Tips On Birth, Feeding & Recovery
The beauty of birth. “It is one of life’s great dramas. Whether we are the mother or the father, a son or a daughter, or simply a comforting hand to squeeze, birth transforms everyone involved. Joy and pain, chaos and calm – a single tale contains all and more. And yet, no two stories are alike.”
I love this. It holds so much truth. Only a couple of weeks to go until I will experience it again and 22 months since I experienced it the first time. Since our first little miracle happened. A miracle that happens over and over again, every single day – where we exchange nothing for the possibility of everything.
This post is aimed at sharing my tips on birth, feeding, and recovery. Be conscious that you'll read heaps of things telling you what to do, and people like myself giving you all sorts of advice, so just filter it all and go with what feels right to YOU.
Stay positive, stay happy, drink some raspberry tea (because it tastes yummy and why not, right?), have the odd glass of red wine with dinner, burn some lavender oil, take lots of long, warm (not hot) baths, go for long walks, eat healthy, get lots of rest, write about how you are feeling and soak up that amazing feeling of joy and anticipation that is very special and unique to those weeks prior to welcoming your new baby.
I was excited to experience birth with my first child. I was curious and luckily did not fear it. Apprehensive at times of course but mostly excited to be given the opportunity to feel so empowered as a woman to bring our child into this world. Although I was open to the twists and turns that arise with birth, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I was able to birth naturally. We did the Hypnobirthing course prior to birth and I really enjoyed it. It gave me a wide toolset of visualization and relaxation techniques, which definitely came in handy at times. It explained the biological process of birth and it motivated me and made me feel strong. Regardless of these ‘preparations’, our birth desires did not go to plan unfortunately. Long story short, we quite literally went from desiring a drug-free natural birth to having a birth that incorporated nearly every intervention under the sun, and resulted in an emergency c-section after 30 hours of labour. In retrospect, however, I certainly believe that for me, for us, we had the right attitude and wouldn’t have changed my state of mind, nor any of my intentions, if I were to do it again. And BAM, we are doing it again and we are trying for a VBAC and although I may not be as ‘excited’ or ‘curious’ as the first time around, I am motivated to give it my all once more, whilst having an open mind to whatever may come our way.
Along those lines, here is some advice from a dear friend of mine: “If you're going to give the 'no drugs' thing a go then I absolutely recommend that you read the birth book that got me up and going. It really helped me go from certifiably terrified (and wanting a c-section and/or epidural on admission) to being pumped to push out a baby. The book is Birth Skills by Juju Sundin with Sarah Murdoch. The book's awesome. Everything in there is a tangible, practical tool you can use. I borrowed it from my local library. The other thing I like about her is that she doesn't say that one thing is good and another bad - the goal is a healthy baby and however you get there is fine. I'd also recommend reading what you can about Calm/Hypnobirthing techniques. Recommend checking them out for some breathing/visualisation techniques. Juju's stuff comes into its own during the more full on 'active' phase of labour if the quiet breathing stuff isn't enough and you need MORE. And you just never know what's going to work for you, so I'm of the mindset that you stock your toolbox with everything and see what you need on the day. And make sure you read up on posterior labour techniques. It's really, really intense (from what I've heard) but there are techniques you can use to help turn the baby and ease the intense back pain. Juju has a good chapter on it.”
Tips: Don't underestimate the power of stress balls! If you can make use of a bath during labour, do it and get on all fours. It is wonderful to have a labour playlist full of zen, meditation-like songs, but consider creating a second playlist that is more upbeat and happy, as you can do with any shred of encouragement there is. Getting a doula may just be the best decision you’ve ever made, and I cannot say that enough. Prenatal yoga is fantastic for giving you some inspiration on different positions whilst in labour. Stay strong mama and don't forget to breathe!
For most mamas, feeding is really hard at the start. You need to learn how to hold your baby so that it gets the best possible latch and therefore doesn’t destroy your nipple. Apparently Noah had an excellent latch and yet both my nipples got solid cracks in them for a period of up to 6 weeks. Its insanely painful when you breastfeed but you can almost guarantee that they will heal after those 6 weeks (that’s the magic number apparently) so you know you can get through it. I bought these nipple covers from Medela (allows your nipples to breath and have air whilst you are wearing a shirt), which helped me a lot. Oh and wonderful Lansinoh nipple cream of course. Don’t be shy with that cream.
I loved using a nursing pillow. It is just one of those products which make your life so much easier and more comfortable at the start. Any help you can get, I say bring it on. I bought the Ergo Baby nursing pillow this time around as I’ve read good reviews.
You're going to get INTENSELY THIRSTY when you're feeding. One of my vices is that I don’t drink enough, ever, and the amount I drank in those first weeks with Noah, goodness me. Make sure you get yourself a nice big water bottle!
Nursing tops with an inbuilt bra and clip down straps for feeding are awesome. Buy them to fit now - your boobs get massive when the milk comes in on day 2 or 3 but then settle back down. The tops are awesome - you don't have to show your belly when you yank your top up, and they're good when the weather is cold too as they keep your back covered. I got some at H&M. Comfortable and affordable.
If you have a contact for a great lactation consultant, consider booking a session before baby actually comes. As well as answering every question you may have, they show you different techniques - it's a learned skill after all, for both you and the baby, so to have some idea can be gold. Because in most cases, the hospital midwives just put the baby on you and just expect it all to happen. They check on you and stuff, but at 2am on day 1 you're not all there and you don't have a cheer squad on hand making sure it's all good, so its super handy to have some general idea of how/what it should look and feel like.
As crazy as it sounds, I turned my placenta into pills after birth. It is meant to help with a few different things such as postnatal depression and milk production. I obviously only have the one experience but for me the newborn phase was pretty amazing. I felt energised, happy, had HEAPS of milk and was truly relaxed and comfortable as a brand new mama. I’m not saying that eating your placenta in the form of pills will make you feel that way, but the way I look at it – there is no harm in doing so. So I’m happily doing it again for round two.
I’m not sure if this exist in other parts of the world but in South Africa (where I gave birth to Noah), new mamas swear by this liquid concoction. They call it Jungle Juice. It tastes amazing and is supposed to help with milk production and energy boosts when you feel like you need it. Not to be drunk on a daily basis as its effect may not be as effective that way, but drinking it every second or third day is supposed to be super helpful. I loved it so here is the recipe:
- 1 Litre of water
- 1 Litre of apple juice or any other juice, but not acidic juice
- 1 Sachet of Rehydrate (orange or blackcurrant)
- 60 mls of Schlehen Berry Elexir
- 8-10 Drops of Rescue Remedy
- You will need a 2 Litre container. This amount should be used in 24hours
Belly Bandits (or a similar brand) are fantastic for recovery. I put it on pretty much straight away after birth. It felt so good to have it on. Really holds everything 'in' and makes you feel secure. Even helps with your back and posture. The muscles you normally use take a holiday when you're pregnant so it helped me remember to turn them back on. I wore it pretty much non-stop for 2 weeks following and definitely feel like it helped flatten my tummy sooner. There are a few different versions. You just want one with a good amount of adjustable velcro.
This time around I’m also going to try the compression tights from Belly Bandit. If nothing else, they will make you feel compact and who doesn’t like a pair of extra high leggings!?
Since I had to have a c-section with Noah, I never experience the aftermath of a natural birth but here is some personal advice I got from a dear friend: “This could be a bit personal and eek you out, but I was so glad someone told me about this. For recovery after delivery I was advised to keep a Pump water bottle by the loo to help dilute my wee. Even if you don't get stitches or tears, you do get some grazes and they can sting a bit when you wee. I also took Ural to help alkalise my wee which also helped. And whether you push the baby out or get the sunroof, you don't want to be constipated, so I strongly recommend the old Nulax. It's gentle and tastes fine but just helps to keep things moving along (don't want to feel like you're pushing out baby #2). That, combined with good old psyllium husk and chia seeds (and litres of water) and you should be good as gold.”
“The other thing was to use a (cold) hair dryer on your bits to keep the area nice and dry. It speeds up the healing. My sister in law who's had 3 kids told me that one - I nearly died at the time but again, was a handy hint to have on mental file.”
Again, I didn’t use these since I had a c-section but I dampened and froze maternity pads to use as an ice pack down there and mamas swear by it. Together with some Panadol Forte and Voltaren (for the swelling) and you’ll feel awesome in no time. And although it may seem like a no-brainer, the fact that you bleed a LOT in those first few days, isn’t always explained to every expectant mama. I liked having a breastfeeding friendly nighty (rather than PJs) that I could just yank up and sit on the bed cover in my disposable nickers. No one visiting you knows the difference and it means no leaks onto otherwise lovely PJs. By the time I went home (day 4) I was ready for PJ bottoms and my granny Target undies (get a 4 pack in an extra large size). Any extra high cut underwear, pants or leggings are absolutely golden for weeks after birth.
Be gentle on yourself. You're going to be excellent! It's totally wild and really awesome. Random bouts of extreme crying is totally normal. Tell your hubby that nothing can be solved by logic, but he just needs to give you a BIG hug, tell you that you're doing an AWESOME job. If all else fails, go take the baby for a walk outside. I loved doing that. When Noah was only a couple weeks old, a mama of three came to me and said ‘don’t worry, it only gets easier’. I thought I was having a pretty good run with my little newborn so I didn’t really understand what she meant but in retrospect, she is so right! The first 6 weeks will probably be hard (even when they do not always feel hard at the time) and then it gets progressively better until you hit 12weeks. At some point you'll turn a corner and be feeling like a million bucks and thinking this whole mothering thing is sort of easy. So just take each day as it comes, no expectations on yourself or the baby, and you'll be fine.
This article was recommended to me before Noah’s birth and it is great at putting things into perspective:
What I took away from it: You can't spoil a newborn baby. They don't know what life is yet and crying is how they talk to you - so cuddle him/her as much as you want/need to and don't listen to anyone who says otherwise! Just do what you need to and ignore everyone else. It's such a small window. Enjoy it.
Everyone packs multiple outfits for baby in their hospital bag. And of course you can’t forget that ‘super cute’ going home outfit that will make Instagram light up. Although I’ll probably do the same the second time around (pack cute outfits and a few of them because we really cannot help ourselves as mothers to be), the reality in most hospitals is that you don’t actually dress your newborn until you are ready to leave the hospital. Our little Noah just wore a diaper and was wrapped/swaddled in blankets for the 3-4 days at hospital. And once you are ready to go home, the last thing you think about is making your baby look cute through some outfit. I just dressed Noah in the clothes that were the easiest to dress him in and the rest didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to make it home safely without my precious baby crying. Tip: Whatever you do dress your sweet child in, make your life easier through not having to pull any clothes over his/her head. The kimono style onesies with buttons are awesome.
We hardly bathed Noah in the first few weeks. He never quite enjoyed it at the start and since he certainly wasn’t dirty, we made our life and that of Noah’s a lot more comfortable by giving him a bath only every 3-4 days (maybe only one bath in the first week!).
We swaddled Noah in the first month but since he did not respond well to being swaddled tightly in a muslin or even stretchy wrap, we stuck to only swaddling him at night in one of the Love To Dream sleep suits. Almost like a little wing suit, where he was able to have his hands up by his head, move and wriggle but still not be able to scratch or hit himself. He certainly responded well to that and I have a few in stock already for our second little babe for the first 3 months, after which we will transition her into sleep sack suits (where the arms are free). If your baby does respond well to the normal swaddling technique, my advice would be to get wraps no smaller than a 1m x 1m and stretchy. Sounds counter intuitive but the stretch lets them move a bit but still holds them in, and they outgrow the smaller wraps really fast. Another good brand is Ergo Cocoons, for swaddle and sleep suits.
For night time, I'll dress baby in a singlet, long arm/leg onesie, then the Love To Dream suit, and a blanket over the top. The rule of thumb for dressing a baby is always one more layer than what you're wearing and never cover their head when sleeping. Their feet are often cold because of circulation but don’t worry, that’s very normal.
This may not be for everyone but I went to see a cranio-osteopath for myself and Noah after birth (I also went once before birth). It ironed out some kinks we both had and made sure all his mechanics were working properly. I swear by it and will try to find a good cranio-osteopath here in Berlin as well. Some people swear by chiro's but each to their own.
Ok, that’s it I think. Lots of love and strength to all of you expectant mamas out there. It’s a wild ride, there is nothing like it and you will absolutely love and rock it.