12 Tips for Breastfeeding Success

12 tips for breastfeeding success

Before having my first baby, I was clueless as to how breastfeeding actually worked. I had seen my friends breastfeed, and gotten a few pointers during my prenatal class, but the mystery remained absolute, and was only to be revealed in real-time when baby finally arrived…

Many surprises ensued!

Day 1: Wow, these guys really have practiced their technique in the womb. Already so strong! (Aww 🙂 )
Week 1: Wait a second.. this hurts..
Month 1: Really, again?
And so on.

I didn’t realize to what extent breastfeeding is something you learn, that it takes time to “master”, and that there really are tools to help us get by.

Here are 12 tips that helped me along my breastfeeding journeys.

12 tips for breastfeeding success

 

#1: IT MAY HURT AT FIRST, POSSIBLY ALOT

In the beginning weeks, both of my breastfeeding experiences were very painful. I know that it is usually said that it is not supposed to hurt if baby is properly latched on etc., but in my experience, baby and I had a learning curve we had to get through together, that meant a few days/weeks of discomfort and sometimes lots of pain. But I believed we would get through it, and I put myself in the mindset that it was “normal” to experience this for a certain amount of time. (That said, a lactation consultant can be of great help in case there are latching problems or other, etc.)

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

 

#2: GET COMFY

Make sure your entire body is supported. Use as many cushions as you need to support your back, body and arms.

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

Then see how it feels to relax the entire body, even the neck, face and jaw. (I know that’s hard to do when breastfeeding hurts!) A relaxed body can help to relax the mind, which in turn will be a factor in producing the milk production hormones.

I used a breastfeeding pillow like this:

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

but there are also breastfeeding pillows that give height all around your arm, (which is where I was often lacking and compensating by raising my shoulder, thus tensing my muscles.)

Here are 10 more (fun!) tips for good posture

 

#3: WATER

Drinking plenty of water is one of the most important parts of breastfeeding success. Aim for at least 10 glasses of water a day.

12 tips for breastfeeding success - drinking water

 

#4: A GIGGLE 🙂

*For low milk supply

Not that you really feel like it in the first weeks if breastfeeding is painful and exhausting, but if you can find a way to get a giggle, it can truly help with let-down reflex and augmenting milk supply as it helps to relax mama and release oxytocin, the hormone leading to milk let-down and production. I discovered this by chance the second time around because of baby herself 🙂 She gets so excited when it’s time to feed, starts sending me cute glances and grinning, which in turn makes me giggle.. which makes her giggle, which makes me giggle and so on. I actually found myself having a laugh more than once and without fail this brings upon a full let-down.

If baby’s not there to make you giggle, there are always bloopers (my favorite)or whatever gets you smiling. (these comics about parenting also helped me out!)

http://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/8-things-youve-probably-never-done-unless-youre-a-parent/

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

 

#5: AIR OUT THE BOOBS

*For sore nipples and plugged milk ducts

This is also a point I mention in my “postnatal survival guide” for new moms.

It’s a pretty simple one to understand, but as much as I can, I go, well, “boob commando.” I had problems with plugged milk ducts and soar nipples the first time around and found that « airing out my boobs » was a great help. So when the second time came around, I didn’t hesitate. Not the « chic-est » of all looks, but well worth it :).

 

 

#6: NO TIGHT BRAS

*For clogged milk ducts

Ouch, I made this mistake after my first baby, when I started to go back to yoga classes. This unfortunately brought upon plugged milk ducts for me, which was so painful and took quite a while to finally get rid of.

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

 

#7: EXPRESSED MILK AFTER A FEED

*For sore nipples

It is a well-known tip, but lightly coating the nipple with breast milk after feeding baby helps to relieve soreness and can prevent chapping.

 

#8: VISUALIZATION

*For low milk supply

If ever you’re having trouble with milk production, visualization can be a very useful tool.

Close your eyes, and imagine rivers and streams, see them in your mind’s eye. Then imagine that you are in these rivers, being immersed in the water or that the streams are actually flowing through you! I know, this sounds a bit “mystical” :),  but this visualization helped me out almost every time when my milk was having trouble coming in.

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

 

#9: PARTNER SUPPORT

Your partner can help out by sending over some encouraging words, pillows and glasses of water.

12 tips for breastfeeding success - partner helping

 

#10: KELLYMOM

You most likely know of KellyMom already. What an unbelievable resource. A nurturing presence, KellyMom has comforted me so many times during both of my postnatal phases, especially in regards to breastfeeding by helping me feel that I was doing a great job and that I can do this thing.

I love you!

12 tips for breastfeeding success - kellymom

 

#11: LACTATION HERBAL TEA

Lactation herbal tea helps to promote milk production and is also a tasty way to drink more liquids. Many brands exist, I used Mother’s Milk.

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

 

#12: IN TIME, YOU WILL BOTH BECOME PROS

We will both become pros! It may take a couple of weeks or even months, but baby will soon be a champ, and you too. You’re doing an amazing job!

12 tips for breastfeeding success - giggling

Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section below.


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. 🙂 I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


More from 10ThingsYogaMama:

10 Postnatal Exercises To Help You Return To Yoga (And To Feeling Like You Again!)

10 Postnatal Yoga Exercises

10 Tips For Good (and Happy!) Posture During and After Pregnancy

Whether you just had your baby or are about to, you’ve probably never felt this tired in your life.

So thinking about having a good posture is most likely, well, so not on your list! 🙂

But good posture is not only essential for the health of the spine and for the proper functioning of the organs, it also has a direct effect on our outlook on life, usually bringing upon a more positive frame of mind.

For the prenatal mama, a healthy posture encourages baby’s optimal positioning in the womb, and can help mama find more comfort during pregnancy.

For the postpartum mama, a healthy posture can help to stabilize the structural imbalance that pregnancy and postnatal carrying / feeding baby may have created in the body, thus playing an important role in postnatal recovery.

Such a powerful tool!

This is what we often look like pregnant:
– increased spinal curvatures
– weight shifts forwards
– increased anterior pelvic tilt
Which can lead to:
– headaches
– upper back tension
– pain in the lower back and pubic area.

 

And this is what we often look like postnatal:
– increased posterior pelvic tilt
– slouched shoulders with forward “drooping” head
– right body/left body imbalance (due to holding  baby usually on the same side)
Which can lead to:
– upper and lower back pain
– weakened abdominal muscles
– shortened pelvic floor muscles

 

And this is what we’re aiming for:
– earlobe • shoulder • hip articulation • ankle – aligned in a vertical line
Which can lead to:
– eternal happiness… just checking to see if you’re paying attention 🙂

 

 

So, it’s not magic, and even though you most likely have just enough energy to think (let alone think of having good posture), here are 10 tips for finding your healthy posture.

 

Try these exercises while going for a walk, whether it be a pregnant or postnatal stroll, and once you’ve practiced them while walking, they can be applied to day-to-day life, sitting or standing.

 

#1: CREATE LENGTH IN THE SPINE (GET “TALLER”)

If you do yoga, you’ve probably heard this one before. It’s a fantastic cue.

Imagine that you are adding space in between the vertebrae. Start at the bottom of the spine, and gently make your way up the spine, feeling that you’re getting taller and taller until you make it all the way to the crown of the head.

This simple action may very well already breathe lightness into your face and body, and things may even seem a little less “heavy”, a morale-booster! (When our posture is slouchy, this actually weighs down onto the muscles of the spine as well as the organs in the torso, thus actually making us feel heavier)!

 

#2: “ELEVATOR” BREATHING

Once you’ve found your long spine, we add the breath.

Inspired by 3 part breathing, this breathing exercise will help to bring the breath down into the belly and have it fill the entire body.

Start the inhale breath in your belly, then let it travel up the torso like an elevator, filling the rib cage, sides of the body and finally the lungs. Exhale, come back down the “elevator”, emptying the lungs, ribs and belly.

Inhale: belly, rib cage, lungs fill up
Exhale: lungs, rib cage, belly empty out

Nourishing for the body, this is also an excellent breathing tool in preparation for birth.

*You can add Ujjayi breathing here if you like

 

#3: SHOULDERS OPEN, “HEART SHINE”!

Roll the shoulders a few times, front to back.

Then do one last shoulder roll, forward, up and back – from there, very gently and lightly let the shoulders release and deposit themselves “onto” the rib cage, as naturally as you can. You should feel the shoulders more “open”, or wider.

Keep this “opening” action in the shoulders, and bring your breath into the space between the shoulder blades. Ahh….

From there, imagine that your heart wants to shine outwards 🙂 ! Gentle rays or voluminous I’m-filling-the-room rays, going with whatever you feel today. Let your heart “fill up the space” that has been created in the body by opening the shoulders.

If this “heart shine” idea doesn’t mean anything to you, just think of poking your boobs out a bit. 😉

* Avoid squeezing the shoulder blades together
* Helps remove stress in the shoulder area

 

#4: LIGHT UP THE ABS!

Activating the abdominal muscles will sustain and support the length in the spine that we are aiming for, and is essential in prenatal health and postnatal recovery.

To “light up the abs”, there are 2 actions to think of doing, simultaneously:

  1. Belly button (or baby if you’re pregnant) towards the spine
  2. Tips of the hips towards each other

Bring the belly button (or think “baby” when you’re pregnant) toward the center of the body, and at the same time, think of bringing the front tips of the hips towards each other.*

This will activate the transverse abdominal and “core” musculature, creating a kind of corset of support around the spine. It’s a lovely way to feel supported, uplifted, and even a bit “lighter”. (And it feels so good to finally feel the abs again when you’re a postnatal mama.)

*”Tips of the hips” is actually referring to the right and left Anterior Superior Iliac Spine, the pointy parts at the front of the pelvis that you can press with your fingers
*The breath should remain steady and full, even while activating the abs.

 

#5: BACK OF HEAD ALIGNED WITH BACK OF PELVIS

Bring your attention to the back body, imagining that you want to align vertically the back of the head with the back of the pelvis.

You can use your hands to begin with if needed, by placing one hand on the back of the head and one on the back of the pelvis. Let your head move a little bit forward, then a little bit back, until you “align” vertically your 2 hands as best you can.

Even just bringing our awareness to the relation back of head/back of pelvis is powerful tool for cultivating good posture.

If you’re pregnant, there’s a chance your bum is sticking out. Try reducing the sway in the lower back by slightly tucking the tailbone forward. (posterior tilt)

If you’re postnatal, there’s a chance your bum is tucked in. Try bringing a little bit more of the natural curve back into the lower back by slightly sticking the bum out (slightly!!). (anterior tilt)

*The base of the chin should be more or less parallel to the ground
*Keep a slight bend in the knees to avoid hyper-extension in the knees

*Relax the jaw

 

#6: KEGEL

A healthy and toned pelvic floor is vital for a sense of global well-being and for good posture. In yoga tradition, the pelvic floor is known as the “battery” of the body, source of vitality and life.

In regards to bettering our posture, engaging the pelvic floor will help to sustain the core musculature at the base of the torso.

If you’re not familiar with Kegels, here are 6 exercises to get you started. Then, while walking, think of gently adding Kegels to your stroll. Activate the perineum for a few a strides, then release for a few strides, repeating 5-10 times."

You may notice that adding Kegels to your walk helps to generate an “uplifted” feeling to your body, while continuing to tone the lower body. To sustain a good posture, a healthy and toned pelvic floor is essential.

*Breath should remain steady
*By creating connections with and strengthening the deep core muscles, incorporating movement to any Kegel work will help to integrate the pelvic floor exercises into the overall functionality of the body, this is what we’re aiming for!

 

#7: *SIGH*

Sighing releases tension and invites us to breathe deeply. A full breath oxygenates the body, nourishing and helping to strengthen the postural muscles surrounding the spine.

It’s also a great way to release tension in the body and mind.

 

#8: THE QUICK TROT FOOT MASSAGE 😉

While keeping the spine long, the shoulders open and the abs activated, try walking a little bit faster (think Olympic Speed Walk 🙂 ).

Notice how this change in pace may bring you to “feel” your legs a little bit more.

Then, press and root your feet into the ground with each step you take, almost as if to massage the ground with the soles of the feet as you walk, and again, notice how this also “lights up” the legs.

This very simple tool will help to create more circulation in the feet and legs, and throughout the entire body, as well as build tone in the leg muscles. Toned leg muscles will help to support the body in its standing posture.

*After a minute or two of “quick trot foot massaging”, take a pause to see the effect on the legs and on your posture
*If you’re pregnant, improving circulation can also help to reduce swelling in the legs and feet
*If you’re pregnant and your belly is heavy, this exercise may not be appropriate or comfortable, save it for a postnatal stroll with your baby!

 

#9: FOLLOW THE LEADER

This is a very interesting exercise. Essentially, we will let our walking be “lead” by different parts of the body.

Start with the feet. Imagine that your feet are “leading the way” for a few steps, noticing how it feels to you.

Then go to the hips.
Let the hips lead your walking.

Moving up towards the heart region
, imagine that your walk is being lead by your heart, or upper torso.

Then finally your nose
. Let your nose lead the way.

Then, all four! Imagine that your entire body is moving as one vertical plane.

There is probably one of these versions that will seem the most comfortable and familiar to you. (When you’re pregnant you may feel like it’s your belly that’s leading the way.)

See if you can apply this same “vertical plane” to your posture once you’re standing still.

While thinking of keeping the spine long and incorporating the previous exercises, this exercise can help to rectify subtle shifts in weight that the body reverts to during and after pregnancy to compensate for possible muscular or structural weaknesses. Make sure to apply the other tips when you try this one out.

*You may look a bit funny doing this exercise 🙂

 

#10: RELAX WHAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE “WORKING”

You might also recognize this cue from yoga classes, another wonderful tip for good posture, but also for finding focus and relieving stress in day-to-day life, as well as being an excellent tool for birth preparation.

What does it mean?

You know how sometimes when you’re working hard on something, you realize at one point that you’re tensing up other parts of the body, say the forehead, jaw or shoulders, as if these parts of the body want to “work” with you? (Nice of them, but no thanks 😉 !)

Bring your attention to the feet and legs, although we’re maintaining tone there, can the toes (for example) relax a bit more? Or maybe the hips?

Then see if the shoulders and jaw are relaxed.

And finally the facial muscles. Bring your gaze a bit further ahead of you and think of relaxing all the “skin” of your face.

*Helps to calm and focus the mind by bringing the attention back to the present moment
*Breath remains full

 

* These are all cues that can be applied to your yoga practice, just as yoga looks to create a feeling of space in the body, so does a good posture.

* These tips can be applied to the pregnant and postnatal mama. Even the ab work during pregnancy, in all gentleness, will help to maintain the health of the spine, promote deep breathing and will keep the abdominal muscles responsive and ready for pushing, come labor.

By aiming at feeling the spine long and our body properly aligned, we can most definitely feel the effects on the mind, possibly bringing upon a more positive, refreshed, or simply more awake outlook.

heart1


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. 🙂 I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


More from 10ThingsYogaMama:

10 Little Things That Helped Me Survive The First Weeks After Giving Birth


11 Natural Ways To Manage Pregnancy-Induced Eczema


25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

Birth Preparation eBook



Mama & Baby Yoga – 10 (Not Relaxing, But Fun!) Exercises

So let’s be honest 🙂 , mum & baby yoga, is not relaxing yoga! It can be cute yoga, or fun yoga… but it is not relaxing yoga! Nor is it likely to be the deep or fulfilling practice you may be used to when you’re on your own.

That being said, it is an excellent way to get some movement into your day, and a chance to add loads of cuteness fuel to the cuteness tank. And if you’re going to a class, it’s a great way to meet with other mamas. ( … “I’m up every hour”… “Me too!!!..”) Continue reading

10 Best Gifts To Offer a New Mama

If you’re not sure what to offer a new mama you love, here are 10 simple gift ideas from the heart. Some are for baby, but most are for mum!

Top 10 Gifts For New Mamas.

If you're not sure what to offer a new mama you love, here are 10 simple gift ideas from the heart. Some are for baby, but most are for mum!

 

(The links aren’t sponsors, just personal favorites)

 

origami-mobile#1: ORIGAMI MOBILE

A hand-made origami mobile. I know, we can’t all offer this because it means making one!! But if you’re looking for something original to offer and you have artistic fairy fingers, this is one of the most beautiful things I have in my in my baby’s room. Delicate presence and calming, graceful movements, a true beauty. (my drawing kind of looks like spiders, but they’re stars and cranes !)

 

#2: THE “CALL ME AT ANY TIME, EVEN IF IT’S 3:00 AM”

This one came from a veteran mom, and was her gift to me when I first gave birth. She told me that no matter what I needed to talk about, 3amcallor if I was simply feeling exhausted or helpless, to call her at any time, even if it was 3:00 am! I never ended up using the offer, but it was extremely comforting to know that this option was there.

 

#3: THE 3-WEEK POSTNATAL CLEAN-UPstars

Twice I was offered this same (awe-some!) gift at around 3 weeks postnatal from the same friends: the “we’re coming over to clean your house” gift. Seriously, they just came in and cleaned. It may be an vacuumobvious one to some, or maybe sound a bit intrusive to others, but, although I felt like I just wanted my company to sit and relax (and that my house actually wasn’t doing too badly ;)! ), they decided to be the clean-dream-team anyways.. some vacuuming, some dusting, somefeather-duster wiping.. and it ended up giving a lovely fresh feeling to my home that was quite welcome :).

 

#4: COCONUT SOAP STAIN-REMOVER

It works like magic! A natural and extremely efficient way to get rid of coconut-soapstains (as long as they’ve not already been baked in – and excluding banana stains, which i have yet to conquer 🙂 ). Fantastic for cloth diapers, but also on all clothes, blankets, etc. I discovered this one by Savonnerie des Diligences*, but I imagine many versions exist and that you can surely find these in your local natural products store. One of my favorite things to offer to new mums now.

*Each soap from this company has its own quirky little story, fun stuff!

 

#5: LARS THE MUSICAL LION

204_lars-musical-lionThe cutest little guy. “Lars” the Musical Lion, is a musical plush toy by Happy Horse. He’s a gorgeous and colorful lion that, upon pulling his tail, melodically springs into song. (i believe he does Chopin’s Nocturne). Perfect for sweet moments before bed, or for keeping baby cheery (and occupied) while chan444_rabbit-twineging her diapers. I recently discovered the musical “Rabbit Twine” from the same series who’s pulled tail starts Somewhere Over The Rainbow. So, so cute. The musical choices are beautiful, the instrumentation chimes so delicately, the volume is just right, and there’s something kind of magical when the music starts, almost dreamy and wonderous.

 

#6: BUM CREAM BY DOUCE MOUSSE

This may very well be the perfect bum cream! 🙂 After trying so many different kinds, I found this one to be in a league of its own. Incredibly soft to the touch, all organic, this ointment-type cream by Douce Mousse has a very pleasant and subtle (again, all natural) perfume, and creates the perfect bum barrier. The texture is just right and works wonders at avoiding and healing rashes on baby’s bum, really! Highly recommended.

 

#7: SOAP!

soapI’m a fan of receiving soap as a gift. They say it’s good luck too! In any case, offering a soap to a new mama can help her to feel like she’s getting pampered too. I recently discovered this little soap company, Botanicum Cosmétique, lovely soaps, all natural, and the fragrance and flavor combos are great. My favorite so far is the Cinnamon, Lemon, Shea Butter bar, yummy 🙂

 

#8: CONGRATULATIONS FROM PASSERS-BYcongrats

Receiving a warm smile or “Congratulations” from passers-by has been one of the nicer gifts I’ve had offered over time, and has on many occasions lit up my day. In turn, now when I see a tiny bundle cuddled up in a stroller or carrier, I love to give a smile and if it fits a, “Congratulations”, hopefully giving back a bit of light in return.

 

#9: THE OLDER LADIES, THOSE EYES

old-lady-eyesOlder women looking at you with love and emotion, their eyes saying “I have been there, I know the love and intensity of these moments, you are blessed”… Kind of like hearing “Congratulations”, these looks, so soft, have also been ones that have carried me through the day and lit up my heart. One older lady recently said to me, when she saw me carrying my baby “You’re holding a Million Dollars in your arms”…

 

#10: THE ONESIEbaby-in-onesie2

For mum! Just kidding. Who doesn’t love a onesie. I’m an inveterate fan. LOVE onesies. Short-sleeved, long-sleeved, patterns or none. Baby just looks so comfy and cuddly. I have been known to string out the onesie phase as long as I possibly can.  (My 3-year-old son still wants to wear his Fireman one to bed :)).

baby-in-onesie1

 

 

 

 

*Note: Chocolate is not on this list, but should be considered as an essential part of any postpartum rehabilitation 🙂 !

10 Best Gifts To Offer a New Mama #5: LARS THE MUSICAL LION


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also the mother of a beautiful toddler son and brand new baby daughter (oh the love!). I believe deeply in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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10 Little Things That Helped Me Survive The First Weeks After Giving Birth

The first few weeks after having a baby are so unique, precious… and pretty crazy!

Here are 10 little things that helped me survive the first weeks after this (and the other!) birth, a kind of  “postnatal survival guide”.. more for fun than anything else, but a few good tips too!

Continue reading

10 Places To Do Kegels

Learning to do Kegels can take a bit of time, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can do them just about anywhere, anytime!! Continue reading

10 Little Things That Saved Me During The Last Weeks Of Pregnancy


Here are some personal things that helped me survive those last few, long.. long… weeks of pregnancy:) ! (overdue anyone?)

Kind of silly but also practical late-pregnancy survival guide !

Continue reading

10 Late-Pregnancy Yoga-Inspired Exercises

Here are a few yoga-inspired exercises that I used to help me stay comfortable as best I could during my late-pregnancy, and to invite my body to open up for birth.

As always, while doing these exercises (or any really!), don’t forget to breathe, and if ever you feel as though your breath becomes constricted, short, or blocked all together, ease out of the pose, and find a version that suits you better at that moment, (which sometimes means not doing it at all!), or modify the pose with some of the suggestions given here.

The key is to feel the breath throughout your body at all times (which helps in calming the nervous system, and focusing the mind).

And of course, breathing will be our best friend throughout labor and the birthing of the baby. 🙂

If at any moment you feel dizzy or just don’t enjoy being in the pose, don’t do it! Come out of the pose and don’t ever push yourself, just not worth it!

We’re there to take care of ourselves and in so doing to take care of the beautiful life that is growing in our body.
10 Late-Pregnancy Yoga-Inspired Exercises. Prenatal yoga for 3rd trimester.

Have faith that your body knows what to do. Believe in yourself, so entirely and so completely!

 

#1: HAND ON BELLY BREATH EXERCISE

1. Breathe “into” the hands.

Sitting or lying down comfortably, bring one hand on the belly, and one hand on the heart.

Notice yourself bringing your breath and attention to these parts of the body, there where your hands are.

2. Move one hand or both hands to another part of the body.

Once again, slowly breathe into your hands, thus « breathing into » a different part of the body.

*By training our mind to bring its awareness to different parts of the body, we develop what can be a powerful tool during labor to help « dissipate » the sensations of pain that may arise.
*Belly breathing can prove very helpful in coping with the pain and the waves of contractions, you can practice this exercise with both hands on the belly.
*Breath remains fluid and natural.

 

#2: THE “YOU MUST BE LIKE THE BEAST” ..!

When I took my prenatal class, the wonderful lady teaching it didn’t speak English as her first language, but was teaching to Anglophones.

As she was talking to us about labor and how it is a journey into our animal and instinctual nature into which we must let ourselves go, she was getting more and more enthusiastic and ended up telling us all with complete conviction that during labor:

” You must be like the Beast!”

This exercise is inspired by her enthusiasm 🙂 and is meant to help us tune into our natural, spontaneous, even animal self. (the Beast!)

It’s a way to connect to our bodies and to the way it intuitively feels like moving, yet another useful tool in keeping pregnancy “comfortable” and in helping with labor.

1. Find table position (on all fours), placing the hands shoulder-width apart and the knees aligned with the hips.

Spread out the fingers and palms and feel them pressing into the ground.

(Note: At any time, if this position becomes uncomfortable on the wrists you can press onto the base of the fingers, palms lifted off the ground, or you can also work on closed fists.)

2. Start by doing a few cat/cows

Inhale cow, exhale cat.

3. Then move the spine laterally

Bring the hips and the tip of the head to the right, then to the left (creating “half-moon” shapes with your spine).

Then take a moment to close the eyes. Notice how this brings your awareness into the body.

4. From there, start to let yourself move with a bit less “technique”

Integrate cat/cow and lateral movements until you start to feel that you aren’t really doing specific positions anymore, but that you’re simply letting your body move in space how it wishes to.

Keep noticing the presence of the hands, knees and lower legs on the ground. See how it feels to let the elbows bend and the hips move front and back. You can also move your head softly if you like.

Keep the breath flowing, and see if you can observe how breath and movement are connected.

Then try amplifying the movements by making them “bigger”, and then try making them more gentle, subtle and “smaller”, letting the body go with what it feels like doing. Make it your own thing, kind of like a dance.

If your body ends up doing this kind of a “Beast-like dance” during labor, it may be a way to cope with your contractions.

In any case, it feels great!

 

#3: KEGEL

rest_belly

Kegels exercise the perineum.  The perineum is made up of the musculature and tissues surrounding and including the space between the anus and the vagina up to the urethra.

Keeping this part of the body toned is essential in global well-being, to support the abdominal organs, and to give a sense of lightness, and even life to the body, kind of like an uplifted feeling.

During pregnancy, Kegel exercises, along with Perineum Massage, help to prepare the pelvic floor for birth, as well as aid in postnatal recovery.

Here are 6 Kegel exercises for the health and maintenance of the perineum that you can do all throughout your pregnancy and within a few days after birth.

 

#4: SQUAT WITH KEGEL

I’m in one right now! Just kidding.

Squats are powerful. I find that by bringing us near to the earth, they have a grounding, rooting effect, helping us to connect to our primal nature. Part of many cultures, this position is used for working, relaxing, cooking and even going to the loo ! (and it’s also used by toddlers world-wide:)!)

A wonderful hip opener, it also helps to maintain the health of the pelvic floor.

By adding Kegel work to our squat, we’re helping to tone the perineum, all the while opening the hips and creating space in the pelvis, making this a wonderful birth preparation tool, as well as a way to maintain overall functionality of the body, especially for pregnant mamas.

* Don’t do this full squat if you have placenta previa or if your cervix is fragile or if it’s uncomfortable. Instead, try working sitting on the yoga ball with legs straddled (feet flat on the floor, as in the yoga ball hip circles)
* During late-pregnancy it can be a good idea to place some support under your bum, with a pillow, bolster or block so as not to put too much pressure on the pelvic floor
* Always make sure the knees are aligned with the toes, avoid letting them roll inwards
* See if you can keep a smooth and steady breath all along
* Heels should be supported, so if they don’t touch the ground in your squat, place a rolled blanket underneath them.

 

#5: DOWNWARD DOG

So simple, so wonderful a pose and so fantastic to do all the way through pregnancy! I found especially so in late-pregnancy, both times.

Generally, in prenatal yoga, while we do want to maintain good alignment and thus protect joints and ligaments, we also want to find a way to tune into what the body needs, and sometimes that can mean modifying the poses.

So in Downward Dog it’s the same thing.

See how it feels to move the hips, or bend the knees and ankles a few times. Then try keeping the pose without movement.

Make it yours.

As well as getting the blood and energy to circulate, Downward Dog is a natural pick me up!

During late-pregnancy this pose can help to create space around the uterus and thus more space for baby and mama’s organs, hopefully bringing more comfort to mama.

Keep the breath flowing, staying anywhere between 3 and 5 breaths.

*Downward Dog is contraindicated if you’ve had a procedure to turn baby around from a breech to head down position, if you have very high or very low blood pressure or if you’re suffering from reflux
*If you’re not comfortable with your hands positioned directly on the ground, try placing them on a table, counter top, or chair instead, a stable surface that’s a bit higher and that can still give you the experience of opening in the back body and of creating space in and around the belly.

 

If you’re wondering about fetal repositioning, Spinning Babies have loads of incredible information on the subject, amazing guys!

 

#6: PARSVAKONASANA (Extended Side Angle Pose) WITH ELBOW ON FRONT THIGH

I have a tendency to say Hallelujah when I get into this pose. I just love Parsvakonasana. I think that this is my personal Warrior Pose as I always feel strong and vibrant in it.

A wonderful side body stretch, it also allows for deep breathing into the lungs and ribs.

This pose can help us to become attuned with the positioning of the sacrum, a tool we can use throughout our yoga practice as well as pregnancy (keeping the mobility of the sacrum can prove useful and even vital in facilitating delivery).

*Tip: Try doing a couple of very gentle and very subtle pelvic tilts in your Parsvakonasana, helping yourself by placing the back of your hand on the sacrum (triangular-shaped bone at the base of the spine).

Then softly aim at aligning the sacrum « vertically »with the rest of the body, not tucked in, and not sticking out.

Because it creates space in the pelvis, any work on mobilizing the sacrum can prove beneficial for pregnancy comfort and for easing labor.

*Keep the back leg strong and back foot rooted
*The front knee doesn’t bend too far over the heel, and if this is the case, move the front foot forward a little. This will protect your knee! Avoid letting it roll inwards
*If you are uncomfortable working with your elbow on the front thigh (this could be the case if you are in late, late-pregnancy 🙂 !) try placing the hand on the thigh instead
*Breathe into the entire body, all the way to the tips of the fingers and toes, tasting the stretch, such a welcome one in our pregnant bodies!

 

#7: SITTING ON THE YOGA BALL, HIP CIRCLES

In late-pregnancy, this is one of the exercises that I found to be so helpful and useful! You’ll need a yoga ball, fit for your height (more air if you’re tall, less if you’re small!).

1. Sit on the ball

Hands on the thighs with your shoulders nice and relaxed, let the pelvis release and find some comfort there.

*Feet are firmly rooted on the ground, and that your knees are about 90 degrees bent.

2. Slowly and gently start to move the pelvis in a circular motion

Side-front-other side-and back, drawing a circle in space with your hips and lower back.yogaball-hip-circles

Letting yourself go, gently begin to amplify the movement,

and then play with more subtle, smaller circles.

Again, see how your breath remains steady, full and connected to the circular motion. Then try doing some circles in the other direction.

This gets movement going in the hips and in the pelvic floor, a wonderful way to feel healthy all throughout pregnancy and to help your body prepare for labor and delivery.

*Keeping the body consciously moving during contractions can help a great deal in coping with the pain.

 

#8: PELVIC TILTS

– a true winner for helping with lower back problems that arise throughout pregnancy.

I focused on these way more during my second pregnancy and had a great lower back up until the end. (I did have a small episode of lower back problems around 6 months, that seemed to be resolved through pelvic tilts and keeping moving (ie walking and biking)).

These can be done in many positions: sitting, lying down, standing and even while walking.

1. Start with your back against the wall

In a “sitting position” against the wall, the ankles and knees are aligned (don’t let the knees go past forward over the ankles, and if this does occur, simply walk the feet front a bit more).

*The knees are aligned with the hips and feet, don’t let them roll in or out – if needed, try using a block in between the thighs to help maintain proper alignment throughout the exercise.

Already, just being here against the wall (and breathing fully!), is a great exercise to tone the quads and the bum!

2. Move your sacrum

To do pelvic tilts, start to move your sacrum (the triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine), as well as your lower back and bum towards the front, essentially scooping and tucking them in,

then, move the sacrum and lower back toward the back as though to stick out the bum a little, keeping the upper back relaxed and pressed against the wall. Back and forth, back and forth.

Do 15 to 40 repetitions, breathing all the while.

*You should not only feel your thighs find some heat, but also the lower back and the lower abdomen. It’s also a bit of a massage for the lower back (mmm!). And a wonderful leg toner!
*Can be used all throughout pregnancy to ease back pain.

 

#9: SIDE-LYING LEG FAN

I discovered this one during my second pregnancy. It became one of my go-to exercises, especially in late, late-pregnancy 🙂 to help me get some movement going in my legs, hips and lower back.

1. Lie on your left side

Lay your head on your left arm or a pillow if you like. Place the right hand on the floor in front of you to stabilize the torso, keeping your back in line with the head. The left knee is slightly bent.

2. Like a fan

Let the right knee bend towards the sky then lift the foot, with a gentle, gentle kick. Then let the leg return gracefully ( !! ) towards the ground.

5-10 times.

It’s fun to do!

Repeat on the other side if you’re still comfortable lying on your right side.

*While pregnant, the muscles of the body are a bit more “relaxed” because of the pregnancy hormone relaxin that prepares and starts to open the pelvis for birth. This can give the sense that we’re actually more flexible than we really are – so generally speaking we can aim at working, say, at 75% of our range of motion, which can help to avoid overstretching the muscles, tendons or ligaments.

 

#10: DANCE!

Yes that’s right! Get up and start shaking it! (well you know, with care 🙂 !)

dance_233

In my « overdue » phase this time around I was having quite a few “omg this is taking forever” thoughts and I was also feeling a bit « stuck » in my big body as I couldn’t go out for as many walks with the cold winter we were having.

I heard an old-time funk musician on the radio talking about his Motown days, and an urge came upon me, to dance!

Really just get up and shake my bootie.

That evening, with my partner and toddler son watching (with a bit of fear in their eyes), I found a fantastic funk playlist (geared to Motown:) and I just danced, let what felt like my huge body move and boogie in space, feeling filled by the music and rhythm in my body and heart.

Honestly felt so good, so.. « freeing »! Ok, so it didn’t induce my labor, but who knows, it may have helped!

 

2 more things worth mentioning :)…

 

#11: REST

– because its’ its just as important as moving and mobilizing the body, rest! When you can, find a moment to lay down, by now the most comfy positions will likely be on your left side, or in a reclined position. (Use a bolster or as many pillows as needed to prop your knee(s), head, etc.)

rest_belly

For reclined positions, I use a cylindrical bolster like the ones used in a yoga class.

Here’s a breath awareness exercise you can do as you rest (if you’re not already sleeping 🙂 ):

1. Close the eyes, and bring your awareness to your breathing.

Notice the movement of expansion in the body as you inhale, and of release in the body when you exhale. As best you can, stay present to both the inhale and the exhale. It can help to actually use words, for example:

2. Inhale, say to yourself : “inhaling”, or “expansion”

3. Exhale, saying to yourself: “exhaling” or “release”.

When thoughts arise and grab your attention, observe them as you need to, (you can even name them, saying for example “thoughts”), then let them pass.

Observe how the thoughts are like clouds, they come and they go, and that your presence is like the blue and infinite sky behind them, immense and limitless.

We actually are limitless!

Even just 5-10 breaths like this can to wonders for calming the nervous system, and it also practices awareness to breath, an indispensable tool during labor.. and motherhood !

 

#12: WALKING!

It is said again and again, but such a lovely way to build stamina and keep your body mobile and healthy, pregnant or not.

When we go for a walk, we activate our circulation, we create mobility in the entire body, and we’re breathing fresh air.

Try breathing in connection with your steps, like a walking meditation, for example:

Inhale while counting 1-2-3 steps,

Exhale while counting 1-2-3-4 steps,

or whatever number of steps suits your rhythm (it can be inhale 1-2, exhale 1-2-3 steps if you’re walking more slowly, etc.)

You can also say to yourself the words, like a mantra, “Inhaling” and “Exhaling” as you go.

Note: Normally the exhale is longer, so add an extra step or two.

 

What a gift to feel our bodies move in those last weeks of pregnancy, even just a few minutes a day can feel so good and be so helpful.

One very important last thing to keep in mind : …you’re a total babe! 🙂


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. 🙂 I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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AWESOME PRENATAL YOGA BOOK:


Highly recommended, this book is a must-have for any prenatal yoga enthusiast (I use it all the time!). It provides detailed info and safe modifications for yoga practice throughout pregnancy and after birth. A must!!!


RECOMMENDED for at-home practice:
A BOLSTER

Oh my goodness I love my bolster! You may be used to the joy of using bolsters from your yoga practice in the studio. Having one at home is a treat! Bolsters are an essential part of my yoga practice at home. Because of their length, they can support the entire upper body in reclined poses, offering optimal relaxation. I use the cylindrical bolster by Halfmoon.


More from 10ThingsYogaMama:

Birth Affirmations For Dad – 10 Things I Wanted To Hear During Labor






Are you wondering about birth preparation?

In this work, I share the tips, tools and thoughts from my yoga and dance background that were helpful for me in preparation for birth and during labor, including pain management techniques, relaxation exercises and mental preparation tips.

Over 140 pages of exercises and tips for birth preparation


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also the mother of a beautiful toddler son and brand new baby daughter (oh the love!). I believe deeply in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→