4.17.2014

Whimsy Sweet Treats - Review


I was so happy to open my mail yesterday and find a beautifully wrapped white and silver ribboned box. The label shimmered at me invitingly: I had received a sample of lactation cookies from Whimsy Sweet Treats!

The owner of WST, Rebecca, sent these to me for review, and I can say, I was more than willing to sample delectable little sweets with a lactating mama... um, yes please?!?

So, I took my little package, went to a postpartum mamas house and unwrapped it. Six sweet sweets were nestled inside. She brewed some tea, and we sat down to nibble on some delectable goodness.

They were slightly soft, but firm. Oatmeal chocolate chip heaven in bite-sized bliss. They were nutty, with just a hint of chocolate. This was perfect for this doula, who isn't a huge chocolate fan, and for the mama, who wanted to minimize the sugar she was taking in to her breast milk.

After we had shared a cookie together, I left her with the remaining ones. She sent me an email a few days later.
"I'm not sure if it was the cookies or the company, but I feel refreshed, and my milk supply has increased quite noticeably. Before your visit, my milk was there, but my breasts were never 'firm before nursing and soft afterward' like we had talked about - they were just always soft. Bubs also seems more satisfied. Perhaps these cookies and lactomagic? I enjoyed sitting down to a cookie each nursing, so that was a bonus too. If I were to rate these on a scale of 1-5 milk drops, I would give them 5 milk drops!"
Rebecca, the owner of WST, is a breastfeeding mama herself. She came from a large family and was raised around nursing mamas.
"My frequent exposure to nursing moms made it seem as natural and effortless as breathing. Imagine my devastation when my first child was born and breastfeeding didn't seem to work all that simply. We had a good start, but an unexpected pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage caused a drop in supply that led to formula supplementation after four months. I tried to rebuild supply but by the time my little Liam was 7 months old we'd completely weaned. I felt betrayed by my body. I did everything that anyone recommended: worked with a lactation consultant, switched to a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician who wouldn't undermine the nursing relationship, had support from my husband, nursed on demand, pumped after feedings, ate enough calories, drank tons of water, took fenugreek, used the supplemental nursing system for formula feeds, stayed home often enough that I could actually do all these things… and my baby was still losing weight. Why wasn't it working? I didn't understand why I was having such a hard time at something that was supposed to be so natural." 
She continues to share her very personal journey with breastfeeding and parenthood, and how this hiccup became a growing curve for her as a parent,
"With time I was able to let go of the perceived failure and embrace my new role as formula feeding mom. I was still nurturing and loving my child, just not with my breasts. True, I was disappointed about the whole nursing experience, but it was okay."  
Shortly after her acceptance to this new norm for her family, she found out she was pregnant again... this time with twins. She renewed her desire to successfully nurse her little ones, and began doubling her research efforts. She soon happened upon the mystical lactation cookie.

She immediately threw herself into finding the 'most amazing lactation cookie recipe in existence'. When she couldn't find an existing recipe, she decided to make her own. And the rest is history...

And how did breastfeeding go this time around with two little mouths?
"of all the milestones we've reached together, the most recent gave me the most delight: six months thirteen days - the point at which my firstborn weaned.... I still have quite the journey ahead of me. My next breastfeeding goal for the twins looms on the horizon and sometimes I do wonder will we really make it. I've relied on donor milk to help me nourish my little ones, and with two babies, that's a lot of milk. I don't have a freezer stash, I don't have a back up plan."

She was a woman who had found her passion, her calling - Rebecca sees a woman experiencing challenges meeting her breastfeeding goals and she want's to help.
"Seeing how much these lactation cookies helped me nurse my twins, I became inspired to share my cookies with local moms. And just like that, Whimsy Sweet Treats was born."
Whimsy Sweet Treats is a great gift idea for a new mom, or a gift for yourself, whether or not you are breastfeeding. To get more information on her cookies and her self, check out her website or Facebook presence!

Website and ordering: http://www.whimsysweettreats.com/
Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/whimsysweettreats

4.10.2014

On Apprenticeship - a Newer Doula's Perspective

This is a guest post from Anna, the apprentice doula I have been working with for awhile. She is an amazing doula, and I wanted to give her a chance to tell you about the benefits of Mentorship. 
Over the past 6 months, I've had the incredible honor of being Cole's apprentice. I started my training to be a doula about a year before that, but nothing else I'd done would prepare me for birth work like actually working with an experienced doula.
In 2012 I started the birth doula course with Childbirth International, and started slowly working my way through it. When I unexpectedly got my very first client, I knew immediately that I needed to talk one on one with someone locally that could help me understand more how the process worked. Even though we'd only met once before, Cole was totally willing to jump in and give me some great pointers. And when she contacted me about a year later and asked if I was still working on my certification and if I was interested in applying for an apprentice position, I jumped on the opportunity!

I'm not sure I can explain just how amazingly helpful this apprenticeship has been, but I'll try! Cole has taught me so much. It's one thing to gain book knowledge, which is important in its own way, but it's quite another to be involved with births hands on, getting to actually watch and learn from someone who's been doing birth work for over a decade. I feel that having Cole mentor me directly has accelerated me years ahead of what I could have learned on my own in the same time.
As you would expect, there's been lots of hands on skill share- from how to massage a laboring woman's hips and lower back, to rebozo work, to how to palpate a pregnant belly to determine baby's position. We've discussed many different labor classes, books, and techniques and how to best support a couple that's chosen to use a specific method. I've had a running list of questions the whole time and Cole seems to have knowledge on just about anything I can think of to ask.

Watching the way Cole conducts herself during the prenatal visits with each client was one of the more eye opening aspects of the apprenticeship process for me personally. She goes in so calm, relaxed, and confident, an attitude that really seems to help put the expectant parents at ease. She's not afraid to leave a little 'dead space' in the conversation, which gives the parents room to open up about any concerns that they might feel a little hesitant to bring up. I've loved seeing how each prenatal visit is a little different, tailored to the needs and personalities of each family. Shadowing Cole at several prenatals has really helped me feel more confident with my own clients, which in turn helps them to also feel more calm about the whole process.

One unique thing about this apprenticeship in particular, and something that I'm thankful for, is that several of the births that I attended with Cole were what might be called 'difficult births'. I'm thankful that I got to experience some of these firsthand with Cole there to guide me and show me how to handle certain things. As an example- the first birth I went to with Cole was a very fast, very intense birth. Baby was born just about an hour after we all arrived at the hospital!

Because labor was progressing so fast, things were very intense and momma was very LOUD. As a brand new doula, it was pretty intimidating for me! I didn't realize at first that the reason things were so intense was that the labor was progressing really quickly and baby was about to be born. Cole stayed super calm throughout the whole thing and explained to me later why things had happened the way they did. I was really thankful for that experience several months later when a client of my own had a short, intense, LOUD labor as well, and I was much better prepared to serve her after having been to a similar birth with Cole ahead of time.

Another of the births that I shadowed at ended up being a long, 20+ hour birth. It can be hard at first for new doulas to learn to prioritize self care during long births. It's so easy to think, 'no, I can't leave mom!' even if it's been 24 hours since you've slept and 12 since you've eaten anything. It was great for me to see Cole's example during that long labor and to see that it really is ok, and even necessary, to take a 15 or 20 minute break to get some food or some rest(even if that means crashing on the couch in the waiting room!). It's so much better to take a couple moments to rest and recharge than to be completely depleted by the time mom is ready to push.

Another advantage to apprenticing with a doula in your local area is that they can give you location specific business tips. Cole strongly encouraged me to charge what I was worth, even from the very birth. When my first birth ever turned out to be 30 hours long, I was so thankful that I'd listened to her advice and charged what I did. Because birth is such a personal event and because doulas put so much heart into what we do, it can be difficult at first to put a price tag on your services, especially when you believe that every mom deserves a doula! But personally as a single mom, birth work is also how I put food on the table for my family. Cole helped me to look at every aspect, determine what my time and services offered were worth, and gain the confidence to be able to charge that.

Cole has also been amazing in teaching me the emotional support side of things too. Doulas are by definition support people, and it takes a strong person with good boundaries to be able to truly support someone, especially when things happen that are less than ideal or when someone makes choices that are different from your own. I've truly learned that being a doula is about supporting *women* and not an agenda, and that to support someone you have to meet them where they're at. Getting to a place where I can look a momma in the eye and say, "I want you to make the choice that is right for *you*", and really meaning it, is so important. I've been so thankful to have Cole there to talk through some of the learning and growing and thinking processes with me as I've explored these questions and what being a doula really means for me and the women that I'm honored to serve.

If you're thinking about becoming a doula and are wondering how to get started, I would highly recommend pursuing an apprenticeship with a local doula that you respect and trust. Book knowledge is so wonderful and so needed, but nothing can compare to the hands on training that can only come through attending births with an experienced doula. I'm so thankful to Cole for all she's passed on to me, and for allowing me the opportunity!

4.03.2014

It Takes a Village To Raise a BirthWorker

*UPDATE* - SHE'S FULLY FUNDED!!! THANK YOU FOR GIVING!

Some of my readers know that I have been mentoring an apprentice for about 6 months now and she will be graduating at the end of this month.

Anna is a great doula, like, she was meant to be a birth worker. She's a natural! Her intuition is amazing, her love for women and their babies is pure, and her skills are spot on. I couldn't have asked for a better 'second' for these last 6 months, and I'm so proud of her.

But let me tell you a little more about her. In the same time that she started with me, she found herself as a single mama of two beautiful little ones. She found herself struggling to keep pursuing the calling she knows she is meant to be working in, while also working to keep a roof over her head. And she found herself mustering, day by day, to do what she loves, to do what she is called to, and to do what she must do, day to day.

And that's where you come in. There is a workshop coming up in 2 days for Acupressure training for birth workers. Yes, I know this is short notice, but we were hoping the money would come in another way. I would love her to see the outpouring of love and community from others in the birth worker community. I would love for this hard-working, single mommy to be gifted with the ability to further her education and attend this workshop, which just happens to fall on her birthday!

The total cost is $300. This includes The Acupressure Workshop for Birth Doulas on Pregnancy Care and Labor Support and the Acupressure Workshop for Postpartum Doulas. If we can't raise the full amount, $175 will ensure she can attend the first workshop. Would you like to help me bless this mama and new birth worker? Are you looking to pay forward a kindness that someone showed to you recently? If so, this might be the perfect place to do it.

Any donation that is received between now and tomorrow night will be applied to this workshop. Please just note that it's for her and let me know, if we don't reach our goal of at least $175, do you want me to refund your money (minus the fee that Paypal takes out) or do you want me to save it for her for another event in the future. Thank you in advance!




For more information on this workshop, please see here.

4.02.2014

When Breastfeeding Sucks


A client asked if she could share her breastfeeding journey. Here it is in all of it's raw beauty! She and I enjoyed writing this together while sipping lattes and watching her little one nurse. If you need suggestions on postpartum doulas or lactation consultants in the Houston area, just send me an email.
Breastfeeding is beautiful, it's natural, and, if you are lucky, a sweet and gentle bonding experience for you and your baby. I meditated on those images during my pregnancy: a serene mother holding her baby close to her breast in a rocking chair, the afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows.  
She cradles her baby while humming a little tune under her breath and her baby gazes at her sweetly while liquid life force dribbles from the corners of her mouth. The woman's breasts are full and beautiful and perfectly perfect. This was my image of breastfeeding - this was my future - or so I thought.  
Breastfeeding is normal and natural, but sometimes it sucks!  
Instead of the milk goddess with suckling in arm, I was a baggy eyed, sobbing, snotty mess as my poor husband tried, once again, to put our baby to my breast. It wasn't afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows, it was 3am, again, when I had been nursing every 1.5 hours for 50 minutes each session, round the clock.  
I reeked like body odor and day old  baby spit up and my baby was red faced and angry as she beat at my chest with tightly squeezed fists. She reared her head back in defiance as I tried to coo to her through my shaky sobs, my hair shooting out in every direction from my bedraggled head. My nipples were red and ugly, chapped and bleeding in some places, and my breasts were hot and hard to touch. My husband looked from me to the baby to me again with a bewildered and slightly panicky expression. He finally took her to the kitchen and gave her a bottle.  
Sometimes breastfeeding sucks.  
And when my doula called the next morning to say she was in my neighborhood, I didn't even wait for her to invite herself over 'just to say hi'.. I cut her off mid-sentence, blurting "ohmygod can you please come over? I'm losing my f*ing mind (keening/wailing/crying at this point)."
She said, in the way only she can, "oh mama! I'm going to grab some lunch for myself, I'll bring you some too, and I'll be there in 20 minutes." I felt like my mama just offered to make me my favorite casserole from scratch, clean my whole house, and send me to the spa... I was so relieved I just nodded, said something incoherent, and hung up.  
I stood by the window overlooking the driveway the entire time. When she pulled up, I just fell into her arms, hugged her fiercely, and pushed my baby into her arms. I thought that she must think I'm a horrible mama, but she just hugged me again, said "the first few weeks can be hard, can't they" and, with my baby tucked under one arm, served me the most delicious fast food I had ever eaten.  
She then ordered me to the shower. When I emerged, the house had been picked up (a little), I could hear the laundry machine running, and my kitchen was clean. She was cooing over my baby, so I sank down next to her on the couch.  
She asked me to try to nurse, my baby was making rooting noises.  
I immediately felt panic well up inside of me and I shifted my eyes around the room, refusing to look into her compassionate gaze. I stuttered that my breasts were hot, and painful, and full. I mumbled that my nipples were cracked and bleeding. And I trailed off that we were just going to do bottles from now on...  
"I failed" I sighed, defeated. "Breastfeeding sucks." 
She smiled, placing her pinky into bubs mouth. "Yes, it can. It can be middle-of-the-night-bottom-of-the-pit horrible. It can also be that", she gestured to the picture I had been meditating on during my pregnancy. It was tucked into the breastfeeding guide that was sitting on our coffee table.
I took a moment, considered the options I had... and then slowly unbuttoned my nursing tank and exposed my breast. My doulas compassionate "tsk" told me that my nipple, did indeed, look like hamburger. She asked to see the other side. My other nipple was better. She placed my baby in my arms, facing the hamburger nipple, and proceeded to, in a matter of seconds, get my nursing demon newborn onto my breast. It stung, but it didn't pinch. It zinged but it didn't make me want to tear my breast off and throw it across the room.  
I hadn't even realized I had clenched my eyes shut and sucked in my breath, anticipating the pain that accompanied our breastfeeding relationship until they shot open in surprise. I looked down to see my baby's mouth much more open than before. She was calm and happy. Her hands quickly relaxed from little fists to open and resting, and she began to actually gaze around.  
My doula then showed me how to apply compresses to my breast while nursing, and how to massage them during feedings. She texted me some tips, the number of a few lactation consultants, and left me with a hug, full belly, clean self, and light streaming in from the windows and falling on my newborn, who had milk dribbling from the corner of her mouth.  
It took me another feeding before I was in the rocker, and another week before I was humming serenely while she nursed. But it was a turning point. I was ready to jump ship and never look back. But now we are going on 18 months of nursing! And even if I had jumped ship, I know now that I wouldn't have failed, I did the best with what I knew.  
Instead of jumping ship, I called that LC (my doula also copied the text to my husband), had a postpartum doula come over every day for a week, and threw out the formula.  
Breastfeeding can suck, but it does get better. So, when you are in the midst of your own night from hell, and your nipples are torture devices, your husband is a stranger, your baby is a vampire, and your sleep-deprived mind is conjuring up hallucinations, hold on to that for all it's worth, and get the help you all deserve!  
Below are the hurdles that we were able to overcome successfully (*) and other breastfeeding hurdles you might encounter that an LC/doula can help with:
  • Tongue Tie (posterior or anterior)*
  • Lip Tie
  • Marathon Nursing/Sleep Deprivation (nursing for extended periods of time, or very frequently, or both)
  • Deep/Shallow Latch*
  • Forceful Letdown (milk spigots open like Niagara falls)*
  • Diet Sensitivities (allergies or otherwise)*
  • Playing Favorites (baby only 'liking' one breast or nipple)*
  • Mastitis (infection of the tatas)*
  • Clogged Ducts (not Donald - Milk... And those mother's hurt)*
  • Pumping Issues (not being able to do it well, not being able to do it at all, not being able to do it without it hurting.. yadayadayada)
  • Yeast (yup, yeast infections can happen 'there' too)
  • cracked/chapped/bleeding nipples (it's as horrible as it sounds)*
  • New Mom Syndrome ("I don't know if this is normal, am I making enough milk, can I raise this little human and not destroy it?")*
Thanks, Chelsea, for sharing!
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