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When people think about giving birth, most go straight to the pain (damn movies!). Some feel confident in their ability to cope. Others are flat out terrified or at the very least unsure about their ability to manage. Whether your preference is to go natural or medicated, learning different ways to be with the painful parts and find comfort and even pleasure in the process will serve you.

There are many comfort measures that women can employ to manage the intensity of labor. These are my top 5 must-haves to infuse your birth with the comfort and support you’ll need to have a positive experience regardless of your birth plan.

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  1. Birth ball. Birth balls are the same as exercise balls, and many women find them to be an extremely useful tool during labor. First, they are comfortable to sit on as they are soft and easy to move around on. Movement is a huge comfort measure, not to mention often quite helpful in assisting in the progress of labor. I mean, everyone wants all the help they can get with things moving along, right? Providing a perfect seat for bouncing or making hip circles, this can help women better manage the stronger sensations of labor as well as making space in a woman’s pelvis for babies to descend.Birth balls are also one of the most comfortable things to lean on in labor. If you end up not wanting to sit on it, you may just want to use it as a tall pillow! Since forward leaning is such a helpful and comfortable position for most women in labor, having something soft to hug while kneeling can make resting between contractions quite accessible. It is also more supportive than putting pressure on your wrists for a hands and knees position.

  1. Warm Compresses. Another great comfort during labor is the use of heat or warm compresses. Warmth has the ability to soften and relax muscles and release tension -- hence the popularity of hot showers and baths in labor. Many women already know the power of warmth for comfort from when they had menstrual cramps. This is a common cure. In particular, I recommend using Thermacare wraps. They are disposable heat wraps that have a velcro adhesive (not the ones that stick on) and can be purchased at most pharmacies. The warmth is initiated when exposed to air and lasts 8-12 hours. I tell people to get the low back-hip one in L-XL so it’s big enough to wrap around a pregnant belly. During labor, you can wear it around your waist with the heated side facing your belly for frontal pain or swing it around to your back if you’re experiencing back labor. Every time you have a contraction, you or your partner can place your hands on the hot spot to drive the warmth deeper into your body. It can really melt you.The reason I prefer these wraps is because of their portability. Since you can wear it, it can come with you on walks, in transition to the hospital from home, etc. A electric heating pad will work too, but it bounds you to the nearest outlet. Microwaveable heating pads and hot water bottles are also options, though these too may be impractical in action.

  1. Washcloths for ice water. Temperature shifts are common in labor. While warmth may be desirable at certain points, especially toward the end of labor, women tend toward feeling really hot. Active labor is hard work. When the sweating and stripping off of clothing starts, that’s your cue. Having washcloths handy will be softer and more functional than most other linens the hospital or birth center will have.Fill a pitcher or bowl with ice water from the pantry and soak your washcloths in them. I usually like to have 2 or 3 cloths rotating at a time so one of them is always fresh and cold. Strain off any excess water so it doesn’t drip too much and use this as a cool compress for her forehead and brow, to wipe sweat off her face or simply to rest on her neck, upper back or chest. Not every woman likes this but many do, so it’s definitely worth a try.

  1. Rebozo. A rebozo is the Mexican name for a long shawl often used in childbirth. As such, any long and wide scarf or even bedsheet will do the trick. There are many things you can do with this tool in labor, many of which provide an easy way to lift up the weight and pressure of a woman’s pregnant belly. What a gift it is to take the weight of a woman’s weight off her body! In prenatal visits and classes, I often show people a few simple ways to use this fabric to support a woman during labor. An example can be viewed here, but you can find even more resources online if you look for them.

  1. A birth doula. This cannot be said too often. In my opinion, a doula is an essential member of any birth care team. Their role is to provide physical, emotional and informational support for women and families during birth. They are specially trained in numerous comfort measures and able to offer both a hands-on comforting touch as well as suggestions for things you can do on your own that might ease your pain and discomfort. Doulas meet with clients prenatally to discuss their concerns and preferences in advance of labor, often discussing the wide variety of options available for comfort during labor. They help you identify the techniques you are most apt to appreciate during labor and thus can be trusted to anticipate the best ways to support you when the big day arrives.

While this may scratch the surface of all the ways a woman can find comfort in labor, I do think these are the most essential tools to have with you on this most special day. If you want to learn more about comfort measures during labor and birth, check Yiska’s workshop, Comforting Touch in Birth.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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