I've heard a lot about baby wearing, but how do I choose which type to get for my baby?!
This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal. And this is the Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way. So join us for another episode.
Hey there, all you breastfeeding superhumans, Heather here, and we’re going to dive into babywearing today and you might be thinking, Heather, what the heck does baby wearing have to do with breastfeeding? And I got news for you, buddy. It has a heck of a lot to do with breastfeeding.
And then after we talk about all that, we’re going to have my favorite part Awards in the Alcove where we support you and we give you all the awards that you deserve. We love celebrating your wins and no win is too small. So of course, stick around for that because it might be you that gets the award today and before kicking things off, as we do now, we hear from you… let’s do this.
We are going to take a listener question today, and this is from Devin. She says, hello, I need help! What do you guys do when you have to go to the grocery store and no one is home to watch your baby? Do you take them with, if so, what happens if they start crying or freaking out, do you just start nursing them in the aisle and continue shopping or leave your things and go home? I literally feel like anytime I try to nurse outside my house, I’m going to get a ticket for indecent exposure.
Okay… what do we have to say to that Maureen? We’ve all been there. Been there. When you first try to learn how to go back to real life with your baby you’re just like, wait, how did I actually do any of this before?
Yeah, no doubt. I mean, if you’re just looking for a reason to get out of grocery shopping, then go for it. Yeah. I hate grocery shopping. But if you want to do that with your baby, my first piece of advice is to baby wear. Heck yes. Even if you haven’t totally mastered babywearing or mastered feeding in the carrier, it’s totally worth it.
It’s going to keep your baby content longer. If you do have to nurse, even if you have to like sit down and reconfigure everything, you’re kind of covered. You both feel secure. You know, that’s really how I handle every situation with a baby. Yup, for sure. And also when I had my son and I didn’t know anything about anything, I would bring him into the grocery store with me in his actual car seat carrier. I hate those.
I’d put it in the cart and push it and just pile groceries on top of him. You’re like, can you snuggle up to the sauce now? I would be putting Campbell’s soup and bread in the basket. I think I never did that because I hated the carrying the baby bucket, as I call them. I carried it everywhere. I couldn’t do it. I’m like, why am I carrying this 20 pound thing? I wish someone had stopped me and been like, you’re a lunatic. What are you doing? I mean, but you can do that. Absolutely. And if you prefer that, that’s fine. I would just say. You know, take five minutes to feed baby in the car before you go in. Even if they’re not hungry, just like give them a little top off, you know?
And like, don’t be afraid to find a bench and sit down and feed baby. You’re allowed to feed your baby in the grocery store. And if baby cries, while you’re in the grocery store, don’t worry about it… baby’s cry. Yeah, it’s fine and most of the time when my baby cried in a store, people were nice. People came up and they were like, can I help you? Do you need anything? Yeah, it restores your faith in humanity from time to time. Okay. I hope that listener question helped you out. And if you guys want to send in your listener question, you can email it to [email protected]
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And today we’re talking about baby wearing. But first I want to tell you that I’ve honored my commitment that I made in episode 31, the vitamin D episode. And I have been taking my vitamin D for, I think over a month now, every day. And I do you have to say, I feel better. I have a lot more energy, which is weird because this time of year is a lot more gray.
And usually I have, you know, the seasonal effective thing going on. Right. So it’s working and my children are also taking their vitamin. I got the smarty pants, vitamins, which I’m not an affiliate for, but the kids love them. We like them too. They’re covered in sugar crystals like a gumdrop. I like those kind. Those are my favorite!
The prenatals I ordered are not covered in sugar crystals, like a gumdrop and it makes me sad. Only the kid ones, and my almost two year old, she says by-min, by-min, more by-min. And I’m like, no, honey, you only get two a day. And she’s like, nooooo more by-min! I know I could not give Griffin the gummies when he was that little, I got the liquid one.
Because he didn’t like it that much, but it was like, okay. You know, he would like take it, but I couldn’t do it. Cause yeah, we tried that and he would literally like try to steal them. Yeah. Well, good thing there’s a safety cap on them and keep them on top of the microwave. But yeah, so all of the kids are healthy and I’m healthy and stay tuned.
All right. Well, today we’re talking about baby wearing. Yes. Do it. One of my favorite topics. Do it. And, you know, I’m going to geek out just a little bit on some biology here. Cause this is like my favorite part of why baby wearing is so good. And then I’ll geek out on the anthropological side. Okay. Okay. So let’s start out with, why would we talk about baby wearing on a breastfeeding podcast?
Let me tell you why. Not all mammals are created equal. We do not all have the same milk. We do not have the same child-wearing habits. So we kind of group lactating mammals into three behavior categories and the feeding patterns are based on infant safety and how we keep our babies safe. And then our milk content is essentially based on our feeding patterns.
And individual species needs. Right. But honestly, our feeding patterns kind of just. Anyway, I’ll explain it. It’s really cool. So we have the cash, the carry and the follow animals. So the cashing animals are the animals who like have a little den and they snuggle down their babies and feed them milk. And then they fucking get out of there and they leave for like the whole day, like rabbits, because that keeps their babies safe. If they’re not around during the time of day or night that most predators are. Because like predators are following their scent. And so they’re, you know, the momma rabbit will go and she’ll eat all day and her babies actually do not eat all day.
And so her milk is super, super fatty because her babies get like two feeds a day. They get like one stick of butter in the morning and one stick of butter in the evening. Exactly. And I used to keep rabbits and this used to freak me out because I’d be like, aren’t you supposed to feed your babies? Are they okay. They were all fine. You know, so we’re not rabbits, right? We don’t leave our babies in a crib all day and just say like, peace out. I’ll see you later. Love you. Because we don’t have to do that for their safety and that’s never how humans have kept their babies safe. So we’re not bunnies.
Humans also do not have babies that follow us. We do not just birth our babies in the field and they don’t just like get up and run around after. We don’t birth them standing, they bounce up off the ground. Like giraffes, you know, just like fall out of the sky six feet. But seriously, like sheep, horses, this is all the grazing animals. They do this, you know, they have their babies, the babies get up and they’re like, all right, ready to go! Cause they actually also have this really high calorie milk because their babies have to use so many calories. They feed really often and they’re really active. Right? So I don’t know if any of you guys have goats or sheep, but you just watch those babies and you’re like, do you ever not eat? But they also don’t ever stop moving. They’re falling, their parents, they’re playing, they’re running from danger. It’s a lot of stress. They need a lot of calories. That makes sense. Yeah. I mean, I don’t have anything to say. I’m not a farm girl, but yeah, it makes sense to me.
But then we have the animals that carry their babies. So primates fall into this category, like us. Bats actually carry their babies too, which is cool. What? Yeah. They’re babies just cling onto them. What about platypuses? Fuck if I know. Aren’t platypus is the only mammals that also lay eggs and breastfeed.
I think echidnas lay eggs too. What the hell is an echidna? It’s another animal that lives in Australia. It’s another marcupial. You’re amazing. Koalas? They don’t lay eggs though. No, but they carry their babies. Yes, yes. So, you know, and these are the animals where it’s basically just like their babies are too weak to follow them around at birth, and we have adapted to just carry our infants around all the time to keep them safe.
You know, primitive humans, we’re not leaving their babies in a crib while they did chores, their babies word typically carried or tied on to them. And consequentially, animals that carry their infants actually have really low fat milk because their babies don’t have to keep warm by themselves. They don’t have to expend a lot of energy and that’s really where that fat comes in. Right. Staying warm and expending energy. Like baby seals, like Arctic seals drink milk that’s like 65% fat. Because it’s so cold where they live. You know?
But humans and primates, we carry our infants. We keep them warm. And they’re also meant to feed really often because they don’t have that really fatty milk. It’s really high in lactose, really high in sugars. Right? So, we are doing a lot of brain development and we don’t need that super fatty stuff. That makes sense because full term babies are born with just enough fat, just enough brown fat on their bodies to last 24 hours without any food.
So, it’s actually not that much of a store of fat, but it is enough to get you through that first 24 hours of life before your lactation is really established. Yeah. So, you’ll see that their temperatures will start to drop if they’re not eating because once that brown fat is worn off, they’re skinnier, they’re hungrier and their metabolism is now kind of overdrive working.
Oh yeah, when something goes wrong in those first few days, especially those first 24 hours. We see all the time, this triangle of, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, hypoxia. Yep. And it can start on any one of those points, but one will always lead to the other two. Pretty much. After that weight loss. Right. So we want our infants to eat all of the time, actually. Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. And that’s cool.
You know, we say that a lot in this podcast. Oh, it’s really normal for babies to eat all the time, but really it’s really, really normal for that to happen. And humans have always known that, you know, we have adapted to deal with that.
We have some pretty old evidence of people adapting to create baby carriers, right? Art from ancient Egypt depicts women using baby carriers. It’s really cool. And even within that one cultural subset, we even have mothers using different styles of baby carriers. Yeah. I love that. And like, meanwhile, on the other side of the world, prior to them ever meeting the native American cultures were all doing their own type of baby carrying as well.
Yeah, pretty much every ancient culture we see has a tradition of baby wearing and baby caring. But when we see this really change is when we have this Western societal boom, right? Especially say, like leading up to Victorian era Europe. And we see the rise of things like baby carriages and cribs and wet nurses.
Oh my God, have you seen that movie Away We Go? No. Oh my Lord. It is so funny. It’s got Maggie Gyllenhaal in it and she plays this insane extreme hippie, who is carrying her baby and breastfeeding, like two kids at the same time. And someone walks by with a stroller and she like loses her mind. She’s like, we don’t push our babies away from us. We don’t push them away. The world pushes them away. We carry our babies here. I mean, but really folks, just saying. It was extreme, but it was very funny, but also kind of true. Totally, totally.
I mean, really attitudes toward child wearing really changed just before that time, during that time and have continued to change since, right? You know, mothers were making choices that created more space between them and their babies. And that’s the crazy shit. And they had to, because also during the industrial revolution, a lot of women were going to work in the factories, especially like the fabric/linen factories. And it became like a low class thing, you know, to breastfeed and to carry a baby around.
So, you know, with this then babywearing became associated with the lower class with primitive cultures, with barbarians, you know, she doesn’t have enough to purchase a pram. Right? Exactly. And it became something associated with a non Western culture. Long story short. Kind of around the same time that breastfeeding came back in the 1970s, we also saw baby carriers making a comeback. And let me just say cultural appropriation is pretty rife with baby carriers and baby carrier companies. And just, you know, that would be when somebody takes something from another culture and sells it for their own profit without crediting that culture, without it benefiting that culture, we don’t like that here.
So first, explain what you mean by that. Cause some people might not have any clue what you’re talking about. Like, give you an example? Yes. Okay. So, a good example would be you go to Urban Outfitters and you pick out a pair of leather shoes with a little fringe and a cute little Indian bead pattern on it. Right? A hundred percent, Urban Outfitters did not fucking hire a native designer. They did not label that with, you know, designed by X native designer from this community, this first nation. They took a pattern that they saw from a different culture and they slapped it on a shoe and they’re selling it to make money.
Yeah. And it’s a bunch of white people doing that. Thank you for that example. That’s very true. And so like with the baby carriers, like every different culture has kind of invented their own style and pretty much now at this point, all of those styles have been patented by white folks in the US or Europe.
Yeah. So we do not support that. But, we do support babywearing and it’s not to say you can’t have a carrier like that, but just be aware of this issue and do your best and mitigate that. Yeah. That’s all just awareness. Yeah.
I wanted to talk, just kind of give you a very basic overview of what’s available. What we like to breastfeed in. What’s easy to breastfeed in and stuff like that. Cause you’re going to Google baby carrier and be like, Holy shit. What? I don’t, what, where do I start?
Well, before we get into that, let’s do some benefits for breastfeeding of baby wearing. So the first benefit is that it lowers your baby’s stress hormones. So if you have especially a late preterm baby, who is requesting the breast all day long, which is normal for a late preterm baby or even a term baby. But I find that especially those late pretermers like the 35 to 37 weekers. They love to just be in that baby carrier all the time and just feel like they have the food available if they need it.
So it lowers baby’s stress, hormones, it lowers your hormones. It also allows you to be a part of everyday life. So you are able to move around. And from episode 24, where we talk about exercise and breast milk, we talk about how that can actually help your milk supply. So being able to be up, not stuck to the couch, moving around, less postpartum depression.
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Also, another benefit is that you do not miss baby’s early feeding cues. So if baby is right there on you, while you’re participating in everyday life and they start rooting on you or doing those hand to mouth movements, or, you know, turning their head and trying to bite the carrier, you know, that is an early sign of hunger, and that is the best time to try to latch a baby. If they’re already crying for food, it’s a late sign of hunger. Crying means you’re a little late and it’s hard to latch a pissed off baby. So, baby wearing allows you to make sure that you’re not missing feeds and you’re getting the feeds in at the right time.
Exactly. Plus breast stimulation. Yes. Breast stimulation. You can do skin to skin in a carrier, lots of stuff. Yeah. Like those army guys that wear the packs on their chest and they hump through the woods, like 10 miles. A lot of them accidentally start lactating just because of all the breast stimulation. That’s true. And it’s because their nipples are constantly being stimulated by their packs. So, you know, that’s just another way that your body is getting that message that there’s a human here that needs to eat. I love that.
Okay. So, what the heck kind of baby carrier should you get and how do you use it? This is going to be the most brief overview ever, but it should give you an idea for where to start. So, I’m going to start with the woven wraps. This is like the simplest most old school baby carrier. It’s literally a long piece of woven fabric and so many different cultures have had these so many different ways to tie it front, back, side whatever. They’re usually silk or linen or cotton.
And you can YouTube how to use these really easily, which is great. And they accommodate babies of every size, newborn to toddler. And I really liked your tip that you said before, where you said to get on your bed and try to practice doing it yourself with your baby, just in case baby, like takes a tumble they’re still on your bed. Just kneel on your bed while you’re practicing these wraps.
I wish I had videos of me doing that with my son, because I didn’t have any friends really who had little kids at the time. And I was just like watching YouTube, on my shitty internet and being like, okay, wait, wait. So, we have to like, kind of like swing the baby here and put the, and it was just, he was a very patient child with me.
My son was not, but I will say even if you have one of those babies, that’s like making it really difficult for you to do this. It is worth the amount of time it takes to learn how to tie it. It will save your life. I can’t stress this enough, like forget the $300 swing you’re registering for. Register for a few different wraps so you can pick one that you like, cause you might not like all of them. And some of them are better for summer and some are better for winter.
Right. And I am such a big fan of the like high quality woven wraps. They’re so nice. They never wear out. I mean, you know, we’re sitting here right next to the ones that I had for my son. I’m going to use them for my new baby. They look exactly the same as the day I got them. It’s great.
Okay. So the newer adaptation of the woven wrap is the stretchy wrap. Right? We couldn’t do that before spandex. Again, you can use it really similarly, and it’s easier for a lot of people to tie and tighten because it’s stretchy, but it doesn’t work for bigger babies for the same reason.
So this is a good, like newborn under six months, but babies that wiggle a lot or are really heavy, you’re going to have a hard time with the stretchy wrap. Yeah, and these stretchy ones are also really good for those late preterm babies who might be like five pounds. Cause some of the carriers do you have a minimum weight that the baby has to be for safety, but the stretchy ones are great because you can get them in there really tight and make sure that their head isn’t going in a way that you don’t want them to go in. I actually think almost every wrap technically says eight pounds minimum, which honestly that’s just them covering their ass on liability.
Yeah. I would say for pretty much all of the wraps and ring slings and stuff, you can do that with preterm babies. You just have to be careful about how, how tight you’re getting it, how sturdy it is stuff like that. Yeah. Just be cognizant of the fact that they need to breathe. Yeah. Then there’s another adaptation on the wrap, the ring sling, and it’s woven cloth with two rings on the end. So it’s really easy to tighten. It’s not as versatile for like ways that you can wear it. It’s mostly just a sling across the chest. But I have seen some people do like twins in ring slings and all kinds of cool shit. Oh yeah. Two ring slings that they like crisscross and it’s cool as shit.
They’re really easy because you just put baby in, tighten it on the rings, right. With the double ring thing and that’s it. And they’re they’re most appropriate again for that little baby, babies under about 30 pounds. But I love them. They’re my favorite, like newborn carrier. Then we have the pouch sling, and also t-shirt carriers are kind of similar.
They’re just kind of like a criss-cross semi stretchy, sometimes not stretchy carrier. It’s more like the pouch slings are just one tube and the t-shirts have two tubes that you criss-cross. It’s just a wide piece of fabric sewn into a tube, right? With a little curve that like baby supposed to sit in.
You can’t breathe. They’re more for bigger babies who can hold their head up. They’re not like the safest carrier. They’re not super adjustable, but they’re really good for just like around the house. You don’t have to adjust it. You just pop your baby in, you know, and they kind of hang out in the little sling. It’s a little bit loose. Okay.
Yeah. I had one of those for while. You’re in the tube with them? Yes, you’re in the tube with them. I just imagine you just putting this giant tube on your baby and they’re in the middle. They’re only like, I don’t know, like 15 inches wide or something. I get it now. And yeah, you get it. It’s fine. Heather’s just like, I don’t understand the tube. I’m not great with directions like that part of my brain is actually missing, like my geo-spacial awareness. And so imagining a baby in a tube was very hard for me, but I understand now. If you are similarly afflicted as Heather, just Google this as I’m talking. Okay, perfect. And also links in the show notes. Yeah.
Then we have the carriers that have like more structure. They’re not just a piece of fabric. Right? We have the buckle, like soft structured carriers, but there’s a lot of adaptations of these that have like, they basically have like backpack straps in a waist buckle. And they’re pretty user-friendly because again, like not a whole lot of adjusting, it fits like something you’ve worn before. Right? You don’t have to tie anything. Some of them are for smaller babies. Some are for bigger. I pretty much carried my son in one of these for like two years straight. This is great for like toddlers at the zoo.
This one, I will say is tough for people with pelvic floor injuries from birth, because, like me, I had a prolapse, like a cystocele and a rectocele. Right. And this particular style was harder for me because it put pressure on my lower abdomen with the buckle plus the added weight of the kid and my abdominal muscles just could not hold it all together with that amount of pressure. So I preferred more of like, the wrap.
Right. And then on the other side of it, people who have some back issues, usually like the buckle carriers better because it distributes the weight lower as opposed to just keeping it on your shoulders. Right. So there are a lot of options out there. You know, we also have the kind of soft, structured carriers that originated in the Eastern part of the world.
You guys might know, like the mei tai or the onbuhimo, they’re kind of more like there’s a square cutout for baby and different styles of fabric straps that you tie. Yeah. I like that one. And actually my friend Lisa Bass, who has a wonderful podcast called Farmhouse on Boone, she has six kids and she’s done an amazing job with baby wearing and having a farm and managing it all.
And she has a great video where she shows you how to tie a mei tai wrap with her new baby who’s super cute. So, we’ll put that in the show notes as well. Yeah, and I did not like the mei tais. I found that people who have more belly fat, the straps that you tie just like roll up and become uncomfortable as opposed to the padded ones on your belly that are like sewn really wide for the buckle carriers.
So, you know, again, it’s like, you kind of think about your body type a little bit and how big baby is. And register for three different ones. Right. Because you don’t know which one you’re actually going to like. And, as we said, they kind of change as baby gets bigger. Right? You can carry a newborn in a buckle carrier, but it’s just like, it’s not as comfortable with them.
Yeah. And also, I like to have at least two, so I like to have one for winter and one for summer, because I personally like to wear them as a shirt. So I’ll wear my bra and then. My baby. And then the wrap on top and you can make the panels really wide. And then I just put a little sweater on my back and no one at all can tell that I don’t have an actual shirt on at all.
It doesn’t matter. Like even if I sat down to breastfeed, You just see my shoulder and my baby and that’s it. And that’s great for skin to skin. I had a late pre-termer which is why I did that to help me with my milk supply. Right. So that’s an option for you too, but in the summer it can get pretty hot. Oh, yeah. There’s like mesh slings you can use. Linen carriers are good for the summer. I love the linen and muslin ones. Those are nice. Yeah.
The last category is the really structured carriers and they’re, they’re like big hiking packs. So they’re not a thing you’re going to breastfeed in, but they’re good for trips. You know, I always made my husband carry our son in that, on hiking trips. Yeah. And that really covers all of the carriers or the general categories of carriers that I’m aware of. There are a million companies and I really cannot recommend one over another particularly. No. And you wouldn’t be able to either until you tried out a few yourself. Yeah. But think about it.
If you’re going to have a baby or you have a baby and you’ve been thinking like, man, this is really inconvenient to drag this bouncer around the house or whatever. Yeah. I always, so like my first baby, I registered for all of the stuff. Like all the bouncers, the Johnny jumper, the swing, you know, my late preterm baby didn’t want to be in any of those at all.
I was like, I set up all of these baby stations so I can have a place to put him in every room. And used absolutely zero of them. Zero. He either wanted to be on the floor. Cause we’re not a cash species… we don’t put our babies in a little den and cash them for later. Yeah, and wait for them to cry so we can come and try to breastfeed an angry baby.
So basically, what we’re telling you is try to baby wear. And by the way, we’ve heard this all the time, my baby doesn’t like the carrier, they will, you just bounce them up and down, get them in there. If they’re crying, bounce them up and down, pat their butt and tell them really going to be okay. Yeah. And actually, what has worked for a lot of my clients is I’m like, okay, your baby doesn’t like the carrier, but they like being held, right?
They like when you hold them. So start out holding them and wrap the carrier loosely around them while you’re holding them, still have your arm there and get them used to it like that for a day or two. And just like, you know, make it a little bit tighter each time, slip your arm out for a few minutes, put your arm on the outside of the carrier. So they can still feel that pressure.
They will get used to it. And some people, I wasn’t this cool, but some people actually learn how to breastfeed while carrying. Oh, I did that it was so fun. Yeah. Of course you did. Well, it took a while though, like my son had a lot of latch issues. So when we first started, I would basically just like turn him sideways in the carrier and still have to like fully support him with one arm.
But then I still had one arm free. So I’m just saying like, that was a big improvement. Right. I could still walk and have one arm free, but I still had to like manage things and it really took until about like five months, maybe, that we figured out how to breastfeed with me totally handsfree in a carrier. That’s awesome. And it was so good.
And it was in one of those like soft structured buckle carriers. And I would just like, loosen it a little, scooch him down a smidge, and I would kind of like it only worked, if I was wearing a bra, cause then I would pull my boob, like over the bra so it kind of propped it up a little bit. You know? Like the towel trick, and then he just figured it out and he was old enough then to also like grab the boob and kind of direct things, how he wanted them.
Yeah. It was great. We breastfeed absolutely anywhere. Wow. Doesn’t that sound liberating? And they have a little hood, you know, if I want it to be like private or whatever, but also like, basically without that, you could see like half my breast and his head and nobody noticed, so I don’t care. Very interesting stuff.
I am almost inspired to do it again. Like, Oh no, you can do it, Heather, you could have, you could totally do it. Maybe next year. We’ll see how yours goes. See what 2021 brings. Yeah, wait until I have my baby and I remind you how wonderful and also terrible it can be. It’s going to be amazing. Then make your choice. Don’t talk about my alcove baby that way.
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Thank you so much. Go ahead and check out the link to AeroFlow in our show notes and order your pump through them.
Okay. Welcome to the Awards in the Alcove, we’ve picked a really good award today. This one goes to a friend of mine, actually, who I knew from midwifery school. We went to Frontier Nursing University together. Her name’s Eva and she is wonderful. She just had her third baby 11 months ago. And she said her breastfeeding win is that she’s been breastfeeding and pumping and working full-time as a midwife for 11 months.
Well, Holy cow! I don’t know if you all know what goes into being a midwife… but it ain’t easy. Up all hours of the night. You are a container for emotions. You are dealing with social issues quite often, and you have a family of your own to take care of.
So Eva, girl, I’m proud of you way to go. I am giving you the Hustler Award. Oh yeah. That’s a good one. Yeah, for sure.
All right, everybody. Thank you all for listening to the Milk Minute. And just a reminder. If you want to get insider access, sweet merchandise, live Q and A’s once a month and other just random anecdotes from Maureen and I behind the scenes, you can become a patron at patreon.com/milkminutepodcast.
Thanks for listening to the Milk Minute. If you haven’t already please like, subscribe and review our podcast wherever you listen. To send us feedback, personal stories, or just to chat, you can send us an email at [email protected]