World Breastfeeding Week 2015 featuring Kate & Sheree

"To me it means the opportunity to have our voices heard. The more people talk about breastfeeding, the more people see other moms breastfeeding, the more normal it becomes. Some people claim to be offended by mothers breastfeeding in public but are more than okay with women walking around in bikinis. I'd like to challenge that idea and get people thinking a little more."-Kate

"World breastfeeding week has become very important to me now as a breastfeeding mama. I have come to realize the importance to normalize breastfeeding in the world today and to make it acceptable and comfortable for everyone. To have a week where moms around the world can promote such a special, healthy, and natural experience has become so inspiring to me. No breastfeeding mother should ever feel uncomfortable or judged for providing the best possible nutrition for their child. Helping to educate the public in normalizing this has become a huge inspiration for myself during world breastfeeding week. "-Sheree

"The first 6 weeks were so challenging. I had a 36 hour labor where I was pumped full of fluids which I believe inflated my babies birth weight. Birth weight is the "magic" number as far as weight gain goes for breastfed babies (according to MOST pediatricians). They like babies to get back to birth weight as soon as possible but it took us 4 grueling weeks to get there. Those weeks were filled with weight checks at the doctors office, constant stress about my supply, and of course, LOTS of support from the lactation consultants at South Jersey Breastfeeding Center. In fact, I saw them the day after I was discharged from the hospital before most of my friends had even met the baby."-Kate

"The best advice I could give, is don't compare yourself to others and don't give up without a fight. Breastfeeding doesn't come easy especially in the beginning when you are getting an hour of sleep. Also, every mom and their body is different, so don't compare yourself to everyone else and trust in your body. There will be bumps in the road but as long as you do the best you can that's what matters most!"-Sheree

"Have realistic goals. Make sure you understand that it can be very challenging for some moms and babies. Have a prenatal appointment with a lactation consultant and follow up as soon as you can after discharge from the hospital. While in the hospital utilize the LC that they have. ASK FOR HELP." -Kate

"Now almost 7 months in, NO! I never thought I would make it this far. Before giving birth I was so scared I wouldn't be able to breastfeed. I was scared that it would hurt too bad. I was scared my milk wouldn't come in or that my baby might not take to breastfeeding. All my friends who have had children only breastfed for short periods of time and so I set myself up for the same kind of journey. But now almost 7 months in on my own journey I was completely wrong and have found a huge support group of strong and supportive moms that have been so supportive to one another." - Sheree

"I love that it's natural (and FREE!). I love the special bond and alone time it gives me with the baby, I love when she's eating and just stares in my eyes. Lately she had been unlatching just to smile up at me. It is the best." - Kate

"I love that I am able to be the one to provide my child her nutrition in the most natural and healthy way!" - Sheree

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The pain free birth of Aubrie Jean 12/30/14

This is the last birth story of 2014. I'll start by saying it has been an incredible year, filled with incredible births and families, including the Michelet family. 

Late in October, I received a Facebook message on my business page from Brian, this was the first time ever that a dad was reaching out to me. We met that night at a nearby Starbucks and we immediately connected. Needless to say, they hired me on the spot. We quickly booked our prenatal appointments and maternity photo session since we didn't have much time to work with. Sheree was determined to have a completely natural childbirth, but also knew to keep an open mind. I was informed by both Brian and Sheree that she had an extremely low pain tolerance, like she could barely handle a headache. "She's a wimp." Brian told me & Sheree agreed, "I am a wimp." Still she wanted to try and have an intervention & drug free birth. She had been extremely active her entire pregnancy and ate a healthy diet. Her doctor was supportive of her desire to have a natural birth and encouraged her to wait at home as long as possible. 

Sheree was due on Christmas eve and Christmas eve came and went. I patiently waited for my the "I think I'm in labor" text, but I didn't get one until 5 days later. It was the day before New Years Eve and Sheree had called me and said she started having contractions earlier in the morning. I told her to get her rest and keep me updated. We stayed in touch throughout the day and things picked up in the early evening. Around 7:00 pm Brian asked me to head over, her contractions were lasting more than a minute and happening frequently. 

I got to their house at around 8:00 pm and I entered their amazing & calm birth space. Brian had gone above and beyond setting up their "birth room", he painted birth mantras on the wall, bought a 6 person indoor hot tub, set up candles and had a relaxing Pandora station playing in the background. Sheree was relaxed and in hands and knees over her birth ball. I just sat down and watched her breathe calmly through contractions and focus on her labor. Shortly after my arrival she got into the tub and labored in there for about thirty minutes. Sheree had been using the tub throughout the entire day and said it helped her relax. 

At 9:00 pm, she got out of the tub to go to the bathroom and her contractions were really starting to become more intense. She labored a little longer and then at 9:30 pm decided it was time to go to the hospital. Right after she got dressed and was getting ready to leave, her water broke. Brian ran upstairs, got her a change of clothes, they said goodbye to their fur babies and we left. 

At 10:00 pm they checked into triage at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. She was still remaining calm and breathing through her contractions beautifully. An hour later, 11:00 pm, we were checked into labor & delivery suite #2, with a labor tub. Dr. Godorecci came in and checked Sheree, she was 5 cm dilated , baby was at -1 and in perfect position for delivery. As Sheree was hooked up to the monitor, the nurse prepared the labor tub for her. She got in as soon as she was done being monitored and stayed in their for as long as she could. 

An hour after arriving in her room, at 12:15 am, Sheree stared to sound like she was bearing down. Her doctor came in and asked what her pain was on a scale of 1-10, Sheree responded with, "I'm not in pain, it's just pressure." Yes! Sheree, who could barely handle a headache, was in active labor and said she was not in pain. She got out of the tub and was put back on the monitor as she waited for Dr. Godorecci, who was delivering another baby. She held onto Brian and they swayed back and forth together. It's truly a gift to witness two people, who are so incredibly and undoubtedly in love, getting ready to welcome their first baby to the world. She held tightly onto Brian and would squat up and down in between her contractions. She listened to her body and moaned as her baby made its way down. I was in awe of how beautifully she was handling transition phase, when I looked at Sheree I didn't see pain, I saw trust and love & it was truly inspiring. 

Around 1:30 am Dr. Godorecci came back into the room and checked Sheree, she was ready to push. Sheree got onto the bed and immediately started pushing. Not even 30 minutes later, their baby had arrived earth side at 1:56 am. "It's a girl!" their doctor said. Brian and Sheree looked shocked, although they didn't find out the sex of their baby, they were sure it was a boy. 

What an amazing way to end the year. The birth of Aubrie Jean (8lbs 5oz) was incredible to be apart of. Sheree is such an inspiration to me especially as I prepare for my own birth in a few short months. After hearing horror stories from friends & family and "just get the epidural" from nearly everyone, Sheree still chose to have a natural birth and she is certainly glad she did. They've already told me I have to be their doula for baby #2.  During our postpartum visit Sheree said that at NO point did she want drugs or think that she couldn't do it. She felt calm and in control of her body the entire time. Sheree and Brian it was great being apart of your journey and it feels great making new friends along the way!



World Breastfeeding Week 2014

This week, August 1st through 7th, is World Breastfeeding Week. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be EXCLUSIVELY breastfed for at least the first 6 months, but the CDC reports that the average for the US of babies being exclusively breastfed at 6 months is only 18.8%. The benefits to breastfeeding are endless, so lets get these numbers up!

I created this mini-project to spread awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. I will be interviewing and photographing several mothers who want to share their experience with others. A big thanks to all of the mamas who participated! For the whole month of August I will be offering Breastfeeding mini sessions for $75.00.  Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Stay tuned... 


Ashley C., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding.

"I wish I knew how demanding breastfeeding was going to be. It requires me to be available 100% of the time. I cannot rely on anyone else to help or assist; it is completely my responsibility. "

"Breastfeeding awareness is not about passing judgement about the way a mother decides to feed her baby. It is simply educating people that they have a choice as to how they chose to feed their baby. "

"My biggest challenge to breastfeeding was acknowledging and accepting that I would the primary caregiver for my baby. I feel as though by chosing to nurse your baby, you are chosing to take a primary role in parenting. Your partner still contributes and has a role in the family, its just a different role. As a nursing mother, you are required to be present 100% of the time, regardless of your desires, feelings, or needs. It was challenging for me to accept that my husband could have "free time" when I didn't have that same opportunity. However, once I embraced my new role, I realized how truely magical and precious it is. When Hendrix looks into my eyes while nursing and smiles, I simply melt. All of the "free time" in the world, is not worth one of those smiles. The nursing years are short and sweet, and I will savior every moment of them."

"The best part of breastfeeding is the unconditional love I feel when nursing. Hendrix always looks into my eyes while cooing. It's like he is saying, "Mom you are so awesome! You are the most awesome person in the whole world." Never in my life will I ever be so loved. In Hendrix's eyes, I am perfect."

"Hendrix was clustering feeding for hours on end. Tired and overwhelmed, I called my cousin and told her that he was eating non stop. Her response was simple, yet profound. I could her the smile in her voice when she said, "That's wonderful!"

"Women and men need to be educated about breastfeeding. Once society understands its importance, we can begin to advocate for better maternity care. It is incredibly too difficult to have a positive breastfeeding relationship if you are required to be back at work 6 weeks after delivering. At 6 weeks, you are still trying to figure out how to find the time to shower. How can you expect women to back to work?"

 

Stefanie H., mom to 4 girls, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"The most rewarding part of breastfeeding to me is the snuggles! The constant proximity from breast to face provides the perfectly designed way to get to know that magical new family member. As I nursed my third and fourth, I also value the quiet almost meditative nature of it. When else do we else do we just sit and be for constant time periods through the day. My mind wanders to my baby and elsewhere, it's like a cozy waking nap of sorts. Refreshing us. Ahhhh the love."

"My experiences have all been different, yet in many core ways all the same. I have nursed 4 babies over the last 12 years. For my older two I was tied to the clock and always concerned with how long/much I "should" feed them, as if there was a formula (pun intended) to follow. But, by my third I was lucky to learn a more holistic attachment approach to breastfeeding and realize it's not just about feeding, but so much more. This gave me the freedom to follow my instincts and just follow my daughter's cues. Also, all of my girls have very different temperaments, which affected our breastfeeding relationship. Some were calm at the breast, some were ravenous, some were slower & more distracted nursers. One was ready to wean after age one, another was difficult to wean at three (when I was the ready one!)"

"What I recommend for breastfeeding moms most is to "follow" the baby and not to give up when you face  a nursing challenge (because you will!), such as a nursing strike, illness, teething, etc. Just like everything else with kiddos, just as you seem to get the hang of it, it changes again. That's okay, your body, your milk, your baby, will change together. It's a dance between you two and we are made to dance (plus the soundtrack of the suckling and coos is priceless). Just because feeding seems different than it was last month doesn't mean it needs to end. Nursing a toddler can be great too!"

"The most difficult breastfeeding experience is feeding my current baby who has suffered with severe reflux (GERD). She screamed at the breast, arched her back and was actually in pain in early feedings. With the support of my amazing postpartum doula, I learned to feed a small amount on a very frequent schedule and to pay constant attention to her positioning. We were able to avoid medications for her basically by sticking with breast milk and commitment to round the clock feeding and upright positioning. But, it is exhausting and just beginning to ease up now that she is eight months."

"Breastfeeding awareness month to me means spreading the word that breastfeeding is not only the healthiest start for mom and baby (which is finally being supported by most care providers), but also it's about CELEBRATING this amazing gift of nature. Breastfeeding is emotionally, physically and relationally rewarding and enjoyable. I wish for all women to have the support to overcome breastfeeding challenges so they can experience the benefits and wonder (and oxytocin highs!!)"

 

 

Samantha L., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"To me, breastfeeding awareness means education and being conscious that breastfeeding is something done in the best interest of the child and mother. In my opinion, mothers are making the best choice by giving their child an amazing and nurtured start to life. I think that a woman's body has been perceived as a sex object by society for so long that breast feeding has unfortunately become a taboo thing... when in all reality, it's just a mother feeding her child."

"Thankfully, I have yet to feel judged while breastfeeding. My family and friends fully support me in my decision to breastfeed my son."

"I think that breastfeeding has taught me to be selfless (and patient). My life isn't about me anymore... It's about him. My life revolves around him. And in the beginning it's all about breastfeeding; every. single. hour. I'd give anything for this little boy. Including sleepless nights, rushed meals, and messy hair."

"My babe had a tongue tie that we didn't know about during the first 8 weeks of his life. We had corrected at 10 weeks. During those first 8 weeks I felt some of the worst pain in my life, as well as frustration and exhaustion. That's when I felt like giving up. 3am feeds while in excruciating pain, with a baby that can't latch (due to tongue tie) was enough to make me feel like giving up. Thankfully, I was able to pump at times and give my body a break. I'm happy to say he's been EBF since birth, even though we hit a little rough patch in the beginning."

"My best words of advice for a new mom would be, DON'T GIVE UP! It's so so hard in the beginning. You're exhausted and always on call to your newborn. Sometimes they want you literally every hour around the clock. You are their life line. They are helpless in this new world. But you are mom and you can give them everything they need. It doesn't necessarily get easier, but YOU GET BETTER. When you find your babe cluster feeding, my advice to you would be find a comfy spot, have the remote near by, grab a bottle of water, your phone, a book, and lots of pillows! Get comfy! You might be there a while... But in those hours spent nurturing that brand new life, enjoy it. Take the time to stare into those big blue eyes and relish the fact that you are giving this baby life. You are providing him with the best start humanly possible. You are mom. You can do this."

Kerstin S., first time single mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"America is not breastfeeding friendly." Kerstin S.

"People say why don't you just give her formula, tons of babies have formula and they grow up fine. When I put her on and I see her face she becomes completely calm & content. I can't give that up. I see how happy it makes her. She knows me, she knows my smell, she's comforted by being on me. I can tell there is a difference."

"She was really tearing up my nipples when she first started feeding. People were telling me I wasn't doing it right because it shouldn't hurt. But, even when I did do it right, it still hurt. I started using the nipple shield and it didn't hurt anymore and she got a good latch, but then I wasn't able to breastfeed without using it. Now I'm using the nipple shield as a crutch, so breastfeeding has its ups and downs. I was going to give up, I worked through it and now she eats just fine."

"We should make things easier for babies to get breastfed. Many women are forced to go right back to work. Maternity leave exists, but it's not paid and the bills need to be paid. The workplace is not breastfeeding friendly, if they need you, you have to stop pumping and then you become engorged and it's painful. Spilling milk makes me want to cry. It's not friendly at all. By law they have to let you pump, but that's not how it really works. If it wasn't for my determination, she would not be breastfed."

"It's not easy and it won't be easy for a long time. For me, even though it's a pain in the butt and it's time consuming, the actual breastfeeding is the easy part. It doesn't hurt anymore and she enjoys it. Just know that it's not going to be easy and take the time to get accustomed to it. Have all the resources you can, stick with it and just know that it will get better. Also, having a support system is super important. A lot of the time I don't have another set of hands to help me and that makes it even harder. It's nice at night though because I don't have to get up and make a bottle I can just feed her in bed laying down."

Kerstin speaks about her experiences and the sad truth of breastfeeding in public.

"I'm judged all the time for breastfeeding and for several different reasons. I've had people tell me that I should go to jail for pulling my boob out. I've had guys stare at me like they're enjoying it, my delivery guy said "That's hot". I've had women give me dirty looks, especially when they have their husbands around. I don't know what the issue is, but people treat me like I'm dirty and shouldn't be doing that. Or people will talk about me while I just stand there. We need to make breastfeeding okay. You know, there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public it's just to feed my baby, there is nothing sexual about it. "

 

Melissa C., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"Before I became pregnant I didn't give much thought to the subject of breastfeeding. Once I was pregnant I began to research everything about becoming a mother. I read about all of the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother. After knowing that it would give my baby the perfect nutrition and protect him from many illnesses while creating an amazing bond between us I was sold, the fact that it would help me lose weight was just a bonus"

"There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, it's hard to choose a best part but nothing beats looking into your baby's eyes while they are nursing. The worst part about breastfeeding is that it can be very challenging at times, however overcoming those challenges is very empowering and rewarding."

"Breastfeeding is very challenging. I wouldn't say it's harder than I expected but I am dealing with things that I did not expect to encounter. For example, my son has been very gassy and seemed to have a lot of belly pain. There were times that I thought my milk was making him sick. I contemplated giving him formula but I had a lot of support to exhaust all other possible solutions before giving him formula. Now that we are on week 3 we think we have figured out he actually has reflux and it's not my milk at all. I'm so glad I didn't give up!"

"I am very comfortable feeding my baby whenever and wherever. Mostly over the past three weeks of my son's life I have been feeding him in my house around friends and family without a cover. My family is very accepting and supportive of breastfeeding. So far I have nursed in public twice. The first time I did it I did not feed judged. I was offered a nursing room but did not feel the need to use it. I covered my breast as much as possible and fed my baby where I was. The second time I fed my baby in public I did feel sort of judged. I could tell that some of the people around me were very uncomfortable with the fact that I was breastfeeding despite the fact that I was covered up. "

 

Melissa's word of advice to new mothers:

"New mothers, Breastfeeding will be challenging. Your nipples will probably get cracked and sore; it may even hurt. You might get mastitis like I just did! You will watch your baby's diapers and cheer when you finally get the poopy diaper you were waiting for. Breastfeeding might not be easy at first. At times it will be really hard! My breastfeeding experience with my son thus far has been the most rewarding, special experience in my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Don't give up, I promise it's all worth it!"

The birth of William Douglas Jr. 7/15/14

I first talked to Melissa when she was around 32 weeks or so and living in Hawaii with her husband, Doug, who was in the military. Doug was starting his residency for anesthesiology at Penn and they would be moving back to Jersey just a few weeks before her due date. She had found my website and was looking for a birth photographer, but also loved the fact that I was a doula. After talking to her on the phone we both agreed that we would be a good match and scheduled our first pre-natal visit for when they would return to Jersey. 

In a short amount of time we developed a great relationship. I was excited to work with Melissa, Doug & her outgoing mother who would also be an active participant in the birth. Melissa, who was once a pageant girl, was planning a natural childbirth, eating her encapsulated placenta, and exclusively breastfeeding. Just goes to show, there is no "type" of person that hires a doula or plans on having a natural childbirth or eats their placenta. She used the Bradley Method classes as a preparation and attended routine chiropractic appointments. As her due date, July 12, came and went she eagerly waited the arrival of her baby boy. Melissa did everything under the sun to start labor.

As midnight hit on July 15, I got the "I think my water just broke" text, followed by, "I just had a contraction". Melissa's mothers water had also broken at midnight and she delivered her just 5 short hours later. I went to bed because I knew I would need my rest. Around 3:30 AM, I got a call from Doug saying that Melissa had thrown up and they were probably going to head to the hospital soon. I got to Elmer at 4:30 AM and walked back to her room. 

Melissa was having contractions back to back, there was no break. At 4:45 AM the midwife came in and checked her. Melissa was 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced. She said she was exhausted and continued to labor on. 

I used the rebozo on her for a little. But, she was finding that nothing was comfortable and was beginning to get tired quickly. She was staying hydrated and as she went to the bathroom she decided that nothing was more comfortable than sitting on the toilet. 

An hour after her first initial exam she looked at Doug & said, "I need the drugs. This is not a test." Doug & I tried everything to comfort her, but not much later she was begging for something, anything. She just needed something to let her rest, at least for a little. I got the midwife and we all told Melissa that she was strong and able to to do this. She assured us that this was what she wanted. At 6:30 AM she was checked again before getting a dose of morphine and was 4 cm dilated. We asked her again if this was definitely what she wanted and told her it was a low dose and wouldn't take away all of the pain. "Doug, this is not a test, this is not a drill. I need it." Fifteen minutes later she was given her first dose and another dose would be given 30 minutes after. 

She immediately felt relief, but it was far from being numb. As Melissa said, "It took the edge off." We let her know that even though she got the pain relief she was still strong and not to feel bad for getting them. If that's what she says she needed, then that's what she needed. She sat on the birth ball and got some rest, but still felt the contractions. At 7:30 AM she got the second dose and took an hour long rest. 

Two hours later the morphine had completely worn off and she was ready for her next dose. The midwife came in and checked her again at 9:30 AM and she was 7 cm dilated. She told her that it was best not to get another dose of morphine at this point and suggested getting into the tub instead for pain relief. While the tub was filling, the nurse rolled in the warmer for the baby and it all became very real. Melissa's eyes filled with tears, she knew the end was near. 

At 9:45 AM she was in the tub and by 10:00 Melissa and Doug were passed out. The water completely relaxed Melissa and she comfortably went through transition with no pain medication. 45 minutes later she was moaning, she felt the urge to push. I forgot to mention that the maternity ward was completely packed. The waiting room was converted into a labor and delivery room & the rooms in a different wing were being used as labor and delivery as well. The midwife was delivering another baby at the time so the nurse told Melissa to get out of the water and she would check her in the meantime. Melissa sat back on the toilet where she felt most comfortable and began moaning louder. She was trying not to push until she got checked, but the feeling was unbearable. 

Her midwife Jane came in and by 11:15 she was in bed pushing. As soon as the midwife gave her the OK to push Melissa's face lit up. She could not wait to finally meet her baby!

Her mom eagerly watched as her only daughter pushed out their first grandson. She had a smile from ear to ear the whole time with the video camera recording. Doug gave Melissa the emotional and physical support to get her through & she pushed with everything left she had in her. 

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Melissa pushed and pushed. Jane told Doug to get ready to catch his baby & he immediately put on gloves and stood next to Jane as Melissa was crowning. 

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After 35 minutes of pushing baby Will was born! Doug & Melissa both hysterically cried as they laid eyes on their precious baby boy. 

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An incredibly rewarding moment! Melissa was in labor for 11 hours and 45 minutes from when her water first broke at midnight. Even though it wasn't the 100% natural water birth that Melissa had planned for it was still absolutely perfect. She worked super hard to get her 8lb 5oz baby boy out. 

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Melissa & Doug, thank you so much for letting me be apart of your magical day.