A global pandemic does not erase the need for support in pregnancy and labor. And with your safety and the safety of our community as a priority, we are still here for you in new ways.
We are committed to families birthing in the Chicago Area and western suburbs. With new hospital policies limiting the number of support allowed in the labor and delivery rooms across the area, we want to be a part of a solution for families looking for information and encouragement. If you are curious about if your birthing location has changed its policy of support people, there is an updated list at Birthguide Chicago.
What does virtual doula support look like?
Prenatally, it looks a lot like your computer or phone – because that is where we’ll be! While we want to be with you in person, we are moving those prenatal meetings to video meetings, and additional phone conversations.
For families who have hired Holistic Family Doulas in the past, we have always been available throughout a person’s pregnancy for texts and phone calls. Adding video support allows us to see your expressions, read your body language, and connect with eye contact. All small but important parts of being present and attuned to your needs.
We are also happy to have options available for families looking for support outside of virtual labor support packages. We want as many people to have care and information as possible, so we have expanded our care to offer single video meetings or smaller packages.
Some topics that can be covered:
- How to prepare for birthing a time when you are a well-person giving birth in a facility that may be caring for very sick individuals.
- How to know you are in labor
- What to do when you lose your mucus plug
- How to make the choice to go to the hospital
- Procedures and interventions that could be suggested
- Knowing how you can interact with the medical equipment
- What will happen in the first hours after birth…and more
COVID-19 will impact your birth experience, and we want you to have prepared questions and tools to feel safe and advocate for your needs.
This is a very emotional time, with many uncertainties. We want to help you find ways to focus your energy, and practice grounding methods to help keep the overwhelming stress and anxiety at bay.
You can visit our new Virtual Service page to see all of the care we are adding to our virtual support.
Many people don’t give the pelvic floor much thought until there’s a problem. And, unfortunately, the risk for pelvic floor issues increases with pregnancy. Nobody wants to deal with pelvic floor issues, especially during pregnancy or when you’re caring for a new baby. So, here are some tips to help maintain pelvic health and prevent issues that can occur during pregnancy and postpartum.
What is the pelvic floor exactly?
The pelvic floor is made up of muscles that attach from the pubic bone to the tailbone and from side to side within the pelvis. The pelvic floor helps support pelvic and abdominal organs, control bladder and bowel function, stabilize the spine and pelvis, aide in sexual function, and help circulate blood and lymph. Those are some very important jobs which are why maintaining pelvic health is essential!
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction
- Urinary incontinence, urgency, or frequency (even a few drops is considered incontinence)
- Stool or gas incontinence
- Painful intercourse
- Pelvic organ prolapse (some people feel a heaviness in the pelvis or have a “falling out feeling”)
- Pelvic pain
- Painful urination
- Inability to empty the bladder completely
These symptoms can occur at any time. Both muscle weakness and tightness can contribute. It’s beneficial to consult a pelvic physical therapist prior to pregnancy if experiencing any of these symptoms as they may worsen during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor changes during pregnancy
- Hormonal changes can result in increased laxity of ligaments which can contribute to issues such as pelvic pain and low back pain.
- There is often more pressure on the bladder due to the growing uterus which can cause more frequent urination
- Increasing pressure in the pelvic floor can also contribute to constipation
- Bones and ligaments shift and stretch to provide space for the baby to travel through the pelvis
- Tearing can occur if the tissues of the perineum are unable to stretch anymore
Preventing pelvic floor issues during pregnancy and postpartum
Being able to not only contract but to relax and lengthen the pelvic floor muscles is essential in preventing pelvic floor dysfunction. Strengthening provides support and stability which can be even more important during pregnancy when there is more pressure on the structures of the pelvis. This also helps in postpartum to regain the strength of these muscles. Lengthening the pelvic floor muscles is helpful to allow these muscles to stretch during labor and childbirth and prevent tearing. It can be difficult to perform these exercises at times and many women do them incorrectly so a visit with a pelvic physical therapist is beneficial to ensure they’re done correctly.
Here are some tips to get started:
Pelvic floor muscle contractions (also known as Kegels) help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
- Sit in an upright position with feet flat on the floor
- As you gently exhale, slowly tighten the pelvic floor muscles. Some cues that may help you are to imagine you are
- Holding back gas (without clinching the buttocks)
- Pulling the tailbone toward the pubic bone
- Pulling the two sit bones together
- Closing off the vaginal opening, while “lifting and squeezing”
- Repeat this 10 times
- Progress to 3 sets each day
- Repeat with brief contractions-holding for 1 second or less
- Repeat this 10 times
- Progress to 2 sets each day
Pelvic floor muscle relaxation and lengthening
The pelvic floor muscles relax during inhalation.
- As you inhale, try to gently expand the rib cage in all directions like an umbrella opening. Note the subtle relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles.
- To lengthen the pelvic floor muscles, gently bulge the abdomen as if passing gas. Do not hold your breath. Perform 5 repetitions, once daily during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy for improved awareness and control.
As mentioned above, it’s important to be able to do both exercises for ideal pelvic floor muscle function. Emphasizing lengthening over strengthening is more beneficial towards the end of pregnancy to prepare for childbirth. A pelvic physical therapist can also assess the alignment and mobility of the hips, pelvis, and spine to allow for the necessary movements to occur during labor and childbirth.
In postpartum, a pelvic physical therapist can perform an evaluation to ensure proper healing of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. They also assess for spine and tailbone issues and ensure coordination of muscles necessary for increasing core strength.
Pelvic Balance Physical Therapy
One of the things that may surprise you after having been a parent for some time is the amount of energy and thought parents put into their child’s poop. A conversation about the frequency and consistency of your child’s bowel movements sometimes starts before birth. It continues until you are confident that wiping, flushing, and washing are all happening consistently.
Meconium, or your baby’s first stool, is a thick black substance that acts as a sort of plug to your baby’s digestive system, and if dispelled while in utero, is a sign your baby may be in distress. Next are counting and tracking. How many bowel movements is your baby having a day, becomes a question that indicates your baby’s system is working well, or is off, or, can be a part of troubleshooting slow weight gain.
The next way parents occupy their time with baby poop is with encouragement! Seeing how hard your baby has to work, or not, sometimes elicits a, “Wow! Great job!” or a sympathetic, “I know it’s hard; you can do it.” Meanwhile, your baby is displaying a spectacular grimace and grunts through his or her process.
Besides tracking the consistency and color in their first weeks of life, another popular poop conversation is the sheer force and explosions that can happen. Poop-splosions and exploding diapers that cannot contain the mess mean parents are sometimes elbow-deep in their kid’s poop.
But what about the diaper? Your baby is so precious that choosing what to put on their sensitive buns makes sense. If you are at the point of considering or re-considering your baby’s diaper, here are some practical pros and cons to consider.
- Produces less landfill waste
- Modern cloth diapers come in a wide variety and often work exactly like disposable diapers with tabs and snaps
- Great for sensitive skin
- Can be a cost-effective way to diaper your child, costing a few hundred dollars for the span of your child’s use instead of thousands.
- They can be charming, with patterns and colors!
- Depending on where you live, hiring a diaper service may be an option if you are not interested in washing the diapers yourself.
- Can be helpful for potty training, as the baby can feel when he or she is wet
- Time requirements: You’ll need a system and schedule for making sure you don’t run out of diapers! Washing and Drying often take multiple hours, or more, to process
- Unless washing often, the diaper pail can create a severe funk
- You usually can’t wash your diapers in public wash facilities or communal wash spaces, like apartment buildings or Laundromats.
- Traveling can still happen, but there is some extra planning necessary.
- A family member may not understand your choice, and there may be conversations about parenting choices and style being none of their business.
- Daycare centers often don’t allow cloth diaper use.
- readily available. If you run out of diapers, you have options at almost every drug store, grocery store, and big box store, not to mention same-day delivery from Amazon
- You can manage the diaper funk smell by taking out the trash
- You can add them to your registry, and have a stockpile to offset the cost
- They are easy. On, off, change, done.
- Cost. On average, your baby will use 8-12 diapers a day for 2.5-3 years, or roughly $70-$80 per month.
- Cost on the environment: Disposable diapers take roughly200-300 years to decompose in landfills, and introduce pathogens into the environment during that time.
- Skin sensitivity. Disposable diapers have many chemicals that could make your baby’s skin irritable.
- Can delay potty training, as the materials in diapers surround the wetness, and babies don’t often feel when they are wet.
If you are pregnant, you have probably already had someone give you unsolicited comments about how little sleep you are going to get, “so you better get it in now!” We know, bless their heart. They don’t know what they are doing is unwelcome and unoriginal.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t need information! Your baby is a remarkable human and is designed to survive. Their sleeping and eating needs are proof of that. We’d love to lift the veil on newborn sleep to help you have realistic expectations of what is normal and what is possible for you in early weeks with your newborn.
Your Baby’s Design
Your baby is designed to sleep differently than you. So differently, in fact, that when compared to your routine schedule, it makes adapting feel like torture. The difference comes because of different sleep cycles.
An adult sleep cycle lasts between 90-120 minutes, and when charted, it looks like a lazy “W” with one or two periods where a person may wake up. Adults also have four stages of sleep they travel through in this cycle, ranging from awareness of being drowse to full REM.
Your baby cycles through sleep much more frequently and in less time, on average, about every 50 minutes. And until about 4-months of age only have two stages of sleep. Take a look at this helpful chart created by The Nested Bean:
Your newborn’s needs are tied to their survival. They need to eat often, be changed and kept comfortable, and have tending that ensures their body temperature is in a safe range. With more frequent sleep cycles, your baby travels into “light sleep” or awareness more often, so any of the needs that are not met will trigger them to wake up and cry out for care. It is genius!
Often your newborn is relatively easy to put back to sleep once their needs are met because they only have those two stages of sleep. It feels painful and is difficult for you the adult, because we still have to work through ALL FOUR STAGES to get back to sleep ourselves, and by that time, your baby is close to being back in the light sleep stage of the sleep cycle again.
Things that can help keep your baby from waking if all their needs are met, for example, they are getting enough nutrition, are a safe temperature, and do not have a soiled diaper:
- Being swaddled or placing your hand on their chest can help soothe the feeling of separateness. Being alone is not a feeling that an awake baby finds reassuring.
- Using a white noise machine
- Having a fan to move air through the room
- Sleeping in the same room to have the comfort of closeness
Things that can help parents during this challenging time:
- Some two-parent households find taking care shifts to be helpful. For instance, wakeups from 8 pm to 1 am are handled by one parent, while the other sleeps in a separate space. And wakeups from 1 am to 6 am are the responsibility of the other parent. Feeding can happen still at the breast or with bottles, but diapers, burping, and soothing are exchanged.
- Some parents find that pacifiers are helpful comfort for babies who are recently fed, and need help drifting back to deep sleep. Sucking is a natural soothing activity that can happen at the breast but can also be done with this tool, for those open to their use.
- Some parents find that the “night” of sleep needs to be prolonged later in the day. Meaning, if a person gets typically 8 hours of sleep each night, the parent would stay in bed, going back to sleep until the combined bit of sleep eventually add up to their required 8 hours.
- And of course, some parents can have the overnight help of postpartum doulas to help everyone in the family get the rest and care they need, while also giving peace of mind.
This post is for people who have little to no knowledge of babies and newborns, for the folks who are starting from “only seen those things in movies” point.
A newborn is a tricky combination of small and manageable, and explosively unpredictable. And that is stressful!
Let’s go through a few categories of newborn care, highlighting NEED TO KNOW bits of information as some starting points. Ready?
Do You Know How To Hold A Baby?
There are three main parts to focus on when holding a newborn: their head, neck, and trunk.
As long as those body parts are supported, you are doing well! You may not be ready or confident to present your child Simba-style right off the bat, but you don’t have to.
But babies can be held in many positions and with many parts of your body. There is no one way to do it correctly. A couple of rules that are good common sense for these first months: keep them close to your body, use both hands, and keep them warm.
Holding a newborn means paying attention to their head, which may bob and flop, their neck, which needs your support because of their (relatively)massive head, and their body, which can’t really move on its own.
Do You Know How To Change A Diaper?
Frequency: Newborns will work up to soiling diapers about 12+ every 24 hours. In the first days, their digestive system is getting used to function in a new way, so expect one diaper per day of life up until day 4-5. More is ok. Less is cause for closer attention to how much they are eating.
Tools: A clean diaper, wipes, and if you want to use preventative care, some diaper cream or petroleum jelly to keep future poops from getting stuck to their sensitive bottoms.
Step 1 – get the tools ready
Step 2 – access the dirty diaper by taking off outside clothes
Step 3- Open the clean diaper and place it under your baby’s bottom, outside the dirty diaper
Step 4- open the dirty diaper, and fold the front down, containing any mess inside the diaper
Step 5 – wiped your baby’s body with baby wipes
Step 6- Remove wipes and dirty diaper and set to side out of kicking range of your baby
Step 7- apply the cream to the skin, and wipe excess cream from your finger on the clean diaper
Step 8 – place in front of the diaper in front of your baby, open side tabs, and bring to the belly button to close.
Step 9- replace close
Step 10- ensure baby is in a safe place and wash your hands
Feeding: Do you have a plan?
Have you considered how you will feed your baby? Breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, bottle feeding and breastfeeding, formula?
Some things to know about bottles:
If at any point you are planning to use a bottle – or the occasional bottle given by a partner or caregiver, in early weeks, or months from now – babies who breastfeed need to be taught how to eat from a bottle. Consider introducing a bottle between 6-10 weeks of age, so your baby can learn how to transfer milk. Because it’s different than eating at the breast! It is helpful to know about Paced Bottle Feeding, which helps breastfed babies and helps prevent them from developing a preference for bottles over the breast.
Consider making contact with a lactation consultant or IBCLC for help with latch, transfer, or supply issues.
The main point to know with feeding is you your baby will need to eat often! Every 1.5-3 hours at first, and then in longer stretches as they get older. Depending on your baby’s age and weighting the first months, they will need to consume between 1-4 ounces each feeding.
The essential knowledge for infant sleep is they do a lot of it but in fits and spurts. Your infant will need to sleep between 14-18 hours a day! You should have a dedicated sleep space for your infant that has a flat bottom and not toys or blankets. For more essential information on safe sleep, consult the safe sleep guidelines .
How often should you bathe your baby?
There are a lot of opinions about how often you should bathe your baby. The short answer is when they are dirty. Newborns do not get dirty in the same way adults do. For the first few weeks to a month, it is recommended to give your child sponge baths using warm water and very little of the mildest soap.
The “dirt” your child will need help removing is milk and spit up residue from eating, and the dirt and oils that adults leave on them from holding and caring for them. Babies do not sweat, and their skin is still acclimating to life out of the womb for quite some time.
Does your baby enjoy the water?
Do they find it peaceful or relaxing?
Do they get stressed out and scared?
That can play into your choice of how often you bathe your child. Some families choose to make bath time a part of a regular nighttime routine BECAUSE it is such a helpful tool.
It’s 100% up to you.
Resist using baby lotion after baths until your child is closer to 6 months of age. Your baby’s skin is extremely sensitive, and typically diaper cream is the only over the counter emollient that is recommended for infant use.
Suburban Chicago families are finding out they need help to make it through the first weeks of parenting on their own.
And when you’re in it, the confounding part is that the “hard” is so elusive. It keeps moving. It shifts to just around the corner.
Is it caring for your baby? (The diapers, the clothing changes, learning to swaddle, sleep, hold, comfort, and feeding? )
Is it taking care of yourself? (Closing your womb, your tender undercarriage, leaking, learning about all the new parts of yourself that have arrived with this child? )
Is it all the relationships that make your life possible? (Is it connecting with doctors, family, your partner, work, and future caregivers?)
It’s all of it.
It’s a juggling act where the part that needs your attention is always the next thing falling down from above.
It’s a moving target of where to look and what to do – life with a new baby – is why people are looking to postpartum doulas to help. When you have postpartum support from Holistic Family Doulas, three things come with your doula: time, hands, and focus.
Have the time to do what you want: snuggle your baby, or tackle the project you’ve been itching to work on. Have an extra set of hands to use as your own. And regain the luxury to focus on one thing at a time without worry. Having a postpartum doula being in your home is all these things, and an overall calm expert to go over all the big and small details. And babies come with a lot of details.
If you are thinking of using a postpartum doula, here are a few things to consider when planning for care:
- What feels most overwhelming about being home with your baby?
- What would your ideal day look like?
- What is the most important part of your recovery?
- Would you prefer to have help at day, or night, or a mix of both?
It could be for one visit to help you get organized, or it could be a regular part of your week. How would you like a postpartum doula to help your family?
1. The bubbles of first feelings
2. Your baby’s heartbeat
3. Journaling your experience
4. Legacy, Journey, and Community