You Can’t Beat Mother Nature

I’m always excited to read about good hard science that reveals more about the awesome power of women’s and babies’ bodies. Check out this article about the hundreds of different bacterial microorganisms that have been identified in breast milk through DNA sequencing.

In addition to the further confirmation that a mother’s milk can’t be duplicated in its richness and complexity, this article also lends support for minimizing interventions in labour where possible:

The type of labour also affects the microbiome within the breast milk: that of mothers who underwent a planned caesarean is different and not as rich in microorganisms as that of mothers who had a vaginal birth. However, when the caesarean is unplanned (intrapartum), milk composition is very similar to that of mothers who have a vaginal birth.

These results suggest that the hormonal state of the mother at the time of labour also plays a role: “The lack of signals of physiological stress, as well as hormonal signals specific to labour, could influence the microbial composition and diversity of breast milk,” state the authors.

Our bodies truly are amazing.

Hey, where’s my village?

Recently I attended a doula meeting at Willow Books here in Toronto. The meeting was held to discuss postpartum mood disorders and Jessica Cherniak of Fourth Trimester was there to share her wisdom and stories from her thirteen-plus years as a birth and postpartum doula.

I learned a lot of valuable things at the meeting, like how peer support can make all the difference before you’re ready for group support or that most women who experience postpartum mood disorders are first diagnosed by their partners before they themselves even realize that something isn’t right.

The main thing that I came away thinking about though, was The Village. As in, “it takes a village to raise a child.” At first blush, it seems as though that classic phrase is telling us that children need many people – they need fathers and mothers, teachers and clerics, brothers and sisters, clowns and poets, aunts and uncles. This is true. The more diverse the array of positive influences in a child’s life, the more wise and tolerant and confident she will grow to be. No doubt.

After listening to what Jessica had to say, and sharing with the other doulas in the room though, I began to think about the other meaning of that phrase, that women are not meant to raise their babies in isolation, they need the village to shoulder some of the burden. Just as those babies can thrive when they are cared for and taught and played with and hugged by a variety of caring folk, so too do mothers need those folk in order to thrive. To thrive as mothers and as women. Continue reading