Newborn care

Baby Friendly Activities for New Moms

Baby Friendly Exercises

Being a new mom can be isolating at times. Even though you are home and loving snuggling up to the new love of your life, you may also be itching to get out of the house and interact with other adults! The good news is that there are so many activities available now for moms and babies in the community. From swim and exercise classes to play groups and mom and baby yoga, with a little effort to get out of the house, you and your baby can be social butterflies in no time. Here’s a list of ideas and local options for new moms in the Twin Cities.

  • Breastfeeding Support Groups: Breastfeeding support groups are a great first social activity for mom and baby as you will find the littlest of little babies at these gatherings and you can gain valuable help and knowledge from a lactation consultant. This is a great way to get help with baby’s latch or transitioning off the nipple shield and many other breastfeeding challenges that may arise. You are also usually able to do pre and post-feed weigh-ins to determine how many ounces your baby is getting per nursing session. Here are some local options for moms looking to connect with other nursing moms.
  • Mom and Baby Yoga: Mom and baby yoga is another wonderful bonding activity for you and your little one in those early months. Most mom and baby classes are open to babies as young as 8 weeks of age and involve small motions for baby that can aid in digestion, sleep and soothing while providing a relaxing way for mom to distress. Mom and baby yoga classes are anything goes as far as breastfeeding, diaper changes and crying babes, so do not worry if your baby isn’t having a ‘Zen’ day. Check out these locations for mom and baby yoga classes in the community.
  • Story Time: You are never too young for the joy of reading. You may have even read to your baby in the womb! Now that your little one is here, baby story times are a great way to get out of the house, meet other moms and enjoy a story or two with your baby.
  • Baby Signing Classes: Baby signing classes are a great way to jump start excellent communication between you and your baby. Although your baby may not be able to return sign with you until 8 or 9 months, they understand well before they are able to communicate. The earlier you begin signing with your baby, the earlier he will be able to communicate his needs to you. Baby signing is associated with earlier ability to communicate, decreased crying and even possibly a few extra IQ points down the road. Here are a few options for baby sign language classes in your area:
  • Music Classes: What better way to connect with your sweet baby than through music, movement and play. Music classes offer the opportunity to expose you baby to different sounds, songs and instruments as well as meet other moms and babies in your community. There are a few great options for music classes in the community including:
  • Swim Classes: Parent and baby swim classes are the perfect opportunity to expose your baby to the water for the first time and begin to learn some basic safety skills like back floating, flipping over from back to front and brief submersion. Most swim schools will allow you to take your first parent and baby swim class around 6 months. Typically the classes will be short to accommodate baby’s needs but will allow time for some simple instruction, games and singing. It is never too early to begin educating yourself and your child on water safety. Here are a few options for baby swim classes in the area:
  • Baby Friendly Exercise Classes: Once you’ve been cleared by your midwife or OB for exercise, you may be wondering how in the world you will find time to work out with a baby. Fear not though, there are actually many options these days for the moms who love fitness. From stroller exercise groups to babywearing barre,  these are fitness classes where moms can actually bring baby along for the ride while she gets her sweat on! Here are just a few options in the area:
  • Mom’s Groups: Lastly, mom groups are a real thing these days. They are born on Facebook, Meetup.com, through churches, birth centers and friend groups alike. Some mom groups are brought together by certain parenting philosophies or interests and others are created simply by location. Whatever the theme or lack thereof, joining a local mom group will be one of the best things you can do in that first year of being a mom to connect with other moms who are going through the same phase of life and have children that are the same age as yours. These moms will become your buddies, the ones you can talk poop and breastfeeding with without batting an eyelash. Their kids will be your kids’ playmates and hopefully your spouses will even get to know one another during family activities. There are many ways to get involved in a local moms’ group but here are just a few ideas.

As you can see, although you may feel as though you’ve been one with your couch and the Boppy pillow since baby was born, there are MANY options for you and your little one to get out of the house and connect with other new moms and babies. Give different types of activities a try to see what works for you and your baby. Try out a couple different mom groups until you find your people. Being a new parent is one of the most exciting, wonderful, terrifying things you have likely ever gone through. Why not make a few friends to join you on the journey?

For questions about natural birth, pregnancy, postpartum opportunities, classes and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Nighttime Parenting Against the Grain: A Guide to Safe Bed-Sharing

Bed-Sharing with Baby

Bed-sharing continues to be a hot-button topic among parents and pediatricians alike and despite current AAP recommendations against it; the practice is on the rise.  A study completed in 2013 by the National Institute of Health showed that the number of parents choosing to bed-share with their babies more than doubled between the years of 1993 and 2010 from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent. Reasons cited for the decision to bed-share include strengthening the breastfeeding relationship, improved sleep for mom and baby and fostering a secure attachment. Renowned advocates of bed-sharing like Dr. William Sears and Dr. James McKenna tout its short and long term emotional and physical benefits for mom and baby and believe that it can even prevent SIDS when practiced safely. If you are considering bed-sharing with your baby, here are some tips to ensure that your baby sleeps safely.

  1. Choose a firm mattress with tightly fitted sheets: Remember that adult beds were not designed with infants in mind and therefore need to be tailored to create the safest sleep environment possible. In addition to a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet, ensure that your baby’s sleep space is free of pillows and loose blankets. Place baby slightly higher than you to avoid contact with your blankets and scoot your pillow away from him. 
  2. Position baby in between mom and the wall or mesh guard rail: The safest place for your baby when bed-sharing is next to mom. Mothers have been found to be more in tune with baby’s presence even when they are asleep and are less likely to roll onto the infant compared to fathers. It is very important to make sure that the mattress is flush with the guardrail or wall and that there are no crevices in which the baby could become lodged. 
  3. Make sure both parents agree to bed-share: Bed-sharing with your baby should be a unanimous decision and it is best if both parents go into the practice thinking as if they are the primary person responsible for baby’s safety and wellbeing at night. Never bring your baby into the bed at night without alerting your partner of their presence. 
  4. Invest in a large bed: The more space available to your family in the bed, the easier it is to create a safe spot for baby. If you plan to bed-share with your baby, consider the money you will be saving on a crib and invest in a king size bed instead.
  5. Always put baby to sleep on her back: Whether your baby sleeps in a crib or in the bed with you, the safest position for her is on her back. Even if you turn baby to her side to nurse, be sure to return her to her back before you go back to sleep.
  6. Ensure baby is a comfortable temperature: The safest temperature for baby while sleeping is between 65 and 68 degree. Dress baby warm enough that he does not require a blanket but don’t over bundle him. The use of a ceiling fan to circulate airflow has also been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. Also, do not swaddle a baby when bed-sharing. In the event that an adult does roll onto baby, it is safer if they have use of their limbs. 
  7. Don’t use sheepskins, stuffed animals, pillows or other fluffy objects around or under baby: Baby’s sleep space should be as bare and firm as possible to reduce the risk of suffocation. 
  8. Do tie up excessively long hair that may pose a strangulation hazard to baby.

DON’Ts of Bed-Sharing:

  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you smoked during pregnancy or are currently a smoker.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of alcohol, sedatives or any mind altering drug that may lessen your ability to rouse when necessary.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you or your partner is extremely obese.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby ever on a couch or a waterbed.
  • DO NOT allow siblings to bed-share with a baby under 9 months of age.
  • DO NOT bed-share if you are extremely overtired. 

DO NOT sleep with your baby if they are premature or low birth weight.

Bed-sharing is a personal family decision that must be made with a comprehensive understanding of the necessary safety precautions and the associated risks. Although there are many reported benefits to bed-sharing, the safest sleep arrangement for your baby is for him to have his own space. Co-sleepers and sidecar cribs offer a great alternative to bed-sharing and allow mom and baby to be close enough to nurse and touch while providing a safe and separate sleep space for baby. Whatever sleep arrangements you choose for your family, be sure that both parents are on board. For questions about safe infant sleep or for any and all inquiries about pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Bathing Your Newborn

Bathing Your Newborn

If you’ve just brought your new baby home for the first time, you may be wondering how and how often you should bathe him. Bathing a newborn for the first time can be a daunting task as you navigate how to get all his tiny parts clean and keep him warm, all while supporting his head and body. With a little preparation and a gentle approach, bath time can become an enjoyable time for both you and your baby. Continue reading to learn more about how to safely and comfortably bath your newborn baby.

Frequency: For the first year of life, it is not necessary to bathe your baby more than a few times per week. Not only will they not get dirty enough to necessitate daily baths but bathing too frequently can actually cause drying of their sensitive skin. Two to three baths per week is plenty to keep your little one clean as long as you are taking care to clean him thoroughly after diaper changes. 

Sponge Baths: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only sponge bathing your baby until the umbilical cord has fallen off and the circumcision site has healed. This will help prevent any infections that could be caused by extra moisture at these incision sites. To prepare for a sponge bath you will need the following items:

  • A warm and flat surface such as a counter or changing table covered in a blanket or towel
  • A plastic basin for warm water
  • A soft blanket or towel to wrap baby during washing
  • 2 wash cloths
  • A hooded towel
  • Cotton balls (optional)
  • Mild hypoallergenic baby-safe shampoo or moisturizing soap
  • A clean diaper
  • A fresh change of clothing

When giving baby a sponge bath, wrap baby snuggly in a warm towel and only expose the area of the body that you are washing. Begin by wiping baby’s face gently with a warm, wet washcloth. Do not use soap on your baby’s face. Soap is actually not necessary when bathing a newborn but if you choose to use soap, be sure it is mild and free of dyes and perfumes for their sensitive skin. When washing your baby’s body, be sure to clean in all the skin folds, under the arms and neck, behind the ears, between the fingers and toes, and around the diaper area. Use cotton balls with a few drops of water on them to clean the creases of baby’s eyes. Always keep one hand on your baby, especially if they are on a surface where falling is a risk.

Tub Bathing: When your baby graduates from sponge baths to real baths there are a number of options for tubs. You can purchase a plastic baby tub with an infant sling or an inflatable infant tub. You can also simply use the kitchen or bathroom sink lined with a towel or rubber mat.

Gather the same supplies as you would for a sponge bath and fill the tub with 2-3 inches of water. It is also helpful to have a cup on hand for rinsing. You can pour warm water over baby throughout the bath to keep him warm. The water temperature should be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check the temperature with your hand or elbow before emerging baby in the water. Also, it’s a good idea to set your home water heater to 120 degrees max to prevent incidents of accidental scalding.

Once you have your tub filled and all your supplies in reach, use one hand to support baby’s head and the other to guide his body into the water, feet first. Continue to support baby by placing your arm under his back and head throughout the bath. As with sponge bathing, start by wiping baby’s face with a warm, wet wash cloth and move from there to dirtier areas of the body. If you choose to shampoo baby’s hair, gently massage a drop of shampoo onto baby’s head. It is not necessary to use any special precautions over baby fontanels (soft spots). Rinse baby’s head with a clean damp wash cloth or using your cup of warm water. Be sure to cup you hand at baby’s forehead to prevent soap from getting in his eyes. You can lean baby forward on your arm to clean his back and buttocks. 

Once you have finished washing all of baby’s parts, use your cup to rinse him thoroughly or a clean, wet wash cloth. Remove baby from the tub carefully and wrap him in a warm, dry towel with a hood. Pat him dry rather than rubbing to prevent irritation of the skin. No lotion or talcum powders are necessary for a newborn after a bath.

Special Instructions for Baby Girls and Baby Boys:

Girls: When cleaning your baby girl’s genital area, be sure to wipe gently between the labia and vulva to remove any diaper cream that has collected. Always wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Boys: When cleaning your baby boy’s genital area, gently wash around the base of the penis and beneath the scrotum. Use care if your son was recently circumcised not to rub or irritate the incision site. Do not retract the skin of the penis if your baby is not circumcised.

Safety Precautions for Baths:

  • Make sure you have all the supplies you need before beginning bath time so you do not need to leave to get a forgotten item
  • If you do discover you have forgotten something, take baby with you to retrieve it
  • NEVER leave baby unattended in the bath
  • Always keep one hand supporting baby in the bath
  • Always test the water temperature before emerging baby in the bath
  • The water temperature should be about 100 degrees. Set your water heater to a max of 120 degrees to prevent scalding

With time and practice, bathing your baby will likely become an enjoyable part of the day for both you and your little one. Many babies find the warm water to be calming making a bath a great transitionary activity before bed time. If your baby does not seem to enjoy tub baths, you can always return to sponge bathing for a few weeks and then try again when he is a little older. For all questions about caring for your newborn baby or anything related to pregnancy or birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center.

Preventing SIDS: The Do's and Don'ts of Safe Sleep

Preventing SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is one of the scariest thoughts to a new parent. You’ve read about it, you know it’s often unexplainable, and you can barely sleep those first nights at home watching your tiny baby’s every breath. Although SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between 0 and 12 months, you can dramatically decrease the chances of this tragedy by practicing safe sleep habits with your baby. Here are a few of the most important precautions to take when considering how you will put your baby down for a safe night of sleep.

The Do’s

  • DO place baby on his back to sleep.  Since the American Academy of Pediatrics established the Back to Sleep Campaign in 1994, the incidence of SIDS has been significantly reduced. Back sleeping is most important during the first six months of life when the risk of SIDS is the highest but should be followed for the first year.
  • DO breastfeed when possible. Research has shown that breastfed babies are as much as 60% less likely to die from SIDS than babies who do not receive any breastmilk. For other great reasons to breastfeed your baby, check out this article!
  • DO choose a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
  • DO offer a pacifier to baby for naps and bedtime. Research suggests that the act of sucking on a pacifier may reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • DO make sure your crib meets current safety standards.
  • DO opt for a wearable blanket or a sleep sack instead of a blanket in the crib.
  • DO have baby sleep in your room: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room at least until they are six months of age.
  • DO seek good prenatal care during pregnancy.
  • DO have your baby practice tummy time during wakeful hours to help strengthen his head, neck and shoulder muscles.
  • DO educate other caregivers who will be responsible for creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. One out of five SIDS related deaths occurs when baby is in the care of someone other than their parents.

The Don’ts

Baby Sleeping in Crib
  • DON’T leave any soft objects in the crib such as blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or bumper pads. Any extra items in the crib can pose a risk for suffocation and strangulation.
  • DON’T use swings, car seats and other infant chairs for routine sleep.
  • DON’T use positioners or wedges in the crib.
  • DON’T let baby get overheated. Choose lightweight clothing and keep the temperature in the room cool but comfortable. 
  • DON’T put baby to sleep in an adult bed. Your baby should have his own separate sleeping space that is free of pillows, blankets, and other soft objects. Having a separate sleep space for your baby also removes the risk of you or your partner accidentally rolling onto him while you are sleeping.
  • DON’T smoke during pregnancy or after your baby is born. Smoking during pregnancy is responsible for more than 1000 infant deaths each year.
  • DON’T ever put baby to sleep on a couch, a lounge chair or any soft surface with cushions or blankets. Babies can become lodged between cushions or roll off of open surfaces resulting in suffocation or serious injury.
  • DON’T ever cover baby’s head with anything while he is sleeping.
  • DON’T fall asleep accidentally with baby in your bed or on the couch.

Although the causes of SIDS-related deaths are often unexplained, research suggests that there may be certain brain abnormalities present that make certain babies more susceptible. Because these factors are not identifiable at birth, it is even more important to take the precautions to eliminate environmental risks. Simple safeguards such as placing your baby on his back to sleep and keeping the sleep environment clear from any excess items can reduce the risk of this tragedy by up to 60%.

Don’t take risks when it comes to creating a safe sleep environment for your little one. You both will sleep better at night knowing he is safe and sound. For questions about safe sleep for your newborn or other pregnancy or postnatal related inquiries, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center. Your baby’s safety is our first priority.

Coping with Sleep Deprivation as a New Parent

Co-Sleeping Parents and Newborn

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common struggles of being a new parent. Between the feeding schedule, night waking, nursing, pumping and meeting the many, many needs of a new baby, you and your partner may only be averaging a few hours per night. Despite it seeming as though sleep is the last thing you have time for right now, it is very important to prioritize your own rest and well-being while caring for your little one. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood and many cognitive abilities including alertness, reaction time, memory, verbal fluency and our ability to handle everyday tasks. Too little sleep can lead to increased negative emotions and even make us more likely to develop depression. One study found that people who are getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night are 4-5 times more likely to be involved in a sleep-related car accident. Needless to say, our own need for sleep cannot be taken lightly even in the throes of parenthood. Check out these top 10 tips for coping with sleep deprivation to start getting your rest back on track.

1) Nap when baby naps: You’ve heard it a million times from friends. “Nap when baby naps,” they tell you. But when in the world are you supposed to get the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning and a simple shower in if you nap when the baby naps? Especially in the early days, you need to make rest a priority. Your body is recovering from giving birth and you need your sleep too. Be purposeful with your baby free time and if it’s not a nap then choose to do something else that will rejuvenate and energize you. Even lying down for a half an hour and not sleeping can be healing for the body.

2) Learn to nurse lying down: You will find this is an invaluable skill if you want to take naps with your baby. Not sure how? Ask your lactation consultant or postpartum nurse for some tips.  

3) Be productive when your baby is awake so you can nap when he naps: You may think this sounds impossible but this is one of the many reasons babywearing is a great practice. Not only does it promote bonding, breastfeeding and lots of other wonderful things, it allows you to be hands-free to complete tasks around the house. For more cool facts about baby wearing, check out Eight Reasons to Wear Your Baby

4) Accept help from family and friends: If your mother-in-law offers to come over and hold the baby for an hour so you can sleep, say yes. If a friend says she would like to help you out with cooking and laundry, accept! The first months with baby are not the time to be prideful about doing it all yourself. If your friends and family want to help you and catch a glimpse of your precious baby, let them!

5) Share night duty with your partner: It can often feel like you are on your own if you are breastfeeding and your partner is unable to participate. Consider pumping for one late night bottle that your partner can give to the baby while you get some extra sleep. It’s best to wait to do this until after your supply is established as you don’t want to miss a feeding session during the critical time period. By 3-4 weeks of age, you should be able to safely introduce a nightly bottle.

6) Consider co-sleeping: Though there are many differing beliefs about the practice of co-sleeping, safe bed sharing is a great way to simplify nighttime nursing and get more rest of your own.  For more information on safe co-sleeping practices and other breastfeeding resources, check out the website Kelly Mom.

7) Shut off all screens 30 minutes before you go to bed: Although it may seem tempting to catch up on your favorite shows while dosing off to sleep or to check your Facebook News Feed in bed, the bright lights of the screen can actually stimulate the brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Be sure to choose sleep-inducing activities before bed like a warm bath, reading or listening to calming music. This will send the signal to your body that it’s time to sleep!

8) Keep up with self-care: Even if you are sleep deprived, be sure to take care of yourself in other aspects of your life. This includes eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting enough physical activity (once you’ve been cleared by your care provider), showering regularly and taking your daily vitamins. If you are taking the time each day to take care of your body, healthy sleep practices will follow.

Are you taking care of yourself? Fill out this checklist to see how well you're taking care of yourself.

9) Limit caffeine: You may feel like caffeine is your best friend at this point but the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that breastfeeding moms limit their intake to one serving per day. In addition to the transfer to your breast milk, caffeine may make it difficult for you to fall asleep when you have the opportunity to nap during the day or even at bedtime if it’s consumed in the afternoon. 

10) Remember, this won’t last forever: If nothing else works, take comfort in the fact that this phase of no sleep is just a blip on the radar of your life with your new precious child. Your baby will eventually sleep more than a couple hours at a time, and even through the night one day. It may be hard to believe right now, but you WILL get through this.

In case you were too tired while reading this to absorb all the information above, the main take home points are to sleep when your baby sleeps and take care of yourself during this major life transition. Your baby needs you to be healthy and rested in order to keep up with his ever growing needs. Give yourself some grace during this period and remember that no one expects you to be able to do everything. For more information about postpartum care and any and all maternity related questions, contact Health Foundations to schedule a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birthing Center.

Top 10 Things You Need for Baby in the First Two Weeks

Between the gear, the clothing, the toys, the diapers and the MANY other things you will need to do to prepare before having a baby, there are a few essential items that we suggest you have ready for those first weeks at home. You won’t need that trendy jogging stroller yet or even a high chair or baby jumper, but there are a few must-haves that you and your baby will not be able to live without. Read on for our master list of the top 10 things you need for baby in the first two weeks.

newborn care

1) Diapers & Wipes: Whether you choose to cloth diaper or go with disposables, your new little bundle of joy will likely go through approximately 8-10 diapers per day. Most babies will comfortably fit in the newborn size but it doesn’t hurt to have some size 1’s on hand as well in case your little one is not so little. You will also need a good supply of wipes on deck for the messy ones.

2) Clothes: You’ve probably been gifted a number of cute baby outfits and accessories by friends and family but you won’t necessarily be reaching for those in the early days. The key to dressing your newborn is making sure that the clothes are comfortable and temperature appropriate. The most handy wardrobe items for the first two weeks are: 

  • lightweight cotton nightgowns and sleepers
  • cotton mittens to prevent scratching
  • short sleeve and long sleeve onesies
  • newborn cotton caps
  • socks
  • and kimono style button-up t-shirts. 

If your baby is born in the winter and you live in a cold climate like Minnesota, you’ll want to also have some knit sweaters and hats and maybe even a warm newborn bunting for transferring from the car to the house. A good rule of thumb is to dress baby in one more layer than you would need for yourself to be comfortable. 

3) Car seat: You won’t make it far when leaving the hospital or birthing center without a properly installed, rear-facing, infant car seat. Only purchase a car seat that meets all current safety standards and visit your local fire department for training on how to properly install it. Check out Parents Central, a government website designed specifically to educate parents on car safety for infants and children.

4) A place for baby to sleep: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months. This, in addition to breastfeeding, back-sleeping and current immunizations, is associated with a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Whether you choose to use a bassinet, crib, or cosleeper, ensure that baby’s sleeping space is free of blankets, pillows and other suffocation hazards. A firm mattress or pad with a tightly fitted sheet is all that is necessary for the inside of baby’s sleeping space. Also, try sleeping with your baby, skin-to-skin contact is proven to be very beneficial for you and baby.

5) Nursing pillow: You may be wondering why we are including this as a necessity, but as moms ourselves, we can say with certainty that a nursing pillow is a must-have. Not only do they make breastfeeding more comfortable for mom and baby, they also help baby achieve a proper latch by bringing him closer to your body and breast. Later in your little one’s life, your nursing pillow can also double as support for learning to sit and a prop for tummy time. This may be considered a luxury more than a need, but it is well worth the investment in our opinion.

6) Bottles and Formula: If you are unable or choose not to breastfeed, you will want to be sure to have plenty of bottles and a good supply of formula on hand. There are many choices of different brands and types of bottles, but be sure to choose ones that are BPA free and have a slow flow nipple for your newborn. Nipples with a large base most closely mimic mom’s breast making them an ideal choice if you choose to do both bottle and breastfeeding. Formula comes in several forms to choose from including ready-to-use, liquid concentrate and powder. There are also different types of formula such as cows-milk-based, lactose-free and soy-based. It may take some trial and error to determine which option is the best fit for your baby’s digestive system. 

7) Breast pump: Though you may not plan on pumping for bottles for several weeks or months, it is a good idea to have you breast pump on hand in case your doctor or lactation consultant would like you to supplement your baby’s intake. Often babies will lose 10 or more percent of their birth weight initially and may require supplementation to gain it back via extra breastmilk or formula. Most insurance companies nowadays will subsidize all or at least part of the cost of your breast pump. Call yours while you are pregnant to find out what is included in your coverage. 

8) Swaddle blankets: During the early days and months, babies love to feel snug, safe and secure like they were in mom’s uterus. Swaddling is a great way to calm a crying baby and send them into sweet slumber. Thin muslin blankets are best for swaddling your infant in the beginning, but sleep sacks and other wearable swaddle blankets are great also as your baby gets older and more skilled at escaping the swaddle.

9) Grooming and care supplies: Supplies that you will want to have on hand when baby first arrives include diaper cream, burp cloths, wash cloths for sponge bathing, a thermometer, nail clippers and hand sanitizer for you and your adoring guests. The list goes on but these items should get you through the first couple weeks. 

10) A soft carrier: Babies love to be held and research shows that being snuggled up to mom has health and emotional benefits for you both. You may find at some point though that you need your hands to do something and won’t always be able to hold your baby. Consider getting a soft carrier such as a sling or wrap to carry baby in while you move about your home. There are many varieties of baby carriers and some are more appropriate for newborns than others. Do your research to see what you like and consider borrowing different types from friends to see what works best for you and your baby. For more on the benefits of baby wearing, read Eight Reasons to Wear Your Baby.

Creating a baby registry while you are pregnant is a great way to help your friends and family know what you need and also hopefully help offset the cost of preparing for your little one’s arrival. While there are likely many more things that you will want to get for your baby, the items on the list above highlight the essentials that you will need during those first weeks home. To learn more about preparing for bringing baby home and any and all other birthing related topics, contact Health Foundations to speak to a midwife and schedule a tour of the Birthing Center. Happy baby prepping!

Kangaroo Care: Skin-to-skin is Wildly Beneficial for You & Baby

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As you have been preparing for the arrival of your baby, you may have read or heard about the importance of kangaroo care, or otherwise known as, skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth. Skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, is a method of caring for infants in which the baby is held skin-to-skin with the mother (and in some cases the father) for several hours per day. The benefits of skin-to-skin are often covered in birthing preparation classes and the practice is considered to be one of the most important steps you can take during the first hours of your baby’s life.  In addition to the more obvious benefits such as bonding with your newborn and promoting breastfeeding, you may be wondering why skin-to-skin contact is so important.  Listed below are seven compelling reasons explaining why kangaroo care can be tremendously valuable to both mom and baby’s health and well-being.

1) Helps baby adapt to life outside the womb

Kangaroo care initially was developed as a practice for mothers of preterm infants in an effort to help the babies regulate their bodily functions.  Spending time skin-to-skin with mom during the first hours of life has been found to aid in heart rate stabilization, increase oxygen levels and normalize body temperature in preemies and full-term infants alike.  These benefits in combination with improved sleep (see below) have also been found to promote long-term mental development and brain functioning.  

2) Encourages breastfeeding and healthy weight gain

When mom and baby are skin-to-skin following birth, baby’s inherent instinct to find the breast is made easier.  Babies are able to smell mom’s milk and in some cases have even been known to move themselves towards the nipple on their own.  Furthermore, according to the Neonatal Network, moms who practice kangaroo care are more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies and typically continue breastfeeding an average of three months longer than those who do not.  In addition to encouraging a healthy breastfeeding relationship, because babies are better able to regulate their body temperatures and stay warm, energy is then reserved for growth and healthy weight gain. To learn more about the importance of breastfeeding, check out this extremely popular article on 15 cool facts about breastfeeding.   

3) Promotes a strong attachment to mom and dad

According to Susan M. Ludington, R.N., Ph.D., executive director of The United States Institute for Kangaroo Care, “Infancy sets up your interactions with your baby for the rest of her life.”  One of the best ways to begin the process of fostering a secure attachment is to practice skin-to-skin care during the first two hours of life and beyond.  Babies not only can feel the warmth of their mother’s skin this way but can also hear the familiar sounds of her voice and heartbeat. Children whose parents practiced kangaroo care when they were infants have been shown to be more securely attached to their parents, have a more positive sense of self and display superior social competence compared to those whose parents did not.  

4) Improved mental well-being for mom

Skin-to-skin care does not only have benefits for baby but for mom too. When a mother holds and comforts her baby she is satisfying her own instinctual need to soothe her little one. Kangaroo care has been shown to decrease the likelihood of postpartum depression by increasing Mom’s Oxytocin production and in turn reducing anxiety and depression. According to The American Journal of Maternal and Child Nursing, skin-to-skin contact also reactivates activity in mom’s adrenal axis which is typically negatively affected by childbirth. The adrenal axis is part of the Neuroendocrine system that regulates body processes such as stress, mood and emotions.  Consequently, baby is not the only one feeling comforted in this practice!

5) Reduces baby’s stress and pain levels

Another awesome benefit of kangaroo care is that it has been found to reduce pain and stress levels in babies.  A study conducted on preterm infants found that babies who were held skin-to-skin by mom showed less distress during heel stick blood draws.  Research supports that the practice reduces stress level hormones and increases Oxytocin flow, making baby feel safe and secure.

6) Better-quality sleep

Because infants are typically calm, warm and comforted while skin-to-skin, they have been found to sleep more deeply and wake less often than babies who are placed in incubators to sleep. In addition to sleeping better, they also display longer periods of alertness when awake.

7) Helps baby bond with dad

kangaroo care with father

Skin-to-skin care is not only intended for moms but can be wonderful for dads too.  Infants enjoy many of the same health and emotional benefits when snuggling skin-to-skin with dad as they do with mom such as thermal regulation, reduced crying and reduced stress.  Also, dads who engaged in kangaroo care in the first hours after their baby is born reported bonding better with their babies compared to dads who did not.  While ideally mom will be the first parent to experience skin-to-skin contact with the newborn, dad can step in and get some cuddles of his own when mom needs a break to take a shower or use the restroom.  

As you can see, the benefits of practicing skin-to-skin care with your newborn extend far beyond just promoting bonding and breastfeeding.  It is believed that the first two hours following birth are the most vital time to engage in kangaroo care but that it is beneficial up to 20 weeks old and beyond. The more time that you and your partner can spend with your infant in this comforting and natural state, the more you and your baby will thrive.  For questions about this and all postpartum and birth related topics, contact Health Foundations to schedule a consultation with a midwife and a tour of the Birth Center

Further Reading

Finding a Pediatric Care Provider

Ped1One of the many to-dos during pregnancy is to find a care provider for your baby. It’s a good idea to meet and interview a few practitioners sometime in the third trimester (most providers are willing to do this—you may want to consider how future care may be with someone not willing to meet with you). The provider you choose is someone you’ll likely be seeing many times in the next year and for years to come.  You want to make sure you select someone whom you trust and feel comfortable with.

General Schedule for Well Child Visits in the First Two Years

For Health Foundations mamas, we recommend that a pediatric care provider see your baby in the first week or so of life.  After that, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended schedule for well-child visits in the first two years are:

  • by 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 1 year
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years

Well-child visits are important times to check in about your baby’s health, growth and development.  They are also key communication and education opportunities.  During these visits you can learn about and discuss issues such as normal development, sleep, nutrition, parenting practices, safety, diseases, and more.  The provider will do a physical examination, recording your child’s head circumference, weight, and height, and checking the heart, lungs, stomach, hips, head, ears, mouth, skin, etc..

Before Meeting Providers: Questions to Consider

Prior to these meetings, you may want to think through what is important to you in a pediatric care provider—

  •  Do you have strong opinions on issues like circumcision, parenting, antibiotic use and vaccine schedules? (If you are not sure, you may want to do a little research into these topics to familiarize yourself with your options.) Do you want someone who is knowledgeable about natural medicine or a proponent of alternative and complementary care?  You may want to find a provider that shares your beliefs or, at the very least, will respect your decisions in regards to these issues.
  • What is important to you in your child’s care provider in terms of access and availability?  To answer this question, you may want to imagine the case when something urgent comes up after normal business hours, maybe on the weekend or at night—what do you want in a provider in this situation?  How easily can they be reached?  How quickly can you be seen?  What if you have a non-emergency question after-hours, how easily can you reach someone?
  • How about bedside manner?  Do you want someone with time to sit and answer all of your questions?  Do you want someone who can get you in and out of the office quickly?  Do you want someone who educates you about issues or do you just want their streamlined recommendations?
  • Do you want a family doctor that can see the whole family?  Or someone who just sees kids?  Do you want a larger practice or a smaller practice and why?  (There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to each).
  • How far will you have to travel to see this provider?

20 Questions for Potential Providers

Ped2

The following are some questions you may want to ask potential pediatric care providers. You may wish to highlight those that you care about and add to this list other questions you want to ask.

  1. What is your background and experience?  How many years have you been practicing?  Why did you get into pediatric care?
  2. What do you like about your job?  Do you have kids of your own?
  3. When we schedule visits, will we always be seeing you or will we be seeing other providers?  If the latter, how many providers are on staff?
  4. What is after-hour (evening, weekend, holiday) access like—for questions?  For urgent visits?
  5.  How quickly can we be seen for urgent/non-urgent issues?  Do you have same-day appointments?
  6.  How easy is it to get a hold of a doctor with questions?  Do you accept questions by email?  Do you have an on-call paging service?
  7.  What is your philosophy on breastfeeding? Do you have a lactation consultant?
  8.  What is your philosophy on immunizations?
  9.  What is your practice (conservative, liberal) of antibiotic use for common infections?
  10.  How long are most appointments (including well-appointments)?
  11.  What percentage (roughly) of your appointments start on time?
  12.  Do you have separate sick and well child waiting areas?
  13.  What is the first visit with baby like?  Where will the first visit take place?  Do you offer home visits?
  14.  What hospitals/urgent care facilities are you affiliated with?
  15.  What are your specific areas of interest when it comes to baby care?
  16.  Do you take my insurance?
  17.  How do you feel/how knowledgeable are you about "alternative" medicine?
  18.  What are your recommendations on parenting and baby’s sleep?
  19.  How important is patient education to you and in what ways do you facilitate this?
  20.  How important is preventative medicine to you and in what ways do you facilitate this?

After the Interviews

After a few interviews, consider how you felt in each provider’s office—

  • Did you feel relaxed and comfortable in their office?
  • Did you feel good asking them questions or did you feel discouraged?
  • Did you feel heard and understood?
  • Did you feel rushed?
  • Did they answer your questions to your satisfaction?
  • Did the provider show interest in you and your family?
  • Do you feel competent in their knowledge and skills?
  • Do you trust them?
  • What does your gut tell you about this person?
  • Are they the kind of person you want to call in an urgent situation?
  • Do their philosophies of care match your needs and desires?
  • What did you think about the office and the other staff?

Remember that you can always try out a provider and see how you feel about your initial visits.  It’s okay to change providers at any time.  You may want to do another round of interviews before you decide to make a switch.

Happy searching!