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It’s easy to get lost in the swirl when deciding between a home birth or hospital birth. And, unfortunately, statistics can feel like they hurt - rather than help - your decision-making process. You can drive yourself crazy reviewing the studies, because there is “conclusive evidence” on either side of the home birth or hospital birth debate. While it’s true that research and fact finding are an essential part of making this choice, ultimately - you need to quiet the outside noise and honor your own instincts because it’s your choice.

Deciding whether to have your baby at home or in a hospital is a great practice for all of the decisions you’ll have to make as new parents with a tender infant, a rambunctious and wily toddler, and the rebellious teen down the road. Taking others’ opinions into consideration has its place, but working as a newborn photographer over the years, I’ve come to the strong conclusion that parents know best.

Also - if you or your partner are on the fence, start touring the Bay Area’s wealth of birthing center options. Birthing suites can feel just like home, and those that implement midwives and welcome doulas can provide the happiest medium of all for mothers and couples who are torn between the two options.

Carefully Review High-Quality Studies

Of course, you’re going to want some facts and figures on your side. But that can be challenging and confusing, too!

Depending on what studies you look at, infant mortality rates can appear much higher for home births than hospital births - but then you learn those studies included unassisted or DIY deliveries without a licensed midwife. On the flip side, other studies show that overall, there are fewer complications, dramatically less interventions and better, overall mother and baby outcomes for home births attended by licensed, certified midwives.

Make sure you’re reading valid, clinical research studies from the past five years or less. Don’t use blogs or random websites but cull the internet for .org, .gov and .edu sites where information is more regulated and is more trustworthy than someone else’s translations of the data.

Be prepared to find that reading studies is not as helpful as you hoped, which throws your inner-compass into a spin. If that happens, consider the more general risk factors involved and listen to those instincts. Your body is very wise!

Only work with a licensed, certified midwife or nurse midwife

As with most certifications, there are “ranks” amongst midwives. These include:

  • Lay midwife

  • Direct-entry midwife

  • Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)

  • Certified Midwife (CM)

  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

The last two, Certified Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives have college degrees and a tremendous amount of medical education and training behind them.

If you’re going to pursue a home birth, a CM or CNM are the way to go, ensuring your midwife is trained to handle all of the most common complications or immediate medical issues (such as a baby who isn’t breathing, or a mother who is hemorrhaging), and are qualified to use all of the tools in their birthing kits.

Is Your Pregnancy High Risk?

If your pregnancy is considered high risk you are best off in a hospital (or the aforementioned birth center). While midwives have amazing resources at their fingertips, women and babies who make it through a high risk pregnancy are typically safest in a hospital, where surgical interventions and acute neonatal care teams are only seconds or a few minutes away, rather than an entire drive.

High risk pregnancies include things like:

  • Being 35-years or older

  • Having multiples

  • Breech baby

  • Gestational diabetes

  • Pre-eclampsia

How Far Are You From the Hospital?

I’ve had clients that live as close as five to 10 minutes away from a hospital with a full-neonatal team, and I’ve had clients who live more than 30 minutes away from emergency medical care. Most experts agree that if you are considering a home birth, you should live no more than 15-minutes away from an adequate hospital.

If you do need a C-Section (which even a Certified Nurse Midwife is not qualified to provide) or your baby needs immediate surgery or NICU support, you don’t want to worry that your decision to have a baby at home negatively impacted your/his/her outcome.

What’s Your Current Medical Status?

When reviewing the studies comparing success rates of home or hospital births, the majority of the “worst case scenario” home births were linked to mothers not adhering to the high-risk factors listed above, or because there were things associated with their own health/wellbeing that weren’t ideal for home birth.

Women with existing medical conditions or risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc., should have their babies in their hospital or birthing center of choice.

Do you have medical phobias?

An NPR article comparing home births and hospital births summarized the thoughts of UCSF Ob-Gyn, Dr. Robyn Lamar, who says, “a mother is more likely to dilate and embrace difficult contractions if she feels comfortable and supported in her surroundings. In other words, feeling safe can not only lead to a more positive emotional experience, but also a faster delivery.”

If you are afraid of giving birth in a hospital or medical center, you live within a 15-minute drive from a hospital and you have a low-risk pregnancy, your labor and delivery outcome may, indeed, be more positive than if you succumb to pressure and give birth at the hospital.

My desire is for every woman and baby to experience a positive, healthy and empowering labor and delivery experience. Doing what’s best for you - regardless of what friends and family say - is the best way to achieve that.

And, afterwards, I’ll be here to take incredible newborn photographs that will capture the magic of your newfound transition on print, via artful poses, props and imagery. Contact me, Marcela Limon of Lemonshoots, to schedule your maternity or newborn photography session.

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Diapers are one of the true “knowns” of early parenting. While everything else may seem mysterious or constantly in flux - their sleep times, wake times, fuss times, feed times, needs - there’s one thing you can depend on: you’re going to go through a seemingly infinite number of diapers before s/he’s potty trained.

Not only that - the type of diapers your baby uses matters more than you think because the right type saves you in terms of increased absorbency, fewer changes and baby’s comfort (less rashes). That’s all underlying your conscience, since disposable diapers take their own toll on Mother Earth any way you cut it.

Want to really cut down on diapers? Check out Diaper-Free Parenting - successfully used by many to cut down on diapers or eliminate them altogether.

Diaper Brand Review & Considerations

Here are the most important factors to consider as you make your way through the *baby-poop-load* of diaper options available these days….

Reusable or disposable? OR compostable!

First and foremost, you’ll make choices between reusable or disposable. There are pros and cons to each, but I’ve found many of my clients who opt for re-usable or cloth-style diapers are actually double-dippers.

They prefer to use cloth diapers when at home, for routine errand running or when visiting family members with a laundry room. Then, they’ll sometimes use disposable diapers when out and about for longer stints, when babysitters or caregivers less familiar with cloth diapering practices are in charge, or when traveling or on vacation without access to washing machines.

Make room for compostable diaper options

I’m excited to tell you about the new wave of diapers that’s taking the newborn parenting world by storm - compostable diapers. Consciously made with an eye and heart attuned to our planet’s well-being, diaper companies such as Bay Area’s EarthBaby Compostable Diaper Service are making a name for themselves. (Full disclosure - I’m a huge fan of this eco-, mama- and baby-conscious local company, the quality of their products and their mission. You’ll see references to EarthBaby throughout this post. I’ve also included an interview with them to learn more about their products, services and interesting facts about the diaper world. Feel free to read it at the bottom of this post).

Here’s a useful chart you can use while reviewing eco-friendly diaper options:

Companies like EarthBaby have a simple mission - fabricate high-quality diapers with a minimal footprint, and keep them (and their associated wipes) out of landfills. Once you’ve decided whether you’re going to use reusable, compostable or disposable options (or a combination), it’s time to review other primary factors.

Affordability

Cost is a primary factor for many families. According to Investopedia, the average baby goes through about 2700 diapers during their first year of life - so it’s worth figuring out a diaper budget ahead of time or you may find diapers require a notable chunk of the monthly household budget.

Cloth diapers

For that reason, cloth/reusable diapers are the affordability favorite. The initial investment required for cloth/reusable diapers and their accessories may seem steep at first - but they diminish rapidly over the lifetime of the diaper. Detergent and water/utility costs are minimal for the successive months and years.

Cloth diaper products/accessories vary widely - one persons custom diaper bin is another’s repurposed 5-gallon paint bucket. Check out this Cloth Diaper 101 post from Parents.com to learn more about your options. A good foundational number for cloth/reusable diapers for a year-ish (newborn, infant and baby sizes) is about $700 (thesimpledollar.com).

Disposable diapers

By far, disposable diapers are the most expensive option. According to Consumer Reports, you’ll spend about $2500 for quality diapers (as little as $1500 if you use cheaper brands) during the first year.

Compostable diapers

Compostable diapers are available by the pack or case online, in some supermarkets and via diaper services, like EarthBaby. Be aware that “biodegradable” and “compostable” are not the same thing. The former is better for the landfill than the latter, but the latter is composted safely and completely, returning back to the earth in the form of commercial landscaping material and the like.

Like everything that is organic or compostable - compostable diapers cost more. For example: Eco by Naty compostable diapers are $1.46 each on Amazon - but are available considerably cheaper ($7.99 for a 25-pack, making them only $0.31/each) from EarthBaby as part of their subscription delivery/pick-up service).

Comfort, allergies and rashes

Your baby’s comfort and wellbeing are key. Read your prospective diaper packages carefully and you’ll be amazed at how many chemicals are included by diaper manufacturers to make diapers look good (colorful dyes for imaging and graphics), smell good (fragrance galore) and to increase absorbency.

Alas, these chemicals can be disastrous against a sensitive baby’s skin - particularly when combined with the agitating moisture, uric acid and fecal matter. Do your baby a huge favor and only consider diapers and wipes formulated for sensitive skin, because don’t they all have sensitive skin?

Absorbency matters

How much that diaper holds is increasingly important as babies grow, and absorbance varies dramatically between diaper brands. Even your baby’s body shape, proportions and level of movement affect which diapers work best when it comes to keeping waste products in - and your wee one’s parts dry.

You may find yourself spending a good few months experimenting with different brands and types of diapers as you figure out which ones work best for your baby and your routine. Many moms find they use one type by day and one by night.

Two great resources regarding absorbency are:

  • Babygearlab.com’s, The Best Overnight Diaper Reviews (disposable). Note here that the same brand of diaper used by EarthBaby Compostable Diaper Service is in the Top 5 on this list!

  • Fluff Love University’s, Overnight Diapering (reusable) post. In the reusable or cloth diaper world, absorbent fibers, crafty folding and adequate layering are the key.

Here’s to finding the best diaper brand for your budget, needs and baby. In the meantime, I’d love to photograph those sweet cheeks (either set!), so you have magazine-worthy images to treasure for a lifetime. Contact me, Marcela Limon, at Lemonshoots  (510) 747-9019, to schedule your newborn photo session.

And, don’t forget to Click Here if you’re interested in watching EarthBaby’s, video-based “Sustainable Diapering Class.

Learn More About Diapers Via This EarthBaby Q & A

What should you look for when choosing a diaper brand?

This is definitely a big personal choice. For our company and our customers we break it down in a few ways:

Health and safety for your babe
  • For our company we have chosen diapers with no dyes or perfumes or toxins (such as polypropylene, chlorine, or dioxins). The more simple and natural the better.

  • After 6 years we have gotten our warehousing system down. We check all of the expiration dates on diapers and only order as many as we believe we will use in the upcoming month. If you order diapers or buy them in stores this is not always the reality, so you should check the expiry date.

  • Parents might see things advertised like “12-hours of dryness protection.” Whichever diapers you choose you should still change your baby every 2-3 hours.

Health and safety for the planet.
  • We have chosen diapers that are compostable so that we can ensure that our diapers can be composted to usable dirt. However, when people buy compostable or biodegradable diapers and do not have a compostable diaper service, their diapers still end up in the landfill which do not ensure that they reach a temperature or environment to be composted. So, without actually composting them in a facility, they still do contribute to the landfill.

  • Some people like to use cloth diapers for sustainability. There was a British study done that shows if you use hot water, do not hang-dry, and do not put diapers in with other loads, the energy waste is comparable to waste of disposable diapers. So this can be a good option if you are able to line-dry, etc.

Overall Diaper Costs
  • We currently use Naty (Nature Baby Care) which is about $.31 per diaper. This is a pretty average price for the market. Bamboo is about .53 per diaper and Kirkland is about .21 center per diaper.

  • We also understand that some families have a really hard time covering family expenses and this is the main consideration for them. There are also amazing diaper donation services like “Help A Mother Out.” We donate our warehouse for this organization to store their diaper donations and consider this to be a human rights cause.

How can you know if your baby likes or dislikes the brand you chose?

Diapers and clothes can often be a challenge for babes, especially during changes. So babies generally will not ‘love’ any diaper, but the signs to look for are primarily of discomfort. Are there diaper rashes or irritations around their legs or on their belly or back?

Sometimes diaper rash has to do with yeast, food allergies or food intolerances, how long the diaper has been on, or other factors. But to rule out diapers there are a few things to try:

  • Try a different size, or if they are a newborn you can try folding down the top of the diaper for a more secure fit and to ensure that the diaper is not rubbing against the belly button cord.

  • Try a different brand especially if the ones you are using have dyes, perfumes, or chemicals.

  • If you are using cloth diapers, make sure you wash them thoroughly and use dye and perfume-free detergent (and shift up the detergent because some cause skin allergies).

  • If you are able to, let the baby be diaper-free as much as possible and look into things like “Elimination Communication” which limits time in diapers.

How can you know if you are using the right size?

This all depends on the brand of diaper, but generally diapers have a pretty good measurement system of weight for finding a good diaper size. If you have a lot of leaks or if it feels too tight/if the waist or leg bands are irritating it may be time to try sizes.

How do you prevent a rash?

If you have ruled out chemical/dye irritation, yeast/fungal infection/overgrowth, and if you change the diaper regularly and your babe still gets a rash you can try washing your babies bum with warm water and pat/air dry before putting on another diaper.

You can use a barrier like a diaper cream (especially at night if your babe sleeps longer than 2-3 hours). Give your baby as much diaper-free time as possible. Use clothing that is not too tight/restraining. Try diapers that use natural and dye-free products.

How many diapers can you expect to use per month as your baby grows?

You can go through about 275 diapers during newborn stage. Once you get to size 2, you start to use fewer as diaper changes become more regular. Babes can go through 1800 - 2200 diapers per year!

This seems like a lot of diapers! What happens with all this garbage?

We estimate that in a child’s lifetime they could fill a large dump truck with their diapers. Multiple that times the number of children being born per year is why diapers are the third largest contributor to the landfill for single-use items. Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated about 18 billion diapers are thrown into landfills every year.

It is challenging, too, because companies that offer compostable and biodegradable diapers do not state clearly that these too end up in the landfill and must be put into a composting facility in order to achieve the right temperature to decompose and eradicate pathogens. So these diapers go into the landfill as well because city composting does not accept diapers, and you should not put diapers into personal ‘backyard’ compost because it is not as efficiently monitored to ensure that the final product is pathogen-free.

There are also other environmental justice considerations. The more garbage there is, the more landfills need to be created. Landfills often are placed in rural or lower-income regions. There are considerations such as smell-factors and water runoff challenges. This is not just a consideration for future generations but our current landscape of social justice concerns.

Disposable vs Compostable vs Cloth diapers. Which one is good for your baby? Why is Compostable the best choice for both your family and the environment?

Here is a link to a blogpost we wrote that breaks this down, because there are many factors!

How does EarthBaby work?

Here is a video that helps break it down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v61ns3BMCU8

Basically, we deliver diapers (and other products such as diaper cream, wipes, etc.) and pick up the dirty diapers from your home every week. We take these diapers to a composting facility we contract with and in 14 weeks it is processed into usable soil for landscaping projects.

We charge $33.99 per month for the delivery, pickup, and composting fee plus whatever you would like delivered. You can start and cancel at anytime. Our customer service can easily pause for when you go away on vacation or if anything else comes up.

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Once you’ve given birth to your baby, your body’s work isn’t over. It simultaneously nourishes and cares for your infant, while also nourishing and taking care of you, so you benefit from a full recovery. This optimal level of healing  is only possible if you give yourself the time your body needs – and the care it requires – to heal fully from the inside-out.

In addition to this post, I recommend, What to Expect the First Few Weeks After Baby, which addresses some of the most immediate, postpartum experiences and discomforts.

You are the best judge of the “postpartum recovery timeline”

Six weeks is the magic “postpartum recovery” timeline for the majority of the healing that takes place after birth (that’s more like 10 to 12 weeks for women who’ve had a C-section).

It’s true that some women who experienced vaginal birth, without perineal tearing or an episiotomy, and whose labor/delivery went smoothly (more or less), will feel more like themselves after six weeks or so. However, that does not mean you’ll be feeling 100% at six weeks. You may not be ready to have sex with your partner (although you may) or to take up the busy schedule you so proudly upheld before baby arrived. First-time mothers often take longer to recover and adjust.

What I mean to say is that your postpartum healing may take a little (or quite a bit) longer than six weeks - and that’s okay. Be gentle and patient with yourself, and know that by prioritizing yourself and your baby – you’ll eventually heal just fine.

Eat well and prioritize rest

The same foundational tenets of healing in general - eating well (high-quality, nourishing food) and getting as much rest as you can - apply to the postpartum mother. Although, it might be more challenging for you to honor them…

Have plenty of meals on hand

The best way to eat well is to have plenty of meals on hand:

· Cook in bulk ahead of time and freeze meals and/or have friends/family do the same for you so you keep the freezer and fridge stocked with healthy, reheatable meals after the baby comes.

· Have friends sign up for Meal Train or a local meal service so you don’t have to worry about prepping and cooking for at least a few weeks, if not much longer.

· Enlist the services of a chef specializing in postpartum meals (such as my friend, Chef Laura Leff, who loves to pamper new mamas and their families with delicious and nourishing meals).

· Ask for gift certificates to your favorite (healthy) restaurants so you can order takeout when needed.

Get plenty of rest

Let’s face it; the way you think of sleep/rest before baby and after baby are two different planets.

While there are things you can do to help baby establish healthy sleep habits, I also think there are things you can do - or “shift” in terms of your perceptions – so you can rest more often:

· Don’t think in terms of night/day anymore. Think in terms of sleeping/waking time – and it doesn’t matter if you’re doing one when you used to do the other, as long as it all balances out.

· Cat nap when the baby sleeps.  Take advantage of others’ offers for help in terms of dishes, laundry and housekeeping so you aren’t pulled to do chores when the baby is napping – this should be your naptime, too!)

· Turn down the baby monitor. Babies fuss and make funny sounds all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re calling for your direct attention. Turning down the baby monitor can help you sleep in longer spurts– alerting you only if the baby is truly crying.

· Keep your baby close by when sleeping. The less you have to move and think in the middle of the night, the better in terms of getting back to sound sleep ASAP after feedings and diaper changes.

Prioritize breastfeeding, if possible

Breastfeeding isn’t just best for you baby, it’s best for you if you’re able to hang in there and push through the learning curve. In addition to giving you regular doses of oxytocin, when your baby nurses, it causes your uterus to contract and that helps establish uterine and abdominal tone. Nursing also burns tons of calories (between 300 and 600 per day!), so most breastfeeding women lose their pregnancy weight faster than they would if they bottle fed.

Having a hard time with the breastfeeding groove? Visit, 5 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms. Most of the new moms I work with say it took them at least three, if not six full weeks to really get the hang of breastfeeding and address any latching or other issues causing them pain, discomfort or frustration.

Enjoy a gentle, daily exercise routine

The same gentle, pregnancy-friendly exercises you enjoyed when you were pregnant are wonderful forms of movement when your doctor or midwife gives you the all clear for exercise.  I highly recommend focusing on stretches and exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor. In addition to rebuilding pelvic and abdominal tone, these exercises strengthen your pelvic floor – preventing urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Sure, doing kegel exercises correctly is a good start, but also try to integrate these 5 Yoga Poses, all of which work pelvic, abdominal and lower back muscles (the core) for more sustainable results.

Honor your instincts

This should be every woman’s mantra – whether she’s in postpartum recovery or not. You should never do anything your gut instincts say, “no, thank you!” to. That includes a visit from friends or family, keeping a long-awaited coffee date, going out of town for the weekend, cleaning the dishes, or whatever else it is you wanted or planned to do, but don’t want to do now.

Listening to your body – and your baby – decreases your stress level and reduced stress accelerates recovery.

I’m Marcela Limon and my passion (and business, Lemonshoots) revolves around taking amazing photographs of women who are pregnant and their newborn babies. I spend the majority of each day encouraging women to nourish themselves, honor their intuition and be gentle with themselves during this most precious and tender postpartum chapter of life.

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Did you know that postnatal nutrition is every bit as important to your health and wellbeing as prenatal nutrition? Your body has a big job to do as it heals from labor and delivery. Postpartum healing requires even more energy and attention if you had a traumatic birth, had a C-section and for mothers who are nursing.

Your body has gone through incredibly dramatic transitions over the past eight- to nine-months.

· Blood volume, that nearly doubled during pregnancy, returns to its normal levels.

· Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and relaxin (the hormone that supported ligament/joint flexibility for labor and delivery) drop dramatically.

· Your newborn infant’s need to eat, snuggle and be as close to you as possible means interrupted sleep, or difficulty taking care of your needs, which takes its toll over time.

Eating well during this critical healing time supports all of these transitions, lessening their overall effects on your state of mind, body and heart.

Eating Well Helps You (and your partner!) Be the Best Parents You Can Be

The busy life of a new mom can make it feel like meals are a thing of the past, and grab-and-go snacks are the only option. This may be true, but the key is to ensure the majority of the foods you consume are as healthy and nutritious as possible.

By doing so, you and your partner (yes! your partner needs to eat well, too since s/he is your first line of support) are as healthy, well-fed and as well-rested as possible. Not surprisingly, since our bodies are a holistic sum of their parts, eating well supports you in multiple ways, including increasing mental alertness, patience and energy stores.

What Does Eating Well For the Post-Partum Mom Mean?

In order to learn what “eating well” means for the post-partum mom, I interviewed my friend and well-respected Holistic Chef and Nutrition Educator, Laura Leff.  She is founder and owner of Chef Leff, specializing in preparing delicious and healthy meals for postpartum families in the Bay Area.

Transparent Note: I am happy to refer Laura’s wisdom and talents. Hiring her to prepare meals is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, your baby and your family, as you settle in to your new routine.

Here is what Chef Laura has to say about  what it means to eat well, specifically during the postpartum transition.

Eat as local, seasonal and as pesticide/chemical-free as possible

Not surprisingly, one of the best things you can do for your body is to eat foods that are grown and raised without pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics. This keeps those harmful ingredients out of your body – and away from your baby (especially if you’re nursing).  Going organic supports your household’s health and wellbeing for a lifetime.

Seasonal foods are at their peak nutrition

Not only do seasonal foods taste better, they are also at their peak nutritional levels. Once you get used to eating seasonally, you’ll look forward to your favorite fruits and veggies when they come back into season.

Support local farmers and purveyors of meat and dairy

Supporting local farmers via the “local produce” sections in your favorite grocery store, or (better yet) your nearest Farmer’s Market goes a long way towards building a healthier and more sustainable food system. There, you get to speak directly to the growers, and have the opportunity to sample and purchase heirloom or unique products you won’t find in stores.

Chef Laura’s Top Tips for Postpartum Nutrition and Wellness

Here are some of Chef Laura’s Top Tips for postpartum nutrition and wellness:

· Focus on eating soups, stews and warm meals. Your body is in a “cold” state as a result of the aforementioned drop in blood volume. Warm meals help it ride that transition with better balance.

· Seaweed is rich in micro-minerals your body needs after birth, like phosphorous, zinc, iodine, potassium, calcium iron and magnesium (magnesium helps to support relaxation and stress reduction, helpful for any family with a new baby in the house!). In addition to sushi rolls (veggie or with sustainably sourced fish), dry or soaked seaweeds are a great addition to soups or can be eaten like chips (salty kombu, yum!), sprinkled on salads. etc.

· Red meat is a wonderful source of iron, but make sure any meat you consume is grass fed or pasture raised for optimal Omega 3s.

· Smaller, cold-water fish is best (mackerel or sardines), but Click Here to read the APA’s recommendations for safe fish consumption.

· Focus on soups and stews. In addition to being warming, they store well, are easily reheated and pack a lot of nutritional punch in smaller, quicker servings when you’re pressed for time.

· If you are lactose intolerant (or baby seems to be cow-dairy sensitive) start trying different goat dairy products that are easier for humans to digest.

· Focus on anti-inflammatory spices (turmeric, ginger, cinnamon) and warming spices like cardamom and curry, that boost circulation and catalyze nutrient absorption.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated!

Keep water bottles handy anywhere you tend to hang out (nightstand, coffee or end table, kitchen island, in the car, etc.). Hydration is so important and nursing moms need to drink two-times more water than normal.

Plan Ahead: The Family Who Eats Together Bonds Together

While postpartum nutrition focuses on the mom, the partner and family are just as important. Just as you need to plan ahead for your birth, now’s a good time to do some planning for Life After Birth. Deciding how postpartum meals will happen ahead of time, you’re more likely to have plenty of easy-to-grab or heat meals and snacks on hand.

· Eating together offers a time to bond, talk about the day and be more present with one another

· The better nourished your partner and family members are, the better able they are to support you and the baby

· Cook and freeze as much as you can before the baby is born

· Take advantage of free, online services like Meal Train so friends and family can support you with healthy, nutritious meals based on your preferences. Gift certificates to favorite, healthy restaurants or meal services just like Chef Laura’s make wonderful baby shower gift ideas.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends and family – it’s their pleasure and honor to support you any way they can.

How Do Professional Postpartum Meal Services Work?

Chef Laura provides weekly meals that supplement your food intake. They help to nourish clients and allow them to focus on what’s most important – bonding with their new baby and settling in to a new family dynamic. There is a positive mental and emotional benefit to knowing you’re getting what you need to heal and be well.

1. Schedule a consultation to learn more about the service, and fill out an intake form for food preferences/sensitivities, etc.

2. Approve Chef Laura’s menu, after which she’ll do the shopping and come in to cook on the morning of the agreed upon day. Cooking typically requires about 4 hours, and she leaves the kitchen ship-shape when she’s finished. Afterward, you have a fridge/freezer loaded with labeled meals and sides (enough for three full meals and some extra) – along with any heating instructions/recommendations.

3. Enjoy these services for as little as one-month, or as long as six-months.

One of the things Chef Laura loves most about coming into her clients’ homes to cook is that she knows the smell of delicious food being prepared is healing all by itself, whetting new mothers’ appetites and preparing their body to be nourished.

Intrigued to try Laura's services? Book a one week trial and enjoy 20%off when you mention Lemonshoots' blogpost. She services cities within 25 miles of Richmond, CA, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Walnut Creek. You can learn more about her at https://chefleff.com/, or give her a call directly at 510-560-4073, or email her at laura@chefleff.com.

Chef Laura and her little girl

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Get someone else to plan the entire thing

First and foremost, it’s not going to feel like your day at all if guests are arriving at your home, or you’re the one hosting the party. Do your best, this time around, to get someone else to take over the planning duties, so you can truly relax and enjoy every single minute of a day that is wholly meant to honor YOU!

If that’s not an option, keep the festivities as simple as possible by hiring a caterer or having pre-made party platters and desserts from a favorite deli or baker. This makes the setting up – and clean up –easier for your helpers.

Honor yourself and your baby with a photo album or canvas

As a newborn photographer, I’m partial to this one. However, I trust the heartfelt testimonials of dozens upon dozens of clients who treasure their newborn photo albums and stunning wall canvases for years after they were purchased.

The idea that “someday” you’ll finally order those photos, or have a canvas printed, is wonderful in theory. However, life has a way of rushing ahead without allowing time to attend to that “to do” items that don’t affect day-to-day life.

If you missed the ideal window for a newborn photography session (one- to four-weeks-old), read, How Old is Too Old…” to plan for other, “optimal windows” for capturing stunning images. Then schedule your session with a professional photographer and tell yourself, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Don’t have the budget for professional newborn or baby photos? Read, DIY Baby Photography Tips for Pro-Quality Photos at Home.

Head outside into nature

We’re fortunate that Mother’s Day in the Bay Area typically yields gorgeous weather. Rather than opting for traditional, reservation-based lunches or brunches, I recommend heading outside with a picnic basket and blanket. In addition to enjoying some fresh air, sunshine and natural beauty, you won’t have to worry about a baby who is fussy or who needs to squirm, breastfeed repeatedly, crawl (or toddle) around.

When you’re outside, there’s no need to shush or contain; rather, you both get to be relaxed and at ease. Ironically, babies outside are typically much happier than babies who are cooped up indoors, so the simple act of spending a day outside works wonders for keeping babies engaged and occupied by the world around them.

Ask for gift certificates

Odds are you don’t need more things, or the things you do need are on the more specific side. Ask family, friends or co-workers to gift you with gift certificates, rather than gifts, so you can get exactly what you need.

From massage therapists and nail salons to professional photographers and baby boutiques, most service providers are happy to provide gift certificates in varying increments so recipients can tailor them to her wish list.

Pamper yourself…

…and don’t feel guilty if that means having a lovely “Happy Mother’s Day!” hug and kiss with your wee one before heading out for some much-needed, and much deserved, pampering time. Let’s face it, every day is Mother’s Day for your baby because you are the ultimate source of…pretty much everything for him/her right now.

It’s perfectly fine if the best way you can think of to celebrate your first Mother’s Day is to leave your sweet baby in the loving arms of your spouse, partner, grandma and grandpa, etc., so you can enjoy a day to yourself. Perhaps this means all day; maybe it means attending a function with family and then leaving to escape for a few hours. Alternatively, you might simply desire a long bubble bath with some tasty snacks, or you may prefer enjoying Mother’s Day with the baby but calendaring a nice chunk of time within the following few days to have some time to yourself.

Do the opposite of the norm

If you typically spend your days cooped up in the house, spread those wings and make plans in a baby-friendly spot that you can explore and enjoy together. If you work outside the home, or you’re always on the go, enjoy a staycation at home and delight in being present with your little one – even if it means skipping out on the extended family traditions this year.

My name is Marcela Limon and I’m the owner of Lemonshoots. I spend my life celebrating mothers-to-be and their newborn babies. I wish you and your family a wonderful first (or many-times-over) Mother’s Day, and I urge you to find just the right way to celebrate this special milestone in a way that fills you with joy. And make sure to document those happy moments too!

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You’ve spent so much time eating well, exercising and providing a healthy pregnancy for your developing baby. Now, as you approach your due date – or as you struggle to determine what is and isn’t healthy for you baby - it’s important to discern your parenting and household culture around screen time.

To support your efforts, I’m going to share recent, research-based findings, as well as top-notch resources you and your partner can use to determine your position on the topic. Feel free to share this post with others – especially immediate family, nannies, caregivers or others who may be tempted to use gadgets to occupy your precious baby’s time.

Just to be clear, those Skype or video sessions with grandma, grandpa and other loved ones that you enjoy are just fine. Here, I’m talking about using your phone or tablet as a source of entertainment or to “keep the baby/toddler/child occupied and quiet.”

Let’s start with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

In 2016, the AAP released its newest findings and opinions about babies and children in terms of screen time and media. Click Here to read more and/or hear from AAP experts.

Their opinion is that parents should prioritize physically engaged, person-to-person, creative playtime and bonding – and ditch screen time for babies/toddlers altogether - until at least 18-months, and preferably until two-years of age. After that, minimal “directed screen time,” (aka: parent-involved and supervised learning programs, in very short doses) may not have any negative effects.

Just to clarify, “passive screen time” means your baby/toddler/child/teen has individual control over the gadget, with minimal- to no supervision.

The short story is that screen time should be limited to:

·         Infancy to two years: Minimal to none.

·         2- to 5-years: No more than 1-hour per day of supervised, high-quality programs/apps.

·         6-years and up: Co-create appropriate and consistent time limits for age-appropriate games/channels/etc., ensuring it doesn’t take away from their daily needs for physical activity, time spent outdoors, adequate sleep, etc.

Read, Glow Kids, and/or Watch Interviews with author Dr. Karadaras

Dr. Karadaras is both a highly revered psychologist with degrees from Ivy League academia and a father. He grew wary about the increasing use of screens by both children and adults, and then he scoured the research. The nearly unanimous findings regarding the unhealthy side effects of screens and media overexposure on children alarmed him.

The result was an incredible book, full of research and relevant citations regarding the subject of children and screen time, titled, Glow Kids. I highly recommend reading it. Also, you can visit Dr. Karadaras’s website to watch/listen to some of his interviews.

Bookmark HealthyChildren.org

Right now, your focus is your newborn baby and doing all you can to raise him/her up healthy, happy and safe. Those birthdays will fly by all-to-fast, though, so I recommend bookmarking the HealthyChildren.org website, which has very balanced information on all of the usual – and not-so-usual – topics that will arise as you grow your family.
On this topic, I specifically recommend their posts,Where We Stand: Screen Time,  and,Why to Avoid TV for Infants & Toddlers.

Heed the Wise Recommendations of Common Sense Media

Again, that precious baby of yours is going to become a child before you know it. If you have more than one child, deciding who can spend how much time, watching what, becomes more complex.

That’s where Common Sense Media comes in handy. Their site keeps parents abreast of the latest research pertaining to screens and media. For example, here’s their link to Screen Time Parent Concerns, where you can explore screen time questions by age. However, one of the best services Common Sense Media offers are very balanced and reasonable recommendations as to the most appropriate age for a particular TV show, game or movie. This works wonders for helping parents establish a well-founded opinion on what their children can watch (or not!) and why.

Their site also provides instructions for things like setting parental controls on Netflix and other tools or tricks you might not have known are available otherwise.

Want to keep your baby and toddler entertained in a screen-free way? How about producing a mini-album full of pictures of him/herself, you, siblings, grandparents, pets and other favorite people, places and things. You’ll be amazed at how long that will keep them occupied. Babies and children love to look at pictures of themselves.

Interested in creating a professional album of your newborn? Contact me, Marcela Limon, owner of Lemonshoots. I love keeping infants and babies entertained – sans screens – using soft, comfortable and playful props mixed with lots of snuggling and cuddling. I look forward to scheduling your session.

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Before we get started, it’s important to note that almost all physicians, midwives and “baby experts” advise staying home until your newborn is at least two weeks old – and one-month-old is even better. Those first couple of weeks are a very tender time for both mama and baby, so the less stressful and chaotic they are, the better. However, for some, that may not be possible and all you can do is the best you can.

Should you find yourself traveling with a baby that’s pretty fresh out of the womb, the following tips will help the two of you enjoy a safer, healthier and less-stressful travel experience.

Research airports and airlines beforehand

If possible, start contacting airlines a few months out from when your baby is born to learn more about them and their newborn policies.

Some airlines won’t let you fly with a baby before s/he’s two-weeks old, others require babies to be more than one-month-old. Some airlines provide baby-friendly equipment (cushions, baby bassinets or skycots, etc.) and others don’t. Airline carriers may require you to pay for an additional seat and to have an FAA approved car seat at the ready. Almost all airlines require some type of medical release if you choose to travel with your infant before the one-month-old mark.

The last thing you need is to find out you can’t board the plane, or you don’t have what you need to keep your infant safe, in the event of excessive turbulence or an emergency landing, so it’s worth it to research important restrictions/guidelines ahead of time.

Plan for calm and peaceful nursing

If you’re planning to breastfeed, know that the first few weeks or so can be challenging for new mothers. Women who are sure they can breastfeed confidently in public may be surprised to find they’re shyer than they think, or that they need to be far more exposed in the beginning phases of nursing than the more demure, experienced nurser needs to - which can make public nursing uncomfortable.

For this reason, find out whether your airport has a nursing lounge and locate it ahead of time. Similarly, many moms find they prefer a window seat on their plane or train, which allows themselves and baby some space away from prying eyes. Then again, some new moms prefer the aisle seat, giving you freer access to walk around if the baby is fussy. In this case, and if the flight isn’t full, flight attendants will often help you keep the seat next to you vacant so you have more space.

If you didn’t receive – or want – a nursing apron from your baby wish list, you may want to tuck a lightweight sarong or similar wrap into your nursing bag just in case your baby needs a bit of a shield from the rest of the occupants to eat more contentedly.

Bonus tip: a soft, safe baby wrap such as the Boba or the Ergobaby, helps parents or caregivers move through airports and stations handsfree, with a safely snuggled baby and no cumbersome carrier to contend with. They also support a nursing-on-the-go approach.

Allow lots of extra time

You can probably double (at least) the amount of time you typically require to pack, prepare yourself, get to the airport, navigate the airport, etc. By giving yourself an ample time cushion, it’s easier to stop and park – or sit down – to nurse or tend to your baby anytime you both need it.

If you’re driving, increase your estimated driving time by at least 30%, if not more, to accommodate your baby’s (and your) need to nurse, feed and cuddle, not to mention changing.

Let your baby sleep

It’s true that take-offs and landings can cause ear pain, but most parents have found that waking a baby to force-feed him/her to avoid fussiness, causes the exact opposite. If your baby is sleeping peacefully upon take-off/landing, go ahead and let him/her sleep. Should your baby wake up and seem fussy, then you can offer the breast or bottle as a balm.

However, know that baby’s eardrums aren’t the only thing that can expand/contract with changes in cabin pressure; their intestines are also susceptible. For this reason, it’s best to focus on more frequent, smaller feedings – and good, thorough burping – to avoid stomach/g.i. upset.

Whether you’re planning to visit eager grandparents who can’t travel themselves, went into labor while on a trip and are ready to return home, or you simply have no choice but to travel with your newborn, these tips will prepare you for a safe and peaceful trip.

Interested in taking exquisite newborn photographs to take with you when you go? Contact me, Marcela Limon, owner of Lemonshoots. I’ll make sure you have beautiful images for framed photographs or stunning coffee table albums.

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Labor and delivery is a world unto itself; when you go there, the only thing that will seem to exist is you and your baby - especially as you transition into the final stages. Your birthing coach, your doctor or midwife and key supporters you’ve rallied for the cause will appear between “the veil” at times, but ultimately - you’ll be going through an incredible duet with your baby.

The final act, will be the arrival of your precious son or daughter in your baby’s tiniest form.

There are things you can do to prepare your body & mind for labor

I’m not talking about your birth plan here, although I highly recommend creating a birth plan, nor am I talking about your doula or birthing team (although they’re critical as well); I’m talking about the mental and physical things you can do to prepare your body for birth and the postpartum period.

Eat well & exercise regularly

Nutrition is for you and the baby - not just the baby. Keeping your body well-nourished and hydrated will keep your body as healthy as possible as you gear up for labor. Odds are your OB or midwife will provide all kinds of information along those lines, but the American Pregnancy Association's page on Diet During Pregnancy is another quality resource.

Exercise is also important. If this is your first labor/delivery - it will probably be on the longer side because you’re body has never done this before. After that, successive pregnancies tend to go quicker - although not always. That being said, “quick” in labor terms - from first contraction to pushing the baby out - is still a matter of hours, so you can see that pregnancy is not the time to let your strength and stamina decline.

Speak to your doctor about the best and safest pregnancy exercises for your medical and pregnancy history.

Practice labor-friendly exercises

These labor-friendly exercises are primarily based in the Yoga tradition. A prenatal yoga class provides great bang-for-your-buck, because you’ll improve strength and stamina while also learning important breathwork that can carry you through some of the more trying moments and contractions.

  • Child’s pose (balasana). Often used as a resting pose in yoga class, this posture lengthens the pelvic floor and eases discomfort. It can also be used during labor as a resting pose - and can feel especially good for those experiencing back labor.

  • Deep squat (malasana). This posture not only lengthens the pelvis region - it also works with gravity to help get the baby down-down-down the birth canal. Many women around the world actually give birth in this position so practicing it safely now can prepare you for when you need it.

  • Cat pose (marjaryasana) & Cow pose (bitilasana). These are great for easing lower back pain - something that increases the bigger your tummy - and the heavier your baby - gets.

Yoga Journal’s post, Pelvic Floor Sequence For Easier Labor & Delivery has additional poses that will support your pregnancy and labor - and that can also be used postpartum to re-strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

Take a childbirth education class

These classes are invaluable for providing the education part of labor and delivery. They cover everything from “what to expect” throughout your pregnancy as well as how your nutritional needs change from the first trimester to the third - but they also spend a tremendous amount of time teaching you all about what happens when you go into labor.

In addition to being helpful for you - the more you know, the more you can understand what’s happening to your body when it gets a mind of its own and starts going into labor - childbirth education classes are also helpful for your primary birthing coach/labor partner. S/he’ll learn all kinds of tidbits regarding positions, massage techniques, hydration and snack recommendations, the types of sounds you might make and the things you might say during transition and as you push, etc.

Your instructor will also provide you with ample information and resources for the postpartum days/weeks when you return with baby.

My name is Marcela Limon and I’m the owner of Lemonshoots. As a maternity and newborn photographer, I know first-hand how empowering the pregnancy and labor experience is for women when they have access to the information they need to feel confident in their body, their choices and the process. I hope these tips help you to experience a positive labor and delivery. And, of course, contact me anytime ((510) 747-9019) to schedule a newborn session so we can capture the essence of your newborn’s magic.

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You were prepared for the aches and pains of labor and delivery, you knew breastfeeding might be a challenge - but most new moms aren’t prepared for the other tolls a newborn baby can take on your body.

The turned-inward and hunched-over postures required to hold, soothe and nurse/feed a baby - combined with all the ways you “try not to move” in order to keep a sleeping baby sleeping - can result in ultra-sore neck, shoulder and back muscles.

Is new motherhood taking a toll on your neck, shoulder or back?

If you’re starting to feel inner-neck, shoulder and back muscles you never knew you had before, this blog post’s for you!

Seek support from a licensed, pregnancy/newborn chiropractor

A chiropractor can work wonders for the misalignment that takes place as a result of new mom body positions. Just as you’re better off looking for a maternity or newborn photographer, rather than just a photographer when you want great pictures of you and your newborn, seek consultation from licensed, Bay Area chiropractors who specialize in pregnancy and newborn chiropractic care. Dr. Allen Harrison from The Balanced Atlas is a great option.

That way, you know they’re well aware of exactly what you’re going through and your baby is more than welcome to come along! There’s a good chance your health insurance covers a certain number of chiropractic visits per year; if not, most offices offer reasonable rates for those without coverage.

Practice mindful “ergonomics” when feeding your baby

Odds are your baby feeds about once every 1.5 to 3 hours - and this will continue for the next few months or more. If you aren’t paying attention to how your body is positioned, you’ll add insult to injury. Read Ergonomics for Moms…, by Dr. Gia Fruscione. While it’s written for breastfeeding moms, it applies to any new mother, father or caregiver spending time in “hunched” or “curved” positions to accommodate feedings.

Simple body awareness can work wonders, keeping you from hunching forward or sliding into slouched positions that strain your neck, shoulder and upper-back muscles.

Stretch regularly throughout the day

Look to your newborn infant’s wisdom on this count. Have you ever noticed how regularly your wee one stretches his/her limbs - or arches his/her back - on a regular basis? That’s because s/he instinctively knows how important it is to stretch. You can follow suit.

There are several articles dedicated to gentle - but effective - stretches designed for the postpartum mom. In addition to supporting neck, shoulder and back muscles - the following links also offer stretches that will firm and strengthen core and pelvic floor muscles.

Here are three to get you started:

Remember: Always check with your doctor or midwife before attempting any new postpartum exercises or stretches.

Consider taking a Parent & Me yoga, Pilates Or exercise Class

Stretching and strengthening exercises are antidotes to new mommy aches and pains. If you have someone available to watch your baby while you get out of the house for a bit, that’s great - but not necessary.

There are plenty of studios that offer “Parent & Me” style exercise classes - allowing you to stretch and strengthen with baby in tow. And of course, you are always welcome to stop and feed, change or cuddle your baby as needed. There are also more intense classes - like Mommy Boot Camps - that provide physical outlets that relieve muscle tension and pain as well. Cara Grinels from Hot Mama Pilates is an excellent example of postpartum pilates done right and in the comfort of your own home.

Give yourself the gift of a massage

Massages are therapeutic in and of themselves, but the very act of taking time out to get a massage helps to bring a body-centered awareness that is often lost when a newborn arrives.

As with the chiropractor suggestion, seek massage therapists that have their niche in maternity and postpartum massage. These professionals are more sensitive to the specific discomforts of new motherhood and tailor their sessions accordingly. Some spas, like Glow Birth and Body in Oakland, cater specifically to pregnant and postpartum women.

If the coffers are a little low right now, let family and close friends know you’d prefer a mommy massage gift certificate - rather than a gift - for this year’s lineup of birthday and holidays!

It’s hard to pay attention to your body when your newborn demands so much attention, but I assure you that incorporating even a few of these tips into your daily routine will make a notable difference in how your postpartum body feels.

Are you interested in capturing your little one’s moments via unforgettable photographs before s/he moves too far out of the newborn stage? Contact me, Marcela Limon - (510) 747-9019. I’m the owner of Lemonshoots. I love to capture the priceless and fleeting magic of newborn-hood, and I promise our sessions together will provide plenty of time for you to stretch and move while we take excellent care of your baby.

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There’s no doubt that breastfeeding is the best option for both mother and baby. Click Here to learn more about that. I also want to emphasize that every mother deserves to make the best decisions for herself and her baby accordingly, so bottles and high-quality formula are just fine too.


If, however, you choose to embark on the breastfeeding route, it’s best to be prepared. As a newborn photographer, I spend hundreds of hours with mothers and their infants during the first weeks postpartum. I’ve seen everything from the dreamy, blissful mother-and-child breastfeeding scenes to mothers in tears because the breastfeeding thing isn’t going so well.

Over time, I’ve taken note of what works (lots of support!) - and what doesn’t (everyone’s contradictory two-cents!) - and would like to share the 5 tips I feel are the most helpful as you and baby find your breastfeeding groove.

1. Consider hiring a doula

If you’re on the fence about a doula but you know you want to breastfeed - hire a doula.

Doulas are there for you before, during and after your birth. In addition to helping you with all of the new things your first few weeks home with baby will bring, doulas are incredible breastfeeding supports. You may intentionally seek one who is also a certified doula breastfeeding specialist (DBS). You’ll have oncall breastfeeding support when you need it - and that can make all of the difference.

2. Attend La Leche meetings before the baby is born

The La Leche League (LLL) is an international organization designed to provide full-spectrum information, education, “technical” training and emotional support for breastfeeding mothers.

The Bay Area is fortunate to have active LLL groups all over the place. Click Here to find an LLL group in your area. Pregnant women are welcome to attend meetings so try to get to one or more if you can. In fact, the LLL encourages women to come to meetings before your baby is born to begin surrounding yourself with a supportive network.

This familiarity makes it easier and more comfortable for you to contact them if you need help or have questions when you start breastfeeding at home.

The La Leche League also publishes one of the best books ever written about breastfeeding, called, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It’s the only book you’ll ever need when it comes to information, advice, troubleshooting, etc.

3. Know what a good latch looks like

I had a friend whose baby was a champion nurser right from the start - latched on and happily guzzled milk every 1.5 hours. My friend, however, was in agony; her nipples were shredded and not healing well, and she wound up with mastitis. The problem: unbeknownst to her, the baby was latching on with the upper-lip flanged as it should be, but with the lower lip tucked under. The baby was happy as a clam, but the latch was not good for mama!

Know what a good latch looks like and your nipples will thank you. While a modicum of soreness or irritability is normal as nipples get into shape, breastfeeding isn’t supposed to be consistently painful or excruciating, nor should nipples bleed or blister. All of these are signs that adjustments are needed.

I like mamaelyfant.com’s, The Secret to a Good Latch, because the illustrations are detailed and very helpful.

Always break a “bad latch” and reposition baby for a good one. This way, baby doesn’t develop any bad habits. In my friend’s case, the simple act of gently popping her baby’s bottom lip over and outwards was the trick - and within one week of retraining a “good latch,” they rode off together into the breastfeeding sunset.

4. Try a range of different holds/positions

All around you are women - and images of women - breastfeeding their babies in the traditional “cradle position.” Once you get the hang of it, this will probably be your go-to hold, but you’ll also be surprised at all the creative positions your baby manages to find and attempt - especially as s/he gets older, stronger and more mobile.

Studying the various breastfeeding positions gives you options if the cradle position isn’t the best one for you and baby right from the get-go. Other positions include:

  • Laid-back breastfeeding (biological nurturing) - this is the one many babies find on their own directly after being born if they’re allowed to wriggle up mom’s body (a natural instinct called “the birth crawl”) for a baby-led attachment to the breast.

  • Cross-cradle position

  • Clutch or football position

  • Side-lying position

You can Click Here to read about positioning in detail, and to see pictures of each one.

5. Don’t wait to hire a lactation consultant if you need one

With the support of a good labor/delivery team, a doula (if you have one) and a partner/family/friends who honor our choice and do what they can to help - most women find their breastfeeding groove within three to five weeks. If, however, you’re stymied and frustrated beyond your ability to cope - contact a local, certified lactation consultant pronto (or have your partner or a good friend do it for you). Do this sooner, rather than later, to save you the trauma of hours or days (weeks!) of unnecessary angst.

To start, she’ll stay with you on the phone to help out (thank goodness for speaker phone), and then she’ll happily schedule her next available moment to come straight to your door. Together, your certified lactation consultant will help you identify the roadblocks in your breastfeeding journey - and then smooth them out so you can breastfeed with ease.

My name is Marcela Limon and I’m a Bay Area maternity and newborn photographer. I wish you and your newborn the very best of luck as you get to know one another and establish your breastfeeding rhythms.

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