What does the uterus actualy *do* during labour?

I’ll start by reminding you that I’m not medically qualified, nor a biologist, but I’m hoping my laymans terms (and super simple sketches…) will make this clear for anyone who reads it to understand what is happening with the uterus and cervix, during labour. It can be a complete revelation to many women, and really help reframe your expectations and interpretation of the sensations during labour when you understand what your body is actually doing during your surges (or contractions as you may know them – but doesn’t surge, or wave, sound like a much more manageable sensation, knowing it will build and then fade?).
I’m still shocked that this stuff isn’t taught at school – to me it is far more essential for young women to leave understanding how their body functions, than understanding the formation of oxbow lakes or long division (both perfectly sensible things to learn, but relevant to a far smaller percentage of adult women, than how their reproductive organs *actually* work imo!). I was really surprised at how little I knew when I was expecting my first baby and started my own hypnobirthing course, and I know I’m not alone!
So the uterus at the end of pregnancy had grown from around the size of a pear, to the size of a watermelon to accommodate your growing baby. It is made up of two layers of involuntary muscles, which means we have no conscious control over them, yet they work beautifully when you allow them to do their thing (just like your heart for example). Like many muscles in your body, the uterine muscles work as a pair (like your bicep and your tricep working together to bend or straighten your arm), there is an inner layer of horizontal muscles, and an outer layer of vertical muscles.
The inner layer is made up of circular bands of muscle, which are thickest, strongest, and closest together at the neck of the womb (or the cervix) and the bottom of the uterus. During pregnancy they help hold the uterus closed to keep baby safely inside. During labour, to facilitate baby passing through the birth canal, they must be drawn back and up out of the way.
Yes yes I know – drawing is not my main life skill, just bear with me!
The outer layer comprises of stronger, vertical muscles which are thickest and strongest at the top of the uterus. These draw up the circular inner layer during labour.
When a woman is relaxed during labour, her body is able to let these muscles work in harmony; the vertical muscles draw up, and the horizonal muscles relax, open and move up.
Now that you can see how the muscles move, its easy to understand why we feel a tightness or a lifting sensation during a surge – there is clever and powerful work going on inside. So what happens as these muscles move in this way – how does this help move baby down?
Like me, you might be surprised to learn that that its less about hitting the magic ’10cm’ and more about your body moving these muscles from their starting place to their end position. Here is my (questionable!) interpretation of a uterus at the end of pregnancy – there is no way I was trying to draw a baby in there too so please go ahead and use your imagination!
Notice the distribution of the muscles around the uterus, as labour progresses this distribution changes…
As the muscles draw back they create a thicker band of muscle at the fundus, the top of the uterus. The layer around the neck of the womb has thinned and opened and the cervix has been able to dilate leaving the entrance to the birth canal free. This is what we all hear of as 10cm dilated – it’s not actually always 10cm, I mean we all come in different shapes and sizes so why would our cervix be a size fits all job?! But it does mean that there is no cervix left blocking the way for baby to move down. Now back to that thicker layer at the top. It is this fundus which will work to push baby down and out, when birth is undisturbed this layer of muscle works like a piston to do that. It is called the foetal ejection reflex.
So now you know this, how can you use the info to your advantage? Perhaps you can incorporate it into your visualisations during surges – knowing that your body is moving just as it is supposed to. You can use your breathing techniques and other calming tools with confidence knowing you are completely safe. This will keep your body in a state of calm relaxation, allowing oxytocin and endorphins to flow and these muscles to work harmoniously to birth your baby in the most easy way for you.
If you are yet to do an antenatal course – check out our offerings. With something for every situation and budget your sure to come away feeling totally prepared and excited to welcome your babe into the world!
I have limited availability which has come up for September for private courses – get in touch to discuss dates or read more here.
Steph x

7 Things to Love About Homebirth

There is SO much I love about homebirth, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to seven things to share with you today, they aren’t in any real order and I’d love to hear your experiences too. Here goes:

7. Giving birth at home is as safe, or safer, than giving birth at a midwife led unit or on an obstetric unit, for low risk second (or more) time mums*. This is a biggie – I mean everyone want’s theirs and their baby’s safety to be paramount after all! I’ve heard more people than I can remember say they were surprised to realise that it is so safe to birth at home. Hospital birth has been our society’s norm for so long now that I can see why it feels ‘out there’ or unsafe to go against the grain, but you can reduce your risk of intervention including unplanned c-section, instrumental delivery or episiotomy by planning to give birth at home. I believe a lot of this power comes from the fact that most women who plan to give birth at home do so after learning about their options and understanding more about birth…so even if you ended up giving birth somewhere other than home you’re still likely to have a better experience from your planning and exploration.

*First time mums and babies are statistically more likely to be affected by negative outcomes, however many still feel it is better/safer for them to birth at home in their individual circumstance’s as they feel labour will be more comfortable and flow more easily there requiring less support or intervention – every woman who wishes to birth at home should be supported to do so.

6. There is no need to think about when the perfect time is, to make the move from home to your chosen place of birth. It’s a delicate balance – head in too early and you risk interrupting the beautiful hormonal balance which is driving your labour, which can slow the experience down, there’s a chance if you go in ‘too soon’ that you’ll be asked to go home and return later which is a less than ideal situation for most labouring mothers. Head in too late and there’s a chance that you won’t have time to get comfortable in your birthing environment, or even that you deliver your baby on the way in – doesn’t happen often, but there is always a chance! When you have chosen to birth at home you can feel secure in your birthing space from as early on as you’d like, and if your midwives feel you’re not quite in need of their assistance yet, you get to stay put and they will return later.

5. You are guaranteed that whatever birth space or equipment you want to use, is available to you. If you have created a beautiul birth environment, hired a pool, have your birth ball inflated just how you like it or anything else; you can be sure that Mrs Smith from down the road won’t be using it just as you want it! For the record most women who birth in a MLU are able to access the things they want including the pool, but the uncertainty can be a worry in the final weeks for some women and being able to organise everything at home can be hugely comforting, as you know you have everything you might need in place. It allows you to create the exact birth environment you want without having 4 million things to pack up ready to go, that process can be really therapeutic towards the end of pregnancy, just as spending time in that environment can be once its created – get that oxytocin flowing!

4. You have continued 1:1 support once a midwife is with you. That doesn’t mean that they are under your feet or observing you too closely, but it means you have their full attention, and they aren’t going to be expected to divide their time between you and other jobs. Once they are with you, you are the only woman in their care and that allows them to really get to know you and your birth wishes, and to take their time with observations which creates a more relaxed environment for everyone.

3. Birth is treated as a normal life event rather than a medical event. Midwives supporting women at home are used to working within the home environment and are just as skilled as any other midwife, and they often have additional skills or abilities to support natural birth and rely less heavily on technology when providing care. They are working within and respecting your home and family environment, giving you more control birthing anywhere else. The overall feeling is that this is a normal event going on within a family home which creates a less hurried atmosphere where both you and your care team can work more autonomously.

2. You are also able to have as many (or few!) birth partners / supporters as you want, including children. It felt like such a gift to be able to have Florence with us when Lenny was born – totally normalising birth for her and enabling her to be a big part of the transition within our family. Not every family will find this ideal, but for those who want older children present, homebirth facilitates it for you. Being in full control of who can come into the birth space is hugely reassuring for many families, and for some having more than the 2 birth partners allowed in hospital is essential for them to relax and labour well. It also meant no unexpected or unwanted visitors or extra staff coming in. Feeling sure of who was in my environment helped me feel able to switch my conscious thoughts off as I felt completely safe.

1. Your own food, shower and bed afterwards… I mean I get that safety is always going to be the most important thing, but after the effort you put in during labour, there is soo much comfort to be found in the familiar surroundings of your own home. To be able to shower and move to your own bed free from the fear of your maternity pad showing or being judged for ‘walking funny’ (I know I know – you’re all in there for the same thing, but this was a massive worry to me!). To be able to lay down with your boobs out and a naked baby on your chest because you know that the lady next doors hubby wont accidently walk in in his also sleep deprived condition. To know that it doesn’t matter how much noise or light you and you baby create when learning to feed overnight. And being able talk about the fear of going for the first wee’s / poo’s post birth without fear of judgement is something I feel so grateful to have experienced!!

We cover birth in all setting on our courses, and as much as I love homebirth that doesn’t make it right for everyone. Wherever is right for YOU to give birth is where you should be and I hold no judgement for that choice. I plan to follow this blog up covering other places of birth, so I would love it if you dropped me a comment or message telling me the things you loved best about where you gave birth to help me write a piece reflective of actual experiences!

If you want to know more or fancy trying our course’s out, head here to learn more. A private course with myself or Chloe (in Upminster) allows you to tailor the content more so if you are keen to explore birth in one setting more than others you are able to do so with ease. I’m also happy to take on shorter private sessions to explore homebirth if it is wanted.

Steph x

Should We Be Proud Of Giving Birth Without Pain Relief?

Oh dear. Harry Kane is in trouble. With the announcement of the new baby Kane came his declaration of pride in his fiancée, Kate Goodland, for giving birth with no pain relief, and mentioning that they used Hypnobirthing.
There have been expressions of outrage from women, demanding to know why on Earth it should be something to be proud of.
So what are we saying?
The feminist in me is standing by those women, feeling a bit grated by a man setting the bar for a uniquely feminine experience. I hear them asking, “who are you to suggest we are somehow LESS if we got the epidural?!”.
Because really I think this is where the outrage is generated- a sense that if going drug free is something to be proud of, then taking all the drugs is something to keep quiet about, to feel shame or guilt about.
Clearly, thats not on.
But I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all.
They already have another child, and I can’t find anything detailing how that arrival went, so let me offer you some conjecture that fits the pattern of so many women I work with the second time round.
They go into the first one naive to their conditioning. Naive to the ridiculousness of the maternity system- the lack of continuity, of evidence, and sometimes of compassion. They are led by fear, by risk and unwavering compliance.
Their experiences are often traumatic (sometimes for both parents), on account of a lack of bodily autonomy, knowledge about their options, or the fact that they even have any.
The ONLY pain relief options they understood were pharmacological, and came with the accompanying cons as well as the obvious pros. They weren’t heard. They had no other coping strategies and felt ruined and degraded by the whole experience.
And so they come to us, seeking something better. Does better mean no drugs? Sometimes, for them, yes. Sometimes it means all the intervention- an elective C-section that’s planned in detail to optimise for them and their babies.
What I believe Harry Kane is trying to express is his utter delight at seeing the woman he loves birthing on her terms. There’s no feeling like it, especially if previously you’ve lived through the other scenario, and looked back with regret. It may not always mean ticking off the dream checklist- circumstances can shift, pregnancy and labour can be unpredictable.
But when you’re equipped to make informed and empowered choices, you can STILL feel like the absolute fucking Goddess that you are- because all of it was YOUR CHOICE, and you got the best possible birth for you, in your circumstances. This is positive birth.
We have to get comfortable talking about our differential positive births, without taking them as a slight on us if we did something different. It’s HAS TO be ok for one family to be proud of their drug free birth, and another to be proud of their planned or unplanned C-section or instrumental delivery.
(Incidentally, I wonder whether we would have seen any backlash at all if he had praised her for her bravery in a high intervention delivery?).
Because ALL birth takes courage. And what I believe we should be proud of is twofold.
1. The incredible capacity of our bodies to create new life and bring it into the world, with or without help at any stage of the process.
2. The brilliance of our minds in cultivating an experience that leave us personally empowered in our own unique way.
It’s not a competition. Your own informed and equipped way is more than ok. So is theirs.
Let’s get really committed to a future where all women, and their partners, are entitled to celebrate their ownership of welcoming their child into the world, without judgement. One where the rest of us can thank them for showing the next generation that it’s possible to enter into parenting energised by our power, and in awe of each other. One where we, as women, can recognise that we know nothing of each other’s personal struggles, and simply be proud of each other.
If you want to get ready to give birth in whichever way is right for YOU – be that all the drugs, or no drugs – head to the courses page here to see everything we have available for you.
Keri x

Discover Like A Mother

You know by now that we are huge advocates of you making informed choices when it comes to birth, and that we love to have conversations about how to make the right decisions for yourself in different situations.

I’m also keen for families to enjoy exploring how they can continue make informed choices about things which can affect not only themselves, but the country and the planet.

It can be easy as an individual to forget the impact your choices can have – both negatively and positively. That there are literally millions of other people on the planet who may be thinking the same thing ‘I’m just one person’, ‘its just one straw’ or even ‘well I can’t not use a tampon can I!’.

When you consider that just one person x a million = 1million people; that just one straw x a million = 1million straws; or that actually, there ARE more options than mainstream sanitary protection, its easy to see why making even the tiniest changes can have a huge impact when it’s replicated by others. You have to BE the change, to SEE the change!

I am always talking and learning about this stuff (I mean did you know that they can make straws out of old seashells now?! I didn’t until this Saturday when I saw a poster in our local pub’s toilet announcing that that’s what they’re using now – and I need to dig deeper into this!) and we are taking steps towards improving our choices as a family all the time which means we are not perfect, and I’m actually not striving to be – because we have a life, we live in a fast paced society, and striving for the impossible is just silly!

But I am SUPER excited to be opening up our gorgeous space, the HQ, on a monthly basis to other families interested in Discovering how they can make choices which still work brilliantly for themselves, but are better for the Earth, other people, or animals. It’s going to be informal and friendly (as always!), a community of curious parents getting together in a safe space where conversation can flow, questions can be asked, and information & resources are shared. 

Everyone will have their own reason to be interested – it’s not always the wider benefits that intrigue people, although you may well be worried about Earth Overshoot Day moving earlier each year, or about the health of marine life; but perhaps you or your kids have sensitive skin and want to explore natural or organic skincare, maybe you are keen to throw less nappies away now your bin collection is fortnightly and the smell is bothering you, perhaps you’ve noticed that there is a lot of excess packaging when shopping in some places compared to others, or maybe you just want to save money rather than keep buying the same things again and again because they aren’t made to last. There is no right or wrong reason to join us!

Each session will have a focus, and I’d love you to tell me what things you are interested in covering. If it’s a topic you are familiar with and have something to offer – join us to share your wisdom. If its brand new to you and you don’t even know where to start – join us to ask your questions. A community requires people from all walks of life! Some sessions we will welcome guest speakers, others we may have a dabble at creating something ourselves (in which case there may be an extra fee for materials, or the needn’t to bring something along), but every session will be full of support and information, and served up with drinks and snacks!

I look forward to welcoming you to Discover Like A Mother on Saturday 18th August for the very first session – you can grab you space here now!

Steph x

Review – Kinder Feet Gummi Shoes

I’ve been eager to write this review, but felt I should hold off a little to give Florence a chance to try them, and to see if there’s anything I needed to add beyond the fact that I bloody LOVE them!

I also feel I owe a bit of a back story here because to me these aren’t just any old barefoot shoes, these are super special! I discovered Kinder Feet when Florence was a baby though a parenting group I’m on. I’d asked for barefoot friendly first shoe recommendations and there was an overwhelming response to check them out. so I did, and boy were they cute. There was so much to love about the brand as well as the shoes themselves.

Evi, who makes the shoes, is originally from Germany but now resides here in the UK, she started the company after struggling to find shoes as soft, comfy and good quality as the ones she found for her children in Germany. The shoes are made using the most ethical and eco friendly leather available with 100% traceability guaranteeing that no child labour or nasty chemicals have been used in its manufacturing process. So after falling in love with them virtually, I got in touch to have Florence’s first shoes made. Evi was attentive and so helpful when I was asking for advice on sizing and care, and nothing felt like too much trouble for her. The shoes are custom made, and arrived really quickly.

Evi had explained that as they were leather soled they weren’t really designed for outdoor use, but because Flossie was new to walking and not going far we used them outdoors and actually they were brilliant, and kept so well that they’re tucked away at home ready for when Lenny can use them! When she finally outgrew them she was walking more confidently and further distances and we wanted something with a slightly more robust sole. At the time Kinder Feet were only making leather soled shoes so we tried some other barefoot brands (for more on barefoot shoes check out my earlier blog here) but I would periodically check in on Kinder Feet and check if soled shoes were on the agenda… and they were, but it was not an easy process for Evi figuring out how best to attach a soft but sturdy sole!

About a year ago, after another (not so) subtle message, Evi said she though she might have cracked it but needed testers to try the design out – obviously I jumped at the chance and got a pair for Florence. They were awesome, and Florence adored how comfy they were, but there were still tweaks to be made. The soles didn’t adhere brilliantly and we had to reglue them a couple of times during their use. Despite that Florence found them incredibly comfy, quick and easy to put on, and they fitted for ages due to their generous cut and forgiving soft leather! Called them her Comfy Heart Shoes as they were red with navy hearts on the front.

As luck would have it, just as she outgrew them I saw the best Kinder Feet announcement – that soled Gummi Shoes were happening, they had been perfected and would be available very soon! I’d not long spent a decent amount of money on a pair of shoes for Florence and initially resisted buying, despite Florence regularly asking for ‘new comfy shoes, but yellow’, but when England won their match against Sweden in the World Cup Evi put out a discount code and the temptation was too much!

Evi was as always beyond helpful discussing sizing, adjusting the width for Flossie’s narrow feet, and providing tighter ankle elastics for her slender legs, and before you know it… New Comfy Yellow Shoes were en route!!

And they did not disappoint! Florence was over the moon when she saw them, and even after owning a couple of pairs before, I couldn’t get over just how buttery soft the leather on them is! The leather is such amaxing quality and despite being completely naturally dyed they are such a lovely bright sunny yellow colour.

The improved soles are perfect, a super thin (1.8mm to be precise) layer of rubber to protect the inner leather sole. the shoes were adjusted to fit Florence brilliantly – wide enough to have plenty of wiggle room for her growing feet, but not so wide they slide around inside. The elastics are just snug enough and the shoes are long enough that they will likely last a full year too. Currently they are on the very maximum ‘extra space’ suitable for a child and as such occasionally when running catches them.

I know that in 3 months time they’ll be even better than they are now, and they are already Florences ‘go to’ shoes! the lack of padding, heel, or arch support allows her full range of movement when running and climbing and they’ve already been put to good use outdoors. They were fabulous for running around the local Country Park, and she’s been able to easily climb at the local park as the shoes let her grip the rungs of ladders, or the rough terrain of hills and trees with ease.

Overall we are both incredibly happy with the shoes, and the service Evi provides. I can wholeheartedly recommend Kinder Feet if you are looking for completely customisable, ethical, eco-friendly, locally produced shoes (okay maybe not *local* local for us, but within the UK!). Oh and its not even just shoes. This talented lady also makes adorable clothes, and has recently teamed up with an incredible cloth nappy maker to bring our nappies to match her clothing line!

Where can you find these gorgeous shoes?

The Kinder Feet website can be found here

and the facebook page here. 

I apologise in advance for your bank accounts dwindling on account of all the gorgeous things your babies now need to be bought! Much love, Steph x

 

Why My Birth Plan Evolved Between Babies

Pregnant with my first baby in 2014, I discovered hypnobirthing. I was searching for something to help enable me to birth at home and avoid an epidural. I’d always been keen to have a homebirth for various reasons, but heard time and time again that I’d need the epidural once things got going – yet the idea of anything going in my spine was far worse than the idea of ‘pushing a watermelon out of my nostril’ as people would described it to me (FYI its NOTHING like that!! For a start your nostril is not designed with hundreds of tiny folds which are able to open up around a watermelon, neither does any part of it gradually soften and open at the top to facilitate this process…anyway, I digress.) so I knew I needed something, I just didn’t quite know what that thing was! I started to read about hypnobirthing classes locally but at the time I was unsure if they expense would be worth it, and as I was still working long hours & I would likely miss some of each of the classes for the 4 week duration, we decided against it.

At some point during my pregnancy I signed up to a pregnancy/mothering forum online, and I still remember the excitement at seeing a post asking for women to test out a new online hypnobirthing course. It could be accessed at any time, from anywhere, and because it was in its testing stage it was even free. The universe was looking after me and ensuring that this hypnobirthing stuff came into my life!

My pregnancy was fairly straightforward in terms of its progress, but I was labelled ‘high risk’ at my booking appointment due to my low BMI which meant I was given consultant appts and additional growth scans. I was able to use what I learned to help navigate the small hurdles along the way, and continued to plan a homebirth although I was advised against it around 20 weeks. By 32 weeks I had the homebirth ‘signed off’ by a consultant who was happy with baby’s growth and I began to think about my birth plan…

At the time I was 100% happy with it, I knew what kind of birth I was focussing on, and I ensured that all of those boxes were ticked when writing down what I was aiming for to help our midwives care for us on the day. It was quite detailed and very focussed on that one outcome.

Looking back as I approached my second labour, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that thing’s had (mostly) gone as planned, because I massively underprepared! Yes I was asked to transfer in as there was a staffing issue and we were able to navigate that with confidence, and yes I lost a reasonable amount of blood as I birthed my placenta – again negotiating remaining at home as I felt fine, didn’t need any treatment to stop the bleed, and didn’t really want to take my newborn into the hospital environment after a calm, empowering delivery in the comfort of our own home… but nothing happened which truly required me transferring in, or needing any intervention or surgery.

It struck me that especially now I knew more than before, that I hadn’t truly considered or planned for the very real possibility of needing to deviate from my plan. So if that had of happened, I would have been planless if that’s a word! I had no real idea how I would have ensured my transfer was as minimally disruptive to my labour as possible, or how I would have optimised a C-Section to suit myself if it was on the cards. I mean its likely I could have thought of some things to help on the day but it would have meant me engaging my neo-cortex (a real no-no for facilitating birth most comfortably) and conversing with my care team in detail which would have been far from ideal.

Part of the reason things went to plan first time around was of course my preparation, creating an optimal birthing environment for myself, having an engaged birth partner, remaining active etc, but I am not silly enough to ignore the fact that many things in labour are beyond anyone’s control, and that I had been gifted a good dose of luck and health too.

This time I wanted to make sure I had more eventualities covered, that I could hand over to Matt with confidence knowing we had discussed all the options, and that both he and our care team could refer to our written birth plan if needed. We had our Plan A, with even more detail than the first time around, but we also had a Plan B & C which covered transfer, care within the hospital environment, and my C-Section preferences. Of course I was hoping not to need them, but it was calming to know that if we did it was something we were clear about. That we had a plan, that Florence would be minimally disrupted, that Matt would know exactly how to support me in different circumstances.

So with knowledge comes change. My first birth plan wasn’t wrong, it was obviously exactly what I needed at that time, but with hindsight I saw room for improvement. Now as an antenatal teacher I urge all of my clients to consider what would be important to them if their plans deviate from their original hopes. Not because I want to scare them, or don’t have faith in them, but because ultimately labour is unpredictable and when something beyond your control happens, you need to be able to grasp the things you CAN control and feel good about the experience.

If you are looking for support with your birth prep, you’ve come to the right place! We have sessions available from as little as £10 right through to tailored private courses. Head to the courses page to find out more or book your space, or drop me an email – steph@doitlikeamother.co.uk

We look forward to supporting you on this exciting journey,

Steph xx

Tanya & Lara’s Story

A seriously down to earth account of breastfeeding from Tanya including some insights at the end that every mum needs to hear!

– What did you know about breastfeeding before got pregnant?  Not very much. I knew it was best for baby but felt very much like it was a choice you had to make…and that you probably decided beforehand how long you were going to do it for! Like you pencilled in 6 weeks or so and then moved on to formula ! Really didn’t know very much at all, which i find quite strange looking back, as most of my friends have babies and the majority of them breastfed. I feel pretty ignorant about all of that, now.

– What did you learn whilst you were pregnant? That it doesn’t work for everyone, even if they want it to. I’d heard from people who said their milk never came in. I honestly felt petrified that mine wouldn’t! I remember waking up one morning and one of my breasts has leaked a little something during the night and I felt elated (even though I knew it didn’t guarantee anything, I was just excited that my body was working!).
In one of the NHS antenatal classes, the session was focussed on breastfeeding. We held a doll for around 10 seconds and practised a latch position and that was it!!! I find it crazy that from that, we were all meant to know what to do. There is so, so much more to know.

– What sort of start did you have? A tricky start. Pretty soon after Lara was born, they put her on the breast. She latched immediately, which honestly felt incredible. It was short lived though as she came off pretty quickly and we struggled to get her back on. The struggle went on for a few days…which felt like a lifetime. I so wanted breastfeeding to work but I could feel the likelihood of it working slipping away and it was soul destroying. I remember the midwives telling me my baby was starving and that we had to do something. They gave her formula out of a cup and I felt like the biggest failure. They ended up literally milking me by hand for colustrom every 3 hours and feeding that to Lara via a syringe…which felt pretty glamorous! 😉 I remember cringing during one milking session when I thought I was stroking Lara while they milked me but it was actually the midwife’s arm I was stroking. I felt like a total perve !! After a day or so, I managed to get her to latch on but i could only do it in the laying down position and it would take a very long time for it to work. She was so hungry and frustrated, I had to really focus to stay calm and just keep trying. It could take a couple of hours of repeated attempts. Eventually, we got ourselves into a rhythm and we’ve not looked back. My darkest time was when I came down with Mastitis a few days later. I felt so ill and my nipples hurt quite a bit but I was still grateful that things were working so I definitely wasn’t giving up.

– Were you well supported by… midwives partner family etc? When my husband was on paternity leave, he looked after me so well. He bought loads of stodge and would bring me mini buffets of food up the bedroom or wherever we were so I was never hungry or thirsty. It rocked!
The midwives helped a lot with latching. During the early days when we were struggling, I wish they’d told me it was normal to struggle at the beginning but that with perseverance it can work out. I was so close to giving in, I think hearing this would have motivated me more.

– Did you worry about feeding in public? How did you overcome any issue with that? Hated, hated, hated feeding in public until I had my feeding cover up (bebe chic). I know that I shouldn’t and that it’s natural but so is going to the toilet and I like to do that alone! I think that without the cover up I would have either stopped breastfeeding by now or become a total hermit. I don’t judge others for feeding in public, I think ‘good on them’. It’s just not for me.

– What was the best / worst piece of advice you got about breastfeeding? Best: use nipple cream from the beginning, don’t wait until you need it!
Worst: Don’t use a bottle for the first 6 weeks…I think this is why Lara refuses one now.

– How did you find the experience emotionally? It’s a rollercoaster. I was so happy to be feeding her and doing the best I could for her, but there were some times at the beginning when I felt like I’d lost myself a little bit. More so when other people were around as I felt so undignified keep whacking my boobs out…especially when you’re already unlikely to be feeling your best. I felt so unattractive. I remember saying this to my husband and he told me not to worry and that seeing me feed our baby is one of the most beautiful and womanly things he had ever seen. He made me feel amazing. He is a legend.

– How did you know it was time to stop? Lara is almost 7 months and I’m still going. I thought I’d do it for 6 months but I can’t see any benefit in stopping right now (other than a break for me). So far, there hasn’t been anything the boob can’t solve. She’s not been ill, and I suspect that’s thanks to the antibodies I’m passing on, it’s free and it’s readily available! Seems like a no brainer to me.

– What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the very beginning? I wish I’d really known about cluster feeding. There were so many times when Lara literally drank me dry but would just keep going and going, for hours and hours. I spent so long looking at google because I was so worried I didn’t have enough milk or that I was over feeding. I wish I’d known that you need to put your faith in your baby, they know what they’re doing and one day it will pass. If I could turn back time, I’d never ever stress with the hours/days spent breastfeeding and I’d enjoy watching so much tv and eat more chocolate. One day you suddenly wake up out of the early baby haze and you wish you’d appreciated the sleepy/feeding baby and not being able to do stuff!

– Would you do anything differently if you were to have another baby? I’d get my husband to do one feed from a bottle every day. We didn’t with Lara and she’s been refusing bottles for months which has been a real pain. We’re weaning now so I think she’d take milk a different way during the day now but nights are still tricky…she only wants boob. I’d love a night off . It will pass, of course. I just wish I knew when.

Other stuff I want to say:
Mother in laws
If you’re fortunate enough to get on well with your mother in law, be prepared for them to start pissing you off once the baby’s here, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It’s a generation thing so it’s not their fault but they will not be able to get their head around breastfeeding on demand and will annoy the shit out of you every time they make another snide comment about ‘feeding them again’. It can make you feel pretty paranoid. Fact: you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby! Take a deep breath and rise above it. You know what you’re doing and you know your baby better than anyone.

Questions
The three questions you will be asked…A LOT. Are you going to breastfeed? If yes, how long are you planning on doing it for? How are we supposed to know the answer to this?? Once breastfeeding is nicely established and you’re feeling in the swing of things, the third question will rear it’s head…when are you going to stop? Surely it’s about time to stop now? Please ignore this nonsense. Ignore it all. You’ll know when you want to stop. If it’s 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years. It’s your call and trust that you will know when the time is right for you and your baby.

Boob solves everything
Literally everything! Sick, tired, teething, bored, hungry…you name it, there hasn’t been a single thing it can’t solve. When we flew recently I fed her on the way up and the way down and she didn’t make a peep. People commented on how good that was. It scares me to think of a life without boob!

Drinking
I’ve drank quite a bit of wine while breastfeeding. It hasn’t harmed my baby. If I didn’t drink, I think there’s a chance I’d have given up breastfeeding or I’d at least be resenting it a great deal. There’s a lot of conflicting info out there but I’ve read that as long as you’re sober enough to look after your baby, then you can drink as much as you like…so have a big bloody glass of wine and give yourself a pat on the back for being a breastfeeding legend.

Thanks to Tanya for sharing – if you’d like to have your story shared just drop me a message at steph@doitlikeamother.co.uk and I’ll get back to you.

 

 

Do It Like A Crunchy Mother – DIY Deodorant

So for some crazy reason last week I decided to have a go at creating my own natural deodorant, and test it on one of the hottest week’s of the year… I mean, I could possibly could have chosen a better time of year to try this, but hey – in for a penny in for a pound and all that!

I’ve been using a natural deodorant (a salt crystal one) for over a year now after opening my eyes to the ingredients used in my previous deodorants which I chose for their promise of supreme sweat protection, they seemed to function well only there were negative effects which can come hand in hand with the high level of effectiveness these ingredients offer. The brand I bought most religiously contains these three ingredients which I didn’t feel comfortable to continue using after looking into them:

  • Aluminium Zirconium Tetracholohydrex Gly – used for its ability to prevent sweat leaving the body by obstructing pores.
  • Dimethicone – a silicone based polymer which forms a plastic like barrier over the skin, it is known to dry skin out over time.
  • Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde & Alpha-isomethyl ionone – fragrances which can care irritation to skin.

At times my skin would feel very irritated or stingy/itchy, other brands caused little pimple and redness, it was also difficult to remove the layer of product with gentle washing, so began to explore more gentle options. 

Also more recently I have become more aware of the questions surrounding the use of aluminium in products such as deodorant. Although there has been NO evidence based connection between the use of antiperspirants and breast cancer currently, it has been raised by some scientists that there MAY be a link. There has been research which suggests that regular use of aluminium based deodorants may have an estrogen-like effect on the body, and as breast cancers can be ‘fed’ by estrogen some scientists have suggested that aluminium based deodorant may contribute to the development of breast cancer or have a direct effect on breast tissue. The fact that there is no clear answer on this either way, leaves me preferring to choose not to use it until it is proven safe. (more info on this can be found at breastcanceruk.org.uk)

There is also research which shows that using antiperspirant deodorants can increase the smell causing bacteria living on your underarms whilst killing off the beneficial bacteria, so although you think you’ll smell less the opposite can be true, and at best you may not smell but are altering your body’s natural colony of healthy bacteria!

So decided to try making my own to reduce the nasties being put on my skin on a daily basis, and I figured I could reuse a glass jar and save myself some money in the process – win win if it worked! I’d already had a search for DIY deodorant recipes and there are loads, with varying ingredients. I opted for a super simple one with ingredients which can all (bar the optional essential oils) be found in most kitchens. I went for a small quantity to try in case it needed tweaking but it can of course be scaled up if you find it works for you:

5tsp coconut oil

4tsp arrowroot

3tsp bicarbonate of soda (you can use more if needed, or less if you have very sensitive skin)

And a few drops of your chosen essential oils

Simply mix all of the ingredients together! In warmer weather you may need to store it in the fridge / a cool place as the coconut oil can melt, then apply with clean fingertips as needed and leave to sink in for a few minutes before getting dressed.

The big question… DID IT WORK?!

YES!! We have had a mix of warm – hot weather recently (I think its been flitting between about 20-28c) and I have a chunky 16 week old who is worn in a sling quite a lot, so the potential for sweat is pretty high to be fair. I’ve found this to be just as effective as my last deodorant – perhaps even slightly better! On the really hot days, especially if wearing Lenny in the sling, I’ve sweated a little, and amount which feels healthy for my skin yet not uncomfortable – there have been no big underarm wet patches! And at the end of each day my underarms have either smelt of nothing at all, or slightly reminiscent of the essential oils I used. I’m calling this a successful first run. I may include a small amount of shea butter next time I make some to offer some moisturing/nourishing properties – I reduced the amount of bicarb compared to some recipes as it can be irritating to sensitive skin, I’ve not had any issue even after shaving, but I think it may be nice.

So that’s it – I guess I’m an official deodorant dodging hippy now haha Perhaps my little experiment will give some of you the push you need to try out making your own skincare products – I find it really rewarding to use things I have made myself for so many reasons. It really is super simple, and as someone who used to think I was a serious sweaty betty I’m very impressed with the results. Let me know if you try it, or have any other recipes/suggestions you like me to try!

 

Love,

Steph x

Do It Like A Crunchy Mother – Dental Care Gone Green

Dental Care Gone Green

Twice a day, every day, we brush our teeth. Four or more times a year we replace the toothbrush we use. Our toothpaste of choice is scrubbed around our mouths around 60 times a month, and although it’s largely spat out, I bet over a year a reasonable amount is consumed – and with a child that amount will be much greater despite a parents best intentions! Why I didn’t question the ingredients sooner I don’t really know – I suppose like with many things its assumed safety / necessity, but I decided a while back that it was time to make a change. We only ever used a tiny smear anyway, but I began to wonder if there was a more natural, or healthy alternative.
The first one I tried was Lush Tooth Fairy – a powder which you dip your wet brush into and use as normal. I personally didn’t love this, I wasn’t a fan of the taste and if I’m honest its probably still stuffed at the back of my bathroom cabinet unless Matt has got rid of it!
There were a couple of others we weren’t won over by, then we tried Aloe Dent Whitening which has no harsh chemicals, and has a great taste and texture – so that’s what we have been using for a while now as we are really happy with it, but I’m now on the scout for something which doesn’t require a plastic tube – I think I’ll have an experiment with making my own and come back to you if I find something I love!
One of the main factors for investigating more eco friendly brushes was seeing a photo online which was captioned to explain that each and every toothbrush ever made, is still on the planet somewhere – many of them have made it into our oceans and are causing marine life harm. It was a real eye opener. I worked out that we would get through well over 300 toothbrushes in our life (all being well on the longevity scale!), and decided it was an impact I was no longer prepared to have on the earth.
So the search began. There are loads of eco friendly toothbrushes available now with widely varying price tags, from the more mainstream brand the Humble Brush, which is made from bamboo with nylon bristles. They are sold in Waitrose as well as other highly street retailers for around £4, so they’re a great easy to access option.
We have been using the Environmental Toothbrush for ages now as we are able to buy them in bulk for a really reasonable price (they work out at under £2 a brush! They’re available online for around £3 too), they come in soft/medium/firm bristles as well as a kids sized brush. Their bristles are also nylon – so they’re obviously not 100% degradable but as with the humble brush you can simple snap the head off to put in the bin, and put the main part of the handle into compost.
If you want a fully compostable brush (and aren’t vegan!) you could look at wooden / bamboo brushes with boar bristles such  as the Naturborsten brushes which come in adult or child size and cost around £8.
We also tried the Jack & Jill biodegradable kids toothbrush but found the bristles too soft and they frayed too easily so we have returned to the kids Environmental toothbrush.
For Florence we use Organic Children’s Mint & Aloe paste, I wasn’t keen on the Aloe Dent kids one – the strawberry flavour wasn’t very fresh smelling, and the orange bubbles left a right mess on her clothes if she missed the sink!

People often ask if they’re as good… now I can’t speak for everyone, but we have found our teeth are as healthy as before, with much less of a negative heath / environmental impact. My dentist looked worried when I visited last year as he asked about what we use – I told him and he said I should worry more about my oral health than the environment as it is important (of course!) and said I should think about swapping to an electric toothbrush to help, then he looked inside my mouth and said he was impressed as my teeth were great, as were Florences 😀 so I’ve stuck to the bamboo brush and have had no issues.

Fancy making the change? There are so many options available, have fun experimenting and finding what makes you feel good whilst keeping your family’s teeth sparkling clean!

Steph x

Do It Like A Crunchy Mother – Barefoot Shoes

I remember distinctly the childhood ritual of visiting Clark’s for supportive, well fitted school shoes. It was a big thing to my mum that our first shoes were ‘Proper Clark’s Shoes’ and the same went for our school shoes in our younger years. It’s a common misconception that we need support from our shoes to enable them to function at their best – to prevent fallen arches or to support young ankles, but in evolutionary terms this doesn’t add up – why would our bodies be built to need external support? Why would the muscles, ligaments and bones of healthy feet not function in harmony enabling children to walk when they are ready?

Anyway, when our first child was close to walking the inevitable question came up… ‘When are you taking her to Clarks for shoes?’ I mean its become such a ritual in our society now that they even provide you with a photo of your child modelling their first pair! But we had no plans to go, and found myself explaining our decision to many people who were surprised that we weren’t looking to buy her ‘supportive’ first shoes. Now I can’t even remember how or where I first heard about barefoot shoes, but once I knew of their existence nothing made more sense when it came to choosing her shoes!

What’s all the fuss about then?

For a start, we actually walk best when we are barefoot – our feet are extremely sensitive, and move at 33 different joints when we use them. These tiny movements and the feedback on our soles from the ground help our minds create a mental image of the terrain helping provide more stability, our toes can spread to help us balance and grip, and when we regularly engage the various muscles of the feet, it gives them opportunity to become stronger improving gait, improving body alignment, increasing strength and arch support, and decreasing the risk of joint problems.

(Image courtesy of VivoBarefoot)

Many of the issues people experience with knee and foot pain now begins with footwear choice. The standard shoes available for both children and adults now are narrow (especially in the toe box), rigid soled and heeled – yep, even men’s and kids shoes. I’m not talking stilletos, but most shoes have a degree of incline which puts an unnatural strain on your body. Over time this style of shoe actually changes the shape of your foot, causing the toes to bend inwards, leading to bunions and other issues.

(Image courtesy of VivoBarefoot)

There is even research which shows a positive correlation between walking barefoot and brain development. The feet are the most nerve rich part of our bodies which means they offer a lot of opportunity for children to build neural pathways increasing their brain power!

Most of us have probably noticed the change in a toddler’s ability to walk when they are in shoes (or particularly wellies!) vs when barefoot… they are far steadier when barefoot and able to utilise their body to its full capacity, to me it makes perfect sense to allow them to spend as much time as possible barefoot especially in the first year or two of walking. Of course there are times when this isn’t practical – in cold or wet weather, or when walking on particularly sharp terrain for example. So what’s a Mother to do when her child needs shoes, but she no longer wants to choose the typical restrictive shoes available in most children’s shoe shops?

Barefoot shoes allow the foot freedom to spread, flex and keep their natural shape within a thin soled, wide toe boxed, flexible shoe, and are the closest thing to walking barefoot when shoes are a necessity. Brands differ in width, flexibility, sole thickness and style, but all barefoot shoes meet the criteria of:

–        Flat – no heel rise at all

–        Flexible across the whole sole including the heel area

–        No structured arch support

–        Wide toe box allowing freedom of movement for toes

So called ‘barefoot friendly’ shoes may meet most of the criteria but not to the same degree, for example they may be a little less flexible or have a slight heel rise, they are still better than stiff structured shoes for young feet.

We have now gone through a fair few pairs of shoes, most of which have been barefoot, or barefoot friendly (I’m not gonna kid you that she’s never worn a pair of less ideal shoes – she wanted Nikes like her Daddy’s for example, and has had some smart shoes which were for weddings / parties only etc but for the most part I try not to allow those to be worn often) and have tried shoes from as little as £5 to as much as £50ish and surprisingly they’ve all performed well.

I’ll be coming back with some more detailed reviews for you at a later date, but I’ll leave you with 3 of my fave brands for kids today. Not all shoes from these brands are BF or BFF, but the ones we checked for the criteria above, have performed brilliantly!

H&M – many of their baby / toddler shoes are BFF, especially their little summery pumps/canvas shoes. We paid about £6 for a pair last year which were brilliant, lovely soft flexible soles, wide toe box, adjustable ankle Velcro. They washed well in the machine too.

Livie & Luca – a pricier option, but especially for girls they have some lovely smarter / dressier options. They’re actually a little too wide for Flossie’s narrow feet but they’re adorable!

Kinder Feet – my absolute faves. 100% barefoot and handmade in the UK with ethical & eco-friendly materials. They come with the thinnest of Vibram soles on their new outdoor version (Gummi shoes), and soft leather soles on the original shoes which are best suited to new walkers or as indoor shoes. Flossie’s very first shoes were all leather Summer Moccs made by Eva who runs Kinder Feet, and I was so excited to trial soled shoes after asking several times if/when she would be making them. She’s just outgrown her last pair and is already requesting new yellow ones to replace her ‘comfy heart shoes’!

And as a little extra I have to add that I LOVE my Vivo boots!

Hope this gives you a good starting point… Happy shoe shopping,

Steph x