Membrane sweeps everything you need to know

Membrane Sweeps – Everything you need to know

Membrane sweeps everything you need to know
If you reach your estimated due date, you may be offered a membrane sweep.

Ask questions to make sure that you feel comfortable with it. You should know what the risks and alternatives are.

A common reason for induction of labour is that the baby may be overdue’. There may be other reasons why induction of labour is being recommended.

Membrane sweeps, sometimes known as a stretch and sweep, are offered in many areas routinely. They are always performed with your consent and are completely voluntary. It is performed by the midwife or doctor inserting one or two fingers inside the cervix and making a ‘sweepingcircular motion to separate the membrane sac surrounding your baby from the cervix. It may also be known as stripping the membranes.

It should always be discussed in depth with you. You should feel fully informed and have the opportunity to ask questions. There are pros and cons with everything. It may not be suitable in all pregnancies e.g, if baby is breech. If a membrane sweep is successful, labour may start within 48 hours.

Membrane sweeps are also considered a natural form of induction method and offered before hormonal induction, encouraging spontaneous labours since it doesn’t involve any drugs at all. It can be done in any clinic setting such as an outpatient antenatal clinic. It is usually done by your community midwife or your doctor. The goal of sweeping the membranes is to initiate labour and thus to reduce the need for more formal induction of labour. After the procedure is done, prostaglandins are released which assist in softening of the cervix and getting contractions started.

Membrane sweeps are a quick simple procedure, and it can be done in just a few minutes. You will be asked to lie down, remove your underwear, be covered in a sheet, and ensuredthat you feel comfortable .The midwife or doctor will also first check your baby’s positionand heartbeat

During the internal vaginal examination, the provider inserts their lubricated finger throughthe vagina and then into the cervix and makes gentle sweeping movements around to detach the amniotic membrane from the cervix. This stretches the cervix at the same time, and this is a bit like removing the peel of an orange.’ Your cervix must be a little bit dilated to do this. It may feel uncomfortable or painful, but you can tell your midwife or doctor to stop at any point if it’s too uncomfortable. Using hypnobirthing, relaxation and breathing techniques can help.

During a membrane sweep there is also a chance that your waters may release or break. A sweep may also, not get you into labour, but just make you crampy with irregular contractions and feeling uncomfortable. You might also want to wear a sanitary pad after a membrane sweep as you may have slight spotting or bleeding like a show.’

After the sweep you can go home and go about your normal day.

If you have any concerns following the sweep about bleeding or think your waters have gone or your baby movements change, you should ring your maternity hospital triage without delay.

A sweep that doesn’t work can result in further sweeps and doubting that your body might never go into labour. A sweep may be the trigger for natural labour, but there is no guarantee it will work. It may take several attempts and often have to be done more than once.

Induction of labour and many aspects of induction of labour need further discussion with you and your individual circumstances. Induced labours with artificial hormones are very different from labours that start spontaneously. It also comes with a range of possible side effects. Induced labours may take longer and need closer monitoring. Take the opportunity to discuss your feelings and your preferences.

Its natural to feel impatient in the final weeks of pregnancy. Try to get some rest and relax as you will be meeting your baby soon.

skin-to-skin contact with your baby

Skin-to-skin contact with your baby

The simple act of snuggling your baby on your bare chest has powerful benefits and helps babies adjust and adapt to life outside of the womb.

Skin-to-skin. So Simple. Hugely Powerful.

It is as simple as it sounds and is when baby snuggles on mum or dad’s chest bare chest, covered in a warm blanket. Skin-to skin is good for all babies, whether they are breastfeeding or formula feeding.

Babies need lots of skin-to-skin with mum and dad, both in hospital and at home. Skin-to-skin time is precious time and one of the loveliest moments in birth:

The benefits of skin-to-skin

  • Triggers the powerful oxytocin ‘hormone of love’ that lowers mums stress levels as well as promotes healing and mothering.
  • Calms your baby ensuring that they feel safe and cared for.
  • It can help to reduce cortisol (stress) levels in baby.
  • Helps baby to cry less.
  • Regulates your baby’s body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate and blood sugar following birth.
  • Improves baby’s oxygen saturation levels.
  • Helps your colostrum (the first milk that is full of nutrients that protect baby) to flow more easily.
  • Stimulates baby’s digestion and encourages an interest in instinctive feeding behaviour.
  • When breastfeeding, it will boost baby’s immune system and helps to protect against illness and disease.
  • Helps mum to breastfeed longer by building her milk supply and helping her to make a stronger connection with baby.
  • If expressing milk, volumes improve if mum expresses following a period of skin-to-skin contact.
  • Builds a strong baby brain.
  • Increases baby’s senses of touch, taste, textures, smells and sounds the baby experiences in their environment while they are on mums or dad’s chest.
  • Gives mums a chance to take a rest or take a break.
  • The rush of hormones does not just happen to mums. A similar rush happens when dad has skin to skin contact with baby. For your new-born, the next best thing is skin to skin with dad.
  • Research shows that it relaxes dad too and has an important parenting role.
  • Promoting an important bonding experience between a father and his new-born child.

Skin-to-skin with baby is vital in neonatal units where it is sometimes known as ‘kangaroo care.’

From the Start

What happens during this special time?

The first hour after birth is sometimes called the Golden Hour. It is an incredibly special bonding time that begins when your baby is snuggled skin to skin with you right after they are born. Baby emerges from the warm dark haven of your womb (uterus) into an unfamiliar world. It is cold by comparison and has new lights and sounds. When a mum holds her baby in skin to skin after birth, it initiates a strong response connecting the mum’s body to the baby’s body. It connects the mum’s brain to the baby’s brain and the mums mind to the baby’s mind. Your baby can be soothed by hearing the comforting sound of your heartbeat, which is familiar from time in the womb. If you talk softly, baby will recognise your voice and will also be familiar with dad’s voice.

After birth you can expect the baby will have:

  • The first birth cry. It is so distinctive.
  • A relaxation period as they recover from the birth
  • Increased alertness. Opening their eyes, looking at you for the first time, responding to familiar voices, smells, and becoming more active, moving hands to mouth, and exploring your breast and suckling for the first time.

Make undisturbed and uninterrupted skin-to-skin part of your birth preferences if your baby is stable. Discuss with the Midwives before your birth that you wish to treasure and enjoy this special time.

Allow yourself plenty of time to hold your new-born and gaze at them.

Most healthy term babies will follow this process, providing that they are not interrupted by anything. Most routine things like putting on baby identity bands and checks can be done with baby skin to skin and obtaining a birthweight can be delayed until after this important period. Try not to hurry or interrupt this process as some babies and mums take a little longer particularly after a long or difficult labour or birth when adrenaline levels have been higher. Stress reduction with skin to skin helps to maintain new-born blood sugar levels and general stability. Let it continue for as long as you wish if there are no concerns for the health of you or baby. Skin to skin is an important part of the care provided by your maternity team following birth, so they will know to prioritise this crucial time.

This also and importantly applies to babies born by assisted and caesarean section birth.

Dad may also like to be prepared and wear a loose tee shirt or shirt that can be unbuttoned so that he can easily snuggle baby skin to skin. Your midwife will show you how to hold your new baby.

The benefits of skin-to-skin care extend beyond the moment of birth. Skin to skin can take place at any time a baby needs comforting or calming. There is no specific age when skin to skin should stop if your baby is happy with it. It provides powerful benefits for baby the entire time they are an infant, in the hours, days, weeks and months to come. Ongoing skin to skin contacts during the early days and weeks release oxytocin and prolactin which can give stress reliving benefits for mum too.

If your baby has medical problems and needs urgent treatment, it may not be possible for either of you to hold baby straight away. Any touch is a comfort to your baby. If you cannot cuddle baby skin to skin, you could hold their hand so they can feel your warmth and recognise your smell.

You can catch up with skin to skin as soon as you are both well enough. Whenever you start skin to skin, it will have lots of benefits for your baby, and for your relationship.

How to do skin-to-skin?

If you are doing immediate skin to skin following birth, the midwife will dry your baby, place them on your chest and cover baby’s back with a clean dry towel or light blanket. The midwife will continue to observe both you and your baby. That is all there is to it!

You can lie down with your baby on your chest, if you are sure, you won’t fall asleep. Ask for assistance when you need it.

Otherwise, sit up while holding your baby skin to skin, and keep baby upright with their chest against your chest. Wearing a nappy on baby is ok if you are worried about soiling.

You are allowed to ask for help. In fact, you should.

Following birth, feeling tired afterwards is very normal and it can take time to ease into motherhood. Motherhood is full on and lots of mums can find it hard to ask for help. Do not be afraid to reach out for help and support from midwives, other health professionals, family and friends as you adjust to life with your new baby. Identifying things that people can help with and allowing others to support you is a giant leap to nurturing yourself.

getting to know your baby before birth

Getting to know your baby before birth

getting to know your baby before birth

You don’t need to wait until your baby is born to get to know them. Getting to know your baby can begin during your pregnancy or maybe even before conception. Your relationship with your baby, like all relationships, needs nurturing. As baby is growing in your womb you may feel that you are gradually getting to know them better.

The early relationship you, your partner and family have with your baby is so important. This is as true before they are born as when they arrive.

The development of your baby’s brain begins from conception, before you even know you are pregnant. By week 8, electrical activity begins in the brain allowing your baby to co-ordinate their first (spontaneous) movements that can be seen on an ultrasound scan. Brain cells begin sending messages to each other and by the 18th week of pregnancy, your baby will have developed between one to two billion brain cells. During the last three months of pregnancy and the first two years of life, your baby’s brain develops rapidly.

Its never too early to start talking and singing to your baby and sharing stories.

The connections that are formed in the brain before the birth include baby’s hearing. Your baby can hear sounds from at least 18 weeks, and maybe even earlier. At first the baby hears sounds in your body, tummy gurgling and your heartbeat. At around 26 weeks babies in the womb can recognise mum’s voice but will recognise other voices that they hear frequently too. dad, siblings. Babies after birth will turn to the sound of their parent’s voice in preference to that of a stranger. From the moment that they are born, they will want to communicate with you. It is good to try to understand how your baby might be feeling.

Talking to your baby while pregnant is an important part of developing a relationship with them and helps them to bond with you. Thinking of them like a little person. Getting to know your voice makes them feel safe and secure and helps their development. After 32 weeks your baby may start to recognise certain vowel sounds from your language. Some research suggests that very early language development may begin before birth.

Find a quiet time when you and your baby can focus on each other and use a tuneful sing song voice. It doesn’t matter what music or song – if you like it so will your baby.

If you can’t think of anything to say, just start with a chat to your baby about your day or tell a story or a short children’s nursery rhyme. Rhythm and rhyme are easy for your baby to hear. You could read your favourite book or a magazine. Try calming stories when your baby is quiet or bedtime. Say goodnight before you go to bed and hello when you wake up.

Keep it going after your baby’s birth. Babies remember what they hear in the womb and hearing something familiar can be soothing.

Not everyone feels comfortable talking to their bump, however. Everyone’s different.

Feeling your baby.

During pregnancy you may start to recognise that your baby may be responding to your own movements or your mood. Baby may become active when certain music is played or hears your voice. Tune in to what your baby is responding to and to what your baby may be trying to tell you. Give yourself time to reflect, be still in the moment, go for a walk or have a warm bath and think about the baby. You may like to write a diary or stories to the baby about what you are experiencing.

Your baby is protected and nestled inside you, warm and cosy, hearing your heartbeat, getting constant nourishment from your placenta and able to reach out and touch themselves and you. Feel the baby by placing your hands on your abdomen and rest your hands quietly, feeling the baby move and kick. Gently stoke and rub your tummy and feel your baby respond. Dads can enjoy this too if it feels comfortable.

Having an ultrasound scan during pregnancy.

Seeing your baby via ultrasound scan particularly in the early weeks before you can feel any movement can reassure you that baby exists can increase the feeling that baby is real. Seeing your baby, often leaping about inside the womb for the very first time can be a very reassuring experience.  ‘Seeing is believing’ and the reality of a baby coming is reaffirmed. Often it is not until after the first scan that new parents share their exciting news with family and friends as they feel reassured, and they start to connect to their baby.

Have an ultrasound photograph that you can keep close and look at when you want to share a moment with your baby. Dads too might like to carry a picture of the ultrasound to feel connected to baby.

Getting to know your baby after birth.

We have all heard of ‘skin to skin’ and the high levels of oxytocin that happen right after birth. This encourages bonding and attachment to your baby. The new baby knows mum, recognises her smell, her heartbeat, even taste through the amniotic fluid. A mother and baby communicate with each other using sight, sound, and touch. Some new mums don’t experience this fully right away as they can feel exhausted or overwhelmed or feel concerned about their baby’s health. It is always good to remember that bonding and attachment evolve, and you can always revisit skin to skin – As you care for baby, just holding them, feeding them or nappy changing caring for your baby and being their primary care giver comforts them. All these activities help you both to connect to each other. Your baby needs you and you need them.

Bonding with your baby is likened to building a brick wall. To make a strong wall you build a good foundation with you as their mother being the primary care giver for your baby. Then you lay the bricks with the cement of love. This holds everything else together and makes the wall strong. The bricks are the activities that make a growing baby happy, healthy, and safe. The bricks are the kisses, warmth, good food, warmth, a safe home, talks, cuddles, clean clothes, clean nappies, laughs, stories, medical check-ups, bedtimes, playtimes, rules and attention.

Talk to someone about your feelings and ask questions when you see your maternity or postnatal team. Try to increase your support network and meet other expectant and new mums to share your experiences. Try to look after your own health and wellbeing, and make sure you get enough rest and relaxation.

ways to increase oxytocin during a c-section

Ways to increase oxytocin during a C-section birth

As we approach the end of caesarean section awareness month, we thought it was important to share ways to increase oxytocin during a C-section birth. This post is to help support and empower all you amazing mums are who are having a planned C-section birth. Sometimes, for medical reasons, a C-section may be the safer option for you and your baby rather than a vaginal birth, or you may choose to have a C-section for other reasons. Don’t be afraid to ask your consultant doctor or midwife for more information. They can explain the benefits and risks as well as discussing all your birth options. They will help and support you to make informed choices about your care and your birth.

 When it comes to birth, knowledge is power.

Oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone’, is produced in the brain in response to positive experiences such as cuddling and kissing. Oxytocin is strongly linked to our emotions – fear and anxiety can decrease it whereas, feeling calm and relaxed can increase it.

We know about its significant role in labour causing powerful uterine contractions. But its job is so much more than that. As discussed in our previous ‘birth hormones’ blog, oxytocin makes us feel good, relaxed and triggers nurturing feelings which deepens the mother and baby bond and encourages maternal behaviour. It helps to facilitate breastfeeding by helping the breasts to lactate and the milk to flow to the baby, by triggering the let-down reflex.

So, you can see why it is just as important for our brain to produce oxytocin even if we don’t labour and have a C-section birth.

So how can this be achieved?

  • Oxytocin is strongly linked to our emotions. Fear and anxiety decrease its levels. Feeling calm and relaxed can increase it. So, using relaxed breathing and hypnobirthing techniques before, during and following your caesarean will help you to feel calm and more in control.
  • Delayed cord clamping and allowing mum to be the first person to lay her hands on her baby.
  • Bringing the baby straight to mum’s chest for skin to skin and drying off with a warm towel. There is lots of evidence that this can help mums feel immediately better about the birth of their lovely baby.
  • Avoiding separation of mum and baby unless there is an urgent medical need.
  • Having an opportunity to have uninterrupted bonding, perhaps delaying the ‘routine checks’ and weighing just a little longer.
  • Letting mum and baby touch, nuzzle, kiss, smell and stroke each other will stimulate that all important natural oxytocin.
  • The excitement. The happiness and the relief of seeing your baby for the first time. You can experience all of these at the same time.
  • That special opportunity to have a quiet everlasting memorable moment with your partner or birth partner.

Having a C-section, in particular can cause lots of emotions that you may not feel prepared for. Talking about it and educating yourself about it can help.

There is no reason, why this can’t be achieved at most caesarean births. Talk to your midwife and your birth team about what is possible for your birth. They are professionals and humans, who want to make sure your birth experience is the most memorable day of your life. They will go the extra mile to ensure that your experience is the best that they can give. Don’t be afraid to ask for clear and transparent advice and to make your own suggestions.

Being honest about how you are feeling will help your whole birth team to support you.

To find out more about our C-section Birth Prep courses, just contact us.

doula tips fourth trimester

A doula’s tips for surviving the fourth trimester

doula tips fourth trimester

To celebrate World Doula Week (22 March – 28 March), we met Nicola, ‘Doula-of-Belfast’, to discuss her top tips for the fourth trimester as well as her role as a doula in the postnatal period.

Nicola’s top tips for the fourth trimester postnatal tips include:

  • Take time to recover
  • You are baby’s safe place
  • The dishes can wait
  • Lots of skin-to-skin
  • Hire a doula

As a birth and postnatal doula, Nicola provides physical and emotional support for mums-to-be during the process of giving birth and in the postnatal period after delivery. There is no better place to see a doula making a difference to a new family than with postnatal doula services. So much preparation goes into preparing for birth, and that is right and good, but how much prep goes into life with a newborn? It doesn’t all come easily. Getting a supportive team around you is imperative. It has been said it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to help and nurture the parents.

In today’s modern world, our family and friends may be unavailable to help us out. Parents may still be working, and our friends could be scattered across the globe. This is where having a postnatal doula is an investment.

We asked Nicola to describe a typical day in her life and she explained:

“I will come into your home, make a pot of tea and a nourishing snack for you as we discuss how I can help you for the day.
While you take some time to catch up on sleep, essential care, or catch up with friends, I will take baby, if you would like, settle him/her down, and put a load of laundry on, prep that evening’s meal or help the other kids with homework or make space for you to have one-to-one time with the other children.  Maybe you would prefer to discuss and process your birth, or have some breastfeeding support. Perhaps you need some essential groceries for the weekend. I can get those on my way to you.”

Western society has dictated that we should be “back to normal” immediately. But becoming a mother, there is now a new normal. Our bodies need time to recover from birth and pregnancy. We need to use that time to bond with and get to know our new baby. Responsibilities change, but unfortunately they still need our attention.

Postnatal doulas will help you prioritise and lighten the load in those first few months of sleepless nights, uncertainty and incredible overwhelm.

If you would like to find out more about how Nicola can support you, send her a DM (@doula_nicola_jayne), or email

hormones birth oxytocin

Hormones and birth: the role of oxytocin

hormones birth oxytocin

You will have four major hormonal systems active when you are in labour and after birth. A cocktail of hormones that nature prescribes. You and your baby are born with the natural ability to go into labour and give birth, breastfeed and become deeply bonded to each other. The flow of hormones in your body drives these finely tuned and complex processes. It is important that you know how these birth hormones work. You also need to understand how to work with and avoid disrupting these natural processes. This will help you to make informed decisions regarding your birth.

Birth hormones are chemical messengers that your body makes. These hormones originate in the deepest parts of the brain and cause physical processes as well as a powerful influence on emotions.  Your baby makes birth hormones too. These hormones work together to help make labour and birth go smoothly and safely for both of you.

Birth hormones help to guide you and your baby in many ways. Such as:

  • Getting your body ready to give birth
  • Starting your labour contractions
  • Driving your contractions during labour
  • Telling your breasts to make milk and getting your baby ready to breastfeed
  • When you and your baby fall in love, birth hormones are part of those feelings too

Let’s talk about Oxytocin.

Oxytocin is often known as the “hormone of love” or the “shy hormone” because it is involved with sexual activity, fertility, contractions during labour, birth and the release of breastmilk during breastfeeding. It helps us to feel good, relaxed and it triggers nurturing feelings.

Oxytocin is the most powerful contraction-causing hormone. Contractions that are essential to the birth process, thinning and opening the cervix, moving the baby down and out of the birth canal, pushing out the placenta and limiting bleeding.

Low levels of oxytocin during labour and birth can cause problems. These include:

  • Contractions can slow down or stop, making labour last longer or even stall and can be more painful
  • Increasing the need for medical interventions
  • Increased bleeding after birth

However, there are several ways that you can promote your body’s production of oxytocin.

  • Staying calm, comfortable and having confidence in your body and capabilities as a woman. Fear is a disruptor to oxytocin production and the natural birthing process. The use of relaxation, hypnobirthing and breathing techniques will help you to feel in control.
  • Avoiding disturbances during labour and birthing such as unwelcome people, conversation, noises, lighting, and uncomfortable procedures. Ensure a private, warm and a cosy protective birthing environment.
  • Staying upright and having the freedom to move with your natural birthing instinct. Gravity helps your baby to press against your cervix during labour. Listen to your body. Birth mats, birth balls, peanut balls and pillows in the birth space will help you find the most comfortable positions that feel right for you.
  • Stimulating your nipples before birth and actions of your baby suckling after birth increases the release of oxytocin.
  • Enjoying skin to skin and eye contact with your baby also optimises oxytocin release.
handle morning sickness

How to handle morning sickness

handle morning sickness







Approximately 70-80% of pregnant women experience morning sickness to some degree. For most women, symptoms are relatively mild. However, vomiting and nausea can be severe for around 3% of pregnant women who experience it, particularly in the first trimester. This is called hyperemesis gravidarum. If you are experiencing morning sickness (or nausea/vomiting at any time of the day), let your midwife or GP know.

As the name suggests, morning sickness is worst early in the day yet it can strike at any time and can affect your daily life. Typically, it starts around nine weeks after conception and usually clears up by weeks 16 to 20 of your pregnancy. Common symptoms include vomiting and nausea, often triggered by heat, certain odours or foods, spicy food. Often, there are no triggers.

We have put together some tips to help relieve morning sickness symptoms:

  • Try to get plenty of rest as tiredness can make nausea worse
  • Pay attention to nausea triggers and stay away from foods or smells that make you feel ill
  • Eat small meals and eat often
  • Try to eat foods high in carbohydrate and low in fat
  • It is important to stay hydrated so drink plenty of fluids
  • Ginger seems to alleviate morning sickness for some women so try eating foods or drinks containing ginger
  • Try acupressure – some evidence suggests that putting pressure on your wrist, using a specific band/bracelet, can help relieve symptoms.
  • Reflexology can calm down upset digestive and kidney systems through your feet. By applying pressure to a specific ‘reflex point’, a messenger travels to the corresponding area in your body to deliver its’ message, which could decrease your morning sickness and nausea symptoms. Check out our BirthDays reflexology course for more information.

Morning sickness can be an uncomfortable but encouraging reminder that you’re pregnant. The same hormones that make you feel sick are also helping your baby to grow. However, if you have tried the tips above and find your symptoms have not improved, let your midwife or GP know.

colostrum harvesting - Northern Ireland, belfast

Everything you need to know about breastfeeding

everything you need to know about breastfeeding

Breastfeeding may be natural but it’s also a skill that takes practice. About one in three mums need extra support at some point. If you have good information, support and the confidence you need, you are likely to be able to overcome any difficulties. BirthDays offers a ‘baby feeding’ course which covers everything you need to know about feeding your baby – whether that’s by bottle or breast.

As a breastfeeding mum, keeping your milk supply balanced is one of your top priorities.

Many mums worry that their baby may not be getting enough milk. Sometimes you may be mistaken in thinking you have not got enough milk but this can happen at any time – either because breastfeeding has not got off to a good start or because breastfeeding problems haven’t been solved. Only a small number of new mums have some difficulty producing enough breast milk due to medical reasons, for example following a large blood loss (more than 500mls) during the birth, hormonal disorders, diabetes, thyroid problems or previous breast surgeries. Speak to your midwife if this applies to you.

Signs your baby isn’t getting enough milk

Slow weight gain

Babies are individual and it is normal for newborns to lose weight in the first few days as they use their fluid and fuel stores. After that, they should start to gain weight. Slow weight gain can be normal for some babies but for others, it can be a sign that they are not getting enough milk. A baby who is not getting enough will continue to lose weight and be slower to regain their birth weight. Most breastfed babies should regain their birthweight by 2 weeks, but this can vary greatly. It is important to talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have any concerns.

Insufficient wet or dirty nappies

The number of wet or dirty nappies your baby has is a good indicator of whether or not your baby is getting enough milk. Most babies have a dirty nappy several times a day in the first weeks and within the first 3 to 4 days they should have soft, runny poo’s.

On days 1 and 2, your baby will have two or more wet nappies and one or more dirty nappy of meconium (the first dark black poo).

With the latest disposable nappies, it may be hard to tell if they are wet, so to get an idea if there is enough urine, take a fresh nappy and add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water. This will give you and idea of how heavy a nappy should be.

On days 3 and 4, expect three or more wet nappies and two or more dirty green nappies.

After day 5, your baby should have at least six heavy wet nappies and by days 5 and 6, have a soft yellow poo at least once to three or more times every day.

By days 10 to 14, your baby should pass frequent soft runny poos every day with 2 poos being the minimum you would expect.

After 4 to 6 weeks, when breast feeding is more established, this may change with some babies going a few days or more without producing a dirty nappy. Breast fed only babies don’t usually become constipated and when they do poo it will be soft yellow and abundant.

Tips for increasing breast milk production

Start breastfeeding as soon as you can

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends early and uninterrupted skin to skin contact between mothers and infants as soon as possible after birth. This helps to initiate early breastfeeding within one hour of birth, providing the baby with colostrum which is rich in antibodies and essential nutrients.

In the early moments after birth, babies are in a quiet alert state and ready to learn. Babies use all five senses to explore that world. They use their eyes to memorize their mothers faces, their ears to associate her voice with her face, and their sense of smell to guide them in finding the breast. They also have a heightened sense of taste too and this is particularly sensitive to the taste of breast milk.

Breastfeed for as often and as long as your baby wants (min 8 times in 24 hrs)

Your milk supply is based on supply and demand. You continue producing milk only if it is taken from the breast. The more milk is removed, the more milk your breasts make. When your baby is breastfeeding effectively, you make milk in response. Respond to your baby’s feeding cues, mouth opening, turning head, seeking/rooting and sucking fists.

Breastfeeding at night is important

Your body produces more prolactin (the hormone which promotes milk production) when you breastfeed at night, so night feeds help to keep up milk production ensuring that baby gets all the milk they need to grow and thrive. Breastmilk consumed through the night makes up an important part of their total 24hr intake.  Get organised and keep things close by so you don’t have to go anywhere to get what you need – nappies, snacks etc. Keep the room as dark and as quiet as possible.

Make sure your baby is well positioned and attached

When positioning is comfortable and the baby is well aligned with the breast, a deep and effective latch is more likely. This makes sure that breast milk is transferred effectively to baby. At the beginning of a feed, the baby makes quick shallow sucks to get the milk flowing before settling into deeper slower jaw action suckles.

Don’t skip feeds

Frequent removal of milk is essential for adequate milk supply. If you regularly skip feeds, eventually your body will send signals to decrease the amount of milk it produces overall.

Give your baby lots of cuddles and skin to skin contact

This stimulates the hormone oxytocin, which gets your milk flowing. Whenever you breastfeed, the hormone is released in your brain and your baby’s brain too. A rollercoaster of interaction takes place in your body so you can feed and protect your new baby, and this process relies on oxytocin.

Get more rest

A good night’s sleep or a great nap can do wonders for your milk supply keeping your body in optimum condition.  Don’t burn the candle at both ends as your body gets worn down. Use relaxation techniques, such as listening to music, to reduce anxiety that could affect supply.

Wait before introducing a dummy

Research suggests that it is best to avoid dummies in the first few weeks after birth. The use of dummies should be limited to soothing babies after breastfeeding is well established.

Eat and drink well

As busy as it can be caring for a newborn, to increase a milk supply you must prioritise eating and drinking enough throughout the day, ensuring you optimise your own health and energy reserves. Keep snacks and a bottle of water close by to remind you to keep eating and stay hydrated. Be sure to drink whenever you’re thirsty.

Asking friends and family to provide nutritious and energy boosting foods to you regularly can be a great help and support in the early days and weeks.

Some women add “breastfeeding foods” to their diets specifically to boost their milk production including oatmeal, barley, brewer’s yeast, ginger, basil, banana, and pumpkins . This may vary depending on culture and traditions and personal preference.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to include foods like these in your diet, but you may not see significant changes in your supply.

colostrum harvesting - Northern Ireland, belfast

Everything you need to know about colostrum harvesting

colostrum harvesting

What is colostrum harvesting? Colostrum harvesting is hand expressing colostrum from the breast antenatally, to store for after the birth. It is advised that you do not start harvesting colostrum until you are 36 weeks’ pregnant.

Some of the many benefits include:

  • It will make you feel empowered and have an active role in the care of your newborn.
  • It teaches you how to hand express.
  • It makes you familiar and more confident with how breast feeding works.
  • If in the early days your baby requires supplements, the colostrum can be used instead of formula e.g. preventing the risk of low blood glucose levels in the newborn or slow weight gain.
  • Nipple stimulation/the act of expressing milk  can be a natural way of initiating labour because oxytocin is stimulated.

How to express colostrum

You can hand express milk from 36 weeks gestation* (DAME study, The Lancet).

*unless there are any contradictions e.g. certain medications. Always discuss with your midwife if you are on any medications to see if these are compatible with breastfeeding.
  1. Wash you hands.
  2. Gently massage your breast and nipple to stimulate the hormones needed to release colostrum.
  3. Position your thumb and index fingers in a C-shape, 2-3cms back from the base of your nipple.
  4. Gently press and release, and keep repeating until colostrum starts to flow.

Hand expressing 2-3 times daily is recommended and the amount of milk will vary from a few drops to a teaspoon. These small amounts are ideal for your baby as colostrum is high on calories and packed full of antibodies. You may find when you are harvesting your colostrum your uterus tightens and relaxes. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions.

Storing colostrum

  1. Breast milk can be kept in the same syringe. Syringes should be capped and kept at the back of the fridge at a maximum temperature of 4degrees.
  2. At the end of the day syringe(s) of colostrum should be sealed in a breast milk storage bag and frozen.
  3. Each syringe should be labelled with your name, date and time of expressing.
  4. Colostrum can be stored for 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or up to 6 months in a freezer at -18degrees .

Don’t forget to bring some frozen colostrum into the hospital when admitted for your baby’s birth. Let your midwife know you have it and they will arrange to have it stored correctly. They have to record the date and time it was removed from the freezer. Defrosted colostrum should be discarded or used within 24 hours. If your breast milk is frozen then the best way to transport it is in a coolbag with cool block.

own your birthing room - Northern Ireland, belfast

How to own your birthing room

own your birthing room

When you think of a birthing room do you see something in your mind’s eye from a TV programme like ‘One Born Every Minute’? A clinical, bright room, similar to an operating theatre. Would you feel relaxed in a place like this to birth your baby or feel secure and supported? If you are not relaxed during your birth, stress hormones can slow or even halt the birthing progress.

In this blog, we give you suggestions on how to create a peaceful, private place with a calm ambience for your birth. We have put together a few tips to quickly create a serene space within your birthing room where you can feel cocooned and comfortable. This is a great way to facilitate your natural birthing hormones to work positively with your body and your baby. Feeling relaxed and at ease will reduce adrenaline and allow oxytocinon to flow, making your birth experience more enjoyable.

Ensure privacy – set the boundaries
Once inside your labour room, close the door.  It is ok to ask anyone who needs to enter to knock first. Some Hypnobirthing families put a notice on the door to remind everyone that they are needing a quiet undisturbed space to focus on their birth.

Think of each of your senses and to each one apply a positive change to create the perfect environment for your birth. Within one minute, you and your birthing partner can change the atmosphere in your room to make it a positive birthing space.

Your sight
Bright lights can be startling and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system – the fight or flight response. This can hugely hinder the birthing process.  So, instead dim the lights. Most women prefer a dimly lit environment to birth in. Draw any curtains and pull down the blinds. Use battery operated led candles and strings of non flashing fairy lights dotted around the room. Individual tee lights can be placed in the bathroom and birth pool area too. This creates a relaxing vibe. Place a few photos from home that bring you comfort and make you feel at home. Perhaps a photo of another child or your pet can calm any anxiety and distract the senses. If there is anything bothering or distracting to you in the room make it known and ask if something can be done about it.

Your sense of smell
Make a small sniffing pot of appropriate essential oils to use during contractions or to leave open in your birthing room. An electric diffuser may not be permitted so ask for permission first . Always seek a qualified aromatherapist’s advice in advance to discuss which essential oils are safe for pregnancy and birth. The fragrance from the oils will invoke a calm, relaxing feeling in turn reducing adrenaline. The ‘fear-tension- pain cycle’ is reversed make you feel calm, confident and in control.

Sense of touch
What you choose to wear while birthing is important too! It has to feel comfortable on your skin. Try it on before you pack this item into your birthing bag. It should be soft and light allowing ease of movement and allow easy access for skin-to-skin or a breast feed after your baby is born.

Also, think of what would be comfortable to wear in a birthing pool. Some ladies like to wear a bikini top, others a tee shirt. If it is the latter a short light teeshirt is best as a long one can absorb water and become too heavy. Your own blanket, pillow or pregnancy pillow or other textiles from home may make your room feel much more personalised and much less clinical.

Ensure your birthing partner knows how to do pregnancy massage. Light touch massage releases endorphins- these are neurotransmitters known to relieve pain and stress. At our hypnobirthing session we teach birthing partners a variety of methods of massage to to use during various stages of labour.

It is important to keep hydrated throughout labour to ensure the body has energy to support the birthing process. Pack drinks that appeal to you and also snacks that serve the same purpose making sure that they are easily accessible to you. Often a cup of your favourite tea is very acceptable in the early stages. Don’t forget honey as a small teaspoonful in water can give you that added boost of energy required. A mouthwash/toothbrush and toothpaste will help you to feel refreshed.

Sense of hearing
The mind and body are so closely connected it is vital to reduce any negativity during your birth. Positive affirmations are one way of keeping positive during birthing. These should be short, simple phrases that replace any negative thoughts. They can be pre recorded on your phone/ iPad playing softly in the background or on headphones. They can also be written on cards and framed or post it type notes and placed around your birth room. These should be familiar phrases that have been practiced in the weeks leading up to the birth.

A well thought out play list of gentle rhythmic music is also really beneficial. It will have a soothing, uplifting affect and can provide distraction therefore reducing stress. Spending some quiet time listening to the music during your pregnancy enhances the relaxation effect. It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes in the birthing room, quiet is what you really want and need. Quiet is good too!

We thoroughly recommend our hypnobirthing sessions for education and information on all aspects of birthing. From correct breathing techniques to advice for your birthing partner who is then equipped with all the best tips and tools to be your advocate through birth. A birthing partner who journeys through the labour as an encourager, carer and advocate means the mum-to-be can relax and focus on bringing her baby earth side  knowing her birth wishes are fully understood and she is prepared and nourished ready for the most exciting journey of her life.