The Irish Maternity System - Birth Trauma (Joe Duffy stories)

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DoulaCare Ireland have (like many others in Ireland) been listening to the stories that have been shared by families in Ireland on the Joe Duffy show over the last week. They have made very emotional listening at times. Unfortunately as doulas and childbirth educators we have been privy to similar stories over the years from women who have reached out to us, looking for someone to talk to. To know that women finally have a public platform to share their stories and to truly be heard is one of the positives to come out of the show. 

At DoulaCare Ireland we support clients nationwide, and of course some will have had past birth trauma. These women and their families often feel they cannot speak about their experiences or they will be treated badly on subsequent pregnancies. Those who do speak out often feel they are brushed aside or their trauma is belittled by hospital staff. 

woman calling about birth trauma

There is very little support within our maternity service for those who have had challenging birth experiences and need someone to talk to. Many of these women often apologise for feeling upset about their experience. After all, they have a healthy baby. Shouldn’t they be OK with how things went? Everyone else seems to think they should be grateful that all is well with baby and move on. But just because you are thrilled to have a healthy baby doesn’t mean you don’t get to grieve for the birth you had hoped to have. It is OK to be upset at how you were treated during your pregnancy and labour. It is such a vulnerable time in a woman’s life and while we may be nervous about the unknown, most of us don’t think that this will be compounded by being spoken to harshly or mistreated by the people we are supposed to trust. 

At DoulaCare Ireland we work closely with other supportive organisations and refer our clients to available services. 

If you have an experience (negative or positive) within the HSE care you can leave your feedback on their site called Your Service Your Say. This information does get reviewed and will be brought to the person in question.

We feel it is important to highlight the fantastic work that AIMS Ireland have done since 2007. They are campaigners for safe and respectful maternity care for the women of Ireland and they work tirelessly on a voluntary basis to do so. If you need advice or supports please do contact them on

We are also proud partners with Nurture Health, who are a national counselling service. They specialise in the care of women and their families during pregnancy and the postnatal period. They have counsellors nationwide who offer space and time to women who have traumatic experiences or have postpartum mood disorders. Irene, the CEO, always ensures their clients are seen quickly and matches them with the best counsellor for their needs (and some of your hours may be covered by health insurance - Irish Life Health for example, offer hours with Nurture Health through their Parenting Path packages for new families.)

Some women find it helpful to get their notes from the hospital. They can be requested by writing into the Freedom of Information Officer in the hospital attended, with Name, Date of Birth and any other relevant details. The applicant must mention that they are requesting their notes under the Freedom Of Information Act in order to receive them free of charge. They will write back  with a standard letter saying they will give a response within 28 days, before sending on the notes on. If desired and the Mum feels able to do so they can then request to meet with the Head of Midwifery or with your Obstetrician to have a review of your notes (AIMS Ireland also offer this option). 

Many of the stories shared over the last week have mentioned women being alone and frightened or not understanding what was happening. With DoulaCare Ireland these situations never arise. With our agency model, each client has their chosen doula but also a back up doula. They also have the support of our full team of 35 doulas - all fully Garda Vetted. This means no matter how long a labour and birth lasts (4 day induction for example) our clients will have constant support from a known doula. They also have the knowledge and experience of 35 doulas to tap into at any point. We have women with diverse backgrounds in our team, from women health physiotherapist, midwives, nurses, yoga instructors, antenatal educators and much more. While our role is not to speak for you during labour we are there to help facilitate conversations between client and their health care provider, encouraging the Mum to ask questions if it looks like there is a lack of understanding on their part. 

Midwife doula woman birth

Doula support is scientifically proven to reduce traumatic experiences and postnatal mood disorders. A Cochrane Review 2017 showed:

Women who had doula support were:

  • more likely to have spontaneous birth

  • more likely to have shorter labour

  • less likely to use pain medication

  • less likely to have Caesarean birth

  • baby less likely to have low Agpars

  • Lower levels of Postpartum Mood Disorders

Women who had doula support had:

  • 31% decrease in use of Pitocin

  • 28% decrease in Caesarean

  • 12% increase in Spontaneous Vaginal Delivery

  • 9% decrease in use of pain relief med.

  • 14% decrease in baby going to SCBU

  • 34% decrease in risk of being dissatisfied after birth

We welcome the discussions on Joe Duffy show and thank the team in RTE for opening up the space for these women to share their story and finally be heard. It is shocking how many women have experienced trauma and remain silent. We hope that women will be able to find their voice, to speak up for their rights and to get the support they deserve. We also hope that those working in the maternity system listen and work to implement change. It must be hard for anyone who works in this area who actively supports and cares for women in kind and compassionate ways to hear these stories, as this is not how they would ever treat anyone in labour themselves. However, the myriad of stories from all over the country show that there is a systemic approach to treating women that needs to be addressed and changed for things to improve. 

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Sharing these stories is the first big step. Well done to every single woman/partner/supporter who has spoken out. Your strength will be a part in driving change for all the women and their families who will be entering into the Irish maternity system. 

We are here to support all women and their families. Get in touch if you need compassionate care postnatally to help you recover from a traumatic experience, or if you are embarking on a subsequent pregnancy. Your voice will be heard.

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Have you heard of Naming Ceremony?

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A Naming Ceremony is a celebration of family and life. This is a great way to bring your family and friends together. The Ceremony is written in conjunction with the parents and a Celebrant to create a personalised and meaningful occasion. It usually includes bestowing a name on your child and declarations of promises and commitments from the parents and guide parents and other important people in the child’s life.

Naming Ceremonies can be held in the home or at a venue of your choosing but not in a Church. They are also not officiated by a Priest but by a Celebrant. Although a Naming Ceremony is secular in its origin, it is entirely the personal choice of the parents as to whether any religious content, from any faith, is included. Having contact with your Celebrant is the best approach as you can use their experience to make the ceremony exactly how you have envisaged it. The Ceremony can be either relaxed or formal. You have total freedom to create a memorable experience for your family and loved ones.

Some parents like their other children in the ceremony. Their siblings can choose to write and say a reading or poem, or perhaps make their own commitments. They may want to make a promise to help look after their new sibling. As a family you may like to light unity candles or have a sand blending ceremony, the action of doing something like this as a family can be significant in bringing you all together.  

In the ceremony you can incorporate readings, poetry and music. The most important part is choosing the aspects that are special to you and your family.  Parents will declare their hopes and wishes for their child’s future and will share this experience with family and friends.  

Naming Ceremonies will include the bestowing of a name - this is where the child is named, perhaps giving the reasons for choosing that name, maybe it was an ancestral name or perhaps had an interesting history. This marks the very first time that a child is introduced to their community using their new given name

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 Guide parents are chosen to make commitments to support and guide the child as they grow and they will make themselves available should the child ever need them for advice, care, guidance or help, this is similar to the role of God Parents.  Promises may be made by Guide parents, they can either answer questions asked by the celebrant during the ceremony, or they can prepare their own promises to your child - in doing this their role becomes even more personal to them. You will be surrounding your child with loving role models to nurture them and have a positive impact on their life. 

The duration of a Ceremony will depend on how many Ceremony enhancements, readings/poems you include, a Naming Ceremony usually last around 25-30 minutes

Some parents like to personalise the ceremony to include symbolic elements such as the lighting of unity candles, a sand blending ceremony, hand and foot prints as a keepsake or the planting of a tree (if the ceremony is being held in your home).

Naming ceremonies are not legally binding and do not have any legal status, although you may be presented with a record of the ceremony as a token of the day.

Naming ceremonies can also be tailored to welcome adoptive children and step-children into a new, extended family or relationship.

My name is Carol Colman and I am an accredited Celebrant with the Irish Institute of Celebrants. I am based in Dublin and I also cover surrounding counties.  I can be contacted through my website ,on Facebook Carol Colman Family Celebrant or by email at  I as a Celebrant will offer home consultation, alternatively you can choose to have contact through online platforms such as Skype, WhatsApp or other video call software, but if it’s possible, I would recommend meeting  person – but as a parent myself I fully understand how precious your time is with a new arrival or toddler.   

Throughout the process, I will discuss the options to personalise the ceremony and will get to know you so I can tailor a ceremony to suit your family needs.

I am an expert in creating bespoke celebrations that people love. I can help you by guiding you through what can be involved in the ceremony and also giving some ideas you may not yet have considered.

My Special Offer to anyone who quotes DoulaCare in their contact email to me is that they will receive their Ceremony for €200 (Usual price €250)

Here is some inspiration for things you may want to include:

  • A book can be available at the celebration which guests are asked to sign or write a message and good wishes for the future for the child and the family.

  • Guests could be asked to bring something small for the child, such as a letter or a flower, which is collected at the start of the ceremony.

  • The celebrant can ask if any guests would like to say anything about the child after the ceremony.

  • A video can be made with guests saying a message for your child at some point in the future.

  • Creating a naming certificate with the details of the day and name which can be kept after the day for the child.

  • Planting a tree either as part of the ceremony or after at your home. This can symbolise growing as family.

  • A Sand Blending ritual can be a nice addition if there are other children in the family

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So Meghan Markle hired a Doula? What is that? Part 2

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So Meghan Markle has hired a doula and everyone is buzzing “what is a doula anyway?” Part 2.

There are two main types of doula. A Birth Doula and a Postpartum Doula. There are also Doulas who specialise in supporting families through loss and other niche areas

In this blog we will focus on Postpartum Doula support.

In times past (and indeed today in many cultures around the world) parents were not sent home from hospital with a new baby and expected to know what to do and manage on their own. We would have had the support of families, neighbours, friends - minding us, feeding us, helping us adjust to the changes in our lives and allowing the new Mum to rest and recover from birth and support her during the first few weeks of life with a small baby. Today we are often lacking this support and just expected to cope. People do call in to visit but don’t think to bring a cooked meal for the Mum, let her rest, load the dishwasher or ask how she is doing. The focus is often on the baby and the Mum is just expected to get on with it. However, we are not hardwired to manage in this way. We need the support of others in those first few weeks and months and in lieu of support from our community the postpartum doula can step in and offer this support.

A Postpartum Doula begins work with their client as soon as they book in. For some, this is during pregnancy (the forward planners!) and for others this is after baby is born. If it is during pregnancy, your doula will help you to prepare for your new arrival and the huge shift your life will take. If it is after birth, your doula will slot right in to your new routine (even if you don’t think there is any form of routine) As with Birth Doula support, your Postpartum Doula comes with many layers of support. We help you to debrief and process your birth experience. We nurture you while you recover from birth and find your new normal. We help your older children adjust to having a new dynamic in the family. We support your partner, adjusting to their new role and debriefing their own experiences. We offer knowledge, encouragement, information and support every step of the way - as each new day brings new challenges. Above all, we help you to savour the good moments between the chaos :)


Knowledge: Doulas are information junkies. We love reading, attending study days and growing our knowledge base. In DoulaCare Ireland all our Doulas must attend at least three CPD days per year. - which ensures the building of knowledge as evidence changes and new research is undertaken. We also learn from every interaction, with each individual client. We bring that knowledge base to you when you come home with your new baby. No matter what comes up, with your recovery after birth or your babies needs - chances are we have seen it before (or we know who to call if not).

Encouragement: Anyone who has had a baby, knows that surreal feeling of being left in charge of this new tiny human. Many parents feel “they are not seriously letting me home alone with this baby? I don’t even know how to bath him or tell if he is hungry” Don’t fear. It is normal to feel that way. The truth is no parent has the answers. Babies don’t come out with an instruction manual. We all learn on the job! The great thing is, with your Postpartum Doula by your side - you have a calm presence helping you every step of the way. So nothing feels overwhelming. You and your baby learn together, with a helping hand from your Doula.

Information: To new parents this is invaluable. The number one question we get asked… “Is this normal?” Rest assured, your Doula will have all the latest evidence and research at hand to help you make informed decisions when the fog of parenting clouds your brain. It can be hard to process information when you are recovering from birth and haven’t slept more than an hour in 2 weeks. Your Doula will give you the information you need in bite sized chunks so you can fully process it as required. She would also be delighted to tuck you up in bed, with clean sheets, after a hot shower and home cooked meal - and after a nice nap it is easier to think more clearly and have perspective on the changes in your life!

Hands-on tips and tricks: A Postpartum Doula passes on all the parenting tips and tricks they have picked up through their training and working experience. They help you to simplify your daily life. Sometimes it’s a gentle suggestion on where to keep the changing table, that you hadn’t thought of (like having a second one in that corner downstairs to save you running up and down the stairs 20 times a day) Sometimes it is demonstrating different methods of helping baby to get wind up - which can be a tricky skill to master.

Partners: Partners are often Doulas biggest champions! We help them to feel involved every step of the way. In parenting, it can be helping them to figure out how to put a baby grow on baby (which way is up? Are these the arms? We all know how hard it can be to get a new baby dressed!) It can be explaining the hormonal rollercoaster women ride after giving birth and to expect highs and lows. It can be a listening ear for them to debrief or to gush about their beautiful new son or daughter. Sometimes it is offering gentle suggestions to help them adjust to their new role and see what part they can play in supporting their partner and adjusting to their own new role.

With DoulaCare Ireland you have a full team of support. Each client is matched with the perfect doula for their needs. In the bigger contracts (100+ hours) you will usually have two doulas offering support. You have the opportunity to meet both beforehand. Both doulas will know your parenting style and wishes. This means that if for any reason your doula needs to change your scheduled hours you have the option of your second doula covering so you are never alone! Our co-owners Jen and Mary are always on hand too. We offer phone and email support to our clients and our doulas so no question is ever left unanswered.

We know from neuroscience that our brains are not hardwired to manage on our own in those first few weeks of adjusting to life with a new baby. All so often when we arrive at a new Mums house, they disclose that they feel they are doing something wrong as they struggle to cope. So few of us talk about how hard it is, that many are left feeling not good enough. The postpartum doula steps in to fill the gap. We are there to build confidence and make those first few weeks a positive memory for years to come - in other words to help a family thrive and not just survive the early days of parenting


Meghan Markle has hired a doula, what is that? Part 1

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So Meghan Markle has hired a doula and everyone is buzzing “what is a doula anyway?” Part 1.

There are two main types of doula. A Birth Doula and a Postpartum Doula. There are also Doulas who specialise in supporting families through loss and other niche areas

In this blog we will focus on Birth Doula support. 

A Birth Doula begins work with their client during pregnancy. Supporting them throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. We don’t clock out at 8pm. We are there by our clients side every step of the way. Offering continuity of care throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum. We then visit our clients at home, offering support with all those early parenting questions.. We offer knowledge, encouragement, information and hands on tips and tricks of the trade. 

Knowledge: We help our clients to understand their chosen place of birth (most commonly a hospital) policies.We compare the different hospitals policies, statistics and what the National Clinical Guidelines say. We also chat about International Guidelines and help our clients to make informed decisions about their care. We also cover the physical process of labour and birth and common things that come up. We can assist our clients to create their birth preferences for their unique journey. After baby arrives we share all the latest evidence on infant care, recovery after birth and anything else you’re wondering about too!

doula pregnancy support

Encouragement: We build up our clients. A huge part of our role is to help our clients (the birthing mother and her partner) to feel confident. We are like their coach or cheerleader from the sidelines, reminding them of all the skills they have gained throughout their pregnancy and the strength they have within. This does not stop once baby arrives. We build you up again after birth and remind you of that strength and knowledge.

Information: Apart from the mentioned topics, doulas also answer any questions that happen to arise with each client. It may be they read an article online and wonder does that happen in Ireland? Or they are told they have a condition (such as gestational diabetes GD) and would like information to help them feel informed and confident on how best to manage it.

Hands on tips and tricks: Doulas are not afraid to get in there and help out. During pregnancy we show our clients different massages, counter pressure and comfort measure to help during labour. We teach these skills to the birth partner so they feel fully involved in the process. On the day of labour often doulas and partners work really well together - tagging in and out (counter pressure can be really tiring after a few hours!) This support continues on into parenting. From showing you how to change and dress a newborn (which is surprisingly tricky at first) to helping you find a comfortable position to feed in - your doula will be right there. 

doula birth support

Partners: Partners are often Doulas biggest champions! We help them to feel involved every step of the way. Partners often say things like “I didn’t know what to do to help my wife” or “I felt like a spare tool in a scary unknown setting” but with a Doula supporting them - they have a full tool kit to draw from. They also get encouragement and a helping hand along the way. After they become a Dad/Mam we are still there. Helping them to adjust to their new role and offering guidance on how best to support you.

With DoulaCare Ireland you have a full team of support. Each client is matched with two doulas. You have your primary doula and your back up doula. You have the opportunity to meet both. Both doulas will know your birth preferences and wishes. This means that if for any reason your doula needs to take a break (such as a long birth, where your doula may need to grab some sleep), you have the option of your back up doula joining you so you are never alone! Our co-owners Jen and Mary are always on hand too. We offer phone and email support to our clients and our doulas so no question is ever left unanswered.

In next weeks blog we will discuss Postpartum Doula support.

Until then… Doula Jen x

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Postnatal Depression, when love doesn’t come as a thunderbolt.

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Postnatal Depression, when love doesn’t come as a thunderbolt.

I was 21, and diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), on a hot June day, in the consultants room, in a Cork hospital. One minute I was worrying about my parent's car being clamped, and the next minute I was being told,  if I was ever going to have kids, do it now in my early 20s. He closed the folder and stood up, as I sank into the chair. Fast forward to 23, going out with my husband, and about four weeks into the relationship, the clock now ticking so loudly, I sit him down and tell him. In September 2011, my daughter was born. Five years after my PCOS diagnosis. A greyness descended, initial happiness replaced with fears, thoughts, overwhelming feelings. My brain telling me that I’m not good enough for her. My husband was beaming, but my heart was breaking, because, after five years of hoping, wishing, endless sticks to wee on, I didn’t get that thunderbolt. I was in shock. 

I stayed in the hospital for four days, because I didn’t want to go home until I felt ‘right’ . That thunderbolt didn’t come. Over the following days and weeks, I lied to friends and family who were enamoured by her. I was staying awake all night, afraid, and dreading the moment she would need me again. Would she be better with someone else as her mammy? I envied my husband's love for her. I envied how happy he was. I loved her, but felt that I wasn’t enough for her. What if she didn’t like me? Friends kept telling me how lucky we were to have a happy, healthy baby. I didn’t feel lucky, I felt guilty, ashamed that I wasn’t enjoying the baby I had longed for. I was lucky to find a breastfeeding support group,  that allowed me to cry, talk openly, and not be judged. It became my lifeline. I found Kathy Kendall-Tackett's book, The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood, and it was eye opening, and reassuring. Dr Andrew Mayers from Bournemouth University, has done some interesting research about partners developing postpartum depression too.


I had heard some myths about PND , and medication, and I had fears about asking for help. What if they take her off me? What if, what if, what if? I became numb, and comfortable in my numbness. I hit rock bottom in 2016, when my neighbour passed away suddenly. A few days later, at my doctor's for something else, I broke down. He gave me some options, and I chose a referral for counselling. It was amazing. A weight lifted. The shame and guilt could be put down. I could breathe. 

I now work as a postpartum Doula, with Doula Care Ireland. One client described me as “a wonderful calm presence amidst the chaos" .I am not a health care professional. I am not there to tell you what to do. I give you the information,  and allow you to make an informed choice that works for you and your family. There is no one magic cure for PND, but , with calm, clear, informative support you can begin your journey out of the greyness. I am continuously working on being the best version of myself, and it is a continuous process. Sometimes I see glimpses of how I felt, in my clients, and it reminds me that the process of being mentally well, is something we need to keep working on.

Written by one of our doulas Dee Burke. You can fins out more about Dee and the support she offers here

If you or someone you know is suffering with a postpartum mood disorder these resources may help,%20support%20services%20for%20those%20with%20Poatnatal%20Depression

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VBAC Mothers are real!

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Hi I am here…a real life, breathing VBAC mum :) 

So many of our DoulaCare Ireland clients do not believe that VBAC’s actually happen in Ireland. Well as a doula I have supported them, as an antenatal educator I have taught parents about them and earlier this year I experienced a VBAC personally.

My beautiful baby daughter Kayla Rose (a bit of a social media celebrity now) arrived in a whirlwind on 25th March 2018. I had an intervention free VBAC, supported by my husband, doula and midwife (an obstetrician was there also but I have very vague memories of her as she was not my focus) 

As Kayla’s birthday starts to draw closer, I have started to write my birth story. I will upload it in two parts (its a long story even though the birth itself was fast) That will give you all a full run through of my VBAC.

Before labour began I was admitted to hospital at 38 weeks for polyhydraminos (too much amniotic fluid) and baby in an unstable lie. Kayla was lying diagonally across my tummy. This meant there was a high risk of cord prolapse if my waters released. So after weighing up all my options, the pros & cons I decided to stay in hospital. (see my pregnancy blogs and our social media posts during March 2018 for videos/updates etc) You can also look back through my weekly pregnancy blogs ;)

There was lots of talk about elective caesarean but I held firm that I would like to try for a VBAC. I was confident in my body’s ability to birth my baby. There was a lot of negotiation and I found being informed about my options really helped in these situations. I knew the benefits and risks and studies that were done around vaginal birth after caesarean and also repeat caesareans. I was never against caesarean. I knew it was one option and if that ended up being the case I was ok with it, once I was listened to. My main priority was always to have a safe birth BUT I also wanted to have a positive experience. I found having doula support a great advantage as I had someone that I could bounce my thoughts and feelings off, who was non-judgemental and impartial and made a great sounding board for me. They supported me as I mourned the birth I wanted (to labour at home before going into hospital), and help prepare me for my change in circumstances. The brain training techniques in the GentleBirth app also helped me keep my focus and stay calm as things changed for me.

During my pregnancy I did all I could to empower myself. I worked on my physical and mental health. Over the 9 months I worked on building a positive mindset. preparing my husband to be my advocate. I armed myself with great support, in the shape of my informed husband and my wonderful Doula. I took time for self care. I had regular reflexology, used aromatherapy, had shiatsu, realigned my pelvis with chiropractic treatments, listened to daily affirmations, GentleBirth tracks and had a vision board. I knew my VBAC wasn’t going to just land in my lap. I had to take ownership and prepare for it.

I stayed really positive and used my time on the antenatal ward to focus my mind and prepare my body. I went into spontaneous labour just as I was going to bed on the 24th of March. I did consent to having the CTG, even though I had originally felt I did not want it (more detail to come in my birth story) However I was clear that I chose my own position and moved with my body.

Kayla Rose entered the world at 4.17am, the night the clocks went forward. So my labour lasted less than 3 hours. She was 8lbs 2oz, at 38+6 gestation. 

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I escaped with only a small 1st degree tear and no abnormal blood loss. 

I did it!

Jen with baby kayla enjoying skin to skin,surrounded by love with (hubby paul taking the photo), midwife jo (rotunda) and doula mim.

Jen with baby kayla enjoying skin to skin,surrounded by love with (hubby paul taking the photo), midwife jo (rotunda) and doula mim.

It was such a high and I was so proud of myself. I haven’t really spoken about that high much. There was complications after, as Kayla was born with an undiagnosed cleft palate and Pierre Robin Sequence but that was not connected to our VBAC. My moment of euphoria only lasted a second before we realised something was wrong with our baby.

So after a bit of my story…. I experienced a VBAC in an Irish maternity hospital. Yes at times during my pregnancy I felt like there was a huge spotlight over my head. Yes I had to negotiate and be firm at times. Yes I had a wobble myself during labour, when I had a burning sensation across my scar but I did it. The evidence says many more woman can safely do it too. 

Preparing for a VBAC can definitely be a rollercoaster and support is crucial. Most people (including health care providers) just assumed I would be having a repeat Caesarean. I knew VBAC was safe, I was aware of the evidence and for me it was the option I hoped for.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about VBAC birth. You will hear care providers tell people that they can have a VBAC but only labour for so many hours as it is dangerous for the scar (not evidence based), or they cannot go over 40 weeks in case the scar ruptures (not evidence based), or because it has only been 2 years since their last baby their scar may be too weak (not evidence based)…you get the picture!!! So in order to have a successful VBAC you do need to prepare yourself. Below I have listed some of my top tips for anyone hoping for a VBAC.

What are my top tips?

Empower yourself with knowledge and the latest evidence.

Educate yourself and your partner so they are also aware and can advocate for you if needed.

Get yourself a Doula!

Take an independent childbirth class - a Cuidiu antenatal class or a GentleBirth workshop, or a VBAC specific workshop (also given by an independent provider).

Try to be under midwifery led care if possible.

Peer support is hugely helpful. The VBAC in Ireland Facebook group is a great support network of Mums who have tried for a VBAC, or are trying (LINK)

Don’t be afraid to ask questions at appointments (bring a notebook if it helps)

Know you have the right to decline any option of care once you understand the benefits and risks (a caesarean, a CTG trace, an induction and so on)

Remember to use BRAIN as a tool when discussing your options (both for you and your baby)


What are the BENEFITS of a repeat caesarean?

What are the RISKS of a repeat caesarean?

What are the ALTERNATIVES?

What does my gut INSTINCT say? Need more INFORMATION?

What happens if I do NOTHING for now and wait to make a decision?

Remember DoulaCare Ireland are here to support you through your VBAC. Ask us questions, gain information & support but above all, gain the skills to make informed decisions for your individual situation. 

I wish you luck on your journey. Whatever the outcome, what is important is that you have a positive experience - at the centre of that is making informed decisions and feeling supported. 

Doula Jen x

Some Further reading :

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Adjusting to life with a toddler and a newborn

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Adjusting to life in the early days and weeks.

It is important to acknowledge that it will be hard at times, but it won't be impossible. It is all an adjustment but the love you will feel will make everything worthwhile. Of course as your Postpartum Doula I will assist you with adjustment and daily tasks. Here are my top tips on how to set yourself up for success and make each day easier.


baby with toddler siblings
  • Cook extra portions of freezer friendly meals (like bolognaise/shepherds pie/fish bake etc) while you are pregnant or if baby is here then at the weekends so you've a good supply of nutritious food to see your family through week ahead. This is also something family and friends could do to help out.

  • Shop online for now if a grocery shop seems unimaginable. 

  • Buy preprepared fruit and veg as handy snacks to grab on the go.

  • Don't be too proud to accept offers of help and don't be afraid to suggest chores (unload the dishwasher, hoover the stairs, clean the bathroom etc)

  • Lower your expectations of how the house will look during the first few months. You've got a lot on your plate, and it doesn't really matter if the dusting doesn't get done or you have to wear un-ironed clothes for a few days, or years even.

  • As soon as you can, try to get out for at least a short walk every day it's amazing what a boost it is to get out of doors. If that seems too epic right now, sit in the garden and play with your toddler.

  • Take all offers of taking your toddler out for a while (once your toddler is happy of course!) Granny wants to take her out to the playground? Great, don’t feel guilty and try to go too - grab a nap with baby while you can :)

  • Make your toddler aware from the very start that the baby is interested in her, is watching her and loves her. Say things like, "She's following your game with her eyes" and "She's very interested in what you're doing".

  • Involve your toddler in games with the baby from the earliest days, and always tell your toddler how much you value her help with tasks such as handing you a nappy for the baby.

  • Have a ‘special feeding box’ Fill the box with little toys and books, colours or activities for your toddler. This box only comes out while you are feeding the baby and is your toddlers special treat.

  • Babywear. Using a sling gives you the ability to meet your newborns needs (to be warm, safe and close to you) while still playing, reading with or just spending quality time with your toddler. I would recommend attending a sling meet or get a sling consultant to your home to find the right sling for you.

  • Take photos, because while the days seem endless right now, the weeks and months will fly past and you will appreciate the memories ☺

  • Be gentle with yourself. No one is perfect. This is all learning on the job, take each day as it comes and remember you are doing your best and that is all anyone can do!



Enjoy the madness! Doula Jen x

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Things are not always as they seem on Social Media!

Things Are not Always as They Seem on Social


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Things aren’t always as they seem!


Social media like Facebook portrays an image of happiness and beauty. Everyone full of smiles, surrounded by friends and family, women with perfect make up, children looking sweet, even their house looks clean and decorated so beautifully in the background!



I have sat with so many parents who feel inferior and genuinely upset when they compare their life to their Facebook or Instagram friends (some of whom they may never have actually met in real life!) 


Well guess what? No one has a perfect life. Who do you know that told you about their toddler having a massive melt down on the floor of the super market?  It’s happened to us all! Now ask yourself this, have you ever seen them post a photo of said event? The probable answer is of course no. They may even have got through that hiccup in their day and gone on to post a video that evening of their little one singing a sing, full of smiles. This often leaves us all thinking “Look there is Sally’s little girl singing, she is so sweet. Why are my kids such terrors? I can’t even bring them to the shops to get milk and bread without a melt down!”


Social media is where people document their happy moments. It is well thought out before anyone posts a photo. They will find the clean corner of their house, hold the camera to its most flattering angle, nudge their partner to smile or do silly faces to coax a smile from their little ones. It is where we can look back and say “That was a brilliant day” or “Look how much my baby has grown since then!”



I encourage you all to enjoy social media, like Facebook and take inspiration from others. See another twin Mum getting out to a play group? Never thought you could? Maybe that was the photo you needed to see to give it a go ☺ 


Social media is a great way to stay connected to people, get peer support and find out about local resources. Remember to take off the rose tinted glasses and see behind the staged scenes of family photos. Reality is that there was probably shouting or bribery (or both) to get everyone in and smiling. If we capture that moment we can feel proud posting it, banking that moment in time for the future. 


So your life isn’t perfect, your kids are a pain in the backside most of the time, your house is a mess and your partner is a nightmare. Whose isn’t? Feel comfort in knowing we are all in the same boat ☺ Reach out to friends to chat. Go to peer support groups. Have a moan, then have a cup of tea and a biscuit, take a deep breath and enjoy the rest of your day.


Because even if your life isn’t perfect, you will never have this moment again. Your little ones will never be at this stage again. Sometimes the days can feel endless but the weeks disappear so quickly so savour every precious moment and breath through the hard ones.


Doula Jen xx

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Expressing Love

A Poem for all Pumping Mothers.

Hmmmm hmmmm goes the pump through the night,

Reminding myself it will all be alright.

The chafing and blisters won't last,

Counting each drop as they fall becomes a thing of the past,

Watching my baby sleep soundly,

The sound of the pump rings out all around me.

Hmmmm hmmmm goes the pump through the night,

Reminding myself it will all be alright.

I'm giving my baby every drop that I can,

Even though things are not quite how I planned.

I'm pouring my love into every single drop,

Telling myself "keep going, don't stop"

Hmmmm hmmmm goes the pump through the night,

Reminding myself it will all be alright,

Skin to skin, and slings,

Are our new bonding things.

As I nourish her tummy,

With my tailor made milk (that's so yummy!)

As drops turn to sprays,

And hours into days,

As mls turn to ounces,

And days into weeks,

The lowest moments fade and we experience more peaks.

Hmmmm hmmmm goes the pump through the night,

Reminding myself it will all be alright,

The grief begins to pass,

As we find our own way.

The pumping becomes part of life

As we grow day by day.

A poem by Jen Crawford. Exclusively pumping for her daughter Kayla who was born with a complete cleft palette and Pierre Robin Sequence.

Care and Recovery After a Caesarean Birth.

Care and Recovery After a Caesarean Birth.

You have a brand-new baby — and you also just had surgery. Whether you knew you would have a caesarean birth or not, dealing with both at the same time can be rough. Here are some helpful tips to get your recovery and parenting journey off to a great start. 



Keep on top of the pain medication!

Expect the caesarean incision to hurt for a while. The medicine used in the epidural/spinal ease pain immediately after birth. After they wear off, you’ll be given oral anti-inflammatory medication or suppositories. There are options for these medications that don’t interfere with breastfeeding, so take them. If you can keep pain at bay, it’s unlikely to get out of control. But if you let it go, it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. It is important to mind yourself during your recovery.

Many new mothers get tummy cramps after birth. These are called "after pains" and are similar to early contractions. They are your uterus’s way of shrinking to its original size. Sometimes having that incision will make it more intense for you. Also know that breastfeeding can trigger those cramps and make them feel a little more intense. As crazy as it sounds, this is actually a positive thing! Breastfeeding releases oxytocin which will assist your uterus to shrink back down the way nature intended. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you’re having severe pain or other problems breastfeeding. Or remember your doula is always at the other end of the phone.



Move at your own pace!

You probably won't feel up to walking the room rocking your new baby straight away after birth, but you should be able to get out of bed and walk around within a day. You obviously have to wait for the epidural or spinal medications to wear off fully but you also may need extra time to regain your energy. Once the catheter is removed (it emptied your bladder so it wouldn’t be damaged during delivery), you’ll be able to get out of bed. Take those first few days at your own pace (often similar to a 100 year old tortoise).

Moving around allows normal body functions to get back to normal, as well as decreasing the chance of complications from your surgery. For example, walking even small amounts helps to avoid constipation. It can also lower the risk factor of forming a blood clot. Plus as hard as it seems, you will feel better if you go and brush your teeth or take a shower. Slowly and with help!

Of course, you’re not expected to get up and go for a 10k run anytime soon but it is recommended to gradually increase the amount of activity you do from around two weeks postpartum. That can mean starting by walking around the garden and gradually going longer distances and becoming more active. Increase the intensity around six weeks postpartum. By that time, you will be due your 6 week check with your GP, who will let you know if you are ok to drive and answer any questions you have. Take it at your own pace, follow what your body is telling you.

Get help lifting baby

I know - All you want to do is lift that gorgeous baby up and cuddle her, but you’re always better to ask for help. It could be painful or difficult shortly after surgery. This is normal, and pain medication, as well as a hand from your partner, doula or a nurse, will help. Lifting a baby out of the crib may be a challenge, but sitting and holding a baby in your bed or a chair and nursing isn’t. So go ahead and breastfeed your baby, but ask for assistance from the nurses or your partner during your hospital stay.

mother baby


Eat lots of fibre

Constipation can be an issue for women after caesarean birth. Gas also gets backed up. This can be uncomfortable in the obvious ways but in surprising ones as well, like shoulder pain. If your bowels are distended, they can irritate the diaphragm, and that can be a referred pain that goes to the shoulders.

Don't be shy,  speak to your care provider about laxatives and anti-gas meds if required. Remember to eat fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and move around as much as possible. And don’t be shy — let that gas pass.


postpartum fiber diet


Care for your incision

In the shower, let the water run on the wound (don’t scrub). Try not to use soap on the area. Once you are done you can pat it dry. If your skin folds over the incision, put a cloth pad on it to keep it from getting sweaty. Your nurse will check it regularly to make sure everything is healing well and may put a dressing on for protection.

Look out for signs of infection, if any develop call your care provider:

  • High Tempature

  • Skin around the incision turns red

  • Oozing green or pus-coloured liquid

  • Incision becomes hard or painful

Self care is vital!

So now you are a mam with a round-the-clock new responsibility. It can be easy to get distracted with your adorable new baby and push your body too far. It is important for both you and baby that you recover quickly. You can help speed recovery by eating a balanced diet, getting as much rest as you can and start gentle exercising once you get the go-ahead from your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can get some extra sleep, take a long shower or eat a full meal. (see my blog on ‘Self Care’) 



I wish you the best of luck with your birth experience.

Doula Jen x


Jen Crawford,

CO-OWNER DoulaCare Ireland

How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?


Baby breastfeeding

You will be learning together. Breastfeeding is a skill that can be learned, so take that time in the early days to relax and focus on getting to know your new baby. Your job is solely to cuddle and feed him, everyone around you needs to care for you! So snuggle up in bed, snooze, smell the top of his gorgeous head, cuddle, study his adorable face and tiny little finger nails. Savour every moment. Follow your instincts, you are his mam you will know if he is getting enough milk. Granted, you will be flooded with hormones and perhaps haven’t slept for a while so here are some basics to get you off to a great start! 

How does your baby appear? A baby who is getting enough milk will be alert and active during wakeful times. He will appear bright and healthy. He will have a good colour (not too jaundiced or pale) and have moist lips. He will be gradually growing in length and head circumference, your PHN & GP with keep track of this.

How often should my baby feed? A new born tummy is tiny, only the size of a marble. A full feed is 5-7mls (a tea spoon) this gradually increases to the size of a hens egg by one month old, about 80-150mls. Because they can only take in these tiny amounts, they need to feed often. Most new babies feed 10-12 times in 24 hours, some feed more! Follow your baby’s feeding cues. Don’t watch the clock thinking “It has only been an hour, he can’t be hungry again!” Those first few days and weeks are all about learning. Your baby has never breastfed before so he needs to find his rhythm (along with learning to breathe, smell, taste, see and process his new world) Offer encouragement and support as you both learn this new skill together!

How long should feeds last? A feed can last from 5-30 minutes on one side, once you can audibly hear your baby swallowing – he is still extracting milk from that breast. So leave him to work away! Once the rhythm slows to about one swallow every 7 sucks it is a good idea to switch sides. When he is finished that side you can change his nappy, wind him a little (most breastfed babies don’t suffer from much wind) and then offer the second breast. He may not be interested, take a small feed or sometimes feed on that side for 30 minutes again! Trust that your baby knows what he is doing. Relax and enjoy those new baby snuggles. 

mother and baby breastfeeding

What goes in must come out! If your baby is having lots of wet and dirty nappies then there must be milk going in to create it. You are looking for about 5 or 6 wet nappies per day and one dirty per day of life (ie one dirty on day one, two dirty nappies on day two and so on up to day 4) Your baby’s poo should change from the black sticky meconium to a greenish colour and then mustard colour by around day 5. Some breastfed babies have a poo after every feed!

Weight gain. Many new parents can become obsessed with their baby’s weight. Don’t worry too much about it, however it can be a good guide as to how your baby is doing. Weight loss of 5-10% is normal after birth. This can be higher if you had a lot of IV fluids during your labour and birth. You would be looking for your baby to regain his birth weight by about 2-3 weeks old. A rough guide is for your baby to gain about 5-7oz (or 150-220 grams) per week. Remember weight is just one part of the picture, it is not the sole focus. 

Remember breastfeeding can be tender for some in the early days but it should NEVER hurt. If nursing your baby is painful there is something wrong. Remember it is a skill that can be learned together so seek support. Ask your nurse to assist you, reach out to supports around you (listed below) or of course, have a Postpartum Doula by your side!

Doula Jen x

Jen Crawford

Co Owner & Founder of DoulaCare Ireland 


Further reading & helpful resources: Tips for the early days breastfeeding your baby. Great video clip from Dr Jack Newman & IBCLC Edith Kernerman page ‘Breastfeeding Inc’. This clip shows what a good latch & drinking looking like. Great chart with guidelines for first few weeks. 


Breastfeeding Supports:

Association of Lactation Consultants Ireland 

Cuidiu, Irish Childbirth Trust

Le Leche League Ireland

Friends of Breastfeeding

National HSE Breastfeeding support 


Choosing a Sling for you and your baby

Choosing a Sling for you and your baby


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A sling is a generic term that is used to describe a baby wrap, carrier or sling. Just makes it a bit easier to talk about  A sling is an essential part of your baby gear. You get a pram, a car seat, a cot & a sling! It is just as important as your pram or car seat & is not something that you should forget about.

I am often asked what is “The Best” sling to get for a new baby, and that is very difficult to answer. That is like asking me to pick out your new winter coat; what I like & feel comfortable in & what you like & feel comfortable in are two different things!

The world of slings may be very daunting, but hopefully I can make the mud a little clearer for you today! I’ll outline 3 different types today, and then discuss Babywearing Consultations at the end.

Stretchy Wrap


baby sling stretchy wrap

Stretchy wraps are wonderful for newborns! They’re tightness replicates the cosy environment of the womb, and can help baby to feel safe, snug & secure. It brings them back to the heart beat & breathing that they were used to hearing in the womb & your movements help to settle them.

There are A LOT of stretchy wraps out there, ranging from €45 - €90. I really love hybrid wraps, as they last longer (you can carry your baby until they are older) & I prefer how well I can tighten a hybrid. But again, it’s personal choice! Others prefer how little they have to worry about tightening a 2 way stretch wrap & just find it so much easier to use.

The best way to make head or tail of it all is to book a consultation with a Babywearing Consultant. I’ll say a bit more about this at the end.

Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) or Buckle Carrier

Everyone know what an SSC or Buckle Carrier is. They are probably the most popular & the most readily available type of sling available. Most high-street nursery stores would carry more than one type of buckle sling, and they’re selections are getting better.

The thing with Structured carriers is that as they are “Structured” they are usually sized, and this means that not all fit from birth without the use of an infant insert.

The main thing to look out for is to make sure that the sling is ergonomic. You want the seat to support your baby from knee to knee, in a spread-squat position. This is going to be the most comfortable for you & your baby.

Ring Sling

A ring sling is a short piece of fabric, with 2 rings secured at one end, to allow you to securely fasten your baby into the sling. I love ring slings! I love how versatile they are. I love how they can see you from day one all the way through to the last day that your little one wants to be carried. I love how quick & easy they can be, when you know how to use them. And, I really love a back carry for a toddler with them :-D

Again, with a consultation, you can learn how to use these wonderful slings and get you hands back & keep your little one close.


gillian sling 3.png

Babywearing Consultations

We have many names these days; Babywearing Consultant, Sling Consultant, Carrying Consultant, Babywearing Educator. But what we do is we teach you the basics in using your sling correctly so that you and your baby are as comfortable as possible, and that you are totally confident using your sling correctly & safely.

A consultation or a lesson is possible when you are pregnant, as all consultants will have Demo Dolls for practicing with, and a selection of slings to allow you to try a few out.

A consultation is a custom designed lesson for you & can make your babywearing journey so much more enjoyable & beneficial to you all. Prices for an individual consultation start range from €30-€55 for a 90 minute lesson, depending on location, house call, distance travelled by consultant etc.

For a list of babywearing consultants, check out

You can also get in touch with Jen & Mary in DoulaCare Ireland, as 4 of their doulas are also Babywearing Consultants!

Gillian O’Neill

Jen Campbell

Tricia Nugent

Rachel Kenna


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They never told me about the Second Night!

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They never told me about the Second Night!



Why is it that when we are pregnant everyone has an opinion. They want to share their experiences and what items we should or shouldn’t buy to be prepared for our babies arrival. So why is it then, while we are being bombarded with information and stories of woh – that not one person mentions the horror that is night 2 of our babies lives?


Let me explain.


So the first 24 hours are bliss. We are on an oxytocin high. We have given birth, become a new family and have our new tiny baby/babies. We can count their toes, smell their gorgeous baby smell and kiss their cute button noses. All the while our beautiful baby is content to cuddle in and sleep, only really waking to eat. We are led into a false sense of smugness...that yes I have the perfect baby. This parenting lark is amazing.


Then, as the sun sets on day 2 our beautiful sleepy baby disappears and seems possessed with a different baby spirit, who does not sleep, cuddles/rocking and singing don’t help and they never seem to be full.


This is where it can so easily go wrong. Doubt creeps in. Do I not have enough milk? Is my baby starving? Why won’t he stop crying? He keeps fussing at the breast, does he not want me?


The answer is, your baby is doing EXACTLY what he should be doing! Don’t worry – it is nature driving him to behave like this and it will be over soon.


So what is going on? Well on day one your baby was sleeping off the birth. Remember you and your baby were a team, going through labour and birth together. They are tired too. Not only that but it can be a shock to their system, entering our crazy world from the cosy and safe surroundings of your tummy.



Your baby has to breathe for the first time. Regulate their own body temperature, feel hunger & eat. They are hearing, seeing and smelling so much more. Your babys senses are on overload. However, on night two they have had time to settle in, get used to their surroundings. They have slept off their birth and now nature is telling them they have an important job to do – get your milk supply in so they have a food source. So how can a new baby do that? They can feed like crazy, signalling to your body they have mastered suck, swallow & breathe and are ready to take on bigger volumes.


This does not mean your baby is starving and needs bottles. It does not mean your baby wants someone else. Your baby is being driven by instinct to help your milk come in. Plus lets not forget – you are their home! You have been their whole world since the second they were created, you are where they want to be.


Nothing an infant can or cannot do makes sense, except in the light of mothers body”

Dr Nils Bergman


Help your baby by keeping them close. Your body will keep them warm. Your heartbeat is the most familiar sound in the world. Your breasts will make the perfect amount of milk for them as they grow. Follow your babys signals, don’t watch the clock. You both know what to do if you can switch off your thinking brain ;)


So batten down the hatches. Prepare for it. Stock up on food and snacks that can be eaten with one hand and have them at easy reach. Charge up your phone or tablet to have something to keep you sane at 3am. Take a few naps when you can with baby (yes the old tale of sleep when baby sleeps is turu, but also important for survival!) But above all, enjoy it. No I am not insane. Your baby is only this size once. You only have this moment in time once. While it may not be picture perfect, it is your new normal and it is amazing. Be in awe of your body for creating this little human being. Be proud of yourself for getting through your first 24 hours as a parent. Watch in amazement as your baby feeds from your breasts. You are a goddess right now.


So hold your baby. Feed your baby. Feed yourself! And (yes I am going to say it)

This too shall pass.


What's the story with Kaylas Cleft?

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Anyone following my journey over the past year will know Kayla was born with a cleft palate (but not lip) Many people don’t quite understand what that means, and to be honest I struggled a bit at the beginning too! So I thought a blog would help :)


There are many different types of clefts and no two are the same. A baby can be born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate or both a cleft lip and cleft palate. Essentially what a cleft is, is a hole or gap in the area. 

The following stats are taken from ( The incidence of cleft lip and/or palate in Ireland is between 1 in 700 and 1 in 1,000 births. Incidence of cleft palate occuring alone is about 1 in 2000 births. More than 70% of babies with cleft lip also have cleft palate. 

Parents who have a child born with a cleft, have a 5% chance of the next born also having a cleft (so a 1 in 20 chance). If a second child is born with a cleft, the likelihood increases further for any subsequent child. 

The chances of a parent who was born with a cleft having a cleft baby is approximately 7 in 100. So Kayla will have roughly a 7% chance of having a baby with a cleft (of course if she chooses to be a parent but we would love lots of grandchildren!). 


Types of Cleft Lip

  • Forme fruste unilateral cleft lip
    A subtle cleft on one side of the upper lip, which may appear as a small indentation.

  • Incomplete unilateral cleft lip
    A cleft on one side of the upper lip, which does not extend into the nose.

  • Complete unilateral cleft lip
    A cleft on one side of the upper lip, which extends into the nose.

  • Incomplete bilateral cleft lip
    Clefts on both sides of the upper lip, not extending to the nose.

  • Complete bilateral cleft lip
    Clefts on both sides of the upper lip, extending into the nose.

Types of Cleft Palate

  • Incomplete cleft palate
    A cleft in the back of the mouth in the soft palate.

  • Complete cleft palate
    A cleft affecting the hard and soft parts of the palate. The mouth and nose cavities are exposed to each other.

  • Submucous cleft palate
    A cleft involving the hard and/or soft palate, covered by the mucous membrane lining the roof of the mouth. May be difficult to visualize.

Kayla is linked in with the cleft team in Temple Street. They have been amazing. Big shout out to Jane the cleft nurse specialist who takes families under her wing and walks the journey with them. She gives us so much time to ask any questions we may have and checks in regularly to see how Kayla is doing.


In Ireland, the cleft teams grade the palate or lip cleft from 0-3. 0 being very mild and 3 the most sever. Kayla has a grade 3 cleft palate. She has a complete cleft palate, but instead of just being a gap or a hole Kayla is missing all of her palate (hard and soft)

kayla palate 1.jpg
kayla palate 2.jpg




Kayla also has a condition called Pierre Robin sequence (or syndrome) PRS for short. This is a condition in which babies are born with a smaller than normal lower jaw, a tongue that is small and bunched which often falls back in the throat, and difficulty breathing. It is present at birth but not always detected in pregnancy ultrasounds. Most babies with PRS have a U shaped cleft palate like Kayla. Again the team will grade PRS 0-3 and Kayla scored a 0, as luckily she does not have many issues with her airways. Kayla does well once she is on her side or raised. Another positive is that nature gave her a helping hand with a tight posterior and anterior tongue tie to hold her tongue in place, so her tongue does not flop back to block her airways (who would have thought it? A helpful tongue tie!!)


Other common issues in babies/children with PRS are problems with their eyes (Stickler Syndrome), problems with their inner ears and dental issues. Kayla will be under different teams for each and so far they have been wonderful.


Kayla will have her first surgery to create a soft palate when she is around 9 months. This will hopefully help with her speech development. She will most likely be 3 years old before her palate is completely closed but for now it seems the only long term issue she will have is a speech delay – which she will catch up on by the time she is 10 years or so. So while her first few years of life will be hard, with surgeries and hospital appointments it is something that won’t hold her back and she can put behind her!


I hope this blog helps to explain things a little? Please feel free to ask questions :)

Again thank you to everyone for the love and support since Kayla was born xx

kayla 5 months.jpg


If you or someone you know has a baby with a cleft or PRS these are helpful resources:

Websites: The booklet I co created "Breastfeeding and Expressing for your preterm or sick baby" has lots of information on getting off to a good start, maintaining your milk supply, storing milk, skin to skin and more. It is available free to download or order. All Irish maternity units should have copies also. 

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has two booklets (both e-booklet -released during 2017 and hard copy)  The cleft breastfeeding booklet: has information about breastfeeding - and expressed breast milk feeding, lactation aids, type of feeding methods including - cup/spoon/supply lines/ bottles/teats. As well as some of the experiences surrounding feeding from families.  The second booklet is all about expressing and storing breastmilk:


Facebook pages: 

cleft lip & palate association of ireland

Cleft Lip And Palate Association

Cleft Lip and Palate Breastfeeding Support Group


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What is the Fourth Trimester?


What is The Fourth Trimester?

Imagine what the third trimester of pregnancy would be like for a baby: tightly cocooned in a warm, dark, comforting place. There are no hunger pains or thirst, no need to pass painful wind, no strange smells, no feeling the hot or cold — just a perfect environment tailor made for a baby.

baby pregnancy

I’m sure you can also imagine suddenly being born into a world with of all these things can be quite a rude shock!

A new baby isn’t born being able to fend for themselves and still has much developing to do – they can’t escape if they sense danger or fear, go and find mum or dad for security or a cuddle, nor can a baby chase mum for a feed whenever hunger or thirst calls… they completely rely on us for every single need.

A gentle adjustment into their new world in the form of a fourth trimester (which is named that way in order to be perceived as an extension of the third trimester) can make a huge difference to how baby feels and how mum and dad cope with parenthood.

Babies cry because it is their only means to alert their parents that they have a need to be met (and they will not stop crying until it is met), which can in turn make parent’s self esteem and confidence plummet if nothing seems to work. This is because they start wondering what they are doing wrong and if they are useless parents (they’re not).

Giving your baby a fourth trimester can make for such a more enjoyable, soothing time for all involved – so how can you give your baby a fourth trimester? Here are some simple ways to recreate womb life.

  • Use a sling/wrap

Baby wearing can be a life saver in the early days. Using a sling can recreate several conditions from when baby was in the womb. Feeling tightly supported all over, close to mum’s heartbeat, warm and cosy. Both parents can use a sling to offer comfort to baby and strengthen your bond.

Make sure you choose a safe and suitable baby carrier – www.babywearingireland.ieis a great source of information. You can even get a sling consultant out to your house!

baby sling wrap
  • Skin to skin!

Whether you are breast or formula feeding, skin to skin is a great way to increase bonding with your baby. Skin to skin contact offers the following benefits for your baby at birth (and beyond):

  • Regulates his body temperature better even than in an incubator
  • Maintains his heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure normal
  • Has stable blood sugar
  • Feels safe and calm so is less likely to cry
  • Receives good bacteria from your body to promote good gut bacteria in baby and boost immune system.
  • Is more likely to breastfeed exclusively and breastfeed longer
  • Baby is more likely to latch on
  • Baby is more likely to latch on well
  • Will indicate to his mother when he is ready to feed


  • Bath time!

Many babies absolutely love being in a nice warm bath. Some babies may not like a bath at first, as they don’t enjoy the air or cold on their skin as their clothes come off, but they soon grow to love them! If you’re not confident on how to hold a baby in a bath, you can ask your midwife or maternal health nurse for a demonstration – or you can just jump in the bath with your baby for added skin to skin benefits. The soothing water surrounding your baby creates an environment similar to what he or she would have been used to in the womb.

Dim any bright lights and jump into that nice warm bath together – even dad can do this one so he can enjoy bonding time with his baby too.

  • Bed Sharing or Co-Sleeping

Just like with cot sleeping, there are also safe co-sleeping guidelines. Both sleeping methods have risks if not practiced sensibly. Le Leche League have a 7 step guideline to safe co-sleeping. You can find the information here 

By bed sharing or co-sleeping (which includes specially designed cots which attach to the side of your bed, to give baby their own safe space), your baby can sleep in safety knowing that mum is close by. He can smell you and even touch you, without insecurity. Its also a great way to make sure mum gets her much needed rest. 

We’ve all heard the saying ‘sleep when baby sleeps’.

Especially in the fourth trimester, focus only on what you and your baby need – and it’ll make such a difference to how you feel when you’ve had more sleep. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading contributors to anxiety and depression in new mothers, so take care of yourself and enjoy those sleepy cuddles.


  • Feed on demand for breast and bottle fed babies.

Offer The Breast If Baby Wants It : Breastfeeding is something your baby will become familiar with very quickly, from the moment she is born. It provides her with a great sense of comfort. She will feed often, especially in the early weeks, as she tries to establish your supply. It is important to follow your baby’s lead to allow her to create a milk supply to meet her individual needs. 

There are lots of places to get support with breastfeeding. (Cuidiu, La Leche League, Friends of Breastfeeding, Postpartum doulas) or the most qualified experts in breastfeeding – IBCLC’s (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants). 

You can find breastfeeding support in the following places:


If you choose to bottle feed remember your baby has been fed constantly throughout pregnancy. A three or four hour routine can be difficult for a new baby to adjust to. Also it is helpful to remember that a new born tummy is the size of a small marble/malteser and so they thrive on little and often. Paced bottle feeding can ensure your baby takes as much food as they need, without being forced to drink more to ‘finish the bottle’ Trust your baby to take what they need and this will help to avoid lots of spit up and tummy pain.

You can find more information here: 

newborn baby cuddles


  • Getting Out and About

Once you have recovered from birth it is important to try to get out and about. Every baby is different so trial and error will find the best way for you. Lots of babies love the motion of the car but some do not like the car seat so this can cause you stress. Some babies love the buggy for the ride, others would rather be worn or in a parent’s safe arms. Make a date with a friend to meet for a cupa somewhere or just take a gentle stroll around the block. The fresh air will help to lift your mood and may help baby to sleep.

  • Coping With An Attached Baby

You may be reading this thinking it all sounds great, but it seems a little exhausting. Yes, it can be sometimes. But always remember: nothing is permanent, everything is temporary. Even when it feels like it’s going to last forever — it’s not.

Remember ‘This too shall pass’.

Sleep deprivation and discomfort is part of the job of being a parent, but it can be made much easier by:

  • Sharing the load where possible – accept and ask for all the help you can
  • Make sure your partner spends time settling baby too (he/she needs to learn – and baby will learn how daddy/mammy does it!)
  • Seek out a postpartum doula if you can afford it
  • Making sure you get a break/time out. Even a trip to the supermarket, coffee shop or 5 minutes in the garden 
  • Check your expectations. Are you expecting too much from yourself and/or your baby?

Your baby does not behave in these way to manipulate or annoy you, but to teach you what he likes and needs – and what makes him feel most safe and loved. By being open to the lesson and remembering that ‘this too will pass’ (a great mantra when things get a little tough) you’ll be an expert on your baby in no time.

Hang in there – it WILL get easier. Savour the good times & breathe through the tough ones. Take lots of photos


Doula Jen   x


Power Pumping

Increasing Breast Milk Supply-Power Pumping

If you are exclusively expressing for your baby, for any reason it is important to replicate normal infant growth spurts. Baby’s who feed at the breast will naturally increase their feeds when they are due a developmental leap or growth spurt. However, a pump cannot recognise these millstones, so you will need to mimic your baby. This triggers an increased release of prolactin from the pituitary gland – the ‘make more milk!’ message.

Because breasts work on the principle of supply and demand, using a breast pump is often recommended once your milk has come in (around day 2 or 3 after birth). Before this it is best to use hand expression, as colostrum is made is small quantities and is thicker – thus harder to bring out with the manual pump. Regular pumping delivers to the brain a ‘make more milk!’ message and can be very effective in increasing supply. However despite regular pumping sessions many women do not see results as quickly or as effectively as they had hoped. Enter power pumping!

How do I power pump?

Firstly it is important to set yourself up with the right equipment. Ensure you are using a hospital grade, double breast pump. Most Irish hospitals use the Medela Symphony. Ask a member of staff to check that the flange (bit that goes over your nipple) is the correct fit. The standard size is 24 but many Irish women will need the 27. Get into a comfortable position, with your bottle of water, a snack and items from your baby (like photos, or something that smells of them)

Power pumping is not a replacement for regular breast pumping to increase supply. Instead, power pumping is intended to boost your progress by replacing one regular pumping session with a strategically designed alternative. It works by repeatedly emptying the breast, signalling the body to make more milk, more quickly. This is mimicking a baby’s ‘cluster feeding’, many do this in the evening time.

To power pump, pick one hour each day or night (eg. 8pm every night) and use the following pumping pattern:

Always begin with a good breast massage. Some coconut oil can help to minimise friction.

  1. Pump for 20 minutes; then rest 10 minutes, massaging again.

  2. Pump for another 10 minutes; rest for 10 minutes, massaging again.

  3. Pump again for 10 minutes; finish.

This means you will have 40 minutes of active pumping in a 60 minute period. During the rest phase, massage your breast, look at photographs of your baby, smell an item that has been with your baby and relax.

You can watch a movie or read a book if it helps you to relax, do not focus on the pump and how much milk is coming out. This is not the aim. You are trying to trigger your body to make more milk tomorrow. You are not aiming for increased milk volume today. Try to view it as an hour each evening for you to put your feet up, have a nice treat and cup of tea and maybe watch a TV show. 

Power Pumping.png

Where do pumping mothers fit in?


Anyone following my story over the last year knows my gorgeous baby Kayla Rose was born in March with an undiagnosed cleft palate. She has a very severe cleft, missing all of the roof of her mouth, hard and soft palate. This meant separation at birth, a SCBU stay and set me on a new journey of full time pumping. (You can find my blogs and videos on DoulaCare Ireland social media & on our website under Jen's Pregnancy Diary

I am 3 months into my pumping journey now and while I have gotten over my loathing of the pump, I am still struggling to find my “place” in mothering labels. Many a nurse and doctor have been made to feel awkward when they ask how Kaylas feeding is going, as I erupt into a blubbering mess about not being able to breastfeed. Paul has started to put his arm around me when they start running through the questions, in anticipation of the dreaded question.

At all of Kayla's hospital appointments I am asked “breast or bottle fed?” I mean, after my first few emotional break downs I would have thought they’d have it written on her file not to ask me this any more...but alas they break it out each time. I can now calmly say “she is breast milk fed in a bottle” (I tend to follow it up with a “she can’t feed at the breast because of her cleft” like I am making excuses to them or something. Just so they know it’s not that I don’t want to breastfeed, because I really really do.)

It has me thinking where do pumping mothers fit in? Are we breast feeders or bottle feeders? Or do we occupy a status all on our own in some kind of middle ground?

Anyway, I digress. It has me thinking where do pumping mothers fit in? Are we breast feeders or bottle feeders? Or do we occupy a status all on our own in some kind of middle ground? 

I have worked with many mothers who chosen to pump for different reasons and were 100% happy with that choice and thrived on the set up. I am pumping out of necessity (if you haven’t already got that) so perhaps that is why I am writing this blog. To hear others point of view on the topic and open the discussion.

I have always been a breastfeeder. I am proud of that and enjoyed every aspect and the beautiful bond. I now find I am not sure of my identity any more. I almost want to write “containing breast milk” on Kaylas bottles for fear of breastfeeding mothers judging me. This is of course ridiculous as I never once think anything bad of mothers who bottle feed (formula or breast milk) as it is their choice for their baby. It is a totally idiotic thought process and yet a real one for me right now.

One thing I will say is that pumping is a full time job, the washing and sterilising is unreal and you still have to feed baby the milk in the bottle too. It is no joke. I have supported hundreds of pumping mothers over the years and have always admired them for their dedication and hard work but living it has opened my eyes to the incredible emotional journey and physical exhaustion that comes with it. I am so proud of myself (cringe I know) for getting this far and giving Kayla 100% breast milk to date. While it is not the feeding journey I longed for, it is ours - and we are finding our way. My heart still longs to breast feed but I love cuddling her into me and gazing into her eyes while she has her bottle. Feeling her little body tucked into mine and knowing she is getting all the goodness of my milk – that is tailored to her needs. 

So I open up the discussion. Where do us pumping mothers fit in? Remember to be kind to all feeding choices – you never know the journey that family is on or why they chose their feeding method.