The above article appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 120, Winter 2016. I love the topic: gut flora! This article addresses the microbiome, that fascinating slurry of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our bodies. We are just at the tip of the iceberg for discovering how this microbiome dramatically affects the health of all of us, but this article begins by delving into the microbiome of our babies.
Here are some of the major takeaways from this article:
The placenta has its own microbiome that comes from a mother’s oral bacteria. Wow!
The baby’s gut is first colonized with bacteria when it passes through the birth path, skin-to-skin contact after birth, and bacteria from the home, hospital or birthing center.
Towards the end of pregnancy, the microbiome in a mother’s birth path starts to change, with increasing colonies of Lactobacillus (a great probiotic).
Breast milk is rich and dense in probiotics (it’s dense in prebiotics too, by the way).
Research shows that “a disruption of our microbiome will strongly influence whether we will experience different diseases such as asthma, allergies, ADHD, personality disorders and chronic autoimmune diseases.”
High cesarean rates and the use of antibiotics in mothers and newborns are changing babies’ microbiomes.
Breastfeeding is essential for populating a baby’s gut with beneficial bacteria.
How to Best Support Your Baby’s Microbiome:
Try to avoid antibiotics in pregnancy and while breastfeeding
Eat foods that support your own gut flora
Do your very best to avoid a cesarean birth if at all possible
Have you ever felt confused by the vast amount of information about vaccines that’s floating around on the internet? On the one hand, in California at least, a child isn’t allowed to go to preschool or kindergarten without vaccinations or a medical exemption. On the other hand, we really don’t want to cause inadvertent harm to our children by overwhelming their immune systems with too much aluminum, formaldehyde, thimerosal, and other vaccine ingredients. We have populations of anti-vaxxers who say “No way am I injecting anything like that into my child.” And then we have the pro-vaxxers, who say, “Follow the recommended schedule because herd immunity is very important to our society.” What if you’re somewhere in the middle of those two groups, wanting your child to be protected from childhood illnesses but also being wary about possible longterm side effects of vaccines?
This is where I highly recommend “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan,” by Paul Thomas, M.D. It was just published in 2016, so it has very current, relevant information in it. He writes from the unique perspective of growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in a missionary family with a mother who was a nurse. He saw the immediate benefits that vaccines had on the lives of the poverty-stricken and malnourished people there. When he returned to the United States and became a doctor, he saw the miraculous effects of vaccines like the Hib (Haemophilus influenza B) vaccine that essentially saved thousands of children’s lives from meningitis. But he also saw a new rise of chronic health conditions, including “food allergies, attention deficit disorders, childhood anxiety, childhood asthma, childhood depression, eczema, gastroesophageal reflux, headaches, ear infections, neurological disorders, sinus infections, lung infections like pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and virulent strep throat.” He speculates that the toxins in our world, including but not limited to childhood vaccines, can be contributing to these chronic conditions. “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan” is a “comprehensive guide to childhood health and well-being, offering parents not only balanced information about vaccines but also everything else you need to know to keep your child safe and healthy.”
I love the way this book is organized. Dr. Thomas writes thoughtfully and concisely. Chapter 1 is about the toxins that are ever-present in our world, including acetaminophen, aluminum, aspartame, endocrine disruptors, flurried, methanol, and mercury, and how to mitigate them in our children’s lives. And then the following chapters are organized by the age of your child: from your pregnancy to the first hours of life outside the womb, the first two weeks of life, the two-month well-baby checkup, the first nine months, the one-year mark, the toddler and preschool years, elementary school, and the teenage years. He writes about vaccines and his recommended vaccine schedule that he uses with his patients, but there is so much more information that you didn’t even know you were looking for. He includes a summary of recommendations at the end of each chapter with answers to frequently asked questions that come up in his practice. Whatever the age of your child, you can go immediately to the relevant chapter and begin reading. Chapter 11 is a cheat sheet about the best ways to support your child’s immune system, and then the Appendixes have things like recommended reading lists, a comparison of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) vaccine schedules in 1983 and 2016, “ten questions to ask when looking for a pediatrician,” lists of vaccine ingredients, and clinical data from his practice.
The major selling point of this book, in my opinion, is the study from Appendix E. Dr. Thomas has followed 2,230 children over the ago of two and under the age of seven in his clinic. He compares children who followed his recommended vaccine plan with a group of unvaccinated children and a third group who were vaccinated according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) vaccination guidelines. The rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 50 children, so, theoretically, the children from all three study groups “should” have had the same autism rate. No children who followed his recommended vaccination plan developed autism. There “should” have been 22 cases of autism in the first group. No children who were unvaccinated developed autism (there “should” have been 4 cases), and 15 children who followed the CDC vaccination schedule developed autism (a rate of 1/60), which follows the national average. This data blows my mind. Mindful vaccination can dramatically reduce autism in our children. Think about that!
Anyway, if you get a chance, pick up this book, read it, recommend it to others, and keep it in your reference library.
The above link is an article I found from March 16, 2018 in Mothering Magazine about a woman’s story with HypnoBirthing®. Kathleen Fleury writes about how HypnoBirthing® appealed to her: she liked the idea of learning to “breathe, visualize, relax, and tone your mind and body to anticipate a calm, easy birthing experience.” She writes about creating a “cave” for herself for her birth and fantasizing about a pain-free labor. Then she gives us a reality check by saying she didn’t actually make it to the cave. She was busy watching “Return of the Jedi” with her three-year-old and relaxing while feeling her uterine surges come and go. Her baby was born on the living room floor. She says that she didn’t achieve a pain-free birth, but from her description, her labor was shorter and more comfortable than her first two births, she deeply relaxed in between uterine surges, and she was able to cope with her surges much better. This is HypnoBirthing® in a nutshell!
Plan for Success in Your Birth
Kathleen does a great job of explaining the HypnoBirthing® philosophy. She quotes Christiane Northrup, who says that our culture has already been hypnotized to expect birth to be a “horrendous emergency.” HypnoBirthing® is about planning for success and visualizing the gentle, calm birth of your dreams. She even quotes Mickey Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing®:
“Why do we plan on the flaws in birth?” asks Mongan. “When you plan a vacation the travel agent doesn’t say ‘it’s going to rain every day and here are the statistics for airplane crashes.’ Birth is the best journey that a woman will ever take. We want to help them turn their greatest fear into their greatest achievement.”
Easier, Safer, More Comfortable Labors with HypnoBirthing®
What I’d like to say about HypnoBirthing® is that any HypnoBirthing® instructor who promises you a pain-free labor is setting you up for disappointment in your birth. HypnoBirthing® never promises a pain-free or even a sensation-free labor. What it promises is a shorter, easier, more comfortable labor when you relax, trust your body to birth, and tune into your body’s natural birth instincts, which is exactly what this birthing mom did, in spite of having two children running around, a full-time job, and a hectic lifestyle. Kudos to you, Kathleen Fleury.
This video shows the importance of slowing down your life and being mindful of the physical and mental state you are experiencing as you are carrying your baby. Stress during pregnancy has a profound effect on your developing baby’s brain as well as the development of its internal organs and systems.
“A mother’s emotional state enters into as one of the participating causes of the shape, size, function and characteristics of the brain in her infant in her womb and that if she’s given a safe, nurturing environment herself, her infant will be born with a totally different brain than it will otherwise. This is huge news.”
I know that HypnoBirthing® primarily focuses on the birth of your baby. However, it's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the common procedures that a hospital will perform on your baby right after birth. Here are some common ones to expect:
This one is pretty non-interventionist, and you won't even notice it's going on. Your caregiver is measuring the responsiveness of your baby. APGAR stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.
Eye treatment – erythromycin drops to prevent conjunctivitis caused by chlamydia & gonorrhea
Hepatitis B vaccine injection - if you are Hepatitis B positive, you will pass this virus on to your baby through your breastmilk. Populations that are more susceptible to being Hepatitis B positive include prostitutes and IV drug users. If you don't fall into this category, and have been tested and know for certain that you are Hepatitis B negative, you can delay this vaccination. The state of California requires that your child receive three doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine before attending a public school kindergarten.
Jaundice is common in babies born before 38 weeks of gestation, as well as with babies that are having difficulty with nursing. In the full-term baby, jaundice will commonly show up in the first 3-7 after birth as the bilirubin levels are peaking. Also, jaundice can show up in babies with underlying health issues that need to be treated.
How can you tell if your baby is suffering from jaundice?
The skin and whites of the eyes will be a yellowish tint
The baby will be lethargic and drowsy
The stool will be a pale yellow color
Their urine will be dark
Nursing on demand every 2-3 hours or so after birth and making sure you have a good latch and excellent breastfeeding support will help immeasurably. For yourself, remember to hydrate well. Drink at least 12 glasses of water a day to support your milk supply. Also, sunlight can help clear away newborn jaundice. You can place a naked newborn inside next to a well-lit window for 10 minutes twice a day. Never place your newborn in direct sunlight. Babies that are extremely jaundiced will need to come to the hospital for treatment for phototherapy and additional support.
Since those first hours after birth are precious and so important for bonding with your baby, it's ok to delay your baby's first bath. The vernix on a newborn has antibacterial properties and doesn't need to be washed off. You can spot clean your baby with a soft washcloth if you'd like -- otherwise, keep the newborn attached to you at all times.
So, now that you know the common newborn procedures, do some research on them. Google them. Talk to your caregiver about them. Examine the benefits and risks of each procedure and decide if you think each one is appropriate and medically necessary for your child. Some of them have more risks than others. But it's ultimately up to you to decide what is best for your child.
The above article from Midwifery Today, published in Issue 98 in the Summer of 2011, speaks wonderfully to the Natural Expulsive Reflex that HypnoBirthing® refers to (a.k.a. the Fetal Ejection Reflex). This article validates instinctively letting your body bring the baby down instead of following all of that annoying coaching for forced pushing.
The Quietude Phase
The author, Alison Bastien, writes that often, when a woman’s cervix is fully opened, a doctor, nurse, or midwife will immediately coach her to begin pushing, even when she’s not feeling an urge to bear down. I’ve certainly heard this story from my HypnoBirthing® students. This can lead to frustration and exhaustion as the “pushing” goes nowhere. And if you don’t have an urge to push, there’s something wrong with you. This article speaks of an interim phase between the time when the cervix is thinning and opening and the descent and birth of the baby. Midwife Whapio Diane Bartlett calls it the “quietude” phase and Sheila Kitzinger calls it the “rest and be thankful” phase. Alison calls is the “still pool,” that period of calmness before you meet your baby for the first time. For some women, this phase is short, and for others, it’s longer. What do you do during this phase? Nothing. There is nothing to do. Rest, sleep, connect with your baby, and restore your energy. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it wants to do. Ignore the coaching.
Our Microfocus on the Cervix
Another gem I pulled from this article is our obsession with the checking the dilation of the cervix in the United States. Alison quotes a Russian doctor as saying, “We do not ask a woman to push until we see the baby’s head.” And then a wrinkled old traditional midwife in rural Latin America speaks about checking a woman and says,
“‘Why would I want to feel the dilation of the cervix? I’m feeling for the babies head! If your finger goes all the way to here (indicating her second knuckle) then it’s still got a ways to go, and if you can only get it in to here (tapping her first knuckle), then here it comes!’”
This is so different from the attitude in the United States, where we routinely check the cervix to see if a woman is “ready to push” or not. It’s a simpler, gentler way of looking at the birthing phase.
Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom
The wisdom from this article is this: leave a birthing mother alone. Her body knows what to do with or without your meddlesome interference. Don’t coach her to push. She knows how to bring her baby into the world.
“Let’s let the babies tell us when it’s time to push!”
As informed consumers of birth, it’s very important to educate yourselves on all of the treatments that your newborn baby will receive once it’s born. What are the benefits of each treatment? What are the risks? The vitamin K injection is required by the state of California for all newborns, and I’ve found some articles that will educate you on this treatment.
But here’s something else to think about, is vitamin K by injection really the best way to ensure that your baby’s blood will clot properly after birth? An alternative to the injection is to give your newborn oral doses of vitamin K. The availability of oral vitamin K depends on the ability of your care provider to obtain it, and unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to obtain pharmaceutical-grade oral vitamin K. Here is a video from Evidence Based Birth about oral Vitamin K as a possible treatment choice for your newborn:
This blog entry is not intended to be medical advice. It’s designed to inform you so that you can make better, safer choices for you and your family based on medical research.