Baby’s First Bath: Who, When, and Where?

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In the discussion of what interventions and procedures may be offered for your baby postpartum, the first bath rarely makes the list.  You may wonder why it should!  A bath is perfectly harmless, right?  Could it really be considered an intervention?

If an intervention is defined as anything that intervenes in the continuous physiological process of labor, birth, and breastfeeding, then the in-hospital bath certainly qualifies as one.

Ultimately, the “burden of proof” for any intervention should lie on the intervention itself.  Are there any real benefits to a first bath being given in the hospital by a stranger?  If so, do these benefits outweigh the risks?  Rather than framing the discussion around risks of an in-hospital bath, though, let’s look at some of the wonderful benefits of delaying your newborn’s first bath, which include:

The Magic of Vernix At birth, your baby’s skin will be coated with a white, waxy or cheesy substance called vernix.  Depending on how many weeks your baby gestated, there may be a little or a lot of vernix on the skin.  Vernix provides protection in the womb from contact with the amniotic fluid (so that baby’s skin won’t wrinkle like ours does after a long bath).  Vernix also provides antibacterial protection, a true benefit in a hospital setting.  Vigorous scrubbing and bathing can remove this protective layer.  Rather than washing this natural barrier away, you can massage it into baby’s skin like lotion.

Breastfeeding Instincts Baby uses the smell of amniotic fluid on his or her hands to help initiate breastfeeding.  You may notice your baby nuzzles her hands against her nose as a cue that she is ready to nurse.  Washing away the natural smells on the baby’s skin will also get in the way of the signals provided by these smells which kick start instinctual breastfeeding and bonding processes.

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Together is Best for Mom and Baby Mother and baby both benefit from uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for the first several days after birth.  This closeness helps with regulating temperature, heart rate, and stress hormones, as well as increasing bonding hormones, and helping to establish mom’s milk supply. Baby’s other parent is the next best habitat when mom needs a break; familiar sounds and smells are comforting and calming to baby.  Removing baby from the loving arms of his parents for a bath interrupts this bonding time.

First Bath is a Lovely Ritual Giving baby her first bath is a sweet privilege that parents can enjoy when they are ready.  Bath time can be a good way to transition to a change in setting once the family leaves the hospital and settles at home.  Or, it can wait until days later when intuition says it’s time.

Who will give your baby his or her first bath?  When and where will it occur?  This choice is up to you!

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I’m Positive! (How to use affirmations for pregnancy, labor, and beyond)

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Affirmations and visualizations are proven ways to affect thoughts and beliefs (which, in turn, affect actions and outcomes). These techniques aren’t just for “crunchy, new-age types”; athletes, executives, spiritual leaders, and many others have benefited from practicing positivity for ages. These are some useful tools to have in your kit, not just for pregnancy and birth, but in any life situation for which you desire confidence and positivity. And, best of all, there are no negative side effects! Here are some tips and points to remember for enacting these simple techniques.

*Is there a certain worry or concern which seems stuck in your head and is holding you back from feeling confident and free? Turn that negative thought on its head and make it into a positive affirmation. For example, if I am feeling very worried that I won’t know how to be a good parent, I might use the affirmation: “I am the perfect parent for my child.”

*Creating affirmations requires POSITIVE NOW LANGUAGE. Notice the affirmation above is in the present tense and framed in the positive, (rather than “I am not going to mess up as a parent.”) Our brains latch on to the negatives in a sentence, giving the opposite results we desire. And if we’re using a future tense, the desired outcome will always be ahead of us, just out of reach.

*Many of us react more intuitively to images than words. If you can add a picture or image to your affirmation (even a simple symbol, doodle, or stick figure), it can make it easier for your mind to connect  with the positive thought.

*Sometimes we become discouraged when working with affirmations because we have a hard time truly believing in the positive statement. Start by sitting with your affirmation and envisioning the positive outcome. How does it feel in my physical body if this statement is absolutely true? Focus on that feeling and let it wash over you.  Each time you read the affirmation, bring yourself back into that feeling and the good way your body reacts to it.

* Place your affirmations/images in places where you’ll see them often throughout the day: on your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, or the refrigerator door, for example.

*Try writing each affirmation ten to twenty times a day. Repetition and writing are both powerful methods for auto-suggestion.

*It can also be helpful to make a recording of your own voice or of a loved one reading your affirmations and then listen to them when your mind is relaxed such as when you’re driving or falling asleep.

*Positive visualization is another form of affirmation. For this technique, spend time visualizing your dream labor and birth scenario in as much detail as possible. Add plenty of sensory input to your visualization. Feel warm water on your skin, the smell of lavender massage oil, the sound of your favorite relaxing music in each moment of your imagined story. You can add some of these details in “real life” as you visualize in order to strengthen the association, and then later use these same relaxing sensations in your real labor experience to increase pleasure sensations and to “cue” positivity. Your visualization story can also be written or recorded.

During pregnancy, heart and mind are often “open doors”. Take care that you only let in positive, empowering thoughts and feelings at this time. The choice of what you let through the door is yours.

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Just like many other techniques that are useful to us in labor and birth, these tools can continue to serve you in other areas of life beyond this time.  This is a wonderful opportunity to learn these skills for use on your continued parenting journey.

Check out my other posts on this blog to see specific affirmation ideas!  Please contact me if you would like to purchase your own set of beautiful laminated affirmation cards for your own enjoyment or to give as a special gift to an expectant friend!

Packing Your Hospital Birth Bag

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One of the questions I am asked most often is, “What should I pack to take to the hospital?”

I have heard many great suggestions from students and clients about the things they’ve found most useful to have in their hospital bags. I have also heard often that many mothers find they’ve “overpacked”, not using half of the things in their bags. In general, my response to the question of what to pack is, “Don’t stress about it. You can always ask the hospital staff for stuff you forget or send someone home to pick things up after baby arrives.”

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 (image courtesy franky242)

However, those notorious nesting instincts make many of us feel the urge to have a definitive list to check off in order to feel truly prepared.

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So, without further ado, here is “The List”. Please feel free to add your own necessities in the comments section!

-Any toiletries you need for your own comfort. (Face cleaner and moisturizer, lotion, shampoo, cosmetics, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deoderant)

-Lip balm (this gets its own spot on the list because it can also be used as a labor comfort device!)

-Bed pillows in bright cases which won’t be confused with the white hospital pillows

-Medications and supplements

-Robe, sweater, or sweatshirt

-Slippers/slipper socks/socks

-Pajamas with easy breastfeeding access or other comfortable clothes such as yoga pants and nursing camisoles

-Breastfeeding support pillow (I love the My Brest Friend pillow for nursing support. The Boppy isn’t as sturdy for this use but it does make a great pillow for sitting on to avoid pressure on sore bottoms after birth.)

-Any labor coping tools you plan to use. This could include massage tools, tennis balls, rice sock, yoga ball, massage lotion, affirmation cards, focal point, meditation mandalas, battery-powered “candles”, essential oils and diffusers, music players or speakers, etc.

-Snacks and beverages for labor and postpartum (Your hospital “doesn’t allow” eating and drinking during labor, you say? Check out this article for evidence-based information on making a choice about if this is a beneficial policy for your needs.)

-Camera, plus extra batteries or charger

-Phone and/or laptop chargers

-A couple of changes of clothes for baby (including something special for photos if these will be taken in the hospital)

-An outfit for you to wear home from the hospital (Maternity clothes are still the best option for fit and comfort immediately postpartum.)

-Breast soothers (Soothies or other brand) and nipple ointment (lanolin and coconut oil are both popular choices.)

-A white noise machine or app to drown out some of the constant noise of the hospital.

-An empty duffel bag in which to carry home supplies and gifts you receive while in the hospital.

Hospitals generally provide many of the care items you will need for immediate postpartum comfort including witch hazel pads for soothing hemorrhoids, ice packs, large pads and mesh underpants, stool softener pills, cooling spray for a sore perineum, perineal wash bottles, etc. You can also take many of these things home with you; just ask your nurses what’s available.

Packing for Partners

Partners will want to pack their own bags for comfort during labor and the postpartum stay. This should include many of the same items listed above, with the obvious deletions! A button down shirt that can be worn during skin to skin time with baby is also nice to have in the bag. They may also find it handy to have the handbook from your childbirth education class and/or a copy of The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.  Or, this great cheat sheet.

I would love to hear from you if there are other “must haves” for the bag. What were the things you were glad to have on hand? Were there items you found just took up space?

Affirmations: My Body is Strong and Beautiful

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So much of the process of feeling prepared for birth is about having trust in and love for your body: how it has served you in practical and pleasurable ways, how it has conceived of and lovingly grows your baby, how it was perfectly designed to give birth.  There are so many ways to build body-trust and body-love.  Here’s a list of just a few of my favorites:

-get a massage (from your partner or from a professional massage therapist)

-take a bath

-go for a walk

-stare lovingly at your gorgeous, glowing self in the mirror

-work up a sweat exercising

-make love

-take a nap

-eat a nourishing meal with mindfulness

-rub your favorite scented lotion or oil all over your juicy self

-have a belly casting made

-get your belly decorated with henna

-visualize your ideal birth

What are some ways you practice love for your body? How did that self love “pay off” for you?  (Yes, YOU are beautiful!)

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Red Flags: 3 Signs Your Care Provider is Not a Good Fit for You

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(Please note: for the purposes of this list, I use they/them pronouns to refer to care providers in order to make the language open to all possibilities.)

  1. You feel anything less than SEEN, HEARD, AND RESPECTED in your visits.

You deserve to be treated as if your time, concerns and questions matter.  Do you have time to ask your doctor or midwife all of your questions or do you feel rushed?  Do you feel satisfied and confident with the responses to your questions or are you met with disapproval for asking them? Examples of “red flag” responses to questions might include: “I’m the one who went to medical school.  Why don’t you let me decide that?” or “You don’t need to ask so many questions.  I’ve been doing this for a long time,” or “You think you want a natural birth now but just wait!  You’ll be begging me for the epidural when you’re in labor.”

If someone so readily dismisses your desires or insults your values in a prenatal visit, this is not a good sign that your wishes will be respected in labor.  (A related sign of disrespect is the use of the word “let”, as in “I don’t let my patients go over 40 weeks.” You are the consumer and this is your body.  Your care provider’s job is to provide you with information and recommendations based on their education, experience, and the evidence so that you can make the best decisions for you.  It is NOT their job to decide whether or not you are allowed to do anything!

 

2. They do not practice evidence-based care.

You deserve care that is based on what the best evidence shows is safest and healthiest for you and your baby, not just care that is most convenient or routine for your care provider.

A care provider’s rates of interventions (such as induction, episiotomy, or cesarean) tell a story about the sort of birth they routinely attend and the mode of care with which they feel most comfortable.  If these rates are not within recommended guidelines or if your care provider tells you they are unwilling or unable to provide statistics on these things, then it’s red flag time.

An independent childbirth class can help you understand how to find and use evidence, and how to ask questions about your care in the moment.  Some wonderful resources for researching evidence include:

http://evidencebasedbirth.com/

http://www.improvingbirth.org/

http://www.childbirthconnection.org/

Responses like, “This is just how we do it in this practice because we’ve found it works best,” or, “Sure, I’ll let you do whatever you want as long as the baby isn’t in danger,” don’t answer the actual concern or show a willingness to make a real change in the way of practicing.  Look for specific details on how they plan to support you in having the safest and most satisfying birth for you, and a willingness to work on a solid plan with you for following through.

Outside of a provider’s statistics, the stories you hear from others about care received from them can also help paint a picture of their routine of care. I’m not suggesting you change care providers based on one negative story.  Doctors and midwives are human and therefore, like all of us, have bad days and make mistakes.  But if there is a pattern that develops in several stories, it can be indicative of a mode of practice or birth philosophy.  It’s unrealistic to think a care provider will suddenly begin behaving differently than their history suggests they have consistently behaved in the past.  When asking for feedback about a care provider, pay attention to the stories coming from people who value the same sort of birth you’re planning (whether or not they had this sort of birth).  Your local ICAN chapter may also be a good place to learn about care providers who are a good fit for your birth preferences.

 

3. You have a bad feeling.

Trust your intuition.  Even if you can’t put your finger on a specific reason, your inner wisdom has something to tell you. Those feelings coming from your gut actually play a valuable part in smart decision making!

 

Your choice of care provider has a big impact on your birth outcome and birth satisfaction.  You and your baby deserve the best possible care at this important time.

If, after reading this list, some red flags have been raised, here’s are some posts about exploring the idea of switching to a new care provider.

http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/how-change-your-care-provider-during-pregnancy

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/choosingapractitioner/a/changingdoctors.htm

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Your childbirth educator, doula, local birth support network, or ICAN chapter can also be great resources for making this decision. 

Have you had experience switching care providers in pregnancy?  Were you glad you made the switch?  Did you have an experience that made you wish you had listened to your gut and made a switch?

Affirmations: Pregnancy and Birth are Normal and Safe

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In all of my classes and workshops, we spend time learning about and exploring how to use positive affirmations for building confidence and self love and for reaching goals.  I have had sets of beautiful affirmation cards printed and laminated which can be purchased at a class or by contacting me.  I truly believe in the power of these little jewels for changing the landscape of our hearts and minds.  I would like to share a few of these here on the Dandelion Birth Blog for inspiration.  To see more, be sure to sign up to “follow” the blog.

 

The first one I’d like to share with you is the cornerstone upon which my “birth philosophy” is based (if I were forced to come up with one).  As Ina May Gaskin says, “Your body is not a lemon.”  It’s a powerful truth.  Is it one you believe?  Is it one you live in your own journey?  How does it feel to embrace this truth?

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(For a clearer look, click on the picture.)

 

Presenting…The Confident Mothering Workshop

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Have you ever been in any the following situations?
You are at the pediatrician’s office for your child’s 3 month well baby visit. Your pediatrician is recommending something that just doesn’t “feel right” to you but you don’t think you ought to disagree with him. You’re scared that you’ll make the wrong choice under pressure.
OR
Your mother-in-law has spent the last couple of hours caring for your child. When you arrive to pick him up, you notice that she has completely ignored some very specific instructions you gave her about his care. You feel enraged but bite your tongue because you wonder if you might be making a big deal out of something that really isn’t.
OR
A friend just heard you casually mention something about your parenting which is different from her own methods. She is making little snarky comments that sound like she is just joking around but actually make you feel doubtful, angry, and hurt.
OR
You are out at the store with your child. He starts throwing a tantrum because he wants something he can’t have. A total stranger gives you the stink eye. You feel like you must be bright red because you are burning up with embarrassment. Your vision is blurry and your mind is racing and you feel like would do just about anything to get your kid to be quiet RIGHT NOW, even if that something is totally out of line with the parenting principles you want to practice.
OR
You just had a new baby and you feel totally unprepared and freaked out by EVERY. SINGLE. DECISION. you have to make, from what kind of diapers to use to how much you should hold him, to how many layers he should be wearing and on and on. You are so nervous that you’ll make the wrong choice about something or that you’re just not cut out for this parenting thing.

Based on my experience as a parent and a human being, I would venture to guess that pretty much every parent out there has felt all of these things in some form at some time or other. So, why is it that some moms seem so confident and “on top of things”? Do they know some secret?
What if you could learn some skills that could help you to feel that sense of confidence? What if you could learn how to really trust your own wisdom as a mother and could find freedom and joy as a result? What if, instead of struggling with doubts about yourself and your choices, you could stand strong in knowing you are doing a great job?
I will be the first to tell you that the greatest challenges I have ever faced have come out of seemingly small moments like the ones listed above. These are the sorts of moments that bring out feelings we never knew in such intensity. Moments that shine a cold light on questions we never wanted to face. Moments that make us feel like we are being tested. And often, like we are failing that test.
I remember once seeing a woman at the grocery fighting with her son while I, too, was struggling just to pick out groceries and put them in the cart while keeping my own sons out of trouble. The other mother and I made eye contact and smiled at one another. I made a joke to her about motherhood being the fast track to enlightenment, whether we want it or not. She and I had a moment of connection there as we both realized the truth of this and laughed together.
Now, I’m not calling myself enlightened. But I will say that I have had some amazing teachers over my parenting journey and the four best ones are my sons. Motherhood has truly been an opportunity to open my heart and to let go of some ego and admit just how much I have room to learn. Some days, the best I can say is, “I kept them all alive and fed today.” But, some days, I fall asleep realizing a real breakthrough occurred that day, that a thing I had been trying to make part of me was suddenly sticking. And with every one of those good days, my confidence has grown. Again, I’m not saying I have it all figured out. What I am saying is this: I have been lucky enough to have some beautiful lessons given to me by some brilliant teachers, and I want to share these lessons and the feelings of confidence, freedom, and joy they inspire with as many mother as I am able.
Towards that end, I have created the Confident Mothering workshop. Some of the goals of the workshop are to help each mother who takes part
-Learn to listen to and trust her own intuition. (What is intuition? What does it sound like? Do I even have any? How do I know I can trust it?)
-Filter out other voices that shake her confidence in her choices or don’t contribute to her wellbeing. (Whether these voices are real or imagined.)
-Respond when others disagree with her choices or beliefs as a parent. (Without feeling defensive or confrontational.)
-Develop her own mothering wisdom “style”.
-Enjoy parenting from a place of freedom and joy.

This workshop takes place over the course of two Tuesday evenings together in an intimate setting. We will also have a private facebook group for participants to offer one another support after the face to face meetings so that we can continue to learn and grow together. We’ll use creative tools and techniques to bring on some real “AHA!” moments that will open the way for transformation…
From doubt to confidence
From guilt to freedom
From fear to love!


What have you got to lose? Don’t you deserve to enjoy your journey as much as you can?
The first session of this exciting workshop will take place on February 25th and March 4th. All participants must be registered at least a week ahead of time. For further info about registration, click here.

Update: I will be holding this workshop again May 18 & 25, 2017. Register today!