When your postnatal doula arrives at your door there are a few things she might have with her. One might be cake another is a sling to help her as she cares for you and your baby. So what’s so great about slings?
- Lots of babies sleep really well in a sling. Babies come into the world with expectations based on their experience to date which is of being in a lovely snuggly womb. Being in a sling, especially on the move. Is very soothing and cosy and can help babies to sleep. One of the most popular jobs postnatal doulas do is allow mums to get some time (often to sleep) to themselves which they can be easily relaxed enough to do when the baby is sleeping snug in the sling with their doula. This is also a brilliant advantage for dads and partners and grandmas and uncles. Slings help everyone help baby sleep.
- Babies who are colicy or refluxy are often more comfortable upright and well supported in a sling. Doulas often find themselves supporting families when baby is struggling with feeding or with being comfortable after a feed. Babies who cry a lot can be really draining to care for and doulas can do a great job of taking some of the stress away by caring for the family and helping them to care for themselves. Being able to calm a baby is an important skill for doulas and using a sling is a great tip we often pass on to families as an added tool for their toolbox
- Slings leave your hands free to do housework. While housework isn’t the main reason your doula is there she’s more than happy to do a few chores that help you feel relaxed in your home and allow you to focus on resting and recovering from birth and sleepless nights. Using a sling allows your doula (and you if you give it a try) to load the dishwasher, fold the laundry or make you a sandwich with two hands.
- Slings also leave hands free for caring for mum and older children. Your doula can keep on looking after you (give you a foot massage for example) or entertain your older children (make a wooden railway over the playroom floor for example) while you look after yourself. Using a sling will allow you to keep on doing things for yourself, go for a country walk, get a manicure, have coffee with a friend and look after your older children, take them to the park and push them on the swings or stay home and read a book.
- Last but very much not least, sling cuddles are some of the best kind. Doulas are not shy to admit we love a cuddle, we’re great at giving them and we’re oxytocin junkies so we rarely turn one down. Some people (who are wrong) will tell you that cuddling your baby all the time will make a rod for your own back. The evidence of the many happy healthy independent children who were carried in slings shows that’s simply not true. All the cuddles are great for mums and dads and babies too.
If you’re thinking “this sounds great I want in” talk to your doula she can help you get going with a sling. Or find a local babywearing consultant to help you find the best sling for you. Click through and read our quick guide to the different types.
Here’s the second post in our new category: Nourishing the new mum. This recipe is for vegan broth. Soup is easy to eat and easy to fill with lots of good energy boosting foods so it’s perfect for those early postnatal days and weeks.
This is just one example of a yummy nourishing soup great for making ahead and brilliantly easy to eat when you’re recovering from birth and learning how to survive on a broken night’s sleep. If you’re looking for the meaty version click here.
This is just an example, use things you like from your cupboard. Make it high in protein and high in vitamins and minerals. Enjoying eating it is the most important criteria.
-2 tablespoons coconut oil
-2 sweet potatoes
-2 teaspoons vegan stock powder
-2 teaspoons turmeric
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon cumin
-2-3 pints water
-1 teaspoon molasses
-2 teaspoons almond butter
-1 teaspoon super green powder
-1 teaspoon yeast flakes
-salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel and chop onion. Saute in a large saucepan with coconut oil.
2. Peel and chop the carrot and sweet potatoes. Add to pan with stock powder and the spices. Add water and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for 1/2 hour to 1 hour until all the vegetables are soft.
3. Blend to a smooth soup.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients and warm through before serving.
Evidence for Doulas Support Continues to be found. Research confirms doula support has many benefits.
The best kind of evidence for doula support are all the families who feel good about the support they were given by their doula and who value and recommend doulas.
But in a society where a very high value is put on being able to show in scientific research that there are measurable benefits to things. And being people who like to be able to see the research on the measurable benefits of any interventions before deciding whether or not it is one we want to choose for ourselves. We think it’s really great whenever the Cochrane Library reviews the evidence on continuous support through labour and birth. The conclusion is that the kind of support we provide results in many potential benefits for the mother and baby.
The most recent review which came out July 2017 concluded:
“Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low- five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences. We found no evidence of harms of continuous labour support.”
There are more details if you want to read them in the full report via the link. The Cochrane Library is a great place to go and read up on anything related to pregnancy labour and birth especially because they provide a plain English version of the conclusions of their research reviews which is really helpful for those of us with no medical degree but who want to have all the information before making decisions.
Hampshire Doulas still believe the most important benefit of the support we provide is how our clients feel about themselves and the births they have.
What are positive birth affirmations and how do I use them?
Doulas, above everything else, are positive about birth and about women and about new families. One of the most outstanding benefits of inviting a doula to your birth is the positive way she will talk to you and encourage you. Sometimes (especially as women and especially as British people) we’re not all that kind to ourselves and thinking positive thoughts about ourselves and our abilities doesn’t always come easily. This is one reason positive birth affirmations can be so helpful. Make your own or print ours if you like. Stick them around your house where you will see them when you’re going about your day and read them every time you pass. That repetition of thought will make those thoughts start to get into your brain. Then when you’re in labour you can choose the one that works for you and repeat it to yourself as you breathe through your contractions. If your baby has arrived already you might find the positive affirmations for life with a new baby more useful.
I love my baby and I am doing all that is necessary to bring about a healthy birth.
This one can be helpful as you’re planning your birth, especially if you’re making choices that are not in the normal routine of things. People may say discouraging things to you but focusing on why you make your decisions and remembering you’re making good choices for you and your baby is important. It can also be helpful if you reach a point in labour when you make a different choice to your first choice birth plan you might need to help yourself focus on letting go of that first choice and feeling positive about your new choice knowing you’ve made it for good reasons.
2. Keep breathing slow and even. Inhale peace, exhale tension.
This is a good affirmation for anytime you need to relax, for times you feel stressed while pregnant and as your contractions start to feel like really hard work during labour and then when you’re holding your new baby wondering at the enormous love and responsibility you’ve taken on.
3. I feel the love of others around me.
It’s always good to remember as we birth we’re never alone, we’re surrounded by the love of the long line of birthing women we come from. The love of our sisters (by blood and by choice). One of the most positive things you can do for yourself as you prepare for your birth is to surround yourself with that support. Hang out with people who tell positive birth stories. Prep your birth partners to focus on increasing your oxytocin through every stage of your labour. Always remember if someone is in your birth space and is not helping you feel the love you have the right to ask them to leave no matter who they are.
4. My body will give birth in its own time.
Due dates are just estimates. Guidelines that stipulate a certain number of centimetres of dilation per hour are not the rules. There are no rules in how birth unfolds. If you’re happy and your baby is happy it’s all good.
5. I accept myself completely here and now.
Each birth is a new adventure for you and how you deal with contractions, the choices you make and the way you feel in each moment is always okay. Birth is not a pass or fail event it’s part of your journey and it’s up to you to speak kindly to yourself and accept how you feel and love yourself through each moment.
When your doula goes on call for your birth one of the first things she will do is make sure her doula bag is all packed and ready to go and safely kept so it can be grabbed on the way out the door to be with you.
You’re probably wondering what’s in this bag that makes it so special but before we get into that always remember what’s outside the bag is much more important. Sometimes birth happens fast and sometimes it takes even an experienced doula by surprise and we turn up by your side with nothing more than purse and keys. Any of the things we’re going to talk about can be improvised from what we find at your house or the hospital and many women will give birth without any ‘things’ at all just calm loving people marvelling at how wonderful they are.
Sometimes it can be a challenge, especially in our society where we find speed and measurement are so often expected to be a feature in birth experiences and where we often birth in unfamiliar surroundings, to reach that place of being totally in the zone and able to find the power in us to follow what our body is doing. The calm relaxing presence of a doula by your side is her main tool in helping you reach that place of feeling safe and relaxing into what your body is doing and letting it take over and get birth done. Her reassurance and ability to help those around you respect and honour your need for that calm quiet zone is her main tool and you can’t keep that in a bag.
When I asked the Hampshire doulas what from their doula bag they were most likely to use at a birth it came as no surprise that the things we use the most often are things that help women to find their birth zone and follow their body’s cues with the least possible disturbance. Our tools of the trade are the things which work with us in helping to hold the space women birth in and increase their natural levels of the all-important oxytocin.
Here we go with the answer to what is in our doula bags?
Battery Tealight Candles or Battery Fairy Lights.
One of the most important things for increasing the levels of oxytocin a birthing women is producing is to keep the lights low. Bright lights can make women too aware of their surroundings and the possibility of being observed which can stimulate the production of adrenalin -oxytocin’s natural enemy. Even when we’re at a birth without our bag we will help women to find a nice quiet spot to labour with low lights. The added benefit of the tea lights or fairy lights is they have a soft comforting light that we naturally associate with warm cosy evenings with our loved ones which helps women feel safe and produce more of the lovely oxytocin.
Women in labour need to keep hydrated, their bodies are doing really hard work and when we exercise we need to stay hydrated to keep our muscles working well. But when a woman is following her body’s cues to find the best position to stay comfortable she may not be in a great position for sitting back and drinking from a cup or bottle. Also taking small regular sips of water is often easier than trying to take a big drink. One frequent task doulas take on is holding the water and popping the straw in the right place to help the birthing woman stay hydrated without having her natural rhythm disrupted.
Coconut water, honey sticks, honey water, high protein nibbles.
As well as staying hydrated women need the energy to maintain their muscles to keep going through all the hard work, especially if they have a long labour. This needs to be provided, just as with the bendy straws for water, in a way that doesn’t disturb their natural labouring rhythm. So, having small easy to nibble high energy options to tempt mum with that she can finish in between contractions is something we’re practised at. We’re also very prepared for (and used to having) small amounts of things spat into our hands if a contraction hits and a woman feels she would prefer an empty mouth during contractions. One of the other things often in our doula bags is hand cream for ourselves in case we need to wash our hands frequently or have them into the water of the birth pool giving a back rub etc.
Not in every doula bag but in many because of the benefits of positive and relaxing smells in helping women stay in their labour bubble. A smell that you enjoy can help you relax and can cover up any unwanted smells like the medical smell of the hospital. There are other smells which can help you if you feel sick and others that can help you get your energy back. Some doulas have training or experience in using essential oils and will have a whole selection for you to choose from, the most popular during labour seem to be lavender and peppermint. Your doula will always chat to you about this during your pregnancy to make sure she only brings smells that you like into your birth space.
Flannel or face cloth.
This is a practical tool that gets used for various reasons. Sometimes it can be combined with the essential oils to keep them close enough to smell. (Not to be used for other things after that so sometimes we need two.) Other times it’s covered in cold water and used to help soothe a sweaty brow or on the back of the birthing woman’s neck to help cool her down. Sometimes it’s not needed till right at the end of labour when it can be soaked in warm water and used to support the perineum to help prevent tearing. Last but not least sometimes it’s needed after the birth to help the new mother clean herself up -those times we are ready to say thanks for all the hard work and goodbye to that trusty flannel and time to get a new one.
Homoeopathy, Acupuncture, photography, hypnobirthing, etc.
Some doulas are trained in other therapies or skills too and will bring their tools for that job with them. It might help you decide who’s the right doula for you if you know you would be interested in a certain type of complementary therapy or service check if your doula is willing and able to support you with that.
Snacks and a really good coffee for myself.
Knowing that we may well not get the chance for a break once we arrive at a birth we make sure we have good energising snacks for ourselves and potentially to share with a birth partner or midwife too. We need to keep ourselves full of energy so we can be as useful to you as long as you need us to whether your birth is short or long we’re totally in it with you for the whole time.
During World Doula Week we have the privilege to share a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Kirsten had a baby who was in the breech position and decided to have a home breech birth. For more information on why some women prefer to choose vaginal birth rather than caesarean for a breech baby, this website is a good place to start reading.
How did you hear about doulas?
When I had my first son in New Zealand I had a pregnancy massage with an English girl. She had been a doula in the UK and told me all about it. I thought it sounded lovely but as I had an independent midwife, I didn’t feel that I needed a doula.
Why did you want a doula?
When it came time to have my second son I had moved to the UK. Since NHS midwives are not guaranteed to be at your birth (unlike in NZ), I really wanted someone that knew me and my birth preferences to be with me through the birth (apart from my hubby!).
How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?
My hubby thought it was a great idea.
How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?
My doula gave me lots of positive affirmations which I stuck around my house to help me keep feeling positive and prepared for my baby’s birth. She was happy to answer any questions I had. If she couldn’t answer she would find out the answers for me. She came to meetings with me. I was planning a home breech birth which was outside of normal hospital protocol so I had some meetings at the hospital about this. My doula supported my decisions and choices throughout the preparation.
What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?
My doula was available on the phone to discuss options/plans. When I asked her to she came over to my house (I had a home birth) and helped calm the atmosphere. She coached me through the contractions reminding me to slow my breathing and relax my shoulders. She encouraged me. She answered the door when the midwife arrived. After my baby arrived he was a little slow to breathe deeply (which is normal for breech babies and he remained well with a strong heartbeat throughout). The midwife asked my doula to call an ambulance so that she would have any equipment and fast transport if needed. As it happened the ambulance crew weren’t even needed in the room as baby began to breathe deeply of his own accord and the midwife was able to give him a little oxygen and was happy with how well he was doing after a couple of minutes.
What did she do after the baby was born?
Cuddled him! While I was feeling faint and my husband was engaged in necessary practical tasks and my midwife looking after me it was good to have my baby still held in loving arms. My doula then looked after my placenta ready for encapsulation and tincture. She gave me a small piece of placenta for under my tongue to help prevent excess bleeding. She was able to remind my midwife that I did not want the injection to expel the placenta. She made me Vegemite toast and a glass of chocolate Nesquik! Later she brought me an amazing chocolate cake!
What was the best thing about having a doula?
The total unbiased support. Knowing she’d be in my corner.
Would you recommend having a doula to other families?
Without hesitation. Every woman should have a doula in my opinion!
Yesterday we had another doula meet up. Some of the doulas from Hampshire were able to introduce themseves on facebook. We hope to bring you more fun videos so you can get to know us better soon.
Hampshire doula meet up.
Posted by Hampshire Doulas on Saturday, March 4, 2017
As doulas, we’re very fond of saying we support positive birth -because we do! It’s our passion that women (and their partners) have the chance to feel positive about their pregnancy, their birth and having and caring for a new baby.
But we also find very often people expect that we support ‘natural’ birth, or ‘drug free’ birth or home birth. Maybe that’s because we’re also fond of saying we believe in women and their bodies.
So, let’s just get this straightened out. What do doulas really mean by positive birth?
I asked the Hampshire doulas “what do you mean when you say positive birth?” These are some of the answers they gave me:
The main theme is that a positive birth is one where you feel supported in your choices. Doulas don’t make choices for anyone or advise parents on the right choice to make. We find information when it’s needed and ask questions about the pros and cons of decisions so that the parents we work with can make informed choices and more than anything else, we listen. We listen to the whole story of how you feel, to what it’s like to be you and to why you make the choices you make and we support you to make the choices you want to make with all the information you need. Then we hold your hand and hold your space while you labour and parent in your own choices, we encourage you and we gently help you insist that the other people around you do the same.
What does that mean from a practical point of view?
As well as helping you trust your decisions we can help you find the things that work for you to work with your contractions in the early stages of labour. We also know that most of the time when the space around you is kept calm, quiet, dark and free from the feeling of being observed you have the best chance of feeling calm and having an uncomplicated birth experience. We often find that women who are supported experience labour and birth as not scary and even enjoyable.
But we also believe that you’re the one who knows best if it’s time for you to choose to have medical help dealing with the sensations of your contractions. We’re also there to support you if the situation arises where you need to make decisions that are different to your original birth plan that your informed decision on the day is the right one for you and we will support you to make that decision whatever it may be.
So any kind of birth can be a positive birth?
Yes, you can have a positive homebirth, a positive water birth, a positive birth centre birth, a positive birth on labour ward, a positive epidural birth, a positive assisted birth, a positive c-section. As long as each of these things happens in an atmosphere where you know you are supported and your decisions are yours alone and are the best ones for you made freely with all the information you need.
Now you know what we think a positive birth is you might want to set out and plan your positive birth. Check out our practical tips for planning a positive birth.
Best Thing About Doula Support
There are loads of benefits of doula support that have been shown in research. But for me as a doula what matters the most, although it is shown in the research, can best be seen in the individual stories told by that the people who have had doula support. Each time I hear a story if a birth supported by a doula there’s a theme that shows the family feels proud of and happy with their decisions.
Doula Support Brings Positive Feelings.
It’s brilliant that many women have easier birth experiences with doulas by their sides and as doulas, it’s really exhilarating to be there for those births that go exactly according to what the mum had planned. But birth is unpredictable and even for those women who do everything possible to help themselves, there is a chance that baby simply won’t ‘play ball’. Sometimes for a reason that becomes clear when they are born and sometimes for apparently no reason at all. When birth ends up taking an unexpected twist such as transfer to hospital from home or baby needing to be born by c-section doula support still matters. Some might even say those births are the ones when the most benefit most from total unconditional support in making every decision is found.
Doula Support is all in the preparation
As doulas, we often notice that most of the benefit we offer to mums and their partners is virtually complete by the time we’ve finished our ante-natal sessions. The change in people from when you meet them and they feel so uncertain to when they realise and embrace their own power in their birth is amazing. We meet people who are worried about what this birth will bring them and whether they have the strength to face it. Then we provide information and support and we see them grow in confidence in their bodies and in their own ability to make the right decisions for themselves. This work during pregnancy is why, when we are there to support a birth, our main function is just in being there. On the day it might seem like all a doula does is stay calm and positive but that’s because we work hard to during pregnancy. The wonderful thing about women and their bodies is that for the majority of births this is enough for everything to go according to plan, to be hard work but satisfying and even enjoyable.
Doula support still matters when the plan goes out the window.
No one can make any promises about the exact flow your labour and birth will take and ‘more likely’ doesn’t mean it’s impossible for things to take a different path. What we can promise is that we will be there 100% with you. We promise to continue to support each decision that comes up with unbiased information and knowledge that the right decision on the day and in the moment, is the one that the birthing woman feels is right for her and her baby. This, above everything else, is the benefit of doula support. Being able to say ‘I may feel sad that things didn’t go the way I planned but I feel positive I made my choices and I know I’m amazing however my baby was born’.
If you have more questions about how a doula can support you why not read our frequently asked questions page.
(The rest of this series of pictures about the research on doula support is on our facebook page)
If you’ve been around our facebook page or blog at all you may well be already aware one of the main reasons Hampshire Doulas exists is to provide a space for doulas to support each other. We believe that our face to face meetups are really important and here’s why.
Doulas are self-employed and that can be really lonely.
As self-employed people, we are responsible for running our businesses ourselves and everything that involves from the lovely fun parts of being with families at births and during those first weeks at home with a new baby to the less fun parts like filing tax returns and the really scary (for many doulas) parts like advertising what we do. Lots of us felt very lost with all of this especially when we first started so that’s one of the reasons we felt Hampshire Doulas was a good idea. We all have different skills and experiences and when we put those together and support each other through challenges not only do we feel all the warm fuzzy feelings but we get practical ideas and information that help us feel more confident with our jobs.
Meeting face to face encourages good communication.
Facebook and email groups are brilliant for chatting on a day to day basis and asking questions we need instant answers to but it’s really difficult to truly get to know someone when you aren’t talking face to face, you miss out on the tone of voice they use and all of the visual cues that show how people feel. We can have much deeper conversations when we meet in person.
Cake and hugs are available at meetups.
Sharing food with each other is a bonding experience and just like hugs produces oxytocin and doulas know all about the positive benefits of oxytocin.
Knowing each other better can help our clients too.
Getting to know each other allows us to know who we click with best and who we can work well with. This means we can offer our clients a confident back up arrangement and even the opportunity for a shared care arrangement which can help us relax and help our clients relax with confidence they will always have a doula they know and love by their side.