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by Julie Le Gal Brodeur





ON THIS PAGE: Preparation for labour, Warmth and nourishment during labour, Fathers and birth helpers, Protecting the birth, Care of the newborn immediately after the birth, The importance of breastfeeding and colostrum, Foods that help in milk production, Baby blues and post partum depression


Preparation for labour - During labour, it is of great help that you feel at ease, and that you trust your environment and the people around you. Each woman is different, each birth is different, so being open to what comes and what happens is a good attitude to help labour along. In his book Birth and Breastfeeding, Michel Odent, suggests that privacy and a calm, gentle environment are an ideal setting, where the mother can let the natural hormonal process take over, rather than be stimulated by rational conversation and interruptions which can inhibit this process. The hormonal physiology of labour and birth are best served when a woman is in a trusted environment, surrounded by trusted people and given the least medical interventions possible.[1] In Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin describes the importance of the mother having a positive, loving attitude, as well as everyone else at the birth. This allows for an easier, faster birth and is a better environment and warmer welcome for a new baby. [2]


"Spontaneous labour in a normal woman is an event marked by a number of processes so complicated and so perfectly attuned to each other that any interference will only detract from the optimal character. The only thing required from the bystanders is that they show respect for this awe-inspiring process by complying with the first rule of medicine--nil nocere [do no harm]."                                                     G. Kloosterman, Dutch professor of obstetrics [3]

The analogy with falling asleep is instrumental in formulating in a simple and concise way the conditions needed for effective labour to establish itself properly: being protected fro useless words, being sheltered from bright lights, being in an atmosphere of privacy, feeling comfortable in terms of temperature and feeling secure.

      Michel Odent MD [4]


See Birthing Naturally in Links for ways to prepare and deal with pain.

See Herbal Bath recipe in The first forty days for care of perineum after birth.

[1] Buckley, Sarah J.. Ecstatic Birth: The Hormonal Blueprint of Labor. Mothering Magazine, Issue 111, March/April 2002, researched August 2009 <>

[2] Gaskin, Ina May. Spiritual Midwifery. Book Publishing Company, Summertown 2002

[3] Kloosterman G. J.. Universal Aspects of Birth: Human Birth as a Socio-psychosomatic Paradigm. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology 1, no. 1 (1982): 35-41. quoted from Buckley, Sarah J.. Ecstatic Birth: The Hormonal Blueprint of Labor.

[4] Odent, Michel, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, Free Association Books, London 2002 page 137




Warmth during labour - It's important that the mother be warm during labour and not get chilled. Cold makes us contract and slow down to save heat, so being warm is important for you to feel open and comfortable, and warmth helps you to relax and breathe deeply.


Taking a warm bath or shower during labour is often used to lessen labour pain and enhance relaxation. [5]

[5] Simkin, Penny PT and April Bolding PT. Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Relieve Labor Pain: Baths in Labor,MedScape Today, Web MD researched January, 2010 <>


Nourishment during labour - Refreshing and helpful hints for labour: Sipping raspberry leaf herb tea, even cool, is thought to help labour along. Sipping water with a few homeopathic drops of arnica or Rescue Remedy can help soothe and calm the mother (available at health food stores). Some women swear by frozen grapes to chew and suck on when labour is long.


         “The body is designed to naturally decrease the appetite as labor progresses.

        When the body is hungry it is because the blood sugar levels are low and need to be raised. Not eating

        during labor will reduce your energy, increase your fatigue, and decrease your ability to deal with the

        stress of labor. Hunger is a sign the mother is most likely still in early labor, and she should eat something.”

         Jennifer Vanderlaan [6]


[6] Vanderlaan, Jennifer. Early Labor Mistakes. Birthing Naturally 22 October, 2009, researched  November, 2009 <>




Fathers and birth helpers- It's important that fathers and helpers have an understanding of what will happen, that they understand the stages of labour, the birth and the post partum time so that they can really support the mother and be an positive and active presence for the event. The event does not end with the birth; support for the mother and baby after the birth is crucial. The father can be a very important presence for keeping things calm and gentle.


"The attitude of the father can be of equal importance to that of the mother. A loving and helpful husband is a great source of energy for his wife. By giving her his full attention and his physical strength (...), he can greatly reduce the number of hours required for her labour. A compassionate husband is a priceless aid to labour and delivery. The attitude of everyone present at the birthing affects the course of the labour."

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin[7]


"Help her create the atmosphere she wants. [...] I’m talking about being calm when she wants calm, strong when she wants strong, and sensitive when she wants sensitive. Be a rock. You might get to a stage when the best thing to do is absolutely nothing. That’s the stage when there is nothing you can do to make it better, or quicker, or smoother. Then she just needs to know you are there, next to her, doing nothing. Enjoy it all! The birth of your child is the most incredible thing you will experience in your entire life."[8]

[7] Gaskin, Ina May. Spiritual Midwifery. Book Publishing Company, Summertown 2002

[8] Anon. Some Thoughts for Expectant Dads. Womansbirth, Having Babies, Naturally..., researched August 2009 <>



Protecting the birth - How do we create and maintain an atmosphere of reverence for what is happening the first moments after a birth? How do we sustain the natural response of wonder and awe that comes with the arrival of the baby? How do we best welcome a new human being? How can we protect them from unnecessary shock, and ensure a good transition into life? The time of birth and the following hour can be protected by the helpers, by keeping things warm, calm and quiet, and keeping the lights low. Even if there are medical things to attend to, it is possible to protect the mood of quiet and gentleness by speaking in a low, warm voice and warding off stress and anxiety. Even someone who was not part of the process and event will feel the mood being held in the room if they are respectful.


See How to make decisions




Care of the newborn immediately after the birth  - Many babies have a thin layer of creamy vernix covering some of their skin at birth, depending on how early or late they are born. Vernix is full of rich nutrients and is absorbed by the skin if it isn't cleaned off.[9] It is good to find the vernix left in crevices, like behind the ears and in the neck, where it is often thicker, and rub it into the skin. It moisturizes the baby's delicate skin, it heals wounds and has immune proteins similar to those in breast milk. A baby benefits greatly if he is laid on his mother's chest for skin-to-skin contact (or on his father's chest if it was a caesarean), and covered with a light blanket to keep him warm.[10] He can be patted dry and cleaned off gently while being warmed like this. Immediate skin-to skin contact increases the likelihood of breastfeeding, strengthens the bond between mother and baby in the first weeks, keeps the baby warm, and lessens a new baby's need to cry[11], [12]. Right after birth, the baby will often search for the breast on his own. The sucking reflex is strongest twenty or thirty minutes after the birth, so it's good to leave time for this if possible. There are many documentations of freshly born babies moving and finding the nipple by themselves. If possible, it is good to avoid bathing the baby for the first week until he can better handle temperature changes.


Think about the first moments after the birth, what you would like done, or not done, with the baby. Unless there are complications, they can usually wait to cut the cord until it has finished pulsing, giving your little one that much more nourishment. You may wish to have a few minutes or half an hour to take in the miracle of your baby. Give it some thought and tell your caregiver and whoever else will be with you at the birth and write it in your birth plan.

See Bathing 


A birth plan


Clothing and care for the baby


The first months


How to make decisions

See Herbal Bath recipe in The first forty days for care of perineum after birth.

 [9] Feuer, Jim. Skin Sciences Institute Study Key to Baby-Like Skin. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 6 May 2003, researched July 2009 <>

[10] Gartner, LM, et al.. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. National Guideline Clearinghouse Pediatrics 2005 Feb;115(2):496-506., 8 March 2009, researched August 2009 <>

[11] Gartner

[12] Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD003519. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003519.pub2, April 2007, researched July 2009 <>




The importance of breastfeeding and colostrum - Breast milk is the best and most perfect food a baby can have for the beginning of its life.[13], [14], [15] There are enormous advantages to breastfeeding. To name a few: the milk is always available, at the right temperature, the quantity of milk and its constitution adapt to the needs of the baby, it is anti-microbial, full of all the health-giving nutrients a baby needs in the right amounts and in a form most easily absorbed, and the activity fortifies the bond between mother and child.


"Breastfeeding is superior to any other form of feeding for the human infant." Dr. Desmond Gurrey[16]


It is of great benefit to both mother and baby for breastfeeding to begin at birth. It takes a few days after the birth for the actual milk to come in. Before this, the baby receives the yellow, very rich, colostrum, which is incredibly beneficial, full of important nutrients and microorganisms that line the digestive tract and protect the baby's health. It also has antibodies and protective white cells that help fight off infections and viruses, and it is a mild laxative, which helps the baby pass the meconium, the tar-like stools of the first days or weeks, and helps prevent jaundice. It is the best food for a newborn, and premature babies can benefit especially from colostrum. The baby's stomach is the size of a marble at birth and any extra milk is spit up, so the small amounts of rich colostrum are the perfect amount for the newborn.

There are also numerous short and long-term health benefits for the mother in breastfeeding her baby, including promoting emotional health and weight loss, reducing the risk of various cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes II, lessening the risk of post-partum hemmorage, and aiding birth control for the first six months. [17],[18] 


For many women it can be very difficult to start breastfeeding. Many give up because of pain, fatigue, fear of not having enough milk, lack of support at the beginning, lack of information or misinformation about breastfeeding and not enough information about the enormous benefits of human milk. It is truly worth the effort of breastfeeding for the health of the baby, and for the baby's future health, social skills and intelligence.[19]


It seems that an important factor for a good start is that the mother be comfortable and warm during nursing times. At the beginning it can be stressful to nurse because the baby is crying, the mother is sore, and the mother and baby are learning how to make it work. It's worth taking the time it needs to get comfortable and to be ready to start over, even if the baby is crying. In the first months, it can be helpful to have a quiet place with a comfortable chair with a little table for a glass of water close by.  Because you may find you get very thirsty when you nurse, it's a good idea to have some nearby each time.      


There is a wide spread information and support network for breastfeeding mothers that can help with difficulties at the La Leche League, and they also have support groups that meet regularly.


See How to make decisions

Recipe for Nursing Tea in Crying, colic and teething


See La Leche League in Links




Dr. Jack Newman - why breastfeeding is important.htm


Kitzinger, Sheila - The nutritional value of breastmilk.htm

[13] Gartner, LM, et al. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. National Guideline Clearinghouse Pediatrics 2005 Feb;115(2):496-506. 8 March, 2009, researched August 2009 <>


[14] La Leche League International. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Plume, The Penguin Group (USA) Inc. New York 2004

[15] Wagner, Carol L.. MD Human Milk and Lactation. WebMD, 9 June 2009, researched August 2009 <>

[16] Dr. Desmond Gurrey Senior lecturer in paediatrics at the University of Western Australia, consultant physician for Princes Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth, W. Australia, FOCUS Magazine, May 1989


[17] Didierjean-Jouveau, Claude. L'allaitement et la santé des femmes. Allaiter Aujourd'hui n°25, LLLFrance, 1995, recherché Mai 2011 <

[18] Dermer , Alicia, MD, IBCLC  A Well-Kept Secret
Breastfeeding's Benefits to Mothers From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 4, July-August 2001, p. 124-127,  La Lache League International, researched June 6, 2010 <>

[19] McGill University. Breastfeeding Associated With Increased Intelligence, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily 6 May 2008, researched October 2009 <­ /releases/2008/05/080505162902.htm>



Foods that help milk production - There are some foods that can help in the production of milk such as oats (that can be eaten as bread or crackers) and barley (which is very good in soups), both of which can be eaten as morning porridge. It is also helpful to drink enough liquid, to eat warm meals with grains such as millet or rice and with vegetables such as carrots, fennel or yams. It's also good to eat healthy fats such as organic butter, olive and flax oils, for Omega 3,[19] and herbs such as dill, basil or marjoram and spices such as caraway, anis and fennel.


See Nursing tea recipe



Jacobson - Lactogenic Foods and Herbs - link


[19] Helland, IB et al.. Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) 2009 Issue 3,, January 2003, researched August 2009 <>




Baby blues and post partum depression - The changes in the body and in hormones are tremendous after the birth and it is very common for new mothers to be emotionally more sensitive or moody for some days, even weeks. There are varying degrees of intensity and more extreme cases could be post partum depression, which should be followed by a doctor. All women feel and react very differently in this time. If you can arrange to have support from family, friends, or even a doula in the first weeks, it can be of immense help.[20]


A personal thought about this time: Something occurred to me in the first days after the birth of my first child. I had an extreme sensitivity to thoughts and words: I felt intense gratitude, but I also had a heightened awareness of everything and everyone surrounding the baby, of people's words and moods, of sounds and light, temperature and textures, and I was feeling so very vulnerable, teary and raw. Then, looking at my little newborn, it dawned on me that I was in an emotional state that somewhat resembled her physical and emotional reality. She was entirely a sense organ of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight, and was completely defenceless against the sensory onslaught of the outer world. It suddenly seemed to me as though the emotional space I found myself in was giving me a natural insight into the baby's reality and sensitivities, if I could turn my attention to it. It made me smile, that yet another thing we often consider inconvenient, or as something we just have to go through, in the whole birth process may really have an undiscovered purpose that nature intended.


See About conscious parenting



Gaskin, Ina May - post partum depression.htm


Winnicott - the mother's contribution to society.htm

[20] Gaskin, Ina May. Spiritual Midwifery. Book Publishing Company, Summertown 2002



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