This blog post is dedicated to my NCT friend, Kat.
Antenatal classes never explained why skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby was important. They said it needs to happen as soon as birth happens but didn’t go into the details of why - frankly, I’m sure most midwives couldn’t give you a proper explanation if you asked outside of the surface level: It helps with bonding, regulating body temperature, preventing postpartum depression etc. But why? Why does it have this impact?
Importantly, whilst skin to skin immediately after birth is strongly recommended they never tell you to continue doing it when you get home.
The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff has helped me to understand why it’s important and whilst I will try to explain it in my own words I know I won’t do the book justice. It’s a very academically rigorous book with many case studies. So in my own simple, layman words:
Skin-to-skin Immediately After Birth
Skin-to-skin post delivery is important for continuity of the human species. Basically, at the instant that a child is born mother nature wanted to ensure that its mother wholeheartedly wants to care for it. Consequently, at the point of birth and skin-to-skin contact a plethora of hormones are released that impress upon the mother the need to take care of this baby come hell or high water.
In pre-historic times, the only reason a mother would not receive a baby post birth is because there was still birth. The result is that grieving hormones were released designed for the mother to mourn her child and eventually get over that loss.
As sophisticated as we humans might think we are, evolutionary responses don’t develop so fast. If there is too much of a time delay between birth and mother-baby contact those grieving hormones kick into action and even if the baby is brought later it may be too late. The woman will be feeling all sorts of negative emotions and the mourning process cannot simply be stopped.
Interestingly, not all animals have evolved the same way. With geese, the baby forms an attachment to the first thing it sees coming out and follows it everywhere. This happens because geese have many goslings and there is no way the mother goose could follow them all around. This is why you see a gaggle of goslings all following their mother. They were primed to do this at birth. If the gosling’s initial contact is with something else, e.g. a human, it will follow that human around everywhere too - interesting, right?
Skin-to-skin During Early Development (New Born Onwards)
This is all about helping a baby transition from a comfortable, fully active environment (the womb) into a world composed mostly of “lifeless” air.
Basically, in the womb, a baby is in a state of “bliss” - it is happy and content. The baby expects this happy existence where all its needs are met to continue.
Whilst the initial skin-to-skin is crucial, follow-on skin-to-skin helps to build on the bond created and it has very calming effect on the baby because it reminds him of what he knows, the warmth and comfort of the womb in which he developed.
The need for skin contact progresses towards a need for human contact in general. It’s a natural progression.
When your baby is born it doesn’t think in words (as we do) but at first in terms of emotions (happy, sad, scared) and sensations (cold, hot, soft, hard). It’s taken out of the blissful, warm womb into a world of inactive “cold” air.
Every single thing it hears and feels, every single treatment and experience feeds the baby with information about its new world; all the initial life experiences happen when your baby is in your familiar arms giving your baby confidence; it can smell mother and knows your voice well. So your baby’s not scared.
In my case, I held Chester for just over 40 minutes as his body was rubbed clean and he took his first breaths and heard sounds outside of the womb. I lay in my husband, Harry’s, arms whilst Chester lay in mine still connected to me by the umbilical cord.
When an infant is in arms intolerable experiences become much more tolerable to it and soon become expected. Because of this The Continuum Concept encourages taking baby about your daily life preferably in arms and not constantly treating them with "kitten mittens". Liedloff studies rural Amazonian communities to develop some of her theories and sees that an infant is carried around as its mother does all her daily tasks: walking through the forest (where many sounds are heard); the child encounters rain, wind, sunshine and all other weather changes. In its mother’s arms it experiences all that life has to offer and these life experiences are normalised thereby helping the baby transition into this life.
She compares this to a “Western” baby’s experience in a hospital where he may be taken into a baby ward/nursery (I don’t think this happens in England anymore) and instead of a mother tending to its needs immediately, the baby is left without motherly contact.
He's also in lifeless clothing - his nappy perhaps changed according to a schedule, whether it was just soiled, clean or was soiled ages ago. Leaving baby in cots and prams where he’s stimulated only for short periods of time becomes the norm.
Beyond the womb, a baby craves to have real life experiences, however, your baby will only meet life with a strong sense of self, with confidence, without fear if he is transitioned progressively from skin-to-skin to the in-arms phase to independence.
Independence is a natural progression. You won’t spoil your child by holding them too much. They need that contact. Just as you should feed on demand you should also cuddle on demand. All too quickly the day will come when your little one crawls and needs your cuddles less and less.
Ultimately, live your life as you always have and make your baby a part of it. There is no need to follow an overly rigid schedule. Going out? Take him. Going downstairs to make a coffee or bake a cake, take him. Let him watch, speak to him as you do it. Don’t leave him staring into space in his cot. This way your baby will transition naturally into independent living.
Buy The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff on:
Whilst I was in America hosting The Money Spot program in August 2014 Apostle Debbie Viggs Founder of The International Council for Women contacted me re. being featured as on of 6 African women to be celebrated. Of course I agreed. I was both honoured and humbled.
By Heather & Harry Katsonga-Woodward
Earlier this year I told my YouTube subscribers that I sometimes call Harry, my husband, “The Good Husband” because a few months before we started dating I had created a listed entitled “The Good Husband” specifying all the traits I need in a life partner.
A few months after this admission I revealed everything that I had on my list in this video that’s already been watched a few thousand times.
A lot of people thought it was a good idea and proceeded to make their own lists. If you haven’t made a list already, Harry and I have come up with the below list that you can use to create your own strategy. We’re not telling you what you should look for at all as everyone has his or her own preferences but we thought you might like this as a guide. Get a piece of paper and use it to create your own list or download the printable version:
Day 1: Friday 14-Feb. First Impressions Of Mumbai, India
India was great fun! I thought this would mostly be a text-based blog post but I discovered the YouTube Capture app on day 1 of the holiday which made it easy for me to create and upload vids from my phone...so I made videos.
Click for the YouTube playslist of the journey through Goa or just watch each video below.
Day 1, later That Night...As It Was Valentine's Day...
My gifts plus what I said the first time Harry said those three words.
Day 2: Saturday 15-Feb. First Day In Goa
We randomly found a driver called Babu. He took us to some old churches, Spice Farm and a temple. The highlight was seeing Modern Tarzan climb up a tree then shoot down really fast. It was amazing but out of 15 people only Harry and I thought he deserved a tip!
Day 3: Sunday 16 Feb - Black Girls Get A Lot Of Attention In India!
Day 3: Sunday 16 Feb - The Beauty Of India - Come Open-Minded
Day 4: Monday 17 Feb - Dark Skinned Indians Mostly Absent On TV
Day 5: Tuesday 18 Feb - Is This Is Why They Stare At Black Girls?
Day 6/7/8: Wed 20 Feb - Last India Vlog: Couple's Massage, A Bride For My Friend & The Sangeet (Wedding Party)
I read about coursera.org in an edition of Entrepreneur, the only magazine I read religiously and decided to try it out. You can take all the courses for free and for some you can pay to get a certificate if you want it. If you don't want the certificate then you can do the course entirely for free.
At first, I wasn't going to pay for the certificate but then I decided that $49 is really not that much to have a record of having done the course so I paid up. Luckily I passed with flying colours which is always worth having on paper.
I know a lot of people in Asia are taking advantage of these courses and getting real value. I found the course very useful but I didn't study hard for it. I just watched the videos and hoped I would remember what was relevant to me. I have a super good memory so this technique may not work for everyone. It took me about 6 years of serious graft in high school to master that technique. Anyhow...why don't you take a course too?
Check out my certifcates on coursera:
Want to Build a 6-Figure Beauty Business from the comfort of your sofa? Then my course is designed for YOU!
"Beauty" includes a WIDE range of products from the not so obvious non-perishable foods and crafts to the more obvious hair, makeup, fashion, health & fitness.
Learn more about The Money Spot Program.
Technology can be extremely distracting.
Since the summer I have wanted to focus on a certain project but I just kept never getting round to it.
As much as I like to view myself as a highly efficient and competent individual it was high-time to admit that my efficiency was severely lacking and that I needed to refocus. I needed to sit down and think about what my priorities were and how I was going handle them alongside the important but not urgent daily minutiae.
This morning, at c.3.30 a.m. I woke up feeling extremely lucid and I devised what I am now calling "BIG Project Time". You can't work on more than one BIG project at a time but you can have a couple of secondary important projects.
BIG project time for me occurs four times a week from:
In total, over the course of the week I'll dedicate 24 hours to my big project.
All other things such as blog writing, video editing, social networking and marketing cannot be done during BIG project time.
I will have only one weekday during which I can work on one of my secondary projects during BIG project time. Whilst I can text my husband during big project time for important domestic issues everyone else is cut off during this time unless, of course, it is an emergency.
I had to write a very specific list of what I cannot do during BIG project time. This is the list:
Thanks to Lionness for challenging me to the below. She answered her own challenge here. I'm glad the questions she has asked me are a lot easier than the one she had - e.g. having to reveal her first love and breaking up with a dude who moved countries for her two months later - ouch!
Here are the rules:
MY NOMINEES: any Neno Natural fan that wants to share! You can answer the questions as a comment or on your blog.
11 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me
I'm going to share my more academic and professional side with all o' y'all.
Here are The questions for my nominees
You can answer these as a comment or as a post on your blog. If you don't feel like it, you don't have to nominate anyone else to do this challenge - I just did it for fun.
1. What is your full name?
2. What inspired you to start blogging?
3. Which country have you been to and liked the least? Why?
When I got to the airport they detained me for further questioning. When I asked why they said it was strange for a woman to be travelling on her own. The moment I got released, I jumped on to a bus to find a white woman who was also travelling on her own (she had flown in on the same flight as me) and had not been detained - say what?!
4. What would you eat if you got stuck in a tree for a week. Poison berries ( cause you to lose your eye sight for a week) or raw monkey ?
Raw monkey - why not, eh?
5. What kind of shoes do your prefer wearing on a night out?
6. If you could own any item in the world what would it be?
7. How much do you know about me, (lioness davis) ? Write 3 facts.
8. What is your favorite reality show ?
It used to be x-factor but after Simon left I started losing interest. Perhaps The Apprentice and Dragon's Den are first equal on my current list.
9. Who do you prefer: Tupac or Biggie?
10. If all the vegetables and fruits in the world were extinguished, which two would you keep?
11. What is your biggest fear?
My Questions From Lionness:
To watch the vlog, subscribe to our YouTube channel; producing it now. Some of our craziness will be revealed for the first time:
Our first week in the US was spent working our asses off (well, at least I was) to get stock ready for Christmas. After that three nights were spent at a wedding in San Jose, California. This is the place where I started developing a taste for beef. We enjoyed Cali thoroughly but Chicago...
...I could live in Chicago - that was my opinion when I first visited in May-2012 on a two-day trip; after over a week there this time around my position stands. There aren't many places I can say that about.
We went to a few museums but we loved the food most. Below are my ratings; they are all cheap, cheerful and very tasty. Ina's and Over Easy are my top picks. If you want to try Ina's get there fast because they are closing soon.
Irazu on N. Milwaukee - 4/5
Good Costa Rican food, lively vibe.
Cafe Ba Ba Reba on N. Halsted - 4/5
Lively, youthful vibe. Has an English country feel to it. I didn't like their bread at all though, it was hard and didn't taste too fresh. Other than that, I enjoyed it.
Nookies on N. Wells - 4/5
This was a trip down memory lane. During our May-2012 trip we ate all three meals at Nookies - breafast, lunch and dinner. What can I say, we're creatures of habit, we had been eating lots of junk in Indiana before we got to Chicago so when we found Nookies we knew we were on to a good thing.
Demera on N. Broadway - 5/5
I love Ethiopian food
Trattoria Sapori on N. Halsted - 4.5/5
Good food for sure.
Deleece on N Southport- 3/5
We only ate here because we were watching The Color Purple next door. It was okay; I don't remember much about this food experience to be honest. We'd just had to walk through lots of rain so I wasn't in a good mood to start with and Deleece didn't change that!
Toast on Webster - 5/5
We went to Toast twice because it had a fab atmosphere and was conveniently located for where we were hanging out.
The Cheesecake Factory on Michigan Ave - 4/5
Portions are way too large but the food is good.
Ina's on Randolphe - 5/5
Ina's is closing in Dec-13 (proprietor retiring) which is sad because it is awesome and has great traditions. E.g. cellphones are completely banned. I hear they have even asked a senator to get off his phone before! Ina has written a recipe book so that her great food can live on after Ina's.
Fork on N. Lincoln - 4.5/5
Another delicious breakfast.
Lou Malnati's on N. Lincoln in Lincolnwood (the original shop) - 3.5/5
I liked the history of the place but I personally didn't like their pizza dough, Harry did though - said it reminded him of school. I prefer Domino's pizza above all pizza joints, they've just got it like that.
Over Easy on Damen - 5*/5
Believe the hype on yelp. After my meal I wanted to call the chef out to discuss opening a franchise in London - I didn't want it to be the end.
Jamba Juice on Michigan Ave - I enjoy their juices. Healthy, fresh and refreshing.
Chipotle (somewhere downtown) - I love Chipotle. On our way to the airport we saw a Chipotle and knew the trip would not be complete without it so we made a quick detour.
The Museums we visited.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) - okay but not much art;
DuSable Museum of African American History - lots of good quality art. I especially like the section on Harold Lee Washington;
National Museum of Mexican Art - there isn't much art but it was good that they even have a museum of Mexican art imho.
We watched and LOVED The Color Purple, it's currently my favorite musical.
I am feeling so crazy inspired right now!
Whenever I go to a museum I always come out feeling so creative but the elBulli exhibition at Somerset House is on another level of inspirational.
This restaurant was started in the mid 1950s by a German couple, the Schillings. elBulli actually stands for "The Bull dogs" which were Mrs Schilling's pets. Marketta Schilling herself lived there until she died in 2007. However, ownership had long ago passed to Ferran Adrià in the early 1990s who transformed it into a 3 Michelin Star restaurant.
This weekend I was left thinking Heston Blumenthal was a genius but if that is the case then Ferran Adrià is a culinary deity. The guy is on some other tip. Some of the videos and images of the foods he created looked like foods I ate at The Fat Duck and I am convinced that Heston took some inspiration from Ferran Adrià.
In fact, the association I independently made between the two was just confirmed by a Wikipedia article that states, and I quote, "Along with British chef Heston Blumenthal, Adrià is often associated with "molecular gastronomy", although like Blumenthal the Catalan chef does not consider his cuisine to be of this category."
In July 2011 elBulli was closed for 2.5 years of research; I have no idea what new methods they are coming up with all I know is I definitely want to visit elBulli when it reopens. Ferran Adrià is also working on the elBulli Foundation, a museum that will be dedicated to the history and methods of elBulli over time and Bullipedia, an educational resource and creative portal for professional chefs.
What Adrià has done to food, I would love to do to hair products: basically, completely ignore all the currently accepted ingredients and perhaps methods and create something completely new: a super detangling, super moisturising hair product line for natural hair. God knows I would certainly benefit from it.
What an inspirational day.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.