Pregnancy and Parenthood plays a very special role at Rowan House, predominantly due to my own long and turbulent fertility journey, my highly medicalised and invasive twin pregnancy and my emotional and complicated postnatal period. My own journey placed a huge strain on my physical and emotional wellbeing and has fueled a passion for supporting pregnant women and new families to enter into their new role feeling confident and supported at a time when life changes beyond all recognition.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but our modern lifestyles can often lead to mothers raising children with minimal support. Families may live far apart, and many mothers need or want to work, which can often mean missing out on baby groups and mothers meet ups. And so, with the needs of the modern mother firmly in mind, we’ve worked hard to create our own ‘village’ of therapists and baby services here at Rowan House.
Rowan House’s Award-winning Pregnancy and Parenthood services are bought to you by a collaboration of local professionals who work together to bring you the most up-to-date information and support from early pregnancy through to the first few years of parenthood.
I sat down with some of our team and asked them for a few snippets of support and guidance for expecting or new mothers. Here’s what they had to say.
The Antenatal Teacher
Sian is one half of About Birth and Babies, and teaches award-winning antenatal classes at Rowan House and across Norfolk and Suffolk. Her passion is helping parents to feel informed and confident during your pregnancy, birth and into the early weeks of parenthood.
Touch and sound is so important during pregnancy, research has shown that your baby can hear your voice and feel your touch when they are in the womb and sometimes they will even respond, moving in reaction to you singing a song or pushing back when they feel a gentle touch. Interacting with your baby in this way is a wonderful way to simulate them and helps to lay the foundation for future positive attachment.
From 20 weeks onwards try talking and singing gently to your baby. The sound will be muffled of course (rather like being underwater in a swimming pool) but it will quickly become familiar and soothing for your baby. Stroking your tummy gently is another great way to interact with your baby. Of course it’s wonderful for your partner to do this too, it helps to kickstart the bonding process and helps to create familiarity and affection.
Immediately after birth, get as much skin-to-skin contact as you can. The first hour after birth is what we call the ‘golden hour’ and the more contact you have with your baby during this time, the greater the benefits! These include:
For your baby
- Stabilises heart rate, breathing rate and temperature
- Reduces stress and limits crying
- Stabilises blood glucose levels
- Increases likelihood of latching and latching well, ensures colostrum intake and increases likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding
- Encourages mother and baby interaction and bonding
- Colonises bacteria from mum (along with breastfeeding thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases)
- Encourages mother and baby interaction and bonding
- Increases the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding and breastfeeding duration
- Encourages the release of endorphins (to feel alert, attentive, euphoric)
- Encourages the release of oxytocin (to release milk, feel good, trigger nurturing feelings and behaviours, expel the placenta)
- Encourages the release of prolactin (central to breastmilk production, trigger caretaking behaviours)
Ideally, mummy should have her chest exposed and the baby placed between the breasts where they can be directly skin-to-skin. This early contact promotes sensory behaviour, strong bonds between the mother and her baby and helps to initiate early breastfeeding ensuring that the baby receives colostrum which is rich in protective factors. Research indicates that skin-to-skin between mother and baby shortly after birth increases the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding for one to four months as well as overall duration of breastfeeding.
The Baby Physio and Massage Therapist
Me! Rachel Pailes, I’m an infant massage instructor and trained with the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM). The purpose of the IAIM programme is promote nurturing touch and communication so that parents and children are loved and valued and covers how to massage a growing child.
The Baby Fitness Pro
Debbie trained and worked as a fitness instructor before specialising in pre- and postnatal exercise. Today, she teaches pregnancy yoga, baby yoga, postnatal core recovery and aqua yoga! If you need support in staying fit and healthy during and beyond pregnancy then she is your girl! Debbie is trained extensively in pre-and postnatal fitness and aqua and has two daughters, Ruby and Lauren. Find her on the Rowan House website or over at BabyFit.
Connecting with your baby from conception is really important and holds so many benefits for both of you! This journey starts with being healthy and active during pregnancy, and continues with being a positive role model for your new baby.
Guidelines by the UK Chief Medical Officer now include pregnancy in their recommendation of exercising moderately for approximately 30 minutes a day, or 150 minutes per week. This has shown a wide range of benefits for both mum and baby, including recovery post birth. And whilst it sounds like quite a lot to fit in, especially if you’re working, one of the best ways to move proactively is simply to go for a daily walk outside.
While the fourth trimester is a time to connect, nurture and rest from birth and allow time for your baby to get to know their new world. It is also a time where the demands of a newborn can be tiring and over whelming. Whilst the scientific jury is still out on whether exercise during pregnancy can reduce the possibility of getting postnatal depression, there is no denying that getting out for a walk or doing gentle recovery exercise helps release feel good endorphins that can enhance your energy and mood.
As your baby grows they look to their role models to learn behaviour. If you are in a regular routine of exercise and positive movement, your baby will see and observe this from a young age, and be more likely to mirror and pick up those good habits themselves.
Getting out for a walk in nature not only moves your body in a way to help iron out tight and tired muscles, it provides a wonderful variety of sensory stimulation for your baby. This is why in baby yoga the class is between just you and them, without adding additional props. This is time to remove external stimuli, enabling to not only further enhance the bond you already have, but to allow your baby to focus on the one person they idealise the most, you!
They learn so much from your expression, tone and touch, moving through miniature, adapted yoga poses to delight, entertain and work alongside their natural development. Plus of course you are role modelling positive behaviour by introducing them to the wonderful benefits of yoga at such an early age.