3 Helpful Tips From a Breastfeeding Counselor To Help Make Breastfeeding Achievable!

Tip #1  Create informed and flexible goals!  Everyone can agree that the number one goal is to feed your baby and ensure they are at a healthy weight. As you are making your plans, whether that is to breastfeed exclusively or to supplement with breastmilk (yours or someone else’s), it is always great to have a backup plan. Exclusive breastfeeding is like eating farm to table for every meal. We would all probably benefit, but that doesn’t always happen and that’s okay! Have a backup plan that you feel good about if breastfeeding isn’t going the way you expect in the first few weeks. You can start expressing and collecting colostrum in plastic syringes around 36-37 weeks so your baby has food stored for the first few days of life. You can research and buy a formula that you feel good about in case learning to latch properly takes time, this way you have a backup plan handy, eliminating stress. Another option would be to find a local milk bank with donor milk that’s available if you want to ensure your baby has a breastmilk alternative to yours. You can create informed and flexible goals by taking a breastfeeding class before your baby is born and/or talking with a lactation counselor beforehand to lay out your goals and understand what you’ll need to do in the early days and weeks to establish a good milk supply.

   Tip #2  Build your village before baby is here and try these resources! The most sustainable and successful breastfeeding relationships are able to flourish because there is a network of support  around the mother and baby. Partners can educate themselves about breastfeeding so they can be an informational resource in addition to providing emotional and logistical support. Find a lactation counselor in your area so you know who to call when you’re having issues. Research breastfeeding circles and La Leche League meetups nearby, which will help you troubleshoot, meet breastfeeding families in your area, and provide emotional support and encouragement. You’re not alone in your  journey, and talking with people who can empathize will help get you through the challenging days.

Tip #3  Learn how to hand express. Many people who plan to breastfeed will get an electric pump, (which is typically covered by insurance). However, an electric pump is not the only way to get milk out. A helpful tip to know is that hand expression is the next best way to get milk out, second to  your nursing baby, which means your precious time will be spent more efficiently! You can get milk out using hand expression, an electric pump, or a manual pump- consider all of these methods as different tools, and each tool giving you more options and flexibility. Hand expression is great when you’re engorged and just need a bit of relief, when you are not near an outlet or don’t have an electric pump with you, or when you just don’t feel like cleaning pump parts! 

Guest post written by Samantha Hom, doula and breastfeeding counselor at New York City Birth Village. NYCBV is committed to preparing their families for a breastfeeding relationship that will work best for them. We offer a private in-home Breastfeeding and Newborn Care Class to create informed breastfeeding goals and all of our doulas have breastfeeding training. Visit our website to learn more about birth and postpartum doula services and our classes. https://www.nycbirthvillage.com/

3 Life-Changing Reasons Why You Need a Labor Doula Now

Did you know that studies have shown that having a female support person in a non-medical role providing continuous emotional, informational, and physical support (aka labor doula):

1) Shortens length of labor

2) Reduces need for interventions

3) Increases feelings of a positive over-all birth experience 

Each of these benefits cannot be underestimated.  (#1) A shortened length of labor means less (#2) ’medical management’ of your labor. Opting for medical interventions or requiring interventions does increase your chances of caesarean section, which comes with greater medical risk because it is major surgery. (#3) Feeling supported during your birth is the most important factor in having an a positive birth experience.  Regardless of how your labor goes, if you have a vaginal or a cesarean birth (planned or emergency), feeling supported in your birth experience can impact your well-being for the rest of your life. Giving birth is a major life rite of passage which can have life-long influence on self-esteem.  Hiring a doula can help you see the ROCK STAR you are! Having the support of a labor doula is the best way to guarantee that you will feel this support.  Labor nurses change shifts, OB’s and midwives have other patients that may require much more of their attention.  Set yourself up for the greatest likelihood that you will FEEL supported and therefore love your birth experience, no matter what it is, by setting yourself up with emotional/informational/physical continuous support.  Relying exclusively on our partners for this is putting tremendous pressure on a partner who most likely has never attended a birth, or has limited experience with birth. Why not also empower your partner with the added support of a labor doula who can offer informational and emotional reassurance in the normalcy of the process while helping them to be the most effective support they can be?

Keep in mind, doulas can be hired with fees based on experience levels.  If you feel this service is not in reach of your budget, it is usually possible to find a ‘doula-in-training’ who may even offer services for free while completing certification requirements.  Get yourself a labor doula and set yourself up for a positive birth experience!

Need more reasons? Check our this powerful article from NY Times Magazine on the vital importance of doula support for women of color:   https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/magazine/black-mothers-babies-death-maternal-mortality.html

3 Reasons Why Spring Is The Most Awesome Time To Upgrade Your Perspective

Spring has finally arrived in NYC- yaayyyyy!  It’s time for a spring cleaning of your goals! According to the 6,000 year old wisdom of Chinese medicine, spring is the optimal season to hone your life vision and clarify a plan!

Here are 3 tips to tune up your future you:  

1) Be like the trees.  According to the 5 element principles of Chinese medicine, spring is the season of Wood energy.  What is wood energy? If we observe nature in spring, the most striking feature is witnessing how trees transform from their winter dormancy to a full flourish of vibrant green seemingly while we blink.  This abrupt transformation reminds us how quickly vibrant renewal (yes- re-birth) can actually happen in our lives.  The other huge trait of trees is their height.  They grow and they grow and they grow.  Trees are how our closest DNA relatives literally get perspective- by climbing up them.  In this way, trees can “see”.  They are our nature metaphor for gaining a long distance perspective through growth and vision.

Spring is the time to ask yourself, “how would I like to grow?”  

2) Tap into the power of your eyes.  After answering the previous key question, the next step is to create your vision.  Ideally, on paper.  You can even get crafty and create a vision board.  Imagine and include all of the things that are important to you in your life now and what you would like to invite into your life in your future.  Activate your imagination to really see and feel your vision. What new vibrant flourish do you want and need in your life that will make your life more you?  Really envisioning this can help align you with a path to achieving it. Leave this visual creation in a spot where you can see it every day for inspiration and motivation.

3) Create your plan.  In Chinese medicine philosophy, spring is the season of strategy. As nature wakes up from the dormancy of winter, spring is a reminder to make and activate your plans so they will grow. Tap into your strategic side, break your plan into singular actions you can take.  Make it clear, make each step simple enough to be ‘doable’, and then take action to see what you can build.

Nature as teacher shows us that what happens on a ‘macro’ level (such as the intense vibrancy and flourishing renewal of spring all around us) also happens on the ‘micro’ level- within us. In other words, whatever spring inspires in you- own it, create it, love it, and live it! It is the season of inner (and outer) revolution.  Be the change you want to see in the world! 



How To Find Your Flow With Time: Maximize Your Energy Using the Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Clock

With 6,000 years of observing the flow of energy in nature, the wisdom of Chinese Medicine is all about aligning ourselves with flow of change in nature and within our lives.  On a macro level, this is experienced on an on-going basis with the change of seasons.  NYC is a temperate climate, allowing us to experience inner and outer adjustments as seasons shift from winter’s frigid temperatures to summer’s extreme heat, all of which affect everything in our lives from dress, daily activity and mood.  On a micro level, there is a way we can harness the impact of time, and change, on a daily level through the use of the Chinese clock.  Similar to circadian rhythms, vital energy flows throughout the body in ways that optimize biological use over the course of 24 hours. Optimal energy cycles are a kind of wave that move through 12 energy meridians in the body every 2 hours.  
To harness the potential of this flow of peak energy, we can choose to align our daily activities with this clock, creating a path of least resistance for our body’s energy flow.  I like to think of the 24 hour Chinese clock as an inspiration for where in my life I need extra energy and support. Have I been super sluggish and tired lately?  Then, I would be most aware of maximizing rest times by going to sleep before 11pm and work to schedule intense activities at times that may be less taxing for my energy levels (not during ‘bladder time’ 3pm-5pm: see below).  If I have a big mental project that needs to be prioritized, I would try and set myself up for success by delegating deep focus time during ‘Heart time’ 11am-1pm.  

Here is the guide to optimal energy flow in the Chinese 24 hour clock.  See if you can find places in your daily routine to align your schedule with activities that may flow easier by tapping into this ancient wisdom biological system.

3am-5am Best time to meditate!  Lung energy is at it’s peak. Many spiritual traditions assign this time for meditation, yoga practice, and prayer.  Our lung energy is literally and metaphorically all about inspiration.  This is a good time to tap in to your deepest inspirational energy by using awareness of your breath to start the day.  It sounds too early for most of us to wake up (an earlier bedtime definitley be needed) but 3-5am is an optimal time to for these practices.

5am-7am Let it go!  Large intestine energy is at its peak.  Taking time to let go of what we don’t need for the day literally (bowel movement) and metaphorically (forgiveness of self and others) helps us make a new start for the day.

7am-9am Eat like a Queen! Stomach energy is at its peak.  Chinese medicine recommends breakfast as the largest meal of the day, ideally eating something warm to sustain the body for the day.

9am-11am Mental processing time! Spleen energy is at its peak.  This is a great time to process through all of the tasks of the day and begin to dive deep.

11am-1pm Priortize your heart’s work!  Heart energy is at its peak.  Focus on everything that you are in charge of or want to be in charge of.  This is prime time for manifesting your dreams via focused work and intention.

1pm-3pm Discern and intuit!  Small intestine is at its peak.  Now is a good time to separate tasks into ‘important’ and ‘not important’ through tapping into the present moment and listening to your intuition about what’s most important now.

3pm-5pm Endurance!  Bladder energy is at its peak.  This is the  international ‘take a break/siesta time’.  
This is not a good time to push through, better to be gentle with yourself and use your reserves for big actions to take tomorrow.

5pm-7pm Recharge!  Kidney energy is at it’s peak.  You know the saying “if there is a will there is a way”, this is a good description of ‘kidney energy’. Yes, we could push through , grab the caffeine and pump up the adrenals after a long work day OR we could think more long-term and begin to unwind, enjoy a healthful meal and learn to conserve our reserves for our ‘marathon’ goals.

7pm-9pm Social time!  Pericardium energy is at it’s peak.  Ideal time for fun and social activities that cultivate intimacy with friends and loved ones!

9pm-11pm Prioritize your relationship(s)! Triple Heater is at it’s peak.  Connect deeply to those you love, including yourself. 

11pm-1am Sleep on it!  Gall bladder energy is at it’s peak.  Being asleep by 11pm maximizes the ability of our subconscious to assist us in all of our key decision making during the waking hours.  Tap in through the power of sleep!

1am-3am Continue to sleep on it!  Liver energy is at it’s peak.  For successful planning and strategizing in the awake hours, our subconscious needs time to delve deep to work things out for us while our body gets much needed rest.

Extra credit:  Using local sunrise and sunset time, find the halfway point which will be the local “sun time noon.”

Connect to your optimal flow and maximize the possibilities of what you and your energy can do!


Willing (not wishing for) A SAFER World For Our Children Through ACTION

Unfortunately, as parents, there are so many causes impacting our children, which require us to INVEST our time and resources.  Certainly, protecting the environment. Certainly, on-going protection/education in internet/social media safety.  And, tragically, and certainly, gun safety issues in America.  Did you know that the United States has ‘by far’ the greatest amount of gun ownership in the developed world?  And, ‘by far’ the greatest amount of deaths by gun violence.  That’s one death every 15 minutes.  I repeat, that’s one death every 15 minutes.  Japan, by contrast, has the lowest level of gun ownership and ’typically fewer than’ 10 deaths annually by gun violence.  I repeat, ’typically fewer than’ 10 deaths annually.  

I just joined EVERYTOWN for Gun Safety (started by mayors & moms: everytown.org) and I plan on supporting the legal and institutional change the students in Florida are currently calling for.  I encourage everyone with a child to do the same.  I encourage you to channel your deepest passion for the safety of your children into actions that shift our laws and policies and CO-CREATE a better world.

Motherly Love's Guide to Being the Best Parent/Mentor YOU Can Be

Recently, one of America’s most symbolically significant holidays passed, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  With all the seeming retro-politics at large, it can feel very challenging to feel forward progress in the journey for equality and in the world we are raising our children in.  Reading ANY of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s inspiring quotes can help lift us up and re-direct us on the path of constructive, pro-active, and continued commitment for change.  The key aspect about humans and challenges and how we move forward isn’t necessarily the problems we face (as most have been generational/societal problems we have inherited).  The key aspect about humans and the challenges we face is in the HOW do we PROBLEM-SOLVE?  This question brings the responsibility of HOW back to ourselves.  Changing things for the better, for the future, starts with now and with ourselves.  As parents or mentors of the next generation, we have the moment-to-moment, day-to-day opportunity to practice problem solving in a way that can have positive impact in our lives right now and teach/mirror effective problem solving to the next generation.  THIS IS HOW WE MAKE POSITIVE CHANGE.  We commit to being the best, most compassionate and creative problem solvers we can be.  Looking for some quick but deep inspiration to model your problem-solving attitude?  Look no further than Dr. King’s eloquent and direct words.  Start by being compassionate with yourself and the problem at hand.  Approach problems with your full commitment AND love/kindness.  Observe your approach to problem solving and notice what messages you are passing to your children about how to face and handle problems.  Reach out for help.  Be there for another.  Strengthen your village and unite in the power of support and unity that comes from inclusive problem solving.  Take pro-action today, now, to address a recurring problem in a new way. The forward momentum of progress in our individual lives AND the collective is available to us through the choices we make EVERY DAY.  The power we hold as parents/mentors to influence and improve the efficacy of how we solve problems in the microcosm of our own family’s lives and in the macrocosm of the global world cannot be underestimated.

Motherly Love's Guide to 3 Commitments That Will Increase Your Positive Vibes for 2018!

Commitment #1) Value yourself more! Yes, this does translate to love yourself!
More specifically, we are talking self-talk.  Aka- the convos that happen all day long between you & yourself.  These convos hold great power over your self-esteem, self-worth, decision making, and prioritizing.  What tone or attitude are you choosing to communicate with yourself?  Is it a positive, supportive, friendly voice?  Do you talk to yourself with loving kindness? If not, why not? This inner tone can affect and influence every life experience you have. If there’s a recurring naysayer voice or a critic that won’t quit the critique, how about trying the “mantra” re-programming technique? Write a little list of a few of the top not-so-awesome things you tend to say to yourself and then next to each write a new substitute message for yourself.  Yes, tell yourself how awesome you truly are- often! It can help boost your spirits- and if you laugh at yourself at first because it feels strange and different, you are on the right track. Treat yourself how you want to the world to treat you. Commit to being your own bestie in 2018!  

Commitment #2) Hook up with nature!  Western studies are confirming what our instincts have always known, being in nature, walking in a forest, smelling a flower, touching a rock, listening to water all help to bolster our nervous system and re-align us with a more conducive state of being. Yes, that translates as reducing our stress levels! The more time we spend re-connecting ourselves with the nature that is around us, the more we can feel the inter-connection with the nature within us- which is a great source of inner power. This is important for feelings of wholeness and well-being.  So kiss a frog and hug a tree as often as possible.

Commitment #3) Breathe deeply now!  Repeat!
You got this! This one little commitment can transform your life.  Try it- it works like positivity magic with longevity health benefits to boot.


Motherly Love's Guide to 5 Powerful Strategies to Own (and Love) your Labor!

Powerful strategy # 1) Own your vision- whatever it is!  
Getting clear, early on, with what factors are most important for you, helps a lot. Ideally, by 20 weeks, it is good to know what you are hoping for in your birth experience so that you can check in with your doctor or midwife to make sure they are on the same page and can support you with your vision. If you realize there is a mis-match, it is better to know sooner than later so that you still can look into other practices to find the medical support that best serves YOU.  Often practices in NYC don’t take new patients after 20 weeks, so it’s helpful to know what you are looking for to ensure it is in the realm of possibility to achieve. One of the biggest positive impacts on your birth is the trust you have in your care provider. Earnest communication and asking questions to clarify your expectations early on will help you get there. Consider what aspects are most important to you in your labor?  Is it having your partner by your side? And, being able to bring in labor support? Your immediate post-labor vision for bonding with your baby?  Once you are clear, you can strategize on how you can best set yourself up to achieve your vision!

Powerful strategy # 2) Get your village lined up!!! 
Assemble your support team. This will bring your nervous system reassurance and will greatly help you when you are in labor. The most important factor in a birth experience isn’t the actual ‘how it happened- what went down,’ it is ’did you feel supported?’.  Remember, part of labor and birth’s power is going into the unknown and coming out the other side- we don’t know how it will all unfold- and every birth is different- what we can control is the support piece.  Line up your support!  It is crucial to ensuring that you feel supported no matter what the actuals are.  If it it is in your budget, hire professional labor support (labor doula/birth coach) who will be on call and at your birth.  If it’s not in your budget, often you can find a labor professional-in-training who is in process of gaining experience for their certification. Labor support professionals provide emotional, physical, and informational support to you and your partner.  If you are having a hospital birth, they will ensure that you have continuous support no matter what else is happening in the hospital, when the nurses change shifts, and when your doctor or midwife is attending their other laboring patients- you and your partner will have your consistent support person which creates a better statistical outcome:  shorter lengths of labor, less need for interventions and the long-term psychological benefit of increased self-esteem for having a positive birth experience.  Again, the positive birth experience means: YOU FELT SUPPORTED!  (i.e.. you were kept in the loop, you understood your options, you felt listened to and heard).  

Powerful strategy #3) Prep your portable bubble- music + aromatherapy
We have the best labor outcomes when we feel safe and supported.  Make a list of what type of atmosphere makes you feel relaxed, safe and supported and create a ‘positive atmosphere to-go’ kit.  With music- include a playlist (include different styles of music so in the moment you have options).  With aromatherapy- include a scented massage oil or room spray.  Lavender is a relaxer and rose can help stimulate courage in labor.  Base it on what smells best to you! 

Powerful strategy #4) Open up to all the possibilities!
On a completely practical level this means prepping your body for labor by practicing relaxing. Yes, that’s right- you can prep for labor by relaxing!! Releasing muscle tension with massage & acupuncture as prep for labor can help your body to open up and relax more effectively in labor.  Yoga and stretching fit in as powerful prep work, too.  We have two sides to our nervous system- the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest).  Massage and acupuncture help the body practice switching into the restful side of our nervous system which will make it easier to relax during labor! 

On a mental level, open yourself up to trusting in the body’s wisdom- we are designed to do this!  You are entering the unknown- and if you feel supported you will be able to take any new direction with flexibility and empowerment. 

Powerful strategy #5) Breathe!  
Again- you were designed to do this! Your body knows what it needs to do.  Breathing is your connection to your strength, power and energy! It carries us through the process with the most ease possible.  Breathing deeply will help keep you more relaxed and will help carry you through to a baby in your ams!


Motherly Love's Guide to Amp Your Inner Peace for An Awesome Holiday Season!

If you were to ask yourself what factors could help make your holiday season feel more aligned for you, what would they be?  

An easy pitfall of the season is the obligatory expectation of holiday joy that can feel less than authentic when we go the through the motions of festive ‘to-dos’ without first aligning our internal holiday spirit, if you will.  Too often seasonal expectations of how we should feel don’t match our realities zapping our mood and energy levels, challenging our ability to find our peace (in a season, ironically, all about peace and love). At this still early stage in the hopeful climb towards peak holiday fulfillment, now may be a perfect time to set an intention for yourself that keeps what you cherish most alive and accessible.  Think of it as self-care holiday goal-setting.   Personally meaningful experiences that warm your heart and bond your village will also nourish your health and happiness and deserve to be at the top of your priority list.
To amp up inner peace during the holidays, try setting aside 5 minutes (ideally before starting your day) to get quiet and go inwards…set a timer if that helps you commit!  These 5 minutes can create an opportunity to gain greater clarity with how you are feeling and how you might prefer to feel, what types of traditions you would like to invest your energy in-  and how to be additive in spreading true warmth and glow to your own celebrating, as well as to your community.  As we amp up our intention, we increase our chances of better holiday outcomes and memories. 
Some creative questions to ask yourself to get the 'snow'ball rolling...                                          what holds the greatest meaning for you during the holidays?

  •  Is it the gathering of friends? Of family? Of community? 
  •  The sharing of time and the exchange of love and laughter?
  •  Contributing to the betterment of those in great need in your life, whether close family member or friend, or those in great need in the wider world?
  • The cherished meaning of a familiar tradition that may require some updating to enhance its resonance?
  • Creating a brand new tradition to address what might feel missing in your holiday experience?
  •  Respecting your own need for more time for personal reflection and restful downtime?
  •  Taking time to be grateful and express gratitude for everything positive happening in your life?
  •  Honoring the beloved memories of those no longer present in person but whom are so crucially loved and cherished in you and your families’ lives? 

Pick what feels most alive for you when you picture your holiday being truly awesome!  Honoring who you are and what you can contribute will add greater meaning and deeper connection to your holiday celebrating.  Once you feel clear about what’s most important to you, use your 5 minutes a day to to breath deeply into the creative ways you can integrate these meaningful experiences into your holidays.  Use your 5 minutes to engage your ideas and make your plans.  And, when ready, use your 5 minutes to take simple actions and create your holiday visions.

 The holiday season can be a powerful invitation to deepen our inner peace and connection to ourselves while we spread more collective peace in a world that could really use it!  Amp it up! 

Motherly Love's Top 5 Guide for Pregnancy Self-Care!

1) Love yourself! (You saw this one coming). When you wake up in the morning and remember, hey, that’s right- I’m pregnant and sooo many things are different, and maybe I have to move waaayy slower to get out of bed or my hip feels really achy or I have 12 more weeks of this??? Please remind yourself what an amazing job you are doing! You are working 24/7 growing a brand new human being. You can never be as efficiently productive in life as this, even while sleeping!! Give yourself the full appreciation you deserve for the hard work and acknowledge the amazing, healthy, extraordinary goddess that you are!

2) Nourishment. Literally, good food and good water. Be sure to give yourself good quality energy so that the cells in your body feel taken care of and say thank you!

3) Rest. Especially around 30 weeks + it can be harder to get the normal stretch of sleep. Know that scheduling in extra times for catnapping and taking it easy (legs up helps with swelling too) gives our body the breaks it needs to restore energy.

For Motherly Love’s NYC clientele, this can be a super hard one. It can be frustrating to feel more tired or have to slow things down a bit, but thinking about it as building strength and energy through respecting the power of rest can help!

This is where your support team can come in to help you most. Schedule regular relaxation and energy bolstering massage and acupuncture appointments. Or get your village to help you by watching this tutorial on safe pregnancy massage at home!


4) Nesting. This is self-care brought to a practical and visual level. Getting organized now before the baby comes is taking care of your future self and family. It will be easier to rest later having channeled some of those powerful nesting surges into de-cluttering or simply organizing your old stuff and integrating the new baby stuff.

Nesting can also be taking time to daydream positive visions of how awesome your birth will be and how you might get creative with calling in extra support for when the baby arrives!

5) Bond with your village. Self-care in pregnancy is all about bonding. Bonding with yourself and your baby (see #1-4) is super empowering. So is bonding with your village. Your village is definitely your loved ones. Prioritize quality bonding time with your partner! Reach out to friends and family who would love to find a way to support and help you. This is an ideal time to find a new support group of pregnant peers going through the same types of things you are going through. This can be found in a pregnancy yoga group class, or even a childbirth education class. Getting together with other pregnant women can help build new friendships and networks of support that can nourish us well into the newborn stage which can sometimes feel isolating.

Remember: While all this growth is happening on a physical level, it's also happening on other levels. You are experiencing a rite of passage to parenthood (first time or expanding your crew). This is an opportunity to tap into your fullest potential to create your best self and your best world - and Motherly Love supports you!!