Today's advice is brought to you by my beautiful client, Carley. She is mama to Callan, wife to Aaron & dog-trainer extraordinaire
! She has an amazing sense of humor & an incredible ability to take things in stride. Carley & I met when she was interviewing Doulas & we both knew instantly that we wanted to work together. She had a powerful & amazing un-medicated birth last March. I've loved watching Carley's journey into motherhood & am excited to share her practical guidance with you today. Enjoy!
Take pictures...but don't forget to also get in the picture! Start when you are pregnant. You may not feel beautiful, but YOU ARE and before you know it your preggers belly is gone and you have your little person to photograph.
Spend at least the first few days home in bed with your baby and partner. Seriously! Everything else can and will wait. This is a perfect time for the three of you to just be. If you can only eke out one day of this (other kids/jobs/in-laws/laundry, I understand reality often creeps back in quicker then we want)...trust me, it is worth it. The ability to just snuggle, bond and breastfeed is priceless!
Ask for help! Some in-laws don't want to overstep their bounds, but do want to help, and unless your mother-in-law (and/or friends) has been brushing up on her mind reading skills, you will need to speak up...or ask your hubby to ask :) This goes for asking professionals as well. The Internet is a large and awesome place...but not for sleep deprived moms. Lactation consultants, post-partum doulas, friends, fellow moms, etc.
Cloth wipes in homemade wipe solution and a wipe warmer can be used for more then just dirty bottoms.
Cloth diapers are awesome AFTER the meconium has passed. (note from Lauren: you can always place disposable liners in your cloth diapers those first few days if you don't want to use disposable diapers.)
Time gets warped after you have kids! Some times it flies, sometimes it goes at a snails pace. Try taking everything in stride and don't forget to breath and smile!
Snack bars and water bottles can and should be stored everywhere. (From Lauren: I tell my clients this ALL the time. You never know when you're going to get hungry/thirsty... it could be while you're trying to get baby to sleep or stuck under a nursing child. Having a basket of non-perishable snacks within arms reach is a life-saver!!)
If your gut says it isn't right, then it's not! Find a different pediatrician/ lactation consultant/ friend to talk to...
Smile and say thank you! Everyone will have advice/comments, etc., just smile and move on. Save your energy for late night feedings and picture taking!
What advice do you have for new moms? I'd love to share it... please email me a firstname.lastname@example.org to submit a guest post.
My sister is here visiting with her 2 month old baby, Owen. As she's here from out of state & many of her friends and family haven't met him yet, you can imagine how busy she's been. Almost every waking hour of every day of her trip has been spent introducing baby Owen to everyone & catching up on life. I'm not even the mama of this sweet baby & I'm exhausted. As I've been observing these interactions over the past few days, I've begun to think more about "Tribes" and postpartum care. To me a tribe is any group of people (family or friends) who surround you in support & love. My own tribe is amazing, as is my sister's.
The tribe's role in supporting a postpartum mother is a big one and can vary greatly from family to family. Each person in that tribe contributes something special & unique which can help the new mama as she transitions from pregnancy to having a newborn. However, even though our tribe's have the best of intentions, often times I see that they are so eager to meet the new baby that they overstep boundaries or make the meeting all about them when it should be about nurturing the growth of the new family.The one thing I cannot stress enough when I discuss postpartum care with my doula clients is setting boundaries early. My biggest tip is to send a mass email letting your tribe know what to expect once the baby arrives. Some clients set visiting hours, others simply request that people call to make an "appointment". Some clients
don't have visitors for weeks, others mere days. I'm always an advocate for doing what is best for your family, but it is helpful for your tribe to have a heads up. Communicating your boundaries clearly is the best way to go about this. Here are some things to consider when setting boundaries:-Will you be having visitors in the hospital? If so, will you be limiting it to family or will friends be welcome?
-Keep in mind that many hospitals have strict visiting hours & some don't allow children under a certain
age.-Will you be allowing people to hold your baby when they come to visit?
-Will this depend on baby's mood, baby's sleep & feeding patterns, etc.?-Will there be a time limit to the visitations?
-30 minutes is a good limit so you & baby don't get overtired, overstressed or overstimulated. I'd
recommend no more then an hour at a time. -Do you feel comfortable asking close friends & family to help you around the house when they come to visit?-When your tribe comes to visit, always put baby first. If baby needs to feed or be changed or needs to sleep, then let your tribe know
. If that means that your visit comes to an end early, that's OK. You may have more considerations & I'd encourage you to examine them fully before starting your process of communication. Clarity is incredibly necessary & sometimes you may have to be blunt. I guarantee you that some people will not understand your desires & will try to test your boundaries. DO NOT LET THEM. Keep it simple, yet firm... but loving too. We don't want to alienate those who support us, but in the end your health & the health of your growing family come first.
For more tips on how to set healthy boundaries, check out this article from Psychology Today.When you are ready for visitors, for help, or for anything else, communicate that as well. And always make sure to extend your appreciation and love to your entire tribe. Most people know that new mamas don't have time to send "Thank You" cards, but even a simple text or email saying "thanks" will be well received. What else do you think would be appropriate to communicate to your tribe? Do you have any tips to share with new moms on setting & sticking to boundaries?
There are many philosophies when it comes to nourishing a postpartum mother with food. Some people say just eat what's quick and easy. Others say there are specific foods you should eat & at a specific temperature. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, USDA Food Pyramid... you have a lot of options to choose from. But among all the guidelines, one thing rings true: postpartum mothers should be eating healing foods that nurture her body & help her produce milk for her baby.
Nutritional depletion can be quite common following labor & birth. Think about how much a woman's body goes through during this beautiful process. Most hospitals discourage women from eating & drinking during labor (there is VERY little research to support this by the way) but traditional birthing attendants see the value in supporting a mother's energy output with appropriate food & drink. Even so, a woman's body is doing hard work when she's bringing her baby earth-side; even if she eats & drinks in labor, there is still much replenishment that is needed.
Despite the fact that mama is no longer pregnant, she is still sustaining life by nursing her newborn baby, therefore the caloric intake should not change... and in some cases may even need to be increased. Nutrition experts recommend eating plenty of protein, healthy fats, and drinking lots of replenishing fluids immediately following birth to allow the body to recuperate and to encourage milk production.
Having to think about cooking while bonding with your newborn baby can be an arduous task... lucky for you there are many ways you can plan ahead! One thing I encourage my clients to do as they're patiently waiting for baby's arrival is to cook some nourishing meals suitable for freezing. I recommend they find healthy, hearty, & comforting recipes that hubby can reheat easily and that can be paired with a simple side dish. Lasagna (with reduced amounts of cheese) is always a favorite, as are thick soups or stews. I also encourage my clients to have plenty of foods on hand that can be eaten with one hand... raw veggies, wraps, string cheese, etc. are great snacks to have available when holding or nursing a baby
Friends and family can help out as well. There are great websites which offer "meal registries". The 2 most prominent ones are Meal Baby & Meal Train. These websites are very user friendly & can be customized with personal information such as allergies, favorite dishes, preferences, etc. The one downside to this type of arrangement is that many people see a meal drop-off as an invitation to stay and visit. The postpartum period is a sacred one and should be guarded. If you're concerned about having too many visitors I'd encourage you to set strong boundaries before baby even arrives. Let friends & family know that a meal drop-off is simply that and that longer visits will be encouraged when you're comfortable. Believe it or not I've had clients leave an ice cooler on the front steps with a gracious thank you card & that was that.
Postpartum nutritional needs are very similar to that of a pregnant mother. I'd recommend checking out the USDA Nutritional Guidelines for Pregnancy & Lactation. While I don't 100% agree with the food pyramid guidelines, I believe it is a good starting off point. In my opinion, proteins, veggies, & healthy fats should be the emphasis of any postpartum mother's diet. Dairy & simple carbs should be limited. Replenishing fluids are an absolute necessity... electrolyte water, mother's milk tea, room temperature water. Avoid sodas and caffeine at all costs... TRUST ME. And please don't worry about losing that baby weight quite yet. Our bodies are meant to hold onto the fat stores that we accumulate during pregnancy. This is to ensure that we have enough energy to feed off of when we're nursing our sweet babies.
The most important thing is that you're getting enough calories to nourish both you & your growing baby without further stressing yourself out. Obviously the ideal for anyone (pregnant, nursing, or otherwise) is to be able to eat a completely organic and balanced meal 3 times a day. But for a nursing & recovering mama, that is just not realistic. If all you have energy for is to call for some take out, just do it and don't beat yourself up about it. Above all, listen to your body & what it needs in order to heal. Take your time and have patience. The first 6-8 weeks after the birth will be different then anything else you've ever experienced. There may be some rough times, but take it one day at a time and do what is best for you, your family, and your baby.
Lentil Soup Recipe from Aviva Jill Romm
*Easy to prepare, makes great leftovers, and can be a meal, a complement to a meal, or even a hearty snack.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dried green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
black pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped mint (optional)*
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 cloves crushed, fresh garlic (optional)*
1 16-ounce can pureed tomatoes
6 cups of water
Saute the onion, garlic*, carrots, and pepper in the olive oil, leaving out the mint. Add the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour, adding the mint* about 5 minutes before finished cooking. The lentils should be soft when done. Add black pepper to taste if desired.
*A note about mint & garlic from Lauren: stronger flavors such as mint and garlic can be bothersome to a newly nursing baby. If you make this delicious soup using these two ingredients and find that your baby becomes fussy or uncomfortable after eating, they may be the culprit. Just an FYI.*
She was lying in the hospital bed, snuggling her baby and clearly on a beautiful birth high. She has just experienced her second un-medicated birth and even though she was tired, the smile on her face and glow in her eyes spoke volumes.
Her husband was taking a few moments to update family when she turned to me and asked a question. I could tell by the tone in her voice and the change in her demeanor that this topic was causing her some anxiety even moments after her euphoric birth experience.
"How do I tell my friends about my birth? How do I explain to them why I chose to give birth without drugs? None of them understand & some even put me down because of it."
Silence filled the room for a few minutes as I contemplated my answer.
"Tell them the truth," I finally said.
"Explain to them that giving birth has been a very positive and empowering experience for you. Tell them everything you're feeling in this moment. Don't do it in a judgmental or condescending way as if choosing to have an epidural is a bad decision, but tell them exactly how you feel about it. And if they have questions, answer them honestly and with compassion. Understand that they may not have not done their research or maybe their birth experiences have been quite different from yours. Just love them and express that your birthing choices are yours and yours alone."
"OK, yeah. I can do that."
A week ago I had another client ask a similar question at our postpartum visit.
"How do I talk to my pregnant friends about childbirth? I don't want to scare them, but I don't want to lie to them either."
This mama had every intention of giving birth without medication, but when labor became too intense she opted for an epidural. As her doula I supported her through it and helped her realize that there should be no regrets. When processing her birth she has very positive feelings about it all, but also recalls that it was much more painful and intense than she expected.
Again, my response was to tell the truth. "Emphasize the positive and be real about your experience. When talking about the pain in childbirth, don't talk about it in a scary way, but instead in a realistic way. Offer advice on how to handle the contractions and the many things that helped you cope. Explain that every person's experience is different and that it's best to approach childbirth with an open mind and heart."
As a doula and a woman who desires to have children one day, I find it troubling that women are judging each others birthing choices and scaring each other with their birth stories. I don't think we need to romanticize childbirth, but I also don't think we need to be telling others to "get the epidural ASAP!" These types of attitudes toward childbirth can be extremely damaging.
It is my belief that we need to be real, but real in a positive way. In a way that encourages women to do their research and learn to advocate for themselves. In a way that helps a woman trust in her body and believe in her ability to birth her baby as she chooses. In a way that expresses love and acceptance.
But how do we do that while still honoring ourselves and without passing judgements? Well, I think it's a work in progress. I think the perception regarding childbirth in this country is shifting exponentially. Women are beginning to take charge of their births which is so encouraging. This generation of women has the ability to truly change how American women birth their babies. I believe a combination of knowledge and love is the key to taking the first steps toward expressing the reality of childbirth in America & to supporting women in their birthing choices.
What are your thoughts on birth stories? What was your experience when telling others about your birth(s)? I'd love to hear the responses from those around you & how you dealt with any judgements or if your story helped educate or empower someone.
Postpartum Wellness... that's a topic that has been popping up in a lot of conversations lately and an area that many of my clients are expressing the desire for a more significant amount of support from their families & friends.
As a doula, I stress the importance of postpartum wellness and try my hardest to educate my clients on the reality of the situation as well as the gentle transition that is required. However, I'm finding that many of my clients are getting a decent amount of push-back from their own parents or friends.
Somewhere in the history of our evolving species, we've lost the art of supporting a postpartum mother, baby, & family. Gone are the days of nurturing the mom with home-cooked meals, encouraging words, and hands-on help... incoming are the days of telling a mom to get back into her exercise routine ASAP, telling her to just give her baby a bottle, and sharing horror stories of parenting.
I know I'm not alone in my frustration!
The past few clients I've served have needed additional support in the postpartum period and because of this I have begun doing more research on the topic. I'm currently reading Aviva Jill Romm's book Natural Health After Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness and I HIGHLY recommend it. It has some amazing tips on how to prepare during pregnancy, ways families can help, and even a section on how to nurture the father.
There are MANY components to Wholistic Postpartum Wellness taken from many different cultural traditions and beliefs. Over the next few weeks I'll be writing about the many different components and how doulas, families, friends, or even the mamas themselves can contribute to a more peaceful, gentle, and healthy journey through the 4th trimester.
Women today, trying to compose lives that will honor all their commitments
and still express all their potential with a certain unitary grace, do not have an easy task.
- Mary Catherine Bateson
One of my services as a doula is postpartum support, not only during those first few weeks after the baby is born, but in the months and even years following the birth. Often my clients ask me questions about weight loss and I find that it is a really sensitive subject for a lot of new moms.
I'm pretty sure society and the media are large factors in what causes postpartum weight loss (or the lack thereof) to be such a big issue for women. Daily we are bombarded with images of celebrities who have personal chefs and personal trainers to keep them on track. We also see headlines like the one recently in the news entitled "Gisele Bundchen Shows Off Her Post-Baby Bikini Body"... these types of images and news stories are extremely discouraging and quite honestly not helpful.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for these new mamas (during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum) is to "listen to your body." My guest blogger today, Michelle Hastie, has elaborated on that piece of advice with her post...