Up Close & Personal with Anna Wythes from Modimade

Juggling Motherhood with Running a Business

Today I am thrilled to welcome the lovely Anna Wythes, owner of Modimade, to The Nursery Collective Blog. Anna is a mother of two, and recently welcomed her little girl Adhya Devi to her family and the world (and how gorgeous is that name!). Read on as she shares about her recent birth experience and just how she’s managing to juggle being a mama-of-two and running a business!

Hi Anna! Congratulations on your new arrival, how are you settling into motherhood? Are you getting any sleep?

Thanks Cathy, it’s been quite a hectic time - in a good way, since little Adhya arrived. I definitely appreciate why we have maternity leave - not so much to overcome the lack of sleep, but to fit in all the new born appointments both with friends and baby checkups. I think second time around, my body has taken to the interrupted sleep like it’s an old friend - it just fits right in and life moves forward which has been a life saver. Nights haven’t been quite so good though. Adhya went through her P.U.R.P.L.E phase at about 4 -7 weeks old; her doctor said this is a new term to explain ‘colic’ like symptoms at this age. She was really unsettled and had a lot of tummy pain in the early evenings and at night. The only way I managed to function on a normal scale was to take on co-sleeping and a lot of skin to skin contact to help settle her through the night. This saved my sleep as it meant I could easily pop her on the boob when she wanted it and quickly go back to sleep. There’s no time for Mummy day sleeps in this house.

Anna

We would love to hear about your birth experience! What was it like and did it differ to how you expected it to be?

Absolutely! It’s had all the drama you’d hope for in a birth that ended well. I don't think anyone can plan a birth and have it go according to that plan. One thing I experienced with my first birth was that my birth plan was quite useless during the actual birth. Nothing could have given us insight to know where and what was going to happen. So this time around I used it as a resource for my own mental preparation more than a ‘how to guide’ for the birthing suite. Everything changes once you’re in labour and it’s 100% directed by your body and the little body and soul that is making the journey to meet you. This time round we chose to be induced due to bubba’s decline in growth during the last few weeks. I was really uneasy about this, but I knew that she was directing the advice given by the doctors and there was obviously a reason why she needed to come out early. She came super quickly once they gave her the go ahead. My labour took a while to get going - I laugh now as I think I used the time to finish popping together my orders and messages on Facebook for the sale I was doing for Modimade. Great way to occupy the mind! Once she decided to get moving she was out in a 40 minute labour! I don't know who was more surprised - the nurses in the ward where I was due to stay overnight, my husband who had gone home to sleep for the night because we thought she wasn't doing anything or me when I was told her head was right there! Yes, I was in whole world of pushing pain but I’d expected it to go on for hours like my first. And then we saw that a SHE had arrived! A little girl was such a beautiful surprise. But it didn't stop there. I was able to have skin to skin with her and feeding time immediately but then my placenta didn’t give way. I was taken to surgery and had to undergo a general anesthetic because my heart rate was butterflying all over the place and I’d not had an epidural for the birth. It wasn’t even something i had any idea would have entered into our birth plan but it’s the road that our birth took and I’m so thankful that we had wonderful skilled doctors to lead me through it. Because we now have a little baby girl!!! Can’t you tell I’m just smitten by baby fever!

I don't blame you, she's divine - I just love this photo of her snuggled with her Sleepy Snoogu Dog and other Modimade goodies! What an amazing birth, and you raise such an important point about being flexible and not rigid with your birth plans. I have to ask though – how are you finding juggling a newborn with running your business, I find it hard enough with 2 older kids! How are you managing?

I’m doing pretty well actually. It sounds silly but I feel like I have heaps of time now compared to before she was born - I was teaching full-time and running Modimade before I started my maternity leave. Adhya sleeps reasonably well during the day and my 5 year old son is in day care most days so I’ve been able to maintain a good workflow with my business Modimade.

Amazing! So tell us, what's one item you can't live without as a new mum?

My stash of cloth nappies. I’m getting into using my cloth nappies again now that Adhya has grown enough to fit into a newborn size. I’ll be honest, I’m not down to using cloth for every nappy change but the money I’ve saved already is such a help to our family budget and of course there is that little satisfying feeling that we’re doing it the eco-friendly way.

What are your top tips for being out and about with a new baby?

I’m pretty lucky that I’ve already done the mother thing once so i can say hands down it’s being organised. Haha, however it did take me at least three trips down the street to actually get out my own baby bag from Modimade to use. I developed this style of nappy bag / fold-out change mat when I was pregnant with my first child, and drew inspiration from a nappy swag bag I used as a nanny 15 years ago. For me (and I hope loads of other Mums with our bag) I think I’ve mastered the perfect nappy bag now. Over last 5 years I’ve been working with a small social enterprise in Cambodia to have the bags produced ethically, supporting fair employment and now it’s great to test drive again and see just how quick it is to use - just unbutton and fold out, then everything is sorted and ready to use. But whatever style of nappy bag you go with it’s got to be compact and well organised. I guess my tip would be to make sure you choose one that is a ‘no-brainer’ so that sleep deprived Mums and Dads can use it.

modimade-nappy-bag

What are you finding most challenging about being Mum?

I’m not sure if I’ve made it sound like motherhood is easy but it’s not. There are definitely times when I feel like I’m neglecting my 5 year old and my hubby, for the needs of my new daughter. It’s part of the realisation that mothers aren’t just one person. We are multiple. In my case, I’m a mother, a wife, a teacher and a business owner, but it’s a skill and a strength that women have (and a challenge too sometimes) to find a happy place, a place where all these elements blend together and work.

I love how you’ve articulated that – multitasking is an inherent skill that women have and as mothers it’s taken to the next level to challenge us, but It sounds like you are doing an amazing job! Thanks so much for sharing with us today. Before we sign of, we’d love to know what's next for Modimade?

To go and wake my baby daughter up because my boobs hurt! But that’s me as Modimade Mum. For Modimade I’m looking at expanding the sales of our handmade toys and mobiles, also the baby bag. I have started working directly with a small group of home based women in the Phnom Penh, Cambodia to continue their efforts to make brightly coloured and vibrant soft toys and baby rattles. By building a wider wholesale reach for the toys and mobiles here in Australia, I’m hoping to be able to give them the opportunity to support their vulnerable families and train others who may need to additional skills and employment.

Anna-0434EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Anna is offering all Nursery Collective customers an exclusive 15% discount storewide using the code MUMSLIFE at checkout! Code expires July 31, 2017 and is valid as one code per customer.

To find out more about Modimade click here

To shop Modimade products at The Nursery Collective, including the fabulous nappy bag, click here

Keep up to date with Modimade on social media here: Instagram and Facebook

Photos of Anna & Adhya courtesy of Helen Flint Photography, Blue Mountains NSW.

 

 

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WHAT IS THE FINNISH BABY BOX CONCEPT?

finnishbabybox

Guest Blog: Susanna Heiskanen of Tuutu Baby Box

Did you know that in Finland, expectant mothers are given a special baby box by the state - a starter kit of clothes, baby items and toys that can even be used as a bed. This beautiful tradition dates back to the 1930’s and some even believe it has helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

Today on the blog, we have the lovely Susanna Heiskanen, co-founder of Tuutu Baby Box, the first Finnish designed and Australian made Baby Box, sharing with us a little bit more background about this wonderful concept.

What is the Baby Box Concept?

The Finnish baby box has been around for over 75 years. Over 3 million boxes have been given to families by the Finnish government over the years. It was written into Finnish law in 1937 that expectant mothers were entitled to a baby box and in 1949 this was expanded to include all expectant mothers unrelated to their socio-economic circumstances.

Why has the baby box been so popular with the Finns? One of the reasons is that the box really has everything you need as a parent. Having receiving the box you would not need to buy a thing if you did not want to – the box doubles as a bed and the content is enough for the first few months and beyond. The box also promotes equality amongst parents and kids. Everyone has the same start in life and you can tell what year children were born in based on the clothes they were wearing. There are some products in the box such as muslin wraps that have been there since the beginning.
The baby box was introduced together with the Neuvola program. Neuvola is a midwife driven anti and post-natal clinic system that everyone is entitled to. It was a condition of receiving the baby box that the mother has to attend the prenatal program that educated mothers about breastfeeding, vaccination, safe sleeping practices and many more useful topics. The Neuvola system is still going strong and it reaches nearly all expectant mothers and their children under school age.
Image from Finnish Labour Museum Werstas

What are the benefits in using the baby box?

The baby box promotes safe sleep practices and the clothing and products included are all useful and something that you would have had to buy if you had not received the box from the government. The crucial early pregnancy care with free essential goods makes the box such a great preventive public health care initiative. The parents are also more likely to attend post-natal care after receiving the box and having already attended the pre-natal care.

Has the infant mortality rate dropped because of the baby box scheme?

Believe it or not, there has never been a clinical study in Finland or any other country (at the time of writing this) investigating the benefits of the baby box. The drop in the infant mortality rate in Finland is linked to better anti and post-natal care through the Neuvola system that together with the baby box has addressed some of the issues that were linked to high infant death rates. The baby box was a freebie for the parents, that in turn motivated them to attend to the anti- and post-natal care.

What about Australia?

There are already countries like Canada, USA and UK who have pilot programs to study the benefits of the baby box concept. These countries have higher infant mortality rates than Australia and it’s hoped that the baby box concept will help to address some of the underlying causes. Countries like Scotland are rolling this out as a nationwide scheme and the rest of the UK is trialling and providing baby boxes in geographical areas where the infant mortality rate is high.
At the time of writing this blog there are no large-scale study programs underway in Australia. There are few pilot programs in different States and we will follow these trials with interest. It would be a great thing to be able to provide the right start in life to all babies in Australia and we hope that the government will consider having the baby box scheme adopted here. If such a program is developed the hope is that it also has an educational part attached for the parents as it does in Finland through the Neuvola program.

Although the Finnish Baby Box comes with all the required necessities we know how confusing it is to decide what you need to buy your baby. We have taken the stress out this and offer a free checklist for parents based on the Finnish model listing the basics you need to purchase when shopping for your baby.
FIND OUT MORE about the TUUTU Baby Box range HERE and enjoy FREE SHIPPING in Australia!

TUUTU are proud to be Gold Sponsors of the 2017 Cloth Nappy Awards, run by the Australian Nappy Association, supporting their love of sustainable products such as cloth nappies that are included in the Tuutu Baby Box. Find out more about the awards here.

Susanna Heiskanen

After more than 10 years on the corporate ladder, and two baby boys, Susanna was ready for a new challenge and starting her own business was exactly that.  Susanna thought the Finnish Maternity Package that the government was giving to expectant mothers was a great idea and that it would be something she would love to endorse in Australia. “Although the infant mortality rate is low in Australia, more can be done. With this in mind we have designed an Australian version of the package and we are passionate advocates of our products and mother and baby wellbeing. We hope that Tuutu Baby Box is something you will love and it will be multifunctional for you and your child, just like the original one in Finland was meant to be.
- Susanna Heiskanen (Co-Founder)

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If you're a new or pregnant mama, please join our Facebook support group over at Find Your Village – a truly supportive community of new and experienced mamas where you can vent frustrations or share your excitement in a space that is free from judgment. Whether you are suffering from anxiety or sleep deprivation we are here!

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The Benefits of Using a Doula

Guest Post - Sam Ross (Birth Doula)

If you are anything like I was during my first pregnancy, I had no idea what a doula was or why on earth I would need one. Thankfully, with the support of an amazing midwife, I had a great birth without a doula. With my second pregnancy, circumstances meant I didn’t have the luxury of a continuity of care midwife during the pregnancy or birth. Thinking everything would be fine, I decided not to go ahead and hire a doula. Worst. Decision. Ever. Not even exaggerating, my birth was horrendous and I wish I had known exactly what a doula was and why every woman needs one!

WHAT IS A DOULA?

A birth doula, pronounced ‘doo-la’, is a pregnancy and birth support person. Doulas have been supporting women for centuries, in many different cultures.
There are many different types of doula, including antepartum, postpartum and bereavement doulas. I will be speaking specifically about birth doulas. Typically, a doula is a woman who has given birth (although not always) and is a trained professional in supporting women during labour. She knows all about natural birth processes and the interventions that go along with hospital births.

During pregnancy, a doula will help to alleviate any fears you may have about the birth and post-partum period. A doula is someone you can call on any time of day for reassurance and support.
Most doulas will also offer a birth planning session, where you will sit together and go through your ideas and preferences for the birth. She is available to educate you about labour, breastfeeding, postpartum, and provide any advice you may need from a non-judgmental, unbiased perspective.

A doula will attend your labour and birth, whether that be at home, hospital or both. Her role is strictly non-medical, purely physical, emotional support and advocacy. Doulas are very skilled in alternative pain relief techniques, giving you an endless supply of ideas to try before you ask for the epidural.

WHAT DOES A DOULA DO?

• Provides emotional support during pregnancy, birth and beyond
• Uses comfort measures including (but not limited to) massage, relaxation techniques, position change, heat packs, showering, hip squeezes, etc.
• Create a home-like environment in the hospital, by using aromatherapy, music, flameless candles, ensuring privacy etc.
• Gives clear, unbiased information to assist you in making decisions both before and during labour.
• Continuously reassures and comforts, a doula never leaves your side once labour is established.
• Advocates for the mother and helps facilitate communication between the mother and care provider
• Ensures you are drinking and eating, she may even brew herbal tea for you and make coffee for your partner.
• Provide emotional support to your partner, as well as ensuring they are hydrated, rested and fed.
• Works together with your partner in supporting you.
• Help you to get cleaned up and comfortable after birth
• Offer assistance with establishing breastfeeding
• Provide in home support after the birth.

Ultimately, the doula you hire will perform the tasks you wish of her, whether that is to remain by your side the whole time, or primarily to give support to your partner.

BENEFITS OF HAVING A DOULA ATTEND YOUR BIRTH

The benefits are plentiful. Studies have shown that women that use a doula are much more likely to have a positive birth outcome and birth satisfaction. Women are less likely to ask for pain relief medication (60% less likely to ask for an epidural).
Also, by having a doula attend your birth you will reduce the length of labour by 25% (average of 40 minutes), decrease your chance of a caesarean by 50% and lower the need for augmentation with syntocinin (synthetic oxytocin) by 40% (1).

 

WILL A DOULA MAKE YOUR PARTNERS ROLE REDUNDANT?

This is such an important point to mention, partners are often concerned a doula will replace them and push them out of the way. Simply not true, doulas are there to ensure your partner is comfortable, informed and participating (if they want to).

Some partners may feel completely overwhelmed and intimidated by seeing you in pain. They may feel completely helpless and have no idea how best to support you. This is where a doula can step in, give him some encouraging words and suggest some massage techniques or positions he can support you in. Perhaps your partner needs some space, and would rather sit back away from the action. That’s ok, especially because your doula can step in and play an active role in supporting you.

By taking the extra pressure off your partner, they will be able to eat, rest, and move the car etc, whilst feeling reassured that you’re being looked after your doula. Your partner will be more emotionally present and may actually even enjoy the incredible birth journey.

ARE DOULAS ONLY FOR WOMEN PLANNING A HOMEBIRTH/NATURAL DRUG-FREE BIRTH?

Absolutely not. In my opinion, women birthing in a hospital need a doula more than those choosing a home birth. Hospital births are difficult to navigate through without someone there to support and advocate your decisions. Doulas are familiar with local hospital policies, and can keep you informed about them. A doula will also facilitate communication between you and your health care provider, this is important especially when you haven’t met the midwife/doctor before. Ensuring effective communication can make the birth much less stressful for everyone involved.

As for women choosing to use pain medications, a doula will support you in whatever decisions you make. She is not there to sway you decision or judge your choices, she is there for YOU. If you choose an epidural, you will still need emotional support during the application of the epidural and help with it comes to pushing. It is reassuring to know your doula is there to help you ask the right questions regarding hospital procedures to ensure you have all the relevant information to make decisions should they arise.


Photo Credit: Jen from Heart of Motherhood

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK A POTENTIAL DOULA?

• What services do you provide?
• What is your philosophy regarding birth?
• Do you have experience with VBAC/twin birth/planned C-section?
• Do you have a backup plan in case you can’t attend my birth?
• How many clients do you take per month?

I hope this article has made you consider having a doula attend your birth, it is certainly a worthwhile investment into having a positive birth experience.

- Sam Ross (Birth Doula)

1. Hodnett ED. Gates S Hofmeyr GJ. Sakala C. Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. CD003766, (2003).

To connect with Sam and her services at Sage, Birth & Beyond click here

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Love,
Cathy