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hannah barnes

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What do I need to have ready for baby?

Much like the Hospital Bag scenario, it's really difficult to know exactly what you really need to have ready for baby's arrival, and what's surplus to requirements! There are so many things that you will be told that you absolutely MUST have for baby, the latest gadgets and gismos to make life easier. 

Everyone is different and chooses to live their lives differently, and that's what makes life interesting, but I personally believe that the majority of those gadgets and gismos for baby actually just make life more complicated and cluttered. 

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So what do you actually need? Well a baby needs to be warm, fed, changed, loved and to sleep. Those are the things it actually needs. So with that in mind:

Clothes - well, yes. You'll need lots of vests, babygrows and hats. Depending on the time of year, they might also need a snowsuit to snuggle in for being outside (but this should be removed when they're in their car seat - see some guidelines on that here). It's always difficult to know if baby is warm enough, the best way to tell is to feel their chest or their back, it should just feel the same warmth as you. 

Food - if you're planning to breastfeed you've already got everything you need. If you're going to formula feed then you'll need formula, bottles, teats and a way to sterilise. You can get sucked into gadgetry here but you really don't need to. The easiest way to keep bottles sterile is to buy the traditional sterilising tablets and have a bowl in the kitchen with it in (replaced every 24 hours), and put bottles into it after you've washed them after each use. Then you've always got a sterile bottle ready to go, at the right temperature. If you buy a microwave steriliser, they are great but if you need a bottle NOW (which can happen!!) then it will be too hot straight after use and you'll have to wait for it to cool down. Ever tried explaining to a hungry baby that it needs to wait patiently???!!!!  And I will sound like my Mother now, but room temperature is right for baby as that is how your milk comes if you were breastfeeding. If you ever offer baby warmed milk you're really setting yourself up for trouble - be warned!!!! 

Also in the food category I would say Muslins - you cannot have enough muslins, you'll need one in every room and one in your changing bag. Baby's throw up, often on you when you're out! They also dribble whilst feeding or just after, having a mussy tucked under their chin or to hand to mop up is great. Buy lots of these!!!

Changing - The bag. God people spend £££££'s on changing bags! I've always found that a nice big handbag with lots of pockets is fine, it doesn't have to be an official 'changing bag' to serve it's purpose! 

You'll obviously need nappies (buy shares in these!), some people prefer cloth and some prefer disposable - it's your choice. Warm water and cotton wool is the gentlest way to clean baby's bottom, but this isn't practical when you're out so you will need wipes if you ever want to leave the house. I do strongly suggest buying a tub of vaseline, if you apply this generously to baby's bottom and bits after each nappy change, you will avoid nappy rash - it also means that poo doesn't stick to their skin and comes off easily. You're welcome. 

Sleeping - Again this comes down to choice, but baby is safe to co-sleep with you under usual circumstances, and you cannot spoil a newborn baby. Just because they co-sleep with you for the first couple of months of their lives (or longer), doesn't mean that they'll be 12 and sleeping in your bed. However it is important to be armed with the facts on co-sleeping, and you can find those with the Lullaby Trust. There are lots of options to have baby in your room and very close to you if you prefer not to co-sleep, such as a Moses basket next to your bed.

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Baby will need other things as time goes on, but you will discover what you would like to have for him or her as you go along. You'll want a play mat or something that you can lay baby down on, but you won't need this immediately. 

The first few weeks baby will just need to be close to you - slings are amazing for this, and most (but not all) babies will be happy to just be in the sling with you whilst you are out and about. There are lots of sling libraries popping up now where you can try different types out to see how you like them before you buy one. 

When out and about you'll also want a car seat and a pram - this is pretty overwhelming for most of us, just have a play with things until you find the one that works for you. But please don't fall into the trap of carrying baby around everywhere in the car seat, it's not good for them and it's not good for your back! 

And finally: Love. And I'm pretty sure you've got that covered.

 

 

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How to shorten your labour by eating dates!

So we've been talking about the importance of eating Dates in the last month of pregnancy for several months now at Calm Births. So I thought it about time to actually sit down and take a look at the evidence!

So what's all this about eating dates? You may or not have heard but eating 6 dates per day will:

Lessen your chances of needing induction and make your labour shorter.

Woah there! Stop the press! What?! This is incredible news! So there have been a few good studies on this in the last few years and they all reached the same conclusions.

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

It is thought by Alkoran et al (2017) that date fruit 'probably influenced oxytocin receptors, caused more effective contractions, and better prepared the cervix for delivery'. Our ability to respond to Oxytocin (or, the 'hormone of love' as it's known) increases during pregnancy, and we produce more of it. All that lovely Oxytocin then encourages our uterine muscles to surge in order to ripen and open the cervix. So if dates are enhancing that process, then happy days! 

So as well as women being statistically more likely to go into spontaneous labour, they are also, according to these studies, going to be:

More dilated when arriving at a hospital/birth centre, more likely to have a vaginal birth and less likely to have a post-partum haemorrhage. 

Khadem et al (2007) found that 'date fruit has an oxytocin-like effect, leading to the increased sensitivity of the uterus, stimulating uterine contractions and reduces mean post partum haemorrhage'. 

The evidence is there, and reassuringly all studies conclude that Dates are beneficial for women during late pregnancy, as they reduce the need for intervention and there are no adverse effects on Mother or child. 

So - 6 dates a day from 36 weeks ladies! Ok, so admittedly dates aren't the most visually appealing fruit, and I know a lot of you are thinking yes but.. euughhh!!

 

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

 

So here are a few ideas for you on how to jazz them up a bit to eat them!

1. You can chop them up on cereal for a quick dose in the morning

 2. Some of these smoothies sound delish

3. Sticky toffee date cake? Yes please! 

4. A date and walnut cake, yum.

5. This super healthy Mongolian Beef recipe. 

I'd love to know how you get on with the date eating, has it worked for you? Have you any great recipes for Dates? I'd love to read your comments! x 

 

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The Hospital Bag.

"What should I pack in my hospital bag? "

This is a question that looms in the minds of many Mums to be  - there is so much information out there about what you absolutely must have in your hospital bag. There are lists on Pinterest, there are pages on websites, there are helpful friends and family telling you what you MUST have - it can all feel a little overwhelming and can become quite a thing to fixate on and worry about.

The struggle is real..

The struggle is real..

In my years as a Midwife and after three babies of my own (who were born at home, but still all had a hospital bag packed from 37 weeks just in case) I have learnt what is actually essential in your bag - it's so easy to get carried away with this, with all the various lists out there on the interweb! So thought it might be helpful to share my basic hospital bag list - this is the stuff you need, everything else is just extras. Keep it basic, you're not going to Outer Mongolia. 

For Mum:

Your handheld notes - you will definitely need these.

Maternity Pads - these are the massive surf board ones - it's very important to use these and not the regular sanitary pads as they are designed for the Midwives (and you) to be able to monitor your blood loss after birth, if it's all absorbed in a pad it's more tricky. 

Comfy PJ's / Nightie that you can snuggle into after birth, preferably ones that you can snuggle baby into the front of too for some lovely skin to skin cuddles (and to breastfeed if you are choosing to)

MASSIVE comfy pants - literally buy a size or two bigger than usual of pants like you're Granny would wear. You'll appreciate it trust me. It also helps to house those massive pads!

Normal toiletries (shower gel, deodorant, toothbrush/paste, hairbrush/band) - even if you plan to go straight home after baby has been born (you'll be recommended to wait at least 6 hours), a shower and a teeth clean will feel like heaven afterwards.

Lip balm - it's really normal for your lips and mouth to get really dry if using gas & air.

Snackage - This should be the first priority in my mind!!!! But seriously, do take little snacks that might take your fancy during labour to keep your energy up, like jelly babies or snack bars, and also juice cartons or energy drinks. Don't forget, you're not planning on going to the Moon to have your baby, so there will always be a little shop/vending machine you can use if you need to! 

Nipple cream - obvs only if you're planning to breasfeed! But buy a good one like Lansinoh because in my experience nothing else even comes close.

An open mind - this is so important. To enter into labour and birth with an open mind and a 'go with the flow' attitude will serve you so well. Trust in the process and your body, trust in nature to take it's course and be open to however it all pans out. There is no right or wrong way to give birth. There is just birth. 

For Baby:

Nappies - obvs. Put a whole pack in. Trust me on that one.

Clothes - obvs again, but don't underestimate how many clothes a small thing can get through in a short space of time! To be totally safe take 5 or 6 of: vests, babygrows and hats.

Muslins - again you will not believe how many of these you might get through, put at least 5 in.

Baby wipes/Cotton wool - it is known to be better for baby's skin to use cotton wool and warm water to wipe their bottom and the hospital will have top and tail bowls for you to use for that. However the first few meconium poos are a nightmare to wipe, and in those instances baby wipes are much easier! 

Vaseline - if you cover baby's bottom and bits with vaseline after each clean, it makes the poo not stick to the skin and therefore much easier to clean. You're welcome.

A boob / A bottle - If you're not sure how you're planning to feed, you will already have a boob with you and you can always send someone out for formula! (This is where those muslins come in handy for dribbly feeders and also modesty)

Phone charger - to keep the juice on your phone for those all important calls & social media announcements!

Love - to give in abundance.

For Birth Partner:

Change - for car parks or vending machines

Toiletries - you might be there for a while and want to freshen up yourself, so pop in a spare toothbrush, deodorant etc.

Spare t-shirt - it gets REALLY hot in hospital, and you might feel a bit gross if you're there for a while!

Snacks - hell hath no fury like a pregnant woman when you've stolen her snacks. Keep your own stash!!

Phone charger - because you'll be taking a zillion photo's of your new baby!

Encouragement - telling your partner that they are loved, safe and doing an amazing thing will really spur her on and help her. You can't say these things too much in my opinion.

Just in case the thought of getting everything together is a bit stressful, I've put all the things you'll need for labour and the immediate postnatal period together in a convenient bag for you! You can read about your pre-packed birth bags here. x 

 

 

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Ask the Midwife

It is a sad but true fact, that in many NHS Trusts throughout England, maternity services are unable to offer women the continuity of care they need and deserve due to lack of staff and funding. I'm pretty sure I can speak for all Midwives when I say this hurts them as much as it hurts you, as they all know and understand the benefits of continuity of care, but for reasons beyond their control, are unable to offer it. I say this as a former Midwife, who loved nothing more than the picturesque ideal of 'Call the Midwife' where we could build a close relationship with the women in our care, and be with them at the births of their babies understanding their worries, needs and wants.  What happens now, in most areas (although there are a lucky few areas who have amazing community teams who can actually offer the ideal) is that women see a different Midwife at each antenatal appointment, and yet another one (or more) at the birth of their baby. 

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

This could very easily turn into an essay on how damaging that is for a Woman's experience of birth, but I am not here to slate our NHS - our Midwives, support staff and Gynae staff do amazing jobs under really shit conditions.

There is a problem for our women though, in that due to that lack of a close relationship or easy access to a Midwife, many women are sitting at home fretting about what they deem to be 'silly' questions about their pregnancies. There are dedicated phone lines in the maternity units, but women often feel daunted by calling them as the lines are busy, or they feel that their question is too small. This can really ruin a woman's experience of pregnancy, particularly for those who are anxious. 

Something I have discovered recently though is the most amazing tool for women designed by Midwife Hannah Harvey. Her very clever app: 'Ask the Midwife' is designed to combat this - it is a tool for women to ask any question they need to about pregnancy to an actual Midwife and get a very quick and evidence based response. I had a chat with Hannah recently and this is what she said:

Can you describe the Ask the Midwife App to me Hannah?

"Ask The Midwife is the UK’s first health advice app designed and run be registered midwives for women and their families. You can download the app, ask any questions you have about pregnancy, birth and beyond and get a fast, professional and friendly response from a registered midwife."

Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to do this?

"I have been a Midwife for 5 years, and have always had an interest in digital health and how it can benefit women and families. A study showed that 84% of women use the internet for health advice in pregnancy, and most of the time this isn’t from credible sources. I wanted to create a solution that would mean everyone had access to professional advice online, to dissuade people from using Google and parenting forums as a source of information. In my local trust I developed Facebook groups and a Twitter page to improve maternity user experience in our NHS Trust, and won an innovation award for it in 2014. Following on from that, I wanted to be able to offer digital health services to users across the whole of the UK, and hopefully internationally at some point as well. This is how Ask The Midwife was born!"

Why do you think this App is needed right now?

"We live in a time now where everyone has smart phones, and people use social media and digital services like apps and web sites all the time. Digital Health is a brand new phenomenon, but one that is taking off at a drastic rate, because it is fast, easily accessible and credible. We have already been able to offer reassurance and guidance to so many expectant parents, and it is becoming evident how much a service like this is needed, by how quickly the app has taken off and how many people are using it."

Is any question too small or silly?

"No question is too small or silly for us. We actually get lots of questions that I have never been asked as a Midwife in clinical practice, which suggests to me that there are questions that women feel are too silly/small to ask face to face, so it is really great to see them being asked via the app. It means we are providing a service that is really needed, and people are able to get their anxieties and worries out to a professional and have the reassurance they need. If you think your question is silly, it isn’t. We will always be at the other end of the app waiting to answer any questions you have, bog or small."
 

How can people get the App, and what will they pay for it?

"The app is free to download on iOS. We are planning to launch Ask The Midwife on Android and on our website in 2017. Once you have downloaded, you get one free question and then after that you can pay anything from £1.99 for an Ask - up to £24.99 for one months unlimited use."
 

You can find out more at the Ask The Midwife website - and take advantage of the January sale, with unlimited access for £17! 

 

 

 

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