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Magical Memories

Create the perfect first-birthday celebration with our four simple tips!

How exciting are first birthdays?!

As a parent, you know that have survived the first year of parenthood. You have made it through all the ups and downs, from trying to figure out what to do with a newborn, to learning how to soothe and settle to get them sleep, how to deal with a poonami and generally dealing with all the challenges thrown your way.

You may be sleep deprived and need a week in bed, but that one-year milestone is exciting and should be celebrated. But what do you do for a one-year-old that has not got any concept of time or any clue that a year has even passed? Our Pregnancy Massage specialist and mum of two, Clare is here to share with you how she helped to celebrate this milestone and the special traditions she has created for her family.

Keep It Simple!

Clare recommends keeping the birthday celebrations simple. We can easily get overwhelmed and put too much pressure on ourselves to make everything “perfect”. A small gathering of family and close friends at home or in a park is the perfect way to commemorate your little ray of sunshine’s first birthday.

When it comes to feeding the tribe, a few simple snacks, sausage rolls, finger sandwiches, chips and dips is the perfect way to keep your guests happy. You could always share the load by asking guests to bring a plate.

Ask Some Questions

Make the day memorable and have your to guests fill out a questionnaire while they were at the party. All about what they love about your little bundle of joy! You could ask things like:

  • how do I know you?
  • When you grow up, I think you will be…
  • my favorite memory of you is….
  • what is 2021 like (or whatever year they were born)
  • what will 3039 be like (18 years in future)
  • words of wisdom

And of course, ask your guest to sign the questionnaire.

These questionnaires form a part of a time capsule to help you plan for your little one’s 18th Birthday. How special is that? Not only will you make the first birthday memorable, but you are also planning to make future birthdays truly special!

Get it on Video

As your little one gets older, you can involve them in creating a birthday time capsule video diary. Asking them questions about their favourite things and keeping the recording for a later birthday. You could ask things like:

  • Who is your best friend?
  • what do you want to be when you grow up?
  • what is your favorite colour?
  • what is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite TV show?
  • what is your favorite song?
  • what is your favorite activity?
  • what scares you?
  • what makes you smile?
  • what makes you laugh?
  • what do you love?

As well as this Clare also suggests writing your child a letter telling them about all of their achievements of the year.

Remember to print off those precious memories that you have captured on your phone. This will make your child birthday time capsule even more exciting.

The Perfect Gift

When it comes to gift giving, keep it practical. Toys are fun, but children often get bored very easily. And some parents may not enjoy a noisy toy waking them up at 6am. In Clare’s experience, the best gift has been quality time with family, especially grandparents, aunties and uncles, experiences such as trips to the zoo and clothes that are practical for the next season as we all know kids grow like weeds.

At the end of the day, the first birthday is more about the parents than the child. They have put so much aside and feel at times forgotten, so remember to get yourself something special to celebrate your first year of parenthood.

This blog was written by Clare Houston, Pregnancy Massage Practitoner and Remedial Massage Therapist. To book an appointment with Clare click here.

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The 1 Thing I Did Not Plan For During My Pregnancy

**Disclaimer: This is my personal story and journey with postnatal anxiety and depression. I am not looking for advice or opinions regarding my personal journey. I have professional support and a strong friends and family network. **

During pregnancy you do a lot of preparing for baby. You buy furniture, bedding and linen, cute little baby clothes, nappies, a pram and various items to make the home a safe and nurturing place for your new bundle of joy.

I did all these things. I prepared to bring my baby home and love him and nurture him.

What I did not plan for was the possibility of getting postnatal depression and anxiety.

In the days after Remy’s birth I was extremely emotional. And I figured it was normal. All of the hormones, lack of sleep and joy that is the rollercoaster of a newborn. I was like, “yep, it’s just the baby blues.”

BUT – the tears lasted. What I thought was normal anxiety about my baby’s health and wellbeing spiraled into depression. I can vividly remember on a Sunday afternoon being curled up in bed, sobbing inconsolably, while Remy was crying as well, and my partner had to soothe the both of us. Not only was I overly emotional and sleep deprived, but I was also telling myself horrible things.

Things like: “I am rubbish at this”, “I am a terrible mother”, “Remy deserves better than me”.

The scariest thoughts for me were thoughts of just packing up and leaving in the middle of the night or taking Remy to my parents’ and just driving away.

The new role of motherhood was something I never could have prepared for. The loss of independence, putting my professional career on hold, being stuck on the couch breastfeeding, and being covered in spew. I did not have time to eat or go to the toilet some days. I did not feel like myself. In fact, I had completely lost my identity. No-one asked about me anymore. All questions were directed at Remy. How is he sleeping? How is he feeding? Is he gaining weight? Is he happy? I became invisible.

The turning point came when I was at the 6-week Maternal Child Health appointment for Remy. Our MCH Nurse, Karen, asked how I was doing, and I burst into tears. Karen listened to how I was feeling and requested a mental health care plan with my GP. I felt relief and fear simultaneously. I was relieved to know that someone was looking out for me and wanting to help me. And fear because I felt like a failure as a mum.

Once I recognized that I wasn’t coping, I put a few things in place. As well as seeking counselling, I arranged for post-partum support with my doula. I told my sister that I wasn’t doing well and now she checks in with me daily. I arranged with my partner for some “Laura time” on weekends and arranged with my parents for a break during the week. I made the plan to return to work.

I now feel as though the dark cloud of depression is lifting. I am crying less and not having big emotions all the time. I can see the difference between the good days and not so good days. I am being kinder to myself. I am talking to my sister and partner when I am not feeling so good, instead of keeping it to myself. I am getting counselling.

I know I am not “cured” and I still have a long way to go. I am in a much better place now. And I know that if I keep doing what I am doing, reaching out to my support network, I will be able to be the mother that I need to be for my child.

This week is PANDA week, a week dedicated to raising awareness on perinatal mental health. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience perinatal anxiety and depression. Strong Independent Men and Women Ask for help and accept help. If you are not feeling yourself, and think you need support, speak to your GP, MCH nurse or a trusted friend or family member. This is the first step in feeling better. It’s hard to do, and so important.

Important Contacts:

PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Sat, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT) 1300 726 306

Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support 13 11 14

Beyond Blue Support Service  via telephone 24/7 1300 22 4636

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The #1 Thing You Must Ask All New Mums

I’m going to cut right to the chase with this post. I am going to be extremely vulnerable and put myself out there and be seen. I hope that in doing so, this will help other mums too.

The transition for motherhood has not been an easy one for me.

I am dealing with postnatal anxiety, which feels like it is impacting every aspect of my ability to cope as a parent, and as a person. I am seeking support from professional services and have an amazing support network in place.

I love my son so much and feel grateful for him every day.

There is just one thing I ask all those out there that have a friend or family member that is a new mum (or even a second on third time mum).

ASK HER HOW SHE IS GOING – REALLY

And ask her this BEFORE you ask about the baby.

She may say she is “fine” and that is OK. Not every person wants to go into the full extend of their psyche. And most often we have trouble asking for help.

But just ask the damn question.

Drop off a meal, groceries, or other personal care products, without her having to ask. Leave it at her door and send her a text message to let her know you are thinking of HER not just her baby.

Call her and talk to her and don’t ask about her baby for the first 10 minutes of the call. Never ask her if she has a “good” baby, or if the baby sleeps through the night. These questions are annoying and dumb.

A new mother is going through a massive change. She has lost her identity, her interests, her paid job, her hobbies. and she has gained a huge responsibility, a job that does not have immediate gratification, no time to figure out her own needs and wants and desires.

So as lockdowns start to lift and you want to visit your first who had a baby during the pandemic, maybe ask to hold her first.

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The 3 Ways Doulas Nurture Families

When I told people I was pregnant, one of the questions they asked was whether I was going through the public or private system. I explained that I was going public and that I had a doula.

The next question I got asked was “What’s a doula?”

Jake Peralta from NBC’s Brooklyn Nine Nine describes a doula as a “Vaginal Gandalf”. The term is funny, and true.  The role of a doula is to provide practical and emotional support for the mother and father and to guide and coach them through the process of childbirth and parenthood.

I know that my pregnancy and parenthood journey would not be the same without the support from Beth McDonald from Popbellies Doula Services. In this blog, I share my experience and the ways that Beth supported my pregnancy and transition to motherhood

The Pregnancy:

During my pregnancy, Beth helped Tim and I to manage our expectations and understand more about the process of childbirth. Beth has an incredible amount if knowledge. And we really needed the support. Yes, we had done a childbirth preparation course, but this was months earlier and we had forgotten a lot of the things we were taught about the stages of labour, the hospital system and how to advocate for the type of care we wanted to receive. Beth helped us to feel more confident is saying “No” should a situation arise in hospital that did not sit right with us. Beth helped us develop of birth preferences. And in the lead up to my induction, she provided us both with a bit of TLC. For me this was in the form of a spicy, decadent hot chocolate to sip on to support a natural induction.

The Birth:

Due to COVID restrictions, Beth was unable to come into the hospital to physically support us during the birth, she was still involved every step of the way. From the moment my waters broke, to getting an epidural, to the time we made the decision to have a cesarean, Beth was there to help us work through the big decisions that come with childbirth. Tim says that the birth “did not go to plan”. My perspective is quite different. It is because of the support from Beth that I felt empowered with our decision making during the birth. Yes, I had planned on an active labour. I planned for massages and hot showers and heat packs. My labour was different to what I expected. And I believe that Beth’s support in helping me to advocate for myself and my birth helped me to feel good about the outcome of my birth experience.

The Post-Partum:

It is safe to say that describing post-partum as a roller coaster of emotions is a severe understatement. Nothing could have ever prepared for the emotions, physical pain from my abdominal surgery and sleep deprivation that comes with parenthood. I have Beth to thank for supporting me through some of the big emotions that come along with the transition of Matrescence. During this stage, Beth was able to provide practical support in the context of light cleaning duties, which as we all know, cleaning goes out the window when a little one arrives. But for me, I just needed someone to talk to. I called Beth at all hours when Remy just would not settle, and I was at my wits ends as to what to do and I just needed to sleep. The non-judgmental support of an impartial third party was so important for me as I let the freedom to truly express how I felt about the jarring transition to motherhood.

For my family, I know that I could not have had this done this pregnancy without the support of a doula. I would encourage all new and expanding families to engage with a doula for non-judgmental, emotional, and physical support. I truly feel that I would not have the positive experience of birth (despite it not going to “plan”) and motherhood if I did not have Beth with me every step of the way.

If you are pregnant and think that the care and support of a doula could help your family, I highly recommend Beth McDonald. For more information about Beth and how she can help your family, visit her website: http://popbellies.com.au/

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My Top 5 Breastfeeding Game-Changers

As I embark upon my mumma journey, I am battling with my internal and societal expectations about “breast vs. bottle”.

During pregnancy, my mindset was “if I can breast feed, I’ll breastfeed, If I can’t, I can’t.” I thought I would avoid any sense of mumma guilt or shame if this was my approach.

And I can feel this mindset shifting as the weight of mumma-guilt (self-imposed?) pressed down on me.

In the hospital, I was overwhelmed with the different opinions and methods from the midwives as to how best to breastfeed, from latching technique, to babies’ position to pillow placement. I was so confused, and I did not know who to listen to. My confidence in my ability to feed Remy myself was extremely low and I thought bottle feeding would be easier as there are “less rules”.

But I was not ready to give up just yet. I knew my supply wasn’t “in” yet, and I logic brain reminded me that this is a new skill that both Remy and I need to learn, so while I feel like giving up, I wanted to persist.

Below I share the strategies that have helped me as I embark upon this chapter of my mumma journey.

  • Lactation Consultants are Actual Life Savers

The day we brought Remy home, I booked in a lactation consultant to help me with understanding how to breastfeed comfortably. And I have to say, it was a literal godsend! Please do yourself a favour and contact Tanya Maschio at Thrive Lactation and Parenting Support if breastfeeding is a challenge for you and your baby.

The support that Tanya provided was exceptional. She was non-judgemental and help me to really understand why Remy needed to latch in a certain way, how to avoid nipple trauma and how to make sure I enjoyed feeding just as much as Remy enjoyed being fed.

After a few consultations and numerous support phone calls and text, my confidence in being able to successfully feed Remy has increased tremendously. Of all the things Tanya taught me, the side lying feeding position has been an amazing skill to master for those middle of the night feeds, when I feel too tired to sit up. I lay on a comfy mat with my little one and rest my eyes gently as he fills his tummy.

To find out more about the services Tanya provide, visit her website: https://www.thrivelactationandparentingsupport.com.au

  • Galactagogue Goodness

Almost every mum that I speak to swears by Lactation Cookies. There are a lot on the market now. And I do not think it matters what brand you buy. The common ingredients in these cookies seem to be brewer’s yeast, oats, and flaxseeds. These ingredients are galactagogues, known food and herbs that can help to increase milk supply. I have tried a few different brands of cookies and they seem to help me, when I feel my supply is low.

I have also experimented with a few different brands of lactation teas. Infused with fennel and aniseed, these ingredients have also been known to boost milk supply. Whether it does or not, sipping these herbal teas are quite relaxing for a sleep deprived mumma!

I am also taking domperidone, a medication originally used for gastrointestinal disorders, which has also been shown to boost milk supply. I am tackling the challenge of boosting my supply from all angles from natural remedies to Western medication

  • Get a Postpartum Cheerleader

I will dedicate a whole blog post to Beth of Popbellies Doula, but I must mention her here and now. For those that don’t know, a doula is kind of like a pregnancy, birth and postpartum cheerleader. Providing non-judgmental emotional and practical support during pregnancy and postpartum, Beth has provided me with invaluable support during the first few weeks of mumma-hood.

Beth has a wealth of knowledge, experience and reminds me that whatever parenting choices I make for me, my family, and my baby, it is the right choice. I do not know how I would have managed the early stages of postpartum without her support. Even with a supportive family, it is nice to have a conversation with someone who can give non-biased opinion.  

To find out more about the services that Beth provides, visit her website: http://popbellies.com.au/

  • Develop Realistic Family Expectations

Some say “Fed Is Best”. I know this term gets used a lot. For me and my family, it rings true. After a particularly rough night of feeding and waking and settling a cranky Remy, my partner and I had a frank and honest conversation about our expectations for our family. At the end of the day, for us, we wanted to ensure that Remy was getting enough food and was happy. We decided that if this meant “topping up” with formula then so be it. Removing the expectation that our baby needed to be breastfed 100% of the time has reduced my “milk supply” anxiety and it means that Dad can take over for a night feed when I am too exhausted to function.  I am grateful for a supportive partner and that we have taken the time to curve our expectations, ensuring that they are realistic and will work “for us”, rather than against us.

  • Strong Independent Women Ask for Help… And Accept the help that is Given

Elicia, my business coach, told me this a few years ago when I was trying to overcome a challenge in my business. I have applying this saying to many life circumstances and is now my mantra.

Motherhood is something I could never have planned and prepared for, even if I tried. There is a roller-coaster of emotions, hormones and sleep deprivation so exquisite it is something unlike In have ever experienced.

As a new mother, asking for help is the #1 thing that has helped me. Whether it is calling my mum at 2am because Remy has been inconsolable for 5 hours and I am losing my mind; asking my partner to take over “the night shift” (as we call it) so I can seep; or contacting the Maternal and Child Health Line at all hours just to “ask a quick question”, asking for when you need it the most means that you can avoid big emotions like guilt and shame about your parenting style and easily manage the new responsibilities of motherhood.

At the end of the day, mums will do what is best for their family. As I continue my breastfeeding journey, I know I will gain more confidence in my skills and a mother and further develop my relationship with my baby. And if I need some help along the way, then I know that I have a network of family, and services that I can call on for help.