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.
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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
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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.

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).

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  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.

 

3 Things Every Pregnant Mom Must Know

Pregnant in Baltimore

You’re pregnant, congratulations! There is so much to do to prepare for a new baby and even more to learn. We recommend taking a quality childbirth education class, but in the meantime, here are 3 things every pregnant mom must know.

Eat protein.

Eating adequate protein is essential to a healthy pregnancy. Not only does it help grow and heal muscles (we are going a human after all), but it provides moms-to-be with energy, all while stabilizing blood sugars and helping reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Staying hydrated is another important part during pregnancy, drink lots of water stay hydrated!

Blood volume increases 50-60% during pregnancy, and daily protein intake supports that extra volume.  Without it, mom’s blood vessels constrict, increasing blood pressure and potentially leading to pre-eclampsia.  It is recommended that pregnant moms consume 80g of protein daily.  Eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, yogurt… eat all the protein!

 

An epidural is more than just a needle. 

I support women in their birth choices, regardless of what they are.  I also believe in true informed consent.  Many times, women decide to get an epidural and they don’t realize or aren’t told all that comes with the epidural.  Epidurals, like dehydration, can lower blood pressure.  Therefore, before the epidural can be given, mom must receive 2 bags of IV fluids to ensure she’s hydrated.  Once the epidural is given, mom will be hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor.  A pulse oximeter will be placed on her finger, and a blood pressure cuff on her arm.  Because mom won’t be able to get up to use the bathroom, a catheter will need to be placed.  Epidurals are known to slow contractions, so pitocin will likely be given to make contractions stronger. As you can see, there’s a lot more to an epidural than just a needle.  

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Choosing a care provider and birth location are the biggest decisions you will make during your pregnancy.

You can prepare for your birth for 9 months.  You can eat well, take a childbirth class, and hire a doula, but if you don’t choose your care provider carefully, it can derail the birth you are hoping for.  It is imperative that you and your care provider are on the same page and have the same values regarding birth.  For example, if you are desiring a natural birth, choosing a provider with a high induction or cesarean rate will only make achieving your birth goals an uphill battle.  It’s important to ask your care provider tough questions, but it’s equally important to get satisfactory answers.  If you feel rushed, blown off, or mocked, it might be time to shop around.

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If you’re pregnant in Baltimore and looking for a modern, comprehensive childbirth education class, take at look at our Birth Boot Camp curriculum.  We cover these topics and many more in our 10-week class and will leave you and your partner feeling confident and ready.  Contact us to discuss how we can help you and your partner prepare for an amazing birth!

Why You Should Consider Hiring a Postpartum Doula

postpartum doula Baltimore

 

Postpartum mothers need support, especially in a culture that unrealistically expects women to bounce back so quickly after giving birth. As a society, we can be so hard on new mothers. Culturally, new moms often receive messages that there is shame in needing help. This is a huge shift from 100 years ago when mothers had a tribe of women lending their love and support when a baby was born. Moms may experience feelings of guilt for letting the laundry pile up while they nurse and bond with their baby and some may feel inadequate for hanging onto baby weight, choosing different parenting philosophies than their families, or needing more time to adjust to motherhood. In this social media/Pinterest age where everyone seemingly has it so together, modern mothers are under an immense amount of pressure to do it all and to do it all well.

A new mother has just gone through an intense physical and emotional experience and needs time to rest, heal, and get to know her baby and growing family. A postpartum mother needs support, nourishing foods that promote health and healing, and she needs to be able to sit and feed her baby as long as she needs without feeling guilt over the pile of dishes in the sink. But how is a veteran mother supposed to rest after having her baby when she has a home and other children to tend to and no real support network to help? And how is a new mother to rest when she’s navigating the physical and emotional demands of her new role as a mother?

A postpartum doula is a trained professional who not only brings support to the whole family after the arrival of a new baby, but she also brings with her a wealth of knowledge related to baby care, breastfeeding, and postpartum health. A postpartum doula can fill the gaps, so the family has more freedom to do what is most important, be together.

Perhaps you’ve had a cesarean and your partner doesn’t get much time off of work to help with the house and the other children. You have a lot to tend to, but are healing from major surgery and your baby is nursing or wanting to be held around the clock. What’s a new mom to do? A postpartum doula can come over, do a few loads of laundry, play with and look after your kids, fix lunch and prepare and easy dinner you’ll be eating later that night.

Maybe you’re a first time mom, you have no experience with babies, and you’re feeling a little lost. A postpartum doula can come over to help you feel more comfortable caring for your baby. The doula may show you how to give baby a bath, she may teach you some breastfeeding positions to make nursing more comfortable, and she may give you pointers on calming a fussy baby. A postpartum doula also comes with a list of vetted resources to help meet all of your postpartum needs whether it is a lactation consultant or a therapist specializing in postpartum mood disorders.

Maybe you’re really struggling and are finding the lack of sleep is really effecting you. A postpartum doula can come lend a hand and tend to baby overnight, only disturbing you if you choose to nurse.

Happy mother and daughter with her babysitter

 

 

 

The Nurturing Root provides

 

 

 

postpartum doula services to mothers and families in Baltimore, Annapolis, and the surrounding counties. As postpartum doulas, we can help and support your family in a variety of ways to suit your needs:

  • Clean and fold laundry
  • Support the overall transition with a new baby by providing education on baby care, baby sleep, diapering, etc.
  • Provide a list of local resources to help make your postpartum experience a peaceful one
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Preparation of healthy snacks & meals for your whole family to enjoy
  • Sibling care
  • Errand running
  • An ear to listen
  • Overnight assistance
  • Light housekeeping, including sweeping, mopping, dishes, etc.

If you are an expecting or new mother in the Baltimore, Annapolis area and are looking for postpartum support, our postpartum doulas at The Nurturing Root would be honored to serve you as you transition to a larger family.

 

30 Birth Affirmations and Quotes That Will Inspire You to Rock Your Birth

birth affirmations and quotes

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was planning a homebirth with a midwife. I trusted my body to give birth and knew I had a phenomenal birth team to support me on that journey. While I was confident in the birth process, the media and people around me weren’t sending me the same positive messages.

Sometime during my second trimester, I caught a segment on The Discovery Channel about childbirth. At one point during the segment, it equated pushing a baby out of your vagina to pushing a baseball down your throat. This imagery shook and rattled me. It really threw me for a loop. For a minute, it really made me question the path I had chosen for my birth, but then, I had a moment of clarity; a moment of POWER. What that segment failed to mention was that the vagina is made and designed to stretch to make way for a baby. Your throat was never intended to have a baseball pass through it. I had to work really hard to stay in that positive, confident frame of mind. It can be difficult to remain calm and empowered when the images we see of birth in the media are full of terror and screaming women.

From that moment on, I promised myself to only surround myself with people and images that lifted me up and strengthened my confidence. I watched birth video after birth video showing empowered women rocking their births. I read many, many birth stories on various birth blogs, and often talked to women who had similar beliefs about childbirth. I surrounded myself with beautiful birth imagery that not only helped with my confidence, but also inspired me and helped me feel excited to give birth.

Reading birth affirmations and quotes from respected professionals in the birth field was another great way I stayed inspired about my upcoming birth. I printed and cut out affirmations and quotes and put them all over my house; on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, on my nightstand. Saying them out loud and believing the words I was saying really solidified everything for me.

Below are 30 wonderful affirmations and quotes. I hope they help light a fire in your belly to give birth like the powerful, courageous, and beautiful woman that you are.

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1. I embrace the wisdom and innate knowledge of my body.

2. I surrender to the power of my body. My contractions bring my baby closer.

3. I feel the power of my body with each contraction. My body works flawlessly.

4. My muscles work in complete harmony to make birthing easier.

5. My cervix opens and allows my baby to ease down with each contraction.

6. I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby.

7. I trust my body and my baby.

8. My body has been perfectly designed for giving birth naturally.

9. My body and pelvis open wide for my baby to pass through.

10. Each contraction produces a healthy, positive pain that I can handle.

11. My courage and patience will send my baby into my arms.

12. My body knows what to do. I will surrender fully and completely.

13. I have grown this baby; I will birth her fearlessly.

14. I am a strong woman and my body is powerful. I trust my instincts to know what I need for my labor.

15. Countless women have given birth before me. Their courage and strength are with me.

16. My pelvis releases and opens easily to make way for baby.

17. Good strong contractions will help me meet my baby.

18. I will welcome my baby in peace and joy.

19. My body contains all the knowledge necessary to give birth to my baby.

20. My baby knows how and when to be born.

21. Birth is a safe, wonderful, and powerful experience.

22. “The strength that is displayed in labor and birth is something that no one can EVER take from you in your life. Elixir of courage.” –Desirre Andrews

23. “We are made to do this work and its not easy…I would say that pain is part of the glory, or the tremendous mystery of life. And that if anything, it’s a kind of privilege to stand so close to such an incredible miracle.”
Simone in Klasson 2001

24. “The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will have the power.” Heather McCue

25. “Just as a woman’s heart knows how to pump, her lungs know how to inhale, and her hands to pull back from fire, so she knows when and how to give birth.” Virginia DiOrio

26. “Don’t think of it as pain. Think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all of your attention.” Ina Mae Gaskin, Spiritual Midwifery

27. “It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been there, but to watch a woman access her full power as a woman to give birth is awe-inspiring, and I never get tired of being witness to it. It’s an honor to watch that transformation take place.” Julie Bates, CNM

28. Why do birth work? “I do it, because nothing else… nothing else, compares to watching a woman move mountains with her own self, to watching her rise to a challenge and meet the moment with all she has, and that experience is only enhanced when she is supported by those who care for her, respect her, and want her to be empowered by the journey.” The Yarn Harlot

29. “Not only do I trust my body, I am in awe of all it can do. I don’t know if I will ever be able to accomplish anything as marvelous as birthing and nursing two babies. That is more amazing to me than running a marathon or climbing a mountain. I have created and nurtured life; nothing tops that. ” ~ Corbin Lewars (via Midwifery Today)

30. “Remember that each labor contraction is caused by a wave of oxytocin coursing through your body. So, very literally, each birthing surge is a surge of love. Allow yourself to meet each surge with the same warmth, intimacy and acceptance that you would experience during a kiss or a loving embrace.” Lauralyn Curtis

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Salt & Protein Can Reduce Risk for Pre-eclampsia

Salt & Protein can reduce risk for preeclampsia

Eating a whole foods diet, with adequate amounts of protein, and water to thirst, can help alleviate many of the complications women face during pregnancy.  A diet high in protein can help repair and grow muscle, stabilize blood sugar, and can lower a mother’s risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Pre-eclampsia, a potentially life threatening condition, affects between 5-8% of mothers.  Symptoms include high blood pressure, edema, rapid weight gain, visual disturbances, headaches, and pain in the upper right quadrant.  The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby.

When I was pregnant with my first son, my midwife suggested I eat 80-120 grams of protein a day.  Without fully understanding why this was so important, I gave it a shot, but really didn’t track my protein intake too closely.  Around 35 weeks, my blood pressure started to rise, and at every prenatal appointment it was higher and higher.  In an effort to reduce my blood pressure, friends and family told me to cut my salt intake, and unfortunately, I listened.  As a result, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 36 weeks and risked out of my homebirth.  At 37 weeks, I went to the hospital for an induction and had a very difficult birth that ended up being vastly different than anything I had hoped or planned for.  I learned the hard way just how important protein and salt intake is in the maternal diet.

As someone who has experienced pre-eclampsia, it is important that I help spread the message about how diet can impact your and baby’s health and birth.  This graphic explains how the body reacts when mom does not consume enough protein, calories and salt.

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(The Brewer Diet can be very beneficial to pregnant mothers and focuses on a whole foods diet that is high in protein. This website is a wonderful resource to for those interested in learning more about The Brewer Diet. Proper nutrition really can make a huge difference in your birth experience.)

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