Love On Top: Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week

Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week
Many women may ask, “Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week? Isn’t it enough to be celebrating Breastfeeding Month in August?” The simple answer is, no. It is not enough.

Women of Color face unique challenges and hardships when it comes to breastfeeding. The cultural barriers alone make the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding for Black mothers much more difficult than for White or Hispanic mothers. Some of the barriers specific to the Black community are:

There are fewer lactation professionals that serve areas with higher populations of Black mothers
There are significantly fewer lactation professionals that are Women of Color vs. White or Hispanic
Since fewer women of the previous generation breastfed, it is harder to have the much needed familial support to initiate and continue breastfeeding
There are fewer breastfeeding role models within the Black community
In some communities, breastfeeding is viewed as a “White thing”, leading to ridicule of Black mothers who do breastfeed
There are still deep-rooted cultural barriers stemming from the days of slavery where Black women were forced to wet-nurse White babies

So why does it matter if women of color are breastfeeding or not? Simply put, breastfeeding saves lives.

In a study published by the CDC, it was found that Black mothers were 17.2% LESS LIKELY to initiate breastfeeding than White mothers. Those that did, were 8.5% less likely to still be breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum and 13.7% less likely at 12 months postpartum.

Black babies who were breastfeed for less than 6 months are at an increased risk for:

Necrotizing entercolotis a deadly disease that attacks the intestine of premature infants (3.3 times more likely)
Child death (2.2 times more likely)
SIDS (1.9 times more likely)
Ear infection (1.7 times more likely)
G.I. infection (1.3 times more likely)

Black mothers who breastfeed for less than 6 months are at a 1.4 times more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes during their lifetime, and had higher risks for developing chronic high blood pressure.

How can White and Hispanic mothers help support Women of Color during Black Breastfeeding Week?

LISTEN TO THEIR BREASTFEEDING STORY. Empathize with their struggles, provide encouragement and support, and celebrate in their victories!

How To Set Yourself Up For Breastfeeding Success:

Ask that hospital staff allow you and your baby immediate skin-to-skin for at least an hour after delivering.

Follow you baby’s hunger cues – rooting, smacking lips, sucking on hands/fists – and allow them to nurse on-demand vs on the clock.

Ask to have the hospital’s Lactation Consultant evaluate your baby’s latch before you are discharged, even if you are not having any issues. If you are struggling to get your baby to latch properly, ask that the LC on staff be called immediately to come assist you.

Consider hiring a doula for your birth – mothers who have doulas in attendance of their births have much higher rates of successfully initiating breastfeeding immediately postpartum, as well as higher rates of continued breastfeeding success 6 months postpartum.

Have good postpartum support in place before delivering. Mothers who have good support when they are released to go home with their babies have higher breastfeeding success rates.

Become involved in your local Mom or breastfeeding groups, like Le Leche League.

Breastfeeding can be challenging for some women, it is ok if you do not enjoy your nursing experience at first. Find someone who you can talk with openly about how you feel about breastfeeding and the challenges of being a new mother (like a Le Leche League Leader, a breastfeeding professional, or a postpartum doula).

Normal Stool and Urine Patterns For Breastfed Babies

Day 1: Meconium, black/tarry (1)
Day 2: Black/green (2)
Day 3: Green, more frequent, looser, smaller quantity, lighter colored (3-4)
Day4: Brownish green to mustard-yellow, loose small-curd (4-5)
Day 5: Mustard-yellow, loose small-curd (3 or more)

Days 1-3: Few wet diapers, increasing daily
Days 4-5: Heavy, wet diapers (4-5)
Day 6: Heavy, wet diapers daily (6)

When to look for help:

If your baby is very sleepy and regularly feeds less than 8 times in 24 hours and does not provide enough wet or soiled diapers daily.
If you baby is very fussy after feedings.
If your baby is not gaining the appropriate amount of weight (4 -7 ounces weekly) or experiences a large drop in weight.
If your baby regularly takes an hour or longer each feeding.
If your baby has no consistent swallowing rhythm.
If your baby is inconsistent at the breast/latching or suckles less than five minutes per breast.
If you experience extreme engorgement.
If your baby was premature, has a birth defect (eg. cleft palate), was ill, or had a difficult birth.
If your baby has jaundice.
If you had multiples.
If your baby is showing signs of nipple confusion (will accept a bottle or a pacifier but refuses the breast).
If you experience cracked or bleeding nipples, or extreme pain when nursing lasting beyond one week.
If you have inverted or flat nipples.
If you experience flu-like symptoms, have a fever, or have painful, bright-red, engorged breasts which may or may not have hard lumps or knots in them.


Recommended Reading

The Nursing Mother’s Companion, by Kathleen Huggins
Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide To Breastfeeding, by Jack Newman & Teresa Pitman
The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding, by Diane Wessinger, Diana West, & Teresa Pitman

Online Resources

Lactmed (National database of drugs and their impact on breastfeeding mothers and their infants)

Finding a Doula (Hampton Roads area of Southern Virginia) (Meagan is the author of this article, and offers birth and postpartum services to the women and families of Hampton Roads, Isle of Wight County and Surry in Southeastern Virginia)

Birth Plan 101

Birth Plan 101

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The K.I.S.S. method is always the way to go when formulating your birth plan. Keeping things clear and simple helps your providers work with you in the delivery room. Complicated or convoluted birth plans generally end up in the trash bin. Nurses, doctors, and even midwives begin to dread – and ignore – mothers who show up with a lengthy list of requests (or ones that are simply not achievable in the birth space). While it is a good idea to write out an extended version of your ideal birth to help you narrow down what is most important for your delivery, it is not advisable to hand this draft out to staff on the day you actually deliver. Being realistic about your expectations in the delivery room as well as sticking to the basic points will help ensure your providers actually take the time to read, and honor, your birth plan.

Do Your Homework
The key to being able to advocate for your ideal birth (and stick to the most important aspects of your birth plan) is to do your research. Being informed about the risks and the benefits of possible interventions during your birth allows you to feel confident in advocating for yourself when a provider may offer – or worse, insist – upon something you aren’t comfortable with. It is also worth looking into taking a real childbirth education course, even if this is your 2nd (or your 12th) baby. By real, I mean a class that is not offered by the hospital you are delivering at. Look into childbirth educators in your area who offer private or group classes. This type of class really explains all of your options during hospital births, the nitty gritty of the natural birth process, and almost always provides hands-on practice for labor positions and physical comfort measures. Think you won’t need those comfort measures because you plan on getting your epidural the instant you walk in the Labor & Delivery Ward? Think again. Most providers and hospital policies require that the mother be a minimum of 4 to 5cm dilated before getting the drugs, so you are looking at several hours of labor before finding relief through modern medicine.

In a hospital setting staff rarely has the time to sit down and read over a lengthy birth plan. Most providers and nurses are serving several laboring mothers at once and handing them a three page birth plan is likely to have them glance at page one, set it down, and forget about it. As mentioned before, I encourage mothers to write out an extended version of their ideal birth for the purposes of getting all of your thoughts down on paper. Once this has been written, make two or three copies; one to keep for your records, one to hand to your birth partner, and one for your doula. Now it is time to “trim the fat” and focus on the three to four most important things for each stage of your labor. Once you have narrowed it down to three things for each stage (active labor, delivery, immediate postpartum/newborn care), list them in order of importance to you. This is the birth plan you should hand to every nurse and provider that walks into your room.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Consider using a pictographic birth plan instead of a written one. Using icons instead of a list (or a novel) will help keep your birth plan clear and easy to follow. This also allows you to tape a copy to the door or even around the room for quick reference. It is easier for a provider to “forget” a list of wishes they read a few hours ago than it is for them to ignore a clear visual aid posted in plain sight. Additionally, this allows your partner or doula to “gently remind” staff by asking them to refer to your birth plan if you become unable to give a verbal response.

Example Birth Plans:

Extended Version*

Hello and allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sally and my husband is Ron. We are expecting our first child, Regina, and are very excited to meet her! It is really important to me to have as natural a birth as possible. Ideally I would labor and deliver on the beach, as I feel very connected to the ocean. I plan on taking a long walk on the beach when my labor starts and having Ron at my side as we talk about our love for one another and our excitement at meeting Regina. When my contractions become closer together and harder to manage on my own, I will call my doula, Terri, and ask her to meet me at the hospital. I want to refuse all vaginal exams at check in and ask that the staff trust me to know when I am in active labor and ready for admittance into the Labor and Delivery Ward. Once in the room, I want all of the lights dimmed and to have ocean sounds playing on my portable speaker. I want minimal talking in the room and request that the staff keep their voices down. I would like the option of using a diffuser in my room and aromatherapy. I want the ability to labor in whatever position my body tells me to be in, including on all fours on the floor or in the shower/tub. I do not want to me on the monitors continuously. I will work with my body to manage my labor without the use of pain medication, while Ron and Terri help guide me and keep me focused. I do not want to be offered any pain medication at all, no matter what I say or how I am sounding. My bag of waters will be left intact until they break on their own, either during active labor or delivery. When it is time to deliver, I want the ability to push in any position I desire without prompting from staff and I want to deliver squatting or standing up. I would like Ron to catch Regina and place her on my chest. I want her cord to stop pulsing and to become limp and white before the doctor clamps it. Ron is to cut the cord. My placenta will be allowed to deliver naturally with no traction on the cord and no pitocin administered. Meanwhile, Regina will be left on my chest and we will try to initiate breastfeeding while the nurse preforms all necessary screenings. Regina will be left with me skin-to-skin until I am ready to hand her over to be weighed. I do not want her bathed until she is 24hrs old. I do not want her to receive the eye ointment or the vitamin K shot until she has successfully latched and nursed. Thank you for honoring our wishes! We appreciate you taking the time to read this and are looking forward to working with you!

*While this is a great reference for you and your partner, I do not recommend handing an extended version like this to your nurse(s) or care provider. Some of “Sally’s” wishes may seem outlandish or impossible for a hospital delivery – that’s OK. When writing this version out, write about what is a truly ideal birth for you without concern about what is/is not feasible wherever you plan to deliver.

Simple Birth Plan

Mothers Name: Sally
Father’s Name: Ron
Baby Girl’s Name: Regina
Doula’s Name: Terri

Sally’s Birth Plan
Thank you for helping us welcome our daughter, Regina, into the world today! Here are the things that are most important to me for my birth experience. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and in honoring my wishes today.

Limit vaginal exams
Intermittent fetal monitoring or wireless monitoring so I may labor freely
Allowed to labor freely, to include in the shower or the birth tub (if available)
Allowed to push with my body’s natural urges
Allowed to push in any position
Allowed to deliver in a squat
Immediate Postpartum:
Immediate skin-to-skin
Delayed cord clamping – please allow Ron to cut the cord!
Do not use cord-traction to speed delivery of placenta
Newborn Care:
All screening to be done on my chest
Allowed to initiate breastfeeding naturally
Delayed bath, eye ointment, and vaccines
Do not give formula

View more about Visual Birth Plans at Mama Natural

Preparing for Postpartum: Not Your Typical Baby Registry

Postpartum Care

Photo by Sean Roy on Unsplash

We all know the scene; a room full of women – some young, some old – gathered in celebration over the new life that is growing in the mother-to-be’s bulging belly. There are normally soft pastel decorations, and cake, and lots of talk of babies and labor and pregnancy. With slight variations in decor and guest lists, this is what you’d expect to see at a typical baby shower anywhere in the country.

One of the exciting things about expecting your first baby is being turned loose in the baby store with your scanner gun. Armed and ready, you and your partner will troll the isles ready to add ALL things baby to your registry. This way, you can be prepared for when your baby arrives. The question is, however, how beneficial is it really to be gifted 6lbs of burp cloths and 1,000 newborn onesies?

The postpartum period is often the most overlooked hardship new parents face. The excitement of the impending birth is over. Friends and relatives have “showered” you with all the odds and ends of baby supplies, leaving you with heaps of clothes and diapers and gear to wash and sort through. Your family has come to see the new baby and have since left. Now, you and your partner are left alone to work out how to care for this new, tiny, perfect … screaming being on your own.

So how can you best prepare for this time in your lives where you will need the most support, and yet where the majority of new parents are found most lacking in it? The solution is simple; change up your registry. Instead of asking for outfits and teethers, have guests sign up for postpartum help like vacuuming or laundry days. Request a simple meal that can be easily frozen and then re-heated in lieu of a cute card. Register for a birth and/or postpartum doula and ask guests to consider donating the amount they would have spent on a baby gift towards their fee(s). Instead of games, set up a meal-prep station where guests can help you fill ziplock bags full of healthy meals and snacks that you can fill your freezer with.

The purpose of a Baby Shower is to “shower” the expecting mother with love and support and to help prepare the parents for their new addition. What better way to do that than to ensure the mother is supported just as much after her new baby comes home as when she is expecting?

Postpartum Registry/Game Suggestions:

Baby Snuggle Coupons

Need It:
Construction Paper
Clothes Line/KitchenTwine
Clothes Pins

Make It:
Using brightly colored construction or card paper, cut out rectangles about the size and shape of a dollar bill. On one side on the ‘coupon’ write, “Good For One Baby Cuddle!”. On the other, write a simple task the person ‘redeeming’ the coupon needs to complete before getting to hold the baby. (Examples: vacuuming, let Mommy take a shower, do the dishes etc.) Hang the coupons on the clothes line using the pins and let guests pick and choose how they would like to “use” their coupon!

Meals In Lieu Of Cards

When sending out the invitations, ask guests to consider bringing a simple meal that is easily frozen/reheated instead of a card. Be sure to provide important nutritional details, if needed (like dairy-free or vegetarian) and to have a list of quick and easy recipes available for guests who ask for suggestions!

Postpartum Sign-Up Sheet

Need It:
Poster-board or Large Sheet of Construction Paper

Make It:
Using a ruler, mark evenly-spaced horizontal lines across your paper. Number them. Let guests know that there is a Sign-Up sheet hanging up for those willing to volunteer to help with household tasks once the baby is home. Provide a list of suggestions either on the sign-up sheet or on a separate paper. (Examples: make a meal, let Mommy take a nap, scrub bottles, do a grocery run etc.)

Register For A Postpartum Doula

Instead of registering at a baby store, register with a doula! Provide the doula’s name/business name and ask her if she would be willing to create “Gift Cards” for your guests if they contact her directly. If she would prefer you handle all of the details, ask guests to consider gifting the amount they would have spent on a baby item towards the cost of your doula services. You can provide a link on your invitations to your favorite online article explaining all of the benefits of having a postpartum doula (or tell your guests directly if they ask).
Meal Prep Assembly Line

Need It:
Gallon-Sized Freezer Ziploc Bags
All The Ingredients For Several Big Recipes
Mixing Bowls/Kitchen Tools

Make It:
Instead of your typical baby shower games, make a meal prep train! Find one or two simple recipes that can be thrown in a ziploc bag and put directly into the freezer, then thawed or thrown right into the oven when you’re ready to cook them. Plan on purchasing enough ingredients to double or triple each recipe. Print out several copies of the recipe(s) in a large, legible type. Set up prep stations where guests can perform one or two steps of the recipe with ingredients, tools, and a copy of the recipe with the step they are to complete highlighted. (Example: Station 1 the guest chops all of the veggies, Station 2 the guest measures out all the spices/liquids, etc.)*. Have one guest in charge of labeling the ziploc bags and ensuring all the appropriate ingredients get into each one. You if you doubled or tripled your recipes, you could have up to 8 meals ready to freeze by the end of the party!
*NOTE: For really simple recipes, you could devote one prep station per meal and then just let guests take turns at each station.

For Cloth Diaper Moms

– Instead of a game, set up a few stations where guests can stuff and fold your cloth diapers and other baby clothes/blankets.
– Register for a diaper services. Ask guests to consider gifting one month of diaper services in lieu of a baby item

Read the original article here (includes photos).

How PTSD Can Change Your Postpartum

PTSD Affects Postpartum

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Its amazing how PTSD can change your Postpartum experience. But, it’s something that is finally becoming more openly talked about.

I was sitting across from a mom, talking with her about all of her fears. She had some serious concerns because a previous breastfeeding experience that she struggled with. And in THAT moment, the wheels start turning. THAT is the moment the fear and doubt kicks in.

And its not a bad thing, this is what happens when something so dramatic happens. We are fresh with hormones, we are trying to balance life, motherhood, getting ready to work outside the home. So when our past comes back to haunt us, it can flood us with self doubt, and it can almost traumatize us all over again.

We’ve started to talk about PTSD in birth, and people are understanding that it carries over into Postpartum. It can be anxiety of seeing their OBGYN, or even being around their spouse. There is also another side of Postpartum PTSD that has come to light: sometimes it happens with the perfect birth, sometimes it happens after baby comes. One of things I see as a Postpartum Doula, is that what happens during the Postpartum period can cause different forms of Anxiety, OCD, and depression. The constant worry can decrease milk supply, OCD can cause lack of sleep, or can cause you to over think things, like schedules or baby’s feeding amounts.

All of this can cause different problems for mothers. However, what can cause the most damage, is that mothers themselves may not see it, or they may even be afraid to talk about it.

Self-doubt happens, it’s a normal part of parenting. But the big thing is to not be afraid of it, and don’t discount your choices. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone, and be honest. That is the one thing that is helping my client, she is honest and open. She expressed her concerns from her past breastfeeding experience. And because she opened up about it, she was able to schedule appointments with a Lactation Consultant. It helped give her confidence, to realize that she is doing amazing, but it also addressed some struggles that she still has to overcome.

I hope this helps many mom’s understand to be open and honest.

The Crash Course Guide On Doulas For Expecting Fathers

What is it that the doula do?

Simply put a birth doula is professional labor coach. A doula attends the mother during her labor and delivery, offering emotional and physical support. She has specialized training and experience with the entire labor and delivery process (natural and medicalized), and is devoted to serving new mothers and their families to achieve the birth experience they desire.

We promise we will NOT replace you.

Your doula is not interested in replacing you in the delivery room. Your partner is going to need reassurance, comfort, and love from you to make it through her labor and delivery and the doula’s job is to step aside and help you do what you do best; being there for her when she needs you. Your doula will be your guide, and like a good jock strap she is going to provide you with enough support to get you through this! She may take the lead for a bit now and again when she sees you need a break or are unsure what to do, but a large part of her role is to show you what to do and how to do it so that your partner remembers how amazing you were in helping her have an incredible birth.

We’re like the “Phone A Friend” option, only better.

We all know you have been there for your partner the past nine months, helping her rub coco butter on her swelling belly and massaging her aching feet. We know you went with her and cringed through watching that infamous video; the grainy one that has emotionally scarred so many men in childbirth ed classes across the nation. You’ve also likely read every book on pregnancy and childbirth and babies that your wife handed to you over the past year in preparation for this very moment, so when those first contractions hit and you instantly forget everything we promise we will not judge you. Your doula is going to be right there by your side gently reminding you about how to time contractions, what it means when a care provider murmurs your wife is “at 0 station and 60% effaced”, that it is in fact normal for an incredible amount of fluid to gush out when the sac finally ruptures, and will calmly guide you over to help “hold a leg” when the moment of truth arrives.

Here’s your hall pass.

The one thing expecting fathers tend to appreciate most about their doula is the fact that they can take breaks during their partner’s labor. Having a doula allows you to be able to go to the bathroom, take a quick nap, go grab a bite to eat, or simply take a break from the excitement in those long hours leading up to delivery. A doula also offers peace of mind to those who like to have a plan laid out if there is an emergency – fathers can safely and guilt-free leave their partners in the trusted care of their doula while they are able to go with the baby after delivery if an issue arises.

We’ll hold your hand, too.

It may seem like all the focus is on your partner (because it is), but your doula is aware that you are going through a big life event as well. Don’t be shy about letting her know if you have any concerns about what’s going on in the labor and delivery room. She understands what you’re going through and will be happy to help make sure your are getting the same answers and reassurance your partner needs to make informed choices during her labor. Your doula is also acutely aware that not every guy is going to be able to put on a brave face through all of the more graphic parts of the labor process. It isn’t easy to suddenly see the person you love most in this world go through what can only be described as one of the hardest (but also one of the most incredible) things of her life. Your doula is there to help reassure you that even though things may look and feel scary, it is all part of the normal birth process.

We will not burn sage or start a drum circle in the delivery room (unless you ask us to).

While TV and social media have pegged doulas as all being the stereotypical New Age Flakes, most of us are actually pretty “normal” individuals. Just like everyone else, doulas come from various backgrounds and have differing life-styles and values. It is true almost all birth workers (individuals who work within the birth community) tend to have a more holistic and natural approach to things but the beauty of a doula is that she sets all of her personal beliefs aside and supports her clients choices and decisions 100%. Hiring a doula does not mean you suddenly need to start drinking home-made kombucha and listen to Peruvian pan-flutes set to whale song during your morning commute to work, it simply ensures you have someone devoted to making sure your and your partner’s wishes are honored as you bring your child into the world.

The buck stops here.

Your doula works for you and you only. She does not answer to your care provider, nor is she an employee at the hospital or birth center who has to adhere to their rules. Her sole focus is on your partner and you. This is important as it allows your partner to know without a doubt that your doula is there supporting and honoring her wishes no matter what. You can trust that your doula will give you honest, open answers regarding care options and will always list the pros and cons of any intervention offered. She will not become frustrated with your questions and will not judge any decision made. Your doula has made a commitment to your partner (and to you) that she will honor and respect your preferences, provider suggestions and hospital policies be damned.

Doula Meagan FlahertyArticle written by Meagan Flaherty, of Beltane Birth Services.

5 Things Your Doula Would Like You To Know

1. Ask us where WE would want to deliver.

Doulas are placed in a unique position in the birth world. We often get to stand silent witness as different obstetricians, nurses, hospitals, and yes even midwives question (or worse, flat out ignore) a mother’s choices in the delivery room. We have seen it all, from beautifully supported births down to horror stories where the mother’s consent is violated repeatedly. Doulas have to be careful about how and what they say in regard to hospital and care-giver practices when speaking with their clients, however if your doula says she will not attend births with a specific provider or at a specific location there is probably good reason for that. The same goes if she tells you that she would deliver her own baby with a specific provider or hospital/birth center.

2. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. (Does your doula really want to see your mucous plug?)

We all know how excited you are for something to indicate you’re approaching the start of labor. It’s been a long ten (yes, it’s actually technically ten) months waiting for that first contraction to hit, marking the moment when you finally get to meet that precious little bundle. Trust me when I say your doula is just as excited as you are. We live and breathe birth and we LOVE it when our clients go into labor! However, a picture mail in the middle of the night showing what you think may or may not be your mucous plug cradled lovingly in a wad-full of T.P. is not always the best way for us to share in your enthusiasm. Certainly let your doula know if you think you passed your plug – she may even request a pic! – but consider saving the image for your pregnancy scrap book unless she asks you to send it her way.

3. There is a doula out there for every individual, and we want you to find the right one for YOU.

Take your time interviewing doulas before making your final decision. Just as you are a unique woman with specific life style choices and preferences, doulas come from all walks of life as well. You should feel a kinship with the doula that you choose – a “click”. While it is true that you do not have to even have met your doula before labor for her to positively impact your birth (studies have shown that just having a doula sit in the room with you greatly impacts birth outcomes), for you to get the best experience possible it is worth holding out until you find the perfect doula for you! As doulas, we want you to have the best birth possible and we know that means that we are not always the perfect fit with potential clients. We will not be offended if you ask us for referrals so you can interview other doulas in your area!

4. No, we won’t deliver your baby. No, not even ‘accidentally’. No, really.

Seriously. This is a big no-no. The role of your doula is to provide informational, emotional, and physical support for you during your labor and delivery process. A doula DOES NOT perform any medical tasks and is not properly trained (or prepared) to deal with emergent situations that could potentially occur during a normal birth. Yes, doulas have a great deal of knowledge and training about the birth process. And yes, we trust the body’s natural ability to have uncomplicated deliveries 99.9% of the time. However, we do not have the training or skillset to handle medical emergencies. If your doula tells you she is comfortable delivering your baby for you, please understand that she has over-stepped the bounds of her profession and is no longer acting as a ‘doula’, but as an unlicensed midwife.

5. “Student” and “In-Training” doulas have value, too.

There seems to be a popular thought out there that women can get a “steal of a deal” by hiring a student doula or doula in training for their births. So what exactly is a student doula? This is a term often used to describe an uncertified doula who is working towards certifying with a particular organization. There are many certifying organizations available for doulas to choose from, all with different requirements for certification and guidelines they expect their doulas to adhere to. It needs to be mentioned that doulas are not required to be certified. A doula who is going through her certification process may have attended zero birth prior to starting or may have been attending births for 20+ years and decided it was worth affiliating herself with an organization. Generally speaking, a student doula has completed her “hands-on” training requirement prior to seeking clients, but that is not always the case. So, what does this mean in regards to the overall “value” of your doula’s services? Experience, of course, does count and certainly has it’s value which is why most doulas who are certified and/or who have attended more births charge more. However, a student doula also has value. Consider the fact that your doula, whether she has 700 births or 2 births under her belt, is devoting her time to you for the entire length of your active labor through your immediate postpartum period (up to three hours after you deliver). For some women, this means upwards of 18hrs total of labor support. This does not include the time your doula will spend with you prior to labor, being on-call for your delivery (which means they are unable to make any other commitments or solid plans during that time-frame), or the time spent with you during any postpartum appointments. Regardless of whether a doula is certified or not, she can have a very positive impact on your delivery (as mentioned before, studies have shown the benefits of just having a doula in the room with you). Please keep all of these factors in mind before you start “bargain hunting” for doula services. Normally the fee your doula charges has been agonized over – doulas do this work from the heart and are not out there trying to rip anyone off – and she is charging what she needs to be able to stay in business.

Doula Meagan Flaherty Article written by Meagan Flaherty, owner of Beltane Birth Services

Doula consultations 101

Liz Pelletier, doula, helping client get through contraction in the birth tub

Photo Credit: Michelle Lynn, Hampton Roads Birth Photographer

Congratulations! You are expecting a baby! Now that you are deep into researching everything from maternity pillows to car seats you have someway or another, come across the option of hiring a doula. As you begin your search for a local doula, if you are in Hampton Roads, you have come to notice there are quite a few!

When searching for a doula, a consultation is incredibly important. It is an opportunity for mothers to meet with doulas and ask them some great questions but, most importantly, find out who they connect with most. I encourage mothers to meet with multiple doulas to give them the opportunity to find the one that will best meet their individual needs. Start by choosing 2-3 Doula’s to consult with, here are some questions to guide you.

#1. What training have you received?
Chances are, if you have found a doula through an online resource such as, she has had at least a basic birth doula training. What this means is that she has either, in person, or online been through a comprehensive class on how to support women in childbirth. This question will usually be met with “I trained with DONA/CAPPA/Birth Arts International/ProDoula/Madriella, etc.”. The doula may then go into more detail about additional education that she has received. While the classes she has taken may not mean much to you, it speaks to her commitment to serving women and should be taken into consideration.

*A note about certification. Certification is an option for Doula’s who have been trained through an organization like the ones listed above. Certification is not a requirement but does allow the doula additional credentials and benefits within their organization. The process of obtaining certification varies throughout the different organization. Feel free to ask the doula you interview about her certification status. Some are certified, some are in the process and some have chosen not to.

#2. What is your experience/ how many births have you attended? Newer doulas who are recently trained and starting out will have an energy about them, their training is fresh in their minds and they are excited to serve. More experienced doulas have the wisdom of the births they have attended. This question can be followed with “I’m birthing at X hospital (or with X midwife at home) do you have any experience there/with her?”

#3. What is your availability like for my estimated due date? You want to know how many clients this doula takes per month and if she plans to go out of town.
#3b. Do you have a backup doula in the event that you are not available? Can I meet her?

#4. Fees. You are likely already familiar with her fee when you interview her. Ask her about how she takes payments, all at once? In 2 payments? 4? What does her fee cover? Does she have a 12, 18, or 24 hour clause in her contract? (This is a clause that states after x number of face to face support in labor, you will be billed hourly.). If she has not already provided it, ask to see her contract. Take it home and review it with your partner and always ask questions if you have any.

Lastly, all of the above are great questions to ask, they may help you make a final decision on what doula you’d like to invite into your birth space. However, the connection you feel with the doula is the most important aspect of your consultation. Choose the doula who you most connect with, as this is the person you are inviting into your birth. This is the person you and your family will rely on for support during the most intimate time in your life. She may not be the most experienced or she may be the most expensive, but that connection is worth it!

Chiropractic Care in Pregnancy in Hampton Roads

Chiropractic Care Hampton RoadsPregnancy sometimes comes with aches and pains. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a natural method of reducing some of these pains? There is!! Chiropractic care in pregnancy can help keep your body balanced and your ligaments loose. Chiropractic care allows optimal alignment for birth and is an all natural and hands on approach.

Dr. Schwab is certified in the Webster Technique, which is helpful for many pregnant women. She is highly experienced in working with pregnant women, and she looks forward to helping you enjoy the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Dr SchwabDr. Schwab went to Life University in Marietta Georgia and graduated in 2012 with her Doctorate. She is also currently working with ICPA on her diplomat degree.
According the ICPA, women that receive regular chiropractic care typically see the following benefits:
·  39% reduction in labor times during 2nd/3rd pregnancies
·  50% reduction in the need for analgesics during labor
·  84% of women report relief of back pain
·  The sacroiliac joints will maintain better function which means less back labor
·  Faster posture healing postpartum
·  Decreased risk of postpartum depression

I chose Dr. Schwab because as a patient myself I have felt very well taken care of. She also takes care of my children. She takes her time with patients and my kids have come to love visiting her office.

Article written by Naomi Voss
Owner of Diamond Doula Services

Dads and Doulas Work Together

dads and doulaIt is often said that birth is all about the laboring woman and baby. There is so much truth to this statement; however, what about dad? In past decades, and even currently, dads have been portrayed in the birth scene as anxious men who are unsure of their roll. Truth be told, during birth they are typically needed more than ever.

I often encounter situations where dads are hesitant about hiring a doula, although their partners are eager to interview the perfect doula for their birth team. It is common for the dads to see doulas as an unnecessary expense, or that they may be overtaking their support role. The sweetest thing is, nine times out of ten, after a birth the dad is the first one to thank me while expressing his gratitude.

To be completely honest, I love building a relationship with dads and working closely with them during a birth, just as all doulas do. Every father is different, every birth is different, and so is the chemistry behind every relationship. What is universal, is the fact that behind every laboring woman, is the need for support from their partners. No one quite understands the ins and outs, the kinks and quirks, the deepest parts of a woman’s soul, but the father of her unborn child. Whether or not the dad wants to be a primary roll in his partners birth, a doula can be a fantastic part of their birth team who can provide unparalleled knowledge, empowerment and support for both the woman and her partner.

How dads and doulas can work together:
dad supporting laboring mom
1) During prenatal visits, dads and doulas get to know each other just as moms and doulas do. The dad can help their doula understand how he works with his partner on an emotional and physical level to provide ultimate comfort and relaxation.

2) During the birth, situations may arise where birth language, medical protocols, interventions and the sensations of labor are very unfamiliar for the dad. A doula does a phenomenal job at bridging that gap, so the dad can understand and feel confident with how their birth is unfolding.

3) Some comfort measures or birthing positions may be foreign for the dad. A doula can help show which comfort measures and positions may help the most at certain times. The doula can also provide little reminders for sweet gestures that help the woman feel safe and loved by her partner during labor.

4) Often times, labor can be a long process that requires undivided attention from members of the birth team. Having a doula makes it very easy for the dad to take bathroom breaks, eat a meal or even nap without feeling like his partner is left alone to labor by herself.
dad taking in his newborn

5) A doula can help keep dad taken care of and grounded during labor. Whether it’s getting the dad a cup of hot coffee, a meal, giving an encouraging pep talk, words of affirmation, or even a back rub. Sometimes the dad may feel a little uneasy, worried or needs extra care. A doula is there to support both of them as a whole.

Dads can often feel an immense amount of pressure to be everything, remember everything and do everything for the birth. When labor gets intense, birth can get fast, furious and REAL. Theres a plethora of thoughts going through the dads mind. Rather than having to potentially worry about being the perfect birth coach, while trying to recall every little technique, it’s great to just let dad support in the ways he knows how, and that’s by loving his partner unconditionally. Having a doula who understands the emotional and physical sensations of labor, is trained in childbirth education, medical interventions, birth terminology, comfort measures, positions optimal for labor and more, can be incredibly comforting for both the mom and dad.

A birthing woman can never have too much incredible support, but she isn’t always the only one that needs support, her partner does too!

Article written by Kiera Curtis
Owner of Gentle Waves Doula

Ten Things to be Thankful for: New Parent Edition

By Jennifer Votrain

The holiday season is a perfect time to remember the things we are thankful for and give thanks to the people we cherish.

For new parents, the topic of thankfulness can become an entirely new and completely basic idea. Overwhelming feelings of love compounded by utter exhaustion turn us into the most loving of zombies, and can make the tiniest of good deeds hugely gratifying in the blur that is new parenthood.

“The biggest thing I remember is that there was just no transition. You hit the ground diapering.”
~Paul Reiser

New parents, this one’s for you!

10 things to be thankful for: New parent edition

1. A hot meal. Preferably home cooked, preferably by someone other than you. On that topic…

2. A freezer full of prepared meals. In the chaos of childbirth preparation, parents can forget what a necessity good food is after bringing home baby. Stocking your freezer with delicious meals prior to the birth helps alleviate the temptation to eat junk food and saves you money on take out.

3. A warm shower. At least once every day and free from interruption.

4. At least one stretch of sleep that exceeds two hours. The idea of a “solid 8” goes right out the window with a new baby. Anything more than two consecutive hours is a huge win for tired parents.

5. An ear to listen. This new parent thing can be overwhelming, and that’s without the hormonal fluctuations! It’s so nice to have someone to vent to, whether you need to scream or have a good cry. Non-judgmental ears only, please and thank you!

6. Someone to entertain older siblings. The one person in your home who doesn’t need recovery time after the birth of a new baby is the big brother or sister. Having a partner or other hired help to ensure that older siblings get plenty of activity and exercise has two huge benefits: 1) quiet time for mom and baby to rest and bond and 2) a happy child who has an outlet for all that energy.

7. Binge-watching TV. There aren’t many times in your adult life where you’re encouraged to binge watch your favorite shows, but I’ll tell you right now – this is it! Take advantage!

8. Free arms! Even the most dedicated attachment parents love a little freedom of movement. Getting a sleeping baby down without waking him is a huge accomplishment for a new parent! Yes, you may do a happy dance now.

9. A supportive friend, family member, or hired helper. The realization of “it takes a village” is glaringly obvious to a new parent. This is the time to call in those favors or set aside a budget for help – commonly in the form of a postpartum doula. Embracing the idea that you don’t have to do this parenting stuff alone can be a huge weight off your shoulders. You’ve birthed a baby, for goodness sake! Take your time to recover, and let someone else handle the rest.

10. Your sweet baby. I mean, how can we talk about being a thankful new parent without mentioning the star of the show? Your little human, an absolute testament to the miracle of life… so incredibly small, yet so incredibly demanding of your time and energy. And you know what? Even through the haze of exhaustion, even through stitches and tears and hours of hard labor, you’d do it over and over again if it meant feeling the amazing power of this kind of love forever.

Welcome to parenthood.

Jennifer Votrain