Mom Squad with Rhondda Smiley (Doula and Yoga Instructor)

August 1, 2017
mom squad, rhondda smiley, smiley birth services, doula, yoga, breastfeeding, naturopath toronto, toronto naturopath

Meeting Rhondda blew my mind! I peppered her with question after question, because she’s just so knowledgeable about birth and catered her practice to truly helping mom in all aspects of her pregnancy. From prenatal yoga to supporting breastfeeding after birth, this woman does it all! Grab yourself a cup of tea and dig in – there are so many great pearls in this interview!

When can a woman begin prenatal yoga?

Whenever she feels like it. During the first trimester, she may choose to be conservative in her practice, watch her energy levels, and avoid twists, inversions, or jumps. Listen to what your body has to tell you. Yoga during pregnancy is a wonderful path to cultivate your own deep inner knowing of what’s right for you, your body, your baby and your pregnancy.

Does every yoga class have the same sequence, or do you modify it based on the yogis?

I don’t teach a set sequence. I like to change things up from class to class.

We do usually begin with some attention to the breath and a short mindfulness practice, to release tension and arrive to our practice. Then there’s a few minutes to check in with each other. Each person has an opportunity to share any news from the pregnancy or how they are feeling, whether they are working with any particular issues in their body and so on. Then I can tailor our practice to accommodate those individual needs.

Every class includes poses to bring the pelvis into healthy balance, movements that flow with the breath, standing postures that build the strength to power you through labour, and of course a yummy svasana or restorative pose to end on a relaxing note.

Is there one universal yoga pose that is beneficial for each trimester?

While there is never one-size-fits-all, a wide kneed child’s pose can be helpful to many during all stages of pregnancy. It helps to keep the pelvis open and relieves low back tension. It allows for a deep breath that moves through the belly, back and pelvic floor. It may encourage baby to move into an optimal position for labour. If it feels too crowded to bring your forehead down to the ground, you can support your upper body by resting on your forearms, a firm cushion or birth ball.

Why is a doula a great support to have during a birth?

There are soooo many reasons! But here are three that are key.

A hallmark of doula care is continuous support. As your doula I’m with you from early labour, through active labour and delivery, straight through until an hour or two after the birth, with no shift changes or extended breaks. I’m usually the only person on your care team who’s with you for the whole journey once labour starts, and that continuity can be just the reassurance you need.

My number one job is to do all that I can to ensure that the birthing person feels safe, nurtured and heard. The rest of your care team – your doctors and nurses or midwives –  have the physical health and safety of you and your baby as their primary role. Good clinical caregivers may also provide emotional support – but it’s not their first priority. When they are called to attend to your clinical needs, I will always be there to support your very real emotional needs. How you feel during your birth experience matters. The mind-body connection means that when you feel safe and at ease, you unleash a physiological response that allows your body to labour efficiently.

And then there’s this. A doula and a birth partner – whether it’s a spouse, parent or friend – make a match made in heaven. Your partner knows you, and I know birth! Partners – I’ll share with you my best tried and true comfort measures to keep her at ease, making you look like a rock star in her eyes! I could never replace you, and in fact do all I can to encourage connection between you. I also know you may be feeling overwhelmed and support you with information, experience, and breaks!

So many of my clients – and especially their partners – tell me after their birth, “I knew it would be great to have you there, but I had no idea how much you would offer me”.

What is a postpartum doula, and what does she do?

Think about a postpartum doula like having your BFF over – but one who knows ALL about babies! As a postpartum doula, I share experience, hands-on help, information and encouragement with parents of new babies. When I arrive to a postpartum visit, I look and listen to find out what is most needed in the household so that everyone can feel as nourished as possible in body, mind and spirit. I follow your lead and support your choices for what works best for your family without judgement.

What does that look like? An old hand who can tell you about normal newborn behaviour and development. Experienced support as you learn the ropes with breastfeeding. Warm arms to soothe your baby while you take a nap or shower. A friendly reminder to keep yourself fed and hydrated while bringing you a drink and nutritious snack. An extra pair of hands while you balance the needs of your new baby and your toddler. A companion who accompanies you to the pediatrician or midwife’s office, or runs a neighbourhood errand for you. An insider who knows all the best local resources. A compassionate ear who will help you process the tremendous changes you and your family are moving through.

Most expectant parents are so focused on the birth that they haven’t given much thought to how they are going to manage once baby is here. Parents who don’t have the support of near-by friends and family can benefit from booking a postpartum doula before the birth, as will any family that is feeling overwhelmed once baby has arrived. As a postpartum doula, I don’t take over the care of your baby. Rather, I share tools and impart confidence as you learn how to satisfy the unique needs of your baby.

Some doulas – yours truly included – even provide overnight support. This can be a lifesaver if you’ve got twins, your partner is away or sick, or just to help you get caught up on some much needed sleep!

What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day off right?

Before I get out of bed, when I’m still lying there and thinking about what the day may hold, I try to consider how what I’m going to do may be of service to others. It’s so easy to wake up, map out the day, and think, “what do I have to look forward to today, what am I going to get out of it?” Instead I try to start the day by breaking that self-centred impulse and begin with the most positive motivation I can fire up.

What’s your favourite self-care practice?

Breathing. No, really!

The moments when I pause to take even just a few rounds of full, conscious breath make SUCH a difference. Even just ONE good breath can totally change how I’m feeling in my body, my feelings, my energy level, my state of mind, and how I am in my present situation.

Making time to spend a little longer exploring my breath is like a trip to the spa for my mind and body – delicious! And it’s always available! You don’t need to go anywhere, change your clothes, buy anything, get a partner, be in any particular position… It’s always available to us – right here, right now.

What is your favourite yoga pose?

I’d like to think that I’m like the mother of many children who is when asked, “which one is your favourite?”, replies “which ever one I’m with right now”. But I do really love to spend time in child’s pose.

How can moms connect with you?

Instagram: smileybirth

Because I believe that the best way to get to know someone is face-to-face, I offer a complimentary in-person consultation for moms who’d like to find out more about how doula care can add value to their birth experience. I take the time to listen to what’s important to them, answer any questions about doula care and see if we’re a good fit, because in the end Mom’s comfort level is the first priority. Moms can connect with me at to book a session.

On your way out

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Other #MomSquad members: Angelique Montano-Bresolin, Olivia Scobie, Beth Yarzab, Stephanie Kishimoto

Mom Squad with Stephanie Kishimoto (Gentle Sleep Educator)

Written by   in 
July 4, 2017
stephanie kishimoto, mom squad, gentle sleep educator, sleeping beauties, naturopath toronto, toronto naturopath

Stephanie Kishimoto, a Gentle Sleep Educator, is the owner of Sleeping Beauties. She has completed Infant Mental Health training through the Hospital for SickKids, and previously worked as a pediatric and manual physiotherapist for 13 years! I met Stephanie over coffee a few weeks ago to learn more about how a Gentle Sleep Educator helps families, I had her assess my collection of sleep books (true story!), and she shared exciting news that she was expanding to Toronto’s East End! Learn more about Stephanie and the awesome work she does in the interview below.

What problem are you solving?

I support families through difficult periods when they are struggling with sleep related concerns. This could mean that their child is waking frequently throughout the night and no one is sleeping well, that the family would like to end bedsharing but don’t know how to go about making that change, that they would like to wean night feeds, etc.

I provide an alternative service to traditional “Sleep training” in that I focus on realistic sleep expectations, and provide families with gentle solutions to address their goals. My mission is to empower parents to trust their instincts and to do what works best for their family’s unique dynamics without feeling the heavy pressures that our western society imposes on new parents to create these “great sleepers” from the get go, while ignoring what is biologically normal (and healthy!) in infants.

When should a woman access your services

Depending on their goals, my clients will call me at any point in their child’s life, from when they are newborns, up to when they are 6 years old. I say this daily, but “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” When something sleep related becomes a problem, that is when you can reach out to me for help. Otherwise, if you are nursing your child to sleep, bedsharing, feeding 3 times a night, holding your baby for all their naps, whatever the case may be, and it is working for you…amazing!  But when it stops working, that is when I can help.

What does gentle sleep mean? How is it different than cry it out?

The approach I take while working with families whose goal is to have their child fall asleep on their is called a fading approach. What it means is that we initially give lots of support as they learn to self-regulate and find alternate sleep associations, and gradually reduce this amount of support over time. What this entails can be different for every family. For example, a nursing/bed-sharing dyad could first want to break the association with nursing to sleep, so we may continue to bedshare while encouraging the baby to fall asleep without nursing. If they wish to continue bedsharing we might stop there, but if their goal is to have baby on a separate sleeping surface we might then move baby to the crib while a parent sits right beside the crib and sings / pats / shushes / picks up to calm / etc, gradually reducing the amount of support the parent is giving and gradually moving away from the crib.

I believe strongly in responding to our children’s cries. While crying itself is not harmful, it is how we respond to our children during this crying that is important in maintaining a strong attachment. In complete contract, the Cry-It-Out approach does the exact opposite and requires parents leave the room once their baby is placed in their crib, and avoid responding at all until they are sleeping. Some sleep training may even suggest taking this further and continuing with this approach throughout the night, ignoring your child’s cries of hunger, discomfort, or simply needing their mom/dad.

My goal with Sleeping Beauties is not to judge or shame parents for using this technique (Hell, I used it myself with my eldest!) but to inform parents that the CIO method is not their only option. That they can follow their intuition and create a sleep plan that encourages attachment while still being just as effective at reaching sleep goals.

What’s your go-to resource for parents when it comes to sleep?

To be honest, I try not to recommend many books to parents with infants as I find each author promotes one sleep training technique or another that may or may not be appropriate for the specific needs and goals of that family. I find it can actually increase parental anxiety instead of helping decrease it.

I do however enjoy Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block for his advice on soothing a newborn and appreciate The Wonder Weeks for their research based approach to looking ahead for developmental progressions (gross motor, language acquisition, etc) that can affect an infant’s sleep (commonly referred to as “sleep regressions”).

There is a wonderful app called “Infant Sleep” (Infant Sleep Information Source) that has some wonderful resources for sleep.

I am currently working on creating some resources on my own website for parents to refer to for age appropriate sleep schedules for babies over the age of 6 months as well as many other educational tools to help explain the normal biology of infant sleep. (so stay tuned!)

One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents who contact me but have some reservations with working with a sleep coach, is that they will somehow damage their child by allowing them to cry. When this question arises, I refer them to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University to read up on “Tolerable Stress” versus “Toxic Stress”.

What’s the most frequent advice you give when it comes to sleep/what’s the one thing that every family should know?

If I could only tell every expecting and new parent that there is no such thing as a “bad habit”, especially in the first year of life. That it is biologically normal for babies to need our help to get to sleep. That it is normal for them to feed through the night WELL beyond 4 months (this seems to be the sleep training industry standard for the ideal time to wean night feeds). And that they should in no way feel ashamed of nursing a baby to sleep or co-sleeping. It kills me to see the amount of anxiety that is created in new parents from our westernized views of sleep propagating such unrealistic sleep ideals.

What’s your ideal bedtime routine?

My ideal bedtime routine is making myself a tea and coming up to my bedroom, getting into my PJs and curling up in bed. I’d like to say that as a sleep educator I promote turning off all electronics before bedtime, but I am addicted like most people and will either watch TV, check Facebook or read a book until my eyes start burning. Then it’s lights out. For my daughters (2 and 3.5 years old), our bedtime routine consists of a bath, brushing teeth and potty, PJs, then a book or two with lots of cuddles. With my eldest, we always name two things we are going to dream about. It’s usually “bunnies” or “butterflies”. I find this a wonderful thing to leave in her head as she drifts off.  HOWEVER, as my girls now share a room, they have adopted their own post bedtime ritual of singing a few songs (wheels on the bus and rolly polly are favourites) before finally caving sleepy land.

How can moms connect with you?




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Other #MomSquad members: Angelique Montano-Bresolin, Olivia Scobie, Beth Yarzab

Mom Squad with Beth Yarzab (CareerFit Mom & Fitness Coach)

Written by   in 
June 5, 2017
beth yarzab careerfit mom, mom swuad

I had the pleasure of meeting Beth at the beautiful Evergreen Brickworks for a morning walk (how appropriate!). As we ventured through the lush, green trails and gazed at Toronto’s skyline, we discussed the transitions mothers face as they acclimate to life after birth and how many of them opt for career transitions during this new stage. Beth is a certified Fitness Instructor Specialist and certified Personal Trainer Specialist through Can-Fit-Pro. Because of her extensive background in HR, she helps women to navigate their careers post-baby and help empower them to go after their goals and live the life they want. 

Grab a cup of tea or a foam roller (my glutes were firing today!) and learn why Beth is a perfect member of the #MomSquad.

What problem are you solving?

I help moms build confidence. So much changes when we have children. Our bodies are different, our career outlook may be different. As a Fitness Trainer and Career Coach for moms, I provide practical tools and motivation around women’s fitness and career development. When you’re feeling good in your body and your career, your confidence is boosted and nothing can stop you!

When should a woman access your services?

On the fitness side, CareerFit Mom has small group classes at oaks ‘n acorns (1856 Danforth Ave.) that women can take during pregnancy, during post-natal recovery and as their children grow.

On the career side, I typically help moms reinvent their career during the following transitions:

  • While they’re on maternity leave when they know they don’t want to go back to the job they were in
  • If they’ve been staying at home with kids and they want to re-enter the workforce
  • If they’re currently working, but hating it, and need help figuring out what they can do with their skills and qualifications, or need job search support

What’s your personal or professional motto?

This changes for me every year. Right now it’s: Slow Down, Experience Fully, Enjoy Flow.

What’s your favourite thing about your workspace?

That I can look outside to my backyard. Sometimes I see amazing birds like blue jays and cardinals!

What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day off right?

I’m up at 5:30 am. I drink warm water and lemon and make coffee! I’m working on adding 10 minutes of meditation with the Headspace app. I have an accountability partner that I read a Law of Attraction passage with for 10 minutes. Then I write to my Intuition in my journal to get clarity on any challenges I’m facing. I also write about my goals. Putting pen to paper to describe goals and your vision of success really helps make it happen! Finally, I usually do 30-45 minutes of exercise. I love the potential each morning brings.

What’s your favourite self-care practice?

Massage. Wine 😉

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Your work does not define your worth. Healthy at any size.

What unexpected lessons have you learned along the way?

I never knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur or that I would enjoy it so much.

Connect with Beth

Isn’t Beth fantastic? If you want to learn more about her, or connect on social media you can do so at:

Twitter: @CareerFitMom
Instagram: @CareerFit_Mom

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Other #MomSquad members: Angelique Montano-Bresolin & Olivia Scobie