The Natural New Mother's Toolkit

Preparing for the arrival of a new baby is a special, precious time and some mothers feel at their closest to Nature at this point. Whether planning for a natural birth or not, Nature has its own tips and tricks to help you through those last few weeks of pregnancy and the first few weeks with the new baby.

There are numerous old wives' tales that recommend various substances to help induce labor. In most cases, the baby will arrive when its good and ready, but there are some tips and tricks that can help from 36 weeks onwards.

Raspberry Leaf is often quoted as helping to bring labor on, but in reality it merely contains an ingredient that helps tone the uterus. This means that labor is likely to be shorter, and contractions more effective, meaning there is less chance of intervention in the shape of forceps or ventouse. Raspberry Leaf can be taken as a tea, where three to five cups a day should be taken, or can also be taken as an oral capsule.

Evening Primrose Oil capsules, often helpful in easing pre-menstrual syndrome can also be taken during this period, to ease cramps and early labor pains.

Lavender essential oil can be used in pregnancy from the second trimester onwards, and in the last couple of weeks, Clary Sage can also be added to baths or incense burners. Clary Sage has a muscle relaxing effect, and is often described as Nature's entonox, so heady is its perfume. Preparing a massage oil for labor containing Lavender, Clary Sage and Jasmine can serve as a natural form of pain relief when in the delivery room.

Finally, fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which is believed to help soften the cervix, thus stimulating labor, however, the quantities found in each pineapple are insufficient on their own to be of a huge effect. Still, this may be helpful for those who like eating pineapple...

Post natal aids

Soreness

Adding 5 drops of each of Lavender and Tea tree Oil in a bath, or a sitz (shallow) bath will aid relaxation, and help heal tender, bruised areas and sutures, as well as keeping this sensitive area clean without the need for scrubbing.

Breastfeeding

On around day 3 P.B (post baby) the colostrum your breasts have been producing is replaced by regular breast milk. However, at this early stage, your body doesn't know how much milk it needs to make, so it plays it safe and makes bucketfuls! Your breasts will become very full, and likely sore, but on the plus side you could give Pammy a run for her money with your impressive looking equipment. Use raw cabbage leaves, preferably Savoy cabbage as it's softer inside your nursing bra, to help ease the pain of engorgement when milk comes in, and help prevent mastitis.

Mastitis occurs when milk ducts get blocked and often happens when the baby is not latching on properly, thereby not fully draining the breast at a feed. Engorgement can make it hard for the baby to latch on as the breast is so hard the baby is unable to draw enough of the nipple and surrounding areola into its mouth. To help, try placing warm flannels on the breast to help encourage a little milk out, reducing the pressure, or try a little hand expression until the nipple area has softened.

After the initial overdose, your milk supply will settle down once your body works out how much milk it needs to produce each day. Few women will actually suffer from a poor or insufficient milk supply, but fennel is both good for the digestive system, and can also help with milk supply. Drinking 3 to 5 cups of fennel tea a day will ensure babies are well fed, and also eases wind and colic pain in both mother and baby.

Baby's Skin

Baby's skin is brand new and very sensitive when it first emerges into the world. Although it is tempting to use all the various lotions and potions on the market when washing and changing your new baby, the harsher cleansing ingredients are not really necessary, and warm water will normally suffice. Also beware of over-bathing, as this can dry out a baby's skin very quickly. Areas that get dirty quickly, like face and bottom should be cleaned daily, but just using warm water and cotton wool, coiled boiled water for cleaning eyes, is fine.

If problems do develop, cornflour can be used to help weeping diaper rash. Just sprinkle a small amount in when changing. Barrier creams like Vaseline will help prevent further inflammation.

Honey can also be rubbed into dry skin areas to add moisture, and can also help heal cuts. Vaseline (petroleum jelly) is another simple alternative to chemical creams, particularly for dry and diaper skin.

Post Natal Illness

Post natal illness is, it is believed, far more common than people think. Most mothers will experience the 'baby blues' which arrive about day 5-7 and last for two or three days. This is perfectly normal, is due to huge fluctuations in hormone levels following the birth, and will pass very quickly.

If, on the other hand, you or someone you are close to are suffering from longer bouts of sadness, listlessness or tearfulness, or feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness, this could be a symptom of post natal illness. If you are having these feelings, or worse, please speak to your doctor as soon as possible- he or she will be able to assess your condition and recommend suitable treatment. Although some anti-depressant medication is not recommended for use when nursing, including Prozac, there are other types available that can be used as and when appropriate. Although St John's Wort is a recognised herbal alternative to anti-depressant medication, use of any such remedy should always be discussed with a medical practitioner first, to ensure its suitability and safety.

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