Have you seen the stunning photos flooding social media under #normalizebreastfeeding? They are all beautiful and unique. They are called a tree of life "brelfie" - breastfeeding selfie with a tree of life going from the mom (breast milk) to the baby (helps baby grow and blossom). :) Quite clever if you ask me! They show a different point of view, story, journey and family. I can't get enough! Did you know breastmilk contains over 700 bacteria species?? So cool! (To learn more, visit the livescience article).
Do you know how the tree of life brelfies all started? A mom and photographer named Cassandra. She lives in California. Cassandra says: “I currently am nursing my 13 month old daughter and I plan on allowing her to naturally wean. After celebrating my 12 month anniversary of nursing my daughter, I wanted to commemorate with a nursing photo that I could hang on the wall. I had recently learned about how breast milk was considered a living organism and that having fascinated me, I chose to try and incorporate that into our photo. We had a rough beginning when we started nursing so this was something that was truly special to me. I came up with the idea to use Photoshop and create a flower, with the vines going from my breast to her brain. A metaphor for her having “blossomed” into this beautiful child. While nursing her one day, I took a photo of her on my cell phone and decided to play around with it, kinda work out the idea I had come up. I looked into photo editing apps that were similar to Photoshop so I could draft my idea and found the Picsart app. I was able to add a flower to the photo, but didn’t really like the way it looked. That is when I decided to try a tree instead. It gave it a kind of artsy look through the app’s many filters they offer and I just fell in love with it. I had originally intended to take a professional photo with my camera and do this all on the computer, but I really loved what I had created."
She had never shared a photo of herself breastfeeding (which I am sure most of us can relate to), but decided to share the beautiful image she created to a breastfeeding support group. Overnight she had women sharing her picture, creating their own and asking her to edit their pictures into beautiful works of art. So far she has edited over 800 images! What a kind and beautiful soul! To share with us her ideas, talents, and support.
Cassandra goes on to say: I don’t want to just normalize breastfeeding, I want to naturalize it. I feel like the word normalize means that it wasn’t normal to begin with. I feel that if we can naturalize it, women will feel more comfortable to nurse in public without judgement and get support when needed. I recently read a statistic online that by 6 months of age, only 18% of babies are still breastfed. I can’t help but wonder if breastfeeding had been more naturalized in society, these women would have nursed longer (assuming they did not stop for medical reasons of course). Naturalizing breastfeeding is crucial. Breastfeeding is natural and beneficial and absolutely beautiful. No one should ever be embarrassed by it" Preach it, sister!
As a person who struggled for months to breastfeed my daughter, and then was forced to wean at 9/10 months because I was pregnant again and my body stopped producing milk, I cherish those memories of my time breastfeeding. Even through the stuggle, the tears, the nipple shields and the sleepless nights. :) I breastfed in public and was not embarassed, at least I did not set out to be. I am a femininist, I am strong, I am independent, I am not ashamed of my body! And yet...the first couple of times I breastfed in public, I covered up with a blanket, I found the seat most away from everyone else, I felt myself getting embarassed and felt my cheeks get hot! Me?! I was shocked at the feelings that over took me without my permission. But I kept on, I finally got rid of the blanket, because I mean really! I could not breastfeed with that thing, I felt like I flashed more breast and skin trying to keep covered than I did when I just breastfed naturally. (Not to say that there is anything wrong with using a cover or blanket. If you are more comfortable that way, use it! Just please use it because it makes you more comfortable, not because it might make the stranger near you more comfortable.) The more I breastfed in public the more comfortable I became with myself, my body and my baby. I was just feeding my baby after all. I did not have one person say negative comments to me. It was not until later that I learned my husband would intimidate everyone around us who would even dare to look at me in a negative way, whenever I breastfed. :D (What a supportive partner!).
If you have had someone say a negative comment to you, I am sorry! We've all had negative comments of one kind or another; about our breastfeeding, our weight gain during pregnancy (are you sure you aren't pregnant with twins?!), the spacing of our children ("girl, get some cable, it is cheaper!"), how we raise our children ("you're doing what with vaccines?!") or even what our children look like ("he must look like his father.." "do you think he will lighten up at all?" "who does she look like?"). Sheesh people, keep it shut! :) What happened to the old antage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" Have we raised generations who did not grow up watching Bambi? Bambi is filled with life lessons! :)
May I encourage you to stand up for you! For your baby! For your rights, and your respect! However you choose to feed your child(ren), my hat is off to you! #fedisbest Thank you for taking care of your child, for loving and caring for your children. Thank you for standing up in the face of adversity and negativity. Thank you for focusing on the good. Because, you know what? The good is normal! If you think about it, how often do bad things happen to you? Is it that often, or do we just notice them and become focused on them because they aren't the normal? I know some days it feels all bad...I've been there and will be there again, but a child to love is always good. Look into their eyes on your bad days. See their pupils dialted (did you know your pupils dilate when you look/see something/someone you love?? even a baby's pupils will dilate <3). Believe in them! Believe in love!
Let us all work together to #naturalizebreastfeeding and #normalizebreastfeeding and all types of feeding and to, most important of all, support one another! We can relate. We can understand and empathize with one another. Reach out this week to a mom friend, or a new mom you don't know yet. Share your beautiful picture to open the dialogue and ask to see her beautiful picture. Work to encourage. #breastmilkfromabottle #formula #breastmilkthroughatube #breastfeeding #fedisbest.
How to Create Your Own #TreeOfLife Edit
Share your #brelfie in the comments!!! I would love to see them all!!!
Awesome Normalize Breastfeeding Campaing Blog
1. The placenta is the body's only disposable organ
The placenta is made from the same cells that make the baby - sperm and egg. Some cells differentiate into the baby and others go on to form the placenta. The placenta does its job supporting and nourishing the baby and when it is no longer needed, it is expelled, making it the body's only disposable organ.
2. The Montgomery glands in the areola produce a lubricant that smells like amniotic fluid
Those tiny bumps that people see on their areolas are called Montgomery glands and their purpose is to produce a natural lubricant that protects the nipple and areola. That specialized lubricant smells just like amniotic fluid, which is what the baby has been smelling/tasting for the entire pregnancy. The baby is attracted to the smell of "home" and this helps the baby to navigate to the breast for nourishment after birth.
3. The baby recognizes voices while in utero
The baby becomes acquainted with the voice of the pregnant parent as well as other voices that it is frequently exposed to. If the partner sings to the baby on a regular basis, the baby will soon recognize that distinct voice and song. After birth, the partner can repeat the song they have been singing to the baby in utero and this familiar refrain will be recognized by the baby and help calm and soothe the baby, as well as lower the baby's stress levels.
4. The baby starts labor
Even today, it is still not known exactly how a pregnant person's body starts labor or when it will happen, but recent research has revealed that there are two proteins in the fetus' lungs that are produced when the lungs are mature. These proteins seem to produce an inflammatory response in the uterus that begins the labor process.
5. The full term pregnant uterus is the strongest muscle in the human body
A non-pregnant uterus is the size and shape of a pear. But at full term, that uterus has grown to the size and shape of a watermelon in order to accommodate the mature fetus. At this point, it is the strongest muscle in the human body. It takes a lot of work to dilate the cervix and get that baby out through the pelvis. During the pushing stage of labor, the uterus does about 80% of the work, with the laboring person adding that extra "umph." If a woman was unconscious, and in labor, their uterus would still be able to push that baby out without any additional pushing effort from the pregnant woman.
6. Amniotic fluid and breast milk change in taste based on what the pregnant woman is eating.
The baby is tasting and swallowing amniotic fluid in utero, and drinking breast milk for nourishment after they are born. The mom's diet influences the "flavor" and taste of both of these liquids. A varied and interesting diet during pregnancy means the amniotic fluid has a variety of different tastes, and the same goes for breast milk after birth. Eat "around the world" using a variety of foods and seasonings and your baby enjoys the results too.
7. A mother's chest can heat up or cool down depending on the needs of the baby
After birth, when the newborn is placed on the mother's chest skin to skin, the mother's chest area has the ability to flush and heat up or even cool down based on feedback from the newborn's skin and body temperature. This allows the newborn to adapt to maintaining their body temperature with extra help from the mother at the start. Another great reason to have that uninterrupted skin to skin immediately after birth.
8. A 35 week baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks
The last weeks of pregnancy put the finishing touches on the baby and let it enter the world ready for life on the outside. There is an amazing amount of brain growth that occurs in the last few weeks. The maturing fetus adds another one-third of it's brain weight in those last few weeks, which is why is one of many reasons why it is so important to prevent preterm birth.
9. Squatting opens the pregnant woman's pelvic outlet 28%
Changing positions during labor and pushing is very important. Doing so allows the baby to move down through the pelvis. When a laboring person squats, they are able to increase the diameter of their pelvic outlet by 28%, which is approximately one to two centimeters.
10. The capacity of a newborn's belly is the size of marble
When babies are born they are usually ready to eat within a very short while. Colostrum, baby's first food, is at the ready and provides everything that the baby needs for nourishment and hydration. Newborns need to eat frequently because their bellies are very tiny. A just born baby's stomach capacity is about five ml, (one teaspoon) which is approximately the size of a marble.
I get excited about placentas. I can't help it! They are amazing, cool, life giving and an organ. A woman's body grows a child and a placenta in 8-9 months! The placenta is what protects, nourishes, and supplies the baby. While I don't expect most people to get as excited as I do about placentas, I thought I would share some really cool facts to at least get you interested.
-The placenta is also called "tree of life" due to the fact that is literally gives life to the fetus/baby (via blood, nutrients, oxygen, etc) and because of how it looks. If you look at the picture above, the umbilical cord is the trunk of the tree and all the veins are the branches.
-Every minute about 20% of the mother's blood supply flows through the placenta. Every minute!
-The placenta grows 32 miles of capillaries (any of the fine branching blood vessels that form a network between the arterioles and venules).
-Spread out, the tissue formed to exchange oxygen and nutrients would cover 120 to 150 square feet.
-The mother's blood and the baby's blood never mix! Thanks to the placenta.
-Trophoblasts cells (from the outer layer of the embryo) create the placenta and pave the way for the placenta to gain blood supply. They are very invasive and will even "pave" themselves over the pathways of the mother in order to create a pathway for the placenta.
-The placenta plays the role of many organs while supporting the baby/fetus in the uterus, including liver, kidney, endocrine system and the respiratory system.
-The placenta has also been called the "chronicle of intrauterine life" (by scientists) because it tells a story of what has gone on in the life of the fetus/baby during development (especially if something goes wrong).
-The placenta acts as a gland - secreting numerous hormones that are essential for baby's growth, labor, and to establish breastfeeding. Some of the hormones include: estrogen (responsible for increasing blood flow and stimulating uterine growth), progesterone (helps to maintain the uterine lining), relaxin (responsible for causing the mother's joints and muscles to relax and stretch in preparation for labor/birth), and the Human Placental Lactogen (responsible for increasing mother's metabolism).
-The placenta has cells from both the Mom and the Dad (from the sperm).
-The placenta provides some immunity and infection protection for the fetus/baby.
- The placenta does not contain any nerve cells, so it cannot be under the direct control of the brain or spinal cord. The placenta develops and functions without being connected to your brain — how amazing!
-The placenta is the only disposable organ. It comes out when it has done it's job (and what a fine job it does, too!)
Grady, Denise. "The Mysterious Tree of a Newborn's Life: The Push to Understand the Placenta." The New York Times [New York]. 14 July 2014 The New York Times Web. 28 May 2016
Pyanov, Maria. "What is a Placenta? 10 Amazing Placenta Facts" BellyBelly 25 January 2015. Web. 28 May 2016.
There has been a lot of media coverage and panic over the Zika virus. Kaiser Permanente even called their pregnant mamas in California and played a prerecorded message about the Zika virus, A lot of the information was from the media and not really helpful. Where do you turn when there is so much panic about this seemingly new virus? Are you parents, friends, or family calling you and freaking out? Have you cancelled any and all trips?
I have some good news. The Zika virus has been around for 70 years and has never thought to be a public health risk. Most people who contract the Zika virus have no symptoms, or think they have a mild case of the flu. Over the decades it has infected tens of thousands of people without any cases of microcephaly (babies born with abnormally small heads and corresponding learning and developmental problems) being reported.
Rebekah Wheeler, RN, CNM, MPH puts together a great article on the Zika Virus combining all the science and facts that we know this far. In it, she explains why there is a sudden link between Zika and microcephaly.
"There was a Zika outbreak in Brazil in 2015, with between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Brazilians getting the virus (FRAMEWORK, S. R. 2016). At the same time, local health officials in northern Brazil noticed that there was a sharp increase in rates of microcephaly. Brazil usually sees about 150 cases of microcephaly each year, but in 2015 that number was above 3,000, a massive increase (FRAMEWORK, S. R. 2016). Researchers began to suspect, due to the fact that the Zika outbreak happened at the same time as the increase in microcephaly cases, that perhaps contracting Zika during pregnancy might be the cause of microcephaly in the fetus. What they don’t know, and may never know, is how many of the babies with microcephaly were exposed to Zika in utero. This may never be possible to measure, as Zika does not stay in the bloodstream for more than about 12 weeks (FRAMEWORK, S. R. 2016).
Regarding the suspected link between Zika infection and microcephaly, it is very important to know that this is a suspected link, not a proven one. In fact, experts from the World Health Organization are being very careful to say that the link between Zika virus and microcephaly is a suspected one, but has not been confirmed in any scientific study. Microcephaly has historically been known to have multiple non-Zika causes, including Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders, exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking in pregnancy, maternal malnutrition and some severe maternal infections. Further cause for caution in assuming a causative link comes from Colombia, where they have had more than 3,000 cases of Zika but no increase in microcephaly rates."
We do not know that Zika causes microcephaly. There have not been conclusive studies or evidence found that actually prove that Zika causes microcephaly. Studies are being done by the CDC. Scientists are working to discover the link, if any, between the two. As of right now, pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should be careful, but there is no need to stay inside and cancel all travel plans.
Reasonable Steps to Avoid Zika
(from Rebekah Wheeler, RN, CNM, MPH)
Rebecca Wheeler goes on to say in Part 2 that she does not think it likely that the Zika Virus and microcephaly will be found to be linked. She says "there are factors about Zika that make it unlikely to be a frequent risk, and that also point to a very small likelihood of it causing microcephaly in most cases:
I hope this has helped to put your mind at ease. While pregnant women have to be careful about and avoid so many things, I do not think the Zika Virus should not be at the top of the list, especially for women in the US.
To read the full articles by Rebekah Wheeler, RN, CNM, MPH, visit Science & Sensibility - Part 1 and Part 2.
It is hard to know just what your new baby is saying. New babies do communicate through facial features, actions and crying. Usually, and with a little practice, you can figure out what your baby needs before your baby is crying hysterically. Below is a helpful info-graphic to help you learn the ropes of just what your baby is trying to say! :) Enjoy!
More studies are showing that women should be able to eat during labor. This makes logical sense and I'm glad to see the science is catching up (after all, you need energy for all the hard work you are doing). Check out the newest study here. Below is a list of good, & healthy snacks to bring for your labor/birth. You will want protein and energy. Coconut water, if you like it, is a great way to keep hydrated. Protein bars and applesauce are also great ideas, and honey sticks. While you are packing for yourself, you will also want to put in some easy and protein filled snacks for your partner. I hope these ideas help. Enjoy!
This is a fun list of things that usually go along with pregnancy. Feel free to comment with some of your own "you know you're pregnant when..." times.
You Know You're Pregnant When...
A great article by Cristen Pascucci:
“If you’re reading this, it’s because I care about you, and I want you to rock your birth. I believe you deserve the best. If “rocking your birth” sounds like something other people do, and you just want to “get through it” with a healthy baby--girl, raise your expectations…”
-Read the rest of the article here!
A very encouraging article by Ashlee Gad:
“You just had a baby.
I know your jeans don’t fit. It sucks. I know you tried on 17 pairs at Nordstrom Rack last week and almost cried in the dressing room. I know you went to Gap after that and tried on 14 other pairs and almost cried in thatdressing room. I know the only thing you bought that day was a pair of sweatpants and a loose white T-shirt. It’s OK.You just had a baby…”
–Read the rest of the article here!
A tear-jerker article by Jessica Dimas:
“You won’t remember the way I stood in the bathroom late that night in labor with you, fearfully and excitedly gazing up at the moon, knowing I was going to bring you into the world soon and whispering to you, “We can do this.”
You won’t remember the way you looked at me right after you were born, or the way I pulled you up next to my heart and marveled “Hi, baby” in your ear…”
-Read the rest of the article here!
A honest and touching look at being needed by Megan Morton:
“I have to stop dreaming of “one day” when things will be easier. Because the truth is, it may get easier, but it will never be better than today. Today, when I am covered in toddler snot and spit-up. Today, when I savor those chubby little arms around my neck. Today is perfect. “One day” I will get pedicures and showers alone. “One day” I will get myself back. But, today I give myself away, and I am tired and dirty and loved SO much, and I gotta go. Somebody needs me…”
-Read the rest of the article here!
An article on the “warnings” of pregnancy and having a child by Jenny Studenroth Gerson:
“They should’ve warned me that becoming a mommy would absolutely change every single thing, but that I would never want to go back and visit the “old” me, not even for a second. They should’ve warned me that my life was about to become so rich and beautiful and fulfilling, that I’d look back on what it was before and think, “Poor me. I didn’t know her yet…”
-Read the rest of the article here!
Doula Rachel has put together a blog of resources, info-graphics, and articles, with an occasional self-published blog. Enjoy!