Fourth Trimester… Oh My! Tips for sanity and survival

fourth trimester

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

Finding Your Village

finding your village

You’ve had your baby, welcomed all of the visitors and friends who want to meet the newest addition, and eaten all of the food you’d prepared and stored in the freezer. You have survived the first week or two of motherhood, cried countless tears as your hormones regulate, and said goodbye to your significant other as they rejoin the work force. Now, you find yourself alone (well, sort of) on the couch, in a quiet house, with the tiniest little thing that has ever ruled your world. Now what?

It can be quite daunting, those first moments when you realize it’s really up to you (and whatever support person or network you have in place) to care for this little being. You may be having some existential moments, asking yourself, who am I now? I know I did. I remember just sitting there, staring at this little person who wouldn’t leave my breast, and thinking just that. I certainly didn’t feel like the same person, who just two weeks ago, was (very) pregnant, and now, I’m someone’s mom. Someone’s whole world. It’s really, and truly, a baffling experience. If you haven’t had that feeling yet, you’re likely reading this because you’re expecting and soon will.

Now that you’ve questioned your entire meaning and purpose in life, where do you go from there? Well, you just go. Really, it’s that simple. Just go. I read COUNTLESS new parenting blogs, articles on the best latch, what creams to use on baby (or not to use), how to hold her, how to make sure she fell asleep at the breast or bottle, how to make sure she didn’t, when to wake her, when to put her down (and many that boasted the importance of putting her down often; this was especially frustrating since she understandably didn’t seem to like it much).  I read about how much sleep to expect from her, and on and on and on. It was maddening, really.

The amount of information available to new parents can be completely overwhelming and it certainly baffles our grandparents who had nothing to go on other than instinct. You’re surrounded by all of this information at your fingertips, yet potentially feel more alone than you ever imagined. This is where I suggest to you forego the books, the articles, and the blogs. They aren’t what you need right now. There’s time in the future for that (a tip: don’t read the sleep stuff until way into the second half of the first year. It all changes too rapidly to worry about right now. Sleep will come eventually, I promise.).

What you should do is work on finding your village. Find the other parents who are in the thick of it just like you. CONNECT. Really connect. Identify your community, or create it if it doesn’t exist yet, and make plans. Spend real-life time with others who can relate to exactly where you are and what you’re doing in this very specific time in your life. Facebook has become an amazing networking locale for meeting and establishing some amazing friendships for new parents. When I was a first-time mom, sitting on my couch, nursing for most of my day, I made some of my closest friends. Remember the joke, “there’s an app for that?” Well, I’ve realized the latest phenomenon is that “there’s a group for that!” Literally, almost every topic has plenty of group options for you to find and connect with others in a virtual reality. But, that’s just the first step, it’s imperative that once we make these connections virtually, we follow through with the relationships in real life, especially as new parents. It can be quite lonely otherwise. There are plenty of local meet-ups happening in almost every neighborhood, and on that note, almost every neighborhood has its own Facebook page (or Meetup group etc.). These can happen during the week or weekend, for stay-at-home moms and working moms alike, so seek out the local community and meet like-minded parents. Then make plans in person.

It’s this community that I now go to on a regular basis to check in on what’s normal, rant when my days are just tougher than I imagined, cry to when I just need someone to hear me, and make plans with when I need to spend some time with other people who just get it. They’re in the thick of it, just like me, and we can commiserate, or boast, or cry or do whatever we feel like together. I once read an article about how the women you meet at your first moms’ group are unforgettable. Even if you all grow apart, you’ll never forget the times you spent doing all of what I just mentioned, together with your newest little people. And, it’s worth noting that maybe you don’t find your people right away, but keep reaching out and you will. Finding a group of moms (or dads because there are groups for you, too) who you can count on to be there is priceless. Trust me, when you’re up for what seems like the 18th time in the middle of the night and just need to know you’re not alone, you’ll be grateful you have your community. Some might even become like family. That’s exactly how we were meant to parent because it takes a village.

 

If you are looking to connect with other moms and families in the Baltimore community, here are some links to get you started:

Search Meetup.com for your neighborhood and you’re likely to find many other parents.

Looking for a group just for dads? This is a new local group that is growing.

Mother Goose on the Loose is a great, free early literacy program that happens at libraries all around the country. Click the link to find the closest weekly group to you.

And of course, there’s Facebook. Most of us have already succumb to this, but if you haven’t, it definitely provides an easy way to make connections. Baltimore Birth, Babies & Breastfeeding is a diverse group of moms and dads supporting each other in a nonjudgmental community.  Join, ask questions, and connect. We’d love to have you.

 

 

When your friend has a baby: 10 ways to support a new mother

how to support a new mother

When my closest friends were having babies, I was just getting married.  I was pretty clueless about most things regarding the postpartum period and since the last baby to be born in my family was my 22-year-old sister, I knew even less about babies. I hadn’t a clue as to ways to support a new mother.

My best friend, the first one of us to have a baby, had a long labor, which ended with a cesarean. When she returned home, I am sure she was incredibly sore, but she was also clearly frustrated with breastfeeding.  When I think back to how painfully clueless and useless I was when she had her baby, I shudder.  I mean, I brought her a plant.  A PLANT!  While plants are lovely and they brighten up a room, it’s also one more thing for her to tend to and it isn’t remotely helpful to her in any way.  Oh, and that’s not all.  When lunch time rolled around, she heated up leftovers for us to eat.  SHE heated up leftovers for ME. (**shudder**)  It actually makes my stomach turn to think that I was that out of touch with what she needed.

After my own postpartum experiences, coupled with lots of training on birth and the postpartum period, I think it’s safe to say that thankfully, I’ve learned a few things since then.  Here are 10 ways to support a new mother, so the next time you have a friend have a baby, you’ll know how to shower her with love (and clean laundry).

way-to-support-a-new-mother-768x513

  1. Walk her dog. She’s healing from birth and her partner deserves a break. Take Fido for a stroll.
  2. Take her children outside. If mom has other children, take them outside to expel some energy. Playground, walk around the block, bike ride, whatever. Mom will appreciate the quiet and the kids will love the fun.
  3. Fix her family a snack or bring her a meal (or 2).  Anything you can do to take some of the load off, please do. Make them a meal or a snack, and if you can, involve the kids.  The kids will enjoy the activity and mom will get a reprieve by them being entertained.  If you won’t be there long, bring a meal already prepared, but also one that is freezable, so they can enjoy it later if needed.
  4. Bring her groceries.  When I had my first baby, a friend came to visit, and with her came 2 grocery bags full of food.  Some of the food was already prepared and the rest was perfect grab-and-go foods for snacking.  I was so touched and appreciated having new items in the fridge.  We sat around the table and noshed while she held and loved on my baby.  It was incredible and I appreciated it so much.
  5. Hold the baby and send her upstairs for a long, hot shower.  It’s amazing how much a hot shower can change a person.  Even if she doesn’t need it, take the baby, and if she has one, the 3-year-old, and send her upstairs for a hot shower and some alone time.  She’ll come down feeling grateful and refreshed.
  6. Load her dishwasher and run it.  I’m placing bets that when you go see her there will be a sink piled high with dishes.  Load the dishwasher and be sure to run it.  If you’re there long enough, empty it on your way out the door.
  7. Wash a load of laundry.  It’s amazing how much laundry a 7-pound baby can produce.  Whether it’s spit up on the onesie or breastmilk leaked on her shirt, there’s bound to be a load of clothes waiting.  Wash a load for her.  If there’s a load that’s been done, fold it.  Laundry is one of those things that can get out of hand fast. Helping her stay in front of it will take a lot of burden off of her.
  8. Take out the trash.  On your way out the door after your visit, take the trash with you.
  9. Sweep.  Dog hair, cheerio crumbs, dried up play-doh pieces.  It’ll take 5 minutes and will make a big difference.
  10. Bring her something for just her.  Bring her something that will make her feel good.  Ok, so maybe that plant wasn’t all bad.  I love plants, but whatever it is, make sure it’s something that will make her feel warm and pampered.  Maybe bring some great shampoo, bath salts, or handmade soap for the shower she’ll take during your visit.  Whatever it is, make it special.

There are endless ways to support a new mother, these are just a few.  The bottom line is make her life easy, make her plate lighter, and let her know you love her.  Having a baby is hard, and sometimes the postpartum period is even harder.  New moms are all too often left unsupported in our hustle-and-bustle culture, but we were never meant to do it alone.  Be a good friend, show up, and give her what she needs.  When she has a friend have a baby, she’ll remember how you made her feel, and she’ll pay it forward.  Little by little, maybe our culture will begin to shift.

 

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.

 

If Most Mammals Consume Placenta, Why Don’t We?

Why don't humans ingest placenta?

The placenta, a temporary organ, has a crucial role to play in pregnancy.  It nourishes the fetus, also bringing oxygen and removing waste for the mother’s kidneys to dispose of.  This essential organ also regulates hormone production throughout pregnancy and is responsible for sustaining the pregnancy. The placenta, attached to the baby via the umbilical cord, is born shortly after the birth of the baby.

We know that with the exception of just a few species, all mammals, including herbivores, consume their placenta as an innate behavior after giving birth to their young. Some say the behavior, also known as placentophagy, satisfies a nutritional need of the mother.  Others claim it is a way for the animal to clean their nest in an effort not to attract predators.  While at first glance, the cleaning-of-the-nest theory makes sense, we know that animals whose young can walk immediately after the birth, such as horses or giraffes, still consume their afterbirth with great enthusiasm even though they could just walk away from the birth site to a perceived safer location. Similarly, monkey species also engage in placenta consumption even though they could let the placenta fall to the ground below away from their tree-top birthing location.

If mammalian mothers only consume placenta as a way to clean the nest site, why don’t they take the time to lick up the blood and other fluids from giving birth?  What are they gaining from the practice? And finally, if most other mammals do it, why don’t humans eat placenta after birth?

 

The Fire Hypothesis:

Last spring, I had the pleasure of attending PlacentCon, a conference for birth workers that hosted many presentations centered around the placenta and placentophagy.  The conference, held in Las Vegas, had speakers from a variety of specialties, but one of the most memorable talks was given by Dr. Daniel Benyshek, medical anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).  Dr. Benyshek, along with researcher, Sharon Young, discussed their work with the groundbreaking placebo VS. placenta study currently underway at UNLV.  When asked about why humans don’t innately engage in placentophagy, Dr. Benyshek had a fascinating hypothesis.

He explained that as a species, early humans probably did consume their placenta after birth.  When fire was discovered millions of years ago, trees, absorbing heavy metals from the earth, were then burned.  As a result, expecting mothers were around smoke and inhaling it regularly.  While we know that the placenta does not act like a filter, holding onto toxins, it does have difficulty ridding itself of heavy metals.  As the women were around smoke more and more, their placentas had increased levels of cadmium and lead.  Upon ingesting their placentas after giving birth, women began either getting very ill or dying, and over time, we evolved to discontinue the practice.  For the same reason, in present day, it is thought that cigarette smoking in mothers is a contraindication of placenta encapsulation.

Though there is research supporting the benefits of placentophagy in new mothers, the body of research is small and incomplete.  The anecdotal evidence, however, showing that placenta encapsulation can help ease a new mother’s transition into motherhood is overwhelming.  Women who consume their placentas often report:

  • less incidence of iron deficiency
  • more energy
  • less fatigue despite irregular sleep
  • increased milk supply
  • enhanced mood
  • decreased postpartum bleeding

Whatever the cause of placentophagy in the animal kingdom, it’s clear that moms from across the world are pleased with the results from utilizing their placenta for postpartum recovery. It’s exciting to see more research developing about this practice.  Stay tuned in 2016 for the results of UNLV placenta VS. placebo study to be published!

 

To read what moms in Baltimore and the surrounding area have to say about their experience with placenta encapsulation, visit our testimonials page & our Facebook page.

Babywearing: Some Unexpected Lessons

Baltimore babywearing

Today’s guest blog post comes to your from Paige Barocca of Baltimore Birth Services.  Paige serves the families in our community as a birth doula and a babywearing advocate. 

I’ve been an avid babywearer since the birth of my son in 2012. Like choosing the breastfeed, babywearing was just something that I knew I would do from the start. There were many reasons why I knew I would be wearing my baby. After wearing one baby into toddlerhood and starting all over again with my baby girl, I have come to realize that being a babywearing mama has taught me some unexpected lessons. First, I want to share three of my initial intentions when wrapping that first baby to my chest.

Babywearing deepens the bond between parent and baby.

Wearing your baby can be as calming and blissful as a good swaddle, with the added benefit of being snug right up to your chest. Sometimes I would even wear my baby skin to skin, under a robe or open sweater. To your baby, nothing beats that familiar smell and unmatchable warmth of a mother. Recreating the close quarters of a womb and combining that with human touch (dads too!) really is the perfect recipe to keeping that baby calm. This is especially helpful for breastfeeding moms, babies love the smell of mama’s milk, and what better way to encourage breastfeeding than resting near the source? Not to mention that fathers who may be wanting to connect with their newborns (and give mom a break!) can also do so through babywearing between feeding and during naps.

Babywearing meets your baby’s needs while allowing you to meet yours.

While your baby is cozy in the nest you made them on your chest, your hands can be free. I certainly don’t recommend doing housework immediately postpartum, but eating a meal (that someone else prepared you) is a lot easier with two hands! I’ve found this to be particularly helpful the second time around, while chasing around big brother. Speaking of toddlers, I can’t think of a better way to keep a busy babe happy and out of trouble in a grocery store- my son stayed strapped on my back every trip until the next was born! From doing your nails to walking the dogs, wearing your baby can give you that freedom that many new mothers feel they have lost.

Babywearing brings baby to the action.

Newborns sleep a lot, and usually at odd times! Getting in the habit of putting them down or tucking them away removes them from social situations. More so, if you have a baby that likes to be held, and very few don’t, you may find yourself removed from social situations as your arms become an immovable bed for your sleeping beauty. When you wear your baby, your baby goes with you, typically undisturbed by movement or change in environment. If your baby is awake, being worn can give baby a chance to see people interact at eye level, providing more social perks than being on the ground with a bunch of toys. I have worn my baby to busy restaurants, parties, meetings, you name it and we’ve been there.

Now for the juicy part. What are the life lessons that await any future babywearers? Spoiler Alert! Here are my surprise extras that I gained just for being a mama with a wrap.

Babywearing gave me confidence!

Babywearing is not totally difficult, you can choose to strap a baby in a backpack and call it a day. I really never loved the fit of a backpack on my petite body, or a sling on one shoulder, so my go-to style has always been a wrap. Choosing to wrap was easy, learning to wrap was tougher, and being confident in my skills, as well as my maternal instincts, took time! It was a while before I would use my wrap in a parking lot, or wrap without a mirror. As with every skill, I began to take pride in myself and this special talent that I could share with my babies.

Babywearing builds a village!

I have met so many wonderful friends through my love of babywearing and the style of parenting it represents. When wrapping, I often have strangers encouraging me, asking if I need any assistance. More than once I’ve had someone literally ask if they could just stand and watch me do it. (Again, talk about confidence boosting!) I’m often met with questions from new mothers about how I do it and where can they learn? Just today at the park I sparked a conversation with another mom as she asked, “How do you get her down from there?” I’ve become a teacher and supporter of my community simply by going outside with my baby! Babywearing has opened to doors to so many new adventures and introduced me to a number of beautiful people who now remain a big part of my life.

Babywearing does not look the same on everyone!

When I first set out to babywear, I went out and bought some fabric and sewed it all together. I came to realize there is a whole community of babywearers who do things all sorts of ways. This can be intimidating because some serious wrappers will spend oodles of money on one hand-woven, “dear-in-search-of”. Yes, that is a term!  Although they are beautiful, and I have a few moderately priced wraps, the wrap I tend to reach for the most is an Ikea sheet that I chopped in half. The response I get when I wear my sheet is just as grand (if not more!) then when I wear my Girasol Amitola Azafaran weft. Furthermore, there are so many different carriers! There are slings, and buckles, and mei tais, oh my! There are as many ways to wear your baby as there are reasons to wear them. Just like everything else in parenting, no single one is better than the rest, you just have to pick what works best for you!

 

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