Newborn Survival

Newborn Care: Fussiness

When I teach my newborn care class one of the topics we cover is fussiness. This topic gets a lot of reaction from parents. They have a lot of questions. Nobody wants a fussy baby, but the truth of the matter is that every baby is fussy at times. So what do you do when your baby is fussy?

The simplest place to start is to make sure baby has been fed, diaper has been changed, and decide if baby is tired. All three of these things can be the most common sources of fussiness, so rule those out first.

If baby has reflux, try babywearing. Keeping baby in an upright position can work wonders.

I also suggest the book Happiest Baby on the Block to my students. There are some great, simple ideas to help make baby happy including swaddling and sucking (either a pacifier or breast). The five S’s listed in the book are basically simple ways to recreate the feeling of the womb for your baby.

For an in-depth look at this topic and for more helpful tips about your newborn, register for one of my upcoming Newborn Care classes.

Alyssa Veneklase is a ProDoula Certified Postpartum Doula and Co-Owner at Gold Coast Doulas in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also teaches Newborn Care Classes and Postpartum Planning Classes.

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Kids chores

The importance of giving children chores

Today we have a guest blog from our very own Alexandrea Rocha, previously an antepartum and postpartum doula with Gold Coast Doulas. If you have kids at home and struggle with the day-to-day list of chores, she has some helpful tips to get the whole family involved!

As parents, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Especially for stay-at-home Moms and Dads. One area I hear a lot of people say they struggle in is keeping up with the housework. Some families can afford a housekeeper, but many cannot. What do you do if you have kids at home and just can’t seem to find enough time in the day to get all the household chores done? I’m going to give you some helpful suggestions on how to have your children start to pitch in.

I have a list of things I want to accomplish daily, but with three kids I’m lucky if I’ve maybe done half of the items on my to-do list. For a while I just did everything myself because I am faster and more efficient (you know how it is)! But then it dawned on me that it was my job to teach my children to be responsible, and they were most certainly at an age where they could start helping out.

Starting at age one, you can find small things to have them help with. They will absolutely need your guidance, but getting them in the habit early is important. When my son was a toddler I ran a childcare for other toddlers in my home. Their job was to clean up their toys at the end of the day. A helpful tip to get everyone excited is to sing! Find a clean up song, mine happened to be from the television show Barney, and sing it during clean up time. Something about that song worked magic. They all loved helping clean up to the special song and sang it along with me. Make sure to thank them for their hard work and tell them how helpful they were. Kids love to be encouraged and hear good things about themselves, just as adults do.

Another thing toddlers can do is help feed pets if you have any, and water plants (both with supervision, of course).

When children are preschool age, they are now capable of cleaning up their toys on their own. They may not put the toys back exactly where you’d like them, but you have to let them do it. Same with making their beds. Let them try it on their own and praise them for their efforts.

I have some pretty basic chores that are routine at my house. My children put their shoes by the front door when we get home, they clear their dishes from the table after meals and snacks, and we unload the dishwasher together. I make sure my kids know that we are a family and we work together. I shouldn’t have to do it all myself when they are fully capable of helping.

Do they always want to? No. Do they complain at times? Yes. But I’m pretty strict about helping with chores, and I expect them to do it. However, I don’t force them to do it immediately or punish them if they don’t do it right away. Giving them an expectation and a time frame is a great idea. For example, “I would like the dishwasher to be unloaded before dinner” or “I would like you to have the playroom clean within an hour”. I tell my kids often how much of a help they are to me and how much it means to me when we all work together.

As kids get older they can do more and more and eventually have a regular list of daily and weekly responsibilities. Make a list of the chores that need to be done weekly and figure out which ones your kids can help with. Can they put away their own clean laundry? Maybe they can help sort the dirty laundry and put it into the washing machine with you. Can they set their own place at the table? Can they dust, make their bed, and clean up their room?

It’s important to give them choices. Sometimes they’re more excited about doing chores if you allow them to choose which ones to do that week. I’ve noticed by giving my kids freedom and choices in the matter, chores go much smoother.

If this is something you want to implement in your family’s life and have struggled with, don’t fret. It can be done. Start slow, and let them choose something that sounds appealing to them. Make it a fun thing you do together at first. Then have them do it themselves.

Another idea is to set a designated chore time daily for everyone. Even if it’s only a half an hour, you all get your chores done at the same time and have a little more time together as a family for the fun stuff. If it’s a bigger chore, you can tackle it with them. I help my 7 year old clean her room sometimes. It can be such a mess I think the idea of cleaning it up alone is overwhelming, so we work together and I assign her jobs that are hers to do. It gets done much quicker that way and usually I hear no complaints.

Our children won’t learn it if we don’t teach them, and it will help them in the long run to learn about responsibility, teamwork, and hard work. But don’t forget each child is unique so you have to use your judgment and do what works best for your family.


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infant massage

Why is Infant Massage Good for Babies?

Why is Infant Massage Good for Babies?

Gold Coast Doulas is thrilled to present a guest blog from Cristina Stauffer.  Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, CEIM has been passionate about serving women and young children throughout her career.  Pregnancy and early motherhood can be one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life. Cristina has been dedicated to supporting women through this delicate time by providing therapy and support, education and screening about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression and through teaching parents and caregivers the joy of infant massage. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and from Boston University with a Masters in Social Work.  Cristina became a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM) in 2005 and has incorporated this practice into many aspects of her career. She has been practicing in the field of social work with a focus on women and young children for over 20 years.

Why is infant massage good for babies?

Most of us recognize that we are never too young or too old to enjoy nurturing touch or the practice of massage; however, many people still wonder why they should learn to massage their baby.  Research over the years has shown that infant massage has many benefits for both parents and child, but the most important aspect of infant massage is simply the opportunity to just be with your child. The quality of the infant massage interaction is very powerful and allows you to enjoy a special experience with your baby, both physically and emotionally.  Other benefits of infant massage include relaxation for both caregiver and child, improved sleep habits for babies, promotion of healthy digestive function in babies, better body awareness, and encourages positive parenting skills.  Let’s explore the benefits of infant massage in each of these areas further:


  • Massage reduces fussiness.
  • Massage helps a baby learn to relax and reduce stress.
  • Massage helps a baby handle sensory input and respond to it with relaxation.
  • Daily massage time offers parents a time to relax and unwind from the busy pace of life and to connect with their child.
  • Massage increases a parent’s ability to help their child relax in times of stress.

 Improved Sleep

  • Research has shown that massage helps improve the quality of baby’s sleep and encourages the baby to fall asleep faster after massage.
  • Massage increases oxygen and nutrient flow to cells and helps to deepen respiration.
  • Many parents report noticing improved sleep habits such as longer naps or more restful sleep after incorporating infant massage.
  • It is not unusual for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep during infant massage classes or private instruction.

Healthy Digestion

  • Research has shown that massage strengthens and regulates the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems.
  • Massage stimulates baby’s ability to gain weight, especially for premature babies.
  • Massage helps to relieve the discomfort of gas and colic, teething, and congestion.
  • Infant massage instruction helps parents to better understand how the digestive system works and how to help relieve gas and constipation.
  • Infant massage class materials include a massage routine specifically targeted to relieve tummy problems such as pain, gas, constipation and colic.
  • Parents become more aware of how the baby’s belly looks and feels and are better able to identify possible tummy trouble.

Better Body Awareness

  • Massage enhances children’s body awareness and encourages positive feelings about their bodies.
  • Massage encourages children to feel “in charge” of their health as they grow and provides a healthy alternative to deal with stress.
  • Massage helps babies learn to accept and tolerate positive touch which is especially beneficial for babies who have been hospitalized.
  • Massage builds parent’s respect and understanding for their baby’s unique body, cues, and nonverbal communication.

Benefits for Parents and Caregivers

  • Massage provides intimacy and special time for caregivers and child, including fathers.
  • Massage helps parents to feel more competent and confident in their parenting role.
  • Parents learn how to touch and respond to their baby in nurturing ways.
  • Massaging their baby increases prolactin production (the “nurturing” hormone) in the parent allowing them to feel more relaxed and loving toward their child.
  • Group massage classes provide an opportunity for mutual support from other parents.
  • Massage provides an opportunity to connect, interact and share quality time with babies and children at any age.


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camping with kids

Tips for Camping with Children

We are pleased to present a guest blog with helpful tips for camping with kids from Courtney Garveink. Courtney was a birth doula with Gold Coast and a HypnoBirthing instructor.

As I sit here now, my husband and two girls, ages 5 and 4, are in our garage working on our fishing boat. Well, my husband is working. The girls are probably climbing up and down the ladder, in and out of the boat, pretending to talk over the CB radio, and swirling around on the seats.

We have several week-long camping and fishing vacations set for the year. My husband, who is a very good handy-man, likes to be super ready for our trips, so he starts prepping for summer vacations in the winter…this is our normal. We have taken our children fishing and/or camping since they were in my tummy. It’s the kind of vacationing we love most. Spending time together, showing our children the beauty of animals and nature.

We don’t live in a large city, or even a city at all. The closest gas station is about 5 miles away. So, when we choose our vacations for the year, it’s not too surprising that we like to be around nature, camp fires, a lake, hiking, and waterfalls. If you are thinking, “This sounds good but I have babies or little ones”, then hopefully you’ll find some good advice in what I write. We are certainly not experts on the subject, but may be able ease your concerns of how to start getting into the camping spirit while your children are little with some ideas on some low-maintenance vacationing.

It started when I was about 6 months pregnant with our first daughter. We’d take family trips to the U.P. to a large inland lake and go walleye fishing. There were about 15 of us that would rent a large house for the week and fish morning, afternoon, and evening. My husband and I were fishing in a little 14-foot fishing boat. Again, the following year, when our daughter was about 9 months old and I was pregnant with our next, we made the 10-hour drive to the west end of the U.P. with that same little fishing boat. This time we packed what felt like everything we owned, except a bed, in the boat and our truck. We even packed up the highchair and baby bullet (I was making baby food through the week), extra blankets for the bottom of the boat, extra toys and books, a little life jacket and lots of sunscreen for our little ginger. When we went out to fish, we laid a blanket or two down on the floor of the boat with a few toys and books, lotioned the little one with sunscreen, put a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses on her and set our lines in the water.  We had a large beach umbrella that we tried to rig up, but it was a little top heavy to secure to the 30 year old aluminum watercraft, so we propped it inside the boat and tried to make a little fort with the beach towel to block some sun.  Hey…we were new to parenting and using what resources we had.  Each year gets better!

Now that they’re older, we try to find some falls to take the girls hiking to or a beach to look for gems. They’ve seen bear, deer, and eagles and yet they still get excited about chipmunks and squirrels. They’ve caught walleye, perch, and blue gill, which is so fun to see.

In recent years, we’ve started camping. We aren’t “camper” campers…no, we have a tent that sleeps all of us, including our 6 year old lab. Yes, he goes on all our vacations, and has his own bed in our tent and fishes too. When the girls are sleeping-in in the mornings, he is my husband’s fishing buddy on the boat. Luckily, we have been able to upgrade to a little bigger boat so we all have a bit more room to fish or play.

We have a designated boat bag for the girls that includes coloring books and crayons, reading books, blanket, extra sunscreen and some snacks…don’t forget toilet paper and a garbage bag…they have been known to hang over the side of the boat to go potty, after making the mistake of forgetting a bucket.

But back to the tent camping. We like to find state parks on decent inland lakes that look family friendly with clean bathhouses, playgrounds, maybe a beach area to go swimming. First thing we do when we arrive is set up our tents. We have an older tent from when my husband and I would camp. We use that tent like a storage room where we put all our clothes, pantry food, cookware, toys, etc. If it isn’t too warm and the girls want to get out of the sun for a bit, they go in there and color or play. Having a second “storage” tent has worked quite well. My husband can wake up early and get ready without ruffling our tent while we are still sleeping. Our sleeping tent is just that…for sleeping. I have a small battery operated lantern that we hang from the “ceiling” for the girls since at home they like a night light.

We all sleep on air mattresses with sleeping bags and pillows. The girls each have their own twin size mattress and glow in the dark sleeping bag, which they think is the greatest because it’s their very own and obviously, it glows! They each take a couple stuffed animals from home and tuck them in their sleeping bags with them at night. If they wake early and must go potty, the bathhouse is usually not far. I try to find campsites near them, for that reason.

Meals are planned before we leave for vacation. We try to do as much on open fire as we can for dinners. We have a grate that sits over the fire, hotdog sticks, and hobo pie makers. Cast iron skillets are amazing for breakfast and easy to clean. We take a large, cheap stock pot for washing whatever doesn’t go in the fire after use. I pack a tote with pantry foods and a tote with all my seasonings and kitchen supplies, which gets organized in the storage tent. I also have a tote designated for handy things I may or may not need…extension cord, duct tape, first aid, bug spray, axe for splitting wood, fire starter bricks, plastic bags, paper products, sunscreen…It probably sounds like we have sunscreen stashed in several areas, and we do, we are all fair skin with strawberry/red hair so sunscreen is very important when we are camping or on the water.

We found we like bug bracelets better than bugspray. They have 40 hours of wear and the children don’t stink like bug spray when the bracelets come off (I think we found them at Babies R Us but I believe Meijer has them as well).

Children are super adaptable. They don’t need extravagant vacations. When they were babies, I would think, “This seems like too much work just to vacation”. But we found they love it, they look forward to it every year, they remember years past, and little friends they’ve made that have become “pen pals”.

As the years progress, they are able to last longer in the boat before they are ready to go back. They each have their own fishing pole and tackle box that my husband gradually adds tackle to so they can pick their own when he sets up their lines. They also get to pick their bait, which are leeches and worms. My 5 year old loves playing with leeches, chasing me around the boat, laughing as I beg her to stop and nearly climb out of the boat because she knows I get squirmy with them! (Gross!) We’ve gone on nature walks through trails in the U.P. that end at look out points to beautiful waterfalls which are some of my favorite days, and costs very little money.

Checking out of social media and technology and just being together and doing things as a whole family is where our best memories are made. We spend our vacations as a family this way because we truly enjoy teaching our children these things and showing them an appreciation for all of nature.

Things don’t have to be harder because we have children. Sometimes it’s going back in time and becoming a kid at heart again to enjoy the simple things. That sounds cliché, but sometimes that’s when we connect best with our children.

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Postpartum Doula

What does non-judgmental support mean?

Author: Alyssa Veneklase, CD


I was recently asked if, since I’m a doula, I tell clients not to vaccinate and make them feel guilty if they don’t breastfeed.


If you had a doula that made you feel this way, I apologize on behalf of them. That is the opposite of what a doula is meant to be.

Since there’s obviously still a lot of confusion about the role of a doula, I will try to clear up most of the common misconceptions briefly and simply.

A birth doula is not a midwife. We do not deliver babies; we are there for the physical and emotional support of the mother and even the father.


You do not need to have an all-natural home birth to use a doula. We support women  no matter how and where they deliver.

We realize that breastfeeding doesn’t work for every mother and every circumstance. We are there for guidance and support of breastfeeding, pumping, and bottlefeeding (breast milk and formula).

When clients ask us for guidance regarding topics such as vaccines and circumcision, we offer resources, but never tell a client what they should do. We want our clients to make informed and educated decisions, but the decisions are all their own.

Bottom line, a doula is a non-judgmental support person. And by non-judgmental I mean we never judge a mother, father, or family based on the decisions they make.


Telling a client not to vaccinate their child would be judging those who do vaccinate.

Telling someone we won’t work with them because they have a scheduled c-section would be outright, in-your-face judgment.

Telling a client that she’s a bad mother because she can’t, or chooses not to, breastfeed is yes, full of judgment.

As a postpartum doula, I am passionate about supporting families, wherever they’re at in their journeys. I serve families who co-sleep for months and those who use a crib from day one. I serve families who breastfeed and those that bottlefeed formula.

I serve mothers who had all-natural deliveries, mothers who delivered early and their baby was in the NICU, and mothers who had scheduled c-sections. I serve families whether they vaccinated or not, circumcised or not.

I serve families where the mother goes back to work full-time after a few weeks, and families where the mother never goes back to work. I serve mothers with postpartum depression and I serve mothers who are the happiest they’ve ever been.

In every single scenario, the client knows I am there for them. I have no agenda of my own. It doesn’t matter what I did with my child or what “most people” do. I want each of my clients to feel confident that they’re making their own informed decisions. And I’m there for them, no matter what the decision is.

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Gold Coast Doulas

Feeding the Monkeys

We are pleased to present a guest blog on feedings from Becky Antaya. Becky is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who has worked with women, infants and children for over 12 years. Through her experience educating moms and families about nutrition and breastfeeding she discovered a need for mothers to be nurtured and supported during the postpartum period, unlike her own first pregnancy. After struggling with undiagnosed postpartum depression and limited family support, Becky now is an advocate for mental health postpartum services. Becky is a ProDoula trained Postpartum doula through Gold Coast Doulas.

In our house when my kids were young feeding time was always referred to “Time to feed the Monkeys”. I am not totally sure why but we thought it was cute. We adore our little monkeys (even though they are big enough to feed themselves now). But looking back, feeding time at our “zoo” was anything but! There’s a lot of preparation and thought that went into it. We couldn’t just throw food at our little ones and say eat like they would at a zoo. There were burp cloths and bibs to round up, Boppy to be located, bottle to be prepared, comfy couch to clear off, etc, etc. and this was just for the BABY. So add in a busy sibling and what do you do? How do you keep a toddler/preschooler occupied while feeding your baby 8+ times a day? Here are a few tips I have discovered along the years to help tame your feeding time:

• Keep a basket or special box of toys that only come out at times when you are feeding your baby. I would recommend keeping it to more quiet items or toys that aren’t too loud. They can still make noise but nothing that would scare you or your little one during the feeding.
• Read books during feeding time that your toddler/preschooler would enjoy. Keep them only for feeding time and not bedtime since that is a special time of its own. Maybe even throw in a nutrition or food book since you are feeding someone at that moment. Head to the local library for some great ideas. A couple of our favorites were the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” series by Felicia Bond or “Muncha, Muncha, Muncha” by Candace Fleming.
• If you allow television, limit that time to feedings. Put on one of their favorite movies or shows but be sure to stop it when the feedings are complete. If the TV is on all the time then this “show time” quiet time won’t work. Same goes for using the iPad or tablet. If you always allow it, feeding time probably will not be sacred electronic time for your little one.
• Keep snacks handy. Inevitably your toddler always wants to eat or drink when you sit down to feed the baby. You could reserve a shelf in the fridge for the cup and have your child open up the fridge herself (what a big girl!). Have a water bottle nearby. Stock an easy-to-reach drawer full of pre-approved snacks. Suggestions are to choose your food (goldfish, dry cereal, grapes, or other healthier options) and pre-prepare snack size bags. Portion control is always good with little ones! Makes less mess.
• Get them involved. Is your preschooler willing to hold a bottle? Sit next to your child on the couch. Place a pillow on his/her lap, the baby on top. Show him or her how to feed the baby. This doesn’t mean you can walk away. Stay close by. Chances are your older child will be done in just a few minutes but at least they received some attention and know that these tasks are important.
• Have them learn how to burp the baby. Of course you want them to be gentle. Show him or her how to gently pat baby’s back and keep that burp cloth handy.

Finding new routines is hard with a newborn and older siblings but be patient. Eventually it will work itself out and your family zoo will learn to enjoy feeding time. And always remember to feed Mommy monkey too!

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kelley emery IBCLC

Your Confusing Little Mammal

We are honored to feature a guest blog from Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, IBCLC from baby beloved, inc. Kelly went to college to become a  psychologist, but after the experience of birthing and breastfeeding her first baby, she was “hooked” on the incredible miracle of it all.  She decided that she wanted to help other mothers with breastfeeding struggles (as she faced many of them with her daughter) and in 1994, Kelly became certified as a lactation educator and postpartum doula.

Over the next decade she gained experience (as well as a nursing degree) and started helping moms in the hospital, where she earned her IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) credential. She subsequently ventured out to create a place where mothers could come once they were discharged from the hospital (the time when most problems rear their ugly heads).  baby beloved, inc. was born December 1, 2004.

At my last breastfeeding class, I set out popcorn and Hershey’s chocolate kisses for the attendees to enjoy. The class started at 6:30 pm, so I asked them whether or not they had time to grab dinner after work before getting to class. All of them had eaten dinner, as had I. I had a huge, satisfying dinner at Blue Water Grill. I was stuffed. But wouldn’t you know it, I probably had 4-5 of those kisses, and the attendees of my class ALSO had ample popcorn and chocolate kisses. So what gives? If we were all just coming from dinner, and were presumably full, why would we grab popcorn and chocolate?

Turns out, we humans eat for comfort. And social bonding. And boredom. And pleasure (the chocolate kisses were quite pleasurable to me, I assure you). As new breastfeeding mothers, it’s helpful to remember this when baby is wanting to nurse again 1.5 hours after you fed him. I know it’s frustrating. Some day he will be able to walk to the refrigerator himself, but for now, his only way of communicating his needs is to cry and reach out for you. He is a little human who can’t walk or open his own bag of chocolates. YOU are the chocolate kiss in his life.

Babies have desires and preferences and irrational behaviors just like we do. If we just presume this from the start, it will make our lives as nursing mothers much more relaxed and understandable. I see mothers sometimes stressing about a baby’s 3 hour feeding schedule. Baby wants to eat at the 1.5 hour mark perhaps, and mothers get thrown off because the books, and the doctor and the Internet all say babies should eat every 2-3 hours. Conversely, I see mothers sometimes get concerned if baby sleeps a four to five hour stretch without eating. Now in the beginning, before baby is back to birth weight, it would be prudent to wake any baby who is sleeping longer than 3-4 hours, but a month old baby who is gaining weight well is probably just fine to be left sleeping (maybe not FIVE 5-hour stretches….but one stretch would probably be OK for a full-term, healthy newborn who is gaining gangbusters).

I know as a lactation consultant that when a baby wants to cluster feed, a mother (who is exhausted and perhaps “touched out”) may reasonably wonder to herself “But my baby just ate an hour ago. I must not have enough milk, otherwise why would he be wanting to nurse again?” Reasonable enough question. But if you substitute your baby for me (or yourself) and ask why a perfectly, well-fed, recently-fed woman would want to reach for 4-5 chocolates (when clearly my stomach was full), you might start to understand. If I were a dinner guest in your house, and I had just finished a fantastic, plentiful meal but then 45 minutes later I accepted your offer for dessert, would you find that odd? Or would you accommodate me?

I know it can be frustrating when you can’t measure what is in the breast. It’s reasonable for a new, “rookie” mother to be confused and worried. And unfortunately, we as lactation consultants and nurses sometimes set you up for all of this measuring the minute your baby is delivered (at least in the hospital) when we give you “feeding charts” so you can record the minutes you feed on each side and the number of wet/dirty diapers baby has so we can “tell if baby is getting food from the breast”. I totally understand that WE set you up to be anal about measuring things. I am constantly conflicted about having to do this, but as a new mother, I know you are looking for guidelines to ease your worry. You are looking for the guardrails so you can know if things are normal or not. If a baby is having lots of wet/dirty diapers, then chances are they are getting plenty of milk—and that is really what I want to drive home to parents so they can reassure themselves at 2 a.m. when I’m not there. So they can walk themselves down off the ledge when worry and sleep-deprivation kick in. And always know you can go to your pediatrician’s office for a weight check ANY time. Your doctor will let you know if the growth is normal or not. It might be a growth spurt, or a cluster feed, or any number of things, but please don’t automatically jump to the conclusion you don’t have enough milk. And if baby is not gaining well, then that is the time to reach out for help from a qualified lactation professional to help troubleshoot what might be going on.

But if the weight trend is good, and diapers are ample, your baby might just need you a little more at those times. If you are “touched out” and need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for help from husband or family, of course. You deserve a break, too, and you are not expected to do this all alone. Everybody needs space and time to rejuvenate and replenish. It’s not selfish, but rather a beautiful example to your baby or child of lovely self-care.

Kelly’s next breastfeeding class is on March 7th. Register at Renew Mama Studio today .

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