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Book review: Hold Your Prem by Jill Bergman with Dr. Nils Bergman

This book on best practices for premature baby (prem) care is invaluable. It will be exceptionally useful to empower parents of a prem AND as a resource for birth professionals. The Bergmans share best practices to meet prems’ needs that recreate as closely as possible the experience in the womb. This is quite profound, but in typical Western hospitals [dealing with liabilities (and fears) around prem care] is not always a priority. Prems being with mom, with skin-to-skin contact is best because it makes the biggest difference in terms of neuroscience (baby’s brain development) which wires babies’ nervous systems for health.

This book gives clarity on how to meet these deep needs and how we can change the landscape to prioritize prems’ needs – especially during the exceptionally significant early seconds, minutes, hours and days after a prem is born. This book is the premise for Kangaroula training offered next weekend by BirthWorks!  If you want to learn more, please register now or when it is offered again in 2021.

When certain things are not in place for the mother-prem connection, it is at the cost of stress on baby’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) and brain development.  What “the baby expects biologically” does not happen if the prem spends most of the time in an incubator (or crib), and being in this state of stress or shock, especially for a prem, wires their brains to not relax and expect stress, with costs for exceptionally important development in the first few months of their lives and longer.

“Skin-to-skin contact provides the biologically expected stimulation to wire the brain in the best way possible… The brain is stimulated by sensations. The sensations from the mother are good and reassuring. They make the brain develop… This brain-wiring depends on the mother’s presence.” (p.11)  Babies have certain sensory needs (feel of skin, smell of mother, hearing her voice and heartbeat, see her face and tasting breast milk) which if they are in place help babies relax (so they breathe, eat and sleep better).  But if a prem is not with mom, they go into “shock” when trying to regulate their own body temperature (and more) and their nervous system is stressed (fight-and-flight).  There are steep costs for a prem to be in a negative stress state, when their brain is not fully developed, lungs are not ready for breathing air, sight and hearing are highly sensitive, and skin is fragile (p.12). 

For parents, this book will empower you, so if your baby is a prem, you can take care of yourself, and understand what is happening in the hospital to advocate for your baby. [For parents of term babies, so much information is relevant to your babies’ care and needs as well.]  As parents of a prem, you will understand how normal it is to experience a multitude of emotions (such as… very confusing, scary, worry, fear, uncertainty plus joy, hope, love and also more positive ones too).  It provides information and insight into certain areas – how to read signs from your baby, technology used, problems prems might face in the NICUs, the value of skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding (with tons of tips), neuroscience (brain development), how you can best ask for help, and taking your prem home to parent them. You can use this book to “lessen the stress” and “help you and your prem cope better” (p.9) but more than that… you will understand what is going on (what your baby is telling you, even what good reasons there are for wires and tubes on your baby) and how the key thing that can help your baby is YOU! – your presence, your touch and your love. (You can hold your baby with the wires attached, if you ask.)

For professionals, you may find academic validation that much of what you intuitively do (outside of managing technology as needed) when working with prems is already in-line with best meeting their needs. You may understand parents of prems better, and thus how to work best with them to make positive changes for ideal care for their prem. As a childbirth educator or doula, the book clarifies the ultimate best baby care… because understanding and meeting a prem’s needs best is the most extreme way we can give the absolute best care to any baby, and deeply understanding the experience of parents of prems frames the support that is also best for any new parent.  

This book emphasizes the importance of the shared journey… starting with the mother/baby connection, and the cooperative teamwork of parents and providers together.  This matters a lot! – in the context of neuroscience, honoring parents speaking for their baby, and embracing that “mom + milk” are the key ingredients in building the prem’s health. The book also states that in NICU prem care there are some areas of controversy where academic “evidence is insufficient or absent” (pp.v), which reinforces the vital bond between mother and baby, and the need to find the best balance of mother-care and technological care. The conversation with prem parents and health professionals is key to improve prem care now and in the future.

Hold Your Prem helps us choose to care for term infants and prems with deep knowledge and awareness, in conscious ways that minimize trauma (which sadly is unintentionally created in some hospital/NICU-care models). The Bergmans empower parents and providers through detailed understanding and steps to allow the best nurture science, skin-to-skin contact, positive breastfeeding support and mother-baby bonding, so together we co-create a “nurture care” model to minimize stress, maximize babies’ comfort to meet their deep developmental needs in the early moments of their precious lives, enhance bonding, and align intention to create healthy babies and brain integration, so prems’ nervous systems are balanced and well, which can give prems the opportunity to live healthier lives and effectively connect socially in the future.

If you’re inspired to learn more and to learn how to advocate for prems in your work, consider joining BirthWorks for Kangaroula future trainings, now offered virtually.

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Book Review: Nobody Told Me About That – The First Six Weeks

Nobody Told Me About That – The First Six Weeks
by Ginger Breedlove

Book review by Cristin Tighe, BWI Program Director & CCE(BWI)

What a valuable read – this is the most comprehensive book about the postpartum time I’ve picked up. It’s focus on the first six weeks is key! As a mother of first a daughter and then twin boys, and as a postpartum doula, I have experienced the challenging personal reality of going through the early weeks with newborn(s) and have professionally supported varied clients through it!  The first six weeks or so with a baby is also the most precious time.  Having the option while pregnant to understand what to expect after the baby is born very comprehensively and clearly is a true gift – as it empowers parents, so they can enjoy this time more.

For parents-to-be, the first four chapters are like gold. They focus on what is normal (can eliminate much worry!), how to make safe and empowered sleep decisions, and feeding realities (including breastfeeding benefits and tips for success).  Understanding certain key things is exceptionally helpful – like it’s normal that a baby may have a cone-shaped head, acne or other skin changes, cross eyes or make funny sounds when sleeping.  It’s also so valuable to know what to expect day-by-early day about when a baby will poop, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, as well as the truth about how tending to a newborn after birth is often an emotional roller coaster but certain things can minimize that.

For mom, considerations and choosing before baby comes about early day visitors (and tips on how to manage them sweetly!), about how to prioritize mom’s sleep needs and shift the schedule as baby’s sleep and eating needs vary over the first weeks, will also assure her needs are met.  The 36-page chapter on breastfeeding is a lot… but if this is read before the baby comes, parents should feel very empowered on almost every key consideration for breastfeeding (and can skip other books and online resources as prep).

Other key chapters can definitely help parents, and without a doubt do provide valuable insight for birth work professionals and medical providers.  They include: in-depth information for fathers/partners, on postpartum depression (“the #1 complication of pregnancy”), returning to intimacy and to work, dealing with challenges (inequity/racism, unexpected interventions, mother and infant mortality, trauma, grief), as well as fun ideas on practicing mindfulness and getting a pet accustomed to a new baby.  Additional key topic chapters offer deep insight from women of color, LGBT* families, and real from-the-heart stories sharing the experience of what it’s like up to the first six weeks+ AND how moms can find their voice through this magical, demanding experience.

Do note this book is like a mini-encyclopedia, and often has repetition – so if you’re pregnant or a partner anticipating your new child – good to purchase it now.  (This book is so important for those in the US (or with a similar model) of more medicalized birth options and minimal support for after-baby care — which is often very little advice to no advice/hands-on preparation followed by mostly no professional support at home for weeks.  Even in countries, like Belgium, where you have in-home midwives visit every other day for a few weeks to check baby and mom, affordable pediatrician visits earlier than six weeks, and optional free childcare support, this book is invaluable.

Overall, this book empowers and deeply enlightens… of all the birth-related books on my bookshelf… this is a keeper! I will refer to it again and again for clients’ needs and do encourage both new parents and professionals to purchase it now.

 

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BirthWorks Birth Prep!

This virtual experience is a fantastic way to prep for birth now from home!!
What a brilliant gift to give yourself or to give to new parents you know!

The BirthWorks Experience helps every woman find her own best way to birth. First-time parents (as well as parents having another child) will love our engaging, interactive format of evidence-based and emotional childbirth preparation which highlights:

…understanding ways to labor that can minimize interventions

…how human-values practice increases confidence and decreases fear in birth

…understanding Four Principles of Optimal Pelvic Positioning to shorten and ease labor and birth

energy, relaxation, affirmation, primal health and more!

What is unique about BirthWorks innovative and experiential approach? 

In two short virtual Zoom sessions, parents experience a balanced, non-judgemental approach to childbirth preparation including:

  • Experiential energy work to empower and transform
  • The most gentle, amazing relaxation exercise!
  • Chance to identify beliefs about birth
  • Creating powerful affirmations to overcome and release fears
  • Knowing how to position your pelvis for an easier birth
  • Birth anticipations and expectations
  • How hormones work to your advantage and “Adrenaline Language”
  • Non-pharmacological comfort measures and the HPA axis
  • Exercises to relax the pelvic floor before and during labor
  • Understanding Primal Health – the importance of mother/baby skin-to-skin contact on brain development
  • Mother-Daughter Relationships
  • Common Sense Nutrition

If this resonates with you, join our August Birth Prep or sign up for fall BirthWorks Birth Preps now offered monthly! Questions? Please reach info@birthworks.org

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Reflections From A Mom With Multiples

Taking care of one baby is a lot of work.  New moms often say they were busy all day but don’t exactly remember what they did!  Just imagine taking care of newborn twins or triplets!  I am a BirthWorks Mentor and one of my students, Sienna Morrow, who is in the BirthWorks Postpartum Doula Program sent a response to the question below that brought me to tears as it made me remember my own experience with my twins.

Question:  When is a baby considered to be premature?  List five main concerns a new mother with multiples might have in the first few months at home and how you would address them.

She wrote:

  • A baby is considered premature if born before 37 weeks.
  • A mother with multiples might be concerned with getting adequate sleep, breastfeeding two babies (tandem), creating a routine that works for both babies, bonding with each baby, and having enough support.
  • I would encourage the mother to tune into the babies and create a routine that works for all of them together by helping her process how things go throughout the days and areas where she is struggling.
  • I would help her connect to groups of moms of multiples in her area and give her time to have conversations with her partner about how they can support one another.
  • I would address any breastfeeding concerns that she has and build up her confidence with praise and words of wisdom.
  • I would also help her explore her own resources and discover things she can do to build a support network in her current situation.”

I, myself, gave birth to my twin boys at 38 weeks and 6 days so they were not premies. I breastfed my boys 21 of 24 hours the first day, and then it was like 16 hours a day until we all learned to tandem feed. I felt stuck in my primal brain for weeks, almost like having no awareness of being human most of the time.  As I reflect back on the experience, I am laughing, remembering some of my chimpanzee robotic-like thoughts that were running through my head during that time:

  • Feed next baby, get other one, feed other….fall down and sleep…are they both safe? …zzz…wake up! Baby must eat…
  • I starving, ravenous, soooo thirsty, give me water
  • Bladder bursting, need to pee
  • Need shower, crusty, smelly, sweaty, sticky
  • Where is Annalissa? (That’s my daughter who just turned four.  This thought would come with adrenaline as I was falling asleep feeding some baby boy – not sure who it was half the time, didn’t care, trusted my husband who rotated them.

These thoughts just repeated over and over, like the film “Groundhog Day”, until around four months.  Then, I woke up, like from a dream, checked we were all alive and when we were, I sighed deeply.