a doula combining Science and spirituality, research and Intuition..

Posts tagged “breastfeeding

Doulaing, kittens and wet-nursing

breastfeeding 1

I’m not able to do as much doula work as I’d like nowadays, as a full time working single mum, parenting a teenager and school child with #ADHD I’m pretty busy. I still do one to one sessions and teach workshops when I can. But doula work is in your bones, the doula mindset I now use in my everyday life all the time, approaching difficult people as if they were in labour can work wonders. If someone has unpredictable behaviours, extreme emotions, confusing needs- you can do well by loving presence, deep listening, going barefoot, breathing slowly, mirroring calm. Finding a transcendent part of you that sees the sacred in our everyday transactions. looking at the environment you are in- can it be changed to reduce peoples anxieties? Lights turned down, think about the acoustics, the smell. This week my son has been very anxious and worried, he has ADHD and probably ASD and the change from school to holidays combined with his birthday had led to him needing to be within touching distance of me at all times at home, this can be very tiring and stressful and he was worried about bedtime and sleeping too. A friend of mine called round whilst he was spiralling into panic and took him into the garden, they talked about the plants and he suggested my son chew and smell a few herbs, that it helped him if he was anxious. I took my son back to bed and he lay smelling his leaf while we read a story and until he calmed down and fell asleep.

Last year after our dog died of old age and I decided to get two sibling girl cats. They have been lovely to watch, very close. I thought about getting them neutered but decided to let them have one litter of kittens. As a child we had lots of pets and I witnessed two litters of puppies be born and grow up, this shaped my own interest in physiological birth and was one of the reasons I became a doula. I thought it was important for my children to see the normality of the life cycle.

My son watched in interest as local male cats started to frequent our garden after the cats went into heat, one male in particular seemed to have a close bond with my two sisters. We even witnessed them mating one morning so could introduce the birds and bees conversation with my son naturally. We then observed our cats behaviour start to change, to eat more, to become more solitary, not as close with her sister she would hiss if she came too close, she started eating more and I told our son we needed to be gentle with her, not pick her up too much or scare her. The male cat still showed regularly in the garden.

Eventually as I went away for a weekend, I thought the kittens would be due in about a week. I wondered how she would manage with her first litter. One dog I had as a young adult had a litter of puppies (she was a rescue dog and already pregnant otherwise I would have had her neutered) and coped well with the birth, until disturbed by my then partner returning with our other dog and friends, after which she left a puppy in its sac and did not care for it as she had the previous puppies and I had to intervene.

After the weekend I returned to find cats, neither of which looked pregnant. I quickly searched the garden and house for kittens, finally finding them in a cupboard in my bedroom, six kittens, all well and healthy, no mess, she’d done it fine all on her own.

She’s been a great mother, breastfeeding the babies on demand, purring loudly, but not let her sister too close. One early morning I found the daddy cat in the room too, chirruping at the cat and watching his kittens. A week later I found both sister cats in with the kittens. I was glad to see them friendly again, and when I looked at the kittens, I noticed one smaller all black kitten, her sister had had a kitten herself, just one. They are now co-feeding all the kittens, mostly found all together in a big heap of furry cats and loud purring. I was worried about the mother with six kittens who was struggling to keep weight on, so this should help her manage the load.

cats and kittens

My young experience of watching puppies feeding, I’m sure influenced my own determination to breastfeed, and helped give me determination when my first baby was sleepy after a long labour and diamorphine. Kept me going through the pain of a tongue tie for over a year when she self weaned. I always felt is was important to breastfeed anywhere and everywhere, not covering up, to normalise breastfeeding in society, as I’m sure hiding breastfeeding away means that people feel it is something to be ashamed of and also stops girls learning what it looks like to latch a baby on. You end up with attitudes like this (and this is a man whose wife did breastfeed!)

https://mongoliabound.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/adams-experience-with-breastfeeding-in-mongolia/

My son I fed till he also self weaned at nearly three and a half. Breastfeeding past a year is less common now in European countries, but historically was the norm and is usual in countries around the world today. In some countries breastmilk is also given to invalids and women commonly share breastfeeding with their sisters and friends like my cats

http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/02/breastfeeding-land-genghis-khan/

I personally have nursed a few other peoples babies, mainly when they have been having early breastfeeding difficulties and the baby was hungry and struggling to latch

https://themilkmeg.com/megs-experiences-with-wet-nursing-and-milk-sharing/

Mothering can be very hard in today’s society, without the ‘village’ community, women trying to learn all the skills on their own without prior experience and without support, levels of postnatal depression are high, but it is often  the bonds we make with other new mothers that are sustained friendships throughout our adult lives and get us through those sometimes dark early days, sleepless nights and the continued joys and sorrows of parenthood

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/14/my-friend-breastfed-my-baby-elisa-albert

breastfeeding 4

Just like other animals, we humans are primed through evolution to birth our babies, breastfeed and live in community, supporting each other

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Bonding and attachment

Issues with bonding and attachment are certainly not new. In past times witchcraft or faeries were often blamed for leaving ‘changelings. This poem by John Greenleaf Whittier is an interesting story with a happy ending after intervention (a past times version of the work of psychotherapists like Dr Amanda Jones perhaps http://www.neuropsicoanalisi.it/NPSA/Jones_Amanda.html http://www.independent.ie/life/family/mothers-babies/i-thought-that-my-baby-was-a-monster-26344972.html)

For the fairest maid in Hampton
They needed not to search,
Who saw young Anna Favor
Come walking into church,-

Or bringing from the meadows,
At set of harvest-day,
The sweetness of the hay.

Now the weariest of all mothers,
The saddest two years’ bride,
She scowls in the face of her husband,
And spurns her child aside.

“Rake out the red coals, goodman,-
For there the child shall lie,
Till the black witch comes to fetch her
And both up chimney fly.

“It’s never my own little daughter,
It’s never my own,” she said ;
“The witches have stolen my Anna,
And left me an imp instead.

“Oh, fair and sweet was my baby,
Blue eyes, and hair of gold ;
But this is ugly and wrinkled,
Cross, and cunning, and old.

“I hate the touch of her fingers,
I hate the feel of her skin ;
It’s not the milk from my bosom,
But my blood, that she sucks in.

“My face grows sharp with the torment ;
Look ! my arms are skin and bone !
Rake open the red coals, goodman,
And the witch shall have her own.

“She’ll come when she hears it crying,
In the shape of an owl or bat,
And she’ll bring us our darling Anna
In place of her screeching brat.”

Then the goodman, Ezra Dalton,
Laid his hand upon her head :
“Thy sorrow is great, O woman !
I sorrow with thee,” he said.

“The paths to trouble are many,
And never but one sure way
Leads out to the light beyond it :
My poor wife, let us pray.”

Then he said to the great All-Father,
“Thy daughter is weak and blind ;
Let her sight come back, and clothe her
Once more in her right mind.

“Lead her out of this evil shadow,
Out of these fancies wild ;
Let the holy love of the mother
Turn again to her child.

“Make her lips like the lips of Mary
Kissing her blessed Son ;
Let her hands, like the hands of Jesus,
Rest on her little one.

Comfort the soul of thy handmaid,
Open her prison-door,
And thine shall be all the glory
And praise forevermore.”

Then into the face of its mother
The baby looked up and smiled ;
And the cloud of her soul was lifted,
And she knew her little child.

A beam of the slant west sunshine
Made the wan face almost fair,
Lit the blue eyes’ patient wonder
And the rings of pale gold hair.

She kissed it on lip and forehead,
She kissed it on cheek and chin,
And she bared her snow-white bosom
To the lips so pale and thin.

Oh, fair on her bridal morning
Was the maid who blushed and smiled,
But fairer to Ezra Dalton
Looked the mother of his child.

With more than a lover’s fondness
He stooped to her worn young face,
And the nursing child and the mother
He folded in one embrace.

“Blessed be God !” he murmured.
“Blessed be God !” she said ;
“For I see, who once was blinded,-
I live, who once was dead.

“Now mount and ride, my goodman,
As thou lovest thy own soul !
Woe’s me, if my wicked fancies
Be the death of Goody Cole !”

His horse he saddled and bridled,
And into the night rode he,
Now through the great black woodland,
Now by the white-bleached sea.

He rode through the silent clearings,
He came to the ferry wide,
And thrice he called to the boatman
Asleep on the other side.

He set his horse to the river,
He swam to Newbury town,
And he called up Justice Sewall
In his nightcap and his gown.

And the grave and worshipful justice
(Upon whose soul be peace !)
Set his name to the jailer’s warrant
For Goodwife Cole’s release.

Then through the night the hoof-beats
Went sounding like a flail ;
And Goody Cole at cockcrow
Came forth from Ipswich jail.
(http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/poetry/changeling.htm)


Breastfeeding- When you’re child is ill

I had planned to post about the controversy around the breastfeeding photograph on the cover of TIME magazine, however just as I started writing the post, my baby boy Finn developed measles.

He contracted it I believe at an earlier hospital stay, and as he was only nine months, he had not had his MMR vaccination.

He was very unwell, he slept and slept, trying to feed occasionally but this set off coughing fits.  Eventually I started getting engorged breasts again due to the reduced feeds. He then developed secondary breathing problems and I took a 2am trip to A and E and was admitted where they gave him steroids and oxygen when he slept.

I spent the next 48 hours with him, like a newborn again, as he started to get better, all he wanted to do was breastfeed, many of the nurses, whilst supportive, were bemused, ‘does he do nothing but breastfeed?’

Well normally he would be feeding every 3 hours or so during the day, but I was overjoyed to have him on the mend, and able to provide him some relief from his distress, even if I didn’t put him down for nearly 3 days.

I also co slept with him, as I usually do at home. I was asked to have him sleep in a cot, but I knew neither he or I would get any sleep so they brought in a bed for us to share.

It was quite a surreal experience, being in hospital with him, scary but also in some ways a blessing, to spend 3 days one on one with him without the distractions of other people, trying to find a job, my laptop…

To step outside of your normal life and look at your child and really have to face the fact that they are mortal and appreciate their place in your heart and in your life.

I was thankful for my breasts and my milk and to be able to be proactive in helping to heal my child within the hospital setting, listening to other babies in distress was very hard, and I felt for those other mothers that sometimes struggled to comfort their children. There was a little tiny baby on the ward that was alone for the two days I was there, I don’t know the circumstances, but to see such a tiny baby only held a few times a day by the nurses feeding her, was heartbreaking.

I did have a slight worry that Finny might regress to wanting to be fed and held constantly, but within two days of us leaving hospital, he is nearly back to being his usual quirky, giggly self, happy to  play alone and demand feeding every few hours!