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Texting While Driving And Texting While Feeding The Baby, Two Sides Of The Same Coin?

September 19th, 2013 by avatar

By Jodilyn Owen, CPM, LM

Earlier this week, I had the honor of attending a full day workshop on breastfeeding, presented by regular Sceince & Sensibility contributor, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.  In one of her presentations, Kathleen discussed how breastfeeding is a right brain activity and when we give mothers lots of instruction and detailed information, rather than supporting the dyad in laid back breastfeeding, (thanks Suzanne Colson for this concept) we may interfere in the normal and natural process.  Then, the very next day, I read this post written by author and midwife, Jodilyn Owen, CPM, LM and I knew wanted to share it here. Both topics are about keeping infant feeding as a right brain activity.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility
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I recently read some research on texting and driving that immediately made me flash to the reactions of a group of new moms,  when I asked them what it looks like when they are nursing or feeding their babies.  Almost all of them mimicked holding the baby in one hand and frantic thumb movements on an imaginary phone in the other.  That image has stuck with me over the past week as I try to sort out the connection between these two seemingly different vignettes—driving and breastfeeding. 

The fact is that mothers and babies now have a third party in their relationship—technology.  This is not new news.  It’s just that there tends to be a pretty rigid opinion from many professionals that moms who allow this third party to enter are neglecting the needs of the primary relationship between mother and baby.

In today’s world we have to know that technology is ever-present.  And then we have to work with it.  It’s terrifically difficult for a woman who may have spent her entire adult life in the work force tracking progress and time-to-target goals, explaining her work to others through the use of spreadsheets, presentations, and lectures with sources cited, and full color graphs and charts, to not bring that into her new life as a mother.  It is not unusual to show up for a postpartum visit and be handed a notebook full of information about a baby from a mother who is very skilled at recording data.  It’s easy to look at this and point out everything wrong in this approach.  But guess what?  This mother is just bringing what has worked really well for her in the past forward with her into this new relationship.  And that’s why we are here—midwives, doulas, nurses, childbirth educators, doctors, lactation consultants, postpartum help, support group leaders—all of us.  We are here to allow her to shine and to introduce different ways to be with baby.

It is an un-plugging that is as much a learned, and learn-able skill, as how to use Excel. We know that a mother who has learned to do everything she has to be successful in the workplace, can learn everything she needs to know to be successful with her baby.  It can be hard, and confusing, and there’s no “Help” button in the upper left corner of the baby.

Each mother will find her way, and it will be her own way, and it will not always look like some of the pundits think it should.  There’s no one prescription that works for everyone.  It really helps a new mother to sit with other mothers and hear their stories, and it really helps to have a professional in the room who does little more than nod and affirm a mother’s experience of her baby and her new life.  Hopefully she finds what works for her and her baby, and hopefully she is surrounded by people who celebrate and have awareness of just how enormous an accomplishment that is.

Now back to the frantic thumbs and feeding the baby.  Here’s what research is showing—that as we humans text, a few interesting things happen physiologically  Our breathing becomes rapid, shallow, or non-existent (we hold our breaths until we must breathe).  Our pulse increases.  Our temperature goes up.  Sound familiar? Many of us will recognize the physical symptoms of “fight or flight”, or the human body in the sympathetic state.  To be super basic about it, there is a massive release of several hormones in our body that prepare us to act to save ourselves.  And it’s contagious.  We share our hormonal responses, breathing and heart rate with others who are near us.

In all of the research and work I have done with kangaroo care with preterm babies and skin-to-skin with healthy babies, science and observation have taught us that this principle holds true.  A mother will help regulate her baby’s temperature, heart rate, and breathing just by being close to him.  One of my favorite moments in my professional life was the first time I placed a pulse-oximeter on a newborn and took him out of the incubator and put him on his mother’s bare chest, then wrapped them up together in a sheet.  I got to watch as the little machine confirmed what so many others had discovered before.  The system works.  Moms work.  Babies work.  Moms and babies work really well when they are together.  It was thrilling.

The connection between texting and infant feeding and driving is all about the physiological consequences of these activities.  We all know that if mothers are catching up on Facebook, they are not eye-gazing with their babies or talking to them, important emotional tending-to that babies need.  Now we know there is something just as powerful happening in the mechanics of mothers’ bodies when they use feeding time to get things done online.  But as any mother in the first year of mothering will pointedly tell you—there’s not very much time other than those times to catch up.  And socializing—even social media socializing—is critically important to many mothers so that they can maintain a sense of connection with people who speak in full sentences.  This is the world we live in.  Do many of us wish it wasn’t so?  Yes.  Do many of us wish mothers had the time and resources to unplug totally and just *be* with their babies?  Of course we do.  But we have what we have.

The real question is how to work with it—how to create a balance that works for mom, baby, and the mother/baby relationship.  So here’s my simple proposal.

Suggest to the mothers you work with the following:

Mothers, if you find yourself catching up while you are feeding your baby, take intentional, slow, deep belly breaths while you do it.  Keep yourself out of “fight or flight” and in the state so appropriately dubbed “feed and breed” or “rest and digest”.   Your body can actually only be in one or the other state at any given time.  Simple deep breathing will keep your heart rate and temperature down, and your baby will reap the benefits of your biologically soothing presence.  If your baby is awake for the feeding, take a chunk of the time spent feeding or nursing— even if it is only 3 or 5 minutes, to eye gaze, to talk gently, to tell your baby the story of your day so far, or a funny story from your childhood.When you are ready, take a deep breath, tell your baby you are going to catch up on some work or social stuff while she continues to nourish herself and then hit the Facebook, email, or spreadsheets (while continuing to breathe well).  Babies are really understanding people.  Just like everyone, babies do best when we communicate with them and help them make sense of their stories.”

If you are a professional—take a moment to teach the mothers you work with, in prenatal visits, private sessions, groups, or classes, this simple lesson:  that humans breathe too fast and shallow, and that our temperatures, pulses, and breathing rates rise when we are texting or using technology while trying to do something else that shifts frequently and requires a lot of attention. Teach them to intentionally take slow cleansing breaths while nursing.  Talk about taking some of the time while nursing to tend to their emotional health and connection with each other.  Tell them it is not about right or wrong, this way or that way, my way or the highway.  It is about balance. Finding the right balance for them, their family, their baby, and their relationship with those they love.  And oh, of course, no texting while driving, please.

References

Lin, I. M., & Peper, E. (2009). Psychophysiological patterns during cell phone text messaging: A preliminary studyApplied psychophysiology and biofeedback34(1), 53-57.

McLeod, K. (2011, August 04). Texting while driving: targeted for extinction. Retrieved from http://www.edmunds.com/car-safety/texting-while-driving-targeted-for-extinction.html

Park, A., Salsbury, J., Corbett, K., & Aiello, J. (2013). The Effects of Text Messaging During Dual-Task Driving Simulation on Cardiovascular and Respiratory Responses and Reaction Time.

About Jodilyn Owen

Jodilyn is co-author of The Essential Homebirth Guide, a guide for families planning or considering a homebirth.  She is a practicing midwife at Essential Birth & Family Center in Seattle, WA and is a wife and mother.  Jodilyn is passionate about bringing babies into the arms of healthy mothers.  She is a co-founder of Girl Sense, lectures for midwifery students, and gives talks to high school students about midwifery, birth, and babies. She enjoys hiking, camping, boxing, and watching her kids on the basketball court.  Jodilyn welcomes your comments and questions and can be reached through her website

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Infant Attachment, Newborns, Parenting an Infant, Uncategorized , , , , , ,

Book Review: The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home

February 12th, 2013 by avatar

“Our goal is not to have every mother birth at home—our goal is to encourage parents to gather quality information, to gain exposure to a philosophy that screams trust in mothers and trust in babies, and to provide parents who do plan a homebirth to be well equipped with an understanding of how to thrive in that decision.” – Jane E. Drichta, CPM and Jodilyn Owen, CPM, authors of The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home.

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The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home by midwives Jane E. Drichta, CPM and Jodilyn Owen, CPM  is a new book on the birth scene, being released today both in print and as an e-book.  I had an opportunity to read an advanced copy and and will share my thoughts with Science & Sensibility readers in this review.

The Essential Homebirth Guide is a book that is long overdue and will be welcomed by consumers and healthcare providers alike. With the recent National Birth Center Study II  released last month, many women and their families may now be considering an out of hospital (OOH) birth.  Some areas of the US offer the opportunity to birth in a birth center, while other parts of the country have no birth centers available at all and homebirth is the only OOH option.  Even where birth centers are available, women in greater numbers are now considering birthing in their own homes, with midwives, for many reasons, including comfort, cost and choosing a location where they feel they have the best chance to achieve a low intervention birth.

Sitting down to read Drichta and Owen’s guide is like spending a long weekend with your very best friend.  A best friend who just happens to be a midwife.  Whether you are just starting to explore the idea of a homebirth or have already decided that homebirth is for you, you will find that all your questions get answered in an easy to understand, factual way, with all the details and inside information that only your best friend can provide.  Drichta and Owen even provide answers to the questions you hadn’t thought of yet, but would want to know if you choose to homebirth, such as the section on communicating your homebirth choices with friends and family.

The book is arranged into chapters, and then subtopics.  Each subtopic has a nice Q&A format, with all the major questions covered in easy to understand language.  Peppered amongst the topics are real life stories and musing submitted by homebirthing women and their families, as well as special “The Midwife Says:” sections that provide additional information.  The personal stories offer a peek into the thoughts and experiences of homebirthing women, and readers will feel comforted by their stories. References are included for each chapter, and there are several hearty appendices at the back for more information. Lovely black and white pictures are scattered throughout.

One of the things that I loved best in The Essential Homebirth Guide is how the authors use every opportunity to speak to the mother, helping to develop her self-determination.  Throughout the book, they reinforce that every mother knows both her body and her baby best.  Women who read this book will feel confident that they are (or should be) equal partners in their care with their healthcare provider and are capable of asking questions, gathering information and making decisions that feel right to them.

“…A lot happens between the time of conception and diapers, and it all matters.  It will affect you.  It will change you.  It will propel you into motherhood in a profound way and can leave you with feelings of power, health, and peace, or it may leave you with feelings of anxiety, fear, and even trauma.  What kind of emotional context do you want as you become a new mother? What kind of new mother do you aim to be?  Think about these questions first, and then start building your prenatal care to lead yourself down the road that ends with you – the kind of new mother you intend to become in the kind of health you strive to have…” The Essential Homebirth Guide

Jodlilyn Owen, CPM

Chapters on interviewing and choosing a midwife, what to expect during your prenatal care, prenatal testing options, information on the top ten pregnancy issues, preparing to birth at home, and what to expect after the birth all provide details on what normally occurs and include topics that can be discussed with your midwife along with things you can do to keep yourself healthy and low risk. In fact, this book is useful for any pregnant woman, as it will help facilitate conversations with hospital based healthcare providers, to help the woman who has chosen to birth in the hospital avoid unnecessary interventions. 

Drichta and Owen tackle some controversial subjects such as homebirth after a cesarean, home breech birth and homebirth of twins. No doubt, everyone’s comfort level is different and women (and their healthcare providers) process and understand risk in very individual ways.  These situations may not be for everyone, but the authors don’t ignore that these birth situations are occurring at home all around the country.  Information is power, mothers, when given accurate information in a respectful manner, will be able to determine what feels like the right decision for them.

I would have appreciated more information in the book on how low income families and women of color might find their way to homebirth in today’s maternity care climate, as the increase in homebirths has not been observed amongst those populations. Where I live, in the state of Washington, almost half of our births are paid for by the state, and we are fortunate that homebirth is an option for those families receiving state aid.  That is not the case for most of the rest of the country.

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I had the opportunity to ask Jane Drichta and Jodilyn Owen some questions about their book, and wanted to share my interview with Science & Sensibility readers.

SM: Why did you want to write this book, and why now? 

JO: This book has been running around in circles inside of our heads for years.  We make it a habit to check in with each other after most births, and so there are at least a decade of late night conversations here.  As we talked, we realized that we were running into the same problem; there was not one definitive source of information for homebirthing families.  We had websites and articles and handouts, but not one place where we could send parents for unbiased, evidence based information, served up with sides of common sense and love. Homebirth is becoming more and more popular, and the time just seemed to be right. 

SM:  What was the most challenging topic for you to cover in the book? How did you handle it? 

JD: The chapter on The Big Ten, which details ten common complications in pregnancy, was difficult to write.  We are used to speaking around these topics in very technical terms, and it was difficult to distill the information down to what mothers needed to know.  We were more interested in providing a model for how we approach these issues that any woman can adapt to her situation than being prescriptive about what one must absolutely do in a given situation.  When we started that chapter, it sounded like we were writing a term paper.  We completely lost the friendly, accessible tone that we were going for.  So that was a challenge.   

SM: What is the main piece of information that you hope that women will know/take away after finishing your book?

Jane E. Drichta, CPM

JD:  That they can do this.  That birthing at home is a viable option in 21st century America. That the desire to do this doesn’t mean you are crazy or hate the patriarchy, or that any of the other homebirthing stereotypes apply.  Women can birth at home more safely than ever before, and it is a real alternative for most women.

SM: What challenges do you see facing the potential growth of homebirths in the US?

JO:  The integration of homebirth midwives into our current health care system.  The politics around midwifery and its place in the system are myriad, and not something that we wanted to get into in the book.  However, we do support the right of women to birth in the place of their choice, with the provider of their choice, and that is sometimes difficult and can be limiting.

SM: If midwives and doctors read this book, what do you hope they take away from it?

JO: We hope they take away a few key points:  That mothers and partners should be held responsible to seek information and share decision making in their care, that a pregnant and birthing woman is in partnership with her baby and this dyad perspective should be promoted at all times with the language and behavior providers use, and that a woman is never just her numbers—she is a whole human being with a context worthy of their curiosity and respect.  

SM: How can childbirth educators use this book with their students?

JD: Simply presenting this paradigm of woman-centered, individualized, continuous care is a great way to open the door for discussions about creating intention for pregnancy and birth.   What is it that parents really mean to establish for themselves when it comes to their care and birth?  Understanding risk, breaking apart decision-making models, and tuning in to their inner-wisdom are just some of the great tools that educators can work through.

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I wanted to see what the authors had to say about childbirth classes for women considering homebirth and was delighted to find that they encourage all women to take classes and hold Lamaze International and our Healthy Birth Practices in high esteem.  ”We can’t find anything not to love here” is found in the childbirth class section under the Lamaze heading..

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it to be an easy read and full of information that I would find useful if I was still deciding where to birth or had already made up my mind to birth at home.  I could also see myself referring back to this as my birth got closer.  This book acknowledges that I am the best person to make this very personal decision about where to birth my baby. I think that healthcare providers who offer OOH birth services might want a few copies on their bookshelves to lend to potential and current clients, and childbirth educators might very well recommend this resource to parents in their classes who want to know more about what a home birth might be like.

Please consider coming back to the blog and sharing your thoughts after reading the book.  I would love to know what you think and if you would recommend this to clients and students.  If you would like to contact the authors, they can be reached through their website Essential Midwifery.

Disclosure: The authors of this book and I are all members of the professional birth community in Seattle, WA.  I have known them on a professional and personal level long before this book was even conceived.

Book Reviews, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, Healthy Care Practices, Home Birth, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Midwifery , , , , , , , , , , ,