Beginning Again

by Holly Keich, LSW

Empty Cup 1

My cup was empty. Imagine the large soup bowl type coffee cup that you can wrap both hands around to warm yourself on a chilly day.  Imagine it EMPTY.  That’s how I envisioned it anyway. I’d never stopped to fill it. Constantly trying to fill everyone else’s cup and keep things running smoothly. It’s as if I believed perfection could fill it up.

I’d bring my cup, even quite literally once, to communal events expecting others to fill it. But even if I left with my heart filled to the brim, I’d find it empty again soon. It seemed as if the cup was broken and the love would slowly slip away through the cracks leaving me again…EMPTY.

Over time it became obvious that maybe the cup needed to be fixed. Rather than continuing to reach for outside solutions, maybe this needed to be an inside job. And maybe, just maybe, when I doused the cup with attention, caring, and self-love I’d actually uncover an amazing vessel, not transformed by corrections but beautifully revealed anew. A vessel that could not only be filled with love until overflowing, but was actually itself constructed of love and compassion. For self-love is not merely the patch of a spa visit or the band-aid indulgence of a chocolate treat on a difficult day, it’s knowing yourself from within with a clarity like no other and honoring who you see.

In the past, I’d scoured the outside world for an answer to fill my cup, reading passages from Marianne Williamson, books by Brené Brown, listening to interviews and talks by Pema Chödrön and other guests on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.* I was seeking a deeper understanding of true happiness from a variety of sources. They all pointed me in a similar direction. To sit in the stillness of the moment with a curious eye and an open heart.

All the signs were there continually pointing me in the same direction, but yet instead, with a cautious heart, I chose to read about meditation, contemplate it, study it, listen to others experiences of it, but not actually sit still, relax, get comfortable and do it. In 2018, I resolve that will change. So the question now is, as a busy mom of two, with a full life on the side, how do I start a regular meditation practice and keep it going?

Well, the first tip I found was to “Just Breathe.”  Lucky for me, I can do that.  Wherever I am, my breath is there as a tool for mindfulness.  Breathe in peace and find space.  Exhale that sensation down throughout the body, checking in with a spirit of curiosity. How am I feeling in this moment physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Each breath is another opportunity to see myself more clearly, who I truly am here in this moment, without judgment.

While meditation conjures up thoughts of sitting in lotus on a cushion for hours, it luckily does not always have to mean complete stillness because we all know that’s not always possible. Incorporating mindful movement, where we move through an activity with focused attention in this moment, counts. It might be walking, yoga, folding laundry, showering, or even lying with my child until they drift off to sleep. The point is to stay focused on this moment, then this moment, now this moment. Focus on the twitter of birds in the distance; a drishti (or gazing point) in each pose; the feel of the material as it’s creased and folded from a mountain into neat, tidy piles of clean clothing; the temperature of the water as it rolls down the skin; and the smell of my child’s hair as I feel their chest begin to rise and fall more slowly under the warm glow of the nightlight.  Paying full attention to the task at hand is something we all have the time to incorporate into our busy day.

In line with keeping it simple, I plan to develop a mantra. It might be one for each meditation, but maybe one that’s longer-lasting and more enduring with a broader purpose for each day, week, month or maybe even all of 2018. To help keep the habit, I’ll create reminders of the mantra tucked it into my current book, pasted on my bathroom mirror, folded into a note to keep in my purse, on a screen saver across my computer. It’s time to get creative. I’ll need to repeat the mantra as often as I can, consider it a prescription for my health to be provided in regular doses. Open. Warmth. Peace. Love.

Hakini Mudra

Equipped with these new tools, I thought I’d start my New Year’s resolution promptly onNew Year’s Day. Best to start right away or else I might find myself at the end of the day with excuses at every turn. No need to roll out of bed. I’ll give it a go even before anyone knows I’m awake, best to have an undisturbed practice that way. So I tuned into my breath, placed my hands in hakini mudra, focused on my mantra of “open” and settled in to begin.

First I noticed the sounds in the house, my husband in the shower, the muffled sounds of my children watching TV in the living room. Wait, back to the breath. Open. Breathe. I wonder what there is for breakfast. There are leftovers still from Christmas breakfast. Those should probably get tossed. Guess no one liked them. Wait. Thinking. Watch the thoughts pass by as if on a cloud without attachment as I gently and lovingly I bring myself back to this moment, to this breath. With my arm around my inner self’s shoulders, I imagine leading myself back to my center and my mantra.

Scratching. I didn’t even know I had an itch. How did I get here? Pay attention. Wait, be loving. Open. Curious. Breathe again, here now.  …  Coming back to the conscious moment… I have no recollection of the past several minutes. I must have fallen asleep. Oh great. Well, lesson learned. Maybe there is something to that first tip about finding a meditation space in your house. Then I can leave the bed for it’s intended purpose, sleeping. Thinking mind. Back to the breath with a loving heart.


This is the practice of meditation. It was not a failure, I am not a failure for thinking, for wandering, for getting lost for that is part of the practice of meditation. It’s the coming back to the breath, to the mantra, to this moment here, now, again and again, that is the practice of meditation. So, tomorrow, I start with a fresh mind and a curious heart.  As Sharon Salzberg says in “Real Happiness” “It’s completely possible to start over.  Wherever we’ve gone, we can begin again.”  

When we are open to change, teachers will arise from many directions. Along with Sharon Salzberg, here are some I hope to explore more in the new year ahead.

Sounds True: A Year of Mindfulness
Real Happiness Meditation Challenge / Sharon Salzberg
Tara Brach
Self-Compassion / Dr. Kristin Neff

Perhaps you’re interested in joining me or maybe you’re already on the path and have suggestions or words of encouragement to keep it going.  Feel free to leave them in the comments below.

May you have a blessed and peaceful New Year!

*Well, to be honest, this is still a regular practice. 😉

Head Shot
Holly Keich is the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill.  She is a Licensed Social Worker, Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Parent, Wife and adamant student in the school of life.

Food Before One Should be Nourishing and Fun

Food before one should be nourishing and fun

by Erin Donley

Have you ever heard the term, “Food before one is just for fun?” I call that baloney. Have you ever thought of the most nutrient dense foods you eat? Some may say baked salmon, fruits, vegetables and coconut oil. Yes! All of those foods are very nutrient dense. They have awesome fats for the nervous system (helps the brain work well!), vitamins and minerals for beautiful skin and energy, and coconut oil is very satisfying and can even help your metabolism.

So, now think about those first foods infants are usually fed…rice cereal, packaged fruits & vegetables, infant cookies & crackers (puffs) and maybe some fresh fruits. Rice Cereal is not that nutrient dense compared to salmon or coconut oil. Children prior to the age of 18 months actually cannot digest grains such as wheat, barley, oats and rice. They don’t have the digestive enzymes and their systems have not matured enough to break them down.  So what is there to feed baby then?

Letting baby lead the process of starting solids is the best way to encourage healthy eating behaviors. Some babies will start as early as 5 months or so or up to 10 months for their first foods.

There are many soft and easy to mash up foods that are perfect for children up to age 2. For instance, the Weston A Price Foundation, a group that advocates nourishing traditional foods based on the work the dentist Weston A Price, suggests baby’s first foods should be egg yolks, liver, bone broth, butter, avocados, fish eggs, and fermented cod liver oil. These foods are easy to swallow and are chocked full of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. These foods can be introduced at around 6 months old. Just lightly cook a whole egg in a skillet and grate some grass fed frozen liver into the egg yolk. Then just put some on a little baby spoon. You may be quite surprised how much your baby loves this food! Babies also love to eat mashed banana and avocado.

At around 10 months or so, babies can be fed a variety of meats, fish, fruits, fermented dairy (if tolerated) and vegetables. Don’t forget to include healthy fats such as grass fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and other grass fed fats when cooking for baby.

My son, now almost 3, had many digestive issues as an infant. After trying every commercial formula, we researched and found the infant formula recipe in the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. We started giving it to him when he was about 5 months old. He loved it. Then at around 6 months we started with the liver and egg yolk. Some of his digestive issues started to return so we stopped the eggs in recommendations of his physician. However, we continued to feed him soft cooked sweet potatoes and other root vegetables blended with bone broth. He would practice feeding himself avocado, banana, soft pears, and even beef stew meat. His skin was beautiful and his sleep was finally settling out better at night. Honestly, I was surprised how easy it was to feed him a whole foods based diet. I saved a ton of time using my crockpot frequently to cook down many types of animal meats.

By feeding your baby nutrient dense foods prior to age 1, you will encourage him to enjoy nutrient dense foods and develop a palate for vegetables and fruits. Plus, the whole family benefits from eating a whole foods based diet together. Remember that the main source of baby’s nutrition should come from breastmilk or formula before 1.

Erin headshotErin Donley M.Ed NTP is a Nutritional Therapist in private practice in Mechanicsburg PA. She has a passion for working with young families transitioning to a whole foods based diet, working with couples trying to achieve pregnancy, and running the RESTART group program for those looking for solid nutrition education and a sugar detox. Find more information on Facebook @ Faithandhopewellnessassociates and at


The Science of Love

by Holly Keich

Standing in line at the local craft shop, Valentine’s items strewn about the aisle, I choose to make an impulse purchase of a heart chalkboard. Two, one for each of my children.  Not for decoration, but in hopes of instilling kindness and love into their days by hanging them on their door and writing a daily message of gratitude for having them in my life.


As I move towards bringing more love into my family’s life and the world around me, what better time to delve deeper to answer the question, “What inspires love?” than February, the month of LOVE.  Perhaps you’ve already heard of the “love hormone,” oxytocin.  It is said to be responsible for social bonding. When we hug or kiss a loved one our oxytocin levels increase. (1) Positive comments and positive conversations also spur the production of oxytocin. (2) But as with anything we give a quick glance on the surface, as I delve deeper there is much more to learn about this hormone.

Oxytocin was first recognized for it’s role in the birth process and breastfeeding and it’s particular importance in women. (3) The hormone, when released during labor, promotes contractions and also helps the uterus shrink back to shape after birth. It also increases the production of prostaglandins, which move labor along and increases the contractions even more. (4) The life-altering event of childbirth is a stressful experience, but with the release of oxytocin, not only is the labor moved along, but many women are able to experience the event with love and joy rather than a fight or flight response. (5) Additionally, this hormone has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help modulate pain perception. (6)  Certainly a bonus when giving birth.

The true excitement about this hormone began in the 1990’s though when researchers discovered that breastfeeding women are calmer in the face of exercise and psychosocial stress than bottle-feeding mothers. (7) The reason for this is because when an infant suckles at the mother’s breast it stimulates a release of oxytocin which creates the “let down reflex” moving the milk to the breast for baby to consume. At the same time, oxytocin is released into the mother’s brain to stimulate further oxytocin production to enhance bonding with baby. Once the baby stops feeding, the production of the hormone stops until the next feeding. (8) A lack of sufficient oxytocin can prevent the milk letdown reflex and may be one of the reasons that make breastfeeding difficult for some women.

Further studies show that It’s even been found that the higher the levels of oxytocin in the first trimester, the more bonding behaviors we see after birth, such as singing or bathing baby. (9)  Interactions such as these (and many others) builds bonds between babies and the parent or caregiver as well and studies show that their oxytocin levels also increase. (10) This comes from the evolutionary process that has shown that pro-social behaviors are beneficial to survival.  According to Loretta Graziano Breuning of the Inner Mammal Institute, mammals have learned through the years that “leaving the herd can mean instant death in the jaws of a predator, so the brain rewards you with oxytocin when you have safety in numbers. The nice safe feeling is triggered by trust and touch: they go together in the state of nature because a critter close enough to touch you is close enough to hurt you. The brain makes careful decisions about when to trust instead of releasing oxytocin all the time.” (11)

While oxytocin is typically known for it’s purpose in birth and breastfeeding, there are many other triggers of this hormone such as warm temperature and touch, smells, sounds and other social cues. (12) Even more fascinating is that the release of oxytocin is not limited to just the pituitary gland, a pea-shaped structure at the base of the brain; it can be released from the uterus, ovaries, testes, blood vessels, and the heart. (13)  But what I find most fascinating is the oxytocin is released as part of the stress response.

Typically when we think of a stress response, we think of the hormone cortisol coursing through our bodies promoting a “fight or flight” response.  Cortisol is the body’s emergency response system.  It’s triggered when we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized and when we feel pain and the anticipation of pain. When present in birth it can slow down labor so you can take care of the actual or perceived threat.  In all these situations, it shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates protective behaviors.

The release of oxytocin instead creates a “tend and befriend” response.  When oxytocin comes on board during times of high social stress or pain, it may “lead people to seek out more and better social contacts,” says social psychologist Shelley E. Taylor, PhD, who directs the University of California, Los Angeles, Social Neuroscience Lab. (14)  This hormonal response actually encourages people to seek out contact with others in times of stress.

As with all things, balance is key; too little adversity and too much adversity disrupts oxytocin balance, while experiencing just enough stress helps to maintain oxytocin balance. Often we think that our hormones rule us, but there are strategies that we can use to help re-wire the brain and maintain balance. Kelly McGonigal, PhD tells us in her book The Upside of Stress that “viewing a stressful situation as an opportunity to improve your skills, knowledge, or strengths makes it more likely that you will have a challenge response instead of a fight-or-flight response.  This, in turn, increases the chance that you will learn from the experience.” (15) In fact, it was her TED Talk the spurred my interest in the topic. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s worth 15 minutes of your time to watch it here.

Now we know we have the opportunity to grow just by our perception of stressful events.  What are some other ways that we can encourage hormonal balance and love in our life?

  1. Volunteering – especially if you are experiencing the same stress or subjected to the emotional trauma or disaster event.
  2. Journaling – even just 10 minutes where you reflect on your core values and motivation can change how you face stressful events.
  3. Assigning Meaning – giving your life events greater meaning through aspirational goals, reflection on core values that keep you connected to the greater purpose of life – realizing we’re all ONE.
  4. Self Care – Exercising, spiritual practice, reading, listening to music, spending time with family or friends, get a massage, walking, yoga, creative hobbies
  5. Strengthen Mindfulness – Being in the present moment protects you from anxiety and depression. Daily meditation for just 5 minutes a day can make an impact for a lifetime.
  6. Avoid Continuous Negative News – Watching or reading the news about stressful events is one of the largest triggers of stress. We also often watch the news alone which can exacerbate our stress response and deplete willpower.
  7. Avoid Dopamine Releasing Activities – Gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the internet or binging on TV or movies for more than 2 hours.

Practicing these activities you can build new neural circuits through repetition.  For the most effect, perform the new behaviors or thought patterns for 45 days consistently. (16)  The more you practice these activities the more balanced and stress-free you will feel, the more in balance your oxytocin will be, and the more love you will feel in your life and be able to share those around you.


Holly Keich is a Licensed Social Worker and Owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill, PA.  For more info about her work, visit

Yoga for Gestational Diabetes

by Holly Keich

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Normally, insulin, secreted continuously by the pancreas, acts like a key to open the door to cells in our muscles, liver and fat tissue so glucose can enter. When pregnant though, generally between the second and third trimester, the mother’s insulin requirement increases by 2 to 3 times above normal levels. (1) Also during pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that help the baby grow and develop. These hormones however make cells less responsive to insulin. Consequently, during pregnancy, the mother’s body needs to produce higher amounts of insulin to keep her blood glucose levels within the normal range. Typically this would not be a problem and the pancreas would secrete more insulin to lower the blood glucose levels. It’s when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels that glucose intolerance develops. When this happens during pregnancy it is called Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM). After the baby is born, the mother’s blood glucose levels usually return to normal.

It is estimated that Gestational Diabetes affects 18% of pregnancies (2) based on new diagnostic criteria developed in 2015 by the International Association of Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group and the American Diabetes Association, with it’s prevalence increasing worldwide. GDM usually has no obvious symptoms, therefore diagnosis is typically made through an oral glucose challenge screening between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.(3) If a woman tests positive during this screening test, a second test, called the Glucose Tolerance Test (or the 3-hour challenge), may be performed. This test will diagnose whether diabetes exists or not by indicating whether or not the body is using glucose effectively. (4) This screening recommendation has been upheld by the US Preventative Service Task Force as of January 2014.  Some sources question testing procedures, from the ingredients in Glucola, the sugary drink you consume when tested, to controversy about screening and the effectiveness of treatment.

Elevated blood sugar in pregnancy creates oxidative stress and can lead to high blood pressure, preeclampsia, premature labor and possibility of delivery by cesarean section due to macrosomia (large baby). (5,6) Women who develop GDM also have at least a 50% chance of becoming diabetic later in life and a 60% chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 4 years. (5,7) Also babies born to diabetic moms have an increased risk of being born with low blood sugar and having prolonged jaundice. (8) They also have a much higher lifetime likelihood of developing chronic health problems associated with obesity and diabetes. (9)


Risk Factors

Certain women are more prone to experiencing gestational diabetes. Risk factors include (10):

  • Ethnicity – higher incidence in African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Orientals and non-white Hispanic women
  • Greater Maternal Age (35 years plus)
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Family History of Diabetes Mellitus
  • Experienced GDM in a Previous Pregnancy – 30%-60% greater risk
  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension
  • Hypertension – twice the risk as women without hypertension*
  • Poor Nutrition and Diet*
  • Overweight and Obesity*
  • Sedentary Behavior – two fold increase risk*

Those noted with an asterisk (*) are lifestyle related risk factors that are modifiable. When risks are combined there is a greater chance of developing GDM.


Prevention and Treatment

The management of GDM aims to mediate the effects of hyperglycemia by controlling blood glucose levels to improve pregnancy outcomes. Likely your doctor will begin by asking you to modify your diet and begin an exercise regime. Exercise has a powerful potential to assist with blood glucose control. In fact, exercise has been shown effective in preventing, reducing or even delaying the need for insulin management. If adequate glucose levels are not achieved with diet and exercise alone, a woman will generally be directed to anti-diabetic medications to reduce blood glucose levels for mother and baby.

Records as early as the 17th and 18th Centuries have shown encouragement of exercise during pregnancy as it was thought to ensure good health and prevent miscarriage (11). Modern research shows that this is not far from the truth. Despite a trend in the last century which encouraged women not to exercise during pregnancy, current trends show that it is increasingly recognized as safe in low-risk pregnancies and is encouraged as part of routine prenatal care. Physical activity during pregnancy may prevent both GDM and possibly later-onset Type 2 Diabetes. (12) Studies even show that regular physical activity prior to becoming pregnant has shown a reduced risk of developing GDM. (13) In fact, women with a higher risk for GDM may even be able to prevent it by managing those four modifiable lifestyle risk factors noted above with an asterisk. Diet and regular physical activity are frequently sufficient to manage hyperglycemia.

Exercise during pregnancy is helpful for a whole host of associated conditions or symptoms accompanying pregnancy beyond gestational diabetes, such as edema, gestational hypertension, mood instability, musculoskeletal discomfort, aches, and weight gain. (14) Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week has been adopted as the most recent recommendation for all pregnant women, unless otherwise directed by your doctor. (15)


Yoga, Pregnancy & Gestational Diabetes

The general recommendation if beginning a new yoga practice during pregnancy is to wait until the 2nd trimester to begin. This may be especially appropriate for women who were previously sedentary, waiting until after the initial discomforts of morning sickness, nausea and fatigue have settled down. Since exercise in early pregnancy can reduce the risk of GDM, the sooner you feel up to exercising comfortably, the better. If you have a regular practice, continuing through the first trimester is fine as long as you are listening to your body. You’re growing a whole new human being which can deplete your energy and vitality, so rest when you’re tired. Yoga has always been about being in the moment and you may find that pregnancy pulls you deeper into the here and now as you move along with the daily changes happening in your body.

Numerous studies have already proven the remarkable effects yoga has on reducing stress. This is important when talking about gestational diabetes, because there is a direct correlation between stress and elevated blood sugar levels. (16) Yoga moderates the impact of diabetes through the lowering of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. (17) When these stress hormones are elevated, blood glucose levels are raised. When we are able to lower their impact, we are able to modify the potential for GDM.  Yoga’s known ability to lower both the oxidative stress level and the perceived stress levels help to control this condition. (18)

While no one yoga pose will help to prevent or alleviate gestational diabetes, practicing this flow of beneficial poses* on a regular basis as a recommended portion of a regular exercise routine may help to lower stress and regulate blood sugar levels.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodana)
Sun Salutations (modified) – feet hip distance apart
Mountain (Tadasana) – arms stretched upward
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Child’s Pose
Standing Forward Bend (Uttasana)
Round to Mountain (Tadasana)
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Extended Side Angle

Warrior 1
Warrior 2
Standing Twist

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottansana)
Bharadvaja’s Twist
Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Reclining Twist
Mindfulness Meditation or Yoga Nidra

*Adapted from Yoga as Medicine: the Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing
By Timothy McCall, MD

Contraindications: If any of the following warning signs occur, it is advised that exercise should be terminated: vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, preterm labour, decreased foetal movement, amniotic fluid leakage, calf pain or swelling and dyspnoea without exertion. (19) Additional contraindications are listed here.  Hot yoga should also be avoided during pregnancy.


Be sure to check out Om Baby’s Prenatal Yoga schedule and join us for a class to help reap the many benefits of yoga during pregnancy.  Modifications and adjustments available for all stages of pregnancy.


















(16) McCall, MD, Timothy. Yoga as Medicine: the Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing, p. 283.

(17) McCall, MD, Timothy. Yoga as Medicine: the Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing, p. 283.




all images copyright Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center

Holly Keich is the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill, PA. She began her yoga journey at Be Fit Yoga Studio with Bobbi Misiti in 2002.  She began teaching Ashtanga at Be Fit in fall of 2004. In 2007, when Holly became pregnant with her first child she began teaching prenatal yoga classes that impart not only the wisdom of poses for the childbearing year, but also knowledge of the spiritual and emotional process of becoming a parent. Holly has attended pre and postnatal yoga teacher trainings with Stephanie Keach  and Mindful Mamas. She has also attended Baby Om Yoga training in NYC and is a Certified ChildLight Yoga Instructor, including Baby & Toddler Yoga as well as a Certified Infant Massage Instructor. More recently she has become a Certified Sacred Pregnancy Instructor.  She continues to develop her support of mother, child & family connections through the opening of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in 2008.



The Joys of Baby & Toddler Yoga

by Holly Keich

Once a woman becomes a mother, everything changes. The transition for both mother and child can be a demanding one, requiring physical, emotional and spiritual strength that you had not previously encountered. Turning to a relaxing and nurturing yoga practice can help you find peace in your new role as a parent. The physical poses help you regain strength and flexibility in your life while taking a meditative approach to practice can help you find the calm within, allowing you to be more at peace. With a soothing, yet invigorating practice, you may find yourself feeling more centered and floating out of the studio at the end of class. This feeling is sure to flow into your daily interactions with your baby and family.

As a new mom though, when do you have the time to take for yourself? You may think that taking care of yourself and your baby are mutually exclusive activities. But you might want to consider practicing yoga with your baby. In fact the definition of “yoga” means “union”. In a traditional practice, this means linking and unifying the mind, body, spirit. But in baby yoga, it includes developing a union or bond between you and your baby as well. Being with your baby in the present moment, easing expectations of how things ought to be and enjoying what is can create more happiness in your life and help you find more peace and joy as a mother.

Om Baby Yoga 6

Unlike the viral You Tube video, baby yoga is a gentle, mindful practice between a parent and caregiver that involves stretching, massage and relaxation. Classes incorporate a mix of asanas (poses) for new moms with movements for baby that help develop their gross and fine motor skills, improve sleep patterns, aid in digestion and help babies explore their new environment. Infant massage is often incorporated into classes building trust and communication between the baby and caregiver. Movements, poses, rhymes and songs are repeated through a series of classes which encourage you to continue the practice at home or even on the go to help soothe your little one.

As babies grow, they begin to share the natural yogi within, exploring different ways of moving their bodies. You may find your pre-crawler moving into Cobra pose as they learn to put weight into their hands and strengthen the upper body muscles needed for


crawling. Or you may find them in Downward Facing Dog as they learn to walk and or just
to get a different perspective of their world. The bonds that you’ve developed in baby yoga don’t need to end when your child becomes mobile. Practicing yoga alongside your growing child, you will see them develop more coordination, strength and self-confidence. Whether they use you as a jungle gym as you develop your own home practice or choose to attend a class at Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center, you’ll find that toddler’s delight in this special activity with Mom or Dad.

Toddler TIme Yoga 9 optimized
Classes at this stage look less like your traditional yoga practice in order to keep up with the boundless energy of toddlers. You’ll find us moving, singing, breathing, and using our imaginations as we weave yoga poses into a fun and interactive story. Children have the freedom to utilize the whole room as their yoga mat which increases social interaction between classmates. Class becomes more active, but is still balanced with relaxation and mindfulness. You may even find your little yogi spontaneously practicing their favorite poses at home. Or you may find poses that you can utilize to help calm your child in challenging moments.

Sharing yoga with your child can have a lasting impact in many ways. Whether bolstering neuromuscular development, providing opportunities for healthy social-emotional development to laying a foundation for life-long fitness and healthy lifestyle for your child, baby and toddler yoga is sure to create memorable moments in your life while reducing the stress and anxiety that comes with parenting.


Holly Keich supports mother, child and family connections through her business, Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center, in Camp Hill. She is a Prenatal, Baby, Toddler & Child Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and Licensed Social Worker. 717-761-4975
Check out Om Baby’s Schedule for upcoming classes in yoga, art, dance, music, baby signing & more!

5 Steps to Laundering Cloth Diapers

by Holly Keich with content from the Real Diaper Association

When considering cloth, the most daunting aspect of cloth diapers seems to be the idea of laundering them. Do dirty diapers really go into the washing machine, the same one that washes all the other clothes for my family? Will I have the time and energy to do the laundry when caring for a baby? Isn’t it complicated?

Laundering cloth is much more simple than most people realize and considering that there isn’t a cloth diaper service in South Central PA, the washing machine is something you will become familiar with if you plan to cloth diaper. We’ll not only review the simple 5 Steps to Laundering Cloth Diapers as presented by the Real Diaper Association, but also the why’s behind them. Consider it your primer for evidence-based cloth diaper washing that will give you the best possible chance at succeeding with cloth diapers.

Cloth Diaper Washing

1. Dump    Dump solid material into the toilet. Put diapers in (dry) pail until wash time.

Here’s the science: Exclusively breastfed baby waste is water soluble so will be removed in the initial rinse cycle. Solid or formula-fed baby waste should be dumped first. This prevents human waste from leaching into water sheds and is actually something all parents should do regardless of type of diaper they use.

It’s safer not to leave a wet pail around the home with toddlers. That said, if you’re okay with the safety issue, it doesn’t hurt to soak, it’s just not necessary if all else is working okay with your process.

2. Rinse    Optimally run your load once you can mostly fill, but not overstuff, your washer. Rinse diapers in warm water.

Here’s the science: Most people have success washing every 2 or 3 days, washing 12-24 diapers at a time. It depends, though, on the size of your washer. Too full a load is not good (inadequate access to water and detergent); too empty a load not good (too much space prevents sufficient agitation).

Soil is most easily removed at the temperature it was added at. Waste comes out at approximately body temperature, which is approximately what temperature “war” water is in a washing machine.

3. Wash    Wash diapers with detergent in hot water. Detergent should be fragrance and color-free with no optical brighteners or fabric softeners. Use additional detergent if you have hard water. Use enough detergent to clean a load of dirty laundry but not too much.

Here’s the science: You’re looking for a detergent that is clean-rinsing and won’t leave and residues on your diapers. You also want it to be safe for your baby’s skin. Pinstripes and Polka Dots has a detergent chart that will help you assess what detergents are best choice for washing your diapers.

4. Rinse    Rinse diapers in warm water. Rinse again in warm water.

Here’s the science: Most wash cycles will end with a rinse, so you can set the machine for an extra rinse. This increases the amount of water, which is particularly useful in cleaning natural fibers like cotton and help. It will also be sure to rinse out any remaining detergent to prevent buildup.

Warm water will release residues more effectively and will release more water from the fabric in the spin cycle, shortening drying time.

5. Dry    Thoroughly dry diapers in the sun or in your automatic dryer. The sun will save energy and bleach out stains. If you use a dryer, use the lowest temperature that successfully dries your diapers.

Here’s the science: If you use a dryer, use the lowest temperature that successfully dries your diapers. Drying at high temps reduces the life of any fabric or component.
Even More Science: There are five factors that work together in laundry. Water, Agitation, Time, Chemical & Heat, known as the WATCH Formula.

Water– Water does a good portion of your cleaning. You may need to make adjustments to make up for poor water quality. Water plays a large role in cleaning cotton and hemp.

Agitation– Mechanical action (rubbing together in a top loader, “the fall: in in a front loader) simulates hand scrubbing.
Time– Length of cycles (and/or soaking) affects cleaning.

Chemicals– (clean rinsing) detergent is especially necessary in cleaning artificial materials, which are oil-loving and bond with the oils and fats in human waste.

Heat– While most home laundry machines can’t get water hot enough for long enough to kill organisms, higher heat helps the other components do their parts.

If one factor is reduced in the formula (reducing heat by washing in cold water, for
example), you need to increase the other factors to clean your diapers successfully.
The Real Diaper Association offers this excellent chart that demonstrates the changes and where you need to adjust. In the example given above, you will need to increase the water and time if you reduce heat in the wash cycle. If using a energy efficient washer that uses less water, you will need to increase time and agitation in the cycle.

The RDA cloth diaper washing instructions assume a mixture of fabric types. For better results, separate fabrics. If you are having trouble with your diapers, consult the manufacturer.

Information provided by the Real Diaper Association and scientists in the industry. More info at


Coloring Away Stress

By Holly Keich

Bringing Baby Earthside coloring book by The Art of Birth, illustrated by Trinity Natay, colored by thrivingwives

Bringing Baby Earthside coloring book by The Art of Birth, illustrated by Trinity Natay, colored by thrivingwives

Holding a child in each hand, I entered the book store in the typical rush that has become my life. There to look at the toys, peruse the children’s books and play with the myriad of toys designed to entice you to make a purchase, I spied out of the corner of my eye a wall full of coloring books. But this wasn’t in the children’s section of the store. What could be the interest in adult coloring books, I wondered.

Much to my surprise there is A LOT of interest. So much so that there is such a thing as coloring parties where adults gather to sip wine and socialize. This burgeoning trend can be traced back to 2012 when Art-thérapie: 100 Coloriages anti-stress, by Hachette Pratique, was published in France.1 The craze continued for 3 years and now has begun to spread around the world. The first book to really hit the mainstream, however, was Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book, a beautiful treasury of intricate garden themed drawings with hidden items that make it even more interesting to explore and make your own with a bit of color.2  Coloring books are so popular in fact that as of June 2015, five of the top 30 titles on Amazon’s best-seller list were adult coloring books and there are over 2000 titles out there and rising.3

In exploring the phenomenon a little deeper, the touted benefits of coloring range from stress reduction to preventing dementia. Well, we all have stress in our lives. And while some stress is good, in excess it is damaging to our mind and body (and it’s not so good for our relationships either). In our fast-paced society where things seem to be spinning out of control stress seeps in at every angle, school, work, illnesses, politics, world events, wars, hate crimes, deaths,.. We live in a stressful world and even if we don’t keep in touch with the daily news our brain still absorbs the information whenever we hear it or see even small bits and clips of it throughout the day. In the information age, it can seem as though we are bombarded with negativity at every turn. Who wouldn’t want to shut that off?

Which is exactly what coloring is said to do. Coloring allows the fear center of your brain to go offline and get some rest. And over time the amygdala is retrained to respond less harshly to stress. Joel Pearson, senior lecturer at UNSW in the school of psychology suggests that the books “would offer users a source of stress relief, in the same way the patients with anxiety or PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) use “Tetris” to distract the brain, and provide a sense of calm and clarity. He said during studies psychologists have found that when watching a scary or traumatic scene, if a person plays “Tetris” immediately after, the flashbacks of the event are fewer and less dramatic if they were to not do anything at all.

“The idea is that when you watch something traumatic the memory goes through a consolidation period (the process in which it becomes a permanent memory) and because your brain is focusing on the ‘Tetris’ shapes, instead of the event, you stop the consolidation process, and stop bad memories from turning into flashbacks,” he said. “Colouring-in books act in a similar way.””4

While the studies actually proving many of the benefits of coloring alone is nil to none, anecdotal evidence is strong. Pearson also claims that “there seems to be a greater drop in self reported anxiety for colouring-in mandalas and patterns compared to just drawing colour on a blank page.”5 So it sounds like the shapes and patterns in these adult coloring books may also play an important role. While coloring in the pictures you are focusing on the colors and spaces, occupying the part of your brain that would otherwise be engaged in anxiety-provoking thoughts. Therefore, even though there isn’t research that specifically supports coloring as a treatment, it is perceived to be beneficial as part of a larger plan for coping with uncomfortable feelings.

In fact, this has been know since the early 1900’s when Psychiatrist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, prescribed coloring to his patients, more specifically the coloring of mandalas, to calm and center their minds.

And therapists continue to use coloring as a method of calming anxiety in their clients to this day. Art therapists may use coloring as a beginning technique with their clients, but want to be clear that art therapy it is not. Art therapy, which involves the creative process, is more than just coloring in the lines. But other therapists have found coloring can be beneficial on a variety of levels, especially when working with children. New York-based clinical psychologist Dr. Ben Michaelis uses coloring with his own family. “We do it on Fridays as a way to kind of take the steam out of the week,” he said, “and also when my kids are kind of fighting or the temperature is starting to rise a bit in the house.”7

Coloring can be beneficial for women as they approach their birth. Not only can it reduce stress and promote calm thoughts towards labor and parenting, birth coloring books like “Bringing Baby Earthside” released locally by The Art of Birth and illustrated by Trinity Natay (pictured above) can help mamas-to-be focus on positive affirmations for birth. Who wouldn’t want to guide their focus with these inspirational and beautifully penned drawings of women in all their divine glory?

If you are ready to give it a try, you’ll want to head out and get some supplies. Of the 2,000 available books, I’m sure you’ll find one that you fancy, one that brings you peace just paging through the pictures. Some adult coloring books have fine detail (yet another benefit as it helps to preserve fine motor skills as you age), but this may make it a bit more tedious to color, so you may want to drop the kids crayons and buy your own coloring supplies. Get a nice sharp set of colored pencils or quality markers and you’re all set to go. Now, if I could only find the time…