Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Babies Suck

Pacifiers at Frederiksberg Have by zaxer

Babies do suck, as attested to by the pacifier tree above, lots of them, and they seem to like it. This interesting article in Salon, follows the history of pacifier use, and the subsequent guilt it evokes in parents. I would advise skipping pacifiers for at least the first month or so, not because of nipple confusion, but because it can inhibit a mom's milk supply. The more the baby sucks on something besides the mother, the less signals her brain and body are receiving to produce milk. If you have sore nipples and all of that non-nutritive sucking is giving you blisters, try offering your clean finger nail side down. If you ultimately decide on a pacifier go for a BPA-free one with a silicone nipple. If your baby is in the NICU, pacifiers have been shown to be useful in extending the breastfeeding relationship. I think to extend that conclusion, as he does in the article, to full term, vigorous and healthy breastfed infants is fallacious. In the end pacifier use, like all parenting issues, is a personal decision.

If you'd like to learn more about the wonderful pacifier tree tradition that they have at this Denmark park, read here. It's such a sweet tradition, and shows what meaning these tots give to their pacifiers, what a strong attachment!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From War to the Womb

This is an excerpt from a new film out about my favorite midwifery organization's efforts to bring Palestine and Israeli midwives together. It's unbelievable to think that a Palestinian woman has to wait 3-4 hours to reach her midwife because of checkpoints. I wonder why there are not more home births that happen there. I've blogged about these efforts before, but I think this clip is comprehensive in detailing the problems of the two countries midwives, how they are similar and how they differ.

COHI Coexistence Project
Uploaded by aldermanjessica. - Have a look at more lifestyle videos.

In other midwifery inspirations, I wanted to include this quote that was recently posted at the Citizens for Midwifery blog. I think it is a testament to the beauty of midwifery care, home birth, etc... Shouldn't we be striving for this beauty in our lives, even in birth?

While shopping [one] day, I noticed hand-dipped chocolates, homegrown vegetables, hand-spun wool, homemade preserves, cottage-industry soaps—all at premium prices, since they were made with care, individually, by hand, at home. I reflected, too, on how "old-fashioned" doctors, famous for house calls and compassion, are remembered fondly as part of the "good old days" and praised for their one-on-one caring. I mused how our society honors unique, special, one-of-a-kind items and services.

Yet when it comes to maternity care, it seems the bigger and busier, the better: high-tech procedures, standardized treatment, massive patient loads, in-and-out, assembly-line-style facilities. We are urged to leave the clean peace and quiet of home and go, instead, to a large, centralized center and entrust ourselves to a system of detached and often distracted institutional workers whom we've never met and may never see again. I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider hospital care preferable, if they really thought about it.

High-tech or hands-on? The choice is not new. In many cases, of course, mechanical and technological advances have been just that: improvements. Other advances, as we all know too well, have resulted in lasting harm.

Judy Edmunds, excerpted from "A Grand Triumph," Midwifery Today Issue 37

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Miscarriage and Prematurity

Rose Knit Hat by thedayhascome

We all want to see our babies come out fat, healthy, and robust. For many women though, this is not always the case. Our preterm birth rate in America is among the highest in developed nations and rising. 12.8% of pregnancies in America end in preterm births, meaning the baby is born before 36 weeks of gestation. The number of preterm births in America has risen 36% since the 1980's.

Miscarriage occurs more often than we'd like to think as well. It has been said that one in three pregnancies results in miscarriage! Most of these are missed by women, who think that their period is just a little late that month. Miscarriages, when they happen, are often devastating and defeating for a woman. In this society it is rarely talked about, and often downplayed if brought to light.

I just wanted to briefly address these issues in terms of midwifery care and advice. In terms of preventing preterm labor, there are some herbs that I recommend.
  • Cramp bark and black haw are a combination often used to prevent preterm labor. They can be taken every two hours, two droppers-ful.
  • I advise, lots of water, rest and nourishment, also ask your health care provider to test for urinary tract infection.
  • False unicorn root (yes, that is it's real name!), can help when there are signs of preterm labor. Check with your local herbalist for dosages.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to ensure the health and growth of a preterm infant is kangaroo care. A recent study showed that kangaroo care could reduce newborn deaths by up to 50% worldwide. Kangaroo care is typically defined as skin to skin contact between mother and baby, exclusive breastfeeding, and supporting the infant/mother unit, as one unit, as if mom were still pregnant.

Breastfeeding is a bit tricky with preterm infants as they tire easy from trying to get the milk out, but it is so important for these babies. Formula increases the chances of babies getting infections, something preterm babies have a much harder time fighting off.
  • Kangaroo care increases the chances of successful breastfeeding.
  • Early attempts at the breast for the preterm baby is important.
  • Swabbing the babies mouth with your colostrum is even beneficial if for some reason you and baby have to be separated in the beginning. This is something dad, or grandma can easily do.
  • Continued pumping and hand expression by the mother will ensure a good milk supply.
  • If the baby is unable to suck at the breast, he can take the mother's pumped milk in many forms, cup, finger, syringe. See here for more details.

Miscarriage is probably one of the most frequent things I am asked to counsel women about. Not all bleeding and cramping leads to miscarriage though.
  • Red raspberry leaf drunk throughout the pregnancy is a good uterine tonic and while there is no evidence that it will prevent miscarriage it can nourish the uterus.
  • Vitex, otherwise known as chasteberry, is a great herb at preventing miscarriage when there is a history of it, or when there is bleeding and cramping. When there is bleeding take two droppersful every two hours.
  • Acupuncture can also be of great aid to women who have had a history of miscarriage or are actively bleeding.
  • Finally, if you have had frequent miscarriages, there are a lot of interesting studies out about the link between miscarriages and celiac disease. You might want to ask your doctor about getting tested for this. If you do have it, it's a somewhat simple fix towards carrying a pregnancy full term.
And of course we cannot forget the spiritual component of anything. I came across these amazing pieces of advice on Sunnipath. I will summarize a couple of the nuggets of wisdom below:

  • Anyone who, whilst placing his hand on the stomach of his pregnant wife, repeats Ya Mubdi ( O Originator) 99 times at the time of suhur (before Fajr), neither will she have a miscarriage nor will she give birth prematurely, insha Allah.
  • If an expectant woman writes Sura Al-Haqqa (in the 29 Juz) and wears it as an amulet (ta`weez), it will protect the unborn child from physical, mental and spiritual calamities, insha Allah.
May Allah grant all of you blessed pregnancies!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Doula Film & Lorenza Holt

The following two films are portrayals of women and their journey towards natural birth. The first explores doulas and their roles in the birthing process. The second is by a doula, childbirth educator, and Mexican American, Lorenza Holt. She tells the motives behind her choices and moves towards women centered midwifery care for her second birth. Both are moving and touching vignettes. To learn more about the Doula Film click here. Lorenza Holt, the woman telling her story in the second film, is nominated for Our Bodies Our Blog, Women's Health Heroes 2010. You can read more about her inspiring story and vote for her here. While you are there check out all of the nominees for this award, there are some really brave and powerful women's health advocates in the world! Both films contain either birth scenes or pictures of birth, lovely though they are....

Birth Doula film from Alex Wakeford on Vimeo.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Immense Ocean

The Immense Ocean: Al-Bahr al-Madid: A Thirteenth Century Quranic Commentary on the Chapters of the All-Merciful, the Event, and Iron (Fons Vitae Quranic Commentaries Series)

"All who are in the heavens and upon earth ask of Him
Every day He is in some task."
Quran (55:29)

This is a tafsir on the 54th hizb of the Qur'an from the great Moroccan scholar, Ahmad ibn 'Ajiba. It is a wonderful translation of a work rarely available in English. It's available here. Last night I was struck by the commentary on the above verses. Here is the commentary:

"Concerning this verse, I heard our Shaykh, Sidi al-Tawudi Ben Suda, may God have mercy upon him, say, " Among His tasks is to make ready, every day, three multitudes [of souls]: those which enter the wombs, those which are born into the world, and those which enter the graves."

I like this reassurance. For those of you trying to conceive, for those of you waiting to deliver, and for all of us waiting to enter the graves, this presents a solace and a guidance, that this is not our tasks, that Allah will bring manifest these destinies in His time. What do we then need Pitocin for? With Allah's Mercy and Help, babies will be born when He makes their souls ready.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Latching On

In follow up to my post about the dismal US breastfeeding statistics reported in the Washington Post, there is a new documentary film out titled, 'Latching On'. I haven't seen it yet, but it is a brilliant idea. She discusses her sister's experience as a breastfeeding mother, beginning in Germany where she delivered her baby and where women breastfeed anywhere and everywhere, and ending in New York City, where spotting a breastfeeding mother is as rare as spotting a unicorn.

I'm always proud of my Muslim sisters who overcome sometimes great odds to breastfeed their children. When I travel to the Muslim world, I am also surprised at how openly women in these modest cultures breastfeed their children. Even in the stricter countries, where gender segregation is imposed in public, breastfeeding is still the norm. This study from Australia compared breastfeeding rates amongst Australian, Vietnamese, and Turkish women in Australia. Turkish women had the highest rates of breastfeeding initiation. I pray that this is a legacy we can leave the world with, that breastfeeding children, is a norm and a divine duty of the mother, and that it does not have to be difficult or even hidden.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poem - Morning Song

Mother and Child by Koshyk

Morning Song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its
own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

-Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

There was a study released in Pediatrics on Monday that says if American women were to breastfeed exclusively for six months, that nearly 900 infant lives and billions of health care dollars would be saved each year. Only 12% of American women exclusively breastfeed at six months. This article in the Washington Post details many of the benefit of breastfeeding and mentions how birth practices affect breastfeeding outcomes, "The pediatrics academy says babies should be given a chance to start breast-feeding immediately after birth. Bartick said that often doesn't happen, and at many hospitals newborns are offered formula even when their mothers intend to breast-feed. " That first hour or so is so important for many interactions between mother and infant, breastfeeding included. Ask for help from your midwife or hospital staff if you are unsure of how to get the baby on, it really can ease the way for so much if the baby can have at least one go at the breast in the first hour or so. Breastfeeding is often viewed as a choice in this country, but in terms of public health, it really should be looked at similar to seat belts, you are far better off with it than without it.

I also wanted to share a link of a UK publication entitled Mum and Muslim magazine. They have just come out with their first issue and there are some interesting articles up. Go check it out!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


In my interview with Hakim Archuletta's he briefly mentioned singing (and offered to conduct the entire interview whilst singing!)as a good preparation for labor. Michel Odent, a French obstetrician who has dedicated his life to natural, uninterrupted childbirth, used to conduct singing sessions in place of some of the prenatals. Here is an excerpt from Odent's book entitled, "Birth and Breastfeeding: Rediscovering the Needs of Women During Pregnancy". In this excerpt he talks about how a pregnant woman's brain changes and how becoming more in touch with our mammalian, and our human sides, is most befitting for this time in our lives, and actually congruent with the brain changes occurring in a woman's brain during gestation.

Labor is another excellent time to use our voice. It can be a wonderful coping technique especially for the intense contractions at the end of labor. Anything from moaning, "oooooopppeennn", "ooommmm", or even 'Allllaaahhh", relaxes our throat muscles, channels the pain and energy of the contraction, and in turn relaxes our pelvic area. Ina May Gaskin, America's legendary midwife, is famous for saying "Loose lips make loose hips". It's true, try it even now, not pregnant. Blow a raspberry and feel if you can't feel where you are making contact with the ground, or chair, more fully. I love this following video of a woman singing through her labor. She has two big contractions while singing which are almost impossible to distinguish. A couple of hours after this video was taken, she delivered a ten pound baby at home!

So try singing as a preparation for labor, and for life, and for all those lullabies that are sure to come!