Monday, 27 June 2016

Breastfeeding in public

I feed my baby wherever I am comfortable. 

Part of the beauty of breastfeeding is that you have milk ready to go whenever and wherever baby is hungry, so I just feed my baby and I have never been challenged, asked to move or even really tutted at.

My 27th Birthday,
3 Week old Jacob! Fed him a couple of times in that Nandos
Mostly people don't know, don't notice or don't mind what you're doing, and at the end of the day what's more distracting: a tiny peek of boob, OR a baby crying inconsolably? The convenience of having milk ready is one of the reasons to breastfeed.

I make it a rule that if I would give a baby a bottle in that place, then I don't hesitate to breastfeed. Remember too that the more you feed your baby in public, the more that you make it acceptable to do so. We are laying down a foundation for future breastfeeders!

Occasionally I have had children ask questions, either to me or their parent. Although it's funny to watch their parent squirm at the social awkwardness, I also make sure to say something, little things like this show children that breastfeeding is a normal part of life.

A few tips:

Be confident- You are doing the best thing for your baby, so hold your head up high and be confident in feeding your baby. The more settled you are, the more settled baby will be when feeding. I have also found that being confident to stare right back at someone who's decided to stare at you soon makes them turn away. Ha!

Know your rights- I have never had to assert myself but it's good to have a little speech prepared in your head and to know your rights. Legally you can feed your baby anywhere so long as you have a right to be there. You do not need to be "Modest" or "discreet" according to the law. It is illegal to discriminate against or harass a breastfeeding mother.

Choose somewhere quiet- If you want to! You don't have to, but as babies get older, they get nosier and it gets harder to feed them when there's lots going on. Resulting in a hungry baby!

Have a muslin cloth handy- To catch any spills! or cover up if you feel you'd like to. I mentioned this in my post of useful purchases

Breastfeeding jewelry- I'm actually currently in the market for some of the specialised silicone chewy stuff, as I have a very distractable teething baby who likes to grip my hair/clothes/skin as he feeds! Using a regular beaded necklace is helping a little bit, but I want something he can actually chew on as well.

Use a feeding room if especially nervous- I think I tried this once in Marks and Spencers or Debenhams but then quickly decided that it was much more hassle than it was worth for me, but I can see how it might be useful if you want a lot of privacy. Lots of bigger department stores have them.

Anyone have any more tips? or any experiences of feeding in public to share?

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Saturday, 4 June 2016

Black and White Sensory Play

As baby's vision and visual processing start to develop they are attracted to bold and contrasting colours. Black and white are particularly good for babies to look at as they are very clearly different, and as such can hold babies' interest for quite a while.

Black and white patterns are good for babies to look at during tummy time and you can buy sets of flashcards with black and white patterns on, or could make your own fairly simply. The 'Amazing baby' series of books are also very good for this.

For a very simple, but effective, sensory play activity gather together some black and white objects from around the house and give them to your baby to explore.

How you set them up will depend on the age of your baby;
for very young babies you could make it a tummy time activity or hold the objects in front of them to look at.
Older babies could have the objects spread out on a rug to encourage them to roll over and start to move around.
Babies who can sit well may be given a basket filled with the items and given time to explore.

Jacob was about 4 months when I did this activity with him and he could roll over and move around a little, so I used his playmat to set up the activity. Firstly, I covered the playmat with a white coloured fleece blanket and put out some cushions. I then set up a variety of black and white objects.

Some of the objects were toys. In the photo, you can see 2 amazing baby books, a stripy cat, a panda, a polar bear, a pair of foot finders (rattle socks), a white skittle and a small football.

Other items were simply things I found around the house; a napkin, a placemat, some packaging material, a lace ribbon, a napkin ring, a pedicure toe separator (Unused!!) a pencil case and a net that a sling came in. Random!

The objects are simply for baby to look at and explore, practising using their senses. As long as you are with your baby to ensure that nothing breaks in their mouth they don't need to be specifically approved for use with baby.

Talk to your baby as they look at the items, and if necessary encourage them. Older babies, in particular, will take the lead, try and follow what they are doing, copying them and extending their play without leading.

Jacob exploring the black and white materials
For example, if baby starts to explore a piece of material with their hands, talk about how the material feels "ooh is that soft/warm/bumpy/silky/nice?" and help baby to touch the material with their face/ feet.

Help baby to grasp the objects and older babies may begin to squeeze, bash, manipulate materials in their hands too. This is great!

As long as it is safe for baby to do so, don't discourage them from putting objects in their mouths. Bringing the hand to mouth is an important part of learning coordination and there are lots of nerve endings in the gums, so baby is 'feeling' the objects this way.

Most importantly, keep it low-pressure and baby led. When your baby is done, or tired, or hungry, simply move the activity away. It is something you can go back to several times and then again a few months later, each time you will see baby practising new skills and processing information differently.

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Friday, 13 May 2016

Jacob's arrival

It was a uncharacteristically warm and sunny day in October. The sky was blue, the lawn was freshly mown and the air smelt of cut grass, sea salt and early autumn.

I woke up in the pale blue light of almost-dawn. At first I thought it was Lydia who had woken me, but no, she was still very much asleep next to me in bed. I felt a strange flutter in my tummy, a cramp? not quite...I must have fallen back to sleep because the next thing I knew Lydia was really waking me "Mumma! Mumma!" she was chanting, jumping up and down on the bed. My back was sore but I got up and went down stairs with Lydia. I made us both breakfast and as we were eating it  I began to feel  pressure in my lower back, I leant against the table, feeling a bit hot and clammy and not quite right.

I had Dan get Lydia dressed whilst I took a shower, thinking I had a bad back or some standard pregnancy back ache. I felt better after the shower but still uncomfortable and not quite myself.

We watched a little bit of TV and I complained to Dan that my back was still hurting, so went out onto the decking to sit on my Birth Ball. It was lovely outside in the sunshine and as I started to relax a bit more I began to feel some squeezing sensations in my tummy. The sunshine was warm enough that I felt like it was soaking into me, and loosening my muscles. After the squeezing sensations had gone on for a while, I was struggling to find a comfortable way to sit so Dan asked me if I could try and time these feelings to see if they were possibly contractions. I felt so calm that I didn't think I could possibly be in labour.

Ever-ready I  had a "contractions" app on my phone. So I timed them, the squeezing wasn't really painful at this point, just becoming more noticeable; I had had a lot of Braxton Hicks towards the end of pregnancy and at this point I wouldn't say that there was anything different about these. I was surprised to see that I was having "contractions" every 4 minutes or so, and they were lasting about 40 seconds. When I told Dan this he decided to stay home from work a bit longer and see how things progressed.

I sat back on my ball and gave my midwife, Rachel, a call just to let her know that I was having some contractions and that I'd be in contact with her later on. Rachel was great, she said thanks for calling and to call again if I wanted her to come out to the house. I mentioned that I was struggling to get comfortable and she suggested using the TENS machine or taking a bath if I felt it would help. I sat on the ball a bit longer, then at midday Lydia needed a nap so I took her up and put her to sleep.

At that point, my back was still feeling pretty sore and so I decided I would take a bath. The water was really soothing, I listened to some nice relaxing music on my tablet and lay back in the bath. I closed my eyes and visualised the ocean and the waves and I went through some of the things I'd imagined in hypnobirthing. The next thing I knew Dan was coming to check on me as I'd been in the bath for almost an hour. He asked if I was still having the surges of pressure, or squeezing sensations I'd described, which I was. He asked me to time them again, just to see where we were up to. This time I was having "contractions" that were lasting a minute and only having a minute break in between.

"I think we should call Rachel now" Dan said, and he did. I stayed in the bath for a little. Concentrating on listening to music and the surges of pressure in my tummy and back that were becoming stronger. I got out the bath, put on a dressing gown and then moved to our bedroom. Dan brought the birth ball upstairs and I spent some time leaning over it as I knelt on the floor. I was struggling to get comfortable and out of the water the pressure felt even more intense. Rachel arrived at about 2:30 and after a quick chat with Dan, who had been busy setting up the pool and filling it, she came up into our room to speak to me.

I remember saying that I was really uncomfortable, experiencing a great deal of pressure but expressing concern that I might not be in true labour. "You definitely are" Rachel said and took my pulse and blood pressure, and felt my bump to determine baby's position as well as checking baby's heart rate with the doppler. Everything was great. Having Rachel arrive was brilliant, from day one I had focussed on Rachel being the one to deliver the baby, so I felt very re-assured that the right person was there.

Lydia woke up at this point so Dan got her up and took her downstairs to play. I debated whether or not to have someone come and look after her or take her to Grandma's but at that point I was happy and coping well and thought it may be quite a long time before baby came so left her for the time being. Dan got her some toys out, opened the doors so she could go out into the garden and put on her favourite TV channel so she had plenty to do.

Rachel helped me to  put on a bikini top and to come downstairs, which was actually pretty hard work as baby was so low and it really seemed to intensify the pressure I was feeling each time I took a step down. In the dining room, Dan had done a really good job of setting up the pool and towels and plastic sheeting. I climbed in.

The relief was amazing, I instinctively adopted a half squatting position, leaning my head and chest on the side of the pool. The water felt really supportive, and helped me to feel more confident; I was in the pool, the baby was coming. So whilst Rachel phoned for another midwife Dan played with Lydia.

The curtains were closed but the sunlight glowed through. I remember thinking about what a lovely day it was. Every time I had visualised the birth it had been sunny, this was good. Surges of pressure were coming quickly now and I started to really have to concentrate on breathing through them. I saw that it was half 3. I didn't want to eat, but managed to drink some water and isotonic sports drink. Lydia wandered in and out "Mumma!" she said, laughing and pointing at the pool.

As the pressure I was feeling got greater, stronger, and longer I could hear Lydia playing outside in the garden. I began to get a little bit stressed and worried. Again, thinking that baby was quite a long way off I doubted my ability to cope without Dan's full attention and began suggesting that she was taken away, but it wasn't what I wanted.

I had discussed this with Rachel leading up to the birth, she assured me that Lydia was fine, that she wasn't in the way and that another midwife and student were on their way and that someone could sit with Lydia and keep an eye on her if I wanted her to stay. I asked for a bit of gas and air, and agreed that Lydia would stay.

I wouldn't say that the gas and air I took dulled the sensation of labour, which was good, but it helped me to really concentrate on each surge and on myself and the baby. At this point I was visualising the baby moving down, and had turned around to sit in a squat, supported by the side of the pool. People talk about "going into yourself" and I would say that this is what happened. The gas and air quietened my stressful thoughts down and I could just focus on what my body was doing, which I knew was exactly what it should be doing!

One surge was particularly intense, I breathed through it, imagining baby being pushed down more and suddenly there was an audible popping, which I also felt, and I felt a sense of relief from some of the pressure in my bump. My waters had broken.

"That's the waters gone" Rachel said, and confirmed that they were clear, which I could already see. Baby's heartbeat, my pulse and temperature were checked, all was well and I knew it was.

After a few more surges, a midwife who had recently qualified arrived. I spoke to her a bit, and then continued to concentrate on using the gas and air and breathing through the surges. Lydia was still pottering around in the lounge and the garden and Dan was spending time with her and me.

Another midwife, Naomi, arrived and spent some time looking after Lydia. Dan came into the dining room with me and I started feeling really intense surges and said I couldn't do it much longer, so I probably needed to go to hospital (!) one midwife smiled and said "you wouldn't even get to the hospital" I knew then that baby was close. I also started to feel the need to bear down at the height of each surge. I moved from one side of the pool to the other. Dan then had to go and change Lydia. Whilst he was gone the sensation of pressure and needing to push increased, and as soon as I heard Dan's footsteps on the stairs I relaxed enough to start to bear down as a relief from the intense pressure I was feeling.

 Dan held Lydia with him, and she took Rachel's badge to play with, just as she had done every time Rachel had visited me at home throughout pregnancy.

After a couple of pushes I could feel baby's head move right down. I said "I can feel baby's head" and Rachel confirmed "yes you can" I also felt a gentle stinging sensation and knew that baby was close to crowning. Rachel moved for a better view but didn't touch me or interfere. She reminded me "remember just little pushes". I couldn't believe that baby was so close, I was so excited. I'd waited nearly 9 months to meet this little one and I knew that very soon I would. We had kept the gender of our baby a surprise and I was eager to find out whether I had another daughter or a son.

When the next surge came I gently pushed, and reached down to feel baby's head, baby had hair! One more surge came and I felt baby crown, and the head was delivered. The relief was amazing. With the next surge I gave a big push to deliver the body, but he needed to be turned slightly. Rachel assisted and then I reached down and caught the baby, lifting baby straight up to my chest.
"BABY! YAY!" Lydia said and clapped her hands.
"A boy!" I said. I was thrilled. It was magic. I was the first to know. The moment was perfect.
I cuddled baby, and Dan and Lydia came to have a look. Rachel took some photos for us. He was born at 4:31pm. It was glorious, amazing, perfect.
"This is baby Jacob" I told Lydia. I loved him already.
He began to cry, his skin already pink. I cuddled him close. My boy! My sweet, sweet boy.

We kept Jacob's cord attached whilst it was pulsating, it continued to pulsate for 45 minutes, I stayed in the pool with him, and continued having surges. Staring at his sweet chubby cheeks, and chunky little thighs I could hardly believe he was here and that he was mine. I stroked his downy hair and stared into his dark blue eyes, I was euphoric and completely overwhelmed. I wasn't exhausted like I had been after Lydia's birth. In fact, my hormones were obviously going crazy as I felt full of energy. Once the cord was cut by Dan, just as we planned, I moved into the lounge and more or less immediately delivered the placenta. I even braved a look at it! It was actually pretty interesting to see what had nourished my baby as he grew inside of me.

 Jacob was cuddled close to me, skin to skin, very alert and looking around curiously. I offered him a feed, and he latched briefly. Bliss!  Dan held Jacob a while, and the midwives checked me over. I had no tears or even grazes, so didn't need anything else. We weighed Jacob, he was 9lb 6oz. I couldn't believe it! How had I carried such a big baby and delivered him so perfectly!? Obviously nature knows what it's doing. I cuddled him some more and started to feed him again, Rachel started to fill in the Birth report.

After I fed him, Dan got Jacob dressed and I went upstairs and took a nice warm shower and gave my hair a wash. It was lovely to be in my own surroundings and know where everything was. I came down in my pyjamas and everything had been cleared away! We took some photos and then the midwives left. At this point we called our family and let them know that Jacob Joseph Charles Sach had arrived.

We ordered pizza and ate it at the dining room table before all going to bed together. A good day's work!

I had visualised the perfect birth almost every day since I found out I was pregnant, and this was it. My gorgeous little boy born swiftly and smoothly at home completely without incident. He was met by his mum, dad and sister and the midwife I knew and liked and trusted. I had laboured and birthed unhindered and undisturbed, no unnecessary checks were made; no cervical checks ever took place. I wasn't injected with anything, nature just took it's course. I caught my baby and held him immediately, no fussing or weighing. My midwife was skillful in her hands-off approach. She knew all was well, she knew she was the safeguard and nature the instructor.

I was thrilled. He was perfect. His birth was perfect.

With massive love and thanks to all at One to One Midwives especially the beautiful, gentle, skillful Rachel Wilson.
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