Schedule your free chat to learn how Nested Mama's virtual doula support can help you find ease in pregnancy and postpartum.
Real talk time. One of the hardest aspects for me as I move through pregnancy and postpartum comes from my changing body.
While I deeply respect and understand the work my body does during the childbearing year, I'm also a person who struggles with transition. And, the constant transitions of my body are hard on me both physically and mentally.
After finding out I was expecting baby #4, I vowed to be even more intentional this go-round in how I prepared my body for the work of carrying this baby and giving birth.
Then first trimester exhaustion plus the work of keeping up with my trio of kiddos, homeschooling, and business hit me like a truck - survival became the name of the game.
As I emerged (finally) from the fog of that rough trimester, I found myself with energy again (yay!) and the desire to put it to good use. Looking around at the options for prenatal fitness, I knew that in this incredibly busy season that found me solo parenting and juggling all the things while also growing this baby, I would be squeezing anything into the nooks and crannies of my days.
Perhaps even more importantly, I needed a program that would help me turn my focus away from the noise and the numbers of my changing body and instead toward meeting my needs for support with understanding and gentleness toward myself.
A chance recommendation in a local parenting group led me to find my way to MommaStrong. Immediately, I was drawn to the message of MommaStrong, a message that eschewed the narratives of "transformation" so popular in the fitness industry writ large for one of function, strength, and treating yourself with kindness as you navigate the tricky seasons of growing and raising tiny humans.
The first video I clicked on discussed the way in which our culture has normalized incontinence after birth - a normalization that does not equal the health or wellness for those who deal with this issue. As a postpartum doula, I found myself nodding and yelling "yes!" at that video, pretty much sold at that point.
I signed up early in the second trimester and have been "showing up" regularly to my mat now for several months. Below are some of the many reasons MommaStrong has been such an important part of this pregnancy.
As a professional who works with families before and after baby, I love being able to refer clients to this fabulous resource. And, MommaStrong has a specific section dedicated to clinicians, so if you are a doula or birth professional, check this out!
So far I've seen the benefits of MommaStrong, but I'm excited to see how it impacts life after baby - I'll be sure to follow up with a blog on that in the coming months.
Are you considering adding a new little one to your family, but you still have a nursling?
Are you wondering about breastfeeding while pregnant, weaning in pregnancy, or tandem nursing?
Unless you have a friend or family member who has nursed during and perhaps through a pregnancy, you may not be familiar with options and resources for nursing while pregnant.
Here are a collection of FAQs and resources you may find helpful.
***As always, consult your medical provider for any questions about your specific situation.
How does nursing impact ability to conceive?
The hormones at work in breastfeeding can delay the return of the breastfeeding parent's fertility, so it depends on many individual factors as far as when and if one can conceive while breastfeeding. While some experience the return of fertility with in a few months of giving birth while breastfeeding, others may not until fully weaning. Because ovulation can occur before the onset of the first menses, some breastfeeding parents may conceive without every noting the return of their cycle, while others may experience anovulatory cycles before a full return of fertility. If you wish to understand and chart your cycle, a fertility doula is a great first resource as you navigate this time.
If your nights are still interrupted but you want to begin tracking your basal body temperature, check out my favorite piece of fertility tech - Tempdrop! This little wonder makes it possible to chart your temperature amidst night wakings, feedings, or any other reason for interrupted sleep. *
Is it safe to nurse during pregnancy?
Nursing releases oxytocin, which is the same hormone that causes uterine contractions. However, research suggests that this level of oxytocin, similar to that released during orgasm, does not pose an increased risk for miscarriage or preterm labor. There are certain situations of pregnancy or complications where you may be advised to wean, and these should be discussed with your medical provider.
Will I be able to provide for my nursling while pregnant or will my supply be impacted?
Whether or not you need to supplement with donor milk or formula will depend on your unique situation as well as little one's age and stage. For babies under a year, breastmilk or formula should still be the primary form of nutrition - and diapers and weight gain are the indicators of sufficient intake. (Always consult your medical provider if you have concerns about baby's intake.) Older babies may gradually transition to more solid food intake, and older nurslings may choose to nurse more or less frequently depending on changes in supply and taste. Kellymom notes that while a decrease in supply by the midpoint of pregnancy is typical, some notice a lessening of supply (and perhaps increased demand from their nursling) as early as the first month of pregnancy.
What are the challenges of nursing while pregnant?
While the experiences of breastfeeding while pregnant may vary to person to person, some challenges you may note include feeling touched out or aversions to nursing. You may also experience sensitivity and pain with nursing during different points in the pregnancy. If your nursling is a toddler, you may be successful setting loving limits around your nursing times that allow you to sustain this relationship during pregnancy.
What about colostrum - will my baby still get enough?
While pregnant, your body will switch from mature milk to the production of colostrum. This colostrum production continues until hormonal changes from the delivery of the placenta in the third stage of labor triggers a shift into transitional and then mature milk. After the new baby is born, you may want to make sure to feed the new baby first to insure he or she gets those good antibodies. And, your older nursling may experience some laxative effects from the colostrum, as well.
What is tandem nursing and how does that work?
If you choose to nurse an older sibling through pregnancy, tandem nursing - nursing two at the same time - is an option. A great resource on this topic - even for those just starting to think about nursing and pregnancy - is La Leche League's Adventures in Tandem Nursing. Full of evidence-based information as well as the personal stories of breastfeeding parents who have nursed through pregnancy and beyond - this book is thorough and truly helpful.
As far as what tandem nursing looks like for your little family, know that there is no right or wrong. For some, setting limits with the older sibling as far as when and how long he or she can nurse works to help the breastfeeding parent not become overwhelmed. For others, the opportunity to nurse both at the same time allows for more rest as opposed to nursing the new baby and worrying about what the toddler could be doing.
If you do find yourself needing to set limits for your older child, making sure to communicate your wishes, offering other options for comfort (snuggling, reading a book, having a snack or a drink), and being empathetic to any big feels can be so helpful. Here, making sure to have a solid postpartum plan to support you as you navigate these early days with sibling interaction can also be truly important.
*When you purchase a Tempdrop through my affiliate link, you recieve a 10% discount and I receive a small commission that helps keep the Nested Mama blog up and running. A win-win!
Feeding a baby. We're mammals after all, right? Despite the fact that our babies and our bodies were biologically made for this, the work of breastfeeding doesn't always feel that natural. And, because the culture that we live in isn't the most breastfeeding informed, feeding your little one whenever and wherever they need to be fed can be a bit stressful at the start.
If you are choosing to breastfeed your little one, here are a few tips that may make those initial forays into breastfeeding in public more comfortable.
Dress for success. Finding the apparel that makes you feel most comfortable with breastfeeding can be key. While many companies make specific nursing clothing, a lot of nursing parents find that a deep v-neck is sufficient for access to the breast. Others use the "two shirt method," where a top shirt is pulled up and a tank or undershirt is pulled down, keeping all but the breast cozy in clothing. Adding a scarf can be nice if you are feeling like a little more coverage or in chillier weather when an extra layer keeps you and baby more snug.
Do it on the move. Sometimes finding a comfy spot to sit down for a feed can feel stressful - or less than ideal when you need to get an errand done now. Learning to nurse in a carrier can be a tool that not only makes breastfeeding in public - but parenting a tiny person in general - more sustainable. Not sure how feed in your specific carrier? Reach out to your postpartum doula or local baby wearing group - the latter being another great resource to find friends and support.
Find your community. Nothing boosts your breastfeeding in public confidence like seeing experienced breast feeders wrangle their infants and toddlers and feed in public around you. If you don't have any mom friends to call up for a trip somewhere low-key out and about, reach out to your local breastfeeding group. There are likely a dozen or more breastfeeding parents who would be happy to meet for coffee and be your support squad as you get comfortable nursing in public. And, getting out with other parents in the same stage of life can be so helpful to building your village, too.
To cover or not to cover? Many companies sell expensive scarfs or apron-like devices to cover you and baby while nursing. While some breastfeeding parents feel most comfortable nursing under-cover, others prefer to go without. There is no right or wrong, here - only what works to make you and baby feel the best. And, at different stages your little one may heartily protest being covered or do best with more coverage to prevent distraction - only time and experience will let you know.
Bottom line: what works for you and baby is what is good and proper. Trust in that - and feed that baby!
Advice from breastfeeding parents who have been there and done that:
While nursing tops are helpful, I found that layering a tank top under a regular shirt made breastfeeding discreet without a nursing cover. Lifting your shirt up (as opposed to down with a nursing shirt) covers the action and makes for quick access. The tank top underneath covers your tummy and sides while your shirt is lifted up. - Kelly D.
I liked having a nursing cover in my backpack.... not necessarily for covering up but for any spit up. - Megan F.
Mostly though I just have the attitude that I dare somebody to say something about me feeding my child, but keep a smile on my face so everyone knows I'm confident in my choice. My last piece of advice is to not think everyone is judging you! Most people are in their own worlds out in public and aren't looking or thinking about what you are doing! You can trick yourself into seeing a lot of negativity that might not be there . - Becca D.
I went to Plato's closet and bought cute, long tanks in sizes much larger than I usually would so either the arm hole or neck hole is much larger. That way I can just lift up the top shirt, and pull the tank to the side from the armpit. It's easy, discreet, and I feel cute. - Abbi B.
I personally feel like if I can catch baby a little early before she’s all out hangry, it’s easier to have a relaxed nursing session in public! When she gets hangry is when it gets a little treacherous for me getting her settled down. So I plan my trips out accordingly - (baby will need to eat around 2, will we be somewhere where I can easily sit down to feed her?) - Carli R.
[S]omething that really helped me was always having some enjoyable to drink myself. At the grocery store- I’d always stop by the Starbucks kiosk to get a coffee, or at a restaurant order a favorite cocktail, and always had my water bottle on me. I’d always focus on 1. my baby and 2. just enjoying a drink with my babe. It was almost a mindfulness thing... when I’d start to feel anxious, like people might be staring (they really never were), enjoying a sip of my drink would help me recenter. [. . .]. [I] also just reminded myself that by nursing in public- it’s just paving the way for other moms to feel able to do so as well. I remember seeing moms nursing in public prior to be a mom myself- also remember moms nursing their babies when I was a teacher in an infant classroom and those are the moms who normalized breastfeeding for me and showed me how important it is to be confident and able to do what we need to take best care of our babies and self! So I think that every time I nurse in public, I hope this will help a mama in the future do the same! - Emma B.
With my first I was so worried what everyone around me was thinking, and I didn't want to make others uncomfortable. I experienced a number of breastfeeding challenges with my first child and ended up needing to supplement and later wean much earlier than I would have liked. So with my second, I made up my mind that I was going to try not to care what anyone else thought or if I was making anyone uncomfortable. As a woman, we often find ourselves planning for and managing everyone else' s needs, emotions, expectations in our family and societal role. I continue to try to reject that expectation and focus on my ultimate priority, which is feeding and nourishing my baby. - Grace S.
Expecting and looking for a breastfeeding class full evidence-based information and nonjudgmental support? Nested Mama offers a convenient webinar Breastfeeding: basics & beyond.
Schedule your free chat to learn how Nested Mama's virtual doula services can support your fertility journey.
While the word doula may be most commonly associated with birth support, the word itself actually comes from the Greek word for servant or "one who serves."
What, then, is a fertility doula? A fertility doula is a trained professional who provides preconception support to individuals and partners as they follow their path to parenthood. Just as a birth doula brings non-medical, non-judgmental informational, emotional, and physical support to the time around labor and birth, a fertility doula brings that same model to preconception and (in)fertility.
Just as birth brings options for choices, so does the path to conception. For clients just beginning their conception journey, a fertility doula provides evidence-based information on tracking and charting fertility as well as holistic resources to support you along the way. Making sure you and your partner are on the same page with understanding how fertility works and maximizing your fertility window can save you stress and guesswork at the start!
For those couples who have been trying to conceive for 6 or more months, a fertility doula can be a lifeline as they navigate options for medication and reproductive technology. Your fertility doula is nonjudgmental and always in your corner - meaning you can feel free to express your concerns and wishes without the pressures that can come from others. Navigating options for infertility treatment can be overwhelming, as can finding supportive practitioners you can trust. Your doula is with you every step of the way, helping you evaluate your options and tune into your intuition as you make these choices which are so important to you and your partner.
As a trained Fertility Specialist, I bring a host of tools to support my fertility clients in their journey. These tools include a mind/body approach (which research suggests aids in conception). A mind/body approach complements any treatments you may receive and also provides you tools that can help you navigate the experience with less stress.
And, as a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Advocate, I understand that your journey to start and grow your family may have included experiences of loss. I understand, too, that pregnancy after loss and/or infertility comes with different emotions and challenges. Because of that understanding, I also extend my doula work to include early pregnancy support - providing the informational and emotional support you need as you move through the early weeks of pregnancy.
For many, experiencing pregnancy after loss or infertility comes with a desire to keep this stage of pregnancy more private, but this can also result in feelings of loneliness - with fertility doula support and early pregnancy support, you don't have to go it alone.
So, when should you hire a fertility doula?
When you first consider trying to conceive or intend to start your journey in the coming months, your fertility doula provides you the insight and the support you need to feel confident planning for this journey.
When you feel frustrated after a few months of trying to conceive and want some holistic tools, your fertility doula equips you with an evidence-based understanding of fertility and fertility tracking education to support this stage of your journey.
When you begin to investigate infertility options, your fertility doula provides the informational and emotional support you need to fully explore your options with no judgment.
When you are navigating fertility treatments, your fertility doula support includes a mind/body approach to complement and support these treatments.
When you are experiencing loss or conception after loss, your fertility doula provides wholehearted support and connection to resources - and most importantly, makes sure you don't feel alone in this experience.
When you move through early pregnancy after loss or infertility, your fertility doula offers continuity of support, walking with you in these challenging and exciting days and weeks of early pregnancy.
No matter where you are on your path to grow your family, your fertility doula will meet you there with empathy and understanding.
Want to learn more about fertility doula support? Reach out for a free discovery call today!
Save 10% on my favorite piece of fertility tech - the Tempdrop Basal Body Thermometer. Working nights? Interrupted sleep? This tool is amazing!*
*When you purchase through this link, you receive a discount and I receive a small commission that helps keep the Nested Mama blog up and running. A win-win! Please know I only share and recommend tools that come highly recommended by myself and/or the wonderful, smart, intelligent clients I support.
If you are anything like me, all thoughts of jewelry beyond stud earrings and the occasional silicone teething necklace went out the window once I had little ones. I didn't like the feeling of a necklace being yanked as I held and wore my kiddos, and the thought of them mouthing most jewelry motivated me to keep it all in a drawer. That's why I'm beyond thrilled to share about a local-to-me, super stylish mama whose "mama metal" creations make beautiful and practical jewelry for parents of little ones a reality.
I know you are full-time working mom with two beautiful little ones. How did you come to start designing jewelry in addition to that?
I was looking for some uniquely shaped centerpieces, as well as different options for chains. Fox + Bear offers a variety of options to personalize your chain including adding semiprecious gemstone beads, fine silver charms, and multi-strand chains. I love the addition of a charm because you can adjust the length of the necklace by changing where you clip the clasp.
Anyone interested in purchasing jewelry by Fox + Bear Designs can visit my page on Facebook @FoxPlusBearDesigns and send me a message. I have in-stock and ready to wear pieces listed in albums, and I’m happy to work on custom pieces. With Mother’s Day fast approaching I’ve set aside 10 custom spots for anyone interested in treating the special mother in their life or treating themselves to exactly what they want.
As a infant sleep educator and a professional who provides sleep consultation services, you may be surprised that my outlook when it comes to sleep can be summed up by saying “sleep isn’t a problem unless it is a problem.”
I approach sleep as a spectrum of normal variation and maintain an evidence-based perspective that sees the need for nighttime parenting as developmentally and biologically normal for infants.
As I often share when teaching prenatal classes on infant sleep, I did not always understand babies’ needs for nighttime parenting as a spectrum that represents both their personality and the more general needs of relatively helpless mammalian offspring.
Instead, I truly believed the commercials and cultural images of babies sleeping peacefully without need for adult interaction - if only you purchased the right diaper, the right swaddle, the right sleep gizmo, the right sleep book, and so forth.
All that changed, abruptly, with the introduction of my first child. Now with three children and over six years of nighttime parenting in, I know that as far as baby sleepers go, she was relatively easy.
My experience of her sleep needs, however, was not.
Because my expectations were informed more by commercial and cultural rhetoric of “good” babies than developmental norms, I found sleep life with my sweet little one much more stressful than blissful.
Far worse than any nighttime wakings was the pressure I felt to make my daughter conform to the ideals set forth in baby parenting books. Words like “routine,” “habits,” “props,” and “self-soothing” dominated my thoughts day and night. Fears about independence and life long sleep kept me from returning to sleep with ease after a night waking.
And, what of my little one? While occasionally cranky when working on a new skill or under the weather, she was a happy baby who was growing well and meeting milestones on pace for her age.
Sleep, then, wasn’t a problem - for her.
Had I known that she would make gentle transitions to no night feedings and make progress toward finding sleep without nighttime parenting in the coming months and years, I’m sure I could have enjoyed the present and found more rest even amidst her nighttime needs.
Hindsight certainly brings clarity in parenting as in everything else.
Though particular to my child and experience, I share this narrative because what I needed, more than anything, during this challenging season of nighttime parenting was support and encouragement to trust my child and my instincts.
Even if baby sleep isn’t a problem, negotiating nighttime parenting and making gentle transitions certainly can be. Add in outdated parenting advice handed down to us by well-meaning friends and relatives and packaged as universal cultural wisdom - oof - and baby sleep can be just plain hard.
Because our culture places so much emphasis on our babies figuring out how not to need us at night at such an early age, it can be challenging to reach out and ask for help to navigate our busy lives if choosing a more developmental approach to sleep.
That is to say, embracing your baby’s needs for you as developmentally normal doesn’t automatically equal bliss.
In fact, as I was to learn with my second and highly-sensitive baby, it can be brutally hard to see through the fog of sleep deprivation and find solutions that work for everyone.
While with my first, I needed education and an encouraging word to trust my instincts, with my second, I could have used an honest assessment of our sleep situation and a bucketful of collaborative solutions.
In either case, it was me, not my baby, who truly needed a sleep intervention.
Instead of advocating I “fix” my baby, I could have benefited immensely from a listening ear with responses of compassion and empathy, support that expressed confidence in me and my intuition as a mother, and encouragement as I made changes that held true to our family's long term values and goals.
That's an approach to the problems of baby sleep could have made all the difference for me then and why I'm passionate about the work of infant sleep education now.
Are you looking for prenatal education on infant sleep or a holistic, heart-centered approach to navigating your families nighttime needs? Schedule a free 15 min discover call and find out if Nested Mama's services are the right fit for your family.
In the absence of a "village" to nurture us postpartum, it can be hard to know where and when to reach out for support. Our culture maintains a myth wherein the birthing parent can do it all. In reality, the days, weeks, and months after baby's arrival are a time when a go-it-alone approach can lead to isolation and exhaustion.
At least, it did for me.
Hiring a postpartum doula is one way families can say "yes" to more support and invest in a service that can bring ease into that first year after baby.
But, depending on your lifestyle or little one's age, traditional postpartum doula services that focus on in-home day and overnight support may not be the right fit.
Maybe your support network is great with laundry and meal prep, but you need more nonjudgmental, compassionate conversation to uplift you as you navigate a tricky stage postpartum.
Perhaps you've got your household running smoothly but the thought of having a link to evidence-based resources and a sounding board for your transition into parenthood would offer you a sense of ease.
Or, maybe the idea of a doula in your home doesn't sound like the right match, but a combo of emotional and informational support offered online fits perfectly with your preferences.
If any of the above sounds like you, Online Postpartum Doula services may be the support you always felt you needed but didn't know you could ask for. Now, you can.
So what is Online Postpartum Doula Support?
Nested Mama combines weekly video chats and unlimited emails to provide you heart-centered support when and where you are in life with baby.
Nested Mama is all about your parenting journey and how you build confidence and joy along the way. Online doula support is a flexible way to make that happen when and where you need it.
Want to learn more? Schedule a free 15-min discovery call and see if Nested Mama is the right fit for what you need.
The transition into life with a new baby stretches everything - your patience, your partnership, your identity, and so much more.
The transition into toddlerhood is something else, though. The baby who previously needed to be transported everywhere can suddenly get places under her own power. The baby who only needed milk and snuggles suddenly voices a whole host of other needs and desires, adamantly and at increasing volume levels.
Just like having a baby stretches us as parents and asks us to grow in new and surprising ways, the transition into parenting a toddler asks perhaps even more.
As Dr. Shefali Tsabary writes in The Conscious Parent: "The transition to parenthood is complex, requiring us to surrender to an irrevocable loss of our identity as we have thus far known it. To create the internal space required to embrace the tending of a new spirit, the pillars of our old lifestyle have to crumble. Who we were before becoming a parent doesn't and cannot exist with the same ferocity. Once children enter our life, their impact is indelible and we are required to reinvent ourselves in response" (96).
If you are anticipating the next stage of baby's development into a toddler or find yourself already in the sticky middle-of-toddler-years days, check out these fabulous resources for setting loving limits and holding them with love and respect.
Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
To get a sense of Markham's approach, check out the AhaParenting website, which has an awesomely helpful index by age and stage. This is one of my first stops when a new kiddo stages throws me for a loop.
It's Okay Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Compassionate Kids by Heather Shumaker
One of the most anxious points of toddler parenting for me was learning how to navigate my kids social interactions - when to stand back, when to hop in, and how to be helpful. Shumaker gives so many helpful examples for how to handle situations in a positive and productive manner.
Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence by Lawrence J. Cohen
In rough stages, sometimes you just need a fresh tool or outlook to come at problems from a positive and collaborative place. If you find yourself in that place, this is a great read.
Siblings without Rivalry: How to Help your Children Live Together so You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Toddler parenting takes on a whole new dynamic when you've got sibling squabbles in the mix. Faber and Mazlish made this a super quick read that's easy to distill and implement. And, it helps me remember that sibling conflicts are normal and the perfect opportunity to build skills of conflict negotiation and compassion.
The Gentle Sleep Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
While we'd like to pretend that only tiny babies wake at night, the reality is that waking for reassurance during the night is developmentally normal for toddlers, too. Ockwell-Smith offers gentle suggestions that can help the whole family get more rest while still meeting your toddler's needs in a developmentally appropriate manner. (If you find you need more support making gentle sleep transitions, head on over to Nested Mama's Sleep services.)
Mothering your Nursing Toddler by Norma J. Bumgarner
Wondering what's normal as you nurse your baby into toddlerhood? This book from La Leche League International provides awesome perspective. (And if you find yourself nursing into a pregnancy, Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower is the essential read on the topic.)
As a doula and sleep educator, I work with a lot of parents when they are at their most tapped out.
As a parent myself, I have plenty of moments that seem more like surviving than thriving.
I coach my clients to uncover areas where they can find balance and meaning, and self-care is often a pivot point that can tip survival mode into flourishing for the whole family.
When I take a fair assessment of my own life, I find that my moments of frustration with my children or my partner often emerge from my own lack of balance. As the saying goes, you can't give from an empty cup. And, no one knows that truth more deeply than a parent of young children.
As important as self-care is to overall wellness, there is another piece that I suggest can be just as significant - finding joy WITH your children. Here, I'm not talking about delighting in every moment - some are challenging and some are just plain hard - no one needs the pressure of loving every second.
Instead, try to find mutual points of joy in your life. Maybe you all enjoy a particular series of stories or chapter book read alouds. Maybe you all love your routine of getting a donut on Saturday morning. Maybe each of you can relish the feeling of sand between your toes at the beach. Maybe you geek out together over the same comic book.
Whatever that source of joy is for all of you, seek it out. Be intentional. Make time for it, and soak it in.
For me, I am my happiest when I'm outside, and I discovered early on with my first child that she loved to be outside, too. Now that I've got a busy trio, I plan to be outside every day, if possible, and make a couple significant excursions to local trails and parks every week.
On the best of days, I can carry that feeling with me through the tricky pre-dinner time and all the way until my kiddos are at rest. And, my ease sets the tone for everyone. Most importantly, we all find joy together.
How do you find joy with your little ones?
Our bodies change in incredible ways as we move through the months of pregnancy and the childbearing year. Wondering how you can nourish your body and find balance amid such rapid change? Today, I'm so pleased to share an interview with Kelli Marie Rice who is a professor of kinesiology at Coe College and an expert in wellness and fitness. Kelli is also a mother of two. She graciously shared with me about moving through pregnancy and postpartum from both her academic and practical experience.
Before we talk about physical movement through pregnancy and postpartum, I'd love it if you'd share a little bit about how your background drives your passion and expertise in this area.
The next chapter in my life took me from Central College in Pella, Iowa, to the University of Iowa and Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. I started pursuing my M.A. in Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, while also working as an exercise physiologist at Mercy Hospital.
My Master’s thesis was my first significant look into this fused interest of mine: movement, mothering, and gender. It is titled “Chasing the Kids, Does it Count?” It was a qualitative study that quantified ‘chasing the kids’ through the use of continuous monitoring (accelerometry), the Kaiser Physical Activity Survey, & interviews with all 66 participants. The results were compared with national physical activity guidelines to determine whether or not chasing the kids provided enough movement for moms to achieve health outcomes. The findings indicated that for this sample of moms (ages 35+ with kids 5 & under) chasing the kids, while exhausting, was not enough to meet the national guidelines for physical activity; however, women who planned physical activity (with or without their kids) were adequate in meeting these guidelines. I also found it interesting that the perceived ‘most vigorous movement of the day’ almost always involved chasing the kids, while the qualitative data debunked that. In short, chasing the kids is not nearly as vigorous or continuous as it feels, and moms generally aren’t moving enough by simply chasing their kids around; however, by holding space for planned times of movement, moms can absolutely be successful in meeting national physical activity guidelines.
I transitioned to an online Adjunct Instructor position with the University of Dubuque as I moved to San Francisco for the opportunity to launch my wellness consulting firm, which was established for the purpose of working alongside a Bulgarian Atomic Physicist on his latest invention, the TAO WellShell. After TAO launched & took Best of CES in Las Vegas, I moved back to Iowa City, got married & began teaching at Coe College.
I am entering my 4th year in the Coe College kinesiology department, while continuing to teach online in my 7th year with the University of Dubuque (13th year of teaching overall). Outside of teaching, I am living out my passion for uplifting mamas to love themselves. I support and encourage them by moving with them in ways that empower us, whether that is through leading hikes or by teaching a babywearing dance and fun family fitness class at Anytime Fitness in Coralville. Being a mom is hard work, but with a supportive tribe and feel-good movement/strength, we can truly maximize every ounce of our awesome selves.
I love how you point out the importance of support and community as well as movement to a mom's well-being. Your family-oriented classes seem to embody that fusion! How has your knowledge and experience of physical movement and wellness informed your journey into motherhood? And, how has your journey into motherhood shaped informed or shaped the knowledge you bring to your teaching?
My knowledge in these areas began with pregnancy and birth preparation. I planned for our home births much like I would train an athlete. I incorporated feel-good movement (walking, prenatal Kundalini yoga with Gurmukh, dance), squatting while Hypnobirthing for 60-75 minutes every day, and I performed a variety of abdominal exercises to prevent diastasis recti. I also adjusted my diet to support the demands of pregnancy and altered my vitamin supplementation. I journaled through 3 books with each pregnancy: Waiting in Wonder, Sacred Pregnancy, & Love Letters to Baby. Both of my babies were born in a birth tub at home: 8 lb 15 oz Delaney in a 4 hour labor, and 8 lb 7 oz Garrett in a 3.25 hour labor, 22 months later.
Moving on from birth, I incorporated babywearing, breastfeeding, and many other aspects of Attachment Parenting into our lifestyle. I conducted my own secondary research before making decisions about parenting and lifestyle choices, just as I would read a nutrition label or investigate an essential oil in our adult lives. My husband and I did what worked for us, in terms of maintaining balance in our lives, despite what may seem popular, common, or pushed by others. In addition to placenta encapsulation, movement and socialization were key components in my postpartum life. I remind myself that to offer whole lives to our children in a sustainable manner, we must be whole mamas. For me, this means maintaining balance among physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, financial, and occupational dimensions of wellness. Many of these areas can overlap! For example, babywearing hiking with friends: physical, social, environmental, and arguably emotional, intellectual and spiritual; plus even financial since it’s a great free activity! I try to incorporate every dimension of wellness into every day, for both myself and our kids.
Pregnancy and especially the postpartum period is both empowering and humbling. Not only does it challenge our bodies and shift our hormones and sleep patterns, but these tiny humans change our hearts in ways only a mama can describe. In addition to compassion and lifting up other mamas, a key way motherhood has altered my views is through the need for slowness. At least a decade ago, I met with author Carl Honore to discuss his book In Praise of Slowness. The greatest single thing I do as a mom that fosters the overall wellness of myself and my kids is embracing a lifestyle of slowness. We admire insects. We touch trees. We catch tadpoles and gently hold baby toads. We go to yoga classes for each of my babies (2 years and 4 months). We read nearly 1200 books before my daughter turned 1. I plan 10 minutes for us to get our shoes on and leave the house, just so we don’t have to rush. I find when I am slow and present, everyone is gentle and happy.
I carry these values into my teaching, both at the gym and in the college courses I teach. I create a relaxed, come-as-you-are environment. Everyone deserves to have their body celebrated. Everyone should we warmly accepted exactly as they are. Everyone benefits from being supported and uplifted by others in whatever way is most comfortable for them. Everyone has a need for multidimensional wellness, balance. I also find the AP principle of connection prevents or solves the vast majority of conflicts and challenges. People love the way it feels to feel connected. As we are practicing this 24/7 with our children, why not extend that same love to the world around us? It’s pretty inspiring!
As far as incorporating physical movement into daily life - beyond "chasing the kids" - do you have any advice for pregnant or postpartum moms?
I do! Many moms feel selfish prioritizing things for themselves, while others find logistics (childcare, breastfeeding) or money to be obstacles that make physical activity particularly challenging. To overcome these obstacles, I encourage mamas to keep it simple, think outside of the box, and choose movement that is enjoyable and feels good.
Keep it simple:
While both are nice, you don’t need a gym membership to be active and you don’t need a personal trainer to see results; walking, body weight exercises, hiking and dancing are great physical activities that are free! Rather than waiting for the perfect plan to emerge, simply choose one way to move each day and listen to your body along the way!
Think outside of the box:
I am a big fan of setting up moms for success. It can be helpful to include our kids in workouts so we aren’t relying on good naps or things that may be out of our control. I love babywearing workouts as a way to accomplish this! In addition to making a workout more likely, babywearing workouts are a sweet way to bond with Baby. Hiking, dancing, walking and even things like squats are great options that can be compatible with babywearing. For mamas with older children, movement can be as simple as putting on music and dancing together! Games, such as tag, soccer or racing to a tree can be fun ways to move as a family. Playing twister or bending our bodies into shapes and letters can be a creative way to stretch alongside our tiny helpers. Moms are some of the most creative people on Earth; we can use these mothering skills to turn essential self-care into magical memories with our tribe.
Choose fun, feel-good movement:
Keep in mind it takes 9 months to gain pregnancy weight; patience and consistency are critical components of pregnancy and postpartum fitness. Between physical body changes, hormonal shifts, changes in sleep patterns, and just figuring out our new role, now is the time to move only in ways that are enjoyable. Incorporating music or moving with friends can help make physical activity more enjoyable, as well! Set your sights on feel-good movement and celebrate your beautiful, strong, amazing self!
Thanks so much to Kelli for sharing her wisdom and experiences here on the Nested Mama blog!
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.