Archives for August 2011

Benefits of Probiotics Found in Breastmilk

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about the importance of probiotics, and specifically the probiotics found in breastmilk. But what exactly are they, and what benefit do they serve us and our children?

laughing baby playing with motherimage credit

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that live in our gut and benefit us in various ways. Humans carry around about ten times as many bacterial cells as there are actual cells in our bodies, and most of them live in the digestive tract. They help digest food, absorb minerals and other nutrients, and help with synthesizing vitamins. Probiotic therapy is being used to treat a range disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, yeast infections, asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory responses.

According to the Harvard website: “An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. These microorganisms (or microflora) generally don’t make us sick; most are helpful. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.”

Where do they come from?

Babies are actually not born with any of this beneficial bacteria in their intestines, but they quickly become colonized with exposure. Babies born via vaginal delivery tend to have more beneficial bacteria (which they get from their mother as they travel through the  birth canal), and so do babies that are breastfed. Probiotics are found in breast milk, and due to the growing body of research showing their benefits, they are also being added to infant formula.

You can also get your probiotics in supplement form or better yet, by eating fermented foods like yogurt, fermented cabbage and fermented soy products. Certain foods called prebiotics are also helpful in rejuvenating your body’s colony of flourishing intestinal flora, by feeding the probiotics that live inside you. These foods include oats, bananas, berries, greens such as kale, chard, leeks, asparagus, whole grains, almonds, flax, onions, and honey.

How probiotics benefit your baby

Breastmilk contains the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri (l. reuteri) which is passed from mother to baby.  Studies have show that the consumption of probiotics by children and infants may:

  • shorten bouts of diarrhea and acute viral gastroenteritis
  • lessen side effects of antibiotics
  • reduce the severity of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • significantly reduce colic in newborns
  • promote oral health by killing streptoccocus mutants which cause tooth decay
  • avoid skin problems such as eczema
  • avoid or delay the onset of asthma
  • contribute to the development and functioning of baby’s immune system
  • lessen doctor visits, fewer sick days, and better overall health

A  nursing mother who consumes probiotics and prebiotics is not only benefiting herself, she is also passing along the beneficial bacteria to her baby.

The Case Against Planned Inductions

The last few weeks of your pregnancy are not “optional.” They are an important time for your baby’s development which should not be cut short by an early induction. If there are valid medical reasons for labor induction, your health-care provider will help you decide on the best course of action. But if you just want to schedule an induction for the sake of convenience or any other non-medical reason, here are some things to consider:

feature image: Baby Announcement Wording

1. Less than 10% of babies actually arrive on their “due date.” Experts agree that a normal pregnancy lasts between 38 and 42 weeks. About 7 out of 10 babies are born after their due date! There is NO way to predict with absolute accuracy what day your baby will be born, you will have to trust your body and your baby to let you know w hen it’s time!

2. Unless you have had a first-trimester ultrasound, gestational dating is largely inaccurate. Later ultrasounds can be off by 2-3 weeks, meaning an induction at 38 weeks might actually be taking place sooner than intended.

3. First time mothers are more often overdue than not! Even 42 weeks PLUS is “normal” and is not a reason to rush into an induction.

4. The last few weeks that a baby spends in utero are an important time for baby’s development, most importantly brain development. A surge of hormones in your baby’s body might play a part in initiating labor.  According to Lamaze, research indicates that once your baby’s lungs are fully mature, he releases a protein that tells his mother’s body that it’s time. A baby born even a few weeks early is at an increased risk for breathing problems, admission to special-care nurseries and breastfeeding difficulties.

5. Which brings us to our next point: Full-term babies (39-40 weeks) are healthier! According to Time: “It’s kind of surprising that insurance providers haven’t curtailed the practice of early elective deliveries entirely as babies born sooner tend to have more health complications and cost more. Even babies delivered at 37 to 38 weeks can end up costing 10 times as much as a full-term newborn, according to the March of Dimes. One study found that reducing early elective deliveries to under 2% could save close to $1 billion in health care each year.”

6. An induced labor is likely to be longer, more intense, and more invasive than a natural labor. You will need IV fluids and continuous electronic fetal monitoring. You will be more likely to use an epidural to deal with the intense contractions. Inductions don’t always work according to plan, often necessitating  forceps, vacuum assistance, and c-sections. Relative to c-section babies, babies who go through labor are born more alert and are better able to breathe and latch on at the breast. (Read this article in

7. Better in than out! All of my babies were over-due, and 3 children later I have come to the conclusion that babies are much less trouble in the uterus than out! That is my own personal opinion, of course, and I do love my children dearly!

Bottom line: Be respectful of your baby and let him be a player in his own birth. The safest birthing option for you and your baby is to wait for labor to begin on its own, and in this way you’ll give him the best possible start as he enters our world.

Belly Mapping: How YOU can determine your baby’s position

Belly mapping is a way that moms can tell what position their baby is in, during the last couple months of pregnancy.  This is helpful because it can alert  you to potential complications that may arise during childbirth, which could lead to a complicated labor or a C-section. Often it is impossible for your doctor to know what position the baby is in by doing an internal examination– an ultrasound would be required. However, belly mapping provides a way to figure it out on your own! Then, your doula can help you to change the baby’s position.

Click here to read the complete article by DONA International, via

Download the free Belly Mapping parent handout in English,

It’s World Breastfeeding Week!

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and in honor of this momentous occasion, has compiled a list of 10 things you didn’t know about breastfeeding. Are you a new mom? Or maybe you think you know everything there is to know about breastfeeding, already? Check out these facts, test your knowledge, and be an educated breast-feeder!

image from Little Mountain  Homeopathy

Have a coffee, or a martini! A healthy diet is important for everyone, but you don’t have to feel guilty if you have a few too many cookies, or have a drink with your husband.  “Your body is designed to make healthy milk,” says Laura Viehmann, M.D.  The purpose of eating well is to maintain your own health and energy… your body will do it’s own work of using the nutrients you provide to produce wholesome breastmilk.

Nursing may cause cramping: But just for the first few days after birth! It’s a sign that your body is healing properly. “The same hormone responsible for triggering milk letdown, oxytocin, causes your uterus to shrink back to normal, which reduces the risk for uterine bleeding,” says American Baby advisor Laura Jana, M.D.

Your milk is not always the same: At first, you produce a sticky, yellowish-white colostrum that’s rich in protein. After a few days, you start producing “real” milk which contains two parts (you might see them separate in the fridge). Foremilk is thin, watery, and pale; hindmilk contains more fat, and will be slightly thicker and creamier.

Nursing pads will save your life: OK, not literally, but they’ll save you a lot of embarrassment from leaky nipples. Anything that makes you think of your baby, even hearing another baby cry, causes your body to release oxytocin which makes the milk come in! So don’t leave home without them!

You may get antsy: A friend of mine called it “nervous milk” and her baby weaned himself off of it pretty quickly. She just couldn’t relax and enjoy the feedings, and this nervousness transferred to her baby. If you think about it, it can be boring: feedings can last as long as an hour, and babies need to be fed every couple of hours at first.  Try to use this time to do something enjoyable– check email, read, or catch up on your DVR queue, call a friend to chat… or take a nap! Of course it would also be time well spent if you can focus on bonding with your baby using eye contact, touch, and talking or singing to him.

It might be worse than labor: On second thought, maybe not, but it can still be painful. It’s normal if your nipples feel irritated at first because they’ve never had that degree of stimulation, but if you are writhing in agony you need to make sure the latch is right.  You should rule out mastitis or blocked ducts, and speak to a lactation consultant. Once you baby is latching on properly, you may find your cracked, bleeding nipples healing within days! Use a purified lanolin product, like Lansinoh, to soothe nipples after feeding or pumping.

It may not work out: Some moms do all they can to make breastfeeding a success, and despite their best efforts it doesn’t work out. This can be for a myriad of reasons, including low milk production, infections, or medication. We do believe it’s important to try, but nourishing, nurturing and bonding can happen without breastfeeding too.

It may feel like heaven: Those hormones are at it again– this time in a good way!  Oxytocin, a hormone involved in milk production, ushers in a cascade of blissful emotions, and prolactin makes you feel drowsy when you’re done. There’s nothing quite like the sweetness of a happy baby at your breast as you both drift off to sleep together!

Your turn! If there’s something that surprised you, or that you wish YOU had known about breastfeeding, let us know! Help out our readers by sharing your wisdom and leaving a comment below!

Preparing Kids for a New Baby

A baby or young toddler may not really understand that there’s a baby growing in your belly. And he also has no concept of time. So it’s not necessary to clue him in until you are nearing the end, otherwise you may hear every day, “Is the baby coming out yet?” Since the concept of a new baby is pretty much out of their range of understanding, you don’t need to spend much time preparing him for it.

Older toddlers and children should definitely be clued in to what’s happening in a way that will make them feel involved and excited. Life will be very different after the baby is born, so your kids should be prepared, and hopefully looking forward to the new addition.

image from hypeplug

Here are some ideas from Dr. Sears to introduce the topic and learn about new babies!

1. Arrange to be around very young babies. This lets your older children hear how they sound, see what they look like, observe you holding one now and then, notice that they need comforting, and learn about nursing.

2. Talk about the new baby. Once your belly is really big, eight months maybe, talk about the new baby. Referring to the baby as “Suzy’s new baby” will add an extra degree of protectiveness instead of competition.  Let her feel kicks, help her talk or sing to baby, and stroke your belly.

3. Show her simple children’s books about new babies. Show pictures of when she was a tiny baby and tell her about all the things you did for her. Say things like “Mommies hold tiny babies a lot because they need that.”

4. Tell older toddlers and preschoolers about the baby early on in the pregnancy. The older the child, the sooner you can tell him; very young children may be confused or disappointed when the baby fails to arrive the next day. With an older toddler or preschooler, try all of the toddler suggestions above, and in addition, use the diagrams in books on birth to talk about how the baby is growing, month by month. You’ll be surprised by questions like “What part did baby grow today, mom?”

5. Depending on the age and level of understanding, tell your child why you are feeling so tired, grouchy, short-fused, impatient, and whatever else you feel while pregnant: You might say, “Baby needs a lot of energy to grow, and that’s why mom is tired and sleeps a lot…” Or, “The hormones baby needs to grow make mommy feel funny…”

6. Expand on what newborns are like. For example, let them know babies cry (some cry a lot) and they like it when you talk to them and make funny faces. Explain to them “You can help me change the diaper, bathe baby and dress baby. Babies can’t do anything for themselves for a long time, and they can’t play games until they grow bigger. They need to be held a whole lot, just like I held you when you were little.”

7. Take them to your doctor’s appointment. Children close to three should be able to behave well at the visit to your healthcare provider and may learn from this visit. For older children already in school, include them on special visits, such as the three-month visit when you are likely to first hear baby’s heartbeat, the visits at which your practitioner has told you will include an ultrasound, and several visits toward the end, so they’ll catch the excitement and be more tuned in. Prenatal bonding cannot be overdone for siblings old enough to understand.

8. Give a hands-on demo. Usually by the fifth or sixth month, older children can feel their baby brother or sister move. During times of the day or evening that experience tells you your baby moves the most, lie down and invite your children to feel the show. Let them guess which body part they are feeling.

9. Encourage baby bonding. Invite your children to talk to and about the baby. If you already know the gender and have chosen a name, you can encourage them to use it when referring to the baby. Or you can welcome the baby nicknames your child invents. Babies can hear around 23 weeks of age, so this is a good time for the kids to start talking to the baby so he or she will get to know them. After about three months of this, their voices will be very familiar to the baby still in utero, and bonding will already be under way. Studies show that babies tend to turn toward voices they recognize right after birth.

10. Know your limits. Realize that it’s impossible to give other family members the same degree of attention they are used to while you’re pregnant. Sooner or later the children will realize that they must share mom with another tiny taker in the family. Fortunately, pregnancy provides you with plenty of time to prepare your older children for what life will be like after the baby arrives. Getting them used to helping you while baby brother or sister is still inside is actually another good tool for bonding. The children will have invested their time and energy already even before baby comes, and the baby will have more personal value to them.

For more pregnancy, birth, & parenting info, visit Ask Dr.!

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