Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breastfeeding and "Gassy Foods"

I had an email from someone who's been reading the blog and has some breastfeeding questions. I decided to answer it here since I am certain someone else has the same questions.

"I have a few questions about breastfeeding that you may be able to answer.

1) About how long after I eat something will it show in my baby if it were to give her a stomach ache?

2) Do you know of a list of common foods to avoid (other than the obvious gassy foods)?

3) Is it safe for me to take Gas X and would it help my daughter not get a stomachache if I used it?

4) I have an intolerance for milk products, not really an allergy. I just get gassy and a little upset stomach sometimes depending on what it is. Do you know of a substitute milk product that would not cause me trouble that I could drink and not give my daughter a stomachache?"

First of all, I don't have the answers to all these questions. I do, however, have a handful of tips and suggestions.

Food travels through breastmilk fairly quickly, usually within just a few hours. But if you are trying to figure out what might be upsetting the baby, think about what you have eaten over the last 12 hours. Here is a list of common foods that upset some babies, especially new babies:

cows milk and other dairy

All babies are different, remember. Something I've had to stay away from with 3 out of 4 babies was citrus. No orange juice, mainly. Also, I went through a phase of eating a lot of almonds shortly after my first baby was born. As soon as I realized what it was and took it out of my diet, my baby was fine. After about 6 months, most babies seem to be able to tolerate most foods.

I don't know that you taking Gas X would necessarily help the baby. I wouldn't think so. As far as a milk substitute, I have known women who swear that it's the milk they drink that causes the baby to be upset. Most women I know have either switched to soy or just didn't drink milk. Do a test run for a week or so and see if you notice any difference in the baby.

I have to share a funny story: When Daymon was 14 months old, I took a road trip with my friend, Alisa (the one I wanted to fail at her attempt at natural birth who proved me wrong!) and her 3 month old baby, Savanna. We visited all the grandparents, covering 4 states in 2 weeks. When we were in Santa Fe, NM, my hometown, the first night we ate out at a Northern New Mexican restaurant. You can't order anything in Santa Fe without being asked "red or green?" referring to your preference of chili. I was born and raised on chili and this was the absolute hottest chili I'd ever eaten in my life. (They said it was the end of the crop.) Alisa is from OK and certainly wasn't accustomed to food this hot, and baby Savanna about died from it! I've never heard a baby cry for so many days and nights. We are certain it was from the red chili!

Another side note, I used to eat a lot of garlic when Daymon was a baby (I worked at the Olive Garden as a server trainer) and I could smell it in the breastmilk and on his sweaty little head when he nursed. It always cracked us up.

Everyone has stories about what they could and could not eat. Babies are getting used to table food through the breastmilk. They will naturally like and dislike the way milk tastes depending on what you eat. That's ok. Exposing them to lots of different foods through breastmilk is good. You'll figure out if something actually hurts them, like I did with OJ and Alisa did with red chili!

Another thing I think worth mentioning is that all babies go through a period of being gassy. It may be something you ate, but it may not. Their little bodies are figuring things out. Unless they seem to really be in pain, just love them, perform a little belly massage on them, and let it pass. You'll find, as they grow, some children are just naturally more gassy than others!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Home Birth vs. Hospital Birth

One of my students had a wonderful homebirth today.

I know their doula, Hannah, that attended their birth and I spoke with her this morning. She was on such a "birth high." She actually works for an adoption agency attending births with the birth mothers. As you can imagine, nearly all these women want the drugs. Hannah really believes in natural birth though. She offered her services for free (I can only picture Adam Sandler in "Bedtime Stories" when I say "for free") to 3 couples in my current class, hoping to get more experience with natural birth.

What a great birth to be at! Hannah had a hard time explaining how different the homebirth felt in comparison to the medicated hospital births she has attended. It really is a spiritual experience to birth your baby in the privacy and intimacy of your own home. To welcome this new person into your family. Not to be separated. I truly wish all women trusted themselves to birth their babies in this way. You have no idea what you are missing unless you have attended or birthed your babies at home.

I have another couple right now wrestling with their insurance over this issue. They are halfway through my classes on DVD and have been asking their doctor a lot of questions, mainly about fetal monitoring and skin-to-skin contact with the baby after the birth. While his answers were actually decent, he said his hands were tied due to hospital policy.

It is a tough thing to change your birth plans at 33 weeks, but I am so proud of couples that understand the significance of that move. It is taking your healthcare into your own hands. Birth is a life experience, not a medical event. Midwives generally acknowledge this with sensitivity, but doctors/surgeons rarely do. Their focus is solely on getting the baby out, no matter what the method.

This couple is doing their best to get covered to see a midwife, preferably in an out-of-hospital birthing center, but I don't know if their insurance will cover that. (Another topic for another day.)

If you have experienced the differences in hospital birth and homebirth, please feel free to put your experience in words.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Needs of a Laboring Woman Are More Easily Achieved at Home

A woman is labor has specific needs. These include darkness, solitude, quiet, abdominal breathing, physical relaxation, the right to move around in different positions as she needs to, and support and encouragement from those around her. These are not in any particular order.

In "Orgasmic Birth", midwife Ina May Gaskin talked about how birth used to take place in a woman's bed, likely the same place the baby was conceived. When birth moved from the woman's bed to the hospital, everyone pretended that there was no sexual nature to birth. When a woman feels free to make laboring sounds, she sounds like she's having (great) sex. This makes people uncomfortable. The drugs used in childbirth take care of this "problem".

Some women are, what I call, silent birthers. Some are not. It really doesn't matter which category she falls into. What does matter is that women feel free to do whatever they need to during their labor and birth. Often, a woman who is vocal during labor is perceived as not handling labor well. This is not at all true. Deep, abdominal breathing and sounding it out as she exhales, is very beneficial for mom and baby. Baby is getting good oxygen and mom's vocal cords remain open and loose. It's very hard to tense up when she's breathing and sounding out her contractions in a low relaxed voice. I have a friend whose husband had kidney stones a few years ago. He found himself using some of the Bradley techniques they'd learned with the birth of one of their children. He said that he definitely learned that the low, controlled sounds were much more soothing and relaxing than the high-pitched sounds that created tension.

A woman no more wants to be watched in labor than she does when she's having sex. I'll return to a comment from Ina May (gotta love her!) that we have "shy sphincters". It's no wonder women are diagnosed with "failure to progress" so often. A woman really needs to be left alone to labor. It cannot be rushed. Adrenalin is the opposite hormone from what a woman needs to release in labor, which is oxytocin. If an animal is laboring, she will go off by herself, to her home where she feels safe and knows her surroundings well. If she suddenly feels threatened by a predator (in this case the doctor threatening a c-section), adrenalin kicks in and labor will stop. It will only resume once she feels safe again. In a hospital, this opportunity usually does not present itself again, as the baby was most likely surgically removed from its mother's body. Bottom line -- a woman needs to labor where she is comfortable and not rushed or watched.

Bright lights are not conducive to relaxation. Imagine if you dimmed the lights right now in your room. Wouldn't you automatically feel more relaxed and private? Bright hospital lights are often the first thing a new baby sees after its birth -- not very relaxing to the baby either.

A woman in labor is "in labor la-la land" when she doesn't have drugs in her body. She is listening to her body and focusing on controlled breathing, relaxing, imagining the baby coming down and her cervix opening up. When people are talking in the room, it is extremely distracting to most women. The fewer people in the room, often the better. But in the hospital, a woman has little or no control over who is in the room at her birth. At home, she has total control over this and will usually put a lot of thought into exactly who she would like to attend her birth. She is very comfortable with this group of people.

I have written quite a bit about EFM, or Electronic Fetal Monitoring, on this blog, but it must be mentioned here again. A woman must move around in labor. Not just for her labor to progress, but to help her baby out. When the uterus contracts, it tips forward. When a woman is laboring on her back in a hospital bed, it hurts. When you are chained to the bed by the EFM, you cannot move. This is bad for your labor and bad for your baby. This is not good medicine. It is a legal issue. End of story. When a woman labors and births at home, this is not a concern. Her midwife will monitor the baby at least once an hour, which evidence has proven to be adequate. A baby truly in distress will be picked up.

Birth is a natural process. When I say this, everyone agrees. But I think that there are very few people who believe in the natural process of birth and trust it. Women are missing out on this wonderful experience because they are afraid. They are not bonding with their babies as they should. They are not breastfeeding as often or as long as they should. What is wrong with us?

I hope this has been helpful to those who think that it is irresponsible to birth at home. When you understand the needs of a laboring woman, you can start to understand how the hospital is not set up to cater to these needs. If a woman wants to have a truly natural birth, free of interventions, the only place she can do that in America, is in her own home, in her own bed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moms Out Loud Article

I have a friend, Lori, who is doing advertising and writing for some local magazines and websites and she wanted to do a write up on me and my classes. I think there will be something else coming out in the month of May when they are talking a lot about babies.

Moms Out Loud is featuring me as the Mom of the Week and I wanted to post it up for all those who might be interested -- mostly close friends and family! Ha. Anyway, there's a cute picture of my family in the bluebonnets last spring. Enjoy!

The next post will be about why homebirth, physically and emotionally speaking, is the best place for the majority of women to birth their baby.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Some Hints to Avoid the "Drama" in the Hospital

AnonymousThe last post I wrote about dealt with choosing a home birth over a hospital birth. I got some great comments, but this one brought up a great question.

Anonymous said...
I check your blog a lot, and I have a question. I have one baby and much of the 'drama' happened to me. After reading your posts, it kind of "clicks" as to why certain things may have happened. I didn't have a C-section but almost had to. I am not one who loves drama, but I just didn't know. question. I plan on having more kids, and honestly, most likely in a hospital again. (don't hate me) What all can I do away with as far as normal procedure at the hospital. You mentioned vaginal exams in this post. Is that mandatory if birthing at a hospital? What are some things you would suggest that I request (or demand) at the hospital next time.
This was my response:

""Anonymous," I loved your comment/question. First of all, let me just tell you how pleased I am that you have picked up some of the reasons for the "drama" in your previous birth through my blog and will do things differently next time around. Been there, done that!

Second, I don't hate you (!!) for wanting to have your next baby in a hospital! If you are not comfortable birthing outside of a hospital, your labor and birth will be harder, not better or easier. Being comfortable with your birth place and attendants play into your "emotional relaxation." You need to do what feels right to you.

Based on what you said in your comment, I assume that you will most likely switch your birth attendant and/or hospital and will not be having medication with the next baby. I assume you had meds the first time around.

With those assumptions in place, I do have some suggestions. First off, in order to avoid as many routines in the hospital as possible, you really need to labor at home as much as possible. Think of birthing at the hospital, not laboring there. No induction, as that automatically puts you on that road of intervention and possible C-section.

You are choosing to birth in the hospital, so there are some routines that will be unavoidable. These include: initial vaginal exam, initial monitoring strip (usually 20 min.), blood pressure check, etc. Some of these are not such a big deal, but others are. If you are chained to a fetal monitor (EFM) the entire labor, you will not be able to help your baby out with the use of gravity and movement. These are essential to labor. Intermittent monitoring is worth fighting for.

I don't know where you live, and all hospitals have different policies, so it's important that you find out their monitoring policy. This is a legal issue, not a medical one. In fact, medically, you are better off to have intermittent monitoring, usually once an hour through a couple of contractions and between them as well. A baby who is truly in distress will be picked up. (The fact that you will not be induced or have drugs in your system has greatly improved your chances that your baby will not be in distress.) EFM has a high false-positive rate and has contributed heavily to our outrageous C-section rate in this country. You will find that hospitals that do not require continuous monitoring have a lower C-section rate. This is often a hospital policy, but it's possible that your doctor or midwife will sign that off in your chart that intermittent monitoring will be fine for you because you have no drugs in your system. If you have drugs, of course, you actually do need to be monitored because of the dangers to the baby.

Another policy to avoid is the routine vaginal exam. The number two reason (followed only by a repeat C-section as #1 reason) for a C-section in this country is "failure to progress." I like to call it, "failed to progress on our time schedule." If a woman is left alone, without the pressure of performing, feeling comfortable with the people attending her birth, supporting her, she will give birth in her own time. The hospital is very unlikely to let you hang out laboring for longer than 24 hours. A lot of the time, we think of this as an issue of the time limits enforced for a broken bag of waters (another topic for another day), but I see this all the time. Insurance is also an issue here. They don't want you laboring, taking up space, for 40 hours. If you are not having vaginal exams (which really don't mean a darn thing), they can't tell you that you are not dilating. Again, you need to know the hospital's policy and also your doctor's. If you both come to an agreement that is acceptable to you, make sure it's in your chart. Better yet, labor at home and be dilated to a 7 by the time you get to the hospital! This will solve a lot of problems.

"Middle Aged Mama" had recommended a doula. I would tend to agree. Recently, I had a student who was at a hospital that had some crazy policies; no walking after your water has broken, continuous monitoring, and vaginal exams every 2 hours. What labor can progress under those circumstances?! No wonder North Texas has a 50% C-section rate! Their doula got them to agree to intermittent monitoring, being out of bed walking the halls even though her water had broken, and vaginal exams every 4 hours (still too excessive in my book), but great improvement. It was a long labor and without their doula advocating for them, I am almost certain this woman would have had a C-section.

As far as "demanding" your wishes, I feel like that is never a good idea. It is crucial that you do the footwork early in the pregnancy, interviewing and touring the hospitals in your area. I liked the advice to talk with other women who have birthed there recently. A piece of advice, however, be sure that they had the kind of birth that you want. If they loved their doctor and hospital but had an induction, epidural, and possibly a c-section, I'd suggest looking elsewhere!

Be prepared (I'd love to see you in my class -- DFW area -- or take my class online!). Be polite. No one wants to be accommodating to a rude, bossy woman, or father, for that matter! Kindness and knowledge will get you closer to the birth you desire.

Know your options. Change providers or hospitals if you have to. You will only give birth to this next baby one time. You can do it. It's YOUR birth."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Why Would You Choose a Homebirth?"

I have a friend I went to college with that I have recently reconnected with through Facebook. He and his wife are pregnant with their 3rd baby. I told him about our last two babies being born at home and I just wanted to share some of our dialogue:

"Let me ask you - and this is for my education only - but if you could have your babies at a hospital, with all the necessary staff and equipment standing by should anything bad happen, why wouldn't you? Seriously, just curious."

I wrote back:

"Good question. After teaching for almost 6 years and reading dozens of books on childbirth, I believe that what makes birth dangerous is all the interventions and drugs. When you know how your body works, along with the baby, in labor and birth, even a single intervention can interfere with that delicate process. I am also convinced that what makes birth "dangerous" is all the media and junk that we believe about it. ER has really done a number on our perceptions! Birth is a normal, healthy process that a woman doesn't need to be "delivered" or rescued from. We had midwives attend 3 out of 4 of our births, and they do have "necessary equipment" on hand. I just don't believe that birth is an emergency waiting to happen.

You and your wife should rent (Netflix) "The Business of Being Born" before you have this baby. You will find it fascinating. There have been lots of birth movies released this last year, but I think this is still my favorite one. Enjoy!"

I have found something interesting over the years: Women love to share their (mostly) horrific birth stories with other women, usually at those wonderful baby showers. Almost like they are trying to out do one another! About 3 years ago, I was at a dinner with several women, none of which I knew very well. One was pregnant and was commenting, "Why is it that everyone wants to tell you their worst birth story when you are pregnant?!" She was laughing about it and I told her that I could tell her story after story of wonderful birth stories, but they don't involve medication and intervention. The entire table got quiet. Not because they were dying to hear these moving stories, but because of the awkwardness. It was one of those "baby shower" moments for me.

Let's face it: We love the drama. Normal, unmedicated birth lacks drama. It's a lot of things, but "dramatic" typically isn't one of them. I've probably told hundreds of people over the years that I have my babies at home. I have found something so fascinating about that: They don't ask for details. Wouldn't you think that people would ask, "Wow, what was that like?" They don't.

People want to think that they need the hospital and all the "necessary equipment." It validates their birth choices. Plus, they just spent a lot of money on this birth in the hospital. They need to believe that all the interventions were necessary in order for their baby to be born. It's hard to accept that it would have just happened naturally without all the "professionals" helping to remove the baby from it's mother's body. I spent $2500 on both of our homebirths. (Yes, that includes pre-natal, birth, and postpartum.)

I have been called irresponsible a time or two. When you give birth in a hospital, choices are made for you. Your opinion is often not even asked for. (Ex: Do you know why your baby was given the eye drops? Probably not, it was just done.) When you give birth at home, you are making decisions about every thing that happens there, even what to do with the placenta. You have to be educated. I had to accept much more responsibility in my homebirths than my hospital births.

I have also been told on occasion, things like, "My baby would have died if I would have had him at home" or "I would have died if I had tried that." Again, however, as I've stated before, most of the time, the reason for those complications, usually trace back to the interventions or the drugs. Their births likely were safe until they started intervening with the natural process. That is what makes birth dangerous.

I absolutely believe that home is more safe than a hospital to birth your baby. The hospital staff just cannot seem to leave things alone. Even if you are not having drugs, you are having vaginal exams, (usually) excessive fetal monitoring, often an IV, and ultimately you have a bunch of clock watchers. This leads to problems, such as the use of forceps or vacuum extraction of the baby or a C-section.

It is important to note that in order to give birth at home, you must meet certain "criteria" and be low risk, as more than 90% of women are. There are so many competent, compassionate, wonderful midwives out there. Interview them. Find out how wonderful your birth can be. For the umpteenth time: Trust your body. It grew the baby, it will birth the baby. As one of our midwives said, "Birth is 90% in your head and 10% what happens to you." I believe this.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twins born via VBAC!

I have to share some wonderful news about a friend/former student that just gave birth to twins. Her first birth was a C-section, followed by a VBAC with an epidural. By the time she took my Bradley class, she was on baby number 3. She gave birth, unmedicated, to a baby weighing in at 10 pounds. (The hospital nurses told her she wouldn't be able to make enough milk to feed a baby that big. She took her baby, AMA, out of the hospital because they were insisting on feeding the baby formula. She knew that her body would be able to feed her baby. And so it did!)

She went on to have another unmedicated VBAC. And then she found out she was pregnant with twins! She had a fight on her hands to give birth to her babies, especially since she'd had a previous C-section. Nevermind that she'd had 3 VBACs since then. But, really, how often do we hear of women giving birth to twins vaginally? Never. They just schedule a C-section.

There are a couple of issues that play a role here: positioning of the babies -- particularly baby A (preferably head down), and the medical staff wanting the mom to have medication in her system in case she "needs" a C-section. I am so proud of this mom for sticking to her guns. What a wonderful example she is to this hospital staff. Next time, maybe, they'll think twice about scheduling an unnecessary C-section. Look at the size of those babies! She must have eaten great protein! Congratulations Rebekah. Isn't it amazing what we can do when we set our mind to it and don't let others make decisions for us?

"I had my twins! Andrew was born VBAC at 6lbs 13oz 21inches long and Ammon was born
at 6lbs 15 oz at 20 in long. It was a struggle with my medical staff to get them here VBACbut I made my wishes known and miraculously there were no complications. I will email
the story later, the twins are hungry. (This makes 4 children birthed

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What Would You Do?

A friend of mine watches a baby that is 9 months old and only weighs 13 pounds. The baby has not gained any weight in 3 months. She will not take a bottle, no matter what is in it. She eats very little solid food. My friend is nursing her 13 month old, so she has plenty of milk. When my friend rocks the baby, she turns to nurse and she is certain that the baby would breastfeed from her. My friend has no problem with nursing this baby, but the mother is all weirded-out about that. And yet, she keeps working, even though her baby will not eat anything when she is away from her. I have my opinions -- no surprise there. But I'm just curious, what would you do?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Orgasmic Birth on 20/20 Tonight

I just wanted to let anyone who checks my blog today know that the segment on Orgasmic Birth will FINALLY be shown on 20/20 tonight, January 2. I hope it is good. The movie is fantastic, if you have not seen it yet. Visit for more info on the movie.

If you miss it, you can watch the clips online at