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A Postnatal Plan. What’s that and should I have one?

Birth is just the beginning.

Of course birth and birth planning is important. The day you give birth will be one you remember for the rest of your life. But it is just one day of your child’s life and it is just the beginning of your parenting journey. This is why you might want a postnatal plan as well as a birth plan. The first six weeks with your baby are likely to be some of the most intense of your life. It’s really normal for the time to feel like it is going so slowly and this newborn phase is going on forever when you’re going through it. Then to wonder where the time went as soon as you reach 8 weeks and look back now your baby has made themselves at home in your life. As the saying goes the days are long but the years are short.

Don’t worry this isn’t one of those trite exhortations to love and cherish every hard moment. This is an encouragement that if you feel the length of these days you are not alone and there is support available and it’s okay to look after yourself too.

So what is a postnatal plan exactly?

Just like a birth plan a postnatal plan is a list of things you can and will do to help yourself. It’s also a list of things those supporting and caring for you can and should do. Like with labour and birth there are certain challenges to being a new parent and these challenges can be managed in several different ways. Different things will help different people and your decisions are right for you. However, it’s much easier to see and think clearly about what will help you when you’re not already sleep deprived. So a postnatal plan is a list of things you may need support with and your choices for the form that support will take.

What should be on your postnatal plan? Making a postnatal plan

  1. Ways to look after yourself. Things that help you feel relaxed and cared for. Plan for keeping yourself hydrated and nourished. This might mean creating a snack station with plenty of easy to eat but nutritious food (like these yummy chocolate balls for example) and a big water bottle. It also includes making someone (your partner or your mum or your postnatal doula for example) responsible for making sure that it stays topped up. So it’s always there for you when you sit down to feed your baby or when you get a moment between your baby falling asleep and you joining them. Plan for what you will do when someone else is holding your baby (knowing that babies rarely like to be put down for long). Will you have a shower, or take a walk around the block by yourself or do some meditation or relaxation? This can be anything that you already know will restore you mentally. Planning to make those things your priority and knowing that they are important will help avoid the temptation to let other things (like filling the dishwasher) steal your time.
  2. Know you need to be looked after and be prepared to accept help. Our culture has tended to leave us believing strong people can manage everything themselves but we’re really not biologically designed to parent alone and unsupported. We all need our tribe, accepting help and support actually makes you stronger. Really getting that into our heads is one thing that can help us keep our mental health good during this time of new parenthood. Your postnatal plan can include a list of tasks that you will feel better if they are done so that those who visit can read through and pick a task to do while they are there. Plan to sleep when your baby sleeps and clean when your baby cleans (one way to do that is to get yourselves a sling and any time you really feel something needs doing you can do it and baby can keep on having a cuddle which is every baby’s second priority – feeding being their first).
  3. Make a list of all the places you can go for support when you need some. The people you can message or call any time of day or night to say is this normal? It’s especially common to need help and support with getting breastfeeding established. Breastfeeding promotion sometimes makes it seem like it’s the most natural thing in the world and everyone can do it easily. But really the majority of people need some support to get breastfeeding established. Sometimes that’s peer support, just people who have been there and done it and can offer encouragement. But often it’s also professional support. Knowing where to find a local breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant and having their number in your postnatal plan will help you remember that it’s normal to need help and you know where to go for it. Check our post on breastfeeding suport to help you make sure you’re finding good quality supporters.

Would you like some help and support making and carrying out your postnatal plan? Pop over to our find a doula page and book a postnatal doula.

Normal for a Newborn

If you’re feeling prepared for your birth but really worried or apprehensive about what comes next, you’re very much not alone. A lot of people haven’t even held a newborn baby before they are handed their own and expected to immediately take complete responsibility for them. One of the things we do as postnatal doulas is to reassure parents that their newborn is behaving normally and that they are doing a good job of finding and following their instincts.

This list isn’t comprehensive but it’s a good start for checking many of the things newborns do that are completely normal. 

    1. My newborn wants to be held all the time.

      Yes, this is normal. Your baby is in what we call the fourth trimester  (just like the trimesters of pregnancy). This term recognises that compared to other mammals human babies are born relatively early in their development due to our large brains and relatively small pelvis shape. As a result, babies are happiest when kept in similar conditions to the womb (warm, low light, skin to skin, hearing your heartbeat) and allowed to get used to the world gradually and at their own pace. One of the easiest ways to keep holding your baby but also be able to go anywhere or eat anything is to use a sling. Check out our post on the benefits of slings for more information.

    2. My newborn is always hungry.

      Yes, that’s normal. Newborn babies have very tiny tummies. They feed little and often. They also get lots of comfort from being close to you and from suckling. Your breastfed newborn needs to feed at least 8-12 times in 24 hours. Your bottle-fed newborn can also be fed little and often as required but follow your healthcare providor’s advice about how much formula is needed in 24 hours. There’s lots of good information about normal breastfeeding on the KellyMom website and lots of good information about bottle feeding for newborns in this leaflet.

    3. My baby doesn’t follow any routine.

      Yes, this is normal. Our expectations of babies and ourselves in the newborn period is often heavily affected by the myth of a ‘good’ baby perpetuated by childcare ‘experts’ based on the Victorian ideal that children be seen and not heard. So the ideal has been to separate as quickly as possible from our children, for them to follow a routine set by us and to sleep without our input during the night. The problem with this is it simply goes against our natural instincts and what our babies are naturally capable of. Keeping our babies close to us, carrying them and sleeping close by, feeding them when they are hungry follows our natural instincts and helps build a secure connection and good future mental health for our children. Routine is not important to your baby but if you feel better in yourself when you have a routine to follow it’s fine to work out a flexible routine that works for you once your baby is a little older (maybe around 6-8 weeks) and more used to life in the world.

    4. My baby doesn’t sleep ‘like a baby’.

      Yes, this is normal. It might feel like your new-born never sleeps. It’s probably not true but it’s probably true that they don’t have any idea what time of day or night it is and they definitely don’t have any idea we’re ‘supposed’ to sleep mostly at night.

      Newborn babies usually sleep quite a lot in the first few weeks but it’s usually in comparatively short bursts and more often than not they sleep best in close proximity to their mother.

      New-born babies will gradually start to concentrate their sleep a bit more to nighttime once they reach about 6-8 weeks but they will still need to feed frequently day or night. For the first six weeks at least, for your own sanity, you may need to think of yourself as having a 24 hour lifestyle. Plan your day and night around sleeping when your baby sleeps. Make comfy places to relax and feed your baby, be prepared with something to keep you occupied during long night feeds. Delegate housework to other family members or do it while your baby is awake in the sling or baby swing. Go to bed early or get up late and feel free to pop off for a nap when a trusted visitor arrives and can take over holding the baby for an hour. For more information on normal baby sleep click here https://www.isisonline.org.uk/

    5. My baby’s poo is black / brown / yellow

      Yes, that’s normal. The first poo your baby does is called meconium. It’s black and sticky and a serious job to clean off. As milk feeding is established your baby’s poo will turn gradually through brown to a yellow colour and about the consistency of runny scrambled egg (or sometimes more liquid). All that’s normal. This change in colour and in the first few weeks and a poo at least a couple of times a day (which may or may not be explosive) is all normal. Some green poo is also normal. If your baby has always got really green frothy poo and or if it smells really terrible then it might not be normal, this is the time to check with your health visitor or breastfeeding supporter if everything is going ok or if there might be something that needs tweaking.

    Always ask your doula any questions about anything you’re worried might not be normal. There’s no such thing as a stupid question and that’s what she’s there for, to help you gain your own confidence. Another way of encouraging yourself to gain confidence is to use positive affirmations. You will make up your own ones that are relevant to you but we’ve also put a few together to get you started.

What if I feel sad about birth experiences?

It’s not unusual to feel sad about birth memories especially when you compare to how you hoped it would be.

If it’s too late for you to make use of our birth planning tips because your baby has already been born then you might be looking back on your birth and loving the memories. If you are please do go along to your local positive birth group  or join tell me a good birth story as a buddy. Share your positive story to help change the narrative pregnant women are hearing.

If things didn’t go according to your birth plan you might be feeling more mixed feelings or the feelings could be overwhelmingly negative. Please know that mixed feelings and feeling disappointed or guilty or traumatised are completely normal and legitimate feelings to have after a difficult birth.

Bottling up the way you feel about your labour and birth because you and baby are alive so you don’t like to complain is not going to help you feel better in the long term. You matter too, your mental and physical health are just as important as anyone else’s and how you were treated and how that made you feel is one of those things that can stay with you for the rest of your life if you don’t find a way to process and make sense of it.

Birth trauma and PTSD

Sometimes birth experiences are so difficult that women can develop post-traumatic stress. This can sometimes be miss diagnosed as (as well as often happening alongside) postnatal depression. Often women don’t seek help for it even though the symptoms such as panic attacks and flashbacks can be really overwhelming. But just as with postnatal depression it’s time we change the stigma that prevents women from seeking help.

If your birth felt traumatic to you for any reason reach out and talk about it. Talk to your midwife if you’re still seeing her or to your health visitor or GP or refer yourself to your local support service such as italk in much of Hampshire. Talking change in Portsmouth and Steps2wellbeing in Southampton. Another place you can find information and support is through the birth trauma association. There’s also an ever-growing list of resources on the make birth better website.

There are lots of options for support and treatment explore your options and pick the one that works for you and please don’t be reluctant to try something else if the first thing you try isn’t helpful.

Birth Debrief

A birth debrief is a service that some experienced midwives offer (and sometimes other professionals such as counselors). It is often taken up by women who are pregnant for a second time and realise they aren’t happy about what happened last time they had a baby.  But it can be helpful to some people at any stage post birth. Contact the hospital where you had your baby and ask if they offer this if you feel you have questions about what happened during your labour, birth or postnatal hospital stay, you don’t have to wait until you’re pregnant again.

Not traumatic just disappointing.

But even when birth wasn’t traumatic sometimes we may feel a bit sad about birth memories and disappointed by what happened. That is also completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. We all make the best decisions for us in our own unique situation with the information we have at the time. When we look back we may feel sad about the situation that led to that decision we might even think if we did it again we would make different decisions. We can’t go back in time and change what happened what we can change is how we think about ourselves now and in the future. Accepting and loving yourself and your decisions can be hard work but it’s really worthwhile.

One of the options that many women find helpful recovering from a birth that didn’t go to plan is to take a bath with baby. There’s some information on how you can do this and how it can help in our blog about skin to skin.

No matter how much or how little time has passed since your baby was born you can take some time to change how you think about your birth experience and often changing how you think begins to change how you feel.

Birth story writing exercise.

This exercise can be done alone but it’s much easier if you do it alongside a supportive friend or partner (or if you find it brings up very overwhelming feelings a therapist). It’s a great opportunity to recognise you’re feeling sad about birth experiences and to change that around so you can feel proud of yourself.

  • Write your birth story with all the details in.
  • Add how you felt when all the things happened, don’t worry if you can’t remember what order things happened exactly writing the feelings is the most important part.
  • This can be hard going and you might need to take it gently, take breaks when you need and have a really good cry.
  • Next, imagine it’s been written by a good friend or your sister and read it through thinking what would you say to encourage and support her.
  • Ideally get someone who is your good friend or sister or partner and who is positive about birth to read through and do this with or for you (a doula is another person who can help you with this).
  • Then rewrite the story. This time write things you are proud of yourself for and use positive language about all of your decisions through the story recognising that you made the best decision for you at the time.

For example, if your first story says “I’d been having contractions for 6 hours and only got to 4cm dilated I couldn’t stand it anymore I gave up and asked for an epidural I feel like I really failed as I always wanted to avoid an epidural.” You might look back and change the story to say “I did an amazing job of breathing through really strong contractions for six hours. Then when my midwife checked and gave me the information I had made it to 4cm dilated and completely effaced and I knew I probably had quite a few more hours of work ahead of me I took the decision to make use of an epidural to allow myself to rest and regroup my strength.”

Always remember not to brush aside or diminish the way you feel; your feelings are what they are. But they are feelings, not facts, the facts are that you are an amazing woman and a loving mother and that you deserve love and respect not just from those around you but also from yourself. Feel the feelings and then allow yourself to move on and be proud of everything you have been through in life and the person you are now allowing yourself to become.

Other helpful resources include:

https://www.makebirthbetter.org/healing

http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/

http://www.howtohealabadbirth.com/

https://www.motherandbaby.co.uk/baby-and-toddler/baby/disappointing-birth-advice

 

Positive Birth Plans

Hampshire Doulas Top Tips for making a Brilliant Positive Birth Plan.

Almost as soon as you tell people you’re pregnant you can expect to start hearing horror stories about how terrible people’s births have been, about how it’s the worst pain ever, worse than breaking all your bones at once. You might hear one or two people say actually for me birth was amazing I coped ok with the contractions and holding my new baby was the best moment of my life, I felt like a rock star. But in among all the other negative stories and all the images in the media of women screaming and suffering it might seem like those people were just lucky. You might hear it said that there’s no point in a birth plan, birth never goes to plan anyway, you’d just be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Is there any point to a birth plan?

If you feel like you would like to change the script, step out of the madness and even maybe look forward to giving birth the power is in your hands. Planning for birth might be just what you need. Information is power. Regardless of what you choose to put on a birth plan or even if you choose to have one, in the end, the power is in the planning stage. Knowing how birth works and what your rights are and talking through different possible ways that labour can go with your birth partner and how you would handle changes in the plan can give you the power over all the worries and fears that our society fills your head with.

Where to start?

Reading a good book about birth is a great place to start planning for your birth. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill is one great example another is Bump by Kate Evans. Going along to a Positive Birth Movement Group is another great place to start hearing other people’s stories of how they weren’t just lucky but they did have a positive birth.

Positive births can be any kind of birth, the way you are treated and cared for and being aware of your own power in the birth situation are the keys. You should know that every choice is yours, your caregivers will give you the very best medical advice they have but you can always ask what are the alternatives and ask for more details or time to make your own decisions.

What is oxytocin?

Here comes the science bit, bear with me it’s not that complicated and there’s only the one new word. There’s a hormone that your body and brain both make it’s called oxytocin. Oxytocin does lots of things in your body, probably more than have been discovered so far. One of the things it does is to make the muscles in your uterus contract in a coordinated way. That coordinated muscle contraction is what your uterus needs to do to pull back your cervix and push out your baby (otherwise known as labour and birth). This is a system of your body much like digestion or walking that works much better if you don’t overthink it. Another handy function of oxytocin is it helps you feel ok about pain and it helps to encourage your body to make endorphins which actually help you feel less pain.

So here are the practical top tips for planning for your labour and birth.

  1. Plan to give yourself the highest possible levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin and labour and birth thrive in the same conditions as sex and romance. As Ina May Gaskin puts it ‘the energy that gets the baby in gets the baby out’. We’re talking low lights, relaxing music if you like it, lots of laughter and positive talking from someone who loves you, loving touch such as cuddles and massages. Just as we need to feel safe and loved to enjoy sex, feeling safe and loved helps us to birth more easily.
  2. Understand that the pain of contractions is not the same pain as the pain of injury. The pain of contractions is the overwhelming feeling of your body working the hardest it ever has. Think of when hardcore athletes say they love to feel the pain and push through the pain that’s the pain your feeling with contractions. Your body is signalling not that something is wrong like with an injury pain but that everything is right. Helping your birth partner know the response you need is for them to admire you like a professional athlete not pity you like someone being damaged is a really good start to helping them learn what you need from them through your labour and birth.
  3. Find ways that help you work with your body. You might be planning to have an epidural or gas and air or a water birth or just to bite on a piece of wood. But whatever the plan as labour goes on there’s also going to be an early stage where you need to work with your contractions and allow your body to get working. You might be someone who likes movement or someone who finds something to repeat in your head to distract and relax you or someone who likes to really focus on breathing deep and slowly. Consider looking in to antenatal classes that suit you, hypnobirthing, yoga, active birth, aquanatal anything that gives you a practical tool rather than just basic information. Check out our ideas for positive affirmations if that appeals to you.
  4. Remind your birth partner to respect how amazing you are giving birth and to focus on being your biggest fan not worrying about you. Help them to help you by talking about the things you find it encouraging to hear when you’re working hard and things that might annoy you. Also, help them learn how you feel about the complications and deviations from plan A that could occur during your labour and what your choices might be in those situations. Help them learn to help you ask questions and make informed decisions and be prepared to accept and support your decisions on the day whatever they may be.
  5. Don’t forget after the birth comes life with a baby. Make a postnatal plan too. Plan to look after yourself to get the support and ask for the help you need. Plan to take it easy, live a 24-hour lifestyle when it comes to sleep and spend as much time as possible skin to skin with your baby.

A doula is someone who’s support will come in all the ways that we’ve talked about here. They get to know you, support you with all the practical things you need during labour, support and encourage your birth partner so they can enjoy the birth too and always focus on how amazing you are and support your decisions whatever they may be.

If you would like a doula to help you make a birth plan or a doula to support you through the whole of labour and birth or a doula to help with your postnatal plan head over to our find a doula page or send us a message.

 

A birth story of two doulas and one baby for World Doula Week 2018

This world doula week we’re really pleased to bring you the birth story of a Hampshire Doula baby.

We talked to his mum and their doula and we’re sharing the story here and across our social media to celebrate the way doulas help make ‘it’ happen. That ‘it’ might be: better births, bonding, support, breastfeeding, information or comfort.

Doula Vikki Young starts the story.

I saw the birth of a brand new soul last year. His name is Brodie. He’s a Hampshire Doula baby through and through!

Mum, Ali is a Hampshire Doula and I was her birth Doula.

It’s a pretty huge honour to be asked to be anyone’s Doula. But when it’s for a Doula herself you literally BEAM sunshine and rainbows.

Doula and Mum Ali Russell-Webb can start the story from further back. She tells us about her first birth and why she wanted a doula with her during her second birth.

After my first birth, I was completely traumatised. Naive to the world of, anything to do with, healthcare, I had no real idea what was happening to me or what was about to happen. Everything had been quite stressful, I had undiagnosed antenatal depression and I was overdue. This led to me being coerced into an induction, with the only thing I was terrified of, being a c-section.

My induction failed (or as a VBAC midwife once told me- it didn’t fail because it put me into labour). Well after 24 hours of that induced labour, and pain, I ended with a c-section for, what we thought was a failure to progress. This, we later found out, at a VBAC session, was not the reason, but the baby had turned OP and couldn’t get out. I stayed in the hospital for 7 days, after the birth. During which time my baby was topped up with formula, I was made to feel like I couldn’t feed him and I was shouted at by a midwife. This all resulted in terrible PND, with which I was suicidal, and PTSD. It took me 10 months to go near the hospital again.

[Editor’s note: post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can happen after any traumatic event including a traumatic experience of birth. There is help and support available if you think you may be struggling with this the birth trauma association is one good place to start. If you’re local please contact us here and we can also help you find local support. If you’re planning a birth and looking to avoid this please consider attending your local Positive Birth Movement meet-ups and look into having doula support for your birth.]

Despite all this, I knew I didn’t want an only child. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified. This pregnancy was awful- HG, for 4 months followed by nasty PGP. Between both babies, I had trained as a Doula, and studied, inside and out, maternity care. I knew I needed a Doula to support me this time, and wonderful Vikki Young agreed. Even though I am not easy to support, and probably even worse when pregnant. I spent my whole pregnancy beating myself up because I was a Doula, I know about birth, why was I so terrified? Also, I have never felt so lonely, as I did in the last weeks, probably another bout of, less severe, antenatal depression.

So now we come on to the birth story. Ali tells us how things got started. 

I planned my HBAC, still terrified of the hospital and was fairly content with the plan. Due to my newly learned knowledge about my first son being OP [positioned back to back with mum in the uterus more details here] and PGP [pelvic girdle pain –more details here], I had chiropractic treatment all the way through my pregnancy. I did yoga, Spinning Babies and anything else to ensure good positioning.

After a second dose of evening of primrose oil, [this is a personal experience Hampshire Doulas recommends you research anything before deciding if it’s for you which applies to alternative therapies as well as suggested medical interventions] I woke up about 3.30am, the date after my EDD (estimated date of delivery – those are nonsense) with a lot of fluid, but mostly smelling of evening primrose oil. 😁 I thought it was my waters but tried to go back to sleep. After being kicked in the face, by a toddler, for the millionth time, I gave up. There were mild surges starting (remember I’d never gone into natural labour) and I was bloody determined they were going to develop because I was so over being pregnant! (I don’t do pregnancy or babies small)

After labouring, well, staying active and being able to chat to Vikki, everything seemed all good. I got into the pool, which was blessed relief. Everything gets a little hazy, at this point, perhaps due to the amazing gas and air, perhaps I was in the zone.

One of the advantages of having a doula is they can fill in the gaps of your hazy memories of the day! 

Ali laboured at home all day. Having one contraction every three minutes from about midday to the point Brodie was born at 21:20. Not just the little breathe through it contractions. But the ones that curl your toes and make you try and glue yourself to the floor. She had a bit of gas and air and a pool. I mean MAN ALIVE she was awesome.

That kid was quite happy where he was though. Unaffected by his mum’s heroic birthing efforts.

Intensity was really building and from the look of everything, Brodie was ready to come into the world. The room was peaceful and I was able to make it through the intensity of the contractions with Vikki keeping my eye contact and reminding me to breathe. Her calmness was invaluable.

After a while, and some gas runs later, things seemed not to be moving and I couldn’t feel his head. I am absolutely an advocate of physiological birth and less focus on interventions, but there is a reason we have medicine and are fortunate to be able to access expertise.

I had received no VEs but knew at this point, although it was uncomfortable out of the water, there was something not quite right. The midwife examined my cervix and found I was 3-4cm dilated, and after the work so far, I knew I needed some relief if I was going to be able to birth him. Vikki’s calm reassurance was amazing, as I had that nagging feeling of failure, but it went.

After hours at the same dilatation and no let up in those contractions, it was time to get some help. Drugs would be good right now.

Birth is unpredictable, but with good support and knowing the decision to change to plan B is yours,  that unpredictability and positive birth are not mutually exclusive.

An ambulance came…

The ambulance ride was hell for Ali. Being told to lie down and keep still on this teeny bed are not things a woman in the throes of labour will ever take well.

She made it to the ward with only a few choice words 🤣

As they monitored her with the CTG [Cardiotocography (CTG) is a technical means of recording the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions during pregnancy.] it was clear the contractions were still coming thick and fast with no sign of the baby. An epidural was requested.

Your doula and your midwife will always tell you to trust your instincts and this was one time those instincts were needed and right.

Once we arrived at hospital I knew, in my heart, I was done and I needed a section. I am so grateful that I was in a position to know what was happening to my body, and feel self-assured enough to make an informed decision about the way forward.

I am indebted to my wonderful Doula for her sitting with me through the section, keeping me calm during the hardest parts of pain, and her presence reassuring me of my body and my ability to know exactly what I needed.

Ali had decided that this was the same road as Fin. She knew it. Mums always know. The baby was not coming without some assistance and trying to delay it was futile.

 

As the doc suggested waiting a bit, Brodie’s heart rate started to dip with the contractions. [This is one sign that baby might not be coping well with labour anymore.]

He was tired, she was tired and more importantly, Ali knew this baby needed to be born by c section. And soon.

The medical staff listened to Ali and she was whizzed round to theatre. I accompanied her as by now we were pretty much one unit. The eye contact was keeping her going and she needed that.

Her totally amazing husband knew it was what she needed and totally supported her ❤

So off Ali and I went to theatre.

Little (ha!) Brodie was out in no time. He was in my arms and held up to Ali so she could get those intoxicating new baby smells and hugs as she was stitched up. [Sometimes skin to skin isn’t possible immediately but it’s never too late.]

I popped out to get Ali’s husband while she was still in recovery so he could meet his brand new baby boy 💕

It may not have been the HVAC I planned, but as Doulas, we know birth is never a sure thing. I was safe and followed my instincts as my space was held for me, with love.

What started off as pretty textbook labour (whatever that is, right?) turned in to a real need for those wonderful obstetric wizards to come out and say “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here to help you. Let’s make a plan.”

I know we moan about them a lot. Terrible communication skills and an inability to listen to the woman are most common complaints. They are often seen as the worst thing to walk through a delivery room door BUT do you know what? Sometimes we need those peeps. We need their years of training in seriously complicated surgery. They can step in and save lives.

So what can we learn about doula support from this birth story?

Doulas still need Doulas. We lose our rational brains when we’re in the zone of labour and birth and are TERRIBLE at taking our own advice.

 

Doulas need Doulas

Does it matter what your breastfeeding support person calls themselves?

 

Breastfeeding Support People are called all kinds of things. (Not all of them kind or nice things but that’s another story.)

Breastfeeding support is one of those areas where there’s little or no regulation as to who can set themselves up as a breastfeeding supporter or what they call themselves. One of the consequences is that you can see a lactation consultant and they might be someone with a degree in breastfeeding and many hours of experience supporting breastfeeding. Or they might be someone who used to be a midwife or trained as a nanny and thinks they know from experience. The thing is, some midwives know loads about breastfeeding and some nannies are great at educating themselves and naturals at support. But, you have no guarantees that you pick a great one and just as much chance that you pick one who really doesn’t know that much and will give you information and advice that leads to you giving up breastfeeding before you want to.

So how can you find good quality well-trained breastfeeding support? In the UK the best way to start is to look for local groups or ring a helpline that’s supported by the reputable and knowledgeable volunteers from one of the four main breastfeeding charities. The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, the Breastfeeding Network, the La Leche League and the National Childbirth Trust. These organisations all train their volunteers to a great standard and also train them to be honest and refer mums to someone who knows even more than they do when they reach the limit of their knowledge.

But what if you need that top level of knowledge, that expertise? If someone calls themselves a lactation consultant what you need to know is are they certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Best way to find someone with this level of knowledge is to check the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain website.

It might be that you still need to do some research into local people, to find the right one for you.

But that’s just like you do with doulas, it’s about getting that feeling and clicking with someone when you already know they have the knowledge and training you’re looking for.

Here’s a personal tale on not stopping at the first person you ask for support with breastfeeding.

When my third baby was born I was already a qualified breastfeeding counsellor (with the ABM) you would think if anyone was going to find breastfeeding easy it would be me. This photo of our second feed is lovely because it shows how easy it is for even babies who struggle to get a good latch to keep hold of it in that laid back position. I love the photo of our first feed too (it’s not on the right storage device to share here now but maybe soon) because it really shows the truth

about the post-birth glamour (there really isn’t any glamour but there’s a kind of raw beauty to be sure). But what you can also see in that first feed photo is that from the very first feed I  had to support my daughter’s latch. She had a try at breast crawl and self-attachment and while she had it all going on with trying to find the breast she just couldn’t get a good enough latch to be happy until I gave her a little support.

Well as the first two weeks went by I put all the effort into all the things I was so used to telling other mums about. We used skin to skin contact and laid-back feeding positions but still, I was in so much pain I wanted to cry every time she wanted to feed (which was basically all the time.) But also because of having my breastfeeding training, I started to notice things about the way she fed and the way her tongue looked and wonder if she might have a tongue tie. Luckily for me, I also knew that the infant feeding co-ordinator at my local hospital was an IBCLC and that I could call her direct and say “help!” As a breastfeeding counsellor, I could be pretty sure we were struggling with tongue tie but it was so good to be able to hand over the worry and be reassured by the next level of expert. She confirmed  that yes, that was the problem, and I hadn’t just forgotten everything I knew and ‘done it wrong’ (there’s no right or wrong in mothering but sometimes it feels like that in the heat of the moment.) Also, luckily for me although the local hospital wasn’t treating tongue tie I could go to the one in the next town away and another wonderful IBCLC was able to divide my baby’s tongue tie and it was onward and upward (although of course not without twists and turns in the road) from there on.

So that is why I’m grateful for IBCLC’s on a personal level and a professional level and why I’m celebrating #happydayoftheibclc and that’s why I think it doesn’t matter what your breastfeeding supporter calls themselves it matters what they really know. I’m grateful there’s an easy way to tell if someone really knows their stuff or just likes the idea of being a lactation consultant.

 

Are you starting out with breastfeeding? Maybe our top tips can help it go smoothly for you and you won’t need the top level of support but at least if you do you know where to find it now.

 

Positive Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond

conferencedeetsAt Hampshire Doulas we’re always on the lookout for good local opportunities to learn more about supporting women and families through pregnancy birth and postnatal times. So, of course, we’re very proud to be able to be involved with Positive Birth Portsmouth first ever conference.

It’s going to be an interesting day learning all about how the way women and their families are cared for during the perinatal period affects their mental health throughout life.

One of the speakers is a trained doula, and also a consultant anaesthetist. We’re really looking forward to hearing all about how those two things can be brought together to promote positive birth experiences for more women. We will also be hearing about supporting women with mental health issues and about recovery from birth trauma.

If you would like to join us make sure to get your name on the guest list on the PBP website https://www.positivebirthportsmouth.org/conferencedetails.html

 

How to choose a baby sling or carrier.

In a previous post, we talked about why you might want to use a sling to carry your baby. If you’re looking for a sling to use you might find yourself confused by all the different kinds that are available. It can’t be said enough that the best way to find the right one for you is to visit a sling library and talk to a consultant. 

If you can’t make it to anywhere at the moment here’s a rough guide to types of slings you might find you like.

(The links -click the photos- are affiliate links so if you click through and buy a sling I will get a small financial reward but as always I would recommend the slings I’ve recommended even if I didn’t)

The most important thing you must know about any sling you choose is how to use it safely there are some very simple guidelines to follow to make sure of this.

TICKS

        1.  For a newborn baby, a stretchy wrap sling can be really cosy and comfortable and really help to create that safe feeling that reminds them of being in the womb. Stretchy slings can seem a little complex to tie when you first get started but a little practice (try using a doll or teddy to practice with so when you come to wrap your baby you’re relaxed and confident and your baby picks up that vibe). There are lots of types of wrap but to a certain extent, you get what you pay for. These are a reasonable price and are made with bamboo so super soft and comfortable. Buy this kind of sling if you’re looking for super soft cuddles and free hands with a clingy newborn. 
        2. Woven wraps work in a similar way to stretchy wraps and come in so many beautiful colours and patterns. They also last longer and are more supportive than stretchy wraps but not always so snug and some people find them more of a challenge to learn to wrap. There are many great youtube channels where you can learn though as well as, of course, going to a sling library or workshop. Make sure to buy the right size by checking this guide.  Buy this kind if you’re looking for a soft and pretty longterm sling for carrying your baby everywhere. 
        3. Mei Tai style carrier. These are more simple than wraps but still made of soft fabric. They have a waist tie and then shoulder straps which need to be crossed over your back and tied around baby. They’re really easy to use and nice and soft so make a good halfway house between a wrap and a structured carrier. Buy this if you’re planning to carry your baby with you all over and like a soft option that’s really easy to learn to use. 
        4. Ring slings come in many types and styles and some are easier to use and more comfortable than others. It can be tempting to experiment with padded ring slings and ones made from regular cotton but although they can be a bit more expensive ring slings made of woven wrap material are much more supportive and easier to adjust for comfort. If you like the idea of a quick up and down option a ring sling might be perfect so if you struggle to get comfy even with practice do pop along to a sling library and get some support, once you have the nack they are super comfy and easy to use. Choose this kind of sling if you’re looking for a quick way to have free hands and like something soft and pretty. 
        5. Structured buckle carriers.  If you prefer buckles to tying and want a really quick and easy option a buckle carrier might suit you. There are some which have less structure just fabric and buckles and some that have more padding, it’s really a personal preference which you find most comfortable. Whichever you choose for the sake of your back and your baby’s comfort it’s recommended to choose one that is ergonomically designed and has a wide base that keeps baby’s knees higher than their bottom. Choose this kind of carrier if you want a very quick option and don’t find the padded straps uncomfortable. 

         

Planning a positive birth

In a previous post, we established what a positive birth is as far as the Hampshire Doulas are concerned. Now it’s time to get practical with some tips for enjoying your birth.

(Please note the book links in this post are affiliate links if you click through and choose to buy these wonderful books I will receive a small amount of commission but even if I didn’t I’d still recommend them).Positive Birth. Learn about birth and surround yourself with positive people.

I asked the Hampshire doulas for their top tips for planning and having a positive birth. They came up with some varied ideas but when it comes down to it we’re all saying the same thing, surround yourself with positive people, people who know about birth and how good it can be. Choose people you can trust to be honest with you not sugar coat things but focus on what’s under your control. How can you do that?

Here are our top 5 ideas.

      1. Join a Positive Birth Group. There are Positive Birth groups all over the world. These are a network of groups where pregnant women come together and support each other. There are no experts and no medical opinions it’s just women sharing their positive experiences with each other.
      2. Read and watch positive birth stories. There are lots of places to read positive birth stories online. The Birth Without Fear Blog is a very good place to start. There are lots of positive birth stories on YouTube too. On the flip side avoid watching popular TV programs that feature birth, they’re edited for drama not education.  If you prefer to read on paper this book is a good start.
        Home Births: Stories to inspire and inform
      3. Get the negativity off your chest before the big day. If you have fears and worries about labour or birth and how you will cope talk them through with someone who knows about birth. If you had a previous negative birth experience consider having a birth debrief (ask your midwife to refer you to this service at your local hospital) or finding a counsellor who can help you move forward and work through any trauma you’re still carrying. You might also find this book helpful.
        How to Heal a Bad Birth: Making sense, making peace and moving on
      4. Learn about birth. Most doulas will have a few good books they can lend you to read. These will help you start learning how our bodies work when it comes to birth and what the range of possibilities might be for working with your body and cope with your contractions. A good antenatal course such as a hypnobirth course will help with this too and of course your antenatal sessions with your doula. Here are some of the books we recommend and lend out most often.
        The Positive Birth Book: A New Approach to Pregnancy, Birth and the Early Weeks
        Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
        Bump: How To Make, Grow and Birth A Baby
      5. Make a really good birth plan. Writing a birth plan has a value of itself regardless of who reads it on the day. The most important thing about birth planning is the process of thinking through what might happen and working out what choices you would like to make in many different situations. Writing a birth plan together is a great opportunity to have a really good talk with your partner about your expectations and what they can do to best support you through all the stages of labour.  Having a doula or a well-trained birth partner with you who knows your birth plan in their head (and has an easy to read short and sweet copy to refer to in their back pocket) might be the absolute top thing you can do for yourself. But it’s important they and you know what plan B and plan C are as well as being able to focus on plan A and all the things that will give you the best chance of plan A being the only one you need on the day.

       

Put it all in one sentence: how do I plan a positive birth? Learn about birth and surround yourself with loving supportive people.

5 tips for planning a positive birth

 

 

An introduction to hypnobirth with Wendy from WondrousBirth

We wanted to find out what hypnobirth was all about so we thought a good place to start would be a chat with a hypnobirth teacher. Here’s what we asked and what we found out. It’s all about relaxation and practice.

There are lots of assumptions about what hypnobirthing is and people can feel quite confused about whether or not it’s for them. Can you explain to us what hypnobirthing really involves, please?

To understand hypnobirthing it’s good to come from a place of understanding how the body and brain work together during labour and birth. As you will know as a doula and if you’ve had a birth doula, birth is something the body does and anything that stimulates our neocortex (thinking brain) can cause us to produce adrenaline which is the natural enemy of the hormone oxytocin. Our body needs oxytocin to produce the contractions which allow birth to happen. Adrenalin also stops us producing our own natural pain-relieving endorphins. So we need to switch off our thinking brains to give birth the best opportunity to unfold without any assistance. This will help us to feel safe and let our bodies get on with the job.

Hypnobirth provides practical tools to really deeply relax and allow our bodies to let birth happen.
It’s not just ‘woo’ and it’s not just putting on some relaxing music and hoping for the best. For hypnobirthing to work as it should the relaxation exercises need to be practised consistently through the pregnancy until your body relaxes without you having to think about it when you use the prompts. It needs to become second nature.

Some people are concerned because they have an idea about stage hypnosis appearing to show people being controlled by the hypnotist but not only is hypnobirth nothing like that neither is stage hypnosis. When ‘hypnotised’ no one is completely out of their own control. People may be open to suggestion (like eat an onion or cluck like a chicken) but they still have the ability to say no, I’m not doing that. No one can make you do something you’ve already decided is dangerous or not for you by hypnotising you. Likewise,
when you use self-hypnosis as a relaxation tool for birth you are able to take yourself to a relaxing place in your head and feel separate from what’s going on around you but you’re equally able to switch back on to what’s happening around you and interact with other people if you need or decide to do so.

Some people compare the relaxation they experience in hypnobirthing to that feeling you get when you are between waking and sleeping. They say it’s like when you’re aware that your alarm is going off but you choose to keep on drowsing through. Others describe it as being like when you drive somewhere that’s very familiar and your body takes over and gets you there on auto-pilot and when you arrive you can’t really remember the journey but you’ve made it to the destination.

So if we practise the hypnobirthing relaxation we’re definitely going to have a zen floaty birth and be completely serene and pain-free?

Maybe you will maybe you won’t. Hypnobirthing cannot promise you how your birth will go or how you will feel but what I can say is that by doing hypnobirthing you will maximise your chances for a straightforward birth if you acknowledge the conditions for enhancing your birth hormones. Hypnobirthing will reduce fear and stress and you will have the tools that will enable you to be calmer and therefore more comfortable no matter what path your birth takes.

Some people find they don’t experience labour as painful and some people labour silently. But not necessarily. Using hypnobirth tools won’t change who you are as a unique person and your birth journey will be unique to you. If you don’t feel zen or stay silent it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong and it doesn’t mean you’re not relaxing. Sometimes and for some people, the best way to relax and allow your body to work hard at contractions is to let all the feelings go in a vocal way. Sometimes, despite everything we do, things don’t go according to our plan for our birth but the relaxation tools you learn in a hypnobirth class can be incredibly useful even in these situations to help you keep calm and focused when your plans need to change. There is evidence to show that the more relaxed you are during surgery, the better your healing time is afterwards.

I always loved the mantra ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’, although we can’t make any guarantees that things will go according to our plans for birth this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what’s in our power to increase our chances.

What practically speaking can people expect from your classes?

The classes are a complete antenatal preparation so you can expect to cover all the birth basics, what happens when things don’t go to plan, how dads can support the mums complemented by how hypnobirthing works, what tools and visualisations to use, breathing, positions and techniques for dads to physically support mums. I try to make the classes as interesting as possible so we mix things up and get everyone involved and try to avoid a typical death by powerpoint scenario.

There are 4 sessions that last 2.5 hours long and they can go away and practice something after each session and come back for more support at the next session setting them up to practice little and often up until the birth so that everything becomes second nature.

For the dad’s, I prepare a cheat sheet to help them prioritise the most important things on the day as on the day, mum needs to be able to relax and dad is charged with sorting things out which can be a lot of pressure.

Dad’s are my biggest cynics but funnily enough, they are often the biggest converts too. During the classes, the parents get the opportunity to bond with each other and with their baby in a way that our busy lives often limit. They have the chance to really focus on each other, on their hopes and choices around the birth and on their feelings about becoming parents.

I am also a trained doula and have attended many births supporting mums and dads navigate the minefield of birth choices that are out there. I feel this helps me deliver my classes in a very informative manner always keeping the parent’s right to choice at the forefront of my teachings.

The relaxation tools can become tools for life not just for labour and birth. The principles can be useful in the early days, for example, if they want, there’s a script you can use for breastfeeding and the principles are relevant for later for any stressful and challenging situations we come across in life, both for mums and the dads.

The relaxation has positive health benefits for mum and also for baby. There’s some evidence that mum being stressed during pregnancy can affect baby’s brain development so that they will be more sensitive to stress. We can’t control if stressful life events happen when we are pregnant so having a tool to use to keep our bodies calm can not only benefit us but can even have positive effects on baby’s development.

As someone who has experienced hypnobirth for their own birth what was it like for you on the day?

I’ve watched the video of my third child’s birth and it does look like it was a wonderful zen calm birth. In some ways it was but inside my head, it still felt really intense and fast and I had to really focus on relaxing my body. I’ve always been a mind over matter sort of person so for me the hypnobirth tools were great because they allowed me to get quickly into that relaxed state.

When it came to the birth itself I felt really present in my body, really aware of all the different sensations and what my body was doing as it pushed out my baby. The breathing techniques were key in helping me to consciously work with my body slowly allowing my body time to stretch and not tear. I found being so relaxed through my labour had allowed my body to build up such a great amount of oxytocin that the high of holding my baby for the first time was amazing. The same oxytocin resulted in no blood loss at all, my midwife was amazed and said she would have to write 100ml in my notes as no one would believe her if she said none at all.

That said, I am very aware that every birth is different and we all have our own challenges to overcome and I try to be sensitive to that at all times and encourage a couple to find what works for them to empower them as they begin one of life’s greatest adventures.

You can get in touch with Wendy and Erika via their website https://www.wondrousbirthhypnobirthing.co.uk/

On the website, you can book a taster session or a whole course group class or private classes just for you.

You can also find Wondrous Birth on Facebook 

All of our Hampshire Doulas will be happy to support you with hypnobirth if it is one of your chosen tools for birth. Find the right doula for you on our find a doula page. 

 

Hypnobirth in Hampshire