Nikki Bergen

Belle Talk

A Different Way to Treat Baby Eczema

By: Nikki  

The following is a guest post by my new friend Henrieta, mama and owner/creator of Charlotte’s Bum Butter.   My own daughter Gabrielle started suffering from eczema this Fall, when she was 5 months old.  It was heart breaking to see her so uncomfortable. We went to the paediatrician and were prescribed steroid cream, but she had a reaction and actually started vomiting after a few applications (we learned later that can be a side effect).

We were desperate. I connected with Henrieta and found her information on eczema so very helpful.  Her bum butter has made a huge difference, as has cutting out eggs from our daughter’s diet – even though we were told by the doctor that diet has no impact on eczema. It seemed like a good time to learn more about this common issue! Thanks so much Henrieta for sharing your knowledge! 


Skin is the largest organ of the human body. And despite us often thinking that it separates us from the world, the opposite is true. Our skin connects us to our environment, to other people, to life outside of our bodies. It’s a complex, intelligent organ that is made up of multiple layers. And it does a lot more than just wrapping itself around our bodies.

Being uncomfortable in your skin can feel like a torture, and all of us have at some point experienced the pain of having skin that is not happy.

I started a cosmetic business after learning that my baby girl was not so unique in having multiple skin issues within days of birth. The skin of babies is delicate and different in structure from the skin of adults. It’s 5x more permeable than adult skin. Baby acne, cradle cap, eczema are some of the most common issues we see. I was one of the stressed-out moms looking at my baby, doing whatever I could to help and failing miserably. When the doctor put a prescription for steroid cream in my hand and I picked it up from the pharmacy and read the ingredients in it, I drew a line.


There hasn’t been enough research done in the field of eczema. Our bodies are blamed, and we are told it’s an autoimmune issue. The space age treatment of applying mineral oil-based product with powerful steroids on a few month-old’s baby seemed like a very lazy way of covering up a real problem. I started looking for other solutions, none of which brought any results and so I searched and learned and experimented in my kitchen until I had a product that was finally making a difference.

Most babies get eczema around 3-4 months after birth or as the indoor heating season approaches. For many it is a temporary issue that over time improves and does not return. In my opinion, this is the skin learning how much oil to produce and dealing with new environmental challenges.  The best solution is to bathe without soaps and apply emollient moisturizer at least once a day. My motto is “Keep calm and Butter up!”

Avoid creams that list water as the first ingredient, because despite labels of dermatologist recommended claims, they contain synthetic polymers and powerful preservatives that are known skin irritants and sensitizers.

For some babies the problem persists and even gets worse. In that case I recommend you pick up the Liver Rescue by Anthony William, or the Medical Medium as he is known on social media. Anthony’s theory is that skin issues like eczema are a result of a struggling liver.

Eczema, he believes, is a reaction of the liver to copper and mercury stored there, that interacts with a dormant virus, most likely one of the strains of EBV. The virus produces a derma toxin which then causes a reaction like eczema. Our skin purges dermatoxins to take the burden off the liver and the result is dry, itchy skin or weeping painful skin. Your baby probably inherited the heavy metals from you. Copper can come from water pipes, pesticides and mercury, which was commonly used as an ingredient in dental fillings. You may have inherited these from your mother too and your liver never got the opportunity to eliminate it.

There are a few ways to deal with this issue, or more accurately help to alleviate the symptoms.

  1. Eliminate environmental toxins. This can be quite a challenge, since a lot of clothing is infused with fire retardants and fabric brighteners. Organic cotton and bamboo may be the best way to go. Emma Rohman right here in Toronto has a great little business called Green at Home.  Her blog and FB group “the Green Product Forum” gives tips on making our homes greener and cleaner.


  1. Topical support for the skin. Coming from someone who tried everything under the Sun and ended up creating my own butter: petrolatum or mineral oil based products are not the answer. Our bodies were not designed to handle this kind of oil. Besides, mineral oil is a suspected endocrine disruptor – it causes more allergic reactions and dries the skin with long term use. Healthy baby skin is 5x more absorbent to begin with and inflamed and broken skin is even more permeable. Our bodies have no solution for the elimination of mineral oil, which has to pass through the liver to get eliminated. Unlike adult skin, baby skin is structured from saturated fatty acids. Using the right moisturizer is key. Unlike olive oil and beeswax for example, cocoa butter has small enough molecules to penetrate baby skin and nourish it from the deepest layers. That’s why we use 40% of crude organic Cocoa Butter in our formulas.


  1. Clean up your diet. Formula fed babies are given limited choices, but the amazing book “Super Nutrition for babies” written by a nutritionist and paediatrician has an entire chapter on different types of home-made formulas. Breast fed babies rely on their mom’s nutrition, and by avoiding foods that feed the viruses, such as dairy and eggs, we can improve the situation. Anthony William has a long catalogue of nutritional recipes that support the liver, including a heavy metal detox smoothie to help eliminate the trouble makers from our bodies.


  1. Reduce your stress. Eating healthy foods, regular exercise and meditation is a huge help. Try to reduce your consumption of coffee as it is a stressor for your body. Coffee forces our adrenal glands to produce stress hormones which get processed and neutralized by the liver, putting further burden on it. This not only translates in the quality of your breast milk, but in your own anxiety level. I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but babies are so in tune with their mothers; they basically feel everything we feel. Your stress becomes your baby’s stress. It’s not only the toxins from unhealthy food their livers have to process from your milk, but also your stress hormones too. We think babies don’t deal with stress! Not true! The process of development is a stressful one. New functions of the body kick in and surprise them with their intensity. Pain of growing teeth and digestion is extremely stressful for a baby, as well as your distress. Uncomfortable skin is yet another one. So take care of yourself first mama, to take care of your baby!

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge Henrieta! Check out Charlotte’s Bum Butter here! 

5 Birthing Tips for Pregnant Women

By: Nikki   ,

It has been a big year filled with many firsts – the biggest of all was the birth of my daughter Gabrielle this past April 2018. She is now 8 and a half months old!
As a Prenatal and Postnatal Pilates teacher, it was truly amazing to finally be able to practice what I have been preaching for close to a decade. Pregnancy and birth is such an important topic – especially as it relates to pelvic health. Pelvic health is my passion and something I wish more women discussed.
We have all heard the jokes about sneeze leaks after child birth and the importance of “doing your kegels” for pregnant and postpartum women.  But newsflash, there is SO much more to exercising your pelvic floor than just “doing your kegels.” (Hint, some women shouldn’t be doing kegels at all!)
Child birth is one of the most incredible feats a woman’s body can accomplish. The more a woman is physically and mentally prepared, the stronger and more empowered she will feel during this life changing event.
Here are our top 5 tips for a smooth birth. We teach these in our Bump Method Prenatal Pilates classes. That being said, not everyone is able to have a safe vaginal birth. Circumstances are sometimes beyond our control and we are so grateful to have medical interventions when needed. C-sections save lives everyday. And some people may simply choose to elect a caesarian birth for personal reasons.

There’s absolutely NO birth agenda here, simply tips that I (and many students before me) found helpful in preparing for a vaginal birth.

  1. Open Glottis. Always try to push with an open mouth (called open glottis). This also helps you dilate more quickly when in contractions. Try exhaling and letting your lips flutter – much like a horse. It sounds crazy, but it’s proven to reduce pelvic floor damage. This links to the next point.
  2.  Sphincter Law. Read up on “Sphincter Law”, a term coined by Ina May Gaskin. She has some great books also and a great TED Talk. Ina is a famous midwife with A LOT to say about birth, and her work is very empowering. I read her books during pregnancy and found her stories helped quell any anxiety.
  3. Spontaneous pushing is best for your pelvic floor. This means that pushing is non directed – you push when you feel the urge and not before.
  4.  Find your core and release your pelvic floor. Try to push at the end of your inhale when your pelvic floor is most open. The more open you can make your pelvic floor and the more connected you can stay to your deep core muscles – specifically your transverse abdominis – the stronger you will feel when it comes time to push. I had a pretty hard time figuring out how to push until my doula finally said “use your abs Nikki!”. Baby G arrived 3 pushes later. Stay connected to your deep core muscles during pregnancy by performing “hug the baby” core breaths. We have tons of video examples on instagram under #thebumpmethod and in our online prenatal video programs.
  5. Push side lying. If you have the epidural or are with an OB who won’t deliver you on hands and knees, try lying on your side with your top leg on a squat bar during pushing instead of on your back. This way your pelvic floor is 30% more open and studies show it is actually easier to get baby out with less tearing.
I sincerely hope these tips are helpful to any pregnant women who may be reading this. Here’s to you and your magical bodies! My favourite quote from midwife Ina May Gaskin is: “Your body is not a lemon.” You got this mamas. Your strength will surprise you.
With so much love.xo

La Patria: Female Entrepreneurs Making a Difference

By: Nikki   , ,

I recently met the amazing women behind La Patria, Permpreet Soomal and Fernanda Sequeira.  I immediately fell in love with their bags (had to have one!) and their inspirational story of entrepreneurship making a difference around the world. Two local Toronto women are really having an impact! In fact, I was so inspired that I asked to interview them for the blog. Read on! 


1. What inspired you to start this business? 

Our love of tradition and travel inspired us to set out in search of uniquely crafted everyday objects from distinct places. As two young women and conscious consumers ourselves, we appreciate handmade goods with a story and sense of belonging to the people and places where they originate. This is what led us to create the label La Patria – meaning homeland in Latin. Our goal is to provide quality everyday lifestyle goods that are distinct, ethically sourced and enable economic and social change in the communities where they are made.

Our goal strongly aligns with our slogan “Handmade for Life” because our products are meant for everyday use, are high quality and meant to last a lifetime. And most importantly, our products empower and inject life into local communities through employment, education, and entrepreneurship.


2. What is the story behind each bag?  How long does it take to make them, the materials, etc?

The Bolsa Collection is our first line of totes and baskets originating from the rural highlands of Guatemala. Traditionally made to serve as carryall bags from the local markets, villagers would stack the totes one within another and fill them as needed. The lightweight and sturdy design was perfect for carrying all their markets essentials on foot. Today the totes are commonly used by Chapines (local Guatemalans) in cities and villages alike, keeping their tradition alive and useful!

Each tote begins with a wooden box frame mould built to a custom size and shape. Our skilled artisans carefully hand weave strands of recycled plastic through the frame to create a sturdy base that will stand the test of time. The straps are woven separately and fed through the body of the bag. This process not only requires skill, but also patience as each bag takes about 4 hours to complete. We are proud to say our totes are made with 100% recycled plastic. Even the seams are expertly fused together using only an open flame to melt  the two ends together, creating an unbreakable bond. The finishing touches of our label are also applied by hand, making each tote truly one of a kind works of art!


3. Your company is all about social entrepreneurship.  Can you tell us more about the impact you are making in the local community?

One of the most rewarding parts of launching this business has been discovering shared values with our artisan team. In getting to know their local community, we found ourselves sharing in a common language of beliefs, passions, dreams and values. This led us to discover an emotional connection and realize no matter where you live in the world, as human beings we are almost always motivated by the same thing – family. As such, it’s incredibly important that La Patria makes a positive impact on the families and communities of our artisans.

We are strong believers that much can be achieved for families through the value of education.  In fact, mostly every artisan on our team will tell you the same thing: They work to ensure better educational opportunities for their children. This common desire made it easy for us to decide which area of the community we would focus on supporting.  With every purchase of a La Patria product, a portion of proceeds go to support local schools with much needed resources.  Currently, we are working directly with the Principal of the local school where the young children of our artisan team attend in order to support their much needed breakfast program.

Thanks so much Ladies! You can learn more about La Patria on their website, or on instagram. 

My Experience with Pelvic Physiotherapy

By: Nikki   , , ,

The following is a guest post by our incredible teacher Brittany Brie. BB is our first ever licensee and will be starting her own Bump Method classes for pregnant and postpartum women in the Newmarket/Keswick/Aurora area of Ontario. Thank you for sharing your story BB! You’re an amazing teacher and beautiful person inside and out! Check out the Keswick Bump Method classes Brittany Brie has in store for Fall 2018! Wednesdays 12 pm Postnatal  for Mom & Baby and Saturdays 1 pm Prenatal!

Today I went for my first Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy assessment.
I think the physiotherapist was a little curious as to why I was there. Usually she treats women who are pregnant, postpartum, having some sort of pelvic pain or a prolapse. I let her know that I had no children and was simply there to learn more about my pelvic health. I told her I was willing to bet that I had hypertonic or “tense” pelvic floor muscles because I’m always holding in my stomach muscles.

Here’s a little bit of background on myself. I grew up around artists. My parents are both singers and very creative individuals. Growing up I watched my dad sing on stage and my mom lead the soprano section in her choir. Seeing my parents perform instilled the performer in me, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been moving my body and speaking in front of crowds.

In high school I started to teach fitness classes, dance classes and off ice training to figure skaters for the Town of Georgina. I took this leadership/teaching role very seriously and thought (at 16 years old) if I didn’t “look the part”, nobody would want to learn from me. Insert my slight obsession with fitness and negative thoughts towards my body. This was the beginning of what I like to call my TIGHT TORSO PROBLEM.  Having a “tight” and trim body is usually thought of as a fabulous thing. Turns out that’s not necessarily the case.

FUN FACT: I used to perform 1000 crunches before bed because I thought that having rock hard abs was the most important thing on earth. (I was inspired to do this because Usher did it while he went on tour, to keep fit.) Crazy, right?

Fast forward…to when I was accepted to York University’s BFA Dance program. It was during these 4 years that my “tight torso problems” got worse.

In an effort to “look good” in dance class, I’d pull my stomach in to hold myself together. I started to notice that breathing became a challenge – both in and outside of the studio.
My breathing felt limited, as if it was stuck and I could never understand why I couldn’t take a FULL breath.  During class I could perform multiple pirouettes, do the splits, balance on one foot and have so much control over my body, yet I couldn’t figure out my damn breathing.

I felt restricted, as if I was trapped in a box and couldn’t get out.
Every day left me feeling frustrated, dizzy and constipated.

It wasn’t until I became a Pilates instructor that I really understood the mechanics of breathing.

When you inhale, your diaphragm should expand, dropping down towards the pelvic floor allowing air to fill your entire rib cage, and as you exhale the diaphragm should lift back to its resting position.  If you constantly “suck in” your tight torso, these breathing mechanics can’t work properly.

Today my pelvic physiotherapist explained the importance of having a functional pelvic floor and asked me to breathe for her.  This instantly triggered tension and anxiety in my body, as breathing has always been a very hard task.

She encouraged me to lift a raisin from my urethra, then a golf ball into my vagina and lastly a marble into my rectum (all common cues for contracting the pelvic floor muscles).  We discovered that my PF muscles were working optimally, not too tight and not too weak (yay!) but my problem stemmed from the constant tightening, and ‘holding in’ of my abdominal muscles. I needed to learn how to let go. Tight doesn’t mean functional.

As I was laying on the exam table in my Pelvic Physiotherapist’s office, it hit me: The reason I’ve found it so hard to breathe all these years is because I’ve been pulling IN my abdominal muscles too much.  Could it really be something as simple as this?

Was holding in my stomach, trying to “look the part” stopping me from getting a full breath?


I was tightening my abs so much that my diaphragm and pelvic floor couldn’t work together properly.  I was squishing my internal organs, not giving them the room they need to function. Because of this I’ve had lower back pain, problems with constipation, mental issues, body issues and bloating.

Here’s what I learned from that pelvic physiotherapy assessment:

  • You can’t fully contract a muscle, unless you can fully relax a muscle.
  • You should be able to contract your pelvic floor without the help of your abdominal muscles.
  • Sucking in, and wearing your pants too tight can do more damage than you think.
  • Pelvic health means something different for everybody. Some women need to engage more, whereas I needed learn how to release the tension.

Pelvic floor physiotherapists are SO knowledgeable and I would highly recommend seeing one if you’d like to get to know your body and want to get serious about strengthening your core from the inside, out.

I left my appointment with some homework…(for my body and life)


(of my stomach, and the things that don’t matter)


Can we get an amen! Thank you Brittany Brie! Visit our calendar to see the Keswick Bump Method classes Brittany Brie has in store for Fall 2018! Wednesdays 12 pm Postnatal for Mom & Baby and Saturdays 1 pm Prenatal!

Making Friends with Fear: My SVT Heart Ablation Surgery

By: Nikki   , , ,

Six years ago today in August of 2012, I did Tough Mudder for the first time. It’s a pretty wicked 18 km obstacle course designed by British Special Forces meant to “test the limits of endurance, strength and heart.”  You literally heave your up way up and down a massive ski hill ten times. It’s pretty much the worst (or the best, depending on how you look at these things) obstacle course you can imagine. There’s mud, ice, barbed wire and paramedics with stretchers at the ready.

Spoiler alert: Turns out I needed one of those stretchers. I completed the entire barf-inducing course, including the grand finale obstacle called the Electric Eel. It features hanging 10,000-volt live wires that you must run through in order to cross the finish line. There was a sign saying “not recommended if you have a heart condition” or something like that. Whatever. No biggie.

Right after the “Arctic Enema”, a pool of ice water, mud and barb wire!

Of course, in my infinite 30-year old wisdom – despite having a heart condition – I ignored it.

Thirty minutes later, I found myself barely conscious lying in some ski hut with an IV in my muddy arm, surrounded by shouting paramedics.  I was in SVT or supraventricular tachycardia. I’d had these episodes of severely fast heart beat of 200 beats per minute since I was 14, but I’d always been able to make them go away on their own. Not this time. This time I needed a drug called adenosine to essentially restart my heart to reset the normal electrical rhythm.

Back in the ski hut I heard “you’ll feel some pressure!” and it felt like an elephant was crushing my chest. I lurched, Pulp Fiction style. My friend Kyra was with me. I remember her bawling hysterically watching me. Adenosine sucks. It feels like you’re about to die for about 10 seconds – like the grim reaper is hovering. Drama drama drama.

Then it’s all over and your heart beats normal. Relief floods you.

Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out by it all. I saw a cardiologist. My options were 1) Do nothing  2) Take beta blocker drugs everyday and feel like garbage 3) Have an ablation surgery to burn out the extra electrical pathway I have in my heart.

I chose the first option. Do nothing and hope for the best.  I started living my life trying to avoid having another SVT episode. This is hard when you make a living as a Pilates instructor. I stopped running, I stopped pushing myself in class and cut out caffeine, but every few months I’d experience that horrifying rapid heart rate. Sometimes I’d end up in the ER in an ambulance, sometimes it would pass.

To date, I’ve needed adenosine 5 times.  It’s gotten worse, which happens as your heart ages. But I still did nothing. Beta blockers would rob me of my energy, and ablation surgery was petrifying.

Then I got pregnant. Shit got even crazier. I could barely walk up the stairs at home without feeling like my heart was going to pop out of my chest. Pregnancy makes this condition worse because your heart has to work harder from the extra blood volume.

I reached a breaking point when I needed adenosine in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  All of a sudden it was no longer about me anymore. I wrote about that pregnancy experience here. 

I gave birth to a healthy baby girl this past April 2018.  I’m beyond grateful that my hospital labour and delivery went smoothly. 12 hours of labour, no epidural, not even an IV – despite what I was told by doctors that I’d “likely need”.  Funny how motivation works. I was bound and determined to experience something natural after using IVF to conceive and all the heart issues in pregnancy. Kind of felt like I had something to prove. My body is not a lemon. 

I freaking did it. It was a combination of luck (baby’s head was down, my heart stayed in normal rhythm, no other surprise medical issues), an amazing doula, the hospital bathtub, prenatal pilates (shameless plug, but it’s true!) and fierce fierce stubbornness.

My birth experience is what finally gave me the courage to do the heart ablation surgery. It’s now August 2018, and it’s been a week since the surgery. Waiting in anticipation for this heart surgery – a procedure where I’d have to be awake, and one that could leave me with a pacemaker at 36 years old – was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.

(Listening to music so I don’t have to hear the surgeons talking during the surgery.)

But I did the surgery despite the raging fear. And it’s over. And I’m ok. Here’s what I learned.

Becoming a mother has taught me to make space for fear to exist in my life. Every time I feel it, it reminds me that I am alive. I have been blessed with so much to lose. With that comes fear, but also so much love. Feeling fear is the epitome of being human – of being a mother. Surrendering to that fear and acknowledging its importance means I am no longer controlled by it. I am stronger than my fear.

And my body is not a lemon. Neither is yours. Fear is normal. We are all stronger than we think.

(Wires in my heart during the ablation)







Healthy Homemade Banana Protein Bars

By: Nikki   ,

As a new mom, I’m all about fast, convenient and satisfying food! I discovered this insanely delicious recipe while very pregnant in full on “nesting mode”, experimenting in the kitchen in the days leading up to my delivery.

Baby girl was over a week late, so there was a lot of time spent distracting myself and making food to fill up our new chest freezer in the garage. Baking healthy delicious treats that were freezer-friendly became somewhat of an obsession! This one is a winning recipe I’m excited to share! High in protein and healthy fats, it will satisfy your hunger AND your sweet tooth – without a sugar crash later.  It’s vegan and gluten free. Make it! You will be happy you did.


  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats, ground into a flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder ( I use Vega or Genuine Health)
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×9 baking tin.
  2. Combine chia seeds with 6 Tbsp water and stir. Set aside and allow it to form a gel-like “chia egg.”
  3. Place rolled oats in a small Magic Bullet or blender and process into a flour.
  4. Now combine the chia egg, oat flour and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix well. The dough batter will feel thicker than a traditional banana bread dough, closer to a cookie dough consistency.
  5. Spread batter into the greased pan and bake at 350 F for approx 25 minutes until edges start to pull away from the sides.
  6. Allow to cool before cutting into squares! This will take willpower 🙂  Store in a tupperware container in the fridge or freeze in freezer bags for a rainy day!

Life Lessons from a Pregnant Fitness Teacher

By: Nikki   , ,

I hate running. I’m that person who buys overpriced loungewear that says “Shopping is my Cardio” across the front in block letters.

But it wasn’t always that way. The truth is, I’ve come to convince myself that I hate anything my body can’t do. Call it sour grapes rationalization (a term I recall fondly from that Psych 101 undergrad course back in ‘99), call it a defense mechanism – my utter distain for running is actually a highly useful psychological tool, especially for a girl who has chosen a career in the fitness industry.

I have a congenital heart condition called Supraventricular Tachycardia, or SVT. SVT is an electrical issue. Most people have one electrical pathway in their heart. I have two – a good one and a bad one.  This condition often affects young, athletic healthy people. I was first diagnosed at the age of 14 while competing on my high school swim team.

It’s not painful and you don’t die from it, but it’s a pain in the ass – and somewhat dangerous. Your heart beats crazy fast, sometimes up to 220 bpm and your blood pressure takes a nose dive until it feels like you may pass out, and you might.  It happens whenever my heart skips a beat. Everyone’s heart skips a beat now and then, often during sustained aerobic exercise (read: running) and sudden high impact movement.  However, a skipped heartbeat for me can trigger my bad electrical pathway and the heart rhythm gets confused. It basically becomes an electric disco party in my ventricles.

Many times I can convert out of the arrhythmia through certain vagal maneuvers (bearing down, massaging the carotid artery in my neck, lying on my back with legs in the air), BUT sometimes that doesn’t work, and then there’s a 911 ambulance trip to the ER to get an intravenous drug called adenosine to basically stop and restart my heart, Pulp Fiction style.  The drug makes you feel like an elephant is crushing your chest. In fact, a paramedic in training once told me his text book read “…patients will feel an impending sense of doom following adenosine treatment.” It’s a pretty accurate description. Luckily the feeling only lasts about 10-20 seconds before your heart resets.

I’ve had this drug 4 times in my life.  Once after finishing Tough Mudder (should not have ignored the “DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVE A HEART CONDITION” note at that electric shock obstacle), once while half naked on an exam table in a fertility clinic, once while teaching an intense fitness class and most recently at 6.5 months pregnant while attending a friend’s baby shower.

Getting pumped up for Tough Mudder.

Taken after receiving adenosine for the first time after completing the Tough Mudder course back in 2012.

The most recent episode at the baby shower was incredibly dramatic.  I had been sitting on the couch reaching for some fruit salad when boom, enter SVT.  I quietly excused myself and tried to get out of the arrhythmia in the powder room, but no such luck.  My friend’s baby shower was completely ruined once two teams of paramedics showed up.  I still feel horrible about it, and definitely traumatized several guests in the process. No one likes to see a massive pregnant woman lurching around on the bathroom floor while getting shot up with drugs. It was a memorable baby shower for all!


Celebrating my amazing friend at her shower (she’s on the right). Taken 20 minutes before SVT episode.

Less than an hour later. She left her OWN baby shower and came to the ER with me. Love this woman.

Now at the ripe age of 36, I’ve been dealing with this condition for well over half my life.  As a self-proclaimed A-type personality, living with SVT has taught me so much about learning to let go of control.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is surrender to your body, without fear or judgement. It’s hard to describe the sensation of trying to calmly breathe through a racing heartbeat, not knowing if you’ll be ok in 2 minutes, or if you need to call 911.

If it wasn’t for western medicine, I’m doubtful I’d still be here. That’s a bold statement, but a true one.

I’m now 8 months pregnant and have had to stop teaching group classes much earlier than I’d hoped. The risk for triggering another SVT episode is too great. Pregnancy makes the condition worse because your heart has to work harder to pump 50% extra blood volume. Yet to be honest, there’s a certain amount of  ‘fitness instructor ego’ I had carried with me into this pregnancy.

I planned to teach until 39 weeks pregnant, gain no more than 20 lbs., and basically stay ripped. That has not happened.  I also wanted a glorious drug-free water birth with midwives, but now need to be at a level 3 hospital with an OB, Cardiologist and epidural to regulate my heart rhythm.

I wryly chuckle to myself as I write this. The lessons keep coming.  We had to do IVF to conceive this baby (NOT part of the plan), and now I must again relinquish control over my body and learn to release judgement over myself. I’ve decided to get an ablation surgery this summer that will hopefully fix this heart condition once and for all. I was too scared to do it in the past, but becoming a mother is bringing out the bravery in me.

There’s so much insidious pressure on women surrounding their bodies and surrounding birth – particularly to “go natural.” There’s a sense that natural conception and birth is a choice, and many traumatized new moms have confided in me their dark feelings of guilt and shame in not having been able to stick to their plan.

We need to celebrate ALL births and women, regardless of how or where they happen.

I’ve come to realize that the people who suffer most from self judgement and fear are the ones most likely to pass judgement over others. The mommy world is rife with guilt, shame and judgement. If we could just learn to be easier on ourselves, we would be easier on others.

But perhaps the greatest lesson in this whole journey is this:  It is through learning how to release self-judgement that we become truly free and empowered, and can then empower and support others.


Healthy Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

By: Nikki  

Sometimes you need chocolate, and that need gets even more real as the holidays approach! Here’s a healthy truffle recipe that’s easy, delicious and absolutely guilt-free. Think of these as fancy peppermint flavoured “energy balls” to get you through  your holiday to do list.  Vegan, gluten-free and full of fibre and healthy fat to keep  you going all day long. Take a breather and enjoy these little balls of happiness!

Makes 15 to 18 truffles

1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon organic peppermint extract (not mint extract, peppermint is the way to go)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder, plus additional for rolling

Soak the dates in a bowl of warm water until they soften up a bit, about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the almonds, coconut oil, salt, peppermint extract, water, and cacao powder. Process for one minute or until the mixture forms up into a ball.

Remove the “dough” from the food processor and form 15 to 18 small round truffles with your hands. Sprinkle additional cocoa powder on a flat surface and roll each truffle in the chocolate until well coated. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set. Remove from the fridge and top each truffle with powered icing sugar if desired for extra fancy flare ( or if you’re trying to impress guests!). Feel free to omit the decorative sugar topping too. It will be sweet either way! These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for several weeks. Don’t store with the powdered icing sugar. Save that for right before serving 🙂

Latest Scientific Research on Diastasis Recti

By: Nikki   ,

The following is an incredibly informative summary written by my mentor, Dr. Sinéad Dufour PhD.  Dr. Sinéad practices as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at The Womb in Milton, Ontario in addition to lecturing and researching as a professor at McMaster University.  She consulted on our Bump Method Pre and Postpartum videos, and we are blessed to be so in the loop on the latest scientific research thanks to her. Diastasis Recti (often referred to as ‘mummy tummy’ or separated abdominals from pregnancy) is a common condition that can happen when the pressure of a growing baby causes excess stretching of the pregnant mom’s abdominal wall. The postpartum result can mean a significantly weakened core, pelvic floor dysfunction and back pain, coupled with a pouch of loose skin and a gap between the abdominal muscles. Here’s Dr. Sinéad in a video interview explaining more about diastasis recti –  a condition that affects 1 in 4 pregnant women.  In the article below, I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing the points in more layman’s terms, in bold italics.


Pregnancy-Related Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA): Top Five Updated Insights!
The discussion points in this blog are based on the findings of a recent Canadian study co-lead by Dr. Sinéad Dufour (McMaster Univeristy, Ontario) and Stéphanie Bernard (Laval University, Quebec) 1 .

1) Determining the “gap” between the rectus abdominis muscles is not clinically relevant. Our experts agreed (over 80% consensus) that determination of the inter-recti distance (IRD), the conventional method of actually determining the presence of DRA, is not clinically relevant. Rather our experts contend that like dynamic tissues elsewhere in the body, meaningful
assessment techniques need to garner aspects of the tissue function and behaviour. So, if determining IRD was not recommended by our experts, what is? Assessing for the development of tension through the linea alba during a voluntary pelvic floor contraction topped the list at almost 90% consensus.

Summary 1: Don’t get too obsessed about how many fingers you can fit inside the “gap”. The tension of your abdominal wall is what matters more! 

2) The function of the linea alba is interdependent with the function of the pelvic floor. As demonstrated in insight number one, our experts indicate a clear connection between the function of the linea and alba and the pelvic floor. Beyond assessment, this understood interdependence was highlighted in many of the other practice principles that were generated. For example, one practice principle highlighting this was applied to all three domains of perinatal care indicated the following: Commence inner unit exercises that facilitate optimal isolated and synergistic activation of the inner unit and once control achieved, progress with tailored outer unit and functionally oriented exercises.

Summary 2: Your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles work together! You need to ensure you know how to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles (aka kegels) to activate your core!  

Diastasis Recti

3) Optimal Management of intra-abdominal pressure is key.
Moving from the inner unit muscles to the concept of the canister these muscles actually create, of which the lina alba is anatomically and functionally a part of, is what we call the “manometric pressure system”. Our experts were clear in their agreement that DRA, as understood to be more than just widened IRD, needs to be considered within the context of the
manometric pressure system. The general summary statement that was developed conveys this important perspective and is outlined at the end of the article 1 Establishing best practice principles for pregnancy-related diastasis rectus abdominis: A consensus study. Presentations: ICS, Florence Italy; CSM, New Orleans. Manuscript in development.

Summary 3: Diastasis Recti is caused by excessive pressure pushing out on the abdominal wall (think growing baby, poor posture or breathing mechanics, even a man with a beer belly can get diastasis recti). It’s not as simple as just calling the condition “separated abs”.  

4) Women’s health physiotherapists have an importance advocacy role with respect to optimizing pelvic and abdominal health through labour and delivery. Although it was not until round 2 of the Delphi consensus that this insight was transpired, by
the end of round 3, four practice principles were established within the domain of intra-partum care. The two practice principles that were considered to be of primary importance in this domain were: Advocating for the ability to be mobile during labour and avoiding directed pushing practices that increase intra-abdominal pressure for sustained periods and close the
glottis (Eg. Valsalva manoeuver). It is exciting and important that our experts acknowledge important emerging roles for physiotherapists that promote women’s pelvic and abdominal health upstream!

Summary 4: To reduce unnecessary strain on the pelvic floor and abdominal wall, research shows that women should be allowed to be mobile during labour and not confined to a bed. They should also avoid intense Valsalva bearing down style pushing, and ideally wait until they feel the urge to push themselves. 

5) There is no place to recommendations that could potentially induce fear of movement.
Our Delphi consensus commenced with 82 statements and ended with 28 developed practice principles after three rounds of iteration. The language in all 28 final practice principles was tweaked and modified through each stage based on experts’ feedback to ensure that potential fear of movement would not be elicited. As one of the lead researchers on this work I was happy but not surprised that our expert colleagues hold this important and scientifically substantiated perspective. Other recent research of mine on the topic of pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain confirmed that pelvic health physiotherapists do a much better job of using language that will not elicit fear when compared to physiotherapists who do not have additional post-graduate pelvic health training.

Summary 5: Don’t be afraid to move! Movement is medicine. Find yourself a specialized pelvic physiotherapist to help you if you’re experiencing pelvic pain! 

To close, I leave you with a summary statement from this work that puts it all together. Pregnancy-related DRA represents an important and under-recognized concern. All relevant health and fitness providers working with pregnant women should know how to promote best care practices for this condition, however general agreement of what constitutes the best approach to is lacking. Given that the complex three-dimensional tissue of the linea alba is intrinsic to the thoraco-pelvic abdominal manometric system, compromised integrity of the linea alba needs to be considered within the context of this system. As experts in women’s health, we have come to understand that the impairments and dysfunctions related to DRA as multi-dimensional and multifactorial. Further, in line with other thoracic, lumbar and pelvic conditions we manage in the profession of physiotherapy, the interaction between the musculoskeletal, nervous and immune systems represents a central aspect of our global care approach, which is then individually tailored. Thus, our approach allows for the integrated targeting of modifiable factors that are potential drivers of DRA and associated impairments or participation restrictions across multiple dimensions. As a group we have agreed that a set of practice principles are needed when working with women in order to guide clinical decision making with respect to pregnancy-related DRA. These practice principles have been developed with intent of
guiding practice of all relevant care providers.

Dr. Sinéad is hosting a course on Saturday November 25, 2017 at The Womb, covering these advanced topics in perinatal care. Details below! 


Tips for New Moms from West End Mamas

By: Nikki   , ,

I’m here with Dr. Sarah Mickeler, Chiropractor and owner of West End Mamas, an incredible wellness clinic in Toronto’s Bloor West Village, dedicated to pregnant and postpartum moms.  It really does take a village, and that’s what Dr Sarah has created in her warm and inviting clinic – a sense of community that you can sense from the moment you walk in. We sat down for a chat as I wanted to learn more. Dr. Sarah has lots of wisdom to offer moms! 

This is hanging in the reception area when you walk into West End Mamas. Love it so much.

1) Dr Sarah, as someone who has worked closely with pregnant and new moms for over 15 years, tell us, what inspired you to open West End Mamas? Was there a need you saw that wasn’t being met? 

After being in practice serving only the perinatal community for over 10 years, it became abundantly clear to me that we have lost the sense of “the village” in Toronto. Mamas were scrambling to find experienced healthcare practitioners to help them during pregnancy and in postpartum, but weren’t sure who to trust, and had to go all over the city to find them.  Childcare during appointments was always a barrier, and there was a lack of a supportive community.  West End Mamas was born out of the desire to fill that gap – to provide excellent perinatal healthcare to mamas in a supportive environment where we try to think of everything that a mama might need to make life easier.

2) What is the one main tip for new moms you would offer? I realize this may be hard to narrow down!

Ask for help.  Be willing to accept help.  Be ok with not being able to do everything on your own.  Ok – that’s three pieces of advice, but it’s really all the same thing.  Somehow, over the past few centuries, we’ve come to think that we should be parenting in isolation.  That we should be capable of doing everything ourselves. But the reality is that this isn’t how parenting should work. We are not meant to do it all alone.  We are meant to raise our kids in community and to have the support of others to help us navigate the wildness that is new motherhood.  Motherhood is really, really hard, and we’re not meant to do it alone.  Ask for help.

3) Many moms have shared with me personal stories of feeling pressured and shamed for struggling with new motherhood – especially postpartum anxiety and breastfeeding challenges. What are your thoughts on societal pressures facing new moms in 2017 today? 

It’s hard to even know where to start with this one.  I was convinced I knew everything about parenting – until I became one.  “You do you” is really my new mantra.  Some women can breastfeed easily.  Some can’t.  Some have babies that sleep.  Some don’t. Some breeze through the postpartum phase, and some (like me), really, really, really struggle with it.  However, there is no right or wrong.  Seeing as how these little bundles of joy don’t come with instruction manuals, parenting is 99% intuition.  I’m a firm believer in “educated, informed choice” is best.  Not breast is best, or even fed is best.  A mama that is educated on all of the available options so that she can choose what is best for her family will make the best decision for her and her family. If co-sleeping is working for you and your family, then co-sleep.  If it works better for you to have a night nanny so that you can sleep and function, then that’s great.  If you’re going a little nutty because you haven’t slept in weeks and your little bundle of “joy” is less joyous than you expected, understand that that’s ok. We don’t have to love it all, or even most of it.  Sometimes just getting through the day is enough.  The sooner we can all be honest about how hard it is to be a new mama, the better.  I’m here to lead the charge, help women find their voices, and help them find their tribes so that they can be properly supported the way they are meant to be.


Dr. Sarah Mickeler

Thank you Sarah for sharing your wisdom and for opening such an amazing clinic for mothers in our community. This really is the definition of women supporting women, and it’s pretty awesome!