Real Food for Pregnancy: A Book Review

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When I was pregnant in 2012, I was overwhelmed by the conflicting “Do not eat!” lists for pregnancy. One would advise against chamomile tea, another wouldn’t say anything about tea but would list lunch meat, seafood, and common allergens to avoid exposing baby to, etc. I just wanted to eat well for my baby and hopefully not throw it up. At my first OB-Gyn appointment I asked my doctor about the lists, and what I should be eating. His only answer was to avoid fish with mercury.

That was it.

Luckily, I had some knowledge of general nutrition, but everything made me sick. Later in the pregnancy, I had viscous heart burn. It was years until I could even look at orange juice. It would have been nice to have advice beyond the typical old wives tales.

Earth Mama - Organic Third Trimester Tea

I had hoped over the years to find a good resource on nutrition. I was asked to review Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE.

It did not disappoint.

Real Food for Pregnancy Book Cover.png

Heavily researched and evidence based, this book is the most definitive guide on what to eat during pregnancy and postpartum that I have come across. The book is broken down into macronutrients, pregnancy expectations and complaints, lab testing, and postpartum.

Having an outline of the nutrients to focus on and encouragement to reach for whole foods, is what helps to decrease the pregnancy complaints of nausea, heart burn, and serious complications of hypertension and gestational diabetes. By starting with exercise and proper nutrition, we can feel better and build a healthier pregnancy. I feel like this is lacking in our health care system.

The information on lab testing was so informative, and is a must read for those planning to get pregnant. Nichols breaks down hormone testing, thyroid, A1c, glucose, and nutrient testing. Each one has its benefits and resulting effects on pregnancy and postpartum health for mom and baby. For example, an elevated A1c in early pregnancy results in 98.4% of cases being diagnosed with gestational diabetes (Nichols p. 171). Doing this test in early pregnancy can allow mothers to make necessary dietary changes from the get go, instead of waiting for the glucose tolerance test at 26 weeks. Nichols gives the pros and cons of the glucola testing and alternatives that may be beneficial to some patients. The rate of false positives or ways to, “beat” the test may not give a real picture of a patients health picture.

THINX Period-Proof Underwear. Earth Mama Organics - Organic Nipple Butter

What I find nice about all of this information, is that it is not often offered by care providers. Knowing your full options is the beginning of true informed consent.

Grab a copy of Real Food for Pregnancy here, and gift an extra copy to your care provider.

What nutrition advice did you receive during your pregnancy? Share in the comments below.



How to Prepare for Baby Without Breaking the Bank

Discovering you are pregnant generates a wide range of emotions and concerns. While excitement tops the list, worry about your finances soon joins it. With some creative planning, you can gather everything your baby needs without breaking the bank.

THINX Period-Proof Underwear. THINX Period-Proof Underwear.

Feeding Supplies

If you decide to breastfeed your baby, then your needs will differ from those with babies using formula. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months is beneficial to both mother and baby. Not only is breastfeeding considered a healthier option, but it also saves you money on formula. Invest in a pump and bottles — it is money well-spent when you are away from your hungry baby. Majority of families are able to receive a free breast pump from their insurance provider. Write to companies for a sample bottle or discount code. It may allow you to have a small variety of bottles to try without spending extra funds.

Earth Mama Organics - Organic Milkmaid Tea

Should you decide not to breastfeed, ask your doctor and the hospital for free samples of formula, and watch for coupons and sales. However, be careful not to stockpile too much formula due to expiration dates.



Perhaps the most recurring expenses for the baby are diapers. According to the National Diaper Bank Network, babies use between six to 10 diapers a day, costing you $70 to $80 a month. The alternative choices are cloth diapers. While reusable, cloth diapers aren’t for everyone, as they require washing and drying. Weigh the pros and cons of cloth diapers and decide if the time and resources they require is worth the money you’ll save. You can learn more about cloth diapers here


Sleeping Arrangements

A bassinet is helpful for keeping your baby next to your bed and within easy reach during its first several months. Experts recommend only using a bassinet until a baby begins to roll over. At that time, the baby should transition to a crib. Since a bassinet is only used for a short period of time, consider borrowing one to save money. When it comes to purchasing a crib, buying used can save you money. There are certain steps you can take to ensure the crib is safe and fully functional:

1. Be sure to see the crib fully assembled before purchasing it.

2. Conduct an internet search for any recalls for the crib.

3. Make sure it meets all mandatory crib safety standards.

Careful inspections of any used baby furniture, such as high chairs, strollers, and changing tables, are always a smart idea. Many baby products are used in moderation as the child outgrows them, making used items a good financial choice.

Earth Mama Organics - A Little Something for Baby

Keep the Gender Reveal Simple

Preparing for your baby is even more fun once you know the gender! There are hundreds of gender reveal videos online that show when the big reveal goes wrong. While often funny, planning your reveal on a simpler scale and budget can save you embarrassment and money. Budget-friendly options like that of a social media photo op or cute statement t-shirts are fun and less work than a party. Social media makes it easy to share the news with friends and family, especially those at a distance.

Should you decide to have a party, set the date and a budget. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional cupcake gender reveal or the ever-so-popular balloon pop.

Regardless of how you do your reveal, be sure to document it with video and pictures.

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Babies Are Priceless

Preparing and then caring for a newborn is work. There’s no doubt that babies are very expensive and demanding. However, the important focus to keep is that babies bring hope, happiness, and pure joy at the end of a long day. Seeing their face light up when you enter the room is beyond priceless. Borrow items, buy used ones, and ask friends and family to help with all your baby needs. Other parents with young children often have a wealth of items to give away or to sell cheap. Start planning for your baby today, and ask your doula for local resources for help.

What helped you to save money when preparing for your baby?

Author: Emily Graham of Mighty Moms 



Postpartum Doula Support: Filling the Gaps in Healing After Birth

In January I began studying for a postpartum doula certification with Birth Arts International. This would allow me to continue supporting my clients as they transition to the next part of their journey. As expecting parents we tend to focus our time and energy on the pregnancy and birth process.  As a result, postpartum plans often get the short end of the stick. After coming home with their babies, many parents may feel as though they don’t have the support or resources to feel confident in what they are doing. We are questioning ourselves while trying to learn how to make our newborns happy and healthy, all while sleep deprived and often times neglecting our own needs. Frequently too, we have older children at home that are adjusting to the new baby and the change in household. We still have laundry. We still have to eat. We desperately need sleep, a real shower, and maybe a moment or two just for ourselves.


That's where I come in.

Postpartum doula support fills in the gaps of what the family might need. These services include light errands, light house cleaning, meal prep, infant and sibling care, breast feeding support, postpartum healing guidance, debriefing support of your birth experience, and connecting families to local resources. Best of all is the emotional and mental support of another person who understands exactly where you are and what you are going through. This is someone who listens, knows birth intimately, and can help you process your experience of birth and new motherhood. When we are able to feel whole and have the details of our home taken care of, we have opportunities to heal faster, have improved breastfeeding success rates, and decreased severity of postpartum mood disorders.


1 in 5 mothers experience a postpartum mood disorder, including anxiety and depression. 1 in 10 fathers will experience anxiety and depression as well. These feelings not only impact the individuals health, but the health of the family and community. Currently suicide is the second leading cause of death in perinatal women, with a rate of 1 in 5 postpartum deaths being contributed to suicide. The risk is increased through the first postpartum year. These statistics are a heart wrenching wake up call in how we treat parents, our postpartum care, mental health support, and often the ability of our village to see a struggling parent and know what to do. Having a knowledgeable professional help take off the weight of some of the daily burdens can create space for that family to heal.

It’s not about luxury.

It’s not about being demanding.

Postpartum doula support is about giving families and communities what they need to feel like better confident versions of themselves.

To learn more about how postpartum doula support, please contact me for a consultation at Living Heart Doula.




Postpartum planning: Updated

** This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from one of these links I receive a small commission at no charge to you. It helps to support my doula work.


The postpartum period is a subject close to my heart. It's such a crazy time. Mom is trying to heal and figure out nursing, while bonding with baby and trying to stay present for any older siblings. Dad is figuring out his role and is still reeling from the birth as well. All the while everyone is exhausted, but people want to visit the new baby and help out the family. While it feels like life should pause for a while it seems to do the opposite. 

One of the most visited posts I have here at the Living Heart Doula blog is A Postpartum Checklist, and dives in to some facets of planning for postpartum. It also includes some really great slides on new babies and their families. 

Having a few things prepared, friends signed up for meals, and extended family ready to serve can make a huge difference for a new family. I’m updating the list to share new products, as well as services that can help a postpartum family.

1) Postpartum Doula Services- Having a postpartum doula is indispensable. They can start as early as the day you get home from the hospital or birth center, or you can hold off until your partner has returned to work. A postpartum doula can also do an overnight shift, so mom and partner can sleep. She can bring baby to mom for feedings, or bottle feed based on your preferences. The doula also helps with house hold chores like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and helping older siblings. Their knowledge of breastfeeding, newborn care, and postpartum healing can be a huge help. Service prices can vary, and may be billed as hourly or as packages. Add services to your registry and have friends and family chip in! Living Heart Doula will be adding postpartum services this spring. Be on the watch for more news!

2) Earth Mama Organics- I love their products, and their postpartum items saved me with my last birth. Some must haves include perineal spray, perineal herbal packs, and organic nipple butter. They also have their own Lying-In plan for postpartum families you can find here:

Earth Mama Organics Cyber Monday

3) - Free sign up service to organize having meals brought to the family. Super easy to use and share over email and social media. The service also has a function where friends can order a meal to be delivered if they are unable to cook. Having meals covered takes the burden and logistics of food preparation away from the recuperating family.


4) Depends - An option aside from typical menstrual pads. Wearing Depends during the first heavy days of lochia can be helpful, because the whole thing acts as a pad. No more worrying about leaking on to undies or sheets.

5) Natracare Wipes and Pads- An all natural organic option, wipes can be used for both mom and baby. The organic pads are super absorbent and keep the skin feeling dry instead of sticky like with plastic pads. However, they are not especially large. Save them for when bleeding has become more manageable.

6) Boobytubes - Awesome product by Bamboobies, these beaded tubes can be put in the freezer to help with engorgement, or in the microwave to help with a clogged duct. Can also go along the neck and shoulders to help with aches and stiffness.

7.) Ecocentric Mom Box- You can check out all the goodies I got from my subscription box here. Receive a box full of natural goodies for mom and baby, ranging from snacks to awesome hair care products. Subscriptions can vary from one time to a full year, and make a great gift for new moms. Ecocentric Mom offers a nice self-care pick me up, and a way to find some new clean products.

Ecocentric Mom box

8.) Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy - This subject really needs its own post, but I’ll give you an introduction here. In other countries, especially Europe, women receive physical therapy after they have a baby. Your back, hips, pelvis, vagina, perineum, core and bladder can all be affected by pregnancy and birth. This includes both vaginal and cesarean births. Experiencing pain, incontinence (snissing, anyone?) or diastasis recti is common, but is NOT NORMAL, and can be corrected by physical therapy. What makes it different than just doing kegels until you’re cross eyed, is that the specific muscles and tendons that are strained, weakened, and overcompensating can be identified, and you are taught how to properly release and strengthen the affected areas. Body mechanics are applied to help correct diastasis recti and ease pain as muscles recover. It can be life changing. With 50% of women experiencing prolapse in their lifetime, it’s worth the investment.

9.) Get a baby carrier- Baby wearing was how I managed to do life with both my girls. Babies want to be held and snuggled. This allows you to keep baby close, get breakfast made, and the dog walked. Moby and Boba wraps are great for newborns, and as baby grows soft structured carriers like Boba are great for getting baby on and off easily, as well as place in a back carry. You can learn more about carriers here.

10.) Sitz Bath and accessories- I’m a little bitter no one taught how to do a sitz bath when I had my girls. Available at drug stores like Rite Aid or CVS, it’s essentially a large basin that fits in the toilet. Fill with warm water, Epsom salt, or herbs. Place in your toilet, and simply soak. It’s great for hemorrhoids and perineal tearing. It also relaxes the pelvic floor muscles so you can actually go #2. No one said postpartum was glamorous.

11.) K-Tape Services Frederick Birth Center- K-Tape is a cotton elastic adhesive, with therapeutic properties that can be applied to ligament function, muscle applications, corrective postures, and lymphatic drainage. During the postpartum period, K-tape can help with numerous issues, including swelling, engorgement, diastasis recti, and mastitis. Mom’s who have had a cesarean birth can benefit from lymphatic drainage. The scar tissue can disrupt neurological pathways and the drainage of lymph in the lower body. K-tape can support the return of menstruation, and can ease uterine cramping. Gynecological issues like prolapse and incontinence can benefit from K-Tape. While I’ve focused on the benefits of K-Taping for women, anyone can come and get taping at the Frederick Birth Center! Contact the staff at FBC for an appointment.

12.) Like Neighbors- This is a service that allows friends, families, and neighbors to help in your time of need while being across the country. Services like lawn mowing, house cleaning, dog walking, gift cards and meal delivery can all be added. It’s a great way to have support and let people know what your family’s needs are.

13.) Postpartum belly binding- Beng Kung belly wraps, Mama Strut, and Velcro girdles are all ways to support your core and back after birth. Your muscles have taken a vacation for at least six months, and having the support helps to engage them and maintain proper posture. This helps to prevent and correct diastasis recti, as well as the aches and pains we often feel while nursing for long periods and carrying carseats.

14.) Strong as a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood: The Only Guide to Taking Care of YOU! by Katie Rope- This book breaks down all things postpartum, from healing, birth recovery, and mental health. Author Katie Rope shares stories from a wide variety of mothers, breaking down the mommy traps we can get sucked into. It’s one of the few books out there talking about postpartum in an open way, while not beating around the bush of how hard modern moms have it.

15) Placenta Encapsulation - Encapsulation is the process of steaming, dehydrating, grinding, and putting a placenta into pill form. Benefits include a boost in hormones, increased milk production, and faster recovery. The evidence is still anecdotal at this point, but you only have one shot at preserving the placenta to try. If you plan on having your placenta encapsulated, please use a professional encapsulator that is blood borne pathogen certified. I recommend Deborah Bailey of Doulas of Central Maryland.

What have I missed? What really helped your family in the postpartum period?




Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

Aromatherapy is the practice of using natural oils to enhance psychological and physical well- being. Oils can be extracted from flowers, herbs, stems, roots and barks.

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Aromatherapy can be used by two means: inhaling the scent to stimulate brain function or applying to the skin to be absorbed by the bloodstream. Aromatherapy is noninvasive, and can compliment other therapies very well, including western medicine, homeopathy, herbal remedies, and more. Consult your care provider and an aromatherapist near you to see how it may be added to your current routines.


Safe guidelines when using oils include following instructions for each oil, and avoiding oils that contain artificial ingredients. Products may be marked for aromatherapy, but may contain perfume or fragrance instead. These products won’t have the same medicinal properties as pure distilled oils from plant sources. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the term aromatherapy or product labels, so check your sources carefully (Althea p23). Always use a carrier oil such as sweet almond, olive, avocado, or coconut. Essential oils are potent, so a few drops can go a long way.


How to use essential oils:

·         Diffusing: suspends the molecules of the oil into the air via a mist, and is an easy and popular way of using aromatherapy. It can put the scent of the oil into the room, without using the chemicals of air fresheners. Follow the manufacturer instructions for your particular diffuser, as well as for each oil or blend. (Althea p. 46-48)

·         Direct inhalation: is simply inhaling the oil. The oil can be placed with a carrier in the palm of the hand and cupped over the nose for a few breathes. Hands can also be placed around the bottle as you inhale. A few drops can also be placed on a cotton ball or tissue and sniffed through the day when needed. (This trick is particularly helpful during pregnancy or labor when nausea strikes.) (Althea 46-48)

·         Topical: application of essential oils to the skin allows them to enter the blood stream, while also offering inhalation benefits. Oils can be rubbed into the skin with a carrier oil during massage, acupressure, added to baths, and compresses. (Althea p. 53-58)



Essential oils to avoid in pregnancy (These particular oils may stimulate menstruation and hormonal activity) (Best You p.14):

  • Angelica

  • Cinnamon

  • Clary sage

  • Ginger

  • Jasmine

  • Juniper

  • Marjoram

THINX Period-Proof Underwear.


It is generally recommended to use the gentler oils during pregnancy. These include:

·         Tangerine

·         Rose otto

·         Cardamom

·         Manuka

·         Mandarin

·         Neroli

·         Rosewood

·         Grapefruit

·         Spearmint

·         Sandalwood

·         Patchouli

·         Black pepper

·         Geranium

·         Lavender

·         Tea tree

·         Lemon

·         Bergamot

·         Ginger

·         Frankincense

·         Roman and German chamomile


Earth Mama Organics - Baby Face Organic Nose & Cheek Balm

Aromatherapy can aid several pregnancy related issues including:

  • Nausea

  • Insomnia

  • Immunity

  • Headaches

  • Heartburn

  • Swelling/edema (always get your providers approval)

  • Pain

  • Stretch marks

  • Digestion/constipation

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Varicose veins

  • Labor

  • Massage


Some favorite resources for learning more:


The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Valerie Ann Worwood. 2016


Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing. Althea Press. 2015.


Massage and Aromatherapy: Simple Techniques to Use at Home to Relieve Stress, Promote Health, and Feel Great. Best You Readers Digest. 2011.


 Have you used aromatherapy during pregnancy? Questions? Comments?



Breaking Down Menstrual Products: What's New and What You Should Know


 Back in sixth grade, our class was separated into two groups, boys went to one classroom and girls went to another. We all got the puberty talk, complete with embarrassing question and answer session. We were given the menstruation breakdown, shown pads and were told who to ask if we needed one.


While with our friends, we giggled and rolled our eyes when the teacher turned around, because how uncool was this? Most of us had been given some version of, “The Talk” by our mothers, or at least overhead the one given to our big sisters.


How much of that information we giggled at, have we used to take care of ourselves since those painfully awkward puberty years?


If you’re most women, you’ve been using the same pads and tampons for years. What do you know about them? How are the plastics made? The cotton? 


Truth is most of us don’t know, because feminine hygiene products fall under the classification of a medical device, so companies don’t have to disclose what ingredients are in their products. What we do know is that 90% of conventional menstrual pads are plastic. The plastics from pads and tampon applicators are not biodegradable, and will stay in landfills and waterways for hundreds of years. A few other ingredients we've found include poly-acrylate superabsorbents (SAPs), petroleum derivatives, synthetic ingredients, latex, and perfume.

That's not taking in to account the pesticides used in the cotton industry. 

Not cool when the vagina is a mucous membrane and will absorb the chemicals around it into your body.


With the number of women fighting endocrine issues and cancer, it's time to clean up our products and reduce the toxic load on our bodies. Simple switches can reduce our exposure, and improve the experience of our monthly cycles. 

Here’s a breakdown of the latest menstrual products on the market:


1)      Thinkx : These are undies that are absorbent in their own right with an antibacterial layer. Simply rinse and wash them in your washing machine. They are completely reusable. You can wear them alone or pair with a menstrual cup, sponge, or tampon. Pairing them with a menstrual cup means absolutely no waste products! Thinkx comes in different cuts and fits all body types.

THINX Period-Proof Underwear.

2)      Menstrual cups: Made of medical grade silicone, cups catch the blood by circling the cervix. A small learning curve is there in the beginning as you learn to insert it. Otherwise they come in multiple sizes and shapes, to fit all individuals. They can be worn for up to 12 hours, and then you simply empty the cup into the toilet, wipe out, and reinsert. Pair a menstrual cup with a pair of Thinkx and you have a waste free combo to cover you through your cycle. For more info on cups and how to pick the one that’s right for you, check out


3)      Mama cloth: These are washable, reusable menstrual pads. They secure around your underwear with snaps, and can be made with various materials, including bamboo, felt, velvet, and organic cotton. They come in all price ranges, and can be found all over the web from Amazon to Etsy. Some of my favorites are made by WAHM’s using beautiful upcycled material like Mama Scissorhands.  Some large companies like Lunapads, make an excellent pad with portions of sales going to provide hygiene products for girls in underserved areas. Often menstruation gets in the way of these girls educations, and Luna pads is doing something to change that.

Soft, absorbent, and free from endocrine disruptors.

Soft, absorbent, and free from endocrine disruptors.


 To clean your pads, you can store them in a wet bag, and when you have several ready to wash you can add them to a load of cloth diapers. If you aren’t cloth diapering, you can run them through a hot rinse cycle and add in a load of towels. Wash and dry as usual. A stash of 10-12  pads can last at  least  2 years, keeping tons of plastic waste out of landfills (and out of your body).

4)      Organic disposable options: While reusable options are awesome, it may not be a fit for every family. Plus, life happens and we need disposable options for times like vacations and busy seasons when one more load of laundry could be a deal breaker on the 'ole sanity. Some great brands using organic cotton and plant products include Natracare pads and My Lola.  Natracare caught my attention especially. Their pads are completely biodegradable, using 100% organic cotton tops, wood pulp filling for absorption, and corn starch. Even the wrapper around the pad is made of corn starch! This company gets the stamp of approval from The Ethical Company Organization and Vegetarian Society. They carry pads for all flows, include postpartum. 

5)      Sea sponges: Available in various sizes to absorb heavy to light flows, sea sponges are a cool alternative to tampons and cups. Simply rinse them out and insert; there are no tricks to learn and they last for several months before needing to be replaced. It has come into question though if there could be an issue with bacteria, sand, and other debris since they are sea animals. Risk for toxic shock syndrome is similar to tampons, but something to look for if you’re considering using them.

Sea sponges are soft and easy to use. A set will typically last three months.

Sea sponges are soft and easy to use. A set will typically last three months.



Resources for when something feels off with your period:

1)      Your OB-GYN or midwife: if you’re experiencing extra painful, irregular or missing periods talk to your care provider. They may request blood work and hormone panel to check thyroid, estrogen and progesterone levels. In some cases a transvaginal ultrasound may be needed to diagnose cystic ovaries and other pelvic issues.

2)      WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source by Alisa Vitti. This book blew my mind. Author Alisa Vitti breaks down how our endocrine system works to balance our hormones, and how we can wind up with a full hormonal breakdown. She explains the resulting issues like PCOS, endometriosis, depression, anxiety, unexplained infertility, and PMS. The best part: the book breaks down how to heal your body with food. I’m on this journey myself now, and am seriously amazed at how much better I feel. (More to come on that soon!) Alissa Vitti can be found at and the My FLO app. 

3)      Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods by Lara Briden ND: Written by a naturopathic doctor, this book breaks down the hormonal balance that occurs in woman’s bodies, and what happens when it is disrupted. Facing the, “Birth control band aid” most patients were dealing with, she created natural solutions and a means of creating body literacy. It’s a great companion alongside Woman Code.

What products do you use for that time of the month? Questions? Comments?

Earth Mama Organics - Organic Periodic Tea



Frederick Birth Center

Twenty years ago, Special Beginnings was opened in Arnold, Maryland, and has since been one of the only freestanding birth centers in the state. For families that live too far from Special Beginnings, there are two options: use your local hospital or birth at home. There’s a wide swing to that pendulum in consideration of care providers, cesarean rate, interventions , maternal and infant health, and financial cost. Having options is important, and families should be able to find a birthing place that best fits their family.


Fortunately for our Maryland families, there will be another option. Meet Mychal Pilia, CNM and owner of the Frederick Birth Center.



Mychal holds a bachelors degrees in Nutrition, Nursing and a masters degree in Nurse-Midwifery. She has been serving the home birth community since 2014. Mychal has spent extensive amounts of time in both business research and seeking feedback from the community. You may remember seeing her at Baker park last summer completing surveys, and talking with families.


Her vision for the Frederick Birth Center includes a holistic and family centered approach to pregnancy and birth. Evidence based care is the mainstay of the practice, and means that parents are active participants in their prenatal care.


What makes a birthing center different?


The care at the birthing center is personal and is built on a relationship with Mychal and the midwives at the birth center throughout your pregnancy. You develop personal trusting relationships with your providers, because they spend more time with you.  Your appointments are typically a half hour long with the initial one being an hour. Discussions include everything from nutrition, options for prenatal testing, mental health and emotional health, and how your feeling physically. It’s a whole person approach.


Not only do they provide more one on one time and attention, but they also offer classes you can take with mothers due around the same time. These range from early pregnancy topics, sibling preparation, labor and birth, breastfeeding and new parenting classes.

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Rather than cycle through all the doctors and midwives at a large practice, your time is spent with your midwife and her nurse. When you come to the center in labor, your midwife is the one meeting you there. She’s the one evaluating your labor and overseeing the safety and comfort for both you and your baby. At a hospital, you are meeting with a group of strangers, wondering who’s on call, and only seeing that doctor for mere moments at a time, and often only at the glorious moment of when baby is crowning to its birth.


The birthing center facility is a beautifully designed home like atmosphere, with a real bed, shower, full immersion tubs for labor and birth, equipped with all the medical needs for mom and baby. This isn’t birthing in the hospital where it tries to not resemble a hospital. This is a home away from home.


When can you receive care at FBC?

The Frederick Birthing Center is now open and is currently taking patients. You can begin care before you even get pregnant or transfer care almost any time during your pregnancy.  After all this is a “service industry” and your health care providers work for you!

Boho room with creams, pops of color and texture.  

Boho room with creams, pops of color and texture.  




What does care include?

A midwife and nurse are on call if you have emergent or non-emergent needs during your pregnancy. Care includes 10-12 prenatal visits depending on when you begin services, and group classes are available. You will also have access to the lending library if your enjoy to prepare for your birth through reading.


You are fully supported during your birth, and families can leave for home as early as four hours after birth (upper limit is twelve).


Postpartum checks are completed with a 24-hour phone call, 1-2 day home visit, and a 1-2 week and 6 weeks office visits.


Well-woman care is also available at the center including pap smears, full range of family planning options, health screenings (cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid, and anemia labs to say the least), and mental health counseling and screenings.

This 33" Japanese soaking tub is huge. I'm 5'5", and could easily submerge into this beauty. 

This 33" Japanese soaking tub is huge. I'm 5'5", and could easily submerge into this beauty. 



Cost of birthing at a Birth Center

Cost is $7,000 and includes the professional care and the facility fee. Check with your insurance provider for full understanding of benefits and what can be covered or reimbursed for your out-of-hospital birth.


Having your baby at a birthing center is a lower cost option, with lower interventions, high level of satisfaction and high safety standards proven with large national studies (check out the National Birth Center Study II to see the birth center difference!). The cesarean rate in Maryland is currently ~36% (higher than the national average (33%), where the rate for birth centers is only 6%. For healthy low-risk pregnancies, out-of-hospital births provide options that protect maternal and infant health, while lowering health care costs, and providing a memorable experience for your family for a lilfetime.


For a look at hospital care cost, check out this article here:


Future plans

Plans include two more Maryland freestanding birthing centers, located in Baltimore and Silver Spring.


For more information

You can reach Mychal Pilia at the Frederick Birth Center (


More about birthing centers:



Ecocentric Mom Box: A Review of Awesome Goodies and Who Should Subscribe


While on a hunt for new gifts for the mamas in my life, I discovered Ecocentric Mom. It’s a subscription
service with a monthly box full of goodies for mom and little one (from birth to age five).
I gave it a try, and I was really happy with my first box. It was filled with tons of great products, all clean
ingredients and naturally based. Let me breakdown the goodies I received in this month’s box.
1) Tru You’re Mocha Me Cocoa Protein Shake. Chocolate is the key to my heart, so a quality
chocolate protein shake I can drink instead of a Chik-Fil-a milkshake is awesome. I’m trying to
eat less sugar, and this fits the bill perfectly. (Note: I blended this shake with coffee and ice, with
about a half cup of almond milk. Worked out nicely!)

Just give me all the chocolate.

Just give me all the chocolate.

2) Herbaland Protein Gummies. I love candy, but I need to cut sugar from my diet. These gummies are made with fruit juice and protein. My toddler wasn’t in to the taste, but that just means more for me. This may be a new staple item to keep in my doula bag.


3) Bug Protector Mosquito and Tick sprays. These will be used all summer long. My family is big into hiking, so tick protection is a must, especially with Maryland being a hot zone for Lyme disease. Our front and back yard is heavily colonized by mosquitoes, despite a lack of standing water. The sprays are made with essential oils known to deter insects, but have a nice scent to them. They are kid and pet friendly, so you can even give your dog a few sprays to help ward off ticks.


4) Ayr Skin Care Virgin Marula Oil. A light oil for face and hair, it doesn’t have a noticeable scent
that I could detect, but is great on my daughters thick curls and gives a light softness and shine
to my pixie length locks. Pressed from the nut of the Marula tree, a native plant of South Africa
and Mozambique, it’s used traditionally for cleansing the face, in the diet, and even preserving
leather. It’s a product I’ve never seen before, and would like to keep using. This will be a repeat
product for our family for sure. If you’d like to learn more about Ayr Skin Care, you can find them here.

Super soft hair, no frizz, and no chemicals.

Super soft hair, no frizz, and no chemicals.

5) Hyland for Kids Oral Pain Relief. When Hyland’s took their Teething Tablets off the market, I
cried. I’m not even kidding. This was the only product that helped my teething baby, and in a
snap of a finger they were sold out everywhere. I hoarded what precious tablets I had left, but
eventually we ran out. The next year and a half of teething was brutal for our household, and I
resorted to Motrin more often than I would have liked. Now they’ve released the Kids Oral Pain
Relief, and moms everywhere can rejoice (and possibly reclaim some sleep). It’s a different
formula from the teething tablets, but just as effective.

Hylands to the rescue!

Hylands to the rescue!

6) Effortless Art Crayons. Shaped in a chunky triangle with a grip, these crayons are meant to be
inclusive of children of all abilities and needs. My oldest tested them out for me, and was most
impressed by the shade of the red color crayon.  She's a crayon connoisseur.

My kids also enjoyed the confetti that came in the box for shipping. Fun for everyone!

My kids also enjoyed the confetti that came in the box for shipping. Fun for everyone!


The subscription service can be purchased with different moms in mind, with special gift sets for
pregnancy, mom care, and pregnancy-preschool.
Moms who could use monthly goodies:
 You!
 Your friend
 Your pregnant friend
 Your sister in law who is expecting, but doesn’t need another baby gift. Get something just for      her to enjoy!
 Any woman you know who could use some extra love.

Boxes are delivered monthly, and start at $32. Here’s your coupon code for $5 off!

Ecocentric Mom box



Summer Pregnancy Survival: Beating the Heat While Feeling Your Best

*This post contains affiliate links. I receive a commission for any purchases from these links, at no additional cost to you. I only work with affiliates and recommend products I truly love, I am not paid for these reviews. 

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I had two summer pregnancies. With my first pregnancy it was the hottest summer on record here in Maryland. I was still working as a zookeeper in a hot humid building, and had to build up a repertoire of tools to feel okay. I was hot, sweaty and tired, but I avoided some big issues like dehydration and swelling. 

Let's get started enjoying the summer season, and keeping you pregnant mamas happy! Here's what helped:

1.  Get into the water! Whether it is your neighbors pool, the pool at the gym, the local city pool, local lake, or a blow up baby pool, get yourself in the water! Getting submerged not only cools you off, but blissfully relieves your joints from the weight of your growing belly. Swimming is excellent low impact cardio, and can be helpful with fetal positioning. 

2. Drink all the fluids. Make them fun!  Grab your favorite straw cup, and get sipping! Start with water everyday, and throw in some lemon, cucumber, mint, or berries to jazz it up. The lemon in water can be especially helpful with swelling, and provides a natural source of electrolytes. When the heat is on, making some fun blended mocktails is a delicious way to get through it. Check out some healthy smoothies and blended mocktails on the Living Heart Doula Summer Survival Pinterest board here

Earth Mama Organics also has some fun mocktail recipes, using teas. Pour over ice or blend for a cooling treat. 

Ginger Mint Mock-Tea-Ni with Morning Wellness Tea


3. Veg out and get your fruit on! When in doubt, eat your fluids. Watermelon, oranges, strawberries, and salads are excellent at keeping you cool and hydrated. A great option for when it is too warm to even turn on the stove, is to pull out the veggies in your crisper and grab some hummus and bean dip. This is also the time to utilize your instant pot and slow cooker. Set up dinner, spend the day at the pool, and come home to a ready meal without worrying about the heat or babysitting a grill.

4. Take advantage of the AC. Summertime here in Maryland is always a quandary; it's steamy hot outside, but you may need a sweater to get through grocery shopping due to the AC being kept at polar temperatures. However when you're pregnant during a swampy afternoon, you'll want all the AC you can get. Walk the mall, take older kids to story time and play at the library, catch a movie, even take a walk around your local Costco and soak up the air conditioning (grab some samples while you're there too). 

Unique, eco-friendly products chosen just for you and your little one!Earth Mama Angel Baby | Safe and Natural Products for Mama and Baby

5. Clothing options. The best fabrics for your growing belly are going to be lightweight and moisture wicking. Grab multiple dresses, maxi skirts, shirts and shorts in cotton, linen, and bamboo. Avoid heavy synthetic fabrics to avoid sweating and chaffing. Speaking of chaffing, to help prevent uncomfortable rubbing, try out these options: rub coconut oil on your thighs to prevent friction, baby powder or talcum powder to soak up sweat, wear cotton bicycle shorts under skirts, or apply antiperspirant to the area. You can find clean ingredient deodorant from Earth mama organics here . I've mentioned thighs several times, but these tricks should be helpful for multiple body areas.  

Think breezy light weight material for summer months. 

Think breezy light weight material for summer months. 

6. Ice, Ice Baby! During my hot sweaty pregnant zoo days, the most helpful item I had for staying comfortable was an ice pack. Put ice packs on the back of your neck, chest, and pulse points. For days out at the park with kids, pack an insulated tote bag with wash cloths and ice cubes. Apply them through the day, and dunk in the ice water to refresh. 

Fill an insulated tote bag with ice and wet cloths. Use the icy cold rags to cool off during summer outings. 

Fill an insulated tote bag with ice and wet cloths. Use the icy cold rags to cool off during summer outings. 

What helped you during the summer heat? Share your favorite tricks with us in the comments! 


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You Got This: What it should mean

“You’ve got this. Deep breath Mama!”

If you’ve ever been one of my clients, you’ve probably heard me say this. It’s something I say to remind my moms when labor begins to get tough, and it’s a matter of getting through one contraction at a time.

You got this. Now here are all the things I want to say... 

You got this. Now here are all the things I want to say... 

A simple phrase, a warm touch of reassurance, but it means a lot more to me when I really dig in to why I say it. When I'm trying to convey something stronger I often stumble over my words, trying to verbalize all the emotions that I cannot always express without getting tripped up and choked up.

All too often this phrase is getting used as a trite comforting gesture. It's become the proverbial knock on the shoulder, and "You stay chipper!" 

"You got this!" really means: 

  •        Let go of the nagging fears that are no longing serving you.
  •       You are so strong. I see it, and want you to feel it in your core.  
  •       This birthing thing… you’re rocking it!
  •       Dad, who is so unsure of what to do and think right now? Let her hold on to you. You’re a rock for her.
  •       Breastfeeding is hard sometimes, and it feels like you have a million new questions everyday. Ask them. Trust your gut if something feels off and you want another opinion.
  •       Parenthood is wild and hard. Don’t doubt your abilities to raise these little people. If you do, call a friend. Guaranteed they feel the same. Try again tomorrow.
  •        You may have only had two hours of sleep, and there’s a long day ahead of you. One step, one minute at a time.
  •       Sometimes postpartum hormones are really mean, and anxiety is a dirty rotten liar. Let's talk about how you're feeling. 
  • Going back to work after maternity/paternity leave is so hard. How are things going to be for our routine? How am I going to feel? Take it one day at a time, and bend when the wind blows. Be flexible where you can, and give yourself and your family all the grace you need during this season. 
You are so strong. I see it and want you to feel it in your very core..png


Deep breath.


You got this.


Earth Mama Organics



Natural Products for Pregnancy and Postpartum: Getting Clean Ingredients Without Going Broke

*This post contains affiliate links. 

clean products.png

When I was pregnant with my first daughter back in 2012, I was suddenly very aware of the chemicals around me. I was being exposed to a ton of different chemicals and fragrances, due to my job as a zookeeper and just from the typical household and bath products I had always used. 

Knowing I was pregnant and that our environment effects our growing baby, had me digging into alternative products. I needed to clean up my home and my own skin products, and I wanted to not kill my wallet in the process. 

Improving my home cleaning products was pretty simple, and I found a ton of help on Pinterest. I've found vinegar and baking soda can clean just about everything that a whole host of grocery store cleaners can, at a fraction of the cost. 

The challenge came to my own skin care and beauty products. What would work well? What will help my pregnant skin? What will keep working with changes in hormones from breastfeeding? I've compiled my favorite clean brands and their best products that I've discovered over the years. These companies have clean ingredients and can carry on into your routine through the years. 

1) Be Blends 

A local Maryland company, every ingredient is organic and some are even wild harvested. My favorite product is the facial skin set, which includes Be Cleansed oil cleanser, Rose Water Toner, and Be Restored Hydrating Facial Serum. The oil cleanser is a self-care treat, and it makes me look forward to washing my face before bed. (Typically I'm too lazy/tired to wash off my make-up at night.) Contrary to what you might think, your skin feels amazingly soft and not greasy. The Rose Water Toner is a great product for pregnant mamas experiencing dry, irritated skin. Follow it up with the Be Restored, and your skin is set. The serum is super hydrating and has healed some of the worst chapped skin I've had. (Thank you Maryland Winter.) Altogether the set is $48, and is a total steal. Bonus: you only need a small amount. My set has lasted for four months, and I still have a half bottle to spare! I made you a short video to show how oil cleansing works. (Sometimes your outfit accidently matches your friend's bathroom! ) 

For a growing mama belly, the Be Enriched Moisturizer is very nourishing, and is great for stretch marks and dry skin. 

Be Blends is working on a baby line of products, and will be opening a store front in Ellicott City soon. In the mean time, you can find them online at 

For a full in-depth look at oil cleansing check out this article written by

2) The Naked Bee Body Butter

While I was pregnant with my second daughter in 2015, I discovered this body butter while browsing at the mall. With only a few preservatives to keep it from spoiling, its 98% organic and smells amazing with scents of Orange Blossom and Honey Coconut. It was perfect to slather on my belly and tired feet. Jars can range from $10-$15 depending on the retailer. 

3) Burt's Bees

From chapstick to sunscreen, Burt's Bees is probably the easiest to grab at a local grocery store with toddler in tow. Their products skip parafins and phthalates, and can be used by everyone in the family. A chapstick will set you back only $3, and the Mama Bee Pamper Set runs at $25. 

Run to your local Target, or you can shop here:

4) Lemongrass Spa

A pop-up spa company, Lemongrass has clean products with a variety of scents and essential oils. My favorite products are the facial sugar scrubs, and they come in pomegranate and charcoal. They run about $16, but will last you for months. They also have a variety of mineral makeup products. You can contact a representative for a pop-up party or shop products at


5) Earth Mama Organics

One of my favorite companies, Earth Mama Organics recently underwent a branding change (you'll probably remember them as Earth Mama Angel Baby) . You can still find your favorite products; they'll have a new label and a simplified name. Everything is non-gmo verified, toxin-free, and they focus on helping mom's and babies feel their best. 

Earth Mama Organics carries a great line of belly oil, belly butter, chapstick, and deodorant. I adore their postpartum products, and no mama should be without the herbal perineal spray. It's heaven on stitches and hemorrhoids, and can double as facial toner when your bum is healed. They've added new castile based soaps and clean ingredient deodorants. It's a great place to get staple bath items for your household. Stock up and shop for your next baby shower gift here:

Earth Mama Angel Baby - Pregnancy

Since Earth Mama Organics such an awesome company, here is a 20% off discount on any regular order until June 30! Just enter code LivingHeartDoula at check out. 


What's your favorite natural product? Share with us in the comments! 



Self-Care Challenge: Getting Back to Basics in Caring for Ourselves


Moment of honesty and transparency here. 

We were crazy busy with work, kids, home, and just life in general. I was surviving on coffee and dry shampoo. If I got a real shower it was after the kids were in bed, and it was creeping to the 11 o'clock hour. Too often I was putting off my own care until the weekend, when hubs could watch the kids. 

I was making a list for a Target run, and was about to add another can of dry shampoo. Suddenly I thought, "Why don't you just make more time to actually wash your hair?!" While dry shampoo is awesome, and has its place in every gym bag, it shouldn't have been my main means of getting through one more day.

How did I get to a place where chores and errands took precedence over my own care? How do I get out of survival mode?

As a veteran mom of two girls, I have learned one universal truth: whatever you are going through, there is someone else also dealing with the same issue. I'm not the only parent out there dealing with a crazy schedule, and running through life on caffeine fumes. 

I decided to share this, and to change some habits by practicing some basic self care activities. When I'm especially stressed out, I check myself. Have I eaten (a real meal)? Have I washed my face? How much sleep have I been getting? 

And I adjust accordingly. I'm asking for help more often. I feel like a real person again. 

I'm taking the month of March to practice self care, and have put together a free Self-Care Challenge packet for you too! Join me in taking back our care, because let's face it. Running on empty is the pits, and is no way to live. 

How do you take time for yourself? Share with us in the comments! Also look for more self-care tips on the Living Heart Doula Facebook page ( 




Digging through the literature: Best New Baby Books (and available at your library!)

When I first thought about getting pregnant, I did what my nerd brain naturally gravitated toward: I went to the library and checked out a pile of books on every aspect of the topic.

Your local library can be a wealth of resources for your family. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of a good book?

Your local library can be a wealth of resources for your family. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of a good book?


I sifted through the old standby classics like What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, some humorous ones like Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy or Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy. Some I found really informative, others super dry, and a few became favorites.


As the years have passed, I was turned on to some great books by my doula while I was preparing for birth. Others I have come across during my training with Birth Arts International. I’m always dissecting birth and pregnancy books.

Is the language accessible and not just medical jargon? Is it up to date with evidence based practices? Which clients or friends will appreciate this particular book?


Know better, do better. 

Know better, do better. 

I’ve gathered my top 3 favorite birth and pregnancy books. The bonus: they are available for free at your local library! If it’s not available for some reason, ask your librarian. Often a book title can be requested from another library or they’ll purchase it for you. If you have a favorite birth book, consider donating a copy to your local library. It’s great to have a collection of birth literature available in your community.

1)The Mama Natural Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland

Written by YouTuber and natural parenting blogger,  Genevieve Howland, this comprehensive book covers all aspects of fertility, pregnancy, and birth. It covers all the options with prenatal testing, providers, birthing locations, etc. Having these options laid out is the definition of informed consent, and can help with decision making. It offers great natural options and nutrition options without seeming too far out there. (I can honestly say that on a personal level, I laugh when I see tofu in a pregnancy nutrition book. Not happening. Pass me that giant bowl of pasta please.) 

This is my favorite new pregnancy book. It's modern, it's accessible, and it gives a fresh take on birth. Have your support, know your options, and have the best birth you can that day. 

2) nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood- and Trusting Yourself and Your Body by Erica Chidi Cohen. 

Author Erica Chidi Cohen brings a new voice to the pregnancy and birth literature choir. Writing from the perspective of a birth and postpartum doula, she brings a compassionate conversation to the reader instead of the usual lecture you feel like you're getting (eat right, get your finances and all the things done, be happy, etc.). 

The book takes a deep dive into the emotions surrounding pregnancy and birth, and offers beautifully realistic ways of handling them. She has a strong focus on self care and mindfulness that often gets overlooked. It hits the full spectrum of care that's needed for mamas and families right on the head. 

Best part of this book: more than a third of nurture is dedicated to postpartum care of mom. Postpartum care often gets the short end of the stick. The focus is on labor and newborn care, often not bringing attention to the fact that moms get put through the ringer with birth. Moms need more than just a primer on how to use a peri bottle and nursing. Cohen helps to plan your household, and gives tips for healing and bonding with baby without chaos, but with a lot more grace. 

3) The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start by Jennifer Lang, MD. 

If you were like me during pregnancy, you spent the first several months trying decide what would stay down, or at least not be brutal if it came back up. It's survival mode. This title tackles the nutrition behind feeling better during those early weeks, and how to eat for wellness for the remainder of your pregnancy. 

Lang breaks down what to look for in a prenatal vitamin, as well as eating to tackle pregnancy issues (hello constipation) and alternatives for crazy pregnancy cravings. 

The best part are the recipes included in the book. They're easy, delicious and healthy, and several can be made while having a screaming toddler at your feet. I love a realistic take on nutrition! 

What was your favorite book when you were preparing for pregnancy and birth? Share with us below! 



Local Spotlight: Pin It Up Acupuncture with Hannah Wood Sykes

Sometimes you meet a new friend, share a deep love of Outlander, and you find out she has a really cool business! Meet Hannah of Pin It Up Acupuncture! 

Hannah is a local business owner, and mother of two. She's located in Sykesville, MD. 

Hannah is a local business owner, and mother of two. She's located in Sykesville, MD. 

How did you discover acupuncture?

I had a horse that was rearing. It was getting dangerous. I spent a year trying to figure out why and how to help him. I knew he was in pain but that was it.

A friend’s horse, that was a lunatic, was calm one day. I asked what she did, and her reply was Acupuncture. I snarfed at it, but I had tried everything else. We tried it for 6 weeks. In the middle of a New England winter. Horse was clipped and standing in cross ties. After the first needle his head dropped so low I had to pull off the ties. His head was between his knees, eyes closed, lip flapping open, and drooling by the end of it.

I figure that was not a placebo reaction and there must be something to this.

Fast forward to college, I’m planning to major in theoretical physics, but quickly figured out I would not want to work in a lab of any kind.

So I google practical application for quantum physics and acupuncture came up.

Further research and it seemed like the best of both worlds. Ground breaking research that has centuries behind it and so much to do to explain why it works; I would have a large variety of work to choose from as the field expands.

Plus it combined 2 things I liked to do: help people, and work with theoretical physics.

So now I’m licensed to treat people and animals and really enjoying it.


What benefits can you expect from an acupuncture session?

Acupuncture is really  phenomenal. Short answer is it does everything. More generalized answer is you will feel much calmer and serene after a treatment. You will be able to focus better and see things more clearly.

Acupuncture is just a tool used to remind your body how to be well. If there is a place where things are getting stuck, the acupuncturist will diagnosis through a series of tools we use, and the pins will go in to coax the body into its intended rhythm rather
than its upset one.

Stress can manifest itself as physical pain. Like migraines. Acupuncture will address the need for the energy, also called qi, to move, while I will help draw attention to things that could be causing the stress as well as ways to maintain your body post acupuncture.

How can acupuncture help during pregnancy? Labor?

Acupuncture is great for conception. So far I have 100% success rate for women wanting to get pregnant. And all of them had either been struggling with it or already doing alternative methods to conceive.

During pregnancy regular acupuncture treatments can ease morning sickness, back pain, knee pain and it can help with that strange mind fog that sets in.

Regular treatments can also help ease hormone spikes that can cause some crazy out bursts of emotions.

Acupuncture can also help turn a breech baby without being invasive. It’s all kind of amazing!

Pregnancy during labor was the best. I used 2mm long pins on adhesive tape and applied them to points used to induce labor. I had my water break early. We kept him in a few weeks longer, then on week 34 we planned to deliver. So I set myself up the night before, and when morning came I was 3cm dilated but 10am. He was out by 12:15 with only 15 minutes of that being active labor.

These pins also help to allow the sinews to stretch during birth and cause far less pain. I had him naturally, but he was also quite small

Where can we find you for a session?
I’m located at Coreworks in Columbia, as well as Merritt Athletic Club in Eldersburg. You can check our weekly schedule at

 I’m a member of Sykesville Wellness Group, and will be helping people to navigate to their needed wellness provider. You can find us at the Sykesville Farmers Market. 

You can follow Hannah on Facebook at 






Holy Moly Where Has the Time Gone: A recap of 2017 and what's coming up for 2018

Hey friends! It's been several months since I've been able to update the blog with a new post, but it's been for some of the coolest reasons. October was the start of a very busy season for my doula business. I was honored to serve at several births in October and November, as well as represent Doulas of Central Maryland at the Frederick Birth and Baby Fair, teaching at newborn care workshops, and beginning to design a postpartum planning workshop (you guys know how much I care about the postpartum period, it's a doozy that needs way more attention than we give it.) 

While on call, my phone is always in hand. Especially at night!

While on call, my phone is always in hand. Especially at night!

It was a great season with a few, "Jesus Take the Wheel," moments. I learned something new at each birth, and was really stretched at some moments. So much growth happens in hard moments, and it reminds me why I LOVE this work so much. 

So back to why there hasn't been a post in three months. I typically do all my blogging late at night after my kids and husband are asleep. It means I get blissful uninterrupted silence, but I stay up well past midnight to get it done. Staying up so late while being on call for my families just wasn't smart. I needed to get proper sleep at night, be present for my kids during the day, and let some aspects of work take the back burner for a bit. 

Now I am back and ready for the new year! I wanted to recap what I learned this year, some changes, and what's going to happen for 2018. 

Earlier this year I injured my stomach, and got a crash course in Diastasis Recti, pelvic floor issues, and the red tape that goes along with insurance and some care providers, There are tons of resources out there friends! Don't get discouraged and keep looking for help! I can now share that my DR is down to a one finger gap, and I'll be seeking out pelvic floor therapy later in the season. I'll be writing about the experience, so you guys get all the information on it. Because no one should deal with peeing when they sneeze, painful sex, or just plain pelvic pain. 

Sleeping more has been a priority. Can't take care of mamas if my eyes can't stay open. 

Sleeping more has been a priority. Can't take care of mamas if my eyes can't stay open. 

I also signed as a contractor with Deborah Bailey's doula agency, Doulas of Central Maryland (check us out here: Having a team behind me, has given new life to my doula practice. The wisdom, support, and back up of these three women have helped me to hone my skills. So what does this mean for clients coming to Living Heart Doula? You can still have me as your doula with all my support, but with the agency we can offer you more services including placenta encapsulation, belly binding, photography, and postpartum doula support. 

For the coming year, I am looking at the ways I can serve my readers and clients better. I will be adding an email newsletter to share more information, new blog posts, and find new products and services that serve pregnancy and parenting. I love the local businesses in our area, and want to share their offerings with you guys. (Who doesn't love awesome service with a friendly discount!) In these newsletters, I may  be polling and asking for feedback. What services are you looking for? What would you like from your doula services (aromatherapy vs massage)?

I am hoping to design and host more workshops this year. Postpartum planning is near and dear to my heart, so that is my starting focus for the new year.

I want to do lots and lots of blogging.  

Most of all, I want to serve my growing families and support their births. Loving on families and babies is the best. 

So tell me friends, what do you want to see from LHD this year? What are  you learning about? What are your plans for 2018? 






Diastasis Challenge Update

For the month of September I attempted a 30 day exercise challenge to heal my diastasis recti. I generally stink at making exercise a priority in my day, and thought the challenge would be a good way to start making it a daily habit. The exercises were gentle, and slowly built up in number of repetitions.


Most days I did them as soon as I got up in the morning, and I literally got it out of the way in a matter of minutes. Some days I needed to handle something with the kids, and put it off until bed time. A few times I forgot until I was climbing into bed. I got down on the floor and got it done!


About halfway through the challenge my belly started hurting. Not in a way that was telling me I was just exercising muscles that hadn’t worked in a while, but that something was still strained.


I’m back to the drawing board. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, as much as I’d like to will my body to. For now, I’m working on posture, walking and hiking more. When I can I’m doing low rep gentle exercises for the pelvic floor and transverse abdominal. Some of these include heal slides, toe taps, and bridges.


The former 20-something gym rat in me is rolling her eyes. But in reality, this body is not the same.

One step at a time. 

One step at a time. 


I’m treating it gently this time around.


What are your goals? How do you heal, patiently?



When Postpartum Recovery is Hard: 4 Ways to Get Healing Back on Track

Postpartum is one of the hardest periods of life in my opinion. My body felt like I had been hit by a truck, I had stitches in tender places, and I hadn’t slept in days (sleeping in the hospital was impossible for me). 

I felt so depleted. The tears flowed easily as I tried to figure out my newborn, motherhood, and healing. 

Sometimes we begin to heal and experience set backs, like new bleeding, mastitis, and depression. 

What can we do when recovery is hard and overwhelming?


1)      Get in bed. And stay there.

One of our biggest issues with postpartum healing is doing too much too soon. We do chores, lift toddlers, or entertain well meaning guests. The best thing you could do is get into bed with baby, nurse, and sleep. Have your partner bring food, take away dishes, and maintain the household outside of your bedroom. 

Keep supplies for baby, as well as yourself (think nursing pads, medications, tissues, diapers, wipes, and onesies. A waste basket can be kept handy. Set up Netflix or your favorite book series on kindle. If you feel the need to leave your room, go lay on the couch. 

Keep in mind you have a 9” wound in your uterus from where your placenta detached. That's the size of a dinner plate. If you had a visible wound that size, you wouldn’t be vacuuming. Some births may have been by cesarean, causing even further healing time. Be gentle on yourself!

Stay horizontal, and rest. Your uterus with thank you. 

Stay horizontal, and rest. Your uterus with thank you. 

2)      Stay hydrated and nourished. 

When our hands are full juggling a baby and all their needs, we can neglect common things like feeding ourselves and making sure we are drinking fluids. 

Once partners return to work and moms are alone with baby, we can quickly bypass our own needs to our detriment. 

With my first daughter, I’d get stuck underneath her, either nursing or napping, for hours. I remember days I wouldn’t get breakfast until 3pm. I’d make myself a massive plate and inhale it. Skipping meals and not getting enough fluids not only makes you feel awful, but can negatively affect milk supply. 

Keep water bottles and easy open snacks all around the house, but especially in your main resting area.

Eat and drink, Repeat. You need fuel for healing and making milk. 

Eat and drink, Repeat. You need fuel for healing and making milk. 


3)      Check in with your care provider.

After your baby is born, your next appointment isn’t for six weeks.  The postpartum check up is sorely lacking. It’s usually a wam-bam-your-cervix-is-closed-you’re-healed-you-can-have-sex-now appointment. Take time with your provider to really address your healing. As consumers, we should be demanding more. 

If you’re having abnormal bleeding, clots larger than a golf ball, or you are not feeling well physically or emotionally, check in with your provider. Don’t feel you have to suffer until your six week check up. 


          4)      Ask for help.

This may be the most difficult. Sometimes we don’t have family nearby. Friends offer to help with the usual,” Let me know if you need anything.”

Sometimes we aren’t even sure what we need to begin with, or we feel guilty asking. There’s the looming pressure to know what we are doing, and to be able to handle it all. 

Yet we see, hear and read about the need for, “the village,” that our current generation is lacking. For the village to exist, we must start utilizing what support system we have. This may mean sharing our vulnerabilities with friends, reaching out to strangers on Facebook groups, or joining the next Le Leche League meeting. 

Take this time for yourself and your family. You don't have to do it all, and you shouldn't. 

Take this time for yourself and your family. You don't have to do it all, and you shouldn't. 

Ask for meals to be brought. For someone to walk the dog. Ask friends to take an older sibling to the park to play. If someone comes to visit, ask them to bring some extra witch hazel. 

It’s okay to need help. Set aside any expectations that don’t include healing and bonding with your new baby.


What helped during your postpartum healing? What would you have done differently? Share your stories with us in the comments. 

















Cloth Diapers: Where to start, what to try

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my doula introduced us to cloth diapering. She had shown us some varieties, and explained how it could save us financially in the long run. Money was tight, and was about to become tighter once I left my job to stay home. I added a bunch of varieties of cloth diapers to our registry, and dove in with the help of the internet and a local natural baby store.


Four years later, and I’m still cloth diapering with my second daughter. I’ve learned a lot over the years!


Here’s how to get started and some pointers on how to care for your diapers.


1)      There are tons of varieties to choose from

When it comes to cloth diapers everyone thinks of flats and baby pins with rubber pants. 

These days you still have prefolds and flats, but you can use a dandy little contraption called a snappy to hold it in place. No more poking fingers or babies. In place of rubber pants, there are snapping or Velcro covers made of PUL (polyurethane laminate) to protect from leaks. 

Next up are pocket diapers. These go on just like a typical diaper (no folding involved like a prefold), but include snaps or Velcro closures. The PUL makes up majority of the diaper with cotton or minky in the center. The back of the diaper has an opening to stuff in inserts for absorbency, and can be varied. Inserts can be made of various material, including cotton, hemp, or bamboo. These come in cute patterns, and can be bought in a variety of sizes or adjustable fit. 

All-in-ones go on like a regular diaper, no folding or stuffing. Use, wash, repeat. They are probably the easiest to use, but are a more expensive option for your stash compared to prefolds. 


2)      How do I pick? Which kind will work for us?

This is the hardest part. My advice is to try a few of each kind, and see what works for you and your baby. 

I like that flats and prefolds are economical, easy to stash and strip, and I only need a few covers to diaper full time. Pockets have cute prints and are easier for my husband or babysitter to put on. All-in-ones are easy, but I find they were difficult to strip over time (more on stripping later). 

Usually we used prefolds for newborn stage, and pockets going forward into infancy.

The best thing about cloth diapers is that they resale really well when taken care of. You can buy lightly used diapers to see if they work for your little one. If they don’t work out? You can sell them, and move on to the next variety.


3)      How do I care for my diapers?

There is a learning curve at the beginning with cloth diapers, but then it’s just as easy as doing an extra load of laundry every few days once you get the hang of it.


Some things you’ll need:

Trash can with a lid/diaper pail

Large and medium size wet bag

Wet bags are great for traveling, and can continue to be used even when you're done diapering. I love them for swim suits or clothing storage in the car. 

Wet bags are great for traveling, and can continue to be used even when you're done diapering. I love them for swim suits or clothing storage in the car. 

Cloth safe detergent (no dyes, no fragrances, etc. I recommend Charlie’s or Country Save)

Do not use commercial diaper rash  creams while baby is in a cloth diaper! This will cause build up in diapers, causing them to stink and become water repellent (causing tons of leaks). If you need to use a cream, make sure you use a liner. It can be cloth or disposable, but puts a barrier between the diaper and cream.

 Whenever possible dry your diapers in the sun, laying flat. This will protect the elastic, and sunshine helps to remove stains. If you ever need to use your drier, follow the drying directions for your brand of diaper. Some are fine to put in the drier with heat, but others will wind up with cracks in the PUL, ruining your diapers. 

When diapers become soiled put them in the diaper pail or wet bag if you are away from home. If baby is eating solids, you’ll need to rinse off any poop into the toilet. I suggest using a diaper sprayer. It easily attaches to the water line of your toilet, and can double as a cold water bidet. 

Washing routines will vary, depending on your washer. I use a top loader. We do a hot wash cycle, followed by a cold wash cycle with detergent. We finish up with two extra rinses. It’s important to get all the detergent out of your diapers to avoid build up. 

I always use the maximum amount of water I can for each load of diapers. Even if the diapers only fill the washing machine halfway, I still use the, “High” setting. Having enough water for your diapers to tumble in and rinse through will ensure they get properly cleaned.


4)      When to strip your diapers

Stripping diapers refers to removing excess build up of minerals or detergent. If your diapers have a strong ammonia smell, are causing rashes, or are leaking, it may be time to strip your diapers. These issues are caused by hard water, too much detergent, and often just regular use.


There are several ways to strip diapers depending on what kind you have:

Flats/prefolds: boil in a large pot on the stove top, usually about 10 minutes. Dry in the sunshine.

Pockets: can be stripped by washing with blue Dawn in a sink or washing machine. In a washing machine you don’t want to add more than a tablespoon or two of blue Dawn to wash a cycle. You can guess what the agitator would do with that many bubbles.


For all diapers you can use commercial stripping agents like RLR or Grovia Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment. You simply put the powder over clean wet diapers in the wash cycle. A few extra rinses and your cloth diapers are stripped. This is my preferred method, unless I’m storing my diapers for long term, then I opt for boiling or sunning.


Lay diapers flat to dry on a laundry rack, over the shower rod, or an a sheet on the lawn in the sun (I’m sure my HOA loves me). Laying them flat versus hanging by the ends prevents the water weight from pulling the elastic of the diaper. The pulling will lead to the elastic wearing out, causing leaks and shortening the lifespan of your diapers.

Sunning your diapers is great for stains and any odors. However, do not hang them like this. Your elastic will be shot after a few times, and you'll be spending time and money to have your diapers repaired. 

Sunning your diapers is great for stains and any odors. However, do not hang them like this. Your elastic will be shot after a few times, and you'll be spending time and money to have your diapers repaired. 


Do you have any cloth diaper questions? Concerns?











Diastasis Recti: Things to try and Resources

So back in March I had strained my stomach muscles while carrying in my daughter from the car. I had ignored my diastasis recti (DR, separation of abdominal muscles) and weakened core muscles from my pregnancies, and paid the price.


That injury set me back a lot. I couldn’t baby wear my toddler. I had difficulty cleaning my house, specifically vacuuming. I had to slow down physically which is extremely difficult for me. (Please don’t make me ask for help!)

Nope, I'm good really. I got it...

Nope, I'm good really. I got it...


I had started looking online for help when my care provider couldn’t offer me any answers. Here are my three favorites:

·         Sarah Elis Duvall of

She has great workout programs and free workshops with in-depth information. Her newsletters have great tips on postures and simple solutions to build up your pelvic floor and core strength.


·         Beyond fit mom ( has several blogs and workouts geared towards correcting DR. Also included is information on pelvic floor issues, because unfortunately the two can go hand in hand. If the pelvic floor is weak you need to take extra care in building that first. The site includes a 30 day diastasis recti challenge to help kickstart healing. You can find it here:

·         Diastasis Recti: The Whole -Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation by Katy Bowman.

Written by a biomechanist, this book gives great insight into how the body develops DR, and how we can heal from this condition without surgery and spot treatments. By correcting our misalignments, changing how we move, and exercises specific for correcting a host of issues alongside DR (weak pelvic floor, lower back pain, hip flexor tightness, etc.).



Initially after my injury I began wearing a belly support band. It seemed to help with posture and keeping my core engaged. However, it was constantly rising, shifting around, and being generally a nuisance to wear. I wore it faithfully for a month, before relegating it to only when I was doing something strenuous like vacuuming (it’s so sad for me to type this) or days where I was picking up and holding my toddler alot. I had to ease back into my normal activities, and often I was sore afterwards.


Whenever I had over exerted myself or was just having an extra painful day, I treated myself with arnica (topically and internally) and lemongrass essential oil. Arnica is a homeopathic medicine for trauma, bruising, and swelling. Lemongrass essential oil is known for helping with inflamed tendons. I also would ice my stomach or take ibuprofen on rough days.


I have had to learn my new limits with this injury, and go slow with my recovery.


I returned to somewhat normal functionality around five months later. I can now haul my vacuum up and down the stairs without being in pain.


My gap was close to three fingers, and is now reduced to two. I think posture, belly breathing, and the belly band has been the start to healing my DR. I struggle with making exercise a priority, and am hoping to correct that.

Definitely not me. I'd be in pain. And probably on the side of the road catching my breath. A girl can dream though right? She looks so calm. She's owning this road. I need to own my body again. 

Definitely not me. I'd be in pain. And probably on the side of the road catching my breath. A girl can dream though right? She looks so calm. She's owning this road. I need to own my body again. 


 I will be completing the 30-day challenge from Beyond Fit Mom starting September 1. I’m hoping that having a short daily regimen will help me get into a routine. I’ll keep you posted!


Are you healing postpartum? Share with us!




Upside down: Breech birth and the rabbit hole that is informed consent

Recently a friend shared her awesome birth story with me, and graciously allowed me to post it to the blog. Her baby was breech, and she was facing an unwanted cesarean. In the end, she had an experienced provider and a fast labor that allowed her to birth vaginally.

The thing is, the story is so exceptional. These days it's difficult to find a provider experienced and willing to deliver a breech vaginally. Why? In looking for research, I couldn't count the number of resources that kept saying it's too dangerous. But why is it dangerous? I found even fewer resources who were willing to spell out the risks.

Cesarean sections are life saving and can be necessary for breech babies. But when do they take the place of attempting vaginally? What are the options?

Cesarean sections are life saving and can be necessary for breech babies. But when do they take the place of attempting vaginally? What are the options?

If you cannot find all the facts to educate yourself on a major decision for your birth, are you really getting to make that decision at all? Is it really informed consent? Or has your provider made the decision for you? Have the insurance companies hamstrung our care?

In my last pregnancy, my daughter was breech at 37 weeks, and my OB was skeptical of her turning. (You can read her birth story and how she was turned by scrolling below.) When I asked why breech delivery was such a big deal, my doctor replied, "We used to do this all the time. What's changed is how insurance covers us as practitioners, hospital policies, and how we view these types of births."

So where do you go to find the full scope of information on breech birth? I've compiled a list of resources for you!

1) American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (                                               When in doubt, go to the source of the entity that creates guidelines for OBGYN providers. While we are seeing a large gap in what is recommended and what is practiced, this will help you discuss directly with your provider. It gives guidelines for when a vaginal breech can be attempted, or indicators for when a cesarean may be necessary. (

2) Coalition for Breech Birth (                                                                                         Both the website and Facebook group are a wealth of resources, including a depth of published research studies and resource links for everything from breech birth videos, turning a breech baby, and chiropractic care. 

3) Spinning Babies (                                                                                                Founder Gail Tully discusses physiological components that can attribute to a breech birth and the means of correction. She also fully explains the risks with breech birth, and when cesarean may be more appropriate. The issue of providers being able to keep hands off the breech baby as its born, or not being skilled enough in the case of a trapped head or nuchal arms, is what seems to be the biggest risk. It's not so much the presentation of baby, but the loss of education in handling emergencies.

4) Ina May Gaskin                                                                                                                                      I love Ina May Gaskin. Her books are a wealth of knowledge for midwifery, birth and the art of birth stories. She wrote an article for Peggy O'Mara's website, focused on natural living, mothering, and social justice. Ina May expands on the history of the policies regarding breech birth, as well as the changes in provider skills and care. It's a great read, and you can find it here: ( 


Know your options. Have a supportive and experienced team. Have the best birth you can. 

Know your options. Have a supportive and experienced team. Have the best birth you can. 

These are my top four resources when researching breech birth. These four will keep you reading and falling down the rabbit hole like I have for the last month. When there is so much information to consider, take your time and have open conversation with your care provider. Finding all the facts is just one aspect of informed consent, but may the most important. 

Do you have another resource to share? Was your baby breech?