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Creating a Birth Plan

Jada Shapiro of Birth Day Presence and Seleni Institute talks us through the benefits of writing a birth plan that’s right for you.

Creating a Birth Plan

I remember being pregnant and sitting down at my computer to google the words “birth plan.” I assumed that I was supposed to have one but wasn’t sure how to draw up this very personal document that held the fate of my birth story in its hands. My doctor obliged, but even with those words on paper -- “no pitocin” “no epidural” “free movement” -- my birth plan went haywire and I ended up with a c-section. My birth plan, which looked more like a laundry list of requests, didn’t pan out.

The fact is someone else’s birth plan may have simply been “c-section.”

Everyone’s idea of the perfect birth is different, and chances are it won’t go according to plan (babies are cray cray that way). So we sat down with Birth Day Presence co-founder Jada Shapiro to get the lowdown on what exactly having a birth plan means. Not just having a list of what-not’s, but a plan that will bring a little more clarity to what you’re about to go through, and a place for you and your provider to come to a common understanding of what you want to happen.

Here Jada tells us how to get your plan (or lack thereof) on track.

How do you decide what kind of birth you'd like to have?

The most important decisions, in our opinion, are who is going to deliver your baby and where do you want to give birth. Some of what you are hoping for should influence who you hire as your birth team and where you plan to give birth. So consider whether you would like to use pain medication or not during your birth. Consider how much freedom of movement you would like to have. Do you want to have the option to give birth in a tub? Do you want to be able to bring lots of support people with you? Do you hope to avoid a cesarean unless absolutely medically necessary? All these factors will dictate your choices. The mom who hopes to give birth in the water is not going to choose Labor and Delivery in a hospital. The mom who definitely wants to use an epidural early in her labor is not going to give birth in a birthing center. The mom who truly hopes to avoid an unnecessary cesarean will not work with a doctor who has a 50% c-section rate.

Do you need a birth plan to achieve it?

You don’t need a birth plan to move toward the kind of birth you’d like to have. In fact, if you hire a midwife or doctor who you know espouses your birth philosophy ahead of time and supports your choices and options, as long as they are safe, then you seldom need a physical birth plan. If you are birthing in an environment that does not typically support what you are hoping for during your birth, it can be nice to have this physical, easy-to-read record which will help communicate your wishes in a quick way.

There are two real benefits of writing a birth preferences sheet. 1. You can sit down, alone or with your partner, and really get clear on what is most important to you. The more clear you are, the more effective you will be at communicating your hopes to your care provider. 2. You can take this document into your care provider well before you give birth to make sure you and your midwife or doctor are on the same page about giving birth. As hard as it is to switch care providers mid-pregnancy, it is much harder to find out during labor that they don’t support you!

Do doctors and nurses really read it, and what can you do to make sure they do? How long should it be?

Totally depends on the person. You should keep your birth plan to 1-2 pages max. Ideally one page. Resume-like. Clear and concise. And in a positive voice. The last thing anyone wants to receive is a long list of things they don’t want you to do to them. So for example, don’t write: Don’t give me an IV. Better: I would prefer to eat and drink to remain hydrated and nourished. Please offer me an IV only in the case that I am dehydrated or need specific medicines for my labor.

The best way to get a nurse to read your birth preferences is to take a moment to introduce yourself to her, and then kindly ask if she would mind reading through some of your preferences when she has a little time. Respect her time and her job and you will find you will have a lot easier time with some of the negotiable aspects of childbirth.

Note: If you are refusing all care that is standard where you plan to give birth, you may want to switch care providers or birth places.

Who should have a copy? Where should you put it?

Give a copy to your midwife or doctor, bring one for your nurse, give one to your doula, and have three extra copies. Keep it in a folder with other important documents in your birth bag.

What's a good way to think about a birth plan? Is it a wish? A guideline? A concrete set of steps?

We generally recommend that you begin with a short paragraph directed to your care provider, in which you thank them for assisting you with the pregnancy and birth and tell them that the following are your wishes under ideal conditions. It helps to note that you are happy to have their medical expertise and that you love to be informed and hope that they will inform you about anything which needs to be done during their care. Then organize your birth plan by the stages of labor. You can also add in a bit about in case induction becomes necessary and in case of cesarean birth.

If you're having a home birth would you draw up a birth plan?

It is definitely worth discussing with your midwife whether you want to actually write down your birth plan. In a home birth setting, you can be a bit more luxurious with your vision, including how you envision laboring, what kind of pain relief you imagine might help and environmental factors that will help you. You should absolutely write an “In Case of Transfer Plan” though. This can be packed in your hospital bag which will only come out if your midwife determines you need to give birth at the hospital.

What happens if your birth does not go according to your plan?

Birth seldom goes according to your plan. You should plan that birth won’t go according to your plan! Going to a childbirth class that addresses issues like this and helps prepare women to meet whatever their labor asks of them can help. Talking with a therapist or close friends or your doctor or midwife can also help. If you find that in writing your birth plan, you are adamant about avoiding a procedure, try to talk with your care provider about how best to deal with the procedure if it becomes medically necessary. Your birth preferences are a general guideline. Ultimately, if medical necessity dictates changes in the labor, hopefully you have chosen a care provider you trust! The best we can do for ourselves as birthing mothers is choose the best team of support and then step back and let labor unfold.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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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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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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