sleep deprivation

Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Podcast Episode #110

 

 

Alyssa:  Hi.  Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  My  name is Alyssa Veneklase.  I am co‑owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I have Jessica Kupres, one of our postpartum doulas, with us, and we are both so excited to talk to Dr. Ladd.  She is the author of a book called Transformed by Postpartum Depression.  Hi, Dr. Ladd.

Dr. Ladd  Hi, guys!

Alyssa:  Hi, Jessica!

Jessica:  Hi!

Alyssa:  So, it’s still COVID.  We’re still in a pandemic.  We’re recording via Zoom, so if we hear any — you know, I have a dog and who knows what else.  Bear with us, right?  So, Dr. Ladd, I have to start — so Gold Coast Doulas is a doula agency, and I read that you were a birth doula.

Dr. Ladd  That’s correct!

Alyssa:  Are you still actively working or not?

Dr. Ladd  No.  I miss it.  I miss parts of it.  I decided to become a doula — I had a doula for my first birth, and she was wonderful.  And after I had my experience with a traumatic birth and then postpartum depression, I decided that I wanted to be a birth doula and did the DONA training.  And when I did the DONA training — this is all related, I swear – I saw in the syllabus, and Jessica, you can probably relate to this.  This was back in 2000ish – 2001, 2002.  So I was doing the training for birth doula certification, and I saw on the syllabus that there was nothing about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  Nothing.  And at the time, it wouldn’t have been even called that, but we didn’t – there was no training about depression or anxiety or any sort of mental health other than this kind of vague emotional support.  So I asked the trainer if I could bring in my own materials and do a presentation at the doula training.  I was so obnoxious.  And I took the PSI information with me and some basic statistics and basic, you know, what I had been through and shared my story.  And so my doula practice ended up being – I got breast cancer shortly after I was certified, so I took a hit in terms of how many I was able to do, but I did specialize in working with moms and partners who had had some sort of a trauma.  Either previous birth trauma or other; military.  I worked with some military couples.  And I absolutely loved being a doula.  It was hard physically.  I don’t think people realize how hard it is in terms of sleep deprivation and physical stuff.  But yes, I was a birth doula.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I thought that was amazing.  Well, and it’s really amazing that you – they let you do your own presentation on mood disorders at that time, and I almost wonder if maybe you were a catalyst to adding some of that stuff to the DONA training, I wonder.

Dr. Ladd  Well, I’ve since been lucky enough to know Penny and Phyllis and work with them.  I was the founding president of PATTCh, which is dedicated to preventing traumatic childbirth.  And I’ve had many conversations over the years with Penny regarding whether or not doulas, birth doulas, should have what she would consider, I think, a scope of practice issue, because her amazing vision and belief was that anyone should be able to get the training to be a doula.  And along those lines, she felt that anything that kind of went into mental health needed to be handled by a professional.  So she and I have had those conversations throughout the years, and I’m hoping that the more the doulas nudge, that we can handle the statistics.  We can wrap our head around how to help somebody get to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.  It’s fairly straightforward.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I think we’ve come a long way in 20 years, right?  It’s been almost 20 years since that training.  At least we’re talking about it more.  I mean, that’s a step; a huge step in the right direction, that mothers are talking about this.

Jessica:  Yeah, getting the word out there so they don’t feel alone.

Alyssa:  Right.  So one question I had about even just the title of your book, Transformed by Postpartum Depression,  I was wondering – you know, that word “transformed” is so powerful.  And then I read in one of the chapters that you had – you were reading a book yourself about – I forget who the author was, but it had something to do with mental illness and mental health for mothers, and you read that word and it just, like, hit you.  So I’m guessing that’s why that word is so powerful to you and why you used that for the title of your book?

Dr. Ladd  Partially, yeah.  I mean, the title – that word did jump out, and it was Jeanine Driscoll, and this was a book that I had been given in my clinical training as a therapist.  And her story of postpartum – at the time, this was, for her, in the ’80s – she used the word transformed, and it’s the first time, I think, I had aligned the idea of transformation with perinatal mood disorders because I felt so different.  And when I, years later, went forward to do research in this area, the original title of this study was Changing instead of Transformation.  It was Changing Depression.  And my thought there was that what I was finding from the women’s own lived experience was that there’s a certain nature to postpartum depression.  Like, it has its own entity, and it is a changing kind of depression.  It’s so forceful.  It’s so sudden and comes on so strong, like a trauma, that it has its own sense of power.  It can change you.  And then I came back to the word transformation, and I think now, to be honest, I still grapple with that word a little because I think it has – I don’t want it to only be seen as a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s just that, gone untreated, these disorders change women.  They change women.  And for some, that change can be powerfully positive, and that’s where I got more – you know, I got involved with posttraumatic growth, but not everyone.  Not everyone.  So, yes, it’s a transformation, but I’m also kind of hinting at – which I don’t think I’m quite there yet.  I want to keep working on it.  I want to transform postpartum depression itself.  I mean, in the very back, I put together that graphic at the back page, which shows what we’ve called postpartum depression since the beginning of time, and we haven’t really gone very far.  It’s around birth.  It’s always related to some sort of reproductive event.  So I want, like you guys, to transform not only the experience that women have, but what we say about it, what we know about it, and the language that we use.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You had mentioned that your husband at the time just kept telling you, this is all in your mind.  You’re making this choice.  Right?  And I think, you’re not the only one who hears that.  And maybe even if we as mothers aren’t hearing it from someone else, we’re hearing it from ourselves.  Why don’t you just do this?  Why can’t I just be that?  So I think you’re right in transforming not only what we call it but what we think about it and what we know about it, and I still think we don’t know enough about it, even though we’re talking about it.  It’s very surface level.

Dr. Ladd  Why do you think that is?

Alyssa:  You know, I didn’t know about it when I had my daughter.  I didn’t really know what it was.  And I would say, oh, no, of course I didn’t.  But then I think back, the more I learn, I’m like, oh, my gosh.  I remember sitting in the nursery just in tears in the rocking chair, and breastfeeding was so much harder than I imagined, and your hormones and your emotions are all over, and, you know, granted, for me, it slowly got better, but I don’t know.  I guess, was I in a depression?  Did I just have some anxiety?  Was this all just normal?  It’s hard to put a name on something.  And then the stigma of that is also what hinders a lot of mothers.  And, Jessica, I think you had a question specifically about postpartum depression, too.

Jessica:  Yeah.  But to go along with what you guys were just talking about, I think that part of it is, a big piece is that stigma, and going with my question in just a second, is that moms are afraid.  If they speak up and say something, their baby will be taken from them.  I did have postpartum depression pretty severely, and I didn’t seek help for eight months because I was, like, these horrible thoughts, which I now know were intrusive thoughts: they’re going to take my baby.  I don’t want to lose my baby.  And I think that that’s a big message that has to get out there, is that seeking help doesn’t meant that you’re a bad mom, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to take your baby.  It just can help.  And so I think that is a big piece of it.  But talking about this and this language, I wonder – you’re predominantly saying postpartum depression and focusing on the depression.  Why don’t you include more of the other things that go with it?

Dr. Ladd  Good question.  And I do, but it’s all because of language.  What we’ve known in common society – I think postpartum depression is the most identifiable.  So anybody who’s a possible reader or a clinician who hasn’t full training in the full spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders might identify postpartum depression.  And I also use it as an umbrella for all of the disorders because the language hasn’t filtered out to – I mean, we’re talking, all three of us this morning, about not knowing what to call our own issues when we have them.  So somebody with intrusive thoughts is not necessarily going to know that they might have postpartum OCD or postpartum panic disorder.  So I use the language that we’re most familiar with.  And I want to tag team on something you said about stigma.  You know, stigma – I did a study about how women who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the first year of postpartum, how they experience stigma.  And, basically, for all of us, any sort of the way we make decisions about the world is we observe how people are behaving, and if we perceive something to be outside of the norm – this is based on Goffman’s stigma theory – we kind of mentally categorize them as different.  Right?  And that different space is over, away, from what we’ve come to recognize as everybody else being normal.  Right?  So that different space lingers, and if we perceive them as either physically different or behaviorally different or emotionally different, we’re going to put them – our habit is to put them over in the “different” space.  And gone unchecked from just basic knowledge, that “different” group of people, we will build assumptions and beliefs about what they are capable of or how they fit in society, and it’s usually negative.  That creates the prejudice.  A prejudice; a preknowledge belief that, okay, that person who is behaving or looking different is going to potentially do things that are unpredictable.  And then if that goes unchecked, we can actually unconsciously build this implicit bias where we will discriminate.  We will discriminate in micro ways against or away from people that we perceive to be different.  So let’s take a mom who is crying a lot, and in the book, one of my participants referred to it as leaking.  You know, it’s like this kind of leak.  It’s like an involuntary crying.  Like the stomach flu, but you’re crying.  There’s no control over it; it’s just coming out.  So let’s say this mom is crying.  She feels that those symptoms are out of – they are out of the range of normal for her, and all of the baby stuff that she’s seen, from the minute she peed on the stick, didn’t show anybody crying inconsolably.  So when she goes out into the world, if it’s to Walmart, if it’s to the care provider, if it’s to the postpartum doula, there are no representations of that as normal.  So she moves herself into that “different” space and can start to believe that maybe there’s something seriously wrong with her.  And if that goes unchecked and she is at a family event crying, it gets validated because everyone’s like, why are you upset?  You have a new baby.  Everybody’s great.  So that process of stigma happens for women constantly.  And we unfortunately do it to each other.  When I was a doula, I once had a mom ask me to go to the supermarket for her to get formula because she was so afraid that some of her neighbors would see her buying formula instead of breastfeeding.  So that’s just one example.  So that stigma piece is – and the media certainly doesn’t help.

Alyssa:  Right.  And I had a question about one excerpt from your preface, and maybe I’ll just read it, because it stuck out to me.  Again, it’s the whole stigma, and it’s the idea of what do we call this.  So it says: “I reject the notion that objective truth is inherently real or measurable but rather constructed by multiple entities, including society, culture, history, and individuals, all coexisting.  So from this perspective, the reality of postpartum depression can’t be known, defined, or quantified.  By definition, it is constructed in real time, every time, in multiple ways, by multiple people.”  So it’s dynamic and changing, and to me, this pinpoints exactly why this is so hard to define, because postpartum depression, for one, doesn’t look – you know, for you doesn’t look like it does for me, and a lot of how we feel about, you know, if I had it, maybe it’s the way my family’s talking to me about it.  Maybe it’s, you know, not going to the grocery store for fear of my friends finding out I’m buying formula.  Or maybe I don’t care about that, but I have to post all the beautiful Instagram photos.  There’s just so many different layers and levels that I think you just hit the nail on the head with why this is so hard to define and then so hard for others to understand.

Dr. Ladd  Exactly.

Alyssa:  So when a mom has it, I feel like she’s – you know, maybe her partner doesn’t understand.  So like you, getting the whole thing about well, just change your frame of mind.  Just do something different.  Get your head out of the hole and, you know, you have a baby who’s beautiful, so what are you so sad about?  If people don’t understand, then we just dig ourselves into a deeper hole.  Well, I know I feel this way.  I shouldn’t feel this way.  I don’t want to feel this way.  But now they’re making me feel worse, so now I’m probably digging a deeper hole, and it’s just getting harder and harder to get out.

Dr. Ladd  Yes.  And part of what you’re saying, really, it speaks to how do we fix this, and I think the more we can normalize that – we have no trouble talking about a clogged milk duct.  No trouble.  We’ve made that okay.  And women have said, I need help.  So there’s been this agreement between science and society to allow women to talk about things like sore, cracked nipples, for God’s sake.  We can do that.  We can talk about how to care for an episiotomy repair.  I think maybe if we could talk about the range of that for every birth, there is a range of physical and emotional recovery and experience, and within that, I mean, we do know that 80 to 85% of all birthing women will experience postpartum blues, that kind of – you know, shortly after birth, two or three weeks.  It lasts for a few days and then moves out.  But we’re not even comfortable talking about that, and when I say we, I mean all of us.  But predominantly care providers.  So when you’re discharged after having a baby and you have all those pamphlets about how to lactate and breastfeed but there’s nothing in there about how you can identify if you’ve got some things going on with your brain, there’s a miscommunication.

Jessica:  So what would you suggest?  And this – I just really am interested.  What would you suggest as care providers that we do to get the word out?  How do you think we could improve that so more moms would know about it ahead of time and can be better prepared for it so it doesn’t just hit them like a ton of bricks?

Dr. Ladd  I think there are a couple of things, one of which is public health.  And on the public health level, we need more support for mandated screening.  And ACOG is close, but not there with the mandate to screen.  And even asking a woman about her family history, we’re not – if it’s not on the checklist for an intake for the OB nurse, for any sort of prenatal or perinatal care provider to say, so, tell me about your family history with any sort of mood or anxiety disorder.  If that’s not on the list, that’s something we could add quickly.  We’re not shy, and ACOG is not shy, about saying that we need to test your urine.  We need to test your blood.  We need to test your blood pressure many times to screen.  But yet even though we’ve got these validated screening tools, it’s not mandated, and that sends a message.  I’m not even sure that would fix it.  But on the public health level, organizations like National Perinatal Association, NPA, PSI, who are saying, we have to change it by asking women.  That’s one way.  And then I personally believe, and that is my personal belief, that the more women can talk about how they’re feeling, regardless of what they think might be happening in response to that, the better.  So in my research, all 25 women ended up having to get themselves treated because providers failed, even when women were saying flat out, I’m not sure I want to be here, or I think I shouldn’t be my child’s mom, or I can’t sleep.  And providers miss it.  And I don’t want to bash providers; I really don’t.  I want them to get the support from their certifying bodies that it’s important; important enough to take 5 minutes out of the 15 minutes that they’re given with a patient and ask.  So that’s part of it.  And I think as the birth community, the mom community, that’s so huge now online.  Maybe we just need to lighten the load on the language.  I mean, the women in my book speak very frankly, and I think all women speak very frankly when they’re not under the – you know, when they’re not being analyzed.  We all have those private Facebook groups where women are throwing down.  So when a participant will say to me, I don’t know why we don’t just tell each other.  It sucks, man.  That resonates on a level to any mom, regardless of their perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.  Why don’t we tell each other it sucks?  And that’s the last piece.  And it seems to be that we have a lot of trouble allowing – I’m going to use the word allowing – women to be ambivalent about motherhood.  You’ve got to love it all, or you’re horrible.  Every moment of it, every diaper change, every ear infection, all of it.  And that’s – who loves all of anything?

Alyssa:  Right.  That’s not fair for anything, let alone a screaming toddler or a sassy teenager, right?  With each new stage, I feel like – you know, I always tell my postpartum clients that every developmental stage, you lose something that’s so hard, and then you go onto something that’s easier, but then this new hard thing is going to come.  Like, there’s always going to be this new hard thing, and you won’t be prepared for it, and it’s okay.  It will suck for a while.  But yeah, I think it’s hard to – you know, I have whole days that I’m just like, oh, my God.  This is awful.  What in the world?  Why?  I read something the other day where this mom said she had one kid, and it was – you know, the pain of it and just the exhaustion.  It was, like, a two-day induction or something.  She goes, my only thought was, why in this developed world where contraception is available do we have so many humans?  Like, why are people doing this again and again?  And she was so real.  I loved it.

Dr. Ladd  Yes!  And the last piece of this, and not everyone – you know, I will just share that I think Bowlby and attachment theory has done a number on us for six decades because, on some internalized level, guys, we are buying the notion that maternal deprivation will harm the thing that we love more than anything.  That if we sneeze in the wrong direction or have a thought about, God, I’d really like to not be doing this right now, we will harm our child.  Not only once; for their lifetime.  And while we do have, you know, years of science about maternal attachment and development, we have yet to really clear the debris of what attachment theory can also do, which is to shame women out of their reality.

Jessica:  Yeah.  I feel like that’s a lot of mommy wars type of stuff.  There’s so much information on how to be a good mom, and whichever way you choose, every other way is going to say you’re wrong, and I think that’s just really hard, that we just don’t – I mean, it’s all this pressure to be this perfect mom.  Yeah.  I think that’s a big piece of it.  And then we have, on that, that if you have depression, if you’re not happy, if you don’t enjoy every minute of every day, now you are destroying your child for the rest of their life.  Now you’ve not only given them depression because you have depression genetically, but now you’ve given them depression because you’re depressed and you didn’t bond with them appropriately.  And so let’s just add a little more stress and anxiety to someone who’s already stressed and anxious.  And I just think that’s – I mean, it’s good to know.  Like you said, it’s research.  We know that there’s not that – it’s not going to be as much bonding and that it can cause more depression, but I feel like sometimes it just adds more.  It’s another way to feel like you failed.

Alyssa:  Well, and I think – I have the same thoughts about the attachment.  You can always go too far.  You know, and of course the oxytocin that you can get from the skin to skin, but sometimes even now, and my daughter’s 8, I just feel touched out.  Everyone just needs me all the time, and if I were a depressed mom with a newborn baby, and everyone’s saying, oh, you’re feeling depressed.  Just hold your baby all the time.  Wear your baby all the time.  Breastfeed more.  That’s just more touch when I need my own space.  And then sometimes babies – I see this a lot because I do sleep consultations, and I get those depressed moms who haven’t slept for months.  They are so sleep-deprived, and then they think, I’ve been holding my baby to sleep for three months straight or all these things.  They don’t know that their little babies are developing these personalities, and they might not want to be touched all the time.  Just because you’ve been told that they need to be picked up every time they cry – your baby doesn’t always need that.  So really listening and being in tune with what you want as a mother and what your baby is actually asking for – I think we’re just getting – like you said, the attachment thing.  We’re just getting too touched out.  We don’t necessarily need that all the time.

Dr. Ladd  This is such a great conversation, and it makes me think about how it loops into the stigma.  It loops into what we said about needing to let women speak to their own experiences.  And I think there’s something about redefining attachment as – or this idea of motherhood as, you can communicate to your baby and to your child: Mommy’s struggling, and I’m right here.  I had a conversation with a mom this week, a colleague of mine, who’s got a boy who had to have a tooth extraction.  And as anybody listening can imagine, a child having a tooth extraction is incredibly anxious, and it was long and very difficult.  And I said, you know, it’s okay to tell him that you – it was hard for you, too.  And that you went through it together, and that you’re okay.  Yeah.  I was there, and because it validates to your child, yeah, that was pretty crazy, wasn’t it?  That was pretty hard.  It was hard for me, too.  And I’m okay.  And maybe we can allow each other to say, you know what?  I see that you’re an amazing mom, even though you have these experiences that tell you that you’re not.  And we can start to say to our children, you know, I went through this, and I rock.  It didn’t screw me up in terms of my connection to my child.  It actually made it stronger.  And I’ve had women, lots of women, tell me that, that the connection with that child with whom they went through a mood disorder is unique and tight.  In other words, I think women – we love our kids, no matter what.  It just doesn’t have to always be positive.

Jessica:  I love that you said it doesn’t always have to be positive, and I think that’s really important for moms to know, that it doesn’t always have to be positive.  That there will be ups and downs, and it’s the hardest job in the world.

Dr. Ladd  And we’re able, in other areas of society, to really honor struggle in a way that’s noble.  Veterans: we’ve gotten our heads around honoring the nobility of somebody who’s sacrificed and paid a price emotionally, physically, et cetera.  And yet we’re not able to do that for moms in terms of honoring their suffering nobly.

Alyssa:  I love this conversation.  Two more things.  We’re going to end with how people can find you and your book and tell us anything else about your book, but let’s say not everyone is going to be able to read your book.  What’s one thing you think every mother, parent, would need to know going forward, either about motherhood or mental health or…

Dr. Ladd  I would say about any woman who is of childbearing years should be talking, should be telling, their provider about their sleep, their appetite, whether or not there’s a history in their family of mood or anxiety disorders, and for women of color, it is so much harder to get the message across, so I would say we all need to support our women of color to have an ally, to possibly go with them to the provider.  Without a doubt, we need to be telling – because they’re not asking right now.  They’re not saying.  They’re just not asking.  For a number of reasons; put COVID on top of everything else.  So we need to be encouraging.  I would love to see – there’s this concept called a reproductive life plan where doctors could be asking young girls and young men about their emotional and mental health very early on.  So a pediatrician who’s doing a well‑check for a kid who’s 11 could be planting the seeds that that’s a safe space to say, I am not sleeping.  I’m having intrusive thoughts.  Or I can’t stop thinking about this, or I’m any of the symptoms that would come forward.  So to wrap that one up, I would say – and for anyone who’s pregnant and/or just had a baby, I would say, know the language of mood disorders to be able to say it to your provider to get help, and that would be how your sleep is affected, how your appetite has been affected, and how your sense of hope or interest in life, anhedonia, has been affected.  Just being able to say, I’m not sleeping.  I’m not eating.  And I feel like I don’t want to do this.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I think that’s beautiful.  Well, thank you so much for doing this.  It’s such a pleasure, and I look forward to finishing the book.  We got quite a ways into it.  But tell people about your book; maybe say your name and the title again and where they can find your book.

Dr. Ladd  Sure.  So my name is Walker Ladd, and you can go to my website.  And the book is Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.  And that’s on Amazon or at my publisher, Praeclarus Press.  And I also wanted to give a shout-out to anybody interested in the book to think about – I was able to get interviews with amazing experts, so a part of the book is dedicated to – I ask, you know, Karen Kleiman and Jane Honikman.  I had such a great experience interviewing these leaders to see what they think about the idea that untreated postpartum depression or any disorder could be experienced as a traumatic life event, and it was a very interesting response.

Alyssa:  Great.  Well, thank you so much!  We’ll talk to you soon.

 

Adult Separation Anxiety: Podcast Episode #99

 

On this episode, Alyssa and Laine begin by talking about  parenting anxiety and the distance that parents can sometimes feel as their babies and children grow and seem to need them less.  The conversation takes some interesting turns to talk about having clear boundaries for kids, pivoting our expectations of children as they grow, and learning how to figure out who you are as a parent.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  Super excited to be talking to Laine Lipsky again.  How are you?

Laine:  I’m good.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Good.  So we had a couple great podcasts, and I had an idea last week about another topic to talk about because I have a lot of clients who — so, they come to me and they want something specific, right?  They have a specific sleep goal.  Maybe that’s to stop nursing to sleep.  Maybe it’s to stop bed sharing.  It could be any number of things.  But when those things happen, they struggle with feeling distance from their child because now they’re not cosleeping, and they’re not nursing to sleep anymore.  So I just wonder, you know, from your end as a parenting coach, what kind of, I don’t know, tips or tricks do you have, because it kind of seems like the classic motherhood scenario, right, where our babies are going to grow up and we always have these feelings of — I don’t know.  It’s almost like grief.  You’re, like, grieving the loss of one stage of this child.  But, of course, we want them to grow up and we want them to become strong, independent little humans, but we grieve the loss of that, especially if maybe you’re only having one child.  So, yeah, I just kind of — like, that was an idea I had.  So let’s talk about it.

Laine:  Yeah.  It’s such a good topic, and you’re right, it does sort of permeate all phases of parenting, right?  Like, no matter how old your child is, you’re going to be experiencing — you’re moving through life and life stages, so there’s going to be transitions, and transitions are — they have loss as part of them.  That’s part of the deal of a transition.  You’re starting something new.  You have to let go of something that you had before.  And I’m sure with the clients that you’re talking about, when they’re looking to move out of one sleep phase, it’s because it’s not working for them, right?  And they want to move into this new thing, but once they have the new thing, it’s like this sort of romantic, you know, notion.  But there is this real separation thing, and I think that’s where the pain point is.  It’s interesting talking about it.  I think that what comes up for me when you first mention this topic was that I received a card when my son was born, and I think it’s a — I don’t know; maybe you’ve heard the phrase before, but it was something — I might get it a little wrong.  But it was something along the lines of, “Motherhood is the understanding — or the agreement, maybe — of having your heart walking around outside of you for the rest of your life.”  Have you ever heard that one before?

Alyssa:  Yeah, I’ve heard that, and it’s so true.

Laine:  Yeah!  So hopefully I didn’t butcher that too badly.  But it is really like — it’s such a good quote and concept because it really is, in a nutshell, saying about — this other person that’s really a part of you and really needs you is going to be separate from you.  Right?  In different times of life.  And I think that, you know — I think that when — it’s like a confusing time when you first have a baby because you’re literally enmeshed with your baby, right, when you first take them home or you’re an adoptive parent and they’re first brought home.  They’re so reliant on you and dependent on you for their survival, if you have an infant on your hands.  Right?  And it creates this — I mean, it creates this codependence, really.  It’s like the ultimate enmeshment of a relationship.  And I have always seen motherhood, like early motherhood, as being like this accepted form of enmeshment, and then the process of it kind of tearing and tearing apart.  And that, I think, is the pain of it, is this process of separation.  I hear a lot from people that they get afraid of, like, oh, my child won’t need me anymore.  And I think that — I mean, I think we all go through that.  I think we all have that fear of, like, being so needed and then not being needed.  It’s like this overwhelming capacity of being needed and then flipping over to not needed anymore, and we get so identified with that need, that early need that our kids have for us.  I think we identify with it really strongly.  That’s, like, an interesting place to start talking about it.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and it seems to happen so drastically.  So, you know, this infant needs you 100% of the time.  You’re sustaining its life.  It needs you to live.  And then you have a toddler who still needs you quite a lot, and then all of a sudden, you have this young — you know, maybe at age 8, 9, 10 — they’re just so independent that it just stops.  And I think that’s what’s really hard for, maybe especially us as mothers, is we go from, “Hey, Mom.  Hey, Mom.  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” like all the time, to, “I go this.”  So I think, you know, when my clients with their babies are going through this, it feels very severe, like it just happened so suddenly.  And they really struggle with that feeling of disconnection.  So I try to find, you know, what’s a way that we can bring that feeling of connectedness back without getting you back to a place of sleeplessness.

Laine:  Yeah.  What comes up for me when we’re talking about this is really the backing up in that process.  Like, even before somebody is lamenting the loss, right, like, it’s almost like — when you lament losing something, when you grieve something, it’s almost like I didn’t get enough of it, or maybe I didn’t do it — I didn’t get enough out of it when we were going through it, and I’m not ready to let go of it yet.  And one practice that I feel really strongly about in parenting, and I think this applies here, too, is the concept of practicing mindfulness.  And one of my favorite definitions of mindfulness is actually savoring.  When you savor moments with your kids, what you are enjoying about each phase in the moment — I believe there is a natural sense, because I see it with parents and I know with myself, there’s a sense of completion of a phase, and it’s not as hard to let go of because you’re not like, oh, I’m trying to grasp back to that.  So, for example, I remember — I remember actually sitting — it was with a friend and her toddler.  We were at a play date together, and the moms were sitting in one room, and the kids were supposedly playing in the other room.  And the toddler kept coming up to her and asking for her attention.  And she kept shooing him away, saying, go, this is your time to play with your friends.  Go play with your friends.  I mean, all he wanted to do was sit on her lap.  He didn’t even — he wasn’t even that demanding, right?  She kept shooing him away and shooing him away.  And finally she, like, couldn’t fight the fight anymore, and she let him sit on her lap, and she was so much happier about it, and she was obviously so much more at peace.  And, you know, the other moms were sitting there, and I was like, you know, this time is going to pass so quickly.  Embrace this time that he’s seeking your attention because before you know it, he’s going to be off.  Peace out, Mom.  I don’t need you anymore.  And that — I think that when we fight what’s happening in the moment, we kind of lose out on getting our fill of it.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I almost wonder if you hit the nail on the head there with my sleep clients, because let’s say it’s a two-year-old that I’m working with.  Maybe they — because of sleep deprivation, they feel like they’ve lost out on so many moments, because as we’ve talked about before, it inhibits your ability to parent, and then with a sleep-deprived child, they’re not themselves, either.  So maybe they feel like these months or years of sleepless nights and dealing with a crying child and tired and screaming, they feel like they didn’t get all those moments or get enough of those moments; that they’re not ready when it does end.  I’m not sure.

Laine:  That’s interesting.  There’s also very intense bonding that happens.  I had a child who was not a good sleeper, and there’s very intense bonding that happens at 3:00 a.m.  And it’s like you love this being and you’re there for this being and you’re comforting them or you’re trying to comfort them in whatever way, and it’s so primal and it’s so intense that I think there is a loss of that, like, bonding experience.  How are we going to bond?  If that’s been our bonding up until now, as crappy as it was, as hard as it was, if we don’t have that thing, how we do it now?  And I think that gets to more the real, like, heart of how do you interact with your child.  How do you interact with anybody when the problem has been defining the relationship, right?  Anybody, really.  Like, when you have a friend and, like, all you’ve been doing is, like, talking about what hasn’t been working, let’s just say, in your friendship, and then suddenly you resolve that thing.  It’s like, wait.  Do we even know how to interact with each other?  Or like with parents whose kids then leave the house.  This whole — I know you’re far away from this, but it does happen.  Kids do eventually, you know, leave the house.

Alyssa:  And then the parents are like, hmm, what do we talk about?

Laine:  Yeah.  Like, so I still like you?  Who are we without this thing, this elephant in the room?  Or not elephant; we’re actually talking about it.  Maybe it’s not the elephant.  And, like, I think that there’s some fear there, and I also — which I get.  I get it.  How do I actually mother now?  If my child doesn’t need me for this essential need, this basic physical thing of sleep — okay, so what are the other levels I can bond on?  Maybe it’s the physical because it’s about kissing them, you know, their boo-boos when they fall down.  It’s about feeding them.  It’s about making sure their diapers are clean or whatever.  I’ve got the physical thing.  But it starts to kind of move into this more emotional realm where I know for a fact that most people feel very uncomfortable.  How do I actually interact with my child?  Especially — I don’t know if I told you this in one of our other podcasts, but it does bear repeating.  When I Googled how many people were raised in a dysfunctional home, do you know what the percentage was?

Alyssa:  I’m sure a lot higher than I think.

Laine:  It’s staggering.  96%.  Some sort of dysfunction.  Not, like, fully crisis level, but some sort of — and the way that it was encapsulated, at least in the article that I read, was around the ability to talk about emotions.  The emotional functionality of families.  So maybe there’s something going on.  I’m just riffing here, but maybe there’s something going on.  If we’re moving out of the physical realm, I don’t know if I’ve got the chops to handle the emotional stuff that’s coming.  I thought that maybe the physical piece of it is ending.  Maybe there’s something there.  I think a lot of people get really nervous about, like, what else am I — if you’ve been nursing your child, if I’m not the nurser, then what do I have to offer here?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s like learning and relearning who you are and who your child is and then rebuilding that relationship, maybe even from the ground up, if that’s all you’ve known for months.

Laine:  Yeah, or I would say more like pivoting.  Right?  Pivoting from being one thing; okay, now I’m this other thing.  Okay; now I’m going to be this other thing.  And that’s a process that doesn’t stop, right?  Like, my kids are 12 and 14 now, so, you know, you’re the comforter when they’re born, and then you’re the playmate and the early teacher, and then you become the — you continue to be your child’s teacher, but you keep pivoting as they grow, depending on what they need, and developing a sense of what is sort of normal levels of need and what the fair expectations are at each stage.  I think it’s a really useful thing.  Like, I don’t want my 14-year-old coming to me with every single issue that’s going on.  You know, I want him to have some agency in the world, right?  So at this point I will, like, sometimes purposefully put him into an uncomfortable situation.  Like, you order the food for the family over the phone, or you make the appointment for the doctor.  That kind of thing.  And, again, he’s older, but that’s where we’re headed with them, right, to teach them real-life skills.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need me anymore.  It just means that it’s like handing — it’s like you have the reins, and then you slowly start handing the reins over to your child.  It’s a process.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I like the idea of pivoting.  Because it’s true; at every age and stage from birth on, it’s this constant shift of, now I have to do this for my child.  Now I don’t need to do that, but guess what?  She has a new need.  She doesn’t need this one anymore, but she needs me in this other way, and helping parents to understand that.

Laine:  Totally, and what sucks about it for parents is that just as you’re getting good at one stage, those kids go on and they do something else, and you’re like a rookie all over again.  Even if you’re on your second or your third child, your second or third child isn’t going to be exactly the same as your first or your second child.  It’s like, I’ve never been a mom to — to my 12-year-old, I’ve never been a mom to a 12-year-old you before.  I’ve never been a mom to — even though I was a mom to a 12-year-old before, it wasn’t to you.  Which is a very useful phrase for me to teach people to have in their back pocket.  You know, I’ve never done this part for you before, with you before.  And staying flexible and flexible-minded is the key to it, for me, anyway, and what I try to teach people.  Something else along the lines of mindfulness and savoring each stage is letting yourself grieve a little bit at each stage.  I think it’s a really — like, what a useful practice.  You know, to recognize that this piece is ending and not try to talk yourself out of being sad a little bit.  You know, I think anytime we try to overshadow — did you see the movie Inside Out with your daughter?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Oh, yeah.

Laine: I mean, really.  Such a good movie.  We just watched it again as a family the other night.  And it’s just brilliant, right?  Anytime you try to overshadow sadness with joy, it just rings false.  And it doesn’t hold the truth to it.  And so you asked me for tips and tricks.  One thing that I will share that I do around grief is I have a really simple candle lighting thing that I do, which is when I’m feeling grief about something — could be anything, but even parent-related — I just have a little candle that I light, and I say, like, I grieve this thing.  You know, I grieve the end of this stage.  I grieve that I didn’t get to do this.  I grieve, you know, we’re in Corona times right now, so I’m grieving that I don’t get to see my friends, and honoring that grief because any time we try to convince ourselves and “joy” our way out of something, we’re not going to get the full experience.  It won’t be satisfying, and it won’t feel authentic.  And as a parenting coach, I will say: our kids pick up on it.  Whenever we are acting from a place of inauthenticity, that’s when they start to smell the blood and the fear in the water.  So they’re going to start acting out more.  They’re going to start — because they’re reacting, not always entirely, but a lot of times, they are reacting to the energy, the emotion, that we are emitting, even if we’re not saying it out loud.  They’re feeling it, especially the young ones.  Like the kids of the parents that you mostly deal with — those kids are all about, you know, the limbic part of the brain, which is all that, like, mammal-kind of stuff, which is, like, I’m just going to feel how I’m feeling.  I’m not going to talk about how I’m feeling.  I’m not going to reason how I’m feeling.  I’m just going to be in the feeling 100%.  Right?  And so they pick up on — no matter what we’re saying, no matter what our tone of voice is, they’re going to pick up on what the feeling is.  And so we’ve got to get right with ourselves around it.  So I say welcome it.  Don’t disrupt your sleep over it, right?  I mean, please.

Alyssa:  Right.  Just own it.  Do whatever you need to do, whether it’s a candle or writing or a meditation.  But own it; leave it, and kind of move on, because it’s true.  Even at a few months of age, these kids — you know, you’ve probably seen those studies where, based on a parent’s face, how a baby will react.  And even just facial expressions can change how a baby feels and reacts.  So if you’re stressed, they feel it.  They notice.

Laine:  They do, and I think as much as it’s a good training ground for the infant to learn how they’re reading our face, it’s great training when our kids are infants for us as parents to be, like, I’ve got to get myself right around this.  Whatever this pain point is — it feels enormous because we’re all emotional and we’re all tired, and it’s all very, very sensitive and raw and new.  But in retrospect, the infant issues are going to seem very small, you know?  And when your kids get older, they will seem very small.  So we want to use these moments when our kids are babies to train ourselves.  How am I going to get right about this feeling?  What are my practices around talking about this?  Who’s my tribe?  Who are my trusted mentors?  What is my trusted source of information?  What are the practices that actually work for me?  You know, we’re so vulnerable as new parents to taking in all the information that’s out there.  It can get really overwhelming, like a tidal wave of information coming at us.  And it’s such a great time to learn how to slow down and just be like, hmm, what feels right for me?  And that takes some work for most of us, you know?  We want to do everything right, but really, there’s no — I’ve said this before.  There’s no one right way to parent, but there’s a right way for each of us, and we’ve got to find that way.  And the only way to do that is to get right with yourself.  So the other thing I was going to add in is that — you know, it’s interesting, because when people talk to me about sleep stuff, they’re often talking about their children — you probably hear this a lot, too — delaying the sleep by one tactic or another.  When they’re a little older, right?  I need another drink of water.  I need another book.  I need another song.  I need another whatever.  And what I find is really helpful for parents to know is that for children, this is a time when most kids and parents are at odds, right?  Children are not wanting to separate.  They’re looking for more connection.  But the parents are looking to separate because they need a break.  They want to connect with their partner if they’ve got one.  They’re tired themselves.  They’ve got dishes; whatever’s going on.  And so they become sort of at-odds, and so evening can become this really tense time, right?  And what I would — what came up for me as you were talking about your clients with this issue is, like, perhaps the parents are also experiencing some inner feelings about that separation.  Maybe they’re experiencing it as a separation as well, you know?  And so with separation comes a little bit of anxiety, not just about what it means, but the actual act of separating.  So I never thought about it as, like, creating anxiety for the parent.  I’ve always thought about it from the child’s perspective and thinking, like, well, this is — it’s an anxious time for them, and the more you can settle in to helping them, the better it will go overall.  But maybe there’s something going on there for them, too.

Alyssa:  I’m glad you mentioned that, the bedtime routine, because that’s the one time I tell them, really focus on that time to bond with your child then.  So that means it’s just you.  There’s no phone.  There’s no TV.  It’s just you two, and you’re not thinking about anything else.  You’re focused.  Because 30 minutes, which is the perfect bedtime routine, so it doesn’t — another drink, another book, another song – can turn into an hour or two easily.  So if you focus on trying to stick within 30 minutes, but 30 minutes of focused, dedicated time on your child is like hours to them.  So they’re going to struggle at bedtime if you give them 30 minutes but it’s half focused on them.  You’re checking the phone; you’re having them brush their teeth; you’re helping another kid, and then you’re telling them to go to the bathroom, and you’re never focused on just them.  If you have older kids, stagger it, so that the youngest, you’re putting to bed first, just them.  Then you do the next, and it’s just them.  If you can dedicate that time to them, it’s huge.  And then you can also feel — you know, even if you’re not nursing to sleep anymore, just those cuddles and sweet kisses and songs, you know, and holding the little stuffed animal, that can be still such an amazing bonding experience before bed.  I think it just takes focus.

Laine:  It does, and mindfulness, too, like that savoring.  You’re talking about exactly what I was mentioning before.  It’s the same thing.  Take it in.  Smell their little clean head.  You know, like enjoy their breath before it get stinky, you know?  Give them a few years.  You’re not going to want to do that.  Touch their skin; hold their hands.  That’s all mindful practices which is, like, just take it in.  Breathe it in.  Which is really hard.  I just want to, like, give a shout-out to the parents out there whose kids, first of all, you know, bedtime is not a pleasant experience.  That’s a very real thing.  And also a shout-out to the parents whose kids are not neurotypical.  So if you have a child who’s really challenging who’s, like, very strong-willed; a child who had a really hard time settling themselves down, and so bedtime routine is longer than that half-hour and it seems like the more attention you give them, the more they want, and the more they seem to crave — that is going to require something different on their part, too.  Because it’s not — I mean, 30 minutes, I would say, is ideal, but, like, I’ve got a child who is not neurotypical, and I would have loved half an hour.  Trust me.  But, like, that was not in the cards.  And so, again, recognizing what your reality is and accepting that and identifying where it doesn’t feel right.  Okay, I can make a tweak here.  Where it does feel right, I can embrace that part of it.  But really taking it all in and recognizing, like, this is your team.  You don’t swap out kids.  If you’re a coach on a team and you show up that year, these are your players.  You make the best of what you have, no matter who you have.  And everybody has their strengths, and everybody has their challenges.  I think that so often, parents whose kids require more, who demand more, start doing the, like, I wish it was this way, or so-and-so’s kids are so much easier.  This would be so much better if.  And rather than that grass-is-always-greener kind of thinking — that’s a real mindset shift that parents — that I do, I work with parents on all the time, of, like, who do we have?  Forget the ideal child.  Forget the ideal whatever; sleep routine or whatever.  We got to figure out what works for you.  You know?  And I think that a lot of — back to your original thought around, like, why — how parents grieve and the separation that they feel and the loss that they feel, you know, there’s a lot of fantasy thinking around, oh, it was supposed to be this way, or I was supposed to be this way.  And it’s like, you know, I have clients who have older kids, and they’re like, you know, I really am sad that now things are this way.  Maybe they would have been different if I would have parented differently when they were younger.  I mean, it doesn’t end, right, unless you end it.  Unless you end that kind of thinking, and you’re like, you know what?  Starting today.  Starting right here, right now, this is how I’m going to do it differently, whatever that different thing is.  The only mistake I really call parents out on is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.  That’s the only mistake that’s really going to bite you in the butt.  Other than that, if you’re trying different things, and you’re being mindful about it, and you’re being honest with yourself and getting really aligned with what feels good for you and lines up with your values — I mean, this is all — everyone’s a rookie.  Everyone.

Alyssa:  I love every piece of this.

Laine:  I don’t know that I have anything else to add.  I think that’s a lot.  That’s a lot of, like, essential, basic stuff.  You know, recognizing what you’ve got, leaning in to what’s true for you, tuning out the noise, having trusted people in your huddle.  You know, there’s a great body of information out there for parents right now and a lot of people delivering it and figuring out who’s your person is really essential.  And I love how you talk about creating specific plans for people.  Like, parenting is not one size fits all.  You work with a body of information.  And sleep is not one size fits all, right?  You work with a body of information, and then you have to pick and choose what works for you.  And the more — I just think the more support you can get for getting more and more aligned with yourself — that is an approach.  That’s not even a tactic.  That’s, like, a strategy.  That’s an approach for parenting that lasts a lifetime.  Because then no matter what, you’re, like, I’m good here.  I’m going to try these different things.  You know, one of these things is going to — all of them are going to blow up in my face.  This one thing is going to work, but that doesn’t mean — you know, that three minutes where I tried something new and it totally blew up in my face and my kid lost it — that doesn’t define me as a parent.  Right?  Like, I am defined by what I — I call the shots in what defines me as a parent.  Nobody else gets to do that for me.  And the more we can operate from that place of strength and confidence, which most people lack because they end up saying things, doing things, that they swore up and down that they wouldn’t say or do, but that’s what comes out in moments of stress.  And parenting is stressful.  It’s really stressful.  Our emotional back is put against the wall every day, most of the time.  Especially, again, shout out to parents who have kids who are not neurotypical or who are challenging.  You’re going to get stuff blown back at you every day.  And so if you don’t have your running shoes on, you’re not going to be prepared to run that marathon.  I just want people to — like, if I had one dream for all parents, it would be, like, get right with yourself.  You know?  And then, like, the rest — the rest is going to flow how it’s going to flow.  There are going to be bumps and turns and curves and sharp U-turns all along the way.  It doesn’t end.  But the calmer you can be, the more centered you are as a parent, the better off the whole family is going to be.  And that extends from early infancy.  It’s a great training ground, and all the sleep stuff and the feeding and all of that stuff to forever.  It’s not easy.  This sounds really easy, like I’m saying things that make it sound really easy, like get right with yourself.  Okay, Laine.  What does that mean?  Done.  Check.  Right with myself.  No.  It’s really, really hard.  And, again, that statistic of, like, how many of us grew up in some sort of dysfunction is real.  It’s so real.  And so, you know, I always say about parenting: it’s probably the most important job that any of us will ever have.  It’s certainly the most important job I’ve ever had and ever plan to have.  It makes it really stressful.  It makes it really important.  I really care about it.  And I didn’t get any training for it, except for how I was raised, and that’s true for everybody.

Alyssa:  When you put it that way, it’s pretty scary, when you think about it like that.

Laine:  How else could you think about?  I mean, put it in the context of playing tennis.  If you were taught how to play tennis, and then you were in a position to teach somebody else tennis, you can only teach them what you know.  Right?  I mean, so what would you do if you wanted to do it differently?  You’d get a coach.  You’d get help.  You’d get a consultant like you.  You would, like, start off learning how to do it differently so that you can give it to your children.  You can’t give your kids what you yourself don’t have, and I know for a fact that every person who I talk to about being a parent wants their kids to grow up to be a few things.  They want them to grow up to be successful.  Usually, actually, it’s happy first.  I want them to be happy.  I want them to be successful.  And I want them to be independent.  And sometimes kind is thrown in there.  Usually it is, eventually.  But it’s always happy, successful, and independent.  And what do you need to be those three things?  You need to have a sense of confidence.  And where do you get that from?  You know, well, you get it from your experience, and you get it from your parents.  And if you didn’t get it from those things, then you go to therapy and you work it out, and you figure some stuff out, and you try to bring those things in as an adult.  But wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if, you know, we could raise our kids who did not have to recover in one way or another from their own childhood and just grow up with this confidence.  And the only way we can do it is by giving it to ourselves first, which is awesome.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s great.  I mean, it’s great relationship advice, and no matter what age, right?  I always say you can’t be a good partner if you don’t know what you yourself need and want.  But it’s good training ground for children.  I’ve heard it before in the aspect of a partner, but it relates to being a parent.

Laine:  Yeah.  I always — there are a few things I say a lot, and one of the things that I say a lot is, you know, I teach parenting, but really, what I’m teaching is relationship, like human relationship skills.  It just happens to come out in full bloom with our kids because, you know, they bring it out in us.  They bring out all the stuff that’s unhealed, that’s unsettled, that’s ungrounded.  You know what that feels like, when your child says something or does something that you’re like, oh, no.  Oh, that’s a no.  Right?  And you’re so clear about it.  Like, that interaction with her goes away.  I don’t know how it goes in your house.  It can go all sorts of ways.  It doesn’t mean it goes any better.  You just know, no.  I’m not going to give in on that one.  Whereas when you’re not clear, and you’re like, well, I don’t know.  It’s, like, blood in the water.  You know, they smell it, and it’s like they just feed off of the uncertainty, off the anxiety, and it makes them feel unsafe, too.  It really does.  It’s like if you’ve ever driven over a bridge.  They have those guardrails there for a reason — for many reasons, but imagine driving over a bridge and it didn’t have the guardrails up.  You’d be like, oh, my gosh.  I could totally take one little wrong turn and fall.  Boundaries are the same way with kids.  I know we’re touching onto another topic here, but boundaries operate like that.  They keep kids feeling really safe.  And so when we know what our boundaries are, it makes our kids feel safer, too.  And so often we don’t know, and so, again, this comes back to getting more and more clear about where we stand as people, as humans, as women, as mothers, as parents, whoever, before we start trying to impose boundaries on our kids because some of those are going to fall really flat.  And even with — I’m sure you bump against this with the sleep consulting, right?  Like, parents don’t really know how they feel about it.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, especially with the older ones.  You know, what are your boundaries?  And you do; you find out these kids are just trying and pulling all the tricks because they don’t — some days it’s yes.  Some days, it’s no.  Some days, they let them cry.  Some days, they let them stay up.  Some days, he sleeps on the sofa.  Some days, he sleeps in their bed.  One night, he’ll sleep in his room.  It’s just that there’s just no — zero boundaries, usually, so you just kind of have to slowly rein them in.  But yeah, in that instance, I am coaching the parents more than the child because they have to decide.  And I ask them: what are your goals, and what do you want your boundaries to be, because you both have to stick with it.  It’s a two-parent home.  You both have to agree, and you have to be consistent 100% of the time.  Because like you said, blood in the water.  They sense that Mom will do one thing, but Dad will do another, and they’re like, okay, I’ve got you.  I know what I can get from both of you.  So, yeah, consistency is key, too.

Laine:  Yeah, I was going to add, it can be that.  It can be that I can get away with this, right?  Certainly, when they’re older, I can get away with this.  They’re more conscious of it.  But I caution parents against thinking that way because then they get resentful of their kids for trying to take advantage of them, and I think, coming from where I sit from a boundary perspective, I actually think that kids are looking to find out where the boundaries are by testing those limits because they want to feel safe.  They want to know what the boundaries are.  So they’re not doing it — I’m just flipping what you’re saying a little bit — not doing it to get away with something.  They’re doing it to find out where the edge is because they’re actually not feeling safe about it.  Do you know what I mean?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  No, I like that.

Laine:  I think that makes parents feel a lot better and more confident to set a boundary when they’re like, no, this is actually going to feel good.  It might not feel great at the beginning, but it will feel better for everybody when they know what the rules are.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and I think you said it better than I did, but I tell parents that if you have different styles, absolutely fine.  Your boundary might be a little bit different than your partner’s.  As long as your child knows that there are boundaries, and there’s got to be a little bit of give, but your boundary can’t be here and your partner’s boundary can’t be here because then there will be fighting.  So a little bit of wiggle room, but I like that: making them understand that their child wants and needs these boundaries, and they’re not just testing them to be, you know, malicious or cunning or conniving.  They just — at all ages, right, they want to know what they can get away with.

Laine:  And they want to know where the edges are.  They want to know where they’re going to be safe.  It’s like the rails on the bridge.  It feels very unsafe to not have those rails up, even if they don’t like it.  If they seem to not like it on the surface, kids do better — research tells us again and again that kids who do better in life are kids who grew up with boundaries.  You know, not enforced in some militant kind of way, but fairly enforced boundaries that are clear; clear rules.  And very few kids, very very few, can operate without clear rules and kind of figure them out on their own.  It’s kind of an unfair ask of kids to figure that out.  It’s really on us.  Part of the deal with parenting.  So to your parents who are feeling a loss over not bed sharing anymore, I would add this, as maybe a good place to wind down: what are the rituals that they can put in place to make, like you suggested, bedtime really meaningful, and also wake-up time; the reunion time.  People put a lot of emphasis on the separation; like, oh, we’re going to have this sweet goodbye.  Even if a parent is traveling, right?  We’re going to do this when they leave; we’re going to do that when they leave.  And there’s so much anxiety around the separation, for kids especially, and like I said, sometimes with parents.  But if we flip it and we start focusing on, what are we going to do around the reunion time, it is actually something to look forward to.  And you don’t even have to talk about it very much with little kids.  You just start doing it.  That’s the beauty when they’re little.  You just start doing stuff and try it out.  How does it feel when you walk into the room after a night of being separate?  Check your own emotional baggage at the door.  Leave it.  Like, that was hard for me, but you walk in and you’re like, maybe there’s a special song you sing in the morning.  Maybe there’s a special dance you do while you’re lifting up the shades.  I mean, it could be anything.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It matters how it’s done.  So rituals are so powerful for kids, and it’s something that is really soothing in them developing a rhythm in their life and in their heart and helping their brain develop a sense of safety and the sense of connection and that, you know, awareness for a parent can help put their minds at ease, as well.  Like, oh, I’m looking at how happy she is when she’s waking up, you know, and like really focusing on that reunion part.  But, again, not to diminish the sadness.  And then once you — having inner sadness, it’s kind of like having a child who’s really demanding your attention, like that mom I talked about at the playgroup, you know.  Once you let that sadness in, you let that child who’s demanding your attention on your lap, and you kind of welcome it and embrace it, it kind of loses its power.  So perhaps all the sadness around the grief is actually the fighting the grief, and if we welcome it — if they learn how to welcome it, they’ll feel more at peace about it and be able to let it go a little more easily.

Alyssa:  I love all this so much.  I’m going to be referencing this podcast to a lot of clients, I think.

Laine:  Well, excellent.  And, you know, I’m here for them.  I’m happy to help out however I can.

Alyssa:  Tell them how to reach you, and then I’ll tell your people how to reach me.

Laine:  Sounds good!  Probably the best way to find out more about me and to reach me is to just go to my website.  And how can my people reach you when they need a guru for their sleep needs?

Alyssa:  At our website, and then there’s a section for sleep.  And we have a blog listing on there, too, with a lot of stuff about sleep and anything pregnancy, birth, and parenting-related.  And then this podcast is called Ask The Doulas.

Laine:  Perfect.

 

Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98

 

Laine Lipsky, Parenting Coach, talks with Alyssa today about the negative effects of sleep deprivation on children and parents.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  I’m excited to be back with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach.  How are you?

Laine:  Hi!  I’m good.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Great!  So when we talked on the phone last week, we talked a lot about sleep, and we didn’t intend to talk about sleep, but I told you that I was an infant and child sleep consultant, and then you were like, oh, gosh.  The way sleep deprivation affects some of the families that you’re working with — it kind of created some interesting thoughts.  I’d love to hear some examples of how some families you’ve worked with and how sleep deprivation has affected that whole family, because I see that when I work with — I’m hired to help children sleep, but obviously, these parents aren’t sleeping, either.  That’s why they’re calling me.  And then sometimes even when I get the children sleeping, these parents are, like, I still can’t sleep.  It’s like if they’ve been two years without a good night’s sleep, they have to retrain themselves.  So even though I’m not an adult sleep coach, there’s still a lot of rules from children that apply to us as adults that I kind of have to remind them of and tell them to be patient with themselves, just like they had to be patient with their child to get them into this new rhythm.

Laine:  Yeah.  It is such a big issue, and I can speak from personal experience.  I have, hands down, the champion worst sleeper ever.  He is now a teenager, so for anybody out there who thinks that they could take me on, like, my kid on, when he was a baby, I challenge you to a duel, a sleep duel.  A sleep-off.  Whatever you want to call it.  My son — so I’ll just start by saying my son — he would go to sleep.  We did all the “right things” for sleeping, and when we would put him down at night, he would go through the night and wake up every 45 minutes.  And I was a nursing mom and I was not intending to cosleep, but because of his wake cycle, and nobody — nothing could get him back to sleep.  He had something called silent reflux.  It was really hard to diagnose.  It was really concerning.  We ended up cosleeping, and I — we had to out of absolute necessity.  So every 45 minutes — so literally, when I would put him down — and that’s in heavy quotes; “put him down” for the night, I would start weeping because I knew that there was just this huge thing ahead of me called “night” which was going to be really, really painful and difficult.  And you and I said we both know that, you know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture in prisons and there’s — I firsthand have been through it, and I work with people who have been through it.  So I just want to start off by saying, like, I feel anyone’s pain who’s walking around feeling like their body hurts, their eyes burn, they’re short-tempered; they’re not making clear decisions, and especially on top of it, we’re recording this podcast during this COVID lockdown time.  All of that stuff is just on, you know, steroids right now because we’re also stressed out about the uncertainty that surrounds us.  So my heart goes out to anybody who’s struggling with sleep right now, and it’s so widespread.  The impact of a parent being sleep deprived and maybe both parents being sleep deprived is just such a trickle-down effect.  And so, yeah, I can tell you a lot about clients who I’ve  had, but I just wanted to start off by saying that I have total empathy for somebody who is going through that.  It’s a really important issue.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You almost forget how bad it is, and then you have one night of bad sleep, and you remember.  Oh, my goodness; how did I do this for weeks, if not months?  And some of my clients, for years.  You know, for two years.  It’s devastating to relationships to where I –you know, they’ll say — or even six months.  Six months old; I had a long maternity leave.  I need to go back to work, but I haven’t slept in six months.  Or I went back to work after three months, and I have not been productive at work for the last three months.  It affects everything.

Laine:  Right, or people driving to work totally sleep deprived.  That’s dangerous.

Alyssa:  It’s worse than drunk driving.  I mean, statistically, I think there are more driving deaths related to sleep deprivation than drugs and alcohol combined.  Combined!

Laine:  Wow.

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Laine:  I didn’t know that.  So I say a lot, joking not joking, in my practice, if parents were able to get on top of sleep early on in their families that I’d be out of a job because a lot of what I see are behavioral issues that are stemming from a lack of sleep.  And you just think about how you feel when you are tired, when you’re cranky, when you — you know, when you feel that way as an adult, you’re able to sit down.  You’re really able to say, I’m feeling really — at best, you’re able to say, I’m feeling really cranky.  I’m just really tired.  You’re able to maybe take a nap somehow, magically.  You’re able to have a cup of coffee.  When we think about our kids — or, you know, maybe people have a glass of wine to take the edge off.  There’s no taking the edge off for the kids.  They don’t have that.  Maybe it’s nursing.  I guess that would be the closest thing.  But there’s no edge — they’re just edgy all the time.  And so in a family system, what I see is that when kids are not rested and parents are not rested, we’re not dealing with the actual people.  We’re dealing with the tired versions of those people.  And so one of my very first questions when I speak to people about their parenting is, how is your sleep.

Alyssa:  That’s great.

Laine:  It’s that essential.  And because I shared a few minutes ago about my own son and my own sleep struggles: we defied the parenting books at the time to schedule our day or create a schedule around feeding.  I was, like, forget feeding.  Who’s going to eat when they’re tired and cranky?  Like, does eating feel good when you’re tired?  That’s not a solution.  The solution is sleep.  And so we quickly learned — and I don’t know if this is what you teach, but you’re so flexible.  You teach a lot of different things to people.  But had you been my sleep coach at the time, or sleep consultant, I would tell you that we were scheduling our day around our son’s wake-up time.  Like, that’s what we — we’re scheduling our day around his sleep needs.  His feeding seemed to be fine, but his sleep was just crazy off the charts.  And I think part of that is temperament.  I think a lot of it is.  And to this day, he doesn’t — well, to this day, he is a teenager, so he sleeps crazy amounts, but up until he started that whole sleep routine as a teen, he still needed less sleep than everybody.  He still needs less sleep than me.  And that’s where I see in families the real — when it’s upside down, when a parent has high sleep needs and a child has lower sleep needs, that’s a red zone for me as a parenting coach.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s really hard because in the podcast we previously recorded where you said there’s no one parenting style; there’s no practice style — but the same with sleep.  There’s no one — or there are some best practices, but there’s no best parenting style.  Same with there’s a lot of sleep methods, but there’s no one right sleep method for everybody.  So when I give someone a sleep plan which says, you know, based on your child’s age, this is what a child typically — what a nap schedule typically looks like or a feeding schedule typically looks like.  Most parents want to go by the — just down — and I have to remind them, we’re not watching the clock.  We’re watching your baby.  Your baby’s cues tell us, how long is their wake cycle?  Can they stay awake for an hour and a half before they get tired, or can they stay awake for two and a half hours before they get tired?  That will determine feeding and sleep schedules, not this list, not the clock.  So they just want me to hand them this guide that miraculously works, and it’s just not that easy.  We really have to watch Baby’s cues to understand what your baby needs, because if a typical baby needs 15 hours and yours only needs 14 hours, what does that mean?  Let’s try some things.  What is this going to look like?  A later bedtime?  An earlier wakeup?  A shorter nap?  Troubleshooting together is why I think finding a good sleep coach is the only way to be successful because you can’t just read a book because then you are looking at this sleep guide in a book saying, okay, oh, my gosh, it’s 2:03.  I’m three minutes late.  You should have been down for a nap.  But your baby’s not tired.  So then what?  Who answers that for you?

Laine:  Yep, and to have somebody help you watch that, because just like with parenting advice, you know, the old adage is that — the old whatever you want to call common wisdom or whatever that you might get from your own parents often doesn’t apply.  Sometimes they do.  Like, if you’re lucky, you know, like a baby will sleep when they’re tired.  Well, not if you have a baby who’s really high-strung, temperamentally speaking, or who’s overtired.  Their form of being really tired is wired, which is the case in my kids.  Right?  He didn’t get that dreamy, dazed-off look when he was tired.

Alyssa:  He didn’t give you the sleep cues of yawning and rubbing his eyes?  Mommy, I’m tired.

Laine:  There was no book that fit my child, and so to your point, I had to learn to read him and I had to stop reading the books.  And I didn’t do it perfectly.  You know, I still don’t do it perfectly, but just even that shift in my mindset of, like, oh, I need to read my child, not the books.  It’s the same thing that I say to parents about parenting, which is, learn to read your child and take in the information but, you know, information overload is overwhelming and we’re just being inundated with it now, and it’s conflicting information.  It’s like, you know, I’m a sports coach by training.  Then I apply all of that to parenting.  If there are too many voices in your huddle, right, the team gets off track and doesn’t know what they’re doing.  You need to have one clear voice in the huddle and for each parent, it’s going to be them.  Their family is their huddle, and the more clear that the leader can be, right, the captain — you’re the captain of your team — the better everybody is going to respond to that, or at least you’re going to know whether it’s working or not.  So what I find is happening with parents is they get in their, you know, best-meaning selves, they want to be informed.  They’re getting, like, flooded by information and they don’t know how to parse that out and to make it work for their child.  So is that something that you — how do you talk to parents about that?  Like, how would you help — that’s what I hear a lot from parents is, like, I don’t know what to do.  How do you handle that?

Alyssa:  A lot of the times, parents will come to me and say, we’ve tried it all.  We’ve done all of the methods.  All of them, even ones that I don’t agree with, right, like just crying for two hours.  But they’re so desperate.  They’re, like, this is what my pediatrician told me or this is what the book says.  I’m just going to try it.  Well, there’s so many methods, but they can be done incorrectly, and maybe that method’s not the right one for your child.  So if they’ve come to me and said, I’ve tried Method X but then I read through their intake form and I’m like, well, no wonder that didn’t work.  Here’s what we’re going to try.  Or we get into something and they’re like, hmm, but my sister has a baby who sleeps really good, and this is what they did, and you’re not telling me to do that.  I’m like, well, that’s their baby.  So you do.  You have to tell them — like, I love the coach analogy.  I am your coach.  We’re a team.  We’re doing this together.  I’m not coming in and just telling you what to do.  I’m doing this based on your family’s needs.  And then I educate you so that you can go and do it yourself because I’m not with you everyday for the next several months or years.  So I educate them so they have the tools moving forward to do exactly what they need to do.  And I also love the coaching analogy, the sports analogy, because for older children, I explain to them sometimes that it’s even with the emotional aspect.  You know, we talked in the last podcast about how we can’t just make our kids happy all the time.  Experiencing a wide range of emotions is normal, and we need to help them learn how to cope with those.  This comes into play a lot with sleep because you hear your child cry when they’re tired, and it’s this automatic — we just feel this distress.  But sometimes those same cries during the day — you take a toy away or you have an overly tired child who just wants to cry about everything — you can ignore them during the day a lot easier than you can at night.  But we need to help them cope with these emotions.  So it’s — what do I say to them?  You’re not in this to play the game for them.  You have to help teach them how to play the game themselves.  Right?  Like, we can’t hop in and do it for them all the time.  With sleep, we’re coaching them.  That’s my basic — I forget where I was going with that, but…

Laine:  You were talking about how coaching as an analogy was working for — yeah, for helping them learn how to do it and being — I think you said it; like, not doing it for them but coaching them to do it, and that the older they get, I think you were talking about, that maybe that was a piece of it, too.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, a baby needs a lot more help and it takes a lot longer.  When you have a two-year-old, it’s a lot different than a six- or nine-month old.

Laine:  Right.

Alyssa:  You know, they’re talking, walking, moving.  They’re a little bit more — they’re smart.  They can be tricky.  They know how to get you to stay in that room a little bit longer.  There’s no thirstier child than one you’re trying to get to bed.  Mommy, I’m thirsty.  Mommy, I’m hungry.  Mommy, I need this.

Laine:  Yeah, so does that — does your advice for parents change depending on all the things?  You know, the child and the parent, whatever — because that’s a classic one that comes up for people.  Like, my child has all the excuses and can crawl out of their crib and can crawl out of their bed or whatever.  Do you have some wisdom to share with people who are really —

Alyssa:  Bedtime routines.  Bedtime routines are so important.

Laine: For the kids who don’t — for the parents who are like, we have a bedtime routine, and it involves bath time and books and me putting my child in bed, and then my child’s coming out of bed, like, a zillion times before they stay in bed.  That’s the bedtime routine, and they’re sick of it and they don’t have any recourse.  And I’ll tell you something, Alyssa: some of my clients have gotten some of the worse advice from pediatricians, including people to, like, lock their child in their rooms.  That’s come straight out of the mouth of a pediatrician, and just, like — I want parents to know that if advice that you’re getting from a source doesn’t feel good, then it’s not good.  It has to feel good to be good, and it should be something that is aligned with your values, something that’s aligned with your personality and also that will work for your child’s temperament because it just breaks my heart to hear people on the phone, and I hear it all the time, people crying; well, I did this and it felt terrible, but my pediatrician told me to do it, so I — you know, thinking that they were doing the right thing.

Alyssa:  So when they work with me, I have them fill out an intake form for that reason.  I want to know, what is your parenting style?  What’s your child’s temperament?  What have you tried in the past?  What’s worked; what hasn’t worked?  And what is your end goal?  So I will make a plan based on that.  Not what I think you and your child need to be doing, but what is your goal as parents?  Maybe you have a one-year-old still breastfeeding exclusively, and you just to cut that down.  You don’t want to eliminate all night feeds.  Twelve months probably could sleep all night without a feed, but if you’re okay; you just want to have two feeds instead of five — okay.  Let’s work our way back.  Let’s eliminate a few of them and see how it goes.  And typically, you know, at that age, we would probably end up eliminating all of them, but then it’s also the opposite.  I might have a four-month-old client whose parents are, like, I need my baby to sleep all night.  Well, okay.  At four months, your baby probably still needs to eat at night, so let’s talk about what a realistic overnight looks like for this age.  So sometimes the expectations aren’t quite — you know, they might be a little bit unrealistic.

Laine:  Right.  Same thing with parenting.  We want our five-year-old, three-year-old, to set the table and then go up to bed by themselves.  And I’m like, yeah, no.  That’s not — that’s not a thing.  Or it could be, but it’s very rare.  So maybe you get this question a lot or this issue a lot that comes up; maybe this is a good place to overlap a little bit.  I hear from parents a lot that they have some shame, like, a lot of shame that they don’t know how to parent, that they should know how to parent.  Some people are more forthcoming and say, you know, well, I was raised by parents who I’m not looking to emulate.  I want to be parenting differently than how my own parents parented me, and I don’t know how.  There’s not so much shame there, but when people are, like, trying to do it differently and they can’t; they think that they should know how to do it naturally, and it’s not coming out the way — it’s like when you have a picture in your head and you start drawing, and it’s, like, nope, that’s not what’s in my head.  Not at all.  Right?  I get that a lot.  I hear that a lot from parents who are really struggling with this internal sense of, I should be able to do this.  Do you get that with people who are — especially around sleep and in this culture of, well, just let them cry it out, or they’ll sleep when they’re tired.  Do you find that parents struggle with that?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s kind of like breastfeeding, right?  We think it’s going to be this natural thing, and then when we really struggle with it, we think that there’s something wrong with us when nobody tells us as new moms that breastfeeding is really hard.  Same with sleep.  It’s just something that our bodies want to do naturally, and people tell you that newborns sleep all the time.  Well, they do for a little while, and then they don’t.  So when it hits the fan and you don’t know what to do, they start reading books.  It’s this downward spiral of, well, I read this book and it didn’t work, so I gave up and now, like you, you just end up cosleeping if you don’t want to, and I have clients who have been cosleeping for three years, and the parents haven’t slept in the same bed for three years.  Some families, that works.  They do that by choice and it’s fine, but the ones who are calling me, it’s not because they love this situation.  They’ve gotten there by desperation, and somebody’s not happy.  So every family is so different, and I always warn people: if any sleep consultant comes in and says they have a plan and just one plan, or if it includes cry it out, you just say, thanks but no thanks.  There is no one plan.  If there was one way to do this, I could write a book and tell everyone what to do and be done.  Right?  And same with you.  Every family is so different.

Laine:  Well, what I see is that when people are willing to take a plan, kind of no matter what, it means that they’re actually going to start — they’re going to start walking down a path of, I’m going to do whatever works to get the behavior I want, no matter what.  And that’s a path, from a parenting perspective, that’s a path of very authoritarian, very old-school parenting style.  Right?  Where it’s going to be harder if you’re not really showing flexibility; you’re not going into it with empathy.  It’s going to be harder to develop those skills and that mindset toward your child and toward your parenting style as your child gets older.  Right?  So something that I think gets lost when parents are willing to pick up a solution — and I get why they do.  Right?  Like, I get why they pick up the, “I’m just going to let them cry and figure it out,” because they are at their wit’s end, and it’s overwhelming to think about it being a process.  They want it to just be a simple solution.  I get the temptation there.  However, my cautionary tale to parents is, if that’s the way that you approach sleep, it’s likely going to inform how you’re approaching parenting in general, and that is — I rely on the science for this and I don’t come to this with judgment.  The science absolutely tells us, and the research tells us again and again, that when you’re parenting with an authoritarian style of parenting of, we’re going to do this no matter what, and you’re lacking empathy in that, you’re going to get certain outcomes for your kids in the long term, and they’re never the outcomes that parents want.  You know?  Like, if I were to ask you, what are the outcomes you want for your daughter?  What are your outcomes that you want for your daughter when she’s — push it out 20 years.  She’ll be 27?  What kind of woman do you want her to be?

Alyssa:  I want her to be kind and successful and learning from me, right?  Maybe running her own business.  Yeah.  I want great things for her.  Right.  Right.

Laine: Independent, right?  You want her to be emotionally healthy?

Alyssa:  Right.

Laine:  Attract emotionally healthy partners?

Alyssa:  Right.

Laine:  Right?  All that stuff; resilient, gritty.  Right?  All that stuff; self-assured.  All that stuff are the outcomes that we know — we know that a certain type of parenting, a certain parenting path, gets.  There’s not one right way to walk the path, but there is as path, and that’s what I call best parenting practices.  Right?  We know.  The research is telling us again and again, and if you’re not walking that path, you are walking another path, which is to get insecure kids who are, you know, not as successful as they could be in the three big categories, which is work, school, and relationships.  That’s just research.  So I feel so passionate about having people start as early as possible making parenting choices that feel right to them to get the outcomes that they want.  Never had somebody raise a hand in my course or my class or workshops that I run saying, I want my child to be insecure.  I want my child to attract dysfunctional partners.  Never, right?  I would love to talk to that person.  I think; maybe I wouldn’t want to talk to that person.  But we don’t want that.  That’s not our natural instinct, and it’s so — I like to think of the really early years of being a parent as training for the parents of how you want to be a parent.  And then it sort of morphs into, how are we training our kids?  How are we guiding and shaping them?  But the early decisions, how we respond to them as infants, how we respond to them when they’re really little, when they’re preverbal, especially — that’s training ground for us.  It’s essential training ground for parents for how we’re going to be.  How are we going to listen?  Are we going to ignore?  Are we going to jump every single time?  What is the sweet spot?  What is the sweet spot for each particular parent?  There is a sweet spot.

Alyssa:  We talk a lot about that, and I like the term “sweet spot” because there are some parents who are fine ignoring, and then there are some who are jumping every time.  And when you really talk about listening — they’re like, well, my baby’s just crying.  What do you mean, listen?  I’m, like, crying is communication.  And they are — they can’t verbalize it, but there are different cries.  Especially as a baby develops, those cries actually do sound different, and even before they sound different, take a look at what happened when your baby started crying.  Was there something that you can actually take note of?  A loud noise; maybe a dog barked and it disrupted something, or the sun moved just enough, and it’s shining right in their eyes.  Taking note of what maybe happened to cause the crying instead of saying, oh, my baby must need food, or my baby needs to be held.  Because some babies, as much as we want to hold them all the time, are a little bit — they just don’t need it.  They need their own space a little bit more.  And those are the ones who will cry.  You know, grandma comes over and gets in their face and wants to pick them up right away, and then grandma feels bad, and I’m like, no.  I call them space invaders.  You just invaded the baby’s space.  Move in a little bit slower.  Give them time to adjust.  My daughter was like that.  She needs to assess everything that’s going on in that room before she decides where she wants to go and what she wants to do.  If someone comes at her, game over.  Babies are the same way.  They have little personalities.  I mean, it takes a while to figure them out, but —

Laine:  But in those early stages, they’re little mammals, and they’re responding from that part of their brain and their being that’s the most developed, which is that limbic part of them, which is able to convey — like, my dog right now is conveying a message, right?  She’s not using words, but I know what she wants.  She’s sitting by the door.  She’s having that little howl-cry, plaintive cry.  I know she wants to go out.  I also know that she’s already been out.  She doesn’t need to go out, and when she does go out, she’s been super destructive lately.  And it’s going to get louder, and she’s going to get upset.  And if she were to — to be clear, because I never want to be at all misquoted or confused as saying kids are or should be treated the way that animals are treated — if she were a child, I do not believe in ignoring kids.  I would be going over there.  I would be getting down on her eye level, and I would say, oh, I know that you want to go outside and you’re so upset, and I see you’re so frustrated.  And while leading her away, because if she’s not — while setting a boundary.  We’re still not going outside.  Let’s do something else.  So it’s not just bait and switch, which I know that there’s a lot of parenting programs out there that are all about just redirecting a child’s behavior.  But we’re not looking at just behavioral creatures.  We’re looking at emotional, one day fully formed, human beings.  Right?  So the behavior is one piece of it, and to your point a moment ago about what parents are doing, it’s not just the what; it’s also the how.  Like, how are you walking into your child’s room?  Are you flinging the door open while they’re crying and being, like, oh, my gosh — because your babies are going to pick up on that energy, too.  Right?  So being responsible for our own energy before we engage with our kids, whether they’re crying or frustrated or being pissy or whatever it is, being responsible for our own energy is an essential piece to how they’re going to then react to us.  How we respond to them informs how they react to us.  It is a cycle, for sure.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We talk about that.  And, you know, they can pick up on our anxiety, especially around sleep.  Like you said, you can go this whole day; you can drink your cup of coffee, have a glass of wine at night, but then all of a sudden you knew: it’s night.  And you just feel this anxiety around sleep that you almost can’t help, but then your child senses that, which makes going to sleep even harder.  But then you’re also sleep deprived, so of course you’re more anxious because you’re sleep deprived, and it’s just this vicious cycle.  Probably 30 percent, maybe up to 50 percent of the parents I work with probably have some form of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, because I’m working with a lot of new moms.  And that just escalates.  That’s another vicious cycle.  If you have it, sleep deprivation makes it worse.  But even if you don’t have it diagnosed, maybe you have sleep deprivation, which is causing depression-like symptoms without being actually depressed.  It’s just really hard.

Laine:  But it doesn’t matter.  If the symptoms are the same, it doesn’t matter what it is.  You have to treat the symptoms, right?  I was talking to a sports psychologist the other day, because I’m always curious about how sports training and sports psychology overlaps with parenting.  It’s just this intersection that I find really fascinating, and it’s where I lean in with parenting.  Let’s treat it like sports training, in the sense that you’ve got to be prepared for it.  You’ve got to do some real training for it.  There’s a pre-game.  There’s a game time situation.  There’s a post-game.  You know, it makes sense to me because I grew up around athletics.  But — oh, what were you just saying about —

Alyssa:  Oh, depression and anxiety.

Laine:  Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Thank you.  So this sports psychologist, who also now works with women who are postpartum and have postpartum depression and/or anxiety, she was, like, oh, sleep deprivation — it’s not only, like, tied to it; it can be the cause of it.  You know, back to this thing about sleep deprivation being a form of torture: it can absolutely trigger anxiety and depression.  And I just was, like — I mean, I knew that, so when she said it, it wasn’t earth-shattering news to me, because I’d seen it — but to hear her say that with such, like, authority — I was just, like, wow, yeah.  That’s a real thing.

Alyssa: The hormone shift that’s happening anyway after you have a baby — like, it’s the largest hormone drop of any mammal, I think, when you have a baby.  And then add sleep deprivation on top of that, which as a human species, we can handle a little bit of it.  Our bodies are made to handle a little bit of that after having a baby, but not months.  We just can’t handle it.

Laine:  And certainly not years.  So what would you say to somebody — like, what would be advice that you would have for somebody who is struggling with sleep during this particular moment in time; the COVID situation; the unique time that we’re all going through around sleep, because, you know, people wonder, you know — they worry.  They worry and they wonder, and I remember that feeling of, like, I know sleep is the most important thing.  My baby’s brain is growing, and I have all this information about it, and I was definitely one of the more anxious people around sleep.  I was like the sleep police.  And I was also facing people who were saying, oh, it’s no big deal.  It’s no big deal.  So I felt like I was fighting the other side of it, which made me more vigilant.  So it was hard to find that balance for myself.  But I’m wondering, like, what would you tell somebody who is feeling like, I know sleep is super important, and I’m in this, like, bizarre situation at home where I’m working from home and there’s, like — there are noises around.  There’s not quiet.  It’s not ideal.  So I’m struggling with sleep, and we’re in this bizarre time.  Like, can you put anybody’s mind at ease?  Like, beyond saying, like, well, your child’s not going to die.  You know, they’ll survive.  For people I work with, that bar is too low.  You know?  They want to be raising thriving, really healthy — like, optimizing their child’s childhood experience.  Right?  So do you have any just blanket wisdom or anything that could help them have their minds put a little bit at ease?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, you said it.  Sleep is so important, and I think especially right now with a worldwide pandemic with this virus, proper sleep helps build our immune systems, so let’s try to get proper sleep.  And even though we’re working from home — you know, like we said in the last podcast, let’s change your perspective.  Instead of saying, maybe my kid won’t sleep enough because I’m here and I’m working and there’s all these noises.  Let’s shift that and say, well, I’m home.  I have a lot more opportunity.  I don’t have anywhere I have to be at a certain time.  Let’s focus on sleep.  Instead of letting my kid say, oh, you don’t have a schedule and you can stay up until 10:00 now, let’s continue a pretty consistent bedtime routine, especially for kids — you know, you have teenagers; different story.  For babies and toddlers — even my daughter; she’s 7.  We walk back there at 7:30 at night.  We brush teeth, put PJs on, we read a book, and I walk out at 8:00.  So a 30-minute routine is pretty good.  It gives you plenty of time to do kisses and cuddles and, you know, that’s plenty.  But it’s so important because someday school will start again and work will start again, and it’s going be really, really hard on these parents who have to get back into a rhythm.  So if you’ve gotten out of that rhythm, maybe you can slowly work your way back to getting them.  And it’s hard.  Like, here it’s summertime, which means at 8:00 when I leave her room, it’s still light out.  But she’s still tired, so I just make it as dark as possible.  But try to keep a consistent routine, and that’s a wake up time and a bedtime.  And then if you have a younger kid who’s still napping, sound machines; make it dark in that room; crank the sound machine, and do what you can to keep the house as quiet as possible.  And then you had mentioned some of your clients have kids who are crawling out of cribs.  If you can wait until a kid is 3 to take them out of the crib, that’s better, because developmentally, they’re — before 3, they don’t really understand that this is a bed and I shouldn’t crawl out of it, and then you’re kind of having to shut the door and lock them in the room, which nobody wants to do.  You’re essentially making — I tell parents who have to do that, consider the room now a crib.  So you have to look at everything in that room and make sure nothing can fall on them; they can’t — there’s no — nothing that can hurt them, and you’re essentially turning the room into a crib.  But before 3, it’s really hard.  But there are some tricks.  If you have a 2-year-old who’s crawling out of a crib and you’re afraid they’re going to hurt themselves, and if they wear a sleep sack and they can unzip it and crawl out of it, flip it around so that the zipper is in back.  Maybe they can’t reach that zipper.  If they’re really smart and can get at that zipper, put it on backwards and then put a little T-shirt over it.  They would have to really work.  They have to pull the T-shirt off.  Just try to make it as hard, but it’s hard to climb out of a crib with a sleep sack over your feet.  I have had some Houdini babies who even that doesn’t work, but for most, even just having the zipper in back, they — even if they can touch it with their hand, they can’t get it all the way down.  So that’s one trick.

Laine:  Houdini babies.  That’s hilarious.

Alyssa:  But make sleep a priority.  Instead of saying, oh, I can’t — I just can’t — there’s no way I can get on a sleep schedule or get my kids back on a schedule.  If you make sleep a priority and have some sort of routine — we need routines as adults, and kids especially need some sort of normalcy and routine.

Laine:  Does it have to be to the minute?  Bedtime is 7:30?

Alyssa:  No.

Laine:  What’s your take on that?

Alyssa:  No.  Give yourself some flexibility, especially for younger babies.  Thirty minutes on either side.  So let’s say a working parent; they need to be up — they need their baby up at 7:00 in the morning because they have to get baby fed and out the door.  Now, on the weekends, let them sleep in until 7:30.  If you go past that, you’re really messing with the natural rhythm of the baby’s sleep cycle that we’ve worked so hard to put in place, that they can sleep, you know, 7:00 to 7:00.  You don’t want them to some days be able to sleep until 9:00 or stay up until 9:00.  Even as adults, every hour of sleep that we lose, it takes us about a day to recoup.  So time differences; if I fly to Seattle and visit my friend, three hours different, it takes me about three days to adjust.  And I can deal pretty well with that, but for a baby, it’s really hard; really hard to deal with.

Laine:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  And parents get really nervous about traveling with babies, and how do I do this?  And, again, this comes back to being aligned with what your values are.  It’s okay to not travel with a baby.  Even though you see people on planes with babies all the time, it doesn’t have to be you.  Just getting really clear about where you stand and what’s important to you and why you’re doing what you’re doing.  What’s your why?  Is it because you feel guilty or is it because you feel jealous, or is it because you feel like you really, really need to go visit your mom?  Those are all really different answers to the same question.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I get asked a lot about travel.  People want to travel with their kids a lot, and sometimes it’s just not conducive to have a three-hour time difference with a baby because you’ll probably have to go to bed really early or get them in bed really early, and that means you can’t go anywhere, unless you have the resources to hire a nanny or you’re visiting parents and they’ll stay.  You know, you can put them to bed at home while you leave.  You know, my client right now, they like to go camping.  Before we part ways, how do we camping with this baby?  And we talk through that.  What does that look like?  Go hiking after the nap; come back at lunch; put the baby down again.

Laine:  Again, I think kids are so different.  They come just so different.  You don’t get to — it’s like getting a dog, right?  If you want to, you can thumb through a book and find your ideal breed, and you can pick the type of dog that’s going to have, likely, like, 99 percent sure, you’re going to have the kind of behavior that you want from that dog, right?  If you go to the pound and you’re going to get some sort of mix so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, then you have to work with what you have.  And that’s what parenting is.  Parenting is, you work with what you have, and you don’t get to pick.  And so I really — one of my favorite things to caution parents against is comparing other people’s outsides to their insides.  Right?  Like, what is your reality versus what you’re seeing somebody else in that moment having?  If you’re somebody who wants to go camping with your baby, if you have the type of baby that can hack that, there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about taking a baby camping, unless you’re going to artic.  You know, perhaps that is not a good idea, right?  But if you’ve got an “easy” baby and sleep is not an issue, or you’re happy snuggling together, great.  That’s awesome.  But if you don’t have an easy baby or sleep has been a huge issue in your house, then you’re not the family who’s going to — if you want to have the shit show afterward, you know, and you’re willing to go and take that risk and then it’s a calculated risk — it’s just not fair to then be upset with the baby or be upset with your child for being cranky afterward.  You just to be informed, know what you’re doing, know what you’re getting yourself into when you take those risks.  And I think it’s one of the most empowering things that parents can do, to be really clear about what they are and what they’re not willing to tolerate.  Just like in life, right?  What are you willing to tolerate, and what is your happiness equation?  What are the elements of your happiness equation?  It’s really important for people to know that and to get right with themselves so that they can live their best family life.  And it’s not going to be a blueprint from somebody else’s family.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Realistic expectations, again.  You know, it’s just maybe sometimes telling them, sorry; I have to let you know that your baby’s not going to — based on working together, this activity you want to do won’t suit your baby — but now.  Maybe later.  Don’t give up on this dream to go camping.  It might just have to wait a couple of years until your child is down to one nap a day instead of three.  And again, like you said, you talked about being fluid instead of, like, having this solid — it needs to ebb and flow.  Be flexible.  Realize that your baby is a human who has separate needs from you, and just because you want to do this, your baby might not want to.

Laine:  Part of the deal of becoming a parent.  There’s sacrifices, you know?  And it’s funny; like, I think that we talk about that a lot, right?  Like, there’s a lot of sacrifices in parenting, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in marriage, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in whatever.  But when it really comes down to it, when that happens, when you’re confronted with the sacrifice, it’s a very hard thing.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  And I just — maybe a good sort of point for us here is to talk about or to ask the question of, like, what is it that is important, you know, and where are you willing to sacrifice?  What is the sacrifice that you face when you’re a parent, and what are you — how do you respond to that?  How do you respond to the fact that you’re being asked to sacrifice stuff?  You know, it’s a tough one.  I don’t think people have a high tolerance for that, especially in this day and age.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We want things to go our way all the time.

Laine:  All the time.  All the time.  Well, it was definitely a good conversation.

Alyssa:  Yeah!  We covered a lot!  Well, why don’t you tell people again where they can find you if they have questions about the parenting end, before we sign off?

Laine:  Sure.  I have my website.  You can also find me on Facebook, and I have a very slim social presence right now because most of the stuff I’ve been doing in my life and my career has been live and in person, but I’m slowly building a social presence.  So definitely go to my website.  And feel free to check out my online course.  It doesn’t talk directly about sleep, but it does talk about discipline and the issues that follow, you know, if you’re having trouble with getting kids to cooperate and you’re facing a lot of meltdowns.  It will definitely, definitely help you.  And some of that is probably because they’re underslept, but it will help you anyway.

Alyssa:  But the two go hand in hand.  You know, a lot of times, to help them get to sleep better, they need a little bit of discipline, and then once that — you know, with consistency and the right discipline for that family, the child will understand, this is the new routine.  I can sleep better, and then you no longer need to discipline because then it just becomes part of their routine.

Laine:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So, yeah, the course will be — the free class will definitely be of help, and then people can also book a free call with me.  And those are the main ways to find me.  And I want my listeners to listen in to what you’re about to say, too, because I want them to be able to find you.

Alyssa:  Yes, you can find us at our website.  We’re on Instagram and Facebook, and this podcast is called Ask the Doulas.

Laine:  So good.  Thank you so much for having this conversation today!

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining me!

Laine:  My pleasure.  We’ll do it 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 !

 

Deb Timmerman Stress Mastery

Stress Mastery: Podcast Episode #85

Deb Timmerman, RN, DAIS, CSME speaks with us today about her new certification in Stress Mastery.  What does that mean, you ask?  It’s all about learning positive ways to handle stress and actually master it, instead of letting stress take over.  Listen to see how this can help parents throughout pregnancy and postpartum.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on Itunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, and I’m so excited to be talking to Deb Timmerman today.  I haven’t seen you in so long!

Deb: Hi, Alyssa, it’s great to see you, too!

Alyssa:  For a little while, we had you teaching a prenatal stress class here, and then life    and business just got kind of in the way, and we haven’t scheduled any more, but I loved that class.  You have so much good information about stress and how stress affects the body, but now you have some new certifications where you’re actually talking about how our bodies need stress to a certain extent; is that correct?

Deb:  I am.  So I think maybe the first place to start is, why the prenatal stress education?  I’m a member of the Michigan ACEs Initiative Education team, and that’s not a formal name, but a couple years ago, Michigan got some grant money to bring the ACEs study — ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences study — and the consultants who were involved in that study, they actually set up a agreement for them in Michigan to use the ACEs science to see how we could change the way we’re delivering healthcare in Michigan.  So the ACEs study is all about things that happen in childhood, like dysfunctional household, abuse, neglect, and you basically get a score for the ten questions that are on this little survey, and what they found was that the higher your score, so if these things happened to you from 0 to 18, the more likely you are to have emotional, physical, mental health issues as you age, and it even cuts time off your lifespan.  As they began to do further studies after that, they found out that some how we deal with stress actually affects our genes and is passed on when you have a baby.  That’s a long answer to that, but I think it’s really important because it’s where kids get their start, and if you don’t know about that, you can unknowingly pass on certain things to your kids.

Alyssa:  You are in this high-stress environment while pregnant.  It’s affecting your baby?

Deb:  Yes, it is.

Alyssa:  And I remember the movie.  It was called Resilience?

Deb:  It’s called Resilience, the science of stress, biology of hope. Or maybe that’s backwards; biology of stress; science of hope.  Anyway, you can find it, Resilience, and there’s a trailer out.  Yes, really interesting movie.

Alyssa:  It is.  Tell me about your new certifications and this new idea about stress.

Deb:  Okay.  I was an ACEs kid.  Out of ten, my score was six, and when I learned about that particular piece of data in my life, it clarified everything for me.

Alyssa:  And six is high?

Deb:  Six is high, yes.  Anything over four, it really increases your chances and your risk level.  So I had a lot of health issues when I was in my 40s.  I fell down a flight of stairs on my summer vacation, had a bad injury from that.  But also was extremely heavy.  I weighed 321 pounds, and I was on diabetes medication and high blood pressure pills, and I had a really high-stress job.  And my family life was nuts.  So I happened to go to a conference, a nursing conference, and heard about this, and it was like I had discovered something really critical.  It was like the missing puzzle piece for me to figure out why I reacted or had the habits that I had, and as I started to travel down that road, I became really interested in sharing that information with people because I think it’s key.  We spend a lot of money on the back side of health, taking care of chronic illness.  My thought was, wow.  This made a huge difference for me.  What if I could share that information with folks?

Alyssa:  And it’s probably worth noting that you are an RN?

Deb:  I am an RN.

Alyssa:  And that’s what you were doing in your previous life?

Deb:  I did, and I didn’t know about that particular study at that time, and I wasn’t — I mean, they cover the stress response in nursing school, but not to the point with all the brain science and all of that.  So in the last 20 years, they’ve made huge discoveries, and it’s super interesting.

Alyssa:  When did you leave the nurse world?

Deb:  Four years ago, I left the nurse world and started my own practice, but I had trained as a healing touch practitioner.  In 2009, I started that, and I don’t remember when I finished, but I was never able to use that in a private practice, but I did in my buildings.  I was a nurse manager in both of my previous jobs, and I found that when you teach people those self-care skills, it really changes your culture, and it made us care about each other.  When we care about each other, we do better with our patients and the folks that we’re charged with caring for.

Alyssa:  So you taught the other nurses or the patients?

Deb:  Eventually, we did teach nurses healing touch at the hospice, which was my last job, but there are all kinds of other really cool interventions that you can do to build capacity for stress management, and those are the things that we worked on.  You mentioned the stress certification.  I’ve been a diplomate of the American Institute of Stress for a couple years, and you get that designation based on the amount of training that you’ve had regarding stress and how you’ve used that to help other people, and at the end of last year, this little thing came in my email box, that they were doing a beta for this stress mastery educator certification, and I got invited to submit an application.  I was one of 40 people throughout the world that was chosen for beta one, and we worked with Heidi Hannah.  She’s a Ph.D. researcher and stress mastery educator and teaches at Harvard, and she has all these other amazing professors and Ph.Ds. who share this information, so I was super interested and hoped I would get selected just because I thought it would be really neat to learn from these people.  And it has been beyond my wildest expectations.

Alyssa:  What is stress mastery?

Deb:  We talk about stress management like we have to manage stress, but we actually need some stress in our life to help us grow, learn, and adapt.  And when we master something, it means that we learn to dance with it in a positive way, and we use it to fuel positive change versus working on controlling what’s going on in our life.  So I actually now help people build their capacity versus teaching them how to manage it.

Alyssa:  Build my capacity to deal with stress instead of trying to reduce it or eliminate it?

Deb:  Yeah.  The way we do that is through evidence-based practices like the healing touch that I did.  That was one thing I had under my belt, but since then, I’ve become a Tai Chi Easy Practice leader.  That’s all about Qigong breathing and moving meditation.  I’ve also gotten a certification in mindfulness and meditation.  Breathing and some of those other key interventions that we can do on a daily basis throughout our day are really what helps stop that stress reaction and helps us build that capacity.

Alyssa:  What if somebody is like you before with a really stressful job and a stressful home life?  All these stressors: you don’t want people to try to eliminate some of that?  You just want them to learn effective ways to cope?

Deb:  Well, I don’t think that you really — coping means that we have to continue to deal with it, and yes, you do have to decide what you’re going to work on first, and there are certain areas of life that you’re going to have to make some decisions about and maybe pare down, or maybe that job is really horrible for your health and it’s time for you to move on.  So we do validated stress assessments to figure out what areas of your life and out of sync and where your stress issues come from so that you can make good decisions.  Oftentimes, when you’re in the midst of it, you just know that the world is falling down around you, and you don’t have any clarity about where that stress is coming from.

Alyssa:  So how do you differ from a therapist or a counselor?  Or do you also kind of work that in?

Deb:  I would say I work in tandem with a therapist or a counselor.  I’m not going to talk to you about all the things that happened to you in your childhood.  I don’t get into all of that.  We use the ACEs screen as a way to help you recognize how your stress patterns developed and then look at the different areas that are out of balance in your life, and then I’m going to teach you how to do a daily practice to help yourself not be so triggered.  Triggers and tamers, I would look at; what are you stress triggers; how can we work with that; what kind of language are you using with yourself.  That negative stuff breeds more negativity.  How can we switch that around to help you have a more positive outlook?  I do a lot with breathwork.  It is one of the easiest ways to get that stress reaction to moderate and to get you into that rest and digest state so that you can think clearly.  The way the brain is organized, the brain’s number one job, priority one, is safety.  It’s always scanning, looking at the environment, trying to figure out how to keep you safe.  The stress reaction is what keeps you safe.  It gives you that juice, that bolt, of adrenaline to get to safety.  But when you’re stuck in that feedback loop and that’s your whole life, you really can’t think and use the part of your brain for higher executive functioning because that feedback loop kind of gets in this little track.  Do you know those people in your life, where they’re kind of stuck in that?  Things are always falling down around them.  Some of the exercises for building capacity are to be able to get that to shut off so that your brain can actually rewire and build new circuitry for that.  That’s capacity-building.

Alyssa:  Do you think everyone in general could benefit from some sort of practice?

Deb:  Absolutely.

Alyssa:  It’s not just the high anxiety, panic mode — I mean, I think we all feel it at some point, right?  So even if you don’t have it on a daily basis, you’re noticing it — like you said, what are your triggers?  So how do you — we talked a little bit about prenatal.  What about a postpartum mom who has sleep deprivation working against her, as well, and then maybe new triggers that she didn’t even know existed before, who says I don’t have time to do Tai Chi with you.  Are you crazy?  I can’t do Tai Chi and meditate.  How would you help a mom who came to you and said, what can you do for me?

Deb:  I would tell a mom like that, what did you do to take care of yourself before, and what are you doing now?  Typically, when a new baby comes in or there’s a child, they take first priority, and oftentimes, moms are trying to work and take care of this, and the demands are huge.  So first we would walk through, what are you doing now?  What did you love?  What do you have time to do?  How can we structure something so that you give yourself some attention every day?  We’ve all heard that adage, you can’t give from an empty cup.  That’s super important.  Your child, from zero to three, learns from serve and return, and you need to have the energy to show up for your child every day so that that child learns to feel safe with you, cared for, and loved.  If you don’t have that ability for your child, then you’re going to be suffering with problems further on down because your child develops anxiety, sleep issues, all those things.

Alyssa:  And what do you mean, develops from serve and return?

Deb:  Babies mimic what we do to them, the cooing, the eye movement, hugs, kisses.  That’s serve and return.  When you’re munching on your baby and nuzzling, that actually builds their neural circuitry and helps them feel safe.  It’s a normal part of development.  We used to think that babies got all their neurons and they were never going to get another one after they were born, and what you had, if you didn’t use, you would lose.  There’s a little bit of truth to that.  What gets paid attention to develops, and what doesn’t eventually kind of gets pruned away.  There’s a process actually called pruning in the brain.  But we know that neural circuitry actually develops now from our experiences and the things that happen in our world around us, so you want to create that loving, safe environment for your baby, and if you come home stressed out and you have nothing else left to give, are you doing the right thing for that child?

Alyssa:  So zero to three is really, really important?

Deb:  Very important!

Alyssa:  Into my brain is popping this video I saw where a mom gives a sad face or a mad face and the baby mimics that.  There’s an actual study, and I’m forgetting the name of it.

Deb:  I don’t know that particular study, but the Center for Child Development at Harvard does a lot with that serve and return, and they actually have a campaign going right now.  I’ll post that link on my website, and you can look at that if you’re interested.  Lots of wonderful videos about how the brain develops and why that’s so important.  Back to the mom: trying to figure out what she can do within her day to recharge her batteries is super important.  Actually, I just met with a mom this morning.  I think her little guy is four, and then she’s got one that’s maybe two.  And she said that they just went through a period of stress where their family dog was sick, and they had some financial issues, and their older one started acting out.  My question to her was, and what was going on in your household?  She said it was chaos, and then she looked at me and goes, oh, crap, he saw that, didn’t he?  So yes, that is exactly what happens.  And their job is to build a relationship with you, so if you can’t be present, they’re going to act out because they’re trying to get their needs met.

Alyssa:  They notice everything.  My daughter is six, and nothing gets by her.

Deb:  I think I saw a picture with her meditating someplace when you were off, and I thought, wow, Alyssa, that’s awesome.  What a great skill to teach your child!

Alyssa:  Well, it’s amazing even in schools now; I think they know the importance of this.  They’re teaching yoga.  They’re teaching mindfulness.  They’re teaching meditation.  And even if it’s only once a week — I never had that as a kid.

Deb:  Well, and when it becomes part of what we do as our daily practice, it becomes easy.  It becomes habit.  So then it’s not like you have to spend all this time on self-care.  You have it integrated into your day.  That’s really my job; to teach you how to discover all these different practices that might speak to you because what you love isn’t necessarily going to be what someone else loves.  Figuring that out, and then how do you work that into your day, and how do you sustain that for long term?

Alyssa:  That’s the hard part, especially as a mother.  My days are never the same, so I would love to be able to say, from 9:00 to 10:00 AM every day, I’m going to do this.  Doesn’t happen.  I mean, on top of that, I’m a business owner, too, right, so the day just gets more hairy.  But having someone say, okay, well, let’s figure out something that can work for you.  If you can’t do it at 9:00 today, let’s do it at 8:00.

Deb:  The newest research that’s out there is that you should start your day with that practice before you even hop out of bed, and my favorite go-to is a guided meditation.  It’s the thing that always made me feel really good, and it’s the thing that I teach because I love it.  There’s lots of them on YouTube, and the cool thing about YouTube is you can pick the amount of time that you have.  Maybe today you have five minutes, and tomorrow you have ten, but building that and scheduling that into your week.  And then because there’s so many different ones, you could pick the rate of speech, the kind of voice.  Like, I have one that I love at night.  It’s an Aussie guy who does a sleep thing that’s maybe 26 minutes.  I’m never awake by the end of that.  I usually wake up the next day and it’s still frozen on my iPad.  It’s wonderful.

Alyssa:  For someone who has never experienced a guided meditation, you could choose some with or without talking?  Or do they all have talking?

Deb:  A guided meditation typically is something that helps cue you by voice to pay attention to your body in the here and now, and there’s all different kinds of scripts out there, but for someone who’s just beginning, I think a breathing thing, a couple minutes of breathing, is really good, and then after you get comfortable with that, you can explore.  We know that the brain needs 10 to 20 minutes of that prime-timing in the morning, but truly, any time you can do 30 seconds or more with focused attention on that effort, it’s still beneficial to your body.

Alyssa:  My Apple watch actually does that for me.  It will tell me when to breathe.

Deb:  Yeah, it has a breathing app.  Perfect.

Alyssa:  So that alone, if I do it — most of the time, I’m somewhere that I can’t do it and I just dismiss it.

Deb:  If I was working with you to coach, I would talk about what you already have in place, and we would work on building that.  How could you work that into your day, and really, even if you’re in a meeting, you could excuse yourself, go to the restroom or whatever, if you were that committed, or reset your watch or program it so that it works around your meetings.  Those are all things that you can integrate into your day.

Alyssa:  I love it.

Deb:  It’s easy.

Alyssa:  I mean, it is.  We just find excuses of why we can’t or shouldn’t.  I just feel like we’re always full of excuses.

Deb:  Well, I think that’s what I’ve appreciated being part of this stress mastery educator process.  Heidi is wonderful at being able to package things in a way that are easy and doable.  Three steps to getting your stress mastered: assess, appreciate, adjust.  Figure out where you’re out; appreciate what you can learn; and then those tools to adjust.  And then the BFF model, so yeah, being your own best friend, but it really stands for breathe, feel, and focus.  It’s really that simple.  We make it difficult because we think it’s this thing that has to take a lot of time.  What takes time is changing the habit, but once it gets integrated, then it’s easy.

Alyssa:  And then coming full circle here, working that in to your daily practice and having your children see that as part of your practice, right?

Deb:    Yes.

Alyssa:  Because then they are like, oh, this is just something we do.

Deb:  Yes.  Last week, I actually taught teachers how to look at their own stress, a group of 20, to look at what was happening, and they got to choose the track that they wanted to be in, so at the start of the two days that we were together, why are you here?  My mother in law is driving me crazy; I need to figure out how to get hold of my stressor.  At the end of my day, I have nothing left for my family.  Starting with the ACEs piece that we talked about and recognizing how they developed the way they look at stress.  What were the patterns?  What are their triggers?  It was really beneficial for them.  Many of them have ACE training otherwise in their classrooms, but they don’t know how to apply it to their own lives.  I mentioned that puzzle piece for me.  That was it.  Okay, now that I understand how I developed it, now I can shift because I can appreciate how I got where I am and make those adjustments.  It makes it a whole lot easier than someone saying, oh, I have to do these ten things today because I have to manage my stress.  At the end of the two days, it was so fun to go around in the circle and to hear them say what they learned about their own issue and what their one takeaway was going to be and how they were going to integrate it.  You can throw out everything you’ve done and say that you have to start with ten things, but the reality is, we don’t have time for that, and it needs to be graduated.  You start with one thing, two things, three things, and pretty soon, you start to feel the shift, and then you’re motivated to do the rest of the work.  So yes, they’ll go back and model that, hopefully, for their students.

Alyssa:  For their classroom, yeah.

Deb:  I taught some interventions, some Tai Chi interventions, moving meditation, breathwork, short meditations.  You don’t have to come up with all the stuff on your own.  There are tons of resources out there.  My job is to just share those resources with you and have you pick what you want.

Alyssa:  Tell us how people find you.  I know you have a website.

Deb: Yes, and you can follow me on Facebook.  Deb Timmerman is my name.  I’m on LinkedIn.  Same thing, Deb Timmerman, RN.  And then on my website.

Alyssa:  And people can find you there?

Deb:  They can find me there.

Alyssa:  Ask questions?

Deb:  Ask questions!

Alyssa:  And set up a consult?

Deb:  Yep, sure can!

Alyssa:  Is it just kind of like booking an appointment?  And what do appointments look like — 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 20 minutes?

Deb:  I typically offer an assessment or at least a meet and greet first to find out if we’re even compatible in working together.  That’s usually a 30- or 45-minute, either online; we can do a Zoom call, or we can meet in person if you’re local over coffee, and finding out what your goals are.  What is it you hope to learn?  Why did you call me?  What’s your reason?  What’s your motivation?  And then I would recommend, based on that appointment, what I thought was a good strategy for us and how long that might take and what that would cost, and then we would work together.

Alyssa:  Excellent.  Are you covered by insurance or not?

Deb:  We are not at this point covered by insurance, but I think that’s going to change because there is a big shift with all this ACEs movement, and they’re all getting on board.  Yeah, but in terms of investment, I think — my job isn’t to stick around forever.  It’s to give you those tools so that you can go on your own, and if you need a little check-up now and again, that’s easy to do.  We offer all kinds of online resources for people, and a podcast.  There are medications on there that you can do.

Alyssa:  What’s your podcast called?

Deb:  It’s called Mindful Moments.

Alyssa:  How fitting!

Deb:  Those podcasts, there’s always a little nugget of information.  Usually, they’re short, 7 to 8 minutes, but there’s a couple that are 20, like if you need a longer relaxation and have time.

Alyssa:  I will have to look it up myself!  Thanks for sharing!

 

Sleep Deprivation

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts New Parents

Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and scary milestones of a person’s life. It’s likely your emotions will run the gamut from excited anticipation and joy, to fear of the unknown and uncertainty about what’s ahead and how you’re coping with parenthood. Managing night time feeds, tending to your baby throughout the day, and trying to keep up with your other responsibilities as you acclimatize to parenthood can make sleep difficult. While this is somewhat expected, sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on the health of new mothers and their babies, so it is important to get as much rest as possible.

The importance of sleep for new parents
The diminished quality and quantity of sleep that new parents often experience can result in physical and mental fatigue and an increased risk of postpartum depression. Prolonged lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can also increase the risk of diabetes, weaken your immune system, reduce attention and focus, and impair hormone production, causing weight gain, loss of libido, and moodiness.

Because our bodies require sleep to function correctly – and a specific amount of sleep that allows us to cycle through the various sleep stages several times throughout the night – a dip in the standard or quantity of hours we accumulate asleep in bed can have a far-reaching impact on our health and quality of life. One recent study found an association between poor sleep quality and postpartum depression.

There are two main phases of sleep – NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement, when dreams occur). Throughout these stages, specific changes and functions are carried out in our bodies and brains. NREM phases are when most of the physically restorative processes of sleep are performed. Our muscles and cells are repaired, our immune system is boosted, and the deep sleep of stage three NREM is what’s needed to wake feeling refreshed in the morning.

REM sleep occurs around 90 minutes after we first fall asleep and NREM phases are complete. This is the dreaming phase and the time that our brains process the salient and emotional experiences from waking life. When our body doesn’t get the required amount of sleep, it is unable to consolidate all the emotional and experiential data we have collected while awake, neither is it able to complete the physically restorative processes we need to feel refreshed and energized. That’s why we feel fatigued, forget things easily, and may find it difficult to manage our emotions.

Tips for getting the right amount of sleep
While some disruption to your sleep is to be expected as you adjust to the new normal; the good news is that there are a range of tactics and strategies you can employ to still get the amount of sleep your body needs.

Create the right environment for sleep:
When you do head to bed, it is important that you are able to drift off to sleep as quickly as possible so you can maximize your sleep time. To create the right environment for good sleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark. Light affects our melatonin production and signals to our brain that it’s time to get up. Turn the baby monitor down too so their snuffles and murmurs don’t disturb you, but you’ll still wake if they cry out for comfort. If you do have trouble falling asleep, try a wind-down relaxation or mindfulness meditation that will help calm your mind and body.

Share the responsibility:
Taking care of a baby is a 24/7 job that requires constant activity and emotional resilience. No one should expect that they can do this on their own.

Negotiate a schedule with your partner that lets you share nighttime feeds, diaper changes, and those evenings when baby just doesn’t want to go to bed. It’s necessary to ensure you have the right support so the sleep and health of you, your partner, and baby don’t suffer.

Accept help:
Have you ever heard the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? This isn’t just about the direct interactions; it’s all the support functions that are needed to raise a happy healthy child too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the cooking, cleaning, endless laundry, groceries, or just holding your baby for a while so you can have a shower and dress! The everyday, mundane tasks that were so simple pre-baby can take monumental effort to complete once there’s a baby in the house. Most people know this and will be happy to lend a hand.

Embrace the nap:
Babies rarely sleep for more than four hours at a time. While this is a major contributing factor to those interrupted nights, the multiple two to three-hour naps your baby takes through the day provides ample opportunity for you to rest too – if you let yourself. Resist the urge to catch up on chores and instead take a half hour nap that will help manage your fatigue. Avoid sleeping longer than 45 minutes though as this will adversely impact your night’s sleep.

Christine Huegel is on the Editorial Team of Mattress Advisor, covering a variety of topics pertaining to sleep health in order to help people get their best night’s sleep.

Image via www.pexels.com.

 

Sleep Consultant

Megan’s Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #80

Megan Kretz, one of Alyssa’s sleep clients, tells us about her sleep training journey with her daughter at 9 months and again at 19 months.  She says that as a working mom, it meant spending a little less time with her daughter, but that it was all worth it because the quality of the time spent together improved drastically.  Everyone was happier and healthier!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and today I’m excited to be talking to Megan Kretz.  You were one of my past sleep clients, and then again recently.

Megan:  Yeah, thanks for having me on!

Alyssa:  Yes, we’re going to talk about sleep today.  So remind me of how this journey began and what was happening before you called me.

Megan:  So we reached out to you about when my daughter was nine months old with just all sorts of life problems as a result of my daughter’s sleep habits and our sleep habits, as well.  A lot of it was definitely a struggle because we almost created the environment, the problem, that we found ourselves in.

Alyssa:  Unknowingly.

Megan:  Yes, unknowingly.

Alyssa:  I mean, you don’t realize it when you’re doing it.  You’re in survival mode.

Megan:  Right.  Before the age of eight months, my daughter had had five ear infections, and so we were in and out of doctors’ offices, on and off antibiotics, and because of that, she was in a lot of pain.  She was seeking comfort because we could never get her comfortable.  So in doing so, we just ended up creating all these really bad sleep habits.  Falling asleep with us, on us, whatever we could do to allow mom and dad and baby to get some sort of rest.  Up probably eleven times at night breastfeeding, and then wouldn’t take naps during the day; was up all day except for two 45-minute naps at the age of six, seven months old.  Where our thoughts were going at that point was that she wasn’t developing properly without proper sleep.  We couldn’t go on date nights.  Nobody else could put my daughter down to sleep except me, not even her dad.  We couldn’t go two hours for a movie on the couch without my daughter waking up, and it was getting to a point where, looking into the future, I don’t know how we would have gone much longer with the way that things were.  And I had heard about you guys before, and finally I ended up going on the website, and I saw that you guys offer the sleep consultations.  I was hesitant at first, but oh my gosh…

Alyssa:  Didn’t she take to it, like, the first night?

Megan:  Oh, yeah!  The first night when we went through all of that — but I felt super needy with you.

Alyssa:  No, you weren’t at all!

Megan:  Texting you all the time!  The first night, we had to go in and out, in and out a lot, but by the second night — she was almost there on the first night, and the second night, she was like, bam, done.  She was like, I got this, Mom!  I’m going to be your sleep champ from now on!

Alyssa:  And kids always surprise parents.  They want to sleep so bad, and once we just get them on a schedule, it just happens so much more quickly and easily than a lot of parents expect.

Megan:  A lot of other working parents might find themselves in the same situation or scared on what they’re going to end up doing.  I learned that so much of her night sleep is dependent on her daytime sleep and her nap schedule.  She went to a daycare facility, and they had also used the same crutches we had to get her to sleep, and I was just nervous about that whole transition and really needing her to take proper naps in order to accomplish what we needed to at night.  And in the end, we sorted out some schedules.  We had some people that came and helped us and pulled her out of daycare for a week.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I remember that.  You had somebody stay at the house, because that first week is pretty critical, and when you have two parents working full time, you can’t just take a week off.

Megan:  No, you can’t!

Alyssa:  To have your baby sleep.  That’s not feasible.  But yeah, you had a trusted babysitter come over, right?

Megan:  Yeah, and I don’t remember how many days it was.

Alyssa:  Oh, you had a doula come, too, for a couple days, didn’t you?

Megan:  No.  Well, you…

Alyssa:  Must have been another client.  Sometimes they’ll hire a doula to come stay either during the day overnight.

Megan:  I remember you said there are so many days that it takes of consistent behavior development to actually –

Alyssa:  Until it becomes a habit.

Megan:  Yeah, until it becomes normal for them.  So we just had to get through that, and we did.

Alyssa:  Well, and especially because she was going to daycare.  Daycare can totally muck things up, especially if it’s a large one and not an in-home daycare but a large one where they have 20 kids and maybe 15 of them are in the nursery, and they’re just, like, this is naptime, and if they’re not sleeping, we get them up, because we don’t want them waking the other babies up.

Megan:  Well, that’s what part of the problem was is that she was in the nursery, and there’s 12 other babies in that room, and they all share a crib room together.  And they couldn’t get her to sleep, and then she was waking up other babies.  It was all downhill from there.

Alyssa:  So they just say, all right, nap’s done.

Megan:  Yep.

Alyssa:  But after that five days of a consistent pattern, then she’s going to go back to daycare, and her body’s already on the schedule and already has a rhythm set, and it’s much easier to go back into that daycare environment and tell them, now she sleeps from this time to this time, and if she wakes up early, here’s what you have to do.

Megan:  And daycare, you know, they made their own adjustments for what worked for them, too, so I gave them our schedule, but then they actually removed her from a crib and put her on a toddler sleep mat.  They’re raised little beds, and I had to get a doctor’s note, but at the age of ten months, nine months, she was actually the only child in the room for months that slept on a cot.

Alyssa:  Oh, so she was in her own room?

Megan:  She wasn’t.  She was blocked off from the other kids.  So yeah, she was in a room by herself, but she was kind of blocked off with some shelving units so the other kids didn’t get all up in her business when she was sleeping.  But she was on a cot, and that worked best for her because they found that she was anxious in the room with all the other kids in the cribs because all of her past memories were coming up, so changing her sleep environment was also to let them work according to the sleep plan, as well.  So it ended up working well that way, and she ended up moving up into the next toddler room already on the cot where most babies have to go through this learning period for that.

Alyssa:  So I remember in the beginning, you kind of struggled.  You had this tug-of-war within yourself of, gosh, she’s sleeping amazing now, but now I miss these cuddles that I get at night.

Megan:  Yeah, I remember that!

Alyssa:  It was like, we have to find a balance here.  It’s hard to go from being used to her there all the time, but that’s part of the problem is that she’s there all the time and nobody can sleep.

Megan:  And at night when I’m giving her cuddles, she’s giving me cuddles, too.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s hard to just let that go.

Megan:  And then don’t forget about the readjustment to milk supply.  That was a big thing, as well.

Alyssa:  Yeah, breastfeeding changes.  Your body eventually fixes itself…

Megan:  But it takes a little while and some uncomfortable days.

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’ll wake up leaking everywhere.  I’ve told moms to sleep on towels for a couple nights if needed!

Megan:  Oh, yeah, been there, done that!

Alyssa:  Yeah, so we talked about, early in the morning when she wakes up, get some cuddles in, and then spend the weekends, like Saturday and Sunday mornings, just make that cuddle time in bed to get all that oxytocin, all these great hormones that you guys are sharing when you get these cuddles.

Megan:  It’s funny that you say that because it’s almost a tradition now that she’s older.  She calls her pacifier her “oh, no” because when she can’t find it and she’s upset, it’s an oh, no situation.  So she has to leave her “oh, no” in her crib, and then we go and get a bottle of milk, and I ask her if she wants to snuggle.  Sometimes I get her out of the crib and she’s like, “Snuggle!” because that’s our time together.  So we do that when we’re reading books before bedtime now, because we no longer breastfeed or give her a bottle before bed, so we just read books and snuggle for five, ten minutes, and then in the crib she goes.  And then in the morning it’s a good cuddle time, and I wake up a little bit early and get ready before she’s up so that I’m not rushed for time to get ready.  Either my husband or I will devote that time to her.

Alyssa: That’s really smart.  I was just talking to somebody earlier about the fact that sometimes kids are just waking up because they want to see you, so especially as a parent who works full time, you already have this guilt of, I haven’t seen my child all day, and now they’re sleeping all night by themselves, which is great, but when do I get to see them?  When do I get to cuddle them?  So when you do a nighttime routine and then in the morning, put that phone away.  Don’t make the TV part of this process.  Put that kid on your lap; cuddle; kiss.  Read the book, whatever.  Just get all the snuggles in you can.  They get 30 minutes of your undivided attention, and they don’t know if it’s any different than eight hours. To them it’s just that mom and dad are here and loving on me, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Megan:  I agree, and it was hard being a working mom when we were going through all of this because the time with her became less because the night wakings weren’t there.  But the quality increased.  Her behavior got a lot better.  And I am a better mom by being a working mom because I can devote my attention better if I have some things that I do on my own, if I have a work life, as well.  So I didn’t want to give that up, but readjusting and figuring out the quality time was a lot better when she was rested and herself.

Alyssa:  That’s the key, yeah.

Megan:  And it really shines this whole idea even more when we recently went on vacation, and it was a struggle because we were in a new environment.  She was in her own bed, but we had to share a room with her, and although all that went fine, her behavior was like she was truly in the terrible twos.  She’s only 21 months old now, but everything changed because we tried to stick to the schedule, but you’re on vacation, so there’s only so much that you can do.  So immediately on the day that we returned from this week-long vacation, and she’s sleeping in her own environment and we’re right back to the same routine, it was immediate behavior change, and it just solidifies even more how important a sleep plan is and how important it is to make sure that they get the sleep that they need.

Alyssa:  They thrive on it, and we think that we’re doing them a favor by letting them stay up late to play with their friends.  Or the 4th of July; it’s not even dark for fireworks until 10:00; what am I going to do?  We’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by letting them stay up because usually they’re a wreck for two days after that.  They’re not going to sleep in the next day.  More than likely. They’re going to be up early the next morning.  It affects them so opposite of the logical thinking.  But yeah, that’s the key.  You’ve hit the nail on the head; you have to readjust and understand that you have less time together, but it’s more quality time, and her entire world has changed.  She’s happier, healthier, developing at a better rate because we all need sleep for that to happen.

Megan:  It’s funny that you brought up the whole fact that readjusting and going to parties and not keeping them up late and whatnot — it’s funny because it’s easy for my husband and I to say sorry, we’re leaving at 7:30 or 7:00 or 6:30, whatever we have to do, to get home and start the bedtime routine.  The hardest part about all of that is not leaving early; it’s convincing your family members and your friends that this is what you’re going to do and that this is important to you and your family, because it’s almost like they’re the ones pressuring you to alter your child’s sleep schedule.  So that’s come up a few times, especially around the holidays when your family members do holiday parties or gift openings starting at 6:00, and bedtime routine starts at 6:30.  You’re like, sorry, guys, we can’t come.

Alyssa:  Right, unless you want to bring a pack and play and put her to bed there.

Megan:  Which we’ve done.  When she was young enough, we did that, and that was fine.  We do that sometimes with friends where we go over and put her to sleep in the pack and play.  We try to avoid that as much as possible, and now that our friends have kids or are having kids, we schedule things at 2:00 in the afternoon instead.  Dinner parties go from 3:00 to 7:00; they don’t go from 7:00 to 11:00.

Alyssa:  Yeah, that is the hardest part, because you have to be so consistent, and when you get those dirty looks or the weird looks from your friends, like why do they always have to leave so early, it makes you kind of feel bad, but you know it’s worth it.  You’re doing this because it’s worth it.

Megan:  Yep, it is.

Alyssa:  So then you called me again recently…

Megan:  I did!

Alyssa:  She was sleeping great, and then you made a pretty big transition.  Tell me about that.

Megan:  Yeah.  She was always a little bit ahead of the other kids as far as walking and crawling and climbing and running, so she eventually started climbing out of her crib, and we started getting very nervous about possible injuries.  Quite a few times, on the video in her room, we’d see her sitting on the edge of the crib, just teetering there.  My husband really pushed for a change because we can’t be doing this.  So we actually ended up moving her into a big kid bed at the age of 19 months.  And I’m trying to take what I learned with you from when she was nine months and trying to apply it to a child that’s now a toddler.  And it wasn’t working.  And that’s when we contacted you and learned about how kids don’t learn about delay of gratification until they’re three years old.  So she doesn’t understand what it means when we tell that if you stay in bed all night, we get special time together in the morning.

Alyssa:  It makes no sense.  She doesn’t understand that concept whatsoever.

Megan:  No.  And she can get in and out of the toddler bed.  Yeah, she may not be falling out of it now, but my husband and I went back to doing whatever we’ve got to do to get this child to sleep.  So her nighttimes got shorter because we ended up staying in bed and laying with her until she fell asleep.  Our bedtime routine went to two hours; from twenty minutes to two hours.  And then she wouldn’t sleep a full eleven hours at night, and then her nap became elongated to three hours.  We were on a waitlist for a daycare at the time, so we had to hire a nanny for a couple months.  And it was funny because we were paying her for an eight-hour day when our daughter is sleeping for three of them!  Just kind of a funny fact.  But we went right back to, oh my gosh, what do we do?  A year later, I’m finding your email address and saying help!  Is there anything that you can help us with?  And then when you sent us our new sleep plan and we saw that there are clear ways to help a child stay in the bed and to go right back into a routine for this next stage of a child’s life, and that babies aren’t the same as toddlers.  It was eye-opening again when we saw the second plan, and you had so much good information in there!

Alyssa:  I always wonder if it’s too much.

Megan:  No!

Alyssa:  I geek out on sleep information, so I give my clients so much information.  I think it’s imperative!

Megan:  My husband even brought up later on about something else in the sleep plan that wasn’t related to sleep.  Oh, it was snacking!  You had said — and it’s so true.  A lot of times, we were just allowing her to snack a lot, and we didn’t have set meals, necessarily.  Yeah, she ate meals with us, but we allowed her to snack more than we snacked, not even thinking about how that might be tied into sleep or protein intake at certain times of the day and how that aids in sleep patterns.  We had no idea.  I was giving her a snack, and my husband actually said to me, don’t you remember reading that on Alyssa’s sleep plan?

Alyssa:  That’s great!  That’s what it’s there for!

Megan:  Yeah, it was a lot of great information.  And there’s just something special about receiving this information from a local person, from you, a person, and not a book I just pulled off the shelf at the library that might be outdated.  You really cater our sleep plans to us, to the client and to the child, and having come in to our home, you knew us.  You looked for things that might be distractions for quality sleep and taught us how to do a proper nighttime routine.  Although it was a lot of information at one time, it was well-received, and we felt very — I don’t know if qualified is the right word, but we got the information we needed to then make good, informed decisions.

Alyssa:  And be confident.

Megan:  Yes, we got the confidence.

Alyssa:  Even though I’m with you — you’re texting me all the time; I’m responding back; I’m there for guidance — but I’m not there forever.  So that’s why I want you to have enough information that you can say, oh, okay, she’s twelve months now.  Oh, yeah, she told me that this would probably happen around 12 months.  Because I learned this when she was nine months, that’s what this means at 12 months.  You have to be able to troubleshoot yourself or you’re just going to keep calling me every three months at every developmental milestone, saying what do I do?  Help!

Megan:  And it’s funny because we went back to your sleep plan multiple times between 9 months and 15 months to just look and what did she say when she reaches this age group; how much sleep will she need; what are her naps supposed to look like?  So we definitely referenced it.  But being in a new bed, when all that came up… And the plans themselves were very different.

Alyssa:  Yeah, sleep is very different for a two-year-old versus a nine-month-old.

Megan:  Yeah.  But now, after day one of the new sleep plan, we got her back in the crib.  It was like she never forgot it.  She was in the big girl bed for probably four weeks.

Alyssa:  So you’re thinking, oh, great, even if we try this plan, she’s ruined.  We’re going to have to start all over.

Megan:  Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, but no, her sleep habits came right back.  We were able to get her nap back down to a normal, respectable time, and she’s back to sleeping eleven, twelve hours at night with no interruptions.  We can go back to watching movies and having quality time together with my husband.

Alyssa:  And for date nights, babysitters are easy?

Megan:  Oh, babysitters can put her sleep again.  I’m not asking a babysitter to sleep with her for two hours.

Alyssa:  “You’re going to have to lay in this bed with her, sorry!”

Megan:  And then ever so slightly, quietly creep out as quiet as possible!

Alyssa:  It’s like the ninja role.  Like, you kind of slowly roll of the bed, and you keep a hand there for pressure and you slowly lift your hand up.

Megan:  Make sure the dog is quiet when you’re moving around so its nail don’t click-clack on the hardwood floors and wake her up!  Oh, I better put some WD40 on that door!  Yeah, those were all things that were happening and going through our head.  I’m laughing and I’m making a joke about it, but those were legitimate concerns of mine when we had her in the big girl bed and all of this was going on.  Call me crazy, but that’s how you feel when you and your child aren’t getting sleep.

Alyssa:  Well, you are a bit crazy.  I mean, sleep deprivation does not make for a sound mental state!

Megan:  And now I just can’t believe how much you guys have been able to help us.  Maybe my experience can help other people.  I’ve referred quite a few people over your way.

Alyssa:  Thank you!

Megan:  I just can’t reiterate enough how much you guys helped us and how worth it it is.

Alyssa:  it’s definitely a service that I could literally call life changing.

Megan:  Yes!  I would call it that, as well!  In fact, I think I’ve left reviews stating that!

Alyssa:  Well, if you had one thing that anyone who has pushed off sleep training would need to hear, what do you think it would be?

Megan:  It’s worth it.  It is what’s best for baby.  It’s what best for you and your family unit.

Alyssa:  And what if they’re scared?  Sleep training just causes anxiety.  Those two words; people just think oh, this just sounds like it’s going to be a miserable experience.  My child is going to be left alone; they’re going to have anxiety.

Megan:  But she wasn’t left alone.  The plan you gave us; that wasn’t the case, and you told me right from the beginning, before I even paid for anything, that we will do a plan according to what is comfortable for you.  And I was totally okay with the plan.  And what’s the worst that could happen?  She wakes up 12 times at night versus 11?  No, that’s not even going to be a possibility.  We were so far down the rabbit hole that there was no getting deeper.  We were hitting bedrock.  So it could only get better at this point, and it did.  It was a complete 180.

Alyssa:  Well, I loved working with your family both times.  You probably won’t need me again because she’s great.  Don’t put her in that toddler bed until she’s three.

Megan:  We won’t!

Alyssa:  You’ll know when she’s ready!

Megan:  We will definitely wait.  Now we have just over a year before we have to make any new changes to sleep, but now I have the tools, too, to be able to transfer her to a big girl bed

Alyssa:  Yeah, did I give some info to plan for?

Megan:  You did, yeah!

Alyssa:  Oh, good.  I figured I did, but…

Megan:  But this isn’t the end, Alyssa!  I’m sure that we will see each other again and talk to each other again!

Alyssa:  Well, on that note — because you might be adopting?

Megan:  Yeah.

Alyssa:  So I’m going to talk to you again at a later time about what an adoption process looks like because I don’t know, and a lot of our listeners and parents probably don’t know and maybe are even thinking about it but might be scared.  SO we’ll talk about that next time.

Megan:  I’d love to help you with some insight on there.

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining us!

Megan:  Yeah, thank you for having me!

Alyssa:  If you have any questions for us, you can email as at info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.

 

Sleep Consultant

Chris’ Personal Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #73

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!

Chris:  Hi!

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!

Alyssa:  Yay!

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.

Alyssa:  Awesome.

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!

Chris:  Yeah!

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?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

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!

Chris:  Awesome!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening.  Remember, these moments are golden!

 

Ask the doulas podcast

Podcast Episode #68: Overnight Doula Support

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.

Alyssa:  Right.

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.

Kristin:  Exactly.

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.

Kristin:  Easily!

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.

 

Postpartum Wellness

Podcast Episode #61: Postpartum Wellness

Dr. Erica of Root Functional Medicine gives moms some tips about staying healthy through pregnancy and into the postpartum period.  We also talk about her upcoming Postpartum Wellness class on March 7.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

This podcast episode is sponsored by LifeFuel, providing healthy meal delivery in West Michigan. We love partnering with LifeFuel! 

Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today I’m talking to Dr. Erica Armstrong of Root Functional Medicine.  Hello, Dr. Erica!  Welcome.

Dr. Erica:  Hello, thank you for having me!

Alyssa:  My business partner, Kristin, has been talking to you, but I want to know a little bit about Root Functional Medicine, and then we will talk about an event that we’re going to have together here in our space.  So tell me a little bit about what you do.

Dr. Erica:  So I am a functional medicine doctor.  My background was in family medicine for several years before I went through functional medicine training, and Kelsey, our dietician, and I created a specialty practice in functional medicine, the first of its kind in West Michigan, and we partner up to help patients really get to the root cause of why they’re not feeling well.  That’s kind of the basis of functional medicine; we look at people in a holistic sense and try to solve problems at the root, and a lot of the time, we do need to make nutritional changes, and so it just made perfect sense to partner up with a dietician to do that.

Alyssa:  So explain to me what a functional medicine doctor does versus a regular medical doctor.  How would you, in very simple terms, explain what functional medicine is?

Dr. Erica:  Sure, I would say there’s not a simple explanation other than it’s a different model of healthcare entirely.  Functional medicine isn’t the symptom, one diagnosis, one treatment, the typical path that gets rushed through.  It really is stepping back, looking at the entire picture since birth and even before birth of a patient because they’re not just a snapshot in time.  We look at their genetics.  We look at their microbiome.  We look at their nutrition and lifestyle and really plot everything on something called a functional medicine matrix, and we try to balance the imbalances.  And then we look at lab testing that’s simply not available in traditional labs to see how the body is actually functioning, and with that information, we can be much more preventative and not only help people stay away from disease but actually help them feel well.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think of it as — you know how you go to a doctor within one medical system, and then you go to another one, and you’re answering the same questions all the time, but nobody seems to be talking together.  And functional medicine is like having all those specialties together talking to one another, so the heart specialist isn’t just looking at your heart.  The heart specialist should also be asking about nutrition and diet.  You know, it’s not just all these segmented pieces.

Dr. Erica:  Yeah, that’s absolutely right.  In traditional healthcare, we tend to silo things, but yes, if you have a heart issue, it doesn’t stop there.  There are other things that we need to look at, so it’s really putting the big picture together.

Alyssa:  So you and Kelsey — she does the dietician part of it?  We should have her on sometime, too, because I love talking about diet and sleep since I do sleep consults and food, especially for little ones.  Do you see children, as well?

Dr. Erica:  We do, yeah.  We can see all ages, and I do a lot of nutrition, too.  Just in functional medicine training, a vast majority of that is nutrition, but Kelsey does help a lot with specific diets and troubleshooting, and she has a lot of nutrition knowledge that she shares with patients, too.

Alyssa:  Let’s talk about this event and tell people what it is that you do to help pregnant women and what they can look forward to if they come to this event.

Dr. Erica:  Yeah, so even before pregnancy, really optimizing wellness and things like just trying to make sure they’re eating balanced, healthy meals is important, and then things to look out for in the postpartum period where we’re often sleep deprived and have higher cortisol levels and how to navigate and troubleshoot those areas, how to plan ahead for that.

Alyssa:  So this event we’re having is on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM and it’s going to be here in our office in the Kingsley Building.  Seating is limited because our office can only hold so many people.  It’s $35.00 per person, and we’re going to create a link and post it on Facebook and put it on our website.  Are we calling it How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period?

Dr. Erica:  Yes!

Alyssa:  So we’re going to talk about good foods during pregnancy, what to watch out for, sleep deprivation and cortisol, like you just mentioned, tips for dealing with that, and then how to evaluate adrenals and thyroid, which I know is a common question for a lot of women, pregnant or not.

Dr. Erica:  Yes, we end up seeing a lot of thyroid disease coming after pregnancy, for a variety of reasons.  So how to test for that and assess it from a functional standpoint.

Alyssa:  And then we have — and you might need to help me with this; talk about some adaptogens in food?  What is that?

Dr. Erica:  So adaptogens just means that it helps your body adapt to situations, so certain things like mushrooms or ashwagandha, those are called adaptogens.  So if people are having a lot of high cortisol levels, actually eating that food helps because food can talk to your genes and tell your genes to turn on or off and produce more or less cortisol.  That’s a very scientific answer, sorry!

Alyssa:  No, I get it!  And then the last thing I have on here, “some supportive things to do such as basic ideas that can be forgotten during the postpartum period.”  What do you mean by that?

Dr. Erica:  So even just remembering to continue your prenatal vitamins.  Things can get so out of routine with a newborn baby that you forget to do simple things that can help you feel well.  We end up seeing a lot of nutritional deficiencies just after giving birth, especially vitamin D.  There’s a lot of vitamin D deficiency in general in West Michigan, but if you’re breastfeeding, you’re at more risk for that.  And then magnesium deficiency, which many of us are deficient in.  So just those two simple vitamins, we can test those levels, and people end up feeling a lot better when we replace those.

Alyssa:  So who would you say should come to this event?  Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive, postpartum, all of the above?

Dr. Erica:  I think all of the above, for sure, because we’re going to talk about a lot of general health tips, as well, as focusing on the postpartum period.

Alyssa:  Okay!  So again the event is called How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period, but even if you’re pregnant, I always tell people to plan ahead.  So it’s good to learn this stuff so that you’re not in the  midst of all this chaos with a newborn at home, and going, oh, shoot.  If you know this stuff, you can plan ahead.  And again, that’s going to be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM, so if you’re interested, you can go to our contact form and let us know you’re interested in the event.  I would still like to know a little bit more about your practice.  Where are you located?

Dr. Erica:  We’re located in downtown Grand Rapids, and we mainly see people in person, but we can also see people virtually throughout the state of Michigan via telemedicine, and some people will drive in for the first visit and then follow up virtually, as well.  We have different packages on our website.  You can either work with Kelsey in nutrition package or with me in functional medicine or with both of us in what we call the Get to the Root package in where we work together for at least three months and really help get to the root cause of feeling better.

Alyssa:  I love that you can do it virtually, especially for postpartum moms!

Dr. Erica:  Yes, it makes a lot of sense not to have to lug the baby in!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s the last thing you want to do!  You’re in your yoga pants; you don’t want to have to drive downtown and probably run in to somebody that you know with no makeup on and all that stuff.  It’s just a lot easier, especially if you have a newborn and toddlers at home to not have to leave.

Dr. Erica:  Yeah, and we can attach all the food plans and wellness plans right to the patient portal.

Alyssa:  That’s really convenient!  Well, if anyone is interested in getting ahold of you, what’s the easiest way?

Dr. Erica:  There’s a contact form right on our website.  And we’d be happy to answer your questions.  We’re also on Instagram and Facebook as Root Functional Medicine, and we post most of our updates there.

Alyssa:  And we’ll share the Facebook event, as well.  Again, it’s How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period and it will be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM here at the Gold Coast Doulas office.  Well, thank you, Dr. Erica!  Thanks for joining us!

Dr. Erica:  Thank you!

Alyssa:  And tell Kelsey we’ll have her on sometime, too.

Dr. Erica:  Sounds good!

 

Pregnancy and Depression

Podcast Episode #60: A Naturopath’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Depression

Doctor Janna Hibler, ND talks to Alyssa and Kristin about how a naturopathic doctor treats pregnant and postpartum women, body and mind.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and I am here with Kristin, my business partner today, and Janna Hibler.  She’s a naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist.  Hello, Janna!

Janna:  Hi, how’s it going, guys?

Alyssa:  So Kristin and I met you at a little gathering of the minds at Grand Rapids Natural Health Recently.  We kind of hit it off, and then you and I got coffee, and we hit it off even further.  We got to chatting forever, so we were like, let’s just pause this and record our conversation!  And today, first, I want to know a little bit more about what you do, but when the two of us were talking, we spoke quite a bit about postpartum depression, and I want to talk about what happens leading up to that, even before you get pregnant, but then during pregnancy, too.  What does that look like?  What do depression and anxiety look like?  How do we nip that in the bud?

Janna:  Yeah, definitely!  So it’s really important for all of us mamas and future mamas to know that how we are before we get pregnant and give birth is a good indicator of how our health might look like after we give birth.  Things you mentioned such as anxiety or depression tend to get more severe after we give birth just because of the extreme stress and sleep deprivation that we are under, having a newborn.  I like to emphasize to my patients that this is nothing to feel bad about.  It’s just when you don’t sleep, you don’t release the same neurotransmitters and have the same brain chemistry with certain levels of uppers and feel-good hormones.  So it’s kind of…

Alyssa:  I’m obviously a big proponent of sleep for babies and parents.  So what would you tell a parent who says I’m not even pregnant yet; I’m thinking about getting pregnant.  How does a person even know if they have depression or anxiety?  And what do you do about it?  Let’s say that I’m kind of a depressed person or I get anxious about things at work or with my friends or my family.  What do you recommend?  And then let’s say I came to see you as a naturopathic doctor.

Janna:  So again, I like to really emphasize that you are normal and this is a normal part of being a female.  If we’re talking evolutionarily speaking, we were made to be out in nature, and so when we’re put in the city, even if we’re out half an hour from Grand Rapids downtown, there’s a lot of lights.  There’s a lot of noises.  There’s a lot of things going on that cause an overresponse, and that can lead to anxiety and depression.  So some symptoms might be feeling nervous in certain situations or some OCD tendencies, or a lower mood display and laughing less or getting less excited about certain things in life.  These can be very mild, but if you look at them over the course of the day, if you have a lot of little things, they do add up.  So when you walk into a naturopathic doctor’s office, something I really love and take to heart is that we have our medical concentration, but we also have a lot of education with psychology and knowing how the brain works.  So I would ask you a bunch of questions; the normal medical questions you get, but in addition, we’re going to ask about your sleep cycles, your exercise, your diet regimen.  All these play a part in our mental health, and my end goal is for everybody to feel their best all the time.  In order to find out how people are feeling, I like to run a series of either urinary or blood tests.  This can give us an indication of brain chemistry, hormone levels, cortisol, in addition to the normal things like checking sugar and red blood cells.  I really like to hone in on these specialty tests because by checking our brain chemistry, I can find exactly what neurotransmitters might be high or low, and we can treat appropriately.

Alyssa:  So when you talk about neurotransmitters, what does that mean?  What are you looking at and what does that mean to you?

Janna:  So our neurotransmitters; there’s the common ones we’ve all heard of like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, even histamine.  There is a whole slew of uppers and downers, and basically, we take the brain chemistry analysis tests so we can see if some of them are off.  Some people that have allergies have high histamine levels.  That’s an upper, so when we have allergies, those people actually tend to have anxiety, as well.  And so we can actually nip the anxiety in the bud by treating the allergies and reducing histamine levels.  So it’s really a cool science.

Alyssa:  And the cortisol and serotonin and melatonin, all those things you can actually check with blood and urine?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah.

Kristin:  And a lot of women have issues with their thyroid; is that part of the testing, that you can check thyroid levels?

Janna:  Absolutely.  I like to refer to it as our hormone triangle where we have our thyroid as the king, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and then we have our cortisol.  All three of those categories play a huge role in our hormone development and picture that we have, so we do a lot of intensive testing to find out where those levels are at.

Alyssa:  And what would you do if I came in and my cortisol levels were sky-high and you noticed something with my thyroid?  What would you tell me to do?

Janna:  So depending on your lab results, the thyroid could be treated in two ways.  One, sometimes we do give conventional medications, and then another way to treat, depending on your levels, is with herbs.  We can give a series of botanical herbs to actually bring your levels back to normal, as well as certain nutrients.  There’s a number of co-factors that actually feed our thyroid hormone to turn from its inactive to active form, and without them, we will not function.  So that’s things like vitamin D and iron and vitamin C; very common nutrients that we take for granted, but they play a vital role in our thyroid health.

Alyssa:  So how long do you test that out before you put them on a drug?

Janna:  Typically, I like to give a patient three to six months to see if we can fix it with nutrients and herbs.  Again, it comes back to what the patient wants.  If a patient wants results this month, then we might take a more aggressive treatment plan.  But if they’re willing to do it completely naturally, then three to six months.

Alyssa:  So let’s say I get it under control; I’m pregnant, and I still notice now that I still have some anxiety or depression.  What do you do during pregnancy?

Janna:  I really like to encourage diet and exercise and sleep.  Those are our biggest best friends to really help out.  Different lifestyle factors can have a huge effect on our mood and behavior.  So let’s start with maybe some foods.  We could eat a diet rich in dopamine, so we could do things like chocolate.  I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate?  We all love it, but do we know it’s high in magnesium and it’s high in zinc?  Those are vital co-factors to run our brain chemistry.  We can also have blueberries or nuts and seeds, which are high in vitamin B6 and 9 and all these B vitamins to help also with our mood.  We could do some grass-fed or fermented foods, which help with our gastrointestinal health, which again, I’m sure you guys have all heard of the gut being the second brain.  And then sulfur; sulfur-rich foods like onions and garlic that actually help with detox, so if we are having some things get backed up, we can help get them out.  So we really try to approach it from a multifactorial view hitting all points.  How’s our diet?  How’s our exercise?  How’s our sleep?  How’s our stress?  And a lot of what I get into with patients, too, is how is your relationship at home?  Do you feel supported?  Do you feel loved?  Do you feel heard by your partner?  By your business partners, your coworkers?  These are all part of our needs that play a role in our mental health when we’re pregnant and when we’re not pregnant.

Alyssa:  I was going to say those are things that should be carried over throughout, right?

Janna:  Yeah, yeah!

Alyssa:  Meanwhile, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Janna:  Totally, and pregnancy just kind of is that opportunity where we find our weaknesses in our body, and it’s actually a great opportunity to increase our health for the rest of our life and find out things we wouldn’t know about it unless we were pregnant.

Alyssa:  Oftentimes, I feel like that is the point in a woman’s brain and body where we finally start to understand and care about what’s happening to our body, and because we’re growing another human, then we’re like, oh, I better start taking care of myself so that I can take care of this baby.

Janna: Yeah, and I think that has a lot to do with what happens after we give birth and why a lot of moms struggle.  I mean, I want to say that loud on this podcast right now that mom life is hard.  It is a struggle, and I know we all try to put on a face that we’re doing well and everything’s perfect at home, but mom life is hard, and that’s maybe another podcast sometime, but that’s a conversation I’d love to get started because it is hard, and to that extent, why we have a hard time after birth is a lot of the time – and I’m sure you guys see this all the time, being in the house with moms – that the moms forget about themselves.  They put all of their energy, all of their love, into their baby, and I was guilty of it, too.  I mean, I have a two-year-old, and I definitely did it.  I’m still guilty of it some days because we love that human so, so much.  But I think it’s really important for our mental health and as mothers to put the energy back into ourselves and remember that we really can’t pour from an empty cup, and we have to be healthy and strong ourselves in order to make strong and healthy babies.

Alyssa:  So what do you recommend to a mom who’s suffering from depression?  You know, maybe they had a beautiful pregnancy, easy labor and delivery, and then they’re like, oh, my God; this is way harder than I thought, and then sink into a depression that they’ve never experienced before.  How do you get them out that?

Janna:  And so many moms do!  There are so, so many out there that come in, and they’re like, not even my husband knows how sad I am; not even my best friend knows how sad I am, and that’s where I really encourage everyone to just start reaching out.  I don’t want you to be ashamed; I don’t want you to feel guilty, because it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  You’re an excellent mom because you care so, so much, and asking for that help and taking that first step, making people aware that this is something I do need help with, and receiving that love.  From a medical standpoint, too, we’ll go in and I’ll help adjust hormones and your brain chemistry with either herbs or conventional treatments or nutrient levels to help your body, but I think so much of it also comes from a mental and emotional spot of feeling supported and loved by your people around you.

Alyssa:  So is naturopathic medicine, in general, more of a functional approach versus the medical approach or kind of a combination?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah, and functional medicine is so great.  That is the bridge between conventional medicine and natural medicine because we all agree on it, you know.  We see a lab level, and it’s important to attend to it when it’s on its lower level.  Traditionally-minded thinking, we only would treat something like vitamin D if it was set low because that’s the level that can cause rickets and true mobility issues, but what about everybody that has low-normal, that they’re in that functional, funky range?  That’s at a stage that can cause depression, that you can get autoimmune diseases.  So as a naturopathic doctor, I really work on treating it then and now so we can prevent getting those diseases because they may not pop up in five or even ten years, but they will happen if they’re not treated.

Kristin:  Even in pregnancy, there’s evidence that preeclampsia with the lack of vitamin D, that can be a factor in developing preeclampsia.

Janna:  Exactly, and that’s how it can be that simple sometimes where moms come in and, hey, they just want to run a nutrient panel just to find out what are their baseline nutrients, and then that way when breastfeeding comes into play, especially for extended breastfeeding – I’ve been breastfeeding for two and a half years, so that’s something I’ve been keeping a constant eye on, what are my nutrient levels, because we don’t want to cause other problems from just being depleted.  So yeah, that’s a great point.

Alyssa:  Depleted is a good word to describe mothers postpartum, I think.  Most of us at some point just feel depleted, whether it’s mentally, physically, whether it’s just breastfeeding.  That alone can make you feel depleted; this baby is literally sucking the life out of me!

Janna:  Because you’re giving everything!

Kristin:  I tandem nursed, so I really felt depleted when I was nursing two!

Alyssa:  It’s like this weird tug of war between “I love doing this” and “I hate doing this so much.”  I remember getting so over it when I was done, and then a month later I missed it.  I was like, oh, my God; I’m not breastfeeding anymore!  But I was so ready to throw those pump accessories in the trash and celebrate, but it’s just a weird…

Janna:  It is!  And every mom is different, so we like to celebrate moms at each level, whether they want to breastfeed for three months or six months or a year.  We all have our breaking point, and we want to prevent us from getting to that point.  Mama matters, too!

Kristin:  For sure!

Alyssa:  Well, thank you so much for joining us, and if people want to find you to come visit you or just ask you questions or follow you on Instagram, where do they find you?

Janna:  Absolutely!  So I’m currently accepting patients at Grand Rapids Natural Health, and I’m also on social media as holisticmommyandmedoc, and you can reach out there anytime.  My name is Janna Hibler on Facebook, and feel free to message me anytime.  I like to get to know my mamas.  Since I just moved from Vermont, I’m looking to build up my network of mamas because we are a tribe and we all need to stick with each other, so whether it’s personally or professionally, I do want to link up with you!

Alyssa:  Thank you so much!

Kristin:  Thanks, Janna!  We appreciate it!

 

Postpartum depression

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.

Lisa:  Hello.

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.

Lisa:  Right.

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!

Lisa:  Thanks.

Baby Shower Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

stress

Dealing with Stress

Today’s blog comes from one of our previous postpartum doulas, Alex. Her nurturing soul shines in this post, giving us her favorite tips for stress management and self-care. Take the time today, and every day, to nurture yourself.

It’s no secret that stress is, inevitably, a part of life, and to some degree is healthy for the human body. But too much stress and/or on-going stress can have negative effects on your long-term health. Most people deal with it in some capacity throughout their lives, and becoming a parent can most definitely add more stress to your life. Stress can, but does not always, affect your immune system, sleeping and eating habits, digestion, mental well-being, and among other things it ages you, fast!

Sometimes stress is unavoidable. We live in a fast-paced society and there’s a lot of pressure for most people, especially parents. Luckily there are some proven things to help our bodies and minds against the negative effects of ongoing or heavy stress in life.

Meditation has been practiced for a long time around the world, and we now know that meditation has been shown to help alleviate some of the physical and mental effects of stress. It’s about clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing for an extended period of time, but even a short session of meditation has its benefits. It can help to give you a sense of calm and peace amidst the chaos. It helps you connect your mind and body by focusing on your breathing. If you can find the time, take even just five minutes to find a quiet place, close your eyes and breath in and out deeply, consciously relaxing all parts of your body during this. Many people tend to hold tension in parts of their body (tight shoulders, clenched jaw, etc) so this helps to let go. If your mind is racing, pick one thing and focus on it. I usually imagine a beautiful flower, flowing water, or roots coming from my feet going deep into the earth to help ground me. Even just focusing on the in and out of your breathing can clear your mind. Your circumstances may still be stressful, but you are likely to feel calmer, more grounded, and peaceful at the end of your meditation.

If you need some help, there are many guided meditations you can find on CD, YouTube, and there are even apps for your phone. Another practice that goes hand in hand with meditation is mindfulness. As parents, it’s a great skill to have and model to our children. What is mindfulness? Well, it’s just that. It’s actually stopping to be mindful of our surroundings and situations that arise instead of just reacting. Reaction if often out of emotion and when we are stressed it can be a negative reaction. When we train ourselves to stop and choose mindfulness in stressful situations it often times gives a different perspective.

Exercise is something that helps a lot with stress as well, if you are able. Exercise is great because it gives you a serotonin boost. If you are crunched for time, even a quick 10 minute jog outside can help alleviate stress. Riding your bike is wonderful too, and you get to be outdoors in good weather, which is also shown to help with stress. Gentler exercise like stretching, yoga, and pilates can relieve the body of tension and physical stress. A passive form of exercise I personally love for stress is massage! It’s great for the body and mind. If it’s too pricey for you, have a friend or your partner give you a 20 minute neck and shoulder rub at the end of the day. Foot rubs with some nice smelling oil are my favorite; I especially love lavender and it’s safe for pregnant and nursing mothers.

Nature has gifted us with several herbal allies to help our body and mind deal with stress. Teas are amazing. One of my favorite blends is chamomile, catnip, lemon balm, and lavender tea. Loose leaf herbs are available in many stores and online. I make a mixture of equal parts the first three and less lavender and add ¼ cup to a quart sized jar and steep it for an hour or so to make an infusion. It’s a nice, calming blend that the whole family can enjoy safely, especially for teething. I sweeten with honey for the kiddos (but no babies under 1 year!). Tinctures are plants steeped in alcohol or vegetable glycerin that get all the goodness out of a particular plant or a blend of plants. Passionflower is one I used during the end of my third pregnancy to help with irritability and anxiety. I got a lot of relief from this. There are also adaptogenic herbs, which help with your adrenal health, in turn helping many systems of the body adapt to stress. However, not all are safe during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, so use caution and always consult your care provider. One I use safely during nursing, but not pregnancy, is Rhodiola. It has been used for many years in Russian and Asia and is gaining popularity in the US. It gives steady energy, mental clarity, stamina, and enhances your mood on top of helping your body physically deal with stress in many ways. Essential oils are hugely popular but you need to use the utmost safety and caution when using them (I would say never ingest essential oils, and do not use on kids under two). Lavender is one of my favorites along with Ylang Ylang. Both smell lovely and are so relaxing. I put them in a diffuser or put a few drops in a relaxing bath with some bath salts for a nice soak.

Sleep is so important. Sleep deprivation only adds stress in your life, causing your body to become stressed more quickly. Being a parent can make sleep difficult. Between waking babies and older kids, most parents find sleep hard to come by. Having a solid bedtime routine is important; it creates a good rhythm with kids. And parents, if you can nap at all during the day, do it. I know it’s a stretch, especially with a job outside of the home, but even a 10-20 minute power nap is proven to do wonders for your stress and energy levels.

All of these methods of self-care can help you during stressful times. I realize stress can be unavoidable, but self-care is important and using some of the tips I’ve given (or all of them) can help you to take care of yourself so you can better care for your family. I hope this helps you find some peace.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. If you are suffering from stress or finding it hard to function, you may need to talk to your primary care provider. This is a blog post from my own extensive research and experience throughout several years of handling stress in a healthy way.