Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast team, we love to find out more about them and
share that with you!
Let’s find out more about Mya.
1) What did you do before you became a postpartum doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a swim instructor, and as a head swim coach for young children in
Naperville, Illinois. After that, I went to Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in science.
2) What inspired you to become a postpartum doula?
I’ve always been fascinated with pregnancy as a whole, after watching my family members, experience,
pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I knew I would be the perfect helping hand for those who look like me,
which is what inspired me the most. I want other minorities to feel comfortable while giving birth, which is why I
pride myself on creating such a warm and open environment.
3) Tell us about your family.
My family has a very tight bond, we are quite a small family, because of this we spend lots of our free time
together whether it’s hanging out and enjoying each other’s company or traveling and going on new
adventures. Overall, my family is very loving and supportive, and most of all we love to have a good laugh.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is probably Barcelona Spain, the reason for this is because I’m a total foodie, and the
food there was beyond fresh and different from anything I’ve ever had before. Also, the architecture of all the
buildings were incredibly breathtaking.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a hard question, considering I enjoy listening to almost all genres of music.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
The best advice I have for families is to stick with their goals and values, just because they don’t align with
others in your community does not mean they are wrong, and also to give yourself grace and patience. Some
things take time to heal, and we must be mindful of that.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I believe my doula superpower is making people feel comfortable and empowered, no matter what the situation
is. Growing up looking different from most of my peers I know how it feels to be in uncomfortable situations.
This is why I pride myself on being able to make others feel both comfortable and confident in all environments.
8) What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is tacos, I could probably eat tacos every day for the rest of my life.
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Since I’m not a Michigan native, I absolutely love going to the dunes, we don’t have anything similar to that in
Chicago so it’s always a fun treat.
10) What are you reading now?
Self-care for new moms
11) Who are your role models?
I would say, my mom is one of my biggest role models, she’s taught me how to be kind, empathetic,
independent, and resilient.
Mya serves day and overnight postpartum and infant care clients in West Michigan, SW Michigan and Northern
What I Wish I Knew: Podcast Episode #104
Kristin and Alyssa, owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about the things they wish they had known before having a baby. Listen to this fun episode packed with advice and lots of little gold nuggets of information for new parents! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with a fun idea of what I wish I would have known before pregnancy and having a baby. And this is inspired, actually, by your newborn class, Alyssa.
Alyssa: That’s kind of why I created it, yeah, because there’s so many things that it’s like, why did nobody tell me this? Or if only I had known, this would have been so much easier!
Kristin: Yeah! So I will start. We’ll go through, like, the top five things that each of us wished we would have known before having kids. So my number one is no PJs, especially if you’re registering, that have snaps on them. You want zippers. Snaps are a pain in the middle of the night. They’re noisy. They might wake your baby.
Alyssa: Same with Velcro. But, yeah, I never really thought about snaps and doing that in the dark. It can be really tricky. I’ve had it where, you know, the top button is — or the top snap is hooked to the second one, like everything’s kind of off because you’re doing it sleep-deprived.
Kristin: Yeah. So Alyssa, what would you say?
Alyssa: One of the things I remember the most is a friend told me to have pads on hand, and she actually had just had a baby, like, two months before I did. So she’s like, you know, ran to the bathroom and said, here, I actually have some left. I never used them. I’m like, what do I need these for? And she said, well, afterwards, you just kind of leak, and there’s blood and who knows. And I’m thinking, okay, whatever. So I brought them home. But then I was one of the, what, 25 or 30% of people that your water actually breaks. So I wore them for — gosh, my water broke at, like, 4:00 in the morning or something, and I had — I didn’t go to the hospital until noon, so I had, like, eight hours of slow leak. So I wore the pad constantly, and then afterwards, it’s almost like spotting or like a light period. And I didn’t know, too, you could put, like, witch hazel or something on it and freeze the pad, kind of like in a — like, around a melon or something so that you could sit on it.
Alyssa: I didn’t know that. I didn’t do that, but that’s kind of an afterthought, too.
Kristin: Similar to what they give you, but without the witch hazel, at the hospital. The ice pads and ice diapers if you have more abrasions.
Alyssa: Yeah. A client told me that they had heard — or a student in my class, the adult diapers, they kept those around for leaking or spotting or water breaking. Any of the things. So having something around like that was probably one of the best things that I was told that many people aren’t told.
Kristin: Right. I had one of those pads for my car when I was driving in case my water broke.
Alyssa: Oh, you sat on it all the time? That’s actually a good idea. You could buy those puppy pee pads or something.
Kristin: Yeah. I had a long commute to Lansing with my first pregnancy, so it was like, if my water breaks, I’m just…
Alyssa: I actually thought about that as I sat in my office, you know, the couple weeks before I was due. Like, what if I — that will be so embarrassing if my water breaks and I’m sitting in my chair. Had I thought about that, I probably would have sat on something, just to save myself some embarrassment, I guess.
Kristin: And my number two tip is to look into childcare as soon as possible. If you plan to go back to work full time or are looking for a nanny or a nanny share, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, don’t delay until your third trimester. It’s so hard to find help. And in that in between time, of course, you can have a postpartum doula, day or night. But that childcare search and nanny search is time-intensive.
Alyssa: Yeah. It takes forever, and it’s the last thing your brain is capable of doing when you have a newborn at home.
Alyssa: So if you have to go back at 12 weeks, you can’t — you can’t start at 6 weeks, looking for childcare. A, you probably you won’t find it, or you’re going to have to settle for something that you don’t necessarily love, and that’s the hardest thing to do is you have to leave your baby for the first time. You want it to be with somebody that you 100% feel comfortable with and trust.
Alyssa: You don’t want to have to settle.
Alyssa: I wish that I would have taken a breastfeeding class, and I wish I knew there was lactation consultants that actually come to your home because I suffered through — I got mastitis twice, and even though I knew enough about breastfeeding to know, like, the whole supply and demand thing, in the fog of new motherhood, I was nursing and pumping because I was, like, oh, my gosh, my boobs are so full, and I just need to drain them. And I was, like, doing the worst thing possible because I’m producing then twice as much, which then I got mastitis, and my boobs were so swollen that it was hard for my daughter to eat then, and then my one nipple got really cracked and sore and it was bleeding one day, and I just remember sitting in the rocking chair sobbing, and my husband came in and was like, oh, my gosh, what can I do? But had I just taken a breastfeeding class, I would have probably more easily reminded myself like, oh, yeah, it takes a couple weeks for this whole process to, you know, adjust and my body to adjust to what baby needs and that I didn’t have to sit in that rocking chair by myself and cry, and my latch was wrong.
Kristin: Right. Kelly saved me with both of my kids. I had mastitis as well and thrush, and —
Alyssa: You know, I knew about Kelly Emery. Or maybe I didn’t until after. I might have found her because she did Baby and Me yoga classes. She was one of the only ones, like, seven and a half years ago that did baby. So I think I might have found her after the fact. I wish I had known about the lovely Kelly Emery before.
Kristin: Yes. We’re lucky to have her at Gold Coast, along with Cami, of course.
Alyssa: What’s your next one?
Kristin: So I highly suggest, based on personal experience, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, hire a birth and postpartum doula. With my second pregnancy, my doulas were some of the first to know that I was pregnant, before family. And I needed resources, and they were there emotionally and to connect me with resources in the community. So I recommend hiring early, especially as doulas get booked up quite early. Like, we’re working with clients with due dates in late March, and as we’re recording, it is August. And so thinking about if a team or individual doula takes two clients or even four a month, how quickly they can get booked up. So hire your doula early, and same goes for postpartum.
Alyssa: Yeah. I don’t think I even fully understood what a doula was or did, you know, eight — almost eight and a half years ago that I got pregnant. And if anything, I knew what a birth doula was but didn’t know enough to even consider looking into one or hiring one. And, of course, now that we do what we do, it’s a no-brainer. But I’m not having any more kids.
Kristin: Right. Same.
Alyssa: But if I was to do it all again, absolutely.
Kristin: Exactly. So what about you, Alyssa?
Alyssa: So this wasn’t, like, a big deal, but I didn’t really know what to expect with the baby’s cord and how it fell off and what it looked like, and I don’t do well with blood and scabs. It just turned into a big, giant, thick, button-sized scab.
Kristin: Yes. It’s gross.
Alyssa: It really grossed me out, and then just falls off, and I remember finding it in her diaper or something one day. But I’ve also reminded and I always tell people in my class about, if they’ve ever watched Sex in the City — oh, gosh, what’s her name? The redhead? I don’t know.
Alyssa: Miranda. She has a baby, and the cord falls off, and then the cat finds it and is batting it around the house, and I — it’s like one of those, oh, my god, I’m going to puke in my mouth kind of situations. But I didn’t know how gross it would be to me, but I’m just squeamish when it comes to scabs and blood. But, yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect with that.
Kristin: And then you have to know to, like, flip the diaper down so you don’t cause more irritation. I didn’t know that at first.
Alyssa: Yeah. We go over a lot of that. And they make diapers now, too, that have little tiny cutouts where the belly button is, and they’re very, very small, for newborn only, but you only need one little package of them because if it falls off within the first week, you don’t need many of those.
Kristin: And my advice is, with the registry, don’t — it’s not your wedding registry. You don’t need to register for all the things. Babies don’t need all that much. And so my suggestion is to register for a meal service, a doula, classes, lactation support, versus all of the onesies and the high chair and things you don’t need until much later. I mean, some things are essential.
Alyssa: Car seats, stroller, yeah.
Kristin: You know, if you’re going to wear your baby, the different carriers are great. You know, a diaper bag. There’s some things that — you know, a thermometer, that are important to have. But you don’t need all the things.
Alyssa: I know. I always see on baby registries, like, spoons and bibs and bowls. Like, you realize your kid — it could be a year. You know, you might start solids at six months, but they’re not sitting up at a table by themselves for probably 12 months. So it’s a lot of wasted money for something that’s going to sit in a closet for up to 12 months unused.
Kristin: Exactly, especially if you’re in a tight space. Where do you put all that stuff?
Alyssa: Right. Definitely. Like, have people spend money on support and food. Bring me food! And send someone to watch my baby and pick up my house and care for my toddler and let me rest or take a shower.
Alyssa: Or sleep all night. So one thing I learned later into have a newborn was to always pack two extra sets of clothing for the baby or at least, you know, maybe not two full outfits, but a couple extra onesies. And then I also would pack one for myself. Like, something — yoga pants and a T-shirt. Something that was easily folded up, because I can’t tell you how many times I either — you know, you’re out and about, and you get spit up on, and of course, it will be, like, yellow spit up on a black shirt.
Kristin: Of course.
Alyssa: That everyone can see, and then it stinks like crazy. Or she’d have a blowout on my lap, and then the poop would come out the diaper onto my pants, and now I have puke on my shirt and poop on my pants. So I would just always have — even if it’s just in my car, an extra set of clothes for me, as well.
Kristin: That applies for birth doulas. I always have an extra set of clothes in case I get fluids or water breaking. So, yeah, wise advice. And my advice is, for those of you that aren’t prepared for baby poop, meconium is really interesting for a first-time parent. It is so dark and sticky and hard to, like, wipe off.
Alyssa: Like, what did my baby eat? Tar?
Kristin: Right! For breastfed babies, in my opinion, breastfed poop does not smell and is quite easy to deal with, but then you introduce food or formula, and things get totally different. It’s like, okay, I got through the meconium, then I had my breastfed baby, and now food is like, what?
Alyssa: Yeah. We do talk about that. Breastfed baby poop doesn’t — exclusively breastfed babies — the poop doesn’t smell. And that’s another thing. On the registry list, the very expensive diaper genie with the expensive refills — you don’t even need to use that in the beginning. You can literally throw in in a little trashcan and just take it out at the end of the night or even every couple days. The second formula or solids are introduced, it’s a whole new ballgame. It stinks, and you’ll want to use that diaper genie.
Alyssa: My last one, again, is kind of about breastfeeding because it was tricky for me in the beginning, but I wish that I didn’t buy — like, I bought nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing dresses, all the things, and there were just so many layers and levels to this breastfeeding thing that I could never do it in public because I had to, like, undo the nursing bra, which was under the other shirt, which — I would always have to go somewhere private. But then I found these nursing tanks, and there’s like a shelf bra in them, and I could have worn like what I’m wearing now, like a frilly, flowy shirt, and you lift that shirt up. You have the tank on underneath to cover your belly, and very nonchalantly, you breastfeed your baby. Nobody even knows. Oh, and the covers. All these — I had this thing that looked like an apron. I put it over my head, and it was this cloth, and then baby’s whipping it all around. And in my class, I tell people, you’re basically waving a flag to everyone, saying, I’m about ready to breastfeed. Look right here. Whereas if I would have just nonchalantly unclipped, put her on, nobody would even notice. So there’s too many things, and the more things you buy, the harder it makes it, I think. It’s simple. Keep it simple.
Kristin: I agree. I always used tanks, and obviously, for larger-chested women, that may not be as much of an option support-wise, but I even labored in tanks, and, you know, speaking of labor, my biggest advice is don’t give birth, unless you’re birthing at home and it’s not as big of a deal, in a sports bra. If you’re at the hospital, there’s no way to get it off. If there’s an IV line, it often has to be cut off. So a nursing tank, again, that has the snaps or a nursing bra if much easier.
Alyssa: People wear a sports bra because they’re comfortable and think, I’m just going to labor in this because my underwire bra is not the most comfortable things.
Kristin: But then you can’t get it off for skin to skin. It’s so tight.
Alyssa: Right. I just think I didn’t wear a bra. Free flowing.
Kristin: Yeah. I was pretty much that way toward the end. Started out modest, and then it just all changed. So we would love to hear your top five things that you learned. You can always reach out to us, and maybe that will make some future episode ideas. But we’re happy to share other advice in Alyssa’s amazing newborn class, and for those who are expecting twins and triplets, we have a multiples class. And, of course, labor advice is given in HypnoBirthing, and we have the breastfeeding and pumping classes that also give some very helpful tips.
Alyssa: Yeah. So check out our classes. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for listening!
Kristin: These moments are golden.
Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102
Kristin Revere, Kelly Emery, and Alyssa Veneklase talk about their Saturday Series of classes offered through Gold Coast Doulas. Each goes in to detail about what their classes cover including Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Kristin, and I’m here today with Alyssa and Kelly, and the three of us teach our Saturday Series of classes. So we’re going to talk about what each of our classes are and a bit about what we’re doing during COVID. So welcome, Kelly, and welcome, Alyssa.
Kelly: Thank you.
Alyssa: Hey. So, yeah, we could kind of talk first about why we — so we used to teach all of our classes separately and have different days and different times, but then we had clients who were taking a breastfeeding class and my newborn class, and they would be on separate days, separate times, and we know how hard it is for people to coordinate their schedules. So doing them all at once in a series on Saturday, and then Kristin adding on her comfort measures — you know, having three classes — it’s hard to find three nights in a week that either a pregnant person or a couple can both get off to take these classes.
Kristin: Right, and some of our clients work nights, and if they have other children at home, childcare has been easier to find on a Saturday than a weeknight. So that’s part of why we adapted to this format, and it’s also helpful that the Saturday Series is ala cart, so a client or student could sign up for just Kelly’s breastfeeding class or, you know, just the newborn class or all three. Or they can take them at different times, since we offer the classes every couple months. A client could take a class in September and then down the road later in the year take breastfeeding, for example, as it gets closer to their due date.
Alyssa: And for the students who do choose all three and do them on the same date, it can definitely be a long day. When we were doing the classes in person, we had a lunch break and then another break in between. But the feedback we’ve gotten so far is that people really like knocking these out one after another. And then because of COVID, they’ve been virtual, so that’s actually been kind of nice. They don’t have to leave their sofa. They can feel a little bit more relaxed, grab snacks. So that’s worked out well, too. But our next series is in September, and we plan on doing it in person for the first time since COVID, but that could change at any minute, depending on…
Kristin: Right. And our office is in Eastown, and we’ve talked about having a smaller class size and how we’re going to pivot due to COVID and all of, you know, the sanitation that will need to be done. But our Zoom classes have been going well. I wasn’t so sure about the fact that Comfort Measures is so hands-on, how that would work virtually, but the students seem to enjoy it, and they were hands-on as I instructed virtually. So it went over pretty well the first time.
Alyssa: Same with breastfeeding. How does that — you know, you had said, Kelly, that it was going well virtually, but were you a little bit nervous at first about, you know, like, how do you show a position and, you know, what a proper latch might look like, through a computer?
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah, that was something — speaking of pivoting, we had to do pretty quickly because people were still having babies and they’re still learning to breastfeed. That is not something in life that can just stop. So, yeah, getting up and going on the Zoom and all the technology was rapid, and it was — it’s pretty slick. You know, what I do is just like in the in-person classes, I show videos, and so I can share my screen. I show videos, clips of things that — it will make more sense when they actually have their baby, but I think instead of me just talking about it, showing a visual and the videos and all of the pictures that I have. I have just a slew of pictures over my 20-some years of doing this, so it’s able — the people are able to really see what I’m talking about better when I share my screen. So it’s all actually working out, and the parents love it. And, you know, they love being together in a class together, but also I’ve gotten great feedback about the Zoom classes, that they love that they can just sit on their own couch in their pajamas and eat dinner, you know, or eat a meal and have Dad be right there with them, as well. So it’s all working out.
Alyssa: Well, Kristin, do you want to talk about — so the series kind of starts with the Comfort Measures. Then it’s Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival. So you want to maybe in that order talk about each of our classes and what they’re about?
Kristin: Yes. So Comfort Measures is a hands-on class that the couple is encouraged to attend, but certainly I’ve had the birthing person attend without a partner, as well. And so we go over breathing, relaxation, and it definitely doesn’t replace a traditional comprehensive childbirth class. I’m not going to cover the stages of labor in two hours. But it’s more about different positions that will relieve discomfort, both while they’re at home, if they’re birthing in the hospital, in the early stages of labor, or positions to utilize further along in labor in the active stage as well as the pushing stage. And we do cover breathing, as well.
Alyssa: So is it more to have the partner understand what’s going on and allow the partner to offer these comfort measures?
Kristin: The partner does learn how to do some of the different measures. Hands-on massage, light touch massage is covered. We go over hip squeezes and a lot of the doula tools, just a variety of positions, like hands and knees and leaning up against a wall and dancing, sort of rocking in labor, as well as, you know, using the birthing ball. And then we talk about different positions that they could consider pushing in, like squatting and sidelying. And I answer questions, and there are some handouts that they use to just get a comfort level for where the partner and the birthing person are at as far as what their expectations of birth are and how comfortable they are supporting a partner. So there’s a lot of communication in the short class, as well.
Alyssa: And Kelly, what about your class?
Kelly: It’s called Breastfeeding: Getting a Strong Start, and it’s a lot about — my goal, anyway, is to get the mom and her partner comfortable and feeling confident about at least starting out. You know, I think it’s sometimes overwhelming. It is a three-hour class, so it is a long time, and a lot of content is covered, but my goal is not to, like, overwhelm the parents with, like, what to do over the next, like, two years of breastfeeding or whatever, like that. Because I think people in this moment when you’re pregnant, especially, you can take little chunks of information that are going to be relevant to you in the moment. And so just getting off to a strong start, at least to get you through those first early days and weeks, you know, of breastfeeding, and then let you exhale a little bit and kind of find your answers as they are relevant to you is something that I’ve found over the years of doing this, honing, about what moms really want to know and what they need to know in the beginning. So I might go over — I’m a really strong proponent of going over anatomy in the beginning, just because I think if moms know how their breasts work and how their babies work, they can figure out — they can put a lot of these dots together and make it make sense for them in their situation. So, for instance, one of the first things I talk about in anatomy is, like, in our middle school health ed class, we skipped right over the breasts, I’m quite sure. You know, they talk about your periods and, you know, maybe some birth control. I don’t know. I don’t even remember what they all talked about. But I don’t remember talking about lactation or anything about the breasts other than that they get bigger, and then you wear a bra. That’s about it. And so I’m like, wait, wait, wait. This is an incredible two glands we have here that sustain life. They have so much to do and so much to contribute, and they’re kind of a natural next stage of being pregnant is lactating. So it’s kind of all jumbled up together there, and I feel like in our society we kind of — as women, we’ve kind of not learned a lot about our breasts. So I talk about what’s happening while we’re pregnant, what happens in the first couple days after delivery, and then how lactation and how their breasts change and make milk and all these other wonderful things that they do in the days and weeks, you know, after delivery. Yeah. So I’m big on helping women know about their bodies and then seeing how it works, and then I think it’s less of a mystery when things unfold because we just — you’re like, oh, yeah, we talked about. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, or that’s what my breasts are supposed to be doing. Those little bumps on my areola, they mean something and they do play a role.
Alyssa: What do those mean?
Kelly: Those are your Montgomery glands, and they enlarge, you know, when you’re pregnant. They secrete a couple things. One is — it’s almost like a self-cleaning oven. One is that they secrete the substance that kind of — it’s an antimicrobial, so kills bacteria. It kind of keeps your nipples clean and your areola clean so you don’t have to scrub them. A long time ago, like back in the ’50s, we used to think you had to scrub your nipples, and believe it or not, we would put alcohol on them before the baby would — like, we would sterilize your nipples, like we did with bottle nipples, before we would put the baby on you. Just ridiculous. And come to find out, you know, Mother Nature’s already taken care of that with those Montgomery glands. Another thing that they do is they secrete — it’s an exocrine gland, which means it excretes something, you know, kind of like a sweat gland. So they also secrete something that kind of keeps your nipple from drying out. Keeps it kind of supple and moist.
Alyssa: Kind of lubricated a little bit?
Kelly: Yeah. So all of those things — and one of the reasons I mention that is when moms think, oh, I have to buy some lanolin or some nipple ointment, those things are fine if you want to use them, but just use them just on your nipple. You don’t have to smear it all over your areola because they can — if you smear up too much, they can block off those Montgomery glands, and then they can’t do their job. So that’s one of the first things I talk about because it’s one of the most visible things you see when you get pregnant is your areola gets the little bumps on them, and then they darken and, you know, all of these things happening. And then the next thing, the other part, huge part of the class, is getting the partner involved. The baby’s other parent is going to be a huge part of breastfeeding, and I go over the research of how statistically, whether breastfeeding works or not has a lot to do with the mother’s partner and the worth that they feel and that togetherness. And I joke that, you know, they’re going to be with you at 2:00 a.m., not me, and they’re the ones who know what motivationally you need to hear in the moment. You know, what gets you — what makes you feel better. What kind of cookies do you like? What do you need in that moment? And the partner is more tuned into that than I am, of course, you know. So I can give some technical advice if I’m working with you postpartum to help with breastfeeding, but the partner is going to be there to be the other really important team member, and so that’s why I super, super encourage them to come to the class. The in-person class or the Zoom class, any kind of class, so there’s four ears listening to all of this and not just two. For the mom to have to listen to it and then go back and regurgitate it all, you know, it’s another burned on her, and she may forget things. And I spend a lot of the time giving advice about what dads and partners can do to be helpful because I think they feel like they’re on the sidelines and they can’t be a part of breastfeeding. And so I totally dispel that, and I give them lots of things, you know, concrete things that they can do that can be very helpful to breastfeeding.
Alyssa: I know that everyone who’s taken your class has told me they love it. They think you’re just so knowledgeable, and they had no idea about all these things, and they definitely go into it feeling more confident.
Kelly: Awesome. That’s my goal.
Alyssa: Was there anything else you wanted to say about your class?
Kelly: Well, I just want to say that I love being part of this entire series because knowing that I’m part of blending it together, like the big picture — like, the labor feeds into the breastfeeding. The breastfeeding really ties closely with the newborn survival. They’re all so well-interwoven that I think it’s great for the parents to have all of this information at once or, you know, dole it out as they need to, but just to have all of the information because then they get a sense of the bigger picture, I think. It just makes total sense when all of these are taken together. So I’m happy to be a part of this series, for sure.
Alyssa: We’re happy you are a part!
Kristin: So at what stage in pregnancy would you suggest someone take your breastfeeding class? And I’ll also ask the same question of Alyssa and then answer that myself.
Kelly: I would say the seventh month. I wouldn’t wait to the last month because there’s a lot going on, you might go early, blah-blah-blah. But, you know, you can take it in your ninth month, for sure. But, yeah, I would say the third trimester would be good, start of the third trimester.
Kristin: Alyssa? What would you say for Newborn Survival?
Alyssa: You know, I would say third trimester, too, just so that this all is fresh in their heads. The only problem is waiting that long, we do go over some items that are — you know, like baby registry items. And by that point, usually they’ve already registered or had baby showers and gotten everything. So that makes that a little bit irrelevant. We still go over it, and I tell them, you know, keep things in packages with tags on. If you don’t use them, you can always return them. So we still go over it, but I think to do it any earlier, you’d kind of forget all of the stuff we’ve gone over.
Kristin: I would say ideally the third trimester, though I’ve had students take it in the second trimester and still retain the information and practice the hands-on techniques that they learn. A lot of my students also have doulas within Gold Coast or are working with me directly, so, of course, the doula is a great reminder of the different positions and comfort measures for labor and also some of the relaxation techniques that we learn. And, certainly, you know, as far as who should take the class, we are also quite different from other childbirth education classes in that many are suited — just like Bradley method, for example, just for one type of birth. Like, for those seeking an unmedicated birth. For Comfort Measures, I have clients who want an epidural as soon as they get to the hospital or, you know, are having a home birth or are seeking an unmedicated hospital birth, so a variety of situations. And, Kelly, I know that you have students who want to pump, and you do, of course, have the pumping class, the back to work pumping. But it’s not for one type of parent or birthing person. I know, Alyssa, you have everyone from attachment parents taking your newborn class to those who are more mainstream in parenting style.
Alyssa: Yeah. You kind of have to be open to all of the options and all of the parenting styles. I would say, you know, for yours, it’s important. Kelly, you know they’re going to breastfeed if they’re taking your class, or at least going to attempt it. And I don’t know in my class, so I go over if they’re not breastfeeding. We’ll go over bottle feeding. Maybe they want to just pump exclusively and bottle feed. I go over it very briefly. Sometimes I can completely skip it because they’ve also taken your class, Kelly, and I don’t need to go over anything.
Kelly: I think with my breastfeeding class, you’re right, there are some moms who just want to pump and bottle feed, and we do go over working and bottle feeding and how to combine all of that, for sure. But even the part about the anatomy that I was telling you about, it’s good for the moms to know the anatomy of how, also, to maximize that with a pump, because there are ways — the ways that some of our hormones work with a baby, trying to also trigger those with a pump takes a little bit of knowledge, you know, and a little bit of practice. So even if you’re not going to breastfeed, knowing about your breasts and how they work would benefit you even if you’re going to be pumping, because then you can work with a pump to work with your anatomy and how all of the pumping and maintaining your milk supply goes together.
Alyssa: I feel like I should sit through your class. I haven’t sat through yours, and I always love having a refresher on breastfeeding because when I’m working with sleep clients, we talk about feeding a lot. So I feel like I should put the next September Series class on my calendar to sit in yours.
Kelly: I know, and I should — I want to learn more about your sleeping, too, because that’s a big question when it comes around to breastfeeding. They are so intricately tied together.
Alyssa: So my Newborn Survival class, I started or I created because, you know, working as a postpartum doula — I don’t anymore, but when I did, you start hearing the same questions and same concerns from the parents over and over. If only someone had told me this! Why didn’t I know that? How come nobody told me that this would happen? When you start hearing the same things over, then I’m like, yeah, I had these same concerns and questions and fears when I was a new mom, too. So I just kind of started compiling all these things and talking to experts and put this Newborn Survival class together, and it has real-life scenarios. Like, things that happened to me, things that happened, you know, in my work, and how do we deal with these? And then it’s very — you know, we do talk about, hey, has anyone changed a diaper? If they haven’t, we’ll show them. But that’s probably the most surface level type stuff. I want to get into, hey, babies cry. There’s no way around it. How do we minimize that? What do we check for? And how do you communicate? Like, you and your baby are a team, and from a very, very young age, they are communicating with you, and you need to figure that out. So just giving them really pragmatic steps to — you know, the first few weeks, your baby’s just going to eat, sleep, poop, pee. That’s about it. But once, you know, six weeks rolls around, there’s kind of this schedule forming. You probably have a pretty good idea of when they want to eat. Maybe you start to see some sleep patterns forming by six to nine weeks. And then if they’re crying, what does that mean? What causes that crying? How do we stop that crying? What happened when the crying started? And then talking a lot about feeding. People usually want to ask me a lot of sleep questions, even though this isn’t a sleep class. We go over sleep. But a lot of it’s, well, you know, if my baby’s not sleeping well, do I just let them cry? Never, never, never is my answer; never. No. We don’t just let them cry. But if they’re not eating enough, no amount of letting your baby sit in that crib will do any good because they’re hungry. So we talk a lot about feeding, whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding. And then we go over things like, you know, common skin issues. Like, everyone always gets weirded out by cradle cap and baby acne and maybe some rashes, diaper rash. And then like I mentioned, we go over some things that are not worth spending your money on. Here’s some things you really need. And then talking, too, about the partners keeping communication open and setting goals and expectations for each other ahead of time, because once that baby comes, you don’t have the time or mental wherewithal to be dealing with that in the moment at 3:00 in the morning. So if you have these expectations set ahead of time, it’s really important. And then obviously talking about, you know, letting them know that there are resources available. They don’t have to go through this alone. There are — you know, Kelly’s a lactation consultant. She can do an in-person or a Zoom visit. We have postpartum doulas who work day and night. All these resources are available to them. And then we go over a lot of soothing methods. I show them my swaddling methods. And we talk about bathing, too. Bathing is a big one for parents that they’re usually kind of freaked out about. But yeah, it’s just kind of how to survive those first few weeks or months home with a new baby because it’s a little bit scary when you walk through that door for the first time holding a human that you have to keep alive.
Kristin: Great summary! So let’s talk a little bit about — again, we mentioned breaks within the format and a little bit of the timing structure of each class. So the Saturday Series usually starts off with my Comfort Measures class. We have switched our schedule a few times, but my class is two hours from 9:00 to 11:00, and then there is a lunch break. And then we get into Kelly’s class. And, Kelly, you mentioned your class is three hours. And then there’s a short break, and then Alyssa has an hour and a half for Newborn Survival.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think there’s a half an hour break to grab a snack, go to the bathroom.
Kristin: Right. And then as far as the fee for the class — again, the classes are a la carte so you could purchase one class or all three, and each class is $75. And traditional insurance does not cover the Saturday Series, but if a student has a health savings or flex spending, most plans do cover childbirth classes.
Kelly: And I would add, Kristin, on the same for breastfeeding classes. As part of the Affordable Care Act, breastfeeding support and supplies and education should be covered, and I provide a superbill for my class as well with all of my codes and my tax ID number and everything that they would need to self-submit.
Kristin: Fantastic. And, Kelly, did you want to touch on your pumping class that’s separate from the Saturday Series?
Kelly: Yeah. I have a class for moms who want to go deeper into just the pumping. During my Saturday Series, I will go over some pumping and working and everything, but to dive deeper into that of what that looks like on a professional level and an emotional level, like leaving your baby, what that’s like, and if I have to travel, and how do I maintain a milk supply and what if my milk supply goes low? Lots of little details swirling around. If you’re still having, you know, after this class, if you’re still having questions about that, or if you want to skip over the whole breastfeeding class and just do the pumping and working one, I have a class, and you can just go to my website and you’ll see. It’s called Work Pump Balance, and it’s an almost-three hour class in and of itself. It’s self-paced modules that you can go through, and it’s myself and then a — my friend Mita, and she pumped for a year for both of her kids and worked full time. She had a very demanding career in a very male-dominated industry, and she made it work. She gives a lot of insight about how — you know, a lot of the laws have changed since she’s done it, so that only benefits moms even more. But how to logistically travel and calling clients and work around this when you’re really the only female in the whole — it’s a big company, but you’re the only female around. So, yeah, we dive deeper into that.
Kristin: Fantastic. And Gold Coast also offers a private multiples class for any of our clients or students who are expecting twins or triplets. So we do offer each of the individual Saturday Series of class privately, since our Series is offered every couple of months. There is the option of taking just breastfeeding privately through Zoom and/or, depending on COVID, in person. So did each of you want to — I know, Alyssa, you just recently taught a newborn class on Zoom.
Alyssa: Yeah. We just did a private one because they were being induced this week. So we just did it last week. Yeah. It’s great. It kind of allows the couple an opportunity to ask the questions that they might be afraid to ask in front of other people, although I feel like with my class specifically, I make it very clear that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and I think most of the students do feel very comfortable asking anything. But it’s just a little different when it’s just me with one couple. They can ask whatever they want freely. And I do get told that it’s nice for them to learn the same techniques together so that it’s not, you know, one person saying, well, I think we should do that, and I think we should do that. You know, they can kind of take all the information I’ve given and make their own decisions from there based on what they’re comfortable with. So I’ve been told several times that they like that they’re hearing the same information together and not different information from different people at different times.
Kristin: That makes sense, and yeah, it is nice that if someone wants to take a class last minute or wants the individual attention. My students have enjoyed just being able to customize the comfort measures based on what their birthing goals are.
Alyssa: Yeah. So if anyone wants to register, they can go to our website and register for, like we said, one, two, or all three. We also have the Multiple class and a HypnoBirthing Series. And you can always reach out to any of us with questions.
Kelly: I appreciate you doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next class in September.
Kristin: Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. You can find us on SoundCloud, iTunes, and on our website. These moments are golden.
Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97
Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance. Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance. Hi, Dr. Nave.
Dr. Nave: Hi, Alyssa. Thanks for having me.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week. So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression. So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place. So tell us what you’re doing now.
Dr. Nave: Okay. Awesome. So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said. The name of it is Hormonal Balance. And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns. And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it. And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.
Alyssa: Yes. Awesome. I love it. And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?
Dr. Nave: Yep, yep, yep.
Alyssa: Cool. Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month. And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients. So how do you help your patients?
Dr. Nave: I call them clients.
Alyssa: Clients? Oh, you do?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license. I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.” And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum. And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you. So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available. There’s salivary. There’s urine. There’s blood. And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about. It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Right. So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form. Right? There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog. I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay. So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs. Blood work might not be the right lab for them?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example. So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex. You have ovaries — versus the gender identify. I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive. So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women. They also occur in men. So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen. Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby. Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved. These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time. The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test. I really enjoy that one. I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it. So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down. Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways. So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.
Alyssa: Right. So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression? Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”? Or do you do both?
Dr. Nave: So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum. So you have mild, moderate, and severe. Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things. Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks. If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth. And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.
Alyssa: Go for it.
Dr. Nave: Just for a frame of reference. So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone. Please don’t suffer alone. If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out. If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time. Please, reach out to people. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.
Alyssa: Right. I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having. You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help. And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night. When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.
Dr. Nave: I totally agree with you. I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up. Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down. Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes. I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…
Alyssa: Do it! Teach us!
Dr. Nave: As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression. Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression. So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.
Alyssa: Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?
Dr. Nave: No.
Alyssa: Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy? What am I thinking? It’s in turkey and stuff?
Dr. Nave: Tryptophan is in turkey. Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Kind of, I guess. In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression. I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right? Am I going down the right path here? Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions. Sorry!
Dr. Nave: No, no, no. I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process. If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep. Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down. You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down. And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true. So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things. So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby. Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.
Alyssa: Oh, absolutely. It’s all about the baby.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood. Does that make sense? Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones. And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms. If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms. During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it. Are you tracking?
Dr. Nave: Yeah. So that’s the estrogen portion. So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain. Now, we have progesterone. So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone. And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep. It helps you remain calm. But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy. And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression. For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth. There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside. The baby is now outside of you. And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues. Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression. In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you. Do you have physical and emotional support? Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant? Have you had postpartum depression before? How is your sleep? You know, sleep is really important. If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way. Good quality sleep.
Alyssa: You’re preaching to the choir here. I think it’s one of the most important things!
Dr. Nave: The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.
Alyssa: So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?
Dr. Nave: Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know? Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time. So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant. And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state. For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that. But it’s not the only thing that’s available. There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly. There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more. Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support. Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported. Does that make sense? Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge. You know what you need! And here are all these different options to provide that.
Alyssa: So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place. How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant? Is there any risk to Baby? You know, risk of miscarriage? What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?
Dr. Nave: So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time. I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself. As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible. What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place? Who do I reach out to? Who do I talk to? What supplemental intervention needs to happen? Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication? There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure. We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like? What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently? And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy. Like, does she feel more supported now? What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently? You know? And basically coming up with a plan.
Alyssa: Yeah, I like that. So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth. It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen. And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that. They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot. What do I do now? So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum. And then we’ll talk about what we can do then. I like that.
Dr. Nave: Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options. For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need. Let’s talk to your doc. Hey, Doc. This is the plan. If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer. You know? Or maybe it’s something else. Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about. In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know? People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive. But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth. If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again. And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.
Alyssa: Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it. So it probably takes it to a whole new level. Well, thank you for all of your expertise. I always love talking to you. I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave. I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049. If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!
Alyssa: Thank you! During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?
Dr. Nave: I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point. I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.
Alyssa: So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?
Dr. Nave: In person, yes. But for now, we will see each other virtually!
Alyssa: Thanks for your time! Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!
Coronavirus Update on Doulas: Podcast Episode #94
Kristin and Alyssa, Co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, give an update on doulas and the coronavirus. How is this affecting birth doulas in the hospital and postpartum doulas in the home? They also talk about virtual classes such as Mama Natural Online to help new parents stay prepared while social distancing. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas. You are here with Alyssa and Kristin, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about the coronavirus. I’m going to let Kristin do most of the talking just to kind of update our friends and clients on the current status.
Kristin: Yes! So we are happy to share the protocol within Gold Coast on how we are keeping our doula team, our childbirth educators, and our clients healthy. We are recording this on March 17th, so things are changing daily, and by the time you listen to this, the information that we’re giving you may be a bit different. But we did want to respond quickly and have notified all of our clients about our safety protocols. With birth doula clients, we are doing all our prenatal, our free consultations, and our postpartum meetings virtually. So our clients now know that they are talking to teams by phone or Zoom meetings or Facetime, whatever the preferred method is. We’re still giving you that same time and attention; just keeping you safe and healthy during this critical time.
We had been working with area hospital administrators and with the governor’s office to make sure that we were able to support our clients in person, and again, this may change by the time you’re listening to this, but we had a day yesterday where we were told birth doulas would not be able to support in the hospital. So we contacted all of our clients and made a plan to support in the home before and support virtually in the hospital. Through work with the governor’s office and area administrators, we were able to obtain entry into area hospitals. So starting today, that is not an issue. With the executive order from the governor’s office, a partner and a doula are allowed to admit into area hospitals. There will be a health screening, and we’re going through credentialing processes with every hospital having different requirements, but we plan to support our clients. This is as of today, and again, if the outbreak continues, we may need to rely on virtual support. Because Gold Coast has a big team of birth doulas, we will monitor symptoms of coronavirus and the flu, as we have always done, to assure that a healthy doula will be attending the birth. We’ll be doing the best we can to isolate our team. We’re staying home with our families. We’re not going out into the public unless we need to get provisions. Going from there to ensure that we’re able to support our clients during this time when they need the emotional and physical support of doulas now more than any time.
Alyssa, I know that in postpartum support, we have made some accommodations as well, and part of that is some of our clients had contracts that were about to expire, and we’ve talked to them about delaying support, and with our postpartum doulas, who our clients want us in the home, we are of course making sure that the doulas are healthy. We’re using sanitization methods. If we’re doing cleaning, we’re cleaning doorknobs and handles at our clients’ homes. We’re coming in with clean clothing, taking our shoes off, as we always do, and using whatever precautions our clients want us to in their home with caring for baby and caring for the mother. And, again, with our postpartum doula team, we have a lot of doulas. So if a doula has any symptoms of coronavirus or the flu or even a cold, we are sending in a healthy doula to replace the scheduled doula. Do you have anything to add to that?
Alyssa: No. I mean, nothing’s really changed in that regard. All of our clients get that same kind of care. It’s just extra — I guess maybe an extra added step at this point.
Kristin: And as a sleep expert, part of what we do as postpartum doulas, both daytime and overnight, is allow our clients to rest. Now, with your sleep certification, I know you focus on newborns and toddlers and so on, but let’s talk a bit about the importance during this time to keep your immune system strong and getting sleep for families.
Alyssa: Yeah, the problem with sleep deprivation is your immune system starts to decline, and more than ever right now, it’s important to keep your immune systems healthy. So that means still going outside and getting fresh air, getting exercise. But you also need sleep. And with a newborn and/or a toddler at home, that can really be trying. So the beauty of my sleep consultations is that I don’t need to do it in person. We can do it via phone and text. So if that is an issue, you can call me still for that. But regardless, you just have to focus on sleep. You have to get your required amount of sleep, and your kids need to be going to bed on time. I know this feels like a big vacation for them, but you need to have a set bedtime and awake time. I mean, if we’re going to be in this situation for three to six weeks, they are going to become sleep deprived. They are going to become little monsters. It’s going to make your days even harder, but then again their immune systems could start to decline.
Kristin: Right. And, again, we do offer sibling care, so we can help with snacks around the house, and we have noticed that a lot of West Michigan families tend to have family support of grandparents or other family members, and now with some of the guidelines for keeping the elderly safe and away from children, I know my kids are being distanced from my parents due to my father’s heart condition and so on. And so we can come in when you are relying on your family right now and take some of that burden off of you and your partner.
Alyssa: I have canceled all family functions. A birthday party, a sleepover. You know, my parents called and offered to help, and “thanks, but no thanks.” We’re stuck at home anyway. There’s nowhere I can go, nothing I can do. So, yeah, we’re just kind of laying low at the house.
Kristin: Yeah. And so people are obviously isolating, canceling things, and we’re able to — we do offer bedrest support, so we are able to do virtual bedrest support if that is something that a client is interested in. Or, again, support in the home with childbirth education. We can do mini classes virtually or in home and provide sibling care for our clients who are on bedrest and need to feed their other children, especially now that daycares are closing and schools are closed at least through April 10th, if not longer. And so we’re adapting as best we can and keeping our team safe. For clients who are not part of our current childbirth series that has now gone virtual, our Hypnobirthing class started out in person, and due to the coronavirus, we’ve turned that into an online class with our instructor. But we are an affiliate for Mama Natural, so we wanted to talk about that as an option for clients who are not able to take a hospital childbirth class or take Hypnobirthing or a different child preparation method. You can go onto our website and sign up for our online affiliate program through Mama Natural and take the class online. We’ve gone through the class. I personally went through the entire curriculum, and my clients have used it and have had success, so that is a great option during this time when we need to isolate and be at home and still want to prepare our clients and have our clients feel like they’re ready for this birth.
Alyssa: And Kelly Emery, our lactation consultant, also offers an online pumping class and a breastfeeding class.
Kristin: Perfect! So there are some things you can do, and again, things are ever changing, but as of right now, all of the area hospitals are limiting visitors to one support person, so your partner or family member and a doula who is credentialed in area hospitals. So in the postpartum units, you are not able to have siblings visit or family at this time. Everything is limited to protect the health workers and the patients. So it is good to have these conversations with family members. I always tell my birth clients at prenatals that now is the time to express whether or not you want visitors in your birth space, and now knowing some of these plans have changed, if you have family members flying in, you may want to delay, or if you have older family members or immune-compromised caregivers, then now is the time to have these discussions rather than having disappointment at your due date if you’re due this spring.
Alyssa: Yeah. They won’t even be able to come in, and probably family members can’t even fly in at this point. We’re getting close to that.
Kristin: Yes. Domestic travel is limited and could be delayed indefinitely. So we’re just taking things day by day. But we want you to remain calm and positive about this and go with the flow, so try not to take in too much negative media and use this time to focus on connecting with your baby. And if you have other children, reach out to us if we can help. We’re here for you.
Alyssa: I think it reiterates the importance of an agency like Gold Coast Doulas being professional and certified and insured and, like you said, credentialed so that we can get into the hospitals. The hospitals trust us. They have a list of our certified doulas’ names. They might ask for a federal ID number. They might ask for certification; proof of certification. These are all really important things to consider when hiring a doula anytime, but especially right now.
Kristin: Yes! Stay well, everyone !
The Swaddelini Swaddle: Podcast Episode #93
Liz Hilton, founder of Swaddelini, tells us about the unique process she uses to create her amazing swaddle and why her swaddle is different. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I am Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with Liz Hilton, who happens to be a birth and postpartum client of ours. She has an amazing product to talk about. Tell us about your swaddles and where you came up with the idea and more about how we can put it into action!
Liz: Well, first, thank you so much for having me on your talk. My product in Swaddelini. It’s inspired by my firstborn son, Thomas, who was a little Houdini. Veritable little Houdini; got out of all his swaddles and would constantly wake up from the Moro reflex. I’m really excited about my next baby that I’m going to be having a couple weeks here because now I’m equipped with a swaddle that is easy to use and protects against the Moro reflex and is completely kick-proof and escape-proof.
Kristin: You’ll have your own baby model!
Liz: I know! I’ll have my own little cute baby model! My Instagram Swaddelini is going to blow up with pictures of my new baby. But yeah, what’s different about it is that typically swaddles involves a lot of wrapping or cumbersome closure systems like zippers, Velcro, or God forbid, snaps. So mine just goes on and off like a sock, and I’ve incorporated some light compression therapy into the chest area to give the sensation of a hug all night long. So I’ve actually trademarked that as Hug Technology.
Kristin: Love it!
Liz: And the individual tubes help keep the arms down for the Moro reflex. It encourages that sleep safe position of being on the back and arms at the sides. And then when you need to change the diaper, there’s an easy access diaper flap so you can change the diaper without having to take the swaddle on and off.
Kristin: That’s such a pain to remove the swaddle and wake the baby!
Liz: Yeah! And it’s also adaptable, so with any baby product, you want it to adapt because all babies are different. Every baby is different. Every mom is different. So some babies like their arms out. Now, part of the thinking behind that is so they can self-soothe when they do wake up from the Moro reflex. The idea with the Swaddelini is that that won’t happen as often because their arms are encouraged to be down. But if your baby insists on having their arms out, you can just leave their arms out. You’re still going to get that Hug Technology benefit. Probably my favorite thing is that this swaddle is easy to put on, but also doesn’t restrict motion. That’s one thing that doctors have been telling moms is, you know, don’t swaddle your baby. It will cause hip dysplasia. And that’s just because some swaddles, there’s no stopping point when you’re wrapping them or pulling the Velcro. It’s very easy to do it too tight. Whereas with this, it’s a four-way stretch knit. It’s soft. It’s stretchy. And there’s no risk in that. And even though the baby feels hugged all over, they have freedom of movement. So if, for example, you’re breastfeeding, the baby can, while wearing the swaddle, can kneed your breast but can’t scratch. Same when they’re sleeping; they can touch their face, but not scratch it. So that’s another benefit.
Kristin: And you have different sizes, so as they grow bigger, their swaddle size is based on how many pounds the baby is?
Liz: I’ve done it that way. I’ve said the small is good for 6-12 pounds and the large is 12-18 pounds. The reason I did the larger one is just because there’s that transition where your baby’s kind of rolling over their side, and you’re, like oh, my God. Is it going to happen? Are they going to roll over? Am I going to wake up and my baby’s on their front? You have all these fears. What I say is with the larger one — or even with the smaller one, if your baby is toying with rolling over sooner before they’re out of the smaller size, just take one arm and leave it out. And then one they’re rolling over a lot during the day, you can take both arms out. If your baby likes to sleep with their feet out, leave the feet out. My niece slept in her large swaddle between month 8 and 11 until she was ready to get out. She was smaller, though. She was a smaller baby, so that’s why she went so long. But she just didn’t want to leave it, but it was a nice transition.
Alyssa: And they’re made out of different things. I’m very curious what the process is and how you make them, too. We talked a little bit about it on the phone, but I thought it was very cool how you make these.
Liz: Yeah. I have two very distinct designs. The first one I did, I made out of just a bunch of synthetic fibers that I’ve used for compression garments that I’ve made for kids with, like, CP or lymphedema. And so that helps with the light compression at the chest. So that part is the same. For the rest of it, it’s a moisture-wicking nylon-polyester blend. It feels very lightweight, but it’s actually very cozy and very soft. You can feel that.
Alyssa: So soft!
Liz: Yes! But at the end of the day, it is a synthetic fiber, right? I learned very quickly that some moms like natural fibers. So after much research, I found a supplier of bamboo, and they make this bamboo in a mechanical process versus chemical. You’ve seen a lot of maybe bamboo-rayon products. This is not that. This is just a natural bamboo made in a nonchemical process, and I pair it with a really exciting new fiber. I’m actually the first in the industry to license this. It’s called 37.5 because what it does is it regulates your body temperature to put it at a perfect 37.5 degrees Celsius. So that is why the bamboo swaddles are a little cooler to the touch.
Alyssa: So adult swaddles will be next.
Liz: Actually, if you go on my website to the About section and watch my videos, I have my husband in an adult swaddle. Yeah! I just made one for a marketing thing, and then I told my husband, hey, will you get in this so I can do a video on YouTube? And he was, like, you’re going to put it on YouTube? No, I’m not doing this! And I’m like, um, I had your baby.
Alyssa: I’m asking this one thing!
Liz: Yeah. So there’s now a video of him in an adult swaddle!
Alyssa: It sounds really cozy, actually. I think I would wear one. I love that it’s easy. Can you explain putting it on and how it goes on?
Liz: You basically just scrunch it up like a sock, and then you go in feet first and you get the Hug Technology over the butt area, and then you have it over the chest. And then you go through the easy access diaper flap. So stick your arm through that opening at the bottom, and then go through one of the arm tubes and then grab the hand. Put that hand in yours, and just slide it down so that the arm is in the tube. And so now their arm can move around, but it just encourages the arm to stay down at the side. And then you just do that on the other side. So these arm tubes are very, very stretchy, and their hands are absolutely free to move around. And then the top naturally curls the opposite direction from their face. But I also had this product tested at world-class third-party laboratories, where they do a suffocation hazard test. They literally roll my product up in a ball, put it over a fake infant face, and they measure the CO2, and mine has passed every time.
Alyssa: That was my question. You know, you walk in, and it’s like this.
Liz: That is absolutely fine, and if you wanted to do a suffocation hazard test on any product that you buy, what you do is roll it up and put it against your face and breathe. With the design, though, it does naturally curl away from the face. So if you put your baby to sleep like this, they wake up like this.
Alyssa: And then demonstrate poopy diaper time when you don’t want to wake the baby.
Liz: We’ve got this flap here, and again, it’s very, very stretchy.
Kristin: As a doula, I love that. It’s so easy.
Alyssa: And do you recommend just like this doll has, like a onesie underneath this? That’s all you need?
Alyssa: The right temperature?
Liz: Even just a diaper and socks is fine. I get that question a lot. It’s really what you’re comfortable with, what your baby’s comfortable with. If they’re really tiny and maybe they’re sliding, if their arms are so small they’re sliding out, you can put a onesie, like the sleeves on it, and that friction between the fabric will keep it on. So then you get access to the diaper. You do the diaper. And then you can put it right back on, and you don’t have to take it off. And then taking it off also is very easy because you just pull it down. It’s actually easier with a real baby. You can do it all in one motion. I’ve gotten that a lot where moms say, oh, I didn’t know it was going to be this easy. That’s always good!
Kristin: And you have different designs. You brought some samples with you. There’s a fun funky orange and pink and…
Liz: It’s interesting you say that because the design is pretty much the same. The only difference is the colors and the fibers. The blue, pink, orange, and gray here are all in the moisture-wicking synthetic fibers, and these more neutral colors, this neural white-pearl and this cloud-gray are the bamboo. The best-selling ones are the grays, the grays in both the synthetic and the bamboo, and then orange. Everyone loves neutrals. The way this is made is a really interesting process. One of the benefits of the Swaddelini is that it’s seamless, and it’s seamless because it’s actually manufactured in one piece, in one process, using 3D knitting. Kind of like the Nike Flyknit shoes. It’s the same technology, and I have a machine that knits all of these in my garage. I make them all myself. I don’t have some manufacturer in China that I outsource this too. So it’s very, very local. And it’s actually my life’s work. I’ve been a 3D knit programmer for over ten years now and working primarily in technical knitting, knitting solutions for office furniture and automotive and aerospace and stuff like that. But when I had my first baby two and a half years ago, I had an idea to use that same process to solve my swaddling problem. That became Swaddelini.
Alyssa: That’s amazing! You said there’s a couple tiny stitches you have to do yourself at the very end?
Liz: At the very top because it’s all made with this one end of yard. At the very top, you have to pull it through a loop and then that’s the final thing that I do. And I sew on these cute little tags with washing information and stuff like that.
Alyssa: Yeah, what is the washing information?
Liz: For the synthetic fiber, I recommend cold. It will shrink up a bit, but honestly, if that happens to you, let me know. I can work something out with you because I don’t want someone to get it and have it shrink. I recommend that, and then air drying it is fine. But for the bamboo ones, I actually prewash them in a natural, unscented detergent, so they’re already preshrunk. They won’t shrink anymore. You can wash and dry them in heat, but I still recommend cold just for longevity.
Alyssa: Things look better. I wash all my stuff in cold. They just last so much longer.
Kristin: Thanks, Liz! We appreciate you coming in! How do people order or find you?
Alyssa: Well, if you’re a Gold Coast client, you can get a discount. But for everyone else, what’s the best way to order these?
Liz: On my website, but if you want to learn more about my product before you buy it, I highly recommend going on my Instagram, @swaddelini, because I have a lot moms on there that have shared their videos of how they use it because every mom might use my product differently.
Kristin: It’s great for the visual learners.
Alyssa: I’m going to add this to my newborn class repertoire because I think some people get overwhelmed with the old-fashioned swaddle, and like you said, if you have a really strong baby, they’re popping out of this thing. So this is a great option, and they’re super cute!
Kristin: We will definitely check in with you after, since you’re a client of ours, and we can see how it’s working with your own baby and also hear your birth story. We love hearing personal stories!
Liz: Well, I’m really excited to have doula support this time because I didn’t last time, and I definitely regret it.
Alyssa: Yeah, we can have you back in to talk about that and how it was with doulas.
Liz: That would be awesome!
Meet our new doula, Jen!
Meet Jen Serba, our newest postpartum doula. She filled out our standard Q&A so let’s get to know her a little better!
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I began my medical career 17 years ago when I became a Medical Assistant (MA) fresh out of high school. I was an MA in many settings including Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Radiology, Obstetrics, and Dermatology. I obtained my Associate’s degree in Nursing in 2016. During the nursing leadership rotation, I worked independently in Labor and Delivery at Spectrum Health and found that to be the most rewarding work and best fitting department. Since obtaining my nursing degree, I have been working in Interventional Radiology at both Metro and Spectrum Health Hospitals.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I was inspired to become a doula because I always enjoyed working in women’s health. I thought working one-on-one with woman outside and inside the hospital setting would further my appreciation and empowerment of woman’s healthcare. I especially enjoy talking with other mothers and sharing the emotional stories and the unique birthing experiences they had with their loved ones.
3) Tell us about your family.
I have an amazing and supportive husband along with four beautiful children ages 5, 7, 9, and 17. They are all funny, wild, rambunctious, young women, and the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. I have been blessed with an amazing support system. Without the support of my family, I would not be where I am today! My husband and I have known each other since high school. We’ve been married for 7 years and we have been together for 13. We have a little King Charles Cavalier named Chevy who spends alot of time sitting around and taking it easy. As a family we love spending time outdoors, going to the beach, going on picnics, exploring fun new parts of the city as well as the state, baking, singing, doing yoga, and kayaking.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My latest vacation experience was Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula. I was amazed by the natural treasure we have here just a few hours away. You do not have to go too far to have a fun vacation in Michigan!
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I love most genres of music but these are a solid five.
Fleetwood Mac is my top favorite since I have always listened to them. High school friends, love, freedom, car rides in the country, anything goes well with Fleetwood.
Elton John. I pretty much love Elton John for the same reasons as Fleetwood! My husband proposed to me with Elton on in the background along with a fun scenario I may tell you about if we get to know each other better.
Justin Timberlake. No explanation needed.
Led Zepplin. Their music and lyrics have a sound unlike any other band. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are the pillars of rock and roll, and anytime I am hanging out and doing whatever and Zepplin comes on, it takes me back to some fun times.
Lauren Hill. Her voice is so smooth and her music makes me really relaxed!! Enough said.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Accept help when it is offered and try not to hesitate to ask for help when you need it. In the beginning when you first have your child, hold them, love them, carry them. Find someone else to help out for you in the beginning and enjoy the time with your kids. You will be surprised by how much people love to help. Sometimes the people you least expect will be the most help.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I consider my superpower to be my ability to provide calmness, comfort, and confidence in any situation.
8) What is your favorite food?
Grilled salmon, redskin potatoes, and asparagus!
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I really enjoy visiting Traverse city, MI.
10) What are you reading now?
Brene Brown’s Rising Strong
11) Who are your role models?
I have many role models and can’t boil it down to just one. I’m inspired by women who are empowered by their beliefs and true to themselves. I am also inspired by anyone who stands up for what they believe in and also those who stand up for others.
Doula Support for Adoptive Families
Most parents probably don’t think about hiring a doula if they aren’t pregnant. They think of a birth doula only supporting a laboring mother, but that couldn’t be farther from reality. Birth doulas can support any parent. Postpartum doulas can support adoptive families by helping them to prepare for baby’s arrival and in-home after baby arrives. There are so many ways doulas can support families that are adopting!
At Gold Coast we are focused on educating parents. We offer several prenatal and postnatal classes to help new parents navigate this new territory. We offer a Newborn Survival class that goes over essentials of surviving those first few weeks and months home with your baby. Real life scenarios and raw topics are discussed to help parents feel confident in their roles.
We also offer a Prenatal Stress class. This is designed for any parent, pregnant or adopting, to understand the affects that stress has on a developing child’s brain, not just throughout pregnancy but through their growing years as well.
Infant Massage is a great way for adoptive parents to bond with a new baby. Our instructor offers classes as well as private in-home instruction. Another great way to bond is babywearing. We have a certified babywearing expert that does in-home instruction and can show you how to safely use your carrier(s).
For parents that might be bringing multiples home (twins or even triplets) we offer a Preparing for Multiples class, and we have a postpartum doula that is a mother of twins herself. Her in-home support, expertise, tips, and tricks are invaluable!
If grandparents will be primary care givers, we offer a class called The Modern Grandparent that updates them on the latest safety information as well as informs them about today’s parent and how parenting styles differ from generations past.
Our lactation consultant can help adoptive mothers induce lactation and can also offer advice about chest feeding.
At Gold Coast, our postpartum doulas are available day and night. Daytime support includes help with baby bonding, newborn care, help with older siblings, meal prep, and evidence based resources. Your postpartum doula is your trusted guide for anything baby related. Overnight support allows parents to get a full nights rest while the doula takes care of the baby through the night. The doula will feed the baby, burp, change diapers, etc allowing the parent(s) to get as much rest as possible knowing there is an experienced professional caring for their child.
A postpartum doula is an amazing gift idea for baby showers! We can create a custom insert for your shower invitations and you can also register online for any of our services at EcoBuns Baby + Co online.
We also offer Gentle Sleep Consultations. Sleep is critical for adults and babies. Babies needs proper sleep for brain development and physiological growth. Parents need sleep to help manage the day to day obstacles of parenthood as well as for basic health and wellness.
We also have doulas specially trained in grief that can help you through loss.
Some of the trusted resources we suggest to families are:
Kelly Mom https://kellymom.com/category/parenting/ Athough there is alot of information about breastfeeding on this site, there are some relevant parenting and adoptive parenting tips as well.
This link features several apps our clients like. http://redtri.com/apps-every-new-parent-needs/slide/3
The Baby Connect Tracker App is also popular with our clients. https://www.baby-connect.com
At Gold Coast Doulas, we pride ourselves on being the premier doula agency in West Michigan. We offer judgment-free support to all families regardless of their parenting styles. We are here for your family, wherever you are in your journey.
Sleeping Through the Holidays
Right when you get your child on a good schedule something inevitably comes up that makes it difficult to stay on track. We just went through the dreaded daylight savings (the worst for adults too!). Right now we are in the midst of the holidays. Here are some sleep tips for keeping your children’s sleep schedules on track.
If you’re traveling and driving, try to time the car rides over nap times. For instance, if you have a three hour drive and you know little Johnny takes his afternoon nap from 12:30 – 2:30, hit the road at noon and do some singing or stimulate him for a while until he gets drowsy and falls asleep. Then when you are almost there, he should wake up!
If you are flying, naps can be tricky. If you have a baby, holding the baby to sleep usually works. But if you have an 18 month old, you might have to prepare yourself for a no nap situation that day. In this instance, be sure to get them down to bed a bit early that night.
What if you’re traveling somewhere with a time change? Ugh..every parent dreads this no matter the age of your child. If you’re only going for a couple days, keep the child on their normal schedule. That means if they go to bed at 7pm and there’s a 2 hour difference, you put them to bed at 5pm. I know this messes up party plans but you’ll have to think ahead. Bring a pack and play for your baby or a blow up mattress for your older child and put them to bed in a dark room with a sound machine at their normal bed time.
If you’re traveling and staying for an extended period of time, slowly move their bedtime back in 30 minute increments until they’re at a more reasonable bedtime. Then before you leave to go back home, move that bedtime back to the normal time slowly. If you wait to move the bedtime back until you’re home, just know that you’ll have 2-3 days of adjusting to deal with.
If you’re hosting a party in the afternoon during a normal nap time, let everyone know that your child will be sleeping. Don’t let them stay up just because Grandma wants to cuddle. They will have to wait until your child wakes up. During a party, that sound machine may need to be turned up a bit louder than normal.
Remember that sleep is a priority and stand firm when a friend or relative says, “Oh, just let him stay up.” Easy for them to say!
Happy Holidays and Happy Napping!
For a customized sleep plan for your family’s travel plans, contact me today!
Alyssa is a Certified Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and Gentle Sleep Consultant.
Newborn Sleep Tips
As a sleep consultant, I get asked often how early you can sleep train a baby. My answer is this – Most babies are ready around 12 weeks, but it’s never too early to start introducing heathy habits to make the sleep training go smoothy when baby is ready.
Why 12 weeks? Most babies are developmentally ready around this time. They’ve also established a healthy eating routine (whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding), and they’ve gained substantial weight.
At 12 weeks most babies are ready to sleep through the night. Many breastfeeding mothers will actually wake their babies to nurse them, even though the baby would sleep through on their own. Some mothers pump once in the night and let baby sleep. Other mothers can make it through the night just fine sleeping 8 hours straight, but they will more than likely need to nurse or pump right when they wake up!
Please note that at 12 weeks sleeping through the night does not mean a 12 hour stretch. Very few babies at this age are ready for that. But some babies may be ready for a 6 or 8 hour stretch. If you’ve only been getting sleep in 2 hour chunks, this sounds fantastic!
When I put a plan together with a family, I first talk with them to find out what their values and goals are. If nursing in the night is a priority, we create a plan around that. If their main objective is for baby to get a full nights rest, uninterrupted, then we create a plan around that. There’s no one right answer to sleep training; it has to fit each individual family.
So what kinds of things can you do with your newborn before that 12 week mark? You need to realize that babies thrive on routine. A chaotic schedule is not the ideal environment for a newborn. From day one, you can start to create a sense of consistency.
Wake up around the same time in the morning and go to bed around the same time at night. Do this for you and your baby.
Talk to your baby. Narrate life to them. Tell them what you’re doing (changing their diaper, feeding, nap time, wake time, play time, etc). They are listening!
Have all sleep happen in a dark room with white noise. A good, arms-down swaddle is great for newborns! There are several types of swaddles (muslin wraps, Miracle Blanket, Love to Dream), find what works best for you and your baby.
As your baby establishes feeding patterns, try to stick to a schedule for feedings. Remember you must always be flexible. Babies are not always hungry every three hours on the dot. If your baby typically eats every three hours, be aware that sometimes it will be 2 hours, sometimes 2 1/2, but usually 3. Don’t ever let your baby cry for food just to wait until the right time on the clock. Always watch for their cues and respond accordingly before letting them get too upset.
Speaking of cues, watch for them! Your baby is constantly communicating with you. From day one, they are communicating. As they grow, if you’re paying attention, you will begin to distinguish what different cries mean. This is important to create a relationship of trust between you and your baby. You cannot assume every cry means food. Just as if you stubbed your toe, it would not help if someone offered you a hamburger. You would want to sit down and maybe have someone give you some ice or even a band aid.
By assuming all of your babies cries mean hunger, you are telling them you’re not listening to what they are saying. Pay attention to what was happening to and around the baby when they started crying. Some babies are more introverted and like staring peacefully at a wall. They may begin to cry if there is a loud noise, a bright flash of light, or someone gets in their personal space too quickly. Others want to be in the room with all the action. Those babies may cry when you leave the room, or if they can’t see out the window. They do not want to stare at a blank wall, they want colors, noise, and lights.
Your baby might cry because they are too hot, too cold, sitting in an uncomfortable position, have a dirty diaper, are tired, are hungry, have an upset stomach. By paying attention to how they react to what you offer, you start to establish that trust relationship that says,”I’m paying attention to you. I’m listening to what you’re telling me, and I will react accordingly.” Your baby will know that when something is too stimulating, you will pick them up and put them somewhere they feel more comfortable. Your baby will know that when they are tired, you will put them to bed.
A good example of this the well meaning visitor – or the “Space Invader” as I like to call them. They rush over to the baby and get right in their face. When the baby starts to cry, the visitor thinks the baby does not like them, when in fact they just invaded their personal space too abruptly. If a baby is content and then suddenly starts crying, it usually isn’t too hard to figure out why if you’re paying attention.
What does this have to do with sleep training? Everything! By establishing routines and a trust relationship from the beginning, you are eliminating unknowns for your baby. They trust you to do what’s best for them. When you talk them through what’s happening, they know what to expect. They know when it’s time to change a diaper, put on clothes, or take a nap because you’ve been narrating their story to them and you’ve created consistency. This level of routine, consistency, and trust is your foundation to healthy sleep habits.
Then, when you call me around 12 weeks to start gently guiding your child through a full night’s sleep, the ground work is already laid. A child that gets enough sleep is a healthier and happier child, and so are their parents.
For more information on sleep training, contact us by phone (616) 294-0207, email, or fill out our contact form. You can also learn more about Alyssa’s methods on our blog.
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
My role as a postpartum doula.
Our very own Jamie Platt, BSN, RN, CLC, CPST shares her personal insights on what it’s like to be a postpartum doula.
What is the role of a postpartum doula? What does it look like, and how might a doula support the breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby? A postpartum doula can take care of mom, baby, and the entire family. Sometimes mom needs emotional support, help around the house, or even just a nap! I’ve taken care of baby while mom takes a nice hot shower or has one-on-one time with older siblings. We’re also able to prepare meals and run errands. We help with newborn care; we serve a variety of moms from different cultural backgrounds and some families need help with bathing, breastfeeding, and diaper changes. Some of our doulas have had additional training regarding the care of multiples, or have multiples themselves!
I have completed special training in perinatal mood & anxiety disorders so that I am able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a variety of mood disorders. It’s important that mom receives help if she needs it, and the general Grand Rapids area has great resources that include therapists and community support groups. In fact, we have one of the few Mother Baby programs in the entire nation, which provides a day program where mom can bring baby with her while she receives treatment. It is critical that we recognize when a mom needs help, that we support her, and in turn reduce the stigma of postpartum mood & anxiety disorders. Postpartum doulas are right there in family’s homes and can be a direct source of help and information.
Doulas also provide overnight support, which can be so great for moms (and partners)! The entire family can get the sleep they need and mom can still breastfeed baby through the night. I like to think that when I show up to a family’s home at night, I am well rested and mom may be feeling tired- but when I leave in the morning, I leave with bags under my eyes and mom looks and feels like a goddess when she wakes up. That is my goal!
I also want to acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding while still respecting the needs of mom, which may include formula feeding. As a postpartum doula I provide nonjudgmental support, and I help mom reach the goals SHE wants – not me. I recently completed my Certified Lactation Counseling (or CLC) training. The CDC considers both CLC’s and IBCLC’s as professional lactation supporters.
So why is breastfeeding so difficult that mothers need help? Well, our culture has unrealistic expectations of what the newborn period is like. The fastest drop-off in breastfeeding rates occur in the first 10 days after hospital discharge. The main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is because they believe they don’t make enough milk, the baby won’t latch, and/or mom has sore or painful breasts. Breastfeeding rates drop again when mom has to return to work or school between 8-12 weeks. It is so important that as a community we support mothers who want to breastfeed. As doulas, we can help mom gain the confidence she needs, give basic breastfeeding information, and make appropriate referrals if needed. Gold Coast Doulas offers lactation support through our IBCLC, Shira Johnson, who makes home visits. Gold Coast also has other doulas who have other breastfeeding-specific training, like the CLC training. We know that breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both mom and baby, so it’s time that we start normalizing it, and again, support all moms regardless of their feeding choice.
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?
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, www.hjphysicaltherapy.com, 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 email@example.com. Find us at www.goldcoastdoulas.com, Facebook, and Instagram. You can listen to our podcast, Ask the Doulas, on SoundCloud and iTunes.
Podcast Episode #26: EcoBuns Cloth Diapering
On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Marissa, owner of EcoBuns Baby + Co in Holland, Michigan dispels all the myths about cloth diapering that we’ve heard. Learn how easy and economical they can be for your family! You can listen to the full podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas podcast with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula. Today we’re talking to Marissa with EcoBuns Baby & Company again. Last time we talked about her baby registry, and you mentioned cloth diapering and that the store actually started out as a cloth diapering store. So I would like to hone in on cloth diapers today because I know there’s a lot of misconceptions and a lot of weird ideas. In a lot of my classes, my newborn class and with a lot of the postpartum clients that I support, there’s the ick factor; there’s, “Isn’t it so expensive?” And I know you have a couple other things that you get asked a lot about it. Let’s talk about some of those and dispel some myths.
Marissa: Yes, are you ready? Because I could talk about this all day long!
Alyssa: Yes! You have about 15 minutes.
Marissa: Okay, I think we can condense it down. So the first thing that you asked about is the ick factor of things, right? That’s the first thing that people are like, oh my goodness, how am I going to cloth diaper? We get asked that a lot by first-time parents, and I’m really sorry to say, first-time parents, you’re going to be dealing with ick with a new baby. I don’t have a magic pill that makes Baby stop pooping.
Alyssa: Right, whether it’s poop, pee, or puke, there’s always something coming.
Marissa: There’s always something, yep, and I always say, oh, did you ever think when you were planning about future children that you’d ever have to sit down and have a conversation about choices of diapering? You know, and so we always tell new parents – because that’s one of the biggest things is parents will say, I don’t want poop in my washing machine. And what I say to them is, you’re going to have poop in your washing machine, whether it’s on the baby’s clothes because they’ve exploded out the sides of the disposable diaper, or inside of a cloth diaper. Now, that being said, we don’t put actual baby poop that maybe people think of inside of the washing machine. We do want to get rid of that before it goes into the washing machine, and there’s a couple ways. We have liners; we have sprayers; there’s not the dunk and swish method that my mom and dad used. There’s not a bucket of bleach water that my mom and dad, back in the ‘80s, soaked cloth diapers in. Disposable liners are a really popular pick for parents who don’t want to deal with an ick factor. You lay it on the diaper before you put the diaper on the baby. When Baby poops, you can take that liner off and just dispose of the liner and wash the diaper. So it makes it super convenient for any parent to do.
Alyssa: So I’ve never seen the disposable liner. Is it – obviously, biodegradable? Better than a disposable diaper?
Marissa: Biodegradable, yeah, absolutely. It almost looks like a dryer sheet. It’s very, very thin; if you hold it up, it’s very porous. So all urine will go through it, but any solid waste is going to stay.
Alyssa: So for a newborn baby, it’s not really –
Marissa: Newborns, not even an issue.
Alyssa: But once they’re older and eating solids?
Marissa: Yeah, so usually the solid food transition is when people will gravitate towards the liners because – I always say that everyone wants you to feed your baby, but nobody talks about what the diaper changes are like after you start feeding your baby solid foods.
Alyssa: It’s instantaneous, too.
Marissa: Oh, my goodness. First bite of food, and your life is completely changed. So yeah, that’s a big factor. The other thing that a lot of people come in to talk about is the cost factor of it. You know, there is an upfront cost with cloth diapers, but what we look at is, people don’t necessarily realize how much disposable diapers cost because they’re spreading it out over time. Your average Pampers are costing you around 28 to 30 cents per diaper change. You’re going through 7,000 to 9,000 diaper changes from birth to potty training, so that can cost an average family upwards of $2,000. If you’re using something like Bambo Nature or Honest Company, you’re going to spending closer to $4,200 from birth to potty training. Cloth diapers, even if you’re going with the most expensive, all-organic, easiest-to-use solutions, you’re still probably looking at $1,800 to $2,000, but you can reuse them on future children. And there are options that make it that you can go from birth to potty training for $150. So it’s really where you want to be at. The other cool thing with cloth diapering is it’s not an all or nothing thing. You don’t have to come into EcoBuns and say, “Okay, Marissa. I’m doing cloth diapers 100% of the time.” We have so many families who come in and say, you know, when Grandma’s watching the baby, we’re going to do disposable diapers, or we travel a lot; we’re going to do disposable diapers when we travel. It’s not an all or nothing kind of thing. But the average family does save about $2,000 over the lifetime of their diapers. What we say with cloth diapers is that if you use the cloth diaper for three months, you’ve broken even on the cost of it.
Marissa: So huge cost savings there. My eye doctor out at Complete Eye Health in Holland – he told me that he and his wife cloth diapered, and every week when they would have bought disposable diapers, they took those funds that they would have spent on disposable diapers and put it into a savings account. At the end of their cloth diapering journey, they had enough money in their savings account to buy a brand-new high-efficiency washing machine and dryer; they had saved that much money. So that’s huge.
Alyssa: That’s amazing.
Marissa: Yeah. The other big thing that we talk about, too, is daycare because a lot of families will come in, and they’re like, we can’t cloth diaper because of daycare.
Alyssa: That’s something I’ve never even thought of, but yeah, I can see where it’s a valid concern.
Marissa: But in 2014, Michigan changed their daycare regulations, and if they’re a state-licensed daycare, they have to allow cloth diapers. They can’t turn a child away because the parent is providing cloth diapers. Now, there is a rule – there’s actually two rules inside of that. One is that the daycare can’t reuse a portion of the diaper until after it’s been cleaned. To kind of break that down, there’s a lot of different styles of cloth diapers. Some of them have a reusable cover option. Daycare can’t reuse a cover. They have to put on a new cover every time. And then the other rule is that it has to go into a double-layer bag, which our wet bags that families use for dirty diaper storage count as a double-layer bag, so they meet the criteria for the Michigan state regulations.
Alyssa: So you just have to send the double-layer bag and extra covers, and they just throw them in there?
Marissa: Yep, throw them in there. You can wash them at home, and then the daycare’s changing the diapers; all you have to do is wash them. That makes it so easy! And so many daycares – especially when you bring in an all-in-one diaper, which is a cloth diaper that looks almost exactly like a disposable diaper; it has the waterproof piece and the absorbent piece all sewn together. You bring that into them, and they’re like, oh, this is what a cloth diaper is like? There’s no pins; there’s no rubber pants. And then they’re definitely more open to the suggestion of cloth diapers.
Alyssa: So there are a lot of different options, and you could even, like you said, if you do want to go cloth 100%, have these all-in-ones for daycare, for Grandpa and Grandma, and then have the other ones with all the different inserts and stuff at home.
Marissa: What I always tell people is that families who have the most success with cloth diapers usually have three different brands or styles. Moms usually like one; dads like a different one; grandparents like another one. Or maybe you love the print of this one, so you have to have it. And that’s the other thing I tell our parents of newborns is that even if you’re not cloth diapering in the newborn stage, pick up some for newborn pictures because it just makes such a big difference in how the newborn pictures look if they’re in a cloth diaper vs. the disposable diaper.
Alyssa: Not something that says Pampers on it with a yellow line down the middle.
Marissa: Right, yeah, you can get dinosaurs or unicorns or sunflowers!
Alyssa: Awesome! So tell us one more myth you’d like to dispel about cloth.
Marissa: Yeah, I would say probably a convenience factor is definitely the biggest thing. I cloth-diapered both of my kids. When Olivia, my second child, came out a girl, I was super excited. I was like, get the purple diaper because we’ve been Team Blue for the last two years. And I was able to cloth diaper her from birth to potty training, and I never put a disposable diaper on her. And so it’s totally possible to do. At the time that Olivia was born, I was a single mom, and so I had two kids under the age of three in diapers. And it made my life so much easier because I never had a 2am run to Meijer for more diapers. I was able to cut back on my trash because I didn’t have so many disposable diapers going out into the trash. I was able to just have my still every-other-week pickup so I saved money that way. I never had to drag toddlers into the store to go grab more diapers. If I ran out of diapers, I just washed them. You know, it was really convenient. Kind of what we talk about is that you’re going to be changing diapers regardless, and then is it, are you going to have to take the diaper to the garbage or take the diaper to the hamper to wash it? So the amount of time that goes into it isn’t a huge difference. We do offer a class at the store, and we do virtual classes, as well. We’ve had some of our customers deployed overseas, and so we’ll do a Google hangout for our customers like that. We go over all the different styles, all the different options, and then we cover, you know, a lot of the reasons why people come in to talk about cloth diapers. I think one of the biggest reasons that always surprises people is that we don’t know how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose. Our best guess is somewhere between 250 and 500 years.
Alyssa: Good grief.
Marissa: Yeah, so the disposable diapers being used today are still going to be around when our great-great-great-great-grandchildren are alive. So a lot of parents will come in, and they’re like, oh, you know, we had this wonderful birth experience; we had all these plans that we wanted for our children, and now we find out how awful, how many chemicals are in disposable diapers; how long it takes for these disposable diapers to decompose. And sometimes that’s the real reason that people come in to talk about cloth diapers with us. And so that’s kind of a neat thing to see so many people interested in leaving things better for future generations.
Alyssa: Absolutely. So do you have two different types of classes? You have a class telling people about cloth diapers and what to buy, and then one, once they do buy, the $25 one you talked about last time, where you come in and actually learn?
Marissa: So everything happens all in one class. We spend the first little bit of class kind of talking about why people are there, like, what most excites you about cloth diapers? We talk about things like the fact that cloth diapers overall reduce diaper rash. We talk about the correlation between asthmatic-like symptoms and newborn disposable diapers. We just give a lot of facts. We talk about water usage in the house vs. how much water it takes to manufacture a disposable diaper. All of that information is laid out. And then the last half of class is really fun where we talk about the different styles, and we always end the class with what to do about the poop because really, that’s what everyone really wants to know, and that’s when we go over all the styles of, you know, a spray pal vs. liners vs. the different options that are out. So all one class.
Alyssa: Excellent. So good. Like I told you last time, I wish I would have known about that. It would have saved me.
Marissa: Oh, yeah, and the other thing is, too, is that when you get your diapers, you get your laundry detergent; you get your set up – you get us, then. We don’t just get you set up and then send you out the door and say, okay, happy parenting. If the cloth diapers aren’t working for you, come back in and see us. And that’s really where people can get a huge benefit from getting the cloth diapers from EcoBuns vs. what they can get from an online store where they don’t have immediate access. They get our support; we want people to be successful with cloth diapering if that’s what they want to do.
Alyssa: So tell me how people get set up for this. What should they do? Should they come see you first? Should they find you online?
Marissa: Yeah, so you can definitely sign up for the class online. Our summer schedule is up right now. For sure, the next month’s schedule is up, but we usually try to do the full summer, too. So that’s up. You can sign up for the class right online, or yeah, absolutely, you can sign up in store if you just want to come and check us out first and see all the options that we have. You can definitely do that in store, as well.
Alyssa: Okay. Tell us your website.
Marissa: Our website is www.ecobunsstore.com.
Alyssa: Perfect. Everyone needs to go. I think you should go check out the store in person. You’ll probably fall in love with the cloth diapers just by looking at them.
Marissa: We have a really nice area in the store, even if you already have a baby, we have areas to feed babies; we have a bathroom and changing table, and if you want to come out for the day, Electric Hero delivers to the store, so if you need to have some food delivered while you’re looking, Electric Hero delivers for free.
Alyssa: Perfect. Sounds like a lovely afternoon.
Marissa: Oh, it’s perfect.
Alyssa: Well, thanks again.
Marissa: Yeah, thanks for having me on! It’s always fun seeing you.
Alyssa: Yeah! Everyone, check out EcoBuns online, and then you can check us out at goldcoastdoulas.com. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud, and iTunes. Thanks for listening!
Podcast Episode #20: Lisa’s Story about Postpartum Anxiety
On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Lisa shares about her postpartum experience of dealing with anxiety and how doula support helped her through that challenging time. You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Please also visit our postpartum depression and anxiety resource list.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome back to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula. And we’re talking to a client of mine, Lisa, again. We’ve talked to her so far about her fertility struggles, dealing with a five-week early C-section, having a baby in NICU for eight days, bringing him home, and then moving from Seattle to Grand Rapids when he was four months old. Today we’re going to talk about how all that plays into your overall mental well-being as a first-time mom. All this happens; you have a baby; you’re already – you have so many fears anyway.
Lisa: And questions.
Alyssa: Yeah, fears and questions.
Lisa: And there’s a spectrum of answers to any one question that you have, and so then you have to muddle through.
Alyssa: The answer is which one is right for you. That’s what I tell my clients. There are so many answers, but which one makes most sense to you and your family and your baby? So you moved to Grand Rapids; your baby’s four months old; you find me; you have a doula. When you first moved here, what kind of mindset were you in?
Lisa: That’s a good question. Well, I was still really postpartum. You know, I was still basically in the fourth trimester, so I was very hormonal still, and I think that the month prior was so focused on, okay, what do we need to do to get ready to move? Once I got here, it was kind of a little bit of an exhale or maybe a collapse. You know, like you’re collapsing into this new environment. And then two things I think came up for me during this time. So right when we moved, our son was – for the week or two prior, and for the first five days that we got here, he was actually sleeping through the night, which was the only time in his life that he’s done that. And then, I think, five days after we moved here, he started waking up every hour throughout the night, and he was also not a good sleeper during the day, and so I was just really not getting any sleep. And then I think for whatever reason, maybe I was out of that fourth trimester or whatever, but I think all of the trauma of the fertility, the pregnancy, the emergency C-section, and then actually having a preemie baby, that started unraveling for me.
Alyssa: You actually had the time and space to think about it?
Lisa: Yeah, it kind of started – I think the whole time I was just like, what’s the next step I need to take? You’re basically just focused on moving forward, vs. really processing anything that’s happening to you during that period because if you stop to actually absorb what’s happening, it’s just emotionally overwhelming because there’s just so much wrapped up into it, for me, at least, into what was happening. And I think I just got – I was very anxious about the fact that I don’t know anybody. I don’t know anybody here. I don’t know who to trust. I have found a postpartum doula, but I’ve never met you. I literally have never met you in my life, and I also don’t have any friends. And I’m 39, and so I feel like, oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize I kind of need to date for friends again in my life.
Alyssa: That reminds me of one of our phone calls when you were still in Seattle before you moved here. You had said, “I’m a 39-year-old mom. I know West Michigan is a lot of young parents. Am I going to be the only 39-year-old mom at the playground?!” And I was like, no!
Lisa: Because in Seattle, all of my friends were older moms. They’re career women; they’re established. Children did not come first in their chronological life events, and so I thought, oh, no. I am going to be the oldie. I am going to be the old, wrinkled mom.
Alyssa: And I think I remember telling you that yes, there are a lot of young, young families, but there are also a growing number of families who are waiting, myself being one of them, and my business partner as well, so I think – hopefully I eased your mind.
Lisa: And I for sure found that to be true.
Alyssa: You find your village, you know. You find the people you’re looking for, and the ones you’re not seeking out, they don’t even really cross your radar, I feel like. So I also remember at one point when we were working together, you telling me – when you finally got to that point where you’re like, okay, I actually have time to process this whole journey. And you had even talked about how through your pregnancy, not feeling like you were able to enjoy it because there was all this stuff going on.
Lisa: No, it was like every day – it was like this might sound too graphic, but I was like, how do I keep the baby in? What do I need to do today to keep the baby inside me and growing? And that was the focus.
Alyssa: Yeah. So you didn’t ever have this time to just love being pregnant and enjoy.
Lisa: No, I was on pelvic rest. It was just different. It was very different.
Alyssa: I remember you almost mourning that, mourning the fact that you felt like you didn’t – you missed out on something.
Lisa: Yeah, I’m so glad that you brought that up. I did, you know. It’s the idea of just being able to make love with your husband and then you’re pregnant. That’s what, literally, I thought. That’s what I expected, and then that whole process was so different. I just wanted to have a homebirth in a tub. That’s the route that I wanted to go, and then being in antepartum in a hospital for five weeks, and then going through an emergency C-section where I didn’t even get to experience what it is like to have a contraction – you know, I felt like that was robbed from me. And then I had this kind of indescribable feeling where once my son was born, then it was like – I can describe it best by saying that I was trying to grab a baby through sand, and the sand was just coming through my fingers. It was like my body felt like it had “lost the baby.” And I think that’s because – there’s probably some internal knowledge that a woman’s body has that it knows that it should carry a child for X amount of time, and mine was cut short. And the only thing that made me feel okay is I would just put Ethan, my son, in a carrier, and just have him close to me. Literally, body to body. And then I didn’t have that sense of loss. I did not expect that. Nobody mentioned that. That wasn’t in any books. I just didn’t expect that. So I was dealing with that; I think that was one of the first emotions that kind of started coming out after I moved here.
Alyssa: How long do you think you felt that feeling of, I have to have him close to me or I feel panic?
Lisa: Oh, I would say at least for the first six months. It was not a short period of time.
Alyssa: So do you remember when I told you that the first probably three or four times I saw you, I didn’t even try to take him from you? I could sense that feeling of panic in you.
Lisa: You recently told me that again, and for the life of me, I cannot remember that. That doesn’t even register. I don’t remember that. And that kind of gives you a clue as to mentally where I was at that time.
Alyssa: Well, like you explained it, it’s like trudging through molasses every day. Even throughout pregnancy, you were in the mindset of, what do I have to do today to keep this baby growing inside of me? And then once you have this baby, it was okay, how do I get through this day, that I can breastfeed my baby and try to get an hour of sleep here and there? And it doesn’t work. An hour of sleep at a time just doesn’t work, so you were kind of in this fog, and then also mentally, finally, able to process everything your body’s been through the past year and really kind of mourn all these things. And yeah, I could sense the panic in you with Ethan. But if you look at from where you started when I first met you to when I left –
Lisa: Yeah, I was like, wait, what day is Alyssa coming back?
Alyssa: You would; you would text and say are you coming today or tomorrow? It is 12 or 2? You know, you were just in a place –
Lisa: I could not remember details like that, either. And you’re like, well, no. Three days from now. I’m like, oh, no! I’m in trouble this week! I do remember – I think the first thing I went and did by myself in Grand Rapids once I got here is I remember you taking Ethan and saying no, you actually have to get outside of the house. And I think I went to Gaslight, which is less than a mile away from my house, and I think I got a pedicure or coffee, I don’t know. Something like that, that took half an hour or something, and then I was back. But I felt like, oh, gosh. That was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t have a crying baby in the back, because he didn’t particularly like the car seat. Yeah, and I guess I just – I’m so thankful for you because I feel like you not only were looking out for my son, who was my number one priority, but you were also looking out for me, which I wasn’t really able to. You know, and I’m home alone, all by myself all day, in a new place. I was a stranger in a strange land, and I just needed help. Moms need help in places that they don’t even necessarily know that they need help.
Alyssa: Well, and that’s the thing, I think, with postpartum support. We are there to help you care for the newborn, and it’s not that we won’t, but we’re there to really care for you because it’s just that we don’t think we need help or we maybe don’t know we need as much help as we really do.
Lisa: I was just trying really hard to do it all and kind of get it right, whatever that meant.
Alyssa: Right. Do we ever get it right all the time? No.
Lisa: No. On a brain that hasn’t seen more than an hour of sleep in weeks, you know, it just doesn’t work, or wasn’t working for me very well. I was trying really hard, but it wasn’t working.
Alyssa: Well, I think your family is lovely, and you’re doing a great job. You always did a great job, even on lack of sleep. You did the best you could, and Ethan is wonderful. Is there anything else you want to tell people about dealing with anxiety and about postpartum support?
Lisa: Yeah, there was this great documentary event a couple months back. It was held – I think Gold Coast Doulas was one of the sponsors.
Alyssa: When the Bough Breaks?
Lisa: Yeah, and it’s a documentary about women with postpartum depression, and it wasn’t until I actually watched that movie that I understood what postpartum depression actually is and that it is a spectrum of an emotional state that can be anywhere from low anxiety to psychosis. And I literally thought – because I think what you hear in the news about postpartum depression is more the psychosis stories, and I thought, well, I’m not having hallucinations, or I don’t want to harm my child or anything like that, so I’m “fine.” But once I watched the documentary, I realized I was definitely on the spectrum of high anxiety with a newborn and even infant. I would say for sure for the first eleven months. And I would just say again, find somebody who knows that they’re talking about, who’s thought of as kind of best in their field. A postpartum doulas would be a great example. Talk to somebody and get support. Don’t sit there in your living room and panic and worry.
Alyssa: Don’t just try to deal with it yourself.
Lisa: Yeah, don’t just try to deal with it yourself because I think I did, and if I would have reached out more, like if I would have been more forthcoming with you earlier about it, I think it would have helped me a lot.
Alyssa: Maybe wouldn’t have lasted eleven months.
Lisa: Yeah, because I think I waited until maybe month nine to really talk to you about it. I was like, “Alyssa, I just – I’m kind of feeling these things. Do you think I have postpartum depression?” And that’s a long time.
Alyssa: Talking about it is hard, though. And even with your partner or spouse, it’s sometimes hard.
Lisa: Well, and it’s sometimes fleeting, too. It’s not like every day you feel bad, but it’s sometimes in the morning you feel bad; sometimes in the afternoon you feel bad, or you feel particularly overwhelmed by this new developmental stage that your baby is going through. You know, just get – just talk to other good women. Get support.
Alyssa: Talking about it is the first step.
Lisa: For sure.
Alyssa: I’ll list some resources for postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis on our website, and we have some on our Facebook page, as well. Thank you so much for talking to us.
Lisa: Thank you.
Podcast Episode #19: Lisa’s Postpartum Journey
On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Lisa about her postpartum doula and how having a doula helped with her recovery. You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase. I am co-owner and postpartum doula. Today we are talking to a client, Lisa, again. Hello, Lisa.
Alyssa: Last time we talked about her and her husband’s struggle with fertility and how that looked for her. Just to kind of recap, it took them about two and a half years, and then she ended up with an emergency C-section five weeks early. So we’re going to talk about what her life looked like once she got home. So Ethan spent five days in NICU, and you said you were ready. You were ready after that; five days was enough. Is that because it was scary having a baby in the NICU, or you just wanted to go home?
Lisa: Everything is very medical and monitored, and it feels – there’s definitely a separation between the natural kind of mother-and-child bonding, I think, that happens in those early hours, those early days. So for example, when I had the C-section, they wouldn’t actually let me go visit him until I was able to get up out of bed by myself and go to the bathroom. So I ended up not being able to see him for the first 17 hours.
Alyssa: You were like, “I will get up and pee by myself!”
Lisa: If this is the last thing that I do, I am going to get out of this bed and go pee! Yeah, so, that made me anxious because I was literally sitting in this hospital bed by myself in a room by myself because my husband was with the baby doing skin-to-skin, and I was counting the minutes. When do I get to go meet him?
Alyssa: So five days later, you get to bring him home.
Lisa: Actually, eight days later. Yeah, we bring him home, and it was so funny because as much as I wanted to leave the NICU, the minute we got home, he wasn’t hooked up to a monitor so you don’t know his oxygen saturation levels; you don’t know his temperature; you don’t know all these things that the machines are telling you. And I literally was fearful that he was going to die in the middle of the night. I’m like, “Well, he’s just going to stop breathing, and I’m not going to know because the beeper isn’t going to go off.” And so then I had this anxiety about not having all of the faculties that you have in the hospital. But luckily, we knew right from the beginning that – we had a birth doula who played a very different role than what I expected her to play in the beginning.
Alyssa: Yeah, absolutely. How did your birth doula end up supporting you with an emergency C-section?
Lisa: She didn’t make it to the hospital in time because it was – it happened basically in 45 minutes, and so just with the distance, she couldn’t get there, but she sat with me in the room after I recovered for several hours, when I was coming down off the gas and stuff that you get. Not gas; it’s an injection, but anyway, you know, when you’re really coming out of the stuff that they give you, and that was really helpful. I’m glad that I wasn’t alone then. But we knew that we also wanted a postpartum doula. Neither of us had been around babies very much in our adult life, and we wanted somebody who was an expert with infants that knew the research and the range of – what are the options, when I have a question? You know, about sleeping or whatever; that would be a great one because we did struggle a lot with sleeping. What are the different approaches and why, and what are the pros and cons to each? I talked a lot to my postpartum doula about sleeping and how to encourage sleeping, creating the right environment and all of that. But otherwise, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was also recovering from an abdominal surgery, and I just plain needed help, you know? I was struggling with getting up and down stairs because it was still quite painful. And so we had a postpartum doula come in every morning from six to nine through the work week and then on the weekends, my husband and I were together, so then we were able to kind of tag-team, and that was obviously different. And then we also did have several overnight stays. But even simple things the postpartum doula helped me with was, how do you get up with a new, new baby, at least get yourself in the shower, and eating breakfast, before you’re kind of down on the couch nursing them for the first time or for the first nap during the day? And I think that would have taken me weeks to figure out.
Alyssa: To figure out, like if I get up a half an hour early and try to get in the shower…
Lisa: Yes! And just a shower and eating before you’re starting the whole rigmarole of the day, especially when you’re breastfeeding, because I was really hungry – that makes a huge difference.
Alyssa: Well, and most women, especially in the beginning when you feel like you’re nursing all the time –
Lisa: All the time!
Alyssa: And you’re so hungry and so thirsty, and then they tell me, well, I don’t have time. You need to make time. If you’re not drinking, you’re not eating, your milk supply is just going to start to slowly diminish.
Lisa: Yeah. And then I couldn’t do things like go to the grocery store; that was a big challenge, or do any type of meal planning. So then our postpartum doula – we said, this is the food that we like, and so she basically created some meals, went to the grocery store, brought them back, did some or all of the food prep for the different meals, and that was just life-saving as well. But mostly I think for me it was a trusted partner. Like, who can I just ask anything to and it be just fine? And maybe it’s lack of knowledge for me or just that I don’t know who else to ask this question to.
Alyssa: Well, it’s overwhelming your first time. You literally know nothing. I mean, very little.
Lisa: I didn’t even know how to swaddle. I mean, swaddling was a big learning curve for me. I never really got it tight enough. In the beginning; I eventually did, but –
Alyssa: He’d just kind of ninja his way out?
Lisa: Yes, he did! Yeah. This person, this woman, this angel of mine, her name was Kate, and she was wonderful.
Alyssa: Now, we should mention – we didn’t mention that you lived in Seattle at this point.
Alyssa: So you were not in Grand Rapids. When did you find out you were moving?
Lisa: When our son was three months old. He had just turned three months.
Alyssa: Yeah, because you had just gotten here when he was about four months, right? So you had a month to prepare. How was that?
Lisa: I think I was in a little bit of denial about how much needed to be done. We decided to spend more money to push the easy button, so we hired movers to actually pack us for the first time as well as do the cross-country move, and that was worth every dime that we spent, even though that is not cheap. It was really worth it. And I just focused on my recovery and my baby and the bonding and just let all that other stuff go.
Alyssa: So then you got here, and you had Judd’s family here. You have no family here, and your doula in Seattle found me.
Lisa: Right, so then I was talking to her, and I said, “You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know anybody there. How am I going to unpack into a new house, meet anybody?” And she’s like, “Oh, well, let me just do some research. I’ll do some looking for you today,” and she came back the next day, and she was like, “I found somebody.” And it was Alyssa. And I was like, “Perfect! Perfect! At least I have a doula that I can totally lean on!” And that was you, and…
Alyssa: We met, and the rest is history, right?
Lisa: The rest is history. And my husband’s family helped us move into the house, and that was unbelievably healthy. Healthy? Helpful! I still have mom-brain.
Alyssa: It never goes away.
Lisa: I transpose these words and then it doesn’t make sense.
Alyssa: It doesn’t go away. It’s not pregnancy-brain; it’s mom-brain, for sure.
Lisa: So at the end of the day, I’m really glad that we moved. I think it was a really, really hard time. I think moving may be – if you can wait until your baby is closer to one or something, that might be easier, an easier transition for the mom just because you’re so exhausted in the beginning. But Grand Rapids is really family-friendly, and I’m just so appreciative of that, and I feel like it’s a good place to raise kids.
Alyssa: We’re glad you’re here.
Lisa: I’m glad that we’re here. And I’m glad to have met you! Thank goodness for you!
Alyssa: Yeah, we worked eight months, maybe, seven months? Off and on; it was a lot in the beginning.
Lisa: Yeah, until he was about a year, yeah. At a year, I kind of felt like, oh, the weight of all of being a new mom kind of lifted a little bit for me, and I just felt more confident, I guess.
Alyssa: Well, and he was gaining so much more independence that it was almost – I remember one day you saying “It’s so great. He’s sitting up and he’s doing all these things, but he’s not my little baby anymore.” It was like this – I’m so glad he’s doing this because now he can play by himself for a little bit on the floor and I can actually go sit down and eat or do dishes or something, but you struggled with this. He’s my baby, but he’s not my little baby anymore, and he’s doing all these other things. And I think we all struggle with that. Me, I only have one child, so every phase, every developmental stage, I just – good and bad, I love it.
Lisa: Because that’s the only one you get.
Alyssa: Yeah. So I guess that’s a piece of advice I give, especially if you’re only having one –and you may end up trying for more; who knows, but you just – it helps you get through the hard times. Even the sleepless nights; it’s all temporary because soon he’s going to be eight, right? He’s not going to want to sleep with you, and he’s not going to want to wake up. You’re going to have to wake him up!
Lisa: That’s right. I can’t even imagine that! He’s still waking up probably three times, religiously, every night. But it’s a lot better than what he was.
Alyssa: You’re getting sleep.
Lisa: Yeah, I’m getting enough sleep now. I’m not crazy like I was; sleepless-crazy. You know, an hour or 45 minutes of continuous sleep, all during the day, if that’s all you get, that is not enough for a person to have their wits about them. It’s just not.
Alyssa: No. I think we’ll talk next time with Lisa about the effects of sleep deprivation and how – you know, a pregnancy journey that doesn’t go as planned along with sleep deprivation and an emergency C-section; all these things; how does that play in your brain. So stay tuned; we’ll talk next to Lisa about that. Thank you for sharing today!
World Doula Week 2018
Today’s blog is written by Kristin Revere, Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula and Certified Sacred Postpartum Mother Roaster.
As the end of World Doula Week nears, I feel I must speak my truth.
Before having kids my purpose was to support women in politics. I wanted more voices in office and wanted to run for office myself. I still do. I wanted women to feel confident raising money. I still do. When I was pregnant and busy working on a Governor’s race, I felt a loss of control. I was used to planning everything in life. Birth was something I couldn’t predict; even my pregnancy had twists and turns when I developed pre-eclampsia. I didn’t know what a doula was eight years ago, and I wish I had. The second time around, I did and we hired doulas before anyone even knew I was pregnant.
Why doula? I am a doula because I have the honor of truly seeing women when they are strong and when they are vulnerable. I have the honor of seeing their partners supporting them tenderly. I stand with women who struggle with loss and infertility. I stand with women who make hard choices. I support them, without judgment in their decisions, to prepare for unmedicated births, epidural births, cesarean births. I walk with them when they choose to breastfeed, exclusively pump or bottle feed. I acknowledge them when they choose to stay home, work from home or go back to work. I remind them to surrender and to breathe. I remind them to slow down. I remind my clients that this is only temporary and that they are strong. I still cry after every birth… mostly while sitting in my car. Mostly tears of joy and sometimes the tears are painful. You know those cries when your full body shakes? I have experienced my share of those, as well.
It was five years ago today that I took my family to Virginia for a four-day Sacred Pregnancy Instructor retreat.
That experience changed everything for me. I began to understand how to support women fully. I started teaching classes two weeks after my training. Soon after that, I took a Sacred Postpartum training in Georgia and then a four-day Sacred Doula training in Florida as I was asked to support my students at their births.
I sat in circles with my Sacred Pregnancy students for eight weeks and we were raw and real with each other. We stripped down our layers and expressed our fears and our dreams to each other. I believe that women need to connect with each other in that way. Women desire to feel understood and supported and to be fully seen and accepted.
I wasn’t sure birth doula was my calling at first. At my Sacred Doula training, I was seen as least likely to make it due to my fear of blood. I got over that fear quickly, by the way. Very few of the women in my training are still doulas. The average doula does this work for three years before burnout. A lot of this is because of the low pay, on-call lifestyle, the inability to predict how long you will be away from your family, the physical and emotional stress of birth work, and more.
I proudly hold two birth doula certifications and am a certified Postpartum and infant care doula. My next step is to become a certified childbirth educator.
I started Gold Coast Doulas with my business partner to better support families. Our birth doulas work in teams and therefore will stay in the field longer because of a better work – life balance; doulas who can give more because they aren’t always on call. They can plan for a vacation, a birthday party, or a camping trip and still take clients.
Our clients get the experience, support, and perspectives from two doulas throughout pregnancy, and if labor is long they will have a second refreshed doula at their side as needed. This model better supports our doulas as well. They have mentorship, support, and a place to grow. We take care of each other and honor the choices of those who step away from the work after having another child or for family reasons. They know they also can come back if circumstances change.
Gold Coast Doulas is made up of 15 birth and postpartum doulas, an infant massage instructor, a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), and a placenta encapsulator. We keep growing and adapting to the needs of our clients.
With the way birth support so strongly called to me, I never thought I would like postpartum doula work the way I do. Birth work is important, and I know now postpartum care is even more important.
There is a pressure in America to get back into skinny jeans, to get back to work, to be supermom. The focus after birth is always on the baby. Who is there to check on how the mother is coping? Everyone wants to hold the baby and bring gifts for the baby.
We need to acknowledge the mother.
We make sure she is nourished, rested, her house is picked up, we allow her time to shower or sip on tea on her porch. We acknowledge her fears and support their choices. We also help when the partner or mother is traveling. We help them manage the work, care for a baby, play with a toddler.
Doulas allow the client to breathe, and let them know that they are strong and that this is only temporary. We acknowledge them. We all want to be seen and we all want to be fully heard. That is why I do this work. We must support each other. We shouldn’t have to go at this alone.
This work is my true purpose. I see you, I stand with you, I walk with you. I am a doula.
Podcast Episode #9: How to Handle a Six-Week NICU Stay
On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Tricia talks about her experience with her twins staying in the NICU for six weeks. You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we’re talking to Tricia.
Alyssa: She is a post-partum and birth doula with us and also our multiples expert that teaches the multiples class. Tell us about your multiples.
Tricia: They are two. I have identical twin girls, Keira and Rosalind. They also have a big brother named Gideon. He just turned four.
Alyssa: Okay, so for a while there, you had three under three?
Tricia: I had three under two.
Alyssa: Three under two!
Tricia: They are 23 months apart, so yeah.
Alyssa: Wow, you are wonder woman. So when the girls were born, they had a significant NICU stay?
Tricia: They did.
Alyssa: And I know parents get really nervous about NICU, and Kristen had talked about how her daughter had a three-week stay. How long were your daughters in the NICU?
Tricia: They were in just over six weeks. Keira was in for 41 days, and Rosalind was in for 45.
Alyssa: Okay. So tell us a little bit about the birth story and how they ended up in NICU and what you and your husband felt.
Tricia: My girls shared a placenta, so we had issues for a little while. They were monitoring really closely. One of their placentas was velamentous cord insertion, so it was palm-shaped, and it was attached to both the placenta and my cervix. Keira started detaching off of the placenta.
Alyssa: So there were two placentas?
Tricia: No. One together; they shared. One had two cords. So they had separate sacks. There are three different types of twins. We were the second-safest, I guess is the best way. MoMo, they share a sack and they share everything.
Alyssa: Okay. One sack, one placenta?
Tricia: Yeah, which runs risks because umbilical cords can twist around each other. We had the safe kind of identical – well, safer. Two sacks, but they shared one placenta. So yes, they started to do a twin-to-twin blood transfusion back and forth, and so the placenta just kind of died, or was starting to. So Keira came out pale and not breathing at 32 weeks, and sister came out 30 seconds later. We had an emergency C-section because Keira was originally breech, so she was going to be a C-section regardless. She was Baby A. But it became more emergent when they realized that she was having issues with her placenta cord or her umbilical cord. So they both were intubated within seconds. Their scores were super low. I want to say Keira’s was a one and Rosalind’s might have been a two or a three. So super low at birth. I think the scariest part was we had our son first, so we knew that they come out crying and happy. And the doctors, when we came into our C-section, were talking about vacations, and by the end of it, the entire room of 30 people was, like, silent. So yeah, my husband really had a hard time with that. We both started crying. Both girls were fine. Keira was pretty much whisked straight down to NICU. Rosalind was a little bit more stable, so they were able to have her lay next to me. I have a photo of her little finger in my finger as they stitched me up, and her just kind of sitting there. But then she was sent back down with sister. Thankfully, I had a postpartum doula sitting there. My husband left for about an hour. It was very traumatic for him to have both of his girls and me and the whole – so he went and had his time. I really still to this day, two years later, have no idea what he did. I know he went through a drive through, and I know he sat in his car and cried, but I had my support for me, so we both were able to be where we needed, and my support was amazing. Having that doula there was – I honestly could not imagine being in a room with no babies; no husband, because he needed his time, and yeah. She was phenomenal. And we had a NICU nurse come upstairs a couple hours; it was a good couple hours and brought pictures and had weights. And both girls at that point were stable. Both were intubated, great. The NICU doctor was a little concerned. Keira’s hemoglobin was at an 8, and Rosalind’s was at an 18. They think it happened within the first, like those last couple hours when the umbilical cord started being funky and the placenta, because it can go so quickly. And they really don’t think it had to have been a couple hours because I was having contractions for a good 48 hours before the girls were born. They just weren’t consistent. But we had steroid shots prior. They weren’t going to start labor, because at that point they didn’t think that it was – when it was going to happen, it was going to happen. But she felt that Keira would do a lot better if she had a blood transfusion because her hemoglobin was so low for even an adult, let alone a baby. But blood transfusions for babies are really little. You think “blood transfusion;” you think these huge – it’s like a little syringe amount of blood. It’s super little because they were so little.
Alyssa: So did they explain that to you? Because I think if somebody told me, hey, your newborn baby needs a blood transfusion, I would just break down. So they said this is literally what it looks like? So they just pump new blood into their vein?
Tricia: Yeah, they did it through her head because the head veins are so nice and with babies, they still move. They’re little babies. She might be three pounds, but they’re tough little things at three pounds. And so they go through the head because it’s a really good opening; they don’t have to worry about trying to do it more than once. And so it’s a really little amount; it’s a little syringe. Thankfully, yeah, they did explain some of that. By that time I was pumping. I was able to thankfully talk to a NICU nurse prior to going into NICU, so I knew that without the girls, if I wanted my milk supply to go in, I needed to have a pump within three hours. I had to kind of fight for my pump a little bit, but I was able to get a pump in those first three hours because I was determined to have that. I was able to see the girls for the first time a little after midnight, and they were born at 6:52 and 6:53. So it took about four hours for me to get down there. I couldn’t hold them or anything like that. They were little things. But at that point, Keira had her blood transfusion and all of that. They were, yes, very fragile little things.
Alyssa: What goes through your mind?
Tricia: At that point, I think I was just so happy to see them okay that I really – I don’t think that there was much else because I had experienced her coming out not breathing and her being whisked away and knowing that I almost didn’t go in that day. They were going to send me home. When I went into the hospital, I came in with contractions every eight minutes apart. I was a centimeter and a half dilated. They thought they’d give me some fluids and send me back home at 1:00. I went to the hospital alone; drove a friend’s car; was in my nephew’s preschool class that morning. Like, nobody had a clue that these girlies were coming, and then 3:30, doctor comes in and, “You’re dilated to a three. We can’t send you home. You’re an automatic C-section. I can’t send you home. Contractions haven’t stopped. You probably should call your husband.” Husband’s going, “Do I have time to go get my oil changed?” I’m like, “No, honey, I don’t think you do. They’re acting like we don’t have time for this.”
Alyssa: Maybe that’s what he did for those two hours. “I got a burger and my oil changed and cried.”
Tricia: Right! So the first few days, yeah, were really just – I overdid it a little bit because the anesthesia made me feel – it takes 24 hours for anesthesia from a spinal to fully leave your system, so I could walk, I could pee, I could do all that. I felt invincible, but you’re not invincible. It’s the pain meds talking to you that you’re invincible. So the first three days I pretty much – we did not really have any visitors at the hospital when I was in there, which is way different than with my son.
Alyssa: And was that by choice? You didn’t want anybody to come?
Tricia: Yeah, I really didn’t. They can’t go into NICU, and I wanted to be down with the babies. I was up in my room to get meds, to eat, and to sleep. And everything else I did next to the girls. Rosalind was in – she had bilirubin lights for a couple days. They had bradys throughout the six weeks, which is when they periodically stop breathing. It’s a really common preemie problem is the best way I know how to put it. It’s just that in the uterus, if they don’t breathe a second, it’s fine. They’ve got all the stuff, so it’s them learning how to breathe. They still have to learn how to breathe. Rosalind had a little bit more issues with her lungs, so they were given surfactant to coat their lungs to try to help them breathe at delivery and to help their lungs grow and mature. Keira’s lungs took it; Rosalind’s did not. It all still, 24 hours later, it was pretty much right on the surface of her lungs kind of a concept, so she had a lot more issues breathing. She was off and on different various c-pap and nose canula and breathing. They both had caffeine at some point, and I remember a NICU nurse telling me to drink more caffeine because it was better that they got it through my milk vs. the little –
Alyssa: So what is the caffeine for?
Tricia: It’s to help with them remembering that breathing on their own, to help them be a little bit more alert. That was my understanding, anyway. It’s a lot of trying to get them to remember to breathe on their own because if they sleep and they forget to breathe, there’s a lot of monitors.
Alyssa: Interesting. I would have never thought caffeine.
Tricia: And once again, it’s a really tiny amount.
Alyssa: Oh, of course. “Let’s give them a cup of coffee in a syringe.”
Tricia: Basically! The medical aspect of – I never thought I would know all this medical stuff, and then you have twins who spend six weeks. Food’s in milliliters, and everything’s ounces, and those ounces matter. Like, you don’t think about it when you’ve got a full-term baby and they come home seven pounds and four ounces. But then you have a 3.4 and a 3.7 and they go down to the three pounds, and it’s like, you gained an ounce today! That ounce is huge! I exclusively pumped. We attempted latching, but they never really got the hang of it. Even with bottles, they were still like – part of the reason we were in NICU so long is because it took them a while to understand that oh, I have to suck, swallow, breathe. I have to eat. After about two weeks in for the most part they were feeder/growers. The first couple weeks were a little bit of one step forward, two steps back. Because Keira was under 3.5, she had to do a routine eye exam, which is because there’s a disease that they can get in their eyes if they’re on oxygen for too long. Their birth weight’s low because most of these babies who are that little are on oxygen for a while. And they also have to do a head ultrasound because there’s risks of breathing. And with her routine head ultrasound, they found a pseudocyst in the left ventricle of her brain, which looked more like a blood clot. It didn’t seem to affect function; didn’t seem to be anything too different. They ended up doing a head ultrasound of Rosalind because they’re identical, so they were curious if it was a thing. Both of their left ventricles are bigger than normal, I guess. I don’t really know what that means. Everybody’s brains look funny. The doctor made it out like, “They’re bigger than what the normal brain is, but if we were to do a head ultrasound on you, your brain would look funny too.” Like, there’s a very vague, “this is how your brain is supposed to look” concept. And so they both had bigger left ventricles, but sister did not have the pseudocyst. So they think the pseudocyst was part of delivery. Either that blood transfusion aspect where sister was getting her blood and she was giving it, or just with the placenta and delivery being a little bit more traumatic on her little body.
Alyssa: So is that something that goes away? You just watch it, or did you have to –
Tricia: It did. It did. They weren’t 100% sure. It’s not something that we studied much here. The doctor had to get a study from Sweden because they have more availabilities to that. If it did not go away, the doctor had said that it really wasn’t going to affect any function. It doesn’t affect anything. Hers did dissipate. That might be the wrong word, but it did disappear about eight, nine months in. She had an MRI. She’s had a couple of them, and so we are officially – neuro is done. She’s clear. She had a little bit of – she had to do some PT for a little bit for her right side because of just making sure everything crossed, but otherwise you would not know that she had that at all.
Alyssa: So you said after a couple of weeks, they became feeders/growers. Is that like a common term for NICU parents? Like, they’re feeding well and growing, and that’s their main goal is just to keep them feeding and growing?
Tricia: It is. In the NICU, you start in the back. The littler you are, you start in the back. That tends to be –
Alyssa: So you kind of graduate towards the front?
Tricia: You graduate towards the door. So when we got there, we were in this little corner, and it was both girls’ beds, and you’re in the back. And you can tell that you take a little bit more. A little bit more nurses, a little bit more machines. You’re back there. Like I said, we were 32-weekers, so we were kind of surrounded. There was some 26-weekers. There were some 24-weekers. So when you’re toward the back, it’s generally – in this NICU, you’re a little bit more of a – “We need to monitor you. You’re not as stable.”
Alyssa: A little higher risk.
Tricia: You’re a little bit higher risk, yeah, which it’s not that you’re not stable. It’s just that nurses need to be checking in a little bit more and a lot of times you’re in the kangaroo pods, which are the big isolettes, and you need the darker lights and you need to be a little bit more quiet. So you get put back there so that you can really sleep and grow, and it’s more womb-like towards the back, as womb-like as you can be in a room filled with monitors. They give these blankets. Each baby gets to go home with this big, oversized blanket that they put over top of the isolettes so that it can stay dark. My girls still sleep with them at night; they’re their little NICU blankies. Then as they get a little bit bigger, because newer babies come in that are the younger and need the quiet and the more monitoring, you get moved to the front. And so my girls had about two and a half, three weeks and then got moved to right next to a window and right across the nurse’s station. So yeah, then they get put into little basinets because they start being able to control their body temperature, and they are starting to breathe better, and they don’t need the c-pap. They just have the nose canula which is a huge – the nose canula looks really scary. It’s actually a lot better than to be intubated, but it looks a lot scarier. So it’s got all these bigger monitors and whereas with the nose canula it’s just these little things of oxygen and it can hide behind the bed. So yes, as they get bigger, yes, they get closer to the door.
Alyssa: Okay. So for a good three, four weeks they were feeders/growers?
Tricia: They were.
Alyssa: When do they graduate? At what point do they say, okay, they’re good to go?
Tricia: They have to be breathing on their own. They need to not have bradys within – I want to say it’s 48 or 72 hours. It’s a decent amount of time. It might be 72 because that’s part of the reason that Rosalind ended up staying longer than Keira did is that she had a couple episodes and they can’t send – they have to make sure that she can go home not breathing. Now, there are babies that are sent home with breathing machines and with monitors and whatnot depending on where you are and what your baby needs. Every morning, the doctors come and they give you updates on how they fed that day and what they’re thinking about food-wise; what they’re going to add; what they’re going to change; positives that baby did. And then they also, if you’ve got questions, doctors will sit and answer your questions. They go through rounds. It’s the way that they can do the nurses from the morning to the night, keep everybody up to date per baby. So they also have to pass a car seat test. Mom and Dad have to sit and watch three different videos. There’s a car seat safety test. There’s a CPR class. There’s another one. I cannot remember off the top of my head.
Alyssa: But they want to make sure you’re going home prepared? As prepared as you can be.
Tricia: Yep, yep. They come home, and they’re really – the nurses are all trained. They’re trained for feeding; they’re trained for various different – there was one that was a lactation consultant, so she sat and worked a lot on trying to get the girls to latch and have to figure out some of that. They’re really knowledgeable. They have also social workers upstairs that come down weekly and are like, “What can we do to help?” My husband and I had a 45-minute drive. Our NICU gave us gas cards weekly to help pay for driving there and back and there and back. Because there is a house that’s like right next to it, but you have to be within an hour. So we were just close enough that really – and we had a toddler at home, so we wouldn’t have been able to really use that much anyway, but it was nice that they were like, “What can we do to help your family make this less—”
Alyssa: A little less stressful.
Tricia: A little less stressful; a little less, yeah. And then usually they do a room-in, so they send you upstairs, and you’re on your own with baby. They’ll come in and do vitals every three hours. It’s basically like you leaving the hospital –
Alyssa: If you would have had a full-term baby? So you get that night, maybe, day –
Tricia: Yep, you get that night.
Alyssa: It’s like, okay, I can do this alone before we go home.
Tricia: Mm-hmm. You go home; babies are off all the monitors. It gets a little bit of normalcy to this. They’ll wheel you down in the wheelchair, and the whole, like, this is what you do. Like, I did not leave from the maternity floor when I was sent home because I could not leave from that floor empty-handed. I was like, I’m leaving from the NICU floor. You can put everything back down to the NICU floor, I’m just leaving the hospital and then coming back. If I leave this floor, it’s –
Alyssa: Something in your brain just won’t let you –
Tricia: Something in my brain. I was leaving my girls. I was leaving my girls together. It was that – I’m not leaving as a postpartum mom. I’m leaving as a mom. And I think that for whatever reason, that made a big difference.
Alyssa: So last question I have is you finally get to take them home. Well, one, and then the other, but you finally have both babies home. How do you deal with the nerves of what if they stop breathing? I mean, every parent has this fear of what if they stop breathing in the night. There’s all these what-ifs, and you have like a hundred more. How do you handle that?
Tricia: I know some parents buy the little Owlet monitor thing. There’s a bunch of different sleeping monitors. My girls came home on a schedule, so we kind of kept their schedule. I will be honest; I was over their crib just kind of watching them breathe for a while. Because you don’t, and you can’t. There’s really not – there was an oversized chair. I pumped in their room a lot, so I could watch them breathe while I pumped. You kind of just eventually get a little bit less – I don’t know if it ever really goes away.
Alyssa: Does it ever go away? I mean, I still check my almost-five-year-old daughter’s breathing at night before I go to bed, so that never really goes away, but you get to a point where you’re like, okay, these girls are healthy; they’re going to be able to sleep through the night, and now I can sleep through the night.
Tricia: Yeah. I mean, I had a post-partum doula that I talked to for a while because I did have a lot of anxiety.
Alyssa: The same one that was with you in the hospital?
Tricia: Yes. Due to just – yeah, I had a lot of anxiety from NICU; a lot of fears. So talking through a lot of it helped too. I think being able to talk it out and being, you know, they’re okay. They’re here now. My big thing is they’re here; they’re healthy. They’re happy. They’re fierce little things. But they’ve had a really long day. They’ve had a long rough road. Writing it out helped too. They have a book they both will get that is their full NICU journey.
Alyssa: So you would write every day?
Tricia: Pretty close. Regularly. I wouldn’t say every day, but pretty close. It has their updates; it has their weights. It talks about when Keira came home. Actually, that was probably the hardest day of NICU was taking just one of them home because it felt so foreign to me. I needed – I was supposed to have two. There’s two of you. And they’d never been apart. At least when I left, they were still together. It was really weird to take just her home. It was a very bittersweet day. Our family’s all like, “But you get to get ready for one.” I’m like, yeah, for two days, and now I get to take this infant in and out of the hospital. It’s not as great as you think it is.” I mean, it had to happen. It was fine; it was great; it was four days, and they left her bed and they made it as comfortable as they could. So their book talks about that a little bit. And I was a little bit more open with them in their book than I was with, like, Facebook-updating my family.
Alyssa: Oh, I’m sure. It will be a beautiful thing for them to read when they get older, I’m sure.
Tricia: Mm-hmm, for them to see how far they’ve come.
Alyssa: Yeah, and for you to remember because I feel like, you know, even a year ago, you forget little stories, and I’m a huge proponent of writing things down especially during the newborn stage because you are in this fog, and if you don’t write it down, you probably will never remember. And kids love to hear those stories about themselves, so I think that’s a beautiful way to track that.
Alyssa: Well, thank you so much. I feel like we have a million different multiples topics we could talk about, like your pumping alone. I think that could be – we will definitely talk about that again.
Tricia: Yes, I could talk for days for that, and all the places I’ve pumped.
Alyssa: We will talk about that for sure. Well, thanks. If you have any questions for Tricia, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find us on our website, goldcoastdoulas.com. Thanks for listening in today. We will talk to you soon.
Podcast Episode #8: Kristin’s Experience with the NICU
In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Kristin shares her experiences with the NICU when her daughter was born. You can listen to this complete interview on iTunes.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome back to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Alyssa, and we are talking to my partner Kristin today.
Kristin: Hello, I’m Kristen, and I’m a birth and postpartum doula at Gold Coast.
Alyssa: When we talked to Kristin earlier, we found out about your birth story, and during that time, you had said your daughter Abby when she was born spent four days in the NICU. So can you expand on what it felt like as a parent to have a baby – you know, after a kind of traumatic birth experience, and then you don’t get to bring that baby home right away. How does that feel?
Kristin: Yeah, and again, those of you that heard my birth story, it was traumatic in some ways, and then I had preeclampsia, but very redemptive in that I was able to have an unmedicated birth with very few interventions with the preeclampsia, which is pretty rare. And after I had Abby, it was very standard. I was able to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed, but they did some testing and found that she had glucose issues, and so then it led to her getting transferred to the NICU, and we were fortunate in that the DeVos Children’s Hospital had literally just opened. And they had the really-preemie babies in there, and they had the regular ICU that we started out in, which was overcrowded and there were parents standing everywhere, and I was trying to nurse and hold my baby. And they somehow ended up transferring us to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital where we had our own private room and more individualized nurse attention, and I had a rocker and I could hold Abby and nurse her there. So we got to experience those amenities which now as a doula has served me very well. And so that was really fabulous, but because of her glucose issues, our pediatrician had recommended that she start with an IV and then it led to, once she got off of that, she was on enhanced formula. And I was pumping the entire time, so we would spend time with her, and then I would go back to my room to pump, and my husband would stay with her. And I was pumping without a baby in my room, which obviously you never imagine that you have your child and then they aren’t actually in the room with you. So that was overwhelming because I kept getting all of these people coming in to help me, like say, okay, you’ve got photographers that want to take your picture with your baby. Well, my baby’s not there when I’m in there pumping. The lactation consultants come in, and my baby’s not there, so they’re helping me with pumping, and that’s about it. So I’m going back and forth, and even though again I had what’s considered a natural birth, I was in a wheelchair because it was one end of the hospital to the other. So I was getting dizzy trying to walk all of that way myself, so I was overwhelmed by a lot of things. And the pumping was overwhelming. So again the heel pricks constantly were hard on me as a mom to see her get poked so many times and cry, and all of the cords and everything that’s involved in a NICU stay is overwhelming. Everything beeps all of the time. You can’t really fully hold your child. And everything was timed when I was eventually able to attempt nursing with her. So once she got off the formula, I was able to spend about ten minutes, because everything was very timed out in the NICU, trying to nurse. So if I couldn’t get her to latch or if I couldn’t get my milk to come in – it was coming in at the time that she was in the NICU, so some of that was frustrating because she wasn’t getting a full feed, and then they had to supplement after.
Alyssa: They’d take her away from you?
Kristin: Yes, so I had my ten minutes to get that done, and that was really overwhelming. So I wasn’t sleeping. And my husband had experienced, with his daughter from a previous marriage, five weeks in the NICU, so he was very familiar with the NICU. So for me, that made everything easier, so all of the protocols and the beeps and the wires, he was able to help me with, but for me, even four days was a lot, but for him, this was nothing in comparison to his daughter. So we were able to navigate that, and again, I mean, there was a rocking chair there, and it was very comfortable. My step-daughter could come in and visit, but it can be overwhelming. So I have a heart for NICU and high-risk moms because of my own experience, and many of them experience longer stays and just so much more intensity as far as conditions with their babies. Glucose is very minor in comparison, but it certainly made breastfeeding challenging because, again, with nipple confusion – and in the NICU my daughter had to have a pacifier, which all of my natural birth plans were like no pacifier; never going to introduce a bottle, at least until the first month or six weeks, according to what I learned in Lamaze class and everything. So that really – a lot of my plans just went out the window, and I had to adapt. And so I wasn’t sleeping well, and we ended up getting released a day before Abby, so luckily, the hospital allowed us to stay an extra day, but we went home without our daughter, so you can imagine the car seat behind you, and not having a baby, and all of these family members and friends – it’s my first baby, and wanting to come visit us in the hospital, and I was turning people away and saying “No, there’s no baby. You can’t go to the NICU; there’s no visiting.” And then to go home and spend the night in your home without your baby there is really tough. So again, I have a heart for moms that experience that for so much longer than what I did. But then the next morning, we got up very early and went to the hospital, and she got her glucose tested and she was fine to go, so we were able to go home. But then when I got home with her, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to breastfeed, but she didn’t really want to breastfeed. She wanted a bottle. It’s so much less work; it’s quicker. So, you know, I was pumping, so she had my pumped milk that she could use, and we stopped supplementing by that point, but I had to get a lot of help from lactation, so I went back to Spectrum Health multiple times and met with the lactation consultants, and that wasn’t really working. So then I ended up having lactation consultants come into my home and help, and I finally got the latch that would really work for me comfort-wise, and I was able to make it work. And then my daughter didn’t to wean. She wanted to nurse forever.
Alyssa: She never gave up. So was there any fear that day you brought her home, like, she just spent four days in the NICU because there’s something wrong, and they said it’s manageable now, but now she’s home. Did you have this fear of what if something happens while she’s home?
Kristin: Yeah, I mean, I certainly wanted to go to the pediatrician’s office as much as I could for reassurance that everything was okay. And I didn’t know that I could care for her as a new parent and having other people have their hands on her and telling me what to do, and so I was overwhelmed. And my husband went back to work, and I was used to working, so I had my leave time, and that was a little challenging, especially having spent three weeks on bed rest right before having her. So that isolation was a bit much, and I didn’t know what postpartum doulas were back then, but I did have the help from a local nonprofit called Moms Bloom, and a volunteer came into my home who was retired. So she was a grandmother, essentially, and she would hold Abby so I could take a shower or do some things around the house, and that was nice. And it gave me someone to talk to because again, I was overwhelmed and lonely. And it reassured me that I was doing everything that I needed to, and that there were no concerns, that she was normal and healthy. So yeah, there is some of that anxiety as a new parent coming back from the hospital and that’s something that I wouldn’t be able to catch, could be wrong again with her. But we got through it, and again, she nursed into toddlerhood, so it all worked out.
Alyssa: Go, Abby!
Kristin: It’s all about, yeah, just getting resources and having a support system around you after getting home from the NICU because it can be overwhelming.
Alyssa: It’s so easy to give up. I think that’s key it just have enough support and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Kristin: Yes, exactly. Yeah, and so you’re not alone, NICU moms! I understand, in a very small way, what you go through, but there are so many wonderful nurses and support groups within the hospital, and the breastfeeding support groups, so just know that you have resources and reach out to the community. Postpartum and overnight doulas are here to help, so again, that’s something that I would have used had I know that that was an option, and for NICU moms especially, we can lighten your load a lot and give you reassurance and support with your new baby or babies.
Alyssa: Well, thanks for sharing, and if you want to find out more our daytime and overnight postpartum doulas, you can check out our website, goldcoastdoulas.com, and then if you want to email either of us, Kristin or I, email@example.com. We would love to hear from you. Thanks, Kristin.
Sleep Training is a Four Letter Word
Sleep Training. Those two words can stir up some pretty aggressive emotions for some parents. I guess it’s because there are so many methodologies, many of which are controversial, and there are so many different thoughts on parenting and what is right and wrong.
My answer is there’s no one way to do this! If there was, it would be simple.
Whether a family wants to co-sleep or have baby in his own crib, it’s not my job to judge their decisions. My job is to figure out a solution that works well for them.
Sleep training shouldn’t be a controversial topic. Everyone needs and wants a full night’s rest. I don’t know many (actually any) people who would argue with that, but how you get there is where it becomes tricky. We don’t want to let our child cry for hours or make them feel neglected, which many methodologies tend to do.
Sleep training, at it’s most basic level, is a plan to help the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of both parents and baby. Without sleep, parents are exhausted, mentally drained, and overly-emotional. A sleep-deprived baby can find it hard to nap during the day, be too exhausted to nurse, cry all the time, or just zone out because daily activities are too stimulating.
A good sleep consultant will take all factors into account. They will listen to your story, your history, your values, and your end goal. They will come up with a solution that works for everyone, not a method that works for “most”.
As parents, I think we need to give up on this idea that there is only one certain way to do things. It’s great to have a plan, but they must always be flexible. I see parents beat themselves up over plans that aren’t working, especially feeding and sleeping patterns. They see their friend’s baby sleeping through the night or their niece on a perfect feeding and nap schedule. They’re given all sorts of advice that doesn’t work for them, they read all the books and each one gives them conflicting ideas, so they end up more confused.
I had one client tell me this, “I read all the books but none of them ever told me what to do in the night when my baby wouldn’t stop crying. We did the consistent night time routine, we did the ‘shuffle’ slowly out of the room, we tried to soothe him back to sleep, but nothing ever worked. We felt defeated.”
Books and articles on sleep can only help to a certain extent. You need a physical presence that can ask questions, assess your individual situation, and come up with an individualized plan. Most of the time there are other factors at play that the books aren’t going to mention.
As a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, Certified Postpartum Doula, and Newborn Care Specialist, I love helping families set goals and figure out realistic ways to reach them. There’s nothing more satisfying than happy parents and a happy baby.
Contact me to talk about a customized sleep plan for your family.
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.
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 www.cindyssuds.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com.
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.
- Caring for the family after baby arrives
- Handwashing, bathing baby, diapering, etc.
- Car seat safety
- Baby technology and gadgets
- Formula feeding and breastmilk
- AND MORE!
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!
What kind of oil should I use to massage my baby?
Today our guest blogger is Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, CEIM and infant massage instructor. She’s sharing some wisdom about what oils to use on your baby.
One of the most common questions I get related to infant massage is about what kind of oil to use. The International Association of Infant Massage recommends high quality (preferably organic), unscented, cold pressed fruit or vegetable oils as the gold standard for infant massage. Cold-pressed oil is produced by mechanically pressing vegetables, fruits, seeds or nuts with a low temperature. Many parents are skeptical at first. “Cooking oil?” they will ask. Yes, cooking oil! A food-based oil is really best for infant massage. There are many great options to choose from – grapeseed oil and safflower oil are two of my personal favorites, but coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, sweet almond oil, and even olive oil can be good choices too. Be mindful about potential allergies and sensitivities – a nut oil might not be a great option for a baby with possible allergies or family history of nut allergies.
You still might be wondering why a food-based oil is the preferred choice. Read on to learn 5 reasons why you should use a fruit or vegetable oil to massage your baby.
Reason #1 – Massage oil absorbs into your baby’s skin. Commercial baby oil is petroleum based and often has added chemicals and fragrance. Would you rather expose your baby’s delicate skin to a natural fruit or vegetable product or a product that is manufactured with lots of additives? The choice seems pretty easy to me. Plus food-based oils are edible and are therefore recognized as digestible food by the body. Food-based oils also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals and are very nourishing to the skin.
Reason #2 – You don’t have to worry if baby gets food-based oil in their mouth or eyes. We all know how frequently babies put their hands in their mouth or up to their face. If baby still has oil on their hands or arms from massage and bring their hands to their face, the chances of irritation is much less with a food based oil than with a petroleum based product. Again, food-based oils are safe and edible.
Reason #3 – Using an unscented oil allows the caregiver’s natural smell to be transmitted to the baby during the massage which is an important element of bonding. There is nothing more comforting to a baby than the smell of their mom or dad. Massaging with a food-based oil allows these natural smells to become part of the benefit of massage for the baby. It is not necessary to use something with added fragrance.
As essential oils have grown more popular, parents also ask about using essential oils as part of infant massage. Although some essential oils can be safely used on babies with proper dilution, it is not recommended during infant massage. If you still want to incorporate essential oils into your massage experience, stick to diffusing them into the air rather than using them topically.
Reason #4 – Food-based oils are less slippery than commercial baby oils or massage oils. Try rubbing a drop or two of cooking oil (any kind) into the top of your hand. You will find that the oil absorbs quickly and is not overly heavy or greasy. During the practice of infant massage, we apply more oil to our hands as needed to make sure that our hands will glide over the baby’s skin easily; however, baby’s skin is left feeling soft and not greasy because the oil absorbs so readily. Babies do not become so slippery during the massage process that it is unsafe or challenging to handle or dress them.
Reason #5 – Food-based oil is inexpensive to buy and easy to find. When I began teaching infant massage in 2005, finding an organic oil was a little more challenging and usually entailed a trip to the local health food store. Today, you can find a variety of organic, cold pressed oils at most grocery stores or food retailers. The bottle will have an expiration date and will provide recommendations on shelf life and how to properly store your oil. To make the oil easier to use during massage, I will pour 1-2 ounces of oil into a smaller bottle with a flip top cap and store the large bottle in the refrigerator.
Are you looking for advice and support from a professional? At Gold Coast Doulas, we provide newborn care and support as part of our postpartum services. Contact us today!
There is one drawback to using a food-based oil for massage. It can spoil and become rancid over time. Store your oil in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. Before beginning your massage session, be sure to give your oil a good sniff before hand – believe me, you will be able to tell right away of your oil has gone bad. If you store it properly and check it before each massage, a bottle of oil should last you for quite some time.
I hope you have learned a few things about how to choose the right oil for infant massage.
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Check out our BECOMING A Mother course! It’s a self-paced, online series to help reduce fear and gain confidence in pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. With recorded video lessons, monthly live chats, and a supportive FaceBook community – it’s everything we wish we would have known before we had our babies! We’d love to see you there!
Kristin & Alyssa
Why is Infant Massage Good for Babies?
Why is Infant Massage Good for Babies?
Gold Coast Doulas is thrilled to present a guest blog from Cristina Stauffer. Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, CEIM has been passionate about serving women and young children throughout her career. Pregnancy and early motherhood can be one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life. Cristina has been dedicated to supporting women through this delicate time by providing therapy and support, education and screening about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression and through teaching parents and caregivers the joy of infant massage. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and from Boston University with a Masters in Social Work. Cristina became a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM) in 2005 and has incorporated this practice into many aspects of her career. She has been practicing in the field of social work with a focus on women and young children for over 20 years.
Why is infant massage good for babies?
Most of us recognize that we are never too young or too old to enjoy nurturing touch or the practice of massage; however, many people still wonder why they should learn to massage their baby. Research over the years has shown that infant massage has many benefits for both parents and child, but the most important aspect of infant massage is simply the opportunity to just be with your child. The quality of the infant massage interaction is very powerful and allows you to enjoy a special experience with your baby, both physically and emotionally. Other benefits of infant massage include relaxation for both caregiver and child, improved sleep habits for babies, promotion of healthy digestive function in babies, better body awareness, and encourages positive parenting skills. Let’s explore the benefits of infant massage in each of these areas further:
- Massage reduces fussiness.
- Massage helps a baby learn to relax and reduce stress.
- Massage helps a baby handle sensory input and respond to it with relaxation.
- Daily massage time offers parents a time to relax and unwind from the busy pace of life and to connect with their child.
- Massage increases a parent’s ability to help their child relax in times of stress.
- Research has shown that massage helps improve the quality of baby’s sleep and encourages the baby to fall asleep faster after massage.
- Massage increases oxygen and nutrient flow to cells and helps to deepen respiration.
- Many parents report noticing improved sleep habits such as longer naps or more restful sleep after incorporating infant massage.
- It is not unusual for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep during infant massage classes or private instruction.
- Research has shown that massage strengthens and regulates the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems.
- Massage stimulates baby’s ability to gain weight, especially for premature babies.
- Massage helps to relieve the discomfort of gas and colic, teething, and congestion.
- Infant massage instruction helps parents to better understand how the digestive system works and how to help relieve gas and constipation.
- Infant massage class materials include a massage routine specifically targeted to relieve tummy problems such as pain, gas, constipation and colic.
- Parents become more aware of how the baby’s belly looks and feels and are better able to identify possible tummy trouble.
Better Body Awareness
- Massage enhances children’s body awareness and encourages positive feelings about their bodies.
- Massage encourages children to feel “in charge” of their health as they grow and provides a healthy alternative to deal with stress.
- Massage helps babies learn to accept and tolerate positive touch which is especially beneficial for babies who have been hospitalized.
- Massage builds parent’s respect and understanding for their baby’s unique body, cues, and nonverbal communication.
Benefits for Parents and Caregivers
- Massage provides intimacy and special time for caregivers and child, including fathers.
- Massage helps parents to feel more competent and confident in their parenting role.
- Parents learn how to touch and respond to their baby in nurturing ways.
- Massaging their baby increases prolactin production (the “nurturing” hormone) in the parent allowing them to feel more relaxed and loving toward their child.
- Group massage classes provide an opportunity for mutual support from other parents.
- Massage provides an opportunity to connect, interact and share quality time with babies and children at any age.