Snowflake Festival and Diaper Drive

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Snowflake Festival and Diaper Drive

Doulas of Capitol Hill is hosting its first annual Snowflake Festival and Diaper Drive benefiting the DC Diaper Bank!

When: Saturday Dec 23rd from 10am-12pm 

Price: Free!

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Where: Capitol Hill SE Neighborhood Library Meeting Room

What to Expect: There will be crafts, snacks, raffle prizes and the  chance to have your photo taken  with Olaf!

Goal: 5000 Diapers

Where Do I Drop Off Diapers if I Cannot Make the Event?

District Taco
Seventh Hill Pizza

You may also give directly to the DC Diaper Bank via their Amazon Wishlist! 

Thank you’s go out to Seventh Hill Pizza, District Taco and Groovy Cards and Gifts for sponsoring this event!

We are Accepting the Following Donations:

Diapers & Pullups (open packages happily accepted)
Formula
Baby Food & Toddler Snacks
New and unopened bottles and nipples
New and unopened pacifiers
Food: non-perishable canned goods and dry goods
Pull-Ups
Wipes
Diaper Rash Cream
Tampons/Pads (we take open boxes as long as they are individually wrapped)
Shampoo/Conditioner
Deodorant
Toothbrushes/Toothpaste for adults and children
Lotion for adults and babies
Adult diapers
Cloth diapers
Toilet paper

Hope to see you there!

 

 

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Statement of Inclusivity and Beliefs

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Statement of Inclusivity and Beliefs

Though we have always lived and worked by these principles, we at Doulas of Capitol Hill have felt compelled to make a public and definitive statement about our values as a company.  Please read below for our Statement of Inclusivity. 



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Let's Tell Your Story- World Breastfeeding Week

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Let's Tell Your Story- World Breastfeeding Week

Kim ,Ellie, Owen and Maren: Reducing Stress and Anxiety While Breastfeeding

*Kim Hawkins is one of Doulas of Capitol Hill's awesome doulas and also happens to be a Certified Lactation Counselor. If you are interested in speaking to her about supporting you through pregnancy, birth and postpartum, please inquire!*

Breastfeeding my three children has been one of my favorite things about having a baby. The snuggles, the joy in providing them their food and the ease at being ready to nurse as soon as they are hungry. But nursing is also hard and sometimes getting to a place of it feeling easy doesn’t always happen. Sometimes breastfeeding is tough and the relationship isn’t what you want it to be. The list of reasons include getting the latch right, sore nipples, low milk supply, late night feedings or figuring out how to use a nursing cover in public.

But the often the reason it’s hard, especially in the beginning, is it’s all you think about. With all three of my kids I had a lot of stress and anxiety regarding breastfeeding. It’s was the questions that constantly played in my head: How does that latch feel? Is the baby in the right position? They are falling asleep, should I wake them up? Did they eat enough on that side? Should I offer the other breast? Should I just let them sleep? And the list goes on and on.

It can feel lonely because as much as our partners can be supportive and helpful, it can feel as if it’s all on the nursing mother’s shoulders. But here the secret to breastfeeding success- SUPPORT. You don’t have to go through it all alone, there are a lot of people who want to help you be successful, from your partner to your doula to professions such as IBCLC’s and CLC’s. Here are some ways to help reduce the stress and anxiety and get support for breastfeeding before the baby is born, during the early days and beyond!

1.      During pregnancy: Meeting with an IBCLC or a CLC to discuss breastfeeding helps to answer questions you may have, be prepared of what items you’d like to have on hand, discuss your health history that may affect breastfeeding and what to expect during the early days. This is also helpful for partners to hear so they can know how to best support mom, because even though she’s doing the work of providing the food support from partners is key in success during the early days.

2.      At the hospital: Your doula and nurse will help with the first latch during the golden hour of birth. I’ll be honest, the first latch is usually awkward and not great but that’s okay! The first latch isn’t a make or break it in determining your breastfeeding relationship. It’s to get the hormones started to get milk production going and get the baby colostrum. During your stay at the hospital, ask for help from the postpartum nurse and the Lactation Consultant at the hospital. They can help with latch and answer any questions you may have.

3.      At home: Your doula will visit you soon after you come home from the hospital and can help answer some basic questions but even better is scheduling a visit from an IBCLC or CLC to really go in depth with you about latch, positions, any issues you are having and make sure you feel confident in what’s going on. Having support in your home environment can feel invaluable that first week at home as you’re adjusting to life with a newborn. And this isn’t just for the first baby! Adding a new baby to the household can throw things off and different babies can have different challenges.

4.      Beyond the early days: As the baby gets older new questions usually come up. This includes pumping, introducing a bottle, returning to work and introducing solids. Seeing or having a phone consultation during these times with an IBCLC or CLC is an awesome resource.

5.      Peer support and support groups: Finding your local La Leche League and USA Breastfeeding sponsored groups offer a knowledgeable leader and support from other moms. Local new mom groups such as PACE help with peer support of other moms going through the same struggles and successes. Lastly, online groups on Facebook, like DCH Village, usually means there’s other moms who are able to quickly answer questions that pop up.

Regardless if you decide to nurse, to supplement or formula feed, the doulas, IBCLC’s and CLC’s with Doulas of Capitol Hill are here to offer nonjudgmental support. Whatever decision you make that is best for YOUR family is the most important thing. We’re here to help support you to help ease your stress and anxiety!

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Let's Tell Your Story- World Breastfeeding Week

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Let's Tell Your Story- World Breastfeeding Week

Jackie and Ryder

My breastfeeding journey…the Good, the Ugly, and my Truth

My breastfeeding journey began when I was pregnant. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I planned on breastfeeding for at least a year. I researched, purchased all the products I needed and waited on my little guy to arrive so that we could start our beautiful journey together. I had an unexpected c-section birth, but my milk still came in without any issues. My first issue with breastfeeding came hours after my little guy was born. We had a consultation with the in hospital lactation consultant. She helped me latch my son and noticed that he was not getting a good latch and gave me a nipple shield to help him. He was able to latch then and nurse. Things were going great until a day or so later, another lactation consultant visited us and told me that I should not use the nipple shield anymore. I was a new mom, with no breastfeeding experience and knew I wanted to breastfeed for the long haul, so I took her advice. My son and I had a horrible day and night of breastfeeding. I could not get him to latch, he was frustrated and hungry and I was frustrated and exhausted. Finally, at some point that evening, my husband said to me, “Just use the shield.” Some damage had already been done as my son had lost almost 11% of his body weight. When his pediatrician checked him that next morning (she is also a lactation consultant), she told me not to worry about the nipple shield and that if it came to it, she would work with me and him to wean him off of the shield. We were released to go home, but we had to have a few extra weight checks, due to him losing so much weight at the hospital. After going back to the nipple shield, he started gaining weight immediately, and the pediatrician was not worried about our breastfeeding journey anymore.

^^^accurately displays how I feel about pumping to this day!

^^^accurately displays how I feel about pumping to this day!

The first three weeks of my son’s life were tough on me. I was recovering from major surgery and was thrust into motherhood and trying to figure out breastfeeding. He wasn’t taking a bottle yet so all the feeding were on me. When the pediatrician gave the ok to start introducing a bottle, I felt a weight lift off of me, finally a small break. Getting that small break meant pumping on top of exclusively nursing. So when I wasn’t feeding (which he cluster fed a lot in the beginning), I had to find the time to sit and pump. After the first 3 weeks, I started to get the hang of things, and it was actually pretty nice. I had to do a lot of sitting any way since I was recovering from surgery. I spent so many mornings and nights cuddled up with my son in the glider in his nursery. I think back now on those times and remember them fondly. I remember thinking to myself, people said this breastfeeding thing was going to be hard, but I think it’s kinda easy and I enjoy it. We were also co-sleeping, so it made life so much easier to just scoop him up and nurse him, versus having to go downstairs to make a bottle. But soon I was on the mend from surgery and life slowly got back to “normal” or the new normal.

I took 12 weeks of maternity leave, but while on maternity leave, my husband and I decided that it was best for our family for me to become a stay at home mom. I was excited to take on this new journey, to be able to witness all my sons first and to take care of him full time. As I took on my new normal, breastfeeding became more and more of a challenge for me. I felt like I was always sitting on the couch with my boobs out. If I wasn’t feeding, I was pumping. Either my nipples were sore or cracked or my boobs were engorged and painful. I had always been athletic and wanted to get back into working out. That also presented its challenges. I had to find a sports bra that fit, I had to make sure I was drinking and eating enough and the right things to not effective my supply, and try to fit in a workout around feeding times and nap times.  Around 4 months postpartum, I began to feel touched out. I was still recovering from surgery, still carrying baby weight, and felt like I constantly had someone attached to my body. I didn’t want my husband to hug me or even kiss me, I couldn’t deal with the constant contact. I needed some alone time, that I felt I never got. But on the flipside, I also felt very lonely like breastfeeding had stranded me on a deserted island. I felt like I couldn’t go out, or if I did go out, I had to think about nursing in public or pumping, etc. and while I am feeling supportive of mother’s nursing in public, I myself had a hard time with it. My son hated the nursing cover and to be honest I did too, it was a pain in the butt.

So I was touched out but also lonely, and then I had changed my entire life, I became a mom, I stopped working, and I couldn’t work out like I used to. My life felt so foreign to me and while I loved my son and loved being with him, I also was very sad and felt like a horrible mom because of it. I would sometimes think to myself, “This is the way things are supposed to be. Mom’s give up their lives to have babies. You will figure it out soon.” But a few more weeks went by and I hadn’t “figured it out” yet, and I started talking to a few of my friends about my feelings. My husband and I had a long discussion and decided to start supplementing with formula. My son did great and the break was helpful, it helped us continue our breastfeeding journey for longer than I probably would have without it. The mommy guilt I felt was horrible. I put so much pressure on myself. “I am a stay at home mom, there’s no reason I shouldn’t breastfeed.” “You are so lucky you can breastfeed, so people can never do it.” “Breastmilk is the most nutritious for the baby.” I felt like a failure sometimes, I hadn’t even made it to 6 months and I was thinking about quitting.

We continued nursing until my son was 7 months old, we slowly increased the supplementing until my son was mostly on formula. He was only really nursing in the morning and at night and my husband and I made the decision to just wean him. And I actually think my son was ready because he really didn’t have any issues transitioning. He would (still does occasionally) pull at my shirt, but I think it was more out of comfort than anything else. When our breastfeeding journey was finally over, I was a little sad to think about all the time and closeness we shared that we wouldn’t have any more, and I was a little guilty, but truthfully, it was the best decision for our family. Ending my breastfeeding journey was a HUGE weight lifted off of me. I wasn’t resentful anymore, my boobs stopped hurting, I could get back into working out (something I truly enjoy), the baby weight began pouring off of me and I began to feel like my old self again. I know there will probably be some moms who read this who think that I am super selfish for wanting those things (to be able to work out and lose my baby weight), but the truth is I changed my entire life to be a mom and if working is the one thing that brings me joy and makes me feel good about myself, then I’m going to do it.

                 Printed with Permission Photo from Green Still Photography

                 Printed with Permission Photo from Green Still Photography

When I was preparing for breastfeeding, I never read any stories like this, I never read anything about how breastfeeding made the mother feel. I read about the benefits of breastfeeding, the how to’s and more, but I never read anything about the emotional toll of breastfeeding. So to the new mom who reads my blog post and maybe relates, it’s ok to feel how you are feeling and doesn’t make you a bad mom. One of my doula’s told me, “If it weren’t for formula, many babies on the earth would not survive.” It took me some time to be ok with ending our breastfeeding journey before I thought we would, but it’s the best decision I have made for myself, and really for our family, because we are ALL now happy and healthy!

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Let's Tell Your Story- World Breastfeeding Week

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Let's Tell Your Story- World Breastfeeding Week

Meghan and Asher

Before I actually went into labor, I joked that my biggest fear was the part where they hand you the baby and send you on your way, and suddenly you are solely responsible for a tiny, helpless new person.

All the rest, I thought I would take as it came. Drugs during labor? We’ll see how it goes! Breastfeeding? We’ll try, and hope it works out. C-section? Let’s try to avoid that, but if it happens, it happens.

It didn’t take long for this zen acceptance to be exposed as a sham. I had a long and difficult labor, which ended in an unplanned c-section after 3+ hours of pushing. Asher was face-to-the-side, hands up, and definitely not coming out the old fashioned way. When the OB looked at me and said, “You can push all night, but this is never going to work,” I was devastated. It turned out that I really did feel strongly about having a natural labor, but I didn’t realize it until I knew it was 100% not happening.

That was strike one.

Asher was born just after midnight on February 2nd, and at first latched like a champ. I felt vaguely victorious, like I was showing my body who was boss after its total failure in the labor department. But one circumcision and a sleepy day later, my nipples were bleeding and Asher’s latch was falling apart. Soon a nurse was pressing formula and a pump into my hands in the middle of the night, explaining my baby had lost too much weight and needed supplementation.

Strike two.

I burst into tears in my hospital room, suddenly desperate to be able to say my son was exclusively breastfed and feeling like a failure. The nurse was sympathetic but unyielding, and my husband fed the baby formula from a tiny cup while I pumped. Things didn’t exactly improve from there: I ended up with an incision infection, a few follow-up surgeries, and a supply that wasn’t keeping up – Strike three.

We embarked on a schedule of breastfeeding, pumping, and supplementing. Every time I mixed a bottle of formula, I felt shame. Despite all my pre-baby declarations, I had internalized the idea that breast was best, that formula was bad, that breastfeeding was the only way to bond with my baby. My body had let me down, and in turn I was letting my baby down.

But of course, none of that is true. The lactation consultant I called in in a last-ditch effort to “fix” my breastfeeding relationship brought me back to my sense. She reminded me that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breastfeed as much as you can or want to, but the real mantra to internalize is fed is best. I worried that using formula would mean I’d lose my meager supply and have to give up breastfeeding. It didn’t. For several months of my maternity leave, I actually ended up going exclusively to the breast. I worried that feeding from a bottle wouldn’t feel like bonding. But he looks at me with the same happiness and appreciation no matter what or how he’s eating.

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Asher turned six months old this month. He’s a happy, inquisitive baby. When people meet him, they ask about his baby mohawk (born with it), or his blue eyes (mine) -- no one ever asks how he’s fed, because it really and truly doesn’t matter. Breastfeeding can be an amazing and joyful experience, a painful nightmare, or some mix of both -- but at the end of the day, it’s just one way to feed a baby. So whether you’re all breast, all formula, or some combination of both, you’re rocking the most important part: keeping that tiny, helpless new person happy, healthy, and fed. Period.

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Which Hospital Should I Pick To Have My Baby?

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Which Hospital Should I Pick To Have My Baby?

There are many hospitals to choose from in Washington DC, and Doulas of Capitol Hill has been to them all! While we would never tell you which hospital was right for you (a key factor in our non-judgmental support philosophy!) there are pros and cons to all hospitals when considering where to deliver. Here are a few things to think about when making the decision.

Hospitals in and around the DMV:

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Care Provider
 The first choice you will have to make is a care provider. Are you interested in obstetricians or midwives? You can find OB’s at every hospital, but in the DMV area George Washington University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, INOVA Alexandria, VHC, INOVA Loudoun, INOVA Fair OaksFt. Belvoir, Anne Arundel,  Shady Grove and Prince George’s Hospital Center have midwife practices as well. Care providers tend to deliver at only one (or sometimes two) hospitals, so that could influence your decision.

Distance

How close is your hospital? Do you live in a place with a lot of rush hour traffic and events? Do you anticipate staying home a long time or going into the hospital early? Will your doula come to your home so you don’t have to rush? These things can impact the decision of delivering at various hospitals. 

Birth Choices

The next thing to keep in mind is the availability of options during labor and birth. Here are a few local examples: 

Sibley Memorial has a state of the art, brand new facility with a nursery that is accessible at all times so your baby doesn’t have to stay in the room if you need to rest and recover.

Washington Hospital Center and INOVA Alexandria have the option to use nitrous oxide as a pain management tool to avoid or wait to receive an epidural.

George Washington University Hospital has three rooms with tubs for labor and in some cases, birth.

Anne Arundel has a birth center attached to the hospital for ease of transfer if needed. 

Other things you may want to ask about: Does your hospital have mobile fetal monitoring abilities so you can move or shower during labor? Do they have a policy about eating? How many people are allowed in the room? If you have a known high risk pregnancy, what level NICU is available

Doing a tour and hiring a doula will make any hospital experience better. We are happy to talk about options in a complementary consultation and support your choice for care provider, hospitals, and your desired birth experience!

 

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What's In Our Birth Bag? Hint: It's Not What You Think

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What's In Our Birth Bag? Hint: It's Not What You Think

One of the most common questions we receive on a doula interview in Washington D.C. is ‘What do you bring with you to a birth?’

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Families interviewing doulas like this question because our bag represents the tangible. It represents tools, structure and vision. These concepts can be powerful for you when trying to grasp how you will work through the process of birth and your postpartum period.  It may also help you envision how your doula will accompany you along that journey. 

Though every doula is different, the answers heard are often similar. For a birth doula, the commonly included items include massage oil, battery operated candles, or a rebozo – various tools that may help you find comfort during your labor. Some people prefer to rent specific tools such as a birth pool or TENS unit. Your doula will also carry some personal items including snacks, toiletries and a sweater. 

Postpartum doulas often receive a similar question and maybe surprisingly, the answer is also similar. We bring with us things that may help us as you navigate parenthood and learn what tools work best for you and your family. Looking into our bags during a postpartum shift, you may also find few personal items for us to use in time we are supporting you. 

Tools serve a purpose and we often use them; however, by focusing on the tools we carry and the information we offer, we are providing a false sense of power. Tools and instruction can do nothing alone. The power behind doula support is in the intangible.

So what do we really bring with us?

Relief. That feeling you have when you are overwhelmed and someone you trust walks through the door at just the right time.

Reliability. The ability to relax because you know things will be taken care of.

Comfort. That memory from your youth when your mom brushed the hair out of your face with her hand.

Foresight. Not having to ask for water when you're thirsty because it is being offered.

Dedication. We are in it with you, until the end. We want your success, however you define it, and will help you learn as you go.

Knowledge. Family. Community. Companionship. Friendship. Security. Insurance. There are so many things we provide that don’t come in a box or a bag. We share these things in our touch, our smile, our laugh and our skills. So go ahead and ask what we bring with us when we work! Let us explain why the only thing you need is us by your side, with our proverbial birth bag filled with expertise you can't find anywhere else. We look forward to supporting your journey into parenthood!

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How Can We Be Better?

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How Can We Be Better?

Doulas of Capitol Hill prides itself on building and running its business from three guiding principles- Supporting the Family, Supporting the Community, and Supporting the Profession. We believe in inclusivity, respect for every family, and participating in dialogue to engage in growth and understanding of those in our communities. In an attempt to do all of these things better, we are proud to announce a 4 hour workshop, led by Dr. Jocelyn Imani, entitled:

Cultural Competency For The Childbirth Profession

Photo by Jani Bryson/iStock / Getty Images

This 4-hour course cultural competency training is for doulas, midwives, nurses, childbirth educators, and other birth workers who serve a multiracial client base. The course will help students learn of how employing best practices of cross-cultural engagement directly impact and enhance the quality of services given to expecting and postpartum mothers of color. The course is intended for practitioners in the field who are committed to changing the world through providing holistic and comprehensive care for their clients.

 This course is designed to build upon the foundation of knowledge attendees already have, not shame or berate them for what they do not know. Expectant and postpartum mothers face many fears, anxieties, and concerns regardless of ethnicity and/or racial background; however, mothers of color and mothers birthing children of color face a uniquely different set of challenges. Many of their apprehensions are exacerbated by the current socio-political climate and increased and omnipresent coverage of horrific events via social and mainstream media. This course is designed to empower birth workers to have the crucial conversations necessary to be more relevant to a diverse 21st century clientele.

Jocelyn Imani is a cultural consultant, historian, and community builder. She holds a PhD in History from Howard University and a B.A. from Fisk University. She has worked with the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and has been a professor at several institutions. She actively works to make shared space - public lands, museums, educational institutions, etc. - more relevant and accessible to all populations in an ever-changing America. She believes firmly in the power of one and uses her resources to empower individuals - and by extensions organizations and communities - to act as catalysts for change. She is a native of Nashville, TN, but has lived in Washington, DC since 2009.

This workshop will be held Sunday, January 22nd from 1-5 pm in Washington, DC (location TBA). The price of this workshop is $40 per person, but in an effort to make it accessible to everyone who wishes to attend, please feel free to email us if there is a financial hardship. To purchase a ticket, please visit this link or inquire with Emily at emily@doulasofcapitolhill.com.

We hope to see anyone and everyone at this workshop, and we thank you for your support in the community!

 Nicole and Emily

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The Best Kept Secret to Postpartum Recovery

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The Best Kept Secret to Postpartum Recovery

Today's guest blog comes from Katherine Bayer, an experienced D.C. based Physical Therapist that specializes in pregnancy and postpartum health and recovery. With a focus on manual work and functional strengthening, she has started her CAPP-OB certification under the APTA section of women’s health. She has spent time in an array of physical therapy settings, including hospital-based PT, rehabilitation, and outpatient facilities, along with experience as a massage therapist. To reach out to Katie with questions or appointment requests, please email  her at Katie@conciergephysicaltherapists.com.

Congratulations! You have a beautiful baby and these will be some of the most amazing moments of your life. Your body, on the other hand, has just gone through the ringer and is now expected to care for, feed, change and carry this beautiful bundle without another thought.

Rarely do doctors recommend physical therapy during pregnancy or after; but let's think about it. Really truly think about what your body just went through- and wonder...why?

Many people think these pains and other issues are “normal”, and just apart of the whole pregnancy package.  THEY ARE NOT.  I understand that this baby is now your number one priority. But if you aren’t taken care of, it’s much harder to care for someone else.

I didn’t always treat pregnant and postpartum women. Or, I guess I did, but didn’t stop to think about them in this light. But as time went on and I saw the same pattern of pain and muscular dysfunction in many of my female patients, I started taking notice. I realized after I had my own kids (twins via C-section and a single via VBAC) that It doesn’t matter how many months or years you are after delivery. These problems will often follow you if you don’t take the time to treat them now.  

During pregnancy, your body changes immensely- your rib cage circumference increases 10-15 cm, pelvic ligaments loosen, breasts increase in size by two pounds, your center of gravity shifts forward. And then- it’s time for delivery. Either vaginally or via C-section that little (little?!) baby has to get out a small hole to enter the world. And no matter how it happens, it’s traumatic to your body.  On top of that, the minute you become a mom, you are needed in a very physical way. 

So where does a PT fit into this postpartum picture? I’m glad you asked!

Doulas of Capitol Hill Concierge Physical Therapists

Ouch!
After both a vaginal and C-section delivery, you may have muscular pain, pain along your incision, joint pain, nerve pain, or any myriad of possible other dysfunctions. We can help by using manual techniques and exercises to improve your joint mobility and normalize your soft tissues to reduce your overall pain.  

Move Right!
Learning correct body mechanics with all the new baby activities will lessen pain and reduce risk of further injury. You will be nursing, bottle feeding, changing, carrying, lugging car seats, possibly carrying heavier older siblings, in addition to your other regular daily tasks.  We can teach you how to do so with less stress to your body, lessening pain and preventing future injury.

Core? What Core?!
Ideally, you start to work your “core” (both abdominal and pelvic floor muscles) immediately after delivery.  This will involve both learning how to activate as well as relax these muscles correctly. We can show you how.  It can be a frustrating process to get these muscles firing again, but the good news is that once you do, you can strengthen them doing pretty much anything during your day (yea for easy!!).  You may have heard in the news lately that in France OBGYNs refer all patients to pelvic floor PT immediately after delivery and it is covered by government healthcare. Oui! Oui! They have it right.

Finding your core now will help prevent future injury. To all those woman many years postpartum that I have treated for hip, low back and knee pain: I wish you had seen a PT for your abdominal and pelvic floor strength and posture soon after having your kids. The healthcare field as a whole needs to make a mental shift to start treating the mothers as well as the babies. Hey you, new mom, that means that you might have to put yourself first once in awhile too.  

So find a physical therapist, ideally one who specializes in the treatment of pregnant and postpartum women. At Concierge Physical Therapists, we can see you in your home, so that means not dragging your baby and all the baby accessories along with you. (Woohoo!)  No matter who you decide to see, just do it. Trust me, it will be worth it.

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SSRI's Pregnancy, and Motherhood: I am a Medicated Mom.

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SSRI's Pregnancy, and Motherhood: I am a Medicated Mom.

Today's guest blog comes from DC mom and former client Katie B. She shares her path to motherhood and her journey with medication to manage her anxiety and depression. She is an amazing mother and shares her story so that others can learn, grow, and feel safe about getting help in various forms when needed. 
 

I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. Every time I see a baby I have an instinctual response to snuggle him or her, and I calm down almost instantly when I hold one. I couldn’t wait to get pregnant and start a family—so much so that for several years I have had intense dreams that I am giving birth or already have a baby. Yet for much of the time leading up to conception, I was terrified of actually going through with it.

For my entire adult life, I have lived with depression and anxiety, so I knew that I was at a higher risk of developing perinatal and postpartum symptoms of both disorders.

I have a strong relationship with my psychiatrist and also reached out to a psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum disorders to discuss medication options that are safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. While this relieved much of my anxiety of being medicated during this period, I went through months of processing my guilt and conflicted feelings over the risks of staying on meds vs. weaning myself off them. There are still many unknowns about the long-term effects of SSRIs (I’m on Celexa) on children.

woman on beach PPD Doulas of Capitol Hill

What really solidified my decision to stay on meds was the constant message from my ever-patient psychiatrist: the negative impact of maternal depression on children is significant. He reminded me of my severe depressive episode several years prior to conceiving my son. During this period, I could barely function. I experienced disordered eating, had low self-esteem, barely interacted with my husband, and felt fatigued all the time. There were also times when I literally felt like I needed to jump out of my own skin because I felt so bad about myself. I knew that motherhood alone would be a shock to my system, and adding depression and anxiety on top of that would be devastating for my family and me.

I luckily had a healthy pregnancy working with the amazing Midwives of Medstar at Washington Hospital Center, and with Nicole as my doula. My mood remained stable and anxiety was at bay for the most part. A huge contributor to my feeling consistently positive about staying on meds was the overwhelming acceptance and support from my care providers to participate in ongoing psychiatric treatment. My midwives never questioned my decision and when they asked about my mood, it was without judgment or overreaction---what a relief.

When my son Eli was born, I felt the rush of many different emotions coming at me seemingly all at once, which was overwhelming, as it is for most new moms. The emotion that most surprised me was fear. I can honestly say that for much of the time in those early weeks, I was terrified of my own child, mostly because I didn’t know if I would know what to do in response to his distress, or if he would take to nursing without fussing.

I also did not feel completely attached to Eli right away, which scared me and contributed to feelings of guilt that I was a bad mother. At two weeks postpartum, I called my psychiatrist who temporarily increased my dose of Celexa, because I started to ruminate on the littlest things, and couldn’t fully rest even when Eli slept.

The med change helped, but what really made the difference was keeping in touch with Nicole in the early days, and having her help me during the day a few times per week once my husband returned to work. While being able to nap and shower while she was at my house was a lifesaver, what I truly cherished was the advice and support she gave me, as well as the reminder that I was doing a good job—and also at this stage all I really had to worry about was keeping Eli safe and fed!

When Eli was five weeks old, I joined a P.A.C.E. group with eleven other new moms who had given birth around the same time. P.A.C.E. (Parent and Community Education) has been around the D.C. area for 40 years and is an 8 week educational and supportive group facilitated by a mental health professional who also happens to be a seasoned mom. Within a few weeks, I was essentially gifted a “mom village,” where each week we shared our insecurities, fears, and early parenting triumphs. The group normalized my early experiences with Eli, and helped me avoid isolation in the house, which in turn kept my depressive symptoms in check. We still keep in touch over email and social media, and have monthly “Moms nights out,” which I truly cherish.

Eli is 5 months old now, and I just returned to work on a part-time basis as a Clinical Social Worker. While it feels like I’ve been a mom forever, this journey is only still just beginning, and my experiences as a new mom living with mental illness has inspired me to be a support to other women with similar challenges. I am forever indebted to my mom village, care providers, loving husband and family, and of course-- my trusty SSRI-- for helping me develop a healthy relationship with Eli, and also with myself as a mother.

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1 in 5 Suffer with Postpartum ______?  (HINT: It isn't Depression)

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1 in 5 Suffer with Postpartum ______? (HINT: It isn't Depression)

 

Today's guest blog is written by Heather McMillen, LPC is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Alexandria, VA specializing in Maternal Mental health. Learn more about her and her practice here. "When I started my private psychotherapy practice, I knew I wanted to do something that used my helping skills in a different way. Through my own experiences and research in birth trauma, I noticed the similarities of how women react to trauma across the board. The additional struggle of caring for a newborn while processing trauma added an extra layer of challenge to help these women and the draw towards improving mental health during pregnancy and postpartum feels very natural to me."

 

Throughout the work in my practice I have participated in several trainings and attended the Postpartum Support International Conference. Through this education I have learned that PPD (Postpartum Depression) is being grouped into a larger classification of Perinatal Mood disorders that is now specifically including anxiety. It was not until I started seeing such a large amount of highly anxious pregnant women and new moms in my practice that I realized:

 We need to get the word out!

 Postpartum anxiety is as pervasive, if not more so, than depression.

I think it’s the expectations we put on new motherhood that make the mothers keep the debilitating anxiety even more secret than depression. Anxiety is almost easier to hide, it can be a secret suffering of obsessive thoughts, catastrophic visions of the future and physical symptoms that are ignored or covered up.

Becoming a parent is an anxiety-producing event; there is no doubt about it. We know that change of any kind stimulates anxiety as a way of dealing with things that are unpredictable. Anxiety, and the chemicals that create the sensation, keep you extra alert and ready for challenges. When the brain interprets a situation as a threat, the fight or flight response is activated. Once this happens the survival system for the human body kicks in. The heart begins pumping more blood, digestion shuts down and breathing may shorten. The brain shifts from processing information using problem solving and rational thinking. The brain is now in survival mode looking for a way to stay alive. The problem is that this system is old for our current day lives. This survival system is designed to help you RUN and get away from a tiger that may be threatening you (or your baby’s) life. You don’t need increased blood pressure to deal with strapping your baby correctly into a car seat.

If the anxiety system is working well, you will use it to create productive changes. “I am concerned about the right way to get the car seat installed, I will look for a professional to help.” In this way the anxiety spurs an action that reduces the perceived risk and the anxiety response lessens. New motherhood has many many areas for concern and hyper-vigilance. It makes sense and is normal for moms to worry about baby’s kicking, eating, sleeping, breathing, pooping, and the list goes on and on. This is part of the confusion for figuring out if the anxiety is normal or if it has gotten out of control. A woman who just became pregnant or gave birth suddenly has a tiny vulnerable person to keep alive. There are a lot of new things to worry about.

The intrinsic anxiety that comes from new or repeat motherhood can keep women from getting the help they need.  The healthcare providers expect mom to have a lot of questions and write off her anxiety as something to get used to as part of having a baby. Often a woman’s anxiety is seen as complaining or feminine overreacting. I have heard many stories from clients about their worries being invalidated when they do express them- “your fine, don’t worry, it’s nothing”.

This type of well meaning response only serves to activate the worry even further because now she feels unheard and alone in her concern, maybe even feeling “crazy”. A woman needs to be able to access help when the thoughts and anxious feelings start limiting her behavior, affecting her relationship with the baby and interfering with her ability to feel joy. Intuition is also important to pay attention to when trying to decide if you need extra help. If something does not “feel” right it IS worth following up with to get clarification.

When women talk about their fears and realize they are within normal or treatable limits they can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Just speaking the thoughts out loud can be therapeutic. When the thoughts are alone with you in your head they can have so much power. Speaking them out loud with someone who can really hear you can help you gain amazing perspective. Social support will decrease stress in general and will in turn reduce the general physical anxiety symptoms, which allows the brain to reduce the survival response. Once the brain relaxes the fight or flight reaction, mom can relax- I mean really relax.

That will help break the cycle of physical and mental anxiety. Self-care for new moms is a whole topic on its own but that is a cornerstone of the treatment for anxiety. A big part of the work I do is helping reduce the guilt that is associated with self-care so that women can truly address their anxiety symptoms.

Self-care is not a luxury; it is imperative. 

Mindfulness exercises, physical exercise and sleep are also tools that can be useful in treating postpartum anxiety.

 Postpartum Support International's motto is You Are Not Alone.

There are many resources available to support, educate and facilitate change. Human beings are social animals, we are programmed to need support during challenging times. If reading the information here about anxiety makes you wonder about your own symptoms please know that everyone qualifies for help.  PSI has many wonderful resources on their website including free support groups, online support groups, a “warmline” and a list of local therapists- and the resources are not just for depression! An excellent book to read for more information is Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman and Amy Wenzel. Share your experiences with your friends and family as well- The best way to reduce the stigma for new mothers and mental health in general is talking about it!

 

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Guest Blog: When Formula is Best for Baby

Former client Chrissy Waldo, of www.thebabyfoodexperience.com shares with us her story about planning for perfection and her journey with feeding her children when things don’t go as planned. We thank her for sharing her story with us so that other mothers who have traveled similar paths know that they are not alone.

Bryce – Planning for Perfection

I am a planner – a worrier and a planner.

  A worrier and a planner with PTSD, anxiety, mild OCD, and severe depressive bouts.  So, before Ethan and I started trying, I consulted my doctors and reduced my medications to the minimum needed to remain stable.  When I saw those double lines, the first person I called was my psychiatrist.  As we had discussed, I immediately decreased to the lowest therapeutic dose of a single Class C medication – untested in pregnancy, possibly dangerous for baby in the third trimester, and my best option.  The “Best for Baby” plan was on.

Of course, I obsessed over every detail of how to make everything perfect, from conception to college, for my baby.  From birth stories to peer reviewed articles, I read everything.  As a trauma survivor, I needed to feel in control of myself and my body.  The only way I could see to do that was a planned Cesarean.  However, this was not considered to be the “Best for Baby” plan by many professionals.  Studying the “better outcomes” literature led me to hire a doula, take a Bradley class with Ethan, work out in the pool, and mentally prepare for my overdue, superlong, and intense yet intervention free labor which would end with a baby suckling on my breast.  I even switched to a smaller OBGYN/mid-wife practice that was more supportive of those things.  That was the plan.

Except:

Pregnancy induced hypertension – 28 weeks.  Bed rest – 32 weeks.  Two more hospital overnights.  Admission for hospital bed rest – almost 34 weeks.  Pre-eclampsia – 37 weeks.  Attempted induction.  24 hours of hard labor.   Failure to progress.  Is he head up or down?  Emergency C-section.  With an ineffective epidural. 

“Stop moving your legs,” they tell me as they cut through my layers.  I scream “I don’t want this” as they yank me open to pull him out.  “Shut up so we can do our jobs” the anesthesiologist mutters, not his first helpful comment of the evening.  Ugly troll baby held above the curtain.  Knockout drugs.  I wake up in recovery with my doula.  I already have post-partum depression – never want to see that hideous troll baby again.                                                                                                                                 

  1am – Our first meeting

  1am – Our first meeting

As we wait for hours in our room, Ethan shows me birth and nursery pictures.  Bryce looks more like a baby than I remember.  He’s even a little cute.  Maybe I love him.  After too many calls to busy nurses , our “tax baby” arrives around 1 am, asleep.  I’m tearing off clothes, getting ready for skin to skin nursing.  I can do this.  The nurse won’t.  Bryce can’t.  But he is amazing against my skin.

 

Early term baby.  Too sleepy to latch, too sleepy to suck.  Nothing could keep him awake long enough to nurse.  Then, a lactation consultant brought the nipple shields for my imperfect nipples and a hospital grade pump for my supply.  Bryce was losing weight, jaundiced.  My body, which had failed to protect him, failed to birth him, was now failing to feed him.  I had stopped taking my medication, with my psychiatrist’s permission, the night of the induction in preparation to breastfeed.  I wanted to give him everything.   I had nothing.

There was no sleep.  No joy in staring at the clock, waiting through the hours for his next feeding.  There was no hope.  Nothing was right.  Nothing was good.  On day three, a nurse came in with SNS tubing and formula – further signs of failure.  My husband had left because I was an exhausted, hormonal, uncontrollable ball of tears.  I tried to manage all those parts by myself.  I kept calling for a nurse, but they were busy.  Was it because I spent most of my time practically naked trying to make this work?  Cold wet cloths, nipple shield, SNS, formula…..  Rivulets of lukewarm formula rolled down my stomach.  Bryce slept against me, barely latched on the nipple shield.  I tried taking my meds in the middle of the night just to get some relief, but they made me feel like I was going to jump out of my skin.  All I could do was hobble-pace my room in post C-section agony.  Alone.  Just that cold white above the bed hospital light and despair.  I hit a breaking point and took it to the lowest common denominator.  Formula in bottle.  Mommy hooked to pump.  Wet cloths.  And Bryce finally drank something. 

I fought for my milk.  Supplements.  Lactation consultants.  I lived my life in two hour cycles.  Pump for 20 – 30 minutes.  Clean equipment.  Store milk.  Remind myself that 15 milliliters of breastmilk is better than none.  My milk could still come in.  Hate clock.  Lay down and stare at ceiling while Ethan snores.  Alarm.  Keep Bryce awake for two ounces.  Repeat.  For days, there was no sleep – only the thoughts racing in my head:  the cycle, the fear, the worry, the desire to hold me baby without torturing him to eat, the hate for the pump, hate for my body.  Only the obsession to make my body do what it was meant to do. 

Day 10.  6:24 pm.  12 pumps in 24 hours.  Total production:  2 oz. 

Bryce actually has his eyes open and is looking at me.  Ethan and I are sitting on the couch side by side.  He has his arm around my shoulders, and there is a cat curling around my feet.  Bryce makes this funny little not cry sound, and we laugh.  I look at the clock, and the cycle calls. 

“Time to pump,” I say.

Bryce is bottle fed pumped milk first.

Bryce is bottle fed pumped milk first.

“Why don’t you just stay and enjoy the baby a little longer,” he suggests.

“Because, I don’t want to lose what little supply I have.”  A notebook waits upstairs – timed pumps recorded in milliliters, numbers like 8 or 10. 

“He’s doing fine.”

I settle back a bit staring down at baby cheeks and fingers, really feeling the fuzzy warm blanket over my knees.  Tears are falling now.  What is failure?  A body that couldn’t hold a baby?  A body that couldn’t feed the baby?  Is failure quitting this thing that I hate so much but know is so good for my baby?  Is failure forcing myself to continue in this obsessive cycle that is destroying my relationship with myself and my family?  Are we irreparably damaged already?

“Hide it,” I whisper.  “I don’t care where.  I just don’t want to find it any time soon.”

My tears fall on Bryce’s cheeks.  It’s all failure somehow.  Ethan nods and returns quickly to the couch. 

I feed Bryce the last of the breastmilk for bedtime that night.  Then, I rock him to sleep.  In our room, only a few pieces of detritus litter the field of the battle I lost – the notebook with its dangerous and defeating numbers stashed on a bookshelf and the pumping station that I quickly disperse.  I wake up to the nightly alarms to feed Bryce, and there is milk dripping down my chest.  I cry, but I don’t try to find the pump.  The next day I wear cabbage leaves in my bra.  Two days later, I follow up with my psychiatrist.  Since I am not breastfeeding, I am able to take several drugs to help me sleep and lower my anxiety.

With our pediatrician’s guidance, we found a formula that suited Bryce’s sensitive tummy, and I felt free to pursue what I needed for my own mental health and family stability.  I enjoyed Bryce so much more after the pressure, anxiety, fear, and obsession over making my body feed him was gone.  There was guilt for a very long time.  At one point, I even considered trying to re-lactate, but I worked through that emotional rollercoaster. 

Bryce is healthy and happy, and whether or not he liked them then, as a four year old, he will now say that my nipples are beautiful.
 

Abby – Planning for Perseverance

Abby was the second baby that I carried out of the first trimester and started to feel like I could plan for.  I still believed in my “Best for Baby” plan.  I knew I needed a doula to support me through my pregnancy, but I didn’t know if I wanted a VBAC or a repeat C-section.  It was this giant black hole in my mind, sucking my time, thoughts, and energy away.  My OBGYN practice did allow VBACs under the “right” conditions, but would I meet those?  Could I plan for a VBAC?  Could I wait for labor to start?  Would they give me that time?  Could I stand another failure at the trial of labor?  What if it was all out of control again?  What if I planned a C-section and the drugs didn’t work again?  How would I feed her?  Could I stand putting her to the breast and failing again?  Could I spend all that time pumping when I already had one child to care for at home?

Emily was an amazing resource and support as a doula.  We discussed my birth options with no judgements.  I had already developed high blood pressure at 7 weeks of pregnancy – chronic hypertension.  Age and previous pregnancy conditions made me a high risk pregnancy.  With the millions of factors that could come into play, I was jealous of VBAC moms, but I needed the certainty of a schedule.  I could not repeat the trauma of Bryce’s birth.   She also followed up on my many appointments, helped me with my C-section birth plan, and helped me foray into the world of breastfeeding with low supply.  I learned that the supplements that I used last time might have reduced my supply since I have hypothyroidism.  I learned about Human Milk for Human babies.  I began considering just how far I would to feed my baby breast milk.

Due to the high risk nature of my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time being monitored.  As the weeks went by, trips to the hospital and the antenatal center increased.  Sometimes, Babygirl (unnamed until 12 hours after birth) wouldn’t move for hours, or the regular OB was just unable to find her heartbeat with the Doppler.  She also liked to laze around on stress tests and profiles, and my amniotic fluids kept dropping.  My RCS was scheduled for 38 weeks exactly, but by 36 weeks, the specialists were threatening an early arrival.  On August 18, two days before my scheduled procedure, a check revealed that my fluid levels were too low to sustain her.  They gave me one hour to collect things from home and report to labor and delivery. 

Emily and Ethan kept me occupied while I got prepped.   Emily held my hand and helped me focus through all the hateful needles, and she helped me communicate my fears and concerns to the anesthesiologist.  I would have been scared out of my mind without her there to go through the calming techniques and things we talked about.  I only wish the hospital would have let her join us in the OR.

Triumph. 

Triumph. 

Abby started screaming the moment they pulled her out, and it was music.  Then, it was torture.  I couldn’t remember why they wouldn’t give me my baby.  Finally, Ethan got to hold her, and she quieted down a bit.  Then, as we left the OR, the nurse asked me if I wanted her with me in the bed.  I reached for her as best I could, and they laid her on my stomach.  Without warning, my C-section baby who had already been cleaned and held by others started doing the breast crawl up my stomach!  I had read about it, seen it in videos, but I never expected to feel it for myself.  It was one of the most perfect moments of my life!  My beautiful baby girl wanted me.  As they wheeled me into recovery, I was shouting for Emily.  “She’s doing the breast crawl!  She’s doing it!” 

Recovery was a blur.  I think it was around midnight when we were finally settled in our room.  First nights are always hard.  Especially when you can’t leave the bed, but I was able to feed her when she cried.  Milk was coming out of my breasts, and I had a baby drinking it.  It hurt, but it was happening.  I attended the hospital’s breastfeeding class in the mornings and saw the lactation consultants several times each day while I was in the hospital.  I would prop Abby and I up on the bed, surrounded by pillows, and nurse her as we both dozed in and out for hours.  It was bliss.

On our last day, the lactation consultant gave us a nipple shield and instructions to pump to keep the supply up.  I tried to use the nipple shield, but it never went on right.  I hooked myself up to my Spectra pump for exactly 20 minutes, producing nothing, and hating it so much that I cleaned the parts and hid it to where I still cannot find it now.  Then, I nursed her as much as I could, as much as I could get her to drink.

It was Sunday night.  Abby had become lethargic.  She hadn’t had enough wet and dirty diapers.  Then, she started screaming.  So, after an emotional call to Emily, I gave her a bottle.  Later that night, I gave her another one.  Emily came by, and I talked to her about comfort nursing and how every drop of breastmilk was important; ultimately, I decided I just needed to be done.  I wish that I could have shared my body with her longer.  However, I was not going to kill myself fighting the same losing battle I had fought with Bryce.  After the bottle, all Abby cared about was getting the milk quickly.  She refused to latch, and after one session, I refused to pump.   

 

 

 

So, once again, we opted to formula feed a baby.  She’s happy and healthy and loves her solids as well as her “milk”.  I assuaged a lot of my mommy guilt with both children by home-making their baby food and loading it with fresh fruits and meats and veggies and lots of mommy love.  Bottles helped us work together as a family to meet Abby’s needs and bond with her, and liquid or solid, that girl is always full. 

Those are the things that are really important.  

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Guest Blog: When Breastfeeding Is Hard

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Guest Blog: When Breastfeeding Is Hard

 

Naomi Skena is Certified Lactation Counselor and a Postpartum Doula providing evidence-based, nonjudgmental and compassionate postpartum and breastfeeding support to families in the DC metropolitan area. Formerly, she worked in the field of international public health on child survival projects, with a focus on newborn health. She lives in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C. with her husband and three young children. 

 

Breastfeeding can be a touchy subject. When I decided to work as a postpartum doula and Certified Lactation Counselor, I knew I would feel like I was picking sides in an oftentimes personal debate. But finally, after time, I could no longer stay neutral. There is one statistic in particular that fuels my passion: upon leaving the hospital, 81% of new mothers intend to breastfeed, but by six months, only 22% are still breastfeeding exclusively per the recommendation of the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This means fewer babies receive the benefits of breastfeeding…but it also means that there A LOT of new mothers dealing with disappointment, shame, feelings of inadequacy and even depression because of a perceived failure to follow through. What is happening to that group of moms, the 60% who planned to breastfeed but stopped or started supplementing before six months? The top reasons mothers say they stop breastfeeding include concerns about not having enough milk, baby’s latch, breast pain/soreness and work or school. In many of these circumstances, a compassionate and well-informed support person may have been able to help the mother and baby continue their breastfeeding relationship.

Let me be very clear.

Women are not failing their babies. A structurally flawed maternal health system is failing women.

Women receive little information or education on breastfeeding during the prenatal period. Many doctors receive no training on breastfeeding. The effects of high-intervention births (from cesarean sections, intravenous fluids and medications) can get breastfeeding off to a difficult start. Immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and newborn is associated with longer breastfeeding, but it is not yet a universal best practice in hospitals.

A few days after birth, we send women home, typically with no contact with medical providers for at least another two weeks. These two weeks are the most intense and important weeks of establishing breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding is ‘natural’, it does not come easily to most women; it is a learned skill. The last few generations of women in our country have not grown up surrounded by breastfeeding mothers, and we’ve lost some of our collective wisdom and skills in this area. So, many new mothers are left on their own to struggle up the steep learning curve, often coping with great pain and little sleep.

As anyone with a basic understanding of milk production can tell you, ill-informed baby care practices which sabotage breastfeeding are everywhere. Newborns have small stomachs and must nurse frequently to fill them.  This frequency (yes, even at night) is important to set their mothers’ milk supplies at full capacity. Many popular ‘theories’ about infant sleep and ‘schedules’ do not take this biological imperative into consideration, and they can inadvertently derail a mother’s plans to breastfeed.

baby bottle falling out of bag doulas of capitol hill

Many women will also stop breastfeeding because they go back to work. Even if their job can accommodate a time-consuming pumping regimen, it is a very difficult task to provide pumped breastmilk for a baby away from his mother all day. The United States is the only developed nation that does not provide universal paid maternity leave; let us hope that will change soon.

For all these reasons and more, my heart breaks every time I see a mother struggling with breastfeeding. Although I think breastmilk is the ideal food for babies, I am not in this field because of a dogmatic insistence upon one feeding method over another. There are many varied, legitimate, and appropriate reasons why some women are unable to or choose not to breastfeed and we must absolutely respect their decisions without hesitation. I am passionate about this work because I cannot abide the thought that any new mother would be forced to stop breastfeeding before she wanted to because of a PREVENTABLE reason.

So what can a new mother do to advocate for herself in the face of an inadequate breastfeeding support system?

First, if you are struggling – please,reach out. If breastfeeding hurts, something needs to be adjusted. There are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs), La Leche League leaders, and other breastfeeding support persons who can help. Your pediatrician, your midwife/ OB/GYN  or your doula can refer you to a trusted source. Sometimes the solution is very simple! Sometimes it isn’t, and you will need the compassionate support of someone who can walk with you through the challenges.

Secondly, build your village. Sometimes what you’ll need most is another mom who can say – I’ve been there, it’s hard, it got better, you’re doing great. You can find a group of moms whose babies are approximately the same ages through a childbirth class, breastfeeding support groups like La Leche League or other organizations such as P.A.C.E. Your peers can affirm that some behaviors are a stage their baby is going through as well, which may not solve your problems, but will help you feel less alone in them. These moms may also have tips to share on learning to breastfeed in other positions, when baby is sick, in public and other solutions to real-life dilemmas.

Finally, settle in and get comfortable for the fourth trimester. Your baby is doing important work, growing rapidly and eating frequently, and your body is recovering from the extraordinary task of creating and birthing a human, whom you are now nourishing.

Try to give yourself lots of grace; it’s a messy time for everyone.

Stay home and get cozy, pick a series to work through on Netflix, listen to audiobooks or music, and nurse your baby. Say yes to everyone who offers to help and suggest they bring food. Cocoon yourself for as long as you can while you focus on feeding and resting with your little one and don’t apologize for it. Read this and this for encouragement.

The first and most important thing is to feed the baby, however you can. If your goal is to breastfeed, I want to help you fight for it. If you’re formula-feeding, I stand with you and am here to help with your questions, too. Either way, I see how you love your baby, and I want you to succeed.  

If you are interested in prenatal or postpartum breastfeeding support and plans please contact us at info@doulasofcapitolhill.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Postpartum Can Suck…But It Doesn’t Have To

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Postpartum Can Suck…But It Doesn’t Have To

There, I said it. Bringing home a new baby can be one of the most difficult things you ever do. As a doula, I try and make it my job to keep things upbeat, optimistic and hopeful; no one likes a negative nancy. It is also our job to help you prepare for the reality of labor, birth, and postpartum, so today we are getting real.

Before I became a doula, I became a mother. I, like many of you, am a transplant to the DC area, with no local family and no support network. I loved my baby, and I loved being a mother, but the reality is that postpartum was the most difficult adjustment period of my life, and partly why I am a doula today. If I had known then what I know now, I would have found any way possible to hire long term, expert newborn and mother support. I am sure you are thinking ‘well, she’s biased’. Of course I am! My job is to help and support women and families and I think it would be amazing if everyone could have that kind of non-judgmental support. The thing is, as a doula, I am in this line of work because I see and empathize with every new mother I meet.

I know what it’s like.

Doulas of Capitol Hill Woman thriving on the beach

I know what it is like to feel heavy with exhaustion.

To have to get up for a 9am pediatrician appointment after not sleeping from 1-6am.

To have my breasts ache with milk and want to avoid nursing on my left side due to a cracked nipple.

To have to choose between seeing my partner, sleeping, eating, showering or letting my baby cry.

To feel confident on good days and overwhelmed on bad ones.

To be happy about losing my baby weight but secretly knowing it is because I don’t have time to eat well.

To sleep next to my baby in bed, not because I want to, but because I would do anything for a nap and it is the only way she would sleep.

To get frustrated at a baby that won’t settle because, well, you don’t know why.

To worry about my partner going back to work and doing it all by myself.

To just want to throw in the towel and say ‘forget it. I need some time away.’

To feel lonely and wish I just had someone to talk to.

To wish someone would say to me ‘ you’re doing amazing. This is normal. You’re feeding your baby, and she is growing and thriving, and that is because of you.’

I know.

Let me let you in on a secret. We can help with all of these things!

When you’re heavy with exhaustion we can help you rest, even if you’re breastfeeding.

When you have a 9am pediatrician appointment we can be there before, during and after.

To know when your breasts ache and you have a cracked nipple, we can help you create a feeding plan.

To NOT have to choose between seeing your partner, sleeping, eating, showering or your baby.

To feel confident on good days and SUPPORTED on bad ones.

To be happy about losing your baby weight because someone is helping you with healthy meals and snacks.

To find healthy sleep patterns for your entire family.

To be able to settle your baby, because, well, you have learned how.

To not have to worry about your partner going back to work and doing it alone.

To just want to throw in the towel and say ‘ forget it. I need some time away’ and hear ‘ I totally understand. How can I help you today.’

To never have to feel lonely.

To hear someone say ‘ you’re doing amazing. This is normal. You’re feeding your baby, and she is growing and thriving, and that is because of you.’

The postpartum period of time is transitional. Think back to a time that was difficult to manage. Maybe you were changing jobs, getting married, moving or dealing with something more stressful, like a loved one’s illness. No one manages those periods well. Throw in little sleep and the overwhelming desire to ‘do well’, and it’s a recipe for postpartum stress, anxiety and maybe depression.

 You deserve to enjoy postpartum!

This should be a time to bond with your baby and your new family. You have worked for years and this is the first time you can truly be home and enjoy a well-deserved break, giving you transition time from working woman to working mom. Hiring support doesn’t mean you can’t do it; we know you can! It is choosing to be gentle on yourself, and enjoy the village we have built for you.

 

 

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Sharing Stories Series: Reality of Breastfeeding

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Sharing Stories Series: Reality of Breastfeeding

Doulas of Capitol Hill’s tagline is ‘Let’s Tell Your Story’. Every new parent starts a new chapter in their lives. These stories are memories that are a part of a family’s legacy, and we believe they contribute to the community conversation. We want to give voice to our clients to share their story. In the first of this ongoing series, in honor of National Breastfeeding Week, here is the story from Elisa and baby Orion about their breastfeeding journey. 

We've all heard "breast is best," but what they do not say is that breastfeeding is HARD WORK. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and commitment! Something that has really stuck with me is this idea that ‘your baby has never had to work for his food before’. It takes time to become a skilled nursing pair!

doulas of capitol hill client

My son Orion was born early (36 weeks 3 days) via a cesarean birth because he was breech. This unexpected early arrival totally took us by surprise! Immediately upon being wheeled into recovery, Orion laid on my belly and was placed on my breast. He latched right away and our journey began. I was surprised at how natural it felt to feed my baby this way. I thought “this is going to be easy!”

Boy was I wrong.

Those first few days in the hospital were rough. Orion was too little and too sleepy to nurse effectively, my milk took a few days to come in, and he just could not keep his blood sugar up in the numbers the nurses and doctors wanted to see. Although it made me sad, we had to supplement with formula right away to kick start his growth in the right direction.

I got to know the breast pump very well. After every feeding, I would pump to get my supply up and Orion would have a little formula supplement. The one great advantage of this was that his Dad could give him a bottle and he really enjoyed this bonding time.

We continued this regiment at home until his second weight check at the doctor. We were encouraged to breastfeed on each side, burp him, change him, and put him back on the breast again instead of giving him the additional supplement. By the third weight check he was doing great! We could finally stop supplementing and nurse on demand!

I wish I could say it was smooth sailing after that, but the early days of parenthood are exhausting, overwhelming, and intense.

 Orion was doing well with his weight, but he nursed every two hours even through the night. I had to help Orion latch on, be in just the right position, take off layers to keep him awake, and sometimes it just plain hurt to nurse!

 I began to feel like I was just a pair of breasts and anytime I was near him, he began rooting. I was milk and that's all that mattered.

 Every now and then I would pump just to give myself a break (or a nap or a shower!) Finally, at about two months, we turned a corner. Maybe it was all the practice, or Orion getting older, or the fact that he started to go a little bit longer in between feedings - but I finally felt like nursing was working for us. Around this time, Orion began to smile at me and really give something back. It was wonderful to feel like your baby actually likes you and you're not just a pair of breasts!!!

I went back to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave and was worried about the transition. It turned out great. My work gave me a key to a special single executive bathroom and that's where I pump twice a day. I am so lucky that Orion's daycare is really close to work, so I am able to go visit at lunch time and nurse him every workday. This helps keep my supply up and gives us a chance to reconnect.

Fast forward to now, Orion is eight months old. Nursing him is such a blessing! I would not trade it for the world. What I love most is the chance to stop everything and just be with him. The snuggle time, the closeness, and the love I feel between us makes it all worth it...even in the middle of the night. ;) 

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