Knowing your rights as a birthing person

While understanding your rights as a birthing person is vital anytime, in the era of COVID-19, I found this topic especially apropos.

I have heard horrible stories from doulas and moms alike about their birth preferences being completely thrown out of the window due to COVID-19, and new hospital regulations that seem to change daily. The flood of birthing persons opting for midwifery style of care and home birth has never been more steady than during this pandemic.

While doulas are helpful in making sure your rights are being respected and upheld especially in a hospital setting, going into your labor or birth with eyes open can help remove a lot of miscommunication from the beginning. Because pandemic or not, there are rights a birthing person has under any situation.

Your rights as a birthing person include:

(Quoted directly from the text, unless otherwise italicized) *

  • Understanding what your are giving consent to
  • Receiving information regarding drugs or treatments before being performed or administered
  • Accepting or refusing treatment without feeling pressured or bullied
  • To know the full details about a medical procedure, including if it’s medically necessary or elective in nature
  • Access to your medical records
  • Ability to seek a second medical opinion – even while in labor (my addition)
  • To request alternative support in the nursing department during labor, if you do not feel heard or supported by the nurse initially assigned you (my addition)
  • To be kept informed and up-to-date on options and other information that will impact your birth
  • Being treated as an equal partner in making decisions regarding your care and birth, and any treatments for your child
  • To be treated with respect
  • To be provided with the best care possible, with a focus on prevention
  • To care for yourself and your child to the full extent possible while still being safe and responsible

While your care team has the onus of not stepping on your rights, especially in such strange times with the COVID complication, a birthing person and her support system also have responsibilities, including informing themselves.

In my first year as a doula, I’d come out of a few births feeling like I’d failed my clients when they had very little understanding or had unreal expectations about what birth looked like, since they did not attend birth classes or did not discuss their preferences with their doctor beforehand. And since they did not express any questions or concerns to me beforehand, I had not been aware there was a gap.

This is one of the biggest reasons why as a doula, I always strongly recommend my clients take a birth education class and breastfeeding class together with their partners. This makes sure everyone is on the same page. It also helps parents design a comprehensive birth preference plan, and gives them a starting point to discuss these ideas with their care provider on how they and their birthing location can or cannot support them.

I am so careful now to ask these questions, to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that my clients feel empowered, prepared, and armed with accurate information.

That’s why I am also urging pregnant parents to fully educate themselves on their options during the pandemic. For a deep-dive into your rights and options during COVID-19, I love and the resources they have available.

Below are some additional things to consider as you move forward in delineating your birth preferences, and choosing your provider.

Birthing person’s responsibilities include:

(Quoted directly from the text, unless otherwise italicized) *

  • To learn what is available and make an informed choice
  • To find caregivers who (and identify resources that) can help her reach her goals
  • To listen to her caregivers with an open mind
  • To let her preferences be known in a courteous manner
  • To carry through on an agreed plan of care
  • To learn the approximate cost of a procedure in advance
  • To state why she changes caregivers, if applicable
Quoted Material:
Lauwers, J., & Swisher, A. (2011). Consumer Rights & Responsibilities / The Mother’s Rights. In Counseling the nursing mother: A lactation consultant’s guide (p. 70). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. *


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Send me a message with your name, email, town or city you plan to birth in, and estimated birth month, and I will be in touch within 24 hours.

Six holiday hangups that impact milk supply for breastfeeding moms

Breastfeeding can be difficult enough for many moms, but some aspects of the holiday season can make things even more so if she isn’t prepared for them – such as her body’s ability to produce breastmilk. Here are several things to keep a keen eye out for (while you’re watching for Kris Kringle of course), that can impact a mom’s milk supply:

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7 things to know about your newborn’s first breastfeeding

Small-30The first breastfeeding of a newborn is often a magical, yet confusing experience for a new mom.

If you are considering breastfeeding your baby, I love that you have stumbled across this blog post. As a doula and breastfeeding counselor, I want to share some of these little understood facts about newborns and their first breastfeeding that have greatly helped prepare my clients. The more moms know, the better they are able to set realistic expectations and set themselves up for success as a nursing mom.

The Golden Hour is key. When helping my clients with planning their birth care preferences, I am quick to point out the value and importance of the “Golden Hour,” especially if they plan to breastfeed. This refers to the first hour after birth, when mom and baby are kept skin-to-skin immediately after birth. This contact with baby is what helps baby recover, normalize baby’s temperature and blood sugar levels, and triggers his instincts to search for the breast and feed for the first time. Having baby at the breast within an hour of birth increases a mom and baby dyad’s success in fully breastfeeding.

Baby’s instincts are strong! After resting on their mother’s abdomen for about an hour recovering from the birth process, babies start to show the first signs of hunger. At most of the births I’ve been to, either moms or nurses work to get baby to the breast, and mechanically latch baby themselves. I feel that so many of my clients miss out on one of the most amazing experiences, which is the instinctual “breast crawl” almost all healthy babies will do. A newborn, if allowed to his or her own devices, will crawl toward mom’s breast within the first hour and usually latch themselves – drawn by the scent of mom’s nipples that remind them of the smell of amniotic fluid. Nature is incredible.

But it’s still a learning process. I often hear from moms that they thought breastfeeding was supposed to be instinctual and “natural,” and are blindsided by the learning curve. Both you and your baby may take a a few days (or more!) to learn to nurse. While many babies may find the nipple and nurse like a champ, many babies take time to coordinate their suck and swallow reflexes.  Moms also need time to find positions that work for both her and her baby’s feeding style and preferences. But stick with it, you’re both learning and trust that baby’s strong instincts will prevail.

Colostrum is enough. Your body has been manufacturing colostrum since the second trimester, and is ready immediately for baby upon birth. A newborn baby only needs about 1 oz of colostrum, or early infant milk, each day for the first few days. That means no more than a teaspoon or two at each feeding!

Fullness doesn’t indicate milk production. Many times when women don’t feel their mature milk come in “right away” after birth or that their breasts don’t feel “full,” they think that they are not making enough milk and immediately resort to formula supplementation. Soft breasts postpartum are actually normal and perfectly okay! Engorgement, when a woman’s breasts feel painfully full, is actually a sign of poor milk transference to baby. And the harder or fuller a woman’s breasts are, the more difficult it is for baby to latch on. This can compound the problem. Difficulty latching baby can also happen if a mom has had IV fluids through labor, and is retaining a lot of fluids in her breast tissue. But the longer this goes on, the more a woman’s body will start to reduce milk supply. Breastfeeding or expressing milk “early and often” in those first few days and weeks of life are what help alleviate that state of fullness, protect milk supply and keep mom’s breasts soft, and comfortably latchable.

You may not feel your milk let down. While some moms may feel a tingling sensation as their milk lets down to their nursing baby, it can be disconcerting to new moms when they don’t feel anything. Trust that as long as your baby is gaining weight, has the right amount of poopy diapers and is showing signs of satiety after every feeding, baby is getting everything he needs.

To pump or not to pump? Often my pregnant clients ask about pumping breastmilk and assume they need to start pumping right out of the gate after baby is born. It’s actually not necessary for most moms! Unless mom and baby are separated for any reason, such as baby is in the NICU or mom is sick, pumping is not needed. Note: For NICU babies, especially, it is recommended moms start pumping within 3 hours of birth. Keeping your healthy, happy baby skin-to-skin and nursing often is the best and easiest way to encourage mature milk to come in. Nipple stimulation is key, here. If a mom is pumping and baby is latching and nursing well, she could end up with more milk than she needs. That could could lead to engorgement and a risk of mastitis. So be careful! But if a mom is experiencing engorgement because baby is not latching well, she should make an appointment see an IBCLC to assess the latch, and start pumping or hand expressing in the meantime. Pumping every two hours for about 10 minutes protects milk supply and of course, feeds the baby.

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Importance of Vitamin D and Your Pregnancy

Here we are in the dead of winter, and I want to talk about the importance of Vitamin D during your pregnancy.

untitled presentation (3)Vitamin D is an essential chemical that in adults facilitates the absorption of bone and muscle strengthening ingredients like phosphorous and calcium. It’s also necessary for helping your baby grow healthy teeth and bones, as well. Vitamin D is also associated with lowering inflammation and risk of infection by bolstering the immune system for mom. It supports thyroid health, as well as nerve health that supports our brain’s ability to communicate with our body. Vitamin D has even been linked with cancer prevention, lowering blood pressure and risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth, and even reducing insulin resistance/risk of gestational diabetes.

It’s an amazing micronutrient!

Vitamin D is made in our skin through sun exposure or through certain foods such as mushrooms  (grown under UV light), fish and fish oils (tuna, mackerel and salmon), animal livers/liver oils, and eggs, or fortified products like cereals, orange juice, soy and dairy products. Those unable to get enough Vitamin D from either of these methods may take supplements (specifically Vitamin D3 / cholecalciferol).

Sure it’s harder to avoid making Vitamin D living here in Arizona in the winter with 299 days of sunshine each year. Studies have shown, though, that about 10 percent of the American population (especially in higher latitudes) is deficient in this important vitamin (which is recommended at 800-1,000 IU/day) due to the long winter months spent indoors.

And for pregnant women, that need is higher than the average population with a daily recommendation of 4,000 IU. Some studies have even shown intake of 10,000 IUs to be beneficial. 

While it’s impossible to “overdose” on Vitamin D from sunlight, care is needed when supplementing. Consult your primary care provider or dietitian before supplementing, though, of course. And take supplements as prescribed or recommended on the packaging.



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Iron & Pregnancy

Plateful of Soul - Holistic Health & Lifetyle Coaching

During a woman’s pregnancy, her blood volume increases by 50 percent.
That is why it is extremely vital that a woman gets enough iron in her diet, and has herself checked for anemia, to ensure enough oxygen is getting to baby and mom’s muscles, brain, etc.
These foods are some of the richest in iron.

But some things to keep in mind is that:

A) Caffeine can reduce a woman’s ability to absorb iron. If possible, and drink less or avoid caffeinated beverages such as teas and coffees.
B) Calcium rich foods or supplements can also inhibit iron absorption. Try to consume calcium supplements and iron rich foods at opposite ends of the day.
C) Iron supplements can be hard on the body and result in constipation. While getting from diet alone is recommended, sometimes supplementation is needed. If you can, look for supplements that also include a…

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