Top 5 Parenting Hacks

Rainbow Cheeky Wipes

My top 5 hacks, tips and products to make your life as a parent of wee ones a little bit easier…

No. 1: Peanut butter

Okay, not so good if you hate PB or have PB allergies in the house, but if not, then peanut butter (preferably without added sugars or unsustainable palm oil) can be a temper saver for rushed-off-your-feet parents. Grab a spoonful straight from the jar in the morning when you don’t have time for YOUR breakfast, and the low GI, cheap alternative to cereal bars and the like will keep you going for hours without crashing blood sugar.

No. 2: Cheeky Wipes/Reusable cloth wipes

Rainbow Cheeky Wipes disposable wipes, these are the best thing going for cleaning mucky bums! In our house, we have had 2 sets, one for bums on the changing table and one for sticky hands and faces in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

They work better, cost less in the long run (count up how much you spend each year on wipes then think you could be using them for 2-3 years PER CHILD even without considering that even 6 year olds get sticky hands) and are way better for the environment – when you’re finally finished with them, either gift them on to another parent or send them (washed and dry) to your local charity shop marked as rags for recycling.

I’m a fan of Cheeky Wipes as they make using reusable wipes oh so easy with their kits and tubs, but you could save more money by going DIY – cut up 10cm squares of fleece or towelling can work and a large Tupperware-type tub will work to keep them in. Our dirty ones usually go in a nappy bucket anyway.

No.3: Toy tub

The idea is that this is a tub that is NOT the ‘proper’ home for any (or many) toys. You want space in it! Have one in the bedroom, one in the lounge (or wherever your kids play most) and if you have company coming round or you just want to be able to ignore the mess in the evening, whizz round and throw all loose toys into the tub.

The key with this is being strict with yourself. If the toys stay there for days, you’ll have no where to put the next lot! You have to put them away properly at some point. Any tub or basket will do, as long as it’s not too big and not too small. Handles do help though, both when filling it up and emptying later. I use small tubtrugs, which can be carried in one hand (if not too full).

No. 4: Dummy ‘clips’

dummy-clipsIf you’re using a dummy (pacifier to the Americans!) with your baby, then you’ll know the frustration of the frequently dropped dummy/pacifier. Especially if you’re out and about and babywearing. And the specially made clips can get expensive when you need one everywhere you go.

You can of course make your own dummy clips if you’re at all crafty, but why bother if you have a scarf? Any old grown up scarf with tassels or thin enough to knot a corner does the trick. Tie some tassels to the dummy, wrap the scarf around YOUR neck and go. Plus point is staying warm too!

Any stretchy headband also works on carseat straps – see photo – or baby carrier hood straps.

As tassels are not generally safe for babies to eat/tie round their fingers, only do this with supervision!

No. 5: Wear again tub

Wear again clothes tubOnce you get past the baby stage of going through multiple outfits a day, you’ll eventually get to the point where your kids can wear clothes again on another day. Especially true if you end up with a child who thinks wardrobe changes are required for every activity! To avoid washing not-really-dirty clothes, putting back not-quite-clean clothes or having them all round the room, give your kids a ‘wear again tub’ in their bedroom.

Any robust tub or basket will do. We use a small tubtrug again. It’s such a simple thing, but it can make such a difference!

So that’s my top 5! Do you have parenting hacks to share?

Thanks to all the mamas who shared their own tricks and helped me with these and this article!

How My Fee Is Made Up (part 2)

I did a very similar post to this over a year ago, when I was still being mentored through Doula UK, so this is an update for where I am now….

Being a birthworker is a real calling. None of us in this or related professions are in it for the money. We love what we do, it’s a complete honour to walk with the families I work with and see their journeys into parenthood. I truly believe that there should be a doula for every woman and family that could benefit from one. If you genuinely cannot pay my fees, then talk to me. We will work something out.

But I also value what I give to my clients. And I want being a birth doula to be sustainable for me, not just an expensive hobby I am passionate about, so I can carry on supporting families and, hopefully(!), making a positive difference to their journeys. I find it incredibly sad when I read of doulas who have stopped doulaing because it was simply not financially viable for them and they, and their families, had bills that needed paying. The doula community loses out when that happens, as do the local families who need a doula.

I want you to feel confident that the fee I charge is fair and appropriate, and you receive a high level of expertise and support.  

Here are a few things that make up a doula’s fee:

  • Experience. In doulaing terms, I’m still very much on a steep learning curve, but I’m far from being a complete newbie anymore. I also bring other experiences to my doulaing, from breastfeeding support, mothering and past careers. Do ask me about my experience as a doula and I will be totally honest with where I am at in my doula journey.
  • Ongoing Training:  I love learning, love information and love finding out more about how to better support my clients. And maintaining my Continuing Personal/Professional Development is a requirement of Doula UK membership. I regularly attend continuing education trainings to expand my skills and keep my knowledge up to date. This can be expensive!
  • Being On call:  I limit the number of families I serve at any one time, to ensure I have the time and energy necessary to serve them well. When you book me, I mark out 5 weeks in my calendar as “on call”. When I am on call,  I do not usually travel more than an hour from my home. Appointments, family & personal events and weekend trips are carefully planned, and I know they may be cancelled with little or no notice. I don’t have a glass of wine with dinner. I don’t wear perfume – just in case my client calls and hates my perfume in labour! As a mum myself, I have to make sure that I have childcare at any point, day or night. Some of this I have to pay for. Being on call is the high price of doula work. My family supports all the work I do, but my time is valuable to me and them.
  • Self care: Being a doula is wonderful, but it can also be physically and emotionally draining. If I don’t look after myself, I can’t look after you. After I have been a birth, I expect to need someone to fix my shoulders and back. I will be the support you need in labour and will deal with holding that position or applying that counter-pressure or dancing with you leaning on me for hours, afterwards. Osteopathy is a necessary business expense for me!
  • Travel Expenses: Filling up the car, parking the car, it all adds up. I used to add all travel expenses to my fee, but this made it more complicated for everyone. By having an inclusive fee, you will know upfront what you will owe me and can plan better yourselves.
  • Food and Drinks while at meetings and births. Repacking my doula bag for each on-call period requires restocking at the supermarket and putting aside more cash for in-hospital expenses. Birth partners do not get fed in hospitals and birth centres and if we’re at your home, the last thing I want you to be concerned about in labour is whether you have food I can eat!
  • Labour Tools:  massage oils, TENS unit electrode pads, Rebozo, essential oils, rice packs, washcloths. Some of these will get used up or wrecked at a birth and that’s just the way it is.
  • My Lending Library: I have a birth pool, TENS machine, Rebozo, books and CDs that I make available to clients.
  • Business Expenses:  Tax, insurance, running a car, paper, ink, folders, cards, marketing, website, mobile phone, internet. When you’re self-employed, your fee has to cover everything!
  • My Time:  I will probably average 26-30 hours caring for one family from the antenatal through to the postnatal period. This is from: at least 4, but quite possibly more, antenatal/postnatal visits, plus travel time; a typical time spent at a birth might be 12 hours (but it might be a lot more!); time spent looking things up or sending you info; plus email, text and telephone support from the point at which you hire me to after the postnatal visit(s). Using a reasonable hourly rate of £15/hour (and just think, what do you pay your hairdresser/osteopath/massage therapist an hour?), more than half of my doula fee is used up before I spend anything on supplies or training…and that’s without including being on-call, which would be paid well in many other professions!

To put it perspective, an independent midwife will charge around £4,000. Now I know that doulas are not midwives, we cannot (and don’t want to) take the role of a midwife and an independent midwife has years of training and experience at her back, as well as far more expensive equipment. BUT, the hours and commitment we offer is comparable. And I charge £750.

If you genuinely cannot pay my fees, then talk to me. We will work something out. And this FAQ might be of help.

L xx

Why Doulas Matter: A Review

I think the title of Maddie McMahon’s book, Why Doulas Matter, published by Pinter & Martin, is almost misleading. This isn’t a book that tells you to hire a doula, goes on about the evidence for doulas and what difference they do and could make to the NHS or that is a pat on the back for doulas.

This isn’t even really a book for doulas, though I recommend doulas, especially anyone earlier on in their Doulaing journey, reads it.

This is a book for parents.

In typical Maddie style, she doesn’t tell people what to think, but provides information and shows the reader what it is Doulas do, with examples and stories, then leaves it up to you, the reader, to make up your own mind, make your own choices. As well as covering many of the kinds of situations doulas support and the different stages of becoming a parent, with some of the things expectant and new parents might want to think about, this book covers some of the most common questions doulas are asked.

This books doulas the reader: supports, nurtures, leaves you knowing you have choices and can make the choices that are right for you. If a doula hug could be packaged into paper, this is it.

If you’re a doula, read this and learn, be reaffirmed in your vocation and feel supported by your doula-sisters. If you’re a midwife, health visitor or doctor who is working with pregnant women and new families (and so is, or may well, be working alongside doulas) read this and you’ll understand better what we do, why parents might want that and why working together positively helps everyone. And if you’re an expectant or new parent, whether or not you have hired, or plan to hire, a doula, read this book and be nurtured, supported and informed. Be doulaed.

This book brought me to laughter, to tears and left me feeling loved and lucky to be part of the incredible doula community in the UK, of which, for me and so many others, Maddie is an important part.

I know this will now be the book for me to give to pregnant friends and family, knowing that it will inform without lecturing or judgement, support and empower them.

L xx


An outsider looking in – scandals in NHS maternity care

I’ve been hearing a lot over the last few weeks about the Kirkup report into maternity care at Morecambe Bay, where there were several tragedies. The subsequent media attention focused on the blame laid at the feet of a group of midwives. There have been accusations made that the promotion of physiological birth directly caused deaths and doctors have written letters to newspapers saying that midwives don’t call them in.

I don’t know all the ins-and-outs. I haven’t read the full Kirkup report and don’t plan to. I am not a commissioner, a manager, a midwife or an obstetrician. In many ways, I am an outsider in the maternity care system. A layperson who reports to no one (though I do of course have the Doula UK Code of Conduct to abide by!), is held to no targets and works with clients alongside midwives, obstetricians, health visitors – anyone who helps care for my clients and their baby. When working with clients, and personally, I have experienced excellent care from midwives, registrars and consultants, and also suboptimal care from all three.

I wonder if this means I have a different view of this situation? I am not on the defensive. I do not feel that I am being attacked. But I see maternity care in practice.

Two things have been emphasised in the coverage and discussion around the Kirkup report (despite the report stating that all levels of staff failed in their duty of care): the promotion of “normal” physiological birth over safety and the refusal or reluctance of midwives to call doctors into help care for women as a team.

Two things that don’t seem to have been a big part of the discussion, but that seem to me to be critical, are: NHS targets and financial constraints; and the training of doctors.

As I understand it, the need to meet targets because of the Trust applying for Foundation status, was a factor in what happened at mid-Staffs and also Morecambe. If targets are being put ahead of safe, compassionate care, then this is wrong. Is it the fault of the midwives caring for women? I don’t think so. They are just the ones who have the most time with the women and babies in maternity care. You could argue that they have a responsibility to the women and babies in their care, so perhaps they should stand up to pressure from management to prioritise targets. But when the reality is that midwives are concerned that they could lose their jobs or have their career restricted AND are often just surviving in a system of 12 hour shifts perhaps without supportive management, I understand why so many midwives might just go along with what management tells them.

This idea that midwives are reluctant to refer women to doctors when there are clinical concerns is not something I have ever seen and the same was said by other, more experienced, doulas I have discussed this point with. I have however worked with clients in hospitals where the midwives and doctors are NOT working well together as a team. This has never been the fault of the midwives, but of the doctors’ training. Unbelievable as it may seem, doctors working in maternity care are not likely to have had training in women’s legal rights in birth, compassionate care, the effect of language or environment on the hormones of birth or physiological birth. In my experience, the effect of this is seen most in junior doctors, such as registrars. Some are utterly marvellous, but that is down to them, their personality, any additional reading or learning they might have done and the characteristics of their mentors, NOT what they all get taught as part of their training.

In my experience, doctors, especially the more junior ones, are more likely to come out with phrases such as “you are not allowed” (of course she is! A doctor does NOT get to make decisions for his patients in maternity), “you must”, “you are not progressing fast enough” (to women who are doing beautifully, but are not dilating in a linear way, as many women don’t!) or “we don’t do that” (when a woman has made a perfectly informed choice, as is her right, to do something or ask for something that may not be usual or within guideline recommendations). They are more likely to come into a birthing space and turn on bright lights, not use compassionate language and not be prepared to make their own jobs harder to make a woman’s birth experience more positive.

All of which can have a direct, negative impact on the progress of labour and the birthing experience of a woman and her partner. Language and support, or lack of, are common factors in birth trauma for new mothers and fathers. The research around birth trauma is that it is not really the mode of birth that predicts whether someone will develop birth trauma (or postnatal PTSD) but how supported they felt. I have read quotes from 19th century doctors textbooks on the importance of being quiet and respectful when entering the birthing space and keeping the birthing woman in a positive state of mind, to avoid stalling the labour. Unfortunately such advice seems to have gone out of fashion in medical training.

Some midwives do do all of this too, but less often.

If a were a midwife caring for a woman, who perhaps really wanted to avoid a surgical birth, was doing all she could to stay mobile in labour and wanted to avoid vaginal examinations, would my happiness to ask a registrar for an opinion be affected by whether I knew that doctor would come into the room, turn on the lights, tell the woman she had to get on the bed on her back for a vaginal examination and use negative language in discussing options (“you’re only Xcm. If you don’t progress, we will have to intervene” – who hasn’t heard this?!)?

Perhaps. I hope it would never affect safety. But. Perhaps.

Until doctors all get training in physiological birth, compassionate care and birthrights before working in maternity, there will be barriers to midwives and doctors working in harmonious teamwork, no matter how good the management is. And this has nothing to do with midwives “being territorial” and all about wanting the best outcomes in terms of physical and mental health for mothers and babies.

I don’t know what happened at Morecambe and how all of the factors played together. I do know that in many areas of NHS maternity care, a culture change is needed. Teamwork. Compassionate care. Respect for birthrights. Working to have as many families as possible have positive birth experiences, whatever the outcomes.

And what would that mean? Safer care.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

My birth story. Or not

Empowered: A Doula UK poster of a gentle caesarean

I’ve been pondering for my while whether to publicly share here the story of my son’s birth. As a doula, it is never about me. My birth and parenting experiences are only relevant to my clients if they have meant I know, without looking, of some information or signposts that may be of use to my clients. How I birthed and parent is my journey, my choices and has nothing to do with how I support families. Clients are going to make decisions that are not the decisions I would make because they are not me and their journey is not my journey. And I support them unconditionally, without judgement, to do so.

But as a doula and a facilitator of a Positive Birth Group, I have had comments from women whose birth and parenting journeys did not turn out how they wanted, or who made decisions they think do not “fit” with what I “believe in”, that they do not feel welcome within the Positive Birth Movement, or even that they felt they could not have a doula because of it.

For the record, doulas, certainly Doula UK doulas, are for any kind of birth, any kind of mama. We might not all be the right doula for any one family, but there will be one that is right for you and we will not judge. With Doula UK it’s in our Code of Conduct: we “recognise that womens’ choices are valid and that a woman assumes responsibility for the birth, parenting style or feeding method that she feels is right for her and her baby”.

The Positive Birth Movement is not about any one kind of birth. It is not about “natural” birth, it is not about home birth. According to the Positive Birth Movement, Positive Birth means:

  • Women are where they want to be
  • Choices are informed by reality not fear
  • Mothers are empowered and enriched
  • Memories are warm and proud

If you want to have a home birth and have a home water birth feeling empowered and supported, that’s a positive birth. If you don’t want to be at home, and birth in a birth centre, then that may be your positive birth. If you want to be in a consultant led unit and make an informed decision to have an early epidural that may be your positive birth. If you wanted to be at home but develop life-threatening complications that mean you know you need medical assistance, then being in hospital is where you want to be in the circumstances you were in, and that can be a positive birth.

My son’s birth was not the birth I had planned, but it was a positive birth. It’s a great example of how births that go “wrong” can still be positive, which is why I was considering sharing it. I have decided, for now, to not share the whole story publicly online. Just because it’s special to me, I can’t tell it without being personal about others and once it’s online, anything could happen. But here is a photo of me at my son’s birth, that has been made into a poster for Doula UK. I hope you agree that it shows you don’t need to be at home, surrounded by candles, to have a positive birth.

L xx

PS. We had a doula, two doulas! And they were marvellous Empowered: A Doula UK poster of a gentle caesarean

The Infant Feeding Survey is being cancelled. Why should you care?

I learnt this week that the Government is cancelling the Infant Feeding Survey for 2015, something I’m actually horrified about.

The leading breastfeeding support charities in the UK, along with Doula UK, are urging the Government to reverse this decision and they are asking supporters to contact their MPs about this.

But why should you care?

The UK Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) has been conducted every five years since 1975. The 2015 IFS would have been the ninth national survey of infant feeding practices to be conducted. The main aim of the survey was to provide estimates on the incidence, prevalence, and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers in the first eight to ten months after their baby was born.

The IFS provides hugely important information for anyone needing to develop policies or do research on infant feeding in the UK, as well as providing an update on how policies and the state of the UK are impacting on infant feeding.

The last IFS suggested that improvements in breastfeeding rates are stagnating and we may actually be losing ground. In cancelling the survey, the Government, intentionally or not, will be preventing there being any evidence that policies over the last few years (such as the loss of funding to Childrens Centre that has seen vital breastfeeding support services close and the ongoing shortage and over-stretching of midwives in England) have had a negative impact on whether mothers are able to breastfeed their babies.

The evidence – such as that provided by past IFS! – is that most new mums in the UK initiate breastfeeding, but less than half are breastfeeding by the time baby is 6 weeks old. Many mums would breastfeed, but do not get the support they need to do so. Stats from the IFS are used SO much when proving the need for projects that can provide better support for mums.

As the joint statement from the leading UK breastfeeding support charities says:

 “The IFS is a unique and crucial data source that informs what we and many other early years’ organisations do. The internationally recognised, robust information collected by the IFS helps us target support in appropriate areas, using suitable resources and interventions as well as giving a view of impact of interventions and education over time, particularly for families least likely to breastfeed or introduce solid food when not developmentally ready. “

The cancellation of the IFS also further signals the slippage of breastfeeding down the public health agenda.

This isn’t about whether you breastfed your babies or not, and whether you’re 100% happy with that journey. It’s about our Government signalling that they don’t care about how babies are fed, when they really really should. On a population level how babies are fed affects health, it affects the sustainability of the NHS, so many things.

So please, email your MP.

It doesn’t take long. Use, enter your postcode and write a short message to your MP. You can’t copy & paste, but can use phrases from the official statements or my own email (at the bottom of this post).

You can also email Jane Verity, Head of Maternity at the Department of Health on

Thank you.


To see the Doula UK statement, see here:

To see a joint statement from The Breastfeeding Network (BfN), Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) and La Leche League (LLL), see here:


Dear MP
I understand that the Infant Feeding Survey for 2015 is to be cancelled. I find this move both shocking and disappointing and am writing to you to ask that you ask the Government to reverse this decision.

The cancellation of the 2015 Infant Feeding Survey has huge implications for the provision of evidence-based support in the area of infant feeding, and so for the health of the UK. It is symptomatic of how far down the Government’s agenda infant feeding has slipped, despite the huge body of evidence that raising breastfeeding rates is vital to both the NHS nd the economy.

Doula UK and national breastfeeding support charities are urging the Government to reverse this decision and carry out the 2015 IFS. As my democratic representative, I ask that you please join them.

Yours sincerely,

Lindsey Middlemiss


Coping with Night Feeds

I’ve blogged here about the importance of night time feeds, especially for breastfeeding mamas. But most adults are accustomed to sleeping through the night, thank you very much! and frequent night wakenings can be really tough on new parents.

So what can you do if night wakenings and breastfeeds are kicking your butt as a new mum?

Bring baby to you

If you can breastfeed lying down, then you’ll be resting while feeding, even if you’re awake. And if baby is close enough, you don’t have to get up (or perhaps even sit up!) to feed. This can be done either with a bedside crib or by bringing baby into bed with you.

In the UK and many western countries, we are told not to sleep with our babies for their safety. However, there is significant evidence that the risks rise with parents who smoke, mothers who have consumed alcohol or drugs, and sleeping with a baby on a sofa or chair. There are also increased risks from soft surfaces and soft bedding. There is not clear evidence whether a breastfeeding, non-smoking mother, who has not consumed alcohol or drugs, sleeping with her baby on a firm mattress, with soft bedding away from the baby, is more risky, as safe or even safer, than the “ideal” of sleeping with baby in a separate bed next to her. And keeping baby in the same room as the parents and breastfeeding are both known to be significantly protective against SIDS.

ISIS Online is a wonderful resource for properly evidence based information on infant sleep, but essentially, each family and each mother has to make their own choices, their own “risk assessment” as to what works for them and what they are comfortable with. You may well decide that you are comfortable with sleeping with your baby in a way where you have reduced all the risk factors as far as you are able, especially if that enables you to continue sleeping with your baby in the same room and breastfeeding.

Make night time feeds less stressful

Are you feeding at night sitting up uncomfortably in bed, getting thirsty and hungry and resenting the time spent awake, or the sleeping partner next to you? Change that picture around.

Get comfy.

If you don’t want to, or haven’t yet cracked how to, feed lying down, then pay as much attention to making night-time feeds comfortable as you would day-time. Biological nurturing or laid back nursing works brilliantly in bed with extra pillows behind you. A V-pillow or nursing pillow can be great for this if you stick it behind your normal pillows. Or if you’re more comfortable feeding sitting up, can you have a comfortable chair next to the bed, or at least plenty of cushions to prop you up comfortably so you don’t expend energy simply holding the position while baby feeds?

Build your nest

If you have to get up, walk around, turn on lights and possibly get cold with every wakening, you’ll have a more disrupted night. Have a low level light you can either turn on easily from the bed or leave on. Before you go to bed each night, check you have everything you might need. Have a changing mat, nappies, etc next to the bed and change baby’s nappy on the bed between your legs. Have snacks and drinks right there, so you can refuel during or after each feed – if you’re dehydrated and starving by morning, you’ll feel those night feeds more and going to the kitchen will only wake you up more effectively.

Enjoy your quiet time

If you’re awake during night feeds, particularly if it’s just you (mama) and baby awake, then use that time for something you want to do. Read a book – an e-reader with a light, especially a gentle backlight, is brilliant for this. Listen to an audio book. Have a TV series to catch up on on a laptop. Listen to music.

And enjoy looking at the wonder of your baby at your breast! Night feeds can be a very special time with a new baby.

Share the night times

The wonder and the PITA of being a breastfeeding mama is that it’s really only you who can do it. Night feeds are important and if you’re breastfeeding, it’s important you do breastfeed for night feeds – tactics like trying to express for night feeds messes with the delicate balance of hormones and supply (and might lead to a more wide awake baby in the night!).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get help.

If your partner takes on responsibility for night-time nappy changes and possibly burping and settling baby, then you can get a few more precious minutes of sleep with each feed.

A partner that gets you settled with a baby with a fresh nappy and then goes off to rustle up tea and toast (or whatever you fancy to eat at 3am!) for both of you can make the night feeds into a much more relaxing, special time for you as a family.

If your partner can’t help more, perhaps because they’re at their limit as well, or because they’re back at work, is there someone else in your family who could? If there isn’t, then perhaps a postnatal doula could give you a break? Some postnatal doulas do nights, taking on (if you wish) everything but the breastfeeding: bringing baby to you for feeds and then taking baby away (meaning you can feed in bed without worrying about falling asleep even if you don’t want to sleep in  bed with baby), and dealing with all the nappy changes, burping, settling and 4am playtimes. Check the Doula UK website for postnatal doulas in your area.

Change your days

What could you do during the day to help you to cope better with night time feeds?

Babies do sleep. A lot, actually! Just not usually in a solid block during the night. So if you try to follow that old-wives phrase of “sleep when the baby sleeps”, you can actually get quite a lot of sleep in 24 hours!

This may mean that you need a lot more help with everything else, from making you meals, through looking after other children, to looking after the house. So many new mums try to conquer the world. When you’re a mum of a new baby, your “job” is to rest, recover (even if you had a glorious birth, pregnancy and birth still takes its toll on you!) and feed the baby. It is not your job to be cleaning the house, paying the bills and doing everything. Sadly, we often now live in such fractured, distanced families and communities that the postnatal time is not protected as it once would have been. Preparing antenatally, calling on friends and families, and investing in a postnatal doula will all help. This time is precious and is not something you can get back afterwards.

And if you have help, then someone else can look after nappies and taking baby between feeds, so that you can sleep for longer.

MicroBirth – my thoughts

Microbirth Poster

Microbirth Poster

Last weekend I was at the Cambs Doulas premiere of Microbirth, the new documentary from Toni Harman and Alex Wakefield of One World Birth.

Microbirth explores the latest scientific research about the microscopic events happening during modern childbirth. that can have life-long consequences for the health of our children and potentially a very serious impact on mankind. In particular, the impact of caesarean birth and the use of artificial oxytocin was discussed. The need for widespread natural term breastfeeding was also mentioned.

And the impact was discussed. The potential bankrupting, in our lifetime, of global healthcare, because of the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases – asthma, diabetes, obesity, etc. The changing of homo sapiens as a species, in a very real way.

I would definitely say that this a film anyone working in the birth world should see, to inform their work. The screening I was at was chocka with doulas and a few student midwives, but senior midwives and obstetricians were not visible, despite the proximity of the screening to Addenbrookes Hospital. If you’re pregnant, it might help if you ask your midwife and, if relevant, obstetrician if they have seen the film! You never know, they might not have heard of it and be interested enough to google it.

The film introduces a new concept, which I hope to discuss with many clients in future, and can definitely see ending up on some birth preferences: “seeding baby’s microbiome”. It simply means making sure that a baby starts off with the right bacteria and enough of them to “seed” its bacterial population.

Because of the people interviewed, I felt there was a real focus on how the impact of caesarean birth could be reduced, rather than a more balanced view of how caesarean birth rates could safely be reduced, whilst reducing the impact of caesarean birth on those babies who have to be born that way. The marvellous Hannah Dahlen was interviewed, but it would have been nice to hear about areas and clinics where they have already significantly reduced the caesarean rate, either over time or in comparison to the local average, and how this was and can be done.

The information on the research being done on how the negative impact of caesarean birth on a baby’s microbiome can be reduced was especially fascinating to me, given my passionate interest in the gentle caesarean method and there being choices for mamas who have to birth in this way. I’ll be blogging more about this in particular later.

The impact of not breastfeeding on a baby’s microbiome and their health in later life, was discussed in the movie, but I would have liked to have seen this explored in more depth as an issue in its own right. Even if we got birth right, on a population level, and a baby’s microbiome and epigenetics were all set up for future health, it all gets messed up again when baby’s are not breastfed. We already know from research that, on a population level, not breastfeeding exclusively till around 6 months and then alongside the introduction of solid foods for at least 2 years, has a detrimental effect on a population’s health.

One thing I learnt from the movie was that healthy human beings are actually 90% bacteria, 10% mammal, in a symbiotic relationship. It has shone new light on the negatives of our marketing-fuelled anti-bacterial culture (ironic pun intended!). Just because something is anti-bacterial, it does NOT mean that it is good for you. I know that I will be challenging that assumption even more in the future.

So, overall, fascinating must-watch movie. But it would have been good to have had a more balanced view of the issues – reducing inessential caesarean birth, reducing the use of artificial oxytocin in birth, increasing breastfeeding rates and challenging our anti-bacterial assumptions are as important as reducing the impact of caesarean birth. And it would have been good to have had action points that viewers could take away.

Did you see Microbirth? Because of it, will you be taking actions to help change the tide and return humanity to health? I would love to know your ideas.

Feeling blessed

As part of my Recognition Interview with my Doula UK Mentor, I was presented with the feedback forms from my clients that had been used as part of the mentoring process. I’ve been blessed with some amazing clients, who have said lovely things about me – and have allowed me to use them on this site!

Reading the feedback forms and remembering those births makes me remember just how amazing this amazing job of doulaing can be. It’s such an honour to be invited to be a part of a woman or a couple’s journey to becoming parents or adding to their family. And the continuity of care that is a part of being a birth doula is incredibly special. I get to see the whole journey. Perhaps seeing a mama start off anxious and unsure, and then totally rocking that labour and blossoming into a confident parent who is enjoying their baba. Seeing that dad be the partner mama needs, with just a few smiles and snacks coming from me. Seeing those babies come into the world and then grow happy and thrive.

Peace and oxytocin to you all. This doula is hitting the sack.