I interview Cath below and I hope you enjoy her story and her interesting take on newborns. She’s so refreshing!
Cath, tell us about your career, how it all started, why midwifery, which kind of mums you’ve worked with and where you are today?
I feel extremely fortunate when I look back on my career. I’ve always worked in a field that I love. Helping babies come into the world then helping the mums and dads/partners parent. This is something I am passionate about, and it’s something that comes naturally to me. It is incredible to be present at a birth. It has always amazed me and I never get tired of seeing new babies born, holding them, helping new mums & dads/partners.
After training as a midwife, I have gone on to deliver over 10,000 babies. I can safely say I’ve seen it all! My early days as a midwife involved hours upon hours of learning the art of midwifery, listening & watching women, and guiding them in labour. I also learned a lot from observing the newborn baby. I love watching them, amazed by their primitive reflexes and their will to live. To me all babies are beautiful. I have always been acutely aware that I had two lives in my hands at any one time.
I was thrilled to win a scholarship to study Maternal & Child Health (MCH) full- time when I was still a young midwife. This course was exceptional in terms of learning all about a baby’s health and development, from birth to school age. My Maternal & Child Health training has proved invaluable in teaching today’s new parents about babies, sleep, feeding, development, toddlers, as well as how to parent! The principles and knowledge developed through my training still hold strong to this day. I am committed to keeping up with the latest readings and conferences within my field. I am also lucky to work closely with obstetricians and paediatricians who provide ongoing education.
I have cared for so many pregnant women over the years, from the ages of 14 to 49+. It is a privilege to be involved with new mums and dads/partners during the joys of birth. It’s not always a happy time for some mums and dads, so a lot of compassion and support is required. I get to know the patients in our practice very well and we regularly communicate. I am a midwife and “mother” to many, and often referred to affectionately as Aunty C!!
Over the years I have had the good fortune to work in a range of jobs in this field. This has included setting up the first private birthing centre at St. Andrews Hospital in East Melbourne; establishing Masada Obstetric Unit in East St Kilda; caring for women who are pregnant and affected by drugs at the Chemical Dependency Unit in Carlton; and a variety of Community health positions managing programs such as Maternal & Child Health, Drug and Alcohol, Problem Gambling & Specialist Children’s services. All these positions have provided me with a solid foundation of experience and a depth of knowledge I can draw on today.
My Midwife Cath business developed a website late last year. I felt I needed to take action. I was becoming frustrated with all the confusing information new parents were being bombarded with. This was happening to parents in their early days in the hospital; as well as through the numerous well-written and well-intentioned but misguided parenting books, and this message was being reinforced at the community level. There were many new parents who were unnecessarily anxious!
I now provide direct consultations to parents (via phone or Skype), and I have found the demand for this service to be great. These one-hour consultations are proving to be extremely effective in helping to resolve specific challenges parents may be facing with their babies, usually sleep issues. The feedback has been fantastic! I am able to consult with parents all around Australia, and just last week I have consulted with my first client in the U.S.!
My approach to parenting is very simple. I teach parenting in a pragmatic and realistic way, that makes it easy for new parents to put into practice at home. I am also a mum and have practiced what I preach – with great success! I hear my mum’s voice saying to me … be happy, love your baby, talk to your child with respect, work hard, and let the rest happen!
What is your approach to newborn parenting? Is it feed, play, sleep? Is it routine based? Can newborns be put on a routine?
Like building a house, you need to start with basic foundations – and a baby’s routine is the same. The basics must start from the day you arrive home from hospital. Many “baby routine” phrases are thrown at parents from books and community campaigns, but they lack the correct explanation to parents. Feed, play, sleep (FPS), for example, is good in theory – but in practice it is going to be different for every baby. The problem is that there is more to FPS than just those three simple words. Only a few babies will go to sleep after doing one round of FPS. Most babies need a lot more calories in their tummy (feed); an increased amount of energy out (play); before they are capable of the magic sleep!
So when FPS fails, lots parents are left wondering WTF (Why They Fail). In fact it’s not the parents’ fault, it’s how FPS has been inadequately communicated to them. No wonder FPS does not work for everyone! This then snowballs, leaving many new mothers feeling anxious as they are trying to get a baby to sleep who is crying in the cot but in reality does not want to sleep. Sleep will happen BUT it will be different for every baby. You have to take into account the age of the baby, the weight, the sex. Boys & girls, for example, develop, feed, play and sleep differently.
In regards to a routine for a newborn, my first tip to new parents would be to never bath a newborn baby at 6pm, or else you will be up all night with a crying baby. New parents fall into the trap of thinking that all babies should be bathed at 6pm and then go to bed. This will happen, in time, but not as a newborn. It takes time (as in weeks) & weight gain (as in lots and lots of milk, until the baby weighs around 7-8kgs). It is best to bath the newborn baby at 10pm. I encourage the mums to go to bed at 8-9 o’clock, the dad/partner to give the baby a nice warm and deep bath, dress and wrap the baby using Cath’s Wrap, and give a bottle of formula. Then it’s bed for the baby and the dad too.
Whenever I mention a bottle of formula, I see new parents’ eyes glaze over with anxiety. There is a fear campaign going on within the hospitals & community about formula. As I say all the time – formula is food made for babies! I breastfed my son, I promote breastfeeding, and yes it’s the best…BUT if you worked with me for one day you will know the reality is that not everyone can breastfeed, not everyone wants to breastfeed, and not everyone has oodles of milk to successfully breastfeed. I’m on the side of the mum and I know that all my mums and dads/partners who follow my routines are happy, the baby sleeps, the other parent is involved, and they are all happy! How good is that? Start my routine from the first night home from hospital. It works. Read more…
Any tips for settling newborns?
I find the word “settling” really “unsettling”, as newborn babies are either awake & hungry or fed & asleep. If they are squirming and crying, they need to be fed. It is not wind that is keeping them up. We all have wind and it’s a normal body function. I promise you – you cannot overfeed a baby BUT you can underfeed – that’s a fact. There are far too many mums trying to shush, pat and rock a baby when all the baby needs is to be fed. In my practice, I have mums contact me with babies that are screaming and won’t sleep. Many of these babies are hungry. Some of these babies have gastric reflux (which I will talk about in a future blog), or allergies. Remember you will not ‘spoil your child’ if you love and hold your baby close…in addition to feeding him too! Do not feed your babies by the clock – respond to your baby’s basic needs.
Any words of advice to new mums who are overwhelmed by the whole experience (i.e. me with Oscar!)?
We are all overwhelmed when we become a mum for the first time…I was too!
My advice – don’t over-think the newborn stage and don’t read thousands of books, as you will end up confused and anxious, or both!. It’s all about food. My mantra is Food Love Warmth – feed the baby, keep the baby close to you, and wrap the baby! If you can’t breastfeed or if your milk is low, give the baby formula – it’s food made for babies. I want to keep parenting simple, but most importantly, enjoyable.
Tell me about your Master Class series? What can people expect to learn?
The Master Class series focuses on early parenting. I know if we get the newborn stage organised & the new mother is confident, the rest just follows. I teach parents about why babies sleep, why they don’t sleep, and how to get them to sleep! I love teaching the Master Class especially to expectant mums and dads/partners. It’s so important for other parent to come and hear about the process, as I can prepare them, teach them about the bath and bottle routine, and explain how to continue with the routine and to how prevent falling into a few habits that will delay the development of good sleep habits.
As you know, Bec, I like the simple bath, bottle and bed routine and we know it works so well for all babies. The length of sleep for the baby will increase over time and as the baby gains weight. I talk about what interferes with sleep & the importance of floor play, and how using gadgets like bouncers, walkers, jolly jumpers etc impacts how the baby sleeps. I also discuss, at length, the only way to get a baby who is old enough and who weighs enough to get to sleep and that is by control crying. I have taught it for over 30 years… it is very safe if implemented the way I teach it.
I email everyone who books into the Master Class, before the class, to see if they have any particular question they would like to ask me. I have held two Master Classes in Melbourne so far, the next is in Sydney on September 2nd & I plan to visit Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart by Christmas 2014. So far, I am pleased to report, the feedback to the Master Classes has been fabulous!