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What is an Empowered Birth?

“For me an empowered birth is one where I am the one who makes the decisions for me and my baby. Where I am in an environment of love, support, and respect for the power within my body to successfully birth my baby. Where I can be free to express anything I need to express; sound, movement, fear, love, ecstasy in a place that my expression will not lead to interference from the outside. I believe women have the ability to create an empowering birth experience regardless of if the birth outcome is natural, medicated, or surgical.   When women are making the decisions for their bodies and their babies out of education, faith, belief and confidence in themselves and not out of fear or manipulation they will be empowered.  I believe in the human body, in it’s power, and in birth’s ability to transform a person, woman, wife, and mother.”

Dr. Nancy, Your Birth Coach

If you, too, want an empowered birth – join the community at http://naturalbirthbabyandbeyond.com.

Natural Birth, Baby, and Beyond is an online childbirth empowerment course and online community where you can get all the information and resources you need to create the best birth for you and your baby.

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Mom Breastfeeds Her 6 year Old and Social Media Goes Crazy.

“The foundation for healthy growth and development in later years is established to a large degree in the first six years of life.”
- Toward a Healthy Future: Second report of the Health of Canadians {Federal, Provincial and territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health, 1999}

Denise Sumpter, nursing her 2 children, ages 6 and 21 months.

The recommendations of the World Health Organization and Health Canada are to breastfeed exclusively for a minimum 6 months and then continue on with complimentary foods for 2 years and then continue on for however long the family decides, with no upper limit.

I am, in no way, saying that everyone must breastfeed for two years and beyond or that everyone must breastfeed at all, what I would like to suggest is that breastfeeding is normal and looks different for every family. You do what is right for your family and another mother will do what is right for hers.

We are in a culture that likes to spew the mantra that “Breast is Best” but then does everything possible to sabotage a woman’s ability to fully breastfeed her child.

There are those who refuse to believe that feeding a child corn syrup and modified milk ingredients could be less advantageous to a child’s health than human milk and there are people who claim to support breastfeeding then place arbitrary caveats to their support.

“I support breastfeeding… but only until age X.”

“I support breastfeeding… but not in public.”

Frankly, you don’t really support breastfeeding if you only support it half way. Either you support a woman’s ability, and reproductive right, to breastfeed her child, or you don’t.

Part of the problem we have supporting breastfeeding is that we don’t have much experience with breastfeeding at all. We have had whole generations where breastfeeding was all but lost, and now that it is making a resurgence, it is typically still hidden behind closed doors. You may actually know lots of people have had nursed past infancy but because of the way our culture shames women, they have kept it quiet.

I am a very vocal breastfeeding advocate and I noticed the societal pressure once my children started getting older. Just this holiday season, I was at a party with friends I haven’t seen in year and who don’t have children. My 3 year old (my youngest nursling) asked to nurse and I suddenly became VERY conscious of my company and surroundings, questioning if I should allow him to, or not. I have never not allowed him to nurse based on being in public before, but I was in close quarters with people I know, not just in the mall with random strangers. I suddenly became aware that this might look unusual to them. They, themselves, have never breastfed and have likely never seen anyone breastfeed except me. Once I started nursing, the next question was, “How old is he?” He’s just 3, at the time just 2 months beyond age 2.

In November of last year, I was facilitating a panel discussion after the film “The Milky Way” at the CHOICE! A Birth and Baby Film Festival. Even in this forum where people were coming to learn and support breastfeeding, and I was surrounded by full term breastfeeding supportive comrades, I was hesitant to publicly disclose that my 3, 5, and 8 year old all still nurse. I actually felt the need to assess whether or not it was safe to actually speak that out loud. It’s not because I have any shame in it and I don’t hide it. All the mothers who know me in real life or online, know my kids all still nurse and I think it’s a great thing, but I actually felt fear of being attacked if I said it in a public forum. The next question was invariably, “How long, is too long, to breastfeed?” My response, “When either the child or mother decides they want to stop.”

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When I sat down to write this post, I questioned whether or not I would disclose my nurslings ages. It won’t be the first time I have shared my full term nursing experience and won’t be the first time I am attacked for it. Three years ago, I shared this picture on a Facebook page that was asking for breastfeeding photos. It is an image of me nursing my 5 and 2 year old while 8 months pregnant with my third. You can see my responses to the backlash on my blog post: What’s Wrong With This Picture? Why Do We Only Give Lip Service to Breastfeeding?

Densie Sumpter is a U.K. mom who was interviewed about her full term nursing who has since gotten many messages of support and also many attacks and judgement about her parenting choice.

“The nutritional benefits at six are virtually negligible”

The media has given space for a self proclaimed “breastfeeding expert” to propagate misinformation about breastfeeding. The supposed breastfeeding “expert” stated there is virtually negligible nutritional benefit for a six year old to drink milk. Let’s examine that statement for a moment.

Recommendations from Health Canada for feeding children over 12 months: “Breastfeed as long as you and your child want to continue.” “If you are no longer breastfeeding, offer 500 milliliters (mL) of homogenized milk (3.25% M.F.) each day.”
They want you to keep getting the nutritional benefit of milk even after a mother chooses to stop breastfeeding. It’s just that our culture has normalized getting breastmilk from a cow and called human milk given to someone older than a toddler “disgusting.”

In a culture that so highly reveres cows milk (the breastmilk expressed from the breast of another species) as a staple for children’s (and even adult) diets, why would human milk, made for humans by humans, not be nutritionally beneficial for human children. It isn’t as if one day (at some arbitrary, assigned-by-society timeline) your breasts stop making nutritious milk and start spewing junk food.

It’s true that Breastmilk at age 6 isn’t likely to account for the bulk of the child’s caloric intake so, it isn’t the main source of nutritional intake, but neither is the one carrot a day, a vegetable hating child may eat. The little they get from the carrot is still contributing to their overall nutrition. Just because a 6 year old nurses infrequently and therefore consumes only a little bit of milk, doesn’t mean that human milk isn’t still the most highly nutritious food on the planet (for humans).

“Does she go to school at lunch to nurse her child?”

Since many people only have reference to an infant or maybe a toddler nursing, some are under the assumption that the child is nursing every 2-4 hours like a newborn. Typically, when older children nurse they do it a few times a day, once day, every few days, once a week, once a month, it depends on the child. Actually, this is what self weaning looks like. Eventually, the time between feeds becomes so long that there just isn’t another one. In many cases of full term nursing, neither the mother or child even remember the last feed, it was such a gradual weaning process and no one formally decided to draw a line in the sand.

“Why not put it in a cup?”

This comment makes no sense to me. Either you are OK with them drinking human milk or you aren’t. Saying to put it in a cup, suggests you are not opposed to the child consuming milk from her own species. Why would anyone go through the extra effort of expressing milk and storing it for when the child need/wants it and then potentially wasting what isn’t drank in time? Seems horribly ineffi

cient.
So if you are not opposed to choosing to drink human milk at age 6, then what difference does it make what container she drinks it from?

It’s “Wrong” To breastfeed a child that age.

The only reasoning I can come up with behind this statement is that somehow after toddlerhood (infancy for some) having your child see, touch, or suckle your breasts is believe to be sexual.

a) Breasts are for feeding our young. The reason why they are seen as sexual is, This one deserves a 4 part discussion:

because our primitive brain sees them as a way of nourishing our future offspring. A man’s brain says, “Hooray breasts! My genetic material will be nourished and survive to be passed on for generations to come.” So are breast sexual, yes! BECAUSE THEY FEED CHILDREN!!

b) Hugging and kissing are also sexual but they can be used in different contexts. Those actions are not inherently sexual, it depends on the person you are doing them with. You can hug and kiss your child or your aunt and no one declares it as sexual. It’s the same with breasts.

The vagina also has different contexts, birthing a baby is not sexual in the way that making a baby is. Same part, different use.

Society needs to get over the duality of female bodies. We are sexual by nature. That sexuality leads to making babies. Babies use those same parts of our body to be born, be fed and nourished and also to bond and feel love. Love comes in many forms. Sexual love, parental love, family love, friend love.

c) Breastfeeding an older child is in no way sexual for the mother. Having personally breastfed for a total of 16 years of children’s lives (8+5+3), I cannot stand anything touching my chest from the neck down, let alone my breasts. It is known in my house at “the no touching zone.” The gentle and loving caresses and hand held to breast that children do as the feed feels like nails on a chalkboard to me, except the chalkboard is my skin. I am so averse to the sensation of anything touching my chest that

 I will likely end my baby making days mostly because I don’t think I could handle breastfeeding another person. I now sleep on my stomach at night (not recommended by me as a chiropractor) because I want to hide them away so no one accidently touches them. (I know your next question is then why don’t you stop, I’ll answer that soon).

d) The child will not be mentally disturbed by knowing they breastfed into childhood. I don’t believe there has ever been a case of someone who went on a psychotic killing spree because they had too much nurturing at their mother’s breast. I have asked a variety of children who have nursed long enough to remember what their memories of breastfeeding are. The responses I got were: “Warm” “Love” “It tastes like ice cream” “It’s better than ice cream” “It’s the best thing in the world” but most commonly the response is “Love.”

“You are just coddling them, stopping them from growing up”

Children who nurse into school age as just as grown up as any other child their age. You would never be able to pick the ones who nurse out of a classroom because they are totally normal, healthy children. They tend to be emotionally well adjusted because they have always had their emotional needs care for. This whole idea that we need to let our children 

deal with their emotions by sucking it up and “self soothing” may have something to do with the fact that antidepressant drug use has skyrocketed in the past generation. I’m not saying that breastfeeding is the only way to comfort a child emotionally, but it is a way, and every mother-child dyad will find the ways that works for them. No one is judging you for not breastfeeding your 6 year old so why judge those that do?

Nursing isn’t the only aspect of someone’s parenting. It’s not like the child has a boob in the mouth all day. There are plenty of opportunities for emotional bonding and dealing with emotions in different ways. Just why would you suddenly cut out one of the ways that works for you and your child?

“Why don’t you just say, ‘No’”

My question is, why would you say no? Hugs and kisses were also part of my parenting when my children were infants and hugs and kisses continue to be part of my parenting today. I have no reason to just cut them out at some arbitrary date.

Mothers don’t just wake up and start nursing an older child. It’s just the way it’s always been.

When a mother initiates breastfeeding she has no idea how long she will nurse. Some set a goal of 6 months, some a year, some want to reach the recommended 2years and don’t want to go the “beyond” part of the recommendation. Before having kids I had many conversations with mothers who shared their full-term nursing, self weaning experiences with me. From listening to their experiences, I was under the impression that self weaning happened between ages 3 and 4. As a result, that was my original expectation. Then I met mothers whose children self weaned at 20 months and I then made a friend who nursed until her children were 5 and she chose to end it because SHE felt done, they would have continued on. So I learned not to have any expectations and take it one day at a time. Maybe I would nurse for 20 months, maybe beyond, how could I predict the future? The only thing I knew was that I wanted it to be my child’s choice how long they nurse for.

I started nursing my 5 pound 9 ounce teeny first baby and she nursed through my next pregnancy. I did night wean for the sake of my sleep and sanity while pregnant, when she was 24 months.

I gave birth and became a tandem nursing mother. Each day went day, one day at a time, and they both nursed. Everyday similar to the one before, maybe more nursing, maybe less. When my daughter was 3 and I had a 6 month old nursling I started to limit how often I was willing to nurse her, for my own sanity. Telling a 3 year old they cannot have what they want isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but she eventually understood that was just the way it was going to be. So much for my intention of not influencing their weaning.

Then they both nursed through my third pregnancy and I became a triandem nursing mother. And they continued on. Again at age 3 for my son, I had to start limiting his feeding. He would have nursed all day but I couldn’t handle it. Not with a 6 month old who was also demanding frequent nursing.

Why don’t I just say no? I have no reason to. It’s just the way it has always been. For me there is nothing strange about nursing an 8 year old because I have nursed her almost every day of her life. She didn’t suddenly become 8, it happened day by day. Today isn’t different in how I nurture my child than it was yesterday. Yes, it is different than it was 8 years ago but that is a slow 8 year evolution. One day she or I will be done and declare it, or maybe we will forget when her last feed was. I don’t know. I can just say what is today.

“What are there friends going to say?”

My daughter knows her friends don’t nurse anymore and also doesn’t care that they know she nurses. She has no shame associated with it and has no reason to feel embarrassed by sharing tender loving moments with her mama. If we stop to think about what we are saying when people want to cut their children off from loving attachment with their parents for the sake of fitting in to a detached, peer oriented world.

It also puts the onus on the bullied to change their behaviour for the sake of avoiding the bully. Not exactly how to teach our children to be their own people.

It isn’t as if she goes around telling them, having conversations about it, or nursing when she is having a play date. It is something that happens at home, typically with morning cuddles in bed. I am sure most kids don’t tell their friends about their morning cuddles with their parents either, so really it isn’t a topic that ends up being discussed with friends.

She is also very confident in her desire to nurse. We have discussed on many occasions how adults don’t nurse and her understanding is that eventually when a person has an adult mouth (filled with adult teeth) that they will lose their latch and no longer be able to get milk out. She doesn’t feel she is at that point. She was actually sad when she lost her first tooth because she knew it meant that the end of nursing was approaching.

We also choose to associate with people who are respectful of other people’s lifestyles. Her friends are not the type of people who would judge or even comment about her nursing. They may ask questions out of interest and curiosity but would be very respectful of individual differences. We are, also, in a community where many of our friends have nursed to age 5, so she isn’t actually that different.

“You are teaching them to associate food with comfort?”

From day one breast milk is not only food and nutritional nourishment. It is designed to be emotional nourishment also. Saying that we shouldn’t nurse an older child because we are associating food with comfort would also apply from birth. Breastmilk is designed to be about binding. The hormone that releases mil is also the hormone that changes the structure of our brains to bond with the people we are with. Oxytocin is the chemical of love. They are drinking love and that association is not going to follow to other foods that do not contain oxytocin.  

I have to also add that I have a beef with the media allowing anyone to call themselves an expert. I would argue that the mom who has nursed for 6 years is likely more of an expert than someone who is misinformed enough to believe that human milk is only for infants and mysteriously loses nutritional value over time.

If you don’t understand something or someone, ask questions, maybe you will learn something.

I encourage you to go here to read responses to more of the ridiculous objections people have about full term nursing.

Posted in Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Family Life/ Relationships, General, Natural, Natural Living, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are the Benefits to Normal Term Nursing?

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What it’s Like to Nurse an 8 Year Old

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Can you Nurse with No Milk?

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Are You Treating Your Loved Ones Fairly?

I wanted to share THIS ARTICLE because I feel it is an important reminder to treat our closest loves ones with dignity and respect.  The title is, “I wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly.”

It is important to remember to treat everyone with dignity (especially those people we love). I think we are almost all guilty of imposing our expectations on our loved ones at some point, I know I am.  This article is a great mirror for us to see the effects of this on our family and how we need to step back and look at our own behavior.
One complaint I have about this article is that she said, “I’m not his mom.” We also should not be treating our children the way she described treating her husband. They deserve the same level of dignity and respect we would give to anyone else in society. If you wouldn’t speak to the bank manager that way, you shouldn’t speak to anyone that way.
The same goes for her comment about him not being her employee. No one deserves to be treated in a way that doesn’t honor who they are. I would never speak to my employees the way she spoke to her husband.
We need to remember that other people, including people we love, are their own people and we should not strive for them to be like us, or satisfy our expectations. If we love them, our desire for them  should be to express their true essence, fully. Even if that means they are clumsy, forgetful, or disorganized.
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What Does ISIS Have to Do With Birth and Parenting?

Never before has it been so important to stay connected to our kids. With busy work schedules and kids extracurricular activities, it is easy for families to be moving together but without making any connection.

Kids who feel disconnected from their families have always been at greater risk of being recruited into gangs and following a path in life that doesn’t best serve them or the community. Social media and religious extremists have taken that risk to a whole other level.

Earlier this month 60 minutes did a segment on “homegrown Jihadists” called “Campaigning for ISIS in the West.” Using social media, ISIS is recruiting youth in the west through their bedroom computers. Using online video sharing, twitter and other social media they are actively recruiting those youth who are craving connection, purpose and a place to belong.

It’s not enough these days that your kids are at home. That doesn’t translate to being safe Continue reading

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Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth.

The World Health Organization has released a statement: Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth. I am sad that this even needs to be a topic of discussion and thrilled that this is finally being dealt with on a global scale.

WHO Statement: Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth.

Posted in Birth Stories, Childbirth Activism, Informed Choice, Natural Childbirth, Positive Birth Movement, Western Birth Practices | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Should Breastfeeding Mothers Pump to Feed their Children in Public?

A comment on Today’s Parent article about a nurse in that took place after a recent human rights violation regarding breastfeeding stated:

“God so sick and tired of these women who constantly complain….and I am sorry you wanna whip out your breast to feed your child….do not do it in front of me while I am eating…there is such thing as a pump and if you know your going out pump some milk, you can breast feed in the privacy of your own home.” from MOMOF1

Why on Earth would someone pump to leave the house?

Here is some context about the incident.  A woman who was travelling in Ontario with her baby stopped at Tim Horton’s and breastfed her baby.  She was asked to cover up by the supervisor and the manager.   The next day a nurse-in took place to raise awareness that breastfeeding is a protected right via the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.  No woman can be asked to move or cover up while nursing.

It seems to me that comments, like the one by MOMOF1, clearly show how much people do not understand breastfeeding and what it would take for a mom to pump to leave the house.

One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it is available in the right quantity and temperature at all times and places and does not require the expense of any paraphernalia or time to prepare.

For a mom to pump milk to go out Continue reading

Posted in Breastfeeding | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Should Women With Traumatic Birth Experiences Just “Accept and Move On?”

I am appalled at this article on the Huffington Post entitled, Recalibrating Our Expectations of Childbirth.”

You don’t really need to go and read it, I quote the appalling parts below, but if you are interested here is the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cara-paiuk/recalibrating-our-expecta_b_5372955.html 

pregnant bellyThere are some good points in this article about preparing for birth and how to deal with unexpected outcomes that I wholeheartedly agree with. My opinion is that not enough emphasis is placed on really being ready for the intensity of birth physically and emotionally. Not enough women prepare for unexpected outcomes and more would benefit from independent (non-hospital based) childbirth education and mentoring.

Beyond that, this article is highly offensive on so many levels, even for someone like me, who had three ‘perfect’ births that went according to ‘plan’.

Here is where the article starts to go wrong: Continue reading

Posted in Breech Birth, Caesarean Section, Childbirth Activism, Informed Choice, Positive Birth Movement, Western Birth Practices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Medical Community Not Aware of Why Parents Abstain From Vaccines

There was a great article in the Ottawa Citizen about why parents choose not to vaccinate. Here is my response to this article:

I agree that the media and the medical community are uninformed of the reason why parents choose to abstain from vaccines, delay, or selectively vaccinate. Each time an article blames non-vaccinating on celebrities or autism I know the author/reporter is clearly uninformed on the real issues.

I have three main issues with vaccines, which are also the concerns of most of the non-vaccinating parents I know.

#1 Lack of informed choice.

Most parents are not given accurate information with which to make an informed choice. All pro-vaccine material makes the assumption that the only choice is to say yes to vaccines. Vaccine marketing is often manipulative (especially that for HPV) and parents are often coerced and bullied into their decision. Parents are presented with fear-based information about the risks of the “vaccine-preventable” infections and overstatements of the benefits of vaccines, claiming guaranteed effectiveness. That is not nearly enough information to be making an informed choice. No parent who has been given this limited amount of information, has legally given informed consent. Continue reading

Posted in Informed Choice, Vaccines | 1 Comment