Birth Doulas Diversity Uncategorized

4 Reasons a Surrogate Needs a Birth Doula

Surrogacy is a beautiful gift to families that have struggled to have a child. There are so many aspects about surrogacy that are planned and thought out from the beginning. One of them can and should be is if the surrogate should have a doula for the birth. As a doula myself, I see the benefits and importance of having a doula. With surrogacy, there are even more benefits, because of how unique the situation is. Here are four reasons why a surrogate should still have a birth doula:

Photo credit: Andy Richter

1. A doula supports both the surrogate AND the intended parent(s)

Birth doulas are hired by and work for their client, the birthing mother. In surrogacy, the birthing woman is the surrogate. Their job as a doula is to support the birthing woman in pregnancy, during birth, and postpartum. However, surrogacy is a little different. You have the woman who is delivering the baby, but you also have the parent(s) who are welcoming their child as well. Doulas can help support the intended parents (IPs) as well, by being a great resource. As a doula we help educate on what is happening during labor, helping answer questions during the process. As well as what happens postpartum. Often, this is the first time seeing a birth, and having a newborn for the IPs.

2. A doula still helps the surrogate prepare for labor and delivery

While the IPs will have wants and wishes for the baby’s care after birth, the surrogate will also have preferences for how the birth goes, as it is her body. A doula plans prenatal sessions with her to help educate and inform her about choices in birth, and to help her plan out her preferences. With surrogacy things can come up like who does skin-to-skin, and will she want the IPs in the laboring room the entire time, or just when she starts pushing. A doula can help navigate all these options before the birth. Your doula can also help both the surrogate and IPs plan the baby’s care, like tests and feeding, if that is something the IPs are wanting.

3. A doula focuses on the surrogate, while everyone else is focused on baby and the intended parents

In the birthing space, the provider is focused on the baby and surrogate’s health and well-being, first and foremost. The IPs, while they can be supportive of the surrogate, will most likely be focused on the baby, especially after delivery as they become new parents. Having a doula for the surrogate, helps her have that needed physical and emotional support doing birth, but also after delivery when she’ll need it most. Surrogacy is an unusual emotional and physical process, because you are delivering a baby, but essentially you will not bond with baby the same way (which helps with oxytocin after) and most likely will not nurse baby (which helps with contracting the uterine back down to size), and you go home without a baby to take care of.

4. A surrogate still needs postpartum support

Just because the surrogate does not return home with a baby, does not mean she does not need postpartum support. Her body just worked incredibly hard to deliver the baby, whether that is vaginally or by cesarean. Often, because there is no baby to take care of, she may try and get back to “normal” too quickly. Her body still needs time to heal, as does her body emotionally. Having a doula means having that postpartum support as well. Doulas typically do 1-2 postpartum sessions after birth. To make sure she is doing well both physically and emotionally. It’s a good idea to be able to talk with someone who was there, about what you went through and how you are feeling overall.

Photo credit: Andy Richter

Are you a surrogate interested in having a doula on your birth team? If you’re local to Utah, find a UDA doula member or search Doula Match for someone local to you.


Hanan Webster, wife and mother of four, is a Birth Boot Camp certified birth doula and DONA trained postpartum doula at Treasured Birth Services. She is passionate about serving families, and when not indulged in her birth work, helps lead her local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group. You can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

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How To Have An Empowering Out Of Hospital Birth Transfer (just in case!)

By: Candace Roper


Planning for a hospital transfer might seem like the last thing you want to think about when expecting an out of hospital birth. That’s what I thought when I was having my first baby and planning a home birth. Then, at 39 weeks, I found myself giving birth in a hospital, well-prepared to have a natural birth, but unprepared for any other possible scenarios. After an 8 hour unmedicated labor and 3 hours of pushing, my posterior, asynclitic baby was delivered via cesarean section. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I could not tell my birth story without crying for over a year. I was heartbroken and defeated, definitely not empowered. I experienced terrible postpartum depression, although I didn’t know that’s what it was.

Out of hospital birth transfers are the exception, not the rule. Most transfers are due to long labors or maternal exhaustion. Rarely, a transfer due to a medical emergency may be required. I believe it is wise to consider all possibilities, and then focus on the outcome you are planning and hoping for.

My second birth was another homebirth transfer, this time after a long and unproductive labor.  That birth ended after 58 hours with many interventions, but because it was a vaginal delivery, I still felt somewhat vindicated. My third baby came 6 years later and was another attempt at a homebirth. This time I was able to stay at home, birth my baby vaginally, and get tucked into my own bed after all was said and done. It was an amazing and empowering experience, but certainly not a walk in the park.

When it came time for my fourth baby to be born, I planned another homebirth. My birth was quick and intense, only two hours of active labor before I began pushing. I pushed for about three hours at home before transferring to the hospital….again. I asked for and received an epidural, the OB attempted a vacuum delivery, which was unsuccessful. I decided that it was best for this baby to be born by cesarean.

My fourth birth, was much like my first birth, from the outside. Natural labor, extended unproductive pushing phase, stuck baby, posterior presentation. On the inside though, the two were not very alike at all. With my last birth, I knew I had made the best decisions that I could. I knew that I had tried everything. I knew that I had not failed. I knew that I was strong. I felt supported, happy, content, and even empowered. Here are the steps that I took that I believe made the difference in my experience being a positive one.

Get Educated

Taking a childbirth class might be the single most important thing you can do to empower yourself when preparing to give birth in any setting. When looking for a childbirth education class, make sure you find one that covers things you might need to know if you ended up in the hospital.  Your class should prepare you with the knowledge of obstetric hospital procedures and interventions, their risks and benefits, and their alternatives. Knowing your options can keep you from being overwhelmed if you find yourself navigating a new environment and medical jargon. Learn about epidurals, pitocin, and even cesareans. Learn about when these interventions are beneficial, when they are not, and how to tell the difference. Learn about Family Centered Cesareans.

Hire a Doula

Hiring a doula for your out of hospital birth may seem like just another luxury expense because many home and birth center births can cost more out of pocket than in network hospital births. But, in the case of a hospital transfer, your midwife and care providers will facilitate the transfer, give the hospital your medical records and labor notes, and may stay with you, but also may not. Your doula will stay with you and will be an invaluable familiar face in the midst of change. In the case of a hospital transfer, a doula will provide the security of true continuity of care. Your doula will know you personally, your hopes and goals for your birth experience, and can help you navigate the hospital environment and stick as close to your birth plan as possible.

Make a Plan B Plan

When creating your birth plan, consider the possibility that hospital transfers do happen. It’s not a bad idea to create a Plan B (hospital transfer) birth plan and even a plan C (cesarean) birth plan. If you find yourself in those situations, what would be most important to you?  Perhaps skin-to-skin with your baby after birth and delayed cord clamping. In the case of a cesarean, skin to skin in the operating room is an option you can ask for, and an hour of skin to skin once you are in postpartum is so essential for bonding with your new baby, but often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the hospital.

It is possible and wise to plan for the potential of all outcomes, and to do so as early in your pregnancy as possible, so that you can write those plan B and C plans and then set them aside, and choose to focus mentally on preparing and planning for the birth experience you want to have.

The Power Of Positivity

It is common these days for pregnant and birthing women to listen to or write affirmations, positive, affirming statements like “Each wave brings my baby closer to me.”  Affirmations are a powerful tool that can help the brain focus on the positive. Repeating affirmations actually wires the brain, strengthens the connections of positivity.  Positive words actually change your brain. Once your original plan has been changed, thinking positively is often difficult or completely overlooked. When I found myself in the operating room for the second time, I was bound and determined to stay positive. I knew the science behind affirmations, and I was going to use them to my advantage. I repeated to myself in my head things like “My body is already healing. This procedure is going smooth and perfectly. My baby is strong and healthy.”  I can’t convey in words how much of a difference these affirmations made in my mental and physical healing.

Postpartum Doula Support

Thankfully, I had already hired a postpartum doula before my fourth baby was born. I had no idea just how amazing having the support of a postpartum doula would be. Each day she came to my home, she asked me how she could support me that day. She complimented my mothering and offered advice and education on anything I had questions about. She folded my piles of clean laundry. She made sure I got a nap and a shower. She entertained my toddler and even wore my baby in a sling while she took care of things around my house. She made me snacks, tucked pillows under my elbows while I nursed, and even fed me bites while my hands were occupied with my little ones. Having someone to just take care of me, or finish the things on my to do list that were nagging at me, helped me to be able to heal, rest and process my experience. I had very minimal postpartum depression when I had a postpartum doula to support me, compared to very severe postpartum depression with my other three babies.

Allow Yourself The Space To Process

If your birth takes a turn for the unexpected, it is absolutely necessary to allow yourself the space to process what happened and how it felt for you. It is wonderful to turn to your midwife or doula, get their take on what happened and why, so that you can understand it from a logical sense. Then, take space to mentally process your experience, and write about it in your journal (or just on a page that you can destroy later if you aren’t the journal writing type).  Talk to a trusted friend or loved one if you feel the safety to do so. Look for a compassionate birth professional, therapist, or support group if you feel that would be more appropriate for your situation.

And most of all, know this, birth is birth. Every type of birth is beautiful and profound. You did not fail, your body did not fail. Giving birth is an organic process and can’t be carefully planned, any more than an amazing sunset or thunderstorm can be planned. But, there are beautiful moments that deserve our focus, the first time your newborn looks into your eyes, the first time you feel their skin on yours, they way they look just like your partner. Take the time, whenever you get your first opportunity, to spend as much time as possible with your new baby skin to skin.  Whether that’s the first hour after birth, or after an extended stay in the NICU. If you focus on the beauty of making tiny humans and marvel at the amazing, and sometimes wild process that is birth, surrender completely, and at the same time, own the experience that was your birth. You can choose to have a positive yet unexpected birth, and that can be better than okay.




Candace Roper is the owner of Centered Birthing Doula Services LLC.  She is the mother to four amazing people. She enjoys teaching women and their partners how to have empowered births, supporting birthing women as part of a doula team, and offering breastfeeding counseling and postpartum doula care to new families.  You can find more information about her classes and services at

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Spotlight: 2018 UDA Spring Conference Speakers

The Annual Utah Doula Association conference is fast approaching. During this uplifting and educational event, we will hear from several experts on a variety of topics that will enrich and improve our birth-centric businesses. With many opportunities for continuing education credits, tips and tricks for improving our business skills and networking opportunities galore, the 2018 conference is bound to be the highlight of the year.

Dr. Shoshana Bennet


This year we will have the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Shoshana Bennett. Internationally recognized as a leading maternal mental health expert, clinical psychologist Dr. Shoshana Bennett has inspired and transformed countless lives worldwide through her radio shows, books, lectures, interactive tele-classes, consultations, and videos. Affectionately known as “Dr. Shosh”, she educates, engages, and empowers her audiences while discussing serious and often uncomfortable topics using humor, the latest research, solution-based protocols, and firsthand knowledge she gleaned after experiencing life-threatening postpartum depression.

She emerged from this personal nightmare to become a leading national advocate and pioneer in women’s mental health, establishing Postpartum Assistance for Mothers, which offers education and emotional support for women experiencing PPD and related disorders. Dr. Shosh also helped develop the official training curriculum for professionals and served as president of Postpartum Support International.

Dr. Shosh is an Executive Producer of the new award-winning documentary, Dark Side of The Full Moon.  She is the author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies, Pregnant on Prozac, Children of the Depressed, and is co-author of Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety. Dr. Shosh is the creator of the first PPD mobile phone app PPD Gone!  She co-founded the newly launched Postpartum Action Institute to train community leaders and parent advocates.

Dr. Bennett has traveled extensively throughout the US and internationally as a guest lecturer and keynote speaker, training medical and healthcare professionals. She is well known for her popular Radio Show and has appeared as a guest expert on countless television and radio shows including 20/20, Ricki Lake and The Doctors.

Dr. Shosh will be presenting our keynote address Launching Happy Mothers – The Dos and Don’ts. Which will offer practical tips and strategies to address signs of mood disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

She will also be presenting a workshop entitled Moods during Pregnancy and Postpartum – What’s Normal and What’s Not? In which she will be teaching us about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and their symptoms. She’ll give us information we can use to comfort mothers suffering from postpartum depression and describe mental health information that professionals should present to all new parents.


Joe Staples

And to give us practical advice on the business side of birth work, we will also have the pleasure of hearing from Joe Staples. Joe is a senior B2B executive (CMO/SVP Marketing for 18 years) with primary emphasis in SaaS, MarTech, and customer experience sectors. His expertise is in two areas: building a recognizable, differentiated brand and fueling the growth of the revenue engine. He prides himself in providing a good blend of strategy and execution.

Joe has led two successful corporate name changes and brand over hauls. As the CMdO of one company, they took raw brand recognition from 6% to 70%+. He has developed multiple award-winning ad campaigns (B2B Magazine, CEB, and Starch awards).

Joe understands the in’s and out’s of the revenue engine, from initial inquiry through to closed-won. He has built demand generation teams from scratch, implemented strong digital marketing campaigns, and has led a marketing team that delivered 90% of all sales opportunities for the company.

Joe received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Technology Marketing Corporation and was Employee of the Year at Novell Corporation.

Joe will be presenting “Simple ways to Make a Big Impact on your Business!” During his presentation Joe will give us things doulas can do (without spending a lot of money) to effectively market their services. These includeestablishing your personal brand, using storytelling as a marketing tool, developing good client testimonials, leveraging influencers as referral sources, and the importance of differentiation. Join Joe for a lively, interactive session that will include Q&A and group discussion.

To purchase tickets or for more information about the 2018 UDA conference click here


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On Birth, Diversity, and “The Last Man on Earth”

It was just after 8 o’clock. We finally got the kids down to sleep after a long, chaotic day, and I decided it was time to unwind with a mindless episode of The Last Man on Earth. Do you know it? In a nutshell, it’s a comedic tale of a rag-tag group of people who band together after a virus wipes out the rest of humankind. Sounds hilarious, right?

Well, in this particular episode, Carol (a pregnant, eccentric woman with lots of heart) wakes up with a look of shock on her face as she peers down at the bed in front of her. She turns to her husband, Tandy, and mutters, “we’ve got company.” The camera pans back to reveal a newborn baby contentedly wriggling on the bed in between her legs—she had given birth in her sleep without feeling anything!

Another character, Erica—an Australian woman who had given birth to her own daughter after a long, painful labor only a couple months before—seems a bit miffed that Carol didn’t have to experience any of the discomforts of labor and birth. When it’s discovered some hours later that Carol has another baby (twins?!) awaiting birth, Erica is heard wishing Carol some discomfort—“just enough to respect the process”—this time around.

Yet another character, Melissa—a woman in her prime and in a committed relationship with another survivor, Todd—has absolutely no desire to have children of her own. She and Todd later take a young boy with no surviving family members under their wing.

Why am I rambling on and on about this episode, you may be asking yourself. I guess it’s because this episode—in its funny and often wildly-inaccurate way (checking dilation with a flashlight, anyone?)—illustrates so simply the diversity present in birth experiences, family planning, and even family structure. The sharing of stories and experiences is an inevitable part of pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and womanhood. It is through sharing experiences that we are connected to women all over the world and through all ages.

I remember shortly after the death and (still)birth of my second child at almost 40 weeks gestation, I wanted so badly to talk about his birth, just as I had with my oldest (living) son. I wanted to share how I labored for just over four hours and reached deep within myself to find that primal instinct necessary to bring my son’s body into this world. I wanted to laugh with my friends about the tidal wave of amniotic fluid that soaked my midwife and husband when my waters burst while pushing. It was hilarious! But not many seemed to want to hear it—whether because they genuinely couldn’t handle the grief underlining the story, or because they were concerned it would hurt me too much, I’ll never know (though I suspect it’s probably a combination of the two).

Ashley Thalman Photography

Our diverse experiences as people are valid; they are what make us human. Just as Carol’s and Erica’s pregnancies and births differed dramatically, and Melissa’s desire to have children was not what people might expect, we all have different wants/needs/realities. Through sharing our stories and listening to the stories and experiences of people unlike ourselves, we broaden our own perspectives and paradigms shift. It is when we seek to understand, learn from, and accept others’ points of view that we all benefit.

This process of listening, sharing, growing, stretching is not always—if ever—an easy one. It requires sacrifice, determination, and willingness. It requires vulnerability and empathy. It is my hope that this column on diversity—posting the fourth week of each month—allows each of us a safe place to own our stories, and start looking outside our own life experiences, beliefs, and biases to start on a path of connectedness. As Brené Brown puts so beautifully in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “to love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

Who’s up for the challenge?

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Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Holiday Delight

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

PMAD (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder) is the name for a range of emotional and physiological responses to pregnancy and childbirth. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that comes with the change in the seasons. Usually the symptoms will start in the fall and continue throughout the winter. Reverse SAD is less common and happens through the spring and summer. Every time I sat down to write this post, I felt stumped. I was at a loss and felt a complete lack of creativity. I was exhausted, drained, and craving sunlight. I don’t currently deal with any PMADs but I DO have SAD. It finally dawned on me, I can share how SAD can affect mothers at risk for PMADs and often show up together.

About 3 months after the birth of my second baby, I felt growing malaise, exhaustion, and anxiety. I was constantly in tears and never felt like I could keep on top of anything. I developed OCD and severe anxiety. As the days got shorter and SAD set in, I started having nearly constant intrusive thoughts. The pressure at social events to be happy and fun made me want to avoid holiday parties and people in general. I didn’t want to ruin the holidays for my husband and children, but I had no desire to join in any festivities or do anything besides sleep. I didn’t think anyone would understand or want to hear about how I really felt. It felt so permanent and hopeless. I was lost and felt like a horrible mother. I was lucky that my partner realized the severity of my depression and helped me find a therapist. With the help of my therapist and supportive friends, I learned to prepare for and recognize the early symptoms of both PMADs and SAD. I developed a “recipe” to help minimize the severity of my symptoms after the births of the rest of my children and during the fall and winter when SAD peaks.


Holiday Delight Recipe
(like Turkish Delight but less edible)

● Self compassion (daily)
● Napping (as needed)
● Dash of the word NO (as needed to maintain boundaries)
● Exercise or movement (daily)
● Time (to process emotions)
● Self care (in whatever form is necessary)
● Daily time outdoors (even a few minutes is helpful)
● Mindfulness or Meditation (several times a week)
● No thank yous (to excessive sugar)
● Omega 3 Supplements (daily)
● Time (with supportive family and friends)
● Therapy (as needed)
● Medication (as needed)
● Light Therapy (if possible, daily)

1. Combine all of the above and sprinkle some more use of the word NO to maintain boundaries and balance.

For the last 12 years, I’ve used this “recipe”. It helped minimize my SAD and PMAD symptoms and I hope someone else finds it helpful as well!

Written by:

Karen Phippen

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Loving your postpartum body

                                Loving your postpartum body

It was 2011 and I was pregnant with my first child. Every week was exciting as I watched my body go through this incredible transformation. It was so crazy to physically see my body grow week by week knowing that that growth was my baby girl inside. I was one of the lucky ones and had a really easy first trimester. I didn’t get sick like I had heard so many talk about and I had lots of energy, which I was not expecting. I was happy and excited and couldn’t wait to be holding my sweet baby girl. I had always been very active leading up to my pregnancy, so going into it all I felt great about my body.
As month nine rolled around I had gained 42 lbs! My doctor didn’t seem to be super concerned but I was most definitely feeling it and really starting to see my body struggle with the extra weight. I started getting stretch marks at 38 weeks and they were BAD. I started feeling sad about my body and was really hopeful that I would deliver soon so I could avoid gaining more weight and getting more stretch marks. I also was looking forward to nursing because I would lose all the weight nursing (just like my friends did).
I delivered my baby 1 week and 5 days later and it ended in a C-section. I had a lot of water weight in addition to the baby weight I had gained. Standing in the hospital bathroom looking in the mirror I remember feeling disgusted with what I saw. “It would all be okay”, I quickly reminded myself. I was going to nurse now and all the weight would just simply “fall” off. Or so I thought.
I got home from the hospital and my milk quickly came in. I started nursing and the weight didn’t come off. “Okay fine I just had a baby. I guess I will give it some time.” But month after month of nursing I still hadn’t lost the weight. WHY wasn’t I one of those lucky moms? I’ve always heard about nursing moms who just lose the weight so easy. It just “falls” off they would say.
Well apparently that was not me. I started to struggle emotionally. I was not comfortable in my own skin. Not only did I have stretch marks and a c-section scar, I still had all of this weight that just wasn’t coming off. I found myself really starting to struggle with my physical appearance.
My motivation and will to change just stopped. I decided to purchase some new clothes because clearly I wasn’t going to be in my normal jeans like “most moms” anytime soon. It wasn’t until my baby was 9 months old when I realized, WOW I have been way to hard on myself!!!
It is natural in life to compare ourselves with others, which is exactly what I was doing. I was so used to my “dancer body” that was so tight and perfect but the second it changed I didn’t feel pretty or attractive anymore. I would get really sad and almost depressed.
I truly had to learn how to love my postpartum body. But I didn’t know how.
I was talking with a dear friend one day about how I had been feeling and how I really just wish I could get a new body. She asked me one question that changed everything.
How did you get those stretch marks and the scar on your belly?
Simple answer…I had a baby. “YES! Yes you just had a BABY. You grew a sweet baby girl for 9 months inside of you. You took care of yourself and grew a perfectly healthy baby girl.” She told me to be proud of my body and myself. Be proud of those stretch marks on my body, they tell the story of how strong I am and how my baby girl got here.
Simple enough right! I touched by belly and a light went on. She was right. My body and its new imperfections were beautiful just like my baby girl. My friend told me that my daughter and my body were a team and you worked together to create life. Yes, maybe some other moms won’t get one stretch mark or have a scar from birth, or they will walk out in their normal jeans and that’s okay. She said YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF. It was that day that I stopped rolling my eyes at myself in the mirror when I would get out of the shower. I also realized there was a lot I could do right then to lose weight and love myself again. I started going to a fitness class and eating healthier and it was amazing what that alone did. As I worked to get back to my postpartum weight I cheered myself on. I kept reminding myself I was strong, I delivered a baby girl who is beautiful and healthy and I was proud of that and all that my body did for me to get her here. I wish so badly that I realized this sooner but am glad I had my friend remind me.
I have had two other babies since and it has truly made a difference for me to cherish and LOVE my postpartum body and thank it for my beautiful babes.
I am writing this today to remind you all to LOVE your postpartum body. Remember how incredible your body is and all that it has done and gone through to get these tiny blessings here. Thank your body by giving back to it. Love all the imperfections because each one of them tells a beautiful story. These days there is a lot of pressure on us women to look a certain way. Remember not to compare ourselves to others because you are not them and they are not you. LOVE that body. Give back to it and tell it thank you for all its done!
Meagan Heaton
Birth Doula, DONA
Birth Doulas

What feeding a newborn really looks like

What feeding a newborn really looks like

Expectant parents often daydream of the little fingers and little toes that will be joining their family in the coming weeks or months. Daydreaming, for most expectant parents, will also include things like diaper bags, baby carriers, and feeding. We plan, we study, and we prepare for what those first days and months of a having a newborn will be like; and when your baby is born you begin to navigate the waters of feeding. With the movement and flow of modern life, feeding a newborn looks different for every parent; and when it comes to feeding your baby, the ‘right way’ is the way that works best for both baby and parent.

Exclusively Breastfeeding: This feeding method may seen like the most common way to feed and nourish a newborn, but surprisingly, it isn’t. Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as feeding a newborn only human milk either from the breast, expressed milk, or a wet nurse for the first 6 months of life. With many excellent breast pumps on the market, and a strong global community of women donating and selling breast milk, it is entirely possible for newborns to be exclusively breastfed without ever nursing at the breast. If a mother desires to feed her baby on the breast, having the help of an experience lactation consultant, doctor, or doula can make the difference in success and joy in breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is an art, and sometimes we are natural artists with our baby, and other times we need support in developing those skills. Ask for help when you need it, early on is best. 

Part Time and Full Time Pumpers: Part of breastfeeding, for many families, is expressed or pumped milk. Using a breast pump full time or casually to express extra milk allows babies to receive the benefits of breast milk even when parents need to be away from their baby for an extended period of time, or for families where lactation is not an option. Pumping is different than breastfeeding, and it takes finesse and often times a good amount of trial and error to find the right pump, the right settings, and the right schedule for expressing milk. For parents who pump exclusively, getting on a schedule early on will help your body respond better to the  pump.

Many parents find great success with looking at a picture or holding a blanket that their baby has slept in. The smell or the sight of your baby can increase your milk flow, allowing for easier and faster pumping.

Formula: When it comes to formula, there are many options available to parents including organic and even goats milk formula. This nutrient packed food is an excellent option for babies, and allows parents to care for and nourish their newborn. With the ever growing changes and new developments in formula, the micro nutrients your baby will receive are astounding, and can provide full nutrition for your growing child. Choosing the right formula, much like many baby products, can take a few tries; some babies have sensitive stomachs and need more specialized formula. Be sure to watch for signs that your baby is not handling a brand of formula well; signs may include: gas, diarrhea, or a rash. Make sure to speak with your pediatrician when you have questions about allergic reactions.

As you can see, there are several ways to feed your baby, and the most common way to feed a baby is…a mixture of all of the above. Most parents will combine breast milk with formula at some point in the first year of life.

For parents who are worried that they will not bond fully with their newborn if they do not breastfeed, there are many ways to encourage bonding and love that have nothing to do with the breast. Other ways to bond with your baby can include:

1- Snuggle while bottle feeding

2- Bathing together

3- Reading together

4- Skin to skin

5- Wearing your baby

Partners often want to take on the joy, and relieve some of the burden of constant feeding in the early weeks after a baby is born. Encourage your partner, or other family members to feed a bottle, snuggle skin to skin, or take the baby for a walk. Feeding a baby is more about bonding, growth, and nourishment then it is about what type of milk they are drinking.

We are a community of parents supporting parents, designed to build each other up, rather than tear each other apart. As your go through your pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood, well-meaning advice will find its way to you. As neighbors, strangers, and even family try to support or sway you in your feeding choices; remember that the the ‘right way’ to feed your baby, is the way that works best for your family.

Marinda Lloyd is the Co-Owner of The Doula House L.L.C
The Doula House provides support for families from pregnancy through the first year.

Birth Doulas Parents Uncategorized

Know Your Birth Options

By Sheri Rysdam

To those giving birth, and the people who support them—you’ve got options! As a birth worker, I am often surprised by how *infrequently* people ask for advice, options, and perspectives about childbirth. If you’re reading this, you’re probably the exception. You’re likely either a birth worker or soon to be giving birth, and scouring the internet for information. Or, maybe someone just sent you this link with a little nudge and a wink.

I am a doula, and in this work, I interact mostly with people who are taking one of two approaches. The first, and by far most common, approach (in my experience) to childbirth is the “wait and see approach.” In this approach, the pregnant person doesn’t prepare much beyond a standard hospital birthing class. This approach is just about going with the flow, and it tends to end up in a birth that works best for the healthcare providers (doctor/midwife and nursing staff). The most common outcome here is an epidural, plus (usually) one or two weird things that could’ve been avoided, and a “healthy” outcome. In the end, the person giving birth is usually like, “Um, WTH just happened? Oh well. Hey! Look at my cute baby!”

The second common approach is the very specific approach. In this case, the person giving birth is very motivated for a specific outcome. They might be planning on getting an epidural as quickly as possible, or maybe they want an unmedicated birth and are actively pursuing that with classes, visualization practices, etc. Because there are so many variations to childbirth, getting one specific birth experience isn’t common, but sometimes you can get pretty close.

There are two approaches to labor: the wait and see approach and the specific plan. Which are you?

Whether or not you want to prepare, or whether or not you have a specific plan in mind for your birth, the most important, crucial, non-negotiable, key point here is that: You Have Options! And, that’s where my job as a doula comes in. Doulas are highly experienced in the childbirth setting, and using a doula improves outcomes, as they know lots of new and ancient practices that make the whole shebang a lot better. One of the most crucial roles a doula has, in my opinion, is helping you understand that, in almost every situation, you have choices. Why is this so important? Well, unfortunately, one of the most frequent complaints that women have after childbirth is that, at some point, they felt out of control, which can lead to a sense of violation.

I’ve seen women go through the childbirth experience in the most unexpected ways. I’ve seen women hoping for an unmedicated birth have a C-section, and I’ve seen women who were expecting a C-section have an unmedicated birth. What tends to make the experience more positive, in both cases, is when women feel like their voices are heard, they are presented with choices, and they move forward in their choice feeling empowered.

We live in a culture that too often fails to gain consent from women before acting upon their bodies. This is all too common in sexual assault statistics, the ways women’s bodies are governed, and, unfortunately, we see this in the childbirth setting. Most frequently this means that a hospital’s policies, or a provider’s preferences, take precedence over the person giving birth. It can mean people in childbirth have things done to their bodies that they don’t want, or before they understand what is happening or why. In fact, I am so passionate about this topic that I write about it for my job.

We live in a culture that too often fails to gain consent from women before acting upon their bodies.

The truth is that you have lots of options. Your body is giving birth, and, if you are conscious, there is every reason your care providers should explain what’s happening, what your options are, what they recommend, and help you move forward feeling like you’ve made the best decision possible for you and your unique childbirth experience.

Sheri Rysdam, PhD
Sheri Rysdam teaches college writing and yoga. Her scholarship is rhetoric, including feminist medical rhetorics. She works as a doula in the Salt Lake City area, where she focuses on supporting young women with limited financial resources. She writes at

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Lying In with Your Baby: The First Two Weeks – Fiona Judd

Lying In with Your Baby: The First Two Weeks – Fiona Judd

We’ve all seen her—the mom who has her baby and two days later is back in the grind of carpools, shopping, and even laundry. We wonder how she does it. We secretly hope it happens to us. Our culture seems to value women who can “bounce right back” after childbirth and leaves little time for rest and bonding. But is this realistic? Is it even healthy? As it turns out, many cultures throughout history have embraced a time of “lying in” for women after childbirth, and the benefits may surprise you. Lying in is the sacred time after childbirth that allows the new momma to rest, heal and bond with her new baby.

Mothers who observe a period of rest after childbirth will probably notice a faster physical recovery. Their bleeding will stop sooner, and they will experience less pain in their perineum. They will also notice a faster recovery emotionally, as sleep can help with the “baby blues” that are so common as the hormones adjust after giving birth.

For breastfeeding mothers, lying in is a great way to establish a healthy milk supply and ensure that baby is gaining weight. Babies who lie in with their mothers are healthier overall, as their little bodies can more easily regulate things like breathing and heart rate when in close proximity to their mother. Finally, mothers and babies are much more closely bonded when lying in occurs, as it makes it easier to read the baby’s cues and learn to soothe and care for her.

It’s true that lying in can be difficult in a more modern society. Life keeps going at an incredibly fast pace, even after you have a baby, and there are lots of things that can’t be put on hold. But with a little preparation and help from those closest to you, you can create your own period of lying in with your new baby that will provide lasting benefits. Here are some ways you—as a modern mother—can observe a two-week period of lying in with your newborn.

Set up Your Space

It’s much easier to rest and relax when your space is conducive to relaxation. The first few days after birth should be spent in bed with your baby—nursing, sleeping, and bonding. Have someone with you all day if possible to bring you meals and take care of immediate needs. This could be your spouse, parent, or other close family member or friend. If you have other children, make sure someone is available to care for their needs as well.

Place items next to your bed that you know you will need. This may include a good book, feeding supplies like bottles/formula or nipple cream and a nursing pillow, diapers and wipes, snacks, a water bottle, a thermos with warm tea, and anything else you may find yourself using frequently. You may want to set up a similar “resting station” in another area of the home such as a living room sofa. Make sure you are near a bathroom that is well-stocked with postpartum recovery supplies like pads, bottom spray, and a peri bottle.

Clear Your Schedule

As much as possible, clear your schedule for the first two weeks after birth. This includes things like social events, volunteering, carpool pickups, and even church. If you have daily or weekly responsibilities, ask others to fill in for you for a couple of weeks. People are usually more than willing to help out a new mother. If you have other children, ask another trusted adult—such as your partner or a neighbor—to help get them to school and extracurricular activities.

Don’t agree to attend any events the first several weeks after giving birth. It’s okay to respond with a “maybe.” Let people know that you will try to be there if you are feeling up to it, but that your healing and bonding take first priority.

Stock Your Freezer

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a “lying in” period is have a freezer stocked with meals that are easy to prepare. You can choose to make these meals from scratch and freeze them yourself, purchase frozen meals from the store, or a little of both.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of making freezer meals all at once. One of the easiest ways to stock your freezer is to double your favorite recipes as you cook meals prior to the baby’s arrival and use half that night and freeze the rest. It doesn’t require much extra effort to double a recipe, and you end up with enough for another meal.

If cost is a concern, watch for sales on the frozen food items your family likes to eat, or ingredients for your favorite recipes, and stock up. Things that freeze well are soups, stews, chilis, casseroles, and slow cooker meals.

Another way to stock your freezer is to request meals from friends and family who attend your baby shower or ask what they can do to help after the baby comes. You can even request a “meal train” from friends and family. Someone close to you may be willing to arrange it, but you can also arrange it yourself by sending out a list of dates and having people sign up to provide a meal on each date.

It’s also a good idea to stock your pantry with dry goods you use often. This reduces the number of trips to the grocery store you will need to make after the baby is born. Make a list of your essentials and watch for a sale on those items so you can stock up without breaking the bank.

Hire Help

If your budget allows, consider hiring some extra help for the first few weeks after baby arrives. A postpartum doula is trained to work with women after giving birth. She can help with breastfeeding, errands, light housework, laundry, breastfeeding, caring for other children, and even meal preparation. Some postpartum doulas can come during the night and help care for your new baby so you can get extra sleep during that time. Postpartum doulas usually work on an hourly basis and cost anywhere from $20-$40 per hour.

You may also want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service for the first few weeks postpartum so you don’t have to worry about a messy house while you recover. Some women don’t mind a little extra clutter and disorganization, but some find that their physical and mental health are affected by the appearance of the home.

If you don’t have anyone that can come help you care for your other children, you may also want to hire a nanny or babysitter for a few hours each day so that you can have time to rest.

Enjoy Your Baby

Last of all, remember to relax and enjoy your tiny new baby! The newborn stage passes quickly—almost in the blink of an eye. Taking time to slow down and enjoy each moment will really make a difference in how you feel and your relationship with your baby. The first two weeks are critical to your baby’s development, both physical and mental. The more time you can devote to cuddling, fondling, singing, talking, and playing, the more your baby will make those important connections in the brain that lead to healthy growth.

It may seem difficult at first, but with a little extra planning and preparation, you can enjoy a two-week “lying in” period after your baby’s birth that will provide long-lasting benefits for years to come. Instead of focusing on “bouncing back” from childbirth as quickly as possible, do yourself a favor and use these tips to make your first few weeks after birth really count.

Fiona Judd


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The Call to Build Villages

The Call to Build Villages

by Tresa Haymond (

The day I heard about Emily Dyches’ tragic death was the moment I felt a call to do something. As I sat sobbing on the edge of my bed, I felt a powerful force connecting my heart to Emily’s heart, as if I knew her well. This was a clear cry from somewhere very real, a plea “to build villages,” to let moms and all women know that we are not alone, and there is hope.

Thankfully, we know that there are answers for those going through perinatal mood disorders like postpartum depression, perinatal anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Truly, healing is just around the corner, especially when we find a way to unite our hearts with those who understand. The aching desire that began in my soul that day was that no mom, no woman, should feel alone. Of course, Emily wasn’t alone. However, her family sensed that she would surely have benefitted from more awareness and better access to the most helpful resources, Emily has become a symbol of the need to build a village where women can invest together in healing.

A few years ago, Hannah* told me that she had finally reached out to someone who lived nearby. She told them that she couldn’t get through the day alone with the excruciating thoughts that were racing through her mind as she sat trying to nurse a sick baby, with a demanding toddler screaming to be fed as well. Unfortunately, the answer on the other end of the line was, “Welcome to motherhood, honey!” Sadly, this answer lacked the understanding that, though feelings of desperation are common, they are not normal or healthy. Amazingly, Hannah took courage again, this time trying to explain to her doctor how the voices in her head nearly caused her to crash on the freeway. His response was, “Anyone with a smile like yours must be doing fine.” Tragically, this doctor’s response demonstrated the ignorance of knowing that it is often the mom who looks the most “put together” that we may most need to worry about. It is very possible that she is putting on the make-up, the heels, and the smile in an effort to keep from collapsing, striving to maintain the appearance of independence, while her core is drowning. Thanks to recent awareness efforts around perinatal mood disorders, Hannah would probably be taken more seriously if she were to reach out for help today. Hopefully, someone would even have the preventative insight to ask how she was really doing. This would likely help to avoid terrible suffering and even tragedy by surrounding her with love and practical support, (such as nutritious meals, visits, and breaks from her toddler and baby).

Roberta* told me that she now takes an antidepressant through her last trimester of pregnancy because of former experiences with depression during pregnancy. Her doctor had also openly explained that this put her at risk for postpartum depression during pregnancy. She felt empowered to deal with this, as it was being addressed early on, and she had spoken to me as her doula about wanting additional emotional support. Throughout her last trimester and into the postpartum weeks, we discussed articles and books on the topic together, and I regularly checked in to see how her “self-care” was coming along. Was she staying hydrated, supplementing with Omega 3s, going for walks, and getting enough sleep? And when was the last time she had been able to laugh? Deliberately, we discussed Roberta’s plan for who would be there to help following the birth and how she and her husband could have time alone together each week. A few weeks after her precious baby girl arrived, things were going quite well until the day Roberta received a devastating phone call about the tragic death of her sister. I enfolded her in my arms as she broke down and eventually went into a sort of shock or numbness that wouldn’t begin to wear off until days following the funeral. She spiraled downward into sadness and anger and found it difficult to connect with her baby and older child. Often, she felt anxious around people and frequently experienced panic attacks, especially in social situations. Roberta’s closest friends and neighbors were aware of her struggles and offered support by checking in, taking over a few household tasks, and bringing in occasional meals. On one of her darkest days, Roberta bravely picked up her phone and began dialing numbers of friends until one of us answered. I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, but I could tell she was at a breaking point and maybe in some immediate trouble. Calmly, I told her it would be okay and that I would be right there.

When I arrived, I found Roberta sitting in despairing darkness, on her lonely bed, with her quiet baby lying next to her. Between broken sobs, Roberta confided that she was fearful for her children and herself because of the thoughts that had been torturing her mind. I wrapped my arms around her again and assured her that these feelings were common with what she was going through and that it did not mean that she was a bad mom. It only meant she needed more help. When I walked outside of Roberta’s house, I saw her neighbor coming to meet me, and we called another friend to come and stay with Roberta until her husband came home. The three of us (part of Roberta’s “village”) planned who would check on her each day of the following weeks, and Roberta agreed to make appointments with her doctor and therapist to follow up on the best treatment. The days and months were long, but Roberta incrementally and steadily recovered, primarily because she knew she had a foundation of support that she could rely on.

“Joyfully, I look back on the day she posted a video of herself making her darling baby girl laugh as one of my very happiest occasions since I became part of the village building effort.”  Tresa Haymond

Jacie* found herself far from home, living in the U.S., with a new tiny baby, married to an American whose culture, language, and home in a winter climate were completely unfamiliar to her. In South America, she had been surrounded by constant love and social interaction, but now she suffocated in an isolated apartment throughout the day, not knowing any of her neighbors. Several of my friends who were aware of her situation drove to check on her from time to time and offered to help with the baby. Gradually, they began to notice signs of depression and decided to ask if I could somehow help her. I was surprised that Jacie agreed to let me visit, as I was a stranger to her. I think she viewed me as a sort of counselor and a professional who could rescue her. I kindly explained that I was “a postpartum doula” and that I could help her find resources and be there with her as she became well. As she shared experiences of pain and fear, her heart opened to someone for the first time. It became apparent that Jacie had been through several traumas since the birth of her baby. I pointed out to her that she had many of the symptoms for mood disorders listed on my papers from the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative. I helped her locate a few therapists in the area that would accept her insurance. Fortunately, I was still with Jacie when her husband came home, and he was surprised that we were talking about such serious issues, as he had “no idea” that she had been struggling so severely. I gave the two of them an “assignment” to call their doctor. I also helped Jacie make a list of people she could ask for specific help and finally, I demonstrated ways to exercise with her baby boy inside through the rest of the cold winter, explaining that this benefits moms by producing some of the “happy chemicals” that our brains need to be healthy. One week later, as Jacie and I walked to my car after attending her first support group, she turned to me with a fresh light in her eyes and exclaimed, “I loved that so much! Thank you for bringing me here. I didn’t know that other moms feel the way I do. It helps so much to hear their stories.” That was another incredible moment when I witnessed the magical progress a village can bring about.

After hearing about this “village world,” Kay*, my best friend from high school, asked, “Where was this when I needed it?” My heart broke for her because I realized that I had been in my own world of going at it alone with my own babies, and I wasn’t available to be there or even see her need. Kay’s mood disorder came from getting next-to-zero sleep for about six months, and being completely at a loss of what to do with a more-than-fussy baby who rarely calmed down long enough to sleep for more than an hour at a time. Kay describes how she was raised to be “fiercely independent,” and how that became a trap for her after becoming a mother. Now that Kay is healing from this experience, she talks about how she wishes that she had known that there was such a thing as “Rent-a-Grandma” or a postpartum doula, who could give relief to sleep deprived moms. When I ask for what advice she would give to moms who are suffering emotionally, she pleads, “Believe that there is someone who wants to help you, and let them help you.” With tears in her eyes, she honestly expresses, “I would drop anything on my schedule to hold a baby for four hours so any mom can get some sleep and reset her brain.”

Today we may no longer have the village around us as we once did, but as women, sisters, and mothers, we are still villagers to the core. Therefore, building creative, consistent, and compassionate villages is our life and soul saving call. Emily Dyches and a multitude of women who relate to her story would agree: nothing could be more worthwhile!

*Names and circumstances have been changed to protect privacy. Go to join our online peer support group, the second and fourth Thursday of each month at noon. You can also listen to podcasts of moms who share their experiences of healing from perinatal mood disorders.