The Benefits of Breastfeeding

You hear the phrase “breast is best” all the time, and that just means that breastfeeding is most beneficial way to feed your baby.  Not only does breastfeeding provide the proper ratio of nutrients, but there are benefits for bonding, baby’s health, mom’s health, and your wallet.  There are endless reasons why “breast is best”, I choose to highlight why I would choose breastfeeding as a first avenue of feeding my baby. 

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Skin to Skin:  When breastfeeding you can get all the benefits of skin to skin, especially in the first hours of life.  The baby’s body temperature will regulate to the mom’, this is especially important with infants and newborns to keep their bodies at an ideal temperature.  Skin to skin also induces bonding between baby and mom, or whoever is doing skin to skin with baby.  Breastfeeding also allows the baby to make eye contact with mom. A newborn’s eye sight has not fully developed by birth.  They can only see as far as from the breast to mom’s eyes. 

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Baby’s Health:  When the baby is on the breast, the brain gets information about what nutrients the baby needs.  Breastmilk contains vitamins, protein, and fat.  These are all things baby needs to grow.  So if the baby has a deficiency in a vitamin, for example, the brain adjusts the milk accordingly.  Breastfeeding also lowers the risk or asthma and allergy problems for the baby.  It, also, lowers the risk of obesity.  Formula can have a lot of sugar, which can cause unnecessary weight gain. 

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Mother’s Health:  Breastfeeding can help you get back to pre-pregnancy weight.  As long as mom continues to eat healthy, that extra weight will disappear.  Breastfeeding will lower mom’s risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

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Savings: Breastfeeding can save you time and money! You won’t have to spend money on formula or bottles (unless pumping).  You, also, won’t have to worry about fixing a bottle in the middle of the night, out in public, or while on a road trip.  Breastfeeding is very convenient and very free!

Next to childbirth, breastfeeding is an amazing, natural ability with a lot of great benefits.  There are so many resources out there on all of the benefits of breastfeeding.  If you are considering breastfeeding as a path, I encourage you to reach out to your local support groups, lactation counselors, other breastfeeding moms, or just a quick search on google.  My hope is that you feel supported and loved in every aspect of your parenting journey. 

The Benefits of Infant Massage

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Infant massage is more commonly practiced in non-western areas of the world, but we are starting to see an increase of infant massage practice in the States.  Infant massages has many benefits for the baby, like sleep and digestion aid. It also has many benefits for the parents, like help with attachment and confidence. It can even help mamas with postpartum depression.  Infant massage is in no way harmful to baby and benefits everyone.

Infant massage can be taught to parents on a one on one basis or, more commonly, in a group class.  It is usually offered in sessions, going over a different area of the body each time. These areas include: legs/feet, arms/hands, chest, tummy, head, and back.  Oils can be used, but please note to use only edible oils that are cold pressed. Baby’s skin is more permeable than adults, so whatever is applied to the skin will be absorbed.  Anything that is less than favorable could cause adverse side effects. It is ideal to perform massage when baby is in a quiet, alert states. Most of my clients report doing it after bath time.  This is the time when baby is going to be the most perceptive to massage.

Massage and relaxation are almost synonymous.  So it’s no surprise that sleep aid or soothing a fussy baby would be a benefit of infant massage.  You can use the techniques before nap time or bedtime to help relax baby. It’s also a good idea to sing or talk to baby while massaging them. Babies loved to be touched and talked to.  Our feet and hands have a lot of reflex points that affect the entire body. By massaging these areas you can put baby into a deep relaxation, which can aid in sleep or overall calmness.  

Good digestion in babies is very important.  If baby has poor digestion at any point or has colic, then baby will more than likely be very fussy and hard to soothe.  Colic happens in infants up to 3 months of age, so it will subside, but there are massage techniques to aid in baby’s discomforts.  These strokes are performed on the belly, and they work in the direction of food digestion. Sometimes you can feel the gas bubbles and help work them down the digestive tract.  If your baby is colic, talk to your local infant massage instructor. They will give you a daily routine to help ease baby’s achy tummy.

Benefits are not just for babies, but for mommies and daddies too. It can instill confidence as a parent, and help you connect and bond to each other. Infant massage can also be a time where you read a book to them, sing or play nursery rhymes.  All of these are beneficial in creating that baby-parent relationship. I always encourage both parents to massage their babies. This can be a special time for anyone to connect with baby.

Touch is so important for the babies confidence and attachment. Babies need to know that they are cared for and loved.  Infant massage is a way to help with these in addition to all the benefits I mentioned above. It can be a daily routine that you and your baby look forward to.  There are many resources online about the strokes and benefits. I highly encourage you to find your local instructor to get first hand information on all the great and joyous benefits.


5 Changes in Your Body during Late Pregnancy

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Our bodies go through many changes during pregnancy and postpartum.  A lot of changes are well known and frequently talked about like the symptoms of pregnancy, enlargement of breast, baby’s growth, etc.  But, there are a lot of changes that happen in late pregnancy as your body gets ready to bring baby into the world. I wanted to highlight these five changes, because they frequently talked about but not usually explained.

  1. Burst of Energy or “Nesting”.  For the majority of your pregnancy, your belly will be high and baby will reside right under your ribs.  This causes a lot of discomfort, especially towards late pregnancy. It may be difficult to breathe or it will be harder to find a good position to sleep in, so you’ll likely be unrested.  In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your belly will drop. This happens because baby is finding a good position to be in for his/her arrival into the world. All the discomforts of the baby sitting so high will be gone and you may experience a burst of energy.  Most women take this time to complete the finishing touches for baby’s arrival into the world. This is more commonly known as “nesting”.

  2. Cramping. These are going to start off feeling period-like.  It’s like practice for your uterus in preparation for labor.  The uterus has to find it’s rhythm, and rhythm is key for childbirth (for the uterus and the laboring mom). They will feel short and irregular. Once they move closer together (4-5 min apart) for about 1 min long, you are more likely to be in active labor.  During these irregular contractions, your cervix will start to dilate (about 1-2 cm). You also might experience some loose stool, because the contracting of the uterus causes contracting of the intestine. It’s important to remember that all contractions are important!  If these cramps are extremely intense or if you have any concerns about them, contact your healthcare provider.

  3. Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum and anus. They are very common in late pregnancy because as the uterus grows it puts pressure on those veins. They can also be caused by straining from constipation or by standing for too long. It doesn’t cause harm to your health or your baby’s health, and will go away after birth.  To help prevent hemorrhoids, you should eat fibrous foods, drink lots of water, and try not to stand for long periods of time. These will heal in time, but you can soak the area in warm water every day or apply ice packs to the area to help relieve pain and swelling.

  4. Preparation for Breastfeeding. Other than the growth in size and weight, your breasts are preparing in other ways for baby’s arrival.  Your nipples may enlarge, and your areola may darken. Baby’s eyesight will not be fully developed and the dark areola will help baby to find the nipple.  During late pregnancy your milk ducts will have already produced colostrum, so you may experience some leaking. The colostrum is really rich with antioxidants and is what your baby will feed on for the first couple days of life.  Nipple pads are adhesive and some are reusable. They attach to the bra or the shirt and help soak up any milk, or colostrum, that may have leaked.

  5. Tiredness. Fatigue is a common symptom in early pregnancy, and it may return during late pregnancy.  It could be caused by all the extra weight you are carrying around, or you could be having trouble sleeping.  Baby is not going to have much room to move around in the uterus at this point. You may feel a leg or arm in the ribs or kidney, which can be very uncomfortable.  You will have to urinate more frequently, and it could be hard to get back to sleep after getting up every few hours to urinate. Ways to cope with extra tiredness would be to allow extra time to rest or adjust your schedule so you have more time to relax or nap.  

My Ideal Birth

As part of my doula certification process through DONA, I took a three day birth doula training. It was an amazing three days filled with wonderful birth stories, and I basked in all the beautiful and unique stories of how they brought their babies into this world. I could not contribute myself, however, we were given a homework assignment on one of the days. It was a blank piece of paper, and all we had to do was draw our ideal birth, in any way we wanted.

I have thought about what I’ve wanted but I’ve never put in down on paper. The thought of having to share this scared me a little, because I couldn’t draw and a lot of these women had a previous experience of child birth that I did not have. This is my ideal birth:

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I went with an abstract drawing with words to help convey what I wanted. As soon as I heard about water births, I knew that was for me. I’ve always loved the water. It always relaxes me even if it’s the beach, pool, or just a simple shower/bath. I have the blue to represent the water. The orange represents warmth and dim lights. I have a sensitivity to light (especially sunlight). I always use a lamp as the main source of light in the house. I find it less harsh and really cozy. I would want dim lights and to be surrounded by fragrant candles.

I drew two hearts. The top heart represents my growing baby and the bottom represents my journey of labor. I filled them with words of motivation and how I want to see them as during pregnancy and labor. I would also use these words throughout pregnancy to help me connect with baby and my body. Ultimately it is my body and my baby working together and I want them both to know they are loved, taken care of, and appreciated.

Overall I want an unmediated, home, water birth with a midwife and doula. My partner will be there and be the most involved with comfort measures and positions. My best friend, who I call my sister, will also be there to give me encouragements. And she is a nurse, so just having her there would help relax me. Not that I wouldn’t trust my midwife, it’s comforting to have extra set of “medical” eyes on me and the baby. I’m so grateful for the knowledge and experiences I have now that helped me get to this view point on labor and birth. My birth plan continues to grow with each new experience or knowledge obtained, and I’m sure more will be added or changed before I actually give birth. But what will stay consistent is that I want to be supported, loved for, and understood.