Tag Archives: Natural pregnancy

Booby Traps: modern day obstacles to establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship

5 Aug

P1000009 Hands up everyone who admits to being a pro-breastfeeding judge of all those mummies who didn’t quite make it with their mummy milk?

I admit I was one of those people; surely successful breastfeeding is just a matter of perseverance and strong will I thought!

Since breastfeeding my son now for over two and a half years I can now attest that these two traits are definitely part of the process, however, there is a lot more to it than just knowing the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your child and deciding to follow through.

Here’s a list of ten ‘booby traps’ to breastfeeding that you may not have considered:

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1. RESTRICTIVE BRAS – any bra with a wired structure and no room to allow the breasts to expand is going to make breastfeeding unpleasant and often painful. Instead wear vest tops with built-in support or loose-fitting t-shirt bras; or better still why not try getting rid of your ‘boob crutches’ and going bra-less.

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2. AN ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE INCLUDING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION – everyone seems to know that a pregnant mummy should stay away from alcohol but how many people can admit that for the breastfeeding duration it is just as important to remain t-total? Your baby eats and drinks everything you do, without exception so why not use this time as a great excuse to get healthy by swapping your alcohol for water or a natural juice; I promise that you can have just as much fun and nobody even has to know if you stick it in a wine glass!

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3. NOT SURE HOW TO GET STARTED – many years ago women used to learn all about breastfeeding by growing up in communities where they witnessed it daily; they learned from mothers and aunties and knew what to expect. Nowadays breastfeeding is so uncommon amongst westernised cultures that we must take support elsewhere. Request a breastfeeding councillor if you birth at hospital and afterwards hook up with ‘La leche league’ for advice on all things breastfeeding. Expect a 4-6 week settling in period where perseverance is the key to get past any pain and latching on issues.

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4. FEAR OF OTHERS OPINIONS – there’s no better way to overcome self-consciousness like breastfeeding whilst others look on or make comments. I’ve found the best way to conquer this is through confidence that what you’re doing is natural and best for you and your child. Seek out helpful facts to help you face others with confidence:

  • International weaning age across the globe ranges from 2 up to 7 years old when the first ‘milk teeth’ begin to fall out; after that the jaw changes shape slightly making it more difficult to breastfeed thereafter.
  • Breast milk is the only food created for your baby, not any other animal, which can fully protect their immune system and provide all the nourishment they need by changing the formula depending on your unique baby’s needs at different times, stages and through varying climates. For example, in summer when it’s hot, your breast milk will automatically add in more water for optimum hydration.

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5. LACK OF SUITABLE PLACES TO BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC – shopping centres usually have a parent and baby room near the toilets. Nobody should be expected to feed their child whilst sitting on a toilet to avoid feeling uncomfortable. If you find that you can only relax whilst feeding discreetly and out of view then the best option is to buy a comfortable, breastfeeding-friendly sling so you can feed your child anywhere, anytime, even on the move.

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6. TOO EXHAUSTED TO BREASTFEED – there’s definitely a general consensus in the parenting world that being a parent is tough and tiring, no getting away from it! There are ways though that we can try to make life a little less stressful and more restful. Apart from taking nutritional supplements (Udo’s choice oil and Chlorella are a great start)  and assigning food preparation duties to someone apart from the breastfeeding mummy, the best parenting tool you can add to your kit is Co-sleeping in mum’s bed. Sleeping close to your child not only helps keep them safe and regulated in terms of body temperature and security, it also ensures that the mum receives subtle signals that baby is hungry and ready to feed without having to cry the house down and wake everyone up. As long as you aren’t intoxicated or seriously ill you are highly unlikely to roll over or harm your baby by sleeping with them. Mother’s have an innate instinct to protect their child, even when they’re asleep!

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7. INNACURATE MEDICAL ADVICE – it’s interesting to note that most medical training includes barely a month of basic nutrition out of several years and medical schools also do not offer compulsory teaching about lactation. It is common advice that you should only feed your baby every 3-4 hours. This makes for some very unhappy, hungry children. Unlike cow’s milk, breast milk is lower fat and lower protein to account for the fact that human’s as a species who should stay close to their helpless young for a long time before they venture off alone. Due to this compositional difference, human children must feed as regularly as their unique constitution requires them to (especially through the night). On demand feeding creates a natural demand and supply relationship between mother and child. Other interesting medical opinions include those who state your baby is the ‘wrong weight’. The charts which are determining that ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ weight are actually based on bottle fed babies who, like cows gain weight quicker and digest their milk much slower, making them less active and more dozy, sleeping more.

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8. SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDS WITH FORMULA MILK (especially before 6 months) – formula milk is created as a lab food by pharmaceutical companies using allergens such as cows, goats and soya milk as the base and a whole host of artificially created chemicals, rancid fats and flavourings on top. All this not only makes it difficult on your baby’s digestive system but also, like many other man-made  foods, the taste can become addictive. The introduction of formula milk at any time during the child’s younger years is far inferior to a full-term breastfeeding relationship complimented by whole foods, however, supplementing breast milk with formula early on in the baby’s feeding relationship is bound to encourage them to prefer the taste of the artificial formula milk and reject breastfeeding more and more. The only healthy alternative to supplementing or replacing your own breast milk for your child is to use another mum’s pumped breast milk as women use to do years ago when ‘wet nurses’ were common place.

9. MEDICALIZED BIRTH INTERVENTION – if you birth your baby in a hospital, the chances of achieving a successful breastfeeding relationship are greatly reduced. There are a few reasons for this:

Hospitals are filled with sick patients, bright fluorescent lights, lots of noise and rushed staff, hospital environments are highly stressful whilst breastfeeding requires that mum and baby remain relaxed and comfortable. Opt for a home birth, it’s your right to choose.

Common place procedure involves Immediate separation of mum and baby after birth to do medical checks/interventions which interfere with the vital first moments when mother and bay connect and bond, the baby becomes use to mum’s smell, lying on her stomach, feeling safe, he crawls up and locates his food source. Make a birth plan and state clearly that baby must be handed directly to you for immediate contact, even if this means intervention has to take place with the baby held in your arms. See below for an example of a birth plan taken from http://www.MamaNatural.comAlthough many women know the importance of keeping toxic and harmful substances away from their body during pregnancy, they do not seem to make the connection that during birth your baby is still directly receiving everything that comes into the mother’s body. This includes powerful, narcotic, pain-relieving drugs which not only have to pass through the baby’s liver but also interfere with the hormone production which make breastfeeding a pleasant experience for mum and baby. Try exploring alternative pain relieving methods such as yoga breathing, hypno-birthing and homeopathy during your pregnancy in preparation for the birth.

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10. RETURNING TO WORK WHILST STILL BREASTFEEDING – a successful breastfeeding relationship is difficult to achieve without close, constant contact between mother and baby. When your baby cries due to hunger, the breasts will miraculously begin leaking milk even if you are far away from your child. Expressing milk is a great alternative to breastfeeding as baby is still getting the nourishment from your body however, milk does change according to the time of day and even breast milk taken from a bottle cannot replicate the loving connection a baby receives when feeding directly from the breast. Wherever you can, arrange to work from home where your child can have full access to breastfeeding whenever they need to. If this is not possible then consider selecting a child carer who is willing to be flexible and visit you at your workplace during break times for baby to feed and re-connect with mum. This is now becoming more widely available in places such as OfficeCreche who allow you to work from their own offices whilst providing flexible childcare on site with breastfeeding access. Also there are many nannies and childminders who will work from your own home. If there is absolutely no way you can arrange for your child to have contact with you during your work hours then do insist on a private and comfortable room to made available where you can express breast milk regularly to keep your supply up.

Good luck and happy breastfeeding!

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Don’t cut the cord: A lotus, free birth story

3 Jun

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The words ‘natural birth’ often conjure up images of a relaxed home birth with a birthing pool, homeopathic remedies and few interventions from midwives, sometimes even a doula is present. To me natural birth means a whole lot more than just birthing in the comfort of your own home without forceps and drugs.

To truly understand how nature intended women to give birth we must look to the wild animals who are untouched by man. When animals are near the end of their pregnancy they instinctively know when to retreat and allow their offspring a safe passage into the outside world. They choose a quiet and peaceful place without too much stimulation from light or noise and begin their labor alone. Nothing else intervenes for this would cause the mother stress, contracting her birthing muscles which must remain relaxed in order for the labor to progress successfully. Once the offspring have arrived there is no weighing, measuring or wrapping in blankets; the young mammals simply find their way to the breast to suckle and to connect to the vital touch of the mother’s skin who will help regulate their body temperature and provide a feeling of safety and comfort. This closeness with a familiar smell and touch also provides a much-needed buffer against the shock of the transition from a warm, dark and quiet womb to a harshly over stimulating outside world.

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The placenta is the baby’s life source delivering oxygen, food and also expelling waste for a lengthy nine months in most cases. It has grown with the baby, constantly present. Even after birth the placenta continues pumping oxygen to the baby for at least five whole minutes whilst the baby learns to transition to breathing fully with it’s lungs. For as long as the cord pulses, not only oxygen but also other precious nutrients such as iron and stem cells are also being delivered to the baby’s stores, providing an optimal chance for survival and growth.

When we clamp and cut the cord too soon we risk loosing this precious fluid and gas exchange. Some wild animals such as our closest relatives, the chimpanzees must know this instinctively as most of them continue to carry around the placenta with the cord attached to their babies until it naturally drops off and is returned to the earth; what we otherwise refer to as a ‘lotus birth’.  Other animals do chew the cord off shortly after birth but as a vegan this option did not appeal to me.

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Just recently there has been much concern amongst the medical profession of Obstetricians regarding the potential danger of cord non-severance possibility of causing Septicemia. Interestingly even though this subject is talked about with much concern there does not exist any evidence/cases of actual Septicemia or deaths of newborns caused by a mother opting not to sever the cord. There does however, exist many cases of Septicemia in instances of cord severance.

The physical benefits of not cutting the cord include optimum immune protection and reduced risk of infection as no open wound is created. Other benefits are, in my opinion, of a more spiritual nature.

I decided to opt for an unassisted birth without any intervention. I felt strongly to allow my baby to be born at the exact time and in the way that I felt most comfortable. Even though I had emergency numbers on hand, I chose not to have any midwives or medical professionals present as I felt I could not trust them to respect my wishes and follow through on my birth plan. After hearing numerous stories from other women who had birthed with the medical profession I did not feel reassured that I would be fully supported. For these reasons I chose to only have my husband present at the birth.

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We adopted a child-led parenting approach to raise Ulysses, which allows the child to take more control of what happens in their life. Child-led parenting involves raising the child with freedom alongside guidance, without force and punishment. In allowing children to take life at their own pace they learn to trust their own instincts and develop a set of morals and values based on their own experiences rather than the parents interpretation of the world. Such practices as baby-led weaning, non-violent communication and unstructured play form part of a non-forceful approach, much like lotus birthing where the baby’s body decides when to let go of the placenta rather than a third-party.

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Growing up as a conventionally parented child I often felt a sense of powerlessness that in turn created a dependency on others and lack of self-confidence. Natural birth and child-led parenting provides ways you can show the most precious person in your life that you respect, trust and honor their innate wisdom.

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The lotus flower is a symbol most widely recognized from India. Many times I get asked from where does lotus birth originate? I am not entirely sure how it became named, but I would guess it has something to do with the placenta resembling the flower. If you have ever observed a placenta with the cord attached it has a beautiful network of veins running through it as the leaves on a flower have, the cord also bears resemblance to the stem.

Central to all spiritual paths is the concept of ‘letting go’; everything in nature takes its cycle and in it’s own time transforms into the next phase. Just as the mother’s body knows instinctively to release the placenta after it has received the chemical messages released from the baby suckling on the breast, so does the baby’s body know exactly when to release the cord from it’s point of attachment without any intervention.

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During my lotus birth, a lovely six-day period of bonding and closeness was established. We washed and wrapped the placenta everyday to keep it clean and placed it in a waterproof pouch. As the placenta did not release until five hours after the birth this provided for a special bonding period in a close embrace, without separation. During this vital period of bonding between us I felt strongly that it was important that no one else take the baby away and having the placenta still attached to the cord helped to ensure this.

Shortly after the birth, the cord dried quickly into the texture of an electric cable. During the nights we slept with the baby on the bed and the placenta was placed next to the bed. Transporting the placenta with baby around the house was made convenient by using a stretchy wrap, which had a pocket in the front to hold the placenta.

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After six days of healing and bonding we woke up one morning to find baby Ulysses had gripped hold of the cord and detached it by himself, leaving a neat and healthy looking belly button. For the 6 days the placenta was still attached he was very peaceful and slept extremely well. Due to the damp environment where we lived and also choosing to wrap plastic around the cloth, the placenta did not dry out as well as it should have and did leave a musty smell for the last few days however, as the cord had already sealed off and we kept the rooms well aired, I didn’t feel this posed any threat to Ulysses. Despite the minor inconvenience of learning to maneuver around the cord for 6 days and dealing with the cleaning of the placenta I feel the potential benefits of lotus birthing far outweigh any cons and will definitely be having a lotus birth for my next child. With regards to the unassisted part of the birth I’d like to say most likely yes.

In cultures where they maintain their placenta after cutting the cord, a tradition exists for the placenta to be buried to the right side of the front door for a male and the left side for a female. We lived in a block of flats at the time so did not have this option and decided we much preferred the idea of returning the placenta back to the land through the sea rather than burying it. As we love to travel, the sea is a symbol of adventure and freedom, a life I hope Ulysses has the opportunity to experience.

Happy Baby Feet: How Yoga helped my pregnancy and unassisted birth

15 Dec

ImageAt the time I fell pregnant I had just embarked on a life changing decision, I had been managing a children’s Yoga franchise along with my husband using a business loan and the dream was not all it had promised to be.

More money was coming out than coming in and not enough teachers could be found to help me share the work load.

I had just returned from a magical trip to Goa where I had my beautiful wedding following four intense weeks of Yoga and I found that I was ready to move out of the parental home and find my feet in the world shortly after landing back in England.

It was at this time that some friends of ours were looking at renting so we decided to pull our resources together and go for a house share, unaware that the universe had different ideas.

Plan A to move out never materialized and left my husband suggesting a dramatic plan B to sell up everything and go to sunny Australia on a working holiday visa to see what would await us there.

Weighed down by far too much luggage and fear, home with all it’s unfinished business and lose ends dragged us back again after 3 months at which time the baby bump was well and truly apparent.

During the early phases of pregnancy I mostly travelled around Australia and New Zealand so I armed myself with Tara Lee’s Pregnancy in Health DVD and practiced whenever I was not exploring and hiking through nature.

As I had only been practicing yoga for two years on an irregular basis I often found the full 70 minute routine too challenging to complete and furthermore all of the poses which satisfied my ego’s need to achieve such as inversions and binding poses were now disallowed, knocking my motivation even further.

I did however, delight in the partner sessions which were a wonderful way to involve and connect my husband in to my pregnancy experience.

I also regularly took part in the amazing visualization and restorative practice which always without fail left me feeling re-energized and re-vitalized.

My pregnancy treated me well, or perhaps you could say that I treated pregnancy well, eating a vegetarian diet and keeping stretched and on the move I’m sure helped me avoid most common pregnancy ailments.

Towards the final trimester I could thankfully still balance in tree on one leg and was as supple as ever. The only downside was having to get up and have my sleep disturbed every night to keep using the toilet…little did I know that this would prepare me well for the arrival of baby!

At the beginning of my pregnancy I was debating on whether to tell close family my choice of birth.

Having always been an alternative and non-conformist type I knew that others liked to question me and did not always understand my choices.

I could never have for seen the amount of fear that my decision to have an unassisted home birth would create amongst so many people, perhaps because it questioned our culture of letting others take responsibility for our own actions and their consequences?

No amount of research or re-assurance that I understood my own body would convince those around me that I was sane and not endangering the life of myself and my child.

Knowing that mind always conquers matter it was difficult dealing with others negativity and lack of support for the choices I had made and I thank god for my amazing husband who was with me every step of the way, even to catch the baby as he arrived!

It was at this stage of pregnancy and birth where pranyama (breathing techniques to mange pain), mantras (using sound to control emotions) and positive visualizations came into their own.

These are aspects of Yoga that many people who step on to their mats often forget about but which were a vital part of any successful active pregnancy and birth.

My birth was approximately 12 hours long and was by no means easy although anything worth doing rarely is!

My son Ulysses was born at 2.25am weighing approximately 7lbs with no complications. He arrived on a very chilly Sunday 5th December 2010 in the bath tub in our small one bedroom flat in Brighton.

I had not undergone any scans or antenatal care only blood tests so had no idea what was coming my way. I had a trust in the ability of my body being able to perform exactly what it was designed to do.

We had the hospital number in case of emergency but did not wish to invite in any interference with midwives or anyone else who I did not trust in 100%.

I do not claim to be a midwife, just to have the same right to give birth the best way I see fit for me and my child as women do all over the world everyday.

This is my human right and is not illegal as many health care practitioners often proclaim it to be. My child didn’t need a doctor to get in the womb and did not need anyone to help him out either.

Yoga helped me to understand and connect with my body so well that it gave me the confidence to manage my own sensations and trust my own instincts about how the birth was progressing.

The whole experience was the most intense and amazing time of my life and I wouldn’t have changed a moment of it.

Letting go has been a big aspect of my life since my pregnancy and birth. I’ve let go of material possessions, money, people, work and most importantly my fear…when you come face to face with the responsibility of bringing a new life in to the world without intervention or direct guidance it really is the closest a women can come to facing her own fear of death.

I have learnt that the fear of birth and death go together hand in hand and it is at times like these when a spiritual practice such as yoga can be your best guide and source of support.

Furthermore, I chose to have a lotus birth and leave the umbilical cord to detach from the placenta naturally. I believed this would give the best physical and spiritual start for the baby.

There were just two things I needed for my birthing experience, my supportive birth partner, my husband and my Yoga.