Science has suggested that it is the fetus itself who signals the start of labor. This is related to certain proteins in the baby’s lungs, but proteins aside, it does seem fitting for a baby called Hope to choose Christmas morning for her birthday.
I really didn’t want to give birth on Christmas, but give birth I did anyway. :-) The experience was so many unexpected things, just as this pregnancy and all of the past year has been. I have never been so emotional during a birth, never before cried, never before vomited, and never felt so supported. I have never been filled with so much gratitude even amid the hardest pains. Most of my tears were just that… thankfulness… to my birthing team, to my baby, and to the Divine forces at work. I will post the full birth story later. Still processing.
About three weeks ago I wrote my first “Five Things for Friday” post. Time for another quintuplet of randomness, I think.
I learned a fun fact about kissing and breastfeeding this past week. Many of you probably saw this on facebook, but I want to share it again here just in case. It’s rare that the word awesome is applied to something that is truly awe-inspiring, but this really is:
Kissing your baby changes your breast milk. Did you know that the undeniable urge to cover your baby in kisses serves a biological purpose? When a mother kisses her baby, she samples the pathogens on baby’s face, which then travel to mom’s lymphatic system. Mom’s body then creates antibodies to fight those pathogens, which baby receives through breast milk. What?! Amazing, right? (quoted from 10 Things You Might Not Know About Breastfeeding)
I learned something similar related to nipples and “baby backwash” a couple of months ago. Katie Hinde, a biologist, associate professor, and blogger at Mammals Suck… Milk! shared these fascinating details with Angela Garbes for her breastmilk post on The Stranger:
According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. . . . If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection (Source).
The purest thing in the world is the heart of the mother. . . . It can move God. It can move the Universe. It can cause an effect beyond limitation. The heart of the mother is the greatest power of Infinity ever given to any finite being. -Yogi Bhajan, Women’s Camp 1977
Imagine you have an invisible shield surrounding your body, protecting you. And imagine that your newborn baby doesn’t have a shield of her own. Your shield is, in fact, your baby’s shield. Imagine that being within your “bubble of peace” can regulate your baby’s heart rate, temperature, breathing, and keep her immune system functioning optimally. Imagine that you have that kind of power… because you do.
Last March I shared something “new” I learned at my first yoga teacher training class. I put new in quotation marks because the truth is that I already knew it on some level. I felt compelled to keep my babies very close to me for the first years of their lives, and now I’m more grateful than ever that I did. Here’s the “news” I’m referring to:
As she looked upon Joey it was as if time would slow down just for the two of them— and now for me as well. His gaze with his mother never broke. It was as if he knew the power of his soulful eyes. He knew one look would melt the heart and remind the spirit of that sacred thread of unity and love. -Buffy Owens, “Not One, Not Two: The Mother-Infant Dyad“
Grandmothers will probably hate me for this one. Sigh. Grandmothers are awesome. I love grandmothers. My apologies for what I’m about to say.
I was attending a mixed-age women’s meeting today, and one of the attendees had brought her newborn infant. Upon request, she stood and showed the roomful of women her new baby. Oooohing and ahhhhing commenced. Then this new mom declared her baby’s name, followed by, “And I love to share if anyone wants to hold him,” to the delight of many eager empty-nester arms in the room. Their eagerness was no surprise. It’s a rare woman who can resist a newborn baby. Apparently that newborn smell lights up the same reward centers of women’s brains as chocolate would (see here). I’ll admit… I even really wanted to hold him, and I’ve never met the mother in my life. But I leaned to my stepmom and whispered, “I don’t like to share.” She smiled and said, “I know.”
Back in 2010 I wrote a post with some of my hopes for the upcoming birth of my 4th baby. It turned out that many of the things I wanted to experience with her birth didn’t work out. I did get to experience a near-painless birth, but it wasn’t anything like what I had envisioned. So here’s what I’m hoping for with birth #5…
1) Mother Blessing Celebration
With my last births, my co-authors gave me a “virtual mother blessing” and sent me a bonsai tree and beads for a birthing necklace along with lovely messages and prayers for me. It was wonderful. But this time I want a real-life mother blessing celebration with all my hippy/birthy friends (who can make it) physically present. I want henna on my belly, and flowers in my hair, and candles and the whole nine yards. Getting this child here has been a long and agonizing process, and I know I will need a lot of love and support to complete this journey and bring this child earth-side.
This morning, a friend posted on my facebook page wall:
“Do you have a full list of things you recommend to bring for people who choose to have a hospital birth? I would love to pass a list on to my sister and friends who are pregnant, if you have one.”
I told her I didn’t have one, but she had given me an idea for a great blogpost. I should preface this by saying that I didn’t bring any of these things to my hospital births. But if I could go back in time, I would! Ten years of studying childbirth have taught me a lot!
Aside from the usual change of clothes, toiletries, and baby gear, here’s what I’d recommend you pack in your bag to ease your hospital birth and postpartum experience.
I was talking on the phone with a friend last night. She’s been experiencing some depression lately. One of the things we pinpointed that could have been contributing to her mood swings was nutrient deficiencies. She had left her stash of vitamins and supplements at a family member’s home while on a trip, so she hasn’t been taking them.
During my first three pregnancies I was pretty lax about taking prenatal vitamins. But after seven straight years of being pregnant and breastfeeding, my body was seriously depleted. I suffered from some depression during my fourth pregnancy, but once I began taking a whole-food prenatal vitamin, my depression disappeared. When my baby was about a year old, after getting lax again with taking vitamins, I began suffering from anxiety and depression. It wasn’t until I began taking my whole-food prenatals again (among other positive changes) that I felt my mind-body-spirit regaining balance.
“Most children’s shoes ought to come with a government health warning.” -Tracy Byrne (podiatrist)
When I was pregnant for the first time, I was fresh out of college and my husband was starting graduate school. We answered phones after-hours as live-in caretakers in a mortuary (seriously) for four years so we didn’t have to pay rent while my husband finished his schooling. He worked in addition to his graduate school responsibilities, but we had very little money.
Not all families start out as low on funds as we did, but I know many of them do. The marketing targeted at first-time moms is overwhelming. Magazines, television, internet ads, and sometimes friends and family can fill our heads with so many “must-haves” for our babies. After 9+ years of motherhood, I think often of all the baby paraphernalia that seem so essential when you’re pregnant for the first time but really aren’t necessary at all. It’s astounding how much stuff you can accumulate once a baby joins the family. And when we had our first baby, space was at a minimum in our tiny apartment.
If you’re looking for ways to keep your stress levels at a minimum, simplify, and cut clutter and costs as you enter parenthood, here’s my personal list of items you may want to leave off your list.
1) Changing tables. We got by just fine with a towel (for leaks) on the floor or on our bed. My goal was always to not leave my bed for night-time feedings and diaper changes… none of this going to a changing table in the middle of the night thing. They may be nice to store all the diapers and wipes, but a nightstand, closet, or cupboard works just as well for that. I’d also include the entire “baby nursery” as unnecessary, but that could be a whole other blogpost in itself. ;-)
2) Baby lotion. We got bottles and bottles of the stuff for baby shower gifts as first-time parents. Most of them got re-gifted to other new parents… you know, let’s spread the useless wealth, right? Here’s the reality… babies have lusciously soft skin as it is, and baby lotion may actually be harmful. If you’d like something to use for baby massages or skin irritations, I’d recommend coconut oil or olive oil.
3) Pacifiers and bottles. I realize that these are life-savers (or absolutely essential) for many moms, but if you’re certain you want to breastfeed, you probably won’t need them. My babies simply wouldn’t take any size or shape of pacifier (except our pinkie fingers or my own real-life nipples). And they wouldn’t take bottles either. We wasted a lot of money trying different brands and styles in search of “the one.” In the end, it was just easier to breastfeed exclusively… and the good news was that we never had to break our children of their binkie or bottle addiction.
About five years ago, I learned something disturbing about the DHA/ARA added to many infant formulas.
Based on a report presented by the Cornucopia Institute (a corporate watch-dog group), the DHA/ARA added to many infant formulas is created from fermented algae and fungus and is structurally different than the DHA/ARA found in breast milk. The FDA isn’t even convinced of the safety of these algal and fungal DHA/ARA additives. Apparently, there are reports of infants fed DHA/ARA formula who suffered from severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and seizures until being switched to a non-DHA/ARA-supplemented formula. Some infants even suffered death. Despite the FDA’s reservations, these additives were somehow still approved for infant/human consumption.
Formulas supplemented with DHA/ARA are marketed as being “more like breastmilk,” suggesting to consumers that they are somehow healthier than other formulas. In fact, scientific studies are inconclusive regarding the benefits of these DHA/ARA additives. Martek Biosciences Corporation, a manufacturer of these additives even acknowledged: “Even if [DHA/ARA] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk'”(source).
Here’s what the Cornucopia Institute concluded about the motives of infant formula manufacturers: “Given the safety concerns and doubts within the scientific community, it is clear that the infant formula manufacturers’ claims are marketing tools designed to sell more formula, and sell it at a higher price”(source). So what it really comes down to is money. Adding DHA/ARA sells more formula, regardless of the fact that it’s very different from the DHA/ARA in breastmilk and may actually be dangerous.
Today my grandmother would have turned 90 years old. We decided to celebrate her birth with foods that remind us of her. Grandma made banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies all the time (with and without walnuts from the tree in her front yard).
She lived a life of service and generosity, so as a birthday present to her we made a massive batch and brought plates of them to several of our local friends tonight.
If you’re breastfeeding, the oats just might give your milk supply a little boost. Adding walnuts or almonds may also benefit your milk supply (and your taste buds, in my opinion). You can add ground flax or chia seeds for another nutritional and milk supply boost. My post “Building better breastmilk” explains how using coconut oil as the shortening substitute may enhance your milk’s immune-system-boosting properties. Also, if you call them “lactation cookies,” that means you get to eat lots of them. ;-)
I’m so happy to share Grandma’s recipe with you. I hope they make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Happy 90th Birthday, Grandma!
Giving your babies breast milk is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, regardless of your nutritional status. But over my 8+ years as a momma studying pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, I’ve learned of several ways we can take that wonderful gift of breast milk and make it even more beneficial to our babies. We’ve probably all heard that consuming lots of omega-3 fats (through fish and plant sources) will benefit our babies’ brains and our own emotional health, but there are other ways to improve the quality of the milk we produce for our babies. Here are just a few of them…
Not long after my fourth baby’s birth, my mom flew into town with all sorts of supplements. One of the supplements she wanted me to take was chlorella. I wasn’t sure whether it was safe to take while breastfeeding, so I started doing a little internet digging to find out. That’s when I found a Japanese study about the effects of maternal chlorella supplementation on breast milk.
Please be sure to read the update I have added to the end of this post.
My husband will be running the Ragnar Relay in a couple of weeks, and one of their runners dropped out last minute. So yesterday one of the team’s organizer’s was begging me to fill the spot. He said, sort of in jest, “You could do a blogpost about it! How to nurse while riding in a moving vehicle!” I laughed. And told him over and over, “Not a chance.” At least not a chance that I’d be hopping into a Ragnar team with absolutely no training and a baby who despises car rides! But a question from Allison on my fb page wall spurred me to go ahead and write the blogpost he had joked with me about. She asked:
How can i make a usually 14 hour drive to texas as smooth and guilt free/worry free as possible with a cosleeping, breastfed on command, needy 3 month old?