Babies, Bumps, and Broccoli

Holistic And Real World Advice For Today's Mama

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My husband and I decided to really start sleep training our son at around 4 1/2 months of age, after he had entered into the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. For a solid month, we tried one approach to sleep training that I had read about, and it did NOT work for us. So we decided to switch things up. My lovely friend and mama of three, Mckenzie Mangus, has had incredible success getting her babies to sleep through the night from early on, so I reached out to her and asked her what her secret was, and she told me. I applied some of her suggestions to our own sleep training and it worked! So I asked to her to share her wisdom here with a guest post.

Great Sleep and Baby
Written by Mckenzie Mangus 

Great Sleep and baby are not words you commonly hear together in a sentence. It is not as easy as
1, 2, 3, but if you are willing to put in some hard work and dedication in the short term, you and your baby can be sleeping through the night just a few months after birth. Hard to believe, I know, but in my experience it is absolutely possible.

When I was 5 months pregnant with my second baby, a friend suggested that I read Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, but what struck me the most was that according to the author, who is from the States, many French babies are able to sleep through the night by two months old. I had never even imagined that this was possible. Until that moment I had never heard from a friend, doctor, book or any other source that this was something babies were capable of doing. As far as I knew from my own experience or had heard from friends, family and strangers, babies don't sleep through the night. You always hear that old refrain as a new parent, "Oh, you have a baby. You must be totally exhausted by sleepless nights!"

After reading Bringing up Bebe, I thought that if the French could do it, so could I! I just needed to figure out how I was going to do it. Considering that with my first daughter, I co-slept and fed on demand and she didn't sleep through the night until she was 5 years old, I didn't have a very good track record.

I was desperate to find the "key" to this amazing discovery. Unfortunately, I also didn't know any French people who I could ask. It was by chance one day that I told an acquaintance about my discovery. She said, "I usually don't tell people because they give me a hard time, but all my kids (she has 5!) slept through the night at two months old." I was confused as to why people would give her a hard time about it, because to me it seemed like a gift from the heavens. I felt like the luckiest person alive to now have a first-hand source to call upon for all of the essential details about how to pull this off. She recommended I read On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant The Gift of Nighttime Sleep, by Robert Bucknam. She cautioned that the book has a less than perfect reputation (that's another story), but I ignored the more controversial parts of the book, and for the sole purposes of a sleep/feed schedule it was very useful. I have since discovered there are other helpful books such as Moms on Call.

In Babywise, the fundamental principle is that starting from the day your baby is born, you can begin a schedule where they eat around the clock every three hours. Then, according to different age ranges, you can start eliminating night time feedings with the goal of getting your baby to sleep through the night by two or three months of age by working toward the last night time feeding occurring around 7pm and then not again until 7am. Here is a quick outline of the schedule I used:

  • For the first month or so, feed your baby every three hours around the clock. 
  • Aim to start at 7am, then again at 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm and so on. 
  • During the day, you will feed your baby and then have awake time (play, tummy time, etc) and then baby naps after playtime. The only time you feed your baby before putting them down to sleep is at night. 
  • It is helpful to set an alarm on your phone (day and night) to remind you of feeding times, although your baby will usually begin to fuss close to their feeding time. 
  • Once this is established, begin to merge night time feedings by doing one feeding at 3am rather than one at 1am and another at 4am. 
  • Eventually you will eliminate that 3am feeding so that you do a dream feed around 9/10pm and then the next feeding will be at 7am. 
  • The last step is to take out the dream feed, and add in an additional daytime feeding instead to account for the calories, making the last feeding of the day before bedtime at 7pm. 
Some babies wake a lot at night in between feedings (like my toddler did when he was a newborn) and take some extra soothing, and other babies, like my third child, sleep really well at night and merge the two nighttime feedings on their own with little hassle. Either way, do your best to stick to the schedule. If you baby is still asleep when it is time to feed, wake them up and feed them. I know that seems like a crazy thing to do but it makes a positive difference down the road if you stick to the schedule in those first months.

Another key component is that you do not nurse your baby to sleep. Instead you put them down for naps and bedtime awake so that they learn how to put themselves to sleep. If you successfully use this technique, you will never have to slowly creep out of your baby’s room on tiptoe because you are terrified that they might wake up. When I put my kids to sleep, I kiss them good night and dance right out of their room, singing if I want to because I know they are going to be able to fall asleep all by themselves. By using this schedule, I feel I have given my kids the gift of sleep. I am amazed at how well little ones will sleep if you give them the tools they need to achieve it!

If you are breastfeeding, do not use the breast as a soothing method and risk becoming a human pacifier. If your baby starts to cry in between feedings, find other ways to soothe them. This is where your partner can really step in and be involved in the newborn process. For me it has been liberating to have babies who can be soothed in many ways without needing to be nursed every time they whimper. Even with a newborn, I could leave her at home with her grandma, her dad or a babysitter and go out into the world because I knew she wouldn't "need me" until her next feeding.

I find the schedule also helps create a healthy family dynamic, especially if you have more than one child. I loved having a newborn and still having time for myself, for my husband and for my other kids. There are no more endless hours of agonizing over getting the kids to sleep. I used to dread bedtime with my oldest. It was quite literally a two hour ordeal every night, and I am so grateful with my last two that I didn't have to experience that again.

However, it didn't take long for me to discover why my friend had resisted sharing her sleep success with the world at large. One night I told another friend about my plan for getting my baby to sleep through the night and she yelled at me, claiming I was going to be abusing my child. My mom, who was overall supportive, was genuinely worried my baby might suffer from malnutrition. My home birth midwife's assistant saw Babywise sitting on a shelf, and said, "I really hope you aren't planning on doing this to your baby." My pediatrician, who I really respect, gave a little frown when I told him about my plan. My husband, thankfully, has been super supportive and helpful. To him, a schedule made sense, and the idea of getting a good night’s sleep was very appealing.

I can't say exactly what it is about our culture that makes people opposed to this type of approach to sleep. There is a lot of negative talk about the "cry it out method." I do not believe that the schedule I’m talking about falls into that category. In my experience I have found that if you start babies out on a schedule, you can completely avoid a "cry it out” situation. My babies never knew a different reality. To them it was normal to breastfeed only when they were hungry and sleep when it was night time. Sure, there can be difficult moments when you first start to take out night time feedings for example, but I was always there for them. I soothed them by rocking them or giving them a pacifier, and on nights when they were more difficult to soothe, I would hold them and bounce them on an exercise ball. I believe, however, that it is okay and actually important for babies to be able to cry sometimes. As a parent you begin to learn the meanings of your baby’s different cries, and you can allow them to cry a bit if you don't feel that they are too distressed (I am not referring to newborns here.) In my experience, my babies rarely cried for longer than a few minutes before they were able to calm themselves. I think it's important to give babies space to figure out how to soothe themselves. There was never any doubt that their nutritional needs were being met.

There are also sleep consultants who can come to your home and spend time with you to figure out the best approach for your family to get your little ones to sleep better. This can be very helpful for families who have older kids, and I have friends who have had great results as long as they are willing to stick to the plan they create with the sleep consultant. Although I followed the schedule in Babywise, I also developed some of my own ways to achieve success that felt were important to me. For example, I brought my baby into bed with me for the 7am feeding. We would get sweet cuddle time and then fall back to sleep together. (click here for a list of helpful tips and useful products)

I have found that as I share more and more about my positive experience using this method, many moms consumed by sleep deprivation have reached out to me asking me to share with them what I have done to get my babies to sleep all night, and many of those moms have had great success as well.

I have now had two babies since first reading Babywise and am proud and quite ecstatic to report that it is possible to have a new baby and actually get an entire night of sleep. You must be dedicated and unwavering to be successful. Both Bringing up Bebe and Babywise talk about how kids need and appreciate boundaries. Once you have strong clear boundaries in place, you can have a lot of flexibility within those boundaries. For example, my two year old who sleeps 12 hours a night and takes a 3 hour nap, can go to sleep at 10 pm one night if need be, but easily goes to sleep the next night at 8 pm (his usual bed time).

Many people say to me, "You have had easy babies. That's why they sleep so well." After doing this twice and talking with other people who have also had success with their kids, I don't think it is a matter of having an easy baby. If you are blessed by birthing a healthy baby, there is no reason why you, too, can't succeed with this schedule. You just have to want it. Sure, some babies will take to the schedule easier than others, but it really comes down to the parents’ motivation. I feel compelled to note that there was nothing traumatic about this experience for us or for our children. The transitions were seamless and everyone is happier after a good night of sleep!

One moment that really stands out for me was a day when I put my son down for a nap when he was a year and a half old. As I laid him down in his crib, he looked at me smiling, and with his cute little hand blew me kisses goodbye. One minute later he was sound asleep.

Good luck, and may the force be with you!

*A few other tips Mckenzie recommends are to do your best to stay awake at night while you feed your baby. Sit up while you feed and set your alarm for 12mins so after you feed on one side if you fall asleep you wake up to make sure you feed on the other side too. And to make sure your baby is actually eating. Tickle their feet or their neck to wake them up. This can be hard when they are newborn but it's important they eat as much as possible for each feeding. Try to do around 12 mins. per side.
Recently I have been receiving questions about how to boost milk supply naturally. As I have previously written about, I struggled with breastfeeding my son when he was born due to an upper lip tie that went undiagnosed until he was 3 months old. (Read my previous post here.) During those crucial first three months, I was breastfeeding him around the clock and supplementing him when needed with my sister-in-law's breastmilk and later with my own homemade goat milk formula. Once we finally discovered the lip tie and finally got it revised, my milk supply had dropped and was not enough to fill my little guy up. I felt devastated by this, and was willing to do whatever it took to boost my supply.
*Please note I am not a doctor, midwife, or nurse. I am just a mama who has done her research and has had success using the following methods. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new herbs, supplements or treatments. 

10 Ways To Boost Your Milk Supply Naturally

1. Pumping - Pump after nursing until your breasts are completely empty, and then for an additional 5 minutes after the last drop of milk comes out. Milk supply is based on demand, so the more milk out, and the more stimulation to your breasts, the more milk you will produce.
2. Essential Oils - Essential oils can be a very effective, natural way to boost your milk supply.The two essential oils I recommend for boosting milk supply are Basil and Fennel. When used correctly, you may begin to notice an increase in supply within a day or two. You can discontinue use once your supply gets to where you'd like it to be.
     *Basil - Apply 2-3 drops topically on your breasts after nursing (avoiding the nipple area) 3-4 times per day. If you have sensitive skin, I recommend diluting the basil oil with a couple of drops of a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil.
     *Fennel - Take 2-3 drops of fennel essential oil internally 3-4 times a day to increase milk supply.
*Please note, I do NOT recommend taking just any brand of essential oil internally. If you choose to take an essential oil internally, be sure that it is a Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oil.) For my recommendation of the brand of essential oil I use and trust to take internally, click here. )    
3. Water - Making sure you are well hydrated is important when it comes to milk supply. Drink at least 3-4 quarts of filtered water daily.
4. Eat Enough Calories - Aim to consume an additional 500 calories daily. When breastfeeding, your body is burning additional calories and therefor needs the extra fuel to continue to produce milk effectively.
5. Feed On Demand - Nursing on demand helps to stimulate your breasts which in turn signals your body to produce more milk.
6. Galactogogues - Eat plenty of milk boosting foods (known as galactagogues) such as oatmeal, quinoa, dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli, fennel, garlic, chickpeas, almonds (preferably raw or soaked and sprouted), ginger, and certain spices such as turmeric, anise, and cumin can all help to boost supply so eat them often!
8. Take Extra Zinc - While you are breastfeeding, your daily zinc requirements are higher in order to meet the needs of your growing baby. The recommended daily amount of zinc for a breastfeeding mother is 12 milligrams a day. Nutrients in breastmilk are pulled from your own nutritional stores, so not getting enough essential nutrients can increase your risk of becoming deficient, especially in zinc and iron which can hurt your milk supply. Taking an additional zin supplement and/or eating foods high in zinc such as oysters, spinach, beef, kidney beans, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds will help to keep your zinc levels and you milk supply up.
9. Fenugreek - Taking Fenugreek daily has been shown to increase milk production in as little as 24-72 hours.  It can be taken in capsule form, as a tea, a tincture, or as a powder that you can add to smoothies. I found the capsules to be easiest and most readily available. The recommended dosage is 7-14 500mg capsules daily. Ideally you want the level of Fenugreek  to remain constant in your bloodstream, so I recommend starting with 2 capsules every 4 hours during the day, then working your way up to 4 capsules 4 times per day. 
10. Avoid Milk Suppressants - Peppermint, sage, and wintergreen can all decrease your milk supply so avoid foods containing these ingredients, teas or tinctures made from them, as well as essential oils of peppermint, sage and wintergreen.




The placenta is an amazing organ that plays the role of a baby's life support system during pregnancy. The placenta is located within the uterus and is connected to the baby by the umbilical cord. It provides blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the baby while filtering out waste. Blood from the mother is filtered through the placenta and through the umbilical cord into the baby. As the blood from the mother passes through the placenta, it acts as a filtration system, weeding out any harmful substances before it reaches the baby. After a child is born, the mother then delivers the placenta. Humans are one of the very few mammals who do not always consume their placenta after giving birth.

At the birth of my son, I was lucky enough to have one of my dear friends as my doula. One of the things she recommended I do was encapsulate my placenta. Many doulas and midwives are certified to do so, and the benefits can be huge for a new mom. For me, consuming my placenta postpartum helped alleviate the Baby Blues, increased my milk supply, sped up my postpartum healing, and boosted my iron stores to help reverse the anemia I had developed from blood loss during my son's birth. While this topic can be a bit controversial, I personally found it to be beneficial. If you are thinking about encapsulation your placenta, here are some things to think about;

*Please note: I am NOT a doctor, healthcare provider, midwife, nurse, or doula. I am just a mama who has done her research, and is speaking from my own personal experience. Always consult your healthcare provider when making the decision to consume your placenta postpartum. Never share your placenta pills with another person. 

What Is Placenta Encapsulation?
The act of consuming one's own placenta is also known as Placentophagy, and has been practiced in many other cultures for thousands of years. In fact, most mammals consume their own placenta after giving birth. The easiest (and most common way) to consume one's own placenta is through encapsulation. This process usually includes steaming, dehydrating, and grinding up the placenta, then placing it inside capsules. Sometimes placenta tinctures are also made. As long as your placenta is healthy after you give birth, it should be able to be encapsulated or made into a tincture. You must tell your healthcare practitioner ahead of time that you are planning to encapsulate your placenta, and it will them be given to your doula after you give birth to be put directly into a cooler for your doula to take with her. It important that your placenta go directly into a cooler as soon as possible to keep it fresh.

What Are The Benefits?
There are many benefits to consuming your placenta after giving birth. Some of those benefits include
  • lessens postnatal bleeding
  • helps regulate hormone changes after birth
  • increases milk supply
  • helps prevent postpartum depression
  • boosts energy
  • restores iron levels, and helps alleviate anemia
  • helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy state faster
  • speeds the healing process
  • contains oxytocin which aids in postnatal bonding between mother and baby
  • increases CRH, a stress-relieving hormone
Is Consuming One's Own Placenta Safe?
Consuming one's own placenta that has been properly prepared by a certified professional has shown to carry no inherent risks if it is ingested solely by the birth mother. It is not recommended that you share your placenta pills with anyone else, as this can pass on blood borne illnesses.

Are There Any Side Effects?
While there has not been a large amount of studies done on the consumption of one's placenta after birth, the studies that have been done have shown that in 96% of cases women have reported to have experienced positive to very positive effects from consuming their placenta postpartum. Only a small amount of women reported to have had any negative effects, including feeling jittery and moody.

How To Find Someone Who Can Encapsulate Your Placenta:
Many doulas and midwives are also certified to do placenta encapsulation. If you are planning to hire a doula to be with you at your birth, (which I highly recommend doing) be sure to ask them during your interview if they are certified to encapsulate your placenta. You can visit www.dona.org for more information about finding a doula in your area. To read more about the benefits of having a doula present at you birth, read the interview I did with my doula here.

Sources:
http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/placental-encapsulation/
http://www.dona.org
www.lovelifedoula.com

If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, then you may have heard of hiring a doula to be at your birth. Hiring a doula can be immensely beneficial in many ways. When I was pregnant with my son, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to have a doula present. And lucky for me, one of my dear friends happens to be an amazing one! I made sure to secure her early so I could rest easy knowing she would be there to support me before, during, and after my labor. And I can honestly say I don't know what I would have done without her!

As life would have it, my birth did not go quite the way I had envisioned it when writing up my birth plan. Having Aisha by my side was incredibly helpful. She advocated for me in ways I could not, and helped me to have the least amount of medical intervention as possible during the birth of my son. Not only that, but she helped me navigate breastfeeding issues, answered my frantic middle of the night texts right away in those early days at home, and made me feel incredibly supported and safe throughout my entire labor and well into my postpartum period.

I decided to sit down with her for an interview as a way to give mamas-to-be who may be thinking about hiring a doula to get a better understanding of what it is is that they do exactly, and to know what questions to ask when you do your own interviewing to find the right doula for you.

Interview With My Doula, Aisha Carabello ~

1. What is a doula?
A doula is someone who is trained or certified in offering valuable information, and both emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after birth.

2. What does a doula do?
A doula's job is to educate, support (physically, mentally and emotionally) and advocate for the mother and partner throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and finally in the postpartum stage. It can look somewhat like a birthing coach. A doula is familiar with the physiology of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the emotional needs of a laboring mama, and to assist her and her partner in carrying out their own wishes for their birth. A doula stays with the laboring mother throughout the entire labor, providing physical and emotional support, as well as support for the partner in ways to engage or take over when a break is needed. A doula also assists the mama-to-be and her partner in getting all of the information needed in order to make a well informed decision, as well as also facilitating communication with care providers. A doula understands that birth is an experience that a mother will remember for the rest of her life, and it's our job to protect that and help nurture that as beautifully as possible.

3. What does a doula NOT do?
A doula does NOT make decisions for you. Rather she assists you through the decision making process and provides balanced information to come to a well informed choice on your own or with your partner. A doula also does NOT deliver your baby or administer medication. Often times, many get confused with a doula's role versus that of a midwife. A doula is NOT a midwife. A midwife is very much like a doctor; they are a health care provider who can deliver your baby whether at home, at a birthing center, or in the hospital, and a doula can not do this.

4. What kind of training and credentials do doulas have?
There are no prerequisites to have in order to enroll in a training, but in order to get certified, it can vary from program to program...from weekend workshops, to book reports, to presentations. But all of it ends with you attending a certain amount of live births before you are "certified." In these programs, you are trained in childbirth, the stages of labor, birth interventions, medications, breastfeeding, etc. My program was 3 weekend intensives with 2 book reports, 1 presentation and attending 4 live births. But there is a very wide collection of doula training programs and organizations throughout the country. (you can visit www.dona.org for more info)

5. What are some of the benefits of having a doula present at your birth?
For the average expectant mama, having a doula provides a level of familiarity, experience and advocacy when it comes to the birthing process, especially the all too common challenges that can take place with a hospital birth. Obviously hospital staff's intention is to provide wonderful care for you and your baby, but hospitals are also a big business. And those businesses run a tight and timely kept ship. A doula understands that, and acts almost like a liaison. We're there to answer any questions that may arise, and advocate for you and your baby at all times while also upholding your birth wishes, unless medical intervention is absolutely necessary. A doula's job is also to help the mother and her partner to feel less anxious and offer advice in a personal, non-clinical way, as well as facilitate communication between yourself and staff. This allows mama-to-be and partner, to just focus, drop in, and engage in the main task at hand.
If you're having a birthing center birth or home birth, a doula's value and importance remains the same, providing reassurance and affirmation for BOTH partners. As well as to support you physically with touch/massage, finding the most comfortable laboring position, and being your personal cheerleader and advocate. It's also worth mentioning that studies have shown that having a doula at your birth can result in less pain medication and less labor time. And who doesn't want that!

6. What are your philosophies around birth?
I believe as women we inherently have the knowledge, strength, wisdom and ability to give birth and successfully nurture our children. It is my job as a doula to help facilitate that and turn that belief into a reality. I strive for mamas to have a safe, memorable, beautiful, and empowering birth experience. And one that facilitates and honors your personal choices.

7. What is your favorite part about being a doula?
Birth is such a magical and intimate experience! And I feel incredibly grateful and humbled that my role of being a doula has allowed me to step into that beautiful, intimate experience and be part of a mama's journey as one of the most profound and important moments of their lives. And I get to be there…..what a beautiful gift!! I feel so blessed to do this type of work and be on this journey with each family I work with.

8. Why did you choose to become a doula?
I had a doula for my first birth and it changed my whole life! I don't know how myself or my partner could have made it without her continuous support and encouragement. And after that, I sang the praises of how important having a doula was and that everyone should have one. So when my girlfriends started to become pregnant, I started offering support and information to them just because I was so passionate about it. Then quite profoundly, with my 2nd child the knowledge base and advocacy of our doula literally saved our daughter's life. It was after that, that I was inspired to help empower women, educate, and advocate for them in the same way my doula had magnificently done for me. So while on maternity leave with my daughter, I enrolled in an intensive doula, postpartum and assistant midwifery program. I fell in LOVE with it and immediately started assisting and doing births. I haven't stopped since!

9. Should I have a backup doula?
Most definitely! Most doulas have a backup that they work with. And if not, please make sure to ask any doula that you hire to have one. Majority of the time you will not need one, but it is so important to have one because you never know what might come up!

10. What is the typical fee range for most doulas?
It varies depending on what services they have/offer and where you live. In major cities like Los Angeles and New York, doulas average around $3500 while other remote areas can be around $500. I generally charge $1500 for a birth and $250 for placenta encapsulation. But it really does vary from doula to doula and client to client on their needs and wants.

11. It's clear that a doula has great value in the labor process, but would they be considered a resource at any other stage in pregnancy?
Great question! Doulas are definitely a resource prenatally as well as in the postpartum stage. I have had clients hire me as early as the end of the first trimester. But on average I really start engaging with the parents to be in the 2nd trimester and sometimes even the beginning of the 3rd. It's during those prenatal stages that we can discuss so many topics for mamas, such as; pregnancy discomfort or ailments, nutrition, exercise, stages of labor, helping with birth plans/wishes. I'm also always on call for questions or concerns about the numerous developments that occur throughout a pregnancy, especially after birth in the first few days or weeks at home.

12. At what point in labor do you generally meet up with the laboring mother?
Every doula is different….I have heard of some doulas meeting the mama-to-be at the hospital, and others long before that time. I generally meet up with the laboring mama at her home, when contractions are strong and consistent and not varied and all over the place. I then stay with them up until the baby arrives and for a few hours postpartum to help establish breastfeeding and make sure mama and baby are doing beautifully.

13. What coping techniques do you find most helpful?
I offer a variety of coping techniques, such as; labor position suggestions, touch, massage and aromatherapy using essential oils that compliment labor and birth, assistance with breathing and emotional reassurance and encouragement. With the birth of my own 2 children, I had all of the above and used every single one of those techniques and absolutely needed them and felt them to be essential. But every mama is different and every birth is different, so what one mama might like, another may not. Our job is to know that and be flexible, and to create every labor and birth to be a meaningful and special experience for her.

14. If I hire a doula, am I required to have a natural birth?
Absolutely not! This is a VERY common question that I receive. I am more than happy to support mamas regardless of their choice to have a medicated birth or not. My job is to provide all of the information and guidance the way a doula so knowledgeably is able to do, regardless of their birthing choice.



Aisha Carabello, Certified Birth Doula
Aisha lives in the Bay Area with her two children. She is a Certified Birth Doula, and Children's Yoga & Mindfulness Educator serving various preschools and elementary schools in the East Bay. She has been working with children and serving families for over 15 years. For more information on Aisha, or to inquire about her services, visit her website www.lovelifedoula.com
My son sprouted two teeth back to back when he was just 4 months old, and started to show signs of teething even earlier than that! He began putting everything he could get his chubby little hands on into his mouth. That included my hair, jewelry, clothing, and fingers. Anything I wore on my body was fair game. This meant that I had to resort to removing all of my jewelry and wearing my hair up all the time. What little effort I had time to put into my appearance as a new mom had officially gone out the window. I began to feel like such a frump!

I had heard of, and seen some other mamas wearing silicone chewbead necklaces so I decided to shop around for one. I looked and looked for one I liked and came up short. None of these brightly colored, silicone necklaces fit my style and I honestly couldn't see myself actually wearing one of them. I started contemplating making my own chewed necklace in a style I would like and would actually get some use out of.

For many years I have worn a sandalwood and moonstone mala that I handmade. I love my mala and it holds quite a bit of sentimental value to me. I even had it on during the birth of my son. I noticed that it was one of the things my baby constantly went for,  always trying his hardest to put it in his mouth. Other babies I had held also seemed to always be attracted to it too. I started to think that maybe I could make a mala that was specifically designed to be worn by me for my little man to chew on and play with. I wanted it to be organic, toxin free, safe, stylish, and possibly even hold some spiritual functionality.

I made my first mala using organic, raw wood beads that I hand finished with organic beeswax and organic jojoba oil, and 100% pure food grade silicone beads. I used organic cotton cording to string the beads and make the tassel. I now had an organic, toxin free, safe chewbead mala that I enjoy wearing and that my son loves to chew on and play with! The different textures of the wood beads and the silicone seem to keep him intrigued and soothe his teething gums in different ways. As soon as I started to wear it, I began getting inquiries as to where I had gotten it. When I said that I had made it myself the requests for me to make one for other mamas began rolling in, and Munchkin Malas™ was born!

The Purpose Behind Munchkin Malas
Munchkin Malas™ were designed with the organic, natural, and free-spirited mama in mind. These multipurpose malas are designed to be worn by parents for teething babies to munch on and play with while being held or worn, or while breastfeeding to keep those curious hands occupied, and can also be used for meditation and prayer. While they are not the traditional 108 beads, Munchkin Malas™ can still be used to take a time-out and say a few mantras, meditate, or pray when motherhood (and life) gets overwhelming and you need a moment to yourself to reset and recharge.

Where Can You Purchase One?
Munchkin Malas™ are now available at the following locations:
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From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I dreamt of having an all natural, drug free birth. I had visions of a calm and serene room where I felt safe and comfortable and would be able to use my HypnoBirthing training to give birth in a calm and beautiful way. I had my birth plan all mapped out, and my good friend who is a doula, was all lined up to be there with me at the birth. I was looking forward to the day with excitement and joy.

Although I knew I wanted a natural, drug free birth with as little (or no) medical intervention as possible, I also knew that I would be giving birth in a hospital. Early on in my pregnancy I was diagnosed with placenta previa, meaning that my placenta was fully covering the opening of my cervix. My doctor informed me that it would most likely resolve itself as my belly grew and my placenta moved up and away from my cervix, but to be sure, I was given a few minor restrictions throughout my pregnancy and the placement of my placenta was checked regularly. Luckily, by 38 weeks my placenta previa had indeed resolved itself and I was cleared to have a vaginal birth. My placenta was no longer covering my cervix but it was still a bit low, so to be safe and avoid any unforeseen complications, I felt safer giving birth in a hospital.

Regardless, I still wanted to have a comfortable, relaxed, and home-like feeling to my surroundings. I planned to labor in the comfort of my childhood home (where my parents still live) in their beautiful claw-foot bathtub for as long as I could until my doula advised me it was time to head to the hospital. However, as I neared 42 weeks of pregnancy and was showing absolutely no signs of impending labor, I was told I would need to be induced. There went my dream of spending my early labor in the claw-foot tub!

As I arrived at the hospital, my husband and my doula helped me transform my hospital room into a birthing sanctuary. There was no harsh lighting, just the soft flickering glow from the candles. The room was lightly filled with the relaxing scent of lavender (one of my absolute favorite smells), and I was surrounded by my own soft, plushy pillows off of my bed at home. We were truly able to transform my hospital room into a comfortable, relaxing sanctuary. Aside from the monitors (which we kept turned off when they were not in use) it really didn't feel much like a hospital room at all. Even my nurses and midwives kept coming in just to hang out because the room was so relaxing and zen. After my son was born I even remember looking around and saying, "When did we move rooms?" While I was busy pushing, the room had been transformed back into a hospital room as most of my things had been moved out of the way to make more room.

Here are some of the ways you can achieve tranquility in a hospital setting. (Be sure to have your comfort items packed and ready. Keeping them in the trunk of your car or right next to the front door is always a good idea.)

Transforming Your Hospital Room Into A Birthing Sanctuary:
  1. Sight ~ Setting up flameless candles around the room, turning off the lights and drawing the shades helps to create a calm, serene ambiance. Bringing photos from home perhaps of other children, pets, or loved ones and placing them around the room can also bring comfort. 
  2. Smell ~ An essential oil diffuser and a few essential oils that you like is a great way to make your room smell nice and mask any hospital smells. Plus you also get the added benefits that the oils offer such as calming, stress relief, balance, endurance, and relief from nausea. 
  3. Sound ~ Make a birthing playlist ahead of time with relaxing and calming sounds and songs, and bring along some portable speakers. The music will add to the serene and relaxing atmosphere while also helping to block out the (sometimes loud and unpleasant) noises of a hospital.
  4. Feel ~ Hospital beds tend to not be very plush and the pillows are generally thin, stiff and scratchy. Bringing your own pillows and a blanket or two from home can make a huge difference in your comfort level both during and after labor. Your own pillows and blankets will carry the smell of your home with them as well. I also recommend wearing your own clothes in lieu of a hospital gown and bringing a robe to wear after labor. 
  5. Taste ~ Not all hospitals allow women in labor to eat or drink anything other than sucking on ice chips, but in my experience and through my childbirth education training, I have learned that it is important for laboring women to keep their strength up by eating small snacks and staying hydrated. Packing light snacks that have some protein such as nuts, string cheese, crackers, protein bars, and fruit are good options. Bring along some hydrating drinks like coconut water or water with fresh squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt to help keep your electrolytes up.
Comfort Item Checklist:
  • flame-less candles
  • essential oil diffuser
  • essential oils
  • pillows from home
  • blankets from home
  • your own clothes, slippers, and socks
  • music playlist and portable speakers
  • batteries
  • sleep mask
  • snacks
  • coconut water
No matter where you plan to give birth, or if you birth goes according to your plan or not, birth is a beautiful, magical, empowering, and amazing experience with the greatest result - your child! As life would have it, my son's birth did not go quite as I had planned. But it is our story, and it happened just as it was meant to. He was born happy and healthy, and we are madly in love. I wouldn't change a thing. 

Do you have any suggestions on how to transform your hospital room into a birthing sanctuary? Share in the comments below! 



When I was pregnant, I could hardly wait to get started on the nursery. I had an entire Pinterest board dedicated to design ideas, and had thoroughly planned out just how I wanted the nursery to look. I drove my husband crazy nagging him to get started on painting it so I could get busy "nesting."

Not only did I want my son's nursery to be aesthetically pleasing, I also wanted it to be safe and non-toxic. A sanctuary for him to sleep and play in. On my search for the perfect pieces to put into my son's room, I found that many every day products for infants and children such as the mattresses they sleep on and the changing pads we wipe their little booties on are made from harmful materials and contain toxic chemicals. These chemicals can let off gasses that are then inhaled as a child sleeps, sits, or lays on or near them. Fortunately, there are much safer, organic, and non-toxic options now available!

In my research, I continued to see many of the same toxic chemicals popping up over and over again as being components of many essential pieces that make up a nursery.

Commonly Used Toxic Chemicals Lurking In Everyday Baby Products ~ 
  • Polyurethane foam ~ Used as filling for many crib mattresses and changing pads, polyurethane foam contains several toxic ingredients that emit harmful gasses such as formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene which I will mention below. 
  • Formaldehyde ~ A highly flammable substance, formaldehyde is also carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde has been shown to cause headaches, depression and mood changes, insomnia, irritability, and can even lead to attention deficit disorders. 
  • Toluene ~ Also highly flammable, toluene is an inexpensive and very strong adhesive used by many different manufacturers for all kinds of products. It is what gives products that "new" smell when you open them. Regular exposure to toluene and the vapors it emits can lead to damage of the nervous system, mental confusion, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and fatigue, and skin problems. 
  • Benzene ~ A known carcinogen, benzene has been proven to increase one's risk of developing Leukemia. It is often used to make synthetic fibers and fabrics, detergents and dyes. 
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ~ Also referred to as vinyl, PVC is another known carcinogen that lurks in many, many different products from changing pads to baby bottles and more. However many companies have come to realize that PVC is harmful and have stopped using it in their products. When buying supplies of your child, be sure to check that they are "PVC free."
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) ~ Chemical compounds commonly used in paint that continue to off-gas long after the paint has dried. VOC's have been known to cause several serious health problems ranging from ear, nose and throat irritations to severe headaches, and even cancer.
Where You Might Find These Toxic Chemicals And What To Use Instead ~

Crib Mattresses ~ Many popular crib mattresses are filled with polyurethane foam and have been shown to emit over 100 different harmful chemicals and industrial solvents. Yuck! When your child sleeps on the mattress he or she inhales those chemicals. Not only that, but these chemicals are emitted into the air, causing you and your baby to be exposed to them every time you are in the room.
Opting for an organic crib mattress is one of the best things you can do to prevent your child from being exposed to these unnecessary and harmful chemicals. The best truly organic crib mattress I have found (and the one that is in my son's crib) is the Naturepedic No-Compromise 2 in 1 Ultra Crib Mattress. It is 100% non toxic and organic. This mattress comes with two sides - one side is firmer (and waterproof!) for infants and the other side is quilted and a bit softer for toddlers. Naturepedic offers many different crib mattress styles to fit your needs.
Note: When choosing an organic crib mattress, be sure to check what it is filled with. There are many brands that will claim their mattress is organic, and indeed the outer material is, but then they are filled with potentially harmful, non-organic stuffing or foam. 

Mattress Pads ~ Similar to crib mattresses, mattress pads also are made from harmful, synthetic materials that your child inhales while they are sleeping, and they continue to off-gas harmful chemicals into the air as well. Many mattress pads are made from polyurethane and vinyl (PVC), and are then coated with harmful antibacterial and stain resistant coatings. Luckily there are some great, all organic (and waterproof) mattress pads available. Once again, Naturepedic wins as my choice for best organic crib mattress pad. They have several to choose from, including an organic cotton waterproof mattress pad made from 100% safe, non-toxic and organic materials.

Changing Pads ~ Commonly made from vinyl (PVC) and polyurethane foam, many changing pads also contain antibacterial, stain resistant coatings which off-gas harmful chemicals. There are many organic brands to choose from, however, ranging in price from as low as $20 up to $200. I like (and use) the Oeuf Pure and Simple Eco-Friendly Contoured Changing Pad ($48-$55). Naturepedic also offers an excellent organic changing pad, however it is on the pricier side ($99).

Crib Bedding ~ When it comes to crib bedding, it is a very personal choice and many things come into play such as the size, style, colors, and patterns, as well as the materials it is made from. Many big name companies such as Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids, Sprout SF, and Giggle now carry a line of organic crib bedding. Etsy is an excellent place to find unique and fun patterns and styles of crib bedding made from super soft, organic fabrics. Try to steer clear of crib bedding made from synthetic fibers, as these can contain harmful chemicals and dyes, can irritate a baby's sensitive skin, and cause allergy like symptoms.

Paint ~ Most wall paint contains harmful chemicals known as VOC's. Luckily, more and more paint companies now offer non-VOC paints in an array of beautiful shades. When choosing a paint for your nursery, be sure to check that it is in fact NON-VOC. Some paint companies claim to be low-VOC, but this is only the base paint, and once color is added it is with a higher VOC paint. Non-VOC paints are easy to find at most home improvement stores.

Furniture ~ The wood used to make cribs, changing tables, dressers, rocking chairs, and bookcases are often treated with formaldehyde and other stains and sealants that off-gas harmful chemicals into the air. Synthetic materials such as plywood can be even worse. When buying furniture for your baby's nursery, look for used furniture which will have lower levels of formaldehyde than a new piece. Formaldehyde tends to "settle in" after about 5 years and stops off-gassing at that point. Craigslist is always a great place to look for used furniture, as well as second hand baby stores. If you really want something new, aim to find furniture that is finished with a non-toxic seal such as beeswax. Another solution is to use Safecoat Hardseal on your new furniture to help cut down on off-gassing. Cover crib rails with rail guards to prevent your little one from chewing on the wood and ingesting any of the sealants and stains used on the crib.

Other Items To Consider Adding To Your Nursery ~

Himalayan Salt Lamp ~ Rather than using a traditional night light, using a himalayan salt lamp not only gives off a warm, soft glow (proven to not interrupt sleep patterns like a white or blue light) but it also provides many health benefits! Himalayan salt lamps emit negative ions which are found in nature and are created from ocean waves, waterfalls, lightening, and sunlight. Negative ions purify the air by bonding together with positive ions, thus removing them. They also reduce and remove harmful EMF's (electromagnetic fields) as well as allergens such as dust mites in the air. Negative ions help to increase serotonin, relieve stress, improve sleep, improve overall mood, increase daytime energy, and promote calmness. We use one in my son's room, in our bedroom, and in our living room.

Cool Mist Humidifier ~ I love the Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, which we use every night during the winter in my son's room. During the winter months the air tends to become drier, then add on top of that the use of furnaces and heaters which dry out the air in our homes even more. Dry air can lead to an increase in colds, congestion, runny noses, sore throats, and dry, itchy skin and eczema. Humidifiers help to protect against dry air by adding moisture back into the air. I prefer cool mist humidifiers because there is less of a chance of bacteria and mold growing in them and being released into the air.

Diffuser ~ Diffusing essential oils can provide several health benefits such as protection against colds and the flu, promote a more restful sleep, reduce stress, enhance mood, the list goes on. Diffusing high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils in your baby's room not only makes the air smell nice but adds an additional health benefit to the air they are breathing!

Have a product you love in you non-toxic nursery or insight on the subject? Please share in the comments below!