Birth in our society is currently so polarising. On one side we see birth presented as dangerous, risky and awful, and often in these circumstances women will place their entire trust and experience in the hands of their particular care-provider – and let me be clear, that is their right to do so.
On the other side, we’ve seen the establishment of a movement towards positive birthing with the woman at the centre. This movement has rocketed in popularity due to social media and the rise of birth photography. Images of women birthing this way have never been more accessible.
If I had to use one word to sum up this movement it would be EMPOWERMENT. However, from the earliest of days of my work in this space, this word has never sat comfortably with me – for a couple of reasons.
One way this word is frequently used is based on the idea that it can be handed out to others, as if sprinkled around like fairy dust magically creating births with women at the centre. But, this is not right, it is birthing women themselves who create this feeling, they are the one who must step into the responsibility of preparation and become invested in their own births.
So there’s that.
But the other thing that has continued to nibble at me – what if birth was just ORDINARY?
It feels more reasonable to me to think of women throughout our long birthing history, that they would have felt that their biology was not an extraordinary event at all. Not that it was without strength and determination, but that it was normal, an expected part of their every day walk.
I understand the need for the pendulum to swing far to one side in order to balance out the medical approach to birth, so that we do currently find ourselves here on the upswing where biological birth is being presented with a particular frame of reference – empowered, warrior, badass.
I think the pendulum is now ready to swing again and bring us back a little closer to our biology, where birth is our ordinary, our own birthright as women – if we choose it – and our normal.
As a wonderful woman I know often says ‘I wish you a boring birth’.
Sometimes I think why are we doing it all?
We have been birthing our babies since the beginning of time. Why do we need to do all this conscious preparation, why do we need to dig so deep?
If you’ve been lucky enough to come from a line of women who’ve shown you birth – birth where biology is represented in all her glory – then you will have trust for the normalcy of it written into the deepest part of your brain. This will drive your belief in your body’s ability and there will be so many less barriers for your journey to birth.
But that experience is rare now.
Now our brains are layered in doubt and fear, our conscious and subconscious are filled with birth as trauma, birth as dangerous and birth as painful. And to add more layers to this, our maternity system is steeped in paternalistic and infantilising behaviours.
To step out from under that weight into a clearer space, to strip back each layer and examine it, does take this deep work.
But it is freeing work, as each layer is peeled back, the air feels clearer and your path less cluttered.
With medical interventions in birth continuing to increase, and access to care that supports unhindered birth steadily decreasing, this work has never been more necessary to discover what you need for yourself.
So the question isn’t why are we doing it, but rather why wouldn’t we be?
I had a difficult birth experience.
It seems so long ago now, and in more ways than just time.
It wasn’t until months afterwards that I began to put all the pieces together, learning, unpacking, trying to understand why the outcomes of my baby’s birth did not make sense. It was afterwards when I faced the regret of not knowing, of not understanding and not exploring. Afterwards was when I wished I had known more.
And this is why I have developed into this particular type of doula, one who knows how it feels to have made unexamined choices. This is why my greatest wish for women isn’t a particular type of birth, but a birth you can feel is your own. Even if your birth takes twists and turns to a place that isn’t wanted, it can still be understood why you are there.
Helping women carve out a space for themselves to listen to their own voice - to explore and discover their own needs - has become an integral part of the work I do. When I was having my own baby I didn’t realise how noisy the world of waiting for birth was. I took it as normal that everyone would have opinions about what I should do and how I should do it. I surrounded myself with people who didn’t show me that my voice mattered. And that is so far from how it should be.
So I have found myself here as the years have passed, providing space for women to hear their own voices. These voices are wise, because deep down you know what you want. You might not know how to get there yet, but your voice is strong and loud - you are just waiting on all the noise to quieten so that you can be heard.
Each and every day, I’m walking beside women as they let out their voice and their desires. If you want help to tune into yours, send me a message so we can find the right pathway for you. You deserve it
Every time you show up, every time you think about the birth you want, every time you consider what might be holding you back and work towards releasing it, you are one step closer to a better birth than you were before.
This is your work – and every single bit you do towards making your birth the one you want, is a win.
It is worth it, it is success, it is beautiful. Keep showing up for the birth that you want, it counts. How are you showing up? How are you making it count?
For many of us we carry so much junk into our births. A lifetime of birth images shown on screen, an adult life of terrible birth stories from people we know and for some, our own previous traumatic birth experiences.
We are told so often that our body knows how to birth, and I believe this and I’ve seen this. But one thing I know, is for our body to know what to do in birth, first we need to ask our mind to move out of the way.
And how do we do this? It isn’t as hard as it sounds, but it might take time to understand.
And because we are all different, the way we do this will differ from woman to woman. It might be talking it through, identifying and examining our triggers and fears, and actively letting it go. It might be re-writing those old stories that our mind holds. It might be filling ourselves up with positive birth images and phrases. It might be a combination of these and more.
When our minds get out of the way, our bodies are free to birth the way they know how. This is possible, this is attainable, this is beautiful.
What have you done to process what has been going on in your mind to clear a path for your body to birth?
Need help with this? Send me a message to ask me how
Have you ever noticed how easily we judge ourselves? How when we are learning something new, especially as mothers, we are so quick to criticise ourselves and how we are going?
But, what if we were kind to ourselves? Learning takes time. What if we realised that we all make mistakes and that’s okay? What if we spent each day treating ourselves the same way we want our children to treat themselves. By being kind and caring to ourselves.
Things take time to learn as a new mother, and even as a not-so-new mother. We are often doing such hard work, drawing lines about how we want to parent differently than how we were parented ourselves, or how we might be doing things differently to other parents around us. Take the time to become who you need to, take the space to get it wrong sometimes, and go gently. We deserve it.
If you want to chat about mothering, get in touch, you don't need to feel alone.
Your birth matters, but your hopes for your birth matter too. The planning, the preparation, the research you’ve done, all of it has been so important as you’ve unfolded your desires, moved through your fears, envisioned the way you will welcome your babe.
If the twists and turns of your birth brought you to a place you didn’t want to be, your feelings about that matter, just as your love for your baby matters and all the hopes, plans and preparation you did still matters so much.
Every little bit of work you did made a difference. Trust you did your best, trust you are wise and go gently on yourself as you mother your new babe. You matter.
Have you just found out you’re pregnant, but every time you think about birthing this baby your heart sinks?
Are you excited about the pregnancy, but terrified about giving birth?
If your previous birth was difficult or traumatic – and probably still fresh in your mind like it was yesterday – it isn’t uncommon to feel this way. Many women feel frightened about birthing again after a difficult experience. You might have so many questions: Will it be like last time? Should I just do the same thing again, with the same care-provider, and hope it will be better?
Or do I want something different?
Perhaps you push those thoughts away altogether because it is simply too frightening and overwhelming to contemplate. Maybe you haven’t even given yourself the space to think about your previous birth, because you’ve been urged so many times to be grateful for your baby.
The majority of women I work with have previously had unwelcome birth outcomes or traumatic experiences. They come to me because they decide that this time, they want something different. They want to discuss and understand what happened in their previous birth. For this pregnancy, they have chosen to seek knowledge, confidence and loving support. They want someone who understands that they both love their baby and feel disappointed about their birth. They want to know that if they ever feel like giving up, there will be someone there for them, reminding them they are worth it.
During your pregnancy, preparation and clarity takes work – but it isn’t work you have to do alone. It is done over time, and through conversations and sharing, questions and discussion, your understanding of your last birth and your desires and plans for your next one unfold naturally.
email@example.comSo what might it feel like, to have a positive birth experience next time? Well, there’s no one right way; it is different for each woman. But one thing that is true of any woman who feels great about her birth is that she always felt that the choices were hers to make, no matter what happened – and that she was respected and believed in at all times. But not only that – by the end of her pregnancy, she also trusted and felt confident in her body:
“You helped me find healing around my previous experience, and a deep, intuitive level of trust in my own body and my baby to birth … you supported me to find my own strength so that I was never too afraid to go on.” – Heather
“It was from this position of knowledge, strength and determination that we were able to gently, calmly and beautifully bring our second born into our lives; a moment that we will treasure forever.” – Kay
When you tell me the story of your previous birth, I will listen. If you felt unsupported or scared, I believe you. When you want to know what options are available for you this time, I will talk about them with you. And if you are worried or afraid, I will comfort and support you.
If you have had a previously difficult birth and are pregnant again, and are ready to take the first step towards a better birth, get in touch and let’s talk about it.
Learning to breastfeed a newborn can feel like the most difficult task in the world. When you're sleep deprived, with sore nipples, aching or traumatised by birth and have a crying baby in a world that erects breastfeeding hurdles in front of you faster than we can say, 'where's the Lansinoh?', breastfeeding can seem like an insurmountable task. Our less-than-optimal breastfeeding rates are illustration to that.
But once you get past the newborn bit, everything aches a bit less and things begin to click into place. You're off and running. Hooray!
And then the baby grows into a toddler. You notice the baby that once nursed curled in your arms now sprawls bodily across the couch.
Suddenly, you find yourself dealing with breastfeeding annoyances not encountered before. A two-year-old that insists on carrying out a dental exam whilst breastfeeding, fingers worming insistently into your mouth. Pinching or scratching at your neck, throat, other breast. An eighteen-month-old who simply won't breastfeed without fiddling with the other nipple. A three-year-old who wants to stand up and breastfeed, or roll around on the couch whilst latched to your boob in a kind of unstoppable breastfeeding gymnastics. A toddler whose voracious appetite to nurse rivals that of any eager newborn, constantly demanding a 'boobie' every time Mama looks even sideways at a chair.
And when you try and gently put a stop to any of it, or even dare saying 'not right now' to the umpteenth breast request that morning, you're met with deafening, rage-filled tantrums.
Enough! You find yourself screaming inwardly. Just get off me!
Without a doubt, the most common complaint from a mother breastfeeding a toddler are those above. Pinching, wriggling, constant, constant boobing, and just not taking 'no' for an answer.
But the minute we bemoan our boobalicious toddler, all we tend to hear is 'why don't you just wean her'? Or, 'you wanted to breastfeed – now you'll never stop.'
So you put up with it. And put up with it. Until one day, you never want to see that child ever again and you decide that breastfeeding is the single most horrendous thing you've ever done in your entire life. You worry that everything they warned you about as an infant has come true—did attending to your infant's every need really spoil this child?
While it's important to lovingly, promptly attend to an infant's needs to teach them that the world is a safe, loving place and that they are worthy of love and comfort, a toddler needs to learn a new kind of compassionate worldly lesson: boundaries.
Firstly, let me begin by saying it's completely normal for a toddler to want to breastfeed all the time. A toddler is going through immense physical and neurological growth as they are driven to move, explore, experience and conquer new sensory and motor challenges. Breastfeeding provides comfort, normalcy, and nutrients to get through this. While their understanding of the world grows at a rapid rate around them, Mama's breast stays the same – warm, loving, comforting, relaxing. Who wouldn't want that to return to every five minutes? (Conversely, it's also normal for a toddler to suddenly seem uninterested in breastfeeding for enormous chunks of the day, or even days at a time. Relax – this is normal, too, and will pass. But that's a topic for another day.)
Toddlers are driven to seek out boundaries, and to test what happens when they are pushed. Testing limits is a way to ascertain the parameters of social interaction. Humans are social animals, and our young are driven to fit with the herd – just as we are. They need to know how to behave, what is acceptable, and what isn't.
So we need to gently, firmly show them our boundaries. What is and is not okay with us.
Moreover, toddlers are inherent narcissists. Empathy doesn't develop until somewhere around their fourth year, so they simply cannot understand why they cannot have everything they want, and right now. So whilst it is unrealistic to expect a toddler to comply unquestioningly with your request to stop tweaking your goddamn nipple, it is additionally unfair (on both of you!) to simply put up with it when you hate it so much it makes you want to scream.
Welcome to the world of parenting a toddler, where the loving, firm assertion of boundaries is one of the most common things you will do all day. Over and over again. And often, to the ear-splitting tune of shrieks of rage.
It's okay to say no. It's important to say no. But do it with compassion.
Let's say you sit down to breastfeed your toddler. He goes to grapple with your other breast. Gently, you move his hand away and say 'Hands off. I don't like that.'.
He goes for the breast again, more insistently. Gently, firmly, you take his hand away and say 'No. I don't like that.'
Perhaps he gets cross. Perhaps he fusses, or screams, or gets angry.
It is perfectly okay to sit with him through any outburst, to acknowledge and even help him verabalise his feelings – but remain firm that the other breast is out of bounds.
He might scream and rage and tantrum for a few minutes, or maybe longer. Maybe a lot longer. Remember, he's learning to deal with overwhelming feelings, and strong emotions need an outlet. That's what you're there for – a safe space to let out his feelings. Even if you're the cause of those feelings!
Perhaps this happens many times a day (and night) for many days (and nights) until your toddler eventually gets the message: Mummy doesn't like me tweaking her other nipple. But he will get the message, eventually. I promise!
Or, let’s say your toddler asks you for a breastfeed that you're just not in the mood to give. Here's the big difference between breastfeeding a newborn and breastfeeding a toddler – while a newborn simply cannot wait for mama's breast, a toddler can – despite the fact they'll act like they can't!
Try and say 'yes' – but make it when you're ready. Perhaps, 'yes, when I've finished what I'm doing.' Or 'yes, before lunch.' Or 'yes, before bed tonight.'
Toddler Breastfeeding SolutionsProviding a safe, compassionate outlet for your toddler’s big emotions teaches him the skills to manage and handle those big emotions as he grows. Just as you comforted your baby when he cried – now you comfort your toddler.
Open, honest communication – owning our feelings – teaches children how to do so themselves. It shows them how to respect others’ feelings, too. And this is key: here, we are demonstrating a vital lesson to our children: respecting bodily autonomy. Our own, and that of others.
There really is no quick-fix 'way' to guide a toddler in this regard. It's inevitable that if we say 'not right now' to a breastfeed if we're not feeling like it, they might (or very likely will) have a lot of noisy things to say about it.
But as a mother of a now 9-year-old and 7-year-old – both of whom breastfed beyond their fourth year – I can tell you it does and will pass. And the result is a mutually satisfying, evolving and respectful breastfeeding relationship.
A tantrum over a breastfeed can feel incredibly confronting for a mother. Make sure your own needs are met – you need and deserve loving support from your partner, family, and friends.
In fact, allow me to tell you – this thing you're doing? Awesome. You're doing a beautiful thing.
* Reproduced with permission from the author Kim Lock.
Kim Lock is a mother of two, a writer and author. In 2009 she earned a Cert IV in Breastfeeding Education (Counselling) with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Find out more about Kim and her writing (including her wonderful books which are perfect for reading while breastfeeding your little one to sleep!) at: kimlock.com.au
If you want to start introducing boundaries with your toddler and are worried about how to do it and how your child will react, reach out and let's chat. It's so wonderfully easy when you are supported through the process.
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