Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Cherry Blossom by conner395
"And God brought you out of your mother's insides while you knew nothing, and gave you hearing and eyesight and feelings, that you might be grateful."
You feel as if you are about to burst forth. Your body is now completing its preparations for the upcoming birth and subsequent mothering upon which you are about to embark. And everyone wants to know, "When are you due?" The waning days of pregnancy can bring joy and discomfort, all within moments of each other! Fetal development is geared towards preparing the baby to enter the world; the lungs are preparing to inflate and the brain is laying down the foundation for the nervous system. For most women this is a time of anticipation and excitement, but it can also be a time of anxiety and worry as the end of pregnancy nears and the momentous act of receiving a new life begins. I want to briefly discuss some common physical and emotional manifestations that can arise in the third trimester.
Insomnia is common during the last few months of pregnancy. It can be a combination of physical and emotional factors that have you tossing and turning. A study of pregnant women throughout their pregnancy revealed that by the end of pregnancy 97% of women had trouble with sleep! The most common cause for night waking? You guessed it, the need to urinate!
- Doing cat/cow pelvic tilts before bed can reduce the frequency of urination at night. Try doing at least ten before bed and see if it reduces at least one trip to the bathroom. The theory is that it moves the baby's head off your bladder for enough time to allow you some shut eye.
- Take a bath with aromatherapy, lavender oil, chamomile oil, or other relaxing scents about an hour before bed.
- Working out any fears and/or anxieties around the birth often happens at night. I find that most women benefit from writing down a list of the things they are concerned with when they wake at night. They can then promise themselves that they will get back to it in the morning. This can also be an enlightening look into the unconscious mind.
- Getting plenty of exercise during the day, particularly late afternoon, can help bring on restful sleep.
- A calcium magnesium supplement is always helpful when dealing with insomnia.
- Also, make sure you are getting enough to eat. Hunger, even when you don't feel hungry, can be a cause of insomnia. Try to make yourself a snack, peanut butter toast, milk, an apple, and see if you don't drift off easier.
- Know that this is also Allah's way of preparing you for the frequent night wakings bound to come with a newborn in the house. It's a marvelous system isn't it?
- The infamous dreams of pregnancy also arise during the third trimester. You misplace your baby, or your baby is born a cat, or you are stuck in a small space. All of these dreams are allowing you to work out the worry. Psychologists say that the more anxious the dreams a woman has, the easier her labor! Now there is an upside to bad dreams!
The main work of the third trimester though, is preparing for the birth. There are a lot of physical and emotional preparations that all mothers make in order to ready themselves for the big arrival. Here are some suggestions that might help with making this passage smooth for you.
- Visualize the birth. Imagine yourself not at the birth, but in the birth. What is the sensation of your labor journey, the color, the feel? Picture the baby head down, with her back facing out and her limbs cocooned towards your center. See yourself as strong, confident and capable.
- Be honest with your self about any fears that you have around the birth. The more these fears stay suppressed, the likelier they are to arise at inconvenient times. It's best to look them in the eye now. Try writing them down, painting them, singing them...
- Birthing From Within gives guidance to creatively expressing yourself around the issues of pregnancy, labor, delivery, etc... I find it a wonderful friend in the third trimester. Lots of art and soul searching in this book.
- Find ways to feel supported and nurtured, both now, and for after the labor. Organize a food tree. This can be a great way to let your friends and family see the baby, while you get the help you need. It can be strengthening to know going into labor, that others are waiting to nourish your family with food and their help after all is said and done.
- Midwife guru, Anne Frye, has an interesting, and Islamic take on emotions during the third trimester. She believes that many women are coming up against their own mortality during pregnancy, and that a lot of the fears that arise during this time, can stem from that thought. She states that "...in some ways labor is the closest she may ever be to the threshold between life and death while she is still very much alive." And really, doesn't a part of us die while giving birth. It's the tariqa of motherhood I suppose!
- As stated above fetal brain development is rapid during these last months. There are some preliminary studies to show that prenatal supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, might aid in your child's cognitive function later in life. Supplementing with fish oil prenatally has also been found to aid in preventing postpartum depression.
- Supplementing with pro-biotics prenatally has been found to reduce the incidence of eczema and allergies in the first year of life, in children prone to them. It also makes for a healthier vaginal flora and can help in preventing colonization of GBS in both mothers and newborns.
- Alfalfa tincture or pill can help to prevent excessive blood loss by building a mother's Vitamin K stores.
- Some midwives suggest taking a late pregnancy tonic to help tonify the uterus and prepare the body for birth. I don't believe it's essential, but can be useful for some.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Maha al-Musa is author, mother of three, doula and creator of Belly Dance Birth. She has released a DVD entitled, "Dance of the Womb - Belly Dance for Pregnancy and Birth". I love this DVD. It is soothing, encouraging, and a wonderful exercise during pregnancy and as a preparation for childbirth. I wanted to ask Maha more about how she developed this method, her experiences as an Arab women reconnecting with her roots, and of course, her births! The interview is below. You can watch a trailer of the DVD here and visit her website here.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
by Kenny Moller
The midwives have cleaned up and left, or you're finally home from the hospital, a family unto yourselves. And it's finally here,the first night alone with your baby. It's exhilarating and all too real, this little creature is yours from now until forever, and somewhere you have the inkling that your life will never be the same, for better or worse. You are ready to curl up and get some much deserved sleep, but what do you do with, and where do you put the baby?
Co-sleeping, or family bed as it is sometimes called, is the practice of an infant sleeping in the same bed as the parent. In the West, co-sleeping is a controversial phenomenon. It stems from incidents in Europe during the 16th-18th centuries where mothers, with no access to birth control and usually suffering extreme poverty, would smother their infants by overlaying. It resulted in co-sleeping with an infant being outlawed in much of Europe, and a permanent aversion in the Western psyche to the family bed.
In other parts of the world, where mothers often have little money for cribs and fully accessorized nurseries, the family bed is the norm. Even in the developed world in countries such as, China, Sweden, Chile, Denmark, and Japan bed sharing is the norm. Helen Ball, an anthropologist specializing in parent-infant behavior, found that in the UK up to 75% of families co-slept, but did not report this to their doctor or midwife. Another study in the United Arab Emirates, which looked at changes in childbirth and parenting over three generations of women, found that birth attendants, breastfeeding length, medication and labor during childbirth, all changed across generations, except for the family bed, this remained a constant amongst Emirati women over time.
SIDS, which stand for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is often cited as a reason to avoid the family bed. In the United States, SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants past one month of age. Yet there are many reasons why SIDS occurs, none of which holds the entire solution to the prevention of SIDS. So far, the 'Back to Sleep' campaign has been successful in countries like America and New Zealand at reducing the SIDS rates. Of great interest, is that in countries with the lowest rates of SIDS, such as Japan and China, they also report the highest numbers of co-sleeping. The concern with co-sleeping and SIDS is that the infants will be smothered, an age old concern, not well validated by today's science.
Researcher James McKenna has found that mother and infant dyads sharing the same bed display an inordinate amount of sensitivity to each other throughout the night. In his Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, he found that mothers usually adopted a protective position, on their sides facing their infants throughout the night, increasing the amount of face to face time with their infant. This is stimulating to the infant and believed to stimulate infant respiration,believed to be a protective factor against SIDS. He has also found that the mother regulates the baby's breathing, heart rate, temperature, and that babies had greater daily weight gain when they slept side by side with their mothers.
This is to say nothing of breastfeeding and its relationship to co-sleeping. Bed-sharing is strongly associated with better breastfeeding outcomes. One of the beauties of breastfeeding is it's relationship to mom's sleep, there is no getting up to make bottles in the middle of the night, the food is always ready and the right temperature. Not that bottle feeding mamas are more or less exhausted than their breastfeeding counterparts, all moms work at night, but it does make nighttime infinitely easier if all you have to do is roll over and nurse. In answer to a question on co-sleeping on the Islamic forum, Sunnipath, one teacher answered: "I don't know of any specific Islamic injunction about co-sleeping. There is absolutely no problem with having your baby in the bed with you. In fact, if you're breastfeeding, which, according to Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, is a religious and moral responsibility toward your child, then it makes a lot of sense to co-sleep. " It does just make sense!
Nothing is absolutely foolproof however, and sadly, babies do succumb to SIDS even while co-sleeping. May Allah protect all of our children. Here is a list compiled by Dr. James McKenna, excerpted from Mothering magazine, of how to increase the safety of co-sleeping:
- For parents who smoke, drink, or are unusually heavy sleepers, or use any kind of drugs that inhibit arousal from sleep, co-sleeping on the same surface with a baby is not recommended, said McKenna. For these parents, having their child sleep on a separate surface near them, such as a cradle or bassinet, will protect the baby from overlaying while still providing the baby with many of the same benefits as cosleeping.
- Make sure the surface your baby sleeps on is firm. "There are many adult mattresses that can match the stiffness of CPSC recommendations," McKenna said. Avoid waterbeds, lambskins, and other soft bedding for your baby. Stuffed animals and toys should be kept out of the baby's sleep environment.
- Don't give pillows to babies or young toddlers, and keep their faces away from your pillow. Keep blankets away from babies' faces, too.
- Cosleeping babies are kept warmer than solitary sleeping babies, so they need lighter blankets and pajamas. (Being too warm may be a factor in SIDS.)
- Toddlers should not be allowed to sleep next to infants, said McKenna, because "They are too unaware of the dangers their bodies pose." Instead, either the infant or the toddler can sleep on a separate surface next to the family bed—the infant in a cosleeper, crib, or bassinet; the toddler in a toddler bed or mattress on the floor.
- Headboards, footboards, and side rails can be unsafe, especially if a baby is left alone in bed with these trappings. One of the most dangerous situations for young children is getting their heads wedged in furniture, said McKenna. He suggested making sure the child's head can't fit between the side rail and any surrounding surfaces. If a parent is using a crib as a sidecar, make sure the two mattresses are on the same level and held tightly together, so there is no space that a baby could slip into. If a bed is up against a wall, ensure that there are no gaps in which a child's head can get trapped. Another option is to put the mattress right on the floor, so that side rails are not necessary to prevent a baby from falling off the bed.
- Do not sleep on the sofa with your baby, or leave a sleeping baby alone on a sofa.
- Do not leave a baby unattended in an adult bed. The benefits of the family bed exist only when the parents are there with the child; if the parents want some adult time while baby sleeps, the child should be put somewhere else—such as a crib, bassinet, or mattress on the floor—until the parents are ready for him to join them, McKenna said.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Mother and Child, Marrakech by Greg Robbins
In honor of International Woman's Day I wanted to share this video from the New York Times. The women of the Congo outdo Nicholas Kristof in a hilarious lifting contest of sorts. It is a testament to both the sheer physical strength of women and to their emotional resiliency and grace in the face of much hardship.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Moeder en kroost by Inferis
Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: Salamah, the wetnurse of Ibrahim, the son of the Prophet, peace of and blessings of Allah upon him, said, "O Messenger of Allah. You give tidings of all the good to the men and you don't give tidings to the women." He said, "Did your female companions induce you to [ask] this?" She said, "Yes." He said, "Will one of you not be pleased that when she is pregnant from her husband and he is pleased with her that she has a reward like the reward of the one who fasts and prays in the way of Allah? Then when she is in labor, none of the people of the heavens or the earth know what is hidden for her of [pleasures,] soothing to her eyes. And when she delivers, no mouthful of milk flows from her nor a [child's] suck except that she has a reward with every mouthful and with every suck. And if [her child] keeps her awake during the night, she has a reward similar to the reward of freeing seventy slaves for the sake of Allah."
-Related by Tabarani in his Mu'jam al-Awsat
Isn't that an amazing hadith?! The reality for most women is that breastfeeding does come easily and continues without much of a hitch. However, it is not true for everyone, and for some mothers, this can be particularly devastating. One of the wisdoms which I gathered from the conference on lactation* is that birth practices do affect and impact breastfeeding and its longevity. I wish most of us would have home births, where for the most part, optimal birth practices are in place to promote breast feeding, but alas, I know that is not the case. Although most hospital staff are in support of breast feeding, much of what happens in the first few hours is dictated by hospital policies and procedures, rather than a drive towards successful lactation. It's time we started looking at breastfeeding as a part of the birth experience, not a separate component. The following is a brief, brief summary of what I learned at this past week's conference, which can optimize lactation, breast milk production and bonding for mother and child in those most invaluable early days. All of these things can be included in a birth plan and discussed with your midwife and/or doctor.
Skin to skin contact has been proven scientifically to increase, among many other things, rates of exclusive breastfeeding in mothers and infants. As long as the baby is stable at birth, this is easily accomplished and accommodated in any birth setting. Request that the baby be placed on your abdomen or chest immediately after birth. Skin to skin contact is dose dependent, the more skin to skin in the early days, the better adjusted your baby is to this earth, and the more successful breastfeeding becomes. Anyone can do skin to skin contact, the father, grandmother, auntie. It is ideal if it's the mother, but the self regulating mechanisms of skin to skin can be accomplished with other adults. The other benefits of skin to skin are that it begins to colonize the normal flora of a baby's many developing systems, it regulates temperature and respirations of a baby (particularly important for a preemie), and amazingly reduces pain in the baby. Skin to skin contact also increases levels of oxytocin in the mother's blood stream, a hormone essential for a mother to let down her milk supply to the baby.
Infants are born with an instinct to find the breast and self attach. This video eloquently demonstrates this. The areola, the darkened skin around the nipples acts as a point of focus for the baby. The scent of amniotic fluid reminds baby of his intrauterine home and as he journeys to the breast, he is smearing this scent from his hands over the mother's body. This is both calming and a guidance to the infant. As you'll see one of the remarkable things about this instinct, is that it is influenced by pain medications used in labor, if used the instinct is dulled and disorganized. Epidurals are not without their place in the birth world. However, they are not without their side effects either. A recent study found that women who used an epidural with Fentanyl (a narcotic analgesic) had lower rates of exclusive breastfeeding at six weeks postpartum. Undisturbed, natural birth deserves more credit than it receives, it's benefits are subtle and vast, the self attachment of a newborn to its source of nourishment being but one.
Prolactin, the hormone required for breast milk production, rises with repeated stimulation of the breast. When babies are born, they are usually in a quiet, alert state. Priming the hormonal pump, by taking advantage of this state and initiating breastfeeding within an hour and half or so of birth, can help to increase and maintain milk supplies. The feeds should not be timed or scheduled in order for baby to continue stimulating the release of this important hormone in the first few days postpartum.This usually translates as: stay in bed with the baby and let the baby feed frequently!
Hand expression is another useful tool for a breastfeeding mom to learn. This is a video which beautifully explains how to do it. Hand expression after each feed in the early days, continues to stimulate your breast to make more milk, it also fully empties the breast when a newborn cannot, another important element in increasing milk supply. An empty breast signals the brain that it needs to make more milk. Hand expression accomplishes this beautifully and without a bulky pump. If done regularly after each feeding, it can also prevent engorgement of the breast. Save what you collect and feed to the baby with a spoon, small cup, or syringe.
*I would like to thank the woman at Evergreen Perinatal for their dedication to breastfeeding and for an amazing conference. If any of you get the chance to attend on of their lectures, it is well worth it.
Friday, March 5, 2010
I love how in the first video, the Palestinian midwife demonstrates how the prostration of our prayer is a good birthing position. It does work doesn't it?!
Meanwhile in America, the CDC just released a report that home births here have increased by 3.5% between the years 2003-2004 and 2005-2006. I think the common thread in all three of these, is well trained midwives. The role of birth attendant is extremely significant, whether it's the midwife who stays with you through the entire labor, monitoring your physical and emotional well being, or the doctor who saves the life of a mother and baby; both must be respectful of the power and strength of women and their bodies as well as knowledgeable and skilled in regards to the labor and birthing process. In this country we would be much better off if they could work in sync with one another, rather than at odds.
Sorry for the light posting this week. I have been at a lactation conference, stay tuned for some exciting posts on breastfeeding. I never knew the lactating breast was so fascinating! Have a fabulous weekend!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
From the private ease of Mother's womb
I fall into the lighted room.
Why don't they simply put me back
Where it is warm and wet and black?
But one thing follows on another.
Things were different inside Mother.
Padded and jolly I would ride
The perfect comfort of her inside.
They tuck me in a rustling bed
-I lie there, raging, small, and red.
I may sleep soon, I may forget,
But I won't forget that I regret.
A rain of blood poured round her womb,
But all time roars outside this room.
-Thom Gunn (1929- )
What an amusing poem! I love how the baby wants to go back inside. It seems like that sometimes doesn't it! Here are some links about babies:
- There is a new website containing lectures by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller's esteemed wife Umm Sahl. Particularly pertinent to this blog is Lecture 5.1, the sunnas of a newborn child. It's wonderful and thought provoking. To hear this lecture and others visit www.raisingmuslimchildren.com.
- "Do Toxins Cause Autism?" a recent op-ed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff looks at the recent studies linking our chemical exposures to increasing rates of autism in children. He briefly discusses the new bill proposed in the Senate that strengthens the Toxic Substances Control Act. Apparently of the 80,000 chemicals in our environment the EPA only tests 200! Kristof's last paragraph contains excellent advice for pregnant women and parents. "The precautionary principle suggests that we should be wary of personal products like fragrances unless they are marked phthalate-free. And it makes sense — particularly for children and pregnant women — to avoid most plastics marked at the bottom as 3, 6 and 7 because they are the ones associated with potentially harmful toxins."