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A growing number of moms across the country are packing their bags, kissing their partners and kids goodbye, and going on retreat. Mom-specific and women-only retreats held all over the world are on the rise and gaining popularity with the baby burping, diaper-bag-toting, and bottle-and-breastfeeding masses. While many sign up for these unique getaways looking for nothing more than a little downtime, most find they have gained a whole lot more by the time they return home.


Facilitators create mom retreats for a variety of reasons, but the desire to help women reconnect with themselves is a common thread among many. Shanti O’ Conner is the owner of Rooted & Open in Bend, Oregon and a co-founder of the Sacred Mothers Retreat held at Suttle Lake in Oregon. While working with women as a counselor, pranic healer, and reiki master, she noticed that for many, becoming a mom creates a loss of identity, which impacts their sense of joy and fulfillment. “I wanted to create a weekend where moms could have time and space to reconnect with themselves, their joys, and their passions,” says O’Conner, who is also a mother of two.

Kelsey J Patel is a LA-based spiritual empowerment leader and healer. She offers a variety of wellness retreats including a biannual women’s wellness retreat that takes place on the weekend after Mother’s Day and again in November. She says a large number of moms attend the retreat in May as a gift to themselves after showing up for their partners and children on Mother’s Day. She believes every mother should go on retreat once a year and says, “Getting away for a trip with the girlfriends is amazing, but every mom needs a weekend where she doesn’t need to show up for any other human being than herself.”

 

 

Retreats vary in location, content, and length. Weekend and week-long getaways are common and many include yoga, journaling, group reiki and healing circles, meditation, and hikes. Additionally, massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and cranial sacral specialists are often onsite to provide treatments for those in need.

Attending a retreat means committing time to something other than the family – a difficult hurdle for most moms. But by and large, participants rave about the short and long-term benefits they have received from their experience and say their peers should take the leap and sign up too.

The following are five reasons participants and facilitators say all moms should go on retreat.

1 | Make new friendships and improve the old

Retreats offer participants who are feeling isolated and alone the chance to strengthen existing relationships and forge new connections. Jade Worthington signed up for the Sacred Mother’s Retreat for an opportunity to connect with her friends. “I knew at least six or so of my friends were going and that definitely sweetened the deal,” she says. “As much as I knew I needed some me time, I also felt I needed some time to strengthen and grow my friendships and my support group outside of my home.”

Ashley Johnson also attended the Sacred Mother’s retreat, but without any friend in tow. While she recognizes that this would be difficult for many, she says, “Most retreats are structured to put everyone into various groups from the start…new friendships are forged nearly immediately and attendees feel connected and supported right away.” Johnson also notes that the lineup of activities offered at the majority of retreats rarely allow for awkward alone time.

Ann Rivera, life coach and co-founder of the Sacred Mother’s Retreat, thinks a weekend of self-discovery in the woods while connecting with other women can be the healing combination for a mom looking to take care of herself. “An afternoon lunch with a friend…just doesn’t really cut it,” she explains. “At a women’s retreat…moms find the strength and inspiration to continue forward on their motherhood journey with a new support system, a stronger sense of self and a renewed excitement for life.”

2 | Find a mentor. Be a mentor

A mother’s journey shifts and changes over the course of time. In the retreat environment, new moms often find mentors in older or more experienced peers. On the flip side, mothers and even grandmothers who are in attendance find purpose in their new leadership and support role.

Patel says this dynamic occurs naturally in the retreat setting. She explains, “Older women are starting to question purpose and what they are going to do after their children leave the nest… and connect to how they are becoming a source of inspiration and leadership to other women. The younger moms get to bring that depth of fresh love to the experience.”

Worthington admits that it was important for her to see and hear about the struggles other moms were experiencing. She says, “Some moms struggled with things similar to what I was dealing with, and some moms were dealing with feelings or events that…I could experience further along on my journey of motherhood.” The retreat left her with a new and renewed community of women she could turn to get the support she needs now and down the road.

3 | Release and let go

Retreat attendees are often able to find relief from stressors and fears during and after the event. When moms spend time away from the family surrounded by women in nature, they have the space to find their truth and intuition – which are two of the most important guides in life according to O’Conner. She says, “I wanted to create a space where moms could connect to and release the immense amount of fear and judgment they hold around being a woman and mom.”

Johnson was able to let go of one of her longtime anxieties while walking around Suttle Lake during one of the retreat activities. “I carried a rock representing my fears of the future, and at a certain point, I was able to walk out on a large log, throw that rock out into the lake and release my crippling fears,” says Johnson. “It was such an emotional moment that I lost my balance on the log and nearly splashed into the lake!”

Since returning home, Johnson has replaced the worries that plagued her with a mantra she developed while away. “This life-changing moment only happened because I made myself a priority by attending this retreat.”

4 | Experience transformation

A weekend at the beach with friends is a great way to get some rest, but a weekend on retreat is a chance for real change to take place.

Audra Carmine and Jessica Garay are both moms and the co-owners of Love Hive Yoga Studio in Portland. They run an annual women’s yoga retreat in Mexico. Carmine says that at the Love Hive Yoga Retreat, both her and Garay use the practice of yoga asana to give participants the opportunity to wake up. “When you are in Mexico with a dozen other women, sharing stories, getting sweaty and truly allowing yourself to rest, a transformation is inevitable.”

Retreat participant Stacey Durden was feeling overwhelmed with life – and on a couple of occasions thought she was “losing it” – when she decided to sign up for the Sacred Mother’s retreat. She says, “I felt like I had lost a sense of who I was before becoming a mother and wife.” While she didn’t know what to expect when she went to the retreat, she hoped to get “unstuck” and to come home a different person from when she left.

Durden didn’t regret her decision. She left with a set of goals that continue motivate her each day and has a mantra she recites when her patience is tried. “I have become a more patient, loving and fulfilled because of [the retreat].”

Garay believes that if a retreat is to live up to its potential and really increase the quality of participants’ lives, it must not exist in a vacuum. “Our hope is that women will take the retreat home with them in the form of good self-care rituals,” she explains.” Our retreat ultimately invites our participants to increase the quality of their day-to-day lives through the practices of self-care, meditation and yoga.”

5 | Pause, refill, and reset

Retreats offer moms who feel overwhelmed, depleted, or lost, an opportunity to hit the pause button on life, replenish their energy reserves, and reset their focus before returning to their families. The success of Durden’s first retreat experience turned her into a fan of the process. She says, “If you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to rediscover yourself, a retreat is perfect for you.”

Facilitators agree that one of the reasons so many attendees are able to return home with a new approach to daily life is because of the chance they are given to truly hit the “pause button” and re-prioritize the different aspects of their lives so that their needs are met when they return home.

“In short, most moms are struggling and because they do so much they are easily overlooked,” says O’Conner. “We need to remember that as mothers we cannot fill our families cup up when ours in only half full.”

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Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

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Since baby Crew became the newest member of Chip and Joanna Gaines' family three weeks ago, his proud parents have been keeping the world updated, sharing sweet snaps of their youngest and even giving us a glimpse into his nursery.

Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.



The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

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It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.


Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

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In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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