Staying Neutral

Last week, along with our car seat brochures, the mail person brought us a little brown box that looked like this:

The samples

The box contained a product that we are supposed to hand out to parents in classes.  Now, I’m not going to show you what’s in the box, and here’s why:

Ethically, we at BabyLove have made the decision not to promote specific products to the families we work with.  We have to be very careful with “education” that’s wrapped in blatant marketing.  Last night, when printing out breastfeeding handouts, there were some good ones we had to pass over because they contained advertising for a company.  A company, I should add, that has a set of business ethics that goes against our own professional codes of conduct.

A few years ago, when I (Veronica) was a new teacher, another baby-care-related company put together a very good display that it gave to childbirth educators for no charge.  However, it displayed very prominent advertising all over every page.  When our manager told us we had to stop using it because of the advertising, I was up in arms.  It was a REALLY good tool and nothing on the market was even close to being as good!  But I now see her point–it’s not our job as educators to be spokespeople for specific products.  And that early advertising? It really does influence your choices.

BabyLove is truly independent.  We spend every day making sure we give families accurate, unbiased info about birth, breastfeeding, pumping, cloth diapers, babywearing, and infant care.  We will not tell parents to go out and spend their money on x, or to buy y because we think it’s the best.  While we do have information from local professionals that we have vetted and would use or have used, you won’t ever hear us announce that a class is being brought to you by Uncle Max’s Better Baby Rocker, or whatever.  We can teach you how to decide, but we’re not going to decide for you.

Sound fair?

And does anybody have an idea of what we can do with a case of [REDACTED]?


Veronica and Brittany

Ch-Ch-Changes at BabyLove!

BabyLove has been open for almost two months already! In these past few weeks, Veronica and I have had the chance to meet so many wonderful people, and begin teaching some amazing classes. One of the main reasons we opened BabyLove is to be able to have a space that is OURS. We have the flexibility to move and change things as needed, and we are trying our very hardest to make classes attainable for every family. We’ve been listening to what you have been saying, and here are a few things we’ve changed in response:

1. Baby Happy Hour-One recurring comment we’ve heard from moms about our Baby Café is that they really want to attend, but Tuesday morning doesn’t work for everyone. We have cleared a few days on our schedule, and we will be having our first EVENING Baby Café Wednesday, November 9th, beginning at 7pm. We hope this can be a time for moms who can’t make it in the morning to come and ask questions in a comfortable atmosphere, and build a community of other nursing moms. Other dates are listed on our website!

2. Combined Cloth Diapering and Baby Wearing Class- We know our cloth diapering and baby wearing classes are very important, and extremely worthwhile for parents to attend. We also realize that committing two extra evenings to attend classes can be inconvenient. In the BabyLove spirit of keeping excellent education and information affordable and attainable, we have combined the cloth diapering and baby wearing classes into one fun and exciting night. Baby wearing and cloth diapering are two topics that are loaded with options. While doing your own research and attending other workshops can be helpful, we know you will leave our class feeling confident you’ve gotten un-biased help with every option available to you. A little bit of time in this class can save you a lot of time, headache, and money! Please visit the class page for a list of upcoming class dates and registration information.

3. 5 Week Sunday Evening Lamaze Series- The end of the weekend is usually a laid back and uneventful time. After thinking over what days would work best for a majority of people, we’ve decided to get rid of our Monday evening series and begin a Sunday evening series. We will still have our Thursday night Lamaze series as 6 weeks (link to dates), but this new Sunday series will be one less week. This series will still be 15 hours (5 consecutive evenings from 6-9pm), because we do not want to cut out any important information. Veronica originally taught a Sunday night series when she first started teaching independently 3 years ago, and we think it will be a great option for families. By being able to present a variety of times and dates to families for childbirth classes, we hope that more people will find a class that works for them.

Veronica and I are very excited about these changes, and welcome comments and feedback. These are just a few things we’ve talked through and improved, but the beauty of having our own studio is that we can constantly change and better our offerings. We hope you’re excited as well! Maybe we’ll see you at our Baby Happy Hour, or you know someone who is having trouble finding a good day to take classes, and the Sunday series is perfect for them. Let us know your thoughts!


Brittany and Veronica

New SIDS Recommendations from AAP

Chances are, you’re going to see articles about the new SIDS-prevention recommendations that were released by the American Academy of Pediatrics this week.  It’s not, in our opinion and for many reasons, an absolutely perfect list, but some things are really good to see.  Like what? Well:

  • Discouraging the use of crib bumpers
  • Discouraging the use of sleep positioners and wedges
  • Stating that not breastfeeding increases the risk of SIDS
  • Underlining the importance of prenatal care

There are a few things that will probably end up being controversial (pacifiers, vaccines).  I wish a distinction was made between sharing a bed with a baby versus falling asleep with a baby on a couch or in a chair.  I am glad they dismissed the fan suggestion, since the one “study”  on the subject was done by interviewing mothers after the fact, a study method that is quite unreliable.    And, since many baby products are a lot of hype with no proof, it’s satisfying to see the effectiveness of “SIDS alarms” being marketed to families being called out as unproven.   However, I often get the question in class about how long the safe sleep area is important, and I am happy to see my answer of one year is right in line with the new recommendations.   But while the entire text is quite interesting and a lot to wade through, here’s the top 3 things to know to protect your baby:

1) Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your baby, or even expose your baby to 2nd hand smoke

2) Breastfeed!

3) A baby should always sleep on a firm surface, free of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, pets, or any sort of pads

I’ll be curious to see how this issue is sorted out over the next few days.  Readers, any thoughts?



Car Seat Safety Gets Real

I’m passionate about everything we teach.  But nothing is as clear cut or as prevalent as the need for the safe usage of car seats.  If I step out of the house and into a store for 3 minutes, I am guaranteed to see horrible things at every turn.  Sadly, most parents shrug when informed about these common grave mistakes.  Everybody does it, so it can’t be that bad, the reasoning goes.  Wrong.

This morning, when I walked into our office, Brittany informed me that she had read a story about the death of an infant in Georgia who had died when the infant car seat he was in fell from the top of a shopping cart. I’m sure any parent who saw that headline was horrified, much like we were.  But our horror turns to frustration because this is a black and white issue– it is never acceptable to place in infant carrier on an elevated surface. Never.  EVER. Not even if they are strapped in.  This is by no means the only major mistake I see parents make when I am out (or on facebook).  Here, in no particular order, are the 5 things I never wants to see parents doing:

1) Placing the baby in an infant carrier seat without buckling the child in

I was at a local store recently and saw a mom who not only has the seat on top of the cart, but her little girl was not buckled, was sitting up in the seat, and was darn close to falling out.  It was all I could do not to say something.  Maybe I should have.  But bottom line, even if you think your baby is safe without the straps, you’re wrong.  Buckle up that baby every time, no matter what.

2) Using an old seat

I can spot old seats a mile away.  I know it’s tempting to use an old seat because most of us use the carrier seats for so short of a time and they are costly, but these seats expire.  If it’s older than what the manufacturer says is a safe period of time (most often 6 years), then get rid of the seat.  It will not keep your child safe.

3) Never taking your baby out of the seat

Car seats, even if they have handles, are meant to be used in the car.  They are not meant to be used at a restaurant, placed on the ground in the parking lot while you load groceries,  nor should they EVER be put in a crib while your baby is sleeping.  Your baby can fall, be hit by a car, or die from asphyxiation in these situations.  Here in Minnesota I understand the desire to get baby buckled up in the home, then moving baby to the car, but that car seat is not a handy bucket you can store your baby in.  Take your baby out!

4) Covering up baby

When it gets cold, I understand the instinct to cover up a baby so that he or she stays warm.  But after that, take the blanket off.   I don’t care if the light will wake up your child.  It’s a rebreathing hazard and your baby might get deprived of oxygen.  Blankets don’t belong on your baby’s face.

5) Using the extras

OK, I know you can buy them, but a CPST like myself will not recommend using toys, mirrors, head positioners,  cozies, strap covers or anything else that did not come with the seat that might interfere with the function of the seat.  Using these might mean you can’t get the straps as tight as they should be, or that if you were in a crash, your child might get injured by them.  Just say no to these extras.

I know the list is long.  It could be longer.  But thankfully, I can share more with you very soon.  Again, the wonderful aspect of BabyLove is that Brittany and I can change whatever, whenever. And we have decided to offer a Car Seat and Infant Safety class starting next month.  Visit our website for dates and details.  And in the meantime, no more seats on the tops of carts, ok?



And chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re using them incorrectly.  Estimates are that 80% of all seats are installed or used incorrectly.

What Makes BabyLove Different (Part 1)

When we set out to create BabyLove, Brittany and I had a very specific vision.  In the process of marketing, making brochures, etc, we have settled on the phrase, “Affordable, Exceptional, Independent Childbirth Education for All.”  And you know what?  We mean that.  Families that I have taught over the years know this:  I do not lie about this stuff.  Ever.  BabyLove is different.  How?  Well, let me tell you:

1) Our classes are affordable

Yes, the trend in all of healthcare is to inflate costs year after year.  And great childbirth classes are getting REALLY expensive!  Is it worth the cost?  Probably. Can everyone always afford them?  Heck no.  Do we think that’s fair?  Nope.  So we are trying to buck the trend and create classes that might be a wee bit more expensive than hospital classes, but less expensive than other independent classes.

2) Our classes are evidence-based and up to date

I mentioned this in a previous post, but Lamaze’s focus is on being current and evidence based.  At BabyLove, we thrive on being current.  We are passionate about giving parents the very best information they need to make all of their decisions.  We aren’t spreading information that’s 20 years old.  We stay current, which means you will be ahead of the curve as parents.  And as far as evidence goes, yes, it can change.  Consider inductions.  While some care providers still cling to the old wisdom that elective inductions are fine after 37 weeks, the mountains of evidence against this practice are stunning.  We can talk to you about that evidence, and help you make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of that and any other intervention you might be suggested to do.  When the evidence changes, we’ll let you know, too.

3) We have small classes in a comfortable space

First of all, Lamaze restricts class sixes to 12 mothers and their support people.  But from experience, I can tell you that I have taught classes that large, and nobody wins. 10 is our cut off.  Second, we were blessed to be able to create a space that we love to teach in–and we know parents are loving to learn in.  So we won’t let it get too full, and we will take care of every square inch of our space.  It’s our baby, after all, and we are proud to share it with everyone.

4) We offer more bang for your buck

We offer a variety of classes, including Cloth Diapering, Breastfeeding After the First Month, Elimination Communication, and Babywearing to help parents who need great information on these amazing parenting topics.  However, our childbirth classes are COMPLETE.  No add ons.  No math needed to figure out the final costs. Our classes have everything you need for pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum, including infant care and breastfeeding.  It kind of goes back to that affordable thing, but we also know it’s all important information for everyone, and we want you to have it–just in case.

We have some great classes coming up; our 6 week series has a new class kicking off soon.  Our Babywearing class is making a debut at BabyLove Headquarters. And soon we will have a HUGE announcement about a new class.  But seriously, just come and see what makes BabyLove different. You won’t be let down.  And if you need more convincing, I’ll have more reasons to consider us in another post.  But for now, I hope I have you intrigued at the least and convinced at the best.



On Breastfeeding Support

Last month, during World Breastfeeding Week, the CDC released the 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card.  Headlines everywhere stated that not enough women get adequate breastfeeding support, and the figure of 4% was widely reported as the number who actually did receive good support.

Today, I decided to dig in and find that number, over a month after headlines were made.  So where does that 4% come from?  Did they ask moms?  Determine from charts?  No, in fact, the widely quoted number was determined by calculating how many babies were born at hospitals that had achieved the designation of Baby-Friendly.  There are 10 steps hospitals must undertake to achive this status, steps include, among other things, making sure all staff is adequately trained to help mothers, that mothers room in with their newborns, and that pacifiers are not given to breastfeeding infants.  UNICEF, which helped develop the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, found that these things all help improve breastfeeding rates and duration.

In Minnesota, exactly one hospital has achieved this status. A handful have applied for intent, but that compares with 19,000 hospitals and birthcenters worldwide with such a designation. But, really?  One.  Wisconsin does much better at 7.

I spoke recently with a doctor who is a member of a local breastfeeding coalition.  I asked her why more hospitals don’t start the process to become Baby-Friendly.  He answer was that it costs too much and that most hospitals are making the changes with out applying for status.  That’s not really the case.  Do some of the steps, such as requiring hospitals pay for all breast milk substitutes, cost money? Maybe , but overall, many hospitals saw they saved money in the long run by no longer getting substitutes for free.  In reality, it’s far more complicated, but issues include running up against resistance from staff (change is hard) and the necessary funds to pay for the required training for all staff.

The reality is, if your nurse, doctor, or midwife had any training, the majority of the time it was quite a few years ago.  And if they had any training, often  the information is now out of date. It takes a fairly significant effort (and some money) to get current, and often I’ll find that most people have very little if any breastfeeding training.

Here’s where I get on my soapbox:

I very firmly believe the BFHI is right:  every single person who has direct care with new moms should have a decent amount of training in breastfeeding advantages and management.  One textbook I have even suggested that should go as far as the people who clean the rooms!  But I wouldn’t stop there:  As a doula, there was no requirement for breastfeeding training when I certified.  Now there is an 8 hour requirement for some programs, but more would be far better. And for every nurse, doctor, doula, and midwife who take care of these new moms, I am curious what holds them back?  Like I said before, I know some of the reasons are personal, but often it’s due to time, money, or just simply thinking that 8 hour training and some experience is enough.  But you know what?  They are all wrong.  It’s not enough, it’s not ok, and in most cases, these professionals in charge of helping mothers are failing to provide adequate breastfeeding support.

I started out this post, getting ready to downplay that 4% figure.  But you know what?  I just convinced myself that most hospitals are failing these mothers by not doing everything they can to help mothers succeed at meeting their breastfeeding goals.  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative isn’t just a nice thing.  It exists because it works.  And yes, it costs money.  But I think the health and well-being of mothers and babies is worth it.

Off the Soapbox now.



BabyLove and Today’s Lamaze

One of the hallmarks of BabyLove classes is that our childbirth classes are honest-to-goodness Lamaze classes.  As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator for almost the last 4 years, I am very proud of this.  But I know what you’re thinking: Lamaze just teaches people to breathe.  I’ll still find this accusation being made from time to time by parents, care providers, and even other educators.  I’ve got to say, nothing could be further from the truth.  So, here are the 4 things that you need to know about modern-day Lamaze:

1) We don’t teach you a dozen ways to breathe

OK. So back in the 50s when Lamaze started, yes, breathing was the emphasis.  But women gave birth in a very different way back then.  Most women by this time gave birth in a hospital. They were alone.  They were forced to stay in the hospital beds. Most of them were given large amounts of drugs (often through Twilight Sleep).  Forceps (kind of like salad tongs to pull out the baby) and episiotomies (a cut to make the vaginal opening larger) were the norm.  It would take years to roll back these aspects of the birth environment, but breathing was the first thing to change.  Dr. Lamaze, after watching women give birth in Soviet Russia, decided that if women were taught how to breathe “properly”, they could give birth without pain medications.  And they did–but starting in the 80s, the emphasis on breathing in Lamaze went away.

Today, we know women still have to breathe (news flash!), but all of those patterns that your mom memorized are no longer taught.  We do talk about how you can use your breathing as a distraction and as a way to help with relaxation, and we practice this.  Really, though, it’s not very much different than breathing in non-pregnant, day to day life. I bet you work on focusing and controlling your breathing when you are stressed out, worried, hurt, or angry.  It’s a life skill that works well during birth, too.  It’s a tool, but it is by no means the only thing to use during birth.

2) You aren’t “coached”

Again, go back to the reality of birth in the 1950s described above.  Remember that part about moms being left alone?  Well, in the 1970s, dads were finally starting to be allowed in the delivery room with the idea that they would be there to tell moms how to breathe.  The first dads were required to show proof of taking Lamaze classes to be allowed in (with the rare exceptions).  A coach tells a mother what to do, but instead Lamaze now focuses on helping women and their support people feel confident in the process of birth and help them understand the tools that can help throughout the process of labor and birth.

3) Lamaze classes are evidence-based

When I started looking at programs to become a childbirth educator, I was very impressed by the amount of current information I had to know to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator.  You’d be surprised how that isn’t always the case.  The process of birth hasn’t changed for a very long time, to be sure, but what we know about birth, interventions, and breastfeeding certainly has. As evidence showed that other things– freedom of movement, giving birth without routine interventions– had a larger impact on birth outcomes, Lamaze moved away from breathing.  As evidence changed, Lamaze changed too.  Lamaze International does an awesome job of keeping us updated, helping us understand how new information affects families, and implementing new information into the curriculum.  As Brittany prepares to sit for the Lamaze exam next month, I’ve enjoyed being able to vicariously study myself and improve my knowledge base.  Being up to date drives me and staying current makes me a far better teacher.  And because Brittany and I are both dedicated to always reading, always trying to learn more, that’s something the families we serve will always benefit from.

4) The Healthy Birth Practices

I love the 6 Healthy Birth Practices.  Notice we’re talking healthy.  And I mean a healthy mom, both physically and emotionally as well as the standard goal of a healthy baby.  After focusing on the normal process of birth in our classes, we talk about the role of various interventions in birth.  An intervention is anything from an IV,, to an induction to an epidural, to a cesarean.  We talk about when they are done, and what kind of effects they will have on your labor.  No two labors are the same, so a cookie cutter approach isn’t a good idea.  What you will understand is what you will have to think about when planning your birth for what you want it to be, and what things you might have to consider along the way.  The 6 Steps serve as an amazing guide to keep it all simple and focused on the best possible outcome for you and baby.

If you’re interested, you can read more about Lamaze International’s updates here.  And if you are curious about the history of Lamaze, including information on the women who brought Dr. Lamaze’s teachings to the US, you can find that here.  And as always, you can look at our current classes and find our contact information at



Baby Steps for the BabyLove Blog

Welcome to the first post of the BabyLove Blog.

I had grand designs for a nice long post, but we have had a busy weekend, and I am working on troubleshooting the code for the website as I type.  So the long post will have to wait a couple more days.  But check back often, as we will start working on our posts, and maybe even shoot a vlog or two! (Scary!)