Comfort in Labour: 4 Ways to Nourish Mama

As you prepare for birth, take some time to think about what comfort in labour might look for you.

How will you meet the demands of labour, no matter how long it takes? What essentials will  you bring to the birth to keep up your energy and cope with contractions? How will you remain supported, focused and encouraged?  So many questions.

There is so much to think about, especially if it’s your first baby.  It’s exciting and overwhelming and nerve wracking all at the same time. 

There’s more to giving birth than packing a hospital bag and writing out a birth plan. Part of your preparation for birth should focus on one simple theme: nourishing mama during labour. 

When we think of nourishment what immediately comes to mind is food. But humans are complex beings and we need more than just food for our bodies. We rely on many things for our mental sustenance and emotional wellbeing. 

Here we have included 4 simple options to provide comfort in labour for mama: water, food, support and sensory. You can pick and choose the options that will work best for you and include these ideas for your baby’s birth.

#1: Water as comfort in labour

The source of life, the essential building block of life. Human bodies consist of up to 60% water so it’s no wonder we find it a source of nourishment.

During labour, your body works hard and uses up a lot of energy. It’s important to keep hydrated, to support your body’s efforts to give birth. 

Drink small amounts of water often. Sucking or chewing ice cubes prevents taking in too much too quickly, which can cause nausea or vomiting. Using straws to drink liquids is preferable.

Water can be used in the form of hot and cold packs to ease pain and discomfort. Cool face washers or a spray bottle with a fine mist can be refreshing.

Water also offers comfort in labour in the form of the bath or shower. This can make you feel refreshed, cleansed, warm or cool. Taking a bath or having a shower can be relaxing and a form of pain relief, easing tension and backache during labour. Birthing in water is a popular option for some women.

#2: Food as comfort in labour

Lindy Cook, Naturopath at Nurtured Birth, offers the following advice when it comes to the food we should eat during labour for the best nourishment.

“Your best bet is to make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand that are super hydrating, highly nutritious, high in protein and easy to digest. As with the rest of your pregnancy, it’s best to stick with healthy foods that will provide your body with the energy and nutrients needed while giving birth to your baby.”

Research shows restricting nutrition and fluids during labour can make them more painful and last longer. If you are having a c-section you will be given specific guidelines on food and fluid intake. 

In early labour, have regular snacks so you’re building your energy reserves. Eat foods that are easy to digest and give you a more consistent release of energy. Lindy suggests the following options for your labour:

  • Granola bars, protein balls, dried fruit and nut mix
  • Wholegrain toast or crackers with nut butter or avocado
  • Low fat yoghurt, add berries for sweetness
  • Apples or bananas, frozen grapes or berries
  • Smoothies – fruit or vegetable or green with added protein powder
  • Quinoa and avocado, or brown rice and an organic egg
  • Mini frittata with spinach, carrot and goats cheese
  • Drinks – coconut water, raspberry leaf tea, diluted cloudy apple juice, homemade labour aid. Sometimes other drinks are managed better than water. Avoid drinks high in sugar or caffeine
  • Clear soup such as bone broth or miso soup
  • If feeling like a sweet hit – spoonful of honey or piece of dark chocolate
  • Avoid fatty, rich or spicy foods, & strong smelling foods – this includes your support person too.

#3: Support in labour

Comfort in labour can come in the form of support, which might be emotional and physical. Who you have to support you during labour can impact your birth experience, either in a positive or negative sense. Studies show that women with good support have shorter, less painful labours, with less medical intervention. 

Think carefully about who could offer you the support you need to feel comfort in labour. There will be moments you will feel very vulnerable, afraid, or even lost. You may need someone to ask questions, draw out information and make sure your wishes are being heard and honoured.

Choose someone who nourishes you in your daily life. Your partner, your children, your mum, your sister, a friend. You could also choose an independent midwife or doula to guide you through the experience of childbirth.

Sarah Goldberg, founding Director of Nurtured Birth, is a doula and she has shared some tips for support as comfort in labour:

  • Touch – simple and firm, holding the space, calming and soothing you, holding your hands.
  • Massage – of the back, shoulders and neck, legs. Especially the lower back and sacral region to reduce muscle tension and distract from contractions.
  • Encouragement – emotional support is key. A labouring woman needs to stay focused as she works hard to birth her baby. At times it’s normal to feel really confronted and tired. Encouragement and attention help you feel held, cared for and safe. This promotes the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone and needed in peak levels to cause contractions which open the cervix and bringing the baby down and out. 
  • Environment – create a loving, relaxed space with the right team of people, where you can laugh and feel joy, and aim to make it a precious memorable life experience. 
  • Physical support – helps to make you physically comfortable, stay connected to your breath,  help you to stay active, perhaps even dancing, support in upright & active positions, encourage you to try new positions. 
  • Support people – let others take on practical tasks, like getting heat packs or cool washers, making sure you are sipping water and nibbling food that will keep you going. Running a bath, hanging out in the shower, making sure the lights are low, adjusting music or  applying tens machine.  

#4: Sensory comfort 

Our human spirit needs nourishment and encouragement, especially in challenging moments during labour. What lifts your spirit, affects you positively and fills up your cup? Bring those special elements into your birth space to provide comfort in labour.

Some sensory comfort in labour ideas you might like to explore:

  • Visual stimuli – pictures or photographs that evoke emotions, assist focus and meditation, affirmations practiced during pregnancy.
  • Breathing – practice deep breathing techniques during pregnancy to create a habit of using this in labour, to promote deep relaxation during labour.
  • Encouragement – appropriate encouragement in words or touch that is nurturing, supportive and strengthening.
  • Music – sound can be a good distraction and very relaxing, or uplifting to promote energy. 
  • Rest and sleep – allow your body and mind to rest in between contractions, especially in the first active stage of labour, to build up energy reserves.
  • Scents – essential oils can offer support and calm, assisting you through each stage of labour, providing nurture, strength and positivity. 
  • Pain management techniques – coping with contraction pain can be assisted with the use of a tens machine, acupuncture or acupressure.
  • Comfort items – these might be special to you, such as a blanket, clothes, warm socks, a favourite throw rug, your own pillow.

Make sure your time in labour is a positive experience by surrounding yourself with all forms of nourishment. Comfort in labour can be found with one or many of these 4 simple ways to nourish yourself.

If you need help in finding what are the right choices for you, consider some childbirth education classes. Nurtured Birth offers private birth education sessions in the comfort of your own home or via online conferencing. Please contact us for more information. 

Written by Sharon Clarke, Remedial Therapist at Nurtured Birth

Boost Your Immune System During Covid-19

While we are spending a lot of time at home to stay safe, it is the perfect time to boost your immune system during Covid-19 isolation. 

Take the opportunity to nourish and support ourselves and our families with nutritional food and immune boosting recipes.

Boost Your Immune System During Covid-19

There is plenty you can do to boost your immune system with simple and natural solutions you can practice at home. 

Manage your stress levels

Many of us are feeling anxious and worried about Covid-19 and its effects. We’re exposed to a lot of media daily about the toll the virus is taking on our global community as well as our personal lives. 

However, too much stress increases the hormone cortisol, which in turn acts to suppress the immune system. So reducing stress is an important step to keeping yourself healthy and well. 

Consider limiting your exposure to social media and news media to lower your anxiety.

Daily mindfulness, yoga or medication are wonderful ways to reduce your stress levels and have a positive impact on your immune system.

Practising good hygiene habits

One of the best ways to prevent being infected is to practice good hygiene. This stops infection from being transmitted and spread to others as well.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or face, dispose of used tissues in a closed bin, and ensure you sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow or a tissue (not your hands!)

Rest and sleep

A healthy immune function is very dependent on sleep. Lack of sleep can suppress your immune system and people who are stressed or worried are more likely to be sleep deprived.

Give your body a chance to gather strength and make sure you get a good night’s sleep. If you feel rundown or if you become unwell, rest is vitally important to allow your immune system the energy to fight off infection.

Eat warm, nourishing foods

We’re now heading into the colder months which is a perfect time to focus on eating warm and nourishing foods. A balanced diet rich in protein, good fats, fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients can boost your immune system during Covid-19 times. 

This is as simple as eating two serves of fruit, six to eight serves of vegetables daily and including a variety of whole grains, healthy fats and protein at each meal. Following these basic guidelines ensures you receive a range of essential vitamins and minerals to support your immune system

Homemade chicken and vegetable soup can help break down mucus that often comes with colds and flus. If you don’t have an appetite, the broth alone will provide minerals and vitamins to give you strength.

Eat your vitamins and minerals

Eat the rainbow to get all those fabulous, immune boosting phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Yellow and orange fruit and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and beetroot are rich in beta-carotene which our bodies convert to vitamin A. We need vitamin A to keep the mucosal linings in our nose and lungs robust enough to defend against infection. Other foods to include are orange and red fruits such as oranges, mango, apricots and melon.

Zinc not only supports our immune system and exerts an antiviral action, it also helps maintain the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes. Which means zinc may reduce airway inflammation, along with vitamin A. 

We know vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infection. Keeping your levels primed is one of the most important measures you can take to boost your immune system during Covid-19. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy functioning immune system.

It’s believed that vitamin D helps stimulate the production of peptide – substances in the body that are able to fight off bacteria, fungi and viruses. We make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But this time of year it might not be possible to get enough sun exposure. 

Dietary sources of vitamin D include eggs, butter and fatty fish but it is challenging to obtain recommended levels from food alone, so supplements are generally needed. 

Move your body

To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit, so keep moving!  Regular exercise is a great way to support the immune system, and this may be due to various different mechanisms.

As exercise can help support good circulation, this allows our immune cells to travel through the body more effectively. These immune cells seem to be stimulated by even mild exercise.

Another of the many happy side-effects of exercise is that it reduces stress, something that also keeps your immune system healthy and strong. Aim for a minimum of twenty minutes of exercise daily.

And exercising outdoors boosts the levels of good bacteria in your gut by up to 40%! Another excellent reason to get out into the fresh air and move around.

Reduce inflammation

It’s easy to reach for the unhealthy snacks that make us feel good momentarily, but we need to focus on what is better for ourselves in the long-term, making choices to provide us with protection, strength and energy.

The food we eat influences our immune responses to infection. So focusing on our nutrition is one of the best things we can do to boost our immune system during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Sugar, processed meat, vegetable oils, alcohol and white, refined carbohydrates tend to be inflammatory and can suppress the immune function. 

Foods such as garlic, ginger, onion and chilli to help fight off illness, warm you up and reduce inflammation. So include plenty of these in your daily diet. 

Stay hydrated

Remember fluids are very important to keep your immune system at its best. Water, bone broth or herbal teas are nourishing and help you to keep your fluid levels optimal. 

A handy Ayurvedic tip from a special yogi friend of mine, Lisa Moor, and one that is practiced extensively in Japan called Ugai, is gargling. Gargling can assist keeping mucus membranes lubricated, or if you have a sore or dry throat. 

Mix the following ingredients, then gargle the liquid for 30 seconds and spit out.

  • 1/4 tsp of good salt
  • 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
  • Some warm water

Support your gut health

Up to 80% of our gut houses the cells that make up our immune system so it makes very good sense to support your gut health by boosting health bacteria.

  • Include fermented foods in your diet
  • Cut sugar
  • Eat a variety of plant-based foods, aim for 40 different types weekly!
  • Bone broth is rich in collagen and glutamine and naturally supports good gut health. 

Clean your phone

If you are anything like me you will be touching you phone very regularly making it a bastion of germs and potentially the coronavirus.

So just as you would think of washing your hands regularly, you need to wipe down your phone with alcohol wipes.

Love Lindy xx


Chicken Broth from The Healthy Chef


  • 1.2 kg organic or free range chicken carcass
  • 6 litres filtered water
  • ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced ginger
  • 1 onion, cut in half and gently charred in a hot dry pan
  • 300 g carrot
  • 100 g celery
  • 2 organic chicken breast fillets
  • ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

To serve:

  • 600 g Savoy Cabbage, cut into 150 g wedges (see notes)
  • handful spring onion, sliced
  • handful coriander leaves to garnish


  1. Place chicken carcass into a stock pot with 6 litres of filtered water.
  2. Add sea salt, onion, carrot, ginger and celery.
  3. Simmer partially covered over a low heat for 5 hours, skimming the broth regularly to remove any surface fat and scum.
  4. Strain the stock through a fine muslin.
  5. Refrigerate overnight and remove all the excess fat that solidifies over the top.

To serve…

  1. Heat the stock and add the Chicken breast.
  2. Gently poach the chicken for 12 minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Remove and slice thinly.
  4. Trim the Savoy cabbage then cut into 4 large wedges.
  5. Pour 1 cup of the chicken stock into a large pan and bring to the boil.
  6. Add the cabbage wedges and cover with a tight fitting lid.
  7. Cook for 5 minutes until tender but still crisp.
  8. Transfer cabbage into serving bowls and add the sliced chicken breast.
  9. Pour over the bone broth and garnish with spring onion and coriander.



Add a little extra freshly grated or finely sliced ginger to garnish.

I love serving it in large bowls as a main course meal and add seasonal vegetables of the moment. I’ve used delicious Savoy Cabbage for this recipe, but it goes delightfully well with other garden vegetables such as baby carrot, wilted cavolo nero, snow pea or zucchini noodles

Author: Lindy Cook, Naturopath at Nurtured  Birth

Newborn Sleep – Everything You Need To Know

Newborn sleep is the hot topic when you’ve had a baby. Newborn babies have very different sleep patterns and needs compared to older babies and children. 

 At Nurtured Birth we believe the period after birth is an important space for mothers to heal, for bonding with your new baby, and adjusting to a new family dynamic.  

Sleep and rest are a big part of this and knowing what to expect in the first few weeks can ease the transition into early parenting.   

Can newborn babies sleep too much?

Newborns tend to be very sleepy in the first few days after birth. 

They sleep for around 16-20 hours in a 24 hour day and there’s no pattern to their sleep as their brains haven’t started producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for wake-sleep cycles. 

It’s very normal for your newborn to have day and night mixed up because during pregnancy, your baby was tuned into your body cues about day and night.  

Newborns can’t cope with being awake for more than 45-60 minutes. After this, your newborn becomes overtired and their body produces too much cortisol, making it even harder to go to sleep. 

As their nervous system starts to mature, your newborn becomes more alert and sensitive to their environment.  

How should a baby sleep?

New parents are often surprised at how much their newborn wants to be held, even when sleeping. Newborns are driven by an innate instinct to feel safe and comfortable, especially as they’re adjusting to the world outside the womb. They survive by seeking out comfort and safety, crying if they’re put down or left in a quiet, dark room alone. 

New parents can feel they’re doing the ‘wrong’ thing by holding their sleeping newborn. Just remember your newborn is wired for this connection and you can’t ‘spoil’ them by holding them when they’re asleep.

Make sure when your baby is sleeping on their own you follow the safe sleeping guidelines (you can find more information here).

Can you teach a baby to sleep?

Many new parents look for ways to help or teach their newborn to sleep ‘well’. Society perpetuates the idea a ‘good baby’ is one that learns to sleep for longer periods as early as possible. 

There are plenty of so-called baby sleep experts pushing the idea that newborns can be ‘taught’ to sleep well if only parents do X or Y. That if you start off the ‘right’ way, then you’ll have a perfect sleeping baby within no time.

When these steps fail, it leads to parents feeling like failures and becoming more frustrated. And when you’re in the thick of being woken several times a night, it’s tempting to think there’s something ‘wrong’ with your baby. 

The reality is, newborns don’t sleep badly to inconvenience anyone. They are sleeping in a way that is normal and appropriate for their development and needs. 

What does newborn sleep look like?

Newborns sleep very differently to adults, spending most of their time in rapid eye movement sleep (REM). This means they have short sleep cycles of around 55-50 minutes and can be very active in their sleep (twitching, stretching, crying out). They can also move through sleep cycles quite frequently.  

REM is very light sleep, and is thought to be a necessary part of newborn brain development. But it also has another protective purpose. Babies who are in deep sleep find it harder to wake up if they’re not getting enough oxygen. While REM is lighter sleep and newborns can wake up from more easily, they are less at risk of SIDS. 

As babies grow and develop, their sleep will change. It’s not an exact science, because not all babies develop the same way. Some babies want longer periods of feeling safe, others need more or less sleep, and there are babies who are completely textbook.   

Around 6 weeks of age, your baby’s brain starts to produce small amounts of melatonin, ramping up around 12 weeks after birth. It’s not instant but you will notice your baby’s sleep starts to fall into a more organised pattern. 

Exclusively breastfeeding can help your baby to sort out their sleep patterns. Breast milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan that the body uses to make melatonin (how cool are women’s bodies!). Tryptophan levels change according to your circadian rhythm, so when you breastfeed your baby before bedtime, they fall asleep faster. 

Remember newborns have small tummies and can’t last all night without fuelling up. Frequent night-wakings to feed is normal and necessary for newborns. As your baby grows, they may space out feeds and wake less often at night. Some babies might still wake to nurse but go back to sleep quickly.  

How to cope with sleep deprivation with a newborn?

Most new parents find it really challenging to cope with a sudden sleep deficit when they have a newborn. New mamas who are up several times a night breastfeeding are also recovering from birth and the exhaustion of pregnancy. An important part of coping with sleep deprivation is looking after yourself:

  1. Sleep when your baby is sleeping. Even a 30 minute power nap can help you get through the day. Prioritise having a nap over household chores, entertaining visitors etc. 
  2. If you are too awake to nap or have other children to care for, make time to sit quietly or rest. You might find yourself dozing while your baby sleeps and older children are watching a TV program.
  3. Set up a safe sleeping space for you and your baby at night. Breastfeeding mothers who sleep close to their babies (safe cosleeping or room sharing) get more sleep than those who don’t sleep in the same space.
  4. Let your baby be exposed to natural lighting during the day and keep lights dimmed at night. Natural light can influence your baby’s sleep patterns and keeps your own circadian rhythms on track (helping you to produce plenty of sleep inducing breastmilk!).
  5. Ask for help if you’re feeling really sleep deprived. Your partner, family or trusted friend can cuddle and care for your newborn while you have a restorative nap. If you don’t have support from family and friends, consider a postnatal doula to provide support.
  6. Sometimes babies don’t sleep due to health issues such as reflux. Seek guidance from your doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse if your instincts are telling you something isn’t right.
  7. Often parents mistake their baby moving or vocalising as a sign they’re waking up and rush into soothe, and then disrupt their baby from settling into the next sleep cycle. Tune into your baby and you’ll start to know the difference when they’re truly awake.
  8. Never feel you are going to spoil your baby by responding to their needs when they’re signaling they need you. Babywearing can be a great way to keep your newborn close and help them feel safe, while you go about your day.
  9. Recognise if you’re feeling completely wiped out and stressed due to sleep deprivation and seek support. Watch for signs of postnatal depression and anxiety.
  10. Accept this is a stage most babies go through and grow out of, until the next growth and developmental stage arises. Be gentle on yourself.

Click here to find out how Nurtured Birth’s postnatal doula can surround you with support and nurture as you navigate the early days of parenting. 

Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth