pregnancy insomnia

Sleep and Virtual School: Podcast Episode #106

 

Kristin and Alyssa talk about the struggle to get kids to sleep during virtual school at home.  Is it important to have a set bedtime?  Can kids stay up late?  We answer these questions and more!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello.  Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and I’m here with Kristen today.  Hey.

Kristin:  Hello.  Good morning.

Alyssa:  And we decided to chat about sleep and during COVID and kids going to school, because she texted me the other night with a specific question regarding her daughter Abby and school.  So do you want to tell me what your specific question with Abby was?

Kristin:  Yes.  So we were transitioning from summer sleep schedule to back to school, but my kids are in school virtually until at least late October.  So they don’t get up as early to go to the bus, and Abby was trying to negotiate a later bedtime based on what some of her friends were doing with virtual school.  So since, of course, you’re the sleep expert

Alyssa:  And Abby is how old?

Kristin:  Abby is in fourth grade.  So she will be 10 in late January.

Alyssa:  And of course she thinks she’s nearly an adult, so why not stay up late, right?

Kristin:  Right.  She’s so mature compared to her brother, who is in second grade, and she wants to stay up later than Seth, of course, but I actually have always had them on the same sleep schedule for school, so…

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, the difference between 7 and 10 years old for sleep is not any different.  They still need generally 11 hours at night.  Some kids need less; some kids will need more.  And you’ll know it.  If your kid needs 12 hours of sleep at night and they’re only getting 10, they’ll be exhausted during the day, but if you’re trying to force 12 or 13 hours of sleep on your kid who only needs 10 or 11, they will ultimately just stay awake in their room for two extra hours.  I mean, the biggest takeaway for sleep, adults or children, is to have a schedule.  Our bodies work on a natural circadian rhythm that flows with when the sun rises and the sun sets, and then eating at certain times of the day and then having social activities throughout the day.  And your body just sets its own rhythm.  And if you try to get up at 7:00 some mornings and then try to sleep in until 9:00 other mornings, and then some nights you go to bed at 10:00 and some nights you go to bed at 1:00 in the morning, your body — it just kind of wreaks havoc on this rhythm that your body wants and needs, and you’re not letting it happen.  So then we find that you’ll have days where you’re tired and you need to take a nap.  And naps can be great, but if you find you have to take naps every single day, it can actually lead to worse sleep at night, which then you say, oh, now I have insomnia and I can’t get to bed at night.  But it’s really important with kids that they have a general wake-up time, like within a half an hour.  So if you kind of work back from — like, my daughter is in in-person school five days a week, so she needs to leave at 8:00, and even though it only takes her a few minutes to get dressed and eat and brush her teeth, she’s very slow about it because she’s 7 and gets really distracted.  So I set her little alarm clock to go off at 7:00, so we have a full hour to do these three tasks that really would only take 15 minutes.

Kristin:  Snuggles, play with your dog…

Alyssa:  Yeah.  She wants time to talk to me about things and then, you know, probably play for a couple minutes and watch a show in the morning if she has time for a few minutes.  So there’s all these things that need to fit into an hour.  And then on the weekends, she still wakes up at 7:00.  Even if I turn her alarm off, her rhythm — I mean, granted, I’m a sleep consultant, so she’s been a great sleeper since forever — so her rhythm is set.  Like, she is just up.  Not to say that there haven’t been times where she — you know, we go on vacation or away from the weekend and she stays up a little bit late and sleeps in a little bit late.  But that doesn’t work so well with babies.  As we get older, our bodies can handle a little adjustment here and there.  But, you know, your kids, if they are going back to school in October —

Kristin:  Hopefully, yes.

Alyssa:  Hopefully!  Fingers crossed, assuming everything is safe — you can’t just say, okay, you have school on Monday.  Let’s start a good routine on Saturday.  You would need to think about it at least a week ahead of time and start setting their schedules.  So kind of work backwards from, okay, are they taking the bus?  If so, what time do we need to be out the door?  How long does it take to do this?  What time do they need to be up?  And then you would base their bedtime on whenever they need to wake up.  And assume they need 11 hours at their age.

Kristin:  Now, what about the parents who have the hybrid model for school?  So, you know, my kids are home five days.  Finn is in school five days, but what about the kids that are in school two days and then home two days?

Alyssa:  Same.  They need to be waking up within a half an hour of that.  So let’s say they have to leave for school at 8:00 in the morning on days they go.  And then they don’t have to log into their computer until 9:00 or 10:00 on the days off, or maybe it doesn’t matter at all, depending on how their classes are scheduled or how it’s set up.  They still need to be waking up.  Otherwise, your body doesn’t know: am I going to bed at 9:00 and waking up at 7:00?  Or am I supposed to stay up until 11:00 p.m. and wake up at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m.?  It just needs consistency, and the later you try to push it, usually, the harder it is.  Now, there are some kids who are just — like, a night owl is a real thing.  There are some kids who just function better going to bed later and waking up later.  Unfortunately, the school wake times aren’t conducive to those children.  And teenagers are completely different animals in and of themselves because of all these hormonal changes.  They actually need to stay up later and wake later, and it’s the hardest on them.  They start earlier.  There’s all sorts of studies done about it, documentaries.  But they’re suffering the worst.  It’s the hardest on them because they literally need that sleep later, and they’re being forced to get up earlier, to be to school early.  Some sports practice are before school.  So it’s really, really hard on them.  And then we have parents saying, you know, you need to go to bed, or you’re being lazy, or you’re sleeping in too late.  Their bodies actually physically need it.  Like, biologically, their brains need to sleep a little bit later.  So that gets tricky, too.

Kristin:  Now, with sleep, obviously, you give a lot of advice to parents with toddlers about limiting screen time and things before bed.  What is — you know, I’m so curious about the effect of, like, my kids being on tablets all day and how to transition out, and I’m trying to give them breaks during the day to go outside, get away from the screens.  Whether they’re on Zoom or they’re doing homework on the computer, it’s so much computer time.  And my kids are like Montessori, hands-on.  We use these tools in the classroom.  And now they’re on little tablets…

Alyssa:  I mean, don’t guilt yourself.  There’s nothing you can do about that right now.  It’s their only way to learn.  But you can buy blue blockers.  Get them some glasses to wear.  And then giving breaks is good.  But then for the last hour before bed, don’t —

Kristin:  No screen time.

Alyssa:  Don’t let them have any.

Kristin:  No TV, no tablet.

Alyssa:  No.  Because they’re getting so much of it all day.  Let’s let their brain just kind of rest and relax.  Even though that’s the time of day when kids want to relax and watch a show — you know, I have the luxury of doing that with my daughter because she’s in school all day, so when we come home and we play and then eat dinner and then do bath and then it’s like we chill out for a half an hour in front of the TV, and then she just kind of like — that’s her decompression time.  But you have to figure out the opposite, so what can your kids do at night?  Reading is great.  Writing in a journal.  Like, at Abby’s age, she might be into that.  That’d be a great journal-writing time, right before bed.

Kristin:  Yeah.  We do bath or shower time and the quiet time in your room, and that’s exactly what we do.  Look at a book, write something, draw a picture…

Alyssa:  Do a puzzle, draw, anything that just brings your brain to that focused on that one activity and it’s calming and soothing.

Kristin:  It’s good advice.  So any other tips for parents with school-age children, and maybe even how to manage schedules if they have a newborn or toddler?

Alyssa:  Just consistency is key.  I mean, no matter what age your child.  And then parents, too.  You know, at the end of all my sleep consults, once the baby is sleeping well, now I’m like, I’m not an adult sleep consultant, but how are you guys sleeping?  And it can take a while for parents’ sleep schedules to get back on track because they’re used to waking every two hours all night long with their one-year-old.  So they’ve had a year of sleepless nights.  So it can take — and be patient.  Be patient with your child.  Be patient with yourself.  Give your body that time to slowly adjust back into a normal sleep routine.  But even throughout all this virtual school stuff, parents should have a set schedule, too.

Kristin: Yeah.  And then we’ve got Daylight Savings coming up.

Alyssa:  I just worked with a client in Arizona.  Every sleep plan has a Daylight Savings section, and they’re like, well, we don’t have to deal with that.  I’m like, oh, gosh, you’re so lucky.  Why don’t all 50 states just eliminate this, because it’s just awful.  It’s awful on everybody.  And really hard to understand, too.  Like, do I go back?  Am I going forward?  And then same with that.  A week ahead of time, prepare your child for it.  And that’s coming up, what, October?

Kristin:  November?

Alyssa:  Is it early November?  Okay.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I want to say, like, November 1st or something.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I don’t know why I was thinking October, but yeah, whenever it is, just a week ahead of time, start transitioning your kid either an hour forward or back, depending.  And I always try to post something on Instagram and Facebook about it because it’s so confusing for parents to know which way they’re supposed to be adjusting the schedule ahead of time.

Kristin:  Right.

Alyssa:  So I guess I’ll be doing that soon because that’s coming up again soon.

Kristin:  Got to get some black-out curtains and blinds because, yeah, those adjustments can be challenging.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Keeping your room dark at night — your body really changes, like, the wakefulness and sleep because of light or darkness and then temperature changes.  So our body tends to warm up when we’re going to wake up, so having a really warm room — and I tell this to clients with babies, too.  If the room is really warm, that alone can cause wakeups because your body just gets too hot.

Kristin:  Makes sense, yeah.

Alyssa:  A nice cool room.

Kristin:  I don’t like my room to be too warm at night.  Well, thank you.  Very helpful!

 

Acupuncture for Anxiety: Podcast Episode #105

 

Kristin Revere, Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas talks with Vikki Nestico of Grand Wellness about acupuncture to help relieve stress, tension, and anxiety.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about how acupuncture can help with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after delivery.  Welcome, Vikki!

Vikki:  Thank you for having me!  It’s awesome to be here again.

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s great to have you back!  We spoke about acupuncture and fertility last time.  So I’m excited to delve into anxiety.  A lot of our clients struggle with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after giving birth.  So I’d love to hear a bit about you personally and also your practice before we begin.

Vikki:  Well, I moved here from New York City about six years ago and was so happy, because I do love it here — it’s such a great city — but really exciting to bring — I wouldn’t say I brought this medicine here, but, you know, I’m one of handful of people that do acupuncture in West Michigan.  And in New York, every corner has an acupuncturist.  So it’s wonderful to be a part of the crew that can — that really gets to share this medicine for the first time to so many people.

Kristin:  Right.  Yeah, it is definitely all about education, and we feel the same way about birth support and certainly postpartum doulas.  Everyone has a doula in New York or Chicago or in other markets, and so both of us in our practices have the challenge of educating the community on the benefits of our services.  So it’s great to partner with like-minded professionals like yourself and refer clients and know that you’re a trusted referral source.  You know, we tend to refer a lot of our clients who are either struggling with pain in pregnancy or are trying to induce labor or have a baby who’s breech, for example, and they’re trying to do everything they can to flip baby.  So we appreciate how much you’ve helped our clients.

Vikki:  Oh, thank you.  I love working with women and with women in the process of getting pregnant and working through pregnancy, giving birth.  There is nothing more exciting than to get that note from a client with a beautiful picture of their baby on it.

Kristin:  Yes!  That is the best.  And then if you continue the relationship, that’s also quite lovely, to follow up and see how they’re doing.

Vikki:  Absolutely, and usually when you get in — you know, obviously, with doulas, you then work on next pregnancies and sometimes around that.  For us, it really opens our clients’ eyes to what acupuncture can help with.  So if we’ve helped somebody through fertility and through pregnancy, we’ll often see them down the road for the beginning of other conditions.  You know, they’ll pop in and say, you know, you helped me with this.  Before I have to go in and, you know, take maybe a certain medication, you know, can acupuncture help?  And so it’s really wonderful to, exactly, continue on and help them throughout other struggles they may have in the future.

Kristin:  So, Vikki, tell us how acupuncture can help a birthing person with anxiety during their pregnancy.

Vikki:  Well, first of all, we are all aware when we’re pregnant that the body is making these huge changes.  And with that, we are increasing our blood supply.  We are just making this little human.  And that amount of added blood in our body can really affect how smoothly our circulation flows and how smoothly our energy flows.  So when we look at things like anxiety, in particular, you know, we want to make sure that we are helping somebody have everything circulating through their body with ease.  But why things may struggle: there can be a whole host of different reasons why, and so with Chinese medicine, we — for those that have never had it, there’s not just one answer to a condition.  So there’s not just — you know, say somebody is having struggles sleeping.  There’s not one pill or one herb or one item for the whole idea of insomnia.  And the same way with anxiety.  If we’re having a client who’s struggling with anxiety, we need to ask a lot of questions and go through a lot of our diagnoses to find the pattern and to help unravel that pattern.  So we do — we ask a lot of questions.  We want to know things like, have you had anxiety before?  Or is this something new due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy?  Are you eating differently?  You know, we change our eating habits when we’re pregnant, and sometimes we’re craving things, maybe more items that are hot and spicy, or dairy, or fried foods.  That can affect anxiety.  Being depleted because we’re working at home or at the office a lot can, you know, cause some fatigue in the body.  That can add to anxiety.  But then also we want to know the physical symptoms of what they’re feeling.

Kristin:  Sure.  And if someone’s had back to back pregnancies, there can be a lot of depletion with that.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So we just take all this information that we get during our conversations with our clients and through our own diagnoses or tongue and pulse diagnosis that we do.  You’ve had your tongue looked at before, so you know.

Kristin:  Yeah.

Vikki:  It gives us a lot of really objective information.

Kristin:  I felt like your intake session was very thorough and, you know, even getting into the supplements that I take and how that affects my mood and energy level and so on.  Yeah, it was very thorough.

Vikki:  Yeah, and then that gives us, you know, how are we going to release this anxiety; how are we able to cool the body if it’s more of a racing anxiety; how are we going to be able to bring that down and allow our clients to take this big, healing, deep breaths.  And acupuncture’s really helpful for that.

Kristin:  Yes!  And so as far as this session — and you describe sort of the intake process, but for clients who say they have a fear of needles or are uncertain on, you know, what a session would look like, and you mentioned that it’s relaxing, and I would definitely agree with that — can you take — walk our listeners through what a session would be like during pregnancy?

Vikki:  Yeah.  I totally understand that it seems really odd that it could be relaxing, until you’ve had it done.  And I see a lot of clients that come in who are very hesitant because they’re very — they may be fearful of needles.  And so I work within their capacity.  Here, we’re very gentle, and as I always say to my clients, you’re in control when we’re in the room.  The importance for me is to help the patient find comfort so when they are resting with the needles in, then they’re able to really relax.  So treatments usually start by a lot of talking.  You know, our first treatments are about 90 minutes, and that’s because we do a good chunk of talking to unravel where this pattern starts so I know how I’m going to approach the treatment.  It also helps our clients get comfortable with me or Corey, who’s the other acupuncturist here.  And know that this isn’t a rushed treatment.  What we do here, we take our time, and we always make sure that our client is comfortable.  And then after we chat for a while, we do that tongue and pulse, that diagnosis, which is, you know, just how we can objectively see what’s going on in the body.  And then we choose the points that we’re going to use to right the imbalance, and the client gets to lay for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes with the needles, which, again, sounds like it wouldn’t be relaxing, but you don’t even know they’re there.

Kristin:  Right.  I would agree.

Vikki:  And it’s a very deep rest.  A lot of times, people are surprised how deeply they nap when they come in for acupuncture.  Very relaxing.

Kristin:  Now, after baby’s born, walk us through how that can be helpful if a listener is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or OCD after giving birth and how you can level hormones and so on.

Vikki:  Acupuncture’s a really wonderful and natural way for women to build their strength and to heal after birth.  First and foremost, it’s a great therapy for restoring energy and boosting that immune system, and that is not just, you know, after — for women after they’ve given birth.  That’s for clients going through cancer treatments.  That’s for people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome.  Acupuncture is just a really great therapy to bolster our energy of our body and really direct it to helping us heal and be stronger.  But specifically to helping after a baby is born, acupuncture helps to rebuild blood that was lost during childbirth, which can bring on other conditions.  It helps you increase circulation that will speed up wound healing and helps stop pain.  It helps with women with breastfeeding issues, increasing milk production or healing mastitis.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.  I didn’t realize.  I knew that the milk supply would be affected, but mastitis healing — fantastic.

Vikki:  I know I see people that, you know, come in and we have certain points that really help to increase that milk supply but also helping our body just to use our body fluids correctly and to create that breastmilk.  It’s wonderful to see women be able to get some support, not with the aspect of how are you positioned and how is the baby breastfeeding, but internally, how your body is actually dealing with the milk supply.  We also, after the baby’s born, we help a lot with emotional issues.  And, you know, like you said, it’s not just anxiety and depression.  It’s worry.  It’s grief.  I see women that aren’t breastfeeding and maybe they couldn’t for some reason, or they chose not to, and after they made that decision, they’ve been feeling grief about it.  We are here to help; we help them process that.

Kristin:  Right.  Or grieving the birth that they wanted that didn’t happen.  There’s so much.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  You know, I always — I often say that in China, women have a whole month where their job is to rest after giving birth, and, you know, they take — the baby is brought to them.  They feed the baby; they cuddle the baby.  But for the most part, their family is there to take care of that baby and to take care of that mom and feed her great food and get her energy and her blood back to normal so she’s at full capacity when she’s back, when she’s clicked into really taking care of that baby.  And we don’t do that here in America.

Kristin:  We don’t, unfortunately.

Vikki:  Yeah.  And so it can take longer for us to heal physically, for us to heal emotionally, because, you know, we don’t — we haven’t nourished ourselves and been able to rest as much and to have as much self-care time.

Kristin: And you describe what we do as postpartum doulas, like in that role of what a family member would do in other cultures, making sure that they’re nourished and they’re taking care of their house and bringing baby to them and encouraging them to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea.  And so, yeah, so we love that role.  It is such a depleting time, and I feel like our culture is so rushed.  I do love the first 40-day concept of healing and rest and care.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  As I say to my clients when we talk about working with doulas, during that time — in a lot of these traditional countries, villages, our families were so close that we didn’t need all this, you know, this other — we had somebody that was coming.  There was somebody in the village coming.  But now, we don’t have people in the village coming.  We don’t have our families right there.  We need our doulas.  We need our acupuncturists.  We need our advocates or people that listen to us.  Therapy, I often will say, is a wonderful thing, because we don’t always have the support here.

Kristin:  Right.  Exactly.  And a lot of people move here for work and don’t have any family to help care for them and, you know, it’s so needed to take that time.  And like you said, that 30-minute session is a time away from family and responsibilities as a mother, and you can just rest and relax and have someone take care of you.

Vikki:  And in that 30 minutes, that 30 minutes isn’t even just the whole treatment.  That is just the 30 minutes that you’re laying and resting with the needles in.  You’ve already been able to share your truths, to share what’s going on, and we can begin treatment, but then you get that time in just a safe, healing environment, with gentle music, to just relax and let the body just take full control of healing and making some really great, balancing changes.

Kristin:  I love that.  So, Vikki, tell us how our listeners can get in touch and payment methods.  I know you take health savings and flex spending and some insurances and so on.

Vikki:  Yeah.  So we are happy to work with our clients when it comes to billing, in many ways.  First off, if their health savings or FSA does cover acupuncture, we definitely take it, and we definitely supply people with superbills that needs them for insurance reimbursements if they’re unsure about reimbursement.  We do bill insurance directly for those that do have benefits for acupuncture.  And we also have loyalty programs where we, for our clients, we offer the tenth treatment complimentary, and that is a mix of many of our treatments here from acupuncture to reiki to massage.  We understand that, you know, the Western world hasn’t really gotten on board to the preventative medicine, and so insurance doesn’t cover everything.  And we love to be able to help in ways that we can.  So, you know, that’s how with insurance and that.  But they can get in touch with us from our website, and on there is a whole bunch of information.  You can also book online there.  Otherwise, clients can call the office directly and make appointments with our front desk, and the number there is 616-466-4175.  I often encourage people that are unsure to schedule a complimentary consultation with myself or Corey, the other acupuncturist who works here, who’s awesome.  And, you know, we’re happy to really answer questions and for people to hear our voices and to be able to have some conversation about them directly to help with their comfort level as to whether or not they feel like this is the right therapy for them.

Kristin:  That’s fantastic.  Do you have any parting words for our listeners?

Vikki:  You know, when it comes to dealing with changes in our mood, especially around the times of pregnancy and giving birth, these times are just really a struggle for us.  It’s what makes us as women so powerful is the ability to be able to roll with these changes and to experience what is amazing about our bodies.  But it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly, and I often see people get caught up in — you know, women seeing other mothers who just effortlessly fall into being a mother and gave birth and just the ease of raising children.  And I can usually guarantee most women that that is — that we all struggle.  We all struggle.  And there are many options for help, and acupuncture is a great one.  It’s not the only one, but it is a great therapy for supporting women during these times and just unraveling the stressors and emotions that we struggle with during that time.

Kristin:  I love that.  Thanks for sharing!

 

acupuncture

Acupuncture during Pregnancy and Postpartum: Podcast Episode #103

 

Dr. Carrie Dennie, ND speaks with Alyssa about the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy and postpartum.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Alyssa:  Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  You are listening to Alyssa Veneklase.  I am the co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I am so excited to be talking to Dr. Carrie Dennie, a naturopathic doctor at what was Grand Rapids Natural Health but is now the Michigan Center for Holistic Medicine.  Hello!

Dr. Dennie:  Hi, Alyssa!  Thank you for having me!

Alyssa:  I want to know, do you prefer Dr. Carrie or Dr. Dennie?

Dr. Carrie:  Dr. Carrie is fine.

Alyssa:  Okay.  Dr. Carrie.  So I have some questions for you.  You started out this path, and you became a naturopathic doctor, but then I was reading your bio.  You had one acupuncture treatment and just fell in love with it and then went on to acupuncture school and graduated the valedictorian of your class?

Dr. Carrie:  I did.

Alyssa:  That’s amazing!

Dr. Carrie:  Thank you.

Alyssa:  That makes me wonder what happened in that treatment of acupuncture that just made you fall in love with it so much.

Dr. Carrie:  So it was interesting because my school has both programs, and we get free access as students to go and have free appointments.  And so I had never had it, you know.  Heard about it, and so I went and tried it.  And it was just — I think the — my favorite part about acupuncture is that it’s so relaxing.  I don’t care what you’re coming for, if it was pain, if it’s some sort of an organ dysfunction.  Nope — well, yes.  That is important, and you can get relief, but also, the relaxation.  It just — it’s so amazing.  It’s just so invigorating.  A lot of my patients will say that they feel gentle sensations when they’re in the treatment.  And, again, everybody leaves feeling just relaxed and they end up sleeping better that night or even several days afterwards.  Like, there’s just so many different ramifications that can occur as a result of one acupuncture treatment.  So that’s why I loved it.

Alyssa:  So I’ve only had one, so I’m not very experienced in acupuncture, but what exactly — what is it doing?  You know, I know I have these little needles poked in.  I would imagine that it’s doing something to my nerves, which then send signals to my brain to do something else?

Dr. Carrie:  That is correct.  So that’s how we understand it from a conventional medical perspective, is that you have nerve stimulation.  The nerves release chemical messengers that can go to the brain, the spinal cord, the muscles, the organs, and then affect change from that point on.  Also in general, acupuncture can reduce inflammation.  It is a stimulator of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, so obviously can help relieve pain.  It can improve blood flow and circulation.  And, again, like I said, it is just relaxing and has an overall mood-boosting affect.  One other thing that I will say is that I had a patient recently who was undergoing chemotherapy currently, and they were unable to get their treatment because their white blood cell count was too low.  So they came for an acupuncture treatment, and after one, the numbers went up enough that this person was able to get his treatment the next time.  Again, it’s so amazing how these little needles can affect great change in the body.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So this is kind of a strange question that just popped into my head right now, but what’s the most amount of needles you’ve ever had in someone?  Or is it typically, like, only a dozen or so?

Dr. Carrie:  So I try to keep it around let’s say 15 or 16, and again, it just all depends what they’re coming for.  But the most, I think, that I’ve ever personally put into someone was around 30, and the reason why is that their concern involved their fingers and toes.  And so I had needles in between fingers and toes, which is about 18 needles in total, let’s say.  And so the rest of the other body points add on top of that.  Like I said, normally, I try to keep it less than that, but again, it just all depends.  This person who I did all these needles in, they felt benefits afterwards.  I love it.

Alyssa:  And that’s the point, right?

Dr. Carrie:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  So how do you integrate the two, then?  As a naturopathic doctor, how do you integrate that medicine with acupuncture?  Is that a silly question because you’re like, well, they just go hand in hand?  The benefits of both?

Dr. Carrie:  It’s not silly, but you’re 100% correct.  They definitely go hand in hand, and it all depends on the patient.  So as a naturopathic doctor, for your listeners who may not know, I am trained as a primary healthcare professional, and I am trained to emphasize prevention, treatment, and optimization of health using natural therapies that are safe.  And most of the time, research has proven them to be effective.  And so primarily my goals are always to identify the root cause of disease, to reestablish the foundations for health, which basically is diet and lifestyle changes, and then again to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself.  And that’s the piece right there where acupuncture just fits in perfectly.  Again, tiny needles being applied in random places, if you don’t understand the theory behind it, but it, again, it just has so many different effects on different systems.  And so like I said, I was in school for naturopathic medicine, but once I had that treatment, I had to add on my acupuncture degree because it just didn’t make sense to leave without this awesome therapy.

Alyssa:  For you, it was just a no-brainer.  It was like that missing piece of the pie to what you were already doing?

Dr. Carrie:  Yes.  And it was interesting, what I was learning, because it just makes so much sense when you really start to dive into the theory and why they are — you know, why this person or these people decided to do these things.  It’s just so interesting.  And it’s natural.  Again, the Chinese developed this over 4,000 years ago.  They didn’t have MRIs or X-rays but they were able to ascertain functions of the organs in an — you know, almost in the exact same way that we do in western medicine, but there’s some tweaks.  But again, it was just amazing, so I had to do it.

Alyssa:  I love it.  So, you know, for our listeners, most of them are either pregnant or in this postpartum period.  If someone were to come to you pregnant or newly postpartum, would you have to treat them differently, or what would treatment look like for them?

Dr. Carrie:  So treatment for anyone is initially a two-hour long appointment, and we talk about everything, especially if they’re coming to me for naturopathic medicine.  If they’re coming to me for acupuncture, the initial appointment is an hour and a half, and again, we’re still talking for at least an hour in both sessions.  But I’m not just focusing on their chief concern, whether it’s, you know, having lactation issues, or I’ve just got this nausea all of a sudden.  You know, it’s more than that.  I want to know everything because your health is influenced by so many different factors beyond just the physical.  You know, what is your mental emotional state?  Do you have any religious or spiritual beliefs?  Are you walking in those beliefs?  Are you using — are you living those principles?  All of that affects your health.  But then also, too, we talk about the things that you do and the things that you eat and what comes out of your body every day, and hopefully people are looking at the things that come out because, again, these are all…

Alyssa:  It’s important!

Dr. Carrie:  Yes!  These are clues towards your health.  And so we talk about all of those things, and then, you know, the thing that I love about naturopathic medicine and that I incorporate with acupuncture is that I want to heal your whole body.  I want to care for your whole body so that you can have the best life that you have because your whole is as well as can be.  And so that’s usually how it starts is a two-hour treatment.  If it’s acupuncture-based, after we talk, then I start the acupuncture, and I have a whole process, especially for people who don’t or who have never had acupuncture before, and I kind of walk them through it.  But then they just get to relax afterwards.  And if they like heat, there’s heat therapy that can be provided.  Music, you know.   Essential oils.  It’s just relaxing while you lay there.  And you can either focus on your breathing, or if you’re a person that prays, you can pray while you’re laying there or you can meditate.  Or you can just, again, invite in relaxation and good vibes and sent out the bad ones while you’re resting and not thinking about all the things you have to do afterwards and the nuances of life that tax our systems.

Alyssa:  I think that maybe the relaxation part that people who have not had an acupuncture treatment before might not realize is that you put the needles in, and then — is this the case for you?  Do you leave the room and then they have time to relax?

Dr. Carrie:  Yes.

Alyssa:  And that’s what I didn’t know when I had mine is, oh, I just get to sit here in this beautiful room with the noise machine going.  But yeah, that sounds lovely.  Heat therapy and essential oils.  It’s kind of like you get a massage and then you still get to lay there for a little while.

Dr. Carrie:  Yes.  You get to bask in stillness, you know, and hopefully, you can let go of all the things that are plaguing you for those moments while you’re laying there and just let your body heal itself.  You know what I mean?  Let your body do what it can do for you when you’re not under stress all the time.

Alyssa:  So are there certain areas of the body, then, that you probably couldn’t work on for a pregnant person?  Like, you know, certain spots that might activate labor?

Dr. Carrie:  Correct.  So with pregnant women, we do not — we’re trained very strictly on this.  There are several points we do not do during the pregnancy, and even with my patients that are trying to conceive, depending on what’s going on, I may or may not do them, either.  But, yes, we’re trained very much not to do those, unless the woman is in the third trimester.  Maybe she’s trending towards her due date or she’s past her due date.  She wants to try to avoid an induction process in the hospital.  Then we would do those points because we are trying to promote labor.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  That’s a great point because early in pregnancy, you want to avoid them, but you’ve got this mom who’s 38, 39, 41 weeks, and she is in there for the complete opposite reason.  Help me get this baby out!

Dr. Carrie:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  That makes sense.  And then what about postpartum?  You know, a newly — you know, there’s all sorts of things with healing and then mental and emotional wellness.  Is there anything specific in the postpartum time that you would do for a parent?

Dr. Carrie:  Totally.  So moms, being a new mom or a new parent in general, is overwhelming.  Now there’s a whole other human or humans that you have to care for, and it can definitely be an around-the-clock experience.  So the first thing that I would suggest for anyone looking to acupuncture to help is for that relaxation piece, to alleviate anxiety; to relieve stress.  For the parent to have, again, that moment, time where they don’t have to worry about the baby or babies or their spouse.  They can focus on zenning out, relaxing.  So that’s number one.  Specifically for new mothers, you know, postpartum depression can be a huge obstacle to battle during this time, and so acupuncture, again, would promote serotonin and dopamine production, and these are the happy hormones.  So, again, boosting mood.  It can improve sleep and boost energy, which are very much important things to have when you have new babies.  But beyond that, again, like you said, there’s healing and rejuvenation that needs to happen after a birth, and acupuncture can definitely assist with that.  Another thing that people don’t think about is milk production.  Acupuncture can definitely help boost lactation so that, you know, that’s one less thing that mom has to worry about.

Alyssa:  So where in the body — I’m picturing nipples or needles in the boobs.  Where do you — is there another spot on the body for anyone who might say, oh, that sounds interesting, but I don’t think I could handle a needle in my boob.  Where does it go?

Dr. Carrie:  Totally!  Again, all depends on how they present.  But you’re 100% correct.  There are points in the chest area where I could put needles.  I would not, though, and that’s the beautiful thing about acupuncture, like you said, is there are other places that you can put needles, and the answer is yes.  So some are — one is on the shoulder area or in the — yeah, on the shoulder area, and then there’s other that are kind of, again, on the limbs that I could use to boost milk production.

Alyssa:  That’s really cool.  We have two lactation consultants, and I wonder if they’ve ever recommended acupuncture to anyone who’s struggling with milk production.  That’s an interesting idea.

Dr. Carrie:  Something else, though, that I want to mention, too, as a naturopathic doctor, is I don’t just think in one lens.  I have both on, hopefully, if my brain is working correctly.  But I would also be thinking about naturopathic therapy.  So as we know, labor is a trauma to the body, and depending on — even if it goes smoothly, or even if there are some complications, like you said, healing reformation needs to be done.  But you also need to know the state of your body, and a lot of times, bloodwork is necessary or recommended after labor.  And so think of things like just the general CBC in case the person is anemic; looking at the thyroid, because there is a connection between delivery or pregnancy and thyroid dysfunction afterwards.  And then simple things like vitamin D.  Depending on the time of year, you may have been inside for the majority of your pregnancy because it’s cold.  What’s your vitamin D status?  And so a lot of these, if there are dysfunctions in these areas, it can mimic depression.  And so those are things that you want to look at, also, or consider looking at, but then also other lifestyle things.  I know that having new babies is overwhelming, like I said, and so are you taking care of you?  Are you going outside if it is nice enough to go outside?  If you can go outside, you know, I always recommend people go out for 30 minutes.  Take the baby for a walk.  Hopefully, the rhythm of the walk will put the little one to sleep, and then you can tuck them in the bed when you get back and hopefully have more time.  And especially if you live around nature, if you can go into nature, it’s been proven that being in nature is calming.  And so those are other things that I suggest.  And then the walk is exercise, and that we know is beneficial to the body, as well.  You know, it’s just so many different aspects of being that I look at when people come to see me.  And so you likely will hear me say things that are naturopathic tips in my acupuncture appointments, and I definitely recommend acupuncture to the majority of my naturopathic patients, unless I know they don’t like needles.

Alyssa:  Right.  Well, I think even someone who doesn’t like needles, you could put, like, a sleepy blindfold on them or something, because you can’t even feel them.  I was so surprised because I was watching, and I was, like, I didn’t even feel that.  That’s wild.

Dr. Carrie:  It’s so true.  A lot of the times, I do hear from people that they don’t necessarily feel certain points.  But I won’t lie and say that there aren’t times where you definitely feel the needle go in.  But it’s instantaneous, you know what I mean?  It’s not like a lingering pain.  You’re not going to lay there in pain for 30 minutes.  No.  You’re going to be relaxed.  But you’re right, and they’re very thin.  The needles are almost as thin as a strand of hair.  It’s totally different from what people think when they’re normally thinking about getting their blood drawn.  That’s a huge needle.

Alyssa:  I agree.  Totally different.  Totally different.  You know, that makes me wonder, how young — can you take children?  Can you do acupuncture on children or even babies?

Dr. Carrie:  Yes.  Technically — I wouldn’t say babies, but in China, they do acupuncture as young as one year old.  But with children that young, the needles are not in for an extended period of time.  It’s more of a stimulation of the point and remove the needle and move on to the next point sort of a thing.  With children, I think the youngest person that I’ve done acupuncture on was 14.  And so for kids, especially us in America where this is not our culture — it’s the norm to have acupuncture as a therapy that they can readily go to.  I would say if you’re children can’t be still for, I don’t know, 10 minutes, let’s say, then they probably shouldn’t come for acupuncture.  Again, you have to have the mental capacity to be still and be able to relax and not move.

Alyssa:  Right.  And that’s why it doesn’t work on babies because they’re flailing their arms all around, and if anything, they’re going to hurt themselves more than heal.

Dr. Carrie:  Exactly.  Right.

Alyssa:  This has been enlightening!  Is there anything that you wanted to cover that we didn’t cover?

Dr. Carrie:  So I just want to mention, for women who are pregnant, definitely, acupuncture is safe and an awesome way to relieve any of the common symptoms that they have at any stage or that they may have at any stage of pregnancy.  During the first trimester, if you are having nausea, vomiting, or you’re just extremely fatigued or you may be constipated or have diarrhea, this is an important way to kind of support those systems and just, again, rejuvenate the body.  During the second trimester, a lot of times aches and pains occur or start occurring.  That is another great reason for acupuncture.  Again, if sleep is starting to become uncomfortable, acupuncture is awesome for insomnia.  And then even like hemorrhoids or complications from GI dysfunction can be addressed through acupuncture.  And then like we were talking, in the third trimester, if they are close to or beyond their due date, labor induction or labor promotion, I should say.  And then one thing that’s really interesting that women may not be aware of is that if your baby is in a breech position and the doctor is talking about a C-section, you can come to an acupuncturist and we can do a sort of heat therapy, and it’s really interesting.  It’s over your toe, your pinky toe, and it’s amazing.  Again, the woman — it’s ideal if she comes at 36 weeks if she finds this out, but we do this heat therapy, and I send them home with the heat therapy so they can do it at home, but a lot of times, the baby will move into the correct position.

Alyssa:  That’s incredible.  Is there a statistic on how often that actually works?

Dr. Carrie:  I don’t know any off the top of my head, but I know that it’s definitely been studied.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I’ve heard of it before.

Dr. Carrie:  Yeah.  The therapy is called moxibustion.

Alyssa:  Say that again?

Dr. Carrie:  The therapy is called moxibustion.

Alyssa:  Moxibustion.  Huh.

Dr. Carrie:  It’s basically burning a dry cone of Chinese mug wort over the toe, and it sends this, like, smooth, warming sensation deep into the body.  We use it for other reasons as well, but that’s — again, you just get it over the toe, and baby flips over the majority of the time, in my experience.

Alyssa: That little baby pinky toe sends some signal all the way into the womb, and tickles that baby right around?

Dr. Carrie:  That’s right.

Alyssa:  Wow.  Well, thank you so much.  If somebody wants to find you specifically, I mean, we’ll link to your website and stuff, but why don’t you tell us how people can find you?

Dr. Carrie:  So you can definitely find me on Facebook.  I’m Dr. Carrie ND on Facebook, and you can also find me on Instagram.  But all of this is available on our website.

Alyssa:  Perfect.  Well, thank you so much for all of that information.  I’m sure everyone will love this, and I have learned so much more about acupuncture!

Dr. Carrie:  Well, thank you again for having me.  I really appreciate it.

 

safe sleep

Creating a Safe Sleep Space: Routers

Alyssa Veneklase talks with Lisa Tiedt, Building Biologist and owner of Well Abode, about creating health sanctuaries in our homes.  You can watch this video on YouTube.

 

Alyssa:  Hi.  It’s Alyssa and Lisa here again.  This is Part 3 of our series on how to create a low EMF sleep space, and we’ve kind of narrowed it down to three main culprits, which are sound machines, monitors, and then routers?

Lisa:  Yeah.  The router that you have in your house.

Alyssa:  Even though routers aren’t usually in bedrooms, we’re still going to talk about them today.  We put one across the hall, so it might be very close to a bedroom, and we can kind of see how that affects the sleep space.  So do you want to tell everyone again just briefly what a Building Biologist is in case they didn’t watch the other two videos?

Lisa:  Yes.  A Building Biologist is a person that assesses any built environment.  It could be a home or an office or a school for anything that directly impacts the health of the people that work, sleep, or live within those spaces.  And we look at air quality — that’s a very broad topic, but air quality, creating a low EMF environment, as well as water quality, too.  Of all the homes that I have assessed, the three top culprits are just the ones that we’ve talked about today: the sound machines, the baby monitors, and the routers that are typically in a room that shares a wall or is in close proximity to a sleep space.

Alyssa:  So do we want to measure this room with no router and then kind of see how things change as we get close to the router?

Lisa:  Yes.  So we’re in Alyssa’s daughter’s room.

Alyssa:  This is my daughter’s room, and there’s no router in here and we actually don’t have one in this part of the house, but we plugged one in across the hall just for this video.  But a lot of people will have an office maybe across the hall or maybe the bedroom is near the living room where it’s plugged in.

Lisa:  Or it could the bedroom’s on the second floor, and the router could be in the basement right underneath.

Alyssa:  So it could be going up and down this way?

Lisa:  Yep.  The three materials that actually stop radiofrequency radiation are metal, steel, and brick.  But it passes directly through building materials such as windows, drywall, plywood, wood, things of that nature.  So even having a router in close proximity spills over into all those other spaces.  And, again, the sleep space is the most important, and we’re here today to create a sleep sanctuary.

Alyssa:  All right.  Should we look at the numbers?

Lisa:  Again, we’re looking at radiofrequency radiation.  We are looking primarily at the middle number here, and it says 3,680 microwatts per meter squared.

Alyssa:  What’s our ideal?

Lisa:  An ideal for RF is 10µw.m², so you want to be in the double digits.  So we’re at 3,810µw.m², and we want to get to 10.  So we’re going to go across the hall where the router is on.  You can see that the numbers, as we get closer to the router, are beginning to increase.  And so obviously, distance to source matters, but as we get close to —

Alyssa:  Oh, so now we’re up to 188,000µw.m²?

Lisa:  So we’re now up to 188,000µw.m².  We get closer and closer.  We’re at —

Alyssa:  Over a million µw.m²!

Lisa:  Over a million!  And if you look at the router here, there are two numbers.  There’s 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) and then there’s 5 gigahertz (GHz).  So both of these frequencies are active in a router that you get, just any router.  It’s automatically turned on by the manufacturer.

Alyssa:  And that’s the 5G that is faster?

Lisa:  Yep.  And so now, you know, we’re up to 1.5 millionµw.m² of radiation.  So one thing that you can do — obviously, distance from source matters, so in your daughter’s bedroom, we started at 3,600µw.m².  We’re now at 1.5 millionµw.m².  So it’s really good that your daughter doesn’t have any router in her bedroom.  There are different shielding options.  This happens to be a fabric one.  You can get a metal one like we showed you with the baby monitors that’s just in the shape of a rectangle instead of a cylinder.  And so you can see now that this has taken it down to around 10,000µw.m² — A router shield will reduce EMF’s from WiFi by ~85% to 90% 24/7.

Or upgrade to the JRS Eco Wireless routers reduce radiation pulses by 90%. The JRS Eco 100 models even take it one step further and automatically switch to a completely radiation-free Full Eco stand-by mode when no wifi devices are connected and automatically detect only your paired devices. 

Alyssa:  So it went from 1.5 million µw.m², almost, to about 10,000 µw.m².

Lisa:  So that’s exponential reduction.  We still — again, we want to be in single digits.  We want to get to 10 so even this is kind of too high for a safe sleep space.  And so one of the really cool things that you can do is get this particular router which has a manual on/off button bur turning off at night.

Alyssa:  So most routers don’t have an on/off button?  You would have to completely unplug it?

Lisa:  Most routers, you’d have to pull the cord out of the wall.  The other kind of ingenious thing that you get is — this company actually sells remote outlet switches.  They come in sets of one, three, and five.  And what this allows you to do is plug this switch into a wall and then you plug the router into the switch, and with the remote outlet switch at your bedside table — and you can see here.  You can actually turn the router off and on.  So now — and this is kind of still shutting down, but now it went from 1.4 million µw.m² to around 10,000 to 1 million µw.m².  Now, this is still picking up — I think probably your smart watch, but essentially, it’s going down and down.  And then the other thing even better that you can get so that you don’t have radiation coming from your router all the time is to actually hardwire. The best option is to manually turn off WiFi and Bluetooth on every device and use hardwired grounded & shielded Ethernet cables to get Internet connectivity. This eliminates EMF’s from WiFi with your devices.  

Alyssa:  Okay.  So keep your router as far away from your bedroom as possible?

Lisa:  Yes, and turn it off when you sleep.

Alyssa:  And turn it off when you’re not using it, especially during sleep.

Lisa:  Yep.

Alyssa:  All right.  Thanks!

Lisa:  Thank you!

Research 
To learn more about the health impacts of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs), check out the BioInitiative Report. It has a 19 page Summary for the Public & Charts which is the preeminent summary. The full 1,500-page report authored by an international panel of M.D. and Ph. D. scientists and physicians, analyzes +3,800 scientific, peer reviewed studies showing adverse health hazards of electromagnetic radiation, especially with children. Diseases and disorders include cancer, neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, behavioral disorders i.e. ADD and autism, immune dysfunction, Blood-Brain Barrier permeability, reproductive failure & birth defects, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle/joint pain, chronic inflammation and many more.

 

Safe sleep EMFs

Creating a Low EMF Sleep Space: Baby Monitors

Alyssa Veneklase talks with Lisa Tiedt, Building Biologist and owner of Well Abode, about creating health sanctuaries in our own homes.  You can watch this video on YouTube.

 

Alyssa:  Hi, again.  We are in our series of how to create a safe sleep space, and I am Alyssa, talking to Lisa Tiedt again.  She is a Building Biologist, and I’m a sleep consultant.  So we’re talking about — we’re in my daughter’s bedroom.  She’s seven and a half now, but this was her nursery, and it’s a small space, as you can see.  So a lot of the sleep clients I work with have small or smaller nurseries, and when you have things like sound machines and monitors and maybe even a router in the room, how do you position things to make it the safest possible?  So first why don’t you tell us again what a Building Biologist is, and then today we’re going to be talking about monitors.

Lisa:  Yep.  So a Building Biologist looks at any built space, whether it’s a home or a school or an office building, and looks at it for anything that directly impacts the health of the people who live, work, or sleep within those spaces.  A Building Biologist assesses air quality, indoor air quality, electromagnetic fields, as well as water quality.

Alyssa:  Okay.  So today with monitors, is it electromagnetic fields, EMFs?

Lisa:  Today, we’re focused on how to create a low EMF space for your child’s bedroom.  Safe sleep or healthy sleep is one of the most important things that you can do for your child’s health because sleep is the time where the body is naturally rejuvenating and renewing itself every day.

Alyssa:  So I know that when — so when this was a nursery, the crib was there, and I think had the monitor probably as close to this bed as it was — I mean, it was very close to the crib, which I think most parents with a video monitor think we have to do to see them better.  So let’s talk about what that little guy is doing to us right now.

Lisa:  Yes.  So how to create a low EMF space for your child, there — we’re looking at the radio frequency category of manmade EMFs, and baby monitors project or emit radiation.  And so I’m going to turn the RF meter on right now.  We are paying attention to — mostly to that middle line that says max, in a safe sleep space, the number that you want to get to is 10.  If I am Finnley and my head is right by this video baby monitor, it is at around, you know, a half a million microwatts per meter squared.  And so this is —

Alyssa:  So 445,000 and you want to have 10?  Not 10,000.  One zero, 10.

Lisa:  Ten, like double digits, 10.  And we’re at about a half a million here.  And if you’re paying attention to nothing other than even just to numbers, you can see that, you know, one baby monitor can put the entire bedroom —

Alyssa:  In the extreme zone.

Lisa:  In the blinking red extreme, extreme zone.  So one of the very — in terms of steps that you can take, distance from source always matters because the radiation drops off with distance.  So if you absolutely have to have a video baby monitor, move this as far away from the bed space as you possibly can.  Secondarily, what you can do is actually shield the baby monitor.  This is just a case that I bought at the Ace store in my neighborhood.  This is all metal.  They sell plastic ones.  Plastic ones don’t reflect the radiation, so you’ll have to get a metal one.  This was about five dollars.

Alyssa:  And it’s just a little pencil case, right?

Lisa:  And it’s just a little — yeah.  It’s just a little pencil case.

Alyssa:  It looks like an Ikea thing that I have to put utensils in.

Lisa:  Yep.  So what you can see now is this reduced the radiation from the video baby monitor from —

Alyssa:  So are we looking at the top number now?  So it’s holding — the middle number is what it was before?

Lisa:  Exactly.  So the middle number is the peak hold number, and then the top number is the real time number.

Alyssa:  So we went from 500,000 to about 8,000 to 9,000 — it’s going down to 7,000 µw/m².

Lisa:  Around 5,000 to — 5,000 to 10,000. That’s a 70% decrease!  And then even — and then another step down would be instead of getting a video monitor, you would actually just get a baby monitor that has audio only and not video.  So you can see here that the video monitor — now we’re paying attention to the middle number again — was at 500,000 µw/m².  An audio monitor only is about 125,000 µw/m².  So it’s several — you know, four times magnitude less than what the video monitor is.  Because this particular unit would be plugged into a wall, there’s also just RF shielding fabric that you can get.  This is a bag kind of made for the size of a router, but you can get teeny tiny ones, and you can see it goes from 123,000 µw/m² to about 5,000 µw/m².

Alyssa:  5,000 to 10,000.

Lisa:  Yep.  5,000 to 10,000 µw/m².  Now, the absolute best thing that you can do — there’s a D-Link baby monitor with video that you can actually have a hardwired ethernet connection, so you can still have a video baby monitor, but it doesn’t produce any RF because it’s not wireless at all.  (The D-Link DCS-5222L video monitor has zero EMFs when hardwired.)  Or, if your house is well-suited for this, just don’t have a baby monitor at all.

Alyssa:  If you’re right next door and can hear your child…

Lisa:  Exactly.  And, you know, if you use one —

Alyssa:  I should say not next door — in the next room.

Lisa:  Right.  In the next room.  You know, just use is sparingly.  Don’t use it frequently.  And then also remember to never leave it on during naptimes and nighttime sleeping because for a growing child, the sleep time is all the same.  And just remember that this is the base station for the video unit.  Just remember that this base station is emitting all the time, as well, and so this is getting up to 1,000,000µw/m².  So if this was in your kitchen, for example, this would be radiating while you guys are eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  So you can shut that off and then see — this remaining is still coming from the station at the bed, but you can just see that either completely unplug these or turn these off.  Don’t leave these on in the kitchen —

Alyssa:  All the time when you’re not using it.

Lisa:  — or your master bedroom when you’re not using it.

Alyssa:  Right.  Great.  Thanks!

Research 
To learn more about the health impacts of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs), check out The BioInitiative Report. It has a 19 page Summary for the Public & Charts which is the preeminent summary of known EMF health impacts on the human body. The full 1,500-page report authored by an international panel of M.D. and Ph. D. scientists and physicians, analyzes +3,800 scientific, peer reviewed studies showing adverse health hazards of electromagnetic radiation, especially with children. Diseases and disorders include cancer, neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, behavioral disorders i.e. ADD and autism, immune dysfunction, Blood-Brain Barrier permeability, reproductive failure & birth defects, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle/joint pain, chronic inflammation and many more.

Additional info: We found a new baby monitor after this video recording that is the lowest emitting monitor on the market! Check them out at Bebcare!

 

safe sleep

Creating a Safe Sleep Space: Sound Machines

Alyssa Veneklase talks with Lisa Tiedt, Building Biologist and owner of Well Abode, about creating health sanctuaries in our homes.  You can view this video on YouTube.

 

Alyssa:  All right.  Today, I’m here talking to Lisa Tiedt.  She’s a Building Biologist, and, as you know, I’m a sleep consultant, so we’ve partnered a few times to talk about how to best create a sleep space, not just for a newborn but for toddlers, as well.  So tell us what a Building Biologist is.

Lisa:  A Building Biologist is a person that comes into any built environment, which could be a home, an office, a school, and it assesses it for anything that directly impacts the health of the people who live or work within those spaces.  So the type of things that we look at are air quality, reducing manmade electromagnetic fields (EMFs), as well as water quality.

Alyssa:  Okay.  So what do want to talk about today?

Lisa:  So for today, what we really want to do is create a sleep sanctuary for you and your family.  We have taken a look at three things that are typically in a child’s sleep space that really increases the EMFs in that space.  We want to get those as low as possible because those are challenging to the central nervous system, the immune system, the brain, the heart, and all the inner cellular communication because all of those require or rely on frequencies, as well, electrical pulses within the body.

Alyssa:  And as we’ve talked about before, sleep is the time when your body kind of regenerates.  So if you don’t have a safe space for your body to actually rest and regenerate and rejuvenate, then that’s when all of those disruptions happen because they’re being bombarded by all the things we put in the rooms, right?

Lisa:  Yep, that we don’t think about.  Sleep is the absolute most critical time for your body to be in homeostasis.  So you just want your child’s body to be able to naturally do whatever it’s trying to do in terms of rejuvenation and development.

Alyssa:  So a sound machine is one thing that I recommend to every single sleep client.

Lisa:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So we’re going to talk about different sound machines today, and then she actually has her little handy — what do you call that?

Lisa:  It’s a gaussmeter, and it measures AC magnetic fields.  And for a sleep space, you want to be anything less than 0.2 milligauss (mG).

Alyssa:  Okay.  So do you want to get right into it and tell us about —

Lisa:  Let’s get right into it.

Alyssa:  Okay.  I’m going to move this a little bit.

Lisa:  So I have an example of a sound machine here that is particularly high in EMFs and specifically AC magnetic fields.  So first I’m going to turn on the gaussmeter, and it’s at 0.3mG, which is a really good measurement for a sleep space.  Now, this is the Dohm sound machine —

Alyssa:  But didn’t you say we want to 0.2 or lower?

Lisa:  Yes.  So this is kind of coming down here.  We’re at about 0.25mG.  And there’s other things that are happening within the building that’s affecting the sleep space, too, but we’re just going to focus on the sound machine today.

Alyssa:  Okay.

Lisa:  So when we turn this on, you will see that the —

Alyssa:  Whoa.

Lisa:  These Dohm sound machines are particularly high in EMFs.  So this one is measuring at about 900, 920.  920 milligauss!  And we want to be at 0.2.  So the Dohm machines, if you want to create a sleep sanctuary for your child, is not one that I recommend.  If you have one of these, I would actually exchange them for a different model.  I have two examples here that are really low in EMFs.  The first one here is the HoMedics.

Alyssa:  Which is, by the one, the one I recommend to everybody.

Lisa:  Which is — okay.  Great!

Alyssa:  Even before speaking with you!

Lisa:  Oh, excellent!  Excellent.  So we’re totally on the same page.  I’m going to turn this on.  So the milligauss here is 0.15.   So this is just a pristine environment for your daughter, and when I turn the HoMedics sound machine off, it does not increase the field at all.  So this is one that I recommend, and obviously, there is, you know, different sounds that you can do here.  The other one that I recommend is called the LectroFan, and both of these you can get on Amazon.  This one has the same effect as the HoMedics brand, which is essentially nothing, in terms of increasing the AC magnetic field.  The other thing that I like about this one is you can charge it and — it’s portable.  You can take it with you in the stroller or whatever.  So these are just a little bit of a different kind of use case.  But this is just one example of — with a little bit of information, what you can do to help lower the EMFs within your child’s sleep space and help them help their body develop and rejuvenate as it wants to.

Alyssa:  Thank you!

Lisa:  Thank you.

Research 
To learn more about the health impacts of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs) check out the BioInitiative Report. It has a 19 page Summary for the Public & Charts which is the preeminent summary. The full 1,500-page report authored by an international panel of M.D. and Ph. D. scientists and physicians, analyzes +3,800 scientific, peer reviewed studies showing adverse health hazards of electromagnetic radiation, especially with children. Diseases and disorders include cancer, neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, behavioral disorders i.e. ADD and autism, immune dysfunction, Blood-Brain Barrier permeability, reproductive failure & birth defects, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle/joint pain, chronic inflammation and many more.

 

Pregnancy Test

Signs of Early Pregnancy

This blog is written by Jessica Kupres, BSN, RN, CLC, CBE a Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast.

As you lie in bed thinking about your day and putting your brain to rest, you might think about the great presentation you gave today. Did you put the clothes in the dryer? When was your last period?…. When was my last period? Was it over a month ago? Am I pregnant?!

The best indicator of pregnancy is taking a pregnancy test. Today’s home pregnancy tests can be over 99% accurate, and many can be taken even before you miss your period. You can even get them at the dollar store. But what are the symptoms you might experience that mean you could be pregnant?

Remember that everyone is different, so you might have one, none, all, or a handful of symptoms. Probably the most common first indicator of pregnancy is a missed period. Every month your body prepares for pregnancy by thickening the lining of the uterus, and when no fertilized egg implants into the uterus, the additional lining sheds, and you have your period. This can be a little tricky, though, because 15-25 % of women will have implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is when you have a small amount of bleeding or spotting as the fertilized egg (zygote) implants or anchors itself into the uterine lining. For all three of my pregnancies, I took and had a positive at-home pregnancy test at the start of my “period” which was actually implantation bleeding, and not a period at all.

But let’s say you’re lying in bed, don’t have a pregnancy test at home, and may or may not be spotting. What other symptoms might imply you are pregnant? As soon as your body recognizes you are pregnant, it starts going into overdrive and your hormones quickly shift to prepare for the pregnancy. You might be surprised how quickly your breasts change. They might feel tender or swollen, and you might notice your nipple and areola, which is the area around the nipple, become darker. Surprisingly, this is already in preparation for childbirth, when the darkened nipple and areola become a “bullseye” for baby to easily see and help him or her latch on for breastfeeding!

You might also noticed an increased need to urinate. You might think this is something that comes with a large uterus pushing on your bladder, which it does later in pregnancy, but at this point, your new pregnancy hormones and increased blood supply cause your kidneys to filter more fluid and increase the need to urinate.

You might also notice an increased sense of smell, or changes in food preferences. All of the sudden you may crave a lot of potato chips, and the smell and taste of chicken may send you running to the bathroom, even though chicken was a favorite food before. For me, I have always been a chocoholic, but for the first 14 weeks of my first pregnancy, the thought of chocolate was repulsive to me. And along with food and smell aversions, you may have nausea and/or vomiting. This may or may not be directly linked to food or smells, though. Many women find they get nauseated, or have morning sickness, if they get too hungry in the first trimester. That’s why it was originally associated with the morning… you are probably hungry from not eating all night, so might have morning sickness. A helpful trick might be to have some crackers by the bed, and eat a cracker or two before you move or get out of bed. This may help ease this hunger related morning sickness. Unfortunately for many, though, morning sickness doesn’t just stick to the morning. Some may experience it all day.

In early pregnancy your body is working really hard to get everything set for a healthy pregnancy, and as such, you may feel an overwhelming fatigue. You may also experience increased irrationality, mood changes, headaches, dizziness, or faintness. When this happens, it’s best to sit or even better, lie down, if you are not feeling well. Your body temperature may also increase slightly in early pregnancy, though not high enough to be considered a fever. Some of the less talked about symptoms of early pregnancy may be increased gas, constipation, and a change in vaginal discharge.

Finally, you might notice some insomnia in early pregnancy. Your mind may be racing with all of the questions and excitement pregnancy brings, making it hard to fall asleep. So as you lie there trying to fall asleep, you now have a good list of symptoms you may experience in early pregnancy. And if you are still wondering if you are pregnant, it is probably a good idea to take a home pregnancy test and call your health care provider if it is positive!

Photo: First Response Pregnancy Test

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97

 

Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance.  Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hi.  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance.  Hi, Dr. Nave.

Dr. Nave:  Hi, Alyssa.  Thanks for having me.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week.  So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression.  So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place.  So tell us what you’re doing now.

Dr. Nave:  Okay.  Awesome.  So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said.  The name of it is Hormonal Balance.  And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns.  And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it.  And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.

Alyssa:  Yes.  Awesome.  I love it.  And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?

Dr. Nave:  Yep, yep, yep.

Alyssa:  Cool.  Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month.  And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients.  So how do you help your patients?

Dr. Nave:  I call them clients.

Alyssa:  Clients?  Oh, you do?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license.  I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.”  And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum.  And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically.  And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you.  So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available.  There’s salivary.  There’s urine.  There’s blood.  And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about.  It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Right.  So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form.  Right?  There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog.  I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay.  So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs.  Blood work might not be the right lab for them?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example.  So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex.  You have ovaries — versus the gender identify.  I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive.  So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women.  They also occur in men.  So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen.  Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby.  Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved.  These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time.  The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test.  I really enjoy that one.  I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it.  So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down.  Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways.  So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.

Alyssa:  Right.  So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression?  Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”?  Or do you do both?

Dr. Nave:  So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum.  So you have mild, moderate, and severe.  Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things.  Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks.  If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth.  And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.

Alyssa:  Go for it.

Dr. Nave:  Just for a frame of reference.  So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone.  Please don’t suffer alone.  If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out.  If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time.  Please, reach out to people.  It’s not anything to be ashamed of.  A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.

Alyssa:  Right.  I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having.  You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help.  And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night.  When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.

Dr. Nave:  I totally agree with you.  I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up.  Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down.  Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes.  I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…

Alyssa:  Do it!  Teach us!

Dr. Nave:  As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression.  Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression.  So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.

Alyssa:  Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?

Dr. Nave:  No.

Alyssa:  Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy?  What am I thinking?  It’s in turkey and stuff?

Dr. Nave:  Tryptophan is in turkey.  Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Kind of, I guess.  In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression.  I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right?  Am I going down the right path here?  Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions.  Sorry!

Dr. Nave:  No, no, no.  I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process.  If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep.  Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down.  You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down.  And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true.  So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things.  So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby.  Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.

Alyssa:  Oh, absolutely.  It’s all about the baby.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood.  Does that make sense?  Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones.  And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms.  If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms.  During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it.  Are you tracking?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  So that’s the estrogen portion.  So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain.  Now, we have progesterone.  So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone.  And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep.  It helps you remain calm.  But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy.  And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression.  For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth.  There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside.  The baby is now outside of you.  And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues.  Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression.  In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you.  Do you have physical and emotional support?  Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant?  Have you had postpartum depression before?  How is your sleep?  You know, sleep is really important.  If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way.  Good quality sleep.

Alyssa:  You’re preaching to the choir here.  I think it’s one of the most important things!

Dr. Nave:  The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.

Alyssa:  So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?

Dr. Nave:  Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know?  Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time.  So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant.  And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state.  For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that.  But it’s not the only thing that’s available.  There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly.  There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more.  Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support.  Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported.  Does that make sense?  Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge.  You know what you need!  And here are all these different options to provide that.

Alyssa:  So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place.  How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant?  Is there any risk to Baby?  You know, risk of miscarriage?  What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?

Dr. Nave:  So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time.  I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself.  As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible.  What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place?  Who do I reach out to?  Who do I talk to?  What supplemental intervention needs to happen?  Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication?  There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure.  We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like?  What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently?  And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy.  Like, does she feel more supported now?  What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently?  You know?  And basically coming up with a plan.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I like that.  So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth.  It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen.  And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that.  They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot.  What do I do now?  So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum.  And then we’ll talk about what we can do then.  I like that.

Dr. Nave:  Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options.  For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need.  Let’s talk to your doc.  Hey, Doc.  This is the plan.  If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer.  You know?  Or maybe it’s something else.  Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about.  In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know?  People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive.  But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated.  If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth.  If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again.  And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it.  So it probably takes it to a whole new level.  Well, thank you for all of your expertise.  I always love talking to you.  I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave.  I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049.  If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!

Alyssa:  Thank you!  During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?

Dr. Nave:  I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point.  I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.

Alyssa:  So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?

Dr. Nave:  In person, yes.  But for now, we will see each other virtually!

Alyssa:  Thanks for your time!  Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!

 

Dr. Nave Health for Life Grand Rapids

Understanding Your Cycle: Podcast Episode #82

Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance. She talks with us today about a woman’s monthly cycle. What’s “normal”?  What if you don’t get a period at all? Is PMS a real thing?  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, and I’m here with Kristin.  Our guest today is Dr. Nave, who is a naturopathic doctor at Health for Life Grand Rapids.

Dr. Nave:  Hi!

Alyssa:  We were excited to meet you – what was it, a few weeks ago?  We presented to your team, and you – I was really intrigued.  Tell everyone what you specialize in as an ND, and then they’ll know why I wanted to talk to you so bad.

Dr. Nave:  I am especially excited about assisting women to reconnect to their identities, and the way in which I do that is by really looking at their hormones, their mental health, their physical health, and other aspects of their life.

Alyssa:  Do you only work with women?

Dr. Nave:  No, I do not, but my passion is women.

Alyssa:  So today you’re going to talk about cycles, and I know you have a couple specific thing about a woman’s cycle that you want to talk about, so explain what those are, and then let’s just dive in.

Dr. Nave:  Okay.  I want to talk about what a typical cycle should look like, so this is how your cycle should look if nothing is going wrong.  And then we’ll transition to talking about PCOS and what is going on with that.

Alyssa:  And what does PCOS stand for?

Dr. Nave:  PCOS is polycystic ovarian syndrome.  In medical terminology, a syndrome just means a cluster of symptoms that fit this particular diagnosis, and so with PCOS, what’s happening is that the woman isn’t bleeding or she has skipped periods, and that is due to low progesterone, which is an important hormone that allows the endometrial lining, basically, in the uterus so that implantation of the fertilized egg can happen.

Alyssa:  Okay.  So let’s talk first about what it should look like.

Dr. Nave:  Sure.  With our cycle, there are five main hormones that influence a woman’s hormonal cycle.  We have LH and FSH, which are the hormones that are produced by the brain to tell an egg to mature and to allow the endometrial lining, which is basically the build-up of tissue in the uterus that allows the implanted fertilized egg to become a baby.  So we have those two hormones that are produced by the brain, and then we have estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone that are produced in the ovary.

Alyssa:  All the time, or only if an egg is implanted?

Dr. Nave:  At specific times.  A typical cycle, in terms of what we would call the normal cycle or the optimal cycle, would be a 28-day cycle.  We have some leeway in terms of, in the medical community, how we diagnose whether it’s too long or too short, whether it be above 35 days or less than 21.  For me, I think it’s best if it’s 28 days because it’s kind of like cycle with the moon, so the lunar cycle, because it also helps with the math.  So we’ll just use 28 for the typical just for explaining what happens.  In the first 14 days, that’s what we call the ovulatory – like, the building up of estrogen.  The brain tells the ovary, by way of follicular stimulated hormone, FHS, to make one of the eggs mature.  So it’s like, hey, ovary, let one of these eggs become the mother, so to speak.  The brain does that, and then the ovary responds by allowing one of the eggs to become mature. We have multiple eggs that are responding during this time in different life stages, but the one that is the oldest usually gets picked, in terms of its life phase.  It becomes mature; the estrogen is being made by the egg itself, which allows for that ovulation to occur.  FHS tells the egg to become mature, and then the egg itself makes estrogen so the egg can further mature.  It’s a fascinating, interesting thing that’s happening.

Alyssa:  That’s during ovulation?

Dr. Nave:  Yes, so during the first 14 days of your cycle, the estrogen is building up so that the egg can fully mature.  Then what happens is that there are two types of cells that are a part of the egg.  One produces estrogen, and the other aspect makes testosterone, so those are the other two hormones that we’re talking about.  Once the egg matures and it’s released, the thing that’s left behind is called the corpus luteum, also known as the yellow body.  That then makes progesterone.  All of this is sort of happening at the same time, so we say 14 days for the ovulatory phase, but really, it’s like the brain is telling the body to make progesterone at the same time it’s telling the body to make estrogen.  It’s just that it’s at a lower level.  Until the egg is released.  You don’t really have that progesterone being made.

Alyssa:  It’s ebbing and flowing based on the day of your cycle?

Dr. Nave:  Yes, yes.  Around day 14 is when the egg is released.  It’s the highest level of estrogen at that point in time, and then the yellow body that’s left behind – the brain told the egg, by way of the luteinizing hormone, LH, to start making progesterone.  Are you following?

Alyssa:  Kind of, yeah.  In my head, that little egg is moving along, following a timeline.

Dr. Nave:  Right!  At day 14, we have the highest estrogen, and progesterone starts to climb up.

Alyssa:  And estrogen is decreasing and progesterone is increasing?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, estrogen is at its peak; progesterone starts to spike up a lot more.  I’m grossly simplifying it, sorry!  As the progesterone is being built up – so the corpus luteum is making the progesterone because the brain told it, hey, make progesterone by way of the LH, the luteinizing hormone.  That causes, then, the endometrial lining in the uterus to build up so that implantation of the egg can happen.  Towards day 28, which is when you expect bleeding to occur – basically, the reason why bleeding occurs is that the progesterone starts declining at that point because progesterone is necessary for the build-up of the uterine wall so that implantation can happen, but if there’s no fertilization off the egg, then it basically is a withdrawal of the progesterone, and then it just sloughs off.

Alyssa:  So day number one is not the – is that the day your period starts?

Dr. Nave:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So day 28, then, is the day before you period starts?  Okay, I’m seeing the timeline in my head.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  Day one, when a doctor asks a woman, okay, what’s day one of your period, he or she is technically asking, when’s the first day of your bleeding.  Technically, we’re always cycling, but we consider day one the last time you bled.  That’s what the cycle should look like.  Now, when we experience our periods, even though people consider it the status quo that we experience PMS, we don’t have to experience it.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  The hormonal changes don’t necessarily mean that we’re going to have the mental and – becoming angry or disorganized or frustrated?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  Seeing those symptoms for a woman, that would indicate to me that maybe the ratio is a little bit off.  Some examples are acne or being really bloated.  Being bloated, puffy, having water retention and having really heavy bleeding – that could be a sign that the woman is experiencing what we call estrogen dominance.  Now, estrogen dominance doesn’t necessarily mean that she has high estrogen.  It could just mean that her progesterone is low and therefore throwing off the ratio so that when she’s experiencing premenstrual syndrome, PMS, she’s experiencing these symptoms, even though if it were normal, she wouldn’t have to.

Alyssa:  So you’re not saying that PMS is made up.  It’s a real thing; it just means there’s an imbalance somewhere?  It can be fixed, that you don’t have to deal with this stuff?

Dr. Nave:  Absolutely.  And the weepiness: estrogen.  Estrogen is important for our bone health, our cardiovascular health.  It’s the reason why we as women don’t get heart attacks until much later in life because it protects our hearts; it’s important for our bone health, which is why when you experience menopause or perimenopause, it’s very important to get your bone density checked.  That’s the importance of estrogen.  And then testosterone, which is produced by the egg, is important for sex drive and being able to be aroused.

Alyssa:  What happens in a woman’s body when they’re aroused that helps with implantation?

Dr. Nave:  When the woman is aroused, that allows the cervix to sort of pulsate so that when climax is achieved, the sperm can travel up into the uterus and, hey, let’s get to the egg wherever it is.  It also allows for the vaginal canal, which typically is around three inches, which sounds crazy, but it actually lengthens and stretches.  It’s a muscle that moves to accommodate the penis, if you’re having that kind of intercourse, or allow for artificial insemination in that way.  So it increases the likelihood of implantation successfully occurring.  It’s so cool!

Alyssa:  We’ll pause so everyone can visualize!

Dr. Nave:  Our bodies are amazing!  In order for conception to occur, not only do the hormones have to cycle how they should, but you have to address your mental health; are you in the space that you can have intercourse or whatever it is?  The ovary itself isn’t even attached to the uterus.  There’s a gap between the two of them, and we have chemotaxis – basically a chemical, like how your body produces the hormones, that attracts the egg to go down the fallopian tube as opposed to staying in your abdominal area.

Alyssa:  So every time you see a picture, it looks like…

Dr. Nave:  They’re attached?  Yes.  But they’re not.

Alyssa:  So they have to let go and then actually be drawn up by the fallopian tube and then into the uterus?  They’re not attached?

Dr. Nave:  No.  We have connective tissue or fascia that’s in that area –

Alyssa:  Which helps kind of push it in the right direction, probably?

Dr. Nave: Not exactly.  It’s more like it creates this compartment so that your uterus isn’t just floating around in your abdominal cavity.  We have this connective tissue that anchors it in that area so there’s less likelihood that a fertilized egg will end up outside of the uterus, which is why ectopic pregnancies are so low in terms of their incidence.  But we also have these finger-like projections in the fallopian tube that brushes the egg along.  So it’s not just the hormone that’s attracting the egg to where it needs to go and we have all these other signaling processing that are working.

Alyssa:  I’m picturing a crowd surfer pushing it along.

Dr. Nave:  We’re all supporting you!  So that’s what a normal cycle should look like.

Alyssa:  Ideally, that’s what it should look like?

Dr. Nave:  Yes, ideally, that’s what it should look like.

Alyssa:  And when a woman doesn’t have her cycle?

Dr. Nave:  When she doesn’t have her cycle, then we have to consider two different things.  Is it that she’s not bleeding at all, which we call amenorrhea, or are there greater than 35 days between each cycle, in which case we call that oligomenorrhea, or many menses, technically.

Alyssa:  It seems like it would be the opposite because there’s a big space between.  But either way, it’s a problem, and that will help determine how you treat it?

Dr. Nave:  Yes.  And so if it is that a woman isn’t bleeding, as in amenorrhea, then we have to consider why is that the case.  Is it that she’s pregnant?  That would be the first thing to assess.  Is she pregnant?  Okay, she’s not.  What exactly is going on?  One particular condition that I’ve been hearing or rather seeing more women experience is called PCOS.  We mentioned it earlier, that PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome or Stein-Leventhal syndrome.  Basically, what’s happening is that instead of the progesterone going up around day 14 to day 28, instead of it increasing, the body is changing it into another type of hormone.  Just to give you some context, our bodies use cholesterol to make all our steroid hormones, which are all our sex hormones as well as cortisol.  Our bodies use the cholesterol and then turn it into pregnenolone which is like the mother of all of those hormones. Pregnenolone can then become progesterone. It can become testosterone.  It can become estrogen, which we have three different types of estrogens, or it can become cortisol.  In PCOS, what’s happening is that instead of the pregnenolone going down to becoming progesterone, it’s getting turned into either testosterone, estrogen, or cortisol.  A woman who potentially has PCOS or has been confirmed with that diagnosis – in addition to having amenorrhea, for her to be diagnosed with it, she also has to have two out of three symptom criteria.  We have what’s called hyperandrogenism, which is high testosterone, and some of the symptoms she could experience would be cystic acne or hirsutism, which is just a fancy term for hair in unwanted places, like coarse, thick hair along your hairline or along your breast or in places that aren’t typical areas that you have hair distribution.  That’s one, and then the amenorrhea that we talked about, and the last one is seeing cysts.  The only way that we can really assess if there are cysts in the ovary is if we do a transvaginal ultrasound.  I say we, but not me, but the actual tech would do that for you, and basically, they place a probe inside the vaginal canal, and they use an ultrasound on top of the abdomen to visualize if there are any cysts in the ovary.  The reason why we get the cysts – to back up again to looking at the cycle, instead of the egg being released, the egg just stays there, because you need the progesterone to tell the egg, hey, release.

Alyssa:  It stays where?

Dr. Nave:  It stays in the ovary.  And then in the ovary itself, you have all these eggs that look like they’re just about to release, but they end up forming what’s called a cyst.  It can be fluid filled.  Cyst is just a fancy term for a ball, kind of.

Alyssa:  I didn’t know a cyst could be an egg that didn’t move.

Dr. Nave:  That didn’t move, yeah.

Alyssa:  So when people say they’ve had ovarian cysts burst, it could be an egg that didn’t move?  Could be, doesn’t have to be?

Dr. Nave:  Could be, doesn’t have to be.  It could just be fluid.  But in the case of PCOS, it’s like the ovary doesn’t release the egg, so it becomes mature, kind of, but not to the point where it actually releases because we don’t have any progesterone, or there’s minimal levels of progesterone so that if and when a woman experiences bleeding, if she has PCOS – so long cycle or no bleeding at all – in the long cycle aspect of things, there’s no egg.  It’s just blood or tissue that got to build up a little bit.

Alyssa:  So the egg still is stuck in the ovary?

Dr. Nave:  Yes.  I mean, you could have some release at some point if her progesterone can get high enough that that can occur, but it’s kind of scattered.  You can’t really track it per se because it’s insufficient.

Alyssa:  So she’s having them, just not – I guess 35 days instead of 28 – wouldn’t most women just go, oh, that’s no big deal; I just have a long cycle?  What are the other symptoms?  What else would they see?

Dr. Nave:  She could have the symptoms of PMS but never actually bleed.  So she’s still cycling, because remember you’re still cycling, always, whether you bleed or don’t bleed; the hormones are still doing their thing.  She can experience the PMS symptoms but not bleed, which means that she’s not able to get pregnant.  And even if you don’t ever want to get pregnant, our uterus is what I like to call an emunctory.  An emunctory is basically an organ that our bodies use to detox or remove toxins.  If we are not bleeding, that means those hormones are getting reabsorbed into our bodies, which for a woman, if she’s estrogen-dominant, it basically reinforces the estrogen dominance because she’s reabsorbing it in her intestines, which makes the symptoms to get worse.  Because to get rid of our hormones, once they’ve done their thing and we’ve shed our lining and we bleed, the other way in which we get rid of our steroid hormones is by poop.  So if you’re not pooping, then…

Alyssa:  Is that another symptom or side effect?  Is that a cycle issue, or not?

Dr. Nave:  It could be a cycle issue.  One of the symptoms that women sometimes experience is when they’re on their periods, either they’re constipated or they have really loose stool, and that’s because of hormones.

Alyssa:  They call it period poop, and I never knew why.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, it’s because of the hormones.

Alyssa:  So it’s normal?  If you’re having a regular cycle and you have a day of poop that’s not normal, it’s just your hormones?  That’s normal?

Dr. Nave: Normal in the sense of it’s to be expected with what you’re experiencing, yes.  Other things that can happen with PCOS, and this is not with every woman, is that some women gain weight.  Some don’t.  For a woman that does gain weight if she has PCOS, what’s happening is that the body is converting the progesterone into cortisol.  And cortisol is the hormone that affects our sleep-wake cycle.  So when you first wake up in the morning, the reason why you’re fully awake is cortisol.  It spikes at that point.  What happens when we’re under a lot of stress, or if you have PCOS, our bodies are making a lot more cortisol, and that cortisol allows for the breakdown of stored glucose and the conversion of other proteins and fats into glucose.  This issue with that happening for prolonged periods is that the woman can experience what’s called insulin insensitivity, so her body is no longer able to respond to insulin, which means that when she eats, then she can’t stabilize her blood sugar, which means that the sugar stays longer in the bloodstream, which causes damage to small blood vessels and nerves, which is what happens in diabetes.  That’s why for a woman with PCOS, having metformin might work, which is why some doctors place a woman with PCOS on metformin to increase her chances of conceiving.  It’s not just the hormones that affect your cycle; hormones influence every aspect of our lives, from the moment we wake up and take our first breath to the moment that we pass on into the next life.  It’s this orchestra that each hormone has a part to play and influence each other in term of how effectively each part is able to do their part.

Alyssa:  So let’s say I came in and I had questions about my cycle.  What’s the first thing that a woman could expect?  Bloodwork?

Dr. Nave:  The first thing I would want to know is what labs she’s already gotten done.  Has she gotten her thyroid checked?  And when I say thyroid, I don’t just mean THS because THS is just your brain telling your thyroid, hey, make the thing.  It’s also looking at the levels of the thyroid hormones because you have two types of those.  You have free T3 and free T4.  Their ratio is also important.  So thyroid function; CBC, which just stands for a complete blood count.  It’s checking for anemia, because that could be another reason for amenorrhea.  You may not be bleeding because you’re iron deficient.  And then I would also want CMP.  That’s a complete metabolic panel, and that looks at the kidney and liver function, which are affected if blood sugar isn’t being regulated effectively.  On the CMP, there’s also a fasting blood glucose on there, so that would be something to look at.  I would also want to review her symptoms.  What symptoms are you experiencing?  Are you experiencing acne?  Are you experiencing bloating and irritability on your menses?  Do you experience depression on your period?  There’s also the consideration that we have PMS, and then we have PMDD, which is premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is basically PMS on steroids.  It’s like the cycle overall is so horrendous that the woman can’t go to work.  It’s affecting her daily life, affecting her mental health.  She’s more depressed on her period, more irritable, or really angry, or in so much pain that she can’t leave her home.  Looking at her as a whole person is what I’m about.  And she’s the expert in her experience, right?  She knows what it’s like to walk in her body, to experience these symptoms, how they affect her life, and then both of us taking our expertise to work together to get to the root of why this is happening and give the body the tool that it needs so it can rectify it.

Alyssa:  You just reminded me that I need to make an appointment with you.  I remember when I met you the first time, I was like, yeah, I need to see her, because not only have I turned 40, but I know my hormones are changing.  My periods are changing.  Just weird things happening.  So how do people find you?  What’s the best way to get ahold of you?

Dr. Nave:  I am at Health For Life Grand Rapids, and you can check the website and look for my page.  There’s a 15-minute free meet and greet and consult, so we can see if we’re a good fit.  I can hear about your concerns, and you can get the cure that you need.

Alyssa:  I love it.  Thank you so much for joining us.  We’re going to have you on again, and we’ll talk about some other intriguing topics.  Again, thanks for tuning in. This is Ask the Doulas Podcast; you can always find us on our website and on Facebook and Instagram.  Remember, these moments are golden.

 

Sleep Consultant

Megan’s Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #80

Megan Kretz, one of Alyssa’s sleep clients, tells us about her sleep training journey with her daughter at 9 months and again at 19 months.  She says that as a working mom, it meant spending a little less time with her daughter, but that it was all worth it because the quality of the time spent together improved drastically.  Everyone was happier and healthier!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and today I’m excited to be talking to Megan Kretz.  You were one of my past sleep clients, and then again recently.

Megan:  Yeah, thanks for having me on!

Alyssa:  Yes, we’re going to talk about sleep today.  So remind me of how this journey began and what was happening before you called me.

Megan:  So we reached out to you about when my daughter was nine months old with just all sorts of life problems as a result of my daughter’s sleep habits and our sleep habits, as well.  A lot of it was definitely a struggle because we almost created the environment, the problem, that we found ourselves in.

Alyssa:  Unknowingly.

Megan:  Yes, unknowingly.

Alyssa:  I mean, you don’t realize it when you’re doing it.  You’re in survival mode.

Megan:  Right.  Before the age of eight months, my daughter had had five ear infections, and so we were in and out of doctors’ offices, on and off antibiotics, and because of that, she was in a lot of pain.  She was seeking comfort because we could never get her comfortable.  So in doing so, we just ended up creating all these really bad sleep habits.  Falling asleep with us, on us, whatever we could do to allow mom and dad and baby to get some sort of rest.  Up probably eleven times at night breastfeeding, and then wouldn’t take naps during the day; was up all day except for two 45-minute naps at the age of six, seven months old.  Where our thoughts were going at that point was that she wasn’t developing properly without proper sleep.  We couldn’t go on date nights.  Nobody else could put my daughter down to sleep except me, not even her dad.  We couldn’t go two hours for a movie on the couch without my daughter waking up, and it was getting to a point where, looking into the future, I don’t know how we would have gone much longer with the way that things were.  And I had heard about you guys before, and finally I ended up going on the website, and I saw that you guys offer the sleep consultations.  I was hesitant at first, but oh my gosh…

Alyssa:  Didn’t she take to it, like, the first night?

Megan:  Oh, yeah!  The first night when we went through all of that — but I felt super needy with you.

Alyssa:  No, you weren’t at all!

Megan:  Texting you all the time!  The first night, we had to go in and out, in and out a lot, but by the second night — she was almost there on the first night, and the second night, she was like, bam, done.  She was like, I got this, Mom!  I’m going to be your sleep champ from now on!

Alyssa:  And kids always surprise parents.  They want to sleep so bad, and once we just get them on a schedule, it just happens so much more quickly and easily than a lot of parents expect.

Megan:  A lot of other working parents might find themselves in the same situation or scared on what they’re going to end up doing.  I learned that so much of her night sleep is dependent on her daytime sleep and her nap schedule.  She went to a daycare facility, and they had also used the same crutches we had to get her to sleep, and I was just nervous about that whole transition and really needing her to take proper naps in order to accomplish what we needed to at night.  And in the end, we sorted out some schedules.  We had some people that came and helped us and pulled her out of daycare for a week.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I remember that.  You had somebody stay at the house, because that first week is pretty critical, and when you have two parents working full time, you can’t just take a week off.

Megan:  No, you can’t!

Alyssa:  To have your baby sleep.  That’s not feasible.  But yeah, you had a trusted babysitter come over, right?

Megan:  Yeah, and I don’t remember how many days it was.

Alyssa:  Oh, you had a doula come, too, for a couple days, didn’t you?

Megan:  No.  Well, you…

Alyssa:  Must have been another client.  Sometimes they’ll hire a doula to come stay either during the day overnight.

Megan:  I remember you said there are so many days that it takes of consistent behavior development to actually –

Alyssa:  Until it becomes a habit.

Megan:  Yeah, until it becomes normal for them.  So we just had to get through that, and we did.

Alyssa:  Well, and especially because she was going to daycare.  Daycare can totally muck things up, especially if it’s a large one and not an in-home daycare but a large one where they have 20 kids and maybe 15 of them are in the nursery, and they’re just, like, this is naptime, and if they’re not sleeping, we get them up, because we don’t want them waking the other babies up.

Megan:  Well, that’s what part of the problem was is that she was in the nursery, and there’s 12 other babies in that room, and they all share a crib room together.  And they couldn’t get her to sleep, and then she was waking up other babies.  It was all downhill from there.

Alyssa:  So they just say, all right, nap’s done.

Megan:  Yep.

Alyssa:  But after that five days of a consistent pattern, then she’s going to go back to daycare, and her body’s already on the schedule and already has a rhythm set, and it’s much easier to go back into that daycare environment and tell them, now she sleeps from this time to this time, and if she wakes up early, here’s what you have to do.

Megan:  And daycare, you know, they made their own adjustments for what worked for them, too, so I gave them our schedule, but then they actually removed her from a crib and put her on a toddler sleep mat.  They’re raised little beds, and I had to get a doctor’s note, but at the age of ten months, nine months, she was actually the only child in the room for months that slept on a cot.

Alyssa:  Oh, so she was in her own room?

Megan:  She wasn’t.  She was blocked off from the other kids.  So yeah, she was in a room by herself, but she was kind of blocked off with some shelving units so the other kids didn’t get all up in her business when she was sleeping.  But she was on a cot, and that worked best for her because they found that she was anxious in the room with all the other kids in the cribs because all of her past memories were coming up, so changing her sleep environment was also to let them work according to the sleep plan, as well.  So it ended up working well that way, and she ended up moving up into the next toddler room already on the cot where most babies have to go through this learning period for that.

Alyssa:  So I remember in the beginning, you kind of struggled.  You had this tug-of-war within yourself of, gosh, she’s sleeping amazing now, but now I miss these cuddles that I get at night.

Megan:  Yeah, I remember that!

Alyssa:  It was like, we have to find a balance here.  It’s hard to go from being used to her there all the time, but that’s part of the problem is that she’s there all the time and nobody can sleep.

Megan:  And at night when I’m giving her cuddles, she’s giving me cuddles, too.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s hard to just let that go.

Megan:  And then don’t forget about the readjustment to milk supply.  That was a big thing, as well.

Alyssa:  Yeah, breastfeeding changes.  Your body eventually fixes itself…

Megan:  But it takes a little while and some uncomfortable days.

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’ll wake up leaking everywhere.  I’ve told moms to sleep on towels for a couple nights if needed!

Megan:  Oh, yeah, been there, done that!

Alyssa:  Yeah, so we talked about, early in the morning when she wakes up, get some cuddles in, and then spend the weekends, like Saturday and Sunday mornings, just make that cuddle time in bed to get all that oxytocin, all these great hormones that you guys are sharing when you get these cuddles.

Megan:  It’s funny that you say that because it’s almost a tradition now that she’s older.  She calls her pacifier her “oh, no” because when she can’t find it and she’s upset, it’s an oh, no situation.  So she has to leave her “oh, no” in her crib, and then we go and get a bottle of milk, and I ask her if she wants to snuggle.  Sometimes I get her out of the crib and she’s like, “Snuggle!” because that’s our time together.  So we do that when we’re reading books before bedtime now, because we no longer breastfeed or give her a bottle before bed, so we just read books and snuggle for five, ten minutes, and then in the crib she goes.  And then in the morning it’s a good cuddle time, and I wake up a little bit early and get ready before she’s up so that I’m not rushed for time to get ready.  Either my husband or I will devote that time to her.

Alyssa: That’s really smart.  I was just talking to somebody earlier about the fact that sometimes kids are just waking up because they want to see you, so especially as a parent who works full time, you already have this guilt of, I haven’t seen my child all day, and now they’re sleeping all night by themselves, which is great, but when do I get to see them?  When do I get to cuddle them?  So when you do a nighttime routine and then in the morning, put that phone away.  Don’t make the TV part of this process.  Put that kid on your lap; cuddle; kiss.  Read the book, whatever.  Just get all the snuggles in you can.  They get 30 minutes of your undivided attention, and they don’t know if it’s any different than eight hours. To them it’s just that mom and dad are here and loving on me, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Megan:  I agree, and it was hard being a working mom when we were going through all of this because the time with her became less because the night wakings weren’t there.  But the quality increased.  Her behavior got a lot better.  And I am a better mom by being a working mom because I can devote my attention better if I have some things that I do on my own, if I have a work life, as well.  So I didn’t want to give that up, but readjusting and figuring out the quality time was a lot better when she was rested and herself.

Alyssa:  That’s the key, yeah.

Megan:  And it really shines this whole idea even more when we recently went on vacation, and it was a struggle because we were in a new environment.  She was in her own bed, but we had to share a room with her, and although all that went fine, her behavior was like she was truly in the terrible twos.  She’s only 21 months old now, but everything changed because we tried to stick to the schedule, but you’re on vacation, so there’s only so much that you can do.  So immediately on the day that we returned from this week-long vacation, and she’s sleeping in her own environment and we’re right back to the same routine, it was immediate behavior change, and it just solidifies even more how important a sleep plan is and how important it is to make sure that they get the sleep that they need.

Alyssa:  They thrive on it, and we think that we’re doing them a favor by letting them stay up late to play with their friends.  Or the 4th of July; it’s not even dark for fireworks until 10:00; what am I going to do?  We’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by letting them stay up because usually they’re a wreck for two days after that.  They’re not going to sleep in the next day.  More than likely. They’re going to be up early the next morning.  It affects them so opposite of the logical thinking.  But yeah, that’s the key.  You’ve hit the nail on the head; you have to readjust and understand that you have less time together, but it’s more quality time, and her entire world has changed.  She’s happier, healthier, developing at a better rate because we all need sleep for that to happen.

Megan:  It’s funny that you brought up the whole fact that readjusting and going to parties and not keeping them up late and whatnot — it’s funny because it’s easy for my husband and I to say sorry, we’re leaving at 7:30 or 7:00 or 6:30, whatever we have to do, to get home and start the bedtime routine.  The hardest part about all of that is not leaving early; it’s convincing your family members and your friends that this is what you’re going to do and that this is important to you and your family, because it’s almost like they’re the ones pressuring you to alter your child’s sleep schedule.  So that’s come up a few times, especially around the holidays when your family members do holiday parties or gift openings starting at 6:00, and bedtime routine starts at 6:30.  You’re like, sorry, guys, we can’t come.

Alyssa:  Right, unless you want to bring a pack and play and put her to bed there.

Megan:  Which we’ve done.  When she was young enough, we did that, and that was fine.  We do that sometimes with friends where we go over and put her to sleep in the pack and play.  We try to avoid that as much as possible, and now that our friends have kids or are having kids, we schedule things at 2:00 in the afternoon instead.  Dinner parties go from 3:00 to 7:00; they don’t go from 7:00 to 11:00.

Alyssa:  Yeah, that is the hardest part, because you have to be so consistent, and when you get those dirty looks or the weird looks from your friends, like why do they always have to leave so early, it makes you kind of feel bad, but you know it’s worth it.  You’re doing this because it’s worth it.

Megan:  Yep, it is.

Alyssa:  So then you called me again recently…

Megan:  I did!

Alyssa:  She was sleeping great, and then you made a pretty big transition.  Tell me about that.

Megan:  Yeah.  She was always a little bit ahead of the other kids as far as walking and crawling and climbing and running, so she eventually started climbing out of her crib, and we started getting very nervous about possible injuries.  Quite a few times, on the video in her room, we’d see her sitting on the edge of the crib, just teetering there.  My husband really pushed for a change because we can’t be doing this.  So we actually ended up moving her into a big kid bed at the age of 19 months.  And I’m trying to take what I learned with you from when she was nine months and trying to apply it to a child that’s now a toddler.  And it wasn’t working.  And that’s when we contacted you and learned about how kids don’t learn about delay of gratification until they’re three years old.  So she doesn’t understand what it means when we tell that if you stay in bed all night, we get special time together in the morning.

Alyssa:  It makes no sense.  She doesn’t understand that concept whatsoever.

Megan:  No.  And she can get in and out of the toddler bed.  Yeah, she may not be falling out of it now, but my husband and I went back to doing whatever we’ve got to do to get this child to sleep.  So her nighttimes got shorter because we ended up staying in bed and laying with her until she fell asleep.  Our bedtime routine went to two hours; from twenty minutes to two hours.  And then she wouldn’t sleep a full eleven hours at night, and then her nap became elongated to three hours.  We were on a waitlist for a daycare at the time, so we had to hire a nanny for a couple months.  And it was funny because we were paying her for an eight-hour day when our daughter is sleeping for three of them!  Just kind of a funny fact.  But we went right back to, oh my gosh, what do we do?  A year later, I’m finding your email address and saying help!  Is there anything that you can help us with?  And then when you sent us our new sleep plan and we saw that there are clear ways to help a child stay in the bed and to go right back into a routine for this next stage of a child’s life, and that babies aren’t the same as toddlers.  It was eye-opening again when we saw the second plan, and you had so much good information in there!

Alyssa:  I always wonder if it’s too much.

Megan:  No!

Alyssa:  I geek out on sleep information, so I give my clients so much information.  I think it’s imperative!

Megan:  My husband even brought up later on about something else in the sleep plan that wasn’t related to sleep.  Oh, it was snacking!  You had said — and it’s so true.  A lot of times, we were just allowing her to snack a lot, and we didn’t have set meals, necessarily.  Yeah, she ate meals with us, but we allowed her to snack more than we snacked, not even thinking about how that might be tied into sleep or protein intake at certain times of the day and how that aids in sleep patterns.  We had no idea.  I was giving her a snack, and my husband actually said to me, don’t you remember reading that on Alyssa’s sleep plan?

Alyssa:  That’s great!  That’s what it’s there for!

Megan:  Yeah, it was a lot of great information.  And there’s just something special about receiving this information from a local person, from you, a person, and not a book I just pulled off the shelf at the library that might be outdated.  You really cater our sleep plans to us, to the client and to the child, and having come in to our home, you knew us.  You looked for things that might be distractions for quality sleep and taught us how to do a proper nighttime routine.  Although it was a lot of information at one time, it was well-received, and we felt very — I don’t know if qualified is the right word, but we got the information we needed to then make good, informed decisions.

Alyssa:  And be confident.

Megan:  Yes, we got the confidence.

Alyssa:  Even though I’m with you — you’re texting me all the time; I’m responding back; I’m there for guidance — but I’m not there forever.  So that’s why I want you to have enough information that you can say, oh, okay, she’s twelve months now.  Oh, yeah, she told me that this would probably happen around 12 months.  Because I learned this when she was nine months, that’s what this means at 12 months.  You have to be able to troubleshoot yourself or you’re just going to keep calling me every three months at every developmental milestone, saying what do I do?  Help!

Megan:  And it’s funny because we went back to your sleep plan multiple times between 9 months and 15 months to just look and what did she say when she reaches this age group; how much sleep will she need; what are her naps supposed to look like?  So we definitely referenced it.  But being in a new bed, when all that came up… And the plans themselves were very different.

Alyssa:  Yeah, sleep is very different for a two-year-old versus a nine-month-old.

Megan:  Yeah.  But now, after day one of the new sleep plan, we got her back in the crib.  It was like she never forgot it.  She was in the big girl bed for probably four weeks.

Alyssa:  So you’re thinking, oh, great, even if we try this plan, she’s ruined.  We’re going to have to start all over.

Megan:  Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, but no, her sleep habits came right back.  We were able to get her nap back down to a normal, respectable time, and she’s back to sleeping eleven, twelve hours at night with no interruptions.  We can go back to watching movies and having quality time together with my husband.

Alyssa:  And for date nights, babysitters are easy?

Megan:  Oh, babysitters can put her sleep again.  I’m not asking a babysitter to sleep with her for two hours.

Alyssa:  “You’re going to have to lay in this bed with her, sorry!”

Megan:  And then ever so slightly, quietly creep out as quiet as possible!

Alyssa:  It’s like the ninja role.  Like, you kind of slowly roll of the bed, and you keep a hand there for pressure and you slowly lift your hand up.

Megan:  Make sure the dog is quiet when you’re moving around so its nail don’t click-clack on the hardwood floors and wake her up!  Oh, I better put some WD40 on that door!  Yeah, those were all things that were happening and going through our head.  I’m laughing and I’m making a joke about it, but those were legitimate concerns of mine when we had her in the big girl bed and all of this was going on.  Call me crazy, but that’s how you feel when you and your child aren’t getting sleep.

Alyssa:  Well, you are a bit crazy.  I mean, sleep deprivation does not make for a sound mental state!

Megan:  And now I just can’t believe how much you guys have been able to help us.  Maybe my experience can help other people.  I’ve referred quite a few people over your way.

Alyssa:  Thank you!

Megan:  I just can’t reiterate enough how much you guys helped us and how worth it it is.

Alyssa:  it’s definitely a service that I could literally call life changing.

Megan:  Yes!  I would call it that, as well!  In fact, I think I’ve left reviews stating that!

Alyssa:  Well, if you had one thing that anyone who has pushed off sleep training would need to hear, what do you think it would be?

Megan:  It’s worth it.  It is what’s best for baby.  It’s what best for you and your family unit.

Alyssa:  And what if they’re scared?  Sleep training just causes anxiety.  Those two words; people just think oh, this just sounds like it’s going to be a miserable experience.  My child is going to be left alone; they’re going to have anxiety.

Megan:  But she wasn’t left alone.  The plan you gave us; that wasn’t the case, and you told me right from the beginning, before I even paid for anything, that we will do a plan according to what is comfortable for you.  And I was totally okay with the plan.  And what’s the worst that could happen?  She wakes up 12 times at night versus 11?  No, that’s not even going to be a possibility.  We were so far down the rabbit hole that there was no getting deeper.  We were hitting bedrock.  So it could only get better at this point, and it did.  It was a complete 180.

Alyssa:  Well, I loved working with your family both times.  You probably won’t need me again because she’s great.  Don’t put her in that toddler bed until she’s three.

Megan:  We won’t!

Alyssa:  You’ll know when she’s ready!

Megan:  We will definitely wait.  Now we have just over a year before we have to make any new changes to sleep, but now I have the tools, too, to be able to transfer her to a big girl bed

Alyssa:  Yeah, did I give some info to plan for?

Megan:  You did, yeah!

Alyssa:  Oh, good.  I figured I did, but…

Megan:  But this isn’t the end, Alyssa!  I’m sure that we will see each other again and talk to each other again!

Alyssa:  Well, on that note — because you might be adopting?

Megan:  Yeah.

Alyssa:  So I’m going to talk to you again at a later time about what an adoption process looks like because I don’t know, and a lot of our listeners and parents probably don’t know and maybe are even thinking about it but might be scared.  SO we’ll talk about that next time.

Megan:  I’d love to help you with some insight on there.

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining us!

Megan:  Yeah, thank you for having me!

Alyssa:  If you have any questions for us, you can email as at info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.

 

Sleep Consultant

Chris’ Personal Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #73

Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa.  She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help.  In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today.  Hello, Chris!

Chris:  Hi!

Alyssa:  You were a client of ours.  You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me.  So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.

Chris:  Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!

Alyssa:  So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep?  How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep?  Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?

Chris:  Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.”  It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period.  I kind of don’t remember what happened.  I know I wasn’t sleeping.  I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7.  But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything.  So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things!  So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid.  And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information.  My baby’s not sleeping.  I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.  Like, I just need to talk to a person!  And that was when I reached out to you.

Alyssa:  And how old was she?  Six months?

Chris:  I think she might have been six months, yeah.

Alyssa:  That’s what comes to my mind.

Chris:  I think so.

Alyssa:  So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation?  You were just gone?

Chris:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  There was no day and no night.  And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him.  And sometimes coughing loudly.  “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning.  But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well.  She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time.  She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level.  We’ve got to do something here.

Alyssa:  Right.  I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.”  I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out.  But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.”  So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training.  I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep.  We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help!  What’s going on?”

Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa!  So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day.  Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go.  And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there.  And it ended up working super well.  I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word.  We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that!  You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred.  But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it.  Like, significantly less.  I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep.  Like, what??

Alyssa:  I remember you saying, “How is this possible?  What did you do to my child?  Whose baby is this?”

Chris:  Yeah, what’s happening?  Did you possess my child?  So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever.  What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day!  So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.

Alyssa:  I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps.  It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap.  We’re going to hit the hot tub.  And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes!  We did it!

Chris:  That’s one of my favorite parenting memories!  It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.

Alyssa:  I think it is!

Chris:  Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad.  My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived.  I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat.  It really affects you.

Alyssa:  On so many levels.   Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying?  I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car.  You just kind of get into survival mode.

Chris:  Yeah.  And I would just nurse her to sleep.  I think I spent – oh, my God.  I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake!  So yeah, that was the beginning.

Alyssa:  And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?

Chris:  Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling.  I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib.  She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore.  She hates that!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.

Chris:  Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again!  I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.

Alyssa:  She’s, like, get away from me, lady!

Chris:  She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop!  So at that point – what did we do at that point?  We stopped shush-pat.  Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.

Alyssa:  Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals.  Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.

Chris: The first day, yeah.  I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell!  But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time.  Like, I’ve done this a million times.  I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep!  It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately.  So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore.  But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.

Alyssa:  So where is she at now?

Chris:  Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!

Alyssa:  Yay!

Chris:  I’m so happy!

Alyssa:  And how many months is she?

Chris:  She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.

Alyssa:  Awesome.

Chris:  Yeah, it’s amazing.  And she goes down super easy for her morning nap.  It’s not even an issue anymore.  I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15.  I can do this!  And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.

Alyssa:  Yeah, her body just knows it’s time.  She doesn’t fight it.  Incredible!  Yay!

Chris:  I know, it’s a game changer!

Alyssa:  And you’re feeling good?

Chris:  I’m feeling good!

Alyssa:  Your husband’s feeling good?

Chris:  Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.

Alyssa:  Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?

Chris:  I was just watching him.  But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?

Alyssa:  That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep?  And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up.  I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something.  So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months.  It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove.  So you just need to figure out your groove again.  So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.

Chris:  I don’t know.  I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor.  I’m like, oh, is she okay?

Alyssa:  So turn the monitor off.

Chris:  What?  You can do that?

Alyssa:  Yeah!  As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off.  Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in.  She’s just down the hall.  If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup.  I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that.  Earplugs in.

Chris:  Oh, my God.  That’s genius.  Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.

Alyssa:  You’re going to hear her, absolutely.

Chris:  But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay?  And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.

Alyssa:  No, she’s good.  She’s good.  Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.

Chris:  Yeah.  Okay!

Alyssa:  They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed.  You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep.  And you didn’t have to get out of bed.  But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.

Chris:  You’re going to change my world!

Alyssa:  Go buy some earplugs when we leave!

Chris:  Yeah!

Alyssa:  Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep.  And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now.  Every single little noise: oh, are they okay?  Are they okay?  They’re okay.

Chris:  I love that.

Alyssa:  And my daughter is six now.  I always check in on her.  I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind.  I’m going to sleep now.  I’m putting my earplugs in.  I want to get a good night’s rest.  She’s okay.

Chris:  Wow.  When do you think they started making video baby monitors?

Alyssa:  I don’t know.  Good question!

Chris:  Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?

Alyssa:  Not that long ago.

Chris:  Not that long ago?

Alyssa:  I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade.  Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.

Chris:  We survived!

Alyssa:  Yeah!  So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?

Chris:  Oh, my God.  Get a plan ASAP!

Alyssa:  Don’t wait?

Chris:  Don’t wait!  I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep.  First of all, I would have gotten out of her room.  We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st.  She was born in June!

Alyssa:  That’s eight months!

Chris:  We slept in the same room as her for eight months!  Is that crazy?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months.  That’s their safe sleep guideline.  For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle.  You have to get up early for work; you have older kids.  But some people do room share for six to twelve months.  It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you.  So it’s really up to the parent.  It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.

Chris:  Right.  Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that.  We were both keeping each other up all night.  So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing.  You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap.  It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.

Alyssa:  Well, and crying just to cry does you no good.  I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours.  I’m like, that was for nothing.  That’s absolutely for nothing.  And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress.  You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan.  Here’s how it’s going to work.  Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing.  And it’s so hard because people give up.  Parents just want to give up.  “I tried it; didn’t work.  I give up.  I throw in the towel.  I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard.  Or people will say, oh, I did this online course.  I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you.  They don’t know your baby.  They don’t know your parenting style.  They don’t know what you’ve tried.  They don’t know what works and what didn’t work.  So it’s really hard.

Chris:  I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything.  And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby.  I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that.  So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.

Alyssa:  Right.  “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?”  Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.

Chris:  Yes, or how to troubleshoot.  Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next?  And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her.  Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!

Alyssa:  Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no!  This is not supposed to happen; what do I do?  And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do.  Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.

Chris:  Yep.  The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Chris:  That was the 1000% game changer.  Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know?  You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there!  Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this!  One more minute!  Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her.  And I’d be like, okay.

Alyssa:  Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.

Chris:  Yeah.  The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –

Alyssa:  Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night?  How did it go?

Chris:  Exactly, yeah.

Alyssa:  Did you move out of that room?

Chris:  Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!

Alyssa:  Right.  I’ll know!  I’ll be checking your Instagram feed!  Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!

Chris:  But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.

Alyssa:  It’s huge.  That’s why I love it so much.  I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep.  Anything else you want to say?

Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say!  Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!

Alyssa:  There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning!  It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.

Chris:  Yep.  Because we had no clue.  I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep?  Just go to sleep!

Alyssa:  And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep?  Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.

Chris:  Exactly, yeah.  So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain!  Rely on someone else’s brain!

Alyssa:  Right.  “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.”  It’s not!  Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.

Chris:  Is that for real?  One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?

Alyssa:  Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this.  Yeah.

Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?

Alyssa:  Probably eight hours.  I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven.  But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…

Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.

Chris:  Scary.  I believe it, though!

Alyssa:  I feel it.  Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space.  That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.

Chris:  Yeah, I’ve missed my own road!  Seriously, multiple times!  Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’re in a fog!

Chris:  Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!

Alyssa:  Awesome.  Well, thanks for joining me today!  We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!

Chris:  Awesome!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening.  Remember, these moments are golden!

 

Pregnancy and Depression

Podcast Episode #60: A Naturopath’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Depression

Doctor Janna Hibler, ND talks to Alyssa and Kristin about how a naturopathic doctor treats pregnant and postpartum women, body and mind.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and I am here with Kristin, my business partner today, and Janna Hibler.  She’s a naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist.  Hello, Janna!

Janna:  Hi, how’s it going, guys?

Alyssa:  So Kristin and I met you at a little gathering of the minds at Grand Rapids Natural Health Recently.  We kind of hit it off, and then you and I got coffee, and we hit it off even further.  We got to chatting forever, so we were like, let’s just pause this and record our conversation!  And today, first, I want to know a little bit more about what you do, but when the two of us were talking, we spoke quite a bit about postpartum depression, and I want to talk about what happens leading up to that, even before you get pregnant, but then during pregnancy, too.  What does that look like?  What do depression and anxiety look like?  How do we nip that in the bud?

Janna:  Yeah, definitely!  So it’s really important for all of us mamas and future mamas to know that how we are before we get pregnant and give birth is a good indicator of how our health might look like after we give birth.  Things you mentioned such as anxiety or depression tend to get more severe after we give birth just because of the extreme stress and sleep deprivation that we are under, having a newborn.  I like to emphasize to my patients that this is nothing to feel bad about.  It’s just when you don’t sleep, you don’t release the same neurotransmitters and have the same brain chemistry with certain levels of uppers and feel-good hormones.  So it’s kind of…

Alyssa:  I’m obviously a big proponent of sleep for babies and parents.  So what would you tell a parent who says I’m not even pregnant yet; I’m thinking about getting pregnant.  How does a person even know if they have depression or anxiety?  And what do you do about it?  Let’s say that I’m kind of a depressed person or I get anxious about things at work or with my friends or my family.  What do you recommend?  And then let’s say I came to see you as a naturopathic doctor.

Janna:  So again, I like to really emphasize that you are normal and this is a normal part of being a female.  If we’re talking evolutionarily speaking, we were made to be out in nature, and so when we’re put in the city, even if we’re out half an hour from Grand Rapids downtown, there’s a lot of lights.  There’s a lot of noises.  There’s a lot of things going on that cause an overresponse, and that can lead to anxiety and depression.  So some symptoms might be feeling nervous in certain situations or some OCD tendencies, or a lower mood display and laughing less or getting less excited about certain things in life.  These can be very mild, but if you look at them over the course of the day, if you have a lot of little things, they do add up.  So when you walk into a naturopathic doctor’s office, something I really love and take to heart is that we have our medical concentration, but we also have a lot of education with psychology and knowing how the brain works.  So I would ask you a bunch of questions; the normal medical questions you get, but in addition, we’re going to ask about your sleep cycles, your exercise, your diet regimen.  All these play a part in our mental health, and my end goal is for everybody to feel their best all the time.  In order to find out how people are feeling, I like to run a series of either urinary or blood tests.  This can give us an indication of brain chemistry, hormone levels, cortisol, in addition to the normal things like checking sugar and red blood cells.  I really like to hone in on these specialty tests because by checking our brain chemistry, I can find exactly what neurotransmitters might be high or low, and we can treat appropriately.

Alyssa:  So when you talk about neurotransmitters, what does that mean?  What are you looking at and what does that mean to you?

Janna:  So our neurotransmitters; there’s the common ones we’ve all heard of like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, even histamine.  There is a whole slew of uppers and downers, and basically, we take the brain chemistry analysis tests so we can see if some of them are off.  Some people that have allergies have high histamine levels.  That’s an upper, so when we have allergies, those people actually tend to have anxiety, as well.  And so we can actually nip the anxiety in the bud by treating the allergies and reducing histamine levels.  So it’s really a cool science.

Alyssa:  And the cortisol and serotonin and melatonin, all those things you can actually check with blood and urine?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah.

Kristin:  And a lot of women have issues with their thyroid; is that part of the testing, that you can check thyroid levels?

Janna:  Absolutely.  I like to refer to it as our hormone triangle where we have our thyroid as the king, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and then we have our cortisol.  All three of those categories play a huge role in our hormone development and picture that we have, so we do a lot of intensive testing to find out where those levels are at.

Alyssa:  And what would you do if I came in and my cortisol levels were sky-high and you noticed something with my thyroid?  What would you tell me to do?

Janna:  So depending on your lab results, the thyroid could be treated in two ways.  One, sometimes we do give conventional medications, and then another way to treat, depending on your levels, is with herbs.  We can give a series of botanical herbs to actually bring your levels back to normal, as well as certain nutrients.  There’s a number of co-factors that actually feed our thyroid hormone to turn from its inactive to active form, and without them, we will not function.  So that’s things like vitamin D and iron and vitamin C; very common nutrients that we take for granted, but they play a vital role in our thyroid health.

Alyssa:  So how long do you test that out before you put them on a drug?

Janna:  Typically, I like to give a patient three to six months to see if we can fix it with nutrients and herbs.  Again, it comes back to what the patient wants.  If a patient wants results this month, then we might take a more aggressive treatment plan.  But if they’re willing to do it completely naturally, then three to six months.

Alyssa:  So let’s say I get it under control; I’m pregnant, and I still notice now that I still have some anxiety or depression.  What do you do during pregnancy?

Janna:  I really like to encourage diet and exercise and sleep.  Those are our biggest best friends to really help out.  Different lifestyle factors can have a huge effect on our mood and behavior.  So let’s start with maybe some foods.  We could eat a diet rich in dopamine, so we could do things like chocolate.  I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate?  We all love it, but do we know it’s high in magnesium and it’s high in zinc?  Those are vital co-factors to run our brain chemistry.  We can also have blueberries or nuts and seeds, which are high in vitamin B6 and 9 and all these B vitamins to help also with our mood.  We could do some grass-fed or fermented foods, which help with our gastrointestinal health, which again, I’m sure you guys have all heard of the gut being the second brain.  And then sulfur; sulfur-rich foods like onions and garlic that actually help with detox, so if we are having some things get backed up, we can help get them out.  So we really try to approach it from a multifactorial view hitting all points.  How’s our diet?  How’s our exercise?  How’s our sleep?  How’s our stress?  And a lot of what I get into with patients, too, is how is your relationship at home?  Do you feel supported?  Do you feel loved?  Do you feel heard by your partner?  By your business partners, your coworkers?  These are all part of our needs that play a role in our mental health when we’re pregnant and when we’re not pregnant.

Alyssa:  I was going to say those are things that should be carried over throughout, right?

Janna:  Yeah, yeah!

Alyssa:  Meanwhile, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Janna:  Totally, and pregnancy just kind of is that opportunity where we find our weaknesses in our body, and it’s actually a great opportunity to increase our health for the rest of our life and find out things we wouldn’t know about it unless we were pregnant.

Alyssa:  Oftentimes, I feel like that is the point in a woman’s brain and body where we finally start to understand and care about what’s happening to our body, and because we’re growing another human, then we’re like, oh, I better start taking care of myself so that I can take care of this baby.

Janna: Yeah, and I think that has a lot to do with what happens after we give birth and why a lot of moms struggle.  I mean, I want to say that loud on this podcast right now that mom life is hard.  It is a struggle, and I know we all try to put on a face that we’re doing well and everything’s perfect at home, but mom life is hard, and that’s maybe another podcast sometime, but that’s a conversation I’d love to get started because it is hard, and to that extent, why we have a hard time after birth is a lot of the time – and I’m sure you guys see this all the time, being in the house with moms – that the moms forget about themselves.  They put all of their energy, all of their love, into their baby, and I was guilty of it, too.  I mean, I have a two-year-old, and I definitely did it.  I’m still guilty of it some days because we love that human so, so much.  But I think it’s really important for our mental health and as mothers to put the energy back into ourselves and remember that we really can’t pour from an empty cup, and we have to be healthy and strong ourselves in order to make strong and healthy babies.

Alyssa:  So what do you recommend to a mom who’s suffering from depression?  You know, maybe they had a beautiful pregnancy, easy labor and delivery, and then they’re like, oh, my God; this is way harder than I thought, and then sink into a depression that they’ve never experienced before.  How do you get them out that?

Janna:  And so many moms do!  There are so, so many out there that come in, and they’re like, not even my husband knows how sad I am; not even my best friend knows how sad I am, and that’s where I really encourage everyone to just start reaching out.  I don’t want you to be ashamed; I don’t want you to feel guilty, because it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  You’re an excellent mom because you care so, so much, and asking for that help and taking that first step, making people aware that this is something I do need help with, and receiving that love.  From a medical standpoint, too, we’ll go in and I’ll help adjust hormones and your brain chemistry with either herbs or conventional treatments or nutrient levels to help your body, but I think so much of it also comes from a mental and emotional spot of feeling supported and loved by your people around you.

Alyssa:  So is naturopathic medicine, in general, more of a functional approach versus the medical approach or kind of a combination?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah, and functional medicine is so great.  That is the bridge between conventional medicine and natural medicine because we all agree on it, you know.  We see a lab level, and it’s important to attend to it when it’s on its lower level.  Traditionally-minded thinking, we only would treat something like vitamin D if it was set low because that’s the level that can cause rickets and true mobility issues, but what about everybody that has low-normal, that they’re in that functional, funky range?  That’s at a stage that can cause depression, that you can get autoimmune diseases.  So as a naturopathic doctor, I really work on treating it then and now so we can prevent getting those diseases because they may not pop up in five or even ten years, but they will happen if they’re not treated.

Kristin:  Even in pregnancy, there’s evidence that preeclampsia with the lack of vitamin D, that can be a factor in developing preeclampsia.

Janna:  Exactly, and that’s how it can be that simple sometimes where moms come in and, hey, they just want to run a nutrient panel just to find out what are their baseline nutrients, and then that way when breastfeeding comes into play, especially for extended breastfeeding – I’ve been breastfeeding for two and a half years, so that’s something I’ve been keeping a constant eye on, what are my nutrient levels, because we don’t want to cause other problems from just being depleted.  So yeah, that’s a great point.

Alyssa:  Depleted is a good word to describe mothers postpartum, I think.  Most of us at some point just feel depleted, whether it’s mentally, physically, whether it’s just breastfeeding.  That alone can make you feel depleted; this baby is literally sucking the life out of me!

Janna:  Because you’re giving everything!

Kristin:  I tandem nursed, so I really felt depleted when I was nursing two!

Alyssa:  It’s like this weird tug of war between “I love doing this” and “I hate doing this so much.”  I remember getting so over it when I was done, and then a month later I missed it.  I was like, oh, my God; I’m not breastfeeding anymore!  But I was so ready to throw those pump accessories in the trash and celebrate, but it’s just a weird…

Janna:  It is!  And every mom is different, so we like to celebrate moms at each level, whether they want to breastfeed for three months or six months or a year.  We all have our breaking point, and we want to prevent us from getting to that point.  Mama matters, too!

Kristin:  For sure!

Alyssa:  Well, thank you so much for joining us, and if people want to find you to come visit you or just ask you questions or follow you on Instagram, where do they find you?

Janna:  Absolutely!  So I’m currently accepting patients at Grand Rapids Natural Health, and I’m also on social media as holisticmommyandmedoc, and you can reach out there anytime.  My name is Janna Hibler on Facebook, and feel free to message me anytime.  I like to get to know my mamas.  Since I just moved from Vermont, I’m looking to build up my network of mamas because we are a tribe and we all need to stick with each other, so whether it’s personally or professionally, I do want to link up with you!

Alyssa:  Thank you so much!

Kristin:  Thanks, Janna!  We appreciate it!

 

yoga self care

[uncommon sense]: The Importance of Quality Self-Care

Alyssa recently spoke at an event about the importance of self-care. This is a summary of her conversation. We hope you can take away some good advice about what quality self-care means to you and how to apply it to your busy life!

Self-care has become one of those phrases that we roll our eyes at and say, “Yea, I know I need to take more time for myself. Self-care makes me a better mother, or makes me a better wife, or makes me a more productive employee. Yup.” Then we do nothing about incorporating it into our life.

So I’ve been thinking about this topic, trying to figure out a way to define self-care in a way that makes it relevant to all us busy moms. Something to make us realize that in the midst of all the chaos, it is a MUST!

What are some things that come to mind when you hear self-care? Just think about it for a minute. Most of us think of manis and pedis. Maybe a massage. All that is great but what good does if do if we are only caring for our physical bodies? So we have pretty nails, did that do anything for our peace of mind? Was that quality self-care? Maybe for some. But I think we need to dig deeper into what self-care truly is.

Think about this – The quality of our self-care can determine outcomes. It can take us from where we are now to where we want to go. A pedi can’t do that.

Self-care is your path to well-being. When you take care of yourself you’re happier and you therefore attract help, support, productivity, positive relationships, and positive influences. You thrive. Quality self-care makes you radiant from the inside out. People can feel it and are drawn to it.

When we get “too busy” and overload our schedules, that in turn can have the opposite effect – unhappiness, poor relationships, and even physical ailments like migraines and insomnia.

Think of self-care as your fuel. It’s your on-switch. You have to fuel yourself, nourish yourself, so you’re not running on empty or just running on adrenaline. We all have busy lives, and making time for quality self-care actually gives you fuel to do it more efficiently.

Listen to your body. Think of quality self-care as your prescription. When your body is telling you something, be it mental or physical, ask yourself if self-care would fix it. Because your mind and body are not separate. They are fully connected and when you can relax you mind, your body will follow.

An example of this would be every single time I get a manicure. I was just joking with a friend that a manicure is actually stressful for me. I don’t have the use of my hands so I can’t answer the phone, I can’t check emails, or even just browse Instagram! I’m stuck there, staring at the wall, or the lady in front of me, in silence for an hour. I’m miserable. But my nails look good!

So that’s not quality self-care for me. The physical things we do should also be combined with mental practices and rituals. I think if I made it a ritual to get a mani with a friend, that would be quality self-care for me. An hour spent with a good friend is good for my soul. An hour staring at a wall stresses me out.

What could that practice look like for you? Maybe a float tank. Local peeps, has anyone been to phlot in Eastown? Maybe for you it’s meditating for 10 minutes each morning to set intentions for the day. Maybe it’s a massage or yoga (for me these work)! Maybe it’s working out, or reading your favorite book. All of these are great if they bring you some peace and joy. That’s mental wellness.

So think about all the things you can do for your mental wellness and add that to they physical things you are already doing.

What’s your current self-care ritual? Is it working for you? If so, great! Keep it up. If it’s not working, be open to trying some new things to create a ritual of self-care. Figure out what’s important to you and make it happen. No excuses. Remember, it doesn’t need to be lavish or expensive. It just has to work for you (not anyone else)! Like my example of getting a mani with a friend – the mani still only costs me $30 but now it’s quality self-care at no added expense because I have a buddy with me.

Maybe you like to soak in a hot bath, but can’t shut your brain off. So how about soaking in the tub and calling a friend. Or reading that fiction novel that’s been collecting dust. Or turning on a funny podcast. These are simple mental rituals to add to your physical self-care options!

Ok so how do we implement these mental rituals? First, you have to understand that they are a necessity. Something you must do in order to maintain wellness.

Think of that safety card on an airplane. You’re told to put on your own air mask before you help anyone else put on theirs. Even your children! Why? What would happen to you if you helped everyone else put their masks on and you forgot about yourself? You would suffocate. Without your own mask on, you don’t have the capacity to help others. It’s not selfish, it’s a necessity.

Make quality self-care a non-negotiable. Caring for yourself is not an act of indulgence, remind yourself it’s a necessity. Eliminate any shame and guilt that accompanies your self-care ritual.

Self-care is not selfish. Or maybe it is, and that’s okay!

I want to leave you with a quote from Ghandi:

“I had a really busy day today so I better meditate —- for two hours instead of one.”

 

stress

Dealing with Stress

Today’s blog comes from one of our previous postpartum doulas, Alex. Her nurturing soul shines in this post, giving us her favorite tips for stress management and self-care. Take the time today, and every day, to nurture yourself.

It’s no secret that stress is, inevitably, a part of life, and to some degree is healthy for the human body. But too much stress and/or on-going stress can have negative effects on your long-term health. Most people deal with it in some capacity throughout their lives, and becoming a parent can most definitely add more stress to your life. Stress can, but does not always, affect your immune system, sleeping and eating habits, digestion, mental well-being, and among other things it ages you, fast!

Sometimes stress is unavoidable. We live in a fast-paced society and there’s a lot of pressure for most people, especially parents. Luckily there are some proven things to help our bodies and minds against the negative effects of ongoing or heavy stress in life.

Meditation has been practiced for a long time around the world, and we now know that meditation has been shown to help alleviate some of the physical and mental effects of stress. It’s about clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing for an extended period of time, but even a short session of meditation has its benefits. It can help to give you a sense of calm and peace amidst the chaos. It helps you connect your mind and body by focusing on your breathing. If you can find the time, take even just five minutes to find a quiet place, close your eyes and breath in and out deeply, consciously relaxing all parts of your body during this. Many people tend to hold tension in parts of their body (tight shoulders, clenched jaw, etc) so this helps to let go. If your mind is racing, pick one thing and focus on it. I usually imagine a beautiful flower, flowing water, or roots coming from my feet going deep into the earth to help ground me. Even just focusing on the in and out of your breathing can clear your mind. Your circumstances may still be stressful, but you are likely to feel calmer, more grounded, and peaceful at the end of your meditation.

If you need some help, there are many guided meditations you can find on CD, YouTube, and there are even apps for your phone. Another practice that goes hand in hand with meditation is mindfulness. As parents, it’s a great skill to have and model to our children. What is mindfulness? Well, it’s just that. It’s actually stopping to be mindful of our surroundings and situations that arise instead of just reacting. Reaction if often out of emotion and when we are stressed it can be a negative reaction. When we train ourselves to stop and choose mindfulness in stressful situations it often times gives a different perspective.

Exercise is something that helps a lot with stress as well, if you are able. Exercise is great because it gives you a serotonin boost. If you are crunched for time, even a quick 10 minute jog outside can help alleviate stress. Riding your bike is wonderful too, and you get to be outdoors in good weather, which is also shown to help with stress. Gentler exercise like stretching, yoga, and pilates can relieve the body of tension and physical stress. A passive form of exercise I personally love for stress is massage! It’s great for the body and mind. If it’s too pricey for you, have a friend or your partner give you a 20 minute neck and shoulder rub at the end of the day. Foot rubs with some nice smelling oil are my favorite; I especially love lavender and it’s safe for pregnant and nursing mothers.

Nature has gifted us with several herbal allies to help our body and mind deal with stress. Teas are amazing. One of my favorite blends is chamomile, catnip, lemon balm, and lavender tea. Loose leaf herbs are available in many stores and online. I make a mixture of equal parts the first three and less lavender and add ¼ cup to a quart sized jar and steep it for an hour or so to make an infusion. It’s a nice, calming blend that the whole family can enjoy safely, especially for teething. I sweeten with honey for the kiddos (but no babies under 1 year!). Tinctures are plants steeped in alcohol or vegetable glycerin that get all the goodness out of a particular plant or a blend of plants. Passionflower is one I used during the end of my third pregnancy to help with irritability and anxiety. I got a lot of relief from this. There are also adaptogenic herbs, which help with your adrenal health, in turn helping many systems of the body adapt to stress. However, not all are safe during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, so use caution and always consult your care provider. One I use safely during nursing, but not pregnancy, is Rhodiola. It has been used for many years in Russian and Asia and is gaining popularity in the US. It gives steady energy, mental clarity, stamina, and enhances your mood on top of helping your body physically deal with stress in many ways. Essential oils are hugely popular but you need to use the utmost safety and caution when using them (I would say never ingest essential oils, and do not use on kids under two). Lavender is one of my favorites along with Ylang Ylang. Both smell lovely and are so relaxing. I put them in a diffuser or put a few drops in a relaxing bath with some bath salts for a nice soak.

Sleep is so important. Sleep deprivation only adds stress in your life, causing your body to become stressed more quickly. Being a parent can make sleep difficult. Between waking babies and older kids, most parents find sleep hard to come by. Having a solid bedtime routine is important; it creates a good rhythm with kids. And parents, if you can nap at all during the day, do it. I know it’s a stretch, especially with a job outside of the home, but even a 10-20 minute power nap is proven to do wonders for your stress and energy levels.

All of these methods of self-care can help you during stressful times. I realize stress can be unavoidable, but self-care is important and using some of the tips I’ve given (or all of them) can help you to take care of yourself so you can better care for your family. I hope this helps you find some peace.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. If you are suffering from stress or finding it hard to function, you may need to talk to your primary care provider. This is a blog post from my own extensive research and experience throughout several years of handling stress in a healthy way.