House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today's column is written by Laura Lyons, a nurse practitioner at the Sutter Coast Community Clinic.

I've been honored to have cared for women in labor for almost 20 years. Now as a women's heath care nurse practitioner I take care of women during their pregnancy, to help bring healthy babies into this world.

It is such an exciting time, and there is so much to talk about. It is also a time to make decisions that will affect you and your baby. We talk about the many changes going on and how to care for yourself and your growing baby.

It is the time in your life to take the best possible care of yourself. It is important to eat healthy, drink several glasses of water daily, exercise and get plenty of rest. Avoid things that can hurt you and your baby like toxic fumes, smoke, alcohol and drugs.

One of my favorite discussions is about a mother's three gifts to her newborn. The first one is love, sometimes that's not an instant, overwhelming feeling. Don't worry, they will grow on you.

Remember if it isn't love at first sight there is a good chance the birth was one of the greatest, most intense workouts of your life. Not to mention the tsunami of hormonal changes. Just put that little one skin to skin between your breasts right after birth and whisper a little prayer.

The second gift is clean air. Please, please don't let anyone smoke around your little one. They can't protect themselves, so it's your job to protect their fragile lungs. Take them outside to breath in our fresh ocean air.

The third gift is your milk. It is a natural resource, healthy and nutritious. Your milk is everything your newborn needs for the first six months of life. Plus breastfeeding is cheap, always ready and helps protect your baby from infections. Another big plus is breastfed babies' poop doesn't stink.

We are programmed to survive, and one of the most healthy ways that babies can do so is the breast crawl. The baby is placed skin to skin between the mother's breast and they can instinctually find their mother's milk without guidance. They will latch on and begin to nurse.

Babies have limited vision but they can see a contrast of colors, which, along with their sense of smell, touch and taste, they can use to find their mother's milk. The best time to do this is right after birth while they are most alert.

Just think, in the animal world they are hard-wired to do the same. Little kangaroos are called joeys and their journey after being born is an incredible one. They are blind and much undeveloped when they are born, but still they can crawl up their mommy's belly and into a pouch to find their source of mother's milk.

So remember there is no formula that comes close to the ingredients that are in mother's milk. For a newborn to find life-supporting nutrition is an instinct; this is a skill a new mother may need some advice and assistance with. Here at Sutter Coast Hospital, our labor and delivery staff is experienced, knowledgeable and supportive.

Further, a newly developed group called The Del Norte Breastfeeding Coalition has the mission of making breast-feeding being the cultural and social norm in our county. The coalition is composed of health-care professionals, community members and public health nurses.

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital,