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Parenting During Covid-19: Podcast Episode #96

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

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

Laine:  Doing great.  How are you doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Right, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s a great idea.

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

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

Laine:  Held hostage!

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Laine:  I hear that a lot.

Alyssa:  Close to it.

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Yeah.  That’s a great idea.

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

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I like that.

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  True!

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening, everybody!


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

plagiocephaly and torticollis

Podcast Episode #28: Plagiocephaly and Torticollis

What is Plagiocephaly?  Torticollis what?  Jessica Buikema of Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy talks about both and what parents can do to prevent them and how physical therapy can help their baby.  Listen to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Alyssa:  Hello.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast.  Today we’re talking to Jessica Buikema of Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy.  Hey, Jess.

Jessica:  Hey, thanks for having me.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We recently spoke to one of your colleagues, JoEllen Bender, who works at a different location but does pelvic floor physical therapy.  And we had an event with both of you together, and I want to talk to you separately about what you specialize in, plagiocephaly and torticollis.  Now, those are super big, long, fancy words for people who don’t know what they are.  Can you break down what each of those are and what that means for a new mom and a new baby?  And then, how you can help?

Jessica:  Yeah, definitely.  So torticollis is going to be tightness or a mild lump in a muscle called your sternocleidomastoid.  It’s a neck muscle, and basically what you’ll notice with your baby is that they tend to prefer to tilt one way, and they tend to want to rotate the opposite way of the tilt.  So that’s when you know that torticollis could be an issue with your baby.  Plagiocephaly is going to be any form of head flattening due to external pressure on the skull.  We’ve seen a huge increase in both of these with the Back is Best campaign to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, and it’s very important to continue doing Back is Best, but these two conditions have increased almost five-fold since that has started.  They both can be caused from the same issues, as well, but we advise you to just kind of look at your baby, and if you’re noticing that, bring that up to the pediatrician.  A lot of times, the pediatrician will notice it right away, too, and they’ll have those conversations with you.

Alyssa:  So I’ve noticed in babies, you know, if they do have a tightness in one side, you’ll try to put a toy over there or try to get them to look, and it’s just their eyes that will move, but they won’t actually move their head.  And then there can be breastfeeding issues, too?

Jessica:  Right.

Alyssa:  They might prefer one side over the other because it actually hurts to move their head that way to get to the breast on that one side.

Jessica:  Yes.  So it’s important that the baby does get treatment if we’re noticing that either of these are significant.  Especially, they can have issues with posturing of their mouth, so they’ll have an open mouth posture.

Alyssa:  What does that mean, posture of the mouth?

Jessica:  So their mouth will stay open, and it will lead to issues with breastfeeding.  Suck and swallow issues, too, with breastfeeding, when there’s tightness in either –

Alyssa:  So it will hurt to actually close their mouth, so they just leave it open?

Jessica:  No, it’s just the way that they’re positioned because of the way the muscle attaches, so their posturing of both their head and neck will be different.  It will be offset.  So you’ll notice, as a mom, these could be issues leading up to problems with breastfeeding, and this could be one of the culprits.  I know that you guys, especially your lactation consultants, will kind of try to figure out what the cause of breastfeeding issues is, and this is one of the issues that could come up.

Alyssa:  So who do you mostly see?   Do you see very, very newborn babies?  Do you see them months later?

Jessica:  In an ideal world, we would see the babies fairly early.  Because everyone goes to their pediatrician quite frequently when the baby is born, this does typically get caught early, and the earlier the better, because again, this – torticollis and plagiocephaly can be caused from so many different things, and a lot of times, it’s caused in the womb.  It’s not caused because you as a mom did something wrong, so that’s something I definitely want to stress, because that can stress parents out.  They’re trying to do everything right, and they think they caused this, when in fact it could be caused due to the positioning in the womb; if you had low amniotic fluid; if there was any trauma at birth; multiple births, this is very common because they run out of space.  Prematurity, if they’re in the NICU for a while; that can cause that as well.  And plagiocephaly and torticollis kind of go hand in hand, so you can have both or you can have one or the other, and they’re actually both caused from very similar things, so any of the things that I mentioned can cause it.

Alyssa:  So what do you tell parents who – you know, I see a lot of babies, like you said, with helmets now because – I mean, a lot of times it’s because of sleeping on the back, but it’s what’s recommended; it’s what we have to do.  Is there anything they can do to prevent that from happening with sleeping on the back, or is the helmet the only fixer?

Jessica:  No, so the earlier we see babies, the better because we can teach parents very early on ways to play with their child and ways to position their baby in various environments.  So although we provide a lot of manual treatment, like we do massage to the neck and work on positioning, but there is so much education that goes with this.  We’re only seeing the baby, dependent on what’s needed, but we’re only seeing the baby for 30, 45-minute sessions a couple times a week.  So much of it goes into what you’re doing outside of physical therapy.  So different positions when you’re playing; different positions when you’re carrying the baby; different positions when you’re breastfeeding; those are all things that we can provide at these sessions when we treat them.

Alyssa:  So if a mom came to you before there was even an issue, they could potentially prevent it?

Jessica:  Yeah, if there was – prevention would be huge as well.  As you know, especially with when the baby comes out of the birth canal, their skull is very soft to allow them to be able to come out, so their skull is susceptible to getting flat spots due to pressure after birth, as well.  So learning different positioning techniques would be very helpful to prevent that, and just telling moms what to look for to help prevent that.

Alyssa:  How do we find you?  If we have a mom who says, I need help with this?

Jessica:  I’m located at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy’s Cascade location, so I am at 5136 Cascade Road Southeast.  It is at the corner of Cascade and Spalding, and our number is 616-301-1215.  If my location’s not convenient for you, there are multiple Hulst Jepsen clinics that have physical therapists that enjoy treating plagiocephaly and torticollis and could definitely help you as well, and you could call any clinic and they could give you the information on the closest clinic for you.

Alyssa:  Yeah, there are several.  I keep seeing them.  How many locations are there?

Jessica:  We have 14 locations.  Our website,, will also list the locations, and then we also have our specialties broken down.  But if you can’t find it on the website, don’t hesitate to call any location.  They can direct you in the right place that’s most convenient for you.

Alyssa:  Awesome.  Well, thanks for coming in today!

Jessica:  Yeah, thanks for having me!

Alyssa:  Email us if you have questions for us or Jessica or anything about their physical therapy offices.  You can email us at  Find us at,  Facebook, and Instagram.  You can listen to our podcast, Ask the Doulas, on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Podcast Episode #28: Plagiocephaly and Torticollis Read More »

Newborn Survival

Podcast Episode #10: Dealing with Modern Medicine and Your Mother-in-Law

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Cindy talk about dealing with input from family members, including your mother-in-law, about parenting and about the role modern medicine plays in being a parent.   You can also  listen to the podcast on iTunes. 

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas!  This is Alyssa.  I am co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast.  Today’s episode is sponsored by Cindy’s Suds, and we actually have Cindy with us again today.  We had a question from a client about dealing with in-laws in their home, and Cindy and I have had an interesting conversation with her background as a physician’s assistant and dealing with parents bringing their children in and then maybe the role of the in-laws in that situation.  And then I obviously deal with that in-home in postpartum support.  So let’s start by giving some background on you as a PA and then how your outlook changed after doing a lot of research and creating your natural product line.

Cindy:            Okay.  Well, I worked in family practice, and so that means that I saw everything from birth, pregnancy, all the way to, obviously, the elderly.  So I kind of saw the whole gamut, which I loved because I love that I could see somebody starting out in their 20s, then getting married, and then getting pregnant and starting a family.  I absolutely love that because I could grow with them and get a window into their world and see how they’re transitioning from being a single person to being married to being a mom.  So, super fun; I completely loved it.  I worked in family practice for about 14 years.  In that time period, when I started, I was a single person.  I hadn’t been married yet, and so it was interesting even for me professionally to grow from “this is what you do” to all of a sudden being married and being like, wow, there’s a whole dynamic here, being married.  And then wow, wait a minute, now as a mom, my whole “this is what you do” completely changed because no longer is it what the books say that you should advise a patient on.  Now it’s like, well, let me give you some background.

Alyssa:            I have some experience now.

Cindy:            I have experience in this now, so it’s really great, and I think that was just a really neat part of being a PA is being able to bring in my own experiences.  And that’s part of, I think, life anyway.  We’re all given so many different experiences; we can come along each other and say hey, this is what I’ve learned and if I can help you, then we can kind of help each other grow.

Alyssa:            In a supportive way.

Cindy:             In a supportive way.

Alyssa:            Because I can think it can end up being judgmental as well.  Here’s my experience –

Cindy:            Right, you do it my way or the highway.  And I actually saw that sometimes because sometimes a patient would come in with her brand new baby, and in tow would be either Mom or Mother-in-law, kind of this hovering presence, and instantly, as a provider, I would walk in and go, oh, I’m feeling the dynamic in the room; I’m feeling the tension in the room because you have Mom with her new baby, who is navigating the waters of what does it look like to be a new mom; what do I make of this; how do I do the best thing for my child?  And Grandma, who I know is well-intentioned, and Grandma has the biggest love and heart for Baby, too, but the way that it was done 40 years ago is not the way, even scientifically speaking, that we’ve learned may be the best way nowadays.  And so Grandma may come in with this preconceived idea of, “You do it my way, and if you’re not doing it my way, you’re going to ruin this kid’s life.”  And it’s really, really hard for the new mom to figure out how she can’t – you know, what do I do so I don’t offend my mom or mother-in-law, but also what do I do so that I’m being true to my own feelings and my own desires of how my husband and I want to raise our new baby?  And I feel like a lot of new moms are really pulled in different directions because they’re reading, and today’s mom is so informed, and they’re so much more educated in what it looks like to be a mom vs. when you had a baby 40 years ago.  Sometimes you were still knocked out; you woke up; baby’s in your arms.  This is what you do because this is what was always done.  It’s a very new world nowadays in parenting, and you have perhaps maybe a mother-in-law or mother that is coming into the situation with very different preconceived ideas than where you want to go parenting-wise.  So there’s a lot of – you’ve got to be kind of gentle on both sides because you need to do in your heart what is best for your new baby, but you also somehow need to teach Grandma that we really love your support, but this is the way that we’re choosing to do things.

Alyssa:            We actually created a class called The Modern Grandparent for that exact reason.

Cindy:             Love it!  Love it!

Alyssa:            We’ve had clients say these are really tricky waters to navigate.  “I want my mother or mother-in-law to be around.  They’re great caregivers, but they’ve been out of the game for 30-some years.”  And so the class actually, in a very gentle way, teaches them that this is your son or daughter’s family.  You have to let them parent the way they want to parent, and then update them on health and safety things.  You know, even talking about SIDS and that we keep the crib clean and we don’t lay them on their tummies anymore; it’s Back to Sleep, and just going over all these – you know, car seat safety, and really, really updating the grandparents so that Mom and Dad can feel comfortable with their parents as caregivers.  I think that’s huge.

Cindy:            Absolutely.  It’s huge because as a new mom, we all know how important it is to still keep that relationship strong with our husbands and still have a date night once in a while, but if your mom or mother-in-law is the babysitter that night, and you’re trying to have a nice dinner with your husband out, and you are terrified that Grandma is going to put baby to bed on their tummy or do things that you have specifically chosen to not do as a parent, it can really be upsetting, and you’re not going to be able to really let go.

Alyssa:            You don’t enjoy yourself.

Cindy:            No, you don’t.  Not at all.  So I think it’s great that you guys are offering this class because there’s a lot of education, I think, that needs to happen to grandmas, whether it’s your own mom or your mother-in-law, so that a grandma can now be a supportive person to you instead of more like a hovering “you do it my way” kind of personality, and that can just be so hard.

Alyssa:            How would you deal with that in the medical world?  Like this family comes in and you have the hovering grandmother?  Is she sometimes trying to tell you how to do things, or what’s best for baby?

Cindy:            A lot of times they can be fairly vocal and say, “Well, when my daughter was a baby…”  And then I kind of would gently say, “Well, gosh, you know, you’re absolutely right.  When you were parenting your daughter 35 years ago, that is exactly the standard that they said was the best.  But now there’s a new standard, and research has shown – etc.”  So I always try to validate that; “Oh, my gosh, you’re so right.  That’s exactly what was best protocol then” – because you don’t want Grandma to feel like, you know, what are you thinking by doing this or that?  Because she honestly is wanting what’s best for the baby.  So if you validate, “You’re right.  That’s exactly what was the right way to do things back then, but nowadays, they’ve really made some new headway in research, and they’ve discovered this, and they’ve discovered that.”  So kind of validating and then redirecting to the newer research and the updated research so that Grandma doesn’t feel like an idiot, number one, because she’s there to help and she loves the baby and she loves her own child.  So you really want to validate Grandma, but then steer them into the latest facts so that they know that there has been a change because they’ve been out of parenting little babies for that long.  So you really want to kind of gently segue into, “The latest research shows; the latest studies show–” so they don’t feel bad.  So that was my role as a provider.  Then the pressure’s taken off of the new mom.  So the new mom is no longer feeling like she’s battling with her mother or mother-in-law.  It’s kind of taken the weight off of the new mom, and I see that as a doula, that’s a perfect role too, because as a doula you can come in and say, “That’s so great that you want to help Baby.  That’s so great that you want to be a great caretaker.  Have you heard that some of the new research shows, blah blah blah.”  So that way, the new mom doesn’t feel like she’s trying to pick sides between baby and her parent.

Alyssa:            Yeah, and I think that’s so important.  You don’t want them to feel like they’re being attacked, and you don’t want them to feel silly.  Like, oh, I’m stupid because I’m looking at data from 40 years ago.  I think validating that is really important; saying, “You obviously did a really great job because look at your kids.  But now, you know, here’s what’s changed, and let me show you why.”  Yeah, that’s great advice.  So when you started your company, were you still a PA?

Cindy:            Yes, yeah.  So I was still working as a PA, and I had my company on the side, and so the very early years of my company, I very, very intentionally kept it small because my role was mom to young kids because my kids were all quite young at the time.  I was working as a PA, and I also homeschool, so that’s a factor, too; that was another job, right?  And so I very intentionally – I kept feeling like I had horse reins that I would pull back, pull back, because I knew how it could quickly snowball to growing so fast, and I didn’t want that because my kids were little.  I was working as a PA; I was homeschooling.  So yeah, I worked as a PA for several years as I had Cindy’s Suds, so I did the two things for a while.

Alyssa:            And so you’re researching, studying medicine, and very westernized medicine, and having this mindset, and then you start to research this more holistic, natural – these remedies for very common ailments.  How did that affect how you treated clients, and did that become hard?

Cindy:            It did.  It really, really did because so many people want the quick fix, and so they would come in and say, “I don’t feel good.  I need an antibiotic.”  And I tried to be gentle and sit down and educate and say, “Well, let’s first see if there’s anything bacterial going on because if there’s not, really, viruses take about five days to completely run their course, and you just need rest.  You need to give your body some time to heal.  You can symptomatically treat if you want to with Tylenol or Advil, but you don’t need an antibiotic.” And I actually had several, several patients get angry.  “Well, I want one.” And being very adamant with, “This is what I want.  I came in; I need to be fixed.” And so it was hard because I’m trying to educate them on the fact that there are natural options out there; there are other things that you can do to stay healthy, to be healthy, and not necessarily turn instantaneously to prescriptions.  But I think there still is a large part of the population that is resistant to that and they want the quick fix.  We live in such a quick-fix-me world that people want that.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  But do you think just like with the mother-in-law who had a baby 40 years ago and thinks things are this way – is it that same age group thinking that well, an antibiotic fixes everything?  And they don’t know that, okay, let’s get enough sleep; let’s eat healthy; let’s cut out processed foods; let’s drink a lot of water and exercise; probiotics; all this good stuff – they have no idea.

Cindy:            Yeah, for sure.  And I think that’s where a lot of the education was coming in, that I would sit down and I would try to educate them on these things, but a lot of it is generational.  And so generationally, if this makes no sense to you, if you sound like you’re talking voodoo to them, they just – sometimes they just don’t get it, or maybe their minds are a little bit more closed off.  They may be a younger person.  Sometimes they do try to learn and be like, “Oh, I had no idea.  I’ll try that.”  But there are also others that were generationally – they were kind of set in their ways and their thought patterns, so it really depended on the patient, but it did get hard because I really felt torn because I really felt like there are so many great things to try first, and I’ve not turned my back on western medicine.  There is certainly a time and a place to use prescriptions and all the great things that have been discovered and new medications that are out there.  But first do no harm.  First try things that are safe.  First try things that are natural, and if these aren’t getting you to a place of healing or wellness, then start looking around.  What else could be going on?  And obviously if it’s something that’s obviously needing to be treated, you go right to that treatment first.  I mean, you’re not going to turn your back on, oh, this person has pneumonia.  Go home and rest.  But obviously you’re using your head in those situations, but a lot of times for the smaller, easier things, it’s just –

Alyssa:            Well, I think that’s preventative, right?  A lot of it is just, let’s prevent this small stuff.  I mean, there’s obviously big things.  Like you said, they’re going to happen.  You can’t just rub coconut oil on it and have it go away.

Cindy:             Right, exactly.

Alyssa:            So then your transition from the medical world to just doing your business – and you had said in our last episode that a lot of it was friends.  You had this overabundance of supply.  Your friends were like, “Oh, you should just sell this.”  You got into craft shows.  How much of that, like leaving the medical world to do this, had to do with this pull from, “I can’t really do this western medicine anymore.”  Or was it just more purely business?

Cindy:            It was actually several factors.  So I wouldn’t say that, oh, I left being a PA to exclusively focus on Cindy’s Suds because that’s not entirely accurate.  There were many things changing within the whole physician assistant profession that was bothersome to me.  The insurance companies were dictating so much of what we could and couldn’t do.  So you would come in and see me, and I’d go, oh, you know, listen, this is what you have; you need to get, say, a cat scan of your shoulder, whatever.  I would first have to look at your insurance and go, oh, gee, you’ve got this insurance.  I can’t do that yet.  I have to go to step one first, and then if step one fails, I have to go to step two.  So there were so many legalities that had changed –

Alyssa:            Even though you knew what you needed to do.

Cindy:            Oh, my word.  And it was – you felt like your hands were tied.  So even though – when I started practicing in 1996, it was a very, very different world than when I left in the late 2000s because you had to really check into what the insurance company wants me to do first, and I really felt that I could not practice with my head and my heart knowledge anymore.  I had to go see what this third party said that I could do to you and for you.  That was very frustrating.  At the time, my boss wanted me to work more, and that was also a factor.  My husband and I had decided we weren’t going to allow that to happen to our family because we had set up an amount of hours that we felt comfortable with me working per week, and adding to it was just not in the equation.  So it was that, and it was growing my company, as well.  So it was multi-faceted.  It was not just one thing, but the frustration with the current state of practicing health care was very, very high on the list, just that frustration of “I want to treat you this way, but I just can’t.  My hands are tied.”  And so that became a big factor in it, as well.

Alyssa:            I feel like that probably hasn’t gotten any better since you left, right?

Cindy:            It hasn’t, no.  My friends that still practice – it’s a very frustrating aspect of trying to practice modern medicine nowadays.  Very frustrating.

Alyssa:            Well, I think you gave us some really, really good tips in many areas.  So thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Cindy:             Absolutely.

Alyssa:            We will have you on again soon.

Cindy:             That sounds great.

Alyssa:            And you can find Cindy at

Cindy:            Absolutely.  We’ve got our website there; you can look on the website.  There’s product descriptions.  You can also contact me via the website or at if you have specific questions that I can help you out with.

Alyssa:            Awesome.  And you can find us at  Email us at  And you can find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Don’t forget to subscribe to our iTunes podcast.  Thanks.


Podcast Episode #10: Dealing with Modern Medicine and Your Mother-in-Law Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #5: Why Choose Natural Products for Your Baby’s Body?

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Cindy and Alyssa talk about the benefits of choosing natural care products for your baby and your household.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes.

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  Today we are talking to Cindy, creator and owner of Cindy’s Suds.  Can you give me your elevator speech of what is Cindy’s Suds?

Cindy:            Sure, sure.  So Cindy’s Suds is a 100% natural company that provides natural bath and body products and products for home, primarily to parents of younger families who are seeking to make the change from more conventional-type products to more natural-based products once they start realizing how much better that is for their bodies and for their families and homes and everything.

Alyssa:            I love it.  I recently got some of your stuff, and I’m obsessed with the body butter.  I love it.

Cindy:             Oh, good.  Which scent did I send you?

Alyssa:            I don’t even know.  Do you have an unscented?

Cindy:             I do, yeah.

Alyssa:            So tell me how you started Cindy’s Suds and why.

Cindy:            Okay.  So I have three kids.  Our middle child was born with very, very dry skin and severe eczema, and his skin is so much thinner than my other kids, if that even makes sense.  My other two kids, when they were born, they had darker skin and they just loved them, “Oh, they look like they have a tan.  They look darker.”  When he was born, I was like, “Whoa!”  Almost transparent, his skin was so thin.  So he had always had very sensitive skin, just really paper-thin, almost, and after he was probably maybe six to nine months, I really started noticing his skin was super, super dry.  He started developing eczema patches on his legs, on his butt cheeks, on his arms.  And he would scratch them at night or when he would take a nap, and he would wake up from his naps with bloody legs and bloody fingernails, and it was just heartbreaking as a mom to go in there.  He was trying to give me this little smile, and he’s got blood on his sheets and blood on his legs.  So that broke my heart, and in my mind, because I’m a physician assistant by trade, in my mind I thought, oh, well, it’s eczema.  You treat eczema with steroids.  But in my mom’s heart, I’m like, are you kidding me?  There’s no way.  This kid, his skin is way too thin.

Alyssa:            Yeah, what does cortisone cream do?

Cindy:            It thins out skin, yeah, so cortisone cream further thins out skin as it’s decreasing inflammation on the skin, so I’m like, there’s no way.  This kid already has super thin skin.  There’s no way I’m going to do that to him.  So that kind of got my mind rolling with, well, what else is out there?  What else could I do?  And this was almost – well, this was 16 years ago because he’ll be 16 this month.  So there were natural products out there, but there weren’t to the degree that there are now, and so I started going to the library and getting out books because this was also almost to the point where the internet was kind of still in the early phases, and just because I’m more old-school, you just didn’t think to go to the internet for things because it wasn’t really a resource that normal moms tapped into yet.  So I went to the library and got a bunch of different books, and there were not a lot.  There were a handful of books on making natural products for your skin and for your body and things, so I just started combing through those and writing down.  This sounds good, and this sounds good.  Kind of compiling little mini-recipes that I would try, and I did try the recipes, and it worked, and I ended up with so much of it that I started giving it away for gifts and for friends who had babies, and then here we are, ten-plus years later.  Well, I didn’t start the company until after I’d been doing it for several years.

Alyssa:            So you’ve been making this for 16 years?

Cindy:             I’ve been making it for 16 years, yeah.

Alyssa:            And the company?

Cindy:             And then we’ve had that for ten years.

Alyssa:            So for six year you made it but didn’t sell it.  What finally made you – was it a friend going, “You really need to sell this stuff”?

Cindy:            It was that.  It was friends; it was family; it was the fact that I had so much of it at home from making it for my own family that I got to the point where I’m like, okay, either this is just – it’s got to go to more people, gift-wise or birthday-wise or whatever, or I should start selling it.  And then I had a couple – the reason why I started, funny enough, was we had a garage sale, and I was getting rid of my baby stuff.  And so I had some of this, of my product, out for sale, and one of the ladies who ran a craft bizarre at a local church said, “Oh, you should be in our craft show,” and I was like, oh!  Perfect idea!

Alyssa:            So is that how you started, craft shows?

Cindy:             That’s how I started was craft shows, yeah.

Alyssa:            Okay.  And so 16 years later, what happened with your son’s skin?  Did it progressively get better?  Did you find out what caused it?

Cindy:             You know, in hindsight, I’m sure so much of it was diet-related.

Alyssa:            That’s what I was wondering.

Cindy:            Yeah.  And that’s kind of where we’re all going.  Looking at the skin as a whole, the skin is kind of a mirror or window into what’s going on inside your body.  And so when you see skin issues on the outside that you’re like, oh, something’s not quite right, you’ve got to look inside.  What’s not right on the inside?  And oftentimes more than not, it’s a dietary condition, but back up 16 years ago, we didn’t really think that way right off the bat.  It was more like, oh, there’s a skin condition.  You treat the skin condition.  And I think still there are maybe some people that still think that way.  It’s a skin condition; treat the skin.  But more often than not, if it’s a skin condition, let’s see what else is going on and let’s figure out if it’s dietary or if it’s autoimmune, which can also have a little bit of a factor, too, with eczema, psoriasis, things like that.  But typically there is some kind of a dietary component.  So in hindsight, yes, he probably had sensitivities, even back then, to dairy products and probably to gluten, as well.  For sure dairy because now he’s on a dairy free diet and much better.

Alyssa:            So you have figured out some dietary things now as a 16-year-old?

Cindy:             For sure, yeah.

Alyssa:            Yeah, because my daughter, who’s four and a half, we found out – it’s been about two years ago that we found out her eczema was due to several food allergies.  And it’s funny because the older generation, like you said, 16, 20, 30 years ago, they’re the ones who say, “Oh, this is just a bunch of bunk.  All these gluten free; that’s just ridiculous.  My kids had eczema for years.”  Well…

Cindy:             Hmm.  Exactly!

Alyssa:            “Yeah, you just put cortisone cream on it; you deal with it.”  And we have noticed a significant difference.  She still does get eczema and we have to put stuff on it occasionally, but it’s definitely internal.

Cindy:            Yes.  For sure, for sure.  And when I went to PA school, I graduated in 1996.  There was nothing in our schooling on anything holistic, anything alternative.  It was strictly western medicine because that’s what was taught.  And so it’s relatively a new concept still for those of us old-school people that went to school in the 80s or 90s.  It just wasn’t something that was even – something that you thought of or studied or were aware of.  So a lot of this stuff is self-taught, and then just learning from there, and then seeking out providers now that are natural-minded or alternative-minded.  Not to say that I’ve turned my back on western medicine, but you need to embrace both, I feel like, because there’s a huge component where both are useful.

Alyssa:            Right.  So what would you recommend?  Let’s say we have a new client; they have a baby.  I think thin skin or not, all babies have just such super-sensitive skin, and you have some really good baby products.

Cindy:            We do, yeah.  So whether you use my product or somebody else’s product or you make your own product, my overall encouragement for a new mom, especially, is seek out something that is as natural as possible.  The fewer ingredients the better, obviously.  Most things that you’re going to buy over the counter, store-bought brands, they contain chemicals.  Even if they say, “Oh, it’s the natural version of Johnson’s & Johnson’s,” or natural version of whatever –

Alyssa:            Many of them still have alcohol.

Cindy:             Tons of them do.

Alyssa:            As one of the first ingredients!

Cindy:            Right.  It’s like water and then alcohol.  So you’ve really, really got to turn into a label-reader.  That’s huge.  I know a lot of moms are like, oh, I’m going to make it myself.  Which I’m like, excellent.  That is so great.  Do it.  Dabble in it.  Learn about it.  But a lot of moms just don’t have the time to do that because parenting is so overwhelming at first, especially with your first.  There’s just so much to learn, so much to do, that if you don’t want to make it yourself, seek out a company or two that you trust, that you believe in, that has the same philosophy as you do with using minimalistic ingredients, and just be a label-reader.  You’ve just go to flip everything over that you’re buying and see what’s in it.  The fewer ingredients, the better.  And then everything just sparingly.  For a little baby, you don’t need to douse a baby.  Sparingly.  Another thing that I always tell new moms: new moms nowadays, they want to give their baby a bath every night.  And babies don’t need baths every night.  They just don’t.

Alyssa:            It really dries out their skin.

Cindy:            Once a week.  Oh, man, it does.  So once a week; twice a week, at the most, but this nightly bathing routine just strips the body of natural oils.

Alyssa:            I try to get my clients, post-partum clients or sleep clients, away from a bath being part of the bedtime routine for that reason.  And plus with some babies it actually kind of wakes them up and it’s a fun activity.

Cindy:             It stimulates them, yeah.

Alyssa:            So I tell them unless this is putting your baby to sleep, this does not need to happen at night.  So let’s pick a day, Sunday afternoon, you know, let’s give them a bath once a week.  And the nighttime routine is more like, let’s read a book, sing a song.  Let’s get that bath out of there because when my daughter had eczema or had it really bad, and I was bathing her sometimes every day, every other day, because you think you need to – it was making it worse.

Cindy:            Exactly, yeah.  And that’s what I think is so great about the fact that there are doulas now, and I so wish that I had one with my kids.  But you don’t know what you don’t know, and if you’re walking through parenthood for the first time, and your mom, most likely, was old school, and you give them a bath every night, and then you put on Johnson’s & Johnson’s baby lotion, and they smell like a baby.  You don’t have somebody who’s going to kind of walk with you and tell you what may or may not be beneficial, and so that’s what is so great about having a doula walk beside you when you are pregnant or delivering or after delivery, as just someone to kind of give you feedback and what does this look like, raising this little tiny baby?  There’s not an instruction manual.  So it’s great when you can come and share with a new mom and dad what you’ve learned.

Alyssa:            Yeah, we can be a trusted resource.  And it’s hard.  Every family is different, so, like you mentioned, like the moms or the grandma.  They know one way of raising children because that’s how she raised hers, so she has these ideas in her head of how this works, but a doula has worked with so many different types of families and all walks of life, and we can walk into that space and say okay, I see where you are at right now.  This is what’s going to work best for you, and then here’s trusted – again, be a trusted resource for this is how this looks.

Cindy:             Right, exactly.

Alyssa:            Well, thank you for sharing today.

Cindy:            Absolutely.

Alyssa:            We are going to have you on again later in the month, and we look forward to talking to you.

Cindy:             Sounds good.  Looking forward to it, too.

Alyssa:            If people have questions about your products, do you have an email, phone number, or website?

Cindy:            Absolutely.  You can go to  That’s our website, and on our website, you can check out our products.  There’s a little product description next to each product.  If you have specific questions, there’s a Contact page on our website that you can put your question in and it sends it right to me.  You can also email me directly at  Those are the two best ways to get ahold of me, and if you have specific questions, definitely shoot me an email.  I love the education part of talking to moms and dads, just helping them kind of navigate the waters of what it looks like to be a new parent or to add a second child or a third child, or what does it look like to go from conventional products to natural products.

Alyssa:            Because sometimes you have do that slowly.

Cindy:            You do, yeah.  You can’t sometimes just jump in.  You’ve got to make a slower transition.

Alyssa:            Baby steps.

Cindy:            For sure.  So yeah, I welcome any questions.  Any way that I can help, shoot me an email.

Alyssa:            Excellent.  Thank you.  And if you have questions about this podcast or Gold Coast, you can email us at

Podcast Episode #5: Why Choose Natural Products for Your Baby’s Body? Read More »

Alyssa Veneklase Doula

Meet Your Gold Coast Doula – Alyssa

We love asking our Gold Coast Doulas questions so you get to know them a bit more. Meet our co-owner, Alyssa Veneklase and learn about her inspirations and her travel adventures.

1) What did you do before you became a doula?

For the past 15 years I was in the construction/real estate business doing everything from interior design and marketing, to safety and human resources. My favorite part of what I did was working with people, both clients and employees. I also enjoyed my role as director of charitable giving. I’ve always had a heart for children and families, so serving on committees and boards was a top priority.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

When I became pregnant I began to research everything. I became a wealth of knowledge and before I knew it, I was the one my friends and family reached out to for help, resources, and guidance. Once I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to help other mothers and other families during the prenatal and early postpartum stages.

4) Tell us about your family

I have been married to my husband, Bradley, for 5 1/2 years. We love to travel together and now have an almost 4-year old who loves to travel with us! She’s a beautiful, bright, witty, and sometimes sassy little girl who keeps us smiling.

5) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 

Before having our daughter, my husband and I took a 3 week trip to Thailand. It was the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen (better than Hawaii). The people were kind and generous. The food was spectacular. The water was crystal clear and the beaches were stunning. We think of it often.

6) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I have so many I don’t know how I will choose. So I’ll list the first 5 that pop into my head:
Leonard Cohen – His voice. I mean, come on. And his lyrics are beautiful.
Stevie Wonder – I can’t help but dance in my seat when his songs are playing.
Depeche Mode – My favorite band from the 80’s. I know all the lyrics and love singing them out loud.
Vampire Weekend – Again, when I hear their songs I just have to dance. They’re fun and make me smile.
Sia – She has the most incredible voice and uses it so creatively. She also has the best music videos.

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

The most recent example is suggesting a client and her husband make it a priority to have a date night. They always had excuses why they couldn’t do it, so I told them I would do whatever I needed to make it happen. They went on their first date night after having their baby and came back giggly and holding hands.

8) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?

My super power is making people feel comfortable and at ease. Inviting a stranger into your home, your sacred space, is a big deal. I have the ability to listen, observe, and figure out the family dynamic and how I can best be utilized. I can tell when a mother needs me to jump right in and tell her what needs to be done, and I can tell when a mother just wants to sit for a while and have someone listen to her.
9) What is your favorite food?

Probably a good steak and some brussel sprouts.10) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?

My husband and I got married in Union Pier along the coast at a little resort called the Fire Fly Inn. I am very fond of that little town now.

11) What are you reading now?

Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf.
12) Who are your role models?
I have a few close friends that I adore and are positive and uplifting role models. My husband is always my voice of reason.


Meet Your Gold Coast Doula – Alyssa Read More »