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A doula perinatal mentor is like your best friend.  Remember that love you had growing up with a friend that would listen to all your stories, ideas, and imaginary worlds you snail-mailed to each other?  Remember when you were sad, and she gave you a hug?  Remember when you had a question, and she'd help you find the answer?  A doula is your best friend through the childbearing years with an inside scoop about the modern birth industry and your amazing body.  Not every doula practices the same way, but an Esali Birth Perinatal Mentor strives to encompass all of the needs of the childbearing years through knowledge, skill, and networking.

What does a doula do?  What DOESN'T a doula do?

What a Doula Does

  1. Tells you her personal abilities to support YOU through whatever stage of birth you're experiencing
  2. Doesn't pretend to be superwoman, but offers you love and guidance through your personal birth experience
  3. Massages your feet, hands, face, and whatever will make you feel better
  4. Walks with you prenatally providing informational and emotional guidance
  5. Provides education and support that encourages you to make informed decisions
  6. Seeks to build your confidence so you can become aware of your personal power, knowledge of yourself, and capabilities as a mother or father
  7. Understands the birth industry and hurdles you may have to cross, and helps you navigate these paths
  8. Offers physical guidance to improve your overall health for a happy healthy birth
  9. Offers nutritional guidance to improve your overall health for a happy healthy birth
  10. Helps you find area professionals that can support you through happy healthy birth
  11. Helps you find area professionals that can support you through postpartum and parenting
  12. On call 24/7 (not just after 37 weeks and not just for active labor)
  13. Helps you find answers to questions and may perform many hours of research for clients
  14. Looks over your food journal to help see where you could improve from timing of eating to what you're ingesting
  15. Finds time for you and your family's needs
  16. Goes with you to the grocery store to help select healthy balanced food items
  17. Help you prep for postpartum by blending herbal baths, stocking your pantry, and packing your labor bag
  18. Reviews your birth guide (birth plan) for language, efficiency, and necessities to help you communicate with your birth team
  19. Networks with area professionals to help maintain a positive image in the community that will reflect on your birth experience
  20. Leads birth comprehensive birth classes that help you become aware of ALL your options for ALL births
  21. Leads perinatal comprehensive classes that help you become aware of ALL your options from pre-conception through postpartum and early parenting
  22. Can drive with you to long distance prenatal appointments to chat about what you want to talk about, and help you reflect on your prenatal appointment after it has occurred
  23. Provides consistent support prenatally, even when you are choosing to birth without a doula or with another doula
  24. Provides consistent support prenatally for mothers includes those experiencing PTSD from Previous Sexual Trauma while working with your therapist to ensure you have the best support team available no matter when you have your baby
  25. Supports #ALLthebirths because a doula is supporting YOU
  26. Supports the birth team's interaction with the laboring mother to improve her experience and memory of the birth
  27. Guides you and your birth partner on positive communication skills to improve your labor experience
  28. Provides physical support during labor for comfort
  29. Provides physical guidance during labor to help a baby move into a more comfortable position
  30. Provides emotional support during labor for comfort and birth progression
  31. Communicates with the staff about your needs for quiet and privacy during labor
  32. Doesn't flinch when your water breaks all over their shoes and the doula is in the middle of counter pressure for your comfort
  33. Helps you roll from side to side during a medicated birth and you have little feeling from an epidural
  34. Holds your baby on your breast during the first hours after a cesarean when you're a little in and out from the medication
  35. Cares for older siblings whether at a home birth, during the hospital, or when you need childcare during a scheduled cesarean
  36. Meets you at your home, in the woods for a walk, and at your labor facility to support you whenever you need support
  37. Watch your labor signs to help provide information that helps you decide when to transfer to your birth facility
  38. Encourages you to listen to your amazing body and all the signals it is providing you to move, breathe, and dance with your baby
  39. Helps comfort you through transferring to a birth facility
  40. Can drive you to your birth facility while your birth partner supports you during transfer to a birth facility
  41. Help setup a birthing tub for hydrotherapy
  42. Help tear down and cleanup a birthing tub after a water birth
  43. Get in the birthing tub with you to provide back pressure and position support
  44. Is comfortable with birth fluids near and on them
  45. Helps you find the labor noises that opens your cervix and brings baby down
  46. Reassures your birth partner that all these noises are expected and opening the cervix, bringing the baby down
  47. Help cleanup the house after a home birth
  48. Rotates and wiggles your hips to help baby move through the pelvis
  49. Dances with you during birth for emotional and physical support
  50. Offers birth ball use guidance
  51. Offers peanut ball use guidance
  52. Tells you how amazing you are to build your confidence, and oxytocin, in pregnancy and birth
  53. Tells your birth partner how amazing they are to build their confidence, and oxytocin, in supporting you through birth
  54. Takes the lead on supporting you as you desire
  55. Guides the direction of your birth partner so they can support you in a leading role
  56. Works alongside your birth partner
  57. Holds your hair back and a bag for vomit
  58. Provides support even when there are shift changes at your birth facility
  59. Turns down the lights to help oxytocin build to its fullest potential
  60. Encourages privacy to build oxytocin for labor progression and an enjoyable birth
  61. Encourages intimacy to build oxytocin for labor progression and an enjoyable birth
  62. Reminds you to listen to your body for positions and movement
  63. Reminds you to listen to your body for needs of rest and relaxation
  64. Reminds you to listen to your body for pushing birthing
  65. Reminds the facility of your birth guide
  66. Reminds you to speak up for your desires
  67. Reminds you of your human rights during labor and birth
  68. Reminds you that you CAN birth vaginally when others are telling you that you don't have a choice
  69. Reminds you that you CAN choose a cesarean when others are telling you that you don't have a choice
  70. Fills up your water bottle, adds a little cucumber and fruit for electrolyte balance
  71. Reminds you to take sips of water for hydration
  72. Reminds you to eat light balanced foods, broths, and fruit as desired during labor
  73. Reminds you to communicate with your provider and staff for your wishes
  74. Reminds you that, "No Thank You" and "Not Right Now" are powerful words in the labor space
  75. Gets cooling wash cloths for your face and neck
  76. Gets warm towels for perineal support
  77. Provide hip squeezes to allow comfort and room for the baby
  78. Uses a rebozo for comfort and encouraging baby to rotate through the pelvis
  79. Works with the rest of the birth team and the staff to ensure you have all the perspectives when needed
  80. Answers the phone at 3 am to help you find calm in the early hours of labor, and breastfeeding
  81. Shares area contacts for perinatal services such as breastfeeding or osteopathic therapy
  82. Makes you a cup of tea and a sandwich while you're nursing your baby
  83. Brings your family dinner so you all can rest during postpartum
  84. Listens to your birth story and encourages you to feel all the feels
  85. Helps you wrap your baby for a more hands-free and connected postpartum
  86. Guides you on breastfeeding latch and positions for more comfort
  87. Guides you on when to seek more support for any issues that may arise during postpartum or parenting
  88. Go-to for perinatal-related information and support
  89. Connects the dots between birth choices and birth experience to help you process and understand your birth experience
  90. Checks in on you in the days after birth to ensure you are holistically supported
  91. Offers LOVE - hugs, tears, laughter and love

I can't say that a doula is right for everyone.  I can say that when you have a relationship built with your doula, the ability for better support during labor grows.  A doula is that best friend willing to be by your side through every experience, day or night, weekday or weekend, holidays and spur of the moment.  If you're looking for labor options, a doula perinatal mentor can be a beacon of light through the childbearing years.

Let's chat about how you can be supported through pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.

postpartum anxiety Esali Birth

Postpartum anxiety is an ever growing illness, particularly in western cultures and stemming from western lifestyles that create adrenal fatigue, exhaustion, overload and shutdown.  Due to the nature of our culture, more women experience postpartum anxiety than men, but this is certainly an illness that can be seen in dads and other supportive persons of a new baby, depending on the circumstances.

Most women are seeing western medical providers throughout their pregnancy and postpartum so treatment of postpartum anxiety and depression typically takes a western approach with prescriptions like Zoloft and other anti-depression medications.  For many women, they don't want to take this route (especially as the first approach) and are seeking natural and herbal treatment for postpartum anxiety but may not know who to turn to or have been told this isn't the best approach.

I believe you, Mom, and you, Dad, are intelligent human beings that can make informed decisions.  If you're reading this, you're seeking treatment or being active in seeking help for your condition.  Not all families are lucky enough to know that what they're experiencing as postpartum anxiety and depression is anything other than expected and normal.  We've made western mothers and parents believe they should be able to handle life with a baby, that it is supposed to be exhausting, and that baby blues are expected.  I'm calling B.S.

Baby blues are sometimes the first sign that something is wrong.  A mother and father should be nothing other than happy and fairly rested after they have the baby.  If they're not, and this doesn't quickly change, postpartum anxiety and depression are the next step.  We don't wait until the last straw.  We take a holistic preventative approach and then treat with the first signs of any issue.  The fact that western medicine is typically the treatment, however, makes it all that more difficult to accept help since the prescriptions come with side effects like severe depression and suicidal thoughts, nausea, headache, constipation, insomnia, seizure, hallucinations...  Not really the type of first treatment anyone expects.  So while these medications may have their place and time, there are a world of options moms have for natural treatments with postpartum anxiety and depression as well as baby blues and prevention.

General Prevention & Natural Treatment of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

General wellness is imperative for all prevention and healing of all dis-ease.  You will see these same things repeated over and over and over again throughout Esali Birth.  With these general lifestyle choices, that is often all you need.  "Let thy food be thy medicine" as Hippocrates said - not as a form of treatment, but as a form of prevention.  Your daily (especially long-term) choices allow your body to work well or not.  I know it may not be that easy - but these choices will go along with every single treatment program.  These, of course are pregnancy and breastfeeding compatible.

  • Plan for Support - Prior to birth, plan to have someone, or multiple people, help you so that you (and Dad) can rest for at least 3 weeks.  You will have a wound the size of a small dinner plate that needs to heal after birth where the placenta has detached.  Whether this is someone living in with you or multiple people bringing you meals and planning for cleaning for you, the support and rest will help you heal faster and everyone the ability to sleep more, even if that means multiple naps during the day.
  • Get help with Breastfeeding - If breastfeeding is not easy, it is easy for this to influence happiness, sleep, and postpartum healing.  Breastfeeding should not hurt.  Engorgement is not normal (common, not normal).  Nipple shields are a clear sign something is wrong with the latch.  Tethered Oral Tissues are real (and bodywork and/or tie revisions can help tremendously).  Many medical providers, even with a "lactation consultant" title or training, do not have adequate experience or skill to support long term breastfeeding.  Get help.  If the tips don't start improving things in 24 hours, seek additional help.
  • Tell Your Birth Story - Share your thoughts and feelings and series of events of your labor and birth with someone who will HEAR you, and someone that doesn't try to convince you that "all that matters is a healthy baby."  YOU matter, too.  Your happiness IS your health.  Women desire to share their birth story and being told to supress thoughts (positive or negative) about this life-changing event can lead to significant trauma later in life, confidence, and overall depressive natures.
  • Eat Well - Eat adequate greens in all forms multiple times a day.  Eat a rainbow of colors of vegetables and fruits; steam them for maximum nutrient bioavailability.  Eat sprouted legumes, seeds, grains.  Eat minimally processed foods.  Balance your meals with adequate healthy fats, proteins, and carbs.
  • Move Well - Strive for walking a minimum of 1 mile a day and make a goal of an average of 3-10 miles a day prior to birth, and after you've healed postpartum.  This doesn't have to be done all at once and remember it is an overall average.  Take a day of rest, take a day for extra activity, sprinkle in movement and walking here and there.  Add in some calf stretches, bellydancing, hiking, squatting, climbing, hanging, lifting and whatever feels good to get your whole body moving more.  It is the movement throughout the day that allows nutrients to be taken to where it needs to go and hormones to flow well through your body.  Lack of movement means poor sleep as well and that causes more adrenal exhaustion and anxiety.
  • Hydrate Well - Hydration is more than drink more water.  You can drink plenty of water, but without proper nutrients and movement you won't retain the hydration.  Be sure you're getting all your necessary vitaminerals through balanced eating.  Cucumbers added to your water make great electrolyte balance and hydration balance.  Coconut water is another option.  Lemon water (with the organic peel) improves the detoxification system and reduces toxin overload that often contributes to mood disorders
  • Get Sunshine - A minimum of two hours of natural sunshine daily will be more than enough to allow your body to create Vitamin D (for immune support and hormonal balance).  Prison inmates are blessed with two hours of outdoor time daily... I think you can make the choice to achieve that as well and get used to a variety of different weather conditions.  Sure, take it easy sometime - but you'll feel better the more you get outside.
  • Rest - You must get adequate sleep and down time.  Sometimes the postpartum period won't allow full rest (particularly without a lot of real support), so lay down and take it easy for a good 4-6 weeks.  Depression symptoms peak around 4 weeks postpartum (also common after a great birth where mom is so energized she doesn't rest or get support).  Nurse the baby, eat, pee, clean yourself up and don't do anything else.  Seriously.  This time period is when a new mom (and dad, ideally) should be pampered.  We were NOT made to do this alone.  We were NOT made to go back to work at 3 weeks or 6 weeks or 12 weeks after having a baby!!!  I know your circumstances may not support the ideal, so do what you can and get support for the most minimal tasks until you feel rested - as long as it takes.
  • Self Care - You need time for yourself.  As mothers, our postpartum anxiety might begin with believing we are the only one that can care for our baby, particularly if we're breastfeeding.  You need time away from baby, and your significant other, and other kids, and you need time to be with your own thoughts - especially if dealing with postpartum anxiety.  30 minutes a day minimum by yourself to take a bath, write in your journal, interpret your dreams, go for a walk, do a craft, read.  1 hour minimum weekly with other adults that you enjoy being around (strive for this daily).  1 hour minimum weekly with your significant other while no one else is around (strive for this daily).  Your baby will be OK.  Your baby can be brought to you at any time baby needs you - and be sure whomever is caring for your baby at this time understands the importance of that.  The older your baby gets, the easier it will become for others to find soothing methods that will allow you to have your full 30 minutes and more.  Just can't bring yourself to get away?  Then hang out with a group of people with your baby that will also help you care for your baby.  Learn to babywear (and nurse using a carrier) or a stroller.  A big part of this step is doing something for YOU.  Paint, sing, dance, read, take a bath, go shopping, hang out with friends, hike, boat, ski.  Do something YOU love JUST for you - even if it is little bits at a time.  We'll talk more about this throughout this post.
  • Eliminate (or significantly reduce) caffeine, acidic foods, and sugary foods.  All these wreak havoc on the blood glucose, hormonal balance, and hydration levels in the body.  1 cup of coffee or tea may be "fine" daily in western terms, but we're looking at these issues from a more body-supportive approach.  If you're relying on these things to function daily, there are underlying problems.  Some of which are caused by the tannic and acidic nature of the diuretic constituents, fluctuations of blood sugar levels, and suppression of natural energy promoters in the body.  Coffee and black tea (even when decaf and especially when sweeteners and sugars like creamer, sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup...etc. are used) cause significant drops in energy and fatigue for 1-3 days following consumption.  Reduce and then eliminate the consumption of these until they become an occasional treat.  Don't be at their mercy.

For more guidance on general wellness, join the free Esali Birth Prep course valuable for all stages of the childbearing years for happier healthier living.

Chores & Habits for Prevention and Treatment of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

We were not meant to do life alone.  We are social creatures.  Our civilized culture has made us live apart from people and particularly in America we suffer from independence-syndrome where we're so stuck on being independent we lose connection and help.  You can't really have it all, and it's showing strongly in mothers suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression.  Create a true village for yourself as much as possible.  If that village is just your immediate family, you may find herbal support more necessary.  You may find other treatments more necessary.  Unfortunately, that's the downfall of teaching our children to do things on their own as soon as possible... self-soothe, eating solids, sleeping in their own bed (or crib from birth), off to school, off to college, get your own place to live, live isolated/meet brand new people (often move away)... have a baby and other than "letting the doctor take care of you" you're meant to do life without much help.  Sometimes help from people in our culture is more difficult than not getting help, I know that, so use these tips.

  • Hire a Postpartum Doula - Someone that gets life with a new baby, doesn't want to just snuggle the baby (though will if that's what you need), and provides unbiased love and support and house cleaning and errand running and food prep, and pampering and hugs and will leave or come when you need them.  This used to be mom, sister, friend, and mother-in-law - but with our independent nature and strong separation from biological birth and living, we often have to hire these people in our culture.
  • Schedule - Keep a calendar with auto-reminders so you don't have to think so much.  Make habits of putting tasks and calendars on a device you use, be it a journal, your tablet, or your phone.  Connect it with the rest of the family as needed.
  • Be sure your schedule isn't jam packed.  You may know that you don't want to go to the annual Christmas party this year, but you don't have to go to the family dinner or to church or to all these traditions that are taking your energy.  Heal, rest, do what makes sense for you and your family.  Everyone else will get over it.  Even if "they did this when they had a new baby" - a history of doing too much is a precursor to postpartum anxiety and depression in you and your children.
  • Reduce the Laundry - If you work, especially, reduce your clothing options to 2-3 tops, 2-3 complimentary shirts, 2-3 pants, 1-2 shoes plus a few accessories.  Choose all these items with similar colors and patterns to easily mix and match, your accessories can be your wow pieces.  This reduces how much you have to think and how much laundry you have to do.  Same with the rest of the family.  Cycle out your clothes for the season if it helps so you are less likely to have too many dirty clothes at once.  Rewear clothes that actually don't need cleaned.  When your kids can walk, they can help with laundry by at minimum picking up clothes and making sure they go in a basket - make it a game.  The older they get, the more they can do.  My kids (now 9 and 6) have been doing their own laundry for years.  My husband has always done his own laundry.  Yes, we help each other out, but cleaning how is not mom's job even if she's a full-time stay at home mom (particularly during the first 3-6 months and while breastfeeding).  Be realistic and help where it is needed.
  • 15 Minutes of Cleaning - Set a timer (or put on some music) once, twice is better, a day for 15 minutes.  We're looking for that 15 minute indication.  Do whatever you can do in the necessary parts of the house (kitchen, main living space, getting laundry started, bathroom, bedroom).  Pick-up, tidy-up, start a load of dishes, sweep the floor... whatever... for 15 minutes.  You might be amazed how much you can get done when you know you don't need to do it all.  You might be amazed how great your kitchen looks with all the stuff just organized.  These 15 minutes give you motivation to get something done and permission to stop when the timer ends.  If you can't schedule this at a specific time every day and you feel like the only time you have is when the baby is sleeping, do it as soon as the baby goes to sleep - but make a rule that as soon as these 15 minutes are up, you will lay down and rest and try to nap yourself.  You're not trying to host a dinner party, you're just looking for basic function with a space to move around in a little better - its all for sanity.
  • Clean the Kitchen - At minimum, keep your kitchen clean.  If nothing more than making sure you have a clean surface to prep on and clean dishes, make this a priority.  Kids are great at putting dishes away when they're little, scrubbing when they're older, and loading a dishwasher if it is available.  Sometimes, the dishes might not be totally clean, but they're away in the dishwasher and can be easily wiped off for use.  You're more likely to eat healthy when you have a place to prep.
  • Prep Your Meals - Prenatally, use a meal-planning calendar to prepare for your postpartum and stock your freezer with healthy meals that can be heated up when you don't have leftovers or someone bringing a meal.  Prep veggie trays, fruit bowls, healthy snacks, get a salad spinner, make soup and learn to love leftovers (even if they're remade).  Take one day when you have a lot of help, and do as much as you can to prep for the week (or the month).  If you can segment food and freeze it to throw in a pot or crockpot, go for it.  Write down your meal options on a calendar to help with grocery trips and cooking meals (great for dads).  Get your kids to help.  Kids LOVE mixing, chopping, stirring and getting things from the refrigerator and pantry.  My kids help me so much (particularly my youngest) that when I have to prepare a whole meal on my own I'm a little bit lost.  We started them with hook and loop wooden veggie and knife sets, then plastic knives for chopping salads, and watched them carefully with sharper knives at a young age.  Cooking is a life skill that will teach about health, numbers, patience, art, love and social connection.  You can't go wrong.  Have your kids plan the meal if they're old enough.  Even if it's PB&Banana with raw veggies or Spaghetti (with a salad).

Generally, solicit more help for prevention and treatment of postpartum anxiety and depression!  Make a plan to eat an extended family-meal 1-4 times a month. You bring the salad, because it's the easiest (and you know you'll have fresh greens that way) and enjoy someone else's cooking, plus the leftovers to bring home.

Herbal Supplements for Prevention and Natural Treatment of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

A good whole foods and minimally processed supplement can help fill in the gaps.  Esali Herbal Powders, available in the Esali Shop, include the following herbs for daily use as a supplement.  While I am not recommending specific brands, Mega Foods supplements are whole-foods derived and have high quality business practices if you're looking for a more conventional option as well.  These herbs may be used as a supplement during pregnancy or breastfeeding with guidance from an herbal counselor.  Some women are not comfortable taking kelp during pregnancy because of kelp's high iodine levels, however, in the Esali Herbal Powders Thrive blend the overall amount is quite low.  Of course, you also need to be aware of your iodine intake (i.e. if you eat iodonie-fortified table salt then skip the kelp, or switch to a healthier salt source).

  • Nettles (excellent on their own as a tea and soup green as well if you do nothing else - Power Green for hormonal and organ balance, detoxification support, and vitaminerals)
  • Spirulina (Power Green for hormonal and organ balance, detoxification support, and vitaminerals)
  • Chlorella (Power Green for hormonal and organ balance, detoxification support, and vitaminerals)
  • Kelp
  • Shiitake Mushroom
  • Beet Root (Cardiovascular System Health)
  • Cranberry (Urinary & Immune Health)
  • Alfalfa
  • Wheat Grass
  • Barley Grass
  • Oat Straw

Adrenal Supportive Herbs for Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

Most cases of anxiety are related in some form to overstimulation for extended periods.  Sometimes the birth, breastfeeding or postpartum period can be the event that is just too much for a taxed body to handle (even if you had a great pregnancy).  Sometimes hormonal imbalances from various causes (unbalanced diet, processed foods, artificial foods, soda, lack of sleep...etc.) causes anxiety.  In either case, daily adrenal support (tea or tincture - whatever you're more likely to take) can help along with being intentional with your daily tasks.  Adaptogenic herbs, those that help the body to adapt to and rebalance during environmental stress through non-specific activity.  In other words, help your body to work more efficiently without targeting a specific organ.  Adaptogens normalize functions of the body (decrease/increase as needed) to help bring your body back to a state of homeostasis.  They mostly achieve this through improved digestion and detoxification by stimulating the liver's functions of converting glycogen to glucose and increasing blood glucose levels, enhancing the entry of glucose into cells, and improving the usage of glucose within those cells while also normalizing the response to stress by preventing exaggerated stress responses.  While some women are comfortable using adaptogens during pregnancy, it is not widely recommended.  These herbs are fine to use while breastfeeding.

  • Pare down the schedule.  Learn to say, "No" to others and sometimes to yourself.  Listen to your cycle seasons and support your system by scheduling tasks that fit with your hormonal needs.  During postpartum, this means to treat your season like you would during menses.  Relax.
  • If any of your anxiety, unhappiness, or stress is related to communication and parenting, seek alternative parenting methods - Aha Parenting is an excellent website for positive parenting approaches that can really shift the family dynamic and mood for all ages - www.ahaparenting.com
  • Adaptogenic herbs in tea or tincture form (1-3 tincture dropperfuls or cups of tea total per day - I like to start with 1 a day and go from there).  Herbs may include (on their own or as a blend): Ashwaghanda, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, Elethero, or Shatavari (this one particularly for women's hormonal balancing).  There are many adaptogenic herbs, these are some of the most common.

Nervine Supportive Herbs for Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

Nervines are herbs that have a direct action on the nervous system through toning and nutrition or easing tension and creating muscle relaxing effects.  In general, the nervous system always needs supported in any dis-ease, but especially through anxiety and depression illnesses.  Some nervines are better for chronic (daily and regular) use and others for acute (immediate short term use).  You will likely add nervines as a daily therapeutic and keep 1-2 options for those really tough as-needed moments.

Nervines for Daily Routine Use for Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

The following are fine to use during pregnancy (with the exception of Motherwort) and breastfeeding.  1-3 doses daily.

  • Oat Straw/Milky Oat Tops - This demulcent herb gently, but powerfully, nourishes the nervous system.  Excellent for morning or evening use.  Incredibly mild flavor (similar to oats themselves) able to be blended with just about everything.  If you're looking specifically for the calming aspect, you need milky oats - Avena sativa tinctured while in their milky oat stage.
  • Chamomile - Great for tension and stress, particularly when it affects the digestive system.  Great as a before-bed tea (note that steeping it over about 5 minutes will be strong, but it will have a stronger diuretic effect).  Great blended with other herbs.  Can also be infused into an oil for a relaxing muscle rub.
  • Catnip - Makes a great mild-tasting tea with a very gentle relaxing effect particularly for abdominal and digestive tension (very useful for kids).  Great blended with other herbs to enhance the relaxing effects.
  • Lavender - Either the whole herb or the essential oil.  As a daily routine, lavender in a warm bath (not the essential oil unless it is in a diffuser) or on a diffuser necklace, or sniffed directly out of the bottle or bag.  Great as a bedtime routine to support better sleep - particularly when sleep issues are caused from anxiety.
  • Frankincense - The essential oil, especially when used alongside lavender essential oil, can be a wonderful quick-fix for moments where you feel overwhelmed.  I love to just hold both bottles up to my nose and take 3 very long slow deep breaths.  It is effective, quick, and doesn't overuse my oils.  I can do this as often as I'd like to throughout the day, because sometimes it doesn't matter what you do - you have a bad night and need a little pick me up that is nourishing to your body.
  • Motherwort - NOT FOR USE IN PREGNANCY - The mother herb and wonderful for mother-related anxiety and hormonal balancing, for PMS symptoms and other hormonal and mood fluctuations are present and particularly when the heart is concerned or where palpitations are anxiety-related.  This is one of the main ingredients in the Esali Birth Mother Me Tea blend available in the shop (with motivational scrolls for a little extra love and pick-me-up).  Heavy and long-term use may interfere with other cardiac treatments.  It is a mild menstrual-promoter and as such should not be used in pregnancy.  1-4 ml tincture of 1:5 solution in 40% alcohol up to 3x daily or 1-2 teaspoons in 1 cup boiling water steeped 10-15 minutes drank 1-3x daily (this one is bitter - be prepared).
  • Vitamin D3 - Cholecalciferol- OK, Not an herb or a nervine, but necessary if you're not getting enough sunshine.  You'll feel it in your nerves in terms of anxiety and likely cold, flu and other illnesses. (Fortified milk and juice won't cut it and isn't a part of a balanced diet).  Dr. Weil recommends 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily and for a breastfeeding mom 6100 IU/day of Vitamin D3 is enough for mom and her baby.  There is teetering evidence on if any supplementation of Vitamin D works at all, but no matter what, take it with healthy fats because Vitamin D is fat soluable.  You need sunshine daily in all weather conditions (or extra amounts on days if you know you won't be out the next), but supplementation or full spectrum bulbs might be on your next purchase list.  If you're low in Vitamin D, you're likely low in magnesium as well.
  • Magnesium - Oral Chelated Magnesium Glycinate and Topical Magnesium Chloride combination.  This is not an herb or nervine, but likewise necessary for nerve health and if you're not eating a balanced diet (particularly high in wild-harvested green foods) you're likely lacking in this very necessary nutrient responsible for numerous whole body functions.  Magnesium is in many of the tonic and nervine herbs such as Nettles, as well.  For many, topical magnesium is the most readily absorbed.  Flakes in a bath or topical solutions.  If you're low in magnesium, you're likely low in Vitamin D as well.

Nervines for As-Needed Limited Use for Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

* ASTRISK NOTE:  Do not use the herbs noted with an '*' astrisk if you are taking a prescription depression or sedative medication unless under the direction of your care provider.  They can interact and enhance each other - not always the outcome you're seeking.  If pregnant, use these herbs with guidance from an experienced herbalist.

All of the herbs in this section are OK for use while breastfeeding.

  • Lavender - This is included in both sections as lavender can be used daily for general support, and the essential oil is great for in-the-moment anxiety relief by taking three very long deep breaths through your nose directly out of a bottle.
  • *Skullcap - Makes a great mild-tasting tea with a relaxing effect particularly for anxiety and anxiety-related tension.  Great blended with other herbs.
  • *St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum - Great for neuralgic pain and other inflammatory issues (often common with anxiety and depression).  Also useful for injuries to the spine, coccyx, and traumatic shock quite common after modern births, particularly in a hospital or birth center where women usually don't labor instinctively (choosing their own positions for labor and birth) or where birth has been induced or augmented.  A long history of perinatal use for anxiety and depression.  Note, reduction of oral contraception efficacy has been noted.  2-4 ml 3x daily of a 1:5 in 40% alcohol solution or 1-2 teaspoon of dried whole herb infused into 1 cup boiling water (pour over the herb) and steeped 10-15 minutes 1-3 times daily.
  • *Kava-Kava - Not for long term use.  Heavy long term use may cause skin irritation.  Heavy long term use may cause liver issues.  This is best used on a limited as-needed basis.  When you didn't get much sleep the night before.  When you're having a rough day (or week).  It can be used for mild insomnia and depression and in such cases can be used for a longer period.  This is a great tincture to keep on your person (particularly to alternate with Lavender or if lavender only makes you sleepy rather than anxiety reducing).  Kava can be great for hormonal-related anxiety and depression.  No more than 60-120 mg kavalactones 3x daily.  You know a strong tincture when it tastes nasty.
  • *Passion Flower - Passiflora is great as a soother and sedative (often used for insomnia).  Excellent for neurological-related conditions like seizures and Parkinson's disease and other anxiety conditions.  1-4 ml of a 1:5 solution in 40% alcohol about an hour before bed for support while sleeping or up to twice daily for anxiety-related concerns.  Or 1 teaspoon of dried herb infused in 1 cup boiling water (pour over the herb) and steeped for 15 minutes about an hour before bed or up to twice daily.
  • *If you're lacking quality sleep, especially if you think yourself awake, a blend of 2 parts California Poppy, 1 Part Valerian, and 1 Part Passion Flower tincture, 5 mL about 30-60 minutes before you want to go to sleep.  Chill for a while and you'll have a more restful sleep which can really change how you feel during the day.

Now, don't let anyone tell you there are no holistic or natural or herbal options when it comes to postpartum anxiety and depression.  Most of these are lifestyle changes.  Sometimes it can be support with other aspects like sleep support rather than specific herbs for anxiety and depression - it depends on root causes and lifestyle.  Sometimes, it is changing our own perspective and our eating/lifestyle choices that can be the hardest.  Once you do (and do it slowly as needed), you'll feel so much better.  I can't say life will ever be easy, but you'll figure out what works for you and everyone will be healthier for it.

If you're looking for support, get in touch!  I'd love to listen to your story and help you find a specific wellness plan that works for your personal constitution and situation.

There are a lot of discussions about the ways to involve siblings at birth: Should we?  Is it harmful?  Will they bother mom too much?  Will they be scarred for life?  Most of these questions stem from a culture that puts a veil over a lot of normal life functions and discussions and instead plays pretend, leaves little Tommy with a sitter, or simply lies to avoid uncomfortable conversations.  Don't get me wrong, there are simply some events where parents just need the space to be in their own mind without distractions and only the parent can truly decide what is best for the family as a whole.

Children often handle birth and breastfeeding delightfully and it opens up so many wonderful opportunities for real life discussion and understanding.  They may sleep through the entire event.  They may play and step in now and then, ask some questions or observe and want to know someone will make them dinner.  They may get bored and need some guided activities or outside time.  They may want to snuggle mom or get in the birth tub.  Your labor and birth location will determine a lot of how normal the birth process feels to siblings and how involved they are able to feel.

How, then, can we involve siblings at birth if we decide this is what is right for our family?  Here are four fun ways to make them feel like a part of the experience without playing pretend.

Birth Team Host to involve siblings at birth

Having older siblings make coffee, snacks, and meals for a home birth team as well as care for younger siblings is one of the most common ways to involve siblings at birth.  This is a good task for the tween group.  They're old enough to really want an important job, to do some kitchen tasks by themselves, and to understand that mom may need her space and time with her birth team.  Teens can be sent on errands, to the grocery store even, depending on the needs during the birth.  All the siblings can prep sandwiches, put on a crockpot full of soup, and be sure the pot of coffee is at the ready.  They can answer the door as people arrive so whoever is supporting mom can stay with her without interruption, including in birth center and hospital settings.

Birth Attendant Role to involve siblings at birth

Another important task for the older groups is being an intuitive birth attendant.  These tasks can start during pregnancy, allowing older siblings to be involved in prental appointments as well as birth classes and get a great understanding of the birth processes before birth.  During labor they can be sure mom has water available, with fresh cucumber and a bendy straw, wherever she goes.  Siblings can be sure the bed is prepped with a shower curtain and fresh linens.  They can fetch cool towels, a birth ball, and rub mom's back.  Depending on their abilities can depend how much they are able to physically help with mom's comfort if she desires support, but many of these tasks are excellent for even young children freeing up the other birth attendants and Dad for continues support in other ways.

Make Birth Announcements to involve siblings at birth

Siblings making birth announcements can be as simple as changing the greeting on your voicemail and answering phone calls to making “Do Not Disturb; Baby Sleeping” signs and adding Baby’s name, weight, and birth info. for those that may be dropping by food, or the mail.  Hand-written cards can be sent with a new photo to all the baby shower and blessingway attendees, giving siblings plenty to keep occupied during the first weeks after the birth and plenty of time for mom to get settled in with breastfeeding.

Birth Photography is a great way to involve siblings at birth

This can be from the oldest sibling to a toddler and one of my favorite ways to involve siblings at birth.  The only real challenge is finding the camera you're comfortable with them using and making sure a flash or noise isn't too distracting if they’re not up to speed on camera settings.  Thankfully, disposable cameras still exist (even in digital form) if you don't own a camera and don't want to hand off the cell.

Even more fun with disposable cameras, a young child can have a lot of fun decorating the camera to fit their personal tastes and getting prints in the mail after the birth is an extra present.  Add in a personal scrap book, stickers, markers, and fun paper for a great quiet-time activity while you're resting and nursing.  Save some photos to be taken during the first year to add to the scrapbook and now the siblings not only have a great way to be involved at the birth, but also a great first birthday present to give as a keepsake.  Multiple siblings can easily share this activity and it's sure to be one of the highlights making the siblings feel very excited for their baby brother's or sister's birthday party.

 

Never underestimate the mind of a youth – they are ready and willing to learn all they can about life and their body and being a big help with chores and daily life before and after birth.  There are no necessary roles siblings need to take before, during or after the birth – but the more they are involved with the process, the more they will understand about their own body and the importance of the entire family helping for this new little life.  Making snacks, filling up water cups, and prepping nursing baskets with fun tasks (for mom and the little ones) as well as charging phones and starting a load of laundry are all helpful postpartum.

How do you love to involve siblings at birth?

 

mommy brain esali birth

Mommy Brain have you in a fog these days?  It's no secret mothers (and fathers) experience a brain change after welcoming a child into their lives.  It starts with hormonal changes during pregnancy, and the neurological development often shifts the focus of prior careers and hobbies to survival - sometimes to the extreme of adrenal exhaustion in many western cultures where support is few and far between (or at least not geared towards healthy family development).

You've heard many mother's joke that they lost their brain during the birth, but this brain change really isn't a loss of knowledge, it's just a change of focus.  Just like all the other muscles in our body, our brain adapts to our daily environment.  We get really good at catching spit up before it happens and maybe not so zoned in on finite editing for work projects.  Mommy brain is a matter of priorities - it's OK to have a brain more geared towards biological nurturing than formula spreadsheets.  Mommy brain is really another description for "instinctual thinking" sometime the opposite of the logical thinking required for other aspects of our culture.

For many of us who continue, or decide, to work after having children - we can get a little overwhelmed with the amount of energy needed to raise a family.  How do we balance this new mommy brain perspective with the demands of modern life?  Here are a few tips:

Improving Mommy Brain

Eat well balanced

Without adequate nutrients, including healthy fats, your brain isn't going to work at full capacity.  Be sure you're getting all the colors of the rainbow, and don't forget the blue-colored foods known for their brain enhancing phytonutrients.  Pack your snacks and lunch for outings and for work.  Don't fall into convenience traps that end up reducing health and the bank account.  Think about your time schedule and pack what you can the night before or schedule this time for the morning.  Listen to your personal needs.

Sleep Well

Go to bed when you're tired.  Create a sleep environment that works for everyone.  Safe co-sleeping is known to improve sleep for the whole family because not only does this increase breastfeeding by having mom respond to slight movements of her baby, but it helps regulate baby's temperature and calm feeling to reduce waking overall.  Ultimately, though, you have to do what works for you because every family is different.  Whether it's cuddled right next to your baby, a sidecar for comfort, a mattress on the floor, or someone sleeping on the couch - if it allows the whole family to sleep better, this is going to increase your overall rested feeling, improve emotional reactions, and reduce adrenal fatigue symptoms.

Try to schedule your day and sleep to avoid the need for alarms.  Alarms wake you in the middle of your sleep cycle making you feel groggy and alerting your body with an adrenaline rush.  If you keep the same schedule every day, you'll eventually get into a routine that makes waking easier without an alarm.  If you're able to adjust your work schedule to fit your biological clock, this is the best approach; however, gently increasing the sound of your alarm may help to some degree.  Utilize work from home opportunities and flex schedules.

Get into a Routine and Don't Over-schedule

Not only is the work and sleep schedule helpful, but the ins and outs of every day can be exhausting.  Utilize seasonal cycle charting to improve hormonal balance that improves brain function.  Balance social functions and work events and if possible, change careers if this job isn't working for your mental and physical health.

Par down the wardrobe and zone in on either a few mix and match outfits with accessories or try wearing the same outfit like a work uniform, dress suit, and basic colors.  The less you have to decide throughout the day, the more energy your mommy brain can utilize for priority tasks.  Be sure your work wardrobe includes attire suitable for movement so you are comfortable all day and can get in walking and movement for improved health.

Create a meal calendar which not only reduces the amount you have to think about preparing when you arrive home, but you can better utilize leftovers made over to reduce the grocery costs altogether.

Self Care

Self care is for everyone in the family.  Daily, you need time to do whatever it is you like to do to feel clean, refreshed, and provide your brain with a bit of a break.  If we never take time to care for ourselves, we will eventually have a really difficult time caring for others.  Schedule self-care like it's your job because this is your number one job.  You lose that money-making job you have if you haven't cared for your emotional and physical self and things can go down-hill quick.  If you haven't cared for yourself, work load becomes work stress very quickly and mommy brain starts to look like full on depression.  Listen to your needs and request them while also providing this time for other family members as well.  Find your favorite relaxing spot and just be.  Don't mistake productive time for self-care.  You need time to turn off your brain and just be with your own thoughts and desires.  Just 30 minutes a day of self-care can do wonders for your overall mood, and mommy brain.

 

What's your favorite routine to improve your brain function?

Let me start off by saying that little curse word - IF - is OK.  That question, "What if?" is OK.  There is NOTHING wrong with doubt.  There is NOTHING wrong with curiosity, questioning, and fear.

NOTHING.

If you are one of those individuals out there that wants to make a family feel ashamed for their doubt - you're only further increasing their fear.   If you aren't supporting those that aren't making the same decisions as you, then you are a part of the problem.  If you believe you know everything - you've learned so little.  There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.  YOU are also on a journey, and that is OK too - but let these words be a stepping stone for you also that might help to move you into another stages of cultural change.

OK... this

................is me

..........................stepping off

..............................................my soap box.

Why ARE we asking that question, "What if?"  I could sit here and list all sorts of questions, like:

  • What if you were among the majority?  The majority of women that don't have complications...
  • What if your birth was average?  You meet your baby, take your baby home, and dodn't have many issues...
  • What if you birthed in a way that was empowering?  Empowered you to be fiercely protective of this little new human...
  • What if you rocked it?

Right... I could list all those situations that are *more* likely to happen than any of the ones you're concerned about, couldn't I?  But that's not helpful right now, is it?  It's not, because while you may feel positive - if you're not able to talk through your fears, they still have the potential of controlling you.  They are likely there for a reason.  What might they be?  What are you thinking?  What IF:

  • my baby dies?
  • I die?
  • it hurts?
  • my baby gets hurt?
  • my baby is born sleeping?

And, those are the common ones, right?  Those are what almost every parent thinks at one point... especially in most modern-western cultures.  We'll get to that in a minute... but lets list a few more...

  • What IF - *I* make a choice that is different than most other parents and any one of the above scenarios happen?
  • What IF - someone blames ME instead of a surgeon for anything that seems "off" in a home birth? (As if someone *should* be blamed at all).
  • What IF - I could have done more?

I would bet, those last three are the REAL what if questions you're thinking.  What if I look like a "bad" parent?  What do I know, they have birthed more kids than I?  What do I know, I'm not a surgeon (the midwife's not a surgeon)? [Let me interject your thoughts here and say, no, a midwife isn't - but they ARE the specialist in normal physiological birth...]  What if I look "wrong?"  What if someone ELSE thinks a different choice would have made a difference?

I talk a lot about ways to prevent these situations from happening - from birth environment to nutrition and lifestyle - in my series classes and mentoring sessions.  I talk a lot about modern birth practices that increase these risks like hospital practices - when someone else actually thinks its a better practice... even when current recommendations go against that practice.  However, I'm not going to talk about that right now.  If you're interested in prevention - look me up, we can chat worldwide online through real-time classes or you can sign up for a local series or mentoring session.  But, what about all those cases where prevention doesn't change a thing?  Those are rare indeed - but, you're thinking about them, so let's explore.

The thing is, our CULTURE doesn't talk about death.  We're scared of it.  Mothers are told "just be happy baby is 'healthy?'"  It doesn't matter what the provider did to you or how you feel, the most important thing is they are alive and you are alive.  Except, that's not true... and if you think that's true - let's chat about that.

Are we that intimidated by this thing that happens to EVERYONE on the planet?  Why is that?

We can butcher a mom and cause lifelong complications within the family, just to "save" someone?  Don't get me wrong - I get it.  I get that feeling of thinking this, right here, is better.  But until we embrace all that happens in life - we not only can't get past our fears - WE CAN'T HELP THOSE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING THIS.  We can't help them with the BEST prevention... and we can't help them experience these parts of life with healthy support and awareness.  We will keep feeling awkward around anyone that has had a miscarriage, had a still birth, experienced SIDS, lost a child, lost a mother, lost a grandmother, or had to deal with a complication.  Advocates will keep saying things like, "If you only would have _________, that wouldn't have happened."  Oh my gosh, really?   So, NOT OK for a hospital provider to say, "If you only had your baby in a hospital, ______ wouldn't have happened."  But totally OK to say, "If you would have had a home birth _______ wouldn't have happened."

Interesting.

Oh... I've been there - I know how easy it is to default to that response.  Years ago in my birth advocacy infancy (as it so often happens) - I believed that - but eventually you have to wake up.  If you stop learning (even when what you learn isn't what you would do) - you stop helping others.

Let me tell you something, though... there is not one blanket statement or gesture that will cover the comfort bases for everyone hurting in this world. Not at all.  We can give all these lists of "what not to do/say to someone who is _______" - and that's just so general.  I've hurt before, so much.  Was it your hurt?  Maybe not... maybe...  Everyone has deep hurts in their life and everyone experiences sadness.  What we need to do is acknowledge they exist and stop tiptoeing around scared we're not going to be PC.  When someone hurts, there isn't too much anyone can do other than be available and over life help.  The closest friends and family are not only the ones that person wants to be comforted by and will open up to - but also some of the only ones that just know the person well enough to be "forgiven" if they say the "wrong" thing.

So, mothers - if you are someone that has these strong fears of "what if" - especially when that involves others judgement on you for a choice you want to make.... or your personal judgement... that is a great place to start exploring.  Talk to other parents that *have* experienced this part of life.  Sit in support groups.  Find your support group and open up to them - and if they aren't to a place where they (no matter what their choice would be) can't support YOU with whatever choice you make - then they aren't a good part of your support group.

We don't HAVE to agree.  We don't HAVE to support each others' choices.  We DO need to support each other.  We need to STOP believing we know it all.  Knowledge can be all kinds of "evil" - humans are so stuck on thinking when they know a lot (or a little) about a subject, they couldn't possibly learn anything new.  It is oh so common and widespread in this generation, too.  Its that same fear - "what if I have to tell someone I thought I knew when there was actually another way?"

But, was there? Because I can bet you THIS right now, THIS is what you ARE supposed to be experiencing.  This way is the way it was supposed to be.  You're on a spiritual journey, and that's OK.  Take what you learn and apply it (as a parent and as an advocate) and chug along until you learn something else... then apply it however it fits into your life.  Embrace that it is OK and sometimes we just CAN'T know what "could" have been.

Be a shoulder to cry on to those providing info., and those needing info.  Be someone to hug.  Be that person that brings a family a meal without asking when they need help.  Be someone that just sits there so the family isn't alone.  Be that positive light in their life.

Tell someone you're scared and hurting.  Tell someone your "irrational" fears and thoughts.  That's half the battle.  Then surround yourself with those that uplift you and nurture you and provide wisdom.

YOU can handle ANYTHING.  You can.  Find the people that love you - truly love you - in this life, and keep them close to you in some way - and when you need them, they'll arrive.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/parents-pushing-swing-gently-photo-p309024

It isn't often I write a blog post where I'm annoyed... but, this is one of those...  It is one of those to make you think about your influence on other families in your community.  "Peaceful Parenting" and "Attachment Parenting" are these are titles that get circulated throughout parenting groups.  "You're a horrible mom if you let your baby cry it out."  "You don't love your baby enough."  "Your child is going to grow up to be an awful adult who can't cope if you don't respond to their every need."

Now, I totally believe that children need love... always.  I totally believe that children are designed to be close to their parents from sleeping to communication (which includes cues before crying).  I've been guilty as a new-mom-just-over-depression who thought one decision would change the world for other parents as well because that decision was easy for me... or that decision HELPED me.  Then reality hit and I found some things that didn't send me into depression, but are a challenge of my everyday life to be the parent I want to be...  Thank you God for that lesson... it was needed.  It was needed not only for my family, but for my advocacy with others.

The biggest challenge, though, is not parenting my children... but OTHER PARENTS!

So, here's the thing...  What *I* do is advocate and educate. What other advocacy *groups* are doing is [usually] just the same.  That's my job (their job), my "thing", my hobby, my focus, what I learn about, what I research, what I am "into"...  I've built a community around it.  I'm not just a mom throwing my opinion out there - I'm trying to take what I'm passionate about and reach a lot of people.  Not everyone is doing that - but, that's just what I felt called to do after my daughter was born.  What I share, is for those that DON'T KNOW. Likewise, when someone offers a tip it is for those that don’t know.

I/we want you to know what I had to scour books, people, and the internet for.  I want you to know what I had to learn over a long time.   I want you to know what is available to you for resources and what biological parenting is designed to be AND the reality of putting it altogether which includes adapting it to your lifestyle however it works for your family... and never ever trying to justify your choices to others or to me... especially in the western culture!

I want you to know my struggles, TOO!  I tend to keep these for personal conversations so I can fully explain as well as have someone face to face to me before they make a comment about my situation.

Sharing an article is NOT a judgment - it is for the ones that don't know and may actually find help within the words - through a tip, through an experience or story, or through an idea they were feeling and needed validated in this culture.  I never expect someone to follow things to a T from an article.  There are certainly times where I don't want parents to struggle or I think "oh, this would help you so much" - but, I GET what that takes and I know MY own struggles.  So, words are just that... words... they are not physical support - and that's what I want to focus on...  So, let's take a moment and look again at some of the responses from PEACEFUL parents when these articles are shared (by me, and by many other parenting communities).  You know, the ones who believe...

"You're a horrible mom if you let your baby cry it out."  "You don't love your baby enough."  "Your child is going to grow up to be an awful adult who can't cope if you don't respond to their every need."  "You're a lazy parent if you don't get down to your child's level 500 times a day for 5 years and speak with a smile on your face."

Did you notice that?  Let's do it again...  "You're a horrible mom"... "You're a lazy parent" ...  What other ones did you find?

How about the more subtle ones - maybe they're more passive aggressive - but they don't show the real mom or they still totally miss the point like, "My induction is scheduled for tomorrow.  I can't wait to snuggle my baby IN MY BED because I would NEVER let them cry it out."

Do you see the irony in these?  Be infinitely kind to your child and cater to their every need... BUT...  be degrading and don't respond with love to your fellow parents because the idea is that children have brains like adults and they need nurtured...  but because that person may not have been responded to in a "peaceful parenting" way and is now the adult we're trying to prevent... then you don't deserve love and kindness and help 500 times a day.  My choices are better than yours.  You can never experience depression.  You can never experience exhaustion.  You can never experience burn out.  You can never experience a sad or lonely look on your face.  Don't ask for help for fear of having to explain why you need it... you know, because you'll have to explain how you yelled at your child 500 times over the weekend, or completely ignored them.  Pretend like you're perfect on the "peaceful and supportive" mom groups because you know a thing or two and then cry when you're alone because you personally experience how hard it is and don't know how to make it work.  Makes total sense and is not hypocritical at all... ???

Then... if someone's child cries a lot, it’s because they _____________ (are a helicopter parent, don't parent enough, had a cesarean, had a home birth, had an OB, pushed too long, took too many meds, didn't take enough meds, gave your kids vaccines, didn't give your kids vaccines, thought you could do it vaginally, didn't have enough faith in your body, just didn't try hard enough.............)

  1. MY. GOSH.  Are we hearing ourselves????????!!!!!

Our CULTURE is not supportive of the biological needs of HUMANS of all ages.  Let's ALL see that so we can actually start supporting each other and get to the place we want... need to be.  This doesn't happen overnight.  I dare to say it can't happen in a few generations.  It's not just a belief that is needed... it's a culture shift.

Moms can't stay at home every day all day with the kids and expect to be 100% without help.

Dad's can't be the one working every day and exhausted when they come home and expect to put on the happy face and act like they just woke up.

When we *have* to *buy* our food instead of grow it, that makes these lifestyles necessary.

When we *want* whatever everyone else has (cell, house, toys, clothes, vacations, car) - it makes these lifestyles necessary.

When we have *no clue* how to treat mild to moderate ailments at home with love... or herbs... it makes these lifestyles necessary.

When you have laundry to do, the house to clean, teaching your child (whether home or public... YOU are teaching them every time you interact with them), work to do, 3 meals and snacks to make (oh, and they have to be totally organic, gluten free, dairy free, balanced, but not from this store and they should be from the garden)..... but YOU have to do it all on your own.... we make these lifestyles necessary.

I could list 100 more things about our culture that DIRECTLY influence the dynamic of the family and the actual ability to peacefully parent.  I don't even have an answer for this.  It isn't easy to just pick up, leave everything behind, and start a new community of people that actually believe in the same thing.  There are so many different belief systems in our culture it would be really hard to commit to living our lives connected like we need and feel totally supported and in sync with those helping and surrounding us.  Even The Farm didn't work out that way...  Though, I CERTAINLY encourage you to find your group.  It might take you a really long time to really find those you connect with that you can spend time with.  You may find along the way that your immediate family is your group and you don't have that totally connected feeling to others, either.  Just keep searching...  It certainly does take a village - but a village of PHYSICAL SUPPORT... not just words of shoulds and shouldn'ts.

The way people parent is, yes, influenced by their parenting - but it is ALSO influenced by 1,000 other factors in their life - including your hurtful comments... The ABILITY to change isn't always as simple as "you just choose to do it."  Yes, you can choose that...  but think about something hard YOU'VE done... now think about something hard you HAVEN'T done perfectly...  I am pretty sure you've never done anything perfectly because we're not perfect.  You may have satisfied yourself and done very well - but we're humans, and we're not perfect.  There will be SOMETHING that we influence our children with that we have no clue what type of outcome it will create... no matter how well we think we're doing and what "the studies" say.  How many of those studies follow nutrition?  Just a though.

All I'm saying is this has WAY more to do with culture and lifestyle than it does with parent's just willy nilly going against their instincts. Most of their instincts say "I'm exhausted and I need sleep and I don't like this but I don't know what else I CAN PHYSICALLY do before I go into severe depression." Not every decision is as easy for one person as it is for someone else. SUPPORT each other...

GO SIT WITH THAT MOM THAT IS "LETTING" HER BABY CRY IT OUT so that she can get some sleep...

GO COOK HER FAMILY'S MEALS...

TAKE HER KIDS TO _______________

GO listen to her... go talk to her... go understand her... go live by her... go garden with her... go help her teach her children something... anything...

And, then.... take a look at YOUR life and see how much time you have to GO DO SOMETHING THAT PHYSICALLY SUPPORTS THAT MOM IN HER DAILY TASKS who probably doesn't enjoy yelling or spanking or whatever...  Do you have that ability?  I'm not judging... I just want you to look at our culture and then think about that when a peaceful parenting *advocacy* article is shared before you comment on the moms that are doing the best they can... And, we get passionate sometimes and our hormones take over sometimes and we have to understand that, too. Remember that most moms may have someone who is there for them, but they don't share those same ideals because they had to do it all themselves, too.  They had to get all those things done and responding to every need of the baby made it not happen.  Before that, same situation.  And just a few short generations ago - those methods were SURVIVAL.  It was get the kid to bed and get the harvest in or you didn't eat. (Yes, of course we can baby wear… and these tips are also thrown out in hurtful and condescending ways).  Most of those developing America didn't come from indigenous cultures living in communities and helping each other.  It was most families living alone or in a system designed around money for everything... in cities without space to do much of anything and the toilet waste was thrown in the streets.  Native Americans and other tribal cultures did/do live in smaller communities where they are only working on survival in the natural world where they don't have the tax systems and poverty isn't an issue (unless someone like the US has come in and tried to turn them into our culture... how's that working out for us?  Doesn't work out well for them either).  But, I digress...

We can say "don't worry about the house...." or "sleep when the baby sleeps..."  And, sure, those are all great tips - but that's not the root answer.  We enjoy living in a clean and orderly space.  We thrive on symmetry and asymmetry.  When there is dirt and clutter - we feel those energies in our mind and it can actually make us a more negative parent.  When we constantly giving of ourselves in some form, we energetically need those sleep times to just take a breath.  We absolutely need sleep, too - and that is a HUGE factor with parents today... but, we need those moments to pray, meditate, and be with our own thoughts too.  Many women can't sleep with thoughts in their head.  I keep a notebook by my bed to write down things I start thinking about before I can go to sleep.  All of these things influence the ability to "peacefully parent" 100% of the time.

Studies can show a lot... but one thing is for sure - paying attention to your child the majority of the time, respecting them like you would like to be respected the majority of the time, and saying sorry go a LONG way.  While I'm not *encouraging* cry it out and all those other things - most kids that experienced that as a child are doing very well *in our culture.*  They are happy, successful, and healthy adults.  Really.  The ones that aren't doing so well are those that had poor role models.  Those that had parents and seniors that never felt like saying sorry was necessary.  Those that had parents that thought if they just pushed them to school (or homeschooled to make them work or to avoid driving them) or to their friends or whatever else instead of *creating* quality time.  It has *way* more to do with the intentional family unit than the pieces of the puzzle.  We will be affected by soooo, so many things in our life.  Not just our parents.  Let's keep that in perspective - especially if the urge to be *hateful* arises to another fellow parent.  There are goals we strive for - and I encourage you to have the ideals of "peaceful parenting" and "attachment parenting" as your goal - but while working on those goals, reality happens and we need to be able to forgive ourselves and forgive others.  We need to learn and move on and try again.  Forgiving includes understanding why someone may be saying, doing...etc. something.  I love asking myself "I wonder what they're really going through to ________ (brag, complain, degrade, support...etc.)"  It not only helps me respond better to someone, but it is a learning experience for me and helps me with my advocacy.

We don't live in a perfect world - but we're certainly not loving each other like we should... infants to seniors.

 

Esali Birth Breast Pumping Tips

Mothers going back to work or wanting a few hours away from their baby often have questions about pumping and feeding their baby while they're away.  How do you get started?

BreastPumpingTips

Is pumping necessary?

This really depends on your situation.  If you're going to be away from your exclusively breastfed baby for more than 2-3 hours, yes you'll likely need to leave some expressed milk.  If your baby is supplementing with solids, then you might be able to stay a little longer without expressing milk.  Keep in mind that introducing solids too early or too late can cause digestion and immune system complications, so be cautious about doing this.  When baby shows all the signs of being ready (sitting up on their own, able to pick up food with a pincer grasp and feed themselves, move tongue to all folds of their mouth, and types of teeth dictate types of food) this is the best time to start introducing solids in very small amounts, not as a replacement - to prime the gut and the body for new textures and experiences.  Remember that breastmilk digests very rapidly, and as long as the majority of their nutrition comes from breastmilk, they'll need access to it often.  A breastfed baby will rarely ever drink more than 4oz at a time (granted the baby isn't spurting or changing developmentally or a life change isn't occurring like mom returning to work), no matter their age, but every baby is different.  Some babies may go shorter or longer between nursing sessions, so it is always good to pay attention to your baby and their specific needs.

If you're just going out for dinner, you can usually just nurse the baby right before you leave, and you'll often have enough time to go out to dinner (be sure to get call ahead seating if possible) and be back by the time they want to nurse again.  Keep in mind that many babies cluster feed and comfort nurse more in the evenings, so altering your times out can be helpful.  You may also consider having the care giver drop you off and then take baby to a local park for a walk so they can be close by and bring you the baby whenever they need you (which helps reduce your anxiety about checking your phone constantly and possibly missing dinner).  That first evening out can be a little bittersweet, but it is nice to take some time off every once in a while.  If this just doesn't work for you or your baby or you're not ready to leave baby with a care giver, wrapping your baby in a woven or stretchy wrap (any simple piece of cloth like a long sheet) is easy peasy.  For those first few months, a snug wrap keeps a new baby calm *much* better than those uncomfy car seats (often used as carriers).  And, if baby does wake at dinner, grocery shopping, or walking in the park, just loosen up the wrap a bit to drop them closer to nipple level and nurse them right back to sleep or into calm bliss without ever skipping a beat.

If you're going to work, being close to your baby's care giver helps and may mean that you can leave work on your breaks and/or lunch to simply nurse your baby rather than pumping.  Some businesses allow moms to work from home, or partially work from home, or you may bring your baby to work with you while they’re very small.  Don’t hesitate to ask if this is an option, the worse they can do is tell you no.  However, if you do need to express milk, know that Federal Law requires businesses to provide moms with a clean space (not a bathroom) and enough time to pump milk for their baby.  They can apply for a hardship and cases will be reviewed individually.  For more information on the working while pumping laws, visit here.  Additionally, most insurance companies are now required to pay for breast pumps, but be cautious because they don’t always cover quality pumps.

Does the pump really matter?

Yes!  Which pump is best for you depends on your situation.  Most importantly, get something that works for you and your situation.  If you’re going to be pumping regularly, a double electric pump will usually save you time and energy.  If you just want a pump to express milk for a night out here and there, then a single manual pump may be all that is needed.  Pumps can get pricey, but they are often worth the cost.  If you respond better to manual expression, then you may not need a pump at all.  Bottom line, if you need to pump, this isn’t a piece of baby gear that you want to skimp on.  A lot of moms are stressed because their $20 pump isn’t meeting their full time pumping needs.  Save your money - $25 a week will get you a great pump in no time.  But again, check with your insurance company to see if they cover a quality pump

A quality pump needs to be closed system.  A closed system pump means that all parts that have the potential of coming in contact with the milk can be fully sterilized.  Open system pumps, like personal use Medela, cannot be fully sterilized and because of such are known to have mold built up in the system.  Hygeia and ARDO are the only breast pump manufacturers, that I'm aware of, that completely comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) breastmilk substitute marketing code.  Both Ameda and Lansinoh make quality closed-system pumps, but either they or their parent companies don’t comply with the WHO code.  There are a variety of new companies offering more discrete pumping options great for when you want to pump anywhere.  I personally used an Ameda Purely Yours and loved it (purchased prior to their parent company deciding not to follow the WHO code).

Additionally, get a pump with adjustable speeds, cycles, and flanges.  You need to get a flange that correctly fits for comfort and efficiency, and the cycles and speed help you mimic the suction to resemble a baby’s patterns at first – short and shallow in the beginning to trigger your let down, and then long and deep once let down has occurred.  You’ll have to play around with it to see what pattern works for you.  The cycling and flange size can be the difference in a mom being able to express milk or not, so research this a little.

How does expressed milk affect the baby?

Being at the breast is optimal for baby.  Beyond the bonding aspect of breastfeeding, the contact between the baby and your breast allows you to pass antibodies most efficiently.  If for whatever reason baby can’t be at the breast, do lots of snuggling when you are together and keep the milk as fresh as possible so that your baby gets the most amounts of antibodies possible.  The longer your milk is stored, the more of these properties are reduced.

Depending on how your baby gets expressed milk can affect your experience when baby is at the breast.  Even for a baby that does “fine” between an artificial nipple and the breast, their latch is still changed and this can cause sore nipples or inefficient milk transfer (not to mention changes in the palates and musculature of the face).  A baby squeezes and sucks on an artificial nipple, whereas they massage the areola and lactiferous sinuses to squirt the milk out the breast – two very different mechanics.  When baby is away from the breast, a supplemental nursing system (SNS) is the least likely to interfere with breastfeeding.  If you’re supplementing while mom is nearby, an SNS is incredibly valuable at keeping baby at the breast to stimulate milk production, keep baby learning how to latch, and helping to avoid breast refusal and nipple preference.

You can purchase an SNS, or make your own with a milk storage bag or a bottle and a #5 feeding tube.  Use this as a finger feeder, so the baby sucks on your finger and at the same time gets milk, which allows the baby to work a little (mimicking breastfeeding) to get their nourishment.  Or, latch baby on to the breast, and once they’re not actively sucking any more after using breast compression, insert the SNS for any necessary supplementation.  Using an SNS in this manner helps prevent nipple preference while stimulating milk production.

If an SNS is not your choice, a spoon, dropper, cup, or your hand can be used to transfer milk to the baby.  However, if bottle feeding, be sure to mimic the breastfeeding relationship as much as possible.  Hold the bottle so the baby works for the milk and it doesn’t stress the baby out by pouring too fast.  Check out the Best for Babes foundation guide to bottle feeding for some excellent advice.

Milk Supply & Pumping Efficiency

After your milk matures, milk supply works by supply and demand.  Whatever you remove from the breast, your body will replenish. You never stop making milk, even though we often refer to the breast as being “drained.”  Even once you decide to stop nursing, or your baby weans, you’ll often still have milk for months.  In the first few days after birth, active and unlimited nursing let’s your body know that baby is breastfeeding and your alveoli multiply for enhanced milk production and storage.  The longer you go between nursing or expressing, the less milk you make, but as long as when you’re with baby, you’re not limiting nursing (especially with pacifiers), then milk supply is rarely an issue.

EB Breast Pacifier

Let me repeat this.

PACIFIERS AND ARTIFICIAL NIPPLES AFFECT BREASTFEEDING - ESPECIALLY YOUR SUPPLY AND COMFORT. 

Likewise, you cannot spoil a baby that has biological dependencies for care givers.  They need to know that you're going to provide them with nourishment, stability, and comfort.  Pacifier use as a parenting tool is your choice, just like starting solids, birthing naturally, getting an epidural, using a bouncy seat, eating well in pregnancy, choosing a care provider, and every other parenting choice you'll make.  It isn't my business (unless you're asking me to help you) but, I'm not judging you. What I want you to understand is just because your baby does "fine" going from artificial nipple to breast, doesn't mean the discomfort you feel during latch is a part of the normal process of breastfeeding, and doesn't mean your supply won't be affected.  If you truly want to have the best supply you can have, especially when you're running into supply issues or weight gain issues in the baby, you need to get rid of the pacifiers.  Don't stress yourself out with techniques and galactogogues if you're not going to try unlimited nursing first.  If you need a break, try a birth ball to soothe your baby and babywearing.  Parenting is supposed to be involved - despite what our culture may have you believe.  I know, I know, a lot of moms use pacifiers and their babies are "fine" - I used a pacifier for a few weeks with my daughter while I was going nuts with every other soothing technique without having much support at all (ask me about it sometime) - but I refuse to jump on the bandwagon that pacifier use doesn't cause problems - especially when a lot of mom's breastfeeding experiences aren't fine.  Almost every single mother that has ever asked me for support for pain or milk supply while nursing is using a pacifier.  While I understand the reasons they want to use a pacifier - they simply change the musculature of the face, tbe bone structure, and the latch.  If you're having pain.  Get rid of the artificial nipples.  If you're not having pain and your supply is excellent and you're not experiencing milk supply issues...  that's one thing... if you are, you cannot expect someone to help you fully if you're unwilling to remove some of the barriers causing problems.  Until our breastfeeding rates increase to a significant level, I'll adamantly promote the biology of the body and baby and let you make the decision. I digress...

Have as close to a biological birth as possible, keep baby skin to skin and near the breast often and especially immediately after birth, and don’t limit or schedule nursing sessions.  A baby that has a poor latch and unlimited access to the breast, will stimulate the breast and get milk and eventually latch better.  That doesn’t mean don’t get help with latch, it just means that all the time limits and scheduling we do for babies (including birth experience and induction), and the pacifiers we use, are causes of milk supply issues.

Babies weren't meant to sleep in cribs away from their mothers.  They were meant to be close to mom at all times, and within a coo's distance for the first few years.  Bedsharing, when done safely, helps everyone sleep better and is the best way to get baby calmly attached to the breast, get more sleep, and promote an amazing supply of milk.

During the first few weeks, when milk supply is really amping up, is the easiest time to increase supply.  If you know you’ll be returning to work early, pump a few extra ounces a day.  Don’t let this interfere with resting and bonding with your baby postpartum, and don’t pump everything you’re making because this can trigger oversupply, which isn’t always the amazing thing that it sounds like.  If, however, you have a bit of time before going back to work, you can slowly build your supply over the next months making sure to start no later than a week before going back to work.

Pumping tips:

  • Relax, de-stress, and eat well.  It is hard to let down your milk when you’re stressed and it takes around 500 extra calories to make milk (vs. about 300 to gestate a baby... you need to eat and drink).  Our hormones just don’t work optimally with stress, especially oxytocin, which is what contracts your alveoli and creates the "let down."  Smell your baby’s clothes, listen to their coos on a recording, look at a picture, take a bath, do some yoga, say a prayer.  Whatever helps you take a deep long breath, stimulate oxytocin, and cleanse the stress out of your body, do it.
  • Prolactin (hormone that makes milk) levels are highest at night.  Pumping at night will help increase supply.
  • Don’t go more than 2-3 hours between pumping sessions when you’re away from your baby or the proteins in the milk will trigger your body to decrease supply.
  • You usually have more milk available in the mornings when baby has gone a little longer between nursing – pump when you wake up.
  • Use the 24 hour rule.  It usually takes about 24 hours for your supply to change.  Don’t focus so much on pumping as much as baby eats at each session, but focus on pumping as much as baby eats in a 24 hour period.  So, if it takes 8 pumping sessions to get the amount of milk your baby eats while you’re away, then do that.  If it takes 3 pumping sessions, then do that.  You are a human, not a robot – do what works for your body.
    • My full time work days looked like this:  Roll over in the morning and nurse baby, eat breakfast/get ready, pump (put milk in bottle on counter to be fresh for first feeding), nurse, pump about every 3 hours at work (for 9 hours), nurse, cook dinner, take a shower, pack lunches, go to bed and nurse every 1-2 hours throughout the night.
    • My part time work days - My son has been exclusively breastfed so I drove home every 2 hours or took him to work with me.  At 16 months, I only drive home once or twice a day to nurse.
  • Pump one side while you nurse the other to allow baby to trigger let down.  You can buy a pumping bra, or you can simply cut a hole in a sports bra big enough to fit the tube of the flange in to help hold it in place if you have trouble maneuvering baby and pump together.
  • Use breast compression.  There are lactiferous sinuses close to your areola that are basically like little storage tanks for the milk.  These sinuses are what your baby’s tongue needs to reach to squirt the milk out of your nipple (hence the necessity of a deep latch).  If you squeeze these sinuses while nursing and/or pumping, more milk comes out.  If baby stops actively sucking, you can squeeze your breast to wake them and get them to suck more to stimulate milk, and you can squeeze these while pumping to get milk faster and help increase supply.
  • Use lanolin or similar while pumping to reduce friction and get more milk.  Of course, be sure your flanges are the right size first.
  • Switch pump (like switch nursing) and pump often.  If you are pumping on one side, pump (with breast compression) until the milk stops flowing, then switch to the other side and repeat.  Once that breast stops flowing, switch back to the first side and repeat.  Do this for as long as it takes to get the milk you want or for as long as you have time.  If you’re double pumping, after the milk stops flowing (with breast compression), then pump for about 15-20 minutes longer and/or wait 15-20 minutes and then pump again. Both of these trigger your body to make more milk, but they also give your breasts a little time to build up the storage supply so that it is simply easier to get more milk out with a pump.
  • Learn the art of manual expression – it is invaluable, and some moms respond better to manual expression than any other method.

Storing Breastmilk

Breastmilk, being a live substance, is amazing.  For a healthy baby, you can leave it fresh on the counter for up to 10 hours, then put it in the fridge for up to a week, then put it in a freezer for up to 3 months, and then in a deep freeze for 6 months to a year.  When in doubt, smell it or taste it to see if it is still good.  The longer you store milk, and the more you heat it, the more of the properties are diminished, but it is still the healthy option for your baby.

Store in containers made for breastmilk in small increments – 2 to 4 oz – a breastfed baby, no matter if they’re 3 months or 15 months, will rarely ever eat more than 4 ounces at a time.  You can always add more, but you don’t want to warm up too much milk and have to waste it.  If you’re using bags, lay them horizontal so they are easier to store once they’re frozen and take less time to thaw (which means less heat) when you’re ready to use them and thaw them in warm running water to be sure you don't overheat.  Be sure to label the expression date, and put their name on it if they will be cared for by someone with more than one baby.  Talk with the baby’s care givers about breastfeed babies and be sure they know the differences in breastfed baby’s demeanor than that of a formula fed baby.

Pumping can work!  Talking with your work about your desire to breastfeed before taking maternity leave will help the transition once you return to work.  Be open and honest and know that most employers meet moms with respect for their wishes.

Do you have questions not listed here?  We’ll keep updating.  Let us know!

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