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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. 

         

5 Tips for Increasing your Milk Supply

Establishing and maintaining a good breastmilk suply is one of the top worries that many mums have about breastfeeding. Our society and the prevalence of formula advertising have made us think that this is a very common problem but it’s really quite unusual to not be able to make enough milk with the right supportive atmosphere. There are some people who have conditions which mean they don’t make any or enough milk and if that’s you this blog post may not be of much use to you but you might need support from a qualified breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC.

Your doula is more than happy to provide you with practical support and confidence in your normal breastfeeding journey and will be glad to refer you to expert support if you need some.

Should you even be worried about how much milk you’re making? 

Probably not if your baby is putting on weight, producing wet and dirty nappies, not making you sore and feeding frequently.

Signs of good breastmilk suply

Making sure you have a good breastmilk supply and get enough milk into your baby is as easy (and as hard) as following your baby’s lead.

Here are our top tips.

  1. Make sure your baby has a good latch and can easily transfer milk from your breast. Being well attached to the breast makes it easy for baby to get all the milk they need and the more milk they take the more milk you will make. The easiest way to help your baby get a great latch is to use a breastfeeding position that will encourage all your baby’s natural instincts. Laid back breastfeeding positions are perfect for this. If you find it difficult to get a comfortable latch even in this position please get in contact with a breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC there are sometimes physical reasons for that pain (such as tongue tie) that need extra support and care. If you want to focus on relaxing and feeding baby, don’t forget your postnatal doula is there to bring you water and snacks and hang out your washing while you do this very important job.
  2. Get skin to skin. skintoskinWhen babies are born they are ready and good to go with breastfeeding and the easiest start to that feeding journey and to having loads of milk is to hang out skin to skin as long as you can. If you miss out on this initial skin to skin don’t panic it’s never too late to get skin to skin with your baby and once is never enough. Hang out with your baby skin to skin anytime you like as much as possible for as long as possible. Not only is it great for your milk supply but it’s a great way for dads and babies to bond too.
  3. Feed feed feed. In the first few days, every moment your baby spends suckling is a moment that’s switching on more of the milk-producing cells in your breast. And in those first few weeks, there are many growths spurts where you baby (who will always feed frequently) will seem to feed constantly. That constant feeding suddenly happening again often makes women worry they haven’t got enough milk but it’s actually nature’s way of putting in the order for more milk in the next couple of days. Even if you think baby can’t possibly be hungry again allowing them to keep swapping sides and feeding more will allow them to build up your supply, never forget you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.
  4. Look after yourself. Making all the food another human needs to survive and double their weight in six months is hard physical work. Make sure that you keep hydrated and well nourished and find ways to fit in any extra sleep you can get. Even malnourished women can make enough milk for their baby but a mother’s body will prioritise milk over its own well being and keeping your head in the game without feeling completely run down and overwhelmed is important too.
  5. If you plan to mix feed in the long term manage it carefully. Mix feeding is prefered by some women for many different reasons. It can be done and it can suit some families really well. But making sure that breastfeeding and especially your milk supply is established first is important too. Maximising your baby’s time at the breast in the first six weeks will mean your supply is well established and much more flexible after this time. If you do any bottle feeding before six weeks try to use your own expressed milk if possible and if you find baby is still hungry after a bottle feed offer a top-up from the breast, not the bottle. Also, remember the purpose baby is increasing feeds during growth spurts and add in extra breastfeeds not extra bottles.

What about galactagogues and lactation cookies?

You might like lactation cookies, lots of them are really yummy and there’s no harm in munching them if you do. But ultimately you don’t need them to make plenty of milk for your baby. Some women find them helpful especially during growth spurts and your doula will be happy to make you some but eating them is no magic pill and will only help if you’re also frequently feeding your well-latched baby. Sometimes complex feeding issues may be helped by the use of galactagogues but if you’re in that situation you need the expert help of a breastfeeding counsellor or IBCLC who will help you find the right solution for you.

 

Home breech birth

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?newbornskintoskin

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!

Caesarean birth

Caesarean Birth Doula Support Birth Story

During world doula week 2017 we were privileged to be able to share a series of stories from people who have benefited from doula support.  A common misconception is that doulas only support ‘natural’ births but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vickie’s baby was born by planned caesarean birth and she found the support of her doula invaluable. Doula support can also be valuable when your baby is born by unplanned caesarean check out this birth story for more about that.

How did you hear about doulas?

I heard about Doulas from Mumsnet and from a friend who I ended up choosing as my Doula.

Why did you want a doula?

I have complicated pregnancies, and having had a really terrible experience with my second child, I wanted an informed third party to advocate for me, and act in my interests as I didn’t feel my partner was confident enough to fully assert my wishes.

How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My family had no clue what a doula was, but when I explained it they all said having someone with both medical and holistic information was a great idea. My partner was equally confused initially, but valued the support particularly when our daughter was taken straight to NICU.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My Doula gave me information on my birth options, even down to types of caesarian, and empowered me to actually request these things. She came to consultant appointments and translated the medicalised language used, and was another pair of ears.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

My birth was a planned section at 33 weeks, my doula arrived on the morning of the section with my partner, and massaged my legs, and helped me decompress from the previous horrid evening. She advocated for me as there was some confusion regarding whether the birth was happening that day. My Doula went with my partner to NICU to meet our daughter, which was a comfort to him in such an alien environment.

What did she do after the baby was born?Caesarean Birth Doula Support Baby in NICU

My Doula acted as a buffer between me and the rest of the world, which was needed as I was exhausted, had lost a lot of blood and had a baby in NICU. She provided me with information and encouraged me.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Having another female to support, inform, and advocate for me. Someone who fully understood and unconditionally supported my decisions. This was especially valuable in a situation where a partner may not fully understand what you are experiencing.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

I have, and will continue to! Such a positive experience that every woman should be able to have!

My baby is here, now what?

New baby Self Care. Not impossible and not trying to find time for a facial.

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. Now you are a mum, the centre of your world has shifted. 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 we came up with lots of ideas which all fit into a few main themes.

 

  1. 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.

  2.  Listen to your instincts.

    New Baby Self Care. Listen to your heart. Follow your instincts. You are the expert in your baby 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.

  3. 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.

 

 

 

 

New Baby Self Care. three things that will get you through the newborn days, look after yourself, listen to your instincts, accept help.

What is a positive birth?

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:

Thoughts on Positive Birth

 

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. 

PositiveBirth

 

Looking for a Doula?

Do you know you want the kind of support a doula provides but not sure how to choose the right person for you?

Here are our top tips for finding a doula.

Think about what you want from your doula.

Are you looking for someone to support you as you decide what sort of birth you are planning, do you already know the kind of birth that you’re hoping for and want someone to support you as you make that clear to your care providers, are you looking for support once baby is here? When you’re reading through doulas profiles you will find some things stand out to you either that make you feel this person sounds like my kind of person or I don’t think we would be a good match. Use your gut to make a short list.

Make a first contact with a few doulas.

Email or call a few doulas. Let them have a little information about you, how many weeks pregnant you are, what is driving your search for a doula, what you’re expecting a doula to do for you. Ask questions about their personal doula philosophy, what support they offer if you’ve read about another skill they have in their profile (such as teaching yoga or baby massage) how would they use their skills to support you? Check they’re available and happy to work where you live.

Interview at least a couple of doulas. 

Once you feel confident you’ve got an idea about which doulas you might get on with best arrange to meet them and have a chat. This will be an opportunity to get to know them a little and find out if you feel a connection to each other. Don’t expect to ask all your questions about having or caring for a baby at this first interview it’s much more of a general chat about overall styles of working and for you to say what you would be hoping for with a doula. Write a list of all the detail questions you want to ask about labour, epidurals, placentas and the like and save them for your first antenatal meeting once you’ve chosen a doula.

Chat through with your partner or a good friend how you’re feeling.

Have a good think and sleep on it then make your decision and let your doula know you’d like to book with her. Now’s the best time to start asking questions and letting her know the finer details of what you’ll be hoping she covers in antenatal sessions or what you’re worried about and the many things you will want support with once baby is here. Take a couple of minutes and send a quick email or text to the other doulas you interviewed to let them know, thank you for meeting you and you’ve now chosen the right doula for you.

Hopefully one of our listed doulas will be the one for you. If you live in Hampshire and are looking for a birth or postnatal doula please click the link to our Find a Doula page and read through the introductions to all our doulas.  Please feel free to give any of us a call or send us an email, we love to talk about how we can support you. If you find you’re still struggling to find a doula please get in contact and we will do our best to help out.

Choose a doula