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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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2018 will go down in history as the year that gave us a royal wedding, a second Chrissy Teiegn cookbook and saw Serena Williams prove that new mamas can do anything. It's also the year that a bunch of adorable celebrity babies came into the world.

Here's to all the celebrity babies born this year!

Elizabeth Smart and Matthew Gilmour welcomed baby Olivia

Back in June author and activist Elizabeth Smart announced she and husband Matthew Gilmour were expecting their third child, and in November baby Olivia arrived.

She was born in hospital and Smart shared a sweet post-birth selfie with her Instagram followers.

"So happy to welcome Olivia to our family!" she wrote.

We are so happy for her.

Jessica Chastain and Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo welcomed a baby girl

After actress Jessica Chastain was spotted out in October carrying a baby in a car seat, media outlets began to speculate about whether she and husband Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo had become parents, and it turns out the rumors are true. On November 19, E! News reported Chastain's daughter was born in the spring, via surrogate.

Chastain has not spoken publicly about her daughter or posted any baby photos on her Instagram, which is absolutely her choice. If she ever does decide to talk about the early days of her daughter's life, we will be all ears!

Until then, congratulations to Jessica and Gian!

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander welcomed daughter Genevieve

What a sweet little face! On November 10 Kate Upton and Justin Verlander introduced the world to their daughter, Genevieve Upton Verlander who was born on November 7.

On his Instagram account proud dad Verlander added notes "You stole my ❤️ the first second I met you!!!"

Looks like Genevieve's parents are very much in love with their baby girl.

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade welcomed (a surprising) baby girl 

Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade shocked the world in November by announcing the birth of the daughter fans didn't know they were expecting!

"We are sleepless and delirious but so excited to share that our miracle baby arrived last night via surrogate and 11/7 will forever be etched in our hearts as the most loveliest of all the lovely days. Welcome to the party sweet girl!" Union, who has previously written about her struggles with infertility, wrote on Instagram.

Diane Kruger and Norman Reedus welcomed their first baby together

Diana Kruger and her partner, Walking Dead star Norman Reedus, are the latest celebrity parents to welcome a new baby, but unlike a lot of celebrity couples they did not do an Instagram baby announcement.

The family is keeping things low key, but People reports it has confirmed the baby's arrival.

Whether or not a family chooses to publicize their child's image and name is totally up to the parents, whether they are famous or not. Kruger and Reedus may choose to keep their baby out of the spotlight and that's totally cool. Big announcements aren't for everyone.

 Hilary Duff and Matthew Koma welcomed daughter Banks Violet Bair

Hilary Duff shared some big news in October, dropping an adorable birth announcement on Instagram and letting the world know that she had a home birth for daughter Banks Violet Bair. What a unique name!

Pippa Middleton and James Matthews welcomed a baby boy 

Little Prince Louis now has a close cousin! The Duchess of Cambridge's sister, Pippa Middleton, and her husband James Matthews welcomed a baby boy on October 16, one day after her sister's sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, announced her pregnancy.

Kate Hudson and Danny Fujikawa welcomed baby Rani Rose 

Kate Hudson is now a #girlmom.

The actress (who is also mom to sons, 7-year-old son Bingham and 14-year-old son Ryder) and her partner Danny Fujikawa announced the birth of their daughter one day after she was born on October 2. The birth announcement came via a series of Instagram slides, captioned with simply, "She's here".

"We have decided to name our daughter Rani (pronounced Ronnie) after her grandfather, Ron Fujikawa. Ron was the most special man who we all miss dearly. To name her after him is an honor," Hudson wrote.

"Everyone is doing well and happy as can be. Our family thanks you for all the love and blessings that have been sent our way and we send ours right back."

Jillian Harris and Justin Pasutto welcome baby Annie 

On October 1 Jillian Harris and Justin Pasutto announced they just welcomed their second child (and first girl), baby Annie. According to the Instagram post introducing Annie, Harris and Pasutto were enjoying a date night when Annie started making her entrance into the world, interrupting mom and dad's round of golf.

 Kim Kardashian +  Kanye West welcomed Chicago Noel West

Celebrity power couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcomed their third child, baby Chicago via a gestational surrogate on January 15, 2018. Chicago came into the world weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces and was instantly loved by the whole Kardashian family, including her siblings, North and Saint.

"We're so in love," Kardashian said in a statement released shortly after Chicago's birth.

"We are incredibly grateful to our surrogate who made our dreams come true with the greatest gift one could give," the proud mama explained.

[Updated: November 20, 2018.]

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I was at my midwife appointment two weeks before my due date. After hearing my daughter's heartbeat and answering some questions, the midwife asked if I was planning to breastfeed.

Mentally scanning my perfectly outlined first-time-mom birth plan—complete with bullet points and bolded phrases which I had carefully picked—I realized that I hadn't even considered this notion until half a second ago. I was so preoccupied with the details surrounding how I was going to get this baby out of me that I hadn't contemplated how I would actually keep her alive once she was disconnected from my placenta.

I shrugged and replied, "Sure, I guess I will if I can." So I added my breastfeeding bullet point to my birth plan.

I woke up to my buzzing phone on the morning of March 29th. "Due Date" popped up as a notification on my calendar, as if the birth of my child could be scheduled in the same way you would an oil change.

I had everything planned. I would first labor quietly, un-medicated, wearing makeup and using my hypnobirthing techniques I been studying. Then, when I was ready to push, my baby would be delivered in a very reasonable amount of time with minimal tearing.

She would be placed on my chest where together we would soak in the hormonal love cocktail that I had read so much about. Afterward, I would unpack my laptop to check work emails during the downtime that I had assured myself would be bountiful during our hospital stay.

Growing more impatient as the time lingered since my due date notification, the hours turned to days. My water finally broke three long days later. My actual labor started quickly after I began bragging to my visitors about how manageable the contractions were.

I sweated my makeup off soon after. The calm and meditative laboring state I had prepared myself for was more akin to the calmness one would have upon placing the palms of their hands onto the burners of a searing hot stove.

The intervals between my contractions vanished as I eventually ripped my clothes off, hoping I could somehow crawl out of my skin. I gasped for breath between sobs when my midwife assured me that I was two whole centimeters dilated.

As fate would have it, 48 hours later, I would deliver my bruised and exhausted baby laying on my back, crying and shaking on an ice cold operating table.

As it turns out, enjoying approximately 35 seconds of sleep in a span of days doesn't do much for one's patience levels. Sore and freshly bound around the abdomen, I couldn't possibly be expected to employ my motherly duties yet, could I?

Whoever was supposed to serve me the hormonal love cocktail I was promised, apparently skipped my hospital room. My emails went unanswered as I ineptly tended to my shrieking newborn.

"The Universe laughs when you have a plan," I once read. The Universe must have taken one look at me and rejoiced: Boy was I in for a lesson.

Once settled in at home, I realized that breastfeeding wasn't going to work for us after all. Then I experienced a heavy period of postpartum depression.

Just weeks prior, I had everything planned so precisely. Things that pertained not just to the infancy stage I was so freshly experiencing now, but things that I had no right to plan, as I wouldn't truly understand them for months and some even years.

I had sworn to myself that I would always treat my child with kindness and patience...and look good while doing so. I told myself that I would reserve time for me to enjoy my hobbies and never "lose sight of myself." But suddenly, intellectually stimulating toys, perfectly situated hair bows, and frankly, brushed teeth meant much less to me.

Through the birth of my second daughter, I learned that a healthy baby is enough, no matter how they get here. This time, using medication, I graciously welcomed her into the world. Promptly after enjoying the love cocktail I had waited so patiently for, I let the nurses whisk her off to care for her in the nursery as I took a well-deserved nap.

Life with two small children required adjustments and another shift in expectations, but this time around I laughed my way through it. (And I learned to appreciate the texture of my unwashed hair, too.)

It wasn't until I finally let go of who I thought I should be that I finally felt satisfied by who I am. I am often frazzled, over-stressed and disheveled. I don't always feel very interesting and I am no longer the perfectly curated woman I once was.

I'm chronically late and not unlike my oldest daughter, I often burst in exhausted, bruised and five days late. Deadlines and appointments sometimes slip by and surprisingly, my heart continues to beat.

But most importantly, I'm an extremely good mother. Pay no attention to the non-organic popsicle stains running down my children's mismatched clothing or the bird nests of hair sitting atop their heads: because we are happy. And that is what is important.

Despite my earlier expectations that I have fallen quite short of, my children are well. They are not perfect, nor am I. Neither were any of the women who have come before or will come after me. I only make plans now with the caveat that they must be subject to change. The Universe can now laugh with me, not at me.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Bathing frequency

There is no scientific or biological answer to how often you should bathe your child. During pre-modern times, parents hardly ever bathed their children. The modern era made it a societal norm to bathe your child daily.

Many babies and toddlers, especially those who aren't walking yet, don't need to be washed with soap every day. If a child has dry, sensitive skin, parents should wash their child with a mild soap once a week.

On other nights, the child may simply soak or rinse off in a lukewarm, plain water bath if they are staying fairly clean. Additionally, parents can soak their children in a water bath without soap most nights or as needed as part of a routine.

Cause of skin sensitivity

Many problems with sensitive, irritated skin are made worse by bathing habits that unintentionally dry out the skin too much. Soaking in a hot bath for long periods of time and scrubbing will lead to dry skin. Additionally, many existing skin conditions will worsen if you over-scrub your child or use drying, perfumed soaps.

Some skin conditions, like childhood eczema (atopic dermatitis), are not caused by dirt or lack of hygiene. Therefore, parents do not need to scrub the inflamed areas. Scrubbing will cause dry, sensitive skin to become even more dry.

Tips for bath time

Some best practices for bath time for kids who have dry, itchy, sensitive skin or eczema include.

  • The proper temperature for a bath is lukewarm
  • Baths should be brief (5-10 minutes long)
  • To avoid drying out your child's skin, use mild, fragrance-free soaps (or non-soap cleansers)
  • Use small amounts of soap and wash the child with your hands, rather than scrubbing with a soapy washcloth.
  • Do not let your child sit and play in the tub or basin if the water is all soapy.
  • Use the soap at the end of the bath, not the beginning.
  • When finishing the bath, rinse your child with warm fresh water to remove the soap from their body. Let the child "dance" or "wiggle" for a few seconds to shake off some of the water, and then apply moisturizing ointments, creams, or lotions while their skin is still wet.
  • Simple store-brand petroleum jelly is a wonderful moisturizer, especially if applied right when the child leaves the tub while the skin is still wet.
  • Avoid creams with fragrances, coloring agents, preservatives, and other chemicals. Simple, white, or colorless products are often better for children's skin.
  • Do not use alcohol-based products.

Originally posted on Children's National Health System's Rise and Shine.

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