In some hospitals in Belgium, you can give birth with your own independent midwife who has followed and supported you throughout your entire pregnancy. All the benefits of one-on-one midwife care, with its focus on physiological birth and typically fewer interventions during birth, plus the added reassurance of being close to additional medical teams if needed during labour and birth. For some mums, it's the perfect option!
Just last week, CHU Saint-Pierre | UMC Sint-Pieter in central Brussels announced the exciting news that they're officially allowing independent midwives to use their facilities to support births in full autonomy!
They're currently in the process of setting up agreements with independent midwives, and as soon as we know more about which (teams of) midwives will be able to offer this option, we'll let you know!
Wondering which other hospitals offer this option?
From what we know, this is also possible in:
Note: Not all independent midwives can support births in these hospitals, as it depends on individual agreements. If you know of other hospitals offering this then please let us know!
Thank you Siobhan at www.thevillage.be for picking up on this important addition to midwifery care in Brussels and then spreading the word!
Bolle BUIK - Leuven
Ok, not sure how I missed this as a option for having your baby if you live in and around Leuven, Belgium. Bolle Buik have a birth house! It's not home, it's not hospital. It is your home away from home! Here is what they are offering:
"If you prefer not to give birth in the hospital, but you don't feel like giving birth at home, you can visit our "Birth and Breakfast" to give birth with a midwife from Bolle Buik. Part of the home of midwife Patty Docx is made available for this purpose. There are three rooms. In the first room there is room to place a bath for during labor and/or childbirth. In the second room there is a double bed where the parents can rest with their baby after the birth. Of course you can also give birth there on the birthing stool, in bed, etc. And then there is the bathroom with walk-in shower, sink and toilet.
The condition for giving birth in the 'Birth and Breakfast' is the same as for a home birth. The pregnancy, labor and delivery should proceed normally.
After giving birth, the brand new family can stay for 24 hours. All meals during their stay are provided."
To find out more about the services of the Bolle Buik then check out their website: www.bollebuik.be/nl/geboorte
There is no doubt a woman's body is beautifully designed to birth her baby and a gentle vaginal birth offers the best possible start for her baby. But sometimes pregnancy, labour and birth can, for a number of reasons, take an unexpected turn and normal delivery via the vagina is not safe and caesarean birth may be the best option.
So, how can you ensure a caesarean birth is a positive, gentle and empowering experience?
In Belgium, the rate of caesarean births is around 21%, however, significant variations are observed between hospitals (from 11.8% to 32.9%). The WHO recommends a limit of 10% - 15% so Belgium exceeds this recommendation and the number has been rising steadily. So, it seems reasonable as part of your birth preparation to consider a plan for a caesarean birth.
A caesarean birth, whether expected or unplanned, offers unique challenges and circumstances for you and your baby. It is helpful to recognize that a caesarean birth is still a birth, and you can prepare in advance by including plans for a birth on your terms, even when it occurs in the operating theatre. Of course it goes without saying that you need to discuss your plan in advance with your caregivers to see what is possible in your situation and in your place of birth! It can be challenging to voice your preferences to your healthcare providers, but it is the first step towards creating an empowering birth experience. In the absence of a medical emergency, many gynaecologists in Belgium are happy to accommodate your requests - you may just have to make your wishes very clear.
It is really important that you understand the rationale behind why you are being offered a caesarean birth and own the decision to have one - it is your decision to make after all. If you are unsure of absolutely anything, ask questions and do your own research! Feeling it is the right decision will help you get in the right mindset and be able to fully appreciate the moment of your baby's birth.
What should you consider in your caesarean birth plan?
Your birth plan begins with creating an atmosphere where you can give birth to your baby in a peaceful and relaxed environment. An atmosphere that accepts a caesarean is major surgery but that works in tandem with yours and your baby's physiology. Your aim: to create as many aspects of a natural birth as you can within the operating theatre environment - a gentle environment for a gentle caesarean birth.
Your Birth Partners
Having two support people in the operating theatre is ideal. This allows your partner to stay with the baby if your baby needs special care. They can attend to your baby while a doula, midwife or other family member stays to support you. Your partner can:
Consider asking the theatre staff to introduce themselves when they arrive. There will probably be more people than you expect, all wearing masks and gowns. That little bit of human connection can go a long way for creating a positive experience. The staff should be focused on you and how you feel throughout the experience. This can include keeping the room quiet and using only positive words to explain what is happening.
Be Awake and Comfortable
Rarely an emergency caesarean birth requires a general anesthetic that puts you to sleep. However, for a planned caesarean birth, you can have an epidural or spinal block. This numbs the lower half of your body so you are awake for the surgery but feel no pain.
If you’re anxious or agitated, you might be offered other medication to help you feel groggy and less able to remember things afterward. You can let the anaesthetist know you would prefer to stay alert and involved.
It’s normal to feel jittery or nauseous in the operating theatre. To remedy this, instead of medications, peppermint essential oil on a cotton pad near your face will often do the trick.
Playing your own music can be deeply comforting especially if you’ve been planning something special. Ask to put on your own music. Make your own playlist! You can also be asked for the theatre lighting to be dimmed (not over your abdomen of course your gynaecologist needs good light).
Your abdomen is usually hidden from view during the operation by a curtain, but you can ask to see your baby being lifted from your uterus. Some hospitals even provide a clear drape to maintain the sterile field while allowing you to watch or the curtain can be lowered at the moment of birth so you can see your baby enter the world.
Announcing the Sex of Your Baby
If you’ve been waiting to learn the sex of your baby, ask if the staff can abstain from announcing it so you can discover it yourself when the baby is given to you.
Delaying Cord Clamping
Delayed cord clamping has been proved to offer a baby significant health benefits. It’s become the new normal for vaginal births but the practice isn’t so common for caesarean births. With delayed cord clamping the gynaecologist waits 3-5 minutes before clamping, then cutting, the umbilical cord. This allows extra placental blood to flow to the baby. You can read more about delayed cord clamping and its benefits at: waitforwhite.com/
Ask if your baby can be given to you immediately after birth for skin-on-skin contact, bonding, temperature/heart rate regulation and breastfeeding rather than being handed to the midwife for any routine procedures. This skin to skin contact promotes bonding, which has several advantages. Breastfeeding success is more likely, you'll develop attachment earlier, and your baby feels more secure after entering the world. It’s a great experience for birth partners, too, as they can benefit from skin to skin with baby and provide extra reassurance and support for you.
Ask if the IV catheter, oximeter and blood pressure cuff can be placed on your non-dominant arm and the electrocardiographic leads are placed on your back. This leaves your chest clear so you can hold your baby skin to skin on your chest.
Ask if all newborn procedures (e.g. weighing, vitamin K injection, dressing, etc.) can wait until after you’ve gone back to your room and had the opportunity to bond and breastfeed with your baby.
Talk to Your Baby
You and your partner can help ease your baby’s transition into the world by talking to them when they arrive. Hearing the sound of you and/or your partners voice is incredibly comforting for them and begins the next stage of your relationship. You might like to consider having a towel/blanket that you have slept in available to put over your baby soon after birth, helping to transfer your skin flora to baby (as with skin-to-skin).
Exteriorizing Your Uterus
Surgeons sometimes move the uterus out of the body to examine and repair it. However, research shows that this in no more effective than repairing it inside your abdominal cavity. Removing the uterus to repair it is tied to increases in nausea, vomiting, longer time to first bowel movement and postpartum pain. It is a worth inquiring about your gynaecologist's preferences
In a vaginal birth the final stage is the birth of your placenta. It is easy to forget that placenta delivery is also part of caesarean birth. As long as there’s no medical reason why your placenta needs to be sent away for testing, it can be given to you.
If you’re planning on placenta encapsulation, this can still be part of your plan. Your midwife can keep the placenta on ice for your partner to bring home. If you didn’t plan on encapsulation, it’s still nice to be given the chance to see this incredible organ your body made to keep your baby nourished in the womb. You can request a quick look before it’s whisked away, or ask a support person to take a photo.
How can a KG Hypnobirthing Course Support You In a Caesarean Birth?
KGHypnobirthing (KGH) can turn a scary and clinical experience into a safe and empowering one – knowing how to have a calm, confident and informed caesarean birth experience allows you to feel some of the benefits of a natural birth and have a positive birth experience, even if your birth takes an unexpected turn. There are a number of ways to emulate a natural KGHypnobirth in theatre. Here are some ideas for you to consider:
In labour and birth the hormone oxytocin is the star of the show and the amount you produce in labour dictates the strength, length and frequency of your surges (contractions). This is essential for a natural birth - but oxytocin can also support you when you are having a caesarean birth. Doing all you can to feel safe and happy will help you release the feel-good 'love hormone' oxytocin (it is not released when you are feeling scared or unsafe) which will in turn pass to your baby.
Whether the caesarean is elective or unplanned, you may feel apprehensive - you may have concerns about your baby’s health or your own and it is a major operation so somewhat significant! The calmer you are, the lower your stress levels will be, the more oxytocin you release and the calmer your baby will be. Breathing is the key to staying calm:
Oxytocin also plays a major role in bonding with your baby so the more of it you can have at the time of birth the better! And as oxytocin is also released in response to touch ask for a kiss, hand or reassurance from whoever is with you.
KGHypnobirthing affirmations / scripts:
Photos / affirmations cards:
Relaxations for a Caesarean MP3:
The KGH caesarean audio collection helps you prepare for your baby’s birth so you see it as a happy and positive event, and this makes a huge difference to your baby’s life. The audio includes:
You can purchase your caesarean relaxations at:
A KGHypnobirthing course provides the tools to support you through labour and birth regardless of how it unfolds. If you find yourself in the position where a caesarean is necessary, then you can be confident that the KGHypnobirthing techniques learnt on a course are also beneficial in the operating theatre and can give your baby a positive start in life.
A Positive Birth Story...
If at first you don't succeed (in finding a doctor who truly listens to your wishes and involves you in the decision-making process) try, try again! Kasia's story of the caesarean birth of third child is testament to everything you have read in this blog and how changing just a few details can change everything. Kasia's made small changes and her third birth was transformed into a healing, and most memorable birth experience. Read her story here at: www.thevillage.be/gentle-welcome-via-cesarean/
I love the writing of Dr Sarah Buckley! Check out Sarah's article on caesarean birth: 'How to have the Best Caesarean Birth' at: sarahbuckley.com/how-to-have-the-best-cesarean/ (Accessed 14th February 2023)
Baby movements during pregnancy
Why it is important to monitor your baby's movements?
What to look out for and most importantly what to do if they slow down or stop.
Did you know a decrease in baby's movements can be a key warning sign that a baby is in distress and 50% of mothers who had a stillbirth noticed slowing down of baby's movements beforehand?
So read on and find out how to monitor your baby's movements and what to do when their pattern of movements/kicks changes.
From around 16 - 24 weeks you begin to feel your baby as they move around in the womb and have a good understanding for how much they "kick", when and where. Your baby's movements are a reassuring sign that they are well if you notice a change then trust your instincts don't delay and get yourself checked out by your midwife or gynaecologist.
Most people usually start to feel their baby move between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. You may feel your baby move as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy, especially if you’ve been pregnant before. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not notice your baby’s movements until you are more than 20 weeks pregnant.
What does baby movement feel like?
A baby’s movements can be anything from a kick, flutter, punch, swish or roll. The type of movement may change as your pregnancy progresses. Baby movement is often referred to as ‘baby kicks’
How often should my baby move?
All babies are different! There is no set number of normal movements. From 16 – 24 weeks on you should feel your baby move more and more until 32 weeks. After 32 weeks, movements should stay roughly the same until you give birth. It’s important to get to know your baby’s regular pattern of movement.
Why are my baby’s movements important?
Your baby’s movements are a sign of their well-being. A reduction or change in your baby’s movements can sometimes be a warning sign that they’re unwell. It’s important to know that it’s NOT true that babies move less towards the end of pregnancy. You should continue to feel your baby move right up to the time you go into labour and whilst you are in labour too.
Why would my baby’s movement reduce?
When the baby is being deprived of oxygen they will slow their movements to conserve oxygen. Cord compression, a failing placenta, or a high intake of smoke may all lead to reduced movements and could be potentially fatal.
What should I do if I notice reduced movement?
If you think your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped, contact your midwife, gynaecolgist or maternity unit immediately. Midwives and doctors are there to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t put off calling until the next day or wait until your next scheduled appointment. Don’t worry about picking up the phone, it’s important for your doctors and midwives to know if your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped.
What if my baby’s movements are reduced again?
You should contact your maternity unit again, however many times it happens. Even if everything was normal last time, don’t hesitate to contact your midwife or maternity unit for advice. You’re always doing the right thing.
don’t ignore your instincts, don’t ever put off getting movements checked and make sure you’re aware of any changes in movements as it could quite literally save your baby’s life
Why are my baby’s movements important?
Your baby's movements are a sign of their wellbeing. A reduction or change in your baby’s movements can sometimes be a warning sign that they're unwell. It's important to know that:
If my baby's movements change does it mean my baby is definitely unwell?
Not at all. Checks by medical professionals usually find that everything is OK. Most women who report one or less episodes of reduced movement go on to have a healthy baby and straightforward pregnancy.
However, it's important to be checked to make sure the change isn't because your baby is one of the few that are unwell. Reporting concerns about your baby's movements could save their life.
Should I prompt my baby to move?
As it can cause a delay in getting medical advice, trying to make your baby move isn't recommended. If your baby's movements are concerning you, always call your maternity unit/midwife or gynaecologist.
Should I use a phone app or home doppler to check the baby's heartbeat?
Please don't use any device to check your baby's heartbeat, especially if you're concerned about their wellbeing. Even if you think you're listening to their heartbeat, it's possible you're actually listening to your own. The presence of a heartbeat alone does not mean your baby is well too- you both need to be checked by a healthcare professional if you're worried.
Kicks Count aims to reduce the UK's high stillbirth and neonatal death rate by raising awareness of baby movements. You can find more out about Kicks Count here
Adapted from the Kicks Count website (Jan 2023)
Following from my blog post FRONT AND CENTRE IS WHERE YOU NEED TO BE -WRITING YOUR BIRTH PROPOSAL read on the find out more about how to write your birth proposal.
Midway through your pregnancy it is an idea to discuss your birth plan with your midwife or gynaecologist. It is a way of registering your preferences for the process of your labour so that your wishes can be carried out whilst you concentrate on relaxing, breathing and focusing on the birth of your baby.
The ethos of hypnobirthing is to encourage natural childbirth and empower you to be in control of this process. Here are a few areas for you to discuss with your midwife and add to your birth plan if you wish. In a hypnobirthing course these are covered in more detail but please feel free to drop me an email or call if you want to discuss any of these areas.
A quiet and calm environment where you feel safe and confident will help keep you relaxed and let your labour develop quickly and smoothly. It is easier to create this environment in your own home but points to consider include:
If you plan on taking a course and practising for a Hypnobirthing Birth it is a good idea to let your caregivers know this so they can be fully supportive. Whilst Hypnobirthing is becoming more widespread there are still a number of health professionals who have not had any experience of the process. Simply put, practising hypnobirthing empowers you to have a calm and gentle, natural and drug free birth, and uses self hypnosis, breathing, and deep relaxation and visualisation techniques.
It is best if you request patience and understanding to refrain (in the absence of medical emergency) from any intervention, or any procedure that could unnecessarily stand in the way of you having the most natural birth possible. It is good to state this clearly on your birth plan/proposal.
Activity During Labour
Although gentle movement can be beneficial in the early stages of labour, please bear in mind that you need to conserve your energy for actual birth of your baby. Eating whatever snacks appeal to you in the early stages of labour helps to maintain your energy. Remember the muscles of the uterus are some of the strongest muscles in the human body and they are working to capacity. Labour can be entirely comfortable and, at the same time, the muscular effort is powerful.
If you prefer to be undisturbed, you can decline an internal examination with no risk to yourself or your baby in normal circumstances.
Monitoring Your Babies Heart
Your baby’s heart can be monitored by Doppler ultrasound or with a stethoscope if you prefer not to expose your baby to the risks of sonar.
Positions to Give Birth In
There are a variety of positions you can give birth in but ultimately you’ll do what you feel like at the time. Many women find that a vertical, slightly forward position is the most comfortable, so that the weight of the baby is not pressing on your circulatory and nervous systems, gravity is on your side, and the capacity of the pelvis is at its maximum.
Popular positions include:
Many women find having a bath or shower very comfortable in pregnancy, and this feeling of relaxation in water can continue in labour. Being relaxed and at ease in the water allows your muscles to work more freely and so your baby is born more quickly. A birth pool is warm and you’re buoyant so you can move more easily into any position that suits you. Being in the water also increases the chance of respectful care, and women say it improves their experience. Birth pools were pioneered by Michel Odent in the 1970s on the grounds that a baby had been in ‘water’ for the last nine months and so would find it a more gentle introduction to the world.
Skin to Skin Contact with Your Baby
Immediately after your baby is delivered they can be placed on your tummy, giving skin to skin contact. This is very beneficial because the only things in your baby’s new world that it recognises from it’s old world are your skin, your heartbeat and breathing, and you and your partners voices. Skin to skin contact helps to build the bond between you and your baby and helps establish breastfeeding. You should allow any vernix to be absorbed into your baby’s skin so there is no need for any cleaning or rubbing. It can be done later if needed with a soft cloth.
Delivery of Your Placenta
In hospital directly after the birth you will often be offered an injection of artificial oxytocin. The purpose of this is to cause uterine contractions and to prevent or stop postpartum haemorrhaging and help with a fast delivery of the placenta. However evidence shows this may be an unnecessary procedure in many women and may inhibit the production of natural oxytocin. It is often routinely being used without full knowledge of the mother. The choice is yours, and it is wise to do some research beforehand. This is one of the many subjects which are discussed in a hypnobirthing course.
A drug free and natural way for your body to achieve the same process as above is to immediately breastfeed your baby which will assist with the natural delivery of your placenta, as well as give your child the sustenance and comfort it needs at the beginning of life.
A few other ideas you might like to consider:
Vitamin K for your baby
Vitamin K is offered for babies and again the choice is yours. It can be given by injection after they are born and helps prevent a rare disease called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding. It can be also be given by mouth in several doses after your baby is born which saves them from an injection within the first few hours of arriving in this world. If you choose to give the vitamin K by mouth it is essential that it is completed in full. Of course you can choose not to give Vitamin K.
Cutting your Baby's Umbilical Cord
Delaying the cutting of the cord until it has stopped pulsating enables the full supply of oxygenated blood to reach your baby. This also provides a dual support system while your baby learns to take its first breaths.
Supporting and encouraging you to breastfeed several times during the first few hours after birth. It’s a wonderful way of establishing your bond with your baby.
Medical Interventions can be life-savers in an emergency situation, and unnecessary interventions can themselves create unnecessary problems; something to be considered carefully and researched in advance. Medical interventions are discussed in detail on a KG Hypnobirthing course. You might want to check the AIMS website: www.aims.org.uk/ for more information.
There are a number of different pain relief options and many women use a combination of them. To enjoy a natural and comfortable birth, a hypnobirthing course will go a long way to helping you have a calm and gentle birth. Thank goodness pain relief is available, but many hypnobirthing mothers find it is not needed as birth can be comfortable and calm.
Induction of Labour
Induction of labour is often offered as standard, and often presented as if you have no choice. Remember you are entitled to a full discussion and explanation of the pros and cons before you decided on any intervention. Always listen carefully to medical advice; your midwives and doctor are knowledgeable and experienced, but remember that it is ultimately your decision.
On the KGH website you will find a free interactive birth plan you can complete to discuss with your caregivers. I will be discuss many of these topics in more depth on my hypnobirthing courses. But, I hope this has given you some food for thought at this exciting time.
When you're expecting your first baby, it's easy to feel overwhelmed figuring out what baby items you 'need' to buy. This is a fab article from www.thevillage.be/baby-essentials/ They have put together some tips to help you choose your baby essentials, as well as lots of suggestions for how to make your money go further when sourcing baby gear!
In fact www.thevillage.be/ is a brilliant resource to delve into it you need any information on having a baby or raising a young family as an ex-pat in Belgium. Navigating the system is not always easy or straightforward and the village covers everything!
A positive birth experience has hugely beneficial effects on you for the rest of your life. It can increase your self-esteem and self-efficacy, mean better acceptance of your role as a mother and strengthens your bond with your baby. Your recollection of your birth experience as either positive or negative, hangs on how in control you felt and the choices you made. So, it pays to be prepared!
“a woman's positive and negative recollections of their birth experiences are related more to feelings and exertion of choice and control than to specific details of the birth experience.”
(Cook and Loomis 2014)
The key to achieving a positive birth experience is to remain at the centre of your birth experience and to be well supported in making the necessary decisions that are right for you and for your baby. But, how do you achieve that? What do you need to do to place you "front and centre"?
Firstly, educate yourself
Taking a prenatal course is the first step in putting yourself front and centre of your birth experience. A birthing class can help you feel confident in your ability to communicate effectively with your caregivers, feel comfortable asking questions and advocating for the care you want. It is important to understand the physiology of childbirth, the complex interplay of your hormones in labour and how your body is perfectly designed to birth your baby.
Being at the centre of your birth experience fits perfectly with the ethos of KG Hypnobirthing, which is to encourage natural childbirth and empower you to be in control. Taking a KG Hypnobirthing course provides a safe space for you and your birth partner to explore what's available to you in pregnancy, birth and on into the early days of parenting. We explore information and practical tools that support you to make informed decisions and communicate more confidently with your caregivers.
Secondly, create a birth proposal
Once you know the birth choices available to you and understand the physiology of childbirth you can move on to preparing a birth proposal. The process of writing your birth proposal encourages you to answer the questions of "what's important to me?" and "what are my choices and alternatives?". With the resources provided by a KG Hypnobirthing Course you are better able to define your preferences, understand your individual needs and make your birth proposal - a proposal that is founded on information and facts rather than fear and assumptions. Using the word proposal rather than plan acknowledges birth doesn't always go the way you hope or expect expect and leaves space for adaptation and change.
Most women either knowingly or unknowingly have an idea of their preferences and how they would like labour to unfold - their birth plan. By, having that proposal in writing you can share it with your caregivers. It is a way of registering your preferences for the process of your labour. Then your wishes can be carried out whilst you concentrate on relaxing, breathing and focusing on the birth of your baby.
Top Tips for Creating Your Birth Proposal
To help you create your birth proposal check out the KGH website where you will find a free interactive birth proposal template.
Thirdly, share your birth proposal
For you to be at the centre of your birth experience everyone involved in your care needs to be supportive of your preferences. So, once you have created your birth proposal it is important to go through it with your birth partner. This enables them to effectively advocate for you in labour.
Then discuss your preferences with your caregivers (midwife or gynaecologist). This gives them the chance to get to know you better and understand your feelings and priorities and provides you the opportunity to ask plenty of questions around your birth. It enables you to find out more about what happens during labour and sets expectations. It also flags up any items that may not be possible or that do not align with their practices or hospital policies. If your caregiver brings up areas of concern, be sure to ask:
After discussing your birth proposal with your caregiver, you should know:
This information helps to provide you with insight on your expectations for birth and whether your caregiver and place of birth is the best choice for your needs.
Provide a copy of your birth proposal to be included it in your file (which will be present at your place of birth during your birth). Additionally, be sure to make a couple of copies to take along with you when you go into labour. Upon arrival at your place of birth, give a copy of your birth proposal to the hospital midwives. Your birth plan also serves as a reminder for those on your birth support team, including your partner, friend/family member, and doula.
Fourthly, be flexible
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan during pregnancy or labour. You need to be flexible and be prepared to do things differently from what you wanted. For example, certain facilities may not be available on the day or there may be complications.
You can talk to your caregivers about what could happen in labour and include your preferences in your birth plan, but don’t worry too much about trying to include everything. Your caregivers should involve you (or your birth partner if necessary) in any decisions that need to be made on the day to make sure your baby is delivered safely.
Yes, you can change your mind!
You can change your mind about your wishes for labour and birth at any time, even during labour if you want to. For example, you may find on the day that you don't want a water birth or that you do want an epidural after all.
Check my blog post Ideas to Help with Your Birth Plan/Proposal for more information and ideas for writing your birth proposal.
The Impact of Choice and Control on Women’s Childbirth Experiences
Katie Cook, MA; Colleen Loomis, PhD
The Journal of Perinatal Education, 21(3), 158–168,
Life after birth...
All you can focus on is the birth of your baby.
But, you give birth and then what?
How do you navigate your transition to parenthood and make the whole experience more comfortable and restful?
You focus on your pregnancy, preparing for the birth and building your nest but have you thought about your new life with your baby? No? Then I am going to urge to do just that. Because along with the sweet newborn cuddles and an overflow of congratulations and good wishes come very real challenges, adjustments, and a need for deep healing. I run a New Mum's Drop In for the Brussels Childbirth Trust and I hear again and again how completely overwhelmed many feel and how difficult it can be adjusting to life with a new baby. In fact the whole family go through profound changes with the addition of a new baby. But, with a bit of careful planning and thought you can ease that transition. So, here are some areas to consider:
1. Prepare to rest!
We are constantly bombarded with images new mums doing everything they did before having a baby within weeks or even days of the birth and generating feelings of guilt and inadequacy. You have just spent 9 months growing and birthing your baby and you need time to recover and heal. Your body has been through a profound physical experience. You may be recovering from surgery or tending to a very tender perineum. Beyond just the physical experience of giving birth, your mind and heart will need space and time to process and adjust.
So, set yourself up to rest! Create an environment where you can stay in your pajamas' mooching around at home and cuddling your baby for several weeks. Make a plan for the chores and general housekeeping - prioritise what needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly, what can be ignored, what can be outsourced. Do this with your partner if you have one - your priorities may differ so some compromise may be required on both sides. If you are outsourcing the cleaning, laundry, walking the dog do the research and set up the service or ask your family and friends before your baby is born. Then:
BUILD YOURSELF A NEST!
A cosy place in your home. It could be your bed or sofa (or both). Somewhere where you surround yourself with all that you need to be comfortable for long periods of time. Snacks, water, nappies/wipes, phone charger, Netflix, warm blankets, extra pillows, cushions and clothing for you and your baby..... If you have a partner or a postpartum doula, ideally they can be in the nest with you and give you lots of opportunities for rest and connection. They can also take responsibility for keeping your nest clean, fresh and well stocked.
2. Manage visitor expectations
who, when, and for how long?
This is a biggie especially with the ex-pat mum's I meet (their families arrive in succession and stay for weeks often in a tiny appartement) but is something all new parents need to wrestle with and something you really need to discuss with your partner before your baby is born.
Your home is your haven, your safe space and just as it is wise to choose carefully who is at your birth, choosing who visits your new family can make a world of difference. Usually, a new mum KNOWS who she wants around (their own parent, a sibling, a trusted friend, a postpartum doula) and who she would prefer to have space from. It may be helpful to think about two kinds of visitors:
those who will show up and be there for you
the ones there for you will gladly wash dishes, sort laundry, make you a meal, give you time to share your feelings and hold your baby while you take a shower, and happily give the baby back to you afterwards.
those that just really want to see the baby
there to see your baby, although well-meaning, may make you feel like you need to host them. This may cause you more stress and be exhausting. If these visitors are coming, it may be best to limit how long they come and be honest about your needs and the needs of you and your baby to rest together.
For some people, setting strong boundaries may be tricky and take some practice. It may be easier to set firm boundaries that you can relax over time than less clear boundaries that leave you feeling vulnerable.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but when caring for a tiny baby and trying to rest yourself it can easily get overlooked!
Decide what works best for your family
There is no right answer, but a little planning ahead of time will make the first couple of weeks so much easier. Even if you and your partner LOVE to cook, assume you won’t have time early on (and maybe a fresh home-cooked meal can happen when one of those "for you" visitors comes by!)
Maybe you can ask a few friends or family members to drop round a cooked meal. Probably a good idea to get them to stagger their pre-made or frozen meals over the weeks and months. You don't want to be overwhelmed. A meal train is a great idea that a friend or family member can easily set up. Check out Meal Train
Meal kits like HelloFresh may seem like a good idea but maybe best avoided. It’s a lot of reading, standing, and actual cooking. Meal services that deliver “heat and eat” meals make much more sense during this time.
And don’t forget about bite size snacks. Foods you can eat with one hand. It’ll be a while before you have both hands free for eating.
4. Stock up on supplies
New parents have got to be the most marketed-to group of people ever! So how do you decide what you really need to have on hand early on? And you know what it is really very little. In general, babies need you, nappies, a car seat, and some clothing. You on the other hand need supplies that will support your healing and some tools for feeding. Extra-large maxi pads, or postpartum absorbent underwear like Thinx, soothing sprays or sitz baths, a peri bottle, and some witch hazel pads can help you feel comforted and covered. You might even freeze a few maxi pads soaked in witch hazel for the first few days when you need the most care. Talk with your midwife about postpartum pain medication, they will likely recommend you have some available for when you get home. You might even consider a TENS machine for the post natal cramping. Your breasts will need some care so breast pads. If you are breastfeeding you may like to purchase a breast pump - again a good idea to seek the advice of your midwife. While not every new nursing mum needs to pump, early on you may find you are using your pump to encourage your supply or manage engorgement. If you decide to have a few bottles on hand, look for those with the slowest flow nipple. And lastly for both you and your partner a soft wrap baby carrier or a soft-structured baby carrier can be a game-changer. Seek out your local sling library such as the one run by the Brussels Childbirth Trust where you can try before you buy.
And don't forget all those basic household items - toilet rolls, cleaning supplies, toiletries, tea bags, coffee, pet supplies and store cupboard basics (pasta, rice, tins of soup). Set up an online shopping account with your favourite supermarket and get them delivered.
5. Connect with professional support
When you are first home with a newborn–especially if you are experiencing pain or feeding is getting off to a rocky start you will want help at your fingertips. So, set yourself up with postnatal care well in advance - a midwife, lactation consultant, postpartum physiotherapist, postpartum doula, dog walker, sibling care, and house cleaning. If you are already seeing a psychologist or counsellor, great! If not, know that many new parents benefit from mental health support after birth either individually, as a couple so it might be an idea to know what support is available.
6. Rest some more
It is very common to rest early on after birth and then start to feel ready to be up and about only to find yourself exhausted again! By all means, start to take walks, leave your nest and enjoy the company of friends and family, but also know that healing in postpartum isn’t linear. You may have a busier day only to find that the next one you prefer to spend cuddling your little one in bed. Give yourself permission to slow down anytime and be sure your loved ones understand that too.
7. Take time for yourself and your partner
This can be tough—especially with your first baby! Your whole world has truly changed overnight. A warm shower, a solo nap, a podcast, a chat with a friend, or a short walk. Think about what you enjoy and let your partner or support people know that you will need that time every day. While loving your new baby can be incredible and all-encompassing, a few minutes to step away to refresh and re-connect with yourself may be very necessary. Remember it is an overwhelming change for your partner as well. Their need to step away and refresh also needs to be factored in. Similarly building new routines with your partner can help your relationship grow as you transition into your new roles. Maybe you walk together every morning or snuggle with your baby together every evening. What you can do together each day?
8. Give yourself love
Be gentle on yourself!
This comes easily to some people and harder for others. You are truly amazing even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Be kind to yourself! Many of us are conditioned to feel like being successful is getting things done. During this tender time, you will do so much, but it may not be things that you can easily check off a list or that tangibly move your life or career forward. The newborn phase is over in a flash. Prepare yourself for a deep dive into rest, eating food you love, enjoying showers and short walks, and surrounding yourself with people that are committed to taking care of you. Allow yourself to speak your emotions freely to your partner, a trusted friend, or an empathic professional. In a new family, the postpartum parent is the center and should get loved and cared for with the utmost respect.
Preparing for the postpartum period includes having a sense of what may come and being open for the changes ahead. Self-care, communication, and professional support go a long way in making this time more manageable. And all this planning starts with honest conversation both with your partner or nearest and dearest. Conversations that set expectations and clear both physical and emotional space ready for your new baby to fill.
Are hypnobirthing classes worth it?
If you are considering doing a hypnobirthing course you may be wondering – what if a natural birth isn’t possible, is it still worth it?
The short answer is YES!
You can still use all your hypnobirthing skills no matter how your birth turns out.
"Although I did not have a “traditional” hypnobirthing delivery, I would not have made it through without what we learnt"
Janine's birth story after premature rupture of membranes
Many people feel that hypnobirthing is only for a natural birth, or for a certain type of woman, and that it means no medical pain relief or that you must have a water birth. But, none of this is true. What is true is that...
KG Hypnobirthing can increase the likelihood of having a positive birth with less need for pain relief and the potential for a shorter labour
if you have special circumstances that dictate a medicalised birth, KG Hypnobirthing can support you every step of the way
you can birth however you want, with whoever you want!
So, are hypnobirthing classes worth it? If a positive birthing experience is important to you, the value of what you’re about to learn to bring a healthy baby into the world in calm and nurturing environment, will be priceless. Plus, a calm mum means a calm baby!
"I can conclude that even though it was everything that I didn’t want....it was still a beautiful experience."
(RB's birth after caesarean)
How to Have A Positive KGHypnobirthing Caesarean
Can hypnobirthing REALLY WORK?
The short answer is a resounding YES!
When I find research to support my passion for hypnobirthing I smile and rejoice. I know from listening to my clients birth stories using hypnobirthing techniques has a positive effect on a woman's birth experience. But having piece of research that backs that up means it is not just me shouting into the wind. I have something concrete to offer the sceptics. If you are that sceptic read on:
Buran G, Aksu H. Effect of Hypnobirthing Training on Fear, Pain, Satisfaction Related to Birth, and Birth Outcomes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Clinical Nursing Research. 2022;31(5):918-930. doi:10.1177/10547738211073394
The bottom line was that women using hypnobirthing experienced less birth interventions, shorter labours and higher birth satisfaction scores!
Happy to chat if you have questions or want to book a course - PM Me!
KG Accredited Hypnobirthing Teacher