CHILDBEARING NEWS Spring 2020

RENT OUR SPACE!

Our cozy & comfortable studio space is available for rent when we’re not using it.

Living-room like space, complete with carpets and couches, available for rent from 8am – 5pm, Tuesdays through Fridays, and occasional evenings and weekends.

Approximately 600 square feet, includes comfortable seating around the perimeter, a small kitchen, a washroom, and a wall-mounted large screen TV.

Located near Trout Lake park on Commercial Street, this charming space would be appropriate for small classes, seminars, health practitioners, massage or physiotherapy, meetings, meet-up groups, or counsellors.

SINGLE RENTAL:
$30/hour
$100 per single day (ending at 6pm)
$150 for entire day (ending late night)
$250 for entire weekend

REGULAR RENTAL:
$200/month for a single regular, recurring weekday, daytime only (eg. every Tuesday)
$300/month for two regular, recurring weekdays, daytime only (eg. Every Tuesday & Thursday)
$500 for four regular, recurring weekdays (Tuesday – Friday)

Please contact us with any questions, or to see the space: registration@childbearing.org

Ask Childbearing: How do I know if I really need a medical procedure?

Ask Childbearing: How do I know if I really need a medical procedure?

Q. How do I know if I really need a medical procedure? I want a natural birth, but I don’t want to put my baby at any risk by avoiding medical care I might need. How do we make these decisions?

A. Unless it’s an emergency, your clearest path forward is usually revealed by asking questions. 

When faced with proposed interventions during labour, many families have found that asking questions helps them better understand their options. You can ask about the benefits (B), risks (R), alternatives (A), consult your intuition (I), and ask what if you do nothing (N), commonly known as the BRAIN approach. Keep asking questions until you feel satisfied that you are equipped to make an informed decision. After asking enough questions, you might decide that the intervention makes sense for you and your baby. It might improve baby’s safety, or your experience. And you can accept or welcome its inclusion in your birth wholeheartedly. 

Or you might decide that the intervention would not be beneficial for you, in which case you can turn it down, trusting that you are making the best decision for you and your family. An example might be a suggested method of pain relief, which the caregiver is offering, but which you don’t feel you need. Asking the BRAIN questions will clarify the intended purpose, any risks, and whether there is harm in ‘doing nothing’. Of course, you also have the option of accepting it. It’s entirely up to you.

It is useful to consider some of the possible “what if’s” in advance. This allows you to research your options, and reflect on your preferences ahead of time, when you have the luxury of zero pressure and mental clarity. Discussing your options and beliefs with your partner or birth attendant ahead of time, will allow that person to better represent you in any discussions that arise while you focus on your labour. It can be useful to avail yourself of the weeks leading up to your birth to figure out how you feel about different interventions, and to reflect on what circumstances might lead you to seek or accept them.

Sometimes a medical procedure is clearly necessary for your or baby’s health or safety, but just as often, it is up to you to make the final decision that best suits your own beliefs, your own philosophies, your own goals, and your own assessment of the benefits versus risks of the intervention in that moment. If it is a medical emergency, trust your caregiver and shelve those questions! But much of the time, there is no clear answer, only choices. And ultimately, yours is the one that counts.

Help! How to get the labour support that’s right for you

Help! How to get the labour support that’s right for you

By Aimée Sturley, Doula (HCHD)

originally published in February 2018

As a doula, the question I’m asked most often is, “How can I make sure that I (and my partner) get the birth we want?”

My answer is always that you need to make sure that you create a support team that fills you with confidence. The question, then, is what is support? It really does vary! For one person, a gentle touch and a quiet, reassuring voice reminding them that they are strong will create a sense of strength and support. For another, that could be their greatest irritation.

For first timers, the question of how to figure out what will be good support can be a confusing one, especially when you hear in your prenatal class and from friends that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Nonetheless, you can still have a pretty good sense of what will likely be supportive and what will drive you bonkers.

For those who’ve given birth before, previous experience can be both helpful (if you know even better this time what you need) and unhelpful (if thinking about a previous birth makes you anxious about ensuring you get what you need).

Some things to consider:  

  • What are you like in your day-to-day?
  • When you are undertaking a challenging task, do you like to have someone there to encourage you along? Do you do better when you can just focus internally?
  • How do you respond to various kinds of stress? What helps?
  • What tends to make you worried or anxious?
  • What kind of touch do you like? What kind of touch makes you uncomfortable, or hurts?
  • What makes you feel that someone is respecting you?

Answering these questions for yourself can be a starting point for thinking about how you can talk with your birth team about what support means to you. Everyone wants to be the best support possible for you; in the absence of info, they will simply do the best they can with their general knowledge and years of experience. With specific info about *you*, they can hone that expertise to serve you throughout your birth.

How can I get my caregivers to best support me?      

Ask questions and be clear about your decisions and preferences in your prenatal visits. Listen carefully to what your caregiver tells you, and always assume the very best intentions on their part. They are there to offer the very best of their training and experience. They want you to understand what you can expect from them. Share your feelings and thoughts so they have a good idea about where you are coming from.

Some useful questions to ask about any given topic are:

  1. What are you comfortable with in this regard?
  2. When patients have decided to go beyond your normal comfort level, how have you handled that?

This is not to set up an expectation that you and your caregiver will be at odds with one another, but just to get an idea for their feelings around patient autonomy and how they communicate, should differences arise.

If you leave a visit feeling badly about the questions you raised, that might be a cue that you need to speak with your caregiver at greater length about your relationship and what you expect from them in terms of listening and respecting your voice. In labour, it’s a lot harder to do. If you don’t come to a resolution that feels right in your gut, try again, perhaps with support from a staunch ally, or by approaching the conversation from a different angle. If you are unable to resolve that gut feeling, you may want to ask around about switching providers (your prenatal instructor, doula, or knowledgeable friends might be able to help you here); it’s never too late to make these inquiries, as last-minute openings are usually available.

Find yourself a doula

Unless you have strong feelings against it, having a doula is one of the best things that you can do to ensure that you look back on your birth with a feeling of satisfaction. If you feel overwhelmed by the cost associated with hiring a doula, find some doulas who are

recommended to you, or that you find online, and ask them about sliding scale and/or fee instalments; even a doula who can’t accommodate your request may have helpful suggestions for who else you could try. Whoever you chose, make sure that you feel confident in their ability to support you, no less than any other member of your care team.

A doula is someone who will be by your side to make sure that you are treated with respect and dignity, and that your voice is heard. Although they cannot speak on your behalf, they can certainly remind you of your options and let you know what questions to ask every step of the way.

A Word About Cervical Exams  

  

This deserves its own category, because in the media and (often) in our own experiences, cervical exams are done at the behest of the care provider and are not presented as being optional, when in fact, your body is always your own, and – especially in this area – you have the right, and the responsibility to yourself to be honest and clear about what you want and need. Are you concerned about the introduction of bacteria? Do you find internal exams to be painful or anxiety-provoking? Do you want to know that you can ask for exams to ease particular fears you might have? These are legitimate reasons to talk with your care provider about requesting, minimizing, avoiding, or refusing internal exams. You can give your reasons or keep them to yourself. This article about the evidence behind prenatal cervical exams, has some helpful advice that can be applied to exams in labour as well.

Birth Plans: A Good or Bad Idea?           

Communicating your wishes and needs in a birth plan is vaunted by some and denigrated by others. I feel they can have a place, but it does pay to be aware of the effect that they can have on your mindset, i.e. what happens to your state of mind if your birth doesn’t go according to your plan?.

Be specific: If you feel that particular preferences are important for you to communicate to your team, make sure you are very clear about what you mean. For example, indicating that you would rather not have your waters broken unless it’s medically necessary is only half the info; the other part is: what does that mean to you and to your care provider? This is important to talk about before the birth. And make sure that you bring your questions with you, written down, or nine times out of ten, you’ll leave the appointment and think of all the things you’d intended to say! Deeper discussions with your caregiver are a great part of creating a document like this.

In the absence of direction, your care will be the best that they can provide without specific info about who you are and how to best support you. If you hired a counsellor, and didn’t discuss your goals, the counsellor could do their best by just starting out with questions about your relationships, or your childhood. If you told them that you wanted to improve your ability to create clear boundaries while being close to someone (for example), that would provide a guiding principle for their work with you. The same is true for nurses, midwives, and doctors.

It may be helpful for a birth plan to be re-imagined as a “birth preferences” document. This implies an understanding that birth can be unpredictable. The answers to the questions I posed at the outset of this article are great to include in your Birth Preferences; they can help the care team to understand who you are and how best to help you. In a recent episode of The Birthful Podcast, the guest speaker introduced a great new way of thinking about birth plans/birth preferences documents. Her offering is the term, “Birth Principles”, which I think is brilliant. You can hear the whole thing here.

First Two Hours Postpartum

Here’s another topic that often falls under the radar when considering a birth preferences document. Those first moments with your baby are so precious and vulnerable, and you are at your height of lovingness and gratitude to those around you; if you don’t have your wishes written down, you are unlikely to bring them up if the routines of your care team move things along differently. Help them to help you by letting them know what you want, and (again) be specific! For example, for most caregivers in Vancouver, physiologic (aka, “delayed”) cord clamping is now the norm; but different parents (and different caregivers) have different ideas about what that means for them. If you’ve spent some time learning about how long it takes for the baby’s blood to transfer from the placenta into their circulatory system, preferring that the cord not be clamped for x number of minutes, don’t be afraid to bring it up at a visit and to write that down as well.

How long to you want to have your baby in your arms, skin-to-skin, before weighing and measuring are done? Remember that, in the first hour, you’ll not only be snuggling your baby but also:

  • Birthing the placenta.
  • Cutting the cord (unless you’re having a lotus birth),
  • Getting frequent checks of your and baby’s well-being. These include heart rate, temp, and, for you alone, blood pressure.
  • Commonly, though not always, having uncomfortable and, at times, painful external uterine stimulation to prevent postpartum haemorrhage.
  • If necessary, getting stitches for a perineal tear.

It’s usually in the second hour that you get that uninterrupted calm and the cozy cuddle that you probably envision. If you’re at the hospital, the room is no longer full of people, checks on your and baby’s health are less frequent, you’re all cleaned-up and tucked into bed, and any pinpoint lights that were required for immediate postpartum care have been turned off. If you ask for two hours of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time with your baby, you get this whole second hour to just marvel at your little one and hold them close.

Other Considerations

Do you want erythromycin ointment for the baby’s eyes? The standard blood panel? The vitamin K shot? Your caregiver should bring up these options when you are close to your 38th week.

Do you want the care team to say anything about the baby (comments on its size, sex, beauty, cuteness, etc.), or do you want to discover these kinds of things for yourself?

Would you like to have as much quiet in the room as possible after the birth?

How do you want to approach feeding your baby? If you are breast feeding or chest feeding, do you want to try on your own first? Do you want help from anyone who can offer? Or do you prefer to get help from a particular person? If you are planning to use formula, do you want your care team to keep quiet about the benefits of breast feeding?*

Do you want the care team to give you a little time together as a family as soon as possible after the birth, without anyone else in the room?

If you are in the hospital, do you want a “please do not disturb” sign for your postpartum room? You’d be surprised at the numbers and types of visits some hospitals allow. Who might be knocking at your door? You’d expect, of course, any guests you admit, your primary caregiver, the paediatrician, the lactation consultant, and your nurse, but don’t forget about food service, cleaners, someone who has the wrong room, and the hospital photographer! A sign on the door lets everyone know that only those who really need to attend to you should be knocking.

Take a deep breath

If all of this feels overwhelming, remember that your care team recognizes that this is a special day. Birth never fails to be amazing, whatever path it takes! But for you and your family, this is the special day. The desire for a safe delivery for you and your baby is a given, but you also deserve to be heard and respected, and that’s a great guiding principle to start with.

*There could be many reasons for someone not wanting to or not being able to breast or chest feed, and the moment of birth is a particularly vulnerable time; not a great time to feel judged! 

About Aimée

Aimee Sturley was a birth doula in Vancouver for fifteen years, and a perinatal massage practitioner for sixteen years. She now offers prenatal and postpartum services to families in the Owen Sound area, in Ontario.

“I love the work I do. It provides me with the opportunity to always be learning more about what it means to be present and aware; a witness to human strength, caring, and vulnerability.”

Aimée Sturley

Pure Harmony Families

778-847-2273

Two Great Pain Relief Options for Labour that You Already Have at Home

Two Great Pain Relief Options for Labour that You Already Have at Home

By Allie Mennie

One of the most common questions I get as a doula, especially in my interviews with clients is: “What are you going to do to help me cope with the pain? I assume you have a bunch of tools you bring?” Sure, I have a TENS, a birth pool, massage balls, and lots of other random little gadgets I’ve picked up over my time as a birth doula, but the most common pain relief tools I use isn’t something I pack in my bag, and it’s usually something I always have on me: my hands and a rebozo (long scarf).

Massage is my absolute tried and true pain relief technique and it’s something your partner can take over doing when I get tired, need to fill up your birth pool, or correspond with your midwives. A client a couple weeks ago said, “Oh, I’m not worried about labour at all. I’m telling myself I’m just getting a really long massage.” I laughed and immediately realized, YES! That’s exactly how we should think of it – a nice, long massage. A study in 2012 found that massage is effective at reducing anxiety and pain during labour and increases the birthing person’s level of satisfaction. So often, people are tensed up during labour, they’re not able to let go and allow their body to soften and surrender to their contractions and all the work their cervix and uterus is doing; massage can be very helpful in releasing tensed muscles and decreasing the fear-tension-pain cycle we see frequently in labouring people without support. No tension leads to less pain and a shorter labor.

We know you definitely have hands at your disposal, but a rebozo? A rebozo is a long, woven piece of fabric. I say you already have this, because most people at least have a long sheet or scarf that they can use similarly to the rebozo. It is important to note however, rebozos are culturally important pieces of Mexican birth culture and we can’t and shouldn’t refer to sheets or scarves as rebozos. In terms of supporting your partner with items around your home, using items similarly sized to a rebozo will act like one. I bring an authentic rebozo along to my births and was fortunate enough to learn how to use it from a friend of mine who is from Mexico and introduced me to the beautiful culture, history, and significance of this wonderful item and I take a moment before each birth I use it in to silently thank her and honor the cultural context from which I am using it. I mention the differences above because it is important to note the culturally significant birth practices we are paying homage to and respecting when we use them in our labours.

Now we know we have tools available in our homes, so below I’ll go over some of my favorite massage and rebozo techniques and tips to make sure it’s as easy as it sounds!

Belly Lift:

Hold the rebozo out in front of you and position the middle of it horizontally under and across your belly. Bring the sides around your hips, toward your back and cross them and bring the ends over your shoulders. Pull on the ends to lift and support your belly.

Hip Squeeze:

This position is good with either your hands or a rebozo. With a hip squeeze, we add pressure to the birthing person’s hips to relieve pressure and help the pelvis open a bit more allowing for more room for baby and less pain for the birthing person. With a rebozo, we basically start like we did above for the belly lift, but pull parallel to the ground instead of bringing either side of the rebozo over the shoulders. In massage, this looks like palms pressed on the outside of the hips pressing in toward the person’s spine. 

Supported Squat/Slow Dance:

In a supported squat, we can use a rebozo to be the support or we can position our arms under the birthing person’s arms and hold them as they squat and rub their back or sway with them as they go between squatting and standing.

Effleurage:

This is a massage technique where the doula or support person floats light pressure over the birth person’s body. An open hand offering long, gliding strokes down their back, legs, arms, or belly can be helpful during the resting phases in between contractions. You might have had effleurage massage done to you before if you’ve had a deep tissue massage. Usually, before they begin, they start with effleurage massage to warm up your muscles.

All of the above methods and techniques are fantastic ways to empower your support people so they feel comfortable supporting you. Try practicing these techniques prenatally to make sure you feel confident with them; they offer amazing relaxation in pregnancy and maybe you’ll realize the birthing partner prefers specific pressure or areas of their body massaged so you can be prepared for the big day. Babies don’t mind a bit of belly massage either, so try clockwise motions during pregnancy on your partner’s belly as your opportunity to bond with baby. Releasing tension, inducing relaxation, and feeling calm are wonderful ways to soften into the experience and using these new massage techniques and a rebozo will help you be the best support you can be!

Allie is a currently an apprentice with Childbearing Society. She grew up in Southern California with parents who are in medicine – her mom is a pediatrician and her dad is in family practice. She studied Health Information Sciences/Public Health at UVic and was drawn toward preventative medicine and when the job of a doula was explained to her, she realized that doula work was the most immediate gratification form of preventative medicine and made such a massive difference in cesarean rates, interventions, and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. After having her daughter in 2018, her goal became to empower women to have positive birth experiences. Allie is committed to ensuring that prenatal education is accessible and easy to understand and any person who wants a doula should have a doula. She is currently working in a doula partnership serving the North Shore.

Eating and Drinking in Labour

Eating and Drinking in Labour

By Emma Mas

Labour is often compared to running a marathon. Runners and labourers prepare physically and mentally for the event, most will experience pain or discomfort, they are encouraged by chants and cheers, and are rewarded with a great achievement. However, runners are encouraged to think wisely about what they eat to fuel and show love for their bodies, while pregnant people preparing for labour are not. A quick Google search for “What to eat before a run” immediately offers suggestions such as a banana and almond butter, turkey slices and cheese, oatmeal and berries, cheese sticks and carrots, and so on. While a search for “What to eat during labour” inevitably opens a discussion on whether labouring people should even be ‘allowed’ to eat. There is a misconception that eating in labour is dangerous and ought to be restricted, but the evidence simply does not support this claim. The freedom to eat in labour is fundamentally a matter of bodily autonomy. 

The concern from some medical care providers is that since we cannot predict who may need a Cesarean under general anesthesia, everyone in labour is considered at risk for aspiration. This concern is based on 75 year old research, when anesthesia and airway management practices were quite different, and yet the restriction continues to be sporadically upheld in hospitals today. Current evidence on current practices finds eating in labour poses no harm. Rather, that it promotes well-being: birthing parents are dramatically more satisfied with their labours if encouraged to eat and drink without restriction and eating may even shorten the duration of labour. Let us also keep in mind how rarely Cesareans are performed under general anesthesia, and those that are, benefit from successful airway management to prevent aspiration. Read the article from Evidence-Based Birth, “Evidence on: Eating and Drinking During Labor” for an in- depth discussion of the history and evidence. If your care provider has concerns, remember that both The World Health Organization and The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada affirm the recommendation that low-risk birthing people eat and drink in labour without any restrictions. 

So, what are some suggestions for what to eat while labouring? A strategic labourer may follow similar advice as what to eat before a run, considering the impact of carbohydrates and protein to provide energy and stamina. A practical labourer might consider what they can eat while labouring on all-fours or in-between contractions, and opt for handheld quick bites and drinks through bendy straws. A evidence-based labourer might be interested in the research on the oxytocin-like effects of dates on cervical ripening (as a doula, I often make date balls for my clients). An intuitive labourer may listen to what speaks to them in the moment, trusting that their cravings will align with their body’s needs. 

There is no one ‘correct’ approach, and I would encourage having a variety of options available. Around the time you prepare your items for labour – whether for home or hospital birth, prepare some items for your fridge and pantry like sliced fruit, nut butter, turkey slices, cheese, almonds, honey sticks, bone broth, and fruit popsicles. There are no wrong answers. For those at the hospital, ask to be directed where the bread, peanut butter, jam, popsicles, jello, juices, and tea are kept. Do try and stay hydrated during labour. The uterus is primarily made of muscle tissue, and will perform at its best when well hydrated. 500-750ml an hour during labour is recommended, but simply offering a sip of water, juice, tea, or electrolyte drink after every contraction will meet that goal. 

Plan to have something delicious and nourishing for your first meal after birth: your ultimate comfort food brought you to from a family member or doula, assemble a slow-cooker meal in early labour to be enjoyed with newborn in arms, or rely on the angels of DoorDash and Skip the Dishes. When it comes to eating and drinking in labour, as with all things birth – stay open to a change from your expectations, surround yourself with those who support you, and most importantly, trust and nourish yourself. 

Emma Mas is a Vancouver-based birth doula and an Apprentice with The Childbearing Society. 

Winter 2019 Editorial: “Life Changing”

Winter 2019 Editorial: “Life Changing”

By Stephanie Ondrack

The fact that becoming a parent changes one’s life is so obvious and cliché’d that it barely warrants repeating. However, repeat it we shall. Because regardless of all the ways you expect a baby to change your life, it will be more. More in all the challenging ways—more work, more crying, more fatigue, more compromise—but more in all the rewarding ways, too—more richness, more love, more adventure, more precious moments of connection. 

In this winter issue, we delve into a few of the life changes that having a baby entails. Our Question of the Quarter addresses navigating the monotony of early parenthood; Kerry Longia discusses how to cope with never having enough hands; Dr Stephanie Bonn shares a few tips for babywearing; Alison Holland lays out some strategies for preserving relationships postpartum; and Stephanie Ondrack talks about some of the physiological ways in which parenthood actually changes us. 

Most of us embark on this journey without any real sense of its scope or magnitude. Most of us begin unprepared, fumbling our way through the very steep learning curve that never seems to end. If we knew then what we know now, would we still do it? My own answer is a resounding yes, because despite all the unpredictability and upheaval that propels us into the unknown, it is the wildest ride I could ever have imagined. The downs may be profound, but the ups are exquisite. Despite its many mundane moments, parenthood is ultimately an unparalleled adventure. 

ASK CHILDBEARING: I am going stir crazy!!

reposted from Dec 15 2016

Q: I am going stir crazy at home with my new baby. I find myself pacing in front of the window for an hour before my partner gets home from work. What can I do to alleviate this terrible monotony?

A: Oh I know how that feels! I remember those days myself—feeling marooned at home and disconnected from real life. It is a very isolating feeling.

tami-toproping-with-dodo
Tami Knight climbing the Chief with baby in tow!

Luckily, even though you feel utterly alone in those moments, you are far from alone in that experience. Many new parents find themselves feeling stuck, bored, and trapped during the first few weeks or months with their newborns. Here are some tips from the trenches:

  • There are many, many groups for new parents in Vancouver
    • La Leche League has free monthly meetings, wonderfully supportive and a great place to connect with other new parents
    • The Childbearing Society’s Postpartum Classes are informative and social—every Monday 12:30 – 2pm right here at 3569 Commercial Street. Only $5, and the first one is free
    • Local Health Units host free parent/baby groups weekly, led by community health nurses
    • Neighbourhood Houses & Family Centres have free daily or weekly play groups for parents and babies
    • Libraries have weekly or bi-weekly story/song time for parents & babies
    • Mother Goose hosts mama/baby play & song-time; Man in the Moon does the same for fathers
    • Community Centres almost all have parent/baby groups that cost a small amount and require registration
    • Other organizations, such as Gymboree, some art/dance companies, offer “classes” for parents & babies
    • There are many postpartum fitness groups that include bringing your baby (stroller fitness, mom/baby yoga, kanga-training, mom/baby dance, zumba…)
    • There are events for you geared towards bringing your baby (Movies for Mommies, Mom’s the Word, etc)
  • Connect with other new parents
    • Contact the other graduates from your prenatal classes. Chances are they are feeling the same way and would love to get together for a late morning coffee. Arrange a weekly meeting time.
    • Go for walks with your pre-baby friends. Load baby into a sling or carrier and walk briskly with a friend or two. It’s a great way to get endorphins, get energized, and get fit again
  • Don’t be afraid to take baby places
    • It is relatively easy to take baby to restaurants & cafes when they are too young to crawl
    • You can go to art galleries, museums, movies, and even some plays or concerts (depends on the venue) with a baby in a sling or carrier
    • You can go hiking or snow-shoeing while wearing your baby
  • As soon as baby is old enough, try wearing baby on your back in a mai-tai, ergo, baby back-pack, or equivalent
    • Once baby is 4 – 5 months old and be safely carried on your back, a whole new world of hands-free possibilities opens up

Beyond this list, be creative!

Talk to other parents and see what worked for them. The first step, is getting out of house and connecting with other people who understand what its like. The second step is figuring out how to incorporate baby into your new life—discovering what you can still do with baby in tow, and new activities that you can enjoy together. Soon, this will all seem easy. And eventually, your baby will be running off to enjoy his or her own independent activities, and you’ll be wondering what to do with so much free time.

-Stephanie Ondrack

www.thesmallsteph.com

Not Enough Hands!

By Kerry Longia

reposted from April 1 2014 

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One thing I wasn’t expecting before having a baby was how much I would be using my hands and arms. The arms were a shelf for nursing, a cradle for rocking. The hands were swiping newborn poop and fiddling with tiny snappers. At some point, maybe around six months postpartum, I noticed I was getting pretty buff in the arm area.

Babies are fond of being carried. This was one thing we discovered early on; pick the baby up, and he’s calm. He might even smile. Put him down, and he’ll soon make it clear that he’d like to be picked up again. And, having heard about keeping infants close in order to foster attachment[i], I decided that I would just not really put him down for six weeks. For a short while, I did okay with just my arms. I decided that to attempt anything other than to nurse baby, change diapers, read, feed myself one-handed and watch movies was just too optimistic. However, there did come a day when I felt like checking my email. Or maybe it was the day I felt the need to spread the butter on my toast rather than just slice it and leave it to melt in chunks. I needed two hands, not one, as well as two arms, and baby needed me.

In the early days we used a sling, a wrap and a soft structured front carrier. We practiced first with a teddy, and used each one according to the weather and baby’s stage of development[ii]; newborn was always on the front, and if he was facing in, either with feet tucked under or with the baby’s bottom below the knees, in a W shape. To ensure we were wearing him at the right height on our body while in a front carrier, we always made sure we could kiss the top of baby’s head. During the winter, the wrap was great for providing extra coverage and cosiness. In summer, the sling provided a cooler cocoon.

The carriers took some getting used to, but the payoff was worth every second of practice and/or frustration. I took my first tentative steps at food prep while babywearing (I still remember the sense of triumph over a very basic but longed-for freshly made lunch). Over winter, I’d often zip up a large rain coat or hoodie over the baby and go walking while he slept or nursed. It was easy to get around town on the bus and skytrain, and we weren’t disturbing baby by having to go in and out of a carseat or stroller. When he woke, the baby could see the world from a safe and comfortable position, getting a good look at what happened in our world. Sometimes he would make eyes at people on the bus, and they would coo back. Whatever he was watching or doing whilst awake, he was connected to me and I could tell instantly when he was troubled, scared, hungry or tired.

I could feel myself getting stronger again, too. As biomechanist Katy Bowman points out[iii], our body essentially begins its training for carrying babies while we’re pregnant. Since I began babywearing in 2006, I have received comments about my perceived strength; usually while carrying a baby plus backpack, or a toddler plus groceries. People often seem surprised that I can manage, but as Bowman points out: if suddenly decide one day that you want to carry a wriggling 35lb backpack around for 3 hours, your body will probably rebel. If you instead have a gradually growing load (baby) who you carry regularly from birth, then your muscles will grow along with that load. Bowman also makes a case for in-arms carrying; this theory makes sense to me, though I also know that in practice, using a carrier meant, and still means, that I can accomplish tasks that would remain undone otherwise, or that I can get places I wouldn’t otherwise manage to reach.

More carriers joined the collection as time went by; over the years we have also used a Trekker, an Ergo, a Mei Tai and another Ergo when the first one wore out. We have no particular favourite – each has served a useful purpose for specific reasons. But for every reason, both baby’s wellbeing and parent’s, and for practical reasons, babywearing has been a very important part of life with young children, and we know we will all reap the rewards for years to come.

Kerry Longia lives with husband Kam and children Sati, 13, and Talvin, 8, in Collingwood, Vancouver. She likes walking in the forest, reading, foraging, learning about alignment, spending time with friends and getting the most out of life. If she could go back in time she might carry her babies in arms a bit more, but since she aims to have no regrets, she’s okay with her choice to babywear to the max.

BABYWEARING For Healthy Spines and Happy Babies

by Dr. Stephanie Bonn

reprinted from April 2014

There are many benefits of wearing our infants while we perform our daily activities especially the positive impact it has on the baby’s physical, emotional, social and neurological development. Car seats and their frequent misuse as carriers are known to cause postural strain to both the mother and the baby. Strollers have restricted postural options for the baby’s developing cranium and spine which affects all aspects of their health and well-being. This article outlines the importance of wearing your baby as well as specific carrier considerations.

A proper carrier is integral for the mother’s recovering spine from nine months of pregnancy and the birth of her infant. The perinatal hormones relaxin and oxytocin cause ligaments to be less supportive and can increase your chance of injury. Along with choosing the right carrier, you will benefit from postnatal ergonomic awareness such as using a nursing pillow, using your legs to bend and lift as well as avoiding the “car seat carrier”. A fitness program should incorporate strengthening the core muscles in your tummy and the paraspinals in your back as well stretching the pectorals/chest muscles on a regular basis. Just by sitting on an exercise ball, the abdominals will get stronger after being stretched to their max.

The right carrier will distribute your baby’s weight more evenly to avoid repetitive strain injuries such as neck tension and headaches, back strain and wrist tendonitis. Wearing your baby is a form of weight-bearing exercise itself as well as the increase in walking you will do just by wearing a carrier. With your baby close, your milk production will become more efficient and you will have an increase in “happy” hormones which will decrease the chance of postpartum depression. You can be hands-free and easily multitask through your daily activities with your baby along for the ride. And don’t forget the environmental benefits (who needs a car? and one less stroller to manufacture!) for a greener earth for our future generations.

Because babies should sleep on their back, it is important to have them upright or on their tummy during the day to develop their cervical spine and avoid cranial flattening. Not many infants enjoy lying on their tummies so a carrier is an optimal way to strengthen their neck and back. Other benefits include a decrease in separation anxiety, more efficient daytime naps, a better latch for nursing and it can minimize colic.

Here are a few considerations when choosing a carrier:

  • does the carrier offer various positions: front, side, back?
  • are there numerous positions for the baby: chest facing, vertical, horizontal, legs folded or straight?
  • how long will the carrier accommodate the child’s growth and postural development?
  • is it difficult to transfer the baby in and out of the carrier?
  • can your baby breastfeed in the carrier?
  • are you hands-free?
  • is the weight of the baby evenly distributed or does the carrier cause repetitive stress and postural compensations to one area of your spine?
  • does the carrier optimally support your baby’s developing spine?

You may find that one carrier does not do it all. My favourites are a sling for shorter excursions and activities and a carrier with balanced weight distribution (where the baby can be carried on your front or back) for longer outings. Baby wearing will optimize your health and wellness and support the growth and development of your baby so do it as long as you can!

 
Dr. Stephanie Bonn is dedicated towards helping families have healthy pregnancies and births. As a mother of three following doula and midwifery-assisted homebirths, she supports attachment-parenting and helps families through the challenges of breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing. She has an integrative approach, incorporating exercise and nutritional recommendations for optimal health.
For more information on wearing your baby or on perinatal and pediatric chiropractic wellness, contact Dr. Stephanie at 604.688.KIDS(5437) or email info@cocochiro.com.
Strengthening Partner Relationships After Baby

Strengthening Partner Relationships After Baby

By Alison Holland

The quality of a relationship and the quality of parenting go hand in hand. As a therapist, wife, and mother of three young children I am often asked for advice from couples about to embark upon the journey of becoming parents or those adding to their families. I usually begin with, “In all honesty, I was completely unprepared for how difficult being married and parenting children would be. I underestimated how all-consuming parenting is and how little energy I would have to think about my own needs, let alone someone else’s.”  

Likely not what they are hoping to hear.

My husband and I had been married less than one year when our first child was born. Our beautiful daughter bounded into the world, bringing with her excitement and opportunity and at the same time challenging us beyond measure. The transition was a difficult one and our marriage faced its share of challenges. In speaking with many women in my circle, mostly first-time moms, I learned our struggles were not unique and that we certainly were not alone.

Research shows that within three years after the birth of a child, approximately two-thirds of couples will experience a significant dropin their relationship quality and will have a dramatic increasein conflict and hostility. (The Gottman Institute, Inc., 2014). Findings of a study of 159 families showed shifts within couples when they became parents, including: 

4 Common Trends Among Couples When They Become Parents

  1. Profound Philosophical Shifts. This includes changes in identity, time takes on a different meaning, roles may become more traditional and values may change. 
  • Relationship Changes. An increase in conflict and a decrease in sex and intimacy.
  • Some Partners Withdraw. Coping with changes in responsibility and financial stress may mean more time at work or out of the home. 
  • Physical and Psychological Changes. Sleep deprivation, an increase in stress and physical adjustments following childbirth and the adjustment to breastfeeding. 

What I wish I had known then, along with all the nursing tips and sleep training methods, was that changes to a relationship are normal and to be expected andthat there are effective things you can do to enhance your relationship satisfaction after the birth of a baby.  The question then becomes, “How can we maintain the quality of our relationship and also build a strong and healthy family?” The following are three research-based ingredients necessary to cope with the changes brought about by the birth of a child.

Three Ingredients For A Successful Relationship

1.Strengthen and Maintain Your Friendship

The first step in strengthening and maintaining your friendship is assessinghow well you know each other. This is often one of the first things people do when they start dating. Over candlelitdinners, uninterrupted conversations go on for hours with each partner taking turns asking all sorts of questions and being truly curious about the answers. This is also one of the first things people stop doing once they have been together for a while. We can become complacent, believing we know one another so well that there really isn’t anything to ask. However, people change over time and it is common for couples to lose track of what is meaningful to one another.  

Making it a priority to show interest in your partner and givingthe necessarytime and energy to really know one another is an important step towards building a strong foundation for your family. Returning to a place of curiosity can be fun and it can remind you of the reasons you wanted to be together in the first place. It involves getting back in touch with each other and honouring the history that you have created in making a life together. It can be as simple as a “10 Minute Time Out”. This involves ten minutes in the day where all screens are put away and each partner is given five minutes to ask the other some open-ended questions. This exercise can go a long way towards restoring and rebuilding a connection with your partner.  

2. Develop an Effective Way to Handle Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of all relationships. It is a signal and if managed well it can lead to greater understanding and connection. During the transition to parenthood it is natural that there are major changes to each partner’s self-concept. For most couples, this results in relationship challenges and can make conflict increase dramatically. A requirement for all stages of problem-solving to be effective is physiological soothing. Meaning, the capacity for both partners to be emotionally calm enough to stay present, think, and work through the issue at hand. Developing this skill while dealing with conflict can help ensure that learning and increased understanding are the outcomes rather than an automatic response to fight aggressively or run away.

One strategy to enhance emotional regulation is developing a mutually agreed upon signal for a break. This signal would be used when one partner is feeling flooded or overwhelmed by emotionThe20-minute breakallows the partner to return to amore relaxed state of mind.  Some find it useful to engage in a self-soothing exercise during the break such as deepbreathing, muscle relaxation or meditation. Once the break is over, the conversation resumes.  

3. Adopt the Relationship Motto: Small Things Often

Research conducted on thousandsof couples found that if you make small changes in your daily life they will result in larger changes over time whichincrease satisfaction, build awareness, and help to increase communication. This is so important because new parents are tired! Their ability to manage frustration is often low and even the idea of going on a date or engaging in conflict can feel so overwhelming. The fact that small gestures, done often, can have the greatest impact should give hope to those invested in strengthening their relationship but worried they may simply be too exhausted to do so.  

One of my favourite strategies for adopting thismotto is The Six Second Kiss.  The SixSecond Kiss is also referred toas “A Kiss With Potential”. Kissing for sixseconds is just long enough to create the opportunity for greater intimacy and connection without placing any expectation on it occurring. It’s hard to kiss for sixseconds and not feel a little bit lighter even if it’s just because you are laughing at how long sixseconds actually feels when lips are touching! This is the strategy that I strongly encourage you to try. What’s the worst that could happen? After all, it’s only six seconds.

Alison Holland is a Registered Social Worker who provides counselling services in Vancouver, BC. Her expertise as a Gottman Bringing Baby Home Educator complementsher passion for providing research-based training and therapy that helps families improve relationships, better manage stress and successfully navigate life transitions.

For more information please visit:

www.mhcounselling.ca

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