Blog

What to Pack in Your Birth Bag: My Minimal List

Packing Your Birth Bag: What to Pack for a Hospital or Birth Center

what to pack

Are you wondering what to pack for your hospital or birth center birth? As a birth doula, I see many different methods of packing for birth. Some families have their bags packed by 36 weeks with detailed lists. But, other families seem to pack on their way out the door. No matter what your process is, I am offering a minimalist approach to packing for birth.

Firstly, consider how long you plan to be in your birth place. If you are birthing in a hospital, roughly 2 days is appropriate. Also, this could be longer if you have any complications. If you are birthing at a birth center, then you will most likely go home within a few hours after birth. In an emergency scenario that requires a longer stay for mom or baby, you won’t be thinking about packing all the extra items you may need. You can deal with this when the time comes. Let’s not invoke that energy.

My experience is that most families over pack. Preparedness is a healthy exercise, but “stuff” can weigh you down physically and emotionally. But, bringing only what you really need helps you focus on your birth and baby.

What to Pack in Your Bag

For parents…

  • Dark-colored comfy clothes for mom after birth. Bring a few dark tank tops/nursing tanks and some comfy black/dark pajama pants or maternity leggings. Also, consider packing some cozy socks.
  • Cozy bathrobe
  • Water bottle with a straw. If you have a straw, then you’re more likely to drink water while in any position.
  • Adult diapers: I find that the mesh panties can get frustrating and messy to deal with.
  • Small Bluetooth speaker for music & your favorite playlist
  • Your pediatrician’s information/birth plan/ID/Wallet (put these in a folder in your bag). If you have your folder of information packed, then it will be easy to access.
  • Snacks & electrolyte drinks.
  • Personal Care Items: toothbrush, deodorant, etc. Also consider packing travel sizes.
  • Perineal care/sitz bath soaks: If you are interested in using herbs for healing postpartum, then you can actually prepare this mixture ahead of time and bring it with you to the hospital for comfort after birth. You can put it in your peri bottle or in a tub. Also, you can always save this for at home as well.
  • Phone charger
  • Flip flops for hospital rooms/shower if desired
  • Lip balm
  • Hair ties
  • Items for comfort measures: think about what you want to use for comfort in labor. Consider things like essential oils, hot/cold packs, tennis balls for counter pressure, coconut oil for massage. Talk to your doula about what they bring to births to help with comfort support.
  • Tank top/swim top for laboring in a birth tub if desired

For baby…

  • Car seat – Should already be installed. Also, consider a car seat safety check from your local fire station before your baby is born.
  • Going home outfit for your baby. Consider the weather and your travel home.
  • Choice diapers/wipes – Hospitals supply diapers and you’ll get some to take with you as well. If you have a special preference, be sure to bring it with you.
  • Choice blankets/swaddles/pacifiers. If you have specific items you want, then you need to make sure you pack them. The hospital provides general supplies, but they may not be your faves.

If you’re looking for some more inspiration, then check out Mama Natural’s packing list or a second list here.

Early Labor: Three Ways to Stay Sane

How to Keep Your Cool When Labor Begins

As a birth doula, I talk families through early labor all the time. We talk about what to expect in our second prenatal meeting. Early labor is the time when contractions begin but are not yet close together, regular, or intense. You may have bloody show, digestive symptoms, and contractions can be 5+ minutes apart.

The onset of labor can cause a lot of nervousness in first time parents. Firstly, we have this idea that you need to DO things in early labor to bring on active labor. As a doula, sometimes I see a birthing person become exhausted by the time active labor sets in. They have spend their entire beginning phase walking, standing on their head, doing jumping jacks, or cleaning their whole house.

When I was in early labor with my first baby, I was a wreck. I felt some contractions start randomly throughout the day and I was so sore. I was at 41 weeks and I felt like I was waiting an eternity for things to start. I felt so frustrated and tired. It was around Easter and we had candy in the house. I drowned my sorrows by eating a chocolate bunny, then took a shower. After my shower, strong contractions quickly set in and I threw that bunny up everywhere. Don’t be like me. Don’t eat the bunny.

Early Labor is the Start of a Marathon

Birth is a marathon. Firstly, labor sets in and you’re learning what contractions might feel like. Your body is working hard by coordinating muscles, softening, and opening. Secondly, it’s important to know that the first part of the process could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. You don’t know how long your birth might be. It’s important to save energy. Thirdly, it’s important for your body to be properly fueled when things get intense and fast paced at the end of the marathon.

Three Tips to Stay Sane in Early Labor

Stay Well Hydrated

Drink lots of fluids. You don’t need to go crazy, but drinking fluids now will help you stay hydrated for the long haul. Try some coconut water or other electrolyte drink in early labor to get an extra boost. You may not feel like drinking much later. Also, staying well hydrated will help your muscles work better in labor.

Rest as Much As Possible

Ignore it until you can’t ignore it any longer. When you feel contractions starting, rest as much as possible. If it’s night time, tuck yourself in bed with some pillows and stay in bed until you can’t any more. Rest is so important when labor begins. You’re preparing for the marathon. Resist the temptation do DO and simply rest and relax. Gather a snack at your bedside and a good drink with a straw.

Eat Smart

Remember my story about the chocolate bunny? Don’t be like me. Don’t eat the bunny. In this time, eat easily digestible foods with some protein. Ideas include fruits and vegetables, greek yogurt, oatmeal, toast and peanut butter, bone broth, etc. Try to eat small snacks throughout this time to boost your energy. Here are some ideas for snacks and drinks for birth.

What did you do in early labor? What was helpful to you?

Time and Birth: A Timeless Process in a Scheduled World

Living in Horticultural Time in an Industrial Society

time and birth

One of the first questions we typically ask a newly pregnant person is, “When are you due?” We ask this question as if babies are somehow on a timer. Time and birth are incredibly related in our society.

Firstly, a wide body of scientific research reveals that there is no clear consensus on what triggers labor to begin. Your baby, your placenta, the readiness of your body, and possibly environmental factors all play a role. Secondly, there is a five week window in which it is considered totally normal to birth a baby (37-42 weeks). Some babies are born before and after this time without complications. Thirdly, due dates are misleading because there is great variability in menstrual cycle length among women.

Time and Birth: Birth Happens in Horticultural Time

Pregnancy and birth are natural and organic processes that often defy the industrial concept of time. Horticultural time refers to the time things happen according to nature. But you’re thinking, we live in a modern world! This is true, but you can’t take the animal out of the human body and put it on a clock and expect it to comply.

Firstly, living in horticultural time means living in harmony with the biology of living things. For example, this includes plants, the seasons, life cycles, growth, and death. Also, time and birth is conditional. A variety of factors contribute to growth patterns.

In horticultural time:

  • a variety of factors can influence growth
  • everything moves slowly and rhythmically
  • we live in harmony
  • natural differences are allowed
  • we support the idea that birth unfolds in unique ways
  • we support the harmony between mother & baby through rhythms of hunger, sleep, growth, and change

In industrial time:

  • we base progress on the clock and calendar
  • information is based on exact calculations and numerical values
  • things move quickly and are unchanging
  • we view due dates as exact science
  • information is based on exactness, technology, and systems
  • babies are placed on a timeline for feeding and development

“When our body begs us to slow down during pregnancy, when we realize we cannot predict the exact date of our birthing, when after birth our baby needs us to be in harmony with his or her rhythms of hunger and sleep and growth and change, we are being asked to become more intimate and in tune with horticultural time.” Source: Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, CNM (2012) Check out her amazing website here!

What do you believe? How do you align your pregnancy and birth with your personal beliefs about time?

Firstly, you have to decide what you believe in. Every birthing family is different. Many families find that a mixture of both systems supports their pregnancy and birth. Your birth doula can help support you in making choices to fit your vision for your birth. Decide where you stand and determine your vision.

Secondly, consider how your choices relate to your belief in time and birth. Are you anxious about going past your due date? Are you someone who needs numbers and statistics to reduce your anxiety? Do you want to learn more about your baby’s growth and development? Or, are you okay with flexibility and going with the flow? There is no right answer, only the one that is right for you.

The Birth Experience: Packing Your Soul Suitcase

Bringing Your Whole Self Into the Birth Experience

birth experience

As a doula, I am all about preparing prenatally for the birth experience. I work with many families who take extensive childbirth classes. These families are thoroughly prepared for birth and baby care. However, I find that some prenatal classes ignore a huge component of the birth experience.

At birth, you bring the entire suitcase of your soul into your experience. Regardless of your religious beliefs, birth is a spiritual event. If you haven’t unpacked the suitcase and big emotions prior to birth, then you’re going to bring them into your birth.

Unpacking the Suitcase

Firstly, I work with my clients prenatally to discuss fears and emotions before birth. I believe this is important in removing blocks and obstacles in the process. Fear creates tension. Tension creates resistance and pain. Pain is a normal part of birth. But, suffering is hard on the soul.

Secondly, I work with my clients to address each fear and concern about the birth process. We come up with a plan to gain knowledge, understanding, and address any emotional blocks that may arise in birth. It may not be possible to erase all concerns, but opening the suitcase is a good place to start.

Lastly, I encourage birthing families to express the full range of emotions that come up during birth. Birth is a marathon. We are often coached to stuff our emotions away. We are told that expressing the feelings is akin to losing control. I beg to differ. If you don’t deal with the emotions that come up in birth, then they control you. I listen, hold a hand, wipe tears, and ask what you are thinking.

Strategies in Pregnancy: Bringing Your Whole Self Into the Birth Experience

There are many ways in which you can address the big emotions and fears you may have packed in your birth bag. Lastly, here are some simple suggestions:

  • Work with a therapist that specializes in pregnancy & perinatal mood disorders. They can help you explore your personal concerns. Anxiety and depression in pregnancy is a risk factor for postpartum mood disorders. If you find resources ahead of time, then you are better prepared for postpartum. Also, therapists may be able to connect you with other local resources.
  • Explore bodywork. I have seen many mothers enter the birth experience with incredible tension in their soft tissues from past trauma. Massage, chiropractic care, or craniosacral therapy can explore this tension to reduce resistance in birth. Tension creates resistance. Resistance creates pain. Also, pain affects endurance for birth.
  • Get real. Ask yourself the hard questions. Start a journal or brainstorm all of your possible fears and concerns. Be honest and don’t try to stuff it away. Lastly, share your concerns with your provider or doula.

Childbirth Education and the Birth Experience

Why Every Birthing Family Needs to Take a Great Childbirth Education Class

childbirth education

The average American family spends about $20,000 on a wedding. When we are planning for our babies, we focus on having STUFF that we need. We shower moms and their babies with countless articles of clothing. Families give countless gifts of gear and toys. We plan nurseries that our babies don’t sleep in. And yet so many families decide not to take childbirth education classes.

Firstly, Local hospitals have classes that are often free. Secondly, private birth classes are often covered by health insurance plans. There are group and private classes available. Also, there are now online childbirth courses available for busy families.

As a birth doula, I clearly see a difference in the birth experience. I find that families who take a childbirth course are much more prepared for birth and postpartum. If families take a childbirth education course, then I see their knowledge infused into their experience.

Why You Need Childbirth Education…

  • Childbirth classes reduce fear and anxiety in pregnancy and birth. Childbirth education courses prepare families for the birth experience. You are given tons of information about what to expect in each phase of labor. You will learn what to expect along the way. Parents learn support methods for birth. Comfort measures provide relief and relaxation. You will move through each phase of labor with less fear and anxiety. In addition, a prepared partner provides better support.
  • Parents gain community. The families in your class become part of your community. You can do your own research. But, community is priceless. Classmates become your tribe. Community is key in the transition into parenthood.
  • Knowledge is power. When you are prepared with knowledge of your choices, you can make informed choices that help you meet your goals. A birth class will teach you what you need to know to make decisions. You don’t know what you don’t know. If you take a childbirth class, then you are prepared to make informed choices.

Choices for Classes

Childbirth classes are available everywhere. Firstly, local hospitals run free birth classes. Secondly, most cities have many private childbirth educators who teach their own classes. Baby stores organize birth classes. Some organizations include Lamaze International , Hypnobirthing International, and The Bradley Method. I find that local providers are often very familiar with classes. Lastly, ask your doctor or midwife about great local birth classes.

I recommend finding local moms’ groups. Facebook has groups for every city. I have had great experiences finding classes this way. When you connect with local moms’ groups, you find community.

Childbirth Classes are Evidence Based

Also, childbirth education is evidence based. Particularly, this study revealed that childbirth classes reduce cesarean rates. Some evidence also shows that classes can reduce feelings of anxiety, as well as increasing VBAC rates.

Nursery Organizing Hacks – A Minimalist Perspective

3 Nursery Organizing Hacks – Preparing for Baby

nursery organizing

You’re pregnant with your first baby. So many conversations revolve around what to buy for your baby’s nursery. You’re in Babies ‘R Us trying out all the latest gear. Your registry is full of the coolest toys, most popular products, and more! You find yourself searching Pinterest for ideas for nursery organizing and it all seems beautiful! You’ll probably try out a few things, store all the stuff, and then one your baby is born you barely use the nursery at all. Consequently, you’ve spend a lot of time and energy for a room you use several months later.

Does this sound familiar?

In this post, I’m going to offer 3 nursery organizing tips that will actually help you in the postpartum time. These tips are portable and can be used whether you are cosleeping or if baby is in a nursery. Then, you can apply these tips as your baby grows and your needs change.

Diaper Stations

In the first few weeks postpartum, you are on a great healing journey. Firstly, you are healing from birth. Secondly, you’re intensely tired. Create a diaper station on each floor of your home, in the places you spend the most time with your baby. For example, this could be your living room, bedroom, or nursery. You can buy a few cheap changing pads to have nearby, or even a few receiving blankets will work. Get a basket or bin and fill it with a day’s worth of diapers, wipes, plastic bags for trash, coconut oil, and whatever else you might use at diaper changing time. If you have other children, consider buying something with a lid to avoid exploration.

Your postpartum doula can change and refill your stash each day.

Consider diaper storage for your needs. If you’re using cloth diapers, this site has some great practical ideas for storage.

Become a Clothing Minimalist

What size clothes is your baby wearing right now? Probably newborn or 0-3 months. Take any extra larger clothes and get them out of your space and into storage. Emphasize skin to skin as much as possible in the early weeks. You can get by with about 10 onesies/sleepers per size. You need MUCH LESS than you think. If you can remove any clutter, it can really feel relieving. If you only have what you really need, then you won’t need elaborate systems or furniture to store baby’s clothes.

Place several onesies/sleepers (whatever it is you are dressing baby in…) in your diaper change station for easy access to fresh clothing.

Create Space for Yourself

Mothers are so overlooked in the process of planning for life with baby. In the few weeks after baby is born, you will need to use the restroom frequently. Your body is flushing extra fluids and you will be bleeding. Create a station for yourself in your bathroom that has all of your pads, extra underwear, peri bottle, and other comfort items. Place it right on the back of your toilet or other place in arms reach. Moving around is hard enough. Let’s make this as easy as possible.

Create a station for yourself in baby’s nursery, your room, or wherever you spend time with your baby. Stash some water bottles, snacks, a good book, a phone charger, or anything else you might want in arms reach. Firstly, consider yourself while you plan your baby’s space. Do you need a place to rest in baby’s room? Secondly, consider putting a place to rest in baby’s room such as a floor bed or a futon. In planning your nursery, YOU are just as important.

Lastly, in planning your baby’s nursery, consider being flexible and be able to adapt as your baby grows and your needs change.

Sleep Hacks: Infant Sleep Tips (Part 3)

Simple Sleep Hacks and Strategies to Try When You Are Struggling With Sleep Challenges

sleep hacks

I have to admit, I struggled to name part 3 of this post. Why? We know that infants are made to wake frequently by design. The concept of “sleep hacks” might lead one to think that solving sleep challenges is an easy fix. It’s not.

The reality is that when you aren’t getting sleep, things get rough. Even though we know that night waking is normal, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. Everyone needs a little help sometimes.

Firstly, I recommend thinking carefully about any challenges you are facing and how it affects your family. Secondly, come up with a realistic goal that you would like for your family’s sleep routine. Consider what your needs are. What needs to happen to help you and your baby sleep better? Then, you can take your goal and work backwards to choose some strategies to try with your baby.

Sleep Hacks – Gentle Sleep Solutions

  • Infant Massage: Incorporate a simple infant massage into your baby’s bedtime routine. This can help your baby wind down for the evening and supports the bond between baby and caregiver.
  • Swaddling: If your baby sleeps beside your bed in a bassinet, try using swaddle at night time. This can help prevent your baby from startling themselves awake and can provide calming comfort.
  • Laying of Hands: After setting your baby down in their “sleepy space” (see part 2), place your hands on them with reassuring pressure until you see them relax back to sleep. Slowly release your hands one at a time until you can pull both away without waking baby.
  • White Noise: Using a simple white noise or sound machine can be helpful for your sleep routine. White noise helps recreate the comforting sounds of the womb that your baby has been used to.
  • Consider Temperature: Babies may develop a preference for night time temperatures and clothing. Consider whether baby is getting too cold or too warm at night.
  • Health Concerns: You may want to consider if your baby has any health concerns that could be causing consistent night waking and challenging sleep patterns. Specifically, oral ties can cause breathing issues in babies. Work with your pediatrician to rule out any health issues.
  • Comforting Scent: Some babies need the safety of their parents’ scent in their sleeping space. You can place one of baby’s crib sheets in your bed for a night to transfer some of your scent. When you put the sheet back on, your baby feels that you are close because they can smell a parent in their space.
  • Increase Daytime Calories: Sometimes older babies are so busy playing and socializing during the day that they tend to drink less milk in the day time and then become hungrier in the evening and night time.

Routine Based Hacks

  • Avoid Letting Baby Become Overtired: Overtired babies have a more difficult time winding down to sleep. Start your sleep routine as soon as your baby shows sleep cues to avoid the overtired state.
  • Consider Routine: What is your night time routine like? The shorter the better. You can get your baby ready for bedtime right after dinner. Later, at the time you are putting them to sleep, make that routine as simple as possible. It could be quick rhyming/song/story, bottle/nurse, place in crib asleep. Avoid an overly complicated routine right at bedtime. Some common parts of recommended bedtime routines are too overstimulating for some babies. For example, my babies and even older kids go NUTS for bath time. It is high play time in my house. I would never use bath time to help them get sleepy unless I wanted to tire them out! But, many other families find baths relaxing.

If you are still struggling, your postpartum doula can help you by providing some new strategies to try as well as hands-on support to help you implement them.

Sleep Strategies: Infant Sleep Basics (Part 2)

Sleep Strategies Based on Science, Attachment, and Development

sleep strategies

In part 2 of this series on infant sleep, I am going to explore sleep strategies that are based on attachment and developmental science. Firstly, there are a wide variety of strategies families can use to teach their baby to sleep. It is important to know that ideas about sleep in American culture spread across the whole spectrum from “extinction” cry it out methods to safe bed sharing and attachment parenting. Not every strategy is right for every family. The most important thing to remember is…

The best sleep strategy for your family is whatever helps your family sleep best.

As a postpartum doula, I am frequently asked about how to help baby sleep better. It is the most common concern many new parents have. I never bring any sleep training agenda to a family in my work. It concerns me to see that many postpartum doulas are presenting themselves as “sleep trainers.” Also, if the role of the postpartum doula is to foster maximum self-determination for families, it seems out of our scope to present any kind of sleep training agenda. If a family is interested in learning about sleep strategies, I simply listen to their concerns about sleep. Then, I offer a variety of tips and strategies that can help the family choose what is right based on their own intuition.

Basic Sleep Strategies: Ideas to Think On

Be realistic. In part 1, I discussed the science behind infant sleep. It is totally normal and should be expected that a baby, especially a very young one, will take frequently throughout the night. Firstly, it’s important to accept that this is normal and NOT a sleep problem. If you continue to tell yourself that it is a problem, you will drive yourself crazy trying to “fix” what is a natural and evolutionary instinct. Secondly, remember that good nights will follow harder nights and your baby will have an ebb and flow relationship with sleep throughout the first year as they go through massive brain development.

Challenge Means Growth. The Wonder Weeks is a great resource for parents that tracks your baby’s developmental periods throughout the first 18 months of your baby’s life. When you are struggling with your baby waking at night, consider whether they are in a fussy developmental period. These are common in periods of brain and physical growth. Has your baby learned a new skill? Sometimes babies have what I like to call “unfinished business” in the evenings. They like to practice the new skills they are trying to master.

Rhythm vs. Schedule

Be Consistent. Consider how and where you would like your baby to sleep. I often recommend that families create a “sleepy space” for their baby. This is simply the place in your home where your baby sleeps most often. Your baby will begin to associate their “sleepy space” with calm and restful feelings. Make this a nurturing, relaxing, and restful space for your baby. It is their safe space. Your baby doesn’t have to sleep in their space 100% of the time, but for the majority of their sleep time if you can. As you become consistent and your baby learns pattern association, they will come to relax and sleep easier in their space. This could be a bassinet, crib, or the parent’s bed for example.

Find a Rhythm. It is unrealistic to impose an adult-led schedule onto your baby. If you take some time to follow your baby’s natural rhythms, you can gently build your daily family rhythm together. For example, after family dinner time you can gently guide baby into a soothing evening routine (infant massage, diaper, jammies, story/songs, feeding). They may not fall asleep right away after. Even so, you can prepare the environment to foster relaxation, peace, and sleep.

Some more challenging food for thought…

Give Up Control. Sleep is so important for families. Especially when parents begin to go back to work, lack of sleep can be incredibly debilitating. However, it is important to realize that your baby’s sleep habits are not a measure of your parenting abilities. Your baby is simply living their best life, according to their instincts, and you are meeting their needs overnight through night time parenting. You will find that even the best sleeping babies will defy your schedules and routines at times. All of this is normal and part of your baby’s normal instincts. Normalize night waking. Avoid using your baby’s sleep habits as a measure of your parenting ability.

Plan for Success. Plan periods of rest into your day. Take naps when your baby sleeps if you can. Even a 20 minute cat nap where you rest your eyes and practice relaxation can be incredibly restorative. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a postpartum doula, I often care for babies while the mother rests after a rough night. We aren’t meant to parent alone. Try to be flexible with your outings and reschedule what you can. Consider your own energy flow. For me, I know that my lowest energy time is the afternoon. I am a morning person by nature. Regardless of how much sleep I get at night, I can usually manage to wake up early and get through some things. Plan activities, appointments, or to-do lists for your maximum energy time of the day.

In A World With Little Support, Innovate

If you have an older baby and you are REALLY sleep deprived and find yourself without support, consider this. Create a safe space for baby to play on the floor with some very safe toys. You can rest on the floor while baby plays beside you. If you happen to fall asleep accidentally, your baby is in a very safe space.

If you find yourself falling asleep while nursing your baby in a chair or sitting up in bed, consider learning about safe bed sharing. According to the La Leche League, 44% of mothers report falling asleep at least once in a chair or sitting up with baby in bed. Although few families start out planning to bed share, studies show that 60-75% of families end up bed sharing at some point. My argument is that if we know many mothers are falling asleep with baby in unsafe conditions anyways, let’s create the safest space possible. The Safe Sleep Seven outlines how to create a bed sharing environment that is as safe as possible for your baby.

Lastly, remember that the best sleep strategies for your family help maximize rest for everyone. Do what feels right in your gut, rather than what a friend, doctor, or book recommends.

Infant Sleep: A Different Perspective

Part 1: How do babies sleep? and Infant Sleep Basics

infant sleep

Infant sleep is one of the most common concerns for new parents. And I totally get it! Sleep is a really big deal in the postpartum time. You’re healing from birth and going through so many changes. You’re up at all hours of the night feeding and caring for your new baby. Parents are exhausted. American culture does not place much value in postpartum rest. Lack of sleep can truly exacerbate mental health conditions and strain relationships.

As a postpartum doula, I am frequently asked about sleep routines and how to help baby sleep better. This is a very complex and complicated topic. Somehow it has become taboo in American society to say that your baby doesn’t sleep through the night. Our culture holds “sleeping through the night” as some kind of holy grail of parenting. People say you have a “good baby” if they sleep through the night. Your friends say, “wow, you’re still waking up with him overnight? You need to let him cry it out!”

American parents face a host of complex challenges while caring for infants. Parents are going back to work shortly after their baby is born. A partner is lucky to get a week off, if the family can even afford it. The ramifications from lack of sleep are wide, and there can be economic consequences for families. I am not naive about the affects of lack of sleep on families. I’ve been night time parenting for 5 years now, with 3 babies.

What does science tell us about infant sleep?

Often times, families have unrealistic expectations for infant sleep. This often comes from well meaning family and friends who advise sleep training methods and rigid schedules to teach babies to sleep better. Routines like “eat, play, sleep” might work for some families, but these types of routines aren’t based in solid science on infant sleep and development. There are a ton of ways to gently teach your baby to sleep, but that’s later in this series. Let’s take a look and what science has to say about normal infant sleep.

Feeding Methods Matter

Babies are designed to wake frequently throughout the night to feed. While babies who are fed formula can certainly still wake up throughout the night, breastfed babies are especially wired to wake up throughout the night. The fat and protein content of human milk is lower than that of other animals, which means that a breastfed baby will often wake more frequently for feedings. Infant formula digests more slowly than breast milk, and it can lead baby to fall into deep sleep in which they do not naturally arouse from easily. These frequent nighttime feedings are essential for maintenance of the breastfeeding relationship and milk supply. Sleeping through the night is not biologically normal.

Benefits of Night Waking

Firstly, frequent night wakings are protective. If an infant falls into a deep sleep for too long, they are unable to wake themselves from sleep to regulate their breathing and oxygen levels. Frequent wakings help regulate baby’s breathing and can support the prevention of SIDS. Around the world, babies regularly co-sleep with their family and night waking is viewed as a normal part of infant sleep.

Infant Sleep Stages

Infants sleep different than older children and adults. They begin sleep by entering a period of light sleep lasting about 10-20 minutes. Firstly, you will notice slight muscle movements, eyelid fluttering, and maybe some sounds. You might notice smiles or grimaces during this light sleep stage. Secondly, your baby will then fall into a deeper sleep period characterized by limp limbs and slower breathing patterns. After about an hour (or less with a newborn), baby will enter a light sleep stage again. During this time, they can be easily aroused by sounds or other stimulus such as hunger, separation anxiety, etc. Cue frequent night waking.

There are a wide variety of schedules and sleep recommendations available for newborns and infants. However, every baby is a unique individual with their own sleep needs. Some babies naturally have a different circadian rhythm than others. Some infants will be naturally awake more than others, and this can change through the variety of developmental leaps in the first year.

If sleep is a struggle, consider what your baby is doing. Sometimes understanding that your baby’s sleep is normal and biologically appropriate is a helpful stepping stone. Your baby doesn’t have a “sleep problem” if they wake frequently throughout the night, feed to sleep, or want to be close to you at night time. These behaviors are biologically normal.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series for more information.

Working Mom Life: Growing Into the Transition

Transitioning Into Working Mom Life and All Those Big Feelings

working mom

After I had my first child, I decided to stop working and stay home with my baby. I initially thought I would be a working mom, but my reality didn’t align with my expectations. My feelings about this were all over the place. Firstly, I had a job that continually forced me to do things I felt were unethical and not supported by research on what is best for kids. Secondly, my entire family lived across the country and I would have had to rely on strangers for full time child care. Thirdly, I would have had no paycheck while paying for said child care.

I was happy to decide to stop working then, I wanted the time with my baby. But it was also somewhat out of my control. It’s complicated, isn’t it? And what a ridiculous term “stay at home” really is. It’s such a loaded phrase. This is a topic that elicits SO MANY BIG FEELINGS from parents. Over the years, I have gone through many of my darkest hours over this very topic.

Growing Pains and Big Feelings

When you decide to become a stay at home parent, you are often told that you are lucky to be able to do so. Sometimes we are able to do so because of privilege, but sometimes it’s also a lack of privilege. Judging someone’s choice to become a stay at home parent is purely an individual decision that a family makes based on what is best for them and what resources they have access to in their community.

In the past 2 years, I have transitioned into a business owner and doula. I felt more and more comfortable working and being away from my children as time went on. At one point, I realized that I needed to make the transition into a commitment to working mom life. I felt a huge calling to grow into a different role in my life, and I felt a massive passionate calling to my work. This transition was 100% necessary for me and for my family.

I love what I do. I put my full heart and soul into my work.

But sometimes working is painful.

Saying goodbye to babies each day is emotional.

Sharing their milestones with others makes me feel left out.

I often become consumed with worry and anxiety over leaving them.

Organizing childcare ranges from simple to agonizing.

I worry that they will become insecure in their attachment.

I worry about breaking their hearts.

The full spectrum of my work brings tears of joy and tears of heart ache.

And all of these big feelings are okay.

Anxiety is a Liar

Here’s the thing. Anxiety is a liar. My kids have done AMAZING and I have seen them grow and learn in huge ways since this transition has begun. They have made new friends, built relationships with other adults, and have learned independence in an entirely new and positive way. For the first time, I didn’t have to be totally in control of everyone’s day seven days a week, 24 hours a day. They are truly loving life.

Supporting the Working Mom Transition is Also a Postpartum Transition

I’ve learned a lot over the past year about moving into working mom life. For a lot of parents, this transition is also a postpartum transition. Self-care is SO important. I’m not talking about bubble baths and wine. I’m taking about real self-care. I have made it a priority to work with a fantastic therapist to help manage my anxiety. I also have prioritized taking care of my personal health. Learning how to organize my life and ask for help when I need it is huge. Asking for help is self-care. Bringing people into your community is self-care. Your postpartum doula can help you prepare for the transition into work life and provide you with a list of community resources to ease the transition.

What Does the Research Say?

A new research study reveals that children of working moms are just as happy as kids of stay at home moms. Studies also show that girls with a working mother are more likely to attain higher levels of employment. Once I did a little research, I felt even better about committing to this transition. It has been both beautiful and painful as we go through these growing pains as a family. But my kids get to grow up seeing a role model who is serving her community, and it helps them to see how important support is for families.

I am grateful for the opportunity to do this work. I am grateful for all of the support my family has received in the process. I am grateful for the privilege of helping families in the childbearing year. I am grateful for my ultra-supportive partner. I certainly am not doing this alone. All of these big feelings.