WHAT IS THE FINNISH BABY BOX CONCEPT?

finnishbabybox

Guest Blog: Susanna Heiskanen of Tuutu Baby Box

Did you know that in Finland, expectant mothers are given a special baby box by the state - a starter kit of clothes, baby items and toys that can even be used as a bed. This beautiful tradition dates back to the 1930’s and some even believe it has helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

Today on the blog, we have the lovely Susanna Heiskanen, co-founder of Tuutu Baby Box, the first Finnish designed and Australian made Baby Box, sharing with us a little bit more background about this wonderful concept.

What is the Baby Box Concept?

The Finnish baby box has been around for over 75 years. Over 3 million boxes have been given to families by the Finnish government over the years. It was written into Finnish law in 1937 that expectant mothers were entitled to a baby box and in 1949 this was expanded to include all expectant mothers unrelated to their socio-economic circumstances.

Why has the baby box been so popular with the Finns? One of the reasons is that the box really has everything you need as a parent. Having receiving the box you would not need to buy a thing if you did not want to – the box doubles as a bed and the content is enough for the first few months and beyond. The box also promotes equality amongst parents and kids. Everyone has the same start in life and you can tell what year children were born in based on the clothes they were wearing. There are some products in the box such as muslin wraps that have been there since the beginning.
The baby box was introduced together with the Neuvola program. Neuvola is a midwife driven anti and post-natal clinic system that everyone is entitled to. It was a condition of receiving the baby box that the mother has to attend the prenatal program that educated mothers about breastfeeding, vaccination, safe sleeping practices and many more useful topics. The Neuvola system is still going strong and it reaches nearly all expectant mothers and their children under school age.
Image from Finnish Labour Museum Werstas

What are the benefits in using the baby box?

The baby box promotes safe sleep practices and the clothing and products included are all useful and something that you would have had to buy if you had not received the box from the government. The crucial early pregnancy care with free essential goods makes the box such a great preventive public health care initiative. The parents are also more likely to attend post-natal care after receiving the box and having already attended the pre-natal care.

Has the infant mortality rate dropped because of the baby box scheme?

Believe it or not, there has never been a clinical study in Finland or any other country (at the time of writing this) investigating the benefits of the baby box. The drop in the infant mortality rate in Finland is linked to better anti and post-natal care through the Neuvola system that together with the baby box has addressed some of the issues that were linked to high infant death rates. The baby box was a freebie for the parents, that in turn motivated them to attend to the anti- and post-natal care.

What about Australia?

There are already countries like Canada, USA and UK who have pilot programs to study the benefits of the baby box concept. These countries have higher infant mortality rates than Australia and it’s hoped that the baby box concept will help to address some of the underlying causes. Countries like Scotland are rolling this out as a nationwide scheme and the rest of the UK is trialling and providing baby boxes in geographical areas where the infant mortality rate is high.
At the time of writing this blog there are no large-scale study programs underway in Australia. There are few pilot programs in different States and we will follow these trials with interest. It would be a great thing to be able to provide the right start in life to all babies in Australia and we hope that the government will consider having the baby box scheme adopted here. If such a program is developed the hope is that it also has an educational part attached for the parents as it does in Finland through the Neuvola program.

Although the Finnish Baby Box comes with all the required necessities we know how confusing it is to decide what you need to buy your baby. We have taken the stress out this and offer a free checklist for parents based on the Finnish model listing the basics you need to purchase when shopping for your baby.
FIND OUT MORE about the TUUTU Baby Box range HERE and enjoy FREE SHIPPING in Australia!

TUUTU are proud to be Gold Sponsors of the 2017 Cloth Nappy Awards, run by the Australian Nappy Association, supporting their love of sustainable products such as cloth nappies that are included in the Tuutu Baby Box. Find out more about the awards here.

Susanna Heiskanen

After more than 10 years on the corporate ladder, and two baby boys, Susanna was ready for a new challenge and starting her own business was exactly that.  Susanna thought the Finnish Maternity Package that the government was giving to expectant mothers was a great idea and that it would be something she would love to endorse in Australia. “Although the infant mortality rate is low in Australia, more can be done. With this in mind we have designed an Australian version of the package and we are passionate advocates of our products and mother and baby wellbeing. We hope that Tuutu Baby Box is something you will love and it will be multifunctional for you and your child, just like the original one in Finland was meant to be.
- Susanna Heiskanen (Co-Founder)

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Up Close & Personal with Sarah Renae Clark

How one mum used her PND experience as inspiration for her business

Today we are closing out our monthly focus on Anxiety, Depression and Mental Health in early Motherhood with a special interview. We are pleased to welcome Sarah Renae Clark to The Nursery Collective, a creative business owner, illustrator and designer - and a mother who has battled with Post Natal Depression. Her story is raw and yet so inspiring, read on to see how she turned this experience into an truly positive new path...

Hi Sarah and welcome to The Nursery Collective! Can you tell us a little about yourself? How would you describe yourself to others and what do you do for a living?

I’m a full time mum and business owner in Melbourne, Australia. A few years ago, I married my best friend and now we’ve got a beautiful little boy, Zac, who is about to turn 2. I’ve always been a creative person and have started a number of businesses over the years, from doing balloon animals for children’s parties to designing websites. Most of my businesses have only ever been side-hobbies while I worked full time, however everything changed when Zac was born. I stopped full time work and gave up most of my side jobs too. After a few months, I started working on some new creative ideas and eventually started my “Sarah Renae Clark” colouring book and printables business.
My business has already grown far beyond the hobby that it started, so now I’m looking at new ways to build it further and grow it into a full time income without the full time hours so I can continue to be a stay at home mum to my beautiful son.

What has your motherhood journey been like so far?

Motherhood has been a real rollercoaster for me! I was that super confident pregnant lady who read all the books and was convinced that motherhood was going to be amazing. Then, I had an incredibly traumatic labour and my son ended up in the special care nursery for a few days. I was unable to feed him and couldn’t get up to see him for the first day because my body was still in shock from the labour. He was discharged a few days after me, so we spent our first few days as parents without our son at home, which was challenging.

The first 2 months weren’t much easier. I wanted to breastfeed but Zac wasn’t able to, and that’s something nobody had prepared me for during my pregnancy. When he was finally able to start feeding, it was agony. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the challenge, so I pushed through and dreaded every feed, feeling like I was a failure when we had to use the formula.

After 2 months, things got easier and Zac was able to start feeding without causing me pain. Things really picked up at that point, except that I was struggling with post natal depression (PND) and didn’t realise it.

PND looks so different for everyone. For me, it was the feeling of being overwhelmed by what seemed like nothing. I felt lonely, even after spending hours with friends. I just wanted a break, but a break didn’t make me feel any better. I lived in constant fear that something terrible was going to happen to my family. I saw the worst case scenario in every situation and would let my mind run off in crazy day dreams that would completely overwhelm me with the feeling of grief or fear over a situation that didn’t exist. I couldn’t drive the car without picturing a fatal car crash and imagining my child growing up without me – or worse – me without him.

Zac was such a good baby that I felt guilty for feeling sad or overwhelmed. I even felt guilty that I wasn’t “sad enough” to call it PND. Eventually I was able to identify what was going on and work through the PND, which meant I was finally able to start enjoying motherhood and spending time with my son. It still pops up every now and then, but I can easily recognise the negative thoughts and I choose not to allow them to take over again.

What has been the biggest challenge so far, and how have you overcome it (or what are you currently doing to overcome it)? I believe you used your struggle as an inspiration in setting up your own business?

I think my biggest challenge has been not feeling guilty. It’s something that comes up in every aspect of my life as a Mum – from feeling guilty about not spending enough time with my son, to feeling guilty about going out with friends for a coffee while my husband was at work. A lot of my guilt was connected to my PND and to the high expectations I set for myself. Even now, I still struggle to take a break without questioning whether there’s something more important I should be doing… but I’m working on it!

One day, I decided to let myself have some creative time and started working on a colouring book. Adult colouring had just become popular, and I needed something creative to keep my mind active and help me to stay positive. I decided to post the colouring book on the internet, and was really surprised at the positive response I received! So I worked on a few more books and started selling them on Etsy. A few months later, I decided to look at getting them published and that was the beginning of everything for me. I have now self-published more than 10 adult colouring books and I sell a huge range of colouring pages and other printables on my website.

I started getting a lot of feedback from customers who were using colouring to get through similar mental health issues, disabilities or even loneliness. I saw an opportunity in the market to create a positive colouring book that actually catered specifically to people who were looking for encouragement. Because of my own experiences as a mum, I created my book “A Year of Coloring Affirmations for New Mothers” full of colouring pages with positive affirmations aimed at helping new mums through the ups and downs of motherhood.

I included all of the encouraging words that helped me to get through my hard days. One of my favourites came from a good friend of mine, who told me “if you’re out of your pajamas by noon, it’s a great day”. I still laugh, but it definitely got me through a few days where I would be crying because it was lunch time and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet… my husband can verify this!

I also released a second affirmations book called “Coloring Through Cancer” for my own mum who has been fighting breast cancer on and off for over 15 years now. Both of these books have had amazing support from my community and I get constant emails from people who have been encouraged by their messages.

 Coloured by Raychell Henry

What has been the biggest blessing of motherhood?

My son has been such a blessing to me. He makes me smile every day and he makes every moment worthwhile. I would do it all again in a heartbeat for him. I’m also very blessed to have an amazing husband who has supported me through motherhood and through starting my own business. He works full time, but still helps with so many aspects of my business and I love watching him spend time with our son.

Is it difficult managing your time between being a Mum and running your own business?

I’d love to say “no, it’s easy, I have a great routine and my schedule helps me to keep a great balance” – but unfortunately, it’s not the case. I do have a great routine, and I believe it’s essential to keeping your sanity as a working Mum, however even with the best routine, it’s hard to feel like you’re giving your child and your business the attention they both need. I am constantly assessing my time and changing my goals to work smarter, not harder. I try to find new ways to automate my business and set up long-term plans so that I’m not overwhelmed with the day-to-day workload and can spend more time with my son.

Unfortunately I don’t have family that live close by, so most of my productive work happens during my toddler’s nap time. As any mother knows, nap time can be unpredictable, so sometimes my entire day can be thrown off course.

I use a yearly diary as my to-do list, so I can allocate jobs to certain days of the week based on their priorities. This means that I’m not looking at a huge list each day, instead I can just focus on the plan for today. This has probably been my biggest key in not getting overwhelmed. If my day is looking busy, I re-assess and move tasks to another day before I’m even half way through the day. My goal is to finish each day feeling like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, not feeling like I didn’t get my list done. Some days, this means just pushing the entire list to another day so I can spend the day with my son without feeling guilty.

Working from home and raising a toddler isn’t an easy combination, but I love it. It takes a lot of commitment and you need to love your job. The key is to find your balance, set achieveable goals, and know when to say no (to your work, not your children). I’d love to have more time for my business, but family always comes first for me and I would drop my business in an instant if I had to make that choice. Knowing this makes it much easier to put work aside or say no to certain opportunities when I know they will take too much of my time away from my family.

Coloured by Emma Turnbull

If you could share some advice for other new mums who might be experiencing PND or other mental health issues, what would it be?

Find someone to talk to and stop feeling guilty. I went through months of PND before I spoke up. I never spoke to someone because I didn’t feel like I was “sad enough” to call it PND. I felt guilty for not being a good enough mum, guilty for not keeping the house clean, guilty for annoying my friends with all my baby talk, and then guilty because I had such a “good baby” and had no reason to be upset!

I didn’t call people to talk to because I didn’t want to constantly bother the same people. Instead, I’d just lie down next to my baby and cry. It wasn’t until a friend spoke up about her own PND experience that I realised I was feeling all the same things. She was the first person I spoke to, and then to my husband. As soon as I identified what was going on, the daily battles became easier and I was able to start working towards recovery.

Nobody expects you to do this alone, so find someone to talk to. If you don’t have friends or family, don’t be afraid to call a helpline or local service. You are not the first person to go through what you are going through, and there’s no shame in feeling like you can’t cope.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Sarah!
CLICK HERE TO CONNECT WITH SARAH AND HER WEBSITE AND TO DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN FREE COLOURING BOOK!
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Dealing with PND & Anxiety in early motherhood

By Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

The transition into motherhood can be bitter sweet for many. The excitement of starting this new beginning with your new bundle of joy not only brings about a learning experience but significant challenges and changes to your life. For many mothers, these challenges and changes are difficult to adjust to and they find themselves dealing with emotional, psychological and physical struggles.

Postnatal Depression (PND) and Anxiety are common mental health conditions new mums experience during this transition. PND can often be difficult to identify due to the typical ‘Baby Blues’ that so many women experience postpartum, unfortunately this can make things confusing. PND is commonly suffered by a new mum following childbirth and typically arises due to a combination of psychological challenges and adjustments, hormonal changes and result of fatigue or trauma.

Postnatal Depression affects up to 1 in 7 women and symptoms usually develop between 1 month and up to a year after the birth of their child.

Common symptoms of postnatal depression include, but are not restricted to:
- Low Mood
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Emotional ( you might find yourself crying a lot more than usual )
- Feelings of anger and irritability
- Fear of being alone
- Insomnia
- Reoccurring negative thoughts
- Loss of interest (of things you usually would be interested in)
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling unmotivated
- Withdrawing from social situations
- Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
- Feeling unable to cope
- Loss of concentration
- Loss of confidence and self esteem
- Feelings of anxiety, stress and panic

Awareness and Treatments of PND has come such a long way over the years and it has really been fantastic for women to feel heard, understood and given the proper care, support and treatment during this difficult time. Treatments for PND vary depending on a person’s individual needs and situation, either way addressing this early on is very important in the recovery process.

Likewise, Anxiety is also another very common issue women are dealing with in motherhood. Unlike PND, perinatal anxiety is only newly spoken about although women have been dealing with the symptoms and stress of it for many years! Depression and anxiety often work hand in hand and are interlinked in many ways.

Anxiety, alike depression does not discriminate age, gender or culture and the symptoms and severity differs from person to person. A woman who has experienced anxiety prior to pregnancy is at a higher risk of also experiencing it during her pregnancy and motherhood. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety may include:

- Irritability
- Panic Attacks (which include racing heart, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, feelings of nausea etc..)
- Hot or cold flushes
- Dizziness
- Tightening of chest
- Fast breathing
- Feelings of restlessness
- Excessive worry
- Excessive Fear
- Obsessive thinking
- Catastrophising
- Avoidance of situations, people or places that make you feel anxious
- Obsessive Compulsive tendencies
- Dry Mouth
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Problems sleeping
- Muscle tension

The most common cause of anxiety has been debated about for years although it really comes down to a combination of genetics, life experiences and environmental factors that contribute to the onset of anxiety. The most reassuring thing is that both anxiety and depression ARE treatable and there IS hope and a light at the end of the tunnel even though it may not feel like it at the time.

Below are some tips that you can implement to help manage your anxiety and depression

1) SUPPORT
During this difficult time the support of your family, friends, professionals and partner is very important. Once again, every woman’s needs are so different therefore ensuring you have the care you need to tailor to your needs and wellbeing is what really matters. We are so lucky that technology has come such a long way, giving us access to online education and support groups as well.

2) ASK FOR HELP
If you don’t feel right please reach out and ask for help. Speak to your GP, Maternity Nurse or health care professional and just let them know what your concerns are, that will then enable them to discuss all options with you and direct you to receive the appropriate help. And there are many options out there!

3) KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Learning more about and understanding what you’re going through really does help in the treatment as it removes a lot of the fear of the ‘unknown’.

4) PRACTISE SAYING YES
The world we live in often portrays the message that as a mother we are super hero’s that need to do everything by ourselves (YES in regards to mums being amazing superwomen and a big NO to having to feel like you need to take on the world on your own) this is just a reminder that its ok to say YES every now and then, if people offer help in those early or even later stages of motherhood just say YES! Yes to a home cooked meal, a hand around the house, a nap while someone looks after bub, yes to dropping the kids at school and picking up some milk for you. We all have those bad days and you are at no exception - You can’t do it all and by no means are you expected to!

5) TAKE SOME TIME OUT
Making sure you put aside some much needed you time is SOOOO important. It doesn’t have to be anything $$ or major, just some time for you to recharge, regroup and become ready for whatever the day throws your way. This could be a nice warm bath when everyone goes to bed or putting your feet up with a nice hot tea or coffee when bub is taking a nap. There is no need to feel guilty for taking some time away - as they say you cant pour from an empty cup!

6) REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Motherhood is really portrayed in a very fairy-tale like way these days in magazines, TV and social media. We are shown the ‘expected’ way to look, act, feed, feel and think. Those expectations have had such a huge negative impact on women all across the globe. This is just a reminder to have realistic expectations of yourself during this time, its ok if you don’t get 35 loads of washing on today, its ok if you don’t have your hair washed today, its ok not to have a picture perfect looking house, its ok to have an all day pyjama day sometimes ( I loveeee those days!) For goodness sake, you have a lot on your plate, don’t be too hard on yourself you are doing the best you can. Listen to your body and what its telling you, it will give you the cues.

At the end of the day its important I reiterate that you ARE doing the best you can so please don’t be too hard on yourself, motherhood is one of the hardest jobs in the world!

- Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

CLICK HERE TO CONNECT WITH AMANDA AND HER WEBSITE AND TO DOWNLOAD HER TOP 10 TIPS TO MANAGING YOUR STRESS & ANXIETY

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If you're a new or pregnant mama, please join our Facebook support group over at Find Your Village – a truly supportive community of new and experienced mamas where you can vent frustrations or share your excitement in a space that is free from judgment. Whether you are suffering from anxiety or sleep deprivation we are here!

Don't forget to join our mailing list to receive your FREE download of "Your New Mum Checklist" - all the checklists you'll ever need when planning for baby, all in the one place, plus additional parenting tips around Baby Sleep, Feeding and Nutrition.

 

Using Mindfulness in Pregnancy

By Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence”.  Eckhart Tolle

The modern life we live in can be quite complicated at times. Our attention is demanded in so many different areas that we find ourselves constantly on the go. Trying to keep up with our busy schedules, work, kids, family and friends invites stress and anxiety right through our doors! Even when we find time to relax, our minds are always wandering. Pregnancy and motherhood is one of the most precious, intriguing, rewarding, empowering yet fearful and stressful times in our lives. Therefore caring for your mental health and emotional well being should be placed high on your priority list!

It is amazing how far mental health awareness has come, to shed light, support and educate women and their loved ones about important issues such as Pre/Postnatal Depression. Women are becoming more knowledgeable and aware to look out for signs that may be of concern, thus receiving the care they need and deserve. Pre/Postnatal Anxiety, is another pressing issue. The statistics are continuously increasing and it is now estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience anxiety. Regrettably it is one of the most common mental health conditions in Australia today. Fear and anxiety often happens when you are physically in the here and now, although your mind is wandering in the future. Thankfully research is beginning to demonstrate the positive effects of practices such as mindfulness during pregnancy, to help reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

So...What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the awareness of being in the present moment by paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. It’s the practice of slowing down the mind rather than letting it wander in so many different directions. Unlike some of the other practices, the beauty of mindfulness is that with awareness you notice your thoughts and you then allow them to come and go without any judgement and interpretation. It’s important to understand that learning how to be present in your life takes time and practice! You have most likely practiced mindfulness on several occasions without even realizing.

Elisha Goldstein, a mindfulness expert, talks about practicing mindfulness in 2 ways – Formally and Informally. When practicing formally, you are ‘Intentionally’ setting aside time in your day to practice. By focusing and meditating on your breathing, your emotions and your thoughts with awareness. Informal Mindfulness practice incorporates the same sort of technique into your everyday life and tasks. You can do this by simply consciously being aware during your daily tasks.

Pregnancy and motherhood is a great time to learn and practice Mindfulness. It encourages awareness and a real sense of curiosity, it can be one of the most important tools that you learn during pregnancy and carry through to motherhood. Pregnancy can create a sense of fear and vulnerability. Mostly due to the unknown. Not knowing what will happen next, how you will feel and the constant change in physical sensations. Having the knowledge and tools that mindfulness provides can be a God send!

Mindfulness for Anxiety

Anxiety has a way of capturing your undivided attention! It consumes your thoughts, your body, feelings, and emotions. One of the common key elements of anxiety, is focusing on the future. The future, meaning a year from now, a month from now or even what could happen later that night. There is A LOT of ‘What Ifs’ involved and as a result making you feel more and more anxious. So then HOW does mindfulness come into the picture I hear you ask?

Mindfulness focuses on the here and now, the present moment. The total opposite to anxiety. It’s about training the brain to A) Slow Down & B) Discover this wonderful sense of awareness you have hidden within, removing all the chaos and enabling you to focus.

Have you ever had the experience of getting in the car to go somewhere and then before you know it.. YOU'ER THERE. How miraculous hey? The strange part is, most of the time you have no memory of the steps you took to get there, because so much of what we do is on auto pilot. With anxiety, your mind wonders constantly, mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to the moment by using awareness, observation and a sense of curiosity.

Practicing mindfulness can be experienced ‘Informally’. You achieve this by placing your focus on the task at hand, such as, eating, showering, walking, cooking etc.. For example, while eating your breakfast you may already be thinking about what your day has in store for you, what you are going to wear for the function on Saturday or what is on the menu for dinner. When you introduce a more mindful approach, you are then able to take note of the aromas from your meal, the tastes, the textures, the visual aspects, such as the colours of your food. Using all your senses is KEY and a good way to start.

Why is Mindfulness important during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, we can spend so much time thinking and worrying about what’s ahead, that we spend little time enjoying the now. Part of the reason anxiety increases so much for women during pregnancy is that so much of the process is out of our control. It is scary not knowing how things are going, what the different pregnancy symptoms are and if they are considered "normal". Women often worry about having everything organised for the nursery, wondering what will happen during the labour and how they will cope when the baby arrives. So much pressure is put on a couple to make the perfect decisions, such as birthing choices, eating healthy, exercising and taking vitamins. If there is anything you take away from today’s post I would like to highlight that taking care of your mental health needs during your pregnancy is just as important as your physical health.

Top 5 Benefits of practicing Mindfulness during Pregnancy

1. REDUCES STRESS, ANXIETY AND WORRY
Practicing Mindfulness during pregnancy has been shown to lower a mother’s stress and anxiety levels and improve overall emotional and physical health. Mindfulness allows you to alleviate the feelings of guilt and judgement by placing your focus on the present moment.

2. CONNECT TO YOUR CHANGING BODY
Let’s face it. There is so much going on during pregnancy that we often can’t keep up! Mindfulness practice allows you to tune in and listen to your body and its needs. There is no better time to be in touch with your body than now!

3. GREAT PREPARATION FOR THE BIRTH
Focus and awareness during the birthing experience is essential and ties in very well with #2. Understanding that some things are out of our control and being able to go with the flow is part of the recipe for a positive birthing experience.

4. CREATES A POSITIVE MINDSET DURING LABOUR
The first thing we hear when we fall pregnant is everyone’s horror stories! Which in turn only creates more fear and anxiety. Mindfulness allows you to notice any potential negative thoughts during your birth
without getting caught up in it all. Simply just by observing, letting it go and continuing to be present of the sensations and happenings of the NOW.

5. SELF CARE AND COMPASSION
We often judge ourselves based on expectations, social norms and feelings of fear and anxiety. Mindfulness supports self-compassion through the pregnancy process because it allows us to observe our feelings and thoughts with self-awareness. This is very important because we often hide the way we feel due to the guilt or fear of experiencing them.

- Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

CLICK HERE TO CONNECT WITH AMANDA AND HER WEBSITE

 

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If you're a new or pregnant mama, please feel free to join our Facebook support group over at Find Your Village – a truly supportive community of new and experienced mamas where you can vent frustrations or share your excitement in a space that is free from judgment. Whether you are suffering from anxiety or sleep deprivation we are here!

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