Posts Tagged ‘Childbirth Education’

Interview with Alice Callahan about Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.

October 6th, 2015 by avatar

In an earlier post on Science and Sensibility, regular contributor Anne Estes, PhD reviewed Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, a new evidence-based book focused on answering questions on health, sleeping, and feeding for an infant’s first year. The book grew out of author Dr. Alice Callahan’s blog, Science of Mom, that she began writing as a new mother. Dr. Callahan took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with Anne about her new book and how it might be helpful for childbirth educators and new parents.  Readers will also want to pop over to Anne’s blog – Mostly Microbes, to listen to a podcast of  a more detailed interview with Dr. Callahan, the author of The Science of Mom. We’d also like to congratulate Amy Lavelle for being randomly chosen from the commenters on the original post. Amy wins herself a free copy of the book.  We hope that she will enjoy reading it.  – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

Science of Mom Cover HiDefAnne Estes: What do you see as the role of this book for childbirth educators and other birth professionals?

Alice Callahan: First, my book gives a really in-depth look at several newborn medical procedures, including timing of cord clamping, the vitamin K shot, and eye prophylaxis, plus shorter sections on newborn screening, the hepatitis B vaccine, and the newborn bath. Childbirth educators will take away a clear understanding of the evidence behind these procedures, and they can pass that knowledge onto students and clients. Second, and just as useful, those in-depth sections serve as excellent case studies for how to look at scientific evidence. My hope is that this background will give readers the tools needed to evaluate scientific evidence on their own as they encounter new questions – and I’m sure birth professionals are constantly faced with new questions!

AE: Why should childbirth educators suggest your book as a resource for interested parents?

AC: New parents are often taken off guard by the number of questions they have about childbirth and caring for a new baby. In online forums and playground conversations, they’re suddenly thrown into discussions of what is best for babies, and they find themselves trying to sort through lots of conflicting opinions and misinformation, trying to make the best choices for their own babies. It’s tremendously valuable and empowering to be able to understand how science can inform these decisions and how to find evidence-based resources. My book not only gives parents evidence-based information on infant health, feeding, sleep, and vaccines, but it also illustrates for parents how to find it themselves.

AE: What message from your book is most important for childbirth educators to share with their students?

AC: Seek evidence to inform your decisions. Be very skeptical of everything you read on the Internet, and make sure you’re getting your information from an accurate source. There’s so much misinformation out there that can be very misleading and even dangerous for parents and their babies. Don’t assume that something more natural or involving less intervention is always better. That isn’t always the case. Instead, look for objective evidence of risks and benefits, and make an informed choice.

AE: How did you choose the topics for your book? Was it difficult to decide what to leave out?

AC: I tried to choose topics that I think are some of the most common causes of confusion and anxiety for parents, based on questions that I get on my blog or that I see in online parenting forums. To be honest, my original proposal for this book included several more topics, but as I fleshed out chapters, I realized that it was more interesting to look at several topics in a really in-depth way rather than skim the surface on lots of different topics. But honestly, if I’d been able to devote another year or two to it, it could easily have been twice as long, because there are just so many great questions that parents have about the first year of life. I would have liked to cover topics like emerging research on the microbiome and concerns about chemical exposures, for example, but I may have to save those for another book!

AE: What do you feel is the most controversial topic in your book? 

AC: The safety of bedsharing is probably the most controversial topic in the book. Sleep practices are just so personal, and many parents really value bedsharing with their babies for cultural, emotional, or practical reasons. This is an area where you’ll find very conflicting advice, and everyone cites scientific studies to back their stance. In the book, I do my best to look honestly at the evidence for and against bedsharing safety. I explain that multiple studies do show risk of bedsharing in certain circumstances, especially with babies in the first few months of life, but I acknowledge the limitations of those same studies. And I also point out that individual factors, such as ease of breastfeeding or alternatives to bedsharing (including the risks of falling asleep with your baby on a couch or trying to drive a car while severely sleep deprived, for example) might make careful bedsharing a reasonable choice. I think we need to share all of this information with parents and discuss how to set up a bed to make bedsharing as safe as possible if that is the choice.

AE: Could you describe how you determine which findings from the scientific literature are best for answering a parenting question?

AC: In the book, I give a rough guide to types of study designs and explain which ones are most likely to give us strong evidence that is relevant to parenting decisions. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are usually most useful, because they combine the results of multiple studies so are more likely to give us a big picture consensus about a question. (This assumes that the authors selected high quality studies for the review, so you have to be a little careful here.) Looking at single studies, randomized controlled trials are the best quality, whereas observational studies are usually limited by confounding factors and can only show correlations, not causation. Studies conducted in animal models or cell culture are an important step in scientific research, but we really want to see follow-up in human studies before we change our lives over the results. As you look at studies, you also want to pay attention to how many people were included in the study and whether or not the population is similar to your own. Evaluating scientific evidence takes some practice, and I go into lots more detail in the book.

AE: I was shocked to read that immediate cord clamping and cutting and stomach sleeping were practices changed in the mid-1900s without any evidence. Could you talk about how one of those practices began, the implications, and what it took (or will take in the case of umbilical cord clamping) for the original practices to be put back into place?

AC: It’s surprisingly difficult to pin down exactly when the shift to immediate cord clamping occurred, but it probably happened in the early to mid-1900s. Before this, it was likely standard practice to wait a few minutes or until the cord stopped pulsing before clamping it. The shift to immediate cord clamping seemed to coincide with the movement of birth from the purview of midwives in homes to obstetricians in hospitals. Immediate cord clamping was also part of the practice of active management of the third stage of labor, which was introduced in the 1960s. However, there was no evidence then that immediate cord clamping was beneficial to either mom or baby, and studies show that delayed cord clamping does not increase the mom’s risk of postpartum hemorrhage (which was a belief for a while).

Immediate cord clamping is an example of an intervention put into place because it was convenient, not because it was evidence-based. We now have good evidence that delayed cord clamping is beneficial to infants, especially those born preterm. For term infants, the biggest benefit is a boost in iron stores that can prevent iron deficiency later in infancy. There is some evidence that the risk of jaundice is increased, but as I discuss in the book, this is controversial. We’re seeing some obstetricians making delayed cord clamping their standard of care, but practice is really mixed in the U.S. At this time, ACOG recommends a delay of 30-60 seconds for preterm infants, but they refrain from making any recommendation for term infants, citing insufficient evidence. I actually appreciate that they’re careful to ensure there is adequate evidence before changing practice, but I do think we have enough evidence now that we should really be going back to delayed cord clamping whenever possible. I think that with a little more time and a few more studies, delayed cord clamping will again become standard practice, especially with doctors in the U.K. testing a resuscitation trolley that allows the cord to remain attached even if the infant requires resuscitation.

AE: What did you do to feel prepared for your labor and birth, and first weeks of parenting? Did you choose to take a childbirth class?  Do you feel it helped you feel prepared and confident?

AC: Before the birth of my first child, I took a childbirth class through a local hospital. It was very helpful in terms of knowing generally what to expect with labor and learning some ways to cope with discomfort. To prepare for the birth of my second baby four years later, my husband and I both read The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. I liked that it was evidence based and a straight-forward source of information, and my husband put Simkin’s suggestions into action to truly be a great birth partner.

One of the most important aspects of birth preparation for me was developing a trusting and respectful relationship with my healthcare providers. My babies were delivered by two different OBs, and both were wonderful at communicating options to me as things progressed. Based on our discussions throughout pregnancy, I knew that I could trust them to be evidence based in their practice, and that helped me relax in labor and focus on my job of giving birth.

How did I prepare for the first few weeks of caring for a newborn? I did what women have been doing throughout the history of our species – I invited my mom to come and help! She was a wonderful help after the birth of both of my babies, and I felt lucky to have her.


AE: What future topics are you looking forward to writing about next?

AC: Readers of my blog keep me well-supplied with questions about parenting, and I have a huge list of topics that I’d like to tackle. One of my favorite areas of focus is nutrition, as that is the field of my PhD training, so I’d like to develop more information about infant nutrition on my blog.

While I was researching and writing my book, I had three miscarriages. That brought up lots of questions for me about miscarriage and infertility, but I didn’t have time to write much about these topics because I was working so hard on The Science of Mom. I’d like to write more about them now. I think there is a real need for compassionate and evidence-based writing about these tough topics.

About Anne M. Estes, PhD

AnneMEstes_headshot 2015Anne M. Estes, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Genome Sciences in Baltimore, MD. She is interested in how microbes and their host organisms work together throughout host development. Anne blogs about the importance of microbes, especially during pregnancy, birth, first foods, and early childhood at Mostly Microbes.

Babies, Book Reviews, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Newborns , , , , , ,

Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators – An Anatomy Ice Breaker

September 30th, 2015 by avatar
© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

This month’s “Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators” is one of my old standbys. I use it frequently at the beginning of a series class.  Last week I started a new seven week series and did it again on the first night, and I really enjoy how this activity effectively meets many of my learning goals for the families in attendance.  It is also simple and easy, requiring little in the way of materials and supplies!   After this activity, families are able to discuss the location and purpose of anatomical structures important to the childbearing year, connect and engage with other families in the class and briefly discuss some common pregnancy changes (and discomforts) that result from a progressing pregnancy.

“I Can Draw Birth Anatomy and So Can You!”


I often start the class out with this activity up first – even before introductions.  It works great as an icebreaker and gets people connecting in small groups.  Families are up and out of their seats moving around the classroom.  Lots of laughter assures me that people are settling in and relaxing, ready to build confidence in their ability to birth by having fun and connecting with their community. Before the students arrive, I have placed the very largest newsprint I have up on the walls in several locations around the room.  I like to have two or three families working on one piece of paper, so I plan accordingly

anatomy 1

© Sharon Muza

How it unfolds – the instructions

At the start of class – I ask the families to self select into groups of two or three families and head to a piece of paper.  I pass out the colored markers to everyone.  Each family gets their own laminated anatomy parts card.  “As we move through our childbirth classes, we are going to be talking a lot about the amazing body and its many parts.  I always think it is a good idea to understand what these parts are called, where they are located and what they do.  In order to do this, I am asking you all to draw and label your own anatomy charts. Use the list as a guide, take turns and have fun. You have 8 minutes.”

The drawing begins

People quickly jump to the task, taking turns drawing and labeling the different body parts on their newsprint.  I circulate throughout the room, connecting, admiring and keeping things focused and moving along.  There are usually peals of laughter, lots of discussion and very engaged families.  The time flies by and I give the one minute warning that encourages them all to wrap up.  Before we all sit down again, we do a “gallery walk” and move through the room visiting all the posters, admiring and laughing some more.

drawing anatomy

© Sharon Muza

My turn

Once we are all seated again, I compliment the class on the excellent job and take out my own standard anatomy chart of the non-pregnant and full-term pregnant woman.  I point out the parts they were asked to draw on my chart and discuss the unique details of each. For example, when discussing the umbilical cord, we talk about how many veins and arteries, the reason the cord is often coiled, the average length of an umbilical cord and the function of Wharton’s jelly.  The position of the bladder under the baby’s head allows us to talk about frequent urination as the baby grows.  We move through all the parts and I continue to point out the function and unique and interesting facts.  I also weave in common discomforts and use the charts to demonstrate why they might have heartburn, shortness of breath, or a back ache.

The takeaway

While I certainly can cover anatomy for birth without the small group drawings, the families are spending the first minutes of the first class building community, connecting with each other in small groups, sharing a common goal and laughing while identifying the important body parts that we will be discussing.  I can then move confidently move on to group introductions and some of the more mundane housekeeping information that always needs to be shared.  But we are quickly through that and on to another fun activity.

anatomy 2

© Sharon Muza

Parent feedback

Families like to take pictures of their drawings and almost immediately the nervous tension of being at the “first childbirth class” has been broken with the fun and laughter.  If families are late to arrive, it is easy to join a group and quickly participate without much lead in from me.  The pregnant people enjoy seeing non-pregnant partners “struggle” to identify various parts and everyone reports that the “gallery walk” is almost as much fun as the drawing activity.  The families report that they leave this activity with some great images of the amazing pregnant body and the understanding of how everything works together to support and grow their beautiful babies.


This fun activity is a great icebreaker for a new class.  Interactive and self-paced, families laugh and connect over a common goal.  Do you think you might try something like this in your class?  Do you do something similar already?  How might you modify this activity to meet the learning objectives you have for your birth anatomy section?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below. I would love to hear them!

anatomy list

Childbirth Education, Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators , , , ,

Conference Wrap-Up and Save the Date for Lamaze International 2016 Conference!

September 22nd, 2015 by avatar

Save the date 2016 lamaze conferenceLate Sunday night, I arrived home after attending the Lamaze International/ICEA Joint 2015 Conference in Las Vegas, NV.  I am both exhausted and deeply satisfied.  I enjoyed networking with other attendees, listening to fascinating concurrent sessions, and learning new information as well as presenting a few sessions myself.  I am freshly motivated to continue to work hard to be an engaging and evidence based childbirth educator who helps families to feel prepared and confident as they ready themselves for birth.

The plenary speakers, Elan McAllister, William Camann, MD, Joan Combellick, CNM and Jennie Joseph, DLM while speaking on wildly different topics, all left me with the same final message:  childbirth educators play a key role in improving perinatal outcomes.  We work closely with families to help them to advocate for themselves, understand the birth process and navigate the challenges that often come up during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  And it starts with us!  Providing unbiased, current information, creating community amongst those who attend our classes, and supporting connection between pregnant people and their partners all help families to navigate the childbearing year with confidence and information.  Childbirth education matters and it especially matters for families who face health inequities and disparities because of the color of their skin, the language they speak or their socio-economic status.  Childbirth educators can extend their reach and offer support in communities that are most affected by these inequities and even a little effort makes a big difference.  I also very much appreciated the virtual conference component, where questions were asked from those attending some of the sessions on line from around the world.

Every family we work with benefits from the information and knowledge that they obtain while participating in our classes.  Every new educator that we mentor increases the impact that we all have.  Every time we learn new and current information we can pass on to our families, we are helping to improve outcomes.  I feel replenished, renewed and excited for my next childbirth class series to start, excited for the opportunity.

I would like to thank the conference committee, the Lamaze staff from the home office and the Lamaze Board of Directors for all their hard work and effort to make this year’s conference a welcoming learning environment, a successful networking opportunity and an outrageously fun time.  I would also like to remind conference attendees to submit their evaluations via the conference app so that they can receive contact hours for the sessions they attended.

Lamaze International announced the dates and location of next year’s annual conference.  The 2016 Lamaze International Annual Conference will be October 20-23rd, 2016 at what will be a brand new Hilton West Palm Beach hotel at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Look for more information about how to submit abstracts or become an exhibitor, later this year and for registration in the spring of 2016.  Regardless, be sure to mark your calendars and save the date so that you can attend and experience the connection, learning and excitement that only happens at the annual conference.  Until next year!

2016 Conference, Childbirth Education, Lamaze International , , , ,

The Start of the Lamaze/ICEA 2015 Conference – 10 Reasons This Will Be an Outstanding Event

September 17th, 2015 by avatar

Screenshot 2015-09-16 18.41.45

I just arrived in Las Vegas at the conference hotel earlier today, after a relatively short travel day from my home in Seattle, WA.  I am very excited for the conference to begin.  I remember attending the last joint conference with ICEA and Lamaze International five years ago in Milwaukee, WI.  It was called the “Mega-Conference” and it was very satisfying and enriching.  I expect this conference, also in collaboration with ICEA. to be equally enjoyable and a great learning opportunity.  Last year, Lamaze International and DONA International shared a conference in Kansas City, MO, and it was a huge hit.

Planet-Hollywood-Hotel-Las-VegasThe Lamaze leadership team has been hard at work since yesterday, gathering for their annual meeting with board members and Lamaze staff.  The exhibitors are hard at work loading in their vendor displays, tables and resources.  The conference staff are putting the finishing touches on all the details in preparation for the conference opening tomorrow afternoon. I imagine that some conference attendees are already here and the majority of people are arriving tomorrow.  I am excited for the conference opening tomorrow afternoon with plenary speaker Elan McCallister.

if you would like to follow along on Twitter with those attendees who will be posting – you can use this list as a starting point:

@JeanetteIBCLC, Jeanette McCulloch ‏

@RobinPregnancy, Robin Elise Weiss

@Shutterdoula, Andrea Lythgoe

@ChristineMorton, Christine Morton

@YourDoulaBag, Alice Turner

@KKonradLCCE, Kathryn Konrad

@ShiningLghtPE, Deena Blumenfeld ‏



@DoulaMatch, Kim James

@HeartSoulBiz, Jessica English

Are you tweeting from the Lamaze International/ICEA conference in Vegas?  Include your username in the comments below and I will update this list! Rumor has it that the most retweets may win a prize at the end of the conference!

On Facebook, look for #LamazeICEA to get all the Facebook conference updates.

viva las vegasI thought this might be a good time to reflect on the reasons that I am happy to be participating in the conference this year and all the valuable reasons that it is worth the time and money.  This top ten list is adapted from a previous post.

1. Have fun in Las Vegas, an intense and incredibly active city with great entertainment, food, shopping and natural beauty just a short drive away. Just like birth, Vegas seems to be happening and “on” 24/7.

2. See old friends from conferences past. This one of the best things about going to a conference.  When you attend, you have the chance to see the birth professionals that you connect with throughout the year online and on the phone, and rarely get a chance to visit with in person.  Imagine three whole days to chat, visit and learn with your best birth buddies.  Some of my dearest friends I only see at the Lamaze conference, and I cherish the time I get to spend with them.

3. Meet new friends and establish new relationships that can grow and flourish!  There will be so many interesting people from all over the world attending the annual conference.  This year will include attendees from many other countries as well as men and women from all over the United States and Canada. It is easy to mix and mingle with people new to you, find out interesting things and establish new friendships!

4. Contact hours abound when you attend all the conference sessions, and participation in pre-conference workshops will award you even more.

19 Lamaze Contact Hours and 22 Contact Hours approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing (CABRN) may be earned by attending all plenary, concurrent, exercise, and poster sessions and completing a participant evaluation after the conference. Lamaze Contact Hours will be accepted by ICEA for recertification.

17 Contact Hours of Continuing Nursing Education credit may be earned by attending all concurrent and plenary sessions and completing a participant evaluation after the conference.

Lamaze International is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

9.1 CERPs may be earned by attending select sessions and completing a participant evaluation after the conference. IBLCE CERPs Recognition Number: LTP Number CLT108-12.

5. Learn fun, childbirth class activities, creative teaching ideas and new topics and information to use in your childbirth classes.  See childbirth educators and other experts in action, providing you the opportunity to take away loads of useful material for to use when you go back home.

6. Learn about new research, evidence based information and best practices that you can take back to your communities to help improve maternal infant outcomes for women and families.  Leaders in the field will share the newest information with you.  Use this new information in your classes, offering the latest facts to your families so they can make informed choices.

7. Hear four fabulous keynote speakers present in our four plenary sessions.  Elan McAllister, William Camann, Joan Combellick and Jennie Joseph are all ready to knock your socks off with their presentations designed just for our conference.  Click on their names to read more about their presentations in the interviews they did with Science & Sensibility.

8. Learn about new and exciting opportunities and alliances that Lamaze International has planned for the future to continue to grow our organization and remain a leader in the field of childbirth education. Our Annual Meeting luncheon will be held on Saturday, where you can meet the Lamaze board and staff, vote for new board of directors and provide input on how the organization is meeting your needs.

9. Network with colleagues and experts and establish professional relationships with opportunity for collaboration and joint-ventures. Discuss business opportunities and create new alliances that can help you further your career and grow your business.

10. Connect and collaborate with ICEA educators as we share the learning and the mission to improve maternal infant health in this exciting joint conference.

Bonus Reason #11!  Come say hello to me!  I would love to meet you while in Las Vegas, to hear about how the Science & Sensibility blog can grow and expand to meet your needs!, I am excitedly participating in several ways at the conference and would love the chance to meet you all, hear your thoughts on our blog and learn what you would like to see on the blog in the future!

Viva Las Vegas!






2015 Conference, 2015 Lamaze & ICEA Joint Conference, Childbirth Education, Lamaze International , , , ,

Black Breastfeeding Week – “Lift Every Baby” Supports Breastfeeding Black Families

August 27th, 2015 by avatar

BBW-Logo-AugustDates-300x162August 1-7th was World Breastfeeding Week, and the entire month of August was National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.  Science & Sensibility shared information and resources in two posts; Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make It Work! Join Science & Sensibility in Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week and Happy World Breastfeeding Week! The Celebration Continues with More Free Resources, along with a “Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators: Nine Ideas for Using Knit Breasts in Breastfeeding Classes” post for those who teach expectant families.

This week we want to recognize and honor Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31, 2015) and share information about the “Lift Every Baby” awareness campaign that is the theme of this year’s program.  Black Breastfeeding Week is designed to raise awareness and provide support in black communities.  Both the initiation rate and the duration rate of breastfeeding in black families has been lower than the rates in white families for more than four decades. Low birth weight, preterm deliveries and maternal complications such as preeclampsia are all higher in black women and the black infant mortality rate is more than twice that of white babies.  Breastfeeding and the important benefits it provides can help all babies, but for the most vulnerable and the sickest, breastmilk is a critical component that can mean the difference between life and death.

black breastfeeding mother babyBlack Breastfeeding Week was established three years ago by three women, Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green and Anaya Sangodele-Ayoka, all leaders in the field of maternal child health, with a focus on families of color.  In the past three years, attention, discussion and events focused on supporting Black Breastfeeding Week have only grown as people of all colors recognize the health disparities that exist right here in the United States, between white families and black families that have lifelong impacts, simply due to the color of one’s skin.

Kimberly Seals Allers wrote an excellent commentary on why there is a need for Black Breastfeeding Week.

There are many activities around the country to support Black Breastfeeding Week.  A full event list can be found here.  On August 29 at 3 PM EST the first nationally coordinated “Lift Up” will be held in various cities across the United States.  Black families will join together at different meeting points across the country to “Lift Up” their babies, regardless of their size or age, to recognize the importance of community support for children.

There will also be the first ever Twitter chat (#LifeEveryBaby) in honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, scheduled for tonight, August 27th at 9 PM EST that you are invited to participate in.

Cara Terreri, from Lamaze International’s blog for parents, Giving Birth With Confidence, has compiled a list of  black breastfeeding resources that you should be aware of:

Black Breastfeeding Week website & Facebook page

It’s Only Natural,” – CDC & Office of Women’s Health breastfeeding guide for African American families

Normalize Breastfeeding

Black Women Do Breastfeed website & Facebook page

Mocha Manual

Your Guide to Breastfeeding for African American Women

You can also find more information and resources on the Black Breastfeeding Week Resources and Toolkit page.

Additionally, I would like to refer you to two previous posts in our “Welcoming All Families” series, written by Lamaze educator and lactation consultant Tamara Hawkins, discussing welcoming families of color to your classes.  Working with Women of Color and Working with Women of Color – Educator Information can help educators create and provide applicable classes and information to the families of color joining their classes.

Black Breastfeeding Week is an important event that can help create awareness for the importance of culturally relevant and accessible breastfeeding support and information for black families.  Childbirth educators and other birth professionals should be ready to provide resources that can help close the gap to the families they work with.  Are you participating in any Black Breastfeeding Week events?  Let us know in the comments section and please, let us all join together to “Lift Every Baby.”


Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Infant Attachment, Newborns, Push for Your Baby , , , , ,

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