Sleep-Training Considerations: Part I

sleep training

If you’re a parent, you know sleep-training is a hot topic. Fueled with passion from both sides, some swear by it and claim that it’s the only thing that can be done to teach a child to sleep, while others say it’s not necessary and that baby will learn over time, without it. There’s so much talk about whether it’s right or wrong that folks don’t sit back, take a deep breath, and consider the implications of sleep-training and how it feels for them personally, away from all the chatter.

The two most-recommended sleep training methods are: 1) extinction, often referred to as cry-it-out (CIO), where a parent puts a child down awake and does not return until morning, and 2) the Ferber-method, where a parent puts down a drowsy child and increases the duration of time baby is left alone while periodically checking-in when baby is distressed; offering some reassurances (verbally, picking-up and putting back down, pats on the head or back, etc) until eventually the parent stops re-entering the room at all. Being that these two are the most popular and the methods that come with such heated debate, these are the two being considered for the purpose of this post. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s unpack what this looks like.

 

Night-feedings

It’s no secret that babies need to eat frequently. Some people try to convince parents that once babies have achieved a given weight or once babies hit a certain age, night-feedings are no longer necessary. The issue with this, particularly for nursing babies up to a year old, is that the intervals at which they feed and the number of feedings needed in a 24-hour period depends largely on Mom’s biology, namely her breast storage capacity and breast fullness. By prematurely cutting out night-feedings in the hopes of more sleep, baby’s total daily caloric intake is reduced. This has the potential to negatively affect baby’s growth, mood, and overall well-being. Additionally, it introduces the possibility of creating clogged ducts, mastitis, or supply issues for Mom.

 

Nighttime Parenting

As parents, clocking-in and clocking-out just isn’t an option. We need to have a realistic expectation that we’ll be up through the night with our babies for at least the first year, perhaps even longer. Reframing the idea of the often frustrating parental night-waking into “nighttime parenting” is helpful. While the sun is no longer shining and the goings-on of the day have wound down, the parent is still on-call, the baby is still fully dependent on the caregiver for all of the same things the caregiver provides during daylight hours. With that in mind, it’s important to reflect on how you respond to baby during the day. Do you let baby fuss for several minutes before responding? Do you wait to respond until baby is crying heartily, obviously needing attention? Do you tune out the cries and wait for baby to sort it out on her own? As parents, while we may deeply desire uninterrupted sleep, we don’t clock out at the end of the day. We’re always on and babies are relying on us. When considering how differently nighttime presents itself; the dark, the quiet, baby is often totally alone; one can clearly see how baby’s needs are likely to increase, rather than decrease. Instead of nighttime lending itself to a hands-off approach to parenting, nighttime is a time of high need for baby. High need for baby means the need for high responsiveness from parents.

 

Physiology of Distress and Self-Soothing

Babies are tiny humans so their bodily systems operate similarly to an adult’s. Being so much smaller however, babies’ bodies are more easily overcome by physiological changes than are our adults’ bodies. As babies cry and then cry harder, their physiology responds the way ours would as we get increasingly upset. Blood pressure increases, body temperature increases, heart rate increases, cortisol levels rise, respiration increases, skin may flush, sweating ensues. Baby may begin to get a headache, nose will run, voice will become hoarse.

No parent wishes this type of physical distress on their baby. However parents will willingly allow this to occur when convinced that baby is manipulating them or that baby is “only” frustrated and needs no intervention. Parents, with broken hearts and large glasses of wine, sit outside the door of their hysterical baby because they’ve been told that without this, baby will simply never learn to sleep-through-the-night.

The phrase “self-soothe”  is mentioned again and again; along with the idea that babies can only learn this skill by working it out alone through tears, screams, and sobs. However, when taking a step back, one can see, as is pointed out in this chart, that a baby’s capacity for soothing is virtually totally limited to reliance on the parent. And of course, the younger the baby, the higher that reliance.


Reflect on How it Feels

You’ve waited 40 long weeks (give or take) to hold this sweet baby in your arms. Now that your baby has arrived it seems like everyone is encouraging you to treat her like a hot potato. Don’t hold the baby while he sleeps, you must get baby sleeping in her own room, you must teach the baby to self-soothe, you’re going to spoil him, the baby will never learn to sleep along if you’re always holding her. How does that advice feel for you? When you hear your baby crying, does it feel in your heart like you want to tune the cries out or do you feel drawn to your baby? Do you feel a strong urge to snuggle your baby up and soothe the baby through nursing or rocking or patting? If there weren’t all the outside noise blaring well-intended advice at you, what would you do instinctually?

We need to find our way back to our natural leanings as parents rather than listening to so-called “sleep experts” and well-meaning friends and family members. We are physiologically hard-wired to be hear and respond to our children. To attempt to desensitize one’s self to the calls of our offspring can prove detrimental to both parent and child. This period of such high physical need, while admittedly challenging, is short-lived but vital to a child’s attachment to parents and overall trust and security.

 

How Did We Get Here?

If the claim is that we’re being coerced to deviate from natural responses to our children, it begs the question why. What has happened in our culture that some parents have made a choice to tune out a crying infant in order to catch some Z’s of their own? Are these heartless parents? No. These are desperate parents! Parents desperate for sleep, desperate for routine, desperate for the ability to function on the job.

This desperation is at least, in part, rooted in the fact that our society does not value parents in actionable ways. There is a major lack of support for parents in our country. Mothers are expected go back to work at 6 weeks postpartum; the “lucky” ones who can manage financially without pay, go back around 3-4 months postpartum. Neither is  enough time to establish one’s position as a parent, let alone get the hang of breastfeeding, become accustomed to frequent night-waking, fully embrace the notion of being totally responsible for sustaining another human life. These are all huge emotional and physical undertakings and there is little to no cultural understanding of that. Then when returning to work, it’s often a struggle for breastfeeding mothers to fit in time for pumping and can require a lot of legwork upfront to get approval and space for pumping breaks.

The challenge for mothers to be able to perform at work without falling asleep at their desks in-between their rushed pumping sessions is very real. This weighs heavily on these women who are trying so hard to manage a very new and very stressful lifestyle. Going home at night only to lose precious sleep once again is enough to wear anyone down. Something has to give and oftentimes the promise of more sleep makes sleep-training seem like the only option.

 

Is there an Alternative?

There is an alternative to traditional sleep-training that improves sleep for both Mother and baby! Keep an eye out for Part II of this post which will address that.

Veterans Moms Tell All: Advice for Moms-to-Be

advice for moms to be

In today’s information age, preparing for motherhood can sometimes be an overwhelming and daunting experience. It can be incredibly challenging to find  unbiased information for many topics related to pregnancy, birth, infant care, and the postpartum period, and it seems like just when you think you have the answers you’re seeking, someone in your life contradicts it.

In an effort to get real life advice from moms who have been there and done it, we took to our local Facebook group, Baltimore Birth, Babies & Breastfeeding and asked the following question:

What is the most important piece of advice you could give to a person who is about to welcome their first baby?

We got an outpouring of responses to share with you.  Below you will find very honest, candid, and wise feedback about those early postpartum days from moms throughout Baltimore.  If you’re looking for a place to ask your own questions related to the childbearing year, join us on Facebook!

  • Trust your gutKaty Linda
  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Stephanie S.
  • Beware of the mythical “perfect mother.” She’s fraudulent. She’ll make you think you aren’t good enough. You are. I want her to know that irritation, resentment, and boredom are common but rarely spoken (because, “perfect mothers” don’t feel these things). There is so much joy in blowouts, endless feedings, days without showering, and loss of autonomy. Oh, and I’d want her to remember that we were intended to raise children in communities. With others. Who can help with a capital H. Sara Nett
  • Try to do one kind thing for yourself each day, Mama.  Lily Dwyer Begg
  • You’re gonna be okay. Melissa L.
  • It’s OK to be scared. Christan M.
  • Stay off of google. Pace A.
  • Use a postpartum doula. Melissa K.
  • Sometimes pediatricians give bad advice!! Amanda W.
  • Trust your instincts, only you know how to best parent your baby. Haleigh F.
  • Let people help. Call the after hours pediatrician. Hire a doula and/or postpartum doula if you can. Call the nurses line. Invite trusted friends and family in. Let people clean. Let people buy your dinner. Tell your midwife or ob what still hurts. It doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t make you a bad or worthless mother. Trish B.
  • Some days and nights may seem long, but enjoy the snuggles while you can! In a blink, they’ll be a toddler!! Kate
  • Build a support network before baby arrives. Someone you can call who will just stay on the phone with you while you cry. Someone experienced who will talk you down when your baby has its first fever. Someone wise who can reassure you that what you’re going through is normal and your feelings are valid. Someone single who can come watch the baby when you desperately need even half a freaking moment to yourself. It takes a village and in this day and age, we have to build that village for ourselves. Facebook isn’t enough. Also, stay off Instagram. Caitlyn D.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell people they can’t come over. Jessica M.
  • Some days the anxiety around “are you doing the right thing” will crush you and turn you into Dr. Google, but you’re doing an amazing job and your baby is perfect. Jeana D.
  • Don’t allow people to kiss your baby! Amanda B.
  • Get ready to jump in to what my sister and I like to call the “newborn hole” where you don’t know which way is up or the way out. Focus on survival, you’re learning how to keep a human alive and that’s enough. The hole can last up to 3 to 4 months and that’s okay, you’re doing great. Alexis B.
  • You don’t have to “enjoy” every moment. They do grow up fast, but mothering a newborn can be grueling. Be gentle with yourself and your feelings. Danielle S.
  • Find a provider you trust and jive with. Becky R.
  • This is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do and you likely aren’t doing it wrong, it just really is that hard. Megan R.
  • Having a mama tribe is so important. I wouldn’t have gotten through my SAHM time without them. And if I could go back and do it all over, I’d have done placenta encapsulation all 3 times. Ah-mazing. Colleen C.
  • Don’t be afraid to limit visitors the first couple of weeks to only those near and dear (or to those you know will give you the support you want and need). Prioritize the needs of your new family and getting into a rhythm, including the time it takes for you and baby to learn how to breastfeed, over saying yes to everyone that wants to call text or visit. It is ok to set some boundaries and say no if you need to. And on the flip side of that, splurge the money on a postpartum doula. I didn’t, but wish I did. Everything is a phase. And it gets easier. Stephanie P
  • Don’t compare yourself or your baby to anyone else. You are doing the best you can do, one day at a time! Meg R.
  • It’s OK if it’s not love at first sight! You aren’t going to enjoy every minute and anyone who tells you to can step off. Everything with a baby is temporary- the good and the bad. Try to bask in the good and endure the bad. This too shall pass! Becky K.
  • Childbirth is …not necessarily the “best day of your life.” Having a newborn and exclusively breastfeeding is hard and can be lonely and isolating. It’s OK to feel that way about it and love your little one so much it hurts at the same time. Rachel N.
  • Ask for and accept help. Know you are not alone in your fear, pain, sadness, confusion, overwhelmed-ness. You gotta do whatever works for you, your baby, your family. Healthy, happy mama…healthy, happy baby. Pregnancy, delivery, postpartum…MOTHERHOOD is NOT one size fits all. Don’t be hard on yourself if your experience isn’t exactly what you thought it would be or what someone else’s is. Nora B.
  • Just because things are “natural” doesn’t mean they can’t be hard, or take work, and that’s okay. It took time to grow a person, it can take time to find your rhythm afterwards (for breastfeeding, sleep, pretty much everything) and that isn’t a personal failure. Maureen B.
  • Trust your mama instincts, you often know what is best for your baby. If your parenting choices work for you and baby, then no one else’s opinion matters. Mom shaming is sadly very real and can make you second guess yourself. Try not to let it. Instead embrace your parenting choices and trust that you are doing your very best and no one is a better mom to your baby than you. Also be kind to yourself! You just created a true miracle. The miracle of life. Your body is strong and beautiful even if it never looks the same again. Remember to love yourself too even when it’s hard and you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror. You deserve love too, you are a miracle maker after all. Katelynn A.
  • Do not have any expectations of yourself for the first six months. Just be with your baby and heal. Esther B.
  • Be patient with yourself allow yourself time to heal. You and your baby are both learning each other. Give yourself time and love adjusting to your new roles. Megan P.
  • Stop reading the books and start reading the baby. Tova B.
  • Make sure you have all the support you need and know that you have people around you all the time. Make sure you have supplies and make sure to be there for that little one because as soon as they are born you are their go-to person. Anonymous
  • If they are planning to breastfeed- it might end up being really painful and really difficult. If it is, reach out to a good lactation consultant because this means something’s not going the way it should be. Some hospital lactation consultants aren’t good unfortunately. If you want to get everything figured out and continue on your nursing journey, a good IBCLC is your best friend! And you can get it figured out if you want to. But no matter what, know that you have to decide to do what is right for you, be it nursing, pumping, switching to formula. You have to feel good about your decision, whatever it may be. If you feel good about it, then it’s the right decision. Caitlin S.
  • Don’t worry about “bad habits”. I wish I could get back the time when I was on maternity leave with my first that I spent desperately trying to put him down drowsy but awake because everyone said i was supposed to. I stressed so much because he wouldn’t sleep on his own without being held because of the so called “bad habit” I was creating. And I’ve done that with so many things since. Now I try to live by the motto “do what works until it doesn’t work”. Especially in infancy, children change so fast that the “bad habit” you are pandering to today will look totally different tomorrow. If I could do it all again I would just make sure the remote was in reach and hold that baby all day long! Alyssa L.
  • Don’t be afraid to say exactly what you need…whether it be to your partner, family, friends…whoever. This is a struggle for me but I’m trying to be better about it. And if you’re going to breastfeed, definitely meet with a lactation consultant…best thing I ever did. Catrina M.
  • Always, always follow you gut instinct! If you have a feeling something isn’t right, don’t ignore that feeling. There are specialists out there for a reason. Also, sleep when baby sleeps. Seriously! Jenna S.
  • My friend’s dad’s advice was that everyone else’s advice is wrong. Two years later, true that. Kate S.
  • It’s OK to cry. A lot. Anna R.
  • You know what’s best for your baby and you have a community of mamas who will support you-many of whom you don’t know, but we are here. Clare G.
  • 1. Things will get better. 2. Be honest with your partner about what you are going through. Don’t try to hide your fears or tears. Jenna W.
  • Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, even if it’s venting to a friend/loved one. You’ll love this little human more than anyone could ever explain, but the newborn phase is just as much frustrating and unnerving as it is beautiful and exciting. Also, sleep when baby does. It took until #2 until I no longer felt less than about this. Brittany S.
  • Everything is temporary- it doesn’t feel that way but it is! Fussiness, non sleep, pain – as much as it sucks at 2am. that your baby still wont sleep, just get through that moment and it will be over soon. Sarah R.
  • It’s okay to not be in love with your new role. April B.
  • Caring for a newborn is really hard. Hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong though. It’s just hard. But it gets easier. Heidi D.
  • Trust your instincts, if you feel like letting your baby cry themselves to sleep is wrong, or that people who say you hold your baby too much are wrong, or people make you feel bad for using formula or nursing on demand without a schedule…. Everyone has an opinion. None of them matter but yours. Drown them out. Danylle S.
  • Ask a friend to set up a MealTrain for you so that you have nourishing meals and don’t have to think about meal prep do you or your partner in those first weeks. Claire C.
  • Your relationship with your partner is going to be different, and sometimes you might resent them because you are giving so much of yourself, but IT GETS EASIER. Jeana D.
  • Sometimes the bonding is not immediate. Of course you love your new baby, but you may not experience it like you see on Facebook or in the movies. Also, everyone has a different experience. Some people are very lucky and some experience many complications that may break you down. Be your own advocate if you think something is wrong. Doctors, although often wonderful, do not know everything and you are not their only patient. Don’t give up and trust your gut. You can’t control your body during or after pregnancy and you may not be able to control your anxiety. Just keep reminding yourself that this is temporary and any medical or emotional issues can be fixed in time. It is not one size fits all. Your child will love you. Be a germaphobe. Focus on getting healthy emotionally and physically so you can be your best version of motherhood. We are all fortunate to have made it through with a healthy child. Melissa O.
  • It’s all about the mind! Prepare Your Mind. Odile P.
  • The lactation consultant is everything! I had no idea what I was doing and her reassurance and advice helped me continue breastfeeding. Becca W.
  • Have confidence in your instincts! You may feel like you have no idea what you’re doing but they are always guiding you if you will only listen. Autumn B.
  • Take advise and help once the baby arrives. You cant do it all on your own. And use that help to have time and space for the new mom to recover and do self care. Janine D.
  • You will get tons of advice and expert opinions but ultimately your mama instinct can be the best for your baby. Sonya L.
  • Hold that baby!! Don’t worry about the house, the cooking, cleaning, laundry… eat up every precious minute and second you can!! Rest with them and don’t stress. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!! And don’t feel guilty for saying yes when someone offers! Let them bring you food, do a grocery run, put a load of dishes or clothes in for you! Kim P.
  • Accept help. All of the help. Brea L.
  • No one and I repeat no one has it all together. No matter how good they make it look. We are all winging it and when all else fails just add water. My mom told me that with my first 15 years ago and she was right. It’s amazing what a bath can do for a crazy situation. Ashley H.
  • You will know your baby better than anybody, trust yourself and your instincts. There is no “right” way to parent, only the way which feels the most in alignment with your deepest self. Trust that, it’s so hard because so many people will have opinions about how you “should” do it. Kindly thank them and do it the way that feels right for you. As a new mom, you will be learning as much as your baby, be gentle with yourself, its harder than you can imagine. But you have everything you need to mother your child, and don’t be afraid to get support. But never let that support person override your gut. Leslie L.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Your whole world has just changed. Kara B.
  • Nobody else knows what they’re doing either. Reilly P.
  • The sleepless nights will end and its worth every second. Staci Blitz

15 Facts about the Foreskin and Circumcision

Circumcision

Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis, is most commonly performed on newborns.  With a global circumcision rate of approximately 30%, the United States in the only country in the world that circumcises infant for non-religious reasons.

FACTS ABOUT CIRCUMCISION

  1. Originally, the goal of circumcision was to desensitize the penis to curb masturbation. Dr. Kellogg, inventor of the corn flakes, was a major promoter of the procedure.
  2. The foreskin, containing 20,000 nerve endings as opposed to the 8,000 in a clitoris, is a highly sensitive, functioning part of the male anatomy.  It’s purpose is to protect the glans, or the head of the penis from abrasions and to keep dirt and bacteria from the urinary tract.
  3.  The average adult foreskin consists of 1½ inches of outer skin, 1½ inches of inner mucosal lining – totaling a length of 3 inches – and is 5 inches in circumference when erect. This amounts to a surface area of 15 square inches, or a surface area equivalent to that of a 3″ by 5″ inch index card.
  4. Circumcision is not routinely practiced in most countries.  In fact, The United States is the ONLY country where circumcision is done routinely for non-religious reasons. Aside from being a Muslim and Jewish cultural practice, it is a very American practice.
  5. After reviewing 40 years of research, it has been determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics that routine infant circumcision cannot be recommended.  In fact, no professional medical association in the world recommends routine infant circumcision, nor do they state it is medically necessary.
  6. When the foreskin is removed, the head of the penis can develop a thick layer of skin to protect it, making it much less sensitive.  As a result, circumcised men are 3 times more likely to have issues with erectile dysfunction.
  7. Circumcision can reduce a baby’s risk of getting an urinary tract infection (UTI) by 1%.  In other words, in order to prevent 1 UTI, 100 circumcisions would need to be performed.
  8. It has been claimed that circumcision can reduce one’s risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The United States has one of the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, yet we are the only country that routinely circumcises male babies.
  9. A foreskin doesn’t separate from the head of the penis until adolescence, sometime between 3 and 15 years of age.  Until this separation occurs, you only need to clean the outside of the penis.  You clean it just as you would any other part of your body.  In fact, a newly circumcised penis, which has an open wound, may be more difficult to clean and care for during diapering.
  10. 117 babies die each year as a result of circumcision complications. The foreskin and penis is a highly vascularized area that contains a significant amount of blood flow. A newborn only has a total of  11.5 ounces of blood.  That’s just shy of a cup-and-a-half.  A newborn only needs to lose 1 ounce to hemorrhage, and 2.3 ounces, which is a the amount in a shot glass, to bleed to death.  You can read more about it here from DrMomma.org.
  11. According to the CDC, circumcision rates have fallen to 55.4% in the United States.
  12. A Mohel, a person specially trained  in circumcision techniques, can perform the circumcision, even on non-Jews.  It has been argued the Mohels perform the procedure more quickly and gently than in clinical settings.
  13. Cortisol levels, a stress hormone, are 3-4 times higher during circumcision than prior to the procedure, which can contribute to post-op breastfeeding challenges.  It is also thought that the pain and trauma from undergoing circumcision may impact the child’s response to pain or stress throughout their life.  Canadian investigators report that during vaccinations at age 4-6 months, circumcised boys had an increased behavioral pain response and cried for significantly longer periods than did intact boys. For more information about this click here.
  14. Foreskins are harvested to make high-end face creams and are often used for cosmetic testing to determine a product’s safety.
  15. Anti-circumcision activists are referred to as intactivists.
If you’re in Maryland and researching topics related to pregnancy, birth, and newborn care, please visit our class descriptions page. We’d be honored to help you prepare for an amazing birth and entry into parenthood.

Introducing Solids With Baby Led Weaning

baby led weaning

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.

baby led weaning info
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
  • Steamed vegetables – sweet potato, summer squash, pumpkin, broccoli
  • Buttered toast cut in slices
  • Omelette
  • Pasta
  • Mini muffins
  • Steamed fish
  • Well cooked steak

Here are an additional 100+ foods and recipes to enjoy.
To learn more about Baby Led Weaning, check out Rapley’s series of books.

Breast+Skin+Sling: An interview with Austin Rees

Babywearing Baltimore

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.
motherblessing baltimore
mamablessing-2.jpg-photo-credit-Brenda-Amaya-Photography-300x200

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
teaching-add-photo-credit-Kalimana-Birth-Films-200x300
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.

Postpartum Doulas Support Baltimore Families

Postpartum Doulas in Baltimore

 

Having a new baby can be a very challenging time for some mothers and their families.  Mom may be healing from surgery or a difficult birth.  Dad or partner may not be able to take any time off work, or maybe he travels a lot.  Some families don’t live in the same area as their extended family, so they may have minimal family support.  Perhaps they have other young children that need tending to while mom is healing.  Maybe they just need help stocking the empty fridge.

Many families are finding comfort and support through postpartum doulas.  While a birth doula supports families emotionally and physically during labor and delivery, a postpartum doula supports families after their baby arrives.  Postpartum doulas support Baltimore families in a variety of ways.  Their tasks may vary depending on the family’s needs, but ultimately the doula will help ease the family’s transition with baby, and help keep their home afloat while they recover from birth and bond with their growing family.

Postpartum doulas help families with light housekeeping, meal prep, sibling care, overnight support, errand running, and more.  Just imagine…

  • crawling into a bed with freshly changed sheets to nurse and nap with your new baby.
  •  waking up from your nap to a warm, nutritious lunch and a clean kitchen.
  • a walked and fed dog.
  • a happy toddler who is fed and playing happily.
  • a stocked fridge and picked-up dry-cleaning hanging in the closet.
  • that nursery furniture you never got around to putting together is now assembled and in its perfect place.
  • nursing your baby and out of nowhere appears a glass of lemon water and a healthy snack.
  • being frustrated with breastfeeding and receiving accurate information and troubleshooting tips, as well as a referral to the best IBCLCs in the area, who we have personally vetted.
  • having help learning how to use that nifty new baby carrier.
  • having clean and folded laundry for your entire family.
  • having a nap or taking a hot soak in the tub while your doula lovingly takes care of your sweet new baby and children.

We can do all of that.  We can take care of you.

By offering non-judgmental support, families feel safe asking questions related to breastfeeding, baby care, and postpartum wellness.  Mothers and families feel secure knowing they can take the deserved time to rest and bond with baby while their doula keeps their home running smoothly.  Our postpartum doulas support Baltimore families with passion, compassion, and expertise.

 

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