Babywearing has been practiced in many different forms by many cultures around the world for centuries. As the art of babywearing grows in popularity in the industrialized world, the countless benefits of these practices are beginning to be recognized through modern research. Wearing your child allows you to keep him or her close, which promotes bonding, simplifies breastfeeding, and frees your hands to do the many things a parent must do throughout the day. Babies who are worn are shown to cry less, and parents who wear their children often feel more confident in their roles as care providers. Babywearing also has a positive impact on a child’s early development – premature babies thrive through touch, and being held close helps regulate their breathing and heartrate. For older babies, being worn by a care provider gives them first-hand exposure to daily activities in the world around them.
All of these benefits were enough to spark my own interest in babywearing when my oldest daughter was born. More than anything, though, I was sold on the fact that wearing my baby granted me the freedom to continue to get outside and have adventures. As an avid backpacker and hiker, time outdoors has long been my main tool for combatting stress and depression. I was very concerned (extremely saddened and anxious, in fact) at the idea of giving up my time in the woods and on the trail once my baby arrived. Besides, outdoor living was a staple of life for my husband and me. Between hiking along the Appalachian Trail and living off-grid in the woods, I had spent 11 consecutive months outdoors before we decided it was time to nestle in and prepare for our daughter’s arrival. I simply could not imagine bringing her into a world void of outdoor experiences.
Getting outdoors has long been recommended as a therapeutic tool for those who suffer from depression and anxiety, and it is no different for pregnant women experiencing perinatal mood symptoms and postpartum depression. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women with uncomplicated pregnancies engage in moderate-intensity exercise before, during, and after pregnancy. They state that regular exercise during pregnancy helps not only to maintain physical fitness and manage weight, but also reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women and enhances psychologic well-being.
Hiking with your baby is the perfect way to reap the benefits of such recommended exercise combined with the benefits of time spent outdoors. Babywearing while hiking is an excellent aerobic and strengthening exercise. This type of physical activity is known to boost your mood and naturally regulate hormones as well as positively affect concentration and memory (what parent doesn’t need some help in the concentration and memory department, right?). Moderate exercise has even been shown to help reduce the fatigue experienced by patients struggling with postpartum depression. Other benefits of hiking with your baby include a sense of accomplishment and the calming sensation that comes from being outdoors in nature.
Whether you are interested in taking up hiking as a new activity or are looking to continue your adventures once your baby arrives, there are many resources available to help you do so. If you are new to babywearing, you will want to learn how to safely and comfortably wear your baby. Babywearing International is an organization that provides support and education for safely wearing your baby at any stage. Their website offers information on choosing a carrier as well as finding a local branch with meetings you can attend for hands-on help and try out a variety of carriers. If you are local to Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey, I offer in home demos as part of my doula services, and I would love to help you find the perfect carrier for you and your family.
Likewise, if you are new to hiking, safety and comfort must be taken into great consideration. Look into your local town and county Parks and Recreation departments; oftentimes they will offer guided hikes and tours of your local parks. Check out your local outdoor supply stores such as REI, as many of these retailers offer community events and employ staff knowledgeable about trail activities in your local area. Last year after the birth of my twins I learned about Hike it Baby, a nationwide group dedicated to getting families outdoors by offering local group hikes and activities.
Getting outdoors with your baby offers wonderful benefits for the both of you, and it is sure to help you create wonderful memories with your family. Have you taken your little ones on trail adventures, or do you plan to? Please feel free to share your adventure tales in the comments below! Happy hiking!
Families often have many, many questions about what will actually take place at their baby’s time of birth. Most people, it seems, like to have an idea of how things will play out once their little one makes his entrance into the world. Every family is different, every birth is different, and so every baby will have different needs. Depending on your care provider and birthing location, the standard procedures at the birth of your baby will vary. Only you will know which choices are best for you and your family, but knowing your options and starting up a conversation with your care provider are the first steps in the decision making process. My goal here is, by no means, to tell you which decisions are best for you and yours. It is important to me, however, that families be made aware of their options so that they may find the support they desire as they welcome their babies.
Below you will find some examples of procedures that may or may not be routine in your chosen place of delivery – I encourage you to talk them over with your care provider so you know what to expect when the time comes. Ask your doctor or midwife what happens at a typical birth and what happens in the baby’s first hours. In many cases, even routine procedures can be declined if you so choose by expressing your wishes to your care provider and staff in advance.
1. Suctioning of Nose and Mouth
In many practices, it is still standard practice to suction the mouth and nose of the newborn with a bulb syringe. Recent research shows that, provided there are no complications, most babies will clear the fluid just fine on their own after birth. Start up a conversation with your care provider to find out what their standard procedure is and their reasoning behind it.
2. Skin to Skin Contact
Studies have shown that immediately after your baby is born, the very best place for him is on the mother’s chest, skin to skin. More and more, this is becoming the standard practice in many facilities. The simple act of placing the newborn directly onto the mother’s chest or belly has numerous benefits not limited to: stabilizing the baby’s heart rate, temperature and blood sugar levels along with a more content baby and mother. So long as there is no medical emergency, any required tests or procedures can be performed while mom and baby bond skin to skin, so talk to your care provider if you are interested in making this a priority for your baby’s birth.
When your baby is born, he remains attached to the placenta by the umbilical cord, through which he continues to receive oxygen and nutrient rich blood. It is becoming increasingly common for facilities to support delayed cord clamping, which can have numerous benefits. I encourage parents to research how delaying cord clamping can impact their little one and then to discuss it with their care provider well before the birth.
4. Prophylactic Eye Ointment
Upon birth, an antibiotic eye ointment is generally applied to the baby’s eyes. This routine practice is performed to prevent an infection that can be contracted by the baby if the mother has chlamydia or gonorrhea. If the mother has tested negative for these diseases, the ointment is not needed, but it may still be applied depending on the standard procedures of your facility.
5. Vitamin K Injection
Vitamin K is essential to blood clotting, and babies are born with a lower level of Vitamin K in their bodies, so they are routinely given an injection or an oral dose. Again, every birth is different, as are the needs of every baby, so if this is something you wish to decline, you will definitely want to discuss your options with your care provider in advance.
6. Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is a disease that is spread through sexual contact and infected blood or needles. If you know that the mother does not have Hepatitis B, the chances of the the baby contracting it are extremely low. Your options are to have your baby receive the vaccine after birth, to wait and have the vaccine administered by your pediatrician at a future date, or to forgo or postpone the vaccine. Again, this is a decision you will want to research for yourself and discuss with your care provider prior to your birth.
7. First Bath
In many cases, the baby is wiped clean immediately after birth then taken shortly after birth to the nursery for the first bath. You can talk to the staff at your birthing facility to find out what their standard procedures are. Depending on your wishes, it’s most likely possible to delay the first bath or to perform it yourself or with your partner, which can be a wonderful bonding opportunity.
8. Blood Screening
It is generally routine to test newborns for several disorders via a blood sample taken by pricking their heel. This is usually done when the baby is at least 24 hours old, sometimes before you leave the hospital but sometimes a few days later. You can talk to your care provider or your pediatrician about what types of things are detected with the blood screening and about whether or not you desire to have the test performed.
While the above list does not contain every possible procedure for newborns (that would be a very long, very overwhelming list), it may give you a few ideas to discuss with your doctor or midwife. Open communication with your care provider is key to a positive birthing experience, so don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation at your next appointment. Again, it is not my goal to tell you which decisions are best for you and your family, rather to encourage you to do some research, consider your options, and discuss them with your care provider.
Wishing you the very best as you welcome your little one!
There is no doubt about it, welcoming a baby into your family is life-changing. Your day to day schedule will change, your priorities will change, your heart will grow, and the entire world will be different. There is a huge market for products designed to make this process easier… It is a bit overwhelming. For those of us who believe that less is more, this long list of stuff does anything but make life easier. If you are anything like me, all of those helpful tools look more like cluttered space and unnecessary stress.
Every baby is different, and every family has different needs. While there are endless lists online describing the hundreds of things you need to rush out and buy before your baby arrives, this list is meant to make things simpler. My goal is to save you some cash and time (as well as your sanity) as you prepare to welcome your precious little bundle. For the first several months of life, your baby’s needs are really quite simple. Here is my list of the few things you may need to stock up on:
You will need a way to transport your baby from place to place. In the first few weeks, the best place for you and your baby is home sweet home. As time goes on, you may find that you prefer a stroller for walks or trips to the store, but I personally find a stroller cumbersome and prefer the simplicity of wearing babe when we go out.
- Car Seat – For safety reasons, this is one thing to be sure to purchase new. A second-hand car seat may have been in a fender bender or suffered some other damage, making it unsafe for use. There are several types of car seats to choose from. For minimizing on stuff and cutting costs, purchasing a convertible seat makes the most sense as it can be used from birth through toddlerhood. The downside to this type of seat is that it cannot be removed from the car and used as a carrier.
- Carrier or Sling – A sturdy, wearable carrier is my #1 necessity for parenting. If baby is fussy, wear him. If baby wants to nurse and you need to do the dishes, wear him. Running errands, wear him. Going for a hike, wear him… You get the idea. There are many different types of carriers and slings, and I highly recommend you try a few styles to find what works best for you. For the safety of both you and your baby, it is important that you know how to use your carrier properly – you may be able to find a babywearing class in your community, or you may find that your doula is a good source of information on babywearing.
Feeding and Diapering
- Feeding – For meeting your baby’s nutritional needs, you will have to determine what works best for you and your family. If you plan to exclusively breastfeed, nature gave you all the equipment you need, and there is nothing to buy (Yay!). If you are planning to pump and store breastmilk, there are many different styles and models of pumps to choose from depending on your needs. Breastmilk storage bags are a conveinent way to measure and store milk in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it. And of course, if you plan to pump or to feed your baby formula, you will need several bottles and a bottle brush.
- Diapering – Whether you choose to use cloth or disposable diapers, this part of parenthood can also be kept simple. Choosing cloth? Cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and a wetbag or two for holding dirty diapers are all you need. (This option will save you some cash over time). Choosing disposable? A few packs of diapers and a few packs of wipes – that’s it. You may be told you need a changing table, a wipe warmer, a fancy diaper pail, a travel changing pad and a million other things in order to keep your little one’s bum comfy, but this is just not the case.
Choose things that are easy to put on and that make changing diapers simple. All of the adorable tiny newborn clothes will not fit your baby for very long at all, so it is wise to buy more items in larger sizes even if you may not be able to use them for the first couple of weeks. It’s easy to save some cash when clothing your little one by shopping thrift or consignment stores.
Also, people love shopping for new babies, so you are likely to receive many of the things you need as gifts from friends and family. My recommendations for the first couple of months:
- A dozen sleepers (for winter babies) or a dozen onesies (for summer babies)
- 6 – 8 pairs of socks
- Sweaters (1-3 depending on your location/season)
- A couple of caps for winter babies
Sleeping and Bathing
Your baby will need a safe place to sleep, whether it be a separate crib, a cosleeper that attaches to your bed, or a safe space in your own bed. You will have to do some research and decide what will work best for you and your family. Aside from a place to sleep, meeting your baby’s sleeping and bathing needs can be very easy:
- A dozen burp cloths
- 8 – 10 Receiving Blankets – This may seem like a lot, but you may find yourself using them for millions of things (swaddling, travel changing pad, catching spit-up, emergency diaper because you forgot to restock your diaper bag)
- Hooded Towel – this may not be an absolute necessity, but it can make bath time easier and a little more comfy.
This truly is a minimal list. Every family will have different needs, and only you will know what works best for you.
- Digital Thermometer
- Nail Clippers
- Coconut Oil – a natural, soothing alternative to baby lotions and diaper ointments
More important than spending time researching what to buy for your little one, it is extremely important to take some time to slow down. Spend this time focusing on the beautiful changes taking place. Spend some time with yourself. Go for a walk, enjoy a cup of tea, take a yoga class. Spend some time envisioning what your days will look like once your babe is in your arms. This will allow you to honestly evaluate your life and and give you a more realistic idea of what your needs will be. Spend some time planning for your needs as a new parent – line up help with the cleaning and cooking, make sure your own bed is particularly comfy and luxurious with all of your necessities within arm’s reach – this is where I recommend you spend as much time as possible once your baby arrives. Your newborn baby’s needs will be very simple, with your love being at the very top of the list.
1. Clinical studies show that doulas make a difference. The Cochrane Collaboration The Cochrane Collaboration shows that laboring women who receive continuous support (such as that provided by a doula):
- Are more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth – that is, without cesarean sections or forceps delivery
- Are more likely to recount birth as a positive experience
- Have shorter labors
- Are less likely to use epidurals and other pharmaceutical pain medications
- Are less likely to have babies with low 5-minute Apgar scores
2. Your doula works for you.
- Your doula’s sole focus throughout your labor is to tend to the physical and emotional needs of yourself and your partner. Because your doula is employed directly by you, rather than the hospital or birthing center, her only interest is supporting you in achieving your desired birth experience.
3. Your doula supports your partner in supporting you.
- Doulas recognize that the support a mother receives from her loved ones plays a critical role in creating a positive birth experience. Many people feel that if they have a supportive partner, they have no need for a doula; others express concern that a doula will replace their partner in labor. Part of a doula’s job is to encourage your partner to be as involved as he/she desires. A doula is there to guide your partner in meeting your needs throughout labor. Your doula is also there to make sure the needs of your partner are met (by reassuring them that things are progressing normally, by making sure they have that much needed cup of coffee, or by encouraging them to snag a quick meal or nap).
4. Doulas have skills.
- In labor your doula will draw upon a variety of techniques such as positioning suggestions, massage, acupressure, relaxation cues and guided breathing. Depending on training, doulas utilize a wide assortment of tools and skill sets – you can interview several doulas to find out what each has to offer.
5. Doulas have resources.
- Doulas are experienced in the birthing process and can help you explore your options while working with you to create a plan for your ideal birth experience. Your doula will be able to provide you with reading materials and information to aid you in your decision making throughout pregnancy.
6. Doulas believe in women.
- Doulas know that women are beautiful and strong and designed to bring babies into the world. We are passionate about supporting and nurturing women throughout the awe inspiring adventure that is pregnancy and birth.
7. Doulas believe in birth.
- Doulas know that childbirth is a normal process which has been occurring since the dawn of man. We trust that your body is well made for bringing your baby into the world, and we know that your birth experience matters – for you, your baby, and your partner.
You’ve just welcomed your perfect little babe into the world, and suddenly, the pressure is on. The magazine covers at the grocery checkout applaud the celebrity mom, “Her pre-pregnancy body is back and hotter than ever!” Other women in line at the coffee shop, “Oh, I saw so-and-so last week. She’s back at work and you would never know she just had a baby! Good for her!” From early on in my second pregnancy, I’ve been hit with ads for gym memberships to help me bounce back after baby. In our go-getter culture, there is pressure all around for women to return to work and life as usual within a matter of weeks after giving birth. There is pressure to get back to normal, to get back to your pre-pregnancy self and to jump right back into life. And if you can do this while showing no evidence of the miracle your body has facilitated, even better!
But as your fellow mama, I’m begging you to slow down. I urge you to look inward, to breathe, and to allow yourself to observe the amazing things happening within you and around you. Through your body, a brand new human being has been welcomed into the world – and this is no small feat. The power and beauty housed in a woman’s body throughout pregnancy and birth are not flaws to be erased and forgotten. And as for “bouncing back” – there is no going back, no jumping in to your old routine and getting back to normal. In welcoming your baby, you have undergone a most beautiful transformation and the world has become a different place altogether. If this is your first baby, you have crossed the sacred threshold into motherhood. And if this is your second, third, seventh baby, you have been changed from the mother you were to a completely new version of yourself as your heart expands to welcome this new love. You are still you, only a different you, altered by the powerful experience of housing and delivering new life into the world.
Now, I’m not saying your old life is over and gone forever. And I’m not advising you to give up the things you love now that your life is different. I’m simply asking that you grant yourself permission to be a new, recreated and even more beautiful you within your life. If getting back to the gym or back to work right off is important to you, then, by all means, go for it! But please do so only as an honest investment in yourself, without comparison to the woman you used to be (or to the celebrity mom, or any other woman for that matter). Take into consideration the amazing path you’ve walked on your journey into motherhood and allow yourself to be changed by it. There is no need to bounce back, the world is a better place for welcoming both your perfect little babe and the new mother you’ve become.