(I started with part 1 of this post here and will continue with *more* baby information below! Can you even handle it?!)
Here are a couple more childbirth resources that I wanted to add to our list.
In terms of preparing your body physically for birth, there are some very important exercises worth doing. And this book gives exercises and pointers for before and after birth, in order to get your body back into pre-baby condition. (I’m not talking weight loss, but making sure that internal organs and muscle structures get re-toned and put back into position. Don’t go bouncing on a trampoline until your nether regions are back in order, if you catch my drift…)
I had used chiropractic care before my childbearing years, but found the Webster Technique to be extremely helpful with back/hip pain during pregnancy and helping to get baby into the correct birthing position for a safer and easier birth. They can also perform miracles with babies after the trauma of birth who may be struggling with nursing difficulties, colic, sleep issues or immune function. You can search for a certified pediatric chiropractor in your area.
Spinning Babies is an excellent website to help with optimal fetal positioning (including breech issues) and how it actually aids in making childbirth easier. Plus, it has delicious pictures of squishy newborn babies and beautiful pregnant mothers.
One of my friends recently asked for birth resources from a Christian perspective and I found a few encouraging options out there. There is an actual Christian Childbirth Association, a Christian Childbirth Handbook, an Amazon list of Christian childbirth books by Kelly J. Townsend, a childbirth educator and doula in Phoenix, Arizona, and a great compilation of Scriptural encouragement for childbirth from the sweet mama over at Passionate Homemaking.
BABY SHOWERS AND BABY GEAR
If lame baby shower games are not your thing (I have a personal aversion to the “don’t say the word ‘baby’ or some really competitive woman will interrupt you mid-sentence to rudely snag your safety pin” game), there is a neat baby shower alternative called a “Blessing Way” that can be tailored to your spirituality and values. It’s very intentional, intimate, and encouraging.
Be aware that you don’t need all the baby gear that the Civilized, Money-Making Baby Machine says you do. (Here is a fairly balanced list of suggested needs, optionals, and do-not-needs. This frugal mama says you only really need five things!) And consider that some baby equipment could actually be detrimental to baby’s development.
And with all the barely used equipment floating around in our worlds of abundance, consider a The Encore Baby Registry. This is genius! You can request gently used items (baby clothes, cloth diapers, a baby carrier, etc.) that your mom friends can generously pass on or loan, saving them money and causing a lighter environmental footprint. You can also create requests for unique, personal gifts that friends and family can pool their money towards like: a maternity photo session, pregnancy massage, or a gift certificate to a health food store. (Here is the one I have been working on, if you’d like to see an example. The password is my capitalized last name.)
BREASTFEEDING AND BEYOND
So once your babe is on the outside, he/she is going to want to have some num-nums and preferably within the first 1/2 hour of birth. One of the coolest things I learned and experienced is that God has given babies an instinct to find the breast on their own. So if you have a natural birth (interventions can affect this instinct), lay the baby on your tummy right after birth and watch them eventually make their way to the nipple. It’s an absolute miracle called the breast crawl.
(And know that babies rarely need formula supplementation in the hospital because their stomachs are quite small and colostrum is enough. But many hospitals and formula companies push supplementation by scaring mom that baby isn’t gaining enough weight. Unnecessary supplementation is a problem because formula negatively changes the gut flora dramatically and you can end up with digestive problems early on.)
Unless you were born in a formula factory, you are probably aware of the many benefits of breastfeeding. And note that pacifiers and bottles can negatively affect baby’s sucking reflex and oral development, so use them later and sparingly. I never used pacifiers with any of my kids and they only had a few bottle feedings when they were much older (so I could go on a date night) and we all made it. But I also tandem nursed my first two, so I’m a little extreme like that.
And just for fun, here’s an article or two on the many healing uses of breast milk. My favorite is eye infections (pink eye, styes, etc.) – just give her a squirt, or be civilized about it and hand express a bit into a dropper. It is truly one of God’s most miraculous creations!
People will tell you that breastfeeding is natural, but it is not necessarily automatic, so if you are having any trouble at all (or you just want to hear testimonies from other women that will make you feel normal), connect with La Leche League, the best known support organization for breastfeeding. They have local support groups which meet regularly and are very helpful.
When it’s 3am and your breast is swollen to the size of your head, rock hard, and starting to feel warm, get yourself to http://www.kellymom.com/ This has been my FAVORITE breastfeeding support website because it contains alternatively-minded (home remedies, etc.) yet scientifically-backed information. I have been alerted early enough to avoid mastitis (and having to take antibiotics), relieved from engorgement with a cabbage leaf, and gotten over thrush with coconut oil, thanks to their evidence-based recommendations.
And if you absolutely cannot breastfeed (be sure to try all this before you give up!), know that there are other options than just store-bought formula. Powdered formula (even organic) is a truly inferior food and soy formula is even worse. And don’t even get me started on the unethical and aggressive marketing practices of formula companies…
There is a recipe with FAQs for homemade formula (using nutrient dense foods) that is much healthier and more nutritious than the store-bought, pasteurized, powdered stuff. (The FDA whole-heartedly disagrees with making your own formula because it is not regulated by them, but if you do a little digging, you will find a long line of FDA approved products that have turned out to be unsafe for use or consumption – including formulas! Plus, I’m sure you watched Food Inc. and saw what a joke “FDA objectivity” is.)
Donated breast milk is another option for feeding baby the good stuff. There are human milk banks popping up around the nation. The milk is usually pasteurized to kill potential bad bacteria, but pasteurization also kills some good stuff too. So your best bet may be to connect with a trusted, nursing mama who has the gift of over-production and may be willing to donate from her supply. My friend Sarah generously donated her extra breast milk to our friend Laurie’s newly adopted son – one of the best gifts ever! =)
STARTING SOLID FOOD
First things first: despite what Gerber pays to have you believe, there are multiple reasons to delay the start of solids until at least 6 months and up to a year – less likelihood to develop food allergies or illness, the iron in moms milk is much better assimilated than foods fortified with synthetic iron, more time for baby’s digestive system to develop and it’s a much easier process to start later because you can skip the whole time-consuming “make your own baby food” stage and start them right at appropriate table food. I did this with each of mine and it was a total blessing. So consider Baby Led Weaning. It’s all-around better for babies to eat with their fingers than to be spoon-fed.
Also, despite what everyone would have you believe, baby cereal is unnecessary, not that nutritious, and baby is initially less equipped to digest grains than other foods. Start them with nutrient dense foods.
And speaking of nutrient dense foods, here is the info on why “ingesting your placenta” (in pill form) can be beneficial for your postpartum health. I did this after my third birth and felt that it was well worth it. You can find a Certified Placenta Encapsulation Specialist (how would you like that title on your resume?) in your area. (Ronda Perea will be doing mine for this birth.) And in case you’d like to hear a few more testimonials before you succumb to such barbarism, check out this discussion thread on Mothering.com. Apparently, humans aren’t the only primates who do it…
So while I’m crazily recommending that you make your own formula and eat your own placenta, I might as well throw in that circumcision is unnecessary (some dogmatic folks would say “wrong”) and vaccines are riskier than the people who make MILLIONS of dollars off them want you to believe. Research these topics thoroughly before baby comes, weigh the risks, and make your decisions. There. I said it.
So, because this list of resources continues to grow and I want to get a post birthed soon, I’m going to push this one out and deliver part 3 another day. Hopefully my labor will be shorter the third time around… =) Stay tuned for parenting philosophies and communities, birth control options, the benefits of baby wearing, and cloth diapering (or no diapers at all – Wha?!).
And of course, continue to add your thoughts and resources below.