Our job as doulas is to help facilitate a safe and magical birth for our clients.  We are trained to support our clients before, during and after birth.  So, does the birth experience affect the baby’s ability to nurse?  The answer is yes, and sometimes no!  We have all had clients that had a ‘horrible’ birth, including, induction, pitocin, a nasty doctor, and then go onto have the perfect nursing experience with no breastfeeding problems.  We have also seen women who have had ‘perfectly wonderful’ births who struggle with breastfeeding. So does birth affect the breastfeeding baby?  The answer is that there will always be exceptions to the rule, but to the general population the answer is yes.  Drugs used during labor pass through the placenta and usually affect most babies.  The example I give is that some people can have one glass of wine and feel perfect, and others, with the same glass of wine will feel groggy, spacy and ‘out of it.’  The same is true for babies; some can handle the medications often used during labor while most cannot.  I have seen over 5000 babies breastfeed and I can tell right away the babies who were exposed to medications during labor and those that were not.  The medicated babies often have more trouble following directions and understanding cues from the mother.  They have more difficultly identifying which way to turn their head to find the nipple, and often they have trouble coordinating the pattern that is necessary for breastfeeding which is ‘suck, swallow, and breathe’.  Many of these babies do ‘suck, suck, suck, and swallow, breathe, breathe.’  When babies have this incorrect pattern it is difficult for them to transfer the milk from their mothers’ breast into their tummies, and in addition, they often pull and tug on the nipple causing pain.

What can a doula do to ensure proper breastfeeding?

  • Make sure the baby is transferring milk from the breast to the baby (and not just pacifying on the breast).
  • Make sure the baby is having 6-8 wet and dirty diapers in a 24 hour period.
  • Teach the mother that her baby must eat 8-12 times in a 24 hour period.
  • Learn to identify breastfeeding problems and have a good referral for the mother to get breastfeeding help sooner rather than later (sore nipples are not normal even for the first few days of nursing).

Most importantly, make the mom feel secure, strong and confident about her ability to breastfeed even if the birth was not the ‘perfect birth’ she dreamed of.

If you give birth to a premature baby you can breastfeed, even if your baby spent time in the NICU and was given bottles.  It may take some time for you and your baby to master the skill of breastfeeding but with some patience and, most importantly, proper guidance you can be successful. In fact, the prevailing thought is that breast-milk is even more important for premature babies than it is for full-term babies, because the nutrients in breast-milk will help the internal organs, which did not have as much time to form without the full nine months of gestation, develop to their fullest potential.  The other vital component, that is just as important as nutrients are for the baby, is the act of the mother touching and caressing her child.  Breastfeeding moms, who normally nurse their babies at least eight times a day, end up touching their babies more often than formula feed babies are touched. It is not that bottle-feeding mothers do not want to touch their babies; however, once the breastfeeding baby is properly latched onto the breast, these moms tend to stroke their babies throughout the nursing event. This motherly nurturing in turn helps stimulate proper growth.

Researcher Dr. Schanberg, from Duke University, found in his extensive research with animals that, “when mother rats licked their babies, the action produced a cascade of much needed compounds, in fact, the growth hormones that produce normal body development.  Remove the mother—(but keep giving the rats the needed nutrients), remove the touch of her tongue, and the baby rats became stunted beings.”  Furthermore, he states that this need for touch also transfers to humans, especially premature babies, and that encouraging the mother to touch and hold her baby, “led to better health and shorter hospital stays.”  Ashley Montagu writes in his book called Touching, The Human Significance of the Skin that, “gestation in the human being continues for as long outside the womb as it does inside the womb and places the end of gestation at the age at child a child begins to crawl on all fours, about nine months old”.  He also states “that touching and coddling a baby is needed all the time to help build the child’s immune system and their emotional health”.

Not to understate the importance of nursing a premature baby, below are some guidelines and suggestions for breastfeeding premature (premie) babies:

  • Premies have smaller mouths so it is imperative that you latch your baby onto your breast as deeply as possible.  If the premie is not on the breast deeply enough, it is impossible for the baby‘s tongue to reach the mother’s milk cavities that are located deep within the breast.
  • Almost all of the premies that I have treated required breast compression in order to keep up the proper nursing rhythm on the breast.
  • Although I am a fan of nursing on only one breast during a feed with a term-baby, I encourage moms to use both breasts during a single feed with premies.
  • Often premies do best when a mother uses a nipple shield, (even if the mother has protruding nipples).  It appears that these small critters like to experience a firm shape in their mouths.
  • Some premies who are having endurance problems—an inability to stay awake on the breast, will require the use of an SNS (supplemental nursing system) in order to breastfeed.
  • If your child has nipple confusion as a result of feeding from bottles in the NICU, finger-feeding for a few days will teach the baby how to eat with a flat tongue, which will allow transfer back onto the breast.
  • If your baby is taking the breast, but is not putting on enough weight, the recommended procedure is to nurse the baby for 20 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of finger feeding.
  • Premature babies can fall asleep very easily on the breast, so it is important to watch carefully and listen for swallowing during nursing.  If the baby appears to be drifting off, take the baby off the breast before the sleep becomes too deep and reawakening becomes increasingly difficult.
  • Although all babies are different, I have recognized two distinct nursing patterns used by premies.  The first pattern is employed by those babies who need to eat uninterrupted for twenty minutes with lots of breast compressions.  Secondly the ones who need to eat for 5-7 minutes, need to be burped, then again for 5-7 minutes burped and again a third time.
  • Most moms are not warned about the ‘premie-grunt,’ it is a grunting nose that is not a sign of danger but a sound these children make in between their times of nursing.  It is a deep guttural sound that leaves as the child grow.
  • If you feel frustrated with your new “little-package” get help from a lactation consultant, from my experience, these little guys become great nursers when given the proper guidance.

When you become pregnant there is a glow to your skin, beautiful rosy cheeks, and a look of contentment in your eyes.  The world is wonderful while a beautiful baby is growing inside of you.  As you walk down the street you seem to glide like a queen, happiness is abundant, and only words of wisdom flow from your mouth.  That is how we all imagine our pregnancies will be and indeed there are some women who will have this experience, but for the rest of us pregnancy comes with big challenges.  Most women will attest to the fact that brain fog, forgetfulness and exhaustion can be overwhelming and even debilitating.  Often, trying to cope with these unexpected conditions leads to misunderstanding and added stress.  For women who had prided themselves on their ability to be organized, hardworking and calm, pregnancy becomes less than glamorous.

What your midwife or doctor may have forgotten to tell you is that your brain is actually shrinking during your pregnancy and that may account for your newly found foggy brain and forgetfulness.  New research conducted by Dr. Louanne Brizendine describes this phenomenon in her book The female brain, “Between six months and the end of pregnancy, MRI brain scans have shown that a pregnant woman’s brain is actually shrinking.  This may be because some parts of her brain get larger as others get smaller—a state that gradually returns to normal by six months after giving birth.”  Not since puberty have there been so many changes going on in a woman’s brain or body.  The ducts in her breasts are growing and forming, her uterus is stretching, and her brain is actually shrinking! Women who were CEO’s, attorneys, doctors, or designers are surprised to find that as their pregnancy progresses they feel distracted, forgetful and generally spacey.  Not to worry, because within six months after the pregnancy the brain returns to its normal shape and size and scientists ,” believe the mother’s brain shrinks because of changes in cellular metabolism required for restructuring brain circuits—getting ready to turn some one-lane highways into superhighways.”  So all you smart women may even become brighter after your brain has re-structured itself.  But what can a woman to do to help improve her mental function while she is pregnant; to combat that fog and the forgetfulness she is experiencing?  The first herb that I would recommend is Gingko, which addresses these issues wonderfully, and is safe after the first trimester of pregnancy.  Gingko works by increasing a woman’s circulation throughout her body, helping to bring more blood flow to the brain, and with increased blood flow comes the needed oxygen and carbohydrates which proper brain function requires.  (In addition to making your mind feel sharper, this increased blood flow has the added benefit at the non-thinking end of the body, helping with varicose veins, which plague many women during and after pregnancy.)  Fish oils are also very helpful for brain health.  Although many women cannot tolerate the smell and taste of fish while pregnant, if you are one of the lucky ones who can, your brain will function at its peak performance with a good quality fish oil.  It is important to know, that fish oils, like most things in life, follow the basic rule of, “you do get what you pay for”, and cold pressed oils are in general, better.  If you cannot tolerate fish oil, or for whatever other reason you might have, flax seed oil, which is also high in omega-3 fatty oils and therefore healthy for the brain, can be used as a substitute. Another healthful suggestion is drinking nettle tea, although not specific for brain health, nettles are an overall tonic.  Used internationally during pregnancy during the entire pregnancy, this general tonic provides trace vitamins and minerals to tone and strengthen the body.  Busy women who otherwise don’t take the time to sit down and eat their green vegetables, which are helpful for brain health, can feel confident that they are including needed vitamins into their diets by adding one or two cups of strong nettle tea.

Besides the intake of supplements, a proven way to improve mental sharpness and combat brain fog, while the brain is restructuring itself, is to exercise.  There is a chemical in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is directly associated with memory, as it is normally present in the hippocampus, an area of the brain which is related to memory and learning.  BDNF is also produced during exercise.  Dr. John J. Ratey writes in his book Spark that, “exercise strengthens the cellular machinery of learning.  BDNF gives the synapses (in the brain) the tools they need to take in information, process it, associate it, remember it, and put it into context.”  Simply stated, without all of the chemistry, your memory and brain clarity will be better after you exercise.   So, if you were exercising before you became pregnant keep it up, and even if you weren’t big on exercise before pregnancy, try to incorporate movement whenever you can.  For women who can’t schedule into their day the time needed for aerobics, swimming, yoga or tai chi, then brisk walking will not only increase BDNF for brain health, but it will improve stamina and  overall circulation as well.  If you feel you can no longer keep up your exercise routine try to move your body as much as you can.  Even lifting your leg up and down while working at a desk, parking your car farther away from the entrance to the building you are entering or taking the stairs rather than the elevator, will help.  Although it is often difficult to begin exercising, exercise combats exhaustion with the invigorating feeling that comes afterward.

An herbal approach to combating exhaustion and increasing energy during pregnancy is through the use of eleuthero.   Eleuthero, an adaptogenic herb which acts on the adrenal glands, brings the body back into balance, increases mental stamina, and stabilizes stress hormone levels.  Eleuthero is best used after the first trimester.

The management of stress, and the possible increase of stress during pregnancy is an additional issue worth investigating, and the research on glucocorticoids conducted by Professor Robert Sapolsky merits looking at, as we try to lessen the stress we feel.  Glucocorticoids are chemicals released from the adrenal glands during times of stress, as part of the body’s natural stress-response.  When there is a crisis—-or even a stressful thought—-the brain secretes corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which in turn triggers the release of glucocorticoid stress hormones, such as cortisol, and other stress hormones, like adrenaline, which shift the brain and body into crisis mode.  As a result, breathing and pulse quicken and other functions go into hyper-mode.  When the crisis is over, stress hormones are supposed to slip back to their previous, lower, baseline levels.  However, if baseline levels are high all the time from living in a city, getting stuck in traffic, working while pregnant, then even after a crisis they body will remain at some level of stressful crisis mode.  For a pregnant woman and her fetus, high cortisol levels pose special risks, like preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension), and is associated with an increased possibility of early miscarriage or premature birth.  Even though some forms of stress are normal during pregnancy, ‘chronic stress’ must be avoided.  It is important to make sure that the body, mind, and adrenal glands have a proper ‘down-time’ after a stressful experience.  Again, eleuthero, and also an herbal type of oats are herbal ways to help the body recover.  While the familiar breakfast cereal oatmeal is made from the stalk of the grain, the herb called fresh milky oats is made from oat seeds.  These seeds which are sold in tincture (liquid) form, have a calming effect on the central nervous system and are used for nervous exhaustion, anxiety and impaired sleep.  It’s a safe non-toxic herb which can be used throughout the entire pregnancy, and although it’s calming, it actually invigorates and doesn’t make you tired.  The herb fresh milky oats also has the benefit of containing calcium and magnesium in an absorbable form, which is valuable for pregnant moms.

Another way for the body to recover from stress is a massage.  Everyone knows that massage is relaxing but studies are showing that it has real therapeutic effects reducing cortisol levels. Studies at the Touch Research Institute have demonstrated that massage has an anxiety-reducing, calming, and relaxing effect of adults. The Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology discusses a study on the benefits of massage. Twenty-six pregnant women were assigned to a massage therapy or a relaxation therapy group for 5 weeks. Both groups reported feeling less anxious after the first session and less leg pain after the first and last session. Only the massage therapy group, however, reported reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain by the last day of the study.  So, you need to think of massage not as a luxury but as a medical necessity.  The effects of massage can increase circulation, help combat exhaustion, and relieve stress.  While you are getting your therapeutic massage ask the therapist to add a little lavender essential oil throughout the massage and add a little grapefruit essential oil at the end.   Lavender oil has a calming and relaxing component that alleviates tension and grapefruit oil is invigorating and uplifting.

The good news is that billions of women have been pregnant and have given birth even with their brains shrinking, being exhausted and their lives stressful so it seems statistically favorable that you can and will survive the changes and challenges of pregnancy.   With the help of herbs, exercise, and massage the pregnancy may not be angelic but can be very rewarding.

Q. Many moms fear postpartum depression, but many nursing moms are unaware that depression can occur during and after weaning. What could cause this unexpected emotional change in mothers?

A. A lot depends on why she stopping her breastfeeding.  If she was really trying hard to make the breastfeeding work and her Doctor made her stop because the baby was not gaining enough weight, or if she was complaining of nipple pain and no one diagnosed her with a ductal yeast infection so she stopped nursing because of the pain these can situations can certainly cause the woman to feel depressed.  I have found that when women stops nursing out of a feeling of confidence and not a feeling of giving up because she is powerless the chance of sadness and depression is significantly lessened.

Q.  How can a mother determine if she’s feeling blue because her baby is no longer at the breast or if there is another reason for it?

A. Each case is so individual it is hard to generalize.  The best thing to do is make sure the reason you are weaning is for a reason you feel secure about and not out of the loss of how to problem solve the next step with the baby.  I work very hard with my clients to make sure they are successful in the first few months of breastfeeding so if they decide to stop nursing they feel secure knowing they did everything correctly to achieve a successful breastfeeding relationship. I feel moms that felt secure during the breastfeeding relationship will continue to feel secure as their relationship changes from a breastfeeding relationship to a non-breastfeeding relationship.  Some moms fear they will have trouble connecting to their child when they stop nursing because the breast becomes more than just a feeding tool.  It becomes: comfort, compassion, security, and calming.  These feeling are felt not only by the baby, but also for the mother.  When a mother weans she needs to continue activities that involve the one-on-one relationship she had such as reading a book, bathing, or just cuddling.  Often when mothers wean another member of the family takes over the feeding with a bottle so the mother may feel left out if she did not create other private activities with her child.

Q. Is depression from weaning less likely if a mother waits and allows her child to initiate the weaning?

A. Yes, yes and yes.  If the baby weans herself and the mother and baby had a good nursing relationship then mother and baby will feel fine with the weaning.  Babies will NOT nurse forever.  Either the child will become very interested in her surroundings, siblings, or fall in love with the taste and smell of foods.  Self-weaning usually never occurs before age 2 if the nursing was properly established in the beginning of the breastfeeding experience.  Most women who experienced self-weaning will say that it ‘just felt like it was the correct time.’

Q.  Is depression from weaning less likely if a mother initiates the weaning as soon as she believes she’s ready? (i.e., she’s tired of pumping, she’s tired of the biting, she’s just ready to be done, etc.)

A. I got a phone call from a woman once who called me frantically needing my assistance in helping her stop breastfeeding.  I asked her why she wanted to stop nursing.  She replied, “Because I HATE pumping. “ I repeated the question again.  Her reply was the same, “because I HATE pumping.”  I asked her why don’t you continue breastfeeding and stop the pumping.  She said, “What?  Give my breastfeeding baby formula when I am at work!”  Sometimes women get so overwhelmed about things like pumping, or putting their child on a schedule or having their babies sleep through the night that believe it is the breastfeeding that is a problem when it is often situations around the breastfeeding.  I would rather a woman just give her baby a bottle while she is at work and breastfeed when she is around her baby rather than pump if she hates pumping.

Q.  Please name a few ways that nursing moms can wean successfully so as to limit the potential for weaning depression.

A. She really needs to wean from a position of strength and not weakness.  If she is weaning because she is getting chronic breast infections or because her baby is crying all the time this will open the possibility of feeling like a failure.  If a woman has decided to wean from a place of strength then it may be important to try and make sure she includes in her life activities that stimulate oxytocin in her body.  Each time the baby latches on her breast the mother experiences a surge of oxytocin.  Many women may feel “down” without this hormone surging often in her body.  Oxytocin is called the “love hormone” because it brings joy to a person.  Ways to get oxytocin other than breastfeeding is getting a massage, exercising, being intimate with your mate, to name a few.

Q.  What are the best ways for a mother to cope with weaning and any associated depression?

A. There are some wonderful herbs available to help mother cope with hormonal changes.  My favorite is the herb Motherwort.  It is best taken in tincture (liquid) form.  25 drops diluted in water can be taken 3 times a day.  Motherwort helps balance the hormones and helps bring happiness and joy back into a woman if she is having trouble with sadness. It is an herb that can be felt within 20 minutes of taking the herb and it helps restore a woman’s calm and composure.

“The universe is an infinite reservoir of unimaginable energy–and you are an expression of that energy”, says Deepak Chopra in his book Boundless Energy and one of the most powerful energies in the universe is that of the human contraction during birth.  These intense contractions are needed to bring life into this universe.  The body is made up of billions of cells, and once a woman understands that the apparently material structure of the body is really nothing other than pure energy than a woman can begin to understand what she must learn to control during her labor and that is energy. Once a woman understands that this energy is a powerful,-intense-positive energy then the woman can learn to master this energy and not be intimidated by it.  If a woman is educated and properly informed about births energetic power she can have a fabulous birth and can be empowered for life.  For women who are not properly prepared this powerful energy-the contraction-will overtake her and make her crumble under its intensity.   A woman needs to be physically and emotionally prepared to handle this whirling, spinning, and intense power; if she’s not prepared she will become scared and overwhelmed.  Just as people prepare for marathons months in advance, woman need to gather their knowledge and physical strength in order to endure and blossom with the intensity of labor.  The parable of contractions during birth is often compared to that of the bodysurfer at the ocean side.  The bodysurfer must position and ready himself for the wave in order to ride it properly and not get dragged under the water.  As the wave approaches the surfer readies himself, feeling and preparing for the impending wave.  As the wave comes closer the surfer needs to anticipate the wave’s movements and be prepared to jump in front of the wave ready to ride the wave not allowing the wave to break on him.  In order to ride the wave safely and float to shore with ease he needs to make sure his body position is correct he breathes at the correct time and controls his body moving with the wave not working against the wave’s energy.  If the surfer times the wave properly the surfer will gracefully and smoothly glide to shore feeling invigorated and in control.  If the surfer is not prepared and gets distracted, the approaching wave will crash down on the bodysurfer, pulling him under the water making it difficult to breath.  The wave will end up controlling the surfer and ultimately will end up crashing on the sand, out of breath and exhausted.  This is the same with contractions during labor.  If unprepared, a woman gets pulled under by the pain unable to catch her breath, and when the contraction finishes she is “washed up”, feeling out of control and exhausted.  The goal for a woman is to learn to anticipate the contraction, jump ahead of the pain with her mind, learn what to do with her body and gracefully ride the contraction, being a partner with the powerful energy helping bring her baby into the world and not crushed by its power.

To experience an amazing birth a woman needs: a great doula or labor-assist, having only people in the room who will not contribute unwanted feelings or thoughts, through knowledge of what to do with her body during contractions, and by not letting fear and preconceived notions overpower the mind.

When you feel safe and supported in labor, your brain produces hormones that help you to relax, allowing your labor to progress, and reducing your risk of needing interventions that can cause complications.  Research has shown that the better the support a woman receives, the easier her labor will be, and the more satisfied she will be with her birth experience.  It is also well documented that women who receive continuous labor support from midwives, doulas, or labor-assists are less likely to have a cesarean birth, or other potentially dangerous medical interventions.  Therefore, it is important to interview a few doulas and choose the one that feels right for you.  One who seems medically knowledgeable, sensitive to your personal strengths and weakness, and who has sense of humor.

It is also important not to have people around you during labor that make you feel uncomfortable.  If your mother or mother-in-law wants to be there and you do not feel comfortable, then they can be invited to visit you after the birth, helping to cook you meals, or hold the baby while you bathe.  This is not a time to worry about offending anyone or hurting their feelings or taking care of others.  The people at your birth need to have the intuitive sense to understand what your personal needs are during your birth and not impose their thoughts or personal experiences.

The next important thing is to study and read about what to do with your body during contractions and pushing.  Lack of movement during the birthing time enables the intense energy of the contractions to build and compound in the abdomen which causes a great deal of unnecessary pain.  There are many good books available today that can guide a woman on the importance of an ‘active birth’.   Women need to move during labor.  Woman all over the world have developed what is called a ‘birthing dance’.  This is a dance where the woman leans forward supporting herself and moves her hips in a rhythmic swaying and spiraling movement. The spiraling that is used for natural childbirth is an actual physical movement where you spiral your hips in big flowing circles.  If you allow your body to glide along this spiral, then the intensity of the contractions are being actively moved and spiraled in a downward motion which prevents pain and focuses the energy in a useful way.  This swaying or spiraling opens your pelvis and encourages your baby to travel downward.  Deepack Chopra also teaches, “The same power that spins the planets around the sun resides within every human being, and it is abundantly available within you…….  The individual particles that make up the body are energy vibrations within the larger universal field.” A woman during labor has a choice to be a part of this vibrant universal energy. Being in an upright and standing position is healthiest for the mother and baby.  An interesting study was done regarding coached pushing (meaning someone told the mother when to push while she was in a laying position), or spontaneous pushing (letting her push when she felt like it, in a standing position).  The study conducted by Schaffer and colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, May 2005, randomized 325 women giving birth. The results three months after birth showed: Women in the coached group had decreased bladder capacity and less urge to empty their bladder and were more likely to have an overactive bladder, and to have stress incontinence. This stands to reason because when you are on your back being told to ‘push’ you are pushing 7 pounds or so of baby uphill against gravity. Also, pregnancy hormones relax the ligaments allowing your pelvis to open at the time of the birth to making more room for your baby to pass through it. Lying on your back with the weight of your body pressing into the bed prevents the end of your spinal column (your sacrum) from flexing open. The women in the spontaneous group did not have the bladder symptoms.

The woman’s state of mind during labor is also crucial.  Women need to have the supportive people around them. The woman needs the freedom and the security to express her needs and feelings as silly as they may seem.  She needs to be encouraged to understand this is a powerful energy that she can handle and she needs to be allowed to find her deep inner strength.  There was an interesting study done on dogs.  They took the pain away from the female dogs during labor and it was found that the dogs had trouble bonding to their pups and had trouble feeding them.  So, it is important to understand that somehow we women are supposed to experience pain (or energy disguised as pain) during labor.  It is an experience that can help us grow and teach us to go beyond our breaking points which ultimately makes us stronger and more able to handle the difficult road ahead of us—-parenting.

Got your attention didn’t I? I can’t really guarantee you a pain free birth. But read on and I will open your eyes to your hidden female power that which makes you perfect for birthing your child(ren).

Women were created to give birth. It is not a talent that some people have and others do not. It is a gift from G-d. Sadly, this generation has been taught to believe that we cannot do it; we feel we must rely on our doctors to tell us what to do, how to do it, and when to do it!

Over the last several months in my practice as a lactation specialist, I have encountered one new mother after another who were told, “You are overdue—we need to induce labor”, “you don’t have enough fluid in your water bag” or “you should take the epidural as soon as you get into the delivery room”. It is amazing that one of these lines is told to 90% of laboring women these days. Somehow, the medical community has taken it upon themselves to deprive women of a natural experience.

Women are being induced at an alarming rate. Many of my clients have suffered through unnecessary C-Sections or horrific episiotomies that caused infection and poor health, further exacerbating difficulties in bonding and breastfeeding.

So, about the pain … yes, it will hurt! We need not be afraid … we just need to be prepared! We need the truth! Even women who receive synthetic pain relief still feel pain during the labor process. If you have known anyone who experienced a natural labor and delivery she remembers the pain and the exhaustion, yet before she knew it the appropriate hormones kicked in and turned her attention to her newborn and the mothering task at hand. The pain is a rite of passage. It is painful, yes … but a gorgeous, real, amazing experience that can bring about great wisdom and maturity in the process.

Modern scientists believe that human beings use less than 1/3 of our brains and that our mental capabilities are much more enormous. When we believe we can do something—we can. Mind over matter! When women believe that they can birth their babies naturally—without intervention—our brains prepare us and guide our bodies to birth. Natural chemicals, endorphins, are released into our bloodstream to make us powerful, capable, determined, and committed to bringing our babies into this world.

Anyone who has ever attended a natural birth—one with no medical intervention—will likely tell you that there is a point in the labor when a woman’s brain just shifts into a place of power that is almost blissful; it takes control of her body and mind—and miraculously, birth occurs, babies are born. This place inside of us—this gift—has shaped us for this work. We can do it! We just need to learn to tap into this magnificent part of our brain.

There are many options available for birthing babies, including using a doula (an experienced birthing coach), a midwife, an OB-GYN, home, hospital or birthing center for delivery, and the choices are up to us to make. DO NOT let your practitioner tell you what kind of birth you are going to have. If you are healthy and have no significant medical history and are not having a high-risk pregnancy, you can choose a natural delivery.

I believe very strongly that during labor, women need the support of other women. We need the experience, kindness, and encouragement of other women reminding us of the amazing power within us. We do not need to be told by the medical establishment that our bodies need “help” to give birth.

It can be very frightening for us to hear about other women’s difficult deliveries, but I firmly believe that if every expectant mother had the opportunity to witness a natural delivery—I mean a real natural, calm, pleasant, wonderful, miraculous birth, in an environment that reflects the woman’s own style and comfort—we would be able to deliver our babies without the fear and medical complications that occur so frequently. These beautiful, natural, births actually exist—I have attended and experienced these kinds of births!

You may ask, if medicine exists to take away the pain of childbirth, why not use it? These days, when so many women are encouraged to reduce their pain, they are not told that it will inhibit their breastfeeding. While the pain of birthing is relieved for the duration of labor, pain is intensified for the weeks of early breastfeeding. Studies have shown that epidural drugs enter the baby’s body during labor, creating an inability to coordinate the suck-swallow-breathe that is required to nurse properly, and these drugs can stay in the newborn’s bloodstream for up to two weeks. Babies may get good scores on their APGAR tests, but hospitals across the nation who have begun using the breastfeeding assessment scoring right after birth have found that most epidural babies fail this test miserably and naturally birthed babies pass this test with flying colors!

There was a study done with dogs that found when the dogs did not experience pain during labor they had trouble connecting with their pups and feeding them properly! Labor is called labor because it is work. But, we women are used to working. We work hard at everything in life, but we have it all mixed up. Yes, we need help with a lot of things like cleaning our homes, but with labor, we need to sweat and do the work ourselves!

Now that I have depressed you … let me inspire you! I have fabulous news!!! There is a way to shift your conscious thought process to the part of your brain that knows how to birth your baby! From the moment that labor begins, we as empowered women know the truth of the birth process and we choose to surround ourselves with positive, knowledgeable people to assist us as labor begins. Positive thinking—”yes, I can do this” and “I was created to do this”, and “my body was created to do this”—is vital to the process. It is also important to have a woman nearby who knows many birthing positions, who can help you into the most comfortable position for laboring and pushing, and get you things like water, ice, a heater, a fan, music, massage, showers, and help to maintain your positive thoughts with encouragement and blessings being whispered in your ear. These small plans and preferences will allow YOU to feel safe and allow your body to do what it knows how to do—have a baby naturally!

Let us reclaim our power and strength! Let us believe in the power bestowed upon us! Let us be inspired by people around us! Let us use our feminine power to birth our babies the way our bodies were created to birth them! You can do it! I know you can!

By Sara Chana Silverstein, IBCLC, BA, Herbalist and Student of Homeopathy. She is a licensed Lactation Consultant helping women and babies with breastfeeding problems. She also works with children and adults with chronic ear and strep infections, stomach problems and emotional issues. She can be reached at 718-467-1455.

Women have a sixth sense and it becomes extremely acute after a woman gives birth. From my twenty years of practice I have observed, that most women do not trust their intuition. I have found that when my clients feel comfortable with me and tune into their gut feelings about themselves and their children, that ultimately, their initial feelings are the correct ones. When my clients are able to be to tell me what their ‘inner voice’ is saying, it makes my job as a lactation consultant and homeopath easier and allows us to come up with quicker and less stressful solutions for their problems. Unfortunately, most moms tend to push away or minimize their intuitive thoughts and rarely tune into them when it comes to making decisions. They may sincerely feel one way but then are easily swayed by their doctors, advertising or peer pressure. Since there isn’t a step-by-step guide for becoming a parent, the most important gift you can give to your children is to trust your instincts.

Why is it so difficult for some moms to be strong and hold fast to their initial gut feelings, rather than give in to those around them? It is because most of us have spent our lives pushing away our instinctive feelings in order to be accepted and given approval by people around us.

Children on the other hand, are naturally intuitive. They can clearly state their likes and dislikes and can quickly ascertain whether they like or dislike people they meet. However, the problem arises when busy adults, who are constantly navigating the many different and complex social events in their lives, ignore their children’s gut feelings. In this case, children unfortunately walk away with the message that their first intuitive feeling is incorrect, not valid and unimportant; which is an impression that most of us carry into adulthood.

So why is it important to learn to tune into our gut feelings? Because they are usually correct! It’s like meeting a new co-worker who gives us a creepy ‘vibe’, but since we’ve been programmed to dismiss our first feelings, we talk ourselves into liking the person. Then when that new co-worker turns around and gets us into trouble we say in retrospect, “I knew this person was not someone I could trust.” As another example, have you ever had an initial feeling that a teacher would not be good for your child? And rather than going with our intuition, you accept that they teacher will be fine? It’s easier to push away your feelings and allow your child to stay in the class. Yet months later you might find that you were right all along and your child/teacher never developed a bond. How do we begin to listen to our inner voice? It is challenging and often difficult to redevelop our intuitive skill after having worked so hard to dismiss it. Below are a few suggestions that will begin to make your intuitive-self more available and allow it to become a trusted friend once again.

Advice to moms for themselves:

  • Stay in the present moment and try not to think about a hundred things at one time.
  • When you enter a new environment take a moment to look around—notice things like the color of the walls, decorations, smells and lighting.
  • Continually stop and ask yourself how you feel in any given environment.
  • When you meet someone new, ask yourself what your first impression is.
  • Stop pushing away your true feelings and experience what you are really feeling.
  • Check in with yourself during the day and begin to understand how things affect you, and how influenced you are by those around you.

Advice for moms to help foster and support their child’s intuitive self:

  • Always ask your children how they are feeling, and really listen to their answers.
  • Don’t just dismiss your child’s thoughts even if you disagree.
  • If your children say they are scared or uncertain, don’t just tell them they shouldn’t feel that way; allow them to explain their feelings.
  • Thank your child for telling you their true feelings and tell them how important those feelings are.
  • You don’t always have to give into their feelings; just acknowledging them will allow your children to continue to develop their intuitive-self, be comfortable with it, and allow their gut feelings to be a part of their adult lives.

Begin to teach your children from a young age that what they are feeling and observing is good and safe. That doesn’t mean that if your child would rather have ice cream instead of her salad that we need to ‘honor’ her request! It means that if your child feels scared, you should take the opportunity to talk to her about it, rather than just say, “Oh, there is not anything to be scared about.” You are still the parent and have adult judgment that is more developed than your child’s, but feelings need to be acknowledged. Allow your child to foster, acknowledge and feel proud of the gift of intuitiveness that she has been given.

By Sara Chana Silverstein, IBCLC, BA, Herbalist and Student of Homeopathy. She is a licensed Lactation Consultant helping women and babies with breastfeeding problems. She also works with children and adults with chronic ear and strep infections, stomach problems and emotional issues. She can be reached at 718-467-1455.

Q. What should I do if my water breaks and I don’t feel contractions?

A. Most doctors and midwives want to be alerted right away. A lot depends on the policy of the doctor, midwife, and hospital. In our office our response is WAIT. We believe it is a time for joy, not a time for panic. It’s wonderful if your water breaks. It’s a good sign that within the next two days you will be having a baby. It’s a great time to do the last minute things you’ve wanted to get done. Bake a cake, clean out a closet, get a manicure, bond with your other children or have one last romantic meal and movie with your mate. Be excited that you have been given a warning and try not to be nervous! There are a few rules we like you to follow:

  • Put a white cloth or wash cloth in your underwear. It is important to monitor the colors that are coming out of you. The color you want is clear. You must contact your care provider immediately if the color is green or dark brown.
  • Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. At least 8-10 glasses in a 24 hr. period.
  • No Jacuzzis, do not be intimate with your mate and I’d stay away from public bathrooms.
  • It is suggested that the woman takes her temperature occasionally throughout the day to keep an eye open for infection.

Relax and have fun. These are the last few hours you have before you are totally consumed by a new baby. And remember: A watched pot never boils. Forget the clock — just enjoy the day.

Q. What do I need to do in order to prepare my nipples for breastfeeding? I don’t want to have cracks!

A. The breasts were created to breastfeed on. There is absolutely no preparation that is needed. If a baby is latched onto the breast properly there should not be any pain during breastfeeding. Nipples do not need to be toughened up. The nipples need to stay soft and supple. Babies breastfeed directly on the breast, not on the nipple. So, if the baby is on the breast and not on the nipple there should be no nipple pain.