Newborn Male Circumcision

What is circumcision?

Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the skin covering the tip of the penis, called the foreskin or the prepuce. In the United States, this surgery is often performed within the first few days of an infant’s life, when it is considered the most “simple.” It can also be performed later in life, should a man choose, though the procedure is considered “more complex.”

Infant male circumcision is one of many decisions parents are asked to make during their pregnancy or shortly after their boy is born. Socio-culturally speaking, this issue is very controversial and carries a lot of cultural, religious, and ethical charge. We believe that informed decision-making is paramount and want to empower our families to make an educated decision about infant male circumcision. While we cannot cover all of the information about male circumcision here, we hope to offer a broad look of this issue, as a launching point for gathering more information.

How prevalent is circumcision?

Globally, it was estimated in 2006 that approximately 30% of the world’s men were circumcised. The practice is nearly universal in some parts of the world (in most of these countries the practice is done almost exclusively for religious or cultural reasons), while in other areas the numbers are quite low.

In the United States, most estimates show that between 70-90% of males are circumcised, with the numbers peaking in the 1960s and falling by 5 to 10% since then. The practice has seen a greater decline in other developed nations including Canada, England, other parts of Europe, and Australia. The rates also vary by race, region, and class in the United States today.

The Controversy

There are a variety of views about circumcision. Generally speaking, those in favor of circumcision point to medical evidence that circumcision offers some health benefits to men. These advocates state that the benefits of the procedure greatly outweigh the potential risks. Some believe that circumcision should be performed for religious or cultural reasons (this is the more common reason, globally speaking).

Critics of the procedure believe it is entirely unnecessary, traumatic, and painful to a child.

Some people talk about the importance of choice—that parents should be able to make a choice about whether or not to circumcise their child. Others argue that the choice should be with the child because it is their body—in this view, circumcision is not considered ethical to perform on someone who is not able to make that choice.

Parents are often weighing all of these views and conflicting information in the context of cultural and familial norms. That is, many of the men in our country (and within our families) are circumcised, so there may be an additional pressure (stated or unstated) to conform to this norm.

It can be helpful to become aware of the reasons you may feel compelled toward or against the procedure as you explore this issue for yourself or your family.

The purported pros of male circumcision

In the US, the practice began in the late 1800s, prior to the germ theory of disease, when circumcision was thought to be “morally hygienic” (reducing sexual excitation) and even curative of such things as paralysis, masturbation, epilepsy, and insomnia. Those views have changed, but the health benefits of circumcision are still widely touted by the dominant medical community in our country.

For a long time, the American Academy of Pediatrics had remained neutral on the practice of circumcision. Then in 2012, it changed its policy (on which many insurance and social health care decisions are made). This new statement on circumcision stated that medical evidence shows that the health benefits of circumcision significantly outweigh the potential risks. They stopped short of actually recommending the practice, however, and instead said that families should have access to the procedure if they so desire.

The health benefits of male circumcision, as described by the AAP report include but are not limited to the following:

  • Reduced lifetime risk of urinary tract infections
  • Lowered risk of some cancers of the penis and prostate
  • Lowered risk of some, but not all, sexually transmitted diseases

They claim that the benefits outweigh the risks by 100 to 1 and that 50% of all those uncircumcised will experience some negative health effects as a result. They also claim that circumcision does not appear to have any negative effects on sexual sensitivity or function later in life.

The purported cons of male circumcision

There are many reasons given against male circumcision. The group Intact America, one of several organizations in the United States that are against circumcision, offers the following 10 arguments against circumcising, which you can read more about on theirs and other websites. 

  1. There is no medical reason for “routine” circumcision of baby boys and it is not recommended by any major organization in the nation.
  2. The foreskin is not a birth defect; it is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the body.
  3. Federal and state laws protect girls of all ages from forced genital surgery and they should protect boys as well.
  4. Circumcision exposes a child to unnecessary pain and medical risks
  5. Removing part of a baby’s penis is painful, risky, and harmful.
  6. Times and attitudes have changed and it is becoming more acceptable not to circumcise.
  7. Most medically advanced nations do not circumcise baby boys
  8. Caring for and cleaning the foreskin is easy and being intact doesn’t present hygienic concerns.
  9. Circumcision does not prevent HIV or other diseases
  10. Children should be protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit, or parental preference.

Risks of circumcision

Significant complications are believed to occur in approximately one in 500 procedures.  One source states that over 100 infant males die each year as a result of circumcision complications, although this number is hotly contested by some members of the medical community and does not seem to be supported by medical data (although reports of circumcision deaths are not actually reported to the CDC, making it difficult to gather data at all).

Possible complications of circumcision can include:

  • Local Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring (always occurs)
  • Adhesions
  • Puncture and skin bridges
  • Amputation
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Difficulty with urination
  • Long term aggravated response to pain
  • Infection
  • Subsequent corrective surgery
  • Permanent disability or death

Many also argue that because the foreskin is so sexually sensitive, that circumcision reduces sexual pleasure and function.

This list doesn’t include the potentially negative psychological impact of this procedure on the newborn child, which is more difficult to account for.

Bottom Line

As mentioned we encourage our families to research and talk to their pediatric care providers about circumcision. We hope this article serves as a “launching off” point for one’s own exploration of this issue and we hope that each family makes an informed decision based on their own preferences and values, as well as a clear understanding of the available information on circumcision.

Resources

http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2814%2900036-6/fulltext#tbl4fne

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/basics/why-its-done/prc-20013585

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/22/peds.2012-1990

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/science/benefits-of-circumcision-outweigh-risks-pediatric-group-says.html?_r=0

http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/malecircumcision/infopack_en_2.pdf

http://www.jurology.com/article/S0022-5347(12)05623-6/abstract

http://www.intactamerica.org

http://www.circumcision.org/

http://www.cirp.org

www.cirp.org

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Eight Reasons to Wear Your Baby

babycarrierarticleBaby wearing is the experience of carrying your child in a sling or other carrier on your chest (and/or, as they get older, on your back). Baby carriers come in different materials and configurations, each with their benefits. Keeping a child close to you in a carrier is a natural practice utilized by people across time and cultures. There is something instinctual and natural about keeping babies close to our bodies in infancy. Baby wearing has many practical benefits but, more importantly, it offers a number of significant benefits for baby and caregiver. Here are eight benefits of carrying your baby in a carrier in his or her early days, months and even years.

  1. Baby wearing supports bonding.

When we wear baby close to us, we learn his cues and communications so intimately. This not only allows us to get to know our child, it helps us more effectively meet his or her needs, which will support bonding, ease the transition into parenthood, and so much more. Face to face orientation between baby and caregiver offers a powerful catalyst for bonding. Baby wearing can be great not only for mom and baby pairs, but also for dad (or other parent) and baby pairs, and babies and other caregivers, such as relatives. It gives others an opportunity to be close to and bond with baby.

  1. Baby wearing is good for baby’s physiological systems.

According to Dr. Sears, babywearing provides an external regulation system that balances the irregular and disorganized tendencies of a baby adjusting to life outside the womb, where all systems were once in harmony and regulated for them. If you think about it, the baby in utero is lulled to sleep by the rhythmic movements of his mother as she walks or moves about during the day. The gentle pulsing sound of her heartbeat and her breath are familiar and constant rhythms throughout womb life and likely offer tremendous comfort and stability.

Bringing baby close to us in a carrier or just being held, reintroduces those powerful organizing environmental cues back into baby’s life—baby places her ear to mama’s chest and hears mama breathing, baby is lulled to sleep by papa’s heart beat as he carries about his morning routine, baby is soothed by the familiar rhythms of walking as mom and dad go for a neighborhood stroll. All of these regular rhythms not only comfort but also have an organizing effect on an infant’s naturally rhythmic physiological processes, such as sleeping and waking; breathing; eating, digestion and elimination; temperature; heart rate; and more.

  1. Carried and worn babies are happier and cry less.

Likely connected to the phenomenon above, babies who are carried and held often are less fussy, cry less, and seem more content than those who are put into devices (such as cribs, car seats, and bouncers) most of the time. According to one study in which routine baby wearing (3 or more hours of carrying per day) was compared to a control given no instructions on wearing baby, the babies held more often throughout the day cried over 40% less. Wearing or carrying baby close helps make them secure and content. Furthermore, colic and reflux can be reduced by the upright position of being held, which can make babies more comfortable (and thus happier).

  1. Carried and worn babies learn more.

When babies are not exerting their energy on crying and fussing, they are able to devote more energy into taking in and learning from their environments. Research shows that babies who are carried show enhanced visual and auditory alertness and spend more time in the quiet alert state in which they are best able to interact with their environment. Carried babies also have the opportunity to see more and experience more varied environmental stimulus at an adult’s chest level than they would if they were on the ground or in a device. Carried babies are intimately involved in their caregiver’s world and learn what human life is all about from a young age.

  1. Carried and worn babies develop social skills

Along those same lines, being at an adult’s chest level, babies get an opportunity to pay close attention to the subtle non verbal language used by their caregivers and by others in their shared environment. They begin to learn how social interaction works, what cues are used for different feelings and needs, and the whole dance of human social life. Carried babies also get more opportunity to observe and learn verbal language as well. Research has found that carried babies experience enhanced speech development. Many report that carried babies seem to be more tuned into and attentive toward the world around them.

  1. Baby wearing is convenient.

Babies can nap in a sling or just be with you during their waking hours, happily carried about in a soft carrier. With your hands free, you can still attend to and be close to your baby while taking care of your life responsibilities and doing things you enjoy. You don’t have to be distracted by a baby monitor or constantly stop to soothe or check in with baby. Many mamas exercise with baby in a carrier, socialize with friends or family, get household chores done, and so much more with a baby in a carrier.

  1. Carrying baby in a carrier (versus car seat) is better for parent or caregiver’s body 

Sure there may be some times when baby falls asleep right before you get somewhere and leaving baby in the car seat means more rest for them while you go about your business. However, making a habit of leaving baby in the car seat can deprive you and your baby of the benefits of close physical proximity. More than this, carrying around a car seat is not easy on a caregiver’s body. Having that much weight outside your center of gravity is hard on the body and can cause or exacerbate physical pains and stresses. This is not ideal for the healing postpartum body. Holding baby close, in a carrier for example, is easier because there is no extra weight of the car seat and baby is much closer to your center of gravity, making it easier on the body to carry this additional weight.

  1. Baby wearing is economical.

Baby carriers can run from $10-20 (used—or free!) up to about $100 or so. This is typically far less than the cost of strollers, baby bouncers, and other devices meant to hold baby. Baby carriers often last a long time and can be used from a the newborn stage into toddlerhood.

These are just some of the many great reasons to keep baby close in infancy. If you choose to use a baby carrier, do some research into the different kinds, ask others for recommendations, and try them out to see what works best for you (many parents have different preferences in style. Make sure to follow safety recommendations as well to keep baby safe while in a carrier. Enjoy these precious times with baby.

Infant Massage: How To

babymassageAs we mentioned last week in a post on the benefits of infant massage, this special activity with baby can be a great bonding tool with myriad benefits to both babies and their caregivers.

While no special training is required to offer healthy touch to a baby, here is some additional information on how to give infant massage.

When to massage

For young babies, it can be ideal to offer a massage when your baby is in a quiet yet alert state. You may want to avoid the time just after a feeding or when baby is sleepy.

Setting the scene

Lay a soft towel or blanket on the bed or floor where you will offer the massage. You may also wish to sit on the floor (or bed) with the soles of your feet together and knees apart, forming a diamond shape with your legs. Drape the blanket over your feet and between your knees. Undress baby down to the diaper and place him or her on the blanket, head toward your feet, facing you.

You can use massage oil in a non-breakable container. Almond oil or coconut oil work well for many babies, but you may wish to test the oil on a small spot on baby’s skin and wait a day to ensure they aren’t irritated by the oil.

Beginning

Start with a gentle stroke from baby’s head to toes. If baby stiffens up, cries, or becomes irritable, switch to another area of the body or end the massage for time being. If s/he responds well, start gently massaging his/her body. Here are some techniques for each body area.  Note: their is not one particular “right” order of body areas to massage.  You may choose to work from trunk to extremities, or the opposite, or massage in any order that feels right.

Tummy

  1. Hold your hands palms toward you, fingers pointing in (wrists bent), so the edge of your pinky can move across your baby’s belly. Starting at the base of the rib cage, stroke down with one hand, then the other, continuing one after the other.
  2. Massage her belly with your fingertips in a circular, clockwise motion.
  3. Do the “I Love U” stroke: Trace the letter I down your baby’s left side. Then trace an inverted L, moving across the belly along the base of her ribs from your left to right and then down. Trace an inverted U, stroking from low on the baby’s right side (your left), up and around the navel, and down the left side (your right).
  4. Walk your fingers around baby’s navel, clockwise.
  5. Hold baby’s knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward the belly. Rotate baby’s hips around a couple times to the right. (Great for expelling gas. 

Note: Avoid massaging tummy if the umbilical cord site hasn’t completely healed.

Head and Face 

  1. Cradle your baby’s head with both hands, gently massage the scalp with your fingertips, as if you’re shampooing. (Avoid the fontanel, the soft spot on top of baby’s head.)
  2. Massage her ears between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Trace a heart shape on baby’s face, bringing your hands together at his/her chin.
  4. Place your thumbs between your baby’s eyebrows, and stroke outward.
  5. Stroke from the bridge of the nose out over the cheeks.
  6. Using your fingertips, massage the jaw hinge in small circles.

Chest

  1. Place both hands on baby’s chest and stroke outward from sternum to shoulders.
  2. Beginning at the sternum, trace a heart shape bringing both hands up to the shoulders, then down and back together.
  3. In a crisscross pattern, stroke diagonally from one side of your baby’s hip, up and over the opposite shoulder, and back down to her hip.

Arms

  1. Hold her wrist with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape around baby’s upper arm; make long strokes from her shoulder down to her wrist
  2. With each hand grasping her arm, one right above the other, stroke down from shoulder to wrist with both hands rotating in opposite directions, as if you were gently wringing out a towel.
  3. Massage baby’s palms, moving thumb over thumb from heel of the hand to the fingers.
  4. Stroke down from the wrist to fingertips on the back or front of the hand. Gently squeeze and pull each finger.
  5. Roll her arm between both your hands.

Legs

  1. Hold the ankle with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape, thumb down, around your baby’s upper thigh. Stroke from thigh down to foot, skipping over the knee joint.
  2. With your hands grasping the leg at the thigh, one right above the other, stroke down from hip to foot with both hands rotating in opposite directions, as if you were wringing out a towel.
  3. On the sole of her foot, use a thumb-over-thumb motion to massage from heel to toes.
  4. Use your whole hand to stroke the bottom of the foot from heel to toes.
  5. Stroke the top of the foot. Gently squeeze and pull each toe.
  6. Roll each leg between your hands, as if you’re rolling dough.

Back

Place baby on tummy horizontally in front of you, or lay baby across your outstretched legs. Keep baby’s hands in front of him/her, not at the sides.

  1. With both of your hands on baby’s back, move each hand back and forth (keeping them going in opposite directions) from the base of the neck to her buttocks.
  2. Hold your baby’s bottom with one hand and use the other to make long strokes from the neck down to the bottom.
  3. Using your fingertips, massage in small circles down one side of baby’s spine and up the other. Avoid pressing on the spine directly.
  4. Massage the shoulders with small circular motions.
  5. Massage the bottom with big circular motions.
  6. Holding your fingers like a rake, stroke down her back.

Other infant massage tips:

  • Make strokes gentle but firm, and not ticklish.
  • Build massage into your baby’s daily schedule.
  • Follow baby’s signals about when to stop. A massage can last anywhere from a few minutes to as much as 30 minutes, depending on baby’s moods.
  • Enjoy this precious time with your beloved little one.

Five reasons to massage your baby!

BabyMassageInfant massage offers many benefits to babies and their caregivers. For many parents, touch is a natural part of caring for their children but some may not feel like they know how to give infant massage. While you can certainly take a class on infant massage, watch a youtube video or a read book about baby massage, you don’t have to be an expert to offer this wonderful healing touch to your child. If you follow your instincts and have a little fun, you can massage your baby without any additional knowledge. (Next week, we will post a “how to” for those wanting some more information on giving infant massage)

Here are five great reasons to massage your baby

  1. Infant massage facilitates bonding and healthy attachment

Infant massage promotes and develops positive interactions between caregivers and babies, helping them to better learn each others’ feelings and needs and understand one another’s communication. Massage and regular touch can help infants to feel more secure and attached to their caregivers. Massage facilitates the release of “love” hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin in both caregiver and baby, helping each to feel connected to one another in a strong, positive and healthy way. Infant massage is a great way for fathers to build their nurturing skills.

  1. Infant massage can help with colic and digestive complaints

Massage can help tone the digestive tract and stimulate the release of insulin and related chemicals, which help with food absorption. According to research, infant massage can increase the assimilation of nutrients at the cell level, helping babies’ digestive systems function better, including easier elimination and less gas.

  1. Infant massage calms babies, helping them to cry less and sleep better

Massage stimulates the body’s production and release of natural painkillers that may ease emotional distress. Touch balances our autonomic nervous systems. Massage can help to relieve tension in a baby’s body caused by all the sensory stimulation and processing he/she experiences in daily life.

  1. Infant massage can increase baby’s brain and muscular development

Research shows that frequent healthy touch increases a baby’s neurological and muscular development. Infant massage can also have a profound effect on a child’s emotional development.

As one professor and researcher of developmental psychology put it,

“Early understanding of self and early understanding of other is developed through interaction. It teaches babies basic lessons that they have some agency in the world, so that allows them to explore the world and feel like they can affect their environment as opposed to just being helpless to whatever happens to them. We’re basically a social species, and we learn those things through interacting with others.”

  1. Infant massage reduces levels of stress in the caregiver

Mothers and fathers (and other caregivers) who offer infant massage to their children and other forms of nurturing touch on a regular basis report lower levels of depression. They also seem to be more sensitive to their babies cues, are thus better able to meet their child’s needs, and experience greater overall satisfaction in their relationship with baby. Infant massage boosts positive caregiving and maternal feelings in adults.

Stay tuned for next week’s details on offering infant massage.

Flower essences

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAFlower essences are an amazing and lesser-known healing resource that can be quite amazing for expectant and new mamas, and, really, anyone.  We offer a line of flower essences by Santosha Birth and Wellness that are specifically for conception, pregnancy, birth and motherhood.  We also have a new acupuncturist that is trained in the use of flower essences.  With all the buzz about flower essences, we wanted to share a bit more about what flower essences are and why they are so wonderful for the childbearing cycle.  

What are flower essences?

Flower essences are type of botanical medicine that works on the energetic level (like acupuncture does) to positively affect the emotions, energy, and deeper soul levels. Flower essences are especially suited to helping people overcome obstacles, heal the past, reduce negative thoughts, actions and perspectives, cope with changes and challenges, and achieve greater joy and peace. Put simply, flower essences are energy medicine—they safely and effectively address root causes of emotional and physical issues to bring healing and growth on all levels (physical, emotional, mental and soul).

Odorless and virtually tasteless, a flower essence is an infusion of flowers stabilized in water and a small amount of brandy to preserve. 

What is the history of flower essences?

Flower essence therapy has been used by indigenous people for centuries and have been thoroughly studied and developed in the West for over a century. Dr. Bach, a British physician and homeopathic doctor, was the first to develop a robust system of flower essence therapy in the early 1900s. His system included 38 flower essences and his blend, Rescue Remedy® is the most famous of all flower essences. Dr. Bach’s early death left room for further development and refinement of this system and additional flower essences have been added to this healing system.

Master herbalists such a German healer Julia Graves (creator of the Lily Circle) and Flower Essence Service, among others, have continued Dr. Bach’s legacy, producing high quality flower essences that yield profound results. The Lily Circle (used in Santosha’s blends) is exceptionally well suited for female archetypal issues and those surrounding birth and motherhood, but are equally powerful and healing for all people.  

Why flower essences?

There are so many reasons why flower essences are an incredible healing tool, especially in the childbearing cycle.  

They are safe: Because flower essences work on the energetic rather than biochemical level, they don’t pose the same risks that some pharmaceuticals, herbal tinctures, and essential oils may pose. This makes flower essences particularly attractive for treating issues that may arise in the childbearing cycle, when other treatments may not be advised. Flower essences are completely safe for use in pregnant women, birthing women, nursing women, newborns, infants, and children (and even pets and plants, evidence shows!). There are NO known contraindications.

They are gentle: Flower essences are gentle, they don’t work by force, nor do they overwhelm the body or mind. Flower essences are subtle, yet powerful and profound in the positive change they produce.

They address root causes of physical ailments and emotional/spiritual conditions. Flower essences often get to the source of one’s physical or other ailments. By addressing underlying emotional/mental/energetic/spiritual factors contributing to dis-ease or challenges, flower essences heal the deeper levels of one’s being and when they are healed, the body follows. What better time than pregnancy to clear out what doesn’t serve us and make room for greater wellbeing in parenthood? The healthier and happy we are going into parenting, the better we can be for ourselves and our children!

How do you use a flower essence?

Flower essences are commonly taken by mouth, with 4 drops taken orally 4 times a day. This is a general guideline—a person in an acute situation (e.g. labor) may take an essence as frequently as every 10 minutes as needed. Taking an essence frequently is the path to desired change. Because there is a small amount of brandy in the essence, some pregnant women or sensitive individuals may prefer not to take the essence directly under the tongue. You can add an essence to beverage—covered water is best (but tea or juice can also be used). For those that wish to avoid ingestion entirely, flower essences can be sprayed or applied on to the skin, clothing, bedding or air. One can also take a flower essence bath.

How long should one use a flower essence?

Many flower essence practitioners note a definite cycle period in taking a flower essence, typically two to four weeks though this can be longer or shorter for some and depending on the reason for use.

Can flower essences be used together with other healing modalities?

Flower essences can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to enhance a healing process. They have been used with great success by flower essence practitioners, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, psychologists, medical doctors, veterinarians, and other health care practitioners.

How do I learn more?  

If you want to learn more about flower essences, you can speak with us at an upcoming appointment or contact Santosha Birth and Wellness directly at http://www.santoshamama.com.  

4 of the most important pregnancy foods you never hear about

Bone brothHere at Health Foundations, we emphasize the importance of a healthy diet before and during pregnancy because we’ve seen again and again how much of a difference good nutrition makes in the health of mom and baby, including a reduced risk of c-sections, easier labors, quicker postpartum healing, and so much more.  And the benefits aren’t just relegated to the childbearing year.  Babies who receive good nutrition in the womb are at a lower risk for many serious diseases in their child and adulthoods, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, autism, and ADHD.  Science is finding the crucial role nutrition plays in epigenetics, or the factors, such as chemical reactions, that influence gene expression.  Cutting edge studies are finding the importance of the gut microbiome in overall health for both babies and adults.  

So in that spirit, here are five foods that you might not find on the list of best pregnancy foods but are actually some of the best foods you can eat when expecting (and when planning to conceive).  

1.  Traditional Fats:  

We went through a phase in our collective history during which everyone feared fats.  And we still haven’t quite recovered.  But many kinds of natural fats are not only good for you, they are essential to your wellbeing.  Across cultures, you will find fats emphasized in fertility and pregnancy diets.  Good fats include ghee, butter, dairy fat (full fat dairy products), avocados, and coconut oil.  Used in moderation, these healthy fats can do a world of good for you and baby.  They can support maternal skin health, optimizing your body’s response to the stretches and effects of gravity that pregnancy impose.  Healthy fats in pregnancy also lower the risk of childhood allergies for baby, research shows.  Additional studies show that health fat consumption in pregnancy can lower the risk of baby later developing autism.  

2.  Organ meats:

Okay, we are not a culture that commonly enjoyed organ meats.  In fact the words alone may turn people off.  But meats like liver are super foods when it comes to baby making (we’re talking pregnancy here, folks).  Organic, grassfed and/or free range organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense foods absolutely loaded with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fat.  They are particularly rich in the nutrients that help keep our brains healthy and grow healthy well-functioning baby brains– i.e.  the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docasahexaenoic acid), and AA (arachidonic acid). Liver is one of the best sources of folate, which is SO crucial in pregnancy (and supplemental folic acid pales in comparison to food-sourced folate in terms of health).  Liver and other organ meats are also tremendous sources of:

  • high-quality protein
  • fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • vitamin A, which is rapidly depleted during periods of stress
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • A highly usable form of iron, so important in pregnancy
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • Purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA

One of the easiest and tastiest ways to eat liver is through liver pates.  Here is a tasty recipe for Chicken Liver Pate.  Here is one for a delicious Beef Liver with fig, bacon, and caramelized onion.  While not as ideal as consuming as food, desiccated liver in capsule form is also available.  

3.  Bone Broth

Beloved by the burgeoning paleo health movement, bone broth has numerous benefits for both mamas and babies (and the rest of us!)  Bone broth has shown to offer the following benefits:

  • builds, rebuilds and repairs our connective tissue, including joints, tendons and ligaments
  • improves hair, skin and nails
  • strengthens bones
  • heals and promotes a healthy digestive system 
  • supports optimal nerve health
  • great for the immune system
  • good source of protein
  • supports brain health
  • boosts fertility
  • and much more

Because broth supports the nervous system, endocrine system and brain function, consuming it while pregnant helps the developing fetus build healthy organs.

Bone broth is cheap and easy to make yourself.  You can use the bones from a whole chicken you have cooked or can get soup bones from the coop. It is best to use high quality bones to make bone broth– those from healthy (grassfed or free range), organic sources.  This is not a difficult thing to do in Minnesota!  There are many great recipes out there for bone broth.  Here is one simple way to make and enjoy bone broth throughout the week.

4.   Fermented foods

Fermented foods are some of the best sources of probiotics one can get from food (which is a superior source of all nutrients, compared to supplements, in virtually all cases).   Fermented foods are great for maintaining a healthy digestive system in pregnancy, which many of us know can go awry when we are expecting.  Eating these probiotic-rich foods is also great for gut health and the immune system and can positively impact your child’s gut health and overall wellbeing.  Fermented foods also increase your body’s ability to absorb the maximum level of nutrients from the foods you eat.  You can make your own fermented foods or there are some great (and quite tasty!) options available at co-ops, Whole Foods, and other health markets.  Examples of fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Plain yogurt
  • Kombucha

Here’s to you and your family’s health, mamas!

Breast Feeding after Breast Reduction (BFAR)– One mama’s journey through the first 6 months

BFAR – My Journey through 6 Months

Photo credit: Render Photography

Photo credit: Render Photography

When I became pregnant with my son, George, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him.  There were a lot of reasons that this was important to me: nursing him would be better for his health, for my health, and it just felt like it was the natural thing to do.  Every time I learned another thing about breastfeeding, I was amazed.  
 
I read so many horror stories on the internet, from bleeding nipples, to low milk supply, to oversupply.  In fact, my mom hadn’t been able to nurse me due to recurring mastitis, and she never even tried with my brother.  I knew that nursing could be really hard – it could be impossible.  And that was from women who had never had breast surgery.  
 
When I was 17, I had a breast reduction.  It was not a tough decision to make.  I was told that there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, but I was 17 and not thinking that far down the line.  I had the surgery the summer I graduated from high school, and I felt so much more confident.  Although I had the scars to remind me, it became a distant memory.
 
Fourteen years later as I prepared to give birth, I started researching as much about breastfeeding after breast reduction as possible.  I read Diana West’s book, Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery.  In it were many stories about women who had varied amount of success with breastfeeding.  I felt like the book prepared me to fail, to be mentally OK with the idea that exclusive breastfeeding was not the only option.  
 
I called my plastic surgeon to ask his office which type of surgery I’d had (inferior pedicle).  That method was known to have the best success rate for nursing because it leaves the nipple intact.  I was relieved.
 
I read and read and googled everything I could on the internet.  I think I found one success story on a blog but for the most part success stories were few and far between, especially for first time moms.
 
Perhaps the best thing I did was read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  Her book helped shape my whole birth plan.  Instead of giving birth in a hospital, I chose to have my baby in a freestanding birth center.  Although her book did not directly discuss breastfeeding after a breast reduction, it did offer many suggestions applicable to all women attempting to breastfeed – skin to skin contact immediately after the birth of the baby, rooming in with the baby, initiating breastfeeding as soon as possible after the birth, limiting the use of drugs and other modern interventions so that baby is wide eyed and awake after birth, no pacifiers, bottles, supplementing, etc.  I felt that having a natural birth, without any medical intervention (no pitocin, no pain medications, etc) would set me up for the best breastfeeding journey.  Additionally, the birth center released its patients just 5 hours after the birth of the baby.  I’d recover in my own bed, with my husband and mom caring for me, instead of nurses I didn’t know, which was one of my biggest fears about a hospital setting.
 
BabyGeorgeI’m not sure if I would have been as successful breastfeeding had my birth story been different, but I am so thankful that I had an uncomplicated labor and delivery, and I was home in my own bed the night that George was born, snuggling with my sweet baby.  
 
My milk came in within 48 hours of having George.  George was born 2 weeks late at 9 lbs, 6.5 oz.  I think he got down to about 8 lbs 12 oz, and was back to 9 lbs 1 oz by day 6.  He nursed like a champ!  He was hungry ALL the time and those first couple of weeks my nipples were SO sore, but no one, myself included, ever asked if he was getting enough milk.  There was never a doubt in my mind.
 
I wanted to wait we had really settled into a routine to write about my experience.  It was so wonderful, I didn’t want to jinx it.  
 
RockingchairI exclusively nursed George until he was just 5 days shy of 6 months old.  We then started introducing solid foods via baby led weaning.
 
I think that there are a couple of things that really helped us to have a successful nursing relationship.  One: a birth team and husband who knew a lot about breastfeeding and who were 100% supportive.  Two: a ton of education while pregnant.  The birth center offered a one on one consultation with a lactation consultant during one of the last visits; one of the Bradley Method classes was dedicated to breastfeeding; in addition, I had the chance to do lots of research on sites like kellymom.com, which I bookmarked for questions that arose after George was born.
 
milkdrunkgeorgeNursing my son might be the coolest thing I’ve ever done.  It’s definitely the most beautiful thing my body has ever done, in addition to growing this tiny, perfect human.  I hope and pray that every woman who wants to breastfeed has the opportunity to do so, and that my story can help offer some hope to women who have chosen breast reduction surgery.
 
UPDATE:
George is now 9 months old are we are still enjoying nursing – maybe more than ever!  It calms him if he’s upset, it helps him sleep if he’s tired, and it’s so easy now that he can more actively participate.  I’m planning to let George self-wean, and I definitely don’t see that happening anytime soon.
TracyGeorge