Saturday, September 21, 2013

What I Want my Sisters to Know About Babywearing

I want my sisters to know that Babywearing is a WONDERFUL thing- for babies, mommies, daddies, grandparents, and aunts & uncles! There are a lot of benefits that have been noted for babies who are worn regularly- the Dr. Sears website has a good list HERE which includes things like security, socialization, and learning. I just recently discovered an article by Dr. Andrew Dodge called Benefits of Babywearing vs. Carseat carrying on the Onya Baby website and I highly recommend it.

I also want to share some important safety information because, unfortunately, there are some methods of babywearing that are fairly common but that I would recommend against.

This will involve some information on babies' spines. Much of this information was inspired by THIS article and THIS article (I recommend checking them out). 

Babies' spines start out with only two curves, the adult spine has four. Rochelle L. Casses notes regarding the two additional curves that develop 
"The curve in the cervical spine develops as the child begins to lift his head and the neck muscles are strengthened. The curve in the lumbar spine results as the child starts to crawl. ... These four curves — two primary and two secondary — are extremely important in the spine (both adult and child), for this is how the body handles the stress of gravity. If these curves do not exist, the body's center of balance is shifted, causing undue stress on the spinal column and spinal cord.
Unfortunately some popular carriers put babies' developing spines under stress.  The (sometimes offensive) slang term for these carriers is "crotch-danglers".  Officially they are usually front carriers that allow the baby's knees to fall below his/her bum.  Here is a picture that I have used without permission from an ebay listing for such a carrier. I have used a red airbrush to show the U-shape formed by the baby's legs and bum.

This U-shape is one of the signs of a carrier that will put undue stress on an infant's spine.

A while back I found (and bookmarked, of course) a fabulous webpage that had a practical how-to guide for recognizing carriers that properly supported babies. Unfortunately when I went back to add it to this post the link was dead. So, to try to re-create their demonstration of a carrier that puts baby's leg in an M-shape (instead of a U-shape) I have used the picture below without permission from another ebay listing. I have added the red airbrush to help show you the shape.

Unfortunately the angle of the camera is not straight-on, but hopefully you get the idea. 

I really loved these photos that allow you a better view of the baby in the ideal positions

These photos were used without permission from this website has this great pdf with this information on the TICKS rule for safe babywearing:

T: Tight. Baby should be tight to you to prevent slumping.
I: In view at all times. You should always be able to see your baby's face (which is also good for your peace of mind).
C: Close enough to kiss. Baby should be worn high on your body
K: Keep baby's chin off of their chest to prevent positional asphyxia (infants' airways get blocked if their chin gets tucked in their chest), and keep baby's Knees above bum. Fabric should extend from knee to knee, and baby's knees should be higher than their bum.
S: Supported back. Baby's back should be supported in it's natural curve.

An important warning: there is one type of carrier that has been recalled multiple times for infant death and should not be used- it is called a bag sling please check out THIS page explaining how bag slings are dangerous and how to recognize a safe sling (because safe slings are wonderful things). 

Well, I am out of time. But, to sum up, here is a list of links I recommend checking out on the topic of safe babywearing and associated benefits:
P.S. While putting together my links for this post I accidentally ran into this article. I had not been aware of any controversy regarding the term "Babywearing" before, but I am interested in any comments you may have on the subject. (Any comments deemed offensive will be removed).

Friday, September 20, 2013

25 Things That Have Changed Since You Were The New Baby

Occasionally I come up with my own stuff.  Last year I had a baby- the first grand-baby on my side of the family. I had the opportunity to have a lot of great discussions about taking care of babies and what babies need and what the recommendations are for babies with my sweet and wonderful mother. Together we discovered that a few things have changed... and I was inspired to put together this list. 

25 Things That Have Changed Since You Were The New Baby

  1. Car seats -The infant car seat base- a total game-changer
  2. Car seats- The new [twenty]-five point harness: if your child can move at all it is either too loose or you have done it wrong… again.
  3. Car seats- They expire, usually before the second child can outgrow them.
  4. Car seat boosters… for 12-year olds 
  5. Baby powder is hazardous to your baby’s health 
  6. Formula… for breast-fed babies
  7. Breast-feeding supplies are now tax-deductable
  8. “Baby-led weaning” has almost nothing to do with the common US usage of the word “weaning” 
  9. You must get a special mat and a timer and designate “tummy time” to watch your baby flail and scream, but no matter what they must not fall asleep on their stomachs. 
  10. Cloth diapers are the hip thing to do
  11. People expect YOUR diaper bag to match your BABY’S gender
  12. Real people (not just celebrities) buy $200 diaper bags
  13. Between the recommendations against crib bumpers, and blankets being labeled a “SIDS risk,” there is no fun to be had in baby bedding.
  14. The great crib recall… it’s a miracle you survived your drop-side crib
  15. Recalls for “parental stupidity” 
  16. The toxins in your baby’s flame retardant clothing are a greater threat than fire
  17. Everything is a SIDS risk, but we still don’t know what causes SIDS.
  18. If your baby starts solids too early they will get allergies; if your baby starts solids too late they will get allergies; too early is before 4 months… or before 6 months… or before they are demonstrating all the proper physiological signals of readiness… too late is after 4 months… or after 6 months… or….
  19. Speaking of starting solids, those “forbidden foods” are no longer a problem (except honey- don’t give your baby honey until after 1 year)
  20. No more Vicks VapoRub for sick babies
  21. Circumcision is no longer a “given”
  22. Scheduled vaccinations from birth to age six in 1983 total 10. Scheduled vaccinations from birth to age six for 2013 total 38.
  23. 3D and 4D Ultrasounds
  24. Watch your baby (or your neighbor’s baby) with a video baby monitor
  25. Names! Unique names are common, gender-benders are in, and the internet gives everyone easy access to the most recent social security name data

Cervical Scar Tissue – A Big Issue That No One Is Talking About by Dawn Thompson

One of the first articles I ever bookmarked was this one.  Reading this story made me wish there was a way I could share this information with everyone I meet!  If it never came up in conversation before then let me share it with you now.  As before, my comments are in maroon, I have also highlighted some of Dawn's words.  The original article can be found HERE 

In my first year of being a birth doula, I had this client. She desperately wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). She told me how in her first birth that she was in labor for hours. Waters broken, Pitocin, epidural, tubes and wires coming from every direction. During her extremely long ordeal the only change to her cervix was the effacement (the thinning of the cervix). Her cervix never opened at all. I assumed at the time that this was because her baby was just not ready to come out. This time could and would be different. She would wait for labor to start. We would stay at home and labor where she was comfortable. When the day came, that is exactly what she did. Her labor seemed to be moving right along. When we got to the hospital I expected they would tell her that she was 4-5 cms. Instead what we got was, 100% effaced but only a finger tip dilated. I think I may have even gasped out loud. I immediately started beating myself up in my head. How could I have read her labor so wrong? 6 more hours would pass with her, her husband and I working hard. Moving from the birth ball to the shower and I swear every inch of that hospital room in between. After 6 hours, still a finger tip dilated. Obviously there is something wrong with her cervix, but what. No one seemed to know. Not the two different nurses that we had the pleasure of getting to know or the doctor who we saw just once when he was coming to explain that she would be having yet another c-section. This is one of those moments in my career that I really wish I knew then what I know now.
I have never stopped thinking of her. There has always been this part of me that wanted to call her and say “I know what it is now, can you have another baby so we can fix it?” I just know this would not make her feel any better. Instead, I keep her close to me whenever I ask the question now during each and every prenatal visit, “Have you ever had any procedures done to your cervix?” Every single birth professional that is assisting clients should be asking this question.
I would like to point out here that procedures done to your cervix would include a D&C which is not only performed in abortions but also sometimes for miscarriages (and other things). Look, I’m not a scientist, researcher, doctor and anything else that would know how to study this stuff. What I am is a doula that has had the pleasure of attending over 100 births. I know that the client I mentionead above was not the only one who had a c-section because of scar tissue during my earlier days. I can look back and think of all the clients that seemed to be in transition (7-10 cms) but when checked were still only 4cm. Stuck there for hours and hours. Then wondering for days after their c-section if there was something I could have done differently to help.
A New Day! 
The day that changed my life as a doula forever, my very own sister was having a baby. She was having her second baby. I told her how great it would be and it would be so much faster than her first. When she started having surges just a few days before her due date, we were excited. I went to her home (3 hrs away) and stayed the whole weekend. She had surges off and on all weekend but nothing really steady. I went home after three days and decided that maybe my being there was freaking her out. For the next week, she had surges every day. I kept telling her it was going to be great. All this work would get her cervix open slowly and gently.  Then she visited her midwife. She was just a finger tip dilated. I chalk this up to my sister being a big drama queen. All the surges have been Braxton Hicks! The next weekend comes and I find myself making the drive because this time her water broke. Now we know this baby is coming. She has mild labor, 7 minutes apart for 16 hours. Nothing is changing. I suggest we head in. Something is just not right. We get to the hospital and a different midwife she has never met comes to check her. 100% effaced but only a finger tip dilated. What?! Are you kidding me?! Then the words that changed my life. “Have you even had any procedures done to your cervix?” My sister says “yes, I had cryo surgery done a couple of years ago to remove pre cancer cells”. Midwife “ok well that makes sense, you have scar tissue on your cervix, and I can feel it.” Huh? Scar tissue on the cervix? Why had I never heard of this? My client from before comes rushing back to my head. Of course! The midwife proceeds to explain to my sister that she is going to try and massage the cervix and break the scar up. With some discomfort for my sister, she went from a finger tip dilated to 3 cms in a matter of minutes. An hour later she was 4 cms and an hour after that my nephew was born. Once the scar tissue had completely released, she flew to 10 cms.
As you can imagine, I asked that Midwife a ton of questions. I wanted to know all I could about this scar tissue stuff. Besides “massaging”, what can you do before hand? She shared her knowledge with me. Told me that HPV is so very common and more and more women are having these  standard procedures done, but are never informed that it most likely will leave scar tissue. Although less common, this includes women who have ever had a D & C after a miscarriage or abortion.
Once I was armed with the knowledge, my successful VBAC rate shot up as did my vaginal birth rate in general. I would ask the question and if the answer was yes, I would tell them what I knew. I would suggest that they mention it to their doctor so that if anything came up during labor, would he or she be willing to massage the cervix. Also I learned from that Midwife that evening primrose oil taken orally and vaginally would help break up the scar tissue before labor. (Orally taken the entire pregnancy and vaginally each night only after 36 weeks).
My midwives had me use evening primrose oil vaginally after 36 or 38 weeks (the details are fuzzy) to help ripen and prepare my cervix even though I did not have scar tissue.  However, I would definitely make sure to talk to your midwife about this before hand. Since this very important day 3 1/2 years ago, I know I have prevented c-sections. Several times in the hospital I have asked the doctor to please, when he is checking mama to feel for scar tissue.  Almost every time the doctor has said “oh yeah, I feel some sort of knot here” or some other variation of that statement. This then leads to a question of; can you try and rub it out?
Why Doctors aren’t talking about this is beyond me. I honestly think they don’t know that it is an issue. If you believe this could be an issue for you, ask your care provider if they are willing to break up scar tissue during labor. If they blow you off or tell you that they don't do that, find a new provider. It does not matter how far you are into your pregnancy, you can change. I have had clients change at 40 weeks.
We all need to start talking about it because unless women are being asked the question, they just don’t know.
by: Dawn Thompson 
Doula Dawn Thompson has been a Labor and Postpartum Doula since 2003. She is considered these days as the VBAC queen. It has become her passion to assist families through the VBAC journey and educate first time moms on how to avoid the many pitfalls of our modern day medicalized birth. You can get more information about her at
Doctors should know about this. Midwives should know about this. Women should know about this. And not just during labor, women need to be informed about this whenever a procedure that can leave cervical scar tissue is discussed.  I have a friend who was offered an optional D&C to help with her miscarriage- the main reason she decided to avoid it if possible was because she knew about the risk of scar tissue to her cervix. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

5 Ways to Revolutionize How We Think About Pregnancy Loss by Jessica Zucker, Ph.D.

Not to start on a sad note, but this has been on my radar lately and I will start with some of the tabs that are on my browser right now.  I will quote the article in full below, with my comments embedded in maroon throughout. The original article can be found HERE 

There is no one "right" way to feel after experiencing pregnancy loss. Stop. Re-read that. It is so true, and important to recognize whether you are the soul experiencing it or the soul trying to help. The trauma continuum is vast and varied. Every woman comes to this loss with differing maternal hopes, historical disappointments, pregnancy fantasies, relationships with their bodies, interpersonal support, psychological and spiritual resources and mental health landscapes. And these things do have a strong influence. However, in my clinical practice, I have witnessed an overriding shame-laden thread that invariably weaves through the grief-stricken stories I am privileged to hear. Why are women blaming themselves for something over which they have zero control? My hunch is that the pain of wanting something so badly and not knowing if it can be attained, or having no control over something so elusive as fetal development, is too terrifying to sit with. As a result, we scurry around, desperate for definitive answers and when there are none, blame ends up clutching onto our shoulders, leaking into our psyches and settling into our bodies.
Whether it has happened to you or someone you love, here are five ways we can revolutionize how we think about pregnancy loss and its aftermath, with the aim of unraveling the thread of shame:
1. Endeavor to Understand Self-blame. I have heard countless stories of pregnancy loss and a subsequent rush toward self-blame. Here's a sampling of ruminating what-if's:
"What if I miscarried because I don't deserve to experience the mystery of motherhood, exercised too much, am too old, too young, wasn't sure if I wanted a child, had a sip of wine, stopped believing in God when I was a kid, had too much sex while pregnant, desperately wanted to be a mother-- maybe I wanted it too much.""What if I was too obsessive, too invested, too aloof, too attached....?"All of these thought patterns underscore how steadfast the mind/heart can be in tirelessly trying to make sense of the dizzying despair that can accompany pregnancy loss. It might hurt too much to resist chasing every line of thinking, every possible pregnancy indulgence, every behavioral regret, every everything. Please know that just because you feel this way, does not make your blame justified. Take validation in knowing that it is easy to feel this way and many women do, but just because you may feel it is your fault and you may find arguments to justify that feeling, does not make it true. But, here's the thing: self-blame spirals into shame in a millisecond. As researcher Brene Brown aptly states, "Shame is lethal. And I think we are swimming in it deep. Here's the bottom line with shame. The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment." Can we attempt to sit in solace, rather than create more angst through appropriating misinformation or believing misguided stories we tell ourselves? Can we disband self-judgment and rest in the unknown?
2. Forfeit Control. There is an illusion that by pinpointing a reason why this happened, a solution can be harnessed and straddled for next time. Why? Because we prefer to act than to feel, to strive rather than to be, and to problem "solve" as opposed to wading through psychological discomfort. But do we really have control over our fertility? Over something as minuscule as chromosomes? Reproductive technologies often provide further confusion over what we have ultimate control over. But even when technologies assist women in achieving the family they long for, the health and development of a fetus is out of everyone's hands, no matter the level of scientific expertise. The American Congress of Obstetricians Gynecologists reports that 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage sorry to interrupt mid-sentence, but I just want to point out that with that statistic note how likely it is that your sisters, mother, or friends have experienced this -- a glaring statistic which further serves to inform us that no matter how driven, accomplished or psychologically sturdy we are, we can't necessarily escape the unfortunate numerical facts.
3. Honor Uniqueness. Even if your sister, best friend, colleague and/or neighbor had a miscarriage too, trauma reverberates, hibernates and maybe even evaporates differently for everyone. Rather than comparing and contrasting stories and possibly projecting our own experience elsewhere, we might simply ask how she is feeling and inquire about what her emotional temperature is at any given moment. Checking in again, even months after the trauma, might be the very thing she was yearning for. Every day is different and grief knows no timeline. This. A thousand times this. It might be tempting to compare, by minimizing or magnifying, the pain of a loss at six weeks versus 20 weeks, but why go there? Loss is excruciating, no matter how far along we are in days/weeks/months. "Well, at least you were only six weeks. You can always try again in a few months," doesn't necessarily help assuage the sadness, the numbness or the fear of the future.
4. Lean into the Trauma. Despite how counterintuitive it seems, leaning into trauma might be the very antidote to drowning in it. Most people are poised to eschew trauma at any cost rather than excavate it, with the determined hope that avoiding/denying will magically whisk away dark experiences. In Dr. Mark Epstein's New York Times article "The Trauma of Being Alive," he states: "In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth. The reflexive rush to normal is counterproductive. In the attempt to fit in, to be normal, the traumatized person (and this is most of us) feels estranged." We benefit from disbanding the notion that mourning is avoidable and has a finite end point.
5. Acknowledge the Courage. The courage it takes to endeavor to conceive again after trauma is noteworthy. I'm in awe over the millions of women who experience pregnancy loss and muster the physical and psychological wherewithal to enter into the unknown yet again. I am equally amazed by the courage it takes to declare that one is opting not to wade back into potentially painful or maybe potentially joyful waters. It takes a certain kind of self-understanding to know when to stop, to understand our limits and to honor them.

On a personal note, I believe having the right support system can make a big difference.  I want my sisters to know that I am honored to play whatever role in that support system you may need.  


Leap of Faith

A while back I got this cliche idea that I could start a blog.  I thought of a name which I only had to slightly adjust to get a domain, I made a banner, I found a background, and then took a step back to look it over, declared it good and was rather satisfied. I was busy, you know.  Nobody would have read it anyway. At least I proved I could make it look cool. 

Then Mom mentioned that what I really ought to do with that empty blog is make a blog version of a database for information for my sisters, since I do get the desperate urge to "research" a lot of things, especially things relating to motherhood lately.  It took a moment to hit me, but I realized that this could help me with my "bookmarks" and "tabs" problem *cough* addiction *cough*.  I realized once again that my mother is brilliant.  And then.... I started getting a little overwhelmed.  Despite my tab and bookmark addiction, there were already so many good articles that I have lost, will I ever be able to find them or even remember them again? What are all the rules about this sort of thing?  What if it isn't perfect (or even close enough)?  So, I declared it a brilliant must-do and promptly postponed doing anything to make it happen. 

But recently, I have been reminded how valuable a resource this could maybe be for people I love, and have had the blessing of motivation from a very encouraging sister (thank you). So, I would like to officially begin my work on this project now- this is me rolling up my sleeves and committing to do this- wish me luck!