Congratulations. You have grown a baby. The 40 or so weeks of waiting are finally over and you are wondering what on earth to expect now. While your body is no longer housing a tiny human, something still feels off. The fog has not lifted. Your energy is low, your hormones are whack, and your stamina is half of what it used to be. Life seems to be filled with endless feedings, swaddling, burping, soothing and not sleeping. The days are blurry and the nights are endless. You have officially entered the fourth trimester. These next twelve or so weeks are a completely different marathon. Below are 6 tips that I felt helped me transition into motherhood with grace and kindness towards myself and my baby.
1. Take it easy the first few weeks. You will be back to “yourself” eventually but right now, your body is healing. Healing from pregnancy and birth. It will not feel “normal” anytime soon.
2. Never say “no” to someone offering help. People, in general, want to know how they can help. Let them cook meals, buy you Starbucks, clean your house, hold/feed your baby, carry your purse… anything. You don’t have to do it all. Even ask for help if you need it. You are not weak if you ask. You just made a human. That’s pretty damn strong.
3. Do not put pressure on yourself to get that pre-pregnancy body back during this trimester. It will not happen and you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Things are a little more shifty and squishy. It is ok. No one is judging you and if they are, you don’t need them in your life.
4. An hour or two goes by VERY quickly. Especially realized when a newborn baby is eating that often. At the end of the day, if you are wondering where the day has gone, know that you kept your baby fed. That is a big feat in itself. But everyday, try your best to do at least one thing for yourself. Eat a cookie. Walk slowly around the block. Ask for a massage from your partner. Take a bath. Read something (googling articles about your baby doesn’t count).
5. These first three months are all about SURVIVAL. Forget ALL. THE. RULES. and trust your instincts. If you hold your baby all day for him/her to nap, fine. If you get take out for 12 weeks straight, great. If you rock or nurse your baby to sleep, job well done. There is no “right” way to parent. Your mama instincts are powerful. You have everything you need inside of you to care for your baby. Silence the judge-y noise.
6. Believe the saying “the days are long but the years are short.” Although it feels like you’ll never have poopless days, you will. Try your very best to enjoy the little moments of sweetness. The coos and giggles. The messes and madness. These times are tiring times, but bound to make our hearts and lives oh so full.
You got this, mama. I believe in YOU!
“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” –Robert Browning
Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy Of Pediatrics recommend exclusively breastfeeding your infant for the first six months. As you approach this milestone, you’re probably thinking about introducing solids to baby. There are two ‘schools of thought’ regarding the the addition of complementary foods. Feeding milled cereals and puréed foods by spoon is the traditional approach. Another way to offer solids is through Baby Led Weaning (BLW). This style encourages baby to feed herself and skip the spoon, completely. The following is a guide to help you learn about, and decide if, a baby-led approach is right for your family.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
BLW is a theory originated by Gill Rapley, a British health nurse. The word ‘weaning’ is the UK equivalent of Americans saying ‘starting solids’. With BLW, you forgo spoon feeding, a parent initiated method, and trust your baby to nourish herself, a baby initiated approach
When is my baby ready to feed herself?
Spoon feeding is so popular and almost unchallenged in our culture. Many families choose to introduce solids prior to six months. Before this age, babies are not developmentally ready to feed themselves. With BLW, you wait until baby is developmentally ready to eat. When your infant reaches the following milestones, she is ready to start exploring food:
is at least six months of age
has lost the tongue thrust reflex
can sit with little or no assistance
reaches and bring objects to her mouth accurately
shows focused interest in food and your eating
Why choose BLW?
It’s progressive and instinctual! A baby initiated approach to food is an extension of breastfeeding. A healthy, full-term baby can feed herself as soon as she is born. Baby tells you when she is hungry, she nurses at her pace, and knows when she is full. BLW builds on this philosophy and applies it to complementary foods. This style is also easier. Your baby enjoys the foods you cook for the entire family. There is no need to prepare separate recipes for you infant.
How safe is BLW?
‘I am worried my baby will choke on food!’ The BLW philosophy makes sense in theory, but many parents are nervous to try this approach for fear of choking. BLW is as safe, or safer than traditional spoon feeding. As long as your baby is ready to feed herself, as listed above, she can engage in BLW.
What food should baby eat?
For safety, foods should be served in large chunks that baby can easily grasp in hand. These are a good start:
Soft fruits cut in big pieces – bananas, peaches, ripe melon, avocado
Now that you’ve gotten this breastfeeding thing figured out, you may be trying to find the best things to wear for comfort, access and you may be worrying about coverage. Here’s a round-up list of some crowd favorite breastfeeding attire.
The key is layering! Each layer serves a purpose.
1) A well-fitting bra. This is ESSENTIAL. Don’t just make whatever cheap, half-functional nursing bra you can find work. This is a commitment and your breasts deserve to be supported for the foreseeable future! Also, keep in mind that for most women, it’s best to stick with a non-underwire option, at least in the beginning, so you’re avoiding any unnecessary pressure on your milk ducts.
2) Nursing tanks. These offer support and shape all around, and are convenient as they open and close as you unlatch or latch the bra for feedings/pumping. An overwhelmingly popular favorite here is the Bravado nursing tank. Many local moms report they got 2-4 tanks in basic colors and wear them daily. Other brands include the Undercover Mama, and Cake lingerie tanks.
3) The top layer. Here, you can wear a breastfeeding-specific top or dress, a v-neck or other top. If you go with a non-breastfeeding specific top, it’s easy to do the “one up, one down” with a nursing tank underneath covering your belly and back. You just pull up the top layer enough to access the latch on the tank. You can always just pull your breast up and over in a v- neck, too.
A Mama’s Mailbox nursing apparel subscription is a really fun option and great way to build a versatile, stylish breastfeeding/pumping wardrobe.
4) The scarf. Finally, toss on a lightweight scarf or infinity scarf as we head into cooler weather. These provide a nice distraction for baby to play with and can allow discreet breastfeeding, providing enough coverage that many may not even know you’re feeding your baby. Bonus, they’ll add some style too.
Now that you’ve built your layers, go out and breastfeed feeling comfortable and confident!
During this first week of August, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. This global awareness initiative is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), an international network of organizations working to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Learn about World Breastfeeding Week 2016 here.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week here are five ways fathers and non-nursing parents can bond with their breastfed babies:
Skin To Skin Contact
Holding a newborn baby on your bare chest has so many benefits beyond the obvious snuggles. Skin to skin contact helps normalize baby’s body temperature and glucose levels; heart and respiratory rates also stabilize.
Successfully carrying an infant in a sling, wrap, or a Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) is life changing! Most babies love to nestle on mom or dad’s chest. Wearing baby provides the physical closeness infants need while freeing a caregiver’s hands to participate in daily activities. It is so empowering to accomplish any task while babywearing.
Co-sleeping is a superb way to feel deeply connected to baby, while getting a more restful night’s sleep.
Inside mom, babies spend approximately nine months in motion. So it is no surprise that they crave similar movement once born. Rock, sway, or bounce (I suggest using a Pilates ball) that baby! You will help soothe, calm, and lull your infant to sleep.
When baby starts having a more predictable rhythm, have dad start a short daily routine. A morning ritual could include taking baby upon waking, changing a diaper and clothes, and wearing her while making breakfast. An evening routine, that implements several bonding strategies, could include a taking a bath, enjoying some skin to skin time, and having a cuddle in the rocking chair.
Supporting breastfeeding is a cultural responsibility that begins in the home.
We want all families committed to breastfeeding to succeed. If you reside in the Baltimore area, we offer postpartum services to help all family members be included, confident, and supported throughout the nursing journey.
My guest on the blog today is Austin Rees. Austin is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a Certified Babywearing Consultant through the Center for Babywearing Studies. She is the owner of Breast+Skin+Sling, and the co-founder of Sacred Milk. Austin prepares mothers prenatally with the foundations of breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, and babywearing. She facilitates personalized ceremonies to celebrate life’s transitions. Austin also provides one-on-one babywearing consultations in our community. (featured image credit: Kate’s Takes)
It is common today for parents to take a birthing class. Why should parents seek out a breastfeeding and babywearing class before the baby arrives?
An out of hospital birth class is essential to gaining the information on how to facilitate the process of birth and know your choices in birth. Skin-to-skin, and the breast crawl (infant independently moves to the breast to nurse) occurs immediately after birth. Understanding how to facilitate this instinctual experience before the birth is beneficial. I find mothers profit from the knowledge and foundations of how Milk works, the importance of skin-to-skin, along with an understanding of the normal newborn before the baby arrives. With this knowledge I have witnessed mothers step into motherhood trusting their bodies, their babies, and their Milk. I help mothers discover their innate instincts and wisdom so they enter their unique Milk relationship secure, confident, supported, and connected to their baby. Armed with the knowledge of how to initiate a good start is key to avoiding difficulties. I observed working with mothers postpartum that a majority of the issues they experienced could have been prevented if they had the proper information before the baby arrived. Babywearing can also start immediately, and knowing how to comfortably and confidently use a carrier can be a valuable tool.
Babywearing is commonly seen around the city. How would you react if you see someone wearing a baby improperly while at the store?
I am always excited to see another parent or caregiver wearing their baby while I am out. I usually try to make eye contact or say, “It’s great to see you wearing your baby.” If I notice someone wearing their baby and the straps are twisted, or it does not look to the carrier direction guidelines I may observe to see if they are interested in striking up a conversation. When I engage with someone who is wearing I ask how they feel. If they are happy and comfortable, I praise their excitement. If they say this is great, but xyz, I will share some babywearing tips that may help that situation.
On your website it lists you offer facilitating ceremonies for families in the DC/MD/VA area. What are some reasons for someone to reach out to you to create a ceremony for themselves or someone else?
I enjoy designing personalized ceremonies to create a circle of support for someone. I have been facilitating Mother Blessings for pregnant or adopting women for 10 years. In place of a traditional baby shower, a Mother Blessing is a special ceremony designed to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate a woman’s journey into Motherhood. Family, friends, and mothers contact me to create a ceremony and provide a loving place where the honored mother can explore the challenges and joys that lie before her as she approaches childbirth or adoption, and mothering her first or multiple children.
I also facilitate Birth Story Ceremonies; a place where a mother can experience deep listening, and allow the power of sharing her story to heal, celebrate, grieve, release, process and acknowledge her experience, her journey. These are designed to make way for the mother to experience her birth story. We open our heart and commit our undivided attention to her. This allows her to fully express her experience, reflect upon it, and take the steps she needs to move forward. We step aside and create a safe space so she has complete control, and unconditional support.
A Weaning Ceremony is a time we can come together to honor a Mother’s Milk relationship. We make way for the mother to experience her Milk story by opening our heart and committing our undivided attention. This allows her to fully express her experience, reflect upon it, and take the steps she needs to move forward. We step aside and create a safe space so she has complete control, and unconditional support.
I also create customized ceremonies. Recently I designed one for a special woman who was about to undergo radiation for breast cancer. We designed activities that supported releasing fears, created personal power, and we weaved a web of support, pledging our assistance throughout her treatment and beyond.
Sacred Milk is a sister program under the Sacred Living Movement. Can you share what is the Sacred Living Movement, and more about your involvement with Sacred Milk and Sacred Pregnancy?
Sacred Milk Baltimore
Photo credit: Kalimana Birth Films
The Sacred Living Movement acknowledges all aspects of our life’s journey need to be honored, and embraced with reverence and respect. The Sacred Living Movement was designed to bring back the age-old tradition of women sitting with one another during a time of transition, witnessing each other’s process and BEING there for one another. We have a local, active Sacred Living Movement Maryland group.
Sara Goff and I created Sacred Milk after attending a Sacred Pregnancy retreat. Sacred Milk is a movement inspiring women to trust their bodies, their baby’s and their Milk. Our mission is to nourish the wholeness of each mother’s journey and shift our culture to see Milk as a holistic practice, rather than simply a feeding choice. In the last century our culture has been saturated by marketing that has conditioned us to see breasts as sexual, and human milk as just a food source. The Journey to Milk program is focused on opening space for women to remember their innate wisdom and then surround themselves with a supportive community. Milk is instinctual, natural, normal, and necessary. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or filled with bliss. Milk is not something that can be fully learned from a book or taught on the internet. Milk cannot be told. Milk must be modeled, supported and nourished in community because it is a way of living not a way of feeding.
I recently co-hosted a Sacred Pregnancy + Sacred Milk 2-day mini retreat for pregnant mothers in our community. It was a gorgeous event full of women showing up and witnessing to each other. In September I will be facilitating a retreat to certify Sacred Pregnancy instructors in Nashville, TN. I am excited for more women to have the option to attend these classes or retreats prenatally.
Austin is such wonderful resource for mothers and families in our area and has such a beautiful way of bringing our community together. If you are looking for breastfeeding or babywearing education in the Baltimore or surrounding area, you can contact Austin here.