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Is your baby a room-mate or a house-guest?

Curious Baby

Many years ago, a client told me about how she and her partner had felt about caring for their baby in the middle of the night: “Everytime he woke up and needed a diaper change we behaved as though a GOD had landed, and we both had to get up to worship him and cater to him.” After a few weeks of this, they decided they were “over-staffing the diaper changes” and did not need both parents to get up each time.

Many new parents in the baby groups I facilitate have told me that they don’t know what to DO with the baby, when, after a few weeks, the baby starts to stay awake for longer stretches and seems to be looking for something to happen. The parents say they don’t know what to do to “entertain” or “stimulate” the baby. The braver ones confess that they find it boring, to talk to a small baby and rattle toys in the air.

It makes me think of the difference between a house-guest and a room-mate.

When a friend or family-member comes to stay at my house for a few days, or even a week or two, I tend to focus on them. I cook special meals. I make them cups of tea. I might take a few days off work to spend with them or make sure I come home early from work. If they go off to their room for a nap, I might relax and go do the dishes, but when they come out of their room, I feel I should give them my attention, and offer them a drink.

Once someone has lived with me for several weeks, though, they become a room-mate. We might plan to have dinner together, but I don’t have to rush home from work. I can do the dishes while they sit in the kitchen drinking their tea. We might even sit in the living room together reading the paper, and be quietly companionable.

You might feel about you new baby as though they are a very special houseguest at first. But that’s not sustainable for more than a few weeks. Eventually, you have to acknowledge that your baby is your long-term room-mate, who’s going to stick around for the next 18-25 years!

Of course, you should give your baby attention.

You should talk to your baby, and play little tickle games, and rattle toys, and read books, and sing songs. But it’s also ok to hang out in the living room together sometimes, and read your book, or answer your email, or listen to a podcast while baby kicks and rolls around on the floor and looks at the ceiling or out the window. You will look over once in a while and check in with baby, make sure baby know you are still there, still available. But you don’t have to stare into your baby’s eyes every minute of the time they are awake!

Remember that your baby did not come here to “play.” You baby’s goal is to learn to be like you! So you can help your baby by showing them what a happy busy grown-up looks like. Let your baby see you doing chores. Fold the laundry on the floor while the baby lies next to you. Put your baby in the bouncy-chair to watch you while you empty the dish-washer, or vacuum. When your baby can sit in the highchair, put them in there to watch you do the dishes or peel the carrots.

I hope your life is not only made up of chores though!

Let your baby watch you doing things that make you happy. Dance around the living room, do some yoga. A friend of mine decided to learn the banjo during her mat-leave. Her son loved listening to her play. An artist I know used to paint big colourful canvases with her baby watching, fascinated, from the baby seat.

But you also want your baby to learn to kick back and chill out. So model that behaviour. Go lie on a blanket under a tree with your baby and just be peaceful.

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Is a Prenatal Class about Childbirth or about Babies?

Prenatal Childbirth Preparation for Doctors' Patients

This term we use – Prenatal Class – is confusing, isn’t it?

Some parents-to-be are fascinated by, or worried about labour and birth and are wanting to spend a lot of time talking about it. They come to our 12-hour, six-week Childbirth Preparation classes and are happy to spend most of the time on labour and birth, and practicing comfort measures and coping skills, and find that it’s great that we also spend two entire hours talking about babies and breastfeeding.

Other parents, who are more worried about how they are going to cope with the baby once it is out, feel they would like to spend more time talking about babies and breastfeeding.

It’s for this second group of parents that we have designed the Parenting the Newborn series. It’s a three-week, six-hour series in which a postpartum doula and breastfeeding educator takes you though two hours on baby care and two hours on breastfeeding, and then a First Aid Instructor comes and teaches two hours of Infant First Aid and CPR.

Many of our parents take both sets of classes. And we encourage this by giving parents a $15 discount if they sign up for both classes at the same time. (We also acknowledge that there will be a little overlap between the classes.) Some parents take only one, or only the other.

I would say, that if you take only one, the Childbirth Preparation Class is the one to take. Experiencing childbirth in a healthy and satisfying way takes knowledge and preparation. Labour and Birth happen all at once, in a big storm. There is little time to consider, or problem solve during labour. The learning and considering and deciding needs to happen before labour starts – even though you may change your mind during labour itself – in fact you probably will.

You can learn baby care and breastfeeding over several week and months. Babies are very patient with fumbly parents, and every parent figures out their own way through the challenges of of the first weeks. In fact, the hormones you make (yes, parents of all genders make hormones when they are around babies) will help you be more attentive and respond more sensitively to your baby.

At Mothering Touch, we believe in people’s basic ability to give birth and care for their babies. We want parents to feel well-prepared and well-supported, to feel satisfied with their birth experience and to be able to enjoy the first weeks with their baby. That is the goal of all our classes and groups.

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Twelve to Sixteen Weeks Pregnant

Twelve Weeks to Sixteen Weeks Pregnant

You’ve come to the end of the First Trimester! You are now entering the Second Trimester – this is the time of the legendary glowing, energetic happy pregnant mama. Of course, that does not happen for everyone. For some, nausea and vomiting do not subside, and fatigue persists even after twelve weeks. This is very difficult.

How you might feel between twelve weeks and sixteen weeks of pregnancy:

  • Nausea and vomiting might start to get better.
  • Heartburn might start or get worse
  • Some women find their sex drive gets stronger at this time – estrogen from the placenta contributes to this.
  • Stuffy nose and nosebleeds
  • Sore back
  • Hair growth – all those growth hormones the placenta is making can make hair grow well on your head – and elsewhere.
  • Headaches. Acetaminophen may be ok (ask your care provider to make sure), but ibuprophen and aspirin are not safe for use in pregnancy. Try a cold compress on your forehead, taking a nap, or having a snack.

Things you may do between twelve weeks and sixteen weeks of pregnancy:

  • Because you are now passed the period of highest risk for miscarriage, this may be when you choose to tell friends and family about your pregnancy. This can be an exciting and happy thing. It can also create a lot of attention and make some women feel shy. Take your time, and tell your news at your own pace.
  • Pregnant women tend to spend a lot of time in the Second Trimester thinking about the baby (some call it daydreaming, or processing, or meditating), wondering what s/he will be like and how it will feel to be a parent.  Use that motivation to learn right now about baby care, and infant development. Some good books include, The Baby Book, by William & Martha Sears and Your Amazing Newborn, by Marshall and Phyllis Klaus.
  • This is alo a good time to learn more about breastfeeding. A good book would be Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Nancy Mohrbacher.
  • Consider having a doula at your birth.  A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides physical, informational and emotional support and helps parents to have an easier and more positive childbirth experience.  You can learn more by clicking here.
  • Register for Prenatal Childbirth Preparation Classes.  It’s best to take these after 28 weeks, but you have to schedule them and register for them now or the class you want may not be available. 

 Between twelve weeks and sixteen weeks of pregnancy, your care-provider will probably:

  • be seeing you every month at this stage
  • weigh you at each visit and discuss healthy weight gain
  • palpate and measure your abdomen
  • at this stage, you and your care provider will be able to hear the baby’s heart beat using a hand held Doppler ultrasound device
  • if your prenatal screening tests have shown positive results, you may be offered amniocentesis. You can read about that here.

You’re getting to know your care-provider now, and developing a relationship with him or her.  Keep a list of questions to ask at your monthly appointments.  It’s so easy to forget.

Things you can do for your health and your baby’s health:

  • As the nausea starts to go away, experiment with new, nutritious foods.  You may feel hungry in a way you have not experienced before.
  • Keep up with regular physical activity.  As you get bigger around the middle, you may feel a little awkward in your regular classes and decide to join a pregnancy yoga, fitness or aquafit class.  Or not!  The best way to get exercise is to do what you love in an environment you feel comfortable with.  Don’t let anyone else tell you where that should be.
  • If you have not yet joined the Pregnancy Happy Hour on Fridays evenings at the Mothering Touch Centre come and try it out!

Resources:

Infant development: https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/babies-physical-development-0-6-months
Breastfeeding videos: https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/topic/feeding
Doulas: http://www.doulasofvictoria.ca/
Doulas: http://doulamatch.net/
Genetic testing: 
http://www.perinatalservicesbc.ca/ScreeningPrograms/PrenatalGeneticScreening/family-resources/default.htm

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Keeping the Love Alive: When Partners Become Parents

Randy and Eva

My husband Randy and I have been together for almost 35 years now. We were together for seven years before having our first child. In that time we completed a total of 5 post-secondary degrees, got married (and organized a wedding with 120 guests), moved three times (including one move abroad), spent several long periods living apart because of school and work, lived with my parents (for a year) and renovated a 1500 square-foot apartment. We had lots of stress. And lots of arguments. We also had lots of opportunities to grow as a couple and as a team.

But it wasn’t until Daniel was born that we realized how important it was for us to be a team. Because now, we were not the only ones who would be made unhappy if our team did not succeed; our son would be made unhappy too. We were really stuck now!

Not only did we suddenly recognize the permanence of this team, but we also were suddenly aware of all sorts of issues we had each taken for granted. We had never thought to discuss questions like:

Who will get up in the night with the baby?
Whose paid work is more important?
Who decides how often we bathe the baby, or change his sheets, or wipe his nose?
Who makes sure there will be food in the fridge, clean clothes, toilet paper?

Continue reading Keeping the Love Alive: When Partners Become Parents

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Thirty-Six to Forty Weeks Pregnant

 

Thirty-Six to Forty weeks Pregnant

This is the last full month of your pregnancy. You may be winding up at work, finishing up projects at home. The baby is coming soon!

Although the baby is getting bigger and is almost ready to be born, it is not full term until 40 weeks. Although it is safe for a baby to be born at 37 week, most first babies are born after 40 weeks. And 40-week babies are bigger and stronger and often breastfeed better. Don’t start expecting the baby too early – it makes for a long wait!

 

How you might feel between thirty-six and forty weeks of pregnancy:

  • Your growing baby is using up almost all your resources. You may be feeling very tired at the end of the day.
  • Back pain, caused by the increasing weight of the baby and softening joints, may slow you down too.
  • Baby’s movements are not just kicks anymore, but feel more like stretches and rolls. Baby’s hiccups – a little, slow, pulse-like feeling, deep inside you – can feel odd.
  • You may find it difficult to sleep through the night, waking frequently to pee or to roll over. Try to take the sleep interruptions lightly. Stay relaxed. Sleep will come again soon.
  • Heartburn becomes (or is still) a problem.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions, also called pregnancy contractions, may start to become more intense. Remember your uterus contracts more if you are dehydated or over-active. Take it easy and have a glass of water if the tightenings start to bother you.
  • Feet and ankles may be swollen by the end of the day, or if the weather is warm.

Things you may do between thirty-six and forty weeks weeks of pregnancy:

  • Getting ready for your baby to come home. Washing clothes, tidying, installing car seat.
  • Cooking and freezing meals for after the baby comes.
  • Enjoy time alone with your partner! Go out for some meals, to the movies.
  • Buy nursing bras around 37-38 weeks. An experienced fitter can help you find a bra that will fit as your breasts get bigger when your milk “come in” around day 3 of your baby’s life.
  • Think about daycare? It sounds ridiculous, but if you are planning to go back to work outside the home after your maternity leave is over, you need to think ahead.
  • Think about the Fourth Trimester  (first three months of baby’s life) … Who will be available for physical support right after the baby is born? Partner? Birth-helper? Family? Friends? Post-partum Doula? All of the above?

 Between thirty-six and forty weeks of pregnancy, your care-provider will probably:

  • Be seeing you once a week at this stage.
  • Weigh you at each visit and discuss healthy weight gain.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check your urine for protein and infection.
  • Palpate and measure your abdomen.
  • Listen to the baby’s heart beat using a hand held Doppler ultrasound device.
  • Review test results.
  • Discuss breastfeeding, the importance of feeding early and often.
  • Newborn care in the hospital, including eye ointment, Vitamin K and newborn screening tests.
  • Infant sleep and safety
  • Postpartum moods and support
  • Options if pregnancy is prolonged – monitoring and induction.

Your care provider is one of your best sources of information.  Keep a list of questions to ask at your monthly appointments.

Things you can do for your health and your baby’s health:

  • Might be a good time for a pedicure! Very relaxing, and totally justified when you can’t reach your feet!
  • Aquafit classes really help with swollen feet and legs, and backache. Or just go for a gentle evening swim.
  • Be aware of your baby’s movements. Although babies slow down in the last few weeks, they still move a lot! Keep track of times when you expect your baby to move. Note your baby’s daily patterns.
  • Keep working on perineal massage to increase health of perineal tissues and give you practice relaxing as perineum stretches.
  • Learn about Postpartum Mood Disorders.  What might it feel like?  Where can you find help if you need it?  20-40% of women are diagnosed with some mood disorder (anxiety or depression) after giving birth.  We’re pretty sure other women have the same feelings but never seek help.  Support makes it all easier to deal with.
  • Ask friends to throw you a shower where they all bring casseroles for the freezer or tell a friend about MealTrain (I think this is really cool!) and get them to set up a meal rotation for you after the baby comes.

Resources:

Finding a Doula in Victoria, BC: Greater Victoria Doula Directory

What to pack in your hospital bag: Packing for the Hospital.

Home Birth Supplies – an example: Access Midwifery, Victoria

Instructions for Perineal Massage: Perineal Massage in Pregnancy

Organizing friends and family to help with meals: Mealtrain.com

Learning about postpartum emotions: Pacific Postpartum Support Society

Coping with postpartum depression and anxiety: Healthy Families BC

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Twenty-Eight to Thirty-Two Weeks Pregnant

Twenty-Eight to Thirty-Two Weeks Pregnant

Twenty-Eight to Thirty Two Weeks Pregnant

You are officially in the Third Trimester now. The baby is bigger and movements are stronger. You may be starting to think of this baby as a separate person from you.

How you might feel between twenty-eight weeks and thirty-two weeks of pregnancy:

  • The baby is bigger and movements are stronger. You may be starting to think of this baby as a separate person from you. Some mothers find that they like this feeling of always having a loved one close, inside. Some mothers start to feel a little crowded.
  • Your softening ligaments and growing belly may cause sciatic pain which starts in your low back and goes down the back of one leg. Mention this to your care-provider who may recommend seeing a chiropractor or physiotherapist.
  • As you body slows down, your brain may feel like ti’s slowing down too, because the higher levels of endorphins you are producing. You may experience some absentmindedness or “baby brain.” Carry a notebook, make a to-do list.
  • Heartburn may become more severe. Small meals, pineapple, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut are some remedies women have tried. Ask your care provider about what antacids you an safely use.

Things you may do between twenty-eight weeks and thirty-two weeks of pregnancy:

  • This is when you may start to attend childbirth classes. Make sure you talk to the other parents and make connections. This is the beginning of creating your group of mommy-friends.
  • You are probably thinking about getting your home ready for baby. Setting up the nursery, shopping, gathering hand-me-downs.
  • Where will your baby sleep? Have you thought about room-sharing? Bed-sharing? Bassinet? Crib?
  • Get your pets ready for baby. If you have not done obedience training, it miht be time. Expose them to other babies, decide where they will sleep when baby comes, take them to the vet for a check-up.

 Between twenty-eight weeks and thirty-two weeks of pregnancy, your care-provider will probably:

  • Be seeing you every two-three weeks at this stage.
  • Weigh you at each visit and discuss healthy weight gain.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check your urine for protein and infection.
  • Palpate and measure your abdomen.
  • Listen to the baby’s heart beat using a hand held Doppler ultrasound device.
  • Discuss your emotional health and adaptation to your pregnancy.
  • Discuss postpartum depression and preparations for postpartum support.
  • Review test results.

Your care provider is one of your best sources of information.  Keep a list of questions to ask at your monthly appointments.

Things you can do for your health and your baby’s health:

  • Arrange to have a dental checkup – it will be more difficult to find time after baby comes and healthy teeth mean healthy mom.
  • Make sure you include lots of fiber in your diet to help with constipation, which gets worse as pregnancy continues.
  • Take an evening walk after supper. It can help with morning blood-sugar levels.
  • Essential fatty acids (Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil) can help with depression and general health. Ask you care provider whether they are appropriate for you.
  • Start attending your childbirth preparation classes (prenatal classes).
  • Consider taking Baby Care classes.

Resources:

Depression in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: Here to Help BC

Eating Fish in Pregnancy: Health Canada

Dental Care in pregnancy: HealthLink BC

Pets and Babies: HealthLinkBC

Heartburn: HealthLinkBC

Childbirth Classes: Mothering Touch

Baby Care Classes: Parenting the Newborn

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Parenting the Newborn

shutterstock_3618417

In the good old days (she reminisces, her voice cracking with age,) I used to teach a prenatal class series that went on for nine weeks! Sometime towards the turn of the millennium, folks just got too too busy to spend nine weeks coming to childbirth classes when they were expecting a baby. So we moved to a six-week series, which has become the standard all over North America.

But we had so much less time, so we had to drop some content, and one of the things we had to do was spend less time on The Newborn and Baby Care. And we always felt sad about that. Parents felt they needed more information and we felt that they could use the boost of confidence that comes from having taken a course and having had time to ask questions before they have to jump in to taking care of their very own baby.

So we designed a course specifically for parents-to-be to prepare for caring for their newborn baby. We called it Parenting the Newborn and we included in it the standard things: How to Bathe and Diaper and Swaddle and Soothe your baby. We also included a two-hour in-depth Breastfeeding Workshop and a two-hour Infant First Aid course. But we wanted the course to be about more than just the mechanics of baby care. We have also included opportunities for parents to examine their values where parenting their baby is concerned. We spend a lot of time discussing what babies’ needs are in the three months after birth. And we talk a lot about the importance of physical contact, cuddling and holding for babies. It’s a great course, designed and taught by childbirth and breastfeeding educators who are also trained postpartum doulas.

Parenting The Newborn is an excellent complement to our Childbirth Preparation Class. We encourage new parents to take it at any time after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

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DadsDadsDads

Lucas myers

At Mothering Touch we spend a lot of time talking about Fathers. Expectant fathers, new fathers, fathers’ roles, fathers’ pride, fathers’ responsibilities, fathers’ anxiety, fathers’ identity, fathers’ joys. What do fathers need? What support? What information? What books? What equipment? And it’s hard to find answers to those questions.

But this weekend, Theatre Skam and Lucas Myers are going to answer those questions for us in Hello baby! And maybe one answer is: Fathers need a good laugh!

Matthew Payne, the Artistic Director at Theatre Skam and one of our Mothering Touch Dads, approached me to make sure I knew about this great show. It’s framed as an Instructional Lecture for new fathers. It poses (and I hope, answers) burning questions like:

“Is your life as you know it really over?”

“Can you safely operate a fax machine/belt sander/breast pump on two hours sleep?”

“Is it really possible to become so obsessed with bowel movements and nipples that you a make up little nicknames for them? Like ‘Jerome’? Or ‘Kathy?’”

I gather there are songs too. The one I am most looking forward to hearing is Yes-Honey-I’d-Be-More-Than-Happy-To-Make-Dinner-And-Hand-Wash-All-These-Cloth-Diapers-As-Soon-As-I-Finish-Giving-You-A-Back-Rub-And-Vacuuming-The-Floor-Again-Because-You-Are-Hyper-Paranoid-About-Germs,-Really-I-Would,-No,-I’m-Not-Just-Saying-That-Because-I-Think-It’s-What-You-Want-to-Hear,-I-Want-to-Do-It,-Look,-I’m-Doing-It-Right-Now,-See?

I invite Dads and Moms and all those who love them and support them (like Grandmas and Grandpas and Aunties and doulas) to come on this field trip to the land of New Dads. I’m looking forward to a good laugh!

Hello baby! at the Metro Studio – February 22 and 23 – Single Tickets for Hello Baby! along with season tickets are available in advance at Ticket Rocket or 250.590.6291 – Advance Tickets: $18 for Adults, $15 for Students and seniors At the Door: $23 for Adults, $20 for Students and seniors

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Knowing What’s Important

"I really want to thank you for teaching us about having a birth plan and being open and ready for change.  Our plan went from a natural water birth at home to finding out baby had flipped into a frank breach position at 38 weeks then going into labour on Christmas Eve and having to have an emergency C-section.  I guess we got all of our cards flipped except the most important one, Healthy Baby!" Having that plan and knowing what was most important really helped us get though all of the surprise twists and turns."

~ Rachael

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The Challenges of Motherhood

Last Friday, in the context of the "Mommy-Boost Month" organized by Elements of Health, I met with a lovely group of ten mothers and mothers-to-be to discuss "The Challenges of Motherhood".  One mother was still pregnant, most had babies under 6 months and the most experience mother there had a school-aged child and a toddler.

The Challenges of Motherhood are what I talk about with moms every week in the Mothering Touch Pregnancy and Baby Groups.  But this time, instead of just pushing the same ideas around and sharing with each other, I thought we should collect the ideas and publish them to let other parents know how we feel about this very difficult job.  So at the end of the discussion, each of the mothers wrote her biggest challenge down and I promised to collect them all and put them on my blog.  Below is the list we came up with.

I so sympathize with these feelings.  Motherhood is such a central experience in a woman’s life, we want SO badly to do an excellent job!  And yet we often feel that we are losing ourselves and our relationships in the process.

The Greatest Challenges of Motherhood

  • Staying connected with myself separate from my role as a mother.
  • LETTING GO.  Letting go of everything: ideas about time, ideas about achievement, ideas about perfection, ideas about motherhood.
  • Filling each day.  Loneliness.  Feeling like I’m doing enough to stimulate my baby.
  • Fatigue.  Not having the time and energy to care for myself.
  • Isolation.  Missing adult conversation.
  • Motherhood can be lonely and overwhelming.  There just isn’t enough support.  It’s hard not living up to expectations.
  • Knowing whose advice to take, what book to listen to.
  • Knowing what to do with my baby, making sure that I’m stimulating him enough.
  • Feeling like I’m fulfilling my duties as a Mum and staying at home: keeping the house tidy and cooking with a baby.
  • Connecting with other "like" women.  Smaller casual encounters are needed to form stronger bonds and make real friends.
  • Adjusting from being an independent professional to have a completely dependent child that I am at home with 24/7.
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My First OFFICIAL Blog Post

Well, of course, I have been blogging for years: writing short essays for my website on topics that I hoped would be useful to my clients and my colleagues.  But now Mothering Touch has an actual Official Blog.  This is a little intimidating.  And yet, so much happens here every day of the week, I should never have trouble finding something to write about.

Right now, in the big activity room, Do Stier, a Doula Trainer for Vancouver, is running our annual DONA-International Post-Partum Doula Training.  Fifteen enthusiastic and caring women are learning how to help mothers and families in the Post-partum period (the first six weeks after birth).  Last week I ran a DONA-International Birth Doula Training and twelve new birth doulas have now joined our birthing community.  One of my trainees, came from as far away as Edmonton!

A couple of moms with their babies, on a stroll downtown, have popped in to nurse on the comfy brown couches in our smaller back room.  That back room – officially called the Resource Room (now "The Nest"!) – is one of my favourite things about this place.  We planned it as a room for breastfeeding consultations and private prenatal classes.  It houses our lending library which contains books and DVD’s on pregnancy, breastfeeding and early parenting.  The room also gets used for meetings of local community organization, like the Doulas of Victoria or Breastfeeding Matters.  And on most days, a few mothers and fathers and babies find their way there for a quiet time and a peaceful breastfeeding moment.

Tonight, when we’ve tidied up from the four-day doula training, there will be a prenatal yoga class in the Activity Room.  Elke will lead the lovely round-bellied moms through invigorating and then relaxing poses.  After that, I will teach the fourth class of six-week Childbirth Preparation Class for Doctors’ Patients.  Having spent the last three weeks learning about childbirth and natural self-help and coping measures for labour, tonight we will examine pain medications and other medical interventions.  I look forward to seeing this group of excited parents-to-be, whose questions and curiosity always make the evening lively.

I hope this this blog can become an extension of our store – a place where new and expectant parents can be sure of a friendly welcome and balanced information.  We hope you’ll visit us often.

– Eva