Monday, March 21, 2011

Where Have I Been? Training to become a doula!

For the first weekend of Spring Break I attended the Houston Flute Fest and served as the judging coordinator for the Denise Jennings Solo and Ensemble Competition. I had one student perform in this competition and I was so proud of her performance that I nearly cried. It makes me happy to see how much progress she has made as such a young player.

For the next few days I enjoyed some quality time with my husband. We generally do not get to spend all day together, and I was so happy to have him around. He attended Mother Goose time with Lily and me, and she seemed to enjoy it so much more with Daddy there. I noticed that his and her bond seems to have grown since he was able to spend so much time with her.

Finally, this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday I attended the DONA Introduction to Childbirth, Basic Lactation, and DONA Doula Workshop that I have been waiting to attend. I am so excited to have taken the steps necessary to start helping women in labor. 

For those of you who may not know what a doula is, visit the DONA International Website to find out more.

What is a doula?*

The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

What does a birth doula do?*

A birth doula:
  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
A birth doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials CD(DONA).

Why use a birth doula?**

Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.

DONA International doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

Do I need a doula if I plan to have an epidural, other medications or am planning a cesarean section?

Yes! All women receive benefits from having a doula present at their birth. A doula is there to help the woman carry out HER birth plans and to help HER have the best experience possible. If a woman desires to have a doula at her birth, then she should have one. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Breastfeeding your child past infancy is NORMAL

Thank you kellymom for being such a wonderful resource for breastfeeding mothers and those that support breastfeeding!

The following is a segment from the kellymom website-The Fact Sheet on Breastfeeding Past Infancy. 

Breastfeeding your child past infancy is NORMAL

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child... Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother... There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." (AAP 2005)
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that "As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer." They also note that "If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned." (AAFP 2008)
  • US Surgeon General has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two. (Novello 1990)
  • The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of nursing up to two years of age or beyond (WHO 1993, WHO 2002).
  • Scientific research by Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD shows that 2.5 to 7.0 years of nursing is what our children have been designed to expect (Dettwyler 1995).

Monday, March 7, 2011

When are you going to wean?

Because I love my FIL dearly, I did not have the same "grrrrr" reaction when he asked me, "When are you going to wean her?" He was speaking of my nine month old baby girl, of course. His question took me by surprise because we were not on the subject of breastfeeding. We were talking about how Lily and her dad might develop a closer relationship. I suppose I can see how the question might relate. Breastfeeding does have the reputation of creating an intense bond between mother and child. I would add that everyday caregiving activities such as bathing, changing diapers, rocking to sleep, playing, cuddling, talking, reading, spending time, etc also create an intense bond between caregiver and child. Breastfeeding is the only activity that strictly falls to the mother-the father can do anything else involved in keeping the baby happy, healthy and safe.

My husband is at a disadvantage in that he spends 40+ hours a week less alone time with our daughter than I do. Because babies are most comfortable with those with which they are most familiar, it is only natural that babies who spend most of their time with their mothers would feel most comfortable with their mothers. Is breastfeeding really to blame for the fact that our baby seems to be more comfortable with me? Or is it the fact that she spends most of her time with me? If I were to quit breastfeeding today, would she suddenly feel more comfortable with her dad? My guess would be no.

After my husband came home to join the conversation, he asked his dad if he and his brother were "like that" when they were babies. My FIL responded by saying that many times, after he got home from work, he would pick one of them up. They would proceed to scream in his face, and he would put them down and walk away. "It didn't bother me," he said. "Well, it bothers me," came the reply.

My husband is a sweet, darling man and loves his little girl dearly. It does bother him that their relationship is not how he hoped it would be. However, it sounds pretty typical. I am just thankful that he does not blame breastfeeding-at least not out loud. All I can say is it will improve with time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why I want to be a doula

From my Fledgling Doula blog:

This has been the most difficult question for me to answer because the desire to become a doula has taken me by surprise. I never heard the word doula until I was planning to have a natural hospital birth. My childbirth educator was also a doula, and she encouraged me to have a support person at my birth. I told her that we could not afford one, and she said that there are volunteer doulas available. At that time I did not know how to find someone, and I tried not to worry too much about it. I brought my concern up to my midwives and they told me that I did not need a doula because they would be there the entire time.

After they told me that, I did not worry about finding a doula. My husband and I voiced any concerns we had with one another. I continued to read books about comfort measures and books containing positive and/or honest birth stories. My favorites were Ina May Gaskin'sGuide to Childbirth, Marie Mongan's HypnoBirthing, and Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner. I read the Guide to Childbirth first, then the HypnoBirthing book. Once I finished that book, I felt ready to give birth. I was so uplifted and inspired. A few days later, I went into labor.

I had a wonderful and empowering birth. It went better than I expected and it was FAST! From the start of the first contraction I felt to the birth was 4.5 hours. Once I felt it, boy, it was a little scary! I am so thankful that I had my husband there with me and he seemed to know exactly what I needed.

I tell him now that he did everything perfectly, and I do not know how he knew what to do. He says, "I just did what you told me to do." I suppose I knew myself without knowing myself, if that makes any sense. I would tell him what I learned from my reading and say, "I think I'd like to try that." I also assured him that, when it came down to it, he'd be fine; he'd know what to do. And he did.

True to their word, the midwife who attended me was there all the time. Looking back, I appreciate how hands off she was. She allowed me to labor in the dark, in the tub, and with my husband at my side. Every now and then she would tell me things when my sounds started to get frantic. She did a wonderful job, and she was very surprised that my baby came so quickly. It was such a calm and peaceful experience. My husband describes it as reverent.

Nothing has effected me so intensely and deeply as birth. Preparing for childbirth and the actual birth was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life and I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father that I had the experience that I did.

I was taken by surprise with the wonderful "birth high" I experienced. Either I forgot that I learned about the birth high in my class or I didn't know about it, but the wonderful feelings took me surprise. I was so ecstatic, giddy and on top of the world. I did it! I couldn't believe it, but I did it! I began to wish that all women could experience birth the way that I did. There is no reason why they can't! I do not think that my desire to be a doula came while I was in the hospital because I was enjoying my new baby and birth high. I believe that desire came a week later.

One week after I had my baby, a friend of mine was experiencing labor. I was talking to her over Facebook and found out she was alone. At that time I wished that I could go to her and comfort her, but she was about seven hours away. I felt so sad that she was alone and I tried to tell her about comfort measures. It just is not the same trying to comfort someone over facebook. I saw other comments she was getting like, "You can do it. With an epidural, of course." or "Let's get that epidural started. There is no sense in doing it the hard way."

I am not some anti-epidural tyrant, but I feel that if properly prepared, most women would be surprised by what they can do! However, I do not believe that is very encouraging to someone when they are asking for encouragement to immediately say "Go get that epidural!"  To me that says, "You are not strong enough to handle labor."

When I saw comments like that, I just wanted to go and give her a huge hug. I wanted her to know that she could do it. And above all, I wished that she was not alone. Being alone makes things worse for most people if you have not prepared to give birth alone.

That experience solidified my desire to be a doula. As I read and learn, my desire continues to grow. As I hear from other mothers about unnecessary interventions that occurred during their births, I wish that they would have had a doula to help them through the process. Even the most prepared and educated women I have known are vulnerable during birth, especially if it is their first one. They do not know what to expect. I would compare my desire to be a doula as a desire to be a guide during a woman's birth journey. I have taken this journey, overcome the challenges, and reached the destination- motherhood-feeling joyful and confident. As someone who has completed the birth journey, I hope that my presence can be a source of comfort and strength to the laboring woman and her partner as they prepare to welcome a new life into their family.