bottle feeding

Gold Coast Doulas Saturday Series: Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival Classes.

Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102

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.

Kristin:  Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  You can find us on SoundCloud, iTunes, and on our website.  These moments are golden.


Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102 Read More »

postpartum doula

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

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

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

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

What is a Postpartum Doula?

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

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

Benefits of a Postpartum Doula

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

Postpartum Care for the Mother

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

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

Breastfeeding and Newborn Support

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

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

Finding the Perfect Doula for You

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

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

Photo credit: The People Picture Company


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

lactation consultant

Meet our new IBCLC, Cami!

We are so excited to announce that we now have a Lactation Consultant on the lakeshore! Cami comes to Gold Coast with an amazing medical background and almost 20 years of experience as an IBCLC. Let’s get to know her a little better.

1) What did you do before you became an IBCLC?

I have been an RN for 28 years.  I worked many years in the Surgical Critical Care unit at Spectrum Hospital. Once I started my family, I switched to Labor & Deliver, Special Care Nursery, Postpartum Care and normal newborn nursery, mainly working Labor & Delivery and Special Care Nursery.   After my first child was born in 2000 I began helping in the Lactation Office, and became an International Board Certified Lactation Consult in 2001. After many years of working many positions on the birthing center, I began to concentrate on my skills as a Lactation Consultant. I have been working in the field of Lactation soley since 2010.

2) What inspired you to become an IBCLC?

While working on the birthing center, I found I truly enjoyed working with the mother baby dyad and their breastfeeding journey.

3) Tell us about your family.

I’m a single mom of two children. My son Jarek is 19 and just recently joined the Air Force. My daughter Skyler is 16 and is just finishing up her Sophomore year at Zeeland East High School.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

With a busy family life, vacations are hard to come by. My daughter and I enjoy horseback riding, feral cat/kitten rescue, hiking the lake shore, and hammocking. My son and I enjoy hanging out together watching movies, working on his car, and attending car shows.

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

I enjoy all types of music, however my go to music is 80-90’s Alternative. Bands such as The Cure, Smiths, Cranberries, and the Pixies.

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

My advice to new families is to be open to change, talk to your partner open and honestly. Enjoy every step, the good and the challenging because the days go by quickly.

7) What do you consider your superpower to be?

I find that as a Lactation Consultant I’m able to connect with families and help moms reach their goals. I love new families, and it shows in how passionate I am at what I do.

8) What is your favorite food? 

I love finding new fresh foods. I have Celiac disease and enjoy turning normal dishes that I grew up with into Gluten Free dishes. Italian food and desserts are my two loves.

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

Saugatuck Dunes is my favorite place to hike and to enjoy the coastline of Lake Michigan. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy horseback riding on West Michigan beautiful beaches, enjoying summer rides, and even a few Christmas eve rides with the snow billowing around my horse and I.

10) What are you reading now?

I’ve recently been reading about and studying the Baby Friendly Initiative, and I have been involved with research over the years to help determine what can help increase the breastfeeding rates in MI. I’ve just joined an amazing group of woman on the lakeshore to form the first Ottawa County Breastfeeding Coalition.

11) Who are your role models? 

My Grandmother and Mother are my biggest role models. My Grandmother passed away many years ago, but she was a huge influence in my life, always showing love to anyone in need. She raised 12 amazing children.  My Mom has always been my biggest supporter and has the same spirit as her Mother. She has a huge heart and passion for life. She has helped mold me into the Mother and friend that I am today.


Meet our new IBCLC, Cami! Read More »

Pediatric Dentist

Podcast Episode #64: Pediatric Dentistry and Speech Therapy

What do tongue ties, lip ties, oral aversions, and picky eaters have in common?  Everything!  Listen as two experts talk about how pediatric dentistry and speech therapy are both helping parents discover ways to help their children.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, and I am here with Courtney and Katie today.  Courtney is with Building Blocks Therapy Services, and Dr. Katie is with Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan.  Welcome, ladies!  I wanted to get you two together because I’ve talked specifically with Katie before about pediatric dental topics, and then with Courtney about speech therapy.  I’m thinking they both have to do with mouths, so I figured we would have a lot to talk about together.  So it sounds to me like in the dental office, Katie, you often are the one who sees these signs of speech delays before parents even understand that their child has a speech delay at one, two, three years old?

Katie:  Oh, absolutely.

Alyssa:  So they don’t see Courtney or call Courtney because they don’t even know there’s a problem yet.  So how does that work?  What does that look like?

Katie:  Well, on a day to day basis, I am seeing so many kids of all ages, and I have these interactions with kids, and I have a sense of the wide range of normal in development.  I can anticipate and see when maybe there might be something arising, but also a lot of any speech development issues I see really has a lot to do with their anatomy.  So that’s what I’m evaluating as well, whether it’s tonsils or some kids have tongue ties or other ties in their mouths that can cause some issues with speech, and other things I’m evaluating as well that I find that I really need help from a speech pathologist, actually.  And that’s where you come in, as well!

Courtney:  And I also have parents who are constantly asking me, regarding any speech delays, “Could this be a dentition problem?  Could this have anything to do with their oral cavity?”  So I think that a lot of times that we kind of cross paths in a lot of ways.

Alyssa:  So what about a kid who – is it called an oral aversion if they don’t really like certain types of foods or maybe textures of foods?  Let’s say I’m working with a sleep client, and this kid is two, won’t eat much, doesn’t like certain types of foods.  Is that a dental issue?  Is it a speech therapy issue?  Is it both?

Katie:  It can often be both issues.  I will see a lot of kids come in, and kids are always going to be picky, and that is totally normal.

Alyssa:  Especially at that age, right, to a degree?

Katie:  What’s interesting is research has shown that a kid needs to try a food 20 times before they will actually like it because you have to train your taste buds.  So with anything, your taste buds are actually learning how to like foods, and obviously there are some foods that come easier than others, like sugar.  That has other affects on our brain that we’re just going to like it immediately.  Something like broccoli – yes, some kids are not going to like that right away, and there’s absolutely a chemical reason why.  The problem arises when I am talking to a family and Mom is at a loss because he will only eat three foods.  And I see this often, that he will only eat bread, hot dogs, and crackers.  That’s not normal, I will say, and there’s a lot of reasons that could be going on.  It could be so many things.  It could be stressors in the home.  It could be that he has some anatomical reason.  Or it could be that he has a lot of tooth decay, and he has a lot of pain in his mouth, and he is very smart.  Kids are very resilient and very smart; that child knows exactly what he can eat that doesn’t cause him pain when he eats.  Quite often, though, there is something anatomically going on, whether it’s really large tonsils, especially in that two to six range.  Their tonsils can be quite large, and that can cause some swallowing issues, and I’m sure you can touch on that a little bit more, Courtney.  But also what I’ll notice quite often that goes missed a lot is if a child has a tongue tie.  A lot of people don’t even know what a tongue tie means, but basically, our tongues have a tissue attachment to the floor of our mouth.  And sometimes, that area of tissue is quite pronounced, a little bit too strong, and there’s too much attachment with the muscle fibers of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, and that can impact how well the tongue moves.  And if the tongue is really restricted and cannot move very well, then they cannot manipulate food very well, either, in order to actually –

Alyssa:  Yeah, you don’t realize how much you move your tongue around, right, to move food around?

Katie:  Absolutely.  The tongue is one of the strongest muscles in our body, and if you can’t use it properly, it’s going to be really hard for them to manipulate food around their mouth, chew the food, and thus swallow the food, as well.  So I don’t know if you want to touch more on your experience with that, as well, Courtney.

Courtney:  Yeah, so as we eat, our tongue has to have a significant range of motion to it, so especially if that tongue is tied in, we have to be able to actually initiate the swallow.  We have to be able to push our tongue up against the roof of our mouth to create the suction to be able to get all the food to actually go down into our esophagus.  But also, along with that, when you’re looking at different textures of food, you have to be able to manipulate it in your mouth.  So if it’s going into your cheeks; if it’s getting stuck around your teeth; you have to be able to do tongue sweeps or to be able to angle your tongue to be able to move all the food towards the center of your tongue.  So if there’s not that range of motion in there, then it’s going to be really hard for them to use different textures of food.  So as a speech therapist, a lot of times when a parent will say, “Oh, they’re really picky,” I’ll look at the pattern of textures and what is required for the mouth, the tongue, the cheeks, and everything to do to manipulate that and see if there’s a pattern with this.  Wow, they really don’t like those liquids because maybe they can’t control.  Maybe it’s coming out of their lips.  Or that bread, when you’re chewing the bread and crackers, that sticks together, a bolus, and it sticks together so they don’t have to manipulate that tongue as much.  So we start to look at all that and their structure.

Katie:  And with that restricted diet they have, it can trickle down and cause a lot of tooth decay because, obviously, those things that are much easier for them to eat and manipulate are going to be those carbohydrates that can easily cause cavities.  So a lot of times, there is a lot of that simultaneously going on where they are having trouble manipulating foods, and then I see a lot of dental decay, as well; a lot of cavities going on.  One aspect, as well, if they don’t have a lot of range of motion with their tongue, then they can’t self-cleanse their mouth either.  So now that I talk about this, you’re probably going to notice how often you’re wiping your teeth with your tongue, moving your tongue to the cheek –

Alyssa:  I never knew that was called self-cleansing!  So every time you wipe your tongue over your teeth –

Katie:  Yeah, exactly.  And it’s just something we don’t even think about.  It’s a natural reaction because it’s not normal to have pockets of food in your mouth and things like that.  That’s something I even see a lot with kids coming in.  I’ll see that they have food pocketing where there’s actually food stuck in their cheeks, in the vestibules of their cheeks.

Alyssa:  That’s what I just imagining and visualizing in my head, that if a kid had a tongue tie and isn’t able to move their tongue over to the side, like if I have something stuck down here, I can pop it out with my tongue.  So if they can’t get that out, it’s just going to sit there, which is going to smell and cause tooth decay and make it difficult to – I wouldn’t want to eat very much, either, if I knew it was going to get stuck down there.

Katie:  No, you’re going to know what works for you and want to just stick to that, yeah.

Alyssa:  So what other kinds of things do you see that might be speech-related, or is that the biggest one?

Katie:  That’s the biggest one.  A lot of it, too, is how you were talking about their orthodontic occlusion, so how teeth are biting together.  One thing that can definitely impact speech is how your jaws are growing, how your front teeth are overlapping or not in the front, as well.  A lot of kids who have had a pacifier longer, like past age three, have a finger-sucking or a thumb-sucking habit.  Even kids who have used a sippy cup for an extended period of time.  All of those things can cause what we call an open bite, meaning your front teeth don’t overlap, and they often have what’s called a large overjet, meaning your front teeth are not overlapping how they should.  From the front teeth to the bottom teeth, there’s a very wide gap between them.  So that, I know, can cause some speech issues as well because your tongue isn’t really able to be placed where it should be properly on those front teeth, right?

Courtney:  Yeah, so our speech sounds are all how we manipulate that airflow, and we manipulate that airflow with our tongue and with our cheeks.  And so where we place our tongue, a lot of times, we’re doing it just behind those front teeth or against our front teeth, and so that can – and then there’s more behind the scenes; there’s so many muscles in the tongue, but it can really – there’s different areas that then the air can sneak out, so then you don’t have those quality speech sounds.

Alyssa:  So do you teach children to move their tongue differently?  What do you do?

Courtney:  Well, there’s a kid that I have right now who tends to jut her lower jaw out when she does her SH sound.  A lot of kids have trouble moving their jaw separate from their tongue or dissociating all these different parts of the mouth.  And so we’re talking centimeters at a time, fine-tuning where that tongue is and where that jaw is.  Everybody speaks in their own way and produces their sounds in their own way, but what sounds the most acceptable to those who are listening?  So it’s being able to kind of manipulate exactly where that tongue is and all of that.

Katie:  And that’s something, too, where if you’re noticing you have patients with having those types of difficulties, definitely touching base with them and asking if they’ve been able to see a dentist or an orthodontist and just kind of gauging if they have any history with that, as well, because that’s something that we wouldn’t want to go missed, either, if that’s something that can help them.  We would want to do that, for sure.

Courtney:  Exactly.  Some kids have the palette expanders and things like that.

Katie:  Yeah, even how you were talking about how her lower jaw is moving forward like that.  That could be something to do with how her front teeth actually occlude.  It could have something to do even with her TMJ or something like that.  Even our tonsils, how big our tonsils are, affects our jaw growth, as well.  If our tonsils are really large, our jaw growth and the rest of our anatomy finds a way to compensate so they can breathe.  So that’s really interesting, as well, and there’s definitely physical signs we look for that can coincide with large tonsils, especially if it’s something that’s kind of gone missed for a longer period of time.  A lot of kids who I see for the first time coming in, even that seven to nine range, at that point, you can really see some changes in their jaw development, especially their upper jaw.  They’ll develop a really, really high palette because, again, it’s trying to open up their airway so that they can breathe better.  A telltale sign, obviously it’s kids with ADHD and all that as well.  Any time I hear that in a medical history, I beeline for looking at the tonsils because if kids are not getting the sleep they need, it comes out during the day because when you don’t get enough sleep, you are going to be more hyperactive.  That’s how our brains work.  So that’s how sometimes it can affect how they act during the day, unfortunately, and oftentimes I do see kids a little bit older and I see that going on, and they have tonsils that are almost touching in the back of their throats, and that’s very abnormal and not healthy for them.

Alyssa:  Is that a form of sleep apnea?

Katie:  Yeah, absolutely.  And sleep apnea is really interesting because there are so many things, so many symptoms.  A kid won’t necessarily have all the symptoms; they may only have one, and it could be their body actually compensating as it grows to make sure that it’s avoiding some of those symptoms, as well.  So, obviously, a kid who snores a lot; bedwetting is one.  Obviously, the hyperactivity during the day or just generally their sleep cycle is off and they’re waking up at night, things like that.  Those are all signs that we’re evaluating, and sometimes I’ll still have them see an ENT, even when the tonsils are not so pronounced, but just in case.  Every body is so different, and how your body reacts to whatever is going on is going to be totally unique for your body.  So less than 30% occlusion of your tonsils is pretty normal, but anything more than that could be causing an issue.

Alyssa:  I love that you think about sleep because I’m obsessed with sleep!  That’s my jam!

Katie:  I love that you are!  That’s such a huge thing for us, and going to see a pediatric dentist, we are looking at so many different things because all of that goes into how a child develops.  We have so much training on just child development in general, physically and emotionally, and all of that.  So we are evaluating all of those things to make sure nothing is going missed because things can, unfortunately.  So definitely pediatric dentists have more school that we go through to be able to learn those things, thankfully.  Not that general dentists don’t, as well, but you do have to seek out extra training as you graduate, and it just kind of depends on what opportunities you find and learn and all of that, as well.  Since I’ve graduated from residency, I’ve had to seek out meeting speech therapists and pathologists to learn more, and obviously training on lip and tongue ties and the procedure to help relieve that for kids.  So that’s something that we can work together on, as well, because I can use a laser to actually to a frenectomy, which means we can remove that extra tissue that’s causing the tongue tie, and that can give the child so much more mobility and relief.  But even when we do that procedure, kids will still need therapy afterwards.  The procedure is part of a spectrum of working together to make sure that child is able to function at their best.

Courtney:  I think that for children, especially, their bodies adapt amazingly, and they compensate so well.  And so many things can go hidden with a child because their bodies just automatically do these amazing things, and I think I do a very similar thing, where I really look at how are they functioning in their whole world, looking at the whole child.  Like with ADHD; you’re saying that this child is really acting out at school, for example.  Well, let’s look at these patterns of behavior and sleep or if it always seems to be around writing time that they have a little bit of difficulty with the endurance of those things.  It’s really looking at the whole picture and not just honing in on one narrow thing like the teeth or just communication.  It’s how everything is interacting together in their world, because gosh, kids adapt amazingly.

Katie:  I say this all the time: kids are so resilient!  They’re so fascinating, how they can grow and change to make the best of what they are given.  And so many situations where I’m always fascinated that they’ve been able to cope for this long in whatever situation it is, and that they’re doing really well, but I know they can do better.

Alyssa:  I have a tongue tie question, because in my world as a doula, it often relates to newborns.  Do you see a ten-year-old kid – or maybe that’s too old; maybe a five-year-old who still isn’t eating well?  Will they still have issues?  Can you take care of that?

Katie:  I actually had a 13-year-old patient who came to see me because she was having tooth pain, and she needed a deeper filling fixed and all of that.  She was a great girl, but just very generally anxious.  A typical 13-year-old, but a little further down the spectrum of having a little bit of social anxiety and things like that, as well.  And I noticed that she had a really severe tongue tie, and I just asked, since she was having the tooth decay, and a tongue tie can cause or impact the development of tooth decay.  So I just asked Mom; I said, “You know, I’m noticing she has a really tight connection between her tongue and the rest of her mouth.  Have you guys ever had any issues with eating, speech, anything like that at all?” I’m asking those questions because I don’t want to miss anything as a dentist, as well.  I’m not just looking at her tooth.  And Mom goes, “Oh, yeah, she used to be in speech therapy for a while.  They weren’t really making a lot of progress.”

Alyssa:  So the speech therapy wasn’t looking at the tongue tie?  Courtney is over here dying!

Katie:  So then I’m the crazy lady who comes in for this 13-year-old, and all of a sudden, she has a tongue tie.  And then we start talking a little bit more, and even she starts chiming in.  She was not saying a word until this moment, and she’s, like, “Yeah, it’s really hard for me to eat.”

Alyssa:  Thirteen years!

Katie:  And I was, like, oh, my gosh, you poor girl!  And I could just see that it was really starting to emotionally affect her.  You could tell!  They didn’t end up coming back to the office I was at during that time, but they were really relieved when they heard that there could be some other solution, as well.  And I talked to her and said that I really wanted her to get another referral for a speech therapist.  I wanted her to talk to them about the fact that the pediatric dentist noticed the tongue tie and that we could do a really simple procedure to give her some more mobility with her tongue, but that she would likely need some therapy afterwards, as well.  Mom called me back, and she had made an appointment with one of the Spectrum facilities, and then I moved offices, so I’m not sure what happened with it.  I’m sure she got the treatment.

Alyssa:  So without an actual revision done, you can help – let’s say somebody doesn’t want the frenectomy because it’s too scary or just that, I’m 13 and I don’t want to do it.  Can you actually help, or is it limited because there’s only so much you can do?

Courtney:  It would be limited because she probably has already figured out her range of motion and probably put it to the max.  So at that point structurally, there’s not much manipulation.  You know, as speech therapists, we can’t change structure.  And so we have to use the structure that we have, and I’m going to trust in all my ability that that girl probably already utilized what she had.

Katie:  That’s why sometimes you do need to have that physical change in order to be able to progress in that therapy, and she clearly had not progressed.  And I think that’s why they stopped going to therapy, because at that point, what are you supposed to do?  So that was just kind of an unfortunate case where something really could have been done way early on because she had clearly been having speech issues.  Honestly, at the time, her speech seemed great, and I was much more concerned about the fact that even she said herself that it was hard for her to eat.

Alyssa:  Well, I’m thinking about a 13-year-old going to a pizza party, and she’s probably dreading it because it’s really hard to eat and swallow.

Katie:  Exactly!  Especially at that age, your social life is really dramatically impacted by things like that.  That starts, really, as soon as kids start school, but especially when they start noticing differences between each other.  That’s huge as a 13-year-old to have gone that long and be struggling.  On a more happy note, I’ve had a nine-year-old patient recently, and he had been in speech therapy and wasn’t progressing.  I spoke with his speech pathologist, and she said, oh, yeah, just give it a try; do the laser frenectomy.  And I did, and he even said, “I felt better talking that same day.”

Courtney:  Wow, that’s so great to hear!

Katie:  So that was really cool.  I was, like, oh, my gosh.  That’s so awesome, and Mom was so ecstatic that they could finally progress a little bit more in their treatment.  Usually, when we’re doing a laser frenectomy, we remove some of that tissue, and the kids do great, honestly.  You’re a little bit sore for a couple of days, but generally, they can still function normally.  Sometimes they need a little bit of Ibuprofen or Tylenol for some older kids, but generally, it’s an easy recovery, which is awesome.  And every kid is different with their recovery.  Some kids, it’s harder; some kids just bounce back the same day.  But generally, kids do really, really well.

Alyssa:  When they need therapy afterwards, is that something you give?

Courtney:  It depends.  So speech therapy, we work on that musculature in the mouth, and so if need to work on some range of motion exercises with them, but also with that new freedom that they have with their tongue, suddenly those sounds might be coming out different, and they might not know how to manipulate things right away.  So providing a hierarchy and all that and working with them on being able to manipulate the airflow a little differently.

Alyssa:  Yeah, that’s a weird thought, too, being a nine-year-old who, you’ve been speaking for eight of these nine years, and suddenly, your tongue moves completely differently, and you’re saying sounds differently.  How weird that must sound and feel!

Courtney:  Yes!

Katie:  Well, it is cool, especially because I’m doing these frenectomies from basically birth until whenever they still need them, but it is really awesome to see when an older kid can actually explain to you how it did affect them in a positive way.  So that’s really cool.  Obviously for kids who are really, really little, I can still see it in a physical way, how much better they’re doing, whether it’s breastfeeding.

Courtney:  I was going to say with newborns and the latching, yeah.

Katie:  Even with doing lip tie releases as well, and just how much easier it is for parents to brush at home.  So that’s something with occupational therapy, as well.  Having oral aversions; if you have a really tight lip tie, then it’s really hard to brush that area because it actually does hurt because your lip is being pulled so tightly against your teeth that it’s really difficult to brush that area.  So that’s always something I’m looking for, as well, when I’m in a patient’s mouth moving their soft tissue around.  You can tell when a kid is like, oh, that didn’t feel good!  And I can see what the tissue is doing inside the mouth to tell, like, yeah, that’s a little too tight right there!  I can tell that uncomfortable!  So on top of having a parent trying to brush their teeth, obviously for a two-year-old, it’s already still really difficult to brush their teeth sometimes, but having that on top of it – generally, I say you are not hurting your child by brushing their teeth.  So if they’re crying, that’s okay, and we give them ways to work through it.  But that is something where, yes, that doesn’t feel good, so that’s hard as a parent, as well.  But it’s good that we can observe that and give the child some relief and give Mom and Dad a little bit of relief, as well.

Alyssa:  Well, I think it’s amazing to have these resources for parents where they know that people like you are working together to where you’re not just looking at a tooth; you’re not just looking at the sounds a kid makes.  It’s all connected and they need you both.

Katie:  We all need to work together, yeah.

Courtney:  Yes, absolutely!

Alyssa:  So each of you tell us where our clients can find you and our listeners can find you if they have questions or need a new pediatric dentist or want to have some speech therapy.

Katie:  Yeah, we are a new office at East Paris and Burton in the Bankston Center, so we will be open on March 11th, but we’re taking new patients right now.  You can email us at  You can also find us on our website.  Otherwise, you can give us a call at 616-608-8898, and we’re happy to help you.

Courtney:  And Building Blocks Therapy Services; I’m off of Alpine, right across from the weather ball; that’s a good landmark.  You can find me on my website or give me a call at 616-666-6396.

Alyssa:  Perfect!  Thank you, ladies, for joining us today!

Katie:  Thanks for having us!  So fun!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening!

Image © Matt Madd


Podcast Episode #64: Pediatric Dentistry and Speech Therapy Read More »


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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newborn sleep tips

Newborn Sleep Tips

As a sleep consultant, I get asked often how early you can sleep train a baby. My answer is this – Most babies are ready around 12 weeks, but it’s never too early to start introducing heathy habits to make the sleep training go smoothy when baby is ready.

Why 12 weeks? Most babies are developmentally ready around this time. They’ve also established a healthy eating routine (whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding), and they’ve gained substantial weight.

At 12 weeks most babies are ready to sleep through the night. Many breastfeeding mothers will actually wake their babies to nurse them, even though the baby would sleep through on their own. Some mothers pump once in the night and let baby sleep. Other mothers can make it through the night just fine sleeping 8 hours straight, but they will more than likely need to nurse or pump right when they wake up!

Please note that at 12 weeks sleeping through the night does not mean a 12 hour stretch. Very few babies at this age are ready for that. But some babies may be ready for a 6 or 8 hour stretch. If you’ve only been getting sleep in 2 hour chunks, this sounds fantastic!

When I put a plan together with a family, I first talk with them to find out what their values and goals are. If nursing in the night is a priority, we create a plan around that. If their main objective is for baby to get a full nights rest, uninterrupted, then we create a plan around that. There’s no one right answer to sleep training; it has to fit each individual family.

So what kinds of things can you do with your newborn before that 12 week mark? You need to realize that babies thrive on routine. A chaotic schedule is not the ideal environment for a newborn. From day one, you can start to create a sense of consistency.

Wake up around the same time in the morning and go to bed around the same time at night. Do this for you and your baby.

Talk to your baby. Narrate life to them. Tell them what you’re doing (changing their diaper, feeding, nap time, wake time, play time, etc). They are listening!

Have all sleep happen in a dark room with white noise. A good, arms-down swaddle is great for newborns! There are several types of swaddles (muslin wraps, Miracle Blanket, Love to Dream), find what works best for you and your baby.

As your baby establishes feeding patterns, try to stick to a schedule for feedings. Remember you must always be flexible. Babies are not always hungry every three hours on the dot. If your baby typically eats every three hours, be aware that sometimes it will be 2 hours, sometimes 2 1/2, but usually 3. Don’t ever let your baby cry for food just to wait until the right time on the clock. Always watch for their cues and respond accordingly before letting them get too upset.

Speaking of cues, watch for them! Your baby is constantly communicating with you. From day one, they are communicating. As they grow, if you’re paying attention, you will begin to distinguish what different cries mean. This is important to create a relationship of trust between you and your baby. You cannot assume every cry means food. Just as if you stubbed your toe, it would not help if someone offered you a hamburger. You would want to sit down and maybe have someone give you some ice or even a band aid.

By assuming all of your babies cries mean hunger, you are telling them you’re not listening to what they are saying. Pay attention to what was happening to and around the baby when they started crying. Some babies are more introverted and like staring peacefully at a wall. They may begin to cry if there is a loud noise, a bright flash of light, or someone gets in their personal space too quickly. Others want to be in the room with all the action. Those babies may cry when you leave the room, or if they can’t see out the window. They do not want to stare at a blank wall, they want colors, noise, and lights.

Your baby might cry because they are too hot, too cold, sitting in an uncomfortable position, have a dirty diaper, are tired, are hungry, have an upset stomach. By paying attention to how they react to what you offer, you start to establish that trust relationship that says,”I’m paying attention to you. I’m listening to what you’re telling me, and I will react accordingly.” Your baby will know that when something is too stimulating, you will pick them up and put them somewhere they feel more comfortable. Your baby will know that when they are tired, you will put them to bed.

A good example of this the well meaning visitor – or the “Space Invader” as I like to call them. They rush over to the baby and get right in their face. When the baby starts to cry, the visitor thinks the baby does not like them, when in fact they just invaded their personal space too abruptly. If a baby is content and then suddenly starts crying, it usually isn’t too hard to figure out why if you’re paying attention.

What does this have to do with sleep training? Everything! By establishing routines and a trust relationship from the beginning, you are eliminating unknowns for your baby. They trust you to do what’s best for them. When you talk them through what’s happening, they know what to expect. They know when it’s time to change a diaper, put on clothes, or take a nap because you’ve been narrating their story to them and you’ve created consistency. This level of routine, consistency, and trust is your foundation to healthy sleep habits.

Then, when you call me around 12 weeks to start gently guiding your child through a full night’s sleep, the ground work is already laid. A child that gets enough sleep is a healthier and happier child, and so are their parents.

For more information on sleep training, contact us by phone (616) 294-0207, email, or fill out our contact form. You can also learn more about Alyssa’s methods on our blog.


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Newborn Sleep Tips Read More »


My role as a postpartum doula.

Our very own Jamie Platt, BSN, RN, CLC, CPST shares her personal insights on what it’s like to be a postpartum doula.

What is the role of a postpartum doula? What does it look like, and how might a doula support the breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby? A postpartum doula can take care of mom, baby, and the entire family. Sometimes mom needs emotional support, help around the house, or even just a nap! I’ve taken care of baby while mom takes a nice hot shower or has one-on-one time with older siblings. We’re also able to prepare meals and run errands. We help with newborn care; we serve a variety of moms from different cultural backgrounds and some families need help with bathing, breastfeeding, and diaper changes. Some of our doulas have had additional training regarding the care of multiples, or have multiples themselves!

I have completed special training in perinatal mood & anxiety disorders so that I am able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a variety of mood disorders. It’s important that mom receives help if she needs it, and the general Grand Rapids area has great resources that include therapists and community support groups. In fact, we have one of the few Mother Baby programs in the entire nation, which provides a day program where mom can bring baby with her while she receives treatment. It is critical that we recognize when a mom needs help, that we support her, and in turn reduce the stigma of postpartum mood & anxiety disorders. Postpartum doulas are right there in family’s homes and can be a direct source of help and information.

Doulas also provide overnight support, which can be so great for moms (and partners)! The entire family can get the sleep they need and mom can still breastfeed baby through the night. I like to think that when I show up to a family’s home at night, I am well rested and mom may be feeling tired- but when I leave in the morning, I leave with bags under my eyes and mom looks and feels like a goddess when she wakes up. That is my goal!

I also want to acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding while still respecting the needs of mom, which may include formula feeding. As a postpartum doula I provide nonjudgmental support, and I help mom reach the goals SHE wants – not me. I recently completed my Certified Lactation Counseling (or CLC) training. The CDC considers both CLC’s and IBCLC’s as professional lactation supporters.

So why is breastfeeding so difficult that mothers need help? Well, our culture has unrealistic expectations of what the newborn period is like. The fastest drop-off in breastfeeding rates occur in the first 10 days after hospital discharge. The main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is because they believe they don’t make enough milk, the baby won’t latch, and/or mom has sore or painful breasts. Breastfeeding rates drop again when mom has to return to work or school between 8-12 weeks. It is so important that as a community we support mothers who want to breastfeed. As doulas, we can help mom gain the confidence she needs, give basic breastfeeding information, and make appropriate referrals if needed. Gold Coast Doulas offers lactation support through our IBCLC, Shira Johnson, who makes home visits. Gold Coast also has other doulas who have other breastfeeding-specific training, like the CLC training. We know that breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both mom and baby, so it’s time that we start normalizing it, and again, support all moms regardless of their feeding choice.


My role as a postpartum doula. Read More »

Baby Shower Gifts

[un]common sense: Buy them what they asked for

[un]common sense is a blog about navigating through everyday life, using some common sense tips to make it just a bit easier, and sometimes a little more fun. Alyssa is a wife, mother, and postpartum doula who has some tricks up her sleeve and wants to share them with the world. Well now, don’t you feel lucky?

I recently attended a friend’s baby shower; the first I’ve been to in years. I was surprised to see that not much had changed since I had my own (over five years ago). The mother was showered with gifts alright, most of which she did not register for.

There’s nothing more annoying than opening boxes and gift bags filled with presents that your Aunt thinks “Is just the most adorable outfit ever” or your Grandmother says,”I just couldn’t pass up when I saw it!”

They have the best of intentions, but when it comes to having a baby, or babies, you don’t need extra stuff just because it’s adorable. You need practical, useful items that will make your life easier, not just make the baby or nursery look cute.

I remember after my baby showers having a pile of baby blankets, toys, and stuffed animals. What the heck was I going to do with all of it? I didn’t register for any of them, most of them were hideous, newborns don’t play with toys, and most importantly you can’t put any of that stuff in a crib, so why in the world would anyone think a baby needed all this stuff?

I returned what I could (blankets, onesies with silly phrases, gigantic toys, fancy pacifiers, stuffed animals) and donated whatever came without receipts and the stores wouldn’t take. I wonder how many hundreds of dollars were spent on those gifts, wasted. Wasted because it was not what I asked for! People took it upon themselves to decide what I needed for my baby instead of buying what I requested. It made all the time I spent researching what I needed, then registering for it, seem pointless.

So, I watched in agony as my friend opened up gift after gift that she did not register for. I watched as the mound of “Oh my god, it’s sooo soft!” blankets grew, the pile of “So stinkin’ cute!” stuffed animals overflowed, and the boxes of expensive newborn outfits began to stack up.

I wonder when people will get it? Baby showers are about the Mom and baby, not about them.

In-home support from a postpartum doula is the most wonderful gift you could give to new parents. If I could have taken the hundreds of dollars wasted on fuzzy leopard print blankets and extra large stuffed animals and put it toward a doula, you better believe I would have! My friend ended up getting a very generous amount gifted toward postpartum help because she requested it in her baby shower invites along with her registry.

If you are pregnant and planning to have baby showers, contact Gold Coast Doulas about a customized invitation stuffer. It’s an easy way to ask your friends and family for postpartum support.

The most common question I get asked as a Postpartum Doula is “What do you do for families?” It’s hard to answer because I consider my work to be fluid. It will change from family to family, and even day to day with the same family. One day a mother might need a nap, so I make sure the baby is cared for while she lies down, and maybe pick up the house a little or do some meal prep while she sleeps. The next day the same mother (because she got a nap) may be full of energy so we take our first outing together, be it to the grocery store or a walk around the block. If the mother has older children, she may feel like they’ve been neglected and want to spend some quality time with them; so again I will care for the newborn so she can focus on the older siblings.

Our services allow a mother to a nap or shower, drink a cup of tea, or finish her thank-you cards. We offer local resource suggestions for health care providers, chiropractors, mother’s groups, kid-friendly restaurants, or maybe the best place to buy a bottle of wine. We are also there for emotional support. We let her talk, cry, whatever she needs to do. And we make sure she is heard. A Postpartum Doula is an expert voice of reason that will not offer opinions or judgment.

Oftentimes new parents just need someone to guide them through the first few weeks or months with a newborn. Breastfeeding is often harder than expected. Parents finally understand what sleep deprivation means. They may be scared to give the first bath or clip baby’s nails the first time. A Postpartum Doula’s role is so very important. We are your village. We are here to support you and your family, judgment-free with no hidden agendas.

Contact Gold Coast if you have interest in any of the services we offer.

Bedrest Doulas, Birth Doulas, Daytime and Overnight Postpartum Doulas, Customized Baby Shower Stuffers, Lactation Consultations, or any of our classes including HypnoBirthing, Newborn Survival, Breastfeeding, Preparing for Multiples.


[un]common sense: Buy them what they asked for Read More »


The Modern Grandparent

Understanding the Modern Parent

First of all congratulations on becoming a Grandparent! Whether this is your 1st or 5th, it is a very excited time for the whole family.

Gold Coast Doulas offers in-home private classes for The Modern Grandparent. We are not currently offering group classes.

This 2 ½ hour class will break down the generation gap, giving soon-to-be grandparents the most up-to-date information while dispelling myths in a non-threatening, engaging way. Health and safety recommendations are always evolving and many things have changed since most grandparents had their own children.

Topics include:

  • Caring for the family after baby arrives
  • Handwashing, bathing baby, diapering, etc.
  • Car seat safety
  • Baby technology and gadgets
  • SIDS
  • Formula feeding and breastmilk
  • Babyproofing

A particularly interesting topic that we cover in the class is, Understanding the Modern Parent. Here’s a brief snippet of what we talk about for this portion of the class.

Understanding your adult children and their choices can be a challenge at times, even during the best of times. One of the keys to understanding the choices your adult children make is understanding the differences between the generations and how they view the world. In 2002 Landcaster and Stillman published “When Generations Collide”. This paper took a look at inter-generational differences in the workplace.

Many of the grandparents who take this class will be the parents of those who are considered late Generation X or Millennials. These generations tend to have differing views than previous generations when it comes to Communication, Money and Authority. Being aware of the attitudes and approaches of the differing generations will help you to understand the choices your adult children may make and where they are coming from.

Sometimes it’s as simple as understanding these differences that avoid many family conflicts as families grow. Grandparents have to realize that their children deserve the respect and have the right to raise a family (their grandchildren) however they choose.

Today’s parents face different challenges than their parents faced, and even more different ones than their grandparents faced. The balance of work and family life can be very stressful. Thankfully there are grandparents like you willing to help relieve some of these stresses by simply not judging them. Your compassionate support allows your children to raise your grandchildren properly and also maintain a healthy relationship with their spouse.

Many parents today appreciate the help from their parents and welcome the non-judgemental support. While you are visiting ask, “What can I do to help you today?” There might not be anything needed other than holding the baby while mom showers or playing with a sibling while mom is breastfeeding; but by just asking, you are showing you are supportive and that will go a long way with your children. Asking what they need instead of offering what you think they need is critical.

Interested in becoming a Modern Grandparent? Contact Gold Coast Doulas about a private in-home class today!







The Modern Grandparent Read More »

Postpartum Doula

What does non-judgmental support mean?

Author: Alyssa Veneklase, CD


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does non-judgmental support mean? Read More »