5 Fabulous (and Simple) Exercise Ideas for Pregnancy

We believe that an integral part of any comprehensive childbirth education includes appropriate pregnancy exercise. When you take a Birth Boot Camp class it will include an exercise program created just for you and this time in your life.  

But maybe you are wondering what you can do right now (before you start your birth class) for everyday fitness during your pregnancy.  This guest post from Jessica Socheski has five wonderful ideas that you can easily incorporate into your life.  

Disclaimer: Be sure to consult your health care provider before beginning any exercise routine.

For many women, exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy as well as a great avenue to faster postpartum weight loss and recovery. Physical activity throughout a pregnancy benefits both you and your baby’s bodies greatly, unless, of course, you are having a difficult pregnancy and may be on bed rest or other physical caution. Some of the possible benefits of healthy activity include relieved back pain, better sleep, more energy, and less discomfort when in labor.

Before starting an exercise regimen, it is important that pregnant women contact their health care provider to ensure their body and their baby’s can handle exercise.

Here are five exercises that are both good for the new mommy and growing baby.

1. Swimming

Swimming is a fantastic aerobic exercise that increases the body’s ability to process and utilize oxygen which is important for both the mom and baby. Swimming also targets important muscle groups, such as the arms and legs, yet is still low-impact, allowing for a comfortable experience that is gentle on your body.

It provides good cardiovascular benefits while allowing expectant mothers to feel weightless despite extra pregnancy pounds. Many women find they have increased back pain from an expanding belly and muscle cramps, but swimming can help to relieve these symptoms by increasing circulation and gently strengthening the muscles.

2. Prenatal Yoga

When paired with a cardiovascular exercise like swimming or walking, yoga can be an ideal way for moms to stay in shape during pregnancy. Yoga keeps pregnant ladies limber and toned while improving balance and circulation with little impact on your joints.

Because of the breathing and relaxation techniques attached to yoga, new moms will find that yoga is beneficial as they face the physical demands of labor, birth, and motherhood. When in labor and in pain, the body produces adrenalin which can delay labor progress. Regular and steady breathing can help a woman fight the urge to tighten up when in pain and relax instead.

3. Dancing

Dancing is a great exercise and fun while pregnant because it helps to keep the body flexible and gets  you moving. As an aerobic exercise, any style of dance can give a solid cardiovascular workout. It is important to warm up beforehand by stretching out the muscles. And you should always listen to your body, as with any physical activity, for cues that it is being pushed too hard.

4. Walking

Walking is an ideal cardiovascular exercise for pregnant women because it keeps the body in shape and fit without adding any additional pressure or jarring the knees and ankles. And, it is a safe activity that can be continued throughout all nine months of pregnancy because of its low intensity and gentle impact on the muscles.When in the first trimester, moms should not be too concerned about changing their normal walking habits. However, in the second and third trimesters, depending upon how quickly the baby has grown, moms may consider walking on flat, even surfaces such as a track to avoid falling off balance.

5. Low-Impact Aerobics

Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and tones the body without putting too much strain on you. There are plenty of aerobic classes at different gyms or prenatal offices where women can be assured that each movement is safe for them and their baby. With these great exercise options, you can stay active and feeling healthy and energetic throughout your pregnancy all while preparing for a natural delivery.

Additional reading and studies concerning pregnancy exercise:




Jessica Socheski is a writer and health nut who loves researching exercise and flexibility. You can connect with her on Google+.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue and Breastfeeding


We are pleased to bring a guest post to you today from Mellanie Sheppard, IBCLC.  Mellanie is an experienced Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant who stars in our breastfeeding DVD, “Breastfeeding: the Ultimate MRE.”  Mellanie is a wealth of knowledge and we are so excited to have her write about the topic of Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT) today.

We love your questions and comments!  Please leave after the post.  


The 3%

We hear it all the time: “97% of women are fully capable of producing enough milk to breastfeed“.  So who are the 3%?  Do they really exist?  If you follow any of the breastfeeding support boards online, you see a definite attitude of disbelief anytime a woman says she cannot make enough milk.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

NewMom:  I am so sad that I have to supplement.  I really wanted to exclusively breastfeed.  Does anyone know how to get donor milk?

LactivistMom:  Don’t supplement!  You will never make enough if you start supplementing.  Only 3% of women can’t breastfeed.  You just need to take a nursing vacation.  Take baby to bed with you and nurse around the clock.  Try some fenugreek too.  That worked great for me.

NewMom:  My baby nurses constantly and is still not gaining weight.  We have tried fenugreek and it didn’t work.

Every1CanBF:  Have you tried More Milk Plus?  You should be pumping too.  Pump after every feeding and you will have rivers of milk in a few days.  Everyone can make enough milk.  You just have to work for it.

NewMom:  I have been pumping after every feeding for 3 weeks now and I only get drops of milk.  My lactation consultant says I might have IGT.  Does anyone know anything about this?  Where can I get donor milk?  It feel so sad every time I have to give my baby formula.  

And on and on the conversation goes, with more moms chiming in to tell NewMom that 97% of women can breastfeed and giving her list after list of things to do, all while never answering her original question.  Eventually, NewMom moves on, feeling alone, guilty and defeated.

As breastfeeding supporters, we need to understand that the small percentage of women who cannot produce enough milk is real.  One of the least understood causes of low – or sometimes no – milk production is breast hypoplasia, also known as insufficient glandular tissue (IGT).

What is IGT?  If we liken the lactating breast to a factory, then we could say that, for women with IGT, the workers went on strike before the factory was completely built. This makes it difficult for the factory to bring production up to 100%.  She might produce 80% of the milk her baby needs or just 10%.  For some, production won’t ever get off the ground.

What causes IGT?  There are many speculations about the root cause (pesticide exposure during childhood, hormonal imbalance, injury to developing breasts, etc.)  Over the years, there is one common thread I have seen with almost every mom with IGT that I have seen  - irregular menstrual cycles, especially during the teen years.  This makes sense if we know that glandular tissue (the tissue that makes milk) develops with each menstrual cycle and even more develops during pregnancy.  So what happens when a young woman only has 3-4 menstrual cycles per year?  She gets much less glandular tissue development and may struggle with milk production when she has children.  In some women, they report that their breasts were very different from the start – they may be very small or they may be large but look “empty”,  or maybe one is large and one is small.  They may droop excessively or the areolae may be exceptionally large compared to breast size.  These are common markers for IGT but do not guarantee that there will be a problem.  This site has a great synopsis of what happens in the breast during puberty and pregnancy.

What can you do if you suspect you have IGT?  The first thing to do is visit with a knowledgeable lactation consultant (IBCLC).  You need someone who is familiar with IGT and knows how to assess for it. If you are pregnant, the lactation consultant can help you with developing a plan so that you know how to recognize whether or not baby is getting enough milk at the breast, how to know if supplementation is necessary, can discuss methods of supplementation if needed (bottle, supplemental nursing system, cup, syringe, etc.), help with deciding on donor breastmilk or formula, and discuss strategies for maximizing milk production.

Being prepared is a big part of the battle.  If you have already had your baby and are struggling with milk production, working with a lactation consultant can help you by deciding on herbs or medications to increase milk production, teaching you how to supplement in a way that supports breastfeeding, rather than undermining it, helping you with dietary changes that may improve hormonal issues, etc.  If you suspect IGT it is important to know that, even though you may not be able to supply 100% of your babies breastmilk needs, you can still have a breastfeeding relationship.  The physical act of nursing and the bond created are just as important as the milk.  Breastfeeding is not all or nothing.

Is there support out there for women with low milk supply due to IGT or other issues?  Yes!  Some of my favorite sources of support are:

Diary of a Lactation Failure
IGT and Low Milk Supply Support on Facebook
Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues (MOBI)

You can support a mom with low milk supply with a little compassion and understanding.  She is probably working harder than you know and may appreciate just having her struggle acknowledged.  She may be grieving the loss of the breastfeeding experience she thought she would have and need to know that someone understands her loss.  Show her love and answer her questions without judgement.  And most of all, don’t make jokes about your oversupply unless you mean to donate milk – in that case, be generous!

For more information on IGT, these resources are excellent:





Mellanie ShepardWebMellanie Sheppard, IBCLC is a lactation consultant in private practice with more than 12 years experience working with breastfeeding families. She is an avid proponent of educating expectant families on Mother-Friendly Childbirth and a co-founder and leader of the Tarrant County Birth Network. A leader in her field, Mellanie frequently presents at conferences and events on topics including breastfeeding the special needs infant, the effects of induction of labor on breastfeeding, and how birth and breastfeeding are inter-connected.


Black Women and VBAC- A Guest Post By Melek Oz Speros


Tasha after her vaginal birth after four c-sections. It can be done. You can read her story here.

Melek Oz Speros, founder of Black Women DO VBAC!, has made it her mission to bring research, birth stories, and inspiration to Black women giving birth.  We are excited to share her and her knowledge with you today and help spread the word that black women CAN and DO have vaginal births after cesarean.


While rates of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and its very accessibility are issues bemoaned by activists and advocates across the board, this issue hits the Black community particularly hard, as do many issues with regards to maternity care in this country.

Despite higher rates of trials of labor after cesarean (TOLAC), and evidence that Black women may have lower incidences of uterine rupture, Black women have lower rates of successful VBACs. This matters because cesareans, particularly higher order cesareans, present significant risks to the mother’s health. With maternal mortality rates much higher than white women (3-4 times higher as of the latest data available from the CDC), and cesareans presenting a greater risk of maternal mortality and morbidity, the fact that Black women are not VBACing at higher rates is a matter of great concern.

Several hypotheses have been put forth to try to explain why Black women have lower rates of VBAC. Institutional racism, socioeconomic disparities affecting access to care and options with regards to care providers, lack of access to information and outreach programs failing to reach Black women at large may all contribute to the lower rates of VBAC.  

Unfortunately, the conversation sometimes also devolves into mother blaming–some posit that Black women have poorer general health and this explains it. However, studies show that even amongst low risk first-time births, Black women have a higher risk of experiencing a cesarean delivery. And these first time moms who have a cesarean will then have to face the reality that their chances of a successful VBAC are lower for no other reason than the fact that they are Black.

The truth is, we don’t have a concrete explanation for the lower rates of VBAC in our community, but it is of the utmost importance that we continue the conversation, so that we may raise awareness within the community of the benefits of natural birth after a cesarean (or even multiple cesareans), as well as the risks of multiple cesareans, which are often underrepresented or misrepresented to mothers.

We are operating within a system that has failed–and continues to fail–us. While some may be content to throw their hands up and stop at “we just don’t know,” there are people out there who are working to educate, inform and empower women to challenge the system which has left us behind.  

I started the website Black Women DO VBAC! in order to share the true stories of Black women who have had successful VBACs, so that other mothers may know that, despite what the research shows, there are women like them who have managed to defy the odds.  It is my fervent hope that reading real life stories of women who have gone before them will inspire others to question the status quo and advocate for themselves and their babies, so that we may close the gap and, hopefully, improve outcomes for both mothers and babies.

Reprinted in part from the October 2013 issue of the “Black Women Birthing Justice Newsletter.”


 Melek planned three natural births and after two cesareans, her dream finally came true when she gave birth to her youngest son naturally in 2012. Melek also works as a doula and natural childbirth educator and is passionate about informing women and couples about the benefits of natural childbirth and breastfeeding. An inactive attorney, she also works to inform mothers of their rights in childbirth, especially VBAC mothers, who often face barriers other mothers do not. You can find Black VBAC stories,  and research about Black women and VBAC on Melek’s website, Black Women DO VBAC!

-Racial and ethnic differences in indication for primary cesarean delivery at term: experience at one U. S. Institution (2012)

-Racial and ethnic disparities in the trends in primary cesarean delivery based on indication (2009)

-Quality and equality in obstetric care: racial and ethnic differences in cesarean section delivery rates (2009)

-Racial disparity in the success and complications of vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (2008)

-Nulliparous term singleton vertex cesarean delivery rates: institutional and individual level predictors (2008)

-The Black-White Disparity in Pregnancy-Related Mortality From 5 Conditions: Differences in Prevalence and Case-Fatality Rates (2007)

-Risk of stillbirth following a cesarean delivery: black-white disparity (2006)

-Ethnic disparity in the success of vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (2006)

Breastfeeding After Reduction Surgery


An important part of our mission at Birth Boot Camp is to encourage and truly support mothers in breastfeeding.  From day one we have had on staff an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Mellanie Sheppard, and every one of our students receives a two-disk breastfeeding DVD titled: Breastfeeding: the Ultimate MRE.  

We recognize that all breastfeeding relationships look a little different for a variety of reasons.  Today we feel lucky to share one woman’s journey as she found her own success breastfeeding children after breast reduction surgery.  Hollie Hauptly wrote this guest post and her story is inspiring for anyone struggling to make breastfeeding work against great odds.  Thanks for reading!


I had always grown up knowing that I wanted to breastfeed my children. My mom had breastfed me and all of my siblings into toddlerhood. It was what I knew was the normal, biological thing to do. As a teenager I made the tough decision to have breast reduction surgery. I went back and forth on this decision multiple times, but when I was in 11th grade I made the final decision and had it done. My surgeon knew that I wanted to breastfeed when I had children. We talked about it together during my pre-surgery appointments. He was going to do what he could to make it possible for me to breastfeed, but he couldn’t offer a guarantee that it wouldn’t cause any problems. I have not ever regretted having the surgery done, but it has required me to work hard for the breastfeeding relationships I’ve had with my two children.

With my first child, I didn’t do all of the research I should have. I didn’t put much thought into it because my midwife’s attitude was, “We’ll just have to wait and see how much milk your body can make”. After he was born he lost lots of weight, so much so that deep down in my gut, no matter how badly I didn’t want to, I knew I would have to give him formula supplements. I worked non-stop to increase my milk supply by taking fenugreek and blessed thistle, nursing as often as he would, and pumping after each feeding. I worked with a few lactation consultants and even had some very encouraging WIC breastfeeding counselors that helped a ton. I was able to provide him with about half of his nourishment and he finished every feeding with no more than just a couple ounces of formula.

 During this time I struggled with many feelings of inadequacy. I remember coming home from appointments with the lactation consultant and just crying. I hated going to the pediatrician’s office to have my son weighed to see if he had gained weight. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to quit and it didn’t help that many others told me that most moms would have already quit if they were in my shoes. I became pretty hopeless in ever producing enough milk and I absolutely despised my breast pump. After accepting the fact that our breastfeeding routine would be different than I had envisioned we developed our new normal; breastfeed, bottle feed formula, wait 30 minutes and pump for about 15 minutes, repeat. Luckily he never required supplementation at night so I enjoyed our night time feedings. I was tired, but I would always rock with him for a while after his 2am feeding to get in some extra snuggles I missed when connected to my pump.

 After all of the struggles, I was proud of all of the work that I had done to give my son the best I could. He received breast milk at every feeding, every day for 9 months. I had become pretty passionate about breastfeeding at this point. I wish I had done more research beforehand to have a better idea of what to expect. I looked around and saw many moms breastfeeding their babies without any problems, or so it seemed to me. I look back now and realize what I didn’t know, but I’ve grown since then and learned so much. “You know better, you do better,” right?

 I have to stop and give a quick shout out to my husband here. If it weren’t for him and the support he was to me I doubt it would have all worked out the way it did. He went to just about every appointment with me, was my shoulder to cry on when no one else understood, washed pieces to the pump when I didn’t want anything else to do with it, bought my fenugreek, and helped me try any and every tip I found for increasing breast milk supply. He is a wonderful example of how partners and/or husbands can be supportive and really make a difference in a breastfeeding relationship.

After my experiences with my first natural birth and breastfeeding I became fairly passionate about it. I became a certified birth doula and many women in my area would come to me with pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding questions. As part of my training to become a doula, I had to choose from a certain list of books to read. It’s a fairly common requirement for a majority of doula training programs. One of the books I chose to read was Diana West’s book Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery. Wow, did I learn a lot! I thought I knew a lot about breastfeeding, but this just opened up a whole new world to me. I read the book and also joined the online support group at www.bfar.org. I couldn’t get enough at this point. I actively participated in the online forums and read, read, and read. They also now have a support group on Facebook as well. I really wish I had come across this book before having my first child.

This book was a total game changer for me and my views on breastfeeding. It has so much information that every breastfeeding mother would benefit from reading it, not just women that have had breast surgery. It’s so encouraging and filled with many real-life stories from women and their experiences. This book is full of the many different variations of breastfeeding after surgery and it also addresses the emotional aspects of BFAR, which I think was the hardest part for me. It was an emotional roller coaster and once I began looking at it from the perspective that I was giving my son as much breastmilk as I could it became much more enjoyable. Diana West has also co-authored another book called A Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.

After reading this book I learned that I was pregnant with my second child, a girl. I felt so much more prepared to breastfeed her. I had a plan in place this time and would do everything possible to breastfeed exclusively. I re-read the book and along with my doula training and growth as a mother I learned of a few things I did with my first child that likely hindered our breastfeeding relationship. I continued researching the many different options for increasing milk supply to determine what I would do from the day of birth instead of a few weeks into it.

I discovered a company called Motherlove that has a lot of wonderful products which include supplements for breastfeeding mothers to increase breastmilk supply. I planned to take the Motherlove More Milk Special Blend. This has a certain herb called goat’s rue that can actually help with the productions of mammillary tissues, as well as fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle, and fennel. All of these are known for increasing breastmilk supply and with the convenience of it all being in one supplement, I bought a few bottles and packed them it my hospital bag. I was also prepared with an SNS nursing system in case we may need to supplement. The lactation consultant that helped me a lot with my son gave it to me because she knew how badly I wanted it to work out better this time.

After my second beautiful, natural birth, I began taking the More Milk Special Blend and nursed, nursed, and nursed. With my first child I tried to get him on a schedule too early, which is in part one thing I learned that was probably part of our problem, but with my daughter I nursed on demand, did a lot (and I mean a lot) of skin to skin contact. I didn’t start pumping right away because I felt like I was nursing much more frequently than with my son. I had a new, much more supportive family physician this time.

He was confident in me as well and I felt that he would do what he could to support me. He never even mentioned supplementation. I was really excited when I learned that she hadn’t lost half as much weight as my son had lost and she was right on track to gain well. At two weeks old she still hadn’t gotten back to her birth weight so I met with my lactation consultant again and everything really was going well, she was just a little slow to gain. We could tell that she was emptying the breast and was transferring milk. I could tell the difference in her swallowing when the milk let down and I kept track of everything; number of feedings, how long, diaper output, etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong, she was breastfeeding well and I was pretty sure that she was doing great, but I was still nervous that I would have to start supplementing and that all of a sudden it wouldn’t be working as well. It was a nerve wracking few weeks, but we made sure she was gaining a minimum or 4-5 oz. a week and things continued to go well. It still took her about a month to get back up to her birth weight, but she was healthy. She was satisfied after feedings; she was hydrated, and had a good number of diapers each day. I kept track for quite a while before I felt comfortable just knowing that my daughter was getting everything she needed.

Because of my experiences with BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) I am even more passionate about breastfeeding. I am very open to sharing my experiences with women that may be going through something similar. I often hear a lot of first time moms worry about having enough milk for their baby, but taking the right steps to prepare and knowing how to get breastfeeding off to the right start, a majority of moms can be successful. I discuss this in detail when teaching Birth Boot Camp childbirth classes to expectant couples. One reason I chose to teach Birth Boot Camp is because of the great breastfeeding dvd each couple receives for their own use and we cover even more in class. Any couple that works with me either as their doula or that takes my class knows that they can call me any time with breastfeeding questions or help. If I can’t answer their questions or offer any other suggestions there are many very qualified lactation consultants in our area that I refer them to.

Breastfeeding is an amazing gift we can give to our babies. Every breastfeeding relationship will be different and I believe that for women that are planning to breastfeed after having some kind of breast surgery you need to be aware of the different possibilities and what breastfeeding may look like for you. One of the biggest things that made an impact on me as a mother that has breastfed after surgery is that breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing.

Diana West say this in her book: “Look at what an extraordinary gift you’ve given your baby! Defining your success is not about how much milk you were able to produce of how many months you were able to breastfeed. Defining your success means giving yourself credit for the commitment you made to giving your baby the best start in life and the tremendous effort you put into pursuing that goal.”  I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.  Breastfeeding after reduction surgery takes tremendous effort and will be different for each woman, but nothing beats the feeling of knowing you did your best against the odds and still succeeded. 
Hollie Hauptly is a mother of two, a certified birth doula, and a Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator in the Dallas, Texas area.  After achieving a beautiful natural birth with her first child she became a doula in 2010  and shortly thereafter began teaching birth classes.  You can contact Hollie via e-mail: hhauptly@birthbootcamp.com or find her on her website: www.sweetserenitybirth.com

Safe Cleaning Products for Pregnancy and Beyond


Pregnancy can bring both nesting (clean house!) and nausea (boo!), so what better time to find some more natural friendly cleaners. While the March of Dimes says that most commercial cleansers are safe during pregnancy, many women find the smells overwhelming or would rather just be on the safe side when it comes to chemical exposure. Here are a few tips for reputable natural cleaners.  Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments!

White Vinegar:

White Vinegar is an inexpensive and effective natural cleanser. Mixed in a spray bottle with water and some essential oils (which can help cover the vinegar smell), it can be used all over the house. Vinegar works well for cleaning surfaces, mopping floors, even shining metal fixtures in the bathroom, and is perfect for windows without the overpowering odor or chemicals in ammonia-based window cleaners. This is really a perfect all-around product that can easily be used throughout the house.

Keeping a spray bottle filled with a vinegar/water solution makes cleaning with less toxic products so much easier and you can include your children in household cleaning!

Essential Oils:

Essential oils are a great addition if you are switching over to natural products for cleaning. They can be added to mixtures of vinegar and water or used with other cleansers as they too have antibacterial properties.

Some helpful essential oils for cleaning include orange, lemon, and grapefruit oils (if you prefer the refreshing citrus scents), lavender, tea tree oil, or a Thieves blend (which includes cinnamon, clove, rosemary and eucalyptus). Essential oils can make a lovely addition to your household cleaning arsenal. Talk to somebody trained in essential oils to learn more about their many uses throughout pregnancy.


Fresh lemon is an alternative cleaner that you probably even have in your fridge. Lemon can be used to shine brass fixtures, copper pots, or chrome. In the kitchen lemon can help get stains out of wooden cutting boards or to freshen garbage disposals and even on your hands to remove smells from chopping foods.

If you want to combine lemon and vinegar for a ready-to-use spray cleaner, fill a glass jar halfway with vinegar and add leftover lemon rinds (cooking/juice remnants). Soak for a week or more until the lemon has seeped into the vinegar. The vinegar and lemon will make a lovely citrus scented liquid that will clean and disinfect normal household messes and smell better than just plain vinegar.  Pour into your spray bottle with some water to dilute (50/50 works great) and you have an inexpensive, homemade and safe cleaner.

Baking Soda:

When you need a more abrasive cleanser, baking soda is inexpensive and practical. It can be used to scrub tub or shower floors, as a paste to shine silver, and even to scrub a toilet. With a toothbrush it works great on grout, and other areas that need some scrubbing.

For mildly clogged drains, baking soda can be used along with vinegar and boiling water. Just pour baking soda down the drain, pour in vinegar and plug the drain for about ten minutes. The baking soda and vinegar will react together (remember the volcano project from fourth grade?) and often will push a clog out of the way. Open the drain and pour in about a gallon of boiling water to finish cleaning. This  frequently works and does so without the very strong chemicals found in commercial drain cleaners.  

Dr Bronner’s Soap:

Dr Bronner’s “Magic” Soap is a household staple for anybody born after 1965. (I grew up with this stuff! It reminds me of childhood.) Available now in lots of different scents, Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap is a must to have on hand for natural cleaning. They have dozens of different cleaning ideas on their blog, and if you are interested in buying things in bulk, you can always find Dr Bronner’s soap in great big bottles at your local natural foods store.

Like many of the others, you can add a bit of Dr Bronner’s liquid soap to your vinegar spray or simple water for an easy, natural cleaner. You can even use Dr Bronner’s to clean your dog and avoid most of the chemicals found in traditional anti-flea dog shampoos. It removes all the dirt and gunk and leaves your dog smelling much less like a dog. For conventionally-grown vegetables, a few drops of Dr Bronner’s in rinse water can remove wax and pesticides.

If you prefer to purchase ready-made products, The Honest Company, Biokleen and Norwex all have a variety of earth-friendly cleaners and products.  


Not only do these natural cleaners work well without bringing on headaches, once you have children in your house you can rest easier knowing that even if you children do get into the cleaning closet, the things in there won’t hurt them.

Then again, of the many suggestionss we had for avoiding toxic cleaning chemicals during pregnancy, our favorite just might be hiring a maid!

(A special thanks to all of our Birth Boot Camp instructors who offered advice and ideas for this article.  We are so lucky to have them!)

Breastfeeding Resources for New Moms


Breastfeeding is something that we plan for before the birth of our baby, but few of us prepare like we should.  While very natural, it doesn’t always come easily and arming yourself with resources to support breastfeeding is a useful way to make it more successful.  

There are a variety of ways to prepare and learn about breastfeeding from books to actual woman-to-woman support. Here are a few of our favorites.

Breastfeeding Books

Every woman planning to nurse should have at least one comprehensive breastfeeding book on hand. This will definitely be used as a reference in the early days of breastfeeding and as your baby grows and that relationship shifts and changes.  

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding published by La Leche League International

This respected book on the subject of breastfeeding is required reading for all of our birth instructors. Spanning hundreds of pages, this book is a classic and contains loads of information. It will help you re-think your approach to feeding a child from the breast in a bottle-feeding culture as well as addressing special situations such as pumping and returning to work and nursing multiples or babies with special needs. We love the newest version for its updated look, feel, and approach.  This is one to keep on your shelf throughout your time as a nursing mother.

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC, FILCA , Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC

Breastfeeding Made Simple is just that – it makes breastfeeding seem so simple. Some books will make it feel as though breastfeeding is incredibly complicated and you need a math degree to get all the angles right – knees, hips, elbows, back, neck, etc. Breastfeeding Made Simple can help remove fear and worry while still providing straightforward and helpful information. nursing.jpg

Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy by Laura Keegan

Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy has great photos so you can see what a baby looks like when they have their mouth open wide enough to latch and what a good latch looks like. It shows a lot of different holds including nursing twins, and also nursing babies of different ages.  In our bottle feeding culture where nursing an infant is sometimes shocking, nursing an older baby can be even more so. This book helps normalize breastfeeding and the pictures are worth a thousand words. Many of us grow up rarely, if ever, witnessing nursing, which can make it harder to actually do. This book is a fabulous resource for any mom but particularly for those who learn visually.

Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diana West

Defining Your Own Success is geared towards women who have had reduction surgery and may not be able to produce 100% of the milk needed for their baby. For women in this situation, breastfeeding might require some supplementation. Breastfeeding can look like so many different things, especially for women that have had breast surgery.There is extensive information about preparing to breastfeed after reduction, from learning about the type of surgery you had to knowing what to expect based on the records from your surgery. The book gives great examples of all different types of breastfeeding situations and shares many different personal stories of women and their experiences. One of the main things of concern to reduction-surgery moms might be the amount of milk they will produce. The book gives you many different tips to help make as much milk as you can, and it goes into great detail about supplementing, if that should be necessary. It also addresses the emotional side of BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) which is incredibly helpful. To go along with the book there is an online support group/forum at www.bfar.org.

Also related to this book and helpful is The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West. The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk is a complete study on real ways to improve milk supply. While for many women simple tips like nursing on demand and babywearing can help with supply, for those in special situations (like reduction surgery or various conditions) more help is needed. This book is designed for those women and is an asset indeed.  

The Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Katherine Barber

According to the CDC, Black, (non-Hispanic) women have the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates  in the US, averaging around 54%. The Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding is specifically written for breastfeeding women of color. This book addresses some of the unique challenges Black women may face. For Black women in the childbearing years, this book specifically confronts issues from economics to practical concerns that can have a profound impact on breastfeeding rates and success.

Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin

In the style and voice of the famous Ina May, (author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth) this book has practical advice as well as plenty of inspiration and a little politics thrown in. Ina May will help you understand why you should breastfeed and help you accomplish it.

The Breastfeeding Book by Sears Parenting Library

Easy to read, approachable, and in the welcoming style of Bill and Martha Sears, this book is also a classic. Dr Bill has years of experience in pediatrics working with and truly supporting breastfeeding mothers and his wife Martha is a lactation consultant and a breastfeeding mom of a large family, including an adopted baby and a special needs baby. The Breastfeeding Book gets an A+ for both useful information and lovely delivery by parents who have been there.

Breastfeeding websites-

La Leche League International is a non profit organization that offers peer support for nursing mothers. La Leche League International is probably the best known and longest established peer breastfeeding support group in the world. Begun by moms just like you and I in the 1950s when breastfeeding rates were at record lows and woman-to-woman support was difficult to find, this ingenious organization lives strong with groups meeting monthly throughout the country and world.

Not only will you be able to meet and learn from other mothers in similar life circumstances as you (some wonderful friendships are forged at La Leche League meetings) your meeting will be attended by and organized by a volunteer LLL leader.  These women give tirelessly of their time and talents offering free advice.  For a free organization however, the calibre of help found at LLL meetings is absolutely wonderful. The website for LLLI is where you can find a group close to you.

KellyMom is great for those looking for evidence based information and studies regarding breastfeeding, KellyMom is a resource you will use often. With countless articles on a variety of tough subjects, this website is one you will refer to as your baby grows and changes.

For Babies’ Sake is the home of Mellanie Sheppard and a myriad of wonderful links and information about breastfeeding. We love Mellanie here at Birth Boot Camp so much that she is the star of the show on our breastfeeding DVD, Breastfeeding: The Ultimate MRE. Friendly, forgiving, and down-to-earth, there is nobody you would rather have on your team that Mellanie. With her website and her DVD, you will feel like you have your own private lactation consultant. 

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots- Breastfeeding for active military moms can have its own unique challenges. This page and website exist to support and promote nursing among military moms. We love it!  

Breastfeeding Resources for Black Women-  Fortunately, more websites have appeared to address supporting Black women in achieving their breastfeeding goals.  A few that can prove helpful include: The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, Free to Breastfeed, and Mocha Manual.  

Best for Babes is making breastfeeding look hip with its focus on breastfeeding celebrities and real life info on avoiding the boobie traps” or common things that trip up the breastfeeding relationship. You will find both information and inspiration on this website.  

Dr Jack Newman’s Breastfeeding Inc is a website that must not be missed. Not only is it chock full of information and resources, it is available in numerous languages. Dr Newman is probably the best known breastfeeding authority in the world, check him out!

In addition to all of these books and resources, finding a real person trained in breastfeeding or a lactation consultant is helpful in establishing a good start to breastfeeding.  An IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) has extensive training and may even be available at your local hospital or birth center.  You can find a lactation consultant here.  For those who qualify for WIC, you can also usually find breastfeeding support at your local WIC office and pumps are often available for nursing moms returning to work.  You can find your local  WIC office here.


Breastfeeding is an endeavor most likely to be successful when well supported.  Knowledge, partners, professionals and peers can all make breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable.  Prepare yourself now.

(A special thanks to our Birth Boot Camp instructors who offered suggestions and favorites for this article.  We couldn’t do it without you!)


CDC report of racial and ethnic breastfeeding rates by state:



Are Birth Classes For Women Planning An Epidural?


One thing that we as a company and our fabulous birth instructors get asked on occasion is this:

“I am not so sure I want a natural birth, should I still take your class?”

The short answer is a surprising yes.  And we aren’t just saying that because we sell birth classes.  No matter what kind of birth you are planning, we highly recommend that you take a comprehensive class of some sort.  Yes, our classes certainly do focus on preparing you for a natural birth, but they are so much more than that.  

Here are some reasons why a birth class is right for women and their partners, even those planning a medicated birth.

-You will still labor-

Yes, it is true, you can’t get the epidural at the very first contraction.  Providers vary, but typically you won’t be given an epidural until at least four centimeters dilation and you will probably need to be showing some signs of active labor (ie, contractions are regular and steady and your body is working pretty hard.)

This means that even if you WANT an epidural, you will likely have to wait to get it.  What do you do in the meantime? Having some tools at your disposal will help both you and your partner make the time in early labor fun and exciting rather than scary and excruciating. In class you will learn to relax with your partner. You will learn to work together. You will even learn when an epidural is appropriate and when it isn’t as well as some of the other options available to you.  

Even if you aren’t planning a homebirth or a natural birth, you will learn there are lots of tools that can prepare you to have the kind of birth you want.

-Avoiding a c-section-

Your class can also help you avoid a c-section.  (Our class graduates have significantly lower c-section rates than the national average.)  Authorities like ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) even recommend that women have non-pharmaceutical coping tools in order to lower the c-section rate.

“Increasing women’s access to nonmedical interventions during labor, such as continuous labor and delivery support, also has been shown to reduce cesarean birth rates.”

In class, your partner will learn how better to provide that “continuous labor and delivery support” and you will learn about other people on your birth team that can also help reduce your chance of cesarean.

The same ACOG statement mentioned above also lists the main reasons for primary c-section. Number one is “labor dystocia” which means basically a “slow labor.”  You will be amazed the things you will learn in class that will enable you to speed your labor, as well as feel more empowered when it comes to avoiding many other things you may not want.  Knowledge helps remove fear and helps you make decisions you feel comfortable with in the moment and years down the road.

Another thing you will learn in your class concerns induction and the various drugs, like Cytotec and Pitocin,often used in inductions.  Because induction greatly increases the c-section rate in first-time mothers, this information is important to all women whether planning a medicated or unmedicated birth.  

-Strengthening your relationship as a couple-

As an instructor myself, I find that the thing I most love about class is watching couples grow closer together as they attend.  This can happen in both online or in-person classes.  Giving birth is a big deal and it can be stressful on a relationship with all the changes, hormones and expectations.  Your class isn’t just about the epidural, it is about communication with each other, learning to touch each other, understanding what the other person wants and needs and just preparing together for your baby.

No matter how you plan your birth, a stronger relationship will benefit you as a couple and your birth and baby.  There are many more decisions that will come during this time besides just epidural or not–your class will bring up these issues and give you time to decide together what works best for you so you aren’t surprised later on.

Check out this video about the benefits of live classes.  You can see that no matter your birth choices, a class can grow your relationship.  


-There are other topics covered besides natural birth in your class-

If you start looking around at birth classes you will find that many hospitals and birth centers are offering a “buffet” style of birth class.  You can choose to take a breastfeeding class, a baby wearing class, a nutrition class, a relaxation class, and so on.  You pay per class and get only what you pay for.

Conversely, our classes are called “comprehensive” for a reason.  We include all of those things, and then some, in one single fee. (Our online birth classes and most of our live instructors charge around 300 dollars for a 10 week series.)  Your class will cover everything from exhaustive nutrition and exercise information developed just for pregnant women like you, baby care and newborn procedures, breastfeeding (including a 2 disk DVD specifically about breastfeeding), babywearing, and loads more.  Why not get that information in one place, with a teacher you love and with people you have grown to know?


When it comes down to it, a childbirth class does much more than just focus on natural birth.  Coping techniques, understanding what happens in the body, exercise and nutrition, friendship and a special date night to focus on the baby are all wonderful things that can be brought into your life through your attendance.  A great birth class covers so much more than just birth. Check it out; you won’t regret it.


 ACOG Safe Prevention of Primary C-Sections-


 Cesarean risk doubled by induction in the first time mother-



Your Baby is Born! What Happens Next Might Break Your Heart. Guest Post by Jennifer Margulis

We are excited today to share a guest post from Jennifer Margulis, PhD.  An investigative journalist, activist for children and mother of four, she has gained increased recognition recently for her eye-opening new book, “The Business of Baby.”

Just after birth.jpg

(Photograph credit Jennifer Margulis)

When Taylor Hengen Newman had her baby at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City four years ago she had just a few minutes with him, skin-to-skin, as she had requested, and then he was taken out of her arms to be examined by a pediatrician, weighed, have a PKU heel prick, and warm up in an incubator. The obstetrician instructed her to push harder to deliver the placenta.

Taylor and her husband then held their baby for about twenty minutes until he was whisked away by the hospital staff.

An hour went by.

Then two.

A nurse came in to say the baby had fluid in his lungs and was under observation but no doctor came to talk to the worried young couple about what, if anything, was wrong. To her knowledge, her son was not taken to the NICU. Though Taylor kept asking for her baby she did not see him again for almost five hours.

“I couldn’t find a nurse to bring me a glass of water, let alone a lactation consultant. And I had no idea where my baby was,” Taylor remembers. “I felt so disoriented. And when he was brought back to me, bathed and smelling different, I wasn’t even sure he was mine.”

When my baby girl, who was born at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, was taken out of my arms I felt like someone had cut off my arm. I ached for her in a primal way I had never felt before. Every cell in my body wanted my baby in my arms, on my chest, by my side. We had spent the past nine months inseparable. Not every mom bonds right away with their baby. I wasn’t even sure how I felt about the funny-looking creature with the skinny frog legs and sticky outy ears. But I needed her with me as urgently as I needed to breathe.

That was 14 years ago. It still hurts to think about the time we spent apart because of “hospital protocol.”

Although every hospital follows a different protocol, in most American hospitals it is standard procedure to separate the mom and the baby just minutes after birth, wash the baby with some kind of commercial soap, and take the newborn out of the room to a nursery for observation. American babies also routinely have their umbilical cords clamped just seconds after birth, are given antibiotic ointment for their eyes to protect against venereal disease, have a vitamin K shot in their thigh to avoid blood clotting disorders, and are given a hepatitis B vaccine. Though the numbers are declining, the majority of American baby boys are also circumcised within a day of being born.

Does a newborn baby really need so much medical intervention in the first few hours of her life?

Should a healthy newborn be separated from her mother, the way it is routinely done in many American hospitals?

The short answer to these two questions is no. A healthy newborn needs no medical intervention in the first few hours of life. And in the absence of a real medical emergency, the safest, healthiest, best place for a baby to be is in your arms.

Babies needs skin-to-skin: More than half a dozen studies show that the outcome for mother-baby bonding and an infant’s health is better when a mother and a baby are not separated. Dozens more nonhuman mammal studies show that early, uninterrupted contact stimulates oxytocin and other hormones, which enhance nurturing and protective feelings. Nils Bergman, M.D., who has conducted several studies on infant sleep and maternal-infant bonding, points out that animal researchers separate newborn mammals from their mothers to study the damage separation causes on the developing newborn brain. Early uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact has been shown to reduce crying, improve bonding, keep the baby warm, and facilitate breastfeeding.

It turns out that when Taylor wanted her infant in her arms was not just Taylor’s whim, it was nature’s way of insuring her baby’s survival. When Bergman was working as a mission doctor in a rural hospital in Zimbabwe, Bergman found that the survival rate of low-weight premature infants jumped from only 10 percent to 50 percent when mothers were instructed to carry them skin-to-skin in pouches on their fronts. Survival rates for bigger babies jumped to 90 percent. That experience changed Bergman’s understanding of what human infants needed after they were born. “I realized that I was seeing the real biology of Homo sapiens at work, and that what I had learned at medical school was a result of modern culture equipped with amazing technology, but no understanding of human biology,” Bergman told me when I interviewed him for my book.

Do babies need antibiotic eye ointment?: The practice of putting silver nitrate in a baby’s eyes, which became popular in the late 19th century as a way to stop babies from going blind due to infection from gonorrhea, was discontinued after silver nitrate was found to be highly irritating, cause chemical pinkeye, and even cause blindness with incorrect dosing. Using antibiotic ointment in the form of a cream or medicated eye drops is a hold-over from that practice: the idea being that it will protect a baby from chlamydia or gonorrhea or other contamination from the mother’s vagina.

The use of this ointment is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and mandated by law in many states. But if you have had proper prenatal care, you have been tested for any potentially contagious STDs. If you have had a C-section and your baby’s eyes have not come into contact with your vaginal canal, there is no proven way for your baby to contract an STD from you. As mentioned above, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that the vaginal and even fecal flora that your baby is exposed to during birth is crucial to the long-term health of his immune system.

The antibiotic ointment not only irritates a baby’s sensitive eyes, it also makes it harder for your nearsighted baby to see you in those crucial moments after birth when you and he are hormonally primed to gaze at each other and bond. In countries that have dramatically lower infant mortality rates and dramatically healthier babies in the first five years of life, including Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain, medicated eye drops are not routinely given to infants.

Babies don’t need the Hepatitis B vaccine: The CDC’s recommendation that every newborn in America get a Hepatitis B shot, regardless of whether his parents have Hepatitis B, is one of the most unfortunate medical mistakes of our time. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease. Heather Zwickey, Ph.D., a former vaccine developer who earned her doctorate in immunology and microbiology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, did a postdoc at Yale University, and is now Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at The National College of Natural Medicine, explains that a newborn’s immune system can’t mount an effective response to diseases or vaccines because it is protecting the baby’s brain, which would be damaged by a full-fledged immune reaction the way an adult would react to a virus or bacteria. So newborns rely on their mother’s antibodies, which they get in breast milk, to give them the immune cells and proteins needed to combat infections. Until an infant’s brain is more developed—probably between nine and twelve months old—he will only have a mild, general immune response (the scientific name for this is a TH2 response), the sort we associate with allergies, but which doesn’t tailor any of the special white blood cells (called TH1 cells) to respond to a specific bacterium or virus.

A baby’s short-lived and immature immune response is the reason we give so many doses of vaccines in the first few months of life. Vaccines given before twelve months of age must be repeated at or after twelve months, according to Zwickey, because the immune system is not able to really learn anything from doses given before then. In nursing school, Michele Pereira’s instructors informed students that from an immunological standpoint it would be better to give vaccines to children when they are a bit older. But since parents less reliably bring children over a year old to the pediatrician, the best way for public health officials to ensure high levels of vaccinated children is to vaccinate them as early as possible. Zwickey believes early vaccination makes sense from a public health perspective but is not immunologically optimal. It is only after about twelve months that the immune system is sufficiently mature to have a memory. That is, a baby can develop antibodies in response to a vaccine, and these antibodies will stay in the bloodstream without needing booster after booster.

“Everyone who studies human immunology knows that the TH1 response doesn’t come up until the end of the first year of a human baby’s life,” Zwickey told me matter- of-factly when I interviewed her.

The birth dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine is completely unnecessary for the vast majority of newborns born in the United States. Your baby is not going to be engaging in intravenous drug use or unsafe sex and the chance of getting Hep B from a tainted blood transfusion in America is very low. But the birth dose of the Hep B vaccine is potentially very damaging. The immune system can sometimes mistakenly identify the body’s own cells as foreign, causing the body to attack itself. When the body inappropriately attacks its own proteins, a child develops an autoimmune disorder.

There has been an exponential rise in autoimmune disorders among children since the 1950s. One study found that cases of type 1 diabetes among children under five increased fivefold between 1985 and 2004. Graves’ disease, once unheard of in children, is becoming common. Other autoimmune disorders on the rise in American children include asthma, allergies, Crohn’s disease, and atopic dermatitis. One 2008 epidemiological study found that infant immunization leads to a statistically significant increase in type 1 diabetes in children.

Babies should not be bathed: We know from research published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences that the white creamy substance infants are born with (vernix caseosa) contains powerful proteins that have both antibacterial and antifungal properties. These proteins, researchers have found, contribute to an infant’s healthy immune system by protecting the fetus and the newborn against infection. As I’ve already mentioned, recent research has also found that as the baby journeys through the mother’s vaginal canal, he is inoculated with beneficial bacteria that will boost his immune system (babies born via C-section are colonized mostly by bacteria found in the hospital, a disturbing finding that scientists still aren’t sure how to interpret). What all this means is that when the nurses scrub your infant, they deprive him of the beneficial microorganisms and substances on his skin. The natural smell of a baby has further been found to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. Bathing a newborn interferes with bonding and with a human’s need to smell her baby. A baby bath can also chill an infant whose ability to regulate body temperature is still immature, according to Susan Markel, M.D., a Connecticut-based pediatrician who has been practicing for over 30 years.

And then there’s the soap itself. When the Safe Cosmetics Action Network tested a variety of brand name baby soaps five years ago they found that several contained 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product that has been shown to cause cancerous tumors in over a dozen animal studies and has been banned in Europe. Consumers will not find the ingredient 1,4-dioxane listed on the bottle. Instead they will see “PEGs.” PEGs are made from polyethylene glycol, a petroleum-based compound that is often contaminated during the manufacturing process with 1,4-dioxine and ethylene oxide, another known carcinogen.

Johnson & Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash, the soap used to wash newborns in most hospitals, contains PEG-80 and PEG-150 Distearate. Advertised as “gentle enough even for newborns,” “dermatologist-tested,” and “#1 hospital recommended,” Head-to-Toe Baby Wash also contains Quaternium-15, a chemical preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde, another known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is the chemical used to embalm dead bodies to keep them from decaying. Johnson & Johnson changed their baby formula for the European market and parts of Asia virtually overnight. They also publicly committed to stop selling baby products with Quaternium-15 in the United States. But they haven’t.

When Taylor Hengen Newman became pregnant for the second time, she and her husband chose a home birth attended by midwives. By then her family had moved to Austin, Texas. The midwife handed the baby to Taylor right away. Taylor pushed out the placenta while her son cuddled on her chest. The midwife conducted the newborn exam so gently and quietly that it did not disrupt their bonding. Afterwards she rubbed Taylor’s feet with lavender oil. Otto was not given eye ointment or a Hepatitis B vaccine. He did not have a bath. They waited more than an hour to cut the cord, which they did just before Taylor got up to take a shower. This time they chose not to circumcise. Taylor’s doulas (she had two at the birth) brought her a smoothie and her husband a sandwich. Big brother Kaspar came in to see his new baby. The next day her midwife came back and gave Otto a Vitamin K shot since Taylor had been on blood thinners during the pregnancy.

“It all completely clicked that this was just a completely different way of caring for people, delivering babies,” Taylor says. “I wish medical care of all kinds could emulate this model.”Snuggling.jpg

(Photograph credit Jennifer Margulis)

This article is adapted from The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby BEFORE Their Bottom Line. An extended discussion of after birth practices and relevant references for the article can be found in the book.JenniferLookingSide.jpg

Jennifer Margulis is a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and a sought-after speaker. Her fifth book, The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby BEFORE Their Bottom Line has been called a “must-read” by Ina May Gaskin. Join her on Twitter, Pinterest , and Facebook