colostrum harvesting

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.

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.

own your birthing room

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.

Ambience
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.

Taste
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.

What is Hypnobirthing?

what is hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal training programme. Some people are put off by the word ‘hypno’ thinking it involves stage hypnosis or associate it with the ‘hippie’ life. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is commonly known as the ‘Fear-Tension-Pain cycle’ plays a huge part in a woman’s mind and body when they think about labour and during birthing . This theory describes how a rush of adrenaline ( natural response to a fight or flight situation) if it is experienced during birthing  will suppress oxytocinon and hence delay the birth. Adrenaline will not just suppress the birth hormone but it will also cause pain as the uterus becomes tense as a result of reduced blood supply.  This negative cycle  must be understood by parents to enable clarity on the importance of a calm environment, the release of endorphins and a positive mental approach to facilitate a relaxed birth. In essence hypnobirthing teaches and empowers the birthing mother and her birthing partner to work together to reverse the affects of stress, to let the birthing hormones do their job!

Hypnobirthing works by not only reducing the fear and worries of the birthing process but also giving mothers and their partners  an understanding of how their birthing body works. During our hypnobirthing sessions, we give the best tips, tools and golden nuggets to use at birth in order to positively enhance the experience. The main objective in hypnobirthing is to be in control, to feel calm and confident, no matter what turn the birth takes.

How does it work?

The techniques used are gentle yet effective.

Hypnobirthing sessions begin by learning correct breathing techniques – diaphragmatic breathing;  this allows the body to lower stress levels by reducing adrenaline and increasing the feel good hormones, ‘endorphins’.

Also, relaxation techniques and antenatal education empowers a woman and her partner to birth fully in control, without anxiety, no matter what turn the birth takes.  It encourages a woman and her partner to remain positive throughout the birth and to work with the body and mind to gain control over her labour. It promotes birth as a natural bodily function. Hypnobirthing also uses visualisation, massage and the use of anchors such as positive affirmations. These all help to redirect the birthing mother’s thoughts, to detach her from her focus on any pain.They help by putting her focus on automatic pilot, this is a natural state of mind and occurs regularity in your day eg it is the same as when you are driving the same route home, you arrive and don’t remember passing the signs. The mind was on automatic pilot . It is a state of consciousness requiring focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness of the outside world.

This is hypnobirthing! Breathing correctly, deep relaxation, massage, positive affirmations, an informed, in-tune   birthing partner and a quiet, calm environment.

Everything taught through our hypnobirthjng  sessions makes sense – it has a good mix of science, experience and wisdom. Using hypnobirthing techniques during birth makes a real difference to a woman’s experience.

prepare for birth

How To Best Prepare For Birth

prepare for birth

Are you a little anxious or nervous about giving birth? Feeling prepared and having the right information can have a positive impact on your confidence during your labour and birth. A positive birth story is an incredible and empowering experience. Here are some of our top tips to prepare your body, and your mind for birth.

Keep moving…

  • During your pregnancy keep active! Movement improves your wellbeing and supports flexibility. Walking helps to tone and keep muscles supple in pregnancy. Listen to your body carefully. Adjust the time and pace to suit your needs. The pelvis opens better during birthing when it has been kept mobile and balanced.
  • Using gravity is beneficial – walking helps your baby’s head to settle in the head down position in your pelvis in the final weeks of your pregnancy.
  • Avoid carrying a toddler on one hip as this will cause an imbalance in your pelvis..it is best to carry the toddler at the front or on your back to balance the weight.
  • During pregnancy your body releases the hormone relaxin which makes your pelvis more flexible, ready for giving birth, but also means that any extra pressure on joints may lead to lower back pain or injury.
  • Wear comfy flat shoes rather than high heels or keep them for special occasions as high heels can change your posture-they change your centre of gravity putting extra strain on your back and joints.
  • Don’t sit too long in one position and avoid reclining on sofas. Getting up and moving around every 30mins or so is a good idea.
  • See an expert/physiotherapist if you have any history of pelvic injury or discomfort.
  • Wear the correctly fitted maternity bra and get expert advice re size. A good fitting bra ensures support and allows ease of movement.

Invest in a Birthing Ball

Benefits of using a birthing ball in pregnancy:

  • It distributes your weight more evenly relieving spinal pressure and may ease backache, while keeping your hips and pelvis flexible during pregnancy.
  • It will help you resist the urge to slump e.g. in a sofa or armchair therefore promoting good posture.
    Sitting upright on a birthing ball is like a mini workout as your abdomen and back muscles have to work hard to keep you upright. Ensure that your feet stay flat on the floor while you are sitting on the ball.
  • In the latter stages of pregnancy leaning forward over your ball may help with optimum fetal positioning i.e. ensuring the baby is lying in an anterior position ready for birth. It is a good idea to ask your Midwife about the position of your baby around your 34 week appointment.
  • Do not bounce on the ball forcefully instead use gentle movements.
  • In labour you may instinctively rotate your pelvis while having contractions and your birthing ball will give you good support for this.
  • Birth partners can easily access your back for light touch massaging or lower back massage during your pregnancy or while birthing.
  • During the birth you may like to lean over the ball on a hands and knees position.
  • This may reduce pelvic pressure and allow lots of room for the baby’s head to descend and birth.

Using the correct size of birthing ball is vital:

If your height is 4’8″-5’3″ a 55cms ball is appropriate 5’4″-5’10” a 65cms ball is right

5’11’-6’4″ a 75 cms ball is the correct size
*remember sometimes for Mums with longer legs a larger ball may be appropriate to ensure your knees remain at a lower level to your hips when sitting on the ball.

*Your birthing ball also must be properly inflated.

Mind your mental health…

‘Self-care during pregnancy is the first gift that a mother can give to her child.’

Taking time to look after your mental health throughout your pregnancy is vital.

Factor in some time daily to ‘Be Still,’ to process your thoughts and emotions during this amazing but often daunting journey to motherhood. Physical changes, alongside fatigue and perhaps sickness can make you feel overwhelmed without the added pressures of modern day living and social media pressure. This is the perfect time to connect to your developing baby -to talk to them. Becoming a Mother also means a change of role, which some may find challenging. It may also be a trigger for Mums-to-be on their life experiences and there is help for those who have anxieties whether it is about the birth or other concerns. You can self-refer to a midwife or see your GP for support. There is a new perinatal mental health community service recently funded here in Northern Ireland, find out what services are available where you live.

  • It is time to plan ahead-think now of building your support system-surrounding yourself with positive friendships and family.
  • Ensure your partner is included and involved throughout your pregnancy, and is aware of their role at the birth.
  • Be kind to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.

‘Remember there is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be good one!’

Joyce and Annie, Midwives at BirthDays want to nurture and support you throughout your journey to parenthood to make it a positive memory that you can treasure forever.

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