Friday 27 January 2017

A Interview with Lois Wattis

Lois Wattis is an Australian Registered Clinical Midwife and author of New Baby 101- A Midwife's Guide for New Parents. Lois recently attended the launch of #PureLove Water Wipes in Sydney and answered many questions from mothers. Lois has so much knowledge to share and I thought it would be wonderful to interview her and ask questions I'm sure many Mothers would love answered.

"Tell us about your background as a midwife, Lactation Consultancy role and your private practice “Babymoon Home visits”? 
I had worked most of my life as an Executive Secretary, but when I moved from Victoria to WA in the late 1980s I was ready for a change, and fulfilled a childhood ambition when I began working as a Veterinary Nurse.   I soon decided to study to become a qualified Vet Nurse, however I had to apply for 3 courses – my first choice was Vet nurse, second choice Enrolled Nurse, third choice Registered Nurse.  I received offers in all 3 courses and after much soul searching decided to go to University.  I began full time studies to become a Registered Nurse in 1994 – the year I turned 40. Within the first year I knew Midwifery was my ultimate goal, so Postgraduate studies followed RN registration, and I qualified as a Midwife in 1999. Additional clinical training over the next few years resulted in my accreditation with the Australian College of Midwives as an Independent Practising Midwife (IPM) in 2002. I was employed by the Health Dept of WA as a Community Midwife providing continuity of care to women throughout pregnancy, birth (at home or in hospital) and 6 weeks of postnatal support.  During this time I met Rebecca Glover, one of Australia’s leading Lactation Consultants, who inspired me study for and sit the exams to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2004. In 2005 I was inducted as a Fellow of The Australian College of Midwives in recognition of my services to women and midwifery, and a year later I moved to Queensland where my focus became specialising in Lactation Consultancy.  Babymoon Home Visits is the name of my Private Lactation Consultancy business on the Sunshine Coast Qld

What was your motivation for becoming a midwife?
Midwife literally means “with woman”. I have always been fascinated with the whole birth process, I had experienced it personally with my own three babies, and  I realised during my nursing training that I really enjoyed  supporting other women through the process of labour, birth and mothering.  Providing holistic midwifery care as a Community Midwife and IPM was enormously satisfying as well as challenging. The relationships which develop between mothers and midwife as we travel the birth journey together are powerful and long lasting.  I have been fortunate to gain very broad experience as a midwife and lactation consultant over almost twenty years in roles few clinicians have the opportunity to perform. Working in a dedicated Lactation Consultant role in an acute hospital setting over the past decade providing breastfeeding  support for babies from preterm to toddler has taught me many valuable skills and lessons. Every mother/baby combination is absolutely unique so breastfeeding guidance can never be a one-size-fits-all approach. 
What was the reasoning behind your new book –New Baby101? Do you find a lot of new parents struggle with their first born?
My decision to write “New Baby 101 – A Midwife’s Guide for New Parents” and to develop the smartphone App in FAQ format was motivated by my daughter’s response to her own new parent experience in 2011. I was with her during her labour and birth and a week or so afterwards, then lots of phone calls and messages over the early weeks.  After about a month she said “how does anyone do this without someone like you at hand? You need to write a book Mum, I can help you, and it could be an eBook and an App.”  I said, OK, let’s do it. What’s an App?” Thankfully she knew, and between us we created New Baby 101 – eBook, App, Videos and a year later the paperback book was released.

What are some of the common issues you find new mums face during the first few months? Your book helps parents gain new skills and confidence, do you find new parents lack confidence with newborns? 
Becoming a parent for the first time is an enormously steep learning curve regardless of the person’s level of education, maturity or demographic. Even the most capable, organised parents who are well prepared for their new roles realise there is so much to learn, and they often feel totally overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. There isn’t much time for reading and this generation of parents expect instant information via the internet and/or their phone. This can also be a time of information overload so parents need to be discerning about advice received from well-meaning others and especially the internet -Dr Google and the many parenting Facebook pages.  New baby 101 provides concise, reliable easy to read information which enables parents to make informed decisions, and also to trust their own instincts as they already know their baby better than anyone else. Many mothers feel enormous pressure and stress while they are establishing breastfeeding in conjunction with the physical experiences they are dealing with after giving birth.  Learning to breastfeed takes time as it is a new skill to master.  Mothers benefit from good preparation during pregnancy and caring expert support in the early weeks as their skills and confidence develop.  As I mentioned earlier – every mother and baby is a unique combination so if difficulties arise the right guidance can make all the difference.   

Why did you want to take part in the #PureLove campaign, commissioned by WaterWipes?  How did you feel when you first watched the video? Why do you believe skin to skin contact is so important?
Skin to Skin contact is integral to the entire mother-baby experience.  The benefits of skin to skin contact with newborns is widely known and accepted in Australia.  I’d like to share a short quote from my book “New Baby 101” about skin to skin contact.
Skin to skin contact is the starting point of the intimate relationship between mother and baby, but it is much more than a lovely fuzzy-feeling thing to do.  Skin to skin contact with baby laid on mother’s bare chest is the natural protective ‘habitat’ of the newborn baby, and this positioning switches on baby’s brain-waves to instinctively search for the breast. This is an inborn ability that all well newborns can demonstrate when given the opportunity and environment.  In the early hours and days of life babies do best if they are cuddled frequently in skin to skin contact, and this will enhance the baby’s instinctive responses and the mother’s breastfeeding skill development. Beginning breastfeeds with a breast crawl will ensure baby is ready and natural feeding reflexes are ‘switched on’. Mother can help baby to attach to the breast however she finds works best for her baby and her own comfortable breastfeeding experience.”

You can view the #PureLove video here
For those of you who want to hear more of the science behind the chemistry of mother/baby skin to skin contact which has been demonstrated in the Pure Love video, I refer to Dr Nils Bergman’s presentation to the 21st Annual International meeting of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine in October this year.
“Birth is a critical period – it is the earliest sensations that fire the earliest essential brain pathways, both in the baby and the mother.” It is sensations that are the key. Mother’s smell, both from her body but also specifically from her breasts, fire specific pathways to the front of the baby’s brain. Smell also send signals directly to the AMYGDALA  the “emotional processing unit” of the brain. It sends a reassuring message – SAFE. * hence the calming effect on heart rate and breathing. Direct Skin to skin contact – specifically the deep pressure component of contact – triggers the amygdala to fire another signal to the prefrontal orbital cortex – the activation centre for orientation. Consequently, Skin to skin contact activates signals to the left side of the brain producing an APPROACH orientation, an anticipation of reward.   The critical period for this pathway to mature is 6-8 weeks. After this, it is eye to eye contact which is important for the next stage of (brain) pathway building. Dr Bergman elaborates further about how development of these brain pathways lays the foundation for the development of the child’s Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence.  Dr Bergman’s work with premature babies is recognised worldwide,  however many babies who are born prematurely are often denied early cuddles with their parents due to long held beliefs of nursery staff that premature babies should have "minimal handling". A recent Australian study should help reverse that situation, and it is helpful to parents of premature babies to know the facts and insist on frequent skin to skin or "kangaroo mother care" with their premature babies.…/skin-to-skin-contact-safe-f…/8193226
How instinctive is parenting/mothering?
The behaviours of the newborn send sensory signals to the mother’s brain that have a profound effect on the mother.  STS contact and communication with her baby stimulates the release of Oxytocin, the love hormone, in the mother which increases with eye to eye contact, increasing oxytocin even more. A mother’s fear centre is inhibited by high oxytocin levels making her fearless to protect her baby.  Working with dopamine, looking after her baby is addictively rewarding as the same approach pathway fired in the baby is also fired in the mother’s brain. The baby also stimulates prolactin by suckling the breast which increases milk production – and oxytocin also stimulates release of breast milk (the letdown reflex).  Perhaps above all, the mother becomes more sensitive and tuned in to her baby, better able to understand her baby’s signals, needs and wants.” Fathers also have increased oxytocin released when holding their baby skin to skin.
Three tips to survive the first year with your baby –
Seek out reliable, evidence-based information and resources to guide you new parent journey. It is a minefield out there in parent land.  Check the credentials of those who are providing advice about your newborn’s care.  Trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!
You are the expert about your own baby. You have been feeling him move inside you, and although you are amazed to see him for the first time, you already know him. Believe in your inner knowledge about your baby.
Expect change. Your baby and you are on a rollercoaster ride of ups, downs, and delights. Just when you think you have it all worked out, it will change. That is normal. Baby is growing, developing, learning all about the world. Go with the flow. Don’t over think it. Cuddle. Feed. Play. Sleep – not necessarily in that order. Be flexible, and you will all survive.   


I hope you enjoyed this interview with the wonderful Lois.

Christina xx


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