Six Ways to Make Breastfeeding Easier Before You Have Your Baby. By Pinky McKay

Six Ways to Make Breastfeeding Easier Before You Have Your Baby
By Pinky McKay

“I will breastfeed –if I can.”

This is such a common phrase and with breastfeeding horror stories almost as prevalent as scary birth stories, is it any wonder pregnant women have their confidence shot even before they meet their newborn?

Yes, breastfeeding can be challenging at first – it’s natural but it’s also a learned skill like riding a bike or driving a car. And you wouldn’t simply hop on a bike or get in a car and expect to cruise off without any instruction or preparation, would you? By preparing for breastfeeding you give yourself a much better chance of beating the ‘booby traps’ and getting through the early days more easily.

1) Learn about breastfeeding
Before you have a crying, hungry baby in your arms and doubt in your heart. Read a good book about basic breastfeeding -how milk is made, how to tell when your baby is hungry(look for signs such as putting his hand to his mouth, sucking noises, and rooting towards your breasts), how to tell your baby is getting enough milk (tip: is he having heavy wet nappies? What comes out must have gone in), how to boost your breast milk supply (see Pinky’s ebook Breastfeeding Simply).

Go to a breastfeeding class – the Australian Breastfeeding Association offer antenatal breastfeeding classes and join a breastfeeding support group such as the ABA or an online group and talk to women who are breastfeeding happily so you can get positive, helpful information, rather than horror stories.

2) Get to know ‘the girls’
There are some factors that may make breastfeeding a bit more challenging but by being aware of how your own boobs look and any medical or physical issues that could affect or delay breastfeeding, you can see a lactation consultant before you have your baby and create a breastfeeding plan. This way, you are ahead of the game and ready to deal with problems as soon as they arise.

For instance, what shape are your nipples? Do they pop out easily for baby to attach or do you have flat or inverted nipples (this doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed, just that you may need some extra help at first)? If you have PCOS, Diabetes or Thyroid disorders, have had late or minimal breast development during puberty or pregnancy, this could signal possible challenges too, so discuss these with a lactation consultant.

3) Plan your support team
All new mothers need support however you feed your baby. A supportive partner is a huge factor in your breastfeeding success so first up, discuss with your partner how they can support you: taking time off work, censoring visitors, allowing you to rest, feeding you and being positive about breastfeeding – never asking ‘are you sure you have enough milk?’
Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you and offer practical help such as meals, laundry and shopping.

4) Express Colostrum
You can gain confidence in your boobs and your body by expressing colostrum (the yellowish fluid in your breasts before milk comes in) collecting in syringes and freezing it during the last few weeks of pregnancy (check with your health carers). This way, if there is any delay in your milk ‘coming in’ or your baby has low blood sugars (possible if you have gestational diabetes), you can give this to your baby and avoid formula top-ups that can negatively impact your baby’s gut environment and your early milk supply.

5) Understand the ‘Booby Traps’
Sometimes, in a busy hospital, you may be rushed into situations that aren’t helpful to early breastfeeding. For instance, if a midwife reaches for your baby and pushes it onto your breast, put your hand up in a stop sign and ask, “please can you guide me, I would like to try myself.”
If your baby seems to be having difficulty attaching to the breast, ask for a lactation consultant (most maternity hospitals have them on staff) to observe a feed, check your baby’s latch and suck and also examine baby for tongue tie (they need to feel inside his mouth, not just see that he can poke his tongue out).

Your baby is likely to be cranky on his second night (he’s just realized he is ‘on the outside’), so you may be offered a bottle of formula. This can affect your baby’s gut environment as well as interfering with your body’s messages to produce milk (see ‘expressing colostrum’ above).
Allow your baby to practice breastfeeding now, before your milk comes in (he is learning to coordinate sucking swallowing and breathing before he has to deal with a fast flow of milk, and he is stimulating your breasts to start making milk).

Offer skin-to-skin cuddles as this will help baby feel calm and will boost your milk-making hormones. If you are exhausted, get your partner to hold your baby to help him settle.

6) Prepare your feeding station
Plan to do nothing else but rest and learn to breastfeed for the first two weeks: Set up a comfortable space to feed your baby, a comfy chair with a basket of goodies such as a water bottle (for you), healthy snacks, breast pads, Tv remote, phone, a book or kindle (if you can manage to feed one handed) and download some podcasts or audiobooks on your devices.

If this isn’t your first baby, prepare some boxes of toys or ‘busy bags’ with simple activities or small treats for your toddler that only come out at feed times.

About the Author

Pinky McKay Nurtured Birth Melbourne Breastfeeding TipsPinky McKay is Australia’s most recognised and respected breastfeeding expert. She’s an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, mum of five, best-selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby, Parenting by Heart and Toddler Tactics (Penguin Random House) and TEDx speaker. Pinky is also the creator of Boobie Foods, all natural and organic foods to nourish you as you breastfeed your baby.

For more comprehensive information about beginning breastfeeding and overcoming common challenges, check out Pinky’s ebook Breastfeeding Simply.

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How to Heal from Birth Trauma. By Lael Stone

Healing is possible at any age when we understand how to hold a space.

By Guest Writer Lael Stone

The doctor stood at the end of my bed with an incredibly somber look on his face.

“We don’t expect her to live through the night, and if she does she will most likely have brain damage”

This is not the news that you expect to hear once you have given birth. In my drugged post-caesarean state I took this information in and realised that the only thing I had control over was my blind optimism and faith in my daughter.

A few hours earlier during labour I had been taken to theatre as my baby was breech and not in a viable position for a vaginal delivery. I had a bad reaction to the spinal anesthetic which in turn caused my baby’s heart rate crash. The Obstetrician worked with incredible skills to get her out as soon as possible but she was deprived of oxygen for a very long time. Her prognosis was very grim and all we could do was wait, stay positive and trust.

She spent days in an induced coma cooling her body to ensure her brain didn’t swell. She had CAT scans, MRIs, every test under the sun and on the fourth day when they removed her intubation tube, much to everyone’s surprise, she miraculously breathed on her own. After many tests and much disbelief from nearly all the hospital staff, they couldn’t find anything wrong with my daughter. Whether it was her fighting spirit, our blind faith that she would be alright or really a miracle, she came through the ordeal and we got to take her home ten days after she was born. A normal, healthy baby, who had a very rough start.

The days she was in the NICU were some of the most challenging of my life. I learned about letting go and surrender on a scale that I had never experienced before. As I sat by her ICU cot, I kept reminding her that I trust her completely and she could do whatever she needed to do. Stay or go.

Leaving the hospital each night to come home and sleep was so hard. I would wake every few hours to express milk, thinking about the strangers that were looking after my baby. I wasn’t there when she cried, I wasn’t there to feed her, I wasn’t there to protect her. The feelings would sometimes overwhelm me and I would burst into tears that I wasn’t with my baby. I would cry in my husband’s arms.

“I don’t even know her, I don’t know what she smells like, what she really looks like. I don’t know her.”

So many overwhelming feelings that I had to push away in order to continue looking after my two other children and hold it together so I could concentrate on getting my newborn home.

The day we finally brought her home I remember walking in the door and knowing that it wasn’t over. We had all been through a very big experience and I knew enough from my work that all that stress, separation and trauma had to go somewhere and sooner or later it was going to come out.

As life settled down and I learned to juggle a newborn (as well as a 4- and 7-year-old), I started to see the cracks appearing. For the first time in my life, I started to become very anxious about my older children. I started to think that something was going to happen to them, that they would get hit by a car or someone might take them. I started to fret and worry about safety. Anxiety was starting to whisper to me about the trauma I was holding. Meanwhile, my beautiful newborn daughter started to show signs of tension and stress. Making constant movements with her hands and sucking furiously on anything that would go near her mouth as a stress release.

It was time for us to do some healing. I started by working on our bodies, having regular Cranial Osteopathy helped bring back some balance and thanks to a friend I stumbled across the work of Dr. Aletha Solter. Dr. Solter is a Swiss-American developmental psychologist, who is recognised internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline. When her first child was born in 1977 (following a traumatic birth) she did not find any parenting books that advocated attachment-style parenting and non-punitive discipline while taking into account the impact of stress and trauma on children’s development.

Dr. Solter’s book The Aware Baby was both groundbreaking and challenging for me. She spoke about a baby’s need to release stress and trauma through attachment, laughing and crying. It was a completely different approach to help babies and young children release their emotions. I was coming from a modern way of parenting which prizes a “good baby” – one that never cries and sleeps through the night. I had spent years and years with my older children trying to stop them crying and spending hours upon hours rocking them to sleep. In contrast, Dr. Solter was suggesting that if your baby cries or is upset once its needs had been met (hunger, sleep, etc), then the solution was to just be with them. Hold space for your baby to release any pent-up feelings or emotions.

A light bulb went off for me. Everything I read made complete sense. I didn’t like shutting my older kids down when they had big feelings, but I just didn’t know how to handle it. So I started slowly: each day when I had a quiet space I would take my baby into my room and hold her gently. I would look her in the eyes and say to her If there is anything you want to let go of, I am listening. Nearly every time she would start crying. Sometimes it would be for five minutes, sometimes half an hour, but each time I would hold her gently look her in the eyes and tell her I am listening.

Sometimes I could not help feeling overwhelming grief or emotions, and I would cry too. Other times I was able to sit there in such peace, just holding my baby who was letting her body do its thing, releasing all the stress and trauma. Every time my baby finished crying she would make long deep eye contact with me and either smile and engage or fall into a deep sleep.

Each day I would see and feel a difference with my her. The frantic tension in her body eased and I felt a connection with her that was so deep and profound. My osteopath would comment on how different her body felt and how relaxed she was. I was in no doubt: this was the path to healing. The change and healing within me were also incredible. My anxiety disappeared and I felt so deeply bonded and connected with my daughter.

As time went on, I learned more about Aware Parenting and started to work in different ways to help babies and children release their stress. I started to do attachment play with all my children, using play and laughter as a way to help them feel more powerful or deal with fears and anxieties. My baby and I would spend time rolling around on the floor engaged in laughter and connection as well as times when she needed to cry and release.

Extreme laughter, play and intense crying all became part of the norm in our house. I began to see shifts in not just my youngest daughter but also my older children. Instead of getting aggressive or using non-favorable behavior when they had big feelings, they would come to me and let it out. Sometimes through rough and tumble play, sometimes through tears. There was so much more harmony in our home because of it. Inspired and assured by the power of these techniques, I went on to become an Aware Parenting Instructor.

My beautiful baby is now a thriving, amazing 9-year-old. I have been listening to her feelings for every one of those years and what I witness is a child with extraordinary emotional awareness. She will often articulate in an instant what she is feeling and ask for what she needs: “Can you cuddle me, mum, whilst I have a cry?“ or “I’ve got some mad feelings going on. Can you rumble with me so I can get them out?”

Our journey from birth to now was a big one but by listening to her, and therefore listening to myself, the healing that took place was even more profound than the trauma that started it. I am so very grateful for the journey we had together. It taught me so much professionally and personally and showed me that no matter what happens in our world we can always heal.

About the Author

Lael Stone Nurtured Birth Melbourne Aware ParentingLael Stone is a proud mother of three children who has worked as a Birth Attendant/Doula and certified Calmbirth Instructor since 2004. From a background in wellbeing, counselling, and research, Lael was compelled into the field of childbirth education by her own birth experiences. It has been her privilege over the years to witness and partner many couples achieving satisfying births. Lael has interviewed and collected birth experience data from hundreds of Australian women throughout her career. This data provided insight and motivation to develop the About Birth Online Education Program. A certified Aware Parenting Instructor, Lael brings her insights to the podcast “Aware Parenting”. To listen to this podcast or learn more about Lael, follow the buttons below:

Visit Lael's Website

Listen to the Aware Parenting podcast

Why ‘the talk’ needs to start early! With Lael Stone

Why ‘the talk’ needs to start early!

By Guest Writer Lael Stone

Is this a conversation you’ve been dreading or do you feel worried that you have no idea where to begin?

For many generations, there has been a looming sense of pressure as a parent, that as your child moves into puberty you will have to face the awkward conversation and have ‘the talk’.

However, research shows that teaching Sex Education (bodily autonomy, consent, relationships) to children isn’t about one chat, it is many conversations, starting when they are young and it can set up positive dynamics in the home around sex and sexuality.

By teaching toddlers the proper names for body parts and helping them understand what parts of their bodies are private, we are helping to create awareness and safety around their bodies. We are also beginning a conversation at a young age that instills in our children that our growing bodies are a normal thing and it is ok to talk about it with us.

Talking about consent from a very young age also cements in children their rights around their bodies and helps them to establish a voice that can say “no” if something doesn’t feel right for them. They learn to dictate who is allowed into their personal space – including hugs and kisses.

It also teaches them to respect that in others too. Most importantly it is imperative in keeping our kids safe from unwanted touching. When a child is aware of what is private and understands consent, they are more likely to speak up about inappropriate touching or bring attention to a situation.

We can teach kids about consent by not making them kiss and hug adults to say hello or goodbye. Always giving our children the option to choose if they would like to touch someone, instills the inner barometer of honouring themselves. How many of us had to kiss old Aunt Jackie at family catch-ups and hated it because she smelled funny.

Offering our children alternative greetings can be a great way to model communication without having to use their bodies in a way that doesn’t feel good.

“Would you like to give Uncle John a fist pump goodbye, would you like to blow a kiss, would you like to wave.“

Fostering and supporting your child’s understanding of consent is more important than any adult’s hurt feelings because they didn’t get a hug.

Teaching this to our children at an early age, also helps them to navigate the teenage years which can be tricky around exploring sex. When they have a strong compass on what feels ok and what doesn’t, then they are more likely to trust themselves in situations and say what they need.

They also need a lot of practice when it comes to consent. If we expect teenagers to say no and have boundaries around consent, but they haven’t had any role modeling of what that looks like or have been able to practice it in the home, then it is very challenging when they are in a heated situation to set a limit and say no.

Bodily Autonomy and Consent are conversations that you will have over and over again. Using teachable moments such as siblings wrestling on the floor and one of them yelling “stop”.

If you can stop the play and say “ Did you hear that Charlie said a big loud Stop then, we need to listen and respect that stop.” (If you have more than one child there will be so many opportunities to practice this one)

Books are also a wonderful way to start the conversation. There are some excellent kids’ books on the market that discuss consent, body safety and respecting boundaries. All written in age-appropriate language.

It is also good to remember that kids learn about relationships and sexuality from us, so be aware of modeling good intimate relationships. Be playful, set boundaries and always be respectful to yourself and your partner. Talk about your own body in positive ways and model great self-care. As always in parenting, kids do what we do, not what we say.

Our goal is to raise sexually aware teens, who have good boundaries, respect their partners and explore safely, so they can experience pleasure, intimacy, and relationship in a healthy and satisfying way. So start the conversation early and equip your children with the tools and knowledge to have positive relationships.

Happy chatting!

About the Author

Lael Stone Nurtured Birth Melbourne Aware ParentingLael Stone is a proud mother of three children who has worked as a Birth Attendant/Doula and certified Calmbirth Instructor since 2004. From a background in wellbeing, counselling, and research, Lael was compelled into the field of childbirth education by her own birth experiences. It has been her privilege over the years to witness and partner many couples achieving satisfying births. Lael has interviewed and collected birth experience data from hundreds of Australian women throughout her career. This data provided insight and motivation to develop the About Birth Online Education Program. A certified Aware Parenting Instructor, Lael brings her insights to the podcast “Aware Parenting”. To listen to this podcast or learn more about Lael, follow the buttons below:

Visit Lael's Website

Listen to the Aware Parenting podcast

Are Hospitals Setting Mothers Up To Fail At Breastfeeding? with Amberley Harris

Are Hospitals Setting Mothers Up To Fail At Breastfeeding? 

By Guest Writer Amberley Harris

It’s dawn in Uganda and the golden sun is slowly sweeping over the bright green volcanic mountains.

A female Gorilla has just given birth to her infant. She scoops her baby boy up, cleans him for a few moments then lays down amongst the lush undergrowth with him in the centre of her chest.

In his own time, her infant begins the breast crawl and finds his way to his mother’s breast and self-attaches for his first breastfeed.

How does the infant know to do this?

Because just like other mammals, he is hardwired to do so.

Mammals share many features including hair, being warm-blooded, having a four-chambered heart and feeding their infants milk from their mammary glands. There are sub classifications of mammals and we humans reside in the primate’s category.

The breast crawl and the ability to self-attach to the breast is a process a primates’ offspring are very capable of doing and given we humans share 98.3 percent of their DNA, so too are our offspring.

So, if we trust that clever infant gorilla in the wild which I just described, is adept at finding his own way to the breast without a room full of professionals facilitating this, then why don’t we trust our own babies can also?

The “breast crawl” is a term to describe the process where a newborn baby is placed skin to skin with its mother following birth and instinctively finds its own way to her breast.

Whether you know about the breast crawl or not, I’m here to tell you it’s real and it’s AMAZING.

I’ve seen it unfold time and time again and every time it blows my mind in the best possible way.

I’ve witnessed babies just minutes or hours old, inch themselves to their mother’s breast and self-attach, even though babies can’t actually crawl until many months after birth.

I’ve watched on in admiration with new parents, all of us sharing a deep sense of reverence while witnessing their baby demonstrate his or her genetic blueprint for breastfeeding.

But here’s the thing, if I know anything about breastfeeding it’s this: the ONE thing a mother and baby need at that very first breastfeed post birth is … time … and that’s the one thing busy maternity wards simply don’t have.

The breast crawl takes on average 30-60 minutes. Some babies can find their way to the breast in less than 30 minutes, while others take two hours to get there.

It’s standard practice in hospital birth suites that following the birth of the baby, the Midwife will give the baby a brief period of time skin to skin, before “helping” the baby attach to the breast; the breast crawl sequence is interrupted, the baby is manually lifted to the mother’s breast and the Midwife will facilitate the attachment by shaping the mothers breast and guiding it into the baby’s mouth.

And the main reason this is done, putting aside well-meaning intent, is that it saves time. Because let’s be honest, hospitals are busy places, they don’t have time for all babies to complete the breast crawl, they need the Midwives to free up beds for the next labouring mama on her way in.

Now I’m not throwing shade at the Midwives here — Midwives are my heroes — but those who work in hospitals must succumb to the system (even if it pains them) and in many ways it’s a system as altruistic as they come.

While most babies are capable of the breast crawl and self-attaching, I want to mention there are some who do need a helping hand.

This is because there are many influences on the breast crawl, like medical interventions (which luckily Gorilla’s don’t have to deal with) including drugs in labour or surgical births, just to name a few.

There are also variables such as the mother’s anatomy (breast and nipple shape) or the baby’s anatomy (mouth, tongue and palate) which we must consider.

All of the above can create challenges with attachment and in these instances, support from a Midwife is essential, but ONLY if a baby hasn’t managed to self-attach after at least one hour, or more, of attempting (remember that!).

I’m not exactly sure when this happened along the way, but it’s happened. A combo of the hospital system majorly under the pump, plus so many clinicians who seem to have stopped recognising and appreciating what our remarkable species is capable of following birth. This has all slowly but surely seen the breast crawl following birth reach near extinction.

The breast crawl and first breast feed are SUPREMELY important and when we rush this, it effects a mother’s breastfeeding journey in enormous ways. Not necessarily in ways beyond repair, but it does undeniably put new mamas and bubbas seriously behind the eight ball.

Breastfeeding is challenging enough, so we must set women up to succeed, not fail.

So, if you’re planning to birth in hospital, clearly list your wishes for your baby to do an uninterrupted breast crawl and self-attach, in your breastfeeding plan.

Tell your partner, support people or Doula so they can guard you and your baby while this happens.

At the end of the day, your baby is like every other mammal. They are evolutionarily and biologically programmed to crawl to the breast and breastfeed after birth, he or she just needs to be given the essential time to do so.

And what’s more, watching it organically unfold is going to be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life.

x Amberley


About Amberley Harris

Amberley Harris Nurtured Birth MelbourneAmberley Harris is a Melbourne based Registered Midwife (Endorsed) in private practice with her own breastfeeding consultancy business. Amberley has over 12 years experience working as a Midwife in both the public and private hospital setting and is a proud co-producer of two small humans. With a highly engaged audience of over 20k followers on social media, Amberley is also a micro-influencer in the world of motherhood & maternal wellness. Amberley’s move to entrepreneurship was for two reasons. Firstly, because it was where she knew she could make significant, impactful change to global breastfeeding statistics and secondly because she could be philanthropic every step of the way.


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Aware Parenting 101 with Lael Stone

Aware Parenting 101- The ins and outs, hows, and whys of raising your children with awareness.

By Guest Writer Lael Stone

If you asked a pregnant couple (before they actually become parents) what kind of parent they would like to be, most of them would say they want to be fair and kind, loving and responsive and raise their children with awareness. I do believe that this is the intent we all start with.

However, you know that once that baby arrives, it often becomes all about survival and doing whatever works. As that baby becomes a fabulous toddler with a strong will and ideas of its own, our democratic ideas on parenting can often be pushed aside as we are confronted with feeling out of control and before we know it, we are no longer parenting in the way we had ideally hoped for.

In my years working as a parenting educator, I have seen that the parenting paradigm seems to cover both ends of the spectrum. We have Authoritarian parenting which is often about very firm boundaries, punishments and rewards and using our power over children to get them to behave. This can often result in children feeling controlled, which leads to disconnection and consequently fear can run the relationship. On the other side of the parenting landscape, we have Permissive parenting which can be seen as letting the child call the shots, meeting every need of the child and never letting them get upset. This can play out in the later years with the child feeling entitled and the parents often feeling controlled.

Now there are often issues with both these styles of parenting and ideally, we like to sit somewhere in the middle, and work with what we call Democratic parenting.

A combination of loving limits and boundaries along with gentleness, close attachment, love and connection.

Over my 21 years of raising my 3 children, I instinctively looked for this middle ground when it came to raising my kids and it wasn’t until I discovered the work of Dr. Aletha Solter, who created Aware Parenting, that I felt I had found my guide to raising my kids with respect, empathy and connection.

Aware Parenting is a child-rearing approach, based on research in the fields of attachment, child development, psychotherapy, cross-cultural studies, and the neurobiology of trauma.

It’s founder, Dr. Aletha Solter, is a Swiss-American developmental psychologist who studied with Dr. Jean Piaget in Switzerland, before earning her Ph.D. at the University of California. She is the author of five books and is recognised internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline.

Aware Parenting is a form of attachment parenting and highly recommends breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing and prompt responsiveness to crying. However, Aware Parenting adds another element by recognising the stress-release function of crying in addition to its communication function.

The core message of Aware Parenting is respectful listening and tenderly nurturing the full spectrum of our children’s emotions and feelings. Not shutting them down when they are mad or angry, but helping them process their big feelings by staying close, keeping calm and connected and modeling empathy as their emotions move through them.

It also supports the mechanisms of play and laughter to help children process stress and traumas as well as build strong connections between child and adult.

The foundation of Aware Parenting is based on connection. Attuning to our children’s needs, never isolating them or leaving them alone to cry or tantrum and always looking behind the surface issue to see what is happening for the child.

Aware Parenting also focuses on teaching parents how to maintain loving limits and boundaries and looks to solve behavior problems by addressing the underlying needs and feelings. It recognises disconnection, unmet needs, lack of information, stress, and unhealed trauma as primary causes of behavior problems. It also supports Non-Punitive Discipline, not using bribes, rewards or punishments to obtain certain behaviors.

So how does this look in practical terms? In my workshops, I like to explain that children are either In balance or out of balance. When a child is ‘In Balance’ they are usually chatty, happy with whatever they are doing, being kind and gentle with others, lots of eye contact and usually a pleasure to be around. When kids are ‘out of balance’ we see all the other types of confronting behaviors. Hitting, biting, throwing things, yelling, being mean to other children or their siblings and often very defiant in nature.

In making sense of why children act out, it helps to understand why children can be ‘Out of Balance’. According to Dr. Aletha Solter:

“Children cry spontaneously after having experienced any kind of stress or trauma. The more stress there is in a child’s life, the greater will be the need to cry. There are many sources of stress in children’s lives. Illnesses, injuries, and hospitalization are cause for pain, confusion, and anxiety. Quarreling, separation, or divorce of a child’s parents can be confusing and terrifying, as can the presence of a parent’s new partner or a stepparent. Stress can result from a move to a new home, starting a new school, or the birth of a sibling.

Added to these major life stresses are all the daily separations, accidents, frustrations, disappointments, and anxieties. In a single morning at nursery school, a child can have a toy grabbed from him by another child, fall from a swing, be served a snack that he dislikes, spill paint on his new shoes, and have to wait for a late parent after all the other children have left. Even happy occasions can be stressful if they are overstimulating. It is not uncommon for young children to burst into tears during their own birthday party, for example. As if this wasn’t enough stress in a young person’s life, many children also carry the burden of very early experiences of stress or trauma, that was caused prenatally or during the birth process.”

The day to day life of a toddler can often bring about feelings of powerlessness and stress and all those feelings accumulate in their little bodies. Toddlers will often hold on to those hurts and when a safe time and place presents itself, all the build-up tension explodes, all at once. So when your little one is angry and raging because you gave them the blue cup instead of the red cup or you were giving their little sister some attention, it is their body and the nervous system trying to reset.

What is great to understand is that tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone. When we cry, we are literally releasing stress from our bodies. Tears have also been found to lower blood pressure and improve emotional well-being, provided there’s a loved one close by for support.

When children have a build-up of feelings and are on the brink of a tantrum, you may notice that nothing is right. No matter what you do, it isn’t enough and they continue to whine or be frustrated.

The amazing natural healing aspect of the human body is to help the child come back into balance. You may have noticed that after the storm has passed, (once they have released all those big feelings ) they are in a much better mood. It helps if we let our kids tantrum without trying to interrupt the process, so they get to the end of their feelings.

From an Aware Parenting perspective, the goal, when our little ones are upset, is to welcome the emotions instead of shutting them down. When a child feels safe enough to offload all those feelings of frustration, fear, anger, etc, they are able to move past them quickly. The other bonus of staying calm and holding the space for these big feelings is that it teaches our children what empathy looks like. It also creates new pathways in their brain that says I can feel these feelings and let them go. Children develop emotional intelligence when we teach them that all their feelings are okay. As they grow and develop, understanding that feelings are welcomed and held, they develop skills to speak and process what they are feeling, instead of shutting down or numbing themselves out, or acting out using violence and aggression.

In an ideal world, we meet our children’s big explosions and meltdowns with calm and empathy. However, it is often easier said than done. When our child rages or tantrums it can trigger our own fight or flight mechanism. This is especially true if we grew up in an environment where there was yelling or violence. It can tap into our own nervous system, reminding us that we can still feel those danger signals going off inside. This can lead to a need to stop the feelings quickly, for both the parent and the child. That is why we move into yelling or wanting to punish our children when they get upset. We are often in our own state of panic.

An important aspect of Aware Parenting is recognising our own traumas and hurts from our childhood. Often our own unresolved stories will surface as we parent our children. It helps if we can look at our own reactions and work through them, which will then assist us in being able to maintain a calm and balanced connection with our child.

It’s always good to remember that our role as parents is to guide and teach our children. We do this in every moment as we go about our lives. Our children learn about the world by the way we interact with it. So when it comes to teaching our children about emotional wellbeing, feelings, empathy, and compassion – then modeling it to them when they are upset, is the best education possible.

As Aletha Solter states, “Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child-rearing that has the potential to change the world” and I have to say that I completely agree. I have witnessed incredible changes with the hundreds of families I’ve worked with, as well as my own personal experiences in raising my own children this way. It is possible to create harmony in the home and raise children to be the full expression of who they are.

About the Author

Lael Stone Nurtured Birth Melbourne Aware ParentingLael Stone is a proud mother of three children who has worked as a Birth Attendant/Doula and certified Calmbirth Instructor since 2004. From a background in wellbeing, counselling, and research, Lael was compelled into the field of childbirth education by her own birth experiences. It has been her privilege over the years to witness and partner many couples achieving satisfying births. Lael has interviewed and collected birth experience data from hundreds of Australian women throughout her career. This data provided insight and motivation to develop the About Birth Online Education Program. A certified Aware Parenting Instructor, Lael brings her insights to the podcast “Aware Parenting”. To listen to this podcast or learn more about Lael, follow the buttons below:

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Meconium and Birth – What You Need To Know

As you prepare for labour, you might be told to watch for meconium if your waters break before birth.

It’s commonly thought the sign of green-stained waters is a sign your baby is in distress and needs to be born urgently. 

What is the truth about meconium and how dangerous is it? We answer those questions here. 

What is meconium?

Meconium is your newborn’s first poo. As your baby is developing in your womb, they practice breathing movements and swallow the amniotic fluid. The fluid has your baby’s hair and intestinal cells in it, among other things. 

Over time, the debris left in your baby’s intestine builds up into a green black tar-like substance, called meconium. By the time your baby is ready for the world outside, their entire large bowel is filled with this sticky substance.

Your baby will usually pass the meconium as their first poo within the first 12 hours after birth. Your first milk, colostrum, has a laxative effect and helps to move this substance out. 

Be warned – it’s quite sticky! Many new parents have been pooped on by their baby when having skin to skin after birth and find it hard to clean off.

What happens when meconium is passed before birth?

Sometimes babies pass their first poo before they’re born (statistics vary between 5-20% of births). If this happens, their skin is often tinged a green-yellow, thanks to the greasy vernix coating. 

There’s two main reasons why babies poop in the uterus:

  • Their digestive system has matured 
  • Something has triggered a sudden compression of the cord or head.

Do babies poop when distressed?

It’s believed meconium passed before birth is a sign your baby is in immediate danger. 

But this isn’t always the case. If the baby’s head or cord is compressed suddenly and quickly, it can cause their sphincter muscles to relax. The poo can be pushed out. Compression of the head and cord happens during labour and babies can have a trail of meconium following their body. 

If your waters break and are stained a green-yellow then these are called meconium-stained.

Your care provider will want to check your baby’s wellbeing. This can be done by measuring their heart rate, which is a good indicator of whether your baby is happy or having a hard time in there. 

Can meconium be dangerous for babies? 

Babies can swallow meconium while in the womb and it won’t hurt them as it’s sterile. The biggest concern is why your baby has pooped and if they’re in any distress. 

There’s also the small possibility your baby will inhale meconium into their lungs. This is called meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS). 

How do babies inhale meconium?

When your baby is in your womb, they are receiving oxygen from the placenta via the umbilical cord. They don’t begin to breathe with their lungs until after birth.

Until then, your baby’s lungs are filled with amniotic fluid. The pressure of contractions pushing them out of the uterus causes this fluid to be expelled, in preparation for breathing. 

If stress such as low oxygen or an infection causes your baby to gasp, they can potentially inhale fluid with meconium into their lungs. 

What is meconium aspiration syndrome?

When a baby has inhaled meconium, it can block their airways, making it difficult to breathe and reduce oxygen levels. 

The meconium can also irritate the airways, which also makes breathing difficult. There is also an increased chance of lung infection. The meconium can affect the special substance coating your baby’s lungs, called surfactant. Surfactant helps the lungs to expand properly when we inhale. 

Only a very small number of babies born with meconium stained waters will develop meconium aspiration syndrome. 

Signs of meconium aspiration

If it’s suspected your baby has inhaled meconium filled fluid during labour, your care provider will assist you to birth your baby as quickly as possible. It’s no longer recommended to suction babies once their head is born. 

Your care provider will look for these signs in your baby:

  • Fast or rapid breathing
  • Grunting or laboured breathing 
  • Long gaps between breaths 
  • Low muscle tone, poor reflexes 
  • Blue colour to the skin
  • Chest distended.

If your baby has inhaled meconium but is active, well and has a good heart rate, they will be unlikely to need suctioning. They will be monitored for signs of MAS for 24 hours after birth. 

However, a baby that has inhaled meconium, isn’t responsive and has a low heart rate will need to be suctioned immediately after they’re born. Usually this means your baby’s umbilical cord will be clamped and cut, and they will be taken to a resuscitation table to have their airway cleared with a tube. 

You can ask to leave the umbilical cord intact and your baby stays with you, This will allow your baby to receive oxygen from the cord blood while their airway is being cleared. 

How is MAS treated?

After birth, babies with MAS usually need to spend some time in the hospital’s special care nursery. They can be monitored for infection and likely have antibiotics, blood tests and oxygen treatment. 

Babies with severe MAS can develop pneumonia and need special care. They’re also likely to experience lung infections in their first year.

Seeing your baby in a special care nursery can be distressing. Neonatal nurses can support you to spend time and bond with your baby even while they’re in special care. 

Usually most babies with MAS recover without any long-term effects. 

Can you prevent meconium aspiration?

The best way to prevent meconium from being inhaled during labour and birth is to give birth in a calm environment with a supportive birth team. 

Labouring women who are stressed or worried can find their contractions slow down and labour stalls. This might prompt care providers to try and get things going, leading to a cascade of interventions. 

Fetal distress can be caused by any number of interventions such as artificial rupture of the waters or constant fetal monitoring.

So it’s important to ensure you have a solid support team to advocate for a positive birth experience and provide comfort in labour to avoid further stress.

Meconium can be passed by a baby who is simply just ready to be born! If you have meconium stained waters and your baby is doing well, talk to your care provider about wait and see options to avoid a labour induction which could potentially cause your baby more stress.

If you’re looking for support to have a calm, positive birth experience, consider the holistic services Nurtured Birth offers through pregnancy and birth, including massage, osteopathy and doula support. Please contact us for more information. 

Image provided by Victoria Berekmeri- Adelaide Birth Photographer