Tag Archives: massage

February Used Birth Book Giveaway

Click here to enter the giveaway!

I’ve discovered minimalism and it’s changing my life in the most amazing ways! I’m paring down my library and am offering giveaways during the next few months. Books will be gently used and will center around pregnancy, birth, the postpartum, and parenting. This month I’m giving away:


This giveaway runs until 2/25/14 @ midnight. Please share with any doulas, midwives, libraries, birth centers, clinics, birthworkers, or pregnant women who might be interested! Visit the giveaway here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Birthwork, Postpartum, Pregnancy

Primal Newborn: The Magical Hour

Touch is the ultimate positive communication. The sensitive mother’s hands, fingers, and arms are warm, calm, and receptive, her whole body conveying that her infant is endearing, desirable, adorable, precious.  With loving, tender touch more or less a constant, her infant feels loved, lovable, and accepted.
Sharon Heller, PhD ~ The Vital Touch

The first hour of a baby’s life is known as The Magical Hour. During this hour, your baby will go through 9 distinct stages when she is placed upon Mom’s chest directly after birth- 9 stages that we all, as infants, are primally wired to experience.

When infants and mothers experience skin to skin right after birth, bonding occurs naturally. Back in the day, we thought that babies had to immediately be placed in warming beds after birth, but now we know that mothers have thermal synchrony with their infants! This means that when a baby is placed on your chest, your breasts will change temperature, and warm your baby by up to 2 degrees Celsius, or cool her by 1 degree, depending on what she needs in that moment. Our bodies know just what is right for ourselves and our new baby, and immediate skin to skin and touch has lasting benefits for all involved.

In The Primal Connection, Mark Sisson explains that
Newborns who have abundant contact with their caregivers, particularly the mother, each day tend to be calmer and less fussy. The tend to sleep better and fall into a regulated schedule more easily than those who receive less touch. They gain weight and grow more. On the other hand, babies who experience touch deprivation show markedly suppressed levels of growth hormone, oxytocin and vasopressin (another bonding-related hormone), and higher levels of cortisol (the primary neurochemical associated with stress).

Once your baby is Earthbound, he will experience the the following 9 stages- all which can occur if he is simply placed upon Mom’s belly or chest (depending on the length of the umbilical cord!) right after birth:

1. Cry
Your baby will shout her birth cry as her lungs fully expand. If the baby was born vaginally, her lungs will have been ‘squeezed’ while being pressed through the birth canal, and most fluid will be “coughed” out immediately after her upper half is born.

While in utero, your baby did not have to use her lungs, because oxygen was passed through the placenta and umbilical cord. Now that she is out in the world, she will use her lungs for the very first time ~ one of many exciting “firsts” you will have the honor of experiencing with her.

2. Relaxation
After he cries, your baby will fall into a state of deep relaxation. Eye and body movements will be minimal, and he can relax on your bare chest, warmed by your thermosynthesis and a blanket over him. Warm, safe and secure, there is no better place to relax than right on his mother. The birth cry and relaxation stages all occur within the first few minutes of life.

3. Awakening
Your baby may begin to awaken from her relaxation stage. She might begin to move her shoulders, head, mouth, eyes, arms and legs.

4. Activity
Around 8 minutes after birth, your baby will begin to make more pronounced movements and may begin to make sucking motions and other early feeding cues, such as displaying her Rooting Reflex. You may notice her focusing her eyes- she may be able to see as far as 7-12 inches!

5. Crawling
This is, to me, one of the most amazing things that we do as human beings in an entire lifetime. Your baby comes equipped with an incredible primal reflex called the Walking or Stepping Reflex, and will literally crawl from your stomach or chest, to your breasts. Yes, really. Not only can your newborn baby crawl/step from your stomach to your chest, but in the process also massages your uterus, which may help to expel the placenta and reduce uterine bleeding. (Klaus and Kennel, 2001). The stage is also known as The Breast Crawl. Interestingly, the Stepping Reflex disappears at approximately 6 weeks after birth.

6. Rest
Your baby may rest for long or short periods during this first hour.

7. Familiarization
Once the baby crawls to the breasts, she will begin to explore. Using her hands and mouth she will begin to touch and massage the breast. Just as cats do, the baby will “make biscuits” in her own way. Her sense of smell is highly developed; most babies respond to scents as early as 7 months gestation! (Schaal, Orgeur, Rognon 1995). She’ll use this incredible sense to find her way around your breast.

Amniotic fluid may also have a role in helping infants locate the mother’s nipple (Porter & Winberg, 1999; Varendi et al., 1994). There is considerable overlap in the odors contained in amniotic fluid and the secretion of odors surrounding the nipple and areola and newborn infants will crawl on the mother’s belly to reach her nipple…
A Sense of Smell Institute White Paper, Review: Olfaction in the Human Infant

8. Suckling
After she has found the nipple through touch, smell and taste, your baby can self-latch and begin to feed herself!

9. Sleep
Labor is hard work, and your baby will be tired after his spiral dance down into your life. The sleep stage is a wonderful opportunity for Mom, baby and Mom’s support team to get some rest.
From research by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC and the International Breastfeeding Centre, immediate skin to skin for the first hour of life has incredible benefits for your baby:

  • baby is more likely to latch and latch on well
  • maintains body temperature normal better than an incubator
  • is less likely to cry
  • will indicate to Mom when ready to feed
  • is more likely to breastfeed exclusively and breastfeed longer
  • has higher blood sugar
  • maintains her normal heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate

We also know that consistency and quality of touch as an infant can affect the child’s social and emotional development later in life:

There is a clear relation between a lack of touching in infancy and childhood and the awkwardness and roughness in “play” that characterizes such individuals in childhood and in later life- individuals who are unable to establish contact without colliding.  – Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

Especially if your parenting practices reflect the same values of infant massage, your child will be more likely to respond to others with empathy and warmth, to respond to social problems with compassion and altruism, and to experience life as a joyful adventure in which he has the opportunity to love and be loved- to help others and extend himself in genuine service to humanity.  -Vimala McClure, Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents

Skin to skin does not have to end after The Magical Hour- Kangaroo Care is an amazing way to bond and encourage your infant’s intuition and trust in you. It’s also a great way for dads and partners to relax and bond with baby, too! Infants want to feel your warmth, hear your heartbeat and inhale your smell; there’s no safer or more comfortable place to be than snug against their parent’s chest, not only right after birth but throughout infancy.

Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents, Vimala McClure
The Primal Connection, Mark Sisson
Boba Family
Breast Crawl
Sense of Smell Institute
The Vital Touch: How Intimate Contact with Your Baby Leads to Happier, Healthier Development, Sharon Heller, PhD
International Breastfeeding Centre
Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
The Magical Hour
Touching; The Human Significance of the Skin, Ashley Montagu
From Birth to Breast
Midwifery Today


Filed under Birthwork, Postpartum

9 Things to Do Before You Get Pregnant

Hey you guys: None of this should be misconstrued as medical advice- always discuss lifestyle changes with your care provider and use your best judgement before, during, and after pregnancy!


I make mistakes so you don’t have to. Here, from personal experience, are some things I truly wish I had done (and some things I’m so glad I did!) BEFORE I got pregnant.


  • Clean out your car.

Like most things on this list, I didn’t realize what an important concept this was until after I got pregnant. Now, I’m sure most people keep their car pretty clean and aren’t total slobs. If you’re like me, however, yours may may need some serious work. As a doula, I pretty much live out of my car. With a thorough search one might find some bottles of essential oil, breastfeeding magazines, pillows, my infant massage instruction doll, socks filled with rice, gallon-size ziploc bags (for placentas, of course), a stuffed uterus… you get the idea. There are also snack wrappers, empty water bottles, a massage table, cds, a step stool, some bolsters, and a wide variety of books in there, among other miscellaneous items. If my car ever got broken into, thieves would be epically disappointed.

The whole inside needs to be cleaned out and reorganized, and now that I am on hiatus from birthwork until after our daughter arrives, this needs to be done during pregnancy. That nesting urge you hear so much about is a real thing, and just the thought of my car in its current state makes me crazy. It’s also now about 1000 degrees out, which means I’ll be out there in the heat of the day, in my hot car, making trips back and forth from the car to the house. There’s also, you know, no room for a car seat in there, which will sort of be an issue in the coming months unless I get this situation taken care of.

So do yourself a favor, and if your car needs a cleaning, just do it now. Your car will have plenty of time to be a mess once you have a child, so enjoy the so fresh and so clean opportunity while you still have it!


  • Take selfies.
Instagram has enough selfies- keep yours for yourself!
I used to hate having my picture taken. I don’t like the attention, I don’t photograph well, and I much prefer to be behind the camera. Now that I’m pregnant though, I so wish I had more pictures of myself, and of my husband and I. I’ve reached a point in my pregnancy where I’ve realized that my body is not solely mine anymore and I honestly don’t know how it will look and feel after our daughter is born. Some things will go back to normal, sure, but other things will never quite be the same (which is OKAY!). Now that I have lots of nifty belly shots, I realize I don’t have anything to compare them to from Life Before Child.

So if you’re comfortable with the idea, take some pictures now. They don’t have to be for anyone’s eyes but your own, and hopefully looking back on them will be a lovely nostalgic experience. And take pictures with your partner as well, as your child will someday love to laugh at how young and weird her parents were back in the day.


  • Start a self-fertility massage practice.

Whether or not you have ever struggled with fertility challenges, self-fertility massage can be an amazing way to learn more about your body, tune in to your personal monthly rhythms, and develop stronger body literacy. Not only can a regular practice help clear blockages, help with cysts and fibroids, promote egg health, and help relieve the intensity of painful ovulation and periods, it can be a relaxing and holistic way to just relax and take time for yourself. Self-fertility massage can be a great addition to your regular self-care.

Practicing good self-care in all forms is as vital before pregnancy as it is during, and while healing during the postpartum. Self-care may look a little different for everyone, and can be anything from monthly acupuncture, to weekly dinners with family, to saying “NO” a little more often. During pregnancy you’ll find that you and your growing baby physically and emotionally need the best care, more rest, better food, proper hydration. Self-fertility massage before getting pregnant (not to be performed during menstruation, or if you are or think you might be pregnant) is a relaxing, non-invasive, and holistic way to take better care of yourself while learning more about your body and creating a healthy womb for your baby to get cozy in when he or she is created.

Certified Fertility Massage Therapists, such as myself, and Mayan Abdominal Therapists can not only perform massage on your upper and lower abdomen, but also teach you how to perform the techniques yourself. If you are interested, I highly recommend booking an appointment with a qualified therapist- our abdomens never get any attention in our daily lives or during a typical massage, and you will walk away from your session feeling happier, lighter, and peaceful (and smarter!).


  • Incorporate a low-impact exercise into your daily/weekly routine.

I know, you’ve probably heard this a lot. It’s very cliche, but something I absolutely wish I had done pre-pregnancy. I say “low-impact” because you want to choose something that you can safely do in every trimester. In your first trimester, you may not have the energy to do a damned thing, and this I understand on a personal level. I also know there were many days during those first few months that I did have a few spare moments of no nausea, and I wish I had chosen to use those moments for taking a walk in the sunshine, or floating around in a pool.

I’m in NO WAY an exercise expert. The most I like to do is hike, swim, kayak, and the occasional kundalini yoga video with Gurmukh. I’m realizing now that my body has these things called limits, and that due to my lack of… shall we say, fitness? my body is a bit more weary than it should for someone who is approaching 30.

Before I got pregnant I would tell Steve, “When I get pregnant, I’m going to swim 3 times a week, and walk every day.” And he said, “No you won’t- you don’t do that now.” And he was right. Start habits now, so that when you’re pregnant they are second-nature, and your body is already used to your routine. Trust me. I walked only 3 miles at a quick pace for a Mark Mulcahy concert last night, and I can count on two hands where it hurts.

Talk with your care provider about enjoying a more fit pregnancy, and follow your body’s cues. I don’t feel pregnancy is a time to push your limits by any means, but a short walk after dinner each night can do wonders for your body, your sleep, and your racing mind. Remember that labor is a marathon, and no one enters a marathon without a bit of training! Your training should involve eating well and moving your body every day in some way, to prepare for the greatest event of your life.


  • Make friends with coupons.

couponsSeriously. This goes along with “starting good habits now.” I never realized before I got pregnant how much my appetite would increase. I mean, wow. We go food shopping twice as often as pre-pregnancy, and even that is not enough. I crave different forms of takeout once a week, and that plus the extra shopping has almost tripled our grocery expenses. Steve and I are excellent shoppers and love a good deal, so that helps, but coupons have helped us immensely.

I encourage you to start perusing the websites of your favorite brands (NOTE: these might become your least favorite brands after you become pregnant… but there’s no way of telling!) and signing up for their mailing lists. Companies often send out special coupons and deals, and even have printable coupons on their sites every so often. This is especially true of specialty brands that can be pricey. Websites like coupons.com and common kindness (for crunchy folks), offer a pretty simple way to find, print, and clip your own coupons, and most grocery stores have weekly “deals.”

Become a smarter shopper now so that you’re not pummeled when your appetite kicks in and there’s no turning back. Pregnancy hunger is different from any type of hunger I’ve experienced before- it is INSANE.


  • Take your vitamins and Omega 3’s.

I didn’t do this. I wish I had, because now, my skin has never looked better! Also, lots of benefits for overall health and setting the stage for a healthier pregnancy and wee one. If nothing else, taking prenatals pre-conception will give you time to find one that works well with your unique body. I tried 8 different prenatals of varying qualities, prescription and plant-based before finally finding one that doesn’t make me sick, gives me energy, and that I don’t dread taking (Nature’s Bounty Prenatal + Melaleuca Omega-3).

Prenatals come in all different forms- some are giant with DHA included, and others are smaller and you may want to take your Omega 3’s separately. Some vitamins even come in gummy form… which is really tempting, but I haven’t been brave enough to try. Some pills you have to take twice a day, some only once. Get into the habit of taking your vitamins every day to get your body on the right track and to find what makes you feel great before entering pregnancy.


  • Go to therapy.

Last year, when Steve and I were discussing a timeline as to when we wanted to start tempting fate and then seriously trying to conceive, I realized that I needed to go to therapy. I, like most people, had/have a bunch of baggage, and knew that I wanted to work out as many of my issues as possible before bringing a child into the world. This was especially important as most of my “stuff” involved mothers, childhood, and parenting. I knew that I didn’t want any of my negative history to affect my future hypothetical offspring. I also knew I couldn’t afford typical therapy, and so began to research early last fall.

I luckily came across an organization within walking distance of our home, that accepted clients on a sliding scale. I was partnered with a fantastic therapist and was able to make good progress in a short amount of time. I still go to therapy, and feel that this was single-handedly THE most important thing I could have ever done as a parent-to-be. Now that I am pregnant, I already have an established relationship with my therapist and life is just sweeter than it used to be.

It’s amazing what can come up in therapy, and how just talking and being listened to can make such a difference in how you feel about yourself, your life, and all that comes with it. Even if you feel like talk therapy might not be your cup of tea, you might want to just give it a shot and see how you feel about it. If it’s not for you, there you go, but if you have benefited from it, your future child and family will, too.


  • Research doulas and care providers.

doula_3.234101330_stdOnce you’re pregnant, you have a million new things to think about. One thing to consider early on is who you want your birth team to be. This doesn’t mean you have to choose everything right off the bat, but by researching doulas in your area before you get pregnant, you can get an idea of what sort of services they provide and what their fee ranges are. Doulas are a WILDLY valuable investment for women and families, and pre-conception is a great time to start putting a small bit of money away each week if possible, as part of a doula fund.

For us, pregnancy has been… expensive. As I mentioned earlier, food costs have nearly tripled. My car is no longer in working order, which was an expense we hadn’t planned for. We’re also having a home birth, which is has consumed every last dollar we received from our wedding. (TOTALLY WORTH IT. I can’t wait to share our experiences with our midwife with you!) Luckily everyone is healthy, none of the cats need veterinary attention, etc. But yeah, pregnancy has been more expensive than we ever thought it would be, and that is with the luxury of health insurance.

While you’re dreaming of pregnancy, start looking into your birth options- do the hospitals by you have midwives? Do you feel comfortable with your current OB/GYN? Do you have a free-standing birth center by you? What do you know about homebirth? Yes, pregnancy comes with a lot of options, and sometimes having so many choices can feel overwhelming! Maybe check out The Business of Being Born on Netflix, or rent the movie Doula! from your library- you’ll get to see some beautiful births and learn more about labor and birthing options while relaxing and being entertained.

Out of all of the myriad choices you’ll have to make during pregnancy, choosing your birth team is, in my opinion, the most important one you can make. Being informed and knowing your options is half the battle! And it can make life in pregnancy much easier by learning what and who is available early on.


  • Talk to your partner.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but really, talk to your guy or gal. Dream a bit together, and learn what he or she thinks of when imagining a life with a child. You may find that the two of you have completely different scenarios in mind- and that’s okay. During pregnancy, it’s easy to fall into a routine of every conversation and activity revolving around your baby. Sometimes weeks can go by without talking about stuff other than money, or cravings, or diapers, or the registry. It’s so important to keep the lines of communication open now (again, a healthy habit), so that everyone is on the same page. Pregnancy can also slow down physical intimacy, so you’re going to want a way to stay connected outside of the bedroom.


What are some things you wish you’d done before you got pregnant/ had children?



Filed under Pregnancy