Monday, June 28, 2010

Yes, You Need A Doula

Six years and two children later, my husband still talks about the "adoula" we hired for the birth of our first child.  It doesn't matter how many times I've corrected him, gently reminding him that it was "a doula," two words

Clearly, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding doulas.  Who they are and what they do remains a mystery to far too many. 


Because doulas matter.  From a medical standpoint, studies have shown that the simple act of having a doula with you during your labor can result in a shorter labor with fewer complications, a healthier baby, and less difficulty initiating breastfeeding. 

So what exactly is a doula?

The word "doula" is Greek in origin, and literally means "woman who serves."  There are two types of doulas; birth doulas who help women through the birth process, and postpartum doulas, who assist women during the postpartum period.  Both provide support to expectant and new mothers in many capacities.  Support from a doula is most often physical, emotional, and/or informational.  When you hear the term doula, most people are referring to birth doulas.

For a better idea of what a doula is, check out the new site This is What A Doula Looks Like.  The website was put together by Gina, a VBACtivist who frequently writes about birth at her blog The Feminist Breeder and is home to tons of photos and descriptions of a diverse group of real-life women who serve as doulas. 

Who should hire a doula?

I hear the question over and over again. Pregnant women repeatedly ask what a doula is and if hiring one is really necessary. Often, they don't want to spend the extra money on something that they really don't need.    But the truth is, every pregnant woman should at least consider hiring a doula.  If you know that you'll be having a c-section, a doula may be less of a necessity, (though it never hurts to have someone there specifically to advocate on your behalf). 

And for any woman who is planning to have a hospital birth with minimal or no intervention, a doula is an absolute necessity!!! 

Why is a doula so important if you want to have a natural birth in a hospital?

• Because your husband/partner may very likely faint or vomit at the sight of blood, amniotic fluid, or a head emerging from your vagina. A doula will remain calmly at your side.

• Because said partner will look at you like a deer in headlights if you scream for an epidural. A doula will suggest checking your dilation and remind you why you wanted to avoid an epidural in the first place.

• Because a doula’s presence tells the doctors and nurses that you mean business. You’re not “trying” to have a natural birth; you actually know what you have to do (and what you have to avoid) in order to make it happen.

• Because the nurses have other patients and will not provide much assistance or support.  Labor and delivery nurses are used to caring for women who are lying flat on their backs with an epidural.  A doula will know a lot more about natural pain relief measures and will be more likely to suggest alternate positions.

• Because a doula works for you. The doctor and the nurses work for the hospital and the insurance company.

• Because a doula has been through labor before. Most doulas have experienced labor themselves, and have helped many other women go through it as well. A doula understands the process of natural birth better than most doctors.

• Because if you show your insurance company how much money they’ll save when a doula helps you to avoid a c-section, they just might foot the bill for her.

Where can I find a doula locally?

To learn more about doulas, or to find a doula near you, there are several websites you can visit.  Dona International is an excellent resource, as is the more local organization Doulas of Greater St. Louis.  Sometimes you can also get word-of-mouth referrals by attending local groups for new and expectant mothers such as La Leche League or Friends of Missouri Midwives.

Many women find that they like to interview several doulas because they "click" with some better than others.  Some doulas charge a set fee, while others may be willing to negotiate or even barter based on your financial needs.  Hiring a doula may require laying out some additional cash, but it is a worthwhile investment that you won't regret.

Monday, June 21, 2010

News Flash: Celebrities Say Stupid Things - In Defense of Kim Kardashian

Another day, another celebrity making stupid remarks.  This time it's Kim Kardashian backpedaling as fast as her thick thighs will carry her about a tweet she made regarding public breastfeeding.

Her exact tweet: on 6/18/10:

EWW Im at lunch,the woman at the table next 2 me is
breast feeding her baby w no cover up
then puts baby on table and changes her diaper

After receiving a storm of criticism, she followed by it with this tweet on 6/19/10:

My sister breast feeds!  Its a natural beautiful thing.
there's nothing wrong w it, but she covers herself, not w her boobs exposed

I'm fairly certain that tweet #2, which appears designed to appease some majorly pissed-off breastfeeding moms, only made her situation worse.  By explicitly saying what she implied in tweet #1, that moms should cover up when nursing in public, Kim became an instant hypocrite in the eyes of many.  The irony of a Playboy model who is famous for appearing scantily clad complaining about women showing their boobs is hard to miss. 

But . . .

I still don't quite think she deserved what she got.  I mean, she really made some people angry, and they made some really nasty comments, on Twitter and all over the Internet.  Lactivists in particular were fired up, and blog post after blog post rolled out on the subject.  References to the sex tape she's got floating around out there came up repeatedly.

Now, I'm a mom who has logged a lot of years breastfeeding.  I believe that babies need to eat, and that people in our culture do need to get over the notion that there should be any restrictions on when and where this can happen.  In other words, I'm all for women nursing in public, and I don't think that they should have to cover up just to make other people comfortable.  I also believe that anyone who has never actually nursed a baby has no concept of how difficult it can be to "cover up."  Most babies don't like blankets over their heads.  They may be small, but they're people, and they have opinions just like anybody else. 

Kim Kardashian obviously doesn't get all this. 

But is she supposed to?

What is she?  A model?  A playmate?  A woman who is famous for being famous?  She's not a rocket scientist people!!!  If all she has ever been exposed to is the idea that you're supposed to cover up when you nurse, has she ever given any thought to the idea that maybe you don't need to or that sometimes it isn't feasible?  I'm guessing that the irony of her telling women to cover their tits never even dawned on her, and I'm seriously wondering if she even understands the term irony.

I agree with most of what's been said, and particularly loved this post over at Code Name: Mama comparing pictures of Kim "fully dressed" with pictures of moms who are nursing.  You can probably guess who was showing more boob . . .

But celebrities aren't known for being the smartest of the bunch.  (I'm guessing that all those Hollywood publicists are really loving Twitter and all the stupid things that their celebrity clients tweet).

Is it really fair to blame Kim Kardashian or any other celebrity for making an ill-informed comment when it's really a problem that exists in society at large?

If anything, such comments present an opportunity to start conversations about the issue at hand -- for example, nursing in public and when and if women ever should cover up.  Yes, somebody needs to make sure that Kim understands why these comments are unnecessary, and why she in particular should not be making them. 

But is it fair to vilify her when she didn't know any better?  Is it really her fault?  Going off on a woman who is practically a porn star might feel good, but it isn't going to solve the greater problem of our culture's fear of lactating breasts. 

Don't get angry at Kim Kardashian.  Get angry at the culture that made her famous.  Get angry at the culture that rewards her for looking like a porn star.  Get angry at the culture that gave her the idea that what she does with her breasts is acceptable, but that feeding a hungry child with them is not.

She's a celebrity.  She said something stupid.  So what?  She's not the issue. 

I say we leave Kim Kardashian alone.  We have bigger battles to fight.   

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Calming Our Kids: Yoga For Children

Most of us today live busy, fast-paced lives.  We spend our days hurrying from place to place and staring at computer screens and iPhones.  We rarely have time to relax. 

And our children are no exception.  Between school, homework, and extra-curricular activities, many children barely have time to play.  Even toddlers spend too much of their day riding in the car and too much time in front of the television, or playing with toys that make way too many noises and have way too many flashing lights.

Tell me Tickle Me Elmo doesn't give you a headache . . .

We are all overly stimulated on a daily basis.  We desperately need a way to relax.

One way great way to do this:  yoga.  

Yoga has been a popular form of excercise and relaxation for adults for a long time, but recently it has grown in popularity as an activity for children as well.  While yoga for adults is most often quiet and introspective, kid's yoga programs are usually more fun and relaxed.  Through yoga, children gain flexibilty, coordination, and strength, and can learn to develop a sense of calm and concentration.  But most importantly, they have fun.

What exactly is children's yoga?

Like yoga for adults, yoga programs for children vary widely.  Yoga, which literally means "union" in Sanskrit, is essentially the practice of a series of postures or poses.  Each pose offers it's own unique physical benefits, and when done as a series, the poses help the body to develop strngth and flexibility and, according to many, also calm the mind.

There are many, many different yoga poses.  Most teachers and programs teach children only a few, and don't spend a lot of time focusing on achieving the perfect posture.  With kids, it's not about getting the pose completely right; it's about having fun with your body and feeling free to be silly.

In a kid's yoga class, you'll probably see children roaring and pretending to be lions when they learn lion's pose and barking like dogs as they attempt the downward dog pose.  Often, music and games are incorporated into children's yoga classes to encourage movement and fun.

Check out the following clips for two examples of what children's yoga might look like:

What benefits do children get from doing yoga?

According to Marsha Wenig of Yoga Journal, "children derive enormous benefits from yoga."  By practicing yoga, children can:
  • develop body awareness
  • improve their strength, flexibility, and coordination
  • improve their concentration
  • learn to relax more deeply
  • develop a greater sense of calm
  • enjoy exercise
  • play more freely and with fewer inhibitions
Where can my children do yoga?

  • BabyMoon Boutique in St. Charles offers both Parent/Baby and Kid's Yoga classes.  These classes were my first introduction to yoga for children (and to yoga in general) and my daughter and I both had a lot of fun.  Classes are offered as a 6-week series.   Unfortunately, the classes are often cancelled due to limited enrollment, so call them and let them know if you're interested!
  • Masterpeace Studios in Crestwood  Plaza also offers a variety of yoga classes for children of all ages.  Programs include Mommy and Me Yoga for ages 9 months to 3 years, and Yoga and Art classes for both Elementary students and Teens.  I've never bee to Masterpeace Studios, but after previewing their website, I'm planning a visit soon.
  • At home!  There are tons of yoga programs for kids on both DVD and CD.   YogaKids: For Ages 3-6 is one of our family's favorites because it includes lots of silly animal poses that get all of us laughing.  Even my toddler gets involved!
Or if you're looking for something a little more relaxing (to do before bedtime maybe?) consider a CD of calming, soothing yoga such as Namaste! Songs, Yoga & Meditations for Young Yogis, Children, & Families! 

CD's such as this one usually come with booklets to teach you the poses, and once you've helped your children master them, they can do them quietly (at least that's the idea) with the peaceful background music.

Whether you choose the fun, silly yoga or the calm, relaxing yoga -- whether you do it at home or join a class -- you can be assured that both you and your children will reap the rewards.

In our fast-paced world, we all need a chance to slow down and breathe.

Even our smallest citizens deserve this opportunity.  Namaste.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cool Mom Picks for Every Occasion

If you look over there to the left of what you're reading right now, you'll see a Cool Mom Picks button.  Usually, I'm not a big fan of other moms telling me what kinds of things I should be buying.  I like to make up my own mind, and I've found that my obstinate streak seems to make me want to do the exact opposite of what other people tell me to do.

But I also hate everything generic.  I hate that so many kids are wearing the exact same outfit from the Gap.  I hate that most people register for their baby shower at Babies R' Us.  I hate that it's so damn hard to find and support the really cool local businesses or the moms working out of their homes to produce products that really mean something to them. 

That's why I love Cool Mom Picks (well, that and the fact that I've discovered that Liz who writes the Mom-101 blog that I'm absolutely in love with is one of the website's co-creators, along with Kristen from Motherhood Uncensored).  Liz and Kristen are two moms who "track down cool stuff," and have a self-described "soft spot for non-mainstream products and services, particularly those from indie or emerging designers and mom/women run companies."

What's not to love about that?

Okay, it's not a place to find local St. Louis products and mom-run businesses, but Cool Mom Picks features products from all corners of the country and the web.  The website is updated several times a day with their latest discoveries and information on where to purchase them, and also has a database of tons of categories for you to browse through.  A lot of their picks are things that they find on Etsy, where the products are handmade and nothing is mass-produced.  

Cool Mom Picks also publishes a Safer Toy Guide, in an effort to help parents choose safe, handcrafted alternatives to the plastic, chemically-ridden toys that are so readily available in the aisles of most toy stores.  And they offer a Baby Shower Guide -- no more generic baby gifts, hooray -- and annually updated Mother's Day and Father's Day Guides.

In fact, the 2010 Father's Day Guide has just been released (hint, hint - Father's Day is on June 20th this year). 

And if you're looking for something with a little more, um, sizzle for Dad, you can also check out the racier Mominatrix version that Kristen has put together.  If you're helping your kid's pick out gifts, you probably want to avoid that particular one, though.

Unless of course you feel comfortable sharing your plans to "tickle his pickle" with your offspring . . . 

Personally, I'm thinking I'll go with the Cool Mom Pick's suggestion of James Bond's 1964 Aston Martin as a gift for my husband.  They estimate it will only cost about $5 million.

He's a pretty good dad.  I think he's worth it.

See, they promote handmade toys and mom-run businesses and they have a sense of humor. 

Seriously, they're worth checking out!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Nestle Wars (Or Why I Buy My Chocolate Chips at Trader Joe's)

Until recently, I didn't follow any blogs.  In fact, I didn't think of blogs as anything more than a family newsletter of sorts, a way to keep tabs on the people in my life without ever having to pick up the phone.

But I've discovered that, while I was busy semi-stalking my friends and family, there was a whole blogosphere world that was exploding without me.  As I've admitted before, I initially felt a lot of disdain for mommy bloggers, and didn't see much of a point in following the ramblings of a strange woman with whom I had no personal relationship. 

However . . .   

I now think I've found my tribe.

I'm not talking about the millions of moms out there who are using blogs as personal family newsletters (which, by the way, I love to read if they're written by someone I know).  I am talking about a small but growing group of moms who are using their blogs as a platform to raise awareness about a wide variety of issues related to motherhood and raising children.  These blogging moms are sharing a lot more than personal experience; they're also sharing accurate, well-researched information and some very intelligent thinking.  They've created a community where women from across the country can voice their opinions, share what they know, and dialogue with one another about some very important issues.

This, in fact, is going on right now.  At this very moment, these women are out there posting, and commenting on each other's posts, and then commenting on the comments.  The mommy blogs are very, very busy.

The issue on the table:  the Nestle boycott.

As a breastfeeding mom, I've been aware of the Nestle boycott for a long time.  It's literally been going on for decades and, in fact, there's even a Wikipedia page about it.  The boycott began in 1977 as a protest to the company's unethical practice of marketing baby formula by undermining breastfeeding, and escalated in 1981 when the World Health Organization published an International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.  Nestle has yet to comply with this Code, and as a result, the boycott is still in full swing over thirty years later.

Why the outrage?

Because babies die from formula

Yes, in the United States where we have clean water and access to high-quality medical, formula is a relatively safe (albeit still inferior) option.  But in third-world countries where breastfeeding can mean life or death for an infant, a company that provides free samples of formula is playing with fire.  When a breastfeeding mother in the third-world repeatedly feeds her baby "free" formula samples, her own body will gradually stop producing the milk she needs to feed her baby on her own.  She'll end up having to pay for more formula (which is what the savvy marketers at Nestle are counting on).  She's very likely to mix that formula with dirty, contaminated water, and since she's unable to protect that baby through breastfeeding, the odds are way too high that her baby might die.   

So what does all of this have to do with chocolate chips and mommy bloggers?

Well, the chocolate chips are my small (and, yes, most likely pointless) contribution to the Nestle boycott.  I recognize that there are situations where formula is necessary and that, in certain cases, babies do benefit from it's existence.  I understand that mothers choose formula for a variety of reasons, and that those reasons are not mine to judge.  But I also know that there are quantities of women out there who desperately wanted to breastfeed but failed because of all of those "free" formula samples that Nestle gives to the hospitals and the pediatricians and any pregnant woman whose name they can get a hold of.  They know what they're doing, those marketing people at Nestle, and they're doing it on purpose, and that's why so many people don't like them.

That's why so many people have chosen not to buy any Nestle products.  That's why I refuse to buy their chocolate chips.

One of those people who doesn't like Nestle is a popular blogger named Annie who has written some really great and very informative posts about the issue at her blog PhD in Parenting.  She avidly supports the boycott of Nestle, but is scheduled to speak at the BlogHer '10 Conference, where it has recently been announced that more than one Nestle subsidiary will be a sponsor.

So now Annie and many other bloggers are struggling to decide the best course of action.  Do they still attend and loudly voice their opposition to Nestle's involvement?  Or do they stay home and participate in a boycott in the fullest sense of the word? 

To say that there is a lot of disagreement about this would be the understatement of the year.  Bloggers who don't boycott Nestle (and there are many who aren't interested in the issue at all) were called out and reprimanded last year for attending a different Nestle sponsored event.  And now they are very vocally questioning any one who criticized them but still chooses to attend BlogHer's conference.  Everyone seems to have an opinion about the right course of action, and many seem to feel free to openly judge the choices made by others. 

In one way, this is the ugly side of mommy blogging -- the catty comments, the imaginary battle lines drawn in the sand, the fear of saying anything at all because you never know when it's going to come back and bite you in the ass.  Personally, I wish that the conversation was a little more civil, and I don't like the way so many bloggers feel free to judge each other, but that doesn't change the fact that this heated exchange is raising public awareness of Nestle's questionable marketing practices.

The bloggers involved, as well as their readers and commenters, are discussing Nestle as a company, and getting into issues of personal ethics, and sharing some incredibly nuanced positions on what the term boycott truly means.  Their methods might be unconventional and their comments might sometimes be unprofessional, but as I've said before, mommy bloggers are a force to be reckoned with.  Check out some of the links that I've included.  You'll learn a lot.  Much of it will be the things that Nestle doesn't want you to know.

If I were Nestle, I wouldn't like these mommy bloggers one bit.