Including Siblings in the Birth Experience

Including Siblings in the Birth Experience

Are you considering including your older child or children in the birth of their sibling? While not for everyone, having your other children present at the birth can be a great experience for all of you.  Still, there are a number of factors to consider when making this decision – your child’s age and temperament, the time of day you wind up going into labor, and where you are planning to give birth, to name a few.


If you and your children have mutually decided that they will be present at the birth, consider the following to make the birth a safe, happy, and memorable experience for all.

Follow the child’s lead at the birth. One of the many benefits of birth centers is the comfortable, home-like environment.  During labor, allow your older child to call the shots on where they would like to be.  They may wander in and out of the labor room, have a snack in the kitchen, or play games in the living room.  Honor their feelings and allow them the freedom to choose where they are most comfortable, which may or may not be in the birthing room itself.

ALWAYS bring someone aside from your birth partner to be the primary caregiver during labor and birth. For a number of reasons, it’s best if you bring someone who can be completely focused on your other children.  As the laboring person, you should be relaxed and focused on labor, and your birth partner should be focused on you.  It can be a difficult balance for the non-laboring parent to care for a child (who may be experiencing some big emotions) but also be fully present and able to support the person in labor.  Additionally, if labor takes an extended amount of time or there is an emergency or hospital transfer, it may be necessary for someone to take your other children home.

Talk about birth ahead of time. In terms that are appropriate for your child’s age, explain what may happen during labor and the basics of birth (where the baby comes out, what an umbilical cord is).

  • “Mommy may not seem very happy. She may seem sad and angry, or she may be very quiet.”
  • “Mommy might make some loud noises like this (insert grunts, groans, etc.).  It may sound strange or silly, but those sounds help mommy get the baby out!”
  • “If mommy is in the bath tub, it may turn a different color like pink or red when the baby is born.”
  • “When the baby is born, it may not look very clean! He may be slippery or be covered with white stuff or have blood on him, and that’s OK!”

Consider bringing your children to the birth center ahead of time and also to an appointment with the midwife so they feel included in the process and can ask questions of the midwife

Pack a bag for your child. In addition to basics like comfortable clothes, snacks, etc., pack some activities for your child and their designated caregiver.  For younger children especially, provide some new toys or art supplies they have never seen before.

Assign roles. For older children who have chosen to be present at the birth, talk ahead of time about what their role may be at the birth.  Do they wish to be in another room but present for the actual birth? Or the opposite? Some older children will happily and instinctively jump into a doula role, bringing you water, fanning you to keep you cool, holding your hand, and staying by your side.  If this is your child, talk ahead of time about how they can be helpful.  If this is not your child, have a conversation about what they are comfortable with and assure them whatever they decide is fine with you.

Did your older children attend your birth? What advice would you give other families? Tell us in the comments!

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

Five Tips for Managing Labor Pain

Five Tips for Managing Labor Pain

When preparing for a natural birth, it’s common to be concerned about the discomforts of labor. In a country where the majority of vaginal births include epidural pain relief, and articles imploring women to “just get the epidural” are widespread, planning an unmedicated birth may seem intimidating.  But we promise it’s actually very achievable! Here are a few tips for managing a med-free labor. 

Give birth in an environment designed to support natural birth.  Labor is hard work (there’s a reason it’s called “labor!”). And yes, that hard work is accompanied by some pretty intense sensations. But having complete and total control over how you respond to those sensations is a game-changer. Provided you are healthy and low-risk, your place of birth and your birth team should provide total autonomy for you to eat, drink, move, and vocalize in whatever way feels best to you.  Consider seeing midwives and giving birth at a freestanding birth center or at home.

Pack some comfort tools in your labor bag.  Consider bringing a tennis ball, massage tools, rebozo, lip balm, reheatable rice sock, ice pack, wireless speaker, and essential oils to your birth.  Practice using these things and have your birth partner brush up on his or her massage skills. Choose a birth location with unrestricted access to a shower and bathtub so you can take full advantage of the benefits of hydrotherapy.  What brings you comfort and helps you relieve stress in your daily life? Apply these same philosophies to labor.

Take a class.  Unfortunately physiologic birth is no longer the norm and therefore pregnant women don’t always have the benefit of generations of women before them and a circle of women around them sharing stories of normal birth. Soooo much of what is shared about birth is fear-based. Taking independent (i.e. offered outside of a hospital), comprehensive childbirth classes will not only teach you strategies to manage pain but also help you reframe your thinking to not see labor pain as scary or harmful. Which bring us to…

Use this acronym to shift your mindset and remove negative associations with the word “pain.”

Adjust your mindset.  Before giving birth, most people’s experiences with pain revolve around illness or injury. Generally, pain exists as a helpful and important warning sign to our brain that something is wrong. So our brains are hard-wired to overreact to pain! But the sensations of labor are purposeful and normal – a sign that things are right. They also play an important role in the oxytocin feedback cycle, causing contractions to intensify and labor to progress (which is what we want!). Practice breathing and relaxation techniques leading up to your birth and avoid the urge to tense up during contractions. Remind yourself that what you are feeling is purposeful and will result in the birth of your baby.

Hire a doula.  Every person should bring a doula to their birth, regardless of whether it’s natural or medicated, vaginal or surgical. But if you’re planning a natural birth, hiring a doula or having continuous labor support from someone other than your partner is a must.  These magical birth fairies know all the best tricks to keep the laboring person and their partner as calm and comfortable as possible. A doula knows exactly where to apply counterpressure to relieve that back labor, how to breathe with you to release tension, and exactly what to say if you’re feeling overwhelmed by labor. And if your plans for birth need to change, a doula can help you navigate any unexpected turns your labor might take.

We asked experienced mamas what helped them manage labor sensations – here’s what they had to say:

Instead of anticipating the next contraction, anticipating the break in between contractions helped me get through. The break is coming, my rest is coming.  – Aja R.

I knew the contractions were doing the hard work to open my cervix, so every time I had one, I literally visualized my cervix opening as a result and did my best to relax and think “open…open…open” until it was over. Not fighting those contractions, but instead working WITH them was key. – Tamara K.

Trusting that my body was in complete control of the labor and delivery process made it all bearable in the coolest way possible, but reminding myself that my mom, who is my biggest role model in life, and all my other female ancestors have done it too made me feel like a warrior. I can’t leave out my loving husband who was my rock during it all. – Michelle H.

With my third birth, I thought a lot about how the contraction was my body’s doing. It helped me view it less as pain…something we naturally fear. It is so different than pain being inflicted or felt in a negative way. There was nothing to fear because it was my body’s natural response. I remember saying in my head that “my body (the contractions) are powerful and I am strong.”  – Michelle R.

The phrase “fudgy monkey balls” got me through all those heinous contractions, as did being on all fours in a hot shower, counting backward from 100, and sitting backwards on the toilet. I wish I could explain the fudgy monkey balls….but it literally just came out of my mouth and it was the only thing I could say!  – Emily B.

It really helped me through being able to change positions. The most helpful thing for contraction pain was being able to sit on a yoga ball in the shower and using the rabozo(sp?) to apply counter pressure on my hips. That helped tremendously! – Megan E.

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

Medications and Breastfeeding

Medications and Breastfeeding

People often instinctively avoid medications – both prescription and over-the-counter—when pregnant or breastfeeding. 

The good news is that that most medications are safe for breastfeeding.  The really good news is that you can easily look up medications and even environmental substances to see what’s known and what’s safe.  (links below)

The best news of all is that there are dedicated researchers who continue to study the amazing attributes of breastmilk (the human variety in particular) and how some substances get through the mom’s body into the milk and how they affect babies.  Dr. Thomas Hale of Texas Tech University is a champion in this field with his Infant Risk Center.  You can even help, especially if you or a friend needs a medication that’s on the list of drugs under study and can provide breastmilk samples. 

The bad news is that if you ask a medical provider, you may get poor advice!  Many doctors, particularly in specialties that don’t see breastfeeding often (like urgent care, emergency and surgery) will advise mothers to stop breastfeeding either temporarily or permanently.  The medical field is just starting to improve on its education and advocacy for breastmilk, including the risks to babies who aren’t breastfed. 

Here’s where you can go for accurate information when you need it:

www.mothertobaby.org This FREE source is super handy.  You can email them, call, text or IM on any substance exposure, including medications.  The University of Arizona is part of their team! 

https://www.infantrisk.com/apps  Dr. Hale and the Infant Risk Center have up-to-date apps that are really handy.  It summarizes information on medication safety for pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is the one I recommend to professional colleagues – it’s one of the few “paid” apps I keep!

The Arizona Breastfeeding Hotline:  1-800-833-4642     There’s a lactation consultant always available to answer your question, even in the middle of the night.  It’s a FREE call, and the lactation consultant can talk to you about any questions or subjects related to breastfeeding at any stage.

The Babymoon Inn Midwives!  Just give us a call, we’ll be happy to chat about your question.  

Olga Ryan MS-NL, RN

Olga Ryan MS-NL, RN

Director, Babymoon Inn Tucson

Olga has been in Perinatal nursing since 1995 and in birth center nursing since 2006.  She has been studying leadership her whole life and recently joined the Babymoon Inn team as director of the Tucson location.

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