Blog Archives

50 Things No One Ever Told You About Babies

February 17, 2015

50 Things No One Ever Told You About Babies | MothersCircle.netWhen you’re a new parent, there are plenty of things you can’t prepare for and may not expect. You’ll hear stories from friends, parents, in-laws, it’s hard to sort out what you should believe, what advice you should follow and even with all of those tales and tips, there will still be things no one ever told you about babies.

I’ve surveyed past doula clients and other new moms and tapped into my experience with families adding a new baby to the family to bring you this list of 50 things no one ever told you about babies in five areas of postpartum adjustment.

How to Choose a Baby Carrier

September 4, 2013

how to choose a baby carrier, how to choose a baby carrier or wrap, babywearing tips, babywearing safetyA big thank you to my friend Angie Howard McParland for this information-packed post on babywearing and how to choose a baby carrier that is right for your family. She shares pros and cons on 5 different types of baby carriers and important tips to safely practice babywearing. Click here for 5 Reasons to Use Babywearing.

I remember when I first learned about babywearing before my son was born just over two years ago. I heard that the Moby wrap and Ergo carriers were good things to put on a registry as they could allow me to simultaneously snuggle with my new baby and do things around the house or avoid lugging a stroller. I started out with a Moby wrap and quickly dove headfirst into the world of babywearing, and figuring out how to choose a baby carrier that was best for us.

I tried out all sorts of new carriers and as my baby grew and I gained confidence and education about the vast array of babywearing options, I found that different carriers suited us best at different times and quickly amassed a collection. However, it babywearing toddler, ways to carry a toddler, using a wrap to carry a toddler, moby wrap for back wearing, can be overwhelming! It’s easy to be paralyzed and confused by the number of options and sometimes it seems that you need to learn an entirely new vocabularly: rucksack, tightening rails, Tibetan tie, rebozo pass….what?!

To try and demystify carrier options, here is a quick overview of the different types. All of this information is no substitute for trying them out yourself, though. What works for one wearer and wearee isn’t necessarily the best fit for another, so it’s best to try out options and venture out to your local babywearing group, if you have one. These groups are invaluable for learning how to use different carriers, meeting other parents. Most groups also maintain a lending library where you can actually borrow carriers before purchasing.

Why New Parents Need Postpartum Support

August 14, 2013

the value of postpartum support, why new parents need postpartum support, help for new parents, supporting new parents, help with new baby, What does postpartum really mean? Is the work of postpartum completed in six weeks? Two months? Five months? Is there a “right” time to have mastered your new role as parent or your new role as parent of two, three, twins? Why do families need postpartum support?

Postpartum, the time period often defined as the time it takes for the uterus to contract (involute) back to it’s pre-pregnancy size or six weeks, really lasts much longer and involves so much more than the physical restoration of the uterus.

The disparity between expectations and the reality of a newborn can leave parents feeling out of control of their lives. Even with appropriate expectations, for example, adding a second or third child to the family, the time intensive requirements of caring for a newborn can clearly be challenging.

Before the addition of a baby to your family, you have control over how you spend your time in working, leisure, sleeping, self-caretaking and other activities. It is hard to anticipate how dramatically that will change after your baby arrives and hard to imagine just how overwhelming that can be to new parents.postpartum depression help, support after babies, help with twins, help with newborns, postpartum doula

A day in the life of caring for a newborn consists of:

Boob Milk is Best

August 2, 2013

boob milk is best, national breastfeeding week, august breastfeeding week, world breastfeeding weekIn support of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m re-posting a favorite breastfeeding story.

Sitting at the dinner table, our youngest, Anna, asked me why she’s the only one without allergies, and the first answer (as a doula and lactation counselor) was, “Because I nursed you for two years.” “Huh?” she asked.

So I dove right in, “That’s what boobs are for,” she giggled, “for feeding babies. Cow milk is for calves, goat milk is for baby goats and human milk is for …” I paused to let her answer, “Human babies!” Her eyes twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word nipples was also met with a chuckle.

We’ve talked about breastfeeding before many times, as a toddler she used to put her dolls to her breast routinely and if she ever used a play bottle, she’d tell me it had breastmilk in it. This discussion reminded me that in parenting, things need to be repeated and not just the pick-up-your-towel repeated, but relearned in new, age-adjusted ways. She was revisiting this topic with some more life experience under her teeny belt.
sleeping baby, baby sleeping on mom's chest, mom and baby sleeping, flavors of breastmilk, tasting breastmilk, milk supply, fenugreek and nursingShe was fascinated as I explained that breastmilk changes it’s flavor and content from day to day, feeding to feeding, during the same meal, and year to year. Your body even knows if the baby is a boy or a girl (Moms nursing boys produce milk that is higher in fat content). Breastmilk is the perfect food for human babies and as we chatted, it just popped out: “Boob Milk is Best!” She completely cracked up. I joined in and we were laughing as Anna repeated, “Boob Milk!”

Tabata Songs

July 19, 2013

tabata songs, tabata workout music, tabata training, tabata timing, tabata intervals, interval training music, timed music, barefoot truth music, Tabata songs are the perfect way to time your Tabata interval training workouts. Easier and more inspiring than a timer, these original, timed songs can kick up your routine. My friend Jay Driscoll along with Barefoot Truth band-mate John “Wayno” Waynelovich wrote, performed and recorded these songs specifically for Tabata training.

Jay explains how Tabata Songs originated: “While on tour, we have found Tabata Training to be the quickest, most effective form of exercise. For us, it is perfect for a quick hotel room workout. We hated staring at a clock to time the intervals, so we decided to just make music that tells the listener when to GO and when to STOP. Its basically like having a personal trainer on your iPod!”

What’s Tabata?

Ideal for busy Moms, the Tabata Protocol for interval training, though not new, is quickly gaining in popularity. Developed in 1996 by Japanese fitness researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata, its studied benefits include fat-loss, building cardio fitness and muscle retention, increased metabolism and muscular endurance.

Whether you’ve just been given the thumbs up to exercise after a baby, whether you’re chasing a toddler or working out with your teen – a huge benefit for Moms is that it can be done in 4 minutes. It’s high intensity training with intervals of 20 seconds and a 10 second rest in between.

Here are some tools and videos to help you design Tabata intervals that work for you.

Benefits of Tabata Songs

Tabata Songs allow you the freedom to focus on your training without fussing with a timer, stop watch or juggling a smart phone app.

5 Reasons to Use Babywearing

July 15, 2013

reasons to babywear, why baby wear, why wear your baby, benefits of babywearing how to use babywearing, is babywearing safe, is it safe to use a baby carrier, is it safe to use a sling, is it safe to use a baby wrapThere are certainly more than 5 reasons to use babywearing in your family, but in this guest post, Nancy Parker gives us her top five reasons. See my notes at the end of this post for additional benefits.

Is babywearing safe? Done properly and with attention to how to safely wear your baby – YES! So many mothers I work with (and when I had little ones myself) swear by babywearing. Keep up on recalls and safety precautions with carriers as with all baby products. In 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning about sling carriers.

One Mom tells me, “I quickly fell in love with wrapping and how close it brought my baby and me, how hands-free I could be when I put him on my back, and how much of a supermom I felt like when I could get him to sleep anywhere at a moment’s notice by throwing him in the wrap.
I also loved the puzzles of learning new carries with my wrap and the sense of accomplishment at getting a nice tight wrap and mastering a new style for the first time. The more we wore, the more patient he was with me while I learned, the more patience I had with him with sleeping and eating, AND I could get things done around the house while simultaneously snuggling my baby and bringing him comfort. I even took him to work with me for the first six months of his life and [babywearing] made that possible!
Having a second baby only 21 months later means that babywearing is a part of our daily (hourly?) routine. I can play with the toddler or take him to the park with my infant snuggled in on my chest or back and can nurse discreetly while still chasing after the two-year old. We never feel stuck at home and I rarely lug along a bulky stroller (although it certainly has it’s place as well).”

Here are 5 Reasons to Use Babywearing

Doulas and Dads

June 11, 2013

dads and doulas, doulas and dads, dad holding baby, fathers day, striped dress, supporting families at birth,

Doulas and Dads work together in a birth to support the Mama and after their baby comes home.

Without a real understanding of what a doula does, I sometimes hear a Dad’s hesitation in hiring a doula. He’s involved in the pregnancy, supportive of his wife/partner; he wants to be active and have a main role in the birth of his baby, so he’s thinking, “Why do we need her?”

As a doula, I can assure all Dads, that I am not there to replace them, but rather as a part of the birthing team, to help enhance their experience, and to support Dads, too, prenatally, during labor and postpartum. Often, after the birth, Dads are more appreciative of doula support than Moms. Doulas and Dads work together as complementary parts of the Mom’s birth team.

Our presence lets Dads support their loved ones in their own way without having to remember position changes or comfort dad supporting mom in labor, dad in bed with laboring mom, dad rubbing moms head, rubbing head in labor, doulas and dads, birth support, labor support, what is a doula, how do I hire a doulameasures, reminding her to empty her bladder or release her shoulders. To a Mom, her husband/partner’s reassurance and presence are invaluable, he is emotionally connected and invested in her and the birth. In labor, I see Dads lovingly rubbing backs, whispering in ears, encouraging and comforting, when they’re working so beautifully together, I can stand back, softly add a word of praise or a suggestion, add a touching hand and let the couple dance the labor dance together.

As labor progresses and becomes more intense, my role picks up, Dad and I are a team in supporting Mom. We may take turns squeezing her hips or being the leaning post for her swaying body. We find a rhythm that works. For some Dads who feel more uncertain or nervous, they can observe how I talk, touch, encourage and they can feel more comfortable in their actions.

How to Soothe a Crying Baby

June 4, 2013

calming a baby, soothe a cryng baby, how to get a baby to stop crying, harvey karp, Leahs soothing skills, mother's circle soothing skills, baby in hospital blanket, how to calm a baby, how to hold a baby, how to swaddle a babyA crying baby can cause a new parent (or even a seasoned parent) to feel stressed or helpless. Learning effective infant soothing can help any parent remain calm in the face of shrieks and howls.

The reality is, with an infant, you have to accept some fussiness, some crying. In the early weeks and months, an awake baby needs your attention, but here’s how to confidently soothe a crying baby back to calm.

I have to admit, when I first heard of Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby on the Block” I actually rolled my eyes and thought, “How superlative. Seriously?” but then I saw Dr. Karp speak at a conference in 2006 and I was sold. Since then, I’ve used his 5 S’s technique for soothing more babies than I can count. I’ve taught it and recommended his books/DVD to oodles of parents and caregivers. It really is magical when done with attention to details.

These infant soothing skills fall into the category of “Things-I-Wish-I-Knew-When-My-Own-Kids-Were-Babies,” and here, I need to give a nod to my husband. When I raved to him about this fantastic trick to gets babies to sleep, he smiled. He told me that that was exactly what he’d done with each of our sweeties when they were fussing up a storm. He would quietly send me to nap and scoop up our wailing angel and he’d swaddle, shush and walk and jiggle. He described how their heads would shimmy and how predictably it worked. I believe many Dads, partners, and family members have perhaps used their own style of the 5 S’s, but, alas, we weren’t the ones to write the book.

baby crying, mom with crying baby, how to soothe a crying baby, how to help a baby crying, what to do when a baby cries, harvey karp, happiest baby, The basic premise of “Happiest Baby on the Block” is that human babies are born too early and so in the “forth trimester” (the first three months of a newborn’s life) we need to recreate a womb-like environment for the baby. Before birth, a baby has been hearing Mom’s heartbeat, the swooshing of blood through her arteries, he’s been lulled and rolled into sleep as Mom moves, walks and goes about her daily life. Your baby has been folded up snugly, upside down (ideally) with his little limbs bumping into something with each movement.

How to Hire a Doula – International Doula Month

May 15, 2013

In celebration of International Doula Month, here are some tips for how to hire a doula.

1. Determine If You Want To Hire a Birth or Postpartum Doula, or Both

[caption id="attachment_2554" align="alignleft" width="229"]pospartum doula, hiring a doula, how to hire a doula, what is a doula, questions to ask a doula, DONA International, doula match, Enjoying a moment of baby-holding at a postpartum visit.[/caption]

There are two kinds of doulas: birth doulas and postpartum doulas. In a nutshell, birth doulas meet with you prenatally and are on call for you. When you go into labor, your doula can walk you through ideas and provide guidance via the phone for early labor. As labor progresses into active labor, we will meet you either at your home or at your place of birth to labor with you. A doula’s continued presence during labor has been proven to give many benefits such as reduced use of interventions and medications, lower incidence of cesarean section, higher breastfeeding success rates and reduction in postpartum depression.

Postpartum doulas step in once you bring your baby home. We support families in their home with the transition to parenthood (or the addition of another kiddo). Support includes emotional and practical aspects from assistance with nursing, infant care, and organizational tips to being sure Mom and anyone else in the home is fed, gets a chance to nap or shower. One of the biggest parts of my job as a postpartum doula is answering all those questions that arise that grandma doesn’t remember, friends don’t have time to help with, and it’s not quite the thing to call the pediatrician about. That’s where a doula comes in!

2. Ask Around for Recommendations

It goes without saying that not every doula is right for every family, but a good place to start your search is by asking friends, co-workers or even another pregnant mama in the grocery store line. Are you hiring a doula? Did you have a doula? Would you recommend her?

7 Tips For Cesarean Birth

April 11, 2013

operating room, OR in c-section, sterile OR, what to expect in cesarean, tips for cesarean, tips for c sectionSo you need a cesarean or you come to that decision during labor. How can you make it the safest and most satisfying experience for you?

If you are pregnant and planning a vaginal birth, it’s still important to remember these tips for cesarean birth. I believe it’s vital to understand the procedure and your options. With a cesarean birth rate of over 30% in the U.S., even if you’re not expecting to, you could end up in the OR. Read, learn, and discuss it with your provider; then let it go and envision the birth you want.

If you are already scheduled or know you will be having a cesarean, use these tips for cesarean birth to create the birth you want.

7 Tips for Cesarean Birth

1. Be Involved in the Decisions

As with a vaginal birth or labor, Moms having a cesarean need to do their homework to be educated and to make truly informed choices. Even though this is surgery, you DO have options to consider and things you can request or discuss with your doctor. This is your birth and the more involved you are in making decisions that affect your experience, the more likely you are to have a satisfying birth, even if it’s not what you’d hoped for or planned.

I had a client who was planning a home birth but it turned course leading to a transfer to the hospital and a cesarean birth, two opposite ends of the birthing spectrum. While disappointed, she knew she made the best possible decisions for her family at each stage; she felt empowered and at peace with her birth because she was not a passive participant and made the choices at each crossroads.

Own your birth. Select a provider you trust, feel comfortable with your doctor and place of birth. Understand the surgery procedure, the anesthesia, the recovery expectations. Read, reasearch and ask questions. Read blogs and forums that discuss c-sections so you feel well informed of the aspects that may not be as widely known or discussed. Ask for a consent form ahead of time so you can actually read it and ask any questions that may arise. Too often you only see this form as someone glosses over the content while hovering waiting for you to sign it.

Even if you’re planning a vaginal birth, having an understanding of a c-section is important since nearly one third of Moms in the U.S. have cesareans and most of those are not expected or scheduled ahead. This in itself does not mean they were emergencies, as some are, but more often it means they weren’t planned and something during labor lead to the decision.

7 Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers

March 6, 2013

This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family.

baby rubbing eyes, sleep tips for babies, sleep tips for toddlers, Sleep is like the coveted Holy Grail of new parenthood. I’m often asked about sleep tips for and babies and toddlers and how to improve or lengthen sleep times.

Whatever your family chooses for sleeping arrangements is a personal choice, but it tends to be a hot-button issue. I work in many families’ homes and what works for one family, doesn’t work for another, what one family values another family shuns. Sleep is no exception.

If whatever you’re doing is not a problem for you, it’s not a problem. However, if something is disturbing parents or children getting solid, beneficial sleep, if sleep deprivation is creeping in through small, but regular incremental sleep deficits, perhaps it’s become a problem.

Sleep has so many benefits, both obvious and subtle, it’s worth creating and protecting healthy sleep habits for the whole family. Understanding a little bit about sleep can be useful in making sleep decisions for your family. Babies go into deep sleep state in the beginning of nighttime sleep (perhaps 7 – 10:00 pm) and then again before waking in the morning with more frequent periods of lighter sleep (and more chance for awakenings) in between (around 10 pm – 4 am).

By three-four months most healthy full-term babies are able to sleep through the night, perhaps with a single 2:00 am feeding, by six months all healthy babies can do it. Studies have shown that at four months, a baby’s nervous system is mature enough to allow him to be able to sleep at 12 hour stretch. Unlike other milestones, sleep is not fixed, there may be shifts with time change, illness, travel and as babies go through new stages and become toddlers.

How to Decide Whether to Have Another Baby

February 27, 2013

baby number 3, another baby?, deciding on another baby, how to decide on another baby, questions to consider before new baby,How do you decide whether to have another baby? This is an intimately personal choice, everyone and every circumstance is different, of course, but the kinds of things that go into this decision are often quite similar.

Even though this is such a private choice, often outsiders offer unsolicited input. Nick and I always knew we wanted three children. We had a girl and two years later, a boy. Then when I was pregnant with our third baby, someone actually said to me, “Oh, why would you do that? You have the perfect family!” Um, seriously? You have your perfect family, I’ll have mine.

There is so much that goes into family planning decisions. It’s tough to sign up for another pregnancy when you look ahead at going through sleep deprivation, being tied down for nap schedules and managing babyhood, all while ALSO dealing with the needs of toddlers and school-aged kids.

Maybe you feel that things are going smoothly now, well, usually. Your kids are walking on their own, maybe they’re all even going to the bathroom by themselves. Nap times are extinct, diaper bags have been donated and you’re sleeping through the night (most of the time). So it’s hard to think about going back to square one just when you’ve really got a rhythm to your daily life.

My younger brother once said of growing families to Nick, “Everyday, you guys are moving closer to freedom and everyday we’re further away.”

If you’re struggling with this decision, you’re not alone in your conflicted feelings. I’d venture to say that most women and couples explore the idea to have another baby at some point. It’s a modern day battle between head and heart, between practicalities and emotions.

Workout from Home with Ana Caban

January 22, 2013

I’m happy to introduce you to this reasonably priced workout from home program with top trainers to the stars.
In full disclosure, I have not received payment or free goods or services in exchange for this guest post.
Ana Caban, Inc. is offering discounts for Mother’s Circle reader, see end of this post for discount codes.

Guest Post from Ana Caban, Inc.

exercising mom, mom on orange ball, orange yoga ball, mom on birth ball, exercise after birth, postpartum exercise, exercising with kids, exercising at home, working out at home, cheap workout plans, online workout plans, It’s still January and resolutions of health and fitness are still swirling, or fizzling. Save time and money with a work out from home with Ana Caban, celebrity fitness trainer.

Sharing resolutions keeps us honest and accountable, to ourselves, and anyone else we have included in our close-knit circles. The intention is there, and we are gung-ho about waking up at six o’clock in the morning to head out for a jog before our bodies realize what tricks we’re up to.

For many busy moms, it’s almost impossible to think about how to formulate a workout schedule beyond that point. Moms of toddlers or teens are often just too busy to even think about the gym. And it’s not just the kids or a nine to five it’s the million other responsibilities, too.

What if there was a way you could workout from home without interfering with your daily routine? It makes working out sound doable doesn’t it?

Boob Milk is Best

December 13, 2012

breastfeeding baby, benefits of breastfeeding, children asking about breastfeeding, siblings breastfeeding, cute baby face, baby hand on faceSitting at the dinner table, my youngest, Anna, asked me why she’s the only one without allergies, and the first answer (as a doula and lactation counselor) was, “Because I nursed you for two years.” “Huh?” she asked.

So I dove right in, “That’s what boobs are for,” she giggled, “for feeding babies. Cow milk is for calves, goat milk is for baby goats and human milk is for …” I paused to let her answer, “Human babies!” Her eyes twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word nipples was also met with a chuckle.

We’ve talked about breastfeeding before many times, as a toddler she used to put her dolls to her breast routinely and if she ever used a play bottle, she’d tell me it had breastmilk in it. This discussion reminded me that in parenting, things need to be repeated and not just the pick-up-your-towel repeated, but relearned in new, age-adjusted ways. She was revisiting this topic with some more life experience under her teeny belt.

Birth Like an Elephant

October 15, 2012

Birth your baby like an elephant births. Female elephants in the wild encircle a birthing mother and protect her within this ring. As human mammals, historically in the U.S. and as a continuing practice in more traditional cultures, we, too, should surround ourselves with strong, nurturing women to hold our birthing space for us. Birth […]

How Pregnancy and Postpartum are Affected by Eating Disorders

August 31, 2012

Over the course of a single spring, I worked with three women struggling with postpartum anxiety. During our time together, I learned that they all had a history of eating disorders. This connection motivated me to research and talk to women about how eating disorders affected their pregnancy and postpartum experience. [Names have been changed.]

Eating Disorders as Related to Childbearing

The two most common eating disorders (EDs) are anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), estimated to affect 5 – 10 million females in the United States. Approximately 4.5% – 9% of women of childbearing age have a past or active eating disorder. AN is characterized by extreme calorie restriction, obsessive dieting and loss of periods. Symptoms of BN include repeated episodes of binge eating followed by purging, fasting, excessive exercise and abusing laxatives, diuretics and enemas. Both experience extreme fear of weight gain and distorted perception of body image.

Women struggling with EDs often exhibit perfectionism, obsessive behavior, extreme sensitivity, seriousness, anxiousness, self-consciousness, impulsivity, a feeling of being out of control, negative self image and a high level of self-blame. There is a strong correlation among perfectionism, anxiety and eating disorders.

While there are some contradictory study results, EDs have been linked to maternal and fetal risks including excessive vomiting during pregnancy, cesarean section, postpartum depression/anxiety, anemia, hypertension, pre-eclampsia, miscarriage, intrauterine death, preterm delivery, breech presentation, low Apgar scores, low birth weight, fetal growth restriction, small-for-gestational-age infants and slow weight gain.

Research also indicates a significantly greater incidence of anxiety and depressive disorders in women with EDs than in the general population. Shame and guilt about their illness can cause secretiveness, denial of a problem or reluctance to disclose symptoms to providers.

Eating Disorders and Pregnancy

Studies indicate that many women with EDs have a temporary remission during pregnancy which changes in the third trimester and the first three to six months postpartum, when symptoms often reemerge more severely than before pregnancy.

Infant Soothing Karp Style

July 30, 2012
[caption id="attachment_409" align="alignleft" width="250"]baby crying All babies cry sometimes,
but you can learn how to minimize it.[/caption]

 

A crying baby can cause a new parent (or even a seasoned parent) to feel stressed or helpless. Learning effective infant soothing can help any parent remain calm in the face of shrieks and howls. The reality is, with an infant, you have to accept some fussiness, some crying, and the fact that in the early weeks and months, an awake baby needs your attention, but here’s how you can confidently soothe your little one back to mellow.

I have to admit, when I first heard of Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby on the Block” I actually rolled my eyes and thought, “How superlative. Seriously?” but then I saw Dr. Karp speak at a conference in 2006 and I was sold. Since then, I’ve used his 5 S’s technique for soothing more babies than I can count and I’ve taught it and recommended his books/DVD to oodles of parents and caregivers. It really is magical when done with attention to details.

These infant soothing skills fall into the category of “Things-I-Wish-I-Knew-When-My-Own-Kids-Were-Babies,” and here, I need to give a nod to my husband. When I raved to him about this fantastic trick to gets babies to sleep, he smiled. He told me that that was exactly what he’d done with each of our sweeties when they were fussing up a storm. He would quietly send me to nap and scoop up our wailing angel and he’d swaddle, shush and walk and jiggle. He described how their heads would shimmy and how predictably it worked. I believe many Dads, partners, and family members have perhaps used their own style of the 5 S’s, but, alas, we weren’t the ones to write the book.The basic premise of “Happiest Baby on the Block” is that human babies are born too early and so in the “forth trimester” (the first three months of a newborn’s life) we need to recreate a womb-like environment for the baby. Before birth, baby’s been hearing Mom’s heartbeat, the swooshing of blood through her arteries, he’s been lulled and rolled into sleep as Mom moves, walks and goes about her daily life and baby has been folded up snugly, upside down (ideally) with his little limbs bumping into something with each movement.

Composing Your Birth Wishes: aka Birth Plan

June 12, 2012

birth wishes, birth plans, writing a birth plan, Since you can’t plan how your labor and birth will unfold, I prefer to talk about your birth wishes or birth preferences than your birth plan. Honestly, I feel the biggest value in writing this document, is not in the end product, but in the process.

Prenatally, it’s important for both Mom and Dad/partner (and anyone who will be attending the birth) to be involved in this exploratory journey. As you learn about and research possible interventions and hospital protocols, you can get an understanding of how you feel about things in a non-labor state of mind. You have the luxury of time to evaluate and prioritize your desires.

As the vision your birth comes into focus, you’ll find there are things you want to really insist upon and things you don’t care about either way. You’ll learn about your options in birth (medications, music, med students, artificial rupture of membranes, hep-lock, etc.) and the immediate postpartum period (delayed cord clamping, infant eye ointment, skin-to-skin, etc.)birth plans, birth options, birth preferences, natural birth in the hospital, planning for birth, labor plans, birth wishes, writing a birth plan,

Proceed with Caution: Fenugreek and Breastfeeding

January 27, 2011

What is Fenugreek?

breastfeeding support, guidance with breastfeeding, breastfeeding help, learning to breastfeed, lactation, feeding new babyFenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an herbal supplement that is claimed to be useful for a broad range of various conditions, without any substantial scientific evidence, from baldness, constipation, and heartburn to diabetes, cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. The focus here, is the widely held belief among lactation advisors, nursing mothers and other birth professionals that fenugreek helps to stimulate milk production and supply.

The fact is, there is not enough evidence to suggest that fenugreek is effective for any use. Of the few studies that have been done, they have been small and inconclusive. So, does the fact that there is no data or research mean that fenugreek has no benefit? No, not inherently. Similarly, just because it is an herb and “natural”does not mean that it is safe.

Milk Supply and Galactagogues

First, let’s explore the idea of increasing milk supply. Initially establishing supply is a specific and balanced dance of hormones and receptors that begins the moment the placenta is delivered. Milk supply is determined by the removal of milk from the breasts and the interplay of prolactin (which produces the milk) and oxytocin (which releases the milk). Frequent nursing is directly associated with greater infant weight gain. (DeCarvalho)1

breastfeeding baby, benefits of breastfeeding, children asking about breastfeeding, siblings breastfeeding, cute baby face, baby hand on faceAs Americans, we often look to something outside of us to find a solution, often that’s in the form of a pill, whether prescribed or purchased at a health food store. Often, the answers lie within us or in behaviors such is the case with breastfeeding. It is far more effective for a mother struggling with supply to work with a lactation professional and look at all aspects of her nursing relationship. For example: How often is the baby being fed? Is the mother expressing her milk and how? How much milk is being removed from her breast at each feeding (determined by weighing baby before and after a feed)? Most important is a mother’s confidence. With desire, confidence and early breastfeeding support, a healthy, rewarding nursing relationship with a sufficiently plentiful supply is more likely.

Millions of women across nations and generations, living under impoverished conditions, famine, holocaust and natural disasters, are able to produce and supply their infants with their own human milk regardless of the mother’s nutritional status. Advice that guides nursing mothers to drink more to be able to produce more milk is erroneous: “Encouraging women to drink excessively has no effect upon lactation, either in terms of yield or composition of milk.” (Dearlove)2 Healthy eating and balanced nutrition are good advice throughout the life cycle, however, this directive during lactation benefits the mother and her long term health but does not impact milk supply.

Is there really such a thing, then, as a galactagogue, an external substance believed to increase milk supply? The American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines galactagogue as “an agent that promotes the secretion and flow of milk.” Many elements that are believed to help milk supply are based in cultural lore and not supported through research. In a literature review of galactagogues, Anderson and Valdes3 concluded that “If mothers are provided education and practice techniques that support lactation physiology, galactagogues appear to have little or no added benefit.” It has long been purported that fenugreek is a galactagogue, but it has never been proven to help milk supply and may have worrisome side effects. fenugreek tea

Side Effects

Some reported side effects of fenugreek include diarrhea, gas, indigestion, heartburn and unusual smelling skin and urine (like maple syrup). More serious, but more rare, side effects can indicate internal bleeding such as black, tarry or bright red stools, or vomiting blood or can indicate a bleed in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) such as vision or speech changes, severe headache or weakness or numbness in the arms or legs. As with any herbs, always be aware of allergic reactions.

It’s important to note that fenugreek is a legume and those who have peanut allergies may experience a cross-reaction. Dr. Frederick Leickly, an allergist, writes in his blog about a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) which concluded that a sensitization to fenugreek was believed to have been caused by a peanut allergy in patients. He also noted in his practice a reverse effect, “that the fenugreek may have worked in the opposite direction – fenugreek exposure causing sensitization to the other legumes,” meaning it is possible that the use of fenugreek may create an allergy to peanuts or other legumes.

In Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs and Natural Supplements, by Linda Skidmore-Roth, it states that Fenugreek “may cause reduced absorption of all medications used concurrently.” This could cause harm in a mother taking medication for thyroid function, blood pressure or birth control pills.

Traditionally, fenugreek has been used to stimulate labor, so it could potentially cause preterm labor or miscarriage if taken during pregnancy. Fenugreek is classified as category 4 for pregnancy which is defined as “no increase in frequency of malformation or other harmful effects on the fetus from limited use in women. Evidence of increased fetal damage in animal studies exists, although the relevance to humans in unknown.” It is classified as a category 2A for breastfeeding which is defined as “compatible with breastfeeding.”

As with all herbs, fenugreek has not been tested or verified by the FDA for safety, effectiveness or purity; there have been cases when herbal supplements have been contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. There is no official standard or oversight of manufacturing.

Conclusion

It is not fully known whether fenugreek can harm a nursing infant and it is not proven to have any positive effect on milk supply or nursing. Focusing on breastfeeding support and education as well as working with nursing moms to empower them and build confidence are effective ways to help a mother establish and maintain a nursing relationship.

References:

1. De Carvalho, M et al: Effect of frequent breastfeeding on early milk production and infant weight gain. Ped 72(3) Sep 1983.

2. Dearlove, J C & Dearlove, B M: Prolactin fluid balance and lactation. Br J Obstet Gyn 88:652-54, 1981.

3. Anderson and Valdes, 2007, A Critical review of Pharmaceutical Galactagogues. Breastfeeding Medicine, 2(4), 229-242.

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The Value of Postpartum Support

March 10, 2010

postpartum depression help, support after babies, help with twins, help with newborns, postpartum doulaWhat does postpartum really mean? Is the work of postpartum completed in six weeks? Two months? Five months? Is there a “right” time to have mastered your new role as parent or your new role as parent of two, three, twins? Why do families need postpartum support?

Postpartum, the time period often defined as the time it takes for the uterus to contract (involute) back to it’s pre-pregnancy size or six weeks, really lasts much longer and involves so much more than the physical restoration of the uterus.

The disparity between expectations and the reality of a newborn can leave parents feeling out of control of their lives. Even with appropriate expectations, for example, adding a second or third child to the family, the time intensive requirements of caring for a newborn can clearly be challenging.

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