Shopping for a Doula? Here are 6 Steps for Navigating and Maximizing Your Doula Experience

Considering Hiring a Doula?

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Do you need to find a doula? Maybe you are hearing the word ‘Doula’ for the first time, or have heard it, but are very unfamiliar with a doula’s role or why it is so important to have a doula as part of your birth team.

A doula (a woman standing by) is a labor support person who provides physical, emotional and informational support for families throughout their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journeys.

Doula care is so much more than just support during your labor and as a first time mom, or a family considering doula care for the first time, it can be a bit difficult to know where to begin in your efforts of finding the right doula for your family’s individual needs, but also maximizing the care-to-cost-to-connection ratio with the doula you choose.

Here are six steps to help you navigate this new territory and maximize the kind of experience you can have in your search to find a doula, but also in your birth journey!

Step 1: Do you even want or need a doula?

Find a doula!? Doulas are hired for all different birth scenarios, and not just an un-medicated, out-of-hospital birth. They are beneficial in any setting and are a perfect compliment to the care provided by a midwife, the continuous support needed in the hospital room, or the calming presence often missing in the surgical room. READ HERE for more information on the differences between a midwife and a doula.

Doing a simple search online for “local doulas” or “find a doula near me” can be a bit overwhelming, depending on where you live! Knowing what kind of services are generally available from a doula, and matching that with what your ideal vision is for your birth, can help you gauge, not only whether you actually want / need a doula, but what services you would like for her to offer. Then you can narrow down your doula search right from the get go!

The advantage to finding doulas in your area who offer the services you are looking for means you don’t have to hire three different individuals for services which could have been available all in one place. Hiring several people for different services adds more people to your contact loop before / after giving birth, which can honestly become a headache during a time when you are simply wanting to snuggle in with your new baby, bond AND sleep! This also creates fluidity and connection throughout your pregnancy, during birth, and into the postpartum period in your relationship with your Doula. They will be able to handle everything while you just focus on your new baby and your growing family!

Generally, doulas provide care in many different areas and also offer an array of additional services which are cohesive to doula care and the support of families. Not all of them of course, which is why it is important to find a doula that offers services specifically to meet your wants and needs. Determining which services are, or might be, important to you, and then searching doulas in your area who offer those specific services can save a lot of time in the interviewing process of finding the right one!

Here is a handful (or two ;-)) of potential service options available to doula families…

  • Informational support throughout pregnancy
  • Antepartum care (need support while on bed rest?)
  • Education on all of the options and decisions to be made from the start of labor to immediately postpartum for both the mother and the baby.
  • Birth plan preparation & guidance
  • Natural childbirth education classes
  • Breastfeeding education, classes, and counseling / support
  • Placenta encapsulation (tincture, mother broth, smoothies, prints, cord keepsakes)
  • Lending library (guidance on book recommendations based on your needs, and then the ability to borrow those books!)
  • Continuous birth support at home, then the hospital or birth center (inclusion of partner, or in place of partner)
  • Advocacy of your birth plan (so you and your partner can focus on laboring)
  • Capturing occasional photo moments (usually non-professional) P.S. there are professional birth photographers!
  • Postpartum care (need support after bringing baby home?) Why is a postpartum doula important for every mother?
  • Extended care packages – (informational support through baby’s first year!)

Step 2: If so, what is most important about her?

This can sometimes be a difficult question, especially for first time momma’s who really don’t know what their specific needs of a doula may be. I mean, how do you know what you will need from a support person while in labor, when you haven’t experienced labor yet!?

I’ve broken it down into a couple of sections to help you navigate how to answer this question for yourself.

  • Consider your love language
    • Considering your own love language can be helpful in determining, not only the character qualities you are looking for in a doula, but also, the kind of connection you will want to have developed with her before your labor. It is important to know whether she is experienced enough to know how and when to change gears with you, as your labor progresses, and have discernment in when to draw into you for support, and when to draw back and allow you space to find your strength and power.
  • Consider your partner
    • Birth is not just about the laboring woman. All too often, partners end up feeling like the “third wheel,” with the primary focus on the mother and baby. But partners need support too, whether they want to be hands-on in the birth process or not. All couples function as one in a very different rhythm. This means that some partners will want to dive right in and be as much of a supportive part of the action as they can be, or maybe even catch their baby! Others want the freedom to hang back and draw in as they feel comfortable in each moment. Then you have partners who would rather be more of an outside observer (or maybe the birthing mother would rather her partner be an outside observer), if even present within the birth space at all. Knowing how the doula will support your partner in each of these differing scenarios is important to knowing the full extent of her experience and how well she will support your family dynamic and the needs of your partner through each stage of labor.

                   Dads are having a baby too! Many dads come out of their birth experiences feeling:

    • Traumatized, having had no one to communicate with them in terms they could understand (getting away from medical terminology).
    • Scared, having had no one to keep their internal thermostat in check and assured that everything is safe and normal
    • Helpless, not having anyone there to guide them in ways they can help bring comfort and relief to the woman they love.
    • Lack of Joy, as they watched the scene unfold around them, as they tried to protect, be understanding, advocate for the birth plan, process recommendations and make fast decisions. Dads are missing out on the joy of watching and participating in the births of their babies… This is not okay. You can read more about how doulas are for dads too, and how together, they make up the perfect birth team! Dads and Doulas Find a doula for the expecting father, just as much for the expecting mother.
  • Consider the doula’s energy
    • The heart of doula care is in the connection, and the energy of that connection. You are bringing another energy into your sacred space of birth, and that energy should be welcoming of the unfolding process of birth. You should feel safe and comfortable with her and should feel confident that the advocacy she will provide represents your birth plan, and not her own.
  • Consider the doula’s experience
    • There is simply no price that can be placed on experience in this field. Of course, every good and experienced doula had to start somewhere. The wisdom that comes from their experiences can be a huge benefit to your family in navigating every faucet of this adventure. From the pros and cons of each hospital / birth center within the realm of your birth vision, to recommendations on which care provider / midwife will connect with your family dynamic and be supportive of your wants and desires for your birth experience. In many ways, your experience can be the best reflection of her experiences, as she guides you through medical field protocol. And let’s not forget how important her experience will be to you and your partner once in the throes of labor. What touch will bring relief in this moment? Which essential oil can be emotionally uplifting? Which rebozo technique can get rid of that pesky back labor (or what even is a ‘rebozo’!?)? The list really does go on here.
  • Consider the doula’s character
    • Client testimonials should play a crucial role in defining her real character and the passion she has for her profession and the families she is called into the service of. It is okay to request testimonials, and even ask to speak with a few previous clients about their experiences. Most doulas will know right away who would be willing to speak with you and share about that personal experience receiving their support. Ensuring that she is reliable, trustworthy, knowledgeable, but also, that working in this field is not just a “job” to them! All professions become “businesses / jobs” at some point. I mean we all have to make a living to support our families. But, that doesn’t mean that a business / job can’t still be full of heart! If the philosophy is “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business,” then the heart of this profession, for that doula, has been misplaced.
    • Also, consulting with your chosen care provider on whether they have had any experience working with your Doula. Was it a positive experience and would they welcome their presence back into the labor and delivery room?

Step 3: Know what you’re paying for! 

When first searching to find a doula, they are often compared first by their rates. This is a great disservice to the doulas being compared, as well as to the families seeking care. The doula who charges $1000 (20+ years’ experience), and the doula who charges $350 (who just finished a weekend training workshop and has completed the three free births she is supposed to attend to receive her certification), should not be compared by their rates. They should be compared by what the family’s needs are for their pregnancy and birth journey, and how the doula can meet those needs to the best of their ability. The rate has nothing to do with their compatibility to the family seeking care. Hey, every doula has to start somewhere to earn the “experienced” title. While cost and experience are important, they may not be as important as the connection you share once it comes time for your birth.

Also, be mindful that the rate the doula is charging does reflect her level of experience. If the average experienced doula rate in your area is between $800 – $1000, a new doula, with less than 10 births in her experience bag, shouldn’t yet be charging between that average bracket.

Be kind, and don’t schedule an interview, on the doula’s time, unless you are willing to work out a way to pay for her services. Show your potential doula that you value her time, her profession, the services she offers, her experience, and the benefits she can bring to your pregnancy and birth journey. Most doulas who are in this profession for the heart of it are willing to work with expectant families on payment plans to ensure that every family, regardless of circumstance, can receive the care and support they need, while also establishing a mutual agreement assuring that the doula herself is compensated for her invaluable time and support. If hired early in the pregnancy, a family can have 6 months or more, depending on arrangements made with the doula, to pay for the services. Hiring earlier is often better, and also offers more time for connection and more opportunities for your doula to provide pregnancy and informational support.

I have often heard that having a doula is a “luxury”… which is such an unfathomable concept to me. When did we get so far out of reach with what the act of giving birth really is, that having a person support the mother through the most challenging experience of her life is considered a “luxury” ??? Shouldn’t it be “common place” to expect her to be supported in the best way possible? Isn’t she deserving of that? Shouldn’t she be a able to find a doula to meet all of her unique and individual needs? Isn’t her partner deserving of enjoying the birth process, rather than having to stand there terrified and feeling helpless? How do we even get to a place where we can put a price or a value on something this important?

Dr. John H. Kennell has been quoted, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”

Doulas are not a “Luxury.” Doulas are a “Necessity.” Find a doula who makes you feel as valuable to her, as she will be to you.

For a generalized breakdown of what a doula really makes after expenses such as gas, food, taxes, supplies, childcare, etc., you can check out this article, A Breakdown of a Doula’s Fees and Why Doula’s Charge What They Do.

Step 4: Trust her to teach you

Over the years it has become apparent that the value in taking a childbirth preparation course has been forgotten. Birth is a joyous rite of passage that a woman takes. It’s a transforming journey from maiden to mother. Taking a course which provides knowledge on the anatomy and stages of birth, preparing the mind-body-spirit for the journey ahead, options & decision, natural coping techniques, and partner engaging (just to name a few…),  reduces the fear surrounding birth in our society today and builds confidence in a woman’s ability and power to give birth, and also achieve the joy and satisfaction that can be found in the hard work that it takes to bring forth new life.

We wouldn’t set out on a voyage around the world by boat without first taking some courses on what to expect on the open waters, how to navigate the boat, what to do during a storm, and know what supplies you may need and recognize how and when to use them. Birth is the greatest and most incredible and unpredictable voyage a couple will ever embark on. Going in blind fuels fear of the unknown and leaves more space for unnecessary interventions to interrupt the safety of the birth process. Knowledge is power!

Look into starting a childbirth class between 20 and 30 weeks gestation. There are so many benefits to completing your course at least 6 weeks prior to your EDD. This allows time for the information to be absorbed. It also gives extra time to account for any potential classes which may need to be pushed out a week or two, should your doula be supporting a birthing family during a regularly scheduled class session, and you still complete the course before the arrival of your baby!

If your Doula teaches a childbirth education class, take her class. You are getting many additional hours with your doula to connect over the birth process. This builds confidence for both mom and her partner in their trust relationship with their doula, it builds a stronger connection, it means that the couple and the doula speak the same “birth language,” and the couple themselves have a much greater understanding of their doula’s vast knowledge base surrounding the unfolding of the birth process. Be sure the class you choose supports how you want to birth and includes education around the stages of birth, coping techniques, as well as partner engagement and preparing the mind, body, and spirit for the journey ahead.

If this isn’t your first birth, but it will be your first birth accompanied by doula support, taking your doula’s childbirth class can bring a refreshing of the soul and even help you bring your vision for this birth to the forefront.

Step 5: Pick 3

Meeting with several doulas means a better chance of finding the perfect doula for your family! So pick 3 doulas who match your criteria from above and schedule interviews.

Doulas offer a ‘free consultation’ to get acquainted. This ‘double interview’ time allows for both the expectant family and the doula to interview one another to see whether they are a right fit.

It is important to see if there is a connection and positive energy, and give you a chance to get a sense of whether you would feel “safe” and “comfortable” to birth with them by your side. Ask questions you have about their profession, business, character, experience, rates, etc.

The doula also needs to ‘interview’ the expectant family to determine whether they feel that they are the right support person to meet your family’s individual needs and vision for your birth experience. Whether they feel comfortable with both the mother and her partner, as well as the chosen care provider and birthing location is important to the kind of care and attention she can devote to that family. Checking in with your care provider and knowing that they are in favor of you having a support person present, and whether they have any doulas they are not comfortable working with. After all, you don’t want to be caught between your doula and care provider! So make sure that the doula you choose feels comfortable not only with your birth setting and provider team, but that your care provider team also respects your doula.

Your doula should be interested in what your vision is for your ideal birth, and they should desire to support you in striving for that vision, as medically feasible. This is your body, your baby, and your birth!

While meeting with 3 is ideal, there are those occasions when you just know right away, in the first interview, that you have found her! … and the feeling is usually mutual! Everything just fits and you know that she is the one that you want to welcome into your birth space, and support you during this miraculous journey!

Step 6: Use her!

You now have a support person whose entire profession, expertise, and knowledge base revolves around pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, newborn care, sleep cycles, etc. Use that resource! Reach out! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request guidance. This is what they are here for!

Hire early! Repeat hire, early! Hiring before 16 weeks means more pregnancy support and more time to develop a close connection. It also ensures the doula’s schedule doesn’t fill-up without you!

Many doulas offer extended care packages during the postpartum period which gives the family access to the Doula’s educational knowledge base for guidance on sleep issues, teething comfort, sleep pattern guidance, breastfeeding support, referrals to outside resources as a need arises, and so much more, all accessible through baby’s first year of life! This is an incredible blessing, especially for first time parents. This gives continuity of care that doesn’t just end after the baby arrives. Babies don’t come with a manual, and having someone at your fingertips with evidence based information, rather than “forum opinions,” is such a blessing!

For additional thoughts, considerations and ideas, READ HERE!

All Natural Teething Comfort Measures

Not too long ago, baby numbing ointments were the recommended way to treat and bring comfort to a baby during the teething stage. It is now known that the numbing medication used in these kinds of products actually toughens the gum, whereby making it more difficult for the teeth to break through and causing more damage to the gums which creates additional and unnecessary pain.

With pain relieving products also comes a rather lengthy list of possible side effects and disruptions to the normal physiological processes within the body. It’s important to understand that teeth move by impacting. Babies will “teethe” for 2 -3 days, and then the teeth stop moving for one to several weeks, and then begin impacting again. This can happen several times before a tooth finally peeks out of the gum line!

There are much more gentle ways to bring “natural” relief…

Crushed Ice Sock

Putting some crushed ice into a tiny sock and letting baby chew on it until their hearts content can be entertaining for them, educational as well as sensory discovery, but also bring comfort to sore gum during the teething process.

Lavender, Cloves & Olive or Coconut Oil / Essential Oils

Cloves are an all natural pain reliever. Simply taking a whole organic clove and grounding it into a fine powder and then combining it with a high quality extra virgin olive oil and gently rubbing it onto baby’s gums.  You can also use Clove Essential Oil ( a very very tiny amount as this is a very hot essential oil ), mixed for dilution with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and rub onto gums. Hello homemade and all-natural baby pain relieving ointment! Line the outside of the jaw with Lavender essential oil to calm and soothe baby and the tension occurring within the jaw and gum line. If baby has a fever in conjunction with the teething discomfort, the essential oil combination is layered lavender, then peppermint along the hair line of the forehead and back of the neck.

Another Alternative ~ Homeopathic Teething Tablets

Another option for instant relief, as well as for moments of extreme discomfort late at night when sleeping is disrupted, you can use Hyland’s Homeopathic Teething Tablets. Homeopathic Tablets are a great option for little ailments. The simplest way to begin to understand how Homeopathy works is the understanding that ‘Like Cures Like.”
“Homeopathy demonstrates that a substance that produces a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person can cure a sick person experiencing those same symptoms. For instance, onions make your eyes water when you cut them. If you have a cold or allergies and your symptoms include a runny nose, the likely remedy to treat your runny nose would be Allium Cepa, which is made from onions.”
~ Hyland’s
A tiny tablet is placed gently under the tongue or in the pocket of the cheek. Tablets dissolve very quickly in the mouth. When baby is very little, I usually recommend holding the tablet gently under the tongue, and kind of wiggling it in baby’s saliva for a few seconds, till it starts to get soft, so they don’t swallow it whole or spit it out. As babies get older and come into toddler hood, they will often open their mouths, inviting the tablet in, knowing that it will help them feel better, and it doesn’t taste too bad either. The tablets from Hyland’s come in different varieties for different ailments. Colic, coughs, earaches, colds, etc. Most natural food stores carry homeopathic remedies, as well as some local and general grocers. They can also be purchased online, by following the links below.
I do not recommend the “nighttime teething” tablets for young babies.

Homeopathic Colic Tablets
 (To settle troubled tummies)

Homeopathic Teething Tablets
 (For instant relief in teething discomfort)

For more information please visit Hyland’s Homeopathy

 Arnica Oil

Homeopathy at it’s best… Simply rub a small amount of the oil along the jaw line to reduce swelling, internal bruising, and discomfort as teeth are making their way slowly to the surface.

Baltic Amber Teething Necklaces

 

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Baby B.
DO NOT COPY OR USE PHOTO

Genuine Baltic Amber has been considered a natural remedy for hundreds of years. For babies specifically, it is known for its ability to sooth the pain associated with teething. Amber is a fossilized tree resin which contains succinic acid. When worn against the warmth of the skin trace amounts of succinic acid are released, and it is then absorbed into the skin, providing anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. This means pain relief for teething babies in the form of a reduction in the inflammation of the gums, whereby allowing the emergence of the teeth with greater ease and often times even reducing the amount of drool involved with the process.There are options for babies and adults who suffer from arthritis and other pains associated with chronic inflammation.

 

 

 

  • Variety of Color Options
  • Bead Shape – Rounded, Chipped or Oval
  • Necklaces or Bracelets

The resin within the necklace usually lasts for about 1 year, but will recharge and releases succinic acid after having been exposed to the warmth and energy of the sunlight. So exposing baby to the sunlight for about 10-15 minutes a day helps it to release the maximum amount of succinic acid per day, not to mention the other health benefits gained from the absorption of sunlight.

Another thing to be aware of, is that the absorption from the resin into the blood stream takes about 2 weeks to reach its maximum effectiveness and REALLY see a very substantial decrease in discomfort. Many people take it off after the first day, when they don’t see a change. It takes a bit of time and consistency for the properties to work effectively.

Also understanding how teeth emerge. Teeth will gradually move, impacting for 2-3 days at a time and then they pause, and will move again days or even weeks later. Discomfort will naturally come and go during these times. Wearing the necklace consistently ensures that the inflammation is reduced during the time the teeth begin to impact again. This also allows the teeth to move with greater ease and less discomfort.

The necklace can be worn as baby sleeps, as it is very tiny and short, similar to a choker necklace, but loose enough to not be a choking hazard, and not long enough for baby to be able to grab it up over the chin and into the mouth. Some parents are not comfortable with baby sleeping while the necklace, and it is perfectly okay to take it off and put it on throughout the day, between baby’s sleep cycles. Just find what is comfortable for you. I find that more resin seems to be released while sleeping, since our body temperature rises as we sleep. Should baby break the necklace, which is EXTREMELY difficult to do, each bead is knotted into the strand individually so the strand stays together if broken, and no loose beads become a choking hazard. It really is designed well, with the safety and comfort of baby in mind.

Genuine and authentic Amber teething necklaces can be purchased online at

Momma Goose,

The Art of Cure,

Hazelaid,

Amber Artisans

– or –

locally here in San Antonio, at

Go Baby Go


It is important that you purchase

“authentic baltic amber”

How To Spot A Fake Amber Teething Necklace

 

MATERIALS MOST OFTEN USED AS AMBER IMITATIONS:

Copal

Glass

Fenolic resins

Celluloid

Casein

Modern plastic

Copal

Copal is sold as Baltic amber, but in fact this is very young tree resins( 1000- 1million years old). Natural inclusions are possible in Copal, but usually they are falsified. Insects are inserted in them that are too big and too good-looking. Copal melts at rather a low temperature (lower than 150 C ), and tends to melts rather than burn. After heating it diffuses the “sweet” smell of burning resins.

Glass

It is easy to distinguish glass from amber: it is more solid; it cannot be scratched by metal. Glass is cold and fireproof.

Fenolic resins

Frequently, this material is found in artificial amber beads. These amber beads have especially exact shape (oval, faceted), the color is very similar to real amber (dark red, cloudy yellow, limpid). After heating it does not diffuse the smell of pine-tree resins, which is characteristic for Baltic amber.

Celluloid

Celluloid (cellulose nitrate) is usually yellow and cloudy. Optically it is difficult to distinguish it from amber. Celluloid is more solid and not so combustible. After heating it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.

Casein

This is a plastic made from milk. The beads have cloudy, turbid yellow color. It is a little bit heavier than amber. After heating it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.

Modern Plastic

Modern plastic (polyester, polystyrene) are used to produce artificial amber and inclusions. Optically this substitute can hardly be distinguished because with it authentic amber colors and limpidity can be obtained. Like in Copal, falsified inclusions are too big (more than 10 mm) and clearly seen, inserted in the very center of plastic. After heating it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.

Testing your amber for authenticity

Genuine and authentic baltic amber should release a “pine scent,” not a “plastic scent,” when heated.

 

Heat Test

All natural amber contains microscopic bubbles. When you apply heat to a single piece of amber, these bubbles evaporate and the amber becomes transparent. The greater the temperature, the darker the amber will become. This technique can be used to discern if the precious amber contains any inclusions. It is also used to add variety to the coloration of natural amber. It does not, however, increase or decrease the value of real amber or the healing ability of natural amber. Heat a needle point in a flame until it is very hot (after a long while with a long-handled kitchen lighter I finally got mine to glow a little), then touch the tip of the needle to a bead in a non-obvious area. If it smells like pine resin (think “christmas tree smell”), it’s likely to be true baltic amber. Now, the smell is not necessarily particularly pleasant and could be confused with plastic for that reason. You are looking for is a pine odor within the overall fragrance. Amber is fragile – sticking with a hot needle you will notice some cracks, while a needle will pierce plastic without cracking it.

There is only one case it may not be amber, and that is if it’s copal (immature tree resin) instead. Fortunately, the next test can help you distinguish between amber and copal.

The Rubbing Test 

This is generally considered the simplest of the testing methods. (The best way is to rub into the palm of the hand) It is possible to heat real amber by rubbing until it releases the smell of pine- tree resins. This needs a very strong hand, as it is rather difficult to heat amber (especially when polished) to the necessary temperature, and it could be difficult to make an experiment with amber set in jewelry, as trying to rub it into other materials the amber could get scratched. Wrap the necklace in a soft cloth and rub rub rub – if it’s true amber it will become electrostatically charged enough to pick up small pieces of paper. Copal will not take on an electrostatic charge and may become sticky. (source)

The Alcohol Test 

Both copal and plastic will deteriorate when they come into contact with a solvent. (source)  “Plastics are quickly attacked by alcohol (95% ethyl alcohol), acetone (100%), and ether. A few drops of acetone (fingernail polish remover) or alcohol dripped over the surface of the piece will reveal if it holds up to the solvent. If the surface becomes tacky, it’s not amber. Amber will not feel tacky or dissolve under these solvents.” (source) You do not want to use an acetone-free nail polish remover for this testing method.

The Saltwater Test

Amber is so light that it will float in salt water. To test your necklace, mix together a solution of 1 part salt to 2 parts water. (For example, you could use 1/3 cup salt to 2/3 cup water.) Dissolve the salt completely and drop your necklace in the mixture. Plastic and glass will sink, true baltic amber and some types of copal will float. If you’re not sure whether your necklace is amber or copal, try the rubbing test.

 

The information contained in this Article has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or otherwise. The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional, but rather as a platform for further education and research on your part. It is always advised to discuss your health care decisions with your Care Provider, personally.

 

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