Parenting

Mother comforting and speaking to her child outside

Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98

Laine Lipsky, Parenting Coach, talks with Alyssa today about the negative effects of sleep deprivation on children and parents.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  I’m excited to be back with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach.  How are you?

Laine:  Hi!  I’m good.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Great!  So when we talked on the phone last week, we talked a lot about sleep, and we didn’t intend to talk about sleep, but I told you that I was an infant and child sleep consultant, and then you were like, oh, gosh.  The way sleep deprivation affects some of the families that you’re working with — it kind of created some interesting thoughts.  I’d love to hear some examples of how some families you’ve worked with and how sleep deprivation has affected that whole family, because I see that when I work with — I’m hired to help children sleep, but obviously, these parents aren’t sleeping, either.  That’s why they’re calling me.  And then sometimes even when I get the children sleeping, these parents are, like, I still can’t sleep.  It’s like if they’ve been two years without a good night’s sleep, they have to retrain themselves.  So even though I’m not an adult sleep coach, there’s still a lot of rules from children that apply to us as adults that I kind of have to remind them of and tell them to be patient with themselves, just like they had to be patient with their child to get them into this new rhythm.

Laine:  Yeah.  It is such a big issue, and I can speak from personal experience.  I have, hands down, the champion worst sleeper ever.  He is now a teenager, so for anybody out there who thinks that they could take me on, like, my kid on, when he was a baby, I challenge you to a duel, a sleep duel.  A sleep-off.  Whatever you want to call it.  My son — so I’ll just start by saying my son — he would go to sleep.  We did all the “right things” for sleeping, and when we would put him down at night, he would go through the night and wake up every 45 minutes.  And I was a nursing mom and I was not intending to cosleep, but because of his wake cycle, and nobody — nothing could get him back to sleep.  He had something called silent reflux.  It was really hard to diagnose.  It was really concerning.  We ended up cosleeping, and I — we had to out of absolute necessity.  So every 45 minutes — so literally, when I would put him down — and that’s in heavy quotes; “put him down” for the night, I would start weeping because I knew that there was just this huge thing ahead of me called “night” which was going to be really, really painful and difficult.  And you and I said we both know that, you know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture in prisons and there’s — I firsthand have been through it, and I work with people who have been through it.  So I just want to start off by saying, like, I feel anyone’s pain who’s walking around feeling like their body hurts, their eyes burn, they’re short-tempered; they’re not making clear decisions, and especially on top of it, we’re recording this podcast during this COVID lockdown time.  All of that stuff is just on, you know, steroids right now because we’re also stressed out about the uncertainty that surrounds us.  So my heart goes out to anybody who’s struggling with sleep right now, and it’s so widespread.  The impact of a parent being sleep deprived and maybe both parents being sleep deprived is just such a trickle-down effect.  And so, yeah, I can tell you a lot about clients who I’ve  had, but I just wanted to start off by saying that I have total empathy for somebody who is going through that.  It’s a really important issue.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You almost forget how bad it is, and then you have one night of bad sleep, and you remember.  Oh, my goodness; how did I do this for weeks, if not months?  And some of my clients, for years.  You know, for two years.  It’s devastating to relationships to where I –you know, they’ll say — or even six months.  Six months old; I had a long maternity leave.  I need to go back to work, but I haven’t slept in six months.  Or I went back to work after three months, and I have not been productive at work for the last three months.  It affects everything.

Laine:  Right, or people driving to work totally sleep deprived.  That’s dangerous.

Alyssa:  It’s worse than drunk driving.  I mean, statistically, I think there are more driving deaths related to sleep deprivation than drugs and alcohol combined.  Combined!

Laine:  Wow.

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Laine:  I didn’t know that.  So I say a lot, joking not joking, in my practice, if parents were able to get on top of sleep early on in their families that I’d be out of a job because a lot of what I see are behavioral issues that are stemming from a lack of sleep.  And you just think about how you feel when you are tired, when you’re cranky, when you — you know, when you feel that way as an adult, you’re able to sit down.  You’re really able to say, I’m feeling really — at best, you’re able to say, I’m feeling really cranky.  I’m just really tired.  You’re able to maybe take a nap somehow, magically.  You’re able to have a cup of coffee.  When we think about our kids — or, you know, maybe people have a glass of wine to take the edge off.  There’s no taking the edge off for the kids.  They don’t have that.  Maybe it’s nursing.  I guess that would be the closest thing.  But there’s no edge — they’re just edgy all the time.  And so in a family system, what I see is that when kids are not rested and parents are not rested, we’re not dealing with the actual people.  We’re dealing with the tired versions of those people.  And so one of my very first questions when I speak to people about their parenting is, how is your sleep.

Alyssa:  That’s great.

Laine:  It’s that essential.  And because I shared a few minutes ago about my own son and my own sleep struggles: we defied the parenting books at the time to schedule our day or create a schedule around feeding.  I was, like, forget feeding.  Who’s going to eat when they’re tired and cranky?  Like, does eating feel good when you’re tired?  That’s not a solution.  The solution is sleep.  And so we quickly learned — and I don’t know if this is what you teach, but you’re so flexible.  You teach a lot of different things to people.  But had you been my sleep coach at the time, or sleep consultant, I would tell you that we were scheduling our day around our son’s wake-up time.  Like, that’s what we — we’re scheduling our day around his sleep needs.  His feeding seemed to be fine, but his sleep was just crazy off the charts.  And I think part of that is temperament.  I think a lot of it is.  And to this day, he doesn’t — well, to this day, he is a teenager, so he sleeps crazy amounts, but up until he started that whole sleep routine as a teen, he still needed less sleep than everybody.  He still needs less sleep than me.  And that’s where I see in families the real — when it’s upside down, when a parent has high sleep needs and a child has lower sleep needs, that’s a red zone for me as a parenting coach.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s really hard because in the podcast we previously recorded where you said there’s no one parenting style; there’s no practice style — but the same with sleep.  There’s no one — or there are some best practices, but there’s no best parenting style.  Same with there’s a lot of sleep methods, but there’s no one right sleep method for everybody.  So when I give someone a sleep plan which says, you know, based on your child’s age, this is what a child typically — what a nap schedule typically looks like or a feeding schedule typically looks like.  Most parents want to go by the — just down — and I have to remind them, we’re not watching the clock.  We’re watching your baby.  Your baby’s cues tell us, how long is their wake cycle?  Can they stay awake for an hour and a half before they get tired, or can they stay awake for two and a half hours before they get tired?  That will determine feeding and sleep schedules, not this list, not the clock.  So they just want me to hand them this guide that miraculously works, and it’s just not that easy.  We really have to watch Baby’s cues to understand what your baby needs, because if a typical baby needs 15 hours and yours only needs 14 hours, what does that mean?  Let’s try some things.  What is this going to look like?  A later bedtime?  An earlier wakeup?  A shorter nap?  Troubleshooting together is why I think finding a good sleep coach is the only way to be successful because you can’t just read a book because then you are looking at this sleep guide in a book saying, okay, oh, my gosh, it’s 2:03.  I’m three minutes late.  You should have been down for a nap.  But your baby’s not tired.  So then what?  Who answers that for you?

Laine:  Yep, and to have somebody help you watch that, because just like with parenting advice, you know, the old adage is that — the old whatever you want to call common wisdom or whatever that you might get from your own parents often doesn’t apply.  Sometimes they do.  Like, if you’re lucky, you know, like a baby will sleep when they’re tired.  Well, not if you have a baby who’s really high-strung, temperamentally speaking, or who’s overtired.  Their form of being really tired is wired, which is the case in my kids.  Right?  He didn’t get that dreamy, dazed-off look when he was tired.

Alyssa:  He didn’t give you the sleep cues of yawning and rubbing his eyes?  Mommy, I’m tired.

Laine:  There was no book that fit my child, and so to your point, I had to learn to read him and I had to stop reading the books.  And I didn’t do it perfectly.  You know, I still don’t do it perfectly, but just even that shift in my mindset of, like, oh, I need to read my child, not the books.  It’s the same thing that I say to parents about parenting, which is, learn to read your child and take in the information but, you know, information overload is overwhelming and we’re just being inundated with it now, and it’s conflicting information.  It’s like, you know, I’m a sports coach by training.  Then I apply all of that to parenting.  If there are too many voices in your huddle, right, the team gets off track and doesn’t know what they’re doing.  You need to have one clear voice in the huddle and for each parent, it’s going to be them.  Their family is their huddle, and the more clear that the leader can be, right, the captain — you’re the captain of your team — the better everybody is going to respond to that, or at least you’re going to know whether it’s working or not.  So what I find is happening with parents is they get in their, you know, best-meaning selves, they want to be informed.  They’re getting, like, flooded by information and they don’t know how to parse that out and to make it work for their child.  So is that something that you — how do you talk to parents about that?  Like, how would you help — that’s what I hear a lot from parents is, like, I don’t know what to do.  How do you handle that?

Alyssa:  A lot of the times, parents will come to me and say, we’ve tried it all.  We’ve done all of the methods.  All of them, even ones that I don’t agree with, right, like just crying for two hours.  But they’re so desperate.  They’re, like, this is what my pediatrician told me or this is what the book says.  I’m just going to try it.  Well, there’s so many methods, but they can be done incorrectly, and maybe that method’s not the right one for your child.  So if they’ve come to me and said, I’ve tried Method X but then I read through their intake form and I’m like, well, no wonder that didn’t work.  Here’s what we’re going to try.  Or we get into something and they’re like, hmm, but my sister has a baby who sleeps really good, and this is what they did, and you’re not telling me to do that.  I’m like, well, that’s their baby.  So you do.  You have to tell them — like, I love the coach analogy.  I am your coach.  We’re a team.  We’re doing this together.  I’m not coming in and just telling you what to do.  I’m doing this based on your family’s needs.  And then I educate you so that you can go and do it yourself because I’m not with you everyday for the next several months or years.  So I educate them so they have the tools moving forward to do exactly what they need to do.  And I also love the coaching analogy, the sports analogy, because for older children, I explain to them sometimes that it’s even with the emotional aspect.  You know, we talked in the last podcast about how we can’t just make our kids happy all the time.  Experiencing a wide range of emotions is normal, and we need to help them learn how to cope with those.  This comes into play a lot with sleep because you hear your child cry when they’re tired, and it’s this automatic — we just feel this distress.  But sometimes those same cries during the day — you take a toy away or you have an overly tired child who just wants to cry about everything — you can ignore them during the day a lot easier than you can at night.  But we need to help them cope with these emotions.  So it’s — what do I say to them?  You’re not in this to play the game for them.  You have to help teach them how to play the game themselves.  Right?  Like, we can’t hop in and do it for them all the time.  With sleep, we’re coaching them.  That’s my basic — I forget where I was going with that, but…

Laine:  You were talking about how coaching as an analogy was working for — yeah, for helping them learn how to do it and being — I think you said it; like, not doing it for them but coaching them to do it, and that the older they get, I think you were talking about, that maybe that was a piece of it, too.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, a baby needs a lot more help and it takes a lot longer.  When you have a two-year-old, it’s a lot different than a six- or nine-month old.

Laine:  Right.

Alyssa:  You know, they’re talking, walking, moving.  They’re a little bit more — they’re smart.  They can be tricky.  They know how to get you to stay in that room a little bit longer.  There’s no thirstier child than one you’re trying to get to bed.  Mommy, I’m thirsty.  Mommy, I’m hungry.  Mommy, I need this.

Laine:  Yeah, so does that — does your advice for parents change depending on all the things?  You know, the child and the parent, whatever — because that’s a classic one that comes up for people.  Like, my child has all the excuses and can crawl out of their crib and can crawl out of their bed or whatever.  Do you have some wisdom to share with people who are really —

Alyssa:  Bedtime routines.  Bedtime routines are so important.

Laine: For the kids who don’t — for the parents who are like, we have a bedtime routine, and it involves bath time and books and me putting my child in bed, and then my child’s coming out of bed, like, a zillion times before they stay in bed.  That’s the bedtime routine, and they’re sick of it and they don’t have any recourse.  And I’ll tell you something, Alyssa: some of my clients have gotten some of the worse advice from pediatricians, including people to, like, lock their child in their rooms.  That’s come straight out of the mouth of a pediatrician, and just, like — I want parents to know that if advice that you’re getting from a source doesn’t feel good, then it’s not good.  It has to feel good to be good, and it should be something that is aligned with your values, something that’s aligned with your personality and also that will work for your child’s temperament because it just breaks my heart to hear people on the phone, and I hear it all the time, people crying; well, I did this and it felt terrible, but my pediatrician told me to do it, so I — you know, thinking that they were doing the right thing.

Alyssa:  So when they work with me, I have them fill out an intake form for that reason.  I want to know, what is your parenting style?  What’s your child’s temperament?  What have you tried in the past?  What’s worked; what hasn’t worked?  And what is your end goal?  So I will make a plan based on that.  Not what I think you and your child need to be doing, but what is your goal as parents?  Maybe you have a one-year-old still breastfeeding exclusively, and you just to cut that down.  You don’t want to eliminate all night feeds.  Twelve months probably could sleep all night without a feed, but if you’re okay; you just want to have two feeds instead of five — okay.  Let’s work our way back.  Let’s eliminate a few of them and see how it goes.  And typically, you know, at that age, we would probably end up eliminating all of them, but then it’s also the opposite.  I might have a four-month-old client whose parents are, like, I need my baby to sleep all night.  Well, okay.  At four months, your baby probably still needs to eat at night, so let’s talk about what a realistic overnight looks like for this age.  So sometimes the expectations aren’t quite — you know, they might be a little bit unrealistic.

Laine:  Right.  Same thing with parenting.  We want our five-year-old, three-year-old, to set the table and then go up to bed by themselves.  And I’m like, yeah, no.  That’s not — that’s not a thing.  Or it could be, but it’s very rare.  So maybe you get this question a lot or this issue a lot that comes up; maybe this is a good place to overlap a little bit.  I hear from parents a lot that they have some shame, like, a lot of shame that they don’t know how to parent, that they should know how to parent.  Some people are more forthcoming and say, you know, well, I was raised by parents who I’m not looking to emulate.  I want to be parenting differently than how my own parents parented me, and I don’t know how.  There’s not so much shame there, but when people are, like, trying to do it differently and they can’t; they think that they should know how to do it naturally, and it’s not coming out the way — it’s like when you have a picture in your head and you start drawing, and it’s, like, nope, that’s not what’s in my head.  Not at all.  Right?  I get that a lot.  I hear that a lot from parents who are really struggling with this internal sense of, I should be able to do this.  Do you get that with people who are — especially around sleep and in this culture of, well, just let them cry it out, or they’ll sleep when they’re tired.  Do you find that parents struggle with that?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s kind of like breastfeeding, right?  We think it’s going to be this natural thing, and then when we really struggle with it, we think that there’s something wrong with us when nobody tells us as new moms that breastfeeding is really hard.  Same with sleep.  It’s just something that our bodies want to do naturally, and people tell you that newborns sleep all the time.  Well, they do for a little while, and then they don’t.  So when it hits the fan and you don’t know what to do, they start reading books.  It’s this downward spiral of, well, I read this book and it didn’t work, so I gave up and now, like you, you just end up cosleeping if you don’t want to, and I have clients who have been cosleeping for three years, and the parents haven’t slept in the same bed for three years.  Some families, that works.  They do that by choice and it’s fine, but the ones who are calling me, it’s not because they love this situation.  They’ve gotten there by desperation, and somebody’s not happy.  So every family is so different, and I always warn people: if any sleep consultant comes in and says they have a plan and just one plan, or if it includes cry it out, you just say, thanks but no thanks.  There is no one plan.  If there was one way to do this, I could write a book and tell everyone what to do and be done.  Right?  And same with you.  Every family is so different.

Laine:  Well, what I see is that when people are willing to take a plan, kind of no matter what, it means that they’re actually going to start — they’re going to start walking down a path of, I’m going to do whatever works to get the behavior I want, no matter what.  And that’s a path, from a parenting perspective, that’s a path of very authoritarian, very old-school parenting style.  Right?  Where it’s going to be harder if you’re not really showing flexibility; you’re not going into it with empathy.  It’s going to be harder to develop those skills and that mindset toward your child and toward your parenting style as your child gets older.  Right?  So something that I think gets lost when parents are willing to pick up a solution — and I get why they do.  Right?  Like, I get why they pick up the, “I’m just going to let them cry and figure it out,” because they are at their wit’s end, and it’s overwhelming to think about it being a process.  They want it to just be a simple solution.  I get the temptation there.  However, my cautionary tale to parents is, if that’s the way that you approach sleep, it’s likely going to inform how you’re approaching parenting in general, and that is — I rely on the science for this and I don’t come to this with judgment.  The science absolutely tells us, and the research tells us again and again, that when you’re parenting with an authoritarian style of parenting of, we’re going to do this no matter what, and you’re lacking empathy in that, you’re going to get certain outcomes for your kids in the long term, and they’re never the outcomes that parents want.  You know?  Like, if I were to ask you, what are the outcomes you want for your daughter?  What are your outcomes that you want for your daughter when she’s — push it out 20 years.  She’ll be 27?  What kind of woman do you want her to be?

Alyssa:  I want her to be kind and successful and learning from me, right?  Maybe running her own business.  Yeah.  I want great things for her.  Right.  Right.

Laine: Independent, right?  You want her to be emotionally healthy?

Alyssa:  Right.

Laine:  Attract emotionally healthy partners?

Alyssa:  Right.

Laine:  Right?  All that stuff; resilient, gritty.  Right?  All that stuff; self-assured.  All that stuff are the outcomes that we know — we know that a certain type of parenting, a certain parenting path, gets.  There’s not one right way to walk the path, but there is as path, and that’s what I call best parenting practices.  Right?  We know.  The research is telling us again and again, and if you’re not walking that path, you are walking another path, which is to get insecure kids who are, you know, not as successful as they could be in the three big categories, which is work, school, and relationships.  That’s just research.  So I feel so passionate about having people start as early as possible making parenting choices that feel right to them to get the outcomes that they want.  Never had somebody raise a hand in my course or my class or workshops that I run saying, I want my child to be insecure.  I want my child to attract dysfunctional partners.  Never, right?  I would love to talk to that person.  I think; maybe I wouldn’t want to talk to that person.  But we don’t want that.  That’s not our natural instinct, and it’s so — I like to think of the really early years of being a parent as training for the parents of how you want to be a parent.  And then it sort of morphs into, how are we training our kids?  How are we guiding and shaping them?  But the early decisions, how we respond to them as infants, how we respond to them when they’re really little, when they’re preverbal, especially — that’s training ground for us.  It’s essential training ground for parents for how we’re going to be.  How are we going to listen?  Are we going to ignore?  Are we going to jump every single time?  What is the sweet spot?  What is the sweet spot for each particular parent?  There is a sweet spot.

Alyssa:  We talk a lot about that, and I like the term “sweet spot” because there are some parents who are fine ignoring, and then there are some who are jumping every time.  And when you really talk about listening — they’re like, well, my baby’s just crying.  What do you mean, listen?  I’m, like, crying is communication.  And they are — they can’t verbalize it, but there are different cries.  Especially as a baby develops, those cries actually do sound different, and even before they sound different, take a look at what happened when your baby started crying.  Was there something that you can actually take note of?  A loud noise; maybe a dog barked and it disrupted something, or the sun moved just enough, and it’s shining right in their eyes.  Taking note of what maybe happened to cause the crying instead of saying, oh, my baby must need food, or my baby needs to be held.  Because some babies, as much as we want to hold them all the time, are a little bit — they just don’t need it.  They need their own space a little bit more.  And those are the ones who will cry.  You know, grandma comes over and gets in their face and wants to pick them up right away, and then grandma feels bad, and I’m like, no.  I call them space invaders.  You just invaded the baby’s space.  Move in a little bit slower.  Give them time to adjust.  My daughter was like that.  She needs to assess everything that’s going on in that room before she decides where she wants to go and what she wants to do.  If someone comes at her, game over.  Babies are the same way.  They have little personalities.  I mean, it takes a while to figure them out, but —

Laine:  But in those early stages, they’re little mammals, and they’re responding from that part of their brain and their being that’s the most developed, which is that limbic part of them, which is able to convey — like, my dog right now is conveying a message, right?  She’s not using words, but I know what she wants.  She’s sitting by the door.  She’s having that little howl-cry, plaintive cry.  I know she wants to go out.  I also know that she’s already been out.  She doesn’t need to go out, and when she does go out, she’s been super destructive lately.  And it’s going to get louder, and she’s going to get upset.  And if she were to — to be clear, because I never want to be at all misquoted or confused as saying kids are or should be treated the way that animals are treated — if she were a child, I do not believe in ignoring kids.  I would be going over there.  I would be getting down on her eye level, and I would say, oh, I know that you want to go outside and you’re so upset, and I see you’re so frustrated.  And while leading her away, because if she’s not — while setting a boundary.  We’re still not going outside.  Let’s do something else.  So it’s not just bait and switch, which I know that there’s a lot of parenting programs out there that are all about just redirecting a child’s behavior.  But we’re not looking at just behavioral creatures.  We’re looking at emotional, one day fully formed, human beings.  Right?  So the behavior is one piece of it, and to your point a moment ago about what parents are doing, it’s not just the what; it’s also the how.  Like, how are you walking into your child’s room?  Are you flinging the door open while they’re crying and being, like, oh, my gosh — because your babies are going to pick up on that energy, too.  Right?  So being responsible for our own energy before we engage with our kids, whether they’re crying or frustrated or being pissy or whatever it is, being responsible for our own energy is an essential piece to how they’re going to then react to us.  How we respond to them informs how they react to us.  It is a cycle, for sure.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We talk about that.  And, you know, they can pick up on our anxiety, especially around sleep.  Like you said, you can go this whole day; you can drink your cup of coffee, have a glass of wine at night, but then all of a sudden you knew: it’s night.  And you just feel this anxiety around sleep that you almost can’t help, but then your child senses that, which makes going to sleep even harder.  But then you’re also sleep deprived, so of course you’re more anxious because you’re sleep deprived, and it’s just this vicious cycle.  Probably 30 percent, maybe up to 50 percent of the parents I work with probably have some form of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, because I’m working with a lot of new moms.  And that just escalates.  That’s another vicious cycle.  If you have it, sleep deprivation makes it worse.  But even if you don’t have it diagnosed, maybe you have sleep deprivation, which is causing depression-like symptoms without being actually depressed.  It’s just really hard.

Laine:  But it doesn’t matter.  If the symptoms are the same, it doesn’t matter what it is.  You have to treat the symptoms, right?  I was talking to a sports psychologist the other day, because I’m always curious about how sports training and sports psychology overlaps with parenting.  It’s just this intersection that I find really fascinating, and it’s where I lean in with parenting.  Let’s treat it like sports training, in the sense that you’ve got to be prepared for it.  You’ve got to do some real training for it.  There’s a pre-game.  There’s a game time situation.  There’s a post-game.  You know, it makes sense to me because I grew up around athletics.  But — oh, what were you just saying about —

Alyssa:  Oh, depression and anxiety.

Laine:  Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Thank you.  So this sports psychologist, who also now works with women who are postpartum and have postpartum depression and/or anxiety, she was, like, oh, sleep deprivation — it’s not only, like, tied to it; it can be the cause of it.  You know, back to this thing about sleep deprivation being a form of torture: it can absolutely trigger anxiety and depression.  And I just was, like — I mean, I knew that, so when she said it, it wasn’t earth-shattering news to me, because I’d seen it — but to hear her say that with such, like, authority — I was just, like, wow, yeah.  That’s a real thing.

Alyssa: The hormone shift that’s happening anyway after you have a baby — like, it’s the largest hormone drop of any mammal, I think, when you have a baby.  And then add sleep deprivation on top of that, which as a human species, we can handle a little bit of it.  Our bodies are made to handle a little bit of that after having a baby, but not months.  We just can’t handle it.

Laine:  And certainly not years.  So what would you say to somebody — like, what would be advice that you would have for somebody who is struggling with sleep during this particular moment in time; the COVID situation; the unique time that we’re all going through around sleep, because, you know, people wonder, you know — they worry.  They worry and they wonder, and I remember that feeling of, like, I know sleep is the most important thing.  My baby’s brain is growing, and I have all this information about it, and I was definitely one of the more anxious people around sleep.  I was like the sleep police.  And I was also facing people who were saying, oh, it’s no big deal.  It’s no big deal.  So I felt like I was fighting the other side of it, which made me more vigilant.  So it was hard to find that balance for myself.  But I’m wondering, like, what would you tell somebody who is feeling like, I know sleep is super important, and I’m in this, like, bizarre situation at home where I’m working from home and there’s, like — there are noises around.  There’s not quiet.  It’s not ideal.  So I’m struggling with sleep, and we’re in this bizarre time.  Like, can you put anybody’s mind at ease?  Like, beyond saying, like, well, your child’s not going to die.  You know, they’ll survive.  For people I work with, that bar is too low.  You know?  They want to be raising thriving, really healthy — like, optimizing their child’s childhood experience.  Right?  So do you have any just blanket wisdom or anything that could help them have their minds put a little bit at ease?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, you said it.  Sleep is so important, and I think especially right now with a worldwide pandemic with this virus, proper sleep helps build our immune systems, so let’s try to get proper sleep.  And even though we’re working from home — you know, like we said in the last podcast, let’s change your perspective.  Instead of saying, maybe my kid won’t sleep enough because I’m here and I’m working and there’s all these noises.  Let’s shift that and say, well, I’m home.  I have a lot more opportunity.  I don’t have anywhere I have to be at a certain time.  Let’s focus on sleep.  Instead of letting my kid say, oh, you don’t have a schedule and you can stay up until 10:00 now, let’s continue a pretty consistent bedtime routine, especially for kids — you know, you have teenagers; different story.  For babies and toddlers — even my daughter; she’s 7.  We walk back there at 7:30 at night.  We brush teeth, put PJs on, we read a book, and I walk out at 8:00.  So a 30-minute routine is pretty good.  It gives you plenty of time to do kisses and cuddles and, you know, that’s plenty.  But it’s so important because someday school will start again and work will start again, and it’s going be really, really hard on these parents who have to get back into a rhythm.  So if you’ve gotten out of that rhythm, maybe you can slowly work your way back to getting them.  And it’s hard.  Like, here it’s summertime, which means at 8:00 when I leave her room, it’s still light out.  But she’s still tired, so I just make it as dark as possible.  But try to keep a consistent routine, and that’s a wake up time and a bedtime.  And then if you have a younger kid who’s still napping, sound machines; make it dark in that room; crank the sound machine, and do what you can to keep the house as quiet as possible.  And then you had mentioned some of your clients have kids who are crawling out of cribs.  If you can wait until a kid is 3 to take them out of the crib, that’s better, because developmentally, they’re — before 3, they don’t really understand that this is a bed and I shouldn’t crawl out of it, and then you’re kind of having to shut the door and lock them in the room, which nobody wants to do.  You’re essentially making — I tell parents who have to do that, consider the room now a crib.  So you have to look at everything in that room and make sure nothing can fall on them; they can’t — there’s no — nothing that can hurt them, and you’re essentially turning the room into a crib.  But before 3, it’s really hard.  But there are some tricks.  If you have a 2-year-old who’s crawling out of a crib and you’re afraid they’re going to hurt themselves, and if they wear a sleep sack and they can unzip it and crawl out of it, flip it around so that the zipper is in back.  Maybe they can’t reach that zipper.  If they’re really smart and can get at that zipper, put it on backwards and then put a little T-shirt over it.  They would have to really work.  They have to pull the T-shirt off.  Just try to make it as hard, but it’s hard to climb out of a crib with a sleep sack over your feet.  I have had some Houdini babies who even that doesn’t work, but for most, even just having the zipper in back, they — even if they can touch it with their hand, they can’t get it all the way down.  So that’s one trick.

Laine:  Houdini babies.  That’s hilarious.

Alyssa:  But make sleep a priority.  Instead of saying, oh, I can’t — I just can’t — there’s no way I can get on a sleep schedule or get my kids back on a schedule.  If you make sleep a priority and have some sort of routine — we need routines as adults, and kids especially need some sort of normalcy and routine.

Laine:  Does it have to be to the minute?  Bedtime is 7:30?

Alyssa:  No.

Laine:  What’s your take on that?

Alyssa:  No.  Give yourself some flexibility, especially for younger babies.  Thirty minutes on either side.  So let’s say a working parent; they need to be up — they need their baby up at 7:00 in the morning because they have to get baby fed and out the door.  Now, on the weekends, let them sleep in until 7:30.  If you go past that, you’re really messing with the natural rhythm of the baby’s sleep cycle that we’ve worked so hard to put in place, that they can sleep, you know, 7:00 to 7:00.  You don’t want them to some days be able to sleep until 9:00 or stay up until 9:00.  Even as adults, every hour of sleep that we lose, it takes us about a day to recoup.  So time differences; if I fly to Seattle and visit my friend, three hours different, it takes me about three days to adjust.  And I can deal pretty well with that, but for a baby, it’s really hard; really hard to deal with.

Laine:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  And parents get really nervous about traveling with babies, and how do I do this?  And, again, this comes back to being aligned with what your values are.  It’s okay to not travel with a baby.  Even though you see people on planes with babies all the time, it doesn’t have to be you.  Just getting really clear about where you stand and what’s important to you and why you’re doing what you’re doing.  What’s your why?  Is it because you feel guilty or is it because you feel jealous, or is it because you feel like you really, really need to go visit your mom?  Those are all really different answers to the same question.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I get asked a lot about travel.  People want to travel with their kids a lot, and sometimes it’s just not conducive to have a three-hour time difference with a baby because you’ll probably have to go to bed really early or get them in bed really early, and that means you can’t go anywhere, unless you have the resources to hire a nanny or you’re visiting parents and they’ll stay.  You know, you can put them to bed at home while you leave.  You know, my client right now, they like to go camping.  Before we part ways, how do we camping with this baby?  And we talk through that.  What does that look like?  Go hiking after the nap; come back at lunch; put the baby down again.

Laine:  Again, I think kids are so different.  They come just so different.  You don’t get to — it’s like getting a dog, right?  If you want to, you can thumb through a book and find your ideal breed, and you can pick the type of dog that’s going to have, likely, like, 99 percent sure, you’re going to have the kind of behavior that you want from that dog, right?  If you go to the pound and you’re going to get some sort of mix so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, then you have to work with what you have.  And that’s what parenting is.  Parenting is, you work with what you have, and you don’t get to pick.  And so I really — one of my favorite things to caution parents against is comparing other people’s outsides to their insides.  Right?  Like, what is your reality versus what you’re seeing somebody else in that moment having?  If you’re somebody who wants to go camping with your baby, if you have the type of baby that can hack that, there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about taking a baby camping, unless you’re going to artic.  You know, perhaps that is not a good idea, right?  But if you’ve got an “easy” baby and sleep is not an issue, or you’re happy snuggling together, great.  That’s awesome.  But if you don’t have an easy baby or sleep has been a huge issue in your house, then you’re not the family who’s going to — if you want to have the shit show afterward, you know, and you’re willing to go and take that risk and then it’s a calculated risk — it’s just not fair to then be upset with the baby or be upset with your child for being cranky afterward.  You just to be informed, know what you’re doing, know what you’re getting yourself into when you take those risks.  And I think it’s one of the most empowering things that parents can do, to be really clear about what they are and what they’re not willing to tolerate.  Just like in life, right?  What are you willing to tolerate, and what is your happiness equation?  What are the elements of your happiness equation?  It’s really important for people to know that and to get right with themselves so that they can live their best family life.  And it’s not going to be a blueprint from somebody else’s family.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Realistic expectations, again.  You know, it’s just maybe sometimes telling them, sorry; I have to let you know that your baby’s not going to — based on working together, this activity you want to do won’t suit your baby — but now.  Maybe later.  Don’t give up on this dream to go camping.  It might just have to wait a couple of years until your child is down to one nap a day instead of three.  And again, like you said, you talked about being fluid instead of, like, having this solid — it needs to ebb and flow.  Be flexible.  Realize that your baby is a human who has separate needs from you, and just because you want to do this, your baby might not want to.

Laine:  Part of the deal of becoming a parent.  There’s sacrifices, you know?  And it’s funny; like, I think that we talk about that a lot, right?  Like, there’s a lot of sacrifices in parenting, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in marriage, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in whatever.  But when it really comes down to it, when that happens, when you’re confronted with the sacrifice, it’s a very hard thing.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  And I just — maybe a good sort of point for us here is to talk about or to ask the question of, like, what is it that is important, you know, and where are you willing to sacrifice?  What is the sacrifice that you face when you’re a parent, and what are you — how do you respond to that?  How do you respond to the fact that you’re being asked to sacrifice stuff?  You know, it’s a tough one.  I don’t think people have a high tolerance for that, especially in this day and age.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We want things to go our way all the time.

Laine:  All the time.  All the time.  Well, it was definitely a good conversation.

Alyssa:  Yeah!  We covered a lot!  Well, why don’t you tell people again where they can find you if they have questions about the parenting end, before we sign off?

Laine:  Sure.  I have my website.  You can also find me on Facebook, and I have a very slim social presence right now because most of the stuff I’ve been doing in my life and my career has been live and in person, but I’m slowly building a social presence.  So definitely go to my website.  And feel free to check out my online course.  It doesn’t talk directly about sleep, but it does talk about discipline and the issues that follow, you know, if you’re having trouble with getting kids to cooperate and you’re facing a lot of meltdowns.  It will definitely, definitely help you.  And some of that is probably because they’re underslept, but it will help you anyway.

Alyssa:  But the two go hand in hand.  You know, a lot of times, to help them get to sleep better, they need a little bit of discipline, and then once that — you know, with consistency and the right discipline for that family, the child will understand, this is the new routine.  I can sleep better, and then you no longer need to discipline because then it just becomes part of their routine.

Laine:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So, yeah, the course will be — the free class will definitely be of help, and then people can also book a free call with me.  And those are the main ways to find me.  And I want my listeners to listen in to what you’re about to say, too, because I want them to be able to find you.

Alyssa:  Yes, you can find us at our website.  We’re on Instagram and Facebook, and this podcast is called Ask the Doulas.

Laine:  So good.  Thank you so much for having this conversation today!

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining me!

Laine:  My pleasure.  We’ll do it again soon.

 

Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98 Read More »

Dr. Gaynel headshot

Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97

Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance.  Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hi.  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance.  Hi, Dr. Nave.

Dr. Nave:  Hi, Alyssa.  Thanks for having me.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week.  So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression.  So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place.  So tell us what you’re doing now.

Dr. Nave:  Okay.  Awesome.  So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said.  The name of it is Hormonal Balance.  And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns.  And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it.  And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.

Alyssa:  Yes.  Awesome.  I love it.  And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?

Dr. Nave:  Yep, yep, yep.

Alyssa:  Cool.  Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month.  And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients.  So how do you help your patients?

Dr. Nave:  I call them clients.

Alyssa:  Clients?  Oh, you do?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license.  I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.”  And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum.  And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically.  And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you.  So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available.  There’s salivary.  There’s urine.  There’s blood.  And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about.  It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Right.  So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form.  Right?  There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog.  I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay.  So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs.  Blood work might not be the right lab for them?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example.  So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex.  You have ovaries — versus the gender identify.  I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive.  So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women.  They also occur in men.  So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen.  Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby.  Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved.  These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time.  The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test.  I really enjoy that one.  I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it.  So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down.  Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways.  So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.

Alyssa:  Right.  So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression?  Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”?  Or do you do both?

Dr. Nave:  So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum.  So you have mild, moderate, and severe.  Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things.  Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks.  If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth.  And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.

Alyssa:  Go for it.

Dr. Nave:  Just for a frame of reference.  So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone.  Please don’t suffer alone.  If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out.  If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time.  Please, reach out to people.  It’s not anything to be ashamed of.  A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.

Alyssa:  Right.  I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having.  You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help.  And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night.  When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.

Dr. Nave:  I totally agree with you.  I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up.  Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down.  Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes.  I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…

Alyssa:  Do it!  Teach us!

Dr. Nave:  As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression.  Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression.  So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.

Alyssa:  Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?

Dr. Nave:  No.

Alyssa:  Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy?  What am I thinking?  It’s in turkey and stuff?

Dr. Nave:  Tryptophan is in turkey.  Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Kind of, I guess.  In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression.  I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right?  Am I going down the right path here?  Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions.  Sorry!

Dr. Nave:  No, no, no.  I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process.  If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep.  Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down.  You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down.  And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true.  So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things.  So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby.  Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.

Alyssa:  Oh, absolutely.  It’s all about the baby.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood.  Does that make sense?  Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones.  And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms.  If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms.  During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it.  Are you tracking?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  So that’s the estrogen portion.  So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain.  Now, we have progesterone.  So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone.  And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep.  It helps you remain calm.  But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy.  And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression.  For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth.  There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside.  The baby is now outside of you.  And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues.  Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression.  In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you.  Do you have physical and emotional support?  Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant?  Have you had postpartum depression before?  How is your sleep?  You know, sleep is really important.  If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way.  Good quality sleep.

Alyssa:  You’re preaching to the choir here.  I think it’s one of the most important things!

Dr. Nave:  The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.

Alyssa:  So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?

Dr. Nave:  Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know?  Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time.  So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant.  And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state.  For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that.  But it’s not the only thing that’s available.  There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly.  There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more.  Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support.  Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported.  Does that make sense?  Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge.  You know what you need!  And here are all these different options to provide that.

Alyssa:  So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place.  How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant?  Is there any risk to Baby?  You know, risk of miscarriage?  What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?

Dr. Nave:  So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time.  I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself.  As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible.  What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place?  Who do I reach out to?  Who do I talk to?  What supplemental intervention needs to happen?  Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication?  There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure.  We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like?  What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently?  And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy.  Like, does she feel more supported now?  What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently?  You know?  And basically coming up with a plan.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I like that.  So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth.  It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen.  And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that.  They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot.  What do I do now?  So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum.  And then we’ll talk about what we can do then.  I like that.

Dr. Nave:  Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options.  For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need.  Let’s talk to your doc.  Hey, Doc.  This is the plan.  If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer.  You know?  Or maybe it’s something else.  Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about.  In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know?  People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive.  But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated.  If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth.  If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again.  And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it.  So it probably takes it to a whole new level.  Well, thank you for all of your expertise.  I always love talking to you.  I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave.  I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049.  If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!

Alyssa:  Thank you!  During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?

Dr. Nave:  I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point.  I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.

Alyssa:  So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?

Dr. Nave:  In person, yes.  But for now, we will see each other virtually!

Alyssa:  Thanks for your time!  Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97 Read More »

Woman wearing a cream colored tank top and jeans sits on a bright orange chair outside

Parenting During Covid-19: Podcast Episode #96

Today we talk with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach, about some best practices for parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.  She gives us all some great tips on how to manage stress and deal with out children no matter what age!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.   My name is Alyssa Veneklase, and today I am talking to Laine Lipsky, a parenting coach.  How are you?

Laine:  Doing great.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Great!  So we kind of met online and talked, what was it, last week, and then just realized we have a lot to talk about and a lot of similar clients.  With my sleep stuff — we’re actually going to talk about sleep on a separate podcast, but that kind of is what got us started talking about your parenting, coaching with parents, and then thinking about how does that relate right now to this pandemic that we’re all, you know, going through together.  Myself included, we’re stuck at home with a kid, and I know personally, I think about my frustrations, but I forget that she’s also going through this.  I don’t want to forget about, how is she handling this and how do I best talk to her, and how do I maybe help with some of the frustrations that I’m having, which are normal and to be expected, but maybe I could find better ways to cope with those.  And then we got talking about the weather earlier, and the weather even affects all this.  So let’s just kind of — you know, I would love to hear some ideas that you have on best ways to parent our children right now.

Laine:  Yeah!  Well, let me first start by saying, I’m really glad to be here and having this conversation, and of course we met online, because how else are people going to be meeting these days, right?  Like, it’s classic.  But that — and I’m going through this, too, and my kids are older.  They’re 12 and 14, so there are different considerations, but I am in the same boat as everybody else, and I never pretend to be, you know, something that I’m not.  But they still need parenting, so no matter how old your kids are — and I think your clients have younger kids, typically — but just know that, you know, whatever parenting style you’re using now is training ground for as they’re getting older.  Whatever we practice when they’re younger becomes our habit as they grow older.  And what I see really from the parents who I talk to, and I’m just reaching out a lot these days and just trying to ask a lot of questions — you know, what are people struggling with?  I want to say that, in answer to your question, you know, the best way to parent, I wholeheartedly believe that there’s not one right way to parent.  There isn’t.  There’s great information out there, but there is a right way that’s going to feel right to you, Alyssa, right?  Something that’s going to feel right to me.  We may be working with the same body of information, but it’s going to sound different for you.  It’s going to look different in your family because your family system is different than mine and from everybody else.  We each have our unique thumbprint in our family, our unique voice, our unique soul-print, and our kids are all different.  Different ages, different temperaments.  So I really resist the idea that there is a best way or there’s one right way to parent.  What we do know is that there are, just like in medicine when they talk about best practices, there are definitely best practices that are supported by ample research and, you know, certainly in my world, supported by the clients who I work with and in my own experience by what I see with my own kids.  And there are just a few fundamental things.  Uusually when you cover the basics in a really healthy, thorough way, you’re kind of covering the essential ground, and I think the word essential is really — it’s just so fitting for this time, right?  Like, there’s essential business.  There’s essential — you know, what is — this question of “essential” keeps coming up, and so I think a really good place to start in figuring out the best way to parent is to ask.  And so I’ll throw the question back to you: what feels essential in your parenting?

Alyssa:  Right.  Right.  So, I mean, right now, I feel like we’ve got so much extra thrown at us.  I’m not a teacher, which I’ve never had to be a teacher before.  So right now, her education is essential.  But I also own a business, and that business is essential.  And I’m also a wife and maintaining that relationship when we’re both home together and can potentailly be driving each other nuts, right?  So I feel like there are a lot of essential aspects, but I also feel like the short temperedness of, you know, just I’m not meant to be home with a seven-year-old all day long, seven days a week.

Laine:  Certainly!  Certainly not while you’re also trying to run a business and also trying to do all the other things, right?  If you were locked in and homeschooling, yes, you would be meant to do that, right?

Alyssa:  Yeah, and I’d probably — yeah, I would have found a rhythm by now, and maybe that’s what it’s going to take is just, you know, maybe in another month, I’ll have a really good rhythm.  But yeah, I guess essential for me right now is the happiness of my family unit and keeping my relationship with my husband whole, as well as my daughter happy.  She’s seven and silly, and I’m just not as goofy as her classmates, and she’s got to get all these sillies out, but I’m in the middle of, you know, writing a sleep plan, and so her silliness is annoying to me.  It’s just this, you know, on and on.  And I feel like this is one small — and I have one daughter.  So families who have three, four, five children — like you say, there’s no one way to parent, and even within the same family unit, each child might have to be parented a little bit differently because of their temperament.  But, yeah, I think getting down to the core of what’s essential for your family and then going from there is really helpful.

Laine:  Yeah.  And I think what — a few things popped up for me as you were talking.  Number one, I think parents feel — loving parents like you, right, well-meaning, best-meaning — you want the best for your kids — fall into this parenting trap of, like, I just want my child to be happy.  Right?  And I call it a trap because what happens when we witness our kids experiencing unhappiness or some sort of discord is then that triggers us.  If we have this belief of, I just want my child to be happy, even if it’s unconcious, right, it filters into everything that we do, and when we witness them having some sort of difficulty or challenge, our instinct becomes to swoop in and, like, fix it and make them happy.  If we change that inner — and I’m all about self-talk and, you know, what is our intentionality in our parenting — I want you to be happy, too, but there’s a trap in saying that as the goal, to be happy.  If we find a different frame for that, a different word for that, a rebranding, if you will, right, of what we’re really after for our kids, it can take off a lot of pressure from us as parents.  So I’m not saying there is — what the replacement word is.  I can give you some examples or some ideas, and sometimes I can just see in parents, like, their shoulders go down a little bit, right?  One word that might be a little less loaded than “I just want my kid to be happy” is, “I want my child to learn how to be resilient.”  You know, how to bounce back from things.  So, for example, if we were to go with that word as the intention, then what happens is, when you’re seeing your child struggle, when you’re seeing your child have a difficult time, it’s not — the instinct doesn’t become, how do I swoop in and fix this to make her happy?  It’s, how do I sit with this and help guide her through an opportunity to become resilient.  Right?

Alyssa:  And that sounds like the perfect word right now because even as adults, we have to be resilient through this unknown for an unknown period of time.

Laine:  Totally.  And so how do we model resilience?  As your child gets older, it becomes — and I have lots of clients with kids who are older, and sometimes we start when their kids are older and, you know, I say, it doesn’t — it’s not a lost cause if your child’s already 12 or already 15.  It’s harder, but our brains are so plastic and our brains are resilient, naturally, that if we train in a different way, we will develop new habits.  It’s totally possible to teach old dogs new tricks when it comes to parenting.  It is.  So I’m a full believer in Pavlov’s psychology in that way and training.  Right?  I mean, it works.  So when you are — as your kids are getting older, it becomes more and more important for us as parents to be modeling for them what it looks like to be that thing that we want them to be because I guarantee you by the time your child is seven, maybe even younger — if you were to ask her in any particular moment, what am I going to say to you right now?  You’ve said that thing, whether it’s time for bed or it’s time to brush your teeth or it’s time to, whatever, get your shoes on — I guarantee you, she will know what you’re going to say, in 99% —

Alyssa:  Oh, she already does that to me.  Absolutely.  She’ll tell me before she asks a question — she already knows my response, so she’ll preface it with my response.

Laine:  I know you’re going to say no —

Alyssa:  Right, right.

Laine:  I know you’re going to say maybe, but I’m going to ask.  Right?  So, good.  That means you’ve been doing your job of being consistent and a consistent messenger.  Consistent salesperson of your values and where you stand.  So she knows where you stand.  That’s awesome.  Then what becomes a slow but steady and sometimes really challenging journey for parents is to just start modeling these things and to start shifting the focus back to ourselves, which is very counterintuitive because we spend so long so enmeshed with them.  Right?  Parenting is, like, the ultimate enmeshed relationship, slowly untangling so that we find the boundaries between us and them so that they’re actually seeing what we want them to be receiving.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  They can sense our anxiety and our nervousness and maybe our fears with what’s going on right now.  So I like that.  You know, take a step back and say, how am I going to react to this because I know she’s watching or they are watching.  They’re learning how to react by watching us react.

Laine:  Right.  And so another level to the answer of your question, how best to parent, would be, how are you parenting yourself right now?  What are the messages and all the things that go into it, right?  What’s your self-talk and how you’re handling your own stress?  What is your self-care?  These are the pillars of what I teach.  Right?  Self-talk and self-care; self-regulation.  Right?  And then having the outer skills to be actually helping your child navigate some of these things.  But if you’re just saying the things and you’re not doing the things that you know are going to be helpful, then it’s going to fall flat and will fall on deaf ears eventually.  So an example; let’s talk about your — you know, that you can’t be silly; you’re trying to work, right?  And she’s trying to be silly and it’s, like, probably annoying to you.  Right?  If we’re going to be honest.  And it gets frustrating because you’re trying to get stuff done, and you can’t feed that need that she has to be silly.  Right?  Well, what happens around that?  Right?  Let’s call that awareness building.  Like, do you start saying to yourself things like — a lot of — I’m not trying to, you know, coach you here necessarily —

Alyssa:  I’ll be an example.  It’s fine.

Laine:  — a lot of parents who will say things like, you know, well, that starts a whole series of self talk in my own head which is, like, I’m a bad mom or I can’t do this or I wasn’t cut out for this or, you know, oh, I just — things have to be different now, when they actually can’t be different, and it just sort of drives that negative thinking further and further into feeling solid, and it stops us from feeling fluid.  Right?  So — and it closes us down to what is possible.  I always ask, like, what is possible?  What’s possible for time that you can set aside to be silly.  If you’re not the silly mom, maybe that’s just not your thing.  That’s not your style of parenting.  So where can she get the sillies out?  Is it — you know, could she — then that’s a new conversation, right?  How do we address that need without putting the burden on ourselves and having to figure it out for them.  Oh, I see she’s got a need to be silly, so can she perform something?  Could she put on silly clothes?  Could she — the possibilities there are kind of endless, but what I’m trying to do, and I feel like my particular skill with parents, is to change the upfront question so that then we can open up different doors of possibility.  Right?  It’s not, like, how do I get her to be entertained.  It’s, like, how do I figure out how to meet that need or get that need met for her?  And I might not be the best person.  Maybe it’s — sometimes it’s the partner.  Sometimes it’s crafting or sometimes it’s a different outlet, but it doesn’t have to be you, and that’s one option.  Another option is could it be, or could you be open to that possibility of being, like, I don’t know, I’m not naturally the silly mom, but, like, I’m being called to this in this moment.  Could I, you know, put some boundaries around work and explain to her, you know, once I finish this — or maybe try to be silly first.  Maybe her silliness, her call, her invitation to be silly, will actually help your work.  What about that?  What if you — like, this is how I’m just — like, I get playful with this stuff.  Right?  Like, what if you were, like, I’m going to — like, I’m going to really commit to being silly here, and I know it’s, like, for us intellects, it’s like, okay, I have to, like, decide how to be silly.  I’m going to make a plan for being silly —

Alyssa:  I have to schedule it in my day.  Silliness at 2:00.

Laine:  I need to put on the silly makeup; I’ve got to find the — okay.  So you do that thing.  You get silly.  You have a frame around it, so 20 minutes.  I’ve got 20 minutes.  Let’s be super silly.  And you just, with reckless abandon, get silly, and you hold a boundary at the end of it, and there’s an end to it.  Maybe you film it.  Maybe she watches it on the replay.  You know, there are lots of options there.  And then I’d be curious — this is genuine curiosity — I’d be curious how your work was then informed by that.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s a great idea.

Laine:  What lightness would be brough to it?  What fun — what more fun would you bringing to work, and how would that manifest itself in the outcome of your work itself?  How much more fun would you have working if you just had, like, a half-hour playtime beforehand?

Alyssa:  And it truly — that’s all it takes.  Twenty to thirty minutes is a lifetime to kids.  You know, they don’t know if 20 minutes is any different than 2 hours.  I mean, granted, she’d love to hold me — hold my attention for 2 hours, but, yeah, 20 minutes —

Laine:  Held hostage!

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Laine:  I hear that a lot.

Alyssa:  Close to it.

Laine:  Well, better for her to hold your attention or hold you hostage in a positive way than having her hold you hostage in a negative way, because unfortunately, that’s what ends up happening with a lot of parents is they don’t dive in fully with both feet for the 20 minutes, and then for the — instead, what they get for the rest of their day is their child or their kids clamoring for their attention in negative ways.  And kids are going to — I worked with kids for years before I started working with parents.  I know this one for sure: that if kids don’t get it in a positive way, they’re going to seek it in any way they can, and at the end of the day, they don’t care how they get your full attention.  So they’re going to do whatever it takes to get it, and if that means that the only time that you — and I say “you” as a universal you, not you, Alyssa, but you — the only time you put down your phone and you look at them is because you’re so mad and you’re so frustrated that that’s the only time you are making full eye contact with them, putting your full attention on them — I guarantee you, that is going to feed their association with, “this is how I get Mommy or Daddy’s full attention.”  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It does.  So for a parent with four children, that just means they might need to take some time, you know, depending on the age of the children, I would imagine — you know, 20 minutes each?  Or maybe if there are two that are similar ages, you give 20 to 30 minutes to those two at the same time, but that just maybe takes a little bit more planning for somebody with more children to try to give them some dedicated time each day?

Laine:  Yeah, and so it’s — this is a really unique time to be figuring all this out, and I kind of get resistant about being, like, “schedule this, then schedule that and schedule that,” and I’m really more of a fan of having rhythms in the day.  So, like, sort of a play time, and then there’s a down time, and then there’s a, you know, an alone time, and then there’s a together time.  But figuring out what rhythms.  Some kids want to be alone in the morning.  Some kids want to be alone later in the day.  You really have to know your kid.  When it comes to having multiples, so let’s just say you’ve got two, three, or four kids.  Right?  I mean, but — or twins.  I said multiples, so it could be twins, too.  I have found that it’s easiest for parents to think about spending, like — dividing and conquering in one of two ways, either going by age — so you take the two olders and do something that’s sort of that age-appropriate, or you take the two youngers and you do something that’s sort of age-appropriate for them.  Right?  That’s usually how people do it.  But another way to think about it is to take them, if you can, by temperament.  So if you’ve got two kids who are really high-energy — could be an older one and a younger — if you have four, could be your oldest and your youngest, but they’re both super high energy — it might be easier on the parents to take them as a pair, and if your middle two are quieter and more sedentary, to pair it that way.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  That’s a great idea.

Laine:  So a lot of different ways to — I call it just dividing and conquering, and tag-teaming.  If you have — if you have a partner and the schedules are aligned and you can make it happen, you know, a lot of us feel guilty when we don’t have this perfect notion of, like, everybody’s spending family time together.  Family time doesn’t have to be everybody all together doing the same thing in the same place.  Family time can be very, very well spent separating, tag-teaming, I call it; dividing and conquering, whatever, doing your own thing; doing what feels best to each pairing; having the parents flip around from time to time is a good idea, too; mixing it up, and then all coming together, and then suddenly you find you’re sitting at dinner, and you’ve got more stuff to talk about, you know?  Even if the afternoon playtime session is, say, you know, 20 minutes, and one parent takes two, and the other parent takes two, and you watch something different, or you’re doing a different puzzle.  At least there’s been a different kind of experience and you’re not all in the same experience at the same time, because then there quickly becomes nothing to really — nothing novel to spark the conversation or to keep the energy new.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I like that.

Laine:  It’s like the same people at the party.  Same people at the party all night long.  It’s fun when new people arrive.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You can talk about what the other group did, and then you’re not — you can actually enjoy the time in segments together but apart because you’re not constantly trying to round and wrangle this one kid who doesn’t want to do the puzzle, who wants to play outside and just becomes this chaotic — more of a hassle.

Laine:  Yeah, and I think that anytime we can look at getting back to this idea of “essential” and what is best parenting, right?  What is really — like, what is the value that you hold?  So — and then sort of letting go of how that has to be, how that has to happen.  Going more after the what and letting go of the how.  So one example: a client of mine, she’s like, “I just want to have family meals together,” and her kids were older, and she was so upset that, you know, they’re — one child had this, you know, violin practice after school, and another child had team practice in the evenings, and she had things going, and they weren’t having dinner together, and she was so upset about it.  But she was missing out on the fact that every morning, her family was having breakfast together.  And I was like, where — like, the idea of having a meal together once a day — why does it have to be dinner?  Let’s let go of the how, right, and let’s look at the what.  And she was, like, oh!  We have a meal together every day!  But nothing changed in her reality.  It was just looking at it differently.  She was, like, oh, dinner is our sort of chaotic — you know, she started calling it the dinner dance, and she was, like, we’re doing the — and just everything lightened up around it, and before that, she was just feeling so, so heavy about it.  And sometimes all it takes is, like, a reframe and a perspective shift about what’s going on.  So getting back to what is really essential; what is your value, and where are you getting that?  And, you know, I’m not somebody who, like, sprinkles sunshine all over the place, but I do believe in looking at what is really going on and what is working as a starting point and moving from there to, okay, what do we need to tweak, because sometimes if you go into something, this just isn’t working, it’s like you miss out on the pieces that are working.  You think you need a total overhaul when in fact you don’t.  You might just need a few tweaks.

Alyssa:  Right.  So we talked a little bit before about weather — because we’re on opposite ends on the country and how weather can play, and you’ve lived all over, you know, and we — I was telling you that we just had one of our most beautiful weekends in Michigan in a long time, and it’s spring and gorgeous, and it’s been so cold that everyone was so happy to get outside, whereas you have kind of beautiful weather all the time.  So it’s like you take it for granted and these little things.  People are like, oh, my gosh, it’s raining.  Will we ever see the sun again?  And you’re like, yep, tomorrow.  We’ll see the sun tomorrow.  But weather plays a huge factor in our mental health.  You know, when we have a week straight of dreariness, it is really hard, and then tack on quarantine with that, right; we can’t go outside.  It’s too cold; it’s raining; it’s muddy.  Now you’re stuck inside and you’re not getting vitamin D, and you just feel it; you feel it in your core.  It’s almost like this heaviness just sets in.  But the sun, you know; the sun seems to relieve it for us in Michigan, anyway.

Laine:  Yeah.  Yeah, I think that’s a really real thing, and, you know, another way to — I spoke to somebody — I have lots of family — I’m from New York City, so I have lots of family back east, too, and sometimes — at least, this was a week ago — maybe two weeks ago, so things change, you know, as we’re going through this.  It’s like what felt okay two weeks ago might not feel good now or feel okay now, but at least what they were saying two weeks ago was, well, when it’s raining, at least I’d be inside anyway. You know, when it’s crappy out, at least I’d be inside anyway, so there’s not this pull to go outside to be rained in.  I think that — look, I don’t have, like, a magic answer for that.  I think the more anybody can get outside, the better.  I think that, you know, that’s just science.  That’s not me even talking.  What I also know about our own well-being: getting our kids outside and getting fresh air — they don’t care if they’re cold.  If you bundle them up — you know, my brother lives in Seattle, and he’s a big fan of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.

Alyssa:  True!

Laine:  You know, so you bundle up properly; you get the right rain gear on, you know.  I went on a — I did a 30-day mountaineering course a long time ago in a mountain range in Wyoming, and, you know, we were suited up for whatever came.  So, you know, we did whatever we did, whether it was raining or snowing or, you know, whatever.  So I believe in that, too.  And, you know, so I think bundling them up and getting them outside — you may not want to be out in it.  I totally get that, but let them go out; let them breathe some fresh air.  For the adults, there’s lot of science around this concept of getting some benefit, some of the same benefit you would get if you were to go outside by just looking outside.  So if you position yourself near a window, if you have a view — you know, I know people like my family in New York City, sometimes the view is a brick wall.  Like, that might not feel so good.  But watching a nature video is not the best, but it’s better than nothing.  You know, there’s a reason why they play a lot of those nature videos in waiting rooms and doctors office, right, to just, like, have people chill and relax.  Listening to nature sounds on your, you know, your radio station or your Alexa or whatever you’ve got going on in your house and just having that as the backdrop for your home can be a very soothing thing to do.  And, again, it’s not — I’m not saying that will solve the issue, but it’s better than nothing.

Alyssa:  Well, I think this is really helpful stuff.  Is there anything else that, you know, just a parent right now going through this, that you would love for them to hear or know, and then tell them how to get ahold of you, too.  I mean, even though we’re on opposite ends of the country, I feel like virtual support is just kind of the thing right now, so we can support people anywhere.

Laine:  For sure.  And I have an online course designed for just that.  Yeah, I think what I want to tell parents is to remember that you’re not alone, and as trite or as cheesy as that may sound right now, it’s really important to remember to universalize what you’re going through and just pay attention to how you’re talking to yourself, what you’re saying to yourself, because that’s the stuff that will sink in and eventually will come out at your kids.  So just keep your self-talk top of mind.  Right?  Be really, really aware of what you’re saying to yourself.  So, you know, I’m going to just practice self-compassion; kindness.  You know, make sure you’re doing your best to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a really good friend or the way you’d want a good friend to talk to you, and if that’s a totally foreign concept to you, that is a practice that can be learned.  It’s something that I teach.  And as far as getting in touch with me, you can visit my website, and I’ve got a free course there.  People can watch that and certainly get a lot of great information about discipline without breaking their child’s spirit and without losing their own mind, which I think is essential right now.  And if anybody listening to this knows — I just want to give a special shoutout to people who are, like, yeah, I know parenting is hard, but, like, my situation, it’s, like, really hard.  Like, they’re really struggling.  Then I just invite you to book a free call with me.  And that’s a free session, and I’m happy to have a conversation, a parenting conversation, and see how I can help people.  Happy to do it.

Alyssa:  Well, thank you so much for joining!  We will have another podcast after this.  We’re going to talk about sleep and parenting.

Laine:  Awesome.  Sounds great.  Can’t wait!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening, everybody!

 

Parenting During Covid-19: Podcast Episode #96 Read More »

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Reduce Your Risk!

 

Reduce Your Risk by Megan Mouser, NP.
March 31, 2020

STATISTICS COVID-19
With statistics regarding the novel coronavirus changing daily (and even hourly), the most up-to-date information can come from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control. To date, at the time of this publication, there have been over 163,000 cases in the U.S. alone with over 2,860 deaths. Michigan appears to be an emerging epicenter for COVID-19, making our efforts to reduce the spread of this virus even more emergent.

WHAT ARE WE SEEING? WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Locally we are beginning to see an increase in cases. Today there are 108 presumed positive tests with 119 tests pending. You can find local updates for Kent County on the Access Kent website.

With coronavirus being a new (novel) virus, very little is known about best practices. This is why you are seeing information and decisions varying day to day. The clinical picture for those suffering from this virus can range dramatically from very mild symptoms (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe illness resulting in death. Current treatment options are fairly limited, however new therapies and studies are emerging. Even with recovery from the illness, long-term consequences are possible. Coronavirus is also very easily transmitted, even without an individual ever presenting with symptoms. This is why socially distancing and practicing preventative measures is so important! In regards to healthcare resources here in West Michigan, we are preparing for a large influx of possible patients from this virus which will put a strain on our healthcare resources if we do not slow the spread. We are already beginning to see this in the metro Detroit area.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
We cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if not available, use hand sanitizer with at least a 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol content), covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your face, cleaning “high touch” surfaces daily, limiting your contact to only people in your household, and practicing social distancing by remaining at least 6 feet apart from anyone else if you absolutely must go out.

I also think it is important to recognize that this is a very stressful time for many of us and it is important for our overall health to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves including getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, eating a nutritious and healthy diet, getting out for some fresh air (while maintaining social distance), reaching out to our support systems, and allowing yourself some “slack” regarding loss of control and frustrations.

In regards to specific populations, this virus does pose a higher risk to people who are older or have other serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. Women who are pregnant are also considered at increased risk, however to date limited data is available regarding this illness during pregnancy. Coronavirus has not been shown to cross into amniotic fluid or into breastmilk at this time. However, if a pregnant woman became ill with the virus, additional precautions would certainly need to be taken at the guidance of your healthcare team. While on the topic of pregnancy, we can rest assured that healthcare providers and hospital staff are working diligently to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19. While locally there has been visitor restrictions in place at the hospitals, your support person (as long as healthy) will be able to support you through delivery and hospitalization at this time.

Infants are also considered to be more at risk for not only COVID-19, but illness in general due to underdeveloped immune systems at birth. I would encourage all new parents to continue to practice not only standard precautions (including hand washing, cleaning surfaces, avoiding sick contacts, etc.) but also to continue to restrict visitors to the home after delivery to only members of the household. While this is certainly a time to celebrate your new addition, our primary goal is a healthy baby and family!

As for older children and teenagers, we know that this is very challenging time with the cancellation of schools or daycares and changes to routines and schedules. The risks for these age groups from coronavirus continues to be present, therefore as difficult as it can be to enforce and practice social distancing, it is imperative for parents to not only model this behavior but to also help our children understand why this is necessary. In a time of uncertainty, parents can continue to lessen anxiety in children by discussing together as a family, remaining calm, and continuing to offer love and support.

As a community we all share responsibility to continue efforts to reduce the significant risk from COVID-19!

Reputable Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 
World Health Organization

Megan Mouser is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner serving the Grand Rapids area since 2014.  Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing through Northern Michigan University and went on to obtain her Masters of Science in Nursing through Michigan State University.  She has over a decade of experience working with infants and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and most recently seeing both adults and children in her outpatient family practice office. She also volunteers her time teaching graduate students as an adjunct clinical faculty member with Michigan State University School of Nursing’s graduate program.  Megan is passionate about preventative medicine and creating strong relationships with her patients and families in order to provide personalized, high-quality healthcare. Megan resides in Grand Rapids with her husband Matt and two golden doodle rescues “Max” and “Marty”. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, being in nature, cooking, and gardening.

 

COVID-19 Reduce Your Risk! Read More »

MJ wooden letters with a picture of two embryos

A Journey Unlike Any Other

To all of the couples who have had retrievals, transfers, and IVF schedules postponed or affected by the Corona virus outbreak my heart breaks for you. IVF is no small or easy journey; it takes a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical state. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It’s expensive and stressful. It’s all the feels at once every single day.

My journey with the Fertility Center of West Michigan began after my son was born. I suffer from secondary infertility. My son was conceived naturally and born in May of 2012. I began doing hormone therapy to conceive again a year after he was born. Unfortunately every pregnancy I had resulted in a miscarriage. We did several months of hormone therapy and endured four miscarriages. Unfortunately we never made it to IVF, instead my then husband and I divorced in 2016. I remarried in 2018 and in January of 2019 my Husband, Matt, and I began working with the Fertility Center again doing the hormone therapy for 6-months, which again resulted in another miscarriage. It was time to step up our game.

After taking a break in April of 2019, Matt and I decided to travel and take some time away from the constant thought of trying to get pregnant. It had become a chore and that can be so hard on a marriage. When December rolled around we decided to get on the IVF list and signed up for March of 2020. During this wait I began doing something for myself, I started taking a close look at my own health and began to prepare my body for pregnancy. Starting IVF at 35 years old made me a senior citizen in this setting. My body had changed immensely since my first pregnancy. So I began working with my coworkers at Grand Rapids Natural Health to address my thyroid and hormone issues as well as my food sensitivities and stress. I began weekly acupuncture sessions that I planned to do all the way through IVF and into pregnancy. I was working out to build my body’s strength to carry a baby and to create healthy habits I could continue into my pregnancy. I also began sharing my journey with the world via Instagram.

Sharing my journey was very important to me. Working in the health industry I notice too often that these sensitive topics are not spoken about enough and I wanted to share my story in hopes that my own vulnerability might help others along their journey. I wanted to empower women to talk about their pain, their loss, and their sadness instead of hiding it from the world. I found once I started to share my journey that there were so many others like me out there. I didn’t feel that I was carrying that burden alone anymore which was incredibly comforting.

When February arrived they started me on birth control. During this time we did our mock transfer and Endosee. I was thankful for the mock transfer because it calmed my nerves and answered a lot of my questions in regards to how the procedure worked. Since I have undiagnosed infertility an Endosee was performed to make sure that my uterus looked healthy and had no underlying problems that may prevent me from getting pregnant. We then met with Dr. Young and our nurse who walked us through every detail of our care during this process. Since my problems weren’t about getting pregnant, but more about keeping a pregnancy, our plan was a little different than what they were use to seeing. They decided, because of my age and history of miscarriages, that they would transfer two embryos. Our chances of twins are now much higher since twins are on both sides of our family, my age, this being my second pregnancy, and because we are transferring two embryos. As scary as that sounded we took our chances and agreed to the two embryo transfer. From there we waited for my period.

During our wait I began getting myself organized, ordering medications, supplements, syringes and needles for injections, and sharps containers, all of which were provided by our pharmacy. I found so many wonderful resources along the way to help me organize and reduce the stress of injections. My favorite was My Vitro. My Vitro is a small business that have created organizational items that help make the process of IVF a bit smoother. I was so thankful for their Caddy and mat. It helped me organize everything I needed everyday in one place. They also offered the gel hot cold pads to use before and after injections to ease the pain of the needle pokes. They were a great resource for support since they were a couple who had also been through the IVF journey and created products they wish they had had when they were going through it.

When February 28th arrived I began my injections. I started with two evening injections. The Follistem and Menopur injections were used to increase the number of follicles and to help with the quality of the eggs. I did these every night between the hours of 6pm and 8pm in the belly, until I was instructed to stop using them on day 10. Alongside these injections I had blood work and Ultrasounds every other day to measure my progress and determine exactly when I would be ready for my trigger shot and retrieval. On day six of my cycle we introduced an injection of Cetrotide, which was also administered in the belly daily in the morning hours between 6am and 10am. Cetrotide inhibits the premature LH surge to prevent ovulation from occurring while the follicles are maturing. By March 6th my ultrasounds and blood work had become a daily routine instead of every other day. By March 7th I was done with my Follistem & Menopur injections, and by March 8th I took my last injection of Cetrotide and was instructed to take my trigger shot. The trigger shots consisted of two injections, hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin) and Lupron, one in the belly and one in the muscle of the upper thigh. These two injections were used to trigger ovulation, help the eggs to mature, and make it easier to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.

Monday, March 9th I had my last ultrasound and no injections that day which I was so thrilled about because I had a really hard time with the injections making me physically ill, causing migraines and vomiting. Everyone reacts differently to the medications and they all have different side effects. Some women don’t have any trouble with the medication, others do and that was just how my body reacted to them. Our retrieval was scheduled for the morning of March 10th and we were ready to rock. The procedure went beautifully with the successful extraction of nine eggs. Three of the nine were immature; six were mature and ready for fertilization. We did a two-day fertilization process and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), a technique for in vitro fertilization in which an individual sperm cell is introduced into an egg cell. We were thrilled to hear they all fertilized beautifully.

Thursday, March 12th was our transfer date and our two little embabies transferred smoothly. After our transfer we would continue injections of Progesterone up to the day of our pregnancy test. If we were not pregnant we would stop taking the progesterone. If we were pregnant we would continue injections for 11-weeks in the muscle of the upper booty. Progesterone is the hormone that is needed to maintain the lining of the uterus and to help support a pregnancy. Now it was time to go home, rest and wait.

After our transfer was complete, our 2-week wait had begun but I had never anticipated what would happen next. That Friday morning, I woke up to the school closings due to the Corona Virus. Our State was gearing up to take action against the spread of this deadly virus that seemed to be doubling in cases overnight. By Monday morning I read with tears in my eyes a message from the Fertility Center of West Michigan that they were suspending initiation of new treatment cycles and strongly recommended patients consider canceling upcoming embryo transfers due to lack of data on the risk if pregnancy complications when COVID-19 is acquired during first or early second trimester of pregnancy. My heart sank. I was terrified for my embabies who just days earlier were tucked into my uterus, and devastated for all the mamas out there that I had met and connected with along my journey. They had supported me every step of the way, they had become sisters and friends throughout this time and now in an instant their worlds, hopes, and dreams came crashing down.

The same day that we were informed that the Fertility Center would be postponing future cycles and transfers, we found out we were pregnant. It was a bittersweet experience at first but I have decided to make it the light that has come out of these dark times. People are dying, losing jobs, and unable to hug loved ones but through it all I was able to finally create life amongst all the turmoil and that is the most beautiful thing in the world. I am taking this time at home and resting, accepting this time as an opportunity to bond with my son before he has to share me with another baby and that is such a gift. I am taking care of my mental, emotional, and physical health and working hard to create a healthy environment to grow a baby in. April 7th is our first ultrasound and my husband will not be allowed to attend it with me to keep down the amount of exposure at the clinic. As disappointing as that is, I am thankful that they are taking these precautions and count my blessings everyday that we have even made it this far because I know so many would love to be in our shoes.

So I ask you to be gentle with yourself, be forgiving, and be kind. Allow yourself to break down and cry, you have earned it. But also be strong, be safe, and be vigilant because your time will come. Take this time if you are able to show yourself some self-care. Eat healthy, exercise, and brain dump into a journal so you can sleep soundly at night. Reach out to me, or a friend along the way, when the days get hard because you are not alone and your story needs to be heard so that others do not feel alone in this time of isolation.

Jen Smits is the Office Manager at Grand Rapids Natural Health.

 

A Journey Unlike Any Other Read More »

Birth story

When Your Baby Doesn’t Follow Your Birth Plan

Have you ever set out to accomplish something life-changing? How did you prepare for it? Did you research it online? Did you read a how-to book? Did you seek advice from those you trust? Would you ever show up for the big day without preparing ahead of time?

Back in November of 2017, I finally saw those two blue lines on a pregnancy test.  I was unbelievably excited, but yet filled with fear and anxiety. After over a year of trying to conceive and a devastating miscarriage, my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to try it again.  For anyone that has experienced a miscarriage you know that each cramp, test, and Dr. appointment is filled with intense emotion and fear.

The fear and anxiety wasn’t completely gone after our 12 week ultrasound, but it definitely became a background noise that I could drown out with our baby registry, nursery decorations, and my efforts to create the perfect environment for my baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.

During my first trimester, I was gifted The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland (highly recommended by the way, even if you’re not a super crunchy mama) by my sister who unknowingly would become the trail blazer that would go before me by about 12 weeks and share all her child rearing wisdom with me.  This was new for me as an OLDER sister, but her recommendations and personal experience were pivotal in creating an empowering childbirth experience for me.

Fast forward to the third trimester where it really started to sink in that I was going to birth this tiny human inside me.  This is the part of the story where I realized I was going to experience something life-changing that I knew very little about.  After reading the best books, talking with seasoned mamas and investing in a bomb childbirth course (Mama Natural’s once again!), I decided that my ideal birth plan was to have a vaginal delivery with as few medical interventions as possible.  I did the research to get the facts and my husband was very supportive (but also a rookie) so I wanted some reinforcement to help me achieve my dream birth story. This is the part where my very wise sister recommended talking with Gold Coast Doulas about how they could help me reach my goals.  She had just accomplished a successful, low intervention vaginal delivery so it didn’t take much convincing for me to call and get matched up with doulas that were a good fit for my birth goals.

At 41 weeks and 3 days, it became apparent that my son had not read my birth plan and despite my best efforts was coming out on his own terms.  In the midst of my research, I learned that induction could be intense, unpleasant, and ruin my plans for an unmedicated birth; unfortunately, my OBGYN had decided this was the best option for me. My husband and I walked into the hospital like a couple headed to Baby-Mart to pick-up our baby.  I had not experienced one real contraction to this point, was dilated to 1cm (I still think this was a pity centimeter) and I had shed many tears as I realized how little control I actually had over this birth experience.  I prayed God would help me surrender to His will for this birth.

As if this was the moment my son had been waiting for all along, I felt my first real contraction minutes after being hooked up to the fetal heart monitor before beginning the induction process.  I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself about my “ruined” birth plan and regained my confidence knowing this was MY birth plan and no matter how it ended, it was the perfect plan for me!

Contractions continued to come, and they recommended that I receive a dose of Cytotec to soften my cervix. Thankfully labor continued to progress on its own without any further doses of cytotec or pitocin.  Several hours after contractions started, I peed the bed… or so I thought. After 2 trips to the bathroom and continued “leaking” I realized my water had broken. My cervix continued to dilate and my husband was now recruited to help me through my increasingly more intense contractions.  My nurse was amazing and encouraged me to change positions by kneeling and leaning forward on the bed and rolling from side to side with a peanut ball between my legs to encourage continued progression of my labor. It’s funny because I knew this movement was important, but in that moment, all I could think about was how it made my contractions hurt worse and that I didn’t want to move at all. Turns out that’s the point! You want to intensify contractions, progress labor, and get that baby in your arms!

As the hours progressed my husband continued to ask if we should ask Mary, our doula, to join us (she’d been checking in with him periodically) and I continued to say no. I guess I had heard too many stories about long labors because I was convinced we still had a long way to go.  When my attentive husband noticed the signs of transition he quietly vetoed my decision and let Mary, along with family, know that we were getting close and it was time to come to the hospital. When Mary arrived they were wheeling in delivery equipment and it was go-time. She reminded me of the breathing techniques I had practiced and was available to help with whatever comfort measures we needed even when it was silence.

There was no mistaking when it was time to push as my fetal ejection reflex kicked in.  I was thankful that my provider let me stay in a side-lying position to push while my husband and Mary held legs and hands (focusing on my needs) allowing the doctors to focus on our son. My husband excitedly updated me that they could see his head, but he just didn’t seem to want to move past that point. Despite my best pushing efforts for about 40 minutes, our baby’s heart rate was dropping, and I was now needing oxygen. At this point, my OBGYN highly recommended an episiotomy to deliver my son quickly. This was not part of my birth plan, but I agreed knowing everyone’s goal was to deliver a healthy baby. As his head emerged and the OBGYN quickly freed him from the umbilical cord around his neck, he launched himself earth-side and to this day has not stopped moving and wiggling.

It’s crazy to think that at 8 pm on Sunday night we walked into the hospital with a space in our hearts we had no idea even existed and by 8:30 am on Monday morning our hearts were overflowing with love and connection with someone we had only just met.  Childbirth was unknown, exciting, and challenging.  The experience was so very empowering and the outcome was undeniably life-changing. My piece of advice for expecting moms is to go into labor and delivery prepared, supported and believing in yourself knowing that your body was made to do this!

Written by Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses Physical Therapy
www.mamasandmisses.com 

 

When Your Baby Doesn’t Follow Your Birth Plan Read More »

Sleep Deprivation

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts New Parents

Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and scary milestones of a person’s life. It’s likely your emotions will run the gamut from excited anticipation and joy, to fear of the unknown and uncertainty about what’s ahead and how you’re coping with parenthood. Managing night time feeds, tending to your baby throughout the day, and trying to keep up with your other responsibilities as you acclimatize to parenthood can make sleep difficult. While this is somewhat expected, sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on the health of new mothers and their babies, so it is important to get as much rest as possible.

The importance of sleep for new parents
The diminished quality and quantity of sleep that new parents often experience can result in physical and mental fatigue and an increased risk of postpartum depression. Prolonged lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can also increase the risk of diabetes, weaken your immune system, reduce attention and focus, and impair hormone production, causing weight gain, loss of libido, and moodiness.

Because our bodies require sleep to function correctly – and a specific amount of sleep that allows us to cycle through the various sleep stages several times throughout the night – a dip in the standard or quantity of hours we accumulate asleep in bed can have a far-reaching impact on our health and quality of life. One recent study found an association between poor sleep quality and postpartum depression.

There are two main phases of sleep – NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement, when dreams occur). Throughout these stages, specific changes and functions are carried out in our bodies and brains. NREM phases are when most of the physically restorative processes of sleep are performed. Our muscles and cells are repaired, our immune system is boosted, and the deep sleep of stage three NREM is what’s needed to wake feeling refreshed in the morning.

REM sleep occurs around 90 minutes after we first fall asleep and NREM phases are complete. This is the dreaming phase and the time that our brains process the salient and emotional experiences from waking life. When our body doesn’t get the required amount of sleep, it is unable to consolidate all the emotional and experiential data we have collected while awake, neither is it able to complete the physically restorative processes we need to feel refreshed and energized. That’s why we feel fatigued, forget things easily, and may find it difficult to manage our emotions.

Tips for getting the right amount of sleep
While some disruption to your sleep is to be expected as you adjust to the new normal; the good news is that there are a range of tactics and strategies you can employ to still get the amount of sleep your body needs.

Create the right environment for sleep:
When you do head to bed, it is important that you are able to drift off to sleep as quickly as possible so you can maximize your sleep time. To create the right environment for good sleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark. Light affects our melatonin production and signals to our brain that it’s time to get up. Turn the baby monitor down too so their snuffles and murmurs don’t disturb you, but you’ll still wake if they cry out for comfort. If you do have trouble falling asleep, try a wind-down relaxation or mindfulness meditation that will help calm your mind and body.

Share the responsibility:
Taking care of a baby is a 24/7 job that requires constant activity and emotional resilience. No one should expect that they can do this on their own.

Negotiate a schedule with your partner that lets you share nighttime feeds, diaper changes, and those evenings when baby just doesn’t want to go to bed. It’s necessary to ensure you have the right support so the sleep and health of you, your partner, and baby don’t suffer.

Accept help:
Have you ever heard the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? This isn’t just about the direct interactions; it’s all the support functions that are needed to raise a happy healthy child too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the cooking, cleaning, endless laundry, groceries, or just holding your baby for a while so you can have a shower and dress! The everyday, mundane tasks that were so simple pre-baby can take monumental effort to complete once there’s a baby in the house. Most people know this and will be happy to lend a hand.

Embrace the nap:
Babies rarely sleep for more than four hours at a time. While this is a major contributing factor to those interrupted nights, the multiple two to three-hour naps your baby takes through the day provides ample opportunity for you to rest too – if you let yourself. Resist the urge to catch up on chores and instead take a half hour nap that will help manage your fatigue. Avoid sleeping longer than 45 minutes though as this will adversely impact your night’s sleep.

Christine Huegel is on the Editorial Team of Mattress Advisor, covering a variety of topics pertaining to sleep health in order to help people get their best night’s sleep.

Image via www.pexels.com.

 

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts New Parents Read More »

Nestlings Diaper Bank

Gold Coast Doulas 4th Annual Diaper Drive

Gold Coast Doulas is holding our 4th annual Diaper Drive from September 1st to October 1st, 2019. Giving back is an important foundation of our business; clean diapers make a huge impact on the heath of new families.

Diaper need is something that goes almost completely unrecognized, but 1 in 3 babies suffer in dirty diapers and no government programs provide them. Food, shelter, and utilities are the only items covered by assistance. Diapers are expensive and many families make tough choices between paying rent and utilities, or buying diapers. Research shows that 48% of parents delay changing diapers and 32% report re-using diapers to make supplies last longer.

The Gold Coast Doulas diaper drive coincides with National Diaper Need Awareness Week, September 23 – September 29. Diaper Need Awareness Week is an initiative of the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), created to make a difference in the lives of the nearly 5.2 million babies in the United States aged three or younger who live in poor or low-income families.

Our drive specifically benefits Nestlings Diaper Bank and Great Start Parent Coalition of Kent County. Holland-based Nestlings has distributed over 600,000 diapers and helped over 18,000 families since 2011. Nestlings Diaper Bank also works with 31 partner agencies to distribute the diapers to the families in need.

We need your help! Our goal is to collect 40,000 diapers to support families in need in Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan counties to celebrate our 4th anniversary. We collect opened and unopened boxes and packages of new disposable diapers, used cloth diapers and cloth supplies, new cloth diapers, and new boxes or packages of wipes.

Diaper donations will be accepted from September 1 to October 1 at the following partnered drop-off locations:

In Zeeland:
Smedley Dental 133 1/3 E Main Ave
Howard Miller Library 14 S. Church Street

In Holland:
Untangled Salon 650 Riley Street
Brann’s 12234 James Street
Harbor Health and Massage 444 Washington Ave.
EcoBuns Baby + Co 12330 James Street
Great Legs Winery Brewery Distillery 332 East Lakewood Boulevard

The Insurance Group 593 Heritage Court

In Hudsonville:
Hudsonville Congregational United Church of Christ 4950 32nd Avenue

In Jenison:

In Ada:
Ada Christian Reformed Church/FIT4MOM Grand Rapids 7152 Bradfield Ave SE

In East Grand Rapids:
Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy 2000 Burton St SE, Suite 1

In Grand Rapids:
Mindful Counseling 741 Kenmoor Ave SE and 3351 Claystone St. SE, Ste G 32
Crossfit 616/BIRTHFIT Grand Rapids 2430 Turner Ave NW, Ste A
Pediatric Dental Specialists 2155 E Paris Ave SE, Ste 120
West End GR 1101 Godfrey Ave SW, Ste S440
MomHive 1422 Wealthy St SE
Hopscotch Children’s Store 909 Cherry Street SE
Grand Rapids Natural Health 638 Fulton St W, B
Gold Coast Doulas 1430 Robinson Rd SE, Ste 204
Rise Wellness Chiropractic   1430 Robinson Rd SE, Ste 201
Gemini Media will be collecting diapers at their office from September 1 to 13 and will be offering discounted tickets to the Grand Rapids Baby and Beyond Expo for anyone who donates a bag or box of diapers. 401 Hall Rd SW Ste 331

In Walker:
ABC Pediatrics 4288 3 Mile Rd NW

In Wyoming:
ABC Pediatrics 4174 56th St SW

We appreciate your support! Contact us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com with questions.

 

Gold Coast Doulas 4th Annual Diaper Drive Read More »

Postpartum Depression

Supporting a Postpartum Mother: Podcast Episode #79

Elsa Lockman, LMSW of Mindful Counseling talks to us today about how partners, family members, and other caregivers can support a mother during those critical postpartum weeks to ensure she seeks help if needed.  How do you approach a new mother and what are her best options for care?  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Elsa Lockman.  She’s with Mindful Counseling, and we are talking about how partners and other caregivers and family members can support a woman who has potential signs of postpartum depression or mood disorders.

Elsa:  Yes.  So postpartum is going to be an emotional time, so tears, some anger, sadness, are all part of the experience.  After about two to three weeks out, if spouse or a friend or a mother is noticing maybe a mom is crying more than usual, isn’t really looking forward to things, has these unusual fears that they can’t seem to let go of.  Another sign would be not seeming to eat very much or either sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep when the baby is sleeping.  If they’re noticing those signs, it would maybe be a sign that they could go talk to somebody as far as a therapist or go see their doctor.  Approaching Mom would be in a way to not criticize mom as if she’s doing anything wrong.  She’s not doing anything wrong, so start off with validating, actually.  She’s doing a great job with how hard it is; validate how hard she’s working, and try to tell her that it doesn’t have to be this way.  She doesn’t have to do it alone.

Kristin:  How does the caregiver know if it is baby blues or if it’s something that she needs help for?  Because, of course, there can be that hormonal fluctuation.  They may be teary.

Elsa:  Baby blues usually stops after three weeks postpartum.  So after that would be maybe a sign that there’s more going on.  But I would say, is it getting it the way of functioning?  Is it getting in the way of relationships?  Is it getting in the way of their working in the home or outside of the home, getting those things done?  To a degree, that is expected postpartum; not everything running smoothly, but are relationships being affected?  Those would be signs that it’s more than just baby blues.

Kristin:  How can a spouse, partner, or caregiver be supportive in order to empower her to get help?  Is it best for them to directly reach out for help for her if they’re seeing signs, or what do you recommend?

Elsa:  I recommend the mom reaching out, so that would be encouraging Mom to reach out herself.  And maybe she needs to talk to a friend and have more time with friends or more time to herself; maybe that would help.  See how that works.  If that seems to help and is enough to alleviate whatever stress is going on, then that works, but maybe if it’s not working, then take it to another level, which would be contacting a therapist or your doctor.

Kristin:  And since, obviously, women have multiple doctors — they’re seeing their OB or midwife and family doctor and their pediatrician — does it matter who they’re speaking with about getting help?

Elsa:  No, it wouldn’t matter who you see.  Usually the OB would be the person that they’ve seen most recently, but they can even bring it up to the pediatrician, since moms see the pediatrician very often.

Kristin:  And as far as getting help for our local listeners and clients, they can reach out to you directly?  How do they access you at Mindful Counseling, Elsa?

Elsa:  They can go to the website, and they can contact me through there.  Another resource would be Pine Rest, and through your OB’s office, there also is a list of therapists who specialize in perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression and anxiety.

Kristin:  That’s so helpful.  And in past conversations, you had mentioned that women can bring their babies to therapy; that you allow that with clients you’re working with, and I know Pine Rest encourages that with their mother-baby program?

Elsa:  Yes, for sure.  Bring your baby to the session; you can feed the baby, breastfeed, anything.  Coming with your baby is welcomed and encouraged, for sure.

Kristin:  Do you have any final thoughts or tips to share?

Elsa:  Just that it doesn’t have to be going through this alone.  It’s very normalized for women to feel that anxiety is just part of the postpartum experience or feeling depressed and stressed is part of it, and while it might be a new phase and there’s a lot going on, it doesn’t have to be that women are just suffering through it.

Kristin:  Great point.  Thanks so much, Elsa, for being on!

 

Supporting a Postpartum Mother: Podcast Episode #79 Read More »

pregnant

7 Ways To Save Money When Having A Baby

Emily Graham is the creator of mightymoms.net. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of information tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.

While most of us understand that having a baby is expensive, many don’t have an accurate idea of just how much so. A 2017 survey revealed that most parents-to-be are vastly underprepared for the cost of having a baby, with over half of them assuming the first year would cost less than $5,000 (the real figure was $21,248 for lower-income households).

This can be worrisome when you are expecting your first baby, but it’s no reason to panic. There are many ways to save money during pregnancy and those first few months of parenthood. You just have to be smart and do your research.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance must include coverage for pregnancy, labor, delivery, and newborn baby care. The actual benefits, however, depend on the individual policy, so find out exactly what you are eligible for. If you can’t afford private insurance and don’t have it through your employer, you may be able to claim it through Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

Get Creative With Your Gender Reveal

Some people go big on their gender reveals, but you really don’t have to. There are many ways to do a memorable gender reveal with very little money. Kindred Bravely suggests ideas like having a cute photo op for social media, printing bespoke T-shirts, or using colored sparklers. By getting creative, you’ll be sure to end up with something more personal.

Buy Second-Hand Accessories

Baby accessories are the quintessential second-hand item. The baby will inevitably outgrow everything, and once you’re done having children you’re left with a bunch of useless stuff. For this reason, second-hand websites are some of the best and cheapest places to find everything you need for your baby, from strollers to cribs to clothes.

You may also be able to get some free stuff on websites like Freecycle. It’s not all low-quality, either – some people just prefer to give their stuff away rather than going to the trouble of finding a buyer and selling it.

Look For Free Formula

Not all mothers breastfeed, and even those that do may want to supplement with formula. The cost of this can add up quickly, especially if you need to buy fortified formulas. Luckily, there are many ways to get free formula. Major brands often offer free samples and coupons, and you can also get some at your doctor’s office or hospital.

Ask for a Prenatal Prescription

There are several supplements that are often recommended for a healthy pregnancy, such as folate, iron, Vitamin D, and prenatal vitamins. If you’re at the beginning of your pregnancy, you know you’re going to be taking these for the foreseeable future. Ask your doctor to give you a prescription for prenatal vitamins, which you can easily fill for $4 at retailers like Walmart and Target.

DIY Your Nursery

It’s easy to get carried away with dreams of the perfect nursery, but remodeling a whole room can quickly become expensive. Instead of spending a fortune on decor that your child will want to change in a few years, make your nursery even more special with some cute DIY projects. This list by Brit + Co has some lovely ideas, from washi tape wall art to an upcycled cradle and several pom-pom projects.

Teach Your Partner Some Massage Tricks

Soreness is an almost inevitable part of pregnancy, and not everyone can afford regular massages. What you can do is teach your partner (or a generous friend) to do it for free. A good prenatal massage should be gentle, with unscented oils, in a position that is comfortable for you – usually, sideways with pillows supporting your back.

Some parents feel like they have to spend large amounts of money to give their child the best. However, as long as you provide them with the basics for their health, comfort, and safety, you are doing your job as a parent. Being smart about money at this stage allows you to devote more money to things that matter, like saving up for college or having fun family experiences. In the end, it’s the love and support you give the baby that’s going to make a difference, not the money you spend.

 

7 Ways To Save Money When Having A Baby Read More »

Working Mom

HOW TO TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK ON MATERNITY LEAVE

We are so very excited to share this guest blog with you because not only is the author an amazing mother and entrepreneur, but she is also a past client. With over 10 years experience in social media strategy and digital marketing, Chris found her purpose after having her daughter. Pre-baby, she was a self-proclaimed “hustle-a-holic” with no intention of slowing down. Because of her failure to plan a proper maternity leave, she entered motherhood with all the grace of a knock-kneed baby giraffe. Biz Babysitters is the outcome of this struggle. Chris made it her mission to prevent as many women as possible from going through what she went through by supporting them postpartum.

The average person spends 142 minutes on social media every day. Seem low? Remember, this count includes your Grandpa who doesn’t know what a DVR is. For the average business owner, it’s not surprising that this number is higher by, um, a lot. And here’s the catch – for most of us, the amount of time we spend actually in our social apps pales in comparison to the amount of time we spend thinking about what to post. With such a huge importance and energy suck in our day-to-day lives pre-baby, it’s imperative for pregnant (or planning to be pregnant) business owners to consider what the heck they’re going to do with their social media in their postpartum before it arrives.

Just like every other step of the entrepreneurial journey, there’s no one perfect one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, it’s a customized series of decisions, based completely on your own preferences. You’ve got the power and you know yourself and your business best.

Today, I’m going to walk you through three options for logging off of social media in your postpartum time, as well as the potential pros & cons, and some recommended resources for taking action.

By now, we’re all becoming more and more aware of the negative effects of social media on our mental health. We’re also becoming more aware of perinatal mood disorders. With the two of these worlds overlapping postpartum, there’s a strong case for taking your business’ social media off your plate in your maternity leave.

Ready to get started? Here are your three options for logging off…

1. HIT PAUSE.
This is the most straightforward – it’s literally just stopping.

It’s a beautiful option for those whose businesses don’t rely on social media for lead generation or marketing. If you decide to go this route, I recommend giving your audience a heads up ahead of time and letting them when to expect you back. No one likes to be ghosted. A potential downside here is that an inactive account cannot build business and can start to gather dust (i.e. lower visibility) from your absence.

*Recommended resource: You

2. OUTSOURCE IT.
Hand off the reigns.

Outsourcing works well for those who want to keep a thriving social presence and continue garnering leads, but are unsure what their own capabilities will be in their immediate postpartum. When outsourcing, I recommend investing in an expert with a vetted system for onboarding to minimize the stress and time investment on your end.

*Recommended resource: Biz Babysitters

3. AUTOMATE IT.
Schedule it and step away.

This involves some legwork ahead of time, but keeps an active presence while freeing up some mental hard drive. For scheduling, I love the Later app, which can handle both Instagram and Facebook. It gets bonus points because you can use it from both Desktop and your iPhone. Automation is great for business owners who want to DIY it. The potential downside of automation is overwhelm and an increased temptation to “check in” (which is a slippery, slippery slope).

*Recommended resource: Later

The cool thing is that there is no wrong answer – just an array of selections that can all be customized to fit your exact, unique desires. The important part is to take your business’s social media, which can be an ever present monkey on your back, off your plate so you can focus on what’s important – your own healing during this important transitional time.

No matter which route you choose, you’re not alone. If you want support in your decision making, I’d love to chat. Reach out to me via DM on Instagram as @bizbabysitters.

In the comments, tell me… which of these three options calls to you most?

 

HOW TO TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK ON MATERNITY LEAVE Read More »

postpartum doula

Benefits of A Postpartum Doula and Why Should You Hire One?

Author Bio: Roselin Raj is a journalist and a writer. She has been writing extensively on health and wellness related topics for over a decade. Besides her professional interests, she loves a game of basketball or a good hike in her free time to fuel her spirits. “Health is wealth” is one motto of life which she lives by as well as advocates to every reader who comes across her blogs.

In the months leading up to my first delivery, I had many emotions ranging from excitement to fear. The idea of delivering a baby was daunting and had occupied my headspace completely. Though I had a consulting doctor and limitless information on the internet, getting the personal assistance and care from a doula did the trick. 

According to What To Expect, “Doulas, who offer non-medical emotional support, are growing in popularity in the delivery room (or birthing center), but many also do postpartum work, helping new moms navigate the stressful, bleary-eyed early days of parenthood. Here’s why you may want to consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you through the fourth trimester.” With the rising popularity of doulas, let us understand what a postpartum doula is and how they help expectant mothers through and post pregnancy. 

What is a Postpartum Doula?

As mentioned earlier, a doula is a trained professional who guides mothers with information, emotional and physical assistance before, during, and a short while post birth. The guidance and assistance are given to expectant mothers to make the process a healthy and less stressful experience. However, a postpartum doula extends their assistance until the baby has adjusted with the family. 

A postpartum doula is skilled to assist with a variety of needs and requirements according to each family. For instance, once the baby is born, all the attention is directed towards the new bundle of joy. But the physical and mental health recovery of a mother is very important. A postpartum doula can help the mother ease into motherhood, provide necessary information on caring for the baby or help with breastfeeding issues, and much more. But a postpartum doula is not a nanny and helps the mother emotionally to recover after the birth of the baby, bond, offer newborn care, sibling care, and lighten the load of household tasks.

Benefits of a Postpartum Doula

The work of a postpartum doula extends post birth, unlike a birth doula. The postpartum doula’s main purpose is to make the mother comfortable with the baby and support her in doing so. The tasks may vary from mother to mother, and she is equipped to do the best in any situation. Here are a few of the tasks a postpartum doula can provide:

Postpartum Care for the Mother

Once the baby has been delivered, the mother requires a lot of caring and help. The basics involve eating healthy food, drinking water at regular intervals, and most importantly, rest. A postpartum doula will help in cooking, running errands, etc. to allow the new mother to recover. In the case of c-section delivery, she can assist the mother with the newborn, household tasks, offer support and resources, rest and healing, and aid in hassle-free recovery. 

Women are usually emotionally weak post-birth with chances of depression and anxiety. Postpartum doulas can help create a stress-free environment, take care of the baby, and be emotionally available for the new mothers. 

Breastfeeding and Newborn Support

Postpartum doulas are equipped with complete knowledge of handling newborn babies, and they help mothers to ease the process of parenting. The next big challenge after giving birth to a child is often breastfeeding. And as you are probably aware, it can be a challenging experience for both the mother and the baby. 

In such cases, the doula helps with information on newborn behavior, soothes the process of breastfeeding or transitioning to bottle feeding. If further breastfeeding support is needed, she can offer local resources to an IBCLC (Board Certified Lactation Consultant).

Finding the Perfect Doula for You

Doulas can be found through word-of-mouth or going through service providers to find certified doulas as per your needs. The idea is to get a suitable doula who is certified, experienced, and well-synced to you and your family requirements. Before hiring a doula, talk to the agency regarding their qualifications, certifications, insurance, etc. to get a clear idea of who you are hiring. 

Doulas or the agencies usually charge for services by the hour, location, services required, and the experience of the doula. There may be provisions to use your Health Savings Account (HSA) to hire a doula. Clarify with your insurance provider or the doula agency before going ahead with the plan.

Photo credit: The People Picture Company

 

Benefits of A Postpartum Doula and Why Should You Hire One? Read More »

EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy: An Overview

We are so excited to share this guest blog by Joshua Nave LLMSW and Paul Krauss MA LPC of Health for Life GR. We get asked frequently about EMDR Therapy, so read below to find out what it is and how it works!

This blog is a discussion of the basics of what Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is, its origins, and how it can help people.  Many people have heard about EMDR in one fashion or another, and with over 2 million people reporting healing from its use (Trauma Center, 2007), it’s no wonder that more and more people are asking “Just what is EMDR?”  So let’s begin with trying to answer just that: what is EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy is a physiological psychotherapy technique that aims at unlocking the body’s natural ability to process information and heal from past trauma and current distress (EMDRIA, 2019).  EMDR therapy seeks to access the process that the human brain uses during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle of sleep to reduce the disturbance caused by memories, events, and thoughts that have become stuck or intrusively repeated in a person’s mind and/or behavior and personality.  EMDR therapy is an advanced type of empirically-validated therapy that can be utilized by Masters-Level Counselors with specific advanced training (post-graduate school). Hundreds of studies have confirmed that when human beings are enduring great duress or stress, the brain becomes incapable of processing information as it normally does.  While the brain may change its normal processing abilities to protect the person during a stressful situation–there are often negative side effects.  Information that is not processed in a normal manner, due to a stressful or traumatic event can then become “locked” within the mind, and as the brain attempts to process that event, an individual may experience a repetition of the very stress, pain, thoughts, and other body sensations that they experienced during the original event(s).

EMDR therapy works on multiple levels of the brain, both incorporating talk therapy and elements of the rational brain, along with the deeper memory systems as well as the physical memory to allow an individual to access those “locked” stressful/traumatic events in a therapeutic environment– so that the effect on the brain is essentially “reprocessing” the stressful or traumatic event in an adaptive way that allows resolution of suffering. As the brain processes the event, individuals become able to embody with healthy and adaptive beliefs about themselves both from the past and during the current time, which can build long-term resiliency in an individual. In addition, EMDR therapy works to clear the body of disturbing physical sensations associated with the event, or what is sometimes called “the felt sense.”   To this day, scientists and medical professionals have been unable to ascertain the exact mechanism of action that helps to change brain and body’s response to triggers and associated negative stimuli (all of the elements that make EMDR therapy effective), nevertheless study after study demonstrates its tremendous positive effect on people, and often shows improved outcomes over such therapies as CBT and traditional talk therapy. Counselors who utilize EMDR therapy often theorize that it is the use of rapid eye movement or other forms of bilateral stimulation (BLS) during the treatment, combined with the cognitive elements of counseling, which ultimately causes the stress reduction and adaptive processing to occur.

Francine Shapiro originally theorized the foundations of EMDR therapy in 1987 when she discovered that rapid eye movement could have a beneficial effect on reducing the effects of stress and the effects of traumatic memories (EMDR Institutive, 2019).  Dr. Shapiro later went on to perform clinical trials to test her theories, and today, EMDR Therapy is a certified evidence-based approach to recovering from traumatic experiences.  In addition, EMDR Therapy has been reported to be effective with anxiety, depression, panic disorders, addictions, body dysmorphic conditions, phobias, pain disorders, and more (Legg, 2017).  Many people have sought EMDR Therapy as a method of treatment for these conditions instead of the traditional route of medication first.  

Is EMDR Therapy right for you?  If you suffer from repeating intrusive memories, feelings, body sensations, or thoughts of past disturbing events, or in fact, any of the symptoms previously discussed, then EMDR Therapy could assist you in your healing.  If you are interested in receiving a different method of healing where you are in control of having the healthier life you’ve always wanted, then I encourage you to contact a licensed therapist who’s undergone EMDRIA approved training in providing EMDR Therapy services.  

EMDR Therapy is an effective psychotherapy method when its methodology is followed by a licensed counselor. It is important to have the right fit for you, so when investigating, make sure you feel aligned with your therapist and that they are experienced and knowledgeable and have valid EMDR therapy training.  If you’re interested in a free 15-minute consultation to either learn more about EMDR or to set up an appointment, please visit our website at healthforlifegr.com. At Health for Life Grand Rapids, we are now proud to have a counseling wing called The Trauma Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. You can also give us a call at 616-200-4433.

References:

EMDR Institute. (2019). History of EMDR.

EMDRIA. (2019). How does EMDR work?

Legg, T. (2017). EMDR therapy: What you need to know.

Krauss, P. (2019). The trauma informed counseling center of grand rapids.

Trauma Center. (2007). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

About the Authors:

Paul Krauss MA LPC is the Clinical Director of Health for Life Grand Rapids, home of The Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. Paul is also a Private Practice Psychotherapist, host of the Intentional Clinician podcast, Behavioral Health Consultant, Clinical Trainer, and Counseling Supervisor. Paul is the creator of the National Violence Prevention Hotline (in progress) as well as the Intentional Clinician Training Program for Counselors.

Joshua Nave MA LLMSW 
“I became a social worker and ultimately a therapist to assist in God’s mission to bring healing to the hurt. Through my years of work in the field of trauma, behavioral health, and the broader social work field, I discovered that many of us are held back from reaching true healing by the traumas and lessons imparted on us in our early childhood. It has thus been my passion over the past several years to provide early childhood intervention to families struggling when their young children, as well as assisting adults in overcoming the barriers to healthy living through trauma-informed therapies. I have used my training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Play Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) to assist my clients in achieving a more complete and healthy life. It is my belief that all individuals have not only intrinsic value, but also the natural capacity for healing and change.

As a therapist, I provide my clients with a truly “client-driven experience.” I am skilled at partnering with you to identify the changes that you wish to make in your family’s life, or even your individual life, and developing a plan to achieve success. I look forward to partnering with you on reaching your potential through natural healing!”

EMDR Therapy

 

EMDR Therapy: An Overview Read More »

Biz Babysitters

Postpartum Support for Business Owners: Podcast Episode #74

On this week’s episode of Ask the Doulas, we chat with Chris Emmer, owner of Biz Babysitters, about postpartum life and owning your own business.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  This is Alyssa.  I am recording with Chris Emmer again.  Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  How are you, Chris?

Chris:  Good, how are you?

Alyssa:  So we talked to you about sleep before, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about being a mom in business and how that affected us.  We were talking about this book you just read and the rage, the fire, that it lights under you about just how – I don’t know, would you say a mother in general, or would you say a whole family, is treated during pregnancy and how we’re just kind of disregarded during this postpartum time?  And how we wish more was part of the whole process.  You get pregnant, and you just get X, Y, and Z, instead of having to seek it out yourself and pay for it all yourself.

Chris:  Right, that’s the biggest thing is that there is this huge lack of support postpartum.  I guess I can only speak from my experience, but I felt like when you’re pregnant, you see the doctor every two weeks, and people open doors for you, and they smile at you, and you just hold your belly and you’re so cute.  And then you have the baby, and it’s like wait, what?  It’s just a complete shock, and it’s like, now is the time I need people to be nice to me!  This is the hard part!

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’re completely forgotten, and it’s all about the baby.  Nobody’s holding a door open.  I mean, how many moms do I see trying to struggle with a toddler in one arm and trying to push a stroller through a door, and I’m watching people walk by?  I’m running up to her, like, let me get the door for you!  Why are people just completely ignoring you?

Chris:  Blowing past you like you’re not there, yes.  Absolutely.  So, I mean, I don’t know what your birth experience was, but there was a six-week checkup or an eight-week checkup, maybe, and at that appointment, my OB said, and I quote, “You are a normal person now.  Go back to life as it was.”

Alyssa:  Huh.

Chris:  And I was like, but…

Alyssa:  I’m not!  And define “normal,” please!

Chris:  How do you know I was even normal before?  But yeah, and then that was it, and then she scheduled me an appointment for one year out or whatever, just a normal physical exam like you would have just as a person before kids.  And that just felt so shocking and kind of, to be honest, just cruel and unjust.  Like, you’re in this huge transition, the most incredible and important transition of your life, and the bottom drops out, and you’re completely alone there.  And we know that mental health is a huge issue postpartum, and there was really no education on that besides circling which happy face you feel like today.

Alyssa:  Yeah, we’ve been talking to pediatrician offices a lot because they oftentimes are the ones who see this mom and baby before the six-week checkup, so they’re the ones who are seeing this mom struggling with breastfeeding.  She’s crying all the time.  We can tell she’s not sleeping.  Let’s talk about her mental health.  Even though you’re here for me to see this baby, I’ll weigh the baby and do all the things I need to do with the baby, but let’s also ask Mom.  So thinking about tests, you know, different tests and not just picking the smiley face; let’s really ask you some real questions.  Because, yeah, six weeks is too long.  It’s way too long to wait to see a mom, and then to tell her that she’s normal and to go home and go on with life.  I mean, maybe somebody feels kind of back of normal again at six weeks, but sex is not the same at six weeks.  You might not even be completely healed, especially from a Cesarean.  Maybe breastfeeding is still not going well.  How do I deal with these leaky boobs?  What’s going on?  Nothing is normal!

Chris:  There is zero, zero normal, and I think in that circumstance, being told, “You’re normal now,” when on the inside you’re like, “This is anything but!  I feel like an alien in my own body and in my own brain and in my life!  Who am I?”  You look in the mirror and honestly have no idea who you’re looking at, and to be told you’re normal, then it adds, I think, a layer of shame, because you’re like, oh, I’m supposed to be back…

Alyssa:  They think I’m all right, so what am I doing wrong?

Chris:  Yes, and then I think of the way that I handled that appointment.  I probably just smiled and giggled and said, oh, thanks!  Yay, I can chaturanga again!  See you at yoga; bye!  You know, and then just acted happy and normal, and then got in my car and cried or whatever happened next.  But yeah, getting back to what we were originally on – now, I’m almost a year out, and I’m coming to a point where I can look back, and I’m processing all the different stages and reflecting on what everything meant, and I’m getting really obsessed with this transition and I’m soaking up all this literature on how we do it in other countries.  My question for you is this: how do you come to terms with that?  It feels so – I don’t know.

Alyssa:  Just unjust?

Chris:  Yes.

Alyssa:  I think knowing that what we’re doing at Gold Coast is just a small, small piece of this pie, right?  We’re one tiny piece of this bigger puzzle.  I could look at the whole big picture and get really, really angry, but what can I do right here, right now, for my community?  But then, even then, I’m like, okay, so, even in my community, there is just a small portion of people who can afford this because it’s not covered by insurance.  So what about the rest of the community that I can’t help?  So we just do the best we can.  And every family that we support, we support them the best we can, and we know that we’re making a difference for those families.  And then they’re going to, in turn, hopefully, kind of pay it forward, right?  Like, either tell someone there’s this support available, or they’ll say, “I struggled too.  I want to help you.”  You know, my sister, my neighbor, my friend: be that support!  Because maybe your neighbor can’t afford to hire a postpartum doula, but you have a group of friends who could stop over.  You know, I’m going to stop over for two hours today.  She’s going to stop over for two hours tomorrow.

Chris:  That’s a really cool way to think about it, the ripple-out effect.  Because you do need a lactation consultant; you need a sleep trainer.  All these things; where the lack is in other areas, you end up having to find that somewhere else.  So what about people who can’t afford these things?  But I love what you said, that you could teach this one family this thing, and then you know that that mom is on a group text with, like, 15 other people.  Like, I’m in probably five different group texts with different groups, like my cousins that are also moms, my friends from growing up that are also moms, and we’ll text each other pictures of things like a rash.  The trickle-down image is cool to think about, that if you equip one family with the tools to do something, that they can then kind of pay it forward.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and I think, too, about sleep.  So I try to make my plans very affordable, but there’s always going to be people who can’t even afford the most affordable package, so I’m like, what can I do?  Maybe a class.  So I’m actually working on a class right now where I can give new parents some of this basic knowledge about healthy sleep habits.  But again, like we talked with your sleep podcast, there’s not just one solution that works.  So I don’t want people to think that by taking this class, they’re going to walk away and say, “I can now get my kid to sleep through the night.”  I will give you the tools that I can that are generalized to children in certain age groups, but then from there, they kind of just have to take it on their own, if they can’t afford to have me walk with them and hold their hand through the whole process.  But I guess it’s one step of, like, what else can I do to reach those people who maybe can’t afford everything?  I think we’re just slowly working on it.  We’re finding ways to infiltrate the community in so many different ways, whether it’s volunteering.  We used to teach free classes at Babies R Us until they closed.  That was another way that we could just get information into the community and let people know, you have options.  You have a ton of resources in this community, and here they are.

Chris:  That’s so cool.

Alyssa:  Otherwise, yeah, you can get really, really mad about it.

Chris:  Yeah, you can get really mad!

Alyssa:  And I think that is the fires that burns.  That’s what makes us passionate about what we do, because it is not fair that moms feel so isolated and alone once they have a baby.  It’s not fair.

Chris: And then take that passion and turn it into something that can help people.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So this kind of is a good lead-in to your new business because you, reflecting now back over the past year and owning your own business, and thinking, “Oh, I got this; I can do it all during my maternity leave” – even though you work for yourself and you don’t really give yourself a leave.  Life still goes on; you still have emails to deal with and all your social media stuff, and looking back and saying, how can I help other moms when they’re going through this transition?  So explain what you went through and what made you start this new business.

Chris:  Yeah.  So a little bit of background info: I have a social media business, so I do social media for a handful of clients, and when I was prepping for my ‘maternity leave’ last spring, I thought I was getting ahead of the game.  I was, like, “Chris, you’re amazing!  Look at you pulling it together!”  I hired some people to my team.  I started training them.  I started onboarding them.  I thought I had all my systems put together, and I thought everything was awesome.  In my head, I was going to take at least one full month off, not even checking email, just completely logged off.  In my head, I was, like, wearing a maxi dress in a field, holding a baby, effortlessly breastfeeding, with sunshine.  It was going to be awesome.  And then I thought that I would just slowly ease my way back in and maybe come back in September.  In reality, what happened was I had a C-section.  My water broke one week early and I ended up having a C-section, and in the hospital still, just hours after my surgery, I was doing clients’ posts on social media and doing their engagement because I hadn’t tested my team.  I actually had a few people who I had hired who ended up just not working out.  And so it all fell back on me because, as a business owner, it does.  And so that was just in the hospital, and then getting home and starting to learn how to do, like, sleep training and breastfeeding and even just dealing with my own healing – that was more than a full-time job already, so I was trying to balance that with continuing to work.  So there was zero maternity leave there, and that made my transition, which was already really pretty tough, a lot harder than it needed to be, and I can see that looking back.  I’m like, whoa, girl.  That was nuts.  But at the time, it felt like the only thing that I could do.  And so, like we said, looking back and seeing that, I’m like – it fires me up, and I don’t want anybody to have to do that.  And I will do anything again to prevent that for other people.  So when I see women who are pregnant and own their own business, I just want to shake them and tell them, “You don’t know what’s coming!  You need to prepare!”  Because I wish that somebody would have done that to me.  But all I can do is offer to them what I wish I would have had.  So I started a business now called Biz Babysitters, and what we do is we take over clients’ social media completely.  So we can handle posting; we can handle stories; we can handle DMs, engagement, comments – literally everything.  We can handle your inbox, as well, so that you can log off totally in your maternity leave.  Because there is such a temptation to just bust out your phone, and there are so many things that you think, while you’re breastfeeding or raising a newborn, that you can quickly, easily do.  You just can’t!

Alyssa:  On that note – so I too was a breastfeeding mom, scrolling through my iPhone.  I recently learned that there’s an increased risk of SIDS by trying to multitask while breastfeeding because you can get your kid in an unsafe position.  Like, especially a teeny-tiny baby who needs to be held in the right position.  They can suffocate on the breast.  So that’s another reason for mom to just put your phone down.

Chris:  Put your phone down!

Alyssa:  Yeah, stop multitasking.

Chris:  Two other things with that.  One is the blue light that comes off your phone.  If you’re shining that in your baby’s face in the middle of the night and then wondering why they don’t sleep or why you don’t go back to sleep?  I would get up and breastfeed my baby and be scrolling through Instagram, and then I would lay down in bed exhausted but completely unable to fall back asleep, and I think it was because I was staring into a glowing blue light.  And the other thing is just the mental health aspect of social media.  There’s so many more studies coming out on this now, but Instagram is not good for our mental health.  You’ve got to really clean up your feed and be intentional about it if you want Instagram or whatever app to not send you down a shame or comparison spiral.  And I remember feeling, while spending hours and hours on Instagram and breastfeeding, that this whole world was out there happening around me, and I was watching all the fun things everyone was doing, and I remember just feeling like I was stuck in this one place.  So I could feel the negative effects of being on social media in my immediate postpartum, very strongly.  So I think that just acknowledging, like, maybe this might not be a great thing for you in a time when you are so tender and vulnerable.

Alyssa:  So we had talked about this, and you had said, “I wish somebody would have told me all these things I needed postpartum,” and then you were looking back through old emails and you found one from me, saying, “Hey, you should take my newborn class.”  And you were, like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m too tired.”  And now you’re like, well, shoot, I wish I would have done that!  So how do you tell moms who are pregnant and saying, just like you did, “I got this.  I’m lining everything up; all the Ts are crossed; the Is are dotted; when I go on maternity leave, everything is done.  I’m good.”  And you’re saying, no, you actually need to prepare.  How do we really reach people?  You don’t know what you don’t know, so unfortunately, this mom isn’t going to know she needs you or me until she’s already in the thick of it and losing her mind and crying and saying she can’t handle this anymore.  So maybe it’s just education?  They need to hear it over and over and over again that this harder than you expect, and you have to prepare ahead of time.

Chris:  Right.  I don’t know!  This is the hardest part, because you’re exactly right, you don’t know until you know, and I looked back this morning on that email that I had sent you, where I was like, eh, I think we’re good.  We were so not good!  Oh, my God!  That’s the hardest thing, I guess.  All you can do is share your story, and maybe it will connect with some people.  But I think that a lot of it is, in that state of shock afterwards, to be there to help out, too, as sort of like a 911.

Alyssa:  And we have that.  You know, a lot of people call us.  “We need postpartum help,” or, “I need sleep help.” And it is like, how soon can you start?  But with your business, if I was a new mom and I was in the middle of this social media campaign, but you don’t know anything – like, how would a mom do that 911 with you?

Chris:  Right.

Alyssa:  Would that even work?

Chris:  It would, because we’ve got systems set up, like our intake forms and everything.  I mean, it wouldn’t be as effortless.  You know, you would have to go through a lot of onboarding because we need to figure out your voice, your tone.  A lot of it we can do just from stalking your account and everything that you already have out there on the internet, but yeah, there is a little bit of work that needs to go into handing off the reins to somebody.  But I really like to tell people – this is the cheesiest – it’s a skill to chill.  But it’s for real, especially for people who own a business.  We are a weird breed of people where you don’t know how to relax because you’re so passionate about your business that a second that you have to breathe, you are probably dropping into your business.  I don’t know.  I was that way.

Alyssa:  No, it’s true.  I’m always on, and I think occasionally, let’s say an appointment cancels or I end up having an hour of free time.  I find myself wandering, and I don’t even know what to do.  What do I do right now?  I just finished all my work because I was supposed to be doing this other thing right now, but I can’t get out of that mode to just sit and read or go for a walk.  I’m trying to get a lot better at that.  It’s beautiful out; I should go for a walk.  But it is hard to get out of that mode and into chill mode.

Chris:  Yes, so it takes practice because it’s shocking.  And so I love to recommend to people to get started working together around 30 weeks.  Go through all the intake forms; get everything put together, so that you can start your log-off at, like, 36 or 37 weeks.  And in those last couple weeks, you can start to practice relaxing and see what it feels like to not check your email, and see what it feels like to not being in your Instagram DMs every 15 minutes.  Fill in your vice of choice, but you can start to slowly – just like how you want to phase slowly back into working, you can slowly phase out of it.  And you don’t know what’s going to happen towards the end of your pregnancy.  You could go into early labor.  You could want to nest so bad that you just wander around Home Goods for eight hours.  So I love to tell people to start early; start around 30 weeks, then slowly phase it out.  We can work out any kinks, and then you can practice for maybe a week, maybe two weeks, seeing what it’s like to be completely stepped back and completely relaxed.  And I think that’s a great way to mentally and physically prepare for your immediate postpartum as well so that you aren’t tempted to jump back in.  That little reaction you get with your thumb when you turn your screen on where it just goes to Instagram and you don’t think about it – you can start deprogramming that now.

Alyssa:  That’s really smart.  So for any moms who are listening to this and going, “Oh, my God.  I need that.  I’m a business owner and I’m pregnant.”  Whether it’s your first or fourth, you can use this.  How do they find you?

Chris:  You can find me on Instagram, of course.

Alyssa:  Of course.  You have a beautiful Instagram feed.  I love it.

Chris:  I’m such a nerd for Instagram.  I love it so much.  So on Instagram, I’m @bizbabysitters.  And you can find every other piece of information from that point.  Instagram is the hub.  And then bizbabysitters.com is the website.  I also have a free maternity leave planning workbook for anybody who is coming up on your maternity leave and you’re not sure you want to work with somebody.  This is totally free and a good way to just get started wrapping your head around a game plan.

Alyssa:  And they can download that on your website, too?

Chris:  Mm-hmm, bizbabysitters.com/freebie.

Alyssa:  Lovely!  Well, thanks for joining me today!  Is there anything else that you want to say about either your business or this crazy mess of being a mompreneur?

Chris:  I think it’s such an interesting, cool breed of women.  And there’s so many more of us now!  A big shift is happening, I think, and it’s really cool to be part of it.

Alyssa:  I have a daughter, and so do you, so I think it’s really cool that as Sam gets older, she’s going to see you as your own boss.  I think that’s really cool.  My daughter knows that I own my own business and I am my boss, and I work when I want to work – and I’m going to get better at working less – but I just think it’s really cool and empowering.  That, in and of itself, is really empowering.

Chris:  It is!  Julie, the postpartum doula at Gold Coast, left me a stickie note.  She always leaves little stickie notes, and I save all of them.  She left a stickie note that said, “You are setting a good example for your daughter.”  And I was, like, tears!

Alyssa:  Tears!  Oh, Julie.

Chris:  She’s the best!

Alyssa:  Yes, we love her too!

Chris:  So I guess also just a reminder that you’re not alone, even if you feel that way.  We’re all feeling it.

Alyssa:  So help a sister out.  Stop this mom shaming stuff.  You are no better than another mom, and don’t even try to make yourself look better than another mom.  We’re all struggling in our own way, no matter what stage; six weeks or six years.  We all have different struggles.

Chris:  Yeah, and different areas of thriving, as well.  We’re all in it together.

Alyssa:  Thanks, girl!

Chris:  Thank you!

 

Postpartum Support for Business Owners: Podcast Episode #74 Read More »

Sleep Consultant

Chris’ Personal Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #73

Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa.  She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help.  In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today.  Hello, Chris!

Chris:  Hi!

Alyssa:  You were a client of ours.  You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me.  So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.

Chris:  Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!

Alyssa:  So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep?  How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep?  Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?

Chris:  Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.”  It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period.  I kind of don’t remember what happened.  I know I wasn’t sleeping.  I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7.  But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything.  So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things!  So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid.  And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information.  My baby’s not sleeping.  I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.  Like, I just need to talk to a person!  And that was when I reached out to you.

Alyssa:  And how old was she?  Six months?

Chris:  I think she might have been six months, yeah.

Alyssa:  That’s what comes to my mind.

Chris:  I think so.

Alyssa:  So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation?  You were just gone?

Chris:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  There was no day and no night.  And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him.  And sometimes coughing loudly.  “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning.  But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well.  She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time.  She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level.  We’ve got to do something here.

Alyssa:  Right.  I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.”  I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out.  But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.”  So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training.  I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep.  We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help!  What’s going on?”

Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa!  So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day.  Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go.  And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there.  And it ended up working super well.  I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word.  We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that!  You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred.  But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it.  Like, significantly less.  I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep.  Like, what??

Alyssa:  I remember you saying, “How is this possible?  What did you do to my child?  Whose baby is this?”

Chris:  Yeah, what’s happening?  Did you possess my child?  So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever.  What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day!  So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.

Alyssa:  I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps.  It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap.  We’re going to hit the hot tub.  And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes!  We did it!

Chris:  That’s one of my favorite parenting memories!  It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.

Alyssa:  I think it is!

Chris:  Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad.  My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived.  I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat.  It really affects you.

Alyssa:  On so many levels.   Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying?  I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car.  You just kind of get into survival mode.

Chris:  Yeah.  And I would just nurse her to sleep.  I think I spent – oh, my God.  I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake!  So yeah, that was the beginning.

Alyssa:  And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?

Chris:  Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling.  I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib.  She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore.  She hates that!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.

Chris:  Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again!  I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.

Alyssa:  She’s, like, get away from me, lady!

Chris:  She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop!  So at that point – what did we do at that point?  We stopped shush-pat.  Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.

Alyssa:  Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals.  Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.

Chris: The first day, yeah.  I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell!  But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time.  Like, I’ve done this a million times.  I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep!  It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately.  So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore.  But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.

Alyssa:  So where is she at now?

Chris:  Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!

Alyssa:  Yay!

Chris:  I’m so happy!

Alyssa:  And how many months is she?

Chris:  She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.

Alyssa:  Awesome.

Chris:  Yeah, it’s amazing.  And she goes down super easy for her morning nap.  It’s not even an issue anymore.  I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15.  I can do this!  And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.

Alyssa:  Yeah, her body just knows it’s time.  She doesn’t fight it.  Incredible!  Yay!

Chris:  I know, it’s a game changer!

Alyssa:  And you’re feeling good?

Chris:  I’m feeling good!

Alyssa:  Your husband’s feeling good?

Chris:  Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.

Alyssa:  Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?

Chris:  I was just watching him.  But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?

Alyssa:  That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep?  And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up.  I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something.  So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months.  It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove.  So you just need to figure out your groove again.  So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.

Chris:  I don’t know.  I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor.  I’m like, oh, is she okay?

Alyssa:  So turn the monitor off.

Chris:  What?  You can do that?

Alyssa:  Yeah!  As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off.  Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in.  She’s just down the hall.  If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup.  I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that.  Earplugs in.

Chris:  Oh, my God.  That’s genius.  Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.

Alyssa:  You’re going to hear her, absolutely.

Chris:  But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay?  And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.

Alyssa:  No, she’s good.  She’s good.  Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.

Chris:  Yeah.  Okay!

Alyssa:  They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed.  You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep.  And you didn’t have to get out of bed.  But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.

Chris:  You’re going to change my world!

Alyssa:  Go buy some earplugs when we leave!

Chris:  Yeah!

Alyssa:  Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep.  And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now.  Every single little noise: oh, are they okay?  Are they okay?  They’re okay.

Chris:  I love that.

Alyssa:  And my daughter is six now.  I always check in on her.  I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind.  I’m going to sleep now.  I’m putting my earplugs in.  I want to get a good night’s rest.  She’s okay.

Chris:  Wow.  When do you think they started making video baby monitors?

Alyssa:  I don’t know.  Good question!

Chris:  Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?

Alyssa:  Not that long ago.

Chris:  Not that long ago?

Alyssa:  I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade.  Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.

Chris:  We survived!

Alyssa:  Yeah!  So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?

Chris:  Oh, my God.  Get a plan ASAP!

Alyssa:  Don’t wait?

Chris:  Don’t wait!  I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep.  First of all, I would have gotten out of her room.  We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st.  She was born in June!

Alyssa:  That’s eight months!

Chris:  We slept in the same room as her for eight months!  Is that crazy?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months.  That’s their safe sleep guideline.  For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle.  You have to get up early for work; you have older kids.  But some people do room share for six to twelve months.  It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you.  So it’s really up to the parent.  It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.

Chris:  Right.  Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that.  We were both keeping each other up all night.  So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing.  You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap.  It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.

Alyssa:  Well, and crying just to cry does you no good.  I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours.  I’m like, that was for nothing.  That’s absolutely for nothing.  And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress.  You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan.  Here’s how it’s going to work.  Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing.  And it’s so hard because people give up.  Parents just want to give up.  “I tried it; didn’t work.  I give up.  I throw in the towel.  I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard.  Or people will say, oh, I did this online course.  I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you.  They don’t know your baby.  They don’t know your parenting style.  They don’t know what you’ve tried.  They don’t know what works and what didn’t work.  So it’s really hard.

Chris:  I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything.  And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby.  I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that.  So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.

Alyssa:  Right.  “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?”  Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.

Chris:  Yes, or how to troubleshoot.  Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next?  And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her.  Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!

Alyssa:  Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no!  This is not supposed to happen; what do I do?  And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do.  Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.

Chris:  Yep.  The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Chris:  That was the 1000% game changer.  Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know?  You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there!  Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this!  One more minute!  Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her.  And I’d be like, okay.

Alyssa:  Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.

Chris:  Yeah.  The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –

Alyssa:  Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night?  How did it go?

Chris:  Exactly, yeah.

Alyssa:  Did you move out of that room?

Chris:  Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!

Alyssa:  Right.  I’ll know!  I’ll be checking your Instagram feed!  Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!

Chris:  But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.

Alyssa:  It’s huge.  That’s why I love it so much.  I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep.  Anything else you want to say?

Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say!  Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!

Alyssa:  There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning!  It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.

Chris:  Yep.  Because we had no clue.  I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep?  Just go to sleep!

Alyssa:  And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep?  Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.

Chris:  Exactly, yeah.  So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain!  Rely on someone else’s brain!

Alyssa:  Right.  “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.”  It’s not!  Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.

Chris:  Is that for real?  One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?

Alyssa:  Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this.  Yeah.

Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?

Alyssa:  Probably eight hours.  I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven.  But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…

Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.

Chris:  Scary.  I believe it, though!

Alyssa:  I feel it.  Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space.  That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.

Chris:  Yeah, I’ve missed my own road!  Seriously, multiple times!  Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’re in a fog!

Chris:  Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!

Alyssa:  Awesome.  Well, thanks for joining me today!  We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!

Chris:  Awesome!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening.  Remember, these moments are golden!

 

Chris’ Personal Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #73 Read More »

car seat safety

Car Seat Safety: Podcast Episode #72

Today we talk to one of Gold Coast Doulas’ Birth and Postpartum Doulas, Jamie Platt.  She is a Certified Car Seat Technician and gives parents some helpful tips about what’s safe and what isn’t.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud

Alyssa:  Hi, and welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am your host, Alyssa Veneklase.  I am co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast, and we are talking to Jamie today.  She is a postpartum doula with us, as well.  Hi, Jamie.

Jamie:  Hi.

Alyssa:  And you’re also a certified passenger safety technician, and you’ve started offering car seat checks in clients’ homes?

Jamie:  Correct!

Alyssa:  Tell me; what is a car seat tech?

Jamie:  So with these services, I would come to the comfort of your home and do a car seat check with you at your house, and this would involve making sure that the car seat is in the safest place in the car that you have.  There’s a lot of details about that in your car manufacturer book that you may not know about.

Alyssa:  Many of us don’t read that kind of stuff.

Jamie:  Correct.

Alyssa:  We just say, oh, it doesn’t fit in the middle; let’s throw it in the side.  But you actually know that you have to look at the manual for each car?

Jamie:  Yeah, there’s the car manual that you need to look at as well as the car seat manual.  We have a large book called the latch book, if you know about the latch system.  You can use lower anchors to put your car seat in versus a seatbelt, and there’s a lot of different rules and regulations that come with that, depending on what car you have as well.  So there’s quite the thought process that goes into that.  We can talk about choosing the right car seat for your child.  If you are thinking about moving from just your rear-facing infant seat to a convertible seat, we can talk about the differences between rear-facing and forward-facing and when is a good time to switch.  Recalls and expiration dates for your car seat; you may not know that a certain part of your car seat was recalled.  You may hear about in the news where a car seat is recalled, but oftentimes, there’s just a little part on the car seat that may have been recalled that you don’t hear about, and so it’s just a matter of quickly getting ahold of the manufacturer, and they can send you that replacement part.  So we can also talk about the latch system versus using the seatbelt.  A common myth is that you can use both; you can use the latch part and the seatbelt part and that’s the safest, but that’s not true.  So I’ll go over all that information.  Making sure your car seat is tight enough in your car that it’s not wiggling around too much; making sure it’s level and the angle is correct; that’s very important if you have an infant.  And most importantly, after I teach you all these things, you get to install the car seat, and I help you every step of the way.  It’s very important that you know how to put your car seats in correctly, especially if you have more than one vehicle and you need to switch them, like if grandparents help out.  And I can install the car seat for you, no problem, but I really want you to know how to do it, so there’s the education piece so that you will feel confident that your child is safe in their car seat if you do have to move it to a different car.  And then we’ll also talk about accessories that you can use with the car seat; what’s appropriate; what’s appropriate clothing to wear.  For example, you’re not supposed to wear winter coats when it’s cold out, so I can educate you about the reasons why you’re not supposed to wear bulky clothing in a car seat.  How to clean your car seat; there are specific ways that you should be cleaning your car seat, as well.  And then how to properly dispose of them because you never want to just throw your car seat in the trash.  So there’s protocols and proper ways of disposing of it as well.  So I will go over all of this information with you in detail at your home whenever the best date and time works out for your family.

Alyssa:  That’s really awesome.  I know that when we were transferring car seats around with my daughter, it’s one of the scariest things, because my husband always put the car seat in for us, and the first time I had to do it myself, I was so fearful to drive with her because I’m like, I don’t know if this is in right.  Is it tight enough?  Is it straight?  Is it crooked?  Is it supposed to be over here?  And I just did the best I could and drove home and then had him fix it when I got home.  But it’s really scary.  Had I had a professional show me how to do it, I could have just done it with confidence, right?

Jamie:  Correct, and depending on what research you look at — there’s various statistics — but it’s somewhere in between 70 to 95% of car seats are not installed correctly.  That could just be one minor little thing; it could be a multitude of things, but it’s very common, and so I want people to know that it’s okay to reach out.  Before I became a technician, I did a lot of things wrong, and I didn’t know I did these things wrong until I became certified and took the class.  And so this is totally judgment-free.  I’ve worked at car seat events through Helen Devos Children’s Hospital, and we have had people come in where their child is not even strapped in the car seat, and the car seat’s not buckled down, either.  So this is a free-range child in the car.  So I’ve seen a lot of different things, and my goal is always to make sure that your child is safer when they leave than when you first came and saw me.  So anything that I can do to help, I would love to make your child safer.  Just know that even if you are making a few mistakes, it’s okay, and I will be happy to show you how to do things correctly.

Alyssa:  I think a big part, too, is graduating to the next seat.  That’s always a fear for parents.  I know that we probably moved our daughter a little too soon, but I just actually had a client ask today, you know, I think I’m supposed to keep my son rear-facing until two, but he’s 35 pounds and tall enough; can I switch him?  He definitely looks big enough, so what would you say if someone is one and a half and meets all the other requirements, but the guidelines say you should probably have them rear-facing until they’re two?

Jamie:  So guidelines are just that; they’re guidelines.  And there’s guidelines to everything in life.  So the important thing to remember is what is going to keep my child safest.  So in Michigan you may have heard, well, I can switch my child from rear-facing to forward-facing when they’re two, and yes, you can do that, but is it the safest?  Is it what’s best for your child?  Maybe not.  Your child is five times safer rear-facing than they are forward-facing, and there’s a lot of different reasons why that is, but you should know that rear-facing is definitely best.  It’s your decision what you want to do as a parent, but if you look at your car seat, there’s stickers on the side, and it lists the maximum height and maximum weight.  Once your child reaches one of those, then you can flip it the other way, and you should change it to forward-facing because your child has maxed out of what is safe.  The guidelines for your car seat are what have been tested in a crash, so if your child is over that weight limit, he is technically no longer safe and should switch over.

Alyssa:  Okay, so even if they’re before two, if they’re either reached the height maximum or the weight maximum, it’s time to switch?

Jamie:  Some kids are just too tall for car seats.

Alyssa:  And if they’re tall, but what if it’s a super tall, little, skinny thing?  Even though the height is maxed out, they still need to switch even though they may be really low on the weight?

Jamie:  Correct, because you can be too tall for a car seat, and that’s not safe either.  There should be an inch between the top of your car seat and your child’s head, and that’s what safest.  So if your child is above that inch and is creeping up towards the top of your car seat; well, his head is no longer protected in the proper way that it should be.

Alyssa:  Well, that’s an easy guideline, I think.

Jamie: Correct.  So as long as you’re making sure that you’re following those guidelines that are on the car seat, your child will be safe.  But my daughter is almost three and a half, and she is still rear-facing, and that is because she hasn’t reached the weight or the height limit yet, and I know it’s safer for her to be that way.  Parents think that, oh, their legs are too long, and they’re hitting the back of the car seat, and they’re so uncomfortable.  What happens in an accident?  They’re going to break their leg; that type of thing.  Those are very good concerns that a parent brings up.  However, research has shown that it’s very unlikely that your child will actually break a leg rear-facing in a crash, and it’s more important, as well, that their head and their spine are protected, more so than a leg.  You can recover from a leg injury.  Head injuries and neck injuries are much more serious.  So that’s another thing to consider is your child can crisscross their legs; they can actually hang them off to the side.  They are okay with their legs looking funny or cramped up sometimes.  They will adjust.

Alyssa:  So let’s say the child has turned two, but they haven’t reached those maximums.  That’s where you’re at?  She’s well beyond the two years, but she hasn’t reached the height and the weight maximums, so she can stay rear-facing until she reaches those?

Jamie:  Correct.  Once she reaches the height or the weight, I will turn her around.  One thing that’s really important, and one of the reasons why you should have your car seat checked, is there are changes that you can make to your car seat once you switch from rear-facing to forward-facing.  Sometimes, you car seat may have a bar that helps angle it.  That needs to be switched.  The car seat straps are also placed differently from rear-facing to forward-facing; where they fit on the child is different.  So there are many reasons why you should get your car seat checked by a technician when you do make that switch from rear-facing to forward-facing.  There’s several different things that you change when you make that transition.  Sometimes, your car seat may have a bar at the bottom that you need to switch and put up so that angle no longer exists.  The straps that harness your child in have to be placed differently when you make that transition.  And the other big change is where your seatbelt strap goes in the back of the seat.  There’s a different spot for it when your forward-face, and there’s a different spot for it when you rear-face, and a lot of parents don’t realize it.  There’s these small little changes that do make a huge difference if you were in a crash.  I’ve personally seen a car seat that had the seat belt placed in the wrong hole when they went to install the car seat, and it ended up breaking the car seat when it was involved in an accident, and the child was injured.  And so something that seems very insignificant can make a big difference when you do get into a crash, so it’s very important that you just have someone that’s knowledgeable, that’s been trained and certified, to look at your car seat and just make sure that everything looks great.

Alyssa:  I’m already thinking that right now, I need to get my parents over here to have you check the car seat in their car, and then probably mine, too.  Yeah, I think this is critical information for new parents.  And then, obviously, you could help new parents with newborn car seats before they even go to the hospital so that everything is installed and safe and ready to go, and there’s no fear there when they’re bringing baby home for the first time.

Jamie:  Definitely.  Even if your child has not been born yet, I’ll be happy to make sure that your car seat that you may have purchased already is a good fit for your car, that it’s placed in a proper position.

Alyssa:  And have grandparents come over, too, and watch and have them help install it in their car, too.

Jamie:  Definitely.  Everyone who wants to learn is more than welcome to come.

Alyssa:  Well, that’s amazing, and I’m so excited that we are offering this service.  If you have any questions for Jamie, email us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Photo courtesy of Walmart.

 

Car Seat Safety: Podcast Episode #72 Read More »

Trusted birth team

Your Trusted Birth Team

We all know that becoming a parent is difficult, but most first time parents don’t really have a full understanding of how hard it will be until they’re in the midst of it. They may encounter fertility struggles or miscarriages; they realize that planning during pregnancy takes a lot of work; they have to find an OB or midwife they trust; they may hire a doula; and it takes time for new parents to put a postpartum support network in place.

Add on to that the stressors of guilt, living up to “social media standards”, unwanted advice from friends and family, fear of failure, and lack of confidence. It’s overwhelming and can leave parents feeling defeated before they even begin.

With information at our fingertips, how do we discern what’s evidence-based and what’s junk? What’s worth worrying about and what’s not? How does a parent today make an informed decision?

Luckily, our West Michigan families have so many great health care professionals to choose from and tons of options for support. We’re going to tell you how to begin this journey on the right path so you don’t go through this alone. If you are supported by a trusted team throughout, you are more likely to have a positive birth experience.

Let’s talk about some myths. It’s important to talk about the misconceptions the public has on every area of the support team. Let’s debunk those!

Doula Myth #1: Doulas only support home births.
At Gold Coast Doulas, over 80 percent of our births happen in a hospital. Our clients are seeking professional, experienced doula support in the hospital setting.

Doula Myth #2: Doulas only support parents who want an all-natural delivery.
Gold Coast Doulas supports any birth and respects all birth preferences.

Doula Myth #3: Doulas catch babies.
Definitely not! We are not a replacement for any medical staff, we are an added member of your birth team, there to offer informational, emotional, and physical support throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Doula Myth #4: Doulas only offer birth support.
We have antepartum doulas that offer support for mothers on bed rest, are high-risk, or for any reason need additional help while pregnant. We also have postpartum doulas that support families once a baby, or babies arrive. They offer in-home care, day and overnight. They are like a night nanny and infant care specialist rolled into one!

Hospital Birth Myth #1: You can’t have an unmedicated birth in a hospital.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of our birth clients prefer an unmedicated birth in the safety of a hospital setting. Our West Michigan hospitals have many different options for a laboring person.

Hospital Birth Myth #2: An induction leads to a cesarean.
This is not always the case. In many cases, labor induction leads to a successful vaginal birth.

Hospital Birth Myth #3: You can’t move around during labor. 
As long as you don’t have an epidural, movement is encouraged. Even with an epidural, there are many possible position changes in bed that your birth doula can help you with. You won’t be lying on your back the entire time. Most hospitals have walking monitors for those who wish to move around during labor.

Midwife Myth #1: Midwives only support home births.
We have many local midwives that do support home births, one midwife that delivers in a birth house, and there are plenty of Certified Nurse Midwives that practice in hospitals! There are midwives in West Michigan for any kind of birth preference you have.

Midwife Myth #2: Midwives only support women during pregnancy and birth. 
Many midwives also offer well-woman care (annual exams).

OB Myth #1: They aren’t supportive of vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC) and it’s best to attempt one at home. 
This is often based on the hospital’s policy rather than preference of the doctor. Many hospitals are supportive of VBACs.

OB Myth #2: They do not work with doulas.
This is not the case. Many of our clients see an Obstetrician and most are very comfortable with professional doulas. Our team is always willing to accompany clients to a prenatal appointment if the provider is not comfortable with working with a doula.

OB Myth #3: They don’t like birth plans.
While this may be partially true just because many “birth plans” are eight pages long. Many things patients put on their birth plan are already protocol at most hospitals (skin to skin, delayed newborn procedures, etc). Knowing that providers have to see many patients in one day, it’s important to keep in mind that they cannot read through an eight page plan. Give them the information that is specific to you. “I want dimmed lights and music.” “I don’t want to be touched when I’m laboring.”

Millennials are over 80 percent of the pregnant population right now and they want answers! They want a relationship, and they want a team they can trust. Our parents and grandparents had one doctor who did everything. They trusted anything the doctor said and definitely didn’t go searching for answers on their own.

Medical care is different today, and families expect a different approach to their healthcare. Oftentimes they don’t even realize they need something more until they are expecting a child. It’s probably one of the biggest unknowns to ever happen in someone’s life. Having a trusted team by your side through the entire process can relieve the stress, pressure, and oftentimes unnecessary anxiety that comes with planning and preparing for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.

If you are pregnant or even just thinking about starting or growing your family soon, reach out to us. We can offer local resources and our doulas are here to be your guides when you are ready.

In the meantime, here are some trusted online sources we recommend. Try your hardest not to get information from individuals online (mom groups, Facebook, etc)!

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

March of Dimes

Evidence Based Birth

 

Your Trusted Birth Team Read More »

Ask the doulas podcast

Podcast Episode #68: Overnight Doula Support

Many of our clients and listeners don’t fully understand what overnight doula support looks like.  Kristin and Alyssa, both Certified Postpartum Doulas, discuss the kinds of support their clients look for and how their team of doulas support families in their homes.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also learn more here about overnight postpartum doula support.

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin.

Alyssa:  And I’m Alyssa.

Kristin:  And we’re here to chat about what an overnight postpartum doula does, as that is a question that we get asked often by our clients and our podcast listeners.  So, Alyssa, my first question to you is, as a postpartum doula and sleep specialist, what do you see as the key benefits to a family in hiring overnight postpartum doula support?

Alyssa:  Whether they hire for sleep or not, it helps the parents get sleep.  So let’s say they’re not even hiring me for a sleep consult.  Parents don’t understand what sleep deprivation means until their in the midst of it, probably at least three weeks in.  Like, our bodies are designed to survive a couple weeks of this, sometimes even three or four, but after that, our systems start to shut down.  So if you think about overnight support being this trusted person who sleeps in your home to take over all those overnight responsibilities so that you can get a good night’s rest.  Even a six-hour stretch or sometimes even a four-hour stretch makes you feel like a whole new person the next day when you’re used to only sleeping maybe one- or two-hour chunks.  A four-hour stretch seems amazing in that moment, whereas right now if you told me I could only have four hours of sleep tonight, I would cry.  I would be miserable the next day.  And you, Kristin, as a birth doula, you know that feeling.  If you’ve had one night of no sleep, you’re just wrecked.  So you’re running on adrenaline.  You’re sleep deprived.  So having a doula come in and take over all that responsibility at night — obviously, she can’t breastfeed your baby, but you have a couple different choices if you’re a breastfeeding mom.  If you’re a bottle-feeding with formula mom, you can literally go to sleep at 10:00 PM and wake up whenever you want because the doula can just feed that baby every three hours.

Kristin:  Exactly, and clean the bottles and change the diapers and burp the baby, all of it.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So if your partner is feeding in the middle of the night, you’re certainly not going to wake up to clean bottles and parts in the morning.  The doula does do that.  But for a breastfeeding mom, you can choose to pump instead of breastfeeding because it’s usually a lot quicker.  So you pump and you set those bottles out for the doula.  The doula wakes up when the baby wakes up; feeds the baby; burps the baby; changes the baby; gets the baby back to sleep — and Mom’s sleeping this whole time.  Or, if Mom chooses to breastfeed, the doula can bring Baby to Mom so Mom doesn’t even have to get out of bed.  I was just talking to Kelly Emory, our lactation consultant friend, and she was saying that when she was nursing, she would just side lie and her husband would bring the baby to her.  She would lie on her side, so she didn’t have to get up.  She didn’t even have to open her eyes if she didn’t want to.  She was still kind of in this half-sleep state, and then when Baby was done on that side, her husband would take the baby and she’d roll over and she would feed on the other side, and then the husband would take the baby away, change the baby, burp the baby, and do all that stuff.  So she said it was amazing.  She took over one shift of the night, and he took over the next, so she would get a six-hour chunk of sleep and would feel amazing in the morning.  So you’re able to tackle all those everyday tasks during the day because you didn’t have to also worry about those at night.

Kristin:  Yes!  And I’ve also had overnight clients who prefer to come into the nursery and sit in a rocker and feed their baby rather than have me come in and disrupt their husband’s sleep.

Alyssa:  Sometimes they’re sleeping in separate rooms, too, because they’ve become used to that.  So oftentimes, my goal as an overnight doula is to have both parents sleeping in bed together again, or wherever you were before this baby arrived.

Kristin:  Right, no more partner on the couch or in the guest bedroom.

Alyssa:  Right.

Kristin:  So as far as other tasks of an overnight postpartum doula, sleep is one.  So we can get Baby back to sleep and if they’re working with a certified sleep consultant, like you, then they can implement that.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I guess I didn’t answer that initial question.  So if they do work with me as a sleep consultant, you can hire an overnight doula in conjunction with.  So I offer this customized sleep plan for your family, and then our doula knows that plan, understands that plan, and implements that plan overnight.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.

Alyssa:  So you wake up again refreshed because you’ve slept, and then you have the energy to implement the sleep plan during the day.  And then the doula comes in at night and implements that plan overnight.  So it’s consistency because that’s always the key with any sort of sleep consult is that you have to be consistent.  You can’t just do it during the day and then give up at night because you’re tired.  Your plan will fail.

Kristin:  And so who hires a postpartum overnight doula, and how often do they use the doula support?

Alyssa:  Who hires them?  Tired families hire them!  You get to the point of exhaustion.  I don’t think when you’re pregnant you’re thinking about an overnight doula because you truly don’t understand what you’re in for.  But newborn babies sleep all the time, so they could sleep up to 22 out of 24 hours a day, so you’re thinking, well, of course, like, newborn babies sleep all the time.  I’m going to sleep when the baby sleeps.  They’re going to be feeding every two to three hours!

Kristin:  They get up a lot!

Alyssa:  Which means all day and all night, you will be up feeding every two to three hours, at least.  So your sleep becomes these little tiny chunks.  Because if you think if you have a newborn baby that’s eating every two hours, and it takes you an hour to breastfeed, and then after the breastfeeding session, you have to burp; you have to change the diaper; you have to get the baby back to sleep.  You’ve maybe got 30 to 45 minutes, if you’re lucky, to sleep before the baby needs to feed again.

Kristin:  And some clients hire us for one overnight to get a good night of sleep and catch up; other clients hire us every night, and we bring in a team, in and out, or have one doula consistently.  And some of our clientele have a partner who travels a lot, or I’ve even supported a family where the mother was going back to work from maternity leave and was traveling for her job, so as an overnight doula, I supported the husband as he cared for the toddler that was waking; I was caring for the baby.  And so there are a lot of unique situations, but a lot of our moms who have partners who travel a lot want that extra support, whether they have a new baby or other kids in the household that need support, as well.

Alyssa:  I think it depends on resources.   So if someone is sleep deprived and they’re like, I just need one night of reprieve, and that’s all we can afford and that’s what we’re going to do, then that’s what they do.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  Even if they don’t have the resources, oftentimes during pregnancy, if parents have the foresight to ask for postpartum support as a baby shower gift, they can have several overnights gifted to them by friends and family.

Kristin:  Which is better than all the toys and clothes they’ll outgrow.

Alyssa:  I always tell them, you’re going to get mounds of plastic junk that you’ll literally look at and say that’s hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff I’m never going to use, and you could have had an overnight doula in your home so you could sleep.

Kristin:  Easily!

Alyssa:  So I think it’s just based on resources because, like you said, we’ve had people hire us for, you know, two overnights and we’ve had two months straight.  So I think it just depends.  I mean, I don’t know that it’s a type of client.  I think that’s just kind of based on resources available.

Kristin:  And we certainly support families who are struggling with postpartum mood disorders and anxiety, but that is not all that we serve as far as clientele.  But for moms who are being treated in therapy, then we certainly are able to give them much-needed support and rest as we care for their baby, and we do have a package where we are able to lower our hourly rate for clients who are in the Pine Rest mother-baby program or are seeking therapy.

Alyssa:  Yeah, sleep deprivation is considered to be the number one cause of perinatal mood disorders, so all these moms with anxiety, depression, up to postpartum psychosis — when you’re sleep deprived, you’re literally torturing your brain and your body, and it’s really hard to function.  So sleep is such an imperative thing, and for your baby, too.  If you’re not sleeping and your baby’s not sleeping, physiologically, that baby needs sleep in order to grow, for their brain to develop, for their immune system to function properly.  It’s so critical for both parents and children.

Kristin:  Agreed.  So, really, anyone can benefit from it.  Our shortest shift would be coming in at 10:00 PM and leaving at 6:00 AM, but a lot of clients extend that time.

Alyssa:  I’ve found that a lot of people like you to come a little bit earlier, especially if they have older children.  So if there’s older siblings, let’s say 6:00 comes around and you’re trying to get dinner on the table.  You have a two-year-old, a five-year-old, and a newborn.

Kristin:  That’s a lot!

Alyssa:  That overnight shift tends to, when parents say, yeah, yeah, come at 8:00 or 9:00 when I’m going to go to bed — that very quickly changes to 5:00 or 6:00.  So either that shift moves up, or it just lengthens.  So the doula can come from, a lot of times, 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM, and they do a lot of 12-hour shifts because they’re there for the hustle and bustle of getting dinner, wrangling toddlers, helping with the newborn, and then helping with bedtime routines for two or three children and then taking that infant newborn and helping them get to sleep.  Usually, it’s in that order.  Like, the doula will take the baby and put them to sleep, and then the parents get to spend some quality time with this toddler who is usually lashing out because they are used to being the only child, if there’s only one, and are really, really seeking that one-on-one attention that they’re not getting anymore.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s the perfect time to bond, and they can read them a bedtime story and sing songs; whatever their nighttime routines were before Baby arrived.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and that’s one thing I stress, too, with my sleep consults is just having a really good bedtime routine, and even if I’m doing a consult for one child and there’s others in the household, I usually ask about them, too, because if you’ve got three kids who all have a different bedtime, and each bedtime routine is taking an hour, certainly whoever’s last on that list is going to bed at 9:00 or something, which is way too late for these little kids.  So trying to consolidate and have a system in place and just get a schedule that works for the family, for everyone in the family, is a really big goal.

Kristin:  Awesome advice.

Alyssa:  So you mentioned earlier that a doula sleeps when the baby sleeps, and sometimes parents wonder, well, what do you mean?  What does that look like?  Depending on the house, we’ve had doulas sleeping on sofas in the living room.

Kristin:  Yes, that’s what I’ve done.

Alyssa:  We’ve had doulas sleeping in a spare room.  We’ve had doulas sleeping in a spare room on the same floor, in a spare room on a different floor, and you can make anything work.

Kristin:  With monitors and technology now, you know the second a baby stirs.

Alyssa:  So parents are always like, oh, shoot, I don’t know how this is going to work.  How am I going to do that?  We’ve had blow-up mattresses in the nursery.  Ideally, you want the doula to be as close to the nursey as possible, so they’re the one, when they hear that baby, they’re up; they’re there.

Kristin:  No one else gets woken up in the household.

Alyssa:  Yeah, you want the parents to be as far away.  So sometimes I even tell them if you have a spare bedroom in the basement, go sleep there, because even with one of my most recent sleep clients, the first night we did the sleep consult, the doula was there overnight, and I contacted them the next day: how did you sleep?  And they were like, oh, I wanted to so bad, but I kept hearing this phantom crying.  Even when the babies weren’t crying, they hear it, anyway.  So it does take, as parents, who are used to not sleeping for week after week after week — it takes time for your body and brain to adjust back to, oh, I’m able to sleep again.  So it’s not instant.  It usually takes at least a couple nights to get your brain to say, I can sleep.  It’s okay to sleep through the night.  I don’t have any responsibilities tonight.  This doula is taking care of it.  And it’s just a matter of them getting sleep in two-hour chunks instead of the parents getting sleep in two-hour chunks.  So a doula can usually do two or three in a row before they’re too exhausted.

Kristin:  Just like a birth doula.  We can do a couple nights with a client in the hospital without sleep, and then we’re done.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So for those clients of ours who we’ve had for two weeks straight or two months straight, it’s several doulas taking turns.  Otherwise, they’re just too exhausted.

Kristin:  Right, and that’s where we sometimes will bring in a team if it is continuous care.

Alyssa:  But I think ideally, with sleep training, I would love to see every parent have a sleep plan and then a doula for five nights.  That would just be — I don’t know; I think the mental well-being of these parents would increase drastically if they were able to do both.

Kristin:  I would have loved an overnight doula with my kids being 21 months apart; having a toddler and a newborn.  It would have been amazing.

Alyssa:  Well, and some people, too, think it’s weird to have somebody sleeping in your home.  I mean, always, when they meet the doula, they’re totally fine with it, but it is a weird thought to have this stranger come into your home who’s going to care for your babies.  That’s why I think we’re so adamant about talking about our training and our certification process, and we’ve done background checks for people who want us to.

Kristin:  Yeah, and we’ve shown immunization records and CPR certifications and so on and liability insurance.  We have all of that.

Alyssa:  Yeah, because especially with a mom with anxiety who needs to sleep and knows she needs this help, but now she has anxiety because a stranger is going to be sleeping in her home — we need to do whatever you have to, to make that mom feel comfortable to be able to sleep.

Kristin:  Yes, and we’re there to do just that.  So feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about overnight doulas.  We’d love to work with your family! Remember, these moments are golden.

 

Podcast Episode #68: Overnight Doula Support Read More »

Technology and mindfulness

Technology and Mindfulness for New Parents

Technology is an amazing tool that we use daily for our work and personal lives, but it can also be the thing that drags us down. We need it, we love it, but we hate it.

It’s time we take a good look at our data usage and figure out what’s draining us. Why not find some parts of technology that are being used for good instead? They do exist. I’m going to give you several options for positive ways to use technology that can actually help you improve your mental health, whether you’re pregnant or not.

Mind the Bump

This is a free app that helps individuals and couples support their mental and emotional wellbeing while preparing for having a baby or becoming a new parent. It teaches brain education (the importance of mindfulness and meditation), the difference between mindfulness and mindlessness, and gives an overview of a child’s brain development.

Expectful

This is a guided meditation app for your fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood journey. Their team of licensed hypnotherapists, meditation experts, a psychologist, and a sound engineer have created 10-20 minute meditations customized just for you. This app offers a free trial then requires a paid monthly subscription.

Insight Timer

This free app claims to have the largest library of guided meditations in the world. Although it’s not specifically made for pregnancy, it seems to be a great app for meditations and sleep, and it is offered in 30 different languages.

Babies Help Mommies

This free app was created by a cardiologist. After having three children she couldn’t find an app for new moms that focused on health and wellness. This app is meant to improve overall health by focusing on fitness, activities that decrease heart disease, ways to be active with your baby and how to create new memories. It provides motivational feedback and highlights positive choices you can make throughout the day.

Enjo – Wellness for Parents

This app was created to offer new parents a positive way to interact with technology. The goal is to take a few minutes out of your day to reflect on something positive or that you are grateful for. The app leads parents through a positive and affirming conversation, but it will also notice when they are down and offer some reflections to support during struggles. Comments are not monitored by an actual person, so if someone is struggling with severe depression or anxiety this app is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment for mental illness. It’s unclear if this app is free or paid.

Shine

This is a free self-care app that they call “a daily pep talk in your pocket”. You will set a self-care goal and get personalized audio challenges and self-improvement audio tracks to help you grow. You will receive texts with researched- backed affirmations to feel more confident.

Head Space

This app has hundreds of themed meditations on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety. They are “bite-sized” to easily fit into your busy schedule. They also offer what they call “SOS Exercises” for sudden meltdowns. This app offers a free trial and then requires a paid subscription.

Using apps like these can be a great start to boosting your mood, lowering anxiety, or helping you sleep. Please do not substitute professional support for a phone app. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder, please seek the help of a professional therapist. We are able to give some trusted recommendations if needed. If you are struggling as a new parent and need in-home support, contact us about postpartum doula support. If you aren’t sleeping, contact us about our sleep consultations. We offer a discounted rate for postpartum support to anyone seeking treatment for a perinatal mood disorder.

Alyssa is Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas. As a Certified Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, she is passionate about the mental health of families during the fragile postpartum period. She is a member of the Healthy Kent Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders Coalition and was recently honored as Health Care Professional of the year by MomsBloom.

 

Technology and Mindfulness for New Parents Read More »

Speech Therapy

Podcast Episode #63: What is a Speech Therapist?

We’ve all heard of a speech therapist but what do they actually do?  In this episode, Courtney Joesel of Building Blocks Therapy Services tells us how speech and language services can benefit a child and why, if you notice signs of speech delay, it’s important to have your child seen earlier rather than later.  She gives us some things to watch out for as well as some tips to help our children with language development.  You can listen to this complete episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner at Gold Coast.  Today, I am super excited to be talking to Courtney Joesel.  She is a speech and language pathologist at Building Blocks Therapy Services.  Hello!

Courtney:  Hello!

Alyssa:  So I loved talking to you the other day, and I want to learn more about what you do, but I think a lot of people probably don’t quite understand what a speech and language pathologist is.  I’ve heard of a speech therapist.  Is that different?

Courtney:  We are the same, but as history has progressed, we used to be people who would work on just the sounds, like in the early ‘70s, and it has really progressed to us being communication experts.  So that is not just the speech sounds that we hear with the R’s or the S’s.  We really address our overall gesture systems; how are we able to communicate our thoughts and ideas, our needs and our wants, and even the social communication, picking up on social cues and understanding all those different nuances and navigating the world around you.

Alyssa:  So when you say sounds in the ‘70s, it was literally like somebody who would have a lisp or — and that’s what they would seek out help for and that’s it?

Courtney:  Yeah.  I mean, there was more to it, but that was kind of the bulk of it, and we’ve really progressed our profession.  In the ‘70s, it was kind of like if the kid was missing their two front teeth, we can work on their S’s.  So we’ve really been able to hone in on our skills and show where we can really help benefit people in their everyday world.

Alyssa:  Do you see children and adults?

Courtney:  Speech therapists see children and adults, but I personally focus on pediatrics.  I focus on kids from around the twelve-month age all the way up to teens.

Alyssa:  So starting at twelve months or around a year?

Courtney:  Yeah, and that’s where you start to kind of see some of those disorders or patterns of communication starting to show that they might need a little bit of extra stimulus or some parent coaching on some ways to help.

Alyssa:  So up until a year — because a lot of people do the comparisons, right?  Like, oh, my four-month-old isn’t doing what my friend’s four-month-old is doing, or my nine-month-old isn’t saying words, but my friend’s nine-month-old is already saying four words.  Up until twelve months, then, is there really not a whole lot to worry about?

Courtney:  There are definitely some ways to watch and some signs to see how your child is progressing with their communication.  Starting at three months, you really start to see huge gains to be made.  Every kid, obviously, develops at their own rate, but the earlier that you do notice that there are some significant delays in various aspects, it takes less treatment for that to try to fix itself.

Alyssa:  So if a mom or dad at six months thinks they’re noticing major delays, would you see them or just talk to them and say wait until they’re twelve months?

Courtney:  I would talk to them and see what they’re noticing.  You know, around six months, you should start to be hearing them making different sounds, even taking turns with you with making those sounds.  It’s almost like you’re having a conversation with them, but they might just be blowing raspberries.  But that is something we’re looking for, and so if the kid isn’t attending to you or responding to certain things, that is an area of concern that we might want to go to the doctor and rule some things out, and we might just want to do an assessment just to see where they’re at to get a baseline and to see how they progress in the next four to six months.

Alyssa:  Okay.  So what’s significant about the twelve-month mark?  What can parents be looking for?

Courtney:  So twelve months, around that twelve to eighteen months, you should really see a huge boost in their communication, with their verbalizations or gestures.  Children that are using more gestures, we tend to see bigger gains in their communication along with those words.  You have to think about, when the child start walking and developing those motor patterns, we typically see their communication developing along that same plane, you know, that same line.  So if they’re walking and doing a lot more physical aspects, but you notice that, oh, they’re eighteen months and they don’t have a word, or they’re twelve months and they’re only going ta-ta-ta and not ba-di-da, all that, then that is an area that you might just want to talk to a speech therapist.  They’ll know the questions to ask to help you determine, like, hey, this might be something for us to look deeper into.

Alyssa:  So the saying “early walker, late talker” really doesn’t mean anything?

Courtney:  Well, there are late talkers.  Every child has their different sensory systems and how they learn, so some kids learn physically a little bit more and they’re able to navigate their world without using as much communication.  So they might be a little late talking, but always kind of look at those, you know, are they a late talker or is there a language delay overall?  And you start to see that around — you can really determine that around three years, but those children, if you wait until three years, and it really was a language delay versus just a late talker, then you missed out on a couple years.

Alyssa:  So how do you tell the difference?  How do you know?

Courtney:  So a lot of times, you look at their gestures, how they do communicate with you, the variety of sounds that they’re already using.  Are they using more behaviors to get what they want?  Just various aspects; we really have to look at the whole child in all these different situations, and a lot of times we can’t tell until three years old, but you don’t want to wait and see for a lot of those kids because then they’ve missed out on two years of specialized treatment.

Alyssa:  So a lot of it is you actually assessing and watching this child?

Courtney:  Yes.

Alyssa:  And you can see visual cues of communication, not just verbal cues?

Courtney:  Exactly.  You know, the communication system – we think of words and sounds, but there’s so much more to it and how the children pair all those different aspects together and can really help us see how they are able to get their needs and wants met.

Alyssa:  What would you tell parents who have a child around the twelve-month mark or older?  What do they need to look for?  How do they know?  Oftentimes, we say, oh, I need to stop this train of thought because I’m just comparing my child to others.  But deep down, you might really have this instinct that says, something’s not right here.  How do you they know that they need to call you?

Courtney:  Well, first, I think moms know best.  Moms know their own child, and I do believe a lot of times — not all doctors, but some doctors, do say wait and see; wait and see.  Or a parent says, you know, they’re not talking as much as I want, even around that 12-month.  And especially if it’s a boy, doctors will say, oh, let’s just wait.  Especially if it’s a boy; boys develop a little bit later.  But what you really want to look at is, how does that kid communicate?  Is it just he’s pretty silent and kind of waits for you to do things and isn’t kind of going out of his comfort zone?  We really want to see those kiddos trying to go a little bit out of their comfort zone and trying different sounds.  Practicing; you should be hearing a lot of different practicing of them, of adult language.  It’s not going to sound like our adult language, but we should be hearing some more jargon.  Those are things that you would like to see, even at the twelve or fourteen-month mark.  If you’re getting a lot of baby talk and they seem to be trying to say words, that would be an indication of, yeah, let’s give it a couple months.

Alyssa:  Because they’re trying and experimenting?

Courtney:  They’re trying and they’re experimenting.  Now, if you have a kid when you say something like, “More?  Do you want more banana?” and they’re just looking at you, around the twelve or fourteen-month mark, you should be getting a little bit more interaction from them.

Alyssa:  What about kids who have learned sign language?

Courtney:  I love sign language in kids.  I think the earlier you can start, the better.  I think it really helps them learn language because sign language is a form of communication.  That’s gestures.  That is communication, so they really start to learn that they can manipulate the world around them by using these gestures versus doing these overt behaviors of screaming and crying, and that they can control their environment.  And they go, hey, I get more Cheerios when I do this motion!  And then research has shown that kids who typically use sign language, it does support their language development.

Alyssa:  That’s one of the biggest pushbacks I get is, oh, I’ve heard that if they use sign language, they talk later.  And I haven’t noticed that personally.  My daughter learned sign langue.  We started a nine months, and at twelve months, it just happened.  All of a sudden, she knew all these words, and it was a life-saver.

Courtney:  Yeah, the way I try to compare it is, if I were to go to a country where I don’t know the language at all, you get anxiety.  You want to be able to tell somebody something!  I need to go to the bathroom!  And if you can’t communicate that with words, it gets really stressful, and you get tense and anxiety-ridden.  So just think about that with a nine or ten-month-old.  They have great thoughts and ideas, so they can get frustrated really easily knowing that I really want more of that banana, and she just took it away from me.  So if you give them a way to communicate that, and you start pairing it that when they sign more, you say, “Oh, you want more banana!”  that really starts stimulating their language.

Alyssa:  So is there anything else?

Courtney:  Well, just some tips as a child is developing, especially as they get to that twelve-month range, is that you want them to practice what you’re saying.  So if you talk in sentences that are about one word longer than what they’re already saying, it gives them more confidence to try to practice what you’re saying.  So if they’re starting to say “more,” you can say “more banana.”  And then by chance they might say “more banana” next time.  So that really helps to show them and give them the scaffolding or the steps to expand their language as they go on.

Alyssa: Keeping it within a realm that’s doable for them, and not saying, “Oh, you want more banana, please?”  That’s just way too long.

Courtney:  Exactly, and using more statements than questions.  Usually, you want to try to stick to a three to one ratio; three statements per one question.  That tends to stimulate their language a lot more.

Alyssa:  Excellent!  Well, if anyone has questions for you or things that they need to talk to you about their child, how do they reach you?

Courtney:  Well, I’m Building Blocks Therapy Services, and you can find me on my website and on Facebook.   You can also give me a phone call, 616-666-6396.

Alyssa:  And your office is located in Walker?

Courtney:  Yeah, it’s right off of Alpine across from the weather ball.

Alyssa:  That’s a good landmark!  Thanks for joining us today.

 

Podcast Episode #63: What is a Speech Therapist? Read More »

Pregnancy and Depression

Podcast Episode #60: A Naturopath’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Depression

Doctor Janna Hibler, ND talks to Alyssa and Kristin about how a naturopathic doctor treats pregnant and postpartum women, body and mind.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and I am here with Kristin, my business partner today, and Janna Hibler.  She’s a naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist.  Hello, Janna!

Janna:  Hi, how’s it going, guys?

Alyssa:  So Kristin and I met you at a little gathering of the minds at Grand Rapids Natural Health Recently.  We kind of hit it off, and then you and I got coffee, and we hit it off even further.  We got to chatting forever, so we were like, let’s just pause this and record our conversation!  And today, first, I want to know a little bit more about what you do, but when the two of us were talking, we spoke quite a bit about postpartum depression, and I want to talk about what happens leading up to that, even before you get pregnant, but then during pregnancy, too.  What does that look like?  What do depression and anxiety look like?  How do we nip that in the bud?

Janna:  Yeah, definitely!  So it’s really important for all of us mamas and future mamas to know that how we are before we get pregnant and give birth is a good indicator of how our health might look like after we give birth.  Things you mentioned such as anxiety or depression tend to get more severe after we give birth just because of the extreme stress and sleep deprivation that we are under, having a newborn.  I like to emphasize to my patients that this is nothing to feel bad about.  It’s just when you don’t sleep, you don’t release the same neurotransmitters and have the same brain chemistry with certain levels of uppers and feel-good hormones.  So it’s kind of…

Alyssa:  I’m obviously a big proponent of sleep for babies and parents.  So what would you tell a parent who says I’m not even pregnant yet; I’m thinking about getting pregnant.  How does a person even know if they have depression or anxiety?  And what do you do about it?  Let’s say that I’m kind of a depressed person or I get anxious about things at work or with my friends or my family.  What do you recommend?  And then let’s say I came to see you as a naturopathic doctor.

Janna:  So again, I like to really emphasize that you are normal and this is a normal part of being a female.  If we’re talking evolutionarily speaking, we were made to be out in nature, and so when we’re put in the city, even if we’re out half an hour from Grand Rapids downtown, there’s a lot of lights.  There’s a lot of noises.  There’s a lot of things going on that cause an overresponse, and that can lead to anxiety and depression.  So some symptoms might be feeling nervous in certain situations or some OCD tendencies, or a lower mood display and laughing less or getting less excited about certain things in life.  These can be very mild, but if you look at them over the course of the day, if you have a lot of little things, they do add up.  So when you walk into a naturopathic doctor’s office, something I really love and take to heart is that we have our medical concentration, but we also have a lot of education with psychology and knowing how the brain works.  So I would ask you a bunch of questions; the normal medical questions you get, but in addition, we’re going to ask about your sleep cycles, your exercise, your diet regimen.  All these play a part in our mental health, and my end goal is for everybody to feel their best all the time.  In order to find out how people are feeling, I like to run a series of either urinary or blood tests.  This can give us an indication of brain chemistry, hormone levels, cortisol, in addition to the normal things like checking sugar and red blood cells.  I really like to hone in on these specialty tests because by checking our brain chemistry, I can find exactly what neurotransmitters might be high or low, and we can treat appropriately.

Alyssa:  So when you talk about neurotransmitters, what does that mean?  What are you looking at and what does that mean to you?

Janna:  So our neurotransmitters; there’s the common ones we’ve all heard of like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, even histamine.  There is a whole slew of uppers and downers, and basically, we take the brain chemistry analysis tests so we can see if some of them are off.  Some people that have allergies have high histamine levels.  That’s an upper, so when we have allergies, those people actually tend to have anxiety, as well.  And so we can actually nip the anxiety in the bud by treating the allergies and reducing histamine levels.  So it’s really a cool science.

Alyssa:  And the cortisol and serotonin and melatonin, all those things you can actually check with blood and urine?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah.

Kristin:  And a lot of women have issues with their thyroid; is that part of the testing, that you can check thyroid levels?

Janna:  Absolutely.  I like to refer to it as our hormone triangle where we have our thyroid as the king, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and then we have our cortisol.  All three of those categories play a huge role in our hormone development and picture that we have, so we do a lot of intensive testing to find out where those levels are at.

Alyssa:  And what would you do if I came in and my cortisol levels were sky-high and you noticed something with my thyroid?  What would you tell me to do?

Janna:  So depending on your lab results, the thyroid could be treated in two ways.  One, sometimes we do give conventional medications, and then another way to treat, depending on your levels, is with herbs.  We can give a series of botanical herbs to actually bring your levels back to normal, as well as certain nutrients.  There’s a number of co-factors that actually feed our thyroid hormone to turn from its inactive to active form, and without them, we will not function.  So that’s things like vitamin D and iron and vitamin C; very common nutrients that we take for granted, but they play a vital role in our thyroid health.

Alyssa:  So how long do you test that out before you put them on a drug?

Janna:  Typically, I like to give a patient three to six months to see if we can fix it with nutrients and herbs.  Again, it comes back to what the patient wants.  If a patient wants results this month, then we might take a more aggressive treatment plan.  But if they’re willing to do it completely naturally, then three to six months.

Alyssa:  So let’s say I get it under control; I’m pregnant, and I still notice now that I still have some anxiety or depression.  What do you do during pregnancy?

Janna:  I really like to encourage diet and exercise and sleep.  Those are our biggest best friends to really help out.  Different lifestyle factors can have a huge effect on our mood and behavior.  So let’s start with maybe some foods.  We could eat a diet rich in dopamine, so we could do things like chocolate.  I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate?  We all love it, but do we know it’s high in magnesium and it’s high in zinc?  Those are vital co-factors to run our brain chemistry.  We can also have blueberries or nuts and seeds, which are high in vitamin B6 and 9 and all these B vitamins to help also with our mood.  We could do some grass-fed or fermented foods, which help with our gastrointestinal health, which again, I’m sure you guys have all heard of the gut being the second brain.  And then sulfur; sulfur-rich foods like onions and garlic that actually help with detox, so if we are having some things get backed up, we can help get them out.  So we really try to approach it from a multifactorial view hitting all points.  How’s our diet?  How’s our exercise?  How’s our sleep?  How’s our stress?  And a lot of what I get into with patients, too, is how is your relationship at home?  Do you feel supported?  Do you feel loved?  Do you feel heard by your partner?  By your business partners, your coworkers?  These are all part of our needs that play a role in our mental health when we’re pregnant and when we’re not pregnant.

Alyssa:  I was going to say those are things that should be carried over throughout, right?

Janna:  Yeah, yeah!

Alyssa:  Meanwhile, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Janna:  Totally, and pregnancy just kind of is that opportunity where we find our weaknesses in our body, and it’s actually a great opportunity to increase our health for the rest of our life and find out things we wouldn’t know about it unless we were pregnant.

Alyssa:  Oftentimes, I feel like that is the point in a woman’s brain and body where we finally start to understand and care about what’s happening to our body, and because we’re growing another human, then we’re like, oh, I better start taking care of myself so that I can take care of this baby.

Janna: Yeah, and I think that has a lot to do with what happens after we give birth and why a lot of moms struggle.  I mean, I want to say that loud on this podcast right now that mom life is hard.  It is a struggle, and I know we all try to put on a face that we’re doing well and everything’s perfect at home, but mom life is hard, and that’s maybe another podcast sometime, but that’s a conversation I’d love to get started because it is hard, and to that extent, why we have a hard time after birth is a lot of the time – and I’m sure you guys see this all the time, being in the house with moms – that the moms forget about themselves.  They put all of their energy, all of their love, into their baby, and I was guilty of it, too.  I mean, I have a two-year-old, and I definitely did it.  I’m still guilty of it some days because we love that human so, so much.  But I think it’s really important for our mental health and as mothers to put the energy back into ourselves and remember that we really can’t pour from an empty cup, and we have to be healthy and strong ourselves in order to make strong and healthy babies.

Alyssa:  So what do you recommend to a mom who’s suffering from depression?  You know, maybe they had a beautiful pregnancy, easy labor and delivery, and then they’re like, oh, my God; this is way harder than I thought, and then sink into a depression that they’ve never experienced before.  How do you get them out that?

Janna:  And so many moms do!  There are so, so many out there that come in, and they’re like, not even my husband knows how sad I am; not even my best friend knows how sad I am, and that’s where I really encourage everyone to just start reaching out.  I don’t want you to be ashamed; I don’t want you to feel guilty, because it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  You’re an excellent mom because you care so, so much, and asking for that help and taking that first step, making people aware that this is something I do need help with, and receiving that love.  From a medical standpoint, too, we’ll go in and I’ll help adjust hormones and your brain chemistry with either herbs or conventional treatments or nutrient levels to help your body, but I think so much of it also comes from a mental and emotional spot of feeling supported and loved by your people around you.

Alyssa:  So is naturopathic medicine, in general, more of a functional approach versus the medical approach or kind of a combination?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah, and functional medicine is so great.  That is the bridge between conventional medicine and natural medicine because we all agree on it, you know.  We see a lab level, and it’s important to attend to it when it’s on its lower level.  Traditionally-minded thinking, we only would treat something like vitamin D if it was set low because that’s the level that can cause rickets and true mobility issues, but what about everybody that has low-normal, that they’re in that functional, funky range?  That’s at a stage that can cause depression, that you can get autoimmune diseases.  So as a naturopathic doctor, I really work on treating it then and now so we can prevent getting those diseases because they may not pop up in five or even ten years, but they will happen if they’re not treated.

Kristin:  Even in pregnancy, there’s evidence that preeclampsia with the lack of vitamin D, that can be a factor in developing preeclampsia.

Janna:  Exactly, and that’s how it can be that simple sometimes where moms come in and, hey, they just want to run a nutrient panel just to find out what are their baseline nutrients, and then that way when breastfeeding comes into play, especially for extended breastfeeding – I’ve been breastfeeding for two and a half years, so that’s something I’ve been keeping a constant eye on, what are my nutrient levels, because we don’t want to cause other problems from just being depleted.  So yeah, that’s a great point.

Alyssa:  Depleted is a good word to describe mothers postpartum, I think.  Most of us at some point just feel depleted, whether it’s mentally, physically, whether it’s just breastfeeding.  That alone can make you feel depleted; this baby is literally sucking the life out of me!

Janna:  Because you’re giving everything!

Kristin:  I tandem nursed, so I really felt depleted when I was nursing two!

Alyssa:  It’s like this weird tug of war between “I love doing this” and “I hate doing this so much.”  I remember getting so over it when I was done, and then a month later I missed it.  I was like, oh, my God; I’m not breastfeeding anymore!  But I was so ready to throw those pump accessories in the trash and celebrate, but it’s just a weird…

Janna:  It is!  And every mom is different, so we like to celebrate moms at each level, whether they want to breastfeed for three months or six months or a year.  We all have our breaking point, and we want to prevent us from getting to that point.  Mama matters, too!

Kristin:  For sure!

Alyssa:  Well, thank you so much for joining us, and if people want to find you to come visit you or just ask you questions or follow you on Instagram, where do they find you?

Janna:  Absolutely!  So I’m currently accepting patients at Grand Rapids Natural Health, and I’m also on social media as holisticmommyandmedoc, and you can reach out there anytime.  My name is Janna Hibler on Facebook, and feel free to message me anytime.  I like to get to know my mamas.  Since I just moved from Vermont, I’m looking to build up my network of mamas because we are a tribe and we all need to stick with each other, so whether it’s personally or professionally, I do want to link up with you!

Alyssa:  Thank you so much!

Kristin:  Thanks, Janna!  We appreciate it!

 

Podcast Episode #60: A Naturopath’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Depression Read More »

Adoption

Doula Support for Adoptive Families

Most parents probably don’t think about hiring a doula if they aren’t pregnant. They think of a birth doula only supporting a laboring mother, but that couldn’t be farther from reality. Birth doulas can support any parent. Postpartum doulas can support adoptive families by helping them to prepare for baby’s arrival and in-home after baby arrives. There are so many ways doulas can support families that are adopting!

At Gold Coast we are focused on educating parents. We offer several prenatal and postnatal classes to help new parents navigate this new territory. We offer a Newborn Survival class that goes over essentials of surviving those first few weeks and months home with your baby. Real life scenarios and raw topics are discussed to help parents feel confident in their roles.

We also offer a Prenatal Stress class. This is designed for any parent, pregnant or adopting, to understand the affects that stress has on a developing child’s brain, not just throughout pregnancy but through their growing years as well.

Infant Massage is a great way for adoptive parents to bond with a new baby. Our instructor offers classes as well as private in-home instruction. Another great way to bond is babywearing. We have a certified babywearing expert that does in-home instruction and can show you how to safely use your carrier(s).

For parents that might be bringing multiples home (twins or even triplets) we offer a Preparing for Multiples class, and we have a postpartum doula that is a mother of twins herself. Her in-home support, expertise, tips, and tricks are invaluable!

If grandparents will be primary care givers, we offer a class called The Modern Grandparent that updates them on the latest safety information as well as informs them about today’s parent and how parenting styles differ from generations past.

Our lactation consultant can help adoptive mothers induce lactation and can also offer advice about chest feeding.

At Gold Coast, our postpartum doulas are available day and night. Daytime support includes help with baby bonding, newborn care, help with older siblings, meal prep, and evidence based resources. Your postpartum doula is your trusted guide for anything baby related. Overnight support allows parents to get a full nights rest while the doula takes care of the baby through the night. The doula will feed the baby, burp, change diapers, etc allowing the parent(s) to get as much rest as possible knowing there is an experienced professional caring for their child. 

A postpartum doula is an amazing gift idea for baby showers! We can create a custom insert for your shower invitations and you can also register online for any of our services at EcoBuns Baby + Co online.

We also offer Gentle Sleep Consultations. Sleep is critical for adults and babies. Babies needs proper sleep for brain development and physiological growth. Parents need sleep to help manage the day to day obstacles of parenthood as well as for basic health and wellness.

We also have doulas specially trained in grief that can help you through loss.

Some of the trusted resources we suggest to families are:

Kelly Mom https://kellymom.com/category/parenting/ Athough there is alot of information about breastfeeding on this site, there are some relevant parenting and adoptive parenting tips as well.

This link features several apps our clients like. http://redtri.com/apps-every-new-parent-needs/slide/3

The Baby Connect Tracker App is also popular with our clients. https://www.baby-connect.com

At Gold Coast Doulas, we pride ourselves on being the premier doula agency in West Michigan. We offer judgment-free support to all families regardless of their parenting styles. We are here for your family, wherever you are in your journey.

 

Doula Support for Adoptive Families Read More »

holiday

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year…or is it?

On of our birth doulas, Angel, reflects on this holiday season as a mother with a newborn. I think alot of us can relate…

So you recently popped out a baby. Maybe your first, maybe your last. Either way, you are probably feeling a bit like you’re treading water. I know. I feel it too. You’re coming to terms with a newborn, a new you, and now a sweet, simmering pot of holiday expectation that, left unchecked, will surely come to a boil. 

Was your baby on a good schedule? HAHAHA! Not anymore! Events, family visits, traveling, and so many parties! 

Does your baby soothe himself to sleep? Not at grandma’s he wont! 

That super cute Christmas outfit you bought for the absolute perfect holiday pictures? HAHAHA! He just pooped out the sides of it!

The coughing and the sneezing and the passing of the baby…. Is it rude to say no, you can’t hold my baby? Am I a momzilla now? (Pro-tip: Remind Aunt so and so that if she doesn’t give your crying baby back, your nipples will explode all over her holiday party! Nothing freaks people out like a visible let down!) 

Let’s throw a snow storm in there for good measure… have fun driving across the state with all that postpartum anxiety.

Solidarity sisters. I feel you. I see you. My pot is beginning to simmer as well. 

I know how hard it is just to get to where you are going, let alone all the big personalities and opinions once you get there. It’s hard to savor this time of year when even this time of life is so demanding. This might not be our year to savor. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other; be patient with yourself, and others. SAY NO! (I feel like this is worth mentioning again.) Be kind, but please say no. And don’t be too proud to ASK FOR HELP. Sometimes asking for help also looks like saying what you feel out loud. Talk to someone, see your doctor. (I already made my appointment). Breathe.

See? That feels better doesn’t it? And if you really want to have some in person head nods and YASS KWEENs, find a local postpartum support group.

We can do this! We ARE doing this!!! 

 

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year…or is it? Read More »

Breastfeeding

Nursing & The Entrepreneur

Today’s guest blog is from our dear friend, Kristina Bird. She is a partner with The People Picture Company, a photography studio located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids committed to producing magazine quality photography for all of life’s milestones.

Sitting in my car, the beating hum of my pump out of sync with the radio, I express as much milk as possible during my strategically timed “break” from photographing a wedding. That’s where you would have found me if you were looking last Friday. I am a photographer, business owner, and mom. Not in that order. Actually, the order gets a little muddled from day to day.

Most days, I’m a mom first and foremost. I follow a routine that keeps the house in order, so I can spend all day with my 15 week (3.5 month) old son, MacGregor. I read blogs about sleep training, and development stages, and 10 ways to help my baby with gas. I research how to clean stains out of eco-friendly cloth diapers, and do a lot of laundry. I am a typical stay-at-home-mom.

Except I’m not. I own a business. It’s a photography studio with an upstairs flat, which means I literally live above my work, and it’s always on my mind and in my ears as I hear the work day go on without me. I am blessed to have a husband, who is not only my partner in life but also my partner in business, keep everything flowing with our amazing team. We are a family and I love being able to watch my family grow – all of them. But in order to grow my businesses, I have to take time away from my son, which means I have to pump.

Being a nursing mom is hard. Being a nursing mom and owning a business is even harder.

Being a mom isn’t pushed out of my head when MacGregor is in daycare and I’m in the studio or on a photoshoot. There are a thousand and one things about him that I think about during the day, but one that is the hardest to ignore is nursing – mostly because it comes with a friendly, sometimes painful, reminder. If I’m at the studio, it’s a bit time consuming and interruptive, but easy for the most part since I live upstairs and have a pumping station setup with everything I need. I’m lucky.

When I’m on a photoshoot, I join the thousands of other working moms who need to worry about having everything packed – and I mean everything. A forgotten hands-free pumping bra required me to hold both pumps up to my breasts in a shower room (what I was offered in place of a nursing/lactation room) not too long ago. With both hands occupied, I had no access to my phone, which meant no looking through photos of my son to help trigger a let-down, no updating social media to share anything from the photoshoot I was on, and no reading articles to occupy my brain in the very bland, nothing to look at, bare walls. It also meant that if I didn’t triple check that I locked the door, I would have been showing a little more than intended if someone entered the room.

Which also leads me to location location location. A shower room is not ideal, but it is one step above a bathroom stall. If there is no nursing room and no office I can get permission into, I typically will pump in my car. It’s such a frequented location, I’m thinking about setting up a pumping station. But one thing that is always a concern, no matter where you pump, is the dreaded spillage. Whoever said not to cry over spilt milk was not a pumping mom. You will do it, you will cry, and it is ok. Thinking about it, I might want to add a change of clothes to my car pumping station.

Then there’s the whole concern about having enough expressed milk stored for when MacGregor’s in daycare, and starting a stash for when our nursing journey ends. Plus finding a place to store it all! My freezer is 70% milk-related, 20% frozen food, and 10% ice machine. Making sure I’m bringing enough expressed milk to daycare is a challenge. Calculating how many ounces he should be drinking throughout the day, estimating how much he drinks when we’re nursing, and always sending that one extra bag. Luckily, there’s help.

It takes a village.

There’s a reason they say “it takes a village to raise a child,” but I believe the village is not just the raising of a child, they’re helping raise parents too.

We have a multitude of resources available to us, let’s take advantage of them! Chances are your pediatrician’s office has a nurse on call, specifically there to answer your questions. Postpartum doulas and lactation consultants are also great sources of information and guidance. Our bodies went through so much change in 9 months, and they’re continuing to change postpartum as we nourish our children. We should lean on those that have seen it a few times to give us help.

I get a lot of support from my breastfeeding group. Not only can I better track MacGregor’s weight and calculate how much he’s getting while nursing, I can talk with other moms who are having similar experiences. Crowdsourcing with other moms and a lactation consultant at the same time has been wonderful for me. I’m also learning about future hurdles I may have to jump over.

I’ve also joined a nursing moms Facebook group, which has been amazing for crowdsourcing. Thanks to the group, I now use my limited freezer space wiser without bags of milk spilling out (yes, I cried). Facebook groups are also perfect to scroll while you’re pumping on the job – help another mom out with her questions, give support to struggling moms, we’ve all been there – we’re all there right now! One thing to remember, you are also a part of someone else’s village. Help them, and send positivity into the universe, it’ll come back your way.

Is breast best? For some, sure. For others, it might not be for a variety of reasons – I’m not going to judge. For now it works for me, we’ll see what the future holds. Either way, to all the mompreneurs out there, we got this.

______

Photos by The People Picture Company

 

Nursing & The Entrepreneur Read More »