most womens list. Last week I surveyed my friends (and Bradley Students) on facebook, just curious about what were the most common comfort measures used in labor.

    Twenty two women responded, here are the results.

    Hydrotherapy: (they were to check all that applied)
        72 % used the tub, followed by 52 % who stood in the shower.
        Only 22% used cool compresses, followed by 27% who used warm compresses.

    Touch Therapy:
        Counterpressure 87% , 43% for effleurage of light stroking, 31% liked the double hip squeeze and  only            4% used accupressure points.

    Support person:
           Interesting statistic: exactly 50% used a doula other than their partner/spouse.

    Pain Meds:
           Of the 22 that answered the survey, 68 % used no pain meds. Edpidurals only followed at 22%      and          only 9 % said they needed both the epidural and pain meds in the I.V.

      When asked to write about what was most helpful, most women mentioned a support person, such as a doula, their husband or friend. Breathing, working with their bodies, giving in to the contractions, changing positions and being in the tub were common responses.

    I think it is important for women to know before they go into labor that they have these options, that a trained support person can help them, and that they don't have to figure it all out by themselves.

    Many thanks to my friends and students (a.k.a. friends acquired through teaching!) for answering the survey! It is my pleasure and privilege to know each one of you.

    Bright Blessings to you all!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Who takes the child by the hand takes the mother by the heart.
                                                           German Proverb

     This is for the dad's out there who wonder how they'll do it all....take care of their children, their marriage, their career....listen to the call of your heart. When you nurture and love your children, you reach the heart of your partner in life. When you love and take care of your partner, you also take care of your children. The family is a circle of love. Hold on with all you've got. 

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Benefits of Water Birth

    Water Birth is offered in many birthing suites across the country and also experienced in many homebirths, as well. What is the attraction of birthing in water? Why would anyone want to sit in a tub to birth a baby?

    Here are some surprising benefits to water birth:

    • Less pain. Laboring in a warm tub of water has been called a "natural epidural" by natural chilbirth enthusiasts. The warmth of the water releives back pressure, round ligament pain, and the pressure caused by the baby descending deeper into the pelvis.
    • Less weight. Mom feels less weight as the water lifts the heavy uterus and it's contents, allowing her some relief from the heaviness experienced during labor.
    • Positioning dynamics. A baby who is not coming in a vertex position, but insists on breech or even posterior can be born with less distress in the water. The weightlessness of the water allows for a gentler birth for babies who are coming breech or posterior, giving them time to maneuver their way through the birth canal.
    Standard precautions include preparing the birth tub by sterilizing it first, and then filling with pure water. No chemicals should be added. The temperature must be warm, but not hot. The birth attendants can keep the water free from fecal debris released by the mother with small fish nets. The cord must remain intact while baby is underwater to ensure a constant oxygen supply. As with a natural birth out of water, baby may be brought immediately to the breast for food, warmth and bonding.

    Even if a woman doesn't give birth in water, most mom's appreciate laboring in either a shower or tub to help manage the pain and discomfort. Standing in a warm shower or kneeling in a warm tub of water can bring sweet relief to a laboring mom.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    3 Tips For Writing a Better Birth Plan

    Writing a Birth Plan is a little like composing a wish list. You know what you want, you're just not sure if you are going to get it. Women have been criticized by health care providers as if by creating a birth plan we are trying to control the birth process. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A birth plan is more about respecting a woman's right to birth as naturally as she desires, honoring her personal preferences and wishes. By laboring unhindered by unnecessary medical interventions, a woman increases her chances of birthing her child spontaneously and naturally.

    When writing a birth plan it is important to keep three things in mind.
    1. Be specific.
    2. Be brief.
    3. Be positive. 
    Specific Requests:
    • Direct communication is necessary. 
    • Clearly state the things that are most important to you.
    • Bullet points communicate your wishes in fewer words.
    • Lengthy birth plans can put your healthcare provider on the defensive. 
    • Phrase your requests with positive words, such as "freedom to move around" instead of "do not make me stay in bed."
    • State clearly that your plans are in anticipation of a healthy birth for you and your baby and that you are flexible if the course of your labor takes an unexpected turn.
    Your baby's birth~day is one of the most important days of your life. It is a day that will impact you as a woman and as a mother. Take the time to carefully think through how you want to labor and birth your baby and communicate that to your birth team. A wise health care provider will listen to you and enter into discussions on what is realistic. If your birth team is not open to such discussion, it may be time to hire a different one.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Keep it Cool!

    Staying hydrated is especially important for expectant mama's in the summertime heat. If you get dehydrated, it decreases your energy levels and  you may experience lower blood levels, or hypovolemia. Baby gets less oxygen, too and your body responds with annoying braxton hicks contractions. So, drink lots of fresh, pure water during these warmer months! Juices are ok in moderation, but most prepackaged juices have high levels of sugar. If you want a refreshing boost, add sparkling water to half a glass of your favorite juice and pour over frozen fruit. My favorite is a combination of cranberry juice with sparkling water over frozen strawberries. Experiment with different flavors for variety. Stay hydrated, stay healthy, stay cool!

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Labor Drinks and Energy Pick - Me -Ups

    Women have been making energy drinks for the demands of labor for a long time. Brew up one of these wonderful drinks well before your due date. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then when you are in labor, pop them into a wide mouth sports bottle, add water, and sip throughout labor to renew your energy. 

    Labor Aid Drink:

    1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

    1/3 cup honey (or to taste)

    1/4 tsp sea salt

    2 calcium/magnesium tablets, crushed

    water to make 4 cups

    Red Raspberry Leaf Tea:
    4 tea bags brewed to a quart of water

    honey to taste

    Other drinks to keep your energy up: G2, Recharge (same as gatorade, but without the corn syrup). 

    Honey sticks or honey squeezed from a honey bear onto a spoon is also a great way to help raise blood sugar and get a boost of energy.

    Labor Dance

    When given the freedom to move about in labor, many women find they are dancing to the beat of their own drummer. They sway, rock, walk, rotate their hips and move with the power of the contractions. What good does all this movement do? Why should women create a labor dance all their own? In early labor, the baby is usually high in the uterus. He may be turned to one side or the other, or even facing moms belly in a posterior position. As he moves down, he needs room to also rotate, so that once he is in the birth canal, his head is facing her back, slightly to the left or right of her spine. This is the optimal position for a baby to be born.

    However, if mom is not allowed to move about in labor, due to hospital policies and restrictions, the baby's ability to rotate as he descends will be hindered. That is one of the ways that baby's get stuck in less than desrirable positions, necessitating the use of forceps, vacuum extractors or cesareans to help them be born.

    How much more humane, loving, supportive to give women room to move about, to sit on a birth ball and rock, to kneel forward and sway, to pelvic rock, to "belly dance" as she rotates her hips, to walk, to lean into her partner from an upright position. She is doing the work of laboring the baby down, she is the one helping to fascilitate her baby's descent through the pelvis and into the birth canal.

    In addition to the practical aspects of helping baby descend, it is empowering to her as she does the work herself, supported by her partner and loved ones.

    When a woman is supported like that in labor, she emerges an empowered, strong woman. A confident woman who transitions into motherhood with grace and strength. 

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    To My Friends Who are Birth Workers....This is For You

    Yesterday, I enjoyed two mid afternoon conversations with two different friends. One is an old friend, a midwife who was there to "catch" my third baby. (Who is getting married in less than two weeks!) and the other is an online friend who I occasionally chat with on facebook. She is an OB nurse at a local hospital. Both are passionate about women, birthing and babies. When I came across this poem today, I thought of them and all the other amazing birth workers I am privileged to know. This is for you. 

    "Being Born Is Important
    by Carl Sandburg 

    Being born is important
    You who have stood at the bed posts
    and seen a mother on her high harvest day,
    the day of the most golden of harvest moons for her.

    You who have seen the new wet child
    Dried behind the ears,
    swaddled in soft fresh garments,
    pursing its lips and sending a groping mouth
    toward nipples where the white milk is ready.

    You who have seen this love's payday
    of wild toiling and sweet agonizing.
    You know being born is important.

    You know that nothing else was ever so important to you.
    You understand that the payday of love is so old,
    So involved, so traced with the circles of the moon,
    So cunning with the secrets of the salts of the blood,
    It must be older than the moon, older than the salt.

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    15 Steps to A Better Birth

    1. Carefully choose the birth place and caregivers that support your views on childbirth.
    2. Educate yourself on how the body works in labor.
    3. Take a comprehensive childbirth class.
    4. Exercise to build up good birthing muscles and stamina.
    5. Eat to appetite of whole, natural foods, especially fresh fruits, veggies and lean protein choices.
    6. Learn relaxation techniques to help handle labor.
    7. Formulate a realistic birth plan.
    8. Work through any emotional issues that could hinder your labor. See a good therapist is needed.
    9. Stay upright in first stage labor, walking, swaying, rocking, dancing, showering and sitting on the birth ball.
    10. Choose a pushing position that allows gravity to work with you. Supported standing, squatting, kneeling and pelvic rock are all good positions. 
    11. Hire a doula to act as an extra support person during labor.
    12. Eat in labor as long as you are hungry.
    13. Drink lots of fluids in labor.
    14. Sit on the toilet frequently once active labor begins.
    15. Surrender to the contractions.
    In summary: Trust your body, trust birth. 

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    From the Book Shelf

    Living in the information age, it is easy to be overwhelmed with all the info floating around in cyber space and collecting dust on bookshelves. With a 9 month deadline looming, it is imperative to find the information that is the most useful to you. Here is my list of all time favorite books on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Enjoy!
    1. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
    2. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, by Susan Mc Cutcheon
    3. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth, by Sheila Kitzinger
    4. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by La Leche League
    5. The Birth Book, by Dr. Sears (he also has the Baby Book, the Breastfeeding Book, the Vaccination Book, etc.)
    6. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Childbirth, by Henci Goer

    There are other great books out there, but if a woman only had time to read 6 books, this would be the bare bones list. Awesome, powerful information for the woman who wants childbirth discussed honestly and openly.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Easing Morning Sickness

    Morning sickness is the unfortunate side effect of rising levels of hormones in the beginning of pregnancy. It's presence is kind of "good news/bad news." The good news is your hormone levels are rising in accordance with the way a viable pregnancy usually goes, the bad news is you're sick all the time. Here are some tips for dealing with one of pregnancy's most irritating characteristics.

    1. Divide and conquer. Eat small meals as snacks throughout the day by dividing your typical meal into snack size portions to munch on from dawn to dusk. 
    2. Tea for two. Make ginger tea by boiling a small piece of fresh ginger for ten minutes. Add honey to sweeten, sip slowly. 
    3. Papaya enzymes. Taken before meals, may help curb nausea.
    4. B12, taken in small doses has been shown to be helpful.
    5. Chill and stretch. Relax, eat slowly and do some walking or simply stretching after meals. Raise your arms over head as if pushing the sky up,out to the sides, and then behind you. Take a deep breath as you move your arms slowly from one position to another. Feel your chest cavity expand as  you breath deeply.

    For most women, the nausea of early pregnancy ceases in the second semester. For a special treat, get yourself a natural brand of ginger ale that actually contains ginger. Sip and enjoy!

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Affirmations for the Pregnant Mama

    Maintain a positive outlook during pregnancy. Incorporate thoughtful meditation into your daily routine. Set aside 15-20 minutes to consciously relax your body starting with your head and working down your spine to your legs and feet. In addition to relaxing muscle groups, internalize positive mental images and messages that help you find your inner strength. Giving birth will take a woman on a journey that is both soul expanding and physically challenging. Most women do not know how strong they are until they give birth. Arm  yourself with affirmations that are reflective of positive beliefs regarding birth.

    Here are some to start with:

    1.  My body has an inner wisdom.
    2. I am strong.
    3. My body knows how to give birth.
    4. My body is nourishing my child at this moment.
    5. I have everything I need to birth my baby.
    6. My body works perfectly.
    7. I surrender to the power of birth.
    8. With practice, I can learn to ride the contractions like waves.
    9. I am already strong and capable.
    10. My body is flexible and stretchy and fully equipped for birth.
    Trust in birth. 
    Believe in yourself.

    10 Tips for a Successful Start in Breastfeeding

    Getting ready to breastfeed begins in pregnancy. Your body is preparing for this next act in the weeks before birth. Excellent prenatal nutrition and a drug free birth will help you get off to a good start. Although, it is still possible to breastfeed following a medicated birth, it may just take a bit of extra effort especially if baby is sleepy.

    1. Continue your prenatal diet for the first few weeks after birth to help nourish your changing body as it heals and takes on the added task of making milk. A good prenatal vitamin, plus lots of healthy, fresh fruits and veggies, lean sources of protein and whole grains is a good place to start. 
    2. Educate yourself on breastfeeding before the big day! Attend La Leche League meetings, read books by breastfeeding professionals like Jack Newman and Dr. Sears. 
    3. Assemble a breastfeeding nook in the main part of the house. Establish a comfy chair that you can relax in to nurse your baby. Put a small table next to the chair to hold your water, snack and any books you are reading. Stash a basket of baby essentials within arms reach. Diapers, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, burp cloths and an extra receiving blanket can be a lifesaver if baby needs a quick change in the midst of a breastfeeding session. 
    4. Continue to use your prenatal relaxation exercises as you nurse your baby. Your body produces hormones that further encourage relaxation and release. Breathe deeply and enjoy the nursing sessions. Your milk will flow easier and more efficiently if you are relaxed. 
    5. Keep a breastcream on hand if your nipples become dry or irritated. Lanolin, raw coconut oil and pure vitamin E are healthy options. 
    6. Nurse your baby when he is hungry. 
    7. Offer both breasts at each nursing session.
    8. Start with the second breast at the next nursing session. (wear a stretchy bracelet on your wrist that  you put on the wrist of the side that you ended with.)
    9. Make sure baby has most of the aerola (dark part of the nipple) in his mouth.
    10. Relax and be in the moment with your baby. Enjoy these fleeting baby days!

    Suggested resourcs:
    • La Leche League International   
    • Dr. Sears                                  
    • Dr. Jack Newman                     

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Taking Care of Those Sexy Mama Legs

    Nothing cramps your style like a leg cramp. Guaranteed to make you catch your breath and utter words your mom thought she washed out of your vocabulary, they are a nuisance of pregnancy.

    Many times leg cramps are a signal our body sends us that we need more magnesium and calcium.These minerals are found in abundance in green leafy vegetables as well as other foods.Summer squash, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pumpkins, tomatoes, plums, rice, seaweed, snap beans, apples and the ever popular fiddleheads are all excellent sources of calcium and magnesium. Make sure you are also getting adequate Vitamin D from the sun or supplemented in your diet. This helps with your mineral absorption.  Look for natural ways to add these foods to your diet as opposed to adding one more supplement or vitamin.

    Another important element for sexy legs in pregnancy is to keep the blood flowing back up the legs. Veins get more elastic during pregnancy and with the added weight of baby and natural force of gravity, the blood pools in the legs creating varicose veins and tired legs. Do ankle pumps periodically through the day, elevate your legs for fifteen minutes 2 or 3 times a day, take walks around the neighborhood, and practice healthful postures such as tailor sitting. 

    If you feel like your legs need extra support, wear supportive stockings, making sure to put them on first thing in the morning. Avoid standing for long periods of time, and avoid chair sitting for long periods, too. Move around, take breaks, listen to your body and be gentle with yourself as your body is going through changes.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Happy Mother's Day

    Here's a different mothers day thought:  
    Mother yourself today. 

    Do something good for you. It may be with someone you love or alone. Take yourself for a walk, or to the movies. Get ice cream, a pedicure or a new pair of shoes. Do not wait to be pampered, but take the time to pamper yourself. 

    I really think that if  mother's took the time to take care of themselves, they would be happier in their marriages, jobs, homes, car pools, committees and in their families. When women are taken care of, we can take care of everyone else.

     So, don't wait for someone else to take you out on the town. Take yourself, girlfriend!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Sex During Pregnancy

    Sexual desire and needs change during the course of pregnancy. A woman can experience times of increased desire and low lobido, due to hormonal fluctuations and growing discomfort. Being in tune with your own sexual needs and feelings goes a long way in communicating this with your partner. Some couples are afraid they will harm the baby by enjoying an intimate encounter between the sheets. However, the baby is well cushioned and protected by the uterus and the amniotic fluid. It is best, however for the expectant partner to assume a position other than flat on her back.

    Unless your doctor or midwife has warned against sex during pregnancy for medical reasons, it is not only safe but beneficial to both of you. The male hormones in the semen (prostaglandins) have anti-bacterial propterties and also stimulate slight contractions in the woman. This is beneficial as her body prepares for birth. Continued braxton hicks contractions (false labor) may also occur after orgasm, due to increased oxytocin production. All forms of sexual contact from kissing to cuddling can stimulate these false contractions, as well. In late pregnancy, some women experience a release of colostrum from their breasts as well.

    Even though it is usually safe and healthy to continue enjoying sex during pregnancy, there are a few warnings.
    1. No blowing into the vagina.
    2. No sex after the amniotic sac has broken.
    3. No sex if you have a medical condition such as the threat of miscarriage or pre term labor, until your medical caregiver gives clearance. 
    4. Find a position where the expectant mom is not lying on her back.
    5. Use a natural oil such as olive oil or almond oil for lubricant, if necessary.
    Communicate your needs openly with one another. Be creative in loving  your partner and enjoying  your changing body.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Herbal Tea for Your Baby Bump

    For centures, women have used herbs for everything from hemmrhoids to hot flashes. However, pregnant mamas need to use caution when reaching for just any traditional remedy. Herbs are powerful, that's why they work. Many drugs come from a plant initially. Some herbs are wonderful for pregnancy, and some are best left alone.

    Here are three nutritional and healing herbs to use when pregnant.
    1. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is the classic, hands down favorite pregnancy herb. It is a uterine tonic high in Vitamins B,C and E. It is also rich in calcium, potassium and iron. However, it is not recommended for women who have a history of miscarriages or pre term labor. Most women can safely consume it  during the last month of pregnancy. Check with your health care provider to determine effective ways of incorporating it into your daily routine.
    2. Oatstraw is rich in calcium and magnesium making it a great one to help calm nerves and anxiety in pregnancy when emotions can run high. It also helps with leg cramps. 
    3. Ginger is wonderful to help alleviate morning sickness or nausea. 
    4. Nettles are busting with calcium, potassium, iron, and Vitamins A,C and K. These are essential for fighting infection, building bones and muscles and rich blood. Be careful if you are picking them, they will "sting."
    As always check with your healthcare provider before embarking on any nutritional plan.

    Recommended reading:

    Top Three Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Midwife

    When choosing a midwife or doctor to attend your upcoming birth, it is important to establish what their philosophy of birth is. There are three questions you can ask to see if you and your potential caregiver are on the same page.

    1) Will I have the freedom to move around freely?
    • Walking, swaying, rocking, standing in the shower, sitting on the toilet, kneeling, hands and knees, etc. are all very important. That helps baby align himself in the pelvis correctly. If they keep you in bed, baby doesn't have enough room to adjust, then he gets stuck or doesn't descend well.

    2) Can I choose my own birth position?
    • Lying on your back benefits ONLY the doctor/ midwife, not you or baby. In fact it is much harder to give birth on your back, that is why so many women end up with episiotomies, forceps, vacuum extractor, cesareans. An upright position makes use of gravity.

    3) Will I have the freedom to eat and drink in labor?

    • This is important because you will be working very hard, and you need to be nourished. If you are denied nourishment, many times the uterus just stops working efficiently if it has been a long labor.
    Everything else (amniotomy, electronic fetal monitors, I.V.'s, episiotomies, etc.) are also important, but those are questions to be asked after the first three are answered to your satisfaction.

    If they truly support women birthing naturally, they will not have difficulty answering these three basic questions. If not, keep searching. There are caregivers who support women in birth.

    You just have to find them.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Postpartum Self-Care

    For nine months you have been taking care of baby by taking care of yourself. Eating healthy foods that include lots of protein, fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains and limiting your intake of processed foods and unhealthy snacks. You could feel good about your exercise sessions, knowing that in turn, you and baby would benefit when it came time for the birth. It was a two for one special, take care of you and the benefit is you also took care of baby.

    Now that baby is here, everything has changed. Between changing diapers, midnight feedings, consoling her when she's lonely and hunting for a fresh outfit when the last diaper didn't hold up, it's easy to feel that there is little time for taking care of yourself. Mom care. After baby care, bill paying, cleaning, groceries and cooking where is there time to take care of yourself?

    First of all, it's important to see the absolute need to care for yourself. You can't wait until baby is older to take care of your own needs. Learn how to adjust your new life as a mommy to include time for your own self care. When mom is taken care of, everybody is happier!

    1. Eat like you're still pregnant. OK, you can cut down on the quantity a bit, but still look for healthy options and take your prenatal during the postpartum period and while breastfeeding. 
    2. Exercise at least twenty minutes a day. Once you have your midwife/doctors clearance for exercising, get back into a good exercise routine. Start with familiar exercises like pelvic rocks and deep breathing. Avoid anything strenuous at first. A postpartum yoga routine can be helpful.
    3. Chill for twenty minutes a day. Take some time to sit or lie comfortably and just focus on your breathing. Meditation/relaxation practice calms your nerves, lower your heart rate and raises your endorphins, those feel good hormones.
    4. Do what you want. Once a day, do something you enjoy. It might be as simple as calling a friend, or reading a feel good fictional book, or inviting your neighbor in for tea and adult conversation.
    5. Get out there, girl! Once a week (minimum) get out and see friends, go to the park, a museum, window shopping with the girls or lunch out with your sister. 
    6. Write it down. Get a notebook or journal and write out your feelings, plans, dreams. Write down something positive from your day, as well as pouring out your heart on paper.
    7. Keep meals simple. A little planning ahead before baby comes can help with this. A few weeks before your due date make double batches of your favorite meals and put them in the freezer. Gather simple ideas for meals that are quick and healthy. 
    8. Go with the flow. Accept that not ever day is going to flow as smoothly as you had hoped and just "go with it." Accepting situations as they are is a good lesson in life and parenting in general.
    9. Stay connected with your partner/spouse. He is probably tired, too. Eat together when you can, sit on the couch for a few minutes each day to cuddle and catch up on each others day. 
    10. Join a mommy group in your community for social time that meets you and baby's needs. 
    Remember, when you take care of your own needs and allow yourself to recharge before becoming depleted, you are also taking care of your baby by giving her a mom that is rested, healthy and happy. 

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Childbirth Without Fear

    Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware … To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory. She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.” ~ Grantly Dick-Read 
    This quote is from a classic book on childbirth, "Childbirth Without Fear." That was one of the first books I read when I was expecting my first child in 1984. I was 19 years old, scared and excited all at the same time. Fortunately, for me, I was surrounded by women who were experienced in natural childbirth, who were confident at breastfeeding, and very much "attachment parenting" type moms, although that term wasn't coined until later. They nurtured me into my childbearing years, showing me the way simply by their very presence. They let me live life with them. When my first beautiful baby was welcomed into this world by cesarean, they lovingly helped me breastfeed, and eventually helped me find my way to Bradley Classes and a doctor who supported VBAC. They mentored me, loved me, and created a safe place for me to ask questions. 
    The quote above reminds me of those precious days, and how fortunate I was to have such dear friends. I don't remember which of them told me to read Dr. Grantly Dick-Read's book, but it had a profound impact on my view of birth. And, I must add, that I experienced that "spiritual uplifting", an empowerment like none other with my 5 VBAC's. 

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    To Doula or NOT to Doula....That is the Question!

    A doula is someone who mothers the mother. She offers support before, during and after birth. Her presence can be calming and reassuring. For much of recorded history, women have been attended by other females in labor. Sisters, aunts, neighbors and friends would be helpers at a birth. Their training was simply their previous experience doing this for others in the community.

    Now there are doula training organizations that teach women the skills needed to be an effective doula. DONA, CAPPA, ICEA, ALACE and Intuitive Doula are some of the organizations that offer doula training. Doula's who have experienced natural childbirth have their own life experiences, as well.

    A doula is not a medical person. She holds your hand, applies warm or cool compresses, coaches you through tough contractions. She can inform, instruct, educate and explain hospital jargon. She cannot negotiate with the doctor for you, but you can consult with her when making a decision about your care. She will help you change positions in labor, help with communication with your birth team and be like an older, wiser sister to encourage and help during the birth.

    Another role of the doula is to support your partner. She can get him some food or drink, take over coaching while he catches a nap, talk with the family in the waiting room, take pictures so your partner can focus on you and the baby, etc.

    A good doula will honor your wishes, and support you as a strong, capable birthing woman. She will honor your partners place at the birth and view her role as supportive of  the two of you. Interview a few doula's and think about which one you feel at home with. She will be with you during your most vulnerable moments.

    The decision to hire a doula is personal. Many women find it comforting to have the emotional support of another woman in labor. Consider your own birthing philosophy and look for a doula who supports your choices.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Rock On, Mama!

    Having a baby is not an event to take lying down. When mom moves around, swaying, walking, rocking on a birthing ball she works with her body and gravity to help bring baby down into the pelvic cavity. One of my all time favorite prenatal exercises, the pelvic rock, is a useful move during pregnancy, first stage labor, second stage labor and postpartum. This is truly a "mom" exercise that can have wonderful benefits for the whole nine months and beyond.

    1. Assume a hands and knees position on the floor. 
    2. Rock the pelvis forward and back. If you were standing up it would look like a move from an exotic dance, no worries you are on your hands and knees here! 
    Benefits in pregnancy:
    1. Tones abs.
    2. Relieves back pressure.
    3. Increases circulation to the legs and pelvic cavity, thus reducing the risk of varicose veins.
    Uses in labor:
    1. Promotes optimum fetal positioning.
    2. Relieves back pressure from descent of baby.
    3. Relieves back pressure due to posterior position of baby.
    4. Encourages baby to rotate from posterior to anterior position.
    5. Alternate pushing position for second stage to facilitate a posterior presentation or birth of a large baby.
    Postpartum benefits:
    1. Encourages circulation to promote healing.
    2. Helps align organs after the birth.
    3. Tones lower abs.
    Rock on, mama! 

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Inner Knowing

    The knowledge of how to give birth without outside intervention lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on an acceptance of the process.
    Suzanne Arms

    When a woman believes in her body's ability to give birth, she opens herself to the power and amazing adventure of birthing. She possesses an inner knowing, a primal knowlege at the gut or heart level. However, in our frantic and fear driven world, that message is questioned, ridiculed, despised. As a childbirth educator, one of my main messages to the strong, capable women who come to my classes, is that they already have everything they need. Within their own heart and body are the strength and wisdom to birth their baby. 

    Confidence needs to replace fear.
    Surrender to replace control.
    Respect to override unnecessary interference.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Giving Birth


    We give donations, hugs, smiles and friendly advice. We give a little or a lot, depending on the situation.Giving is something we DO.

    And a woman in labor gives birth. Give. It's an active verb. It is not passive. 

    She does not need to "be delivered" of her child. She is not sick, nor is she in an emergency in most situations. She will birth the child herself.  Instead of an emergency, it is an emerg-ing. A child emerging from the comfort of the womb, a woman becomes a mother, as she gives birth.

    Choose your birth team wisely and with care. Educate yourself about natural birth. Decide for yourself where this event should take place. Where you feel the safest is usually the best place for you.

    Do not align yourself with any birth professional that does not support your right to give birth in a way that feels right to you. 

    Believe in birth.

    Believe in yourself.

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    Twelve Reasons To Eat Two Eggs a Day

    Dr. Brewer advocated eating 2 eggs a day during pregnancy. He based his recommendations on solid research. He also advised consuming 80-100 gm protein each day. He taught this diet to his pregnant OB patients and, well, as my grandma used to say…the proof is in the puddin’! His statistics say it all with less than 1% toxemia in his practice. Considering that toxemia is a cause for induction, endangering both the life of the unborn baby and the mom, this is significant. Babies born to moms who follow the Brewer diet are bigger and healthier. Here are some rock solid reasons to serve up two eggs each day:

    1. Protein builds healthy organs, connective tissue, bones and muscles.

    2. Two eggs deliver 16 grams of protein. Add a quart of milk, and you’re half way to home base.

    3. Eggs are cheap forms of protein, available all year round.

    4. Egg yolks contain Vitamin D which helps with calcium absorption.

    5. Lecithin, found in fertilized eggs, help the body process cholesterol.

    6. Eggs are good sources of B12, which help with healthy nervous systems.

    7. They taste good!

    8. There are a plethora of ways to prepare and enjoy them.

    9. Eggs help grow healthy hair and nails.

    10. Easy to prepare.

    11. They contain a variety of amino acids which contribute to overall fetal growth.

    12. Eggs contain folic acid which can prevent neural tube defects in preborn babies.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Pregnancy Exercise for A Better Birth

    Birth has been compared to running a marathon. It’s like waking up one day and realizing that you are going to have to run ten miles, like it or not. Even women in excellent physical shape will tell you it is a physical challenge like none other. If you signed up for a marathon, you would start training that day. Sitting around eating nachos is not going to get you there. Daily exercise, and a change in dietary habits are necessary to be ready.

    Obviously, training for a marathon and preparing for birth are quite different.  Pregnancy exercise falls in two categories.

    Aerobic exercise for stamina.
    Focused exercise to target the back, belly, legs and bottom areas.

    Aerobic exercise such as walking and swimming are popular choices for expectant moms.

    Most women can find the time in their schedules to fit in a walk. If it’s been awhile since you have been out walking, start with ten minutes at a time, and slowly work up to doing thirty minutes a day. Wear supportive shoes, and drink plenty of water.
    If you have access to a swimming pool, that is a great way to increase lung capacity and endurance. If you have not swam since becoming pregnant, start out with a kick board, or even just doing aerobic type exercises in the shallow end of the pool. One of the added benefits of being in waist deep water is how it takes the weight of the baby off your back and legs.
    Try out a prenatal yoga class. In addition to the aerobic workout, you are increasing circulation and increasing flexibility and strength.
    Focus on specific exercises to  tone and strengthen your back, abdominal, legs and birthing baby area.

    Pelvic rocks. Assume a position where you are on your hands and knees, as if giving a child a piggy back ride. Tilt your pelvis so that you are rocking it back and forth. Your back should only slightly sag at the low point. It is similar to cat-cow in yoga. This tones the abs and strengthens the lower back muscles. Many women find this to be a great way to deal with low back ache in labor, too.
    Squats. With feet shoulder distance apart, or more, hold on to your partner or heavy piece of furniture. Slowly bend your knees, dropping down into a full squat. It is important to keep your knees over your feet. Try to keep your heels on the floor, as well. When coming up, come butt first, with your hands on your knees. Be careful to not lose your balance. Squats help stretch the perineum (baby birthing area), and the muscles in your legs. This position opens the pelvis, allowing more room for the baby to move into the birth canal.
    Kegel’s. This exercise can be done sitting at your desk, riding in the car, or while walking the dog. Simply squeeze the muscle that you would tighten if you were trying to “hold it” until you could get to a bathroom. Hold this muscle for a count of ten. Release, repeat. Doing kegels helps strengthen the pelvic floor, which helps during the birth. One of the many benefits is better sex. That’s a great reason alone!
    These are my all time top three favorite pregnancy exercises. Be careful, using common sense when doing these or any other exercise. Do not get over heated or terribly out of breath. Stop immediately if you are dizzy, have sharp pain or have pain. These should not hurt. Consult with your health care professional before attempting these exercises.

    Birthing is active. Get your body in shape for the birth-day marathon!

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Favorite Birth Quotes

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Happy Birthday Tim!

    Seventeen years ago today I waddled into the hospital....slowly making my way down the corridor. I was in active labor and no I did not want to ride in a wheelchair. Yes, I was stubborn! Upon seeing my basically calm demeanor the nurse condescendingly told me that I should not be surprised if the doc sent me home. I didn't appear to be in labor , in her opinion. Well either she was new or I was hiding it well, because after the exam they whisked me into a room. I was already dilated to 5 cm. <smile> Yes....I knew I was in labor. After all this was my fifth time. It was about 6 am and my doc was getting ready to go in for a morning of surgery. He said not to worry his resident could take care of me if things were moving along too quickly. I took one look at the young doc. He looked not much older than my oldest kid. No thanks. We'll wait this one out. I looked at my husband and said if things go quickly, be ready to catch this one! I labored all morning with my husband and friend with me. The kids were in an adjoining room with another friend and her daughters. It was like we were all anticipating a party.   By 11:30 that morning I was feeling like he could be born very soon. Doc came in to check on me and gave me the green light for pushing. Great! This is what we've all been waiting for! In less than 30 minutes my little ginger haired angel came tumbling into the world. He was surrounded by love....and his older sister tried to immediately feed him "Teddy Graham's." Do they still make those teddy bear crackers? Anyway, he was loved and welcomed into the family amidst hugs and tears and squeals of laughter. And quite honestly, any time I am waiting for him to come home it feels like I'm waiting for a party. Happy Birthday Tim! I love you. ~ mom