Woman's shoulder with three acupuncture needles sticking in it

Acupuncture for Anxiety: Podcast Episode #105

Kristin Revere, Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas talks with Vikki Nestico of Grand Wellness about acupuncture to help relieve stress, tension, and anxiety.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about how acupuncture can help with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after delivery.  Welcome, Vikki!

Vikki:  Thank you for having me!  It’s awesome to be here again.

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s great to have you back!  We spoke about acupuncture and fertility last time.  So I’m excited to delve into anxiety.  A lot of our clients struggle with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after giving birth.  So I’d love to hear a bit about you personally and also your practice before we begin.

Vikki:  Well, I moved here from New York City about six years ago and was so happy, because I do love it here — it’s such a great city — but really exciting to bring — I wouldn’t say I brought this medicine here, but, you know, I’m one of handful of people that do acupuncture in West Michigan.  And in New York, every corner has an acupuncturist.  So it’s wonderful to be a part of the crew that can — that really gets to share this medicine for the first time to so many people.

Kristin:  Right.  Yeah, it is definitely all about education, and we feel the same way about birth support and certainly postpartum doulas.  Everyone has a doula in New York or Chicago or in other markets, and so both of us in our practices have the challenge of educating the community on the benefits of our services.  So it’s great to partner with like-minded professionals like yourself and refer clients and know that you’re a trusted referral source.  You know, we tend to refer a lot of our clients who are either struggling with pain in pregnancy or are trying to induce labor or have a baby who’s breech, for example, and they’re trying to do everything they can to flip baby.  So we appreciate how much you’ve helped our clients.

Vikki:  Oh, thank you.  I love working with women and with women in the process of getting pregnant and working through pregnancy, giving birth.  There is nothing more exciting than to get that note from a client with a beautiful picture of their baby on it.

Kristin:  Yes!  That is the best.  And then if you continue the relationship, that’s also quite lovely, to follow up and see how they’re doing.

Vikki:  Absolutely, and usually when you get in — you know, obviously, with doulas, you then work on next pregnancies and sometimes around that.  For us, it really opens our clients’ eyes to what acupuncture can help with.  So if we’ve helped somebody through fertility and through pregnancy, we’ll often see them down the road for the beginning of other conditions.  You know, they’ll pop in and say, you know, you helped me with this.  Before I have to go in and, you know, take maybe a certain medication, you know, can acupuncture help?  And so it’s really wonderful to, exactly, continue on and help them throughout other struggles they may have in the future.

Kristin:  So, Vikki, tell us how acupuncture can help a birthing person with anxiety during their pregnancy.

Vikki:  Well, first of all, we are all aware when we’re pregnant that the body is making these huge changes.  And with that, we are increasing our blood supply.  We are just making this little human.  And that amount of added blood in our body can really affect how smoothly our circulation flows and how smoothly our energy flows.  So when we look at things like anxiety, in particular, you know, we want to make sure that we are helping somebody have everything circulating through their body with ease.  But why things may struggle: there can be a whole host of different reasons why, and so with Chinese medicine, we — for those that have never had it, there’s not just one answer to a condition.  So there’s not just — you know, say somebody is having struggles sleeping.  There’s not one pill or one herb or one item for the whole idea of insomnia.  And the same way with anxiety.  If we’re having a client who’s struggling with anxiety, we need to ask a lot of questions and go through a lot of our diagnoses to find the pattern and to help unravel that pattern.  So we do — we ask a lot of questions.  We want to know things like, have you had anxiety before?  Or is this something new due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy?  Are you eating differently?  You know, we change our eating habits when we’re pregnant, and sometimes we’re craving things, maybe more items that are hot and spicy, or dairy, or fried foods.  That can affect anxiety.  Being depleted because we’re working at home or at the office a lot can, you know, cause some fatigue in the body.  That can add to anxiety.  But then also we want to know the physical symptoms of what they’re feeling.

Kristin:  Sure.  And if someone’s had back to back pregnancies, there can be a lot of depletion with that.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So we just take all this information that we get during our conversations with our clients and through our own diagnoses or tongue and pulse diagnosis that we do.  You’ve had your tongue looked at before, so you know.

Kristin:  Yeah.

Vikki:  It gives us a lot of really objective information.

Kristin:  I felt like your intake session was very thorough and, you know, even getting into the supplements that I take and how that affects my mood and energy level and so on.  Yeah, it was very thorough.

Vikki:  Yeah, and then that gives us, you know, how are we going to release this anxiety; how are we able to cool the body if it’s more of a racing anxiety; how are we going to be able to bring that down and allow our clients to take this big, healing, deep breaths.  And acupuncture’s really helpful for that.

Kristin:  Yes!  And so as far as this session — and you describe sort of the intake process, but for clients who say they have a fear of needles or are uncertain on, you know, what a session would look like, and you mentioned that it’s relaxing, and I would definitely agree with that — can you take — walk our listeners through what a session would be like during pregnancy?

Vikki:  Yeah.  I totally understand that it seems really odd that it could be relaxing, until you’ve had it done.  And I see a lot of clients that come in who are very hesitant because they’re very — they may be fearful of needles.  And so I work within their capacity.  Here, we’re very gentle, and as I always say to my clients, you’re in control when we’re in the room.  The importance for me is to help the patient find comfort so when they are resting with the needles in, then they’re able to really relax.  So treatments usually start by a lot of talking.  You know, our first treatments are about 90 minutes, and that’s because we do a good chunk of talking to unravel where this pattern starts so I know how I’m going to approach the treatment.  It also helps our clients get comfortable with me or Corey, who’s the other acupuncturist here.  And know that this isn’t a rushed treatment.  What we do here, we take our time, and we always make sure that our client is comfortable.  And then after we chat for a while, we do that tongue and pulse, that diagnosis, which is, you know, just how we can objectively see what’s going on in the body.  And then we choose the points that we’re going to use to right the imbalance, and the client gets to lay for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes with the needles, which, again, sounds like it wouldn’t be relaxing, but you don’t even know they’re there.

Kristin:  Right.  I would agree.

Vikki:  And it’s a very deep rest.  A lot of times, people are surprised how deeply they nap when they come in for acupuncture.  Very relaxing.

Kristin:  Now, after baby’s born, walk us through how that can be helpful if a listener is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or OCD after giving birth and how you can level hormones and so on.

Vikki:  Acupuncture’s a really wonderful and natural way for women to build their strength and to heal after birth.  First and foremost, it’s a great therapy for restoring energy and boosting that immune system, and that is not just, you know, after — for women after they’ve given birth.  That’s for clients going through cancer treatments.  That’s for people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome.  Acupuncture is just a really great therapy to bolster our energy of our body and really direct it to helping us heal and be stronger.  But specifically to helping after a baby is born, acupuncture helps to rebuild blood that was lost during childbirth, which can bring on other conditions.  It helps you increase circulation that will speed up wound healing and helps stop pain.  It helps with women with breastfeeding issues, increasing milk production or healing mastitis.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.  I didn’t realize.  I knew that the milk supply would be affected, but mastitis healing — fantastic.

Vikki:  I know I see people that, you know, come in and we have certain points that really help to increase that milk supply but also helping our body just to use our body fluids correctly and to create that breastmilk.  It’s wonderful to see women be able to get some support, not with the aspect of how are you positioned and how is the baby breastfeeding, but internally, how your body is actually dealing with the milk supply.  We also, after the baby’s born, we help a lot with emotional issues.  And, you know, like you said, it’s not just anxiety and depression.  It’s worry.  It’s grief.  I see women that aren’t breastfeeding and maybe they couldn’t for some reason, or they chose not to, and after they made that decision, they’ve been feeling grief about it.  We are here to help; we help them process that.

Kristin:  Right.  Or grieving the birth that they wanted that didn’t happen.  There’s so much.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  You know, I always — I often say that in China, women have a whole month where their job is to rest after giving birth, and, you know, they take — the baby is brought to them.  They feed the baby; they cuddle the baby.  But for the most part, their family is there to take care of that baby and to take care of that mom and feed her great food and get her energy and her blood back to normal so she’s at full capacity when she’s back, when she’s clicked into really taking care of that baby.  And we don’t do that here in America.

Kristin:  We don’t, unfortunately.

Vikki:  Yeah.  And so it can take longer for us to heal physically, for us to heal emotionally, because, you know, we don’t — we haven’t nourished ourselves and been able to rest as much and to have as much self-care time.

Kristin: And you describe what we do as postpartum doulas, like in that role of what a family member would do in other cultures, making sure that they’re nourished and they’re taking care of their house and bringing baby to them and encouraging them to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea.  And so, yeah, so we love that role.  It is such a depleting time, and I feel like our culture is so rushed.  I do love the first 40-day concept of healing and rest and care.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  As I say to my clients when we talk about working with doulas, during that time — in a lot of these traditional countries, villages, our families were so close that we didn’t need all this, you know, this other — we had somebody that was coming.  There was somebody in the village coming.  But now, we don’t have people in the village coming.  We don’t have our families right there.  We need our doulas.  We need our acupuncturists.  We need our advocates or people that listen to us.  Therapy, I often will say, is a wonderful thing, because we don’t always have the support here.

Kristin:  Right.  Exactly.  And a lot of people move here for work and don’t have any family to help care for them and, you know, it’s so needed to take that time.  And like you said, that 30-minute session is a time away from family and responsibilities as a mother, and you can just rest and relax and have someone take care of you.

Vikki:  And in that 30 minutes, that 30 minutes isn’t even just the whole treatment.  That is just the 30 minutes that you’re laying and resting with the needles in.  You’ve already been able to share your truths, to share what’s going on, and we can begin treatment, but then you get that time in just a safe, healing environment, with gentle music, to just relax and let the body just take full control of healing and making some really great, balancing changes.

Kristin:  I love that.  So, Vikki, tell us how our listeners can get in touch and payment methods.  I know you take health savings and flex spending and some insurances and so on.

Vikki:  Yeah.  So we are happy to work with our clients when it comes to billing, in many ways.  First off, if their health savings or FSA does cover acupuncture, we definitely take it, and we definitely supply people with superbills that needs them for insurance reimbursements if they’re unsure about reimbursement.  We do bill insurance directly for those that do have benefits for acupuncture.  And we also have loyalty programs where we, for our clients, we offer the tenth treatment complimentary, and that is a mix of many of our treatments here from acupuncture to reiki to massage.  We understand that, you know, the Western world hasn’t really gotten on board to the preventative medicine, and so insurance doesn’t cover everything.  And we love to be able to help in ways that we can.  So, you know, that’s how with insurance and that.  But they can get in touch with us from our website, and on there is a whole bunch of information.  You can also book online there.  Otherwise, clients can call the office directly and make appointments with our front desk, and the number there is 616-466-4175.  I often encourage people that are unsure to schedule a complimentary consultation with myself or Corey, the other acupuncturist who works here, who’s awesome.  And, you know, we’re happy to really answer questions and for people to hear our voices and to be able to have some conversation about them directly to help with their comfort level as to whether or not they feel like this is the right therapy for them.

Kristin:  That’s fantastic.  Do you have any parting words for our listeners?

Vikki:  You know, when it comes to dealing with changes in our mood, especially around the times of pregnancy and giving birth, these times are just really a struggle for us.  It’s what makes us as women so powerful is the ability to be able to roll with these changes and to experience what is amazing about our bodies.  But it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly, and I often see people get caught up in — you know, women seeing other mothers who just effortlessly fall into being a mother and gave birth and just the ease of raising children.  And I can usually guarantee most women that that is — that we all struggle.  We all struggle.  And there are many options for help, and acupuncture is a great one.  It’s not the only one, but it is a great therapy for supporting women during these times and just unraveling the stressors and emotions that we struggle with during that time.

Kristin:  I love that.  Thanks for sharing!


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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Reduce Your Risk!


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

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

Locally we are beginning to see an increase in cases. Today there are 108 presumed positive tests with 119 tests pending. You can find local updates for Kent County on the Access Kent website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Jamie Platt

Jamie’s Breastfeeding Experience: Podcast Episode #76

Jamie Platt, Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas, tells us about three completely different breastfeeding experiences with her three children.  This podcast was recorded over a year ago, and Jamie is now a certified lactation counselor.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, your host for today, and today we have a special guest, Jamie.  Hello!

Jamie:  Hi!

Alyssa:  Thanks for coming!  So we were talking the other day, and you’ve had three really, really different experiences with breastfeeding with your three children.  Tell us a little bit about your three kids and how breastfeeding went differently for each of them.

Jamie:  Sure!  So I have three children.  My oldest son, Noah, is 14.  And then my two younger children are five and three.  So I was a young parent and gave birth to my oldest, Noah, when I was 21.  My breastfeeding journey with him was very short and limited.  I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I received a manual pump, I remember, at my baby shower.

Alyssa:  Did you even know what it was?

Jamie:  No!  No one ever showed me how to use it.  I knew what it was for, and that’s it.  And I remember in the hospital, no one ever gave me any tips about breastfeeding.  It was expected that I was going to breastfeed.  My mom breastfed all three of us for over a year.  It was challening not knowing what to do with breastfeeding.  The funniest story I remember from that journey was, since I was young, I went back to work right away.  I was coaching volleyball at the time, and I went to a tournament and coached all day.  I didn’t bring a pump; I didn’t know that I was supposed to be pumping this whole time.

Alyssa:  That’s what this whole manual pump was for!

Jamie!  Yes!  And I looked down during a break at a game, and my shirt was all wet!  I had leaked through my shirt, so I had to put a sweatshirt over me, and of course, it was so hot in the gym all day.  And shortly after that, I stopped nursing.  I don’t recall how old my son was, but it had to be within a month or two.  And so I wish, looking back, that someone had sat down with me, shown me what I needed to do to nurse and to pump, but that didn’t happen.

Alyssa:  Do you think that it lasted such a short period of time because — I mean, did your milk supply just dry up because you were back at work and not pumping?  Or did you just say, I’m so over this; I’m just going to stop?

Jamie:  It’s hard to remember the details.  I just remember stopping.  I was in school at the time and working, and just one day, I stopped.

Alyssa:  So a lot of things all mixed together, I’m sure.

Jamie:  Yeah.  So when my second child was born — he’s five now — I knew I wanted to do things differently.  I was older and wiser; knew a little bit more about breastfeeding, but still not enough to know what to do in certain situations.  I nursed him until he was about 18 or 19 months old.

Alyssa:  Wow!  So you learned a lot more, then.  I mean, in nine years time, to go from one month to 19 months.

Jamie:  True.  There were just a few different barriers along the way.  I was a single parent, so I went back to work when he was around three months old.  However, he wouldn’t take a bottle at the time, so with that situation, my sister came to my home and was watching him for me, but she would bring him to my work, or I would quick drive home on my break just to feed him, and that lasted a good one or two months.  And I knew what to do at the time, as far as I was trying different bottles, but I did feel quite alone trying to figure this out.  And then while working, I pumped for over a year.  Another obstacle I had to overcome was with coworkers.  A friend of mine told me that a coworker complained to my manager that I was still pumping, and my child had reached a year old, so I shouldn’t have these pumping breaks anymore.  And the manager never said anything to me, but I had heard this through the work grapevine.  I also had an experience around the time he was a year old with his pediatrician at the time.  We went in for his one year well child check, and they ask you if you have any questions.  And I asked about nighttime feedings.  I think that’s a popular topic.  He was still feeding through the night, and it didn’t bother me, but at the time, I thought it was something to bring up.  The pediatrician told me that I had to stop nighttime nursing immediately, that she had done it with her kids; he’ll be fine, that he was going to get cavities — which we know from research that that is not true.

Alyssa:  Cavities from breastmilk?

Jamie:  Yes, during the night.  That’s still kind of a popular myth that’s out there.  And the big thing she told me was that he wouldn’t be potty trained by the time he was eight, and that sticks into my mind because she chose the year eight.

Alyssa:  Okay, that’s really confusing.  If you breastfeed your one-year-old at night, they won’t be potty trained when they’re eight?

Jamie:  Yes.  So this wasn’t our usual pediatrician; she had stepped in.  And immediately after she told me these things, I wanted to leave.  I stayed, but she could tell that there was a problem because I was silent.  She asked me if there was anything wrong, and I said yes, I don’t agree with anything that you’re saying!  The visit ended shortly after that.  I was kind of angry that she was telling me these things because I knew better.  So I called my dentist’s office, and I asked them about the cavities with breastfeeding.  I reached out to other individuals that I knew were very knowledgeable about breastfeeding and asked them different questions, and I ended up looking up scholarly articles, anything that had to do with research, that I could bring back to her and tell her that she was wrong.  I ended up calling the office a few days later.  I had all my stuff in front of me when I called.  I spoke to the manager, and I ended up speaking to the pediatrician.  I remember telling her that I felt sorry for her patients that believed everything she told them.  I said, “I am an educated person, but some people might not know as much about breastfeeding or they don’t know to do the research about it before making a decision, and they would go along with what you said.”  And she apologized.  She said she had no research to back up the potty training claim.

Alyssa:  Oh, wow.

Jamie: And she did end up sending me something in the mail, as well.  Ever since that encounter is when I became passionate about breastfeeding and being up to date on the research about it, sharing with others about it.

Alyssa:  And you joined several lactation support groups, correct?  You belong to a couple now?

Jamie:  I am on a couple of local Facebook groups about breastfeeding, and I talk to a lot of my friends about breastfeeding.  I just really want to educate people more about it, after that encounter.  So that’s just when I really started to delve into researching more about breastfeeding and the benefits that it has for both mother and baby.

Alyssa:  So what happened after the pediatrician visit and you realized that information was wrong?  Did you continue nighttime feeds?

Jamie:  I continued nighttime feeds.

Alyssa:  No cavities, and he potty trained?

Jamie:  No cavities, and I left that office and found a new pediatrician.  He’s a healthy, happy little boy.  He did end up weaning on his own because I was pregnant with my youngest at the time, and I could tell that had something to do with that.  But I was the working, pumping mom.  I brought my pump to work every day.  And it is a lot of work to pump at work, making the time to take those breaks.  I worked in a busy medical office, and it is hard to say, “I need to do this for my child,” when you know that other people are picking up your slack for a little bit.  But I think if, as a culture, we all realize that breastfeeding is good for mom; it’s good for babies; it’s good for our society.

Alyssa:  And aren’t there studies that say that women who breastfeed actually overall have a better sense of self-esteem, better sense of self, almost?  Like, they are actually more productive, even though we like to look at them and say, oh, well, I have to pick up your slack while you’re pumping?  Well, you know what, because you’re pumping, you actually are more productive when you are working.  Does that make sense?  I swear I’ve read things about that.

Jamie:  I’m not sure about that, but I do know that research shows that mothers miss less work because their babies are sick less and they’re not taking their kids to the doctor.  So it’s better for the economy overall.  We actually save millions of dollars; the United States saves millions of dollars every year through moms breastfeeding, so it’s important that you support your coworkers if they’re nursing.  It’s for a relatively short time in the grand scheme of things, and it’s great to also find those breastfeeding buddies at work.  I had other moms that nursed.  I had my nice, double electric pump, and it hurt when I pumped, but I never could figure out why, and finally I complained about it to a coworker who was also pumping.  She was a little more experienced mother, and she helped me realize that part of my pump was too small.

Alyssa:  Were the nipple shields too small?

Jamie: The flanges were too small, yeah, so I had to buy new ones, and that made a world of difference.  So it’s really helpful to find a more seasoned breastfeeding friend who can help you along your journey, because there’s lots of little things that you may not know about.

Alyssa:  Or a lactation consultant, right, if you get into those serious binds?

Jamie:  Yes.  Thankfully, I’ve never had mastitis or a clogged duct, but if I did, I definitely would have called a lactation consultant for help.

Alyssa:  So tell us about your third child.  I think your youngest has been a little bit longer, so tell us how that journey went.

Jamie:  Yeah, so my daughter turned three on Halloween, and I am still nursing her.  So this is definitely another new experience for me.  I would never have imagined I would be nursing a child for this long.  I have realized that I did have some preconceived notions about extended nursing; maybe some judgmental thoughts about it, as well.  And I honestly still struggle a little bit with those internally myself as I’m still nursing, thinking, man, you know, you should really stop; you should be done.  And while I would love to be done, I do want my daughter to wean on her own.  I tell myself I am decreasing my risk of ovarian cancer every time I nurse!  Even when you nurse your baby longer than the one or two years, it’s still healthy for Mom and it’s still healthy for Baby, and it’s been a very different experience doing this.

Alyssa:  So tell people what it looks like.  Having a three year old; it’s not going to be nursing every three hours.  Is it a nighttime feed kind of thing, or when she’s sick or tired?  Is it more like a comfort thing almost at this point?

Jamie:  It is more of a comfort thing.  She nurses at night.  However, I’ve been on three or four extended trips, and by extended, I mean I’ve been gone for four to six days at a time at conferences, and thinking every time I leave, this will be our last nursing session, and I come back and I don’t bring it up, but she still wants to nurse.  So it is usually just at night; if she’s feeling sick, then she’ll nurse a little bit more.

Alyssa:  And you don’t lose your milk supply after six days of being gone with no nursing?

Jamie:  I did not.  The first time I went away, she had just turned two, and it was the first time I had ever been away overnight from her, actually, when she was two.  So I did bring a pump with me, but I didn’t produce a lot when I pumped, so I knew that for my next trip, I wasn’t going to bring a pump with me.  But I still have a supply, and I was lucky enough with her, as well, to stay home with her for almost the first full year and nurse, and that was just a blessing.  I hadn’t been able to do that before with a child, and it was so nice not to have to pump for that time!  And then right around a year is when I started nursing school, and so I would pump when I was away from her.  And I finally decided to stop pumping.  Pumping is so hard!  If you’ve done it, you know!  And we’ve just been nursing ever since.

Alyssa:  Well, it sounds like a lovely plan.  You know, you say you had maybe judgments about nursing for that long.  What still bothers you that you think shouldn’t, or what have you had to tell yourself to get those thoughts out of your mind?

Jamie:  It’s still hard to get over the way our culture thinks about breastfeeding.  That you shouldn’t breastfeed in public; Mom should cover up; anything over a certain age is gross or weird, or why are you doing that?  Once they have teeth you should stop; once they start talking and can ask for it, you should stop.  All these different things our culture tells us about breastfeeding is a little backwards.  We know, if we went to a different country or a different culture, that things are definitely different than they are in the United States, but it’s just the media that always sexualizes breastfeeding as well, and you grow up with that.  So you’re growing up in this culture that sexualizes breasts, when we know that you use them also to breastfeed your child!  And so for me, it’s just getting past those thoughts that I’ve had growing up about breastfeeding and just telling myself this is normal and it’s okay to do.  It’s not hurting anyone.  It’s my decision as a mother.  It’s been a really neat and wonderful journey that I never though I’d be on.

Alyssa:  Well, and I imagine nursing a three-month-old and a three-year-old, you’re probably not going to attempt to breastfeed your three-year-old in public.  Or have you?

Jamie:  I don’t, but she doesn’t ask to, either.

Alyssa:  So it’s almost like you guys have this unspoken thing; that it’s something in private that you two do together, and I’m sure it’s still this amazing, beautiful bonding experience, just like it is with a newborn.

Jamie:  Definitely a strong bond, and again, I as a mother and a parent and working, I did reach a time where I wanted to be done.  I’m like, okay, we can be done with this now!  But I’m just letting her take the lead with it, and I can tell you that I do hope she’s done relatively soon!  I have another week-long trip coming up in three weeks.

Alyssa:  Maybe that will be it?

Jamie:  Yeah, we’ll see if that’s the end of our journey.

Alyssa:  You know, I wonder culturally, too, if it was a son who was three, would it be different, because of the sexualization of breasts?  Would it be different if it were a boy?  I don’t know; can they remember that at three when they get older?  I don’t know.  Just a thought that I wonder if that would make a difference.

Jamie:  I’m not sure.  I’m sure that for some people, a boy versus a girl breastfeeding is different.  I’ve had people very close to me tell me I should stop breastfeeding.  This was with my middle son when he was around six months.  I was still nursing, and I got asked, when are you going to stop?  He’s six months old!  And I tried to throw all the evidence-based research at them to show them that this was still okay; the AAP and WHO, all these big organizations say you should breastfeed until one.  And so then I got to one, despite people telling me to stop.  I just pretty much ignored them because I can be stubborn like that, and when he turned one, I got the same comments again.  When are you going to stop?  And it’s funny that once I just plowed through all the negativity and judgmental comments, I haven’t had those same comments with my last child, because I think those people know — well, obviously, she’s three now, but when she was younger, they knew I was going to continue breastfeeding her for as long as I wanted to.  So people may not talk about it a lot, but I have had the challenges at work with comments from people; I’ve had people very close to me have very negative comments about breastfeeding, and you see all the big media stories that just happen to pop up because social media is so prevalent now.  It is everywhere, but there’s all those things that women that you know may be experiencing but they don’t talk about it.  It doesn’t reach the news.  And so we really need to support everyone in their own breastfeeding journey because you don’t know what someone may be going through.

Alyssa:  Right, and I think as postpartum doulas, we have a unique experience and a unique opportunity to deal with this with new moms right when they come home with their babies, to really help support them.  Maybe we are that one person who’s cheering them on, in the face of everyone else who’s saying, why in the world would you do that?  Or isn’t that weird?  I remember having friends saying things that were trying to make it sexual when it’s not at all!  It’s something you can’t even describe to someone who doesn’t understand, this crazy bond.  And I get that.  Like, you so want to quit; some days, you’re just like, God, when is this going to be done?  But then when it finally is, you don’t get that back!  And then you actually kind of miss it.  It’s like you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  And I do; I think back on it.  My daughter just turned five, so it’s been a long time since she breastfed, but I think back to those days, and there’s nothing like it.

Jamie:  One of the things that I really love about being a postpartum doula is the fact that I get to help mothers with breastfeeding.  That’s something I really enjoy, especially — they may have gotten some help from the lactation consultant at the hospital, but when they get home, that’s another ballgame.  Problems can start to arise.  They don’t feel confident anymore.  They think their milk’s not coming in.  So it’s really a blessing to support them.

Alyssa:  That’s one of the biggest fears for moms, I feel like, who are breastfeeding, is how do I know that the baby’s getting enough milk?  How do I know that the latch is right?  How is this supposed to feel?  There’s just so many questions about this thing that’s supposed to be so natural.  Like, we have boobs to breastfeed and it should be so natural, but it’s sometimes one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of having a baby, I feel like.

Jamie:  Definitely.  I would strongly recommend, if you are having problems with breastfeeding, there’s a lot of community support right in our own area.  There’s breastfeeding support groups from the hospitals; Le Leche League; we have wonderful lactation consultants in our area that will go to your home.  So it’s really important to utilize the resources that you have and reach out for help.

Alyssa:  Shira is our in-house lactation consultant, and having that consult in your home: it’s quiet; it’s one-on-one.  There’s nobody in the hospital coming to check your blood pressure and poke and prod you.  She spends two hours with them at that first visit, and she really gets to know you and what’s going on and figure out a solution.  So I feel like, yeah, that’s — I wish; if only I had known Shira four and a half years ago!

Jamie:  She’s very knowledgeable!  I do have lots of friends who ask me questions about breastfeeding, but I have sent her a quick text to say, hey, this is out of my scope of knowledge; can you help me with this problem?  And she helps me out.

Alyssa:  I think it’s great to have the support of postpartum doulas, and you have even more extensive knowledge than I do because of all the groups you’ve been in and the research you’ve done.  I’ve breastfed one child; you’ve done three.  I feel like we can do only so much for clients, though.  It’s good to know that they have a resource beyond our scope, to really help with the hard things.

Jamie:  Definitely!

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for sharing your stories!  If anyone has questions about breastfeeding or more questions for Jamie, in particular, you can always reach us at  Remember, these moments are golden!


Jamie’s Breastfeeding Experience: Podcast Episode #76 Read More »

kids cook real food

Podcast Episode #50: Kids Eating Healthy

Today Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship and Kids Cook Real Food tells us how to start our babies and get our toddlers eating healthy food.  Don’t forget her free download – 10 Snacks your Preschooler Can Make Today!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula.  And today we’re talking to Katie Kimball again of Kitchen Stewardship.  Hi, Katie.

Katie:  Hey, Alyssa.  Thanks for having me!

Alyssa:  Yeah!  So we are going to talk today – we talked to you last time about having kids in the kitchen, but we want to kind of shift gears and talk about how to get good eating habits started early for our kids and then get some tips from you on how to do it, especially through those toddler years when they seem to be picky and hate everything you put in front of them.  How do you deal with that?

Katie:  Yes, we can do this!

Alyssa:  I guess where would you tell a parent to start?

Katie:  Well, so the big word that I’ve picked up – I have 4 kids, and so I’ve been a mom for 13 years; kind of been around the block with this.  And I was so stressed about feeding my child when my first was a baby.  I remember nearly karate-chopping my husband’s uncle in the arm because he had some Cool-Whip on his finger and was going to offer it to my seven-month-old.  I was like, “No!  You can’t!  No!”  Right, that was going to literally kill him.  I’m not a fan of Cool-Whip, but I could have chilled out a little more.  I did a great, really informative to me, interview with a naturopath who specializes in kids’ nutrition a few years back, and she said, actually, the most current research shows that it’s the most important for kids’ palettes and mouths and bodies to be exposed to the widest variety of foods possible, even before six months, even before seven months, like when we’re usually starting to feed at six months.  So just allowing them to smell or just have little licks, little tastes, of everything you’re eating.  It’s almost like an inoculation.  It’s almost like an inoculation to the world where they’ll be less likely to get allergies.  And here, again, 13 years ago when my youngest was a baby, we were told do NOT give them any highly-allergenic foods until after one; you know, no peanuts until after two.  So we do what we can with what we know, but that’s the most current research, actually, is that we just kind of need to expose them to all sorts of foods, and even up until 12 months, the function of the sitting-up kind of eating with a spoon or on a high chair tray is mostly just exposure and exploration.  And so that takes a lot of pressure off Mom.  It’s not about calories.  It’s not about nutrition.  They’re getting that from the breastmilk or formula they’re drinking.

Alyssa:  Right.  Yeah, I love the word “exploration” because, you know, around that four- to six-month mark, that’s really all they’re doing is exploring, and my daughter, before she wanted to eat solid foods, would lick, you know.  I would give her little tastes of soup or whatever it was off my finger, and she would love it.  And that’s such a great tip for parents with babies.  Just let them try it.  See what happens.  They’re not chewing.  They’re not going to choke.

Katie:  Yeah.  So I’m not a huge proponent of baby food, especially the cereal, because there isn’t much nourishment in that, so why are we pushing it so hard?  But really just putting little mushy things or finger-food things on the tray and letting them explore.  As long as everything is whole foods, I don’t think you can go wrong.  Now, no added sugars, of course, right?  We don’t want any food coloring, you know.  But if it’s little pieces of avocado and little pieces of ground beef or a bean, you know, a little black bean that you mush under your thumb so that it’s not too round.  There’s so many soft foods that are just soft or that you can cook to be soft and the kids can just explore.  So that’s kind of a nice load off of a mom’s mind that, chill.  Chill is the word of the day when it comes to feeding your babies.

Alyssa:  So what do you do, then, when it’s like, oh, I’ve done such a great job; my kid will eat anything – and then they turn two, and what the heck happened?

Katie:  Oh, my gosh.  It happens to almost every family, and the good news is it’s completely developmentally appropriate because at age two to three, the kids are realizing that they’re separate from their parents, and, oh my goodness, they have opinions, you know, and they’re really testing their boundaries.  So they’re trying to figure out where my will ends and where my parents’ begins.  So they’re going to test that in every way they can, but especially when it comes to eating, sleeping, and pooping, because those are the things we cannot force them to do.

Alyssa:  Right, right.

Katie:  No matter how hard we try, much to parents’ chagrin.  And so again, the good news is you’re really going to have to chill and realize that it’s normal, totally normal for them to say no to something they used to like, even if they liked it yesterday.  They may say no to it today.  They might like it again tomorrow.  And so I often tell parents who are in that phase, that picky eating phase from two to five, that you just have to be more stubborn and more persistent than your child until they turn six-ish.

Alyssa:  Yeah, my daughter just did that to me the other day.  She’s five, and she has loved avocados and guacamole for years, and then all of a sudden, she didn’t.  Then she told me last week, “Mommy, I decided I like avocados again.”

Katie:  It is tough, and I think the risk is if we give in, if we’re like, “Oh, she doesn’t like avocados or guacamole anymore, so I just won’t serve it ever.”  Well, then she probably never would have come back around to it, or the chances would be slim.  So our job as parents is just to continue to serve good, healthy foods.  Obviously, you have to be eating good, healthy foods, but serving whole foods and a variety of fruits and vegetables and protein sources and expecting that they will change over time.  I think in America, especially, unfortunately, we fall into this terrible rut of feeding kids what they like and then complaining that they’re not eating better.  And it’s like, well, that’s because your expectations are this teeny-tiny box of what they like, and they’re not going to push out of that.  So we’ve got to raise our expectations and realize, you know, that our 20-something year old child’s palette is not going to be the same as our 3-year-old’s, and so we’re just going to continue to offer good things and feed them good things, and they can choose how much they eat and when they eat, as long as we’re not letting them feast on junk food outside of meals.  We can win.  We can win after they’re in, like, first grade.  They come around to all the green things.

Alyssa:  Yeah, that’s good.  It gives us hope, right?

Katie:  Yes!

Alyssa:  And it’s funny that you say “in America” because every time I go to a restaurant and you look at the kids’ menu, there’s always the same five options.  It’s mac and cheese.  It’s a hot dog.  It’s a hamburger.  It’s a cheeseburger.  You know, and it’s all unhealthy.  They don’t have any good options, so I end up having to split, like order one healthy meal and split it with my daughter, and it is really frustrating when you’re trying to have your children eat healthy, but there’s no healthy options on a kids’ menu.

Katie:  Yes, it’s counter-cultural to feed our kids vegetables, so we have to be really ready, like we would anything for our kids, right?  Ready to be the mama bear and put up the fight.

Alyssa:  Right, right.  And I have to ask all the time, “Do you have any vegetables that I could add instead of fries?” And they’ll look at me, like, well, what kind of vegetables?  Anything!

Katie:  It’s getting better.  I have to say, the pendulum is swinging in the right direction, and it’s very exciting to watch and to push it as hard as I can.

Alyssa:  Well, you have created a PDF for us to help parents who maybe have had trouble with the process of getting their kids to eat healthy foods, and it’s 10 Snacks Your Preschooler Can Make Today.  Tell us where can we find it and what’s on this, and maybe a couple of the ten snacks that are on there?

Katie:  Sure thing.  Well, you can download that for free.  And the idea here is that one way to get kids to eat better – because, again, they’re testing those boundaries – one way to get those young preschoolers to eat better is to get them involved because when they get involved, whether it’s growing food, choosing it at the grocery store or farmer’s market, planning a meal, preparing a meal, serving a meal – any involvement in any way helps them to feel connected to that food and they’re much, much more likely to try it joyfully or at least be open and having a better attitude at the meal.  So we want to get those kids in the kitchen, you know, using tools, and so we teach them simple things like using a butter knife to slice bananas or make ants on a log and different ways to slice cheese.  There’s actually a homemade gelatin in there that uses 100% grape juice, which is still not health food, but it’s way better than Jello from the box.  And it’s really fun.  It’s a really fun activity for kids to make with an adult.  So some of the recipes in there are things a three-year-old could do pretty much start to finish, and then some are kind of a half-and-half, like a fun thing for a kid to do with a parent.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think that’s a great tool.  You know, kids that age love to be involved, but in a sense, they’re kind of followers.  They like to do what their friends are doing.  They want to do what you’re doing, and if they know that you’re cooking and they’ve helped, they see that as something that they want to take part in, and they will probably eat it or at least try it, right?  They’re more likely to try it.

Katie:  Yeah, it totally increases your chances, and the pickier a child is – and some kids really have some processing issues where food maybe tastes so bold and vibrant to them that any new food is nearly terrifying because they’re afraid that it will overwhelm their senses, and that’s becoming more and more common, and it’s okay.  We can work within what our kids’ bodies are telling us, and it’s still, even with sensory processing disorder, the goal is still continual exposure.  So a normal kid might need two or three or ten exposures to, let’s say, broccoli.  A kid who’s processing the senses a little different might need 50 or 100.  It’s a little bit a longer game with them, and you have to be really patient.  And that’s not every kid.  That’s just the ones that are so picky.  Their tags are itchy.  They don’t like any spicy foods, or maybe they like only really spicy foods.  This is kind of a segue, but the ones who are saying my kid is way pickier than that – it’s still the same process; it’s just a long time and continuing to be patient and expose them.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s a lot of patience for the parents then.

Katie:  Yes.

Alyssa:  Again, a daily struggle, right?

Katie:  Yes!

Alyssa:  Is there anything that we didn’t mention about tips for our toddlers?

Katie:  Be consistent; keep the sugar out.  Actually, the grandma training is something I like to talk to parents about.  It’s not only grandmas, but some other adults in our lives, and sometimes us, too; we just want to love our kids through suckers and popsicles, and so it’s been my mission in life to train the grandma in our life who tries to do that that it’s not depriving a child if they don’t know what it is.

Alyssa:  Right!

Katie:  So candy is this secretive thing that my children have no idea exists, for as long as humanly possible, because if they don’t know it exists, it’s not a battle; it’s not a struggle, and it’s certainly not a deprivation.  They just think raspberries are the most amazing thing ever encountered, right?  So a bowl of raspberries is as good to them as a bowl of gummy bears.  So that’s a super thing, if you’ve got a really young child.  Just keep all the junk food as an unknown in their world.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think that is a really hard thing.  You know, we teach a grandparents’ class for other reasons, but part of that is the struggle that this different generation doesn’t understand that sugar is a bad thing.  They learned that sugar just rots your teeth.  They have no idea that it does all the other bad things that it does to us internally, and starting our kids off so young with sugar in everything – sugar cereals and candy and just everything.  They don’t get it, and it becomes a source of contention between the grandparents and the parents.

Katie:  Totally, yeah.  They think we’re depriving our kids of the joy of life, right?  And it’s been fun, actually, watching my mother-in-law just see our kids.  Like my third child literally asks for a bowl of feta cheese, like a container of feta cheese, to himself for his birthday from her.  And it cracks her up, but I think she’s finally getting it.  Like, if you don’t let them know that the craziness is out there, they’re happy.  They’re still super happy, and you can give them love in many other ways other than sugar, including through food, like real, whole, healthy food.

Alyssa:  That’s great advice!  Well, tell our listeners again how to find this PDF.

Katie:  Yeah, so 10 Snacks Your Preschooler Can Make Today at our website.  It’s a free download, and we’re so excited to share that with you.

Alyssa:  I’m so excited to download it for my daughter and do it today!

Katie:  Good deal.

Alyssa:  All right, well, thanks for visiting us again.  Hopefully we’ll talk to you soon!

Katie:  Absolutely.  Thank you, Alyssa!

Alyssa:  And you can always email us at and find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Podcast Episode #50: Kids Eating Healthy Read More »

postpartum depression

Podcast Episode #48: Bri’s Postpartum Story

In this episode our dear friend, Bri Luginbill of tells us about her struggle with depression and anxiety before, during, and after pregnancy.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I’m Alyssa, and today I’m so excited to be talking with my friend Bri.  Hey, Bri.

Bri:  Hi, everybody.

Alyssa:  She is with the Better Body Image Conference, and we did an event together – how many months ago was that?

Bri:  It was this March.

Alyssa:  Was it this year?

Bri:  It was this year.  Doesn’t it feel like it was last year?

Alyssa:  Forever ago, uh-huh.

Bri:  It was this year, March.  I believe the 11th.  Crazy.  It feels like eons ago.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Well, maybe since I mentioned it, tell everyone a little bit about what that conference was, and then at the end, we can ask you for more information.

Bri:  So that conference was a way to connect people in the community with different organizations that are very passionate about body image and just the mental and physical health, as well as social change, that can happen in our communities around that certain issue.  And so Gold Coast Doulas actually did a workshop on body image with pregnancy and postpartum bodies and had a lot of intimate conversations with different moms or even moms-to-be.

Alyssa:  Yeah, we loved that conversation.  It was – when our time was up, I remember someone came in and said, “Time’s up,” and everyone was like, “No, no, we just got started!”  So it would be fun to continue that conversation at another point.

Bri:  Definitely.

Alyssa:  Or even to have a podcast about it.  That could be a good one, too.

Bri:  Do a mini-event.  We’re trying to do mini-events now, too.  But we’ll talk later about that.

Alyssa:  So Bri and I see each other all around, and the last event we went to was just, again, the postpartum time with moms comes up a lot.  It’s just a topic that we always talk about, and you even spoke to the group about the struggles that you had, so I think – I just want to kind of continue that conversation, the two of us together, and let’s just have a real conversation about what it was like for you having a baby and was it even – did you struggle during pregnancy, too?

Bri:  During pregnancy I struggled more physically.  I had a lot of the sciatic nerve pain that a lot of people had, so I did go see – in my third trimester, it was weekly appointments with my DO just to get adjusted.  But the mental health was still okay there.  I think as soon as I had my baby, it was a very – I even had a lot of blood loss.  I almost hemorrhaged, too, during it, so I think when I had my kid, I was just exhausted, and I remember them putting him on me, and just being like, hey, there’s a baby there, but not really feeling that, like, instant love because I was just so exhausted and tired.  And so from that first point, I’m like, whoa, I was told I was supposed to feel instant love, instant excitement, and I was just worn out.

Alyssa:  You weren’t the photo of the mom in the hospital looking lovingly down at her baby; you were like, just let me sleep.  What’s on my chest?

Bri:  Yeah.  And then I even had to get walked to – when I went to the bathroom, another blood clot passed.  I almost actually passed out.  I remember telling the nurse, “I can’t hear anything, but I know you’re there.  I’m starting to not be able to see.  I’m just letting you know.”  So that was my experience, which some people even have it crazier than that, but I think I was just trying to make sure I was awake enough to be there, like not passing out, to be there for him more than, oh, my gosh, I didn’t have that moment to really be like understanding what was happening because of my health at that point in time.  And then after that, I do have a history in my family, and I have anxiety and depression, which I feel like is not a fair combination to have.  You get anxious, and then your thoughts race, and then you feel bad about yourself, and then it’s just like a cycle.  So I’ve learned over time coping strategies and things like that.

Alyssa:  And this something you struggled with before having a baby?

Bri:  Even before having a baby.

Alyssa:  So you knew that your risk after was so much higher?

Bri:  Yeah, definitely.  And I remember coming home, and we entered the door, and I just was bursting into tears, and I knew.  I also have a hard time with transitions.  I take them a lot harder than most people, and so I knew even with that it was going to be a little bit harder.

Alyssa:  Probably the biggest transition of your life thus far.

Bri:  Very true.  So I was super honest.  That’s the thing my mom taught me growing up.  She said, our family has these things; I’m going to tell you, and you just – if you feel anything, make sure you tell people.  So her training me in middle school with that still helped, and so I was able to just let people know, like, I know that I’m feeling these things, and logically and practically, I shouldn’t be sad; I shouldn’t be like this.  I just – it’s just so hard to fight that.  And then I was anxious at night because I was worried for him and just wanted to make sure he was okay, my baby, and then I was kind of depressed during the day just because that anxiety wore me out.  And I would go and sleep in the sun in our hammock because it was summer time, just to get some sunlight.  I actually did talk to my doctor and I did start taking medicine as soon as I could after getting out of the hospital, just because I had taken those before.  Zoloft is what I took, even before him, so I was doing all the things to try to deal with it, but I wasn’t being very compassionate to myself to just let myself be, and so I think my word of advice and encouragement to people is if you are feeling those feelings, as long as you’re voicing them and getting help and asking for support, just don’t beat yourself up too much.  You’re already doing so much, and it’s hard not to beat yourself up, but you’ve got this whole new world that’s going on, and you deserve to also be understanding to yourself, and you’re trying to understand what’s happening.

Alyssa:  Did actually getting on medicine seem to help?  Or not enough?

Bri:  It seemed like it helped a little bit, but it was still learning a new system, learning a new normal, learning what this means, and it really does take a village.  My mom helped a lot.  I had different friends that were helping.  I needed a lot of support from my husband.  There were times where we would wake up together at night with the baby because it was just nice, even if he was just sitting next to me, just having that person there.  And so, yeah, it was hard.  My anxiety, I knew was there because I remember just being so worried, is he eating enough?  Is he getting enough food?  And I would line up these bottles and then I would just obsess with counting and all that, to a point that was detrimental, and I remember I was over-pumping and all I was doing was pumping and taking care of my kid and eating, and that’s all I was focusing on for a few weeks, and I remember my husband pulling out all of the milk from the freezer, and he was like, there are 30 bags of 4-ounce milks here.  He is getting fed enough, and you’ve got enough.  I just think I was worried about my stock because I have to go back to weddings and I have to go back to work.  I was a wedding photographer, and just trying to make sure my stock was there.

Alyssa:  Anxiety turned a little bit OCD, it sounds like.

Bri:  Yes.  Yeah, so I just like to be open about it because I feel like a lot of people have their own experience of what goes on, whether they have anxiety or depression or not, but we’re usually always looking to someone to tell us – which is what I did.  I would ask all these different people of, what did you do?  What did you do?  Or what was your experience?  And none of their experiences were like mine, so I felt like I was doing something wrong, when in reality, everyone has their own unique experience, so don’t compare yourself to someone else’s postpartum story.  Just let yours be yours, and know that the one constant is that everyone’s journey is going to be different, and that’s okay and that’s good.  But I think sometimes, too, we just want to do it right because that’s what we’re taught in our society.  “Do it the right way.”  And there’s really no right way.  The only right way is making sure your baby is fed, has shelter, and that they’re loved.  And how the system happens for that is up to you and up to what your body and your family is able to do.  I did end up doing – I stopped breastfeeding at nine months just because he started not being interested anymore.  It’d be two minutes, and then, hey, what’s over here, looking around, and then he was always kind of a chomper, and I never discouraged that because I didn’t understand at the time, and my lactation consultant was like, uh-oh.  And so I was about done once he had teeth, too.  So for me, that ended at nine months, and then we did formula.  And sometimes people have to supplement or do both or do all formula, and that’s – it doesn’t really matter.  It’s whatever works for anybody.

Alyssa:  By the time you got to the nine-month mark and weaned him, did that help your mental health in and of itself, or had you gotten pretty much to a better place by that point?

Bri:  It did actually help my mental health even more just because then it was one less thing to think about, and I do think – I don’t know; I’m not a doctor, but I think your hormones after you’re done breastfeeding – do they normalize more?

Alyssa:  I feel like they’re always fluctuating after you have your baby.  Five and a half years later, I still think mine are all wacky.

Bri:  Yeah, you know, I would agree with that, too.  I think I felt a little bit less – maybe it wasn’t chemically after stopping breastfeeding, but at least one less thing to have to do.

Alyssa:  Well, there are hormones involved because, you know, there’s the hormones that actually produce, that allow you to produce the milk, so they are changing, but I think for someone with anxiety, who’s worried about breastfeeding and pumping and how much milk – now you can give them solid foods and a bottle that’s very quantifiable.

Bri:  And I don’t have to worry about producing that.

Alyssa:  And again, like you said, everyone’s story is different.  For some moms, weaning becomes a source of depression because now it’s the end of this time with your baby that you’ll never get back.

Bri:  That’s true.

Alyssa:  So you really just can’t compare.

Bri:  Yeah, no comparing whatsoever.  I thought of wanting to make some sort of book, and it wouldn’t be photo; it would be more of just stories, and it would be everyone’s experience postpartum, like just different people’s stories of postpartum, and then you can gift it to people who are pregnant but tell them not to read this until you feel like you want to read other people’s stories, like after you’ve had your kid and maybe you’re tearing your hair out, like what is going on, in the thick of it, and then you can see, look, everyone’s had a different experience, and that’s okay.  Because it’s something that you don’t want to take away from their pregnancy experience with all this; we don’t want to scare people; we don’t want to also say well, this is what I went through so you should go through this same thing, but having a collection of those stories, when it just seems like so much and you don’t know if what you’re doing is right, look at all these people, and they did it right.  Their kid is healthy.  Your kid will be healthy, and there’s all different experiences.

Alyssa:  They did what’s right for their family.

Bri:  Yeah.

Alyssa:  In that moment.

Bri:  Yeah.  But that’s one idea I had recently.  I have too many.

Alyssa:  That’s funny that you say that really, all that Baby needs is food, shelter, and love.  That’s how I end my newborn survival classes.  I’m like, all this information that I gave you, if you get nothing else out of this, is keep it simple because there’s just way too much information out there, and Dr. Google is telling you one thing, and your neighbor is telling you another thing, and your mom and your mother-in-law are conflicting things.  Keep it simple, and give this baby food and love and shelter.  That’s all this baby needs.  The rest is just icing on the cake.  They’re going to be fine, and you’re going to be great parents.  Just keep it simple.

Bri:  I love that!

Alyssa:  Anything else about your postpartum journey?  How old is your son now?

Bri:  He is a year and a half.

Alyssa:  And how has it gone from the nine-month weaning period to twelve months walking?  How has your journey been?

Bri:  So he had actually had some – we actually went to food therapy for him, too.  So we weaned him at nine months off of breastmilk, and then we did formula.  We noticed he was having trouble eating solids.  He would try to eat and try to swallow, but then he would gag and sometimes to the point of vomiting.  So at first, I thought, you know, maybe it’s just something he’s doing and he’s learning, but it would happen a lot, and so I actually got a request to go to Mary Free Bed, and they were wonderful there.  They actually said, yes, he has silent reflux, and so that is why this is happening, and then they were showing how his tongue wasn’t working in the correct ways to swallow and get all the food out of his mouth that he was eating.  So we went there for a few sessions and then I just did stuff at home.  Also, that of course didn’t help my anxiety, but that’s okay.  It really taught me to be patient and to be understanding and being a part of Better Body Image, I don’t want his relationship with food and his body to be stressed from the beginning.  He needs to have me be calm so that he doesn’t get a bad relationship with that food from the start, and he needed more of me to be the patient and calm one, and he now is doing great.  He has weaned off of bottles now.  He does do a bottle of water for comfort sometimes, but he’s drinking his sippy cups.  He’s eating lots of food.  Our magical food we found that he just could do really well with was cottage cheese, and he loves it and he’ll eat tons of it, and now he’s doing better.  He actually ate noodles last night, and he usually never eats noodles, and he ate some chicken, and I was like, whoa!  And it was just really exciting.  So that’s how his food journey has been more unique, but it’s been really good for me because I’m able to understand the signs better, and he’s a healthy, happy boy.  He likes to play.  He’s very extroverted, so he likes to go up to people and talk to them.  And right now, it’s half-gibberish, half sentences, and the other day I was washing dishes while he was eating some snack, and he goes, “What are you doing?”  And I’m like, whoa, you just…

Alyssa:  A full sentence!

Bri:  Yeah, out of nowhere!  But I always ask him that all the time, like, “What are you doing?”  And so I thought that was funny, and I just told him, “Well, I’m washing dishes.  That’s what I’m doing right now.”  And then the other day, my husband said, “Hey, did you go to the doctor today?” And he answered, “I didn’t do it.”  And then just went and played.  So it’s been a really fun journey.  And I’ll say that I know I wouldn’t be the same without having him as my son.  There’s something about having a child that does change you in different ways, and it challenges you to be a better version of yourself, more patient, just perseverance to a different degree, and being able to function on less sleep.  You still want to get enough sleep, but you realize how much you can actually do in a day vs. when you didn’t have a kid.  I’m so much more efficient in certain ways.

Alyssa:  I’m definitely more productive.  My time is so important, and I get so much done.  It’s very valuable; I’ll say that.

Bri:  Yeah, very valuable and efficient.

Alyssa:  So do you feel like, even though your whole life you’re going to struggle with anxiety and depression, that you’re just learning different ways to cope with these new developmental milestones, and instead of internalizing everything – and it sounds like your husband may be like mine, where he’s very rational?

Bri:  He’s very calm.

Alyssa:  And says, hey, let’s look at all these bottles you’ve got laid out and you’re counting and all the supplies – my husband did the same thing for me when I was struggling with breastfeeding.  He was my voice of reason, so finding somebody like that, that you can talk to and say, okay, how can you calm me down?  Tell me something that’s rational.  Validate me and understand my feelings, but let’s look at this outcome or this fact.

Bri:  Yeah, I definitely think so.  I think I’ve learned with him to let go of control more.  I’ll still always really – I’m a planner, and I like to do stuff like that, but I’m trying to let go of control more.  And then I think also having self-compassion more, which is my new thing I like to teach people about, but just being compassionate towards myself makes things a little bit less extreme or less anxious.  So, oops, I lost my temper or something with my son because I was up here and there were so many different things going on that day.  Well, I make sure to apologize and hug him, and then that’s that.  I forgive myself, and I don’t dwell on it.  In the past, I would have, the whole rest of the day, been just dwelling on that, or any event that happens; dwelling on every single thing.  And there’s too many things that happen in a day that can bring you down, and if you just take each of them so much and internalize it, you’re going to drive yourself crazy, and it’s just not fair to yourself.  So I think also embracing that life is always going to throw you different things, and that’s just another constant that you can know and expect, and just don’t put too many expectations.

Alyssa:  My journey is very similar to yours.  I think I didn’t realize that I ever had anxiety until I had a kid because I went through a lot of the same struggles you did.

Bri:  Yeah, there’s a lot of different exercises I use daily, too.  If my mind starts to spiral, I stop that thought, and I go, okay, is this thought – this feeling can be valid, but is this thought truth or a lie?  Is this really something that I should think about to that extent?  No, it’s probably not, so let’s stop that.

Alyssa:  All the would-have, could-have, should-have, right?  Like all these things that could happen – well, it didn’t happen.  It probably won’t happen.  So why am I dwelling on this?

Bri:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  This intrusive thought of something I’ll never have to deal with.  I totally get it.  Well, you have your own podcast?  Tell us the name of that and where people can find it.

Bri:  That podcast is called Compassionately You, and you can find it on iTunes and Google Podcasts.  It’s also on my website, and I just host conversations where I have people on and they talk about either a personal journey or a body image journey and we talk in vulnerability in hopes of inspiring other people or if someone went through a similar situation, they can relate and feel that they’re not alone.  And we also usually feature people’s businesses in there, as well, during that podcast.

Alyssa:  Cool.  So the Better Body Image Conference – is it once a year?  Are you going to do it every year?

Bri:  Yeah, once a year.  We are set for next year, same place, Wealthy Street Theater, on March 2nd, 2019, so we’re set for that date.  And, actually, our speaker is going to be Diane Bondi, who’s in the yoga world.  But we are looking into and we have done a few mini-events where we just partner with an organization or a few and we host – who knows what I can be, but we host different types of mini-events.  One was a reshowing of the movie that we showed at our conference this year.  I think we are going to possibly be partnering with an organization this December to do another event, and then there might be some in the works for January, as well.

Alyssa:  Where do you promote those?

Bri:  We usually promote them on our Facebook and on our website, which also just got a redesign.  One of our board members is a designer, and the lovely Brittany redesigned it, and it has pictures from last year.  I think, actually, our main header image is a picture during the Gold Coast Doulas workshop.

Alyssa:  I’ll have to look.  I didn’t know you redesigned.  I’ll have to look.

Bri:  We just did it this week.  She’s been working hard on that.  And so that’s a lot of fun there.

Alyssa:  Awesome.  Well, thanks again for doing this.  It’s always great to see you and talk to you.  Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story.

Bri:  Definitely.  Thanks for having me, and if people wanted to follow my Instagram page, I’m pretty vulnerable with just life.   So it’s just @briluginbill.  I just try to be super vulnerable in my days and let people know, like, hey, if you’re having this type of time, I might be, too.

Alyssa:  Well, you can always find us at our website, Instagram, and Facebook, as well.  Hopefully we’ll talk to Bri again sometime soon.  Hopefully, everyone has a great day!




Podcast Episode #48: Bri’s Postpartum Story Read More »


7 Things You Didn’t Know About Breastfeeding

Today’s guest blog is written by Natalie Michele of Maternity At Home.

As soon as you start to breastfeed, most of the women you meet on a daily basis, including your mom, friends, and even acquaintances, will have one or two things to tell you about what to do when nursing a baby. Some will tell you that eating cabbage will work wonders for you while others will advise you on when to start expressing milk by use of a breast pump. However, there is a whole lot of information that is left out. Here are some of the things you probably didn’t know about nursing a baby:

1. Your Diet Does Not Define You

Naturally, your body will make quality and healthy milk for your baby. Adopting a healthy diet while breastfeeding is not about producing “healthy milk” but is more about making sure your body maintains both its health and energy. Therefore, there is no need for you to agonize over not eating like a dietician. 

If you have chosen to eat two Oreos instead of a plate full of veggies, don’t get depressed or suddenly think you aren’t going to produce the very best milk for your baby. You can always fill the nutritional gap by simply taking a prenatal vitamin. These vitamins are often loaded with iron, calcium, and vitamin D.

2. Expect Increased Cramps

Oxytocin, the same hormone that is responsible for milk letdown is also the culprit for increased cramps. This hormone causes your uterine wall to shrink and as a result, triggers contractions from the uterus. 

As annoying and uncomfortable as these cramps may be, it is a good sign; it shows that your body is healing well. Some researchers believe the pain increases with subsequent pregnancies; this is because the uterine wall stretches a little bit more every time you have a baby.

3. Leaky Breasts

You can blame this on the same hormone, oxytocin. A single thought about your little one, talking about him or her, or hearing another baby cry will often trigger your body to release oxytocin and most likely a little bit of breastmilk along with it.

This could be embarrassing more so when it happens when you are out with friends, at work, or even on the streets. However, this should not worry you. It happens to each and every mom who is nursing a baby. To sop up the milk leakage, you could buy yourself some nursing pads or reusable silicone cups whose pressure prevents any milk letdown.

4. Your breast milk is different from the milk from a cow’s milk

Your breast milk will look different from time to time and does not in any way look like cow’s milk. Your breast milk changes every now and then to meet your little one’s nutritional needs. 

In the beginning, your breasts will produce yellowish-white colostrum that is quite sticky and loaded with proteins. A few days later when the milk letdown increases, your milk will have two parts; you will see these two parts separate when stored in the refrigerator. One part is watery while the other contains more fat and has more cream thus making it appear thicker.

5. Latching on can be super hard 

Lactation Consultants believe that by establishing a good latch, many other breastfeeding problems can be avoided. For you to have a good latch, you have to make sure that your nipple and at least half your areola are inside the little one’s mouth as you breastfeed. 

A bad latch will cause you to feel a pinch while nursing which will eventually lead to you have sore or cracked nipples. If this happens you may want to try pumping and storing your breast milk to help you while your breasts can heal. 

6. A quality bra is a must-have

While breastfeeding, most women’s boobs grow bigger. For this reason, it is important to wear a quality bra that will not only offer you comfort but also minimize the sagging of breasts that often happens post pregnancy. Invest in a bra that has a wide band that fits comfortably under the breasts and has cups that offer support without being too tight. You want to take care of yourself as best as possible.

Avoid wearing bras with an underwire as they could inhibit the flow of milk and cause your milk ducts to get clogged. If you are not so sure about the right bra for you, feel free to get a professional fitting from a medical care store or the maternity department.

7. You may experience breast engorgement

A few days after delivering your baby, your breasts will begin to produce lots of milk. When your breasts are full you will experience engorgement. Initially, it may be super uncomfortable, but the situation will get better as your milk supply syncs with the little one’s demands. 

To relieve you from the engorgement pressure, you could:

  • Wake your baby up for breastfeeding
  • Consider expressing milk using a breast pump
  • Shower or bathe with warm water

To avoid the feeling of engorgement, you could:

  • Keep switching the first breast you offer the baby during the nursing sessions
  • Breastfeed for 15 or 20 minutes on each side before switching


7 Things You Didn’t Know About Breastfeeding Read More »

Amber Brandt Coziness Consultant

Podcast Episode #30: Amber the Coziness Consultant

How do you make a space cozy when you have children and babies taking over your house?  Amber, The Coziness Consultant, gives us some easy tips for maintaining your sanity during this season of life.  You can listen to this podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.


Alyssa:  Hello.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner at Gold Coast, and I’m also a postpartum doula.  Today we are talking to Amber Brandt.  She is The Coziness Consultant.  Hey Amber.

Amber:  Hello.

Alyssa:  We’ve actually gotten some of your advice for our new office space, and I wanted to kind of talk to you about what you do for specifically new moms.  We’re busy; maybe we’re working.  Even if you’re not working, you have a newborn; maybe you also have a toddler at home.  How do you create an environment at home that feels cozy?

Amber:  So the coziness consultant side hustle started as this idea that people need to be comfortable in their own homes, and if we’re not happy and cozy and our spaces aren’t working for us, then our sanity is in question.  And so for me, I just really feel like for starters, people’s homes need to be a reflection of who they are.  When you come home, you should be able to sit down and let your hair down, and people who come to visit should feel welcome and know who you are by being in your space.  So a couple things that I really try to focus on when I’m talking with a client or a new mom, especially, is the idea of capacity, for one; that we can only be and do so much, and there’s this idea that our lives are like a pendulum of work and rest.  When we’re younger and we’re single and we have very few responsibilities, we go to work and then we just rest.  We go to happy hour; we hang out; you know, we do our thing.  And our pendulum is really wide, that swing.  But when we’re a mom, especially a new mom, our pendulums are really short, and instead it’s like your work is picking up this toy and then your rest is a sip of coffee, and then you’re right back to work again.  So finding a way to make your spaces work for you in the season of life that you’re in, I think, is really important.  So capacity, yeah; the fact that you can only be and do so much.  You need to make your spaces work for you, quirks and all.  The other thing that I talk about is intentionality: looking at a space to determine how does it need to be used.  If you have a dining room that also you homeschool in, or you don’t have a good play area because your child’s bedroom is so small and toys are everywhere – figuring out how to wrangle that and make it work.  And then at the end of the day, how do you want to feel in this space?  If you have these issues that every time you come home and you look around, you’re like, well, there’s that pile of papers again, or oh, these toys aren’t wrangled, then it’s going to affect how you feel about the rest of your life.  And so if you can get your home comfortable and cozy and make it intentional and work, then it’s going to take a lot of pressure off of those other areas of your life.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I feel like I’ve had to let go of some of that as a mom.  I mean, it’s funny you talk about that pendulum because before baby, my husband and I – people would come over and be like, does anyone live here?  This place is so neat and orderly; there’s nothing even on the counter.  And now, in my mind, it’s like a toy explosion.  People still come over and they’re like oh, it looks so great still, and I’m like, oh, my God.  In my mind, it’s a mess, but I’m okay with it.  But I’ve figured out what works for me, like what messes – they’re still a little bit contained, like I keep the toy mess back in her room, and I just deal with that maybe once a week.  Have her help me, right?  But the rest is a space that I feel comfortable in, like you said, and I’m comfortable with a certain amount of untidiness.

Amber:  Right, and realizing that it’s a season, that your kids’ diapers are for a season, and that all the toys that make music and sing and drive you insane are for a season, you know, and it’s understanding the time of life that you’re in and finding that balance of making it work and accepting that this is where I am right now.  I have a client who had me come over, and their house is really midcentury-modern inspired, and she had this long channel in her living room, this narrow space, that used to – when the original builders built it, it was a planter, like a built-in planter.  And they had pulled everything out of it, and it was just this hollow, long, rectangular space.  And she said, it’s so awkward; I don’t know what to do with it.  But every Tuesday night, we have these families that come over for dinner, and the kids always just sit on it.  And I was like, well, then make it a bench.  Eventually you can make it a planter again if you want.  You can tear it out if you want.  But for now, if that’s how it’s used, put a cushion on it and make it storage, and make it work for this season of your life that you’re in.  You don’t have to keep it that way forever.

Alyssa:  Right.  It’s good to do things that you’re able to change.  Nothing’s permanent.

Amber:  Well, and I think, too, something as simple as the way that you look at throw pillows.  Knowing the season of your life you’re in, you’re like, okay, well, I can buy a lovely cream pillow that’s going to get trashed.  Or you can either choose a different color, or you can buy the cream pillow, but don’t spend a lot of money on it and it’s disposable.  Or buy an expensive one that has a zipper, and you can wash it.  Find a way that makes sense.  If you really are going to toss your throw pillow when it gets too trashed, that’s okay.  That’s the season of life that you’re in, and eventually you can invest more in it.  But figure out what makes sense for you so that they’re less of a headache, so that you’re not constantly yelling at kids to get their feet off of them, you know.  If it’s something that they can live with and you can live with, and it’s just the season you’re in, then that’s what works, and do that thing.

Alyssa:  We moved into our house and bought a brand-new sofa and had our baby, and I think a week later she spit up all over it.  And I was just, oh, no, it’s a brand-new sofa!  And my husband’s like, this is probably the first time of many that this is going to happen.  You’re just going to have to deal with it.  And it was.  I mean, I think she spit up breastmilk on it a couple times.  I’ve eaten a chocolate chip cookie on it and gotten chocolate on it.  It happens, so you have to just realize that it is what it is.  It’s kids and even me.  I’m messy, too.

Amber:  Well, and you can be mad about it, or you can just shrug it off and say this is where we are.  The same thing happened with us.  We bought a brand-new mattress for our bed, and it was the kind that comes in a box like a Casper.  And it came, and we unrolled it, and it looked so lovely.  And we sat down on it, and Winslow, our daughter, who seemed fine one second earlier, threw up.  Not spit up; just threw up on the new mattress.  There wasn’t even a sheet on it.  And we both just looked at each other like, okay, well, this is our life now.  And it’s like – it’s just what it is, you know?  And we’re all doing that thing, right?  We all have those stories, and we’re all figuring it out.  But whatever you can do to stack the deck in your favor makes a big difference.  Just a couple things that – when I was thinking about coming here today, I thought that I want to leave these women with something really practical.  So I actually came up with just a couple of things that I do that someone shared with me years ago that have made a big difference.  And one of them is buying all-white towels.  A super simple thing, but there’s that long period of time with interior decorating where everyone bought everything that was matchy-matchy, and how many loads of laundry is that?  So I remember someone told me once, buy really expensive, really nice hotel-quality towels that are all white.  Spend some money on it, and then just simplify your life.  And I was like, that’s such good advice.

Alyssa:  Then you can just throw them all in.

Amber:  One load.  One load, done.  And they’re elegant and lovely, and who doesn’t like stepping out of a shower and feeling like it’s sort of luxurious, you know?  The other thing is keeping a box in your basement or in the garage for garage sale items that have actual stickers.  Just put the stickers right in there, so anytime you walk out to the garage or you have something you need to get rid of, you go out and put a – if you’re into the garage sale thing.  If you’re into donating, by all means, donate it.  But if your goal is to sell it eventually, put a sticker on it with the price immediately.

Alyssa:  And then it’s done.  It’s ready.

Amber:  Yeah.  That’s one that I’m still not great about, and every time, I’m like, man, why don’t I do this?  It’s so good.  So two really practical things to take away from the conversation that are just about simplifying your life and making your head space clearer.

Alyssa:  Thinking ahead – sometimes, especially as a new mom, you can’t wrap your brain around it.  You’re living in the moment.  How do I get through this hour and this day?  Not thinking ahead about what will save me time.

Amber:  Yeah.  But if you can find things that are tiny, you know, like the actual effort to walk the thing to the garage and put a sticker on it, is so much more manageable and bite-sized than thinking about pricing an entire pile; collecting those things and then pricing them all.  So two really helpful things that simplify your life.

Alyssa:  I appreciate it.

Amber:  You’re welcome.

Alyssa:  So how do our moms find you?

Amber:  So my website is  Same on Facebook; www.facebook/thecozinessconsultant.  I’m also on Instagram, same handle, and I share little tips and some personal insights on Instagram, and that also feeds into my website.  So those are the best places to find me.

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for being here today.

Amber:  Yeah, thank you.

Alyssa:  We’ll have you on again because you are actually a past client, as well.

Amber:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So we’ll have you on to talk about some of that another time.  But thanks for your advice today!

Amber:  Thank you!

Podcast Episode #30: Amber the Coziness Consultant 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!







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The BIG Latch On 2017 Logo in color

The Big Latch On – Grand Rapids 2017


World breastfeeding week is coming up! Why do we care?  

Each year, World Breastfeeding Week presents many opportunities to celebrate and promote breastfeeding. From August 1-7, this global movement strives to support breastfeeding by cultivating awareness and cooperation within and between communities worldwide. One big way we come together during World Breastfeeding week is with The Global Big Latch On.

The Big Latch On: 

The Global Big Latch On was started in 2010, and has since taken place annually during World Breastfeeding Week every August. Big Latch On events are held in communities throughout the world, with the shared goal to protect, promote & support families, strengthen support for breastfeeding, and improve the health of children and women around the world.

The Global Big Latch On reports that these events are “community initiatives that raise awareness of breastfeeding, encourage the formation of support networks between breastfeeding persons, and aim to normalize breastfeeding as a part of daily life”.

What to expect when you attend a Big Latch On Event:

Families with breastfeeding children (this includes all forms of providing breastmilk, including pumped milk, supplemental nursing systems, etc.) gather together to show support for our breastfeeding community, and to be counted for the Global Big Latch On count – where we strive to break the record numbers that were set the previous year. When you arrive you’ll be asked to sign in, get comfortable, and then at the same time, all the nursing babies/kids at each event location will be instructed to “latch on” (or otherwise demonstrate their means of receiving breastmilk), the organizers will count each participant, and send those numbers in to The Global Big Latch On headquarters be tallied with the numbers from other events all over the world.

Often there are snacks provided, fun giveaways, and an opportunity to connect with other families as well as some local family-friendly businesses and services.

Since 2010, attendance to these events has skyrocketed. In 2010 there were 147 total locations with ~2,000 babies counted. Just 6 years later in 2016, there were 758 locations in 21 countries, with nearly 18,000 nursing babies/children counted! Last year in Grand Rapids we had 45 nursing babies. We’re sure 2017 is going to be even bigger. Come help us break some records!

More information is available here.

With events planned for all around the world, including multiple locations in Michigan, we excitedly prepare to come together in Grand Rapids at our own local Big Latch On Event on Saturday, August 5th 10:00am-11:30am at Briggs Park in NE Grand Rapids. Make sure to sign in before 10:30am to be counted! Bring your picnic blanket and get comfy, mingle with other families, or just come to show your support.

Global Big Latch On objectives:

  • Provide support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide ongoing breastfeeding support and promotion in local communities.
  • Raise awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available locally and globally.
  • Help communities positively support breastfeeding in public places.
  • Make breastfeeding as normal part of day-to-day life at a local community level.
  • Increase support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and their communities.
  • Ensure communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services.

Other related World Breastfeeding Week Celebrations include Express Yourself (for all those women who provide breast milk to their child/children without latching them and those that donate milk either formally or informally) and Selfies Sunday (a count of all breastfeeding or expressing selfies posted on Sunday, August 6th with the hashtag #mybiglatchon).

Why is this important? Why do we participate?

Breastfeeding around the world deserves recognition and celebration! Some people don’t understand the hype around breastfeeding promotion. After all, we each have the right to feed how we choose; why all the attention for breastfeeding? Well, while I agree that parents should never be bullied or shamed about their feeding choices, I believe (and research consistently supports) that most parents, to varying degrees, want to breastfeed. We know this because the vast majority of families in the United States start off breastfeeding, or at least make an effort to. But despite this obvious desire to provide breastmilk, there remains a wide discrepancy between what is recommended, parents’ reported goals, and what is actually being done.

And we know that breastmilk is not only valuable to individuals for optimal nutrition, immune properties, and more, but many don’t realize how much breastfeeding is also an important and growing public health issue, as breastfeeding is associated with lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and many other health concerns that extend beyond infancy.

In the United States, breastfeeding initiation rates are quite high (80-90+% in many states), but quickly decline within the first 3 months (despite recommendations by both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics to provide breastmilk exclusively for 6 months).

We are not meeting our national breastfeeding goals, and in many cases not our individual goals either. Reasons for this vary from family to family, but three big ones are:

  1. Lack of breastfeeding education: Lack of understanding about normal breastfed baby behavior, lack of understanding about how breastmilk production works, lack of information and resources for troubleshooting issues when challenges do arise.

Studies suggest that more than 90% of breastfeeding moms report having struggled or encountered a challenge during the early weeks of breastfeeding. This statistic isn’t intended to be discouraging, but rather to normalize the experience of struggling to breastfeed, to say, “just because you experience a problem doesn’t mean breastfeeding isn’t right for you or isn’t going to work for you”. Often it’s just a matter of having access to good information and support to get through the rough patches.

  1. Going back to work or school: Poor maternity leave rights and lack of options put most U.S. women in a position to return to work in the early months of life, often sooner than they may want to, which can disrupt the breastfeeding relationship.
  2. Lack of community support: Breastfeeding in the U.S. has been on the rise since the early 1990s, but we still don’t have a deep breastfeeding culture. Formula-feeding is still very much a cultural norm in many parts of the country. We no longer live in villages with extended family and other parents caring for babies in community. We suffer from a deficit of breastfeeding normalization, meaning most of us in the U.S. don’t experience many opportunities to witness, watch and learn from other breastfeeding moms when we are young. Many modern parents enter their own breastfeeding relationships in relative isolation, with little understanding of breastfeeding norms, and oftentimes less than adequate support to meet their own goals.

In many parts of the world, including the United States, breastfeeding can really benefit from more attention and support.

2017 marks World Breastfeeding Week’s 25th year. This year’s theme is about working together for the common good! Working together to “call on advocates and activists, attract political support, media attention, participation of young people and widen the pool of celebrants and supporters”.

Let’s come together in West Michigan to support one another, support healthy babies, and strengthen our breastfeeding community locally and globally!

Author: Shira Johnson, IBCLC


The Big Latch On – Grand Rapids 2017 Read More »

breastfeeding class

Why Take a Breastfeeding Class?

Why Take a Breastfeeding Class?

We are pleased to present a guest blog by Shira Johnson, IBCLC . 

Breastfeeding is natural, right? Well, yes… But it doesn’t always come naturally!

Just like parents educate themselves about pregnancy and birth, it’s valuable to have basic knowledge about breastfeeding before baby arrives (we don’t read up on childbirth while in labor, after all). Breastfeeding is a relationship, a complex dance between mom and baby, and many factors influence how each pair works together. Even if mom knows just what to do, it might not come as easily for baby (or vice versa!). Getting off to a good start begins at birth, and in the hours and days following. Having resources and realistic expectations can help.

Facts about Breastfeeding Education

  • Parents who receive prenatal breastfeeding education have more successful breastfeeding outcomes
  • Fears about breastfeeding? Have you heard horror stories from well-meaning friends or family members? Are you worried you’ll have to restrict your diet, worried about making enough milk, or about breastfeeding in public? You’re not alone! These unknowns and concerns are common, and they undoubtedly influence our expectations! It’s no fun to head into something feeling nervous or skeptical. Having a basic understanding and being prepared with tools and resources can set the stage for success.
  • Many parents who start off breastfeeding don’t meet their own breastfeeding goals. Many stop breastfeeding before 6 months, despite health guidelines (by the American Association of Pediatrics, as well as the World Health Institute) to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, and provide breastmilk for a minimum of 1 to 2 years. Yet in 2016, only 22% of babies were exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and only 50% were still received any breastmilk at 6 months. Most parents start off breastfeeding, but many stop before these suggested guidelines.
  • The most commonly-reported reasons for early weaning (such as concerns about milk supply/production, pain associated with breastfeeding, and going back to work) are typically addressed in a breastfeeding class, preparing parents with information and resources to successfully troubleshoot these most common challenges and obstacles.
  • What’s so great about breastmilk, anyway? Most of us have heard “breast is best” and similar hype about the magical health benefits of breastmilk. Well, there’s a reason for this. New research continues to come out every year about amazing discoveries around the functions and content of breastmilk. While formula might be nutritionally complete (and is an invaluable tool, when needed), the nutrients in it are not as bioavailable (not as easy for the body to access or utilize). Also, formula does not have the amazing protective and immune functions that breastmilk has. Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese or have diabetes later in life, and breastfeeding reduces risk of cancer not just for baby but also for mom! Breastfed babies tend to get sick less often, and recover from illness more quickly than their formula-fed peers. The majority of parents who sign up for a breastfeeding class are often already planning to breastfeed, but if you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, or are concerned about whether it is worth the effort, these cool facts might inspire you. A breastfeeding class can help you weigh your baby-feeding options. There is certainly no shame in feeding your baby in any way you choose to. But having more information can help this choice be an easier one to make.


If you are a parent who plans to breastfeed or just wants more information, if you’re curious about how it all works, how to do it, whether or not it’s “for you”, how to return to work as a breastfeeding mom, or if you have any concerns, fears or simple curiosity and a desire to learn more, then a breastfeeding class is for you!


Why Take a Breastfeeding Class? Read More »