Sunday, December 27, 2009

Purpose of the areola

When my first child was born it was still common thought that you had to clean and cleanse and disinfect the nipple area so that the child doesn't get sick. But the nipple and areola (dark circular area around the nipple) have a very important function and doesn't need extra help to stay clean. If you over clean you can irritate the nipple so much that soreness and cracking can occur, to the extent of bleeding. During pregnancy, if the mother decides that she will breastfeed, it is a good idea to stop using soap around the areola and nipple area as to avoid drying out. You can also take a sun bath so as to stimulate the skin of the areola.

The aroela has a very important purpose. It helps to support the nipple and also contains Montgomery's glands which help to keep the nipple moisturized during breastfeeding. Within the areola, there are sebaceous glands, sweat glands and modified mammary glands (glands of Montgomery). These glands produce small elevations on the areola surface. The sebaceous glands enlarge during pregnancy and secretes oily material, which acts as a lubricant for the areola and nipple. The breasts are specialized organs, their primary function is to produce milk for nutrition of the infant and baby.

The special glands in the breast are called tuboalveolar glands, which are modified sweat glands. Each of these glands end in a lactiferous duct (2–4 mm in diameter) and opens up through a small hole onto the nipple. Deep to the areola, each duct has a dilated part called the lactiferous sinus, in which milk can accumulate and remain in the nursing mother. Cells which are important in contraction movements, called myoepithelial cells, are present in the gland and help in secreting fluids.

In most cases, a breast is usually slightly larger or smaller, higher or lower or of different shape to the other side. When fully developed, the female adult breast is composed of 15–20 lobes of branching glands. These lobes are separated by bands of connective tissue, which radiate out from the nipple. There is lots of fat tissue within the breast. The amount of fat determines the size of the breast. The fatty tissue gives the breast its soft consistency. This is why the size of a breast does not automatically suggest that a woman may or may not experience problems with producing enough milk. The stimulation from the babies suckling is what regulates the milk production.

This is why women who had a breast reduction wouldn't know before hand whether they would successfully be able to breast feed. You wouldn't know whether care and attention was taken to leave the ducts and glands carefully intact. Here is were patience and trial really takes the role.

The darker pigmentation of the areola also serves it's purpose. The colors range from slightly pink to darker. The pigmentation depends on your ethnic background. The darker coloring of the areola is the beckoning for the baby to know where he has to go. Right after the baby is born put baby on mommies tummy and don't cut the umbilical cord. Leave baby and you will see that baby will slowly try to make his way up mommies tummy and try to latch on all by himself. It may take a while but babies are programmed for survival. The areola lets baby know that the nipple is there and this is where he has to latch on to get milk. But the dark pigmentation also serves another purpose, the darker the skin color the less likely it is for soreness and cracking to develop with all the extra stress the nipple will experience. This is why the areola is darker in color to the rest of the breast.

It's a shame that in our modern times the breast is viewed solely as a sexual object/organ and not to the full potential of it's innate purpose: to breastfeed our infants and babies.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Labors best kept secret

While partaking in an open house/information evening from a midwifery practice from a friend of mine, I was inspired once again with something so interesting I had to dedicate weeks of my almost non existing free time to research.

She was explaining all what she had to offer and which types of experiences she had encountered in her years of practice. That's when she said the delightful words that drove me to inspiration: orgasmic birth! I have never before heard about such births being possible. Even as open minded as I thought I was, the concept was almost embarrassing. I imagined this "mother" lying in a hospital bed, having an orgasm in front of a bunch of strangers - and doctors, no less. Yet I was definitely intrigued. If conception feels good, why not childbirth? One of the expectant mothers that was there had asked how is that possible? Isn't birth "supposed" to be painful? Well this lead to a very informative discussion. I was determined to research and inform also!

It is very much possible to experience pleasure instead of pain during labor. As always it is how the event is prepared for and perceived by the expectant mother and her support system. The thing is that as children we are "programed" to expect pain during labor. It is all around us. In the movies the woman is rolled into the delivery room screaming, stories from moms who have experienced labor are also almost always goring with how painful it was. So we ourselves "expect" labor to be painful, but it doesn't have to be. It could be filled with pleasure and love.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" and "Mother-Daughter Wisdom," said orgasms during labor are caused by basic science. "When the baby's coming down the birth canal, remember, it's going through the exact same positions as something going in, the penis going into the vagina, to cause an orgasm," Northrup said. "And labor itself is associated with a huge hormonal change in the body, way more prolactin, way more oxytocin, way more beta-endorphins -- these are the molecules of ecstasy."

Northrup says that women's expectations can have a large effect on how pain is perceived.

"Whenever you expect pain, you tense up your muscles, your stress hormone levels go up and that increases pain," she told ABC news.

One mothers comment on her birth was: "I didn't feel pain, I was in bliss, because I felt safe, because I felt empowered."

Biologically, you are designed to receive great pleasure from your body not only during lovemaking and intercourse, but in birth and breastfeeding, too....Birth offers sexual pleasure on a continuum from pleasant sensations to an intense birth climax as your baby slithers into the world of your waiting arms. -From A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer

On the hormonal level we know which hormones kick start labor and we know which also give us the height of orgasm. It's just that these two seemingly different events are supported by the same hormone. It causes the uterus to contract in both instances.

I'm not saying that every woman who is trying to achieve natural child birth should try for an orgasmic birth. That would be an unrealistic expectation on my behalf. I am just intrigued that there are those women who can achieve it. That there are other options out there for us to experience. That labor and delivery doesn't have to be painful. It can bring husband/boyfriend and wife/girlfriend together on a whole new level. That pleasure is achievable in every corner and crevice of our lives. If only we let it come to us and embrace all that life shows us it has to offer.

Monday, November 30, 2009

As a newly wed couple we had to adjust to being on a budget. Finances were not always easy. I had given up my job as an assistant nurse and my husband who was a prison guard was working 16 hour shifts and most off days. He did this just for me. Just so that I could stay home and take care of my pregnant self.

Truthfully sometimes it was quiet a challenge. I was facing pregnancy and childbirth virtually alone. So I had a conversation one morning with my husband and we agreed to give breast feeding a try. Little did we know then.

I was inspired to breast feed after a family member had her baby and had breast fed exclusively. I was already about six months pregnant and didn't bother to "research" about the benefits of breast milk, I did in contrary research about latching on and breast engorgement. I was very selective about what I would read.

So when our daughter was born we devoted to breast feeding because of the almost non-existing costs. And thankfully our little girl took to the breast like a pro!

It was till much later when she was almost two months old was when I had attended my first mother support group. It was here that I started to understand how important breast feeding really is to an infant/toddler. I then realized that I would breast feed until she was ready to leave it behind.

And so I got pregnant again just after her first birthday. She breast fed all through out my pregnancy and up until her baby brother was six months old. It was wonderful. I would never have imagined that I would make the decision to breast feed.

I used to even make muffins and pancakes with my milk just to avoid using cow's milk. I decided that they would have breast milk as long as I was producing it. After my son weaned himself just after his first birthday my doctor, with good intentions, offered me a pill to "dry up my milk". I declined. I knew that nature would take care of itself. So I still had breast milk when my son turned three.

I then found out that I was pregnant, yet again. We were not planning for more children but knew that we would breast feed. I always say "we" because along the way my husband has become a breast feeding enthusiast along with me. So here we are to the present.

Our baby is now three months old. And it is now that scientists are finding out why the saying "the breast is best" is true to the word. And just how precious each drop is to baby's development. And just how it helps and supports baby's immune system.

It is also now that I too understand the priceless benefit of my first naive decision to breast feed.
The research being done has already stated that breast milk has stem cells. Here is the news feed that explains all the research being done and what has so far been discovered about the hidden benefits of breast milk.

"More you, less Moo" the benefits are priceless and life long

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Insipre me

When my first child was born it was easy. Easy in the sense that I just carried her every where, she was always with me in my arms. I used my arms and just carried her. And then I had the "fashionable" Baby Bjorn carrier and used it a lot. That is until she hit the 15 pound mark. That's when the shoulder and back pain started. It was unbearable. I am already large chested and had the added weight of milk. And then a heavy baby strapped to my body, I was in very much pain.

I did what I thought was good for my baby and breastfed on demand and co-slept due to necessity. As she grew and started to walk I still sometimes would carry her around. She was quit a chubby baby and weighed about 25 pounds at one year. I then found out that I was expecting our second child. I decided to do the same as with my daughter.

When my son was born I still carried my daughter around from time to time. And had my son at all times in my arms with me. I told myself this is why I have two arms: one for each. He was much lighter than she ever was so I was able to carry him with less pain. I didn't use the Baby Bjorn carrier this time though, I gave it gladly to a friend.

So we had two kids growing healthy and happy. We were just fine with where our life was. Then I started feeling sick. Feeling like I was getting food poisoning. It was just after the Christmas season and for some reason I thought I had bad Christmas turkey or something. My husband just casually suggested one day that I should take a pregnancy test. Did not see the need but agreed to do it anyway. Imagine my shock when it came out positive!

So there I was, test in hand, panicking. The first thing I thought was what will happen when I go shopping or something like that. I only have two hands. How am I going to be able to hold my baby and hold my kids hands to cross the street safely? They are still babies in my eyes, after all they are only 6 and 4 years old. I still need to hold them. Where and how am I going to get an extra hand?

So I searched the internet. I had no concept of how much baby carriers there was out there. I just knew that I would never use the Baby Bjorn ever again.

Then when my third child (second son) was about six weeks old we had the Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge '09. And it was here I got my inspiration! I was amazed. I met this girl and she used this pretty print fabric and slung her 1+ year old daughter on her hip and was using both hands to organize things! I remember seeing this style baby sling on the internet but didn't feel that it was safe. Well I saw and I believed. I was inspired! And she wasn't the only mom there with one. I then took a good look around and saw more moms using the sling.

I had the opportunity to talk to her and ask her about this sling. She helped me and allowed me to try at different occasions different style slings. She had a pouch sling and a Maya ring sling. I love it! And more important my baby loves it! And I could have him close "in my arms" and still take care of my first two. The need and want to be able to have him with me and still have my hands free for my childrens needs was all the motivation that led me to become a "baby wearing mama".

written by:
Angilea Angela-Geerman

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First pregnancy and birth

We just returned from our honeymoon. We had discussed to wait to have kids. We already had a history together, after all we had dated for just over six years before we decided to get married. We wanted to spend time together as a married couple before "looking" for kids. But we did not use any method of birth control or better said we didn't get the opportunity to. We found out the month after our honeymoon that I was pregnant. Already just about seven weeks along.

This was the best news we could ever get in our life. Morning sickness was the worst experience for me. I got sick by just moving my head. Nothing helped. And it did not go away easily. I was sightly already overweight so I researched all I could not to gain too much weight. I ended up gaining just about 15 lbs total from start to end. In the first 5 months I actually lost weight, a total of just 7 lbs! All was due to the morning sickness in the first months. So I gained the 7 lbs back and an additional 8 for the 15 total.

Well my due date came and went. And each additional day that went by seemed like an eternity. I started to feel anxious and worry if I would ever go into labor. The wait was unbearable. I even had my membranes stripped. So when they suggested to me that maybe they would induce labor I felt relieved. I wish I knew what I know now then.

I arrived as planned 6:30 am at the hospital the day of the induction. The ob/gyn admitted me and the prostaglandin gel was inserted. And so began the wait. After about an hour I finally felt the first of many contractions. I felt finally relieved to feel the contractions. It was a sour sweet moment. I knew that it would be hard and long.

And so I labored ans the contractions grew steadily closer together and stronger. And I labored but could not get comfortable. The hospital was not the ideal place for me. I am a petite woman and so everything was either too high or too low for me to lean on. And oh how I wanted to lean against something. My husband is a very tall man and so I was not comfortable with him either. I was feeling panicky and at a lost. I just wanted to shut everything out and lean! But the nurses were in and out of the room checking my progress and good meaning family members were also in and out of the room. It was driving me crazy.

After many hours of labor and trying to maintain my sanity the doctor came to asses me. I started praying for me to have at least some progress. Anything valuable so that I wouldn't need a c-section. And then I saw the doctors face and my heart sank. I knew it, I just knew it. I was just barely 3 cm dilated. I was only still at the starting line. I started thinking "Lord help me get the strength to make it through the next 7 cm still to go!" That's when I heard the words I didn't want to hear in my life time: if when I come back to see her by 9 pm and there is no progress I will do a c-section. That is when I really panicked and became very serious.

I labored with an avenge! I walked all around the room, I squatted and changed position and tried everything I could remember seeing and/or reading about. But still the panic wouldn't leave me. For some reason the thought wouldn't go away.

Then came the hour of truth. At this point I was kind of already begging for some pain relief. I was panicking and that was making it more painful. my husband was trying all his best to try and stay calm through all of this. He was nervous, very nervous of something going wrong and losing me. The doctor checked my progress and conformed that I had not dilated much beyond 3 cm. Well my sentence was served. C-section it was then. Couldn't turn back, no hopes. Induction, who came with this crazy idea? Why had I done it? Why couldn't or wouldn't I wait? I couldn't remember anymore at this point.

So I was prepped and rolled away to the OR. And there I was sitting on the edge of the operating table wondering how did it come to this. And then I was helped to lie on the table and so the surgery started. I had a reaction from the spinal and started to feel very sick. I felt like I couldn't breath and I wanted to throw up. It was the most horrific sensation I have ever felt. All I wanted at that point was for my husband to be there to hold my hand. But due to the policy of the hospital he was not allowed into the OR with me.

And then all my discomfort left my body: I heard that precious first cry. It was amazing! It was a girl. I was a mom. It definitely wasn't the birth I wanted but I was now officially a mom.

The c-section route is not one that I wanted to go down again, but did happen two more times after. Both for different reasons. Now my advice is if you really want natural birth do try by all means to achieve it. I did. I did try to VBA2C (vaginal birth after 2 cesarean), which is very hard to do here where I live. But again was condemned as "failure to progress" and ended up with my most recent c-section. And at this point I'm not sure if I would be able to try next time (if it came) to VBAMC (vaginal birth after multiple cesarean).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

First days home

The hospital birth has become the norm of modern marvels. Just decades ago this was not the case. Home births were attended to by midwives. Due to the fact that obstetrics has improved so greatly over the years mothers now find themselves willing to forgo midwives and let themselves be attended to by an ob/gyn.

Just in recent years there is a change that is growing. More and more women are making the choice to be attended to by a midwife at their birth. They also now are more educated on home births. But still some women find themselves unable to make the choice whether to birth at home or in hospital.

The women that find themselves birthing in hospital can sometimes fall into a "trust" feeling. They are more at ease knowing that if anything arises that they feel they can't handle they just need to press the buzzer and a nurse will be along to help. This act thou can sometimes inhibit the empowerment a new mom can feel, especially with young moms.

When you finally can take baby home you feel at a lost. There is no buzzer to press now and no one will come running to help. Only if you have a family member that will be there 24/7 would you feel assured.
Thou it is not every young mom or mom in general that could experience this feeling.

The first days after your babies birth are precious. And the calmer you are and stay the calmer and easier your baby will be. You shouldn't be afraid to hold your baby, you can not spoil your baby by showing him/her that you love him/her. The first days are very important because the bonding takes place, not only for mommy but also for daddy. This could inevitably set the tone on how your baby learns to respond to the world around him/her.

To help your baby bonding go smoothly you can cuddle with baby bare to your skin, take a relaxing shower together, co-sleep or share a family bed and wear your baby. All of these things will help with the bonding process and more. You will be so in-tuned to your baby that you would be able to tell what s/he needs even before a sound is made. You would evidently have a very quite and secure baby.

written by: Angie Angela-Geerman

Saturday, October 31, 2009


As a breastfeeding mom you at some point realize that your baby has somehow slept through the night. This usually happens somewhere between 6 weeks to 9 months of age. Sometimes for some babies and mommies this doesn't take place till after the first year of age.

In my blissful experience the first time my daughter slept through the night she was exactly six weeks old. Well when I woke at the sounds of her being hungry and realized that she had slept straight for 6 hours it was sour sweet. I had a good nights rest but was so engorged that she had difficulty latching on. I at that exact moment made a promise to myself that I would never again experience the pain and fullness of engorgement.

I did not own a pump as yet and called my husband to ask if he could come home early so we could shop for one. Well to my surprise when he reached home with pump in hand! He was proud of himself. He told me that this was the top of the line and very highly recommended. He had bought me my first Avent Isis. I learned that night that it was not as easy as just putting a baby to your breast. It takes practice and patience to learn to use a breast pump. It took me almost a week before I started seeing results.

I continued to wake up every day for the next seven months at 3 am to pump. I did this sacrifice of sleep for my own selfishness. I did not want to feel engorged. But this act did help me to store precious breast milk for further uses. I was always able to feed my baby directly so did not need to pump.

I later found out that by doing this I had helped to keep my menstrual cycle at bay. When a baby sucks (or you express your breast milk either by hand or with a pump) the hormone prolactin is released. This is the hormone that stimulates the production of milk. You feel this as the "let down reflex". This hormone is also important in inhibiting ovulation. You can have ovulation with out the bleeding associated with the menstrual cycle. In nature prolactin is the "natural birth control". This is why my son is almost two years younger than my daughter and my baby boy is 4 years younger than my son.

I made the choice to pump at the skipped feeding at night. It is every moms choice if they would do the same or let there milk adjust accordingly.

Friday, October 30, 2009

First beginning

As a mother of now three wonderful kids I have had my share of downfalls and excitement.
My daughter is now 6 years, my son 4 years and my baby boy 2 months. As parents we find sometimes that we don't make the right decisions or choose the right guidelines. But just as our babies are learning about their world, we too learn how to be parents.

In this day and age it is hard to learn from seeing your mother or aunts "mother" unless you come from a large family and had little siblings or cousins to guide you into knowledge. We are of an age when couples decide to invest into their careers first and family second. Many women and men have never held a newborn before their own, so we all have little experience when it comes to babies. Moms are now giving birth at more advanced ages compared to say just decades ago. Next to this we also have more teens or young women becoming moms them selves. World wide these are factors for all sorts of complications. This does not entail that you would develop complications or does it mean that your baby would be unhealthy. Nowadays the prenatal care is soo wonderfully advanced that these mommies experience a wonderfully uneventful pregnancy.

Also the choices of where, when and how you would want to give birth is most likely always available. As also if you would see an ob/gyn or use a midwife and/or doula. Just as c-sections have become "fashion" so has hiring a woman to support your every need during labor. This is how far along we "feel" we have come. But just centuries ago babies were delivered solely by midwives and they were supported during labor by the women in the family or in the town.

All of these are the choices and challenges we face even before we meet that little bundle of joy. So you see you are taking part in "parenting" even before your baby is born. What ever each mother decides she would like to do is her choice and of course there is never a wrong choice when it comes to your baby. You already have an instinct of what is right for you and your baby.