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How to minimize your stress level during the holidays

The holiday season can be wonderful.  A time to celebrate, get together, do joyful things (mainly eat)…  A stranger said “Happy Holidays” to me on the street and that was enough to keep me cheerful for the rest of the day.

But it is also true that the holidays create such a stressful time for a lot of us.   With something like 80% of North American families considered “dysfunctional,” most of us have had a fair share of family drama and trauma.  Therapists say that November – January is the most lucrative time for their businesses because of people being anxious and stressed out during this season.

So what do we do?  How can we cope with things that seem so out of our control?

As a holistic practitioner and therapist, here are my recommendations for minimizing your stress levels during the holiday season, and really, anytime at all:

1) Make a priority list.

Everyday, in the morning, start your day out with a few minutes of writing everything down in order of importance.  This is not just a to-do list, but a guide to maximize your productivity and minimize your inefficiency.

Write out everything that needs to get done that day, then get another piece of paper and order them.  Number one should be the one that is the most important item to get done, and on goes the list.  Be realistic about what you can get done.  I would say, start with 5-10 items on the list, depending on your needs and lifestyle, and then once you run out of things to do (wouldn’t that be awesome!?), make a new one.

For example, my list today looked like this:

1. Take Pacifica (our chihuahua mix) on a long walk

2. Stretch for 5 minutes

3. Ship out orders

4. Call vendors

5. Design work for client A – send out email

6. Update mamagoddess.ca and mamagoddess.com resources section

7. Meeting with doula client

8. Meeting with potential business partner

9. Send out holiday cards

10. Write blog post about how to have a stress-free holiday season

11. Update discount codes

12. Beef, broccoli and rice noodles for dinner

13. Phone consultation with client B

Now, I shouldn’t have to write that I need to take my dog on a walk, but sometimes if I’m not conscious and orders and phone calls are coming in and I have to do this and that, I end up not taking her out because she’s a tiny apartment dog.  She actually goes everywhere with me when I’m running around so she definitely doesn’t have to deal with being left alone at the house all day, but it should be my priority, just like if I were a mother, it would be my priority to feed and play with my baby.  So today, I felt the need to write it down, especially because I had some long meetings during which I wouldn’t be able to get the other stuff done.

I also shouldn’t have had to write that I need to stretch for 5 minutes – I should be able to find 5 minutes to stretch without a reminder, right?  But again, it’s something that I am trying to make a habit, so I wanted to write it down until it’s effortlessly embedded into my daily routine.  By the way, it’s an excellent 5-minute sequence called Makkoho (a Japanese meridian exercise method), so I recommend it to anyone who wants more flexibility and energy to give this a try.  It takes no time and it’s fun to do with your little ones, too 🙂 (Oh, if only we could be as flexible as our babies!!)  Don’t overdo it, because that would actually be counterproductive and make you more tense.  I couldn’t find a lot of good sites in English, so I’ll put a link to this one from the Zen Center of Denver.   I’m going to start teaching this method combined with other exercises, so maybe I’ll make a video sometime!

Once you have your list, use it as a guide – again, don’t overextend yourself, make it realistic, so that you don’t feel like you’ve failed at the end of the day.

2) Don’t check your email throughout the day.

This is hard to do especially in this age of smartphones – but seriously, set specific times during the day to check and respond to email.  Do this for phone calls, too.  Think about how inefficient we all are when we have to “take a break” from whatever we’re doing because we’re incessantly checking our email and answering phone calls.  Again, this is where knowing what your priorities are helps.

Focus on one thing at a time.

3) Collaborate and cooperate.

Don’t try and do everything on your own.  Involve everyone: your children, your partner, your family members and friends to help.  This is a great challenge for us motherly people, who are so accustomed to taking things on, even if we’re already overloaded.  Don’t do an activity or cook a dish that’s time-consuming just because you did it last year, if thinking about it makes you stressed out.

4) Don’t take anything personally.

This is a hard one!  We are so used to it.  We are so used to internalizing external expectations, criticisms, judgments and comments that come to us.  It’s hard to not take it personally when an in-law or a mean relative makes a negative remark about you or your actions.  But whatever they say is completely their problem.  Even if they call you names directly to your face, that is their problem.  Because if a person is truly happy and healthy inside, they wouldn’t have to act that way and project their negative feelings to you.  This can be a lifelong challenge for a lot of us, but it really helps lessen the burden on our hearts.  A book that has helped me personally is The Four Agreements (and the entire series) by Don Miguel Ruiz, a Toltec spiritual teacher.  Highly recommended.

5) Make sure you are physically strong and healthy.

Listen to your body.  If you are really tired, that means your body is telling you to rest.  If you feel like you’re coming down with something, don’t push it.  Take time for yourself.  Laugh and do breathing exercises with your children.  Involving them in relaxation activities can be a great way to relax yourself at the same time.  Maybe creating a time for family yoga or stretching time can turn into an activity your children can look forward to during the day.

Make sure you’re hydrated.  Dehydration is one of the often overlooked causes of many diseases, especially over a long period of time.  We don’t even notice that we’re dehydrated sometimes.  And don’t forget to breathe deeply – even when you’re rushing through an aisle at the grocery store with your toddler picking out random products and baby nursing in the cart and a million people are bumping into you, take a moment to breathe deeply and exhale everything out.  Seriously, it takes a second, and it energizes your whole body and brain.

This is all easier said than done, but once we can make the conscious choice to take care of ourselves a habit, it becomes that much easier to take care of all of our loved ones.  Family relationships can get very intense because it’s hard to establish boundaries between family members, but it is also a strong belief of mine that whether a family member brings in positive or negative energy into our lives, it’s still a blessing: either way, you can be grateful that they’ve taught you a lesson to be truly stronger at your core.  With that said, give yourself permission to release and let go when you need to.

I wish everyone a peaceful holiday season, no matter what your situation is.  You are a beautiful individual and you don’t have to blame yourself for anything.  You don’t have to feel guilty for anything.  You don’t have to sacrifice yourself for anybody.

You are you, and that’s a job nobody else can do, and you’re doing (being) it with perfection!

Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share your personal experiences and wisdom here.  We always love hearing from you.

Journeying Through Pregnancy and Birth

Recently featured on our newsletter for the Mama Health section, “Journeying through Pregnancy and Birth” is a powerful, gentle, and beautifully prepared birth & pregnancy CD that will help you relax deeply and create space for a sacred and peaceful pregnancy and birth.

Jennifer Houston has been a midwife for over twenty years, and is a mother and grandmother. She’s a certified Hypnotherapist and an experienced Neuro-Linguistic Programmer. She is aware of the interaction between body and mind, and the power of language. The desire to support natural birth and her witnessing to thousands of births, inspired her to create this new CD that we recently added to our collection of must-haves for pregnancy and birth.

“I want to undo negative cultural messages, help women reconceptualize their experience, gain strength, wisdom and peace of mind.”

Relaxation Advice from Jenna  (some excerpts & messages from the CD)
1) You are your best caretaker.  One of the greatest gifts pregnancy can offer is connecting and nurturing yourself through relaxation.
2) Lie down or sit in any way that is best for your body to relax.
3) Focus on your breath.  Place a hand below your ribcage and notice your belly rising and falling.  Watch your breath deepen with each inhalation and exhalation.  Exhale tension and all unnecessary things, letting go of anything you don’t need.  Inhale oxygen, relaxation, everything you need.
4) Scan your body.  Start from your face and head and work all the way down through all the parts of your body, releasing tension.
5) Connect with Mother Earth.  The way your body and your baby is created is exactly like how Earth is made.  Trust in the natural process.
6) Connect with your baby alive and moving within you.  Feel your baby feeling you – your beating heart, your breath, your love and care.  Imagine what it must feel like to be carried in the safe and cradling womb.

7) Connect with your partner if you have one, connect with your female allies and ancestors, visualizing and feeling their presence around you and their connection to you.
8) Reconnect with your body and your presence in the room by noticing your body touching your bed or couch, starting to move slowly.

—–

1000’s of women have used this CD in the past 11 years since Jenna first made this CD, with glowing reviews:

“With my busy schedule, this tape enabled me to spend time relaxing and nurturing my intention for a natural birth.” K.H., Mother

“This tape is an invaluable tool to help create the change in consciousness that supports a healthy pregnancy and birth.  I recommend it to all of the pregnant women I work with, especially useful for women with hypertension and postdates.” Larry Perl, MD OB/GYN
“In our homebirth practice, we gift every client with the ‘Journeying Through Pregnancy’ tape.” – Connie Coker & Martha Roth, Midwives

“After 25 years of attending births, and the growing fear in dominant culture around birth….I wanted to reframe fear and help women reclaim their power in birth through trust in nature and their bodies.”

Pro-Tips For Buying High-Quality Clothes

Shopping for clothes needs more than an eye that knows how to spot the latest trends in the world. In as much as it is an exciting experience, always be keen to ensure that the quality is as good as the design. You do not need to buy a cloth that will not last. Therefore, here is how you will know the quality of cloth.

  1. The Fabric Used

This is the easiest way that you can know a quality garment. It just needs a keen eye. If you cannot identify some kinds of fabric using your eyes, you can easily check the label of the cloth where all the information is indicated. The most preferred qualities are cotton, silk, linen, and wool. However, there are much more synthetic fabrics springing up like polyester, rayon, spandex, and more. In as much as they may have some impressive qualities, they will fail at some point and especially after a few washes.

  1. Give It A Touch

Your hands can lead you in determining quality as well. Feel the fabric and judge whether it is rough, thin, and brittle. If this is how it feels, then you may consider dropping it. However, if it feels smooth, soft, and dense, then you can give it a check. Even so, heaviness does not signify high-quality fabric can have yarns that are tightly knit or woven and be thin. This will still be a long lasting cloth.

  1. The Quality Of Cotton

Some garments are made from high-quality cotton and those that are made from low-quality cotton. Those from high-quality cotton have longer fibers. They are tightly bound together and perfectly spun to give it durability, softness, and even breathability. To note the kind of cotton used and to be sure that they are long fiber cotton, there are three types of cotton from different origins that are impeccable when it comes to their fiber length. These are Egyptian cotton, Pima, and Sea-Island. Check out for these labels on the garment.

  1. Hold The Garment Up To The Light

This is the easiest way to check for the density of the fabric. In as much as the garment may be thin, it should not be transparent. When the light passes through it, then the garment will not last as long as you may want it to. As you do this, also check for the pattern of the threads. A perfect and quality garment should have threads that are of the same pattern with no gaps between them nor spaces. The pattern for the threads should be regular.

  1. Check The Seams

By looking at the seams both from the inner side and the outer side, you will be able to judge the quality of a garment. A garment with a seam that does not look professional and it is not neat communicates a poorly stitched cloth. It may be susceptible to tearing while wearing.  Also, watch out for loose seams that may be problematic in the future.

There are a lot of factors that you can check out for, but these will be the key areas to start from. By examining all these, you will be able to purchase high-quality garments like a pro.

I Honor You: Celebrating International Women’s Day.

Today, the world is celebrating women, as International Women’s Day enters its second centennial cycle.

At Mama Goddess, we celebrate women every single day.  It is not a difficult task, as we connect with our birthing mamas, doulas, and midwives, make our tea and products with prayers for safe and peaceful births, ship out birth kits that are essential to the welcoming of a new life… Everyday is a celebration of women, of mothers, of the Goddesses within.

However, on a day like today, when women everywhere are gathering, focused intention and energy is created, and that can be felt with increased intensity in the air, even if you are not directly involved in any particular event.  This is a wonderful opportunity to create a ritual honoring yourself as a woman, and honoring all of the women (as well as the men who love and support the women if you like), around you.

We have a mind-mapping exercise that we recommend for doing this. Please use the sample as a guide.

On a giant piece of paper, draw a big circle in the middle and write your name in the center of the circle.  Around this circle, write down all the things that make you a phenomenal woman (the orange bubbles).  These can be adjectives, all the amazing things you can do, your accomplishments, etc.

Next, draw a second layer of bubbles (connect them from your circle) to write down all the names of the women who inspire you in your life (the purple bubbles).  From family members to friends and inspiring figures, write all of them down in individual circles.

Then write down a description of each of them in the most positive light (the outer orange bubbles), and what makes them important to you.  If any description of them overlap with your own, you can connect their names to the first layer as well.  This makes you understand what aspects of yourself you share with these other women.

Decorate this and color code as you desire ~ it’s such a beautiful way to remind yourself of your own amazing characteristics, as well as those of other women, and the connection you have with them.

Knowing that you deserve the best in all aspects of life is the first step in changing your world.  Knowing that all the other women in the world do too is as important.  Change happens from within, so with each of us recognizing our virtues and letting go of what no longer serves us, we are paving the way to elevate the consciousness of all women and men around the world.

We are all here right now for a reason.  What is your reason?  What is worth preserving for the next generation?  Because honoring yourself is honoring all women, and honoring all women is honoring humankind (even though our patriarchal language has eliminated the feminine out of this word…!), and the survival of this planet.

We urge you to look within, because everything is already within you.  Look within, then connect to others.  If all of our inner wisdom can come out and shine onto the world – that’s when we’ll see real change.  Because women are physically, emotionally and spiritually capable of giving birth, we are some of the most powerful catalysts for change, especially positive change, for Mother Earth.  To honor ourselves, and to honor the femininity in all beings -male or female – is the act of honoring life itself.

So tell yourself and the women you love today these three simple words: “I honor you.”

We Go Together Like… Breastfeeding and Co-Sleeping

“100 years of rapidly changing infant-care fashions cannot alter several million years of evolutionarily derived infant physiology”

̴ Dr. Helen Ball

Sleep and feeding have become some of the most discussed and disseminated topics in parenting today.  How much sleep are you getting?  Do you use formula or just the breast?  When should a child sleep through the night?  Do you pump?  Does dad feed the little one at all?  Do you room-share, bedshare, or put the little one alone in his room?  What about sex?   There is an endless array of questions and judgments and ‘should’s associated with both infant sleep and feeding.  But this hasn’t always been the case.  It used to be a simple matter of mother breastfeeding and mother and infant sleeping together with no judgment and no questions about quality or quantity of sleep.  For this reason, breastfeeding and co-sleeping are huge parts of evolutionary parenting; they facilitate the bond between mother and infant via skin-to-skin contact[1], co-sleeping works to keep baby’s temperature and breathing regulated[2][3] and it seems to provide parents and baby with better sleep[4], while breastfeeding offers vital immune protection to infants necessary for survival[5].

For most mothers in contemporary Western societies, breastfeeding and infant sleeping arrangements are two distinct parenting practices with little or no relation to one another.  To talk about one is not to talk about the other.  Biologically, however, the two are inextricably intertwined.  For much of human history, hunter-gatherer societies dominated and in this domain, women were as central to the survival of the clan as men.  There were no maternity leaves, but the work done by women was of the less-dangerous gatherer type, meaning they were able to do their work with children and infants in tow.  But with this came the necessity for women to sleep well as a woman who is sleep-deprived does not serve anyone well in any capacity (it is truly strange that we have adopted the modern view that sleep deprivation is a “normal” state of affairs with a newborn).  As for the infant, without any alternatives, they required their mother’s breastmilk to survive, much less thrive.  And thus we reach the point at which breastfeeding and co-sleeping collide – in order to breastfeed continuously without immense sleep interruption mothers must co-sleep; and on the flipside, co-sleeping allows mothers to breastfeed more often providing more nutrition for a developing infant.  Biologically, our bodies have evolved to both breastfeed and co-sleep and each seems to have helped facilitate the other.  So how did this separation occur and what does it mean for infant well-being and parenting practices in Western societies?

There seem to be distinct reasons for the reduction in breastfeeding and co-sleeping in Western societies, yet they obviously affect each other.  With respect to breastfeeding, we see the rise of the industrial society, which sent women to work, and science with all its might creating formula which was believed to be superior to breastmilk by doctors for quite some time (for a full summary of this, see Why Is Saving Babies’ Lives Not Enough?).  These two factors alone had a huge impact on reducing breastfeeding rates in Western societies.  This reduction of breastfeeding meant that sleeping arrangements were also free to change, but in addition there was an even greater impetus for change –the belief in fostering independence.

The juxtaposition of a baby’s dependence/interconnectedness and independence/autonomy has dictated parenting practices around the world, though not always in the same manner.  For example, in America the newborn is viewed as entirely dependent upon its mother, yet the desired end-goal is for that baby to be an independent and autonomous individual.  Thus our practices are geared towards that end-goal; we put babies alone in their own room, we don’t touch them very often, and we’ve even removed the dependence on mom for breastfeeding through the use of formula.  In contrast, the Japanese view the newborn as an autonomous, independent being who must be held, breastfed, and touched regularly (co-sleeping is the norm there) in order to build the feelings of interconnectedness they value[6].  Similarly, research from New Zealand has found that cultural groups that share the Western independence view rarely sleep with their infants, while Pacific cultural groups demonstrate lots of sleep contact because they believe that interconnectedness is the way to foster a child’s development[7].  So while there are myriad factors why any one individual would choose to co-sleep or not, or breastfeed or not, culturally this notion of independence has played a very large role in shaping our collective views on the issue.

The problem for Western cultures is that the Western assumptions of what fosters independence seem to be, well, wrong.  Research has demonstrated that the Eastern interconnectedness model fosters independence and well-being to a much greater degree than simply forcing children to try and be independent.  One such example is the case of the Sami and Norwegian children.  Sami individuals are more likely to co-sleep with their children and their children were found to be more independent and demand less attention from their parents than Norwegian children who typically sleep alone[8].  (For a full summary of the link between independence and co-sleeping, see Co-Sleeping: Fostering Independence.)  Interestingly, thanks to a push to increase breastfeeding rates in Norway, co-sleeping has also become a more common sleeping arrangement[9] and children are reaping the benefits.  Similar relationships have also been found in Sweden where breastfed infants were much more likely to sleep with their parents than formula-fed infants[10].

I have mentioned some of the logistical reasons for breastfeeding and co-sleeping to go together, but is there more than that?  After all, if it’s a matter of pure logistics, wouldn’t it simply be a matter of whatever works to separate the two?  Turns out there are a couple of rather important effects that each practice has on the other and we’ll start with the effects of co-sleeping on breastfeeding.  As previously mentioned, co-sleeping is greater amongst breastfeeding mothers[11], and while increasing breastfeeding has increased co-sleeping rates[9][10], the fact it that co-sleeping actually facilitatesmore breastfeeding.  If you compare mothers who breastfeed, those who co-sleep breastfeed up to twice as much at night over those who do not co-sleep[12].

Why is this important?  Dr. Helen Ball has done research on the effects of sleep location on breastfeeding and come to some rather interesting (though expected) conclusions.  Namely, co-sleeping right from the start reduces the chances of having breastfeeding problems.  Specifically, Dr. Ball looked at sleep locations for new mothers and their infants and randomly assigned women to one of three location types – either those that facilitated mother-infant access (i.e., bed-sharing or putting the infant in a three-sided crib that was attached the parent bed, much like an official Co-Sleeper) or those that did not (i.e., a standalone bassinette next to the mother’s bed).  Mother-infant dyads who had sleeping arrangements that facilitated mother-infant access showed greater successful suckling than those who were in the standalone bassinette group[13].  Upon follow-up with these same mothers, it was found that these effects of early co-sleeping continued at 16 weeks, with twice as many mothers in the unhindered access groups both breastfeeding and exclusively breastfeeding[14].  Note that this doesn’t even cover women who may have their newborns in a separate room from themselves as all three groups were at the very least room-sharing, but it was the bed-sharing (or three-sided crib) that facilitated breastfeeding.  Why does this happen?  As previously mentioned, infants who co-sleep tend to feed (or at least suckle) for twice the amount of time as non-co-sleeping infants[11].  Stimulation of the nipple is necessary for the production of prolactin, the hormone that allows for milk secretion, and thus the reduction in suckling or nursing can lead to deleterious effects on milk production or the maintenance of a mother’s milk supply[15].  In short, by getting your baby into bed with you right away, you reduce the chances of having supply issues when breastfeeding.

Now, what of the effects of breastfeeding on co-sleeping?  First you must remember that the biggest argument against co-sleeping is to do with infant deaths.  Many people argue that co-sleeping increases the risk of death via suffocation or SIDS.  While there is no direct evidence that breastfeeding causes a reduction in SIDS for co-sleeping babies, there is ample circumstantial evidence to suggest this is the case.  Most prominently, cross-cultural data shows that cultures in which co-sleeping and breastfeeding are the norm have substantially lower SIDS rates than cultures in which they are not the norm[16][17][18].  For example, Japan has long been considered the pinnacle of success with respect to SIDS deaths as their rates are generally half of other industrialized nations and co-sleeping is also the norm there (see Bedsharing and SIDS: The Whole Truth for a full review of their practices and SIDS rates).  It is possible that breastfeeding has nothing to do with their lower SIDS rates, except that we know breastfed babies are at a much lower risk for SIDS more generally[19][20][21][22][23].  Breastfeeding in and of itself reduces the risk of SIDS; in a meta-analysis on the relationship between breastfeeding and SIDS, it was found that while any breastfeeding more than halves the risk of SIDS, exclusive breastfeeding has an ever greater effect[24].  Furthermore, duration and intensity of breastfeeding have also been found to relate to SIDS levels, with greater duration and intensity leading to a lower risk of SIDS[3].  If you recall, it has also been found that co-sleeping babies breastfeed up to twice as long as non-co-sleeping babies.  It is therefore reasonable to assume that the extra breastfeeding during co-sleeping serves as added protection against SIDS.

An additional hypothesis for how breastfeeding may reduce the risk of SIDS for co-sleeping infants comes from Dr. James McKenna who has posited that the arousals from breastfeeding keep the infant from falling into a deeper sleep which may lead to a “failure to rouse” [25].  This “failure to rouse” has been discussed as a potential mechanism behind SIDS – infants reach too deep a level of sleep and they are simply incapable of coming out of it, kind of like entering a coma.  Breastfeeding thus increases the number of infant arousals (though not full wakings) and this is greater during co-sleeping and is especially true for breastfeeding dyads not only because of mom’s movements, but because of the frequency of feedings.

Another way in which breastfeeding may help reduce the risk of SIDS (and did for many years) is by the position in which the infant sleeps.  Breastfeeding infants are less likely to sleep prone because it doesn’t facilitate breastfeeding as easily; in order for an infant to breastfeed, he or she needs to be on his or her back or side.  An infant in the prone position simply cannot reach or latch onto the breast (unless the prone position is on mom).  This also helps reduce the chances of infants suffocating, as a baby in the prone position who cannot roll over is at greater risk for suffocation.

Indeed, breastfeeding also seems to be related to practices that reduce the risk for suffocation.  Research has found that maternal-infant behaviour in bed is different amongst breastfeeding mothers than formula-fed infants[26] with certain behaviours, like facing the infant and having the infant lie at chest level, being much more prominent in breastfeeding dyads.  Dr. Helen Ball has done this work and while some of these behaviours may seem trivial, they can be imperative for keeping an infant safe.  For example, a child who lies at chest level (as opposed to head level, which is what Dr. Ball found to be more common in formula-fed infants who co-slept) is less likely to be surrounded by pillows which are considered dangers for suffocation.  They are also less likely to be too close to a headboard which is a known hazard as babies have fallen between the headboard and mattress and suffocated.

I would also like to add my own hypothesis here.  There is evidence that bonding is generally greater for breastfeeding dyads – the reason being that there seems to be more eye contact between mom and baby during a breastfeeding session than a bottle-feeding session[27].  I believe that the bonding that occurs during daytime feedings serve to heighten mom’s awareness of and about her baby, leading her to be intuitively safer at night.  That is, a mother who has bonded with her child is more aware of her child’s presence at any given point and I believe this extends to when we are sleeping (barring the use of any illicit substances).  Of course, research needs to be done to test this – it’s just educated speculation at this point, but I struggle with the idea that all this bonding doesn’t extend its effects into the evening hours.

Hopefully the link between breastfeeding and co-sleeping is now clear.  The benefits they offer each other are neither superfluous nor easily available by other means.  In changing our parenting practices, we have developed other problems.  Western countries have alarmingly high rates of breastfeeding problems and much higher rates of infant mortality(notably SIDS) than other countries who have similar medical advancements but also breastfeed and co-sleep on a regular basis.  Interestingly, we also have a high rate of sleeplessness by new mothers– so much so that we joke about never sleeping again when people have a new baby – and our children have unusually strong attachments to objects for sleep (e.g., security blankets, stuffed animals).  Neither of these are universal.  In fact, research has shown that breastfeeding mothers who co-sleep get more sleep than both bottle-feeding mothers and mothers who breastfeed, but do not co-sleep[28].  Additionally, children who are solitary sleepers show a greater need and use for security objects and sleep aids[29].  So not only do our sleep and feeding practices have significant consequences (i.e., breastfeeding troubles and infant death), we see smaller consequences in the majority of new moms and their children.  Isn’t it time we recognized not only the benefits of co-sleeping and breastfeeding, but the symbiotic nature of the two?

Did you co-sleep?  Breastfeed?  Did you experience any of the deficits/benefits associated with your particular feeding and sleeping style?

—————

Tracy Cassels is a loving mother and wife, PhD candidate of Developmental Psychology at UBC, and the creator and writer of Evolutionary Parenting, a highly informative, research-based website on parenting: “parenting that focuses on using the tools evolution has provided for us to raise happy, healthy, moral, empathic, and intelligent children.” 

Article used by permission from http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/?p=280

Is there a link between bras and breast cancer?

Guest Post by Karen Atkins, http://www.restoremethod.com/

I’ve been working with so many women with breast cancer these days, that I just had to discuss this very important topic which I became aware of when I was struggling with painful and cystic breasts about 10 years ago.

My Story

Body issues were a big thing with my mom. Especially weight and breast size.
Her mother wore a size double D cup bra and used to say to my mother before she developed breasts that she hated small breasted women. So what do you think happened?

Yup! You guessed it, when my mother developed breasts, they were on the small side! hmmm. Perhaps not the most enlightened parenting strategy on my grandmother’s part.  It certainly made my mother feel bad and the only thing that prevented her from getting breasts implants was that breast cancer ran in the family, so she was too afraid.

Well my mom saw what her mother did and tried to make sure that my sister and I didn’t get the same message, so she waited until we were older and only made small comments like “when I die (the implication was that it was going to be from breast cancer-just like her mother), your father is going to get re-married to a busty blond.”

Just a little “lift”

Then she put me in the category with her, because my sister ended up with breasts almost my grandmother’s size and mine were more like my mom’s. So her way of trying to make me feel better was through commradery; “We’re in this together, Karen. But, you can do something about it. Just wear a nice bra and put a little padding in it, to give you a little ‘lift’.”

The Pain Begins

So, after years of push back, at a certain point, I caved in. My mother took me shopping and I started wearing padded underwire bras. After about a year, I started getting very bad breast pain and felt a number of cyst-like nodules on my breasts. It was very scary. I made an appointment with a gynecologist and she suggested that I get a mammogram. So I did. That is also an experience that I decided not to repeat. I felt as if I had made matters worse. The results from the mammogram were that there was no cancer, but I had a lot of cysts and should come back soon for another mammogram to check it out.

The link between bras, cysts, and breast cancer

I decided to do my own research, sought out other solutions and stopped wearing a bra. After a short time without wearing a bra, the pain and the cysts went away. A year later, I took my first BodyTalk class and learned a whole bunch of eye-opening information about the correlation between bras, cysts, and breast cancer.

Here’s a summary of what I discovered:

  • Research suggests that wearing a bra greatly increases your risk of developing breast cancer
  • A ground breaking study of 5000 women, by Singer and Grismaijer, revealed that 3 out of 4 women who wear a bra developed breast cancer, compared to only one out of 168 women who rarely or never wore a bra.
    Women who wear a bra 24 hours a day are 125 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who don’t wear a bra at all. Women who wear a bra even 12 hours a day are 113 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who wear their bra less than 12 hours a day. Singer and Girsmajier published the results of this study in more depth in their book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, a book all women should read.
  • Wearing a bra causes a slight increase in the temperature of breast tissue and the levels of the hormone prolactin. Both of which may contribute to breast cancer.
  • Singer and Grismaijer also found that 90% of women who have fibrocystic breast disease find relief by not wearing a bra. Restriction caused by bra-wearing impedes lymph flow in the breast areas and causes lymph fluid to create to lumps, cysts and fibrous tissue.
  • Wearing a bra has been found to decrease the production of melatonin and increases the basal temperature of the body. Melatonin regulates sleep and affects aging, immune function and slows the growth of breast cancer and other cancers.
  • The correlation between breast cancer and bras is 4 times higher than the correlation between smoking and lung cancer.
  • Wearing a bra while breastfeeding can cause breast engorgement and sore breasts.
  • In cultures where bra wearing is rare, so is breast cancer.
  • Bra wearing restricts the circulatory system from distributing vital nutrients.

 

Do Your Research

You may be thinking, who is this crazy person telling me not to wear a bra!? Well, first of all, let’s be clear, I’m not telling you not to wear a bra, but simply suggesting that if you haven’t done any research on the matter, you may want to consider it, and also consider what kind of bra you wear, if you choose to wear one. (And guys, if you’re still reading, this information is important for you to know, too. The women in your life will appreciate you being educated about this.)

Bras with underwire have been found to be significantly more dangerous than bras without (see links below for details) and also bras made from synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester also restrict energy flow.

What other experts say about bras

Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, writes “Stop wearing an underwire bra.” Too often this kind of bra cuts off circulation of both blood and lymph fluid around the breast, chest wall, and surrounding tissue. She goes on to say how important it is to “learn about your breasts” “Understand your breasts’ anatomy… Gently massage your breasts at least once per month, making sure to sweep your hands up into your armpits (where the lymph nodes from the breasts drain). You might consult with a massage therapist for help in learning how to do this.”

Dr. Jesse Hanley, M.D., in her book: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause, encourages her patients not to wear underwire bras or even tight bras, except for special occasions because they block the lymph glands under the arms, around the breast and chest wall. “Lymph glands play an important role in draining toxins from the breast.”

In an article on bras and breast cancer, Dr. Ralph Reed says, “Just for an interesting experiment, the next time you walk down the street, notice visually how constricting bras are. On many women you can actually see “dents” around the sides of their chests where there bras are, even in something as opaque as a black t-shirt.

A physical therapist friend of mine, after reading Dressed to Kill, said that she was amazed at what she saw in her practice at a local medical clinic. She noticed how many women have red creases and grooves on their bodies caused by their bras. Singer and Grismaijer also suggest that you simply stop wearing one for two weeks and see how you feel.”

Here’s a few other links to check out on the subject:

Why Wear Bras
http://www.007b.com/why_wear_bras.php

Bras and Breast Cancer
http://www.007b.com/bras_breast_cancer.php

Fibrocystic Disease and Bras
http://www.all-natural.com/fibrocys.html

Nina L. Diamond in her book Purify Your Body: Natural Remedies for Detoxing from 50 Everyday Situations recommends:

  • If you’re going to wear a bra, wear the correct bra size. Make sure it’s not too tight.
  • Never sleep with a bra on.
  • Go braless as often as possible.
  • Wear a bra less than 12 hours daily.
  • Do self massage of the lymph glands under each arm, next to your breasts, at least a few times a week.

So, I’m not saying that you have to go and burn your bra (although you would definitely have my support if you did), but at the very least, it’s worth reading some of the above material and looking into some options for healthier breast support.

Please feel free to share your own stories or resources here, as well. :)

Karen Atkins is a Certified Wudang Qi Gong Instructor, Advanced Certified BodyTalk Instructor, Award-Winning Songwriter, Photographer, Licensed Massage Therapist and Powerful Visionary.  She is an expert on natural health and women’s well being, and a huge supporter of natural pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

Find out more about her work at http://www.restoremethod.com/

How To Buy A Dress Online That Fits Perfectly

Online shopping has become a very addictive practice in our generation. Credit this to like being able to access all kinds of fashionable and trending designs from across the world.  However, your worst nightmare can be buying a non-fitting dress. This is how you can avoid your worst nightmare.

Know Your Body Shape

Body shapes range from an hourglass, an apple shape, and a rectangle shape to a strawberry shape, and a pear. A dress that is perfect for an hourglass shape will fit well on an apple shape. Therefore, the shape will play a great role when purchasing a dress online. If your body shape is not easy to dress, and especially Apple shaped bodies, consider visiting a physical store.

Know Your Measurements

You cannot afford to purchase a dress online without having your exact measurements. Also, do not use measurements that you took by yourself. They will be faulty. Always go to a professional tailor or ask your friend to take the measurements for you.  Measure your bust, your waist, your hips, shoulders, sleeve length, and the neck size among others. Every time you want to purchase a dress and time has passed since your last purchase, always take new measurements.

Make Sure That You Go Through The Sizing Charts

When you have selected your retailer, you should look at the sizing chart and compare the measurements with your body measurement. When you find the perfect measurements combination, you are free to make your purchase.

Know Your Retailer

Every retailer will cater for certain demographics. This means that you will have to research and know the retailer that sells the dresses that are your body type. Whether a plus size woman or a petite, find the appropriate retailer and stick to them. When you stick to a certain retailer, you do not risk purchasing a wrong dress because what they offer is consistent with your body type and your style to say the least.

Do Not Buy All Kinds Of Dresses Online

Dresses come in different styles and designs. Some dresses can be very risky to purchase online in as much as you may have all the right measurements. For example, a pencil skirt or a pencil dress should be something that you try on before purchasing.  On the other hand, silhouettes are safer choices and easy to adjust in case it does not fit perfectly.

Try A ‘Made-To-Order’ Store

There are stores that will make custom dresses for you, and all you have to do is make an order. You will also give your full measurements and any other information that they may need to make the dress. You cannot go wrong with this as long as the measurements are exact and up-to-date.

Online shopping is here to stay with us. Therefore, always use these tips so that you do not open that delivery box, try on the dress, and start making return arrangements because it does not fit. This is a hectic process. Therefore, do it right the first time.

What California Prop 37 means to families everywhere

Hi everyone! Mayu from Mama Goddess here. I’ve been (super) lagging on blog posts lately… but here’s a really important issue I’ve been wanting to talk about with our Mama Goddess community that I’m sure you already know about as election day in the US approaches.

A safe and healthy world

We all want to live healthy, fulfilling lives.  We all want that most for our children.  We want them to live in a safe world in which they can simply be happy and healthy.  We want to believe that we are birthing them into such a world.

These simple wishes are at stake today, as big business and agribusiness are trying to deceive and mislead the public into thinking that genetically modified crops don’t need to be labeled in our food.

What does this mean? What are the true consequences?

On November 6th, Californians will be voting in proposition 37 about the labeling of GMO foods.  And everyone in California, if they care about their health and freedom, must vote YES.

If we don’t pass this, and GMOs are no longer required to be labeled, that means we will lose our ability to know what we are eating. That means harmful GMO foods can find their way into even our organic foods, without us having any knowledge of it.

GMOs have been scientifically proven to cause cancer, infertility, a host of other diseases, and is horrible for the environment (pesticide use has increased significantly – 404 million pounds over the last 16 years).  They are killing off bees, and as we know, we absolutely depend on bees to pollinate and therefore make our food.

  • If you’re a voter in California, VOTE YES on Prop 37 on November 6th.
  • Urge your friends and family to do the same.
  • If you’re not in California or in the states, tell all of your friends and urge them to spread the word.
  • The only way we can win this battle is the power of grassroots efforts by people like you and us who want to keep the world safe for us and our children.

The argument we have been hearing is: But how can people be so stupid as to say NO to GMO labeling? Isn’t it obvious? Won’t Californians just vote yes?

We wish it were that simple.  However, the corporations who are against GMO labeling have put in over 40 million dollars into the campaign to not let this pass.  Sadly, only 48% of voters now are saying YES according to recent polls, as a result of their brainwashing.

Yes on Prop 37

http://www.cornucopia.org/2012/08/prop37/

Check out the chart above that shows familiar organic brands that are supporting Monsanto and its efforts to take away our health and freedom.  These brands are ones that we see in our health foods stores, and have most likely bought ourselves, but they have all been bought by large corporations that do not want people to know what they are putting in our food supply.

The supporters of prop 37 have raised 4 million dollars to protect our freedom. These groups include Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Bronner’s, the Organic Consumer’s Association, among many other independent organic producers.  Let’s be a supporter by purchasing items from these brands instead of the Monsanto-supporters, as well as donating to the cause!

This proposition in California is not just about Californians.  If the mandatory labeling of GMO foods doesn’t pass in California, that means it affects the rest of the US, as half of the US produce come from California.  If the US, being perhaps the most influential (whether positive or negative) country in the world, have no GMO labeling, that can mean that dangerous foods can infiltrate the world without anyone knowing.

This is really a historic, important time.  Let’s show the true power of people getting together to protect our rights and basic health.

We may not be able to raise $40 million like big business, but we can raise our voices, and hopefully, will be raising our glasses over safe, delicious food with our loved ones for years to come.

Action list:
1) If you’re a voter in California, VOTE YES on Prop 37 on November 6th.

2) Urge your friends and family to do the same. You can forward them this letter or write your own. Share on Facebook. Tweet about it. Use the social share buttons below.

3) If you’re not in California or in the states, tell all of your friends and urge them to spread the word. Again, forward this letter or write your own.

4) Donate if you can here.

5) Sign this petition.

6) Visualize a safe and healthy future for our dinner tables and children, as well as their children! Positive intention is far more powerful than the negative – let’s believe in our collective, uplifting power!


Sending you and your family love and warmest wishes for your health,

Mayu and everyone at Mama Goddess Birth Shop

10 Tricks Shops Don’t Want You to Know

There are certain tricks and hacks that you can always use when shopping that can give you benefits untold. In as much as stores try to hide them, it is our pleasure to uncover them for you. Here are the top ten hacks to try.

  1. Shops will always have hidden discount codes on the price tags of their products. They typically use biro pens to mark the products that will reduce in price in a few days and the new amount. Therefore, if you find a product that has been marked, leave it and buy it after a few days
  2. As a student, you are entitled to more discount benefits. Usually, it will be between 10% and 15%. You can still get the discount benefits after you have graduated and your student’s ID has not expired.
  3. When you are purchasing from an online store, instead of having the product dropped at your address, use their physical store as a drop-off point. This means that you will be able to save on that shipping money because you will not be charged. This is a perfect trick for stores with no free shipping.
  4. Always watch out for the clearance sales so that you can have a perfect opportunity to persistently bargain until you get the price you want. You can also know the product that is on clearance or one that has been discounted. Typically, when the price ends with a 7 or 8, the product has been discounted. When the last digit is 1, the product is being cleared.
  5. When you are shopping from Amazon, there is a certain amount of money you have to spend so that you can get free delivery. Therefore, if you are purchasing a product and it has not hit the free delivery requirement, add something that is relevant yet cheap enough to top up the amount, and you will receive free delivery of products.
  6. If you need to return a product you have purchased at a store, but you have lost the receipt, your credit card statement can work. According to customer rights, your bank statement can work just fine. Still, you will need a smile, an excellent personality, and a convincing talk for it to be easy.
  7. Make use of scheduled discounts. Many shoppers never track the time when a particular shop will offer discounts while the truth is that these discounts are usually schedules. When you master the schedule, you will always know when it is time to shop extravagantly.
  8. Ensure that you check the prices and discounts for a ‘Buy-one-get-one’ deal. Most of the times, this is just a trick they play on you to make you think you are saving when you are only spending more. In as much as it is irresistible, be cautious.
  9. Always ensure that you save up a lot of coupons and use them at once. This way, you will be able to save much more when you go on a shopping expedition.
  10. You can also open a credit card with the store to get a discount. When you are planning to purchase a lot of things, do this but cut the card right after. If you keep using the card, they will charge you certain fees and interests.

When you use these tips, you stand to enjoy a lot of benefits that will make your shopping spree more exciting.

10 Tips For A Good Shoe Fit!

The perfection that a shoe can bring to your general outlook is something that makes dressing up worth it. A great pair of shoes can speak volumes. Therefore, it is important that you ensure it is more than great. It has to be comfortable and fit just right. Here are ten tips for a getting a good shoe fit.

  1. Ensure that the shop attendant measures your feet first before they get you any pair of shoes to try on. This makes it easy to pick the shoes that are exactly your size.
  2. Ensure that you are trying the shoes on while you are standing. This is because when you try the shoe on while you are seated, it may feel comfortable enough and you may believe that it is the perfect shoe size. Standing up will give you the right impression. Make sure that your toes are comfortable by wiggling them.
  3. Now that you are trying the shoe while standing how about walking around? Make a few rounds from corner to corner of the store, and you pay attention to the shoes. If there is any part that feels uncomfortable or slips off, do not buy the shoe.
  4. Always try your shoes with your socks on. When you are purchasing closed shoes, you will be wearing them with a pair of socks. Therefore, do this so that you can ensure the shoes are comfortable with socks on. Some shoes will fit perfectly but pinch your feet when you wear a pair of socks.
  5. Always pick a shoe that is shaped like your foot. We all have different shapes for our feet. Some are slender while some are wide. Some are wider at the front and narrower at the back, and so on. Therefore, choose a shoe that will flow nicely with your foot.
  6. Our feet are not always proportional. There will be one foot that will be longer while the other one will be shorter. Therefore, always try on shoes giving priority to the longer foot. If you go with the shorter foot and if fits, the other foot will not fit in the other shoe.
  7. Always go for shoe shopping in the afternoon. Our feet tend to expand as the day goes by. Therefore, when you fit a shoe at this time, then when you wear it for a day and your feet expand, you will still feel comfortable.
  8. Always know that shoes come in different designs and from different countries. Therefore, do not always depend on the same shoe size to order for shoes. This brings in the essence of having your feet measures. Therefore, if your shoe size for shoes made in the USA is size x, do not assume that size x from Japan will fit perfectly too.
  9. A shoe that fits perfectly should also be comfortable. Therefore, look at the inner material used for the shoe. The leather is the most preferable. Check the sole to ensure that it protects you from any hard.
  10. Never use someone else’s feet to pick a shoe. Just because you wear the same size as someone else does not mean that you can say, “Get me a pair that looks like that of the same size.” As we have said, the features of our feet vary in as much as the length may be the same. There are things like the shape, the wideness of the balls of your feet, and so on.

If you ever go wrong when choosing a shoe that fits perfectly after reading this, then you are beyond saving.