Skin to skin it’s the answer to everything.
You may have already read about skin to skin and how many benefits it has for babies when they are first born. If you’re pregnant now read up on those benefits and think about if you want to add skin to skin to be kept in your birth plan whatever else happens.
But if you’re looking back on what happened when your baby was born and skin to skin didn’t happen as you hoped for whatever reason don’t despair it’s not too late. Equally, if you’re looking back thinking how lovely that skin to skin time was now is a great time to get back skin to skin with your baby.
If you had a birth that didn’t go to plan or if you and baby are struggling to get breastfeeding going well or if you’re finding it difficult to feel that overwhelming bonding and falling in instant love that you’ve been lead to expect will happen as soon as baby arrives skin to skin can help. Skin to skin can happen as much as you like, any time you’re in the house you can snuggle skin to skin under a blanket or pop baby skin to skin in a stretchy sling. Skin to skin raises oxytocin (the feel good loving hormone) levels so don’t worry you can not overdo it. Babies and mothers (and dads, siblings, grandmas etc) benefit in many ways by spending as much time as possible skin to skin.
One way of being skin to skin that many people find really positive is to have a bath with your baby. Sometimes this is called re-birthing but it’s nothing spiritual or just for hippies just an opportunity for mum and baby to get the skin to skin and cuddles they might have missed out on at birth or just to get some more. Here’s a quick how-to guide if you think you might benefit from this.
- Have someone help you, run a nice deep bath, get in and relax.
- Have your helper pass you your baby.
- Hold baby between your legs (in the warm water) as you sit in the bath make eye contact and talk to your baby about how long you’ve been waiting to meet them, how important they are, how beautiful they are and how much you’re going to love them.
- Then bring your baby up on to your tummy/chest so you are tummy to tummy just as you would have been had birth gone to your original plan. Relax like that as long as you and baby are happy.
- Have your helper put a towel over your baby to keep them warm if necessary and be prepared to hold your hand or stroke your arm if the tears start to fall. If the tears fall do not be surprised, let them come and let the emotions out. Make sure you’ve picked a helper who is prepared to be with you through the emotion and offer loving sympathy not try to cheer you up or fix the problem. The talk and the helping may come later but this is the time for just feeling and letting the feelings out.
- It’s quite likely that in this position tummy down, head between your boobs baby will start to root. As long as baby isn’t getting upset try to leave them to it to find the nipple and latch on themselves.
- Your helper can take your baby and then offer a support if needed for you to climb out of the bath when you’re ready.
Your birth or postnatal doula will be more than happy to be your support person or helper through this process. If you don’t have anyone who’s right for the job yet check the find a doula page.
Here’s a recipe for our Nourishing the New Mother series that can be made meaty veggie or vegan whatever your preferences. It’s great comfort food and really nourishing. Perfect for your doula to make for you or to make and freeze in small batches ready for when you need it.
Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Notes: apparently strictly speaking it’s only a shepherd’s pie if you use lamb mince, with other kinds of mince it’s a cottage pie. Original inspiration for this recipe from Alexandra – BBB doula.
Ingredients. Quantities for two people.
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 200g mushrooms
- 225g mince of your choice (lamb, beef, quorn, or substitute lentils or cannellini or pinto beans)
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 200ml stock of your choice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 200g sweet potatoes peeled and chopped into squares
- Peel and chop onion and carrot slice mushrooms. Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes, until soft and well done.
- Saute onion in olive oil in a large/deep frying pan or wok (if you like you can add some garlic too). When it starts to look transparent add carrot mushrooms and mince (you can change these for other vegetables if you prefer or have different veggies in the fridge). Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add stock, tomatoes and herbs, some people like to add a teaspoon of sugar too. Season to taste.
- Cook for about 20-30 minutes stirring regularly until the sauce has reduced. Place in casserole dish. Drain and mash sweet potato (sweet potato is so soft it usually doesn’t need any liquid to mash easily if you feel it does use a little of the sauce from the mince mix.) Top the mince with the sweet potato and a little grated cheese (or vegan cheese substitute) and when ready to eat pop in a medium oven until hot and bubbly around the edges.
Establishing and maintaining a good supply of milk is one of the top worries that many mums have about breastfeeding. Our society and the prevalence of formula advertising have made us think that this is a very common problem but it’s really quite unusual to not be able to make enough milk with the right supportive atmosphere. There are some people who have conditions which mean they don’t make any or enough milk and if that’s you this blog post may not be of much use to you but you might need support from a qualified breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC.
Your doula is more than happy to provide you with practical support and confidence in your normal breastfeeding journey and will be glad to refer you to expert support if you need some.
Should you even be worried about how much milk you’re making?
Probably not if your baby is putting on weight, producing wet and dirty nappies, not making you sore and feeding frequently.
Making sure you have enough milk and get enough milk into your baby is as easy (and as hard) as following your baby’s lead. Here are our top tips.
- Make sure your baby has a good latch and can easily transfer milk from your breast. Being well attached to the breast makes it easy for baby to get all the milk they need and the more milk they take the more milk you will make. The easiest way to help your baby get a great latch is to use a breastfeeding position that will encourage all your baby’s natural instincts. Laid back breastfeeding positions are perfect for this. If you find it difficult to get a comfortable latch even in this position please get in contact with a breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC there are sometimes physical reasons for that pain (such as tongue tie) that need extra support and care. If you want to focus on relaxing and feeding baby, don’t forget your postnatal doula is there to bring you water and snacks and hang out your washing while you do this very important job. Check out Nancy Mohrbacher on YouTube for some helpful videos on this.
- Get skin to skin. When babies are born they are ready and good to go with breastfeeding and the easiest start to that feeding journey and to having loads of milk is to hang out skin to skin as long as you can. If you miss out on this initial skin to skin don’t panic it’s never too late to get skin to skin with your baby and once is never enough. Hang out with your baby skin to skin anytime you like as much as possible for as long as possible. Not only is it great for your milk supply but it’s a great way for dads and babies to bond too.
- Feed feed feed. In the first few days, every moment your baby spends suckling is a moment that’s switching on more of the milk-producing cells in your breast. And in those first few weeks, there are many growths spurts where you baby (who will always feed frequently) will seem to feed constantly. That constant feeding suddenly happening again often makes women worry they haven’t got enough milk but it’s actually nature’s way of putting in the order for more milk in the next couple of days. Even if you think baby can’t possibly be hungry again allowing them to keep swapping sides and feeding more will allow them to build up your supply, never forget you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.
- Look after yourself. Making all the food another human needs to survive and double their weight in six months is hard physical work. Make sure that you keep hydrated and well nourished and find ways to fit in any extra sleep you can get. Even malnourished women can make enough milk for their baby but a mother’s body will prioritise milk over its own well being and keeping your head in the game without feeling completely run down and overwhelmed is important too.
- If you plan to mix feed in the long term manage it carefully. Mix feeding is prefered by some women for many different reasons. It can be done and it can suit some families really well. But making sure that breastfeeding and especially your milk supply is established first is important too. Maximising your baby’s time at the breast in the first six weeks will mean your supply is well established and much more flexible after this time. If you do any bottle feeding before six weeks try to use your own expressed milk if possible and if you find baby is still hungry after a bottle feed offer a top-up from the breast, not the bottle. Also, remember the purpose baby is increasing feeds during growth spurts and add in extra breastfeeds not extra bottles.
What about galactagogues and lactation cookies?
You might like lactation cookies, lots of them are really yummy and there’s no harm in munching them if you do. But ultimately you don’t need them to make plenty of milk for your baby. Some women find them helpful especially during growth spurts and your doula will be happy to make you some but eating them is no magic pill and will only help if you’re also frequently feeding your well-latched baby. Sometimes complex feeding issues may be helped by the use of galactagogues but if you’re in that situation you need the expert help of a breastfeeding counsellor or IBCLC who will help you find the right solution for you.
Macaroni and Cheese is such a simple staple we often forget how yummy and comforting it is. This is another great recipe for making in advance and freezing in portion size pieces for when you need something filling to pop in the microwave and enjoy. It’s also something your postnatal doula could easily make for you while you enjoy a rest and a chat or go and have a bath.
- Broccoli, Cauliflower, or your prefered vegetable
- Cheese Sauce
- Bread Crumbs mixed with grated cheese
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet and cook the vegetables al-dente (mostly cooked but still a little crunchy). Drain and mix with the cheese sauce in a rectangular caserole dish. Top with bread crumbs and cheese and grill top to brown.
Making a cheese sauce is much easier than some people think. Basic cheese sauce is just made by melting a tablespoon of flour in a pan over a low heat, adding a tablespoon of plain four and mixing then gradually adding milk a splash at a time and mixing till smooth with a plastic whisk each time until you have a smooth sauce of a consistency you like (probably between half a pint and one pint of milk total). Add grated cheddar cheese to your taste (about 100-200g) and mix it in until it’s all melted.
These yummy chocolate bites are perfect for nibbling in labour or when you’ve got a new baby and need some quick energy now. They’ve also got dates in them which have been shown to be potentially very helpful to pregnant women. Find out more about that from the Evidenced-based birth website.
The only problem my taste team discovered was they were all gone too soon.
There are loads of ways to make easy energy bites so watch out for more soon on the blog.
When your postnatal doula arrives at your door there are a few things she might have with her. One might be cake another is a sling to help her as she cares for you and your baby. So what’s so great about slings?
- Lots of babies sleep really well in a sling. Babies come into the world with expectations based on their experience to date which is of being in a lovely snuggly womb. Being in a sling, especially on the move. Is very soothing and cosy and can help babies to sleep. One of the most popular jobs postnatal doulas do is allow mums to get some time (often to sleep) to themselves which they can be easily relaxed enough to do when the baby is sleeping snug in the sling with their doula. This is also a brilliant advantage for dads and partners and grandmas and uncles. Slings help everyone help baby sleep.
- Babies who are colicy or refluxy are often more comfortable upright and well supported in a sling. Doulas often find themselves supporting families when baby is struggling with feeding or with being comfortable after a feed. Babies who cry a lot can be really draining to care for and doulas can do a great job of taking some of the stress away by caring for the family and helping them to care for themselves. Being able to calm a baby is an important skill for doulas and using a sling is a great tip we often pass on to families as an added tool for their toolbox
- Slings leave your hands free to do housework. While housework isn’t the main reason your doula is there she’s more than happy to do a few chores that help you feel relaxed in your home and allow you to focus on resting and recovering from birth and sleepless nights. Using a sling allows your doula (and you if you give it a try) to load the dishwasher, fold the laundry or make you a sandwich with two hands.
- Slings also leave hands free for caring for mum and older children. Your doula can keep on looking after you (give you a foot massage for example) or entertain your older children (make a wooden railway over the playroom floor for example) while you look after yourself. Using a sling will allow you to keep on doing things for yourself, go for a country walk, get a manicure, have coffee with a friend and look after your older children, take them to the park and push them on the swings or stay home and read a book.
- Last but very much not least, sling cuddles are some of the best kind. Doulas are not shy to admit we love a cuddle, we’re great at giving them and we’re oxytocin junkies so we rarely turn one down. Some people (who are wrong) will tell you that cuddling your baby all the time will make a rod for your own back. The evidence of the many happy healthy independent children who were carried in slings shows that’s simply not true. All the cuddles are great for mums and dads and babies too.
If you’re thinking “this sounds great I want in” talk to your doula she can help you get going with a sling. Or find a local babywearing consultant to help you find the best sling for you. Click through and read our quick guide to the different types.
Then get in touch with your local sling consultant.
Here’s the second post in our new category: Nourishing the new mum.
This is just one example of a yummy nourishing soup great for making ahead and brilliantly easy to eat when you’re recovering from birth and learning how to survive on a broken night’s sleep. If you’re looking for the meaty version click here.
This is just an example, use things you like from your cupboard. Make it high in protein and high in vitamins and minerals. Enjoying eating it is the most important criteria.
-2 tablespoons coconut oil
-2 sweet potatoes
-2 teaspoons vegan stock powder
-2 teaspoons turmeric
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon cumin
-2-3 pints water
-1 teaspoon molasses
-2 teaspoons almond butter
-1 teaspoon super green powder
-1 teaspoon yeast flakes
-salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel and chop onion saute in a large saucepan with coconut oil.
2. Peel and chop the carrot and sweet potatoes. Add to pan with stock powder and the spices. Add water and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for 1/2 hour to 1 hour until all the vegetables are soft.
3. Blend to a smooth soup.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients and warm through before serving.
Today we’re starting a new Blog Series which we’re going to come back to regularly.
Nourishing the New Mum
This new category for our blog is a chance to share some of our favourite recipes with you. When we work as postnatal doulas we’re all about looking after new families and especially new mums. One of the most important ways you can look after yourself and we can look after you is with good nourishing food that will help your body recover from the birth and give you energy as you get used to your new role as a mother.
So our first two recipes are nourishing soup and broth recipes. These are really good for giving you healing and energy and great for making ahead and keeping in the freezer ready for when you’ve not got as much time for cooking. This is the meat version click here to skip to a vegan version if you don’t eat meat.
Bone Broth Basic Recipe
-The leftover bones from your Sunday roast
-2 Carrots Peeled and chopped
-2 Sticks celery
-Fresh herbs of your choice
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1.5 litres water
1. Place everything in a large saucepan.
2. Simmer for 2-3 hours on low.
3. Strain. Discard bones and vegetables and use broth either as a drink or as a base to make other soups or stews.
Benefits of doula support. Satisfied with labour and birth experience.
The best kind of evidence for doula support are all the families who feel good about the support they were given by their doula and who value and recommend doulas.
But in a society where a very high value is put on being able to show in scientific research that there are measurable benefits to things. And being people who like to be able to see the research on the measurable benefits of any interventions before deciding whether or not it is one we want to choose for ourselves. We think it’s really great that whenever the Cochrane Library reviews the evidence on continuous support through labour and birth the conclusion is that the kind of support we provide results in many potential benefits for the mother and baby.
The most recent review which came out earlier this month concluded:
“Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low- five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences. We found no evidence of harms of continuous labour support.”
There are more details if you want to read them in the full report via the link. The Cochrane Library is a great place to go and read up on anything related to pregnancy labour and birth especially because they provide a plain English version of their conclusions of their research reviews which is really helpful for those of us with no medical degree but who want to have all the information before making decisions.