Category Archives: news

Doulas should be covered by health insurance.

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Yet another research study has come out showing that having a doula improves women’s birth experiences and reduces their risk of complications during birth. This is the first study, though, to show that health insurance companies are likely to save money overall by covering doula care. The original study was published by Birth, and you can access it here.

NPR has an excellent write-up on the study and some of its implications here.

We had doula support for each of my births, and I will always strongly recommend a birth doula (and a postpartum doula, if at all possible), for all parents, especially first-timers. Our daughter’s birth doula barely made her birth because it happened so quickly, but she was still a hugely important presence in the pre-birth planning, and talking with her about some of my anxieties and getting her feedback made my daughter’s birth easier both mentally and physically. I’m confident that the doula who supported us during my son’s birth was instrumental in helping us avoid an unnecessary Cesarean, and she provided empathetic and careful counseling when I had trouble breastfeeding him after we were discharged from the hospital.

Doulas are worth it, insurance should cover their services, end of story.

“Adopting A Buddhist Ritual To Mourn Miscarriage, Abortion” at NPR

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I’ve talked before about how common miscarriage really is compared to how often it’s talked about in American society. Something like 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and with today’s early pregnancy tests, more people who would have just thought they were having a late period are dealing with the emotional fallout of miscarriage, too. Since we as a society don’t talk openly about miscarriage and pregnancy loss, many people feel confused about how to handle their (sometimes complex) feelings around a lost pregnancy.

Last month, I saw this article over at NPR about a traditional Japanese Buddhist ceremony specifically for families dealing with a pregnancy loss. The fact that rituals around this life event exist in other countries, but not here in the U.S., just points more directly to the idea that we need to acknowledge this issue more openly. The article addresses the fact that many Americans are adopting this Buddhist ceremony to help them process their losses, and I am relieved that some people have found this option as a resource toward healing.

What I would really love, though, would be to live in a United States so open about these difficult issues that we had developed uniquely American rituals and processes for supporting grieving families through miscarriages and stillbirths. The first step toward that future is talking about this stuff!

Read the article: “Adopting A Buddhist Ritual To Mourn Miscarriage, Abortion” at NPR

Breastfeeding was hard because I’d been doing it wrong.

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I’ve had two babies, and I’ve had trouble breastfeeding with both of them. Before my son was born, I read all these books, and my partner and I took a breastfeeding class – I was deeply committed to making it work. I knew that some women had trouble breastfeeding, but I thought I’d prepared and had support (and I had been leaking colostrum for months, ew), and maybe the first time would be hard and then I’d just get it.

Anyway, my son was born, and I did alright nursing in the hospital, but then we came home and I couldn’t get him latched without a lot of pain. I was a hormonal, useless mess. My doula had to talk me off a cliff, and my mother-in-law ran out in the middle of the night to get formula. I was able to see a lactation consultant and rent a breast pump the next day. Eventually, we did get it  (my postpartum doula helped a lot!), and now my son is almost 28 months-old and still nursing a few times a day, with no plans to quit as far as I can figure! But it was definitely a bumpy start.

When I got pregnant again, I didn’t even consider that nursing a newborn would be difficult. I nursed my son through the pregnancy, and I was looking forward to nursing a new little baby who theoretically wouldn’t be trying to do cartwheels while latched, like toddlers do. But I was wrong. Again.

My daughter is a bigger baby than my son was, and her head and neck were so strong when she was born that, whenever we nursed, she would latch and then arch, yanking the nipple along with her. It hurt, and it caused bruising, clogged ducts and serious discomfort for me until she was old enough to control her head a little better. I tried all the recommended nursing positions, visited a lactation consultant several times, and the only way I could find to nurse her without her hurting me at least some of the time was on my side. Since you can’t just lay down in the middle of the grocery store aisle when your baby gets hungry, this limited my ability to get out of the house for a few months after she was born.

I will be honest – I hated nursing her for many weeks. I felt like a failure for considering pumping and bottle feeding, or even just formula for her when I was still nursing her brother, but every plugged duct took an entire day of constant, painful pumping and nursing to clear, and although none of them turned into mastitis (a breast infection), every single one felt like an emergency. I wasn’t sleeping and was still healing from the birth. I didn’t have the energy for an emergency.

But, with some luck and a lot of support, I persevered, and as my daughter started to get better at nursing in other positions, I started to realized that if I could nurse upright if I leaned back and put her belly-to-belly on top of me. It wasn’t perfect, but it meant I could nurse her in the car, or on a park bench while my son played. None of the lactation consultants had recommended this position to me, and I wondered if maybe there was some risk associated with it, or some reason I didn’t see other mothers using it.

And of course, as soon as our nursing problems were mostly figured out, this article turned up on my feed: Many Moms May Have Been Taught to Breastfeed Incorrectly: Surprising New Research by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA.

Take a minute and open that in a new tab and look at the photos! (If you’re at work, be aware that it’s women breastfeeding, not that anyone should shame you for that.) Look at them! They’re in a reclined position, belly-to-belly with baby, with one arm supporting baby’s head. That is exactly what I had been doing successfully with my daughter, the baby who had such trouble in traditional breastfeeding positions, and here were a bunch of other moms doing the same thing! I was floored, and wished I’d seen this article when I had my son two years ago.

The article explores the idea that the ways that women are taught to breastfeed now are just not working for the vast majority of us. Mohrbacher says that 92% of women report trouble breastfeeding in the first week of their baby’s life, and that the most common reasons women give up on breastfeeding are trouble latching, nipple pain, and worries about producing enough milk. These are exactly the issues that come up when I talk about breastfeeding with other parents, especially with moms who chose to give up breastfeeding because it was just too painful and frustrating. Throughout the article, Mohrbacher argues that most of these problems are exacerbated, if not outright caused, by our poor breastfeeding postures, and that teaching new parents this alternative posture (which she calls “natural breastfeeding”) would alleviate many of these issues.

The article is a fantastic read, and I strongly recommend it, especially to expecting parents who are planning to breastfeed. Please share it around! There is nothing wrong with formula, and it’s true that sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work, but I know far too many mothers who had their hearts set on breastfeeding and weren’t able to for exactly the reasons mentioned – pain, latching trouble, or concern with milk supply. Knowing about this nursing position could save a lot of breastfeeding relationships, and I personally think they’re worth saving.

Mixed Feelings on Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is a day of mixed feelings for so many of us. Some of us are proud to be mothers to amazing kids. Some think of their own mothers, and miss those that they’ve lost. Some grieve for the babies they want and can’t conceive. And so many women spend Mother’s Day thinking of the babies they’ve lost through miscarriage and stillbirth.

Miscarriage is not talked about enough in our culture, especially considering how common it is, so I was really happy to see a recent article on it from NPR. People Have Misconceptions About Miscarriage, And That Can Hurt – Katherine Hobson – NPR

Hobson writes about how often feelings of shame and guilt accompany the loss of a pregnancy, even though miscarriage is almost never preventable. She also points out that 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage – that’s nearly 1 in 5. A lot of women who are trying to conceive are going to experience a miscarriage at some point in their lives, and this isn’t something most families talk about, which contributes to this culture of shame around it. Women and families going through this often feel so alone in the experience, when it’s very likely that some of their friends, neighbors, and other family members have been through the same thing.

There are thousands of ways we could work to better honor the mothers in our lives (better sex-ed, better education in general, more protection and coverage for the right to choose abortion, more funding for women’s shelters, and teaching men not to rape are all things that come to mind), but improving awareness of the realities of pregnancy loss and how many women are affected by it would be a great start. Women should feel safe talking about miscarriage if they want to, and being able to grieve (or not grieve) openly, without fear of being blamed by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. There is strength in community, and a community as large as this one should not feel the need to remain silent.