Category Archives: midwives

Things I Don’t Regret

Before I had kids, there were lots of things I was never going to do. And there were lots of things I was told never to do, or I’d regret it. Ten years into this parenting gig though, the kids seem to be doing all right, so I can tell you there are a number of choices that I don’t regret. Not at all. Here are some of them:

Breastfeeding my infants on demand around the clock. Breastfeeding past infancy. Not forcing them to wean when they weren’t ready. “Encouraging” them to wean when we both were.

Co-sleeping. “They” said we’d never get them out of our bed. “They” were wrong. If anything I regret not doing it sooner.

Rocking them to sleep. Nursing them to sleep. Staying with them until they fell asleep. Letting them nap in my arms, in the swing, in the car. Those years seem so long ago.

Vaccinating.

Picking my babies up when they cried. Carrying my kids as long as I could.

Not potty training. Amazingly, they have been out of diapers for a long, long time, despite the lack of candy or sticker rewards!

Encouraging my kids to take part in different activities. Not pushing them into activities.

Having a child in daycare. Working full time. Having a nanny. Staying home. Being a student-mom. Working part time. Working from home. It’s all good. Honest.

Taking a year of maternity leave. Having my kids three years apart. Taking my preschooler out of daycare while I was on mat leave with BB#2.

Putting my kids in French Immersion.

Not forcing them to do homework in Grade One.

Taking a stroller to Disneyland for my almost-5-year-old. Judge away, at least we had fun!

Spending money on books. Reading to my kids after they could read to themselves.

Letting my kids watch TV and play video games. Not letting my kids watch or play everything their friends are watching or playing.

Giving them choice over their hairstyles.

Staying with them on playdates when they were younger. Letting them walk around the block alone together now that they’re older.

Telling them the proper names for body parts and being honest about where babies come from.

Not being Pinterest-perfect.

Letting them believe in Santa Claus. Not getting into Elf on the Shelf.

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These Are a Few of My Favourite Links – Birth

I’ve blogged a bit about my own experiences, and what led me to make different choices for my second birth. While no two births are the same, and each woman needs to choose a caregiver, birth location, and plan she is most comfortable with (while understanding things may not go as planned), I think it’s important to be aware ahead of time the impact certain choices can have. True choice must be informed choice.

Birth

Epidurals: Risks and Concerns for Mother and Baby

What to Reject When You’re Expecting

Home Births Safer Than Hospital Births for Low Risk Pregnancies

The Most Scientific Birth is Often the Least Technological Birth

The Symptoms of PPD  (if you are a new mom, or know a new mom, a must-read)

Cheating a bit here: I also recommend the documentary The Business of Being Born. While it is an American film, it’s still very informative and interesting for parents-to-be (whether first-timers or not). I don’t recommend the What to Expect books (among other things, one friend of mine refers to it as “that horrible book” that scared her silly about everything she did, and the edition I had included some pretty poor breastfeeding advice). For a Canadian perspective, check out Ann Douglas’ The Mother of All… series instead.

More of my Favourite Links: Homework, Parenting, Sleep, Breastfeeding, Education

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Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children (Part 2)

The boys will soon have a new cousin (yay!), so I guess I have babies on the brain these days. As a result, this edition of Random Things is brought to you by all things nursing! Here are just a few things I wish I had known about before my first baby was born.

1. Lanolin

If you are breastfeeding, you must have lanolin in the house. I used Lansinoh brand but there are others, and it’s easily found in the baby section of drug and discount stores. It’s great stuff. And in a pinch, a teeny tiny bit can be used on other dry skin—baby’s or yours. I have even used it on lips (since it’s safe to ingest).

2. Dr. Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment

I didn’t use this when nursing my first, and afterwards heard another mom refer to it as gold. With my second, I feared nipple trauma in the early days might make me susceptible to thrush, so I asked my midwife to prescribe APNO. A.Maz.Ing. You may have to find someone willing to prescribe it, and you may have to find a pharmacy that can mix it, but it will be so worth it.

3. Nursing Tank Tops

Again, I only discovered these while nursing my second baby. I wore Bravado brand, but I’m sure there are others. The great thing about them is if you are nursing while out and about, a tank will leave your back and tummy areas covered (and warm!) They can also be worn alone in the heat of summer. Plus, they are comfy and available in a lot of colours. I may or may not still wear mine as layering tanks…

Related: While you’ll need a couple to get you through, I suggest waiting about six weeks before investing heavily in nursing bras. Some women will need a bigger size as long as they are breastfeeding, but some of us actually lose a lot of weight and end up needing a smaller size once nursing is established! Oh the irony.

4. LilyPadz

Another second-time-around discovery. These are great, reusable breast pads. With my first, I wore washable cotton pads around the house, but they were rather bunchy looking. So out and about I used disposable pads. I quite liked the Gerber and Lansinoh brands (Playtex stuck and left fuzz behind!) but, really, they are wasteful and expensive. LilyPadz aren’t cheap, but one pair lasts a long time. And they create a smooth line. They may not be the right choice in the very early days if you leak a lot, but for every day use once nursing is established, I highly recommend them.

5. Teeth are Not a Deal-Breaker

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that back in the day (i.e. when I was pregnant with my first), I swore I would wean my baby as soon as he got a tooth. And then after we had spent two months learning to nurse, BB#1 got his first teeth at four months old. He was much too young to wean, and I certainly wasn’t going to stop after all the work I’d put in. But I quickly learned teeth do not mean the end of nursing by a long shot—if baby is actively drinking, he cannot bite you. And if it is ever an issue (it never was for me), there are ways to deal with it.

6. Not All Professionals That Work with Moms and Infants Are Trained in Lactation

Yes, I’ve gone off on this before but it can’t be overstated. Beware doctors and nurses that are not certified lactation consultants, and seem reluctant to refer you to actual experts if you experience problems. The advice I got from the nurses in the hospital where BB#1 was born was inconsistent and unhelpful; the advice I overheard being given to other mothers in a different hospital with BB#2 was worse.

7. Be Prepared to Find Expert Help On Your Own

May you never need to seek out help. But if you do, and you experience #6, real help is out there. I think it’s best to be armed with contact information ahead of time rather than trying to find it in a moment of crisis. Here are some links to bookmark:

International Breastfeeding Centre (The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic)

www.nbci.ca/index.php

Kellymom (If you have a question, I guarantee you’ll find the answer here!)

www.kellymom.com

Best For Babes (Awesome info on beating “Booby Traps”!)

http://www.bestforbabes.org

Motherisk (What’s safe during pregnancy/breastfeeding. There is a hotline as well.)

http://www.motherisk.org

Infantrisk Center

http://www.infantrisk.com (Similar to above, but American. There is even an iPhone app! http://www.infantrisk.com/mobile)

8. Working Full-time and Breastfeeding Are Not Mutually Exclusive

While I can’t speak personally about going back to work before baby is a year old, I know from many other mamas that it can be done. But if like me, you live in Canada and are taking a year of maternity leave, continuing to breastfeed once you go back to work is incredibly easy. In fact, I found it easier than weaning (because my baby wasn’t ready and I had no idea how to go about it). I stressed about it at first—did I have to cut out daytime feedings in preparation? How would my daycare providers get him to sleep? But in the end, I did pretty much nothing to prepare. Older babies can be very adaptable, and they know they can’t nurse when mom is not there. So, in the day he ate solids and drank water or cow’s milk from a cup (while you could pump and leave your own milk, or introduce a bottle, I chose not to at this stage). He nursed when we were together. His caregivers had other ways to get him to sleep. That was it. It was really great to have that way to reconnect after being apart each day. And the best part: he got sick a LOT less than other kids at daycare. Which meant I missed a lot less work. Win-win.

Is there anything breastfeeding-related you wish you had known about before your baby was born?

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I Don’t Expect a Medal

When I was expecting my first child, during a conversation with some other pregnant women, I commented that of course I was having an epidural, because I didn’t expect a medal. These women took me to task a little, because they were both in fact planning natural births—and not because they expected medals, but because they thought it was best for them and their babies. I apologized, but the fact was, I really meant no judgment. It was merely a comment on my own very low tolerance to pain—natural birth was fine for other women, but I knew I would need medication.

I did have my epidural—after a shot of Demerol and labouring in the whirlpool tub no longer cut it. I experienced back labour with my first, and had intense contractions minutes apart from the get-go. None of that “mildly uncomfortable for the first few hours” stuff for me. In what I now know to be a fairly typical scenario, the epidural slowed my labour, so I needed Pitocin. I can remember one nurse looking at the monitor and commenting she’d never seen such intense contractions that did nothing. I no longer felt them, which was, I suppose, the point.

Because I was tied to the bed, I couldn’t walk around and help things along. With people coming in and out every few minutes to check on things, I wasn’t getting the rest I’d been promised. Finally the OB on call told me he was sure I couldn’t push the baby out. He said I could try, and likely end up with a c-section. Or we could just go straight to the OR. After so many hours, I hesitated—all that just to end up with a c-section? Finally I decided to go with the surgery. After all, I reasoned at the time, if I ever had another baby, at least I wouldn’t have to go through labour again!

But it was too late—the doctor’s shift had ended, my baby had finally budged, and the OB now on call declared I could push him out. With help from an episiotomy and foreceps. So that’s what we did. But after twenty hours, my baby had passed meconium. Which meant he was taken from me to be cleaned up. They gave him back to me, finally, all swaddled. Which meant no skin-to-skin as I’d read about. While they fixed me up, no one suggested I should try to breastfeed, so I didn’t until I was moved to a room and got the “helpful” advice of “you put him here, you put him there, then you’re done” from the nurse on duty. Which resulted in at least a week of struggling to keep my baby awake and get him to latch, feeding him pumped milk through a tube, consulting with nurses, doctors and a lactation consultant–and lots and lots of tears. And even once he latched, it was a good two months of struggle and pain before we finally got into a groove. It was worth it, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do ever again.

Which is the reason I decided NOT to have an epidural the second time. Not because I wanted a medal or to prove anything (except perhaps to myself). No, I just decided a day of purposeful pain would be worth avoiding the snowball effect that almost led to a c-section (clearly unnecessary, since I didn’t have one in the end), months of healing from the episiotomy, and weeks of breastfeeding issues. To achieve this goal, I knew I had to make different choices, the first one being going with a midwife instead of an OB. I kept my options open—I still signed the epidural consent form, because frankly, back labour sucks. But knowing my care would be transferred to an OB if I had one was good incentive to try other things first.

I did reach my goal, with the help of a supportive husband, experienced midwives, a blessedly short labour (and a baby who was facing the right way!) and a bit of gas during transition. And while there were other complications, breastfeeding wasn’t really one of them.

Look, I’ll never judge another woman for choosing an epidural. How can I? I had one. And even knowing what I know now, I can’t honestly say I would have made a different choice the first time around. What I do judge is a medical establishment that defaults to drugs—often even before a labouring woman requests them–in order to manage birth, without first explaining the risks as well as the benefits. What also drive me crazy is that every conversation about birth with a first-time mom-to-be includes comments like “you MUST have an epidural”. Imagine if I went around saying “you MUST NOT have an epidural”? Yeah, I don’t think that would go over too well either. I know from personal experience that each birth is different. And I couldn’t possibly know what another woman is going through. Her choices may not be my choices. But without knowledge, it’s not true choice.

So I won’t tell another woman not to have an epidural. But I will tell her to research it first—before labour begins. I will tell her to ask questions (and if the instructor at your hospital class says there aren’t any risks, as mine did, don’t believe it.) I will suggest she consider a midwife, or to hire a doula if she has an OB, to support her in her goals, provide other options, and help her make informed choices. I will tell her why it’s a good idea to labour as long as she can without an epidural. I will tell her she CAN do it. And I will respect her choice in the end.

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Breastfeeding Dads

My husband is a very private person who is not at all interested in the online space or social media, so you normally won’t see too much about him on this blog. However, we are co-parents so it’s pretty hard to write about the boys without some mention of their father.

And he’s a pretty amazing dad. He’s crazy about his boys, and it’s mutual. He’s loving, playful, interested, involved, and a terrific role model. He reads bedtime stories, takes them to their activities and appointments, plans parties, tickles them, hugs them, talks to them, plays Lego for hours, teaches them to ride bikes, to ski, to swim. When they were babies, he wore them in a carrier, changed their diapers, burped them, dressed them, comforted them, bathed them, fed them their first solids. You know, normal parent stuff. So it was no surprise to me when I read an article about a recent study (on a terrific site about all things fathering) that found dads of exclusively breastfed babies (as ours were) are as involved as dads of bottlefed babies. To me it’s almost one of those “they had to study that?” studies. Of course the parent-child bond is about more than feeding!

Full disclosure: in the first days of BB#1’s life, my husband was involved in finger-feeding him pumped milk through a tube due to latch issues—but I suspect he’d have traded that “bonding experience” for an easier start to breastfeeding and parenthood. But after that, if BB#1 had a bottle of pumped milk, it was generally given by me, since I was the parent home with him during the first year of his life. And BB#2 never took a bottle from anyone. The idea that my husband didn’t bond with the boys because he didn’t give them bottles is, frankly, laughable. Besides, I hated pumping and was never very successful at it. If I’d felt I had to pump or that I had to get BB#2 to take a bottle when he was clearly not interested, that would have been stress our family didn’t need. There were already so, so, so many other things my husband was doing to help care for his children.

However, the study also found that some fathers feel “inadequate” about their inability to breastfeed. To this I say “and?” I don’t mean that to sound cold. It’s just I think that’s the natural state of being of the new parent: mother, father, breastfeeding, or bottlefeeding. I breastfed, and certainly still felt inadequate a lot of the time. It’s not surprising new fathers can feel the same way—babies are hard work! There may be reasons to introduce a bottle—to reduce dads’ potential feelings of inadequacy about being biologically incapable of breastfeeding is not one of those reasons.

Another finding that surprised me: the vast majority of fathers in the study rated professional breastfeeding assistance as “unhelpful”. I am not certain what type of professional help is meant here. I personally had a lot of professional advice in a variety of forms, and the helpfulness varied greatly:

Obstetrician: non-existent.

Maternity ward nurses: less than helpful (at times, detrimental).

Pediatrician: seemed to focus more on giving me permission to wean when things were difficult than in helping me succeed.

Public health nurse: fairly helpful.

Certified lactation consultant: the main reason I was finally successful with my first baby.

Midwives: though by the birth of my second child, I was fairly knowledgeable and very determined to succeed, built-in breastfeeding support is one of the reasons I suggest first-time parents-to-be consider midwifery. It might save them from dealing with some (or all) of the professionals above.

Without knowing the what sort of professional help the fathers in the study are referring to, it’s hard to surmise why they found it so poor. But my husband is one father who would suggest new parents seek help from a certified lactation consultant if they run into any issues breastfeeding. Unbelievably, not all professionals that work with moms and babies are actually experts in lactation.

My husband and I are very much equal when it comes to parenting, but there were two things he couldn’t do: give birth, and breastfeed. The fact that he completely and unselfishly supported me in my efforts by doing pretty much everything else in those early days so I could focus on feeding our baby, even if it meant he was left out of that small part of the equation, is one of the many reasons he’s an amazing father.

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I Support Ontario Midwives

Each year at this time, in honour of BB#2’s birthday, I usually post my own personal public service announcement in support of midwifery somewhere online. After BB#1 was born, in what was probably (sadly) a pretty typical labour and delivery attended by an OB (or three), I wasn’t sure I would ever have another child. The idea of doing that all over again was too scary. And yet, three years later, with the support of midwives, I gave birth to my second son. As I like to put it: 6 hours, 9.6 pounds, no epidural.

Our family is done, but if I were having any more babies, I would definitely go with a midwife again. And I take every opportunity I can to encourage other parents-to-be to at least meet with a midwife, find out about her practice, and consider this model for low-risk pregnancies. As I recently told one mom-to-be, the difference between my two experiences can be summed up by comparing an OB saying to me, before I even tried, “I don’t think you are going to be able to push this baby out”, to my midwife saying “you ARE doing it” when I whined that I didn’t think I could. They were both right–though I didn’t end up having the c-section that OB recommended before his shift ended and he went home, “just” foreceps and an episiotomy administered by a man who yelled at me for crying.

But my birth experiences aren’t really what I want to talk about today. This year, I want to take this opportunity to mention that Ontario midwives have been working without a contract for the past two years. TWO YEARS! Tomorrow, October 19th, they have planned a day of social media action to appeal to the government to resume contract negotiations (or at least they were, before the recent government “vacation”….) Frankly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask! For more information, visit the Ontario Midwives website (and check out the adorable gallery of babies born without a contract!).

My own baby was caught by a midwife this day 5 years ago, under a contract. It was the best choice I could have made, and an option I wish I had considered during my first pregnancy.  So, happy birthday to my little man, and happy birth-day to me!

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