/ The Daisy Foundation with Laura Powell

What to pack in your hospital bag

It can be difficult to decide what to pack in your hospital bag. It’s best to have your bag packed from about 36 weeks of pregnancy, and to have a bag ready even if you are planning a home birth in case things change. To make it seem a bit more manageable, it can help to split everything between a labour bag for mum and a post-labour bag for mum and baby.

When you’re thinking about what to put in your bag for labour, there are some practical things that you’re going to want and it is also worth thinking about what you can take to create the best birth environment for mum and baby. What will help to keep the oxytocin flowing? Oxytocin, often referred to as ‘the love hormone’, causes the uterus to contract during labour. Once labour starts, we want to keep the oxytocin flowing to keep labour progressing. It is natural for oxytocin levels to drop and adrenaline levels to rise when you move from the safe, familiar surroundings of your home during early labour to the hospital environment once you are in established labour. Think about what you can take with you to help you feel relaxed and comfortable.

Here are some suggestions for what to pack in your hospital bag for labour:

  • Battery operated fairy lights or candles, so you can have dim lighting rather than the harsh hospital lights. An eye mask can also help to block out the light.
  • Music and headphones, something that is familiar. The music we use in Daisy Birthing classes can be a great anchor to a more relaxed state.
  • Aromatherapy oils if you have been using them.
  • A pillow or cushion or scarf from home.
  • Something to provide distraction, like a book, if you are in hospital from the early stages of labour.  (I sent my husband out to get the paper so we could do the crossword at the start of my last labour)
  • Food and drink for labour. Think about easy to eat, bite-size snacks that will release energy slowly, things like bananas, bite-size flapjacks, dried fruit. Bendy straws are great for the later stages of labour when you need to keep hydrated, your birth partner can put the straw in your mouth between contractions.
  • Maternity notes (if anyone has physical notes these days!)
  • Lightweight top or nightdress, dressing gown. Front opening tops help immediate skin-to-skin and breastfeeding after birth.
  • Flip flops
  • Cosy socks as your feet often get cold during labour
  • Open fronted shirt for your birth partner so they are ready to do skin-to-skin after birth

After birth, things to go in the postnatal bag for mum:

  • 2 x front opening PJs/vest tops
  • 2 x nursing bras and pack of breast pads
  • Big pants! Disposable ones can be great to start with so you don’t have to worry about washing, then think big and high over your tummy.
  • Maternity pads – in the first few days a normal sanitary towel isn’t going to cut it!
  • Clothes for going home in, when you won’t have a big baby bump any more but you will have a bump.

For baby:

  • Newborn vests, baby grows (ones that open flat and popper up the front), hats. If the clothes seem a bit tiny and daunting, it can help to make up individual freezer bags with one outfit in each.
  • Warmer layer (cardigan, blanket) for leaving hospital
  • Muslins – they have many uses!
  • Nappies and cotton wool for those first nappy changes (you won’t need baby wipes at this stage)

I had planned a home birth with my youngest but he had other ideas and was born in a bit of a rush at exactly 37 weeks. As he was baby number 4 and none of the others had been early we were fairly unprepared. There was no hospital bag ready to go and I had to rely on my husband bringing in what we needed which was a bit hit and miss!

The practicalities of getting prepared for birth and what to pack in your hospital bag is one of many areas we cover during our Daisy Parent course. If you’re interested in learning more about preparing for birth and the early days of looking after a newborn baby, come along to the next term of classes!

/ The Daisy Foundation with Laura Powell

Is birth painful?

There are so many stories around about how painful birth is; everyone loves to share a horror birth story and films and TV shows are full of women lying on their backs in bed, shouting in agony when giving birth. The language we use can be really disempowering as well – when we talk about how a midwife or doctor (or, in the case of my second son, my husband) ‘delivered’ the baby, it reinforces the idea that labour and birth is something that happens to a pregnant person. It is easy to believe that birth has to be painful and that we are not capable of giving birth on our own. This is not how birth has to be!

In our classes and workshops, we talk about all the different ways our bodies are equipped for birth. We have many things in our toolkit for birth – hormones (relaxin, oxytocin, endorphins), the uterus, a moveable spine, the pelvic floor, the tailbone. In the Active Birth Workshop, we talk about three principles of a Daisy Active Birth:

  • using gravity to work with the uterus as it surges during contractions
  • encouraging the connection between baby’s head and the cervix, which helps all of the wonderful oxytocin to flow and contractions to build
  • keeping the body supplied with all the oxygen it needs for the muscles to work as effectively as possible and the tissues in the pelvis to remain soft and pliable. 

These principles can be used almost as a ‘checklist’ to think about what you can do or change to help your labour journey.

‘Active Birth’ is a term that was coined by Janet Balaskas in the early 1980s in response to the ‘active management’ of birth that was happening in hospitals. An active birth is one in which a woman moves freely during labour and birth to choose positions that feel right and most comfortable. Historically, this is how women would have given birth. It is only relatively recently, in the last 200 years or so, that medical advances mean we have been moving away from this. As Janet Balaskas says, “Active Birth is not new. It is simply a way of describing how women the world over have always behaved during labour and birth throughout history”. (from ‘New Active Birth: A Concise Guide to Natural Childbirth’, Janet Balaskas, 2012)

We know that being able to move freely during labour and birth can help in a number of ways:

  • It can make labour and birth shorter, and reduce the need for medical interventions such as an instrumental delivery or an epidural. A 2013 Cochrane Review of 25 studies concludes that “there is clear and important evidence that walking and upright positions in the first stage of labour reduces the duration of labour, the risk of caesarean birth, the need for epidural”.
  • Did you know your tailbone or sacrum will flare as you get close to having your baby, creating more space in your pelvis? Staying off your back during labour gives space forthis to happen.
  • Squatting and kneeling to give birth can create more space in your pelvis. 
  • When you are in an upright or forward leaning position, you’re working with the uterus as it surges during contractions, and with the direction baby is moving in as they descend. 
  • Afterwards, women are more positive about their experience. 

Active birth is not about refusing any kind of medical intervention, it’s about feeling in control and empowered in your birth regardless of the journey your labour takes. And it’s not about moving for the sake of moving – rest is just as important. It’s about knowing when moving could help your labour to progress, listening to your body when it needs to rest and thinking about what positions to rest in, maybe on your side with one leg supported.

If you would like to find out more about how you can have an active and confident birth, come along to one of our classes or workshops. The Daisy Active Birth Workshop is for expectant mums and their birth partner to prepare together. Daisy Birthing Active Antenatal classes are weekly classes for expectant mums that will give you confidence and knowledge for your birth.

References

 

 

/ The Daisy Foundation with Laura Powell

The many benefits of baby massage

The benefits of baby massage have been realised in other cultures in countries such as India for centuries. In India, infant massage started in Kerala and infants there are still massaged for 10-20 minutes every morning and evening. In the Gujarat and Punjab regions mothers are massaged daily before and after childbirth as well as the baby. It has only recently become more popular in Western culture, with many options now available to parents looking to learn baby massage techniques.

Much research into the benefits of touch has been carried out by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, founded by Dr Tiffany Field in 1992. She puts the benefits of touch largely down to its ability to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Oxytocin, the hormone of love and bonding, is released into the bodies of those giving and receiving massage.

There is a long list of the benefits that baby and infant massage can bring:

  • massage increases bonding between parents and infants, releasing endorphins for both the giver and receiver and helping to release tension for both. (I find preparing for class surprisingly relaxing despite practising the movements on a doll called Tilly!)
  • helping the digestive system, alleviating colic, wind and constipation
  • supporting the immune system by increasing the flow of lymph in the body. Unlike the bloodstream which has the heart as its pump, the lymph system has no pump of its own so massage and movement help lymph to move around the body
  • movements such as toe rolls can help with nasal conditions and teething discomfort
  • massage improves circulation (for example through firm effleurage strokes up the legs helping the venous return) and increasing oxygen in the bloodstream

Daisy Baby Tinies classes include a series of baby massage moves every week. In each class we recap the techniques we have learnt in previous weeks and add some new movements, starting with the feet and legs and working our way up baby’s little body. Baby massage and baby yoga moves are combined with songs, rhymes and gentle postnatal movement for mum.

Before starting massage we take some time to check in with baby and look at their cues, almost like asking their permission to begin. There is no pressure to ‘complete’ the massage routine in class each week, it can be a long time for babies to lie on their backs away from mum’s arms.  All of the moves can be used at home when baby is more receptive. Baby massage can be great as part of a bedtime routine for baby, providing a signal that bedtime is approaching and helping them to find a calm, relaxed state ready for sleep.

We use two main massage strokes in class – effleurage strokes and petrissage strokes. Effleurage strokes are long, warming strokes up and down baby’s body using the whole of the palm of your hand. Petrissage strokes are smaller, circular movements that will help to open up the muscle fibres, allowing blood and oxygen to flow through.

To book onto the next term of Daisy Baby Tinies in Hook and experience these benefits for you and your baby, head over to the booking page.

References

  • Infant Massage: The definitive guide for teaching parents, Pauline Carpenter and Anita Epple
  • The Magic of Your TouchBottomlineinc.com
/ The Daisy Foundation with Laura Powell

Birth Preferences – Why Bother?

I had four very different births with my children and only one of them looked even vaguely like what I might have planned for beforehand. For my youngest, I had been hoping for another home birth and instead ended up being driven to hospital by a paramedic in the middle of the night and then induced at 37+0 weeks. This was definitely not what I had written on my birth preferences but it was still a positive birth experience because we felt informed and in control of the parts of the process that we could be in control of.

While your labour and birth may take a very different path to the one you had imagined, taking the time during your pregnancy to write your birth preferences with your birth partner gives you a chance to research and discuss the options and to become more informed. Research has found that being informed and making decisions about the choices you have plays an important part in helping parents to feel more positive about their labour and birth experience afterwards.

Having something written down on paper can help to set things out clearly for health care professionals during labour, when you may not want to be communicating with others, and can save you repeating yourself if other people become involved. It can discussed with your midwife and others involved with your birth beforehand, to help agree things in advance.

We tend to talk about birth preferences now rather than a birth plan, as labour and birth is not always something that can be planned for. It is important to remain open minded about the different paths that your labour may take while being clear about what your preferences are when choices are available to you.

We cover many of the options around labour and birth during our Daisy Birthing classes. Each class in the six week term includes a different educational segment that will help to inform your birth preferences. When it comes to writing something down, the NHS website has a birth plan template available here. For something less text heavy, I love the Visual Birth Plan Icons from Milli Hill (I think the ‘Freedom of Movement’ dancing labouring lady is my favourite!).

We wrote a birth plan or birth preferences for my first three children (I have to admit I didn’t get round to refreshing it before our youngest was born). It gave us a chance to explore the options around things like the third stage of labour and how the placenta may be delivered, and to look at information on vitamin K. It made me realise that I had no desire to have a birthing pool. And I included a note each time about using my Daisy breaths during labour and birth.

To book on my next term of Daisy Birthing classes starting on 27th February in Hartley Wintney and start to consider your birth preferences, click here.

/ The Daisy Foundation with Laura Powell

Becoming a Daisy teacher

I attended a couple of terms of Daisy Birthing classes before having each of my sons, and to begin with I wasn’t giving much thought to becoming a Daisy teacher. I was really nervous when I was pregnant with my eldest – we did NCT classes to find some friends locally but I wanted a different type of antenatal class that would prepare me for the labour and birth. With my subsequent pregnancies the classes gave me 90 relaxing minutes a week that were mine, away from the demands of my other children. 

I didn’t return to work after my third son and I think my days of getting the train into London and sitting at a desk all day are behind me. I kept an eye on the training intakes for new Daisy teachers for a couple of years and then one came up just as my youngest was starting nursery – the timing was perfect. I kept my application a secret so I didn’t have to tell anyone if it didn’t work out!   

Despite attending the classes, my first labour and birth was not what I had hoped for. It was very long and once we got into hospital I felt powerless and out of control. All four experiences have been very different but, by the time my youngest son was born, we felt informed, confident and in control. Part of what has motivated me to become a Daisy teacher is the thought that I can help those giving birth and their partners to avoid feeling some of the confusion and fear my husband and I felt the first time round. And to provide that relaxing space to second, third, fourth time mums looking for some escape from tiring toddlers! 

There were no Daisy baby classes in my area so I haven’t experienced these as a customer. When my eldest was a baby we would do pretty much any local rhyme time or playgroup session going – it was lonely with a newborn baby in a new town and a husband out at work all day. I am really looking forward to teaching Daisy Tinies, Wrigglers and Cruisers classes, hopefully helping to lift some of the loneliness that many new parents feel and introduce them to a growing local Daisy community. 

I am over halfway through my training year now. It is a juggle fitting it in around my children but it is worth it and I am really excited to be starting Daisy Birthing classes next month. If I’m honest, the thought of teaching a class full of real wriggling, possibly crying babies rather than the dolls we have in our training group is a little daunting but Tilly (my doll and baby co-teacher) and I will find our way! The world of pregnancy and birth and the early days of parenthood are fascinating and there is so much to learn and to share to help new and growing families.

/ The Daisy Foundation with Laura Powell

Welcome to Daisy Hook, Wokingham & Camberley

Welcome! I’m Laura, your local Daisy teacher, offering continuous perinatal support and education to expectant and new parents across Hook, Wokingham and Camberley. Daisy offers a range of antenatal and baby classes and workshops, meeting the needs of expectant and new parents from conception through to toddlerhood.

 

I am passionate about supporting new parents during this exciting and often daunting time. I am a mum to four boys and attended Daisy birthing classes through each of my pregnancies. I have experienced first hand the benefits of having that space for me and my bump each week, giving me the knowledge and skills to confidently navigate each pregnancy and birth. I have now trained as a Daisy teacher so I can share this experience with expectant and new parents in my local area.

Daisy antenatal and baby classes are evidence-based and delivered in a friendly, non-judgemental environment. They will provide you with the knowledge and tools to make informed choices for you and your baby and to approach your birth and the early days of parenthood with confidence. You will become part of the Daisy community, giving you a strong support network of other expectant and new parents to share experiences with.

Please get in contact if you would like more information. I look forward to meeting you in a class or workshop soon.

Laura xx

Antenatal classes

Daisy Birthing – A weekly antenatal class for all those who are pregnant to help you enjoy pregnancy, stay mobile, learn about your changing baby and body and prepare for a confident birth. Our unique Active Antenatal method draws on elements of active birth, pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing and antenatal education to create one very powerful combination. 

Daisy Active Birth Workshop – A workshop for all those who are pregnant and their birth companion that will not only cover all of the basics of antenatal education and an active, informed birth but also give you both the space to prepare as a team and confidently plan for your baby’s birthing day.

Daisy Parent Birth Preparation and Baby Care – A comprehensive workshop series for expectant parents designed to ensure you have all the education, tools and support you could need as you prepare confidently for your upcoming birth and the early days of caring for your new baby. Our Daisy Parent format draws on elements of active birth, parentcraft and traditional antenatal classes.

Baby classes

Daisy Baby Tinies – A weekly postnatal class for all those who are physically recovering from birth and their baby in the ‘fourth trimester’ – to help you learn how to use baby massage and movement to aid calming, soothing and connection with your baby. Our unique fourth trimester class draws on elements of baby massage, baby yoga, postnatal movement and baby care education to create one very powerful combination.

Daisy Baby Wrigglers – A weekly class for parent and baby to help you learn how to use a variety of tools such as: baby massage, baby yoga, rhythm, rhyme, story and sensory experiences to aid your baby’s development, your connection and have fun together!