Celebrating Portsmouth - A Positive Baby Feeding Place.
At Positive Birth Portsmouth we love a good news story. The PBP team were chatting about National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and realised how much there was to celebrate about breastfeeding support in our city.
Breastfeeding Awareness might not seem like an obvious part of positive birth, but positive birth is just the beginning of a family's journey. A positive first breastfeed can play a big part in a positive birth experience for many people and the same support that is needed for positive birth is needed for a positive start to parenting and to baby feeding.
Just like with birth, at PBP we support people to make their own informed decisions about feeding their baby. We share information about breastfeeding and we're also not afraid to say breastfeeding can be challenging and it's really normal to need support with getting breastfeeding established. We support your right to breastfeed anywhere and any way that suits you, and if you choose not to breastfeed, or to stop breastfeeding, we support your right to do that without guilt.
We think it's important to focus on helping the people around new families, the extended families, health professionals and members of the wider community to appreciate that, whatever choices women make, they have the right to support, encouragement and love and to be given accurate information and unbiased care.
So if you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed, or if you are already breastfeeding, do you know what support is available to you to help you have all the information to help you make sure you're making decisions and enjoying your baby?
If you're pregnant, one place to start is with the antenatal breastfeeding workshops provided by the infant feeding midwife at our local hospital, Queen Alexandra. All the information and dates can be found on the hospital website by clicking here: Portsmouth Antenatal Breastfeeding Workshops
Another place to go when you're pregnant, and again once your baby is here, is to any of the free local breastfeeding peer support groups run by the Breastfeeding Network. These are a great place to find out more about what it's really like to breastfeed and what's normal. There are also trained peer supporters available at many of them to help with any issues or questions you might have. Portsmouth is very lucky this service is still funded in the city as many of the peer support services across the country have had their funding cut in the last few years. There's also a very active Facebook Group where you can get sympathy at 1am and up to date details of face-to-face groups.
You can also get specialist breastfeeding support from lactation consultants across the city. To find out more about what an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is, and what they can do, check out our post where we interviewed Lynn, who also runs a free breastfeeding support group in Southsea.
Last but not least, one of the main reasons women identify that they stop breastfeeding is concern over breastfeeding in public. In Portsmouth there is a brilliant way of finding places you can go and feel comfortable feeding your baby, knowing that they will support and welcome you. The Portsmouth Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme has many members across the city and will give you confidence getting out and about with your baby.
So much to celebrate and so much to be positive about in Portsmouth!
Not local to Portsmouth? You can get support with Breastfeeding via the National Breastfeeding Helpline - 0300 100 0212
To find your nearest Breastfeeding Network group visit https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/
Continuing our series interviewing our conference sponsors this week we're talking to Sophy from Southsea Slings.
Can you explain a little about what babywearing / using slings is all about and what motivated you to become a sling consultant? What babywearing and using a sling is all about, is really dependent on you and your family's needs and preferences. Babywearing is a skill, carriers and slings are tools in a parenting tool kit. For some families, wearing their baby in a sling from day one is a plan they had long before they are awaiting the arrival of their child even. For others using a carrier is only a consideration when they taking their toddler on a camping expedition. The benefits of babywearing to newborns to preschoolers and their carers are numerous, and it was this fact and our personal experience of using slings with our babies that drove me to become and sling consultant. When I completed my training in 2012 I really wanted my work to be part of breaking down any cliques, and stereotyping around what kind of families used slings and why. I had been a La Leche League breastfeeding support leader for some years, and had loved how non-judgemental and empowering my training had been. I wanted to try and assist families to be empowered to use slings safely, in a way that suits their personal needs, no matter what their parenting choices were.
What are the main benefits of using slings for pregnant and new mums?
Using what is commonly called a wrap sling (essentially a long length of fabric) to wrap your bump whilst pregnant can be a great way to support your bump, improve posture, open up your rib cage and become more aware of your own body. It is also a great way to start to become familiar with the way a wrap or stretchy wrap works, meaning you are better prepared for its use with a baby. For new mums one of biggest benefits is having hands free from holding baby, whilst still meeting baby's needs of being close. This has major benefits to new mums being able to attend to their own needs, such as having a wee, getting a glass of water or grabbing a sandwich without the stress of leaving their baby unattended. Using a sling with a newborn promotes secure attachment , aids recovery from postnatal depression, decreases stress, makes getting around with baby easier and safer. The benefits for baby also benefit new mums, as meeting their baby's needs becomes easier and so they can enjoy new motherhood more.
What are the benefits for babies?
Reduces stress, aids digestion, great assistance for babies with colic or reflux, promotes greater periods of sleep and of the quiet alert state; babies cry less, promotes mothers responding to babies' initial cues for breastfeeding, great for temperature regulation, more cuddles with the sound of a heart beat! Reduces the incidence and aids recovery from of plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) and torticollis (stiffness in the neck). Less stressed carers are always a benefit to baby too.
Are there any specific situations in pregnancy or for mums where babywearing can really help?
This is a really difficult question, because there are so many specific situations where babywearing really helps. It allows mothers and any carers the ability to attend to their baby's most basic and paramount need to be close to their care giver, whilst allow the care giver a greater amount of freedom to attend to their own needs too. Kangaroo care for premature babies is a great example of a specific situation where babywearing really helps, promoting greater weight gain, better temperature control, promoting positive, secure bonding and attachment, better breastfeeding outcomes, and less social isolation for parents. Mothers with specific disabilities making carrying baby in arms impossible altogether or for long periods of time. Mothers who have had a c-section that have have to use stairs, having two hands free to safely support themselves, whilst carrying baby. I could go on and on with examples. I suppose it may help to imagine the question the other way round; it is rare but sometimes slings do not help because parents have had bad experiences of trying to use a sling without sufficient knowledge of how to use it safely and then slings are not helpful! Hopefully we can help prevent this happening with the support we offer to help families learn to use slings safely and comfortably.
Do you have any hints or tips for pregnant women or mums to help them look after themselves, their physical health and their mental health?
Being kind to themselves. Not trying to be superwoman. Definitely finding a antenatal group, even if you feel like you have very little in common with the class attendees, you have babies in common, and that is a very special factor. Everyone will have ups and downs with being pregnant and or becoming a mother, and just being able to chat to someone going through a similar experience at the same time in your lives is so helpful and supportive, even if you have very different ideas on parenting. I think social isolation and fear of judgement is massive negative factor for many mothers, new and experienced. So if at all possible go along to some groups whilst pregnant and when your baby comes along. Using a sling is great for your physical and mental health and having a gentle walk out and about is a great way to start to recover from pregnancy and birth.
What sort of training do you do as a sling consultant?
Training varies depending on the course that you attend. I attended The School of Babywearing UK (Externally regulated by OCN Eastern Region) 5 years ago now, and since have done 100's of hours of client contact time. I attended a face to face course and then had to complete course work, including reports and feedback from families on consultations. I now to keep up to date with current recommendations from manufactures as well as keeping abreast of ongoing research, attending conferences etc. Rachel Hammerton, who also runs Southsea Slings, trained with Slingababy (very popular and well established babywearing training school based in UK). Our courses both covered aspects of child development, mother and baby physiology, safety, and benefits to babywearing - use of the various kinds of slings and carriers, aspects of history of babywearing, woven wrap carries, special circumstances. Skills of being a consultant, in terms, for example of pedagogy, empathy and observation. Organisational skills , such as how to run a workshop etc. Both myself and Rachel are fully insured as Babywearing Consultants.
Is there a way mums can find out what training levels the person running their local sling library has?
BABI - British Association of Babywearing Instructors is an association that can assist with a great map, with details of who runs what and what qualifications they may have. Listings and details on line are commonly updated by volunteers and may sometimes be slightly out of date. Trusted antenatal groups, as well as NHS health professionals are good to ask about local services. There is no one official umbrella regulatory body for babywearing consultants or sling libraries, but there are reputable organisations striving towards maintaining up to date detailed listing. One of the best is Sling Pages, a website, currently undergoing a re-vamp. If in doubt a good group or sling library will be happy to answer any queries from clients as to their qualifications, if they are not happy to chat then it may be worth finding another service.
If you're wondering what parents think of the service from Southsea Slings check out the many positive reviews on their Facebook Page like these ones.
"A great way to find your perfect sling. I had slings in the past that I was not 100% happy with, and thanks to the helpfulness of Southsea Slings I have found my perfect sling.
The perfect sling is a very individual choice and the service that Southsea Slings provides enables that choice to be made. Thank you so much"
"This is a must attend morning. I had my own sling but have not really known how to use it up till now. I’m so much more comfortable and my baby is much more secure. Baby wearing is magic too. He falls asleep within minutes of getting in. Thank you so much. Lovely ladies too"
"Superb service pre baby so I was ready and confident! The ladies here are lovely and happy to help with a great selection of products and knowledge. Would highly recommend them."
Where can you find them?
Running regular free to attend drop in sessions in Portsmouth (weekly term-time) , Havant and Chichester (monthly). Their services also include private consultations in the comfort of clients' homes, as well as, workshops, talks and event stalls. Southsea Slings is a social enterprise and offers 50% reduction for monthly hires to clients in receipt of social security benefits, such as Universal Credit. https://www.facebook.com/SouthseaSlings/
Email: email@example.com Phone: 07801222714 www.southseaslings.co.uk
If you are wondering why we are so excited about planning a conference the answer is because we know how refreshing a whole day listening and thinking about how to better support women and families can be. Here's a taste of the enthusiasm we have felt at the conferences that have come before this one from Vikki's blog:
This weekend something A.Mazing happened. I attended a Home Birth Conference and met some truly inspirational women. Sheena Byrom, Hannah Doe and Clara Haken were all speaking about so many important aspects of the care we give to women in pregnancy and the influences that surround us. There was for me, a very special speaker. Someone I have admired for over 20 years, Ina May Gaskin.
I bought her books in 1995 and she has without doubt been the single, greatest influence on my birthy path in life. And this weekend i got to wee in the SAME toilet as her. This was not the highlight, don’t worry too much for my mental state. I also TOUCHED HER ARM. It’s ok, i’m just about getting a grip. I have a picture of myself with her and an equally star struck mate, Elizabeth . We look like total geeks.
I have handed out my copies of Spiritual Midwifery and her Guide to Childbirth to each and every one of my pregnant friends over the years because they are by and away the most positive birth books you can read. They are full of such empowering stories of strong birthing women. Ironically, both my copies are currently loaned out to those in need and so i had to purchase a shiny new book of hers so that i could come away with a signature (Of COURSE it was necessary). I read Spiritual Midwifery and immediately wanted to move to The Farm (a commune in Tennessee) and become a midwife or have 10 babies. I did a bit of both.
The message that resonated out of the Home Birth conference was one of the very real need to share the positivity. Tell the positive stories, say them over and over again. To anyone who’ll listen. Saturate the world with them so that women hear all about how birth can be a great and positive experience. Milli Hill has set up The Positive Birth Movement with the sole purpose of doing just this. “Birth works” said Ina May at the conference and that woman knows what she’s talking about.
It’s our passion that women (and their partners and families) have the chance to feel positive about their pregnancy, their birth and having and caring for a new baby.
But we also find very often people expect that we support ‘natural’ birth, or ‘drug free’ birth or home birth. Maybe that’s because we’re also fond of saying we believe in women and their bodies. So, let’s just get this straightened out.
What do Positive Birth Portsmouth members really mean by positive birth?
There are as many answers to that as there are people who you ask the question but here’s a selection.
“It's not about where or how she births, it is about feeling loved, heard, informed, supported and honoured.”
“A positive birth is one where you feel you had choices and support making and upholding those choices.”
"Positive birth happens when women are able to be free from unnecessary fear and feel empowered to own their own pregnancies and births. Supporting each other is often an important part of having a positive birth"
"Positive birth happens when women are empowered to be the authors of their own birth stories."
“Birth is something women should look forward to. I did! I'm totally committed to making sure women have the BEST birth experience for them.”
“Free of fear, supported by the ones you love…”
“Positive birth means knowing you have choices, knowing you don’t have to just ‘do what you’re told’ making informed decisions and being supported in them.”
“Positive birth is one where you make your own choices and everyone caring for your respects and supports those decisions.”
“...every woman and every child born are given the best opportunity to have a healthy and happy experience.”
That's a lot of thoughts what's the number one thing that makes a birth positive?
The main theme is that a positive birth is one where you know your choices, have all the information you need and feel supported in those choices. As a group, we don’t offer advice unless it is this, do your research and make your own choice. We think it’s important that no one opinion is more valuable than another we listen to the whole story of how you feel, to what it’s like to be you and to why you make the choices you make and we support you to make the choices you want to make with all the information you need. Then we stand behind you as you confidently insist that your choices for your own birth are respected and listened to.
So we do believe in your body and your ability to birth, but your ability to birth as you choose to do, not valuing any choice above another.
Why can't we just go with the flow, birth can't be predicted so why build up your hopes?
Yes it's true birth in unpredictable but preparing for a positive birth means being prepared for the flow to change but knowing you still have choices and birth is something you're ding not something that's happening to you.
We also know that many women have been taught to fear birth through the messages in the media and the horror stories they have been old since they found out they were pregnant (and sadly sometimes through previous experiences). But more than that, we know this doesn’t have to be the way, that we can provide an atmosphere of sharing between women where the positive stories of how amazing it is to work with your body and be supported through such an overwhelming experience and make your own choices and meet your own baby can be shared. The more we share stories of positive birth experiences the more women will be able to know that could also be their experience and go on to have their own positive birth. We find most women will be surprised with how not scary after all labour and birth can be and how when given a positive environment their body's do just work.
We also find that even when birth doesn’t go smoothly with support and informed choices women can still find it’s a positive experience. You can have a positive homebirth, positive water birth, positive birth centre birth, positive birth on labour ward, positive epidural birth, positive assisted birth, positive c-section. As long as each of these things happens in an atmosphere where you know you are supported and your decisions are yours alone and are the best ones for you on that day.