As a Birth Doula, I want everyone to have the very best support possible. So I want to share with you my top 5 tips for labour.....I know they will help!
1. Movement - is crucial for getting baby engaged in the pelvis, get under the pubic bone and find it's way out of the pelvic outlet. The good news is, you can still move with an epidural. Your Doula is highly trained in this area. But if you don't have a Doula, make sure you know what movements are helpful to get baby locked in and rotating through the pelvis. Ask your nurse and any birth support you have to help you move and change positions regularly.
2. Sitting backward on the toilet - yep, please do this, even in early labour and before you get an epidural. They don't call it the dilation station for no reason!
3. Keep your space calm - if you want to keep the Oxytocin flowing, it is important to keep lights low, and the room calm and quiet. You are not required to allow students to attend your birth. Your birth support should protect that space. Stay connected to your partner and/or other people supporting your birth. Listen to music in earphones, record meditations, affirmations or anything that elicits a calming response.
4. Make your wishes known - have a birth plan that outlines you're preferences. Know that sometimes things change. But include that too. Write down what your idea birth looks like and also what you will need to process and make informed decisions if plans change.
5. Know your options - birth is not an experience that you want to wing. Educate yourself! If you don't have a Doula, take a prenatal class, there are inexpensive online courses that can help you have a more informed birth. Borrow books from the library, watch a million YouTube videos.
Hiring a Doula means you have an educated birth companion to provide you with information and support, someone who will help you will all the things. But you don't require a Doula to have an informed, empowering birth! But you will have to know what you want, be flexible and listen to your intuition.
I have been following the formula shortage story. Today I saw a news segment that inspired my desire to write this post.
The formula recall and scary shortages that are happening in the United States and to a lesser extend in Canada has brought forward lots of formula shamming and inevitably mommy wars. But....... more prominently and most importantly, it's galvanized many mothers to work together to try and ensure babies get fed! Which is of course what ultimately matters, and is beautiful to see!
Mothers with a freezers full of frozen breastmilk are meeting mother's who can't find formula in retail parking lots, sharing their stock piles of breastmilk to ensure babies get fed! Breastfeeding parents are sharing locations of stores that have formula in stock. They are giving any formula they may have been given by companies or purchased that is safe.
It's bringing out a level of unity that all mothers need and we are long overdue for! We need to support one another in a crisis , and let's be clear, babies left without adequate nutrition is a crisis. But maybe the greater lesson is, that we need to support each other in times of crisis and in times of calm.
While of course, the some toxic threads will continue to exist, let's celebrate and focus on this moment, where Mother's are coming together to make sure our babies are fed.
Our children are the world to each of us, despite feeding by breast, bottle, or both.
Breastfeeding, chestfeeding, body feeding, whichever term speaks to you, is HARD! Let's not pull punches or mince works, it is hard work. Not only is it hard work, nursing your new baby is pretty much your new job. I tell my clients, find a super comfortable place to nurse, "you live here now!"
I say none of this to discourage anyone about breastfeeding, it is a beautiful process, it is the ideal food source for your baby and it is perfectly calibrated for your baby's changing needs. But that does not negate the difficulty of it. For most, there will be worries and challenges to face. Not being honest about the potential struggles does a disservice to people and it makes them feel unheard.
There are not enough resources for nursing families, sometimes you are coming home from the hospital before your milk supply even arrives. Families can be left scrambling and feeling extremely overwhelmed.
So how can you set yourself up for a smoother ride, or at least have resources available if you are struggling or confused.
* Start when you are pregnant, read breastfeeding books, take a breastfeeding class, if you have a Doula, make sure you spend some real time practicing techniques.
* Know what challenges exist and be prepared, (buy silverettes, have Epsom salts ready for your Haakaa incase of a plugged duct).
* Try your pump out in advance (after 37 wks.) Sterilize any bottles and have them ready for use.
* Watch MANY videos. We live in a culture where we do not witness breastfeeding, watch lots.
* Have a list of resources ready to go, think Lactation Counselor's and/or Consultants. Find your local La Leche League group, drop in groups and Public Health phone numbers.
Breastfeeding is amazing. You can do it! You may just need some extra support.
This post is in no way intended to alienate any formula, or combo feeding parents, it is intended for the breastfeeding reader. This Doula is very much in support of all types of feeding, what works for you, works for me!
Okay, so this woman is clearly really jazzed about her breathing. You might not think at all about how you will breathe during labour.......but let me tell you why you should!
First let's be clear, I am talking about patterned, intentional breathing, paying close attention to your breath, not the automatic kind that we are doing right now. There are soooooo many patterned breathing techniques that you can Google and practice. Here are just a few examples:
-inhale 3, exhale 6
The great news is, the best technique is the one that works best for you! They all help, no one method is superior to the other. So how does patterned breathing help in labour exactly?
The key is practice, explore different techniques and choose the one that feels the most natural to you. Your Doula can help with this. Then practice! Practice alone, practice with your support persons, practice during stressful pregnancy moments, so when you are in labour, you have already mastered the technique that helps calm and focus you. You won't regret it.
Ever wonder how a photographer captures people, in the right light, at the right moment, freezing that moment time? Me too. I was excited to chat with maternity, newborn and family photographer Brogan Bentley to find out.
Tell us about your business and how you found photography?
That's a bit of a long story haha! Both of my grandmothers were always carrying those old school film or disposable cameras around and documenting everything. So I come by it honestly. I was always passionate about it and when digital cameras came out my mom bought one. I don't think she ever really used the thing but I would take it to elementary school and photograph my friends. They used a lot of them for this little yearbook when we were graduating from elementary school to middle school and I was so proud of them! I was just always that "girl with the camera", buying and trying different ones until I could afford a DSLR in 2011. I rode and owned horses, so I started bringing it with me to horse shows and capturing the riders. No one was really doing it at the time for western events. I travelled around to the MBRA (barrel racing) shows and selling the photos. Then just researched and learned all I could to start offering portrait sessions with horses and dogs. A few years later (2014ish - 2017) that moved to a lot of models and worked with local brands (I was also photographing couples and families). After that in 2017, I had my first daughter and I became more interested in documenting families, maternity and newborns. I realized how quickly time truly goes. You blink and they've grown into this whole new person. I wanted to be able to capture those moments for families to look back on and to pass down through the generations.
What is the best part of photographing newborns and children?
Seeing the connections. For sure. I love how unique each family is and being able to document their connections to each other in whatever season of life they're in is so special. Newborns especially change SO fast and that whole transition from pregnancy to being a parent is amazing to watch unfold.
How do you get the babies to be so still? What kind of environment do you create?
I don't! I am very much baby-led or child-led. We go at their pace, I don't want us to feel rushed. I don't make them do anything that's uncomfortable. Babies are sometimes asleep and we do snuggle shots and details or they're alert and we get those. If they're crying or fussy, I document that. The parents comforting them, nursing, whatever that looks like. I'm there to capture the real moments. Those are what parents are going to want to remember the most when their children are older.
Without naming names, what is your funniest moment photographing a baby?
Funniest. Hm. I guess I've been pretty lucky but so far I haven't had a baby pee or poop on anyone haha. I'm sure since I've just said that it's now going to happen at my next newborn session!
What is your favorite location to photograph families?
Oh, that's a tough one! I don't have one favorite. I photograph families both outdoors and in-home. For outdoors, I do love a good beach session probably because my own family spends a lot of time travelling around to different beaches. Anywhere that the kids have space to play and interact with nature. It makes them more comfortable with the whole situation and with me when they have something to do.
Do your own children like getting their picture taken?
Sometimes. For my oldest, it's about 10 minutes or so before she's over it. My middle (almost 2) is tough. You can't tell her to do something, she's very wild haha. So for her I just follow and hope to capture what I'm looking for. The baby is the easiest!
How should a family prepare for a photo session?
That's a great question! I'm very hands-on with the session prep. I have a client closet that I'm constantly adding to and that helps alleviate some of the pressure if they don't want to go out and purchase something new. I also have links to online shops that I recommend. Bring snacks and water, extra layers or a change of clothes for the young ones in case of spills or accidents. Try to not let young ones nap in the car if you can help it. Most of them wake up very cranky but if it happens then we go with the flow and work with it. This is when those sweet snuggle shots happen as we wait for them to wake up a bit.
If a family wanted to book you, how would they get in touch with you? What is the process of booking a session?
I have Instagram and Facebook but the best way is to reach out to my email (email@example.com). There's also a contact form on my website. The first step is to get in touch, tell me about your family and what you're hoping to get out of a session. Then if we are a good fit we sign the contract, the client pays a retainer that secures your session date on my schedule. After that, we finalize the wardrobe and location.
I also run a FB group called Motherhood in the Annapolis Valley where we have created a very supportive and fun community of parents. It's a totally judgement-free space to ask for advice or to just unload your struggles. I started to have professionals come in and chat with me over FB live to the group. We ask questions and discuss different topics. That's been super fun!
Forget women be shopping, women be tired! Mother's, those who work outside and inside the home, are exhausted. We parent with our families further away from us than they have ever been. Most of us are sorely lacking a village. And if that weren't enough and it is more than enough, we are all doing it through a pandemic, that seemingly has no end in sight.
New data from several countries confirms what we already know: women are doing the bulk of the work needed to keep households running- often while juggling paid work. Hence the reason why we are so fatigued. I would not pretend to have a solution to this endemic, but I see you, I am you.
What I am doing to try and make my life easier for me? First off, despite being type A, I have given up the drive for perfection. I even forgot school picture day this year and the sky didn't fall. I simply cannot do everything, all the time. There aren't enough hours in the day. I have learned to say no, no to things that I do not want to do. No to things that stretch me beyond capacity. I ask more from those around me, I don't assume they know what needs to be accomplished. I say when I am tapped out and am vocal about when I need to tag out.
So to all you mother's pushing through, you are seen, it is hard, so impossibly hard. I hope you get some moments, if only moments of stillness for yourself, to fill your cup over the holidays. Love yourself and give yourself the grace we are so quick to give others.
We all know that massage feels great! But do you know about all the benefits it adds to your prenatal and postpartum experience? The lovely Jenny Jarrett, Birth Doula and Registered Massage Therapist helped us out with her top reasons why you should explore massage during and after your pregnancy.
The Top 5 Benefits to Prenatal Massage
1. Stress Relief: Growing a human can be a worrisome business as well as physically taxing on the body. Prenatal massage with a well trained therapist can help ease anxieties and promote relaxation.
2. Decrease Muscle Aches: A pregnant body undergoes so many changes that the muscles are constantly trying to support strength and movement in the skeleton as these changes happen over time. Massage helps relieve the tension in muscles so it can better support the body.
3. Decrease Edema: Fluid levels significantly increase during pregnancy, and sometimes can result in edema (an excess of fluid build-up). Massage helps to recirculate this fluid and increase comfort in the pregnant person.
4. Reduce Joint Pain: Sleeping positions, weight bearing, and relaxin influenced joints can lead to joint pain. Particularly in the hips, low back and neck. Massage promotes circulation to these areas, relieves muscle tensions that pull on the joints and can reduce joint pain.
5. Improve Sleep: Thanks to all of the above mentioned benefits, a pregnant person can often have improved sleep following massage. Less stress, decreased muscle and joint pain, and decreased discomfort from swelling all lead to a better night’s rest.
Top 5 Benefits to Postpartum Massage
1. Decrease Muscle Tension: Being a new parent is hard work emotionally and physically. Massage can help decrease the muscle tension from stress, prolonged postures (i.e.: feeding baby), and physical strains from labour/delivery.
2. Increase Pelvic Floor Health: Believe it or not, one doesn’t necessarily need to cross their legs when they sneeze after they have vaginally delivered a baby. A massage therapist skilled in pelvic floor health can help decrease tension, promote circulation, and decrease scar tissue or fascial restrictions from birth (vaginal or C-section). This can lead to improvements with continence and sexual function.
3. Reduce Stress: Self Care is so important for a new parent. It is invaluable to carve out a bit of time for oneself to care for the body. Massage can be an important piece in restoring wellness to a parent.
4. Injury Rehabilitation: Unfortunately, sometimes pregnancy and labour can cause injury to a person. Injury can also occur in the postpartum period for many reasons including repetitive strains/stress. Massage can help cue the body to reset, and begin to heal.
5. Decrease Swelling: That excess fluid doesn’t always go away quickly following delivery of baby. This is particularly the case if one has received IV fluids during labour and delivery or the immediate postpartum period. A massage helps to circulate that excess fluid so that it leaves the body quicker and leaves the person much more comfortable.
You can find Jenny at:
Balance Massage & Doula
Induction of labour is big topic, not really a quick blog post topic, but let's try and cover the basics. Induction has been becoming more common place, as a Doula, I see this all the time. And it's on the rise. Obstetricians often offer an induction beginning at 39 weeks. This is because some studies have shown that the cesarean rates are somewhat decreased if induced at 39 weeks.
It is super important to remember that there are hard and soft indicators for induction.
*your 39 weeks
*your over your estimated due date
*well controlled gestational diabetes
*suspected big baby
*for your providers convenience
*done being pregnant
*uncontrolled gestational diabetes
*intrauterine growth restriction
*your 42 weeks + (this is when stillbirth becomes statistically significant)
There are always some exceptions to both hard and soft indications, this is just a quick list.
75% of people will give birth by 41 weeks and 2 days after the last menstrual period. You may find yourself under pressure by a provider to get labour started. If there are no hard indicators that waiting for baby is a problem, remember, you have a choice. You can decline an induction. You can ask for some work up to ensure baby is happy. Inductions have risks, often those risks far outweigh the risk of waiting for labour to begin on it's own. Know your options and understand the difference between relative risk vs. absolute risk (your actual risk rather than a population level risk). Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. Your due date is not an expiration date in a low risk pregnancy!
Sleep, yours and your baby's, is one of the most asked about topics when working with families. So I thought I would ask someone who knows a lot about the topic, Ashley Cooley from Birth Baby Sleep. Ashley is a birth, baby and sleep specialist. I asked her the burning question that I often get asked. What are your top tip to help newborns sleep? Ashley was generous enough to give us her top five!
Top 5 Sleep Tips for the Newborn Stage
Newborns need a lot of sleep. On average, they’ll clock in about 14-17hrs of sleep per day but by no means is this sleep organized. This is because babies need to be fed frequently to meet their growth demands, but also because they do not yet have their own functioning circadian rhythm - that “internal body clock” that tells us when to sleep and when to wake-up all within a roughly 24hr period.
Basically, their sleep is erratic and sometimes unpredictable. So, here are some tips to help your new little one get their best sleep possible so you can all rest easy:
1. Help them fall asleep. Helping your little one to fall asleep is not only what they want from you, but it’s also often what they need from you. Your job with regards to their sleep right now is to keep them as well-rested as possible by any safe means necessary. Now is not the time to worry about “bad habits” or “sleep crutches.” Feeding, holding, bouncing, swaying or rocking are all proven and natural ways to help babies fall asleep.
2. Encourage regular napping. Whether your new baby sleeps for 20 minutes or 2 hours at a time, ensuring they are getting regular sleep is what to focus on at this point. Newborns under about 6 weeks of age usually need to sleep every 45 minutes to an hour. For babies over 6 weeks of age you might aim for closer to 1-1.5hrs of awake time between naps during the day. If you find this to be a struggle (because it can be tough at times), see the next tip:
3. Wear your baby. Use a carrier, wrap or sling to wear your baby if you can. Not only does this promote brain development, but it’s usually also their happy place and you’ll have your hands free!
4. Sleep on-demand. Let them sleep when they want, however long they want! Unless you still need to ensure more frequent feedings for their growth and development, the more they sleep, the better they sleep overall.
5. Sleep when they sleep if you can, at least once during the day. Babies usually have one longer stretch of sleep per day, so figure out when your baby does this and make sure you are sleeping then as well!
If you’d like to hear more sleep and parenting tips for Baby’s first year and beyond, follow Ashley @birth_baby_sleep on Instagram and Facebook and the Bringing Up Baby podcast on all podcast streaming platforms. You can also check out www.birthbabysleep.ca for information on all of our services.