summerandsage

Sacred Baby Massage for Modern Moms and Dads based in the East Indian Tradition

VoyageLA Inspiring Stories: summer & sage in NELA

VoyageLA Article (published March 14, 2017)

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Today we’d like to introduce you to Summer Sinclair-Menkee.

Summer, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When my first son, Sage, was born I had the good fortune of learning Indian baby massage from my mother-in-law, a revered expert in Northern India. During his first two months of life, she massaged him daily using homemade mustard oil on a special waterproof towel from India. She also made him a mustard seed pillow to elevate his head and prevent spit-up during massage, which we also used to help correct his torticollis (difficulty turning head to one side) and early signs of Plagiocephaly (flat-head syndrome). I created the summer & sage Infant Massage Kit to help other families have access to the same Indian baby care benefits I received as a new mom in in the U.S. (thanks to my Indian husband).

When Sage was a little over two months old, I began implementing infant massage as part of his nightly bedtime routine. I have experienced firsthand the deep, long-lasting benefits, and was surprised to learn how many of my new mommy friends were unaware of this beautiful and essential baby care practice. I got certified to teach other parents, through the International Association of Infant Massage, when Sage was 6 months old. He came to the training with me, was my demo model, and the instructor was flexible with our breastfeeding and nap needs. When my second son, Neel, was born, I began massaging him daily at 1 week old, after his umbilical cord fell off (just as my mother in law had begun with Sage).

I now teach infant massage new parents with newborns to pre-crawling babies through Parent & Me classes and private sessions. I currently sell our Infant Massage Kit and holistic baby care products on Amazon and through our website.

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We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting a new business has not been a smooth road for me, especially as a mom of two under three years old! There have definitely been some struggles along the way. For instance, I started my business on the Westside of Los Angeles, in the Pico/Robertson area, and just as I was getting things going we bought a house on the Eastside, which Angelenos know is like moving to a whole other city, not just a new neighborhood.

I work closely with my beloved Pediatrician, Dr. Edmond Saraff, who is located close to Beverly Hills. He sends me to his “concierge” families’ homes for infant massage instruction, especially for newborns with colic & gas, respiratory issues or difficult birth journeys. I am so grateful for my partnership with SoCal Integrative Wellness; however, I am driving forty-five minutes to an hour to some homes.

Thanks to my new mom clients in NELA, including Becca Gordon of Two Doulas Birth, I have been able to tap into a wonderful mompreneur community on the Eastside! Renting classroom space for my group classes has not been easy, because mommy & me businesses are hard to maintain in the trendy, ever gentrifying neighborhoods of Silverlake and Atwater Village. While I enjoyed teaching Parent & Me classes at Wallaby (Silverlake), it closed shortly after I came aboard. I moved my classes to The Great Escape Club (Atwater), which also was forced out of their space due to crazy rent increases. Thankfully for Atwater families, they were able to reopen their indoor playground across the street! Finally, the building owner of my son’s preschool, in Atwater Village, approached me with the question, “You have a business, what do you need?” I responded that I need my own classroom, a product warehouse and a private consultation room. She said, “I have exactly what you need.” Needless to say, I am opening my very own classroom in April on the same block as my Sage’s preschool in Atwater Village!

Also, there have been struggles manufacturing my own product- finding a factory in downtown L.A. who will do smaller runs. Finding a creative way to import smaller quantities of product samples from India. My wonderful organic, cold-pressed mustard seed oil distributor stopped making it in the U.S. Now, I’ve had to find a comparable distributor from India. Starting and maintaining an online store on Amazon, and on my website, has been challenging as well, but I am grateful for the learning curve. All my experiences these past three years have stretched me in ways as an entrepreneur I never knew were possible!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the summer & sage story. Tell us more about the business.
Summer & sage specializes in Infant Massage instruction and support for new parents. We create and curate products designed for a comfortable infant massage routine at home- for both parents and baby.

I, Summer Sinclair-Menkee (Owner/Designer), am also a Certified Educator of Infant Massage known for teaching Parent & Me Infant Massage classes- currently at The Family Room (San Marino/Pasadena) and at my new space in Atwater Village (opening soon this April), previously at Bini Birth (Sherman Oaks) and Tender Loving Childbirth (Pico/Robertson), and coming soon to Books And Cookies LA (Santa Monica)! I look forward to hiring additional CEIMs to work with summer & sage to teach more classes throughout Los Angeles.

I am most proud of our holistic baby care products that have multi-uses beyond infant massage: diaper-free time with our waterproof towels, diaper rash treatment/prevention with our organic cold-pressed oils, Plagiocephaly and tortilcolis prevention/treatment with our mustard seed infant pillows.  I will be exhibiting (vendor booth) our products at Babies Bellies And Beyond expo at Magic Box/The Reef in Downtown L.A. – April 8th from 11am-4pm.

I am also grateful to spread awareness about the many health and bonding benefits of Infant Massage to new parents through our classes, private instruction and how-to videos (subscription only) at our website.

I am the only certified educator of infant massage to have studied directly under Indian Baby Massage expert, Rajkumari Jha.  Summer & sage is the only U.S. distributer of plush, waterproof Indian Baby massage towels, mustard seed infant pillows, and one of the only U.S. distributors of organic, cold-pressed mustard seed oil.

Pre-production for a documentary on Infant Massage, the challenges many families face in baby’s first year of life, and how early touch provides much needed bonding and health benefits is underway!  Trailer coming soon for grant proposals and fundraising.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel very lucky, at forty years old, to be a mom of two beautiful, healthy boys – age 1 and 3.  I feel lucky that these two souls chose me to be their mom.  I feel very lucky that I had a home birth VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my second baby, after a 42-week cesarean delivery with my first!  I am lucky to have such a supportive women’s circle and mom community to help me navigate the often isolating territory of small business startup and motherhood.  I’m also lucky that I married into an Indian family with a mother-in-law who taught me firsthand what mothers in India get from their sisterhood circle of grandmas, aunties, cousins and sisters.  It takes a village!

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I am lucky that the owner/landlord of The Little Village preschool, where my son Sage goes, offered me my own classroom space for Parent & Me classes!  Our first brick and mortar is now a reality because of her belief in me and my business!

Women helping women is the biggest pillar of my support system.  As a member of The New Hollywood Women, I was recently awarded a micro-grant to help kick start my documentary project, and I am grateful to my daily accountability partners who keep me on track with my business goals.  I am proud to co-lead a mom’s group within TNH called ‘Wine & Cheerios’.   I also just led my first TNH Charity Challenge this past quarter!  We held a health & wellness in-house spa day at Elizabeth House, where Licensed Massage Therapists and Estheticians volunteered their services to pamper and nurture new moms just home from the hospital.

summer & sage Pricing:

  • 5-class Parent & Me series $125
  • 3 private sessions for $300
  • Infant Massage Kits: $60-$95
  • Organic Cold-pressed Oils: $17.50-$35
  • Mustard Seed Infant Pillows: $30-$55

summer & sage Contact Info:

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Image Credits:
Family photo (horizontal) by MMGray Photography. Business photos by Ragan Brooks Photography

 

 

 

Victory VBAC Blog, Part III: Home Delivery!

Birth is not a viewing party. It’s an intimate journey with the being who is your baby.

Source: Victory VBAC Blog, Part III: Home Delivery!

Victory VBAC Blog, Part III: Home Delivery!

At about 38 weeks gestation, I started getting a super sharp pain in my lower left back, similar to what I had experienced with my firstborn.  My fears of a repeat C-section immediately triggered.  I had been walking 2-3 miles per day, feeling like super woman (like so many of us do in our 2nd or 3rd trimester)!  My midwife is a big proponent of walking 5 miles per day, for an easier birth.  Birth is a marathon after all, so I wanted to be in my best shape for the long haul!  However, this insurgent back pain hurt so bad I could no longer walk around normally, let alone carry my 40 lb toddler!  I was forced to just sit.  To be still… Very difficult for my busy body personality.

At a checkup, my midwife said “The universe teaches us lessons, and if we haven’t learned the lesson yet, we may have to go through it again.”  Shit… This hit home.  I always seem to learn things the hard way.  She said based on my cervix, this baby could be late again.  No!  I was a ball of nerves and tears, less than 2 weeks away from my due date, and certainly not wanting to go to 42 weeks again!  Her encouragement to “do the inner work” and “talk to baby” was what I needed to hear.  Boy did I go “in” when I got home.  I sat on the couch all weekend, skipped social events and meetings, played with my toddler, hugged my hubby, took warm baths, journaled and cried…a lot.  Even though I thought I had processed my first birth, I had much more releasing to do… Letting go of expectations, letting go of failure.  I had to accept the fact that I may be rushed to Glendale Adventist Hospital in case of emergency.  I had to put my foot down with my husband that there would absolutely NOT be an ambulance parked outside our home during labor!  This was his own fear of the unknown bubbling over.  Men are emotional wrecks in the third trimester too.  They just process it differently.

I had to visualize our baby inside my womb and bask in the joy that this spirit chose me for its mother.  Us for his parents.  We had to accept that we were having another boy.  Since I only want 2 kids, and my husband really wants a girl, this was a point of contention.  Acceptance of what is isn’t always easy.  I needed to forgive my previous O.B. and first birth team.  I needed to forgive my husband for having his parents from India present at our first birth.  I needed to forgive my previous doula for inviting an apprentice doula to assist at my birth.  I needed to forgive my mother, and myself, for resisting her birth story- how I came into being.  I had to forgive my own father, who had been absentee my whole childhood, yet decided to show up out of the blue at the end of my first labor (baby #1)- yeah, he figured “baby must be here by now!”  Not this time.  I had to let go of  people pleasing…  I also had to put my foot down early on in pregnancy #2 that no family was allowed to visit until well after the baby was born.  I had to let go of hurt feelings, and not care who I offended.  Birth is not a viewing party.  It’s an intimate journey with the being who is your baby.  When I read that the more people present at your birth, the more hours you add to your labor, boy was that a wakeup call for me!  I had to fully embrace all the masculine energy filling my household- even my cat is a boy, and stand in my full feminine power.  We (women) are the ones who give birth!  We set the world in motion. We are powerful beings.  I had to truly “let go” of my previous birth experience, to allow this new experience to unfold…  To let the magic in.

At 39 weeks + 1 day I felt the urge to bathe in my Blessingway bath salts.  I had spent the weekend in catharsis, and felt ready to meet my new baby!  The very next morning, I was sitting on the couch alone, before my toddler and hubby arose, feeling the morning sun on my face.  The rumblings began.  I felt so connected to my baby in utero, and ready to take this journey together.  He had been head-down, in ready position since about 27 weeks, so his journey was completely different from beginning to end.  I could feel early labor rattling my bones, but it was so manageable.  I’d been here before, nothing scary, not as much mystery.   The many months of walking, eating healthy, meditating, and journaling was all leading me to this jumping off point.  I was ready to fly, to soar and drop-down into my earth mother core.  This time I was grateful to simply have my small team: one doula and midwife, solely focused on my needs.  They knew when to hold back and when to nurture.  My hubby could focus on our toddler, and I could focus within.

My house cleaner, Fanny, happened to be cleaning my house that day, which was really lovely.  She is an older lady whose never had children, and it was somehow reassuring to me that our baby was being born into a spic and span home, not a mess!  During the morning of early labor I was sorting laundry, folding baby’s clothes and swaddles with Fanny, as if it was all part of the plan.  I remember cutting strawberries and putting them on a plate around 12:30pm. Then a big surge happened and I thrust the berries onto the plate, spilling them all over the table. “It’s on,” I said confidently.  My easy early labor just transitioned into less manageable.

I wanted to get into the birthing tub, which my hubby had just finished assembling in the nick of time.  Hell, he had wanted to leave for a work meeting at noon, and my midwife told him he better stay home because we were going to have a baby by evening.  He didn’t believe her, based on our 3 days of labor last time, but he stayed anyway.  Of course, once I got in the tub my toddler wanted to jump in with me.  I let him, along with his bull and lion bath toys.  He’s a Cancer baby, so he loves water.  I’m an earth sign (Taurus), so I only stayed in the tub about an hour, which did help with transition and my low back pain (really a pain memory, because there was no back labor this time with baby in the ideal position).  I moved to the living room on all fours, making animal sounds.  No, I’m not crazy!  Birth is a highly intuitive, primal and creative time – life is bursting forth!  No hypno-birthing or hypno-babies for this mama.  I wanted to find my own internal rhythm that was natural for me.  Baby was leading, I was following.  I was simply the vessel.

Surrender, release…  I felt my water break on the floor in front of my couch.  My midwife said she wasn’t sure that’s what happened, but I felt a total gush down my leg!  At 4:30pm I started pushing.  On the bed.  But, this earth mama wanted to push down harder with my ass into something sturdier than a cushy mattress.  My low back pain threshold was at its tipping point!  I needed to sit. On the toilet. Thank God my cleaning lady was there and had scoured my bathroom!  Because that’s where I ended up pushing out my 7 lb baby boy at 6:02pm on January 26th, 2016.  Ass scooted forward, hands firmly grasping and pushing into the sides of my latrine.  Midwife and assistant caught baby in the air and placed him promptly on my chest.  Dad hugged me with one arm bracing himself on the edge of the tub.  Our eyes met, mine in complete ecstasy and his welled up with tears.  I did it!  In less than 12 hours, drug free, at home.  So frigging awesome!!!!

Our doula blessed warm vibes over all of us in the bathroom, then went to get our toddler. Sage nonchalantly crossed to daddy’s lap.  He looked briefly at the baby, looked at me and said, “Oh.”  As if recognizing for a moment what all the hullabaloo had been about.  Then, he  went back to watching “Curious George” in the living room as if nothing had happened.  Ha!  The cycle of life.  Forever changed, yet completely normal.
Hubby, me and baby moved to our bed to get warm and snuggly.  Our midwife’s assistant cooked us filet and asparagus from our fridge, and I downed a well-deserved glass of champagne!  After I birthed that damn placenta that is!  I forgot about that after-step, because I never went through it in the first birth.  My midwife actually gave me a shot of Pitocin in my leg just to speed the placenta delivery, which was very powerful and quick, yet painful!  However, I was still so euphoric from my natural birth (ecstasy really does kick in once the pain releases!), and holding my baby skin to skin, that it barely phased me.  The umbilical cord and placenta stayed attached to us for about an hour post birth, for maximum benefits.  I didn’t even notice this until daddy was asked if he wanted to help cut the cord, and I saw my placenta being carried away to the kitchen on a towel.  I opted for raw smoothies… So nourishing and energizing the first week of recovery/post-partum.  We also dried the umbilical cord and shaped it into an infinity sign.  I love birth art.

I feel so fortunate my home birth was a textbook vaginal delivery.  My VBAC preparation was the most challenging mental, emotional, physical and spiritual training I have ever gone through in my four decades on this planet.

We didn’t name our baby that night.  In fact, not until the 3rd day did he have name.  The beauty of home birth.  Our time… Our baby.  Our family.  No unnecessary interruptions, interventions, lights or sounds.  Just us.  My baby didn’t move from my chest from the moment he was born.  Within the hour, he crawled to my breast and latched on seamlessly for his first colostrum feeding.  Nothing more natural in the world.  Pure bliss…

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(This photo taken the morning after)

I am sharing these intimate experiences about my VBAC and Cesarean births (also see Victory VBAC Blogs Parts I & II) with the hope that other women may be inspired and empowered to have the births they too desire.  Trust yourself as the earth mother you are.  Don’t just go by what your OB or the hospital tells you.  Do your research, ask questions.  Don’t just say, “I’d like to have a VBAC, if it’s in the cards for me.”  Who’s holding the cards?  Do you trust the dealer?  You have more power than you think.  Do VBACs happen in the hospital?  Absolutely.  Home birth was simply the right choice for me.

More on VBAC statistics herehttps://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/cytotec.asp

Summer Sinclair-Menkee is a mom of 2, Infant Massage Instructor (International Association of Infant Massage), and Owner/Designer of summer & sage Infant Massage products.  More at:  www.summerandsage.net

Victory VBAC, Part II: Plan B & Blessingway

I’M PREGNANT!

When I confirmed my 2nd pregnancy with my new O.B. and shared my desire to have a VBAC, she was definitely apprehensive.  I had switched OBs upon moving to the Eastside of Los Angeles, which is really like moving to a whole new city (from the Westside).  She had just been promoted to maternity ward director and planned to introduce birthing tubs.  I got excited!  Then immediately deflated when she told me there would be no laboring in a tub for me.  What?!  That’s crazy.  She said because of the risk of potential rupture (Cesarean scar tearing open in labor), it would be too difficult to transfer out of the tub in case of emergency.  I said I would prefer to labor at home then, and come to the hospital as late as possible.  She firmly said she would not agree for me to labor at home for VBAC, because she wanted to closely monitor me.  This triggered all of the bad memories from my first birth.  On a table, hooked up to machines, under the knife, drugged out… So, I started to research other options.  I contacted a prominent Eastside birthing center, but they said they could only pair me with a Midwife who would basically hold my hand at the hospital- no VBAC deliveries at their facility.  I knew deep in my core that the hospital was not my ideal environment to birth “naturally,” given my previous experience.  I was open to the right situation, but wanted my best possible outcome.  My body, my decision.

CALL THE MIDWIFE

My intuition told me to contact the Tender Loving Childbirth midwife I respected most, whom friends of mine had also birthed with, and who had advised my previous doula on the phone in our final hour.  I had also taught Infant Massage classes (my new Mompreneur profession) at TLC after my first baby was born, so we had familiarity.  We had several phone interviews before our sit-down in person to see if I was an ideal VBAC candidate.  With hubby too, to determine if we, as a couple, were a good fit for home birth.  My husband was born at home in his Indian village (near Nepal), but he still had a lot of fears and concerns.  Our discussions allowed me to further process my first birth, how I wanted this one to be different, and why having #2 at home was our best choice.  My husband went along, but with safety first and foremost in his mind, always worried about the worst case scenario.

My chosen midwife is a nurse practitioner, which means she has hospital privileges that non-nurse practitioners don’t.  She can rush into an ER and proclaim, “Mother in labor!” and they have to take in the pregnant mother without delay.  She helped me understand the mechanics of my first birth- how baby #1’s posterior position (back of baby’s head against mother’s back) was causing unmanageable back labor, and ultimately the reason he wasn’t able to “descend” down the birth canal.  I asked how she would have handled that situation?  She said there are techniques to help “spin babies” into a more desirable position.

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She shared that some of her past clients had chosen to transfer to the hospital just to get an epidural, because posterior labor is so excruciating.  This was enormously reassuring, coming from a top midwife.  She asked me why I thought my last birth ended up in C-section?  I said my doctor’s reason was ‘failure to descend,’ which I thought was code for “failure to wait.”  Pam England writes about this in Birthing From Within.  She agreed wholeheartedly, “Failure to wait is spot on.  I’m going to use that.”   Our midwife concluded that I was an excellent candidate for VBAC, and we all agreed to have a home birth, which none of us took lightly.

MISCONCEPTIONS

Before we signed our VBAC waiver forms, we were sent home a big manual to read – to fully understand all the risks involved.  From the research she shared, and my own internet searching, a light turned on for me regarding VBAC misconceptions.  It’s actually a very low risk, considering that only .02% of VBAC outcomes (1 in 200) end in uterine rupture, which puts the baby’s (and sometimes mother’s) life at high risk, if not in the hospital.  Comparatively, it’s a .01% risk (1 in 100) for first-time mothers (no Cesarean scar) to experience a uterine rupture in childbirth.  That’s only a .01% greater risk for a VBAC versus a first time mother.  Others may look at these statistics and say, “Oh my God! I have a .02% chance of my uterus bursting open in labor, I’m better off in the hospital!”  That was not me.  I’m more of a glass half full person.

Why do most hospitals and OBs get so freaked out when 2nd time mothers want a VBAC?  According to Marsden Wagner, MD, “In fact, because the number of cases of uterine rupture being reported was on the increase in the 1990s, ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) responded with a recommendation that VBAC be done only in the hospital with an obstetrician and anesthesiologist at the ready.”   This explains why my OB was so adamant I be closely monitored, like an invalid.  Pregnant women are not invalids.  We are the most powerful beings on the planet ushering in new life!  We just need a safe space to feel supported to step into our full power.

Wagner explains the medical disempowerment of the mother further, “This recommendation made the organization’s obstetrician members happy, but was a disaster for birthing women, midwives, family physicians and small hospitals.  ACOG, instead of recommending stopping Cytotec induction, recommended surrounding women having VBAC with experts to deal with the rupture when it happens. This would be like children drowning in a lake at summer camp and, instead of teaching the children to swim, the counselors put a couple of life preservers in the lake.”  In short, a drug called Cytotec used for inductions was the most probable cause for the increase in VBAC uterine ruptures.  In Dr. Wagner’s words, “Doctors find it difficult to admit mistakes.  Here we have a big mistake—Cytotec induction with VBAC—that went on for years. Yet, there is no discussion of the error, or what to do so it won’t happen again.” (Midwifery Today, 2003)  Instead of highlighting the misuse of pharmaceuticals, many mothers have been made to feel like a VBAC may not be in the cards for baby #2.  There are entire cities and communities where hospitals refuse to perform VBACs altogether.  We are lucky to have choices in Los Angeles!  But, the major misconception to me is the liability hospitals feel based on the prolonged misuse of Cytotec, not because a 2nd time mother isn’t physically capable of vaginal birth after C-section.

PREPARING FOR PLAN B

Our midwife required that my husband and I consult with a backup O.B. – Dr. Wu at Glendale Adventist Hospital – just in case I needed to transfer.  Dr. Wu has a successful VBAC rate and one of the lowest C-section rates in Los Angeles.  He was the go-to for hospital breech deliveries (almost unheard of) until a recent ban was imposed by Glendale Adventist, followed by a huge protest!!!  What is up with our current culture imposing more birth restrictions on a woman’s right to choose?!   Ranting aside, I had a huge peace of mind knowing that an “outside the box” O.B. was my backup, should I need it.  He did, however, try to persuade me to give birth in the hospital as a “safer” choice.  I smiled, assuring him I fully trusted my midwife.

My husband had some freak-out moments along our journey when he wanted me to scrap our home birth plan, and agree to birth in the hospital.  I felt SO strongly, deep down in my guts, that I needed to be at home, so I stood my ground!  I was going to do my damnst, fully aware and accepting of the fact I may need to transfer.  He was like, “Then I’ll order an ambulance to wait outside our house during labor, just in case.”  Hell NO!  That’s plain mistrust in me and the process… I also didn’t want the mental block to Cesarean birth this time.  Been there, done that.  It was vital I fully process and embrace my first birth as a learning experience, in order to create a NEW experience with baby #2.  My husband needed to fully face his fears, let go of the worries of our more conservative friends and family, trust me, and rest assured Dr. Wu was only a 10 minute drive away.

CREATING SPACE

For baby #2 I definitely felt more centered and confident of my needs.  The fact we were now home owners helped me visualize and feel comfortable in my own house.  I warned my neighbors, who had become good friends, that that they might hear a lot of primal moaning.  I think they were a little worried, but had fun joking about it.

In order to really rock my VBAC, I needed to create a warm, cozy baby cave- both internally and externally.  No fluorescent lights, no constant check-ins or unnecessary monitoring.  Definitely not a sterile building meant for sick people.  Pregnancy is not a disease, it’s a rite of passage.  Once you’ve been through it, you know things… Secrets from the deep, dark abyss that no longer seem so ominous and scary.  I already knew what intense pain felt like for days on end.  I knew that baby’s positioning is everything.  I knew that the more interventions I incurred, the longer my labor.  I knew, now, that the more people present at my birth, the more stops and starts.  I had to get vulnerable with myself, and meditate on the life inside of me.  Fuck outside expectations.  The only fear I needed to face was my own.

My doula was a huge support, both emotionally and spiritually.  We did yoga in the park, long walks, and lots of breathing prep.  I actually borrowed the book I keep referencing, Birthing From Within, from her.  It really changed my entire outlook on birth and truly helped me go “in.”  It resonated with me most because the author/midwife had a Cesarean her first pregnancy, followed by a victorious VBAC at home the 2nd time around.  The message I so needed to soak in was that birth is not an external experience that happens to you.  It is our own internal work, that is the most important.  How we exercise and eat is also connected to our inner world and overall health, but how we visualize, create mantras and talk to baby is equally important.  A mantra I created and practiced was, “No more than 8 hours of active labor power.”  I set an intention for a quick, smooth labor.  An art project I chose from the book was making a belly cast with my doula, which I then painted with the help of my sisterhood circle at my Blessingway.  A Blessingway is a ceremony honoring the mother, rather than a traditional baby shower focused on gifts and games.  I LOVED zoning in on my colorful, symbolic pregnant belly during labor!  We also made a handmade bath salt scrub, which everyone took home in a jar, as well as a candle to light (tub-side) when they got word my labor had begun…

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More to come!  Subscribe to get Victory VBAC, Part III: Home Birth Delivery 

VICTORY VBAC AT HOME, Part I: Cesarean Ascending

By Summer Sinclair-Menkee, CEIM (International Association of Infant Massage)

VICTORY VBAC AT HOME

My deepest desire at the beginning of this year was to have a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) delivery of my 2nd baby, to allow my healthy body to do naturally what I knew deep down it could.  My hope is to shine a light on VBAC misconceptions, and to help other moms who also desire a VBAC to have a better idea of how to prepare mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually for this magnificent feat called natural childbirth!  After my victory VBAC at home, I feel there is NOTHING in this world I can’t do!  (Including writing this after 9pm while my toddler and infant sleep)  However, before I can fully share my successful VBAC story, I have to start with my Cesarean birth.  Until I fully processed the lessons from my first birth, I could never have been able to do what many are led to believe cannot be done.  Yes we can, and yes I did!

Part I : Cesarean Ascending

I recently read on a Facebook group, “I’m at week 42…I really want to have a VBAC, if it’s in the cards for me.”  That struck a chord with me because I had an unplanned C-section with baby #1 at week 42.  For me, this felt debilitating.  It seemed as if all power had been stripped away from me, and given over to my O.B. in the final hour, because I had chosen to be in the hospital (versus at home), and was past my due date.  If only I knew then what I know now, I would have done so many things differently in preparing for my first birth.  Luckily, I got to with baby #2.

In my first pregnancy, it wasn’t until 3rd trimester that I considered hiring a doula, around the time we took our childbirth education class.  I’m glad I watched The Business of Being Born (Ricki Lake documentary), but I was still scared of what labor would feel like and how much pain there would be.  I couldn’t envision an apartment birth (i.e. home birth).  Would I be moaning, maybe even screaming, for all my building neighbors to hear?  We ended up hiring a doula who lived close by and delivering 5 miles away at Cedar Sinai hospital.

When I first announced my pregnancy, a high school friend and mom of three, recommended I read Birthing From Within by Pam England.  She said to forget What To Expect When You’re Expecting and all the rest, because BFW was the only pregnancy book worth reading.  Just before getting knocked up, I had begun a new job teaching theatre full time and directing 3 back-to-back student plays.  My plate was full, and I didn’t take time out to read a deep birth preparation book.  Instead I followed the Baby Center app- “Today, your baby is the size of an avocado….”  Little did I know how instrumental BFW would be with baby #2 (more later).

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Baby #1 was in the frank breech position for quite awhile, so “C-section” was mentioned by my O.B. at nearly every ultrasound.  I did everything I could to get him to turn head down, including Dr. Berlin sessions (a chiropractor known for turning babies), beach walking, hip raising… Finally at week 37 he listened, and turned head down.  I was elated!  I was so confident I was going to have a natural (vaginal) birth that I didn’t even fill in the “C” section part of my birth plan.  My mom came to stay at our place 2 weeks before my due date to help me prepare.  I had taken 4 weeks off work before my due date, so I felt like I could finally “enjoy” my pregnancy with less stress.  When my doula asked if my prenatal yoga teacher could assist at my birth (for her doula training hours) I agreed.  When my husband announced his parents were flying in from India, (staying at a family friend’s house) I felt like I couldn’t protest because my mom was also coming.  It was “our” baby after all, right?  Here’s the thing- women push the baby out of their vagina, or undergo major abdominal surgery.  Men really have nothing to do with “birthing” the baby.  I wish I saw that crystal clear the first time around, but I had no clue what I needed or what to expect.

When my estimated due date came and went, I shrugged it off because first babies are often late and a couple other pregnant moms at yoga class were at week 42!  My mom reminded me that I was born a week late.  It seemed like she kept telling her birth story (how I came into the world) every chance she got.  I didn’t want to be reminded over and over about her health issue that made Cesarean her only option.  I was having a fantastically health pregnancy with no hiccups, besides the previous breech position.  My mom was anxious about when my labor was going to start and what it would be like, because she had never experienced labor.  I was certain that once my labor started it would be smooth flowing all the way!  Unfortunately, having my mom there was not a calming presence.  Sorry mom, but it’s true.  As week 42 approached I tried to kick things into gear with acupuncture, herbs and the famous San Fernando Valley restaurant maternity salad!  At that point my mom and in-laws had all been in town 2-3 weeks!  It was as if I was being watched.  People pleasing and hosting is the last thing that should be on any birthing mama’s mind!  I learned this the hard way…

When my labor finally did start, 3 days before deadline 42, I experienced extreme back labor pains that like knives cutting deep into my left low back.  This prolonged for 72 hours…

When we finally checked into the hospital at 7pm on the eve of week 42, I was only 4 cm dilated.  They let me stay, only because of the timetable.  To the chagrin of my doulas, I begged for a half-epidural because my back couldn’t take it anymore!  I got it.  My husband sent the doulas home to sleep, since none of us had really slept in 3 days.  Around 6am I agreed for my OB to strip my membranes.  Some hours later a low dose of Pitocin was administered (my worst nightmare)- not the “P” word!   My doulas returned.  More yoga lunges, more bouncing on the ball, more massage.  I was still only dilated 5cm!  At the end of the day my doula called her guru midwife, Davi Khalsa, who advised us to go for full epi- (since I was already on half) to further relax.  I finally got to 7cm by 5pm.  But, my OB was done.  I should’ve been at 10 cm (her words) and she wasn’t about to wait anymore.  It took her 2 hours to convince me to agree to operate.  I was balling, I wouldn’t consent to a C-section.  “I just need more time, let me go until midnight, I know I can get there,” was all I kept thinking out loud.  She brought in a team of what felt like the entire hospital staff.  She looked betrayed, “Don’t you trust me?!” she pleaded.  It wasn’t her.  It was all of my own fear and shame flooding down on me in that moment on that damn hospital bed!  I was heavily drugged, running ragged on no sleep, and for the first time there was talk of my baby’s heart rate going slightly down.  He was exhausted too… My doulas were at a loss.  Sometimes the things we don’t want become our reality due to the negative weight and focus we give them.  I had spent so much energy resisting having a C-section, refusing to even acknowledge it as a possible outcome, it seemed as if I had manifested it in some weird way.   Then I received a hospital visit from Dr. (chiropractor) Berlin, who had helped baby “turn” weeks prior- he looked me in the eye and said, “Summer, you’re going to have a sacred C-section.”  This was a pivotal moment for me when I realized that this was my baby’s birth, not my birth.  He needed to come into this world in his own way- now!  Finally, I surrendered to the present moment, and got out of the way.  I released my idea of how I thought things should go, and accepted my reality.  I just wanted to meet my baby!

As I was being wheeled to the O.R., I overheard my OB telling the nurse to write, “failure to descend” or “failure to progress” as the reason.  All I internalized was “failure.”  In the birthing class I took, and the prenatal yoga community I had joined, vaginal birth as natural as possible was the only way.  I have always valued having a healthy and athletic body.  I thought if I didn’t have a natural or vaginal delivery, then I failed to make it to the finish line.  C-section was like my leg being cut off in the final lap of the marathon.  My husband cried too, and held my hand.  I tried to tell myself that a healthy baby was all that mattered, but I didn’t fully believe it.  At 7:21pm he was born- so perfect, so peaceful.  “He’s sleeping”- my O.B. team whispered when they cut me open.  No wonder his heart rate had gone down!  The only thing I regretted right then was not being able to hold him skin to skin, in the first precious moments of his life.  In my epi-haze I saw daddy lift him in the air and the doctors take him to the warmer.  After what felt like an eternity, I finally got to hold him on my chest in a holding room.  Heartbeat to heartbeat, yet constantly monitored by machines.  Such was the sacred journey of Sage Rohan (Hindi meaning: ascending).

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Parts II & III coming soon… Follow this blog to read the rest of my journey to a successful VBAC at home!

summer & sage Infant Massage Movement Across the Country!

Every few months I like to share experiences and questions from my awesome clients.  As parents, we learn from each other.  I really do believe it takes a village to raise our children, and new parents most definitely gain insight and helpful tips from those who’ve been in the thick of it all a bit longer.  I’m also excited to report that our summer & sage Sacred Infant Massage Kits are making their way to many new families across the country!  See what other parents are saying about our summer & sage Infant Massage Kits, as well as helpful questions about best oil practices and the best time of day to massage your wee ones.

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San Fernando Mom: “I am happy to announce that Nathaniel has started to enjoy his massages very much.  He is getting used to the touch and motions.  We both enjoy the quality bonding time with each session. (Q:) I want to know more about the different oils you carry and their benefits.  How do I order more?”

(A:) We carry organic, cold-pressed plant based oils, as recommended for newborns by the  International Association of Infant Massage.  The two different Oils we carry are:  1) Mustard Seed Oil, which is warming to the skin and body, is anti-inflammatory (prevents/treats diaper rash and relieves cold/chest congestion). 2) Sweet Almond Oil, which is cooling to the skin and body, is known to reduce fever and increase appetite. Also effective stretch-mark prevention on pregnant bellies.

Chicago Mom: “Thank you for my summer & sage kit.  Awesome! I love it.  I really think it is helping! He (baby Jordan) gets such indigestion or something. He can never settle down at night.  This has been so helpful. Never even knew about it.  I recommended it to a friend in one of Jordan’s classes!”

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Dallas Mom:  “Thank you once again for the massage gift package. We have been using the blanket and enjoying it.  (Q1:) I wanted to know if it is OK to use the oil now or is he too young?  (Q2:) I was also wondering what time of day you suggest to do his massage?”

(A1:)  Yes, it is okay to start massaging your newborn as early as 1-week-old with our organic, cold-pressed Mustard Seed or Sweet Almond oil because it is digestible and allows baby’s skin to breathe.  However, it is suggested to begin a regular massage once the umbilical cord falls off.

Sage&Grandma(A2:) My mother-in-law brought homemade mustard seed oil from Northern India, which she started massaging Sage with at 1 week old.  The best time of day to massage your newborn is when they are closest to “quiet alert.” This means their immediate needs are met, and they can make eye contact with you, and respond to your soothing touch.  This varies for each baby, and likely changes each day, until they have a bedtime routine.  After a nap, after a short feeding or diaper change is often the easiest time to begin your massage routine at home.  However, do not massage your baby’s belly (i.e. Gas & Colic Relief routine ) directly after a full feeding.  Elevate baby’s head with a small pillow (see summer & sage Mustard Seed Infant Pillows) to prevent spit-up.

KitClassicLgMaroonArrowsCharcoalIdaho Mom:  “My baby certainly loves to be touched and he shows his approval by latching onto one of my fingers or resting his sweet little hand on mine when I am holding or caressing him.  He also shows some excitable and pleasing looks while receiving his massage.  The waterproof blanket that comes in the kit is awesome!  You don’t have to worry about greasy/oily stains or marks on the blanket, as it does not absorb the oil and shows no trace.  It is very soft on my baby’s skin and the size is just right.  Not too big and certainly not too small, which is very nice.  The organic sweet almond oil is amazing as well.  It glides onto my baby’s skin like a dream!  A little goes a long way which is also nice because the bottle has lasted me several months.  I made the mistake of using too much one night and my baby was glistening!  I had to continue massaging him until his skin absorbed more of the oil–otherwise I was unable to pick him up without him slipping through my hands.  Overall, I love the summer & sage Infant Massage Kit, and I am so grateful to have received it as a gift for me and my newborn baby.  It has been a wonderful avenue for us to bond and it feels great knowing that I am nurturing a sensual little boy that will positively respond to his Mommy’s loving touch for years to come.  Thank you!”

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DECEMBER DEAL:  Receive 10% off all summer & sage Infant Massage Kits during the month of December only.   Available in Small or Large, Classic or Boho styles, all Kits include: Plush Waterproof Blanket, Organic Cold-pressed Oil, Mustard Seed Infant Pillow. +BONUS GIFT: Professional How-To Videos, with CEIM Summer Menkee, now included with Kit purchase!  Now all new parents can learn simple Infant Massage routines right in their home.

GET YOURS TODAY!    

*Be sure to use coupon code: dec15 at online checkout. 

Check out our Infant Massage Kits in action (click image below to play video):

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A wonderful Holiday Gift  for new parents!

In the Los Angeles Area?

This Saturday: Intro to Sacred Infant Massage Workshop at MoVida in Los Feliz.  December 5th from 11:30am to 1:30pm.

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Ideal for new parents with newborns to pre-crawling babies seeking a deeper bond, relaxation and numerous infant health benefits through the healing power of touch. In this 2-hour workshop you will get an introduction to the tradition, benefits and best oil practices of Infant Massage, as well as simple massage strokes/routine you can practice at home.  Baby-led instruction, breastfeeding friendly, mamas/babies take breaks as needed.

Instructor Summer Menkee, CEIM, first learned Indian Baby Massage from her mother-in-law, a revered expert in Northern India, who massaged her first born son, Sage, in her home during her postpartum recovery. Summer became a Certified Educator of Infant Massage through the International Association of Infant Massage, and continues to massage her now toddler son, Sage, as part of their bedtime/bath routine. Summer is expecting her 2nd baby in 2016.

www.summerandsage.net

 

 

How To Prevent Flat-head, Bow-Legged Babies ~ Cultural Anecdotes

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A dad from Australia recently said to me, “I always knew I wanted my children to be massaged as babies, because other cultures who practice it seem to have kids with less health problems. I’m sure I would be even healthier too, as an adult, if I got regular massages. I’m so glad my wife is massaging our firstborn, it’s happening in our home, and that makes me so happy.”  Love him.  I can’t wait to interview this dad when I make my documentary.  Studies have actually shown that infant massage boosts immune system, increases baby’s ability to fight off germs by boosting effects on T cells, creating higher natural killer (NK) cytotoxicity, also resulting in increased daily weight gain (Pediatrics. 2012 Dec; 130(6):e1549-58).

Another client from Argentina relayed, “I saw infant massage being practiced in my extended family growing up, and a lot of the techniques you teach are similar, while some are different.”  This is the same way I felt learning Indian baby massage from my mother-in-law, then getting trained through the International Association of Infant Massage.  Many techniques were universal, such as “milking” the legs and arms.  While others I found to be more culture-specific, like massaging the ear lobes to promote brain function (increase IQ).

A southeast Asian mom asked if stretching a newborn’s legs straight for an extended period of time helped to prevent bow legs, because she said her dad swears by it and does it to every baby he meets.  This reminded me of my husband constantly pinching Sage’s nose, once a day, to shape and prevent it from becoming too wide.  And, he always asks me, “Did you shape Sage’s nose during massage?” I’m always amused and bewildered by this question.  His mother, from Northern India, swears by this and does it to every baby she meets.  I did, however, adopt the practice of using her Indian mustard seed infant head pillow from when my son was about 2-8 months old.  We would use her homemade seed pillow during our Infant Massage routine to elevate his head to prevent spit-up after a feeding.  Newborns often need a little milky nosh just before or during massage.  We also noticed one side of his little head developing a flat spot, because he had mild torticollis and favored one side while sleeping.  Therefore, the mustard seed pillow helped immensely to prevent full on flat-head syndrome (Plagiocephaly), and we did use it when he napped or at night in his co-sleeper.  Luckily, Sage never had to wear the helmut that some of my friends’ babies had to wear with this same issue.  I credit the mustard seed pillow!  I’m so grateful for this wonderful gift that I sell them, with handmade organic cotton covers (wash on gentle cycle), in our summer & sage Sacred Infant Massage Multi-use Kit, available at our website.

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I don’t interfere with others’ beliefs, and encourage parents to try everything, because there’s no harm in healthy touch.  Our little ones are so malleable in their first year of life, and early touch shapes their physical, emotional and spiritual foundation.  So, what doesn’t hurt, just may help!

If so many American infants and children have allergies, would daily infant massage promote healthier immune function?  I believe so.  Do children in countries like India and South America, where infant massage is a daily baby care practice have less health problems?  This may quite possibly be true.  I haven’t heard of my Indian relatives sending their children to the allergy specialist or doing elimination diets.  As new parents there are so many concerns and challenges to navigate along the way, so why not try Infant Massage as a way to keep your baby healthy, soothe your stress level, and enjoy deep bonding through touch in the process?  It’s a win win!

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Sacred Infant Massage Multi-Use Kit includes: Plush Waterproof Blanket + Organic Cold-pressed Oil + Mustard Seed Infant Head Pillow. Perfect for diaper free time, diaper rash and flat-head syndrome prevention/treatment.

Check out our upcoming FREE Intro to Sacred Infant Massage Benefits & Best Oil Practices: Tuesday, November 10th at 11am-Noon at The Great Escape Club in Atwater Village (Los Angeles, CA).  RSVP to: summerandsage@gmail.com

Our next 5-class weekly Parent & Me Sacred Infant Massage Series starts Tuesday, Nov. 17th through Dec. 15th from 11am-Noon at The Great Escape Club in Atwater Village (Los Angeles, CA).  Registration and More Info at:  www.summerandsage.net

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Infant Massage Cures Baby Blues

Last month, on July 20th, I was asked to give my very first hospital presentation on the Research, Benefits and Tradition of Infant Massage for BreastfeedLA‘s seminar “Infant Crying: What You Need To Know,” co-sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Panorama City.  The audience was primarily Nurses (RNs) and Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs).  I learned a great deal from this experience because my typical audience for my power point presentations is usually new parents attending a free intro for my next workshop series.  For my Kaiser lecture I researched multiple studies to provide evidence supporting each benefit of Infant Massage.  Since this was my first hospital rodeo, I included the whole study…for seven different evidence based benefits.  What I learned was that bullet points are much easier to present to a large audience, rather than dense paragraphs of medical jargon.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written an academic research paper, with detailed footnotes, and that’s exactly what this was like.  For my next big presentation, I will distill all of the studies down to their simplest form and site my references at the end.

My presentation as a whole was a hit though, and tons of fun!!!  Funny thing is, I ended up sitting on a narrow table with myCobalt legs stretched out (into the air) in front of me to demonstrate the Gas & Colic Relief routine with my doll on my lap.  The room was very wide and packed full of one hundred or so attendees.  A soft spoken RN/IBCLC came up to me at the end and said, “I’m so glad you referenced the Leboyer book” (Loving Hands). Her response reinforced that his philosophies are considered “alternative” by traditional Western medicine.  Another attendee said my lecture took her back to massaging her own grownup child as a baby, and that that time was among her sweetest, fondest memories.  Several nurses asked to sign up for a private group workshop with me, followed by observation at my next Wallaby Parent & Me series, and bought mustard seed and sweet almond oils and massage kits.  I also donated two summer & sage Sacred Infant Massage Kits to upcoming BreastfeedLA events, thanks to the wonderful education outreach and guest speaker invitation from Jessica Claire.

I enjoyed gleaning new and familiar information from IBCLC Genevieve 51oo5m6mNzL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_Colvin’s presentation “Popular Infant Crying Advice.”  She referenced many books that parents follow these days, especially for sleep training.  Many moms and dads follow parent-led practices when it comes to sleep routines and parenting in general.  Cry-it-out is advocated by so many books and pediatricians, which so many parents follow blindly because they desperately want their sleep.  Who doesn’t?  We all miss our pre-baby 8 hours of uninterrupted blissful sleep!  And, most of us do have to get up in the morning to go to work, or get a fat list of things done.  What I walked away with is that there are multiple ways to soothe your baby when they are crying, in addition to infant massage.  The toughest time for parents of newborns is the witching hour- when baby seems inconsolable, usually leading up to going down at night for their longest sleep stretch.  I personally love the techniques and philosophies of Dr. Harvey Karp (Happiest Baby on the Block) and Dr. Sears (The Baby Book).  I got to sit down and chat with Genevieve a bit at lunchtime, and found that we have similar baby-led parenting philosophies.

Another exciting new development is that the Lead Therapist of the Maternal Wellness Program at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena reached out to me to teach Infant Massage classes to mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression.  In her words, “Infant massage is great for reducing stress and increasing mother and baby attachment- both major problem areas for women with perinatal mental health disorders.” I’ve included the bullet pointed studies that support the evidence for this below, which I used in my “Infant Crying” seminar presentation:

Infant massage improves mother–infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression

Journal of Affective Disorders  Volume 63, Issues 1–3, March 2001, Pages 201–207

Katsuno Onozawa, Vivette Glover, Diana Adams, Neena Modi, R.Channi Kumar

  • The aims of this study were to determine whether attending regular massage classes could reduce maternal depression and also improve the quality of mother–infant interaction.
  • 34 depressed mothers, 9 weeks postpartum, identified as being depressed at 4 weeks postpartum, were randomly allocated either to an infant massage class and support group (massage group) or to just a support group (control group). Each group attended five weekly sessions. Changes in maternal depression and mother–infant interaction were assessed at the beginning and the end of the study by comparing EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) scores and ratings of videotaped mother–infant interaction.
  • Significant improvement of mother–infant interaction was seen only in the massage group.
  • This study suggests that learning the practice of infant massage by mothers is an effective treatment for postnatal depression.

Postpartum depression effects on early interactions, parenting, and safety practices: A review

Infant Behavior and Development  Volume 33, Issue 1, February 2010, Pages 1–6

Tiffany Field

  • The mother-infant interaction disturbances of depressed mothers appears to be universal across different cultures and socioeconomic status groups.
  • Less sensitivity of the mothers and responsiveness to their infants.
  • Several care giving activities appear to be compromised: feeding practices (most especially breastfeeding), sleep routines, well-child visits, vaccinations and safety practices.
  • Universal screening is needed for maternal and paternal depression during the postpartum period.
  • Early interventions include: psychotherapy, interaction coaching, and infant massage instruction for parents.

Infant Massage supportA Schedule of my upcoming Sacred Infant Massage Parent & Me Classes, and Private Instruction for single families or small groups, as well as our Sacred Infant Massage Kits (includes: Organic, Cold-Pressed Mustard Seed/Sweet Almond Oil + Waterproof, Plush Blankets) are available for registration and purchase at our website:   www.summerandsage.net

Contact: summerandsage@gmail.com to book Summer Sinclair-Menkee, CEIM, to speak, give Infant Massage demonstrations, or exhibit at your next Prenatal/Postpartum Panel, Seminar or Baby Expo.

Mama is a Queen, Create a Spa Environment

“Taking care of a newborn is not nearly as hard as taking care of yourself. My post partum doula care is all about mothering the mother.” ~ Dayva Savio

So many parents think they will just bond right after birth, naturally. Then, once baby comes they realize how much support they really need, which can feel overwhelming.

I sat down with Postpartum Doula Dayva Savio, also a Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, where she studied in Hawaii.

S: What made you decide to become a post-partum doula?

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D: After having a baby myself, it brought everything into perspective how I could help other moms make self care a priority, which in turn helps them provide better family care. Parenting is so isolating. It was for me. My own experience made me realize we need to create a village, because no one else is going to do it for us.  

S: As a massage therapist yourself, did you massage Buck as a newborn?

D: I absolutely loved my time massaging Buck as a newborn!  I used my massage training and modified things for baby.  He wasn’t a colicky baby, but he did have gas. He still loves the knees to tummy relief!  Those first 2-3 months were really sweet. We started a bed time routine very early on that includes massage, books and songs. But, I used to massage Buck all the time, any time of day, just because I liked him to be naked and I knew it was good for him. We still sing the same song before bed to this day. It’s “Devoted To You” by the Everly Brothers. 

One of Dayva’s goals for her families is to equip them with the referrals they need to help them create that village for themselves.

D: Mama needs help, mama needs to be nourished in the first 1-4 weeks. I tell my families, “I want to create a spa like environment for you.” I want to support that oxytocin release that’s happening, not just for mom, for dad (or partner) too. I want to support that energy flowing… Massaging mom is part of that process.

S: Tell me more about your Healing Touch process.

D: I begin with massaging the mother. I teach them certain baby massage strokes and reaffirm how beneficial it is to baby’s growth, comfort and development. I will show them a few things on their baby, but mostly I want to build confidence in parents that they can do it. I’m a very “hands off” doula when it comes to the baby. That baby would way rather have mommy or daddy massaging them, not me.  I encourage parents to take an Infant Massage class later on, also so they can meet other parents and continue to build their village. While I’m there in the early days- I’m cleaning, doing baby’s laundry, cooking, serving meals to parents in bed (if they want that)… I’m really giving ample time to just be with their baby, skin to skin. I like to provide as many tools as possible to help the bonding process, so they’re not just holding baby in one arm, while on Facebook in the other.  (LOL!)

S: Do you find that parents are nervous about the amount of pressure to use when massaging their baby?

D: What I like to relay to all parents, is what Davi (Khalsa, midwife) told my husband:

“Think of your baby like a sack of potatoes, not fine China.”

It’s not so much about the massage techniques in the very beginning, but more about early touch, and getting really comfortable in moving your baby around, not feeling like it’s this fragile thing you’re going to break- especially for Dad. You can touch your baby in a very firm and loving way, and you are not going to hurt your baby.

S: Did you learn Infant Massage techniques as well in your training?

D: I’ve got to say, in my post-partum training, we learned nothing about Infant Massage. If there was information, it was definitely glossed over. We did not learn any techniques. But, it makes sense because the focus needs to be on mothering the mother. Baby is not awake enough during the day in the first 1-4 weeks to even do a massage routine, and mom is still recovering. Just like you said, you don’t even encourage moms to come out to classes until 6-8 weeks.  

That’s right.

S: Besides touch, what other tools do you give parents for bonding?

D: Teaching parents how to interact with their baby verbally is also important, because many are often at a loss, “What do I say?” So, I encourage them to narrate simple tasks throughout the day- “I’m changing your diaper now. Ooh, does this wipe feel a little cold?…”  

Singing to your baby is also a great way to bond, even if you don’t fancy your own voice, your baby definitely does!  So, bust out your version of the Everly Brothers.

S: Wow, post partum doulas do so much! What don’t you do?

D: What I tell my clients in my initial interviews is that post-partum doulas are experts in nurturing mom and family, and very knowledgeable about a lot of different things, but we are not experts in everything. However, we have a network of amazing referrals for lactation, for infant massage, physical therapy, cranial sacral, etc. To be a good post-partum doula you need to have a fantastic network of specialists.

Each post-partum doula does many of the same things, with their own set of specialties they bring to the table. According to Davya, the clients that fit her, find her.

S: Give us some examples of what you like to cook for families.

D: I draw on the wisdom of different cultures’ postpartum philosophies and choose the very best, that make the most sense to me. In Chinese medicine and Ayurveda there are very specific foods for warming and healing mama from the inside, just after giving birth. These foods help build vitality, restore blood and chi, and build digestive fire. Indian herbs and spices, such as cumin, coriander, ginger and turmeric help reduce inflammation.

Dayva’s sample menu:

  • Mung beans and rice with ginger and sea salt (very limited spice in the beginning). This dish acts as a stool softener. Every mom, after they’ve had their baby, is afraid to poop. If you eat this, there’s a very easy stool.
  • Almonds mixed with ghee and honey. The skin of almonds is very beneficial post birth, delicious too.
  • Sabzee (Indian curry)- A Sikh recipe with cauliflower, spinach and peas.
  • Coconut butternut squash soup, with all the Indian spices.
  • Mushroom, vegetable barley soup. Great for milk production and digestion, baby’s digestion too. Mushrooms are believed to build vitality in Chinese medicine.
Sabzee Indian Curry

Sabzee Indian Curry

I encourage women not to eat raw, cold foods in the first two weeks (after birth). If their constitution runs hot, maybe cold foods are okay for them. However, our digestive systems are compromised, not fully functioning right after baby is born. You want warming, soft foods.

S: Sounds similar to the Ayurvedic foods my East Indian mother-in-law made. But, what if mom or dad isn’t into it?

D: I also love to bring cheesy omelets, toast, and tea to mom and papa in bed, so they don’t have to get up. I love to cook, so I can easily make whatever parents prefer.

I’m about to change my fee structure, so parents can choose a Basic package, that would just include lighter meals, or my Healing Hands & Meals package, which incorporates my massage & holistic cooking.

I know many moms in pregnancy think breastfeeding is just going to come easily. Just like we’re told giving birth should be… But, new moms know how HARD things really are!

S: How do you provide breast-feeding support through your cooking and services?

D: There are no scientific studies to prove that certain foods increase milk production; however, there are cultural beliefs that support mother’s nutrition to help her body make milk. Will it increase her supply? Maybe. But, if a mom is having difficulty breastfeeding, I can also help with baby’s latch, make sure mom is positioned well, and most importantly- help mom relax. We’re going to soothe baby, get baby naked skin to skin with mom, and let baby play with the breast. Not force them to nurse. Give them space and time to do what they’re going to do. Let’s help bring the central nervous system down, and the oxytocin up. Take the pressure off… Remind mom it’s a skill, like learning how to play Tennis. Just because you watch Tennis on TV does not mean you’re going to step out onto that court and know how to swing a racket to make connection with the ball.

S: I feel like the right post-partum support can help so many moms not to give up when things get overwhelming. Which can happen learning anything new, especially when a little bundle of life responsibility is attached to you.

D: Sometimes moms just need to hear “You’re doing a great job! There is no one else who could do as good of a job as you are right now.” Moms need to be praised. Take all the stress down, and build the confidence up. A mom who’s relaxed, the more confidence she will have. Mom must be treated like a Queen. Don’t forget you’re doing all these things with your baby for the very first time! Take lots of photos and celebrate the tiny successes!!

S: What’s your favorite thing about being a post-partum doula?

D: One of my favorite things is doing baby’s First Bath with families. And, we take a family photo to celebrate it! I encourage parents to get in the tub with baby, skin to skin, supporting the back of the head. I educate them on Infant dive reflex, like we learned in Constantia’s class.

S: Constantia’s Dolphinsgate Swim class was such a special time for me, learning to be comfortable in the water with Sage…

D: She talked about how parents don’t need to fear their baby’s face going into the water, because it was submerged in water for nine months. They have not forgotten that. So, taking a bath with your baby, letting their full body be submerged (up to the neck), is going to bring up warm memories from the womb.

Recreating the position baby was in in the womb can be very helpful too. I had a client whose baby was born breech. (Yes, breech delivery does happen) And, baby was very uncomfortable in the bath on her back. So, I thought let’s try her sitting up, which is what she was doing for many months in the womb. We sat baby right in front of mom, with mom’s arm wrapped around her chest, and baby calmed right down. We had her submerged all the way up to her neck as mom moved her around in the warm water, so calm and peaceful.

S: This sounds beautiful, like Dr. Leboyer’s baby bath.

Leboyer Bath

Leboyer Bath

D: I teach parents to respect their baby’s body. If we can bring our own energy down, we’re much more able to be in tune with our baby to learn their likes and dislikes, which helps us have a calmer baby.

That is the exact reason I teach Infant Massage to parents. To help them get comfortable touching and deeply bonding with the human being that is their baby. So that they become the expert at reading their baby’s cues and tuning into their needs, which starts with respect and observing their likes and dislikes.

S: What about post-partum depression? How do you deal with that?

D: I have only encountered mild baby blues. There’s a scale. I’ve seen anxiety. That’s a symptom of depression. We’re in a very intimate time together, so I get asked all kinds of questions about how to deal with family relationships, or sex, you name it. I encourage moms to continue speaking to their therapist, if they were seeing one before having a baby. Or, I would refer them to a licensed psychotherapist if I saw signs of post-partum depression.

“I help mom process the birth story each time I’m there. I encourage moms to cry. It’s cleansing the chi.” 

Whether it’s happy or sad crying, or for no reason at all, usually after a good cry you’re going to feel rung out afterwards, and have a different perspective on the situations at hand.

S: Do you encourage Placenta Encapsulation to help with mood swings?

D: We’re just working on a podcast about Placenta. Placenta encapsulation can be very helpful to some moms, who choose to do it, but not every mom will want to.  

“I think not doing too much, not putting too much pressure on yourself, general TLC you get from positive people around you- all of that is going to help you stay positive and feel supported.”

I know as an Infant Massage Instructor I often times get a call when parents are in the weeds, needing Gas & Colic Relief for example.

S: When should parents hire a Post-Partum Doula?

D: 1 out of 5 parents call me during pregnancy. The other calls come in at 3 days old, 1 week old, or 4-6 weeks because baby’s going through a developmental leap, and their sleep patterns are changing. 

S: How long do you typically stay with a family?

D: Ideally, I’m only there during the first 1-12 weeks. The first 1-4 weeks all baby does is sleep, and their vision is blurred. As days and weeks go by, baby’s world gets bigger and bigger, and as their vision becomes more and more clear, they are able to see a bit further.

“The bigger baby’s world gets, the more support we need as parents.”

When that big shift happens in sleep and digestive changes, parents are often overwhelmed. As mom is getting her energy back, and wants to be more mobile, my support changes. It becomes a little less mama-centric and a little more parent-centric.

Teaching Dad/partner basic massage strokes, diaper duties, swaddling, and soothing is all part of my exit strategy. The more dad/partner feels taken care of, the more energy reserves and confidence he has to take care of mom and baby when I leave.

If only we could educate parents more in pregnancy about how challenging those first few months really are.

S: Do you encourage parents to create a Post Partum Care Plan in pregnancy?

D: I tell my families, “You are preparing for the Next Phase of your life.” The more information you get in pregnancy, the better prepared you are to take care yourselves and seek the help you need after baby is born.

“It should be evenly weighted with childbirth education.”

S: What is the one thing you would like all families to know about post-partum recovery?

D: Ultimately you’re going to need more help than you think you need. Look at all the things you normally do, that you’re not going to be able to do right after birth, and find someone else to do them for you. What are some of your hopes and goals for the first few weeks with your baby? What do you need support in? I’m here to help you make sure those things happen.

It really does take a village!

S: Thank you Dayva for sharing all your post-partum wisdom!

You can find out more about Dayva’s wonderful services and support at Dayvacare.com and check out her amazing Maternity Leave Podcast which I had the recent privilege of being a guest on.

Maternity Leave Podcast- special guest Summer Sinclair-Menkee, CEIM discusses Infant Massage

Maternity Leave Podcast- special guest Summer Sinclair-Menkee, CEIM discusses Infant Massage

Ditch the Diaper Cream & Help Your Baby Poop!

As parents we all go through many of the same struggles, trying to soothe our little ones when they are not able to verbally tell us what they need.  Lately we’ve gotten some great client feedback, and I hope these success stories from some of my awesome private clients can also help some of you!

Happy lil' guy!

Summer– thanks for the tip on getting rid of Noah’s diaper rash! For those of you with newborns I switched from pampers (which had a lovely fragrance and wetness indicator) and switched to 7th generation. They are on the bigger side of newborn size and have no chemicals. We also stopped using diaper cream and are only using almond oil and mustard seed oil. Diaper rash 100% GONZO!!!! Gracias! Look at this happy guy! He loves his massages!” – AH

The massage worked! It all came out about an hour after we got home and she was so happy afterwards! Thanks so much! Looking forward to learning more next week!” – LM (baby hadn’t pooped in 4 days)
Infant Massage Tips:
The best time to massage your baby at home is when they are in “quiet alert,” which is often after a feeding for newborns 4-8 weeks old, or after a nap for infants 2-6 months.   Once your baby has a regular bedtime, try adding Infant Massage to your Bedtime Routine, before or after a bath.  They will relax easier into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Never wake your baby up for a massage.  Refrain massaging them if they are sick- instead try rubbing some Mustard Seed oil on their chest for cold/congestion, or Almond oil for fever reduction.   Definitely do a modified massage routine the 1-3 days after vaccinations, and avoid the are altogether where they received their shot(s).   Avoid massage baby’s belly directly after a long feeding.

More on the Benefits of Infant Massage here.

Private Instruction and Parent & Me Classes:
To book a private session (in home, or Skype) with Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Summer Sinclair-Menkee, or a Parent & Me Workshop (currently on Thursdays in Eagle Rock, 6:30-7:30pm – Bedtime Routine), Registration & Info at:  www.summerandsage.net

Summer will be a guest Lecturer at the upcoming “Crying Seminar” (July 20, 2015) for RNs and IBLC practitioners at Kaiser Permanente,  Panorama City.  To book Summer for an upcoming panel or lecture, contact through her website.

Organic Diaper Care:
Find out more about our Sacred Baby Massage Kits and organic cold-pressed oils (Mustard Seed & Sweet Almond), and get yours at:  www.summerandsage.net

Sacred Baby Massage Kits - Natural Diaper Care

Sacred Baby Massage Kits –
Natural Diaper Care

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