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 :)

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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


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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.

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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 https://www.doulacare.ie/dee-burke-1/


If you or someone you know is suffering with a postpartum mood disorder these resources may help


https://www.nurturecharity.org


http://www.pnd.ie


https://www.cuidiu.ie/httpwwwcuidiucomsupports_parenthood_postnatal


https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mentalhealth/mother-and-infant-health/#Finally,%20support%20services%20for%20those%20with%20Poatnatal%20Depression


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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.

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. 

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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: 

http://kellymom.com/hot-topics/newborn-nursing/ Tips for the early days breastfeeding your baby. 

http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=vid-reallygood Great video clip from Dr Jack Newman & IBCLC Edith Kernerman page ‘Breastfeeding Inc’. This clip shows what a good latch & drinking looking like. 

https://www.breastfeeding.ie/First-few-weeks/Guidelines-for-mothers/ Great chart with guidelines for first few weeks. 

 

Breastfeeding Supports:

Association of Lactation Consultants Ireland http://www.alcireland.ie/find-a-consultant/ 

Cuidiu, Irish Childbirth Trust http://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/supports_breastfeeding_counsellors

Le Leche League Ireland https://www.lalecheleagueireland.com/groups/

Friends of Breastfeeding http://www.friendsofbreastfeeding.ie/wp/support-2/

National HSE Breastfeeding support https://www.breastfeeding.ie/ 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 http://www.llli.org/sweetsleepbook/thesafesleepseven 

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: http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/bottle-feeding/ 

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. 

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Where do pumping mothers fit in?

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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.