It's happening, you're finally in labor! This is so exciting! Ok, let's get to work; I need to start breaking out all the positions I learned during my birthing class and get this baby out. They'll be here any time now!
Excitement is the most common emotion at the start of labor, but it can drive you to over-exert yourself too early during the process, leading to fatigue and frustration later down the road. Here are my top tips to help ease into labor, making the early stages feel more manageable and set you up for success later on.
Resting and sleep can do so much for you during the beginning of your birthing time. I tell all of my mamas and their partners to immediately hop into bed and try and sleep as long as possible.
When labor progresses, there will be a time when it's more difficult to relax between contractions, let alone sleep. Get the rest you can now to give you ample energy for later on.
As you sleep, your body relaxes, allowing your uterus and cervix all the energy it needs to keep opening. I advise mamas to sleep until they can't anymore. If you're worried about laying down, try sleeping upright in a cozy chair or with several pillows between your legs to keep gravity in your favor.
2. Eat & Drink
Much like sleep, keeping hydrated and fed gives you that all important energy you need to last through birth.
Have your partner remind you to drink a little bit after each contraction. Have several beverage options available, including ones with electrolytes like a sports drink or coconut water.
Eat simple, but complex foods to keep your energy up. Great examples are oatmeal with honey, toast with butter, rice and fruit. Try to avoid large meals that may sit wrong in your stomach later. Eat little bits as often as you can.
3. Take a Bath or Shower
Water therapy is an amazing comfort tool during all stages of labor. I encourage mamas to take a shower or bath earlier on to help them feel clean and refreshed for birth.
Baths are a wonderful tool to sink into and relax. Light some candles, sip on your drink and nibble on snacks while listening to soothing music. Use this time to rest and take care of yourself.
A shower is a great option if you need to feel fresh and rejuvenated. I recommend a quick shower for mamas when their waters have broken and they need a pick me up. Cleaning up in the shower is comforting and helps press the reset button for the next stage of labor.
4. Avoid Spreading the Word
You're excited, I know, but try and avoid telling too many people you're in labor. My typical advice is to keep this moment between only the people who will be present at your baby's birth.
Family and friends are going to be excited too, which may lead to extra checking in. Even if they don't reach out, you may now feel an obligation to let people know how things are going, or even feel stressed at how much time is passing during labor.
If updates are really necessary, pass your phone off to your doula to keep track of. You and your partner should be completely focused on birthing your baby and each other.
5. Have Plenty of Support
There is a lot to remember during birth, it's nice to have a professional with you from start to finish. A doula's job is to remember the things you can't and guide you on options that will help your birth be more comfortable and progress.
If you're concerned about remembering everything, being influenced by your care team, managing other family members or preventing a stressful environment, a doula would be an excellent tool for you.
This is me. I'm tired, still very postpartum and I'd just started up my second round of antibiotics for mastitis. My baby had just had her tongue tie fixed, which had made our nursing relationship start off a little rocky.
Don't be afraid. This isn't a story about how my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter was littered with struggle and stubbornness, though I am very stubborn. This also isn't a story meant to shame mamas who are on the brink of calling it on this whole nursing thing or the mamas who've long since made that decision.
This is a story to detail another option out there, show there are ways to overcome breastfeeding difficulty and that those decisions should be made by you and what your heart is telling you. If your heart is saying "Dang it, I want this breastfeeding thing to work!" then that's awesome! If you're like "Yeah, I've worked really hard, given my best to my baby and now I need to give my best to myself" I think that is awesome too. Let's begin.
Breastfeeding is Natural
Yes, breastfeeding is natural in so much that you're feeding your baby with the food specifically designed for them. Mamas, there is not this animal instinct that kicks in and tells you exactly how to get that food into your baby. That's why there are lactation experts and people like me, your doula, to be there for you.
My daughter had tongue tie, which means her little tongue was attached a bit too much to the bottom of her mouth. This condition is very common and made her ability to draw milk from my breast difficult. This resulted in very sore nipples, cracking and mastitis.
We tried a lot of different techniques which provided small leaps in success. From using a nipple shield and nipple creams, to spoon feeding and eventually a small procedure to correct her tongue tie. All of this helped, but we still had to catch up. My daughter had been learning to nurse incorrectly, so there was still a lot of learning before we finally got the hang of this breastfeeding thing.
Then I got mastitis again. I freaking lost it you guys. How could this happen again? We fixed everything? This was supposed to be magically better. Why do my toes still curl when my baby latches? What in the fork is going on?
My daughter was going through a growth spurt and wanting to nurse all the time, I wasn't going to make it. I wanted to quit. But dang it, I wanted to experience at least once what it felt like to have my baby breastfeed without it ending in tears.
I met with another lactation consultant. Serendipity led me to this woman at the right time, because we fit. She saw me. She got me. She knew just what I needed at that exact time. A nursing holiday.
A nursing holiday doesn't sound luxurious, but folks, it really is. My lactation angel suggested I take 24 to 48 hours to stop breastfeeding. Yep. Stop breastfeeding.
She wanted me to take time to not only let my nipples heal, but my spirit heal as well. She suggested I use my breast pump every two hours to express milk and prevent engorgement and then feed my baby that milk from a bottle. She taught my husband and I how to feed my daughter with a bottle in a way that slowed milk flow and would help make the transition back to breast easier.
Then she said "Take this time for yourself and after your holiday is over, reassess if you want to keep breastfeeding." I had an out if I wanted it. That acknowledgment from another person that I still had control gave me the renewed spirit to keep breastfeeding.
Because it was a weekend, my husband was able to feed my daughter while I pumped and stayed in bed mending my body and soul. I remember thinking really hard about what I wanted, what I would regret and what I was okay with. I ended my holiday and I made my decision.
Where Are They Now?
It took several months to get into a groove with my daughter while nursing. I pumped for a year and a half. She went on nursing strikes. Sometimes we'd supplement with a formula if we needed to. She night nursed until she was 11-months-old. She's two and she's still nursing.
Having the concept of a nursing holiday as a tool for my mamas is a gift. It's that tool that allows mamas to not only heal their bodies, but heal their spirits. Breastfeeding is a huge responsibility to take on at such a tender time. I think it's important for mamas to know they have options, they are being seen for who they are at that moment. There are always ways to help keep that breastfeeding relationship going, but only if they want to.
You're nesting like crazy. You're days, weeks or maybe months away from meeting your new babe. You absolutely need another project to prep before the little guys arrival: time to pack a go bag for the hospital.
Okay... wait, what the fork do I pack in my go bag? Am I only supposed to have one bag for myself, my partner and my baby? Do I have one bag for each of us? What is enough? What is too much?
Mama, let me help you. First, I'll break down the essentials, then get to the good-to-haves and some bonus items to consider. Finally, I'll discuss some items to skip. Let's get packing!
The essentials of a go bag are all about items that will get you through a several day stay at a hospital for your baby's birth. Consider your essentials to be personal care items and clothing.
Wait, that's it, that's all that is considered an essential? Yeah! Hospitals are supplied with many other essential items for your birth, postpartum and even for your babe, so if you're running out the door and packing a two minute go bag, just make sure you grab these items.
Now, the idea of the bare essentials isn't super appealing to most. There are several additional items that help make your stay in a hospital during your birth feel more at home and comfortable.
You'll have a wealth of supplies at your hospital as you transition to your postpartum room. This includes all of your postpartum care supplies, including peri bottles, pads and mesh underwear. Most hospitals also have amenities like a hair dryer, lotion and socks. Your baby will also be taken care of with hats, diapers, wipes and swaddles.
There are little touches that can help elevate your birth experience. Some of the items may seem pointless to you, while others seem like a perfect fit. My suggestions are called add-ons for a reason: they help make your experience perfect for you, but not every items is the right fit for your family.
As I mentioned earlier, how many bags do you actually need? Well, there is no perfect answer because the right one is however many you pack. I do have a couple items you could safely ditch to help lighten your partner's three trips to the car.
The placenta is an amazing organ. It’s the only one which is grown specifically to support new life and then leaves your body once its purpose is complete. Your placenta nourishes and protects your baby all through its time in your belly, for some, it feels natural to find ways to honor it or let its power continue even after your baby’s birth.
Gone are the days when the thought of keeping your placenta was frowned upon. Many birthing institutions support and help you save your placenta for personal use. There are many ways to keep the placenta love going even after your birth.
Some mamas go beyond delayed cord clamping and seek to give their new babe even more time attached to the life source that nourished them. A lotus birth involves keeping your baby attached to the placenta until the umbilical cord naturally separates, usually 3-10 days after birth. Often, many mamas will enclose the placenta in a bag with dried herbs to help absorb the natural odor.
Burying Your Placenta
There are many cultures and traditions that value planting their placenta in the ground as a final ritual after the birth of their baby. This may be a simple as burying the placenta in a favorite place or involve planting a tree or garden on top of the area to help nourish the new life.
Mamas that have winter babies, but want to bury their placenta can freeze the organ until the ground has thawed. Once spring arrives, they can hold a special ceremony to honor the amazing placenta.
The placenta is often called the tree of life. The side of the placenta which faces the baby is regularly described as a willow tree; the veins traveling from the umbilical cord branch throughout the placenta.
A stamping of your placenta on a canvas is a great way to remember this powerful organ for years to come. Some mamas prefer to use the remaining blood on the placenta to make the print, but it’s also safe to use a non-toxic paint. These prints are so beautiful, most people don’t even realize it’s a stamping from a placenta!
Ingesting Your Placenta
Many mamas choose to ingest their placenta for the perceived benefits it can supply. Ingesting your placenta may boost milk supply, support postpartum healing and help with postpartum mood and emotions.
Some mamas choose to ingest their placenta raw in smoothies, while others will use small pieces of the placenta in other meals. Another option is to steam and then dehydrate the placenta into small pellets that can be added to smoothies.
Placenta encapsulation is a pretty common practice as of late. You may receive the same benefits as ingesting your placenta, but in a capsule form that is more palatable to many people.
Your placenta is dehydrated, either steamed with healing herbs beforehand or left raw, then ground into a powder which is placed in capsules.
Mamas love this method because it can be added to their regular morning vitamins, but can also be easily taken whenever they feel they need a boost.
So Much More...
There are so many other options available for the powerful placenta! Tinctures are another popular option to be used medicinally. Many mamas love to save the umbilical cord, often dehydrated into a heart or their baby’s initials. Placenta broth is another option for mamas who’ve had their placenta steamed and would like to use every last drop their placenta’s goodness.
"You're using what during your birth?"
Hypnosis during childbirth is usually met with some confusion, a bit of skepticism and genuine concern for the mamas who use it. Most people come from a place of good intent, only wanting their loved one to have a "good" birth experience and rely on the tried-and-true methods people typically think of as helpful.
As a doula, and one who supports women who choose hypnosis during birth, I want to help people understand this tool and debunk some of the myths.
Hypnobabies: An Elevator Pitch
Hypnobabies is a full childbirth education and preparation tool leading up to your baby's birth, as well as the comfort measures you use during your birth. These differences are what set Hypnobabies apart from simply using hypnosis during childbirth.
Using Hypnobabies helps you train your mind and body to use hypnosis as a comfort measure during birth to make the experience relaxed and enjoyable. You do daily homework that helps remove fears and uncertainty about what your birth might be and frame the possibilities in a positive light.
This seems like a lot of work...
Preparing to be a parent, you're already doing a lot of work. Hypnobabies is the only childbirth education you'll use, so a mama isn't adding in additional to-do's. Mamas and partners listen to hypnosis tracks, practice reading prompts and using their hypnosis tools each day.
Daily preparation and education is both wonderful for the mama and her partner, helping them bond and prepare in a way that can feel super productive. Rather than worrying about fears or uncertainties, daily Hypnobabies homework helps address them and reinforce your plan for a wonderful birth experience.
So you sleep through birth?
No way! Hypnobabies helps teach mamas how to use both a deep hypnosis and something called eyes-open childbirth. When a mama needs to rest or really focus, she can use her training to sink into a deeper hypnosis, shutting her eyes and relaxing.
In between moments of focus, she can be in eyes-open hypnosis: still using hypnosis, but able to talk, laugh, walk around and do what she wants. This tool allows a mama to be completely present during her baby's birth, even while using hypnosis.
Okay, but does it work?
Each mama I've supported with Hypnobabies has had a different experience, which is exactly how birth is! What I can say is each has walked away from this tool feeling they've received positive assistance from it.
Some mamas really appreciate their hypnosis for comfort during their birth, while others don't know where they would have been without the preparation that helped them let go of fears and worries.
Seeing the positivity around Hypnobabies as a doula has led me to believe that for the people who choose this tool, it always feels positive and worth it.
Cloth diapers can be a wonderful choice for the environment, your child’s health and your budget. Using cloth diapers means less difficult-to-break-down disposables end up in the landfill, fewer chemicals and fragrances near your baby’s skin and a one-time diaper purchase that quickly pays for itself.
Even with all of those wonderful benefits, a lot of families choose not to use cloth diapers because the idea seems so complicated and frankly, a little gross! I’m here to tell you it’s not as complicated as it seems. Honestly, I wish I could say it isn’t gross at times, but it’s a diaper; cloth or not, once in a while it will be, let’s just say, shocking.
The good news is folks, if your baby is breastfed, there is no need to rinse those poopy diapers! Breastmilk bowel movements are water soluble, which means the mess will rinse away completely in the wash. And don’t worry, because it’s water soluble, it effectively disappears rather than hanging around in your washer and dryer.
Once your baby starts eating solids, you only need to shake the BM into the toilet and give a quick rinse. Most kitchen sprayers can be attached to your toilet so clean up is quick. Done? Just throw it into the wash! I love the Bumkins cloth diaper sprayer to get the job done.
Going places while cloth diapering may seem a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many wonderful resources that sell wet bags to store any dirty diapers while you’re on the go.
Wet bags keep any mess inside the bag until you are ready to clean your diapers. Just bring your wet bag with you while you’re out and “disposing” of dirty diapers becomes a lot easier. There are even wet/dry bags which allow you to put dirty diapers in the wet pouch and keep unused diapers in the dry pouch.
My personal favorite bags are from Planet Wise. These bags come in many different sizes and really cute patterns.