Breastfeeding Interview with Becky

Today's interview is with my mom. I loved this so much. My mom and I have talked a lot about pregnancy and birth throughout my life, and she's always had such positive things to say (no wonder I'm a doula). She said that she felt guilty explaining why she stopped breastfeeding Tyler. To that I say.... Mom, I am so sorry if anything has ever made you feel less-than for doing things a certain way as a mother. Breastfeeding is a choice, and you knew when it was time to stop. I think it's great that you made that decision on your own! You're the best.  

My "little" brother, me, and my mom :)

My "little" brother, me, and my mom :)

Becky Douthett, 53

Why did you decide to breastfeed?  Because I read it was important to build the baby’s immunities especially in the first six weeks.

How long did you breastfeed each of your children? I breastfed my daughter Laura until she was about 10 months old.  I had to go back to work when she was 8 months and I was not very successful at pumping.  We were down to mornings and evenings (since I worked full time) and then it gradually and naturally tapered off.  Or at least it seemed that way…it was 28 years ago.

I breastfed my son Tyler until he was 10 months also.  I always thought it was a shorter period than Laura because I went back to work when he was 6 months.  Thinking back I remember the exact moment I stopped breastfeeding Tyler.  We were on a 2 week road trip and it was towards the end.  We were at my Uncle’s house in Colorado Springs and it was hot and I think Tyler was teething.  It was really uncomfortable and did not seem to be working for either of us and then he bit me.  So, I stopped.  

What was your favorite thing about breastfeeding? I can only list one thing?  Okay, my most favorite thing about breastfeeding was that it was such a bonding experience!  I really missed having my babies inside me and breastfeeding allowed me to continue that connection.  It forced me to stop and just “be” with my baby and have that eye to eye contact.  My favorite time to breastfeed was the 4am feedings.  It was just the two of us and such a special time. 

How did your partner help you during breastfeeding? My husband was very supportive but I do remember his mother being very concerned that I did not have enough breast milk for the babies.  She kept suggesting that I supplement with bottles and formula.

What was breastfeeding in public like? I did not do it very often.  I felt  awkward and self-conscious.  I really admire women that can manage this so gracefully.  Although, I remember one time being at the mall and my daughter was hungry and upset.  So, I went in a large department store restroom where they had the couches in the waiting area of the restroom.  There were several women breastfeeding and I joined them.  It was very comfortable and I felt part of this little community of mothers.

If you worked while you breastfed, how did you manage it? I supplemented with formula and only breastfed before and after work.  It was amazing how easily my milk production adjusted to the new schedule.

What resources helped you the most at being successful with breastfeeding? I had a couple of books and my brother’s wives both breastfed their children and were always ready and willing to offer advice.  The nurses in the hospital were also helpful.

Is there anything else you'd like to share? After the first few weeks, I figured out how to lay on the bed to breastfeed and it was so relaxing.  I did not have to worry about having to make bottles or pack them whenever I left the house.  Then on the vain side, I was always flat chested and I finally had a little cleavage and it helped me to lose the baby weight and get back into shape.

Breastfeeding Interview with Rachael

Happy World Breastfeeding week, everyone! Here's my 2nd interview with another incredible woman from my family - my cousin Rachael! She has 4 wonderful daughters, and has raised them mostly on her own. I love this series because you can see how different each woman's breastfeeding experience is. One thing that is common, though, is that even if it was difficult, the breastfeeding itself was positive. Whether you breastfed for one day or 4 years, every drop counts! We have to remember that circumstances are different for everyone. There's no room for shame here - only the celebration of love and bonding.

Rachael Reinhold, 42

Why did you decide to breastfeed? I was very young with my first daughter. I honestly didn't think that there was any other way of feeding my newborn that was acceptable. I remember it being painful but giving up was not an option because I knew what I was doing was best for her. My next 3 girls after, I chose to nurse for the same reasons, in addition to the amazing bonding experience I had with my first. There was nothing better than that bond between a mother and her nursing baby.

How long did you breastfeed each of your children? With each one of my girls I was only able to nurse for about the first 2 months, as my supply dried up, with the exception of my 4th child. I was only able to nurse for 2 weeks with her. I tried so hard with her but she tore me up so badly that I just wasn't able to continue. I'm still so devastated to this day that I wasn't able to nurse all my girls a lot longer.

What was your favorite thing about breastfeeding? The bonding experience. The way your child just looks into your eyes while nursing. That feeling of being so needed. I loved the experience. Although it was short, I am so happy I at least got the chance to experience it.

How did your partner help you during breastfeeding? Now that I think back on it, I can say I didn't really have the support of my partner, but that was probably a lot to do with me. I have always been the kind of person where I've got it all handled. When it came to nursing I remember wanting to be alone during feeding time.

What was breastfeeding in public like? I never breastfed in public. I really scheduled my day around nursing. I think it's kind of sad how society looks at mothers who nurse in public. It's possible that women might nurse their children a lot longer and not see it as an inconvenience if they weren't judged so harshly for breastfeeding in public.

If you worked while you breastfed, how did you manage it? I did not go back to work until way after I had stopped nursing.

What breastfeeding resources helped you the most? With my first baby, it would have been the nurse that came to my house to check on me. Back in that time 22 years ago they sent a nurse out to check on you after you had a baby. She was so helpful. She really spent time with me and made sure my daughter was latching correctly and that she was getting enough from the amount of time she was feeding. She was really awesome.

Is there anything else you'd like to share? Breastfeeding is such an amazing experience. I know that it's not for every woman and that is their choice, but I always say to at least try. It's an experience you will never get back. 

Breastfeeding Interview with Brittany

To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, I've decided to interview a different woman from my family each day about their breastfeeding experiences. Our family is huge, and full of smart, hilarious, strong women that have dealt with different obstacles and strengths in childbearing and rearing. All bodies and breastfeeding experiences are unique. What I love about this interview with my cousin Brittany is that she listened to her body and made decisions based on evidence-based information and what she intuitively knew what was right. By the way, The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years, and the average age of weaning worldwide is 4 years

Brittany and her lovely family!

Brittany and her lovely family!

Brittany Reinhold, 31

Why did you decide to breastfeed? I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. My whole pregnancy, I was telling myself... even if it's hard or painful - you got to do it! So many people have negative experiences, and for some reason they feel the need to share their horror stories! Thankfully, my daughter latched on.

How long did you breastfeed each of your children? I'm still breastfeeding my daughter. She will be 3 in September. She's 34 months.

What was your favorite thing about breastfeeding? My favorite thing would have to be the health benefits. I only breastfeed now to put her to sleep and I can't stop because I don't know how else to put her to sleep! There is something soothing about breastfeeding... it brings so much peace to my daughter when she's nursing. It comforts her, and in return makes my heart warm :)

How did your partner help you during breastfeeding? My husband was great through the process. Some days I would cry because I was worried I wasn't producing enough milk to keep the baby full. It's a very emotional experience, being a first time mom and all the questions you ask yourself. My husband would call his mom and ask for her advice on what to buy or make to help my milk production. 

What was breastfeeding in public like? I never breastfed in public. Just not my thing. I have no problem with other women doing it. It just was not for me. 

If you worked while you breastfed, how did you manage it? I didn't go back to work until my daughter was 2. And only part time. 

What breastfeeding resources helped you the most? The nurses at the hospital were so great and helpful. They taught me how to feed my daughter. My step sister is a RN and owns a lactation business, but she lives in Hawaii and I live in California. My many phone calls to her definitely helped me with my success. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share? My daughter's pediatrician told me to stop breastfeeding at 1 year. He said after 1 year there are no more benefits...... shhhhhh he doesn't know I still breastfeed!! I believe my daughter is so intelligent and advanced for her age due to breastfeeding :)

20 Things No One Tells You About Giving Birth... With a Doula

"What's a doula?" "What's the difference between a midwife and a doula?" "Why do I need a doula if my partner/mom/friend will be there?" 

I hear the above questions several times a month. A lot of people have heard of doulas, but they still aren't exactly sure about what we do. Check vitals? Prescribe treatments? Deliver the baby? (FYI, all of these things are out of our scope of practice)... So when a friend recently posted the Cosmopolitan article, 20 Things No One Tells You About Giving Birth, on Facebook, I felt that this would be a wonderful time to elaborate. While much of the article is correct, I wanted to use their numbered items to explain what we doulas do in more detail. You may even learn some interesting facts about birth along the way!

1. "Your water doesn't break in a ceremonious splatter at your feet."

It could, but it's not likely. As Cosmo points out, it could break all at once, or it might leak gradually - and just because it breaks does not mean that you'll instantly go into labor. Luckily, your doula will be available to you through text, call, and email 24/7 to help answer (almost) any questions you have about your water breaking (and prevent you from descending into a WebMD nightmare). While we are extremely knowledgable about birth, it's important to know that a doula does not do anything clinical. That is the job of your doctor or midwife. What we can do is give you unbiased, evidence-based information and undivided support around the clock. 

2. "Your water might not break just once."

It's true. You may be leaking amniotic fluid (your "water" - the stuff your baby is floating in) for several hours. The thing is, the leakage could be a few different things... and you might not be able to tell. It could be your water, it could just be discharge, or it could be your mucus plug. "Mucus plug???" you ask. Your mucus plug is what covers your cervix during pregnancy to prevent bacteria from getting to your baby. It detaches anywhere from 2 weeks before labor to immediately before labor, and it may have a bloody tinge to it - which is why some people call it "bloody show". Your doula can help you make an informed decision to either chill out and relax after some leakage or to call your care provider. 

3. "If your water doesn't break on its own, a doctor breaks it for you."

This is not necessarily true. A doctor or nurse can break your water, if that is what you feel is best. Maybe you have a great relationship with your care provider, and don't want to second guess any of their suggestions. But if you aren't sure that you want the procedure, a doula will empower you to ask questions like, "Am I OK?", "Is my baby OK?", and "What are the benefits and risks of the procedure?" before moving forward. It may not be imperative for them to rupture your "membranes" (yet another term for the water bag). In fact, a small percentage of babies are actually born completely encased in the amniotic sac! (Here's a picture of what that looks like.) 

4. "Just because your water breaks doesn't mean you have to race to the hospital and behave like Hugh Grant in Nine Months."

It doesn't have to be like this!!!

It doesn't have to be like this!!!

TV and movies have misled us about the birthing process. Just because your water breaks does not mean you'll immediately go into labor. You might not get a contraction until several hours or days after your water breaks. And if your partner has a major meltdown à la Hugh Grant, your doula will be there to help them cope. Yes, we are there for your partner and family as well! We can explain what's going on, give them tasks to perform, or just help them breathe. The last thing you want to do during labor is reassure someone else.  

5. "You can't run around with your water broken or have sex once it does."

Ok, there is some truth to this. You definitely should not have sex after your water breaks, as your baby will now be at a higher risk for infection (But don't worry! You can still get frisky after you lose your mucus plug). Some OBs will tell you that you must immediately go to the hospital after your water breaks, and that you should not walk for the remainder of your labor except to pee. This comes from the outdated idea that the umbilical cord can easily prolapse after the water is broken. We now know that that is more likely to happen as the water breaks, not after it does. When you aren't sure whether you should continue to labor at home or you should head to the hospital, your doula can provide you with information that will help you make that decision. 

6. "Contractions may be the worst part."   

Most women agree that contractions are the most painful part of childbirth, and that pushing is a relief (most being the key word - all bodies and all births are different). That doesn't mean contractions have to be Hell on Earth. If you desire an unmedicated birth, we can help you find your breath, find your rhythm, learn how to cope with the discomfort, and rub your feet/back/hips/etc. If you want to get an epidural, we'll help you change positions, stay cool, and offer up techniques for pushing. If you change your mind about any decision during the birthing process, we will be there to support you through it 100%! A huge misconception about doulas is that we are only for natural birth. A good doula does not have a personal agenda. We just want your experience to be as positive as possible - home or hospital, medicated or unmedicated, vaginal or c-section.

7. "Getting an epidural is like tripping on medically sanctioned ecstasy."

For some? Absolutely! Many women find amazing relief from the epidural, and it works really well for them. For others, it can be irritating and uncomfortable. Understand that your epidural is likely to slow things down (which can be great if you are getting tired and need some rest before pushing!). You will be completely dead from the waist down, and it may feel weird when people touch your legs (like touching your face after getting shots of Novocain). It may be hard to push because you won't feel the urge, and you might not even know if you are pushing. I don't tell you these things to scare you out of getting an epidural - it might be a good choice for you to get one. I tell you so that you can make the best decision for you. A doula will empower you to make your own decisions. It's your birth, and you shouldn't feel shamed for wanting it to be a certain way. 

8. "You feel like you have to number two." 

Later in labor, when you start trying to run to the bathroom for a bowel movement, your nurse, midwife, doctor, or doula will stop you. It's more than likely time to push that baby out, and your doula will be there to help you into the position you want to deliver in. Before your due date, your doula will schedule 1-2 prenatal appointments. One of the things we will cover is the position you'll push in. Some women know what position they want to be in when they push, and some don't. Some are surprised about the position that they actually end up in. 

Lying on your back with your feet in stirrups is not the only way!

Lying on your back with your feet in stirrups is not the only way!

9. "The person who delivers your baby might not be your doctor."

It's true, faces may change throughout your labor if you're birthing at a hospital. Your doctor may not be there to deliver your baby, the nurse that you've become familiar with might change shifts... your doula might get sick and have to call in a backup. While these things may not be ideal, a doula will have prepared you to cope. The backup will have all of the notes she needs to provide you with excellent and consistent support. A good doula will hire only her most trusted, tried and true colleagues to back her up, so you'll be in great hands. 

10. "The doctor may cut 'just a snip.'"

This is called an episiotomy, and as Cosmo points out, it is a pretty outdated practice. However, if you doctor says that she or he wants to perform an episiotomy, understand that you have options. Your doula will encourage you to ask your care provider the most important questions in order to make a well-balanced decision. Sometimes an episiotomy really is the best option, but sometimes it's safe to labor a bit longer. It's important to note that this is not a war that you and your doula declare against your doctor. It is a conversation the doula supports you in having with your doctor to make sure that you have the best outcome. 

11. "The doctor may 'vacuum' your baby out."

It has been proven that having a doula reduces your chances of having interventions like the forceps or vacuum. Doulas will help you with pain management, positioning, and comfort to reduce your fatigue during the pushing phase. Also, if your baby's heart rate starts dropping, we can help you get into a position that may bring it back to normal.

12. "If your baby is vacuumed and has a little conehead, you will feel really bad for her and also think it is adorable."

Your baby will (probably) not look like Dan Aykroyd.

Your baby will (probably) not look like Dan Aykroyd.

And your doula will be there to reassure you that she is fine :)

13. " You have to deliver the placenta."

You may not have thought much about what happens after your baby is born. This is one of the things that your doula will prepare you for in your prenatal appointments. Whether you want to have pitocin to help deliver the placenta or to deliver it naturally, keep the placenta or never look at it again, encapsulate it or make a tincture out of it... your doula will help you devise a plan to share with your provider. 

14. "There will probably be stitches ..."

With a doula, though, that "probably" is reduced to a "maybe". Doulas greatly reduce epidural and forceps rates, which both contribute to episiotomies. 

15. "… And blood."

So if your partner is squeamish, we can try to prevent them from fainting... and help them regain composure if they do. 

16. "You'll probably wear a 'mommy diaper.'"

But your doula will be respectful enough to not call it a "mommy diaper" because, hey... maybe you identify as more than just a mother, and maybe you don't want people referring to the protective padding that contains your lifeblood as a "diaper". 

17. "You essentially have your period for a good six weeks after birth."

Yes, your body is recovering from an incredible transformation. After you deliver your baby, it's time to rest. Your labor doula will visit with you once or twice during the postpartum period to make sure the transition is going smoothly. After that, you may want to think about hiring a postpartum doula (your labor doula might offer these services as well). She will come in and help you acclimate to being a new parent, help you with breastfeeding, cook you delicious meals, tidy up, and lighten the laundry load. Those six weeks will be so much easier!

Your postpartum doula may give you so much relief that you'll get that stock photo mom glow (not guaranteed). 

Your postpartum doula may give you so much relief that you'll get that stock photo mom glow (not guaranteed). 

18. "A squirt bottle is advised as a handy accessory to toilet paper."

Something will happen after you hire a doula... and that is that you will feel comfortable enough with her to say just about anything. If you have hemorrhoids, she will have tips for relief. If you have fears or concerns about the birth, she will be there to listen. If you have questions about sex, she'll help you find answers. So when it comes to using a squirt bottle in the bathroom, you will not care one bit. 

19. "All this while, you're not wearing your own underwear. Nor will you go home in them."

Your doula can help you decide what to bring in your hospital bag, and that may include a couple extra pairs of your own underwear. Honestly though, you probably aren't going to care. You will just be excited to get home! And if you had a home birth... you'll already be at home.  

20. "You will block all of this out roughly three months after birth."

Ok, I don't want to end on a heavy note... so I will make this brief. It is possible that things won't go as planned, and there's a small chance that it will be traumatic. Try as we might to produce a positive experience, sometimes things are just out of our hands. Doulas have tons of resources for you if you do feel that you need help - whether it be with PTSD related to birth, postpartum depression, or anything else you're concerned about postnatally. You're not alone, and you don't have to put a smile on while everyone is telling you that you should just be happy that your baby is healthy. That being said, you are 34% less likely to have a negative birth experience if you hire a doula!    

You'll be raving about your doula(s) to all of your friends! 

You'll be raving about your doula(s) to all of your friends! 

Do I Need Yoga & Meditation for the Workplace?

Did you know that employers across the US lose about $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity to stress-related ailments? In our culture, we tend to admire people who are constantly busy and who put their work before their personal care. We're addicted to stress, and we believe that it's helping us become more successful. In reality, all of the research out there proves the exact opposite. This way of life squelches our productivity by making us sicker, changing our ability to make decisions, and affecting the way we process our emotions.

Stress is Killing Us

While a small amount of stress can be beneficial for motivation and performance, sustained or chronic stress elevates cortisol and adrenal levels. An imbalance in these hormones can cause a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Not only that, but stress is one of the main causes of inflammation, which is linked to anxiety, depression, cancer, and many more life-threatening ailments. 

When you put yourself under constant pressure, you can actually trigger a dangerous (and sometimes fatal) feedback loop of stress. This means that during times of minimal stress, you will still feel negative physical symptoms because your body is now used to operating at that level. The mind tells the body to react to high stress levels by elevating the heart rate, quickening the aging process, and grinding the teeth. Over time, even when you are not under direct stress, your body is still flooded with harmful levels of stress hormones that cause your body to react as if you are. This means people are calling in sick, making visits to the doctor, and experiencing health crises at higher rates

Stress Inhibits Healthy Decision Making

The Association for Psychological Science published a study in 2012 that showed how stress can change the way we relate to risk and reward. While you may think that stress causes people to see higher risk in their life-changing decisions, the opposite is actually true. When people were placed under stressful situations and then asked to make a big decision, they were unable to weigh the pros and cons. Instead, they focused solely on possible rewards. This resulted in different outcomes for men and women, but overall, it meant that healthy decision making was considerably decreased.

Employees who are faced with big decisions each day must be able to secure a calm and composed mindset. While enjoyable activities and vacations can help to reduce short term stress, they don't do much in the way of making long term changes in stress management. Yoga and meditation have been proven to change the expression of genes related to inflammation. What this means is that a regular yoga and meditation practice can change your body on a molecular level to respond faster to the physical symptoms of stress. Less stress in the workplace means better decision making!

Stress Causes Poor Emotional Processing

You probably have friends or colleagues who place themselves under constant levels of high stress. You have to be careful around them because they are known to explode at any minute. You might assure yourself that you aren't as bad as those people, and that you control your stress better than them. However, new studies are showing that even a small amount of stress can cause poor regulation of emotions like anxiety and fear. 

Regulation of emotions is essential to concentration. When you and your employees cannot process your anxiety or fear, you will begin to procrastinate and spend more time on unimportant tasks. If you truly want to make a long-term change in your stress processing, yoga and meditation are essential. You may think that it is totally normal for you and your employees to experience loss of sleep or stress-induced outbursts during times when the pressure is high, but this does not have to be the norm. You can transform the way you deal with even the most stressful situations. 

If you want to make a huge difference in your workplace and your life, consider taking the steps to put a wellness or stress management program in place at your office. 

Yoga for Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

Clients often come to me with numbness in the fingers and hands, weakness/pain in their wrists, and general shoulder discomfort. While these symptoms alone may not implicate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, they can put a strain on everyday activities. Before starting this practice, contact your care provider if you experience numbness or pain in the hands and wrists. 

Most of us know Carpal Tunnel as being caused by incessant typing. It seems an inevitable ailment if you're required to be at a computer all day for work. Actually, any repetitive motion done with the arms or hands can be a threat if you have bad posture. Slouching puts strain on the neck and shoulders, which can compress the nerves that run down into the arms, hands, and wrists. Opening the chest and shoulders, and stretching the wrists and fingers can reduce these symptoms greatly, and may even prevent CTS. This series only takes about 5-10 minutes, and you'll feel taller afterward! Practice the entire series at the end of your work day, or use the exercises individually throughout the day as you need them. 

Pectoral stretch on blocks

Pectoral stretch on blocks

Relax and breathe deeply

Relax and breathe deeply

Set up two yoga blocks horizontally on your mat. Lie down on the blocks, supporting yourself with your elbows, and lifting your chest as you lower down. The lower block's bottom edge should be at the tips of your shoulder blades. The block will support your shoulders, and not the middle of your back. The top block is for head support, and can be at any height that feels comfortable for you. Once you feel comfortable and supported, allow your legs to relax and your arms to splay out to the sides. To go deeper, you can take the palms together and draw the hands overhead. Work toward touching the fingers to the ground above your head. If you experience any shoulder pain, back out immediately. You should feel a deep stretch in your pectoral muscles, shoulders, and upper back, but no pain. Hold this pose for 3-10 minutes, breathing deeply in and out your nose. Make sure you come back out of this pose very carefully and slowly.  

* If you don't have yoga blocks, you can use a thick foam roller or a tightly rolled up woven blanket underneath the shoulders, and pillows underneath the head. 

Come forward onto all fours. Make sure that your wrists are right under your shoulders, and your knees are right under your hips. Spread your fingers wide and fully press your palms and fingers into the ground to support your wrists. As you inhale, lower the belly, broaden the collarbones, and lift the crown of the head. As you exhale, arch the back, draw your chin into your chest, and tuck your tailbone. Continue this movement, with deep breath, for 1-3minutes. 

Thread the Needle

Thread the Needle

Come back to a neutral spine. Press your left palm firmly into the ground as you draw your right arm, palm facing up, underneath you and through the space between your left arm and left knee. Bend your left elbow to relax right shoulder into the ground. Work your chest up toward the sky. Allow yourself to melt into the floor and breathe deeply. Spend 1-3 minutes on each side. 

Puppy Dog Pose

Puppy Dog Pose

Wrist stretch

Wrist stretch

Come back to all fours. Keep your knees under your hips as you walk your hands out in front of you. Allow your chest to sink down. Relax your arms. Rest here for 1-3 minutes.  

Come to a comfortable seated position. Turn your left palm up toward the sky. Grab hold of your left pinky finger with your right hand and pull back until you feel a deep stretch without any pain. Take one deep breath, and then move onto the next finger. Repeat for each finger (including the thumb) on your left hand, and then move on to the right hand. 

Relax your shoulders away from your ears, draw down through your sit bones, and lift through the crown of your head. Take your right hand to your left knee, and your left hand behind you. Take a deep breath in to lengthen your spine, and as you exhale, begin to twist. Allow yourself to twist slowly, from the low belly up to the shoulders. Your head is the last thing to turn. Continue to move deeper into the stretch - inhaling to lengthen, and exhaling to twist deeper. Hold on each side for 10-30 seconds. 

Spinal Twist

Spinal Twist

Variation of Forward Fold

Variation of Forward Fold

Come to stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance. Interlace your fingers behind you. Bend your knees as you fold forward with a flat back. Let your arms come overhead to get a deep shoulder stretch. Keep your knees bent as much as you need to as you settle in and breathe deeply. Stay here for as long as feels comfortable and then release the clasp on your hands, letting your fingers drape the floor. Keeping the knees bent, slowly roll up the spine, vertebra  by vertebra. Your head is the last thing to come up.

After you practice this series, allow yourself to take a few minutes - either standing or sitting with the eyes closed - to notice the way you feel. Take your new relaxed state with you throughout the rest of your day. Drink some water, do something you love, and allow yourself to take a load off. You deserve it!