In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we’re thrilled to bring you an interview with “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Actress Kaitlin Olson. TV Guide says Kaitlin is “working an unconventional beauty-meets-bawdy vibe we haven’t seen (or enjoyed so much) since. . .Julia Louis-Dreyfus set the bar so high on Seinfeld.” Kaitlin appeared on the cover of the June 25 USA Today Pregnancy & Wellness Report that we participated in and is expecting her first child with husband and co-star Rob McElhenny this month!
Because the theme of World Breastfeeding Week is the Ten Steps of Baby-Friendly Hospitals, we thought it would be great to focus on how to prepare BEFORE encountering the ten steps or lack thereof, so moms can set themselves up for success. Unfortunately, only 3% of maternity centers in the U.S. follow the 10 steps, and as a result, the 86% of moms who want to breastfeed aren’t making it past the first few days and weeks of exclusive or mostly breastfeeding–the CDC reports that most hospitals perform poorly on breastfeeding support. Moms are being booby-trapped by the very institutions that should be helping them the most! We want all moms to have a positive, empowering birth and breastfeeding experience, free of anguish and regret, whether they breastfeed for 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years!
1. How has your pregnancy been? How have you taken care of yourself during pregnancy? Studies show that the health of the mother during pregnancy influences birth & health outcomes for the baby.
I’ve actually had a delightfully easy pregnancy. I was lucky enough to not have any morning sickness, I worked all through my second trimester and half of my third with lots of energy, and I’m just now (at 9 months) starting to feel like I need to slow down and rest a little more. I’ve tried to take really good care of myself throughout the whole process. I drink tons of water and try to eat a low sugar, high vegetable, clean (1), healthy, organic diet. (I’ve also eaten a LOT of chocolate covered pretzels. I can’t help it.) I’m also walking like crazy. A lot more than I want to, in fact, but apparently that’s the best thing for toning my uterus and getting the baby in the right position. I also try to make sure I get enough sleep and stop to rest when I feel like I’m doing too much.
2. Why did you decide to plan a home birth? What influenced your decision?
I decided on a home birth because I believe that as long as a pregnancy is normal and complication-free, your body knows what to do and does not need medical intervention (2). I think the key to having a baby naturally is being able to completely relax and get out of the way of your body’s ability to get the job done. I believe I’ll be most relaxed and feel safest in my home (with an amazing nurse-midwife monitoring the baby and me the entire time, of course.) I was born at home and my mom has gone on to create Earth Mama Angel Baby, a company that makes safe, toxin-free products to naturally support pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, postpartum recovery and new baby care. I grew up in this type of environment, so it’s very ‘normal’ to me. I want to be clear, though…I think hospitals are amazing, valuable places and I’m incredibly grateful to have access to Western medicine! I just don’t think that childbirth is a medical problem that needs intervention unless there is a complication.
3. What has been the reaction to your decision? Obviously, your mom is supportive; has there been any negative reaction or concern and how have you handled that?
Rob and I have had a lot of mixed reactions! Most of our friends have been very supportive because they know us well enough to know that we are the kind of people who do our research and make informed decisions. The people who panic and think we are crazy are the ones who haven’t done any research themselves. I don’t blame them, though. We aren’t really taught much about childbirth and labor in America. On t.v. and in movies, most of what you see on the subject are women screaming in pain and a lot of emergency c sections. The fact of the matter is that countries who’s standard is for women to deliver their babies at home with midwives have the lowest complication, intervention and infant fatality rates. The United States has one of the highest complication, intervention and infant fatality rates and we have our babies in hospitals. That’s hard for people to understand, but if you do a little research, it makes sense. Your body knows what to do in a pregnancy that has no complications. If you numb yourself and block your uterus’ ability to communicate with your brain, then lay down on your back and work against gravity, that can, sometimes, cause problems.
4. What tools or techniques are you using to manage the labor process and handle any pain or fear?
I’ve been practicing hypno-birthing for several months now. It’s basically training yourself to completely relax on command, allowing your uterus to do its job without tensing up in reaction to the pain, which just slows everything down. It also really focuses on eliminating fear, and I’m learning a lot about the correlation between fear and pain. When you’re scared, you tense up. That’s no good. Instead of being afraid of powerful contractions, I’m trying to focus on being grateful for them, because it means the baby is closer to being born. I also am using a doula who will be there to remind me of all of these things when I forget because I am in horrible pain.
5. Are you planning to breastfeed, and if so, what attracts you to it, for yourself, your family and for the baby?
Yes, I’m definitely planning to breastfeed! I just simply think that breast milk is the very best food for a baby. It’s also free. And takes no preparation or heating up (3).
6. Was your decision to have a natural birth influenced by studies that have shown an easier transition to breastfeeding? Birthing in a breastfeeding-friendly environment, i.e following the “Ten Steps”, makes a huge difference in breastfeeding initiation and continuation.
If we had decided to have the baby in a hospital, (or if for some reason we do need to transfer to the hospital during labor) I have done my research and am already very clear on what steps need to be taken in order to ensure that my baby and I have every opportunity to be able to learn together how to breastfeed. I don’t feel intimidated by nurses who may suggest that I need to supplement with formula or I am starving my child. In the spirit of staying positive, I am also not anticipating that I would get a nurse who is a bully or has harmful intentions. I don’t believe people in hospitals are bad people just because they have a medical background instead of a natural one. I just believe that different people have different views or different training, and I am not uncomfortable saying thank you, we’ve got it under control, and then bringing in a lactation consultant. I think it’s all about educating yourself, empowering yourself, and creating the best environment for yourself wherever you happen to give birth.
7. Have you prepared for breastfeeding in any way?
So far I’ve prepared by taking a breastfeeding class, watching a very informative video called Simply Breastfeeding by Shari Criso (4), and talking to my friends (and my mom) who have successfully breastfed their babies. We have a lactation consultant who will be coming over to the house when the baby is born and I’ve found a support group very close to my house if and when I need it. I think the best thing to do at this point is just jump in and see what happens and go from there, knowing that it’s possible that it comes very naturally, and also possible that I’ll run into problems but that doesn’t mean I’m failing! There are a lot of really wonderful resources out there if you go looking for them.
8. Have you encountered any “Booby Traps” to breastfeeding already?
I have run into Booby Traps! I’ve heard from several friends who have tried to breastfeed and “failed.” Mostly the problem seems to be that they don’t think they produce enough milk. These are all very loving women who are good mothers and often they are being led to think that they are starving their babies and the best thing to do is supplement with formula. All moms come from a place of wanting to do the very best for their children! But it’s nice to know ahead of time that I have options. Earth Mama Angel Baby Milk Maid tea, Booby Tubes and Bosom Buddies all help with engorgement and encouraging milk to come in (5).
9. How have you dealt with any barriers to breastfeeding and how do you plan to handle any that come up?
You know, I’m just not really entertaining the option of a backup plan. I have lots of people in my life who have done this before to support me and really wonderful, knowledgeable professionals I can go to which makes me feel confident. Mostly at this stage when I start to have doubts, the best thing I can do is remind myself that my body was built to do this, and if I run into trouble I have a lot of options.
10. What advice do you have for expecting moms around taking care of yourself during pregnancy, and planning for birth and breastfeeding?
Educate yourself! Unfortunately that does not mean asking one person (your family doctor whom you’ve never questioned before), getting one answer, and then looking no further. I believe that how you take care of yourself in your pregnancy and the decisions you make regarding your birth, breastfeeding, etc. are all acts of parenting. The reality of our current state of health care, for better or for worse, is that a great part of it is being subsidized by major pharmaceutical companies and other special interests. Hospitals give you formula samples that are given to them by formula companies. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their products are “bad,” it just means that you may not be getting an objective point of view. So surround yourself with people you trust, ask lots of questions, listen to everything, and then make the most informed decision that you can. And eat chocolate covered pretzels, they make everything better.
Okay, Babes, do you have any questions for Kaitlin?
Best for Babes Resources & Tips
(2) To learn more about birth options, see My Best Birth
(3) . . . and is an all-around mom-made wonderfood.
(4) In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, Shari Criso’s DVD is streaming FREE through September 30.
(5) Nursing more often builds milk supply. If mothers can’t or decide not to breastfeed, pasteurized, screened donor milk from a human milk bank, is the best substitute after expressing or pumping the mother’s own milk. Speak to your doctor about getting a prescription.