The Weekly Newsletter for Heart of Houston Birth and Wellness Friends and Families
Happy Lunar New Year!
Hello again dear ones. It's the start of a new week and new year according to the traditional Chinese Calendar. We leave behind the year of the courageous and daring Tiger for the more gentle and tender Rabbit. I think we could all use a more gentle year, don't you? Well my friends, keep reading. My passion is community and most of this newsletter will be dedicated to highlighting a very special group of parents. Next week I'll share some new events, new groups and a spring reunion picnic! We've changed our phone system so now you'll be greeted by Midwife Bethany's voice! Our phone number will stay the same and the first option will connect to the on-call midwife. The new system will give you additional options to contact other members of our team.
A gift like no other
HOH families are the best. I'm not biased. At all. It's just a fact. We've had more than one birthing person struggle with their milk production. Our Whatsapp chat group has been instrumental in connecting members who are interested in milk sharing between peers. Whether they have milk to share or are in need of milk to supplement or substitute for their own supply, these folks are acting in purest sense of community and showing up for each other.
Cloth diaper mom, Amanda Wren shares her experience. "My son and I struggled with breastfeeding for the first couple months of his life, so I started exclusively pumping right away. By the time he was able to latch and nurse regularly, I had developed an oversupply of breastmilk that I had no room to keep. On top of not having space to freeze the milk, my son started refusing bottles! I didn't want any of that hard-earned liquid gold to go to waste, so I started asking at HOH if anyone was in need. I also joined the Facebook group "Human Milk for Human Babies-Texas" to find other families in need of milk. I ended up pumping and keeping my supply up for about 6 months and was able to donate over 1,200 oz to 5 different families."
Some of our HOH kiddos have a wide range of food allergies or sensitivities. While the birthing parent clears their system, donor milk free of the offending ingredient(s) can be a gift like no other. Tarah Awai and her daughter Peta received donations from Amanda and JJ. She says, "I get emotional when I think of all the mothers who donated milk to my daughter! We accepted milk donations for 6 months from 11 different donors and I’m still floored by the amount of support we received. My daughter had a community of mothers helping her grow, giving her antibodies, and showing her love. She went from the 60th percentile in weight to the 85th and absolutely thrived when I was able to supplement my own low supply with donor milk. I felt good knowing that in traditional societies, this is how things would have been done. If I couldn’t feed my baby alone I would have had help from a community of other mothers."
Emily says, "I have received donor milk from Chloe, Heather, and Alex. The gift of milk has meant the difference between enjoying the holidays or being stressed and anxious. It has meant the difference between feeling like I can be a relaxed and happy mom and being wound up and miserable; tied to a pump a dozen times a day. It’s also the difference between a happy baby or a baby who is fussy and unhappy. It has given me space to be able to take care of myself like I need to be; like being able to step away for more than an hour. It has allowed me to feel like I can successfully continue to give my baby breastmilk without worrying about my baby's potential allergies or which formula will be available/upset his little body the least.
It has felt like I have a village to help me take care of this baby and that we as moms are so much stronger together than we are individually.
Often the mom's who have donated are so giving and generous with their stash and it has been one of the most touching and meaningful gifts I have ever received. I doubt they realize that, but for someone who is trying so hard to give their baby breastmilk, that gift of peace and security is priceless."
Whole Heart Collective mama Heather West has worked really hard over the last fifteen months to give preemie babies her excess milk through a milk bank. Here is her story:
Hello! I'm Heather West. My son, Nolan, is 15 months old. We are still enjoying our breastfeeding journey!
Early on it was clear, by our shrinking freezer space and my husband's comments about said lack of freezer space, that I produce more milk than Nolan needs in a day. I signed up to donate milk with the Mother's Milk Bank of Austin! The milk bank is really short on milk these days, so I wanted to encourage other mamas, and their families, to share any of their extra milk.
Where to start: Fill out the online form to start the process. https://milkbank.org/donate-milk/
They will call you for a phone interview, request records from your OBGYN, and ask you to have some blood tests done (blood tests are paid for by the milk bank). It seems like an extensive process, but it's to protect precious premature babes.
How to donate: Milk can be donated in breast milk bags that you purchase yourself, or you can pick up bottles from drop off locations to fill and then donate. There are drop-off locations all around the Houston area. Your first donation has to be at least 100 ounces, but every other donation can be as much or as little as you are willing to part with.
Every month they send you an online survey asking if you are still producing more milk than your babe needs, and if there have been any changes in your medical history or medications.
What it looks like to donate: If you ask my husband, it looks like a lot of time bagging milk, washing bottles, and rearranging the freezer to make more room for milk (less room for meat). I was pumping every three hours when I returned to work three months postpartum. Even once Nolan slowed down on the breast milk, I continued pumping just as often so I could keep up supply and donate as much as I could. The milk bank is accepting milk donations until 13 months postpartum, when the nutritional content of the milk is too different compared to the requirements of those premie babes.
There are other avenues to donate milk outside of Mother's: Human Milk 4 Human Babies- Texas and Eats on Feets- Texas on Facebook. Mothers in your area will post a need for milk and you arrange a drop off. I tried this over the last few months but didn't have much luck. My journey with Mother's Milk Bank of Austin has come to a close (totalling about 11,700 meals or just over 3,900 oz), but I am still lucky enough to donate to one HOH mama to help her continue her breastfeeding journey.
Special shout out to my super supportive husband who has spent many hours bagging milk, washing bottles, rearranging the freezer (buying a new, bigger freezer, twice), and constantly reassuring me that my milk supply wouldn't just dry up as soon as I donated some of my supply. And to Nolan who shared his milk, and also helped me pack up a few donations!
Y'all are amazing. Thank you all for showing up for one another!
Having a baby exposes an entire underworld of baby centered cults. Okay maybe the words
underworld and cult are a little strong but maaaaaybe they're just right. For example, if you don't know what "fluff butt" means you probably have not been exposed to the world of cloth diapering (CD). If however, you got a tiny dose of dopamine just reading the word, you're probably a CD enthusiast or know someone who is. Fluff butt refers to larger than normal posterior of the babies that were CD. Disposable diapers are designed to absorb a ton of liquid without having to use thick layers of material. Cloth usually uses cotton, bamboo or other textiles to absorb and can be washed and reused for a very long time. Some folks are die hard loyalist to certain brands or styles of cloth diapers and will gladly give you all the reasons why. Some are always on the lookout for cutest or most unique prints. Whatever the motivation it becomes a way of life and it's a great way to, eventually, save some money while doing your part to keep unnecessary waste out of our landfills.
Heart of Houston mom Amanda Wren has become our inhouse expert on all things CD. I asked her to share a little bit about her experience:
" I started thinking about cloth diapering early during my pregnancy, but was worried that it would be too much to learn with a new baby and too much work for a first time mom. It wasn't until my son was about 2 months old that I gave it a shot. I was hooked immediately! They were so much easier to use than I had imagined. They were soft, they didn't smell like chlorine, and they were a lot cuter than a disposable diaper. We have been cloth diapering for 17 months now and it is just a part of our routine.
I love that I'm reducing the amount of waste my family is producing, I love that they don't contain harmful polymers and chemicals, and when I decided to quit my job to stay home full-time, I was even more thankful I had cloth diapers because that was one less expense to worry about. I have tested out a wide variety of styles and materials and learned from older generations what worked well for them. I enjoy sharing that experience with other parents!"
If you're curious about cloth diapering and want to learn more about it, join us on February 18th from 11-12:30 for our Cloth Diapering 101 class taught by HOH CD mama, Amanda Wren. Class is open to the public! Free for HOH and WHC members and $10 for everyone else.
January/February Upcoming events
Infant CPR and BLS: Saturday January 28th 10-12 $45 per person. Email instructor Gail Gould to register and pay.
Ask the Experts: Sunday 1/29 2-5pm Newborn parents will spend time answering questions from expectant folks in this laid back setting . Get hands on training from new parents! This is a Whole Heart Collective Members Only event.
Evening Core Class Comfort Measures: Wednesday February 1st 6-8pm. This interactive class will be great practice for game day! Bring your support person(s) and cycle through the six comfort stations set up throughout the birth center for hands on practice. This class is free to current HOH clients and Whole Heart Collective Members.
Friday night Yoga with Bee! February 3rd 6:45pm Our friend Bee and her team of doulas are hosting another Friday evening yoga and sound bath session. Non members $20 at the door, $10 to join us virtually. Members donation based
Mindful Movement: February 4th and 11th Gain essential childbirth preparation skills and natural pain coping techniques that will build your confidence in your own birthing ability and wisdom. Dance and stretch your way to a happier healthier pregnancy and a quicker and easier birth and a more content baby. Learn moves inspired by world dance forms such as Bellydance, African dance, Latin dance and interpretive movement. No Experience Necessary! Dance This class is $15 for Whole Heart Collective Members and $20 for the public Please register payment can be made at the door.
Anxiety Support Group: Every other Monday starting February 6th 12-1pm This six week circle will be led by interning Family Therapist Mary Alice Carpenter (Under supervision of Kim Jones LMFT-S). Each week will work on mindfulness and tools to help manage the unavoidable anxieties of pregnancy and postpartum. Registration is open!
2023 Baby Gear Swap!!: Bring your gently used clothing, maternity clothing, baby and kid gear to swap with fellow HOH and Whole Heart Collective members. Drop your items off on Saturday the 18th from 10am to 2pm and come shopping on Sunday 2/19 from 12-4pm. **Please do not bring items any sooner than 10am on 2/18-we do not have storage space.** All items not claimed by 5pm on Sunday will be taken to local organizations for donation.
New address 6550 Mapleridge Ste 100
Monthly Ongoing Events
Wednesday Virtual Postpartum Support Circle: Second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 10-12 on Zoom. HOH clients and Whole Heart Collective members. Email Jessica if you need more information.
Thursday In Person Postpartum Support Circle: 10-12 in the community room. Open to current HOH & WHC members. Feeding clinic first and third Thursdays of each month.
Queer Parent Circle: Second Sunday of every month 2-4pm Open to the public.
Babywearing Meetup: Third Saturday of each month 4-5pm New Topic each month
Birth workers Circle: Second Sunday of every month 11am-1:30pm midwives, student midwives, doulas, birth assistants, Obs and L&D nurses are all welcome to attend.
Mindful Movements: First and second Saturday of each month 10:30-12