It's World Breastfeeding Week! I'm thrilled to partner with Covenant Family Solutions to share a guest blog on how and where to get the support you need for your breastfeeding journey.
Head on over to Covenant Family Solutions Blog to read on!
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.
***update *** I've recently learned that Madriella removed their advisory board, including the midwife who created their rigorous curriculum. They also closed the Madriella-sponsored Facebook group, which created the rich sense of community support when I went through the program. If you are considering their program, I encourage you to make sure it is the right fit for you by asking any questions you need directly to the organization as this review may no longer speak to the current experience of students in the program.
Are you considering becoming a doula and completely overwhelmed by the options for training and certification? I know I was when I started looking into the education I wanted to build my skill set as a doula.
Because I field this question so frequently from prospective doulas, I'm sharing a bit about my experience with training and certification with Madriella Doula Network. (And if my review makes you jazzed to get started, you can use my affiliate code* TOMLINSON154 to save $50 on the Professional Membership - woohoo!!)
If you've already made a foray into the many large doula groups on social media, you'll know that people often feel VERY strongly about their choice of training and/or certification program. While I am pleased with my training and experience, I tend to be a little more tempered in my recommendations because I think that your individual fit with a program is more important than my personal experience. You want a program that is the right fit for YOU.
So when asked about my recommendations the first thing I point out is that in my community, doulas have trained and certified with a variety of different certifying bodies. Because the doula industry isn’t regulated, my general recommendation is to look closely at the philosophies and method of training offered by those that interest you and find one that aligns with your values as well as learning style.
As I searched various doula programs, Madriella's philosophy resonated with me. (You can read about their philosophy, code of ethics, and history here.) Specifically, I like that the organization didn't seem invested in the divisive language that I found in some other programs. I also appreciated the efforts made to keep their training affordable.
When I dug into the program, I was thrilled to learn that the Professional Membership included not one but TEN courses including birth doula, postpartum doula, professional development, massage for labor, breastfeeding education, childbirth education, loss and bereavement, and placenta specialist (note: this course does not teach encapsulation). More recently, Madriella added two more courses to help better prepare doulas to meet the diverse needs of their clients: Understanding Developmental Disabilities and Young Parent Support Specialist.
If you know me, you know I am a serious serial learner, so the opportunity to have all of that knowledge accessible to me was a huge draw. A little over a year into my professional membership, I've completed five of those courses, and I'm currently in the midst of my sixth.
I also wanted to know that the courses were rigorous, and I would emerge from my training with the knowledge and skill I needed to feel confident in this work. Madriella's curriculum is written by a midwife and the birth course, in particular, is a major deep dive into what you need to know.
Because I was an avid reader about birth before my doula training, I wasn't expecting to be challenged as much as I was - but I was certainly pleased that this was the case. Because Madriella requires all members to complete the first three courses in order - birth, postpartum, and professional development - the courses naturally build on each other. Once you complete those three, you can move onto any of the other courses in any order you wish. I found this really helpful, because it naturally developed my knowledge and meant the other courses didn't feel repetitive.
When you look at doula training programs, it is important to consider your learning style and what course design can help you succeed. For me, reading and writing is my jam, and Madriella's course design works well for this. If I was a different kind of learner, however, Madriella may have not been the best fit - so here is where I really emphasize knowing yourself and what works best for you.
The other thing I needed from any training program was flexibility, and because Madriella is self-paced it fit this need quite well. As the primary homeschooling parent to three little ones, I knew I'd be fitting in this training into the nooks and crannies of life. Because I wrote my dissertation that way after having my eldest, I knew I could make it work if the program was flexible enough.
The flip side of that, of course, is that a self-paced program requires motivation on the part of the learner to complete it. Here, Madriella's online community can be a great help in finding accountability partners or engaging in the community as you move through the program.
In a nutshell, a rigorous program, a supportive community, and a self-paced course design made Madriella the right fit for me.
Is Madriella Doula Network the right fit for you? Jot down my affiliate code* TOMLINSON154 and you can save $50 on the Professional Membership - how awesome!
Got more questions about my experience? Feel free to reach out! And, I'll be following this blog detailing my experiences with another doula training organization - Bebo Mia - soon.
*One of the ways Madriella succesfully keeps the program so affordable is by utilizing affiliate advertising. Please note that as an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you use my code to save on the membership.
When I talk about baby or toddler sleep with sleep consultation clients, we always talk about parenting.
While the larger baby sleep industry may want to convince us that the path to rest as a parent is paved with an array of swaddles, self-rocking bassinets, and baby sleep training programs "guaranteed" to make our babies and toddlers not need parental support 12 out of 24 hours of the day, I believe that any approach to baby sleep worth having begins with and fully supports a heart-centered, holistic look at what truly matters to each family.
So, we talk about parenting.
We don't talk quick fixes. We don't talk gadgets. We don't talk training.
We talk parenting. But, what does that mean?
We talk long-view, big-picture family goals. We talk about how to support those goals in the here and now with how we respond to our children day and night.
We work to move away from a child vs. parent approach to sleep, one in which we see children as standing in the way of rest and self-care for the parent.
We work to see the myriad of possibilities for finding rest, getting self-care, and supporting our children through the phases where they need us intensely day and night.
Because, that's the wonderful, exhausting, bring-you-to-your knees beauty of parenting - it is day and night and forever and for always.
When I offer workshops and work one-on-one with clients, I support my clients' vision for who they want to be as parents and the values that shape their parenting choices. I provide the information they need to make choices that feel authentic to who they are as people and who they hope to be as parents. And, I provide them support such that they feel confident parenting from a place of love rather than fear.
So, yes, we talk sleep. But, we always talk parenting.
Looking to talk parenting and sleep? Join Nested Mama's next sleep workshop or schedule a one-on-one consultation. Want more on pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting? Connect with Nested Mama on Facebook and Instagram.
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.
Life after baby with older siblings presents its owns particular joys and challenges.
In truth, when my third was born with siblings aged 2 and 4 years, I make the joke that every newborn should come with a 4 year-old. She was so capable and helpful, rocking the cradle so I could take a shower, finding the pacifier when I dropped it, grabbing a clean diaper when needed, and more.
One of the biggest challenges for me newly postpartum was finding ways to meet my older kiddos needs for boisterous activity, when I felt like snuggling in with little one and staying put.
Here are a couple free resources we make use of now when indoor fun is needed that work great for older siblings with a new little one in the house.
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Free on YouTube, this channel combines narratives your kiddos may recognize with easy to follow yoga poses. And, the channel also offers some guided meditations, which can be great if you need to bring the level back down to calm in the house.
These playful combinations of movement and rhymes or song can definitely make a dent in the wiggles. And, I've found myself busting out some of these when we are waiting in line or in a less than ideal situation and my kids need to focus their energy - some of our favorites include Purple Stew and Pop see ko.
Having a short list of simple games to play can make it easier to snuggle baby in the rocker or carrier and keep kids occupied. Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, Freeze Dance, and any other childhood favorites can be great tools.
Looking for other tools to keep older sibs entertained? Read about how we use audio stories and art tutorials in our postpartum toolbox.
Looking for more support in the days and weeks postpartum? Head on over to Nested Mama and learn more about in person and online support services.
When it comes to postpartum life, I'm all about the food. Nutrient dense, delicious food that can be easily prepared or, even better, brought to you by friends and family.
Last week, I shared with you some ideas for how to plan you postpartum food support before baby arrives. Today, I'm sharing one of our family's favorite easy slow cooker meals that I turn to frequently, even though I'm some 30 months postpartum myself!
Good food that can be made easily and fuel your family with good things never goes out of style, I find.
As you look at the ingredients, know that I share our favorite vegetable variation in the recipe, but what makes this recipe truly AMAZING is its flexibility. Have carrots instead of sweet potatoes? A squash? Regular potatoes? Zucchini? Like to add kale or spinach? All are fine with this recipe - just sub the veggies you have on hand and make it work!
Slow Cooker Lentil Chili
Inspired by a Zippy Lentil Chili Recipe from Weelicious
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-7 hours. Top with cheese, guac, or a few sweet potato chips to add a nice crunch.
Love sweet potatoes as much as I do? Check out these great postpartum recipes.
Wondering what in the world is a postpartum doula? Happy to share the answer to this question and more over on the Doulas of Iowa City Blog today!
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.