Shining a Light on Mental Illness

In January of this year, we were very fortunate to have Beth Collins join our team after leaving a long and wonderful career as a hospital lactation consultant. She brings a wealth of clinical knowledge and a fresh perspective to our work and is already responsible for several great improvements in the way we do things. But most of all, she brings compassion and empathy to every patient encounter she has. She has become an inspiration in the lactation community, not only because of her skill as a RN/IBCLC, but because of her grace and strength while facing challenges that no mother should have to face.

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Beth, and her husband Mark, are shining a light on mental illness through education and activism in their community and across the state of Rhode Island. They launched The Chris Collins Foundation in 2018 after their 20-year-old son Chris died by suicide after an almost 3-year battle with depression and anxiety. Chris was studying math and music at Amherst College in Massachusetts and was also a member of their baseball team. He loved learning and being outdoors. He was an avid musician who loved playing the guitar, piano, and ukulele as well as singing, writing and composing music. Chris was known most for his kindness, bright smile and deep love for family and friends. He was open about his mental health struggles, which began in his freshman year of college, and helped many of his friends with their own struggles. His ability to give so much of himself, even while struggling, inspired the creation of the foundation.

The Chris Collins Foundation raises awareness and advances education about mental illness, especially in schools, with a student-led Peer-to-Peer program. The program was created by the University of Michigan Depression Center in 2009 and is built on the premise that teens are more likely to listen to their friends than to well-meaning adults. The program works to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma of mental illness and increase the likelihood of early detection and help-seeking. A small group of students in each school are trained in September and then build an awareness campaign to spread their knowledge and understanding to others in the school. The peer-leaders serve as positive role models that help shape social norms and attitudes regarding mental illness in their schools and communities.

Many mental health problems, including depression, emerge during the middle and high school years. According to 2017 RI Youth Behavior Survey, 27 % of high school students reported sad feelings, 14 % considered suicide and 10.5 % attempted suicide. Additionally, 18% of middle school students seriously thought about attempting suicide, 11.6 % made a plan to attempt suicide and 6.5 % attempted suicide. The Peer-to-Peer program will have a positive effect on these troubling numbers. Data collected from participating schools show that students are:

• More confident in their ability to identify someone who is showing common signs of depression and to help them to access mental health support services

• More likely to seek help if they were experiencing symptoms of depression themselves

• Less likely to keep it a secret if a friend is thinking about suicide

• More comfortable discussing mental health issues with their peers

• Reported lower stigma in their school environment related to students with mental health challenges

The Foundation launched the P2P program in South Kingstown and Narragansett high schools this past school year. It has partnered with the University of Michigan Depression Center and the Rhode Island Student Assistant Services (RISAS) to bring the program to 8-10 more schools each year. Personnel from Brown University and the RI Department of Health are part of the program’s scientific advisory board.

Beth and Mark also sit on the Washington County Zero Suicide Leadership Board. The Zero Suicide Initiative, to be implemented over the next 5 years, is a collaboration of health care partners to address mental health needs in Washington County. South County Health, Yale New Haven Health/Westerly Hospital, Thundermist Health Center, Wood River Health Services, URI Health Services, WellOne Health Services, Block Island Health Services and Gateway Healthcare will establish systems to identify and assess suicide risk among all patients receiving care and provide referrals and follow up to ensure behavioral health patients receive the care they need.

Someone aged 25 or older dies of suicide every 3 days in RI. In addition, someone under the age of 25 dies every 20 days in RI. The Zero Suicide initiative is evidence based, has been used around the country and in 13 nations, and has been demonstrated to decrease the rates of suicide by significant amounts. The ultimate goal is zero suicides. Other hopes are that as routine depression screening becomes part of health care, medical staff and patients will become more confident and comfortable talking about mental health while eliminating the stigma surrounding the disease.

Beth is bringing her knowledge and experience with mental health issues to HBHM and is an excellent resource for our moms and new families. She has plans to update our mental health screening survey that is part of our patient medical history questionnaire, and to educate staff about perinatal mental health awareness. She will be starting a support group in the future for moms who are suffering from perinatal mental health adjustments and illnesses. We have been truly blessed to have her as a resource and advocate for our mothers. We are looking forward to implementing her ideas and supporting her and Mark in their very important mission. Anyone needing more information about this impactful work can email her at beth@healthybabieshappymoms.com.

Paced Bottle Feeding

I recently met with a family in my office that was practicing “paced bottle feeding” with their 5 month old daughter.  Mom had returned to work and had been exclusively breastfeeding until then, with bottles given only occasionally. Now however, bottle feeding was becoming difficult. The baby was mostly unhappy with the feeding taking an hour. I am embarrassed to say it took me a good hour to figure out what the problem was with bottle feeding, as Mom and baby nursed happily throughout our consult.  So often the answer is in the questions I ask, and if I don’t ask the right ones, I don’t get the answer. I am always learning!

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I finally found out that to this family, paced bottle feeding meant letting the baby have a few sucks, and then pulling the bottle out of her mouth.  At that point the baby would get hysterical, as they made her wait a minute or two, and then offered the bottle again with that process repeated over and over.  In addition, this 5 month old was drinking from a bottle with a newborn nipple, even though she could have handled a bigger flow at her age. It would take the baby an hour to finish the bottle and be satisfied.  It was not a pleasant experience for anyone.

When I asked why they were doing this, when it was clearly distressing for everyone involved, it was because they didn’t want to do anything to disrupt the breastfeeding relationship, which of course I wholeheartedly agree with. However, what they were doing was developmentally appropriate for a newborn, not a 5 month old!  This poor baby was terribly frustrated. She was hungry, given a taste of milk, and then had the feeding stopped abruptly, albeit temporarily. In addition, the strength of her suck on a newborn nipple would collapse it, making it difficult for any milk to come out at all.

I encouraged Mom to get wide based nipples that are appropriate for a 5 month old, have her held upright when bottle feeding, and stop her for a burp after an ounce or two.  This is what paced bottle feeding means to me with an older baby, but there's not much on the internet about it. Most everything online is geared toward a feeding a newborn.  Once the family made these changes, bottle feeding took about 20 minutes, there was no crying and the baby was satisfied. In addition, she nursed eagerly and happily whenever with her Mom.

A great resource for families who want to use paced bottle feeding is this article on KellyMom, one of my favorite evidenced based breastfeeding websites. She references a video that I also like, although I wish a wide based nipple was used, which is the recommendation for breastfed babies.   It think it very helpful to see someone else do it, especially for people who have never fed a baby a bottle before.

This situation illustrates a couple of common issues I run into daily. I know I have written about it before, but it is worth repeating.  The first is that if what you are doing is not working, regardless of who told you to do it, even if it was me, stop doing it! Try something else. Trust your instincts. Get help from someone whose opinion you respect. The second is to change what you are doing so that it is developmentally appropriate for your baby. Often I meet with families at 6 weeks who are still doing as they were instructed in the hospital, in spite of the fact that everyone in their house is unhappy.  And lastly, remember that advice online is very general and may not be appropriate for your particular situation. If things are really not going well, please see someone who can help you sort it. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes on the situation makes all the difference!

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The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of a great book that I think all new mothers should read.  I had commented to my youngest sister that I would give anything to go back to the days of teaching a preschool boy to drown Cheerios in the toilet. She was lamenting a stubborn three year old completely uninterested in potty training. I was dealing with an obstinate, ungrateful 18 year old man/child. Two days later she brought over a book that she declared a must read for me, given where I am in my life right now. After sailing through it, I want to suggest that it is a must read for all mothers. Whether we are at home raising tiny little people, or getting ready to launch young adults off to college, the message is relevant.

“The Gift of an Ordinary Day” ~ A Mother’s Memoir by Katrina Kenison, starts with a family’s move from suburban Boston to rural New Hampshire. The author’s mid life crisis was the impetus for the move. Her desire to live in a slower-paced environment and have her family more grounded, starts the family on a house building adventure that doesn’t end until the oldest is off to college. Her family consists of her husband and two sons, one of whom is getting ready to start high school, the other just on the cusp of puberty. During this transition, she reflects on all the moments long passed that caused her so much anxiety, as she worried about whether her boys would turn out alright. She notices her parents’ calm demeanor and relaxed attitude toward her sons and their increasingly independent behavior. She remembers all the moments with her boys when they were little that were priceless and mostly unappreciated at the time. Mostly, she tries to live in the present, and be truly aware of those ordinary moments with her family, cognizant of the fact that in 4 short years, these moments will be increasingly few and far between.

For me, the struggle that she writes of – the fine mingling of letting go and holding on – hits very close to home. I cannot make it through a single chapter without shedding a tear, all while trying to hide it from my husband. Each chapter offers up multiple quotes that resonate so strongly with my life, I feel like I could have written this book, although not nearly as eloquently. The description of the entire college application process, the pressure this age group is under and the reality that no kid can just be ordinary anymore, is something I am living daily. The uncertainty of how this will all end, and the desire to slow down the whole process, so I can have this delightful boy with me just a little longer, is ever present.

I also found it reassuring that another mother, and famous author at that, feels the way I do about so many things. The anxiety she experiences is something that I struggled with since I became a mother, but it did dissipate with time. My confidence in my ability to parent these boys to adulthood and in their ability to make good choices grew tremendously. Now, I am overwhelmed at times by all the struggles people in my age group are dealing with: divorce, illness, financial crisis, wayward teenagers and aging parents. My best friend’s mother always says “Little people, little problems; big people, big problems.” And she is so right! But this is the stage of life that I am in, and it will pass. And in so many ways, it is easier. I have time to myself. I get a good night’s sleep. I can go for a run when I want to. I can talk and reason with my kids. My husband and I can sneak out for a drink if we want to! I am lucky to have a job that I am as passionate about as I was about staying home and raising my boys. Really, even when it’s hard, it’s good. And this book reminded me of that on every page!

So, I am going to re-read this book while on an upcoming vacation. I am going to cherish every moment with my sons, even the difficult ones. I am going to revel in the times the six of us are all together, no matter what we are doing. I will create opportunities for them to have good memories of this phase in their life. And I am going to try hard to let go with grace, and trust that they will all wind up where they are supposed to be, with faith that I have done the best I can with the most rewarding, but hardest job in the world.

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Breast Pump Hacks

I have recently been amazed by all the items, applications, shortcuts and “hacks” I have come across that have simplified my life and saved me money. I am currently learning tons about nutrition by viewing videos when and where I have the time to do it. Amazon Prime has saved me time and money on several occasions. Applications on my phone keep me up to date with my finances, help me track workouts, call an Uber, listen to a Podcast, and order a lunch pick up at the nearest Panera. All good things as far as I am concerned!

However, I am increasingly seeing hacks that Moms are using related to breastfeeding that are having detrimental effects on their milk supply. Often, I get involved too late and am unable to reverse the situation, much to the dismay of the women I care for. The first hack is demonstrated in the many YouTube videos showing Moms how to use their Medela breast pump parts with their new Spectra pump. Eager to have more than one set of pumps parts to use, Moms are reconfiguring their old parts to work with the pump of a different manufacturer. And it does “work.” You will get suction and probably some milk too. But it doesn’t work as it is intended to. Each pump manufacturer has created their pump and its parts with a considerable amount of biomedically engineered research and development. Manufacturers then go through a strict FDA approval process. When the pump is used as intended, the results are great.

However, when the pump isn’t used as intended, it often has very detrimental results for women intent on giving their babies breastmilk. Women using these parts incorrectly at a time when they are trying to establish their supply, or increase it, are often crushed when it just doesn’t happen in the way that they had hoped. And rather than questioning the pump or the set up they are using, they assume it is the fault of their body. Convinced something is wrong with them, they give up. But, they saved themselves $50 in new pump parts.

Another new hack are the Freemie Collection Cups that can be used to allow you to pump discreetly and hands free with any compatible pump. These cups connect to your pump and advertise the convenience afforded with hands free pumping. You can now leave Women and Infants Hospital with both your pump and this device. Because it was given to Moms at the hospital, many assume it means they should use it immediately. I am seeing women using this when they are unable to nurse and are trying to establish their supply. In this situation, Moms should be using a hospital grade rental pump, and when they don’t, the results are not good. When I teach them how to use their pump without the Freemies, Moms are amazed at the difference in the strength of suction and the increase in the amount of milk they obtain. Again, the manufacturers don’t engineer pumps to be used with an additional product and it decreases the effectiveness of the pump. And at the most critical time of establishing your milk supply, you are not giving your body the best option to get things going.

Lastly, I need to say a word (or several) about pumping with an individual patient pump that has been used by another woman. The pumps are all warrantied for a year and intended to be used by one woman. This is both for sanitary reasons, and the effectiveness of the pump. Eventually, these pumps will die and you will notice a decrease in suction, unless of course the suction was low when you started using it. I have had patients that have 3 pumps: one upstairs, one downstairs and one at the office. The one upstairs is new. Downstairs is the one her sister used for two kids, but is in “great shape.” The one at the office is her girlfriend’s, who is done with babies and doesn’t need it anymore. She gets different amounts of milk with each, and attributes that to a defect in her body’s ability to produce milk, rather than the age and past use of the pumps. Ultimately, her supply has been affected, which is why she is calling me.

One of the greatest things about the Affordable Care Act is the insurance coverage of a new breast pump for each mother with each pregnancy. If you will need to pump, please take advantage of that. Get a new pump for yourself. Use it as it was intended to be used. Insist that the Durable Medical Equipment Provider that gives it to you, shows you how to use it. If they can’t teach you how to use it, they shouldn’t be providing it for you. Be sceptical of the need to purchase any additional attachments to make pumping “better”. Order your pump before you have your baby and know how to use it before you need it. This way you are not making decisions or purchases at the last minute when engorged, hormonal or overwhelmed in the hospital. And if you have questions about what pump is best for you, ask them. Don’t let anyone tell you that you only have one option. It often means you are getting the pump that is most profitable for the provider, and not necessarily the best option for you.

But most importantly, know that you don’t have to pump. As great as the ACA is, this pump coverage has made women think that pumping is the most important part of breastfeeding, and somehow essential to success. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best way to get breastfeeding off to a great start is to nurse, and not to pump. In fact, early pumping can cause a host of problems and get you in a situation where you have to pump. Best case scenario, pumping can come in later, in preparation for your return to work, if necessary. Have confidence in yourself and trust your body.

Please advocate for yourself, and find someone that can help you with nursing, and pumping if necessary. As always, we are happy to assist you with this. I never leave a home visit without making sure my patient knows how to use her pump correctly. I always determine if what she is using is appropriate for her situation. And lastly, spend the money to get what you need-whether it is lactation support, or an appropriate pump. It will pay off in a excellent supply, a beautiful nursing experience, decreased (or no!) formula costs, and a healthy baby. Your family deserves it!

The 111 Benefits Of Breastfeeding – For Babies, Moms & Everyone Else

Learn more about the incredible benefits of breastfeeding your baby at Mom Loves Best

For the full article click here

In Defense of Demand Feeding

I have had several heartbroken Moms in the last month whose situations have prompted me to write this newsletter. Most have come to me for a lactation or sleep consult around 3 months, exclusively nursing, with a very unhappy baby who is not sleeping.   The baby’s great weight gain is starting to dip on the growth curve, and Mom is exhausting herself trying to make it all work. After asking all my pointed questions, I usually find out one of two things.  Either Mom is following a very strict EAT-PLAY-SLEEP schedule, and limiting feedings to every 3 or 4 hours during the day, or she is limiting the baby’s total intake to 32 ounces daily. 

The first scenario is a very popular child rearing theory popularized by the book BABY WISE.  This book advocates a schedule in which the baby is fed at certain intervals throughout the day, and not sooner, regardless of feeding cues.  In addition, if he happens to be asleep at the designated feeding time, he is woken to feed.  He then plays for a predetermined amount of time, and then is put to sleep, which he often doesn’t want to do, because he is hungry.   While this may work for younger babies, I am paid well for sleep consults around 3 months because suddenly (usually around the growth spurt) this isn’t working and the entire family is miserable.  Unfortunately, BABY WISE, is the beginning of the end of breastfeeding, as limiting feedings limits your supply.  I had two exclusively breastfeeding Moms come to me in this situation at this age this past month.  Despite their best efforts to increase their supply, they weren’t able to.  Both babies now get a significant amount of formula, while still nursing.  Everyone is happier, and the babies are thriving, but it isn’t what either of these women wanted.

The other scenario of limiting babies to 32 ounces daily, regardless of their weight, is out there on the internet. I have also been told that some pediatricians tell their patients this as well.  Confused, as it is contrary to what I have been taught, I finally Googled it myself.   Much to my surprise, I found it on a page about formula feeding on the AAP Healthychildren.org website!  I wrote them last night, let know about my experience with my patients, and asked them to remove it. The page has not been updated since 2009.  On that same page, it states that a baby should have 2-2.5 times their weight in ounces daily.  So a 16 pound baby should have 32-40 ounces daily. And it makes sense if you really think about it.  A baby’s calorie needs grow as he does.  And if you are nursing on demand, your supply will grow with him.

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What is a new mother to make of all this easily accessed inaccurate information?  Please remember that if this week is worse than last, and either you or your baby are unhappy, with no one getting sleep, what you are doing isn’t working. It doesn’t matter who told you to do it, even if it was me!  Babies change. Change with them. Trust your instincts.  You know your baby better than anyone. Do what makes sense to you.  Feed your baby when he is hungry.  Let him sleep when he is tired.   Hold him and rock him when he is out of sorts.  Nothing you do today is going to screw him up for the rest of his life.  I promise.

And if you can’t figure it out, please call us.  We are happy to help. Sometimes an objective person assessing the whole situation helps you see what isn’t working.  Often, when you are so tired, you just can’t see it for yourself.  Everyone needs a little help sometimes.  Seek it out.  You and your baby will be glad you did!

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World Health Organization (WHO) Breastfeeding Resolution

I woke up this morning to an email from some physician friends of mine letting me know about the United State’s opposition to the international breastfeeding resolution proposed at the recent World Health Organization assembly.   Irate, I closed my computer and put it out of my mind in light of my husband’s 53rd birthday and my hope to honor him by forgoing work for today.  I was mostly successful.  Fast forward to this evening, when we met two of our four sons at our favorite restaurant to celebrate the birthday. After our drinks arrived, my oldest, the 26 year old responsible for my beautiful website and all things tech at HBHM Inc, turns to all of us and says, “Did you hear about the US’s response to the WHO breastfeeding resolution?”  To which my 16 year old son and then my husband, chimed in about how they were well aware of it, and expressed their dismay at our country’s response. Imagine my surprise: that they knew about it, (and not from me!) had an opinion, and were as disappointed as I was. I was stunned. While they joked that it was in their best interests to know what is going on in the breastfeeding world in light of the “family business”, I could not have been prouder. As disappointing as this is, I really don’t think this generation is going to put up with policy changes that support business at the expense of public health or civil rights. I am going to continue to do what I can to advocate so that those who want to breastfeed can do so with the support they need. I will also continue to support those that need to or choose to use formula. And I will encourage my sons, who will hopefully be fathers one day, to do the same.

 You can read more about this disappointing act HERE 

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Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?

One of the biggest sources of anxiety for nursing mothers is the inability to determine exactly  how much milk their baby is getting. I get more calls about this than anything else, and I understand it. It’s an awesome responsibility, feeding a little person and being their sole source of nourishment. It doesn’t help that newborns want to nurse frequently, further convincing a tired woman that surely her baby isn’t getting enough to eat. Unfortunately, this anxiety will rear its ugly head over and over again throughout the nursing experience.  My hope is to teach Moms how to recognize the positive signs that things are going well, recognize when there is an issue, and most importantly, get help if they need it. 

I am constantly reminding the women I care for to look at the big picture. If you assess each data point and feeding individually, you’ll drive yourself crazy.  Some feedings will be good, some won’t. Here are the important questions to ask yourself:

Is your baby pooping and peeing? We are looking for at least 8 wet diapers daily and 3-5 stools for a newborn. The amount of stool a baby passes gets fewer with more time between (sometimes days!) as your baby gets older. But the volume gets larger when it happens, and it is often lovingly referred to as a “blowout.” This is perfectly normal and usually starts to happen at about 6 weeks. In addition, your baby should be gaining weight each time you go to the pediatrician.

The next question to ask yourself is if your baby is having periods of sound sleep? It will most definitely not be as much sleep as you want, but they should behave like a drunken sailor after most feedings and give you some longer stretches during the night.

Then ask yourself, is your baby mostly happy?  No baby will be 100% happy all the time. Babies often have at least one period daily, which usually settles into the evening hours, during which you just can’t seem to satisfy him. This fussiness is actually neurologically based, and written about by Dr. Weissbluth is in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  Nursing is often very soothing to babies at that time, and the feeding frenzy can make even a confident Mom feel that their baby is starving. But again, look at the big picture. If you can answer yes, to the questions above, you are doing just fine.

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Two other situations often make Mom’s doubt their supply.  The first is a growth spurt, which happens predictably at 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months. During this time, your baby will nurse insatiably, having frequent quick sessions that often end in sleep.  Your baby will then wake immediately when you put him down, and demand to nurse again. It is exhausting and usually lasts for about two days, but the frequent feeding helps to increase your supply.   It is particularly concerning at 3 weeks, when the breasts that were overflowing with milk two weeks prior are now deflated, soft and feeling close to their pre pregnancy state. Your baby has now grown into your supply.  The good news is you should no longer be walking around like Dolly Parton. It might have been fun for a while, but do you really want to feel that way for a year?

Pumping also can undermine a Mom’s confidence in her ability to produce enough milk to feed her baby.  The most important thing to remember is that you should NEVER judge your supply based on what you get out of a pump.  There are too many variables to consider-what pump are you using? Is it new or did your girlfriend use it for her 3 kids?  Is it working properly? Did you just feed the baby? Are you pumping between feedings? Did you skip a nursing session altogether to pump? Are you stressed?  Working? Eating and drinking well? Pumping regularly? Occasionally? Have you been away from your baby for a long time? I am sure you understand what I mean.  When pumping, always remember that the pump just gets what is in the breast at that moment in time. When nursing, you are having a wonderful hormonal response that causes milk to be continually produced as long as the baby is taking it out.  This doesn’t happen with a piece of machinery.

What if you can’t answer yes to all my questions? Most often, the problem is easily fixed. Many times the baby is not nursing effectively, and once we fix the latch, the baby becomes a happy camper, and Mom notices an increase in her supply.  If it is truly a supply issue, there are many ways to fix that as well and it often can be rectified very quickly. The important thing is to get help as soon as you sense there is a problem. Please know that we are here for you, just to reassure you that you are doing great or assist with problems as they arise.  My guess is that you are doing much better than you think! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

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Managing Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation)

By Nadine Adams MSPT, Physical Therapist, Personal trainer, Pilates instructor and Educator

First, let me tell you how and why I got into helping people manage their Diastasis. I have over 25 years of experience working as a Physical Therapist and over 30 years working in the fitness industry as a Personal trainer and group exercise instructor.  The past 10 years I have worked primarily with pregnant and post partum woman helping them rehabilitate their core strength, physical fitness and regain functional strength in their day-to-day lives. 

During my 2nd pregnancy at the age of 41 years old I found a 3 finger Diastasis at 29 weeks pregnant, coincidently enough in a workshop on Diastasis Recti. Knowing I was going to have to take care of a 2.5 year old toddler, a newborn infant, try to return to teaching Fitness classes and lifting patients as a physical therapist, I set out to learn all I could about managing Diastasis Recti.

I started testing all my clients for the separation and found that it is was much more common than I realized and unfortunately very under diagnosed.  Through my own personal experience living with Diastasis and learning how to manage it I knew I had to share with others what I had learned through my research and that is how my program Restore Your Core REHAB™ evolved.

Fast forward 8 years later, countless hours of research, taking courses from other professionals specializing in this area, and most importantly from my experience working with 100's of clients with Diastasis Recti, I have learned so much about managing this condition. 

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Common Questions about Diastasis Recti

 What is a Diastasis Recti?

A Diastasis Recti is a separation of the two sides of the Rectus abdominus muscle caused by a weakening and stretching of the abdominal connective tissue.  There are different ways to measure the size of the separation but a 2+ finger width separation or larger is considered clinically significant.  

Here is a video demonstration on how to check yourself for a Diastasis Recti.  https://youtu.be/woMH7NqJHlQ

What causes this Separation?

Intra-abdominal pressure most commonly from a growing baby inside mothers uterus, but can also be caused by other forces that stretch and weaken the tissue. In pregnant women the increase release of hormones that loosen your ligaments and connective tissue to prepare for labor allow this stretching to happen. 

An umbilical hernia can also develop due to the weakened connective tissue, but that is a topic for another blog. Make sure to check back on www.restoreyourcorerehab.com for future blog posts on other complications with Diastasis recti and the testimonial page to hear what my clients have to say about the program www.restoreyourcorerehab.com/testimonials

How Do I know I have one?

One of the more common signs post baby is a protruding belly and a woman still looks pregnant even after she has lost most of her pregnancy weight gain.

During pregnancy a doming effect can often be seen when leaning back or bending forward from the hips as seen in the pictures below. Other symptoms can include lower back pain due to a weakened core and improper posture and body mechanics, various kinds of pelvic floor dysfunction often causing stress incontinence, and/or constipation and other digestive issues as in the following client example.

Client Example:

I had a client who came to me complaining of bloating, difficulty moving her bowels, lower back pain and always feeling constipated.  She had tried doing an elimination diet and gave up gluten and dairy thinking that it was something wrong in her gut causing her digestion problems, but didn't have any relief.  Once she started working on healing her Diastasis and knew how to connect into her deep core and pelvic floor muscles her constipation and bloating went away.   Her functional strength improved significantly and she was able to return to a normal diet and back to her love of horse back riding and hiking with her 4 children without worrying about any unwanted discomfort or digestive issues.

What are the common exercises to Avoid? 

Temporarily avoiding crunches, oblique twists, side bending movements, front loaded planks, and for some early on even avoiding exercises in the hands and knees position might be recommended. These either increase intra-abdominal pressure or put abnormal forces on the connective tissue. Once healed, most of these exercises can be performed again if done correctly with good core engagement. No two separations are the same, just as no two individuals are the same and a person’s ability to control these abnormal forces is something that should be continually assessed while returning back to exercise and during day to day functional tasks.   

Can it be healed? 

Finding a qualified health care specialist who has experience   treating Diastasis Recti and can guide you through an appropriate exercise program, exercise modifications, splinting, postural re education and management techniques is the best way to heal your Diastasis.  

To further expand on this question, a sub question could be:
What is considered a healed Diastasis Recti?  The goal is to promote connective tissue healing and prevent putting abnormal forces on the tissue to allow the two sides of the muscle to come back together.  The connective tissue also heals from the inside out and improvement of both the size and depth of the separation are signs of healing. 

The ultimate goal is to regain functional use of your core and pelvic floor to support your spine and pelvic girdle and minimize the abnormal forces on the connective tissue during day-to-day functional activities.   The goals and functional needs will vary from person to person, but managing Diastasis Recti needs a whole body treatment approach for successful functional use of the core and optimal performance.

Correct alignment, proper breathing to retrain the deep core muscles to support how the body moves and protecting the connective tissue from abnormal forces during day to day activities are some of the techniques used in Restore Your Core REHAB™ Diastasis Recti treatment and management program. 

To learn more about the author and the program please visit www.restoreyourcorerehab.com