DO ONE THING: Cutting Artificial Sweeteners

CUTTING ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS | do one thing series

Please note: I am not a doctor, nor have I received formal medical training. I’m just a mom, passionate about natural health who wants to share what she knows! This post contains affiliate links- thanks for supporting my family!

I often have conversations with people who tell me how overwhelmed they are with eating healthy and making responsible dietary changes. I admit, it takes a lot of adjusting (both mentally and physically) to arrive at a healthy lifestyle, but there are many small changes that can be made to add up to a cumulative healthy change. This week I’m beginning the new ‘Do One Thing’ series, teaching you one change per week to make for the good of your health. This week, we’re starting big: cutting out artificial sweeteners.

Calorie counting is both a blessing an a curse to our generation’s health: while many people have trimmed significant weight by counting their calories and adding in exercise, it is often accomplished through the introduction of low-calorie or calorie-free diet foods that are chock full of chemical additives and artificial sweeteners. While this *might* give you the short-term positive payoff of lost weight, it’s wreaking havoc on your body in the long term.

See, when we consume a food that has been sweetened artificially, our body tastes the sweetness and begins to produce insulin to break down sugars. However, because sugar isn’t present, this leaves lots of excess insulin circulating in our bodies, which then leads us to crave sugar even more! So, that diet soda you have with your lunch might be directly related to that candy bar you were craving later that afternoon. Not exactly helping you lose weight like you thought, huh?

Another often overlooked issue with artificial sweeteners is that they are artificial! You are flooding your body with chemicals (many linked to very troublesome side effects- see this FDA release) that you aren’t meant to process. This puts extra pressure on your liver, creates disruption in the digestive tract, and throws the body’s natural flora off balance.

So, what’s the solution? Stay away from artificial sweeteners! Here’s what I suggest:

-Swap diet sodas for all-natural ones sweetened with cane sugar (preferably organic)

-Sweeten your tea or coffee with cane sugar, coconut sugar, real maple syrup, or honey. Avoid any ‘sugar free’ syrups or flavorings, and don’t be fooled by agave- it’s highly processed and likely worse for you than plain sugar.

-Avoid chemical-laden low calorie diet foods and eat real foods instead, like fruits and vegetables.

Have you cut out artificial sweeteners? Did you notice a difference in your health? What was the most difficult transition for you?

5 Reasons to Eat Seasonally

5 Reasons to Eat With The Seasons

While I have always been a lover of good food, it wasn’t until college that I really became aware of the many issues surrounding the food industry and tried to make positive changes in my own life. One of the first changes I decided to make was really making a conscious effort to eat with the seasons- which, doing my undergrad in South Florida, wasn’t actually all that difficult. It wasn’t until I moved back up north three years ago that I really learned just how important eating with the seasons can be!

The basic premise is this: rather than going to your supermarket and picking up whatever produce you desire on a certain day, you learn what is already growing in your region during that time of year and stick to those items instead- better yet, get them straight from the local farmer! Given that the produce is able to be grown locally, chances are that the food will have travelled less of a distance, be grown to better standards (hopefully organically), and the chances of corruption or unfair business practices are far less than buying out of season produce.

Follow me over to the BULK HERB STORE BLOG to read my top 5 reasons to eat with the seasons!

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

TED Talk Tuesday: Can We Eat To Starve Cancer?

Today’s TED Talk may be a little more academic than most, but I found it to be fascinating.  It’s no secret that diet is a contributor to cancer prevalence and healing (among many other things), but the science in Mr. Li’s presentation makes a convincing argument that we should really be examining the power in what we are eating! Enjoy 🙂

Fermented Salsa (Fermentation is the New Black)

Fermented Salsa: What? How? Why?Fermentation is the new black in the health food world. I’m just as guilty as anyone else- if you tell me something is fermented, or could possibly be fermented, I’m automatically giving it more credit as a health food and I’m gonna try to make it myself. Kombucha, kefir, you name it- let me have it!

So, why do we like fermented stuff so much? It’s amazingly good for you! Fermented foods and beverages contain large amounts of enzymes, antioxidants, and friendly bacterias that colonize the gut and promote healthy digestion. These beneficial bacteria also help to balance out any type of bad bacteria that may be colonizing the gut, as well. My midwife actually recommended that I consume fermented foods daily, not only to aid with digestion, but to prevent pregnancy-related infections, such as Group B Strep.

When I ran across a few fermented salsa recipes on Pinterest, I knew that this was a concept I couldn’t pass up. My countertops have been brimming with late summer tomatoes, hot peppers, and a stash of local onions and garlic for the winter- I had all the ingredients already! So one afternoon, I set to work making homemade salsa to ferment.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

3-4 organic tomatoes
3-4 organic peppers (mild or hot, based on your taste)
1 organic onion
2-3 cloves organic garlic
Juice of 2 citruses (lime, lemon, or one of each)
2 tablespoons of sea salt
*Optional: cilantro, cumin, cayenne pepper powder, to taste

Chop all ingredients to desired texture and mix together. If desired, pulse in a food processor or blender to a smoother consistency. Store in a glass jar, leaving some room at the top, and leave on the kitchen counter for 2-4 days to allow fermentation to take place. You may even be able to see it- mine looked a little bit fizzy! Then, store in the fridge until it’s gone. It won’t take long 🙂

This salsa operates on the most basic type of fermentation: lactic acid. The salt simply transforms the ingredients into probiotic goodness! I honestly could barely taste the difference between this salsa and my regular homemade salsa. Maybe a little bit more tangy, a little bit fizzy or vinegar-y, but nothing too crazy. I left mine for 3 days, so maybe if I’d left it longer, it would’ve been stronger.

Have you ever fermented anything at home? Kraut, Kimchi, Pickles, Kombucha, Yogurt? Have any idea for something you could ferment? Share it with us!

thehomesteadinghippy.com

Easy Detoxifying and Healing Morning Elixir

Detoxifying and Healing Morning ElixirOne of the things that I miss the most while being pregnant is the opportunity to go through regular periods of cleansing and detoxing. I love doing cleanses- they make my body feel more efficient, lighten the load on the digestive system, clear the brain, and give me lots of energy. Full detoxing isn’t recommended during pregnancy because of how the body can react to toxins being pulled into the bloodstream (and therefore possibly reaching the baby), so lighter, more ‘everyday’ detox measures have to be put into place to maintain health and stop the accumulations of toxins and waste!

One of the easiest ways to keep your body clean is to make yourself a light, detoxifying morning drink. There are many, many variations of this (see my friend Kaitlin’s over at Eat Klean), but this is my favorite, as it has very intentionally selected ingredients to treat a variety of health issues and aid in detoxing. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but I look forward to it at this point, and I know it’s doing my body a world of good!

YOU’LL NEED:

Fresh juice of 1 organic lemon
1-2 tablespoons Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
Dash of cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients in the bottom of your favorite mug, top with freshly boiled water that has been cooled to room temperature. Stir until all ingredients are combined and enjoy!

WHAT YOU’RE GETTING:

Lemon Juice– Full of vitamin C (which is especially important in the winter months), lemon juice boosts the immune system. In addition, lemon alkalizes the body, which is proven to inhibit cancer growth! Warm lemon juice also acts as a mild diuretic that will stimulate digestion. Citrus in general is touted for it’s ability to awaken the body and give energy, making it a great addition to this morning beverage!

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar– A miracle worker, apple cider vinegar is good for anything from preventing heartburn (huge for me during pregnancy!) to treating fungal skin infections. Taken internally in this morning beverage, it helps recolonize the gut with good probiotics (hence the RAW acv being best), and helps fight bacterial infections and improves dental health due to it’s antibiotic properties. It also acts as an expectorant, which comes in handy if you’re suffering from any type of congestion or cough. *note: the photo shows Trader Joe’s brand ACV.  This is a pasteurized brand, all I had in the house at the time! My favorite raw brand is Bragg’s 🙂

Raw Honey– Raw honey is full of beneficial enzymes and antioxidants that aid in cleansing and has very strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, which keep any threatening sicknesses at bay and will shorten the duration of anything you’re dealing with currently. Raw honey is also full of vitamins and nutrients that support the body in the cleansing process. The healing benefits of raw honey are such that many people will apply raw honey to open wounds to speed the healing process and protect against infection.

Cayenne Pepper– Yes, this gives the drink quite a kick! Besides waking you up in the morning, cayenne helps to clear congestion and stimulate circulation, while boosting the metabolism. Because it elevates circulation, this causes us to sweat (even a little bit!) which is a major source of detoxification. Cayenne can help prevent blood clots, prevent migraines, and is even speculated to have anti-allergenic properties. Like apple cider vinegar, cayenne acts as an expectorant, breaking up mucus and relieving symptoms of many common illnesses.

As you can see, this drink is a nutritional powerhouse! Yes, the taste takes some getting used to, but the health benefits are borderline magical and your body will thank you for a long, long time. Try it and see!

This post was shared with Wildcrafting Wednesday!

Links used in this post are affiliate links. I do earn a very small percentage when you purchase through these links, which allows me to continue doing what I love: writing!

Body & Brain Boost Pumpkin Oatmeal

Body & Brain Boosting Pumpkin Oatmeal

HELLO FALL! I can’t quite rock the leggings look anymore (at least not gracefully) but I’m fully embracing my boots and autumn-flavored things. There’s a pint of Hoffmans’ pumpkin ice cream in my freezer, Baugher’s apple butter on my counter, and pumpkin puree in my fridge. It’s like something biological happens when the cold weather hits, making us all crave these things.

Here’s the crazy thing- something biological DOES happen! Our bodies are designed to need more beta carotene, vitamin C, and warming food in the fall and winter, when the weather is colder and our immune systems can become repressed. It’s no coincidence that things like pumpkin and citrus come into season, bursting with their essential vitamins that are perfect for this season!

This quick morning dish, full of flavor and supplemental goodness, boosts brain function, digestion, good fats, fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene levels. This is a bowl of super foods!

You’ll need:

1/2 cup of oats cooked in 3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon each: flaxseed, chia seed, wheat germ, pumpkin seed
Cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice) to taste
Raw Honey (or regular is fine) and sea salt, to taste

Cook oats in the water- the oatmeal won’t be soupy, but you’ll add pumpkin to it which will thin it out a bit! After the oats are cooked, swirl in the pumpkin, flax, chia, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Spice, salt, and honey to taste- you may like yours sweeter, while I prefer mine a little salty, to balance the rich flavor of the pumpkin.

Here’s all the amazing health benefits you’re enjoying! Do your body some good this fall 🙂

PUMPKIN– An underestimated superfood, this autumn gem is full of fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene. It also works wonders on digestion- it eases upset tummies like a charm! You can even bake dog treats with pumpkin to help pups that might be having digestive issues.

CINNAMON– Helps to balance blood sugar, high in antioxidants, aids in detoxification and boosts the metabolism.

OATS– Oats are an amazing source of fiber and protein, and work to balance the blood sugar throughout the day. Incorporating oats into the diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risks, lower cholesterol, and lower type-2 diabetes risk.

FLAXSEED– Famed for being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (that even stays intact through baking!), flaxseeds are also great for digestion. They are also a surprising antioxidant source- containing more polyphenol antioxidants than even blueberries.

CHIA SEED– The wonder seed! Who knew that such a nutritional powerhouse was growing silly spiky heads when we were younger. Chia seeds are intensely good for hydration- they absorb 2x their weight in fluids, which helps slowly release into our systems when we need it most! For more on Chia seeds, check out this previous post on health benefits and ideas to incorporate into your diet!

WHEAT GERM– Again, very high in omega-3 fatty acids, this is a famed ‘brain builder’ supplement. It’s packed with B-vitamins, which make it ideal for pregnant women and those who don’t eat much animal proteins. It’s also high in fiber, which aids in digestion and detoxification. Minerals found in wheat germ include iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.

PUMPKIN SEED– Also called pepitas, these babies are high in iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and Vitamin E. This is a great food for pregnant women to incorporate into their diets. Raw or activated is best, but toasted brings out a great flavor as well!

RAW HONEY– Chock full of B vitamins, vitamin C, antioxidants, beneficial enzymes, pre and probiotics, honey is also highly regarded for it’s antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Great for incorporating ingot he diet if you feel a cold coming on, or applying topically to a cut, scrape, or burn to prevent infection and speed healing.

Brand Removal: Cheese Crackers

Last night, I took the plunge into promoting my writing- so for everyone who “liked” the Feed Me, Mama Facebook Page or followed the Twitter account, thank you! I am so excited to be on this journey with all of you, and I can’t wait to see what conversations and community develop!

cheesecrackers

A few weeks ago, a streak of motivation hit me and I decided to take on a new household endeavor: learning how to homemake as many of the things in my home as I can! Food, cleaning supplies, beauty and hygiene items, clothing, you name it- I want to know how to make it. I’ve been overcome with this vision of a kitchen filled with glass jars of whole foods and homemade things, bottles with small labels on them, and no advertisements or brand tags to be found. How peaceful, right? Crazy? Maybe…

While I understand how daunting this task is, I am trying to approach it with grace and just learn what I can, as I can. Some things have turned out great- like this recipe- others, like homemade almond butter, really just didn’t work out, and that’s okay. I am confident that this new ‘mission’ is a move of good stewardship and learning how to care for my home and my family in the most responsible way that I can.

Today, I want to share my very first “brand removal” project: cheese crackers! I think we all know what I’m referring to here 🙂 Pregnancy and snacking go hand in hand, and a little something crunchy and cheesy and salty is just what I’m loving these days.

These crackers turned out amazingly well- the taste was so good, and I know exactly what’s in them! The best part that I found (unlike the original cheese cracker) is that they aren’t addictive or habit forming- meaning, I could have three or four, and that would fulfill my craving. I didn’t feel the need to eat the entire batch in one sitting and mindlessly snack- I think it’s because the quality of the ingredients is so high!

I used this recipe from Girl vs. Dough, and they were phenomenal! Next time, I’m going to work on rolling the dough as thin as possible to make them more crispy 🙂

PIN THIS RECIPE!

Can you REALLY get enough protein without consuming meat?

protein postOne of the main tenants of the Bradley Method, and really pregnancy as a whole, is the importance of nutrition. The Bradley Method recommends that expectant mothers consume at least 80-100 grams of protein per day! Now, I am not much of a meat eater (except for our family’s venison and some grass-fed cow we were gifted with this year, and that only on occasion) so this task seemed completely daunting to me. But, of course, this was my homework for the week- to calculate my average protein consumption. Boy, was I surprised with the results!

Here’s my journal for the day:

4:00 AM (yes, seriously, every night around this time I wake up ravenous)
Bowl of gluten-free cereal: 4 grams
Organic milk: 8 grams

8:30 AM
One slice whole grain bread: 5 grams
2 Tablespoons sunflower seed butter: 5 grams
2 tablespoons chia seeds: 6 grams

12:00 PM
One can organic tomato soup: 4 grams
Two slices of whole grain bread: 10 grams
Three slices pepperjack cheese: 15 grams

3:30 PM
One SERVING Popcorn: 4 grams
1.5 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast: 8 Grams

6:00 PM
Baked Quinoa- estimating, but by quinoa consumption alone at least 12 grams
more if including cheese consumption as well
Stir-fried yellow squash- 1 gram

7:30 PM
Pumpkin muffin from panera during Bible Study (oops): 7 grams! surprise!

9:30 PM
Large glass of milk- 8 grams

TOTAL FOR THE DAY: 97+ grams of protein- and NO meat!

Avoiding meat is not my goal- I just wanted to challenge myself and see if I could eat nutritiously all day and still maintain the levels that I need. It was much easier than I thought! Snacking and eating more frequent, smaller meals is encouraged during pregnancy, so this definitely helps.

One thing I did notice is that much of the protein came from carbs- whole grain bread, gluten free cereal- while this is alright in moderation, having a carb-heavy diet can sometimes lead to gestational diabetes, so it should be avoided when possible. This is where meat, dairy, and veggies come into play.

Still unsure about getting adequate protein without eating meat? Think about this: pound-for-pound, the strongest mammal on earth is the Gorilla- which is an herbivore 🙂

Call the Midwives

We began my pregnancy by seeing my normal OBGYN, one member of a large practice in Owings Mills. The practice delivers at Sinai and I’m sure would’ve provided me with state-of-the-art medical treatment. This is the same practice that walked me through my missed miscarriage last year, as well as the scary diagnosis and eventual removal of the large mass on my right ovary.

When I went in for my first prenatal appointment, I expected to be met with smiles and perhaps even a shocked reaction- after all, it was less than a month since my surgery, and I was already pregnant! However, I was met with blank stares, eyes staring at a computer screen that didn’t recognize me or remember me. In fact, the very doctor who I had seen just a month before several times for my ovarian mass had to look at my records to confirm that I did in fact have the surgery I claimed to have had. The doctor had no recollection of me.

My second appointment was the “ever-important” internal exam. Little did I know that I had been switched from my normal female doctor (who, unbeknownst to me, retired from OB practice) to a male doctor without my permission- and had to endure yet another uncomfortable situation as my poor husband sat in a small chair while I was examined. It was mortifying for us both.

It was around this time that I began researching other birth options in Maryland- everything from simply switching OB practices to home birth. I quickly learned that Maryland is an extremely difficult place to have an intervention-free birth for several reasons:

-Having a midwife attend a home birth is “illegal” unless it is a Certified Nurse Midwife who is backed by an Obstetrician. To my knowledge, there are only a few that practice in the entire state, and I’m not sure that any of them are taking new clients, particularly first time mothers. This leaves mothers with dismal options for home birth- having an “illegally attended” birth with a midwife (which many women do and have great success and healthy babies), or having an unassisted home birth. I’m not exactly sure what the “illegality” of the whole thing can lead to- probably that you can be charged with negligence if something happens to your baby, or perhaps the midwife can be held liable- I’m not 100% sure. But, I think that, for some women, these are the right choices- to have a home birth, with a midwife or unassisted- but not for everyone.

-There are only a handful of free-standing birth centers in the state- two that I am familiar with. There are various hospital “birth centers”, staffed by midwives and outfitted with more natural birth tools, such as tubs, but because they are attached/part of hospitals, their clients must adhere to hospital guidelines- which, depending on the hospital, can significantly change the birth experience for many mothers (though many mothers absolutely love this experience, and I don’t discount that whatsoever). This also effects the after-birth experience for the parents and baby, with certain interventions being much more routine (vaxing/Vit K/eye gel given without parental consent, pitocin for placenta delivery and uterine shrinkage, formula supplementation without parental advisement). Again, these choices are completely right for some families, and many people choose to include all of those things in their after-birth care plans. However, not every family chooses these things.

-Lastly, C-Section rates throughout the state of Maryland are higher than the national average. Nationwide, close to 1 in 3 women
gives birth via cesarean- and that’s not including elective/planned cesareans. Induction before truly necessary is wildly popular, even though a recent Harvard study found that the average gestational period for a caucasian woman is 41 weeks 1 day. I have seen far too many family members and friends get induced, get epidurals, and get cesareans- it just seems normal at this point. I think that’s the problem- in most places, it IS normal. And sometimes it is completely necessary. But it doesn’t have to be!

So, taking all of this into consideration, we have decided to birth our sweet baby girl at Special Beginnings Birth Center in Arnold, MD. This is perhaps the most controversial choice that Matthew and I have made thus far (at least that I’m letting you in on haha)!  Staffed with Certified Nurse Midwives with years of experience, complete with three beautiful birthing suites with big beds, tubs, birth stools towel warmers, and a full kitchen, the place is absolutely stunning.  The only drawback: it’s located almost exactly an hour away from our apartment!

We began our research into this birth center first by talking to people we knew who have been there- most of whom gave glowing reviews, and those who didn’t were really looking for a home birth experience, and ended up going that direction in the end.

Next, we took a tour– and this is where everything changed. We were given a tour of the birth center and then given the opportunity to ask the midwives questions.  It was amazing! So many of the things I was prepared to fight with an OB about- movement and eating during labor, Vit K and eye gel, vaccinations, routine circumcision, delayed bathing, etc- all of the choices that I wanted to make for my child were encouraged, and even assumed to some degree, by the midwife staff. It was like breathing a sigh of relief as I realized that I could have the natural birth I wanted without having to fear that the baby would be stuck or smeared with something or treated in a way I didn’t feel was necessary.

We have had two appointments with midwives at the birth center so far, with a third coming up next week. The experience has been so encouraging and healing! I love the focus on nutrition and exercise as well as medical information. I can have as few ultrasounds as I would like (though we have actually had many more than I intended). Their holistic approach to pregnancy, as something that is natural and not a illness or medical emergency, brings so much peace to my heart as I remind myself that the Lord created women to bear children. Pregnancy isn’t a bad thing, and with the right preparation I can trust my body to do the work it needs to do.

A huge part of this decision has been learning to “insert grace” into our birth plans. Do I fault mothers who make choices that are different from my own? Absolutely not. Is it totally possible that something goes wrong and I need to have a medicated birth or a cesarean? Yes. And if that’s the case, I will take it in stride, as I know that medicine is a good thing and saves many lives- perhaps my own, or my baby’s. It’s the grace that I am striving to understand that will allow me to accept what happens, but also strive to be as prepared as possible and make the most sound decisions I can with the information I have now. It’s not easy! But I am glad to be questioning and learning and growing in this process.

I’m so excited for this journey and I can’t wait to share my experiences along the way!

Husband-Coached Childbirth?

bradley

From the moment a woman announces her pregnancy, she is bombarded with advice from other mothers and horror stories of labor and incompetent husbands and breathing techniques that did little more than frustrate and break concentration. Because we are choosing to give birth in a birthing center (more on that later), I strongly desire to be as prepared and educated as possible before going into the birth of my daughter. The problem is, there are so many choices of “methods” and “classes” that all claim to do that! Here are a few of the options presented to the expectant mama:

Lamaze– What your parents probably think of when it comes to childbirth classes. I don’t actually know anyone who has had a baby in the last few years that has taken a Lamaze class. Lamaze focuses on breathing and movement strategies to make a natural birth more comfortable, but also educates women on interventions as well. Classes are typically 12 hours of instruction, broken down over several class sessions, and are held in large groups (typically around 12 couples).

The Mongan Method (Hypnobirthing)- focuses on deep relaxation and a degree of self-hypnosis, coupled with visualization. Not as crazy as it sounds, and I have had a few friends who tried hypnobirthing and loved it, including some hardcore home birthing mamas! My favorite part is the “anchoring” effect that the husband is supposed to have- when he even touched the wife, she is to associate him with strength and serenity, and immediately be focused. Classes are typically 5 weeks of 2-3 hour classes, and are available in group or private settings, depending on your instructor.

Birthing From Within– A very spiritual approach to childbirth, probably the most “hippie” of them all. I actually read the Birthing from Within book a few weeks ago, and if you can wade through the semi-crazy, hallucinogenic art therapy-esque chapters in the beginning of the book, there are actually some great and helpful suggestions in there as well. They also have meaningful ideas for baby showers called “blessingsways” that I am going to try to incorporate into my own showers this fall/winter. Six one-hour classes.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)- This is a pretty generic child birthing education organization, and the content of the classes varies depending on the instructor.

There are a few other options, but these seem to be the most popular, at least within my circles! So, what are we choosing? We’ve decided to study The Bradley Method- and our classes start tonight!

The Bradley Method is a philosophy based on years of research and observation by obstetrician Dr. Robert A. Bradley. The classes consist of 13 weeks of 2 hour classes, which focus on nutrition, exercise, pain management techniques, coping through proper body positioning and movement, education of the stages of labor, and birth rehearsals. Of all of the classes I mentioned above, Bradley seems to be the most holistically based, but also seems to give the most practical preparation as well (don’t you want to have a birth rehearsal?)

The role of the husband (or partner) is integral in the Bradley Method. Also dubbed “Husband-Coached Childbirth”, the labor partner is basically trained to be a doula and labor coach- to remember the things that the mother may forget in the heat of labor, and to know how to tend to each stage of labor’s specific physical and emotional needs. The coach is also responsible for the mother’s preparation- making sure that she is held accountable to Bradley’s nutrition standards and performing the designated exercises as often as portable to give the body the best preparation for the birth event.

There are two Bradley Method books that I have read- one, Husband-Coached Childbirth, written by Dr. Bradley himself, seems to be the book that started it all. The book is actually written to the father, though as mothers I think it’s good to read as well. It explains the development of his philosophy, the success that he has seen in his practice, and the various techniques used to achieve a peaceful, natural labor. I don’t think that reading this book alone is enough to fully prepare you for the birth, however- it is best used in conjunction with classes, as I think it was intended.

The second book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, written by Susan McCutcheon, is much more detail oriented, outlining specific nutrition guidelines showing photos of the different exercises (almost every time with a completely naked pregnant woman, so be aware), and going into great depth about each of the stages of labor. This book is written to the couple, and addresses both the mother and the coach at times. If you don’t have time or money to take a full Bradley class, but want to be educated on the philosophy and prepare your body using these techniques, I highly suggest this book. In fact, I know some couples who completely skipped the classes, just read this book, and had beautiful, natural Bradley births!

In short, here’s why we are choosing the Bradley Method:

The support of our community. We really, truly know a large number of couples who have used this method successfully and loved it. Veteran Bradley parents can’t seem to speak highly enough about the experience, and I value that a lot.

-The development of the husband and wife team. Many birth education options focus on either the mother “doing it herself” or with the help of other experienced women, and leave the husband on the sidelines. While I certainly see the merit of having other experienced women at your disposal, this simply isn’t what I envision when I think of a graceful, Biblical childbirth- diminishing the husband’s role? In our marriage, we work as a God-ordained team, and I think that should transfer to the birth event as well.

-The importance of nutrition and exercise. If you’ve ever read this blog you know how important this is to me, so there’s no surprise here. The Bradley exercises are simple but effective (think kegels, full squats, pelvic tilts), and the nutrition is comprehensive. For example, I am supposed to eat two baked potatoes a week- with the skin on- to help with mineral and iron consumption! I just never would have thought of that. Thank goodness for Bradley 🙂

-The time commitment to the classes– thats more than 24 hours! While this may deter some people, I am excited to fully immerse myself, have plenty of time to chew on what I am learning, ask questions, and practice. I feel confident that if anything is going to prepare me, these classes will.

-Birth rehearsals. I am fully aware that you can never truly rehearse your birth, as birth, by nature, is very unpredictable. However, if you can get the main coping and support techniques down for the various stages, it will be much easier to deviate when the time comes and incorporate something new. Our birth center also holds mandatory birth rehearsals right in the labor rooms- that will be exciting!

-Emphasis on breastfeeding. I haven’t actually started the class (like I said, we start tonight!), but one of our required textbooks is La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. This is a small point, as I already had the book to read anyway, but it makes me feel better to know that they emphasize things that I find very important.

I can’t wait to go to class tonight and start this journey! I look forward to sharing what I am learning along the way 🙂