If you've ever found yourself sweating and on the brink of tears in the back of your car trying to shove your child as gently as possible into their car seat after 30 minutes of struggle and hysteria in 90 degree weather, you're not alone.
I've been there more times than I care to admit.
Then I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I tried a few of his suggestions. Within a few days, it got easier. He didn't struggle as much. It didn't take as long. I wasn't crying. It was like magic.
Cohen is both a play therapist and a dad. I appreciated his perspective as a professional mixed with his personal experiences at home with his own daughter. (more…)
How is your relationship with food? Do you get enough veggies? Do you stress eat? Are you a sugar addict?
This isn't to judge you - most of us struggle with food in some way or another. I'm not immune, either, I just have more tools than the average person.
After working with health coaching clients who still struggle after twenty or thirty years, when it came time to feed my son solids, I wanted to do it "right." Time for some research.
When most of us picture introducing solids, I'd imagine this is the image that comes to mind:
Most parents start their babies on solids waaaaaaaaaaay too early
Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids around 4 to 6 months. The American Association of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively formula or breastmilk until 6 months.
A 2013 study from the AAP showed that in a sample of over 1300 people, "40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”"
I started my son a little after 6 months (he had a cold so we waited until he wasn't congested). In retrospect I would have waited even longer. He was sitting up decently but didn't have a developed pincer grasp (ability to hold something between two fingertips). I was planning to offer a mix of purees and finger foods, but he threw up applesauce and I got tired of cleaning it up.
So we went with straight Baby Led Weaning (BLW). And I'm so glad we did.
Why Baby Led Weaning Was Best For Us
The "weaning" here is the British term. Americans tend to think of weaning for babies as "stopping breastmilk consumption" as opposed to "gradually reducing breastmilk consumption by introducing solids." So if you prefer the term "baby led solids," go for it.
Our decision came down to a few things:
I'm lazy. I was skeptical of commercial baby food but didn't really want to make my own. BLW meant we could offer the same (or very similar) foods to what we ate.
I have strong feelings about bodily autonomy for kids (and everyone), so giving my son control over how and what he ate held a lot of appeal.
In my coaching practice I've spent a lot of time helping clients re-learn how to listen to their own bodies, so it made sense to me to let my son tune into his own hunger signals instead of me trying to guess.
A major reason to start with purees is because babies push food out due to their tongue thrust reflex - their natural protection against choking. If you wait until their tongue thrust reflex is gone (a sign that they're developmentally ready to eat solid food), they can simply eat table food.
When you start with purees, babies learn to swallow first, then chew. With BLW they chew first, then learn to swallow. They'll eventually get chunky or finger foods, so why not just start there?
Now at 3 years old, my son eats a wide variety of foods. He loves fish, mushrooms, and seaweed just as much as macaroni and cheese. He eats chlorella tablets like they're candy. He also eats candy, but asks for a few pieces and then moves on.
Is it because of his personality, or because of how we introduced and offered food from the start? I don't know for sure, but there isn't much I'll change this fall when it comes time to start our second baby on solid food.
1. a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born
I've only had 3 major fights with my husband in over a decade spent together. One was about artichokes. Another was about fabric scissors. The third was an actual shouting match - 5 years before I was even pregnant - while walking down the street in downtown Minneapolis about doulas.
"I don't like doulas," my husband sniffed.
"What? Why? What do you even know about doulas?" "What do they even DO? I think they're annoying. Why would you need one? Isn't that what the doctor is for?"
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT."
Fast forward to 2013.
"Honey," my husband chirped, "my co-worker's wife is pregnant! I asked if they had interviewed doulas yet. He had never even heard of them, so I told him they have to have one."
Doula literally comes from the Greek term for "woman servant," and a doula serves as support for you (AND your partner) during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.
Why would you want a doula?
The presence of a doula has been shown to reduce labor times and improve birth outcomes for both mother and baby. My favorite statistic is that even a doula simply sitting in a chair in the room without actively doing anything else has improved outcomes! Amazing.
The real question is why wouldn't you have one?
A big factor for us was that we didn't know which midwife or OB would be at our son's birth. Knowing my personality and my desire for an unmedicated birth, I knew that having someone I trusted and felt comfortable with would be key for me to relax. We had also never experienced birth before and wanted someone on our team, not the hospital's, to help guide us through it.
What does a doula do (and not do)?
A doula does NOT advocate or speak for you. She is there to support you. Some doulas are massage therapists and may offer bodywork, give counterpressure during contractions, offer aromatherapy options and other comfort measures. Our doula was instrumental in guiding us through early labor and helping us decide when to leave for the hospital. What was most valuable for us as first time parents was her experience of witnessing birth to let us know what was normal.
I still say she was 80% for my husband and 20% for me.
A doula does not speak on your behalf. She may say something like, "You said you didn't want an epidural. The nurse is offering one. Do you want to try to get through a few more contractions before you decide?" Or she may say, "You said you didn't want an epidural, but it's been a long time and you seem really tired. Do you want to discuss your options?"
Where do you find a doula?
A trusted friend or family member can be a doula, but it should be someone you're comfortable with since they'll be present when you're in a vulnerable state during labor.
DONA is the group that certifies trained doulas, and you can search for a local match who is available around your due date at DoulaMatch.net. It doesn't make them a better choice necessarily, it just verifies that they have training and some experience.
How do you pick?
We found a list of local doulas, visited their websites, contacted several to make sure they were available, and interviewed 3 doulas. We really liked them all, but we chose the one who provided what we felt was the personality we needed in the delivery room. I'm very organized and responsible, so I wanted someone with a softer presence.
Many cities have doula meet-and-greet events so you can mix and mingle with a group of doulas and decide who you might want to interview. Then of course their schedule and pricing needs to be a good fit.
People are sometimes surprised at the cost of doula support, but they can only take so many clients due to the unpredictability of birth. Most also offer prenatal and postpartum support, may have additional lactation training, and probably need childcare for their own kids for the potentially long-haul of your labor.
Some may work on a sliding scale, offer payment plans or trades, or there may be student doulas in your area with less experience and a lower cost. Several we met offer discounts for homebirths since they're not always covered by insurance. The earlier you make a decision, the earlier you can budget for it.
When my husband and I started talking about trying for another baby, one of his first questions was, "Do we just have the same doula again? Is that a thing?"
But do I NEED a doula?
Of course not. And some women prefer their mother, sister, or friend to act in a similar capacity.
But if you have the option, I can't think of a reason NOT to have that additional help.
Did you have a doula at your birth?
Want to stay in the loop?
Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back.Because mom brain is real.
Comments Off on Introduction to Solids: Baby Led Weaning
If your baby is approaching the 4-6 month range, it's time to start thinking about feeding your baby solid foods. But where to start?
Many pediatricians still recommend spoon-feeding purees to your infant, but what if there was a method that involved less work for you and built a better foundation for a healthy relationship with food for your child?
Enter baby-led weaning.
Starting solids doesn't have to involve jars of gross mush or hours steaming, pureeing, and freezing cubes yourself.
Baby led weaning follows your child's own cues for readiness to set him or her up with a healthy relationship to food and their body.
In this 90-minute class we will cover:
when the ideal time is to start solids and why
what foods are best for what ages
how and when to introduce allergenic foods
You'll form a foundation for confidently feeding your baby, and receive a list of suggested items to buy, and a chart of when to introduce which foods.
The class is an hour and a half and includes time for questions so you can ask about specific situations for your child. Best of all, you can join from the comfort of your home via phone. I will also record the class in case your baby wakes up and you have to step away so you can listen later. The recording, along with an emailed handout of notes will give you a reference as you progress on your feeding journey.
After becoming a mother you're rarely alone. My son's favorite place has always been pressed against me at all times.
(I'm not sure how dads get a free solo pass to the bathroom but there has to be some mystery left in the universe.)
Yet, at the same time, motherhood can be extremely isolating.
We no longer live in village communities where extended multi-generational families care for each other. I'm not romanticizing this idea, but as someone whose immediate family lives thousands of miles away, there is a certain appeal.
We feel pressure to bounce back, whether it's into our pre-baby jeans, fitness routine, work schedule, or other obligations.
Yet we have no idea how motherhood will change us. No matter when (or if) we fit back into those jeans, a different person is putting them on. Our lives revolve around different needs and priorities, few of which are our own.
I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, yet do I really know what's going on in their lives? I talked to a friend recently on Skype and said, "I know all about your kids' sleep schedules, but how are YOU?"
I love all the connections I have on social media to share experiences, yet how deep do those connections go? And what experiences do we actually share?
I'm guilty of this myself.
Every night I post three "daily positives" on my Facebook wall. They range from moments of gratitude to fun things we did or silver linings I experienced that day. Some days I truly have to dig deep.
Those posts are for ME.
But when other people look at them, they may think everything over here is sunshine and roses all the time.
I don't post about the breakfast my son threw on the floor that I had to clean up, or the potty accident he had, or how he ran out the back door naked while I was trying to clean up the afore(not)mentioned messes. I don't want to dwell on those moments in my own life.
I don't want to constantly read about those moments from others, either, to be honest.
Like I mentioned to a friend, people don't get dogs so they can pick up poop, but that's also part of the deal.
But I know that my posts play into the idea that everything is going well all the time. And that's not true.
After this topic came up multiple times in a week, I organized my first mama circle here in San Diego. I have never led anything like this before and wanted to make sure it worked like I thought it would. It ended with everyone in tears and a group hug. It was amazing.
The most voiced comment? "I thought I was the only one."
You're not the only one.
It's hard to be vulnerable at all, let alone when we're chasing our kids at the park or trying to stop our toddlers from eating food they found on the ground or changing a diaper. It's hard to maintain a complete train of thought when we're parenting, let alone finish a sentence - or truly listen to one. It's hard to truly connect.
Humans are social animals. Even introverts need to be heard and understood.
Mothers Circle is held the second Friday of the month in San Diego. To hear about upcoming circles, or upcoming training to hold your own circles, get updates by email.
When I ran my January meal planning challenge, it was as much for me as for everyone else. I loved seeing what everyone else was making, what their goals were, and what changes they saw during the month.
At our house, our goal was to save time, energy, and money - plus try to use up some languishing pantry items stuffed in the mysterious depths of the cupboards or freezer. And we did! Sure there were a few days that we had to switch around due to life happening, but it was a relief to avoid the last minute decision making of what to make for dinner.
I only plan 4 dinners each week since we usually have enough for leftovers at least once, plus we have dinner at a friend's house most Thursdays. My husband works weekends and we often have activities, so I keep those nights open.
We also get a CSA (community supported agriculture) box of local veggies each Thursday at the farmers market, so we incorporate those as much as possible. We eat a little seafood at home, otherwise I'm vegetarian, and I'm currently not eating gluten, either.
Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza
Black Bean Tacos
Vegetarian Chili with Gluten-Free Cornbread
What are some of your go-to meals?
If your best meal planning intentions end up in a mess of recipes and guilty takeout, you're not alone. Join me from home (wear your PJs, I won't judge) and we'll cover strategies to finally get you started with my online meal planning workshop.
I just thought all babies were like that because he was the only one I had.
Other moms' mentioned their high-needs babies and I thought about how terrible that sounded - my son wouldn't sleep longer than 37 minutes, had to be constantly held, and went from 0-to-hysterical in 3 seconds flat. And they had it worse?
Apparently not. Whew.
(Looking back I have no idea how I survived those first two years with my sanity relatively intact, though that's up for debate.)
Entering my third trimester of pregnancy with my second child I vacillate between peace and panic. On one hand, at least I have some idea of what to expect.
On the other hand, I have some idea of what to expect -- plus a 3-year-old. Hold me.
With my first I felt intense pressure to "do it right." I wanted to read all the books and articles and expert opinions.
Then I learned that anyone who tells you there is one way to do anything is selling you their book.
Do I give weight in to experienced professionals say and what studies can show us? Yes. But the most important thing is doing what works for me and my family. I am the expert at my children.
So I'll stock up on strategies for smooth transitions for siblings, but this time I will have fewer expectations of myself. Because I don't know much about THIS baby yet.
In a class with Pam England (author of Birthing From Within) she explained her philosophy of "B+ Parenting."
She said that none of us can ever be a perfect parent. When we think we can, we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, she says, aim to be a B+ parent. Better than average, but without the pressure of never screwing anything up.
We will inevitably screw up.
That's what parenting is about. It's picking our battles and trying not to screw up too bad while loving the crap out of these little imperfect humans. We're learning along with them.
You're doing the best you can with what you have available at the moment. That's enough.
Not feeling like it lately? Motherhood can be an overwhelming hamster wheel of laundry and trying to remember what else you need to do.
If you're feeling stuck and don't even know where to start, you're not alone. If you need a hand to make the leap, I'd love to offer mine.
Want to stay in the loop?
Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back.Because mom brain is real.
I had so much fun doing the #mealplanningmama challenge in January that I'm hosting another one in February!
This Valentine month is all about love, right? We all love our families, even when it's tough. Even when we have to dig deep in the moment. Even when we feel like we're drawing from an empty well.
But what about ourselves?
It's hard enough before having kids. Women are told not to be selfish, to take care of other people, to put others' needs ahead of our own.
And part of having small children often means putting their immediate needs (which they cannot fulfill themselves) first.
The downside is that when we spend all of our time taking care of other people, we run out of energy to take care of ourselves. With all the work we do caring for others, it seems reasonable that someone else would step up to take care of us.
But they won't.
This is where self-care comes in.
When I notice I'm resentful or bitter, I know -- I need some self-care.
When I blame my husband for my grumpiness or can't make decisions because I'm out of brain cells, I need some self-care.
When I'm having trouble handling my toddler because I'm having trouble handling myself... you guessed it. Self-care time.
Sometimes we over complicate, though, and think self-care needs to mean a spa weekend, a massage, or some retail therapy. There's nothing wrong with those things, but sometimes they seem out of reach and we tell ourselves we don't have time/money/resources for that kind of thing. And we might not!
Self-care can be as simple as listening to the music YOU like while you cook dinner. It can be a hot shower or bath. It can be working out, a yoga class or quick routine at home, or even a simple walk.
What can you think of that recharges you and makes you feel more "you?"
We'll start small and work our way into making sure we feel more loved so we can be more loving to those around us. I'll check in each week with the hashtag #selfcaresunday and prompts to get you going. Answer in the comments, or post your own photo on your account to show what you're up to.
Stretch yourself! (Maybe literally AND figuratively.)
I took a little informal survey last month about what moms were struggling with, and so many of them listed meal prep and chores as a painful obstacle to happiness and fulfillment.
Add to that the resentment of time spent shopping, cooking, and cleaning up afterward, plus the guilt after relying on not-so-healthy meals because you're out of time and brain cells, and eating isn't exactly enjoyable.
That leads straight to the snack ledge at Trader Joe's where food intentions go to get fat and die. Cue guilt spiral.
I've totally been there, and I'm a freaking health coach here. My husband worked a zillion hours a week (Ok, fine, 75 plus commute) and I was a giant sleep-deprived ball of stress and carb cravings.
Then his schedule changed to be less intense and more regular (clouds part, angels sing), and we did something drastic: we started meal planning. This is particularly ironic since I create customized meal plans for clients that take hours of research. But I was winging it for us.
Now as soon as the kiddo goes to bed on Sunday night, we take a whopping 10 minutes to sit down and make a meal plan for the week. Then we do a quick kitchen inventory to add to the grocery list as needed. I slot each meal on our shared Google calendar, and we're set. So easy it's almost embarrassing that it took this long.
Want to give it a try? You should!
Starting Monday, January 4th, I'll post on Instagram using the hashtag #mealplanningmama with our plan for the week. Comment with your own, or post using the hashtag so we can find it. We all get accountability, plus more ideas for our own plans. Win-win!
No one is going to put you in meal planning jail if you make mistakes, mess up, or fall off the wagon.
I'll post my tips and resources along with my plans, too, so share what works for you and your family. We're in this together.
“Oh, you had your baby at home? Yeah, we were gonna do that, but we wanted our baby to live.”
- Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe
How are you feeling, Mama?
Let's be honest: first trimester kinda sucks.
Hormones flood your system. Your digestive system is on strike with each part protesting something different. You're exhausted, possibly bloated and nauseous, and may not want to explain why to your employer or friends yet.
I once described the first trimester of pregnancy as similar to having mono, but without the sore throat. The kissing disease, indeed. And just like in college, you have plenty of studying to do.
Because in addition to choosing your future child's favorite sports team and college major, you also have to decide the location in which your baby will exit the cozy mobile home that is your uterus. (Don't worry about the decor, newborns can only see about 8-12 inches away at birth!)
Almost 99% of U.S. births take place in hospital labor and delivery units, and physicians attend 86% of them. This is based on cultural norms, and probably on your health insurance coverage.
(Note: This would be a great time to review your maternity coverage to avoid dropping your newborn in shock and horror when you get your hospital bill. We were asked "cash or credit?" about 2 hours after I squeezed our son out of my body.)
Photo credit: Ariel Dolfo
Why most expecting mothers choose a hospital:
It's expected, so women may not know there are other options
Insurance coverage may not cover anything else, at least not obviously
High-risk pregnancies, which make up about 15% of hospital births, are generally not eligible for alternative locations
Concern that something will go wrong and wanting to be at a hospital just in case
The Cesarean rate is around 33% for low-risk women (health organizations look for 10% as an acceptable level)
87% of laboring mothers receive continuous fetal monitoring and 76% are restricted to bed
80% receive IV fluids
43% have labor induced, and 47% have their labor accelerated with medication
92% give birth lying on their backs
According to the American Association of Birth Centers, a birth center is "a home-like setting where care providers, usually midwives, provide family-centered care to healthy pregnant women." Though much less common than a hospital setting, they can be a great midpoint between a medical hospital environment and a home birth.
Photo credit: Vuefinder Photography, San Diego Birth Photographer
Some reasons women choose a birth center:
Low-risk pregnancy with little need for medical care
Preference for a "wellness" model of prenatal care
Desire to avoid artificially induced labor or other interventions
Traumatic associations with a previous hospital birth
84% of women who planned to were able to give birth at the birth center
Even with women who transferred to the hospital, the overall Cesarean rate was only 6%
Less than 1% of women had to transfer to the hospital during labor, and over half were still able to have a vaginal birth
The average birth center birth costs roughly half that of an uncomplicated vaginal birth in the hospital
Fewer than 1% of American women choose to give birth at home (compared with around 2.5% in the UK and around 20% in the Netherlands). Statistics can be hard to come by since they are less common, and there is a difference between a planned home birth and an unplanned one (baby arrives quickly, for example).
Photo credit: Ariel Dolfo
Some reasons women choose home birth:
Control (fear of medical interventions at the hospital)
Comfort - no travel required, able to stay in familiar surroundings
Cost - home birth can be less expensive than a hospital birth
Between 2004 and 2010, the number of home births in the United States rose by 41% (from ~.5% to ~.7% of total births), and only 22% were first births
Of planned home births studied from 2004-2009, over 89% were able to give birth at home
Cesarean rates were 5.2%
Postpartum transfer rates were 1.5% for mothers and 0.9% for infants
Well that's a lot of math, isn't it?
How is a hormonal, exhausted, overwhelmed mama to choose? Especially when they like to throw around statistics involving death.
Take your risk factors into account and you may find the hospital is the best place for your birth.
Talk to your partner. My husband's only request was that I give birth in the hospital, though he was eventually willing to consider a birth center. (We are planning a home birth for our next child.)
Think about how far you (or your caregivers) are from that location.
Know your budget and the costs of what is and isn't covered by your insurance - it may surprise you.
Whatever you decide, know this:
You can absolutely have a beautiful, peaceful natural childbirth experience at a hospital, or birth center, or at home. You can absolutely have a beautiful, peaceful childbirth with an epidural. You can even have a beautiful, peaceful Cesarean birth.
If you feel drawn toward a birth center or home birth but are nervous, tour/interview the facility/midwives. You can always opt for the hospital anyway.
More about birth plans next time. Happy gestating!