Caring for Newborns with Endira Davis: Podcast Episode #221
Kristin Revere chats with Endira Davis of Gold Coast Doulas about everything from infant swaddling to feeding in this fun episode on newborn care. They also discuss caring for twins and NICU babies.
Hello, hello! This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with one of our own doulas, Endira Davis, today. Welcome, Endira!
Hi! I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for having me!
I am excited to chat about caring for newborns. You are one of our amazing elite certified postpartum doulas and infant care specialists, so you work with families through the first year at Gold Coast, but oftentimes we do get hired right after families are bringing their baby home from the hospital – or they’ve delivered at home – while they’re in those first few months, where they especially may have questions for postpartum doulas about caring for baby.
So, Endira, let’s get into a bit about your background and why you chose to work with newborns. You, of course, are a postpartum doula. You’re also a nanny, and you work for a local nonprofit that supports families with volunteers helping out in the home, MomsBloom. We actually had Carrie from MomsBloom on Ask the Doulas about a year ago.
Awesome! Yeah, so my background – I have kind of a mix of everything. I worked in early childhood, and I worked in more of a clinical role with midwives and OB-GYNs, and I couldn’t figure out how to mesh the two together in a way that felt like I was honoring my desires and what my journey was in work, but also offering something that’s really necessary. And so I found doula work was like, oh, wow, I can start this journey from the beginning and kind of lean into in a way that starts the process with heart and a great foundation. Newborns are so fun, too, and being able to create that connection with families and a process that can be really difficult and isolating has been such an honor and something I hold really close to my heart.
And newborns can be intimidating for first time parents.
It is helpful to have an expert in their home to learn everything from swaddling techniques to support with any type of feeding to some basics on creating a safe and comfortable nursery.
Absolutely. I think people see little babies and they immediately think, oh, they’re so fragile. They’re so vulnerable. We have to be very, very careful. And I think that is true to a certain point. They are fragile, and they are vulnerable, and we do have to take care of them, but also, they’re humans, and we can handle them with a sense of fragility but also, like, it’s okay. They’re trying to figure it out, and we’re trying to figure it out, as well. That can kind of alleviate some of the anxiety in conversation of being like, yeah, we’re just figuring this out together. We’ve never done this before. Let’s give ourselves some grace.
Yes, that is what it’s all about. And certainly even those baby sounds and trying to communicate and understand what your baby needs, having a doula there, even as a reassurance during sleeping – I mean, some parents wake to every single noise the baby makes, but it’s normal for babies to grunt or make noise and self-soothe versus needing that constant touch and pick-up from the bassinet.
Yes. Active sleep is a huge thing, and many people don’t know about it, so they are keeping themselves awake to kind of soothe a baby that is actually sleeping, but just going through the normal process of a baby who sleeps. So being able to educate on that and then finding ways to support you so that you can sleep while your baby is doing their normal development sleeping as well.
Exactly. And feeding is obviously a big topic, as postpartum doulas, so what are your clients asking you for support with? Is it more breastfeeding, or do they have questions about their pump or bottles to purchase for that transition or storing pumped milk? What questions do you get with your clients in a typical shift?
So it’s all across the board. Every client is different, and every parent decides to feed their baby in different ways. I would say probably the biggest thing is, am I doing this right? Does the baby seem okay? But I think that for the most part, it’s just watching me do things and kind of giving that extra push of like, yeah, this is – you’ve got a great thing going on. That can be like, how do we assemble this pump? What recommendations do you have for pumps, because this one doesn’t feel like I’m getting enough milk. Or how can we get you more water so that your milk can increase? Or what does your diet look like? Bottles, if baby’s having gas or baby is colicky. Okay, this is a bottle that I really recommend for that. Paced feeding.
That’s a big one.
It’s a huge one, and I think there’s a lot of transitions of, like, a lot of different things work, and a lot of thing don’t work. And so we give it an amount of time to be like, hey, is this the one for us, or is it not? And it’s okay if it’s not, because there’s so many incredible products that we can trial and find something that works really well for you and your baby.
Exactly. And baby gear – I’m sure you get questions about assembly, especially some of those new swaddles or even some of the bassinets.
Yes. There are so many products. It can actually be really overwhelming. I have my go-to favorites, and sometimes I’m being educated by the parents. It’s like, oh, this is a new thing that I found, and then I go home and I do my research on it, and we talk about it. But there are so many things always coming out, and I always look for a quick YouTube video and we watch it together if I don’t know how to do it properly. But really just learning together and leaning in with curiosity, finding baby-wearers that work really well for your body and for your baby, and finding a bassinet that can come up to your bed, if that’s what you desire, or finding a car seat that is able for you to lift well. Things like that can be an overwhelming process, but there’s so many good things, and we’ve done a lot of research, and so we’re able to encourage you to buy things or help you decide what kind of thing you want.
I’ll never forget my first postpartum doula training. The trainer did mention that if you can’t figure out an appliance for your client, if you need to figure out a gadget, go to YouTube. There’s a video for everything. Again, babywearing, as you mentioned. You can figure it out with your client. You don’t need to have all the answers because things change constantly, especially with technology.
Absolutely. I will never forget when I first started nannying. I was in the parking lot of the zoo, and I couldn’t figure out how to close the stroller. And so I’ve got a baby that I’m holding, and I’m watching a YouTube video, and I’m trying to figure out how to close this stroller. And years later, I was at a client last week, and we are setting her up with her baby wearer, and it’s her first time wearing this baby, and it’s such a surreal moment of, hey, I knew how to do this, and I can pass this knowledge on to you now, and you can have this really special, intimate moment with your baby. And we don’t have to look at YouTube. So it was a full jump ahead of learning and all the growth that comes with this work as we meet new people.
Exactly. And we have a big team of postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists, and we’re able to – we have a messaging platform that we work with, so if a doula is not familiar with, say, the Snoo or another product, I’ve seen questions fly when they’re with a client trying to figure out a product, and our team is able to give each other advice, as well.
I think the continuity that Gold Coast has created within the doulas and the team – we’re able to really all stay on the same page and provide a level of service and care where, even if you’re not within that client, you are able to know kind of what’s going on and how we can potentially relate it to someone else and be able to support with things because you never know what’s going to pop up. So if you’ve heard somebody else’s experience, you’re able to kind of take what you need and bring it to the next. So that’s really helpful within the communication platform.
Exactly. As postpartum doulas, we’re a bit different than a newborn care specialist, who’s focused on the needs of the baby and, of course, supports feeding and does a lot of overnight work which postpartum doulas do, as well. But as postpartum doulas, what would you say the main difference is in the care that you provide?
I would say it’s caring for the parents through caring for the baby. That would be the biggest highlight, and that can look like a number of different things. We have clients who we don’t hold their babies at all, and we offer sibling care, and we wash bottles, and we set them up for when we go home. And then we have other clients who we go in, and we hold the baby and they take a nap and they shower and they reset themselves to be able to feel like the human that can sometimes be lost in the early days of exhaustion and the realities of having a new baby in your family.
And one of the questions that I get asked the most when it comes to postpartum doula support is what happens if I breastfeed my baby, and how is the doula involved? And how does that overnight work make sense for me? The biggest part of that is we do support feeding. We can bring baby to the parents, or we can have the mother come in to the nursery and feed and we can give suggestions. But it does optimize their sleep, I would say. You don’t have to do the diaper changes. Your partner is not having to wake up and take different shifts as they’re returning back to work. And the sleep shaping that parents do, the burping – all of that does help. I mean, you’re still waking to feed if you’re breastfeeding or even pumping throughout the night, but it’s a different – you’re sleeping more, and your baby is also getting into some patterns and routines that are very helpful.
Yes. Bringing in a baby to feed in the night and still being that go-to person, where you are awake and you are conscious and you are fully aware of everything that’s going on for safety – but also, the person who’s feeding is able to really just kind of be in a state of relaxation, and no, they don’t have to get out of bed. We can bring the baby right to you and then go do the poopy diaper that’s definitely going to follow and the burping and the reswaddling and all those things. And you’re really able to just stay in that moment of hibernation and relaxation and be taken care of. And I think that’s so necessary and healing. Our brains want to be productive and go-go-go. We see dishes in the sink and diaper changes that need to be done and diapers on the floor that need to be done, and just being able to exist and be cared for is so necessary for healing and bonding and preservation of your family unit.
And you did mention sibling care. Sometimes clients will want that time for the doula to care for the newborn and then they spend time with the other kids. As you mentioned before, sometimes the doula is getting snacks for the other kids, and the parent wants that one on one time with baby. Having some entertainment, some help with the household tasks and the other children can be very helpful.
That’s a huge thing. I always set up my days when I come in. I go in and immediately wash my hands, because that’s the number one thing you do. But then we just have a conversation. What are your goals for today? How have the last couple of days been? And that can kind of set the standard of what the time that we’re together will look like. If the past couple of days have been difficult and siblings are needing a little extra support, that’s definitely going to be a time where mom or dad is like, hey, I need you to tap in with the baby, and we are going to go spend some one on one time. And if it’s the opposite, then we get out a craft, and we do crafts and snack and dance parties while mom or dad goes and snuggles with baby. It really is just a matter of the day, what have been the hours leading up to this, and how can we support you in this moment.
And there’s just so much to that after baby, postnatal time where sometimes in my time as a postpartum doula, clients would just want a friend and someone to talk to and spend time with. If the partner goes back to work immediately, there were times where I felt like I needed to keep myself busy and do different tasks, but really, when it came down to it, I learned that my client just wanted my presence and to talk through things and to have reassurance about their role as a new parent. And I didn’t have to do a list of tasks at each visit. And of course, each family and each day can be very different, as you mentioned before.
Yeah. This can be really exciting as you get into doula work to know that there’s a lot of variety in the care that we offer. It can also be really difficult for doulas to go into a shift and have there be no requirement and they just want to hang out because you feel like, wait, I’m here to support you. How is this supporting you? And so I think really recognizing and capping on the fact that support is what support feels like. So if you have a parent who wants to do the bottles and wants you to talk to them about whatever while they do that, then that’s the support and the care that they need. And if that’s watching a movie together while folding new baby clothes, or even just sitting and watching a movie together and having that companionship and letting them know, you’re not alone. You’re supported. If anything happens, we can tag team it together – really just knowing that that is something we can do. We are there to support you, and support is what support feels like.
And with a lot of our families working from home and having Zooms, I found for a while there that clients hire me so they could get onto work Zooms and focus strictly on the newborn care during a short daytime shift while they needed to concentrate, to get dressed up. That can also be a difference in our work, and again, the remote working. A partner may never go to the office now with the changes after the pandemic, so there is a need to have someone in the home, even though two parents may be there the entire time.
Yeah, that one is huge. And the variety of what we’re able to offer, of like, hey, we can come for three hours, and that may be that you want to hop on the Peloton and you want to take a shower and you want to watch your favorite episode. Or we’re there for eight-plus hours, and you have a work shift and you need to put away a grocery order. All these different things; it can vary, based on what the need is.
Exactly. Endira, what are your favorite tips for caring for newborns?
I would say – oh, that one’s tricky.
Yeah, it can be different for everyone, but generally, in your experience, what are your top tips that you share with families?
I would say just get to know them. They’re new humans, and it’s such an odd way to think about it, but they’re new, and they’re new to the family and they’re new to earth and they’re new to breathing, and trying to get to know them is really important, and figuring out what they need and how you can better connect. Sometimes that just means you’re holding them and you’re just looking at them and you’re talking to them. Just creating that bonding and that connection that will not only release all the hormones that our bodies want and need, but also just create this level of connection and intimacy with your new baby that is so important in the development of both your parenthood journey and them joining your family.
That’s beautiful. Such a great tip. And I would say, yeah, just noticing your own emotions would be my tip. Baby can sense if you’re stressed, and if you’re doing skin to skin with baby, the baby can pick up on that, and the baby gets cranky. So as you said, get to know your baby, but also take a minute for yourself and breathe and relax because they can sense your stress, and then they feel stressed and start getting a bit cranky and cry. The more calm a parent is, the calmer the baby can often be, unless there are some medical issues going on.
Yeah, absolutely. Recognizing, I think, probably in reflection, the biggest tip I would actually have, also, is it takes a village, and we often hear that saying, and it’s quite cliché, but it is necessary. It does take a village. It takes a community. It takes togetherness and connection and being able to build that and see it flow in. People want to support you. People want to love on you. Creating those boundaries in that, but really allowing yourself to be taken care of is the biggest thing in healing and growth. Having a good experience in something that can be hard.
Exactly. There is this perception that you have to be wonder woman and do it all and that asking for help in our society is a sign of weakness. But it’s honestly not, and we need each other. In many countries and traditional communities, the village takes care of the mother and the newborn, and they don’t lift a finger. In Malaysian culture, there are so many different traditions that still exist where the mother is mothered for 30 to 40 days.
Yeah. Changing the narrative is really the work. Changing the narrative so that we know, and people who need support know that they can ask for it. We may not be able to meet the exact need, but we can find and network and create a way to get the needs met.
In between postpartum doulas and organizations like MomsBloom who offer families support, and certainly just asking for help instead of feeling like you need to do it all. Look into your budget and find options, whether it’s meal delivery service or a housekeeper, someone to help out, paid or unpaid.
So Endira, you work with twins, and we also work with triplets at Gold Coast. What are your tips for managing more than one newborn?
I would say finding the things that work for each baby and really leaning into those. So each baby is – you can think that they’re duplicates of each other, but they’re very much not. They have different needs, and they may want to feed in different positions, and they may like different bouncers. Really allowing yourself to get rid of the idea that everything’s got to be matching and the same and really lean into the individuality of the babies, because it will allow you to have an easier transition into the fact that there are two. And I would say another thing would be trying to keep the schedule, but also not too close that you feel over-capacity when you’re trying to feed. So if feeding two babies at once is too much, that’s okay, but let’s try to get it to be in a way that they’re both being fed at a close time so that you do have that break in between and you are able to reset before it’s time for another feed.
Excellent advice. And any tips with NICU babies? I feel like having a NICU baby myself, they can be so intimidating.
Absolutely. NICU babies are so intimidating. You’re filled with anxiety. You’re trying to recover from the fact that you just had this whole experience in the NICU, and now this baby is at home. I would say the biggest thing would be, obviously, keeping germs at bay as much as you can, so washing hands. And finding things that make you feel supported and safe, so finding a swaddle that feels really good, or finding a baby monitor that you feel really secure with, or having the bottles. Really ensure that you are handling this with fragility but you are also encouraging the baby to figure things out as it develops and gets older.
And sometimes you need to chart things and make sure baby is gaining weight. There is more organization that’s needed and structure with a NICU baby, oftentimes.
Yeah, keeping track of things. And I would say that goes back to multiples, as well. Get a little whiteboard, and track everything, because it can be so easy to forget these things. When did Baby A eat last? Baby B is seeming like – just track everything. Write it down. Don’t pressure your brain to remember everything because it’s just too much. A little whiteboard with a little marker will do the trick perfectly.
Yes, and I know some of our clients use different apps to log baby feedings. We also keep a written log, so doulas coming in are on the same page, as well as our communication platform, to understand how a day or night went with baby and anything that should be noted from a pediatrician appointment and so on.
Yes, yes. Making sure everyone’s aware of what’s happening and on the same page is really important to make sure that things all flow smoothly.
And I feel like even if families aren’t using a postpartum doula, you may have grandparents caring for baby. You may have a part time nanny. Again, just having some way that all caregivers are on the same page and also understand your goals.
Yes, that’s really important. Understanding the goals and being on the same page – I like to highlight that. We can’t be there for every moment, which is the reality. We can’t be there for every moment. At least insuring that the people who are caring know what our desires are, so those can be followed through on.
Yes. And grandparents may be used to – I know with having a big family myself, my siblings had different ways to parenting and feeding their kids, so as grandparents trying to help out, it can be completely different from family to family, and certainly when they had kids. I mean, everything is different, from feeding to sleep to car seat safety. There’s a lot to learn for new grandparents or even just different family goals or having one child that has twins and another has a baby that has no restrictions and doesn’t need a log and is less complicated to deal with.
I would say also with having other people care for our babies and care for us, that’s when the education for them is really important. So, like a grandparent class or a video that you’re sending that’s educating them on the ways that, if you’re doing baby led weaning or you are doing paced feeding, having them be able to be educated so that there is no room for pushback. It’s like, hey, this is what we’re doing. This is the evidence on our choices, and this is – any more information you want to know, this is how you can find it. But this is the track that we are choosing for our family, and we invite you to come along, but I’m not going to be the one that has to do all the education. I’m going to leave it with you to be curious and figure it out. Because that can be difficult at times. Everyone has a different philosophy on things. And when we have a new baby, it can really exhausting to feel like we have to do all the education or set all the boundaries. Finding ways to do that is really important. I always encourage people to use the resources available for other people to be educated as opposed to you having to be the primary educator.
Yes. And as you mentioned a grandparents class – Gold Coast offers an in person and virtual option. We find that more of our clients gift their parents the class than grandparents actually seeking the class out and registering themselves. It is a lovely way to get them up to date on overall newborn care and the differences and understanding how to support, with the changing times today and again, all of the different swaddles and safety and feeding changes in caring for a baby.
We are ever changing, and that be really exciting, and it can also be very exhausting.
Yes, for sure. So how can our listeners learn more about you?
Well, if I’m your postpartum doula, that’s one way. Another way is on socials or just interacting in the community. I am always in the community, and I’m always doing things. Just being able to connect in those ways. MomsBloom is a great way to connect with me, as well. Gold Coast; I’m on our website, so you’re able to see me there and we can set up interviews if you need a postpartum doula. Those are the main things. And I think the biggest thing for everybody would be community connections because we have a really cool community, and there’s always ways to connect with each other.
Exactly, and for our listeners who are local to West Michigan, you’re certainly out in the community at tables representing Gold Coast Doulas and MomsBloom. There’s a baby expo coming up in the spring, so excited for the in-person connections that are opening up. But yes, you have a fantastic bio at Gold Coast Doulas’ website. Our listeners can certainly work with you if they’re local. Otherwise, we do have, as I mentioned, the grandparents class on our website. We have a newborn survival class led by Alyssa Veneklase that is self-paced and comes with a free call to answer questions after the class is completed by parents. So no matter where you live, you’re able to take that class. We also have our birth and baby prep course that covers a lot of newborn care, as well. That is called Becoming A Mother. So check out some other options if you’re not able to work with Endira directly.
Thanks so much for sharing all of your wisdom, Endira! It was so lovely to chat with you today.
Absolutely. Thank you for having me. It was such a pleasure to be able to have conversation and reach a larger platform than just the people we connect with day to day.