Five gifts a new mum ACTUALLY needs

I was with a doula client the other week who's home was filled with loads of gorgeous flowers. While I was there I unleashed my inner florist and changed the water and pulled out the wilting flowers to freshen up the bouquets. It was something I was more than happy to tick off the to-do list for them but it got me thinking about gifts that a new mum actually needs.

Things that are going to make life a little bit easier.
Things that will help her rest and recover and feel special. 
Things that will help her feel held, nourished and nurtured. 

Here are my top five new parent gift ideas. If you know someone who is pregnant, bookmark this list and refer to it when you're shopping for a gift and if you're pregnant share it whenever someone asks if there's anything you'd like or need for the baby!

1. Postnatal doula

Ok, so being a postnatal doula, I'm obviously biased but this is an incredible gift to get for new parents. You're giving the gift unconditional support. You're giving them a confidante a cook, a cheerleader and a cleaner all rolled in to one. Some would even say you're giving the gift of an angel (yes this is how I have been referred to on several occasions!) This would be a great group gift and if she's already chosen a doula you could arrange to pay the doula directly or purchase vouchers from Doula UK which she can redeem towards her doulas fees. 

2. Care package

You could make your own basket filled with goodies like one of my clients who received a package from a friend filled with everything she might need for the day three hormone swing when your milk comes. It included things like tissues, nipple cream, breast pads and a giant bar of galaxy chocolate in a handy little basket that she now uses to keep all her breastfeeding essentials (read: mostly snacks) in one place. If you'd rather leave the work to someone else, there are lots of fab options for care packages designed specifically for pregnant and new mums. The Mother BoxDon't Buy Her Flowers and Mum's Back are a few that are out there.

3. Self-care treatment

Nine months spent growing a baby and then giving birth is hard work and can takes it's toll on the body. A nurturing bodywork treatment like a postnatal massage or closing the bones would be well received by a new mum. Lots of practitioners do home visits so she can be pampered without having to leave the comfort of her home! 

4. Encouragement

For a little dose of 'you've got this' on those hard days, I love Vicki Rivard's gorgeous book Brave New Mama. It's full of gorgeous poems that have been described as tiny little doulas. For a pick me up that will fit in her pocket, the Yes Mum affirmations cards are perfect!

5. Food

Food is always a good choice and depending how handy (or not) you are in the kitchen you've got lots of options. You could cook a lasagna, soup or stew and help fill their freezer yourself or you can gift the lucky parents with vouchers from somewhere like Cook (who also offer 10% for new parents).

Is there anything you would add to list of must have gifts for new parents? 

 

 

What is Mother Roasting and Why Does it Matter?

I love connecting with other people who work in the birthy world. I met Claire aka @thelondonacupuncturist over coffee a few weeks ago and talked all things postnatal self-care, mothermoons and mother roasting.

What's mother roasting you ask?

Claire's written a guest blog to share what it's all about and why you should treat yourself to this lovely postnatal ritual which I'm so excited about.

Claire says:

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As an acupuncturist specializing in fertility and pregnancy I have worked with A LOT of women over the years, and one thing I know to be true – once the baby arrives, the self-care tends to stop. At least for a while. 

So when I was introduced to Sarah and found out more about her Mothermoon initiative I was extremely pleased to meet a kindred spirit. 
I had just launched my Mother Roasting Kit as a way to give new mums a practical tool to aid their recovery post birth, something that could easily be done at home.  

In Chinese Medicine, mother roasting is a traditional treatment to promote recovery after giving birth, closing the gateways that have been opened, repelling wind and cold from the uterus and preserving the health of the mother. This is said to address the depletion post-birth that Chinese medicine believes can be a factor in low milk supply, post-partum depression, prolapse, fatigue, insomnia and anxiety. 

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All of which sounds like a no brainer to do, right? But as it is most effective if done within a week of giving birth it falls off the list of ‘things I need to get out of the house for’, so I decided to create a gift box with everything you need to so it yourself at home. 
 

Deeply nourishing, relaxing, quick and easy to do, a moxa stick is used to warm the abdomen (and the lower back if a support person is available to help with that area) for five to ten minutes to tonify the Qi in that area post birth. Helping the uterus to contract and replenishing the blood and Qi it’s a post partum power up.

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But there’s another part of the mother roasting treatment that makes this so important; the honouring of the experience you have just had in giving birth. Mother roasting nourishes the mother you now are, so that you can nourish the child you have.  It offers a way to reconnect your heart and mind with your body.

It can be a lovely, intimate thing to do with your partner, creating a space to acknowledge the experience you have shared and to honour the body that has just brought a new life into the world.  


Every birth is different. Getting to know the new being in your life can be overwhelming at times.   The change in hormones and your body might be challenging. As well as a practical way to help physically recover from pregnancy and birth, mother roasting is a tool to help you navigate that fourth trimester, to process the birth and adjust to the new status quo. So no matter how little time you might think you have for self-care when a tiny helpless new being seems to need so much care, taking ten minutes out for mother roasting is definitely something you can do. 

Head to Claire's website to order your own Mother Roasting Kit! 

Becoming a mum...it's really £@$%*@£ hard

I've been debating about whether or not to write this post and then once I had written it whether or not to hit publish. 

Just like it can be really unhelpful when people share their birth horror stories, I wonder if sharing about how hard new motherhood can be might be discouraging.

And then there's the issue of social media and how perfect everything can appear in these pixels and pictures. But a picture is just that - a picture.

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I've shared this picture before. This was taken about three weeks after my son was born. I've managed to wash my hair, put on a bit of make-up and get out of the house for a day out - winning!

What you don't see is that I was suffering serious trauma from my birth experience. I was sore, tired and an emotional wreck. People kept telling me that 'at least you have a healthy baby'. I believed them and felt like I should get on with it so that's what I did, pretending everything was ok.

I was not prepared for the fact that becoming a mum could be like this.
That it could be this awful. That I would find it this hard. 

The more I think about my own experience of the early days and talk to other mums about theirs, the stronger I feel that we need to be honest and talk about it. 

No one tells you it's hard. And if they do tell you, you don't necessarily hear them because you've got your eye on the prize - preparing for labour and birth. 

That's exactly what I did.

I read all the books, did antenatal classes and felt as prepared as I could about the big event. I was going to rock labour and birth and I couldn't wait to meet my baby.

But aside from buying all the baby stuff I thought I needed, I did zero prep for life after birth.

What I failed to realise was this:

Labour lasts a relatively short time compared to the rest of your life as a mother.

Becoming a mother can be amazing and heart bursting, life-changing and the best thing you've ever done. But it can also be overwhelming and confusing and hard. Really, really hard. Sometimes the hardest thing you've ever done, especially in the early days and weeks.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, leaking milk and feeling like my body wasn't my own.

I remember desperately wanting my baby to stop crying, feeling like he never would and having no idea how I was going to make him stop.

I remember being so bone achingly tired sometimes that my eye lashes hurt.

I remember trying to go back to sleep after feeding my baby and being kept awake by my husbands breathing. I was so crazed and irrational from the lack of sleep that I woke him up to tell him to stop breathing so I could go back to sleep. Thankfully he ignored my ridiculous request!

Just like with labour and birth, it was hard to imagine what something is going to be like when having never been through it before, what I was going to find easy, what I was going to find hard and what was going to help.  

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted to do things differently this time. So I started preparing for life after birth the same way I had prepared for labour the first time around.

I read up on what to expect of my post-birth body and emotions and ways to nurture and look after myself. I learnt about new babies, what they might be feeling about life outside the womb and how to help them adjust to life earthside in a gentle way. 

Just like it's important to have a birth plan,
it's just as important to have a postnatal plan.

I made a postnatal plan and had what I now call a 'mothermoon'. For the first few weeks after she was born I slowed right down and simplified life as much as possible. I focused on resting, nourishing myself and getting to know my new baby and I felt so much better for it.

Her early days weren't without their challenges. I had a postpartum haemorrhage and was anaemic as a result and struggled with blocked ducts and a painful milk let-down on top of all of the other 'glamorous' things that happen to your body and emotions after birth. 

Just like having a birth plan doesn't guarantee that labour will be breeze, having a postnatal plan didn't guarantee that those early days and weeks would be a breeze but it did mean that when I was finding things hard, it helped me cope.

I now run workshops to help women plan their mothermoon because I am so passionate about helping other women to not struggle the same way I did. I want all new mums to know what to expect and how to look after themselves so they have the start to motherhood that they deserve.

The next workshop is Sunday 18 March at Space@61. Click here to learn more and book your spot.

Red date and goji berry tea

I've been meaning to make this ever since I came across it in Heng Ou's book The First Forty Days when I was pregnant with Astrid but have struggled to get my hands on red dates. Thankfully my lovely friend Shu came to the rescue and brought me a bag when we met up a few weeks ago along with a traditional Malaysian confinement cookbook to have a flick through.

Tea plays an important role in the traditional Chinese postnatal diet and this is one is a classic. According to the Confinement Cookbook, are date and goji berry tea helps digestion, promotes wellness and helps alleviate stress.

The red dates benefit the spleen and blood and help calm the nervous system. The goji berries (or wolf berries as they are also known) support healthy liver and kidney functions, boost your immune system and improve eyesight.

The batch I made was a mix and match between the recipes and quantities in both books.

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  • Bring six cups of water to a boil in a pan
  • Add two cups of halved red dates to boiling water and reduce to a simmer
  • After about half an hour, add half a cup of goji berries and simmer for another twenty minutes
  • Remove from heat and strain liquid into jug
  • I found it too sweet at this point and added more hot water until it was to my taste
  • Keep it warm in a flask and drink throughout the day 

Why a mothermoon matters to your baby

I talk a lot about mothermoons and why they matter to a mum, but what I haven't talked about as much is why they matter to your baby.

The first three months after your baby is born is often called the fourth trimester and is thought of as the last stage of a baby's fetal development. Unlike other animals, our babies are completely reliant on us as their parents for meeting all of their needs when they are born in order to survive.

New mums need to be selfish

Growing a human, giving birth and parenting a child is the ultimate act of selflessness. You give over your body for nine months to nourishing and growing your baby. Once your baby is born, you feel like your heart is walking around outside your body.

You have this tiny human who is completely reliant on you. You are responsible for keeping them alive and helping them to thrive. We live in a culture that praises selflessness, particularly when it comes to mothers and this needs to change.

New mothers need to be selfish.

Sweet Pea Fish Pie

Cooking is without a doubt one of my favourite things to do for the families I support.

There is so much that I do as postnatal doula that is helpful and filling a new family's with a fridge or freezer full of delicious food that is also nutritious is at the top of the list. 

I advocate eating lighter meals in the beginning. Heng Ou explains in her book The First Forty Days:

'After the energetic expenditure of birth and almost ten months of of having your abdomen organs pushed into a tighter space, your digestion is considered to be a little slower and weaker than normal, so it's time to eat gently for a while before back into high gear.'

When you're ready and feeling like something a bit more filling, this fish pie is great.

Recipe of the week - Mango and Greens Smoothie

When it comes to making sure you're eating when you have a new baby it's all about foods that: 

  • you can easily eat one handed
  • don't drip on the baby while you're feeding/carrying/not able to put them down
  • are easy to make
  • nourishing to fill you up and make you feel good

Smoothies are great for this and tick all the boxes.

They're great for breakfast or any time really and great to drink while you're feeding your baby.

 

Going from one to two...what have we done?!?!

I remember it vividly.

Shortly after we arrived home from the hospital with baby #2, I was lying in bed cuddling her while my eldest was maniacally jumping on the bed as three year olds do. I had been in hospital for two days and he missed us and was over the moon about his baby sister. He was alternating between the jumping and smothering her with kisses.

The house was in a state from having transferred to hospital. Various pieces of furniture from the lounge were still in different parts of the house and the birth pool and assorted kit were still in in the front room. I don't do well with mess and clutter at the best of times.

My partner and I looked at each other and said 'what the hell have we just done?!?!'.

Recipe of the week - Tray Bake Chicken

One of the things I'm often doing for my current doula client during a visit is cooking up yummy food that her and partner can eat when I'm not there. As a result I've been going through my cookbooks and pulling together my go to recipes that are nutritious, easy to make, easy to reheat and delicious.

What a new mum really needs

Hint - it's not another babygro.

I've had so many messages from people in response to my previous blog about how it resonated with their experience and how they wish they had had better support after giving birth. As I read these messages I was frustrated by how many other women had a similar experience to mine.

Studies have found that there is a lower incidence of postpartum mood disorders in cultures that have rituals that provide support and care for a new mother. Around 1 in 5 women in the UK will experience mental health issues during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth  Given these statistics, all I can think about was how desperately we need a cultural shift in how we support new mothers and what a difference it could make to their well-being and experience of becoming a mother. 

My mothermoon

In my last blog I shared how I came to be passionate about mothermoons and supporting new mothers after the challenges I faced after the birth of my first baby.

It was while I was pregnant with my daughter that I came to realise I wanted something different this time around. I wanted what I now refer to as a mothermoon.

When I thought about my mothermoon it was important for me to:

Mothermoons - how it all began

I spent yesterday morning with a fantastic group of women speaking at The Circle for Women's Vitality's event Happy Mummy, Happy Family where I got to talk about why it's so important for new mothers to take a 'mothermoon' after they've had a baby.

What I didn't do yesterday was share my why.  

Why I feel so passionate about changing the culture around how we support new mothers, why I’m passionate about the work I do as a postnatal doula and why I want to start a postnatal revolution.

It started as these things usually do with my own experience.