Mindfulness in pregnancy and labour

While I was pregnant I went on a mindfulness course at the center for mindfulness research and practice at Bangor university. I’d been thinking about doing a course with them for a couple of years and when I found out I was pregnant I thought I had better do it ‘now or never’! I was lucky to get on the course as when I applied they were fully booked but had a waiting list, they offered me the option to book on the following course but I said attendance would be difficult as I was due to give birth the week it started! When I got there the tutor said she had asked for me to be put on the course as her daughter in law had done it while pregnant and it had really helped her through the birth.

The course was really well structured, there were 8 weekly evening classes and every week the class would consist of the tutors explaining the practices and why they are taught. We would get experience of the techniques, and there would be discussion of how we had found them and the practices we had been doing at home. We would then be set practices to do during the following week, both formal meditation and informal practices to do during the day. It is a very experiential course and I learnt a lot through doing the practices and through sharing experiences with the other participants.

I had also found the book Mindful birthing by Nancy Bardacke, it’s based on the eight week mindfulness course but is tailored towards pregnancy and birth. In America they teach courses specifically for birth preparation, but as that wasn’t available I found that the book was the perfect companion to the eight week course, as the book followed a similar structure to the course and contained the same practices, but those practices were geared towards expecting a baby. The book is written to take you along with the classes of a course the author taught, so you get the same positive effect of hearing others experiences as if you were in a class with them.

On the mindful birthing website they also have an app ‘mindfulness for pregnancy’, which I found really great. The body scan (a bit like a relaxation in yoga) is so lovely when the woman guiding you directs you to awareness of your baby. I also really like the loving kindness meditation which gets you to connect with all other pregnant women in the world. It really is a great encouragement and focus for the love that you can feel during pregnancy. It also really helped when I was struggling with pregnancy and feeling a bit low as I felt that I wasn’t alone.

I would recommend any of these resources to anyone who would like to use the benefits of mindfulness during pregnancy and labour. Pregnancy seems the perfect time to me to engage with mindfulness and I think the stresses of early parenthood can be really well supported by the practices. More on my experience of that to come!

Embarrassed to feed my baby

I wrote most of this a few months ago, and never got round to finishing it (I blame the baby!) but here it is:

I never noticed stories about breastfeeding in the media before I had a baby, but recently it seems there has been a lot in the press and on the internet about breastfeeding and women’s experience of being embarrassed to feed in public, of hating feeling they have to hide away while feeding their baby, and of some women not being made welcome to feed in public. Recently the poet and spoken word artist Holly McNish released a video of her performance of ‘Embarrassed‘. She covers so many of the issues that surround breastfeeding worldwide in such a succinct, clever, humorous and caring way. The performance is so powerful and brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it.

I remember so clearly the first time I fed babi bach out in public. It was our first family trip out when he was just a few days old. We sat in a cafe and I tried to get my head around the logistics of undoing my bra cup, lifting and lowering clothes, getting him lined up and latched on well and holding him securely without the help of all the sofa cushions. All without flashing anyone! It seemed impossible! Something that seemed so hard to work out is now second nature. I remember feeling that I was juggling baby and boobs, but I don’t remember feeling embarrassed. I tried not to show the world everything, but when I did (and I must have!) I wasn’t embarrassed. I didn’t really think much about it, babi bach needed feeding so I fed him, it never crossed my mind that I should hide away.

But the embarrassment did come, and not in a way I was expecting. I’ve written before about how we supplement babi bach’s breast milk feeds with formula due to low milk supply. We were out for a meal for a friends birthday, there were a couple of close friends and some that I knew but hadn’t seen for ages, not since babi bach was born. I was about to start breastfeeding him so I got out the formula to mix it up so it would be ready, and I felt such a strong feeling of embarrassment. I didn’t want to have to feed my baby formula in front of these women who had all fully breast fed their babies, I didn’t want to have to show that I wasn’t good enough on my own to give all that my baby needed. I’ve felt similar at baby clubs and breastfeeding groups, a feeling that people must be wondering why I would be breastfeeding and bottle feeding, and a feeling that I need to explain it all to everyone. I know it’s ‘silly’ to feel embarrassed to bottle feed my son, I know in my head that most people won’t even notice and if they do wonder about it I shouldn’t care, but I can’t help it. Just in the same way some women can’t help feeling embarrassed to breast feed in public.

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I know that women can be helped not to feel embarrassed to breast feed in public just like I don’t feel embarrassed to bottle feed babi bach any more. I think the key here is in support. All of my friends breast feed and I didn’t know anyone who formula fed their baby. So I had really good breast feeding ‘role models’ and supportive friends, but when it came to supplementing with formula I didn’t know anyone I could turn to. When I posted on a local breastfeeding friends group on Facebook about my low milk supply, I had a lot of supportive comments but the most helpful to me was a lovely kind lady who had had similar issues, who emailed me and even sent me a book she had found useful. Just hearing about someone else’s experience and knowing they had made it work gave me confidence in what I was doing. I also met Sally Tedstone, who is the coordinator for the national breastfeeding programme, in Wales. She was visiting local breastfeeding support groups during National breastfeeding week. I asked her a question about a little problem I was having with supplementing at the time and (although she couldn’t help with the problem) she said how great it was that I was continuing with breastfeeding although we’d had some problems. I thought well if the biggest thing in Welsh breastfeeding thinks I’m doing a good job, I must be!

To enable me to continue to breast feed, and to feel confident in feeding my baby, I had support from my husband, family, friends, breastfeeding peer supporters, online groups, and health professionals. I feel that they were all really important and should be encouraged and supported (financially and practically) by government and society. But we can’t wait for someone else to do it, we can all help mums to feel happy and confident to feed their baby, a friendly smile, chat, or more in depth support where appropriate can really help. There is currently a campaign going on in America – I support you – to help mothers feel supported by their peers, whether they breast feed or formula feed, or both. After all, we are all doing the best we can for our babies (the pics at the end of the ‘I support you’ article are fab). So let’s support other mums in feeding their babies, with breast milk, formula and love!

Feeding babi bach with breastmilk, formula and lots of love

Feeding babi bach with breastmilk, formula and lots of love

A ring sling, in Sling. It’s International Babywearing Week!

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Last week was International Babywearing Week. To celebrate this, my husband, babi bach and I took a trip to the local village of Sling for a photo shoot! Here is babi bach with me in our Girasol Earthy rainbow ring sling. A few years ago I lived in Sling for a while – I didn’t realise at the time what that word would come to mean to me! Even though I had lived there, it was my husband who came up with the idea for our little Sunday afternoon expedition, and he has written a post all about babywearing on his blog Dad’s the way I like it.

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Sling has been a word I’ve used a lot over the past few months. I’ve been wearing babi bach since I felt able to after having the C-section; I pop him in a sling for walks, naps or if he’s not feeling well.  It means I can get on with things around the house with both hands free, and we can go all over the place without having to worry about stairs, stiles or any other potential pushchair obstacle. More than that, I just love all the lovely snuggly cuddles we get to have together. Babywearing also means that you smile more; every time that little face looks up and grins, I have to smile back. When we are out and about we get a lot of people smiling and talking to us; everyone loves a cute baby but everyone loves a cute baby in a sling even more!

Conwy carriers organised a Slingathon in Llandudno on Saturday. Now there were a lot of slings! It was a lovely meet up at a local park farm for tea and cake, and walk along the prom in Llandudno. There were groups all over the country getting together during the week with the aim of raising the profile of babywearing in general and also raising awareness of local groups and sling libraries. I don’t think you could miss a group of more than 10 people walking down Llandudno prom, all carrying their children in slings; I did see a couple do a double take as we made our way towards the town centre, commenting ‘did you see those babies?!’.

I’ve found babywearing quite social, I go to my local sling meet in Bangor and have also been to the Conwy carriers sling library. It is really nice to get some help and advice from other people who have tried different baby carriers and slings. It helps to know I am getting advice from someone who is trained so I know I’m doing it safely. It is also great to try before you buy as some carriers and slings can be expensive and its hard to know what will be comfy until you try them. There is a lovely community feel to babywearing groups, all different types of parents can get together to give support and friendship to each other.

So it’s been a very sling filled week for me, an appropriate way to mark International Babywearing Week I think, a Top Sling week!

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Enough milk? Breastfeeding with low milk supply

Six days after Babi bach was born we were sent back to hospital to get him checked over by a paediatrician as he had lost more than 12% of his birth weight. We were pleased to find out that he was healthy and the doctor wasn’t unduly worried, he said that it can be common for breastfed babies to take longer to regain their birth weight. So over the next few days we did loads of feeding, using switch feeding and compressions during each feed. I borrowed an electric pump from the health visitor, expressing milk in between feeds to stimulate my breasts to produce more milk. Babi bach didn’t lose any more weight but he didn’t gain any either. I came to dread those scales and the process of undressing him and laying him on them, only to find that all the efforts we were making were not giving the results we needed. It was clear that my milk on its own just wasn’t enough, and 18 days after he was born we started supplementing his milk intake with formula milk.

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Medela lactina breast pump (A.K.A: The milking machine)

Everything I had read about breastfeeding had said that you shouldn’t use bottles of formula as it would decrease your milk supply. So when the doctor had asked me if I wanted to use formula I said I’d prefer not to. I spoke to the feeding consultant in the hospital who explained that on the rare occasions when a mum’s milk really isn’t enough for a baby to gain weight, supplementing them with formula can help to make it possible to continue breast feeding. She also suggested that I took medication, Domperidone, which helps to increase milk production.

It is really hard to know that you are not making enough milk for your own baby. I felt that a process that was supposed to be so natural was becoming so far from that – the drugs, pumping, using formula. I felt like a failure in that I couldn’t even supply my baby’s first need.

Then Babi bach started to gain weight. Supplementing it seems was a step towards me being able to accept the situation and enjoy feeding my baby. As he got older we graduated from cup and syringe feeding to using bottles, but then he started to show preference for drinking from the bottle rather than from the breast, as he didn’t have to put in as much work to get more milk much quicker (so I couldn’t blame him for that!).

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Supplemental nursing system

It was suggested we try a Supplementary Nursing System (SNS). The SNS is a bottle that you wear around your neck filled with either formula or expressed breast milk; it has two tiny tubes that carry the milk to your nipples, where the baby feeds from the tube whilst latched on as usual to your breast. One benefit of using the SNS is that all the sucking happens at the breast, stimulating more milk production. It can save time, especially if used instead of cup feeding which can take a while. The SNS can prevent nipple confusion between breast and bottle and can help with flow preference. All in all I am a big fan!

It has been a battle to try and accept that I am doing the best I can for my baby (and I am still working on it) but part of that has been introducing supplementing and using the SNS.  Giving formula means that his dad can feed him a bottle every now and again which is great bonding for them.  It also means that unlike some babies who only drink from the breast and then have difficulty accepting a bottle, we know that in the future he will drink from a bottle, cup or anything that contains milk! Most of all it has meant that babi bach is gaining weight steadily and consistently which has taken the pressure off, and we can enjoy our feeding time together whether we are using breast milk or formula.

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Breastfeeding with supplemental nursing system

For anyone starting out using an SNS here are a few ways I found of making it easier to use:

 Make sure you read the instructions!

I ditched using the neck cord early on when one time Babi bach was crying for his food and I was fiddling around trying to get the cord on! I just lean the bottle against my chest or tuck it into my top.

I also gave up taping the tubes on pretty quickly too. I tried feeding the tube into his mouth once he was latched on, like in this video. Most of the time I just pop it into his mouth as he latches on. Sometimes this can go wrong and I have to redo it, and I do find it easier on one side that the other.

I’ve found it’s important to get the baby latched on well and sucking as normal, because if they aren’t they won’t be stimulating the breast in the right way to produce more milk, and it may make your nipples sore!  Sometimes babi bach slips a bit and starts sucking on the tube and my nipple like you would suck on a straw – he gets the formula out but it hurts!

It can be hard to get the knack at first, and hard if the baby is really hungry or upset, so I found it easier to use when he was calm. If babi bach is crying and won’t latch on, I show him the tube and tickle it on his lips – this gets his attention and he knows he is going to get milk so he calms down enough to latch on, he soon learnt that when the tube appears it means more food!

Dwi’n dysgu Cymraeg (I’m learning Welsh)

The National Eisteddfod is being held in Denbigh this week. It will be my first Eisteddfod and I’m really looking forward to going. We will be visiting Maes D (the learners field) to see what they have on for the many Welsh learners who will be visiting, and to have a go at practising using my Welsh. As my use of Welsh recently has mostly been baby talk, I will be concentrating on not accidentally asking someone if they need their nappy changing!

Babi bach (little baby) and I went to our first ‘Cymraeg o’r crud’ (Welsh from the cradle) class when he was 3 weeks old. We walked into the class which is held in the library, maybe looking a little dazed and confused, it was our first ‘baby thing’ since he was born. The other parents were impressed that we had made it out of the house!

The classes cover things like greetings, colours and numbers, toys, food and drink, and use short phrases that you would often use with your baby. There are a lot of little songs which use common nursery rhyme tunes with Welsh phrases, to help us use them at home with our babies and to help them stick in the mind.

A few of the phrases I’ve picked up and use at home:

Wyt ti’n iawn babi bach? – are you ok little baby?

Amser newid clwt – time to change a nappy

Amser llefrith – milk time

Wyt ti’n gwenu? – are you smiling?

Wyt ti wedi blino? – are you tired?

Amser cysgu – time to sleep

I have really enjoyed the classes so far, and in contrast to when I have been to classes in the past, I am actually using the Welsh outside of the classroom. It’s great because you are speaking ‘baby talk’ it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong and it has given me confidence to start to speak Welsh. I have started 3 different Welsh courses over the past 10+ years of living in Wales, but I’ve never got further than the first term… I realise now that I didn’t have an aim or belief that I would be able to learn Welsh and use it in my everyday life. Well now I have Babi bach I have the biggest motivation I could get to learn to speak Welsh, after all I can’t have Babi bach and his Dad able to chat away without me understanding what they say!

The Welsh language is a massive topic, a personal and political issue for many people living in North Wales. I love living in a country where people speak more than one language, I like to hear people talking in Welsh, it doesn’t matter that I can’t understand it (I like to pick out the bits that I can and wonder about the rest!). I’m really pleased that my husband and I can bring up Babi bach bilingually, speaking the language of the country he will grow up in as well as his parents’ first language.

Are you bringing up your child bilingually or have you learnt Welsh alongside your child? Got any tips for me?!