natural mother magazine
A DOULA’S BOOKSHELF REST ASSURED
HOW TO BED SHARE SAFELY
HEY CDC! STAY OUT OF MY WINE GLASS HOW HIRING A
CHANGED MY BIRTHS NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE 1 Issue 18, March|2016
contents articles Gut Flora in the Treament and Prevention of Autism 14 A Doula’s Bookshelf 22 Rest Assured: How to Bed Share Safely 30 Hey CDC! Stay out of My Wine Glass 36 Paradigm Shifters in Becoming a Gentle Parent 40 Gentle Parenting as a Survivor of Child Abuse 48 Glorious Baby Greens 52 Simple Ways to Support Your Liver 60 Easter Egg Window Mosaic 64 When Melatonin Helps: What it Really Means 67 How Hiring a Doula Changed My Births 72
extras Letter from the Publisher 4 Soulful Spring 6 Contributors 8 Letter from the Editor 11 Editor’s Picks 12
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EDITOR IN CHIEF Ingrid Sorensen
ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Candace Roper
Linda Folden Palmer Holly Scudero Moorea Malatt Dr. Jen Schwartz. PhD, CFLE Paige Lucas Stannard Madai Miller Emily Rowell Sandra Maurer Dana Vanderburg Guggie Daly Amy Phoenix
Ginger Horsburgh Earthside Birth Photography
Information contained herein is not intended to replace professional medical or legal counsel. This publication may contain affiliate links and/or paid content. NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 3
ÂŠ 2016 All rights reserved
letter from the publisher Spring, what significance does it hold becoming a mother -- Spring also for you? What blessings do you feel supports the earth through these things. A doula is warm and supcome with this season? portive during one of the most tranSpring holds the promise of renew- sitional periods of a womanâ€™s life. al for all of us. A time to rebirth ourselves, while mother nature inevita- To me, World Doula Week fits perfectly into the Spring season. What other bly rebirths herself. season would be so fitting? What a It is a time of growth, warmth, and wonderful gift doulas offer us. transition. Is it any wonder that we celebrate World Doula Week March In our modern time we are not as lucky as in generations past to be sur22nd-28th? rounded by close friends and famiLike a doula that helps a mother ly during our motherhood journeys. through her pregnancy and birth, We often live too far, or are too busy and often in the transition period of to have sustained these kinds of relationships. Weâ€™re much too independent during a time in our lives when we need the most help and support. We can all take advantage of the blessings and lessons Spring has to offer. Hope, renewal, growth, love, warmth -- the list goes on. We can take these blessings and extend them to other mothers in our lives so we may all feel the support and strength we deserve. With gratitude,
Jessika Jacob Publisher 4 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Nurturing Life More than a generation ago, a young mother and herbalist founded Motherlove to empower women with the wisdom and healing strength of nature. Today, our commitment spreads around the world, helping women to discover the bond between motherhood and mother earth. Experience this wondrous connection yourself through our herbal care products for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and babies, formulated to soothe and nurture both body and soul.
visit motherlove.com to find a location nearest you.
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Soulful Spring Just the other morning my younger son excitedly shushed me and whispered “Mommy, listen!” In the distance I could hear the distinctly soulful coo of a mourning dove. My son smiled as we noted the return of the doves with the first signs of spring here in the northeast. Winter winds are still blowing, but spring always brings about this deep and powerful sense of spiritual and physical rebirth. Like the mourning dove’s call, it is attention-grabbing and draws you
into a state of mindfulness. There is almost a sadness to the passing of winter, but a beauty in the coming change. Every spring season I get the itch for new beginnings, whether that means clearing out clutter, reorganizing, or starting something completely new. Certainly it is not surprising, given that I was born in spring and both of my boys are late spring/ early summer babies. It is a powerful season in our home. Celebrate the upcoming season with a mini-rebirth of your own. Take on something new or renew something in progress. Start a yoga practice, redecorate a room in your living space, or find a new creative outlet to express yourself. Find like-minded friends to share your rebirthing journey and build new connections. We are excited to be launching many new Holistic Moms chapters this spring – find or start one in your area as a celebration of spring. Enjoy the season and this month’s issue, rich with ideas for new beginnings!
Nancy Peplinsky Founder, Holistic Moms Network www.holisticmoms.org 6 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
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Issue 18 Contributors Linda Folden Palmer, DC is the author of Baby Matters: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Caring for Your Baby,and Baby Poop. Palmer advocates for evidence-based healthcare options, and writes, consults, and lectures on natural mother and infant health. You can find an assortment of articles at her website BabyReference.com and on her Facebook pages Baby Matters and Baby Poop. Holly Scudero is a full-time at-home mama and wife. She has one child, but hopes to have more someday, and her passions include natural parenting, birth, reading, writing, vegetarian cooking, and being active. She blogs about whatever is on her mind at Leaves of Lavender.
Moorea Malatt is the founder of www.SavvyParentingSupport.com, an online resource for gentle, natural and attachment-minded parents. Moorea is an expert in gentle potty learning, gentle sleep learning, and gentle discipline. She leads sold-out workshops and provides private phone consults for parents of kids up to 4 years. She wrote an album of jazzy, folky songs called “Whip It Out: Songs for Breastfeeding.” Dr. Jen Schwartz. PhD, CFLE, recently completed a dissertation entitled “Childbirth as a Profound Experience: Exploring Narrative and Image of Experiences During Birth.” Jen is the founder of Sego Lily School, Utah’s only school for self-directed learning in a working democracy. She works as a Family Life Educator, working with individuals, couples, and families to support them through all stages of family life. 8 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Paige Lucas Stannard is a parent educator and coach specializing in social justice and feminist-focused, respect-based parenting practices. She is the author of Gender Neutral Parenting and the upcoming book, based on her popular online class, Transformative Parenting. Follow her on Facebook at Parenting Gently and on Twitter @parentinggently. Madai Miller works as a bank teller. She is married with one child and a retired racing Greyhound. She is passionate about breastfeeding, gentle parenting, natural wellness, knitting and cooking. You can find her blog about the journey of joyful motherhood at www.abalancedmama.wordpress.com.
Emily Rowell is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and owner of Deep South Wellness. After years of struggling with weight issues and fad diets, she decided to stop depriving herself and embrace her love of food. She now works with women who want to achieve and maintain their ideal body image without the diet drama. You can find her at www.deepsouthwellness.com. Sandra Maurer is a mama wellness coach, certified birth doula and registered yoga instructor specializing in Fertility and Prenatal Yoga with a BA in Art Therapy. Her passion is empowering women through all stages of mamahood - from preconception through postpartum by guiding the whole woman. She blogs at Whole Beginnings. Dana Vanderburg is a wife, mama, and owner of The Art Kit, where she blogs about all things crafty. Before obtaining her degree in digital media design, she studied interior design, home redesign, and home staging, all things she is still passionate about, along with natural living and family. You can find her blog at www.theartkitblog.com.
Guggie Daly, blogger at The Guggie Daily, applied her background in neuroscience to the parenting realm. She incorporates evidence-based concepts in epigenetics and nutrigenomics with the latest parenting research so that parents can develop integrated, holistic health in their own families. She is married to a passionate environmentalist and a mother to four. Amy Phoenix is a meditating mom of five, committed to cultivating force-free, trust-full relationships with interests in philosophy, spirituality and slowing down enough to recognize that each moment is new. She writes and supports parents in mindfulness and force free parenting at Clear Presence.
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letter from the editor Dear friends, For those of us in climates where winter is the traditional landscape of snow and ice and cold and dreary gray skies, March means the end of hibernation and the beginning of all things green and growing, replenishing and rebirthing, reemerging and enlivening!
to plant some seeds, harvest my greens, and give them a try! I may just buy greens at the market and not wait for sprouts. We are chomping at the bit to enjoy Spring. Read this issue and then get out and enjoy it yourself!
We are happy to put away thick Warmly (oh-so-warmly!), sweaters and boots, and break out short sleeves and sneakers again, keeping those jackets handy for the Editor inevitable temperature dips and stormy days.
We watch as bits of yellow show up, preceeding the greens, in daffodils and forsythia. “Nature’s first green is gold,” said the poet Robert Frost. He must’ve lived in a climate like mine. I watch anxiously for the first brush of gold in my flower beds, signaling that Jack Frost is going to sleep and Spring is waking up to take his place. Our current issue is filled with all things supporting Spring and rebirth, like doulas for our births, liver-cleanses for our bodies, gentle parenting for our families, and self-care for ourselves! The spring-greens recipes look especially appealing; I can’t wait NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 11
editorâ€™s picks Squooshi Filling Station
Kids love pouches of applesauce and other fruit and veggie blends, but store bought pouches often contain unwanted ingredients as well as unknown extras. Let alone the cost can break the bank. Squooshi has solved this problem with their Filling Station. You can make your purees right in the container, then fill 6 large pouches in just seconds. BPA, lead, pvc and phthlate free, dishwasher safe & even FAA/TSA compliant for airplane trips! On sale now for just $19.99
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STASHER BAG >
If you’re even just a little like me, you’ve often wondered what the best replacement for plastic baggies is. And just a couple of days before finding Stasher bags I was having a conversation about this very predicament. Low and behold, the heavens were listening in on me. 100% food grade silicone, microwave and dishwasher safe, easy to clean, reuasble, with a zip seal just like you’re used to. Nice and air-tight like you need. We’ve been using our Stasher bags and we absolutely adore them. And to top that off...you can write love notes for your kiddos with a dry erase marker right on the bag. Amazing product for every natural and eco-friendly home. $11.99 NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 13
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GUT FLORA IN THE TREATMENT & PREVENTION OF
AUTISM by Linda Folden Palmer
You think of your baby as one organism, but actually trillions of organisms are intricately involved in regulating your child. Imbalances in baby’s flora can lead to lack of tolerance to foods (food allergies), gastrointestinal distresses, and later gastrointestinal diseases. Poor gut flora is also linked to initiation of autoimmune diseases involving other parts of baby’s body—such as asthma, diabetes, and arthritis. Floral balance has recently been discovered to even play a role in the development or expression of autism.
Autism and the Gut Yes, tiny microbes living in the intestinal tract are found to have discrete effects on the brain. This is expected to occur in everyone, but deciphering the distinct connections to autism may lead to beneficial treatments. Understanding of this association in the guts of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is only in its infancy, but important discoveries have already been made. It’s clear that ASDs derive from combinations of vast arrays of genetic and environmental factors. Outside of various behavioral characNATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 15
teristics associated with the brain, there are strong links between ASDs and gastrointestinal symptoms. A large review of studies on gastrointestinal findings found autistic children to experience over 4 times as many abdominal complaints as other children. Additionally, those children with stronger autism symptoms account for the greater portion of those with GI symptom reports, and any children on the spectrum who experience GI problems tend to display greater behavioral symptoms. Studying the Gut-Brain Axis True, a child who is uncomfortable with nagging abdominal sensations may express troubling behaviors. The reverse is certainly also true. The ability of the brain to influence gut health is well recognized. We know that stress can create diarrhea, and depression can create constipation, although these reactions are more often associated with adults than young children. Today, however, researchers are proving the existence of what they call the “gut-brain axis,” whereby gut health directly affects the brain. The balance of resident microbes, or the microbiome, seems to have the strongest impact.
rhamnosus. This strain is common in healthy guts, found in many yogurts, and is found in high numbers in the majority of breastfed babies. Mice fed L. rhamnosus demonstrated lower anxiety and stress hormone levels and were not prone to show the depression symptoms seen in other test mice. Researchers then cut the vagus nerve in these mice, which is a long nerve that connects the gut to the brain. The mice’s hormone levels returned to prior levels once this neurological connection between brain and gut was gone, confirming that the flora was influencing their brain functions. Although L. rhamnosus was used in this one study, B. infantis and other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are used in similar studies. A large number of friendly flora species appear to have these early brain-enriching abilities. Besides stress hormones, researchers have measured direct beneficial effects from the flora on several other brain chemicals, including regulatory factors such as GABA, and the “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine.
Some of these studies used germfree mice. These are mice that have been raised in a perfectly sterile How do we know? In one study, re- environment and thus have no gut searchers fed mice a strain of Lac- flora. If healthy bacteria were introtobacillus known as Lactobacillus duced only to older germ-free mice, 16 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
after the age of weaning, behavioral benefits could not be found. This suggests that there is a sensitive period in mice, beyond which certain positive effects on the development of the brain’s stress and mood regulating receptors can no longer be encouraged. By the same token, when studies introduced undesirable bacteria early on, lasting increases in negative behaviors were seen. Disrupting Baby’s Gut Flora Although germ-free human babies don’t exist (even at birth), definite differences in human infant flora makeup are seen to be dependent upon their earliest environment. Diet and antibiotic usage are two early influences with great impact on flora. A medical university study found breastfed babies to be at half the risk of developing ASDs as those fed formula from birth. Early antibiotic drug exposure has been shown in other medical studies to increase a child’s risk for development of later bowel diseases. Highly sterile environments are found to promote less optimal health. Even the mode of baby’s birth (whether vaginal or surgical) and the place of birth (whether home, birth center, or hospital) have been found to yield remarkable impact on the establishment of baby’s flora. A vaginal birth NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 17
in a healthy home that is regularly exposed to outdoor influences (dirt) tends to nurture the healthiest flora for a newborn. An immediate taste at the breast after birth and frequent colostrum feedings give the best bacteria a chance to homestead before less desirable bacteria enter baby’s system. The flora makeup is known to exercise a powerful influence on the gut barrier. A one-cell layer is all that separates the food and bacteria inside the intestines from the immune system tissues beneath the membrane surfaces and from potential access to the bloodstream. Floral disruptions decrease the strength of this barrier. Some results include the interruption of immune functions and creation of inflammation, allowing various unwanted chemicals to reach the brain. Certain undesirable bacteria, when in great excess, also release neurotoxins that can affect brain behavior. Gut Flora and Autism In the past, the predominant professional mindset was that GI complaints among autistic children were simply the results of their behavioral issues. Scientists are confirming more every day, however, that gut health plays distinct physical roles in regulating mood and other brain functions, 18 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
including among autistic children. Early infant flora balance influences brain development and individual behavior, for better or for worse. Many of the studies, especially using mice, have described these early brain effects as permanent, but current researchers are attempting to learn whether improvements in flora and other gut health factors may be able to lessen any negative effects. In consideration of seeking preventions and treatments for autism, this is a highly significant endeavor. What do we know about the involvement of gut flora in autism? One clue is that autistic children are consistently shown to have a large portion of undesirable intestinal bacteria. This is certainly not a result of disordered behaviors. It belongs on the causative side of the equation. Today’s new DNA sequencing techniques have allowed researchers to pin some of these differences down even further, in terms of bacterial numbers and strains, although they’re still not sure what it all means. The floral distinctions are not simply those of immune-compromised children although there are characteristics in common with some other bowel diseases. Certain species of Clostridium are found to be much more numerous in—or nearly exclusive to—autistic children. Addition-
ally, special attention is being paid to bacterial species of the seldom heard of Desulfovibrio and Sutterella genera. Other strong distinctions are found to be common in the flora of ASD children. Probiotics and Autism A large review of studies involving nutritional efforts to treat autism found good evidence that regular high dose supplementation of probiotic supplements may be helpful. Probiotics can reduce toxicities, including heavy metal toxicities, reduce inflammation, strengthen gut barriers, and otherwise improve gut health, all of which have demonstrated effects on brain functioning. Bacteroides fragilis and the standard lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, including Bifidobacterium infantis, are the most commonly mentioned beneficial probiotics in autism studies. Copper levels are found to be significantly elevated in autistic children and normalizing of copper levels has been found to improve behavioral symptoms. One researcher found a reduction of copper levels with probiotic therapy. Probiotic supplements are not likely to permanently return neurotypical behavior or even full gut health but regular usage can be a valuable
component of support for an ASD child. Providing Probiotics Along with a healthy diet and any chosen nutritional supplements, probiotic usage by mother both before and during pregnancy can be a valuable protective effort against a wide spectrum of potential health challenges for her expected child. The use of probiotic supplements by a breastfeeding mother may lead to a greater balance of beneficial flora being provided through her milk. Ample studies demonstrate positive alterations in breastmilk flora or in infant responses when mothers take probiotics. Momâ€™s own flora balance, and thus that of her milk, will improve when she also takes other gut health measures. When seeking a strong response, it may be of benefit to additionally provide probiotics directly to the stable infant, building up the dosage gradually. Probiotic powders can be shaken into infant formula, stirred into pumped breastmilk, or inserted into babyâ€™s mouth with a finger and then washed down with a couple gulps at the breast or bottle. Alternatively, tiny bits at a time can be placed onto motherâ€™s nipple as baby breastfeeds. Liquid forms of pediatric probiotics are also available. Probiotic NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 19
supplements maintain their potency fants and children is from one million best when kept refrigerated. to one billion CFU (colony forming units) daily. (These may be labeled In terms of strain choices, quality as 106 and 109 CFU.) Some studies products are designed to provide with the best results, showing good strains that have been found help- outcomes even with short-term ful. Look for species you are interest- treatments, have used 10 billion to ed in, such as Lactobacillus reuteri 100 billion CFUs per day. It’s best to and L. rhamnosus, but don’t worry divide the dosage into two to four too much about which species are provisions per day. present. While pharmaceutical researchers seek a patentable mag- If your baby reacts to cow milk, you ical bacterial strain or two, the sci- can find probiotics that are milk free. ence always points toward a wide If you don’t look specifically for a diversity of beneficial strains living in milk-free product, it will have been the gut as promoting optimal health. grown on milk. Selecting a probiotic product with many different species is probably Many practitioners advise to take the best option, or even combining probiotics on an empty stomach, two different products in order to in- but I disagree. Probiotics need to be crease the variety of the strains. fed. Don’t take them with a Coke, but do take probiotics with a bit of Prebiotics are food fibers that feed fruit or vegetable, or with a prebiand support probiotic bacteria. otic supplement such as inulin or Mother’s milk is full of prebiotics. If fructo-oligosaccharides. Even mixed you are choosing a product for a with a meal, the probiotics will find baby who receives only formula, their way to their targets. look for one that contains prebiotics as well, or select an additional prebi- For mom or the older child, ferotic product. mented foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, also contain beneficial Studies show probiotic benefits to flora and are beneficial means of be dose related. Quality brands pro- keeping one’s microbiome strong. vide formulations and dosage rec- Non-dairy yogurts are available for ommendations that they feel to be milk-sensitive children. Another nateffective. Reportedly, the minimum ural means of consuming healthy dose found to be effective in in- flora is eating unwashed or lightly
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rinsed organic fruits and vegetables. If your food was grown in healthy soil, thereby coated with health-promoting bacteria, your barely rinsed organic food is a great source of beneficial flora. Autism Research Important autism research is looking at early floral disturbances, such as antibiotic drug exposures and other toxic exposures. Current probiotic research specifically toward benefiting autism remains minimal. Aligning with our drug-oriented healthcare industry, greater efforts are being directed toward antibiotic treatments for autistic children in attempt to correct unwanted floral microbes. The latest research, with some promise, involves the transplantation of stool from a healthy individual into the intestines of an afflicted person. Much more research is on the horizon, yet wise parents are finding many good answers together. Specific attention to the floral balance in babies and children is certainly one important component in efforts to prevent and treat autistic disorders.
from probiotic use, and a preponderance of studies showing at least some hints of benefit, this is a curious stance. In terms of gathering the latest science and addressing the politics behind autism care, Age of Autism is a far better online source. April is Autism Awareness Month. Along with other natural parenting topics, dietary treatments for ASDs, dietary information sources, and other autism matters will be covered in next monthâ€™s issue of Natural Mother Magazine.
Itâ€™s interesting that the organization Autism Speaks suggests that itâ€™s too soon to consider using probiotic supplements for autistic children. With virtually no studies showing harm
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BOOKSHELF by Holly Scudero
There’s no question that doula services are becoming more and more popular in recent years, and not just among those seeking a “natural” birth. A doula is essentially a birth attendant, usually (but not always) a woman, who provides the laboring mother with physical and emotional support. She provides information in order to assist with informed decision making, knows many comfort measures to help cope with labor pain, and is generally there for the dura-
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tion of labor and birth, as well as the immediate postpartum period. Studies have shown that woman who are attended by a doula during birth generally have shorter labors, less interventions, less pain, lower cesarean rates, and a better birth experience overall. Doulas provide other services as well. Postpartum doulas help new mothers adjust to life with an infant, focusing on breastfeeding support
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and sometimes helping around the house so that mama can relax and just bond with baby. Bereavement doulas specialize in helping mothers and families cope with pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and neonatal death. Some doulas are trained to support parents through the adoption process, while others help women who undergo an abortion for any reason. Professional doulas generally have some sort of certification. The most well-known organization certifying doulas is DONA International, although some doulas instead choose less well-known certifications through CAPPA, Birth Boot Camp, or other organizations. Many hospitals and birth centers offer less intensive training for volunteer doula programs. Doulas have spent countless hours studying everything related to birth and most This book is one that belongs in evhave to attend numerous births be- ery doula’s labor bag, and one that fore they can become certified. most are already familiar with. The Labor Progress Handbook deals with Birth workers never stop learning. many of the practical, physical asWhether you are a certified doula or pects of labor, and specifically with an unofficial one who simply likes to handling the many reasons why a help friends through birth, whether particular labor might be deemed you are in-training or merely dream- “dysfunctional.” There are guidelines ing about a future goal, this list will for assessing labor progress, ideas for hopefully provide something new to handling dystocia in the first and secadd to your reading list. ond stages of labor, low-tech interventions to promote labor, and two chapters featuring ideas that every The Labor Progress Handbook doula needs in her “toolkit.” Labor by Penny Simkin, Ruth Ancheta positions, movement, and comfort 24 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
measures are all vital aspects of a doula’s work, and this extremely little book packs all of it into a well-researched, well-referenced package. Birth Ambassadors by Christine H. Morton, Elayne Clift Becoming a doula requires a thorough understanding of labor, a lot of ideas for helping women cope with pain, and a lot of experience. But one thing that most doula books don’t cover is the history of doula work. That’s where Birth Ambassa-
dors comes in. This book goes into detail about the emergence of doula work and how it carved out a niche in maternity care. Packed with observations and personal stories from doulas, this book promises to get readers thinking about the past, present, and future of doula work. The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin This book should be required reading for anyone who plans to support a woman through labor and childbirth. Penny Simkin, well known for her
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Optimal Care in Childbirth by Henci Goer, Amy Romano
many books that deal with pregnancy and birth, offers this guidebook that is packed with knowledge for doulas, dads (and other partners), and anyone else who plans to be there for the birth. The Birth Partner is currently in its fourth edition, discusses what “normal” labor looks like and walks readers through essential information like pain management (both medicated and unmedicated), complications (including cesarean sections), and even a section on newborn care and breastfeeding. This book is user-friendly, well-organized, and packed with facts, including plenty of illustrations. 26 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Over the course of their study, many doulas come to realize that there are indeed many flaws in the medical model of childbirth. Interventions have a time and a place, but many are overused and lumped under the blanket of “standard of care,” and the rights and experiences of women often suffer as a result. This massive tome by Henci Goer and Amy Romano aims to offer readers up-todate, scientifically-backed information about how to keep labor safe, healthy, and satisfying. Optimal Care in Childbirth is quite possibly the most comprehensive book on natural childbirth available; every section is well-researched and contains plenty of solid evidence to support a natural, physiologic birth. Better yet, each chapter can easily stand alone, allowing readers to easily find information about whatever topic is currently at hand. Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth by Dr. Jolene Brighten, ND While some doulas specialize in postpartum care, even most birth doulas provide at least one postpartum visit
When Survivors Give Birth by Penny Simkin, Phyllis Klaus A shockingly high amount of people suffer some form of sexual abuse in their childhoods—it’s estimated that 25-40 percent of girls are abused, and 20-25 percent of boys. There are lasting ramifications of this kind of abuse, and it’s not surprising that many previously abused women discover during labor that they have a lot of unresolved issues. That’s why it’s so important for doulas to read a book like When Survivors Give Birth. The wonderful Penny Simkin has teamed up with psychologist Phyllis Klaus to provide birth workers with
as part of their services. For that reason, a book like Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth is essential reading material. Author Dr. Jolene Brighten is a naturopathic doctor with tons of experience in using natural methods to help women recover during the postpartum period, and her book takes over where most pregnancy books leave off. This book will help readers utilize herbs, essential oils, food, and self-care techniques to help with a variety of postpartum issues, including milk supply, physical healing, hormonal imbalances, fluctuating moods, and more. NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 27
guidelines for effectively working sibility for birth workers. Doulas would with pregnant women with a history do well to read Companioning at a of abuse. Time of Perinatal Loss, which handles this topic with grace and sensitivity. While the book’s intended audience The Radical Doula Guide is nurses and other hospital staff, the by Miriam Zoila Perez information is equally pertinent to doulas. Readers will gain a better unThis very slim book is primarily about derstanding of the grieving process inspiring doulas to think outside the for the family involved, and they’ll box. The most common forms of dou- find themselves better equipped with la work are birth and postpartum, but useful strategies to help the mother this book also discusses lesser known and everyone involved cope with a doulas such as abortion doulas and tragedy of this nature. adoption doulas. Birth activist Miriam Zoila Perez gets readers thinking The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to about how issues such as race, gen- Making More Milk der/sexual orientation, and even by Diana West, Lisa Marasco basics like age or body size can impact the birth experience. Easy to All doulas should have a decent read and packed with information, The Radical Doula Guide is a great introduction to some issues that are not discussed in other books. Companioning at a Time of Perinatal Loss by Jane Heustis, Marcia Meyer Jenkins Many woman who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth found themselves encountering well-meaning professionals who truly didn’t know how to handle the situation. And such a loss is always a pos-
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knowledge of breastfeeding, especially doulas who perform any amount of postpartum care. While she cannot replace a true lactation consultant, a doula should be prepared to help with some of the more common breastfeeding problems, as she will often be the first person a new mom calls when troubles arise.
While the book title indicates it’s primarily about boosting low milk supply—a common fear among new mothers—it also contains a wealth of other breastfeeding information, including the basics of milk production, how to determine whether baby is getting enough, maintaining supply while working away from home, and even special circumstances like breastfeeding preemies or multiples. The Doula Business Guide by Patty Brennan
While there are many fantastic books out there about the basics of breastfeeding, doulas might find more benefit in a book like The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.
The vast majority of doulas find themselves drawn to their work through an overarching love of all things birth. Many describe their work as a labor of love, but it takes a lot more than love to turn birth work into a successful business. Patty Brennan knows this, and she has compiled thirty-five years of experience into The Doula Business Guide. Now in its second edition, this book promises to help doulas figure out all the nitty gritty details of running a business. She walks readers through business structures, marketing ideas, financial details (including tax laws, nonprofit status, and how to apply for grants), the effective use of social media, and more. This book is an essential guide for running a doula business.
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HOW TO BED SHARE SAFELY by Moorea Malatt
80 percent of families report cosleeping at least “sometimes,” yet many are in the closet about bed sharing and are afraid to admit to the family pediatrician that at least half of the night is spent with baby next to the breastfeeding parent. Being primates, a human infant’s first few months see him physically attached to the primary caregiver. Our infants evolved to expect this closeness. Our milk is not very dense and therefore our babies need to eat frequently, even at night. Babies also evolved to wake frequently to check in with the mother to keep her alert to predators (and then a boobie-snack and back to
dreamland of course!). This simple fact makes bedsharing more desirable than sleeping apart for many moms due to the simple exhausting logistics of getting out of bed repeatedly to breastfeed. Fun Fact: Human (primate) mothers can survive an extreme amount of ongoing interrupted sleep and sleep deprivation that no other animal would live through. This is due to our unique blend of maternal and lactation hormones. In the west, we have the fairly recent and novel expectation that baby should sleep alone. We have decided to sleep babies like nesting animals instead, in a crib or swing, which NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 31
goes against the frequent feeding of (usually singular) mammals. Bassinets were originally designed in Europe to keep baby above a floor draft and supposed “noxious fumes” on the floor, when even older humans had beds on the floor; and then cribs with sides were created to keep the child safely enclosed once they could move around.
Death because it is primarily found with crib-sleeping babies. Cases labeled SIDS have always been primarily of crib-sleeping infants.
• The main suggestion pediatricians have for preventing sleep death is to put baby to sleep on her back, however studies by Dr. James McKenna at Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Beharioral Sleep Laboratory have The American Academy of Pediat- shown that bed sharing babies are rics now recommends co-sleeping more likely to naturally sleep on the (with baby in her own bed in par- back or the side and not the tummy. ent’s room), but does not recommend bed sharing with baby due to • The original SIDS Researcher for the continued belief that bed shar- the U.S. Government, Dr. Abraham ing is a major risk factor for Sudden B. Bergman called the government Unexplained Infant Death. out recently saying that he did not believe bed sharing was causing Here are some truths about infant SIDS and that his 1970’s research sleep death: was misconstrued to inform parents against bed sharing; and that his re• Smothering, suffocation, or roll over search was evaluated with opinion is a possible risk with bed sharing, but and prejudice. smothering or suffocation is not SIDS. Suffocation is a known cause. SIDS • SUID, SIDS, and Suffocation in bahas no known cause and usually bies have a clear list of risk factors: provides an inconclusive autopsy. • Babies under 5 months of age • SUID (Sudden Unexplained Infant • Formula fed babies Death) is a new, more correct term • Smoking in the home for infant sleep deaths because the • Parental drug or alcohol abuse old word, SIDS, is not actually a syn•Sleeping together on a sofa indrome. A Syndrome has a known stead of a mattress cause. • Too many pillows and blankets • Overheating (too hot in room • In Europe, SIDS has been called Cot or in bed) 32 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
• Crib sleeping baby sleeping on tummy • Parent diagnosed with Morbid Obesity • Parent sleep disorder concurrent with bed sharing • Older children in bed with newborn
mother’s breath stimulating baby’s respiratory system to work harder.
•There is a growing body of evidence proving that bed sharing without those risk factors may actually be protective against infant sleep deaths. Protections include the frequent rousing of mother and baby, preventing sleep that is too deep and the carbon dioxide from
• Bedsharing also preserves and prolongs the breastfeeding relationship, which provides health benefits to mother and baby as well as protects against postpartum depression in mothers.
• Bedsharing parents studied and polled report that they get more sleep per night than crib-sleeping families, even if they wake frequently for feedings.
• Safe family bed sharing helps the
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non-breastfeeding parent bond and you bed share, to prevent overheatconnect with baby. ing. Looking at the list of risk factors above can help you make an informed decision about whether bed sharing will be safe for your new baby. Let go of the anxiety and then truly rest assured!* Remember that a smothering death is not SIDS. Common sense can help you prevent smothering/suffocation. You can prevent smothering accidents with these tips:
• Baby should be below the level of your pillow. I work with families every day in my gentle sleep learning consultations to help preserve both the breastfeeding relationship, and the bed sharing relationship even when families need to make other changes to wake less frequently. I inform parents of the actual scientific truth about bed sharing: that there are zero studies that show bed sharing itself to be a risk for SIDS.
• Babies who bed share should NOT be in a swaddle or a sleep sack. The two are contraindicated because Yes, co-sleeping is safe and bed the baby cannot move freely out of sharing can be very safe if you the way of suffocation. know your risk factors! Bed sharing can even help breastfeeding moms • You should not fall asleep upright sleep better than moms who get up with baby on you in a bed, chair or to go to the crib! What’s more, it can sofa. help children develop healthy love of sleep and bedtime security that • You should not ever sleep with sets the stage for preschool age and a baby under 6 months on a sofa. later childhood sleep to be easier These smothering deaths are fre- and more restful as well! quent. • Bed sharing babies should not have big fluffy comforters over them. • A cotton blanket under arm level will be fine if baby sleeps naked with you skin-to-skin, babies in clothing should not have blankets on them if 34 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
STUDIES: Bed Sharing per se Is Not DangerousAbraham B. Bergman, JAMA Pediatr. 2013. / Evolutionary Perspectives on Mother-Infant Sleep Proximity and Breastfeeding in a Laboratory Setting, Lee T. Gettler and James J. McKenna. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2011./ The proximity of the parent helps regulate the infant’s immature nervous system learn to self-regulate during sleep, co-sleeping babies cry less. (Farooqi, 1994) /Research speculates co-sleeping may prevent SIDS by preventing the infant from entering into sleep states that are too deep. In addition, the parents’ own breathing may help the infant to “remember” to breathe (McKenna, 1990; Mosko, 1996; Richard, 1998)./Parents and infants sleep better. Because of the proximity of the mother, babies do not have to fully wake and cry to get a response. As a result, mothers can tend to the infant before either of them are fully awake (McKenna). As a result, most mothers were more likely to have positive evaluations of their nighttime experiences (McKenna, 1994) because they tended to sleep better and wake less fully (McKenna & Mosko, 1997)./ Babies get more caregiving. Co-sleeping increases breastfeeding (Clements, 1997; McKenna, 1994; Richard et al., 1996). Even the conservative American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) admits to the breastfeeding advantages of co-sleeping (Hauck, 1998). Mothers who co-sleep breastfeed an average of twice as long as non-co-sleeping mothers (McKenna). / Co-sleeping infants also get more attention and protective care. Mothers who co-sleep exhibited five times the number of “protective” behaviors (such as adjusting the infant’s blanket, stroking or cuddling) as solitary-sleeping mothers (McKenna & Mosko, 1997). Co-sleeping mothers also showed an increased sensitivity to the presence of the baby in the bed (McKenna).
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Hey CDC! Stay Out of my Wine Glass by Dr. Jen Schwartz. PhD, CFLE
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In February, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a new warning for women: Don’t drink alcohol unless you are on birth control, and don’t drink excessively. The well-intentioned science behind the recommendation is simple, and is based on the number of babies born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other alcohol-related issues. This is nothing but the CDC’s attempt to ensure that women are healthy, and babies are too. Right?
weeks on average. In fact, the dark beer I drank during my second pregnancy was a huge factor in raising my iron levels and keeping my pregnancy low-risk. There is no published science that proves, or points to, the recommendation that pregnant women should not drink any alcohol at all. There are plenty of studies that show the negative effects of excessive alcohol use, and some have even pointed to moderate alcohol consumption being an issue. But occasional use has never been shown Maybe. But probably not. I am hard- to have adverse effects on mothers ly the first person to address this issue or babies. --blogs are BLOWING UP as women respond. Essentially there are big is- Even if it had been proven that ANY sues with this mandate. Women are drinking during pregnancy is dammuch more than potential baby car- aging, there is still a BIG issue with riers, and should not have to spend this new recommendation. The fact our lives preparing to carry fetus- that I could potentially become es. Assuming that any woman who pregnant at any time (well, for a few drinks any alcohol is incapable of days out of every month anyway), making informed choices is pretty should not mean that I should also high up there on the list of “most sex- not drink at all. I am one of the small ist statements ever made by a gov- percentage of women for whom ernment organization.” And their hormonal birth control is not only inlist of “Risks for any woman” on the effective, but it is very damaging to graphic making the rounds is grossly my health. Does that mean I can no inaccurate. longer have my glass of wine on a Friday night, or a cocktail while out I’m not a baby carrier, I’m a per- with friends? According to the CDC son. I’ve had four children. I have it does, because at any moment, I consumed small amounts of alco- may become pregnant, and that hol during each pregnancy--a glass drink or two could harm my unborn of wine or a beer, probably every 2 child. What is the message here? It’s
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simple: The eggs you are carrying are of more concern to the government (CDC) than any personal freedoms you may have. It’s as if they are saying, “Stop acting like you are capable of making informed decisions. There are potential babies at stake.” I have two choice words for the CDC, but I will keep it clean. Instead, I will say this: the fact that I have the potential to become pregnant does not get to dictate how I live my life. If I was trying to conceive, I would not be drinking. If I was pregnant, I would drink very, very little. The whole rest of my child-bearing years? It’s none of your business. Get out of my wine glass. Women can drink and be smart at the same time! It’s true. I know it can be hard to believe, especially if you spend any time in a club on a Saturday night (which, in the interest of full disclosure I have to admit I have not done for a lot of years). But it is true. Women can drink – and even drink too much! – without having sex or getting pregnant. We can also indulge on occasion and wake up the next morning in a completely safe place, having remembered to ask a friend to make sure we don’t do anything stupid.
night-stand, and gets pregnant. Not ideal, of course, but it happens. You know what’s great? She has a lot of choices! She could choose to terminate the pregnancy. She could choose to complete the pregnancy and put the baby up for adoption. She could even--GASP!–have the baby and be a single mother. Conceiving while intoxicated has never been proven to have adverse effects on the fetus. But really, that’s not the point. Here’s another scenario: Let’s say that I do drink a glass of wine every night, and on Saturdays, I have two. That puts me in the CDC’s range of “Excessive drinking.” Or, as the French would say, “Normal.” Women in many countries--and men for that matter–-drink wine with dinner daily. Yet somehow, they also have healthy children. How strange that here in the United States this can’t happen. A danger of geography, perhaps? More than likely, not. Plain and simple, this is an institutional attempt at controlling women’s bodies. It isn’t enough that birth control is getting harder to obtain, and Planned Parenthood is in danger of losing funding due to a bogus attempt at being discredited. Now we are also being told what we can drink, and when. Not cool, CDC, not cool.
Let’s say for a moment that a woman goes out, gets drunk, has a one- Do you even know how babies are 38 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
made? According to the CDC, drinking too much puts women at risk for injuries/violence, heart disease, cancer, STD’s, fertility problems, and unintended pregnancies. I don’t know about you, but the last time I looked, STD’s and unintended pregnancies were caused by sex, not drinking. I have, in my lifetime, gotten injured while drinking, but again, last time I checked, violence was caused by violent people, just like rape is caused by rapists. I get the point here–-sometimes, when people drink, they get violent. Sometimes, we make poor choices. And obviously, true excessive drinking can cause health problems. I can even almost agree with the statement, “The best advice is to stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant,” shown in the middle of the CDC graphic. Women who are trying to get pregnant should probably do everything they can in order to be as healthy as possible, though a drink a week isn’t going to change that for most women. The audacity, however, of saying that drinking too much puts a woman at risk for violence is no different than blaming the rape victim for wearing a too-short skirt, or walking alone at night. Sex puts women at risk for unintended pregnancies, but saying too much drinking does that implies women are not capable of drinking
and saying no, or using condoms. And I haven’t even mentioned anything about lesbians or bi-sexual women who are with other women –are we at risk for unintended pregnancies as well? It’s a few short steps down the road, but again there is a greater implication here: don’t drink too much. You might get raped, and pregnant. If you found yourself rolling your eyes when you read this CDC statement, good for you. If you found yourself outraged, even better. There is some good intention here, that is especially useful for the 4.7% of women in the U.S. who have serious alcohol issues. Of course we want doctors to help these women, especially if they are having children who could be harmed by their alcohol use. The bottom line though is that saying that none of us should drink without birth control is no different than mandating that men with active sperm must eat leafy greens daily, because they might conceive a child sometime, and that extra folate is necessary for healthy sperm and therefore healthy embryos. I’d love to see that happen. I’m sure we could trace the funding for that mandate back to spinach farmers, or something equally as ridiculous. For now, my recommendation is simple: Women, be safe. Take care of yourselves. And go have a glass of wine. NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 39
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Paradigm Shifters in Becoming a
GENTLE PARENT by Paige Lucas Stannard
The most valuable things you can do to become a more gentle parent have nothing to do with parenting. They aren’t “techniques” or “parenting tools” you can apply to your next parenting “moment.” And please note, when I put those things in quotation marks it isn’t to make fun of them. It is because they are exactly the language I use in my parent coaching and classes. Techniques and tools are immensely valuable and can really help guide early gentle parenting decisions until it comes naturally (and it will!). However, no tool or technique provides the true key to unlocking your inner gentle parent.
ents (and, as a result, gentler people) are mental barriers. Simple lack of skills, like not knowing an alternative to time-outs for example, is only the tiniest of hurdles in our connected world. If you have a desire to learn alternatives to time-out there are literally millions of resources just a click away. The more difficult hurdles you’ll find on the road to gentle parenting are colossal imposing barriers built by our own set of beliefs and assumptions incorporated into our psyche at the deepest and most subconscious of levels.
When a parent comes to me with a parenting question they usually have a long description of the probMost of the hurdles we encounter lem and what they’ve tried. What on our journey to being gentler par- they’re looking for is an alternative, NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 41
a new tool or technique that will be gentler than what they are currently doing. This is why so many books claiming to be “gentle parenting” guides are really just lists of less-harsh things to do to your child. This is also why time-outs became so popular in the first place. At least they weren’t hitting and calling it parenting. But gentle parenting is about so much more than not spanking or not yelling. Gentle parenting is first and foremost about mutual respect and connection. Of course hitting is a huge disconnecting action but cessation of physical punishment is the very tiniest of toe-dips in the ocean of gentle parenting.
ful and egalitarian relationship with our kids but it isn’t necessarily what comes to the forefront of our minds in the moment.
In order to break this cycle we don’t just need “parenting” tools and techniques for interacting with our kids, we need “self” techniques for thinking outside the dominant paradigm about ourselves as parents and about our kids. That’s why I say the most powerful parenting tips aren’t about parenting at all. They’re about self reflection, critically thinking about our own viewpoint, and reframing what we know about ourselves and our children. They are techniques designed to be ParaThe deeper issue is that most of us, digm Shifters. despite very much wanting to have mutual respect and connection with The first question I ask parents is, our kids, have no framework for how “How is this making you feel?” I to do this. All of our preparation for know! The old psychiatrist one-liner parenting comes from our own ex- of yore. It ends up that this is a fanperiences and the social expecta- tastic question for parents to answer. tions placed on parents and chil- When someone asks how something dren. Most of the messages about makes you feel it forces you to step parenting and childrearing are hier- back from the “I” centric view of the archical and adultist. Children are situation (“she did this to me”). It reto obey and be “good.” Parents are minds you that these events don’t to control and be firm. And despite happen in a vacuum, they happen having the science to back up why in the environment of your own realthis is a horrible and damaging way ity, a reality that includes your own to raise humans, we have decades feelings, thoughts, and memories of living in this paradigm to contend and how they affect your interacwith. We may desire a more respect- tions with your child.
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forward with your parenting values While the traditional parenting par- in mind without the unwanted bagadigm never questions the motiva- gage of your own limited viewpoint. tions of the parent because parent is “boss” in this view, this is the oppo- I use this example because it is one site of how a gentle parenting para- that rings true for me. When one of digm functions. What is the first thing my kids isn’t behaving in a way I peryou can do to break out of your old ceive as “nice,” it brings up fear for paradigm? Know thyself. Wise words me--fear that I’m not raising empafrom the Oracle at Delphi that have thetic human beings--and embarsurvived over 3,000 years for a rea- rassment, because mothers are often son. Understanding how we feel judged in our society for the behavabout something, where in our past ior of their offspring. If I move forward or future (anxiety) those feelings orig- from these emotions I will act more inated, and how it affects the way harshly toward my children. Knowing we act, is the first step in stopping our this about myself frees me from my automatic, knee-jerk behaviors and automatic response. living more authentically. Notice that both of these reactions When a parent is having an issue --fear and embarrassment--are not with their child not sharing or being happening in the present moment. nice to other kids, it would be easy Fear is based on thinking about the to suggest a technique like roleplay- future when I’m perceiving that my ing (“How do you think the other kid kids will be empatheticless wretchfeels?”) or putting away toys that es. Fear-based thinking always exthey don’t want to share before- aggerates the situation causing me hand. These tricks can be a valuable to respond harshly. Embarrassment part of dealing with the situation. is based on what other people are But MUCH more importantly: what is perceiving about my kids and, by seeing your child not share bringing association, about me. If nothing out in YOU? What does it feel like for else, when I move forward it should you when your child doesn’t share? be about me and my child and our Are you afraid? Embarrassed? What relationship, not anyone else. are the roots of those feelings? What are you imagining this behav- That brings us to the second paraior “means?” Once you can delve digm shifter: Be present. When we into these answers you can move are fully in the present moment and
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physical presence. It means you are listening fully to your child and that you aren’t using past mistakes or future fears to fuel your interactions. A present person never throws past mistakes at people or makes sweeping generalizations like, “You never clean up” or, “Let me do it, last time you dropped it” or slipping into labeling like “You’re a slob.” These reactions, created by living outside the moment, are damaging but also counterintuitive. Reminding someone of past failures or labeling them with a fixed characteristic just restricts their ability to grow. Let’s go back to the example I used before. I’ve witnessed my child refuse to share. I took a breath and noticed my fear and embarrassment reaction. I choose not to react from there so I look at the actual situation as objectively as I can. My kid is deeply involved in her own imaginary world. She isn’t “being mean” or “not sharing.” From her perspective she really needs that toy right now. Someone else asked her to share and she said “No.” That we call that “mean” is silly. Who decided that “share” was short for “give up whatever you’re holding right now?” Do adults expect that same deference to their immediate needs? Of course not. And honestly, that someone should immediately give up something they
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are using is not a lesson we want our kids to learn. In the time it takes me to think this through the kids have both moved on to something else, the toy in question forgotten in the sand. It turns out, in the present moment, there wasn’t really an issue at all. That’s our next paradigm buster: Let go of control. (Cue me belting out “Let It Go” complete with Elsa hand motions.) Think about it for a second though. Why are we even monitoring our kids play time so intensely? Somewhere the lie began that the job of parenting is a cross between prison guard and super annoying publicist. We hover and wait for an infraction to yell at or a suggestion of how our kid could be acting better. This is where we get all the “Careful!” and “Slow down!” on the playgrounds. It is practice in not caring about how others perceive our parenting to just sit at the playground and let it go (singing optional). When we attempt to control our kids we sever connection (do you feel connected to your partner or friends when they are trying to control you?). We cling to control because we fear the alternative. Some of the antonyms of control include chaos, disorganization, and even neglect.
It is easy to see the fear that comes with not controlling our children if we imagine chaos and neglect in its wake. But, there are other antonyms of control that I think get to the heart of the problem of controlling humans: helplessness, powerlessness, and inability.
that is exactly what control does--it dehumanizes. If you don’t believe me try using the same sentence but substituting wife or husband. We react differently to “get your wife under control” because we’ve (only recently) moved away from seeing wives as owned objects. It feels dissonant to talk about “controlling” a When we make our focus control woman because we acknowledge we also undermine a child’s own that women are fully autonomous feelings of capability. Feeling capa- beings with the right to self control. ble is one of the 4 Crucial C’s that Dr. Betty Lou Bettner described in That we view children as owned obher book Raising Kids Who Can (the jects subject to our control requires others being connection, courage, another, rather difficult paradigm and counting). Children feel pow- buster: Children are whole and auerless when every decision is made tonomous beings. I love the way Dr. for them or everything they do is met Shefali Tsabary, author of The Conwith suggestions for improvement. scious Parent, says it: “When you parThey eventually assume it is because ent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t they aren’t good at making deci- raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbsions, so why bother? bing with its own signature.” Control is an illusion. When traditional parenting is said to “work”--a.k.a. there is a temporary cessation in the undesirable behavior--parents are said to be “in control.” When traditional parenting fails, parents are admonished to “get your kid under control.” Is it just me or does that sound like someone is talking about a dog or a snowmobile, and not a living, breathing, autonomous human being? And
A control-based parenting paradigm imagines children as a lump of clay for us to carve and mold into fully-actualized humans. A gentle, respect-based parenting paradigm imagines children as a flower bursting through the soil and reaching towards the sun before blooming into a unique and perfect flower. You don’t try to change a flower’s color or shape or tell it when it must bloom. You pull up the weeds, provide water and nutrients, and guide it away
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from dangerous brambles. Your job as parent is to sit back--intervene infrequently and with minimal impact --and watch your unique flower blossom. This seemingly hands-off view terrifies some people. You hear “entitled” and “brat” often in these conversations. I understand the fear of realizing you raised an unempathetic child, remember that is one of my big fears too. The difference is that when I do intervene as a gentle parent, I do so remembering the throbbing spirit that is my child. Not a blob to be molded into submission but a unique individual who must be related to as a unique individual--in other words, in the same way we treat other, non-child people like our spouses or close friends.
Instead, live a consensual life. Mainstream society is very hierarchical. Every person has a place in a vertical ranking of power. Parents over kids, teacher over student, boss over worker. It isn’t surprising that we’ve organized our culture this way. In most animal species, particularly our nearest sisters, the great apes, society means the many are the subjects of the few in what primatologists call dominance hierarchy. Human societies raised to believe in these practical strata of organizing people are historically prone to adding on arbitrary rankings we call bigotry: white over black, man over woman, rich over poor. What started as a realistic way to organize communities becomes a means of oppression and suffering for millions of people. We are slowly waking up to this reality. It’s why slavery is illegal (1865), raping your wife is illegal (1993), and “gay conversion therapy” is illegal, but only in a few states. We wake up slow.
When you treat other people as fully autonomous humans then their needs are as important as yours and you instinctively know that a mutually agreeable solution is the only solution. Until you make this shift of seeing your children as whole humans, Making the jump to a society withgentle parenting will only ever be a out hierarchy is frightening or untechnique. imaginable to most people. Wendy Priesnitz, author of It Hasn’t Shut The last paradigm shifter is the most Me Up: A Memoir of Mothering and difficult to cultivate because it flies in Daughtering in Prose, Poetry, and the face of a very central tenet of Photographs, says, “Most people just modern life: society is a hierarchy. can’t imagine living without hierar-
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chy, laws, leaders, and authorities telling them what to do and how to do it... We simply do not trust ourselves and other people, including our own children, to live peacefully and productively without being told what to do.” The leap from power hierarchies to consensual living rests in that one word: Trust. The hierarchical world view places skills like competitiveness, self-centeredness, and aggressiveness at the center of interactions. All of these require a lack of mutual trust, making suspiciousness and secretiveness added characteristics of this paradigm. Consensual living, conversely, places cooperation, altruism, and peacefulness at the center. Each of these interpersonal skills require trust as a foundation. This makes empathy, compassion, and openness natural added characteristics of people who live consensually. You live a consensual life by practicing removing hierarchical thinking from your life. When you think someone you live with, whether adult or child, “should” do something, “ought” to know something, or isn’t “behaving” appropriately, stop yourself and deeply question your own demands. Shoulds, oughts, behaving and other key words indicate that you are coming from a place of
control. Control is a hierarchy. It says you should be subject to me. Instead, flip a switch--a paradigm shift--and think about the situation from a position of trust. Gather yourself some compassion and empathy, think about cooperation and what “mutually agreeable” might mean. Trust yourself that a peaceful, respectful-of-all solution is possible. Trust your family to not need win-lose solutions, but that win-win is the only way. This is the essence, the beating heart, of gentle parenting: that trust and respect are the fertilizer that grows compassionate, peaceful, unique humans equipped to not just live but thrive, their throbbing spirits unleashed to impact the world in amazing ways you just can’t foresee when you’re in a parenting “moment” that shakes your resolve. Gentle parenting is about becoming a gentler person. Getting to know your own personal paradigm--what you unconsciously or consciously believe-and breaking it open to expose its working parts, and then choosing to create a new belief based not on control or power but on trust, empathy, and love.
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Gentle Parenting as a Survivor of
CHILD ABUSE by Madai Miller
Having a history of abuse colors almost every aspect of a survivor’s life: friendships, romantic relationships, work relationships. Survivors of trauma may consistently see themselves as a victim or fear that they are becoming an aggressor themselves. They may struggle with paranoia, feeling that the world is out to get them--because once, when their world was smaller, it was. RelationYou are paralyzed by depression ships may fall apart, reinforcing beor feelings of worthlessness--you’ve liefs that are detrimental to healing. had it ingrained in your consciousness that you are not enough, you But no aspect of life is so exquisitely are not worthy. Nothing could be affected as parenting. You may wonfarther from the truth, but you be- der how you can teach your child lieve it anyway. emotional skills you yourself need to learn. Things like joy and trust. Or Whether you identify with the first the art of letting go and not worrying scenario or the second--or some- constantly. Fear that you will continthing entirely different--you bear the ue the cycle of abuse may paralyze you, or conversely, galvanize you scars of childhood abuse. You hear a thump from the other room and nearly jump out of your skin. This is your reaction every time you hear a sudden loud sound. It’s in your wiring to be hyper-vigilant, as a way to protect yourself. You may no longer need this heightened fear response, but it’s a part of you and may now be detrimental to your moving on in life.
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into seeking help. Gentle parenting, because it is the polar opposite of abuse, often appeals to trauma survivors. Respectful treatment of infants and children, attachment practices, and gentle discipline resonate with many survivors because these are the very things they longed for and needed as children and did not receive. To properly implement these practices, however, proper support and resources are necessary; and personal healing must first take place. At times, parenting can re-open old wounds. Holding a tiny newborn, comforting a teething infant, defusing a toddler’s tantrum--these experiences have the power to break your heart all over again as you wonder, “How could anyone hurt a child? How?” You may scrutinize your interactions with your child(ren), particularly the conflicts. Desperately wanting to strike the perfect balance between respectful gentleness and proper boundaries, you’ll analyze your words, your tone, your demeanor. You might ask yourself, “Did that sound harsh? Was I firm enough? Will she remember me as a firm but kind mother? Does she feel loved?” If you make a mistake like snapping at your child, the guilt can follow you for days. Even after apologizing, you’ll ask yourself if you’ve scarred 50 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
your child. But you haven’t. She’ll have forgiven you and long forgotten your mistake. Nevertheless, because of your history, you’ll carry a perpetual fear that somehow, you’ll ruin her life. On this parenting journey, we have good days and bad days. There will be days when you feel like you’re failing. Sleep-deprivation is an inevitable complication. There will be days when you’ll want to hide in the bathroom. And there will be days full of smiles! Ride the wave and be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that we’re all imperfect and we’ll each make our mistakes. Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, move on and enjoy this incredible journey. Find joy in your successes. As time passes and you begin to see the difference between your own parenting and the way you grew up, continued healing will take place. You’ll feel a sense of pride in what you are doing, and rightly so, for it is important work. Achieving a Sustainable Gentle Parenting Practice Self-care is an essential part of parenting that many of us neglect. Maybe we feel guilty taking some time for ourselves. Maybe it seems impossible to find or make the time. For parents who are trauma survivors, self-care is
crucial to success in gentle parenting. If we neglect to fill our own cup, we can more easily be triggered and unintentionally snap at our loved ones, bringing deep feelings of guilt and sorrow on ourselves. So find out --or rediscover--what recharges your soul and make time to care for yourself. Consider it a gift to yourself and your family. Make a list of parenting goals. Be realistic. Set priorities. Periodically review your list to check your progress, congratulate yourself on your successes, and figure out what needs changing. Having specific steps and practices in place, something you can refer back to when you’re feeling unsure of how you’re doing, is a great help and can redirect you to the parenting path you want to take. (See L.R. Knost’s “12 Steps to Gentle Parenting,” in resources below.) Gentle parenting as a survivor of childhood trauma seems a monumental task at first. But with the right support and resources, it can be done. And it is so worth it. Breaking the cycle of abuse is not only the best thing for your child, it is also the best thing for you. Parenting gently and with respect will bring you great joy as you watch your child reaping the benefits of this life-changing journey. If you are a survivor of childhood abuse and trauma, please
don’t hesitate to get the help and support you need to begin healing and break the cycle. You deserve this and so does your family. Steps to Personal Healing •Therapy. First and foremost, talking to someone objective about your experiences will help you to process the trauma. A professional therapist can provide you with resources and techniques to facilitate healing. This is the first step. •Journaling. Writing down your feelings as you process them is something you can do even when you cannot see your therapist. This can be a continuous form of therapy, allowing you to safely release strong emotions. •Mindfulness practice. Deep breathing, guided imagery, and the like allow us to re-center ourselves, to “come back to your body,” so to speak, when we feel scattered and overwhelmed. Being centered makes it easier to connect with your child. Gentle Parenting Resources •Dr. William Sears - Attachment Parenting •Janet Lansbury - RIE, Respectful Parenting •L.R. Knost - 12 Steps to Gentle Parenting, Little Hearts Books •Elisabeth Corey - Resources for Parents with Complex Trauma
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BABY GREENS by Emily Rowell Bullock, CHC
Spring is coming! It is a time for all of the baby greens to come out and enjoy the sunshine. Tasty options like baby spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and arugula abound. Theyâ€™re tender and delicious and so easy to prepare. Here are a few super simple recipes. They highlight the clean and vibrant greens available in the early days of Spring.
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photo credit: Will Keyes 54 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Garlicky SautĂŠed Baby Greens These are the perfect side dish and really balance out a hearty meal with grilled meats and vegetables. They are also great over rice for a quick meal. INGREDIENTS 8 cups of your favorite baby leafy greens 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1 tbsp black mustard seeds* 1/4 tsp coarse salt 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes DIRECTIONS 1. In a large skillet or cast iron pan, heat oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the garlic and sautĂŠ for a couple of minutes until it is golden. 2. Toss the baby greens with the garlic and oil. Season with salt and red pepper. You may need to add up to a tablespoon of water here to create enough steam to cook the greens. Cover and cook for a few minutes until the greens are bright green and tender. Serve immediately. * You can substitute cumin seeds or any other fragrant seed you have in your spice cabinet.
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photo credit: Will Keyes 56 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Kale Slaw This is my take on cole slaw. The dressing is free of mayonaise and uses natural sweeteners as opposed to white sugar. Sometimes the kale is tender enough to skip the massage but I enjoy doing it regardless. INGREDIENTS 4 cups of baby kale 1 cup shredded carrots 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds Dressing: 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup honey or other natural sweetener 1/2 tsp celery seed 1/2 cup grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil 1/4 tsp coarse salt 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper DIRECTIONS: 1. Make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients until well combined. 2. Shred the kale by pulsing it in a food processor or run a knife though it until finely chopped. 3. Give the kale a good massage and let the heat of your hands start to break it down. 4. Combine all of the ingredients with the dressing and let it marinate for awhile before you serve it.
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photo credit: Will Keyes 58 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Baby Arugula Fattoush Salad I love a great salad. This one has a Mediterranean feel and is packed full of earthy herbs. The pita bread is a nice addition and adds a nice crunch to the salad. INGREDIENTS 1 pita bread or a handful of pita chips 2 cups baby arugula 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved 1 small cucumber, diced 1 cup chickpeas 1/2 small red onion, sliced thin 1/3 cup mint and/or parsley, roughly chopped Crumbled feta cheese to taste (optional) Dressing: 3 tbsp red wine vinegar 1/2 tsp raw honey 1/4 tsp kosher salt 1/4 tsp black pepper 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil DIRECTIONS 1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the pita with olive oil and toast until crispy, usually around 10 minutes. (Skip this step if using pita chips.) 2. Combine all salad ingredients and toss in large broken pieces of the crispy pita. 3. Whisk together the first 4 ingredients of the dressing. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Lightly coat the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.
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SIMPLE WAYS TO
SUPPORT YOUR LIVER by Sandra Maurer
My rainbow baby was born on the spring equinox. It was perfect. Renewal, rebirth, all of the themes and stars aligning. I love that her birthday is March 21st. My postpartum time began as the spring began, with the thawing of the tundra (we live in Minnesota) and the natural time for liver cleansing in the rhythm of the year.
Maharashi Ayurveda describes it this way: “First, there is the ama that is heavy and sticky; it is formed through poor dietary habits and low digestive fire. Over time ama tends to accumulate in the system and block the channels of the body, causing a variety of conditions. The second type of ama, which is more toxic, is called amavisha. This type of ama mixes with the doshas or tissues or waste products of the body and causes more chronic problems. A third type of ama is called garvisha; this is associated with bioaccumulation of environmental toxins.”
The liver is a hard working organ that is processing all the hormones going through your body. It also helps us to digest all of our emotional experiences. When things don’t get cleared out well we accumulate toxins--whether this is emotionally or physically--and they lead to illness. They can come from emotional buildup, exposure to environmental toxins, or poor eating I share the view with Ayurveda that women have the advantage (and habits for a time. probably live longer) because they In the Ayurvedic philosophy, ama get the chance to cleanse month(accumulated toxins) lead to illness. ly during their moon cycle. What a NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 61
gift. But so many of us experience disruptions in our cycle from the mild (a stressful month that delays a period for example) to the major (pregnancies, postpartum, endometriosis, PCOS, inflammation etc.). And we need a little extra endocrine system pampering, a little liver-loving. The spring equinox is the perfect time to do that! The week of the spring equinox try these suggestions to get at the ama that’s weighing you down and feel lighter, and brighter! Support your liver by using a few simple food habits and journaling through your emotional baggage at the same time, naturally, gently, in safe ways for pregnancy and breastfeeding, without doing major detoxing!
dandelion root based “herbal coffee.” (If you’re gluten free be aware that most of these have barley, but there are a few options that don’t, so do a little digging!) Journal it out. Make two small drawings: One of how you feel right now (stale, cold, weighed down… whatever it is! Choose colors that represent how you feel, and jot down a few words that come to mind.) The second drawing is of how you would like to feel after a week of gentle cleansing or refreshing. Twists! If you have a regular yoga practice, start incorporating some extra time in deep twists this week (and really this whole season!).
If you’re nursing and past the healing stage from your birth (especialThings to try: ly a surgical birth--check with your midwife/doctor) try poses like: PavritHot lemon in water every day for ta Utkatasana (twisting chair pose or a week, first thing in the morning. I fierce pose) and marichyasana. recommend this to clients often. It’s simple, it’s powerful. If you’re pregnant try poses like: gentle seated twist with legs in easy Dandelion root tea: brew this up as pose, or anahatasana (melting you would regular tea for a mild tea, heart pose) with a little twist by alteror as an infusion for stronger more nating shoulders down on the mat medicinal effects by placing root in and threading the arm under. After cold water, bringing to a boil and a week of your mild cleansing rousitting with lid on for 30 minutes to a tine, relax. Get out in the fresh air! few hours. Sip throughout the day. Embark on the new. You can also replace coffee with a 62 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
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EASTER EGG WINDOW MOSAIC by Dana Vanderburg
Looking for a fun, easy, and nonmessy Easter craft? Then look no further! With just a few simple supplies, you and your child can create beautiful Easter crafts sure to be treasured for years to come. Supplies Needed Waxy kite paper Black paper Contact paper Scissors White colored pencil Optional: hole punch, yarn, or tape
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Begin by drawing an outline of an egg on black paper using the white colored pencil. You can make your egg as small or as large as you’d like-you could even make several eggs in varying sizes and then add in an educational component and ask your child to arrange them in order of smallest to largest, etc. Once you have an outline of an egg, cut out your egg. Next, gently fold the middle portion of your egg so you can make a small cut. Begin cutting out the inside of your egg (you will want the inside of your egg to be completely cut-out; we left about a 3/4” black border on our egg). If you’d like, you can cut out additional pieces from black paper to create a design on the inside of your egg (zig-zag, stripes, etc.). Once you have done this, cut a piece of contact paper slightly larger than your egg and place your egg (and additional interior design if desired) on the sticky side of the contact paper. 66 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to fill your egg with the colorful paper. Take your kite paper, in varying colors, and cut them into small pieces. We cut our pieces into about ½” to 1” pieces, varying the shape (we found it best to have many different sizes and shapes of pieces--don’t feel like you have to cut perfect squares--different shapes and sizes will make your egg that much more unique). Once you have your kite paper cut, place the pieces inside the egg, on the sticky side of the contact paper. Once the entire egg has been filled with kite paper, cut another piece of contact paper the same size as the first and place it on the egg, sticky side down. You will now have your egg sandwiched between the twopieces of contact paper. Next, trim the excess contact paper that ex-
tends past the outside of the black border of your egg. Your egg is now complete! Use the hole punch and yarn, or tape, to hang the egg in a sunny window. If youâ€™d like, you can punch a small hole in the top of your egg and string some yarn through to make it easy to hang or you could place some tape on the back of the egg and attach to a window. We taped our eggs to the window as we especially enjoyed the beauty of the egg when the light of the sun shone through and illuminated the colors of the waxy kite paper. We hope you enjoyed this project! You can use the same basic format to create beautiful window mosaics for just about any holiday, party dĂŠcor, or just because occasion. We also had fun using this project to practice our colors, shapes, and sizes. If you would like to take this project one step further and incorporate an educational aspect as well, simply ask your child about the different colors, or ask which egg or piece of cut paper is larger or smaller, or create two different eggs and ask them what is different about the eggs (size, colors, etc.) and what is the same. You could even turn the tables and ask your child to quiz you on size, colors, etc. Have fun learning and creating with your child and seeing their excitement as they create their masterpiece and gain confidence in learning new skills. NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 67
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When MELATONIN Helps What it Really Means by Guggie Daly
Melatonin quickly became a household name as parents around the country discovered it can help konk out children at night, erasing or easing bedtime fights and struggles. But, just as quickly as popularity peaked for this hormone that is normally created in the brain and gut through amino acid synthesis, its following tanked when the media unleashed a volley of warnings about side effects and unknown dangers. Although the caution is merited and well worth noting, it turns out that melatonin is a big player. Parents might have fallen in love with the supplement because it heralded an end to the struggle over bedtime. Now, they need to learn about its vital role outside of the bedroom. Mela-what? Melatonin is a hormone. The body normally synthesizes it in the gut and brain by converting an amino acid, l-tryptophan, through several fairly complex stages. Most people recog-
nize melatonin as a brain hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm, which is to say, it helps people go to sleep at the right time. Stopping there is a disservice to this important hormone, which actually has several big roles in the body such as regulating the immune system, assisting with producing the primary antioxidant called glutathione, and scrubbing free radical and oxidative damage. Heavy Metals Another role melatonin plays in the body is binding with heavy metals and healing the damage from them. This is not a minor role. The medical literature is so compelling on melatoninâ€™s ability to remove heavy metals from the body that itâ€™s considered more effective than other popular chelating substances such as vitamin C! Pieri et al measured radical scavenger activity using commonly accepted antioxidants such as vitamin E and glutathione, and found that melatonin was superior. NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 69
Not only does melatonin effectively eradicate metals and alleviate oxidative stress, it also continues to support and enhance other antioxidants, helping the immune system to recover from the toxic exposure or trauma. Helping is a Red Flag If you’ve given your child melatonin out of desperation in the face of SPD, ASD, or ADHD symptoms and found that it helps, it’s most likely a red flag warning that you need to do more research and potentially provide more supplements or lifestyle changes. Tryptophan, the precursor that helps to create serotonin and melatonin in the body, is a simple amino acid available in a variety of foods. Short of a severely restricted diet, an actual deficiency probably does not explain why giving supplemental melatonin is helping your child. This means a problem lies in other areas, such as the body needing more than normal to combat a problem.
tube of toothpaste can contain over 10mg of aluminum. And electronic devices and cords are often contaminated with lead. If you become a detective and look under every stone in your child’s life, you might find the underlying cause, and finally be able to eradicate it. Here’s a quick list of items that represent chronic, accumulative exposure to aluminum: Toothpaste Aluminum soda cans and aluminum coated juice pouches Aluminum foil used for cooking Deodorant Sunscreen Lotion Shampoo Vaccines
A quick list of lead sources: Art supplies Electronic devices PVC products Contaminated soil Lead tainted water Since the symptoms of metal toxic- Cosmetics ity and impaired immune function Glazes used on dishes overlap many behavioral disorders, it’s important to look carefully at These are just two quick lists of two your child’s health status and envi- common heavy metals! It’s easy to ronment. Heavy metals such as lead see how chronic, overlooked expoand aluminum are ubiquitous, pres- sure can occur. And this slow, accuent in food, water, cosmetics, art mulative exposure can impair young supplies, and every day household children silently, resulting in things items. Something as innocent as a such as verbal delays, tics, seizures, 70 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
bedtime wetting, mineral deficiencies, abdominal pain, dizziness/balance issues, hyperactivity, teeth defects, leg cramps, low muscle tone, and nausea. Some of these issues fly under the radar because they look like something else. Muscle cramping and twitching for example, might be categorized as normal growing pains and missed until they continue for many months. Nausea and abdominal pain might cause a young child to act picky or refuse to eat, resulting in other diagnoses such as sensory disorders or anxiety. Take the next step One thing that must be emphasized: if you do suspect heavy metal toxicity, research, and then research again. Mobilizing and excreting metals from the body is not a simple process, especially if your child has an actual burden. This is truly one of the cases where it’s wise to spend the money and take the time to work with a professional. Despite the thousands of blog posts and forum discussions available on detoxing metals, it remains a complicated and sometimes damaging or painful journey that’s best done with someone who is experienced. Melatonin as a supplement is also still a synthetic hormonal intervention with scant data on chronic use in young children. This is about researching and
then weighing the benefits and the risks. If your child has been displaying concerning or difficult behaviors and melatonin seems to help, don’t hesitate to dig deeper. Start reading about various related topics so you can fit the pieces together. Learn about the role of active B vitamins in overcoming genetic defects. Review how the liver works at breaking down toxins and how it can be damaged. Look at the endocrine system and the immune system and how they work together. As you start to see the whole puzzle, you’ll be more likely to find the missing pieces for your individual child, whether that’s something such as an acute injury from vaccination, or gut damage from antibiotics, or genetic defects that have created chronic nutritional deficiencies, or anything else. Investigate your child’s environment and look for hidden sources of toxins and heavy metals. If you haven’t already, or haven’t in several years, take your child in for basic lead testing and vitamin D testing. These are two tests that are less-invasive and less expensive, which makes for a great first baby step. The sooner you begin to find the issue, the sooner you can start to make additional changes for your child’s health and wellbeing! NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 71
How Hiring a Doula Changed My Births by Amy Phoenix
photo credit: Earthside Birth Photography 72 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
Pregnant with my first child I was optimistic and thought I trusted the process of birth, but truly, I didn’t even trust myself. I had never birthed before, and in reality I had no context for trusting birth. The results of that pregnancy brought forth a lovely, unique human being--and a very turmoil-laden birthing experience.
easiness was well hidden, yet still palpable at times. My husband really didn’t want to be in the room, which was evident as he sat at the end of the bed in an obviously stressed disposition. Although he’d been birthed naturally at home, he wasn’t exactly comfortable nor ready to be in a supportive role.
When all was said and done, I wasn’t so much frustrated about the birth as I was at my belief that I could have gotten through it any differently than I did with the preparation I had in place. I read natural birthing books, practiced a little with the relaxation exercises and asked my mom, husband, and a friend to be there. I thought this was enough, but it glaringly proved otherwise.
As my body seized with the natural process of allowing a human to be born, I was afraid, exhausted, and overwhelmed with staying awake enough to participate. I’d initially caved on my wishes to not use pain medication and did not like the effects of what was being pumped into my body, but didn’t know any alternatives. I felt trapped and very ready to meet my baby on the outside.
My mom had only birthed me, quite quickly, and our relationship was strained at times. I didn’t realize how this would impact me during the vulnerability of birthing my first child. While I was grateful for her love, I also felt a bit scrutinized at times. Remnants of long held mom-and-daughter baggage occasionally interfered with my overall sense of comfort and safety.
When intense itching started as a side effect of a “morphine cocktail” injected into my spine, I literally rubbed a layer of skin off of my face with wet washcloths and didn’t even realize what I was doing. Those who were there to support me, bless their hearts, did their best, but ultimately weren’t any more equipped to help than I was. The nurses were like many in the field, they came and went, but My friend was very sweet, but had couldn’t provide the emotional suplittle knowledge of birth, and her un- port I needed. NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE | 73
The intensity of birthing, combined with the experience of taking pain medication I was not familiar with and being cut to help my daughter make it out the birth canal, was one of the most challenging experiences I’d ever faced. Interestingly, much of this could have been lessened, even possibly eliminated, and definitely softened, had I secured the support of a doula. Doulas are people (mostly women) who are trained to help women during and sometimes after childbirth. Unlike a medical doctor or midwife, they are not necessarily trained to spot problems during birth. Their sole focus is on helping mom and any other support people to relax and make the birth the most positive experience possible. Unlike friends and family, doulas can both be objective and helpful when problems or tension arise, and they have specific training and experience to help everyone feel more confident in the birth process, wherever birth takes place.
work the first time and I wasn’t willing to risk the side effects again. During pregnancy I started practicing yoga and meditation, and in the process figured out what I was missing during my first birth: I didn’t have any skills to effectively relax. I’m not sure how many of us realize how much relaxation skills impact the birth experience, until we’re in the middle of both resisting what we’re going through and desperately wanting our babies to be born. As I realized how important it was for me to embody these skills I also started thinking about what emotional support I would need. Relaxation is a funny thing. We can certainly do our inner work, and it counts, but we are also impacted by those around us and what they bring to the table which influences our safety.
Doulas can help women feel safe during birth, especially women who have experienced sexual abuse. Doulas can also help prevent negative experiences during birth as they empower and advocate for When I became pregnant with my the women they serve. As I learned second child I knew I did not want about doulas, I knew I needed one. to repeat my first birthing experience. I decided unequivocally that When I met Deb, my first doula, I was I would birth naturally (barring a true immediately at ease. She was an OB medical need for Cesarean section) nurse by day and a doula in her off and that I would learn the skills nec- hours. Not only did she have specifessary to do so. Medications didn’t ic knowledge about obstetrics, she 74 | NATURAL MOTHER MAGAZINE
had also birthed naturally on her own. She held confidence in my ability to birth naturally and safely, and she transmitted this to me every time we’d talk. She answered questions, supported my efforts to learn yoga and meditation, got to know me and my husband and our needs, and learned what she could to help any fears that might pop up during birth. As I progressed along in my pregnancy I knew that Deb would provide the emotional support I needed during my second birth. On the day my son was born my husband was out of town and I was staying at my mom’s with my two year old. Deb graciously picked me up when it was time, drove me to the hospital, stayed with me as I labored, got me up out of the hospital bed when I’d been laying there too long, encouraged me to swivel my hips at just the right time, massaged my back such that I could feel a release even amidst the increasing contractions, and walked me through a heavenly visualization of my family on a beach shortly before my son made his entry. She advocated for me when my voice was focused on low sounds to help my son through, and others were asking if I wanted pain medication even though my birth plan indicated that I didn’t want to be asked. She encouraged me to relax and open
when fear rose to the surface, and she stayed by my side as I pulled my son out into this world and onto my abdomen. She was literally the only support I had until moments before my son was born, and she was all I needed. Having a doula during my second birth changed the way I viewed birth, such that I felt confident enough to choose home birth in subsequent births, some with complimentary medical care, all with experienced midwives, all with yoga and meditation, and two out of my three remaining births with a doula. How could one person impact me so deeply? Deb, a woman who both experienced and witnessed the miracle of the birth process and believed in a woman’s ability to birth, helped me believe in me, my ability to birth, and my ability to choose. We can’t choose all of the details of our births, and each of the five I’ve experienced have been unique, but we can learn about our choices and work to create the support that we need. Doulas are one big way we can choose to support ourselves during one of the most momentous experiences of our lives. To learn more about doulas and find one in your area, visit DONA International.
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Published on Mar 1, 2016