The awesomeness I’ve been experiencing lately deserves a blog post all on it’s own.
Since becoming a doula, my passion for certain “doula” knowledge areas has really grown and changed. I must say that breastfeeding is my new favorite. Granted I’ve never, you know, Breastfed a child, but that time is coming. I love the way the body works when a mom is supported during delivery. I love the way that body is created to sustain her child and can (usually, almost always) do so with the right support and information. In the States, lactation consultants, L & D nurses, or postpartum doulas deliver this crucial support. There’s La Leche League meetings and support groups. Loads of information on the internet bombards mothers, as well as a plethora of books and literature in the doctor’s office. Sure. The female body was made for this, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or we KNOW how to do it instinctively. Am I right?
In Swaziland, all those awesome options of support and information are pretty non-existent. A new mother with a breastfeeding question can’t often get a helpful answer from her local clinic. Nor have I run into anyone who has told me that another soul has helped her on the breastfeeding journey. (Yes. You’d think mothers and grandmothers would tell their progeny. For about 5 reasons I won’t elaborate on, this sadly, rarely happens.)
So there’s loads of mommas who can’t afford formula, have the benefit of working at home (so no need to pump much), and WANT to breastfeed, but have little direction if they encounter hiccups.
Enter my new passion: talking about boobs and nursing all the time. 😄 Seriously. I love it. Swazi women don’t have the same stigmas about boobs we struggle with in the states. There’s no “Should I breastfeed in public?” Or “Where’s my cover?” No ma’am. Baby’s hungry. Baby nurses. Boobs are seen. No one cares. No one. It’s lovely actually. The men aren’t gawking or freaked out. The women aren’t offended or ashamed. Children grow up knowing boobs have a high calling of like giving life.
So not only do we talk about boobs a lot. I see them a lot.
Technology has really helped my ability to support moms. With internet access on phones, I can easily offer postpartum support to moms who stay far from me, but encounter issues. Last week, a first time mom messaged me about her low supply. I wasn’t her doula, but while answering questions of my client in the recovery ward, THIS mom called me over.
She had said, “We [I] was induced this morning, but we haven’t breastfed yet. Is it ok?” With some recounting and a glance at my watch, I calculated it’d been over 5 hrs since she delivered. No, the kid won’t die. However research supports she’s likely to have an issue of low supply because her body spent too many hours thinking there was no baby. So I helped her wake her baby and get them all hooked up and happy. Great!
I wasn’t surprised when she messaged a few days later telling me there wasn’t a lot of milk. 😟 Sad, yet somewhat predictable. (Note: I’m generalizing a lot. Issues ARE predictable, due to the nature of bodies, but there are always exceptions. Nursing is serious work, so anyone who has difficulties should NOT feel bad. Please just get some help. Reach out.) I asked a lot of questions on the phone, prayed, and assertained her baby wasn’t in danger of dehydration, and thought there’s something we can do to help!
Two days later, she messaged to tell me: “Your advice worked. The milk is really coming now.”
The best part? Now this mom knows she can do it. She feels really accomplished because she pushed through. These types of experiences are invaluable to build confidence in new moms. My job is awesome.
My all time favorite doula moment may have just happened today. This involved a conversation via What’s App messaging with a mom who delivered 10 days ago. I was her hospital doula, and gave my usual immediate support with breastfeeding, answers to questions, and praise of her fantastic job and beautiful girl. I followed up with my number and begged her to message me with any questions – especially regarding breastfeeding. Still in my scope of practice. And very needed for these support-less moms.
She sent me a message last week saying all was well and breastfeeding was good.
Today, she begged for some help. She encountered problems (what?! You want me to TELL you what’s wrong with her?!?!) that caused her pain and she worried about increased chance of transmitting HIV to her little girl. (real stuff people. With 26% + of the population HIV positive, this is a reality.)
I’m just tickled. Not that she’s got a problem! But that she’s asking for help!!! And that I think I actually can help her! But really, the icing on top is that she sent me a photo. When I saw she sent one and waited for it to upload, I started chuckling. Oh I know what this is going to be! I was correct.
For my job, I stared at a photo of a client’s boob on the phone.
(We’ll let that sink in.)
Sadly the photo only gave me compassion for her, but didn’t show me what’s causing it. Happily, she’s now got a few tricks to try and we’ll see how the next few feedings go.
These moms, their photos (haha!), their babies, and their desires for informed choices make my job really, really delightful. What an honor and a privilege!