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Lisa Ferland is a US citizen who has lived in Sweden since 2012, working as a public health consultant. Her greatest adventure, parenting, combined with the often challenging foreign environment, has led to some of her most exciting discoveries about herself. We had a chance to catch up with Lisa on a few of these discoveries, including her thoughts on the true meaning of “home” as a new mother and the biggest differences between childbirth in the U.S. versus other countries.


How do the experiences in your new book, Knocked

Up Abroad, speak to the true meaning of “home” for mothers and their little ones?

In many situations, the women in Knocked Up Abroad created

their own supportive network of closely knit friends and family. Anyone who has

moved away from their hometown can relate—when relying on family isn’t an

option, we turn to our friends for support, and we may even need to rely on strangers

to help us in our most vulnerable moments. For me personally, our Swedish

neighbors came to assist us after the unintentional home birth of our

daughter. 

“Home is where the heart is” rings true for anyone living far from the home in which they grew up. After we moved abroad, home was no longer the place where we grew up as kids, but the place we created for our immediate family. Home is not made of bricks and mortar, or even the same country that is shown on your passport. Home is the feeling you have when you walk through the door and see faces that you love after a long day of work. It is sharing holidays and special events with people who care about you. For women raising families far from “home,” motherhood can feel isolating and lonely at times. There are so many days when I wish I could pop around the corner and have a chat with my mom or attend a family event that doesn’t require 18 hours of travel. However, I have learned that creating that same warm and welcoming “home” for my children is my responsibility as a mother. My children’s home is in Sweden where their parents and friends are (and more importantly, where their beloved toys are). Fortunately, family togetherness provides the warmest feeling in the world for a child, and a mother can create that in many different ways, whether she is living abroad or in her childhood home.

In your experiences, what are the single biggest

advantages and disadvantages of having a baby in the U.S. versus a foreign

country?

We can learn so much about pregnancy and childbirth from

learning about how other cultures approach these two very vulnerable times in a

mother’s life. Cultural and social norms drive medical practices regarding pregnancy

and childbirth, and how people define a “normal” pregnancy varies

widely around the world.

Taking that into consideration, I think the single biggest

advantage of having a baby in the U.S. is the abundance of healthcare options.

There are many criticisms that the U.S. treats every pregnancy like a disease

and is too quick to offer interventions. However, the U.S. offers a myriad of

birthing options. There are birthing centers, home births, midwives, and

OB/GYNs who are more than willing to help a new mother in whatever style she chooses.

Whether she wants a home birth, water birth, at-home water birth, or repeat

C-section—a woman can find (and pay) someone to support her in having the type

of birth she envisions for herself and her baby. Or, if she has a high-risk

pregnancy, the medical system is extremely well-equipped to provide whatever

medical services she may require.

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In the chapter, “Land

of Birth,” Norwegian mother Jannecke Balys describes how different her birth

experiences were in the U.S. than in Norway, where the options are more

limited. In some countries, there are resource constraints, such as not enough doctors, or not

enough (or any) anesthesiologists to provide epidural pain relief. In some

cases, hospitals may not even be equipped to provide safe C-sections during

emergencies. In some countries, it is against the law to have a water

birth (Sweden) or home birth (United Arab

Emirates). The U.S. offers

women so many options for childbirth, which is a true advantage for mothers

during this stressful time.

However, one of the biggest disadvantages in the U.S. is the

social and economic pressure placed on mothers so quickly after childbirth.

In the U.S., there is a cultural feeling that new moms should be “back to normal,” “back to work,” and “back in pre-pregnancy clothes” almost instantly, as if having a baby was not a huge, life-altering, physically demanding event.

I wish mothers in the U.S. had the time they need to allow themselves to heal from pregnancy and childbirth—the physical changes, sleep deprivation, and fluctuating hormones—in order to enjoy that blurry temporary haze of postpartum life.

The U.S. would benefit greatly from paid parental leave, something that the rest of the world has already discovered, to allow parents this crucial time to adjust and care for their families and themselves.

In the chapter, “Moon Months,” Canadian mother, Ember Swift, describes China’s requisite resting period for mothers to heal during the postpartum period. In many Asian cultures, mothers are restricted to 30 days indoors in an attempt to give their bodies enough time to heal properly from the birth experience. In Sweden, the non-birth partner is provided ten days of paid leave from work to stay home to help the mother and newborn baby.

In our case, my husband was thrilled to have two weeks at home with our newborn baby in Sweden, which was in stark contrast to the five days he was begrudgingly allowed (and discouraged from taking) in the U.S. after our son was born.

These cultural differences define the expectations of new parents in other countries around the world and illustrate how different life is for parents in the U.S.

In terms of practical and emotional needs,

what advice do you have for a woman considering having a baby in a foreign

country?

Practically, I would do as much research and ask as many

questions as possible about how the birth process works in that country. Talk

to your doctor (or midwife) and as many friends as you can in order to

physically and mentally prepare yourself. In the chapter, ​“Baby in Benin,” Sarah Murdock heard

from women who were bullied by midwives (one woman was even slapped!) and her

Beninese friend warned her not to touch the floor during birth as it could be

dangerous for the baby due to poor hygiene. Preparing for as many unknown factors as possible will reduce

(not eliminate) stress around childbirth. Creating a birth plan can help to

make your wishes known at the hospital. Of course, I recommend having a few

contingency plans because pregnancy and childbirth rarely seem to go according

to plan.

Once the baby arrives, give yourself time to adjust to the

arrival of the new baby before inviting guests to stay. As much as family may want

to see the baby, having visitors can be stressful (or even disruptive). My

mother-in-law visited us when our daughter was two weeks old. I bravely told

her that my house was not going to be clean and that she was in charge of meal

preparation. I was even bold enough to assign her small tasks like helping with

laundry and grocery shopping.

Emotionally, I would recommend that parents schedule Skype or FaceTime sessions to

stay connected with friends and family after the baby is born. Long-distance

travel may not be feasible with a newborn, so connecting with loved ones virtually is the next best option for

introducing the newest addition of your family.  When you are fortunate enough to

have face-to-face connections, make them meaningful. I vividly remember a good

friend visiting me when my daughter was two weeks old and taking me to a nearby

cafe. She bounced and played with my daughter while I leisurely sipped my coffee

without worrying about anything. We laughed and conversed like adults and for a

brief moment, my mind wasn’t repeating “diapers, laundry, cleaning” on

a loop. It was so refreshing to have adult interaction after two weeks of

relative seclusion with a newborn. Maintaining those emotional connections with

friends is essential for your sanity as a new mom. Even a brief stroller walk each

day is good for our mental health—and even better when we have a friend with whom

to stroll.

Some days it is a struggle just to find clean yoga pants, but pull your hair into a messy bun, put your baby in the stroller, and get out of the house, wherever it may be.

Motherhood can be lonely and living abroad can be even lonelier. Experiencing motherhood far from our support network means that we have to rely on others for support. And when we are able, it is our turn to provide support to other new mamas who are parenting abroad.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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