Supporting Childbearing Women and their Babies

 


By Catherine Burns

Prenatal conditions

Birth


Breastfeeding


Older children


Take a history


Thoughts on administering flower essences for mothers and newborns


About Catherine Burns

I provide support to women and their babies as a birth doula, lactation counselor and somatic movement therapist. Flower essences are in my birth and breastfeeding kit to address specific conditions for mothers and babies.

Women and babies experience a wide range of ease or challenge during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. The Flower Essence Repertory identifies several specific flower essences for these conditions. There are several conditions that I would suggest would be well served by these flower essences, as well as offering a view on Shooting Star.
 
The remedies which stand out to me for childbearing women and newborns address birth trauma, in utero and early infancy, or trauma in general. These are:

  • Five-Flower Formula
  • Evening Primrose
  • Manzanita
  • Mariposa Lily
  • Shooting Star
  • Star of Bethlehem

Since the Flower Essence Repertory (FER) maps out each of the qualities of these flower essences, I will walk through stages of childbearing, birth and breastfeeding to call out specific conditions and the flowers which may most benefit a mother or baby. Since a practitioner may be meeting a family at any stage of a family’s journey with a child, earlier stages may be historical by the time you visit them. Just as with an adult, a practitioner assesses which conditions to treat as acute and immediate, and which conditions are the past context for presenting issues.

Five-Flower Formula is an invaluable, universal first aid resource that can be used for all situations of acute stress or trauma. As well, it may be a very helpful flower essence to begin supporting a mother or child still carrying the imprint of past trauma. Five-Flower Formula may be indicated in many of the following conditions.

Prenatal conditions

Stress due to any and many causes (severe health conditions, family turmoil, financial stress, lack of social/emotional support, environment, racism, conflict about whether to bring a baby into the world) creates a high level of stress hormones in the mother. 

Higher levels of maternal stress hormones increase risk of prematurity. Premature babies are at risk for short term and long term developmental problems, including physical health, cognitive function, and baseline emotional regulation within their own hormonal systems.
 
Prematurity increases the likelihood of babies landing in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to health issues and immature systems. Many, many babies in NICUs are separated from their mothers, because few hospitals have rooming-in for mothers with their babies. In addition, mothers may have other children or have to return to work. The FER indicates Evening Primrose and Mariposa Lily for these varied stressors and for separation of mother and baby. Prematurity can set up complications for birth and breastfeeding, as noted below.

Evening Primrose
Mariposa Lily


Birth

Five-Flower Formula is a general remedy for mothers and babies following birth. It is used in many, many circumstances, and applies to all of the following. The normal challenges of birth are often the source of issues for mothers and babies, so this universal flower essence is a great resource. Problems are even more likely if birth has been traumatic. Birth trauma can result from a fast and hard birth, from a very long, difficult birth, or from a Cesarian section. 

Even during a normal birth, mothers can experience a huge range of perineal tissue challenges, from stretching (mildest) to bruising, tearing or cutting. The extent (depth and length) of perineal tissue damage can vary widely. Bruising from IV needles is also common.

Women who give birth by Cesarian section have had major abdominal surgery, which is a shock to the system physiologically. A woman may have a very difficult time bonding with her baby following a traumatic birth. Any one of the flower essences listed at the beginning may be indicated for traumatic birth, depending on how the woman and baby respond during recovery and how breastfeeding goes.

Birth trauma includes both physical and emotional trauma. A woman may experience emotional trauma at birth when events take an unexpected course, or when she is not well supported emotionally. Post traumatic stress is now recognized in the birth community as a result of poor support during the intensity and uncertainty of birth. Five-Flower Formula is a tremendous support for women to help them process the overwhelming emotions of their birth experience as they enter motherhood. 

Five-Flower Formula is a general remedy for mothers and babies following birth.

We cannot always know from the outside whether a mother or baby has experienced emotional trauma following a difficult birth. Excellent support during birth can transform a mother’s experience to one of resilience and strength in respect for having made the best decision possible at every step. Other women may have trauma from what is considered a ‘normal’ birth if they are left alone, or if staff are impersonal or rude, or making decisions for them rather than respecting their process and right to choose.

If a mother has had a difficult or traumatic birth, babies have gone through the same physical and/or emotional stress. And, babies may experience traumatic birth or shock even if the mother (and others around her) did not identify the birth as difficult. Babies who are born with poor vital signs (respiratory, heart rate, color, movement and vocalization) show the impacts of a difficult birth on their systems. Manzanita and Mariposa Lily are specifically indicated for birth trauma. If a baby is immediately placed on the mother’s chest, skin to skin, and is supported in breastfeeding, birth trauma will not be exacerbated, though a child still benefits from having it addressed.

When a newborn’s conditions are very, very poor, or are at risk for poor outcomes, s/he will be sent to the NICU, separated from mother, and breastfeeding is delayed. Experiences of abandonment can lead to alienation, multiplying the impact of birth trauma. Births of premature babies may also be difficult. Due to immature organs, premature babies are highly likely to land in the NICU. Extended NICU stays point to any one of flower essences noted above, as well as Evening Primrose or Shooting Star.

When babies have to have major medical procedures, including heart surgery, they may benefit from Shooting Star or Star of Bethlehem. Any baby who has been on the brink of death near the time of their birth may be greatly aided by one of these remedies.

Shooting Star
Star of Bethlehem

Some babies who have experienced traumatic birth may be in shock.  Premature babies may be very, very passive and barely have a thread clinging to life. We can see when the baby is faltering with unstable breathing and heart rate. Sometimes this is an ongoing condition, as for babies in the NICU who need an oxygen feed. These babies may be greatly helped by Shooting Star or Star of Bethlehem. Either one may be appropriate to ‘call the baby in.’
 
Each of these flower essences may be indicated if the mother has any possible loss of life, such as severe hemorrhaging. These two flower essences are also resources when the baby has life threatening complications during the pregnancy, such as in utero growth restriction.
 
Depending on how a Cesarean section is handled, and how a mother and baby respond in recovery, Evening Primrose, Mariposa Lily, Shooting Star or Star of Bethlehem may be indicated. Each has a slightly different profile in relation to separation from mother. Since the USA has a 30.4% C-section rate, many babies are born with one or more of the following conditions. The worst conditions for a baby and mother are emergency health issues, impersonal attendants, mother and baby separated immediately, baby sent to nursery or NICU, mother and baby not allowed continuous skin to skin nesting, and breastfeeding is not actively supported by all staff.
 
When babies are handled impersonally and separated from their mothers for long periods, a baby may experience the whole event as coming into an alien world. Shooting Star is described as a remedy for persons who are preoccupied with extra-terrestorial existence. A baby who comes out into a cold, brightly lit room with impersonal handling by beings in masks, head covers and white gowns, may interpret them as alien life forms. Further isolation in a NICU, left alone with IVs, tubes and technology, a child may further imprint this as alien abduction.
 
The image of a shooting star or comet blazing across the heavens is very potent for me. Each bright little spirit makes choices as it comes into being. At several stages in the pregnancy, and then at birth, a spirit may choose to either fully land on the planet or to fizzle out. Either one of these star flower essences may bring them into their new home with the mother.

Shooting Star or Star of Bethlehem are resources if there were other babies in utero who came in as embryos, and then who passed back into the spirit world. Because ultrasounds can now detect babies much earlier, we know that multiples occur more frequently than we understood before. Some fertility methods, such as in vitro fertilization, implant multiple eggs as some of them may dissolve while in the embryonic stage. 

Babies in utero are aware of their siblings who then return to the spirit world. Some living babies may make a choice at the entry journey of birth as to whether they come into their mother’s arms and onto the planet, or if they follow their siblings in return to the spirit realm. Babies may also be sensitive to prior pregnancy losses of the mother or prior still births.

Breastfeeding 

Traumatic birth, medicated birth and C-sections increase difficulties with breastfeeding. Separation of mother and baby typically delays establishing breastfeeding. 

It is important to note first that breastfeeding issues usually have a structural source that requires lactation support, craniosacral therapy, chiropractic or soft tissue therapies. Breastfeeding issues should be referred for evaluation by qualified practitioners in these modalities. Flower essences have a role in supporting a baby’s emotional processing of the birth impacts or separation that may now be creating breastfeeding problems.

For example, a baby may be receiving craniosacral therapy because cranial bone misalignment is restricting the cranial nerve for latch in breastfeeding. The vagus nerve may be also restricted, resulting in either extreme passivity or agitation. These must be addressed structurally. The Five-Flower Formula can help bring neurological balance and calmness for these babies.

Breastfeeding is usually delayed or very difficult to establish after a premature baby has been fed by other methods, including feeding with a tube inserted in the nose. Manzanita may be indicated in this case. Mothers sometimes experience difficulty bonding with their babies when they experience a painful, traumatic birth. Mariposa Lily may be helpful for both mother and baby when either feeding or breastfeeding is very difficult.

I worked with a family who had had a very traumatic birth. Their newborn was not able to breastfeed, nor could she barely feed from a dropper, finger or bottle. This baby would have rapidly ended up in the hospital with an IV feed. The mother and father were also in shock. I felt how each was separate and distant from each other in the space of their home. We used Five-Flower Formula and Shooting Star to call the baby and the mother back together into grounded heart connection.

Overall my experience with women and babies is that they are amazingly resilient in their recovery from difficult conditions of pregnancy and birth when mother and baby are able to bond and breastfeed.

Older children

As children grow, their little beings and personalities develop in complex ways. For an older child who experienced birth trauma or difficult prenatal periods, we might later see extremes of emotional states—either extreme passivity or extreme agitation—that make us question what happened at birth. This might look like a toddler’s tantrum, a school age child who is acting out aggressively, or a very withdrawn, fearful child. Flower essences for anxiety are available. However, if we learn about a child’s earliest history, we can address the underlying source of the presenting issues.

Take a history

A comprehensive child intake includes prenatal history, a birth story, how breastfeeding went (if the mother chose this) and how the first days and weeks unfolded.

A woman’s birth story offers key information in assessing which flower essences are necessary to assist the baby and the mother. Mothers can report their experiences in their birth story, while babies report with their cries, gestures and movement. When a caring listener takes the time to really listen and receive, mothers will pour out their story.

Thoughts on administering flower essences for mothers and newborns

Flower essences can be offered to a breastfeeding mother for herself and to pass through breastmilk to the baby. A tincture can be prepared in a tall glass of water for thirsty breastfeeding mothers. Another way to provide flower essences to a newborn is to rub tincture water on the soles of a baby’s feet, palms of their hands, on the crown, as a swab on the anus, and around the umbilicus/belly button. Simplifying to fewer places is fine, with some intent to replicate a starfish pattern. After application and in general, baby should be held skin to skin by mother as much as possible, or by a loving primary care provider.

The placement of tincture in a starfish configuration is based on the baby’s in utero starfish pattern, identified by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, RSMT. The starfish pattern, is an early fetal configuration of baby constellating around the umbilical center. Through both the emergence of form and through movement, the fetus grounds through the umbilicus and placenta into the mother’s body. Replicating this form as a newborn, a baby can find his/her primal center and ground with the mother’s body.

About Catherine Burns

Catherine Burns is a somatic movement therapist who provides support to childbearing women and children beginning prenatally, through birth, breastfeeding, infancy and early childhood. As a doula she helps women and babies to have easier births, and as a craniosacral therapist and lactation counselor she helps many more to recuperate from intensity or trauma of birth. She also receives referrals from other doulas, lactation counselors, midwives and nurses for craniosacral therapy for newborns when standard counseling and positioning don't solve painful or ineffective breastfeeding. Flower essences have been a healing resource for these difficult times.  

Catherine’s training and experience stems from the developmental perspective of Body-Mind Centering®. She is also an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, Evidence Based Birth® Instructor and Registered Trainer with the MN Center for Professional Development.

Visit Catherine’s website to learn more about her: www.mamabebe.org

Read Victoria Nickels: Community-Based Traditional Midwife Utilizing Flower Essences


 


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