Winter Newsletter Editorial: NEWBORNS

Winter Newsletter Editorial: NEWBORNS

By Stephanie Ondrack

Welcome to the Childbearing Society’s winter newsletter, newborn edition!

Much has been discovered about the youngest members of our species over the past few decades. It may surprise some of you to realize how little we used to know about newborns, to imagine that not so long ago, we believed these small babies were just blank slates—empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge, incapable of experiencing emotions, sensations, suffering, or fulfilment.

Research on newborns, as fascinating and important as it is, is merely beginning to vindicate what parents have always observed, and what we have always known in our hearts. Babies are complex little people, with strong personalities, explicit needs, and a wide range of emotions. Although it is true that they don’t come with a manual, babies are quite good at telling us what they need. In this issue, we take a look at some of the more recent findings about newborns, what they’re all about (Babies Remember, by Bonnie Davies),what they need to thrive (The Pursuit of Proximity by Pat Currie), and how we parents cope with their sudden and overwhelming centrality in our lives (Why Can Motherhood Feel so Hard, by Stephanie Jhala). Our question of the quarter examines the popular question of swaddling for young babies: Yes? No? Sometimes? 

We hope you gain some insights from this issue, but we hope you trust your instincts, and turn instead to your own baby for the real low down on his or her needs. A baby may not come with a manual, but they don’t need to. Your baby *is* the manual, full of cues and information. And learning to ‘read’ your baby makes you the most knowledgeable expert in the world.

We’re Mammals

We’re Mammals

By Shahrzad Tayebi, IBCLC, CST

Humans are classified as mammals ; species distinguished by the mammary glands and ability to breastfeed  and yet you might ask why are there are so many challenges in this physiological function? Well to begin with, let me reassure you that not all women around the world have as many challenges as western women do. Why? Because in many cultures, women don’t question their body’s ability to feed their babies and they have confidence that their babies know how to do it, just like all other mammals do. Have you ever doubted that a puppy can breastfeed? Then why is the baby of the most intelligent species having so many issues? Maybe because we don’t trust them as much as we trust a puppy for this!!

In my 18 years of experience as a midwife back home in Iran, I didn’t have anywhere close to the number of clients I’ve had in five years here in Canada as a Lactation Consultant. For this reason, I’ve decided to make an educational video on breastfeeding that emphasizes on the baby’s capability to breastfeed and prove how the less mom does in this physiological function, the better. In all mammals, babies do the latching not the moms! our babies can’t run to us like a puppy does, but if they’re in their habitat and have the freedom to move and adjust their body, they will have the best latch and thrive.

To no surprise, my video is called “We’re Mammals”. It should be ready by early 2019.

If anyone is interested in taking part in this video, please contact me at

Shahrzad Tayebi, IBCLC, CST


Art of Making Lotions Potions and Scrubs Workshop

Join Eco-Maternity Consultant and Greenproofer Iona Bonamis for a hands-on workshop where you’ll learn how to easily make your own natural body care products. All supplies will be provided, and you’ll take home all the products that you’ll be making – a nourishing facial moisturizer, lip balm, healing hand and foot salve, immunity essential oil blend, and body wash.
When: Dec. 5th, 6:30-8:15pm
Where: Trout Lake Community Centre (3360 Victoria Dr)
Space is limited. Register: here
ASK CHILDBEARING: Should I swaddle my newborn?

ASK CHILDBEARING: Should I swaddle my newborn?

By Stephanie Ondrack

Q:Should I swaddle my newborn? I have received several swaddling blankets as gifts, but I have heard conflicting things.

A:Swaddling babies used to be routine practice. It was a way of helping agitated babies calm down and settle when they were separated from their mothers. Since babies used to be kept in nurseries, removed from the loving arms and warm bodies that they needed, swaddling provided a way to mimic some of the sensations of being held and protected.


However, even though it appeared to calm babies down and reduce crying, we now realize that swaddling did not, in fact, provide any of the other benefits of snug body contact. When held by a parent, a newborn’s systems all settle into a state of calmness and homeostasis. The baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and hormone production are all affected, and by extension their digestive system, their neural development, their senses, and their growth. Babies literally ‘organize’ themselves through proximity to a parent or attached caregiver. So swaddling confers none of the actual benefits of being held, but is there any harm?


We would all love to believe that anything that can help a baby sleep longer and deeper is a good thing. But babies are not actually meant to sleep so soundly. As inconvenient as it is for us tired parents, babies are supposed to sleep lightly so that they can rouse frequently and easily when they feel a need that requires action, such as hunger, fear, thirst, temperature, or a need for attachment. A swaddled baby may be at increased risk for SIDS because they can’t utilize the ‘startle’ reflex that helps them wake up at regular intervals (which, unfortunately for exhausted parents, newborns need to do for their own safety).


Recent studies have also shown that babies who are routinely swaddled are slower to gain weight, and have increased challenges establishing the mother’s milk-supply. Frequently swaddled babies are at increased risk for hip-dysplasia, and are more susceptible to hyperthermia (over-heating). As well, swaddling makes it harder for babies to move gas and air through their digestive systems (which they do by pumping their arms and legs), and restricts their movement at the expense of exercise and muscle development. Some researchers propose that what we have been mistaking for relaxation, may actually be babies just giving up, because they are helpless in their little straight jackets. Most important, babies should never be swaddled when they sleep, as it restricts their ability to move into a more comfortable or safer position, and increases the risk of SIDS.

So is swaddling a terrible thing to be avoided at all costs? The answer is no. Like most parenting practices, there is a time and a place for almost everything. A baby that has to be separated from adults for any reason will probably be at least somewhat soothed by swaddling. There are also those nights when baby is particularly twitchy when swaddling seems to be the best last resort (but please unwrap your baby once they fall asleep. If they get wedged facedown or in a corner, a swaddled baby can’t always push themselves up to breathe. This increases the danger of suffocation). And of course there are some babies who simply relax into snug swaddling more than any other kind of cuddling. As parents, everyone has to make their own decisions for what works for their own babies. But when making such a decision, it is useful to be aware of the downsides of swaddling, especially if used routinely.



Babies Remember!

Babies Remember!

By Bonnie Davis

Did you know that up until 1986, surgeries were routinely performed on babies without anaesthetic? The most common were intestinal and heart surgeries requiring the most invasive surgical techniques in existence. It was thought that babies were barely conscious and didn’t really feel anything, so it didn’t matter what happened to them early on. This may seem barbaric to us now, but that kind of thinking persists, even though science tells us that babies feel pain just as we do, are conscious of what is going on around them, and are exquisitely aware.


A newborn’s first experiences are imprinted in their minds in a profound way; memory of their early experiences gets recorded implicitly. This means that while we don’t ‘remember’ per say what happened to us before the age of two, these experiences influence our unfolding personality, how we react to things in our world, and our gut responses to things as we grow – our early experiences become a part of us. Experiences such as when and where we feel unsafe or threatened in some way are recorded in a part of the brain called the amygdala and are used to help us avoid similar experiences as we get older. Although we don’t ‘remember’ the initial incidents of feeling unsafe, our brains have recorded them and this imprint becomes a part of how we react to situations as children and, later, adults.


Why this is important when talking about a newborn baby is because his or her early experiences literally get built into their bodies and shape their brains and nervous systems for life. Science now tells us that a baby’s brain is highly impressionable and is being shaped by every experience that it has.  Knowing this, there are ways to support our babies from the start that can really help them with this imprinting process. When we can slow down, babies can integrate what is happening to them; when we can attune to their inner experience, they feel seen and met by us.


One of the most important things to remember about babies is that we need to go slow with them,because their nervous system is operating at a speed that is 10-15 times slower than ours. What does going slow mean? It means that we slow down our movements, our language, and we talk to babies and prepare them for what is about to happen, much like we do with older children. So, for example, when we take the baby away from the mother for the first time after birth, we let the baby know there is a change coming, we tell them what is about to happen, and we go really slow. We keep in mind that this is the very first time the baby has left the mother’s body; it is a profound moment. When we slow down and talk to our babies about what is about to happen, we give their nervous system time to adapt to the change. This is really good practice to get into with babies because everything that happens to them in a day is beyond their control.


How else can we support our babies? Babies learn about themselves by how we treat them. They grow optimally when they are nurtured, responded to in a timely manner, and attuned to.  Attunement is the parent’s ability to ‘tune in’ and have sensitivity to what the baby is feeling and expressing. For example, you can take note that your baby is over-stimulated because you’ve had a busy morning out, and they are showing signs of fussiness. “We’ve been so busy this morning and we need some down time; let’s go sit in the corner where it’s quiet and nurse.”  You can also notice that your baby seems angry over a toy. “Oh, you’re angry that I took that away from you. I’m sorry, here’s something fun!”  When we are able to have this kind of ongoing communication and attunement, our babies receive the message that we see them, hear them, and that they are being met by us. This helps them to grow a sense of self, that how they feel matters to us, and this helps them build a sense of worthiness and belonging.


This suggestion to slow down and attune to our babies is not some folk remedy – it is supported by the most current scientific research and clinical practice. Paediatric neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry’s research demonstrates that the earliest most fundamental experiences that shape the brain are these sensitive interactions between mother and baby and that this forms a kind of template that moulds future responses to human contact.

To find out more about newborns and their brain development, check the birthcontinuum website events page.  We offer education and coaching to parents on infant development, sleep issues, and toddler behavioural concerns. This fall, birthcontinuum will be offering several 8-week series of classes for parent/baby, and parent/tot focused on enhancing emotional/social development through singing, dancing and playing.

Bonnie Davis, RCST & attachment specialist,has been working with Vancouver families since 2002. She is a registered craniosacral therapist, experienced birth and postpartum doula and perinatal educator in Vancouver. She offers workshops,  counselling services and education for new parents. She brings her experience with babies and a passion for supporting families to create strong attachments in the primal period. 


The Pursuit of Proximity

The Pursuit of Proximity

By Pat Currie

When asked to write about attachment and infants I decided to prime my thoughts about this time of my life by watching home videos of the birth and early months of my children’s lives. Surprisingly, it wasn’t in the videos where my thoughts on attachment and infants started but it was in the fact that my fourteen and twelve-year-old children wanted to sit next to me and watch my son’s birth and the moment they met. I realized, while we were smiling and laughing together, that all the time and effort I spent caring for and responding to my children when they where infants led to the kind of relationship in which they wanted to be with me now.


Often when I tell people that I support attachment parenting they will respond with, “you’re one of those parents”, and I will see their eyes roll. People often misunderstand the word “attachment” and confuse it with baby bonding or spoiling a child by not establishing rules or boundaries.


The definition of attachment that resonates with my intuition is that of Dr. Gordon Neufeld.

“attachment is the pursuit and preservation of proximity, of closeness and connection: biologically, physically, behaviourally, emotionally and psychologically”

(Gordon Neufeld, Hold On To Your Kids, page 17).


Put another way, every human has the instinct, need and drive to connect with other humans. When our new babies are first placed in our arms they exhibit a drive to connect in their motions. Their lips suck and their heads move in search of someone, they will turn towards the sounds of human voices (especially those of their parents), and if you put them down they will cry to be picked up and held.


In our infants this need to connect is purely about survival. Their dependence on adults for everything, drives their relentless pursuit for connection, seeking for their needs to be met. I remember the struggle to have a shower, or even just go to the bathroom, while having my babies stay connected to me: leaving them sleeping on the shirt with the most breast milk stains so they would smell my scent; constantly singing so they could hear my presence (I still do this with my children.); and, pumping what seemed liked endless amounts of breast milk for others to feed them. The moment the connection is broken, we are made immediately aware–there is no mistaking the cry of panic that alerts us that we are desperately needed.


Fulfilling this drive to connect in our infants not only provides safety and security, but elicits the crucial brain growth that needs to occur in this early stage of development. Research tells us that the loving relationship with a primary caregiver is the key to brain development. At birth a child’s brain contains 100 billion neurons, but very few are connected. During the first three years of life, a warm, loving, responsive relationship with a primary caregiver, produces the chemical reactions necessary for these neurons to begin making their important connections (synapses). While brain growth is spontaneous, it is the role of primary caregivers—parents–to support this growth, so it can reach it’s optimal development.


The sleepless nights and the diaper changes are not just mundane tasks. The small acts of caring for an infant help it know it is being cared for, help it feel a sense of safety in the world, and provides opportunities for the brain to grow. As I watched the midwife in the video place my daughter in my arms for the very first time, I looked over at my daughter, now fourteen years old and sitting next to me, with all the same love and warmth that I did that first time. The moment our children are present in our lives, we are responsible for creating and holding them in this loving, caring relationship. When we do so, and become the parents our children need, we create an attachment to us. It is this attachment that gives us the ability to lead them, the ability to parent them, and gives them the ability to grow and thrive within our care.


Pat Currie is a Parent Educator in East Vancouver. Pat’s desire to help others understand their children from the inside out has led her to become a certified Neufeld Course facilitator. Pat brings warmth and insight to her courses by sharing her experiences as the mother of a fourteen and a twelve year old. Pat can be reached at

Why Can Motherhood Feel so Hard? Reclaiming the Honour and Worth

By Stephanie Miranda Jhala

Social Media lied to me about Motherhood. I couldn’t wait for my 1 year “vacation” called mat leave. I’d have three gourmet organic meals on the table every day, the house would be an immaculate haven. I’d be dressing myself and my little one up in flowy floral dresses, frolicking in fields of wheat with sunbeams piercing through my perfectly curled hair. We’d be rolling around on the ground, giggling, so in love.


My first year postpartum was nothing like that. I struggled. A lot.


I deeply mourned the loss of my identity. Before being a mother, I was doing something important, I was “saving the world”. As a Social Impact Leadership & Business Coach, I measured my worth and progress in life by my title, my job description, how much I made in a paycheck, the projects I accomplished. And then all of a sudden, those metrics, that societal measuring stick was striped away. I was up day, and night, no paycheck, no promotions, no praise, no fancy title. Cleaning poopy diapers and spit up, I felt like I’d been “demoted”. I didn’t want to be “just a mom”. On top of that, I had no idea HOW MUCH work a tiny little human would be.  She cried a lot. I could never put her down, I felt trapped by my own baby. I could barely feed or shower myself. The days felt so long, and even though I was doing so much for my baby, I felt like I was getting “nothing done”. Just getting out of the house felt like an uphill battle. The days and nights melted together, and being home alone, in the four walls of my apartment, trying to “do it all”, I felt desperately lonely and isolated, waiting at the door like a sad little puppy dog, for my husband to get home.


Was I crazy? Was I the only one feeling this way? I thought Motherhood was supposed to be the most magical time of my life. With so many people posting cute, smiley baby photos online, I felt like I was failing. But I was wrong. Society failed me.


80% of mothers experience the baby blues. EIGHTY PERCENT. How could this be? Why was this happening?  I had no idea that raising a child was not a solo job. You know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well it TRULY takes a village. But when we live in a village-less society, the workload (cooking, cleaning, groceries, emotional support, physical support) that is supposed to be shared with a tribe of people (your village), falls on the shoulders of mostly the mother (or the main caregiver). Today, being a mother is 2.5 full time jobs with the average mom logging 98 hours per week “mothering”! If we were to get paid, we’d earn close to $200K per year (think about it: day, night, weekends, holidays, overtime), and that doesn’t even factor in the unconditional love and safety, critical to growing a happy and healthy human. We’ve grown up in Western society learning to be independent, to be self-sufficient, to do-it-yourself. And this can serve us really well in many ways, until you actually need the help. When asking for help is seen as “weak” or “burdening”, we often don’t know to ask, or don’t ask at all.  Our village probably used to consist of older kids taking care of younger kids, Aunties and Uncles sharing the child care, women mothering the mothers, grandparents in arms reach, food always on the stove, non-mothers helping mothers. But now a days, with society putting so much value and pressure on “working hard” and “working more”, even non-mothers are too busy to support, making the transition to motherhood that much more shocking because we’ve lost that village-mentality and exposure to neighborhoods raising children. And then add in identity crisis and sleep deprivation (a torture tactic in many places), of course eighty percent of women would experience this transition as one of the hardest times of their lives.


But out of this struggle, how could we leverage this challenge as one of the most incredible transformations of a woman: the birth of a mother.  And so I started gathering women for some real talk. To my surprise, everyone could relate to my story in some shape or form. And as we started sharing our journeys, we released our struggles and reclaimed the honour, joy and importance of motherhood. I mean, we are only just raising the entire future and foundation of humanity. That is a big deal. And birthing a baby, no matter how your birth went, THAT is a super power.  “If I want society to value me, then I have to first value myself as a mother”. We shed diminishing stories about being “just a mom”, and reclaim the monumental importance of our roles and build an empowered identity. We release mom guilt and mother with confidence. We reframe our “accomplishments” and know that who we are being and what we are doing as mothers is worth celebrating and acknowledging. We learn how to speak our voice, truth, and needs in order to build a village and commit to self-care. We get present to how motherhood has and is expanding our greatness, our patience, our connectedness, our love, our compassion, our empathy, our fierceness. We connect deeply with other mothers through the power of authenticity and community. Now, I have emerged as more powerful, more confident, more beautiful than I ever have before.


And so All The Mama Feels was born. Over 300+ mothers have been to a life-altering gathering, workshop, or event, and we intend to take this movement global.  If you are ready to create an empowered motherhood, share your journey here, and we will get in touch with you about our Global Mother’s Movement launching January 2019. If you already are empowered in motherhood, be a beacon of light and inspiration, and allow your community to celebrate you!


We are all in this together. You are not alone. And you are magic.

“My name is Steph and motherhood whooped my butt.”


After experiencing one of the most rewarding yet challenging transformation, Steph Jhala now uses her leadership coaching skills to empower women in their motherhood journey through @allthemamafeels. She is passionate about enabling mothers to know themselves as one of the most important contributors to humanity, elevating women to positions of power and influence to close the gender gap and restore balance on the planet.

For inspiration:  @allthemamafeels on Instagram

For support:  Private Facebook Group

For more info:

If you are ready to create an empowered motherhood, share your journey here, and we will get in touch with you about our Global Mother’s Movement launching January 2019.




By Stephanie Ondrack


Whether it’s the idea that our little one needs a sibling, or that we always wanted a larger family, many of us decide at some point to take a second shot at this whole pregnancy, birth, and parenting thing. Having done it once before, we think we know the ropes. But as many of us discover, having a second baby can be a very different experience from having a first. How do we help prepare our existing child to become a big brother or sister? What if we were not happy with our first birth experience, and are hoping for something different this time? In this issue, we look at many different aspects of having another baby. From tips from experts, to tales from the trenches, this issue is for everyone having, considering having, or who already has, a second baby.

Autumn News

Independent workshops happening in our space this fall:


Do you ever feel stuck in parenting patterns that aren’t working? Do you ever wonder what motivates your kids to do the things they do? Is parenting fine, but you’d enjoy a deeper understanding of what goes on in your child’s head?

Pinecone Parenting presents:

“Smoothing out the Struggles: Practical & Useful Tips to Make Parenting More Enjoyable for Everyone”

coming to our Commercial Street location on Fridays 23 & 30 November 2018, 7 – 9pm.

Attachment-based, effective, and well worth the time, this class will change the way you see your kids and your own role as their parent. Treat yourself and your kids to an easier, more enjoyable family life.

more details




Free monthly info nights at The Childbearing Society. These events, presented by the Doulas of Vancouver for both expectant and new parents, are opportunities to learn and gather information relevant to pregnancy, birth and parenting.

AUTUMN 2018 dates: Sept 26, Nov 16 



Register here


Dear Childbearing,


Thanks for the excellent prenatal classes. I liked that we had the option to watch birth videos for 15 minutes before the start of each class. I also enjoyed the ways in which the material was presented, particularly the use of dummy body parts to illustrate the process of birth, and that during each class we had the opportunity to brainstorm questions as a group or split into smaller sub-groups. There was always time for a comfort measure activity that we could practice, and that was truly helpful. The instructor’s enthusiasm for the topics under discussion was tangible and contagious, and we truly enjoyed the fun, informative ways in which she presented the material. We always learned something new, and found that the things we were learning helped to reinforce our values regarding parenthood. We’re so glad we took this series of classes!

Graduate of the Spring 5 Series


Dear Childbearing,


The Weekend Workshop totally helped Derek and I get into the right mindset about labour and postpartum. We were thinking of going in and just experiencing it and doing what is suggested by our medical practitioner, but now we feel way more engaged and informed. We also are doing more research as our instructor said to do. I feel more in control of this pregnancy. Derek feels much more ready as a new dad, and feels like he had been “put into the game” as a supporting role, not just someone “on the sidelines” (his words). Everything was great


Graduate of the July A Workshop

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