Baby Registry Ideas: My Top 10 Picks

Baby Registry Ideas:  My Top 10 Picks

As a doula, I am often asked if I have any recommendations for a baby registry.  In fact I do!  Having two young kids myself, as well as having heard feedback on baby products from many new parents, I feel like I could be considered somewhat of an expert on the topic.  Granted, everyone's different, so take this with a grain of salt, but you should probably have something to compare against all the advice you're getting from strangers at the grocery store, am I right? 

Read More

Guest Blog: Healthy Eating Through the Childbearing Year

Guest Blog:  Healthy Eating Through the Childbearing Year

Many stressors typically accompany the nine-month journey of pregnancy, and I want to help uncover the frustration of eating healthy when you’re expecting. Other factors that play into this include the food aversions that many women experience during this time, the time consuming grocery shopping when you’re drained of energy, the dreadful meal prepping, and then countless hours in the kitchen cooking. If this sounds like the feelings you are experiencing, then read on. It’s my hope to help healthy eating not feel like a chore to you, but rather something that can be done rather quickly and you don’t dread doing.

Read More

Giving Birth Live on Facebook is Now All the Rage

Giving Birth Live on Facebook is Now All the Rage

The description of Paige LoPinto's private Facebook Group begins, "If April the giraffe can do it, so can I. ☺"  She goes on to state that her motivation for live streaming her home birth on Facebook is her love of birth, and a desire to educate, empower, inspire and connect with other like minded women.  She has achieved this goal- in the early morning hours of August 25th of this year, she gave birth to her beautiful daughter at home as hundreds of viewers from around the world looked on via her Facebook group "Paige's Home Birth".  The video has since been viewed almost 17 THOUSAND times.  

Read More

Getting Back to Exercise After Baby

Getting Back to Exercise After Baby

So today, I went for my fourth "run" since I gave birth to my second daughter, who is almost eight weeks old.  Since my Mother-in-law offered to take my toddler for the day, I got to get outside and bring my littlest along in the jogging stroller... and it was awesome.  I put "run" in quotations only because well, there was a fair amount of walking.  But it was a beautiful day, my baby was sleeping for most of it, and even though I have a ways to go to get back to my pre-baby fitness level, I felt great.  While I was out there, I got to thinking about the process of getting back to exercise after baby, and I wanted to share a couple of tips I think may help other moms in the same boat.

Read More

Our Story: On Birth and New Motherhood the Second Time Around

Our Story:  On Birth and New Motherhood the Second Time Around

We welcomed our second daughter 12 days ago, and I wanted to get my thoughts down about our experience while they are still fresh.  I share our story because I enjoy reading the stories of others, whether they are similar or very different than my own.  I find birth stories of all kinds magical and fascinating.  There is no right way to birth or to mother, each person's experience is unique, and we each have our own journey.  Here is just a little snapshot of mine this time around.

Read More

Learn from a Local Expert About Acupunture: Shannon Gyles MSOM, CA- Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist at New Moon Wellness

Learn from a Local Expert About Acupunture:  Shannon Gyles MSOM, CA- Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist at New Moon Wellness

I am beyond delighted to be able to share this Q&A with Shannon Gyles, Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist at New Moon Wellness.  Known as a go-to person to see during pregnancy in Madison, Shannon is one of the few alternative health care practitioners in the area that specialize in women's health.  As her website states, "Shannon has found her true calling in working with fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum, helping facilitate healthy babies, healthy mamas, and healthy families.  She personally understands the joy and difficulty with the changing demands on the body during pregnancy, postpartum, and caring for a newborn.  In conjunction, she is honored to be able to work with women to prep the body and baby for labor and finds great joy in helping facilitate initiating labor when needed."  Read on to learn more from Shannon about acupuncture during the childbearing year.

Read More

Learn from a Local Expert about Birth Photography: Beth Skogen, Lifestyle and Natural Light Photographer

Learn from a Local Expert about Birth Photography:  Beth Skogen, Lifestyle and Natural Light Photographer

I reached out to Beth a few months ago, after Googling birth photographers in Madison, and was immediately captivated by the images I found on her website.  To say Beth is talented at capturing the raw emotion and true essence of birth (and everything she photographs) is truly an understatement.  Since then, I've had the pleasure of witnessing her in action during a client's birth (see those photos on my website), and was so excited that she was willing to do this Q&A to provide more info about birth photography.  Read on to learn a little more about what's behind her magic.

Read More

I Call BS: Why I Don't Believe in the "Birth Plan Curse" and Neither Should You

You may have heard of something called the “birth plan curse”, or something along those lines.   The basic idea being that the more detailed a birth plan, the more likely a woman is to end up with a c-section.  I’ve heard this idea tossed around, encountered it in online labor and delivery nurse forums, and I’ve even had a client once report that a nurse told her after her Cesarean birth that it was essentially her detailed plan that caused it.  Today I’d like to call this ideology out for what I believe it is.  Complete and utter BS.

Read More

Interview with Celebrity Doula Lori Bregman, Author of The Mindful Mom-to-Be

Interview with Celebrity Doula Lori Bregman, Author of The Mindful Mom-to-Be

I was blown away when I heard back from Celebrity Doula Lori Bregman (within about 20 minutes!) after emailing to ask her if she would do this Q&A.  Not only do I love her book The Mindful Mom-to-Be, but I truly admire the work she does as a doula, life coach, and healer with over 15 years experience, and a client list that includes Molly Sims, Kristen Bell & Dax Shepherd, Jillian Michaels & Heidi Rhoades, Kelly Rowland, Jessica Biel, Heidi Klum, and many more.  I'll be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky winner who signs up for my Prenatal Yoga and Birth Prep Mini Class series, but I urge every expectant mom out there to check it out!  It is a relatively quick read, yet filled with helpful month-to-month information about your growing body and baby, nutritional advice, natural remedies including yoga poses to help with pregnancy-related discomforts, techniques for labor, and even spiritual and emotional exercises to help you prepare for motherhood.  Read on for the Q&A with Lori discussing The Mindful Mom-to-Be.

Read More

Lactation Cookies So Amazing Your Partner Will Steal Them

Don't worry, they won't induce lactation in non-lactating partners; however, they may be habit forming. ;-)

Don't worry, they won't induce lactation in non-lactating partners; however, they may be habit forming. ;-)

What's the deal with lactation cookies?

Lactation cookies are cookies that contain galactagogues, substances believed to increase milk supply.  While I do not want to put forth or reinforce the idea that you need extra stuff or a special diet in order to successfully breastfeed (most women don't), or that lactation cookies should be your first go-to if you have concerns about milk supply (they shouldn't), I do believe in trying something for yourself to see if it works for you, as long as it won't harm you (and especially if the thing in question is this delicious).

That said, my disclaimer is this:  before you decide to try lactation cookies, or other galactagogues- think through your reasons for doing so.  If you have concerns about your milk supply, the first thing you should do is get in touch with a certified lactation counselor (CLC) or board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC).  Also remember that galactagogues will be most beneficial when combined with the most effective way to build your supply- frequent breastfeeding and milk removal.  For more info about galactagogues check out this great post on

Now for the recipe:


3 cups oats

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

5 Tbs brewer's yeast

3 Tbs ground flax

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 1/2 cups organic coconut sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

2 tsps vanilla

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips


Mix oats, flours, yeast, flax, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl beat butter and sugar, add eggs, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients gradually, and stir in chocolate chips.  Use an ice cream scoop to portion cookies onto a greased baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes.


I used some white whole wheat flour to boost the nutritional value, but you can use whatever flour you prefer.  I've also made the cookies with white sugar, and they turned out great, but the coconut sugar boasts a low glycemic index, 16 vital amino acids, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc... and my cookies came out arguably more delicious than they did with the white stuff!  Feel free to play around with the mix-ins, but I wouldn't sub out the oats, brewers yeast or flax, as those are the galactagogues in this recipe.  I bake mine for the full 14 minutes, but your oven may vary.

Another good galactagogue option is an herbal supplement made by Motherlove, More Milk Special Blend Herbal Supplement, but again- if you have questions or concerns about your milk supply, and you haven't already- please reach out to a lactation professional right away to address your particular situation.

Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you.  Looking for doula support or lactation counseling in the Madison area?  Contact me here.



This Just In: Nitrous Oxide Now Offered for Labor Pain Management at St. Mary's in Madison

As previously written in the blog I wrote about labor coping strategies, the most common pain management options during labor in this country include IV opioid or epidural medication.  Recently however, an additional option became available at St. Mary's here in Madison-  nitrous oxide.  Read on to learn more about the history of the use of "laughing gas" in labor, how it works, the benefits, the risks, and what the experts are saying.

Read More

Learn from a Local Expert About Prenatal Yoga: Aja Lefebvre, Certified Prenatal Yoga Instructor at The Studio

Prenatal Yoga in Madison, WI

I've been a lover of yoga for some time, practicing on and off for about the last 10 years.  So, as both a doula and expectant mother, I had been looking more into prenatal yoga offerings in Madison, and I was so happy when Aja Lefebvre, instructor at The Studio, agreed to participate in a Q&A for this blog!  Read on for lots of great info from Aja about yoga during pregnancy.


Would you mind telling me a little bit about your background- what led you to study yoga, and then specialize in prenatal yoga?

Yoga was an instant love for me. I have always played sports and love being active so it felt familiar and at the same time, entirely new. I practiced for about 4 years before signing up for a Yoga Teacher Training but knew early on that it was ‘the plan’. I received my 200 hour, Yoga Alliance certification through Sivananda Ashram in Val Morin, Canada in 2012 and have been teaching at The Studio in Madison, WI ever since.

In 2014, my husband and I welcomed our daughter, Liv into the world. It wasn’t until I had moved through the whole experience of pregnancy, childbirth and becoming a mom that I was inspired to dive deeper into pre and postnatal yoga. When asked while pregnant if I wanted to teach prenatal I said, ‘NO!’ (which is actually quite funny to me now). It wasn’t until I reflected on it all, that I realized what a huge impact my yoga practice had on being comfortable and healthy in pregnancy, confident and prepared to physically and mentally manage my daughter’s birth - a natural home birth - as well as all of the ups and downs of becoming a new mom.

My relationship with my midwife inspired me to want to cultivate more resources for women moving through this season of life. It’s been great fun thus far hearing the voices of these women sharing in the experiences, joy and even the not so glamorous things about pregnancy, birth, postpartum and motherhood.

How can yoga be helpful during the childbearing year?

So many ways! Getting to know one’s body during such an intimate experience such as pregnancy leads to right action on so many levels. When you are really able to tune in and learn to find movement that is comforting to you in the moment, that’s going to serve you so well when delivering.

Yoga gifts one with peace of mind, clarity, increased energy and mood, helps to alleviate stress and let go of worry, builds confidence and comfort in the body, helps you sleep more soundly, aids in faster and easier recovery postpartum and is also said to shorten labor and birth itself. It’s physical, mental, emotional balance. It gifts you with presence that allows you to be in the moment with your children, spouse, family, friends, etc. I could go on and on.

What main modifications are important when practicing yoga while pregnant?

The biggest piece of advice I give my prenatal mamas is to slow down and tune in.

The slowing down part can be quite hard. We are a go-go-go society and there is often a feeling of wanting to do everything we did before becoming pregnant. That said, there isn’t a better time in life than pregnancy to gift oneself with a little slowing down, steadiness and self-care.

Tuning in is so very important to stay safe in practice but it will also serve you well in all of the stages of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Things change day-by-day and what feels wonderful one day might feel like hell the next. It’s also totally personal. What feels amazing to one person at a certain point in their pregnancy might feel terrible for another women who is at the same point. It’s very important to ease into a pose or movement, adjust as necessary, don’t be afraid to add in props for more comfortability and always back off or switch up the position if something doesn’t feel good.

Do you have a favorite yoga pose that you think is particularly helpful in preparing for birth?

Cat/cow. That and anything hip related.

Cat/cow fluctuations of the spine, as well as being on all fours, help get your babe into the optimal birthing position. It also releases tension in the back body, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck while cultivating a feeling of spaciousness in the front side body - an area that typically feels quite crammed with the movement and compression of organs into the ribcage. This can create a little more space for the organs, deeper/easier breaths and even more space for baby.

The hips take a major toll throughout this whole process so giving them lots of love will not only help in the actual delivery but will also help women feel more comfortable with the common hip aches and pains of pregnancy. The goal is strong but open hips. Poses like Warrior II for strength and seated double pigeon to release tension are great additions to any prenatal mamas routine.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Oh goodness, that’s a tough one! I would love to hear how my students would answer this question!

I love the quote “Empowered women empower women” and I think that’s what I strive to give my students. I was lucky enough to have an amazing resource and source of support via my midwife and that is what I want to provide for my students. Empowerment through movement and getting to know ones magnificent body. Empowerment through learning and advocating for ones desires and wishes for their pregnancy and birth. Empowerment through building a community of women to lean on through all of the ups and downs of pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

Thanks so very much to Aja for all the great info!  I was fortunate enough to take one of her classes recently, and it was absolutely wonderful.  Not only is The Studio a beautiful environment in which to practice, but Aja cultivates such a welcoming and comforting atmosphere for the students in her class.  I loved how the class began with a discussion, allowing students to connect with one another, and how the yoga sequence was just the right pace for mothers-to-be.  Aja has such a calming presence, and I would describe her teaching style as very down to earth.  You can check out the prenatal classes at The Studio at the link here, and the NEW Postnatal yoga series here.  Your body and baby will thank you.  :-) 


Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you.  Serving clients in Madison, WI and the surrounding areas.

Learn from a Local Expert About Maternity and Newborn Photography: Nicole Krueger of Vintage Pear Photography

Learn from a Local Expert About Maternity and Newborn Photography:  Nicole Krueger of Vintage Pear Photography

I'm thrilled to be able to feature Nicole Krueger, my friend and amazing maternity, newborn, baby, child, family and senior natural light photographer on my blog today!  Her work speaks for itself, but I know I had some questions around the ins and outs of her maternity and newborn shoots in particular.  I figured my doula clients and other readers would love to learn more about what she does as well!  Read on for an informative Q&A with Nicole of Vintage Pear Photography.

Read More

Birth Preferences- If You Don't Know Your Choices, You Don't Have Any (Part 4): Labor Coping Strategies


In our culture, many of us grew up watching tv and movies that depict labor coping as limited to a woman panting and screaming for drugs.  The truth is, it doesn't have to be this way.  If you do opt for pain meds, as many do, you still have choices that you can learn about and prepare for ahead of time.  There are also non-pharmaceutical alternatives that can be very effective.  Read on for additional information on narcotic options and the lesser-known natural coping techniques you may want to include in your birth plan.

The Drugs:  Injectable Opiates vs. Epidural

Injectable Opiate Pain Meds

A lot of women don't know that IV or injectable opiate medication is often offered up first to "take the edge off".  There are different opiate options available, and different risks and benefits associated with each.  You can read more about them in this post from the the American Pregnancy Association.


The most common, and most effective pain medication option is the epidural, which is used to numb labor pain.  This Cochrane Review concluded that:

"Epidural analgesia appears to be effective in reducing pain during labor. However, women who use this form of pain relief are at increased risk of having an instrumental delivery. Epidural analgesia had no statistically significant impact on the risk of cesarean delivery, maternal satisfaction with pain relief, or long-term backache, and did not appear to have an immediate effect on neonatal status as determined by Apgar scores. Further research may be helpful to evaluate rare but potentially severe adverse effects of epidural analgesia on women in labor and long-term neonatal outcomes."

There are two types of epidurals, as well as risks and benefits you will want to be aware of.  You can read more about these, as well as questions you may want to ask your provider about epidurals in this post from the American Pregnancy Association.

Doula Note on Pain Meds:

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with narcotic pain relief options, even if you don't plan to use pain medication.  Your plan may change, and if that does happen, it won't be the optimal time to learn the benefits and risks associated with your options.  The more you know about your options, the more choice you have and the more empowered you will feel regardless of how your birth unfolds.  Every birth is different, and there is no "right" way to birth or "right" decisions to make across the board.  Only you truly know what is best for you and your baby.

Medication-Free Coping Strategies

There are many reasons women may choose to plan a non-medicated birth.  Some are fearful of medication or needles, some wish to avoid loss of mobility (read on for advantages of mobility) or being confined to a bed, and some want to avoid the associated risks.  If you do hope to achieve a medication free birth, know that it is completely do-able, and that there are several techniques known to make a medication free birth easier and more comfortable.  Most women seeking such a birth will employ a combination or progression of several of the below strategies:

Calm, Positive Environment

Never underestimate the power of your birth environment.  After all, it is known that "creating an environment that helps women to feel safe and secure during birth- a private, undisturbed and dark environment, where women feel calm and safe- can promote the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions and thought to promote the release of the pain relieving hormone endorphins (Uvnas Moberg 2003). When this is not achieved, women can experience fear-tension-pain syndrome, impeding labour progress and causing increased levels of pain (Dick-Read 2013)."

Doula Note on Environment:

An ideal environment for birth often includes a supportive and skilled support team (e.g. partner and doula), soft lighting (e.g. white Christmas lights and flameless candles), and sometimes pleasant scents or essential oils (e.g. lavender, peppermint)


Deep or diaphragmatic breathing can help you to get into and stay in the "rest and relax" state, as opposed to "fight or flight".  Focusing on "breathing to your baby", counting during your breaths, or adding words or mantras can help you remain calm and focused during contractions.  This will help to keep you more comfortable, and your labor more productive.  Check out this great video guide to breathing for labor, by Deb Flashenberg, founder of the Prenatal Yoga Center.


Women who give birth without medication will often instinctively use movement as a coping strategy through their contractions.  Research has reinforced the benefit of maintaining the freedom of movement during labor.  This randomized prospective study comparing an ambulent group to a recumbent group concluded that movement is a central characteristic of normal labor and that women, when given the choice, will change position an average of 7-8 times in the course of labor.  The findings also showed that:

"The duration of labour was significantly shorter, the need for analgesia significantly less, and the incidence of fetal heart abnormalities significantly smaller in the ambulant group than in the recumbent group. Apgar scores at one and five minutes were also significantly greater in the ambulant group. More patients in the recumbent group required augmentations with oxytocic drugs."

This Cochrane Review of 19 trials confirmed that second stage was shorter in the upright group, there were fewer assisted births, less pain, fewer abnormal heart tones, and fewer episiotomies.

Doula Note on Movement:

Women often find rhythm to be helpful in their movements, such as swaying while standing or circling their hips on a birth ball.  In addition, certain position changes can be helpful in getting the baby into an ideal position for birth.  Check out Spinning Babies for more on ideal positioning for birth.


Also known as hydrotherapy, water immersion during labor has been demonstrated to be effective and safe as a means to decreasing discomfort in labor.  It makes sense that warm water would be relaxing and comforting, and research backs this up.  For example, here is one study that found that pain and anxiety scores were significantly decreased in the hydrotherapy group as compared to the control group.

In addition, this Cochrane Review published in 2009, which included 12 trials with over 3000 women states,

"...the statistically significant reduction in rate of epidural/spinal/paracervical analgesia indicates that water immersion during the first stage of labour reduces the need for this invasive, pharmacological pain mode of analgesia, which disturbs the physiology of labour and is associated with iatrogenic interventions. We found no evidence that this was associated with poorer outcomes for neonates, longer labours or more complex births."

Doula Note on Hydrotherapy:

Another hydrotherapy option that appeals to some women would be to sit or stand in the shower, or to use a sprayer attachment in the tub to gently spray the belly during contractions.  Some warn getting into the tub too soon during labor will slow or stall contractions, but there is insufficient evidence to substantiate this claim.  My advice is to follow your intuition on if and when to use water.  If labor seems to slow for you, you can always change it up.


The use of touch as a coping strategy may not be surprising, as most people find massage comforting and relaxing.  Turns out research does support that massage is effective in making labor more comfortable.  Here is one study that showed:

"massaged mothers reported a decrease in depressed mood, anxiety and pain, and showed less agitated activity and anxiety and more positive affect following the first massage during labor."

In addition, this study showed the effectiveness of acupressure, a technique used in traditional Chinese medicine where acupuncture points are stimulated by the hands, fingers, thumbs or small beads.  Specifically, the study looked at the LI 4 point, found between the thumb and first finger, which reduces inflammation and pain in all parts of the body.  

Heat and Cold

Use of heat and cold during labor is a safe, inexpensive, long used technique that too has been backed by research.  Cool or iced washcloths can invigorate a tired, overheated woman in labor, and ice packs can help ease back pain.  Hot packs are also very effective in soothing pain from back labor.  Some women prefer one over the other, some prefer alternating heat and cold.


Mind over matter, the mind-body connection, and the power of positive thinking are not foreign concepts to most, but often people are skeptical that hypnosis could be an effective technique in making childbirth more comfortable.  While the research support on this is admittedly scarce, it was found in this study  of 60 women that the "hypnotically prepared births had shorter Stage 1 labors, less medication, higher Apgar scores, and more frequent spontaneous deliveries" than the control group.  It is also difficult to dismiss the many anecdotal reports of its effectiveness, including actual film of mothers birthing under hypnosis, such as this one, and this one.

Doula Note on Hypnosis:

There are easy home study self-hypnosis programs available, such as this one, that I used during my labor.  This program is considered "eyes open" hypnosis, meaning you will still be aware of your surroundings and be able to move around freely while in hypnosis.  The key to success with the program is to allow enough time to thoroughly go through the modules and to follow through on listening to the tracks consistently.  It's recommended that you begin by the time you are about 7 months along.


There are a multitude of choices and options during childbirth, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  Hiring a doula can help you navigate your choices, as well as implement the coping strategies that will work best for you.

If you are looking for a doula in the Madison area, check out the About page, reach out here, or call or text 608-692-9447 to set up a free consultation.

Learn from a Local Expert About Feeling Good About Your Body and Personal Style During the Childbearing Year: Krystle Marks, Owner and Stylist at Love, Krystle


It can be so difficult to know what to wear in order to feel your best when your body is changing during pregnancy, as well as during the tricky postpartum period when you aren't quite ready for your pre-pregnancy clothes.  I was so thrilled when local personal stylist Krystle Marks, owner of Love, Krystle agreed to do a Q&A for my blog, because I know her pro styling tips for the childbearing year will be so helpful to all the expectant and new moms out there.  Read on for some real nuggets of fashion wisdom!

1)  Could you tell me a little about your background, and why you became a personal stylist?

My first love was working as a professional makeup artist. I enjoyed enhancing the natural beauty every woman possesses. My absolute favorite part of doing makeup was seeing a big smile stretch across a clients face, knowing she saw her own unique beauty like I did. I have always had a love for fashion and styling myself. From a very young age I was very interested in clothes and how they work together to create a look. A little over 5 years ago, I had a friend ask me to help her with her own closet. I took this request very seriously and dove into learning about different body shapes and how to dress them. The day before we were going to meet, she called me and said, "By the way, I am paying you to help me with this and I have 3 friends that would like to come over and watch the process". I am not going to lie, the thought of this was terrifying, but I was excited for the challenge.

Driving home that night after the consultation, I knew, this is what I was meant to do. It gave me the same satisfaction that makeup did, but I LOVED that we were able to focus on the entire body. My business steadily grew from services to also being able to share the love your body message through public speaking platforms.

2)  I love your passion to help women embrace and love their bodies.  How can the right wardrobe help a pregnant or new mom feel better about her changing body?

Embracing every moment of our lives is a precious gift, including pregnancy and after baby bodies. Our bodies tell a story of self sacrifice, growth, life and an overwhelming amount of love. I always tell my clients that loving your body will take it much further than hating it will. Choosing clothing that makes you feel good is just as important as nourishing our body with good food and keeping it healthy with movement. There are certain cuts and fabrics that will make you feel great every single time. I know for a lot of moms it is hard to justify spending money on pregnancy and postpartum clothing, but I promise having very few items that fit you well and make you feel beautiful is worth a million drops in the the self love bucket.

3)  Do you have tips or suggestions for shopping for maternity clothing?  Any staples you suggest?

My best tips for dressing during pregnancy are going to be 1) Show off the bump. I want to see your shape and that beautiful belly. Look for pieces that are more tailored. 2) I want to see your waist. I know it sounds crazy since pregnancy completely removes your waist, but whenever possible, I want to see it or an illusion of it. This is where jackets that give you a natural waist are great such as military jackets, blazers, denim jackets (avoid boxy cuts). You can also utilize cardigans in the same way. You can wear the same jackets you wore before pregnancy unzipped or unbuttoned. 3. Dresses will be the most flattering and probably the most comfortable items to wear. I would prefer something that gives you a shape with a length that comes to the knee or slightly above. In cooler months you can add fleece lined leggings, boots, and jackets. Investment pieces for a well rounded maternity wardrobe would be: maternity leggings, at least one pair of good quality denim (designer), 1-3 patterned or stripe tops/blouses, 2-3 jackets, and 1-3 dresses.

4)  What about transitioning into a postpartum wardrobe?  Do you have any suggestions for must have clothing options for times when a mom needs to get out of her nursing tank and yoga pants?

Yes! The items that were working for you in the beginning stages of pregnancy when your hips were changing and your tummy was starting to show are great for postpartum picks. Don't skimp on this stage because you will use your clothes twice! Look for fabrics that won't cling to your body or cut you off. Fabrics like chiffon tops and blouses are great as well as jackets that give your body structure.  Wrap style tops and dresses that have a shirred detail across the tummy are extremely flattering and classic. If you are looking to camouflage your bottom half, look for dark solid color ankle pants or skinny jeans.

5)  I love that you're participating in Dressember this month, in support of the International Justice Mission and A-21 to end human trafficking.  Are dresses a good maternity option?

A thousand times YES! The most flattering item for every woman is going to be a dress that let's your shape shine. During pregnancy, dresses will make you feel feminine, put together, and most importantly, comfortable. I have so enjoyed the challenge this month of wearing a dress everyday and realize it is possible even in the month of December! If you want to learn more about Dressember, you can do so through  We can be a part of ending modern day slavery. Find out how you can help through through a donation of any amount. Our team's goal of raising $7,000 (which is enough to fully fund one rescue!) I would love for you to link arms with us & be a part of setting others free!
Thank you so much for reading! Enjoy this beautiful stage of life and it is my hope that you feel great about your changing body and give it all the love and appreciation it deserves!
Thanks so much to Krystle Marks for her great tips and advice!  You can find more awesome styling tricks for all stages of life on her Facebook page, her Instagram, and more info about the fabulous services she offers including wardrobe consultations, personal shopping and in-home styling parties on her website

Learn from a Local Expert about Nursery Design: Mindi Kessenich, Owner of Amazing Space by MK


I'm so excited to share this Q&A with my good friend, who also happens to be a very talented home stylist, mom and real estate professional.  I know I felt challenged with how to go about decorating my daughter's nursery, and figured my clients and other readers would love to get a pro's thoughts on where to start.  Read on for Mindi's expert tips and tricks for decorating a baby room.

1)  Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!  I thought it might be helpful for people to learn- where do you usually begin when conceptualizing a design for a room you are styling?

Thanks so much for asking! Nurseries are so much fun to design. I like to get a lot of input from the parents-to-be. Gender is obviously a big deal! The thing about nurseries is there are SO many options for color scheme. We are past the days of Winnie The Pooh and movie themed decor, but some people still prefer a softer, more pastel feel for their babies resting place. There are some really great modern day decor to help make those preferences feel more up to date. Nurseries are probably the only room in the house where ALL shades are still considered, which is why I like to have a pretty specific idea of how the parents want the room to feel. I usually start the same way most people probably do...with Pinterest! I create a board to get inspired by and then I run with it. Color scheme is number one though, and a good rule of thumb is to pick around 3 colors, and no more than 5. I also like to have some sort of loose theme. I am personally not a matchy matchy person, but everything should still work well together. 

2)  As you know, design is not really my thing, and my husband makes fun of my love of neutrals.  Do you have tips for those who love a clean palate, but also want some "pop" or "interest"?

Well I love design and I also LOVE neutrals!! There is nothing wrong with that! In fact, that's a great way to start a gender neutral nursery! The last gender neutral room I did, we picked a few colors that would go great with a masculine color, like navy blue, AND a feminine color like coral or pink. That way, we can bring in pillows, blankets, and other easy to add elements to incorporate those pops of color.

3)  What about those who don't care for the traditional pink or blue, but want the room to have a feminine or masculine vibe?

Yes! A lot of people these days are doing very non-traditional nurseries with bold colors that a little ones can really grow into as they age. There are still great themes you can stem from that will undoubtably be gender specific but not too immature. There is something for everyone in the world around us. Consider plants, flowers, mountains, animals, feathers, leaves- even world maps look awesome in kids rooms. They grow quickly so it makes sense!

4) What do you think are the key pieces every baby room needs?

Great question. Baskets are a necessity in my opinion. You can use baskets for diapers, toiletries, laundry, books, toys, anything really! I also recommend layering. I think this is something that's easy to overlook. For example, drape a blanket over your chair and throw a pillow on top. Any decor you have on a table or dresser, put a book underneath. These are little details that can add so much dimension to a space!

5)  As a mom and also expert decor shopper- what are a couple items or brands you think are worth an investment, and for what items do you think moms could bargain shop?

You know, the only things I would say are worth a possible spurge is a large, well crafted, sturdy, dresser that is NOT kid or baby specific, and a nice bookshelf if there is space for it.  I wouldn't even bother with a set because the crib will be gone within the first couple of years and a dresser can last through adulthood if it is high quality! A bookshelf is another piece that can be used for years to come. It can house much more than just books. Toys, clothes, decor, art supplies. You'll need something like that in a kids bedroom for life! The rest of the stuff in the nursery will come and go. 

Thanks so much to Mindi for these great ideas!  Find more awesome ideas and inspiration on her Facebook and Pinterest pages, and check out her decorating business, Amazing Space by MK, here.  She can also help with real estate or remodeling needs as a licensed realtor and Home Revival Specialist with Property Revival Realty.

Prenatal Exercise Do's & Don'ts


Exercise may not be high on the list of things you feel like doing while battling morning sickness, fatigue, or other pregnancy related discomforts, but it may be worth it for both you and your baby.

After all, exercise may be the very thing you need in order to feel less nauseous, more energized, or more comfortable.  It may also help you to get better rest, have an easier labor, and recover more quickly postpartum.

In addition, exercise could have a significant impact on your mental health, which is known to affect fetal neurobehavioral development, and consequently, child outcomes.  Studies even suggest that maternal exercise may be associated with higher IQ in babies!

So what special considerations are there when exercising for two?  Here are some general do's and don'ts to keep in mind, but as always, consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise plan during pregnancy.


  • Continue current activities, but know you may need to decrease intensity or make modifications
  • Drink and fuel properly before and after exercise
  • Keep cool during workouts
  • Listen to your body
  • Remember that you are carrying 20-40lbs of extra weight, including your beautiful baby!  Give yourself grace and remember that you are already doing a very big and important job


  • Start any new high intensity workouts
  • Use heavy weights
  • Lie on your back after the first trimester, which can restrict blood flow
  • Do closed twists or back-bending yoga poses, and avoid over-stretching which can be easier to do with increased relaxin levels during pregnancy
  • Put pressure on yourself to be active if you aren't feeling it on a given day.  You know best what your body and baby needs, and sometimes rest is most important


Looking for doula or breastfeeding support in the Madison area?  Check out the About page, and reach out here, or call or text 608-692-9447 to set up a free consultation.

Happy Pills? Could Placenta Encapsulation be Right for You?


After posting the video de-mystifying placenta encapsulation on my Facebook page last week, I ended up getting a lot of questions from people wanting to know more of the ins-and-outs of this practice.  Here are the facts and some additional information you may find useful in deciding if encapsulation is for you:

  1. While consuming one's placenta during the postpartum period is still relatively rare, the practice is becoming a lot more popular in mainstream culture.
  2. This is because women are hearing others rave about how it improved their postpartum experience and recovery.  (e.g. January Jones credited consuming her placenta as helping her get back on set of Mad Men within 6 weeks).  76% of the women in this survey of 189 women reported "very positive" experiences after consuming their placentas, and the top three positive effects reported were improved mood, increased energy, and improved lactation.
  3. Most women who choose to encapsulate their placentas are doing so as an easier, more palatable way to reap these reported benefits (vs. raw or other preparations).
  4. There is currently no solid scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of consuming one's placenta in order to achieve a more positive postpartum experience.  This may soon change however, as ongoing research is being planned at UNLV that will include a double-blind, placebo controlled pilot study comparing placenta capsules to placebo, and their effects on postpartum experiences.
  5. As with many decisions in pregnancy, birth and parenting, only you truly know what is right for you and your family, and sometimes it takes trying something for yourself before you know if it will work for you.

About the Encapsulation Process

  1. The mother lines up an encapsulation specialist prior to her delivery.
  2. She notifies her care provider that she would like to keep her placenta.
  3. After the birth of her baby, the placenta will need to be placed in a container and then on ice or in a refrigerator until her encapsulation specialist can come pick it up.  Often hospital nurses will be happy to provide a pail in which to keep the placenta, and a bag of ice in which to place the pail.
  4. The encapsulation specialist will take the placenta to their workspace to prepare it.  There are several methods, but I use the Traditional Chinese Medicine Method, during which the placenta is steamed with lemon and ginger, then dehydrated, and ground into a fine powder.  The powder is then placed into 100% preservative free, 100% vegetable cellulose vegan capsules for consumption.
  5. The glass jar of usually somewhere between 75-100 capsules are then delivered back to the mother within a couple of days.  As you can see in the above picture, the pills look a lot like herbal supplements, similar to echinacea capsules.

There really is nothing "gross" about it.  Strange to some, of course- all things are strange until we know more about them.  Whether placenta capsules are truly effective or simply set off a placebo effect that helps women feel better during their postpartum period, I don't know for sure.  But with all the stories I've heard from mothers, combined with the things I've read about the analgesic effects in animal models, and the natural hormones in the placenta being shown to withstand the dehydration process-I think it stands to reason that there really might be something to these so called "happy pills."

Are you looking for placenta encapsulation, doula or breastfeeding support in the Madison area?  Check out the About page, and reach out here, or call or text 608-692-9447 to set up a free consultation.

Birth Preferences- If You Don't Know Your Choices, You Don't Have Any (Part 3): Birthing Environment and Choosing a Care Provider


Two of the most important decisions are often made early in a woman's pregnancy journey:  where she will give birth, and who will care for her.  In the Madison area, there are basically three choices for places to birth your baby: SSM Health St. Mary's, UnityPoint Health Meriter, or at home.  Sometimes insurance coverage plays a part, and often location and choice of provider go hand in hand.  The good news is, in my opinion, all three locations are great options, and there are lots of fantastic providers to choose from.  Here are some differences you may find helpful as you consider your choices, as well as a few tips to keep in mind.

St. Mary's:

  • Extra large, private, spa-like birth suites
  • Tubs for laboring in every room, including one room with a large birthing tub (though water births not currently allowed)
  • Family suites include double sized, memory foam beds that can also accommodate your partner, as well as walk-in showers with a massaging shower head and bench
  • Room service is available for meal orders at any time between 6:30 am and 7 pm.  The patient can order as much of whatever appeals during this time, and a special celebration dinner for the patient and her partner is included in the stay


  • Roomy, private birth suites
  • Tubs in every room, including two rooms with large birthing tubs
  • Water birth
  • Nurse-midwives
  • Baby-Friendly Designation, which is awarded by UNICEF and WHO to facilities that provide a high level of care to breastfeeding moms and their babies
  • Meal delivery three times a day.  After the first meal, you can"personalize" your meals to accommodate your preferences


Birth location is truly a personal choice.  I think it comes down to what your goals are and where you will feel safest and most comfortable while birthing your baby.  Some women feel safer knowing high risk OB care and excellent NICU staff are immediately available, should they become necessary.  Others feel safer in their home environment, where the risk of unnecessary intervention is lowest, and hospital transfer is available for emergencies.  A case can be made for either, and wonderful birth experiences can happen regardless of location.  Perhaps a bigger piece of the puzzle in determining overall birth experience is your chosen care provider.

Considerations When Choosing a Care Provider

Type of Provider:

Many women in the US don't know that they have options in terms of the type of provider they will have for maternity care and the delivery of their baby.  Here are the main four options:

OB/GYN- An obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN) has earned a bachelor's degree, finished medical school and completed a residency program before they obtained their medical license. OB/GYNs tend to women's health concerns, such as pregnancy and reproductive issues.  Most OB/GYNs are generalists and see a variety of medical conditions in the office, perform surgery, and manage labor and delivery.

Family Medicine Provider-  Family care practitioners are primary care doctors, usually with three years of training beyond medical school.  They care for a wide variety of conditions, but some choose to emphasize obstetrics and undergo additional training in this area.

Certified Nurse Midwife- Nurse-midwives are educated and licensed as nurses first, and then complete additional education in midwifery.  CNMs are licensed to practice in all 50 states. They are usually licensed in individual states as Nurse Practitioners (NPs).

Direct Entry Midwife (CPM or CM)-The legal status and requirements for direct-entry (non-nurse) midwives vary from state. They are usually licensed in individual states as Licensed Midwives (LMs) or Registered Midwives (RMs). The Midwives Alliance of North America tracks the laws and regulations in each state for direct-entry midwives.

Again, choosing which type of provider is right for you is really dependent upon your preference (unless you have a high risk pregnancy, in which case you may need a specialist).  Some women appreciate knowing that their OB is highly trained in surgery or interventions that may be needed somewhere down the line.  Some prefer to go with a family practice provider or midwife that is used to seeing healthy, low risk patients.  It's best not to generalize, as some OB/GYNs are very supportive of low-intervention birth, and some nurse-midwives are fairly medicalized in their approach.  Your provider's credentials may not be as important as their philosophy, when it comes to their style of care.


The key is to determine what your provider's philosophy on birth is, and whether that closely aligns with your own.  Just because your doctor tells you that you can have the "natural birth" or the VBAC you want as long as things go well, doesn't mean they are well accustomed to these types of births, or are fully in support of them.  When the time comes to determine which interventions are necessary, and how quickly they need to be administered, at the very least you'll want to trust that your doctor is in agreement with you on evidence based care if that is important to you.  You may also want to proactively discuss their feelings on the different models of care.

Model of Care:  Midwifery vs. Medical

As mentioned, there are doctors providing care based on the midwifery model, and midwives who practice more according to the medical model.  Take a look at the below comparison to see what resonates better with you.

Midwifery Model of Care

  • Birth is a social event, a normal part of a woman's life
  • Birth is the work of the woman and her family
  • The woman is a person experiencing a life-transforming event
  • See birth as a holistic process
  • Shared decision-making between caregivers and birthing woman

Medical Model of Care

  • Childbirth is a potentially pathological process
  • Birth is the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and other experts
  • The woman is a patient
  • Trained to focus on the medical aspects of birth
  • "Professional" care that is more authoritarian in nature

In addition to discussing philosophy and model of care, if you are looking for a specific type of birth (e.g. low-intervention or VBAC) don't be afraid to ask how many of these types of births they've attended lately.  Ask how many of these resulted in the intended outcome, and reasons for any that did not.  You'll be able to determine a lot simply by the way these questions are answered, and hopefully you'll end up feeling even more confident about who you've chosen to attend your birth.  Then, fingers crossed, they'll be there when the time comes!

Call Schedule:

One last critical piece to the puzzle of lining up a provider is taking into consideration how their call schedule works.  For this reason alone, a lot of women will choose a small practice where they are sure they will either get their provider the day they go into labor, or a back-up that they've met and also trust.  For others, they are comfortable knowing that the larger practice they've chosen is up to their standards, and find comfort in knowing that their chosen doula will be there for the entire process, even if staff changes shifts or their provider doesn't end up being the one to attend their birth.

Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you.  Looking for doula support, birth planning guidance or lactation counseling in the Madison area?  Contact me here.  For more info about or to sign up for the new upcoming Prenatal Yoga and Birth Prep Mini Classes, click here.