May is International Doula Month...
As lactation consultants, we are thrilled to work along side our local Houston area doulas. It is well-supported by research that labor and birth interventions can interfere with the natural course of breastfeeding, and it is also well-supported by research that the incidence of birth complications is reduced by having a doula present at your birth. However, a doula is more than just "present" at your birth, patting your hand through contractions. She
- is passionate about coming along side you during one of the most important and special times in your life,
- meets with you throughout your pregnancy and builds a relationship with you and your partner to establish trust,
- provides ongoing education on the labor, birth and postpartum process,
- assists you in creating a birth plan,
- actively networks, seeking out the best resources for you,
- advocates for you at a time when you are most vulnerable,
- supports you during your labor and birth,
- acts as a gatekeeper for mom, partner and baby after the birth, and much more...
Doulas are in a unique position to recognize early on any potential breastfeeding challenges. They understand the importance getting help early. In our experience, moms with doula support are extremely committed to pursuing breastfeeding even through tough issues. Cole Deelah, a South-Houston doula, childbirth educator, and midwife apprentice, describes perhaps why we have found this to be true:
"A doula can oftentimes be the mother's first exposure to breastfeeding education. I encourage the moms that I work with to attend a La Leche League meeting, refer them to area breastfeeding workshops and classes, and offer breastfeeding books from my library, including The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy, and others. A doula also has a lot of time during the prenatal period to educate moms on different helpful positions, what a successful latch and nursing looks like/feels like, local resources, products that might help in the journey, and what is normal/not normal when breastfeeding. And finally, in those first few moments after birth, a doula can help protect the new parenting space, help with initial latch-on, and minimize outside distractions and interference from others. In the first few days after birth, a doula is completely accessible to the new family and can oftentimes be whom the family calls when something doesn't seem right with the breastfeeding relationship. The doula then has the opportunity to offer additional resources, like a lactation consultant, so as to ensure to the best of abilities, a successful breastfeeding relationship!" (Read more about Cole on her blog, Wonderfully Made Bellies and Babies.)
Three other doulas join Cole in the Houston Doula Cooperative, Nicole Yunker, Lourdes Resendez, and Kimberly Foster. Read about their co-op here.
Now hear from a mom about how her doula helped her breastfeed:
"Hi! I'm LaKendra a proud supporter of breastfeeding, midwives, doulas and all those great non intervention assets surrounding pregnancy and birth. I'm sharing my experience with you regarding Lourdes Resendez who is not just a doula but someone who has really become a special person to me and my 8 month old daughter! Growing up, I knew absolutely no one who breastfed and my family did not support me saying negative things like I'm starving my baby, I'm not producing enough milk, I need to let somebody else feed her, my milk doesn't have everything she needs like formula, only"white" people do that, I could go on and on about the ignorance and negativity that surrounded me but you get my drift. Kennadi latched on great right after birth and Lourdes took us in for about 3 weeks as I established a great milk supply with her support, I had me a few cups of mothers milk tea on a daily basis which actually was sort of tasty to me, but she gave me that extra boost I needed to get going and staying confident in my decision!! And because of that great start, she's still exclusively breastfed! Which as a working mom I take to heart because you really have to be dedicated pumping on lunches and breaks, but it's been a great journey and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon!"