How to really help families


Thursday, September 10, 2015

I have become very passionate about this lately and am very excited to share my thoughts and research with you! There has been lots of buzz lately about how to support families and how to support children especially. Many look to schools and public programs that help families in myriads of ways. But I am of the opinion that to truly support new families and children, we must start in the home. Of course we know conscientious parenting and stable home environments have better outcomes. But I think we need to back up just a tad. First of all, parents need to be IN the home to make a difference. And that brings me to family leave. And not the crappy unpaid leave most Americans deal with. I'm talking about solid, paid family leave.

Now I'm not a policy expert. I have no idea how long paid family leave should be. I just know American families deserve better. New mothers deserve better. Newborns deserve better. Fathers deserve better. Sick children deserve better.

Thanks (insert sarcasm) to the Family and Medical Leave Act, American workers get 12 weeks of unpaid leave to use after the birth of a child or to help a sick family member. Do you know anyone in their childbearing years that could afford to not receive an income for 1 month, let alone 3?

I've come to think about this topic more and more because of my experience with new moms at WIC. It's devastating to these new moms to have to return to work 1 or 2 weeks after birth because they have no other alternative. So I help her learn how to use a breast pump and send her out into the world. I feel terrible after these appointments because I know she is being cheated. Cheated out of a beautiful bonding experience with her newborn. Cheated out of a healthy recovery.

Our society is well-versed on the superiority of breastmilk. We know it's the best start for babies. But how do we support women in their breastfeeding relationship? We could help mom stay home with her new baby, help her learn how to breastfeed, let her recover without interruptions, ease her into this new and frightening phase of life. But what do we actually do? We give her a free breast pump. We tell her to get back to work (and don't ask for any help from the government!) We tell her to leave her precious new baby with someone else. We tell her to hook herself up to a machine. We tell her to sit still so she doesn't bleed on the office chairs.

Does that sound like supporting families to you? Does that sound like supporting children to you?

Recently, Netflix grabbed headlines because it announced its unlimited paid family leave policy. I'm happy that it got some attention and got some people talking. But it doesn't apply to all of their workers. The DVD side of the company does not get this benefit and neither do its part-time workers, so yet again, the poor are at a disadvantage. Yet again, a poor new mother is forced to go back work too early while her newborn is taken care of by someone else. Yet again, a poor new mother cannot get the hang of breastfeeding.

Some people like to complain that countries like Canada who have very generous paid leave laws (~1 year of paid leave) are too generous. But what you probably didn't know is that extensions of up to 50 weeks in paid leave is correlated with a 20% drop in infant deaths. Want to keep children alive? Give their parents paid leave:

"Research shows that paid leave can also be a matter of life and death for children. By charting the correlation between death rates and paid leave in 16 European countries, Christopher Ruhm, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia, found that a 50-week extension in paid leave was associated with a 20 percent dip in infant deaths. (The biggest drop was in deaths of babies between 1 month and 1 year old, though mortality of children between 1 and 5 years also decreased as paid leave went up.)" (source)

How did we become a society where what happens at the office completely trumps what is happening with your family? It disgusts me. How many grandpas and grandmas have told you if they could go back, they would choose work over family? And yet, business leaders across America continue to enforce the idea that work is life. When everyone truly knows in their hearts that family and relationships and hobbies and living is life. Anne Weisberg writes in the NYTimes, "we need to reimagine leadership so that the ideal workers are not the ones who stay at work the latest, but the ones who get all their work done and leave at a reasonable hour; they are not the ones who get on a plane on a moment’s notice, even with a nanny in tow, but the ones who figure out how to conduct the meeting without having to travel."

Most parents simply do not have the economic situation to stay home with their new babies like they envision. By putting solid paid family leave policies into place and changing the workplace culture to encourage parents to take the full leave, we will be truly supporting children and families.

What has been your experience with family leave after having a baby? How can we do better? How would your life be improved if we had a more generous paid family leave policy?

More reading:
Big Leaps for Parental Leave, if Workers Actually Take It.
How do you make sure generous paid leave doesn't backfire on women? Focus on men.
This is what it looks like when men are allowed paid leave.
Why some moms go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth.
Why is this going nowhere?

Best of the birth world this week!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Yall! I have so many ideas and not enough time! But I feel the need to simplify a little. Maybe a few days away will do the trick. Or throwing away my phone. Or both. While I work through these thoughts, enjoy some birth and breastfeeding links...

A dad's opinion on their experience with a doula. I love this:
"Do you know the quickest way to remove a hospital gown from a woman in the middle of an intense contraction? Can you coach her through the hardcore transition phase and hours of exhausting pushing? Do you have any clue what occiput posterior position is and how problematic it can be for the mother? When blood comes — and there will be blood — will you have any idea how much is normal scary and how much is legit terrifying? No. Because you’re not a doula."

Cervical dilation is unpredictable. So take a step back, cool down from all the vaginal checks and let the woman's body do her thing. There is no need (in a normal, healthy) labor to check the clock in relation to mom's cervical dilation.

Maybe I should change this blog post to "best of women's issues"...but this video is important. I'm sick of people thinking everything can be fixed with a pill and the latest FDA approval of "women's viagra" is troubling. It's a pyschoactive drug taken daily over a long period of time and we have no idea what it's effects will be!! Please don't be a guinea pig for this crap.

How dads can help with breastfeeding. Nate was such a great cheerleader for me!

Have a great weekend!!
Summer nursing painting via J Kirk Richards.

Where to swim in Utah


Monday, August 17, 2015

At Bartholemew Family Park
A few of you have asked where to do swimming in Utah Valley. So before the summer season is completely gone, here is our list of favorites!

Public Pools

Provo Rec Center
This place can get crowded, but it's the right price for all the slides and great atmosphere for little guys. The big slides are really fun. There is also pretty decent shade too. This is where we swim the most. Outdoor pool opens at noon everyday. $5/person, age 3+

Lindon City Aquatics Center 
This is a super fun place for little guys too. The big slide is pretty lame, but the lazy river is pretty fun! Normally opens at 12:30pm. ~$5/person, age 3+

Scera Pool in Orem
Only been here once, but it's HUGE. We will have to try this one before the season is out. ~$5/person, age 3+

Bartholomew Family Park in Springville 
Free! Lots of sand (dirt/mud) for the kids to play in. There aren't a lot of swimmers here because it is so COLD! But lots of kayakers and paddle boarders. Definitely go on a really hot day! I really like how close the parking lot is to the water.

Manila Creek Pond in Pleasant Grove
Free. Also a good one for playing in the sand. Great views too.

Spanish Oaks Reservoir In Spanish Fork
Free. Haven't been to this one since I was pregnant with Bridger! Can get super windy up there.

Deer Creek State Park
This is a better place for boating. This year, the beach is just boulders and mud. Not a great beach at all. Maybe it will be better next year.

Lindon Beach, Utah Lake
Other places to cool down

Provo River
Tubing down the river is awesome and free if you have some tire inner tubes and two vehicles.

Utah Lake 
If you are really desperate to get wet go to Utah Lake State Park. It's super muddy on the bottom! But we really like hanging out at Lindon Beach at sunset. Being Utah Lake, it's really shallow. So it's basically a natural splash pad :)

Springville splash pad
The best one there is! And everyone knows it so it's very crowded. The usual water works with a little creek running through. Also decent shade and a playground.

Provo City splash pad (at Pioneer Park)
We went recently and there were several injuries. The ground is super slick. I called Provo City about to make a formal complaint. Not sure if anything came of it. But having the playground close by is nice.

Riverwoods splash pad
Small and easy to keep track of kids :) Lots of shaded tables close by.

Enjoy the summer heat before it's gone! Although I'm about ready for fall, how about you?

Best of the birth world this week!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

I found myself saving so many articles this week! Here are some of my favorites...

I read about this group model of prenatal care a year or so ago. Glad to hear that it is still going well.

For the love of women. Beautiful.

It's so mind-boggling that continuous monitoring is still used for low-risk moms. Even being informed as I was during Colden's birth, it's hard to say no to pushy nurses. "For most women, when the doctor attaches an electronic monitor to your belly, the chances of complications go up, not down."

Like everyone who watched the undercover Planned Parenthood videos, I was shocked and horrified. The PP's executives spoke about fetuses in such a crude manner you couldn't help but cringe. Abortion sickens me but I am trying to come to place where I can view mothers in love and understanding as they go through what is probably the hardest decision they will ever make. I still don't know enough about whether or not PP really is making a profit off of aborted fetuses. I doubt that's the case and I don't think they should be defunded because they give numerous other benefits (birth control, cancer screenings etc) to low-income women and they're everywhere! However, I did really like this article, What About the Mothers.  Whether or not Planned Parenthood is defunded, I would like to see a rise in the amount of women-centered health care providers that support women throughout their childbearing years. Whatever you think about this issue, you ought to read about how aborted fetuses have helped you. And while we are on the subject, listen to this Radiolab podcast about one family's journey learning about how their son's short life is affecting others.

Are we more casual about the effects of labor induction than we are about our pregnancy eating and hair-dying habits?

Before you take any herbs or buy brewers yeast for low milk supply, do all these things.

And I love this cute and awesome project to help new moms.

Hope you had a lovely week! ♥

5 tips for breastfeeding success


Friday, August 7, 2015

I've had some requests for tips on breastfeeding so I've compiled some of my favorites that I think could help any new mom! (Plus, it's World Breastfeeding Week!)

1. Attend a breastfeeding class
Since a blog post will never be enough to truly prepare you for a successful breastfeeding relationship, please attend a breastfeeding class. Most are 1-2 hours in length. Check your local hospital, WIC office, or google IBCLCs in your area. Doulas in your area should also have a good list of classes they like to recommend. If you are in Utah Valley, definitely come to the WIC breastfeeding class (every Wednesday at 5:30pm at the Health Dept in Provo). My friend Jess has created an awesome curriculum and is a great teacher! Also Lindsey Shipley in Highland, Utah is amazing as well!

2. Build your breastfeeding-friendly support system 
Childrearing--and that includes breastfeeding--really does take a village. The first couple of weeks after your baby's birth is all about you and your baby learning to breastfeed together. Having a partner who encourages you, does the cooking, cleaning and errands is invaluable. Get your husband on board with your breastfeeding goals and you'll be in a good place. I also recommend having another person, usually another woman who has successfully breastfed her child(ren) that you can call for support. Maybe your mom, your sister or a friend. If you know you might need extra support (twins, history of lactation issues etc), get to know an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) before baby is born so you feel comfortable calling her and asking questions if problems arise. Attending a breastfeeding class is a good way to start a relationship with an IBCLC!

3. Do not supplement
Unless there is a true underlying health issue, do not supplement your newborn with formula. The first few days are about the two of you learning to breastfeed together and safeguarding your supply. Every time you give a bottle to your baby, you are removing a chance your baby could be at the breast. Milk is made by demand and supply. Demand milk (baby suckling at the breast) and you will have supply. Formula is a great tool when it is needed, but too often I have seen doctors pushing it without real need. Many doctors unfortunately do not know much about lactation and instruct moms to supplement unnecessarily. If you doctor suggests formula, get immediate lactation support so that you can get a balanced view of how to care for your newborn. Many times, when doctors suggest supplementation they assume there is a quality problem with your milk, when really it is probably a quantity issue. Increase breastfeeding sessions and talk to a lactation professional!

4. Breastfeed early & often
Again, the first few days are about the two of you learning to breastfeed together and safeguarding your supply. Breastfeed within an hour of birth. Limit hospital visitors so you feel comfortable breastfeeding and without spectators. (When hospitals limit visitors to the mother-baby floor, breastfeeding rates sky rocket!) Allow for continuous skin to skin as much as possible so that you can baby can learn together. Skin to skin allows baby to feel safe and have easy access to the breast and allows baby to be close enough for you to learn his/her hunger cues. One of my smart lactation colleagues at WIC has said this, "don't be a clock-watcher; be a baby-watcher." Learn your baby's cues and feed on demand. It's safe to assume that a newborn will want to eat every half hour or hour. And these don't have to be forty minute sessions. When a baby is eating that often, they usually breastfeed for a few minutes at a time.

5. Laid-back breastfeeding
Long before we came up with special breastfeeding positions (cross-cradle, cradle, football etc), mamas did what came natural to them. And now we call it laid-back breastfeeding. Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, has some great resources on this. In my experience, laying back and feeding in a relaxed position solves many breastfeeding issues. So I now like to suggest that you start off breastfeeding this way. Really, it's so much more comfortable and easier to get baby latched on.

Well I hope that gives you some good ways to get breastfeeding off to a good start! What are some of your favorite tips that helped you have a great breastfeeding experience? 

Here are some more of my favorite resources: 
Lindsey Shipley's 5 Breastfeeding Tips Your Baby Wants You to Know.
If you plan on getting an epidural, read this to learn how to manage the affects it will have on your breasts.
5 Things You Need to Know About Lactation Consultants
This is a good visual representation of latch.
As always, lots more on Pinterest.

Best of the birth world this week!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Some of you may have heard that I participated in nurse-in at Hobby Lobby in Orem, Utah recently to encourage their staff to have a more proactive policy that supports breastfeeding mothers. Here is the Daily Herald article. And here is what Target has been doing lately in regards to the same issue.

Amazing shot of mom and dad catching baby.

I loved this. "Read your baby, not the books."

The day a friend corrected me. Makes me want to turn Bridger back around to rear-facing.

Women are the stewards over birth. This article highlights some of my favorite parts of The Gift of Giving Life.

I love Every Mother Counts 10 times more since they announced their new series on childbirth in America.

I usually don't like Baby Center, but these photos of how your baby fits in your womb are pretty rad!

Such a beautiful story and what a sweet dad doing skin to skin with babies in the OR!

P.S. Colden and I are using the Ergobaby Ventus in the photo above. We love it!! Sold my Original and Performance to get it...super worth it!

5 ways to get a good deal on a baby carrier


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

As I have discussed before, a good carrier can be a real game-changer for families. But often the problem is the price. Parents find the carrier section at Target and see the lovely Ergobabys for $140+ next to Eddie Bauer carriers for $70. They serve the same purpose, right? They do the same thing, right? Let's just get the cheaper one! Great idea in the short run for sure! It's nice to have extra cash! But in the long run, you might be wishing you had spent a little more. Like lots of other things in get what you pay for. So planning ahead, setting aside a little money here and there or selling some of your lightly used baby gear are all great ideas to get the carrier you want. With that said, there are a few ways I have found that help you save a few bucks while also getting a good carrier.

First off, do your research. Pick out your top 2 or 3 carriers. Try them on, maybe borrow one for a few days and decide if you are ready to invest. When you are, here are some good ways to buy and save money...

Local babywearing groups
Check Facebook and Babywearing International to see if there is a babywearing group near you. They have educated volunteers who will help you find what you want/need and then will turn around and help you learn how to use it! Most also have a lending library where you can borrow a carrier for a small fee for a few weeks to try it out before you buy. And local moms will post within the group carriers they are willing to sell/trade. Which leads me to...

Buy used
At least 5 of the carriers I have owned were used! Good for my wallet and the environment. :) Be careful when buying used so that you know you are getting an authentic carrier. Counterfeits can be less quality and unsafe. That's why I like buying directly from other moms via our local babywearing group. If you don't have a group close by, the Facebook group Babywearing on a Budget (search on FB) is a good resource for used carriers listed under $100.
Check Amazon for your carrier. This might take some patience. I have been pining after the Ergobaby Ventus for a couple months until it went down from $140 to $110 on Amazon. **But be sure you are buying from a legit seller. Ergos are the most commonly counterfeited carriers. Make sure it is by Ergobaby and sold/shipped/fulfilled by Amazon.

In-store coupons
You can get Buy Buy Baby's 20% off coupon super easily. (Sign up for texts or emails). They sell lots of great carriers like Lillebaby, K'tan, Boba, Ergobaby and more. This is how I got my Lillebaby. Other baby retailers have similar deals. Often Target will have a gift card deal for their carriers. (Ex: Buy this product and get $30 in Target gift cards.)

Make your own
My only experience making carriers has been the water wrap and ring sling. So I'll just list some resources that might be helpful: Several moms in our local group have sewn a soft-structured carrier using this pattern. So rad if you are a good seamstress! This is a good round-up of various DIY carriers. My best suggestion for making your own is talk to someone who has already made one, so get involved in your local babywearing group :)

Have you ever made your own carrier? 
How have you saved money when buying a baby carrier?

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