We, as a society, are obsessed with infants’ sleep. So many of the first questions people ask after you welcome a little one into your home are focused on sleep.

“So how is the baby sleeping?”

“Are you getting any sleep?”

And my personal favorite, “Are they sleeping through the night?” 

It’s almost as though how well (or not) an infant sleeps is the gauge to measure the caliber or quality of the baby. 

“She’s giving us 5 hour spans of sleep. She’s such a good baby.”

While your friends, family, colleagues and oftentimes perfect strangers, are all well-meaning, it can be difficult to filter through the opinions, misconceptions, and outdated information. As childbirth & parenting educators, postpartum doulas, and Newborn Care Specialists, we always strive to stay on top of the most up to date and relevant information pertaining to newborn sleep safety, developmentally appropriate sleep habits, and the latest sleep related gear and gadgets. 

A quick walk down the infant gadgets aisle at Target may also lead you to believe that it costs hundreds of dollars to get a baby to sleep- 400 variations of swaddles, white noise machines, cribs, bassinets, dozens of types of crib/bassinet mattresses, projection machines, motion sensing video monitors, respiration and heart rate sensors, and intuitive bassinets. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released an updated version of their safe sleep guidelines earlier this summer. This information can be helpful to pass along to anyone who may play a part in your baby’s care. Much of this bulletin is clarification or reiteration of previously released information along with some updated recommendations. Here’s our recap. 

1. The ABC’s of safe sleep: Alone, on their Back, in a Crib (or bassinet).

Babies should always sleep in their own dedicated sleep space (a crib or bassinet specifically), not bedsharing with any other family members (no shared couch or chair sleeping either). This applies to multiples sharing a sleep surface as well. Placing a baby to sleep on their back can help to maintain baby’s airway. Notice how your little one tends to turn their head to the side frequently – this is to ensure they can breathe properly, as dipping their chin to chest can close off their airway. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for testing and monitoring of infant sleep related products like cribs, bassinets, play yards and bedside sleepers. The CPSC also maintains an extensive recall listing, so you can check their website to ensure the baby gear you are using, particularly if it has been handed down to you by friends or family, is safe for your baby.

2. Avoid routine sleep on less safe surfaces.

Car seats, swings, loungers, etc are not recommended for routine sleep, and should never be utilized for unsupervised sleep. One of the guidelines that we teach in our Baby 101 workshop is that if your baby gadget has straps, USE them EVERY time. These straps help to hold baby’s bottom in the appropriate seating position so they don’t scoot and compromise their airway. 

Another consideration is whether baby will be able to sufficiently turn their head to the side; swings, bouncer seats and pillow like devices like the Doc-a-tot or Boppy lounger can restrict head movement causing baby to rebreathe or inhibit the dissipation of CO2. If you are not able to keep an eye on your sleeping baby, it’s always best to move them to a safe sleep surface.

3. Sleep related items to use (and some to avoid).

Pacifier usage is shown to reduce SIDS risk. Swaddles should be used if desired, but only until your baby shows signs of rolling.

One of the most recent recommendations is to avoid the use of weighted swaddles (like the Nested Bean) or additional weighted objects (rice sock, etc). 

Also updated in this summer’s recommendation is that for healthy, full-term babies, at-home cardiorespiratory monitors (like the Owlet, Snuza, Nanit Complete, etc) are not recommended. These products may actually increase new parents’ anxiety levels by alarming unnecessarily and creating a false sense of security. 

If you’re attending our Baby 101: The 4th Trimester workshop or planning for in-home postpartum support or overnight newborn care, safe and developmentally appropriate newborn sleep is a topic we’ll prioritize.

As we approach the end of 2021, we wanted to reflect back. This year was definitely different from 2020, and we feel like we are getting into a new normal.

We are truly grateful for all of you: our clients, Baltimore area care providers, birth worker colleagues and our friends. Although the pandemic continues to place challenges on all of us, we have been able to help 57 families welcome 57 babies, hold 42 classes and welcome 4 new doulas to the Doulas of Baltimore team.

In the spring, we made the transition from 15 months of nearly exclusively virtual support to supporting families masked face to masked face! Since May, we have seen clients in their homes and in hospitals across Baltimore–while still offering virtual support and virtual  Childbirth Education Classes. December marked the return to in-person, group workshops at our beautiful studio in The Cedarcroft Center. And this coming spring (after flu season), we will resume in person classes with Baby 101, Birth Basics, and Comfort Measures for Labor. We imagine that we’ll always offer virtual classes from now on (they’ve been so popular with busy parents-to-be).

While doula support and group classes may have filled for this year, we are honoring 2021 pricing for all  contracts signed by December 31 for doula support or registrations for CBE workshops in 2022! Our 2022 classes are filling up quickly, so reach out now if you are interested in more information.

We wish you a continued happy holiday season and a wonderful new year.

-Debbie & Emily

 

Welcoming a new baby is a profound change in your life. The first of our mission at Doulas of Baltimore is to make sure that change isn’t stressful, overwhelming or full of uncertainty. The second part is serving our community. This Giving Tuesday, we wanted to highlight three local nonprofits that we love. They are doing this same work–making sure new parents are supported and have the resources they need.

The Family Tree

The Family Tree’s is for all children to be safe and supported, and is the leading authority in Maryland for the prevention of child abuse. In 1997, Parents Anonymous® of Maryland and the Child Abuse Prevention Center merge to form The Family Tree. They have served 300,000 families in Maryland. Their services include counseling and parenting classes, a 24/7 help line, community outreach, and policy and advocacy work. Our last in-person event in February 2020, Mead the Doulas with Charm City Meadworks, was a fundraiser for The Family Tree. 

 

Our Mead the Doulas event to benefit The Family Tree.

Every holiday season, they also offer a free holiday shop to parents. They are currently accepting donations until December 3rd of new, unwrapped toys and presents for children ages 0-18. You can learn more here. They also accept monetary donations any time of year, and have volunteer opportunities

ShareBaby

We all know how important diapers and essentials are when baby arrives. We also know that you go through a lot of diapers, and it can be a big expense. ShareBaby is a Baltimore nonprofit that provides diapers and essential items to new parents. They write that this helps “reduce stress, depression, and barriers to work for families,” and provides peace of mind for the families in need. In the past, we’ve done diaper drives for ShareBaby and plan to do more in the future. Together with their partners, they deliver 200,000 diapers a month to more than 15,000 children across Baltimore. 

This GivingTuesday, they are also collecting coats for babies and children, which can be purchased online and shipped to the warehouse or dropped off directly. You can find out more here. 

Rainbow Families

Rainbow Families is a DC-and Baltimore-area nonprofit that educates, connects, and supports LGBTQ+ families and parents-to-be. They offer virtual support programs for new parents, as well as families going through the processes of adoption or assisted conception. Their “Maybe Baby” course offers a chance for people to explore questions of parenthood and building a family. They also provide opportunities for parents to connect in the Washington, DC and Baltimore regions through events, a camp weekend, and get-togethers. We provide ongoing support to Rainbow Families and are part of their directory of service providers. 

We hope you consider supporting these nonprofits this Giving Tuesday. 

Babies cry. It’s one way they tell you they need food, warmth, or attention. But because we know a baby’s cries mean that it needs something, it can also cause us stress, concern, and frustration. Ultimately, too much crying makes us tired and frustrated. We want to explore some common reasons baby cry, baby soothing tools, and the basics of the 5 S’s. 

Common Reasons Baby Cry 

When babies cry, they are trying to tell us something. The most common cause of crying is because they are hungry. But, they might also cry due to overfeeding, a bloated belly, or gas. The next most common reasons babies cry is because they are tired. They might also be physically uncomfortable. If they have a dirty diaper, the poop can cause pain and burning. And if they have too much or not enough clothing, they may also cry. If you are concerned about your baby’s crying, consult your care provider.

The 5 S’s 

Dr. Harvey Karp writes that babies are, in a sense, really born 3 months early. The newborn nervous system is not fully developed and unequipped to manage the external stimulus of the world outside the womb. It helps to think of doing what you can to recreate a womb-like environment during baby’s “4th trimester.” The 5 S’s are for once baby’s biological needs are met; a means of reducing external stimulus which generally results in baby calming down and falling asleep. 

The 5 S’s are: Swaddle, Side-Stomach Position, Shush, Swing, and Suck. Swaddling helps babies through recreating a womb-like sensation and providing  and can help them fuss less and sleep better. While babies should only sleep on their backs, you can help calm baby by holding them in Side or Stomach position. A baby is surrounded by sound in the womb, and a white noise shushing sound can help calm crying. A womb is also swinging as a pregnant person moves around, and babies are used to this motion. Finally, many babies can find calm in sucking–hence the popularity of pacifiers and thumbs with babies. 

Baby Soothing Tools

There are also gadgets and tools that can help you with soothing techniques. In a recent post, we discussed the Snoo, which Dr. Karp developed as a smart bassinet to help with automatic calming through movement and noise. There are also other bassinets that offer movement as a way to soothe baby, and shushers that create the whooshing sounds baby was used to in the womb. A less high-tech way of employing one of the 5 S’s is through a pacifier (for sucking) or a swaddle cloth (just make sure you are swaddling your baby correctly). 

You can learn more about baby soothing and communication techniques at our Baby 101 class

At the very beginning of our Complete Childbirth Education classes in Baltimore, we ask you to fill in sentences about how you feel about birth. While “I am nervous about…” is definitely not the same for everyone, over the last year, COVID-19 has made expecting parents nervous. And it brings up lots of questions for new moms: What does coronavirus mean for a hospital stay? Could baby meet grandma and grandpa? Who will be able to help me after delivery? 

Although 2020 was totally unexpected, at Doulas of Baltimore, we’ve tried to keep the safe, nurturing, and smart perspective we’ve had serving you for the last 7 years. As things are slowly getting back to normal, we wanted to share how 4 lessons from our CBE classes helped us get through this past year. 

Need to Make a Decision? Use Your B.R.A.I.N.!

Use your B.R.A.I.N is a philosophy we use in class. When making a decision, think about benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, and what would happen if you did nothing. At the very beginning of the pandemic, we used this philosophy to think about what services we could safely offer to you all. While we’ve always known the benefits of comprehensive support, there were many risks involved in continuing in-person classes and doula support. Our intuition (and clients and friends who work in medicine) helped us make the call to move all of our support to an alternative – virtual classes and support – until it was safe to be in person again. 

Confidence and Support Help Get Us Through

Doulas are experts who provide steadfast and nonjudgemental support to you and your family during pregnancy, labor, and after baby arrives. While our classes continued with all of the regular topics, we also dealt with the most pressing issue: navigating the obstacles of COVID. What is the absolute need-to-know information? How can we help make this a less stressful situation in a very stressful climate? Like in all of our classes, we focused on evidence-based information and provided straight talk about birth and postpartum care in the pandemic. We also used that same evidence-based information to make decisions about how to run our business and what we could safely offer to clients. 

Take a Deep Breath 

Was that a contraction? A real contraction? Or just pre-labor? In our classes, we always go over the stages of labor  and how to tell the difference. Over this past year, each time a wave of infections started coming down and businesses started opening up, it was almost like Braxton Hicks contractions. They are stressful, because you are trying to figure out if they are real or not, but ultimately, they are not the real thing. 

When we went virtual, we wanted to wait until it was safe and realistic to provide in person support again, and we wanted to know the difference between pre-labor and real labor. The last thing we wanted to do was tell a client, “Yes, we can be with you in the hospital,” and then back out. Now, as vaccinations are available for everyone, case numbers remain low, and hospitals have permanently re-opened for professional doula support, we can offer in-person support again. 

Adapting is Key

If you’ve been in one of our classes or been pregnant, you know: labor takes many paths. And what you want to do is know the unexpected situations and what to do about them. No one knew what 2020 would bring us or when, and adapting to the ever-changing scenarios has become key to keeping our support going. We were able to bring classes to a virtual space, and some aspects of online meeting and learning are great (including no commutes on weeknights!). This is one reason we plan to continue to offer some classes online in the future. However, some things such as comfort measures, are hard to teach over Zoom. And, a big part of what we do is supporting you during and after birth, in person. So, we are adapting again. This fall, we will be offering a few classes in person in addition to our online Complete Childbirth Education class, and we have begun working one-on-one with families in person again for both birth doula support and in-home postpartum and newborn care

You can find out more about our classes here and contact us to find out more about in person doula support this summer and fall.