Meet Emily, social worker & therapist


Name: Emily Claire Blackmoon

Workshop: Trimester 3 Stream: Creating a Postpartum Mood Support plan

Why did you become a social worker?
It was a two-fold experience: As a child, I had an eating disorder and very low-self esteem. I was supported by amazing therapists, who helped me realize my own strengths and potential. As an adult, I wanted to explore my Indigeneity further, and support others in the First Nations, Metis and Inuit community in Toronto. Being an Indigenous social worker and a therapist helped me to connect with my ancestry and culture, and also helped me to explore how colonization informs both the trauma and the incredible resilience of so many Indigenous peoples.

What interests you about the process of bringing a child into the world?
I have had the honour of working with many young parents, Elders and community members who have come to exemplify how having a happy, safe and supported pregnancy is reproductive justice and triumph over colonialism. Every Indigenous child born is a cause for celebration, and our parents must be honoured and supported for having gone through the ceremony of conception, pregnancy and birth. 

If participants only learn one thing from your workshop, what should it be?
That they're mental health is important, that they can do this, and that perfection in parenting is a myth (I guess that's three things!).

What’s your favourite self-care ritual?
Snuggling with my partner, drumming, eating sushi, seeing my own therapist and taking pictures of my dog Luna, cause she's hilarious. 

What excites you most about presenting at 4 Trimesters Conference?
The opportunity to meet with parents at the various stages of conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum, and a chance to hear more about their experiences!


Meet Corina, doula and childbirth educator




Why did you become a doula?

It feels like a perfect fit and it fulfils me. In another lifetime I was sort of a scientist and became a full time yoga teacher when I couldn’t find a job in my field. Then I specialized in prenatal yoga and one day someone asked me to be their doula. After that experience I was in love - doula work combines my love of scientific research with holistic and mindful practices. That’s literally my life - science and mindfulness! I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

What is your favourite snack or drink when you go to a birth?

Almonds! I eat them slowly and mindfully and they provide me with energy and soothe my belly. They're not too heavy or sweet and I can pair them with a piece of fruit or veggies if I have time. They're also odourless and super easy to eat - I popped some in my mouth in between contractions. I have yet to have client with a nut allergy but my back-up snack are these amazing power balls I make for births (and keep a jar in my freezer at all times) - they usually have nut butter but they're just as delicious with seed butter. 

If participants only learn one thing from your workshop, what should it be?

Find what works for you! It takes patience and practice, but it's so very worth it. Once you figure out what works for you, by practising it you get into a groove, finding out your own rhythm and rituals so that when it's time to use these skills they're easier to access (as opposed to practising them once and dusting them off for labour!). It's also a great opportunity to pick a doula and childbirth educator's brain!

What excites you most about presenting at 4 Trimesters’ conference?

Building and fostering connection! I think when people come together there is the potential for magical things to happen. 4 Trimesters conference is the prefect platform for that - it has a little bit of something for everyone, regardless of where they are in their perinatal journey, and it also promotes connection amongst presenters and participants! 


The Partner Track

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There really wasn't a focus on couples at last year's conference, but of the partners who came, we were told that they felt better prepared and more confident after attending our workshops. Some were even a bit surprised that they enjoyed the day as much as they did. These “expectant partners” also asked that at future conferences we have specialized workshops, or even a whole stream for partners. DONE!

How we’re defining “partner” for the sake of the conference has a degree of flexibility. (Hey, I’ve been a sole parent myself from the moment I peed on the stick, so I get that your main-squeeze on your baby-growing journey may not be someone your married to or at all romantically involved with.) Your “partner” might be a close and supportive friend or sib who’s going to be part of your proverbial “village” or one of your own parents (my personal go-to is always my mum).

I called this new 5th workshop stream “The Swing Stream” because all the workshops could be applicable to partners, but I also threw the introduction to solids workshop in there because I knew it wouldn’t be of interest to all parents in the postpartum year (if your babe is, say, really tiny still, or coming up on 12 months). What I have learned is that people like choice, so we’ve got four more workshops than last year, and you should go where you think you’d be happiest! You certainly don’t have to attend all of the same workshops as your significant other just because you come to the conference together.

So, non-birth parents, if I may be so bold, here’s what I had in mind for you for October 27:

If you have a partner who is pregnant (or you and your partner are planning a pregnancy), you might choose these workshops for the day:

  • Session A - 10:15 to 11:15 am: Supporting the Pregnant/Postpartum Person You Love panel discussion. We came up with this one just for you!

  • Session B - 11:30 to 12:30: Coping Strategies for Labour with Corina

  • Session C - 1:45 to 2:45pm: What is Attachment? with me, Jae, or The Art & Science of Infant Sleep with Ruth, or Creating a Healthy Home for A Healthy Baby with Emma

  • Session D - 3 to 4pm: Parenthood Awakening with Yashar, or Labour Support & Birth Preferences with me and Corina

If you have a new baby in your life, but you’re not the birth parent you might want to go to:

  • Session A: 10:15 - 11:15 am: Supporting the Pregnant/Postpartum Person You Love panel discussion. This sesh is just for you!

  • Session B - 11:30 to 12:30: Play with your Baby with Dima, or Superfood Babies with Esther

  • Session C - 1:45 to 2:45pm: What is Attachment? with me, Jae, or The Art & Science of Infant Sleep with Ruth, or Creating a Healthy Home for A Healthy Baby with Emma

  • Session D - 3 to 4pm: Parenthood Awakening with Yashar, or Pleasure After Kids with Tynan, or Babywearing Basics with Jennifer

Whatever you chose to learn about on October 27, I’m glad that the birthing person in your life has you taking a co-creative role in parenting because (you’ll have to excuse me as I get a bit sentimental here), that’s not conventionally been a given for dads in our society.

For special pricing on “couples” tickets, get yourself over to our registration page before September 28 and get $30 off an already great deal!

(As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, “couples” are not two pregnant or parenting friends because our goal is to encourage shared workload between birthing and non-gestational parents.)

Meet Melanie, perinatal physiotherapist

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Name: Melanie Stevens Sutherland

Workshop: Trimester 2 Stream: Birth and your Pelvic Floor 

Why did you become a perinatal physiotherapist?
Despite being a physiotherapist for years, I was absolutely awed of the capabilities of the human body through my own experience of pregnancy. I was also disappointed at the lack of physical and emotional care I was offered postnatally. As I struggled through my own recovery I knew I could do better for others and ultimately shifted my business model to support parents, through services and excellent practitioners, from conception to recovery.

How did you choose your care team for your birth?
I am a cervical cancer survivor, and as such was sent to the high risk program at Sunnybrook hospital for the birth of my daughter. My daughter ended up failing to thrive in the end stages of my pregnancy and I developed preeclampsia which resulted in an emergency induction. When I was pregnant with my son, although I was not treated as high risk, because of my history we decided to go with a hospital birth and an OB-GYN again. I would have loved to have experienced other birthing professionals, but was very lucky to have two excellent doctors who were very caring and did a wonderful job guiding us through what at the time felt overwhelming and scary, and was ultimately most comfortable with our choice for our situation.

What was your most useful gadget/tool/item for parenting?
I’m not sure there was one gadget that was really the be all and end all for me. If anything I think I learned through my first pregnancy that I required a lot less than I believed I needed pre-baby. The one thing I’ve used consistently with both my kids has been a carrier. It is functional, and I love how close I feel to my kids when using it.

What excites you most about presenting at 4 Trimesters’ conference?
The prospect of sharing education on pelvic floor is very exciting. Many people are not comfortable talking about their pelvic floor let alone becoming acquainted with it but it is such an integral system for almost everything we do. In North America, we are quite far behind in this area, and we need to start getting comfortable with these discussions.

To join Melanie for her workshop at this October's conference, register here.

What's new?

If you attended 4 Trimesters' conference in 2017, you know that we collected a lot of feedback by way of evaluation forms, both on the individual workshops, and the day itself.

I'm so glad we did, because it gave us the opportunity to hear how much you loved the event, and also a bunch of things to improve on. I'll be sharing quotes from the positive words we got over social media in the next couple months, and in the meantime, tell you about what changes have been made to better suit everyone's needs.

But first, let me announce the five winners of the eval-submitting draws (please keep your eye out for an email from me with a code):

  • Amy Packwood

  • Freda Langelo

  • Katherine Meisner

  • Jay Wall

  • Leticia Davolli

And now, for a rundown on all the improvements that have been made for this year:

The Space

The number one complaint from the conference last year was that a few of the rooms were squishy, and the open workshop areas made it hard to hear. So, as much as I loved being at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex, we have found a new home this time at the gorgeous Artscape Youngplace building, slightly west and south from our former venue. The workshop rooms are spread out in the building though, so we'll have more volunteers to usher people around without a hitch. (Note, the venue is still accessible, with both stairs and elevators running between the lower level and the second floor.)

4 Trimesters new home for the 2018 conference.

4 Trimesters new home for the 2018 conference.


The Presenters

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It was not lost on me that our team of presenters, as skilled and multi-disciplined as they were, were an overwhelmingly white group. This was not ethnically representative of our participant base, or that of young families in Toronto as a whole, and representation such a big part of inclusion. Inclusion being central to the 4 Trimesters mission, I made even more of a point for the 2018 conference to connect with perinatal practitioners of colour. I'm very grateful to the folks who responded to my call for applications, and of our new presenters this year, 50% are BIPOC. Still not as representative as I'd like it to be, but moving in a direction better aligned with our values.
Also, some presenters where not as familiar with addressing families with the most inclusive language, so I have been sharing this fantastic piece of Tynan's on gender-neutral birth terms all over the place.


Further emphasis on Community Building

We have extended the whole conference by an hour, and the in-house lunch break by a bit so you don't have to feel so rushed or cut your conversations over good food short, and we have some fun plans in the works to help you get to know your fellow attendees and hopefully carry on social connections beyond conference day.



Encouraging partners to attend

This year we are offering special pricing for pregnant and recently-birthed folks who want to bring their partners, or maybe even better to say, for partners who would also like to take an active role in learning about parenting on this day. You can take workshops together, or divide and conquer your individual learning needs! Some of the workshops I imagine will be especially popular with partners are Parenthood Awakening, Food Prep, Green at Home, Coping Techniques for Labour, The Art & Science of Infant Sleep, Babywearing Basics, Attachment & Fostering Connection, Pleasure after Kids, Superfood Babies, and of course, the panel discussion at the start of the day on Supporting the Pregnant/Postpartum Person you Love.

How you define partner is flexible - for example, if you are a sole parent, bringing one of your parents or a dedicated friend would be fantastic! Non-romantic co-parents, same deal! These tickets are not, however, available for two pregnant or parenting friends, as the intention is to support couples in sharing the parenting work (and joy!) load. "Couples" tickets come with one swag bag per couple.


Can you tell how excited I am for October 27? I hope you are too. Tickets have just been released. Be sure to get yours soon for early bird pricing, and to have first pick on workshop choices.

Music to Sweat to

Sweaty... and happier.

Sweaty... and happier.

Not long after the 4 Trimesters conference last fall, I decided to join a gym. It wasn't just because so much of my work involves sitting with my laptop, or the fact that I wanted to be sure I could continue to lift my kid with ease as she grows. A big part was about doing some cardio, working up a sweat, and releasing some endorphins for my mental health. I was taking B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium and EFAs all to support my mental health, and I really needed to add movement as a priority in a way that I hadn't in many years.

The gym I go to isn't fancy, but it's easy to get to in the mornings right after I drop my kid off at daycare, and then it's an easy walk home. I like to put on some music that's fun to move to, get on an elliptical machine, and watch whatever home reno show is on HGTV (I don't have a TV at home and grew up without cable, so this part is pretty fun to me). Afterwards, I use a few weight machines and hightail it outta there to go home, have a shower, and get on with my day. I've made it simple enough that I've gone 2 to 4 times each week since last November. If it were more complicated, more social, or more expensive, I wouldn't go. I'm sorry it took me so long to figure it out, but I'm here now!

You can't please everyone when comes to music, of course, but if you're good with Beyoncé, MIA, Rihanna and some Arcade Fire, the following 75+ songs may just become your Sweat Soundtrack, too. It took me a while to build this playlist (and weed out the songs where men are calling women "bitches") so that you don't have to! 

Afterlife - Arcade Fire
Alright - Jamiroquai
Baby Boy - Beyoncé
Bad Girls - MIA
Bird Flu - MIA
Body Work (feat. Tegan & Sara) - Morgan Page
Bonbon - Era Istrefi
Bounce - Iggy Azalea
Bring the Noize - MIA
Bulletproof - La Roux
Can't Feel My Face - The Weeknd
Can't Stop The Feeling! - Justin Timberlake
Check On It (feat. Slim Thug) - Beyoncé 
Colors - Verité
Confess to Me (feat. Jessie Ware) - Disclosure
Countdown - Beyoncé
Cool For The Summer - Demi Lovato
Crazy In Love - Beyoncé
Creature Comfort - Arcade Fire
Crown of Age - The Ettes
Dancing Underwater - Brave Shores
Déja-vu - Beyoncé
Disco Dicks 5000 - Maylee Todd
Disparate Youth - Santigold
Diva - Beyoncé 
Drunk In Love (feat Jay Z) - Beyoncé
Dynabeat - Jain
Electric Blue - Arcade Fire
Electric Love - BORNS
Everything Now - Arcade Fire
Feel It Still - Portugal, The Man
Future Soup (feat Patrick Baker) - Autograf
Freakum Dress - Beyoncé
Get Lucky (feat Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers) - Daft Punk
Get Some - Lykke Li
Gold - Kiiara
Golden - Jill Scott
Good Mistake - Mr Little Jeans
Greedy - Ariana Grande
Green Light - Beyoncé
Happy Idiot - TV on the Radio
Hideaway - Kiesza
Hot In Herre - Nelly
Hung Up - Madonna
I'm In Love With My Life - Phases
Jump - Madonna
Jump - Rihanna
Makeba - Jain
Make Me Proud (feat Nicki Minaj) - Drake
Midnight City - M83
Moth to the Flame - Chairlift
Ocean Drive - Duke Dumont
O.N.E. - Yeasayer
Our Eyes - Lucy Rose
Our Own House - MisterWives
Paper Planes - MIA
Pizza Guy - Touch Sensitive
Plot Twist (feat. Kyle) - Marc E. Bassy
Pour It Up - Rihanna
P.O.W.A. - MIA
Pump Up The Jam - Technotronic
Reflektor - Arcade Fire
Right Action - Franz Ferdinand
Ring the Alarm - Beyoncé
Rock Your Body - Justin Timberlake
Rude Boy - Rihanna
S&M - Rihanna
7/11 - Beyoncé
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
The Trouble with Us - Marcus Marr & Chet Faker
Tightrope (feat Big Boi) - Janelle Monae
Too Good (feat. Rihanna) - Drake
20 Dollar - MIA
U Can't Touch This - MC Hammer (I'm a child of the '80s, I'm not sorry)
Upgrade U - Beyoncé
Work - Iggy Azalea
Work (feat Drake) - Rihanna
You Da One - Rihanna

... but tell me, what else you got? I'm always looking to add songs to my playlist!

Smoothies: my magic formula

Remember in the 1980s and 90s when smoothies were usually just yogurt and fruit with a squirt of honey? I sure do. Over the past couple decades though, foodies and nutritionistas have stepped up the smoothie game in such a major way that if you told me there were five billion dairy-free blender-breakfast recipes to be found on the internet, I wouldn't be surprised.

I know it's not really smoothie weather, but I crave them all year round (except when I was pregnant, and I generally couldn't handle more nutritious things). This time of year, to reduce the cold hit on my GI tract, I usually have it after my warm lemon water in the morning, or as a mid-afternoon when I'm not as sensitive.

But what makes a smoothie satisfying and balanced? Simple, but with room for a nutritional boost? I'd like to share with you my go-to smoothie formula that's a hit every time.
I start with filtered tap water + raw nuts and seeds as a base because it's both healthier and more ecological than a packaged non-dairy milk.


2 cups filtered water
1/4 raw nuts (cashews, almonds, or even pecans!) - preferably soaked overnight and rinsed, though I often forget to do this myself!
2 cups frozen fruit (I like to do one cup of two different fruits)
1 frozen banana
3 tbsp raw seeds (this is a good opportunity to do your seed cycling!)
1 tbsp coconut butter (see this post on how to make your own at home)
1 heaping scoop of a really great whey-free protein powder (my fave is Genuine Health's vanilla fermented vegan proteins + because it tastes like cake batter!)

You have the option to throw in some nutritional boost, but I'd limit it to two for the sake of not overwhelming your drink:

  • a good handful of organic baby spinach, kale, or romaine leaves
  • fresh juice from a lemon or lime
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (fine for anyone) or 1 tsp - 1 tbsp MCT coconut oil (depending on your tolerance)
  • 2 tsp. high quality omega-3 oil,  like NutraVege plant-based oil (safe and even generally recommended in pregnancy and lactation)
  • 1 scoop Genuine Health organic fermented gut superfoods+
  • 1 tsp high-quality spirulina or chlorella (not to be introduced in pregnancy if you didn't use them regularly before)
  • 1 tsp adaptogen powder like gelatinized maca or ashwaganda (okay for breastfeeding, not for pregnancy - see this post for more helpful info)

Some of my favourite combos are:

  • almonds, organic blueberries and strawberries with orange-cranberry NutraVege oil, and maca
  • cashews, mango and pineapple with spinach, lime, coconut oil 

Makes two satisfying 2-cup servings.

If this kind of delicious-nutritious recipe is your jam, you can find many more in my cookbooks, Get It Ripe and Ripe from around Here.

Treating a cold or flu when you're pregnant or breastfeeding: Village Voices

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We all have our go-tos when it comes to self-care when we're sick. But it can be hard to know if your approaches are safe when you're feeding someone else via a placenta or your breasts, especially when as a general rule, supplement bottles tell you to avoid or "consult your health care practitioner if you're pregnant or breastfeeding" (which is sometimes a legitimate warning, but might just be there for legal reasons). Some of our conference presenters weigh in on what's safe.

"Lavender essential oil is the perfect antiviral for warding off cold and flu viruses during pregnancy! Many essential oils are far too potent to smell during pregnancy, but not lavender! Chemically speaking, it's one of the most gentle EOs. When you smell it's sweet floral scent, molecules from the oil go into your respiratory system and fight off viruses. Put it on a scarf or lava bead necklace for optimal effect. 

But don't forget: never consume essential oils by mouth regardless of what the big EO companies tell you. Herbs are safe for consumption but essential oils are far too strong and in some cases can even kill you if taken internally Many oils are safe in skin care, though with proper dilution (no more than 15 drops per 15ml of any vegetable oil). When in doubt, consult a well trained aromatherapist, especially during pregnancy (not just a EO company rep!)."
- Tynan Rhea, doula, sex educator and aromatherapist


"When I'm sick, I take extra care with what I eat. I make sure to avoid dairy and sugar, which are mucous-forming and inflammatory. I like a vegetable-rich miso soup, or my Sweet Potato Soup with a bit of extra cayenne. Dairy-free pesto that's nice and garlicy on pasta or a gluten-free wrap with roasted roots is both nourishing and delish.

I make a tea of fresh chopped ginger, a cinnamon stick and a couple clove buds, then I pour in a generous splash of organic apple cider. Or lemon balm tea, because it's calming and anti-viral, maybe with some elderberries added for immune-boosting, and a squeeze of lemon.

Finally, but most importantly, I do whatever I can to give myself a decent amount of time to rest. Sickness is often the way our body tells us to sloooooow down."

- Jae Steele, holistic nutritionist, and trained midwife

"Pregnancy can be hard at times, and even harder when you come down with a cold or flu. These herbs are safe to take when pregnant or lactating, and will hopefully get you feeling better quickly!

  • Probiotics: Your biggest immune system is in your digestive system, so I encourage all my pregnant patients to take a probiotic, like Genuine Health's Advanced Gut Health formula
  • Echinacea: This simple tincture is effective at boosting your immune system and fighting off infections. Start taking at the onset of an illness, and discontinue once better. 
  • Nettle: One of my all time favourite herbs. Nettle is rich in minerals, which provides a lot of nourishment, something all pregnant mamas need, especially those that are unwell. 
  • Garlic, Onions and Ginger: Add them to your cooking! A perfect base for soup, stews, rice dishes and stir fries. 
  • Honey: This liquid gold has amazing antibacterial properties. Add it to a tea, stir some into your morning oats, or take it off the spoon. It helps to soothe sore throats and fight infections.'

- Rachel Schwartzman, naturopathic doctor and doula


"I love acupuncture in these situations! It is completely safe in pregnancy and while breastfeeding (as long as you find someone qualified and experienced in pregnancy). Acupuncture can help to boost the immune system to fight off the infection more quickly as well as helping with any annoying cold and flu symptoms. For example, a few simple points can very quickly drain congested sinuses and relieve sinus headache. My husband always knows I have a cold coming on when I'm walking around the house with tiny acu needles stuck in my face!"
- Michelle Kapler, acupuncturist

"When it comes to colds and flus, regular whole body movement is your first line of defence. As an osteopath I view the body through a mechanical lens - how are things aligned, and how are they moving? Not only bones and muscles, but fascia and fluids too. For a healthy immune system, lymphatic fluid has to move freely to fight off invaders. There’s no pump; it relies on muscle contractions to help it circulate.

Since there are large clusters of lymph nodes in your armpits and groin, the swing of your arms and legs while walking is the perfect stimulation. Active breathing gets your diaphragm (a major muscle!) and intercostal (between the rib) muscles working too. More oxygen, better waste product elimination, plus more power if you need to cough.

Here’s an easy way to practice active breathing:

  • Tie a stretchy band or pair of tights around your ribcage at mid-lower chest level.
  • Stand in alignment with feet pelvis width and hips over your heels with butt untucked. Or sit with weight on your sit bones. Allow the front of your ribcage to relax down.
  • Breathe in, expanding the sides and back of your ribcage into the resistance of the band. Pause, then exhale fully.
  • Continue for 5 – 10 breaths. If you feel dizzy or faint stop – you’re overdoing it!

For best results, repeat frequently throughout the day. It's simple, but effective."
- Janet Walker, manual osteopathic practitioner

So what about you? How do you care for yourself when you're sick?
Please share with us in the comments.

Do you have a burning question related to baby-growing that you'd like to ask a bunch of experts all at once? Ask away! Or you'd like to do so more anonymously, send it in an email with "Village Voices" in the subject line.


Getting a break as a new parent: Village Voices

There's a new thing going here on the 4 Trimesters blog: Village Voices

Here's how it'll go:
It starts with you: my hope is that you will pose questions in the comments (or on our Facebook or Instagram page).
Then, past and future 4T presenters will answer them. It's like an advice column, but you get answers from experts from a variety of disciplines all at once, so you can pick and choose what resonates with you. Fun, right? I hope so!

When you've been doing some version of this day in, and day out, you need to switch it up every once in a while.

When you've been doing some version of this day in, and day out, you need to switch it up every once in a while.

This week I thought we'd address self-care in new parenthood. It can be a real challenge to get some breathing room when you are the primary caregiver for a tiny new human who is pretty helpless, and pretty attached to you. But it can be vitally recharging.

"Our time to ourselves as new parents comes in moments, rather than hours or days. The more adept we can become at dropping fully into those moments of quietude, the more opportunities we find for meaningful self-care. Your breath is a great place to start, and it's always right there whenever you need it. Taking even 10 deep, rich breaths can change everything. Feel each inhalation nourishing every cell in your body. Let every exhalation clear your mind and cleanse you deeply. If you're having difficulty keeping your thoughts with your breath, anchor your mind with a simple phrase or mantra - "let (on the inhale)/go (on the exhale)", OM or a word like "peace" or "love" work well."

- Rhondda Smiley, doula and yoga instructor, mother of one.
"My favourite way to get a break in the early days was to take a really hot shower. My baby was colicky and cried all the time. I would hand her to my husband or my mother for 20 minutes and step into the shower. The water made it so I couldn't hear anything except what was right in front of me. I would take deep, warm breaths and close my eyes. Sometimes I would even take a cup of herbal tea in with me."

- Michelle Kapler, acupuncturist and mother of one.


"Because I am a sole parent, and because of the relationship I have with my mum, she came and lived with me for the first postpartum month. Together we learned how to put my kid in a stretchy wrap and buckle carrier, so if I needed extra sleep, my mum would take my kid off my hands after a nursing session. Fortunately she and I are about the same size, so she was even able to use one of my babywearing coats and walk my kid around the neighbourhood till she fell asleep. In this time I would have an eye mask on and ear plugs in so I wouldn't be disturbed when they re-entered the house, and if I didn't wake before I was needed, my mum would just get me up for the next nursing sesh. I'm not sure I would have survived/thrived without that help (if it's not something you have access to though, a postpartum doula and/or some committed friends can really save you!).

It was also nice to do something completely un-baby-related with anyone visiting like play Qwirkle and get filled in on their non-baby life. The most enjoyable easy/fun novel I read during that time (because I was too sensitive to read anything heavy) was It's Not Me, It's You. As my kiddo got older, and bedtimes became more challenging, a wee bowl of Coconut Bliss became my nightly reward for getting her to sleep."

- Jae Steele, postpartum doula, babywearing educator and nutritionist, mama of one.


"Masturbate!  If you've been advised  against sex for the first 6 weeks postpartum, that doesn't mean no vulva stimulation. If you feel a tingle of desire for some pleasure, self-pleasure when you have a moment here or there (or locked in the washroom...) is a great way to take a moment for yourself. This is definitely not going to be for everyone, though. If you had a traumatic birth experience, or are feeling devastated by a plummeting disinterest in sex, go slow. Maybe try taking a moment to touch your body somewhere, by yourself, that wants to be touched. Aching feet? Give'm a squeeze. Or try putting some body lotion over certain parts of your body and focus on what feels good about the lotion or how it smells. Developing a new relationship with the body doesn't happen overnight and sometimes take many many small steps first."

- Tynan Rhea, doula, sex educator and aromatherapist
"My number one suggestion is to get a good baby carrier/sling/wrap. Once you both get used to using it, baby will usually sleep happily and you’ll have both hands free to do whatever you want – text a friend, go for a walk, prepare some food, write the Great Canadian Novel.
Number two: hire a high school kid for a couple hours a day, a few days a week. You’re not going to leave the house, but you can leave the baby sleeping in a bassinet in the room with your “helper” while you do what you like (nap, prepare food, watch videos, etc.). If the baby wakes, your helper can try rocking and shushing, but bring baby to you if he/she doesn’t settle fast. Then while you nurse, the helper can do some other tasks – sweeping/cleaning or whatever would be helpful to you. It is not very expensive, and this can be counted as volunteer hours if you find a student who needs those to graduate."

- Teresa Pitman, lactation consultant, parenting expert, parent of four.

So what about you? How did you get (or are you getting) a break in the early days with your babe? Please share with us in the comments.

Have a burning question related to baby-growing that you'd like to ask a bunch of experts at once? Ask away! Or if you'd like to do so more anonymously, send it in an email.

Vital care for your pelvic floor


For this post I interviewed Chana Ross, the clinical director of Vital Physiotherapy and Wellness. Her business was a sponsor for our first 4 Trimesters Conference, and she will be a speaker at our next conference on May 12, 2018. A warmer person, you will not meet. Just the kind of practitioner you want if you have to have someone zoning in on your most intimate areas ;)

How did you get into the field of pelvic floor physiotherapy?
I have three beautiful children. After my second I was experiencing pelvic pain. After visiting my doctor and being told that everything was “fine” I went searching for other answers. A friend of mine had recently become a pelvic physio and encouraged me to come to see her. It changed my life. I decided that I wanted to change other people’s lives the same way that my friend had changed mine!

What's the ideal time for people to come see a pelvic floor physio?
ANYTIME! I think any person who has ever had a baby should see a pelvic physio once. But, we encourage people to come BEFORE getting pregnant to ensure that you feel your best throughout the pregnancy, but that you also optimize your delivery and your recovery! We also see people years after having had their babies, through menopause, and people of all ages who have never been pregnant.
Its empowering to understand your pelvic floor muscles and what the muscles are doing. A pelvic assessment is usually an “Aha!” moment for most people.

Is there something you wish more people knew about their pelvic floors?
Most people assume that they will be coming to learn how to kegel. But your pelvic floor muscles (the muscles which sit at the bottom of your trunk and are responsible for holding up your organs, for keeping you continent, and for sexual function) are actually part of your "inner core system” and they work together with your breathing diaphragm, your inner abdominal muscles (your transversus abdominus) and your inner most back muscles (your multifidi). So, you never “just kegel”. You have to learn how to coordinate all four muscles. Actually, most people who we treat are almost in a perpetual kegel, they clench their pelvic floor muscles All. The. Time. We are usually training clients how to lengthen and let go!
You should see a pelvic physio if you are experiencing leaking of any kind or amount (even with a full bladder), any pain with sex, any low back, hip or pelvic pain, abdominal separation postpartum, and to prepare for labour and delivery!

You were 4 Trimesters' very first sponsor. What inspired you want to support this event?
Oh my goodness! So many reasons! As a pelvic physio and health clinic owner, it is my job to empower people! To teach them that they do not have to settle for the status quo. That they can expect more -- from their bodies, from the medical system, and from their "village." One of the best ways to do that is to educate them. That way people can make decisions about themselves and their families from a point of knowledge and understanding, not fear.
The other clear reason to participate, was to support a fellow mama as she in her work to empower and support other parents! It is our job as practitioners, parents, and humans is to lift each other up and work together towards our goals. When we heard about this amazing event it was more a question of how could we NOT participate?!

To get in touch with Chana and the rest of the Vital Wellness team click here, or to book an appointment, go straight to this page.
Vital is co-hosting an event on December 3 that you might want to check out, too!

Meet Emma Rohmann, environmental engineer and eco-health expert


WORKSHOP: TRIMESTER 1 STREAM: Detox your home before baby

What's your best advice when it comes to choosing healthy,  non-toxic baby products? 
Turn the packaging over and dig a little deeper. So much of what we're told on the front of packaging is just marketing. Terms like non-toxic and eco-friendly aren't regulated, so they often don't mean much. I love supporting local businesses, where I know what I'm getting is quality. But when that's not possible, always turn the package around and find out what's in a product - often packages will hide what's in by focusing on what's not in a product.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your own pregnancy and birth?
From very early on in my first pregnancy, I learned to let go. I was no longer in charge, and I couldn't really control what happened. Sure, I could make healthy choices and read up on what fruit my daughter was the size of each week, but she called the shots. When she arrived 3.5 weeks early, I really knew who was boss. As a fairly organized and plan-obsessed person, this was a hard adjustment. But it has changed me for the better in ways I never thought possible. I think it's made me more resilient and flexible, while still wanting to give my best to my kids - even if my best leaves a lot of room for improvement (and let's be honest, nobody's perfect!).

What's the thing you wish all new (or expectant) parents knew more about?
Like many expectant parents, my awareness of chemicals in products increased dramatically when I was pregnant. I wish everyone knew more about the impact of chemicals in everyday products have on our health - and how it doesn't have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming to choose healthier products! Babies are most susceptible to health effects of these chemicals, and we as parents can help set them up for long-term health by choosing better products and making simple changes at home.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I love sharing knowledge that will help make people's lives healthier, and better. I stressed myself out SO MUCH when researching healthy, non-toxic products for my kids and I don't want others to go through that. I'm excited to share strategies and have conversations to help move expectant parents from overwhelm to empowered to create a healthy space for their baby! 



Family-friendly fall fun -- tomorrow!

These past six months, I've had the pleasure of getting to know the powerhouse team behind West End Naturopathic Doulas (who will have a table at our conference) and The Bump to Baby Show. Since the latter is taking place in the east end tomorrow (and 4 Trimesters will be there selling tickets for our event the following Saturday), I thought what better time than to interview one half of this dynamic duo, naturopathic doctor and doula, Rachel Schwartzman.


So, why the Bump to Baby show? I mean, you already bring a tonne to expectant and new parents in Toronto in your work as a naturopathic doctor and doula, how did this project come to be?
First off, thank you for the compliment! The show was a collaboration with Mira, to bring a community of families together. Our own kids are close in age, and we spend a lot of time together. It truly takes a village to raise children, and the show was a way to bring families together, and help inform parents of better choices. We work very hard at getting the best in natural choices whether it's skin care, clothing, toys, supplements or services.

From a naturopathic perspective, what would you say are a couple of the things that parents who have just birthed need?
1. A probiotic. I can't stress how important this supplement is for all to be taking. Mom and newborn. A healthy start to life starts with a healthy gut. We want to encourage a gut packed with a healthy microbiome. This really is a must.
2. Healthy food in the fridge or stocked in the freezer. Don't turn down food! Let people bring you food. Your community wants to love and support you.

As a mama to three yourself, how has parenting helped you grow?
It's brought such sweetness into my life. I grew up with immigrant, war-surviving parents. They had a very tough upbringing. They worked a lot, and didn't show us a lot of affection. Parenthood has opened me up to a love I never knew was possible. I hug and kiss my kids all the time and they love it!

What can we expect from the event at the Riverdale Hub tomorrow?
An awesome day, of course! You can shop in our health conscious marketplace, learn from experts, enjoy kids activities and fun filled workshops, win prizes, eat yummy vegan food, mingle with families, and be part of a community. What could be better?


Meet Kelly Maslen, birth doula and holistic nutritionist

KM w Ella.jpg


What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy?
Don't listen to negative birth stories. They will influence your birth experience, and create fear around pregnancy and birth.

How did you chose your care team for your birth?
My midwives were a team I had worked with at previous births as a doula. The doulas who attended my birth where my dear good friends. I felt I needed two doulas because as a single parent I didn't have the extra support from a partner.

What's the thing about birth that amazes you the most?
Birth is a transformative, humbling, and empowering experience that will inspire you like nothing else. It helps if you can let go and trust the process. Birthing gives you an opportunity to love a human like you have never loved before. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I'm looking forward to meeting pregnant parents that are eager to learn how they can gain skills and information that will lead to an empowering and fun birth experience.


Winter baby bonding

Fair warning: I'm about to do some mega gushing about a product. The wonderful thing about having businesses you love agree to sponsor your event, is that it's really easy to say great things about them.

Images previously appeared on

Images previously appeared on

I love carrying my baby on my body. I actually didn't know when I put a Bridge the Bump coat insert on my baby shower gift registry how much I was going to wear my little one in the following year. Now I wouldn't hesitate to say this is one of the best of pieces of "baby stuff" to come into our house.

My Bridge the Bump insert made our first and second winters as a mama-baby dyad super cozy. I could snuggle my kid up in any front carrier -- a wrap, a ring sling or a buckle carrier -- and then bundle us both up in my parka for outings. I could even stay warm while breastfeeding and running through the snow to catch the bus.

I didn't have to get an ugly oversize coat from Value Village, and I didn't have to buy a whole new maternity coat that probably wouldn't be as warm as the one I've had for years, either of which would be a whole coat to have to store between this baby and my next. I had the option of getting this simple (but brilliant) zippered triangle to match the colour of my parka so perfectly that it didn't even look like an add-on (choose from black, brown, green, gray, navy or red). One of my mama pals ordered two different zippers for her's so that she could use her BTB insert with her parka or her raincoat. So smart!

I never had a super-preggo belly in a parka-wearing season, but it's worth mentioning that you can also wear it upside down to accommodate a bump before baby arrives. (Like I said, simple, but brilliant.)

Additionally, from a ethical consumer perspective, Bridge the Bump is a small company run by two mamas who design and manufacture them right here in Toronto. You gotta feel good about putting your money into things from local family businesses. 

If you're not sure about what a fantastic tool babywearing can be for both you and your little, come to my Keeping Baby Close workshop at the conference on October 28. Then once you're ready for all-season babywearing, get yourself a Bridge the Bump coat extension system

Meet Megan Tasker, childbirth educator, birth doula, and yoga instructor




What's your favourite thing to snack on or drink at a birth?When I'm supporting a client at a birth I pack a pretty big snack bag, in case the birth is long. I try to have a homemade meal that I froze, a protein bar, juice box, apple and almonds are my go to. But depending on the hospital I get excited about different local food places that I can nip out to during the day to grab some of my favourite snacks - it's different at every hospital!

What's something that you think there's too much attention on the birth world?
Dilation! We live in a very cervix/dilation centred birth culture. And although the cervix opening is very important, part of what helps that cervix open is the choices we make to cope, positions we choose, and where baby is at. If baby isn't in a good position, the cervix will have more challenges to open than if baby is optimally positioned.

What's the thing you wish all new parents knew more about?
That nothing is permanent and everything changes. That as soon as you think you just found baby's routine, it'll change on you. And that this is totally normal. Especially when it comes to infant sleep. We live in a relatively well-scheduled culture, we always say that birth is the last frontier of unpredictability, but it's not just birth, it's child-rearing as well. The more you expect things to change, or to be unpredictable, the easier it is to adapt to these changes.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The same thing that excites me about being birth workers. There is such an incredible community of birth workers in Toronto and so much incredible knowledge, and for us all to be in one place for the community to tap into is pretty exciting. To work alongside, and to connect with so many incredible people, is humbling and an absolute privilege. 



Meet Olivia Scobie, perinatal and parenting therapist, and birth doula



What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
I like to give my pregnant friends something to pamper themselves in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Often they will receive adorable baby clothes or baby equipment as gifts, so my goal is to give them something just for them. My go to right now is the Tenth Moon Essential Package. It has homemade granola, a lavender mineral soak, herbal sitz baths - and all sorts of lovely things. I have ordered four this year already! 

What was the first thing you ate after giving birth?
I don't remember the first thing I ate after I gave birth for the first time, but I do remember that after I left the hospital I stopped at a diner because after not eating for about three days, I was HUNGRY and knew I didn't have much food at home. I ordered the 'farmers' breakfast with pancakes, homefries, sausage, eggs, toast, and fruit and ate every last bite. I still remember it as one of the most satisfying meals of my life. 

What's your best advice when it comes to the postpartum?
Everything changes. Just when you think you got this whole parenting thing figured out, you will find yourself facing a new challenge. And thankfully, just when you think you don't know how you are going to get through the days, something suddenly clicks and you know you are going to be okay. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I could talk about early parenting and postpartum mood pretty much all day long. Usually my friends and family listen kindly but without a lot of interest, so I'm pretty pumped to hang out with expectant parents who want to talk about it with me :) 


Meet Vania Sukola, perinatal psychotherapist



What's your best advice when it comes to birth?
When my daughter was "late", I realized that all the advice I was getting was making me question my own connection to my body. So my advice to you if your baby is "late" to be born earthside: work on turning inward. Try not to take in other people’s stories and fears. They can have an affect on your birth, and take away from the power you have within. Turn to your strength, and don’t watch the clock - you know your body better than anyone. Do some simple bodywork during the course of your pregnancy - prenatal yoga, massage, a dance class. Spend time just connecting to it. This will come in handy when you are in labour.

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
A care package for the person who as newly birthed. I love making things by hand, but even if you can’t do that, put together a decadent care package for them and not the baby - the newborn will surely get enough things in those first few days and weeks. Put in a sitz bath mix, postpartum tea, flowers, lavender oil, lactation cookies, a nourishing meal, affirmations to help emotionally when times are rough, a crystal like rose quartz (to deepen the feeling of love), and an offer to come again when the new parents need some rest and you can watch the baby. 

What's something that you think there's too much attention on the birth world?
I think that there is too much focus, scrutiny and judgement around the way we deliver babies. Comparing our birth stories to put down others as not natural or as strong creates a hierarchy and division. We have enough of a hard time adjusting to parenthood, so we don’t deserve this added stress and pressure. All birth is natural, whether it is a home birth, unmedicated, or C-section. All are valid and stressful, beautiful, painful, scary and amazing. It takes some much courage and strength to deliver babies. When we can share openly about our birth plans and stories, then we can also feel welcomed and valued.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I am so honoured to be a part of this community. I think that we thrive better when we have a village and community, so a conference like this is a great opportunity for all new parents and families. I truly believe that it takes a village to raise children. We need this space to start to build that community, to come together, to share wisdom and to learn from each other. I’m a parent of two myself, and am constantly learning how to be a better mom to my kids, and I hope to be that support for others as well.



Meet Janet Walker, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and Restorative Exercise Specialist



What's the thing about pregnancy and birth that amazes you the most?
That another human being can develop from the union of 2 single cells. It's incredible! I love studying embryology and how the body structures and systems develop. And how intra-uterine life, and birth, affect us. On a physical, emotional and psychosocial level. When I'm treating, I consider all that - parent, baby, and relationship - pre- or post-natally.  

What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy and alignment?
Aches, pains and the stereotypical 'waddle' may be common, but they're not natural. They're often a sign of an underlying alignment issue; please don't ignore them. Your body is designed to walk and move regularly, even during pregnancy. Lack of natural movement contributes to many prenatal aches and pains. And they can make birthing more difficult. Make an effort to move more!

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
ME! I'm happy to provide hands-on help for breastfeeding or other newborn concerns. I make some pretty tasty muffins and easy-to-reheat meals too.

What's the thing you wish all new (or expectant) parents knew more about?  
Newborn life. It's not easy transitioning from the womb to the outside world. Lying still and alone is stressful. Empathize. Your baby wants to hang out with you - snuggle on your bare chest, share a bath, or enjoy a gentle massage. And move - walk, dance, sway and rock. It's what they're used to. Take the time to understand their needs. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The diverse group of presenters! It's a unique opportunity to gather knowledge and build a support network. Of course, I'm excited about my part too - sharing how alignment can empower you at any stage.




Meet Ruth Ruttan, birth doula, infant sleep educator and pilates instructor


Name: Ruth Ruttan

Workshop: Trimester 3 stream: The Art & Science of Infant Sleep

What's the thing about pregnancy and/or birth that amazes you the most?
There are SO many amazing things about pregnancy & birth! I'm amazed that so many people can experience pregnancy in so many unique ways- no two pregnancies are the same. As for birth, whether it's at home, birth centre, hospital, if it's unmedicated, or with an epidural or a Caesarean birth, it is amazing to watch the strength, power and the courage that new parents find to birth their babies. We need to be kind to ourselves. There needs to be grace. Even when birth is 'easy', it's not easy! 

What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy or being a new parent? 
Everyone has an opinion about your pregnancy, birth and parenting... Respect your intuition and educate yourself. There is a wide range or 'normal' and 'safe'. Figure out where you fit on that spectrum and make it work for you, your baby and your family! 

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
A doula! (often as a group gift!)
Good Food! I like to help set up meal trains for friends or give gift certificates to prepared meal delivery services. 
I also think a stretchy wrap or SleepBelt is a lifesaver for most new parents. 

What was the first thing you ate after giving birth?
I don't remember what I ate after my first birth, but I know the first thing I asked for was my lip balm! After my second, we all sat down to a big pasta dinner that my dad whipped up. 
And with number three, all five of us sat in our bed and ate salt and vinegar chips at 3am (well, not the baby!).

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I'm really looking forward to being in community with other amazing educators, but even more so with our attendees! It's a huge opportunity, not only share what I do, but learn from each unique pregnancy to parenthood journey.



Meet Rhondda Smiley, doula, breastfeeding educator and yoga instructor


Name: Rhondda Smiley

Workshop: Trimester 4 stream: 
Expectations, Frustrations & Success: staying sane and happy as a parent

What's your best advice when it comes to labour and birth?
Keep upright, keep moving, keep breathing, as much as you are able. Use gravity and gentle movement to support the work your body and baby are doing together. Even if you choose an epidural, there are ways to keep your hips and your options open! As a doula who's spent a lifetime training in movement practices such as yoga and dance, I bring a creative approach to supporting you in positions and movement that will keep your body, breath, mind and heart open. 

What's the most important thing you learned from your own experience of becoming a parent?
I learned the hard way to let go of the illusion of control! When I was trying to conceive, I naively thought I'd be able to book my pregnancy around vacations and rush times at work. Ha! My ovaries had other ideas. I thought I'd spend nine months of pregnancy blissfully feeling like a fecund goddess, only to find my head in a toilet with "morning sickness" for the first five. My birth ended up being a total 180 degrees from what I planned. I wanted to birth at home, but my baby ended up needing an emergency cesarean before I'd even gone into labour. And you can be sure the surprises didn't stop once my daughter was born. Breastfeeding challenges, postpartum depression, needing surgery when I was supposed to return to work... In the moments when I could remember to let go of the notion that I could control the situation, and surrender to how they actually were, being a parent became so much easier -- and happier. Someone once said, "make plans and God laughs". To that I'd add, "make plans when you have kids and God is LMAOROTF". 

What's something you wish more expectant parents knew?
I wish that new parents who want to breastfeed knew better what to expect once their baby is here. How to know if their baby is actually taking in milk during a nursing session. How often a newborn baby needs to feed (hint: every 3 hours is not enough for newborns). Where to find effective, expert help if things are not going smoothly. I wish expectant parents could spend time around other breastfeeding parents before their birth, because we've largely lost one of the most important ways we have to learn this skill -- through watching other parent-baby dyads doing it. I know now how much easier nursing my daughter could have been if I'd been better prepared. It was my desire to help save other parents this grief that motivated me, 13 years ago, to become a La Leche League Leader (mother-to-mother breastfeeding counselor, since retired). I'm committed to sharing my lactation knowledge and expertise with my doula clients who want to breastfeed, so that they have realistic expectations and feel prepared and confident in feeding their new baby. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The other presenters at 4T are my birth heroes! I'm totally stoked to be in the company of these kind and expert professionals. These are the people I respect enough to refer my doula and yoga clients to. These are the people that I've entrusted to care for my family and myself.