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9 simple strategies for a calm labor + peaceful birth

Take a birth class.

Knowledge is power. Take a birth class that respects your choices and empowers you to give birth with awareness. You'll feel calmer if you understand what's going on, and you'll know how to make decisions as your birth story unfolds.

We are particularly fond of Motherly's Becoming Mama™ Online Birth Class, and we've designed it for ALL types of birth, so **C-section mamas, we've got you covered, too.

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Have you ever watched a birth scene in a movie or on a TV show? Chances are it was pretty intense and loud, and made you cringe at least once.

As a midwife I'm here to tell you that birth is just not like that in real life.

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Yes, it is intense. But it can be incredibly peaceful, gracefully serene and breathtakingly beautiful at the same time.

Here are some strategies you can use to bring calm into your birthing room, whether you're having your baby at a hospital, birth center or at home. C-section mamas, look for the asterisks to know which tips work for you, too.

Play a tune.

Has a song ever moved you to tears? Or instantly lifted your mood? That's because music has a profound effect on our emotional state. Heidi Lengel, a doula, music therapist and owner of Fulheart Family Support in Philadelphia, says:

“Research shows that the effective use of music during labor lowers anxiety and pain perception as well as increases emotional and physical comfort."

So why not crank your favorite tunes in your labor room?

Check out Motherly's labor playlist!

**C-section mamas: Ask if you can bring some music into the OR with you. We bet the staff will be on board because, hey, they get to enjoy it too!

Smell the roses (or lavender).

Scent has such a powerful connection to our emotions. When we smell something pleasant and soothing, we instinctively close our eyes and take a deep breath. You can harness this when you are in labor. Studies have found that the use of aromatherapy while in labor may help women experience less pain and feel more relaxed. Bonus: It can make your hospital labor room smell less well, hospital-y.

Pack a bottle of essential oil in your labor bag, and put a drop or two on a cotton ball next to you for an instant mood change (our personal favorites are lavender for relaxation and orange for an energy boost).

To learn more about the safety of aromatherapy in pregnancy, check with your provider and read this.

**C-section mamas: Ask if your partner can bring the essential oil cotton ball into the OR with you.

Breathe.

It sounds simple, but it is oh so important. And easy to forget.

Breathing has both physical and emotional benefits. Your body (especially your uterus) needs oxygen to do all the awesome work it's up to, and your baby needs oxygen to thrive. When you inhale, think about sending a big dose of power and energy down into your uterus and baby. They'll thank you for it!

Breathing deeply can also be incredibly therapeutic. It gives you something to focus on during your contractions and will help keep you calm. And at the end of each contraction, take a big, cleansing breath to remind yourself that that contraction is over, and you now have a moment of rest.

When you take these deep breaths, try breathing in through your nose for a count of 5 (or whatever feels comfortable to you), and out through your mouth for the same count.

**C-section mamas: This one's for you, too!

Repeat a mantra.

A mantra is a word or short phrase that you repeat over and over, as a tiny (but powerful) meditation or reminder. Using a mantra in birth can help you focus and can instill a real sense of calm as well as confidence. There are no rules when it comes to your mantra. The right one is whatever works best for you. Some examples:

  • Breathe in calm, breathe out tension
  • My body knows just what to do
  • My baby is coming
  • I trust myself
  • I am safe, my baby is safe
  • I let the wave carry me
  • I've got this

Pro tip: Start practicing now. You want your mantra to feel safe and familiar when you are labor. It will come more naturally and it will be more effective.

**C-section mamas: This one is awesome for you.

Lean on your support person.

Your support person plays such a huge role in helping you to stay calm during your birth. Their presence alone can be very soothing. But they can also serve as your advocate, helping you communicate your desires with the birth team so you can focus on laboring. Let them know what's important to you, and include them as you practice your coping skills before you go into labor so that they can work seamlessly with you.

**C-section mamas: Your support person will be in the OR with you and can for sure help you relax. They can talk to you, guide you through a relaxation exercise or simply rub your hair.

Move.

If I had to pick one thing to focus on in labor, it would be movement. Throughout your labor, your baby is making tiny but very important movements to navigate her way down and out. When you move, you change the space within your body, which gives her the opportunity to do what she needs to do. Therefore, moving results in faster labors and decreased pain.

And it just feels good. Think of a contraction as a wave (many people even call contractions “surges"). If you're standing in the ocean and a big wave comes, you can stand rigid and try to resist it, but chances are it will knock you down. Or you can let your body go a little limp and move WITH with wave. You'll still feel it, of course, but instead of falling over, you'll be carried along gently. Same thing in labor.

Hire a doula.

A doula is a trained professional who provides consistent non-medical support to you during labor and birth. In other words, while she won't be making decisions about your plan of care, she knows a ton about birth and will help you cope. Research finds that women who have doulas report more satisfying birth experiences.

We should add that doulas are awesome for both you and your partner. They need a little TLC during birth, too, and a doula can provide support to you both.

**C-section mamas: Some hospitals will allow you to bring both your partner and a doula into the OR with you, so don't be afraid to ask.

Try relaxation + visualization exercises.

Guided meditations in the form of a relaxation or visualization exercise are awesome when you are in labor. A relaxation exercise will help you release the tension in each part of your body, while a visualization will allow you to envision peaceful images and settings that help you find your Zen. You can practice these now, and then ask your partner to read them to you while you're in labor.

**C-section mamas: This can definitely be done in the OR.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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