New mama must haves

I covered my baby must haves here and now it's time to discuss things that I have found so helpful throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and becoming a new mum. I was completely unprepared for Oli's arrival so I didn’t have a hospital bag packed or anything. All I had ready was my uniform for work the next morning…I never did get to that shift! I hope you find some inspiration in my essential items.

Body oil
When I was pregnant I lathered my growing tummy, thighs and bum in oil. I tried Bio Oil for a while but couldn’t stand the smell. I then came across the GROWN range and started using their body oil. It smells absolutely amazing and so calming! After my showers, morning and night, I used it and didn’t get one stretch mark! I know they say stretch marks are hereditary and not dependant on any products you use etc BUT I didn’t put it on my boobs and that was where I got a few stretch marks. Not sure…but it definitely made me feel so nice and left my skin feeling supple. Whatever product you choose it’s just nice to rub into your growing belly and bond with your baby. This is the GROWN one I used.

Comfy bra
This is a MUST HAVE! You need a comfy bra during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. To be honest I rarely wore a bra in the early days. With sore nipples and in the peak of summer I couldn’t think of anything worse than being stuck in a bra! I found the comfiest bra from Kmart, made of soft material with no wire. A bit like a sports bra but with the clips for feeding. They are around $15 and I found them supportive, they grew with my huge boobs and best of all they are so comfy! I spent quite a lot on bras from Myer and Bras n Things but I found them all too tight or not supportive enough with cups that didn’t change with my boobs. This kmart bra is much like the Ah Bra that you see on TV sometimes, made of a microfiber material.

Own pillow and nightie for hospital  
This is a big one for me. It’s a well-known fact if you’re in a comfortable environment you labour better…cue the dimmed lights, calm voices and quiet room. I feel comfortable in hospitals and am not really phased by the sterile environment. In saying that I found it so nice to have my own pillow – hospital pillows are plastic covered in such a thin case. Having your own pillow to bury your face into during the throws of labour makes a huge difference. I also wore my own nightie during my hospital stay. I didn’t want to be in the scratchy hospital nightie and somehow labeled a patient. Of course it’s personal preference but these are just little things that you can change to make yourself feel more at ease in the hospital. During an experience where I had little control over the events that unfolded I was able to have these things my way.

You have heard it all before. Knowledge is power! I cannot emphasise this point enough in relation to pregnancy, labour and birth and even postnatally too. Educate yourself! Read articles...I'm referring to journal articles or articles from well known sources not just Cleo! You wouldn't buy a new car without doing the research so don't go into your appointments, or into labour without knowledge of how everything works or choices you have. 

Things I researched and questioned throughout my pregnancy included; 

•Not being induced unless 100% medically necessary. I would have been quite happy to go 40+ weeks with the confidence and knowledge that my baby & body would know when to begin labour. It may not be comfortable but I know it's NORMAL. Nothing makes my skin crawl more than hearing about women being induced at 36 weeks because their Dr was going on holidays!!

•Delayed cord clamping. I could go on forever and ever about the benefits of delayed cord clamping but it will be much more informative if you do your own research. In basic terms the usual practice after the baby is born is that the cord is immediately cut and clamped and the baby is passed to mum. In delayed cord clamping the cord is left until it stops pulsating, this means that everything from the placenta – the red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin, iron etc gets to the baby. This increases the newborns blood volume by a huge 32%. This is becoming a more popular practice but I know many midwives don’t routinely perform delayed cord clamping. There is some thought that babies who are unwell are more ideal candidates for delayed cord clamping because they desperately need that extra boost! So really there is no reason as to why you shouldn’t be able to do this when your baby is born. Unless you are taking your placenta home with you then it usually gets thrown into medical waste – why waste that precious blood when it could be in your baby where it should be!!

•Physiological third stage, this goes hand in hand with delayed cord clamping. Routinely mothers are delivered a needle in their thigh to contract the uterus and deliver the placenta promptly. If you wish to have a physiological third stage then the placenta is delivered naturally and you get no jab. Read up! 

•Placental encapsulation. This is something I was so looking forward to! Because Ol was premmie and so unwell I was told they had to test the placenta and I couldn't take it!  There are so many benefits to taking your placenta postnatally including quicker recovery times, aiding PND etc. And for what its worth I really don't see it as disgusting, your placenta is dried and crushed into a plastic pill. Eating my placenta with a knife and fork seems yucky not having it dried in a pill!

•Not artificially rupturing membranes unless 100% medically necessary. Some Dr's just seem to love breaking waters. The membranes are there to protect your baby from trauma, infection etc. Keep them intact for as long as possible!

• Monitoring ONLY again if 100% medically necessary. Your position during labour affects the progress of your babies descent and therefore your dilation. You dilate as the babies head pushes onto your cervix. Laying on your back attached to a monitor is not ideal for the baby to push its little head down and make its journey through the pelvis. Standing, swaying and walking are all ideal to open up the pelvis and let that baby out! 

 • Newborn Hep B injection. I’m a supporter of immunization and preventing nasty diseases…however I would recommend thoroughly reading into this topic. If you know that your baby isn’t going to come into contact with HepB during it’s first month of life which in my case was highly unlikely then I wouldn’t be giving it. A newborn has so much to adjust to after they are born, I didn’t want my baby to have to deal with an immunization on top of that.

 These are all my opinions on topics that I find really interesting. I’m not saying you should go into the hospital and refuse all of these things just because I’ve written them here. Do your research; be empowered and full of knowledge to back up your decisions. Informed consent is a powerful thing. In an ideal world I would have had all of these things that I had read up on! Unfortunately because Oli was unwell I didnt get any of these! Except the newborn hepB which was because he was too sick. I was still happy because I had spoken up and put my wishes out there and the midwife caring for me gave me rationales as to why they weren't possible. I’m not saying go in all guns blazing and refuse treatments. Just have a knowledge base and speak up! Your baby, your body and your birth!! As a midwife I love caring for women who are aware of options and feel in control.

Large undies  
After the baby is born you honestly will not want underwear that is too tight. Even if you don't have stitches down there you will be bleeding quite heavily so maternity pads are in order. It's just so much comfier to have a big pair of knickers on, nothing digging in, making you feel uncomfortable! I'm not talking huge grandma pants here, maybe just the next size up! And I preferred black, for obvious reasons. Sadly the next size up undies still fit my post baby booty...however as long as I'm comfy I really don't mind! These are an essential for your hospital bag! On the topic of down there, I found that after a few days I didn’t need maternity pads anymore. From them I went down to ultrathins and they were so much more comfy with sutures. I think the bulkiness of maternity pads can make it somewhat uncomfortable with spikey sutures. So stock up on an array of different types of pads not all maternity specific. And pop them in the freezer at home (unfolded) and apply to soothe a sore peri for 15/20 mins at a time.

Wet wipes  
These were my best friend after I had oli! I had a very very sore perineum! Not only did I have stitches but a lot of bruising and general bloody pain from pushing out my little Buddha! That paired with all the sitting I was doing to & from the hospital meant I had some intense swelling! The last thing you want to be doing is rubbing such a delicate area with rough toilet paper. I don't care how soft Kleenex cottonelle claims to be.... When your vagina has just been repaired anything feels like sandpaper! Flushable wet wipes or just normal wet wipes like I had were a sheer necessity. While I'm on the topic of wipes. Let's talk about the first poo after baby. Something people regularly freak out about! When I use to speak with women at work I always emphasise the importance of supporting the area of suturing with a clean pad then to push. You certainly don't want to be pushing and for the pressure to cause any damage. I was bloody scared my first poo. So much so that I made Ian stand outside the toilet door for moral support! Luckily I had no problems but you just don't know what to expect the first time round! Just a little tip, hospitals won't provide moist wipes so you might like to pack them in your hospital bag.

When my midwife did her first postnatal check of my stitches she chatted to me before the actually saw the area. I told her I thought it as quite swollen and she said to get my mum to grab some Medihoney from the chemist on her way over. After she saw my peri she promptly left and went to the chemist herself to get some! I had such bad swelling from literally sitting on the wound all day and most of the night too! This is an example of why having having a midwife was so great - you can't compare it to hospital care.. it's above & beyond. Honey has been used for centuries in wound care and has an array of benefits including speeding up healing, antimicrobial properties, deodorises wounds, reduces pain and many more benefits. It's often used in treating pressure ulcers and it's proven results are a reason to use on your peri, an area that you want healed ASAP. Apply honey after a shower, it's sticky but not like you would think. It's soothing and comfortable. Do not be mistaken, I'm not referring to your regular supermarket honey here. I'm talking about Manuka Honey, sold as Medihoney here in Australia.  Below is an explanation of why honey is so beneficial for not only perineal wounds but c-section scars and wound healing overall. 

Raw honey is a great remedy for first-degree [perineal] tears. Honey's thick consistency forms a barrier defending the wound from outside infections. The moistness allows skin cells to grow without creating a scar, even if a scab has already formed. Meanwhile, the sugars extract dirt and moisture from the wound, which helps prevent bacteria from growing, while the acidity of honey also slows or prevents the growth of many bacteria. An enzyme that bees add to honey reacts with the wound's fluids and breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant. Honey also acts as an anti-inflammatory and pain killer and prevents bandages from sticking to wounds. Laboratory studies have shown that honey has significant antibacterial qualities. Significant clinical observations have demonstrated the effectiveness of honey as a wound healing agent. Glucose converted into hyaluronic acid at the wound surface forms an extracellular matrix that encourages wound healing. Honey is also considered antimicrobial.   

From Volume 11, Issue 1, January 7, 2009 edition of Midwifery Today enews Excerpted from "Herbs for Postpartum Perineum Care: Part I," The Birthkit, Issue 46 

Tea tree oil
I'm still very green when it comes to essential oils. However the beauty of having a midwife was that she recommended things to me that I hadn't heard of before or been exposed to in the hospital setting. I used a few drops of tea tree oil in the shower. Just popped my foot over the drain and as the water built up I dropped about three drops into it. Well.. I definitely wont be having any sinus problems ever again! The steam gave my whole respiratory system a clean out!     When you have dropped the oil into the water flick it upwards towards your stitches or any grazes etc on your peri. This is a great way to soothe and treat pain as well as preventing infection a it's a natural antiseptic. I really believe this worked, it's great to have a topical treatment  as well as taking regular panadol and anti-inflammatories. 

Breast pump
My pump was my best friend in the early days. Just after Oli’s birth I hired a Medela symphony through the hospital and had it for a few months following. This is the best pump ever! Double pumping saves so much time! Although quite difficult to use your phone, however after 4 weeks of pumping every 3-4 hours I had it mastered. When things settled with my feeding I bought myself a Medela swing pump. Battery operated, and its tiny! Can even fit in your handbag or nappy bag really easily. This was so helpful for me and I think it would be for anyone who is having issues with breastfeeding, has had mastitis or gets really engorged. Medela is the only brand I have used and can recommend. Most hospitals use them, they are available in almost every chemist I think they are the best! Up until a few months ago I was still using my pump, being able to use it in the car is a definite winner! Not when driving of course. That would have got me more weird looks than I was already getting in the passengers seat! A breast pump is expensive but you can pick them up second hand for a reasonable price, all of the tubing and bottles etc you buy new so there’s no worry with cross contamination.

A breastfeeding pillow
I have got so much use out of my feeding pillow! During my pregnancy I would use it in bed or rest my laptop on it instead of my expanding tummy. After Oli was born I would sit on it because of my painful peri! When I started breastfeeding it was a godsend and I took it everywhere with me. Now I put it on the floor for Oli’s head when I change his nappy! I got a coupon for it online and only had to pay postage, which was about $20. Grab yours here

A water bottle
Drinking enough water is essential for breast milk supply. At least 3 litres a day is recommended from memory. Every time you are feeding the baby have your water bottle there to take regular sips from. It’s so easy to get dehydrated and forget about taking care of yourself in those early days while establishing breastfeeding. If you aren’t drinking anything and you have a cranky baby maybe your supply is low. My child health nurse told me that if my wee wasn’t clear by 11am I’m hadn’t drinking enough fluids. Good tip I think.

Fenugreek tabs
I was taking 9 fenugreek tablets at one point when I had low milk supply. I notice a huge difference in my milk production after the first day of taking these. Fenugreek is a herb and has been used for centuries to increase milk supply. I had such issues with having enough milk mainly because of Ol's tongue tie and my terrible emotional state. Cannot recommend these highly enough for anyone having supply issues. They are just at the supermarket or health food shop. Not breast milk support tabs, just pure fenugreek!

Healthy, nourishing food
Good food is so important for breastfeeding and postnatal mums! For breast milk supply, healing, and overall recovery. I was lucky to have my mum around when I had Oli so she made lots of meals for us when we were home. It is so difficult to eat well when you are staying in the NICU. I’m going to do a post on my must haves for NICU mums because there are some essential things specific to that area. If I had a chance I would have prepared healthy meals and frozen them before Oli came along. That’s something I will definitely be doing for my next baby. Preparation is key because it’s so much easier with a crazy hungry baby to eat 6 pieces of peanut butter toast in a day than prepare any meals! I think it’s a great present to get someone when you go and visit a new baby too. Much more practical than the 10000 newborn suits and socks they have received.