Skin to skin it’s the answer to everything.
You may have already read about skin to skin and how many benefits it has for babies when they are first born. If you’re pregnant now read up on those benefits and think about if you want to add skin to skin to be kept in your birth plan whatever else happens.
But if you’re looking back on what happened when your baby was born and skin to skin didn’t happen as you hoped for whatever reason don’t despair it’s not too late. Equally, if you’re looking back thinking how lovely that skin to skin time was now is a great time to get back skin to skin with your baby.
If you had a birth that didn’t go to plan or if you and baby are struggling to get breastfeeding going well or if you’re finding it difficult to feel that overwhelming bonding and falling in instant love that you’ve been lead to expect will happen as soon as baby arrives skin to skin can help. Skin to skin can happen as much as you like, any time you’re in the house you can snuggle skin to skin under a blanket or pop baby skin to skin in a stretchy sling. Skin to skin raises oxytocin (the feel good loving hormone) levels so don’t worry you can not overdo it. Babies and mothers (and dads, siblings, grandmas etc) benefit in many ways by spending as much time as possible skin to skin.
Bathing with your baby.
One way of being skin to skin that many people find really positive is to have a bath with your baby. Sometimes this is called re-birthing but it’s nothing spiritual or just for hippies just an opportunity for mum and baby to get the skin to skin and cuddles they might have missed out on at birth or just to get some more. Here’s a quick how-to guide if you think you might benefit from this.
- Have someone help you, run a nice deep bath, get in and relax.
- Have your helper pass you your baby.
- Hold baby between your legs (in the warm water) as you sit in the bath make eye contact and talk to your baby about how long you’ve been waiting to meet them, how important they are, how beautiful they are and how much you’re going to love them.
- Then bring your baby up on to your tummy/chest so you are tummy to tummy just as you would have been had birth gone to your original plan. Relax like that as long as you and baby are happy.
- Have your helper put a towel over your baby to keep them warm if necessary and be prepared to hold your hand or stroke your arm if the tears start to fall. If the tears fall do not be surprised, let them come and let the emotions out. Make sure you’ve picked a helper who is prepared to be with you through the emotion and offer loving sympathy not try to cheer you up or fix the problem. The talk and the helping may come later but this is the time for just feeling and letting the feelings out.
- It’s quite likely that in this position tummy down, head between your boobs baby will start to root. As long as baby isn’t getting upset try to leave them to it to find the nipple and latch on themselves.
- Your helper can take your baby and then offer a support if needed for you to climb out of the bath when you’re ready.
Your birth or postnatal doula will be more than happy to be your support person or helper through this process. If you don’t have anyone who’s right for the job yet check the find a doula page.
At 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
Here’s a recipe for our Nourishing the New Mother series that can be made meaty veggie or vegan whatever your preferences. It’s great comfort food and really nourishing. Perfect for your doula to make for you or to make and freeze in small batches ready for when you need it.
Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Notes: apparently strictly speaking it’s only a shepherd’s pie if you use lamb mince, with other kinds of mince it’s a cottage pie. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Alexandra – BBB doula.
Ingredients. Quantities for two people.
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 200g mushrooms
- 225g mince of your choice (lamb, beef, quorn, or substitute lentils or cannellini or pinto beans)
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 200ml stock of your choice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 200g sweet potatoes peeled and chopped into squares
- Peel and chop onion and carrot slice mushrooms. Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes, until soft and well done.
- Saute onion in olive oil in a large/deep frying pan or wok (if you like you can add some garlic too). When it starts to look transparent add carrot mushrooms and mince (you can change these for other vegetables if you prefer or have different veggies in the fridge). Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add stock, tomatoes and herbs, some people like to add a teaspoon of sugar too. Season to taste.
- Cook for about 20-30 minutes stirring regularly until the sauce has reduced. Place in casserole dish. Drain and mash sweet potato (sweet potato is so soft it usually doesn’t need any liquid to mash easily if you feel it does use a little of the sauce from the mince mix.) Top the mince with the sweet potato and a little grated cheese (or vegan cheese substitute) and when ready to eat pop in a medium oven until hot and bubbly around the edges.
Macaroni and Cheese is such a simple staple we often forget how good it is as a comfort food. This is another great recipe for making in advance and freezing in portion size pieces for when you need something filling to pop in the microwave and enjoy. It’s also something your postnatal doula could easily make for you while you enjoy a rest and a chat or go and have a bath.
- Broccoli, Cauliflower, or your prefered vegetable
- Cheese Sauce
- Bread Crumbs mixed with grated cheese
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet and cook the vegetables al-dente (mostly cooked but still a little crunchy). Drain and mix with the cheese sauce in a rectangular casserole dish. Top with breadcrumbs and cheese and grill top to brown.
Making a cheese sauce is much easier than some people think. Basic cheese sauce is just made by melting a tablespoon of butter in a pan over a low heat, adding a tablespoon of plain flour and mixing then gradually adding milk a splash at a time and mixing till smooth with a plastic whisk each time until you have a smooth sauce of a consistency you like (probably between half a pint and one pint of milk total). Add grated cheddar cheese to your taste (about 100-200g) and mix it in until it’s all melted.
These yummy chocolate energy bites are perfect for nibbling in labour or when you’ve got a new baby and need some quick energy now. They’ve also got dates in them which have been shown to be potentially very helpful to pregnant women. Find out more about that from the Evidenced-based birth website.
The only problem my taste team discovered was they were all gone too soon.
There are loads of ways to make easy energy bites so watch out for more soon on the blog.
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.
Today we’re starting a new Blog Series which we’re going to come back to regularly.
Nourishing the New Mum
This new category for our blog is a chance to share some of our favourite recipes with you. When we work as postnatal doulas we’re all about looking after new families and especially new mums. One of the most important ways you can look after yourself and we can look after you is with good nourishing food that will help your body recover from the birth and give you energy as you get used to your new role as a mother.
So our first two recipes are nourishing soup and broth recipes. These are really good for giving you healing and energy and great for making ahead and keeping in the freezer ready for when you’ve not got as much time for cooking. Soup is also good for the postnatal period because it’s easy to eat with one hand. This is the meat version click here to skip to a vegan version if you don’t eat meat.
Bone Broth Basic Recipe
-The leftover bones from your Sunday roast
-2 Carrots Peeled and chopped
-2 Sticks celery
-Fresh herbs of your choice
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1.5 litres water
1. Place everything in a large saucepan.
2. Simmer for 2-3 hours on low.
3. Strain. Discard bones and vegetables and use broth either as a drink or as a base to make other soups or stews.
When you’re pregnant much of your focus goes into planning for your birth and practical purchases for your baby. But once your baby is here the reality of how much your life has changed in that one instant can be quite overwhelming. The first few weeks with a new baby in your life are a mix of emotions, learning to feed, change, cuddle and find ways that your baby will happily sleep all at once.
Some of the skills you used preparing for your birth can help you through this time too. Any deep breathing and relaxation exercises can help you calm down when things start to get stressful, going for a walk or dancing around your kitchen can bring some light relief and help soothe a crying baby and positive affirmations can help you to keep your focus and remind you what’s important. Here are 5 of the Hampshire doulas’ favourite positive reminders for new parents. If your baby isn’t here yet you might also find these positive affirmations for birth helpful.
- The days are long but the weeks are short. When the day seems to be going on forever, when it feels like you haven’t slept in as long as you can remember, when you wonder if you will ever drink a hot cup of tea again. This reminder is that in the whole length of your life with this new child these first few weeks are not really very long at all.
The other wonderful thing about reaching the end of each week is you can look back and remember how far you have come.
2. One of the inevitable parts of being a parent is worrying, is my child well, are they developing ‘properly’, am I doing a good job? Sometimes books about how babies grow are helpful and reassuring but sometimes, especially with the ones that claim to be able to solve all your problems and make your child a ‘perfect baby’ they can increase the stress we feel. The good news is there’s no such thing as a perfect parent and your baby just needs you to love them. The way things work for you is the right way for you.
3. It’s so very easy as our new identity as someone’s parent develops and begins to flourish to forget that we are people too and that we matter as well. We need to look after ourselves. When there’s a new person in your life, who you are so in love with and who has so many needs it’s easy to get to the end of the day and realise you’ve not had a moment to yourself. Now that moment doesn’t need to be totally alone or something out of the ordinary but it needs to be a time when you’ve realised you need to care for yourself and you’ve done something that feeds your own soul. This can be as simple as taking a walk in the fresh air with baby in the sling, asking your mum to cuddle her new grandchild for half an hour while you have a nice long shower or just putting on your favourite music or TV program and relaxing in your chair once your baby has finally fallen asleep.
4. Sometimes we feel euphoric with a new baby and sometimes we feel just amazingly tired. It’s completely normal to have ups and downs, good days and bad days. It’s also OK to admit you don’t love every moment. It’s important to seek out your tribe at this time, to build a network of friends you can trust to be honest with, to be able to say I had an amazing day and I feel wonderful without worrying they will think you’re showing off. But, to be just as able to say “I had a terrible day, I haven’t showered I have eaten only chocolate all day and my baby has been super grumpy I’m so fed up,” without worrying they will think you’re a bad mum. To have people who will always say ‘me too’ ‘I get what you mean’. Sometimes we can know the way we feel isn’t ok with us, we can’t seem to ever feel really happy, we’re always worrying everything seems to be on top of us and we haven’t had any good days and it’s OK to admit that’s how you feel. In fact, it’s important to talk about it if you feel like that. Find someone you can trust, GP, Health Visitor, a really good friend who will help you get the help you need to stop feeling like that and go back to the usual ups as well as downs of life.
5. Whatever your first few weeks are like with your baby they are part of your story and you will make the right decisions for you and come through the other side. You won’t be exactly the same as before you had your baby, and that’s all good. Your new you and new reality may take time to get used to but know you are amazing. Learn to love the new you, you’ve got them with you for life.
Which is a positive affirmation we can all use and remember, whatever stage of our life we’re in right now. This is part of my story. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you’ll never change or never grow it means you love yourself enough to make good choices for you and to keep on learning.
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.
New baby new focus.
Once you have your new baby there’s a sudden shift of interest from friends, family and often even health professionals. From everyone being concerned with your health and wellbeing as a pregnant mum suddenly all the interest is in how your new baby is doing. Most of your interest is there too, as a mum the centre of your world has shifted and now your most urgent need is always to make sure your baby is happy and healthy. But this doesn’t mean you don’t matter anymore. Looking after yourself and having someone to look after you is still important too.
This might be the point you really need a doula in your corner because this is likely to be one of the most intense six weeks of your life and someone who knows how to support you to find your way through could be vital. Your postnatal doula is there for you however you need her to be there. She’s there to remember to look after you when you forget to look after yourself, to help you have a shower or a nap when you need one, to remind you to eat, to make sure the basic housework is done so you relax and don’t try to do it yourself. Most of all she’s there to listen to you, to understand your worries and joys and to support you with caring for your new baby and learning to be a mother.
I asked the Hampshire Doulas what their top tips are for making it through those first six weeks, here’s what they said:
There are a few themes that come through all the tips.
First look after yourself, be gentle with yourself.
This time is precious, you don’t need to get back to normal, you don’t need to fulfil some kind of superwoman ideal that involves living the same life as before your new baby arrived as if nothing has changed. Everything has changed, sleep will be different, learning to feed and care for a baby can be hard work. Looking after yourself may seem like the last thing you have time for but you can’t pour from an empty cup, now is the time to make time for self-care. For you, that might mean staying in your pyjamas for a week or it might mean getting up and having a shower and getting out the house even if it’s just to go for a walk around the block, this is about you, do it your way.
Listen to your instincts.
Trusting our instincts (or gut feelings) is not something we’re always used to doing in our everyday lives but they don’t go away just because we don’t notice them all the time. When we have a new baby the raw and sometimes overwhelming experience is the perfect time to reconnect with what comes to us as instinct. You won’t have to think about whether or not to respond to your baby when they cry your whole body and mind will do it and as you care for your baby you will learn gradually to understand your baby’s communication. You will learn which cry is for hungry, which is for wind which for dirty nappy and when your baby is telling you they are tired.
Be gentle with yourself it takes time, but listen to yourself. If you know you are too tired take action and get some help to get some sleep. If you know something is not quite right but you can’t put a finger on it then call your midwife or health visitor don’t over think and worry you’re just wasting their time, your instincts are there for a reason. If you feel like you can’t connect with your baby or you can’t cope with all your feelings or you can’t feel happy or you can’t stop the worry and panic, trust your instincts, it’s not supposed to be like this, talk to someone. Talk to your partner, your midwife, your doctor, the PANDAS helpline, just don’t bottle it up, get help.
Finally, always accept and ask for help and support from those around you.
Don’t fall for the myth that women should do this alone. We need our friends, family, baby group, online support group whichever works best for you. One thing you could do is get the people who want to visit to pay for cooing over your baby by pushing the hoover round or doing the dishes or bringing some dinner with them. But always feel free to say no, I’m not up for visitors today, or just invite the people who will sit by your side on the sofa and not notice the mess, do what works for you. Lots of mums find it’s helpful to be super honest with their close friends, admit it’s hard and talk about the ups and downs. Often, we find being honest gives others the freedom to be honest too, we all find it hard sometimes and we need each other to encourage us to keep going and enjoy the good times.
As doulas we never give advice, all of these are just ideas, information from people who have been there and got the t-shirt (it’s covered in baby sick) which we hope you will find helpful.
If you already have plenty of people in your life who have an opinion on the best way to care for your baby then a postnatal doula can be a great person to have on your side. We always trust that you will make the right decisions for you and your baby and we are there to support you to do things your way. We think new mums and dads are awesome and we want them to feel that way about themselves. Our ultimate goal as postnatal doulas is to do ourselves out of a job, to support you in a way that leaves you with the feeling, I can do this.