Shanay Hall is mum to 3 year old Iyla. She’s modelled for Russh, Vogue and Zimmerman, lived in Perth, Sydney, New York and Berlin, and is currently in the process of starting a birth doula agency. Oh, and she’s only 25.
In part 1 of our chat with this inspiring free-sprited Aussie, we discuss nursing a newborn, looking after yourself as a new mum, Ayurvedic tradition, weaning and life in Berlin.
Did you think or know much about breastfeeding before Iyla was born?
Not really, a lot was hands on practice. I knew that babies aren’t hungry in the first 2 to 4 days before your milk ‘comes in’ - so that you have time to practice, which I think helped a lot. I read Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, but that’s about it. And of course learnt basic stuff in my 8-week Bradley Method class.
Was nursing easy or difficult for you in the newborn days?
It hurt a lot in those first few days, when my nipples were toughening up and my uterus was returning to it’s normal size. I learnt that you shouldn’t use soaps on the nipples as it can ruin the PH balance - to rub breast milk into them and let them dry out on their own instead.
She latched like a champ and was a great feeder. I also had my placenta encapsulated and think that helped a lot with my milk supply. I had a lot of milk. Also eating and drinking regularly - they take so much out of you! I remember my mouth being so dry sometimes when she was feeding! A lot of people think they don’t have to eat well while their nursing, but it’s so important!
How did you look after yourself mentally and physically while breastfeeding? Did it change how you thought about healthy living?
Having the placenta capsules helped both mentally and physically, as I had energy during the days despite now getting much sleep. I think lack of sleep is the number one thing that drains new mothers.
Image by Ivana Martyn
I would side-lay breastfeed Iyla, which meant that I could sleep while she fed. This saved me during the days and nights. We also co-slept for the first 6 months, which was convenient.
You really have to look after yourself like you are pregnant again, if not a bit better. Making sure you have 3 meals a day with snacks, and drink lots and lots of water! Nettle tea is great too and fennel tea I loved. I think there is a lot of pressure for new mums to get out and do stuff, which was the bonus of having Iyla away from family.
I felt really rested, we relaxed during the days and I felt no pressure to breastfeeding in front of people.
Can you give us some insight into the Aryuvedic perspective on breastfeeding?
The Indians have a beautiful tradition in which the mother and baby receive a hot oil massage everyday for 40 days! This allows sensitive newborn physical protection and allows the mother time for complete rest and recuperation. They use herbs like fennel seeds, turmeric and ghee to help with low milk supply.
Do you have any advice for women on how they can nurture themselves in those early days with a newborn?
Take a shower everyday and look after yourself first! You will feel brand new. Put the baby in a bassinet or bouncer and bring it into the room with you if you are worried!
Ask for help!!! It’s ok to need help, and it takes a village for us to get off to a good start. Eat and cook nourishing meals. In the last weeks of your pregnancy cook meals and freeze them.
Accept and just be with your new baby, you don’t have to do anything else. Follow their lead — they will teach you and you will learn quickly.
How old is Iyla now, and how was the weaning process for you?
She is 3 now! I stopped feeding when she was 18 months old.
I started by cutting day feedings out slowly and kept the night feedings. It was so emotional in those final weeks because you get so used to feeding and it’s such a special thing to be doing. Maybe it was my hormones, but I cried a lot!
I made fresh almond or cashew milk in a sippy cup. She would eat more food when the day feedings were cut out, and I just said ‘no more boobie only at night time’. I told her they were ‘ouchies’ and she kind of got it. This went on for a week and was surprisingly good!
In the week of cutting out night feedings I got my partner to put her to bed. We kind of went cold turkey to stop the night feedings. I would also give in too easily, so my partner started doing bed time and getting up with her during the night . It only took 4 to 5 nights.
I recommend doing it slow, because if you just stop you will feel engorged and sore. I think it’s nice to slowly let go.
She still holds onto my nipple to fall alseep which is super sweet, but she is getting older now!
Can you give us any tips for weaning gently and naturally?
Start cutting certain feeds and keep one feed for a week or two. Then try to cut the last feed out.
Distraction is key - lots of playing and activities during the days. Also, I think you need to replace the comfort with something else they can redirect their obsession to - like a cuddle toy. If they ask for boobie pass them a sippy cup and say ‘here’s your drink’! I had lots of baths and skin to skin with Iyla in that period.
Definitely lots and lots of hugs — they will be emotional.
Image by Ivana Martyn
You’re currently living in Berlin, do you miss Australia?
Yes of course. My whole family are back in Perth and it’s been hard not having them close by. But I’ve lived out of home since I was 19, so it seems normal for me. When I had Iyla it made sense to at least consider moving back, but we just haven’t got that far yet! We really love our life in Berlin and it’s such a great thing for Iyla to learn a different language and culture. I miss the lifestyle in Australia, we have it pretty good! I miss driving and the beaches a lot!
What do you love about Berlin?
I love how cheap the food is, and the beautiful forest walks only 30 to 40 minutes outside of the city. It has a lot of nature and beautiful parks for children made from rustic wood.
I have a bike seat for Iyla and we really enjoy riding places, and doing family rides to the markets and parks on the weekends. Iyla was born in NYC so it’s a very different feel - it’s not fast paced at all!
You’re still only 25 and have lived so much life already, what do you see in your future?
Too many things! I still want to be doularing full time.
I’m in the process of trying to get a doula agency started in Berlin. I also have a podcast channel with my meditation friend Ed Vero, he does Vedic meditation. We created a ‘conscious birth course’ as well as the podcast. A doula and a meditation teacher is a very powerful team!
I want to have at least one pet, maybe one more little one, live in the country, have a veggie patch, and organise a successful mummy circle or pregnancy circle where women can support each other and grow together. I’d also love to organise women only full moon meet ups, so we can feel support and not feel like we are crazy during those months. The list goes on and on!
What’s the best advice your mum ever gave you?
Stay grounded and remember where you come from!
In part 2 of our interview with Shanay we chat about her work as a doula, home birthing, her own birthing experience, and why she wanted to ‘do it again straight after’.