Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Interdependence Week

We live in a culture that is all mixed up. We make mamas out to be deities with all the superhuman powers to make us invincible. Mamas have babies, breastfeed, go to work after only a couple of weeks, keep the house clean, retrieve our pre-baby bodies within weeks, take care of older children and look sexy doing it all without ANY help!

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Mamas and daddies drag their bodies like the walking dead, believing that exhaustion is just par for the course when you have children. Being a “good mother,” according to most of the women I have worked with, includes sacrificing everything from alone time to simply having a full meal. Unfortunately, exhaustion and stress leads to burn out, which can lead to all sorts of physical and mental disorders.

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This is why I am officially dubbing the week of Independence Day, “Interdependence Week.” It is my mission and passion to teach families how to function in harmony. So, this week is dedicated to pregnant and postpartum families depending on their Villages for help and support. This week, every family member and friend of new (and seasoned) parents should be asking, “what do you need and how can I help?” This week, all newborn families should practice vulnerability with their folks and practice using the phrase, “I need your help.”

Interdependence Week will be a catalyst for a more collective culture. A culture where mamas do not feel they have to suffer from postpartum mood disorders in silence; a culture where fathers are valued and supported; a culture where our children are well cared for, whether mama and daddy are able to do it themselves or not.

Happy Interdependence Week!

Is Mama “Mean,” or Is It Something Else?

Most of us have seen the viral videos and the downloadmemes that poke fun at the “Mean Mama.” She is unreasonable, loud, and never seems to have more than a fleeting moment of happiness or joy. She is always complaining of how tired she is, how much she sacrifices, how her life might be different if it weren’t for “you damned ungrateful kids!” And let’s not forget about how much her child is “just like ya daddy!”

These caricatures are only comical because of how closely they mirror a lot of our actual childhoods living with mothers who seemed to never be happy about much of anything. We didn’t understand why mama was going all the way off about a couple of dirty dishes in the sink. Or why she seemed to get even angrier at the sound of her children crying (“shut up before I give you something to cry about!”). Or why the fact that you have your father’s smile/walk/eyes seemed to make her upset. Were our mother’s just hella mean or was there something else going on under the surface?

In many communities depression is a disorder that goes largely ignored. Until recently, Postpartum Depression was diagnosed as neuroses (for those women who actually spoke about their symptoms) and women with this diagnosis were treated with

Introducing “Doula for a Day”

Introducing “Doula For A Day”
Would you like a #doula simply to answer some of your #childbirth questions? Someone to put your family’s mind at ease about your childbirth or #postpartum preferences? Need someone to talk to your partner about #bonding? Want help with your #birth preferences list and questions to ask your #OB? But you aren’t sure that you want a doula’s support throughout your pregnancy, at your birth or long term postpartum?
Allow me to support you for a day (no time restraints!). I will answer your questions, help with lists, give tips, tricks and techniques for a wonderful birth and postpartum year!

Hospital Birth vs. Home Birth: What’s Right for You?

By Wendy Rose Gould | Originally Published  March on Mamapedia | Featuring Monique Cowan

Soon-to-be-parents can feel like they’re being tugged in all sorts of directions even before their little one enters the world. From breastfeeding versus formula, to maternity and/or paternity leave, to choosing where your baby sleeps at night, there’s a lot to think about.

Today we’re focusing on the topic of where to have your baby, a decision that’s very personal and will vary from family to family. We spoke to Monique Cowan, a birth and postpartum doula, who’s helped her patients make this decision many times over. Our goal is to simply lay out the basics on both home and hospital births to help you choose which is best for your individual needs.

Home Births
A home birth is exactly what it sounds like: giving birth in the comfort of your own home, or a friend or family member’s home.

“Home births are usually attended by a midwife – and possibly a doula – although some women have also chosen to birth at home unattended by any medical professional or birth worker,” explains Cowan.

This space affords a family several unique advantages that they wouldn’t have at a hospital birth. For example, mothers can include whomever they wish during the birth, including older children and family members, without any restrictions or formalities. The mother can also utilize a birthing pool or bathtub for a water birth, as most hospitals can’t accommodate this request.

“The main thing is that you have the option to do whatever is comfortable and resonates with your beliefs and philosophies without the dictation of hospital policies,” notes Cowan. “The laboring mother can eat and drink as she wishes, have her entire family around (should she choose), play her own music, dim the lights, and she does not have to worry about rooming with a stranger following the birth. Also, after birth, baby remains with mom the entire time. There is no rush to separate for cleaning or any other interventions. This facilitates successful bonding and breastfeeding.”

Things that aren’t available during a home birth are medications and epidurals that help numb the pain of childbirth, as well as additional medical assistance in the case of complications and emergencies.

Complications that can occur include a breeched baby, prolapsed umbilical cord, prolonged, stalled or particularly painful labor, fetal distress, and postpartum complications experienced by the mother, such as hemorrhaging or extensive tears that need to be addressed. In these cases, Mom typically heads to the hospital anyway to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Hospital Birth
Today, a hospital birth is considered the traditional route for new parents. This setting may feel less intimate, but there’s a certain peace of mind that comes from being surrounded by a host of medical equipment and staff who are familiar with – and trained for – any birthing scenario.

“Birthing in a hospital does provide its advantages in that, should any distress occur where serious medical intervention is necessary, the hospital is well-equipped to handle it. Should the mother decide she would like more than natural pain management, the hospital is able to offer pain medication,” Cowan explains. “Women are usually admitted for at least 24 to 48 hours after birth and are, typically, closely monitored during this time by the hospital nursing staff. If Mom needs, there are usually other non-medical resources available to her right in the hospital.”

Because Mom is hooked up to fetal monitors, heart rate monitors and an IV, she is typically restricted in the types of births she wants to do. For example, a water birth is almost always not a possibility in a hospital setting. Still, Mom can make requests for an unrestricted labor, and has the final say in whether she wants an epidural and other pain-relieving medications.

Also, though it’s a much more formal setting, Mom still has a say in who can accompany her in the delivery room (though this number may be restricted to a couple people), and who can come during visiting hours.

“I would suggest birthing in a hospital to any truly at-risk pregnant mothers,” Cowan advises. “Mothers who have diagnosed medical conditions that could be a danger to herself or to the baby, or who are pregnant with a baby who has been diagnosed with a threatening condition in-utero, should birth in a hospital setting.”

At the end of the day, home births and hospitals offer their own advantages and drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide what method fits your needs best, and to know that whatever you decide, it’s the perfect choice for you. 

How To Survive Exclusive Breastfeeding, As It Takes A Lot Out Of You

BY SARAH HOSSEINI | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEBRUARY ON ROMPER | FEATURING MONIQUE COWAN

Deciding to exclusively breastfeed an infant is not usually a decision that’s made lightly. There are many factors to consider including a mom’s lifestyle and whether they have any emotional triggers associated with breastfeeding. Many women know that even though breastfeeding has been a trend since the dawn of time, that doesn’t mean it’ll easy. Once in the trenches of nursing, you may wonder how to survive exclusive breastfeeding, especially when you feel like you really want to stop. Rest assured, many moms have felt the same way you have, and there are ways to get through breastfeeding, even the hard parts.

Women should aim to exclusively breastfeed for at least one year, according to The World Health Organization. There are plenty of proven benefits to a nursing mother and her baby like emotional bonding, immunity, and the cost. This is all good and well, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and free from hiccups along the way. Exclusively breastfeeding a baby takes commitment, practice, and a whole lot of patience.

Whatever your challenge is or whatever breastfeeding challenges crop up, there are ways to get through them. Just because you’re struggling, doesn’t mean you have to stop all together (unless you want to, and that’s totally your choice). Here are seven easily implementable things you can do to help you survive exclusive breastfeeding.

1. Surround Yourself With Support

“Support is vital to successful breastfeeding- and parenting, in general,” Monique Cowan, postpartum doula and family coach, tells Romper. “Having folks to help around the house, bring you water and food, and to just be your cheerleader can make all the difference in the world.”

Back in the day, postpartum women had the support of other women: mothers, grandmothers, sisters, etc. They were physically available and geographically close by to help with all things mama and baby. If you have this set up, take advantage of it, and direct those around you to your needs.

For those breastfeeding moms that don’t have family and friends nearby, build modern support systems. Nursing moms can join breastfeeding support groups on Facebook, online breastfeeding chat rooms, purchase online lactation sessions with a certified consultant, or simply video chat with a fellow mom who can lend an ear. There’s always a way to build a support system, and it’s important that you find ways to do it if you want to survive and thrive during all phases of breastfeeding.

2. Have Your Partner Help

Maybe they can’t breastfeed for you, but there are plenty of other things they can do.

“Your partner likely wants to help, but just doesn’t know how,” Lindsey Janeiro, certified lactation counselor and nutritionist, says.  “Communicate what you and the baby need.”

If you have a partner or spouse, have them hold a boob for you, or ice pack your nipples, grab a burp cloth, or fetch you a one-handed food item to shove in your mouth while nursing. Additionally, if you get touched out from breastfeeding the baby non-stop, Janeiro suggest you enjoy some “sweet post-nursing snuggles.”

3. Accept That Breastfeeding Has A Learning Curve

“Breastfeeding is a natural process, but sometimes, it has a learning curve for both mom and baby,” Cowan says. “So, it is very important that mom is gentle with herself.”

This might make perfectionist breastfeeding moms kind of twitchy, and I get it. Ditching the idea that perfection is the goal is imperative with breastfeeding. Learning is the goal and figuring it out with your baby together is generally how the process goes. Perfecting your practice will come later, and if you’re unkind to yourself during the journey, you could really suffer.

“Stress will send your milk supply on a downhill slope,” Cowan says. She advises new moms to learn relaxation techniques and say affirmations. If you feel ridiculous saying them, think of your own, then say them. You’re breastfeeding survival depends on it, even if you feel silly.

4. Allow Yourself To Struggle Without Judgement

“Just remember that breastfeeding for the first time is never easy for any new mom,” Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, says. “Allow yourself to struggle, it’s completely normal.”

Literally, no one knows what they hell they are doing when the nurse or doula puts a baby to their mother’s breast the first time. Again, while breastfeeding is touted as natural, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You will struggle with a plethora of breastfeeding issues including cracked and sore nipples, dips in supply, and maybe even mastitis. It’s all part of breastfeeding, it’s all normal, and it’s all OK.

There is no need to judge yourself and feel shame, there are lot of other women who have the same struggles, or who have been there before.

5. Eat As Healthy As Possible

According to What To Expect, a breastfeeding mother is burning roughly 500 calories a day nursing. Nursing takes a lot out of you. Eating well will help keep your energy levels up, your mood in check, and provide your body with all of the necessary nutrients it needs to function (which is super important when taking care of a baby that needs you non-stop), including aiding in your milk production, as explained on the same website.

6. Practice Self-Care When Possible

“While being on-call to your little one, do not forget to nurture yourself,” Cowan says. “Take time to do things that feel good to you and make you come back to yourself, remembering that you must care for yourself in order to care for your baby.”

It’s like when you’re on a plane and they tell you about the oxygen masks. Secure yours, before helping others.

7. Know Where To Seek Professional Help

Just because breastfeeding is supposedly a natural human experience, that doesn’t mean help isn’t needed. Sometimes professional help can help you get over your hardest nursing hurdles, you just need to know where to find it.

“Whether you’re just starting your breastfeeding journey or you’re coming to a close and weaning, there are several points along the way where it’s good to know where to turn for help,” Janeiro says. “Find local lactation consultants, breastfeeding groups, or contact your local La Leche League International.”

Exclusively breastfeeding is a commitment and along the way there may be struggles. That doesn’t mean you can’t get through them. The most important thing to remember is to cut yourself some slack, and take comfort in knowing other moms have been where you are. However you choose to handle your breastfeeding challenges, is OK, and will ultimately be the best thing for you and your baby.

Postpartum Greens

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(Picture of Shafia Monroe’s Greens courtesy of her personal Facebook page)

Midwife extraordinaire, Mama Shafia M. Monroe with her #postpartumgreens recipe and the importance of the #village making food for the new mama! Yes, I will make these for my postpartum doula clients! Click the link below to go to the recipe video.
#ittakesavillage #MothertheMama #knowledgeispower #VillageHArmony #VillagePrep

How Exhaustion SABOTAGES Your Good Parenting 

Contrary to popular belief, exhaustion and GOOD parenting, DO NOT go hand-in-hand.

Let Me Help You Cultivate Support

Why Am I A Doula?

Around this time, six years ago, I was in my OB’s office for one of my regular prenatal visits. Everything with him had been pretty pleasant up to that point. Then, he asked me if I wanted to schedule an induction or if I wanted him to “let” me go to 40 weeks and wait to see what happens. I, of course, told him I wanted to wait, especially because I KNEW my due date was wrong based on the time of conception. His question scared me, made me angry and had me in a state of shock and confusion. We had spoken about how I wanted to give birth and now, it seemed he hadn’t even been listening. I kept thinking, would I even get to birth naturally or would unnecessary interventions be thrust upon me during labor?
I called my birth doula, almost in a panic, when I got home to tell her what happened. I half expected her to be as riled up as I was. I remember the calm in her voice as she spoke to me. I could hear the smile on her face. She simply asked me, “well, what do YOU wanna do?” I told her that of course I wanted to wait as long as she (my baby) would take to come. Then, I remember her little boy singing, “Baby you can do it, take your time, do it right!” 😀 
I left his office afraid and within 20 minutes of getting home and speaking to this beautiful, awesome woman, I felt at peace. I felt powerful. I felt like I had this and that it was up to me to make the decision. She was my support when I felt tired, when I felt unsure, when I felt afraid and even when I was angry and having personal issues. Her job was to help me make INFORMED decisions that worked best for me and my baby. Her job was to make sure I was at ease so that I could birth my baby in peace.
I decided at that point that I wanted to help women feel the same. Being a source of education and support during a time where there is SO MUCH information- and most of it, pretty scary- was what I wanted to do. I wanted to advocate for families during one of the most vulnerable times in their life. I wanted to be the shoulder and the cheerleader for women and families when so many things during this time leave them feeling unsure of themselves and their decisions. 
I know that not all- not even MOST- OB’s force interventions onto their pregnant clients. But, having an advocate and someone to reassure you that you have a voice if you DO encounter a doctor like this is INVALUABLE. 
This is why I do what I do.

Periscope Doula Tips: Pick That Baby Up! Pts. 1 & 2

Lots of parents wonder if it is possible to “spoil” their babies by picking them up every time they cry or holding them a lot throughout the day. Basically, the answer is, “NO!” watch my replays from Periscope below to hear why. And remember to follow me on at Periscope.tv/MoniqueTheDoula.

Part 1

Part 2

Stressed About Your Milk Supply? Read This!

Some of the most pressing questions I get from families I work with have to do with breastfeeding. Mothers, their partners, grannies, sisters, play cousins ALL want to know is baby getting enough? Is it normal if baby eats more than once every few hours? What if mom has small breasts? What if baby is only at the breast for X amount of time? Is the baby too small? Is the baby too big? Should I give water? Supplements?

Since babies and breasts don’t come with manuals (YET! Manuals coming VERY soon), we have to rely upon our instincts (and cues from our Little Ones). The great thing is, our biological instincts are wired, once we give birth, to know what needs to be done when we see, smell, hear or taste (also known as kissing all up on) our little bundles. The not so great thing is, we have been conditioned not to trust these instincts, to constantly compare ourselves and our children to others and to actually SEEK OUT the most horrid of horror stories to undermine our instincts.

Here is the thing, the VAST majority of women are perfectly able to breastfeed. There are some women who are not, but, most women who are fearful that they are unable, are perfectly able. Here is the kicker, however, the stress that comes with not being able to breastfeed can actually LOWER your milk supply! In fact, ANY stress can lower your supply. But, please, DO NOT stress about stressing, thereby adding more stress onto your stress. I made a little poster with some tips and techniques to get that oxytocin flowin’ and those stress levels lowered. Download it, print it, share it. Please let me know if it helps you.

BFaffirmations_MniqueTheDoulaSo much love!