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Introduction

Even though the focus of my writing is usually preparation for mums before they have a baby or when baby is very young, having written about feeding (in my previous blog) I thought I could not pass-by expressing, weaning and all the questions which surround using formula milk.  They are topics which habour many questions and concerns.  There are a million official guidelines but I found those could be as confusing as helpful, because, as we know, every baby is different.

  • The more you rest, the better your milk.

With my first I didn’t listen to advise and hardly rested.  Consequently, I ran out of milk by the end of the day when he was around three months old, and so had no option but to supplement with formula.  With baby number two, I decided that I would rest more, thus not burning so many calories doing other things, and the result was much better milk which lasted much longer.  Apparently in India, many women are not allowed to do anything for the first three months of the baby’s life apart from look after their baby.  We might think this is extreme but there is a good reason for it.  The more you rest at the beginning, the better.  Please try and sleep when baby sleeps, and rest a lot, it will really help you produce a lot of good quality milk.

  • When can I start expressing milk?

I don’t think it’s ever too early to express milk.  If you have commitments which mean you have to be away from your baby during the day, or if you have a maternity nurse or willing relative to do a night feed for you, expressing milk for someone else to give, is wonderful.  Some people find it more exhausting or harder than others and I welcome people to share their experiences here to help other readers.  It’s one of those things that you’ll ‘get on with’ or not.  It can be time consuming so I would recommend the double electronic pump, and you can buy one which straps to your body so you can use your computer while you express!

Expressing certainly gives you some freedom and for Daddy to be able to give a feed can be a lovely bonding thing between him and baby.  Dad’s don’t always anticipate how isolating the first few weeks, or months, can be for him, because baby is so attached to Mum, and he’s no longer no.1 in her eyes!  If he is able to get in on this feeding action, it can be wonderfully rewarding for everyone.  And mums, don’t underestimate how the night feeds can take their toll, night after night, week after week.  Sleep is invaluable and so if your partner is willing to do a night feed, don’t hesitate to take them up on the offer!

  • Introduce a bottle early.

The good thing with expressing is that you introduce a bottle.  Most babies will accept bottles willingly if given early enough.  There are exceptions to this of course, and I know a few people who had to try five different types of bottle or more before baby would accept one.  However, this usually only happens if you introduce a bottle a little later.  If you leave it until baby knows what he likes (about 4 months) he might like the breast so much that he refuses to drink from a bottle.  I had this trouble with my second.  I expressed milk before he was 3 months old, and fed from a bottle without any problem.  I didn’t express regularly, however, and so when I tried again, when he was about 4 and a half months old, he wouldn’t have it.  It took weeks, trying every day, until eventually he took the bottle willingly.  Spare yourself this agony!  If you do have a bit of trouble, try feeding from a bottle when you know he’s really hungry.  Babies have a very strong sense of survival and if they are hungry enough, eventually they will feed.  The older they are, the more stubborn they may be.

  • How early can I introduce water?

You can give your baby water as early as you want.  Remember, some babies are formula fed from day one, and formula is mixed with water.  It should be cooled boiled water for at least 6 months.  When baby starts putting sand and dirt in his mouth every time he goes to the playground, you may think that sterilising water is a bit of a waste of time, but it’s your call.  Some people always use boiled water for their baby to drink.

  • Do I need to sterilise bottles?

Until your baby is at least 6 months old, yes, you do need to sterilise bottles and you must always wash them very thoroughly.  I wash mine separately, using boiling water, washing up liquid and a special bottlebrush.  Do you need a massive sterilising machine?  No you don’t.  They are easy to use and you can sterilise lots of bottles at the same time, but they range from £10 to about £60 and take up a lot of space.  I was given one for my first baby, which I used until we travelled abroad.  I wasn’t going to get that in my suitcase!  So I looked on line for mini-sterilising machines, specifically for travel, which I realised were simply boiling water around your bottle.  From that moment on, abroad or at home, I used the kettle!

My sterilising method:

Having thoroughly washed your bottle with a special bottlebrush and washing up liquid, pour boiling hot water into the bottle until the bottle is full.  I pour water over the teet, as it flows into the bottle, for extra sterilization of the teet, but be careful not to burn your fingers!  Sit the teet upside down in the boiling water, in the top of the bottle (so that water over-flows slightly) and pour boiling water into the up-turned teet until it is full.  Let it stand for a couple of minutes.  It takes a couple of minutes and the bottle is ready for use in less than five.

We travelled around the world twice with our first baby, using this method and it worked perfectly.  Beware of ‘The Industry’ when it comes to all the equipment that you ‘need’.  It is a topic I will cover in a future blog, but I wanted to mention it here, because so much of what you are sold just ends up taking up acres of space in your house, hardly used.  I know a lot of people adore their sterilisers and if you have lots of room, then it might be the way forward for you.  I, on the other hand, was happy to get rid of another appliance and get the space back on my kitchen surface!

  • Am I failing if I introduce formula?

No!  If you are able to breastfeed and do so exclusively for many months, you can feel a bit guilty when you introduce formula.  You shouldn’t!  I remember the deliberations I went through with my first son.  It made me mad that I couldn’t provide enough for him, but I knew he was hungry around 3 months old, and my breast milk just wasn’t cutting it.  As soon as I saw his little satisfied face, when I gave him that first bottle of formula milk, I kicked myself for not introducing it earlier.

We beat ourselves up because we want to provide the best, and everyone always says, ‘breast is best’, but formula is full of vitamins and minerals.  It provides what growing babies and toddlers need in their every-day diet.  They do not get the benefit of your immune system, but they get the consistency of the other ingredients which may be lacking in breast milk if your diet deteriorates.  Formula fed babies have thrived for decades, from birth, and if you feed yours formula, so will yours.

  • How early can I introduce formula milk?

Some women who find breastfeeding difficult, or if their milk does not come in, feed their babies formula from birth.  If you are lucky enough to breastfeed but want to introduce formula, it’s when the time is right for you.  I wanted to breastfeed for a year with my second child, but I am hyper mobile which means my joints dislocate easily and while I was still lactating, my body would not tighten back up and I was in a lot of pain.  A combination of this and the sleeping issues which developed, meant that I introduced formula when he was 6 months old, expressing and feeding breast milk less and less until he was 8 months old, by which time dropping the breast milk was not an issue.

There is no right answer for this.  They do not have a fully developed immune system of their own until they are about one year old, and so some people like to give at least one feed a day until then, if they can.  The general recommendation is to keep him on the breast until baby starts weaning and is on three meals a day with protein, which happens by about 6 months (or for some, a lot earlier).  There are a million reasons why this may be difficult for you, however, and do not feel guilty if you stop before then.

  • Choosing the right formula milk.

When trying to choose a formula, it’s a bit of a minefield.  They are all so similar!  I have used Aptamil for both of my boys and continue to be very happy with it, but you must find the one which suits you and your baby.

The standard brands are all powdered cows’ milk, full of vitamins and minerals essential for baby’s growth.  The comforting this about this, is when they have an off day and don’t eat much, you know they are getting added nutrition from the formula which they would not be getting from normal cow’s milk.  There are organic brands out there, which are more expensive but I’m sure just as good, if not better.  Over three years ago, when I was looking for a formula, they hadn’t had as much scrutiny as the bigger brands and I wanted to go with something more tried and tested.  Now it may well be very different, but you’ll have to do some investigating!  If you do not want to feed cows’ milk formulas because of their high lactose content, or for any other reason, there are soya and goats’ milk alternatives.  I have used both:

  • Soya & Goats’ Milk Formulas.

My first son developed an allergy against lactose when he was about 15 months old.  I took him off cows’ milk formula and replaced with soya formula for several months, which solved the problem.  However, soya based formulas are not recommended for extended periods of time[1].  For my second baby, I was more aware of the high level of lactose in cows’ milk, which the formulas contain but which is not in breast milk.  Goats’ milk is a low lactose alternative, which is better for babies, but many of them do not like the stronger taste.  Aware of the high lactose content in normal formula, for my second baby, I fed half Aptamil (cows’ milk formula) and half Nanny care[2] (goats’ milk formula).  The half and half mix has been very successful.  The goats’ milk formula also has all the added vitamins and minerals.  It’s another option worth considering.

  • My baby is still hungry at night!

If baby is waking more often than you’d like in the night for a feed and you are feeding milk from a bottle, it’s easy to add baby rice to their last bottle before bed, or add a couple of scoops of formula to thicken it up.  Some people don’t agree with this, but I did it for both my babies and I think it gave them (or should I say, me!) at least another hour of sleep.  Again, every baby is different and it’s trial and error.

If you are still exclusively breastfeeding, another option to help him sleep longer at night is to introduce formula milk as his last feed before bed.  It is a lot thicker than breast milk and will fill them up for longer.  I remember the first time both of mine had formula milk.  I had never seen them look so deliriously content.  They looked utterly full for the first time!

Many mothers are happy to wake for a feed in the night for months or even years.  You have to work out what works for you.  If having uninterrupted sleep is the most important thing, you can ‘train’ your baby to sleep through the night without a feed.  How?  Well, you do not give it to him when he wakes for it, and after a few nights he should stop crying out.  It does mean going through a few very painful and rather stressful nights, though, so stock up on sleep and get in the reinforcements in preparation!  Some people do not want to let their babies cry and would rather be disturbed.  I have done both with my second child.  To get through severe sleep deprivation I hired a fantastic night nanny[3] who helped ‘train’ him to sleep through the night when he was 6 months old.  However, when your child has a cold or is teething (which is a lot in the first year!), you have to comfort them.  So after the nanny had left and my baby was sick, I would comfort him in the night when he couldn’t sleep.  He would then get used to the comfort again, and expect it when he was recovered, just like before the training started!  For him to not wake for a bottle, I would have had to have gone through the ‘training’ all over again.  I couldn’t do it.  He still wakes in the night for a bottle, although now that he is a couple of days away from being one, he is starting to help himself, and that’ll happen more and more as the weeks go by.  If you do sleep training early enough, baby should just go back to sleeping through the night once his sickness or teething has passed, that wasn’t the case for me, I did the ‘training’ too late.  It doesn’t bother me because he still sleeps in my bed, and if he disturbs me it’s usually for less than a minute or two, and then I’m asleep again.  If your baby is in his own cot and you have to get up, or you find it difficult to get back to sleep again, however, then that’s not so much fun.  Some people find leaving a bottle in the cot, for him to find during the night, works.  Obviously they need to be several months old to be able to do this and some babies are happier to do it than others.  Whatever you decide, make sure you are not getting exhausted.  If baby is waking you so that you are always tired, you must find a solution – fast.  You must look after yourself because if you are over tired, you won’t have the patience to deal with baby day-in day-out, which ends up affecting baby as much as you.  Don’t feel guilty.  A little pain for a few nights, in the long run, might be better for you both, if exhaustion is the only alternative.

  • So, how to do you know when to wean?

Listen to baby.  Women worry about when to introduce food.  They needn’t.  The moment he’s ready, he’ll tell you that he’s hungry and ready for something more substantial.  It could happen over night.  One day he feeds as normal, the next he’s crying for food every few hours.  It was like that for me with both my boys.  You can’t help but notice, because he’ll be waking in the night more regularly too!

  • What to feed as their first food.

Most people introduce baby rice (the unflavoured ones taste like cardboard!).  The good thing about baby rice is that it fills them up.  It’s an easy carbohydrate to add to other fruit and vegetables purees, and later protein.  Be aware that early introduction of fruit is likely to give your baby a sweet tooth, however.  Both of my boys do!  If you want to avoid this, keep away from too much fruit as their first tastes, especially the pureed and dried fruit.  You’ll find most babies love it, though!  Later you’ll introduce snacks such as crisps[4], rice cakes and biscuits. There are some very good baby brands, with relatively healthy ingredients, like Goodies or Organix, available in most supermarkets.  When it comes to meals, there are a million books out there full of amazing ideas and recipes.  I mainly stick to Annabel Karmel’s[5] books, because she’s a mother who wants to prepare healthy food with not too much fuss.  She guides you all the way from the very first tastes to full menus.  If anyone else has any recommendations, please do let us know.

  • Let baby ‘tell’ you what first foods he wants.

When my second son wanted more than just milk, at 5 months old, he refused what I gave him.  I only offered baby rice and pureed food (and believe me I tried them all!) because that’s what my first had had and what is generally recommended.  It took me 3 weeks, getting more and more frustrated and exhausted, before I gave him simple finger food, which he gobbled up hungrily.  There are so many ‘guide lines’ scaring you about introducing foods too early, in case they develop allergies, that I didn’t consider offering normal food to my baby who had, until then, only drunk breast milk and had no teeth.  Silly I know, and looking back I kick myself for not thinking outside the box, but I only realised how big the problem was when I was utterly exhausted, by which point I was incapable of lateral thought!

Many people swear by ‘baby-led weaning’.  I haven’t read about it, but the essence is, from what people tell me, do not puree any food and just let them eat whatever normal food they can.  The babies get used to eating finger foods, feeding themselves and normal food textures.  My second baby would only eat normal food to begin with, flatly refusing puree.  I managed to introduce purees a little later.  I did not adopt ‘baby-led weaning’, my baby forced me to let him eat that way!  My mantra is ‘let baby lead’ and ‘listen to baby’.

I have to admit that I like feeding my babies pureed food, because I think that they get a greater variety of vitamins, minerals and general nutritional goodness that way.  (I cooked all my own pureed food for baby number one, but have resorted a lot more to Ella’s Kitchen[6] sachets for number two.  They are brilliant!)  Before teeth arrive I find baby led weaning a bit limiting and rather frustrating!  You can only offer them things that ‘melt’ in the mouth and on the protein side that’s not much.  Carrot sticks are great for teething, but I always steamed mine until they practically fell apart.  For me a combination works brilliantly.  I welcome people’s comments about their experiences with ‘baby-led weaning’.  I have heard wonderful success stories, and I hope people will share theirs here, for women who are interested in following this approach.

Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t eat much some days.  When they are teething or sick, in particular, they often don’t feel like much.  We all have off days when we just want comfort food.  For babies, this is usually milk.  If, on occasion, that’s all they fancy, don’t worry, especially when you are first introducing food.  It won’t last forever, and for now, as long as he’s got a smile on his face and you keep on offering alternatives, so that he has it when he feels like it, baby will be fine.  If baby is not happy, he’ll tell you!  In the meantime, give him what he wants, as long as it’s not a lolly pop or sweeties!

  • My baby wakes so early!

Many people put their babies to sleep by 7pm so that they can enjoy their evenings, baby-free, but suffer from very early wake-up calls!  So many times I’ve heard people say, “but it doesn’t make any difference if I put him to sleep two hours later, he still wakes at 6am”.

I like to think of sleeping routines like jet-lag.  If you suddenly moved to America, would you continue to let your baby wake at 6.30am UK time?  Of course not!  Your whole schedule would change, and after about a week your baby would be happy with the new schedule.  If you put your baby is sleep later, eventually he will change, but in order for it to be 100% successful you usually have to change meal times too.  Again, think of it like jet-lag.  If you were to move to America, your whole schedule would change.

My second son has been waking every morning, like clockwork, at 6.30am.  To change this, I have been allowing him to nap for a couple of hours during the day, then putting him to bed at 9.30pm, but this hasn’t been enough.  I have now had to change his feeding schedule as well, otherwise his body is wanting to do a poo about 12 hours after his dinner and he’s hungry for breakfast by 7am.  So I’m letting him snack about 5pm, leaving his main meal until about 7pm.  We’re only day two, but so far so good!  It is new territory for me, because my first son has nearly always been on our schedule.  We usually have family meals together and he has always slept until about 8.30am.  However, I’m quietly confident in changing my second son’s schedule and if anyone is interested, do ask for an update in a week or so, and I’ll let you know how it’s going!

It can be more convenient to feed, bath and get children to bed by 7am, otherwise you can feel like your ‘working day’ goes on endlessly and it is nice to have a bit of chilled adult time at the end of the day with your partner.  However, it’s also nice to hang-out as a family after Daddy gets home from work, have a family meal, maybe watch a film together and get to lie-in until 8am the next morning.  You can’t have it both ways, unless you are one of these unbelievably lucky people whose children sleep for 14 hours in a night.   Like with everything, when it comes to children, you have to decide what works for you, and then create a schedule accordingly.  Baby will adjust and fit in, they are amazingly adaptable, we adults are less so, and that’s the tricky bit!


[1] Please read Jill Irving’s insightful and helpful comments, written November 2010: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/baby/formula/soyaexpert/

[2] ‘Nanny care Goat Milk Nutrition’ made in New Zealand by Dairy Goad Co-operative (N.Z.) Ltd, Hamilton.  UK Helpline: 0800 328 5826.  Retail £18.95 from ‘Portobello Wholefoods’, (266 Portobello Road, London W10 5TY).  It’s about double the price of normal formula from a supermarket.

[4] Pom-Bear are a good gluten free brand, with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

[5] www.annabelkarmel.com/

[6] Ella’s Kitchen organic baby foods. 100% organic.  No “other stuff”.

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Prepare for the possibility that breastfeeding may not happen easily,  immediately or at all.  The key is to try and be as relaxed as possible with baby and take your time. When baby is born, one of the first things you are encouraged to do is get baby onto your breast.  Most mothers expect it …

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Michael posted a comment, asking to see me in a wrap.  So here are a few of me with baby:

 Here I am in the park, with our wonderful dog, a little sun hat tied around my neck, to keep baby in the shade.  New Borns are too small to keep it on affectively, so this was a really great tip I learned from Maverickbaby.com where I got the hat.  Baby is lying across me in the ring-sling, fast asleep.

Here I am wearing the wrap, baby is a bit bigger, so he’s able to wear the hat himself now.  We’re walking in Cornwall.  I show this photo to illustrate that you can wear them no matter what the weather.  Because the organic material ones (the only ones I would recommend) are breathable, you don’t get too hot, even in weather like this. Sure it’s a bit hot between you and baby, but no where else.  The breathable material also means baby can breathe if his nose or mouth is against the material, although I always try to keep his nose and mouth clear.

Here I am illustrating to a friend how to put on the wrap.  I am kissing baby’s head to illustrate how high up the baby should be on your body.  It is much better for your back, and the weight distribution works much better that way, so baby feels much lighter.

Me biking in Richmond Park with baby, while my husband had our 3 year old on the other bike.  It’s a wonderful feeling to still be able to partake in healthy family activities. .

And the wonderful thing about these slings, is you can use them as an accessory!  This ring sling is my favourite because of the gorgeous colours. This is us at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last Summer.

 

Me on Portobello Road.  Couldn’t resist these shots, because they show how the wrap is tied around me so well, and because of the great colour co-ordination!!

 Here we are walking in the Marsh Lands towards Brancaster beach, in Norfolk.  Baby, now holding his head well on his own, and very curious, wants to know what is going on and so his head is out.  I realise the angel looks a bit awkward from the photo, but I assure you all he was incredibly comfortable.  Usually you wear slings high, so you can kiss the top of the baby’s head (as illustrated above).  Here, however, as you can see, I have my 3 year old is on my shoulders, and so to prevent him kicking baby I loosened off the sling, so that I could carry both.  Smiles all round!

I hope these photos prove my point that you can still be very active with babies in slings.

A final point, if a baby is not happy, he will CRY!  So if baby is in the sling, (as long as you can see his mouth and nose, so you know he can breathe clearly) if baby looks like he’s lying in an awkward position, don’t worry!  He’s fine.  If he’s uncomfortable, he’ll tell you!!

Thank you for the request Michael, I have really enjoyed sharing these pictures.

Tiffany Newton

Congratulations, baby has arrived!  Have a breather and a few minutes to yourself if you need them and then, when you and baby are ready, try to get him on the breast.  It’s a wonderfully bonding thing if you can manage it.  Don’t worry if he finds it difficult, though, he’s got a lot going on!  Also, it’s worth considering that it may not happen for you.  No matter how many times we read ‘breast is best’, the fact is breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone.  If you are one of these women do not feel guilty about it.  Preparing mentally for the possibility of this helps enormously.  Look at the thousands of children running around who were brought up on formula milk and are thriving!  Enough of that for now, however, feeding is the topic of my next blog.

So, baby has just been born and until now, he has had everything done for him: oxygen and nutrition on tap via the umbilical cord, and 24/7 comfort and warmth in your belly.  Suddenly, he has to breath by himself, feed himself and when you are not next to him, he misses your smell and your warmth.  Remember he is an external foetus for the first three months of his life[1].  There is no thought process.  He’s just surviving and you are all that is familiar to him.  He does not even realise that he is his own person separate from you until he is about 6 months old.

When I realised all of this, it made me a lot more relaxed, and gave me a lot more patience with the first few days and weeks of my first son’s life.  And most importantly, I knew that we were learning together.  I hope it’ll be the same for you, because the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed he will be.

  • Prepare for the feeling of not knowing what you are doing or where to start!  Don’t expect too much from yourself on day one and let you and your baby learn together.

Neither of you know what to expect on day one, and that’s ok.  Twenty years ago or more, if you didn’t have an experienced friend, maternity nurse or family member nearby, you had very little access to knowledge, so you had to rely on your instincts.  What you must believe is that the best mother and carer for your baby is you.

Don’t worry that you don’t have the experience.  Sure it gives you the confidence that you know what you are doing, but if you mentally prepare to embark on this journey, listening to your baby and learning what he is communicating to you and when, you will learn so fast, that very soon you’ll be full of confidence.  Experience gives you the knowledge of little things which you pick up along the way and do help, but remember every baby is different, so even the most experienced mother has to get to know a newborn from scratch.  What I’m trying to say is, have the confidence to go with your instincts and know what is right for you and your baby.

If you have had a natural birth and both you and baby are healthy and well, all you have to worry about is making sure your baby feeds (breast or formula), sleeps and is clean.  If your baby finds it difficult to feed or sleep, then help is at hand, and I’ll talk more about that in future blogs, but remember everyone was inexperienced once and they just learned on the job, like you will.

  • Do what works for you and your baby, and if it doesn’t suit you, change it.

We are all different, so what worked for me, may not work for you.  I have never enjoyed rigid structure, and so a strict routine did not work for me.  However, it does work for a lot of people.  What’s important is you really think about the kind of person you are before you have the baby, rather than just listening to your friends.  It’s not about them.  It’s about you and your baby.  Also, if you think one way will suit you and it doesn’t, change it.  Just like your birth plan, it doesn’t always work out as you expect!

Everyone suggested a strict routine to me when I was pregnant with my first.  I tried it and after two weeks I knew it wasn’t for me.  I listened to people’s advice and thought this was the way it had to be in order to be the best mum I could be.  When baby obviously wasn’t happy, I found it incredibly stressful.  I doubted myself.  I thought other experienced mothers should know more than me, as I was so new to all of this!  However, baby and I were not happy, so I ditched the routine.  The moment I changed to feeding on demand and carrying my baby everywhere, with no strict sleep times, both of us couldn’t have been happier.  The amount of women I know who battle with routine or a particular way of doing things, which doesn’t suit them or their baby, resulting in a baby who cries a lot, breaks my heart.

Just as every adult is different, with a different personality, so it stands to reason that every baby will be different.  Just like adults, though, every baby likes to sleep and eat and be clean, we just all do it in slightly different ways.  Your job as mum is to find out which way suits you and your baby best.

My experience:

Sure there are little tips to help you sooth him, which people pick up along the way, but in my experience (and I can only talk about what I did), if you replicate the environment of the womb you’re more than half way there.

  • Replicating the environment of the womb soothes and calms your baby.

So what is the womb like?  It’s cosy, which is why swaddling works for many babies (my first loved it, but my second hated being restricted from day one and screamed if I swaddled him).  It’s dark, so don’t worry about your baby being afraid of the dark (this is something they learn with the help of TV and older kids!).  It’s very, very noisy, which is why people encourage the use of white noise to help babies sleep, or a loud ‘shhhing’ sound.  If you want to know more, check out Dr. Harvey Karp’s book, ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’.  He is able to sooth any baby by using what he calls the 5 “S’s”.  These include swaddling (replicating the tight space of the womb), swinging (replicating the movement baby felt while in the womb), and shhhing (replicating the noise in the womb).  Harvey Karp says that the inside of the womb sounds like 3 vacuum cleaners going off at the same time.  He has gathered a lot of his insight from the ¡Kung Sun (or African bushmen) whose babies are incredibly content.  As Harvey Karp puts it, “it’s not that they never cry – it’s that they never CRY!”  How do they achieve this: they hold their babies 24 hours a day (in arms and in slings), feed their babies on demand, and usually respond to their babies’ cries within seconds[2] .  Having also read ‘The Continuum Concept’ by Jean Liedloff[3] this all made perfect sense to me[4].  Her book’s sub-heading is ‘In Search of Happiness Lost’, as she believes that modern society has introduced ways of child-rearing which have broken some of the essential bonds between mother and baby which the 24 hour ‘in-arms’ way of child-rearing seals.

Both books are very interesting reads, but I understand these methods are not for everyone.  What both have in common, however, is they write about how women in the developing world have very contented babies who do not suffer from colic, and I think there is a lot to be said for that.  Modern day society is not the same as living in a rain forest, and so obviously certain things that work there, do not work here.  However, there are ways in which we can make baby feel ‘at home’ while being more aware of his needs, responding quickly to them, and you don’t have to be tied to the house, either!

  • Slings help enable you to be active while carrying your baby and enhance the bond between you and baby.

I love slings!  Many women want to be active but also want to have their babies on them.  If this is you, consider using one.  Millions of women round the world carry their babies in this way and have done since anyone can remember.  There is nothing new about sling wearing.  In many cultures it’s been tried and tested for generations, carrying their babies while they work or complete every day tasks; and the verdict is unanimous: it works!

I bought all of my slings from Maverick Baby[5].  They try out a lot of the slings on the market, distribute the best ones, and offer personal consultations to help you get to grips with wearing them.  This is incredibly important as there is a real knack with sling wearing, which until you fathom it, makes them seem unbelievably complicated.  They are not, but you do have to invest the time to get to grips with them.  What the sling has over other carrying contraptions, is the way they distribute baby’s weight over your shoulders and across your back, so that you don’t get sore, can carry your baby for much longer periods of time and until they are much heavier.  If you have two babies quite close together, carrying your newborn means you don’t have to worry about double prams.  I only learned about them in time for my second baby and they transformed my experience in every way[6].

Good luck in finding the way which works for you and your baby.  I wish I had thought a little bit more about it before my first baby was born.  You can!

Tiffany Newton


[2] ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’, Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D. (Bantam Trade Paperback, 2002), p.84.

[3] Da Capo Press, 1977.

[4] Jean had spent time in Venezuela in the upper Caura River basin, near the Brazilian boarder, in what was known as the “impenetrable” rain forest, with the Yequana and Sanema tribes.

[6] I started off with a ring sling, which meant baby could lie in a foetal position while I did household chores, played with my other son, walked the dog, you name it.  When baby was a bit bigger we moved onto the wrap, which I still use today (he is 10 months old!).  I have to admit it took me a while to be able to feed on the run, because baby needed help latching on and staying on my breast for weeks and weeks.  Once we cracked that, however, it meant no matter where I was, or what I was doing, if baby was hungry, a slight readjustment of the wrap and he was feeding and happy again.

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STEP ONE in Preparing Mentally for Having Your First Baby:

Prepare Yourself for

the Ordeal of Labour and

Your Immediate Feelings for Baby

 

From the moment you announce your pregnancy, people congratulate, enthuse and excite about the impending new arrival.  Meanwhile, you worry about your expanding waistline or the extra large pants you are forced to buy!

“Pregnancy might not be very comfortable, but it doesn’t matter, soon it will all be behind you, and have been so worthwhile.”  You smile grimly, thanking them for the comfort, while you change yet another blouse soaked through with sweat.

“All you have to get through now”, they continue, “is labour”, as if it’s the same as buying the groceries.  You listen, reassured, counting the moments before you will, at last, meet your bundle of love and joy.  The reality, however, can be rather more complicated.

It is true that for some, once baby arrives, nothing else matters.  Their perspective in life is clear, life takes on a deeper meaning and they find a new inner happiness.  For others, it is the beginning of a life-changing journey, which may have some very difficult moments.  The more mental preparation you are able to do for yourself, the easier you can make your journey.

  • Prepare for the ordeal of labour.

I’m here to share the reality of labour, rather then looking at it through rose-tinted spectacles.  The point is, YOU CAN NOT PREDICT YOUR LABOUR, even with your second child.  I thought I’d know what to expect.  Nope!  My experiences were completely different.

My first labour was on and off for 2 days, with full-on labour (minute and a half contractions, every minute) for 19 hours, and my waters only broke 45 minutes before he arrived.  First time, labour is often longer.  It is as if your body is learning what to do, the pain escalating gradually.  After hours of labour, once baby arrived, my body was flooded with adrenaline, which lasted for months.  I felt amazing.  Luckily my yoga teacher, Lolly Stirk, http://www.lollystirk.co.uk/ told me what was happening and to slow down before it all wore off.  Thankfully I listened to her because otherwise, after about 4 months, I might have fallen flat on my face with sudden, unexplained exhaustion.

My second labour was over in just over 6 hours, start to finish, with full-on labour only 1 hour 45 minutes, once my waters broke.  The incremental increase in pain with each contraction was massive, because I no longer had the cushion of my waters, but also because it was all happening so quickly.  My body obviously knew what it was doing this time and didn’t hang around, although quick labours are much more intense!  It was over so quickly that I didn’t have that amazing flood of adrenaline like last time – gutting!  I also experienced post-baby pains when feeding – yikes!  Wasn’t expecting that one!  You don’t normally experience any pain when baby breastfeeds after birth with your first, but with your second (and apparently it just gets worse with each baby), the uterus contracting with each feed (to get it back into shape) is such agony you may need pain killers.

Most women will agree that no labour is the same.  They’ll also tell you, that when it comes to number two, and thereafter, you hardly even have a birth plan!  Of course you must decide where you’d like to give birth (at home, a birth centre, or which hospital), and whether you want the baby to be born in water for example; but all of your choices are made in the knowledge that you cannot control your labour.  With this in mind, take it into consideration when planning for the arrival of number one.  Make all the preparations you need to make you feel comfortable but what is key is that you focus on the safe and healthy arrival of baby, rather than the smaller details.

  • Don’t be afraid of labour.

People do not talk openly about the horrors of labour because they do not want to scare expectant mothers.  I understand that, but without openness and honesty, how can you prepare for the possibility of being in labour for hours and hours and hours on end?  It may not happen to you, but it also might, and you should be ready for that.

  • Don’t be scared of labour pain, prepare for it.

No matter which way you look at it, labour is painful and is likely to be worse than any pain you have experienced before.  I tell you this not to scare you, but so that you can prepare calmly for what is about to happen.  It can be far more stressful, having planned for a natural birth, to realise after a few hours, that you just don’t know how you are going to deal with this.  Mental preparation can give you the ability to deal with anything.  How do you, as an individual, deal with pain best?  Ask yourself this important question and answer it truthfully.  Does music and candlelight relax you?  If so prepare this environment for when labour starts at home, at the very least.  Everyone is different and no matter how radical it might seem, go with what you think will work.

Labour is pain CREATED by your own body, so it can deal with it.  You can deal with it.  But if you are not equipped with ways to control that pain, especially over prolonged periods of time, it might be more difficult.

The following really helped me:

  • Practices such as yoga[1] (yogic breathing was key to both of my births) and HypnoBirthing (just reading about this was helpful, even though I didn’t end up using it, although I know plenty of people who have done very successfully – some swear that they don’t feel any pain)
  • Perineum massage.  I’m sure it gave me an extra inch in diameter, and in labour every millimetre counts!
  • Devices like TENS machines.  It was a God send first time round, to help deal with this new pain which was more intense than I had expected.  Second time I didn’t bother, confident it would all happen much faster – I was right!
  • Herbal ointments to bath in at home once labour starts to calm you and relieve pain (visit Neal’s Yard Remedies).
  • Water is a natural anaesthetic.  Having a bath at home to help with the early contractions and giving birth in water can really help.  With my first pregnancy being in water really helped with labour, but after many hours, I was advised to get out as everything was taking too long.  I ended up having my son standing up a few hours thereafter.  With my second, labour happened too quickly to be in water, accept for right at the end where we gave birth!
  • Exercise.  With my first baby, I walked the dog for hours when my contractions started.  It helped distract me and they say it helps move the baby down faster.  (After 19 hours of full-on labour, though, I was slightly doubting this, but hey, I guess it could have gone on another 4 hours!)

No matter which way you dress it ladies, labour is painful, so get ready.  Mentally.

There is nothing to be scared of.  I gave birth without any drugs (not even gas and air) both times and even though it was painful, I would do it all again drug free.  Why, you might ask?

  • I wanted to be in control of my body at all times, and be able to feel the baby come out.
  • If you can not feel when to push, relying on the midwife to tell you, you can tear more.
  • Bruising and backache can result from where the anaesthetist puts the needle in your back, which can take weeks to disappear.
  • An epidural can slow down your contractions, extending labour.
  • Your recovery can be longer.
  • Within a couple of days you forget the pain – which is why we go through all of this more than once!
  • Research says it is the least traumatic way, for your baby, to bring him into the world.
  • Expect to be exhausted and in discomfort afterwards.

Rest as much as you can.

Sleep when baby sleeps.  Everyone always tells pregnant women this and they never listen!  By the time you have your second, if you go again, you’ll wish you could sleep more but may not be able to because of number one running around.  Make the most of being able to while you can.  Sleep heals all wounds.

Walk as little as you can until you are totally healed.  Check out http://www.nctshop.co.uk/Postnatal-Recovery-Health/products/8/

I used the Healing Herbal Bath sachets after both my births to help heal minor grazing and I was back to normal within 10 days.

  • Don’t worry if it doesn’t go to plan – it probably won’t!

Women set their hearts on giving birth in a particular place, in a particular way.  It can be incredibly disappointing if you are set on having a totally natural birth, for example, but you are forced to have an epidural or a c-section.

Don’t dwell on it.  It’s over.  Prepare yourself mentally for the fact that nothing is in your control and that it may all be very different from how you expect.  The important thing once baby is safely in your arms, is to focus on him, and be joyful that he arrived safely.  Congratulate yourself – you survived labour!  You are amazing!  Well done!  Nothing else matters.  At last, after all those months of incubating your little one, you are together.  Enjoy!

  • Prepare for the possibility of not feeling overwhelming emotion towards your new baby.

It is worth considering that there may not be an immediate, overflowing feeling of love when you first see or hold your baby.  If this is the case for you, don’t worry and don’t feel guilty.  It is like this for many women and remember baby is still just an external foetus[2].  Some fathers can find it particularly difficult to bond with their new off spring in the first few months, before there is any interaction.  With time, as baby grows, bonds develop and become stronger and stronger.  Also, consider what you have just been through: labour.  It’s the most amount of pain and stress the body will ever put itself through – and you survived!  You deserve a medal!  It is natural that after such an ordeal you might be surprised by your emotions and feeling, and of course, your hormones will still be all over the place!  Good old hormones, where would we be without them?!

  • Be as relaxed as possible once he is born, allowing yourself the time to recover and to let the feelings grow naturally.

Finally, remember that babies are incredibly robust little things and they too, have just survived labour.  So if you need a break, he’ll be just fine without you for a few minutes.  Once you have given birth and have laid baby on your chest, to make that initial contact outside the womb, give baby to your partner, if need be.  I did!  Have a shower and lie back for a few minutes.  After all that, you deserve a break and a moment to yourself to catch your breath!  When you are ready you can take up your little angel and put him against your breast, but there is plenty of time.

  • Get help if you need it.

We are not meant to be doing all of this alone and if you need help after the birth, ask for it, without any feeling of guilty.  What is important is that you can rest and concentrate on baby.  NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

Additional Tip:

  • Make sure you take all your supplements during pregnancy.  Your baby will take all it needs from you in the womb and if you don’t have sufficient to sustain yourself as well, deficiency can contribute to more severe baby blues or post-natal depression.
Tiffany Newton

P.S.

When a male friend of mine asked me what to expect, days before their first child was due, I said, “That you will never be your wife’s priority again.”  Remember this ladies, it is all a massive ordeal for you, but initially it can be an incredibly isolating experience for them.

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[1] Lolly Stirk is amazing.  Anyone who has been trained by her recommends her: http://www.lollystirk.co.uk/

[2] External foetus?  It might sound a bit strange, but for the first three months of their lives, that is what your baby is.  The reason why we do not give birth after a year when they are more physically formed, is we couldn’t give birth to a child that large without killing ourselves.  Thus the baby has to finish his development in our arms, rather than our bellies.  Remember this when considering their behaviour in the first few months: there is no thought process, only instinct and survival.