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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.

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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) Takethemameal.com - 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.

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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?







 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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. 

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          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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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. 

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 www.coreexercisesolutions.com

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 (beyondfitmom.com) 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:

       http://beyondfitmom.com/how-to-heal-your-diastasis-recti/

·         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!

 

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Self-Care: A Case for Taking Care of Mom

It was a Thursday, and everyone in my house woke up on the wrong side of the bed. My oldest was whining, the baby was throwing herself on the floor in epic fashion. I was just done. I wasn't about to try to muddle through the mess that day. I texted a friend and we made plans to head to the aquarium in Baltimore for the day. (We had a membership; a thoughtful present from the grandparents!)

 

Our escape plan turned our day around. No more tantrums. No more whining. Just fun with friends and fish.

When in doubt, get out of the house!

When in doubt, get out of the house!

 

Both girls fell asleep on the car ride home. I pulled up to our house and began to unload the car. I picked up my sleeping four-year-old, thinking, "How did this girl get so dang heavy?!" and didn't think anything of it. I laid her on the couch, and went back for her sister. The rest of our evening was normal.

 

And then I woke up the next morning with a painful and swollen stomach. What did I do?!

 

I had ignored a big problem, that's what I did. After my second baby was born, I was sure I had a wide diastasis recti (gap in the abdominal muscles, DR) and was very weak in my back and core. I would struggle to sit up from a laying position. Any abdominal muscle strength I had was gone. I had asked my OB to check my stomach at my six-week appointment, and all he could tell me was that I didn't have a hernia. No guidance on what to do for the gap in my muscles, regaining any strength in my core, and recovery for my pelvic floor.

 

I knew I needed to exercise. I needed to heal this body that was battered by my pregnancies. But where was the time? Kids had to come first. Then errands. Who else would clean our house? I needed to get work done towards certification. I was too tired by the time the kids were in bed.

 

 I continually added to the forever growing list of reasons to put off dealing with me.

 

Until I hurt myself.

 

I couldn’t pick up my 18-month old. I couldn’t vacuum. I needed to rest until I could get in to make sure I hadn’t given myself a hernia. I hid in my bedroom for the weekend and rested. It felt so odd, but so good. I hadn’t been sleeping well for months, and the extra rest paid dividends. I added some arnica and essential oils in to my recovery. Ordered an abdominal brace in the hopes it'd be helpful.

My four year old snapped this while playing on my phone. I was resting on the couch, and couldn't help clutching my stomach. I hurt. Badly.

My four year old snapped this while playing on my phone. I was resting on the couch, and couldn't help clutching my stomach. I hurt. Badly.

 

Jump ahead: two doctor visits and an ultrasound later there was no detectable hernia. But they also couldn’t tell me why I was in so much pain and why I looked 5 months pregnant.  I also couldn’t get in to the physical therapy I was hoping for unless I did more testing. The results would determine if I could get in or not. I may have normal test results, which would exclude me from the therapy, even with the issues I had. Dude, totally lame.

 

I have taken matters into my own capable hands, and started finding tons of moms like me who have healed their bodies. They are on YouTube with awesome videos for healing diastasis recti and strengthening weak pelvic floors. I do my best to get in gentle and DR safe yoga every day. Even if it means the kids are crawling on me and dishes are undone. It makes my inner OCD twitchy, but I must keep in mind that my self-care needs to be a priority. If I am broken and hurting, I cannot serve my family. If I am exhausted and run down, my family feels that too.

What you want exercise with your kids to be like...

What you want exercise with your kids to be like...

What exercise with your kids actually looks like. Blurry cell phone photo, messy living room, and I am attempting to do pelvic floor exercises with my kids around. Mom on the floor = jungle gym.

What exercise with your kids actually looks like. Blurry cell phone photo, messy living room, and I am attempting to do pelvic floor exercises with my kids around. Mom on the floor = jungle gym.

I have been neglecting my own care, and have been trying to rectify that, even beyond the injury. Even just keeping in mind things like, have you washed your face? Read a book? Used essential oils today? All things that keep me grounded and take care of the introvert in me.

 

I’ll be writing and sharing more about healing my belly in the weeks to come. How do you take care of you, while caring for others?

 

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Baby Wearing: The Ins and Outs

When I was pregnant with my first baby, my doula and friend, Julie,  introduced me to baby wearing. She bought me a Boba as a shower gift, and let me borrow her Maya wrap. Baby wearing keeps your baby close to you, which is great for bonding, nursing, and generally surviving life with a baby. My babies would nap, nurse, enjoy the scenery as we walked the dog, and enjoy being, “held”, as I cleaned the house. Some days it was seriously how I managed to do anything!

 

I learned a lot about different carriers through the years, and through a lot of test runs have figured out what works for me and also for each individual child. Here's the skinny on each type of carrier, with some tips for each kind as well.

Ring sling: Made of large cloth swatches, secured with two metal, plastic, or bamboo rings.  These are great for fast in and out, and are great for hip carries. The only down side is you kind of feel like you need to keep a hand on baby, so you aren't totally hands free. It's much easier to use with an older baby that has head and neck control, but can still be used with a newborn. Slings have  a bit of a learning curve at first, and I needed help with getting started and fixing my sling when the fabric would get bunched.  

Ring Sling: Hip carries take the weight off of moms arms and core. 

Ring Sling: Hip carries take the weight off of moms arms and core. 

 

Soft structured carriers (Ergo, Boba, and Tula): Soft structured carriers (SSC) are generally easy to wear, adjust to almost all body types, and can be worn on the front or on the back as baby gets larger. These are great for baby naps, and allow your hands to be completely free. With a SSC you want to look for one with wide berth for hips; this prevents hip issues as baby grows and takes strain away from their back, unlike typical front facing carriers (bjorns). SSC can be used with newborns with special inserts depending on the brand. Ergo sells a newborn insert for their specific carrier, allowing it to be used from birth through toddler hood.

 

Soft wraps (Moby, K’tan): Best used during the early newborn weeks, wraps are soft and snuggly, and are great for naps, walks, etc. Your hands can be completely free, and with a little adjustment you can nurse while wrapped. It may take a few viewings on YouTube to get the wrapping right. A few styles of wrapping let you set up the wrap beforehand, so your wrap becomes an extra accessory. Bonus! The K’tan comes in different sizes. I'd suggest trying one out at your local natural baby store first.

 

Soft stretchy wraps work well up to 18 lbs, but are uncomfortable any heavier. Move onto a woven wrap or SSC after you're done with the Moby.

Moby Wrap: Front carries are cozy and can be pre-wrapped.

Moby Wrap: Front carries are cozy and can be pre-wrapped.

 

Woven wraps: These babies are the Cadillac of baby wearing. Super versatile, comfy for mom and baby. And. So. Beautiful! However, there's a catch. These wraps come with a hefty price tag, and there's a lot to learn about wrapping. My kids were always too wiggly and wanting up and down all the time for me to even be tempted to wrap. But by god, do I want one just because they are so stinking pretty!

Woven wrap: Lenny Lamb brand. Look how cool this is!

Woven wrap: Lenny Lamb brand. Look how cool this is!

 

 As with all the carriers, consider them an investment. They will last you through multiple children, and majority retain their resale value. If cost is prohibitive, buy used! (The straps will be soft and broken in.) Utilize your baby registry as well!

 

A few rules to remember when baby wearing:

1)      Chin is away from the chest. This ensures that the airway is open.

2)      Baby should be high enough that you can kiss the top of their head. Too low, baby could fall.

3)      Always keep buckles and straps done tightly. Wraps should always be secured with a double knot.

4)      Wait to wear baby on your back until they have good head and neck control.

Keep your babies close, and enjoy your carrier!

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A Postpartum Checklist: Planning Ahead for a Better Recovery

There's a thing about birth that other moms don't tell you about. Recovery can be hard. You're sore and possibly torn in your most sensitive spots, your organs are rearranging themselves after pregnancy, and odds are pretty good that you haven't had more than a few hours sleep at a time for days. Not to mention nursing, trying to maintain your household and take care of any older siblings too. This period can be really hard, and we don't always have family and friends around to help out.

Planning and preparing for post postpartum in the last months of pregnancy can make a huge difference in the time spent resting and healing versus stressing over the to do list.

Here are my favorite tips:

Food:

  • Stock your freezer with extra meals that can be thrown in the crock pot or oven. (Ask friends to set up a meal train or have people bring freezer meals as a part of your baby shower!)
  • Stock snacks that are shelf stable and nutritious. (Trail mix, protein bars, granola bars, muffins.) Bonus points if it can be eaten with one hand.
  • Bottles of water or good cups with straws for easy access during nursing. Keep them stashed around the house!

Healing items for mama:

  •  Rice bag or heating pad for after pains. (And its true what they say, after pains get stronger after each baby!)
  • Witch hazel (Add to your Peri bottle to soothe angry tissue and stitches. You can use to make your own cooling pads, or you can purchase Tucks.)
  • Lavender essential oil. Add to the Peri bottle when you rinse, and the oil will help to heal any tears and help prevent infection.
  • Aloe, straight from an aloe plant! Will help sooth stitches. (Can you tell I've dealt with some nasty tearing?)
  • A boppy  pillow or hemorrhoid ring, because sitting on your sore bottom can be torture. As often as you can, lay down. Nurse on your side lying down or reclined. If you need to sit up for visits, don't be afraid to keep them short.
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby has a great line of products, including Happy Bottom spray, Postpartum Bath Herbs, and nipple cream. I loved them with my second baby! The bottom spray was heaven on stitches, and  the bath herbs can pull double duty. Save the liquid for your Peri bottle and use the herbal pack as a warm or cold compress, or use as a typical sitz bath.
  •  Padsicles! Ice packs feel awesome in those first swollen days and a padsicle can help with both swelling and irritation. Check out this recipe here: http://just-making-noise.com/pregnancy-notes-soothing-postpartum-pads-recipe/
  • If you had your placenta encapsulated, break those babies out! They'll start to help with healing and replacing lost nutrients.
  • Have extra large granny panties, in dark colors, because leaks are bound to happen. I suggest having a larger size to accommodate the large pads and ice packs in the early days after birth.
  • Have super comfy jammies. I had no shame and bought extra large sweat pants. I just needed comfort and room to heal; I really didn't care about being cute. (I may still have some of these in my drawer. A girl has to hold on to some things for a Maryland winter.)

Nursing:

  • Have some nursing tanks on hand, but in my humble opinion hold off on buying nursing bras until baby is born and nursing is established. I was shocked by how much my breasts changed. We are talking three cup sizes! Wait and see what your milk does before you go to the trouble of buying bras.
  • Have a good breast pump and parts ready to roll. You don't want to be sterilizing parts while engorged. (Ask me how I know.) if you're using a pump from a previous baby, ask for new parts from your hospital. My lactation consultant gave me a bag with new tubing, flanges, etc. for free! This is also a good time to make sure bottles, nipples and pacifiers are cleaned and ready for use.
  • This is where all the food prep will come in handy! Eat and a drink a ton, more than you think you might need to. Your body is doing a lot of work in repairing and also making milk for baby.

For Baby:

  • Besides all the usual items for baby, I suggest having a carrier or wrap for those newborn days. I love the maya wrap or a ring sling to help keep them snuggled while you keep your hands free.
  • Sleeping arrangements for baby to be close by, whether in a co-sleeper, bassinet, or pack n play, keep baby in the room with you. Everyone will sleep easier.

For the home:

  • Netflix. If you don't have it already, do it. There will be days where you will be nursing the baby non-stop on the couch. Binge watch and rest!
  •  Set up baby station baskets around the house. Any where you'll be spending time with baby, but also in places like your bedroom. Include a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, easy open  snacks, bottle of water, breast pads, toy/book to entertain an older sibling, and a magazine or book for you. I often found myself, “stuck”, under a nursing and napping baby while starving and thirsty. Having these in reach made things very easy. I felt like I had anything I could need within easy reach, without having to go up and down stairs for items. I seriously just used whatever baskets I had on hand around the house.

What was helpful for your family in the weeks following birth?

 

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Why You Should Hire an Encapsulator

After my first birth my body felt like it was hit by a truck. My muscles were achy, my belly was rubbery, and I was nursing a pretty bad tear. The baby blues were strong. I cried at the drop of a hat; looking at my beautiful Elena, thinking about how hard the birth was, how much I loved my husband for helping. I was overwhelmed with it all. Time went on, my body recovered and we managed to survive our first stent as parents.

 

I learned how consuming placenta can help in postpartum recovery, it can lessen the hormonal baby blues, help with milk production, help replace the nutrients lost in birth, and help the body to heal any trauma/injury. I was determined that with my next birth, I’d make the postpartum period better. I'd rest more instead of entertaining visitors, I'd make awesome witch hazel pads for healing, and I'd get my placenta encapsulated.

 

Fast forward two more years. I'm pregnant with my second baby and getting close to my due date. I was getting things in line for the birth. Cloth diapers prepped? Check. Doula set up and birth plan ready? Check. Postpartum supplies? Check. Placenta encapsulation? Oops! Somehow it fell to the bottom of my prepping list to check out my local encapsulators and get everything lined up. When I finally got around to it, we were a few weeks out from the birth, and our budget was looking tight. I felt like it was out of reach to hire out, but I'd heard of other crunchy mamas doing it themselves. How hard could it be right?

 

I did a little digging around (thank you google and Pinterest), and had my instructions pretty well laid out. I could totally handle cleaning my placenta and drying it out. Putting it in the capsules was going to be time consuming, but no huge deal right? Positive attitude all around! My hubs did tell me I was on my own on this one. Handling bodily organs isn't his thing. I felt totally confident I could handle it.

 

Sophia was born September 7, 2015, Labor Day. You can read her birth story below. Her birth was awesome, super peaceful and empowering. But I tore really badly. Yet again. I was in a lot of pain coming home from the hospital, and was looking for relief.  I was super excited to sleep in my own bed, and snuggle with my newborn.

Sophie is here!

Sophie is here!

 

But I had to deal with my placenta.

 

So in the fog of newborn haze, with a broken yoni, I stood at my kitchen counter with my placenta and supplies. It was the last thing on earth I wanted to do. I had a huge placenta too, that baby would have made a year’s worth of happy placenta pills. I started cleaning it and getting it into slivers. And it was taking me forever.

(Photos Courtesy of The Nurturing Root, Carmen Calvo)

I wish I could say I powered through and got it done. But I didn't. Instead I took a handful of my placenta slivers and saved them in the freezer and buried the rest of my placenta under a mulberry tree out back. Instead of encapsulating, I just used a small sliver of placenta in a berry smoothie. I had to tell myself it was going to help me, and I chugged it down. I couldn't taste it! Nothing gross, and I can happily report it helped with my baby blues. Not nearly as bad as the first round. I only used the slivers a few more times, and just kept the rest in the freezer on standby.

 

So what did I learn?

 

Take the time to hire someone to do this job for you! It's a big job, time consuming and needing attention to detail. Save your energy for the squishy newborn and wild toddler.

 

Photo Courtesy of The Nurturing Root, Carmen Calvo

Photo Courtesy of The Nurturing Root, Carmen Calvo

I'd like to share the business information of our local encapsulators, so you can encapsulate your next placenta:

 

Eimile Hannes

Helping Hannes Doula

http://www.helpinghannesdoula.com/

 

Brittany Hotem

Northern Maryland Doulas

http://www.northernmarylanddoulas.com/

 

Deborah Bailey

Doulas of Central Maryland

http://doulasofcentralmaryland

 

Carmen calvo

The Nurturing Root

Http://www.thenurturingroot.com

 

 

And for more in depth information on placenta consumption:

http://placentabenefits.info/articles.asp

http://www.mamanatural.com/why-eat-your-own-placenta/

http://www.placentawise.com/

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