Skin to Skin Contact: The power of the human touch

I love the picture of mother and baby in my garden that is on my current home page!

She has a radiant smile on her face, baby is happy, and as the mother of the Nesting Days Newborn Carrier, I was all smiles too.  While we snapped a few pictures and chatted, she shared with me how much she loved being close with her baby, and I shared with her how happy I to be able to give them something that made it easier and more comfortable for them to hang out together.

Joseph Chilton Pearce, a faculty member on child development at the Jung Institute in Switzerland and the author of many books on mother-baby bonding, has this to say about separation.  Separation of mother and baby after birth is the most devastating event of life, which leaves us emotionally and psychologically crippled.’ Here’s a link to the video of this talk.

In 1969, after giving birth to my first beautiful baby boy, he was whisked away to the nursery immediately after he was born. I was told I couldn’t see him for 24 hours. They finally brought him to me about 6 hours later, after I had made their life as miserable as they had made mine.

Seven years later, in 1976,  I gave birth at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco in a queen-sized bed, with my husband at my side. The room was quite, I was calm, and this time my baby was placed on my chest immediately. I could feel his tiny heart flutter against mine as I put him to my breast moments after he was born. I was supported by caring, loving professionals who understood the preciousness of this moment. Today, all hospitals are encouraged to practice skin-to-skin contact following birth.

The evidence is in, but hospitals are busy places. Skin-to-skin takes time, and time is money. C-Section moms rarely get more than a few minutes with their newborns. Premature babies need even more skin-to-skin, but in the ‘best’ hospital in SF, the pumping room is down the hall, away from the babies.  I’ve had more than one mother bond with her breast pump.

While I’ve address the importance of skin-to-skin at birth in this blog, the evidence supports skin-to-skin contact for at least the first three months, but I question why we have to put a limit on it at all?  What are we afraid of?  Of being too close?   According to Joseph Pearce, our initial bond influences our later ability to interact with others throughout our life.  Are our experiences in the first 18 months the roots of love, and also the roots of violence?

As I watch ‘Mad Men’s’ most recent episode, the title is crystal clear.

They are very mad men.

Have you hugged your child today?

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

nestingdays — a metaphor for the 4th trimester

Nesting Days Babies Fourth Trimester

I’m a trained postpartum doula. Because many people don’t know what a postpartum doula is or does, I usually begin by explaining what I don’t do. I am not medically trained. I do not make diagnosis, give medical advise, or administer medicine.

What I do do is Nurture, Educate, Support and Transition (N.E.S.T.) the new mother and her infant on their journey from womb to world.

That may seem a little vague to some of you, so let me walk you through the first six days following birth.

In the first 72 hours after birth, the new mother’s adrenaline is in high gear, and she can barely take her eyes off her infant. Natures way of keeping baby alive, one would assume. Baby is alert too.  I remember looking at my son moments after he was born and being amazed at how aware he was. All I could think of was, ‘hello, so we meet again’.

This quiet awake state, interspersed with dozing, can be prolonged if the infant is kept wrapped skin-to-skin (SSC) with mom, but I have a lot more to say about skin-to-skin in my next blog.

On to day three.  The new mother’s estrogen level is now peaking, and then drops dramatically, and with it, the emotions. Some describe the next few weeks as PMS to the power of 10. Mood swings, hot flashes and ‘night sweats’ are common. As I postpartum doula I’ve held many a sobbing new mother, drawn many warm showers, and changed sweat soaked bed linens. And, oh, did I mention that your ‘bottom’ is sore and your uterus is contracting? About now sleep deprivation begins to set in, as well. I always tell mothers to sleep when baby sleeps.  Exhaustion is the enemy!

After 72 hours, mother’s milk starts to come in, and pooping and digestion are waking the baby up regularly. Baby is now hungry almost constantly, and breastfeeding becomes a round-the-clock ritual. Most women go through engorged breasts between day 3 to 6.  A bag of frozen peas helps reduce the swelling, and learning to manually express milk is an art I’ve instructed many new mothers in. Tender nipples is normal initially too, but cracked nipples calls for extra help. We check the ‘latch’, we try different positions, and things usually right themselves out. When in doubt, call the lactation consultant.

Okay, so you get the picture. You may ask, if it is so hard, how did all those ions of mothers before us do it. Science has some answers.

Harvey Karp, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, began studying colic and newborn crying in the early 1980s. He discovered that colic is basically nonexistent in several cultures around the world. “I studied the Kung San tribe of South Africa and discovered that their babies very rarely cry. Mothers soothe and calm their babies very quickly. They carry them all day long while walking miles a day,” says Karp. “They also nurse their babies 50 to 100 times a day, and sleep with their baby on top of them.”

According to Jennifer McArthur, co-director of the Northwest Association for Postpartum Support, “When babies are first born, they don’t have the brain maturity to deal with the outside world. They depend on their parents for basic survival, but also for soothing, because they just don’t know how to soothe themselves until they are about 4 months old.”

The new sciences are making us reexamine many of the infant care practices that modern cultures have adopted over mostly the last 100 years. It is also giving us a new understanding and appreciation for the unique stage of life that many now refer to as the “fourth trimester”, but I prefer to call them the “nesting days”.

In future posts I’ll continue to cover topics related to the fourth trimester and bringing a new live into the world. And soon I’ll be sharing Nesting Days, the product I invented that is an ‘external womb’ for the infant 0 to 3 months.

Necessity really is the mother of invention.

Women throughout the ages have made baby carriers out of things around them, and that is what I did.

My motivation was to give mothers and babies the same experience our ancestors enjoyed, using the technology and aesthetics of today.

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

My story

Julie and twins mom Nesting Days

I am a wife, mother, teacher, entrepreneur, postpartum doula, and most recently, an inventor on a mission.

Armed with my own ‘knowing’, and supported by the latest evidence-based research, I set out to make an ‘external womb’ for the infant 0 to 3 months.

It took over a year of experimentation and tinkering, but finally, in February 2013, I filed my first patent and called the product Nesting Days.

Solving the problem of how to hold the newborn infant safely, skin-to-skin on its mother’s chest, was the hard part. I knew that if I could accomplish that, everything else would follow. The infant would have the stimulation it needs just by being close to mom,  and mom would have her baby in a safe, nurturing place.

Finding a fabric with the right properties was key. Luckily, those same properties also provided the gentle support to the new mother’s postpartum figure. The fact that it was also stylish and slimming was an added bonus.

So, I’m happy to bring to you the first infant carrier and postpartum body shaper!

My vision for Nesting Days is that it ushers in a new era of infant care and postpartum mothering…where all babies enjoy the beating of their mother’s heart, the sound of her breath, and the sway of her movements…and find the journey from womb to world a gentle one.

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

nestingdays due date in sight

Nesting Days Baby Carrier

My son and his wife have been visiting from Florida and it was wonderful to press the ‘pause button’ for a few days to spend some quality time with them.

Tomorrow they will return home and I will miss them. It is not a new feeling nor is it a bad one. As my children have spread their wings, so have I.

Nesting Days’ due-date is now in sight.

I ordered my production fabric today, and it will arrive in San Francisco in mid-June.  After several weeks of cutting, sewing, and finishing, I will have product ready to ship by early to mid-July.

Though it was wonderful to have a few days of calm, I can’t wait for the excitement that lies ahead. It will be a busy summer!

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

Following my heart

Nesting Days Julie Arvan at Gymboree

Yesterday was quite a banner day.

My son, Marcus (the professor) and his wife, Maryana, came for a visit from Tampa, Florida. We had breakfast at Plow. While waiting to be seated, we met two men out front. One was demonstrating the robot he had made at TechShop. It was playing Angry Birds. The other was a potential investor. It was the perfect introduction to the entrepreneurial spirit that is so vibrant in San Francisco.

Inside was a mother with her baby in a sling. I couldn’t resist pulling out my cell phone to show her pictures of Nesting Days. We exchanged contact information and today I already received an email from her. Yah!! A new test mom and baby.

The hostess overheard us and said her friend had a baby on Mother’s Day, and that she was having some trouble due to a complicated birth. Her eyes teared up as we spoke and I told her I would bring her a sample carrier a.s.a.p.

It was a perfect morning.

I had to leave my dear ones to attend Gymboree’s Annual Meeting — the first time the founding team was reunited at the company in over two decades. Joan Barnes, the founder, had been invited to share Gymboree’s origin story and the rest of the founding team had been invited to join her.

As I sat there, marveling at how this amazing company had grown from its humble beginnings, I also thought about how our lives take shape.

My love of the entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit that permeates this city, and my passion for motherhood has led me to exactly where I am today — the creator of Nesting Days.

If we listen to our hearts carefully, they will speak to us.

If we follow our hearts, we are truly blessed.

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

My favorite name – Mama


Her name was Ruth, but I called her mother.

I was reminded by my friend’s daughter, Willa, how ‘mommy’ gets to be our name.

Willa is four years old and wanted to show me how she could write her name, W-I-L-L-A.

Next, we wrote my name, J-U-L-I-E.

Who is next, I asked? ‘Mommy’ she said.

I began to spell L-Y-N-N,  but Willa was already busy writing M-O-M-M-Y.

To me she is Lynn, but to Willa, she will always be Mommy.

My sons call me Mom, MaMa, and Mother, and I unconsiously answer to all three.

They are the only one’s in the whole world that will ever call me that.

It is my favorite name.

Thank you to my village

Thank You

Last week Nesting Days reached some big milestones, and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to my village.

At the top of the list is Stephanie Echeveste.  In just a few days she built Nesting Days a beautiful WordPress website/blog, got me to use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr,  and sent out my ‘I’m having a baby’ email to everyone on my contact list. Amazing!

A big thanks to everyone who replied to ‘I’m having a baby’ with kind words of encouragement. Creating a new product and starting a new business, at any age, takes a village. Thank you for being mine.

Thank you to Owen Geronimo for including Nesting Days in the Wearable Tech Expo. I made some wonderful contacts that I will follow up with, and it was a great event. I learned that I need to add a cell phone pocket to the baby carrier, and am back at the drawing board to figure out where to locate it — away from the baby.

A huge thank you to my two models, Stephanie and Leslie C., who volunteered their time and were absolutely the best.  What would I have done without you?

I also want to thank the people behind the scenes that helped me get my samples on time — Larry Phan at Kirin Cutting Services, who taught me how to layout and cut my samples and found me Mrs. Lee to do the sewing.  And to Rachel, who found me Stephanie.

My gratitude to the mothers and babies who participated in the focus group on April 18th, and to Natural Resources for letting Nesting Days use their community room. Your pictures bring the product to life, and your smiles light up my heart.

Thank you to Jen Ryan, for being the photographer, and to Carmen Tedesco for the video on YouTube (that I will edit soon!).

And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my husband George, who gave away his Giants/Dodgers tickets to come to the Expo and support me.

I’m one lucky girl!

How do women do it? How did my mother do it?

Hannah Kim and the twins

…a good mother gives her children a feeling of trust and stability. She is their earth. She is the one they can count on for the things that matter most of all. –KATHARINE BUTLER HATHAWAY

My new daughter-in-law called me the other day and said ‘how do you do it all’? Now I know for a fact that my son does his fair share of the cooking, cleaning, and shopping, but they both have jobs and go to school, and have a dog that needs to be walked and two cats whose litter box has to be changed, but even without a child, they run out of hours in the day.

I’m glad that she marvels at what her mother, who raised four daughters, and I, who raised two sons, managed to hold together, and I also let her know that we all ‘lose it’ sometimes. I’m anxious for grandchildren, but I know the responsibility of parenthood only too well, and support their decision to wait. As I walk the streets of Potrero Hill where I live, and see the young families, my heart goes out to them all.  You have to be brave to live in this world. 

I love that men are present at their children’s births. I love to see the fathers with their babies in carriers at the coffee shop, and I want to give them a better infant carrier so they can really tote the little guy around and let Mom get some sleep.

Sleep, that precious thing that ravels up the sleeve of care. Go without it and you go a little crazy. You forget things, and get irritable, or worse, you can’t stop crying and you don’t know why.

The typical new mother hasn’t slept well for at least the last month of her pregnancy, and already sleep deprived, she loses at least a full night of sleep when she’s in labor, if she’s lucky.

Before she can put her knees together the baby is encouraged to find her nipple and ‘latch on’, which he will now do almost constantly for the next month, regardless of whether its day or night.

As a postpartum doula you do what you can. Her mother does what she can. So does her husband, and her girlfriend, but it all comes back to good old Mom. She is the earth, the moon, the sky to the little one who has just arrived.

To present her with an infant carrier that is an extension of herself, an external womb that she can tuck her precious bundle back into for safe keeping while she performs a simple task or even, God forbid, nods off to sleep…it’s OK. Your precious child is safe…there, on your chest. Yes, feel his heart against yours, feel his chest rise and fall with each breath, smell his sweet neck…he is ‘nested’.

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

Dear Mother,

Julie and sons

Children and mothers never truly part, bounded in the beating of each other’s heart.   — CHARLOTTE GRAY

When I began thinking about making a better baby carrier, I did my marketing research and competition analysis to confirm my suspicion that there was a hole in the market that needed filling and then started with a clean slate. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I wanted to truly improve the postpartum experience, and to do that I had to think outside the box and see with fresh eyes.

The art of careful observation was taught to me by my co-teacher at Stanford’s preschool years ago, but I have never forgotten it. Nap time every day was set to Peter and the Wolf and Eric would watch what bar of music each child fell asleep on, and record it on a chart…every day…and each day..low and behold… it was on approximately the same bar…unless that particular child was having a bad day. Eric was a practicing Zen Buddhism, and a research biologist by training, and had a lot of unusual ways about him…all which I grew to love and admire. Eric could make nap-time a lesson in careful observation, and magical. I used this practice of falling asleep to the same music with my second son, and found it worked just as well at home. We are creatures of habit.

Truly observing the newborn revealed the obvious to me: they are all folded! However, few baby carriers honored this aspect of the newborn’s physiology. The easiest way to suspend a baby when standing is to put them in a saddle, spread its legs, and let them dangle. Maybe that’s OK for an older babies, but not for these little guys. What are we thinking?

And then there’s the ‘slings’, that let them curl up a little too much…are you in there? are you breathing?

And the MOBY, which I really do love, once you master the art of wrapping and hope that you did it right and the baby doesn’t fall out,  which is just about the time you have to unwrap anyway, because baby needs a diaper change.

So the design problem was: How to stick a newborn in a curled, fetal position on the chest of its mother/adult, in a safe, comfortable position?

Answer: You put the baby in a ‘bag’, and put the ‘bag’ in a ‘baby pocket’ that is secured to the adult, and cover both of them with a ‘2nd skin’ that holds them together.

Simple, right? Wrong…but with persistence, a little feminine ingenuity, and an motivation to really make a difference, the Nesting Days Newborn Carrier began to take shape.

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer

Meet me, Julie — your Chief Mother Officer

Sooner or later we all quote our mothers. –BERN WILLIAMS

I’m Julie Arvan, and I’m the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ at Nesting Days.

That’s what my Dad used to call my Mom, and growing up, I know he said it with humor, love, and respect.

How my Dad understood motherhood so well I will never know. He only knew his own mother until the age of two, but I picture her holding him close to her heart, creating the bond that would never break, and making him the Dad I loved.

I grew up in the 1950’s in Detroit, Michigan. My mother was a stay-at-home Mom, typical of her time, but there was nothing typical about my mother. She was an artist, and her art was mothering. She gave birth to five of us, with no thought of doing it natural, and none of us were breastfeed, but somehow, we all turned out OK and had fun in the process. Ours was a house full of projects, and to this day projects like Nesting Days capture my imagination and move me to create.

I fought to breast feed my first son in 1969 and to have natural child birth with my second in 1976. Combining mothering with preschool teaching at Stanford, and working for Gymboree when my children were little, are some of my happiest memories. The GAP had brought us to San Francisco and the ‘good life’, and some years later my husband started his own apparel business, which I took it on as a new project, and learned what I could about it, including running a store. Next came my power years when I rejoined Gymboree and designed and produced the first line of clothing for the Gymboree stores.  When the company went public and the entrepreneurs were retired, I was happy to come home again…to my boys, my husband, and my projects.

That was some time ago and I’m now 65. I’ve been consulting with small businesses and working with entrepreneurs for over 15 years and I never wanted to have my own apparel business again. Several years ago I became a postpartum doula. I missed mothering and I loved mothering the mother. I missed babies and I loved seeing them be loved. As I helped my new mothers, I also healed my wounds about my own mother, now gone, and on my own years of mothering. What an amazing journey…and it lead me to this.

One day, as I warped a blanket around a mother with a baby nested on her chest, I wanted to provide her with a way of holding him tenderly there for as long as she wanted, even when his three year old sister needed attention. No infant carrier, no MOBY with it’s 15 feet of fabric to get tangled in, no sling would work. He was too new, they were too clumsy, it was all too hard to deal with.

And so I began to sew, literally weaving together a lifetime of experiences that is now Nesting Days. And as my journey continues, I have found that this business is really just another way to talk about things that really matter.

Julie, Your Chief Mother Officer