If you’re a planner, you’re likely to have planned a lot before your baby arrives. The thing is, once the baby arrives, it quickly becomes apparent that when it comes to motherhood, nothing ever goes to plan. As hard as you try, you just can’t plan your motherhood experience...
So be prepared for things going spectacularly off-plan – you’re in for a wild ride. Edwina Sharrock is a midwife and the founder of online prenatal education platform Birth Beat. Here we ask her all the questions you’ll want answers to. Like how do you handle anxiety around birth? And what happens when things don’t go to plan with feeding? She also talks about the new Philips Avent Electric Breast Pump which is super quiet, portable and lightweight (as in you can pump at work and the whole floor won’t hear you) and how it can change your feeding experience. Pen and paper ready, let’s get her tips!
Did you always know you wanted to be a midwife?
Funnily enough, I wasn’t interested in becoming a nurse or a midwife. Born and raised in Tamworth, regional NSW, I was more excited about leaving home and going to college in Sydney, where ultimately, my nursing degree helped me achieve my personal goal.
It was only after my first practical class that I was hooked. I started my career as a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Nurse at Royal Prince Alfred, however, I returned home to Tamworth for family reasons. It was during this time that I decided to study midwifery and did this while working as a student midwife in Tamworth.
Years later, I now have my own business, Birth Beat, after seeing what a difference quality birth classes make to the experience of the woman and her partner and their birth experience. And what a privilege my job is – supporting women and their families to bring new life into the world.
What are some of your top tips to other expecting mums who are anxious about giving birth?
It’s not uncommon for expecting mums to be anxious about birth. What I would say is that it’s important to be prepared with quality education. Education is power. I liken it to preparing for a marathon as it takes work and commitment. Expecting mums and their support teams need to understand what to expect so that they feel prepared for all the possible eventualities, in control and empowered. I also passionately believe there is no right or wrong way to birth and that it is ultimately up to the woman.
What are your thoughts on having a birth plan?
I frequently get asked about birth plans. I teach my mothers and their partners to first educate themselves and then to write down their birth wishes. Often, births take twists and turns that we cannot plan for. In these situations, women feel a sense of failure or disappointment because they didn’t stick to their ‘plan’. A reminder that nobody fails at birth. Writing down wishes helps mums to look back and feel grateful for the small things they achieved.
Can you tell us what a typical day looks like as a midwife?
As a midwife and business owner, I spend most of my time creating content to support mums and dads who are part of the Birth Beat community. We have supported thousands of parents across Australia prepare for their best birth with our online birth and baby and child first aid courses. The hours are long, I work 24/7 365 days of the year as these little bubbas don’t know when it’s Christmas or a public holiday, but I can’t complain! I’ve had so many incredible life experiences and every day I am truly grateful for my career.
Midwives are such a strong and important presence in the entire pregnancy and birth process. What is your favourite part of the job?
I love all aspects of being a midwife! I adore the birth education side of things and seeing the confidence grow in couples that I teach online and the way their fear disappears. I love teaching all the tips and tricks from my years of experience to help parents have a safer, more comfortable and, hopefully, not too long labour.
What’s your advice to expectant mothers on what happens with your milk the days following the birth?
It really is different for everyone but, for many mums, milk often arrives around day 2-3. Often, this can lead to swollen, engorged breasts that can be hard and uncomfortable for a few days. Ice packs work a dream, and regular demand feeding helps to establish a supply of milk.
Know that this can be an exhausting and overwhelming time with a lot of new information but also a time full of joy as parents get to know their babies. My advice is to rest, don’t be afraid to ask for help, eat and drink well and have lots of skin to skin with bub.
What happens when things don't go to plan with feeding?
Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially when things don’t go to plan. My first daughter Polly was a dream feeder – attached well, no pain, gained weight and slept well. As for my son Theo, he was the complete opposite, and it was incredibly tough. This is when I wish I had the Philips Avent Electric Breast Pump for a fast but incredibly gentle, natural milk release.
My advice is to ask for help early. If you’re finding feeding painful, make sure to ask for help. Also, surround yourself with breastfeeding champions, use products such as the Philips Avent range that’s specifically designed to help mothers and their babies provide the best nutrients from the breast, and ensure your partner knows what to expect too.
How important is pumping?
Breast pumping was a lifesaver for me and my son Theo. I had a low supply, and Theo was a very fussy feeder. As challenging and time consuming as it can be for some mums, it gives you the option to feed and then pump to continue to feed with breast milk.
Tell us about the new Philips Avent Electric Breast Pump?
I am reluctant to endorse products unless I know they are amazing, and truly help mums, and this product is simply that. My old pump would take about 30 minutes to express, which made the whole feed, pump, settle journey exhausting. Not only that, it was loud, big and bulky. The new Philips Avent Breast Pump is incredibly quiet, portable and lightweight, helping mums to feel comfortable to pump on the go. It also features new and innovative technology that mimics a baby’s natural feeding process, meaning it’s a very gentle and efficient breastfeeding experience for mums.