All About Baby Fair 2019 - The Importance Of Having A WHO Code Compliant Fair

It’s going to be a busy summer!  With the Friends of Breastfeeding All About Baby Fair 2019 coming up in only a little over two weeks, event season has begun here at Southeast Doula Care and I can’t wait!

The All About Baby Fair is Ireland’s biggest WHO Code compliant fair and a fabulous family event surrounding all things pregnancy, birth, baby and parenting.

WHO Code?  What WHO Code?

The Code is an international framework for breastfeeding promotion and short for the World Health Organisation’s “International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes”.  It was originally adopted at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in 1981 with the aim to protect breastfeeding and therefore all mothers and babies through a variety of measures, one of them being aggressive marketing on behalf of companies who produce formula products.  Aggressive and unethical marketing often undermines breastfeeding and leads to unachieved breastfeeding goals.  The WHO recommends “Exclusive breastfeeding […] up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond”, therefore no advertisement of stage 1 infant formula is permitted.

I’m formula feeding, that doesn’t apply to me, I hear you say?  No, it does! 

If you know me, you know that I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding but that doesn’t mean there is ANY reason to shame parents who do not breastfeed or make them feel guilty.  And the Code doesn’t do that either.

“The aim of this Code is to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.” — Article 1 of the Code

The Code intention is to set a minimum standard and it aims to protect ALL mothers, whether they are breastfeeding, formula feeding or a combination of both.  It doesn’t only include the above mentioned unethical marketing, it also aims to ensure that breastmilk substitutes are produced safely and meet strict quality standards.  The label on infant formula products is also required to include clear preparation instructions to ensure that your baby receives the correct amount of nutrients.  This Code is in no way directed at parents, its purpose is to ensure that ALL parents receive evidence based, unbiased and correct information around the type of infant feeding they choose.

In March, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary that revealed that companies are, by law, held to a certain standard set out in the European Food Agency Guidelines: Ingredients and composition must follow certain minimum and maximum levels which make all formulas nutritionally equivalent.  While there might be a slight difference in composition and a few added extras, these extras are not nutritionally required and of no scientifically proven use.  What’s different is the marketing budget, the popularity and ultimately the price.

So, why do we need a WHO Code compliant fair?

Surely, if the Code includes formula feeding, that doesn’t even matter?  After all, we don’t live in a developing country and it’s the parents’ choice how they feed the baby?  Sadly, the Code is not enforceable by law and one way that companies market themselves best is through events and sponsorship.  For a relatively small sum of money, companies are able to gain large exposure via newspapers, social media and word of mouth.   Brand recognition and awareness is improved, often without it even being noticed by fair goers, and sales increased.  The companies’ logos are on everything related to the event, from the ticket to the mats on the floor, and subtly make people feel like they’ve always known the brands - thus subconsciously influencing parents and watering down their ability to make an unbiased decision.  And this is taking away your fundamental right to evidence based information, regardless of your personal choices.

Having a baby event that aims to only include businesses that are WHO Code compliant means that you are getting unbiased, factual and agenda-free information about all the things you would like to know about pregnancy, birth, baby and parenting.

Have you booked your ticket yet?  Come along for a fun day out in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire on Sunday, 30th June 2019!  If you are there on the day, come to say hello.  I’d love to see you!

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/all-about-baby-fair-2019-tickets-61341797969

Postpartum Wellness - The Fourth Trimester For Mothers

A lot is known by now about the Fourth Trimester aka the first three months of a baby’s life where they transition from inside to outside of the womb (read more here).

But what about the mother?

Everyone wants to hold the baby.  Talk about the baby.  Give the baby presents.  BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MOTHER????

We've all been there. You're tired, might still be sore and really should be in bed taking in all that is your beautiful newborn. Then the visitors arrive who want to hold the baby! Obviously you're not going to show them that it doesn't suit or even that you don't have it all together. No, you look after them with cups of tea all the while your baby gets passed around like a doll. Sounds silly, doesn't it? That's because it is. EVERY new mother needs to be supported for her and her family's wellbeing.

Mothers, too, have just been born and are experiencing a Fourth Trimester.  Some cultures have it nailed and women are being nurtured and looked after by friends and family.  Our society?  Not so much.  We expect mothers to miraculously get back to normal as quick as they possibly can.  All that is ever portrayed to us is how good mothers have their stuff together, look great, their babies sleep and never cry and the house is spotless all the while they are out and about in an immaculate outfit having coffee with their besties.  And that attitude sucks.  It’s unfair and it hurts.  It does NOT reflect the reality of postpartum life and it creates a stigma around seeking support.

In order to create happier families, we need to start shifting the focus to mothering the mother.

What can you do to prepare?

Start early.  Take some time while you’re pregnant to think about how your support system will work once the baby comes.  You might even like to write up a Postpartum Plan.  Remember to include the following things:

Plenty of rest.  You have just grown and birthed an entire new human!  Utilise as much adult help as you can to get some daytime naps in, take turns with your partner or work out other strategies that can help with sleep deprivation.

The first few weeks of transition can often feel chaotic and without proper emotional and practical support, it’s easy to feel lost.  Emotional support does NOT mean being landed with a load of well meaning but unsolicited advice that leaves to feeling insecure.  Find someone who listens to you, validates your feelings and helps you find your own way.

Nutrition is so important.  Filling the freezer with batch cooked meals or asking family and friends to bring over food when they come to see the baby - either way, make sure you eat.

You need to remember what your preferences are.  Do you prefer to stay at home with your baby?  You can ask your friends to call over to you.  Or would you rather be out seeing other people?  Plan how you will get around with baby.  Try to tailor your plan to that so it won’t leave you feeling under pressure to do something that you are not comfortable with.

Visitors after having a baby are nearly unavoidable but they do not have to be a bad thing.  If they arrive and expect to be waited upon, don’t be afraid to ask them to make their own tea.  You are under no obligation to further exhaust yourself with their wants, instead you could ask them to help you ahead of your baby’s arrival!  If you prefer for nobody to call but don’t want to be in a position to turn people away at the door, consider putting up a sign saying “Mother and Baby sleeping”.  Anyone with an ounce of respect will come back at a more convenient time.

Consider hiring additional help.  A Postpartum Doula can provide invaluable support and hook you up with the right people if you need additional support.

Self-care and Relaxation in pregnancy (read more about that here) are almost expected, there’s a whole industry around that.  Women invest in themselves and we all did the “just one last time before the baby comes” things like going for a romantic dinner or a night away.  Enter baby.  Investing in yourself now is accompanied by guilt, if it’s remembered at all.  Your baby needs you but they don’t need a mother who is at the end of her tether.  Looking after yourself is looking after the baby.

Everyone experiences their postpartum recovery in a different way.  While some women may find they want to be independent of support pretty much immediately, others require a longer healing time, be that emotionally or physically.  Whatever your needs are, it is ok to not only accept but to enjoy having help and support. 

What all new parents have in common is that the foundations of what they used to know as their place of wellness are being shaken up.  It’s all new to you, too, not just to baby and listening to your body, feeling all the emotions and learning your new reality are as important as looking after your baby’s needs.  Being kind to yourself does not make you weak.

Why Relaxation Is The Key To Positive Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

There has been a lot of talk about self care lately - how we need to make time for and look after ourselves.  How very true!  But while even small acts of kindness towards ourselves are an obvious necessity, the REASON WHY they are needed so much is deeper rooted.  From early childhood, our society encourages high achievement and promotes feelings of unease, stress, tiredness and disconnection as a skill that is necessary for success in life.

Now you’re pregnant and suddenly, the world tells you to relax.

We are being told that feelings of stress and tiredness are normal, especially in high pressure jobs.  Stress and deadlines help you to get things done, being constantly on the go means you are on track to success.

Talk about mixed messages.  In truth, relaxation is not just a nice pregnancy perk, it is key - to a healthy pregnancy, positive birth and calm postpartum.  But it’s hard, so easily said and so difficult to achieve.  A busy life style, older children with needs and hobbies, a demanding job.  As a side effect of it all, we have lost our ability to relax and it’s taking a toll on our health both physically and mentally.

So, stop putting pressure on yourself to relax!

Instead, try these simple first steps:

Once a week, have yourself some " Me Time” 
Do something you absolutely love to do and maybe haven’t done in a long time.  If you’re drawing a blank here, take the time to find out more about yourself.

At least once a day, concentrate on doing one thing only.  No multi tasking.
For example, don't cook dinner while talking on the phone at the same time, or use your phone while waiting in a queue.

Spend some time outside
Go for a long walk, or even just around the block.  If the weather is good, take your cup of tea outside with you and sit down.

Reduce screen time
If you want to watch TV, choose programs with a slow pace that do not add stress or worry for you.  When was the last time you read a good book?  Or turn on the radio and sing along.

Play and be creative
Remember what you enjoyed playing as a child?  Give it another try, whether it is playing cards, building Lego houses, drawing or colouring books.

Take a relaxing class

There are a multitude of classes available to choose from in most areas: pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing, meditation, baby reflexology or massage.  Don’t know where to start?  Contact me and I’ll hook you up!

Plan ahead for meals

You are what you eat.  Nutrition is paramount and even more so in pregnancy.  Take the time to plan meals ahead, make them simple and delicious.  You might even want to consider batch cooking for the early postpartum time.  If this is something you would prefer someone else to do, contact me.  Postpartum Doulas do that!

Rethink your priorities

Prioritising your pregnancy or postpartum can often be achieved by reviewing your budget.  You might be able to indulge yourself in a very relaxing way:

Consider going on earlier maternity leave to enjoy the last weeks of your pregnancy

Go on a short holiday or to a specialised pregnancy spa with your partner/best friend before baby comes

Make space in your budget for a monthly massage

Hire someone to help with housework.  If you are already doing that, add more hours!

Hire a Birth Doula

Nothing relaxes like peace of mind.  Having someone on your team who is there to reassure you, encourage you, research your options with you and support whatever decision you make is a second to none service.  Make use of it!

Skip the Baby Shower and have a Postpartum Party!

Being heavily pregnant, the last thing you need is the stress of hosting a baby shower.  Instead, Postpartum Parties are starting to become a thing!  Ask your friends to come over at a convenient time (for you!) AFTER the baby is born - when you can have a glass of bubbly with them - and bring food, maybe put on a load of laundry or vacuum the kitchen.  If they still insist on giving you cute little baby outfits, by all means!

Discover what relaxes you.

Find the people that put a smile on your face, the places that make you feel like you want to go there again and activities that connect you with yourself.  Learn to actively practice relaxation - the benefits are numerous: shorter labours, lower risk of complications, reduced likelihood that interventions are needed and reduced risk of postpartum mental health issues are just some of them.

“The time to relax is when you don't have time for it. “

Jim Goodwin

When Maternity Leave Is Over - Tips To Ease The Transition Back To Work

It wasn’t easy for me to go back to work.  Not after any of my 3 babies.  The mere thought of having to leave them for a full day was crippling me with guilt and anxiety.  An hour here or there, fine - but a whole day!?  What if they cried for me?  Got upset?  Tired?  Nobody could calm them like I could and, so far, they had only ever fallen asleep in my arms.  They were still so small.

But I also wanted to go to back work and be someone other than Mammy for a bit.

And I’ve learned one thing.  It is possible, with a bit of preparation and support.  It also doesn’t have to be traumatic for either of you.

1. If you are breastfeeding

All my babies were exclusively breastfed, one never took a bottle (he took the milk from a shot glass though!).  It is certainly possible to continue breastfeeding when you work away from home, even if it’s full-time.  Some women decide to pump and leave expressed milk with their baby’s crèche or childminder.  Check out this link for practical tips!

Under Irish law, breastfeeding mothers who have given birth in the last six months are entitled to a total of 60 minutes additional break per day worked, without loss of pay.  Employers are expected to provide facilities (not the toilet!!!!), where this is not possible the employee is entitled to reduced hours.  Unfortunately, after the six months, it is at the employer’s discretion if they are willing to keep the existing arrangement going.

What if you don’t want to pump?  Depending on the age of your baby, you might have to assess your breastfeeding goals.  Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand principle and if the milk isn’t removed, your body will be under the impression it isn’t needed and will stop producing it.  Your body is amazing, the adjustment to your new reality will likely be quite quick.  This can mean more night feeds or just one or two feeds before you leave for work in the morning and again when you return home.

2. Assess your work situation

If your pre-baby work arrangements no longer suit you, it might be worth talking to your employer about changing to part time, flexible hours or flexible schedules.  It might even be possible to work from home, at least some of the time.  Larger companies sometimes have childcare facilities so it could be an option to bring your child along with you and work nearby.

3. Prepare and practice

If your baby is going to a childminder or into a crèche, practice the new route a few weeks beforehand so this is not new to you or baby.  Do some trial runs and drop-offs so all of you, including the childminder or crèche staff, can get acquainted and used to the new situation.  This way, should questions come up, you won’t be in a situation where you have to leave work to sort it out.

4. Give yourself a break

Every time I went back to work I spent the first car journey crying.  How could I leave my baby??!  But I adjusted, my babies adjusted and things got easier.  Nobody was left traumatised.  You are not a bad person or a bad parent for going back to work.  Be kind to yourself.  The biggest guilt factor, to this day, is that I often only get to see my babies for a few hours a day and I feel we are all missing out on quality time together.  We have learned to make up for it by doing things on the days that I am home, I bring them grocery shopping with me and we get the occasional treat together.  Cleaning the house has moved way back in priorities and takeaways have become a thing!

You will find your new legs.  You’ve got this!

Beautiful Vernix - Reasons To Delay That First Bath!

Have you ever noticed the white, creamy substance covering a newborn’s body?  Almost like cream cheese?  Depending on who you ask, you either get “Eww, gross!” or “Wow, amazing!” 

It’s called Vernix Caseosa, or simply vernix.  This coating develops in utero by the sebaceous glands around 20 weeks gestation and forms a protective layer on the baby’s skin.  With it’s waxy, waterproof properties, it keeps their skin moisturised in the amniotic fluid - without it, their skin would look as if they had a long, hot bath: like a shrivelled up prune.

Vernix mainly consists of shed fetal skin cells, fetal skin oil and shed lanugo, the fine hair that babies grow in utero all over their bodies. Did you know, 61% of the proteins found in vernix can’t be artificially replicated and are not found anywhere else? It’s that special!

Babies born between 38 and 40 weeks gestation have on average the highest amount of vernix while pre-term (<37 weeks) and post-term infants (>42 weeks) usually have the least amount.

For a long time, it was common place in hospitals that babies were taken away almost immediately after birth, weighed, cleaned and given back to the mother clothed and presentable. We have since learned a lot and the World Health Organisation in fact recommends NOT cleaning babies after birth but leaving the vernix on and delaying that first bath for at least a few days!

Far from being gross or an unpleasant side-effect of pregnancy, the vernix coating your baby plays an important role and has immediate and long term benefits for your baby:

  • It lubricates the baby on it’s way through the birth canal

  • It moisturises baby’s skin after birth (don’t wash it off, rub it in!)

  • It forms a protective barrier and is antimicrobial (this study showed that its properties are actually similar breastmilk), inhibiting the growth of pathogens and promoting healing

  • It facilitates the colonisation of the skin and gut with good bacteria to form a healthy microbiome

  • It contains high amounts of Vitamin E (remember that expensive moisturiser you bought?), which is an amazing antioxidant.  Have a read here, this study (published in 2005), showed that babies who kept their vernix on had healthier skin and also a higher body temperature.

  • It helps newborns to maintain their body temperature, along with skin-to-skin that’s all they need.  No requirement for a hat.

So what about post-term infants?  When a baby’s lungs mature, they release a surfactant that mixes with the amniotic fluid which then emulsifies the vernix - causing it to shed from the skin.  It is then ingested by the baby with the amniotic fluid so they do get all the goodness as well, building up an immune defense from the inside.

Right, so when IS a good time to bathe your baby?  Delay it for as long as you like! It’s obviously totally up to you.  If you just want to wash a bit of blood off, you can use a warm wet cloth.  Most of the vernix will absorb into baby’s skin within the first 24 hours but if you want it all absorbed, wait for about 5-6 days. If you want to keep the vernix on your baby, make sure you ask your midwife not to rub it off.

Does it smell?  Only if you think a newborn baby smells bad!  Vernix is probably the cleanest substance there is and also plays a part in giving your newborn that yummy baby smell. 

What do you think?  Gross or amazing?

The Touchy Subject Of Maternal Mental Health | When You Are Not Ok

Whether you are pregnant or have recently given birth, let me ask you one question: How are you really doing? I mean, REALLY?

In honour of Maternal Mental Health Week , let’s open the conversation about a touchy subject.

1 in 4 women suffer from perinatal mental health issues, they experience feelings of sadness, overwhelming or disturbing thoughts, panic, OCD, anger, anxiety and other mood disorders like depression around the time of the birth of their baby.  This puts mental health issues right up there with the most common complications surrounding birth!  It’s not only a postpartum problem either, a lot of women suffer through pregnancy, too.

So why is the subject so touchy?  If we have high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, we get it checked.  Mental health care should be no different and as easy and accessible to perinatal women as any other antenatal care.

When it comes to pregnancy and motherhood, the stigma surrounding mental health seems to intensify.  Many women are VERY reluctant to share what’s going on for them for fear of being stigmatised.  They might also feel that their issues are merely a character flaw, that they’re not good enough and that they should be happy and coping - just like everyone else.  Having a baby is supposed to be this amazing, magical time in a woman’s life.  If there appears to be nothing wrong, many women feel extremely guilty about admitting that they are struggling.

While in very rare cases thoughts of self harm or even harming the baby turn become real, this is certainly not the case for the vast majority of women but if left untreated, mental health can make life feel unmanageable.  Whenever someone feels at risk of harming themselves or their baby, it must absolutely be treated as an emergency and cannot be dismissed.

The good news? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

A Doula, being a trained birth/postpartum support professional, can help by recognising some of the signs and ensure the mother gets the assistance she needs, as soon as possible and before things start to spiral out of control.  Despite long waiting lists, a diagnosis made by a qualified mental health professional is the first step in receiving treatment.

Doulas Listen

I get to know the people I provide care to.  I listen and sometimes it’s about what is NOT being said.  I ask you how you are and I am not uncomfortable with an honest conversation.

Being brushed off with comments like “It will pass”, “Just baby blues, it’s normal” or “You’re still being hormonal”, even though anxious/depressed feelings are persistent, only serves to make matters worse.  Doulas may be the only ones to validate a client’s feelings and suggest further investigation and we have the contacts!

Doulas Provide Resources

A professional Doula is well connected to the available maternity support people in her area and can share information and resources with her client.

A Doula will also have resources for additional support, like a massage therapist, acupuncturist or support groups for mothers.

Doulas Give You A Break

Doulas are trained in providing support for families throughout the day AND the night.  With the postpartum period comes the feeling of utter exhaustion.  With the right postpartum support, families can get a break which can make dealing with mental health struggles just that bit less hard.

Doulas Do Not Judge

With pregnancy comes an avalanche of unsolicited advice.  Everyone has the best way of doing things and is not afraid to share!  You should be doing this, your baby should be doing that.  Wait, what?  Your baby is not sleeping through yet??!  New parents often feel overwhelmed and as if they are doing it all wrong.  You can imagine what that does to someone who is already experiencing mental health challenges.

A Doula is there for you, providing you with the support that YOU have decided is right for you.  Evidence based information and giving parents the tools to find their very own way of birthing and parenting contributes to the family’s happiness in a big way.

Doulas Help You To Support Yourself

With all the conflicting information available, we often forget to listen to ourselves.  Our instincts tell us so much and we Just. Don’t. Listen.  A Doula will help you to slow down and recognise the amazing work you are doing!

I see you and I believe in you.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

How To Write Your Birth Preferences

Have you thought about writing your birth plan?  You might have an idea what your ideal birth looks like but don’t know how to put it in words?  Look no further, here is our guide that will make writing it up a breeze!

First of all, I like to refer to a birth plan as birth preferences.  That’s not watering it down in any way or taking your choices away from you.  Absolutely not.  It simply comes down to language, making working with medical staff much easier because it shows that you realise that birth can take a multitude of paths and respect their expertise!  Medical staff are dedicated to providing a safe, healthy birth and they will do all that they can to keep your preferences in mind as well.  Remember that they are your birth team, not the bad guys so keep it polite and friendly.

Keep it as brief and simple as you can.  Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I mean, how can you possibly not write a novel with all these thoughts in your head?  Simple.  Skip the whole sentences and beautiful language! Bullet points or a simple matrix are great and brief, concise statements are your best bet.  Put key phrases in a bold font and choose an easily legible layout.  If you really need something that looks beautiful, use picture icons!  Keep in mind, you are not offending anyone by being brief, you are maximising the information you can get across in a short space of time.  Midwives and doctors are super busy people, the more they can take in while glancing over your Birth Preferences the easier it will be to communicate with them during labour and birth.

So, what does NOT belong in your Birth Preferences?  Basically, anything that’s in your control and totally up to you - like your labour playlist or what you plan on bringing with you from home (think your own pillows, what kind of drink etc.).  Focus on what you would like your midwife and doctor to know and what’s not already standard policy in your hospital.  For example, if you would like your baby to receive a Vitamin K shot after birth, then you don’t have to state that - it’s already practiced routinely anyway and will only take up much needed space and clutter your information.  Should you NOT wish for that shot to be administered, however, or wish for Vitamin K to be given orally, you will need to put that in as it is not standard practice and your care providers need to know.

But how can you find out about hospital policy?  Most hospitals offer a tour of the maternity ward as part of their antenatal course, take it and ask questions!  If you are looking for more in depth information and someone who is able to focus on you only, hire a Birth Doula who is familiar with your local hospital.  Having a Doula is like having a personal guide for your pregnancy and birthing experience. Our Birth Doula package includes at least one antenatal visit and a Birth Preference preparation session where we can discuss your wishes, help you understand policies and options and assist you in preparing an effective tool for communicating with your midwives and doctor.  If the whole Doula package is more than you think you are currently looking for, contact me to book a Birth Preference preparation session only!

Remember that your Birth Preferences are not a rigid document.  Birth can take many paths and not everything always goes according to plan, sometimes changes need to be made.  Typically they are small, but it is always good to have a plan B in case complications do arise.  Have you thought of writing a set of Birth Preferences for the unlikely event of a Caesarean Birth?  Should one become necessary during labour, it is difficult to even know what your wishes are if you have not given it any thought beforehand and even harder to communicate.  As with any type of birth, it’s best to know your options.  Discuss your preferences with your partner and with your health care providers ideally at the start of your third trimester.  And, of course, consider hiring a Doula for support, someone to remind you of your confidence in communicating your wishes and to help you make your own decisions that you can feel good about.

When it comes to handing out your Birth Preferences, ideally have them with you for your antenatal appointments and make sure that they are being put on your file.  Always have spares and be ready to give them to every midwife you deal with, don’t just assume that because it’s on your file it has actually been read.  Make sure your name, your partner’s name, your consultant’s name and your Doula’s name are clearly listed at the top.

Need some ideas? Use our free printable Birth Preferences Worksheet!

Labour Support Tools For Partners

Are you expecting your first baby? Then you may be surprised by the intensity of what a labouring woman is experiencing.  It can be so great, that her support person or team can easily get flustered too and end up being the one(s) in need of support.  It can be hard to support someone by simply being with them, without doing all the things to make it go away.  The absence of a calm environment can also lead mothers to request pain relief earlier than they would normally have required it.

So, what can you do to really support a labouring woman and help both of you achieve the birth you desire?

Here are some tools for a partner to help during labour:

Observation

Look at your partner’s jaw, throat and hands. Are the muscles tight and clenched? If so, this will directly impact how tight and clenched the rest of her body is, particularly her cervix, which needs to open and soften for birth. Encourage your partner to relax her jaw and hands. This does can be done with words or touch.

Water

Have you ever heard of an Aqua-Dural?  Water has a unique way of softening the intensity of labour.  If you can, get into the bathtub with your partner.  Touch is underrated, too!  If a bathtub is not an option, try the shower and focus the water pressure on your partner’s lower back.

Positions

Variety is the spice of life and the same goes for labour.  Every so often, you can suggest to make a change to the position your partner is in.  Changing positions, ideally upright, has several benefits, including bringing baby into the correct position for birth and making the pelvic outlet wider.

Relaxation through sound

Mums can go silent in labour as they start to internalise working through it.  You can help by reminding your partner to sound out their labour, if she so wishes.  There is no need to feel uncomfortable, however, and it is not your responsibility to make others feel comfortable during your birth.  Low or loud noises, this can really help her relax and let go.

Environment

The space a woman is labouring in is arguably the most important detail.  While your partner might not be in a position to voice that she is feeling uncomfortable, you know her best so have a look around. Is the room too hot? Too cold? Too bright? Are the people that are present supportive and calm or tense and critical?  This is your space and it is completely ok for you to tell people to leave or give you some privacy, even if only for a few minutes!  Or, if possible, get them to make themselves useful by bringing snacks, water, tea, coffee or whatever you need for your partner, you and the medical staff.  Midwives appreciate a treat too!
 

With all that said, the best way to support your partner in labour and birth is still to educate yourself.  If you are informed and know your stuff, you are much more likely to feel secure, in control and make the best decisions for your family.  Why not book into the Birth Support Workshop?  Contact me today for details!!

Postpartum Hair Loss

Nothing can describe the feeling of utter panic and despair when I started losing my wonderfully thick, healthy pregnancy hair about 12 weeks after birthing my first baby. The high I had been on disappeared down the shower drain along with a clump of hair. What was happening??!

I was a first time mum, clueless, inexperienced and, admittedly, rather uninformed when it came to my own body. While I had spent months researching the choices we made for our baby, it never crossed my mind that this postpartum thing could affect me too. I mean, you're pregnant, you give birth, you bleed for a bit, done. Right? No. Evidently not.

So here I was, losing my precious hair, still with plenty of baby weight that I certainly had not planned on and the father of my baby had no pregnancy repercussions at all. Like, none. What the actual f*#@.

So what was happening to me? Basically, hair has a life span of about 3 years. Before falling out, it remains in the hair follicle for about 3 months until it is pushed out by the new hair that's growing back. So the good news is, your hair is already growing back before you lose it! Because of hormonal changes during pregnancy, a larger number of hairs than normal are growing at the same time and less hair than normal is falling out which can lead to the fabulously shiny, thick pregnancy hair! Once you give birth, your hormones shift again and all the glory comes to an end. More hair than normal ends its life cycle and you experience the dreaded postpartum hair loss.

But what can be done to make the wait for the new hair to grow less stressful? Plenty. While you can’t prevent hair loss from happening, you can make it less obvious.

• Take some time out and ask your hair dresser to give you a hair cut that requires less styling as brushing and pulling your hair up in a tight ponytail can add stress to your scalp.

• Get natural hair care products to nourish your scalp and hair and add less chemicals.

• Ask your hair dresser for styling ideas to give the appearance of fuller hair.

Most women are back to normal around 12 months postpartum. If you feel that you are still losing excessive amounts of hair, go speak to your GP as there might be an underlying condition that is responsible.

10 Things To Know About Birth Doulas and why everybody should have one

If a Doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.

- John H. Kennell, MD -

The decision to hire a Doula is a great opportunity to find out about yourself

Your Doula will listen to you and help you to figure out what you and your partner really want. What works for your family and your lifestyle? Take the time to really think about what feels right for you, independent from well meant advices everyone is so happy to throw at you at any given time! How you give birth will change your life and it should be your choice and yours alone.

Birth Doulas DO NOT replace the spouse/partner at a birth

Doulas are there to support not only the labouring woman but also the people chosen to be at the birth. Birth partners can feel quite anxious and helpless - it doesn’t have to be that way though! One of the things I do best is teaching your partner how to take care of you.

Doulas DO NOT only support home births 

Doulas support families in whatever birth is right for them, be it a scheduled caesarean birth, VBAC, induction, birth with epidurals or other pain medications or birth without intervention. Wherever your journey to parenthood takes you, as your Doula I am by your side and fully support you and your decisions, without any judgement.

Women who receive continuous support by a Birth Doula have shorter labours

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), collected data suggests that one of the most effective tools to improve birth outcomes is continuity of care which is exactly what a Doula provides. Did you know that, on average, hiring a doula shortens labout by about 40 minutes and babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth? 

Doulas DO NOT make decisions for you

It is your pregnancy, your birth and your baby. As a Doula I stand for your right to make the decision that is correct for you and your family and meet you where you’re at. I will provide you with all the information you require to make well informed decisions that suit you, your family and your situation. 

You DO NOT have to apologise if you change your mind

Your decisions were made and all the planning was done - but suddenly, out of nowhere, it doesn’t feel right for you anymore! No problem. Whenever you feel you need to adjust what you are doing, you do just that. You are never under any obligation to stick to a decision that does not feel right. As your Doula I am flexible and will support you, at all times. 

Doulas can massage shoulders without pinching

Birth Doulas are trained not only to provide both you and your partner with comfort measures during labour, we can also teach your birth partner how to best assist you! And who doesn’t like a relaxing foot rub?

Birth Doulas are on call for you

From 37 weeks, I am ready to jump out of bed, leave a party or whatever other event and run to you the minute you need me, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Doulas have seen it all before

Birth is wild! And it’s normal. Amniotic fluid, poo, whatever else - it doesn’t faze me and it certainly doesn’t need to be a concern for you.

Doulas are NOT in competition with your healthcare provider 

Doulas are not medical professionals, they do not replace your midwife or your consultant and have no desire to do so. As your Doula, it is my job to support you physically, emotionally and educationally. I provide you with comfort measures, I listen, I enable your strength, I ensure that you can speak for yourself and ask the right questions.

The Fourth Trimester

What on earth is the fourth trimester? That doesn’t even make sense?!

Imagine this. Your baby is all cuddly and comfortable in your womb. It does not know hunger, cold, discomfort and is never alone. There is no big scary world to figure out, only familiar noises like mum’s heartbeat and digestive sounds. It’s all cosy.

Now, suddenly, your baby is earthside and no way are they being put down. Baby is only happy in your arms! Again, imagine your baby has to cope with all these new impressions. Having to be changed and clothed, and there are all these new needs where there were none before. It’s scary and unknown, no wonder that they are not impressed! The only safe place is where it’s closest to “home”, in your arms.

The first three months of a babies life are referred to as the fourth trimester for all of these reasons. It’s a time of transition, your baby has to learn to exist in this world, away from the 24/7 room service of your womb.

Meeting your baby’s needs in the early days has many advantages, including getting much better sleep. Babywearing is a practical way to meet both your baby’s and your own needs because, let’s be honest, mums need to get out of the house too! Spoiler alert - slings are addictive. I have been known to buy a sling or two more than I needed but hey ho, they are sooo pretty! And, as an added bonus, babywearing counts as tummy time! When being carried in a sling, babies work their neck and stomach muscles.

“It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time”

Peggy O’Mara

Top Tips On How To Minimise Tearing

If you asked me what my single biggest fear about childbirth was, it was tearing! I was terrified. So, being the person that I am, I combated that fear by doing all the research to prepare my body the best I could so I would minimise the chances of an injured perineum.

The perineum is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus

The good new is, there are options! It is also important to remember that our vaginas are ACTUALLY MADE for giving birth. Nobody bats an eyelid when a penis enlarges and doesn’t tear. No big surprise, right? Well, our vaginas can do the very same. Here are some tips how to aid the process:

  1. Perineal Massage

    From about 32 weeks, perineal massages can help prepare your body for birth. Although there is mainly anecdotal evidence to suggest that it makes a difference, it most certainly gives you an idea of the sensation of crowning. You can do this on your own or get your partner involved!

    There is no need to buy expensive oils, a good quality almond oil or coconut oil without any additives is just as good.

    Make sure your hands are clean and fingernails thoroughly trimmed. Apply some oil to your fingers, thumbs and perineum and insert two fingers about 3cm to 4cm deep into the vagina. Apply gentle but firm pressure on the area towards the anus and, at the same time, gently stretch the perineum outwards by pulling two fingers apart. Keep applying this pressure for about 2 to 3 minutes, changing the side of the perineum you put pressure on after a few stretches, like going around a clock.. Next, put your thumbs in the middle of the perineum, pushing them in opposite directions. This should not hurt, only apply pressure until you feel a tingling sensation. Over time you will be able to increase the pressure.

  2. Birthing Position

    Active pushing during the second stage of labour, especially when laying on your back and even more so with your legs raised, greatly increases the risk of tearing and unnecessary trauma to the perineum. Choosing a position where you work with gravity rather than against it is so much gentler on your body.

  3. Breathe the baby out!

    The uterus is the most powerful muscle in our body. In most cases it is not actually necessary to push. At all! There is this wonderful thing nature has put in place called the Fetal Ejection Reflex. Your contractions alone are strong enough to move the baby through the birth canal and into the world. Hard to believe? It’s true. And it hugely reduces any risk of perineal trauma.

  4. Water

    If at all possible, utilise the bath, shower or birthing pool. Warm water softens the perineum and relaxes the body, thus softening the tissue and allowing it to stretch.

  5. Warm Compresses

    When I gave birth to my third baby, my wonderful midwife used warm compresses against my perineum to maximise stretching, soften and support the tissue as baby passess through. It is worth asking your provider if they are comfortable doing this for you and if their policy allows it.

  6. Episiotomy - if perineal trauma can’t be avoided

    An episiotomy is where your midwife or obstetrician makes a surgical incision in your perineum and the vaginal wall to quickly enlarge the opening. In some situations perineal trauma simply cannot be avoided however an episiotomy rarely has benefits over natural tearing. Natural tears carry less risk and heal better due to the jagged edges of the wound as opposed to a clean cut.