It has been said that a doula is like a trail guide for birth - someone familiar with the culture and landscape who can act as a navigator, interpreter, and cheerleader, pointing out the breathtaking views as well as potential pitfalls along the way. If so, then taking childbirth classes is equivalent to studying the map and learning the language ahead of time. Beginning the journey armed with essential knowledge, the experience is authentically enriched. Rather than following blindly and awaiting interpretation a traveler, or birthing person, can become fully immersed in the experience, enjoying the powerful beauty of the process while easily sidestepping many complications.
While no one can predict the specific route or outcome of any individual birth, there are collective understandings, signposts, and techniques that can serve as tools for the journey. Childbirth education arms parents with the knowledge of what is normal and how to overcome or face variations - allowing them to focus on the true work of labor rather than trying to “wing it.” Prepared and educated parents come to the birth and postpartum experience equipped with strategy and confidence; they know what to do, what questions to ask, and how to make the choices most appropriate for their individual family.
Giving birth is a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting process, full of unexpected challenges. In every delivery, the birthing person is required to reach down to the deepest places in themselves to bring forth strength they have never before known. A doula’s skill set provides irreplaceable support to the process, but no one can do this work for you - a doula can only stand by your side and show you the way. Who wouldn’t want to be as prepared as possible for this pivotal life experience?
Common questions such as “How do I know when to go to the hospital?” “What do Braxton Hicks feel like?” and “How do I time contractions?” are all questions that are discussed in this class. You will feel fully prepared to give birth with confidence after this 6-week series.
Sarah will be teaching a 6 week Hospital Birth class series on Saturdays from 10 am -12:30 pm, starting January 11. Each dynamic and interactive session covers an essential topic to prepare you and your family for pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period. You will receive a beautiful full-color workbook highlighting the key points of each class, sized perfectly for slipping into your hospital bag for quick reference. Space is limited, so contact us today to reserve your seat. Gift cards for classes are also available upon request.
Sarah teaches private and group childbirth preparation classes in the Syracuse, NY area. Sarah received her certification through Birth Boot Camp and the Bradley Method. Not only is Sarah a chilbirth instructor, but she is also one of the CNY Doula Connection’s amazing birth doulas! Curious about how a doula could help you? Read this past blog post: Should I hire a doula?
Are you ready to sign up for Sarah’s class? Register here! Still have questions? No problem! Our office is available to answer your questions.
Labor and Postpartum Doula
Family sleep is a huge concern for new parents. The KEY to getting your newborn baby to sleep longer and better is to mimic the sensations they experienced in the womb. As a postpartum doula for many years and newborn sleep educator, I have tried many products on the market. Some products have stood out to me as beneficial for most babies and may help your newborn sleep better as well.
Newborn babies love to feel secure and swaddling is one way to mimic that feeling of being back in the womb. There are many different swaddling products on the market, or you can use an old-fashioned receiving blanket to swaddle your baby. My favorite method to swaddle babies is the Houdini Method, which is easy to do with blankets you already have at home. However my absolute favorite swaddle, The Miracle Blanket (miraclebabyusa.com/), is a swaddle that utilizes the Houdini Method. It may be a little tricky to figure out at first but once you get the hang of how to use it correctly babies will feel comfortable and secure. Instructions for use of the Miracle blanket can be found in this YouTube video.
Many people believe that newborn babies need silence and those around them need to be very quiet while baby is sleeping. Parents are often unaware that babies generally sleep worse in quiet rooms because the womb was a very noisy place. Your baby has become accustomed to the sound of your blood rushing through the placenta, the gurgling sounds of your belly and intestines and the thumping of your heartbeat. If a newborn baby is sleeping in silence the very startling noise of the dog starting to bark, a doorbell ringing or someone dropping something onto the floor will usually wake them. White noise will drown out those sounds and usually babies will sleep blissfully through the most jarring of noises. Most white noise machines on the market are not quite loud enough in my opinion to get babies to sleep, but at their loudest setting are perfect for when baby is asleep. To remedy this, 2 white noise machines can be used simultaneously until baby falls into a deep sleep or you can download a white app onto your phone and increase or decrease the volume as your baby settles. My preference is an app called “White Noise Baby” which has many different types of noises to use with your baby and for you to find the one that works best. I have found many babies prefer the pink noise setting which is slightly higher in pitch than white noise.
Your baby spent 9 months comforted by the noises and closeness of the womb. Once they are born, they are jarred by the brightness of this world. To encourage your newborn baby to sleep better and longer, a very dark room is comforting. Adults and older children might like a little light to make us feel secure while sleeping. Newborn babies can be stimulated by light while falling asleep or if they wake during the night. Use black out curtains or blinds (or both!) on your windows, covering or taping over any areas where light might awaken your baby, so that your baby will enjoy total darkness while sleeping.
While in the womb babies are lulled by the gentle movement of your daily activities. Have you even noticed while you were pregnant with your baby that their most active time was just as you were settling in for sleep at night? It’s no coincidence that when your movement stopped your baby woke up and decided to make their presence known! Babies love movement and are usually calmest when being rocked in your arms or in the swing, bounced gently over your shoulder or a baby carrier, or gently jostled in their stroller or their car seat while you’re driving. To help babies fall asleep and stay asleep longer movement and vibration is so beneficial. So, grab your carrier and wear your baby during naptime or spend some time rocking your baby to get them to sleep. A great newborn carrier I love is the Moby Wrap (www.mobywrap.com/shop/all-wraps) and when babies outgrow the Moby I like the LilleBaby soft structured carrier (www.lillebaby.com/collections/carriers). Dr Harvy Karp, author of two of my favorite books Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Baby’s Babies Guide to Sleep, shows his method to calming babies with movement in this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB2Fw3MFlhk
Sleep close to baby
Sleeping close to your baby has many benefits for both baby and parent. Newborn babies were used to spending every moment, safe and secure, close to their mother when she was pregnant. Babies do not realize that they are a separate being from their mother thus any far separation can cause babies to become stressed and unsettled while sleeping. The AAP recommends babies sleep in the same room with their parents for at least 6 months and ideally a year to help prevent SIDS. For parents, sleeping in the same room as their baby will allow for more sleep as they can quickly respond to their baby’s nighttime needs and makes overnight feeding much easier. There are many bassinets on the market to choose from. Some parents set up a pack and play in their room or even the baby’s crib, while others prefer a stand-alone bassinet. My favorite bassinet is the Snoo Smart Sleeper which features many of the calming techniques Dr. Karp suggests parents use to help babies soothe to sleep (https://www.happiestbaby.com/products/snoo-smart-bassinet). Although the bassinet is pricy the company often offers significant discounts on the Snoo and renting the Snoo is always an option as well.
For more help
If you are desiring more sleep for your family a postpartum doula can help! Postpartum doulas are available for daytime and overnight support to care for your baby while giving parents the opportunity to nap or have a full night’s sleep. Please see our website at http://www.cnydoulaconnection.com/postpartum-care.
If you are concerned about your baby’s sleep or want to learn more about how to help your family sleep better, visit my Infant Sleep Education and Support page at http://www.cnydoulaconnection.com/sleep
What are your favorite products to help your baby sleep better and longer?
Before you become pregnant and early in your pregnancy there are many options to consider while preparing for your birth. Here is a helpful guide to the options you may consider.
1. Location – In the CNY area you have two options for birth location…
A – Alternatives (what are the alternatives)
I – Intuition (what is my gut saying is the right thing to do)
N – Need time (I need some time to think about this, research this, talk to my partner and doula)
Write a birth preference plan – This is to present what you would like to occur during your birth but you are not tied to this plan. Keep an open heart and mind to your birth experience knowing that rarely does what you plan for occur exactly how you envision it.
Learn natural birthing techniques - All women would benefit from learning natural birthing techniques, as you will likely need to use them during some or all of your labor, even if your plan is medical management of pain. An excellent childbirth education class and a doula would teach labor coping strategies to you.
A doula is also a constant presence, making you feel comforted knowing we will remain by your side. Our focus is entirely on you. Most often medical providers are expected to care for multiple patients at a time, therefore usually just checking in with you periodically.
A doula will join you when asked, which may be in your home or the hospital and stay with you throughout, often with only very brief breaks.
Partners appreciate the guidance a doula brings to the birth. Partners take the childbirth class with you, read the books, then labor starts and...their mind goes blank. Don’t worry, that’s where the doula comes in! It’s hard to remember all of that. A doula doesn’t take the place of a partner doing things like counterpressure, but rather remind them of how and when to do them. A partner knows you better than anybody, so while partner may be face to face with mom, talking to you and caressing you, the doula may be giving you a foot massage.
Doulas and partners make great teammates. Together we can do a fantastic job supporting you.
Studies have shown the benefits of having a doula. These studies have concluded that having continuous labor support may decrease the likelihood of needing a cesarean, and the need for Pitocin or pain relieving drugs. Continuous support may also help you have a shorter labor and a more satisfied birth experience. (Cochrane review 2017)
Besides being present at your birth, doulas also meet with you, prenatally, to offer you informational support. We help you find reputable, evidence-based information so that you can make informed decisions about your birth. We also go over comfort measures that may help ease your labor and listen to all your birth wishes.
Doulas also come to your home during your postpartum period to check-in on how you are doing physically and emotionally. We can offer breastfeeding support and reflect on your birth.
Doulas really are there with you throughout the whole process!
So should you spend the money on a doula?
While it might seem expensive, it can still be obtainable. Although doula services are not usually covered by most insurance companies, some will pay a portion or allow you to pay for a doula out of your flex spending or health savings account. Most doulas are willing to work with clients by offering payment plans. Adding doula services to your baby registry is another creative way to pay for your doula.
Ask yourself these questions:
If you answered “yes” to these questions, we want you to know we are here to help!
Join us May 14th to find the doula you connect with at “Doula Speed Dating.” We can’t wait to meet you! (Register here)
If you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed, chances are you’re busy reading books and articles and even taking classes to learn the ins and outs of breastfeeding. You’ve read about let-down, latch, engorgement, and other lactation components, and may already have purchased a breast pump if you’re planning on using one. The truth is, however, that as important as it is to prepare and educate yourself ahead of time, once your baby is born and you are in the midst of figuring everything out, you may still be caught off guard by any number of breastfeeding obstacles. If you put baby to breast for the first time and suddenly can’t remember half of what you learned in your class, or in that book you read, you are not alone! Pregnancy is a time where you are bombarded with incredible amounts of information, and no one expects you to remember it all after giving birth. That being said, one of the most important keys to breastfeeding success is building your support team. That way, when you encounter questions and challenges, you’ll know exactly where to go to get the help you need. Lack of resources and support is a leading reason why women get discouraged and give up on their breastfeeding goals.
Here are the seven people you want in your corner to help you achieve success in breastfeeding.
1. Your partner. Whomever is going to be your primary support person at home, whether it’s a partner, spouse, relative, etc. You and your partner must be on the same page about your breastfeeding goals. It’s important for them to have information about breastfeeding, and to appreciate that breastfeeding is not always a cake walk. A partner who is unfamiliar with the process, or unaware of the many challenges that can arise while nursing, may be quick to worry that breastfeeding is not going well, and may make suggestions that go against your original breastfeeding plan.
2. Your doula. Both birth and postpartum doulas can aid in your breastfeeding success. Birth doulas not only provide you with quality, evidence-based information about breastfeeding, but the positive effects that they can have on your birth experience can also lead to better breastfeeding outcomes. Studies show that the continual support of a doula during your labor not only reduces the rates of cesareans and interventions, but also reduces the likelihood of postpartum depression, which is a contributing factor in women having breastfeeding difficulties. Women who feel supported and have positive birth experiences are more likely to have breastfeeding success. Postpartum doulas are also great to have in your support team. Coming to your home after you give birth, these doulas are also equipped with knowledge of lactation basics and can help connect you with local consultants and professionals trained in more complicated breastfeeding issues. Postpartum doulas also tackle some of the tasks on your household to-do list (laundry, vacuuming, dishes, meal prep, etc.) so you have more time to spend taking care of yourself and your baby.
3. Your baby’s pediatrician. Yes, having a pediatrician who is breastfeeding-friendly is a crucial part of your success. Some practices may even have lactation nurses on staff! If your pediatrician does not seem supportive of your choice to breastfeed, you are being told your baby is behind on the growth curve and you feel pressured to supplement with formula, you may want to get a second opinion or possibly find a new pediatrician. If you are unable to switch doctors, make sure you utilize other resources like lactation consultants to help improve your breastfeeding experience.
4. Hospital nurses and lactation staff. Those first few feeds with your newborn can get you and your baby off on the road to breastfeeding success, so make sure you make the most of your time in the hospital. You will encounter numerous lactation and labor and delivery nurses during your stay who can provide a wide variety of experience and advice. Some hospitals even have a lactation nurse that you can call up after you have taken your baby home.
5. Certified lactation consultants. Depending on where you live, you may have a number of lactation professionals in your local area. Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) are professionals who have undergone forty-five hours of breastfeeding management training, and passed an exam. They are also required to complete continuing education credits every three years. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCS) have received even more training and practical experience and their credentials are internationally recognized. You may find them working in hospitals or doctors’ offices, or they may run their own private business. Some CLCs and IBCLCs even make house calls, which can be a blessing for new parents.
6. Support groups. Lactation professionals are great for clinical help in breastfeeding, but sometimes it can be so helpful just to talk with other parents who may be having similar postpartum and breastfeeding experiences as you. Support groups and La Leche League meetings for new parents are a great way to connect with families in your area, and provide a space to be heard and receive emotional support. La Leche League is an international breastfeeding education and support network that provides resources to nursing families, as well as hosting support groups and lactation clinics in cities and towns all over the world. Visit www.llli.org to find a meeting in your area.
7. Print resources. In this day and age, a vast world of information is right at your fingertips. If you have a computer or smartphone, millions of blogs, ebooks, news articles, and forums are just a mouse click away. Libraries, childbirth educators, and doulas are also likely to have helpful breastfeeding books and materials available to borrow. Having access to books, websites, and other resources that provide information and encouragement in breastfeeding is one more tool for success. Here are a few top-rated breastfeeding resources to get you started:
If you start your breastfeeding adventure and encounter any obstacles, you’re not alone! According to a study done by UC Davis, 92% of women struggle with breastfeeding in the first few days, and many continue to encounter issues throughout the postpartum period. A major factor for women who end up supplementing with formula or who give up on breastfeeding entirely is lack of resources and support. It’s never too early or too late to start building your breastfeeding dream team, it can make all the difference in the world!
-Anna Nieves-Herrera, Birth and Postpartum Doula.
At our Birth Basics class on February 12, 2018, mental health professional Stephanie Straub, LMSW, led a much needed discussion on maternal mental wellness. In addition to unpacking five popular myths that new and expecting moms grapple with, Stephanie shared with us the “Pillars of Self-Care” that she teaches all of her clients.
Sleep. While this might sound like a joke to new parents, or pregnant women (especially in the third trimester), getting a reasonable amount of sleep is crucial to your physical and mental wellbeing. While sleep deprivation has been shown to contribute to Postpartum Depression (PPD), it can also negatively affect your physical health and lower your immune system. What does it look like to sleep decently in pregnancy or with a newborn? Every situation is different. It may mean investing in more pillows, or a mattress topper to make your bed more comfortable. It may mean going to bed at 7pm just to catch a few hours’ rest, if your newborn seems to habitually sleep from 7pm to 10pm every night. It may mean pumping milk or preparing bottles so that your partner, postpartum doula, etc., can take over some of the nighttime feedings. It may mean a soothing cup of tea and twenty minutes with a good book, just to unplug for the day and get your mind and body restful enough so that sleep is possible.
Nutrition. As basic as it seems, you may easily find yourself forgetting to eat when you’re home with a newborn. Again, food is a crucial factor in both our physical and emotional health. In Stephanie Straub’s words, even a BigMac is better than eating nothing at all! She encourages clients to first eat something, anything, and then you can worry about what you’re eating later. Food affects our energy levels, our hormones, our moods. Skipping meals can result in vitamin and nutrient deficiency, fatigue, irritability, and a general inability of our bodies to function properly. You may think your baby’s needs are more important than your own, but in reality your baby needs a healthy and happy parent, as well as a good role model of self-care.
Movement. This pillar is not at all about intense exercise. It doesn’t mean signing up for CrossFit, or going to a yoga class five times a week. Something as simple as taking yourself or your baby for a walk is enough to treat your body and mind to some much-needed self-care. Even the small act of walking has been shown to benefit cardiovascular health, combat fatigue, and improve your emotional state.
Socialization. Caring for a newborn can be an incredibly isolating experience. In those early days, while your baby is brand new and your body is recovering from birth, there may be days and even weeks where you barely leave the house. As part of your self-care, it’s important to reach out to friends, family, moms’ groups, etcetera, so that the time you spend home with your baby does not start to feel suffocating and lonely.
A common myth of motherhood is that your needs come second to your baby. This can leave many new parents neglecting basic necessities like food, water, and rest. The truth is, you deserve to thrive and enjoy in your postpartum period, and your baby deserves parents who are happy and healthy. Don’t feel as though you have to suffer through chronic sleep-deprivation, anxiety, poor nutrition, and isolation, as the price you pay for caring for a newborn. If you want to get a healthy start to your postpartum period, consider hiring a trained postpartum doula who can help you navigate and balance baby’s needs and your own.
If you or someone you know is struggling in the pregnancy or postpartum period, Stephanie Straub, LMSW, is passionate about working with women and couples in the perinatal year. Her contact information can be found on our website (cnydoulaconnection.com), under “Friends of the CNY Doula Connection.” Please feel free to reach out to any one of our trained and dedicated doulas if you feel you may benefit from compassionate and dedicated birth and postpartum support.
~Anna Nieves-Herrera, Birth and Postpartum Doula
On Monday, February 12, 2018 we welcomed Stephanie Straub, LMSW who specializes in maternal mental health. She led us through a variety of motherhood myths, including instant bonding, breastfeeding is easy, every pregnancy is planned and wanted, and a few more. However, my favorite part of the discussion was our discussion on what it means to be a good mother. This discussion had a variety of perspectives, from doulas, new moms, soon to be moms, and other support persons. Each person who shared their concept of what being a good mom is differed in their responses; however, a common theme emerged.
As a Women and Gender Studies degree holder, this theme intrigued me. The responses revolved around the traditional expectations of being a good wife/partner. Participants shared thoughts, such as cleaning the house, preparing meals, doing the laundry and dishes, and making sure their partners got enough sleep for work in the morning. Most of the participants felt a pressure to be “super mom.” It stood out to me that traditional gender roles still persist in our society, and we forget the importance of self care as a new mom.
However, Stephanie was able to help bust this myth by focusing on the accomplishments of the day, as opposed to the things that you didn’t get to. Instead of being upset about the laundry that didn’t get done, focus on how you fed your baby, changed your baby, held your baby, soothed your baby. That’s a lot of work, and you should feel a sense of accomplishment for everything you did. She also discussed the four pillars of self care: sleep, nutrition, movement, and medical care. As a new mom, it can be hard to remember to take care of yourself. Self care is essential; you can’t continue to care for someone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
We were so glad to discuss such an important topic that gets overlooked, and Stephanie did a wonderful job at keeping it an upbeat and lively conversation. If anyone is seeking extra support throughout their postpartum period, or even during pregnancy, consider hiring a doula or reaching out to Stephanie. Her contact information can be found on the Friends of the CNY Doula Connection page on our website.
~Erin Sawyer, Birth and Postpartum Doula