A Day in the Life of a Postpartum Doula

Maybe you've heard of a postpartum doula, or maybe you haven't.  It's still not a common concept on the Eastern Shore, but in other areas (like shared in this article), women are beginning to see the value in hiring help for those first few days, weeks, and months after their baby is born. 

If you're pregnant with your first baby, it's hard to envision what a postpartum doula could do to benefit your family that you couldn't really do yourself.  If you've already had a baby, you get it.  Newborn stuff is tough.  Many women feel like they don't know if they're doing everything right, if baby is getting enough to eat, getting enough sleep, crying a normal amount, pooping and peeing a normal amount, and why is it awake so much at night and not during the day, and why do my nipples hurt SO bad, and why is everyone coming over to bring me baby clothes and hold my baby while I'm exhausted, and why isn't anyone noticing the huge pile of dirty dishes, and gosh I wish they had brought lunch because I haven't eaten much since yesterday, and I certainly hope they don't notice that I haven't brushed my teeth and I smell like spit up.

A postpartum doula?  They are like angels.  They fly in at the perfect time, get you settled with whatever you need, and get to work.  They are the experts of all experts on everything postpartum and baby.  They can help you get a crying baby soothed all while making you a sandwich and showing you the best baby swaddle.  

Below is a real example of A Day in the Life of a Postpartum Doula...

8am:  The shift starts and the doula shows up right on time to the front door.  She gently knocks and lets herself in, as she's been asked to since mama doesn't want to get up with a sleeping baby to get the door.  

8:10am: It's mama's first day home alone with baby after her partner has gone back to work. She's relieved that she doesn't have to do the first day all alone.  The doula asks if she can make her something to eat for breakfast.  Mama wants oatmeal!

8:30am:  The oatmeal is warm and delicious, the kitchen is cleaned, and mama is having breakfast in her pajamas while baby is still asleep.  While she eats, the doula sits with her and they talk about how last night went and how mama and baby were basically up all night on and off while baby struggled to feed and get back to sleep.

9am:  They make a plan for mama to get some rest during the day so that she can have some energy in case the next night doesn't go so well.  The doula runs a bath for mama and baby to take together (at the mother's request).  They nurse in the bathtub and baby seems happy and alert now.  The mom is grateful that her doula is there, because it's actually quite difficult to get in and out of a bathtub holding a newborn while you're both all wet!  The doula wraps baby up in a towel and grabs a clean diaper and and footie pajamas while the mom gets dried and dressed.

9:30am: Mama settles into bed with a white noise machine and doula promises to wake her if baby gets fussy.  Mama gives the doula permission to wrap baby up in her Moby wrap to keep her happy while the doula gets a few things done around the house.  The doula is a pro at the Moby, so in no time, baby is snuggled up safely, they turn some music on, and get to work.

11am (1.5 hours later):  Baby has been asleep for about an hour in the Moby, dinner is prepped for that evening, the doula unpacked all of the baby gifts that were received in the last two weeks and threw the new clothes in the washer to be cleaned before wearing.  Mama wakes, comes out of her room in her clean clothes, well rested, and is happy to see that there aren't a multitude of gift bags and tissue paper laying all over the living room floor anymore.

11:30am: Baby wakes and the doula takes her out of the wrap and brings her to her mama.  The doula sets mama up with an iced tea, some chips and hummus, and a lactation cookie on the couch so she can nurse the baby.

11:45am: Mama and doula sit on the couch together snacking and chatting about how her birth experience was.  Mama comments on how nice it is to have someone to talk to about it who doesn't carry judgments about her decision to get an epidural.  She said she is a little nervous to share it with some of her friends who birthed without pain meds.  They talk about how mama is feeling physically, and she asks the doula if it's normal to still have some bleeding after two weeks.  The doula assures her that all of her physical symptoms seem perfectly normal for this stage of postpartum. The mom laughs that she feels totally comfortable talking about her vaginal bleeding and nipple soreness with someone she's only met once!

12:30pm: Mama asks her doula if she can help her with a swaddle before laying the sleeping baby girl down.  The doula shows her favorite swaddle and gently lays her down in the bassinet in the living room.  The doula turns "Parenthood" on Netflix on Season 1, Episode 1 because this mama has never seen it before! #insanity.  The doula grabs all of the veggies, fajita spices, and chicken that she prepped from this morning and throws it into the Crockpot so it will be ready around 5:30pm tonight for dinner.  She cleans up the kitchen from lunch and dinner prep and switches the laundry to the dryer.

1:15pm: Baby is awake and seriously screaming.  Mama tries to nurse her, but she's too upset to settle down and latch.  Mama walks her up and down the halls for what seems like forever, and just when she's about to lose it, the doula asks if she can try something.  The doula shows mama about the 5 S's from the Happiest Baby on the Block book.  The doula quickly swaddles baby back up, cradles her on her side in her arms, walks to the bedroom where it's darker, cooler, and turns the white noise machine back on.  She "shhhhh"s gently and close to the baby's ear, and swings the baby back and forth while gently patting her bum.  After a few moments, the baby settles down, the new mom's jaw drops (naturally), and they get set up in the bed to nurse again.  The doula turns the TV on in the bedroom to pick up where they left off in Parenthood.

1:45pm: The doula folds the new baby clothes from the dryer, places them in the dresser in the nursery, and gets mama a new glass of water, a chocolate bar, and some leftover pasta salad in a bowl and brings it to her in bed while they're still nursing.

2pm: Dad promised to come home from work early on his first day.  Just as he is walking in the door, the doula is gathering her things to head home. She says she'll see them the next morning at 8am and promises to teach mama all about how to wrap that baby in the Moby wrap!

Seriously.  Postpartum doulas are that awesome.  If you're expecting, now is the best time to have a free consultation with a postpartum doula to see what they can offer you.  If you're already home with a baby of any age and feel like you could really use some extra help, reassurance, and company, give us a call and we'll be there!


Breastfeeding Through The Holidays: New Parent Edition

With the holidays fast approaching, we know you're probably as busy as can be preparing food, getting your house clean, purchasing and wrapping gifts, packing (if you're traveling), and oh yeah(!), parenting a new baby.

I thought that my first holiday season as a parent would be magical.   I would finally have a baby to wrap presents for and place under the tree.  Well, it turns out that my daughter was only 2 months old, nursing constantly, NEVER SLEEPING, and clearly didn't have the mental or physical capacity to tear open presents on Christmas morning.  It turned out to be a lovely holiday as a family of three, but not exactly what I had expected in my pre-parent (read: very naive) mind.

In addition to the hustle and bustle of Christmas season, traveling, and NEVER SLEEPING, I was a brand new breastfeeding mother.  We had created a pretty solid breastfeeding relationship from the start, but of course there were still moments of working on latch, figuring out how to remove a sleeping baby from my breast (who am I kidding?  she was NEVER SLEEPING), and the always-frustrating process of unclasping my nursing bra, pulling the top shirt up, the under shirt down, and trying not to expose too much skin to the cold December air.  

We were planning to travel to our hometowns for the holidays and I quickly realized how breastfeeding might impact our travel plans.  Now that I'm less of an amateur and have breastfed through three Christmases between two different babies and traveled many times, I can share some of the best tips that I've learned along the way for breastfeeding through the holidays.

  1. Feed your baby wherever he/she is hungry.  This can be a hard one--I know.  Especially if you come from a bottle-feeding family.  Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable for some to see and even the most well-meaning comments may be hurtful.  I quickly realized that if I didn't learn to be comfortable with myself and my baby, I would be spending 80% of our trip locked in our bedroom.  What's the point of traveling to spend time with family if you're going to seclude yourself so much? Plus, I already spent enough time in that small bedroom, you know... NEVER SLEEPING.
  2. Feed your baby in another room.  Yes, you just read that.  If feeding your baby is going to make someone else feel uncomfortable, I can get over that.  But if YOU are uncomfortable for any reason, feel free to excuse yourself and spend some time alone.  While I nursed in the company of others for the most part, I also found that my introvert-at-heart nature required some alone time.  What a perfect excuse to chill in the quiet for a bit!  There were also times when my little 9 week old babe was having a difficult time nursing or getting uncomfortable with all of the distractions and noise around.  Escaping to a quiet room and relaxing a little gave her an opportunity to calm down and eat, and gave us the opportunity to reconnect.
  3. If you want to use a cover, cover up!  If you're uncomfortable with others seeing your breast and you're still working out how to be discreet, throw a nursing cover or baby blanket over your chest.  Your baby can sense your unease if you're feeling anxiety. 
  4. Choose your wardrobe carefully!  If you're attending a party, event, or church and want to dress more formal, don't just grab any old pre-baby flowy dress or blouse that you can find.  Nothing is worse than being in public and realizing that the only way that your baby can access his food source is to lift your dress up from the bottom all the way to your shoulders.  And yes, unfortunately, I am speaking from experience.
  5. Layer!  If you're going to be in a cold climate and sweaters are necessary, I found that wearing layers of accessible clothing made all the difference. A nursing bra, a nursing tank top, a loose fitting or flowy top and an open sweater or cardigan became my go-to winter attire.
  6. Bring your own snack and drinks if you're traveling!  Any breastfeeding mama knows that it takes a lot of work to grow another human and then feed it as well.  We need to eat and drink!  But you can't always assume that your hosts will have snacks that you like or need.  And if you're staying in a hotel, you definitely need to stock up before you travel.   Packing your own snacks like trail mix or healthy bars and remembering your own water bottle can make all the difference.  Plus, if you're like me, you need extra food to keep your energy up.  You know, because maybe you're NEVER SLEEPING.
  7. Plan for traveling stops.  It's just going to happen.  New babies need to eat frequently and your 4 hour trip may turn out to be 6 hours.  Plan accordingly.
  8. Bring your kindle or book.   You might be like me and go through 3 books per week while you're nursing and NEVER SLEEPING.

If  you're expecting now and won't be nursing until the holiday season of 2017, check out our Breastfeeding Foundations class to get you on the right track so that by December next year you'll be a pro!

The 3 BEST Pieces of Parenting Advice

"Breast is best."  "You have you let your baby cry it out."  "Get the epidural."  "Natural birth is amazing."  "You should delay vaccines."  "Time outs are the best way to teach your kids discipline."  "You shouldn't give pacifiers."

We've all heard it.  The moment you announce your pregnancy, you're a target for advice from well-meaning friends, family, in-laws, doctors, and even social media.  It can be confusing and overwhelming.  You begin to question yourself and your decisions.  You may feel anxious or upset when it seems that everyone else is doing a better job than you.  We've compiled what we believe are the BEST pieces of parenting advice you'll ever hear.

1. Stop asking for advice.

It's as simple as that.  Stop asking other people for advice.  You'll be continuously overloaded with contradictory suggestions that may only lead you back to square one.  You'll discover that certain people have different parenting styles than you.  And that's okay.  You're still allowed to be friends!  But asking for their advice may just not be helpful for you.  And that's okay, too.   Don't post all of your parenting struggles on Facebook.  That is synonymous with asking your 1000-member friends list for advice. 

2. Stop taking advice.

What about when the well-meaning friends and family offer unsolicited advice?  Also simple:  just don't take it.  You don't HAVE to do anything with your children simply because someone else said it worked for them.  It's okay to make choices that are different from others.  And if your friends and family are driving you nuts with the advice-giving, you have permission to be polite and direct and say, "Thank you for your concern.  I've got this."  (Even if you don't). 

3. Do research, trust your intuition, and take all advice with a grain of salt.

Are you a research-oriented person?  Do some research about the evidence of certain parenting practices or choices in pregnancy and birth.  Ask your doula for some resources.  Are you someone who appreciates or recognizes the power of your intuition?  Take some time and listen to your children or baby and yourself.  What does your intuition tell you to do?  What feels right for you?  If it feels right, it probably is.  Do you actually WANT to ask for advice?  That's okay, too!  This parenting gig is hard and everyone deserves and NEEDS a support system.  If you have some trusted family members or close friends whose opinion you value, by all means, ask away!  But remember to take their advice with a grain of salt.  All babies are different and what works for someone else's baby might not work for yours.  Be open to suggestions, but ultimately, you're the expert and authority on your own children.  Our postpartum doulas are there when your baby comes home to guide you through this crazy parenting journey while still respecting your parenting styles.  Ultimately, we want you to feel like you're doing the right thing.  Because you probably are!

Make your decisions with LOVE.  Make decisions for your family because of your undying love for your children, not because someone else said it's the right thing to do. It's never a wrong choice if you make it with love.

If you're pregnant and are thinking about all of these decisions now, hire a birth consultant or doula to guide you with resources and nonjudgmental support through this journey.