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.

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!

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.

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.

 

20 Reasons to LOVE Birth Boot Camp

childbirth classes in Baltimore

 

I make it no secret that I love Birth Boot Camp, a 10-week natural childbirth class for couples. I am proud to be a part of the organization and I know that the curriculum and materials really do help women and their partners have AMAZING births. Take a peek and I know you’ll love Birth Boot Camp too.

1. Up to Date, Modern, Evidence Based Education for Couples: Birth Boot Camp prepares couples for an amazing birth. The curriculum is up to date, featuring modern research and evidence based practices. Don’t worry, you won’t be watching birth videos from the 1970’s, but you will see modern women birthing their babies in a variety of environments and ways.

2. Dads Learn How to Be an Amazing Birth Partner: You’re going to have a joyous birth and your partner will be supporting you every step of the way. Birth Boot Camp helps dads prepare too, so they’re confident and educated on the best ways to support a laboring woman. Your relationship will soar to new heights after you experience childbirth together.

3. Nutrition: Proper nutrition is crucial to a healthy pregnancy and birth.  Birth Boot Camp class #2 is dedicated to proper nutrition in pregnancy. There is also a nutritional focus every week where couples will learn which foods are best for pregnant mothers by decreasing certain pregnancy ailments, helping boost immunity in mom and baby and MORE! Moms will fill out their chow chart each week to track protein and food intake, to give them a better picture of their overall diet.

4. Exercise: Does your back ache? Are you experiencing heartburn?  Birth Boot Camp has a PT exercise every week that not only gets moms up and moving, but it also teaches couples which exercises and stretches help with common aches and pains like sciatica and even indigestion.

5. Comfort Measures: Every week in class, we will go over a comfort measure (maybe even 2 or 3) to help you stay relaxed and as comfortable as possible in the thick of labor. Dads will know how to touch you in labor and when to use certain techniques. By the end of class, you’ll have a toolbox filled with a wide variety of comfort measures to use in labor.

6. Birth Videos: At Birth Boot Camp we want you to be prepared for everything. Sometimes things come up that aren’t planned or expected, but by watching a variety of births, moms and dads will have an idea of what birth looks like from a variety of lenses. We watch a birth video in every class, including homebirth, induction, birth center water birth, shoulder dystocia, vaginal breech, and we even watch a cesarean. The goal is not to scare couples, but to prepare them and give them information so that they can make an educated, informed decision should the unexpected arise.

7. Relaxation: Relaxation is a crucial tool for having a natural birth. Tense muscles cause more pain and inhibit progress and lose, relaxed muscles are going to allow baby to descend in the birth canal more easily.  We practice relaxation in every class and there are a variety of relaxation exercises in the student manual for you to practice with your partner at home. When D-Day arrives, you’ll be well prepared to get into a relaxed state easily.

8. Games & Demos: Every individual has a different learning style. Some folks are visual learners, some auditory, and some people need action and movement to learn something well. Sometimes it can be easier to remember something when you see and feel it in action, right? Be prepared to laugh and have fun with your classmates when we break out games and hands on demonstrations.

9. Rebozos: A rebozo is a beautiful, long woven garment that women traditionally wear in Mexico and throughout Latin America, but it can be used as a versatile birth tool. Moms and dads will learn of variety of rebozo techniques to help keep mom comfortable in labor. As a Baltimore-based, Rebozo Certified, Birth Boot Camp instructor, I incorporate a rebozo technique into most classes to give moms and dads more tools in their Comfort Measure Toolbox.

10. Weekly Emails: Not only do couples get a ton of useful info in class, but every week after class every student will receive an email chock full of links to extra reading materials and videos pertaining to the topic of the week.

11. A Beautiful, Color Workbook: Each couple receives a colorful, 170-page workbook with great articles, chow charts, relaxation exercises, PT routines, diagrams, and vocabulary. This book will become your #1 resource for 10-weeks and can continue to be helpful even during labor.

12. A Breastfeeding Video: Each Birth Boot Camp couple will receive a breastfeeding video download, Breastfeeding: The Ultimate MRE, which is loaded full of helpful, essential info and trouble shooting advice for breastfeeding your baby.

13. Online Classes: Something has come up and you can’t make it to class? Have no fear, you won’t miss any of the info or material!  Each student has access to 4 make-up classes online. No time for a 10-week live class? That’s OK too. Birth Boot Camp also offers the entire curriculum as an online class to students who have a hard time committing to a certain time and place each week.

14. Knowledgeable, Trained Instructors: Every Birth Boot Camp instructor is trained and knowledgeable about birth.  We have all had natural, unmedicated births of our own, we’ve witnessed other’s births, and we’re experienced breastfeeding moms. Birth Boot Camp instructors have a lengthy reading and video list to complete, assignments in the per-certification study guide, and a weekend workshop the wraps up with an exam. Your Birth Boot Camp instructor lives and breaths birth, and will be a wonderful support and resource for you and your partner.

15.Comprehensive Education Written by Experts in the Field: The Birth Boot Camp curriculum is brought to you by several professionals in the field, including midwives, massage therapists, childbirth educators, lactation counselors,  holistic health coaches, and doulas. Birth Boot Camp is one of the most comprehensive curricula in the field of childbirth education. This program leaves no stone unturned and couples graduate with a well rounded education.

16. Massage: Moms, how can you say no to massage? At Birth Boot Camp, learn techniques to properly massage a pregnant mom. This will be beneficial during pregnancy and during labor.

17. Newborn Care: Many couples have an amazing birth and then go home, not really sure what to do next. This can cause a great deal of anxiety in new parents. In class #10, we discuss many of the newborn procedures that are typically done after birth and you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether or not any are right for your baby.  We will also discuss baby sleep options, baby wearing, diapering options, breastfeeding, and baby soothing techniques..

18. Postpartum Health: Birth Boot Camp classes extend well beyond birth. We want moms and partners to be prepared and to have a plan for what their babymoon will look like. In this class, we will talk about postpartum nutrition, healing and recovery, postpartum depression, breastfeeding, and even SEX!

19. Instructors Located Nationally & Internationally: Birth Boot Camp has instructors throughout the United States and even in Canada and Germany.

20. Amazing Statistics: In 2014, Birth Boot Camp students had AMAZING births! Only 14% of students had cesareans, which is less than half of the national average. 86% of moms had vaginal births, 73% of which were unmedicated. Birth Boot Camp’s stats speak for themselves. This curriculum trains and prepares couples to birth confidently.

If you are looking for a childbirth class in the Baltimore area, contact us for more information on our Birth Boot Camp classes. 

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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