Learning to Mother Through Breastfeeding… by Lenore Kilmartin

newborn-native-american-infant-and-mother

After months and months of preparation, anticipation and some trepidation, you’ve done it!  You’ve birthed your baby.  You’ve welcomed your little one into the world and you are beginning your mothering journey.

You gaze at your sweet baby and she attentively returns your stare.  Overwhelming feelings of love and tenderness sweep through you and fill your heart to bursting.   The hours you laboured become distant.  The aches and pains in your body are dull compared to the intense feelings washing over you as you bring your baby to your breast.

It astounds you to see that your baby already knows what to do.  First licking, then nuzzling and finally, latching onto your nipple.   Just a few short hours ago, you were feeding your baby through the umbilical cord and now your breast becomes your baby’s source of nourishment and attachment.

You watch as your baby suckles, drinking the first milk your body produces, colostrum.   Right from the very first drop, your milk is all your baby needs.   A truly perfect food.  Rhythmic sucking, soft breath, starfish hands, closing eyes…your baby has all that she needs.  Your breast is her natural continuum.

In the days that follow, you quickly realize that your baby’s favourite place is close to you, either cuddled next to your skin, or drinking from your breast.  She is content there, protected and safe.  She knows that this is where her need for food is met as well as her need for human attachment.  Breast equals love, trust, security.

Such intimacy between you!  You learn more about each other every day.  You recognize her subtle cues; the ones that say “I’m hungry”, “I’m lonely”, “I’m tired”, “I’m stressed”.  You feel empowered as a mother and you become skilled at recognizing your baby’s needs.  Gradually, with each breastfeed, and each new day, you grow in confidence.   The challenging days teach you as much as the days that are straight forward.   The learning curve is steep but thankfully nature has designed a perfect plan for on-the-job training.

Breastfeeding is so much more than milk…it’s about learning to mother.   One feed at a time.

 

 

 

 

Learning to Mother Through Breastfeeding… by Lenore Kilmartin

A natural continuum… by Lenore Kilmartin

th“Breastfeeding again…is she really still hungry?”  “Don’t you ever put that baby down?  You’re going to spoil her.”  “Your baby sleeps where?  In your bed?   You’ll never get her out of there.”  And so it goes…

Unsolicited advice from overbearing people.

New parents are at their most vulnerable.  They are already a little overwhelmed (naturally) and the learning curve is steep as they discover who their baby is and determine their own unique parenting rhythm.   They are learning together and the best teacher is the small, defenseless one they hold gently in their arms.

Many parents are embracing a natural continuum for their babies.  They are carefully considering what it is their babies biologically need.  In doing so, they are discovering that parenting can be easier and less restrictive than they had imagined.

Nature has devised an excellent plan for meeting the needs of babies and helping parents fall head over heels in love.  Breastfeeding mothers are filled to the brim with oxytocin and prolactin; hormones that bond mothers to their babies and create strong feelings of protection and attachment.   Shared birthing, where both parents are well-nurtured and supported, brings partners to a place of deep connection and intimacy.  A mother’s warm, milky body is a baby’s favourite place while a father’s strong embrace can settle a little one into deep slumber.   Babies are wired to follow the subtle, subliminal directions of their parents from the moment of their  birth.   The forever messages that they will carry throughout  life…you are loved, your distress is heard, you are worthy of care and tenderness, you are protected,  and most importantly, what you feel matters.

As parents consider how their actions and responses are speaking into their babies lives, they are making a choice; a choice that may seem radically different.  So different, in fact, that they are subject to unsolicited advice from overbearing people who jump at the chance to redirect the parents.

But nature knows best.  And babies teach best.  And parents love best.

“Breastfeeding again?”  Absolutely!  Nourishment, attachment, contentedness.

“Still holding that baby?”  Oh yes!  Security, bonding, connection.

“Sharing sleep with your baby?”   Of course!  Closeness, comfort and rest.

 

 

 

A natural continuum… by Lenore Kilmartin

Motherhood Lessons by Lenore Kilmartin

 

“Being a Mother is not about what you gave up to have a child, but what you’ve gained from having one.” ~unknown

Old houses work fine…so do used cars, second­-hand clothes, inexpensive foods like beans and lentils, dented tins, bruised apples and vacations in a tent. My babies taught me this. They taught me true perspective…things like:

  • nothing feels better than a warm little body snuggled close to mine
  • a belly full of mother’s milk is the perfect way for little ones to drift off to sleep, luxuriously, eyes fluttering closed, breath soft and warm, safe and secure in my arms
  • dirty laundry and sticky floors continue day after day after day
  • sleep is a luxury and every possibility for sleep, even a ten minute nap, should be embraced
  • my babies loved me unconditionally and more than anyone else in the world, even the unshowered, slipper­clad, nibbling on toast (again) version of me
  • authenticism…they taught me to be who I needed to be, not who someone else thought I should be

The list could go on and on. Our babies come to join us on our journey through life. They come to teach us and to refine us. They have life­-long messages to share. They patiently wait while we figure out what it is we need to know about them, about mothering, about relationships, priorities and the intensity of life itself.

Can you remember who you were before you were a mother? Does she seem like a vague memory? Someone you once knew? Some would say that’s the problem with motherhood…we lose who we once were…but not me…I’m glad she’s gone. I am the new me, a much better version of myself; filled with compassion, enthusiasm, forgiveness and insight. I see things from a mother’s perspective and have learned what determination and purpose truly mean. I have learned to cry from heartache, to laugh without restraint, to celebrate the simple beauty of life and to relish each new day.

My babies taught me this. I am grateful.

Motherhood Lessons by Lenore Kilmartin

Babies and the Holidays… by Lenore Kilmartin

keep calm

The tree is decorated, presents are wrapped, special treats are waiting to be placed on the festive plates…and baby is crying, and grizzly, and clingy…

Guess what? It’s the holiday season ­ a favourite time of year for almost everyone…except mamas and their babies. Babies are attached to us physically and emotionally and seem to know when we are frazzled, rushed, overwhelmed, or too busy to hang out with them, cuddling and nursing. They sense our busyness and are disturbed when we are distracted from the important work of mothering.

Fortunately, for breastfeeding babies, our milk is warm and ready, and if we allow ourselves to follow their lead, they will let us know that they need more of us, and more breastfeeding, during the festive season. When babies are fussy, breastfeeding does the trick. When we are busy and frazzled, breastfeeding makes the mothering hormones flow, helping us to stay calm and connected. When Aunt Penelope sneezes and coughs her way through Christmas dinner, breastfeeding keeps our babies protected from viruses, and perhaps most important of all, when Uncle Fred insists on some rambunctious yuletide conversation, we can escape into a quiet room, relishing the peace that a breastfeeding baby brings.

Some tried and true pointers for helping breastfeeding go well during the holidays:

  • Nurse often. It’s easy to get distracted and to put off breastfeeding which can lead to plugged ducts and/or a breast infection.
  • Keep baby close utilizing a baby carrier for busy gatherings. Babies feel secure when they are close to their mamas and/or papas.
  • Don’t pass baby around the room no matter how much all your relatives and friends want to have a cuddle. Babies can become over stimulated very quickly which can result in fussiness and difficulty settling down to breastfeed.
  • Nap together. A rested mama is good for the whole family.
  • Wear comfortable nursing clothes so that you can breastfeed wherever you go. And remember that some babies do best breastfeeding in a quiet room. So if baby won’t nurse at a gathering, try going somewhere where the two of you can be quietly together.

Babies are small for a very short season. They will grow into toddlers, children, teenagers, and finally into adults with families of their own. There will be dozens of holiday seasons ahead. All kinds of surprises and presents await them but for now, the greatest gift you can give your baby during this very busy time of year, is the gift of yourself. Do less. Cuddle more. Enjoy the simple pleasures. Count blessings. Be kind to yourself. Slow down. And remember…there is nothing more important this holiday season than the relationship you share with your baby.

Babies and the Holidays… by Lenore Kilmartin

But I don’t want to be induced… by Lenore Kilmartin

hospital-birth“But I don’t want to be induced”, you think to yourself, hoping that your care provider will cut you some slack and continue to monitor you while your baby picks his/her own birth-day.    You’ve heard that prostaglandin gel, followed by I.V. pitocin, can be a challenging way to labour.  You’ve been hoping to approach labour from a natural perspective, allowing your body to begin the birthing journey in its own time, and in its own way.  So what can you do?

There are some age-old approaches to inducing labour.  You might find some of these are worth a try…especially as your due date comes and goes and you begin to wonder if you will go into labour naturally (you will…but you can’t help but wonder!)  As the mother of five children, two of whom were born at 42 weeks, and the grandmother of two post-due date babies, I’ve seen the positive effects of trying alternative ways to bring on contractions.

  • Try exercise – letting gravity help by increasing pressure on the cervix and bringing the baby further down the birth canal.
  • Try sex – lots of it – allowing the cervix to be bathed in the natural prostaglandins found in semen. Remember, keep in a prone position for a while after sex, leaving the semen to work its magic.
  • Try nipple stimulation – either manually or with a breast pump. Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin which helps the uterus to begin contracting.
  • Try acupuncture to stimulate the release of oxytocin leading to uterine contractions.
  • Try spicy foods – the heat from the spices can encourage your body to produce prostaglandins.
  • Try castor oil mixed in some orange juice – talk to your care provider about this as there are differing opinions on this centuries-old approach to inducing labour. Although it leads to some digestive upset (specifically cramping and loose stools), as the bowel contracts, the uterus is encouraged to do the same.
  • Try Evening Primrose Oil – both as a supplement and as a vaginal insert. EPO is thought to soften the cervix.
  • Try Red Raspberry Leaf tea – this herbal tea helps to tone the uterus and settle contractions into a regular pattern.
  • Try membrane stripping – your care provider will use a gloved finger to manually separate the amniotic sac from the uterus which will stimulate prostaglandin release. Prepare for some cramping which will hopefully lead to regular contractions.

Most importantly, TRUST!  Believe that your body can labour naturally, and that your baby will be ready to enter the world on the day that is perfectly right for your situation.  38-42 weeks and anywhere in between is absolutely normal for full-term gestation.  We don’t need to rush ourselves into labour but we can give our bodies a nudge once we are beyond our due date.   As mothers, we can learn to develop patience even before we are holding our babies in our arms.   An excellent mothering trait!

 

 

But I don’t want to be induced… by Lenore Kilmartin

Hey baby… by Lenore Kilmartin

moon-through-the-window1-682x1024Hey, sweet baby of mine, its you, me and the moon shining brightly through the window…

I look down at your chubby face, your brow furrowed, nursing at my breast, eyes closed,

starfish hands, and I can no longer remember life without you even though we’ve only

been officially mother and child for six months. Well that’s not quite true ’cause I’ve

always thought of you as mine from the moment I knew you existed deep within my body,

but the world became yours exactly 189 days, seven hours and 42 minutes ago.

There’s been some trouble brewing, but don’t worry, you’re safe with me and mama’s on

it…just like its always going to be between us. There seems to be some concern, from

baby sleep experts, that you and I shouldn’t be doing this…spending our nights nursing

and cuddling close, in mama’s big bed, where we both rest and share sleep, knowing that

we are secure, together, connected. Apparently, you should be sleeping away from me.

Lucky for you, I am the real expert here. I know you. You are mine. We are a unit

connected through breastfeeding until you are ready to be on your own. You look for me

and I’m here, sunshine or moonshine, the hour does not matter. You reach for my nipple

and do not have to search, wait, wonder where I am. I am meeting all of your needs ’til

the day you are so secure that with confidence you go out into the world you have been

given. Mama will be sure that your need for human touch, attachment, nutrition and safe-
keeping have all been met through the continuum of our mother/baby relationship…day

and night, over and over ’til you are so filled up, emotionally and physically, that you are

free to fly…

But in the meantime, we snuggle together, drifting into peaceful sleep, a small dribble of

milk in the corner of your mouth, your breath gentle against my arm. I am here if you

need me and always will be, sweet baby of mine.

Hey baby… by Lenore Kilmartin

Moaning, by Lenore Kilmartin

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Moaning in childbirth is a universal sound exhibited by labouring mothers the world over.

Midwives and caregivers know that a mother who is moaning through contractions is

labouring well and using her low­toned voice to move her baby down. Mothers who are

moaning are using their breath; breathing deeply and releasing tension when breathing

out. Less tension equals a more relaxed state which has a positive effect on the opening

cervix. In fact, the moaning of a labouring woman should be calming for all in

attendance. There is a primal rhythm to her sounds and those supporting her are aware

of the awesome strength she is gathering through her exhaled breaths.

So where have all the moans gone? Labour rooms have become quiet as more women

are encouraged to use epidurals for pain relief. Instead of the usual labouring sounds,

now we hear the beeps of monitors and the quiet of a medicated, possibly sleeping

through labour, mother. Many care providers are uncomfortable with the deep moaning

of a woman embracing labour while using her breath to help birth her baby. The mother

may be told to be quiet, or encouraged to accept pain relief, so that she no longer is

making birthing sounds that are causing others to feel discomfort.

Let’s all welcome birthing sounds; let’s encourage moaning and sighing, audible breaths

and the ritual of deep­throated groans. Those wonderful, deep, slow, primal moans that

release tension and bring about a relaxed state during a contraction. The moan of a

birthing woman, heard throughout time, universal in sound. Celebrate with her, moan

together, encourage her breath, let her know that her body is responding in sync with her

breath; with her open, moaning voice. Labour is not naturally a quiet event. A mother’s

noise, as she labours, bears down, delivers should be a time of rejoicing. A new life…a

baby is born.

Moaning, by Lenore Kilmartin