Archive of ‘BABY’ category

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Birth by Heart!


Here’s to a happy, healthy and over-flowing-with-blessings 2016!

Expectations and Struggle

Can we just take a minute to talk about expectations?

Image by Ketzirah Lesser & Art Drauglis @ Flickr click for source.

Image by Ketzirah Lesser & Art Drauglis @ Flickr click for source.

One of the most difficult parts of my “job” is watching new families struggle and kick against the goads of life with a newborn.  A little understanding and preparation for the realities of this season can make the transient challenges much sweeter.  It seems in our culture, that we have, for the most part, failed to prepare new parents for what they can expect.  Instead of a realistic picture of the early months, they’ve been fed a bunch of arbitrary information on how life “should,” or “could” look.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom:

  • Your new baby will want to be in your arms most of the time.  This is their safe place.  A newborn recognizes its mother’s smell and voice (father’s voice too!).  Think of where this tiny human has been for its entire existence: a dark environment, being gently rocked and swayed as his/her mother goes about her daily life.  Hunger, thirst, pain and cold are entirely new sensations.  Your baby craves you and you are her comfort.  Despite what Grandma may have been told when she had her own babies, an infant cannot be spoiled by being held and carried a lot.  This period is uniquely designed for bonding (NOT discipline, for which the toddler years will provide plenty of opportunity).  Going with the flow, instead of against it, is going to make everyone’s life easier and happier.
  • Babies never seem to follow a pattern for very long.  Especially in the beginning, schedules are more harmful than helpful (want low milk supply?…put baby on a schedule).   Even if your baby begins sleeping well, for long stretches and going down easily, you should not expect that this is how life is always going to be.  There are a number of reasons for “sleep regressions.”  Teething, growth spurts, illness, developmental milestones, etc. all play a role in upsetting your routine.  So say after me, “the only constant with babies is that nothing ever stays the same.”
  • When you are sleep deprived, sleep training might sound mighty appetizing.  Don’t do it until you have studied arguments for and against.  I’m not going to tell you what you should do, but I will tell you that there is almost no evidence for allowing a baby to scream until they shut down and there is plenty of evidence against this practice.  At the end of the day, you get to decide, but make your decision based on what your instincts tell you is right and not because of outside pressure.  It is entirely normal for a child to not sleep through the night until well after their second birthday.
  • Life never returns to normal.  You find a new normal, which might resemble life pre-baby, but will have some marked differences.  Recognize the early days as sacred and something you need to honor and respect.  The whole process of falling in love requires time to focus on just one another (I’m not saying you can’t love your baby if you aren’t alone together, but if your days are full and rushed, you are asking for emotional upsets in the first month).  For your own recovery and emotional adjustment (moms), you need to do as little as possible, outside of resting and baby care, for as long as possible.  Prepare for this and you will improve your chances of avoiding postpartum depression by leaps and bounds!

I’m going to stop there for now, because I don’t want to overwhelm you with information.  This isn’t meant to frighten anyone.  These early days are precious and so joyful, when you can let go of expectations and go with the natural ebb and flow of life with baby.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether new parents’ expectations are realistic, or not.



Letting It All Hang Out


Image adapted from original, by Chris Alban Hansen @ flickr. Click for source.

I was born and raised in South Africa.  I live in the USA now and I am very happy here, but there are a few things that I miss about the old country.  Not least of all, the freedom with which African mothers nurse their babies.  It’s not something you see here nearly as often.  That is, women breastfeeding uncovered, in public.

I was never successful in my breastfeeding efforts with my first born, so when my second baby came along and latched right on, I soaked up the experience.  She fed whenever she wanted, for as long as she wanted.  We were in South Africa at the time and making plans to return to the USA.  I had to get some paperwork done at a government office.  About 40 min. into our wait in line, my three month old was showing signs that she needed to eat.

I was still a little awkward and clumsy breastfeeding out and about, especially when I was sitting pressed against people on either side of me.  I fumbled with a blanket to cover myself and my baby and tried as best I could to keep everything in place.  My baby hated nursing with a cover and things were getting tricky.  An old African lady sitting next to me began scolding me in a mixture of broken English and Zulu, for covering my baby’s face.  She indicated with gestures, that the baby could not breathe.  I have never been so relieved for a scolding in my life.  I ditched the cover and no one batted an eyelid.

I wonder if I would have been afforded the same freedom here in the USA (I love you America, don’t take this personally!)

So, if you’re offended by a woman nursing without a tent over her and her baby, please indulge me –

Imagine, if you will, a situation where you have worked extremely hard to establish a breastfeeding relationship.  Sleepless nights, hours of patient latching and re-latching with a squalling infant.  You both get the hang of it eventually, but baby is still particular about how he nurses.  If you put a cover over his head, he’s going to pull off the breast and start wailing.  If you’re in public, this means that people are going to turn and look at you right at the moment when the blanket falls off your shoulder and your milk starts spouting across the room.

You feel that the only solution is to find a grimy bathroom to nurse in.  Standing up.  With the stroller, diaper bag and any shopping you’ve accumulated, all in the same space.  Baby likes to nurse for a good 20 minutes, so it’s not like you’re going to get comfortable and enjoy the experience.   Imagine, if you will, that you also have a toddler.  Toddlers by nature, like to run in the opposite direction from you, touch every surface they can reach, and open bathroom cubicle locks repeatedly.  They also make a lot of noise and ask a lot of questions while you are trying to get an angry, and by now, very hungry baby into position to nurse.

Does this sound like something you’d want to do – ever?  So put yourself in this new mother’s position.  If she ever wants to leave the house, she knows that at some point in any two hour period, she is going to have to go through the ordeal I just described.

Is it still offensive for you to just look away?  Are you surprised that mothers give up on breastfeeding so quickly and so often?  By simply averting our eyes, that same mother could sit and nurse in a comfortable and sanitary environment, causing no harm to anyone.

I am so grateful to have grown up seeing babies nurse everywhere and anywhere.  It’s such a non-event.

That old lady will never know what a difference her simple gesture made in my life.  This is not a call to all women to abandon nursing covered, but rather, a reminder of how our attitudes can impact other mothers.  We’ve all seen boobs.  Let’s encourage our new moms who already have enough to worry about and not place bigger burdens on them than they are able to carry!

Letter To You New Mama

-A woman, as long as she lives, willI am writing this because I was once where you are now and I would have wanted to hear what I’m about to say.  I don’t presume to have all the answers, but what I do have is a love for mothers and babies and a sense that birth itself is bigger than we know.

First of all, congratulations on creating a little human being, one who is going to come into this world in one way or another.  Whichever way baby arrives, he or she will be born and you will be a mother and will have created and given birth to a new life.  No one can minimize this, it is a huge deal and you are worthy of recognition!

Perhaps you already know how you plan to give birth, perhaps you have tried not to think about it and are hoping that someone else will make it happen.  Whatever your wishes are surrounding your birth, I would like to give you a little piece of advice (and I know that there is “advice” coming at you from all angles right now, so please just bear with me).  Choosing a care giver who makes you feel safe, respected and a part of this process, will probably be the most important step you will take in welcoming your baby into this world.   There is a quote that has proved itself to be true in almost every encounter I have had with mothers young and old:

A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.”  Anna Verwaal.

Choose someone to care for you who is going to make you feel like you matter!

Once that baby is in your arms, your world will never be the same again.  Everything you thought you knew about being a parent and having a newborn will melt away and you will learn how to be stretched to your limit in every way.  This is not something to fear – it will make you strong and perhaps help you to appreciate your own parents a little more.

The baby blues will come and go.  If they tend to come more than they go, speak to someone who knows about these things.   You are not alone and you don’t have to feel that way.

If you choose to breastfeed, you might face challenges, so don’t wait until the baby is born to build yourself a support network!  I can tell you from experience that searching for your local La Leche League’s contact info after three days of no sleep is not as easy as you might think!  If you have access to a lactation consultant, take advantage of this!!

If you have a partner, you might find that having a baby together will bring you closer than ever.  Often though, in the throes of sleep deprivation and the stress of a major life adjustment, the seeds of resentment are planted.  Work on your relationship even if it saps the last bit of energy you have.  Talk to each other, be honest, don’t throw darts.  Love is what brought you here, don’t forget that.

You are going to feel guilty for things that are beyond your control.  Realize what you are capable of changing and let the rest be.  Thank the nosey advice givers for their advice and then do whatever you were going to do anyway.  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

I am so excited for you, motherhood is more rewarding than I have words to describe, but there is one more thing I have to say before I go…Sleep when the baby sleeps!


The mother who learned the hard way.