Hallelujah’s Birth Story

Our Birth Story- a Natural, Birth Center Waterbirth (with a twist!)

Around 4AM on Saturday, January 11, I woke up to contractions around 10-12 minutes apart. They were painful, almost like a bad period- but not unbearable. I got up and took a shower, then came back to bed and laid back down to try and get some rest. Around 8, Matt woke up, and I told him I thought today might be the day! We were excited but also knew that it could be a while, as early labor can last quite a while. We also text my family to tell them to be ready!

Matt’s family had come into town a few days beforehand, so we met his parents for breakfast at a local restaurant, Baugher’s. We told his parents that I was having contractions (not that they needed telling, I was visibly uncomfortable every few minutes) and that we were going to head to the mall after breakfast to do some walking. We all made a pact to keep it quiet about labor starting- I didn’t want phone calls all day or Facebook spam or whatnot. Even people we ran into didn’t have a clue!

Contractions stayed consistent all day- around 10 minutes apart- so we also went out to dinner with Matt’s family. After dinner that night, we headed to Target to do some last minute shopping, then parted ways with our parents with a “see you some time tonight”, assuming that labor would intensify with the night hours and that our little girl would be born tomorrow. We went to bed that night with packed bags and anxious hearts!

By around 5AM on January 12th, my contractions had intensified to about 1 minute long, 6 minutes apart, and stayed that way for about three hours. They were incredibly painful- I was nauseous and couldn’t eat or drink anything. Between each contraction I would fall back to sleep- we were waiting for them to get just a bit closer together before we called the birth center and got on our way- but we alerted our family that the time was near. And then- out of nowhere- the contractions spaced out. A LOT. Suddenly it would be fifteen minutes between, then ten, then half an hour- still painful, just spaced apart. We didn’t know what to think. So we slept as much as we could and waited for things to progress.

This irregularity continued well into the afternoon. Meanwhile, I felt terrible, had awful diarrhea (a typical early labor sign) and couldn’t eat anything. Around 4 or 5, at the encouragement of Matt and my mom, I called the birth center and explained how things had gone throughout the morning, only to be told that it was just ‘false labor’ and that I should try to lay down, eat, etc to get the contractions to stop. Not only was this really frustrating (all I’d been doing all day was laying around, and I was to nauseous to eat) but it just didn’t feel right.

I followed the midwife’s advice and choked down half a sandwich and tried to relax. Pretty soon, things started to change- suddenly I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes, but they were only lasting 30 or 45 seconds. I had Matt call the midwife, who told me to get into the bathtub and stay in for an hour, to hopefully even out my contractions. She said that it sounded like my uterus was tired- who can blame it, it had already been working for 36 hours!

My time in the bathtub was not fun. At all. Contractions spaced to 5min apart, and started lasting longer. They would make me feel like I needed to go to the bathroom, so I painfully got in and out of the tub several times, soaking everything in my path. I would shake uncontrollably when I would get out. Finally, Matt called the midwife and she told us to come in. It was time to get the show on the road!

Matt’s parents packed up our car while he helped me get dressed and dry. He lined the front seat of our car with trash bags (my water still hadn’t broken) and we were on our way. We made what usually is an hour’s drive in about 40 minutes- and boy, was it a rough drive. Contractions every 3-4 minutes in the front seat of a car? I don’t recommend it.

We arrived at the birth center around 10:30 pm to find Linda, a midwife whom I had only met two days before. She took a urine sample and concluded that I was severely dehydrated and undernourished- my body was basically breaking down muscle for calories. She left to get a bag of fluids and I immediately started throwing up. I pretty much puked for the next 5 hours- through 3 bags of fluids and two different anti nausea medications.

Those hours were absolutely horrible. Because of my dehydration, the pain of the contractions was magnified, and I was throwing up between almost every one. Matt alternated between holding a trash can for me and rubbing oils into my back to help with the pain. The cycle was unrelenting and I began to doubt my ability to continue.

Finally, around 3:30 am, Linda suggested taking a low-dose sedative that would allow me to sleep for an hour or so and regain some strength to finish labor. At this point, she checked me and told me that I was about 4.5cm dilated, and that I would likely stay that was while I slept. I didn’t even care- I knew I needed the rest. While I did still feel my contractions and had to get up several times to get sick, I was able to rest for a while, and so was Matt. I am so thankful that this was an option- it honestly saved our labor.

I woke up around 5:30 and got myself to the bathroom, only to have a very strong contraction. I knew immediately- I needed to push. I yelled for Matt to get the midwife (now Susannah, as there had been a shift change while we were resting)- both of whom looked at me like I was crazy- I shouldn’t have progressed during that time at all! But I knew- when your body tells you to push, you can’t do anything else. Sure enough, when Susannah checked me, I was fully dilated.

There was just one problem- there was no nurse in the building at the time. Knowing how close to delivering I was, and that she would need an extra set of trained hands, Susannah told me that I was only 9 cm dilated and that I couldn’t push yet- while she frantically changed into scrubs and called for a nurse to come in. Cue the most miserable 45 minutes of the night- trying not to push when that’s what your body is doing. It’s nearly impossible. It’s painful and frustrating and feels so wrong. I pretty much sobbed into Matt’s shoulder during each contraction. Finally, when I knew I couldn’t continue like that anymore, Matt and Susannah went and filled the jacuzzi tub. It was time!

It took a few contractions to figure out a good rhythm, but eventually I sat myself sideways, with my back on one side of the tub and my feet propped up against the other side, knees up towards my hips. Matt knelt on the other side of the tub, and with each contraction, he held my hands as I pulled against him, almost like a tug-of-war, which allowed me to bear down more on the baby with each push. I honestly didn’t mind pushing- it wasn’t comfortable, but at least it was a task, with an end goal, and I had something to DO besides just try to get through it- like the rest of labor! I started pushing around 6:30, and my water FINALLY broke, in the tub, at about 6:50. At 7, the nurse finally arrived- just in time!

It was an amazing feeling of relief when Matt told me that her head was out- what he didn’t tell me was that it was purple! Susannah checked for the umbilical cord but couldn’t feel it, and on the next push, we assumed that her body would be born. But it wasn’t. Something wasn’t right!

Susannah quickly realized what the problem was- Halle’s shoulders didn’t fully rotate and they were stuck in my pelvis, and pinching the umbilical cord. This left Halle without oxygen, so we needed to get her out quickly! Without explaining this all to me (there was no time) she and Matt pulled me up in the tub and had me push once standing, which didn’t work either. Finally, they yelled that we needed to get on the bed. I was half carried/half drug to the next room- with Halle’s head hanging out of me- sopping wet and thrown on the bed and told to give as hard of a push as I could. I’ll never know what she did, but somehow Susannah maneuvered her shoulders down and Halle was born- 7:10 am, 51 hours after my first contraction.

She was immediately placed on my belly but was dark purple and unresponsive. Susannah and the nurse quickly began rubbing her with warm towels and gave her some quick oxygen, and very shortly she let out a great cry. I heard her make noise fairly quickly, so it wasn’t until after her birth was explained to me that I really understood the gravity of the situation. If it wasn’t for the quick work of the staff of the birth center, we might have lost our girl. I am so grateful for their knowledge and assertiveness.

Meanwhile, Halle stayed on my belly, but because of the damage done to the umbilical cord, we needed to birth the placenta immediately. I was given a shot of pitocin in the leg and it came soon after. Matt cut the cord and Halle was free! She latched on within the first ten minutes and has been feeding well ever since.

Honestly, the moments after her birth are a huge blur- between the drama of the birth itself, then the hurry to birth the placenta, and how extremely exhausted I was, I had trouble keeping myself awake and really comprehending what was happening for the first 15 minutes or so. Slowly, as I rested in the bed, I was able to fully appreciate the moment- she was here! In my arms, and so perfect.

Our Birth Story

We headed home from the birth center just a few short hours later and have been loving life ever since! We are so blessed by our little girl and so privileged to be her parents.

Looking back on our birth, nothing went as planned. The labor pattern was so irregular that we didn’t know what to expect. I got very sick because of being in labor for so long. I basically slept through what is traditionally though of as ‘active labor’. We had wanted Matt to catch Halle, but clearly that couldn’t have happened- same with delaying cord clamping and having a peaceful, gentle water birth. But just because things didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean they didn’t go as they should’ve. We have no regrets about our birthing experience and we are so thankful for the education we received that prepared us to handle the unexpected!

You’re Gonna Eat Your WHAT? The Virtues of Placenta Consumption

PLEASE NOTE: This post does contain an image of my placenta.  If you’d rather not see that, please skip this post! Thanks 🙂Why I Consumed My Placenta- and You Should, Too! That’s right. We’re gonna go there.

I had never heard of placenta consumption until I was added into a lovely group of crunchy mamas in the Baltimore area via Facebook. Thought I have met very few of them, I have learned so much from these women!

One of the topics that is routinely discussed is the benefits of the placenta consumption- whether via encapsulation, cooking in some way, used as a tincture, broth, or raw in smoothies.

The concept is this: humans are virtually the only mammals that don’t routinely eat their placentas after birth. During pregnancy, the placenta is responsible for manufacturing all of the hormones in the body that sustain the pregnancy and prepare the mother’s body to, well, be a mother. After birth, once the placenta is delivered, it’s the body’s job to take over making those hormones again. The problem is that it often takes the body a few weeks to realize that it needs to make these hormones, which can cause significant hormonal problems for the mother- sometimes a mild ‘baby blues’, or as serious as postpartum depression and anxiety.

actual placenta

So what’s the natural solution? We consume the placenta! Yes, it sounds completely crazy, but humans are actually one of only a slim few species of mammals that DON’T routinely consume the placenta- the others being marine mammals whose placentas often drift away in the tides after birth. In fact, in some parts of the world, placenta consumption is completely routine, such as in many parts of Asia. But what are the real benefits?

After birth, the placenta still contains high levels of those great hormones it’s been producing for months. When we consume small portions of the placenta, we are supplementing our body’s plummeting hormone levels during those weeks that it takes to ‘remember’ to produce them again. This aids in milk production, supports good energy levels, balances the emotions, and is a great force in warding off postpartum depression.

So how exactly do you consume the placenta? Well, there are several options, each with it’s own benefits. Depending on who will be preparing the placenta for you (or, if you’re doing it yourself), you may have a few of these options, or just one or two.

Encapsulation via Traditional Chinese Method– In this method, the placenta is steamed along with traditional ‘warming’ herbs, such as ginger and cayenne, which also have a preservative effect. It is then dehydrated and ground into a powder, then put into capsules to take as directed.

Encapsulation via Raw Preparation/ Dehydration– In this method, the placenta is simply cleaned and dehydrated, ground, and placed into capsules. Because it is dehydrated, the pills will last indefinitely. Encapsulation methods are definitely the most common.

Raw/Frozen Consumption– This method involves cleaning/rinsing the placenta, cutting it into small chunks, and freezing them. The typical use for them is then to put them in a smoothie to mask the taste.

Cooked Consumption– Probably the least common, this involves some type of creative recipe like ‘plasagna’ or cooking the placenta like you would a pot roast, or perhaps liver and onions, and consuming it over the week following the birth. If you can stomach it, more power to you.

Tincture– Usually prepared in conjunction with encapsulation, a piece of dehydrated placenta is placed in a container of alcohol and allowed to steep, which releases the medicinal benefits of the placenta. In the long term, taking small amounts of this tincture in water can continue to boost the hormones when mom feels she needs a ‘pick me up’.

Broth– Typically prepared after the Traditional Chinese Method, this involves taking the steaming water from the placenta and freezing it into ice cubes. Over the few weeks following the birth, the nutrient-rich cubes can be placed in drinks (such as iced teas) and consumed for additional benefits.

broth

In my experience in the past few weeks, this is one of the most worthwhile investments a mom can make for her postpartum health. We chose to incapsulate via the Traditional Chinese Method, as well as making a broth (which sadly I never used) and a tincture. My milk came in within 3 hours of taking my first dose of pills. My energy level has been through the roof (I can’t wait to start exercising again!), my mood has been great, and every day I get comments about how great I seem to be doing with my recovery.

I actually didn’t take the pills for two days because I came down with a cold, and you are supposed to discontinue the pills until you are well (they can strengthen the sickness). Those two days were the worst of my postpartum recovery so far- I was exhausted and irritable. Even my husband commented that I seemed different after I explained that I hadn’t taken the pills in two days- the difference was really noticeable!

If you’re considering placenta encapsulation, I would encourage you to check out placentabenefits.info and find a certified placenta encapsulationist in your area. If you’re local, check out my friend Lauren at  www.agrowingbelly.com!

Why You Should Delay Baby’s First Bath

Why You should Delay Baby's First BathOne thing that has been especially entertaining about my pregnancy is watching my husband’s ideas of childbirth become completely shattered. I can’t really blame him- when your only exposure to birth is movies where women’s water breaks in the grocery store with a dramatic flood, birth happens, and they are handed a perfectly-colored six month old baby, learning about how birth ACTUALLY happens can come as quite a shock.

I’ll never forget sitting in one of our first birth classes a few months back. We watched an empowering film of a natural water birth, at the end of which the mother pulls up a tiny blue baby covered in thick, white goop. Everyone ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as the teacher shuts off the film- the women, that is. All the dads in the room are stunned to silence, until one finally pipes up:

“Is that baby supposed to look like that? That baby was as blue as a smurf!”

Another dad: “Yeah, and what was that gunk all over it?”

And so began the fathers’ education in natural childbirth. Though I did understand the blueness (and tininess) of the baby, I did find myself wondering about that white stuff. What was it’s purpose? If a baby is born with it, should we get rid of it?

In short, no! Babies build up this beautiful, nutritious coating called the vernix while they are in the womb. It not only helps to keep them warm, but helps protect their bodies from getting all pruney from their amniotic fluid. In addition, the vernix has immunity-building properties, which help protect the baby after birth. It is also moisturizing and soothing for the skin, which is being exposed to air and strange fabrics for the first time. Perhaps most amazingly of all, the vernix actually helps the baby regulate their own body temperature- something everyone seems to be concerned about with a newborn!

So this stuff is great, but what do with it? Rub it in as much as possible! Don’t wash it off of your baby- instead, help the baby soak up those great immunity and skin protecting benefits.

Some other reasons to delay baby’s first bath:
…messes with the baby’s body temperature
…can interrupt the bonding process between mom and baby, particularly if done by someone else
…can elevate baby’s blood pressure and trigger stress hormones

How long until I get a squeaky clean baby? This is really up to you. Generally, it’s suggested to wait at least 24 hours in order to allow for good bonding to be established with mama and for the benefits of the vernix to soak into baby’s skin. The birth center we are using doesn’t even routinely give baths- they say that’s mama’s job at home in a few days! However, it isn’t uncommon for some families to wait a week or longer before bathing baby- and then, they will only bathe baby with water. Really, you have to decide what you are comfortable with and what is best for you and your little one!

Green Your Life: It’s Easier Than You Think!

I recently had the pleasure of reading Emily McClements’ new book, Green Your Life, and I absolutely loved it! Emily does what many authors in this field fail to do: not only gives a great overview of steps to take to make greener choices in your life, but explains WHY we should make those choices without becoming overwhelming.

Green Your LIfe: Get Started Today!

Emily’s book is well-researched but approachable, practical, and attainable. What I love the most about the book is that she is very honest, both about her subject and how she approaches it within her household. For example, she writes that LED lights are the most eco-friendly choice, and that buying fair-trade clothing is the way to go, but gracefully admits that both of these choices are usually outside the realm of her family’s budget. Being in a similar financial situation myself, I found this very encouraging. I think this really hits on the underlying theme of Emily’s book: be informed, and do the best you can for your family and for creation.

What’s more is that Emily’s book is full of easy, practical ideas that I had never thought of- and I’ve been around the block as far as reading and learning about green living goes! For example, Emily suggests that we take an inventory of our waste for a few days, and then identify trends and seek to create less waste through those trends. For me, I realized that, while I am great at recycling anything that comes through my kitchen, things in our bathrooms and bedrooms automatically just go into the trash. But, if I invest in a small recycling bin for each of those areas (even an old shoebox would do the trick) I can significantly cut down on the amount of recyclables that are leaving my home in the trash can each month! It’s great ideas like these that make Emily’s book really stand out.

Whether you are a seasoned green living veteran, or just starting out with making green choices, Green Your Life offers a comprehensive overview of the many areas in which we out to be examining our choices and taking care of creation. Here’s just some of the subjects covered in the book:

Cleaning Supplies
Cloth Diapering
Grocery Shopping
Beauty and Hygiene Items
Simplifying Your Stuff

Green Your Life: A Guide to Natural, Eco-Friendly Living walks you through making simple changes to your home and lifestyle that can have a big impact on the world around you. Plus, as a thank you for purchasing the book, and to give you extra support, encouragement, motivation, and community to help you make changes in your life, Emily is providing a free membership to the Green Your Life Challenge she is running in February, a $14.99 value!

In just 4 weeks you will:

-Purge your bathroom cabinet of toxic and harmful personal care products.
-Choose beauty and personal care products for your family that are safe and effective.
-Make your own homemade green cleaners.
-Clean your home with non-toxic cleaners that really work and are safe to use around your family.
-Begin making simple and easy changes toward more real food and less processed, conventional foods
-Use more reuseable products and fewer disposable ones around your home.
-Work to eliminate and remove toxins all around your home.
-Determine how you and your family can make an impact on the world around you!

Read more about Green Your Life the ebook and the Green Your Life Challenge here.

GYL Challenge Collage

This post is part of a Blog Hope to celebrate the release of Green Your Life: A Guide to Natural, Eco-Friendly Living. Check out what other bloggers are saying about the great new book:

Jan. 8 – Ninth Street Notions
Jan. 9  – Red and Honey
Jan. 10 – Running Family
Jan. 12 – Five Little Homesteaders
Jan. 13 – My Blessings Homeschool
Jan. 14 – Vintage Kids | Modern World
Jan. 15 – The Humbled Homemaker
Jan. 17 – Accidentally Green
Jan. 20 – Home With Purpose
Jan. 21 – Intentionally Simple
Jan. 22 – Feed Me Mama
Jan. 23 – Saving by Making
Jan. 24 – More Than Mundane
Jan. 27 – My Humble Kitchen
Jan. 28 – Sorta Crunchy
Jan. 29 – Simply Rebekah
Jan. 30 – A Delightful Home
Jan. 31 – Gidget Goes Home

How to Keep Your Baby Warm (Don’t Overthink It!)

If you read my previous post detailing the contents of my natural birth bag, you may have noticed that one “crucial” element was missing: a hat for the baby! In addition, our birth plan details that our daughter should never be put under a warmer. Wondering why?

Yes, these decisions were completely intentional! While newborn caps may be cute, and warmers seem necessary, the truth is that nature’s design for regulating your newborn’s body temperature is much more convenient: YOU keep your baby born!

Most term babies are born with a waxy, cheese-like substance coating their bodies called vernix. This protective layer coats the baby while they are in utero, yes- but don’t wipe it off just yet! As we discussed last week when we talked about delaying the first bath, the vernix is great to help moisturize the baby’s skin, contains protective immunity-boosting properties, and, yes- it helps regulate the baby’s body temperature.

In addition, practicing immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby will allow your body temperature to regulate theirs. This is, without a doubt, the most effective way to keep your baby’s temperature where it should be, in addition to facilitating the beautiful bonding that happens within the first few hours and days after birth.

Speaking of bonding- lose that hat! There’s actually a chemical bonding that takes place when the mother of a newborn smells the head of her new baby. This smell triggers the release of a high amount of oxytocin, the mothering hormone, which stimulates bonding but also stimulates uterine contractions that will expel the placenta and decrease hemorrhage risk, as well as signal the production of breastmilk. Now, why would you want to cheat yourself out of such a powerful whiff of that cute little head?

Of course, when you go to take your baby home from your place of birth (especially if it’s cold outside!) a hat is perfectly fine and may even be necessary. But in the sensitive window after birth, snuggle skin-to-skin with your new little one and forget all about those extra measures. Celebrate the beauty of nature as you bond with your baby!

An Easy Decision: Delayed Cord Clamping

Why You Should Delay Cord ClampingIt seems like all of these ‘newborn decision’ posts end up with parents in a face-off with their mainstream healthcare providers- whether it’s avoiding vaccines, eye goop, or circumcision, you end up on the other side of ‘normal’ and nobody wants to make it easy for you. However, one of the easiest things you can do for your newborn baby, that will definitely make them healthier, that almost NO health practitioner will object to, is delay the clamping of their umbilical cord!

What exactly is the purpose of this? Well, when a baby is born, the placenta is still pumping blood to the baby through their umbilical cord. When the cord is immediately clamped and cut, approximately one-third to one-half of the baby’s total blood volume is still in the placenta and cord- resulting in higher instances of anemia, babies that have trouble ‘pinking up’, and a slew of other issues that are completely avoidable.

How does it work? In most cases, after the baby is born, the cord is simply allowed to stop pulsing naturally (no squeezing or forcing the blood in)- this usually happens around ten minutes after birth. This ensures that the baby has received as much of their blood volume as possible- more iron, more stem cells, more white blood cells. Then the cord is cut and clamped like normal.

There are some families that choose to have what is called a ‘lotus birth’, in which the placenta remains attached until the umbilical cord falls off naturally. The placenta is usually treated with oils and herbs to keep it smelling nice (it starts to deteriorate rather quickly). This low-intervention way of allowing the baby to enter into the world is a great choice for some parents, but for others can be quite a hassle. Personally, I think that delayed cord clamping gives parents the best of both worlds: the baby receives all the good stuff, but you don’t have to tote an extra organ around for a week or so!

Now, if you’ve been to any type of baby store- be it maternity clothes shopping or picking our nursery items- chances are you’ve had your hands shoved full of information about cord blood banking. This new technology allows parents of newborns to save some of their baby’s umbilical cord blood (which is rich in stem cells) in a bank in case the child (or a sibling) should come down with some type of life-threatening illness and need advanced medicine that may be furthered by set cell usage. The process is relatively simple, but very expensive. Cord blood can also be donated to blood banks for other children.

So obviously, this blood is GOOD STUFF- that’s why banking it is becoming so popular! But don’t we want our babies to be as strong as possible as they start their life outside the womb? Having a sufficient blood volume, especially chock full of that rich cord blood, seems like the best way to do this.

Secondly, it is still completely possible to bank cord blood AFTER allowing the umbilical cord to stop pulsing. There will still be a certain amount of blood left in the cord and the placenta, which is usually more than sufficient for what is necessary to bank. Stem cell research has proven to be very valuable in the medical world already, and certainly could have amazing benefits for our children’s future- if you can afford it, I say go for it! But not until after you give baby some blood back 🙂

What’s With the Eye Goop?

Does Your Newborn Really Need Eye Goop? What You Need To Know About ErythromycinThere are a number of things that happen in very quick succession once your baby is born- especially if you aren’t informed enough to say no ahead of time! One of those is that your newborn’s eyes will immediately be smeared with a antibiotic cream called erythromycin.

A long time ago (we’re talking last century), it becomes increasingly common for newborns to develop conjunctivitis very soon after being born, and sometimes even to go blind. Doctors recognized this and began immediately treating the eye of newborns with silver nitrate, which significantly decreased the amount of infections (silver nitrate burns, however, and was eventually replaced with erythromycin). Eventually, doctors were able to make a connection between mothers with chlamydia and gonorrhea and the infants developing conjunctivitis- a breakthrough that, again, significantly decreased the likelihood of infection.

What are the risks of erythromycin? Health-wise, the risks of the treatment itself are negligible. Any amount of antibiotics can be seen as a hindrance the the natural development of the infant’s immune system. Erythromycin also occasionally causes eye irritation. However, the biggest risk of this treatment is that it messes with the infant’s already subpar vision- which can be detrimental to the bonding process so soon after birth. Babies can only see within a foot or so in front of them, and this treatment makes even that vision blurry!

So, if the connection between these STDs and the infections is so obvious, why is it that newborns are routinely dosed with erythromycin? Simply put, it’s easier to just give it to every baby. Is it necessary? Yes, if you have one of the applicable STDs. But what if you don’t?

STD screening is routine in pregnancy, no matter if you see a midwife or an obstetrician, and they will obviously tell you if you test positive. However, if you are negative and in a monogamous relationship with someone who is also negative, there is virtually no reason to allow your child to be dosed with erythromycin. Put it in your birth plan, discuss it with your caregiver and nurses when you arrive at your place of birth. If you don’t want it to happen, don’t let it!

Does Your Newborn Need the Vitamin K Shot?

Does your newborn need the Vitamin K shot?

One of the big, quick decisions to be made for a newborn is whether or not to administer the Vitamin K shot. This usually happens immediately after birth, with the cutting of the cord and the bathing and the Hep B and the erythromycin and all the other hubbub that you may not even notice, it happens so quickly. In many states, Vitamin K is required, but parents do technically have the ‘option to refuse’.

Why is Vitamin K given at birth? Vitamin K is essential to help the blood clot. Newborns don’t make it until around day 8 of their lives, so they are at greater risk for internal bleeding from illness or injury during that sensitive first week. In addition, there is a rare but very serious blood clotting disorder (about 1 in 10,000 births) that is prevented by this simple vitamin K shot. In addition, blood clotting is essential if you have a son who is going to be circumcised- making the shot very worthwhile.

Why might you opt out of the Vitamin K shot? Honestly, it may not be all that necessary for your child. It’s only been routine for a little over 20 years, and humanity was just fine without it. If you’ve had a uneventful birth, are planning on nesting at home for the first few weeks, are having a girl (or a boy who won’t be circumcised), and are alright with the risks of the rare blood clotting disorder, you could probably forgo the shot without too much worry.

What are the risks of the shot? This is definitely a different tier of risk than vaccines, which is why it’s honestly been a difficult decision for me to tackle. There aren’t crazy side effects from Vitamin K, but it does put a lot of strain on the liver, as the amount of Vitamin K is a lot for the little body to process. That being said, this increases the babe’s risk for jaundice, which nobody likes but isn’t all that uncommon anyway. In addition, Vitamin K is given as an intramuscular injection, which is effective to deliver a large dose, but isn’t a great way to see all of that Vitamin K absorbed (orally being the most effective), which then results in extra strain on the liver as well.

Anything else to this story? Actually, yes. I have friends who did a lot of research into this subject for their two boys- they wanted to forgo Vitamin K but still circumcise. What they realized is that, in Jewish law, the Lord mandated that boys be circumcised on the eighth day- the same day that the body automatically starts producing it’s own Vitamin K supply. Coincidence? I don’t think so! It’s hard for me to think that babies would be born deficient in something that is necessary for them- I believe in better design than that 🙂

So, what are the options?

-Get the shot. It’s quick and it’ll definitely save you conversations with your care providers, and you can rest easy about risks like injury or brain bleeds. Your babe will likely have some degree of jaundice, so do prepare for that battle if you decide to get the shot. However, your baby may not jaundice at all and that may be the last you hear of it.

-Get the oral supplement. Your care provider may be able to recommend something, or you can try to find one online. This is a good option, as you can control the amount and gradually supplement, but it’s hard to come by. This is a popular option on Europe, but I have been cautioned against it as it is apparently quite bitter, which results in the babe spitting most of it out. Additionally, the intervals it is given in don’t make a ton of sense- it is typically a series of 3, with 2 of the doses coming after infants are producing their own vitamin K at sufficient levels.

-Supplement yourself (via actual supplement or food supplementation) and breastfeed like a champ. There are debates as to whether or not Vitamin K actually crosses the placenta, but if mom eats a Vitamin K rich diet, it will come through in her milk. This is a great breakdown of foods that are rich in Vitamin K: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/food-sources-of-vitamin-k.php

-Refuse the supplement. It’s only about a week before the babe will start producing the Vitamin K themselves, and at that point, your worries can be over. In a typical birth, your need for Vitamin K will likely be very low. If you do have a slightly more complicated birth, homeopathic arnica can be used to reduce bruising and swelling.

Ultimately, this is a decision that is best handled in conjunction with your care provider and knowing the details of your specific birth. Honestly, I am not 100% what we will do for our baby- I am prepared with arnica and eating a good Vitamin K diet, but if her birth is traumatic, I won’t hesitate to supplement if recommended by my midwife.

Should You Give Your Newborn the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Should You Give Your Newborn the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

I don’t know about you, but I have this idea that when a baby is born, they are so…innocent. Untainted by anything. Perfect. Whole. While in some respects this is certainly true, in my head I know that babies are actually profoundly affected by the lifestyle of their mama during pregnancy- her habits, exercise, diet, things she was exposed to, etc. Still, the idea that a baby is born and is exactly the way they should be really resonates in my heart.

I think it’s this thought that makes it so difficult for me to blindly swallow so many of the procedures that are routinely performed on our newborns these days. I’m thankful for this, too- because with a little research, I’ve realized that many things aren’t as necessary as the mainstream medical world might have us believe- in fact, some can even be detrimental to our baby’s health. The Hepatitis B vaccination, routinely given immediately after birth, seems to be no exception.

Hepatitis B is a blood- and body fluid-borne disease that can be transmitted from mother to baby during birth, or later in life through contact with blood or from a sexual partner. It mainly effects the liver, and has symptoms very similar to the flu- so similar that some adults will contract Hepatitis B as adults and not even know. So why is every infant given this vaccine at birth? Is it really necessary? This is the big question.

Hepatitis B is one of the many diseases that mothers are routinely tested for during pregnancy, meaning that if a mother has tested negatively (assuming she has been monogamous through her pregnancy) she has no chance of passing the disease on to her baby. After the chance of contracting the disease during birth, the chances of a child contracting Hepatitis B during childhood is slim to none- it’s not until an individual reaches an age where they could be engaging in risky behavior (whether sexual or drug related) that their chance of contracting the disease goes up.

As with any vaccine, there are many reasons to be cautious when considering giving the Hepatitis B shot to your child- especially if you do not have the disease. Recently, the Hepatitis B vaccination was linked to multiple deaths in Chinese infants, and has been connected to various severe reactions in the United States as well.

So, should you give your newborn the Hepatitis B vaccine?

It might be a good idea if:
…you have tested positive for Hepatitis B
…you have engaged in sexual activity with someone who may have Hepatitis B since you’ve been tested
…you may have your child in a public daycare where they could possible be exposed through biting, etc (even here, you could delay a few years)

You could feel safe about holding off if:
…you tested negatively for Hepatitis B
…you did not engage in any risky behavior since testing
…you know that your child will not be exposed through other things (like daycare)

If all else fails:
…know that you can have your teen get the Hepatitis B vaccine later in life if you worry about their behavior
…you can always give a vaccine, but you can’t take one back once it’s been done

High Protein with NO Powder? You Got It!

One of the best arguments I have ever heard for a whole-foods diet is the Gorilla theory. Gorillas are the strongest mammals pound-for-pound on earth, and yet, they eat a completely vegan diet! Next time someone gives you a hard time about your diet, or questions the validity of (many) athletes who choose a plant-based diet, just throw that fact their way!

High Protein, No Powder:  Protein Bars and Smoothies Made with Real Food

While Tiffany Terczak’s new book, High Protein, No Powder, isn’t exclusively a plant-based recipe book, it is a really eye-opening read to see just how much protein can be packed into whole foods-based smoothies and protein bars! Tiffany’s recipes are not only based with accessible, affordable ingredients, but they are chock full of nutrients- in stark contrast with traditional protein powder-based shakes or ‘proprietary blend’ bars, which are full of chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients!

While I haven’t spent too much time making homemade protein bars (though I do every once in a while) I am definitely no stranger to the world of smoothies- my normal diet consists of a fresh juice-based smoothie each morning for breakfast. However delicious they usually are, Tiffany’s inventive recipes have me SO excited to get back into the groove of smoothie making- with a much higher nutrient density, thanks to these powerhouse recipes!

My favorite idea from the book is to add cottage cheese to a smoothie. I just discovered that I like cottage cheese since I’ve been pregnant- and the ‘cheesecake’ smoothie recipes, featuring this protein powerhouse, sound divine. Another super inventive way to sneak protein into your smoothie is by adding beans. Yes, beans! They add a creamy consistency and don’t augment the delicious flavor, either.

The best part about High Protein, No Powder is that the book explains not just the ‘what’ of real food protein, but the why. Tiffany breaks down the health risks of popular protein sources, ingredients lists of bars and powders alike, and shows you exactly why it’s better to source your protein from real food. The book is filled with many charts that detail the protein content of different foods, as well as photos of each recipe!

If you’re in a rut with commercial protein bars and powders, or you’re looking for inspiration to add more protein to your diet, this is definitely a great book to get you started. The recipes are easily adaptable for dairy-free and vegan diets (each smoothie includes a vegan recipe version) so don’t be scared off by my love for cottage cheese!

If you purchase the book this week, there are amazing discounts and special additions available to you! I have to recommend the ‘whole pie’ package, which includes the book PDF, Kindle files, printables, an additional recipe book about homemade ingredients, and a year’s subscription to all new recipes as well- all this for just $10 through January 14th! You can also get the PDF only for just $5– so worth it for the 150 pages of nutritious goodness you’ll get from this book. Enjoy!