The amount of information that is available can be overwhelming. I find Agnes with MamaBear Holistic Care is a great resource because she covers so many topics. She is a Mama, Wife, RN, Certified Sleep Consultant, Lactation Counselor, Certified Car Seat Technician, Prenatal Educator, and Certified Heart & Stroke Instructor dedicated to supporting your journey through motherhood. I recently had the opportunity to interview Agnes:
How long have you been in the field? What drew you to working with pregnant or recently post-partum families?
I have been an RN for 15 years now, with over 13 years of experience working in Labour & Delivery and Maternity. What drew me to this type of nursing is the bond you create with Mamas and their family. It’s such an exciting and life changing experience and I am humbled and honored to be a part of it. This is one of the few times in your life where your life will change forever and helping Mamas in this journey is the most rewarding experience of my life.
What drew me to starting MamaBear Holistic Care was that as a Nurse and as a Mama, I saw the need for postpartum support. Mamas are supported while in hospital but for only a few days and then they are sent home without much follow up. Most services offered in the community are minimal and require you to travel to them. As a Mama myself, I know how hard it is to have to pack up your newborn and travel to a specialists office where you can sometimes wait for hours.
I also struggled with breastfeeding and postpartum depression and realized that if I was struggling with all my knowledge, I can only imagine how hard other Mamas are finding it. I know from experience what a difference it makes when a Mama has the support she needs. Breastfeeding is more successful, she has less incidence of postpartum and is better able to adjust to her new role.
What is one piece of advice that you give to all mothers?
To not compare yourself to anyone else out there. All of our journeys are different and not a single one of us Mamas has it perfect. Believe me every Mama has their own struggle. They may not show it, but no one Mama has a perfect baby and perfect life. We love to play the comparison game or as Marie Forleo calls it “drinking the Compareshlager, but comparison is the thief of joy…” It’s so true. The best thing to do as a new Mama is find a tribe of other Mamas that you can relate to, where you feel safe, supported and loved.
Can you walk us through what a typical pre-natal class might look like?
Each Mama gets sent a questionnaire that goes into depth about what their biggest questions/concerns are. Each prenatal class starts with a quick activity where I ask both Mamas and Dads to be to write down 10 of their biggest desires and concerns and outcomes they want from their labour and delivery experience. It could something as simple as “I want a healthy Mama and baby”, to “how can I keep my partner from fainting”, to “I don’t want an epidural”, to “I want the drugs ASAP!”, to “how can my partner support me?”. I address each and every questions/concern/comment that the Mamas and Dads have and this helps open up a great dialogue and allows me cover a lot of material in a very organic way. My class is 4-5 hrs long and I cover everything from:
- Signs of labour
- How your body prepares for labour
- When to go into the hospital
- How your partner can best support you
- Coping mechanisms
- Pain medication options
- What happens when you go to the hospital
- What is an induction
- Explaining the different ways to deliver
- What to expect if you’re having a C-section
- Basics like diaper changing, bathing, an safe swaddling
- Postpartum care of Mama and baby
- Car seat safety
We do a fun activity with a ping pong ball and a balloon to demonstrate how your body changes when you are having contractions and what your body is doing in order to have this baby. My classes are structured from both my experience as a Labour & Delivery RN and as a Mama. It’s based on science and what is the current practice. You get to practice safe swaddling, diaper changing and how to put your baby into the car seat using Care Bears. Everything in the class remains confidential. After the class I sent you a PDF of the information covered, along with information on pumping and breastfeeding.
Who do you recommend take an infant CPR class?
Anyone who is going to look after your baby.
After a CPR class what should parents and caregivers be comfortable doing?
- identifying is it a safe situation to give CPR
- to be able to do effective chest compressions
- how to give effective breaths
- that you are covered under the Good Samaritan Act
- how to use an AED
- how to ask for help
- how to assess the need for CPR
- how to help someone that is choking
- know the difference between baby, child and adult CPR
What type of sleep patterns do you recommend seeking consultation or help with? What type of support do you offer?
When it affects your child’s quality of sleep as well as your own. When your baby/child relies on sleep props to put himself/herself to sleep and to keep them asleep. Sleep props include bouncing, shshhing, breastfeeding, car rides, co-sleeping, anything that your baby/child relies on to sleep. When you need to nurse your baby 15+ times a night in order for them to sleep. I offer support from 3-4 months until 9 years old. The type of support varies from child to child. I send a questionnaire to Mama to get a better idea of what is going on. Then I set up an in-home visit where I get to meet baby/child and the family. This helps give me a better idea of who the baby/child is, what is their personality. I assess their sleep environment and together with the parents we come up with a plan that works for them and their child. I provide support via email and phone for 2 weeks. Teaching a baby/child to sleep is never an exact science and each sleep consult that I do is individualized for that child’s and family’s needs. It’s never a one size fits all approach. Some babys/children adjust very quickly and some take a bit longer. I support the Mama the entire time to ensure that she gets the support she needs in order to support her child.
- Baby Sleep Support (3 -18 months)
- Toddler Sleep Support (18 months to 3 years)
- School Age Sleep (4 years +)
With older children, I include them in the plan, which makes it easier to implement. It’s all about learning who the child is and giving them some autonomy and control over their situation.
All my sleep support packages involve an in-home visit and 2 weeks of email and phone support.
I also offer:
- 3 hrs extra support
- Half night support
- Full night support
What can you tell parents about the “4th trimester” to help ease their stress?
The 4th trimester is just as important, if not even more important than the first 3. The 4th trimester is from birth to 3 months postpartum. So many Mamas focus on preparing for the baby, investing in a crib, bassinet, car seat/stroller, bottle warmer, etc and forget to plan for the postpartum period. In my prenatal classes I discuss ways to help make the postpartum period easier. Such as:
- Getting groceries delivered
- Making food ahead of time and freezing it
- Ensuring you have postpartum support
- Getting help with housekeeping
Postpartum support is available and it doesn’t mean you have to struggle alone. Budgeting for it will help alleviate some of the financial burden. For your baby shower, you can ask your family for gift certificates for meal prep services, my services, house cleaning services. It doesn’t just have to be about baby products. Getting support in the fourth trimester will help you adjust to your new role easier.
Breastfeeding is a completely different experience for all women. What are 3 tips that you would suggest prior to trying to feed their baby?
- Ensure you are in a comfortable position. Prop yourself up with as many pillows as you need in order to be comfortable. If you aren’t comfortable, your baby will sense it.
2. Your milk won’t be in right away. It can take on average 3-7 days for your milk to come it. You have colostrum and for most babies that is enough.
3. Breastfeeding is not like how they show in the movies. It’s a process of learning for both you and baby. You need to be patient with you and your baby. It’s a skill that you both have to learn. It takes time. Be patient and kind to yourself.
Most importantly Mamas, you don’t have to struggle alone with breastfeeding. Ask for help.
What resources do you wish more families knew about?
There is help available. You can get breastfeeding and postpartum support. There are many options out there. You don’t have to struggle alone. Also prenatal classes are very important. There is a huge difference in parent’s anxiety levels when they have taken a prenatal class. It’s not to say that it will go exactly how they wanted, but they know what their options are and understand what the different terms mean.
Do you offer online consultation? What local areas are your classes offered primarily?
I do offer online consultation for both breastfeeding and sleep. So even if you don’t live in the Lower Mainland, I would be happy to help you with any breastfeeding or sleep concerns you have. My classes are offered in Coquitlam but I travel all over the Lower Mainland to provide prenatal classes, breastfeeding support, sleep support, and CPR classes.