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.