A Doula’s Breastfeeding Plan

A Doula's Breastfeeding Plan
A Doula’s Breastfeeding Plan

Feed the baby.

It sounds so simple, and yet it isn’t. As a doula and childbirth educator, it seems to be understood that I will, of course, exclusively breastfeed this baby when he arrives.  I mean, in our training we are taught all about the amazing things that breastmilk and breastfeeding can do.  I have already had offers of support and help for when I breastfeed my baby. Not if. Not “what are your plans, how are you feeling?”  WHEN I breastfeed my baby.  I do plan to breastfeed my baby, but I have no set expectations on how that will go.  All I can do right now is prepare myself and my supports as best I can, then wait and see.

For those who are curious on how a doula plans and prepares to breastfeed, here are my plans:

I plan to rest as much as possible in the early days to allow my body to heal.

I plan to feed as frequently as my baby wants to, in order to help establish a good supply.

I plan to freeze healthy meals and plan easy snacks so that my body is nourished and better able to provide nourishment for my baby.

I plan to watch my baby for signs that he is getting enough milk.

I plan to arrange professional breastfeeding support if and when I need it.

I plan to breastfeed my baby as much as I can.

I plan to supplement any time I feel the need, for myself and my baby.

I plan to allow myself the grace to accept if I cannot breastfeed exclusively.

I plan to allow myself to feel any  grief I may feel if I am not able to breastfeed.

With my older boys, I had many challenges trying to breastfeed both of them. I felt immense pressure to breastfeed, and breastfeed exclusively.  I did not want to acknowledge the extreme grief I had over those struggles, and eventually not being able to breastfeed, it seemed to be so easy for so many others. Looking back at that time now, I wish I did not get sucked into the endless struggle over how my baby gets fed, so much so that I missed being present during those early days and weeks.

I was physically and mentally exhausted. Endless pumping, visits with lactation consultants, researching, buying herbs and (frankly, disgusting) teas, tracking down ingredients for and baking lactation cookies, washing pump parts in the middle of the night. It all took away from the only bits of time and energy I had to just… be.

Be with my baby.

Be with my new family.

Be with myself as I discovered how to mother (and again, and now again).

I wish I had had more non-judgmental, non-biased support.  Support that can see past the goal of establishing “breast is best” and look at the individual and their needs in this moment.  Sometimes that is not breastfeeding and that is ok.

This is nothing less than what I want for my clients as well.  I want my clients to feel supported and comforted as they work to reach their individual goals when it comes to feeding their baby.  Whether that is exclusively breastfeeding, supplementing, exclusively pumping, using donor breastmilk, using formula or any conceivable combination of these choices. My clients understand that I will not judge them for their feeding choices and/ or needs.  They know they can rely on me to help them get the information and any additional support they want or need to make the choices that are right for them.

Because we should all feel supported to do what is best for us and our families so that we can enjoy this fleeting time as best we can.

 

Birth!? Ew!

Birth can be gross sometimes.
Birth can be gross sometimes.

 

I recently came across a post in a Facebook group for doulas that was posted to discuss a recent Buzzfeed article about umbilical cord art. The article discussed how much the author thought that the idea of taking the umbilical cord and making art and keepsakes out of it (drying it, specifically), was gross. The doula’s in the facebook group were saddened and some were even furious that people can think it’s disgusting.

It has taken me a long time to learn this, but it is ok with me if you don’t like birth, or placentas, or umbilical cords! If you want your baby washed before touching them, I don’t want you to feel guilty because you read somewhere that it is good to wait before giving baby a bath, you won’t receive that judgement from me.  It can be empowering to some birthing persons to see or feel their baby’s head as it is being born and for others it could be traumatizing to force those options on them.

I acknowledge that I am one of the weird ones. I used to watch surgery shows with my family while eating dinner. “How’s your Mac and Cheese?” “Good. Did you see that vasectomy!?”.  Having grown up in a home with a mother with a disability, medical stuff was part of it. And some of it was pretty gross stuff. I am not phased in the least by the ick that comes with birth.

But, I realize that many people are.  Where I can see the beauty and wonder in a placenta, many others just see a disgusting piece of literally bloody grossness.  And while I love to gush and geek out about all things birth, I understand that not everyone wants to hear it.  (Though I am still working on not oozing birth talk all the time!)

I believe that part of being a doula is accepting that.  Coming to my clients where they are, instead of trying to persuade them to see things my way is integral to my mission of nurturing a culture of doula work that offers truly non judgmental support. 

Whether birth grosses you out or not, I support you!

 

If you liked this article and want to book a consultation with Amanda, you can contact her here.

Into the Deep End

Into the Deep End
Postpartum Support for Families

As my son approached the edge of the pool, I felt anxious.  He didn’t know how to swim in deep water; he could doggy paddle really well and had mastered the “mermaid” full body style too.  But he still lacked the skills and confidence to be able to swim any distance in water over his head.  Swimming is an essential skill to summertime fun when you live in the sunny Okanagan, so it was about time he learned.

So, gently, I got in the pool with the deep end and swam out a short distance.  He got in as well and I supported him as he started swimming around.  After a couple of laps with me supporting his body, I started letting go.  Easily, gently, he started swimming on his own.

As he worked this swimming thing out all by himself, he would stumble a bit, dip down and sputter. I was right there with my hand under him, pushing him back up so he could catch his breath and keep going.

It was not very long before he asked me to leave him alone so he could show off his new skills.  He did it, he was swimming in deep water all by himself!

He probably would have figured it out fine on his own, and he certainly was eager to try.  But, now we both know for sure that he has the skills, is safe, and perhaps most importantly, is confident in his abilities.

I see a lot of similarities with the postpartum support I provide for new families.  It’s not that they can’t figure parenting out on their own.  Most parents learn through being thrown in the deep end and then learning their parenting style through trial and error.

But, why not enlist some extra support if it’s available?  Someone experienced in helping new families through this steep learning curve, and making sure they are confident in their abilities. A postpartum doula supports a new family in their new transition by supporting them as they learn.  Because confidence makes a stronger swimmer.

If you would like extra support after baby is born, book a consultation for postpartum doula support today.

Doula Support for ADHD?

Managing a new diagnosis with doula like support
Managing a new diagnosis with doula like support

My family has recently been thrown into the world of ADHD diagnosis. Needless to say, the last few days and weeks have been a whirlwind of different doctor and counselor appointments, looking up information online and discussing with friends and family what this means for us.

As I sit here trying to sort out all the information being thrown at me and my family, I am left wondering “Is there a doula for ADHD?”. With what I know about what a doula can do for a family that is expecting, I find myself wishing for the same kind of support in our family’s new journey.

Oh, just imagine what help an ADHD doula would be!

Informational support

I need one source that knows which resources are available in the community. I am feeling frustrated with the lack of knowledge that different people have about what is out there for support. One counselor recommends a program that my doctor has never heard of. A friend went to a support group that the counselor didn’t know about when I asked. Just as I know about many different resources within our community for families that are expecting, an ADHD doula would know about all the different kinds of resources available, from reliable websites (not the ones that tout impossible cures) to good books to read and also in person support within our community. They know what resources and solutions that are available here, locally, and what things we may read or hear about that aren’t.

They would also be able to personalize everything to our family’s preferences and needs. If we are open to medication for treatment, they could discuss with us what they know about the different kinds, side effects and even suggest ways to help kids learn to swallow pills (we got that sorted out now)!

We would not need to jump from person to person, resource to resource trying to track down what works for us, rather our ADHD doula would be able to help us weed out the best sources of information for us so that we could get straight to work learning!

Non-judgmental support

Just as my clients don’t need anyone putting their beliefs about birth on them, I would greatly appreciate sources of support and information that don’t have specific beliefs about the best way to treat and manage ADHD. For some, it may be purely natural therapies and other families would prefer to try medications first. Most will resonate with a combination and so pushing one agenda or the other is not helpful or supportive. Having someone to provide the information in a way that does not lend judgement and then simply support our choices on what is best for us would be amazing.

And even when a course of action is debated upon, chosen and tried; it is then abandoned for a different option, our ADHD doula would support that too. They would not try to remind us of our original plan (unless that was part of the plan), but would change trajectory themselves and continue to support while we ourselves managed the unexpected or unplanned.

Practical support

An ADHD doula would know many different ways to help someone learn practical ways to support their strengths and manage their weaknesses. Organizational skills, time management, and maintaining the home all have to be learned anew and an ADHD doula would be able to come to our home and show us different things to try. Since they have helped others with ADHD before, this new kind of doula would be able to pull from a vast array of other people’s experiences for new ideas that we may not have thought of or heard about before.

Someone to listen

My imaginary ADHD doula is passionate about supporting people through this time and would not get sick of listening to me process this newfound information. If anything, they love the subject so much, they continue to be as excited about discussing it as I am right now. Rather than blasting all my friends and family with everything that is going on, an ADHD doula would patiently listen and just let me get it out. With their experience supporting others, there is probably little they haven’t heard about the good and the bad parts of this journey. They would be able to help me explore new ideas and discover my own thoughts about what is happening, what needs to happen next and how that may be different from my ideal.

Support my partner

While we discover what our family’s needs are, a doula could help my husband support me through this. Discussing ways to help me manage and verifying what I must be going through as well. Having someone outside our relationship explain things in a way that he can relate to would be a great bonus. It would make my concerns and questions seem normal to have someone else say “Yes, that’s a very common and normal concern.”

 

I think an ADHD doula would be a great idea! Who wouldn’t want that type of personalized help and support through a very new (and truthfully, sometimes scary) life event?

(I have found an ADHD coach though!  I will have to see if it is very similar.)

An Un-Doula Experience?

Not your typical doula!
Not your typical doula!

“I thought doulas don’t eat hot dogs? Ha ha.”

It was a comment that was said off-handedly and was not sincere, but the truth behind the comment was there. It said: Aren’t doulas supposed to be all-natural, no bra, burning herbs, and get in touch with your inner goddess type people?

No, we’re not.

I eat hot dogs. And dairy, even if I am lactose intolerant. I don’t make sure everything I eat is organic, and I need to wear store bought sunscreens. I don’t know an herb from a spice. I love my underwire bras and I don’t care how many studies you show me that say sugar is evil, I love my sweet treats.

It comes down to what works for me.

Which is nothing more than what I want for all of my clients. To be able to take the information about their options and decide what works for them. My job is to support that, not what my idea of what their birth should be.

Maybe that makes me a bit of an Un-Doula, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Let’s un-do some of the stereotypes about doulas that exist out there.

There are all kinds of doulas.

I am the kind that can provide you with information about different options and support you through the preferences you choose. This is your show, not mine.

So if you have been apprehensive about contacting a doula because you feel like they only support a “natural” birth, contact the Birth Nerd Kelowna for a truly personal and professional experience.

When Evidence Based Means Squat

Sometimes an evidence based choice is not the best choice.
Sometimes an evidence based choice is not the best choice.

Recently we had been having some troubles with my youngest son having emotional outbursts. We finally went to the doctor and his diagnosis (from seeing us for all of five minutes, after sitting in his boring office waiting room for over an hour right after school with no chance to grab snacks) was a lack of consistent parenting. Thanks. That made me feel awesome. He “prescribed” an over the phone one on one parenting course.

A few months later we finally made it in the next round and started this program focused on positive parenting, with lots of charts and rewards systems for encouraging good behaviour. We had difficulties using many of the tools offered and when that was expressed to our coach, I was repeatedly told “This program is evidence based.”

When the program ended and our little guy kept having these outbursts (though a lot less frequently and less severe), I decided to try another plan of action and took him to a free drop in counselling program I had heard about. After a more thorough discussion with me, the counsellor and my son, it was suggested he had a learning disability. But not your typical reading or math type. He was having troubles learning how to manage disappointments, frustrations and changes in routine. The more I learned, the more I felt it described him to a “T”.

It was frustrating to learn that we had spent that much time and effort (15 weeks!!) in a program that didn’t really address the problem, but as I learned more about his needs, it was clear that that type of parenting program could have the opposite effect. A child with this type of disability can become so focused on the outcome that they ignore the method to get there (behaving appropriately). By setting up charts and rewards systems for good behaviour, you can actually trigger an explosive response when the child doesn’t get the reward at the end.

What this has taught me about evidence based care is that it doesn’t mean shit if it doesn’t apply to your situation. This evidence based program was not designed for us in our circumstances. And so, it was useless (for us). Having someone repeatedly tell me that it would work if I just did it right was degrading, frustrating and made me feel like a bad parent, when I was doing nothing wrong.

Evidence is a collection of information that we look at as a whole. If a treatment works for 80% of people when used correctly, guess what? It doesn’t work for the other 20%. That is a big deal if you are one of the individuals that are the 20%.

Doulas like to tout “evidence based” this and that. I have been guilty of this myself, and may still do it now and again to be honest. Old habits and all that, and I apologize. We do this as if somehow, knowing the evidence is going to change the actual situation. Knowing the evidence that vaginal breech birth is as safe as cesarean delivery for the baby and safer for the mom, does not change the fact that for many women, they do not have access to a provider that will support that. Evidence will not change the mind of a woman who was sexually assaulted and does not want to have a vaginal birth, or breastfeed. And many times, the reasons why are none of our business. Evidence also cannot change a deeply ingrained culture around birth overnight.

Evidence based care is still needed. Having care providers basing recommendations on what is proven to be true is definitely preferable to the alternative. But, it is also important to remember the individual and their situation. And to respect when and if a client is requesting information, or would prefer to not know.

I am committed to learning and offering only evidence based information, but I am working to do so only when requested, and I even better understand now when my clients may choose not to follow it. You know what will and will not work for you better than I do and I fully respect and support your choices.

If you are looking for unbiased and non-judgmental support during your pregnancy and birth, contact The Birth Nerd Kelowna today.

To The Client Who Quit

I saw it in your eyes long before. The fight was gone. Almost every single one of your hopes for your birth had gone exactly the opposite of your wishes. And still you soldiered on, hope lighting the fire of your determination to keep trying.

Then suddenly the fire in your eyes just died. That was it, you were done. And we tried to encourage it to catch again, but it was no use.

It struck me suddenly as I listened to everyone in the room tell you how well you were doing and to just keep on keeping on. What are we doing? I looked at your face and realized that continuing to encourage you to keep trying at this point could be traumatizing. We were just trying to help.

And then quietly, you surrendered “I can’t. I just can’t do this anymore.”

At that moment, I couldn’t have been more relieved and more proud.

What I want you to know is that sometimes a quiet surrender is more courageous than a loud roar of power. Knowing where your limits are and having the courage to say it to a room full of people telling you otherwise will serve you well on your journey as a parent. For there will be many times that others will tell you what you should do and making a decision from within is probably the most valuable parenting skill there is.

Not to mention, having the courage to speak it to people who are trying to change your mind, especially to those you respect, love and care for.

So, to my client who quit; you got this. Trust yourself. I believe in you.

 

Your Doula,  Amanda

My Journey With Motherless Mothering

Thoughts on mothering without a mother.
Thoughts on mothering without a mother.

My mom had MS.  I grew up with her as a single parent of two, caring for her and helping run the household as she grew more ill.  Just a few short years after I moved out, she was moved to a care facility, with around the clock care but just one room to herself.

When I became pregnant with our first child, she was very much aware and excited, but we lived in a different city, a different province and were not able to visit very frequently.  The pull of family after you start your own is very strong and so -after our second was born- both myself and my husband yearned to “go home” to where our families were.  It was on the way back from our Christmas visit that year that we finally made the decision to move home.

I don’t know what the deciding factor was for my husband, but for myself it was the realization that my mother was getting sicker and our boys would likely not ever remember her.  It was a lightbulb moment where it just clicked that no matter if they did remember her, that they would never, ever know her as I knew her.  That my memories of her could not be shared in the same way, they would never know the joy of her laugh or share her favourite foods.  We would never go to Gramma’s and make cookies, do crafts or have movie marathons with cheesy popcorn.  But even so, we could give her as much time as possible with her grandchildren.

And so, we moved home.  And my mother passed away a short 6 months later.

Now, I miss all the things that I can’t talk to her about. Even when our first was born, her memory was going.  The disease made her believe things that happened in dreams were real, or she’d tell us certain gifts in her room were baby heirlooms from when we were little, when we knew it was something a friend brought the last time she was in the hospital.  After becoming a mom, I so longed to ask about when I was growing up.  What was it like being my mom, to ask to hear stories about me growing up.  But, I had no idea what would be true and what would be her illness making things up, so I never asked.

When our sons loose teeth or have struggles with friends, I want to ask her what it was like when I was little.  We have started having “the talk” with our boys, and I would love to ask her “Was I that young when the questions started?”.

Mothering without my mother has probably been the hardest part of being a parent for me.  To not share that with her; someone that I was so close to, the person who made me want to be a mom; is incredibly difficult.  But I have come to realize that the love I have for my boys is the same she had for us.  So when I am feeling lost and not sure what to do, I simply have to ask myself: what would I tell my sons in this situation?  It’s not perfect, and it will never replace what has been lost, but it helps.

And so, I continue on, trying to share what I can of her with my children and keep her memory alive.

A Doula for Camping?

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This summer my family went on a trip to Alberta to visit friends and family and to see some sights (you can’t have a six year old who is obsessed with dinosaurs and not visit the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum!). Originally, we had planned on going with my sister and brother in law and camping our way around. It seems almost sacrilegious to admit, living in BC; that we don’t go camping. We have such beautiful mountains and valleys and places to go that it seems a shame we never camp outdoors. So, when we couldn’t arrange all of our work schedules to coincide, my husband and I decided to just book a hotel because we have only a very basic idea of how to camp, so really we have no idea what we’re doing.

Besides knowing that we would need a tent, some sleeping bags, some hot dogs and s’mores, we really have no clue about the real things we need to have and know in order to go camping. I’m pretty sure you need to book space to camp in, that you can’t just show up in the woods and camp, or that there are places that aren’t good to camp in. And what do you do if it rains? See, I have no idea. At least we know enough to know we don’t know. Y’know?

So anyway, the plan was to all go together and my sister and her family could teach us what to do and show us the ropes. They were going to be our camping doulas.

Now, I’m sure we could have just googled what we needed to know, bought some stuff, booked a place, shown up and figured it out and had a good time. But, we decided not to chance it so if they couldn’t come with us, we weren’t going either.

Camping for the first time is a lot like having a baby. You kinda know you need some clothes, diapers and they don’t sleep through the night, but you don’t really know what it’s like to have a baby until they’re there. Especially in our society that frowns on sharing birth stories. You’re taught that there’s some screaming, some swearing, some asking for pain medication and then poof there’s a baby.

But, what about all the other stuff? Wouldn’t it be nice to have that person that can hold your hand and walk you through it? Can tell you the ins and outs, that one person you can go to who has helped others through this before? Well, you can!

As a birth doula, I am experienced in helping families understand the process of birth and prepare as much as possible. I can help them understand their preferences, prepare for the unexpected and am an unwavering support of their choices. I understand the unique benefits of different types of care providers, places of birth, pain management options, community resources and more. Having supported many clients through each of these, I have firsthand knowledge of how birth “works”.

For postpartum support, it is about having someone to tell you, unequivocally, that you are doing alright. And I know, because I’ve supported others through this time as well. I can help families through the first diaper changes, learning how to dress and swaddle baby, bathe baby and tips to help with feeding. How to clean bottles, as well as offering tips and tricks on caring for yourselves.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know until you’ve been there. If you feel like you have a million questions or blank areas of knowledge, it can be good to know that you can ask your doula because they have supported someone else through it. And if they don’t have the answer, they definitely know where to find it.

One day we will go camping with my sister and brother in law and have them teach us what we don’t know. But in the meantime, we’ll stick to hotels and restaurants for our trips. However, having a baby is one trip you can’t cancel. Consider hiring a doula for support.

 

Thanks to the Birthful Podcast #37: Birth Prep Essentials for the inspiration for today’s blog post!

 

Let Me Listen

The Folly of Comparing Struggles
The Folly of Comparing Struggles

I recently had a friend over for coffee.  We were visiting and she was lamenting about how her mother was driving her bananas.  The thought popped in my head: “At least your mother is still alive.  Be thankful for this time with her.”

I wanted to say it, but I didn’t.

I didn’t say it because that is my struggle, not hers.  That is my reality, not hers.

And my job as her friend is to acknowledge that for her, in this moment, this is something she is struggling with; and to be there for her as an understanding ear. It might seem like comparing apples to oranges.  But, making light of one person’s plight just because someone else has it “worse” is dismissive.  It is refusing to give support just because someone else would love to “have your problem”. 

I know my friend is thankful to have her mother.  I don’t need to point that out because I know that truly, she is.  That doesn’t make the stress of dealing with her mother at this moment any less.

So, it does not matter if someone else has it worse.  You are allowed to feel what you feel.  If you are struggling with a crying baby, you are allowed to feel frustrated even if someone else is sitting with theirs in the hospital somewhere hoping they will come home.  It does not take away any of the weight of your reality, of how hard it can be, to know that somewhere, someone else “has it worse”.  It doesn’t make your weights lighter to know someone else is carrying ones that are heavier.  Even if that someone is a best friend.

But truly, to start comparing struggles at all -like one is worse than another- is not supportive or helpful.

If you feel you are being dismissed for your feelings, seek out someone else to confide in.  Perhaps someone else who is going through the same thing.  It can feel really good to know you aren’t the only one who is having this kind of struggle.

And know that as my client, I won’t judge you for having different struggles or finding different parts of parenthood harder than others might.

We all have our own battles, let me listen and support you while you fight yours.