Author name: Alyssa Veneklase

Grand Haven Michigan

What to do on Michigan’s Gold Coast – Grand Haven

Our guest blogger today is one of our postpartum doulas, Lynnette Nichols. She has lived in Grand Haven for 15 years and wanted to share some hidden gems with you. Next time you take a family trip to West Michigan’s Gold Coast, stop in Grand Haven and check out these fun, family-friendly activities.

While raising my children in Grand Haven, some of our best memories were watching the clouds as you cross the draw bridge and also listening to my kids giggle as their feet squeak walking on the beach sand. I truly enjoyed having my daughters grow up in this amazing town because Grand Haven has so much to offer. Now that my girls are older and even though we still live in Grand Haven, they really appreciate it here as much as I do and they love to be tourists in their own town. We all know the vacationing dollars can add up quick, so I thought I could suggest some activities that are budget-friendly and also show you some of Grand Haven that you may not have known was here.

The public transportation system runs a trolley all summer long, with designated stops between the state park, downtown, and east town. The trolley drivers are very knowledgeable about the history of Grand Haven and they conduct a tour with interesting information and a lot of fun facts. Fares for the trolley are $1.50 and under depending on age.

For more information visit:

Located on Washington Avenue downtown, this museum displays a lot of Michigan History that is great for all ages. Entry is free but if you would like to make a donation of any dollar amount, there is a donation box inside the museum.

For more information on the exhibits visit:

Located at the West End of Washington Avenue along the Grand River, visitors can explore this restored railroad depot and learn about the history of transportation, including rail and maritime. Entry is free.

Pronto Pups is an iconic corn dog stand located along the Grand River. These delicious hot dogs on a stick are dipped in a thin batter and are a must have when visiting Grand Haven. The line can be a bit long but it is definitely worth the wait. Ask for mustard and/or ketchup and they will paint it on for you making these a great on-the-go lunch. We typically order two per person and sit in the grassy lawn watching the boats and ships go through the channel.

The Splash Pad in Grand Haven was a great addition to Chinook Pier right at the Marina downtown. Children of all ages enjoy running through the fountain to cool off and I secretly love sitting there to get misted by the cool water. This is the perfect place for a snack break because some of the shops located at Chinook Pier offer ice cream and you can even get pizza by the slice.

Chinook Pier has a great mini golf course that we have been going to for years. It is only $3 for adults and $2 for children. This is definitely an option for those not so great beach days.

This is a fun little park located at the East End of Washington Avenue in our area known as East Town. The park is on a bayou of the Grand River and has a boat launch to put in your boat or kayaks and canoes. It also includes a dog park, playground, grills, and restrooms.

This is our favorite place to get ice cream. I may be a little partial because not only does my daughter work there, but it is also a block away from our house. The prices are very reasonable and our dogs love going there for their Harley Sundae. East End Ice Cream is located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Beechtree Street.

If you are in Grand Haven on a Tuesday, make sure to visit this farmer’s market. They set up every Tuesday evening all summer long and offer the best local fruit and vegetables, honey and jams, and handmade crafts. East Town is becoming very popular to the locals and is known for their unique style and up-and-coming music festival, Walk the Beat. The market is located in East Town on Beechtree Street.

Last but not least, you have to see and hear the Musical Fountain. This famous fountain is very unique as it synchronizes its light and music display. It performs every night at dusk during the summer and usually has a theme. Our favorites have been Disney Songs and Classic Movie Night.

For a summer schedule visit:

It turns out, the most memorable activities we enjoyed as a family were actually very inexpensive. I hope you enjoy our beautiful town as much as we do!


What to do on Michigan’s Gold Coast – Grand Haven Read More »

Angel Schoof Birth Doula

Meet our new birth doula, Angel!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I have been a stay at home mom for the past (almost) four years. Before that I worked as a medical assistant in a few different areas, end of life care and a neurosurgeons office.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I was so inspired to become a doula by the amazing support I had with my two births. I was so greatly moved and spent the last four years saying I wish I could do that. And one day it hit me -Why not? Timing and opportunity aligned and I feel so fortunate to see my wildest dream coming to fruition.

3) Tell us about your family?
My husband Erik and I have been married almost five years. We moved to Rockford from Fort Myers, Florida two years ago. We have really been loving West Michigan, especially the weather! Our son Benjamin will be four in September and our daughter Hazel just turned one in February.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
What’s a vacation? Ha! Kidding of course! We usually spend our vacation time in Fort Myers. We have lots of family there to visit and it’s always good to escape during the long stretch of winter!

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I am a lover of so many different kinds of music from old to new. I love Bob Dylan and Neil Young and the Backstreet Boys (please don’t judge my inner fan girl) and John Mayer! And don’t even get me started on Bob Seger.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
My favorite thing to tell a new mom, which was also told to me when I had my first is you’re the mom and you know best. Listen to your instincts, trust yourself and your judgement. You know your baby better than anyone else.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
My doula superpower would be my passion. I want every woman to have the birth she desires. My wish is to support women in every angle of birth. Physically, mentally, emotionally… I want to give well-rounded support and will dedicate myself entirely in order to achieve this with my clients.

8) What is your favorite food?
I love food with big flavors – Mexican, Indian, and Thai, but I’m going to be really honest here and tell you, I love a turkey sandwich. If you and I were at a restaurant together 9 times out of 10, I’m getting the turkey sandwich!

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
How amazing is Lake Michigan? Salt free, shark free, jelly fish free! I grew up going to the beaches in South Haven, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for the pier there and sitting on the black river having a  bite to eat. Since we’ve moved back to Michigan we ventured out to Kirk Park in West Olive and I was blown away. Such a beautiful park and the water was so clear! Looking forward to more visits along the coast!

10) What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth And Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block. It’s pretty eye opening. Just questioning whether we are over-using medical technology to manage births at the expense of mothers and new babies.

11) Who are your role models?
My role models are the two women who were vital in helping me achieve the births I wanted so desperately for my own kiddos. My doula Jaci Seiben (out of Fort Myers) was amazing. Her energy was so calming and reassuring. She was exactly the person I’d prayed to have at my side during the birth of my son. For the birth of my daughter, my midwife Shannon Pawson blew me away. She was the definition of care. She was so knowledgeable, and empowered me to make informed decisions. We spoke about everything pertaining to birth before I was even in labor, so all she had to do was come, be a quiet presence and support me and my plan for birth. Both of these women have touched my heart and they are truly who I wish to model myself after.


Meet our new birth doula, Angel! Read More »

Jamie Platt Doula

Meet our new doula, Jamie!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?

I worked as a Medical Assistant for 10 years; most of that time was spent at the Pediatric Endocrinology clinic at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. My full time job for the past two years has been as a nursing student at Grand Valley State University. I will graduate with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing in December. Yay!

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I have a passion for all things related to pregnancy, the birthing process, and postpartum care for mothers and their families. I feel that mothers are often overlooked after having a baby, especially if it’s not their first child. I wanted to become a doula so that I could help mothers in their homes with whatever they need. I want to change the culture of postpartum care, including the stigma that can surround postpartum mental health.

3) Tell us about your family.

I have 3 children:
Noah (13), Jacob (4), and Peyton (2).  We live in Byron Center.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

I enjoy any place that gets me out in nature and around water, which makes me feel alive and lifts my spirit up.

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.

This is a tough one because I like almost all genres of music.  Right now I mostly listen to country, and one of my favorite artists is Dierks Bentley.  Several years ago I attended his concert in Vegas, and he brought me up on stage, sang with me, then as a joke left the stage and I was out there by myself.  It will always be one my favorite memories!

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?

That sometimes you need to listen to your own heart and not what everyone else tells you. There is no one-fits-all manual for parenting and sometimes you just need to go with the flow! You will find your own routine and what works best for your family. Never be afraid to ask for help- it takes a village!

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?

Since working in healthcare I have learned that I am an extremely empathetic person that can connect easily with others in their most vulnerable times.

8) What is your favorite food?

Mexican- chips & salsa, tacos, fajitas, taco salads…yum!

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? 

Holland State Park or the trails by Felt Mansion- I love being by Lake Michigan!

10) What are you reading now? 

I am in the process of re-reading 2 books from La Leche League International- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and The Breastfeeding Answer Book.  I hope to be a La Leche League Leader soon.

11) Who are your role models?

My parents, grandparents, and other family members, who have shown me what it means to live in God’s word and always have faith in Him.  I admire Mother Teresa for her unwillingness to waiver in her convictions, despite so many naysayers. It can be difficult to find people willing to take a stand for their beliefs in the face of adversity, and I respect those who do.


Meet our new doula, Jamie! Read More »

Prenatal Fitness

Embraced and Not Feared: Exercise During Pregnancy

Our guess blogger today is Marissa Anderson of Fit4Mom Grand Rapids. Read on to gain valuable insight about prenatal fitness.

No matter what it looked like for you – plus sign, blue line, double line – the moment you knew you had a new life growing inside you, there were so many questions that needed answering. What should I eat? What shouldn’t I eat?  What do I actually FEEL like eating? What should we register for? What classes should I take? Do I want a doula? 

And for many new moms, there are questions about exercising.  Should I be exercising? What type of exercise can I do? Can I run? Can I exercise my abs?  Here are a few common questions that many pregnant mamas are asking:

Should I exercise during pregnancy?

Most likely – YES!!  The majority of women are able to exercise safely and effectively throughout their pregnancy. However, in the case of a high risk pregnancy or complications, your doctor may advise you to stop exercising – either for a period of time or for the duration of your pregnancy. But for women experiencing a normal pregnancy, exercising can be one of the best things you do during these 9 months!

Exercise is so important during pregnancy because right after delivery, when you are at your weakest physical state, you are asked to care for another human being – and you want to be ready for that! Staying fit helps you to go STRONG into the second act of motherhood. Exercise can also help decrease or prevent:

  • Excessive weight gain and postpartum weight retention
  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Maternal discomforts (nausea, leg cramps, back pain, constipation, swelling, depression, etc)
  • Surgical or medical preventions in pregnancy

And not only is exercise great for mom, it is also helpful in delivering a happy and healthy baby!

How Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

The best rule of thumb for exercising during pregnancy is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!  If your body is telling you to slow down, then do it. But if your body is feeling great, then continue to work as hard as you feel comfortable. Instead of focusing on what your heart rate is (which is what doctors used to recommend), it is better to rate how you feel on an exertion scale. If 0 is not moving at all and 10 is going “all out”, you should try to keep your exercise between 5-8. Many women find that they can continue to do the same types of exercising they were doing before they were pregnant throughout most of their pregnancy.  There are even pregnant women out there running marathons! But if that puts you over an 8 on the scale, then it’s best to choose something else.

One group of muscles that is really important to focus on during pregnancy is the upper back and shoulders. With the changes in a pregnant woman’s body structure, the shoulders tend to get rounded and the back hunched over. This only gets worse as the baby is born and you are spending time nursing, rocking, reaching into the crib, etc. These muscles can be strengthened with exercises like rows and pulldowns. Always remember to squeeze your shoulder blades together while doing these exercises in order to really activate those muscles!

Another group of muscles that is often overlooked during pregnancy is the core. The muscles of the abdomen and back are SO important to a new mom that they really should not be inactive throughout pregnancy. There are a lot of different opinions about what women should and should not be doing for core exercises during pregnancy. Many doctors will actually discourage all exercises targeting the core. However, this makes recovery so much harder after baby and can cause permanent lower back damage. Twisting exercises should be limited but everything else is safe during pregnancy as long as it is tolerated. Again – if something does not feel comfortable then make sure you are listening to your body. But most women can successfully exercise their core muscles throughout their pregnancy.

What should I be aware of during exercise while I’m pregnant?

As you all know, our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy. A woman’s body will go through more changes during the 9 months of her pregnancy than a man’s will in his entire life! It’s important to know how these changes can affect your exercise routine. And it’s also important to know what signs your body will give you to tell you to slow down or stop.

One of the ways your body prepares to give birth is through the hormone relaxin. This hormone kicks in to loosen your joints, particularly those of the pelvic bones in order to more easily deliver a baby. However, relaxin can affect other joints of your body as well, and you may notice that you feel a little wobbly at times. It is important to be careful during exercise while doing side to side movements or balance activities because your joints are more likely to give out in these situations. Another time to be careful of this is during stretching. Stretching is very important during pregnancy but overstretching can be a problem while the joints are so loose.

Keep cool and hydrated during your workouts! Pregnant women tend to get overheated more easily and lose water rapidly. It is also important to know that you need to bring in extra calories for the calories you are burning during exercise. Now is not a time to be worried about losing weight! Having a pre-workout snack helps to regulate your blood sugar and gives you the energy you need to exercise.

Most importantly – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you are experiencing any strange symptoms (bleeding, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, etc), make sure to STOP! It is always better to be safe than sorry. You have plenty of time to push yourself harder once you have your baby.

If you are interested in learning more about how to safely and effectively exercise during your pregnancy, make sure to check out our Fit4Baby classes that are led by certified prenatal fitness instructors!


You can contact Marissa with any questions at

Embraced and Not Feared: Exercise During Pregnancy Read More »

Down Syndrome

How my son with Down syndrome has changed my life.

We recently had the opportunity to interview our guest blogger, Alisha, about her experience as a mother of a child with Down syndrome. Read on to find out about her amazing journey.

On October 27th, 2016, Alisha found out her son Mason was born with Down syndrome.

What went through your mind?

A lot of things crossed my mind while I was pregnant but having a child born with a disability was not one of them. It made me put a lot of things into perspective and quickly. I was devastated initially. I had an older son who was perfect, and at 23 & 24 years old, my fiancée and I were really confused as to how this had happened. We had tons of ultrasounds done when I was pregnant, even a 3D one and no one ever saw anything. They always talked about how great the baby looked.

Our devastation didn’t last long. We knew that he was our son; we loved him and were prepared to support him no matter what. Things were definitely scary at first. I was always so anxious, always thinking of what Mason’s future would be like. Because that’s pretty much how it goes with Down syndrome, you don’t really know much until they start to grow and develop. So I’ve learned just to live in the moment.

What’s the one thing you would you tell other parents who find out they’re having a child with Ds?

It’s going to be okay. It doesn’t seem like it at first; you have so many questions, and there will be so many people contacting you. Just make sure you write everything down and take notes at the doctor’s appointments. There will be lots of them, so I suggest you get some sort of file folder to organize all of the paperwork.

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge has been figuring out all the different processes we have to go through to receive the resources available to Mason. Since he has Down syndrome, he is automatically eligible for SSI benefits but it takes three to five months to get approved. We have to submit so much information!

Having his medical records transferred from one doctor to another has also been a pain. I am constantly making phone calls to confirm everyone has what they need. Nonetheless, it has made me a more organized person. I’ve started using my planner more and I also have a folder for Mason’s and the rest of my little family’s important documents. I get to lug both of those around with me to each and every one of his doctor’s appointments.

What has been the most rewarding?

The whole experience has been rewarding to me. I’ve learned so much, and it’s encouraged me to make some changes health wise.

Mason has blessed my life in ways he’ll never understand. I wouldn’t have started my business had it not been for him, and my desire to be with him for every step of his journey. Pursuing my Virtual Assistant business has opened so many doors for me and changed my life in so many ways. I wake up everyday more grateful.

What is your biggest fear for your son?

My biggest fear is that Mason will be labeled by society. There are so many people that say and do things to people who are defenseless. Mason didn’t ask to be different, but honestly, he isn’t that much different than you and me. He’s only 5 months old but he’s so smart already, and he’s very aware of the things going on around him. Nonetheless, Mason and everyone else with a disability deserves the same respect as everyone else.

Do you think the way society sees people with disabilities has changed since we were kids? How?

Yes. I definitely think there is more education about all the different disabilities. I also think there’s also a lot more being done in society to make these people feel good and welcomed. My older son, Christian, goes to an inclusion school here in Atlanta. He’s in the 2nd grade and he has a little boy with Down syndrome in his class. I love that because it shows Christian that his brother won’t be any different than the rest of us.

What will you do to make sure he has all the opportunities he deserves?

Since the moment I found out Mason had Down syndrome, I said that I would do whatever I could to make sure he would be the best he could be in life. I quit my job to stay home with him and to make sure that he gets to all of his appointments. I plan to get involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta, make some connections, and find more resources that could benefit Mason.

Mason is doing awesome. He’s gotten nothing but great reports from all of the doctors we’ve visited. We recently went to the Down Syndrome Clinic at Emory here in Atlanta and we met with some genetic counselors. Dr. Talboy (who was awesome!) presented us with the chance to participate in a research study with Colorado State, and he’s starting physical therapy this week!

I will forever be grateful for my son with Down syndrome; he’s changed my life forever.

Alisha Wilson is Owner of M&C Virtual Assistants


How my son with Down syndrome has changed my life. Read More »

Play Dough

Easy Learning Invitations for your Toddler


Our guest blogger today is Alana Chernecki. She is an educator by trade and a designer at heart. A mom of three, with over ten years of teaching experience in Winnipeg’s public schools, she discovered early on the importance of creating a learning environment that was both stimulating and calm, clean and colorful, engaging and organized. Her company *brillante is an intersection of motherhood, education + design. She designs, styles, and curates spaces for kids + teens to inspire learning and creativity.

Toddlers are natural explorers, eager to use their senses to make meaning and to build understanding about their world. They LOVE mucking about, experimenting and testing their theories. It is a wonderful time in child development, and they are naturally curious about almost EVERYTHING.

What are some engaging learning invitations you can set up to ignite their curiosity, spark imagination, and extend their understanding?

A learning invitation is a prompt, a provocation, or a question that invites the child in to further discovery. A learning invitation does not have to be complicated – in fact, most of the time, simpler = better.

The Set Up: Just Like a Dinner Party

I liken the set up of a learning invitation to that of a dinner party. When setting a table for guests, you pay careful attention to beauty, order and simplicity. It should not overwhelm your guests, but be inviting and appealing. The same goes for setting up your toddler’s learning invitation. Be selective about what is displayed. Clear the clutter, and focus on the most important elements: the materials you are about to explore. In this way, you will draw your child’s attention to the medium they will encounter and “get to know.”

Be sure to have a plan for clean-up before you begin. This will help ease your stress, and provide a clear routine for your toddler so that they understand that when the activity is over, it is time to clean up. Having paper towel nearby, a bowl with warm sudsy water, and even a waste basket will make the experience less stressful for you, and more relaxed for the child.

The Process: Gather your Child(ren) and introduce them to their “new friend”

Anne Pelo, a leader in the Reggio-inspired approach to learning, likens the process of introducing a new medium as if we were introducing them to a dear friend. We want the child to truly “get to know” the medium (clay, wire, paint, watercolor).  You should be simple, and direct, and focus on the idea that they will be learning.

“You are an scientist. We are going to do the work of a scientist, and see what we can discover about color.”  There are so many fun activities saturated across early learning websites, but rarely is there a focus on learning and understanding. Children need to hear what they are learning about, so that they can see themselves as learners. This leads to self-efficacy, or independence in learning, which is the ultimate goal.

Your Role: Questioning, Documenting, and Deepening Understanding

Encourage your child to slow down, and take plenty of time with their work. Use words like “I notice,” and “What might happen if…” Make observations about their work, and take notes. Ask questions that help your child reflect on their work: “I wonder what your idea is here….” Or “What are you discovering about watercolor paints?”  You can even draw their attention to something you’ve created: “Look! I found a new way to roll this clay!”  Sometimes your child might become overzealous with a tool – using it with too much force. Simply coach your child about the best way to use the tool:  “A paint brush works best when the hairs lay nice and flat. We stroke a paint brush like we pat a new baby kitten: very gently.”

Take notes and pictures of the process your child goes through. Your pictures will spark language for a story they can dictate about their experience. Story writing deepens their learning, and reminds children of the power of the written word.  A story about their experience will be a reminder about the learning that occurred, further strengthening connections in the brain.

Once your child has had ample time to explore the medium, (we are not focusing on finished products, simply the wonderful process); you can invite your child to revisit their work.

Examples of Learning Invitations

  • Play dough with loose parts
  • Color mixing
  • Corn Starch and Color
  • Sticks + Tempera Paint
  • Wire, beads + clay
  • Black and White paints


Easy Learning Invitations for your Toddler Read More »

Infant Massage

What kind of oil should I use to massage my baby?

Today our guest blogger is Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, CEIM and infant massage instructor. She’s sharing some wisdom about what oils to use on your baby.

One of the most common questions I get related to infant massage is about what kind of oil to use. The International Association of Infant Massage recommends high quality (preferably organic), unscented, cold pressed fruit or vegetable oils as the gold standard for infant massage. Cold-pressed oil is produced by mechanically pressing vegetables, fruits, seeds or nuts with a low temperature. Many parents are skeptical at first. “Cooking oil?” they will ask. Yes, cooking oil! A food-based oil is really best for infant massage. There are many great options to choose from – grapeseed oil and safflower oil are two of my personal favorites, but coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, sweet almond oil, and even olive oil can be good choices too. Be mindful about potential allergies and sensitivities – a nut oil might not be a great option for a baby with possible allergies or family history of nut allergies.

You still might be wondering why a food-based oil is the preferred choice. Read on to learn 5 reasons why you should use a fruit or vegetable oil to massage your baby.

Reason #1 – Massage oil absorbs into your baby’s skin. Commercial baby oil is petroleum based and often has added chemicals and fragrance. Would you rather expose your baby’s delicate skin to a natural fruit or vegetable product or a product that is manufactured with lots of additives? The choice seems pretty easy to me. Plus food-based oils are edible and are therefore recognized as digestible food by the body. Food-based oils also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals and are very nourishing to the skin.

Reason #2 – You don’t have to worry if baby gets food-based oil in their mouth or eyes. We all know how frequently babies put their hands in their mouth or up to their face. If baby still has oil on their hands or arms from massage and bring their hands to their face, the chances of irritation is much less with a food based oil than with a petroleum based product. Again, food-based oils are safe and edible.

Reason #3 – Using an unscented oil allows the caregiver’s natural smell to be transmitted to the baby during the massage which is an important element of bonding. There is nothing more comforting to a baby than the smell of their mom or dad. Massaging with a food-based oil allows these natural smells to become part of the benefit of massage for the baby. It is not necessary to use something with added fragrance.

infant massage oils

As essential oils have grown more popular, parents also ask about using essential oils as part of infant massage. Although some essential oils can be safely used on babies with proper dilution, it is not recommended during infant massage. If you still want to incorporate essential oils into your massage experience, stick to diffusing them into the air rather than using them topically.

Reason #4 – Food-based oils are less slippery than commercial baby oils or massage oils. Try rubbing a drop or two of cooking oil (any kind) into the top of your hand. You will find that the oil absorbs quickly and is not overly heavy or greasy. During the practice of infant massage, we apply more oil to our hands as needed to make sure that our hands will glide over the baby’s skin easily; however, baby’s skin is left feeling soft and not greasy because the oil absorbs so readily. Babies do not become so slippery during the massage process that it is unsafe or challenging to handle or dress them.

Reason #5 – Food-based oil is inexpensive to buy and easy to find. When I began teaching infant massage in 2005, finding an organic oil was a little more challenging and usually entailed a trip to the local health food store. Today, you can find a variety of organic, cold pressed oils at most grocery stores or food retailers. The bottle will have an expiration date and will provide recommendations on shelf life and how to properly store your oil. To make the oil easier to use during massage, I will pour 1-2 ounces of oil into a smaller bottle with a flip top cap and store the large bottle in the refrigerator.

Are you looking for advice and support from a professional? At Gold Coast Doulas, we provide newborn care and support as part of our postpartum services. Contact us today!

There is one drawback to using a food-based oil for massage. It can spoil and become rancid over time. Store your oil in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. Before beginning your massage session, be sure to give your oil a good sniff before hand – believe me, you will be able to tell right away of your oil has gone bad. If you store it properly and check it before each massage, a bottle of oil should last you for quite some time.

I hope you have learned a few things about how to choose the right oil for infant massage.

Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 

Check out our BECOMING A Mother course! It’s a self-paced, online series to help reduce fear and gain confidence in pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. With recorded video lessons, monthly live chats, and a supportive FaceBook community – it’s everything we wish we would have known before we had our babies! We’d love to see you there!

Kristin & Alyssa


What kind of oil should I use to massage my baby? Read More »

Newborn Survival

Newborn Care: Fussiness

When I teach my newborn care class one of the topics we cover is fussiness. This topic gets a lot of reaction from parents. They have a lot of questions. Nobody wants a fussy baby, but the truth of the matter is that every baby is fussy at times. So what do you do when your baby is fussy?

The simplest place to start is to make sure baby has been fed, diaper has been changed, and decide if baby is tired. All three of these things can be the most common sources of fussiness, so rule those out first.

If baby has reflux, try babywearing. Keeping baby in an upright position can work wonders.

I also suggest the book Happiest Baby on the Block to my students. There are some great, simple ideas to help make baby happy including swaddling and sucking (either a pacifier or breast). The five S’s listed in the book are basically simple ways to recreate the feeling of the womb for your baby.

For an in-depth look at this topic and for more helpful tips about your newborn, register for one of my upcoming Newborn Care classes.

Alyssa Veneklase is a ProDoula Certified Postpartum Doula and Co-Owner at Gold Coast Doulas in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also teaches Newborn Care Classes and Postpartum Planning Classes.

Newborn Care: Fussiness Read More »

Kids chores

The importance of giving children chores

Today we have a guest blog from our very own Alexandrea Rocha, previously an antepartum and postpartum doula with Gold Coast Doulas. If you have kids at home and struggle with the day-to-day list of chores, she has some helpful tips to get the whole family involved!

As parents, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Especially for stay-at-home Moms and Dads. One area I hear a lot of people say they struggle in is keeping up with the housework. Some families can afford a housekeeper, but many cannot. What do you do if you have kids at home and just can’t seem to find enough time in the day to get all the household chores done? I’m going to give you some helpful suggestions on how to have your children start to pitch in.

I have a list of things I want to accomplish daily, but with three kids I’m lucky if I’ve maybe done half of the items on my to-do list. For a while I just did everything myself because I am faster and more efficient (you know how it is)! But then it dawned on me that it was my job to teach my children to be responsible, and they were most certainly at an age where they could start helping out.

Starting at age one, you can find small things to have them help with. They will absolutely need your guidance, but getting them in the habit early is important. When my son was a toddler I ran a childcare for other toddlers in my home. Their job was to clean up their toys at the end of the day. A helpful tip to get everyone excited is to sing! Find a clean up song, mine happened to be from the television show Barney, and sing it during clean up time. Something about that song worked magic. They all loved helping clean up to the special song and sang it along with me. Make sure to thank them for their hard work and tell them how helpful they were. Kids love to be encouraged and hear good things about themselves, just as adults do.

Another thing toddlers can do is help feed pets if you have any, and water plants (both with supervision, of course).

When children are preschool age, they are now capable of cleaning up their toys on their own. They may not put the toys back exactly where you’d like them, but you have to let them do it. Same with making their beds. Let them try it on their own and praise them for their efforts.

I have some pretty basic chores that are routine at my house. My children put their shoes by the front door when we get home, they clear their dishes from the table after meals and snacks, and we unload the dishwasher together. I make sure my kids know that we are a family and we work together. I shouldn’t have to do it all myself when they are fully capable of helping.

Do they always want to? No. Do they complain at times? Yes. But I’m pretty strict about helping with chores, and I expect them to do it. However, I don’t force them to do it immediately or punish them if they don’t do it right away. Giving them an expectation and a time frame is a great idea. For example, “I would like the dishwasher to be unloaded before dinner” or “I would like you to have the playroom clean within an hour”. I tell my kids often how much of a help they are to me and how much it means to me when we all work together.

As kids get older they can do more and more and eventually have a regular list of daily and weekly responsibilities. Make a list of the chores that need to be done weekly and figure out which ones your kids can help with. Can they put away their own clean laundry? Maybe they can help sort the dirty laundry and put it into the washing machine with you. Can they set their own place at the table? Can they dust, make their bed, and clean up their room?

It’s important to give them choices. Sometimes they’re more excited about doing chores if you allow them to choose which ones to do that week. I’ve noticed by giving my kids freedom and choices in the matter, chores go much smoother.

If this is something you want to implement in your family’s life and have struggled with, don’t fret. It can be done. Start slow, and let them choose something that sounds appealing to them. Make it a fun thing you do together at first. Then have them do it themselves.

Another idea is to set a designated chore time daily for everyone. Even if it’s only a half an hour, you all get your chores done at the same time and have a little more time together as a family for the fun stuff. If it’s a bigger chore, you can tackle it with them. I help my 7 year old clean her room sometimes. It can be such a mess I think the idea of cleaning it up alone is overwhelming, so we work together and I assign her jobs that are hers to do. It gets done much quicker that way and usually I hear no complaints.

Our children won’t learn it if we don’t teach them, and it will help them in the long run to learn about responsibility, teamwork, and hard work. But don’t forget each child is unique so you have to use your judgment and do what works best for your family.


The importance of giving children chores Read More »

Healthy Fats

Healthy Fats for a Nourished Body & Baby

We are happy to have Sam Kalawart, Certified Health Coach, as a guest blogger today! Check out what she has to say about healthy fats.

Pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time in a woman’s life. During these 9 months, your body is working in over drive to ensure your unborn baby is developing as it should, which means a nutrient-dense and balanced diet has never been more important. Simplifying nutrition, meal planning, and reducing stress are a big part of making this incredible journey a little easier on mommy and baby. Getting these skills down pat can help you naturally balance your hormones, stabilize cravings, glow from the inside out, and most importantly grow a healthy baby.

Today I’m talking about fat. Not just any fat, but fats sourced from a wide variety of plants that will make you look and feel fabulous!

We’ve all been told to fear fats because of the increased risk for raised cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The truth is that without fat our hormones, and in turn our health, can fall into disarray. Understanding fats is especially vital for expecting mommas to ensure they are receiving the adequate building blocks during pregnancy. Fat becomes even more important postpartum as your body works to re-balance hormones and keep your milk supply prevalent. It’s time for some clarity so you can implement healthy fats into your diet with ease.


Trans fats have almost no nutritional quality and are generally used to increase the shelf life of products. Unfortunately, it wreaks havoc on your health and has been proven to raise your LDL also knows as “bad cholesterol” and lowers your HDL or “good cholesterol”. Though regulations to reduce or completely remove trans fats have grown in popularity globally, trans fats are still prevalent in the U.S. food supply today. Partially-Hydronated vegetable oils and saturated animal fats pose the same risks and impair circulation in the body, which is why I always emphasize that my clients read nutrition labels to understand the ingredients in their food. Watch out for the following vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, canola.

I get asked about nuts a lot and the only nut that I recommend my clients limit is peanuts, including peanut butter. This is because of the high cases of a mold known as Aflatoxin, which is formed during peanut production. Aflatoxin has a carcinogen and has been shown to cause liver cancer in rats. The added oils and sugars found in most peanut butters also lead to an increase of inflammation in the body. If cravings get the better of you then opt for the organic, raw peanut butter, or better yet make your own in a food processor with organic/raw peanuts.


Fat sources I recommend are a balance of poly-saturated and mono-saturated fats found in a variety of plants. My favorite sources are avocado, coconut butter, raw nuts and raw nut butters, seeds such as hemp/chia/flax, and olives are also an excellent choice. Increasing your omega-3’s during pregnancy is also very important, just be sure you are getting them from clean sources. Because fish can contain high mercury levels, I recommend sticking to natural sources of omega-3’s found in hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and algae. I use a DHA/EPA supplement made from algae that is a potent form of omega 3’s and is readily absorbed by the body.


Each meal should contain a portion of healthy fats but it can be very easy to overdo it, even with plant sources of fat. A great example of this would be snacking on nuts. A few handfuls of raw cashews can easily exceed 600 calories, so stay mindful of your consumption and focus on balancing your meals with greens, plant protein, and starches such as sweet potato, quinoa or wild rice. As a general guideline, keep your daily portions to 1 tablespoon of coconut/olive oil for cooking, a small handful of raw nuts/seeds for snacking, and ½ avocado per day added to salads. I don’t believe in tracking macros meticulously but tracking for the first few days as you get into the swing of things can be very helpful for some. Keeping daily fat intake around 20-30% is ideal, but everyone’s needs are different so tune into your body’s own intuition.

To incorporate some plant based fat into your meals try my Classic Guacamole recipe below! I enjoy this recipe dipped with my favorite veggies, garnished on salads and of course top off my tacos with it!

Classic Guacamole

Start by picking 2-3 ripe avocados. They are ripe when slightly soft to the touch and dimple easily. When you cut into them they should be a light green. Brown spots mean it is going bad and yellow mean it’s not quite ready yet!

In a small mixing bowl, scoop out the inside of the avocados and discard the seed. I then use a potato masher to get them to the consistency I’m looking for. Some people like their guac completely smooth but I like to leave some chunkiness in there for texture.

Chop the following and stir into mashed avocados: 

-1 shallot
-2 cloves of garlic
-1/2 cup red onion
-Handful of fresh cilantro
-1 serrano pepper
-1 tomatillo
-Juice of 1 lime

Add the following spices: 

-Dash of cumin
-1 tsp of Himalayan sea salt (add more to taste)
-1 tsp of cracked black pepper

Stir and enjoy with your favorite chips/tacos/salad!

Sam Kalawart, CHC

In my health coaching practice, I guide my clients to effortless weight loss and a boost in energy without yo-yo diets or deprivation. Through my one-on-one customized sessions, we work to find what works for your body for sustainable results using whole foods, mindfulness and a whole lot of self-love!

Utilizing the psychology of habit change I help you follow through in a way that you never have before. This is an invitation to get curious about how healthy you can be, to become a stand for transformation.

Click here to learn more about Sam’s services and schedule your FREE Self-Discovery Consultation!

Source Information:
Normal Suggested Amount of Fat and Protein for Women, SF GATE, 18 Mar. 2016. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
“Berkeley Wellness.” Aflatoxin in Peanuts, University of Berkeley. Accessed 1 Apr. 2016.
Mann, Dennis. Trans Fats: The Science and the Risks, WebMD. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.


Healthy Fats for a Nourished Body & Baby Read More »

Postpartum Doula

What does non-judgmental support mean?

Author: Alyssa Veneklase, CD


I was recently asked if, since I’m a doula, I tell clients not to vaccinate and make them feel guilty if they don’t breastfeed.


If you had a doula that made you feel this way, I apologize on behalf of them. That is the opposite of what a doula is meant to be.

Since there’s obviously still a lot of confusion about the role of a doula, I will try to clear up most of the common misconceptions briefly and simply.

A birth doula is not a midwife. We do not deliver babies; we are there for the physical and emotional support of the mother and even the father.


You do not need to have an all-natural home birth to use a doula. We support women  no matter how and where they deliver.

We realize that breastfeeding doesn’t work for every mother and every circumstance. We are there for guidance and support of breastfeeding, pumping, and bottlefeeding (breast milk and formula).

When clients ask us for guidance regarding topics such as vaccines and circumcision, we offer resources, but never tell a client what they should do. We want our clients to make informed and educated decisions, but the decisions are all their own.

Bottom line, a doula is a non-judgmental support person. And by non-judgmental I mean we never judge a mother, father, or family based on the decisions they make.


Telling a client not to vaccinate their child would be judging those who do vaccinate.

Telling someone we won’t work with them because they have a scheduled c-section would be outright, in-your-face judgment.

Telling a client that she’s a bad mother because she can’t, or chooses not to, breastfeed is yes, full of judgment.

As a postpartum doula, I am passionate about supporting families, wherever they’re at in their journeys. I serve families who co-sleep for months and those who use a crib from day one. I serve families who breastfeed and those that bottlefeed formula.

I serve mothers who had all-natural deliveries, mothers who delivered early and their baby was in the NICU, and mothers who had scheduled c-sections. I serve families whether they vaccinated or not, circumcised or not.

I serve families where the mother goes back to work full-time after a few weeks, and families where the mother never goes back to work. I serve mothers with postpartum depression and I serve mothers who are the happiest they’ve ever been.

In every single scenario, the client knows I am there for them. I have no agenda of my own. It doesn’t matter what I did with my child or what “most people” do. I want each of my clients to feel confident that they’re making their own informed decisions. And I’m there for them, no matter what the decision is.

What does non-judgmental support mean? Read More »