Jane Mason is globally recognised as an expert midwife.

She founded Natural Birthing Company in 2013 after she noticed a gap in the market for a vegan wellness brand, offering products to pregnant women. Here, she talks about the perfect hospital bag, preparing yourself for childbirth and shares her top tips for a crying baby.

Tell us about yourself and your career & why did you launch NBC
I came into Midwifery as a mature student, I’d always wanted to be a Midwife from when I had my own children but the time wasn’t right so I shelved the idea until they were a bit older. I studied at the University of Nottingham and turned 40 years old just after graduating.
I took up post as a Rotational Midwife at the City Hospital in Nottingham so this meant I worked both on Labour Suite supporting women in birth and also on the Antenatal and Postnatal wards where I cared for pregnant women and new mums with their babies. Our ward also specialised in caring for babies in transitional care so these were babies that were either premature, low birth weight, on medications or receiving phototherapy for jaundice. Many of these babies had feeding issues and most of these new mums needed extra special care themselves to cope with the challenging circumstances. We were fortunate in our Trust that they trained us to use Aromatherapy in our practice and we would witness some amazing results from using essentials oils either in labour or in the care of a new mum. Certain oils were known to calm women in labour, or increase their contractions or even help them to dispel a placenta that was stuck! With the new mums we would routinely offer compresses soaked in diluted essential oils to soothe sore perineum or calm sore nipples or engorged breasts. A particular favourite of the mums of the babies on neonatal unit was a blend to help them increase their lactation – this was a common issue for mums separated from their little ones. My favourite part of the shift would be going around at the beginning of a nightshift as all the visitors were going home and touching base with the new mums. I would find a lot of them shattered, in pain or very anxious due to breast feeding issues. I would blend and prepare compresses and show them how to apply them. A little later I would revisit and find women who were now feeling relaxed and calm and a whole lot more comfortable – they also felt a little pampered – like they had taken some time for themselves in the chaos of being a new mum. This was my light bulb moment – I knew that if these women could access this type of produce outside of the hospital they could benefit in the same way in their own home. I knew that there was nothing out there on the market and to start buying separate essential oils and them blending them as and when you need them was both a faff and expensive. As someone who is into natural treatments and alternative therapies, I was keen to bring this aromatherapy to the mainstream market so women to access it easily. At this point Natural Birthing Company already existed but we were just providing private antenatal classes in the local area but this new idea took hold and we bit the bullet to work with an aromatherapist to develop a capsule range of natural products for pregnant women and new mums. As a vegan myself it was important to me that the products contained no animal products and were not tested on animals either – I’m extremely proud of our Vegan Society approved status – there’s a lot of hoops to jump through to get this recognised seal of approval! I also only use natural products with no harsh chemicals so it was also crucial that we used natural options in our ingredients and did not entertain such things as parabens, SLS’s – pregnancy can make your skin super sensitive so we had to be extra careful with our choices.

How can expectant mums best prepare themselves for birth? 1. Pelvic Floor Exercises As women, we should be doing pelvic floor exercises on a regular basis, and in pregnancy, this is even more important. Strong pelvic floor muscles are invaluable at this time as they allow you to carry the extra weight of your baby as well as lowering your risk of experiencing incontinence both during pregnancy and after giving birth. Some midwives also believe that your ability to feel how to relax your pelvic floor can help tremendously in the second stage of labour. However, with all this talk pelvic floor exercises are so easily forgotten by most women. So, it’s worth trying to link the exercises to an activity to help you remember; try to every time you are on the phone, stop at traffic lights or boil the kettle to give them a go! 2. Squatting Another aspect of exercising your nether regions is to practice squatting. The pro-squatting people claim that whilst pelvic floor exercises will tighten/shorten the pelvic floor and cause your tail bone (coccyx) to curl under; squatting will strengthen your gluteus muscles and as a result they will pull your sacrum back, allowing your pelvic floor to stretch. In addition, squatting in labour with increase the pelvic diameter by 30%; resulting in a shorter second stage. So, practicing this position in pregnancy with also give you increased strength and the ability to maintain the position longer as you push/breathe your baby out. There are lots of articles on the web about the right versus wrong way to squat and that rather than seeing it as a choice of either squatting or pelvic floor exercises there is a strong suggestion that a combination of the two is the best way forward.

  1. Optimal Baby Position We’re not just talking head down here; ideally, you want to be aiming for your baby’s back to be running along the front of your bump or along either side. If your baby is lying with their back against your back (midwives refer to this as the OP position) then this can make for a longer labour and a more painful one at that. To avoid this position or correct it try sitting on a birthing/gym ball with your legs wide apart and lean forward so you can rest your arms/head onto a low ironing board. It is worthwhile adopting this kind of position towards the end of your pregnancy when watching TV as leaning backwards into the settee can be a route cause to OP babies. In previous generations back to back babies weren’t as common because we didn’t have the comfy sofas and women were leaning forwards scrubbing floors, doorsteps and cleaning hearths! Don’t worry I’m not suggesting you start doing that; a gym ball is much easier! 4. Perineal Massage Perineal massage is becoming more and more common as midwives are now more proactive about advising women to undertake this massage from 34 weeks of pregnancy. It’s certainly not a fad though as research has found it can reduce the risk of needing a cut in labour (episiotomy) and also help to reduce the risk of tearing. In my time as a midwife I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t want to avoid tearing or being cut, so it’s got to be worth trying. It only takes 5 -10 minutes and can be done as much as every day or just 2-3 times a week; whatever you feel comfortable with. You are advised to use suitable oil due to the sensitive area. Our specially developed perineal massage oil is fragrance free.

What should you pack in your hospital bag?
I would recommend preparing your hospital bag a few weeks before delivery date, perhaps 2-4 depending on how organised you are! There is so much to think about and if this is your first baby it’s hard to know what you will and won’t need. What to pack on your hospital bag for labour 1. Birth plan/preferences & don’t forget your handheld pregnancy notes. 2. Whatever you plan to wear in labour – thin nightie/large t-shirt 3. Bed socks to keep your feet warm 4. Slippers – ones that are easy to slip on 5. Hair accessories to help keep it out of the way & keep you cooler 6. Lip balm – all that breathing, especially on gas & air, gives you dry lips 7. Something to wear in the pool (if you prefer not to be totally naked) 8. Cooling spray & flannel to keep you cool and refreshed. (Check out our ‘Cool It Mama’) 9. Massage oil – massage in labour is known to reduce pain & anxiety. (Our ‘Relax & Breathe is ideal) 10. Phone charger – you know you’ll forget this unless it’s mentioned! 11. Energy boosting snacks & drinks for both of you 12. Music – relaxing – you’ve seen those dancing women in labour right?! 13. Drinking straw – makes it easier to drink in labour.

What to pack in your hospital bag for after labour 1. Plastic bag for any dirty/wet clothing (unless you just want to ditch it!) 2. Small bath towel for you to shower after labour 3. Overnight toiletries – body wash, face wash, toothpaste & brush etc 4. 1 pack of Maternity pads – (the soft thick ones are best) 5. Few pairs of big Bridget Jones style knickers (buy a cheap pack of 3) (helps to hold your pad in place & covers over your wound if you have a c-section) – avoid paper pants they’re just not comfy at all! 6. Nursing bra or comfortable non-wired supportive bra 7. Thin nightwear with easy access if breastfeeding – bear in mind you may have to walk to the bathroom in view of other women’s visitors so you might like to throw in a thin dressing gown. 8. Earplugs & sleep mask – hospital wards can be noisy and bright! 9. Something to soothe the aftermath of labour – try either our “Pure Bliss” or “Bottoms up”

What is your view on breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is seen by many as the most natural thing in the world however for lots of new mums it’s the most stressful part of being a new mummy. I could preach all day about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mum and baby but this does not help the frazzled mama at the end of her tether! At the end of the day you have to do what is right for you and your mental health – I’ve seen too many mummies struggling with anxiety or depression based on the pressure they feel. However, I’ve also worked with other mums who have persevered and eventually succeeded – their feeling of success boosts their confidence as a new mum and makes them feel like they can now achieve anything. Breastfeeding is a powerful and emotive subject!
What are your top tips for a crying baby?

  1. Remain calm, if you get stressed your baby will sense this & cry even more!
  2. Check all of the basics – nappy, hunger, temperature.
  3. Sometimes babies cry because they get over tired (you will get to know the different types of cry your baby does so you will then tune into why they are crying)
  4. Soothe them and wind them on your shoulder– they could have trapped wind, colic or general tummy ache.
  5. If you are breastfeeding and you know they are fully fed them pass them to your partner to have them settle them – they don’t smell of milk so baby will settle easier on them.
  6. Try swaddling them as some babies feel more secure this way and relax – but follow the recommendations for swaddling https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/swaddling-slings/

Should you sleep with your baby?
Choosing to sleep with your baby is very much a personal choice, there will be many women out there who will recount stories of sleeping with their babies will no ill effect but then you will hear the odd story of a Sudden infant death that occurred in the parent’s bed which is devastating. I think if you arm yourself with the correct up to date knowledge from the Lullaby Trust only you can then make that decision. https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/co-sleeping/