Here is a fantastic guest post from our friend and Doula Nicki Burrnet:
So you are pregnant and thinking about preparing for the arrival of your new baby, you have a stash of reusable nappies all washed and ready, got a great stack of post-partum csp and maybe even have a selection of slings to choose from so what else is there to get sorted? Well, have you thought about your birth?
The day of birth is one of the most important days in the lives of both Mother and baby. We always hear a lot of talk about how a women’s wedding day is the most important day of her life, it is not unusual for a woman to spend 12 months planning her “big day” and spend many thousands of pounds making it everything she dreams of. I have seen many adverts for eco-friendly wedding planning, ways to keep the carbon footprint down and ensure things like food and flowers are locally grown. Such a great idea! So how much planning goes into birth? How much money do you spend on preparing for a positive birth? How much time do you spend looking into natural alternatives to use during pregnancy and birth?
I am a firm believer that pregnancy and birth deserve investment. Both in time and money. So I am here to write this post to give you a few ideas of things that you could look into to achieve a positive and naturally supported pregnancy, birth and immediate postnatal period. Disclaimer: This is not a post about avoiding any necessary medical treatment nor am I telling you that you need to do all or any of these things to achieve a positive and natural pregnancy and birth.
1, Hire a doula- Research has shown that having the continuous support of a doula throughout pregnancy, labour and birth reduces the need for medical intervention such as instrumental delivery, reduces the need for pain relief and increases breastfeeding success rates. A doula is on hand to signpost you to places you can get any support you need, she will be there with information, books and websites full of evidence and support no matter what your questions are. She will advocate for you if you are not in a position to do so yourself, she will ensure you have all relevant information to make a fully informed decision, she will be a second pair of hands for anything practical during your labour, she will support your birth partner so they are able to fully support you. Some doulas are also trained complimentary therapists so she may be able to offer you things such as reflexology, massage, Homeopathy etc. She will have a doula bag filled with things that may be useful for the birth, this may include things like; a rebozo, essential oils, candles, herbal teas, she may even bring some yummy food!
2, Herbalism- Our natural world gives us many things to help support and heal us in times of need. Herbal teas and tinctures can be an incredible resource during pregnancy and birth. You can buy readymade brews especially for pregnancy or create your own; they nourish you, support you and heal you from the inside. Herbs can also be used to aid healing once baby has arrived. You can soak csp in a herbal brew to use as a compress on stitches or a sore perineum and there are some great teas to help reduce after pains and help your uterus to shrink back to size. To help reduce waste you can buy loose teas and brew in a teapot and once finished it can all go on the compost. You must be careful as some herbs are not suitable to be used in pregnancy and they can also interact with any medications you are on for this reason it is best to contact a trained herbalist to start with or to buy tinctures or teas that clearly state they are suitable for pregnancy.
3, Choose a homebirth- It is now proven that homebirth is the safest option if you do not have a medical need to birth in hospital (Even for women classed as high risk for things such as BMI, Advanced maternal age etc). The rate of intervention is lower for homebirth and women tend to cope better with the pain of labour meaning a lower need for pain relief. You have more autonomy in your own home, you can choose when to eat, when to bath, when to move. You may feel less inhibited; it’s easier to walk around naked at home! If a homebirth is not possible then there are ways you can extend the home experience into hospital, such as taking in your own towels, blankets and pillows, make yourself a little nest in your delivery room, dim the lights, think about using headphones with some relaxing music on to block out the sounds of the hospital, ask for quiet and privacy from the midwives- don’t be afraid to let them know that you would rather not talk to them through a contraction and ask if they could direct any questions to your birth partner or doula.
4, Breastfeed- It seems simple but choosing to breastfeed has so many benefits I don’t have time to list them all! It is obviously far more eco-friendly, breastfeeding within the first hour after birth can help the placenta to detach and the uterus to clamp down without the need of medical intervention, it helps stimulate the release of Oxytocin and Prolactin which are responsible for the rush of love feeling and the overwhelming need to protect your child. To help you achieve your breastfeeding goals whether that is 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years, it is important that you have adequate support, getting that support in place during pregnancy can be a game changer! Visit your local breastfeeding groups, hire a doula (See point 1!), speak openly to your partner/mum/mother in law etc about realistic expectations of a newborn (They will likely not sleep all night and they will feed all the time), read The Womanly art of breastfeeding before baby arrives. If you decide not to breastfeed, decide to move onto bottles or want to be able to express and feed then you will have to think about what bottles to use. The norm at the moment is to use plastic bottles, but there is an alternative. There is now a good choice of glass baby bottles in the UK, lots of the big names such as Avent , MAM and NUK all have a range of glass bottles, benefits of these are they are less likely to leak chemicals into the milk, they are recyclable and the can be much longer lasting meaning less waste.
5, Natural baby care- There are lots to think about here, for example have you thought about using cord ties instead of the plastic clamps? Holding off on baby’s first bath is also a great idea, that white stuff covering baby’s skin is called vernix and it is pretty amazing stuff. It should be rubbed into the skin rather than washed off. Delaying baby’s first bath is also a good idea as baby’s are meant to smell like babies, that smell they have stimulates hormone production which helps with bonding and establishing breastfeeding. When you do decide to bath then just water is absolutely fine, there is no need to add anything extra. That goes for any creams and lotions etc for baby’s skin as well. Their skin can be so sensitive that unless baby has a specific problem with their skin it’s best to use nothing, the next step would be Breastmilk or coconut oil, ask any crunchy mama and she will tell you she can heal almost anything with those two things! Make sure your coconut oil is Raw Organic; it can usually be found in the cooking aisle in the supermarket. Holding off on buying every baby item listed on the Mothercare catalogue is also a good idea, you really do not need much and it’s better to save your money, save the waste and invest in good quality items that you really need (Like reusable nappies 😉 ) You may have a local WAHM who makes baby clothes and accessories, you could ask her if she is able to make some from a natural fabric, or look into local wool and either crochet or knit some of your own baby clothes.