postpartum

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

Sound of Music (1965) Julie Andrews

If you have tried creating a baby registry lately, you have probably noticed that there are an overwhelming number of baby products.

So what do you actually need for your little one?

The truth is, that it is really hard to know what your little one will actually like before he or she is actually here. You might find that that swing, pacifier, or swaddle that you thought you needed is never used by your little one. You might find that the stroller that your friend raved about just doesn’t quite fit in the trunk of your car. What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for others. With that in mind, I still wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite products.

These are the things that have made my life easier in the fourth trimester: 

Haakaa silicone breast pump

The Haakaa is unlike any other pump I have ever used. First there is the price point. At under $20, this is something that I thought would be worth it even if I only used it for a couple weeks. I was under the impression that the Haakaa just caught the milk that would otherwise leak out of the other side while I was nursing. Although that is largely true, just squeezing it a bit more will create a suction that pulls more milk out. I started using the Haakaa when I was about a week postpartum. I was quite engorged, particularly on one side, and my little one was having trouble latching on. I suctioned the Haakaa to the engorged side and sat down to feed my little one on the other side. By the time he was done with that side I had 3 ounces in the Haakaa and he was able to latch on to the other side. I started using the Haakaa for the first couple feedings of the day and it didn’t take long before I realized that I was starting to have a nice stockpile in my freezer. I wouldn’t say that the Haakaa replaces the electric pump. I haven’t had any luck using it without my baby nursing on the opposite side. It wouldn’t do me any good if I had to pump at work and it certainly isn’t discreet. It is, however, a game changer for those of us that find ourselves leaking or engorged. 

Aden and Anais knotted gown

There are a lot of opinions on what kind of baby pajamas are the best. The options are generally snaps, zippers, or gowns. I judge all of them on how easy it is to change diapers in the middle of the night. I love the ease of a gown, but I often find that my little one ends up with cold little feet. The knotted gown solves this issue. You literally just tie a knot in the bottom of the extra long gown and those cute little feet are kept warm inside the super soft pajamas. The only downside to this gown is that Aden and Anais only makes it in a 0-3 month size. I was very sad when my little guy outgrew it.

Halo Sleepsack Swaddle

 Swaddling a baby can help to sooth them and makes it less likely that they will wake up due to their startle reflex. Although you can certainly swaddle a baby in a blanket, it makes me nervous to leave them unattended with blankets. My oldest was like Huidini and no matter how well we swaddled him he would always work his way out of it. With my second and third I discovered swaddlers that had snaps or velcro to keep them secure. I have several different brands, but the Halo is my favorite. Halo’s genius design includes a zipper that appears to be upside down. The benefit of that is that you can leave your little one swaddled while you change their diaper. They make these sleepsack swaddles in a few different fabrics so you can pick something warmer or lighter depending on your needs. I also have Halo Sleepsacks (without the attached swaddles) in several sizes. These are perfect for keeping little ones warm when they are still too young to have loose blankets 

Reusable breast pads  

If you are breastfeeding you will probably need to have some kind of breast pads. At 3 months postpartum I leak a lot less than I did at 3 weeks, but I still find that I need to wear the pads in my bra. I still leak a bit from my right side while breastfeeding my little one on my left. I also will occasionally leak if I hear him (or sometimes other babies) crying. Although there are disposable options, it seems silly when they are so easy to wash. I have bought them from Target, but I prefer to support small businesses. You can absolutely find great reusable pads on Etsy, but my favorite are from Goddess Homemaker, a Michigan woman that also happens to make absolutely adorable baby clothes. How many you will need will depend on how much you leak and how often you want to do laundry. I have six pairs and it works well for me.

Evenflo EveryStage DLX

I do a lot of research on car seats and I have found that most people have strong opinions about the best seats. With my first two I had one of those infant bucket seats that everyone seems to get. There are a lot of benefits to being able to quickly remove the car seat from your car, but it just isn’t something that I did that often. I do a lot of babywearing and my car seat stayed in the car 90% of the time. When I realized that most convertible seats can hold a newborn as small as 5 pounds, I decided to skip the newborn seat with baby number 3. So far the only time that I have found this inconvenient is at restaurants. I have become really good at either eating while holding a baby or laying him on a blanket in the booth. When he can sit in a high chair this won’t be an issue any more. The EveryStage DLX has been wonderful. It quickly adjusts the height, so that in 3 seconds I can make it fit my friend’s three year old. The DLX is so easy to install that I am confident that my 8 year old could get a secure fit. I am hoping that I will be able to keep my son rear facing in this seat for at least a couple years in this seat. There are so many car seat options out there. I highly recommend finding a local store with knowledgeable staff that can help you work through the options that fit your car and your family best.  

Arms Reach Co-sleeper Mini

This is the best bassinet that we have found for our family. Two things about the design work very well for us. First of all, it securely attaches to the bed. This means that no matter how much I lean on it or trip getting out of bed. I will never tip this bed over. Secondly, the side of it can be lowered so that you can easily reach over and grab your hungry baby to feed him/her at night. This is a huge improvement from a traditional bassinet which I found awkward to reach into in the middle of the night. I suspect that the regular size co-sleeper would allow your little one to remain in it a bit longer, but the smaller footprint of the mini size co-sleeper works well for us. At 3 months old, my little guy is still doing well in the mini, but we will probably have to move him to his crib within the next month. 

Wrap-strap Meh Dai

It is no secret that I am a babywearer. My babies have been worn in just about every carrier out there. In the first 3 months of this little one’s life he has been in a woven wrap, a Moby, a Wrapsody Hybrid, a couple different ring slings, and a HopTye (a meh dai made by the German wrap manufacturer Hoppediz). The HopTye is by far my husband’s carrier of choice. It is soft, flexible, and there are no straps that need to be adjusted. It is also extremely comfortable. I can wear my little guy in this carrier for hours without it affecting my back at all. No matter how you choose to wear your baby, it allows you to meet their needs while also having your hands free to take care of your own needs. For me this means that I can grocery shop, play with my older sons, and feed myself while my little guy naps on my chest. The other big advantage of this carrier style is that this carrier that is working so well in these early days will also work on my back when he gets older and should be able to comfortably support him when he is a toddler. I got a great deal on this carrier on the second hand market, but they aren’t the only manufacturer of this style. Two others that I like a lot are Fidella and Didymos. I have a lot of experience and opinions about baby carriers. If you want help finding the right carrier for your family, consider setting up a babywearing consultation in your home or visiting a local babywearing group.

I hope that my list of my seven favorite baby products is helpful for you. Although some of the things I have came from reading a ton of reviews and asking a lot of questions, the majority has just been trial and error. Some things that I painstakingly bought (like our stroller) we have never really used. Other things, like the Co-Sleeper, were gifts we didn’t think we needed that have now become staples in our lives. You will find the things that work best for you.

Just remember that the only things your baby absolutely needs are love, warmth, and milk. Everything else is just to make your life a little easier.

 

NEW YEAR’S WISHES

We’re in the home stretch everybody! We have less than 48 hours of 2019 left and we’re heading full speed into the new decade. 🎉🎉

Around this time of year you’ll see tons of social media posts and overhear ample conversations about New Year’s Resolutions. These resolutions are awesome for a lot of people, but for others it can add more pressure to the already pressure-filled job of being a parent. Life and parenting are unpredictable (and quite frankly, exhausting) so it’s easy to fall into a cycle of self criticism if we end up not being able to achieve these New Year’s Resolutions. So this year we’re taking the stress off. 

This year, we have a list of New Year’s Wishes for all of you wonderful parents out there. ✨

In the coming year, we wish you a year filled with:
  • Moments of heart-warming joy. We hope there are moments where you laugh until you can’t breathe, your heart soars with happiness, and where you make memories too beautiful to put into words.
  • Good health for you and your family. May the bad germs/viruses stay away, and may your physical, emotional, and mental health thrive this year!
  • An empowering birth experience. For those of you expecting babies in the year 2020, we wish you a smooth pregnancy and an amazing birth experience. May you be reminded of your own strength and badass-ery! And if things don’t go as planned (which they often don’t), we wish you the strength and adaptability to conquer all of the twists and turns that labor brings. We’re here for you and we know you can do this. 💕
  • Healing. Whether that’s physically from birth, a past injury, or emotionally from the things that ail you and hold you back. We hope that in 2020 you’re able to nourish and nurture your mind/body, take care of yourself in all of the ways that you deserve, and find peace.
  • Being patient with yourself. Parenting is a lot. You are learning and growing. Please be patient with yourself (much like your doulas would be patient with you, or you would be patient with your kiddos) as you go through this journey at your own pace. You’re doing great, we promise!
  • Loving on your body. Because you deserve it. Your body goes through a lot during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Even if you’re not technically “postpartum” anymore, our bodies are put through A LOT just in every day life. There’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way, and to “bounce back” as quickly as possible after birth. This is your friendly reminder that your body is perfect exactly as it is. You are whole and beautiful exactly as you are.
  • Emotional and physical safety. And with this wish for safety, we hope that you always possess the freedom to be completely and authentically yourself.
  • Reasonable expectations. Because there’s nothing like perfectionism to put a damper on accomplishments big and small. We hope that 2020 is a year of ditching any impossible/harmful expectations you set for yourself, and letting go of comparing yourself to others (especially other parents). Your journey is unlike anyone else’s! Parent however feels right to you.
  • Confidence in your own abilities. And with this confidence, we hope you always carry the knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way.
  • Insurmountable strength and resilience. Whether it’s a minor setback, a slump, or an all-out battle. Sometimes all you can do is hunker down and keep going. If you’re in a low place, we hope the duration is short and that you’re able to find stability and peace soon. For anyone fighting through trauma, mental illness, self doubt, abuse recovery, oppression, isolation, incarceration, and all things in between: we see you, we’re with you, and we care about you.
  • A sense of community, representation, and inclusivity. You are beautifully unique, and your experiences matter. We can’t wish you enough of these three. You deserve to see yourself in others, to find mentors, support, acceptance, and respect wherever you go. Regardless of your socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, or ability status, just know that you’ll  always have safety and affirmation waiting here for you at Tree Town Doulas.
  • Recognition and appreciation for your accomplishments. Because you’re amazing, and you deserve to be told that.
  • Financial stability. Along with enough food on the table, clothes that fit, the medical/mental health care you need, the education for you little ones that our future deserves, and the ability to treat yourself every once in a while.
  • Drinking lots of water!! We had to include this one. It’s so important!
  • Balance. Is achieving true balance even possible as a parent? We’ll let you know when we find out. But it’s definitely something to work towards. As parents we tend to spread ourselves too thin and put ourselves on the back-burner. It’s okay to say “no” and to take time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and for that reason self-care is absolutely vital to parenting. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to give more to your little ones and everything/everyone else that you care about.
  • Not sweating the small stuff. Parenting is stressful enough as it is! Knowing when to cut yourself some slack so that you can save your energy for the big stuff is an incredibly underrated form of self care.
  • A rock-solid support system and so much love that you don’t know what to do with it all. Support is everything. And above all else everyone deserves love. Whether it be platonic, familial, altruistic, or romantic love. We wish you bountiful hugs whenever you need them, and we hope most of all that you always know that you’re never alone.
  • Learning, growing, and thriving. Because you deserve more than just to live. You deserve to thrive.
In 2020, we wish you all of these things and so much more. 

 

Thank you to each and every one of you for making 2019 such an incredible year for Tree Town Doulas. As for our journey to come, we look forward to another year of beautiful babies and parents! 🙂 

FUN PREGNANCY FACTS THAT PROVE THE HUMAN BODY IS AWESOME

Calling all biology nerds!!!

We dedicate this week’s blog post to all of the weird, mind-blowing, and just plain awesome biology fun facts about pregnancy. Just the fact that the human body is able to create life is pretty awesome in itself – but it doesn’t stop there! So make “womb” for some super cool pregnancy biology facts (ba dum bum tssss) 😉

1. Ever hear the old wive’s tale that pregnancy heartburn means your baby will have a full head of hair? Well it’s NOT just a myth!

Don’t believe us? Check out the science 🙂 There’s a lot of folklore surrounding pregnancy, but this myth actually happens to be true! Throughout pregnancy your body experiences much higher levels of estrogen than usual because it is produced and released by the placenta. These estrogen levels can vary from parent to parent. Among many things, estrogen stimulates hair growth. So parents producing larger amounts of estrogen will generally have a baby with more hair. In order to prepare for labor, estrogen also helps loosen and relax the body, which happens to include the sphincter that connects your stomach and esophagus. A looser sphincter means more heartburn! So it’s not necessarily that the baby’s full head of hair is  causing heartburn, it’s that the higher levels of estrogen are causing both of them independently of each other.

2. Babies can cry in the womb

Pretty wild, huh? This was discovered accidentally in a research study initially looking at the effects of tobacco and cocaine use on pregnancy. When the researchers played a loud and jarring sound against each mom’s belly while observing their baby through an ultrasound, a large number of the babies startled and opened their mouths as if to cry. This led the researchers to believe that the physical instinct of crying may be a behavior that develops in the womb, while the actual sounds of crying arrive after the baby is born.

3. Pregnancy can reduce symptoms of IBS!

Two of the defining characteristics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are: high amounts of inflammation in the gut, and abnormal populations of bacteria in the digestive tract. In general, inflammation is a handy defense mechanism that your body uses as a second-line of defense (only second to physical/chemical barriers like your skin, mucus membranes, the acidity of your stomach etc…). It’s your body’s version of “Battle Mode” against invaders and making the mad-dash to heal tissue damage. With IBS, the body increases inflammation to try to repair the irritable tissue and destroy bacteria/viruses trying to leak from the intestines. As a result of this, a lot of the healthy bacteria needed for digestion are killed and unhealthier balances of bacteria are left to grow. Along with the added inflammation, this causes the diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and mucus in the stool that are common in IBS. During pregnancy, your immune function decreases enormously. This is why pregnant parents are more likely to catch colds, the flu, and other nasty illnesses! This sounds scary, but it’s actually a really clever mechanism the human body has developed to prevent your immune system from seeing your baby as an “invader”. Your baby does have different DNA after all! Decreased immune responses mean less inflammation, and as a result, fewer of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS! Especially since the healthy bacteria are left to grow and be happy. Pretty cool, right? If your inner immunologist and microbiologists are geeking out, take a look at the study that discovered this!

4. If you’re taller than 5’5 you’re more likely to have twins 

In particular, fraternal twins! And because of this, countries with taller populations tend to also have larger rates of twins. This is all thanks to a protein called IGF (aka Insuline-like Growth Factor). When the body is ready to grow, such as during puberty, the liver releases the protein IGF to help elongate bones. Shorter people have been found to have lower levels of IGF while taller people have higher levels. IGF also makes the ovaries more responsive to the hormone that triggers ovulation (Folicle-Stimulating Hormone). As a result, with more IGF and more stimulation of the ovaries, taller people are also more likely to release more than one egg at once!

5. The placenta is the only organ in the human body that’s not intended to be lifelong

The placenta is a well-known part of pregnancy, but many people forget that it’s actually an organ! It’s not just a layer of tissue between the baby and parent. It’s considered an endocrine organ because it releases its own hormones and consists of multiple types of tissue. So essentially, humans grow an entirely new organ solely for pregnancy, which is pretty cool! What’s more, the placenta is the only Temporary Organ that exists in the human body. Every other organ is supposed to last for the duration of our lifetime.

6. Subsequent pregnancies are easier on the immune system than the first pregnancy

For this cool fun fact we have to dip our toes in a bit of immunology. The immune system has two different branches: the Innate Immune System (general), and the Adaptive Immune System (specific). The innate immune system is the first-line of defense against outside pathogens that aims to clear away invaders and repair damaged tissue as quickly as possible (e.g. physical and chemical barriers such as skin, mucus membranes, inflammation, etc…). The adaptive immune system is much more advanced. It sends out a specialized team of immune cells that are tailored to each specific threat. Once the threat is cleared, the adaptive immune system holds on to cells that remember how to destroy that pathogen so it can be destroyed more efficiently next time. In order to do this, immune cells need to be able to differentiate between “self” and “non-self” cells. This becomes a bit more complicated during pregnancy, since the baby’s DNA is technically “half self” and “half not-self”! Key players in navigating this dichotomy are regulatory T cells, which are part of the adaptive immune system. Regulatory T cells prevent the body from overreacting by scaling back an attack when it’s no longer needed (e.g at the end of a cold), and intercept if misguided cells try to attack “self” tissues. During pregnancy, cells from the baby travel all around the parent’s body and frequently come into contact with regulatory T cells. These regulatory T cells tell the rest of the immune system not to attack the baby’s cells and tissues. Even after pregnancy some of these memory-holding regulatory T cells will be stored in the body, so that during the next pregnancy the body will be able to suppress its immune response more quickly and efficiently. With the suppression of immune responses becoming more effective and and less defensive against the baby with each pregnancy, subsequent pregnancies often have fewer negative complications/symptoms. For more info check out this awesome article!

7. A baby’s stem cells are stored in their parents’ body for the rest of their lives

And what’s even cooler, those stem cells can even travel around the body to help heal damaged organs and tissues! So regardless of how many pregnancies you have, and no matter how long those pregnancies lasted, each baby’s cells are stored in your body for the rest of your life.

8. The populations of bacteria in the digestive tract change drastically throughout each trimester 

The human microbiome is awesome. For anyone new to Microbiology, a microbiome is a community of microscopic organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc..) that inhabit a given location, and in this case, different parts of the human body. A healthy microbiome is a delicate balance where each species of bacteria exists in just the right amount so that the community can coexist while not being harmful to their host human. Unless the microbiome is altered in some way (such as through antibiotics, certain illnesses, or extreme stress), the gut microbiome pretty much stays consistent throughout adulthood. The balance of bacterial species also tends to be similar for anyone in a given society/culture. During pregnancy, the body goes through a series of changes caused by the increase and decrease of different hormones and neurotransmitters. All of these hormones, neurotransmitters, immune factors, and the biological functions triggered by these molecules have enormous effects on the delicate balance of bacteria living in the digestive tract. While an increase in pregnancy hormones may provide an ideal living environment for some bacteria, it creates a hostile living environment for others and causes them to die out. This leaves room for other bacteria to grow in their place, and as a result changes the balance. The cool thing is, the pregnancy hormones select for bacteria that promote fat gain and decrease sensitivity to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels. This particular microbiome, which would put non-pregnant parents at high risk for cardiovascular disease, is actually super healthy for pregnant people because it helps facilitate the growth of a baby and the production of breast/chest milk. During the third trimester of pregnancy, the microbiome changes again to favor bacteria associated with increased inflammation. This is most likely to maximize the amount of nutrients going to the baby in this last stretch of pregnancy. What’s even COOLER, is that researchers took samples of pregnancy microbiomes and put them in the intestines of non-pregnant mice. The mice then started showing increased fat gain, increase inflammation, and decreased insulin sensitivity even without the hormones associated with pregnancy. This suggests that the microbiome itself plays an enormous role in driving the biological functions of the body! 

9. The foods you eat frequently during pregnancy are more likely to be your baby’s favorite as they get older

Although the placenta acts as a barrier, it’s not a perfect barrier. Flavors of food can cross through the placenta and into the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby! As a result, your baby swallows these flavors and starts developing their taste palate before they’re even born. Research has found that exposure to these flavors during the prenatal period have a profound effect on a baby’s taste preferences as they make the switch to solid food! This also might explain why people from different cultures can have such different flavor preferences!

10. Your heart grows bigger during pregnancy

And we don’t just mean metaphorically upon seeing your beautiful little one. In order to transport enough oxygen to both you and your baby, your blood volume increases by 30-50% during pregnancy! To accommodate this, your heart actually grows larger.This is why pregnant parents also tend to have higher heart rates than parents who are not pregnant.

.

11. Increased levels of the hormone relaxin makes your muscles and tendons more flexible/limber

This is in preparation for labor so that your pelvis, joints, and soft tissues (such as the cervix) can stretch more easily to accommodate the growth and birth of a baby. This is also why some parents go up an entire shoe size during pregnancy! By loosening the ligaments and tendons in your feet, relaxin allows the bones and muscles to expand and flatten out more. So your feet aren’t technically “growing” a whole shoe size they’re just stretched out due to the decrease in tension in your tissues. Swelling and fluid retention also contributes to this. As handy as relaxin is, it’s also one of many reasons that we recommend avoiding high impact exercise during pregnancy because it increases the likelihood of broken bones. But as long as you’re listening to your doctor and not wrestling or playing football during pregnancy, you should be fine!

12. The bumps on your areolas help your baby initiate breastfeeding/chestfeeding

If you’ve ever looked closely at your chest or breasts, you’ll notice that your areolas have little bumps. Some people have more bumps concentrated around the edges, and some people have more bumps towards the area around the nipple. These bumps are called Montgomery’s Tubercles. If you lay your baby on your chest shortly after birth and leave them to their own devices, you’ll notice their heads will start to bob back and forth as they slowly bob and squirm towards the nipple.This is because Montgomery’s Tubercles release the same scent as amniotic fluid. Your baby, smelling the familiar scent of amniotic fluid that they associate with comfort and safety, bobs back and forth towards the scent. Ultimately, this draws them to the nipple even when they can’t open their eyes and helps start the initiation of breast/chestfeeding!

13. After birth, your temperature regulates to match what your baby needs

Of course you’ll be sweating up a storm after pushing your baby out. But for most parents, their core body temperature will actually increase for just those few hours after birth to help warm up the baby. This is one of many reasons that skin-to-skin is so important! Those little guys are tiny and need all the warmth they can get! Skin-to-skin has been proven to be way more effective at regulating an infant’s body temperature than an incubator.

14. Digestion slows down during pregnancy

This is all due to the hormone progesterone. Progesterone, which is at much higher levels during pregnancy, slows down digestion to help the intestines absorb more nutrients for both the parent and their baby. Unfortunately, this slower digestion is also why constipation is so common during pregnancy. Progesterone is also the culprit when it comes to causing the excessive daytime sleepiness that many parents experience during pregnancy.

If any of these facts have tickled your interest, feel free to send us a message! We’re always happy to geek out with fellow birth-nerds and biology-nerds 🙂 If there’s one thing we can attest to as doulas, it’s that:

The human body is pretty freakin’ awesome.

 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone!!! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight is highlighting the wonderful Marlene McGrath!! Not only is she an amazing mother, but she’s also an incredible prenatal and postpartum yoga instructor. We HIGHLY recommend checking out her classes. Plus, she’s located right here in Ann Arbor!

MARLENE MCGRATH

To find balance in her job as a hospital social worker, Marlene began studying and practicing yoga in 1991. Now, Marlene is the mother of 3 teenagers, and teaches yoga full-time to students ages 18-99 with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal yoga. You can find her full class listing at: yogafocusannarbor.com !

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I was a yoga teacher before having children, but during my first pregnancy realized how much yoga helped me stay connected to my changing body and cope with labor, birth, and recovery. I then decided to pursue more training to specialize in teaching yoga to pregnant and postpartum women.

If there was one myth you could “bust,” what would it be?

The myth: that pregnant women just need to deal with significant discomfort and pain during pregnancy, that it is just part of being pregnant.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

Working in my garden, walking my dog, having outdoor adventures with my children, family, and friends.

What moment are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of the moments when I see my children negotiate difficult experiences.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

My hope is that women who practice yoga during their childbearing years develop a knowledge of and relationship with themselves that will serve them through parenting and all the transitions to come later in life.

 

THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW, PLEASE TAKE A SEAT.

People have a lot to say about pregnancy. Between the recommendations, cautionary tales, shoulds, shouldn’ts, educational literature and things your coworker says “Will Make You The Worst Parent On The Planet.”  Everyone has an opinion. In all honesty, we’ve worked with so many parents who have been thoroughly freaked out and terrified by the horror stories that other parents, family members, and friends have told them about their own pregnancies. Of course these loved ones mean well and they just want those they care about to be safe! But sometimes adding that extra two cents can do a lot more harm than good by making pregnancy way more stressful than it needs to be. We’re here to give you strategies to manage the sea of opinions that might try to sweep you off your feet throughout pregnancy and parenthood.

So what should you do when you’re being bombarded by opinions from those around you?

First of all, DO NOT GO ON WEBMD.

We cannot stress this one enough! Talk to your care provider, doula (if you choose to have one) and people you trust if you have concerns. Reading an article that says you’re already dead will probably not help matters much.

To help with feelings of anxiety in the moment, we introduce to you the “Thank you for letting me know” technique.

This technique was coined by my magnificent roommate: Maggie. She’s your friendly neighborhood list-enthusiast and an accomplished educator of today’s 12-year-old youth. In other words, she is an expert at managing chaos. A few months ago after an exhausting day at work, she gifted me one of my favorite coping strategies to pass on to stressed parents. Maggie walked through the door, dropped her backpack, looked at me, and in a moment of exasperation said

“I swear, the phrase that I use the most at my job is ‘Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.'”

She went on to describe the chaos of her classroom; the consistently hilarious but exhausting interruptions of 12 year olds as they test the boundaries of social interactions, rifle off internet memes, and erupt in Fornite dances. To all of which, while suppressing laughter, Maggie’s response is “Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”

“Miss Maggie!!! Sarah ate 10 packets of ketchup even though you said not to and now she has a stomach ache!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. 

“Miss Maggie!!! Jerrell is laying on the floor for fun and he doesn’t feel like moving!!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. (Also Jerrell get off the floor).

“Miss Maggie!!! Timmy buried his head in the snow and now his face is super cold!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. 

Believe it or not, this mindset has helped so many of our clients. I think it goes without saying that we don’t want you to take up yelling  “THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW PLEASE TAKE A SEAT” at every person who expresses an opinion.

But the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s input on your pregnancy, birth, or parenting philosophies just follow these steps:

  1. Take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale.
  2. Pretend the unnecessary feedback/anecdotes/judgments are 12-year-old Sarah eating ketchup packets
  3. Tell Sarah “thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
  4. Picture the intrusive opinion (aka Sarah) stepping aside and physically taking a seat
  5. Take a few more deep breaths

It sounds silly, but it’s actually a really helpful  way of centering yourself through visualization. Plus it’s a generally recommended coping mechanism for anxiety! The “Thank you for letting me know” strategy allows you to acknowledge outside input but not let it overwhelm you, wrack your confidence, or disturb your sense of calm. This way you can see the situation for what it is, set the unnecessary information aside, create healthy boundaries, and focus on what’s important. Even vocalizing “Thank you for sharing this with me, but I’m going to continue parenting in the ways that make sense for me” can be a great boundary to set with loved ones as your due date draws near.

So there you have it. Whether you’re a new parent, a parent-to-be, a seasoned parent, or just someone who struggles with anxiety, you now have a new possible tool to add to your Mental Health Tool Kit 🙂 

 

A note to every teacher out there:

When we think of superheroes, we think of Superman flying majestically through the sky or Batman mysteriously watching over Gotham City. But not all heroes wear capes. Within the walls of our schools work some of the single most dedicated, inspiring, and transformative individuals in the country: the kids themselves, who have the power to shape our future, and the superhero teachers, who have the power to shape the futures of our youth. This post is a shout out to all of the amazing teachers out there. The life-changing, and future-changing work you do every single day is not lost on us at Tree Town Doulas. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: LACTATION SUPPORT AND CONSULTATION

This week we give a special shoutout to the amazing Barbara D. Robertson, IBCLC!!! Barbara is a real-life superhero when it comes to Lactation Support and Consultation. So if you’re a parent who is struggling with breastfeeding/chestfeeding, or just wants to learn more, Barbara is your gal!

BARBARA ROBERTSON, IBCLC

Barbara D. Robertson, IBCLC, has been involved in education for over 30 years. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1988 and her Master’s in Education in 1995. Barbara left teaching elementary students in 1995 to raise her two children. Barbara is now the Director of The Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor. Barbara has developed a 90 hour professional lactation training, a 20 hour course which fulfills the “Baby Friendly” education requirements, and is a speaker for hire on a wide variety of topics including Motivational Interviewing.  Barbara volunteered for the United States Lactation Consultation Association as the Director of Professional Development for 4.5 years.  She just retired as Associate Editor for Clinical Lactation, a journal she helped create for USLCA. Barbara has free podcasts, a blog, and Youtube videos which can all be found on her website bfcaa.com. She has written many articles and created a phone app for working and breastfeeding mothers. She loves working with mothers and babies, helping them with breastfeeding problems in whatever way she can.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

My own struggles with breastfeeding. If I had not had help and support, I would not have made it!

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

The myth: How much babies eat. Bottle fed babies keep getting bigger and bigger bottles which is not healthy! Families should consider using Paced Bottle Feeding and know that babies usually, and I mean most babies, eat less than 30 oz per 24 hours. It is more like 25-28 oz. Child care centers ask when are they going to move to 8 oz bottles? The answer is never! This is too much for any baby at one time.

 What do you enjoy doing when not working?

Reading, gardening, and cooking!

What moment are you most proud of?

My proudest moments are when I really help a family move forward with their goals. Families come in so overwhelmed and often frightened. I help them feel more confident and less afraid. They leave my office with a clear plan and how to follow up.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

Seeing me is different than seeing anyone else in our area. I take the time to make sure that my families have plenty of time to go through everything, health histories, physical exams, doing pre and post weights to see what a baby is actually drinking from the breast, and helping families with pumping and/or hand expression. I really focus on the clinical and communication pieces of the health care field.  I am compassionate and knowledgeable but not afraid to say I don’t know something.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRE AND POSTNATAL YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight will be shining on the founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, the fabulous Elise Bowerman!!! Elise is truly one of a kind. When she’s not busy running the Sweet Momma Yoga studio, she’s spending time with her family and instructing incredible Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes. Within the walls of her studio, she facilitates parents finding peace, empowerment, resilience, and reassurance within themselves and between each other as a community. So if you’ve been feeling the pressure of pregnancy, parenting, or just life in general lately, look no further!

ELISE BOWERMAN

Elise Bowerman operates the only Southeast Michigan Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS) offering teacher training for anyone who’d like to specialize as a Prenatal (and Postnatal) Yoga teacher. As founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, she provides a one-stop-shop for those looking for Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes, and for the RPYS graduates a platform to build their business faster than if they were starting from scratch. Elise has been practicing yoga for 20 years, teaching (even Prenatal Yoga) for over 10 years, and holds the following credentials with Yoga Alliance: E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP. You’ll find Elise in Livonia (the city she grew up in) every Monday night for Prenatal and ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga classes; and twice a year offering the 85-hour Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training at her home in Bloomfield Hills.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

The women in my life, including my mom, weren’t capable of offering the emotional or physical support I needed to feel normal, healthy, and confident as a mother; and as a woman. Plus, being depressed and anxious left me feeling alone and afraid most of the time.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes was where I found practical information and connected to other birthers to help figure out what the heck I was doing! It gave me reassurance to keep going through the long days.

Basically, on a deep level – I’m offering what I never received. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and afraid becoming a mother. By offering time to tune-in, connect with the breath, the pulse of self + baby, and community in which we all belong – I’m breaking the broken cycle women in my family were unable to tap in to, in hopes my children are empowered if they become parents one day. 

 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

The myth: one must be ’zen’ or athletic to participate in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. These classes are designed for our busy lifestyles and all fitness levels! In fact, most participants are brand new to yoga!

You wouldn’t expect to go to the gym before you get in shape, right? Same thing for the yoga practice… it’s called a practice for a reason. We meet ourselves on the mat to see what we’re bringing in that moment. Observing how we feel mentally and physically. Then we explore! We notice our thoughts, invite some new thoughts in, move our bodies to see if the movement provides support, a challenge, or simply curiosity to explore more. There’s no need to be ‘calm’ before coming to class. There’s no need to touch your toes, either. It’s the process of the practice that keeps us coming back for more.

 What do you enjoy doing when not working?

Now that our kids are nine and seven a greater sense of time apart has developed compared to the five and under years… So, I’m basking in it! These days I love watching movies with my hubby and kids on the weekends. During the summer I’m outside tending to our yard; staying connected with nature, and appreciative to all it has to offer. I love our home and yard. Maintaining it keeps me grateful for all our the blessings. During the school year a morning highlight is enjoying breakfast or lunch with mom-friends after a yoga practice together. Then coming home to no one else around… I really love that part. After school hours I’m running around with the kids 🙂  #momlife

What moment are you most proud of?

On a personal level my proudest moment was birthing my daughter with no interventions. I knew I could do it, and when I did (peacefully), it ignited a passion to share with other birthers the possibility to birth with trust, understanding, and peace. 

Professionally I am most proud of the moment – actually moments – when former Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga students join in my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course so that they may provide the empowerment they received when they were students. When students become the teachers they are such a force of nature thrilling to witness!

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga is open to all birthers; well, that’s not completely true… I have students who haven’t given birth join in ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga because it really isn’t about parenting or birthing… it’s about the desire to spend time to decompress and connect with the ‘core’ of the body and self. In our classes we are focused on building confidence through education, the practice of yoga, and the connection to one another. This yoga supports however and wherever someone births. As teachers, we are holding a light to help our community birth and parent with love.

“B” IS FOR BURNOUT

 

Let’s set the scene:

A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”

This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.

I can always tell I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self-care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.

Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.

 

If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or are already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:

1. Take 5. Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2. Prioritize. Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3. Nix the comparisons. Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! 🙂
4. Teach your kids to do things independently. This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5. Change your expectations. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6. Intentionally set aside time for yourself. I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help. Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends. No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself. Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned  “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick 😉

If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.

YOU CAN DO THIS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU. 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: BIRTHWORK GALORE

On this lovely Thursday afternoon, we shine our Community Spotlight on the amazing Jessica English!!! If you’re looking for a birthwork super hero, you’ve pretty much found her! When she’s not running Birth Kalamazoo, she’s doing amazing work training doulas, childbirth educators, working as a doula, and advocating for parents in her community. So if you’re interested in any of these things, keep on scrolling! 🙂

Jessica English, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), PCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Jessica English trains birth doulas for DONA International and childbirth educators for Lamaze International, traveling the country from Ann Arbor to Honolulu. She is one of just 48 advanced DONA birth doulas worldwide, and she still attends births and also cares for families as a postpartum doula. You’ll find her every Tuesday night teaching her 8-week childbirth class in Southwest Michigan, where she runs the state’s first and longest-running doula agency, Birth Kalamazoo. As a trainer, Jessica has also developed specialties in coaching doula agency owners and teaching hands-on labor support techniques to nurses. You can learn more about her trainings at heartsoulbirthpros.com or explore her agency at birthkalamazoo.com.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

Very simply, I had a great birth. After going through IVF and having this very high-tech conception with my son, I knew I wanted a low-tech birth experience. I did everything I could to stack my deck for my best chance at a great birth experience, including an independent childbirth education class, long walks every day, a midwife and a doula. 

After my son was born (such a beautiful, straightforward, physiologic birth), my doula said to me at our postpartum visit: “You’ve had a birth experience not many people in our culture get to have. I want you to think about what you’re going to do to share that with other people.” I wasn’t sure where to go with that, because I had a great job in public relations at a university, and a new baby that I had no idea how to take care of. But her challenge stuck with me, especially as I connected to other new parents who were not having great births – actually, their births were often pretty traumatic. 

I decided what I could do was teach, which seemed like a nice little sidelight in addition to my full-time job. I got trained and certified as a childbirth educator, and then my students started asking me to come to their births. That led me to train as a birth doula, which led me to… all the things. I’ve been doing this work for 14 years now, and I don’t miss university PR one bit. I’m so grateful I found my calling. 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I’d love to bust a couple of myths! 

For birth professionals (or future birth professionals), let’s bust the myth that you can’t make a full-time living as a birth professional. I have trained so many doulas and childbirth educators who are absolutely thriving in their home communities. I love watching them each find their niche and develop their own unique mix of services. This is heart work, but it absolutely can be financially rewarding too. Even for those doulas who are called to exclusively support under-resourced parents, I’ve watched them found or join nonprofits that can support them while they support families. 

For parents, I’m not sure if I’d call it a myth or a misconception, but I definitely see an assumption that if you just read enough, learn enough, practice enough, and hire the right doula, you can have a positive birth with any provider or any birth place. No! At least not unless you have a whole lot of luck working for you. The provider and birth place you choose will have an immeasurable impact on your birth experience, from the messages they send you about your ability to birth, to your risk of being induced or having a cesarean. And that doesn’t even address how you’re likely to be treated during your birth. I’ve seen such a huge difference in philosophy and approach among the providers in my area. If you want to know who the most respectful, patient and natural-minded providers are in your area, ask the doulas. 

OK, actually, I have one more for parents… I think especially in the Midwest, we have this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth that families don’t need professional support postpartum. I understand that we are very capable here in the heartland, but new mamas and other parents need so much TLC — and not just for a few weeks, but for several months after birth. If we can take better care of the whole family, we can increase bonding and confidence, and potentially head off postpartum mood disorders. It’s not a badge of honor to talk about how terrible it was after your baby was born; it’s a tragedy, and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’d like to see people investing at least as much in birth and postpartum doula care as they might in their wedding or a new vehicle. Your birth and your settling-in time with your baby are 1,000 times more important.

You asked me for one myth, I hope you don’t mind that I gave you three. There are just so many myths that need busting!

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I’m in a very busy work season of my life, but I also have two amazing teenage boys and a husband that I love to spend time with. I’m a travel hockey mom times two, which is great fun (and super intense). We also love to fish or do anything on the water, whether that’s summers in Michigan or spring break on one of the out islands of the Bahamas (I call it the “rural Caribbean”). I’m part of a sweet little book club that rarely reads books together anymore but still meets often. And I love a nice glass of cabernet or rosé.

What moment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the way my doula trainings have grown over the years. That’s not an exact moment, but a series of many moments, sharing my passion and seeing new doulas light up. It was a revelation to find that I have a unique talent for training adults, and it’s such a gift to me to help other people get started in this amazing field.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

Informed choice (consent or refusal) is the legal and ethical right of every person giving birth. Childbirth educators should be teaching it, doulas should be supporting it, and providers should be practicing it — every time, for every parent (especially for black women and other women of color, who are even less likely to receive respectful care than everyone else). That’s the hill I’m willing to die on.

 

 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: CHIROPRACTIC CARE

This week’s Community Spotlight is giving a special shoutout to the wonderful Dr. Andrea Hoglen!!! Dr. Andrea does truly incredible work with parents from all walks of life. So if you’ve been looking for some amazing quality prenatal/postpartum chiropractic care, keep on reading!

DR. ANDREA HOGLEN

Dr. Andrea is a chiropractor who practices in Plymouth, Michigan. She utilizes the Webster Technique for pregnancy, as well as a number of gentle chiropractic and muscle techniques for expectant moms and babies. She is supportive of moms regardless of their birth plan, and she is passionate about supporting moms throughout their journey of motherhood. She is a runner, a crafter, a military wife, and a loving mom to one energetic 3 year old boy.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always been passionate about supporting moms and babies! I took all of the maternity and pediatric courses that I could when I was in school. I had the opportunity to support moms and babies in my practice for years, but having my own son made realize how important it really is for moms to get musculoskeletal care during pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t really know how moms can go without!

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I think there is a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic. People are afraid that it is unsafe for pregnancy or babies. People fear that they will have to go back forever. Both of these are wrong. There are specially designed techniques that are not only safe for pregnancy, but like Webster Technique, actually relieve pain during pregnancy and may help with optimal fetal positioning. I never assign anyone to care “for life” but many of my patients choose to return for occasional wellness visits just like they go in for a dental check-up.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I love spending time with my son in nature. We love riding bikes, hiking trails, swimming, and playing. In addition, I do a lot of volunteering. I help teach safe baby wearing, I serve on the board for my local Chamber of Commerce, and I frequently teach at local moms groups.

What moment are you most proud of?

When my son was born. Isn’t that always the answer? But really, the whole journey of my labor brought so many elements together. I had been treated with chiropractic my whole pregnancy, I had my doula and my midwife. I had the whole birth team and I did “everything right” (if there is such a thing!). But in labor, my son got stuck sunny-side up and it stalled my labor. So my chiropractor and good friend came to adjust me during labor. During the adjustment, my son finally was able to turn and my labor progressed very rapidly. Within a very short span of time, he was earthside. Obviously a lot changes in that moment when you become a mother, but I also learned how much that I, personally, could do to help support mothers in that transition. These days I tell my patients to call me if something like that happens to them (or better, have their doula text me throughout their labor) and I have been known to make hospital visits for moms in labor. So not only did the birth of my son change my personal life, it changed my practice as well.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

You don’t have to struggle! Chiropractic can help with so many facets of new motherhood. Whether its back and pelvic pain during pregnancy and postpartum, or neck pain from holding a newborn and staring at their sweet face. It can also help babies too! Some babies struggle to nurse because they can’t turn their head completely or open their jaw fully. There are gentle, painless solutions that are safe for you and your baby!