I'd like to think I know a thing or two about birth. I've attended dozens of births, read hundreds of birth books, and observed a number of birth classes. In fact, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on how what "we" say to pregnant women can affect their perception of the outcome of their labor.
So when students ask me what kind of birth class to take, I have a few opinions on the subject.
Consider the benefits of live, in-person childbirth classes:
- In contrast to books and media classes, live classes are interactive which means you get your questions answered, but also those of other students. Questions you didn't even know you had!
- You get to move around. Rather than just looking at pictures or video of birth positions, you can actually move and get feedback from the instructor.
- Accountability to attend each class for you and possibly your partner, too. Even the best-laid plans to read books or finish seminars at an individual pace can quickly be usurped by the parts of birth preparation you think are more fun, like baby registries, showers, and assembling baby furniture.
Five reasons to look beyond the hospital (for class):
Sometimes hospitals offer a very inclusive and tremendous birth class, but often they are short and focus on the hospital procedure rather than the robust variety of topics and perspectives you're likely to get at an independent childbirth class.
1. You learn about birth (which is a normal thing, BTW). Literally everyone walking around out there was born, so this happens.... every day! You will learn about how your body will move through different stages of labor, learn tricks and tips to make yourself as comfortable as possible, and so will your partner.
2. You will meet other couples who you will get to know for many weeks. Most hospital-based classes are a little shorter and much larger in numbers than the other classes, which means you don't get the opportunity to connect with the other couples. This is great for partners who don't get the connection at prenatal yoga, and often don't seek out other parents-to-be. Many times these childbirth classes hold reunions a year later. If you don't yet have a village, this may be a great place to start forming yours.
3. Lending Library. Your hospital may also have a lending library, and certainly your local library has hundreds of books about birth. How will you choose? An out-of-hospital childbirth instructor often has a few go-to books that they know students appreciate and will typically lend them to their current students at no additional cost.
4. Personalization. Hospital classes typically need to cover a list of particular objectives, which may or may not be relevant to you. Independent childbirth classes are more fluid and customizable. Depending on where you live, you can find classes for high-risk mamas, first-time mamas, single mamas, mamas of multiples, lesbian mamas and more. Even if your class isn't specific for a particular group, your instructor will quickly learn about your values and help offer the information you're looking for.
5. They acknowledge that birth can happen outside of the hospital. They will not force an out-of-hospital agenda on you, but if you are the kind of person who is curious about the differences, they will share them with you. I know several mamas who planned their births in the hospital and wound up spontaneously delivering outside of the hospital because they could not transport in time. An independent childbirth class prepares you for the spectrum of birth possibilities.
Questions to ask the teacher:
Do you have any preference about where I choose to birth my baby?
Can I ask you questions outside of class, via email or phone?
Do you have a lending library that I can use?
How many mamas/couples will you accept in a particular class?
What is your birth-background?
Where were you trained as a childbirth educator?
How to tell if the teacher is one of your people:
Do you welcome same-sex couples?
Is there a faith background that you utilize in your teaching?
Will I be uncomfortable in your classes if I do not share your faith?
Will we be using art in this class?
Kari Kwinn, ERYT500, RPYT, Doula, Midwife's Assistant is one of Enso's co-owners.
A few years ago, my husband and I tried a vegan diet. I'm not a diet professional, and am not giving you nutritional advice - but I will share some flavor and texture-based food hacks that I discovered in that time. Am I suggesting you do the same? Not at all. But since the most common dietary irritant of the exclusively breastfed infant is dairy (in mom's diet), I get the please-help-me-cut-dairy-for-my-baby-even-though-I-love-it-more-than-coffee plea on a weekly basis.
Before you cut dairy or any other food group from your diet, please consult a lactation or nutrition professional. Not Dr. Google. As you cut dairy, you often cut calories, and this can mean you're not getting enough food (and therefore cannot offer as much to your little one).
Step One: Banishment
If you're cutting dairy, you have to cut ALL dairy. Review all packaged products for the highlighted, bolded word MILK either in the ingredient list or in the allergen disclosure below. Put those items into a special place for your other family members to enjoy and use a large marker/tape to label the item so you do not consume it.
Step Two: The Cheese Situation
Refuse to eat artificial cheese. Trust me, don't bother with it. Soy cheese is horrific on a good day. Some vegans I know enjoy the Daiya non-dairy cheese made from pea protein, but I think it tastes like expensive plastic. Instead, replace cheese with things that also taste good.
Pizza: use no-cheese pesto, caramelized onions, olives, artichoke hearts, and other salt/fat combinations to replace the salt/fat you're missing from the cheese. Also note you'll need to eat more pizza because of the number of calories and amount of fat you're missing.
Quesadillas: instead of cheese, use hummus in your quesadillas. Just hummus, maybe some black beans, salsa, peppers, onions, etc. Prepare as usual. It's delicious.
Dip: this accidental invention comes courtesy of my bro-in-law who lived at our house for nine months and ate his weight in salsa every week. Combine equal parts salsa and hummus and use as a chip dip or veggie dip. No, it isn't queso, but it is rich and tasty.
Sandwich/burger/wrap condiment: try avocado, roasted red peppers, sunflower seeds, olives or other tasty treats. The exception to the artificial cheese is tofutti cream cheese. I'm sure it isn't good for you, but it tastes and feels like dairy cream cheese (and is equally unhealthy). If you're seriously craving a creamy spread on your sandwich, this will do.
Step Three: With Cookies?
There are lots of delicious non-dairy milks out there. Some are healthy, and some are essentially soda. I recommend having a variety of milks available, from soy to almond to hemp. Note that most non-dairy milks have little protein and are fortified with vitamins (and sometimes sugar). Hemp and soy have the most protein while coconut and almond are tastier. Use some for cereal/oatmeal/baking and others for a latte.
Step Four: I Will Scream
Avoid the soy ice cream and almond ice cream (I think they're icy and not satisfying) and head straight for the coconut stuff. It costs twice as much and has just as much fat and sugar as the dairy kind, and it tastes just as good if not better. Yogurt is another story. It's hard to find good yogurts, but you can find something that will do if you mix in some granola or fruit. At least we know they have their priorities straight?!
Step Five: Family Recipes
The most alarming thing we realized when we went dairy-free was how much our cooking and meal planning relied on dairy. Try some new stuff! I've found many good recipes online.
Step Six: Dining Out
Go ethnic. Try to find some Thai, Japanese, or Kosher food (since they will not mix meat and milk in the same meal, you know you can easily avoid dairy). Take Out!
Hope this helps!
Kari Kwinn, ERYT500, RPYT, Doula, Midwife's Assistant is one of Enso's co-owners.
So you're on bed rest. That's the pits, especially at a time when you'd love to be out preparing for baby or moving your body. If you're my yoga student, we're going to miss seeing you in class (but it's ok, because we'll see you at Mom & Me soon enough)!
You can still practice SOME* yoga, although perhaps not a physical practice and not with us in class. It might sound a bit hokey (but that's ok, because I'm a yoga teacher and I'm allowed to sound a bit out there), but you can spend some time sending out good vibes to baby. Let them know they are in a very safe place with lots of people looking out for you two, and ask baby to stay in for a little while longer. You can focus on your breathing... sometimes when things get crazy and you can hear your heartbeat in your ears it is good to think:
Inhale: "Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in."
Exhale: "Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out."
Do this over and over again. If someone forwards you an email about something scary, delete it and then do this breath.
Try Ovarian Breath:
Imagine there is a long, golden cord wrapped around your hips and pulling into the center of the earth. That is holding you steady, just like baby's umbilical cord is holding them steady.
Now imagine that little flecks of light are rising up your spine as you inhale. Once start to exhale, allow that light to pour over your face, your heart, and back into your baby. Continue breathing in this way, never holding or restricting the breath.
There is a bit of science behind this... baby's endocrine system picks up on hormones from your endocrine system (and vice versa) so working towards the calmest state possible can have real results.
Actual physical movements*
- Ankle circles (each direction)
- Ankle extensions (push heel, ball, toe, curl your toes like you're grabbing something, and then pull the foot back to starting position)
- Wrist circles (interlace all fingers and make figure eight shapes with your wrists) go both directions
- Slow baby ab hugs. Slowly tighten your belly muscles inwards to hug your baby, then slowly release. Take several seconds for each.
- Arm stretches (using a belt, like a bathrobe belt, hold your arms overhead like the Y in YMCA with the belt between them. Move the belt forwards in front of you, then back behind you. It will kind of look like jumping rope).
- Keep the belt and do tricep stretches. Same grip, but now one hand is overhead and the other is by your low back. Your thumbs will face one another along the belt. Switch sides.
- Butterfly pose (sitting with soles of the feet together and knees open)
- Roll a tennis ball over any tense muscles you can reach, or put it into a sock and use that as a handle. Consider the hands, feet, calves, upper back, and really anywhere you can reach. You might be surprised to learn what is sore.
- Hands and knees, gentle "cat/cow" postures or just stay on hands and knees a bit
- side-lying leg lifts or stretches
*please, for the love of Pete, double check any and all physical activity with your provider. Bed rest can mean a number of things and can be prescribed for many reasons. Make sure you are doing what is best for YOU and YOUR babe. Take this list to your provider and verify that each and every action is ok before you try to perform it. Your provider may have additional exercises, too.
If your friends want to bring you things, say YES and TELL THEM what to bring you.
Kari Kwinn, ERYT500, RPYT, Doula, Midwife's Assistant is one of Enso's co-owners.
Last summer we spent a good amount of time sleeping in tents between a handful of trips to the mountains with friends and one awesome road trip where we camped our way through National Parks and Forests on our way to California and back. We have two little boys, Dylan (2.5) and Chase (6 months), and it has been so fun to bring them camping with us.
We started camping with Dylan when he was almost a year old, but Chase got his first taste of sleeping outdoors just three months after he was born (if you don't count when he was in my belly!) It's actually a lot easier than it sounds to camp with kids, and it is so great to see their faces lit by campfire light rather than the glow of the iPad screen that my two year old loves so much (I know, I know. . .)
There are a few different ways to camp, depending on your wants, needs, and experience. Whether you camp in an RV, at a campground with facilities, or need 4WD to get to your favorite spot to pitch a tent, I promise you that it is possible - and enjoyable - to bring the kids!
Our experience is mainly with car camping, where we drive out to a spot with no facilities, no trash bins, and no electricity, so that is what I will address in this post. People thought we were absolutely nuts when we took two weeks to drive and camp our way down to San Diego and back when Dylan was almost 2 and I was about 5 months pregnant, but it was without a doubt the best trip we have ever gone on, and we can't wait to do it again!
Some of the main concerns about camping with kids are the following:
Both of our kids are used to co-sleeping with us, so whether we are at home or in a tent, it doesn't make much difference. We have sleeping bags that zip together to make one large bed set up, so we just make sure to keep pillows and covers away from them, and have them on the outside of us. They are usually bundled up enough to not need the covers anyways. We have camped with friends who have brought a Pack 'N Play as well, and this was a great option for kids who are used to sleeping in a crib. There are also cots that you can buy that fit into most tents. Something to keep in mind, though, is that if you are breastfeeding and will need to throughout the night, try to wear clothes that make this easier for you! I have made the mistake of going to bed with lots of difficult layers to deal with, and when you're cold in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to have to do is peal off all of your layers or expose a bare shoulder or torso! Nursing tanks or bras and button down or zip up outer layers are a smart choice.
We try to bring as little extra as possible, so one of the things we decided we could live without was a high chair. This season, we may consider bringing our Bumbo with a tray seat so Chase can explore his food and we can have our hands free, but when it was just Dylan, one of us would hold him and feed him, or just give him something he can eat with his hands without needed a tray, like quesadillas, sandwiches, and pancakes.
Breastfeeding definitely makes life in the woods much easier, but it can absolutely be done with bottles and formula as well! As long as you make sure to bring plenty of water to not only drink and cook with, but also to use for boiling and cleaning, you can use bottles just as you would at home. You can heat a bottle by placing it in some water thats been heated on the camp stove or Jetboil, and be sure to bring plenty of paper towels, wipes, plastic bags, and anything else to keep things as clean and sanitary as possible.
We do tend to create much more trash when we have kids to wipe down and more things to keep clean, but we want to make sure to never leave any sign of camping left behind. There is nothing worse than finding a beautiful spot to camp, only to find the area littered with trash. Our set up includes having small plastic grocery bags in our tent for trash, and a big kitchen trash bag attached to our cooking table. All trash gets put in the trailer or in our vehicle when we turn in for the night, to keep animals away. When we leave, our trash comes with us. I suggest double bagging dirty diapers, and burning paper towels in the fire after they have been used.
The most important part of keeping kids safe in the woods is to keep an eye on them. Especially when camping near water, always make sure you know where they are at all times. We have put glow-in-the-dark bracelets or headlamps on the kids at night to keep track of them (around the fire, not when they go to bed), and always keep our bear spray nearby. Animals will keep their distance from a noisy crowd, which isn't a problem when you're camping with kids, however, you should have conversations with your children about respecting animals in the wild. We have also come across dead animals on our trips, which can actually be more dangerous than live ones. Be sure to check around the entire site, especially if you have pets camping with you. Don't forget to pack a fully-equipped first aid kit, so you could treat anything from cuts, bites, burns, breaks, or fevers. We were lucky enough to have a Special Forces-trained Army medic camping buddy, so we always knew we were in good hands! It wouldn't hurt to brush up on some basic first aid skills before heading out into the wilderness where the nearest hospital could be hours away. Other items that could help with keeping kids safe is having a Pack 'N Play or a portable play yard to help contain the kiddos.
I remember seeing something on Pinterest about camping with kids, and it showed a picture of a baby taking a bath in a big plastic storage bin. It was so cute, and I pinned it for future use, but I have never actually done it. Dirty kids are not the end of the world! I horrified my sister in law when I sent her a picture of my husband cleaning Dylan's feet with a baby wipe because we were absolutely filthy after 3 days on the road in 3 different (sandy) camping spots. But a little dirt doesn't hurt! However, if you are concerned about cleanliness or if you're kid is like mine and is a magnet for dirt, puddles, sticky foods, etc., you can do what is called a "field shower", which is what they do in the military when they are training or down range without access to showers, where you just wipe yourself down with a baby wipe. Have I mentioned to be sure to bring plenty of wipes? Hand sanitizer is always good to have on hand and kept by the food table to use after going to the bathroom or before eating/cooking.
Keeping Kids Entertained:
Don't! When we went camping with another family whose son is the same age as ours, we learned that if you bring toys, they will just fight over them. They are perfectly happy just playing with sticks and dirt and exploring. They run around, collect sticks for the fire, and best of all, they can just. . . be. Honestly! At home our son goes from toy to toy, or from electronic device to electronic device, but in the woods he can just sit by the fire and relax. It's amazing. Maybe when they get older we will start bringing card games, books, and a ball to play with, but at this age, they are so curious and will be plenty happy to just explore and eat s'mores. We have brought kites and frisbees, but I'm not sure who enjoyed those things more - the kids or the parents!
This may sound like a lot to think about but really, less is more when camping with the kids. Camping is all about sneaking away to a simple way of life for a couple of nights to de-stress, so try to be as easy going as possible when things don't go as smoothly as planned. We have had poor weather, set up camp in the dark, had diaper disasters, cuts, bruises, and forgot important things like OUR TENT and maple syrup for pancakes, but those are the trips where the best memories are made! Pick a camping style that will work for your family and let the kids get dirty and eat s'mores for breakfast, because kids in nature are happy kids!
I’ve flown 93 times with one or both of my daughters.
I’m not the most organized traveler, or the most experienced, and I don’t make it look quite this cute.
What I do have is the willingness to break a few social norms, and the propensity to laugh so hard I cry (instead of just straight up cry).
Most moms have flown with their kids, and if you haven’t, the above articles or any Facebook group for moms will have all the details you are looking for.
I have a 2-year-old (Cora) and a 7-month-old (Millie). Most of the time I fly alone with my kids, and I always fly Delta. These are my overarching travel principles (for now):
1. I bring as little as possible. Tearing up the seat-back magazine or opening and closing the window shade turn out to be the best toys on an airplane. It is unlikely that Cora will use 10 diapers in one day. If the situation I’m afraid of happens – i.e., we’re delayed overnight in an airport, etc. – people tend to be even more helpful than usual, especially other moms. We band together and share diapers, snacks, and toys. I have found this bonding good for my soul (and funny), and I walk away feeling genuinely hopeful.
I have to admit, sometimes my minimalist plan backfires. I’ve been though customs in Minneapolis in a damp nursing tank top, smelling suspiciously like vomit and diarrhea. Since then, my small diaper bag list includes an extra shirt for myself.
2. I never let Cora kick the seat in front of her. I’ve had to hold down her legs while she screams to achieve this, but it’s important to me.
3. I Ask for help. While I’ve crossed paths with some truly crabby and abrasive people while traveling, most are kind. I let people hold my babies on the airplane. I’ve had flight attendants and other passengers hold Cora or Millie while I’m going to the bathroom or eating a meal.
4. I bought a ticket; I deserve to be on the plane. While I try to be as conscientious as possible on flights and have apologized for my kids' behavior in extreme situations, I avoid an overly apologetic stance. There has been some advice circulating about giving passengers in your area a gift bag for sitting near you. This is ridiculous.
I’ve also flown internationally with Cora and once with Millie. (Not yet with both, but coming soon!). We’ve visited Spain (twice), Holland (twice), Thailand, Laos, and the Dominican Republic.
I have a few thoughts on international travel specifically:
1. The best seating scenario is an empty seat next to me. I beg for this at the gate. Second best scenario - if I have a younger child - is the bulkhead row with the airplane bassinet. Even if the baby won’t sleep in it, I still have more room. If my baby will sleep in it, I feel like I’m owning life. From there I sit back and enjoy the free, bad wine. (Note: You need to book the bulkhead row ahead of time.)
2. I find traveling from Denver to Europe to be doable. The itinerary is usually under 20 hours, and I get an overnight flight for the longest leg.
3. I find flying from Denver to Bangkok to be more difficult. The itinerary is 30+ hours. However, this is redeemed by Asian culture being more baby-friendly. This means that flight attendants and passengers are even more accommodating than usual. I received baby food and snacks on the plane. The Tokyo airport mothers' lounge looks like a hyper clean and modern La Leche League meeting with a bottle warmer. I found all of this helpful and amazing. (Side note: has anyone flown Air Emirates? I’ve heard it is the absolute best for moms and kids!)
4. Jet lag is never as bad as I expect, but can be hard - especially with an older toddler. I don’t stick to a strict schedule or try to control Cora’s sleep when traveling. I treat her like an infant, watching for tiredness signs and eventually fall into a good rhythm or schedule. Also, I mentally plan for a few tough days at the beginning of the trip and when we return home.
My newest phase of travel is flying solo with two kids. I have done this 6 times in Millie’s 7 months of life, and I’ve tried a few different setups. My biggest breakthrough has been this:
When traveling alone with 2 kids, I board last and ask loudly if anyone would like to hold Millie while I get Cora settled. People hungry for some baby love think this is the best (seriously, some gush on and on about it), and it gives me a good read on who in my area is kid friendly and could help me in a disaster.
The hardest choice to make in this flying situation concerns the car seat for the toddler. Do you bring it or not? If so, how do you get the car seat on the plane - in addition to your two children and a diaper bag? (I am aware that this can be a really heated issue. You can read what the Car Seat Lady has to say about it.)
I have tried a few set ups regarding the car seat:
1. Car seat in a car seat backpack.
2. Car seat (with straps loosened) worn as a backpack.
3. A toddler flying harness (you can see the red harness strap across the seat Cora is sitting in).
4. Using the normal airplane seatbelt.
5. A car seat attachment with wheels option.
I’ve tried the first 4 options and could hash out all of the pros and cons, but I’ll spare you and say each option has hard parts. Does anyone love their Go Go Babyz attachment and care to leave a comment about it? I’m specifically interested in what car seat brand you use with it, how you get through security with one, when you choose to board the plane, and how difficult it is to attach and detach the car seat from the wheeled carrier.
As promised in the title, these are my current thoughts on airplane travel. I’m sure they will change, as I hope to someday to travel with 3 or 4 kids. Sometimes friends will explain a trip to me and ask me if it is worth it. I always say yes, but the truth is it depends on the family.
There have been fun flights and there have been less-fun flights.
Most people seem to enjoy my kids, and a few take one look at us and asked to be moved to another seat (that only happened twice).
I once sat next to a teenage boy who had endless Dora the Explorer episodes on his phone. He joyfully watched them with Cora the whole flight.
I once sat next to a woman who asked if I was afraid my unborn child would turn out dark like my Muslim husband.
I’ve sat next to all kinds of people: some helpful, some not at all, some with a lot of parenting advice, some with good parenting advice.
I’ve laughed so hard I peed my pants (only once, and thank-you childbirth!).
I once accidentally sprayed a sleeping business man’s elbow with breast milk.
I’ve been incredibly embarrassed of and stressed out by a toddler tantrum.
I’ve seen Cora walk down an aisle saying hello to everyone she passes.
All I can say for sure? It’s been worth it to me.
My 2 year old daughter had always been a pretty good eater. She was fairly fearless and willing to try anything at least once. She liked Indian, Thai, and Mexican cuisine, and fruits and veggies were her favorite. We had some tough times between 8 months and 1 year because I was doing the whole, puree/mash everything method and really, who wants to eat that? (With our second kid, we are planning on doing baby-led weaning and I will be taking Michelle’s class on that at Enso for sure). So, everything was going great until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Suddenly, meals were these difficult ordeals: things she’s always loved, she would no longer eat; foods she loved one day became cry-worthy the next, there were tears, huge messes, and lots of stress. My daughter has been pretty tall and thin from the get-go, but her food-difficulties were starting to show. At her 2 year wellness check-up, the doctor was concerned at how prominent her rib-cage was and to be honest, so was I. I think it was a combination of toddler-itis and her coping with a new baby in the house and all of the big changes that come along with it.
During this time, she had also become obsessed with rainbows. I’m talking, constant color-talk. I only want to draw rainbows and watch you draw rainbows over and over. Organizing her toys, books, and puzzle pieces by color. OCD. Rainbow. Obsessed. One night at dinner, I noticed her deconstructing her salad and putting the veggies in rainbow order. She then gleefully ate them after shouting out the corresponding colors. The next day at lunch I wanted to do something special for her. Other than the food issues, she really was handling these big life-changes very well and was very understanding when my 3 month old was still eating almost hourly during the day. I decided to blow her mind and make her a “Rainbow lunch”. I tried to give her at least 2 choices for every color because I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over. Red tomatoes, orange carrots, apricot jam on toast, and cheese, yellow romaine lettuce, green kiwi and broccoli, blueberries, purple cauliflower and pink salami.
She loved it and practically cleaned her plate! So for the past 2 months, whenever possible, we do rainbow lunch and sometimes even rainbow dinner. Mealtimes have become pleasant and fun, she’s eating so much better and she’s gaining weight, has filled out a bit and is out of the scary-skinny-zone.
When making these meals, you have to keep in mind the big picture, what did they have for breakfast? What will they be having for snacks and dinner? It’s so much easier to feel ok about just grilled cheese or pasta for dinner when they’ve eaten a rainbow of fruits, veggies, and protein at lunch. Toddlers love having options and making decisions so I try to give her choices like, “what red do you want? Tomato, apple, or strawberry? What about orange?” She loves having a say and she’s way more likely to eat everything if she gets to have some input. I definitely have to steer her in the right direction so that she ends up with a fairly balanced meal, and not just a plate of fruit each time. Truth be told, I’m having just as much fun with this as she is. When I have a little extra time, it’s fun to make mandalas or other fun food-art, but simple little piles of each color on the plate is easy and effective. I’ve been eating better since starting this as well, which means that the kiddo I’m nursing is eating better too!
Some food suggestions for each color:
Red- tomatoes, beets, peppers, radishes, apples, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, raspberries,
Orange- carrots, peppers, goldfish crackers, oranges, cantalope, papaya, nectarines, apricots, cheese
Yellow- corn, peppers, beets, tomatoes, carrots, squash, lettuce, bananas, pineapple, cheese, pears, apples, starfruit,
Green- snap/snow/green peas, beans, avocado, celery, lettuce, peppers, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, pickles, apples, grapes, kiwi, pears
Blue- blueberries, blackberries, grapes, blue corn tortilla chips, purple potatoes
Purple- cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, grapes, plums, lettuce, potatoes, eggplant, raisins/craisins
Meats, beans, grains, crackers & toast are good for pink and brown. Yogurt mixed with fresh fruit or jams can be used for just about any color as well as jelly/jam on toast. There are also quite a few natural pre-packaged foods that use fruit and plant based dyes that can be found (Annie's animal cookies and cheese crackers for example).
To make life easier and lunch prep faster, I try to wash/peel/cut up any fruits and veggies that keep well ahead of time, in one big prep session after grocery shopping. I have even given up my kid-free shower time to do this on occasion because it’s worth it to have lunch and snack prep fast and easy for the rest of the week/s. I’m not sure if this is just a phase she's going through, or if we will continue with this for years, but as long as it’s fun, effective and healthy, I’ll keep at it.
Beth Cecere is an Enso Mama and at-home mom, living in Colorado Springs, CO.
Enso offers Mom & Tots Yoga, Tots Morning, & Baby Led Weaning!
When my life started towards the path of teaching and sharing yoga, I knew that I wanted to teach prenatal yoga. I believe that people at all ages and stages of life should experience the benefits of what yoga has to offer. I also knew I wanted to surround myself with beautiful women in the midst of one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.
In fact, I think I was aware long before I began teaching yoga. I felt it during the birth of my first child. I have gone through the labor process twice. Three times if you count my own entry into this world. Unfortunately, I don’t have any recollection of that particular journey. Can you imagine if we could remember that rollercoaster ride?
I found the entire birthing journey to be an unbelievably empowering and enlightening experience. I truly believe that every woman should be given a superhero cape after giving birth.
Growing a human being is right up there with the ability to fly or become invisible. I am convinced that one of the most amazing things is that our bodies already know how to do all of this. Even if we don’t fully understand or fear the process, our bodies take over. They are capable of growing a being, a soul. And, these incredible bodies of ours already understand the process of bringing that soul into this world. If that doesn’t deserve a cape, I don’t know what does.
I am the type of person who needs all of the information. So, as I was preparing for the birth of my children, I took every class available. I read all the books. I found the class that had the most impact on my birth experience was my weekly yoga class.
During labor, as each sensation grew stronger, I knew that I needed to stay calm. With each surge, I closed my eyes and focused on my breath. It was the one thing I knew I could control. I could keep myself relaxed, calm, and in the moment by slowing down and guiding each inhale and each exhale.
Later, I realized that I wanted to be able to help other women with this revelation. You can stay calm by controlling your breath? Who knew? I know it seems like such a simple, obvious thing. But when things get rough, you forget all about a little thing like breathing.
So, I signed up for the nearest prenatal yoga training as soon as I got my RYT (registered yoga teacher) certificate through Yoga Alliance. I was both thrilled and nervous. I would be leaving my babies for a week and my mother-in-law was coming to take over my role as Chief Play Officer, Chauffeur, Cook (and the countless other things a stay-at-home Mom does). Clearly, I was terrified.
My prenatal yoga teacher training was nothing short of amazing. I was surrounded by a beautiful group of strong women who supported each other fully. We shared laughter and tears. We learned to truly listen, see, and support the amazing women around us. It is a practice that is much needed in the journey through motherhood. I learned so much more than just yoga during the training. I also learned about myself as a person, about who I am as a Mother, a Daughter, a Woman, a Soul. And that I, as are all of us, am an ever-changing being.
I fully believe each woman’s passage through pregnancy, birth, and labor is radiant and unique. I am honored to be a small part of any woman’s journey into motherhood.
And if you need a hand, I am more than happy to help you tie on your cape.
By Jessica Llanas, RYT, RPYT and superhero mama of two. Find her Thursday evenings and some Saturday mornings teaching prenatal yoga at Enso.
I can't believe this day is here.
Today, our Enso-baby turned TWO.
I've seen this happen to other families, their babies learning to walk, talk, (talk back), and I never really imagined it would happen to us. But today is that day, two candles on the cake and a whole new level of awareness.
We jumped on Suite 10 when it unexpectedly became available, rather than operating out of our third floor location, as we had planned.
(Kind of like SURPRISE! TWINS!)
People often ask us how two women without children could possibly run a space like Enso. It's well-meaning, I'm sure, but I want to answer the way women with children answer. We just do it. We love what we do. We have the same ups and downs that new families do - moments when we are crying in the bathroom wondering if we will ever make it out of this stage, as well as moments in the sunshine, when everything seems to fall magically into place.
We live off of string cheese.
(And we're always finding Cheerios in things...).
We've done a lot this past year, so here are a few of our highlights:
- Added several childbirth education classes
- Boosted our postpartum offerings (adding sign language, pediatric CPR, and Mama Yoga)
- Branched out into the world of henna!
- Completed our first Mom & Me Yoga teacher training
- Held our first Artist's Bazaar
We now have 25 different instructors at Enso, consignment artists, supportive mamas who assist with hosting and marketing, and countless families who have benefited from our services.
While some months have been harder than others, we are thrilled (and sometimes surprised) that we're still growing. Thank you for sharing your most important times with us - your laughter and tears, your feedback and heart-felt endorsements. We couldn't do what we do without your support.
We know you are stretched thin, your time, your patience. But in the moments when you see something we've shared, when you cross paths with a lost-looking mama or pregnant woman, when you visit with your care provider, we appreciate you speaking your voice on our behalf. Whether that is sharing a post on Facebook, inviting a friend to Meet the Doulas, or educating your provider about what we do. THANK YOU.
I made two goals for myself. I wanted a natural childbirth (that birth story is a different article which I am happy to share) and I wanted to breastfeed until my baby weans himself. I am forever grateful to the women who reached out to me on the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. I share the beginning of our breastfeeding journey in hopes of paying it forward and my own personal keepsake.
In the beginning, breastfeeding is the most natural thing that doesn’t come naturally. It is a skill that both mama and baby have to learn together. Lactation consultants and books say it shouldn’t hurt, but is uncomfortable as your nipples adjust to all the friction and their new job. I’m calling BS right now! It was awful! I never had any cracking or bleeding and it still hurt so bad that at times I really didn’t want to feed Gavin. There was a ton of guilt that came from not wanting to feed my baby. And let’s talk about engorged! Rock hard, twin peaks sitting right on my chest, but you’re not supposed to pump because you’ll trick your body into thinking it needs to always make this much milk. Leaking! Always, always leaking! I remember crying to my husband after I got out of the shower, but was already covered in milk that I just want to be clean for once. I grit my teeth and kept at breastfeeding him. Sometime around 6 weeks that pain went away for me. It helped to talk to friends with barely older babies when they told me that the pain would go away since they had it fresh in their memory.
When I was pregnant, I decided I wanted to be a Master Breastfeeder and I would breastfeed where ever I wanted without my cover, with no fear. Soon after Gavin arrived, I realized I wasn’t nearly as brave as I thought I’d be. I even made my dad go upstairs every time we nursed when he came to visit when Gavin was a month old. I attended a Breastfeeding Support group at the hospital and attended Mom & Me yoga regularly. I became comfortable at these places breastfeeding in public because the ladies next to me were doing the same thing. (At the Breastfeeding Support group, I also learned I have a great milk supply. We brought the babies hungry, fed them and talked, and weighed them again. Gavin often took in more than 6 ounces. I was even told to never let anyone tell me that he needs formula because I have a great supply.) I have not, nor will I ever feed my baby in a bathroom. I never let myself because I didn’t want to get into the habit. I would be in the middle of a grocery run, Gavin would get hungry and I would look around like where should I feed him? I’ll never forget the first time he was hungry and I just sat on an aisle shelf and fed him in Hobby Lobby. A couple people shopping walked by and didn’t care. It was freeing! We can do this! We’re not stuck inside for all of eternity! From there I’ve fed Gavin in the lawn furniture at Lowe’s, countless restaurants, lots of hikes, the hot air balloon classic, in the ergo, etc. Basically, if there isn’t a chair, I’m sitting on the ground or if I can’t sit on the ground, I’m standing. If the baby is hungry, I’m letting him eat. It probably took me 4 or 5 months to get to this point, but once you get here, there’s no going back! I’ve never been approached to “cover up”. In fact, I’ve been approached by women encouraging me or admiring/remembering when they breastfed their babies.
So here we are at 4 or 5 months as Master Breastfeeders, right? This is when I would say the breastfeeding journey begins… All the sudden, Gavin awoke and realized there is a world outside mama, daddy, and eating. Any sound Gavin heard, he’d snap his neck without unlatching. Ah yi yi! This is commonly referred to as nip-lash in the breastfeeding world. At this point in our journey, I had to cut out distractions by either putting the cover over him or going to a dark, quiet place to feed. Here I am secluded again so I can breastfeed, but at least I was ok with it because I was doing it for my baby, not society.
I stay at home with Gavin so I never had to work on pumping up a supply for work, but I did have a Bachelorette weekend around this time. I was able to pump up 100 ounces with a single valve hand pump and shipped them to my parents where Gavin stayed. He stayed with my parents’ at night and they brought him to me during the day to nurse by the pool. I pumped before we went to bed and in the morning. It was truly perfect for our situation. When I think back, for some reason I wasn’t bashful at that pool at all. I felt like I was so close to being topless since I only had a swimsuit top on anyway.
At this time, Gavin’s weight gain also slowed and our pediatrician sent us home with formula without much conversation on why the weight gain may have slowed down. (I’d like to punch that guy in the face if I ever ran into him especially since he told a friend of mine that some women starve their babies just so they can breastfeed… umm, wow!) After sobbing for a whole day, I convinced my husband to hold off on the formula. I contacted the local Le Leche League and was referred to a pro-breastfeeding pediatrician for a second opinion. She is our new pediatrician and she is pure gold. We talked it out and I should have never put my breastfed baby on a sleep schedule and I especially should not have started the schedule when he was 3 weeks old! I also learned about hindmilk and foremilk and the importance of both. Gavin was always so spitty so I pulled him off at 15 minutes on each side in hopes that the less he drank the less he would over flow (spit up), but really he was missing out on that good fatty hindmilk. I needed to let Gavin eat whenever he wanted and for as long as he wanted. My pediatrician also suggested I cut out dairy to see if it helped with his spit up. After trial and error, we figured out when I drank even the little bit of milk in my coffee and/or ate broccoli, Gavin would spit up. I cut those out of my diet and his spit up decreased substantially. Gavin started gaining on track again and he has never had an ounce of formula. I was a wreck for those months as his weight gain was slow. I have a personal bias to stick it to formula companies. I refuse to let the cultural experiment they have bestowed on our country to affect my breastfeeding relationship with my baby. Formula is meant as an absolute last resort and thank God we have it for that, but it is used too much because mothers are unsupported, told they can’t breastfeed, and their spirit is broken. In my gut, I knew, Gavin is always happy, smiling, and meeting developmental goals other than weight. I knew I had a great supply. I knew formula wasn’t the answer to his weight gain problem, but I was a wreck until his weight gain got back on track. I still get nervous weeks before doctor appointments where I know he’ll get weighed.
I’ve named the next chapter in our breastfeeding journey: clamping down. I’m lucky Gavin started this game before his teeth broke through and we were able to stop it before his teeth cut. I could handle his gum clamping, but I would still rate it a little more painful than just annoying. When he would clamp down, I would stop the breastfeeding session to let him know that clamping was not ok. I also flicked him once. It was a horrible idea; I wouldn’t suggest it. I cried more than he did. Firmly (but gently) poking his cheek to get him to understand what he was doing was also enough to get him to unlatch.
Sometime after he stopped clamping, I was really able to stop and enjoy the bond breast feeding provides. I always wanted to breastfeed, but if I’m completely honest, it is VERY time consuming. When you’re nursing a newborn for an hour every other hour, it was hard to enjoy the bond. I was more like AGAIN? ALREADY? At this point, Gavin’s latch was more effective so he could eat faster. His sweet eyes would look up at mine and I would realize there isn’t a single place in the world that I’d rather be. I always love side lie position. We both lay on our sides facing each other. We’ve taken quite a few naps like this, it is so special and sweet. As Gavin started eating more solids and nursing faster, our breastfeeding journey became so sweet. I not only am making perfect milk formulated just for him (did you know when baby gets sick, their saliva sends signals to mama’s areolas and mama makes milk with antibodies to help baby fight off whatever they caught? Beautiful, huh!), but I’m providing one on one time with me where I hold him and give him all my love. Who doesn’t love undivided attention from someone they love?
After we hit this sweet spot in our breastfeeding journey Gavin’s teeth came in. His bottom two teeth were a breeze. His top two were basically what I hear is typical for a teething baby, he was miserable and it sucked for us as parents. I even cracked and gave him some baby Tylenol. Gavin pretty much gave up eating any food and wanted to nurse as much as when he was a newborn. 10-11 month old nursing like a newborn at least 8 times a day. We took an airplane trip and stayed in a hotel for a week during the worst of it too. Ah what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. I ran into a girlfriend at breakfast who is breastfeeding with her third baby and I brought up Gavin isn’t eating and nursing like crazy. I had a raw moment of weakness and said I always wanted to let him wean himself, but I don’t know if I can keep doing this. I knew he was turning one soon and I could make it until then. My girlfriends simply said, “teething or growth spurt?” So far as a mom, I’ve had more than I can count ‘now why didn’t I think of that?’ moments. This was one. Go figure, his gums hurt because his big front teeth are coming in and he doesn’t want to chew on food so he’s nursing up a storm because he is also mobile now and needs all the calories he can get. As I recited my mantra at the time “this too shall pass”, it did.
Gavin quickly became his happy self again. Since he didn’t have his gum pain to worry about (for the time being) he was able to get even more mobile. Gavin loves to nurse with is body on one side of me, then move his whole body on the other side of me, then get his feet under him, attempt to stand up while staying latched so really he’s doing about a forward fold, unlatch to look at me with the biggest smile showing how proud he is of himself and then latch back on. Michelle at Le Leche League calls this gym-nurse-tics and it is so hilariously true. I’m learning to not let Gavin crawl all over me because he’s only going to get more mobile so I need to nip this in the butt while I still can.
Today, I feel like we have fun with nursing. I’m impressed if I unsnap my nursing tank like Pavlov’s Dog, Gavin comes walking over for some milk. No boo boo has been so bad (crossing our fingers and knocking on wood) that nursing can’t fix. I practice signing “milk” and so far he hasn’t signed it back, but he does smile and seem interested as I sign milk. We are just rounding out of year one. So far, I’m sticking to my goal of letting him wean. I think tandem nursing is about the coolest concept I’ve ever heard so we’ll see how long Gavin sticks with it (and when I get pregnant again). All the sudden, he’s been eating a lot more solid food the past couple weeks, but we still nurse about six times a day. This is our breastfeeding journey so far. It was completely worth all the hardship and I would do it all over again to get where we are now.
My current project is pumping 180 ounces for him to stay with my parents for our 8-day honeymoon in February when he’ll be 13 months! I figure this will give him at least four 5-ounce bottles a day. I caved and got an electric pump this time (what a time saver that I should have done months ago).
This blog is not intended to be a source of medical information or advice. Please discuss all of your concerns with your care provider.