The Birth Story of My Third Babe

The Birth Story of My Third Babe

Birth stories told by women who were active participants in giving birth often express a good deal of practical wisdom, inspiration, and information for other women. Positive stories shared by women who have had wonderful childbirth experiences are an irreplaceable way to transmit knowledge of a woman's true capacities in pregnancy and birth." ― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

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2019 Guidelines for Exercise During Pregnancy

2019 Guidelines for Exercise During Pregnancy

The 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy was released in October. Hopefully this new guideline dispels any doubt that exercise during pregnancy is either bad or simply not necessary. On the contrary, exercise during pregnancy is a must. The health benefits for mother and baby are many.

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The Birth Story of My First Born

The Birth Story of My First Born

Birth stories told by women who were active participants in giving birth often express a good deal of practical wisdom, inspiration, and information for other women. Positive stories shared by women who have had wonderful childbirth experiences are an irreplaceable way to transmit knowledge of a woman's true capacities in pregnancy and birth." ― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

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The Best Exercise You Can Do During Your Pregnancy

The Best Exercise You Can Do During Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy can suck. And exercising during pregnancy can suck even more. Especially during the late stages of the longest nine months of your life when your joints are revolting and you're pretty sure it's pee not amniotic fluid that leaks every time you sneeze. I have one word that will make everything better.

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Ah, breastfeeding. Such a natural thing. Yet, so difficult for soooooo many women.

I never thought twice about whether or not I would breastfeed B. If not for the many health benefits for both parties involved, then for the convenience and cost savings.

Nutritious. Free. Convenient. Really, why would you not?

Well, as my pregnant belly grew, I heard more and more stories of women not being able to for a variety of reasons. I don't think I heard a single story about a babe coming out of the womb, latching on, and nursing happily without some issues along the way. Poor latching. Blocked ducts. Tongue ties. Lip ties. Cracked, bleeding nipples. Mastitis. Thrush. Over-active letdown. No letdown. Low milk production. Yikes. Ouch. Yikes.

These things scared me more than labour and delivery.

On one hand, the whole boob-is-best campaign is threatening me with "you better breastfeed your babe or else...", and on the other hand, there are all these mummas, books, and blogs scaring the crap out of me, saying "GOOD LUCK SISTER! MUAHHAHA!"

Talk about pressure.

I wonder, do other mammals in the animal kingdom have as much difficulty nursing as we Homo sapiens seem to? Do they struggle with proper latches? Do they get sore, cracked nipples? Without lactation consultants, pumps, bottles, tubes, formula, meds, ice, or heat, what does an animal mumma do?!?!?

These questions kept me up at night.

Pregnancy. Labour. Breastfeeding. Three new adventures for my body.

I saw these three things in a similar light when I was pregnant. I could prepare somewhat for each, but ultimately I had NO idea how my body would manage each one until I was fully submerged. Prrrretty scary stuff for the control freak in me.

And so I prepared for breastfeeding the same way I prepared for pregnancy and birth - I educated myself and found some great people to be on my team. And thank goodness I did, because between the issues that did crop up, the sleep deprivation and the hormones, I fully understand why some women wave the white milk flag and turn to formula.

Here's how I prepared for breastfeeding:

1. have a Fairy-Boob Mother (AKA the Lactation Consultant) on speed dial

If you are pregnant, as soon as you have finished this paragraph, put down the computer and go and find yourself a lactation consultant. Ideally, find one that that does hospital and home visits for those first few days. Plug her contact info into your phone. Do this. Now.

Not sure where to look? Check out La Leche League in your area. They offer all sorts of breastfeeding help for expectant and new mummas. Search their site for a certified lactation consultant in your area.

If you have a nursing store in your area, ask them for a referral. Here in Ottawa, we have Milkface that offers breastfeeding classes for expectant parents, lactation consultant referrals, and even a Breastfeeding Café where mummas can come together to chat, ask questions (it is run by a wonderful LC) and nibble goodies.

I dutifully stuck a recommended LC's contact info to our fridge door when I was eight months pregnant. I am so thankful that someone suggested that I do this, and that I did. My LC was ahhhmazing. Even though things seemed to be going pretty well the first 24 hours after B was born, I still had her come to our house to check his latch, and answer a few questions the day after he was born. She taught me a few things, and helped me out with positions. It turned out that I needed her more and more as the days and weeks went on when I started having problems with an over-active letdown and a little thing called Mammary Constriction Syndrome. She came to my house within 24 hours if I called, and would check in with me regularly. She was my fairy boob-mother.

2. Read a Book, or Two

Here are my top breastfeeding book picks:

1  /  2  /  3

Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding. This is considered by many to be the breastfeeding bible. I love Jack. I read his book. I studied his online videos the week before I gave birth. I emailed him when I was having insanely intense boob and back pain after nursings. He knows a thing or two about breastfeeding.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. And an art it is. This book is produced by La Leche League International, and they kinda know their stuff as a world leader in breastfeeding support. The book takes you through the various stages of breastfeeding (new baby, growing baby, daycare baby, weaning baby), while discussing common issues and concerns along the way.

Breastfeeding Made Simple. I roll my eyes at the title of this book considering I found nothing simple about learning to breastfeed. But I like how this books lays it all out in a simple to read way. Each chapter is devoted to one of their seven natural laws of breastfeeding. Also, the foreword is written by Dr. Newman, so you know it's good stuff.

3. Have some reliable resources on your Rolodex

There is a ton of breastfeeding advice out there. Some good, some not so good - like all advice floating around the www. When I was having my insanely intense post-nursing pain I searched and searched online for answers. It sounded like thrush, but there were no signs of yeast anywhere. It sounded like Raynaud's, but there were definitely some dissimilarities. It was finally Dr. Newman who suggested it might be something I'd never come across online. Thank.You.Jack. If I hadn't contacted him, I likely would have followed the long and tedious suggested remedies for thrush - with no relief. It pays to seek out help from reliable professionals, or at least the information available on their websites.

Here a few sites that I believe to be pretty trustworthy, and worth exploring:

Breastfeeding Inc. is Dr. Newman's site, and is definitely one to explore (shocker!).  I especially like this series of videos - pretty hard to learn to breastfeed from a book, a video is the next best thing, besides actually doing it. And, as I mentioned earlier, you can email Dr. Jack Newman directly.

La Leche League. Their website layout is pretty terrible, but there is great info and forums that you can peruse.

Kelly Mom is another great place for evidence-based articles on breastfeeding, and parenting. Check out her their Preparing to Breastfeed page with all sorts of great articles.

Also, you can download worksheets from Chapter 20 of the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Here are some that you might find handy: Milk StorageDiaper LogDealing with blocked ducts.

4. Emergency Supplies

When we're pregnant, we tend to focus on buying stuff for the little person we've been making, but there are a few essentials you should have ready to go before becoming a breastfeeding mumma.

Ice Pads

When I was pregnant, I read that it was a good idea to moisten and freeze some pads for when you got home from the hospital. These, I was told, would come in handy to help with perineum pain and healing postpartum. Well, in a desperate, sleep deprived state I discovered that they also offered tremendous breast pain relief...

There is some debate over whether you should heat or ice your boobs, if anything at all, but I really think it depends on what's going on. I didn't have cracked nipples, but they did feel like they'd been through a wringer from B clamping down trying not to drown in my firehose flow. After one feeding, I desperately reached into the freezer, grabbed a pad and shoved it in my bra (I guess we didn't have any normal, lunch-bag  variety ice packs kicking around). Relief! I got smart and switched to the smaller, boob pads after that. My husband took on pad duty, constantly moistening them, popping them in the freezer, and making sure I always had a good stash of clean, frozen pads. He'd run downstairs in the middle of the night to grab me fresh ones after each feeding.

Ahhh, I can still feel the relief from those pads like it was yesterday.

Nip Cream - pure lanolin, coconut oil

Again, much debate on what works here. I religiously expressed a little milk after each feeding, rubbing it around my nipples. But you're nursing so bloody much in those first few weeks, and I was so worried about my nipples drying up and cracking like the Sahara, so I also used Lanolin and coconut oil. I'd smear that stuff on like nobody's business. All in the name of prevention. Thankfully, I never had any Sahara-like nips.

I also ended up getting Jack Newman's All Purpose Nipple Cream (from my midwife) as I was at wits end with my odd breast/back pain. I am not sure if it is what worked in the end, or just the fact that B learned to handle my firehose flow, but it did provide some pain relief when I was dealing with my Mammary Constriction Syndrome.

Nursing Bras

When I think of a bra, I think of support. And so I don't really like to think of my initial nursing bras as bras. They were more like boob covers, and devices to hold my ice pads, and keep the milk/Lanolin/coconut oil off my clothes and the furniture. Otherwise, I probably would have walked around with nothing on since it seemed like all I was doing was nursing in those first few weeks.

The last thing I wanted was something restrictive around my engorged, tender boobs, telling them where to go. Tank-tops with the built in "shelf" were great. And still are, especially at night. I started with a bunch of these ones, and eventually got more supportive ones, like these. I also used these nursing bras, but again, the goal was containment, not upping my cup size. It was up enough. I suggest looking for soft, flexible (your boob size will be all over the place), "support" for the first few weeks. Three or four devices should suffice.

At around four to six weeks, you should be okay to progress to more supportive (and prettier!) ones. This is currently one of my favourite everyday kinda bra. And  this is my favourite sports bra (great for postnatal exercise class when you're a sweaty mess and need to feed your babe after class).

Nursing Pillow

Ergonomics, mummas. Ergonomics. The hours and hours and hours that you will spend breastfeeding demand that you put your posture on the priority list. Or you will pay. Back, neck, shoulder and wrist pain are all too common to breastfeeding mummas. Sore backs from bent over, slumped over, crunched up spines. Neck pain from keeping a close eye on that latch. Shoulder and wrist pain for holding the little person in position. I loved My Brest Friendbecause it supported me, with the little lumbar pillow, and my babe nicely. And I liked that I could buckle into it so it stayed put. Other popular choices are the Boppy, Plush n' Posh, JJ Cole Nursing Pillow.

When you are picking a nursing pillow (and it could be a pillow you already have at home) consider the length of your torso. If you are on the long side like I am, a skinny pillow may not be enough to bring your babe up to your breast.

5. Mental Prep

Breastfeeding is like a sports match. You have no idea how it will play out. Things might start off great - winning! But in the second period, your team mate starts dropping the ball, and all of a sudden you're sidelined. Game over.

Or maybe the game never gets started.

I think it's important to recognize that there is no guarantee that breastfeeding will go well, or at all. No matter how much you want it. Or how much you prepare. Recognize that it may or may not work out. And that is OKAY.

But do know that you can make the road a lot less bumpy and increase your chance of success if you find great people who will play on your team, and support you along the way.

If you've settled into breastfeeding, and the boobs feel pretty good, but the rest of your body aches from hunching over for hours on end, there's help for that too!

* This post contains no affiliate links, just stuff I've found helpful!


(Photo curtesy of the Université de Montréal)

This morning, my mother-in-law mentioned a new study out of the Université de Montréal that has shed light on the importance of maternal exercise on neonatal brain development.

This was the first human study of its kind to measure the effects of exercise during pregnancy on newborn brain activity. The findings were presented yesterday at Neuroscience 2013, in San Diego, California.

Eighteen pregnant women were randomly assigned to either an exercise group or a sedentary group. The brain activity of the newborns was tested with electroencaphalography (EEG) when they were between 8 to 12 days old. The findings indicated that 20 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise (causing slight shortness of breath or to be more technical, exercising at a minimal intensity of 55% of their max aerobic capacity), three times a week, resulted in more focused, mature, newborn brain activity. 

The researchers note that the study's findings are not intended to cast guilt on mothers who do not, or cannot exercise for health reasons (newborns in the sedentary-mum group showed normal brain activity), but suggest that exercise should be encouraged to pregnant woman who are capable.

It should be noted that this study was performed with a group of 18 pregnant women - a considerably small sample group. Also know that the study is ongoing, in that the researchers will test the babies again at one year of age.

The findings of this study are not exactly earth shattering. It is prrrretty well recognized that aerobic exercise is associated with countless health benefits for the vast majority of people, including expectant mothers. But it is great to see some preliminary research indicating a positive effect of maternal exercise on fetal brain development.

Hmmmm….twenty minutes of brisk walking gets me to my favourite gelato store.

Not that I am pregnant.



'Tis the season...of colds and flus. All three of us got hit with one cold already this germy season. Thankfully, it was just the scratchy throat, intense sinus congestions variety. But it was still tricky to manage without being able to reach for my usual cold meds that keep my nose dry and prevent it from sneaking down to my chest, turning into a hacking, lung rattling cough. So what's a sick, breastfeeding mumma to do?

Most cold meds are off limits to pregos and breastfeeding mummas - you should talk to your doctor before taking ANY meds while making a baby or milk.

Eucalyptus // Lemon // Scarf // Humidifier // Nasopure nasal wash  // Moccasins // Blanket

Here's my au naturel recipe for fighting the seasonal cold:

Gargle. Uck. I know. But it works to soothe any sore throat. Do it at the first sign that you have been invaded by a cold bug. As salty as you can stand it. Count to ten. Spit. Repeat.

Sleep. Lots of sleep. Easier said then done when you have a little person ruling your REM cycles, but do what you can. Nap when they nap. Go to bed when they go to bed.

Lemon and honey. This is the best thing. A thick slice of lemon + a heaping teaspoon of (pasteurized) honey. Brew to yumminess.

Nasal douche. Also known as a nasal wash, or even better, nasal irrigation. Sounds terrible, I know. And apologies for the picture above of the chap in the midst of irrigating his sinuses, but this is the key to keeping sinus congestion and pain at ease. I skip the weak little Neti pot and use a more powerful squeeze bottle to blast out the gunk. I use the saline solution that it comes with or make your own:

1 tsp of salt + 1/8 tsp baking soda, dissolve in 1 cup of warm water

Squirt the saline solution up one nostril and watch in awe as it pours out the other. I suggest doing it in the shower because it can get a weeeee bit messy, especially when  you are sick and really snotty. Okay, nasal washing is actually really gross. But it works like a champ.

Stay humid. Especially in the fall and winter months when our heating systems are sucking every bit of moisture from our houses, your cold symptoms will appreciate added humidity. Use a humidifier (don't forget to keep the filter clean!).

You can also lean over a bowl of hot water, with a towel draped over your head, for a mini steam room (avoid burning yourself, please). Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water for extra sinus relief.

Stay warm. My mum would always tie a scarf around her neck when she was sick. Her 'sick scarf' was a pretty green and yellow number. You knew mum wasn't feeling well if she had that thing on. I tried one once and it worked like magic.

Keep warm and cozy when you're fighting a bug, but watch that you don't overheat, especially if you are pregnant. You want that bun to cook, but lets not roast it. Don't crank up the heat in the house, just add warm, cozy layers.

Good food. Good fluids. Eat your fruits and veggies, and drink plenty of water - avoid sugary juices, pop or power drinks. And if your blood pressure can handle it, reach for some salty soup. If I don't have the energy to make it myself, I'll head to Farm Boy to buy their ready-made soups. They are salt'alicious!

Avoid refined sugars, starches and processed crap - if it's white, don't eat it. These things suppress your immune system.

A few lingering questions that you might have:

What supplements should I take to prevent and/or fight a cold? Ideally, none. Talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any vitamins or supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

When should I see my doctor or midwife?If your symptoms persist more then a few days without any relief, if you have a fever, or if your symptoms are causing you to have difficulty breathing you should see your doctor or midwife asap.

What is your pharma-free cold fighting routine?