We recently spoke to Leisha. She enjoyed a two-night stay in one of our postnatal rooms, with her fiancé and gorgeous baby girl Teia, after labouring and birthing at Waitākere Hospital.
Teia was born quite small, so Leisha faced some breastfeeding challenges at the beginning. She received lots of support from the Midwives during her stay and she later visited our Lactation Clinic.
This is the second of a two-part series where we talk with māmās about their Helensville Birthing Centre (HBC) experience.
How was your stay at Helensville Birthing Centre?
“The room was beautiful, of a really high standard, and very clean. Everything we needed was there. It felt so welcoming. We had a door that opened onto Charm’s Garden which was lovely too.
I stayed inside a lot with Teia, but my partner went out and sat in the garden with her one day.
It’s such a beautiful Centre with the best, helpful Midwives. Having that time with you, your partner and your baby for a couple of nights, where you’re cooked for and looked after, I loved that.”
How did you find the staff’s advice and support?
“The staff were amazing and helped me so much. They were always available when we needed them.
The Midwives eased our concerns and made the first few days with our daughter much easier.
Staff were there 24/7. I made many phone calls to the Midwives in the middle of the night, and they were always there within minutes.
The staff are full of knowledge and easy to talk to. They don’t make you feel like you should have known something already.
I asked some questions multiple times because I was so tired. And I asked one person, how do I do this? And then the next day I asked another person, how do I do this?
I never felt I was a burden or asking too many questions. I’ve recommended the Centre to lots of friends that are having babies.”
How did your stay at the Centre shape the start of your parenting journey?
“It absolutely was a good start to being a mum. I think we would’ve struggled if we’d gone straight home on our own after the birth.
There were some newborn things we weren’t aware of, and the staff guided us through. The first few days can be quite hard because of very little sleep and trying to latch baby comfortably.
The staff helped me with latching so we could feed properly and gave me some solutions when I was finding breastfeeding painful.
Our plan was to birth at hospital and then go straight to the Birthing Centre, but we needed to stay in hospital one night because of complications during labour. We transferred to Helensville Birthing Centre the next day.”
Have you benefited from any of the other services provided by Helensville Birthing Centre?
I went to see a Lactation Consultant for support transitioning off a nipple shield. We were struggling with Teia’s latch as she was quite small and found it hard.
The Lactation Consultant Clinic was awesome. It was nice that it was free – I could just make an appointment and go.
We already knew the Lactation Consultant, which was good; she was one of the Midwives that was there during our postnatal stay.”
How was the food at the Centre?
“The best! I even told staff at the time I thought the food was high quality. And the desserts! My partner was able to have a dessert as well at one point. It was everything we needed.”
What difference did it make to have your partner there for the whole time?
”It was a major advantage. Him being a new dad, and both of us learning together. Especially during our breastfeeding journey, he could pick up lots of tips to help out. Once we got home he could help me when things got hard again.
While we were there, he learnt lots, like how to care for our baby, swaddle her, change her nappies. He was the one in charge of recording how often she was fed and changes in her nappies (the colour of her poo and how many nappy changes). With him being there the entire time, it meant I could focus on feeding my baby and have that bonding time. And it also meant he could get that valuable bonding time within the first couple of days as well.
In those early days, you get very little sleep and a hundred per cent of your time and energy’s focused on your baby. With my partner there, it meant we could tag team a bit. If I was exhausted and needed to rest, he could hold Teia while I got some sleep. Having him there was invaluable.”
Did you have any visitors while you were there?
”No. We were keen to enjoy that quality time, just us three. We’ve had plenty of visitors since then! It’s good to have those two days to yourself.”
What did you think of Helensville? Did your partner have much chance to explore?
”He would go down to the local shops to get his food. Everything he needed was there, and he popped down to the pharmacy to grab a couple of things for me. The supermarket was close and there are lots of different food places. The Centre is in such a good location.”
How well stocked was Helensville Birthing Centre?
”Everything was there – nappies and changing mats, and pads for me. There was lots of information including an awesome book made for new parents – frequently asked questions, breastfeeding advice, and different feeding positions. The ensuite bathroom was stocked with everything we needed as well. We packed our own toiletries and towels, but we didn’t need them. It was like staying in a hotel or motel.”
Can you tell us a bit more about your breastfeeding challenges and how the staff supported you?
”The staff were so busy at the hospital it was hard to get someone to come and give me a hand. Also, because she was born so little, Teia found it hard to open wide enough to latch properly. Feeding was painful. By the time we got to the Birthing Centre, I already had sore nipples.
At the Centre we discussed that once my milk supply had come in, and Teia was feeding well, I had the option to use a nipple shield if they were still painful. I started using a shield about a week after she was born.
The Midwives at Helensville Birthing Centre gave me all the options to help ease the pain and discomfort and to support my nipples to heal – like hydrogel pads, using a cold compress, airing them out, putting breastmilk on them and using the nipple shield. Once I got home, Teia was a week old and they were still painful and started to bleed; I thought let’s try the nipple shield because by then I had tried everything else. I used the nipple shield for a couple of weeks. It was a godsend as it meant my nipples could heal. We’ve since transitioned off them so I’m breastfeeding without the shield again.”
How did you manage that transition off the shield?
”I found the idea quite scary. Breastfeeding with shields was pain-free and Teia was feeding well, but I did want to go back to feeding without the shield. I was scared, knowing how painful it had been. I’d made a couple of attempts to transition off them and Teia struggled to latch because she had got used to the shield.
Through my Midwife I made the appointment to see a Lactation Consultant at the Centre. The Consultant gave me the confidence to not use shields. It was great having someone there to support me while I was trying to latch and give me some tips. At the clinic, I was able to get Teia to latch without any pain. So, the Clinic was super helpful. I could go home knowing she can feed without the shield and the pain.
We still have a little bit of trouble on one side. Now and again, I might use the shield, and then I take it off again when my nipples are not so sore, and she feeds perfectly. She’s still learning how to latch properly on one side, it’s all about her neck getting stronger and her growing ability to turn her head different ways to get a comfortable latch.”
Was there anything else about your experience that you’d like to share with others that might be thinking of birthing or staying at Helensville Birthing Centre?
”It feels like you’re away on holiday. You’ve got a new baby that you have to look after, but it’s made so much easier for new parents. Even considering our second child, down the track, I would go back, because every baby’s different and there’ll always be different challenges.
I birthed at Waitākere because it was closer to home. Being my first I was a bit nervous about birth and labour. But while I was at the Birthing Centre and talking to some of the Midwives, it made me consider that I could go there for our second child.
For the labour and birthing experience that I had, even though there were some complications, the staff at the Centre would have handled every single challenge as well as the hospital. And I would have got one-on-one support from the start.”