Alexa Dean

There are emotional, physical, and practical reasons why wearing a baby in a sling is a good idea.

Human babies are born significantly less mature than babies of other species that, like us, give birth to single infants or small multiples. The human infant is born “prematurely” to allow its head to pass through the birth canal before it gets too big and it completes the gestational period outside the womb. The human brain quadruples in size after birth.

Human babies are as vulnerable and dependent outside the womb as they are inside. Our babies need the same 24-hour nurturing and care that they had in utero. In the mother’s womb, the baby never feels hunger, is never lonely or cold, experiences all sounds and sensations through the mother’s body, which cushions and softens them. After the journey of birth, it seems natural that a baby would expect that same quality of 24-hour nurturing. Babies cannot get up and follow us on their own until about a year or so after birth. They cannot, like ape and monkey babies, cling to their mothers, although the strong grip reflex with which babies are born is thought to be a remnant of a time in our evolutionary journey when they could.

So we find ways to keep our babies close, using our large brains rather than our body hair. Primate mothers tend to take their infants with them as they go – the infants following or clinging to their mother.

Keep them close

Recent research confirms that being close to an adult caregiver guarantees more than safety and convenience.

Crying

Babies in skin-to-skin contact have more stable heart and breathing rates, better blood sugar levels, significantly lower levels of circulating stress hormones, and warmer body temperatures. Studies show that carried babies cry less. The crying pattern of normal infants in industrialized societies is characterized by an overall increase until six weeks of age followed by a decline until four months of age with a preponderance of evening crying. Hunziker and Barr hypothesized that this “normal” crying could be reduced by supplemental carrying, that is, increased carrying throughout the day in addition to that which occurs during feeding and in response to crying. In a randomized controlled trial, 99 mother-infant pairs were assigned to an increased carrying or control group. At the time of peak crying (six weeks of age), infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43% less overall, and 51% less during the evening hours (4 pm to midnight). Similar but smaller decreases occurred at 4, 8, and 12 weeks of age. Decreased crying and fussing were associated with increased contentment and feeding frequency but no change in feeding duration or sleep. They concluded that supplemental carrying modifies “normal” crying by reducing the duration and altering the typical pattern of crying and fussing in the first three months of life. The relative lack of carrying in our society may predispose to crying and colic in normal infants (Hunziker and Barr 1986).

Where baby wearing is the norm, babies demonstrate a strong attachment to parents and caregivers, and show greater social awareness. Happy babies make happy mothers, too.

Passive involvement

One of parents’ tasks is to show their child what it means to be a member of a family, community, and country. It is not too difficult to achieve when your baby is not kept at a distance. He can be passively involved in all you do while you hold him securely against your warm comforting body – he knows and trusts you. Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept, wrote, “The baby passively participates in the bearer’s running, walking, laughing, talking, working, and playing. The particular activities, the pace, the inflections of the language, the variety of sights, night and day, the range of temperatures, wetness and dryness, and the sounds of community life form a basis for the active participation that will begin at six or eight months of age with creeping, crawling, and then walking.” You provide your baby with the security he needs to be able to look outwards and explore the world.

Flat head syndrome

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of babies with plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome, a malformation of the head marked by an oblique slant to the main axis of the skull or a persistent flattened spot on the back or side of the head. Wendy S. Biggs describes how the length of time babies in Western society spend supine has increased the likelihood of suffering from this malformation. She directly attributes this to the infant spending “more time reclining with his or her head on a hard surface such as in a car seat or swing.” Babies who spend less time in seats and more time being carried in a sling are less at risk of developing this deformation. It seems logical that if your baby is often upright against your body, his head supported not by rigid plastic but by soft fabric or by your arms, he is less likely to suffer from flat head syndrome.

Carrying is practical

When you have a new baby, while your hormones do all sorts of wonderful things such as helping you to make milk and promoting feelings of love and attachment to your baby, they do not, unfortunately, grow you a spare pair of hands! A sling, however, can act as an extra pair of hands — gentle, warm, snugly hands that hold your baby close to you while you are able to do other things.

Those evenings in the early weeks when your baby cluster feeds for hours are not so stressful if you are not obliged to stay in the same place. If you wear your baby in a sling you can keep her at the breast and still get up, eat dinner, or go to the bathroom. If you have older children who also need your attention and your hands to cuddle or help them, a sling allows you to meet their needs as well as most of the baby’s needs more easily.

London Hypnobirthing with Alexa Dean

Childbirth can be an empowering experience that you will treasure for the rest of your life.

 

Benefits of Hypnobirthing for mums-to-be:

  • Release fear, tension and pain – which lead to interventions
  • Self hypnosis to induce deep relaxation
  • Massage techniques to release endorphins, your body’s natural anaesthetic
  • Visualisation exercises and affirmations to keep you grounded, serene and positive
  • Your increased knowledge and awareness put you in control
  • You are more likely to experience a natural, calm, drug free and comfortable birth – labour can be shorter and more comfortable
  • In many cases you will need no pain relief throughout the whole empowering experience
  • Reduced need of episiotomy and eliminated fatique during labour
  • HypnoBirthing can be used for induction or caesarean section
  • Postnatal recovery is much faster
  • Lower risk of postnatal depression
  • HypnoBirthing can be used at home, the birth centre or hospital

 

For fathers-to-be, hypnobirthing can offer many benefits:
– Helps them to understand the process of labour and delivery
– Gives them an essential, active role in the birth of their baby or as the birth companion
– Enables them to make informed decisions about their baby’s birth or to act as an advocate for the labouring mother
– Encourages them to bond with their baby before he or she is born
– Creates a positive mind-set to becoming parents
– Gives them the tools they need to relax and empower your partner as she gives birth

 

Hypnobirthing is good for the baby leading to:
A calm, drug-free birth which leaves the baby relaxed and alert
This calm birth can help your baby to:
– Feed well
– Sleep well
– Develop and thrive quicker
– Feel content

Hypnobirthing cannot promise you the perfect birth, no one can, but it can allow you to have a much more positive, comfortable and relaxed birth. The techniques are for all mums whether birthing at home, a birth centre or in hospital having normal or more complex births. It’s a birth preparation course in itself.

This article from Karen Baker explains how midwives can help women who have opted for this technique to have the type of birth they want.

Alexa teaches hypnobirthing privately all around London on a one-to-one basis at your own home. She offers three sessions of 2.5 hours. Want to find out more? Click here

Please email Alexa

 

Hypnobirthing is based on the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English physician, and whose principles are also the foundation of the National childbirth Trust (NCT).

In his book “Childbirth Without Fear”, originally published in 1933, he states that:

There is no physiological function in the body that gives rise to pain in the normal course of health. In no other animal species is the process of birth apparently associated with any suffering, pain or agony, except where pathology exists or in an unnatural state, such as captivity.”

When we’re afraid, our body diverts blood and oxygen from non-essential defense organs to large muscle groups in our extremities. Our face drains of blood and we are said to be ‘white with fear’.

Dr. Dick-Read hypothesized that the fear felt by a woman during childbirth also caused blood to be filtered away from her uterus, so it could be used by the muscles that would flee the dangerous situation. As a result, the uterus was left without oxygen and could not perform its functions efficiently or without pain.

This belief led to Dr. Dick-Read’s theory that fear and tension cause the labor pains in approximately 95 percent of birthing women. He termed this phenomenon “the fear-tension-pain syndrome of childbirth,” and he believed that by eliminating the fear, women could return the uterus to its normal function, thereby eliminating the pain.

Hypnobirthing is an inspirational antenatal childcare programme. It offers a simple methodology or even philosophy to empower women to have a positive birth experience; the father or partner to take the role of supporter and the baby to be given the best possible start in life.

Many pregnant women have been told that during the first trimester massage must be avoided.  Many massage therapists will not book you for a pregnancy until the 2nd trimester after they find out that you are 7, 8 or even 9 weeks pregnant when maybe you have just received a massage not only 2 weeks prior…. Why?  Is it true that massage can be so bad for you in the first weeks of pregnancy when we know it’s wonderful health benefits for our over all well being?  When under the care of a Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist, pregnancy massage is not only safe, but can be completely beneficial to mom and baby during these first few weeks of flux.  Many of these misconceptions are due to practitioners receiving contradictory information, or from a simple lack of knowledge, fear, and sadly for liability concerns.

One misconception about massage during the first trimester is that some women suffer from morning sickness and thus cannot be worked on. While this is a valid concern, not all women have morning sickness and the women that do may not have it in the morning or even in this trimester at all. Other women carry morning sickness past their first trimester also. While massage therapists do not usually work on anyone who is nauseous or vomiting, appointments can be made for the mama to be when she is not experiencing any symptoms. Certain points can be worked during these sessions that may reduce the severity of her symptoms.

Other suggestions can be made to the mama to be such as eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat foods high in protein prior to bedtime so you don’t wake up with an empty stomach. Fresh cut lemons put into a bag and inhaled when needed. Ginger ale, ginger candy and ginger tea. Any mint tea or raspberry leaf tea can also help to settle the stomach. Stimulating the pericardium point 6 acupuncture points of both forearms (located about 1 1/2 inches below the wrist in the middle of the inner forearm) has been found useful in treating the symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. Press and hold the points for a count of 10 and repeat 10 times.

Another misconception is that the abdomen should never be massaged during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is due to the fear of the massage therapist  causing a miscarriage by dislodging the the placenta. Although the placenta is not fully matured until the end of the 3rd month, it is firmly anchored to the uterine wall within weeks into the pregnancy. Only a traumatic shock to the abdomen could cause such a serious injury.

Abdominal massage during all stages of pregnancy should be gentle, which dispels the fear of placental abruption. Massage of a pregnant woman’s abdomen should be extremely light. The stokes are done with open handed effleurage in a slow rhythmical way. Permission must always be granted in order to perform abdominal massage since this can be a very sensitive and emotional area of a woman’s body.

Perhaps the biggest misconception is that pregnancy massage can cause miscarriage.  This is probably the top reason why a practitioner or spa will refuse to book your appointment until the 2nd trimester. A miscarriage is defined as a spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the fetus is viable, which generally means before 20 weeks gestation. Most miscarriages happen within the first 8 weeks. In early pregnancy, signs of miscarriage are bleeding, abdominal pain and cramping, lower back pain, thigh or pelvic pain. Later in pregnancy the symptoms are heavy bleeding, and intense uterine contractions.

Miscarriages happen frequently and most cannot be avoided. In nearly half of the known losses, the embryo was chromosomally abnormal and not viable or able to sustain life. This is clearly unrelated to getting a massage. There are other factors that can come into play such as genital and reproductive abnormalities (fibroids, retroversion of the uterus, and bicornuate uterus), infections (rubella, chlamydia, listeria), maternal disease (renal disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and nutritional deficiencies), ectopic pregnancies, hormone imbalances resulting in progesterone deficiency, immunological rejection of the fetus (antibodies that destroy the fetus are created), maternal age, and environmental factors (second hand smoke, excessive alcohol consumption). Massage does not factor into any of these causes of miscarriage. The mama to be who has a healthy lifestyle (which includes massage) is more than likely going to have a very successful pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

A therapist that is certified in Prenatal Massage can safely and effectively treat any first trimester concerns.

There are many benefits for mums-to-be who visit a qualified ante-natal massge therapist. Here are some reasons why:

Hormone regulation

Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression). These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.

Reduction of swelling

Oedema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.

Improvement of nerve pain

Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage.

Other potential benefits of pregnancy massage:

Reduced back pain
Reduced joint pain
Improved circulation
Reduced oedema
Reduced muscle tension and headaches
Reduced stress and anxiety
Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
Better sleep

Giving birth requires energy and stamina, so staying active during pregnancy is good preparation for the hard work that lies ahead. Keeping up a yoga routine may even help shorten your labour and help the birth to go smoothly.

There are endless benefits expecting mothers receive from rolling out the mat. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1. Breathing is key in yoga and during pregnancy. 
Many pregnant women experience shortness of breath due to the fact that the body needs more oxygen, but their growing bellies limit diaphragm movement. With emphasis on the breath during a yoga class, prenatal students can find areas in the body where they can optimize each inhale. The focus of alignment in the spine creates more space for the lungs to expand, and stretches in the side body can be helpful for inviting more air into the sides of the ribcage.

2. Grounding yoga postures can help create a deeper mind-body connection. 
Many expectant moms experience anxiety during pregnancy of not being prepared enough for when the baby arrives. The fear of the unknown leads to stress, and can cause a disruption to the mother’s and baby’s health. Incorporating grounding yoga postures and reminding students to get out of their heads and onto the mat during class can be a relief for any self-induced expectations that may not be necessary during this incredible personal journey.

3. Hip-opening postures are great preparations to loosen up the hips for labour and birth.  
In addition to easing the delivery process, the hips can cause discomfort during the later stages of pregnancy in day-to-day activities. By incorporating hip stretches into your routine, the hips release both physical and emotional tension, reducing pain associated with tight hips.

4. Relief for low back pain from forward fold postures is extremely helpful. 
As the belly gets bigger, it increases the arch in the lumbar spine, which can cause low back pain. Standing forward folds can be a huge help to relieve back pain. Moreover, when the hamstrings are tight, you can experience tightness in the low back. Stretching out the hamstrings can greatly reduce back pain.

5. Preparing for contractions by learning to calm the mind is essential for labour and birth. 
By holding some difficult yoga postures like chair pose against the wall, you can practice finding some peace in the challenge. When the mind is in a furry it has a direct effect on the body and can create tension and resistance. By breathing through the pain, the mind can calm down to relax the body and move through the contraction.

Whether you take private yoga classes for more personal attention, or you participate with other expecting mothers in your community, yoga can improve your overall experience and bring more joy and bliss to you and your little one during this journey!

For Timetable click here

Here are some benefits of having a doula:

  • Continuity of support
  • Reduced fear and anxiety
  • Personalised care
  • Support for the family as a whole, if you have one
  • Antenatal meets at convenient times
  • Learn how to make informed decisions that are right for you
  • Care without agenda, judgement or expectation
  • Less likely to have an induction or augmentation of labour
  • Less likely to feel the need to request pain relief
  • Shorter labours
  • Less likely to have an instrumental birth
  • Less likely to need a caesarean
  • More positive outlook of birth
  • Help fathers participate with confidence
  • Less likely to suffer from postnatal depression
  • Smoother transition into parenthood
  • Support with breastfeeding
  • Higher self-esteem and sense of empowerment

Traditionally across the world, women have given birth supported by female relatives or friends but nowadays many of us have moved away from our roots and live without the networks of extended family.

A doula is trained to put her own experiences and thoughts to one side, this enables her to support you to birth in your chosen way.

Reasons why you may look into a doula:

•  You want a straightforward birth.
•  You want CHOICE in how you give birth.
•  You have had a previously bad experience and you want to prepare for this one with other support.
•  You need someone to be there when your partner is absent.
•  You need  someone to support you if your partner needs to attend to other children.
•  You want continuity of care, and the guarantee that who you choose will be there for you on the day you give birth.
•  You want access to up to date research on information regarding your CHOICES.
•  Someone to talk to about your birth that remembers the details.

(Taken from “Mothering the Mother” by Klaus, Kennell & Klaus, 1993)

 

Birth Support 

The word doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant. Women have been serving other women in childbirth for many centuries and have proven that support from another woman has a positive impact on the labour process.

A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the mother who is expecting, is experiencing labour, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.

What does a doula do?
Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship where the mother feels free to ask questions, express her fears and concerns, and takes an active role in creating a birth plan. Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone in order to respond to her questions or explain any developments that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labour and delivery. Consequently, they can help their clients gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications of late pregnancy or delivery.

During birth, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother.They have the ability to provide comfort with pain relief techniques that include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and labouring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance. A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires that she might have for her birth.The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether an un-medicated birth or cesarean.

After the birth, many birth doulas will spend some time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the newbaby and other family members.

What about the father’s role when using a doula?
The role of the doula is never to take the place of husbands or partners in labour, but to complement and enhance their experience. Today, more husbands are an active role in the birth process. However, some partners prefer to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as the labour coach. By having a doula as a part of the birth team, a father is free to do whatever he chooses. Doulas can encourage the father to use comfort measures and can step in if he wants a break. Having a doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labour and birth and to also enjoy the experience without the added pressure of trying to remember everything he learned in childbirth class!

Are doulas only useful if planning an un-medicated birth?
The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula. But be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth. For women who have decided to have a medicated birth, the doula will provide emotional support, informational support and comfort measures through labour and the administration of medications. Doulas work alongside medicated mothers to help them deal with possible side effects and other needs where medication might be inadquate, because even with medication, there is likely to be some degree of discomfort.

For a mother facing a cesarean, a doula can be helpful by providing constant support and encouragement. Often a cesarean results from an unexpected situation leaving mothers feeling unprepared, disappointed and lonely. A doula can be attentive to mothers at all times throughout the cesarean, letting them know what is going on throughout the procedure. This can free the partner to attend to the baby and accompany the newborn to the nursery if there are complications.

What about other types of doulas?
There are three types of doulas: the Ante-natal Doula, the Birth Doula and the Post-natal Doula:

Ante-natal Doulas provide help and support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. They provide informational, emotional, physical and practical support in circumstances that are often stressful, confusing and emotionally draining.

Birth Doula is a birth companion who offers emotional and physical support to labouring women to give them comfort and strength to be able to cope better with their labour.

Post-natal Doulas provide help and support in the first weeks after becoming a mother. They provide informational support about feeding and caring for the baby. They provide physical support by cleaning, cooking meals and filling in when a new mother needs a break. They provide emotional support by encouraging a mother during those times when she might be feeling overwhelmed.

Alexa trained as a doula at Paranama Doula UK with Dr. Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers in February 2013 in London. She lives in Battersea and supports women in all areas in London.

For Alexa’s Doula Packages click here

For more information on doulas please visit: http://www.doula.org.uk

Doula UK