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Mother’s Advocate is delighted to announce this week’s blog post and Facebook contest by Dr. Gerald Newmark and Laurie Haessley. Dr. Newmark’s work regarding the Five Emotional Needs of Children is receiving accolades everywhere – from breastfeeding support groups and new father groups to school systems and corporate America.  He reminds families that when we treat one another with respect, acceptance and inclusion the world become a more peaceful and loving place. Laurie Haessley is a WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator in California. Read on to learn more about the connection between exclusive breastfeeding and emotionally happy children and how to enter to win a complimentary copy of Dr. Newmark’s book.

Laurie:  As the WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator of a very large county in California, Riverside County, I am responsible for developing and managing our breastfeeding education, support and assistance program.  The goal of everything we do is to increase the exclusive breastfeeding initiation and duration among mothers enrolled in the WIC program.  I am always searching for ways to better serve our WIC families and making ‘course corrections’ in our program so we can best meet the needs of our mothers and babies.  For many years WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors have facilitated breastfeeding mothers groups where mothers come together to discuss breastfeeding issues.  Approximately 6 years ago our Peer Counselors realized that mothers stopped breastfeeding because of life issues NOT because of breastfeeding issues.  We determined we needed a social-emotional component for our breastfeeding program.  At about the same time I met Dr. Newmark speaking at a conference and decided then that we needed a course correction for our breastfeeding mothers groups.

Dr. Newmark: At the conference, I spoke about how babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, parents and grandparents ALL have the same emotional needs.  Meeting these needs in childhood provides the foundation for success in life. Being a relaxed, happy person who enjoys life is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child and is one of the most important attributes a parent contributes to a child’s sense of security.  This is vital to a child’s sense of security all the time, but especially during the breastfeeding period.

Laurie: We incorporated the concepts from Dr. Newmark’s Book How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children – Meeting the Five Critical  Needs of Children… and Parents Too!  into the mothers groups curriculum.   The five critical emotional needs he speaks about are:

  • Feeling Respected
  • Feeling Important
  • Feeling Accepted
  • Feeling Included
  • Feeling Secure

Our breastfeeding mothers groups are THE success for the high exclusive breastfeeding rates in Riverside County.  The groups are successful because mothers’ emotional needs are met.  Most women stop breastfeeding when they perceive life problems as insurmountable which leads to a lack of confidence as a mother.  Breastfeeding requires self-confidence and mothers who lack self-confidence are not successful breastfeeding.   Our mothers groups facilitated by our awesome peer counselors offer a safe place to discuss and resolve life problems.  The groups are a comfortable place to make friends, be with the same moms each month and practice exclusive breastfeeding.  Groups are safe places for mothers to open up and share their inner most feelings while respecting each others’ differences.

At each mothers group emotional needs are met through the concepts of How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children.

Dr. Newmark: Parenting is not something one learns once and masters for all time.  Babies and children of different ages may have the five emotional needs to different degrees.  They may need to be satisfied in slightly different ways. Parents must learn to adjust their interactions accordingly.  The concepts and techniques taught in the book are easy to learn but the most important thing is that parents must be good learners and their children are their best teachers.  Parents must learn to LISTEN to their children to best meet their needs.

Laurie:  One critical emotional need of children and parents is explored during each mothers’ group meeting.

  • Feeling Respected – What does respect look like to you?  How do babies ‘talk’ to us?                 How can we show respect to our babies?
  • Feeling Important – How can we make our babies and children feel important?
  • Feeling Accepted – How can we make our babies and children feel accepted?
  • Feeling Included – How can we make our babies and children feel included?
  • Feeling Secure – How can we make our babies and children feel secure?

At the end of each mothers group session two questions are always asked:  ‘What was a challenge for you this month?’ and ‘What makes motherhood good for you this month?’  Mothers are encouraged to go home and practice what they have learned.  Each month confidence is gained by women in their new role as ‘mother’ leading to a successful breastfeeding experience.

Dr. Newmark:  Laurie and the Riverside County WIC Peer to Peer program have been the pioneers in this emotional health movement.  It is now incorporated in many WIC Peer to Peer programs throughout California and nationwide.

Enter our Facebook giveaway for a chance to win a copy of How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Emotional Needs of Children.. And Parents Too! log onto www.facebook.com and “Like” our Mother’s Advocate Facebook page! All “Likes” from August 8, 2011 to August 22, 2011 will be entered to win one of 12 copies!

Dr. Gerald Newmark has had experience at every level of education from elementary school to university as a teacher, consultant and researcher.  He has lectured extensively on parent-child-teacher relations and on innovative methods of teaching and learning. He connects with diverse audiences using straight-forward language that is informative, interesting and entertaining. He has received a presidential citation for his pioneering work in education described in his book This School Belongs To You and Me.  His most recent book How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children has sold 400,000 copies. Translations have been published in Mexico, Israel, Hungary, Russia, Austria, Braille in United States and soon will be released in India and China. Dr. Newmark is a member of the American Association of Humanistic Psychology, the Charles F. Menninger Society and the National Association for The Mentally Ill. (For more information about Dr. Newmark’s work visit www.emotionallyhealthychildren.org)

Laurie Haessly is the Program Director for Lactation Services or Riverside County and the Operations Director of Best Fed Babies. She has a Master’s degree in Nutrition and is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Laurie has been assisting breastfeeding mothers for more than twenty-five years. She has helped thousands of mothers to successfully breastfeed their babies. She sits on both the National WIC Association and California WIC Association Breastfeeding Committees. Laurie developed and oversees the popular Breastfeeding Cafes, Moms2Moms Groups and Sistah Connection Groups based on the Raising Emotionally Healthy Children concepts in Riverside County, California. Laurie has received numerous “best practices” awards for the work she has conducted at the national, state, and local levels. Recognitions have included the Economic Research Service’s “Innovative Breastfeeding Practices” award; the Princeton Mathematica Institute’s “Best Breastfeeding Practices” award; and the Loma Linda University Perinatal Services Network’s “Most Innovative Breastfeeding Promotion” award.

This successful Breastfeeding Peer to Peer Program is not exclusive to WIC and can be adapted to other breastfeeding organizations.  If you are interested in learning more please contact us at info@emotionallyhealthychildren.org 

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children, now in its second edition and 5th printing, has sold 400,000 books to date, and is often distributed free of charge to parents by many cities, educational systems, hospitals and other institutions.  Individual copies of the book in English and Spanish can be purchased on amazon.com and is also available on Kindle.  For special low pricing on large quantities, contact The Children’s Project: http://www.emotionallyhealthychildren.org

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Ani DiFranco has written hundreds of songs, played thousands of shows and is no doubt an icon for strong and fearless women. This is why we are thrilled to share her thoughts on birth, motherhood and strength in this interview:

MA: Tell us about your decision to have a home birth.

Ani: Birthing is a very unique and profound event, and my choice to have a home birth was not because I’m independent (or something), it’s because essentially I’m an animal and I’m very affected by my environment. I’ve always got my feelers out and I know that the animal in me is very easily intimidated – I know this from making twenty records in awkward situations where I don’t feel comfortable, and then you have to sing and then there’s that moment when you’re not really in your own skin.  I didn’t want to give birth to my baby like I had given birth to some of my records thinking “help I’m alone among strangers in this alien environment”. The hospital environment would have been really counter-productive to me.

In retrospect I think that my midwife actually had a perception of me that I was very independent and knew how I wanted to birth because that’s my M.O., but having babies was something I had never done before and I had no idea how I wanted to do any of it.  I’m really happy that I did it at home, even though it was long and extremely challenging for me. In retrospect I think I would want more guidance.  No matter who you are, giving birth is going to kick your ass – in one way or another.

MA: So how did you get through it?

Ani: You know I think that I went into it with a lot of expectations about the power and the beauty and the transformation, and then when the labor really picked up, I was just scared and in pain. Then of course it was powerful and beautiful and transformative.

I think that one of the things that hurt the most afterwards was not my broken tailbone but my ego. I thought birth would be easy for me somehow and the fact that birth was (really) hard made me feel like “maybe I’m not as strong as I thought. Maybe I’m weak”. So, I had to go through an ego recovery process and address those feelings and my misconception of my role as a woman and myself as a part of nature.

MA: What’s it like to be a mama?  

Ani: It’s really something the way the babies teach us to nurture – to be nurturing and to transfer that sort of love and respect and caring to everybody’s babies. We’re all somebody’s baby and I think that everything we need to know about being mindful mamas our babies will teach us eventually, whether we want it or not.

Ani DiFranco has written hundreds of songs, played thousands of shows, captured the imaginations of legions of followers, and jammed with folkies, orchestras, rappers, rock and roll hall-of-famers, jazz musicians, poets, pop superstars, storytellers and a martial arts legend. Ani started her own music label Righteous Babe Records and because of this decision she’s been called “fiercely independent” (Rolling Stone), “inspirational” (All Music Guide), and “the ultimate do-it-yourself songwriter” (The New York Times).

This interview has been republished with permission from Mindful Mama

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Last week, Katie Wise redefined expectations for sex during the post partum year.  This week, she talks about how to make the most of sex, once you’re ready. Mamas, go ahead and read this, but it’s meant for your partners.  So pass it on.

So, you just had a baby.  You are still basking in the heroic act of welcoming your child into the world and you were stunned by the sheer animal power your lady demonstrated during the birth. You wanted to take her right then and there, but you knew that you had to wait until she was ready, and that day has finally come.  You’ve been waiting and hoping and fantasizing, and today’s the day.

Feeling like a teenager, you take a shower, throw on some cologne, and stride into the bedroom.  You look at your beloved, radiant in her milk stained nightgown.  She looks up and you exchange a look.  You anticipate that she’s about to tell you how excited she is. But instead, she opens her mouth and says

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry . . . I mean, can we just go to sleep?”

That wasn’t exactly what you had hoped for. What now?

When it comes to reconnecting sexually with your partner after baby, Make this your mantra:

Go slow, aim low, and let go.

Remember that Post partum sex requires a deep level of care and patience, tons of love and humor, and a very soft touch.  You may find yourself asking very “un-sexy” questions like: Is this hurting your hemorrhoids?; Does this angle work for your scar tissue?; Can I start to move or do you want me to stay still for a while?: and Do you want me to stop completely and just hold you?.  Let me tell you though, these careful considerations, and compassionate touches are the sexiest thing in the world to the healing postpartum mama.

Go Slow.

Approach your sexual time with her with curiousity instead of a goal. Sometimes slow means stop.  At any moment, if she begins to feel unsafe or in pain, stop immediately.  Sex can bring up many feelings for her, both physical and emotional.  She needs to slowly get to know her body again. And don’t forget all the creative ways to be sexual together!  Intercourse is just one expression of love. Remember those amazing steps along the way that seemed so exciting in high school.  Take your time, explore, and see what else is possible.  And don’t be afraid to use lubricant to off set the changes created by postpartum hormones.  (Note:  remember if it’s lack of libido more than fear of contact with the vagina, other kinds of sex may still be hard for her to participate in.  Honor her pace.)

Aim Low.

The first year after baby is all about baby’s needs, which are unending, and immediate.  Everyone else’s needs are shoved in the closet, and not removed until after that first birthday candle is blown out.

Make a goal of surrounding your partner with love, instead of having sex.  She needs to know that you still find her sexy even if all she wants to do is snuggle up and go to sleep.  She needs to know that nothing is required of her beyond the already heroic task of caring for our child.  She needs to know that it’s okay to not want sex.

In a book called Porn for New Moms, there is picture of a beautiful man under the sheets looking seductive and saying “Let’s not have sex tonight.  Why don’t I rub your feet and you can tell me about the baby’s day.”  Listen and learn, partners.  The best way to seduce your post partum sweetie is to let her have as much time as she wants as far away from sex as she needs.

Let Go.

Let go of the story that there is a problem if you are having less sex than you used to. Let go of what sex “should” be like.  Be present to the tenderness you have for one another.  Be compassionate for the exhaustion you both feel.   And when you do make love, help her to let go. Find breath work, yoga, tantric techniques.  Use your voice to help her surrender. Tell her she is beautiful.  Tell her that things might feel different. Tell her that she is sexier now than ever.   Tell her that you want to be with her forever.  And again, tell her to breathe. Make sex an act of devotion.  Have her imagine she is a plant receiving sunlight, or the shore receiving the ocean.

And remember: you are the one that she created this child with, she wants to grow old with you, and she adores you.  And she may not want to have sex right now.

Please don’t take it personally.

If you are about to have a baby and are feeling concerned right now,  Don’t fear.  This can be one of the most intimate years of your relationship.  In your baby, you may see your partner’s sweet smile, their sassy brow line, or calm spirit.  You meet a person that is born of the love you feel for one another.

You will both love sex again.

Biology makes sense. As her cycle returns, she will look at you in a whole new way.   The woman that you knew and loved before baby arrived will be back in your arms. There may be less sex for a year, but you will likely discover a new level of intimacy that can build your lifelong relationship. Years from now, you will sit on a porch swing talking about all of the years, and this will seem like one single flower in the full garden of your life together.

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This week, Mother’s Advocate discusses the warning-signs and indications of postpartum depression with Jodi Selander — activist, mother and Director of Placenta Benefits.

MA: What is the difference between the “baby blues” and “postpartum depression” and how common are they?

JS: Postpartum depression is a very real and physiological occurrence that can begin anytime between birth and twelve months postpartum.  It is generally experienced as a series of symptoms, which are identified along a spectrum of severity — ranging from baby blues (which is the mildest and generally corrects itself in the first three to four weeks postpartum), all the way to postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is incredibly serious and often leads to hospitalization.

The majority (80%) of women experience some sort of post-natal mood instability, mostly in the “baby blues” range.  Baby blues shares many common symptoms with full-blown postpartum depression, but is not technically considered a “disorder” by the medical establishment unless the symptoms extend longer than 3-weeks. Symptoms may include: weepiness, mood instability, mood swings, feelings of anxiety, not wanting anyone else to hold the baby, unwillingness to be alone with the baby, or fear husband or partner going back to work or even leaving the house.

15-20% of women who experience the baby blues will go on to experience full-on postpartum depression.  When depressive symptoms last for longer than 6-8 weeks, a doctor may prescribe an anti-depressant.

MA: What causes mothers to feel depressed or sad postpartum?

JS: Aside from the physiological factors (hormone re-balancing and physical recovery), I believe postpartum is largely cultural. There is a lot of emphasis on building confidence during pregnancy and empowering the birth experience, but there is a real lack of practical support once the baby is born.  Those first few weeks are filled with visits from friends and family and interaction with a care provider. But once the flurry dies down, the changes that come with a new baby can become overwhelming.  It’s hard to have confidence as a mother, especially if you’ve never done it before — and the job is so important.  Every decision you make feels like a life and death situation, and women tend to internalize everything.

It’s not just “oh the baby is crying again” —  it’s “why is my baby crying again, what am I doing wrong? Why can’t I not stop this? Does this mean I’m not a good mother?” Women place a lot of pressure on themselves, and I think there’s a lot of pressure that society places on mothers as well. We elevate motherhood as a noble and worthy institution, which is fabulous, but we don’t give any sort of structure to support that pedestal.  In my own personal experience, this leads to an incredible lack of confidence — and that’s very unfortunate.

MA: When should mothers seek medical support?

JS: This is really where the husband and/or partner comes into play.  He or she should be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression and notice when a mother is showing signs. Often a mother will not seek help for herself,  and her partner should not be afraid to seek help for her — before it becomes a serious issue.  If you notice that your wife or partner is still not herself after 6-weeks, suggest that she make an appointment so that she can be seen for treatment.

MA: What is the preventative measure, especially for women who have the baby blues?

JS: Most women who have just given birth are going to have depleted iron stores. The placenta is packed with iron and has a lot of vitamins and minerals that your body needs postpartum.  I advocate that mothers utilize placenta encapsulation — whereby it’s completely dried and then ground — to restore the body’s natural balance.

Placenta is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fatigue and to enhance lactation, and it has been scientifically shown to increase milk production. The hypothalamus is part of the brain that regulates the endocrine system and studies show that it takes about two weeks for the hypothalamus to receive the signal that the baby’s been born. The placenta capsules help the body to maintain homeostasis during this period, until her body would normally regulate itself.

I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of clients, and everybody calls the placenta capsules their “happy pills”. It’s nature’s perfect gift.

Jodi Selander, Director of Placenta Benefits, started researching placentophagy in 2005 during her second pregnancy. She found substantial information documenting the benefits it offered. Having dealt with depression for many years, Jodi had many risk factors for developing postpartum depression. With a B.S. in Psychology, she understood the devastating effects depression could have on women and their families. As a natural health enthusiast, she wanted an alternative to pharmaceuticals that might help avoid those issues. Jodi continues to work toward her mission of making placenta encapsulation an option for every new mother with the launch of the Placenta Encapsulation Specialist Training & Certification Course in May 2008. As a member of the placentophagy research team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Jodi has helped develop and perform several research studies on placentophagy. She traveled to New Orleans in November, 2010 to present the findings at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. This research is incredibly important to her mission of validating the use of placenta for postpartum recovery. Her goal is to have a qualified person in every city offering encapsulation services, so that women everywhere can enjoy a happy, healthy postpartum experience – the way Nature intended.

This interview was originally filmed for Mindful Mama Magazine and has been transcribed with permission from Mindful Mama Magazine.

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Is it possible to be a bread winner and a bread baker too? Majorie Greenfield, M.D. shares her bold and honest assessment of working pregnancy — how to live a balanced life, while honoring both personal and professional aspirations.

MA: What advice do you give to mothers who are returning to work soon after having a baby?

MG: It’s hard! It’s hard to go back to work right after you have a baby—especially in the beginning – and different people go back at different times.  I stayed home for seven-weeks when I had my son 20-years ago, but a lot of people can still only get six-weeks of maternity leave (or even less than that).

Mothers need enough time to bond with their baby at home and to establish breastfeeding if that’s what they choose to do.  But everyone is different. Going back to work for some people is really satisfying.  I have had lots of people say “I’m just not a newborn person” or “I was so happy to have adult conversations again.”  I think for some of us, work is such a big part of our lives that the adjustment to being a mom is actually pretty hard.

When I went back to work, people said to me “you’re going to be so sad – your heart’s going to be broken going back to work”. I didn’t feel that way.  I missed him, but I was really still very glad to be at work.

Most women in the United States have living situations that are incredibly good compared to what women around the world experience – or what women over the centuries have experienced. We have a lot of luxuries in our lives and I personally believe that happiness has much more to do with our attitude than it does with the circumstances.  We have a lot of power now that we didn’t have before (for the most part).  We have the power to create our own lives. It may not be perfect every minute along the way, but we’re making choices!

MA: How can moms ensure a successful transition back to work?

MG: Part of where people get stuck is not asking for help, or expecting that they’re going to do every “mom” thing that their own mother did, PLUS every “work” thing that everybody else at work does – as if that is somehow humanly possible.  It’s crazy.

One of the things that came out in the interviews I did for The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book was that a lot of moms still want to be that primary parent. They assumed that they would be the same kind of mom their mother was, or that they would be the primary parent — that they would always take their child to the doctor, or be the one to interact with school or day care.  Granted, some dad’s don’t contribute as much as they could, but sometimes it was the mom becoming the expert so quickly that dad got left out of that learning curve. If mom is jumping in there too often,  then the dad can begin to feel left behind.  You really have to let him become the expert too.

MA: Do you have any recommendations for ways to find that balance?

MG: The last chapter in my book is all about balance.  We conducted free-form interviews and looked for common trends.  “Taking time for myself” as a general theme came up over and over again.  Solutions to this common parenting delimma may look different for each mom – one interviewee said that she likes to “take a bath”, another recommended “yoga stretches while the coffee is brewing in the morning.”

Things like this, where you’re just carving out a little bit of time for yourself, can go a long way.  Sometimes moms don’t feel like they deserve that.  They feel that everything should be for the children, which leads them to feel deprived.

I like to challenge people to think about what kind of role model you want to be as a mom and as an adult.  Are adults people who deprive themselves of things in order to do for everybody else and are miserable all the time?  Or do you want to show your kids an adult who has a balanced life and who feels good – even if that means that you work full time and you get a babysitter on Saturday?

Marjorie Greenfield is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). She has practiced and taught obstetrics and gynecology since 1987, and is currently associate professor on the full-time faculty at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Her writing career started in 2000, when she became director of obstetrics and gynecology for the Dr. Spock Company, a health and parenting multimedia enterprise. In 2002, drspock.com was one of only five Internet health sites nominated for a Webby Award, the oscars of cyberspace. While working with the Dr. Spock team, Marjorie wrote Dr. Spock’s Pregnancy Guide, published in 2003 by Simon and Schuster and subsequently translated into Bulgarian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Russian, Italian, Chinese, and for the UK edition, the Queen’s English. Marjorie practices general obstetrics and gynecology with a specialty of pediatric and adolescent gynecology, but loves obstetrics and have a large adult OB practice.

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