You have just peed on a stick, or dunked the stick in pee, and saw the little plus-sign or smiley face, or "PREGNANT" sign appear indicating that you are indeed "with child." Surely a range of emotions burst forth from within: excitement, nervousness, perhaps a sprinkle of terror for a nanosecond or two, and you take a deep breath and prepare for the next nine (or ten) months of pregnancy bliss. Only, it ain't always so blissful. While it's true that some women breeze through pregnancy with nary a sneeze, there are many more of us who suffer from some form of discomfort at one point or another. Thankfully, there are things you can do, both before you get pregnant and during, that may help to alleviate some of these uncomfortable situations. 1. Morning Sickness Obviously this is going to be the number one complaint that pregnant women have, because - let's face it - who the heck likes to be nauseous and possibly vomiting daily for three or four (or more) months? Certainly not me! This does not have to be part of your pregnancy, however, and depending on how willing you are to ensure that this does not happen may play a large role in whether or not you manage to escape it. First, let's remember that a little more than half of all women will experience some form of morning sickness during pregnancy. These are pretty balanced odds (hehe) that actually made me feel better about the chances of experiencing it, as opposed to if the statistics were more like 90%. Some things you can do before you ever even get pregnant (if you have made the decision to try to become pregnant) are to start getting yourself as healthy as possible. This means consuming lots of rich mineral broths, plenty of green, leafy vegetables (preferably organic, but do the best you can), pasture-raised meats, and dairy from grass-fed cows (or goats or sheep). Look into high-quality supplements that will boost your Vitamins A, D, and K-2 such as fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil (I use this brand: http://codliveroilshop.com/). And probably one of the most important supplements to take before you get pregnant is Magnesium. Magnesium is a natural relaxant and is a critical nutrient that many of us are deficient in. Eating sea vegetables or nettles, and taking Magnesium supplements are the best ways to boost your levels. You can buy Magnesium drinks, use mag oil transdermally, or take concentrated trace mineral drops, all of which will help to decrease your chances of experiencing morning sickness. Even if you are already pregnant, doing the aforementioned nutritional boosts can still help to lessen or eliminate morning sickness, though it may be more difficult to do since your body is already using up your nutrient stores to feed your growing baby. Additional suggestions for combating morning sickness is to eat plenty of protein throughout the day, especially before bed, and first thing in the morning. If you are having a hard time keeping anything down, making sure to hydrate and nourish yourself with bone broths, soups, and fresh juices (especially with ginger added) can be very healing and comforting. 2. Sore Breasts Hormonal shifts which raise estrogen and progesterone levels cause breasts to enlarge, and increase blood flow to the breast tissues. Because of this, your breasts may become sore, swollen, and sensitive to touch. Thankfully, you can try a few things to make things a bit more comfortable for you. Wear a soft, supportive bra. Reducing breast movement during times of soreness will greatly reduce discomfort. Sports bras are a wonderful option for those who do not like underwires, and can even be worn at night. Make sure that your bras are the proper fit, otherwise they make things worse. If need be, visit your local lingerie shop for a professional fitting. Taking a warm bath or shower is another way to pamper yourself while alleviating some of the discomfort of sore breasts. Water can be highly therapeutic, especially when you make it a relaxing experience. Soften the lighting, light an aromatherapy candle or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil and allow yourself to luxuriate for a few moments before stepping back into reality. You can also use coconut or olive oil to do a breast massage. This may or may not be helpful depending on how sensitive your are to touch, but if you are able to it can provide some much-needed relief. 3. Fatigue We're not talking "Oh, I feel a bit tired today." We're talking about head-bobbing, slumped over your shopping cart at the grocery store exhausted. It takes a LOT of energy to create another human being, and it can be very difficult to feel peppy and spritely when it seems that all of your zest has been drained into a pool of oblivion. If you are suffering from morning sickness or an iron-deficiency, and/or are anxious and stressed, fatigue is almost inevitable. To combat this as much as possible, make sure you get adequate rest. I know, I know. You may be thinking "Duh," but for women who are working full-time, or have other children to take care of during the day, taking a nap when you feel you really need it can be almost impossible. Go to bed early at night, and if you get an opportunity to take a nap during the day, take it! Drinking plenty of fluids, eating healthful foods, and getting some daily exercise will all help to keep your energy levels up. While you may still be tired for the first trimester or two (or three), doing the above should at least assist in increase your energy somewhat and keep you from feeling like a snail in molasses in January. 4. Frequent Urination There really isn't any escaping this one. As your uterus grows, the bladder begins to get a little crowded and you will likely find yourself visiting the Ladies Room a bit more (or a LOT more) than you normally would. During the day, it is necessary to stay hydrated for all of the above reasons (plus, it's just good for you!) so you probably won't be able to control how often you have to pee. If it keeps you awake at night, however, you may want to cut back on your intake of fluids a few hours before bed so that you won't hear the toilet beckoning to you. And if worse comes to worse, you can always buy one of our Pregnancy-sized FuzziBunz Cloth diapers so you don't have to get up so much! That last part was a joke. But don't-cha think it would be kind of handy?? ...Anyone? 5. Cravings and Food Aversions I'm a total foodie, and there weren't really too many foods that caused my stomach to turn when I was pregnant, but one night a friend of mine was making soup of some sort in the crockpot and I could smell it through the walls of my bedroom (where I tend to hibernate when feeling less than stellar), and I wished I had a fan that would blow the smell out of the bedroom because it was literally making me feel ill. A vast majority of pregnant women will experience food aversions, and it's important that you allow yourself some leeway when it comes to when, what, and how you eat. You may be fine with red meat one day and the next you want to throw it out the window. That's fine! Eat it on the days when you want it, and find something else on the days when you don't. It IS important to get protein into your body while your pregnant, and this is the challenge for many women because for some reason protein seems to cause the most sour faces in pregnancy. Try to find times each day when you can be OK with protein, whether it is in the form of meat, eggs, or raw dairy. On the opposite side of things are food cravings. You've all heard the pregnant woman (and apparently there are like, 2 million of them) who craved ice cream and pickles - together - throughout her pregnancy. Well, maybe some women do crave pickles and ice cream. Or maybe you crave a giant meat-ball sub, toasted golden and oozing with mozzarella cheese (this was my craving, and nobody ever got me one!)... or perhaps yours was grapefruit juice with chocolate chip cookies. Whatever your cravings are, it is important to realize that sometimes these cravings are a sign that your body needs a particular nutrient, vitamin, or mineral. It is also important to realize that the protein that you might get from a McDonald's cheeseburger is not the same as the protein you'll get from a homemade grassfed burger. And getting a little sugar from a Butterfinger (oh man I used to love those) is not the same as some whole fat yogurt with a dollop of raw honey. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence when you crave something wicked, but keep the majority of your food intake healthful. After all, you are eating for two! What was your pregnancy experience like? Did you suffer from any of the above? And please... tell me about your food cravings (I love hearing about those).
Is it me, or does it seem like there is a LOT of (social) media coverage surrounding breastfeeding lately? Nurse-ins, "to cover or not to cover" debates, uproars about public establishments shaming breastfeeding mothers, and defending the right to post breastfeeding photos online are everywhere. Why is this such a hot topic? Because too many people have gotten the wrong idea about breastfeeding: what it is, and what it isn't, and it's time for a little re-education. In this post I'm not going to go into too many facts about breastfeeding and breastmilk, because anyone who is interested in it can easily do a Google search and pull up all sorts of information about it. What I do want to talk about is why breastfeeding is important, but also why you shouldn't feel ashamed or "less-than" if you cannot, or choose not to breastfeed. Let's shine some light on the most important fact regarding this subject: Breastfeeding is completely natural. The design of the female body is truly amazing, as we are able to perform seemingly miraculous functions that males cannot. Our biological make-up creates the perfect environment to literally grow another human being, birth that human being, and provide exactly what that human being needs to survive and thrive during the first few years of his/her life (and beyond). How's that for impressive? The breasts are masses of fat, tissue, and milk ducts which normally become active once a woman gives birth. These milk ducts bring forth the nourishment that feeds our babies the perfect mix of proteins, fats, amino acids, enzymes and other critical nutrients that encourage healthy growth and create the best immune-builders on the planet for our children. Mama's milk is liquid gold. It adapts to the individual needs of your child, and no woman's milk is exactly the same as any other woman's milk, which is pretty incredible in itself! As your child grows, your milk changes to provide exactly what your child needs at his/her particular age and stage in life. Breastfeeding even just to 6 months can reduce the risk of certain cancers for both mother and baby, and can protect against a myriad of childhood illnesses including (but definitely not limited to) severe ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia, intestinal illness, and the common cold! Now let's shine some light on the other most important fact regarding this subject: Breastfeeding is not sexual. Just because a breast is exposed does not automatically qualify it as being "sexually explicit." I don't quite understand how the same people who would view a nude painting like DaVinci's "Madonna Litta" as beautiful, classical, and even romantic, could view modern-day mothers nursing their children as "obscene," and "distracting." It's ridiculous and sad. What's worse is the message being given to our children who grow up viewing breastfeeding as the normal, non-hysteria-inducing activity that it is. For many young children who breastfeed, and/or who have seen younger siblings breastfeed, pretending to nurse a beloved doll is an extremely common occurrence. And yet for some reason, because it involves breasts, there is a large part of society who frowns upon this undeniably innocent act, fearing the lure of sexual predators, or attempting to shame these childrens' parents because they failed to teach modesty and "acceptable behavior." How is pretending to bottle-feed any more or less acceptable than pretending to breastfeed, especially since breastfeeding is a normal, biological function? Regardless of whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, I think we can all agree that there is a serious need for social reform when it comes to this subject. We all want what is best for our babies. And regardless of whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, you are making the choice to nourish your child in the best way you are able, and there is NO SHAME in that, ever! If you have questions about breastfeeding, need support, or want to connect with other women who breastfeed, I would encourage you to seek out your local La Leche League group. This can be an invaluable source of much-needed education and support for women and families, regardless of whether or not you currently have a child. Find your local chapter here. There are also an abundance of breastfeeding groups on Facebook, as well as natural parenting websites like this one. These groups can be a safe space to discuss your concerns, challenges, triumphs, and questions regarding breastfeeding and all things related to raising children! If you do, or have, nursed your little ones, did you ever experience negativity about it? Or has it been a mostly positive experience? Our Mom In Residence, Lindsay Lewis
When I got pregnant with our first child in 2009, I wasn't totally knowledgable about natural parenting. I knew that I wanted a natural birth, that I wanted to breastfeed, and that - eventually - I wanted to cloth diaper. That's about it. Our plans for sleeping arrangements were to set up a bassinette in our bedroom for the first few months of Maya's life, then to move her to a crib in her own room. Well.... things did not quite work out that way. We did start out with a bassinette in our bedroom. I stayed up for most of the night... every night... listening for any and every sound coming from that babe's mouth. Every whimper, sigh, hiccup that escaped her sweet little lips sent me scrambling over in a sleep-deprived haze to make sure something terrible wasn't happening. And then of course, if I did manage to doze off for thirty minutes or so, I was awakened shortly after because she needed to nurse. In addition to getting up to nurse, Maya was a fairly high-needs baby. She wanted to be held almost constantly. She wanted to nurse every 30 - 45 minutes it seemed, and it lasted for months. After she turned three months, she could no longer fit into her bassinette, so we disassembled her crib (the one waiting for her in "her own room") and moved it into our tiny bedroom, right up against my side of the bed. "This is a great idea!" I thought. "Now she can be close to me, and I won't have to walk across the room to nurse! This will make things so much easier!" Wrong again. She had a very hard time sleeping, and would wake up crying at all hours of the night. She was inconsolable unless she was in my arms. She wasn't sleeping... my husband wasn't sleeping... and I definitely wasn't sleeping. Then one night, in a fit of frustration from constant nursing and lack of adequate rest, I exclaimed "I'm putting her into bed with me! I HAVE to sleep!!" My husband was very concerned about this, as he was terrified of rolling over on her. I understood, because I was afraid of that too, but something told me it would be okay. And oh my stars, it was more than okay! She slept!! And my husband slept (well, after he realized he wasn't going to roll over on her)!! And I slept, too!! When she woke to nurse, I was already right there. Whenever I felt her stirring I immediately woke up to see what her needs were, then went right back to sleep. It is a common misconception that co-sleeping is a dangerous practice, but the truth is, for healthy parents who do not smoke, use sedatives, drugs, or certain other medications, and who are not hard to waken, co-sleeping is a natural and safe practice that benefits both the baby and breastfeeding mothers! Probably one of the most interesting and important benefits of co-sleeping is that it greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. This is thought to be so because there is a synchronicity involved in mothers and their babies when sleeping beside one another. Babies tend to naturally sleep on their backs or sides moreso than their stomachs, which has been one theorized component of SIDS cases. In addition, the breath, arousability, and waking patterns of mother and baby seem to sync up while co-sleeping. If the theory that SIDS is a disorder in which a baby is difficult to waken when something causes breathing to cease, then it makes perfect sense that the stimulation of mother's breath, along with increased arousability and proper sleep positioning could drastically reduce the chances of SIDS death. Babies who co-sleep feel safe and comforted day and night since they are so close to their parents, which offers a sense of security that often results in less dependency during the day. Knowing that your baby is safe and restful beside you can help you and/or your partner relax and get a much higher quality of rest. While discussing the benefits of co-sleeping are important, there is also the question of how to co-sleep. Many parents are comfortable keeping their babies in bed beside them, but some parents may be too nervous or dislike the idea of baby being right there in the same bed. In this instance, something like the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper (link: https://www.armsreach.com/shop) may be a more comfortable solution. This is basically a crib with a lowering side that attaches directly to your mattress. This allows you to have your baby at "arm's reach," but without baby being directly in your bed. If you want baby in bed with you, but are nervous about him/her falling off of the bed, products like the Tres Tria Natural Co Sleeper Pillow (link: http://www.babyecotrends.com/item/Tres_Tria_Natural_Co_Sleeper_Pillow/1587) can help put your mind at ease by acting as a "bumper" to prevent accidents from happening. A more economical approach could be to use a First Years Secure Sleeper, which fits right into bed with you, but prevents accidental rolling. (link: http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Years-Secure-Sleeper/dp/B00012CHFI) To understand the science behind co-sleeping's effects on babies and their caregivers, Dr. Sears has written an intelligent and highly-informative article that I would encourage anyone who is considering co-sleeping to read. This article can be found via the following link: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/sleep-problems/co-sleeping-yes-no-sometimes Co-sleeping isn't for everyone, and you have to trust your intuition when making the decision as to whether or not it is the right choice for you and your baby, but hopefully this information, and the information found on Dr. Sears' website can help you make the most knowledgable decision. Do you co-sleep? What does co-sleeping look like for you and your baby? ~ Lindsay Lewis