Category Archives: Megan

Posts by Megan McGrory Massaro and Anabella

5 Ways to Bond With Your Baby When Baby-wearing Isn’t an Option

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I’m a huge baby-wearing fan. My first daughter literally fell asleep in the carrier, and only in the carrier, for the first 21 months of her life. She lived in a brown Boba for almost two years. She did weddings, funerals, holidays, shopping, walking, cooking with me. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. I loved wearing her, and assumed the rest of my babies would have that same luxury of living their first few years so close to mama.

Shortly after my second daughter was born though, I realized it wasn’t going to be such smooth sailing. I had incredibly painful varicose veins for much of my second pregnancy, and though they went away after birth, once my baby passed the ten pound mark, I could feel them flaring slightly. As her weight increased, my leg felt worse, and around six months postpartum, I developed pelvic pain and hemorrhoids that made it challenging to hold her, never mind wear her.

I felt guilty, sad, and at a loss. It seemed like one of my best mothering tools had been taken from me. Luckily, my daughter was an early crawler, and a very content baby so I managed to make dinners and do other tasks around the house while she played, instead of carrying her. But still, I wanted to be close to her. I’ve had to be more intentional but I’ve worked through the feelings of loss and instead try to focus on the ways we CAN bond! Here are my top five ways of staying connected to my daughter while trying to preserve my body.

1. Co-sleeping. My little one sleeps in the crook of my arm part of the night, sometimes on my chest, and sometimes, when I’m tired, on the other side of the bed. But we are always close, and I wouldn’t trade our nighttime snuggles for anything – not even an uninterrupted night’s sleep! We also spend about a half hour snuggling in the morning with her older sister in the bed, so everyone feels like they have their physical needs for love and affection met before our feet hit the ground! (If you’re concerned about safety, check out some of Dr. James McKenna’s research on safe co-sleeping, and his safety guidelines.) 

2. Co-bathing. Yup, it’s as easy as it sounds. Jump into the bath with your baby. If they are going through that distracted nursing stage, it’s a great way to gently encourage a good feed. It’s relaxing for you too!

3. Floor time! I am so much more intentional about tumbling on the floor with my second baby. She does “airplane” on my legs while I lie on my back, and crawls over, under, and around me. I barely ever sit on a couch, and when I do crafts or read with my older daughter, we always sit on the floor instead of at the table, so the baby can participate at all times. We also do lots of hugs and kisses on the floor.

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4. Use your stroller wisely. I didn’t use a stroller at all until my eldest turned 2. And even then I used it sparingly. I just felt like they inhibited our freedom to walk off the path, to get through doors, down stairs etc. I still feel that way, but there’s no way we could do museums or park trips without one now that I can’t hold my baby for more than a few minutes at a time. I try to push her to a destination, and then take her right out, and play on the floor for a bit before we need to move again.

I considered buying a stroller with a seat that faced toward me, but I knew my girl wouldn’t be in a stroller for that much longer–as soon as my kiddos can walk, they do–it just takes a bit longer to get places! If circumstances were different though, I may have bought something like this as a long term investment so I could interact and so that my girl could feel safe. (When babies face the world in their stroller, it can be stressful.)  As it is, I like to have my older daughter push the stroller when we walk around town, and I sometimes walk next to or in front of the stroller, making faces, and being silly with the baby.

5. Relax. We are an on-the-go family. We live close to downtown Boston, and my older daughter and I used to go into town weekly. We loved riding the train, exploring the parks in the city, and going to museums. It’s been really hard for me to slow down in that respect, and plan our day around home naps (rather than carrier naps, as in the past), but it’s been a sweet time for my older daughter and I to have time cooking, drawing, reading, or just resting. It’s a season! Before I know it, my baby will be walking, and it will be hard to catch her, never mind pick her up!

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A few other strategies made life a bit easier too. Accept help! Dad puts baby to bed when he’s home, Nana carries her down the stairs if we are going out together, Big Sister watches her when I run to the laundry. At church, instead of carrying the baby up the stairs to Sunday School while I drop off her sister, I leave the baby downstairs with a loving friend. (One of her favorites happens to be a male friend who is at least 6’4″ with glasses and a booming voice. He’s also a trained NICU nurse.)

I’m also much more organized. All the diapering supplies are in one place. The things we need to get out the door are all by the door. I can’t afford to be running around the house looking for things with her in my arms. I also do use the Ergo back carry in a pinch!

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

A Peek into the Past – Infant Pottying and Diapering

 Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First YearThe e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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IMG_0049Americans live in a land of extremes. Our cultural norms can shift dramatically in a matter of years. In terms of elimination, we’ve gone from strict, regimented and arguably abusive potty training, to a permissive, wait-til-he’s-ready-even-if-it’s-five approach. To set the stage for our country’s infant toileting practices, we’ll give you a crash course in the last 100 years of American pottying.

Surprisingly, we found little evidence of early EC pioneers in the States. Rather than throwing off the shackles of diapers during the revolution, our ancestors focused on tea. The good news is they left the best part of the rebellion – the part with environmental, economic, and relationship perks – to moms like us!

Starting around 1900, parents were urged by family doctors to strictly toilet train babies before they could walk. Moms were doubly motivated to train their babies. With no electric washing machines, moms were eager to stop washing diapers by hand. Health concerns also played an important role. Moms feared constipation, which can lead to many health issues. Staying regular from an early age was an important way to keep healthy. So far, so good, but here’s the catch. Rather than serving up prunes, moms inserted sticks of soap into baby’s bottom. Dr. Herman Bundesen, author of Our Babies wrote,

“Before the mother begins the 10:00 morning nursing, she should place the pot, a roll of toilet paper, a soap stick, a towel, and a glass of hot water (to wet the soap stick) upon the table within easy reach….If after several minutes [on the pot], the bowel movement does not take place…the soap stick should be inserted and held into place until the bowels begin to move, but not longer than ten minutes….If this is kept up for three or four days, the baby usually will have learned to have regular bowel movements at the end of this time without the use of the soap stick.”

Are you getting a picture of early American infant toilet training? It wasn’t a feel-good rite of passage, complete with sticker charts and M&M’s. In the 1920s, our buddy Dr. Watson also endorsed early toilet training. He told parents to hold a chamber pot under their newborn, and to begin a serious training regimen by three months. Some parents strapped their infants to small potty chairs as soon as they had neck control.

These harsh toilet training methods made a lasting impression on our society. In the 1940s, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most prominent babycare authority of his time, revolted against early toilet training and recommended waiting until babies sat independently, around seven to nine months, before starting. But the biggest paradigm shift came from Spock’s successor, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, who felt children were not ready to deal with their elimination needs until 24 to 30 months.  His theory was based on observation of one-to-two year old children whose parents used rigid toilet training methods. According to Brazelton’s 1999 book Toilet Training – The Brazelton Way, fears that children wouldn’t complete training in a timely manner spurred parents to use both rewards and punishments, which traumatized young children, and resulted in constipation from withholding bowel movements; bed-wetting; and smearing stools.

Brazelton and co-author Dr. Joshua Sparrow articulated seven clear “readiness” signs. He urged parents not to begin before all seven were present. Among the signs are the ability to say “no,” bowel regularity and bodily awareness.

Brazelton’s research launched child-initiated toilet training, which is now the dominant practice in the U.S. and much of the western world. However, his work contains several flaws. He claims that bed-wetting is caused by early toilet training. Ironically, in his own study, Brazelton found that a clear majority of bed wetters were toilet trained after age two. Also, Brazelton claims that children have no sphincter control until 18 months or older. Common sense tells us this is false – if babies had no sphincter control, they would leak urine constantly, rather than releasing when their bladders are full.

It’s worth noting that Brazelton has profited from his opinion, which has in turn fed the $25+ billion disposable diaper industry. In 1998, Brazelton starred in a Pampers commercial to launch a size 6 diaper — fitting children up to 70 lbs! Though each child is different, the average 70 pounder is 10 years old! Brazelton was also reportedly chairman of the Pampers Parenting Institute, and his book Touchpoints is recommended repeatedly on Pampers’ website.

Given the “determination” of their parents in the roaring 1920s, children were using the bathroom independently at 12 months. In the 1940s, the average shifted to 18 months. By the 1960s, the average age was two years. And now, in the 21st century, the average is over three years. One third of children are still in diapers after their third birthday.[ii] Yes, America is a very progressive nation. But as we’ve seen with many babycare trends, sometimes progress is, in fact, backwards.

In the meantime, several modern pioneers have launched a small but thriving movement to gently respond to baby’s pottying cues – a practice called Elimination Communication, or EC for short – in the U.S. and other western societies. In 1980, Laurie Boucke published the first “how-to” guide, a pamphlet which she has since expanded into a book, Infant Potty Training. In 2001, Ingrid Bauer published Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.

In 2004, the international organization DiaperFreeBaby was launched by Melinda Rothstein and Rachel Milgroom, two Boston moms passionate about educating and building community among ECing parents worldwide. A media blitz in the mid-2000s drew thousands of new ECers, who began forming local groups around the world to support each other. In 2007, author and DFB active member Christine Gross-Loh wrote the user-friendly EC guide, Diaper Free Baby.

Interested in learning how and why our babies were using the potty from birth, and out of diapers around their first birthday? Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s post for a more practical look at EC!

Do you practice EC? If not, what holds you back?

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Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year. The e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

A Journey to Home Birth

When I was pregnant with my first in 2009, I had this idea that women who have their babies at home had some exceptional birthing abilities (or just couldn’t get in the car fast enough). Maybe they had really large pelvises, or were skilled in hypno-birthing, or were just uberconfident. I didn’t fit into any of those categories, and thought perhaps the hospital was the best place for your average Betty Birther like me, who felt pain, had no patience for imagining I was on a beach, and yelled a lot during my first birth. I felt like I had no place having my baby at home–and I wasn’t even really sure I wanted to. My birthing mojo had been stolen, and I had to find a way to get it back…

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Serafina’s homebirth, 2/2014

You could say I was a reluctant home birther. I always assumed women who have their babies at home just know that they know that they know. I didn’t. My first birth was in a hospital, and though there was plenty I could grumble about (you want to take my baby for a hearing test at 3am, really?!), I felt comfortable with the decision after considering both a birth center and briefly, a home birth. The idea of a home birth appealed to me on a visceral level – it felt like the most natural thing to do. Yet, I knew plenty of moms, and they all delivered their babies in hospitals, so how could bad could institutionalized birth be?! Plus, my husband and mother, the two most important people in my life, didn’t support it. At all. It was the “What-if-something-goes-wrong” argument. No amount of Ricki Lake could convince either of them otherwise, and it didn’t seem worth the effort. (I won’t spend time here talking about the safety of home birth, but feel free to check out some studies yourself!)

And really, my hospital birth wasn’t all that bad. It was pretty ordinary, and maybe a little boring for the doctor waiting in the wings, in case the midwife needed support. I didn’t get an epidural, wasn’t induced, wasn’t monitored very frequently. One of the nurses even said in a quiet tone, “We love these kinds of births. We hardly ever get to see them and they seem so real!” (Yes, as I am screaming, I mentally note that there is nothing fake about the intensity of a contraction.) After my baby was born, I requested they not cut the cord, not administer eye drops, or a Vitamin K shot, or bathe the baby, or vaccinate…needless to say, my “birth plan” was pored over by everyone who came in the room, just to make sure they got it all right.

I’ll admit – it was tiring to continually say, “Yes, you read that right. No, no Hep B. No, please don’t wash off the vernix.” And although at firstI chuckled, I got tired of seeing the biohazard symbol on my baby’s little plastic box, just because I refused her bath. (The plastic box is a whole different issue.)

Fast forward 3 years, and despite an enormous amount of research, interviews, and meeting homebirthing moms through writing The Other Baby Book, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go the home birth route during my second pregnancy. I truly supported and encouraged homebirth as an option for pregnant moms, but still had some hard-to-articulate concerns about the pain (was I prepared to handle another birth like my first again??). I knew at that point a home birth was likely going to be a much better overall experience than a hospital birth, but I also knew my husband’s stance, and didn’t look forward to the push back I thought I’d get from the rest of our family. So, I decided to find a new midwife (mine had moved on from the practice), go back to the hospital, and suck up the emotional drain of explaining myself to each new nurse on shift.

But my first appointment with a hospital midwife was disappointing enough to be my last. After waiting an hour (HOUR!), only to talk about testing, and percentiles, and risks for 30 minutes, I had a sour taste in my mouth. The midwife I met with was supposed to be one of the most sympathetic to natural birth, and yet I didn’t get that impression at all. It felt much more like pregnancy was one big “What if?” The last thing I wanted was for someone else to be casting doubts about the next nine months, and about birth in general. I wanted a birth provider who was knowledgable enough to provide excellent care, who shared the same birth philosophy with me – that birth is a natural, normal occurrence. I felt really discouraged after my appointment, and my thoughts kept drifting back to a home birth. I called a friend who recently had her baby at home, and she came right over to talk me through some of my concerns. I’ll never forget her words.

There are risks no matter where you birth. Do you trust God with the outcome of your birth, no matter where it is and what happens?” I nodded, though I pondered those words for the days and months to come. “Then have your baby where you have the most peace, and don’t listen to anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. Even me.” It’s amazing how friends can speak the words we most need to hear, but don’t have courage enough to speak to ourselves.

The more I thought about birthing at home, the more excited I became. I had moved on from just not wanting to be in a hospital, to embracing the idea of being at home. So, I cautiously brought up the idea of a home birth to my husband, and he agreed to meet a few midwives. It helped that by this time, Miriam and another dear friend had both had positive home birth experiences.

We started by meeting a very experienced midwife, who I knew had an answer for every question under the sun. Mark was impressed. I liked her, but wasn’t sure it was the best fit…especially for over $5,000! From there, I dug through a local list serv and got recommendations for other midwives. I called a few, but when I met Sarafina, I knew she’d be the one. She has a presence about her–calming, empowering, and someone I’d be OK with seeing me naked. Seriously. That’s a factor. In other words, I felt totally at ease around her. Sarafina’s partner, Jessica, has this quiet strength, and bonus: they have an amazing student midwife, Kara, who never stopped smiling, and always complemented whatever I was cooking when she came over (way to my heart – love my food)!

The entire experience went beyond my expectations. What stands out though, is the quality of prenatal and postpartum care. I looked forward to every appointment–and not just to hear the baby’s heartbeat, but to have a conversation about what was going on in all aspects of my life. It felt like a very holistic model of care, rather than a fractionated, numbers driven model. They always presented my options, but never once did I feel like there was any agenda. I could chose what testing I wanted, or how to approach certain issues. I didn’t feel pressured, coerced, or belittled for my choices. I felt informed, and encouraged to make my own best decision. Barring some of my physical discomforts, I was at peace with my pregnancy in a way that I wasn’t for my first.

It’s the little things that make a difference too – Sarafina and Jessica came to my house for the third trimester (rather than me driving to their office), and I can’t tell you how fantastic that was. I didn’t have to disturb Anabella, or rush around in traffic, in snow, to make an appointment on time. I could be in my pajamas, or eating breakfast. There are five (!) postpartum visits to boot. I was so surprised to learn that. Sarafina gave me a great hip massage on day 3, Jessica did some breastfeeding troubleshooting, laundry lugging and folding, and general encouragement on day 7, and all along the way, they were available for any questions I’ve had. I’m going to miss our times together. I may just have to have another baby…

What about you? Where did you birth? What was the decision-making process like?

You can read more about my actual birth here, and if you’re in the MA/Boston area, you can find BirthMatters, Jessica and Sarafina’s practice, here. 

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Surviving the Stomach Bug During Pregnancy

NOTE: This post is about the stomach bug. I use words like vomit and diarrhea frequently. You’ve been warned!

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Well here’s a post I hadn’t intended to write at 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant! Just six days before my estimated due date, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I thought I was getting ready to go into labor. My body was cleaning itself out. I woke up my  husband to give him a heads up…but about an hour later I realized this was not labor. It was viral gastroenteritis–aka, the stomach bug.

I made preparations for illness prevention this winter by praying for health each day, drinking elderberry syrup each morning, washing my hands almost excessively, eating a clean diet, and diffusing thieves oil throughout my home. But despite my best efforts, I couldn’t predict that a small child in my daughter’s gymnastics class would get sick within a few feet of me. (Thankfully, the little girl was late to class, so she was next to the bleachers where the moms sat, and not on the mat with our girls!) I’m nearly certain that’s where it came from, and it was a good reminder to me that you can’t control life!

Because we had so many friends who were sick, weeks earlier I had talked to my midwives and done research on what happens when a mother has a virus during labor. The vast majority of cases said that our bodies suppress labor until mom is better, and that when in labor, our symptoms often disappear as our bodies put all our energy into birthing the baby. I came across so many interesting stories of women who had respiratory illnesses, broken ankles or bloodied knees, and didn’t even know it while they were in labor. Just hearing this helped me to stay calm. I had a deep sense the baby would not be coming at least until the worst was over.

While this may seem obvious, please do contact your care provider if you get sick. While it’s generally a fast illness, it’s important that they are up to speed on what’s going on, to keep an eye on any issues that may arise.

After about 18 hours I felt better, and 30 hours into the virus, I was out of bed and free of aches and pains. By 48 hours, I had eaten egg pancakes, mashed potatoes, chicken soup and bacon! While I’m certainly not a doctor, I’d like to offer you some strategies I used to feel better fast.

Drinks

I didn’t drink anything for an hour or two after the vomiting stopped. By that time, I was pretty parched, and knew water was not a good solution (despite common practice). If you’ve had several bouts of vomiting, you’ll have lost a good supply of electrolytes, so a rehydration drink is best. You can add some sugar or honey and sea salt to regular water to make a simple drink, but that didn’t really sound appealing to me. I just happen to have lots of coconut water around the house, and it’s been amazing. At first I drank it straight, and then I added a little sea salt, honey, and fresh lemon to it. It tastes delicious, and has really replenished me. I’d caution against commercial electrolyte drinks and flat soda, as they almost always have yucky additives that you don’t want in your body when you’re trying to heal!

I also sipped peppermint, chamomile and ginger tea. The peppermint helps to reduce your fever and soothe your belly, and the chamomile is an anti-spasmodic, helping to reduce stomach cramps. I also had pretty bad nausea on and off for the 12 hours after I got sick, so ginger was a must-have to keep that at bay. Once I moved into the diarrhea phase, I switched to an elder flower and red raspberry leaf tea, both of which are helpful for regulating digestion and improving diarrhea. (Here’s a great list of different herbs and how they can help during cold and flu season.)

While it’s important not to push yourself, dehydration can be dangerous to a mama and her baby, so make drinking a priority! The last thing I wanted was to have to go into the hospital for an IV, so I kept the coconut water, tea, and plain water, (which I actually didn’t touch) next to my bed, each with straws, to make sipping from a reclined position easier. Room temperature or warm drinks are much easier on the belly but if the only way to get it in you is chilled, do what you need to do to amp up your fluids!

Baths

Once I felt well enough to get out of bed (about 24 hours later), I took warm baths with 2 cups of the elder flower and raspberry tea, to help with the diarrhea. If you have a fever but are still up for a bath, make sure it is lukewarm! You can do a lemon foot bath to reduce fever. Just place slices of lemon the bath or a large pot and soak your piggies for about 20 minutes. You can also take a relaxing bath with a bit of peppermint oil to reduce fever.

Food/Supplements

While technically not a food, I have been taking a triple dose of my probiotic to replace the good bacteria in my gut that’s been swept away. I have no affiliation with this company, but I LOVE GutPro. (It seems a bit pricey, but I still have 1/3 of the bottle and it’s been over a year, so it’s actually really economical and recommended by Natasha McBride, founder of the GAPS diet.) It’s unlikely you’ll be eager to eat much in the first few days, but I found it helpful to start with bone broth, homemade applesauce made with just apples and some cinnamon, bananas and fresh pressed juices. I’m steering clear of bottled juices as they have a very high sugar content, which exacerbates diarrhea!

I’m also taking 1 T of elderberry syrup several times a day. Two other options that I have not tried, but seem to work well for others are: Diatomaceous Earth and Activated Charcoal.

Rest

This was a little easier before kids. And nearly impossible at 39 weeks pregnant. Just rolling over hurt. Talking, opening my eyes, having the lights on–it was brutal for a few hours. I didn’t sleep at all that first night, but I stayed in bed for the first 18 hours (really, what else could I do?!) Thankfully, viral gastroenteritis is a self-limiting illness which means it gets better on its own. In other words, this too shall pass! Resting your body is so, so important, especially if you are primed for labor in the near future. I’ll admit, it’s been a bit painful to see my perfectly set up homebirth room turn into a recovery room. My kitchen was meticulous the night I got sick, because just in case I went into labor, I didn’t want anyone to have to deal with a mess. Now…well, let’s just say my 3 year old poured the milk from her cereal all over the floor this morning. Gleefully. But, I have to let go of these things, because a healthy body is far more important than a clean house!

Rest isn’t just for our bodies though. Give your mind a rest too. Stress is powerful, and can completely deplete our energy even when we’re well. So grab a book, that magazine you’ve been wanting to read, or call your mother-in-law to clean or watch the kids if you really have to. Relapses, unfortunately, are common when we push too soon, so do whatever it takes to give yourself ample time to recover and regain your strength! You’ve got this, Mama!

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Part 4: Prepping for Birth — Creating a Nursing Basket

This post is part of a mini-series on preparing for birth. You can see the other posts, or my home birth house tour video here.

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After three years of nursing my preschooler, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what I’ll want close by during those early weeks of breastfeeding. While last time around I had a whole “Nursing Nook,”I think I’ll be moving a bit more from room to room as I nurse and play with my older daughter. So, I’ve created a portable basket that I can bring with me wherever we may be!

Burp Cloths/Cloth Diapers

Each mama is different, but since I know that I have an overabundance of milk, having cloths and breastpads readily available at all times is a must. To deal with a fast and furious letdown, I’d often remove AnaBella from the breast, catch the fire-hose spray with a cloth diaper or burp cloth, and then relatch. Sometimes the fast spray can cause gulping, which in turn causes gas, and a frustrated and bloated baby. (Read more about oversupply and forceful letdown here.)

Breastpads or something to catch your milk!

And while one breast was spraying my newborn in the face, the other was leaking down my chest, my stomach, all over my shirt – not exactly a pleasant feeling (or smell, after it dried…). I’d usually put a breastpad on the other side to catch the leaks and keep myself more comfortable. If you’re a heavy leaker, you may want to wear them for part of the day when you’re not nursing, too. I have a few disposable ones for going out and about, but while in the home I’ll use these affordable organic cotton ones or even wool. I also have a stash of cut up old receiving blankets, towels, or cloth diapers. I go through a lot of these each day in those early weeks! If you do buy some actual breastpads, make sure you wash them in a lingerie bag!

Water, water, water

This may seem obvious, but how often did I forget to get a glass of water as I sat down to nurse? It was like the second I had all the pillows arranged and AnaBella latched, a wave of intense thirst would come over me. My husband was constantly running water. I’ll put bottles of water around the house for the first few weeks, in addition to my stainless steel water bottle, but having a few in the basket will ensure that I won’t be left parched.

Snacks

I don’t have any snacks in the basket just yet, but when little girl arrives, we’ll stock it with dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit, and some energy bars. I found I was much hungrier when nursing than I was pregnant!

Nipple Cream

As a first time mom, I had terrible cracked and bloodied nipples. I know now that AnaBella’s latch was not right, but the day I got out of the hospital, I picked up some prescription nipple cream. I never used it. Just the idea that I was putting chemicals on my nipples, and then my baby was putting her mouth there, was unappealing. I muscled through the pain, and let my breasts air dry, dipped my nipples in hot, salty water, and expressed breastmilk on them to heal. It worked, but not as quickly as I’d hoped. While I’m more experienced in recognizing a poor latch now, I did make a batch of nipple cream just in case. AnaBella and I have already used half of it on our hands during these dry winter months. I will DEFINITELY be making this again!

Ingredients

1 part cocoa butter

1 part coconut oil

1 part shea butter

Warm all ingredients (cocoa butter may need to be softened beforehand in a double boiler) and mix well. Put in a glass jar and tightly seal. Use on any dry parts of your body!

Books

I read a lot during nursing sessions last time, but somehow I have a feeling I won’t be getting much reading in this time around! I do have two of my favorite nursing books on hand just in case issues crop up though – The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and Baby-led Breastfeeding. If you haven’t read The Other Baby Book yet, that’s also a great one to pick up!

Little Potty

For those practicing EC, having a bowl or little potty on hand is helpful. It’s a lot easier to have a receptacle on hand, than have to disturb the nursing session, or clean a dirty diaper afterward! Some people really like these potty bowls. We didn’t have one the first time and I didn’t find it necessary, as I used an old plastic bowl, or something from the dollar store–or even, if I can maneuver it–strategically get her bum over the sink!

Pillows

This is totally personal preference. Some people are comfortable just holding the baby in the arms, some like special breastfeeding pillows (though please do check what materials may be in the pillow first–many are treated with dangerous chemicals to meet flammability requirements) or buckwheat pillows that mold to the baby,  and some just practice laid back breastfeeding, and keep baby on their chest! You’ll figure out what works for you, but having couch pillows and a bed pillow or two handy isn’t a bad idea.

KellyMom also has a great list of items you may–or may not–need for nursing your baby.

Would you add anything to this list?

Check out our other posts here!

Part 1: Staying Hydrated–Labor Drink and Snack Recipe

Part 2: Making a Personalized Birth Kit 

Part 3: A Homemade Sitz Bath Recipe

Part 4: Creating a Nursing Basket

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Part 2–Preparing for Birth: How to Make a Personalized Homebirth Kit

 

This post is part of a mini-series on preparing for birth. You can see the other posts, or my home birth house tour video here.IMG_1630

If you are birthing at home, you’ll likely get a kit list or suggestions from your midwives. I won’t include the basics here, as that is likely covered. Instead, I’ll give you a run down of some essentials that may not be on the list, but will help your birthing experience!

As you can see, I have a “baby” kit, and a “mama” kit. The baby stuff is simply items that the midwives had on their birth kit list.  But on the right, my “mama kit” has a few extra items I pulled them in a repurposed toy bin that I’m keeping in the space next to where the birthing tub will be.

Sleeping bra. I found this indispensable in my first few weeks postpartum. I didn’t want to put on a real bra, but I wanted to be somewhat modest in front of people too. I plan to wear this bra while in the tub as well, especially if there will be any photos or videos taken. It took me a long time to find one in a dark color – white seems to be the majority pick!

Coconut oil. This is for perineal support if I’m not in the tub, or as a carrier oil for an essential oil massage. (I tend to buy from either Tropical Traditions, when they have a free shipping promotion, or Mountain Rose Herbs.)

Birthing aromatherapy blend. I got this for my first birth and loved it. It’s basically a mixture of essential oils, including clary sage, bergamont, rose, and geranium, in distilled water, to be sprayed in the room to stimulate labor and energize mom.

Candles. I have both a patchouli jasmine candle I fell in love with a my local drug store months ago (clean burning – amazing!), and some battery operated ones in case I don’t want the scent.

Essential oils. I have peppermint, sweet orange, and lavender on hand. I printed out portions of this blog post to help remind me when to use which one. I also have an essential oil diffuser on hand.

Lavender sock. Yup, I filled my husband’s old sock with equal parts lavender blossoms and flaxseed, and used an elastic band to fasten it. I’ve used some version of this to ward off headaches, backaches, etc. It can be dampened and warmed in the microwave and placed on your forehead for relaxation. (Though keep in mind some people are stimulated by too much lavender.)

Snacks. I have a packaged larabar in the picture for now, but my 3.5 year old will likely eat it before Labor Day. I’ll probably bring out my homemade ones for labor. I also have a 5 pound jar of honey and some spoons. =)

Bottled Water. This is actually more for my team – our water filter pitcher is woefully slow, so I have two dozen water bottles on hand. I don’t normally buy water, but I thought it would be a lot easier than having to keep track of cups and wait for water pitchers to fill!

Straws. These are helpful for the midwives or my husband to put into my big gulp cup of homemade labor drink!

Scriptures. One of the ways I was able to stay focused and relaxed during the majority of my first labor was by memorizing portions of Scripture and meditating on them during contractions. I have four passages that I’ve “edited” to take me about 60-90 seconds to say in my head…approximately the length of a contraction! (Psalm 31; Psalm 62; Psalm 63; Philippians 4:4-7, 11-13)

Music. My mom bought me Childbirth in the Glory for my first pregnancy, but I didn’t really listen to it much. But after reading about Mama Natural’s experience with the cd, I thought I’d give it another go. I’m enjoying the Scripture declarations, and the instrumental music is SO soothing, so I have a playlist on my phone and some earbuds, should I so desire to listen!

Birthing Ball. This isn’t in the picture, but I found it really helpful during my first birth. My preschooler is really into bouncing on it all.the.time, so it’s hanging out in the attic for now!

Tennis ball. Thanks to a suggestion from one of our Facebook readers, I’ve added a tennis ball to use for counter pressure. (Thanks, Meg!)

I also have arnica, pads, mesh undies, and some comfy front-open pjs for afterwards!

What about you? What did you have in your birth kit?

Check out the rest of the series here!

Part 1: Staying Hydrated–Labor Drink and Snack Recipe

Part 2: Making a Personalized Birth Kit 

Part 3: A Homemade Sitz Bath Recipe

Part 4: Creating a Nursing Basket

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

 

Homebirth House Tour

I’ve been prepping our home for my upcoming homebirth for the last few weeks. I thought you may be interested in seeing how things have panned out. There will be further explanations, links, lists, and recipes in the coming days and weeks so check back again!

Please note: I did not “stage” anything. This is exactly how it looks every day. You’ll see my dirty laundry basket, a random screwdriver on our changing table, and that bag of amazing gluten free brownies that I am desperately trying not to eat. My three year old is part of the video, too. I want to show that homebirth is very accesible. You don’t need a huge home (we live in 1300 sq feet, in a second floor apartment), nor do you need any fancy set-up or lots of money. (This differs widely – our hospital birth was $5K – almost $2K more than a homebirth, but for others with better insurance, hospital births cost less out of pocket.) I bartered with my midwives for the use of one of the birth tubs as our bathtub is so small that half my belly sticks out. All of the supplies I need for birth have been borrowed, found at the back of the linen closet, or purchased from discount stores.

I hope you find this video fun and encouraging!

Part 1: Staying Hydrated–Labor Drink and Snack Recipe

Part 2: Making a Personalized Birth Kit 

Part 3: A Homemade Sitz Bath Recipe

Part 4: Creating a Nursing Basket

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

 

Top 3 Baby Myths, Busted.

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FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz. 

A Peek Into the Past: Breastfeeding, Formula, and Hospital Politics

Once upon a time, Miriam and I wrote a book. And in that book, we had over 400 pages of material. Our vision, however, was to give new and expecting moms a nursing companion–a book they could hold in one hand. So we snipped. And trimmed. And cut. It’s hard to say no to hundreds of hours of work, but thankfully, all’s not entirely lost. We’re bringing you some of our largest unseen sections from TOBB, in a series of blog posts.

A Peek into the Past” is a pithy round-up of our societal evolution of parenting practices, mostly in the U.S. You’ll learn about the history of birth, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, potty training, co-sleeping and more–eight posts for our eight chapters. Enjoy, ask questions, and share with friends! ~Megan

Let’s head back to sixth grade science for a second. Remember those classification lessons: Kingdom, phylum, class? As humans, we’re part of the Mammalia class. That means we have backbones (literally, though not always figuratively), birth live young, breathe air, grow hair, and have mammary glands, hence the name. These mammary glands are responsible for producing milk to feed our young. Breast comes from the Latin word “mammary.”

It helps to know our biological purpose when we consider just how far we’ve strayed. Breastfeeding advocates aren’t just spouting off some “hippie ideology.” They remind us what our breasts were created for. We were made to nurse our babies. Whether women choose to nurse their babies or not is a different story, but that’s why the girls are here.

In colonial times, if a woman was unable to produce milk for her baby, her only option was to find a nursing mother – often a cousin, sister, or aunt – to feed the baby. Upper class women usually chose to feed their children by  hiring a “wet nurse,” since breastfeeding was considered improper. Most non-breastfed babies were fed cows’ milk or prescribed homemade mixtures of evaporated milk, sugar, corn syrup and water.

Scientists in the 18th century invented a new option for infant feeding. Formula was great news for institutionalized babies, many of whom ended up with gastroenteritis from contaminated cows’ milk. But formula was bad news for previously healthy, breast-fed babies. Manufacturers produced and marketed this artificial food en masse, and doctors and parents viewed the chemical substitute as an acceptable alternative to human milk.

Formula Rising
Beginning with a debut in the 1800s, formula companies have run one of the most successful anti-public health campaigns in the history of the world. The formula industry is currently worth billions of dollars. And the ill-effects of this chemical food product cost us billions as well. One study estimates that the U.S. could save $13 billion a year in health care dollars if moms chose breast over bottle in the early months.[i] The formula empire’s marketing strategies undermine women’s ability to provide for their babies by implying that infants need more than just breast milk for optimal health and nourishment. Another dangerous — and false — message is that the chemical makeup of artificial formula is very close to breast milk.

As the formula empire grew, it lured pediatricians on board. A steady flow of free samples brought income to pediatricians via mothers seeking “doctor recommended” formula and feeding advice. Samples in doctor’s offices also provided free marketing and endorsement from credible professionals. Formula companies didn’t stop there. Giants like Nestle and Enfamil also sponsor infant nutrition research and conferences that keep doctors informed of their “research.” How’s that for scientific bias? On top of funding research, some formula companies have built entire maternity wings for “free,” ensuring mother-baby separation and greater likelihood of formula introduction for new babies.

As male obstetricians began delivering babies in the 20th century, the locus of control was transferred from mama to man. Technology determined birth outcomes, and nursing was replaced by powdered milk as infants slept in plastic boxes instead of mothers’ arms. Babies spent more hours in nurseries than with mom, due to “expert” recommendations of rigid schedules and regimented care. Women who tried to nurse were set up to fail, as they only saw their babies after long intervals, and our bodies weren’t designed to make milk in that manner.

Thanks to marketing dollars well-spent, upper class women opted for a new “status show:” formula. Nursing was associated with lower class. Little support was given to women who wanted to nurse their babies.

Another nail was hammered into the nursing coffin: the sexualization of breasts. Thanks in part to a 1950s boom in pornographic magazines, the primary function of breasts was lost in the public consciousness. Anyone who has witnessed a deleted Facebook picture of a woman nursing, only to be bombarded with scantily clad women in their newsfeed. Parity, thy name is not Facebook.

To add insult to injury, motherms who birthed in hospitals were sold out by their caregivers. Though OBs and delivery nurses should have known better, they offered new moms “choices” – sharing the pros and cons of nursing versus formula-feeding. Formula companies made this their decision easy, handing out free samples and brochures boasting a “proper” alternative to breast milk. The healthcare community went on the defensive – touting benefits of mama’s milk rather than sharing dangers of formula.

Formula has been recalled many times, with some incidents of contamination accidental, and some profit- motivated. In 2008 a major U.S. formula recall was due to widespread contamination by melamine, a substance that, according to the Material Safety Data Sheet, is “harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage.”

The Tide Turns

Some positive trends gained traction in the 1950s. At a time when most women were hoodwinked by the powerful formula industry, a small but vocal group of mothers and doctors began to chip away at poor medical advice and social stigmas around breastfeeding. Peer reviewed articles on the importance of breast milk and benefits of nursing were published. Mother-to-mother support groups like La Leche League popped up around the country. Surprisingly, the feminist movement of the 1960s, which sent hordes of women into the workforce, had little impact on breastfeeding. Numbers continued to rise. Grassroots efforts brought the breastfeeding rate to a 20th century all-time high in the 1980s: 61.9%. But rates dropped again shortly after, likely due to an economic downturn which sent more mothers to work, and ramped up formula advertising.

Despite increased mother-baby nursing pairs, mid-century breastfeeding was widely considered inferior to formula and improper, so medicine found a way to end milk production. Bromocriptine shots were often given automatically in hospitals during the 1960s and 70s to dry up mothers’ milk. In 1994 the FDA banned bromocriptine due to risk of cancer and stroke.

By 2009, 74% of U.S. women initiated breastfeeding after birth. While this number seems high, three months later, only 35% of babies were still exclusively breastfed. At six months, the ­optimal time for exclusive breastfeeding according to both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the AAP, just 15% of babies are exclusively breastfed.[i] Mothers nursing toddlers? A slim minority: only 8% of mothers are breastfeeding at 18 months, despite the WHO’s recommendation of 2+ years.

Still, nursing is on the rise, with most moms trying to nurse their babies immediately after birth. Advocacy groups, breastfeeding organizations, and some passionate caregivers and individuals often agree: clear goals to enhance moms’ and babies’ wellbeing includes increasing both support for moms who wish to nurse their babies, as well as public awareness about the ways that formula can harm newborns’ developing systems.

What do you think it will take to put mothers and babies ahead of formula companies?

Want to read more? Check out The Other Baby Book on Kindle or in paperback. 

A Peek Into the Past: Touching Our Babies

Once upon a time, Miriam and I wrote a book. And in that book, we had over 400 pages of material. Our vision, however, was to give new and expecting moms a nursing companion–a book they could hold in one hand. So we snipped. And trimmed. And cut. It’s hard to say no to hundreds of hours of work, but thankfully, all’s not entirely lost. We’re bringing you some of our largest unseen sections from TOBB, in a series of blog posts.

A Peek into the Past” is a pithy round-up of our societal evolution of parenting practices, mostly in the U.S. You’ll learn about the history of birth, breastfeeding, potty training, co-sleeping and more–eight posts for our eight chapters. Enjoy, ask questions, and share with friends! ~Megan

Touch, Hold, Carry, Wear

Touch has long been instinctively understood by mothers as one of the most important baby care tools. Holding babies close with fabric or woven carriers, served the dual purpose of enabling moms to continue their daily work, and meeting babies’ needs for physical closeness. Baby carriers have likely been used since the beginning of time. Some of the earliest images come from Egypt during the rule of the Pharoahs.

In the U.S., there were two major styles of babywearing in the 1800s. Native Americans wore babies on their backs in cradleboard carriers made from wood or natural fibers, padded with animal fur or moss. European immigrants often used shawls, bedsheets, or traditional carriers from their native cultures. But as the century wore on, and hostility between the first Americans and immigrants grew, scientists and doctors dubbed native practices outdated and uncivilized. Not surprisingly, most European settlers shunned the practice of babywearing altogether. Intellectuals sought to create a “smarter,” more efficient way to raise babies.

The Demonization of Touch

In the late 1800s, American child-rearing literature began reflecting now-familiar fears of “spoiling” babies through physical touch and soothing. The first stage of attack was launched against the cradle, the nearly extinct cozy predecessor to the crib. Dr. Luther Emmett Holt, a man described as cold, efficient, and never having said “good morning” to his secretary, helped overthrow the practice of soothing through rocking by calling it an “unnecessary and vicious practice” in his bestselling guide The Care and Feeding of Children.

Times change, trends change. People used carriers, then cradles, then cribs. No problem, right? And yet the ideas that shaped these arms-length baby-rearing trends were actually dangerous. During the 1800s, more than half of American-born infants died before their first birthday, due to a disease called marasmus, which means “wasting away,” also known as infant atrophy. As the movement against “spoiling” babies through touch picked up speed, in the 1920s, almost 100% of institutionalized infants died before their first birthday. The implications? Without touch, babies were literally left to waste away. Sounds like the very definition of spoiling.

In 1915, a chilling report on children’s institutions in ten American cities revealed that in nine out of the ten institutions, every single infant under the age of two died. Seeking to slow this epidemic, Dr. Fritz Talbot of Boston visited a clinic with low death rates in pre-WWI Germany.

“The wards were very neat and tidy, but what piqued Dr. Talbot’s curiosity was the sight of a fat old woman who was carrying a very measly baby on her hip. ‘Who’s that?’ inquired Dr. Talbot. ‘Oh, that is Old Anna. When we have done everything we can medically for a baby, and it is still not doing well, we turn it over to Old Anna, and she is always successful.”[i]

Enter John Watson, the father of behavioral psychology, who sought to “condition and control the emotions of human subjects.”  (Watson, Muskingum 2004) For those whose babies made it past infancy, he shared some solemn parenting advice in his 1928 book ironically titled Psychological Care of Infant and Child:

“There is a sensible way of treating children… Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning. Give them a pat of the head if they have made an extraordinarily good job of a difficult task. Try it out. In a week’s time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kindly. You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it.”

As you might imagine, Watson had a poor relationship with his children. Despite his unchecked parenting credentials, Watson’s book was hailed as a “godsend” and a must-have for “intelligent” mothers. His work launched a major trend, as described in Touching.

“This … approach to child-rearing greatly influenced … pediatric thinking and practice. Pediatricians advised parents to maintain a sophisticated aloofness from their children, keeping them at arm’s length, and managing them on a schedule characterized by both objectivity and regularity. They were to be fed by the clock, not on demand, and only at definite and regular times. If they cried during the intervals of three or four hours between feedings, they were to be allowed to do so until the clock announced the next feeding time. During such intervals of crying they were not to be picked up, since if one yielded to such weak impulses the child would be spoiled, and thereafter every time he desired something he would cry. And so millions of mothers sat and cried along with their babies, and, as genuinely loving mothers obedient to the best thinking on the subject, bravely resisted the “animal impulse” to pick them up and comfort them in their arms. Most mothers felt that this could not be right, but who were they to argue with the authorities?”

In addition to cradles, which were “vicious” in their ease of calming babies, shawls and wraps used for babywearing went into serious decline around 1920, when relatively lightweight strollers were mass produced at a price most Western families could afford. As popular culture’s infant authorities advocated a movement away from “spoiling” babies with too much affection, strollers conveniently filled the niche of reducing babies’ time in arms.

As the 1960s counterculture movement took off, the return to a gentler, more compassionate form of parenting began. The next generation of white, male doctors stepped in as baby experts, espousing slightly more hands-on care methods. 

The Game Changer

Pediatrician Dr. William Sears, who coined the term “Attachment Parenting” and launched the associated movement in the 1980s, helped Westerners reclaim compassionate baby-rearing practices including responsive soothing, consistent holding and babywearing.

Meanwhile, Sears’ pediatric colleagues have made slow but steady movements toward more responsive parenting. It’s no longer taboo to pick up a crying baby during the day; however, many nighttime attitudes still reflect those of the late 1800s. As often happens, yesterday’s tools have been retranslated to suit modern concerns. Our societal fears of spoiling the baby have been repackaged to reflect today’s concerns for mom’s independence.

We’re all for independence. But during those early, crucial months, our babies literally teach us how to parent. So strapping your wee one to your chest instead of resting him at your feet in his carseat is a great way to keep your hands free and your loved one close. Touch is a gift, for baby and parent alike.

Want to read more? Check out The Other Baby Book on Kindle or in paperback. 

What do you think? Is it becoming more socially acceptable to keep in close physical contact with your baby, whether carrying in arms or in a carrier? Or are strollers, and baby “buckets,” like carseats, bouncy seats, and cribs more prevalent than ever?

 


[i] Montagu, Ashley. Touching. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.