Postpartum

Is Breastfeeding An Effective Form of Birth Control?

Breastfeeding Baby

If you’re a new mommy and have passed your postpartum period of pelvic rest, you may be wondering how effective breastfeeding is as birth control. While you and your partner may be eager to be intimate once again, you are likely not looking to add another baby to the family anytime soon. Fortunately, exclusive breastfeeding is actually a highly effective method of birth control during the first six months postpartum and sometimes even beyond. Here’s how to make the most of your lactational amenorrhea.

What is the Lactational Amenorrhea Method?

Lactational amenorrhea is the term used to refer to the natural period of infertility that occurs after giving birth when a woman is breastfeeding her baby and is not menstruating. This period of infertility occurs because the hormones necessary for milk production actually suppress the hormones necessary for ovulation. Consequently, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method refers to when a couple uses exclusive breastfeeding as a form of birth control. You may be wondering just how effective simply breastfeeding your baby can possibly be at preventing pregnancy. The answer to that question is very effective, if a few important criteria are met. 

In order for the Lactational Amenorrhea Method to be as much as 98-99.5 percent effective, the following factors must be present:

  • Your baby must be 6 months or younger
  • You must be breastfeeding on demand during both day and nighttime
  • Your menstrual cycle has not yet returned
  • Your baby must be exclusively breastfed with no formula supplementation or introduction of solid foods to his diet

Even after six months of age, moms who frequently breastfeed their babies and who have not had the return of their menstrual cycle are only 6 percent likely to become pregnant.

What Factors will Affect the Return of My Fertility?

Although the average time for nursing mothers to experience a return of their menses is 14.6 months, there are a number of factors that may cause you to become fertile before then. These factors known to impact fertility include:

  • The introduction of solids to baby’s diet
  • A reduction in the number or duration of nursing sessions per day
  • Your baby beginning to sleep through the night
  • Regularly pumping in lieu of breastfeeding

Every woman is different and experiences sensitivity to hormones to varying degrees. Overall, the amount of time your baby spends at the breast each day will be the biggest factor contributing to the duration of your lactational amenorrhea. If your period has returned, breastfeeding is no longer impacting your fertility and you should not rely on this method for birth control. 

Can I Increase the Length of my Lactational Amenorrhea to Prevent Pregnancy?

Yes! There are several simple ways that you can attempt to maximize your lactational amenorrhea while breastfeeding. These include:

  • Continuing to breastfeed on demand past six months. Aim to put your baby to the breast at least every 4-6 hours, day and night.
  • Cosleeping to increase night nursing. Fertility hormone production is highest during the nighttime hours making night nursing a primary factor in preventing the return of fertility.
  • Delaying solids until 6 months and offering the breast before each meal.
  • Using nursing to comfort your baby.
  • Offering breastmilk exclusively. Do not supplement with formula.
  • Skipping pacifiers and postponing the introduction of bottles until necessary.
  • Keeping your baby close to encourage frequent nursing by babywearing.
  • Nursing lying down for naps and at night.

Using breastfeeding as birth control is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy during the first six months postpartum and even beyond under certain circumstances. Most importantly, your baby will enjoy the limitless health and emotional benefits of exclusive breastfeeding during this critical time in her development. For questions about lactational amenorrhea or for anything related to pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. 

Preparing Your Pooch for Baby’s Arrival

Dog with Baby

Before children (and even after) many people consider their pets their babies. Pets are important members of our family whom we love and interact with on a daily basis. Particularly for dogs, the arrival of a new baby can be a game changer. Having once had the full attention of their doting parents, the attention will be shifted to the demanding newborn and your pup or pups may begin to feel a little left out. Here are some tips for preparing your pooch for bringing home baby!

  1. Set up baby equipment like the crib, swing and other essentials in advance so that your dog can get used to his new surroundings. If you plan to have a gated off area where baby can safely play on the floor or have tummy time, go ahead and set that up early too so that your dog will begin to learn his new boundaries ahead of time.
  2. Nip any behavioral issues in the bud before baby arrives. If your dog is a habitual jumper when you walk in the door, take him to training school to kick the bad habit. The last thing you want is to be walking in the door with baby and have Rover jump on you both.
  3. If your dog has never been around children, consider taking him to a place with kids like the park to see how he reacts. Of course you will want to have him at a safe distance and on a leash for this experiment but it will helpful to see how he responds to little ones playing in the vicinity. 
  4. Use your phone or a prerecorded CD to play sounds that a baby might make for your dog. He may have never heard the cries of a baby before and exposing him to these stimuli before the actual baby arrives may help circumvent any anxiety caused by new and often loud noises.
  5. Your dog’s schedule will likely have some changes once baby arrives. There may be fewer long walks or other “Rover and Mom” excursions and he probably won’t get as much attention once you have a newborn on your hands. Rather than having him experience an abrupt change on the day baby arrives, consider easing him into the new schedule over a series of weeks before your due date. Dogs do much better with gradual modification than hasty changes to their routine.
  6. If you plan to take your baby for walks and bring your dog too, practice pushing the stroller while walking your dog. It may seem like a silly thing to do with an empty stroller but this may be more complicated than you think and require some fine tuning before you’re toting both of your babies.
  7. Be sure your dog has his own set of toys. Your baby will have lots of new toys that likely interest your dog. He will need his own exciting things to provide a distraction from chewing baby’s Sophie the Giraffe teether.
  8. Make arrangements for who will care for your pup in your absence when you and your partner are off to have the baby. Be sure to leave instructions for feeding, walking and who to contact in an emergency and leave your dog some special toys and treats to keep him entertained while you’re away. 
  9. Be sure to give Rover some extra love and snuggles in those final weeks before baby arrives. You soon will be busy with all the demands of a newborn and you both will be grateful to have had the extra cuddles when you could. 
  10. If you are able, have your partner or a trusted friend return to your home after the baby is born with a blanket or onesie that smells like baby. This will help Rover become acquainted with the smell of his new sibling before he arrives at home. 
  11. Ask for help! Taking Rover for long walks or for ‘Yappy Hour’ at the local park may be the last thing you are feeling up for in your sleep deprived state of new parenthood. Ask a friend or family member who is comfortable with dogs to help out with walks and getting your dog’s energy out. You will both be grateful you did!
  12. When you return home, have someone else hold baby while you greet your dog. Once he has calmed down, you or your partner can hold baby and allow Rover to sniff his feet and meet his new family member.
  13. In those first weeks at home, try to include your dog when possible. Have him lay by your feet as you nurse baby or sit by your side as you change your little one’s diaper. The more time he spends around you and baby, the more comfortable and accepting he will be. 
  14. * Safety Tip * Never allow your dog to get in between you and the baby. Even the most well-behaved, gentle dog should not be put into a situation that could become potentially dangerous if they are startled, scared or uncomfortable. 

Bringing a new baby home is a big adjustment for your dog too and taking the time to help him prepare for the change will serve you both well. With the right preparation and care to ensure that your dog’s physical and emotional needs are still being met, the introduction of a new baby can be a harmonious experience for all. In just a few years, your dog and your child will likely be the best of friends. For questions about bringing baby home or natural birth planning, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you, beginning to end!

Five New Year’s Resolutions for New Moms

New Years Resolutions 2016

As 2016 quickly approaches, you may be considering what your resolutions are for the coming year. If you’ve become a mom for the first time this year, your life has probably changed a good deal along with your priorities. Here are a few ideas for New Year’s Resolutions that can apply to most new moms.

1) Get Connected: Despite the many joys of being a new mom, sometimes it can be somewhat isolating. Those first few months with a new baby you will likely find yourself at home a fair amount of the time catering to the ever present needs of your precious little one. Many moms even find themselves struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety which is not uncommon as your hormones adjust after pregnancy. Getting connected to other new moms in your community can be a lifesaver during this time period. Try attending a breastfeeding support group or checking out websites like Meetup.com for local mommy groups in your area. Connecting with other moms will not only get you out of the house but will give you a support network as you learn the ropes of being a new parent.

2) Put down your phone: As a society, we have become obsessed with our smart phones. From Facebook and Instagram, to email, shopping and games, there isn’t anything you can’t do on your iPhone. If you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed while playing with your baby, or checking your email at stoplights, it may be time to begin practicing some self-discipline with your electronics. Although your little one may be too young to realize they don’t have your full attention, these are moments you won’t be able to get back someday while the internet will always be there to entertain you.

3) Prioritize self-care: Often one of the first things to go when you become a mom is remembering to take time out to care for yourself. Although having a baby is an around the clock job, it’s important to work together with your partner so that you can make time to take care of your own needs. Whether it’s taking a bubble bath or nap, sneaking out for a yoga class, going to the dentist or meeting a friend for lunch, your physical and emotional wellbeing should still be a priority when you have a baby.

4) Nurture your marriage: Finding time for your partner when you have a new baby can be challenging. You’re both exhausted from the sleep deprivation and you are trying to manage all of life’s responsibilities in addition to caring for your new babe. Making time for one another can often feel like the last thing you have time to add to your plate. It doesn’t have to be a date night to count towards this resolution. Think of little ways you can show each other you care in your everyday life. Leave a love note unexpectedly, plan an in-home date night, pick up a favorite treat to share after baby goes to bed, or offer simple words of affirmation to let your husband know you love him. Happy parents are the foundation for a happy family.

5) Get organized: Life can sometimes feel a little out of control after adding a new baby to the mix. Responsibilities and chores you were once always on top of may be piling up around you now despite your best efforts. Give yourself some grace to let things slide after a new baby but if it’s beginning to add stress to your life, it might be time to get organized. Whether it’s more efficiently delegating chores in your household, putting together a family budget spreadsheet or setting aside specific times each week to take care of necessary tasks, being more organized can help you and your family feel calmer amidst an eventful time of life. 

Pregnant distracted with smartphone

Whatever your New Year’s resolutions are this year, be sure to acknowledge all the remarkable things you’ve done in the past year. If you’ve become a mom for the first time, take a minute to realize the amazing journey your body has undergone through pregnancy and childbirth. Recognize the truly selfless nature of motherhood as you give of yourself every day and night to care for and nourish your baby. So as you take out a pen and paper (or your iPhone) to jot down those goals for the coming year, remember to make your own well-being a priority as well. Your family will function at its best when mom is happy and healthy. For all of your questions about pregnancy, natural birth or caring for a new baby, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center.

The Home Stretch: What to Do in the Final Weeks of Pregnancy

Final Weeks of Pregnancy

The final weeks of pregnancy are filled with excitement, nerves, aches and pains and often even some impatience. Fortunately, there is plenty to do during that time period to keep you busy and ensure that you are prepared for the arrival of your baby. Here are just a few of the things that should be on your to-do list for the home stretch of pregnancy!

  • Stock up on postpartum supplies: Must have items in the weeks following giving birth include heavy duty sanitary napkins (opt for overnight strength or even Depends), comfy undies, nursing pads, lanolin nipple salve and comfortable loose fitting clothing.

Expert tip: Consider making some ‘padsicles’ by applying witch hazel and aloe to sanitary napkins and freezing them individually. Padsicles make great soothing ice packs for your recovering lady parts.

  • Sleep! If this is your first baby and you don’t have a toddler or older child running around, cherish these last weeks of uninterrupted slumber while you can. Go to bed early, sleep late when possible and catch an afternoon nap. Your body needs to rest up for the big day and the months that follow of caring for a newborn baby.
  • Nest: Many soon-to-be-moms feel the almost compulsive urge to clean and organize in preparation of the arrival of the baby. If the urge has overcome you and you have the energy, run with it and ask your family and friends to help you. Clean out the refrigerator, dust the baseboards, reorganize your closet, spot clean your kitchen and bathroom and take unwanted clothes and belongings to donate. You will have greater peace of mind bringing your baby home to a clean house where everything is in its place.
  • Stock your freezer: Now that your freezer is clean and organized, it’s time to fill it with meals that can be easily reheated in a pinch. You won’t have time to prepare dinner while you and your partner are busy caring for a newborn, so plan ahead and have some nutritional meals ready to go for when the hunger hits. 
  • Prepare your car for baby: Clean out your car and take your car seat to the fire department for instruction on proper installation. You’ll want to have this completed several weeks in advance in the event that your baby should make an early appearance.
  • Prepare a contact list: There are likely lots of people who will be anxiously awaiting the news of the arrival of your little one. Preparing a list of people ahead of time for your husband to text, email or call can remove the stress of creating it on the spot. You may also wish to give your partner’s contact info to any close friends or family that will want to check on you while you are in labor.
  • Pack your birth center or hospital bag: The contents of your bag will vary depending on whether you will be going home the day of the birth or staying a few nights. Plan accordingly with changes of clothes, toiletries, lip balm, pajamas, slippers, and anything else that you may want to have access to while you are in labor. Be sure to prepare your bag several weeks in advance as you do not want to be scrambling to pack at the last minute.
  • If you haven’t already, create your birth plan: A birth plan is a document that outlines your wishes for labor and birth experience. For help creating a birth plan, check out this article on creating a natural birth plan. Be sure to print enough copies for everyone that you anticipate will be involved in your labor and delivery.
  • Spoil yourself: These may be the last weeks that you have time to focus on yourself for a while. Take advantage of this time by doing things to pamper yourself like getting a pedicure, a massage or a haircut. Eat out at your favorite restaurant, take a bubble bath or go shopping with a girlfriend. You’ll be glad you took the time to show yourself some TLC when you are in the throes of being a new parent.
  • Finish your nursery: If you’re creating a nursery for your baby-to-be, now is the time to put the final touches on it. Wash the crib sheets and changing table covers, hang any decorations or pictures and make sure you have everything you need for baby in those first weeks at home.
  • Make space on your camera: In the age of digital cameras and smartphones, it’s not uncommon to run out of space or memory for pictures. Make sure you clean out your photos and have plenty of space to take new pictures before you go into labor. Deleting old photos is the last thing you want to be worried about when you are trying to capture your first moments with baby.
  • Spend quality time with your partner: Similar to finding time to pamper yourself, it will probably be a little while before you and your spouse have time to devote to one another. Go on dates, make dinner together, go for walks, and spend some time focusing on each other and your relationship. There are many ways to involve your partner in your pregnancy. This will help you both feel better prepared and more supported heading into the challenges of being a new parent. 
  • If you have other children, use these weeks to spend some quality time with them, remind them of their importance to the family and help prepare them for the arrival of the baby. It is also a good idea to get a gift to give to your older child “from the baby” to help lessen any initial feelings of jealousy or competition.

The final weeks of pregnancy don’t have to be stressful with a little planning, organization and time set aside to care for yourself. To learn more about having a natural birth or for any and all questions related to pregnancy and birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you from preconception to postpartum and beyond.

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.

How To Boost Your Milk Supply

breastfeeding mom

For many new moms, milk supply is a common worry. You wonder if your baby is getting enough to eat, if she is gaining the appropriate amount of weight and if your body could possibly be producing enough milk to nourish your growing baby. The reality is that most women make exactly what their baby needs. A very small percentage of women are unable to produce enough milk and require supplementation as the only option. The body has an amazing way of knowing exactly what your baby needs and adjusting its milk production accordingly. However, if you have been told that you may have a low supply or are concerned for any reason, there are several healthy ways you can give your supply a boost and ensure that your body is producing to its maximum potential.

1) Nurse, nurse and nurse some more: Our bodies produce based on demand. The more your baby nurses, the more your body will be signaled that it needs to produce more milk. If your baby is having trouble gaining weight, be sure to feed at least every 1.5-2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night. Otherwise, it’s best to nurse your baby on demand especially as your supply is being established and you and baby are developing a healthy nursing relationship.

2) Use proper positioning and make sure baby has a good latch: How efficiently your baby breastfeeds is dependent upon an optimal position and a latch that allows for the maximum transfer of milk. Be sure to position baby close to you with his mouth and nose facing the breast and his hips turned towards you so that he does not need to turn his head. A baby who has a proper latch will have his tongue extended over his gums, lips flanged outward and will be covering your nipple and most of your areola with his mouth. If your baby is having a difficult time latching on and is unable to transfer sufficient milk, have a professional check for a tongue or lip tie. This is a common cause of a poor latch. A proper latch should not hurt.

proper latching technique

3) Pump in between feedings: Particularly if you feel your baby is not emptying the breast, pumping in between nursing sessions can be a great way to increase your supply and also to store up some extra milk on reserve. To further signal your body to produce more milk, continue pumping 2-5 minutes after the last drop of milk is released and use a high pump setting if your nipples aren’t too sore.

4) Offer both breasts at every feeding: Although baby may favor one side or the other, be sure to offer both sides at each feeding to ensure that both breasts are signaled to produce more milk. Switch baby to the opposite breast if you notice him dosing off, losing interest or ‘comfort sucking’. You can even offer both sides several times per feeding to ensure maximum milk transfer and production.

5) Steer clear of pacifiers and bottles at least until your supply is established: To avoid nipple confusion and allow your body to establish its supply, avoid the use of bottles and pacifiers until at least 3.5 weeks of age. During the first 3 weeks postpartum, your milk supply is under endocrine control and is being established by the baby spending time at the breast. Studies have shown that a minimum of 140 minutes of active nursing per day is needed to achieve your maximum supply. Artificial nipples can interfere with this process. In the event that you must be separated from your baby during this period, be sure to pump when you would have nursed. 

6) Take a ‘nursing vacation’: If you’re struggling with your supply, plan to spend a couple days in bed doing nothing but nursing your baby and resting. Not only will this allow baby to nurse often and trigger your body to produce more milk, it will also provide quality bonding and resting time for you and your babe.  

7) Take care of yourself: Giving birth, whether naturally or via C-section, takes a toll on your body. Not only are you in need of time to recover physically but you are also adjusting to caring for another human being around the clock. Getting rest, sleeping when you are able, staying hydrated and eating a nutritious, balanced diet are all important factors in maintaining your milk supply. Breastfeeding women require an additional 300-500 calories and at least 8-10 glasses of water per day. As with most all things related to parenting, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be at your best for your baby.  

8) Limit alcohol intake: Although you may have been waiting nine months to enjoy that glass of wine, it’s best to do so sparingly while nursing. One study that examined women after drinking 1-2 glasses of wine found that they had a slower let down and produced less milk overall following the alcohol intake.  

9) When necessary, try a natural galactagogue: A galactagogue is any substance that promotes lactation. Some of the most common natural galactagogues used to increase milk production include fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, Red Raspberry leaf, brewer’s yeast and steel cut oatmeal. As with any medicine or herbal supplement, speak to your healthcare provider before trying any galactagogues to determine if that is the best decision for you and your baby.

10) Give baby only breast milk: When possible, avoid supplementation with formula. Breast milk is perfectly composed to meet the needs of your baby. When formula is used for supplementation, your body is not receiving the signal from baby to produce more milk. This is particularly important during a growth spurt when your baby is cluster feeding. Although it may seem like baby is not being satisfied because they are nursing so frequently, they are actually doing their part to boost your milk supply to meet their growing needs.

11) Massage the breasts: Massaging your breasts while baby is nursing or while you are pumping can increase the flow of milk. Start at the top of the breast massaging the milk producing glands firmly with your fingers in a downward circular motion. Gradually move closer to the areola as you massage, spending time focusing on each area of the breast. A warm compress can also help this process. 

12) Seek support: The help of a lactation consultant can be invaluable as you build a breastfeeding relationship with your baby. A lactation consultant can help with troubleshooting to determine if there’s a problem with latch, position or a ties and can also be a source of comfort and reassurance that your baby is getting exactly what she needs. Other great forms of support for nursing moms include breastfeeding support groups, mom groups, and friends and family who have breastfed their babies. It is so important that you feel supported during this special and often challenging time in your life.  Surround yourself with people who share your values and can help you uphold your wishes to breastfeed your baby.  

Even if you can't nail all of these tips, remember that most women do produce enough breast milk for their babies. The perception that their bodies are not producing enough milk is one of the most commonly cited reasons by mothers who decide to wean or introduce solids early. Unlike bottles, which you are able to measure, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much milk your little one is drinking. Rest assured though that as long as they are wetting and soiling their diapers regularly, they are probably getting exactly the right amount of milk from you. Also, breast milk is digested more quickly than formula which leaves breastfed babies needing and wanting to nurse more often. This is perfectly normal and healthy! 

At Health Foundations, our lactation consultants and postpartum nurses are here to assist you with any and all questions you have related to breastfeeding your new baby. If you are pregnant and just beginning your search for prenatal care, contact Health Foundations to schedule a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our beautiful Birth Center. We are here to serve you at every stage.

 

Is it the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum Baby Blues

The weeks following the birth of your baby will be filled with many strong emotions. Overwhelming joy, utter exhaustion and some fear are just a few of the feelings you may experience. But what about when your emotions are not of happiness and excitement but instead are sadness and irritability? And what if you are not feeling the amazing connection with your baby that everyone described to you while you were pregnant? You may be wondering if what you are experiencing is just a case of the baby blues or if you should be concerned about postpartum depression. Here’s how to tell the difference.

What are the ‘Baby Blues’?

The ‘baby blues’, or a short period of feeling sad or moody following childbirth, affects approximately 70-80 percent of mothers. The baby blues are triggered by a neurobiological process when estrogen and progesterone hormone levels fall rapidly following giving birth causing mom to feel depressed, tired and irritable.  A drastic decrease in other hormones produced by the thyroid gland likely also contributes to this period of depression. The baby blues differ from postpartum depression in that it typically only last a few days to several weeks and should not interfere with your daily functioning or ability to care for your baby. Some signs that might indicate you are in the throes of the baby blues include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Feelings of dependency
  • Sadness
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Decrease in appetite or overeating
  • Feelings of vulnerability

What is Postpartum Depression?

With postpartum depression, the symptoms may be similar to the baby blues but they will be more extreme and will not diminish in a matter of weeks. Women who experience postpartum depression often struggle to bond with and care for their baby and complete everyday tasks and obligations. Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression may show up weeks or months after the birth of your child and may last indefinitely until treatment is sought. Approximately 10-20 percent of women experience postpartum depression following childbirth. Signs you may have postpartum depression include:

  • Pervasive and persistent depressed 
  • mood
  • Severe mood swings
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Lack of interest in activities that you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of interest in your new baby
  • Lack of energy/ extreme fatigue
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Excessive crying episodes
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Anger and irritability
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of focus

Causes and Risk Factors:

While biological factors such as rapidly decreasing hormone levels may trigger the onset of the baby blues or postpartum depression, psychosocial factors also play a role. You may be a more likely candidate for postpartum depression if you have other life stressors in addition to having a new baby. 

These stressors can be related to the experience of childbirth or completely unrelated and include but are not limited to:

  • A traumatic birthing experience
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • Lack of social support
  • Marital discord
  • Struggles with body image
  • Feelings of lost identity and control
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Financial problems

You may also have a higher risk for developing postpartum depression if you have a history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder, previous episodes of postpartum depression or have a baby with a disability, health complications or special needs. 

When to Seek Help:

Mom with baby

Regardless of whether or not you think it may be the start of postpartum depression or just a period of the baby blues, it is important to check in with your health care provider about how you are feeling. 

Contact your doctor or care provider right away if:

  • It’s been 2 weeks and your symptoms have not improved
  • Your symptoms are making it difficult to care for your baby
  • Your symptoms are getting progressively worse
  • You are finding it difficult to complete basic daily tasks

** If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, call your doctor or 911 immediately and have your partner or a close friend or family member come care for your baby while you seek help.**

The baby blues and postpartum depression often bring feelings of shame to the mother who feels as though she should be feeling only joyous and grateful about the birth of her baby. You are not alone if you are feeling this way and there are many people and resources available to help you. Reach out to your care provider, your partner, a trusted friend or a spiritual leader for support and guidance during this difficult time period and never be afraid to ask for the help you need. When left untreated, postpartum depression can become chronic depression and pose long term risks to both the mother and baby. Treatment may include counseling, medication, support groups and other natural approaches and is intended to alleviate the painful symptoms of living with postpartum depression.


Discover a Better Way to Welcome Your Precious Ones.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies

Via  food.com

As a new breastfeeding mom, you may be eager to find ways to increase and maintain your milk supply. What better way to do so than by enjoying a warm batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies fortified with ingredients to give your supply a boost!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cups of oats
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • 2-4 tablespoons of brewers’ yeast

Directions: 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix water and flaxseed meal and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
  • Beat butter with brown and white sugar.
  • Add eggs and mix.
  • Add flaxseed mixture and vanilla and beat.
  • Sift flour, baking soda, brewers’ yeast, and salt and add to butter mix.
  • Stir in chocolate chips and oats.
  • Scoop even portions onto a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 12 minutes.
  • Let cool and remove from baking sheet.
  • Recipe should yield 4.5 dozen cookies. Don’t enjoy them all at once!

Check out some other great recipes!

Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work

Breastfeeding Career Mom

Returning to work after having a baby can be one of the most challenging transitions for a new mom. You may be feeling anxious about being away from your little one and wondering how he will fare in your absence. One gift you can give to your baby as you return to work is to continue to provide him with the incomparable nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding. This may seem like an extraordinarily daunting task, to continue to provide milk for your baby while at work, but many women do so successfully and with great reward to both baby and themselves. Here are a few tips to ease the transition back to work and help you and your baby continue to have a thriving nursing relationship.

1. Get a good pump and get to know it well

While a hand pump may be fine for occasional pumping needs, if you are planning to return to work and will be pumping regularly, you want something that works efficiently and effectively. The best option would be to get a double electric or a hospital grade pump. There are several ways to obtain a breast pump including purchasing one yourself, renting one from a hospital or going through your insurance company. Many insurance companies today provide full coverage for a breast pump with no out of pocket cost to you. Once you receive your pump, review the directions, learn how to use and clean the parts and start practicing using it before you return to the office. Don’t be discouraged if you are not producing much milk at first. A baby’s sucking is the most effective means of extracting milk but your body will become accustomed to regular pump use and begin to produce more consistently.

2. Get a hands-free pumping bra

A hands-free pumping bra is an invaluable investment when it comes to comfort and convenience while pumping. This will allow you to continue to do work if you wish, make phone calls, eat your lunch, read a book or any number of other activities while pumping that you cannot do if you are stuck holding the flanges.  

3. Introduce your baby to bottles BEFORE you return to work

While you should wait until you’ve established a good breastfeeding relationship with your baby before giving a bottle, it is important to introduce bottle feeding before you return to work.  Some babies will easily adapt to the bottle while others may be less accepting of the change.  Don’t worry if your baby does not take to it right away, keep trying and know that they will eat if they are hungry. Consider having the caregiver who will be watching your baby while you are at work practice giving the bottle as well. Your baby may actually be more willing to take a bottle from someone other than you as it can be less confusing.

4. Discuss your plans to continue breastfeeding with your boss

In accordance with an amendment made to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, you have the right to a reasonable break time to express milk for your baby for up to 12 months in a private place that is not a restroom. Although this law only applies to companies with over 50 people, all employers should be respectful of this right. Let your boss know when and how often you will need to take breaks and find out what accommodations they have available both for pumping and your milk storage.  

5. Establish a pumping schedule and routine

If you are returning to work when your baby is only a couple months old, you will want to pump every time you would have fed your baby. This is because you want to maintain your milk supply and let your body know that you still need to produce at the same frequency. Once your supply is more established, you may be able reduce the number of pumping sessions per day. Pre-schedule your pumping sessions and put a reminder on your phone or in your Outlook calendar to prevent missed sessions, engorgement and leaks. Be sure to allow yourself 20-30 minutes per pumping session as you will need time to clean the parts and store your milk after you finish. If you struggle to letdown with your pump, have pictures or videos of your baby on hand to help ease the process. It’s also smart to have snacks and water available to stay hydrated and nourished.

6. Choose a breastfeeding supportive caregiver

Finding a caregiver who understands and values the importance of breastfeeding and breast milk is an important part of returning to work. Be sure to educate your caregiver on how to handle, thaw and warm breast milk and what safety precautions to take in terms of making sure the milk stays fresh. Share the importance of holding your baby and lovingly offering a bottle in your absence to ease the transition of not being around mom. Consider storing your milk in small amounts (approximately 2-4 ounces) that can be thawed individually to minimize having extra that is wasted. Any milk that has been thawed and placed in the refrigerator should be used within a 24 hour period or discarded. It may be helpful to build a small stockpile of milk in your freezer for the caregiver so that there is always back-up on hand.  

For tips on storing human breast milk, see "Storing Human Breast Milk"

7. Maximize your time together with baby by breastfeeding often

When possible, nurse your baby right before you leave for work and right when you return to continue nurturing the breastfeeding bond. Consider sleeping near your baby at night so that you can nurse comfortably if needed. Often babies who are separated from their moms during the day will nurse more frequently at night. This is called reverse cycling.  Consequently, you may find that your baby actually eats less during the day with the caregiver than he does at night with you.  Any amount of breast milk you can continue to give your baby when you return to work is better than no breast milk. Make a commitment to yourself and your baby to try to continue exclusively breastfeeding for the first 30 days and if you find you are unable to produce adequate supply, you can always choose to supplement with formula. If you find yourself feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by the process of continuing to nurse your baby when returning to work, remind yourself of the tremendous physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding. And always, as with everything in motherhood, find other moms to connect with who are on a similar journey. Sharing tips and support for one another during your transition back to work can be a saving grace during this stressful time. For questions about breastfeeding or other pregnancy and infant related topics, contact Health Foundations to schedule a free consultation with a midwife and tour of the 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

Dollarphotoclub_59484224.jpg

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

Postpartum Care: What Happens After Giving Birth?

As your due date approaches, you may be wondering what to expect for your own recovery after giving birth. There is often so much focus on the excitement of having a new baby that women give little forethought to postpartum recovery. Preparing for postpartum is the key to having a smooth transition. You can expect your body to undergo a series of physical and hormonal changes following birth. These changes come in addition to the competing feelings of sheer joy and utter exhaustion as you adjust to your new life as a parent. Below is a list of physical and emotional side effects that you may experience following the birth of your child.

Vaginal Pain, Soreness and Bleeding:

Whether you have perennial tearing, require an episiotomy, or simply have normal vaginal stretching to allow the baby through the birth canal, you will likely have some pain and soreness for several weeks. It is also normal to have postpartum bleeding and discharge, called lochia, for up to a month following childbirth. The bleeding and discharge will initially be red and heavy in the early days but should eventually become lighter in color and volume. To alleviate vaginal pain, consider sitting on a pillow, utilizing cold witch hazel soaked sanitary pads and cleansing the area after urinating with warm water in a peri bottle.

Sore & Engorged Breasts:

As your body works to adjust its milk production to your infant’s needs, many women experience engorgement and leaking milk. Your breasts may feel swollen, hard and sensitive. You may be more likely to experience painful symptoms such as clogged ducts and nipple soreness during these early days. To reduce pain and continue to encourage milk production, nurse often and pump when needed. Alternate between placing a warm wash cloth on the breasts and using ice packs to alleviate soreness between feeding sessions. Taking hot showers to encourage milk letdown can also help with engorgement and breast pain. Thankfully, most insurance companies now cover the costs of breastfeeding support and services.

Contractions:

You may experience contractions or ‘after pains’ that feel similar to menstrual cramps in the days following your delivery. This is caused by the uterus beginning to shrink and compress to prevent excess bleeding. Consider using an over-the-counter pain killer if these or any postpartum symptoms are causing you considerable discomfort.

Urination Difficulty:

Problems with urination following childbirth are not uncommon due to pain, bruising and swelling surrounding the perinneal area. While this will typically resolve on its own as the area heals, stretching of the tissue surrounding the bladder can often result in leaking of urine and unintended elimination when sneezing, laughing or straining. To minimize the effects of damaged muscles and nerves of the bladder and urethra, do your Kegel exercises often during pregnancy and after.

Weight Loss:

Finally, a good postpartum symptom! Most women will lose more than ten pounds immediately following childbirth that is the result of the loss of the weight of baby, the placenta and the amniotic fluids. You may still look six months pregnant as your stomach has stretched to accommodate your growing babe, but with a healthy diet and exercise, you should continue to lose your remaining weight over the coming months.

Skin and Hair Changes:

While pregnancy can often come with the added benefits of glowing skin and healthy thick hair, the postpartum period may be a rude awakening for your voluminous locks. The extra hair growth experienced and retained during pregnancy is typically lost over the six months following childbirth and often leaves you pulling clumps from your brush. Although skin problems such as dryness and itchiness may present themselves due to hormonal changes, you are also likely to see a lightening of both stretch marks and linea nigra during the postpartum period.

Constipation, Hemorrhoids and Bowels:

Whether you have a vaginal birth or a Cesarean section delivery, many women experience symptoms of constipation and difficulty passing bowel movements after giving birth. While pain killers and the residual effects of an epidural can make you constipated, you may also have pain, bruising or tearing surrounding the perineum from a natural birth. This may leave you wanting to avoid the added pressure of bowel movements all together. Unfortunately, another common problem experienced during pregnancy and post birth are hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids occur when pressure causes the veins surrounding the rectum to become swollen and the skin to become irritated. To reduce the pain caused by the pressure of bowel movements, consider using a stool softener or laxative in the days following your delivery. As always, be sure to eat a healthy diet that is rich in fiber and to drink lots of water. Probiotics also have many benefits during postpartum, for mom and for baby that can help relieve constipation.

Emotional Changes:

The birth of your child will likely be accompanied by some of the most powerful emotions that you and your partner have ever experienced. The excitement and joy of new life, the trepidation of being new parents and the exhaustion from sleep deprivation are all common things to feel in the days following your baby’s arrival. It is not uncommon to experience what’s known as the ‘baby blues’ or a mild period of depression in the first two weeks. While the ‘baby blues’ are usually nothing to be concerned about, if you find yourself slipping into a more concerning depression, feeling hopeless and despondent or having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, contact your health care provider immediately to seek support for postpartum depression. 

Also See: Ten Homeopathic Remedies for the Postpartum Period

Cesarean delivery:

Despite the best laid plans for a vaginal or natural delivery, many births each year necessitate a Cesarean section due to complications with the mother or baby. The recovery from a C-section can be different from a vaginal birth, and may require that you allow a couple extra weeks for rest and recuperation. Common discomforts that can occur during your recovery include pain in the abdomen and area surrounding the incision site, difficulty walking and standing, pain in the abdomen when sneezing, coughing or laughing and numbness and swelling around the incision. Take care to ensure that you are getting enough rest, drinking plenty of water and limiting lifting and physical activity until your doctor clears you at your postpartum checkup.

If at any time during your recovery period you experience concerning symptoms such as a fever above 100.4 degrees, abnormally heavy vaginal bleeding, foul smelling discharge or pain, redness and discharge around the incision site of a C-section, contact your health care provider to be seen. Although you may be swept up in the excitement and responsibility of caring for your newborn, it is also imperative that you care for yourself during this recovery period. Nap when your baby naps, ask friends and family for help with household chores and be sure to nourish yourself with a healthy diet and plenty of water. Remember that your body just went through a major physical accomplishment and will need some TLC of its own in order to be at your best while you care for your new little one.

Further Reading:

For all questions about postpartum care, pregnancy and childbirth, contact Health Foundations to schedule a consultation with a midwife or take a tour of the Birth Center.

10 Common Myths of Motherhood

There are many preconceived notions that we, as women, have about motherhood before we have our own children.  These ideas come from movies, TV shows, other moms and books we read, among many other avenues.  The one thing that they all have in common is that they are not always accurate. Here’s a list that we’ve compiled of some of the most common “myths” about motherhood.  

Myth 1: My life won’t change much after I have a baby.

Reality: This is likely not true. Having a baby changes everything.  While it will be one of the most meaningful changes in your life, it also inherently brings a great deal of transformation.  Babies quickly become the center of your world once born into your family.  They require around the clock care and some days will demand all the physical and emotional energy you have.  Babies impact our ability to be spontaneous, the amount of attention we are able to give our partners, the time we can invest in our careers and often will shift the balance of priorities in our lives.  But most of all, having a baby will introduce you to a love you have never experienced before---a love so profound that it makes all the other upheaval more than worth it and then some.  

Myth 2: A good mom bonds with her baby immediately.

Reality: Motherhood, for many, can be a constant internal battle with guilt.  ‘Am I good enough?’  ‘Am I doing this right?’  ‘Am I meeting my baby’s needs?’  This battle can start as early as the first days after birth when we are expected to look into our tiny baby’s eyes and feel the strongest bond we have ever felt.  Not always the case.  Childbirth is a physically and emotionally taxing experience for the woman and often the first emotions experienced in the aftermath are not what we had planned.  We may feel exhausted, in pain, overwhelmed and even depressed due to the fluctuating hormones in our body. Our baby may be a challenging infant due to colic or breastfeeding difficulties. These are all factors that may affect the initial bond you have with your baby. But fear not, it will come and it will be like no other-just like you imagined.  

Myth 3: Mothering comes naturally.

Reality: For some, yes. For many, no.  Motherhood is hard work and when you combine all the major transformations having a child brings into your life with sleep deprivation and learning to care for a tiny human, there are bound to be some bumps in the road.  This is another area where the guilt tends to creep in. Thoughts such as, “I should be better at this,” “I shouldn’t feel so overwhelmed,” “I shouldn’t feel depressed during this joyous time,” cause us to feel as though we just aren’t good enough for the job.  Rest assured there are many women in this world for which motherhood does not come naturally. And they too will eventually find their groove and raise kids that are just as great as Suzie Homemaker’s next door.  

Myth 4: A good mom knows how to “do everything” and balance it all.  

Reality: Hardly! There’s that pesky guilt again.  No one parent, or even two, is capable of doing everything perfectly.  As mentioned, having a child will shift the balance of priorities in your family giving a new “norm” to the time you to dedicate to each aspect of your life.  Whether you are balancing a career and motherhood or the daily stressors of running a busy household, there are going to be days where you have to let things slide. And that is okay! Make a list of the things that need to get done, rank them in order of importance and do what you can.  The list will still be there tomorrow.

Myth 5: Moms like their kids all the time.

Reality: Is there anyone that you can like ALL the time? Our children develop little personalities of their own, and much like us, they are not always going to be perfect.  Children and babies can have bad days just like any other person. They can be grumpy, moody, needy, naughty, irresponsible and a long list of other undesirable traits. Just because you may feel like you don’t like your child very much in the moment, it doesn’t mean you won’t love them at the end of the day.

Myth 6: A good mom belongs to one, big, supportive, “Mom’s Club.”

Reality: Wouldn’t that be nice? The truth is that being a mom, despite all the wonderful aspects, can often be pretty lonely. Especially in those early days as you trudge through the sleepless nights, challenges of finding a rhythm with your newborn, and the delicate dance of making time to meet your own needs.  In addition to there not being enough hours in the day, motherhood tends to bring out some pretty strong and often polarizing beliefs in women. You may find that your personal views on whether or not to sleep train or breastfeed may incite heated debates with other moms in your circle. The best thing you can do is find the moms in your community that you can relate to and befriend them. Check out breastfeeding support groups, join mommy groups and attend playdates and other mom and baby friendly activities in your community.  Finding a good “mom friend” is almost as priceless as finding a good spouse!

Myth 7: Breastfeeding is “natural;” therefore it should come “naturally.”

Reality: Breastfeeding is hard work, whether you encounter challenges with it or not.  This seems to be one of the greatest misconceptions that pregnant women have.  You envision your newborn baby, happily latching on with no problem, gazing up at you quietly while you nurse him off to dreamland. No problem, right? Not so fast. While breastfeeding is a natural instinct for babies, it is often a learning curve for both mom and baby.  You can encounter difficulties with the baby’s latch, problems with tongue and lip ties, struggles with milk supply and engorgement, and constant worries of whether or not baby is “getting enough.” And even without additional challenges, in the early days you are likely on a schedule of feeding on demand or every couple hours, which can leave you feeling exhausted and your nipples feeling ravaged.  To soften the learning curve of breastfeeding, consider taking a breastfeeding class before birth, joining a support group with your baby and connecting with other moms who are going through the same journey as you.  

Also see "15 Cool Facts about Breast Feeding"

Myth 8: We are shorting our children every time we invest in our own needs, desires and interests.

Reality: We will be shorting our children AND ourselves if we don’t care for our own needs and pursue our own desires and interests.  Unfortunately, self-care and parenthood don’t always feel like two things that can coexist in our lives. But without taking the time to care for our own needs, mothers can easily become overwhelmed, overtired, overburdened and resentful.  Feeling this way will only hinder our ability to care for our children and family the way we desire.  Take the time to make sure you are getting enough rest, maintaining your friendships, connecting with your spouse and pursuing your own interests in your everyday life. Although, this is often easier said than done, you will be a better person, partner and parent for it.  

Myth 9: Life as presented on TV and in advertising reflects the way that life really is. 

Reality: Real life, with or without children, is a journey through valleys and peaks.  Being a mother will come with good days and bad, stress and joy, frustration and pride and all the many other emotions of the human existence. If we set our expectations on a perfect life, often as presented to us in TV and in movies, we will be setting ourselves up for disappointment and missed opportunities to grow and learn from the challenges presented.  

Myth 10: Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Reality: FALSE. Asking for help is a sign of good delegation skills.  Particularly in the early days of parenthood, learning to ask friends and family for help will be a skill that will be worth your weight in gold.  You and your partner will likely be feeling too exhausted, overwhelmed and totally enamored with the new life you have created to be worrying about where your next meal is coming from or whether or not the dogs were walked. If you have friends and family in the area, who are asking how they can help, tell them!  Before giving birth, make a list of the areas of your life where you could use some assistance after bringing baby home and start doling out the chores.  Your loved ones will likely be more than happy to assist you during this time period in exchange for a few minutes of holding your snuggly baby.  And asking for help doesn’t stop being an important skill after infancy.  It takes a community to raise a child. Don’t be afraid to rely on yours.

15 Cool Facts about Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding mom

We all know the saying “breast is best” but here are some of the colossal benefits, and a couple quirky facts, about breastfeeding. 1.  Human milk boosts a baby’s immune system big time—helping baby fight viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, including:

  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Ear infections
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Infant diarrhea
  • Common colds and flus

2.  Breastfeeding can actually reduce baby’s risk of disease later in life, including:

  • Type I and II diabetes
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Leukemia
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Asthma
  • Eczema

3.  Breastfeeding reduces mama’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.  The longer she breastfeeds, the higher the benefit.  

Get this—breastfeeding a baby girl actually reduces her lifetime risk of breast cancer by 25%.

4.  Breastfeeding saves a family approximately $2 to 4 thousand dollars annually (compared to cost of formula).

5.  Breastfeeding helps mama heal faster in the postpartum, helping her uterus return to pre-pregnancy size faster and lowering overall postpartum blood loss.

6.  Breastfeeding can help mama return to her pre-baby weight.  It takes 1000 calories a day on average to produce breast milk.  Women are advised to consume an extra 500 calories a day, and the body dips into reserves it built up in pregnancy to make the rest (it’s important to consume those extra calories or the body actually goes into “starvation mode” and holds onto the reserves).

7.  Producing breast milk consumes 25% of the body’s energy; the brain only uses 20% by comparison.

8.  On average, babies remove 67% of the milk mama has available—they eat until fullness, not until the breast is emptied.

9.  Almost 75% of all moms produce more milk in their right breast, whether they are right- or left- handed.

10.  Mama’s body is constantly making the perfect milk for baby.  Milk changes its nutritional profile as baby grows (milk made for a 3 month old is different than for a 9 month old).  Milk can even change day to day—for example, water content may increase during times of hot weather and baby-sickness to provide extra hydration.

11.  Human milk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies (who doesn’t love that?)  Breastfeeding also calms mama and helps her bond to baby.

12.  Breastfed infants are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

13.  Mama’s breasts can detect even a one degree fluctuation in baby’s body temperature and adjust accordingly to heat up or cool down baby as needed.  This is one reason skin-to-skin contact in the early days is so crucial.

14.  Breastfeeding reduces baby’s risk of cavities later on and may lower the chance they will need braces as kids.

15.  Breastfeeding mamas sleep on average 45 minutes more a night, compared to those who formula feed.

To learn more about breast feeding from a Midwife, please schedule a free consultation 

Ten homeopathic remedies for the postpartum period

homeopathic-remedyHomeopathy is safe and gentle energetic medicine used to support our bodies, minds and spirits from the inside out. Homeopathic remedies are available at local health food stores including Whole Foods and local co-ops. Over the counter dosages of the following remedies (at 10x to 30x) can be used to treat issues that may arise after birth (follow directions on the bottle or given by a care provider). Dr. Amy and Monica at Health Foundations are both trained in naturopathic medicine and can also advice on appropriate remedies for you or your family. Here are ten homeopathic remedies that may help women after birth, as they heal physically and adjust to the intense transformation they’re undergoing. Many of these are great for mood disturbances that can come after birth.

Arnica

Arnica is commonly used for bruising and can aid in healing the perineum and other tissues after birth. It can also be used for afterpains and uterine cramping that can occur with nursing.

Bellis Perennis

This homeopathic remedy can be used in the postpartum to treat abdominal symptoms. It too can be helpful for bruising and injury related to birth, as well as afterpains. It can also support healing after a tear. It may help women who have had a C-section.

Sepia

Sepia is one of the best remedies for assisting women experiencing hormonal changes, making it great for the postpartum period. It can be especially helpful in women experiencing the baby blues or even postpartum depression—those who may feel irritably, apathetic, resentful, or burdened. Women who benefit from this remedy may also feel indifferent to the birth experience and have trouble bonding with the baby. This remedy can also help with pelvic weakness or uterine prolapse.

Phytolacca

This homeopathic remedy can be helpful for issues arising with breastfeeding, including engorgement, painful nipples, and plugged ducts.

Natrum muriaticum (Nat Mur)

This remedy can be helpful when a woman is experiencing feelings of disappointment about the birth experience or overall outcome. It can help when one feels irritation at other’s attempts to console them even though they are sad. Women needing this remedy may also get headaches or heart palpitations when depressed.

Pulsatilla

This remedy can aid women who are feeling emotionally sensitive and prone to tears in the postpartum. These women may feel needy and insecure, wanting constant affection, reassurance, and nurturing. Getting fresh air and avoiding warm stuffy rooms can help. Finding a way to express/release the emotions in some way also greatly assists women experiencing this heightened sensitivity in the postpartum.

Phosphorus

This remedy is good for women who are experiencing anxiety and fear that something bad will happen to themselves, the baby, or others. This woman may have a hard time being alone. Many women who experience these fears and anxieties in the postpartum also experience heightened sensitivity to stimuli and exhaustion.

Calms Forte

This is a wonderful and very gentle sleep aid, helpful for women who are exhausted but having trouble sleeping and adjusting to their drastically altered sleeping rhythms.

Calcarea carbonica

This remedy can help women overwhelmed in the postpartum. For thes women, weakness and fatigue may lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares. A person who needs this remedy often feels sluggish, cold, and easily tired by exercise.

Cimicifuga

This remedy is for emotionally and hormonally based depression. A woman needing this remedy may feel “a dark cloud” has crept over her life and that nothing is right. Anxious and low-spirited, she may begin to believe she is incapable of caring for the baby. Alternatively, she may become excitable and talkative, saying and doing irrational things.

If you are dealing with challenging emotional or physical symptoms after birth, please reach out and connect with your care providers and your personal support team of friends and family, who can all help you.