Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Does a Doula Do?

I cannot even begin to count how many times I have answered the questions "What is a Doula?" and  "What does a Doula do?". Some people have just never heard the word Doula, and others have heard it, but for one reason or another think that a Doula is the same thing as a Midwife, or that a Doula has "something to do with home birth". Neither of these is entirely wrong. But it seems that the general population really doesn't know exactly what a Doula is, or what they do. I will do my best to answer the most frequently asked questions I get and hopefully clear a few things up.

Many of the questions that you may have can be answered HERE, so please take time to read through the information on that page by clicking the link or by clicking on the "Why Use a Doula" tab at the top of the page.

So many people believe that a Doula is the same thing as a Midwife, or something similar to one. They are not the same thing. I think they get mixed together because both professions deal with a more natural approach to child birth. But a Midwife is a medical professional, trained in caring for women throughout their pregnancy, during their birth, and many also provide general female care outside of pregnancy. A midwife would see you for appointments like an Obstetrician would. A midwife would be the one to attend the birth of your baby, like an Obstetrician would. A midwife performs the duties that an Obstetrician would perform, but a midwife is not a trained surgeon and cannot perform a Cesarean Section if one was needed for some reason. Midwives tend to take a more natural approach to pregnancy and birth. They are more "hands off" and allow nature to do what it does best. A midwife will generally stay with the laboring mother the entire time, until the baby is born, which is something an Obstetrician would almost never do. That last part is probably where people get midwives confused with Doulas.

A Doula is non-medical. They do not go to nursing school. They do not start IVs or administer medications. They do not perform cervical checks. A Doula is a support system for women in labor. They are there as a constant form of help and support physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A Doula is fully trained in the process of child birth and what happens to your body and your emotions during the stages of labor. They are familiar with the common procedures that are done, and are able to assist you to make decisions. They are with you throughout your labor to help you stay as comfortable and as calm as possible. They help you find the most comfortable and efficient positions that help your baby to drop down easily and quickly, which results in a shorter, less painful birth experience. They can provide massages, natural comfort techniques, coach your breathing and are constantly encouraging you and assuring you throughout the entire experience. They will remain with you from early in your labor until a few hours after your baby is born and breastfeeding has been established.

A Doula does NOT replace the father of the baby or another birth partner. In fact, a Doula is able to show the dad what he can do to feel more involved in the birth experience by teaching him comfort techniques that he can do to support the laboring mom. A Doula does not replace a nurse. Nurses are trained professionals and a Doula would not (should not) try to take over the job of a nurse. But nurses are busy! They are usually caring for more than one patient at a time and will be in and out of the room. A Doula will stay by your side the entire time. Your Doula will know what your ideal Birth Plan is and will do all that she can to support you and help you to achieve what you are hoping for. She is your advocate and will remind hospital staff what you do and do not want during your birth.

Doulas attend ALL types of birth situations. It doesn't matter if you give birth in the hospital, birth center or your own living room. It doesn't matter if you have an all natural birth, epidural birth or c-section birth. The purpose of having a Doula attend your birth is to support you and help you to achieve the birth experience you want, whatever it may be! Doulas are associated with natural, medication free births because they are commonly used to help the laboring women to find alternative methods to pain relief and relaxation. They are very encouraging and supportive and most women who choose to go naturally feel that they need a very strong support system throughout their labor. But many women want the same level of comfort and support even if they choose and epidural birth. The majority of women who know that they will be undergoing a Cesarean birth are scared. A Doula can help to calm and assure these moms before they go in for surgery, and as long as the physician and hospital allow it, she may even be able to be by your side during the surgery. 

Of course, your labor and birth of your baby is a very personal experience and one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have in your life. It is very important to have a good relationship with anyone who will attend this special event in your life, including your Doula! If you think that you would like the support of a Doula you will meet with her at an initial appointment to get to know each other. It is up to you to find a Doula that you "click" with. You will meet with your Doula a couple of times before your birth to get to know each other and to develop a birth plan so the Doula knows exactly what she can do to help YOU in YOUR personal birth experience. The very best thing you can do to prepare for a successful, fullfilling birth experience is to find a strong support system. Surround yourself with a system of people who can help you and support you in whatever YOU choose.

If you haven't already, remember to read the information under the "Why Use a Doula" tab above to see the amazing statistics involved when you choose to have a Doula at your birth.

If you have any other specific questions for me on this subject, or any other birth subject, please feel free to contact me at

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

In everyday situations I try my best to not stand on my soapbox too long when it comes to the subject of breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. Ever since I had my first baby six and a half years ago, there has been a struggle between breastfeeding advocates trying to educate other mothers and spread the word of the vast amount of benefits that come with breastfeeding and the fact that it is a taboo subject because so many women are "unable" to breastfeed and instead choose to formula feed.  I will say that as a breastfeeding advocate myself, the wide majority of us absolutely do not wish to offend anyone or try to make the impression that breastfeeding moms are better than formula feeding moms. We all know this is untrue. What I, along with most other advocates, really want to express is that the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any downsides it may have. I personally feel that if women were offered more support and information on breastfeeding before and immediately after the birth of their baby, there would be a much greater number of women doing it.
I hear the words "I couldn't do it" so often in relation to breastfeeding it's unbelievable. The idea that a woman is unable to produce milk or feed her baby for one reason or another is not as common as everyone believes. In fact, the production of breast milk and breastfeeding a baby is an amazing, natural process that, when encouraged, almost every woman should be able to do. The "problems" that my own personal friends claimed to have that kept them from breastfeeding are common ones.
"My milk was too thin or a strange color" is something several of my friends have told me. In reality, the consistency and color of your milk will change depending on your own diet. It's supposed to look different. There is no one perfect way your milk should look. It changes in flavor as well depending on what you have eaten, something your baby happily enjoys.
"I just couldn't produce enough to feed my baby" is another very common reason that women quit breastfeeding. Many times women will actually have the need to boost her supply, and this can easily be remedied in several ways. Breast milk is produced as-needed, which is one of the most incredible things about breastfeeding. As a baby grows and develops and during growth spurts they will require more nourishment and will feel more hungry. Because of this, they will try to eat longer even if the breast has been emptied. The baby may feel frustrated and cry, but it is important to allow the baby to continue to try and nurse because this extra time is telling your body that the baby needs more milk. The sensation of the baby sucking actually sends a message to the mother's brain and tells it to have the breasts produce more milk to feed the baby in the feedings ahead. If you allow the baby to empty the breast and then immediately remove them, your body won't realize that it needs to produce any more than it already is. Even though it will be difficult for a feeding or two, allow your baby to suck. You can also help to continue to stimulate to trigger milk production by massaging your nipples or using a breast pump after feeding your baby. You'll soon notice that your breasts are producing more milk to accommodate your growing baby's needs.
Another way to help quickly boost the production of milk is to use a variety of herbs that aid in breastmilk production. These herbs, referred to as galactagogues include Fenugreek, Fennel, Milk Thistle, Goat's Rue, Borage, Nettle Leaf, Blessed Thistle, and others. Many of these herbs have been used for centuries, some even date back to Biblical times. For the best results, it's best to use two or more of each herb at the same time. The easiest way, in my own personal opinion, to use these herbal supplements is to drink them in a tea. My favorite is Mother's Milk Tea by Traditional Medicinals which is available at many grocery stores (check the natural foods section if you don't find it in the tea section) and I have even found it at my local Walmart. It has a very pleasant taste, and sometimes I sweeten it up a tiny bit more with a drop of honey. In my experience, my milk will be more plentiful by the very next feeding. And, as I mentioned before, if the baby drinks all of the milk that was produced, your body will know that it will need to continue producing that amount. You can use the herbal tea as often as needed. There are other teas or tinctures that you can try, or you can also take the herbs in capsule form.
There are a few foods that can help boost milk production, and they won't be too painful to get down either! There are actually cookies available now days that are said to help with milk production! Yum. The best foods to try are oatmeal and flax. Both of these things are easy to eat on their own or to add into other foods. Try Kashi TLC™ Soft-Baked Cookies Oatmeal Raisin Flax. It is also very important that breastfeeding women get a balanced diet every day and drink plenty of water. If you aren't feeding yourself, you can't feed your baby. You have to eat to support both of you, but that doesn't mean you should eat whatever you want. In general, breastfeeding women require about 300 calories more than normal. You can figure out a more precise number for yourself here. Remember a healthier diet means a better working body, which means it will be easier for your body to produce an ample amount of healthy milk for your baby.
"It was just too frustrating" and "It took up too much time" are two more common woes of unsuccessful breast feeders. I will be the first one to stand up and say that breastfeeding isn't always easy! I remember the frustration I had with my first baby. She cried, I cried. She got frustrated, I got frustrated. She tensed every muscle in her body, I tensed every muscle in my body. It was very difficult. I had several lactation nurses help me, I used several different devices including tiny tubes on syringes and nipple shields. The nipple shield helped a little bit, but it was still a fight at every feeding. She had such a hard time latching on. It took us until she was a couple of days old before we realized that she was tongue tied. At 8 days old she was in the ENT office having her frenulem clipped. She cried a little, I cried much more! But it was a quick procedure that healed extremely fast and breastfeeding got very easy after that. My next baby was much easier to feed because he was not tongue tied, and because I was experienced by then. The next two babies were a breeze! One of the most important keys to successful breastfeeding is skin to skin contact and allowing the baby to start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth. Immediately is best of course, but anytime within the first hour after birth is best. The skin to skin contact triggers the baby's natural instinct to nuzzle the mother to find the nipple and begin to suck. This is also one of the most amazing bonding experiences between a mother and her new baby. The fact that it takes a lot of time can be something that takes some adjusting. Let's be honest, it's much easier to hand dad or grandma a bottle that was prepared in 30 seconds flat and allow them to feed the baby while you do whatever needs to be done at that moment. There is no denying that! However, if you plan ahead and arrange for the time needed to breastfeed your baby, you will realize that it is worth every second. There is a strong bond built between mom and baby when you breastfeed. You're providing them with perfect nourishment that no one else can give them, you're unknowingly responding to the positive effects of skin to skin contact and you get to stare into each other's eyes and talk and snuggle during this time. Again, it is very difficult sometimes to drop what you're doing to feed the baby (again) but if you keep in mind that it will not be forever and that these precious moments should be treasured that (along with some very creative multitasking....yep I can breastfeed and dress my 2 year old at the same time, no joke) you can find that you will grow to enjoy that time together.

Let's talk about formula for a minute. Formula is not poison. Formula is not the devil. Formula can feed your baby a nutritionally balanced diet that will help them grow up strong and healthy. I do not think you are a bad mother for giving your baby formula. Now, with that out of the way, in all reality, breast is best. It even says that on the formula cans! The Similac Advance can says "Closer Than Ever to Breast Milk". The Enfamil Premium can says "Experts agree on the many benefits of breast milk". Why do they say this? Because even the formula companies know that breast milk is awesome. They attempt to create their formula to be as close as possible to mother's breast milk. Even with all of the science and technology around today, they have not yet been able to mimic breast milk in it's entirety. Again, I don't think formula is an awful substance and I do not think that people who choose to give their babies formula are wrong or bad parents or unintelligent or anything like that. I don't think less of anyone who makes that choice. I do however think that more mothers should give breastfeeding a good try before giving up on it. It is so worth it.

And now I will leave you with some of the amazing benefits of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Protects your Baby from Illnesses

Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen. Exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no solid food, formula, or water) for at least six months seems to offer the most protection.

One large study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren't breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk.The main immune factor at work here is a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that's present in large amounts in colostrum, the first milk your body produces for your baby. (Secretory IgA is present in lower concentrations in mature breast milk.) The substance guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby's intestines, nose, and throat.
Your breast milk is specifically tailored to your baby. Your body responds to pathogens (virus and bacteria) that are in your body and makes secretory IgA that's specific to those pathogens, creating protection for your baby based on whatever you're exposed to.
Breastfeeding's protection against illness lasts beyond your baby's breastfeeding stage, too. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child's risk of developing certain childhood cancers. Scientists don't know exactly how breast milk reduces the risk, but they think antibodies in breast milk may give a baby's immune system a boost.
Breastfeeding may also help children avoid a host of diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, preemies given breast milk as babies are less likely to have high blood pressure by the time they're teenagers.
For babies who aren't breastfed, researchers have documented a link between lack of breastfeeding and later development of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies

Babies who are fed a formula based on cow's milk or soy tend to have more allergic reactions than breastfed babies.
Scientists think that immune factors such as secretory IgA (only available in breast milk) help prevent allergic reactions to food by providing a layer of protection to a baby's intestinal tract. Without this protection, inflammation can develop and the wall of the intestine can become "leaky." This allows undigested proteins to cross the gut where they can cause an allergic reaction and other health problems.
Babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk don't get this layer of protection, so they're more vulnerable to inflammation, allergies, and other eventual health issues.

Breastfeeding may boost your child's intelligence

Various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development. In a study of more than 17,000 infants followed from birth to 6 1/2 years, researchers concluded from IQ scores and other intelligence tests that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding significantly improves cognitive development.
Another study of almost 4,000 children showed that babies who were breastfed had significantly higher scores on a vocabulary test at 5 years of age than children who were not breastfed. And the scores were higher the longer they had been nursed.
Preterm infants with extremely low birth weight who received breast milk shortly after birth improved their mental development scores at 18 months when compared with preterm infants who weren't given breast milk. In a later study, researchers found that the higher scores held at 30 months, and that the babies who received breast milk were also less likely to be hospitalized again because of respiratory infections.
Experts say that the emotional bonding that takes place during breastfeeding probably contributes to some of the brainpower benefits, but that the fatty acids in breast milk may play the biggest role.

Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as a way to help reduce your child's risk of becoming overweight or obese. An analysis of 17 studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that breastfeeding reduces a child's risk of becoming overweight as a teen or adult. The strongest effect is in children who were exclusively breastfed, and the longer the baby was breastfed the stronger the link.
Experts think that breastfeeding may affect later weight gain for several reasons:
  • Breastfed babies are better at eating until their hunger is satisfied, leading to healthier eating patterns as they grow.
  • Breast milk contains less insulin than formula. (Insulin stimulates the creation of fat.)
  • Breastfed babies have more leptin in their system, a hormone that researchers believe plays a role in regulating appetite and fat.
  • Compared with breastfed babies, formula-fed infants gain weight more rapidly in the first weeks of life. This rapid weight gain is associated with later obesity.

Breastfeeding may lower your baby's risk of SIDS

A large German study published in 2009 found that breastfeeding – either exclusively or partially – is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The researchers concluded that exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month of age cut the risk of SIDS in half.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends breastfeeding for as long as possible to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression

The National Institutes of Health reviewed more than 9,000 study abstracts and concluded that women who didn't breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early on had a higher risk of postpartum depression.
Many women report feeling relaxed while breastfeeding. That's because nursing triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin. Numerous studies in animals and humans have found that oxytocin promotes nurturing and relaxation. (Oxytocin released while nursing also helps your uterus contract after birth, resulting in less postpartum bleeding.)
One study found that women who had high amounts of oxytocin in their system (50 percent of breastfeeding moms as opposed to 8 percent of bottle-feeding moms) had lower blood pressure after being asked to talk about a stressful personal problem.
By the way, if you're being treated for depression, you can still breastfeed your baby. Your healthcare practitioner can help you identify safe ways to treat your depression while nursing.

Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer

Numerous studies have found that the longer women breastfeed, the more they're protected against breast and ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect.
It's not entirely clear how breastfeeding helps, but it may have to do with the structural changes in breast tissue caused by breastfeeding and the fact that lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen your body produces. Researchers think the effect on ovarian cancer may be related to estrogen suppression as well.

More information

Studies are finding new benefits of breastfeeding all the time. The May 2010 issue of Pediatrics, for example, published a study showing that babies who are breastfed are less likely to have fevers after their immunizations than babies who are formula fed.

I don't want to toot my own horn... because I am not the perfect mother. In fact, a lot of days I would refer to myself as the opposite! However, breastfeeding has always been very important to me. I want to buy my kids the safest car seats on the market because I want to protect them the best way that I can. I research any product that I purchase for my babies for hours or even days on end to make sure I get the very best product available because I want them to have the best. (I just did this for a snot sucker-outer the other day. For real.) I don't think I'm alone in this. Most parents today want the very best for their kids. So when it comes to what I feed my babies there is no question. I survived a baby who couldn't latch and had to get their tongue snipped to be able to eat (and talk later on). I survived SIX terrible bouts of painful mastitis with my second baby. Six! It was horrible! All of my friends and family members kept asking me why I didn't quit breast feeding, and to be honest, it never crossed my mind! With my third baby I waited until she put her brand new little razor teeth all the way through my nipple three times before I kicked her off. (Oh ouch, that was ridiculously mean of her) Does this make me amazing? No. In fact it probably just means I am an idiot. But to me, it was that important. I have watched each of my babies benefit in so many ways from breastfeeding. My husband is always the first to point out that as soon as our babies have weaned completely from breastfeeding they begin to get sick more often. Those natural antibodies are awesome and I'm happy to keep them pumping into my babies as long as possible!(Uh, well at least until they are a year old. My babies and I are ready to part ways by then.) Two of my babies have stopped breastfeeding at 10 months old for different reasons and I tried giving formula to both of them instead. One absolutely refused to take it, (I couldn't blame him, have you ever tasted formula? Gag.) and the other took to it just fine. See that, even I have given it to my babies! I am happy formula exists. I am grateful I was able to use it when I needed it. But I will always be a breastfeeding advocate and encourage all mothers to try, and I mean really try, to breastfeed their babies. The benefits are amazing for both mother and baby, and they far outweigh the few downsides. If you are an expectant mother, please get as much helpful information that you can on breastfeeding before your baby is born. When the baby arrives, if you are struggling be sure to meet with a lactation consultant and surround yourself with supportive people who have experience with breastfeeding who can help you. It can be painful and difficult in the beginning and you will need a lot of help and encouragement. A doula is a great source of information and help during the first few hours and days. Give it a really good try and explore all of your options to better a difficult situation before you give up. It is worth it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Business of Being Born

If you haven't already seen The Business of Being Born, I highly recommend that you do so! In the Fall of 2011, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein released another fantastic set of movies, More Business of Being Born. This video set contains 4 discs and over 5 hours of helpful documentary video. I feel strongly that this series is very beneficial to all parents, whether you are pregnant with your first or your fifth. Check it out and let me know what you think!

HERE is the link to The Business of Being Born website.

The Business of Being Born is available to watch instantly on Netflix if you are a subscriber. Both are also available for purchase on

Birth Arts International Doulas

Trust Your Heart

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Thank you for stopping by! The decision to take a childbirth education course and/or to use a doula is a great step forward in preparing for your upcoming birth. If you would like to set up a consultation with me or sign up for a class, please contact me by email or phone to make arrangements.
I am currently a student at Birth Arts International and plan to get my Childbirth Educator certification within the next few months. I plan on completing my Doula certification within the next year. During this time I am offering my services at a discounted price. Please contact me with any questions you may have.