Younique Postnatal

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Welcome to Younique Postnatal's blog

 

Follow the writings of Victoria Greenly, one of Younique Postnatal's founding members and course provider.  Here you will find musings on all things postnatal.  We look forward to publishing articles by the doulas we have trained and YP's other founding members.

By Victoria Greenly, Mar 8 2018 04:17PM

It’s International Women’s Day today and this got me thinking. It got me thinking about how we as women sometimes realise we can’t do everything – and that we might need a bit of help. But what I want to know is how do we ask for help?


Over the years I have tried to do a lot without much assistance. Raise a child, set up businesses, manage a house and finances. But what becomes a daily juggling act can spill into the region of being overwhelming. I think this can be said of the time straight after a woman has a baby too. Society is not geared up for understanding or supporting the multitude of tasks a woman may feel she has to complete in order to be perceived as a good mother. Naomi Stadlen gave a different perspective in ‘What Mothers Do’ about what it is new mothers actually spend their time doing – all of which is hugely important and should be given a much higher value than it is – comforting babies and meeting their needs, as well as understanding our value as we transition from women to mothers.

The reality of a looking after a baby is that it is incredibly time consuming without much room for other tasks. Breastfeeding a baby for hours on end (particularly if it isn’t going very well) doesn’t give you much time to whip up a gourmet meal, deepclean the house or arrange a new mortgage package. And rightly so - we are guaranteeing the health, happiness and wellbeing of future generations. Babies don’t come ready prepared out of a packet, they need time, input, observation and love. Women need to feel the job they are doing is really worthwhile and not at the bottom of society’s pecking order. To do that job well, they need some time, love and nurturing for themselves too.


We live in a society that is very task orientated and that spills over into all sections of our lives. We often measure ourselves against the targets we have reached and the goals we have achieved. But do we and indeed should we, particularly after a baby is born? Should we be trying do it all on our own with a newborn in tow? And if we don’t want to and perhaps shouldn’t, what is stopping us?


Maybe one thing – asking for help. It’s a hard thing to ask for. Maybe we don’t want to appear weak or put ourselves in a position of vulnerability. Others might think we aren’t coping or castigate us for being incapable.


But, in all honesty, how do these thoughts really help us or our baby? How beneficial is to us or our baby to do it all on our own? The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ didn’t come into being without its reason. This is a proverb from African cultures that says ‘it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for children to experience and grow in a safe environment’. It would be great if more indepth scientific studies were undertaken to show the benefits of shared support for both mother and baby outcomes. Studies of doula support have shown positive results for both mother and baby and anecdotally, we know that helping new mothers is a good thing.


More than not though, many women are raising children without much support.

How do we change this? Let’s break down the taboo of asking for help. Let’s change the dialogue to one where instead of feeling weak or incapable, a mother feels that by asking for help she is, in fact, asking for the best for herself and her family, knowing that it is not beneficial or enjoyable to raise a child without it. Let’s give new mothers the permission they need to reach out and the realisation that asking for help is, in fact, a positive action and will meet with a positive response.

I take this attitude and put it into practice so when a woman rings me to ask for postnatal support, I say to her with positivity ‘it is so great you are reaching out’. She needs to hear it.


By Victoria Greenly, Nov 23 2017 12:31PM

I will always remember when as a newly practicing postnatal doula a number of years ago, I went on to a local mums’ network on Facebook to promote my services and I read a post from a mother asking for support for her baby’s reflux from other mums. Her post received over one hundred comments in a couple of hours from other mothers whose babies had suffered in the same way and they wanted to share their knowledge and ideas.


I was shocked and disappointed that not only were so many babies suffering but also that their mothers were so distressed and overwhelmed. I started to research and try to understand what this new ‘epidemic’ was and how I could better support mothers in my role as a postnatal doula. As a result, I was often employed by mothers whose babies were afflicted by reflux. The parents themselves had felt that they were not being given good support from health professionals particularly GPs, especially as the first one-stop solution they were given was to feed the baby some Gaviscon – which often resulted in more pain for the baby due to constipation. There also seems to be little understanding on the correct usage of reflux medication. My clients were often confused and concerned as to whether the medication was a) really working and b) if there were possible side effects for the baby.


I knew I could give them better support if I improved my knowledge (additionally within my role as an infant feeding counsellor). There was very little published information despite all my research, so I had to collect information from a variety of sources and also through observing my clients’ babies. I developed new skills and became convinced that feeding babies optimally was one of the key elements in preventing reflux. Over the last couple of years more information is coming to light, but from my experience the key things that have helped the parents I have supported with baby reflux are:


getting breastfeeding going in the most optimal way right from the start ie troubleshooting any problems with a baby’s latch, particularly if there is suspected tongue tie - if there are any concerns then getting a proper assessment from a qualified breastfeeding specialist - and ensuring that feeds are completed by the baby in the way that preserves the baby’s natural feeding rhythm and so the baby gets a full feed


as little outside intervention as possible during breastfeeding, allowing babies some peace and quiet, not over-stimulating babies particularly during feeding and encouraging mothers to relax whilst they feed


not cramming too much in with young babies but following their natural rhythms, following their cues and giving them the time to develop at their own pace, particularly their fragile digestive systems


not delaying a feed – feeding on a baby’s cue


being consistent with feeding particularly when switching from breast to bottle and mixed feeding, particularly in the early days – this needs to be carefully managed by an infant feeding specialist


not expressing too soon – again this needs to be carefully managed by consulting an infant feeding specialist


ensuring that when bottle feeding, a mother practices ‘paced’ feeding and allows the baby to fully digest the milk at their pace, maintaining their feeding self regulation


when bottle feeding, checking a baby’s latch on the bottle and replicating breastfeeding as much as possible through position of the baby and bottle teat


exploring potential food intolerances particularly to cow’s milk protein and referring on to specialist support


I have used all these techniques with the clients I have supported and particularly encourage their use to prevent reflux occurring in the first place.


Of course, there are many other things that may relieve some of the pain symptoms and aid digestive relief, eg wearing baby in a sling, encouraging babies to sleep in a slightly more upright position (although sleep positioners have now been withdrawn from many retail outlets), baby massage, cranial osteopathy and other therapies eg Bowen technique etc, mixing some weak fennel tea in with bottle milk, probiotics. As a postnatal doula, I present my clients with the options out there and encourage them to make an informed decision on which course they may like to take. But overloading parents with multiple options to ‘cure’ reflux can also be very stressful for them, particularly when they don’t see an improvement in symptoms.


As a postnatal doula course provider, we also prepare doulas with good information through our reflux section on a workshop we provide called Understanding Newborns.


By Victoria Greenly, Nov 23 2017 12:23PM

Why might I need a Postnatal Doula?


In my experience it is hard to make the decision to pre-book a Postnatal Doula. It is hard to

imagine exactly what sort of support, if any, you might want or need after the birth of a baby.

So much time in pregnancy is spent preparing for birth that it becomes a challenge to see that

birth is only the beginning.


In all other cultures around the world following a birth families, and in particular the birth

mother, are encouraged to have an intense period of rest and recuperation as they adjust to

their new post-birth life. During this time mothers are supported so they can bond with their

new babies and heal from birth. Over a period of roughly 40 days women in traditional

communities may be given special foods, massages and looked after by close family and

friends and are expected to temporarily stop their chores. Those societies recognise that in life

there is no ‘back’ only forward and to move forward as positively and healthily as possible

after birth, human beings need support. In Western society we have lost our traditions and

now the focus is on ‘bouncing-back’, leaving new mothers to heal and learn about parenting

totally on their own.


The emotional and physiological changes a woman goes through when she has a baby are

immense and should not be underestimated. Everyone’s journey is unique and uncharted and

therefore demands unique support. And yes, in the UK a midwife will pop in to see you for a

couple of weeks and there’s a six week check up at the GP. But how many people really want

to go into how they are really doing with a GP, in 5 minutes, who they have never met

before? Or a rushed midwife who you know is doing her best but has a list of other mums to

visit today and you’re sure they all need her more than you do….


I hope that this blog may give a little insight into what a day with a Postnatal Doula might

look like and why finding Postnatal Doula support might be the best decision you ever make!

I met my last client over a cuppa at her house one evening when she was around seven

months pregnant, we connected straight away and I was thrilled she asked me to support her

and her partner postnatally. Initially they booked 8 postnatal visits. The following month we

met up for their ‘4th trimester planning session’ where we went through all their hopes and

dreams for what the first few months with their new baby might look like. We discussed

everything from baby essentials to local postnatal support services. I also held her Mothers

Blessing. Afterwards we kept in touch over text and email and she let me know when the

baby arrived. For the first two weeks her partner was on paternity leave and her family were

around, but after that her partner had to go back to work and her family headed home, so we

arranged my first visit.


I arrived at 10am to find a very tired looking Mama still in her PJs with a fresh baby in the

crook of her arm. She showed me in and I made her a cuppa and we chatted. She told me her

birth story, and how the first two weeks had been. I tidied her kitchen whilst we chatted more.

While she had a shower, I watched the baby and unpacked the lunch I’d brought for her. After

her shower, she fed the baby and we chatted about some breastfeeding challenges she’d been

having. I suggested that she might like to go to a local breastfeeding support group, but she

was understandably nervous, so we arranged to go to the next one together. I left her eating

lunch, dressed, with a sleeping baby and plan to go to the breastfeeding group.


As the visits went on and we became more relaxed with each other we chatted about

everything from breastfeeding to bottles, from stiches to parent groups. Normally I’d stay

around 3 hours at her house and a few times we met out. A couple of times she opened the

door looking so tired, I simply held the baby while she napped. I accompanied her on their

first solo trip to the supermarket and a trip to the GP. We also did a tour of local breastfeeding

friendly cafes and I introduced her to a nearby Postnatal group which she began to go to

independently. After a while I noticed that she seemed much more confident, she no longer

opened the door in her Pyjamas and our chats where full of all the things she was doing with

her baby and who she was meeting. I knew it was time for me to move on. Her baby was by

now 3 months old and we arranged our last meeting. I brought extra cake and left her with

my number and my sincerest hope that she would feel free to contact me if she needed

anything. I caught up with her a few months later and was so happy to see how the family

was and how confident they now were, finding their own path through all the challenges and

joys of parenthood.


I hope that this serves to give some idea of what employing a Postnatal Doula might be like.

No one knows what support you might need better than you do, but finding, staying in touch

with and booking a Postnatal Doula will guarantee you as many support options as possible.


For more information about Lucy's services, please take a look at lucybaenadoula.co.uk

By Victoria Greenly, Oct 13 2017 10:24AM

The concept of a postnatal doula has been around for thousands of years – think of the network of women who would support a new mother with babycare knowledge as well as emotional and physical nourishment, so that she could recover from birth and learn ways to take care of her baby. However, the role as we know it in its current form may be less familiar. Postnatal doulas have been around for a while and growing in numbers over the last 20 years but as a nationwide phenomenon, we are relatively new! The reason we are needed is important and I have already written an article on why we set up as a course provider!


When women are unsure of what a postnatal doula does and I explain, all of them that are already mothers say ‘gosh, I wish I had had one after my baby was born!’ So for those that are unsure, here is an explanation of what a postnatal doula does. The basic idea of what a postnatal doula provides is emotional, practical and informational support to a family after a baby is born. But what does this mean in reality? Well, as I have discovered from supporting many families over the years, what I actually do can be extremely varied and far reaching. I have honed my skills and provide a variety of different ‘services’. The families I support decide which of those services is important to them and use the ones that they feel are most relevant to their needs.


As my experience has grown, I now give them a written list of all the types of support I can give, from the practical to the emotional, as well as sharing knowledge and evidence based information. If I wrote them here, they would amount to a long list of bullet points, so it might be more interesting to get a snapshot of a day in the life of a postnatal doula. Postnatal doulas usually provide 3-4 hours of support 2-3 times a week. However, support is bespoke and tailored to the needs of each family so can be very varied – from the odd session here and there to overnight support and many sessions in a week.


A day in the life of a postnatal doula:


When I first arrive, I always check in with the family and see how they are doing. If a mother is on her own, I often explore how she is feeling both physically and emotionally, and talk through what’s been going on with her baby and how her baby is feeding. She will often want to talk through ideas for baby care. I never impose advice on her but give her options and suggestions from reliable information sources and what I have found might work from my years of experience working alongside other mothers. I like to think of myself as a knowledgeable sister but always ensure I encourage her to think about finding her own parenting way and what suits her choices. There is no limit to the time a mother might want to talk and we can spend many hours exploring ideas together. The basic tenet of being a postnatal doula is figuratively walking alongside a mother, so I am guided by her wants and needs.


In the back of my mind, though, is my desire to ensure she is physically nurtured after her baby’s birth. We know birth is a life changing event emotionally and physically, so giving a mother the space to recover is of utmost importance. During my time with her, I encourage her to rest whilst I look after her baby (and possibly other children). Whatever form that takes is up to her, whether it is going for a sleep, having some quiet time reading or simply having a long bath. To give her permission to remember that she is still a woman as well as a mother during what can be a very exhausting time, is extremely beneficial to her mental and physical wellbeing.


And the last thing, I really try to ensure is that she is nourishing herself with good nutrition. So often, when time is short new mothers forget to eat or grab something convenient that is full of empty calories. Over time, many of us have developed nutritious recipes as part of our repertoire, which we prepare for mothers whilst we are with them. Knowing that, she will have a least one meal that is full of the vitamins she needs for her recovery is very important to me. Encouraging her to eat healthy snacks and stay hydrated is also an important part of our role.


Of course, each session can vary as to what I offer a mother but hours can pass quickly and ensuring I have given her some respite and a listening ear is what I see as the crux of my role as a postnatal doula. But if you really want to read the long list here it is below:


Talking through and reflecting upon a woman’s birth experience (if she chooses), exploring birth trauma and helping her process what happened. Referring on to specialist organisations if desired.

Breastfeeding counselling and optimal infant milk feeding of her baby ie bottle feeding and formula (I am also a qualified breastfeeding counsellor). Postnatal doulas do provide infant feeding support based on their sphere of knowledge and level of experience.

Early parenting guidance and care of her baby – ‘understanding her newborn’, signposting and sharing knowledge and information from evidence based sources:

• Baby sleep

• Cues

• Soothing

• Development

• Parenting styles

• Patterns and rhythms

• Getting her baby into a ‘routine’ – what kind of routine would she like and what is possible? Understanding newborn behaviour through observation so that she can predict some rhythms. Explaining the ‘routines’ that are out there so she can explore ideas.

• Guidance on babywearing ie slings and carriers

• Bathing/washing – baby skincare

• Guidance on products she might find useful

• Monitoring baby conditions – to help her decide if she might want/need to refer on to a Healthcare Professional


Caring for her:

• Emotional support – exploring options and talking through feelings especially the transition to motherhood or if she is feeling low and anxious. (I have basic counselling skills), confidence building and moral support. Referring on to other mental health practitioners and HCPs if she feels she needs more support.

• Monitoring and supporting postnatal physical conditions, referring on to a Healthcare Professional when necessary or other practitioners eg osteopaths

• Practical support – looking after her baby so she can have a sleep/rest/bath/shower/time out, household management to keep on top of things


Information on natural remedies for her and her baby – signposting on to other practitioners

I am happy to undertake the following tasks:

light housework eg wiping down surfaces

running a hoover around

emptying the dishwasher

light washing up

putting washing in washing machine

organising the household eg sorting or hanging out clothes

packing school bags

basic shopping

running errands

light ironing

tidying up and putting toys away

In addition, I am happy to do the following:

looking after babies and children whilst she is in the house or if she needs to go for a short appointment

picking up children from nursery/school

taking babies and children out for a walk/play if local

accompanying her and baby to appointments

accompanying her for first trips on public transport

accompanying her for first trips breastfeeding in public

accompanying her whilst she buys baby products


Good nutritional support for a woman’s postnatal needs. Preparing meals for her and her partner and family meals including:

Lactogenic meals – to support her milk supply

Tasty and healthy meals to support her postnatally

Hearty family meals eg shepherd’s pie, homemade fish fingers, homemade chicken goujons and spaghetti bolognaise

Snacks and light meals

I am happy to explore meal options with a family dependent on their diet, preferences and culture. I have a full list of meals I offer.

Supporting partners – exploring the transition to fatherhood and exploring post baby relationships in same sex partnerships

‘Sharing the workload’ – exploring how families might ‘babyproof’ their relationships and keep tensions low


Introducing solids/complementary foods


This is my list. Each postnatal doula will work out what they will offer and do, based on the above and other skills – some offer alternative therapies eg reiki, herbalism, or massage. And that’s because there is a doula for every family.


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