Baby Wearing – Part 1

Baby Wearing

USA 1920s
1950s – American Woman Carrying a Baby

Many cultures have used baby wearing for a variety of reasons.  Some cultures have lost the wisdom behind its use, and many have gravitated to more modern ways, such as the use of a stroller or pram to bring babies along with them on walks and to the store.

In pre-historical times mothers had to devise ways to forage and hunt while carrying for babies. Skins, bark, hand-woven reeds, or bark would have been constructed to assist in keeping baby close and safe. When woven fabrics were invented, women would have utilized long woven wraps or shawls to tie their babies into carrying positions either next to the chest or on their back.

A few words for baby carriers in various languages exist:

Amauti: an Inuit back pouch that was incorporated with the coat, the pouch created when cinched at the waist.  The baby was then held high up on the back lying on a bed of fur within the pouch.

Dakkohimo or onbuhimo: a Japanese carrier using cloth and straps that would go over the shoulders. It was worn either on the front or the back.  It could be used by the mother, siblings, or grandparents.

Mei tai:  Chinese fabric panel with for straps attached at each corner.  The bottom two straps are tied at the waist; the upper two crisscross either for front-carrying or back carrying. The fabric panel supports the whole torso.

Podaegi: used by Koreans used a blanket-like appearing traditional wrap that has straps.  Infant through toddler-aged were back-carried.

Kanga: a rectangular cloth that wraps around both mother and baby to assist back-carrying used in Kenya.

Selendang:  A rectangular batik cloth that is tucked and folded to form a sling is used by the women in Indonesia.

Can’ic’ik’oƞpa: The Lakota “cradle board” using two attached boards for carrying.
The Welsh kept their tradition of blanket-wrapping until the 50s, when it almost died out.  It is seeing somewhat of renewal today. You can see images here: Celtic Baby Carrying

Around the early 1900s the use of baby carrying or wearing became out of fashion, because of social ideas.  It was thought that only poor persons used this method.  It was deemed a method of “spoiling” a baby, to spend so much time in such close contact.

To continue on this topic see: Part 2

Sphincter Law – Part 2

doula at work

Sphincters May Close Suddenly if the Owner is Frightened

The sudden contraction of the Sphincters is a fear-based reaction, as a part of the fight-or-flight response of adrenals. The Adrenaline/catecholamine level will rise in the bloodstream when frightened or angered.

If a female animal in the wild is in process of birth, the birth process will reverse if the animal is startled by a surprise encounter with a predator. Humans can do the same thing.

In her book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina describes a situation where during labor a woman developed a fever; soon it became apparent that there was a bladder infection. She was seven centimeters dilated, but stalled in labor. So Ina chose to transport her to a hospital.

The laboring woman was examined by a doctor that was rough…who stated she was only 4 centimeters. Her dilation retracted from 7 to 4 centimeters as an automatic response to the roughly-handled internal exam…a natural self-protection, evidence of the function of the sphincter function.

What Helps the Sphincters?

• Trust, comfort, familiarity and safety
• Laughter
• Slow and deep [abdominal] breathing
• Immersion in warm water which calms and relaxes
• Relaxation of the mouth and jaw
o Relax the throat and jaw by singing
o Release an audible low moaning sound (similar to the sounds of lovemaking)
o “horse-lips” similar to the tone that horses make when they make that sound with their lips flapping, or “raspberry” sound.
• Relaxed labor supporters

~This information was taken from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is an internationally known Midwife, who has delivered babies and written books on Midwifery and natural childbirth. She works at THE FARM, in Tennessee.

Sphincter Law- Part 1

doula at work
In birth work, obstetricians use the Law of Three Ps:

• Passenger (baby)
• The Passage (the pelvic structure and vagina)
• And the Powers (strength of uterine contractions)

From these Ina Gaskin believes stems the misunderstood capacity of a woman’s body from both the pregnant woman and the doctors who work with them. From the misunderstood capacities are the causative factors leading to all the interventions and procedures that now create problems in birthing, such as: Cesarean sections, Forceps use, vacuum extractors, etc.

The blame is placed upon women, for what obstetricians see as “dysfunctional birth”. Women have birthed for eons without a hitch; doctors perceive having a baby as “a problem of physics rather than a millions-of-years-old physiological process (168)”.

The Basics of Sphincter Law

• They function best when the atmosphere is private, and familiar.
• They do not open “at will” and do not respond to commands such as “Push!”
• When in the process of opening (relaxing) they will suddenly close down if a person is upset, frightened, humiliated, or self-conscious. This is the reason why in most traditional cultures women assist women in birth.
• If the mouth and jaw are relaxed, there is a direct correlation to the ability of the sphincters opening in the cervical and vaginal area (or the anus, for that matter).

What are the Sphincters?

These are a grouping of muscles that surround the rectum, bladder, the cervix and vagina. Each has a function for the body. These muscles remain contracted to keep the openings of certain organs held shut until something needs to pass through.

How do they work?

They work in conjunction with the brain. The brain has two sections that directly influence the functions of the Sphincters. These sections are the neocortex and the brain stem (or “primal” brain).

The brain stem is the portion that is directly connected to hormonal functions, and more instinctual. The hormones it releases (related to birth) are oxytocin (the main ingredient in the drug Pitocin, used to induce labor), endorphins, and prolactin.

Whereas the neocortex stimulation works to inhibit the brain stem from hormone release. It is “stimulated” during labor by asking too many questions of a woman in labor, bright light, and failure to protect her privacy during birth.

The sphincters work with the brain stem (and its many hormonal excretions) by a relaxation response. They respond to emotions. A good example of this relaxation response is what happens when toilet functions are interrupted. Everything gets held in, and it takes a while to relax again, right?

~more on the “Sphincters” next week!

Pain in Childbirth – Part 2

father in delivery room

What contributes to PAIN in labor?


Muscles that are stretched, hurt. The muscles of the uterus work faster, the blood and oxygen flow is lessened. When there is tension, the uterus works even harder and fatigue sets in. The tension of the surrounding muscles has created a “brick wall”. So, relax.


The stretching of the lower uterine portion and the intense contractions of the upper uterine muscle are what is thought to be the source of the pain felt. But these muscles actually have very few pain receptors. You would not feel the pain unless the muscles were forced to work in an unnatural manner. If tense and fearful the nerve endings of the muscles and tissues around the uterus send messages to the pain receptors. There is a direct correlation of tension to pain.

Tired muscles

The biochemistry of the muscle is imbalance when tired. It creates tension that sends out more electrical activity. The physiological changes will lower the point at which the muscle will hurt.

The outlet is too small, or baby too big

These actually do not need to be an issue. Usually the position of the baby or laboring mother, are the causative factor of pain. The pain messages are signaling that something isn’t right. What will help is a change of position of the mother.

Get out of the horizontal position, to a vertical one, and things will change. The baby is assisted (most of the time) to re-position him/or herself in the womb to facilitate birth without as much pain. As stated in a different hand-out, just doing this type of change in position opens the outlet by 20%.


Information is out there on all the things that “can go wrong”. We are not taught that birthing is a natural process; we women are pummeled with media and other females telling horror stories about birth.

There is a shroud over the whole process of birth, making it seem to be a great mystery. What is needed is correct information.

Your uterus is a magnificent muscle which is affected by the neuro-hormonal pathway that connects the brain, the circulatory system and the uterus. Fear causes an alteration of the pathway creating a reduction of blood and oxygen to the brain. This results in the tightening of the cervical opening of the womb.

Fear unbalances the hormones of the body. Being fearful causes the release of labor inhibiting hormones. These are the stress hormones of the adrenal glands that when in stress, we release hormones that are the fight-or-flight mechanisms. Animals also have them, and the hormones are released to stop labor allowing them to find a safe place for birthing. These then block the labor enhancing hormones . This lengthens the labor and increases the pain felt.

A well-informed, correct education about birthing will assist you. Make sure your labor supporters also have been educated so that their fear is not surrounding you when you are in labor.

Occasionally, the sensation of pain will continue, even after all the relaxation techniques are implemented. This may be due to a tightened psoas muscle or mal-aligned hip. Both can cause tension in the body, and / or problems with the baby being delivered easily. These two issues can be checked, and remedied.

The Natural Pain relieving Narcotic: Endorphins

“Circulating throughout the body are natural hormones that relax you when stressed and relieve pain when you hurt (138)”

What is sad is that most women do not know about these hormones, or that they can activate them when needed. In the 1970s studies were being done for drug addiction and the presence of these hormones in the receptor sites of the brain (for morphine-like substances). What was found was that the nerve cells that are attached to receptor sites, had chemical pain relievers that acted to dull the sensation of pain in the cells. Here is how they can work for you:

As you probably know, Endorphins are raised during exercise and well, labor is strenuous exercise!

  • When the abdomen contracts in labor, the Endorphin level is raised.
    o This is especially true in the second stage of labor.
    o They are the highest after labor, and two weeks beyond.
    Endorphins are highest during vaginal birth, not so much when labor was started but delivery was cesarean.
  • Endorphins are higher in newborns that had signs of fetal distress during their delivery.
    o Baby also receives Endorphins during birth.
  • The release of Endorphins also will stimulate the production of prolactin, the hormone that relaxes and creates the “mothering” sensation.
    o Prolactin regulates milk production, which boosts the interaction with baby and mother.
    o These hormones are what researchers think are the cause of the “birth high”.
  • Mothers who had surgical birth have lowered hormone levels, which would account for the delay in milk supply after cesarean birth.
  • Endorphin production is directly tied to a person’s emotional state.
    o So if stress and anxiety are not resolved the body increases the stress hormones, Catecholamines, which counteract the relaxation produced by Endorphins.
    o Like commercial narcotics, Endorphins may behave differently woman to woman, which is why some women may feel more pain than others.
  • Injectable narcotics give you a bit of blast of pain relief, whereas Endorphins give you a steady dose throughout labor.

Women in labor are very aware of the natural hormone effects and describe the experience as a “natural high”.

Pain in Childbirth – Part 1

father in delivery room
Biological Purpose of Pain

The human body responds to pain with either the response to flee, or the response to stand and fight. Some responses are automatic, such as the immediate withdrawal of the hand when burned accidently. External pains can be avoided.

But, what is known as visceral (ves-er-al) pain cannot be escaped. These are ones from the internal organs, and the uterus is an internal organ. This is in the case of normal and natural function, not a diseased state.

Extreme hunger or excessive thirst are due to physiological imbalance. These can be painful, but satiated by eating and drinking.

How Pain is Felt

On the body surface and on the outside of various organs are nerve endings. These were heightened during man’s primitive days, as sensors when man was attacked by creatures with tooth and claw. Certain exterior areas are very sensitive such as the neck, under the arms, abdomen, and chest.

The internal organs also have receptors, but only register with pain mechanisms when the external area is severely injured. The interesting thing is “the intestines and uterus can be burnt, cauterized, handled and moved without any sensation of discomfort to the patient,…(34)”. But if either has been torn or stretched the receptors respond with pain. The question we have to ask is why only during birth is the sensation of pain felt…a normal function.

The nerves send the information to the part of the brain called the thalamus. Here the intensity of the pain is interpreted. Then they are sent to the outer cortex of the brain to be balanced and qualified. The response to the messages from the Thalamus would be dependent upon the magnitude of the message by the Thalamus. The strongest response is fear, which brings about the most motor responses.

The thing to emphasize here is that this response is recognized in the normal and uncomplicated labor. The degree of neuro-response mechanism is determined by the state of the particular woman who has the pain. One may get a sense of total agony, and feel she is in great discomfort. While another woman may sense that it is not intense agonizing pain. It depends on the mental state of the person.

For the woman in birth the first time, the pain sensation will cause tension. This tension sets the stage for a flight reaction, that causes the uterine muscles that are circumventing the lower portion of the uterus to tighten. The longitudinal muscles are then constricted.
It is the longitudinal muscles that work to assist the fetus to be expelled at birth. The circulatory muscular portion of the uterus causes the longitudinal muscles to struggle in the effort to dilate the cervix. They work in opposition rendering the lower portion of the uterus and outlet resistant to dilation. The two opposite reactions in the muscular structure is then interpreted by the brain as pain.

Therefore, the fear OF pain produces ACTUAL pain.

We are so conditioned to believe that childbirth must be painful. Even Hollywood’s depiction is of childbirth as a painful ordeal, showing women screaming in agony.
It does not have to be this way…

Pain in any other part of the body at any other time is an indicator or “alarm” that something is not right. In labor it is also…an indicator that you need to RELAX.

Pain in labor releases a hormone that inhibits labor.

The Vocabulary of Pain


father in delivery room

The following information was written in order to understand pain in childbirth. This is a preliminary to understanding what your body senses when in labor.

Pain Threshold

The definition is “the point in which an individual first perceives the presence of pain”. This could be when ice or heat no longer is affective for blocking and / or reducing pain.
Each person has their own threshold. It is thought that threshold remains the same throughout ones life. But, Childbirth educators have found that the threshold is quite flexible. It is found that when comfort measures are used that effectively reduce pain or make it easier to bear, and the woman is distracted from her comfort measures, then the comfort measures no longer are useful. It will take a stronger stimulus to then break through the pain. Nothing had changed in the strength of the pain itself, “rather, her distraction reduced her pain threshold so that less pain was necessary in order for her to notice it (162)”.

Intensity is defined as “the quantitative measure of how strong or severe the pain is (Ibid.)”. The usual measurement is a scale of 0 to 10. O being no pain, and 10 meaning that the pain is out of control.

Character is a qualitative measure, using verbal or pictorial descriptors and analogies. Pain character may be described as burning, aching, tearing, or sharp like a knife. Character is the most important aspect to consider when managing pain.

Concerning when pain is first noted, and how long it lasts, and whether it is a steady pain or sporatic. It is particularly significant in that smaller diameter nerve fibers may, after repetitive signals become more responsive to pain signals. Many management strategies that are not pharmaceutical focus on the larger nerve fibers, which respond well.

It is where the pain is perceived in the body. Depending on the location, the distress level may rise and start to interfere with eating, breathing, sleep, concentration, or the ability to otherwise function normally. If she is unable to concentrate due to location or any other aspect of the pain, she will be less able to use the pain management strategies she has learned.

Sensation Threshold
It is the point where the stimulus was first perceived. When reached, it is when the client first is aware of itching, cold, pressure, pain, or any other sensation. Of these, pain is the most important in that it could signify potential or actual tearing. Other sensations that may later become concerning may eventually grow strong enough to be perceived as pain.

Pain Tolerance
Defined as the greatest severity of painful stimulation an individual is able or is willing to tolerate. “Encouraged Tolerance” is the highest level of pain a person will tolerate when encouraged to try to tolerate more”. It serves a purpose, but not for women in labor as it may lower the tolerance to pain. It actually would translate to suffering rather than just pain.

Categories of Pain

Occurs at the dermal level, and is sharp, localized, and generally tonic. An example would be the prick of the needle when given an injection.

Occurring at the organ level, could be sharp or dull. There is less localization and could either be tonic or episodic. Examples: uterine contractions, severe constipation, and intestinal gas.

It occurs at the soft tissue level. It is dull, aching, not localized and usually tonic.

Nerve Compression
The pain results from pressure on one or more nerves. It may be localized, or be referred pain to one or more regions of the body.

Protein Foods

Protein Foods

(with the protein foods containing the most essential amino acids first).

Eggs (preferably organic, or at least “free-range”)
Fish (preferably:
Poultry (preferably: baked, broiled or stewed)
Tofu & other beans
Oats (preferably not quick cooking)
Nuts (especially almonds)

Protein Food Combinations

(to assure best usage of the most Amino Acids found in the food /Proteins )

Beans + Wheat
Beans + Rice
Corn bread + Beans
Corn tortillas + Beans
Lentil Curry + Rice
Pea Soup + Wheat (bread)
Pasta + milk and/or Cheese
Cheese + Wheat (cheese sandwiches)
Macaroni + Cheese
Garbanzo dip (hummus)
Sunflower seeds, peanuts, roasted soybeans (snack foods)

“Diet for a Small Planet”. Fig.14, page 176
Ibid. page 181 (Chart)

Stress, Part 3



Stress and Pregnancy

This is a huge transitional period for the family unit, and usually characterized as stressful. Due to new roles to learn, adjustments within the family unit, communication patterns are re-established. These shifts may trigger biologic changes, hormonal function shifts, and immune system vulnerability.

The whole family unit is thrown off it equilibrium due to restructure of family roles, adjustments to family goals, physical and emotional changes that pregnancy may bring. This is the case for the average and normal situation and pregnancy. What about other circumstances or high risk pregnancy?

If the pregnancy is from an already stressful situation such as a rape or domestic violence has occurred, the stressor of pregnancy brings additional problems. Decisions need to be made to assist the mother, if other children are involved, their safety attended to.

In high risk pregnancy situation, stress is further aggravated if hospitalization is required. “High risk” is a label given to those whom the health of the baby or mother to be is threatened.

The pregnant mother’s ability to adjust and or adapt to the situation may be in jeopardy by the excessive level of stress. The mother must understand the causative factors in being labeled high risk and accept the situation in order to have a good outcome. As well as the pregnant mother, all other family members need to assess, accept, and readjust to this prognosis.

Unfortunately, pregnancy on the reservation is almost always considered high risk. This is due to poverty, gang activity, teenage pregnancy, alcohol consumption and drug abuse.

Only YOU can change this! Change the additional stressors in your life, and then you can change the outcome of your pregnancy and delivery!

Stress, Part 2



Social and Family Stress

Social stress can be an actual threat or that what is perceived as a threat. These are within ones social environment. This could be relationships at work, conflicts at school, or interactions that occur within a person’s society.

Inside the family unit certain life events can affect the family directly or indirectly. Some of the stressors could be things that are deemed “normal” such as a birth in the family.

Stressors could be caused by ambiguous facts, such as an illness of unknown cause in which the doctor states the person will die at some time. Also, there are stressors that are caused by nonambiguous facts such as the onset of a severe storm and its aftermath.

Volitional stressors are things such as divorce, things that members of the family may cause or control the end result. Chronic stressors are events that occur over an extended time, such as a handicapped family member. Acute Stressors are temporary, such the hospitalization of woman giving birth. An isolated stressor is a singular event, such as the arrest of a family member.

Family stressors can proceed a crisis within the family but not all family stress leads to a crisis. Here are four indicators that a family is in a crisis:

• Members within the family are no longer able to function with their family roles
• Family members cannot make decisions and solve problems
• They are unable to give care to each other in a way usually seen
• A shift from family to individual survival


About Stress


There are two types: the type that is good, making you feel satisfaction and happiness. And there is negative, which leads to fatigue and possibly, illness.

There is no singular thing to point to as a cause of the latter. But, what is known about it is that the body makes biochemical changes when it is present.

GAS or General Adaptation Syndrome, has three stages. These stages are: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. In the alarm stage the quick initial response is lowered blood pressure and tachycardia. This is in preparation for the fight or flight response to continued stress. The body will continue to increase its production of adrenocortico-tropic hormones. Along with this is increasing heart rate and elevation in blood pressure.

If the condition becomes prolonged, to the point where the adaptation of the body is too great, vulnerability of the body occurs…and exhaustion. The body is not designed to stay in a heightened state of arousal.

If continued, the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated with vasoconstricted blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, increasing heart rate, and the secretion of adrenaline. The immune system will then become suppressed and the increasing cortisol will cause cholesterol and other lipids in the blood to increase at the same time.

Situations or “agents” that cause stress are called STRESSORS. These may include physical things such as heat, exertion, trauma, infection, or cold. Or it may be from psychological reasons such as fear, anxiety, or disappointment. Stress may be caused by external things. Examples may include poverty, inadequate housing, and certain life events.

Factors altering stress responses are called mediators. The MEDIATORS may be genetics, developmental factors, experience, and social context. Some people appear to be more resilient and cope better with stress, while others seem to be more vulnerable.