Tips for postpartum healing

Being pregnant and giving birth is one of the biggest physical and emotional challenges you will ever face. Your body will go through so much to bring new life into the world, after which you will immediately be required to care for a brand new person 24/7. This is going to be hard work! There’s no disputing that this is the most rewarding challenge you will face, but there’s no harm in being prepared either. Here are some tips for postpartum healing that will help you recover following the birth of your baby.

Accept your limitations

Mother Nature rarely gives us more than we’re able to manage, but that doesn’t mean you need to prove your ability to cope with it all by going above and beyond what is sensible. Pregnancy and birth are huge challenges for the body to face, and you aren’t going to just walk away from it all without a scratch. Chances are you will be at the very least tired after your baby is born, so it’s a good idea to take this as a signal to slow down. Parenting a newborn is an intense period of time that involves round the clock care for a tiny person that is unable to fend for themselves. You’re going to be required to do this straight after giving birth! So you’re also going to need to accept that you can’t do it all. Take this time to focus on your baby and your baby alone. Leave the chores to your partner, friends or family and take everything one step at a time.

Give yourself time

All women are different, and some of us may not always present a true picture when we’re out and about. Just because your friend from baby group seems to have recovered a lot quicker than you, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Experts estimate that it can take up to 6 weeks to recover from giving birth, but it’s important to remember that this is just an estimate. If you need longer, be kind to yourself and take a little longer. Life is not a race, and if you slow the pace a little you and your baby will benefit.

Tips for healing your mind

Having a baby is such an emotional time! All of a sudden, you go from being pregnant to being in charge of a whole new person, and that can be overwhelming. You barely have time to process this either, because as soon as they’re born your baby needs you. And what of you and your needs? You’re so busy making sure your baby is warm, clean and fed- and the other children, if you have them- that often you can all too easily forget about yourself too. Make sure that you put your own requirements at the top of your list of priorities too. Try these tips:

● Put together an ‘essentials’ basket of all the things you need during the day, so that you’re not spending time running around when you could be relaxing. Nappies, cotton wool, snacks, bottles of water, a book- all great things to keep handy so that you can rest a little during feeds.
● Accept for help when it’s offered, or ask for it if it’s not. Sometimes we give the impression that we don’t need help, especially if this is not our first baby. But we all need to take time out now and then so if someone offers to give you a hand, say yes! Use the opportunity to catch up on sleep, or go for a walk- whatever it takes to clear your head and have five minutes to yourself.
● Talk, talk, talk. Emotions are rife after you’ve given birth and sometimes the smallest things can be the most upsetting. Talk to your partner, friends or family and let them know how you’re feeling. Also let them know what they can do to help you.
● Shop online for a few weeks or so, to make sure that you always have healthy foods available, and to save yourself from the chore of grocery shopping with a newborn baby. You’ll thank us for this!

Tips for healing your body

Being pregnant is a little like running a marathon, and giving birth is like the sprint at the end. Both events leave you exhausted and exhilarated- but unlike running, having a baby can cause a fair amount of minor aches, pains and injuries too. There are natural ways to soothe your body though, and here are some of our favourite:

● Take a herbal bath. This is best done as soon as possible after birth, to help ease discomfort and soothe swollen/ sore tissues. We recommend using sea salt, lavender, witch hazel, calendula and chamomile as these are wonderful ingredients widely used for soothing and healing.
● Use a comfrey ice pack- these are wonderful for easing soreness after birth and for reducing swelling too. Comfrey gel is also great for healing after birth.
● Take arnica tablets to help with healing. These can also help with reducing discomfort from after pains.
● Massage- some women swear by postpartum massage to help ease discomfort and soothe tired muscles. Try mustard oil for a warming effect, or coconut oil for a cooling, hydrating massage. Other oils to use include sweet almond (for relief from muscle pain, inflammation, and itching), olive oil (to relieve stiffness) or lavender to restore calmness if needed.
● Hydrate yourself. Giving birth is draining! Drink plenty of water, coconut water and herbal tea to restore the balance in your body.
● Chamomile for rest. It can be hard to sleep post birth- there are so many emotions whirling around your head, never mind the baby that wakes for feeds on a regular basis! Some women find it hard to switch off and rest, and this can have a negative effect on recovery. On top of this, some hormones post birth can actually cause insomnia so it’s a good idea to try drinking chamomile tea to counter-balance this.
● Take care of your breasts. If you’re breastfeeding, the early days can be painful and your nipples are going to take the brunt of it. Try making up a soothing cream to apply after feeds- use coconut oil, shea butter and coconut butter (in equal parts) to moisturise and soothe.
● Combat the baby blues with bergamot or geranium essential oils. Both are known to help prevent postpartum depression; simply add 2-3 drops to a small water spray bottle and spritz into the air.

Tips for tired toddlers

When your toddler is tired, there’s a very good chance you will know about it before she does! Sometimes fatigue and exhaustion are more evident to us than it is to them, or perhaps they just don’t want to admit it. Whatever the reason for conflict, many toddlers will want to assert a little control over their lives where they can, and resisting sleep can be one such way to do this. So if you have a tired toddler at home, and naps are being refused for whatever reason, here are some tips to help you out!

Understanding the tiredness

Half the battle can be understanding why your toddler is tired, and how you can help her to fall asleep. It might also help to understand what the body needs to be able to fall asleep too. The hormones melatonin and cortisol are key for getting good sleep, and the levels of these change throughout the day. So your toddler will find it easier to fall asleep at some times of the day rather than others.

Cortisol keeps us awake, and its levels are highest around 8 am. So plan your activities for this time of the day, when your toddler is likely to be most responsive and alert. Cortisol levels drop throughout the day, and are raised when you feel stressed or upset.

Melatonin helps us to sleep, and levels are increased when there is an absence of light. So if your room is dim and quiet, you are more likely to be able to fall asleep.

When your toddler is over tired

The over tired toddler is a difficult one. Perhaps you missed the nap window, or perhaps she didn’t sleep well last night? Or maybe it’s just been a long day, and bedtime didn’t come around soon enough for one reason or another. An over tired toddler will find it hard to switch off because her Cortisol levels have started to raise- so it’s going to be up to you to convince her that sleep is a really good idea!

You can spot an overtired toddler easily:

● She becomes argumentative, and fond of the word NO!
● She starts to yawn a lot
● She becomes fidgety and ‘twitchy’
● She displays ‘hyperactive’ behaviour
● She falls out with friends
● Clumsiness
● Fighting sleep

So once you know your toddler is overtired, what do you do? It can be a turbulent situation at this point, but resist the urge to argue with your toddler. Remember that you are the adult and your little one isn’t always 100% in control of her actions. Keep calm and try these tips:

● Remove your toddler from all stimulation. No TV, no computer games, and go inside if you’re out.
● Have some quiet activities ready and spend some time together doing them for a while. Read a book, for example, and give her body a chance to relax.
● Encourage sleep, by perhaps lying down with her for a moment. Remember that as she is over tired she may take longer to fall asleep than usual.
● Make sure the room is dim so that Melatonin levels can begin to rise, and Cortisol levels can drop.

An over tired toddler can be hard work, but there’s no reason why you can’t beat it! And after a nap your toddler will be ready for the day once more… hopefully!

General tips for better toddler sleep

Making sure that your toddler doesn’t become overtired is often the first step towards securing better sleep overall. But it can be easier said than done! Here are some general tips for better toddler sleep all round:

● Keep a good routine and make naps a priority
● Have plenty of quiet times in between busy activities
● Encourage your toddler to spend time relaxing if she is growing out of naps
● Eat and drink well- avoid sugary snacks
● Get plenty of fresh air and exercise
● Make bedtime a priority too- keep to a flexible but consistent routine and encourage all care-givers to do the same.
● Try toddler massage to help your little one to relax at sleep time

Over time, your toddler will learn how to manage her own behaviors around sleep and may go on to lie in a little at the weekends. Or is that wishful thinking?

Toddler Massage

Being parent to a toddler is many things. It is wonderful. Exciting. Exhausting. Rewarding. A full mixture of emotions and challenges, meaning that no day is ever dull. And who would want it any other way? But in this modern culture of busyness and fast living, we constantly find ourselves juggling work, family, cleaning, cooking and all the rest of it, often at the expense of other, equally as important commitments. We don’t always get time to step back and consider other important elements, such as the happiness and well-being of our family and, most importantly, our children. Our little ones need to know that they are special, and its up to us to tell them! Are we literally losing touch with our children?

Toddler massage

Introducing positive touch into your toddler’s daily routine is not as hard as you might think. We’re huge advocates of baby massage but there’s no need for it to end once baby becomes a toddler! Massage is hugely beneficial for people of all ages; we all love to be touched, and a massage is a wonderful way to project feelings of love onto another person. Studies have shown that receiving a massage can help to boost the immune system, ease stresses and strains, and help to maintain a positive outlook on life. Why would we not want that for our toddlers? We don’t all have personal masseurs to hand, unfortunately, but rest assured that you yourself are more than able to give your child a massage. There’s no reason at all why it can’t become a wonderful part of your daily routine for many years.

The benefits of massage

If you’re still not sure, it might help you to know that studies have found many benefits to the toddler massage, and the power of nurturing touch is definitely not to be underestimated. Tiffany Field’s study at the Touch Institute in Miami discovered that children who received regular massages had better sleep patterns, lower anxiety levels and less stress hormones in their bodies. These children also had an improved cognitive performance when examined too. In addition, emotional regulation and self soothing in toddlers is improved through massage, and parents are really able to connect with their children as a result. It’s worth noting that regular massage can also help to ease symptoms of minor childhood ailments, such as headaches, constipation and teething pain.

The differences between baby massage and toddler massage

Baby massage is a wonderfully relaxed and soothing activity between parent and child, and a super way to end the day before bed. Toddler massage is a little different in that older children will need to be more involved in the process. If you have a toddler at home, you might know what we mean! Not many toddlers will lie still for any length of time, no matter how relaxing and soothing their massage is. Instead of expecting your toddler to take a passive role, try:

• Using stories and songs into your routine. Songs such as Incy Wincy Spider, This Little Piggy or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are great for gentle massage strokes and you can draw out the actions with your hands.
• Ask your toddler where he/ she would like their massage; give them control of the whole thing. This will give them positive physical boundaries and help to empower them in their own bodies. It will also help to build and maintain a relationship of trust too.

Why toddlers specifically benefit from massage

The life of a toddler is not an easy one. There is so much in this hugely exciting world that they want to do, to master and to achieve, and yet many times such things are just out of reach. So frustrating! Toddlers respond so well to positive touch because it helps to calm and soothe at times of frustration and anger. Here are some more reasons why toddler massage might be a good idea:

• Soothing. As already mentioned, a toddler’s life can be frustrating, and not only for the toddler! A relaxing massage can be just the way to unwind at the end of the day for both parent and child.
• Bonding. In our busy lives, we don’t always take much time to really connect with our families, and when you have a toddler it can be even more difficult. Massage is the perfect way to strengthen the bond between parent and demanding toddler.
• Stimulation. Massage aids digestion, stimulates the nervous and immune systems and helps the blood to circulate freely around the body. It also helps to improve skin suppleness and texture.
• Sleep. Massage helps to relax and soothe, and promotes better and longer sleep.
• Respiratory. Massage aids the circulatory system, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to flow around the body. This oxygen uptake also strengthens the the immune system.
• Internal organs are stimulated during a massage, which helps to promote their growth.
• Infections are reduced as the flow of lymphatic fluid is increased, thus leading to a natural resistance to illness.
• Growth is improved as hormones from the pituitary gland are increased.
• Movement. Massage helps to allow the body’s muscles to relax, which means that the joints can move freely. This can release stress and tension in the body and encourages muscular relaxation and joint flexibility.
• Emotional. Toddlers, like us, thrive on touch. The emotional benefits of a massage are huge, as your toddler learns the power of the loving touch,
• Relaxation is not always easy when you’re a toddler, but massage helps to teach essential skills of becoming calm and listening to the body, especially in times of stress. This can help with aggressive or hyperactive behaviour and improves physical and mental energy levels- which in turns encourages alertness, concentration and feelings of well-being.
• Motor development is improved.
• Cognitive development is improved.

Getting started with toddler massage

So you’re ready to get started? Great stuff. If you’re already familiar with baby massage, and your toddler is used to being touched in this way then the transition to toddler massage will be easy. Toddlers who are not familiar with positive touch will also benefit, but it is likely to take a little longer to get them used to the new routine. Take it slowly and keep the communication open at all times. Never force a massage if your toddler is unwilling; take each day as a new day and ensure that positive associations are given to massage at all times. Here are some tips for getting started:

• Choose your time. At the end of a busy day, before bed, is the probably the best time for a massage, but you will know this best. Massage helps to raise levels of oxytocin in the body, which aids sleep and therefore helps to relax before bed.
• Keep it familiar. Choose a location in your home and stick to it. Let your toddler know what to expect every step of the way. The bedroom is ideal, as it helps to promote a feeling of well-being that will be associated to both massage and bed time.
• Comfort. You want your toddler to be as comfortable as possible so make sure the room is warm as your child will be partially undressed. Also make sure that your toddler is resting on a soft surface, such as a blanket or towel.
• Calm. Keep the massage session as calm and relaxing as possible. Dim the lights, play soft music- whatever you need to do to create the right atmosphere.
• Choosing a massage oil. If you’re using a massage oil, choose it carefully and keep in mind sensitive skin or allergies. Avoid nut oils and be aware that some toddlers will most likely end up with oil on their hands and probably also in their mouths! Mineral oils are also best avoided as they are not easily absorbed by the skin and can leave your toddler slippery and greasy. The best oil to use is an organic, unrefined vegetable, avocado or grapeseed oil. Always carry out a patch test before you massage your toddler, to eliminate any adverse reactions to the oil.
• Positioning is important for both you and your toddler. Make sure that your back is supported in a chair, or if you’re sitting on the floor make sure that you support your back with some pillows propped against a wall or similar.

When not to massage

There will be some days where a massage will not beneficial to either you or your toddler. That’s ok! Don’t attempt to massage your child if:
• Either of you are unwell. Wait until you’re feeling better, otherwise the positive associations you’ve built up so carefully could be compromised for you both.
• Fever. Children with high temperatures should not be massaged, as the heart rate can be decreased by a massage. Wait until the fever has passed.
• Tummy upsets can be worsened if the stomach is stimulated, and your toddler will probably also experience discomfort.
• Rashes or lesions on the skin need to be assessed by a doctor before you massage.
• Immunisations can delay a massage too. Wait at least 48 hours after injections so that the medicine can be absorbed by the body at the correct rate.
• Existing medical conditions. Some conditions mean that massage is not recommended for your toddler. If your child is experiencing or has recently experienced the following, a massage is not advised: an infectious disease; a fracture, sprain or swelling; a haemorrhage; meningitis; childhood leukemia; Osteoporosis/ brittle bones; An operation; A congenital heart condition; Aortic valve stenosis; Atrial septal defect; Pulmonary valve stenosis; Ventricular septal defect; Congenital dislocation of the hip; Dysfunction of the nervous system; Epilepsy; Skin allergies

Toddler massage can be a wonderful way to regain precious connections with your child, and when you consider the benefits that can be reaped, it’s a wonder why more families don’t use it as part of their daily routine. So, what are you waiting for?

Using essential oils safely in pregnancy and beyond.

During pregnancy the body and mind is subject to new stresses and strains, and as the months progress, it can be easy to feel more than a little fatigued and emotional. Traditional methods of unwinding might not be recommended for you now, so it might be time to explore a few alternative ways to de-stress instead! The use of essential oils in pregnancy can be a wonderful way to lift moods and soothe aches and pains, but it’s important to know what you’re doing. We’ve put together a quick guide to using essential oils safely in pregnancy and beyond.

Be sensible

Before you start to use essential oils for the first time, please seek professional medical advice to ensure the safety of yourself and your baby. Always read as much information as you can; essential oils are derived from plants and should be used sparingly. Be informed, and make an informed choice. Always buy your essential oils from reputable sources, and never use if you are not in good health. Avoid all essential oils until after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

How do essential oils work?

The oils extracted from plants are highly concentrated, and once they are applied to the body they are absorbed by the skin. Experts are not yet aware of the full effects of all essential oils, but it is suspected that they could be able to cross into the placenta. This means that you must be careful when using them, and always follow safety precautions.

The right essential oils are known to have powerful relaxation properties, which makes them wonderful for keeping stress levels down and for regulating emotions. The following essential oils are known to be wonderful for use in pregnancy:

● Lavender- not only will it help to relax you and aid a good night’s sleep, but lavender can also be used to treat stretch marks too. Mix with a carrier oil and apply to the skin to prevent stretch marks appearing. Massage well, and relax.
● Bergamot. This is a light and refreshing oil with a citrus fragrance and it can help to relieve pain and lift moods- making it great for combatting the rollercoaster of emotions that pregnancy and parenthood brings. Bergamot it also known to relieve the symptoms of indigestion. Mix two drops of Bergamot with two drops of orange and one drop of Neroli for a blend that will settle your emotions and clear your mind on an unsettled day.
● Lemon- a wonderful antidote for morning sickness and nausea.
● Neroli- a multi-purpose oil that has the ability to soothes aches and pains in pregnancy, and resolve digestive issues too. Neroli is also wonderful for tackling anxiety and depression and is known to aid sleep in the last trimester. Additionally, Neroli can help to promote skin cell regeneration so that you really can have that pregnancy glow after all! You can also add one drop of Neroli to one drop of Roman Chamomile to relieve anxiety and fears surrounding pregnancy and birth. Mix the blend with a teaspoon of base oil, rub into the palms of your hands and inhale deeply.
● Rosewood- this is an essential oil for sleep-deprived mums, as it has a mild sedative effect that will help relax you for a good night’s sleep. Mix one drop of Rosewood to one drop of lavender and one drop of Neroli. The blend can be used to quieten the mind and spirit.
● Sandalwood is a powerful anti-depressant and can help treat symptoms of cystitis during pregnancy.
● Frankincense can be used in labor

During breastfeeding and after birth

Some essential oils are wonderful for the postnatal period and can be used effectively with baby too. As always, use with caution and make sure you take safety precautions at all times.
● Vetiver is a wonderfully calming oil that will help to calm and stabilise moods, and can be used to effectively treat postnatal depression. It should be noted that vetiver can be either be inhaled from the bottle, or diffused in a room but only when baby is over 12 months of age. Room sprays or oils in water can be used once baby is over six months.
● Fennel and clary sage can be used to stimulate milk supply for breastfeeding mothers and this combination is known to be very effective. Make a massage oil for the breasts by adding 10 drops of each essential oil to two tablespoons of grapeseed oil. Blend together and massage into the breasts in a gentle, circular motion. Ensure excess oils are removed before feeding baby.
● Roman chamomile and lavender can be used to treat nappy rash and other minor skin complaints. Newborn babies will need the following blend to be halved: Mix one drop of each oil to a carrier oil and apply gently to the skin.

Safety precautions

Some essential oils are not recommended for use during pregnancy, and all essential oils should be used with caution after birth too. When you use essential oils in pregnancy, make sure you use just one drop of oil at a time and limit use over longer periods of time. If you add oil to a bath, dilute if first by mixing with at least a teaspoon of a carrier oil- grapeseed or almond oil are perfect for this.

The following oils are not recommended for use:
● Basil
● Cedarwood
● Cinnamon
● Clove
● Cypress (safe for use after 5 months gestation)
● Fennel
● Hyssop
● Jasmine
● Juniper
● Lemongrass
● Myrrh
● Parsley
● Pennyroyal
● Peppermint
● Rosemary
● Sweet marjoram
● Thyme