Newborn News

On the Edge...

As doulas who offer overnight care, gentle sleep consults, and of course a host of handy mom-helping services, we often hear the worst stories. (Like the moms who freeze their purses and call us because they can't find their keys! True story--and not just one!) But lately I am hearing stories aboutmoms who put off their need for sleep long enough to really feel like they are having a breakdown. Like losing their mind, and not just for that moment when you 'forget' you had a baby and then suddenly realize you have been a mother for 3 months (not uncommon!). But the kind that feels desperate, clinging to any kind of support they can possibly trust.

Top 10 Things I Learned from Moms Group

The long awaited top 10 is here! Jordann graduated recently with a twist: a top 10 list of all the things she acquired on her journey through the first 6 months (coming to moms group almost every week). She is our guest blogger, and shares some good stuff! I am going to take them 3 at a time (not to make you wait, but otherwise it might be a bit too long to read in one sitting with a squirmy baby).

Small packages

This week I was with a client who has to take a certain medication with food at intervals throughout the day strategically to reduce the affect on her nursing baby. After making her food this week, she said something I just loved. "Every time I go to take my medication, I think to myself, 'I need a little snack.' Then I look in my fridge and I say, 'Yay, a little snack my doula left for me!'"

It made me think of how often we need a little something, but don't take the time to nourish ourselves. We don't feel like a big meal, and don't want the hassle of chopping and slicing, heating, or creating more dishes for ourselves to have to manage while we are managing a tiny little one's various needs. So we grab a bar or some other packaged food to tide us over. But how often have you found yourself nearing dinner and all you have consumed all day is a bar or packaged item, a few drinks and maybe a handful of almonds?

I can tell you that as a doula I find a lot of neglected fruit and veggies in the fridge that my clients are thrilled to eat; they just don't have the time to prepare it for themselves. All it takes is chopping it up, slicing it and serving it to them to perk up their energy and their spirits. So of course we do (sometimes every time we visit!).

However, I think spreading the word to other helpers would be great as well. Moms need food. They don't take the time to serve themselves, and I think there is this sense that they don't want to go to so much trouble for just them. So I have a solution. Small packages.

When I am with a family, I often take the time just to wash the grapes and put them in separate serving sizes ready to grab. Yep, grapes. Those wonderful bags of sweetness that mold in the bottom of your fridge because no one got to them in time. (You know you have done this.)

I also make snack size bowls of all kinds of dishes. Roasted veggies, rice or pasta dishes, snack plates with hummus dip, even plating up that casserole that someone else brought that is covered in foil (that no one has opened in a few days). Just taking the time to get out the serving dishes and putting the food in easily accessible places--that you see when you open the fridge--allows a mom to get the nourishment she needs without having to live off an energy bar.

So dads, partners, grandmas, friends...think small packages. Because moms rarely refuse a little bit of something, especially nursing moms. The result might be a more energetic, positive outlook from the new mama, and that makes everyone happy, right?

(I will admit that this uses more plastic wrap that some families are used to, so please let me know if anyone has a solution for small packages of food that you can see when you open the fridge...)

Summer is coming...Grill Bread season!

Have you ever grilled bread along with that meat or veggies? It is a yummy addition to anything grilled...and usually there are few leftovers when these come warm from the grill.

We like to use whatever dough we have on hand. There are many recipes online for this, and you can use purchased dough too (a lot of people like Rhodes frozen dinner roll dough).

Today I made the dough from:

1 pckg yeast

1 c warm water

1 c ww flour 

 1+ c white flour (more for rolling out or if the dough is too sticky)

2 T olive oil

3 T brown sugar

1 t salt

I like to get the yeast going in the water before adding everything else, but I usually just throw all the rest in the Kitchen Aid to mix for a few minutes and then let it rise for about an hour.

I piece the dough into golf ball sized pieces and roll them out on floured board to about 1/4 inch. They need a few minutes to rise a bit;  then you can throw them right onto a hot grill for about 90 seconds on the first side once they puff a bit), and 30 seconds on the 2nd. The thinner they are, the faster they cook (thicker is yummy too, you just get less surface area to put yumminess on).

Usually we just stack them in a folded kitchen towel as they cook and then serve them right away with butter, or to scoop up something fantastic with the meal. But you can make them into little pizzas, use focaccia toppings, make into tacos, or tear pieces off for an Indian style dish. (Gotta love the versatility.)

So if the kitchen is too hot to bake bread, but you want that fresh from the oven taste, give grill bread a shot. It might become your new favorite...

Human milk update

I love calling breastmilk human milk, and cow's milk bovine milk. Makes so much sense. It doesn't need to make mothers feel guilty about feeding their baby formula, as we are doing what we need to do to feed our baby: offering baby the safest milk that is readily available, even though it is from a different species. Just one little tidbit I learned at the Breastfeeding Coalition conference at OHSU. Dr. Jae Kim and Dr. Lisa Stellwagen gave multiple presentations on the use and research on our tiniest preemies and their feeding options. Here are some more of the things I learned:

The amount a 150 lb adult would have to gain to grow similarly to a preemie would average about 3lbs a day! That makes feeding a preemie essentially a nutritional emergency. (And preemie parents feel that!)

Vit D deficiency seems not just to be the vitamine de jour, but a very needed factor for pregnant moms to ensure that their baby gets a adequate amount (and even more crucial for preemies). Supplementing with Vit D is done at much higher doses in European countries with no ill effects, and it also takes weeks to build up the stores just to get back to normal when you are deficient. It is not just important for infants, but mommies too!

There are no studies reflecting the quality of diet in relation to the quality of human milk, other than the studies on fatty acids. So the kind of  fat that you eat does matter...choose the best options available.

A normal milk production is 800 mls in 24 hrs (that is just shy of 27 oz for the non metric world). However, even moms of preemies who make 300 mls can fully feed their baby, at least during their stay in the NICU (when it is most crucial).

There are 250 compounds in breastmilk, and that is just the known ones! There is a lot of research currently being done on oligosaccarides, just one  in the growing list of known compounds. For formula companies to make even a few of these in a lab somewhere and then try to market them would be in the millions, billions if they were to address all of them.

Gassy, fussy baby question

Gassy, fussy baby

This is a question I received a while back, and also get asked about  a lot. Thought some of you might find it helpful. (Beth Yohalem-Ilsley also adds her expertise to this one.)

My baby is 3 weeks old, and as of this past Monday evening she started grunting through the night, consistently. She sounds like she is trying to push out a poo or gas. I have since started giving her gas drops (Little Tummies), colic calm, and gripe water, none seems to be doing the trick. She gets relief, at least for a short while, when she has a big release of gas or poo, but it doesn’t last long.

She is no longer sleeping peacefully.  When I lay her down, she grunts, and moans herself to sleep, even though she was sleeping peacefully in my arms. She is restless and gets her arms out of her swaddle while sleeping. When feeding (BF) she gets over amped up and white knuckles her fists, kicks her feet, and grunts. I have to stop her every 3-5 minutes to burp her because she is sucking too much air.

I have been able to get good burps out of her, but she still remains fussy. I am finding that she is throwing up about 1 meal a day… and its not from her gut because its not curdled, it still the milk she just ate.

I went to a naturopath yesterday and they tested me and found that I am sensitive to dairy, gluten, chocolate, and coffee, so I have eliminated those. My ped recommended the Mylicon gas drops, which we have tried, but with little success..

I have been putting her on her tummy, laying across my lap, and massaging her back, which is also massaging her belly on my legs.. I would get a little bit of relaxation from her at times, but in most, it just irritated her more.

Any suggestions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Answer

Dear Mama,

Your experience sounds similar to others that I have heard from. Babies around 3 weeks of age often start to become more gassy and fussy, and parents often are mystified by this. However there are a few things you could try to ease this time for her.

You mention the feedings being difficult for her to manage. Sometimes a lactation visit can help with this, as you could work with some positioning that might help (and it is hard to think of new positions when you are brand new to nursing!). You might try a position that uses gravity to slow the flow of milk to your baby (often when they white knuckle like that they are struggling with the flow being too fast, and just trying to hang on and get what they need—kind of like drinking from a garden hose!). They suck air because they are trying to suck, swallow and breathe (in that order, usually) and they are just getting hit with milk too fast to breathe slowly. So they gulp, and in turn it causes burps and gas that need a lot of management afterward. (There are other things it could be as well, like reflux, but I think your Ped would be a good person to take a look at that, and there are so many ways to work on the breastfeeding first before we start to diagnose anything else. You can find a lot of different nursing positions on http://www.kellymom.com.)

It might take up to 3 weeks to get the allergens out of your system (and hers) completely, so sometimes there is just the waiting period. In the meantime, try using the baby yoga hold with her, either in arms or in the sling/wrap. This can be done by placing her back to your chest and holding her legs in a flexed position at the hip level. Keep her back straight, but allow her legs to be bunched up. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get gas or burps out in that position.

You can also use some baby massage to ease her digestion. Baby massage is wonderful for so many things (including good sleep patterns and weight gain!) but can be done with just some tummy strokes to relieve some gas. There is too many details to go into here, but there are baby massage vides everywhere, as well as classes around PDX that would go into more detail with communicating with your child as well as easing her body discomforts.

Regarding the sleep grunting, I would say that many babies this age do a lot of grunting while asleep. Ask at a local moms group about this and a huge show of hands will illustrate how many babies start really grunting at 3 weeks. (I host 2 of these per week in the Providence system, all new mamas with babies under 6 mo old are welcome; http://www.providence.org/classes for more info.) Swaddling can make a big difference with this, but you might have to use the bat wings to keep the arms tucked in (arms out really doesn’t help much with swaddling until they are much older, and can suck on their hands for comfort). If you don’t have a source to teach you the ‘bat wing’ technique (we teach it at Providence so many new mamas know how to execute this technique) consider getting a postpartum doula or other professional to show you. (There is a you tube clip on the bat wings now.) You might also try having her sleep at an angle or use some movement at night to ease the grunting. (Many moms use a bouncy seat/vibration chair or use a vibration unit on the baby’s bed to allow the parents to get some sleep while baby is still being “moved.”)

It sounds like you are trying many things already that will help, and hopefully some of these suggestions can ease her way as well as yours! I do think you would benefit from the help of a postpartum doula, as they are specialists in this early age and transition into parenthood when you are learning how to interpret your newborn’s behavior. There are many wonderful postpartum doulas in PDX, and they can really make a big difference when you are learning so many new things all at once.

Congrats on welcoming your little one and I hope things resolve for you soon!

Kimberly Bepler ABC Doula Service

Dear Mama,

Sometimes little ones who seem so calm and peaceful for the first 2 weeks start showing signs of soft tissue injury right about then and the next few weeks. The “injury” is caused from the crazy process of being born but it take a few weeks before the soft tissue forms enough to show signs of damage (even slight amounts). I’m not sure what the birth story of your baby is but the manifestations usually show up as discomfort in certain positions, difficulty in eating comfortably, vomiting after eating and some signs of general discomfort. Infant craniosacral therapy is a wonderful and gentle way to relieve areas of muscle and fascia tension and can be done at any point.

There are also some more specific treatments if the vomiting is due to food sensitivity from your milk and affecting your baby’s digestive tract (since you mentioned learning about your own food sensitivities and it is possible your baby will be affected by what is in your milk). Hopefully your new knowledge about that will help. Another option for you is Shonishin. This is an excellent non-invasive technique that involves tapping and rubbing along the skin of acupuncture points and meridians with small metal tools. There are also Chinese and western herbs that can be given to babies 1 month old and older to assist with digestion. There are a few of us here in Portland that practice eastern medicine for children and also several practitioners who do infant craniosacral therapy. Best of luck in getting through this very difficult transition.

Beth Yohalem-Ilsley Mississippi Health Center

Choosing a Birth Doula?

Many families ask me the following questions about choosing a birth doula: Do we need one? How do we pick one? And who do you recommend?  I suppose as we are a postpartum doula group that doesn’t offer labor support, we are in the category of being fans without being biased towards our own offerings.

Here are some of my guidelines for answering the birth doula questions:

Do we need one?

The biggest question here is what you really want from your birth. Are you birthing at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital?

Homebirth and birth center midwives often have assistants or apprentices that can sometimes act as your doula and many of them do births in teams, so a labor doula isn’t always needed. However, some of them welcome doulas at the birth and appreciate the emotional support that doulas can provide as they care for more of the physical/clinical concerns around the birth. If you birth in the hospital, even though you often have one nurse assigned to one patient during labor, the role of a nurse and a doula are very different. Nurses used to provide many aspects of doula care, but now their time is buried between charting, running all the equipment used in a hospital birth, and carrying out the orders from the doctors or midwives. Certainly nurses can be a huge source of emotional support, but their work also runs in 12 hour shifts, and you are likely to get a few different nurses during your labor process—this usually is not a good continuum of care for the laboring mother.

Do you have women in your family that have experienced birth who can be present with you to meet your needs during labor? Sometimes mothers, sisters, and other female relatives or friends can be great doulas, trained or not. It is important that they know your desires for your birth and are operating on your agenda, not their past experiences or biases.

The main reason I see a lot of women hiring birth doulas is to avoid some of the interventions that make birth more difficult and often surgical. Yes, the Cesarean rate is still way too high by anthropological standards (over 30% in some hospitals in PDX) and having a doula at your birth reduces the chance of a cesarean by 50%. It also reduces many other often unnecessary interventions. Unless you have the doula role covered by other professionals (not your doctor or midwife, they rarely will sit with you throughout labor) or other family members/friends who you confidently feel can meet your needs in a calm way, I would recommend you look into getting a birth doula. I have had one birth with a doula, and one birth without a doula, and I will tell you it does make a big difference!

How do I pick one?

Here again, the question to you is: what do you want from your birth? Are you looking for a medication/intervention free birth? Do you have a Cesarean planned where your partner might be torn in different directions as you and the baby could be separated after surgery? Are you looking to delay an epidural for as long as possible? Are there concerns about your family members wanting to help but your gut tells you that they might not be the best person for the job?

All of these are great reasons to have a birth doula, but I would recommend different people based on the circumstances!

The beauty of the doula is that she should be there for you. Your needs/desires should be at the top of her list. If your doula has an agenda about “saving birth” or “changing the system,” you also need to feel strongly about this before going into labor as you don’t want to be caught in the middle of a conflict between your healthcare team and your doula. The best recommendation I have for choosing a doula is to talk to several on the phone, get a feel for their care, and then interview at least 3. You should follow your instincts when making decisions about who to have at your birth. You will likely be naked with this person, and make funny sounds and have this strange primal behavior—you need to feel VERY comfortable with whomever you chose. If you have a twinge of hesitation, move on. There are hundreds of birth doulas just in the Portland, Ore. area, and you are bound to find one that meets your needs perfectly.

Do you want a student doula (one with less experience but also charges little to nothing) or an experienced doula (where the fees can range from $300 to $800, depending on the package that your doula has to offer)?

Is this your first birth? I would probably recommend an experienced doula that can reassure you when you have questions (as there are MANY the first time around). If this is a subsequent birth, then it depends on your first experience and what you are looking for this time. The studies on doulas report that having a woman quietly staying with you throughout labor can reduce interventions and empower you in many ways, even when she doesn’t have a bag full of tricks that help you cope with labor and work together with your partner. I have met many women who want to be “good patients” who prefer to follow what the doctor decides about their birth. These women would benefit from a quiet doula that can help fill in the gaps of knowledge when the primary caregiver is busy doing other things.

Families who are looking for more of an advocate to their care will want a doula with a lot of experience, a strong knowledge base, and a good ability to read you in stressful situations.

And finally, whom do I recommend?

Yes, I do have a favorites list, but even within that list, there are variations based on the client’s needs. And there are so many wonderful doulas that aren’t listed as well. I would probably recommend looking at http://bsnnorthwest.org/ first for their list of caring doulas. There are many doulas listed there who have received rave reviews for the past several years and some new doulas who are getting involved with the community of birth supporters and can offer services for low or no cost.

You can also contact http://www.birthingway.edu and look for their list of trained and/or certified birth doulas, as they are a local midwifery college and have a long list of women looking to do births at low cost for experience. Many women check out http://www.dona.org, http://www.cappa.net, or http://www.icea.org to find their list of certified or trained doulas. This does insure that your doula has gone through the initial training requirements, but these are often overwhelming lists to work from with the numerous options.

Most women tell me that their birth doula was invaluable during their birth. I have heard a few stories reporting otherwise though, and I would want to caution you against compromising your goals.  Also make sure to budget for help after the baby arrives. Many women tell me that the help of a lactation consultant, postpartum doula, home-chef or a postpartum massage was as helpful, or even more helpful, as the services a birth doula provides.

I hope this has helped you figure out what would be best for you as you plan for your birth. As I am certainly a fan of birth doulas, I hope you find someone who is a perfect fit for you and that you have a great birth! Birth and early postpartum is a time that women remember for the rest of their lives, so it pays to have really wonderful people surrounding you to help you make the best memories!

Much requested: Warm Spinach Salad recipe

This recipe is a client favorite, and so welcome this time of year.

This time of year we doulas are often whipping up warm and nurturing soups, baked dishes, hearty stews or roasts (in the crock pot sometimes!) and filling breakfasts for our tired and hungry clients. Fall is such a fun time to cook and eat, and the food is so nurturing that it fits in super well with doula support.

I have been asked to share one of my most requested recipes for a warm spinach salad. My mom shared it with me, and I am happy to share with others. What I love about this dish is that it is full of iron rich spinach (so good for rebuilding blood after all the loss of childbirth) and it is warm and delicious. A great way to get those amazing greens into your recovering body.
As with all my recipes, most of the items can be adjusted or omitted, and the amounts can be tampered with to your liking. The only thing that is essential is the ratio for the dressing (1/1/1 is the best combination there).
Warm spinach salad (with bacon)
large bag of spinach leaves (I use a 1 lb bag of baby spinach; this can also be  halved or easily doubled for company)
1 lb of bacon (less for the calorie conscious)
1 lg onion (I prefer sweet, but you can use red or white as well), thinly sliced
1 lb mushrooms (your choice, I like the brown button kind), sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
seasoning (I like to use Montreal Steak Seasoning)
Cook the bacon until it is done to your liking (crispy works best), save the bacon grease. Cool and crumble bacon and add to the spinach. Add sliced hard boiled eggs to spinach as well. Make sure you have a big enough bowl to be able to toss the salad; you might want a mixing bowl and another serving bowl to keep it pretty after it wilts a bit.
Cook the onion in the grease until golden and soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Use remaining grease to cook mushrooms, seasoning as needed. Combine onion and mushrooms.
Dressing:
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c water
Combine and heat until sugar is melted (microwave is easy for this)
then add 1/3 c apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar works as well, haven't experimented beyond that yet)
To serve I usually heat the dressing and mush/onion mixture and pour over the spinach mixture. Toss a couple minutes to get everything coated and distribute the warmth to all the leaves. Serve quickly, and finish the bowl (not a hard thing to do). This does not keep well, and you will be able to eat more of it than you think.
Ok, this is why it takes me so darn long to write down a recipe! Have to include all those bits and pieces that you probably would have figured out on your own. But there, it is done. And forever when a client says, 'I would love this recipe,' I can now say..."It is on my blog."

New guidelines for safe sleep

The updated guidelines from the AAP have just been released on safe sleep for babies. Some important changes are:

  • Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should be immunized. Evidence suggests that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
  • Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.

Here are the other recommendations:

  • Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
  • Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
  • The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
  • Wedges and positioners should not be used.
  • Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/News/pages/AAP-Expands-Guidelines-for-Infant-Sleep-Safety-and-SIDS-Risk-Reduction.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

Tummy time twist

Tummy time has many benefits; this version is using a bolster.

So many mamas tell me their babies hate tummy time, especially in the first couple weeks and months. By the time babies are a few months old however, they are usually much more interested in their tummies, as their head control increases and they have more mobility with their arms to reach and acquire things they want.

Tummy time is still important though, even if you baby doesn't like it much at first. We know that the plates of the skull are still mold-able for up to 18 months, however many babies have significant flat spots by the time they are ready for more tummy time (4-6 mo is when I typically see a burst of this developmentally).
All this back to sleep business, although a potentially life saving measure to avoid SIDS, is creating some serious shaping concerns in the scalp. Firm sleep surfaces, overuse of car seats (as transporting devices, not in cars), and all the firm surfaces that baby's encounter with their heads (vibrating seats, swings, etc) are certainly playing a part. Preemies and multiples are particularly at risk for significant flat spots as well.
Any time you have babies in your arms it is reducing the risk of flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly), and of course being worn in a soft sided carrier (sling, pouch, pack, etc) is also helpful, as the dynamic nature of our bodies keeps the plates moving and adapting continuously. Numerous positions of being held are helpful to avoid flat head syndrome, so vary it up! Don't be afraid to try out some new ways of supporting baby, and they will surprise you with what they like too!
But the biggest reason I like to offer tummy time? You are going to like this one...it helps them sleep.
I kid you not, I have been experimenting with tummy time for the past few months with allowing babies some time to work through tummy time after their feeds. I like to try it then as it usually is their happiest time, and they are willing to try something new and challenging most when they are well fed and reasonably well rested. So I choose a few minutes after a feed (5-15) after they have had a chance to burp and a diaper change if needed.
They kick and wiggle, do their baby Pilates and downward yoga dogs, and proceed to wear themselves out! (Yesterday a baby 'scooted' almost off the blanket with just a little hand pressure under his feet! He thought that was pretty cool!)
I don't know if it is the exercise, the sensory input, or the struggle itself (as they do strain and strive to change their position pretty strongly), but whatever it is, they fall asleep sooner and sleep better. Not kidding--I wouldn't kid you about baby napping; I know what a serious topic this is.
And we all know that better rested babies sleep better at night, right? (See the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for more info on this concept.)
So here are some hints for getting babies to do a bit more tummy time:
  • Feed, burp, and allow your baby to have a change before trying them on their tummy.
  • If you baby has reflux, keep them upright 20 min before giving it a try.
  • Try taking off the baby's pants and diaper, laying them on a clean diaper or towel. They WILL PEE. Trust me. (This is the best trick I have seen yet. Not sure why nudity helps, but it really does!)
  • Use a bolster (like the one shown) to keep their bodies more lifted. It will help keep their face off the floor and allow them more mobility and view.
  • Try an unbreakable mirror under their line of sight so they can see their curious little face.
  • Place art cards or black and white images near them to focus on.
  • Get down on the floor and put your face close to theirs, encouraging them.

Ok, now off you go to try this! Better naps await!

Falling awake?

 

I laid awake a lot last night. It was the night before my lactation exam--that I have been preparing for now some 7 years--and I was pretty anxious. Normally I have the luxury of having my head hit the pillow and sleep just comes. Sometimes within seconds. But last night, hour after hour, I sat there and stared at the ceiling fan.

I am sure I did sleep a little, as I somehow got through the test and didn't fall asleep on my answer sheet, but I think I watched each hour go by. This is so new to me, but what a compassion builder. It made me realize how many mamas are dealing with this night after night. Lying there when baby has finally gone to sleep, and yet...sleep doesn't come (or comes at a struggle).

Did you know that anxiety is a major cause of insomnia in the postpartum mother? That many moms find it challenging to go back to sleep, even with the baby is finally ready for some slumber?

We work with many moms who find it hard to nap as well. Even when their doula is magically keeping baby happy while doing dishes, laundry or meal prep, mamas tell us they just can't seem to let go and actually drift off to sleep.

While this isn't always anxiety, and certainly not necessarily postpartum anxiety that would need some kind of treatment, it is still a hurdle that mamas have to tackle. We do know that mamas who take more than 25 min to fall back to sleep are more likley to have some kind of postpartum mood disorder (and I tell you this to help you assess yourself...not to make you feel guilty or make yourself more anxious!).

 Here are some signs that our bodies might be experiencing some postpartum anxiety (from www.postpartum.net):

Constant worry Feeling that something bad is going to happen Racing thoughts Disturbances of sleep and appetite Inability to sit still Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

Just thought it was worth sharing how sleep neglected we can get, and how much a body can take...for awhile. Eventually our body starts to show signs of not getting enough sleep. These show up in a myriad of ways, but none of them very pretty (or easy on our relationships).

So if you are one of the many mamas who do your share of staring at the ceiling fan...think about assessing yourself. Do you feel like your old self (except now with a baby)? Do you feel like you can never let down and relax? Think you might be experiencing more than just the new mama exhaustion?

Just some food for thought. Now I am going to bed (test is over and the anxiety left with it!).

A preemie needs his mama

I am attending the CAPPA 2011 conference this weekend in Valencia, CA and we learned so much today about the science of attachment from Robin Grille and Laurel Wilson. (I am actually so thankful my family got to join me on this trip as I need to snuggle them every few hours after talking about bonding all day long!) I had to share this photo today because it symbolizes so much how much a mother can give. A demonstration of my new favorite sling (now called the "Second Skin Sling" www.secondskinsling.com) with a 4 lb preemie doing skin to skin care with his mama. I love the look of bliss on his face, and the obvious joy and pride the mama is illustrating as well. This work we do as childbirth and postnatal educators, doulas and other birth support workers is so precious. Investing in families when they are just beginning (or just growing!) is such a privilege. I am so grateful for the opportunity. Conference time celebrates our work in such a fun and supportive way, but tonight I am feeling very grateful for the chance to do this work. Thanks to all of you who allow me into your lives for a season. Can one do a higher work than facilitating bonding? What a joy for me to see this example of a Mother's love on a day when we heard about the value of their attachment.

Grown up sling

Over the years as I have snuggled so many of my clients babies in slings, pouches and wraps, I sometimes wondered if there was adult equivalent. I think I have finally found it! Last year at Costco I came across a magical chair the kids now call the swing chair, but I think of it as the sling chair. Green Mountain Hammocks makes this amazing product they call a string chair and after installing one on our deck, we had to have 2. I had to have one for me, and the kids needed one of their own. (And of course when I am not there, they each need one or the fighting is not much fun...) Even though I happen to have a sweet baby in this photo, make no mistake: although the chair is nice to hold babies in, this is much more for the adults who want a womb like experience themselves. This feels to me like being carried in a sling, supported effortlessly with just the subtle shifting of the wind or body movements keeping you moving. It even wraps around you (although not in a claustrophobic way) and supports your body out to your feet for relaxing those hardworking parenting legs after hours of walking your baby. When was a nursing mama, we had an air chair that was wonderful for coming home after work and snuggling my nursling (and admittedly I spent many early evenings catching a power nap in mine!). Green Mountain makes one of those too, as do many others online. But I haven't seen another string chair quite like this one, hence the above link for this great company. (Costco sells them for less of course, but finding them might be challenging.) So if you as a grown up have ever wanted to crawl into a sling and make the world go away, I recommend checking these out.

Easy skin to skin wearing

For all the coming spring and summer babies (or the tiny ones already here!), I have a new product that is worth a look. One of my favorite companies Precious Image Creations has just released a new product that I LOVE. It is called the Double Sling Wrap, and it is the easiest product to use I have ever seen for holding babies skin to skin.

Breastfeed, snuggle, and keep baby close in those early weeks and months with this great new product.

The design is essentially two loops of fabric that overlap to support babies of all sizes for the first few months. You can hold baby, breastfeed comfortably with gentle support, and even pump while holding baby hands free.

This is like wearing a Moby-style stretchy wrap, but it only takes seconds to put on, and is very thin and light for those warm weather babies.
I have a sample if you want to see it demonstrated at moms group, baby care class, or a doula training. ($35; for either white or this blue color.)
These are the same people who make the Miracle Cami which also holds the baby in skin to skin position while keeping moms hands free and modestly covered. I have loved this product for a couple years, and I am so happy they added such a simple but useful addition to their babywearing line of clothing.
With the spring babies blooming all over Portland you probably know someone who would be glad they heard about this product before their baby arrives (so they can take it with them to the hospital or birth center!). Pass it on.

Car Seat Swaddle?

Yes, you can! There are few safe ways to wear a 5 point harness and still keep your baby swaddled for a happy transit from point to point. As much I hate the current car seat safety equipment (when will they invent a womb like bubble to keep the baby moving and cushioned from every angle at every possible moment???) I do like this adaptation of the ever popular swaddle for newborns.

 If you can set up ahead of time it is the easiest. Take a thin cotton blanket--it can be stretchy or just thin flannel, but the key is to use something not bulky. (If you use the 'bat wings' swaddle or 'diaper swaddle' that we teach in our baby care classes and moms groups, this is just another way to use this approach.)

Lay the blanket on the bias (usually in a triangle) and then fold up the bottom tip so it doesn't interfere with the buckle. Then tuck each 'wing' under the straps and put the baby in. Once baby is properly fastened in (no pinch on the belting or you need to tighten more) then you can wrap the blanket around the arms.

As with swaddling, do each arm separately and adjust the position for the maturity of the baby (i.e. preemies get bent arms, very new babies get their hands up so we can see feeding cues, 'Houdini' older babies get arms straighter down). The finished product might look something like this:

There should not be a lot of thickness of material between the baby and the car seat itself. This could cause problems in an accident, so it is important to dress baby modestly and layer over the straps and swaddle for temp control.

Moms have reported at moms group that this technique is a lifesaver for being in traffic and not being able to attend to their babies. Until they invent a new system, it seems worth a try for babies who don't magically go to sleep as soon as they are in the car and moving. I hope this is a handy hint to send to your friends who have unhappy car travelers. I had one too, and I sure wish I would have figured this out a few years ago so we could have tried it with her!