Why a Midwife?

Why a midwife?

Maybe you’ve been asked this question by family members or friends. You may find that your decision to see a midwife and have an out-of-hospital birth has been questioned, maybe even challenged, as the picture of childbirth can often be painted as a painful, antiseptic hospital experience. The midwifery model of care which affirms the power and strength of women is the norm in most of the developed world and is what I believe to be a large part of the future of women’s health. As we continue to address major gaps in maternal and newborn health outcomes across the world, midwives remain a large part of the solution. My understanding of the work a midwife does has grown immensely over the recent years, and I am excited to share the knowledge I’ve obtained with you, so that when you are asked the questions, “What is a midwife?” and “Why you have chosen one?” you can confidently answer those questions.

Some people think that midwives only attend births or care for newborns. Some think they only do home births. Thankfully, awareness about midwifery in the United States is growing, and I am so happy to spread the good word! The word “midwife” means “with woman.” This is a perfect job description because midwives spend a great amount of their time working with women and birthing people. Some midwives find their identity lies within that magical moment of “catching” babies; whereas others focus their careers on providing care for women in other ways, such as outpatient-based women’s healthcare (infertility, menopausal care, lactation etc.) or serving as educators. You’ll find midwives everywhere–in the hospital, in the clinic, and providing care in the home and at birth centers like MBC! Midwives watch women grow into adolescence, care for them through motherhood, and can provide care through menopause as well.

Midwives are committed to listening, comforting, educating and supporting as they walk alongside women. As I learned more and more about the great work of midwives, I began to reconnect with my long-lived desire to work with and care for women, as it has always been a great desire of my heart to work alongside women, empower and support them and basically be “with woman”. After many years of working with a male-dominated population at the VA medical center and finding great value in that, I still felt unfulfilled and knew that I needed to listen to my heart. I finally allowed my spirit to guide me, as I applied for the midwifery program at Bethel. I was accepted and now I am on my journey towards becoming a midwife! The thought fills my heart and gives me great purpose.

Toni Estis is an MBC Clinic Nurse and Birth Assistant and is currently pursuing her dream to become a midwife. She loves answering the question “Why a midwife?” to anyone who asks. 

Why we love skin-to-skin

Let’s face it… there are just some things you can’t do over again, but if you could…you would! For me, that’s my story around the topic of Skin-to-Skin Mother/Baby Care (SSC).  I’ve seen many changes in Mother-Infant care in 33 years on a professional level. My values, when it comes to lactation and infant care practices today, can be boiled down to one seemingly simple but an oh-so-powerful moment: when mommy’s skin meets baby’s skin. I unabashedly I have told many patients “I can’t have my kids over again but I can tell you about skin to skin.”

Photo credit: www.mommypotamus.com

In 2012, I returned from a conference where the topic of conversation was encouraging moms to let the baby lie on her chest and watch the “magic” of the baby crawl happen. There are many names for this position, but the bottom line is that our instincts as mammals activate the baby’s reflexes and breastfeeding attachment. I noticed that not only did placing babies skin-to-skin help increase mothers’ milk supplies but it seemed to help babies recover from the process of birth.

The roots of SSC are extremely important for understanding the currently known benefits. In 1978 in Bogota, Columbia, doctors were desperate for a solution to inadequate numbers of incubators and caregivers for babies. Dr. Edgar Rey Sanabria suggested mothers have continuous SSC with their low weight babies to keep them warm and to exclusively breastfeed. Not only did the babies thrive but they were discharged early. SSC was born (some pun intended)! Doctors published their results in 1979, and coined the term “Kangaroo Mother Method”. This concept quickly caught on and it was soon introduced to countries all around the world.

Photo credit: www.mommypotamus.com

A conference in 2013 on Skin-to-Skin Mother/Baby Care further explained why SSC was so important for mother and baby. Dr. Nils Bergman had come from South Africa to lecture on the neuroscience behind skin-to-skin. After this lecture I walked away committed to heralding the benefits of SSC. In a nutshell, the mother’s chest is the perfect place for the baby to thrive. The heart rate, respirations, blood sugar level and oxygen levels will become stable. In addition to this, gestation continues outside of the womb, things like maturation of the gut for digestion occurs, all because of skin-to-skin. This made it obvious to me that skin-to-skin was more than just cuddling.

I began to think about my own children and wish I could have known these things when they were born; they would have benefitted and so would I. I wish I could do it again and see if my engorgement would not have happened. I wish I could see if my depression would have been better. Of course I’ll never know if they would have handled stress better or had better ACT scores. My questions are endless, but I can now give expectant mothers some specifics I wish I would have known regarding skin-to-skin care.

Skin-to-Skin Mother/Baby Care is a tool that can be used for many different reasons. SSC can be your first line of defense if the infant’s temperature is low. Next to breast stimulation, SSC helps to boost milk supply. Looking to calm down a fussy baby? Place them skin-to-skin!! This important tool is available to all parents and their new babies.

For more information:

Kate Melms is an MBC Clinic Nurse and Birth Assistant, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and a Craniosacral Therapist in training. 




  • Bergman, Nils. (2014). The neuroscience of birth – and the case for Zero Separation. Curationis. 37. 1. 10.4102/curationis.v37i2.1440.
  • Feldman, R., Rosenthal, Z., Eidelman, A.I. (2014) Maternal-Preterm Skin-to-Skin Contact Enhances Child Physiologic Organization and Cognitive Control Across the First 10 Years of Life, In Biological Psychiatry, Volume 75, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 56-64, ISSN 0006-3223, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.08.012.
  • “Kangaroo Care.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_care.
  • Richardson, H. (1998) Kangaroo Care: Why Does It Work? Midwifery Today, Issue 44, Winter 1998.

Nourishing the Postpartum Time

When you are a new parent, ordering takeout often feels easier than making a healthy, home-cooked meal. If you feel this way, you are certainly not alone. Madileine Grodnick, new MBC mom and holistic nutritionist, has some advice for how to help kick that takeout craving and have easy, affordable, home-cooked meals available in those first few tiresome weeks after birth.

For new moms delicious and nourishing food is essential, explains Madileine, especially to allow for physical recovery and success with breastfeeding. Taking a “whole food approach” allows for the natural incorporation of ingredients like fresh veggies and whole grains, but ingredients can vary depending on family preferences and budgets.

While there is no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan, Madileine’s curated list of freezer meals including everything from cacao energy bites to nourishing chicken soup might be a step in the right direction! Here are a few of Madileine’s tips for preparing and enjoying these foods in the postpartum time:

First, host a cooking party! Before birth (Madileine suggests to start around 36 weeks) invite friends and family over to cook together. What better way to show love and support for new families than by making sure they are well-fed in their first few weeks postpartum! Even inviting over a best friend or mother-in-law to act as a sous chef helps ease the labor of preparing food.

Second, plan ahead! If you’re planning on making bone broth, Madileine explains, make all of your stews and soups that week. Don’t add extra work for yourself by making lactation cookies and chili on the same day. Instead, make meals with similar ingredients to simplify the process.

Finally, make a plan for packaging and defrosting. Part of the benefit of preparing all of your own freezer meals, rather than buying them from the grocery store, is that you can reduce packaging and waste. Madileine suggests using mason jars (which can be found for 99 cents at a thrift store) or using old jars collected from pasta sauce. For defrosting, simply take meals out a day or two in advance and allow them to slowly defrost in the fridge.

Madileine’s favorite go-to meals? Either a buddha bowl using sprouted chickpeas, some rice, and a baked sweet potato or shepherd’s pie! See Madileine’s go-to list of freezer meals here.

For more information on Madileine’s work in holistic nutrition please visit Contented Root.

Minnesota Birth Center credits its Communications Intern Madison Wagner with the creation of this blog post. Madison is a student at Hamline University studying Women’s Studies. Her passions include equitable healthcare, sustainability, intersectional feminism, and cooking.