Austin Rees, helping Baltimore families through bodywork

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By: Kristie Graybill

Photo Credit: Nikki Jones Photography

Today on the blog, we have Austin Rees from Nourish and Align. She’s a wealth of knowledge and sure to teach you something new as she discusses her passions and strengths. Hope you are able to glean as much as I did from her. 

1. Intro yourself and how you’re involved with birth work.

I grew up in a home where my mother was a La Leche League (LLL) leader, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and a Certified Nurse Midwife.  Birthwork was all around me.  In college I completed independent studies on pregnancy and childbirth. After my first daughter was born in 2003, I started my own path to becoming a LLL Leader and IBCLC. Now I am a mother of 4 self directed learners and serve my community supporting families as a Craniosacral Therapy Practitioner, TummyTime! Method Professional, Certified Babywearing Consultant, and Reiki Master. 

2. Explain your heart and passion behind working alongside the population you serve.

I began supporting families 16 years ago with the military population whose spouses were deployed overseas alongside my own.  We were raising children away from family and learning how to meet our needs and our children’s. I found babywearing and La Leche League’s philosophy met both those needs. 

We are no longer a military family and moved to Baltimore 5 years ago. The needs of the parents and the children remain the same. I am passionate about teaching families to learn how to comfortably feed at the breast/chest, reduce crying, understand sleep, foster independence, increase immunity, nurture intelligence, and create a local circle of support. 

Over the years I often saw families struggling with the symptoms caused by a tongue tie. Through continuing education in tongue tie release habilitation, I have combined my background in lactation with craniosacral therapy to address the infant’s body and reduce tension before and after a tongue tie release for optimal function. Where I saw parents struggle before, I confidently can support them and meet their needs with a new modality in bodywork. 

3. Talk a bit about your massage and tummy time class and how you’ve merged your two passions together. What led you to do this?

TummyTime!™ is a trademarked program created by Michelle Emanuel, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, with a special focus on posture, movement, and connection between parents and baby. During class I teach the 8 phases for parents to roll their baby in and out of tummy time along with extra exercises depending on the baby's age. When I took my first TummyTime! Method training two years ago, I saw the connection between parents practicing this at home along with infant massage. We both teach respectful touch, techniques to increase strength and endurance, and bonding and attachment between caregiver and infant. Infant massage can be practiced during tummy time and vice versa.

4. How have you continued to serve families during the pandemic? How has this shift opened new opportunities?

Jessie and I both completed one in-person Infant Massage and TummyTime! Method 4-week series class before the stay-at-home order.  We seamlessly moved our class virtually for the families and continued to offer the class on Zoom.  

Since I practice bodywork, I had to alter how I serve families. For families who would come to me for infant craniosacral therapy, I shifted to provide families virtual support through equipping them with the foundations of the TummyTime! Method individually. When I treated babies in person I always taught families the TummyTime! Method techniques and other exercises they could practice on their own in their home. One-on-one sessions allow me to observe infant reflexes, feeding, oral function, and provide customized plans to strengthen the tongue, jaw, neck, and shoulders. 

I already had Virtual Babywearing Consultations as a service before the pandemic.  I have efficiently been able to assist caregivers to wear their babies comfortably and confidently by giving feedback as we mirror each other virtually. Families can also text me afterwards for fit checks. 

I also provide Distant Reiki for clients where we discuss physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual goals or challenges. I provide a treatment with the common feedback with a reduction in stress, increased relaxation, improved sleep, reduction in exhaustion and nausea during pregnancy, and restored general balance and well-being in mind and body. 

5. If you could tell expectant families one piece of encouragement as they navigate pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period in this uncertain time, what would it be? 

I encourage you to find your local community. Join prenatal, postpartum, and breast/chest feeding virtual support groups. These communities can blossom into in-person connections in the future. My favorite birth affirmation is from Marie Mongan, “I am prepared for any path my birth (or parenting journey) may take.” 

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