Breastfeeding success second time around
(and what I did differently)

Breastfeeding success second time around <br>(and what I did differently)<br/>

My breastfeeding experience with Jasmine was short lived. We got off to a bad start and when she lost a lot weight my anxiety got too much to handle. I switched to combination feeding her expressed breast milk and formula for 6 weeks before switching to formula completely.

As soon as I fell pregnant with Elowen, aside from my fears of suffering yet another miscarriage, I was also fraught with anxiety at the prospect trying to breastfeed another baby, to the point I was having dreams about it every night. I went back and forth throughout my pregnancy on whether or not I even wanted to try again. In the end, I decided to give breastfeeding another shot. Jasmine had thrived on formula milk, if breastfeeding didn’t work out second time around, I knew that I’d be OK with switching to formula with baby #2. I had nothing to lose by giving it another go.

I’m really pleased to say that Elowen is now 3 months old and I am still exclusively breastfeeding her. Trust me when I say that nobody is more surprised about that than I am. It just goes to show that every baby is different. And I do think that has a lot to do with it. As mums we often blame ourselves when breastfeeding doesn’t work out but breastfeeding is a two-way thing. Jasmine wasn’t interested in feeding from me and was such a sleepy little thing. Elowen, on the other hand, was alert from the get-go and took to breastfeeding fantastically.

That said, there were quite a few things I did differently this time around which I’m sure helped us along the way on our breastfeeding journey.

They are as follows:

Having a physiological third stage of labour (delivering the placenta naturally)

When I originally wrote my birth plan I said that I wanted drugs administered to help speed up the delivery of my placenta. Partly because that’s what I did last time and partly because I was having a home birth and I was worried that the placenta might not come out, meaning I’d have to be transferred to hospital. However, a few days before I went into labour with E, I came across this article about a study that found a link between the drug used to speed up placenta delivery and breastfeeding problems. The news article is a few years old (2014) and was based on a relatively small study but it was enough to convince me to at least try for a natural placenta delivery. It took a little while (probably longer than it did to push E out!) but it did come out of it’s own accord eventually. I’ve no idea if it helped me have a more successful breastfeeding experience or not, but I think it did, even if only psychologically.

I had skin-to-skin contact and breastfed E when she was minutes old

I went an entire night before attempting to breastfeed Jasmine for the first time after she was born. Which, when I think about it now, is pretty shocking. I was too scared to attempt the first feed without the guidance of a midwife. Unfortunately, once I’d been stitched up the midwives all disappeared until the morning. Jasmine was fast asleep and I was exhausted so I took the opportunity to rest.  When I did get help the next morning, a midwife literally shoved Jasmine at my boob. I gasped when she latched on because of how painful it felt and the midwife grunted “Oh it’ll hurt until your nipples toughen up.” Great.

Elowen’s first feed could not have been more different. She was minutes old. The midwife who attended my home birth told me to go ahead and feed her how I felt I should, but assured me she’d be right there to assist should I need it. E latched right away and began to suckle, I don’t remember it being painful at all. (The pain came later on!)

I used nipple shields when the pain got too much

I was under the impression, after having Jasmine, that nipple shields were the epitome of all evil. At least that’s how certain midwives portrayed them, as well as most of the Internet. ‘They’ll confuse baby!” was the overwhelming opinion on them and because of that I steered well clear.

Between then and becoming a mum for a second time I’d read numerous blog posts from fellow mummy bloggers who said they’d never have been able to continue breastfeeding had they not used nipple shields. (Hannah from Budding Smiles springs to mind, as an example.) So I bought nipple shields before I’d even given birth and I’d already decided that if I felt I needed to use them, then I would. And to Hell with any midwife or health visitor who cared to argue with me about that.

In the end, it was a midwife who suggested I try the nipple shields to feed Elowen. It was only my second day post-partum but my nipples were in agony. I told the midwife over the phone how sore I was and she said if I hadn’t tried using nipple shields yet, to give them a go. I found them quite fiddly to use but they were worth the hassle as it meant I could give my poor nipples a break. I genuinely don’t think I would’ve carried on feeding E had it not been for the shields. I will always encourage other breastfeeding mamas to try them if they’re struggling with nipple pain/damage.

By the end of week four I’d ditched the nipple shields completely.

I had formula on standby

When I was pregnant with Jasmine, I was very determined to breastfeed her. Being a first time mum, and the first in my friendship circle to have a baby, I took a lot of ‘advice’ from people on forums. I’d read, several times, that if I were to really give breastfeeding my best shot then I should avoid having formula in the house as it would be ‘too tempting’ to switch to using it on a bad day. The night I broke down and decided I could no longer keep trying to breastfeed Jasmine, Stephen had to drive out to find the nearest 24hr supermarket to buy formula and bottles. I sobbed the whole time whilst watching Jasmine scream in hunger. Never, ever would I go through that again.

Second time around, I stocked up on ready-made pre-sterlised formula bottles (even packing some in my ‘just in case’ hospital bags). It took the pressure off me knowing that I always had a back up to hand which, ultimately, helped me to establish breastfeeding.

I knew where to seek professional help… and then got it.

There was a real lack of breastfeeding support available to me when I had Jasmine. It’s something I’m still quite bitter about. Because of this, I did my homework whilst pregnant with E. I found out where all of the local breastfeeding support groups were, I joined Facebook groups and I had a name and number for a local lactation consultant. I felt armed with information on people who could help me with any problems I may come up against. Elowen had a really shallow latch, which was what was causing my nipple pain. I decided I would go and see a lactation consultant about it. She spent a good 45 minutes observing E feeding, giving me advice, reassuring me that using nipple shields was absolutely fine and that the supposed ‘nipple confusion’ they caused was a load of BS.

I had a better support network in place

I had discussed my fears about breastfeeding with a lot of my friends (mummy friends, non-mummy friends, blogging pals, Instagram chums… whoever cared to listen) and because of that they went above and beyond to support me in those early days. They’d send me messages to tell me how well I was doing, giving me a little boost when my morale was low. Those who had been through this before gave me hints, tips and gentle encouragement. It all made such a big difference and for that I will be forever grateful.

I was more relaxed about breastfeeding

Like most aspects of parenthood, second time around I felt more relaxed, particularly in my approach to breastfeeding. If it worked out, great – if it didn’t, I’d formula feed Elowen and that would be that. Either way, the world would keep on spinning.

I took each day as it came…

I didn’t have a specific target in mind – I had no goal to ‘breastfeed exclusively for 6 months’… or a year or two! I decided to take each day as it came. Again, it took the pressure off.

3 months on and I’m very much still in that mindset. I’m enjoying feeding Elowen but whether it ends tomorrow or in a year’s time – that’s fine. Today I’m feeding her and that’s all I’m going to concentrate on right now.

Breastfeeding success second time around

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This post has ended up being a bit ‘wordy’ but I really hope it might help someone. Breastfeeding is bloody hard work and as I said at the start of this post, every baby is different. Whatever happens, whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, please enjoy your baby and soak up those newborn snuggles. I spent far too long feeling guilty and miserable because I couldn’t breastfeed Jasmine. I will never get those early days back to just enjoy my brand new baby girl without the all consuming guilt and sadness.

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Elowen’s Birth Story
{A Planned Home Birth}

Elowen’s Birth Story <br> {A Planned Home Birth} <br/>

On Sunday 20th November 2016, at 39+6 weeks pregnant, I woke up at 8am and went to the toilet for a wee. I stood up afterwards and wondered if I had lost control of my bladder entirely as I felt warm liquid stream down my legs. It kept coming and coming and coming…. and I knew then, that my waters had broken. Instantly I felt a surge of excitement run through my body because, after what felt like the longest pregnancy ever, I was finally going to meet my baby. I hobbled across the landing in undignified fashion, with a bath towel between my legs, trying to catch the drips. As I stood at the top of the stairs I yelled down to Stephen, who I think was downstairs playing with Jasmine at the time, that my waters had broken. “What do we do now?” he said. “We wait.” I replied.

“What do we do now?” He said.

“We wait.” I replied

I called up the midwifery unit to let them know that my waters had broken. They asked me if I could pop to the hospital to check that it was my waters (obviously they doubted my bladder’s capabilities too) and also make sure that baby was happy. Our lovely neighbour, Chris, came over to our house to look after Jasmine whilst Stephen and I went to the hospital. When we arrived, we were seen straight away by one of the midwives – she inspected my maternity pad (yup, definitely NOT wee) and got out the doppler to listen to baby’s heartbeat. All was fine, except my urine sample showed ketones so I was instructed to eat lots when I got home.

The midwife asked if I would like a sweep to try and ‘get things going’ – I declined as I was confident that labour would start naturally when my body was good and ready. She then said that seeing as I was having a home birth she’d just like to double-check that baby was head down so there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises. She spent a good few minutes palpating my tummy, she noted that I was having tightenings, albeit they weren’t painful. She couldn’t tell if baby was head down or not (this has been a running theme throughout the latter stages of my pregnancy) so she said she’d like to give me an internal examination to be sure. I wasn’t going to get away without having her fingers up my noonie afterall.

I wasn’t going to get away without having her fingers up my noonie afterall.

I’ve had quite few vaginal examinations over the last couple of years but this one was definitely the most uncomfortable. It made me wince. “Baby is hiding behind your cervix” the midwife said apologetically before finally announcing “…and I’m tickling baby’s head – they’re head down and ready to go!” She then left the room to write up some notes and said she’d be back in a couple of minutes with my maternity file and then we could go home. Meanwhile we sat waiting whilst listening to two other women in neighbouring rooms scream in agony as they gave birth. This put me on edge and I got quite frustrated that I had to sit and listen to the noise – this was precisely the kind of atmosphere I wanted to avoid by having a home birth. About 15 minutes passed and Stephen could see that I was getting agitated. He went to look for the midwife who he found, in his words, “just having a chat” with another member of staff. She then promptly appeared at the door and gave me a leaflet about induction, told me I had 24 hours for labour to start naturally or they’d want to induce me. I smile and nodded and then got the hell out of there.

“I’m tickling baby’s head!”

Once we got home, we pretty much carried on with our day as usual – I had a few more tightenings but nothing that felt like contractions. We still had to decide what we were going to do about Jasmine when I was in labour – our neighbours were happy to have her at their house if need be but for the time being I wanted her at home with us.

From around 4pm, I started getting stronger tightenings which were powerful enough to take my breath away. They were very inconsistent though and would only happen every 20-30 mins or so. Before we knew it, it was dinner time – Stephen had cooked a lovely beef stew which I scoffed down, hoping it’d give me plenty of energy for when the time came to push this baby out!

It was getting to Jasmine’s bedtime and I made the decision not to send her to stay at our neighbour’s house but instead just to put her to bed at home. She’s never stayed overnight at anybody’s house before (without us) so I felt happier knowing she was upstairs sleeping in her room. As soon as Jasmine was settled in bed (6.30pm), things immediately stepped up a gear, I was getting proper contractions. Stephen and I cleared a space in the middle of the living room floor and taped down the protective sheeting to the carpet. He brought down my home birth box from the spare bedroom whilst I sat on my CUB support and put on my birth playlist. Within minutes of having the room ‘birth ready,’ I was getting a steady stream of painful contractions – I asked Stephen to apply my TENS machine pads to my back for me.

As soon as Jasmine was settled in bed, things immediately stepped up a gear, I was getting proper contractions.

Whilst breathing through my contractions, using my Daisy Birthing techniques, I suddenly had a horrendous hot flush. I got so hot it made me feel sick. I pulled my top off and threw it on the floor leaving me in my bra and jogging bottoms. I asked Stephen to fetch me a cold, wet flannel for me to put on my face which helped immensely. The hot flush passed as quickly as it came on and then it was back to focusing on my contractions.

I was already in a lot of pain and in my head I was trying to decide if this labour was more painful than my labour with Jasmine or I was just being a total wimp this time around. I wanted a midwife there but it felt too soon. Surely I’d still have a way to go yet? I had been told that because of my speedy labour with Jasmine that I was to call the birthing unit when my contractions were around 5 minutes apart. I had no concept of the time that was occurring between each surge but it felt like they were around 5 minutes apart at that point. I looked up at Stephen and said “I think it’s time to call the midwife.” He got out his phone and asked me to let him know when each contraction began and ended. They were happening less than 3 minutes apart. Closer to 2. He called the birthing unit and we were told that a midwife was on her way to us.

I stayed sat on my CUB support and continued to breathe through my contractions. They were very intense. I kept going to press the ‘Boost’ button on my TENs machine only to find that it was still on Boost mode from the last contraction! Stephen was pacing the lounge and checking out the window every so often muttering “where is she?” to himself.

Stephen was pacing the lounge and checking out the window every so often muttering “where is she?” to himself.

About 15 minutes passed since we called the birthing unit and our midwife, Karen, arrived. I was relieved but I think Stephen was even more relieved than I was. I was in the midst of a contraction as she walked into the living room so I completely ignored her and focused on getting through that surge. She organised her kit and read through my birth plan whilst I continued to stay in my little zone. As soon as I felt able, I looked up at her and smiled – I didn’t recognise her and I felt a little disappointed that it wasn’t a midwife I knew. I soon got over that when the next contraction arrived. Karen got out the doppler and checked baby’s heartbeat between contractions.

“What are you feeling?” she asked.

“My belly is going rock hard and it hurts so much”.

We didn’t exchange many more words for a while after that, she let me concentrate on my breathing.

“What are you feeling?” she asked.

“My belly is going rock hard and it hurts so much.”

“Can I have some Gas & Air?” I whimpered after realising she wasn’t going to offer me any (because I’d asked not to be offered pain relief in my birth plan). She immediately went about setting up the Entonox canister – I heard a loud pop and the sound of air escaping. Karen looked frustrated as she tried to close the canister back up and even managed to burn her finger whilst trying to stop the air escaping. It was clear that the damn thing wasn’t working properly. I looked up at Stephen as if to say “Please tell me this isn’t happening?!” We’d previously joked about midwives forgetting to bring Gas & Air to the birth but I never foresaw this happening! Luckily, there was a spare canister and that worked just fine. Except… it was crap. It didn’t seem to help at all, not like last time, it just tasted rank and made me feel queasy. So much so, Stephen’s lovingly cooked stew made a reappearance. (Sorry, Hubby!)

Up until this point I’d been fairly silent but I started to moan with each contraction, mooing almost. “Just go with it.” Karen said, rather unenthusiastically, as she sat writing notes. ‘Just another day at the office for her’, I thought to myself.

As the moans got louder, Karen looked up at me again and asked “What are you feeling now?”
“Pressure” I said “Pressure, in my bum.”
“OK, Jenna – we need to decide where we’re having this baby.”

Between the next gap in contractions I crawled off of my CUB support and into the middle of the room where we’d prepared the space for me to give birth. Karen and Stephen clumsily worked together to pull my trousers and knickers off. It felt (and probably looked) as undignified as it sounds. I got onto all fours but immediately felt all of my weight in my wrists which was incredibly uncomfortable and I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain that position. “Can you get my CUB?” I asked Stephen, to which he obliged. I rested the top half of my body on the CUB with Stephen sat the other side of it – the midwife was behind me (at the business end). Now I felt ready to push.

“OK, Jenna – we need to decide where we’re having this baby.”

I started bearing down and pushing – occasionally forgetting to take a breath. Stephen would gently remind me to breathe. At some point during the pushing stage our internet dropped out meaning my birth playlist stopped temporarily (I was using Spotify to stream my music). I never realised how much I was concentrating on the music until it stopped! Thankfully it continued playing after a moment or two.

“Arrgh” I shouted “It stings like a bitch!” I felt immediately embarrassed by my outburst because Karen was an ‘older lady’ and it felt like I’d just sworn in front of somebody’s Nan. (I forgot that she was a midwife and therefore used to far more colourful language than that!) I knew baby must’ve been crowning and I knew the end was close. I can’t remember how many pushes it took, Stephen says it was about half a dozen but either way, only a few minutes after getting on to all fours, a scrunched-up angry, red face appeared between my legs as Karen passed me my baby from behind. I scooped her up and began to cry. I had waited so long for this.

“Aren’t you going to see what you’ve got?” Karen asked, reminding me that we didn’t know the gender. Although I distinctly remember there was a lack of ‘boy bits’ when I’d picked her up, at that moment in time I wasn’t 100% sure if I was holding a boy or a girl in my arms. Stephen was grabbing a towel off of the radiator so I waited for him to come over before pulling her away from my chest to inspect baby’s bits. “It’s a girl!” Stephen yelled. I cried again. Two daughters, I was so freaking happy. “Hello Elowen!” Stephen whispered proudly.

“Hello, Elowen!”

She was born at 7.55pm weighing 8lb 4oz.

I sat, shaking with adrenaline, taking in every inch of my baby girl. “I can’t believe I’ve just given birth in my living room!” I announced.

Despite saying I wouldn’t in my birth plan, I decided to try and have a physiological 3rd stage so I continued having skin-to-skin cuddles with Elowen and breastfed her whilst waiting for the placenta to come out. It took quite a while and Karen had me doing squats at one point to encourage the damn thing to come out. Suddenly it popped out into a bowl that Karen had held out between my legs and the feeling of relief was amazing. I felt completely empty… in a good way!

Stephen cut the umbilical cord and then had cuddles with Elowen whilst Karen checked me for tears. That was really quite uncomfortable but fortunately, though I’d suffered a 2nd degree tear, it didn’t require stitches. Apparently I was very bruised too. Once I’d been checked over I went upstairs and ran myself a bath. A post-birth bath wasn’t something I’d even thought about when planning my home birth, but I was so thankful for it. It was amazing to use my own bathroom, dry myself with my own towels and then get dressed in my bedroom.

“I can’t believe I’ve just given birth in my living room!”

I went back downstairs to find that Karen had tidied everything up and had made a start on the paper work (which took longer than anything else to do!) After that, she packed up her equipment, thanked us for being part of the birth and said goodbye. It was now 10.30pm.

I looked up at Stephen and said “Stick ‘I’m a Celebrity’ on will ya?” – he laughed at me and then realised I was being serious. We sat on the sofa, eating crisps and watching trashy telly whilst snuggled up with our newest addition of the family. Meanwhile, her big sister continued to sleep soundly upstairs in her bed.

I feel so lucky to have had another quick and positive birth experience. After months of worrying about what would happen with Jasmine when I went into labour, in the end, everything worked out just fine. Better than fine. My home birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and even now, over six weeks on, I still can’t believe I gave birth on my living room floor.

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Preparing for a home birth: What do I need?

Preparing for a home birth: What do I need?

Once I’d finally decided that I wanted to give birth to my second baby at home, I found myself frantically Googling ‘What do I need for a home birth?’. I mean, there are hundreds of lists on the Internet about what to pack in your hospital bags, surely I’d need to prepare for giving birth at home too? Well, yes and no. It turns out you need very little to give birth at home – some waterproof sheets and a few large towels being the bare minimum. (Your midwifery team will supply all the medical bits.)

I soon realised that it wasn’t about what I needed but what I wanted. A home birth is an opportunity to create your ideal ‘birth environment’ so instead of asking yourself “what do I need for a home birth?”, ask yourself “what do I want for my home birth?”

Want a water birth? Then you’ll need to hire/buy a pool.

Want mood lighting? Get yourself some candles!

Want to push your baby out whilst listening to Micheal Bublé crooning? Then kidnap Michael Bublé… or put together a playlist of your favourite Bublé tracks. (In your condition, I’d suggest going for the latter option!)

You get my point, right?

In the end, I did put together a ‘home birth kit’ – things I thought I’d want/need when it came to the big day so I thought I’d share that list of items on my blog – for anybody else out there who is also frantically Googling ‘What do I need for a home birth?”

PS. For reference, I’ve asterisked the items that I actually did end up using during my home birth.

My Home birth Kit:

Birth plan (you can read mine here)*

Hand sanitiser

Hair bands*

A large black oversized t-shirt and a black button-down nightie*

Comfy slipper socks

Vaseline (Gas and Air can dry your lips out)

Things requested by the midwives: 

My maternity notes*

A torch

Plenty of tea/coffee*

Snacks*

Pain relief:

Paracetamol

A TENS machine – I hired this one for 7 weeks.*

Hot water bottle

A microwavable heat pack (lavender scented)

A packet of Kool’n’Soothe Migraine Sheets

Wooden massage tool

x2 flannels (to use as hot/cold compresses)*

Drinks and snacks for myself and birthing partner:

x2 Isotonic sports drinks (avoid the fizzy ones!)*

Glucose tablets

Bottles of water*

A selection of cereal bars and biscuits – we also have some white bread in the freezer for toast.

For the mess: 

Sick bags

x2 packets of disposable bed mats (I picked these up in the Pound Shop)*

x4 large waterproof mats (for using on the floor/sofas etc.)*

x1 roll of strong multi-purpose tape (for sticking the mats to the floor so they don’t stick to me or move around!)*

3 Large bath sheets*

Maternity pads*

Maternity knickers*

Creating my ‘birth atmosphere’: 

Our Sonos speaker*

Phone with ‘Birth Playlist’ on it*

An Aroma diffuser and lavender essential oil

A large fleecy blanket (to put on top of the waterproof mats and make the floor more comfortable)

For my upright birth: 

My birth ball

My CUB Support*

(You can read about the benefits of having an upright birth here.)

For baby (I have these items packed away in a separate bag so that I could take them with me to the hospital in case of transfer): 

Umbilical cord tie*

Knitted hats*

Sleepsuits and vests*

Scratch mits*

Wishing you the very best of luck with your home birth! :)

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Introducing Our Rainbow Baby: Elowen Faye

Introducing Our Rainbow Baby: Elowen Faye

I’m very pleased to announce the safe arrival of our beautiful Rainbow Baby, Elowen. She arrived on Sunday 20th November (the day before her due date) at 7.55pm, weighing 8lbs 4oz. She was born at home (as planned) on the living room floor. Myself, Stephen and big sister Jasmine are absolutely smitten.

I cannot wait to share Elowen’s Birth Story with you all. In the meantime, I’ll be adjusting to life as mum of two little people (I still cannot believe I have another daughter) and getting to know my newest little lady!

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Upright birth – 7 reasons why you should have one!

Upright birth – 7 reasons why you should have one!

Why do I want an upright birth? Well, with the impending birth of my second baby (my due date is in a matter of days – eek!), I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my previous labour experience with Jasmine. You can read her birth story here. However, the short version is that I did most of my labouring at home, stood up at the bottom of the stairs, swaying my hips gently side to side. Being active and upright, I believe, is the reason that my first stage of my labour took a relatively short time (given that it was also my first baby).

My biggest regret about Jasmine’s birth was that I then went on to spend the entirety of my second stage of labour (pushing baby out), laying down flat on a hospital bed. The only reason for that was because when I arrived at the birthing unit (fully dilated!), the midwife asked me to get on the bed. I didn’t question it, I just did it. The pushing stage seemed to last forever and I’m sure the fact that I was horizontal was a big factor for things slowing down.

My Daisy Birthing teacher put it brilliantly when she explained why laying down during labour makes it tougher for baby. “Imagine trying to put on a pair of tight, skinny jeans whilst laying flat on your back… think about how difficult it would be compared to putting them on whilst standing up.” And she’s right, in the same way that you or I would struggle to do that laying down, baby will struggle to make their way down the birth canal. When it comes to giving birth, gravity is your friend!

This time around, I’m planning to take charge of my labour and stay upright as much as possible, particularly during the pushing stage. (You can read my birth plan here.)

I was recently sent a fantastic birthing aid called the CUB support. (CUB standing for ‘Comfortable Upright Birth’.) I’ve been trying out the CUB over the last few weeks, practicing different positions and finding out what I think might work for me during my labour. It’s comfortable and far more stable than a birthing ball. Oh and because it’s inflatable (I inflated mine in about 4 minutes), it’s portable – meaning you can use it no matter where you are choosing to give birth. I certainly think it’s going to be a fab addition to my homebirth kit!

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The lovely CUB team (who are qualified midwives and healthcare professionals) have created some fantastic infographics that I wanted to share with my readers:

7 reasons to have an upright birth

 

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If you would like to find out more about the benefits of upright birthing then do check out the CUB website where you’ll find a wealth of information.

You can also purchase the CUB from Amazon.co.uk using this link*:

I’d love to hear any experiences my readers have in regards to upright births!

* This post contains an affiliate link.