Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast team, we love to find out more about them and
share that with you!
Let’s find out more about Mya.
1) What did you do before you became a postpartum doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a swim instructor, and as a head swim coach for young children in
Naperville, Illinois. After that, I went to Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in science.
2) What inspired you to become a postpartum doula?
I’ve always been fascinated with pregnancy as a whole, after watching my family members, experience,
pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I knew I would be the perfect helping hand for those who look like me,
which is what inspired me the most. I want other minorities to feel comfortable while giving birth, which is why I
pride myself on creating such a warm and open environment.
3) Tell us about your family.
My family has a very tight bond, we are quite a small family, because of this we spend lots of our free time
together whether it’s hanging out and enjoying each other’s company or traveling and going on new
adventures. Overall, my family is very loving and supportive, and most of all we love to have a good laugh.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is probably Barcelona Spain, the reason for this is because I’m a total foodie, and the
food there was beyond fresh and different from anything I’ve ever had before. Also, the architecture of all the
buildings were incredibly breathtaking.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a hard question, considering I enjoy listening to almost all genres of music.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
The best advice I have for families is to stick with their goals and values, just because they don’t align with
others in your community does not mean they are wrong, and also to give yourself grace and patience. Some
things take time to heal, and we must be mindful of that.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I believe my doula superpower is making people feel comfortable and empowered, no matter what the situation
is. Growing up looking different from most of my peers I know how it feels to be in uncomfortable situations.
This is why I pride myself on being able to make others feel both comfortable and confident in all environments.
8) What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is tacos, I could probably eat tacos every day for the rest of my life.
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Since I’m not a Michigan native, I absolutely love going to the dunes, we don’t have anything similar to that in
Chicago so it’s always a fun treat.
10) What are you reading now?
Self-care for new moms
11) Who are your role models?
I would say, my mom is one of my biggest role models, she’s taught me how to be kind, empathetic,
independent, and resilient.
Mya serves day and overnight postpartum and infant care clients in West Michigan, SW Michigan and Northern
Whew! Our word of the year for 2022 was changed. Gold Coast announced an expansion for day and overnight postpartum support to Northern and Southwest Michigan in April.
Alyssa Veneklase transitioned from co-owner to subcontractor at Gold Coast in August. She still leads the Becoming A Mother course with Kristin and teaches at Gold Coast.
Kristin and Alyssa have signed with a publisher for a book deal!
Our small business has been operating on EOS with our implementor Laurel Romanella for a full year now and we have seen tremendous growth as a result.
Here are the Gold Coast stats for 2022:
- Number of group and private classes taught: 28
- Number of students: 82
- Number of birth clients that delivered in 2022: 95
- Number of birth clients supported in 2022 with 2023 due dates: 26
- Average Continuing Education training per doula: 5
- Lactation: 22 clients
- Alyssa created a new sleep class for infants and toddlers at different stages
- Sleep Consultations: 18 clients served
- Day and Overnight Postpartum Doula support hours: 7,776 (our best year yet for postpartum)
- Multiples: 6 families served.
- DEI our entire team had a 2-hour virtual DEI training with Sabia Wade, The Black Doula in February
- Our entire team participated in a 2-hour pregnancy and newborn loss training through PAILAdvocates.
- New Subcontractors Added to our Team: 8 doulas, 1 sleep consultant
- Advanced Certifications Achieved: 12
- Julie Skripka and Gina Kraft celebrated five years with Gold Coast.
- We had our seven-year anniversary in October.
- Ask the Doulas Podcast- We ended the year with 167 episodes total. Feedspot ranked Ask the
- Doulas as 6 of the Best 15 Doula Podcasts on the Planet in 2022. Listen Notes ranked Ask the Doulas as one of the top 5% most popular shows out of 3,005,585 globally. We launched our podcast in 2017 and are still growing strong thanks to our fantastic guests and listener support.
- Becoming A Mother Course- We added new expert videos and enhanced our email communication to further grow our self-paced online course.
- We offered two pro-bono spots in the course to low-income women.
- 2022 Awards: West Michigan BBB Torch Award for Ethics Finalist, Best of Michbusiness small business award winner and Kristin Revere was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.
- Media: First Time Parent Magazine: Kristin Revere wrote an article on making your hospital room feel like home.
- Gold Coast continued as a Climate Leader with Aclymate. We purchased 13,855 lbs of carbon offsets.
- Gold Coast applied for B Corp recertification in July.
Volunteer Hours: 129
- Charitable Donations: $2,703 to charities supporting low-income women and children.
- Organizations donated to include: Nestlings Diaper Bank. Spectrum Foundation for a breastfeeding training for the Butterworth Women’s Center nursing staff, St. Mary’s Foundation with funds dedicated to clinics, Pine Rest Mother-Baby Program, MomsBloom, Preeclampsia Foundation and the Hello Seven Foundation.
- We also donated a birth stool to St. Mary’s Foundation.
- Diapers Collected for our 7th Annual Diaper Drive for Nestlings Diaper Bank: 11,133 disposable diapers, 97 packs of wipes and 100 cloth supplies. Many thanks to our partners: Rise Wellness Chiropractic, Fit4Mom Grand Rapids, Mind Body Baby, Mindful Counseling, Advent Physical Therapy, Hopscotch Children’s Store, EcoBuns Baby + Co, Brann’s, The Insurance Group, R. Lucas Scott. Co, and Howard Miller Library.
We are so thankful for our clients, partners, podcast listeners and students. Thank you for
trusting us to support your families!
1) What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?
For many years, I primarily have been a “domestic engineer”, a stay-at-home mom. Although in some of those years, my family has owned a few restaurants, and I helped there when I was needed.
2) What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?
Becoming a mama at a very young age, to two boys, and the birthing experience I had with them started my journey to want to make others mamas experiences more empowering and filled with better memories and support. Because of my birthing experience with them, for a long time I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse, or an OB nurse practitioner, but that was not my life path.
I now have 7 beautiful children, and each one of those birthing experiences was different. It was not until my 6th child that I became more aware that I have a choice to a have different birthing experience. Now I want to empower mamas to know that they can too.
3) Tell us about your family.
We moved here to the Traverse City area at the end of 2020, from Henderson, Nevada. We would visit family here every summer, and loved the area.
We are a very outdoor family. Love the beach, paddle boarding, fishing, soccer, snowboarding, sledding, all fun activities
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I absolutely love Hawaii. The beaches, the warm water, the smell, the culture. It is my Happy place.
Traverse City use to be one of our favorite vacation spots every summer also, until we moved from Las Vegas.
Now Las Vegas is one of my favorite vacation spots, so I can see my son, my amazing friends, and my previous village.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is really hard to answer. I really think it depends on intention, mood, and the time of day.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
There is so much “best” advice to give! Give yourself Grace, time to heal and rest, do what is best for you and your family even if that means setting boundaries, and do not feel the need to follow the western culture to “bounce back”.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
From what I have been told, is that I bring great, empowering, safe energy when I walk into the room
8) What is your favorite food?
I love raw sushi and Mexican food
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love Empire, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor, & Traverse City
10) What are you reading now?
The First 40 Days
11) Who are your role models?
I love to listen and surround myself with empowering woman and friends.
Special shoutouts go to the following partners:
Need a bigger house but don’t know where to start?
The idea of finding a house that checks all the boxes while you’re growing your family sounds daunting. I promise we can make it happen. Have you been to Target multiple times to buy new storage containers, totes, and any other organization hacks, but still feel like your closets are bursting at the seams? I know exactly what you’re going through, and what you need is more space. You need to actually be able to put things on the counter in the kitchen and a dedicated place for snowing boots to dry without getting your socks wet. Trust me, you’re not messy, you’re not unorganized, you don’t have too much stuff.
You feel like your life is chaos right now, but let’s get to the root of what’s actually going on. Your house is too small. Your family has grown, and it only makes sense for your house to as well. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about this for a while, but just don’t know where to start. That’s OK! They say asking for help is a sign of strength. I can help. Check out the link below for a guide for using my More Space Method. Read below for more information on how you can make this happen.
How to buy if you need to sell.
I’m sure that you’ve heard it’s a sellers’ market and it’s crazy hard to find a house right now. There are a couple of ways to buy before you sell…
1. Write a contingent offer telling the seller that you have to sell your house before you can buy their house. In a steady market, this would work out just fine but not in this sellers’ market. They’re already getting multiple offers and there are buyers who don’t have to sell their house before they buy this one. Most likely, they will go with the sure thing.
2. Take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) on your current house to be able to finance your next house. This works if your debt to income ratio allows you to afford two mortgages. Or if the HELOC is enough to finance your next house.
3. Find a lender who offers a bridge loan. This bridges that time between the sale of your current house and the purchase of your new house. There are fees associated with this loan (usually about $1000). However, if you can get into a new home at a lower interest rate you’re going to be money ahead. You’ll be better off even though you’re spending the extra $1000 to be able to qualify for the bridge loan.
4. Ask someone near and dear to you who trusts you for a loan. This may allow you to be able to pay for the new home in cash. Then pay them back with the proceeds from the sale of your house.
5. Perhaps you can afford to buy your new house without selling first. If you’d like to go that route, you need to make a few (usually 3) mortgage payments. Then you can refinance using the proceeds from your home sale to increase your equity. We can definitely get creative and different scenarios will work for different people. I want to express that it is possible to upsize in this market. Imagine your family in a new home, in that perfect school district, with space to grow. Your closets aren’t bursting at the seams. The kids actually have their own space. The toys are in a dedicated toy room. You have a sprawling backyard and a neighborhood with other growing families. That dream can become a reality.
What’s happening in the market now.
Even though prices are rising, it’s still a good time to buy. The reason for that is interest rates. To put that into perspective, if you bought a house at $350,000 with an interest rate of 2.5% your monthly payment is $1,106. If you were to buy that same house for $300,000 at an interest rate of 4.5%, your monthly payment would be $1,216. Interest rates make a huge difference, and currently, they’re at record lows.
Low inventory means that there aren’t enough houses on the market. There are many buyers out there, but not enough homes for them to buy. Right now inventory is at about two weeks. A steady market is six months of inventory. That’s referring to how long it would take for all the houses on the market to be scooped up. And that’s why it is a sellers’ market. There are many offers on a home, and homes are going over the list price. We’ll have to get a bit aggressive when we go to write an offer for your new home. On the flip side, with the right preparation and marketing plan, you can expect to get the same activity on your current house.
Everybody’s scenario is a little bit different. Everybody’s personality is a bit different too. If you want to be more hands-on, we can make that happen. If you totally want somebody else to take control and you want to be told where to sign, we could do that too. When you’re choosing a realtor make sure you find somebody that you respect and that respects you. You’re going to spend a lot of time together. You’re going to share your thoughts, dreams, and finances with them. Make sure you trust them to get you where you need to go.
Hello! I’m Sarah.
I help growing families upsize in West Michigan. I strive for a smooth, low stress, and straight forward transaction. The best praise I’ve received from a client is, “Sarah was incredibly detailed with helping us buy and sell our homes. She was the first realtor I have ever worked with that really made us feel like she was doing everything she could to get us the most money for our home. She made the process of buying our new house a breeze as well. I can’t say enough about how pleased we were using Sarah and I would highly recommend her to anyone!”
Helping people like that makes me so proud and drives everything I do! If you’re looking for a Realtor who handles the heavy work for you, I’d love to work with you, too!
Sarah Medina | Green Square Properties
Phone: (269) 929-1373
Kristin and Alyssa, owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about the things they wish they had known before having a baby. Listen to this fun episode packed with advice and lots of little gold nuggets of information for new parents! 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.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with a fun idea of what I wish I would have known before pregnancy and having a baby. And this is inspired, actually, by your newborn class, Alyssa.
Alyssa: That’s kind of why I created it, yeah, because there’s so many things that it’s like, why did nobody tell me this? Or if only I had known, this would have been so much easier!
Kristin: Yeah! So I will start. We’ll go through, like, the top five things that each of us wished we would have known before having kids. So my number one is no PJs, especially if you’re registering, that have snaps on them. You want zippers. Snaps are a pain in the middle of the night. They’re noisy. They might wake your baby.
Alyssa: Same with Velcro. But, yeah, I never really thought about snaps and doing that in the dark. It can be really tricky. I’ve had it where, you know, the top button is — or the top snap is hooked to the second one, like everything’s kind of off because you’re doing it sleep-deprived.
Kristin: Yeah. So Alyssa, what would you say?
Alyssa: One of the things I remember the most is a friend told me to have pads on hand, and she actually had just had a baby, like, two months before I did. So she’s like, you know, ran to the bathroom and said, here, I actually have some left. I never used them. I’m like, what do I need these for? And she said, well, afterwards, you just kind of leak, and there’s blood and who knows. And I’m thinking, okay, whatever. So I brought them home. But then I was one of the, what, 25 or 30% of people that your water actually breaks. So I wore them for — gosh, my water broke at, like, 4:00 in the morning or something, and I had — I didn’t go to the hospital until noon, so I had, like, eight hours of slow leak. So I wore the pad constantly, and then afterwards, it’s almost like spotting or like a light period. And I didn’t know, too, you could put, like, witch hazel or something on it and freeze the pad, kind of like in a — like, around a melon or something so that you could sit on it.
Alyssa: I didn’t know that. I didn’t do that, but that’s kind of an afterthought, too.
Kristin: Similar to what they give you, but without the witch hazel, at the hospital. The ice pads and ice diapers if you have more abrasions.
Alyssa: Yeah. A client told me that they had heard — or a student in my class, the adult diapers, they kept those around for leaking or spotting or water breaking. Any of the things. So having something around like that was probably one of the best things that I was told that many people aren’t told.
Kristin: Right. I had one of those pads for my car when I was driving in case my water broke.
Alyssa: Oh, you sat on it all the time? That’s actually a good idea. You could buy those puppy pee pads or something.
Kristin: Yeah. I had a long commute to Lansing with my first pregnancy, so it was like, if my water breaks, I’m just…
Alyssa: I actually thought about that as I sat in my office, you know, the couple weeks before I was due. Like, what if I — that will be so embarrassing if my water breaks and I’m sitting in my chair. Had I thought about that, I probably would have sat on something, just to save myself some embarrassment, I guess.
Kristin: And my number two tip is to look into childcare as soon as possible. If you plan to go back to work full time or are looking for a nanny or a nanny share, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, don’t delay until your third trimester. It’s so hard to find help. And in that in between time, of course, you can have a postpartum doula, day or night. But that childcare search and nanny search is time-intensive.
Alyssa: Yeah. It takes forever, and it’s the last thing your brain is capable of doing when you have a newborn at home.
Alyssa: So if you have to go back at 12 weeks, you can’t — you can’t start at 6 weeks, looking for childcare. A, you probably you won’t find it, or you’re going to have to settle for something that you don’t necessarily love, and that’s the hardest thing to do is you have to leave your baby for the first time. You want it to be with somebody that you 100% feel comfortable with and trust.
Alyssa: You don’t want to have to settle.
Alyssa: I wish that I would have taken a breastfeeding class, and I wish I knew there was lactation consultants that actually come to your home because I suffered through — I got mastitis twice, and even though I knew enough about breastfeeding to know, like, the whole supply and demand thing, in the fog of new motherhood, I was nursing and pumping because I was, like, oh, my gosh, my boobs are so full, and I just need to drain them. And I was, like, doing the worst thing possible because I’m producing then twice as much, which then I got mastitis, and my boobs were so swollen that it was hard for my daughter to eat then, and then my one nipple got really cracked and sore and it was bleeding one day, and I just remember sitting in the rocking chair sobbing, and my husband came in and was like, oh, my gosh, what can I do? But had I just taken a breastfeeding class, I would have probably more easily reminded myself like, oh, yeah, it takes a couple weeks for this whole process to, you know, adjust and my body to adjust to what baby needs and that I didn’t have to sit in that rocking chair by myself and cry, and my latch was wrong.
Kristin: Right. Kelly saved me with both of my kids. I had mastitis as well and thrush, and —
Alyssa: You know, I knew about Kelly Emery. Or maybe I didn’t until after. I might have found her because she did Baby and Me yoga classes. She was one of the only ones, like, seven and a half years ago that did baby. So I think I might have found her after the fact. I wish I had known about the lovely Kelly Emery before.
Kristin: Yes. We’re lucky to have her at Gold Coast, along with Cami, of course.
Alyssa: What’s your next one?
Kristin: So I highly suggest, based on personal experience, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, hire a birth and postpartum doula. With my second pregnancy, my doulas were some of the first to know that I was pregnant, before family. And I needed resources, and they were there emotionally and to connect me with resources in the community. So I recommend hiring early, especially as doulas get booked up quite early. Like, we’re working with clients with due dates in late March, and as we’re recording, it is August. And so thinking about if a team or individual doula takes two clients or even four a month, how quickly they can get booked up. So hire your doula early, and same goes for postpartum.
Alyssa: Yeah. I don’t think I even fully understood what a doula was or did, you know, eight — almost eight and a half years ago that I got pregnant. And if anything, I knew what a birth doula was but didn’t know enough to even consider looking into one or hiring one. And, of course, now that we do what we do, it’s a no-brainer. But I’m not having any more kids.
Kristin: Right. Same.
Alyssa: But if I was to do it all again, absolutely.
Kristin: Exactly. So what about you, Alyssa?
Alyssa: So this wasn’t, like, a big deal, but I didn’t really know what to expect with the baby’s cord and how it fell off and what it looked like, and I don’t do well with blood and scabs. It just turned into a big, giant, thick, button-sized scab.
Kristin: Yes. It’s gross.
Alyssa: It really grossed me out, and then just falls off, and I remember finding it in her diaper or something one day. But I’ve also reminded and I always tell people in my class about, if they’ve ever watched Sex in the City — oh, gosh, what’s her name? The redhead? I don’t know.
Alyssa: Miranda. She has a baby, and the cord falls off, and then the cat finds it and is batting it around the house, and I — it’s like one of those, oh, my god, I’m going to puke in my mouth kind of situations. But I didn’t know how gross it would be to me, but I’m just squeamish when it comes to scabs and blood. But, yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect with that.
Kristin: And then you have to know to, like, flip the diaper down so you don’t cause more irritation. I didn’t know that at first.
Alyssa: Yeah. We go over a lot of that. And they make diapers now, too, that have little tiny cutouts where the belly button is, and they’re very, very small, for newborn only, but you only need one little package of them because if it falls off within the first week, you don’t need many of those.
Kristin: And my advice is, with the registry, don’t — it’s not your wedding registry. You don’t need to register for all the things. Babies don’t need all that much. And so my suggestion is to register for a meal service, a doula, classes, lactation support, versus all of the onesies and the high chair and things you don’t need until much later. I mean, some things are essential.
Alyssa: Car seats, stroller, yeah.
Kristin: You know, if you’re going to wear your baby, the different carriers are great. You know, a diaper bag. There’s some things that — you know, a thermometer, that are important to have. But you don’t need all the things.
Alyssa: I know. I always see on baby registries, like, spoons and bibs and bowls. Like, you realize your kid — it could be a year. You know, you might start solids at six months, but they’re not sitting up at a table by themselves for probably 12 months. So it’s a lot of wasted money for something that’s going to sit in a closet for up to 12 months unused.
Kristin: Exactly, especially if you’re in a tight space. Where do you put all that stuff?
Alyssa: Right. Definitely. Like, have people spend money on support and food. Bring me food! And send someone to watch my baby and pick up my house and care for my toddler and let me rest or take a shower.
Alyssa: Or sleep all night. So one thing I learned later into have a newborn was to always pack two extra sets of clothing for the baby or at least, you know, maybe not two full outfits, but a couple extra onesies. And then I also would pack one for myself. Like, something — yoga pants and a T-shirt. Something that was easily folded up, because I can’t tell you how many times I either — you know, you’re out and about, and you get spit up on, and of course, it will be, like, yellow spit up on a black shirt.
Kristin: Of course.
Alyssa: That everyone can see, and then it stinks like crazy. Or she’d have a blowout on my lap, and then the poop would come out the diaper onto my pants, and now I have puke on my shirt and poop on my pants. So I would just always have — even if it’s just in my car, an extra set of clothes for me, as well.
Kristin: That applies for birth doulas. I always have an extra set of clothes in case I get fluids or water breaking. So, yeah, wise advice. And my advice is, for those of you that aren’t prepared for baby poop, meconium is really interesting for a first-time parent. It is so dark and sticky and hard to, like, wipe off.
Alyssa: Like, what did my baby eat? Tar?
Kristin: Right! For breastfed babies, in my opinion, breastfed poop does not smell and is quite easy to deal with, but then you introduce food or formula, and things get totally different. It’s like, okay, I got through the meconium, then I had my breastfed baby, and now food is like, what?
Alyssa: Yeah. We do talk about that. Breastfed baby poop doesn’t — exclusively breastfed babies — the poop doesn’t smell. And that’s another thing. On the registry list, the very expensive diaper genie with the expensive refills — you don’t even need to use that in the beginning. You can literally throw in in a little trashcan and just take it out at the end of the night or even every couple days. The second formula or solids are introduced, it’s a whole new ballgame. It stinks, and you’ll want to use that diaper genie.
Alyssa: My last one, again, is kind of about breastfeeding because it was tricky for me in the beginning, but I wish that I didn’t buy — like, I bought nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing dresses, all the things, and there were just so many layers and levels to this breastfeeding thing that I could never do it in public because I had to, like, undo the nursing bra, which was under the other shirt, which — I would always have to go somewhere private. But then I found these nursing tanks, and there’s like a shelf bra in them, and I could have worn like what I’m wearing now, like a frilly, flowy shirt, and you lift that shirt up. You have the tank on underneath to cover your belly, and very nonchalantly, you breastfeed your baby. Nobody even knows. Oh, and the covers. All these — I had this thing that looked like an apron. I put it over my head, and it was this cloth, and then baby’s whipping it all around. And in my class, I tell people, you’re basically waving a flag to everyone, saying, I’m about ready to breastfeed. Look right here. Whereas if I would have just nonchalantly unclipped, put her on, nobody would even notice. So there’s too many things, and the more things you buy, the harder it makes it, I think. It’s simple. Keep it simple.
Kristin: I agree. I always used tanks, and obviously, for larger-chested women, that may not be as much of an option support-wise, but I even labored in tanks, and, you know, speaking of labor, my biggest advice is don’t give birth, unless you’re birthing at home and it’s not as big of a deal, in a sports bra. If you’re at the hospital, there’s no way to get it off. If there’s an IV line, it often has to be cut off. So a nursing tank, again, that has the snaps or a nursing bra if much easier.
Alyssa: People wear a sports bra because they’re comfortable and think, I’m just going to labor in this because my underwire bra is not the most comfortable things.
Kristin: But then you can’t get it off for skin to skin. It’s so tight.
Alyssa: Right. I just think I didn’t wear a bra. Free flowing.
Kristin: Yeah. I was pretty much that way toward the end. Started out modest, and then it just all changed. So we would love to hear your top five things that you learned. You can always reach out to us, and maybe that will make some future episode ideas. But we’re happy to share other advice in Alyssa’s amazing newborn class, and for those who are expecting twins and triplets, we have a multiples class. And, of course, labor advice is given in HypnoBirthing, and we have the breastfeeding and pumping classes that also give some very helpful tips.
Alyssa: Yeah. So check out our classes. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for listening!
Kristin: These moments are golden.
Kristin Revere, Kelly Emery, and Alyssa Veneklase talk about their Saturday Series of classes offered through Gold Coast Doulas. Each goes in to detail about what their classes cover including Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Kristin, and I’m here today with Alyssa and Kelly, and the three of us teach our Saturday Series of classes. So we’re going to talk about what each of our classes are and a bit about what we’re doing during COVID. So welcome, Kelly, and welcome, Alyssa.
Kelly: Thank you.
Alyssa: Hey. So, yeah, we could kind of talk first about why we — so we used to teach all of our classes separately and have different days and different times, but then we had clients who were taking a breastfeeding class and my newborn class, and they would be on separate days, separate times, and we know how hard it is for people to coordinate their schedules. So doing them all at once in a series on Saturday, and then Kristin adding on her comfort measures — you know, having three classes — it’s hard to find three nights in a week that either a pregnant person or a couple can both get off to take these classes.
Kristin: Right, and some of our clients work nights, and if they have other children at home, childcare has been easier to find on a Saturday than a weeknight. So that’s part of why we adapted to this format, and it’s also helpful that the Saturday Series is ala cart, so a client or student could sign up for just Kelly’s breastfeeding class or, you know, just the newborn class or all three. Or they can take them at different times, since we offer the classes every couple months. A client could take a class in September and then down the road later in the year take breastfeeding, for example, as it gets closer to their due date.
Alyssa: And for the students who do choose all three and do them on the same date, it can definitely be a long day. When we were doing the classes in person, we had a lunch break and then another break in between. But the feedback we’ve gotten so far is that people really like knocking these out one after another. And then because of COVID, they’ve been virtual, so that’s actually been kind of nice. They don’t have to leave their sofa. They can feel a little bit more relaxed, grab snacks. So that’s worked out well, too. But our next series is in September, and we plan on doing it in person for the first time since COVID, but that could change at any minute, depending on…
Kristin: Right. And our office is in Eastown, and we’ve talked about having a smaller class size and how we’re going to pivot due to COVID and all of, you know, the sanitation that will need to be done. But our Zoom classes have been going well. I wasn’t so sure about the fact that Comfort Measures is so hands-on, how that would work virtually, but the students seem to enjoy it, and they were hands-on as I instructed virtually. So it went over pretty well the first time.
Alyssa: Same with breastfeeding. How does that — you know, you had said, Kelly, that it was going well virtually, but were you a little bit nervous at first about, you know, like, how do you show a position and, you know, what a proper latch might look like, through a computer?
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah, that was something — speaking of pivoting, we had to do pretty quickly because people were still having babies and they’re still learning to breastfeed. That is not something in life that can just stop. So, yeah, getting up and going on the Zoom and all the technology was rapid, and it was — it’s pretty slick. You know, what I do is just like in the in-person classes, I show videos, and so I can share my screen. I show videos, clips of things that — it will make more sense when they actually have their baby, but I think instead of me just talking about it, showing a visual and the videos and all of the pictures that I have. I have just a slew of pictures over my 20-some years of doing this, so it’s able — the people are able to really see what I’m talking about better when I share my screen. So it’s all actually working out, and the parents love it. And, you know, they love being together in a class together, but also I’ve gotten great feedback about the Zoom classes, that they love that they can just sit on their own couch in their pajamas and eat dinner, you know, or eat a meal and have Dad be right there with them, as well. So it’s all working out.
Alyssa: Well, Kristin, do you want to talk about — so the series kind of starts with the Comfort Measures. Then it’s Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival. So you want to maybe in that order talk about each of our classes and what they’re about?
Kristin: Yes. So Comfort Measures is a hands-on class that the couple is encouraged to attend, but certainly I’ve had the birthing person attend without a partner, as well. And so we go over breathing, relaxation, and it definitely doesn’t replace a traditional comprehensive childbirth class. I’m not going to cover the stages of labor in two hours. But it’s more about different positions that will relieve discomfort, both while they’re at home, if they’re birthing in the hospital, in the early stages of labor, or positions to utilize further along in labor in the active stage as well as the pushing stage. And we do cover breathing, as well.
Alyssa: So is it more to have the partner understand what’s going on and allow the partner to offer these comfort measures?
Kristin: The partner does learn how to do some of the different measures. Hands-on massage, light touch massage is covered. We go over hip squeezes and a lot of the doula tools, just a variety of positions, like hands and knees and leaning up against a wall and dancing, sort of rocking in labor, as well as, you know, using the birthing ball. And then we talk about different positions that they could consider pushing in, like squatting and sidelying. And I answer questions, and there are some handouts that they use to just get a comfort level for where the partner and the birthing person are at as far as what their expectations of birth are and how comfortable they are supporting a partner. So there’s a lot of communication in the short class, as well.
Alyssa: And Kelly, what about your class?
Kelly: It’s called Breastfeeding: Getting a Strong Start, and it’s a lot about — my goal, anyway, is to get the mom and her partner comfortable and feeling confident about at least starting out. You know, I think it’s sometimes overwhelming. It is a three-hour class, so it is a long time, and a lot of content is covered, but my goal is not to, like, overwhelm the parents with, like, what to do over the next, like, two years of breastfeeding or whatever, like that. Because I think people in this moment when you’re pregnant, especially, you can take little chunks of information that are going to be relevant to you in the moment. And so just getting off to a strong start, at least to get you through those first early days and weeks, you know, of breastfeeding, and then let you exhale a little bit and kind of find your answers as they are relevant to you is something that I’ve found over the years of doing this, honing, about what moms really want to know and what they need to know in the beginning. So I might go over — I’m a really strong proponent of going over anatomy in the beginning, just because I think if moms know how their breasts work and how their babies work, they can figure out — they can put a lot of these dots together and make it make sense for them in their situation. So, for instance, one of the first things I talk about in anatomy is, like, in our middle school health ed class, we skipped right over the breasts, I’m quite sure. You know, they talk about your periods and, you know, maybe some birth control. I don’t know. I don’t even remember what they all talked about. But I don’t remember talking about lactation or anything about the breasts other than that they get bigger, and then you wear a bra. That’s about it. And so I’m like, wait, wait, wait. This is an incredible two glands we have here that sustain life. They have so much to do and so much to contribute, and they’re kind of a natural next stage of being pregnant is lactating. So it’s kind of all jumbled up together there, and I feel like in our society we kind of — as women, we’ve kind of not learned a lot about our breasts. So I talk about what’s happening while we’re pregnant, what happens in the first couple days after delivery, and then how lactation and how their breasts change and make milk and all these other wonderful things that they do in the days and weeks, you know, after delivery. Yeah. So I’m big on helping women know about their bodies and then seeing how it works, and then I think it’s less of a mystery when things unfold because we just — you’re like, oh, yeah, we talked about. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, or that’s what my breasts are supposed to be doing. Those little bumps on my areola, they mean something and they do play a role.
Alyssa: What do those mean?
Kelly: Those are your Montgomery glands, and they enlarge, you know, when you’re pregnant. They secrete a couple things. One is — it’s almost like a self-cleaning oven. One is that they secrete the substance that kind of — it’s an antimicrobial, so kills bacteria. It kind of keeps your nipples clean and your areola clean so you don’t have to scrub them. A long time ago, like back in the ’50s, we used to think you had to scrub your nipples, and believe it or not, we would put alcohol on them before the baby would — like, we would sterilize your nipples, like we did with bottle nipples, before we would put the baby on you. Just ridiculous. And come to find out, you know, Mother Nature’s already taken care of that with those Montgomery glands. Another thing that they do is they secrete — it’s an exocrine gland, which means it excretes something, you know, kind of like a sweat gland. So they also secrete something that kind of keeps your nipple from drying out. Keeps it kind of supple and moist.
Alyssa: Kind of lubricated a little bit?
Kelly: Yeah. So all of those things — and one of the reasons I mention that is when moms think, oh, I have to buy some lanolin or some nipple ointment, those things are fine if you want to use them, but just use them just on your nipple. You don’t have to smear it all over your areola because they can — if you smear up too much, they can block off those Montgomery glands, and then they can’t do their job. So that’s one of the first things I talk about because it’s one of the most visible things you see when you get pregnant is your areola gets the little bumps on them, and then they darken and, you know, all of these things happening. And then the next thing, the other part, huge part of the class, is getting the partner involved. The baby’s other parent is going to be a huge part of breastfeeding, and I go over the research of how statistically, whether breastfeeding works or not has a lot to do with the mother’s partner and the worth that they feel and that togetherness. And I joke that, you know, they’re going to be with you at 2:00 a.m., not me, and they’re the ones who know what motivationally you need to hear in the moment. You know, what gets you — what makes you feel better. What kind of cookies do you like? What do you need in that moment? And the partner is more tuned into that than I am, of course, you know. So I can give some technical advice if I’m working with you postpartum to help with breastfeeding, but the partner is going to be there to be the other really important team member, and so that’s why I super, super encourage them to come to the class. The in-person class or the Zoom class, any kind of class, so there’s four ears listening to all of this and not just two. For the mom to have to listen to it and then go back and regurgitate it all, you know, it’s another burned on her, and she may forget things. And I spend a lot of the time giving advice about what dads and partners can do to be helpful because I think they feel like they’re on the sidelines and they can’t be a part of breastfeeding. And so I totally dispel that, and I give them lots of things, you know, concrete things that they can do that can be very helpful to breastfeeding.
Alyssa: I know that everyone who’s taken your class has told me they love it. They think you’re just so knowledgeable, and they had no idea about all these things, and they definitely go into it feeling more confident.
Kelly: Awesome. That’s my goal.
Alyssa: Was there anything else you wanted to say about your class?
Kelly: Well, I just want to say that I love being part of this entire series because knowing that I’m part of blending it together, like the big picture — like, the labor feeds into the breastfeeding. The breastfeeding really ties closely with the newborn survival. They’re all so well-interwoven that I think it’s great for the parents to have all of this information at once or, you know, dole it out as they need to, but just to have all of the information because then they get a sense of the bigger picture, I think. It just makes total sense when all of these are taken together. So I’m happy to be a part of this series, for sure.
Alyssa: We’re happy you are a part!
Kristin: So at what stage in pregnancy would you suggest someone take your breastfeeding class? And I’ll also ask the same question of Alyssa and then answer that myself.
Kelly: I would say the seventh month. I wouldn’t wait to the last month because there’s a lot going on, you might go early, blah-blah-blah. But, you know, you can take it in your ninth month, for sure. But, yeah, I would say the third trimester would be good, start of the third trimester.
Kristin: Alyssa? What would you say for Newborn Survival?
Alyssa: You know, I would say third trimester, too, just so that this all is fresh in their heads. The only problem is waiting that long, we do go over some items that are — you know, like baby registry items. And by that point, usually they’ve already registered or had baby showers and gotten everything. So that makes that a little bit irrelevant. We still go over it, and I tell them, you know, keep things in packages with tags on. If you don’t use them, you can always return them. So we still go over it, but I think to do it any earlier, you’d kind of forget all of the stuff we’ve gone over.
Kristin: I would say ideally the third trimester, though I’ve had students take it in the second trimester and still retain the information and practice the hands-on techniques that they learn. A lot of my students also have doulas within Gold Coast or are working with me directly, so, of course, the doula is a great reminder of the different positions and comfort measures for labor and also some of the relaxation techniques that we learn. And, certainly, you know, as far as who should take the class, we are also quite different from other childbirth education classes in that many are suited — just like Bradley method, for example, just for one type of birth. Like, for those seeking an unmedicated birth. For Comfort Measures, I have clients who want an epidural as soon as they get to the hospital or, you know, are having a home birth or are seeking an unmedicated hospital birth, so a variety of situations. And, Kelly, I know that you have students who want to pump, and you do, of course, have the pumping class, the back to work pumping. But it’s not for one type of parent or birthing person. I know, Alyssa, you have everyone from attachment parents taking your newborn class to those who are more mainstream in parenting style.
Alyssa: Yeah. You kind of have to be open to all of the options and all of the parenting styles. I would say, you know, for yours, it’s important. Kelly, you know they’re going to breastfeed if they’re taking your class, or at least going to attempt it. And I don’t know in my class, so I go over if they’re not breastfeeding. We’ll go over bottle feeding. Maybe they want to just pump exclusively and bottle feed. I go over it very briefly. Sometimes I can completely skip it because they’ve also taken your class, Kelly, and I don’t need to go over anything.
Kelly: I think with my breastfeeding class, you’re right, there are some moms who just want to pump and bottle feed, and we do go over working and bottle feeding and how to combine all of that, for sure. But even the part about the anatomy that I was telling you about, it’s good for the moms to know the anatomy of how, also, to maximize that with a pump, because there are ways — the ways that some of our hormones work with a baby, trying to also trigger those with a pump takes a little bit of knowledge, you know, and a little bit of practice. So even if you’re not going to breastfeed, knowing about your breasts and how they work would benefit you even if you’re going to be pumping, because then you can work with a pump to work with your anatomy and how all of the pumping and maintaining your milk supply goes together.
Alyssa: I feel like I should sit through your class. I haven’t sat through yours, and I always love having a refresher on breastfeeding because when I’m working with sleep clients, we talk about feeding a lot. So I feel like I should put the next September Series class on my calendar to sit in yours.
Kelly: I know, and I should — I want to learn more about your sleeping, too, because that’s a big question when it comes around to breastfeeding. They are so intricately tied together.
Alyssa: So my Newborn Survival class, I started or I created because, you know, working as a postpartum doula — I don’t anymore, but when I did, you start hearing the same questions and same concerns from the parents over and over. If only someone had told me this! Why didn’t I know that? How come nobody told me that this would happen? When you start hearing the same things over, then I’m like, yeah, I had these same concerns and questions and fears when I was a new mom, too. So I just kind of started compiling all these things and talking to experts and put this Newborn Survival class together, and it has real-life scenarios. Like, things that happened to me, things that happened, you know, in my work, and how do we deal with these? And then it’s very — you know, we do talk about, hey, has anyone changed a diaper? If they haven’t, we’ll show them. But that’s probably the most surface level type stuff. I want to get into, hey, babies cry. There’s no way around it. How do we minimize that? What do we check for? And how do you communicate? Like, you and your baby are a team, and from a very, very young age, they are communicating with you, and you need to figure that out. So just giving them really pragmatic steps to — you know, the first few weeks, your baby’s just going to eat, sleep, poop, pee. That’s about it. But once, you know, six weeks rolls around, there’s kind of this schedule forming. You probably have a pretty good idea of when they want to eat. Maybe you start to see some sleep patterns forming by six to nine weeks. And then if they’re crying, what does that mean? What causes that crying? How do we stop that crying? What happened when the crying started? And then talking a lot about feeding. People usually want to ask me a lot of sleep questions, even though this isn’t a sleep class. We go over sleep. But a lot of it’s, well, you know, if my baby’s not sleeping well, do I just let them cry? Never, never, never is my answer; never. No. We don’t just let them cry. But if they’re not eating enough, no amount of letting your baby sit in that crib will do any good because they’re hungry. So we talk a lot about feeding, whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding. And then we go over things like, you know, common skin issues. Like, everyone always gets weirded out by cradle cap and baby acne and maybe some rashes, diaper rash. And then like I mentioned, we go over some things that are not worth spending your money on. Here’s some things you really need. And then talking, too, about the partners keeping communication open and setting goals and expectations for each other ahead of time, because once that baby comes, you don’t have the time or mental wherewithal to be dealing with that in the moment at 3:00 in the morning. So if you have these expectations set ahead of time, it’s really important. And then obviously talking about, you know, letting them know that there are resources available. They don’t have to go through this alone. There are — you know, Kelly’s a lactation consultant. She can do an in-person or a Zoom visit. We have postpartum doulas who work day and night. All these resources are available to them. And then we go over a lot of soothing methods. I show them my swaddling methods. And we talk about bathing, too. Bathing is a big one for parents that they’re usually kind of freaked out about. But yeah, it’s just kind of how to survive those first few weeks or months home with a new baby because it’s a little bit scary when you walk through that door for the first time holding a human that you have to keep alive.
Kristin: Great summary! So let’s talk a little bit about — again, we mentioned breaks within the format and a little bit of the timing structure of each class. So the Saturday Series usually starts off with my Comfort Measures class. We have switched our schedule a few times, but my class is two hours from 9:00 to 11:00, and then there is a lunch break. And then we get into Kelly’s class. And, Kelly, you mentioned your class is three hours. And then there’s a short break, and then Alyssa has an hour and a half for Newborn Survival.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think there’s a half an hour break to grab a snack, go to the bathroom.
Kristin: Right. And then as far as the fee for the class — again, the classes are a la carte so you could purchase one class or all three, and each class is $75. And traditional insurance does not cover the Saturday Series, but if a student has a health savings or flex spending, most plans do cover childbirth classes.
Kelly: And I would add, Kristin, on the same for breastfeeding classes. As part of the Affordable Care Act, breastfeeding support and supplies and education should be covered, and I provide a superbill for my class as well with all of my codes and my tax ID number and everything that they would need to self-submit.
Kristin: Fantastic. And, Kelly, did you want to touch on your pumping class that’s separate from the Saturday Series?
Kelly: Yeah. I have a class for moms who want to go deeper into just the pumping. During my Saturday Series, I will go over some pumping and working and everything, but to dive deeper into that of what that looks like on a professional level and an emotional level, like leaving your baby, what that’s like, and if I have to travel, and how do I maintain a milk supply and what if my milk supply goes low? Lots of little details swirling around. If you’re still having, you know, after this class, if you’re still having questions about that, or if you want to skip over the whole breastfeeding class and just do the pumping and working one, I have a class, and you can just go to my website and you’ll see. It’s called Work Pump Balance, and it’s an almost-three hour class in and of itself. It’s self-paced modules that you can go through, and it’s myself and then a — my friend Mita, and she pumped for a year for both of her kids and worked full time. She had a very demanding career in a very male-dominated industry, and she made it work. She gives a lot of insight about how — you know, a lot of the laws have changed since she’s done it, so that only benefits moms even more. But how to logistically travel and calling clients and work around this when you’re really the only female in the whole — it’s a big company, but you’re the only female around. So, yeah, we dive deeper into that.
Kristin: Fantastic. And Gold Coast also offers a private multiples class for any of our clients or students who are expecting twins or triplets. So we do offer each of the individual Saturday Series of class privately, since our Series is offered every couple of months. There is the option of taking just breastfeeding privately through Zoom and/or, depending on COVID, in person. So did each of you want to — I know, Alyssa, you just recently taught a newborn class on Zoom.
Alyssa: Yeah. We just did a private one because they were being induced this week. So we just did it last week. Yeah. It’s great. It kind of allows the couple an opportunity to ask the questions that they might be afraid to ask in front of other people, although I feel like with my class specifically, I make it very clear that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and I think most of the students do feel very comfortable asking anything. But it’s just a little different when it’s just me with one couple. They can ask whatever they want freely. And I do get told that it’s nice for them to learn the same techniques together so that it’s not, you know, one person saying, well, I think we should do that, and I think we should do that. You know, they can kind of take all the information I’ve given and make their own decisions from there based on what they’re comfortable with. So I’ve been told several times that they like that they’re hearing the same information together and not different information from different people at different times.
Kristin: That makes sense, and yeah, it is nice that if someone wants to take a class last minute or wants the individual attention. My students have enjoyed just being able to customize the comfort measures based on what their birthing goals are.
Alyssa: Yeah. So if anyone wants to register, they can go to our website and register for, like we said, one, two, or all three. We also have the Multiple class and a HypnoBirthing Series. And you can always reach out to any of us with questions.
Kelly: I appreciate you doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next class in September.
It’s the 100th episode! Alyssa and Kristin, co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about what the past two and a half years of podcasting has looked like, how the podcast has changed, how the business has changed, how services have pivoted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they are playing their part in supporting other local businesses. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the 100th episode of Ask the Doulas Podcast! I am Alyssa, and Kristin’s here via phone because it’s COVID-19. We can’t even see each.
Kristin: Right. It changes everything!
Alyssa: I know! We haven’t seen each other in forever, and I actually came into the office for the first time in weeks, and it feels so good to be not working in my house.
Kristin: Yeah, it certainly changed so much about the way we do business. But 100 episodes — I can’t even believe it, Alyssa!
Alyssa: I know. It seems wild that in two and a half years, we’ve done 100 episodes. What is that even — I should do the math on that. Let me do it real quick while you talk.
Kristin: Yeah. I mean, we started this podcast as a member of the Radio for Divas team. It’s a radio show with women experts in the community. And then we transitioned to the podcast format, wanting to really keep our clients as the central focus and information that they would want to hear, and then also thinking about what other listeners, whether it’s regionally or across the US, might be interested in. Capturing more information from experts on anything related to pregnancy and newborns to even toddlers and parenting in general.
Alyssa: So the math, by the way: two and a half years is 130 weeks, so in two and a half years, there have only been 30 weeks that we did not put a podcast out.
Kristin: Wow! Yeah, I know when we started out, we had more frequent podcasts and then have slowed it down a bit. And Alyssa is the editor and producer. How has that changed for you?
Alyssa: It’s a role that I don’t particularly love, but I think, actually, COVID has increased because — you know, I think for the first year and a half of it, I was cranking these out once a week, and then it slowed, just because it is so time-consuming and so much work. We covered a lot of topics already, and we had a lot of changes in the business happening and I wanted to focus on other things, other than the podcast. But now that we’re home, the last few weeks I’ve actually been putting one out every week. And the fact that I can’t meet with someone in person — it’s kind of easier to do it over the phone. The sound quality obviously isn’t as good, but it’s allowed me to — you know, I’ve got three podcasts recorded now with Laine Lipsky, who’s in California and is a parenting coach, and we’ve had just a ton of stuff to talk about. But the virtual, like able to do that virtually, it doesn’t matter that she’s in California. She can coach a parent in Michigan, and same with my sleep. I can do sleep consults for families anywhere.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s been amazing to see the locations that some of your sleep consults have been from.
Alyssa: Yes, my last ones from Colorada and New Orleans, I think, and then somewhere in Florida were my last three. So they haven’t even been local.
Kristin: That is one thing with COVID. We’ve taken things more globally as far as now offering classes online and being able to expand our base outside of the 50-mile radius that we serve. And your work hasn’t changed much because a lot of what you do is virtual anyway, so you haven’t had to pivot all that much as a sleep consultant.
Alyssa: Right. I just don’t do it in person, obviously, but everything else is exactly the same. And then we can’t offer postpartum doula support. Well, I mean, I suppose we could for a newborn, but I’m not doing sleep consults for a newborn, so that doesn’t come into play, either.
Kristin: So, Alyssa, let’s talk about some of the episodes and highlights of what we have gone over in the last two and a half years that we have been producing the podcast.
Alyssa: The topics have been all over the place. You mentioned a few, but I know you in particular, you like to reference a few of them for your birth clients, like the episode, #54, What to Pack in your Birth Bag that you did with Dr. Rachel from Rise Wellness. You know, a lot of our topics, we choose because they’re questions that we get asked often, so why not do a podcast on it, give them all the information, and then just allow them to reference that all the time. So it’s a lot of the reason why we choose certain topics.
Kristin: I also love the dad perspective. We’ve done a couple podcasts of what it’s like to work with a doula and how a partner feels about their role in the birth with having another support person in the room, and even some of our students in the classes we’ve talked, talking about their person experiences, have been really fantastic because it’s a better testimonial to hear it from someone outside of our agency than us telling, you know, our audience all of the features and benefits of everything we offer.
Alyssa: Right, and I think for somebody who doesn’t quite understand the role of a doula, even after researching, sometimes just hearing the personal story from one of our clients makes something click. We love hearing personal stories of clients. Like you said, either birth support, postpartum support, any of our classes. We’ve done a lot on nutrition and diet, babywearing, pelvic floor stuff. You know, that’s a big question for parents after a baby is born.
Kristin: Especially because we happen to work with a lot of athletes, especially in the birth doula role, and they want to be able to get back to running marathons or whatever their particular sport is. So, yeah, pelvic floor therapy and physical therapy in general has been very helpful for our clients.
Alyssa: Right. And then our friends at Rise have given us lots of information on different chiropractic topics. Obviously, I’ve got quite a few on sleep. I love talking about sleep.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding.
Kristin: Yeah, a lot of breastfeeding-related questions and feeding in general. And certainly anything related to mood disorders and postpartum depression with different experts.
Alyssa: Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan is one of our partners, and Dr. Katie has been on a few times to talk about, you know, her special laser beam for tongue ties and lip ties. And she just had a baby of her own! We should probably check in with her and see how they’re doing.
Alyssa: Cesarean births; we’ve talked a lot about Cesareans and what is a doula’s role within that, and we’ve got some actual birth stories about what that looked like for the birthing person and the family.
Kristin: It’s been a lot of fun to have different guests in and try to find new and fresh content. I mean, after 100 episodes, there are only so many topics you can cover, so…
Alyssa: I know. You kind of have to redo topics with different people. But I’d love for our listeners to email us, too, and just let us know, like, what haven’t we talked about, or what did we talk about but you would like more coverage on? Or do you know somebody who would be a great person for us to speak to?
Kristin: And recently we’ve done some COVID-related podcasts, but that is ever-changing with policies in the hospital and specific states, of course. We have had personal client experiences, birthing during COVID, as well as how our agency has adapted to this time and what precautions we cake.
Alyssa: Maybe we can talk — do you want to talk a little bit about, just in case people aren’t up to date? So as of May 21 when we’re recording this, 2020 — what the role of a doula is right now, like how we can work in hospital settings, and our postpartum doulas.
Kristin: Yes. So for those of you listening in other states, in the state of Michigan, we are following the governor’s stay at home orders. So as Alyssa mentioned earlier, we’re not in our office working together, and we are seeing our clients and students virtually. So all of our classes are done virtually via Zoom, so still very interactive. We recently had our Saturday Series class, which is interesting, because for me, the comfort measures class that I teach is so hands-on and interactive. To do that virtually without even a helper or model to demonstrate positions, I’m trying to describe things and show diagrams and videos and how to do a hip squeeze and counterpressure, for example. So that’s been really interesting, and I know you taught your newborn class several times virtually. And our lactation consultant had the breastfeeding class.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think it’s hard for her, too, the breastfeeding, because to show different positions and — I mean, same with me. Mine’s not as interactive as yours, but even moving the computer into the right spot so I can show my different swaddling methods or, you know, paced bottle feedings, things like that. It works, and I always ask, did everyone see that okay? Is everyone getting it? Do you need me to do it again? It’s just different. I miss being able to meet the students in person. But it’s just where we’re at right now.
Kristin: But at the same time, it’s more convenient for them because they can be at home and, you know, not have to travel. It gives everyone more time in their day, but as far as how we’ve adapted, other than classes, right now with the stay at home order, our lactation visits are all done virtually. So, again, for our two registered nurses and IBCLCs, that has been different than hands-on or more engaging support. But our clients have found it — I’ve had personal birth clients that I’ve worked with who have told me that Kelly was very helpful virtually, so that’s been going better than we had hoped. And with birth support, things are, you know, ever-changing for us, but we’re doing all of our prenatal visits and even the initial consultations before hiring and certainly the postpartum visits after the birth — all of that is done virtually. And different hospitals have different policies related to whether or not a doula can be in the hospital. We’re fortunate that our governor has an executive order that includes a doula and a partner in the hospitals. The doulas are not considered visitors, and we have access. But every hospital, again, has the ability to make their own policies surrounding doulas, and we are right now working in Spectrum Butterworth and all of the regional Spectrum hospitals like Zeeland and Gerber and Pennock and Hastings and Greenville, and so that has been really fantastic. St. Mary’s Mercy Health is currently not allowing doulas but encouraging virtual support, and Metro is allowing doulas. Holland Hospital is not. I was just informed that Mercy Muskegon, who was not allowing doulas up until very recently, and as of — I want to say it was this week — doulas are now being admitted to the hospital and able to support birthing persons. So that has been fantastic since we do serve a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids. So as doulas, we are monitoring our symptoms, and if we have any symptoms of Coronavirus, then we send in a doula who is symptom-free. Right now, all of the hospitals in our area are requiring doulas to be certified, so if a doula took a two-day or four-day training and chose to never certify, they are not able to work during this time. And if a newer doula is working toward that, then that would be an option in the hospitals. They could certainly attend homebirths. So that has been interesting. We worked with our lawyer and consultant to work on a COVID questionnaire and have included COVID language in our contracts that our clients sign so that our doulas are able to feel comfortable and confident, as well as our clients, in potential exposure during stay at home and what each household is doing as far as going to the grocery store versus having groceries delivered, or is a partner working outside of the home as an essential employee. And then our clients and doulas are able to choose each other. Some of our doulas are not working during COVID or only working with completely isolated clients. So we’ve done a lot of focus internally on what our team wants to do and how we’re able to pivot during this time. So we’ve been able to, you know, have conversations with the governor’s office and make sure there are no gray areas in the doulas role during stay at home and got some confirmations about what a postpartum doula can do, because a lot of that language was focused on our work in the hospital. During the stay at home order that is set to expire at the end of the month — it may or may not be extended — we are only offering essential postpartum support. So since we are working with clients normally through the first year, and they don’t need to have an urgent reason to have us there — they don’t need to be struggling with postpartum depression or a mood disorder — and they don’t need to be healing from a birth. We can work with them until their child is one year old or until their multiples are. So we have stopped working with some of our existing clients during the stay at home and plan to resume work with them. We’re focused only on those first six to nine weeks of healing, depending on the type of birth that our client had, or those struggling at any point in their postpartum time with mood disorders or depression.
Alyssa: So, to clarify, before this, we worked with people up to — we worked with families up to a year old, but now we can only do essential work which is, like you said, the six to nine weeks after someone just had a baby or with someone suffering from a perinatal mood disorder.
Kristin: Yes, or if they don’t have a partner, that is essential, if they need support, since obviously grandparents cannot be involved during this time. Families that have other kids are not able to take them to daycare if they’re not essential workers, so that has been interesting. Obviously, we can work with triplets and multiples because they need more of a hand around the house especially during healing.
Alyssa: So the moral of the story for postpartum is, we can’t just work with anyone right now until the stay at home order lifts, but we can work with you if you have a newborn, if you are suffering from a mood disorder, and/or have had multiples; twins or triplets.
Kristin: Exactly. Yes.
Alyssa: And we can do day or overnight, and that would involve you, again, virtually meeting the doula. You would both fill out this COVID-19 form that we created so that you and the doula both know what your risk, your exposure risk, is. Who’s leaving for the grocery store? Is someone in the home leaving for work? And as long as you’re both comfortable with it, you can work together.
Kristin: Exactly. Yeah, and our doulas are taking every precaution and following what the family wants as far as, you know, sanitation and wearing gloves. We’re all wearing our own cloth masks in the home, but if a client wanted surgical masks and has those or needs us to get them, then we work around their needs, and our doulas are bringing in a fresh set of clothes and taking their shoes and any coats that they may be wearing off immediately. So that has been a pretty seamless process transitioning over for the doulas who are comfortable working with our clients. And we’re so busy in postpartum pre-COVID. You know, that has been some growth that we’ve seen since we started the podcast and very intentionally focused on educating our community and what a postpartum doula is and the benefits of it. But now that is obviously slowed during COVID. But we’ve seen an increase as far as, you know, our students, and being that many hospital classes have closed or not all educators are offering virtual classes, and certainly our birth clients have increased more recently. It slowed for a bit initially because, you know, some doulas in our area are not offering in-person support, and we are. So that has also been a change in our business. Focusing on supporting local businesses is so key. So for any of our listeners, support the local shops in your community. I know, Alyssa, you order from Rebel, and I’ve been getting juice from different local businesses, whether it’s delivered to me or pick up, and just trying to keep our local businesses afloat, because as Local First members and a B-corporation business, we know the importance now and don’t want to see more businesses close down due to COVID.
Alyssa: I know. It’s so sad. What’s the statistic; like, 50% of small businesses aren’t going to make it through this? And luckily, Gold Coast will. We’re doing what we can. We’ve changed our business model a bit. We’ll be good; we’ll make it through this. It’s going to be a tough couple of years, I think, for everybody, but we’re going to do what we can in the midst of this to continue to help other small businesses and to keep all of our subcontractors. They’re their own small businesses. We want to keep them working and support them as much as possible, too.
Kristin: Yeah. And it’s been really sad even seeing other doula agencies that started at the same time as Gold Coast, which we’re nearing our five year anniversary. You know, they’re closing their doors in bigger markets than we live in, and it’s due to COVID. And that’s been very sad for me because they were peers of ours. And so, yeah. If you can support your local service and retail businesses and restaurants, do your part and think local. And just thinking of our stores like EcoBuns with online ordering and Hopscotch, that we often partner with. Supporting them, and the nonprofits. We’ve actually given more during COVID since a lot of the fundraisers we would normally attend and support for some of the hospital foundations have been canceled. We’ve given money to Mercy Foundation and we’re looking at what we can do within Metro and the Spectrum Foundation. And we are analyzing what we can best do to help Nestlings Diaper Bank because let’s not forget that diapers are needed now more than ever, and it is not covered by your basic government assistance programs. So that is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to help; if you have extra diapers or you’re looking at giving somewhere. Nestlings Diaper Bank is in need, and they are running low in diapers.
Alyssa: Yeah, the need is probably greater than ever right now, I would imagine.
Kristin: Yes. So, yeah. Thanks to everyone for listening all of these years and supporting our podcast. We would love to know what topics would be of interest to you and where we can go from here.
Alyssa: Yeah. Please let us know. You can find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. We also have on our website a blog section. If you hover over that, we actually have a listing of all the different podcasts. There in order by date. I don’t think you can search by topic, but you can probably Google it and find a certain topic. But we appreciate you listening, and obviously, if you can subscribe, if you can like it, if you can rate us. We’ve never really asked people to do that. It kind of started out as just like — I don’t want to call it a hobby, but, you know, something fun to do to give our clients something; a resource for our clients. But the more people we can educate, the better.
Kristin: We’ve gotten some recognition in Grand Rapids Magazine about being a local podcast, and also through a national organization that rated us in the top ten podcasts that are birth-related. So that was pretty exciting!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening, again!
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?
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!
Today’s guest blog is written by Isabella Caprario, Content Marketing Specialist at Porch.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all feel uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen or what steps to take next. We only know that the best way to end this madness is to sit at home and take all the necessary precautions to be able to take care of ourselves and our family. Stay home and stay safe.
Being quarantined can feel a bit overwhelming. We may feel stressed or anxious about being locked up in our homes, but it definitely doesn’t have to be that way! We must focus on the positive. I firmly believe that we will become better humans, more responsible with our environment, and above all think more about others than ourselves.
For future parents that still have to continue planning a nursery for their baby during this pandemic, there is no need to panic or worry! In this post, I will give some tips, recommendations, and activities to create the perfect nursery for your needs and those of your baby.
Where to start:
At this point, surely you already have defined the place, space, and distribution of what the nursery room will be like; and if not, the first thing that we should consider is, what is the space/place that would be most suitable for the baby?
To answer this question, the most important things to take into account are the following:
- A place/room that is close to yours and is easily accessible.
- The room has enough light during the day, can be darkened for naps and bedtime, and is isolated from any type of noise that may scare or awaken the baby.
- It must have the right temperature for the baby to feel comfortable and safe in his/her new space.
- It has to be a pleasant and comfortable space for parents as well.
- The room must have the necessary space to have everything that the baby requires, such as a crib, a diaper station/changing station, chair for feeding, and a space to accommodate clothing.
Once we have defined the most appropriate place for your baby, we go to the next step which would be to choose a theme, if you wish. This allows you to purchase accessories and decorate the nursery based on that theme.
The best place to get creative ideas is Pinterest. Here you can find color designs and everything you need for your nursery. If you do not already have an account, I recommend you get one so you are able to create a board and save all the ideas that you like the most.
Tip1: “Less is more”. Go for a minimalist look since it helps to make a room seem wider, cleaner, and more organized. It will help you save money and look more luxurious at the same time.
Taking into account how we want to distribute the nursery, colors, furniture, and accessories, we can start planning online purchases.
Choosing the right furniture:
Since we currently can’t leave our homes during the pandemic, luckily, we can still shop for the furniture and accessories that we need. Online stores are still open and many are offering sales!
First of all, we must create a list of our favorite online stores. Creating this list will help us to make a comparison of prices and items between stores. Once this comparison is made, we can remove from the list those stores that have very high prices, those that do not offer a wide variety of products, or those that are lower quality. It is up to you how you prefer to discard possible online stores.
Tip 2: Use an excel spreadsheet to organize your options. Write down the description of the product, where you found it (online store link), delivery time, delivery cost, how many units are available (enough stock), and price. This planning will help you with budget reduction and delivery time frame.
Also, keep in mind that some online stores will guide you when choosing furniture and accessories and can create a package with discounts and other extra benefits that will help you save money if you place your order in advance.
Get ready for some DIY Projects:
There is no more perfect time than now for some DIY projects at home. A DIY project can be quite therapeutic and will also keep you occupied throughout the day. Your mental health will thank you. You can exploit your creativity and forget for a moment about what’s happening outside. It can also help you relax and feel productive.
Some DIY ideas to try:
- Baby blanket arm knitting tutorial. This so much fun and easy to do at home. You will find tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest.
- Nursery name sign. You can show how creative you are with this activity.
- Make a nursery mobile. Here you can find different materials you would like to use, like paper, or glitter, etc.
Tip 3: Keep in mind that you should look for DIY projects that you can make at home with the things that you already have. Do not do very large projects that might make you feel overwhelmed because you lack the necessary materials or it’s simply not coming out as you would like.
Planning your nursery is a very fun and relaxing activity, despite being in a difficult situation. It’s better to smile and spread that happiness and positivity to your family and your baby on the way.
Isabella Caprario is a SEO Marketing Specialist and does Content Marketing at Porch. She has an International MBA, and her hobbies are reading, writing, and music.
Liz Hilton, founder of Swaddelini, tells us about the unique process she uses to create her amazing swaddle and why her swaddle is different. 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.
Alyssa: And I am Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with Liz Hilton, who happens to be a birth and postpartum client of ours. She has an amazing product to talk about. Tell us about your swaddles and where you came up with the idea and more about how we can put it into action!
Liz: Well, first, thank you so much for having me on your talk. My product in Swaddelini. It’s inspired by my firstborn son, Thomas, who was a little Houdini. Veritable little Houdini; got out of all his swaddles and would constantly wake up from the Moro reflex. I’m really excited about my next baby that I’m going to be having a couple weeks here because now I’m equipped with a swaddle that is easy to use and protects against the Moro reflex and is completely kick-proof and escape-proof.
Kristin: You’ll have your own baby model!
Liz: I know! I’ll have my own little cute baby model! My Instagram Swaddelini is going to blow up with pictures of my new baby. But yeah, what’s different about it is that typically swaddles involves a lot of wrapping or cumbersome closure systems like zippers, Velcro, or God forbid, snaps. So mine just goes on and off like a sock, and I’ve incorporated some light compression therapy into the chest area to give the sensation of a hug all night long. So I’ve actually trademarked that as Hug Technology.
Kristin: Love it!
Liz: And the individual tubes help keep the arms down for the Moro reflex. It encourages that sleep safe position of being on the back and arms at the sides. And then when you need to change the diaper, there’s an easy access diaper flap so you can change the diaper without having to take the swaddle on and off.
Kristin: That’s such a pain to remove the swaddle and wake the baby!
Liz: Yeah! And it’s also adaptable, so with any baby product, you want it to adapt because all babies are different. Every baby is different. Every mom is different. So some babies like their arms out. Now, part of the thinking behind that is so they can self-soothe when they do wake up from the Moro reflex. The idea with the Swaddelini is that that won’t happen as often because their arms are encouraged to be down. But if your baby insists on having their arms out, you can just leave their arms out. You’re still going to get that Hug Technology benefit. Probably my favorite thing is that this swaddle is easy to put on, but also doesn’t restrict motion. That’s one thing that doctors have been telling moms is, you know, don’t swaddle your baby. It will cause hip dysplasia. And that’s just because some swaddles, there’s no stopping point when you’re wrapping them or pulling the Velcro. It’s very easy to do it too tight. Whereas with this, it’s a four-way stretch knit. It’s soft. It’s stretchy. And there’s no risk in that. And even though the baby feels hugged all over, they have freedom of movement. So if, for example, you’re breastfeeding, the baby can, while wearing the swaddle, can kneed your breast but can’t scratch. Same when they’re sleeping; they can touch their face, but not scratch it. So that’s another benefit.
Kristin: And you have different sizes, so as they grow bigger, their swaddle size is based on how many pounds the baby is?
Liz: I’ve done it that way. I’ve said the small is good for 6-12 pounds and the large is 12-18 pounds. The reason I did the larger one is just because there’s that transition where your baby’s kind of rolling over their side, and you’re, like oh, my God. Is it going to happen? Are they going to roll over? Am I going to wake up and my baby’s on their front? You have all these fears. What I say is with the larger one — or even with the smaller one, if your baby is toying with rolling over sooner before they’re out of the smaller size, just take one arm and leave it out. And then one they’re rolling over a lot during the day, you can take both arms out. If your baby likes to sleep with their feet out, leave the feet out. My niece slept in her large swaddle between month 8 and 11 until she was ready to get out. She was smaller, though. She was a smaller baby, so that’s why she went so long. But she just didn’t want to leave it, but it was a nice transition.
Alyssa: And they’re made out of different things. I’m very curious what the process is and how you make them, too. We talked a little bit about it on the phone, but I thought it was very cool how you make these.
Liz: Yeah. I have two very distinct designs. The first one I did, I made out of just a bunch of synthetic fibers that I’ve used for compression garments that I’ve made for kids with, like, CP or lymphedema. And so that helps with the light compression at the chest. So that part is the same. For the rest of it, it’s a moisture-wicking nylon-polyester blend. It feels very lightweight, but it’s actually very cozy and very soft. You can feel that.
Alyssa: So soft!
Liz: Yes! But at the end of the day, it is a synthetic fiber, right? I learned very quickly that some moms like natural fibers. So after much research, I found a supplier of bamboo, and they make this bamboo in a mechanical process versus chemical. You’ve seen a lot of maybe bamboo-rayon products. This is not that. This is just a natural bamboo made in a nonchemical process, and I pair it with a really exciting new fiber. I’m actually the first in the industry to license this. It’s called 37.5 because what it does is it regulates your body temperature to put it at a perfect 37.5 degrees Celsius. So that is why the bamboo swaddles are a little cooler to the touch.
Alyssa: So adult swaddles will be next.
Liz: Actually, if you go on my website to the About section and watch my videos, I have my husband in an adult swaddle. Yeah! I just made one for a marketing thing, and then I told my husband, hey, will you get in this so I can do a video on YouTube? And he was, like, you’re going to put it on YouTube? No, I’m not doing this! And I’m like, um, I had your baby.
Alyssa: I’m asking this one thing!
Liz: Yeah. So there’s now a video of him in an adult swaddle!
Alyssa: It sounds really cozy, actually. I think I would wear one. I love that it’s easy. Can you explain putting it on and how it goes on?
Liz: You basically just scrunch it up like a sock, and then you go in feet first and you get the Hug Technology over the butt area, and then you have it over the chest. And then you go through the easy access diaper flap. So stick your arm through that opening at the bottom, and then go through one of the arm tubes and then grab the hand. Put that hand in yours, and just slide it down so that the arm is in the tube. And so now their arm can move around, but it just encourages the arm to stay down at the side. And then you just do that on the other side. So these arm tubes are very, very stretchy, and their hands are absolutely free to move around. And then the top naturally curls the opposite direction from their face. But I also had this product tested at world-class third-party laboratories, where they do a suffocation hazard test. They literally roll my product up in a ball, put it over a fake infant face, and they measure the CO2, and mine has passed every time.
Alyssa: That was my question. You know, you walk in, and it’s like this.
Liz: That is absolutely fine, and if you wanted to do a suffocation hazard test on any product that you buy, what you do is roll it up and put it against your face and breathe. With the design, though, it does naturally curl away from the face. So if you put your baby to sleep like this, they wake up like this.
Alyssa: And then demonstrate poopy diaper time when you don’t want to wake the baby.
Liz: We’ve got this flap here, and again, it’s very, very stretchy.
Kristin: As a doula, I love that. It’s so easy.
Alyssa: And do you recommend just like this doll has, like a onesie underneath this? That’s all you need?
Alyssa: The right temperature?
Liz: Even just a diaper and socks is fine. I get that question a lot. It’s really what you’re comfortable with, what your baby’s comfortable with. If they’re really tiny and maybe they’re sliding, if their arms are so small they’re sliding out, you can put a onesie, like the sleeves on it, and that friction between the fabric will keep it on. So then you get access to the diaper. You do the diaper. And then you can put it right back on, and you don’t have to take it off. And then taking it off also is very easy because you just pull it down. It’s actually easier with a real baby. You can do it all in one motion. I’ve gotten that a lot where moms say, oh, I didn’t know it was going to be this easy. That’s always good!
Kristin: And you have different designs. You brought some samples with you. There’s a fun funky orange and pink and…
Liz: It’s interesting you say that because the design is pretty much the same. The only difference is the colors and the fibers. The blue, pink, orange, and gray here are all in the moisture-wicking synthetic fibers, and these more neutral colors, this neural white-pearl and this cloud-gray are the bamboo. The best-selling ones are the grays, the grays in both the synthetic and the bamboo, and then orange. Everyone loves neutrals. The way this is made is a really interesting process. One of the benefits of the Swaddelini is that it’s seamless, and it’s seamless because it’s actually manufactured in one piece, in one process, using 3D knitting. Kind of like the Nike Flyknit shoes. It’s the same technology, and I have a machine that knits all of these in my garage. I make them all myself. I don’t have some manufacturer in China that I outsource this too. So it’s very, very local. And it’s actually my life’s work. I’ve been a 3D knit programmer for over ten years now and working primarily in technical knitting, knitting solutions for office furniture and automotive and aerospace and stuff like that. But when I had my first baby two and a half years ago, I had an idea to use that same process to solve my swaddling problem. That became Swaddelini.
Alyssa: That’s amazing! You said there’s a couple tiny stitches you have to do yourself at the very end?
Liz: At the very top because it’s all made with this one end of yard. At the very top, you have to pull it through a loop and then that’s the final thing that I do. And I sew on these cute little tags with washing information and stuff like that.
Alyssa: Yeah, what is the washing information?
Liz: For the synthetic fiber, I recommend cold. It will shrink up a bit, but honestly, if that happens to you, let me know. I can work something out with you because I don’t want someone to get it and have it shrink. I recommend that, and then air drying it is fine. But for the bamboo ones, I actually prewash them in a natural, unscented detergent, so they’re already preshrunk. They won’t shrink anymore. You can wash and dry them in heat, but I still recommend cold just for longevity.
Alyssa: Things look better. I wash all my stuff in cold. They just last so much longer.
Kristin: Thanks, Liz! We appreciate you coming in! How do people order or find you?
Alyssa: Well, if you’re a Gold Coast client, you can get a discount. But for everyone else, what’s the best way to order these?
Liz: On my website, but if you want to learn more about my product before you buy it, I highly recommend going on my Instagram, @swaddelini, because I have a lot moms on there that have shared their videos of how they use it because every mom might use my product differently.
Kristin: It’s great for the visual learners.
Alyssa: I’m going to add this to my newborn class repertoire because I think some people get overwhelmed with the old-fashioned swaddle, and like you said, if you have a really strong baby, they’re popping out of this thing. So this is a great option, and they’re super cute!
Kristin: We will definitely check in with you after, since you’re a client of ours, and we can see how it’s working with your own baby and also hear your birth story. We love hearing personal stories!
Liz: Well, I’m really excited to have doula support this time because I didn’t last time, and I definitely regret it.
Alyssa: Yeah, we can have you back in to talk about that and how it was with doulas.
Liz: That would be awesome!
Photographers Kris and Autumn of The People Picture Company answer questions about birth photography, what a photographer actually does in the delivery room and how the process works for hiring a photographer and talking about birth plans. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the Ask the Doulas podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase.
Kristin: And I’m Kristin Revere.
Alyssa: We are co-owners of Gold Coast, and we are here today with Autumn and Kris from The People Picture Company. We wanted to bring you in because you do a lot of birth photography and a lot of our clients use you, but I know a lot of people are cautious or maybe don’t understand quite what the role of a photographer is in the delivery room, and I think it might be weird for people to say, you know, there’s going to be this stranger with a camera photographing my private parts. Like, I don’t know this person! Can you ease people’s fears and maybe tell us what the whole process looks like?
Kris: Of course! It all starts with a prenatal consult. So this is where we get together and discuss your birth plan and what you want your birthing experience to look like. This helps give us an idea; like, okay, are you doing a hospital birth or a home birth or a birthing center? All of these things kind of factor into it. We exchange phone numbers and all the information there, too, and then pick packages. But it’s really a time for us to get together and to get to know each other because it is a very personal, private, intimate experience, and we’re going to be there with you, so we want to be able to know you and have you be comfortable with us.
Kristin: It’s almost like when you do weddings and you have a shot list. In your prenatal, I’m sure you go over, okay, this is what’s acceptable, and this is what I don’t want.
Kris: Exactly. We also go through and we show off some of the other births that we’ve done that the mothers have completely agreed that it is okay for us to show. We have a couple of photos on our website, if you go into Maternity and Birth. But when we go into a consult, you get to see a little bit more in depth. These are ones that are, like, you know, actually during the birth experience. So sometimes there’s nudity because you might get really hot when you’re giving birth to your child. Sometimes people want that crowning photo. I’m not going to put that online, but if you want to see what that looks like or a photo of your placenta where your baby lived for a while, then I can show you those during the consult so you get more of an idea and a feel of what you can expect from your birth photos.
Alyssa: So it’s kind of like, if I were to say I want birth photos, but I don’t want any shots of boobs; I don’t want any shots of vaginas; I don’t want a butt. Then you would know that going in, saying, okay, we need to crop this out or I’m not going to…
Kris: Not going to photograph it. If you want the photos of your child coming into this world but you don’t want that crowning photo, I don’t have to be right where the doctors are. We can be right up by your shoulder. In fact, that’s how it was with my photos. I don’t have any crowning photos of my son coming out, but I have some great photos from over my shoulder, and you can see him just emerging into the world. It’s so magical because you can ever see everyone that’s in the room and my husband and my doctors and everyone, and it’s just so magical. Especially because most of that, I had my eyes shut, and one of my friends was, like, no, open your eyes. Open your eyes! You have to see this moment!
Autumn: I think a part of it, too, is during the consult, you are getting comfortable with each other, and there’s a moment where you kind of think past the nudity, you know? We’re basically capturing the emotional experience between you, your baby, your family. That is something that is bigger than the nudity sometimes.
Kristin: And I love that you’ve also supported surgical births and shown the beauty of that as they’re getting prepped to go into the operating room and so on. Some of those pictures are amazing.
Kris: Yeah! With the Cesarean births, we’re not allowed in the operating room for those, but we are allowed in the prepping areas and as you’re walking down the hallway or being wheeled into the operating room, we can do all of that and we can do the couple of hours after the birth, as well. It’s just that for those we’re not actively allowed in those rooms for the surgical process.
Kristin: I’ve loved attending births with The People Picture Company because you really do capture the emotions of the couple and the intimate experience that they have, as well as, obviously, meeting their new baby or babies for the first time and really, you have a way. That’s why we have you photograph our team and a lot of the events we do. You really capture that moment so perfectly and the beauty of birth, the raw and realness of all of it.
Autumn: And no birth is the same, no two births.
Kris: No. But they’re all emotional. I cry at every one.
Kristin: For sure. They are. It’s an honor to be in someone’s birth space. I don’t take that lightly as a doula.
Alyssa: So you’re essentially on call; that’s why you exchange numbers. So how does that work from your client’s end? You exchange phone numbers, and then when the due date approaches, you just kind of — they know that your phone’s going to be on next to the bed all night?
Kris: Yep. My phone is on next to my bed all night. It is turned up as loud as it possibly can be, and in case I’m asleep, my husband is a very light sleeper, so if he hears it, he’s definitely going to be waking me up.
Autumn: You’re pretty amazing. You wake up, and you’re there, and it’s magical.
Kris: It’s so funny because almost all the births that I’ve been on have been in the middle of the night where we’re getting a call. Hey, we’re starting to have some contractions. Okay, great. Keep us informed. Let us know when your water breaks, and we’ll be there, wherever you’re going to be having your birth. We’re very flexible, so if you were originally going to be doing a home birth and then something is weird and you need to go to the hospital, then just have someone let us know. It doesn’t matter who it is. Just put our number in your birth plan, and we’ll be there.
Alyssa: That’s what a doula’s good for. We can call you and let you know. By the way, we’re headed to the hospital.
Autumn: And the greatest part is we have a whole team, so during that time when Kris is on call and she needs to be ready whenever, anything that she has going on, we’re there to kind of help take care of that so we free up her time to be available to be at the birth no matter what.
Kris: Yeah. I block off your due date for sure. That entire day is completely reserved. I won’t schedule anything. And then for a week or so before and a week or so after, because babies come when they want to come, I have those listed as on-call, which means that if someone else needs to take one of my other sessions that I have prebooked because you’re going into labor at that point, then they have that. I have a bag packed and with me wherever I am, so I am ready to go and meet you as soon as I get the call.
Kristin: Sounds just like what I do as a birth doula! And most of my calls are in the middle of the night unless it’s a planned birth. Or early morning; I sometimes will get a call. They’ve been laboring at home in early labor, and then they want my support early in the morning.
Kris: Babies just love coming at night.
Autumn: They do!
Kris: My son came right after midnight, and our birth photographer, Bree — she’s one of our team. She actually doesn’t shoot anymore, but she picked up a camera for me. I think I was her last session that she did. And she came — she was so sweet. She came at — oh, gosh. I don’t even know what time. She came pretty early. Probably about 7:00, I think, is when my water broke and everything, and she was there until about 1:00 in the morning when I finally kicked her out. You need to go home; you need to go to sleep. We got our photos; we’re great. We got our few things that we wanted afterwards. Go home and sleep. But that also leads me to the photos of after the birth, like how long we get to stay for that. That’s actually a really good segue there that I hadn’t planned.
Kristin: And I know some clients can hire you just for that first hour or that time of bonding and not the actual labor if their preference is to not be photographed during the birth itself.
Kris: Definitely. It’s still all the same thing. We’re still on call and everything, and the way our packages work, we have two different ones. They both include up to two hours of post-birthing, and that covers the first moments of your child’s life. So if you want us in there for the birth, then that can include the cord cutting and such. If you want us there for the first little bit afterwards, it can include the first time you’re nursing your child if that’s what you end up doing. If you’re doing skin to skin contact; the weight, height, and head measurements, the footprints, and the first family photo of you all together in that blissful moment. And then also if you have any family members that are coming to meet the newest addition, so if you have an older child that’s coming to meet the younger sibling for the first time, or you have some grandparents that are being grandparents for the very first time, we can be there for that, too.
Alyssa: How does it work — let’s say a client gets induced and says, hey, I’m going to the hospital, but then it ends up taking two days. How do you — or have you had a client like that where you’re there for a really, really long time?
Kris: We’ve had one where we’ve been there for —
Autumn: We’ve had to do switch shifts.
Kris: Yeah. I’ve done some switch shifts before where we kind of tag out. Okay, I’ve been here for, like, 12, 13 hours. I need a momentary break. I need a little cat nap, but we don’t want you to have to worry about us missing it. So then we just kind of tag out with one of our other team members, and then we swap for a little bit.
Alyssa: So there’s no price difference?
Alyssa: It’s just whatever birth you have, whether it’s two hours or two days?
Kris: Yep. Your kid comes in the time when your kid wants to come, and we’ve got to be flexible with that.
Kristin: Right. And even with inductions, there can be some sweet moments where they’re on the birthing ball or moving around the room, and you can capture – again, if it is a couple, you can couple the intimacy with the couple, or if there’s a doula supporting…
Autumn: Well, the greatest part is it’s not just one single moment with the birth. It’s the entire process, and being able to capture that for basically the entire family is so special because we literally see the moments before, where they’re on the ball and they’re trying to get them out, and then they —
Kris: It’s the whole story.
Autumn: It literally is the story.
Kris: And going back to personal experience, I was induced for my son because he was a week late and didn’t want to come. And there are times, because it was a long, emotional, hard birth, that don’t necessarily remember. But because I had my photographer there and I made a book later on, I’m able to remember and to kind of — not necessarily relive, because I don’t remember the pain, thank God, but I do remember the joy, and I remember thinking – like, for me the birthing ball was bad, and all I can remember was saying, “Ball bad! Ball bad!” But I remember that because I have the photo of me with that ball and then the ball completely on the other side of the room because I didn’t even want to see it.
Kristin: Listening to your body is key! That’s what I say. That’s part of it!
Alyssa: So once you get into the labor and delivery room, what does that look like? Are you kind of like a fly on the wall trying to stay out of — like, you don’t want them to even know you’re there, or are you talking to them and —
Kris: It kind of depends on the couple or on the mom and what they want, and this is why we do the prenatal consult. We usually try to help out if we can, like either be a gopher — like, so if mom is really sweating but doesn’t want her partner to leave and needs a wet washcloth or something, then we will do that. If you need some ice chips or something, we can go and do that for you so that your people don’t have to leave, although of course if you have doulas, then they usually end up helping out that way, too. So we help out where we can, but otherwise, it’s usually very intimate, and the couple is pretty much in their own world. We just kind of capture that and stay out of the doctors’ way. After you have your baby, we know that you’re really excited to show the photos of your new little baby to friends and family and all your loved ones, and so instead of sending cell phone photos that can look a little weird, we do sneak peeks so we’ll provide you with a handful of photos that are completely ready to send out to friends and family.
Alyssa: Like the next day?
Kris: Within 24 hours. Usually less than; it’s usually one of the first things that we do when we leave the birthing room.
Autumn: She gets really excited. She gets back to the studio, and she’s, like, “I’m doing this! I’m really excited!”
Alyssa: You always do. Every team photo, you’re, like, okay, give me a couple weeks. And then two days later, you’re like, “They’re ready! I was just too excited. I had to go through them.”
Autumn: Well, I mean, it’s our work, and we get so excited about it, and we can’t wait to show it off because what is the point of just sitting on it when we can share it with everyone?
Alyssa: In my past life, I was a photographer, and it was the same thing. While it’s fresh in my head, I wanted to go through them. It’s exciting to see what you just created. So I get it.
Kris: You’ll get a handful of photos the same day, usually within a few hours, so you can send them out. And then the final photos, we say two weeks, but it’s usually sooner.
Kristin: And certainly, I feel like birth is a major rite of passage, and as wedding photographers, you understand how much time, money, and preparation is involved in planning for that rite of passage, but really, when you look at minor investments in the birth and postpartum time for a family, hiring a birth photographer or doing newborn shots doesn’t even compare to the investment in a wedding photographer, for example.
Kris: Oh, yeah, no. It’s a fraction.
Kristin: Can you explain a bit about what your fees are so people who aren’t familiar with birth photographers — as you talk about being on call and longer lengths and so on?
We have a couple different packages when it comes to the birth, and they each include high-resolution images for you to share, to do whatever you want with. And then you also get an album to create for our highest package, which is a 20-page lay-flat album.
Kristin: You’re saying a digital album?
Autumn: No, a photo album. So you get digital files, high-resolution, and then our highest package, you get a 20-page album to share and have it on your table so you can show it off. And plus like Kris said, you get to relive the moments because sometimes you just don’t remember, and having that printed album is so important because you can’t have all of your images live on digital because you don’t know how long they’re going to last. We always want everybody to print things.
Kris: Which is why we provide you with the high-resolution images, too, because those are good quality for printing. So you’re welcome to print them yourself or you can print with us. We have a la carte print packages, too. So the first package, like Autumn was saying, it’s $850. It includes everything: the prenatal consult, the on-call availability, the two hours after birth, and then 100 or more, however many, high-resolution images, and a 20-page 5×5 print photo album. And then our second package, which is our base package, is $500, and that includes 30 to 50 high-resolution images, so that’s if you need just a little bit; just a little reminder, not the whole big coverage of everything. And then because we want to see you guys again and provide you with a really good first family photo that’s not right after birth, we include 10% off your newborn session if you get either of these two packages because, yeah, your first family photo — yeah, it’s great to have one in the hospital, but let’s get one where your hair and makeup are actually done, too.
Kristin: And I know you do documentary-style or more of the posed family shots, depending on preference and price and so on?
Autumn: Absolutely. We actually prefer doing newborn sessions in the home because it’s where you’re going to be the most comfortable, and then you also don’t have to worry about packing up the family and moving them to our studio, which can be a hassle sometimes. Our goal is to make everything hassle-free, so we come to you, and we can document your entire family as you are, and we can also get some posed shots that would be printed and put on the wall. The documentary style also work well if you do an album. Plus, it’s more realistic. It’s you in your zone. It’s where your family is. And if you have other kids, it’s also really fun to see how they interact with the baby, also.
Kris: Some of the documentary ones that we’ve done are within your nursery, so if you’re changing your baby on the table or nursing them in a rocking chair or something like that and then you get a photo of the entire nursery in this environmental setting, too.
Kristin: It’s nice. You did that with a twin client of ours.
Kris: Yeah. They were so sweet. They were adorable, and we had grandma in there, too.
Alyssa: So if anyone is interested in birth photos or family photos or baby photos —
Kristin: Or maternity photos.
Alyssa: Yeah, maternity photos — what’s the best way for them to reach out?
Kris: Probably our website would be the best. We have all our packages listed on there.
Kristin: And you also have a page on the Gold Coast Doulas website.
Kris: We do, so you can just go to the Gold Coast Doulas website and go into Birth Photography and find us that way, too. And then we have all of our packages listed and a handful of images to show you, just kind of a portfolio of examples to see if we’re your flavor of photographer or not.
Autumn: And the best way to find out is just reaching out and setting up a consult to get to know us, really.
Kris: Yeah. You can do that straight from the website. We have contact boxes. You can email us.
Alyssa: And probably depending on the time of year, as long as it’s not wedding season, you could do it last minute. Like, hey, I’m 38 weeks and I just decided I want a photographer.
Autumn: Oh, absolutely.
Alyssa: As long as you’re not in the throes of wedding season, you might be able to say yes?
Kris: You know, as long as you’re not a Friday or Saturday, chances are really high.
Alyssa: Cool. Well, thanks for joining us. Is there anything else that we didn’t cover?
Autumn: I did want to point out that another thing after birth – one of our favorite things to do is follow you through the first year. What we have is a package that basically is dedicated to capturing your baby at several stages in the first year. So then you can do the three, six, nine months and then the one year, so you can also print that out and get it on the wall to see how much they’ve grown.,
Kris: They change so much in that first year.
Autumn: They really, really do. It’s amazing. They go from literally —
Kris: Tiny squishes to little humans.
Autumn: Yeah. It’s amazing. And it’s really fun for us, especially somebody like Kris who’s there during the birth, probably the maternity session, and after with the newborn, and then we get to follow you through and literally watch your family grow. It is so much fun.
Kris: It’s awesome watching them grow.
Autumn: Yeah. Because our goal is to become lifelong friends, not just the photographer one day.
Kris: Yeah. We want to get to know you and become friends and tell your story.
Kristin: I love that.
Alyssa: That’s cool. Thanks!
Today we speak with Katie and Becky from Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids about what it means to be a designated Baby-Friendly hospital. 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, co-owner, and I’ve got Alyssa here. And we’ve got special guests joining us today from Spectrum talking about the Baby-Friendly initiative. So welcome, ladies! Introduce yourselves and tell us about your background!
Becky: My name is Becky Crawford, and I’m a nurse manager at Spectrum. My background is in postpartum and labor and delivery nursing.
Katie: And I’m Katie. I’m the project specialist for women and infants at Spectrum Health. My background: I am an RN, and my background is high risk OB and postpartum nursing.
Kristin: Fantastic! Thanks for joining us! Tell us about what baby friendly means and why it’s such an intense process to go through certification. Fill us in!
Katie: The Baby-Friendly hospital initiative was actually created back in the early 90s, and it’s an international organization to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding practices. Spectrum Health Butterworth was designated Baby-Friendly initially in October of 2014, and we just went through the redesignation process and were redesignated at the end of May of this year. There are ten steps for Baby-Friendly that each support breastfeeding practices, and we can talk through some of those steps, as well. You have to be proficient in all of those ten steps to receive the designation, so you really have to show breastfeeding excellence, and it’s a really strict and rigorous process to go through.
Becky: I think overall, the way I describe it to patients is that we’ve created a culture that’s supportive of breastfeeding and of moms that want to breastfeed. So it’s not that we force anyone to breastfeed. Our goal is just to educate moms, support them, and help them be successful if that’s the option they choose.
Katie: Absolutely. As nursing professionals, part of our responsibility it to make sure that best practice and current research reaches our patients and that they’re educated on all of those best practices. Breastfeeding is best practice, but it’s also about informed choice and supporting our patients with whatever choice they make. While Baby-Friendly is primarily about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding, there is a formula feeding option there, and we support patients in that option, as well. It should never be about pressure. It should just be about education and informed choice.
Kristin: That is a question that I get from doula clients. If they choose, whether for medical necessity or personal choice, to formula-feed, how they can navigate the system with Baby-Friendly hospitals.
Alyssa: That’s what I was going to ask, too. Do you think that designation scares a mom who knows she doesn’t want to breastfeed? Does she think shes going to come into this hospital and you’re going to try to force it? What does that look like for a mom who doesn’t want to?
Becky: We do hear that feedback from moms that haven’t delivered with us, that they’re just nervous. Having to talk about breastfeeding, even, can be an uncomfortable conversation if they know that’s not the choice they want to make. So our approach with our staff is to educate the patient on all the options, let them choose, and then support. So it should be a one-time conversation. We’re going to talk through all your feeding options. These are the great benefits of breastfeeding. If you choose not to do it, okay. Then let’s talk about formula feeding, and we’ll focus our education there. So making sure they know their options, they understand the benefits, and then support.
Katie: And, you know, nurses educate on a lot of topics, right? It’s not just about breastfeeding. But the other topics we educate on, it’s the same sort of informed choice, right? Breastfeeding is such a personal decision. It’s such an emotionally charged topic. I think that while we need to educate our patients on breastfeeding and why it’s great, we also need to acknowledge the fact that it is a really personal choice, and it’s okay if you choose not to, as long as we’ve given you all of the information.
Kristin: And so your labor and delivery nurses, your postpartum nurses — everyone is specially trained to support the initial latch and continued breastfeeding through their stay?
Kristin: And that’s something that we always stress as doulas is that you have support from your nurses as well as the board-certified lactation consultants who do rounds in the postpartum time.
Katie: Actually, one of the ten steps is staff education. All of our nurses receive 20 hours of dedicated breastfeeding education. Of that, 15 hours are classroom education and then 5 of those is clinical, practical breastfeeding education hours. Every one of our nurses; it’s built into orientation for any women’s nurse, so everyone from labor and delivery to postpartum gets this education. There’s also a requirement for providers, so nurse midwives as well as physicians, to receive additional breastfeeding education, as well. Per Baby-Friendly, they’re required to receive three hours of breastfeeding education.
Becky: We also have a team of lactation consultants that offer further help for any mom that’s struggling, but I’m also bringing in more peer counselors, too, just to round on every patient and offer every mom some support, ever with those first few times they’re latching, just so they can hear that they’re doing a great job. It’s really just to address the breastfeeding concerns of all moms, not just the moms that are struggling, just to really walk them through it.
Katie: And we do have quite a few nurses that are certified breastfeeding counselors, so they have received additional education as well as the education that they received for Baby-Friendly.
Kristin: How are you able to support moms with babies that go to the NICU initially with their breastfeeding goals?
Becky: Well, actually, we get them pumping right away. If your goal is to breastfeed, we like to have them pump within two hours of delivery to start establishing that supply. Our nurses will come in and do education, and the lactation consultants will see them, also, and just talk about the importance of pumping to build up that supply. They’re also going to skin to skin. There are some lactation consultants that are dedicated just to the NICU and these moms, so there’s a lot of support there, too.
Katie: The providers in the NICU are very, very supportive of breastfeeding, and they encourage and educate moms on the importance of breastfeeding, as well, so there’s good collaboration between our OB teams and our NICU teams regarding supporting those moms in breastfeeding and being successful.
Kristin: That’s what my clients tell me, that they get a lot of support, even over at Helen DeVoss, as well as in their rooms with lactation. As far as other elements of the Baby-Friendly designation, what else encompasses those ten standards?
Becky: There’s a lot. We start right at delivery, with the golden hour after delivery. We place baby skin to skin immediately after delivery, and we avoid all unnecessary care for that first hour. Any exams or assessments would all be done while the baby is skin to skin on mom. We try to give them that time to bond and establish that first feeding.
Kristin: And if the mom can’t do skin to skin, I have dads ask me all the time about the benefits of them doing skin to skin with baby. So that’s something that’s encouraged, as well?
Becky: Absolutely. We’ve had lots of dads do skin to skin. We like to bring them in on the process whenever possible.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. And then delayed cord clamping is now a standard policy?
Becky: Yes. And we also room-in, so babies stay with their moms 24 hours a day unless mom requests otherwise. But that’s what we try to encourage and do all procedures at the bedside to keep the family together 24 hours a day.
Katie: I think that rooming in is another hot topic when you’re talking about Baby-Friendly and breastfeeding, and the literature does tell us that rooming in does help moms to be more successful breastfeeding. I think that it’s important that patients understand that we’re going to allow you to keep your baby with you. We’re going to be able to take care of mom and baby together. You’re going to learn your baby’s feeding cues. You’re going to learn all those little nuances. We’re going to help you learn that in the couple of days that you have with us. There is space where if you wanted your baby to go to a nursery, we could do that. We’re supportive of that, as well, but again, we are going to educate, and then we’re going to honor choice.
Kristin: And then there’s delayed bathing and other procedures beyond that?
Alyssa: What’s the thought behind all the delayed cord clamping, delayed bathing? Why? What are the benefits?
Katie: The delayed bath is sort of about the transition from being inside mom and then outside and regulating temperature. So we wait at least twelve hours. We like to wait closer to 24 hours to do that first bath. We’re, of course, not going to hand you an ooey gooey baby. We do a little wiping off, but it really does help that baby transition to life outside of mom and regulate. It also allows you to go immediately into skin to skin so the baby can help regulate not just the temperature, but the heart rate and the breathing. And, again, that’s evidence based. In fact, there’s a pediatrician out in Massachusetts who really pioneered the Baby-Friendly initiative in the hospitals out in Massachusetts, and she did a study on delaying the baby bath, as well. That’s the literature we have for it; it’s all about maintaining stability for the baby.
Kristin: That’s awesome, Katie.
Becky: For the delayed cord clamping, that just gives the newborn a little more blood volume, and, actually, it’s better for baby. There’s no reason to cut the cord any sooner, unless the baby is having a respiratory issue and would need resuscitation, so that would be out of the norm. But otherwise, we do wait and delay so the baby can have more blood volume from the placenta.
Alyssa: How long?
Becky: Our standard is a minimum of one minute. I know a lot of moms request —
Alyssa: So this isn’t like it’s for an hour —
Becky: We’re not saying 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Generally, the cord stops pumping within five minutes. So some moms request to please wait until it stops pulsating, and we can do that, too. Generally, we wait about a minute, and that’s probably close to when it stops pulsating. But we’re not talking about an hour or anything like that.
Kristin: Yeah, some of my clients want to see it actually turn gray and stop pulsating before it’s cut.
Alyssa: And I didn’t want to see mine at all.
Becky: I didn’t either, personally!
Alyssa: My husband did accidentally and was like, oh, my God, an organ just fell out of you!
Katie: I love all of that stuff. It’s so fascinating!
Kristin: As far as additional steps that you take to get recertified, tell us about that process and why it’s important.
Katie: You will see in our women’s and infant services department that OB triage is on A level, and then all the way up to the 8th floor in that tower, you’ll see the 10 Steps for Baby-Friendly posted. It’s just showing our support of those ten steps. We have to show that patients receive prenatal education in our clinics regarding breastfeeding. We have to show that all of our staff receive the education. The people that come out to do our survey — the interview staff.
Becky: And patients.
Katie: And patients and providers, so they will go in patient rooms to see that they receive the education about breastfeeding and that they’re being appropriately supported for breastfeeding. So they look at our exclusive breastfeeding rate.
Kristin: And then you have support groups, as well, when mothers go home and need additional support. They can go to free support groups and seek help through their OB or midwives or pediatricians?
Katie: Absolutely. I think a lot of our pediatricians have at least one pediatrician who is an IBCLC, so a lactation consultant, as well. I know that our DeVoss clinic has two pediatricians that are lactation consultants.
Becky: And our pediatrician who is an IBCLC actually oversees the residents, and so she’s the one working with them and training them. It’s kind of keeping that mindset forefront for all of them, too, and helping them learn the Baby-Friendly system.
Katie: So while nursing took this on and rolled it out, there is a lot of support from providers, as well. Of course, our nurse midwives receive, as part of their education, breastfeeding, but our pediatric providers are all very supportive of breastfeeding, as well.
Alyssa: Is there anything that you think is a misconception for this Baby-Friendly Initiative? Is there anything that it isn’t? You told it what it is, but what isn’t it?
Becky: Yes. I think the thing we hear most is that, I’m going to be pressured to breastfeed if I deliver there. And there is nothing further from the truth. Our goal is a culture supportive of breastfeeding, not a culture of pressure. So our goal is to educate, let moms make decisions, and support them. So there’s no pressure. I think the other big misconception is about rooming in. Sometimes you have a mom who, let’s say, has had a C-section and she’s exhausted, and she just needs support for a couple of hours. We will accommodate that. We’re all about supporting moms. So although we do encourage rooming in, and there are a lot of benefits to it, in certain circumstances when it’s not best for the family, we support what is.
Katie: I think that it’s the 80/20 rule. There’s going to be exceptions to every rule, and it’s just important that we support our patients through that. I think that Becky and I have probably both taken care of those moms that have had long labors or C-sections, and they come up to the floor, and they just need rest. You have to take care of yourself.
Becky: They’re crying. The baby’s crying. Everyone’s hit a wall. And it’s like, why don’t I just cuddle your baby for an hour. You take a nap, and then let’s try again. Sometimes just 45 minutes of sleep can change the entire situation.
Katie: I remember after my second one, I got two hours of sleep. Like, two consecutive hours. And it was the best two hours ever!
Alyssa: I’m thinking about my situation. It was fairly quick. Yeah, sure, I was tired, but I did choose one time in the middle of the night to have them take my daughter to the nursery so I could get — it was about two hours. But I felt so amazing. But I wasn’t in this dire circumstance. So today with — this was before the Baby-Friendly. So today, would I have to prove to you that I need the sleep?
Alyssa: It’s just, would you take her for a couple of hours? You’re not going to say, well, you don’t check these boxes, so she won’t go.
Becky: No. I think the goal is when moms come up to the postpartum unit to talk to them about, well, babies room in 24-7, and we keep you together and care for you together. However, if you have a need to send your baby to the nursery, we’ll accommodate that. So our goal is to not educate the mom at 2:00 a.m. who’s exhausted and crying about how she should room in with her baby. That’s not really the time to have that conversation, and it probably wouldn’t be well-received. So we want to educate them when they first come up so that at that point, at 2:00 a.m., if you decide to make that decision, it will be more like, okay. I’ll bring her back for her next feeling.
Alyssa: I didn’t think I wanted to, but now I do.
Becky: And that is common. Okay, I just need a little bit of a nap, and then I can keep going.
Kristin: Yeah, we’ve had clients hire us to help out in their postpartum room when their partner had to go home to tend to another child or had a job to get back to. We’ve loved that role of being in the hospital, as well as later on in the home, to support them and help them get sleep and also learn baby cues and feedings and help support breastfeeding.
Alyssa: Basically, be their postpartum doula in the hospital as well as at home.
Becky: We would welcome that support, definitely! I’m sure our nurses would love to partner with you on that!
Alyssa: For those moms who don’t want to send — maybe they desperately want the sleep, but they don’t feel comfortable sending their baby to the nursery. Your doula sits in the rocking chair and holds your baby.
Becky: What a great option!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s been really kind of life-altering for a few of our clients who are a little bit more on the — you know, a lot of moms just have anxiety, especially first-time moms.
Katie: I think that so much of the focus goes to the baby, but we’re taking care of mom, too, and that needs to be in the forefront, as well. There’s two patients there.
Becky: And be aware of her self-care and her needs in the moment, too, because what I always try to tell my patients is, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of this baby. And if that means a short nap, then I think we need to do that because it’s going to make you a better mom in the morning when you’ve had a little bit of sleep.
Kristin: Exactly. What other hospitals in the area within the Spectrum brand are Baby-Friendly? We have clients in a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids, so we work with a lot of your smaller hospitals, as well.
Katie: So Spectrum Health Butterworth just received redesignation, like we talked about. Spectrum Health Zeeland.
Becky: They’re newly designation last September.
Katie: And then Spectrum Health United Memorial up in Greenville. They were designated five years ago, and they’re going through the redesignation process right now.
Alyssa: So is it every five years?
Katie: Yes. And then Spectrum Health Big Rapids is going after designation, as well. We have, as a system, Baby-Friendly requires us to have an infant feeding policy, and we have standardized that infant feeding policy across the system for all of our regional hospitals, as well. So you’re going to see a piece of Baby-Friendly in all Spectrum hospitals. And the reason for that is that it’s evidence based and it’s best practice, so even if they’re not designated Baby-Friendly, these are practices that we should all be doing.
Becky: Right. They’re probably practicing very similar to Baby-Friendly, even if they don’t officially have that designation.
Alyssa: That’s great. Anything else you want to share before we sign off?
Kristin: What resources, if any of our listeners want to learn more about Baby-Friendly or some of the work Spectrum has done — where can they go online to get more information?
Becky: I think just going to the Baby-Friendly website will give you a lot of information about the 10 Steps and about what we’re focused on as a Baby-Friendly hospital. So you can really start just researching Baby-Friendly, and we are following that to a T, so that will tell you how we’re practicing.
Katie: Our provider offices also have education and information about Baby-Friendly, and then —
Becky: Our childbirth education classes.
Katie: Yes, at Spectrum Health Healthier Communities. They have information, as well.
Kristin: So the educators can fill their students in with any questions they have?
Katie: Correct, yes.
Kristin: And then is there anything special with the hospital tours that our clients go on before delivery? Do you incorporate Baby-Friendly or answer questions based on that? I haven’t been on a tour in a while.
Katie: I don’t think that they specifically talk about Baby-Friendly, except that —
Becky: The practices, probably.
Katie: Yeah. They likely don’t highlight the nursery like they used to. Our nursery — we don’t have babies lined up in the nursery like we used to. They’re with their moms, so you can’t go to the maternity floor and look through the window of the nursery. There’s no babies there.
Becky: I do think they talk about some of our practices, about how you room in and we keep babies together. And I think the other thing is maybe some of the practices, like the skin to skin after delivery. Things that might be different than other hospitals, just so they know what to expect; that we would never supplement a baby unless it was medically necessary, and we’re not handing out pacifiers unless somebody requests it. So it might be slightly different than other hospitals that are doing deliveries in the area.
Katie: Our childbirth educators are pretty passionate about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding practices, as well as supporting natural birth. They give the whole gamut of the birth experience.
Kristin: Well, thank you for joining us and sharing so much!
For tips on how to make your hospital room feel cozy for birth read Creating A Cozy Hospital Birth Space in First Time Parent Magazine by Kirstin Revere.
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:
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
Hudsonville Congregational United Church of Christ 4950 32nd Avenue
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
ABC Pediatrics 4288 3 Mile Rd NW
ABC Pediatrics 4174 56th St SW
We appreciate your support! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
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.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas podcast. I am Alyssa and I’m excited to be here with Gaby today. How are you?
Gaby: Hi, I’m great, Alyssa.
Alyssa: So we met a couple of months ago?
Alyssa: Was it the Mom Brain meet up?
Gaby: We did, yeah.
Alyssa: Yeah, and we got to talking about your lovely little bridal shop. I shouldn’t call it little, we’ll talk about that in another episode. But you have three children?
Gaby: I have two.
Alyssa: Two children.
Gaby: And a fur baby!
Alyssa: But you didn’t birth that one!
Gaby: Yeah, no.
Alyssa: I just wanted to talk about your stories. So our moms who are pregnant love hearing positive birth stories and it’s not to say that even though your birth story – the outcome may be positive, but there weren’t crazy things that happened along the way.
Alyssa: I think there are so many people telling you, oh, just wait until… You know? And they tell you negative things about pregnancy, about labor and delivery, about postpartum, and then every year as your kid grows, oh, you just wait until… So I like to give our listeners some positive stories. So tell me about your kids. How old are they now?
Gaby: I have two kids. My oldest, Aurora. She’s going to be six this year. And my youngest, Andreas, he’s going to be three this year. They’re a good amount apart, but still kind of fighting the ages right there.
Alyssa: Yeah. What was it like having a three-year-old and a newborn?
Gaby: She had just surpassed the age of needing me 100% of the time. She was starting to be independent and she was very involved and loving, but there was still that balance of like, she’s still not 100% independent. But I like that space. I wouldn’t personally go any closer. I know I have friends and moms that are like, I just like to have my babies super close so that I’m having babies all at the same time. And I’m like, that sounds very overwhelming!
Alyssa: I think it’s very overwhelming in that stage. I was actually just talking to a girlfriend today who did that and she was like, It was so overwhelming! I don’t even know how I made it through. She goes, “But now, it’s so easy. They’re all within the same age range and they’re all independent. And they all just go play outside for two hours together.” So I can see the beauty of both ends, I guess.
Gaby: Yeah and now since she’s a little bit different, she’s still kind of interested in what he’s interested in, and can also watch him a relative amount of – you know, she’s kind of on the lookout a little bit. So she’s enjoying that responsibility of like, I’m in charge and don’t do that.
Alyssa: Oh yeah, my daughter’s six and she would love to be a big sister.
Gaby: Yeah. She’s like, don’t do that. Or she’ll run inside like, “Mom!” Okay, let’s go through the emergency levels here. Not everything is 100% red flag, our house is on fire, emergency.
Alyssa: So how were your deliveries with both of them? Were they pretty similar or completely different?
Gaby: They were relatively similar. I like to talk a look at all the possibilities and when I originally was planning to get pregnant and got pregnant, I was like, gve me all the drugs. Let’s set a date for the delivery, just give me all the drugs, and it’ll be quick and simple, and I’ll be in and out, and I’ll look great. You know, in a week I’ll be fabulous.
Alyssa: Instagram perfect, right?
Gaby: Yes! It’ll be fabulous! And that’s when I started reading up more on it and because of my tendencies already – so for example, my back has always kind of been sore, in pain, or more on the delicate side, and I started seeing the complications with medications and where they go and how they go and how they affect you. I started to explore a more natural way, more hands-off, with still keeping in mind, If I need it, that’s open. So not ever being like, I don’t want it no matter what. But just being like, I want to go in with the mindset of as much hands-off as possible. And then with the nurses and the doctors, because I trusted them if it really needed to be done, or if I needed medication or an intervention, then I was okay with doing that. And it was relatively – the pregnancy itself, I was sick! Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick! I think I lost weight until the last couple of months. And she was right on time and it was a relatively – I don’t know if it’s long, but it was almost like 12-20 hour from start to finish. But I think the active labor was maybe 6 hours? I was in a lot of pain. It seemed like, I can’t even tell you how long it was, but the active labor wasn’t that long.
Alyssa: Did you end up begging for an epidural?
Gaby: No, I didn’t. What ended up happening is they gave me Stadol at the last stages because I was refusing to sit down, to lay down, because it just hurt so much more. So when the contractions started they put me in a little tub, but as it started to get more intense I just couldn’t be sitting down. So most of the labor my partner and I were just on our feet. So I would be on my feet and then the contraction would come and I would obviously just collapse and he would just kind of hold me. Like underarms hold me through the contraction. Then the doctor’s like, you need to rest! You’ve been on your feet most of the labor. And I was like, I can’t, it hurts! They’d try to lay me down and I’d be like, “No!” It was just not good. It definitely helped me rest once I took the medicine and I don’t want to say it took the pain away, but it definitely helped ease the transition from standing up and the anxiety of like, If I lay down, it’s going to hurt more. She came and it was everybody focus! Don’t talk to me, focus! And she was delivered. There weren’t any complications. She came out great and everybody in my family waited until we were in the other room to come in.
Alyssa: Yeah, I was going to say, who was in the room with you?
Gaby: Just my partner at the time. Yes, I was very adamant about that. In fact, my grandmother tried to come in a couple of times and she was like, do you need anything? And I’m like, There’s nothing you can do! Please, I need some space. And I think it really helped me focus in the moment and just continuously tell myself, your body is meant to do this, to go through it, don’t panic. I just had to be like, don’t panic, just breathe in. You’re supposed to do this. If something were to go wrong, someone’s going to tell you if something’s wrong, they’re going to intervene. But as long as they’re just like, hey, everything’s okay! I’m trusting my environment and my body that this is what it’s supposed to do.
Alyssa: So was that intentional decision to only have you in your partner in the room for your first baby?
Alyssa: Because you wanted to focus.
Gaby: Yes and I feel like I would get distracted. And my mom, I love her to death, she’s great. She actually works in the emergency room. She’s an interpreter. But when it comes to family emergencies, she gets really panicky. And at that time with my daughter, she was actually in Florida, so it wasn’t too bad. It was just my grandma kind of coming in. And I think after the second time, I was like, I will see you when it’s done. Please, I’m fine. There’s nothing really. I guess in my head it’s kind of like, what can you really do? And I have friends that have everybody in there. Like a photographer and the neighbor. They’re great, they love it. They just want all the hugs and kisses and I just want everyone like, we’re here to work. We’re here to get from A to B, but we’re going to do it. So I told everybody, you cannot be out until I’m in the next room. And for the most part, they listened.
Alyssa: Minus grandma, twice.
Gaby: Minus grandma! I think she was just – you know, I think it’s definitely shocking. Your loved ones want to like, how can I make it better?
Alyssa: Well how did your partner react? Because often times they’re the ones who, you know, I want to fix this. I want to help and there’s nothing I can do.
Gaby: We had been together for a while and I definitely have a – in my life in general, when I’m sick I have the same kind of reaction. So he kind of knew that I was going to need specific help and we kind of were like – he knew. And he knew that if I needed something I would ask or that for example, really he was just there literally as a support because I was on my feet. And then the next time he was just there to make sure – I was like, I just need you to make sure that if I cannot vocalize what I want, this is what I want. That we have decided together. And he was just kind of there, vigilant, just checking, which kind of also brought me a little bit of peace of mind. Like, I have someone that isn’t trying to deliver a baby. I think they were 7.8 and then my other one was like 8.7.
Alyssa: But in your head, you were probably like, this must be a 12-pound baby.
Gaby: Whatever is coming out, I’m doing it and he’s not and he can say, go through the checklist.
Gaby: I’m very – I like to take charge and so at that point, there was only one thing that I was going to be able to focus. We had talked about it and I think he definitely – I have a very like, don’t get close to me unless I need it kind of vibe when I’m in pain. But again, I just kept thinking, this is something that happens. That’s supposed to happen, that you’re meant to happen. Like, you’re body’s prepared for even though you’ve never personally gone through it before, but it’s supposed to kind of go this route.
Alyssa: So how did that affect baby number two knowing you’ve been through this before, you knew your pain thrthreshold did that help?
Gaby: I actually thought I was not as far along than I actually was. With both of them! So don’t time your contractions in your head. Make sure you’re using an actual timer. With my son, when I got in they were like, do you want medication? Do you want some Stadol right now? I was like, Oh, no! I still have time. I’ve only been here a couple ho ofurs. With my daughter, I was here, it wasn’t until like midnight or you know, until I got Stadol, so I still have a couple hours of labor.
They didn’t say anything, they were like, okay, fine. You don’t want medicine right now, we understand. And then when it started getting worse and I was like, okay, I’m ready!
Alyssa: Give me some!
Gaby: And they were like, you’re too far along. And I’m like, wait, what do you mean? It hasn’t been that long. I had already labored outside of the hopsital longer and I must have been dilated much faster, obviously, because it was my second.
Gaby: So it was kind of a shock to me like, wait, I’m not – this is going to happen without anything. So with my son, I didn’t have any medication. And he just kind of – I don’t think the doctor was a little – she didn’t even have time to put gloves on. ‘Cause when they were like, you don’t need medication, you’re far along. I’m like, oh. And then a little bit after that, like less than 30 minutes, I was like, it’s time! You have to wait until you feel pressure. I’m like, yes! I’m checking it off, yes. And they’re like, no, it’s going to be a little bit. And then the doctors come in so relaxed. They’re so relaxed. And I’m like, ma’am. You should probably move along. And she sits on her little stool and I’m just kind of watching her like, she shouldn’t be this calm because I’m feeling it. It’s coming. She’s coming. And she literally turns around and she’s like, let me put my gloves on. And I’m like, nope! And she’s like, what do you mean? And she’s like, oh my God. And she just – she’s like, okay. And she catches him – he comes out.
Alyssa: No gloves? No time.
Gaby: She didn’t have time for gloves.
Alyssa: Oh my gosh.
Alyssa: So I mean it kind of was a totally different experience. I mean, very quick.
Alyssa: You probably wouldn’t call it painless, but it was a lot less drawn out.
Gaby: No. It was a lot less drawn out pain and I don’t know if I was – I don’t want to say I was used to the pain. I was in pain – like the muscles on the inside of my legs had decided they were too sore the whole pregnancy, so I was in a lot of pain consistantly. Kind of like jolts of pain. I don’t know if I was used to pain and then it was a faster delivery and he was just kind of like, I’m ready. And he just slid right out.
Alyssa: Do you think that as first time moms, since we don’t know what to expect, our brains kind of tell us that it’s going to be worse than it is?
Gaby: I think it definitely contributes to that and sitting down and talking to friends – the stories are not there for us. Like my friends and I are not like, I wish somebody would have sat down and talked about the actual labor. Honestly, not in a, I’m going to scare you. Not in a warning, not in a, don’t get pregnant because then labor’s painful. But in a, let’s go through everything, compare notes. So that you can be at least aware of what actually happens. Be prepared for the pain. As women, we have pain every month. Some of us more than every month. I think we’re much more capable, but we have this background fear of labor and delivery.
Alyssa: What are a few of those things that you would say to a new mom who has no idea?
Gaby: I think that mostly would be educate yourself with actually facts. Educate yourself in how you yourself react to pain in just your everyday life. Are you squimish? Are you not squimish? How your partner does that? How are you going to communicate? Some people can’t communicate when they’re in pain. Does that need to be talked about beforehand? You can bring your $200 ball to sit on, but I could not sit on the ball. It wasn’t mine. I didn’t pay for it, so I was grateful that I didn’t invest in a birthing ball that I didn’t need. So there’s going to be so many switches. Just kind of learn to be a little bit more go with the flow, ‘cause in the end – I want to say it’s like the baby in your body that’s going to be in charge of what happens. I just kept telling myself like, just breathe. Breathe through it, not because it’s going to minimize the pain, but because it’s going to help focus where I’m going out of the pain.
Alyssa: Sounds like you could have benefited from our hypnobirthing class. It’s like learning physiologically what’s going to happen. You know, what’s going on in your body, what’s happening during a contraction, what’s happening during active labor, but then like you said – so you’re ahead of most knowing that, let’s talk about how I deal with pain and how I process things. Do I like to be touched? Do I not like to be touched? Do I hold all my tension here? So knowing that and talking to your partner about that ahead of time is a big part of what the hypnobirthing class is about. Let’s focus on these things and practice how are we going to deal with that when we’re in this situation.
Gaby: Yeah and you definitely have to – we work so hard in preparing the room, and the baby, and all the stuff, but that moment is so small comparatively speaking, but it’s so intense. And it can leave such a big mark if it gets too complicated. So I feel like being prepared for a lot of stuff makes the load a little bit lighter. ‘Cause you already have the answers and you know what to expect. I didn’t realize that my doctor wasn’t going to be there until the very end. This whole time I’m like, I want my doctor. I’ve known her for a million years and we’re best friends. They didn’t call her until the end. Then when I realized, the nurses were just fabulous. They’re the ones that are going to take care of you. So it’s great to have a great relationship with your doctor, but going into where you’re going to give birth and seeing the support and the nurses – the support staff, I guess depending on where we give birth, they’re going to be there for the long run. They’re really invested in you because they’re there with you the whole time.
Alyssa: Yeah. Labor and delivery nurses are amazing.
Gaby: Yeah, yeah. I was kind of worried that – because I wasn’t going to be in a hospital, they were going to be like, we’re going to wire you up and we’re going to put all the juices in you. And I was like, I don’t want -. But it wasn’t like that at all. I didn’t feel forced into a certain way that they were doing things.
Alyssa: Well, is there anything else that you would love to share?
Gaby: I just wish we would trust our decisions more and be more confident in what we can handle, as far as labor and delivery. Again, if you want that support group there around you, and you know you need it, and that’s how you’ve been your whole entire life like you want mom, and aunt, and everybody, and the dog, that’s great. But if all of a sudden because you’re giving birth everybody wants to sign up and come and take pictures, don’t do it. It’ll be a good first start to parenting and being with family. It’s not about you not loving or caring, or that you don’t want them involved ever in the life of the baby, but that is such a critical moment that you can’t have extra people that you’re really not going to ulitize or that you’re going to feel like you’re trapped in that room for a long time.
Alyssa: Yeah, so often family members can make us feel – like guilt us into doing things that we don’t feel are right. And this is, like you said, the first step in a very long journey of parenting where you have to do what’s best for you and your family and not everybody else.
Gaby: Right. I probably would have been mad to see my sister on her phone while I’m mid contraction.
Alyssa: Right! You better not be posting anything to Facebook.
Gaby: Yeah. Like, how can you be relaxing? I’m mid contraction! You know, let’s not get angry. Let’s just focus on that.
Alyssa: I did the same thing, so I totally understand.
Gaby: People are so hesitant to say – They don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and I think it’s – now that we’re learning a little more emotional tintelligence, think we can put responsibility on both parts. One to say no and the other part to understand. Hopefully everybody understands if you want to draw that line.
Alyssa: Well, thank you so much for sharing.
Gaby: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
Alyssa: We will have you on again. I want to learn a little bit more about your business and what it’s like. I love talking to moms who are business women as well.
Gaby: Yeah, I can’t wait.
Alyssa: Thanks, everyone for listening. You can find us on iTunes and Sound Cloud. Again ,this is Ask the Doulas. You can find us at goldcoastdoulas.com, Instagram, and Facebook. Thanks for listening.
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.
1. HIT PAUSE.
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.
2. OUTSOURCE IT.
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.
3. AUTOMATE IT.
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.
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
We love getting birth stories from clients! This is a beautiful story from one of Ashley’s HypnoBirthing students. Through all of the unknowns of labor and delivery for a first time parent, this mom describes her birth experience and how relaxing and keeping calm throughout eliminated any room for fear.
Wesley Thomas Sarazin was born 9-2-18 (13 days prior to EDD) at 5:02 pm. At 4:30 am on 9-1 was laying on the bed at my cabin and felt a pop/jolt feeling and thought my membranes released, but I stood up and no fluid was coming out. I went to the bathroom and had instead lost my mucus plug. I laid back down with my husband and had 2 contractions 20 minutes apart, but decent intensity. Since the cabin is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from home, I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable laboring there and wanted to go home. Chris started to drive, and about 15 minutes before getting home I started to vomit. I got out of the car and fluid gushed. Surges were 6 minutes apart and lasting about 1 minute, with lots of back labor.
We got home and I took a shower, grabbed our hospital bags, and contractions were now about 5 minutes apart. I had wanted to labor at home for a while, but felt that I needed to head into triage because I was doing more vomiting and I felt like I needed to poop so I was afraid to try not knowing what my cervix was doing. I was 1cm and “soft” with baby’s head pretty low at the appointment just over a week prior. We got to triage around 9:00 am. I was still only 1-2cm but surges seemed quite intense and still no more than 5 minutes apart. They confirmed I had released my membranes and I was taken up to L&D by 10:00. I had some high BPs initially but they came down and stayed around 135/85 so they weren’t really concerned about pre-e. I was GBS neg.
Krista, my first nurse, was awesome. She has been in the field for 25 years. I’m a nurse so I wanted an IV in up front, because I don’t have great veins. I got in the tub right away and labored there for about 2 hours. I did not have to do continuous monitoring. They took an initial 20 minute reading (wireless in the tub) and then just traced me for 2 minutes each hour with the portable one. I purchased a bath pillow on Amazon and that made it more comfy. I listened to Rainbow Relaxation and some other YouTube/Amazon playlists that I had ready. I got out and dried off, and did some squatting. I hated the ball. I hated leaning forward; the sensation in my abdomen when leaning forward was less tolerable than the back labor. I had lots of rectal pressure the whole time, probably my least favorite part.
I had them check me at around 1:30 pm, and I had made it up to about 5.5cm and 90% effaced. I continued to labor, now mostly side lying with a peanut ball and some standing/squatting and rocking hips. Krista, the RN, told me to try to get through 4 surges in 1 position and then switch to another position; that it would help time go by, and for me it did. I would do about 3-4 surges and then switch. It gave short term goals to get through. Kind of like when you’ve got 10 more minutes to run but you think of it in five, 2 minute sections, just get through the next 2 minutes.
My husband, Mom, and sister took turns applying heat or ice to my back and some counter pressure. I also held heat or ice over my pelvis as it just felt like menstrual cramps. Between surges, I would tell myself to be “loose, limp, relaxed”. I continued with either Rainbow Relaxation or a really great birthing affirmations track that I had found on Youtube. My favorite affirmation was “My surges are not stronger than me because they ARE me”. Baby did have some late decels but was overall ok.
The first 5 hours I was barely monitored but had to be watched more closely at the end. About 2 hours later I was having natural expulsion reflex and I was about 7.5cm and 100%.
Doc finally came in and I was relieved when she didn’t leave, which encouraged me to know that things were likely happening soon. She was fantastic. Even the nurse commented that she has a very midwife-like approach and I felt totally comfortable with her. She put a warm wet towel on my perineum and did counter pressure during my surges. She told me to keep doing the natural expulsive pushing if it was happening even though I was not 10cm because baby was coming down well, at +1 station and tolerating it. She said, “You’re not going to rip through your cervix, your body knows what it is doing.”
After 20 minutes of active pushing, I was struggling to breathe because my urge to push was so strong it was hard to breathe in as much as I’d like. They threw a mask on me and had me push with 1 leg up through 2 surges and then switch and lean the other way to get baby to keep rotating. They got a little aggressive with how they had me push but at the time I was ok with it because I wanted him out ASAP! His head came in and out through several surges and once I popped that head through his body came all at once, such a relief.
During transition I almost asked for some nitrous oxide, but with knowing that the end was in sight, I just kept completely relaxing between surges. I didn’t have any drugs aside from IV fluids. The Doctor did do a pudendal block right before I pushed which I had never even heard of but am super thankful for. I didn’t have the “ring of fire” feeling that some people talk about.
I didn’t get post delivery pit, and had no issue with bleeding. Baby did about 2 minutes of delayed cord clamping, and then I donated the rest. He wasn’t pinking up well and neonatal needed to come. He had lots of fluid/mucus in his lungs and got deep suctioned. H also had to go on CPAP. Once he was looking better, they put him on my chest again, but unfortunately after a few minutes his color was not looking good and we had to call neonatal back for more CPAP and suction. He was threatened with the NICU and I told him to get his act together so he could stay and snuggle with me. I just kept talking to him from across the way. My husband and mom were right by his side as well. The 3rd try to my chest worked. He had mild signs of respiratory distress but his color was looking better.
The next hurdle was hoping his blood sugar was ok since he couldn’t try to latch until his breathing was stable. Luckily that was good! The only thing I would change about the whole process would be to slow down on the pushing because I think that would have minimized my tearing and maybe the baby wouldn’t have had as much fluid in his lungs.
We are in mother baby now, doing fine. He has been latching pretty well. He still is borderline tachypnic so Dad and I are taking turns holding him because he does better that way. No bassinet for him tonight.
I had my Husband, Mom and sister in the delivery room and am so glad they got to witness our awesome birth. The labor and delivery was hard but honestly not as hard as I thought it would be. It was different I would say, in regard to the back labor and rectal pressure. My husband called me a “gangster”. He said, “I don’t know how to say this the right way, because I know it wasn’t easy, but you made it look easy. It didn’t look like you were uncomfortable.”
Before labor and birth, Chris was a lot better than me about trying to use the HypnoBirthing lingo and shut down any negative birth stories that people would tell. We had several people (who are honestly GREAT people, so it surprised me) say to us, “Oh you’ll see once you get into labor, you’ll want an epidural,” or “You don’t get a trophy afterwards.” After a few of those statements, I just stopped telling people that I was going to try for a natural birth. Fortunately, my mother delivered 4 children without medication, so I had her encouraging me and my husband fully believed I could do it, more than I did.
I should say that the reason I took HypnoBirthing was because I believe that our bodies are made to do this. One of my friends, who’s biggest fear about labor was that she would go too fast and not be able to get an epidural, had read the book – Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and she gave it to me when she was done. That book further ingrained the message that our bodies are made to do this and a birth without fear will hopefully progress as it should. I think that is the most important part of preparing yourself for natural childbirth. I can honestly say I was never fearful at any point and had a beautiful, exciting, experience.
Most, if not all, of my preferences were met and I am so happy with my experience. I was up to the bathroom and walking around the room less than 2 hours after he was born, and I’m really not having any pain. Bleeding is appropriate without the dose of pit. Just trying to get some rest but being extra attentive though this first night because of my little guys breathing.
Today’s guest blog comes from Jessica White of 4D Moments Ultrasound Studio.
Who does not love the sweet face of a brand new baby?! A dreamy smile…a big yawn…a goofy open-mouthed grin. Oh, or one of those precious baby stretches where their little lips pooch out and their knees pull up to their bellies and their arms stretch over their heads! Soooo cute!
When your new son or daughter is born, all those precious moments are absolutely priceless and each one makes you fall in love even more. Did you know that your baby is smiling and yawning and stretching inside the womb long before their birthday ever happens?
With the technology available in 3D/4D ultrasound, you can enjoy those precious moments during the second and third trimesters. Check out these peeks at 16 weeks, 28 weeks, and 40 weeks that were taken at 4D Moments 3D/4D Ultrasound Studio.
At 4D Moments, we provide elective ultrasound for early gender determination and amazing images like the ones you see here. We are not a medical facility so so you need to seek care from a medical professional before coming to see us. What we do provide is a unique and affordable experience from 12-40 weeks where you can bring friends, your baby’s older siblings, or the new grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa will be blown away to see their grandchild on our big screen television, sitting in our comfy viewing room, and say, “I sure wish they had this technology when we were having babies!”
Or maybe you want to plan a gender reveal party and give your family another memorable moment in the life of your tiny one. We can determine the gender as early as 14 weeks! Even if you had the blood test, we all know seeing is believing! Our accuracy is always over 99% and if we are unable to find it for whatever reason, we bring you back one time for no charge.
The oohs and ahhs that fill the room when that baby shows their face makes it worth every penny, and you and your family will have pictures and/or videos, but more importantly, memories to cherish forever. You’ll always remember the time you just got to come relax and spend some time bonding with your baby. I once had a mom tell me, “I’ve been really stressing about the big delivery day and losing patience through these last few weeks of the pregnancy, but seeing her on the screen today has given me the strength to get through it and reminded me what and who I am doing this for.” Wow! Seeing your baby’s face is therapy for the body and the soul.
What about dads? Some dads are already so well-connected with their unborn baby – perhaps talking, singing, and playing with them throughout the pregnancy. But some dads really struggle to find a connection. I have seen that connection unfold at our office when dad sees that adorable baby in such detail. He can even see the interaction when the baby responds to talking or tapping or music or big brother and sister pushing. I once had a dad who came late but I was able to wait for him. After he saw his son’s beautiful face with his cute little foot on his cheek, this dad nearly broke down. At the end, he said, “Thank you so much for waiting for me. What if I had missed that!?” Mind you, this was not his first child and he was still blown away by what he saw that night.
Some of my favorite memories are the few times I got to tell a family that they were having twins. Since most moms get an ultrasound from their doctor’s office in the first trimester, it does not happen often but every once in awhile, when the image first comes up on the screen and I see those two little heads, I get to be the one to let them know. Everyone takes the news a bit differently. One couple was so calm about it, not really surprised, and were just thrilled that it was a boy and a girl. Mom said, “That works for me. I get a boy and a girl in one pregnancy!” Another couple was completely shocked and it was so interesting to watch as they both slowly lost their minds as the waves of their new reality hit them one by one. “We can’t afford daycare for two, can we?” “We’ll have to get a different vehicle.” “How can I breastfeed two at a time?” When that couple left that day, I said, “This was a most enjoyable session for me, but I’m going to go on with my day and my life will be unchanged for the most part. However, you guys are going to walk out of here and your lives will never be the same.”
But twins and triplets are so fun to see! How they are positioned with each other and who is kicking who and where. A half hour to just enjoy your little ones before the busyness that comes after they are born is such valuable time.
My name is Jessica White and my husband and I opened 4D Moments in 2013 in Kalamazoo and then officially in Grand Rapids in 2017. As parents to 8 babies ourselves, this business concept just spoke to our hearts and we have been so heavily rewarded. The moms and dads who allow us to be a part of their life-changing journey of parenthood have our utmost respect and admiration. The love for these little ones is often palpable and I just love that I am allowed to witness it in such an intimate way.
Visit us at 4DMoments.com and check us out on Facebook because we are always running specials and we give away two free ultrasounds every month on our page. Call 269-384-BABY(2229) with any questions or to make an appointment. Come see your baby blossom!
3D Photo Credits: 4D Moments
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)!
Many of the tips I give parents during a sleep consult for their child apply to them as well. Although a baby’s sleep cycle is different from a toddler’s, and both are different than an adult’s, let’s talk about a few tips that apply to everyone and some that definitely do not!
Sleep tips for babies that transfer to adults:
A consistent schedule. This is #1 for ensuring proper rest at any age. If you have a job that you wake up for every week day at a specific time, you may notice that on the weekends you wake up at that time anyway, without an alarm. Some people may be able to fall back asleep, but if your body is used to a very structured schedule, more than likely you’re up for the day. This can be frustrating when you’ve stayed up late on a weekend and really want to sleep in, but your circadian rhythm is at work here! No matter what age, try to keep a consistent bed time and wake time.
Your sleep environment is important. With children we look at darkness, temperature, sound, and safety. Your room should be dark and cool. Crack a window or turn on a fan to circulate the air and cool you down. It’s better to have a cool room and get cozy in bed with the covers; if your room is too hot you are more likely to wake up. If you are a light sleeper, think about having a sound machine on or wearing ear plugs at night. A sound machine is also great for babies! Crank it up! We don’t want to put covers on a baby though (keep that crib safe!) so think about a sleep sack, or if your baby is small enough to be swaddled, use one!
A good bedtime routine is critical. With children we want this to be calm and soothing. We do things like read a book or sing a lullaby. We do not jump on the bed, wrestle, or play video games. This would stimulate the brain and make it harder for the child to fall asleep. As adults, we need to think about turning off electronics 30-60 minutes before we want to fall asleep. Stop working, put your phone away, and do something that calms you. Read a book, listen to a podcast or meditation, or watch some Netflix (as long as that isn’t too stimulating).
Be active and get sunshine during the day. This helps set our natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies need light and darkness to produce serotonin and melatonin. No matter what age, getting enough activity, exercise, sunshine, and fresh air during the day will improve night time sleep.
Sleep tips that don’t transfer:
Many parents think that if they keep their baby awake all day, they will sleep better at night. This is not true! This works for us as adults, but a baby’s body and brain cannot cope with this. They actually become overly tired which makes them fight sleep more!
Parents also tend to think that keeping a baby up later will help them sleep in later. This is also not true! Remember what I just said about being overly tired? If you let your baby stay up later, they will definitely become overly tired. This means they wake more in the night and it usually makes their morning wake up time even earlier. Eek!
Night time cravings can wreak havoc on adult sleep. If you need a snack after dinner, try to do it 1-2 hours before your bedtime, no later. For babies though, they do need to eat right before bed. We want them to go to sleep with a fully tummy so they can maximize the amount of time they can sleep at night before another feeding.
Some people can do all the “right” things and still not sleep well. There could be a number of factors, including physical and mental health, that play a part in how well you sleep. Reach out to your health care provider if you are struggling with chronic sleep problems.
You can find more tips for healthier adult sleep habits on the Pine Rest blog.
If you’re seeking help for your child’s sleep, you can find more info on the Gold Coast Doulas website. No matter where you live, our Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant can help you with phone and text consultations. If you live in West Michigan, we can also combine a customized sleep plan with overnight postpartum doula support to help parents get the rest they need while the doula sleep trains overnight.
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!
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?
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?
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.