Netflix, that IS NOT a doula!

Have you seen Fuller House’s season 5 premiere? Stephanie brings her baby home and she hired a postnatal doula. But this doula is less “doula” and more “viking warrior”.

Here’s my response to Netflix.

Dear Netflix,

The doula community and myself were appalled at how the postpartum doula was portrayed in “Welcome Home, Baby-to-Be-Named-Later”. We do not boss parents around and we certainly do not keep the baby away from the parents.

Let me tell you a bit more about The Real Postpartum Doula.

Doulas bring back a sense of community that has been lost for nearly 100 years. We are here to teach. We are here to listen. We are here to show you how much of an amazing parent you are! Postpartum doulas support all kinds of different families: single parents, teen parents, bereaved parents, low-income families, parents with twins/triplets/multiples. We offer support for: overnight care, infant feeding, infant care, postpartum healing, normal baby behaviour. The list seems endless.

This job is a calling. You do it because you have a passion for helping others. Doulas take time away from their own families (especially during holiday seasons), to help other families.

Some of the benefits of postpartum care include: lower occurrence of postpartum mood disorders, greater success in breastfeeding, higher self-confidence, more rest and a faster recovery for the mother, more affectionate bonding with the baby.

Studies (here and here) have shown that the more support a mother has, the less likely she is of developing postpartum depression. Sometimes doulas are the only ones that mothers feel comfortable opening up to. We don’t judge. We listen. We hold space. We hold hands. We let the mother shed her tears in safety. We let the mother rest in bed while we take care of light chores, bringing her food and water.

If a situation arises that’s outside of our scope of practice, we help parents find local, trustworthy professionals. We have a long list of resources that may include: therapists, peer support groups, lactation consultants, photographers, house cleaners and pelvic floor physiotherapists.

The vast majority of postpartum doulas agree with me when I say that our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We want parents to be confident in their parenting skills. We educate them on how to find reliable resources. By supporting their choices, parents learn how to advocate for themselves. Parental self-efficacy isn’t just important when you have a baby, but throughout your entire parenting journey.

Now more than ever parents need postpartum support. Your episode “Welcome Home, Baby-to-Be-Named-Later” not only misinformed the public about postpartum doulas but may have discouraged families from seeking out the support they need. There are some families that only need help for a few days. But there are others that we support for months, even years if you include subsequent children.

We ask that you resolve this discrepancy. At the very least, you owe postpartum doulas and the birthworker community an apology.

Thank you,

Natalie Clark

Postnatal doula

Building Blocks of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy, or self-belief, isn’t something that we hear about often as a parenting topic but we need to start talking about it. So, what is self-efficacy?

“It is the belief we have in our abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully.” (Akhtar, 2008)

As parents (heck, as human beings!), we will make mistakes. What’s important for us to grasp is the knowledge that we will learn from these mistakes and do better next time.

Note: This blog post isn’t about a certain style of parenting. It’s about the importance of self-belief and knowing that your choices are the best for your family. I could have used any topic as an example: sleep, sun protection, etc. I am using my breastfeeding story because this was my experience towards uncovering my self-efficacy.

My self-belief began alongside my breastfeeding journey. I discovered the power of my body while I birthed and breastfed my children. I had grown these children throughout my pregnancies. And I provided them with all of the food and nutrition they needed after they were born. After successfully nursing my children into toddlerhood, I realized that I had been right all those months ago. The decision that we made as parents was the right one for our family!

My parenting journey is not perfect; far from it actually. But the lessons that I learned from exclusively breastfeeding my children gave me the power to trust my instincts. They have also taught me how to be humble when it comes to bad decisions. To be honest, I struggle with eating my piece of humble pie. That might be due to my Italian roots…

But how can you obtain self-efficacy – this belief in yourself? How is it developed?

SUPPORT:
I had the full support from my family with my choice to breastfeed. Support doesn’t necessarily mean that they followed the same path that you are traveling. It means that they respect your decisions and are interested in hearing your story. Support can come from anyone who is part of your every day life: immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbours or members of your church.

COMMUNITY:
Being with like-minded parents gives you the opportunity to witness their stories, to share the struggles and celebrate the joys. Look at where your interests and values are. For attachment parenting, many communities have branches of La Leche League and babywearing groups.

A word of advice about the social media community. Use it wisely. There are a lot of pros and cons to joining the “mommy Facebook” groups, but a definite plus is the get-togethers. They are usually informal and hosted at parks, private residences, indoor playgrounds or family-friendly cafés.

LOVE:
If you have a partner, they are a part of the family and an integral part of the decision making. Talk to them, share good information (my next point) and discuss it together. Try to discuss the topic calmly. If emotions run too high, take a break and revisit the discussion another day. You are not going to agree on everything and that is healthy and normal. Remember that relationships are give and take. Oftentimes, compromise is the answer.

SCIENCE:
The best decision is an informed decision. Do your research! When you find “advice” online, dig a bit deeper. Where did they get their information? Are there studies to back the information up? Does the author seem biased? Just because something is online doesn’t make it a fact. Please don’t base your findings on a blog (and yes, I like the irony here too), speak with the professionals and ask them where they get their information.

How are you building your self-efficacy? Share your stories in the comments!

“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi

Resources: https://positivepsychology.com/self-efficacy

Help! I Need Some Breastfeeding Advice!

Picture it. It’s 2am, the baby is crying, you’re a few weeks (or months) postpartum and you’re sleep deprived. You’ve tried to latch your baby on and nothing seems to be working. You search online for answers. All of a sudden, you are bombarded with pages and pages of information. And opinions. And that’s not even taking into consideration the “related searches” results. Which website do you visit first? The first one? Some of the forums? You decide on a website and start reading. You can relate to some of what’s written and you continue reading. All of a sudden you think “the first thing they mentioned seems like me, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth… ” Before you know it, you’re worrying about tongue ties, nipple shields, low milk supply and oversupply!

Don’t get me wrong. There are some very good online resources, you just have to know where to find them. I have listed some of my favourite websites and books below. I will also tell you about some reputable professionals in your community.

So where should you turn to for help?

Dr. Jack Newman is a Canadian pediatrician and has been involved in breastfeeding research for other 30 years. His website has great videos and written resources.

The Motherisk Program is run by the Hospital for Sick Children. They are a great resource on the interactions of medications, medical therapies and substance abuse for breastfeeding and pregnant mothers. Telephone support is also available.

Best Start has many resource sheets on breastfeeding and your baby’s development.

La Leche League is a volunteer-run organization that began in 1956. Their website includes information sheets and a FAQ section. You can also find your local group online. More on that later!

Kelly Mom is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and her website has fantastic research-based articles for breastfeeding and parenting.

The Milk Meg is an IBCLC from Australia. Her often humorous blogs cover breastfeeding, weaning and attachment parenting.

If you’re looking to add to your book collection, here are some of my favourites:

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International
The Breastfeeding Book by Martha and William Sears

No matter where you are in the world, there are numerous ways to get face-to-face help. While books and online resources can be very helpful, sometimes it’s not enough. There are times where you need a professional seeing how your baby breastfeeds, how you are holding the baby, etc.

Postpartum doulas: While they are not health-care providers, many doulas are knowledgeable about breastfeeding and can guide you through some of the challenges.

Lactation professionals usually fall into three categories: lactation counselor, lactation consultant (LC or CLC) and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Although similar, the differences lie in their training and scope of practices. Stay tuned for next month’s blog post for more information on this profession!

As I mentioned previously, La Leche League is a support group for breastfeeding mothers that is run by volunteers. Most groups will meet once or twice a month and the group leaders are also available by phone, email or social media. It can be very helpful to meet like-minded mothers in a breastfeeding friendly environment.

Finding reliable, research-based information in 2019 can be a chore. Stick with the resources that I have mentioned and if you still have questions, I am only a phone call or email away! Take a deep breath mama – you are doing great! Just be careful what you Google…