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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.

 

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

What’s in your bag?

positivebirthspacesWhen 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.

Bendy straws.

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.

Essential Oils

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.

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

During world doula week we’re 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.

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?nicudoulasupport

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!

Home birth after c-section

During World Doula Week we are sharing a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Emily and Stuart’s first baby was born by c-section and their second baby was born at home in the birth pool with the support of both a doula and an independent midwife.

How did you hear about doulas?

I met a doula in a breastfeeding support group who explained what doulas were.

Why did you want a doula?

In my first pregnancy, I felt clueless and unsupported. I felt I had to go along with everything I was told to do without having it explained to me. I felt that with a doula to support me I would be more confident finding all the information I needed to make decisions. I felt I would be more confident asking questions. I also felt I would be more confident making and expressing my decisions. I felt I would have someone to be my back up if I disagreed with what I was told to do.

I also wanted more support for my partner because he felt pushed out during my first pregnancy and birth. I knew that a doula would support us both and help him to feel involved and confident with asking questions and talking to health professionals. I knew it would also help him feel more confident during the birth. DSC_0327

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

My partner thought it was a good idea, he was keen to have that support just like me. My family were confused about what a doula would do and how one was different to a midwife. Once explained, they were supportive of the idea. My mum had another job looking after my eldest which helped her not feel too disappointed at not being a birth partner.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My doula supported me in a meeting with the hospital to review the notes from my first pregnancy. This was good as it helped me to get closure on what had happened. We also did birth partner training with our doula which helped my partner know what to expect and how to support me through the stages of birth.

My doula reassured us that no matter what happened on the day she would support us to make birth a positive experience regardless of anything that came up which might cause us to change our plans for the birth.

She suggested alternative therapies and comfort measures for dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy, labour and after childbirth and to help my body get ready and go into labour naturally.

If I or my partner had any questions I could always ask my doula and she would support me finding answers or reassure me what was normal, keeping me away from the worry that can come with googling!

My doula supported me at hospital appointments when I had an ICP diagnosis (this is a rare liver condition associated with pregnancy there’s more information here http://www.icpsupport.org/ ).  She supported me thinking through and making decisions around plans for if I needed to be induced or potentially to choose a c-section as a result of this condition.

She supported me when pre-labour started and stopped. Including one occasion when things seemed to be happening one evening, she came round to our house and then helped me stay positive when everything stopped.

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

I first called in my doula at 4 am when I was having contractions and my son was awake and needed attention. She provided an extra person to occupy my son, or set up the birth pool or support me.

In the morning, she helped my son get ready for a party he’d been invited to and co-ordinated a friend to pick him up and look after him for the day so I could rest and focus.

She tried to encourage me to eat and drink to keep up my energy through the day. She kept this up gently even when I wasn’t keen to eat as I was struggling with nausea and vomiting. She helped to keep track of how frequent contractions were and also encouraged my husband to eat and drink to keep up his strength too.

My doula helped me deal with sickness with acupressure, massage and essential oils and by avoiding strong food smells and helped me choose small amounts of food that I could manage. She also caught my sick for me (in a bowl) when that became necessary.

She helped my husband fill the pool the first time and empty and refill the pool when it got cold and needed reheating.

She reminded me to get out and go to the toilet and encouraged me to change positions to help keep things moving.

She allowed my husband to be able to focus on supporting me in the way I needed him to and not be distracted by all the practical things that also needed doing.
She took turns with my husband providing physical support when he needed to rest, eat or go to the toilet. She used hand massage during contractions. This helped because I was more able to concentrate on my hand being held which distracted me from the intensity of my contractions.

She also took photos and video during the labour and when our baby was born. Although I didn’t notice this happening at the time I enjoyed looking at them after my baby was bornTheIdiditmoment.JPG.

What did she do after the baby was born?

My doula helped to empty the pool and take it down after the birth. She put fresh sheets on our bed making it all comfortable to get into with our new baby to sleep. Which was a real relief and allowed us to relax and enjoy our baby rather than worry about those practical things.

She made a placenta smoothie right after the birth and prepared the placenta into ice cube trays for freezing for future smoothies.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Knowing that I had someone with me who would be sure to stay calm and have a level head. Knowing even if something happened that might have made me and my partner feel confused or upset someone would keep us calm. That we had someone who would be on our side whatever situation occurred.

 

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Yes, I regularly do. 😊

 

 

 

Three babies two doulas, induced labours

For World Doula Week we’re running a series of interviews with families who have had the support of a doula or in this case two doulas. Emma laboured in hospital calmly and peacefully with her doulas’ support.

How did you hear about doulas?

I heard about Doulas during my second pregnancy. They were recommended to me when I sought advice on anxiety during birth as I had ptsd from giving birth to my first child. (Editor’s note: traumatic birth can often have a huge effect on mothers -and also on fathers -if you are struggling with processing your birth memories of a birth or if they are causing you to struggle with your mental health you are not alone. You can call a doula at any time and many will be able to help you talk through and debrief your experiences. You may also need to talk to your GP who will be able to help you access to mental health support if needed. You may also find it’s helpful to contact the birth trauma association who can provide both trained and peer support options.)

Why did you want a doula?

I wanted a doula to play the role I always imagined a supportive mother would play with more experience, confidence and wisdom. I also wanted a doula to help me overcome fear. My first doula taught me how to view birth as a natural experience instead of a life and death hospital procedure.

How did your partner feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My partner was very keen to have a doula again in my third pregnancy as he totally understood the benefit of feeling supported in labour and for him – it was his first birth. He too believed that birth was an empowering natural phenomenon. He also understood my anxiety and the need for someone experienced to make sure our wishes were respected.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My doula was on the end of the phone for a month before the birth as my baby was late. I was very anxious as I did not want to give birth in hospital due to my ptsd. My doula was calming, supportive and informative. I had many false labours too which she supported me well though.

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

She attended the hospital with us before the induction having counselled me the night before. She stayed with us the whole time. In the labour, she supported my partner as I actually just went into myself and laboured with my eyes closed and headphones on. I am sure she was very valuable at this time but I was elsewhere! I felt very safe with just her and my partner and laboured up until my first push in blissful peace. She held one hand, my partner held the other and with just a few pushes my baby was here.

What did she do after the baby was born?

My doula nurtured me and my partner from this point. She followed my every wish and when I was ready she took me to clean up. She took care of my every need whilst daddy snuggled up with baby.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Feeling safe and confident. Empowered.  Without her I couldn’t have retreated into myself.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Definitely. With Doulas my births have been amazing experiences. The second birth was pleasurable despite being induced. The third was harder due to baby refusing to be induced but still a pleasure. I had no fear.

 

My baby is here, now what?

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:

Lifewithnewborn

There are a few themes that come through all the tips.

  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.

    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.

 

 

 

 

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).positivebirthbasic

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.
      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.
      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.


      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.

tipsforpositivebirth