Tending to the Soul

Photo by Lynne Dullard

Who am I after years of mothering? What makes me happy?

For the first time in years I was able to fully explore this question at the Body and Soul Bali retreat. I gifted myself the time and sacred space to find the answers. When-we-ignore-ourselvesAs a woman and a mother, the opportunity to eject myself out of my daily life of school runs, chores, work and bickering kids was a true blessing. I had attended some of the local retreats run by Kelly Hine. She had helped me progress in meditation to a point where I could easily still my busy mind. This had a lasting calmness that pervaded my life and quelled an increasing occurrence of panic attacks. A good friend and I were drawn to the idea of an overseas version. Bagus Jati was the setting (near Ubud) and it was delightful in every way. Perfect! Words cannot describe! So here are some photos:

Check out the yoga studio overlooking a vast wall of rain forest!
Bagus Jati
Bagus Jati

I shared the experience with fifteen other women. The support and vulnerability shown by all was heart warming and further strengthened my respect for the feminine. One of the highlights was a ritual where, one by one, we stood under a waterfall as we each washed away limiting beliefs (mine included doubt, resistance, anger and worry) and manifested new intentions (trust, peace, positivity, creativity and freedom). Can I just say….it all came true!

Prior to the retreat I was feeling disheartened. My workplace depressed me. I was bursting into tears at random times. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a lactation consultant anymore. Perhaps it was simply burnout? Along with meditation and yoga, the program provided soul sessions where participants were asked to write in a workbook reflecting on various life areas.  I spent the first few days seeking a new career direction. Could I get into the events industry? My other hat involves assisting with organising breastfeeding conferences. I enjoy this work, it isn’t so emotionally draining. But something unexpected happened while I was away. It was the yoga that did it!

I found myself extremely resistant to yoga. Wanting to wag the classes. Angry. Feeling forced into it. I had dabbled with yoga on and off over the years but found it boring and repetitive. I attended the retreat primarily for the quiet space that I thought only meditation could provide, though I had never experienced yin yoga. Poses are held for up to five minutes (it felt like longer!!). Chi meridians are cleared and connective tissues are stretched helping long suppressed emotions to come to the surface. In-the-precise-now-noI surrendered to it, despite my negative feelings, and found myself feeling sadness about the loss of a friendship from 15 years ago. Where did that come from?! The following day more emotional release that brought a strange relief and inner strength:

I can handle anything; I can rely on myself; I have the answers within; I don’t need external validation from others.

Maybe yoga had benefits beyond increased flexibility and tone! As a result I now practice yin yoga a few times a week at home and balance it with alternate days of brisk walks (more yang style exercise). Yin yoga is a perfect blend of yoga and meditation, highlighting the importance of surrender, acceptance and patience – the perfect antidote for this fast paced world with its thirst for immediate gratification.


The retreat program also allowed for plenty of free time to lounge around the pool, reading books, complimentary massages, long luxurious mealtimes spent enjoying delicious vegetarian meals. The magic created in that week of bliss has given me a new zest for life. The attention paid to my souls desires reignited my love of writing. For most of my life I wrote a diary, recording dreams, teenage crushes, travel plans, heart aches and goals. Having kids had put a stop to this. The retreat provided me with all the right ingredients to awaken my creativity. I write almost daily in my diary now and started this blog knowing that I don’t need to wait until I am confident in my writing skills or get more experience under my belt. It doesn’t even matter if I’m not great at it or if anyone reads it! It’s the act of doing it that is revitalizing!

Overall the retreat raised my vibrational level to a place I didn’t think possible anymore – didn’t we just get older and more jaded? Life no longer feels so hard – so overwhelming! Tapping into my inner child, I found an optimism I had lost. I returned to work feeling more capable of enduring the negative aspects of my job and more trusting of what the future will bring career wise. I am enjoying new interests (writing and yoga). I feel lighter because I am living more in the moment.

Call to action for weary souls:

  • Focus on the now.
  • Don’t fight uncomfortable emotions – breathe, surrender – you can handle anything!
  • Tend to your soul – find what makes you happy and do it regularly.
  • Go on a retreat  or simply book yourself some “me time”.


Baby-led breastfeeding

One of the best parts of my job is when I get to watch a baby find its way to the breast. Its just magic! It can make me shed a tear. But what’s truly upsetting to me is the fact that many mothers do not get to experience this, purely because no one has told them about the phenomenon of baby-led attachment.

Here is a quote so powerful in its truth:

Babies breastfeed and mothers make milk

I can’t remember who said this (if you know please tell me so I can credit them). Often this is forgotten, all the responsibility is placed on the mother. She feels that burden. But what if we gave some of that responsibility back to the very capable infant and set the stage for success. Babies breastfeed – lets give them the controls. It could be said that a baby’s instinct is much stronger than its mother, whose intuition has been withered away by a culture that has fostered a loss of primal knowledge replacing it with doubt and fear. A society that lacks confidence in women and their bodies. If we can’t trust our bodies, let us at least trust our babies.

If you place a baby prone on her mother’s chest (mother is reclined and baby is lying on top – chest to chest), like any other mammal she is wired for survival and will use her innate reflexes to find and attach to the breast. This instinct exists for a couple of months, and is a great technique to try when experiencing breastfeeding difficulties. Some babies initially resist a conventional mother-led breastfeeding position, perhaps due to birth trauma/pain, over stimulation etc. It is especially useful for that first feed, when baby is placed skin to skin on the mother immediately after birth. A natural progression. In fact the first breastfeed could be considered the “4th stage of labour”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that:

“the process of childbirth is not finished until the baby has safely transferred from placental to mammary nutrition”.3

Most babies can find their own way to the breast within an hour. Routine procedures can wait for an hour or so, and any observations of the infant can be done on the mother (the baby’s natural habitat).

It is important for mothers to know that labour medications and epidurals (used in vaginal birth and caesareans) may interfere with baby-led attachment. It is striking to see such dulled reflexes in some babies; no rooting or gaping (turning towards the breast with the mouth open wide); no nibbling;  which may persist for days resulting in increased stress for the mother and the need for formula supplementation. Often mothers aren’t told about these deleterious effects on early breastfeeding.  This information is essential for mothers to make an informed choice.

Unfortunately the routine practice of uninterrupted skin to skin is not yet commonplace and some midwives have never heard of baby-led attachment. This may mean pregnant women need to ask for it. In order for change to occur there needs to be a demand. It can be difficult for first time parents to challenge the status quo in hospital (as a consumer parents do have the right to speak up) alternatively hire a doula (or me!) to do this for you. A doula is trained to be a woman’s strong supportive voice (and much, much more). I still regret not hiring one for my first birth.

Mothers also need to be aware that choice of birthplace can make a significant difference to breastfeeding success . Choosing a hospital that is baby-friendly accredited will help to increase breastfeeding success. A baby-friendly hospital adheres to the “Ten Steps To Successful Breastfeeding”. Step 4 is:

“Place babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour and encourage mothers to recognise when their babies are ready to breastfeed, offering help if needed.”

As a health professional I have to force myself to be hands off. There’s an urge to interfere, to help the baby get to the breast. But if we can be patient, so much can be gained. This sacred space cultivates a mother’s confidence, breeds trust and starts the captivating process of bonding.

Suggestions for pregnant mothers who wish to breastfeed:

  • Attend an antenatal breastfeeding class. The Australian Breastfeeding Association covers baby-led attachment in their classes.
  • Choose a BFHI accredited hospital for your place of birth.
  • Hire a doula or take a hypnobirthing class. Both options have research that shows a reduced need for analgesia and birth interventions.
  • Ask for skin to skin after birth (and an uninterrupted first hour).
  • Try baby-led attachment – trust your baby knows what to do, even if you don’t.

Breeding Yin; An Introduction.

Yin is:

  • feminine
  • intuitive
  • right brain
  • dark
  • lunar
  • night
  • passive

The system we live in is inherently masculine (Yang). This is changing. This blog is my contribution to correcting this imbalance.

It is my intention to share knowledge learned from my journey as a breastfeeding counsellor, lactation consultant, mother and woman.

I am tired of the restrictions of my workplace (that has no interest in encouraging a mothers intuition). I need freedom of self expression. To be optimistic. To be part of a movement celebrating femininity.

Breeding Yin will address breastfeeding, parenting, self care, personal growth and women’s issues.