Kristin Alyssa Gold Coast Doulas Owners

Podcast Episode 100!

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.

Kristin:  And tongue ties and lip ties and working with breastfeeding.

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.

Kristin:  Yeah.

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!


Podcast Episode 100! Read More »

Mother holding and kissing her baby

Top 10 New Parent Essentials

Did you notice that this list doesn’t say “Baby Essentials”? Nope, it’s not an error. YOU are the single most essential thing in your baby’s tiny life. While you process all the feels over this game changing reality, I’ve got your back with some advice on essentials that will ease your transition so that you can experience a little more rest, comfort, and peace of mind. 

#10: A comfortable chair and a selection of board books
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this place over the next several years, feeding, snuggling, consoling, reading, and likely sleeping. Start building your collection of books early and add to it often. Your baby will love the sound of your voice, they will love the expressions on your face, and most of all they will love the time spent on your lap, together. Begin cultivating a love of reading and language from the beginning!

#9: Stroller
The sheer number and price range of strollers on the market is staggering. This market reflects the many priorities of consumers. As a Michigan Mama, I often take into consideration the age of the baby when they are born because it determines the need for a car seat system. For example, any baby born around October isn’t going to see too much stroller time before May, so a carseat system isn’t too important and a bassinet, even less important. On the other hand, a baby born in May will need the additional support and a parent will likely enjoy the ease and mobility of a safe travel system.

#8: Baby Bjorn
Sometimes a stroller isn’t ideal; maybe you enjoy trail walking or you simply prefer that intoxicatingly sweet fresh baby smell right under your nose. In that case, consider a Baby Bjorn Carrier.  My 4th child basically lived in this from 6 weeks to 6 months, maybe longer, no one’s judging. Bottom line, get yourself a way to hold a baby while also having the ability to answer the phone, make dinner, or fold a basket of laundry.

#7: CuddleBug Wrap
Similar to the Baby Bjorn, the CuddleBug Wrap allows for close proximity and easy access to kisses, but is considered a soft wrap. This wrap is breathable, yet structured enough so that it provides great support inside or outside. Unsure how to use a soft wrap? No worries, contact Gold Coast for referrals to places where you can learn how to baby wear and sometimes even borrow them for free.

#6: Summer Deluxe Baby Bather
I love running a bath, closing the bathroom door so that all the warmth stays in, and then placing newborns through older babies in this baby bathing seat. Now, if you’re looking for bells and whistles, this seat may not be for you, but I’m a simple gal who likes portability, fast-drying washable mesh, and a fresh smelling baby.

#5: Pacifiers
Sucking is an innately soothing practice for a baby. Why not have one or two on hand to try? My favorite is the MAM, but try not to overthink it.

#4: Swaddle Wraps
I Love the Aden by Aden and Anais 100% cotton wraps for Summer Babies. A tight swaddle gives babies a safe and secure feel, which often lends itself into better sleep. This alone qualifies the wrap as something you should buy several of.

Pro Tip: Some swaddles have zippers on the bottom that allow for easy access to diaper changes and also mean that you don’t have to un-velcro during the night, buy these! 

#3: Black Out Curtains
In order to help shape healthy sleep habits, it’s helpful to be able to make a room pitch black during daytime sleep. Daylight sends a physiological message to our brains to wake up and can impede daytime naps.

#2: White Noise Machine
No, not the kind that has birds chirping or sings lullabies. A low, steady, white noise that has the ability to sound like a dust buster when employed. This single purchase will add hours of sleep to your life and that, my friend, is precious.

Doulas are for “that kind” of parent… you know the kind who welcome support, encouragement, peace of mind, rest, and stability during a vulnerable time. Use one and then recommend that your girlfriend, sister, brother, neighbor- use one, too! 

This blog is written by Jen R., a local doula in the Grand Rapids area.
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 


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Doula Support for Adoptive Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the trusted resources we suggest to families are:

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

This link features several apps our clients like.

The Baby Connect Tracker App is also popular with our clients.

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


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Beach Front Baby Ring Sling

Podcast Episode #45: Babywearing

What are the best baby carriers and wraps?  Can you wear twins?  Today we talk to babywearing expert Marissa Berghorst, owner of EcoBuns Baby + Co in Holland, Michigan.  You can catch this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello again!  Welcome back to Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doulas at Gold Coast.  Today we’re talking to Marissa from EcoBuns Baby + Co today.

Marissa:  Hello!

Alyssa:  I want to talk today about babywearing.

Marissa:  Another one of my favorite topics!

Alyssa:  Good!  So we have Ashley Forton, one of our birth doulas, who does babywearing consults.

Marissa:  Oh, and I love her!

Alyssa:  Yeah, she’s pretty amazing.

Marissa:  She’s wonderful.

Alyssa:  She was here yesterday for our team meeting with her new little baby strapped to her, and it was so amazing.  She’s so adorable.

Marissa:  I can’t wait until she brings the baby out to see us!

Alyssa:  She’s lovely.  We all got a little baby fix.  But she doesn’t do multiples.  She’s great at single babies, but if we have multiples families, we send them to you.  So can you tell us, how do you babywear twins, let alone triplets?

Marissa:  Oh, for sure.  So a little bit about me and why you guys like to send babies out to me is I’m certified through the Center for Babywearing Studies.  I’ve done a lot of training on things, which makes me able to do the consults on multiples.  And multiples are fun!  They’re fun because there’s two babies or three, and I usually get to hold at least one of them during the consult.  They’re very fun.  So we do carrier consults, you can come in even before baby is born.  We have weighted dolls so that parents can test out and see how the different carriers feel.  Multiples kind of get into this whole other world, though, and a lot of times with twins what we find is one baby likes to be held and one baby is a little more independent.  We do always say one carrier for one baby.  A lot of times, parents will come in and they’re buying two of everything, and baby carriers usually aren’t any different.  If you want to be able to do two babies at one time, we definitely suggest one baby carrier for one baby.  Ring slings end up being a really popular option for multiples.  Ring slings are a long piece of fabric attached with rings almost like a men’s belt loop, how they kind of weave through; kind of that same concept with a ring sling.

Alyssa:  So you would just criss-cross them like an X, then?

Marissa:  Yep, and so you’d have one baby just to your right and one baby just to your left, but not fully onto your hip, though.  We don’t want to put new babies onto hips, but they can just be a little off-centered, and then the rings end up situated right across your chest.  It’s a super comfortable way to carry two babies at one time.  When babies get a little bit older, generally around a six-month mark, then we start teaching parents how to put one baby onto their back, and then they do two carriers, still, with one baby on the back and one baby on the front.  There are baby carrier options out on the market that are marketed for twins, but we don’t sell them at our store because even our multiple parents will still find that one baby likes to be worn and one baby likes to be more independent, so usually they’re still only carrying one baby at a time.

Alyssa:  That’s interesting.  And then, too, if you’re carrying two but if your friend or someone else wants to carry the baby, now you have two carriers and you can each carry one.

Marissa:  Yeah.  Our average customer has between two and five baby carriers, and that’s even our single-baby customers.

Alyssa:  And that’s based on what we’re doing, right?  Are we hiking; are we going shopping; are we going on a quick run to the grocery store?

Marissa:  Right, and even age of baby makes a difference.  A lot of customers come in looking for a ring sling or a wrap for that newborn stage, that fourth trimester where babies are still getting used to being on the outside.  I always compare it to car seats.  You can totally get the convertible car seat that goes from birth to booster, but you start to make some compromises along the way, right?  You have to add that infant adapter.  You have to add the infant base.  It’s the same thing with carriers, whereas if you start with a carrier designed for the newborn stage, you don’t have to add all those adaptions to it.  The buckle carriers that everyone usually thinks of like the Ergos and Lillebabies and Tulas of the world, those are really designed originally to be worn on your back for babies over six months old.  They weren’t originally designed to be a front pack with a newborn.  But now it’s evolved to where you can absolutely do that, and we teach parents how to do that all the time.  But sometimes it’s nice to get those little carriers for those early days that really hug and snuggle babies.  Our postpartum depression moms also love ring slings because they can move babies just off center to where they’re not right in their field of vision.  They’re just off to the peripheral just enough so that they’re not feeling so overwhelmed with caring for this new baby.  It’s really great.  We get a lot of postpartum depression moms into the store who come in to talk about different options with things, and one of the biggest things that we can offer them is a ring sling so that they can still care for baby but not feel so overwhelmed.

Alyssa:  Now, how would a mom hold triplets?  Is it possible?  Is it safe?  Maybe not until they’re older when you can have one on the back and two in front?

Marissa:  Yeah, I would say we don’t often see very many moms doing three baby carriers.

Alyssa:  By the time you get three on, what’s the point?

Marissa:  Then one wants off.

Alyssa:  Right!

Marissa:  And like I said, moms are awesome because they’re resilient and they adapt to the situation at hand, and triplets, twins, even single babies can be super overwhelming, but you absolutely have in you what it takes to handle the situation that you’ve been given.  I think that’s one of the biggest things with babywearing is it’s just a tool to help moms already be the awesome moms that they already are and that they already know how to be, and we just walk alongside them and support them in that.  With the triplets we often see, again, that there’s usually always one in the mix that loves to be snuggled on, loves to be held, and the other ones will either kind of take turns with being held and snuggled on or they’ll just need their space, sometimes.  I know a lot of times, especially if a baby has spent a lot of time in the NICU, when they come home from the NICU, depending how long their stay was, they’re used to being not held 100% of the time, so they’re a little bit more independent.

Alyssa:  So tell me; you had mentioned earlier about these mesh carriers that you have that are great for summer because they don’t get so hot and you can wear them in the water?

Marissa:  You can wear them in the water!  So we have a brand called Beach Front Baby which is fabulous.  They make a version of a ring sling that can be worn in the water.  Most fabric carriers are made out of cotton, but you don’t want to take cotton into the water; it will weigh down and be super heavy.  This one is made of a mesh material that’s still super supportive.  You can still wear it from 8 to 30 pounds, so you can still use it for a full-term baby up until when your shoulders can no longer handle carrying the kiddo.  You can wear it in the shower, which is one of our customers’ biggest things because parents are like, oh, my baby won’t let me set them down, but I smell!  I need to wash my hair!  But babies are slippery and you don’t want to just hold them in the shower, so you can put them into the ring sling and safely take them into the shower.  It’s a safe way to shower with babies.  And it’s summer in West Michigan and we have so many splash pads; we have so many water parks; we have so many lakes, and so it’s nice to be able to put baby into a carrier for that.  We don’t recommend actually swimming in the water, but to be able to go in, splash around.  I always love taking mine to the splash pad because then I could duck under the water, we’d both get the refreshment, and it’s amazing.  The company also makes wraps, as well, that are just long pieces of fabric that you actually wrap, and just like we talked about earlier, any carrier purchase from EcoBuns comes with a free half-hour lesson on how to use it.  So if wraps and ring slings sound a little intimidating, it’s our job to make sure that when you walk out of the store, you know how to use them.  If you don’t like their ring sling, if you don’t like the wrap idea, we do have soft structured carriers.  Those would be the ones with buckles that have a mesh front panel.  The company that we carry, Onya, has a mesh front panel, but then it also has a protective layer that can zip down over top of it, so if you’re using it in the winter and you don’t want that mesh panel, it closes it up and keeps everyone nice and cozy.

Alyssa:  And if you want to baby wear in summer, it’s like, oh, I’m going to be sweaty; the baby’s going to be sweaty, so the mesh helps with that.

Marissa:  The mesh is really great.  Now, it doesn’t cool you down per se…

Alyssa:  Babies are still hot.

Marissa:  Babies are still hot, yeah.

Alyssa:  Right, but it’s not going to be as hot because at least they’re going to get air circulation, right?

Marissa:  Right.  It’s a lot of common sense with baby wearing.  You know, if you yourself don’t want to be out in 80-degree weather for two hours, your baby probably doesn’t want to be, either.  Make sure both of you are staying hydrated.  The other cool thing with babywearing is that we can teach you how to breastfeed and bottlefeed in a carrier.

Alyssa:  I was just going to say that.  When you said that about keeping hydrated, you’re right there by the boob; how much more convenient can you get?  And it’s actually a lot less distracting then putting on these covers and trying to whip up your shirt.  They’re already wrapped in, and you just do it.

Marissa:  Yeah, and with the ring slings, they have that nice long tail that a lot of women will use as a cover if they want a little more privacy.

Alyssa:  That’s awesome.  So how do people find your wraps?

Marissa:  We have them online on our website, and if you search for baby carriers and then water wraps, they’ll be listed there.  Or if you want to come out and see the colors in person, you can drive out to Holland.  We’re at 12330 James Street on the corner of James and US 31, right between Carter’s and Gap Outlet.  You can come into the store; we’re open seven days a week.  Come in and pick out the color in person!

Alyssa:  Excellent.  Go check them out!  Thanks for coming in again and talking to us!

Marissa:  Absolutely!  You’re always so much fun to hang out with.

Alyssa:  Let’s try to find a few more things to talk about and have you back soon!

Marissa:  Yes!

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining us!  You can find Gold Coast Doulas on Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud, and iTunes.


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Newborn Survival

Newborn Care: Fussiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet Your Babywearing Educator–Ashley Forton

Gold Coast Doulas is thrilled to feature Ashley Forton in our latest Q&A about her experiences with babywearing. Reach out if you are interested in booking a babywearing consult with Ashley.

1) What did you do before you became a babywearing educator, HypnoBirthing Instructor and Doula?
I have a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from GVSU. I have been a nanny, worked at an adult foster care home, and most recently was an insurance claims adjuster.  Now I am a full time a babywearing educator, HypnoBirthing Instructor and Doula.

2) What inspired you to become a babywearing educator?
I began using baby carriers when my daughter was a few days old and I immediately fell in love with it.  As my experience and knowledge grew I knew I wanted to help other parents and caregivers experience the joy and confidence that babywearing gave me.

3) Tell us about your own babywearing experiences.
When my daughter was born, I had been gifted a Moby (stretchy wrap) and an Ergo (soft structured carrier).  I started using the Moby wrap and a pouch sling when Elliot was a few days old.  One of my favorite memories is taking her to see the Stanley Cup when she was a few weeks old.  She slept in my sling the entire time we waited in line and I didn’t need to lug around the car seat! As she got older I started using the ergo and also learned to love woven wraps and ring slings. Babywearing has allowed my husband and I to bring our children on some amazing adventures.  We hiked Red Rocks and St. Mary’s Glacier in Colorado with my daughter on my back! After my son was born I began using my carriers even more frequently. Having two free hands while snuggling a newborn is especially beneficial when you have a toddler J We have had many camping trips with both kids (setting up a tent and chasing a toddler with newborn would have been impossible without babywearing!).  The benefits of babywearing haven’t been enjoyed by just me.  My husband loved being able to unload the dishwasher while snuggling a baby when I was working late.  Even grandpa has gotten in on the action and has soaked up the snuggles while taking my kids on walks.

4) What is your favorite carrier and why?
Tough question! I have a lot of love for a lot of different types of carriers, for different reasons. Lately I tend to wear whatever my opinionated toddler picks 😉 He has been bringing me woven wraps and ring slings the most often. I love that I have been able to wear my babies in them when they were newborns and I can still wear both of my big kids in them!

5) Do you wear babies during postpartum doula visits?
I am always happy to use a family’s carrier when caring for their child.  Wearing their child during a postpartum shift helps me get some housework done so they can just rest.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new moms?
Trust your instinct.  If it feels right to snuggle and hold your baby more than putting them down, then do it! In your arms is one of the best places for your baby to be and babywearing can help you hold your baby and still get things done.

7) What do you consider your babywearing superpower to be?
Sharing my love for babywearing.  I have been told my love and enthusiasm for babywearing is contagious 😉 I am a big fan of things that bring new families, joy, excitement, confidence, and the freedom to do what they need when they need to without sacrificing bonding time with their child. I can’t help but be super enthusiastic about it and I hope you will be too!

8) What is your favorite food?
I love spicy foods, the hotter the better! I crave Mexican most often. I also love Thai, Ethiopian, and Lebanese foods. And sushi!  I am not a picky eater and really love trying new things.

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Grand Rapids will always hold a special place in my heart. I love all the festivals, the sports teams, the museums, endless breweries and phenomenal restaurants. It has a small town feel with some big city perks and it is a short drive from the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.

10) What are you reading now?
Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read.

11) Who are your babywearing role models?
I have really admired Babywearing Faith, Wrapping Rachel, and Hedwych of Wrap You In Love.  All three of those women inspired me to try new carriers, new carries, and to become an educator myself.

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


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