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Baby Signing to Transform Parenting

If someone told you that it was possible to prevent up to 90% of toddler upset and tantrums, you’d really want to know how – and why.

The ‘how’ is baby signing and the use of four, just four, simple signs.

The ‘Why’ is explained below. 

Baby signing is the use of gesture (or sign), with speech, to enable even very young children to be able to communicate what they may need or want before speech begins. 

The use of signing encourages peaceful, respectful and responsive interactions with happy, confident children who have the resources and capability to ask for what they need with their hands, easily and quickly.

Signing is a wonderful parenting tool for anyone with children under 7. I would go so far as to say that it is one of the most transformative tools for parenting and responsive care-giving that I am to come across.  And with busy modern lives, having an immediate visual point of reference is invaluable as we process visual signals so much more quickly than the spoken word.

Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs in 1943 which is based on Maslow’s theory that Man’s “most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire or focus motivation upon higher level needs.”

Basic needs are literally the requirements for human survival; food, drink, sleep, excretion, comfort, shelter. Without these needs being met, quite simply the body cannot continue to function.  

‘It has been suggested that up to 90% of toddler tantrums are related to just four things. 

The need to eat, to drink, to sleep and to receive comfort’

Children who are able to communicate their needs and be understood, are able to progress to higher level interests (the important things in life – climbing, gazing at butterflies, and contemplating ants…) which in turn impacts greatly on their learning capabilities.  In reverse, a child who is always concentrating on an unmet basic need will feel “anxious and tense”. This anxiety manifests as meltdown and distress.

As responsive parents, we want to make sure that we are providing as much opportunity as possible for our little people to communicate with us. The use of gesture is a perfectly normal part of speech development (think waving, clapping, pointing)  but has the benefit of supporting our attachment bond by increasing eye contact and the giving and receiving of undivided attention.

Maximise peaceful, happy and cherished interactions by learning and using these four signs:

Eat or Milk (food)

Drink

Bed (sleep)

Cuddle (comfort)

If you are feeling confident, then additional signs that will also help meet immediate needs are:

Nappy Change or Toilet if you EC (excretion)

Home (shelter)

Help 

Hurt

And after that, you’ll want to expand your signing vocabulary as you fall in love with using it.

SIGNING CORRECTLY:

GAIN your child’s attention by saying their name

SIGN so that they can see you

SAY the word as you sign it

WAIT for a response (a turn of the head or body away = no; excited arm flapping = yay!)

REPEAT – again and again and again.

At the very least you will have a great deal of fun and learn a new modern language  – but, with a little effort, I’ll guarantee that you will gain a confident, more communicative child who can let you know what they need too!

4 signs to learn today!

©photo by E.J. Richards is licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0

Shelley Headshot

 

Shelley juggles motherhood, endless washing and wonderful outdoor adventures with a passion for communication and the incredible world of baby signing at Little Signers Club and Online Babysign – www.littlesignersclub.co.uk / www.onlinebabysign.co.uk

 

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Enjoying Summer

Here in the American South, summer is settling in all around us. Eighty-five degrees is considered a cool day, there is forever and always a 50% chance of scattered showers/storms. I strive to get my run in before 9am or after 8pm, else it will feel like running in a sauna. It is during this season that I find spending time outdoors with my son to be a bit more challenging. The woods we love romping through are suddenly filled with critters that fly, slither, or crawl out from every corner and even spending a few hours in the garden can leave us feeling spent due to the often high humidity.

Still, I know time outdoors is so important, regardless of the season. And I strongly believe that seasonal adaptation to climate requires spending time enjoying the outdoors in order to adjust/adapt to temperature changes. It’s certainly better than what often becomes the alternative for many children – watching television and/or playing video games.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, “Children in the United States watch an average of three to four hours of television a day. By the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom.” I find these statistics unbelievable but notice that the higher our temperatures rise, I see fewer children and/or adults enjoying outside time. In our neighborhood, the hum of air conditioners replaces the sound of children running and playing outdoors each evening. It’s suddenly still and quiet. My son asks, “Where is everyone?” 

“Indoors,” I respond. 

The changing seasons are part of the cycle of nature and not something I believe we should shield ourselves from. There are simply too many benefits to spending time outdoors to avoid it for the entire summer! Some of the health benefits include, but are not limited to –  improved concentration; greater levels of happiness and feelings of mental wellbeing; improved overall health through exercise and outdoor play;  creativity (my son created an entire ‘house’ using found objects in our woods last year, a project he worked on for the entire summer!);  a love and appreciation of – as well as knowledge about – the flora and fauna in one’s environment; and according to Harvard Health Publications (via www.health.harvard.edu) with exposure to natural light, you may even heal faster! And that’s just a very brief compilation of the benefits of spending time outdoors.

While summer is upon the Northern Hemisphere and in many places people are flocking to lakes, pools and beaches, in warmer climates like mine the tendency can be to turn up the AC and spend three months avoiding the outdoors as much as possible. However, I have found that the more time my son and I spend outdoors in summer, the easier we adapt to the temperatures as they rise. Our time outside is not always about being physically active or going to some ‘wild’ local. Our time outdoors often consists of simply:

– Taking a long walk in our woods or neighborhood

– Dining outdoors

– Enjoying time on our patio, where we often  just sit and talk

– Working in the garden

– Going to a local park

– Bird-watching at the edge of the pond

– Reading outdoors

There are so many other ways to enjoy all the benefits of being outdoors, even in summer!  Be creative, protect your skin from the sun, and remember to have plenty of water on hand, and get out there!

AACAP quote
©photo by James Young is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Me

Amy L. Alley is mother to one son, works full-time as an educator and is also a freelance writer. Her blog, www.panpanstudios.com, focuses on maintaining a healthy, balanced, holistic lifestyle through embracing simple living; love of the handmade and homemade; quality time with loved ones and quality time just with ourselves; finding everyday adventures; time in nature; making our homes into sacred spaces; trying new recipes and knitting patterns; and finding beauty and joy in the moments that make up our daily lives. She loves to hear from her readers at amialley@hotmail.com, and you can find her on Ravelry.com under Zenmamaknits.

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Putting Words to Birth Contractions

Contractions. Birth waves. Rushes. Surges.

They’re an undeniable part of birth; a powerful force that brings life and a new season for a woman. Beautiful in their own rite, contractions can emulate a multitude of different feelings – painful, productive, piercing, tight, deep and ever-changing. No doubt, contractions are mighty and I’m often in awe of how a mother’s body partners with baby to accomplish birth. 

Throughout one birth experience there can be quite an array of contractions, at least that’s what I experienced between my two labours. As a first time mother in 2010 I experienced immediate contractions once my water broke. Over the following 40 hours my body worked on my behalf, sometimes in contradiction to my mind, to birth my baby. After my daughter’s birth I journaled many of the moments I wanted to remember, one being the characteristics of my contractions …

During this time my contractions took on a life of their own. At times they felt very masculine in nature and then they’d morph and feel more feminine. Sounds crazy, no? I associated the contractions that were more of a deep, pressure-filled pain, causing me to moan, as “he” and the shorter, sharp contractions as “she”. Delusional described me well by Friday afternoon.

It was in these delusional moments that my body took over. I gave way to the contractions and let them do the work of birthing my baby. They owned me and I let them because I knew the prize they would deliver. I found myself wanting to give up and be buried by the contractions and then I’d remember, with birth, forward is the only option. And those powerful contractions propelled me into one of the most beautiful moments of my life – seeing my daughter for the first time. 

Two years later, I was in the throws of my second birth. Almost an opposite experience. There were no drawn out contractions, no stalling, no opportunity to catch my breath. They were fast and furious, and once again, life-giving. This time, the only memento I have of these contractions are a brief chronicle of the times they came (every 60-90 seconds) and this phrase, “They are coming so fast. I just can’t stay on top of them.”

Yes, very different contraction and birth experiences indeed. 

So often birth stories revolve around the highlight – BABY! And rightly so. But in a recent conversation with some fellow mamas we focused specifically on contractions and how they felt. After all, contractions are the vehicle that make it all happen. Here’s what they had to say in response to the question,

What did your contractions feel like?

Before transition they felt like mild to moderate menstrual cramps. Not bad at all. Transition was like the worst stomach flu and cramps ever. After transition they really didn’t hurt any more. Instead, I felt powerful. So powerful. And out of control. That was scary because I was in a car flying down a freeway trying not to give birth. And when I didn’t have to fight my body – it was amazing. – Rachael

For me, there was a clear difference between my Braxton hicks and labor contractions. BH’s were irregular and would last for minutes at a time. Labor contractions were perfectly timed, with a clear start and finish, even before they became painful. – Mary

Lasting for days on and off. At times feeling like “rush me to the hospital!” And other times “get my toddler away so i can breath through this (but not as intense as hospital-ready). In the end, two weeks overdue and a c-section. So my final words were, what was the point?! – Emily

Like one big, deep Charlie horse from my ribs to thighs. – Jacque

Like menstrual cramps times 10,000. -Ashley

With my second it was an immense pressure right where my pubic bones meet at the front. – Bianca

Like fire in my thighs. – Alicia

Needles in the back. Both times felt like my back was ripping or splitting apart. BUT IT DIDN’T! And pushing was easiest.Lots of work but it felt like I was taking that pain and pressure and using it to get baby out. -Jennifer

At first they felt like I was being squeezed really tight, like my abs were seizing up almost, enough to be painful … It’s very hard to describe other than just CRUSHING pain from the top of my belly down to my knees. Near the end there was also an intense burning sensation, as if my hips and thighs were on fire. -Janine

I had intense back labor. Each contraction felt like a knot n my back. – Bethany

Like the worst ever stomach cramps, that were pressing hard against the tiny bones of my baby, so sharp and hard. -Joy

And yet, with all the mentions of pain and discomfort, all of these mamas share the same sentiment ... they would do it all again if it meant getting to hold their fresh, miracle of a baby in their arms. 

What did contractions feel like for you? What words would you assign to that powerful rush that brought you your little one?

Photo by  LCS PhotographyDSC_0802 bw

Gretchen Bossio – Wife of one hardworking husband and mama of the sweet Jemma (3) and Max (1), Gretchen writes about finding beauty, confidence and rest in motherhood on her blog, That Mama Gretchen.

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A Minimalist Approach to Toys

The words minimalism and toys are rarely put together, instead, when we think of our children’s playthings some more appropriate words may be clutter, spreading, jumbled, vast, or even just “AAAGH, they’re everywhere!”

We live in a world that prizes possessions and puts huge value on the giving and receiving of material goods. Toys are considered educational, stimulating and above all necessary, and as such most children have an ever growing collection of their own.

We certainly have our fair share of toys in our home too, and I definitely do see the benefits they can bring to a child’s world, but in this article I want to talk about the benefits of de-cluttering and taking a minimalist approach to the toys you keep in your home.

 

A Calmer Environment

Fewer toys equals less clutter and leads to a calmer environment, both for the parent and the child. This in turn leads to less stress, fewer disagreements over mess and tidying up, fewer lost parts and an increased feeling of serenity. And who doesn’t want more of that?

More Engaged and Focused Play

When there is a mountain of toys to choose from, children can become totally overwhelmed and this can lead to unfocused play. Pulling out box after box, tipping the contents out aimlessly without stopping to explore the resource, and flitting from one thing to the next with no real sense of purpose. When you cut down the “stuff” there is so much more opportunity for focused and engaged play, and this is where learning and development really come in to their own.

More Quality Resources

When you are making a choice to have fewer toys, you will likely put far more thought into which ones you decide to keep. Toys which are going to last longer and that your child is going to get the most out of are likely to be those which make the cut. Open ended resources made with quality natural materials are a great way to get endless hours of play from one item. And when you buy less overall, you can pool your funds and put them towards something that little bit more special.

 Fewer Disputes Between Children

You may think that fewer toys will lead to more arguments between siblings, but the reality is that the opposite is actually true. With fewer objects to argue over, along with the resulting calmer environment, children have less reason to fall out with each other and play becomes far more harmonious and cooperative.

Greater Levels of Imaginative Play

When a child is presented with a simple resource, such as a basket of wooden pegs or a cardboard box, they are challenged to use their imagination to create their own play experience. They have to decide what the peg will become and create a story around it, which is just what children do best! When they are given a toy which does it all for them at the push of a button, their imagination is not triggered to quite the same extent. Instead they fall into passive play which is far less enriching and valuable. Imaginative play feeds the mind, enables children to explore their world safely, play out frustrations and fears, work though strong emotions, test boundaries and be in control of their own world. A simple, uncluttered environment is perfect for encouraging imaginative play.

To a child, everything has the potential to become a toy. It doesn’t have to be complicated, noisy, flashy or brightly coloured in order to capture their interest and engage them in play. They don’t need endless boxes of different toys to play with. Sometimes it really is the simple things that are the most well used and loved. Our favourites are good old wooden blocks, a bowl of rice or lentils with a selection of jars and spoons for scooping, a stick and some mud and of course the unlimited environment of the great outdoors – Surely the greatest playground of all?

 

©photo by James Young is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Sam Vickery is the author of Trust Me I’m a Toddler a guide to parenting gently and peacefully through the toddler stage. Follow her blog at Love Parenting to get her latest articles on Natural Parenting straight to your inbox and start creating a family life you adore!

 

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What Do We Put on Our Skin?

Street Art, Cosmetics and Pregnancy; All topics I have experienced and talked about, but never at the same time… usually.

In 2013 there was a great deal of discussion in the media about the use of skin care products whilst pregnant. The RCOG released guidance on this suggesting that although they did not have any clear research as to what the risks are they felt it wise to recommend that pregnant women limited use of skin care products during pregnancy.

This raised many questions. Whether the recommendation was necessary, if it was underplayed or overplayed and what is actually known/reported about the ingredients of cosmetics. For me personally it raised the issue that regardless of pregnancy, I should be aware of what am I putting on my skin everyday!

I’m a life long user of skin care products, from baby lotion as an infant, moisturisers and bath products through childhood and then makeup and other skin care products as a teenager and adult.  I realised that with or without clear research, perhaps we should be paying more attention to what chemicals we are exposing ourselves to.

I decided that I wanted to raise this question ‘ what are we putting on our skin?’ through my art. And the way I chose to do this? By using these products as my paint, and creating an image from these as a piece of filmed street art.

This short film captures my art in progress, the finished piece, and the interest that the concept gained whilst I painted on the street.

The music I chose was really important. The striking female voice of Charlotte Eriksson and her beautiful song “Letdown” worked wonderfully in my opinion. The lyrics capturing other messages about how we look and what we do to attain that.

Since doing this street Art  I continued to question and change what I put on my skin, but it’s a work in progress! I’ve changed my shower gel to a homemade scrub of olive oil, sea salt and essential oil, which feels amazing on my skin and smells great.

I’ve changed my deodorant to a salt stick which works just as well as any roll on I’ve used previously.

– When buying my shampoo and conditioner I now pay close attention to and try to buy products without SLS or similar foaming agents which always dried my hands and scalp.

– My children use a lovely bath range from a nationwide chain which only include essential oils and other gentle ingredients that don’t irritate their skin.

– I no longer use self tanning products – so as a redhead I will try to embrace my natural paleness come the summer! But don’t hold me to that!

As far as cosmetics go I have until recently still using these. But since March 20th I decided to go Makeup free for a month. I am blogging about it on my website to see how my skin feels, but also to see how I feel psychologically without wearing it. I’ve read other blogs where women have done this, and I’ve read many views on makeup. From discussions on the chemical components, the oppression of women, the capitalisation of beauty but also the power, confidence and artistic elements that so many women use cosmetics for.

To see how I am doing at being makeup free for the first time in my adult life, check out my blog susanmerrick.co.uk/blog.

painting and video © Susan Merrick

photo

Susan grew up with a passion for drawing and painting, a passion that was reignited during her first pregnancy in 2008. Inspired by strong women in her art and self taught, Susan has continued to develop her style using a wide range of materials and canvas. Susan has created art for gifts, political humour, commissioned wall art, belly painting, and more recently illustration. Her art has been exhibited in Putney, Aldershot, and Cranleigh and she has had illustrations published in the form of children’s books, What A Lovely Sound! By Starr Meneely and Blue Jeans by Veronika Sophia Robinson. Currently Susan is working as a Sign Language Interpreter 2 days a week, and balancing being a Birth Doula and Artist around her role as a mother of two. She lives with her husband and children in Hampshire, UK and always learning from her children, she endeavours to improve her patience and skills in gentle parenting! For more information about Susan or to see more of her gallery visit her website susanmerrick.co.uk or check out her posts and albums on Facebook.com/SBMArtwork and twitter@smdoula

 

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Caring for Newborn Skin – Naturally

My second son was born just a few weeks ago, and I was immediately struck by how incredibly beautiful, soft, and delicate newborn skin is. Is there any better ‘drug’ than the musky scent and the satin feel of your infant’s new skin?

Skin is our largest organ. It amounts to around 16% of our body weight. Newborn skin is particularly delicate, being around 30% thinner than adult skin, and therefore more vulnerable to irritants and the absorption of toxins.

Newborn skin is constantly changing and growing, and can be susceptible to dryness. Adult cosmetics products are generally too harsh to use on baby skin – and as such, it is important to use only products that have been designed specifically for babies. However, there’s a lot we can do to care for our baby’s skin without spending a great lot on special products. A lot of benefit can be gained from just ‘simplifying’ your baby’s hygiene routine.

Here are some tips for caring simply for your baby’s precious new skin:

Delay the first bath – When your baby is born, he/she may be covered in a white waxy substance. This is known as ‘Vernix’ and acts as a temporary barrier, to protect baby from infection and environmental stress. Delaying your baby’s first bath, means that he/she maximises the benefit of this coating.

Bathe baby infrequently – babies don’t really get dirty do they? I remember I bathed my first child every night as a baby. I had read that giving baby a bath each evening was part of establishing a bedtime routine. However, bathing can tend to have a drying effect on the skin, and really isn’t necessary daily. My son’s dry skin issues improved dramatically once I reduced the frequency of his baths.

Use cotton wool and water instead of baby wipes – I have seen advertising for baby wipes which states “cleansing as gentle as cotton wool and water”. In that case, why use anything else? Even ‘gentle’ wipes can irritate very new skin.

Only use a ‘cleanser’ for hair initially – a baby’s body doesn’t get dirty enough to ‘cleanse’. Cleansers (unless extremely gentle) can strip the skin of its natural oils. However, hair will need a wash now and then.

Moisturise with an oil – choose something light and easily absorbed such as sunflower. It doesn’t need to be expensive. ‘Creams’ and ‘butters’ are great as a denser, heavier and more protective emollient, but unless your baby has especially dry skin problems, a light oil should be sufficient.

Always choose unscented products for your baby. Unless you are a qualified Aromatherapist, you can’t be sure of the effects of essential oils. Furthermore a ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ is generally a synthetic ingredient. Besides, babies smell gorgeous naturally right?

Always use natural ingredients/products, and check your labels. INCI names are confusing but can be easily ‘translated’ via Google. Be sure and confident about what you are applying to your baby’s skin.

Remember issues of dermal absorption and how much more vulnerable to this newborn skin is. What you put on, goes in, to a certain extent. Try to minimise the exposure your baby gets to ‘products’.

Don’t change baby’s clothes unnecessarily. As with bathing, babies don’t tend to get ‘dirty’ often and frequent changes can ‘disturb’ and ‘irritate’ sensitive skin.

Stay on top of dampness and soreness in the nappy area. I swear by Baltic amber for teething and avoiding nappy rash. You can also easily make your own natural talcum powder to keep the delicate nappy area dry (see below). Caring for your newborn’s skin doesn’t need to be complex, or expensive. Less is really very much more.

TALC RECIPE 

(thanks to The Holistic Beauty Book by Star Khechara)

50g arrowroot powder

30g orris-root powder

20g powdered lavender flowers

All ingredients available to buy from www.aromantic.co.uk

©photo by Kreatively Kristin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

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Cath Mather is a mother to 2 boys, and an experienced Occupational Therapist, Hydrotherapist, and Reiki practitioner. She also finds time to run her own small children’s natural skincarebusiness. You can contact her here www.barebodycare.co.uk

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Whatever it Takes – 4 steps to stay connected to your partner through parenthood

Let’s face it, romance and intimacy can quickly take a back seat when we become parents. We give lovingly and endlessly to our children, but if little energy is saved for ourselves or our partners, a large wedge can unknowingly sneak in between the relationship.

Here are 4 steps to help ensure your relationship not only endures, but strengthens in the journey of parenthood.

ALONE TIME

First rule, you cannot give what you do not have. Take time out for yourself first and do something you love. Nurture that part of you that remains to be all you, then you must allow your partner to do the same. When we reconnect with ourselves, we ground ourselves and create space for others. If it means taking turns with your partner, finding a sitter, calling the in-laws, going to the gym and using their childcare center, finding a mom’s morning out program, finding other mom’s in your local networks to take turns watching the kids, whatever it takes, go for it.

KINDNESS AND COMPASSION

By honoring our time and our partner’s time, we naturally tend to be more thoughtful, patient, and willing to give to each other. We have more energy to put forth into the relationship. Little notes, unexpected hugs, instant messages, simple, tiny acts that show how much we care. In our house, it’s making each other’s coffee, planning a dinner out together, cleaning the litter box, helping with workrelated tasks, filling the gas tank. Everything counts because it means somehow we’ve made life easier for each other. It means that we have taken the time, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, to think and do something for our partner.

RESENTMENT

There is nothing more damaging to self and to a relationship than unresolved resentments. Hint #1: If you are snapping or nagging at your partner, and feeling angry when they are around, you have resentment. Figure out clearly why you are upset first, and understand that you may have a part in the problem (I usually do). Take time to talk openly, and if you don’t have time, write a note or email saying you must talk face to face. Make a lunch date, wait until the kids are sleeping, whatever it takes to talk your resentments over. The longer you wait, the harder this will become. Resentments do not disappear, they only get saved for the next blowout. Hint #2: An attack approach won’t resolve anything. If the rift between you and your partner feels too big to deal with, maybe it’s time to get some help. Consider how far you are willing to go to fix your relationship.

COUPLE TIME

It’s crucial to have quality alone time with your partner. A 30minute walk, a short night or weekend away, a 2hour dinner date, whatever it takes. This one-on-one time helps remind couples of who they are outside of their roles as parents and partners in home/life management. It helps you reflect back to what you’ve created, and remember that you chose to be on this amazing journey together. Life moves fast, gets busy, the kids take our attention away, yes all of these things are true, but without the foundation of being a strong, intimate couple, things only get harder, not easier. By giving ourselves the time, giving our partner the time, and taking time together, we are showing our children how to respect ourselves and each other.

 

©photo by Dr. Wendy Longo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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MJ writes at Wander Wonder Discover where she continues to unwrap the joys and heartaches of living, learning, relationships and parenting. A soul seeker to the core, when MJ isn’t volunteering at the kids’ school, she is dancing, reading, bird-watching, playing the banjo and recording her human observations and wanderings in one too many journals. She lives in Boulder, CO with her energetic, fun-loving boy, dragon riding, fairy girl, her best friend and husband of 16 years, and Alfie the cat.

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Issue 62 – February / March 2014

To Buy This Back Issue Now Click Here!

IN THIS ISSUE OF THE MOTHER MAGAZINE

Breastfeeding the Adopted Child by Sara Simon

Natural Birth Stories by Hannah Robertson and Sita Bouchie de Belle

The Sacred Feminine by Veronika Sophia Robinson

Ten Steps to Building Natural Immunity by Wendy Moore

Sustainable Parenting by Samantha Parker

Toxic Childhood by Dr. Richard House

Body Art by Susan Merrick

Brigid’s Imbolg Brew by Erini Loucaides

To purchase this issue click here or check it out on our Back Issue Pages.

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6 Tips for Supporting a Woman in Labour

Your partner is pregnant! Congratulations! It may be many months or just a few days away, but eventually the two of you are going to go through the birth process together and I’m here to help you make it as smooth as possible. You can’t go wrong with the following six birth doula secrets.

Time Contractions (but just a few)

It’s so easy to get obsessed with timing contractions once they finally start. You’re excited! This is it! However, you cannot be a good support while glued to your phone nor can you get any better sense of what is happening with the labour by timing every single one. Time 3 and then wait an hour. Whatever pattern those 3 fall into is the pattern. No need to time more until it changes.

Remember Food and Water (and bathroom breaks – but not in a frantic way)

Labour burns lots of calories and women need food to keep their strength up plus a dehydrated uterus won’t contract efficiently. Even if she says she feels nauseous, offer suggestions of food and drink regularly. Don’t ask what she wants, offer specific options. Toast with peanut butter? A banana? Water? Coconut water? A straw is always a good idea.

You both need bathroom breaks. You need them because you’ll get fidgety and weird if you hold it for hours on end and she needs them because her bladder and baby’s head will compete for space in her pelvis. Not emptying it regularly can hold the baby up so put that on your checklist of things to remind her.

Be A Calming Physical Presence (but not in a frantic way)

The best advice I can give here is to slow down. I have seen countless partners let their nervousness show through agitated, light-speed petting. Slow down. A steady hand on the back or a firm shoulder massage are plenty. When in doubt ask quietly but clearly if she would like a cool washcloth for her forehead.

Don’t Rush To The Hospital (as long as possible)

Ina May Gaskin has a wonderful chapter in her book, Guide To Childbirth about what she calls “sphincter law”. Long chapter short: the cervix is a sphincter that opens (or doesn’t) involuntarily. The change of venue from your house to the hospital (or birth centre) means a car ride, bright lights, strangers, and poking and prodding. Once labor is really on it’s way, all those things won’t make a difference but at the beginning, the cervix can be skittish. Stay at home where mom can be comfortable until her contraction pattern is strong and regular.

Above All Else, Between Contractions

One of the most annoying and distracting things when a woman is trying to focus in labor is having someone – anyone – talk around her, or worse, asking her to answer questions, in the middle of a contraction. As soon as she begins to grow quiet during contractions (this may start at the beginning of labor or it may only happen as she gets into active labor), you should too. Bonus points if you remind other people to hush up so she can concentrate.

Follow Your Gut, Not The Book

You know your partner better than anyone – what she likes, what she thinks smells bad, what makes her cranky, what helps her relax. Definitely do some reading ahead of time to help familiarise yourself with labour but when the big day comes, don’t worry about finding the right page. Just breathe, remind her to breathe and trust yourself. Remember that while you may not be an expert in labour, you are an expert in her.

The first time your partner goes into labor, you won’t feel like an experienced birth doula. I know that. But I think, in general, partners are flooded with too much information about how to do everything perfectly while being constantly reminded, via not-so-funny cultural anecdotes, about all the times partners have screwed up during the birth process. Try not to worry too much. As long as you keep the above in mind, you’ll be fine. I promise.

 

©photo by Imkemper is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Emma Summer photo

Emma is a birth and postpartum doula and blogs about babies, birth, parenting, and food at Your Fonder Heart. She would love to hear your birth story.

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Celebrating the Spring Equinox

The time of the Spring Equinox (20th March this year)  means and marks many things for us but primarily it is about a time of balance, a brief time of equal dark and light, and Spring really showing her face.

We keep a nature/season table in our front room. It has little things on it that signify the time of year, items crafted over the last few years, things found on walks in the woods or on the beach. There are also some beautiful gifted items from craft swaps we have been involved in. We also have season cards depicting the seasonal festivals which are beautifully painted by an artist called Wendy Andrew.  Having the table as a focus keeps us connected with the time of year and grounds us.

For Spring Equinox we have the Eostre card, a crocheted bowl for bits and bobs, a wooden chick balanced on a mushroom (I know they aren’t spring like but they seem to have become a year round feature!), a green piece of felt underneath to signify the re-greening of the land. Some needle felted root babies, felted eggs, a found birds nest from a couple of years ago, and some felt blossom fairies. The resident gnome changes from white to green and there is a wild and wonderful collection of other ‘stuff’ the boys pick up (including the odd lego figure!).

Ritually we have an egg hunt to mark the season of fertility.  I hide the eggs about the place and then the children go off with little baskets and bags hunting for them. They know how many we start off with so they occasionally come back for clues if they are missing a few.  We have also learned not to let the chickens out before the hunt has completed as they are partial to joining in and stealing the eggs!

Planting seeds is another activity perfect for this time of year. Beans or tomato plants are perfect. As well as planting ones in seed trays try the bean seed and kitchen roll (paper towel) in a jam jar. Young children can be endlessly fascinated by watching the roots and stalk grow out of the same bean.

Eggs of the non chocolate variety feature heavily, either in foodstuffs or again making decorations. You can do all sorts of techniques dip dying, wax resist, using paint, food colouring or natural plant material to give colour. The only limit is your imagination. Display the eggs, offer them to the Goddess of spring, or make a decorative mobile.

Another project perfect for this time of year is an outside altar which can easily be constructed using a large flat piece of wood or slate, a place for quiet contemplation and a place to leave offerings for the fae or your Gods and Goddesses. I have a tea light (fire) on mine with a feather (air), sea water in a sea shell (water) and a bird skull (ancestors of the land) with the actual altar space made with 4 local stones (earth) from the field to create a cave shape, echoing the ancient Quoits in my local landscape.

What will you do this Spring Equinox?

Suggested Books:

Celebrating The Great Mother by Johnson and Shaw,

Circle Round by Starhawk, Baker and Hill.

©photo by Imkemper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

bio picLiz Williams, home educating mother of 2 wild boys. Living in Cornwall being creative with fabulous fabric and trying to balance the many sides of home-ed, mother, partner and business owner at Dark Star Designs.

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10 Ways to Help Your Daughter Honour Her Body

We are with our bodies from the moment of our miraculous conception to the moment of our final breath.  How we treat them influences how we feel about ourselves, and thus, how we experience the world.  What more impactful gift could we offer our beloved daughters than to guide them into a loving and respectful lifelong relationship with their bodies?  Every day, through our words, actions, and example we can do just that.

Here are 10 suggestions to get us started:

  1. Respect her body cues around food. When she says she is hungry or full, respect the cues of her body, regardless of how much has or has not been eaten.  Offer her yummy, healthy foods, and model how eating is both pleasurable and nourishing.
  2. Support her Boundaries. Like us, children have their own intuition about what feels good and safe. When our daughters set a physical boundary, whether we understand their decision or not, offering our support communicates that her instincts are important, and that her body is her own.
  3. Accept her Feelings. Forcing her to smile for pictures when she is in a bad mood, banishing her to her room for displays of anger, or telling her to ‘stop crying’ when she is upset, sends the message that happiness is the only acceptable emotion.  We allow her to honor her body by giving space to all of her emotions, and guiding her in their healthy expression.
  4.  Protect her from the Media.  It is difficult to accept your body just as it is while flipping through fashion magazines offering “495 Ways to Get Pretty By Summer.”  Make a choice to not subject your daughter to ideals and images that will likely make her feel worse about herself, and ban fashion magazines from the home.
  5. Move Together.  Exercise is a celebration of the body.  While engaging in physical activity with your girl, focus on how great it feels to move and stretch, how invigorating it feels to breathe with fervor, and the calming affect exercise offers the mind.
  6. Dress for comfort.  Many girls today are restricted by their clothing and footwear.  Apparel that fits well and offers her body full range of movement with ease will allow her to honor her desires for activity.
  7. Teach her about her body.  It is empowering to know the anatomical names for all of your body parts, how they work, and how to care for them.  Let us offer this factual knowledge to our daughters without taboo.
  8. Embrace Female Body Functions. Menstruation and lactation are unique to women, and we honor our feminine temples by embracing and celebrating these distinctive experiences.  Share with your girl the magic of being a woman.
  9. Value Her Genetic Blueprint.  Our bodies are designed to survive and thrive. Our ancestors needed their unique body structure to complete the tasks of their time, and now, many generations later, she bares the proof.  Researching her ancestors together could be a powerful step in honoring the body she inherited.
  10. Honor Your Body.  Our daughters absorb how we regard our bodies, listen with vigor to comments made about others’ bodies, and dissect our behavior to determine what we value.  It is wise to take any body issues we may have seriously and address them, getting support if necessary.
©photo by AdrianaAkrap is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Melia-headshot

Melia Keeton-Digby, M.Ed is a 30-something writer, speech-language pathologist, and founder of The Mother-Daughter Nest.  A native Arkansan, she and her husband and their three fantastic children now call Athens, Georgia home.  Her life is dedicated to children- understanding them, loving them, guiding them, and most of all- learning from them.

 

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9 Simple Ways to Boost Your Breast Milk Supply

If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you’re probably all-too-familiar with the fear of a dwindling supply. There are numerous factors that can play into a reduction in breast milk, such as stress, illness, smoking, or birth control drugs. While there are many things you can’t control, let’s talk about the things you can- the easiest place to start is with your dinner plate! Including these tasty lactogenic food & drinks into your diet can make for happy boobies and happy babies.

Water– It doesn’t get any simpler! If you are dehydrated, your milk is dehydrated. Aim for ½ an ounce per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you need approximately 70 oz of water per day.

Cumin– Cumin is an essential part of any Indian cuisine, and is probably already in your spice rack. Not only does is stimulate milk supply but it also regulates blood sugar levels, which can help you lose some baby weight. Use this aromatic herb in chili, enchiladas, curries, guacamole, or vegetable stews. It’s also a great addition to meat rubs or marinades.

Chamomile– Chamomile’s delicate apple flavor is one of my favorites. Drink this as a tea at night as a calming bedtime ritual to help you drift off into a restful sleep while increasing your milk flow. It also helps with stress and anxiety, so keep it on hand for when you need a breather.

*Beware of teas that have any kind of mint added, as it can lower your supply.

*If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid this herb.

Flax seeds– Flax supplies important fatty acids necessary for breast milk production. The hulls are indigestible when whole, so always use the ground seeds. You can easily sprinkle it on yogurt or granola, and mix it in with homemade pancakes, muffins, breads, or cookies. There is also flax milk available in stores as a tasty dairy alternative.

Fennel seeds– This sweet, licorice-flavored plant is popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Not only does it boost supply, but it passes through your milk, providing baby relief from tummy upset and colic. You can drink it as a flavorful tea, or use it as a spice in salads, meats, potatoes, or desserts.

Dandelion– Ok, so I know you don’t have dandelions in your kitchen. But walk outside- they are EVERYWHERE! And no, I don’t consider them a weed- they are indeed an excellent food and medicine. Drink the tea or add the fresh greens to your salads for lactation and breast inflammation. When harvesting dandelion greens, however, be careful to avoid areas that could potentially have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.

Oats– This one is easy. Oatmeal for breakfast, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, granola, breads, apple crisp with a crispy oat topping, oatmeal muffins. The possibilities are endless.

Dark beer– You can get brewer’s yeast from any nutrition store, but I find this option to be easier and way more fun. The yeast and b-vitamins in beer, particularly the darker varieties, will give you a nice little boost in your milk production. For bonus points, look for an oatmeal stout.

*Remember- if you are tipsy, your breast milk is tipsy. One alcoholic beverage per hour is generally considered safe while breastfeeding and will not affect the baby. As little as half a beer per day may be enough to give you the boost you’re looking for, so no need to overdo it!

Kombucha tea– Fermented foods are an excellent source of beneficial bacteria and yeast which boost your milk supply, and kombucha is one of my favorites. If you’re adventurous you can track down a “mother mushroom” and brew your own, or look for it in the health food section of your grocery store.

*This beverage does contain some caffeine as it is typically made with black tea, so don’t over-do it or drink it close to bedtime.

*Kombucha does naturally contain trace amounts of alcohol. It’s typically nothing to worry about, but due to variations in brewing techniques some may contain higher amounts. If it has a slight alcohol flavor to it, limit your intake as you would with the beer.

©photo by Aurimas Mikalauskas is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

meganpicMegan M. Kerkhoff, CHC, AADP is a Certified Health Counselor helping people to permanently achieve vibrant health and overcome chronic health issues with step-by-step nutrition & lifestyle counseling. She is a proud mommy to 2 month old Eliana Iris, and has a passion for natural pregnancy & motherhood. Visit her at www.aayushealth.com & www.megankerkhoff.wordpress.com