The One Where I (Kinda) Rein It In

This past week was lovely. It was hot, yes (oh SO hot), but it was filled with activities, family & friends. Sunday, I was going about my business, soaking in all the wonderful memories, when I came across a New York Times article. You know the one. And, as my blood began to boil, my warm fuzzies from the week started to slip away. 

My first reaction is fury. I want to rant & rave & scream about how, once again, our country is choosing to put industry before the needs of children & mothers. How it’s putting money before global health. How its solution to a stagnating 70 billion dollar-a-year industry is to sacrifice the health & well-being of families worldwide. How our representatives tried to threaten & bully the world into doing the same. (You see, this is just a teeny, tiny, mini rant). Instead, I’m going to outline why breastmilk is so magical that it matters on a global scale. (Ann Grauer puts forth a beautiful explanation of why it matters for mamas here at home.)

N.B.: while breastfeeding is magical, a fed baby is a healthy baby. We should support all mothers, however they choose to feed their babies. If a mother wants to breastfeed, we should do everything in our power as a society to support that choice.

Breastfeeding has been linked to greater immunity, decreased stress, & more positive mood for mothers. Not to mention better cardiovascular health. Breastfeeding = happier & healthier mamas!

This is so important for many reasons, but here are just two. First, happier & healthier mothers are more likely to have the physical, cognitive, & emotional capacity to respond quickly & warmly to their infants. This means more secure attachments and, overall, more well-adjusted children (and adults!). Second, in areas of the world where disease & trauma are more prevalent, breastfeeding provides a barrier that may help to keep mamas healthy, safe and alive. Not only is this great news for moms, it’s critical for overall family health.

The breastmilk microbiome contributes to the microbiome of the infant GI tract. Translation: better gut health for those babies!

The infant microbiome is currently a hot topic & we’re still learning. What we do know is that a healthy GI tract improves immunity. Important for all babies, but even more so for babies in places where malnutrition is a risk – breastfeeding creates a buffer! We know that breastmilk is nutrition in itself, but it also builds that GI tract so that, when food is introduced, babies can digest it efficiently & extract the proper nutrition. Imagine how vital this is for little ones only getting small amounts to eat. If imagination isn’t your strong suit, I’ll give you a hint: it’s a real lot.

Breastmilk changes to adjust for the nutritional needs of the infant. This means it changes over time in terms of things like minerals, vitamins, & fat content as your baby grows. But it ALSO means that the composition of breast milk changes from feeding to feeding to adjust to the needs of your baby (like if he’s sick!). 

I mean, this is great for those days when your little nugget refuses to eat anything but ketchup. But think of how much this matters for babies at risk. For example, when a baby is born prematurely, the mother produces milk that is designed to meet that baby’s very specific needs in order to optimize growth, development, immunity, & digestion. Or, when a baby doesn’t have proper supplemental nutrition (like in cases of poverty), breastmilk alters itself to compensate. It fills in the gaps when the environment around the baby can’t meet his or her needs. (Fun fact: when I wrote “fills in the gaps” the voice in my head read it like the DNA dude from Jurassic Park.) 

Breastmilk shapes the infant’s immune system in order to prevent infections & diseases. You may ask, what does it protect against? My answer: what DOESN’T it protect against?! Risk of SIDShigh cholesterolhigh blood pressurechildhood leukemiaUTIsallergies & asthmaobesityear infectionsGI problems, & diabetes, to name a few - and it provides additional immunity against diseases that mom has already been building throughout her life. Harry Potter-level magic right there. In 2016, it was estimated that 823,000 deaths in children under age 5 and 20,000 deaths from breast cancer could be prevented by near-universal breastfeeding. Even more incredibly, research has shown that the estimated global health care costs of NOT breastfeeding were $300 billion (money spent on healthcare for the above-mentioned conditions for mothers & children).

 If someone invented a medicine that helped to protect against all of these things, people would be lined up around the block to get it. So shouldn’t we support mothers in their efforts to provide that for their children? More breastfeeding mothers would mean better global health overall! In places where medicine, healthcare, & resources are scarce, breastfeeding provides families with a way to boost their children’s health…and it’s FREE. Breastfeeding is very much the first line of defense for so many mothers & babies around the world. 

This is not about whether you breastfeed or formula feed. That is your choice as a mother. But that's just it - many of us have a choice because of where we live & what that affords us. The events that unfolded in Geneva are about taking steps that would remove that choice for many women around the globe. Maybe, for some of you, it isn’t a choice. We all know there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding.  Even in a wealthy country such as ours, mothers are contending with supply issues, insufficient parental leave, lip & tongue ties, breastfeeding anxiety, & stigma – often all at once with little to no support. Now imagine what those obstacles may look like worldwide.

This IS about a government attempting to undermine worldwide support for mothers so that breastfeeding is no longer a viable choice for many, all so that some fat cats can make a few extra bucks. Don’t let this get framed as a “breastfeeding moms vs. formula feeding moms” debate. Make no mistake, this is about choice. In many ways, this isn’t even about the choice that mothers make in this country, because the choice is so much more vital for those in developing countries. And I, for one, will not stand quietly by while they sacrifice the health & happiness of our children for their own gain. 

 

Photo by Love & Perry Photography.

 

 

 

Golden Hour

Alright, so I'm still terrible with the blog posts. There have been a lot of babies lately so who can blame me for being distracted with all that cute, smooshy goodness! To apologize, I've written a good (& maybe kind of long) one for you.

It's nearly standard practice now to allow for 1 hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after baby is born, provided mom & baby are healthy. Yay! Though I see a lot of clients emphasizing their desire for this "Golden Hour" with their newborn, many aren't sure why this first hour is so important. Why is the practice to allow one hour? Why not 30 minutes? Why not 2 hours? Or (most mamas want to know) why not forever?

Sorry, mamas, we do have to interrupt babies at some point (pesky diaper changing & such), so we can't leave them on your chest forever. But the reason why we reference that first hour has to do with newborn breastfeeding behavior & is based in science.

In 2010, Widström & colleagues conducted a study of 28 newborns, finding that your newest bundle is doing some really important stuff in the first 70 minutes of life. In 2014, Laura Sanders simplified their findings for an article in ScienceNews. This article is great because it boils down the original findings to a nice concise list. I must note that this timeline is approximate - as we all know, each baby has his own agenda! Since I often send this article to clients, let's break it down, shall we?

Minute 0: Baby cries. This doesn't surprise many people. And, mamas and partners, we know you don't like hearing that little angel cry. But it's a GOOD sound. It helps to clear the lungs & airway of any mucus that may be in there after birth. This is one reason why you may see a nurse come over to rub your baby's back or reposition him if he's making more of a wheezing sound. A strong cry is a sign of healthy lungs; babies that aren't doing this cry on their own sometimes need additional attention. In addition, that first cry inflates the lungs for the first time & kick-starts baby's circulation (yay oxygen!). So don't worry about that cry, mamas, that is some magic stuff! 

Minute 2: Baby relaxes. That wailing is some hard work!

Minute 2.5: Open eyes for the first time. Hi guys!

Minute 8: Baby is active, rooting, looking at mom. This is the good stuff, right mamas? Baby's eyes are open for longer periods of time, he's looking right at you, & making the most delicious yummy noises. If you weren't totally in love yet, this is where it hits you. Although your baby is showing some rooting behavior, he's not necessarily ready to latch just yet. He just went through a killer journey & may need some more time to get ready. In fact...

Minute 18: Yup. Baby is resting again. All that adorable activity is enough to wear a baby out!

Minute 36: On the move! If you're doing a breast crawl this is when baby starts to make his way up to your breasts. Time to scoot! If baby is on your chest, this is when you may start to see some head bobbing in the direction of one breast or the other. Baby is telling you he's getting close to being ready to latch. 

Minute 62: Baby nurses. Now, there's nearly 30 minutes of seemingly unaccounted for time here. But that 30 minutes is jam-packed with activity. If you're doing the breast crawl, baby is spending a good chunk of that time scooting. Regardless of what you're choosing to do, baby is not going to latch right away. There will be some time where baby will nuzzle & lick your breast around the nipple. This is how baby gets familiarized before they latch. He is using his senses of smell, taste, & touch to get ready. This is when some mamas get a little anxious that their baby isn't going to catch on, but stay calm. You got this, mama! You can help him when he does try to latch, but remember that it may take some time. After all, 62 minutes after birth is the average amount of time until latch in this study! When it does happen, baby is getting some colostrum which is loaded with immune molecules & protein AND the latch helps your milk come in. Not to mention that sweet oxytocin rush helps your uterus to contract down to pre-pregnancy size.  Bonus: this has the nice side effect of helping to stop any bleeding. Pretty great, huh?

Minute 70. Yeah. Baby is asleep again. I mean, did you SEE all that work he just did? Pretty amazing! He deserves a nap! Come to think of it, you probably need one, too.

So there it is, in all it's glory: the Golden Hour. Take it in, mamas (& partners, too!) because it's pretty frickin' awesome. 

 

Magic

So, first, I'm going to go ahead and acknowledge the elephant in the room. I haven't written a blog post since my first one in November. Eek! I'm going to try to do better!

More importantly, yesterday marked the beginning of my Magical Mama Mondays! These days I will highlight mamas I know and mamas in the spotlight that I think are utter magic. These days will serve as a reminder to all the mamas out there to take in their magical moments, because they have a million!

Every mama is magical. Extraordinary. Miraculous. Enchanting. It's there in the big moments: juggling work and household and mommy duties, prepping for the first day of school, watching baby's first steps, hearing baby's first words. And if you've ever been lucky enough to witness a mama giving birth, you KNOW that's some undisputed magic. But maybe more so, it's there in the small moments: late night feedings, stroking a feverish forehead, weekend morning cuddles, kissing a scrape, remembering to pack a favorite blanket. The moments that may not stop you in your tracks, moments that escape notice, but moments that shape childhood and motherhood every single day

I can't promise that I'll post one every week, but I can promise to try! So to every mama and mama-to-be, delight in your magic every day. And to all those who love these mamas, help them find it.

Anticipation

I'm teetering on the edge of a new beginning. This business is about to be born after a lot of planning, blood, sweat, and tears (labor? too heavy handed with the metaphor?). I find myself tingling with a multitude of emotions.

Hope for everything that I imagine this endeavor to be.

Anxiety around making this new venture exactly as I envision it.

Gratitude for every ounce of support and guidance I've received.

Fear that I'm not ready.

Excitement for the people and experiences I am about to encounter.

And, mostly, I feel exceptionally lucky that I have the opportunity to engage in my passion and be a part of families' triumphs and joys.

I remember that with every new beginning, we are filled with these emotions, and I gently remind myself to stay present. As I stand on the precipice of change, that is my advice to you, parents: be.present. Because all of those emotions around the future can be paralyzing, especially when those emotions are focused on your babies. The anticipation of parenthood and its progression is a lot to process, but it goes hand-in-hand with inexplicable joy. Regardless of any challenges your children may have or that you may have as a parent, please remember that your children will delight and amaze you every single day

So, that is my hope for you (and for me!) as we move forward: that apart from all those other emotions, we can revel in the delight and amazement that our new adventures bring us. 

Stay tuned!