We are excited to have Jamie join our team. As a yoga instructor, she brings a sense of calm and balance to a room that immediately sets you at ease. Let’s learn more about her!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I spent a glorious taco-and-sun infused 6-years in Austin, Texas, doing communications for the mother’s milk bank, traveling, and writing historical fiction for a start-up fashion brand, and later hustling as a project manager at a digital strategy agency. Now back in the mitten, I teach hot yoga at Yoga Fever and work part-time as the storytelling coordinator at Treetops Collective, a non-profit that supports New American women.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I’m passionate about supporting and advocating for women. I’ve babysat since I was “old enough” (which was 12 because it was the 90s…) and have always been fascinated with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. So becoming a doula made perfect sense––empowering new moms in this amazing new stage of life. I want new parents to be confident in their innate skills as the perfect parent for their child—resisting the temptation to compare themselves to others, and ignoring the overwhelming opinions and conflicting messages that barrage them daily.
Tell us about your family.
My husband Chris and I met in Chicago 8 years ago and when he got accepted to grad school in Texas, I crazily agreed to move with him after only dating 6 months. We’ve been married for 4 years now, so it turns out maybe I wasn’t that crazy. We moved back to Michigan last year and bought a home in the South East End of GR and are eagerly expecting our first baby this summer. Until then, our two big dogs and 6-toed cat continue to keep us vacuuming.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
The best vacation I’ve ever been on was to Peru this past spring. We got the city and coastal experience in Lima and the historic, mountain setting in Cusco, and topped it off with a bucket-list hike of the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu. The culture, landscape, people, food, and history of the country was beyond incredible––10 out 10 would recommend this trip.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Whew, impossible to choose! How about 5 albums I’ll never get tired of?
Lucius, Good Grief
Solange, A Seat at the Table
Prince, Purple Rain
Paul Simon, Graceland
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
You are so strong. You are capable of so much more than you think you are. One day at a time.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be? As a project manager at heart, I’m all about strategizing to meet goals. I love to help parents develop a plan for meeting their parenting goals––be it with developing a schedule, breastfeeding, sleep shaping, whatever.
My doula superpower kicks in when things get tough and sticking to the plan is overwhelming. I’m there as a calm and reassuring presence––even in the face of endless crying and sleep depravation—to support and encourage parents to keep at it and work towards success. It’s rewarding to watch these parenting wins—when they are reminded of just how capable they are.
What is your favorite food? I love Indian food. Lately I can’t stop requesting my husband make us butter chicken in the InstaPot—with lots of garlic naan on the side (you’re going to want this recipe—just ask me for it).
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? I love the beaches of Lake Michigan––during my time in Texas, I really missed my Great Lakes. Growing up, our family spent many summer weekends camping in South Haven—going to the beach and eating huge waffle cones at Sherman’s Ice-cream so that gets my vote for nostalgia.
What are you reading now? This book has been on my reading list since I had the opportunity to meet the author, Jessica Shortall, during my time at the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, and I’m finally diving in: Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.
And when I’m done with that, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is queued up on my nightstand.
Who are your role models? I am inspired by strong women who support one another, follow their truth, and live their passion. My social media feed is full of amazing women who get me all fired up in the way they advocate for body positivity, social justice, equality, mental health—here are a few of my faves: Frida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Beyonce, Rupi Kaur, the fine ladies of the My Favorite Murder podcast, Karen Kilgarif and Georgia Hardstark, Ilana Glazer, Christiane Amanpour.
Did you know that in the State of Michigan you (yes, you) can call yourself a doula? There is no licensure, training, or certification required. That’s scary. How do you, as a consumer, know you’re hiring the best doula you can?
At Gold Coast Doulas we believe in elevating the standards of doula support to the highest level possible. That’s why we require every single doula on our team to take a training, complete all of the required coursework, support the required amount of clients, and become certified within the time-frame given by the certification organization. If a doula cannot complete these requirements, they do not work with us.
We don’t believe a training is enough. If you’re looking for a certified doula, don’t be afraid to ask if they are actually certified, and not just trained.
We don’t accept hobbyist doulas. We only bring on those that are motivated, professional, and will adhere to our standards of judgment-free support. We are not activists. We support every type of birth ranging from unmedicated, to epidurals and cesarean births.
At Gold Coast Doulas we have always been transparent with the level of training and certification our doulas have. For instance, pre-certified doulas have taken the training, are working through their coursework, and working through the required amount of qualifying births or postpartum clients. Each doula’s bio will tell you where they are at in their certification process. It takes an average of two years to become certified.
Gold Coast also takes professional development one step further and requires each doula on the team to form their own LLC, carry their own insurance, and complete a minimum of two in-person continuing education trainings per year. We believe that elevating the standards of doula care is critical for the health and support of each family, the sustainability of our business, and the respect of the medical community.
Now, the hard part is deciding which Gold Coast Doula is right for you! We have an amazing team and will work with you personally to find the right fit.
Elsa Lockman, LMSW of Mindful Counseling talks to us today about how partners, family members, and other caregivers can support a mother during those critical postpartum weeks to ensure she seeks help if needed. How do you approach a new mother and what are her best options for care? You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Elsa Lockman. She’s with Mindful Counseling, and we are talking about how partners and other caregivers and family members can support a woman who has potential signs of postpartum depression or mood disorders.
Elsa: Yes. So postpartum is going to be an emotional time, so tears, some anger, sadness, are all part of the experience. After about two to three weeks out, if spouse or a friend or a mother is noticing maybe a mom is crying more than usual, isn’t really looking forward to things, has these unusual fears that they can’t seem to let go of. Another sign would be not seeming to eat very much or either sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep when the baby is sleeping. If they’re noticing those signs, it would maybe be a sign that they could go talk to somebody as far as a therapist or go see their doctor. Approaching Mom would be in a way to not criticize mom as if she’s doing anything wrong. She’s not doing anything wrong, so start off with validating, actually. She’s doing a great job with how hard it is; validate how hard she’s working, and try to tell her that it doesn’t have to be this way. She doesn’t have to do it alone.
Kristin: How does the caregiver know if it is baby blues or if it’s something that she needs help for? Because, of course, there can be that hormonal fluctuation. They may be teary.
Elsa: Baby blues usually stops after three weeks postpartum. So after that would be maybe a sign that there’s more going on. But I would say, is it getting it the way of functioning? Is it getting in the way of relationships? Is it getting in the way of their working in the home or outside of the home, getting those things done? To a degree, that is expected postpartum; not everything running smoothly, but are relationships being affected? Those would be signs that it’s more than just baby blues.
Kristin: How can a spouse, partner, or caregiver be supportive in order to empower her to get help? Is it best for them to directly reach out for help for her if they’re seeing signs, or what do you recommend?
Elsa: I recommend the mom reaching out, so that would be encouraging Mom to reach out herself. And maybe she needs to talk to a friend and have more time with friends or more time to herself; maybe that would help. See how that works. If that seems to help and is enough to alleviate whatever stress is going on, then that works, but maybe if it’s not working, then take it to another level, which would be contacting a therapist or your doctor.
Kristin: And since, obviously, women have multiple doctors — they’re seeing their OB or midwife and family doctor and their pediatrician — does it matter who they’re speaking with about getting help?
Elsa: No, it wouldn’t matter who you see. Usually the OB would be the person that they’ve seen most recently, but they can even bring it up to the pediatrician, since moms see the pediatrician very often.
Kristin: And as far as getting help for our local listeners and clients, they can reach out to you directly? How do they access you at Mindful Counseling, Elsa?
Elsa: They can go to the website, and they can contact me through there. Another resource would be Pine Rest, and through your OB’s office, there also is a list of therapists who specialize in perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression and anxiety.
Kristin: That’s so helpful. And in past conversations, you had mentioned that women can bring their babies to therapy; that you allow that with clients you’re working with, and I know Pine Rest encourages that with their mother-baby program?
Elsa: Yes, for sure. Bring your baby to the session; you can feed the baby, breastfeed, anything. Coming with your baby is welcomed and encouraged, for sure.
Kristin: Do you have any final thoughts or tips to share?
Elsa: Just that it doesn’t have to be going through this alone. It’s very normalized for women to feel that anxiety is just part of the postpartum experience or feeling depressed and stressed is part of it, and while it might be a new phase and there’s a lot going on, it doesn’t have to be that women are just suffering through it.
Kristin: Great point. Thanks so much, Elsa, for being on!
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.
Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa. She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help. In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today. Hello, Chris!
Alyssa: You were a client of ours. You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me. So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.
Chris: Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!
Alyssa: So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep? How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep? Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?
Chris: Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.” It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period. I kind of don’t remember what happened. I know I wasn’t sleeping. I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7. But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything. So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things! So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid. And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information. My baby’s not sleeping. I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Like, I just need to talk to a person! And that was when I reached out to you.
Alyssa: And how old was she? Six months?
Chris: I think she might have been six months, yeah.
Alyssa: That’s what comes to my mind.
Chris: I think so.
Alyssa: So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation? You were just gone?
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. There was no day and no night. And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him. And sometimes coughing loudly. “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning. But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well. She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time. She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level. We’ve got to do something here.
Alyssa: Right. I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.” I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out. But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.” So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training. I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep. We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help! What’s going on?”
Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa! So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day. Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go. And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there. And it ended up working super well. I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word. We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that! You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred. But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it. Like, significantly less. I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep. Like, what??
Alyssa: I remember you saying, “How is this possible? What did you do to my child? Whose baby is this?”
Chris: Yeah, what’s happening? Did you possess my child? So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever. What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day! So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.
Alyssa: I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps. It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap. We’re going to hit the hot tub. And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes! We did it!
Chris: That’s one of my favorite parenting memories! It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.
Alyssa: I think it is!
Chris: Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad. My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived. I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat. It really affects you.
Alyssa: On so many levels. Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying? I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car. You just kind of get into survival mode.
Chris: Yeah. And I would just nurse her to sleep. I think I spent – oh, my God. I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake! So yeah, that was the beginning.
Alyssa: And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?
Chris: Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling. I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib. She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore. She hates that!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.
Chris: Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again! I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.
Alyssa: She’s, like, get away from me, lady!
Chris: She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop! So at that point – what did we do at that point? We stopped shush-pat. Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.
Alyssa: Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals. Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.
Chris: The first day, yeah. I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell! But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time. Like, I’ve done this a million times. I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep! It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately. So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore. But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.
Alyssa: So where is she at now?
Chris: Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!
Chris: I’m so happy!
Alyssa: And how many months is she?
Chris: She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.
Chris: Yeah, it’s amazing. And she goes down super easy for her morning nap. It’s not even an issue anymore. I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15. I can do this! And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.
Alyssa: Yeah, her body just knows it’s time. She doesn’t fight it. Incredible! Yay!
Chris: I know, it’s a game changer!
Alyssa: And you’re feeling good?
Chris: I’m feeling good!
Alyssa: Your husband’s feeling good?
Chris: Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.
Alyssa: Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?
Chris: I was just watching him. But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?
Alyssa: That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep? And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up. I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something. So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months. It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove. So you just need to figure out your groove again. So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.
Chris: I don’t know. I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor. I’m like, oh, is she okay?
Alyssa: So turn the monitor off.
Chris: What? You can do that?
Alyssa: Yeah! As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off. Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in. She’s just down the hall. If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup. I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that. Earplugs in.
Chris: Oh, my God. That’s genius. Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.
Alyssa: You’re going to hear her, absolutely.
Chris: But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay? And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.
Alyssa: No, she’s good. She’s good. Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.
Chris: Yeah. Okay!
Alyssa: They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed. You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep. And you didn’t have to get out of bed. But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.
Chris: You’re going to change my world!
Alyssa: Go buy some earplugs when we leave!
Alyssa: Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep. And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now. Every single little noise: oh, are they okay? Are they okay? They’re okay.
Chris: I love that.
Alyssa: And my daughter is six now. I always check in on her. I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind. I’m going to sleep now. I’m putting my earplugs in. I want to get a good night’s rest. She’s okay.
Chris: Wow. When do you think they started making video baby monitors?
Alyssa: I don’t know. Good question!
Chris: Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?
Alyssa: Not that long ago.
Chris: Not that long ago?
Alyssa: I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade. Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.
Chris: We survived!
Alyssa: Yeah! So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?
Chris: Oh, my God. Get a plan ASAP!
Alyssa: Don’t wait?
Chris: Don’t wait! I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep. First of all, I would have gotten out of her room. We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st. She was born in June!
Alyssa: That’s eight months!
Chris: We slept in the same room as her for eight months! Is that crazy?
Alyssa: Yeah. Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months. That’s their safe sleep guideline. For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle. You have to get up early for work; you have older kids. But some people do room share for six to twelve months. It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you. So it’s really up to the parent. It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.
Chris: Right. Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that. We were both keeping each other up all night. So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing. You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap. It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.
Alyssa: Well, and crying just to cry does you no good. I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours. I’m like, that was for nothing. That’s absolutely for nothing. And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress. You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan. Here’s how it’s going to work. Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing. And it’s so hard because people give up. Parents just want to give up. “I tried it; didn’t work. I give up. I throw in the towel. I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard. Or people will say, oh, I did this online course. I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you. They don’t know your baby. They don’t know your parenting style. They don’t know what you’ve tried. They don’t know what works and what didn’t work. So it’s really hard.
Chris: I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything. And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby. I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that. So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.
Alyssa: Right. “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?” Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.
Chris: Yes, or how to troubleshoot. Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next? And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her. Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!
Alyssa: Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no! This is not supposed to happen; what do I do? And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do. Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.
Chris: Yep. The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?
Chris: That was the 1000% game changer. Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know? You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there! Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this! One more minute! Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her. And I’d be like, okay.
Alyssa: Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.
Chris: Yeah. The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –
Alyssa: Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night? How did it go?
Chris: Exactly, yeah.
Alyssa: Did you move out of that room?
Chris: Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!
Alyssa: Right. I’ll know! I’ll be checking your Instagram feed! Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!
Chris: But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.
Alyssa: It’s huge. That’s why I love it so much. I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep. Anything else you want to say?
Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say! Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!
Alyssa: There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning! It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.
Chris: Yep. Because we had no clue. I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep? Just go to sleep!
Alyssa: And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep? Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.
Chris: Exactly, yeah. So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain! Rely on someone else’s brain!
Alyssa: Right. “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.” It’s not! Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.
Chris: Is that for real? One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?
Alyssa: Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this. Yeah.
Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?
Alyssa: Probably eight hours. I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven. But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…
Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.
Chris: Scary. I believe it, though!
Alyssa: I feel it. Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space. That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve missed my own road! Seriously, multiple times! Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?
Alyssa: Yeah, you’re in a fog!
Chris: Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!
Alyssa: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me today! We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening. Remember, these moments are golden!
We all know that becoming a parent is difficult, but most first time parents don’t really have a full understanding of how hard it will be until they’re in the midst of it. They may encounter fertility struggles or miscarriages; they realize that planning during pregnancy takes a lot of work; they have to find an OB or midwife they trust; they may hire a doula; and it takes time for new parents to put a postpartum support network in place.
Add on to that the stressors of guilt, living up to “social media standards”, unwanted advice from friends and family, fear of failure, and lack of confidence. It’s overwhelming and can leave parents feeling defeated before they even begin.
With information at our fingertips, how do we discern what’s evidence-based and what’s junk? What’s worth worrying about and what’s not? How does a parent today make an informed decision?
Luckily, our West Michigan families have so many great health care professionals to choose from and tons of options for support. We’re going to tell you how to begin this journey on the right path so you don’t go through this alone. If you are supported by a trusted team throughout, you are more likely to have a positive birth experience.
Let’s talk about some myths. It’s important to talk about the misconceptions the public has on every area of the support team. Let’s debunk those!
Doula Myth #1: Doulas only support home births. At Gold Coast Doulas, over 80 percent of our births happen in a hospital. Our clients are seeking professional, experienced doula support in the hospital setting.
Doula Myth #2: Doulas only support parents who want an all-natural delivery. Gold Coast Doulas supports any birth and respects all birth preferences.
Doula Myth #3: Doulas catch babies. Definitely not! We are not a replacement for any medical staff, we are an added member of your birth team, there to offer informational, emotional, and physical support throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Doula Myth #4: Doulas only offer birth support.
We have antepartum doulas that offer support for mothers on bed rest, are high-risk, or for any reason need additional help while pregnant. We also have postpartum doulas that support families once a baby, or babies arrive. They offer in-home care, day and overnight. They are like a night nanny and infant care specialist rolled into one!
Hospital Birth Myth #1: You can’t have an unmedicated birth in a hospital.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of our birth clients prefer an unmedicated birth in the safety of a hospital setting. Our West Michigan hospitals have many different options for a laboring person.
Hospital Birth Myth #2: An induction leads to a cesarean.
This is not always the case. In many cases, labor induction leads to a successful vaginal birth.
Hospital Birth Myth #3: You can’t move around during labor.
As long as you don’t have an epidural, movement is encouraged. Even with an epidural, there are many possible position changes in bed that your birth doula can help you with. You won’t be lying on your back the entire time. Most hospitals have walking monitors for those who wish to move around during labor.
Midwife Myth #1: Midwives only support home births.
We have many local midwives that do support home births, one midwife that delivers in a birth house, and there are plenty of Certified Nurse Midwives that practice in hospitals! There are midwives in West Michigan for any kind of birth preference you have.
Midwife Myth #2: Midwives only support women during pregnancy and birth.
Many midwives also offer well-woman care (annual exams).
OB Myth #1: They aren’t supportive of vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC) and it’s best to attempt one at home.
This is often based on the hospital’s policy rather than preference of the doctor. Many hospitals are supportive of VBACs.
OB Myth #2: They do not work with doulas.
This is not the case. Many of our clients see an Obstetrician and most are very comfortable with professional doulas. Our team is always willing to accompany clients to a prenatal appointment if the provider is not comfortable with working with a doula.
OB Myth #3: They don’t like birth plans.
While this may be partially true just because many “birth plans” are eight pages long. Many things patients put on their birth plan are already protocol at most hospitals (skin to skin, delayed newborn procedures, etc). Knowing that providers have to see many patients in one day, it’s important to keep in mind that they cannot read through an eight page plan. Give them the information that is specific to you. “I want dimmed lights and music.” “I don’t want to be touched when I’m laboring.”
Millennials are over 80 percent of the pregnant population right now and they want answers! They want a relationship, and they want a team they can trust. Our parents and grandparents had one doctor who did everything. They trusted anything the doctor said and definitely didn’t go searching for answers on their own.
Medical care is different today, and families expect a different approach to their healthcare. Oftentimes they don’t even realize they need something more until they are expecting a child. It’s probably one of the biggest unknowns to ever happen in someone’s life. Having a trusted team by your side through the entire process can relieve the stress, pressure, and oftentimes unnecessary anxiety that comes with planning and preparing for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.
If you are pregnant or even just thinking about starting or growing your family soon, reach out to us. We can offer local resources and our doulas are here to be your guides when you are ready.
In the meantime, here are some trusted online sources we recommend. Try your hardest not to get information from individuals online (mom groups, Facebook, etc)!
Many of our clients and listeners don’t fully understand what overnight doula support looks like. Kristin and Alyssa, both Certified Postpartum Doulas, discuss the kinds of support their clients look for and how their team of doulas support families in their homes. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also learn more here about overnight postpartum doula support.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here to chat about what an overnight postpartum doula does, as that is a question that we get asked often by our clients and our podcast listeners. So, Alyssa, my first question to you is, as a postpartum doula and sleep specialist, what do you see as the key benefits to a family in hiring overnight postpartum doula support?
Alyssa: Whether they hire for sleep or not, it helps the parents get sleep. So let’s say they’re not even hiring me for a sleep consult. Parents don’t understand what sleep deprivation means until their in the midst of it, probably at least three weeks in. Like, our bodies are designed to survive a couple weeks of this, sometimes even three or four, but after that, our systems start to shut down. So if you think about overnight support being this trusted person who sleeps in your home to take over all those overnight responsibilities so that you can get a good night’s rest. Even a six-hour stretch or sometimes even a four-hour stretch makes you feel like a whole new person the next day when you’re used to only sleeping maybe one- or two-hour chunks. A four-hour stretch seems amazing in that moment, whereas right now if you told me I could only have four hours of sleep tonight, I would cry. I would be miserable the next day. And you, Kristin, as a birth doula, you know that feeling. If you’ve had one night of no sleep, you’re just wrecked. So you’re running on adrenaline. You’re sleep deprived. So having a doula come in and take over all that responsibility at night — obviously, she can’t breastfeed your baby, but you have a couple different choices if you’re a breastfeeding mom. If you’re a bottle-feeding with formula mom, you can literally go to sleep at 10:00 PM and wake up whenever you want because the doula can just feed that baby every three hours.
Kristin: Exactly, and clean the bottles and change the diapers and burp the baby, all of it.
Alyssa: Yeah. So if your partner is feeding in the middle of the night, you’re certainly not going to wake up to clean bottles and parts in the morning. The doula does do that. But for a breastfeeding mom, you can choose to pump instead of breastfeeding because it’s usually a lot quicker. So you pump and you set those bottles out for the doula. The doula wakes up when the baby wakes up; feeds the baby; burps the baby; changes the baby; gets the baby back to sleep — and Mom’s sleeping this whole time. Or, if Mom chooses to breastfeed, the doula can bring Baby to Mom so Mom doesn’t even have to get out of bed. I was just talking to Kelly Emory, our lactation consultant friend, and she was saying that when she was nursing, she would just side lie and her husband would bring the baby to her. She would lie on her side, so she didn’t have to get up. She didn’t even have to open her eyes if she didn’t want to. She was still kind of in this half-sleep state, and then when Baby was done on that side, her husband would take the baby and she’d roll over and she would feed on the other side, and then the husband would take the baby away, change the baby, burp the baby, and do all that stuff. So she said it was amazing. She took over one shift of the night, and he took over the next, so she would get a six-hour chunk of sleep and would feel amazing in the morning. So you’re able to tackle all those everyday tasks during the day because you didn’t have to also worry about those at night.
Kristin: Yes! And I’ve also had overnight clients who prefer to come into the nursery and sit in a rocker and feed their baby rather than have me come in and disrupt their husband’s sleep.
Alyssa: Sometimes they’re sleeping in separate rooms, too, because they’ve become used to that. So oftentimes, my goal as an overnight doula is to have both parents sleeping in bed together again, or wherever you were before this baby arrived.
Kristin: Right, no more partner on the couch or in the guest bedroom.
Kristin: So as far as other tasks of an overnight postpartum doula, sleep is one. So we can get Baby back to sleep and if they’re working with a certified sleep consultant, like you, then they can implement that.
Alyssa: Yeah, I guess I didn’t answer that initial question. So if they do work with me as a sleep consultant, you can hire an overnight doula in conjunction with. So I offer this customized sleep plan for your family, and then our doula knows that plan, understands that plan, and implements that plan overnight.
Kristin: That’s amazing.
Alyssa: So you wake up again refreshed because you’ve slept, and then you have the energy to implement the sleep plan during the day. And then the doula comes in at night and implements that plan overnight. So it’s consistency because that’s always the key with any sort of sleep consult is that you have to be consistent. You can’t just do it during the day and then give up at night because you’re tired. Your plan will fail.
Kristin: And so who hires a postpartum overnight doula, and how often do they use the doula support?
Alyssa: Who hires them? Tired families hire them! You get to the point of exhaustion. I don’t think when you’re pregnant you’re thinking about an overnight doula because you truly don’t understand what you’re in for. But newborn babies sleep all the time, so they could sleep up to 22 out of 24 hours a day, so you’re thinking, well, of course, like, newborn babies sleep all the time. I’m going to sleep when the baby sleeps. They’re going to be feeding every two to three hours!
Kristin: They get up a lot!
Alyssa: Which means all day and all night, you will be up feeding every two to three hours, at least. So your sleep becomes these little tiny chunks. Because if you think if you have a newborn baby that’s eating every two hours, and it takes you an hour to breastfeed, and then after the breastfeeding session, you have to burp; you have to change the diaper; you have to get the baby back to sleep. You’ve maybe got 30 to 45 minutes, if you’re lucky, to sleep before the baby needs to feed again.
Kristin: And some clients hire us for one overnight to get a good night of sleep and catch up; other clients hire us every night, and we bring in a team, in and out, or have one doula consistently. And some of our clientele have a partner who travels a lot, or I’ve even supported a family where the mother was going back to work from maternity leave and was traveling for her job, so as an overnight doula, I supported the husband as he cared for the toddler that was waking; I was caring for the baby. And so there are a lot of unique situations, but a lot of our moms who have partners who travel a lot want that extra support, whether they have a new baby or other kids in the household that need support, as well.
Alyssa: I think it depends on resources. So if someone is sleep deprived and they’re like, I just need one night of reprieve, and that’s all we can afford and that’s what we’re going to do, then that’s what they do.
Alyssa: Even if they don’t have the resources, oftentimes during pregnancy, if parents have the foresight to ask for postpartum support as a baby shower gift, they can have several overnights gifted to them by friends and family.
Kristin: Which is better than all the toys and clothes they’ll outgrow.
Alyssa: I always tell them, you’re going to get mounds of plastic junk that you’ll literally look at and say that’s hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff I’m never going to use, and you could have had an overnight doula in your home so you could sleep.
Alyssa: So I think it’s just based on resources because, like you said, we’ve had people hire us for, you know, two overnights and we’ve had two months straight. So I think it just depends. I mean, I don’t know that it’s a type of client. I think that’s just kind of based on resources available.
Kristin: And we certainly support families who are struggling with postpartum mood disorders and anxiety, but that is not all that we serve as far as clientele. But for moms who are being treated in therapy, then we certainly are able to give them much-needed support and rest as we care for their baby, and we do have a package where we are able to lower our hourly rate for clients who are in the Pine Rest mother-baby program or are seeking therapy.
Alyssa: Yeah, sleep deprivation is considered to be the number one cause of perinatal mood disorders, so all these moms with anxiety, depression, up to postpartum psychosis — when you’re sleep deprived, you’re literally torturing your brain and your body, and it’s really hard to function. So sleep is such an imperative thing, and for your baby, too. If you’re not sleeping and your baby’s not sleeping, physiologically, that baby needs sleep in order to grow, for their brain to develop, for their immune system to function properly. It’s so critical for both parents and children.
Kristin: Agreed. So, really, anyone can benefit from it. Our shortest shift would be coming in at 10:00 PM and leaving at 6:00 AM, but a lot of clients extend that time.
Alyssa: I’ve found that a lot of people like you to come a little bit earlier, especially if they have older children. So if there’s older siblings, let’s say 6:00 comes around and you’re trying to get dinner on the table. You have a two-year-old, a five-year-old, and a newborn.
Kristin: That’s a lot!
Alyssa: That overnight shift tends to, when parents say, yeah, yeah, come at 8:00 or 9:00 when I’m going to go to bed — that very quickly changes to 5:00 or 6:00. So either that shift moves up, or it just lengthens. So the doula can come from, a lot of times, 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM, and they do a lot of 12-hour shifts because they’re there for the hustle and bustle of getting dinner, wrangling toddlers, helping with the newborn, and then helping with bedtime routines for two or three children and then taking that infant newborn and helping them get to sleep. Usually, it’s in that order. Like, the doula will take the baby and put them to sleep, and then the parents get to spend some quality time with this toddler who is usually lashing out because they are used to being the only child, if there’s only one, and are really, really seeking that one-on-one attention that they’re not getting anymore.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s the perfect time to bond, and they can read them a bedtime story and sing songs; whatever their nighttime routines were before Baby arrived.
Alyssa: Yeah, and that’s one thing I stress, too, with my sleep consults is just having a really good bedtime routine, and even if I’m doing a consult for one child and there’s others in the household, I usually ask about them, too, because if you’ve got three kids who all have a different bedtime, and each bedtime routine is taking an hour, certainly whoever’s last on that list is going to bed at 9:00 or something, which is way too late for these little kids. So trying to consolidate and have a system in place and just get a schedule that works for the family, for everyone in the family, is a really big goal.
Kristin: Awesome advice.
Alyssa: So you mentioned earlier that a doula sleeps when the baby sleeps, and sometimes parents wonder, well, what do you mean? What does that look like? Depending on the house, we’ve had doulas sleeping on sofas in the living room.
Kristin: Yes, that’s what I’ve done.
Alyssa: We’ve had doulas sleeping in a spare room. We’ve had doulas sleeping in a spare room on the same floor, in a spare room on a different floor, and you can make anything work.
Kristin: With monitors and technology now, you know the second a baby stirs.
Alyssa: So parents are always like, oh, shoot, I don’t know how this is going to work. How am I going to do that? We’ve had blow-up mattresses in the nursery. Ideally, you want the doula to be as close to the nursey as possible, so they’re the one, when they hear that baby, they’re up; they’re there.
Kristin: No one else gets woken up in the household.
Alyssa: Yeah, you want the parents to be as far away. So sometimes I even tell them if you have a spare bedroom in the basement, go sleep there, because even with one of my most recent sleep clients, the first night we did the sleep consult, the doula was there overnight, and I contacted them the next day: how did you sleep? And they were like, oh, I wanted to so bad, but I kept hearing this phantom crying. Even when the babies weren’t crying, they hear it, anyway. So it does take, as parents, who are used to not sleeping for week after week after week — it takes time for your body and brain to adjust back to, oh, I’m able to sleep again. So it’s not instant. It usually takes at least a couple nights to get your brain to say, I can sleep. It’s okay to sleep through the night. I don’t have any responsibilities tonight. This doula is taking care of it. And it’s just a matter of them getting sleep in two-hour chunks instead of the parents getting sleep in two-hour chunks. So a doula can usually do two or three in a row before they’re too exhausted.
Kristin: Just like a birth doula. We can do a couple nights with a client in the hospital without sleep, and then we’re done.
Alyssa: Yeah. So for those clients of ours who we’ve had for two weeks straight or two months straight, it’s several doulas taking turns. Otherwise, they’re just too exhausted.
Kristin: Right, and that’s where we sometimes will bring in a team if it is continuous care.
Alyssa: But I think ideally, with sleep training, I would love to see every parent have a sleep plan and then a doula for five nights. That would just be — I don’t know; I think the mental well-being of these parents would increase drastically if they were able to do both.
Kristin: I would have loved an overnight doula with my kids being 21 months apart; having a toddler and a newborn. It would have been amazing.
Alyssa: Well, and some people, too, think it’s weird to have somebody sleeping in your home. I mean, always, when they meet the doula, they’re totally fine with it, but it is a weird thought to have this stranger come into your home who’s going to care for your babies. That’s why I think we’re so adamant about talking about our training and our certification process, and we’ve done background checks for people who want us to.
Kristin: Yeah, and we’ve shown immunization records and CPR certifications and so on and liability insurance. We have all of that.
Alyssa: Yeah, because especially with a mom with anxiety who needs to sleep and knows she needs this help, but now she has anxiety because a stranger is going to be sleeping in her home — we need to do whatever you have to, to make that mom feel comfortable to be able to sleep.
Kristin: Yes, and we’re there to do just that. So feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about overnight doulas. We’d love to work with your family! Remember, these moments are golden.