Sign of Progress!

This article, on breastfeeding as a public health issue as opposed to a mere lifestyle choice heralds what I hope will be a new era for breastfeeding in North America.

It is a top priority for me, when working with clients, to remember that their choices are not my choices and their births are not my births. What that means for me is that I always support each client 100%, regardless of whether her choices are the same as the ones I would make for myself or not. I don’t share my personal choices, unless I am explicitly asked and I work hard to provide balanced information on all options so that they can make  truly informed decisions.

When it comes to breastfeeding though, I can’t work that way. Given the negative health implications of formula feeding and the vast benefits of breastfeeding, choosing not to breastfeed (unless there is a condition or ailment that prohibits or limits it) is simply not an ethical choice.

I recognize that there is a lot of stigma placed on moms who breastfeed in public and on moms who continue to breastfeed beyond six months and that that stigma is detrimental to efforts to continue with breastfeeding. I also recognize that many women are not given the tools and knowledge to breastfeed successfully early on or when they encounter difficulties and that many give up because they are frustrated or in pain and they don’t know that there is help out there that can alleviate or eliminate the problems that they are facing. To my way of thinking, women who abandon their breastfeeding plans because of stigma or social pressure, or because of obstacles that they encounter and that go un-addressed by their caregivers, loved ones and community are not choosing not to breastfeed, they are being forced to abandon breastfeeding. For these women, the onus is on all of us – birth professionals, healthcare workers, partners, parents, friends, co-workers, employers, siblings, community members – to encourage them, support them, legitimize their struggles, stand up for them and respect them, so that they can do what is best for them and for their babies, wherever and whenever they need to.

Breastmilk is not one of two options to be considered, it is the only suitable food for newborns. (For moms who can’t breastfeed because of medical issues that affect their breasts or the safety of their milk, or for male same-sex couples who adopt, there are ways to get donated breastmilk from moms who have surplus – check out Human Milk for Human Babies on facebook to find moms with milk to donate in your region, ask your caregivers about breastmilk banks – even if there isn’t one near you, the more people that ask, the more pressure there is on the system to create them, or go online and check out craigslist and other listing sites to find moms who have milk to donate). As the American Academy of Pediatrics is now officially recognizing, breastfeeding is not a lifestyle choice, it is a public health issue. That means that we, the public, need to make it a priority, we need to do everything we possibly can to make it easy and desireable for moms to breastfeed wherever, whenever and however their baby needs to eat or be soothed.


In the news…

Check out this article from yesterday’s Star about Birth Centres in Ontario.

Glad to see this issue getting such mainstream attention. Send an e-postcard to the Premier here!


Free Screening of Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion

Doula film screenings

In honour of World Doula Week (March 22-28) I am hosting a free screening of the One World Birth film, Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 7:30pm.

The screening will be held at the Centre for Social Innovation, Annex (720 Bathurst St., Toronto) on the 3rd floor in Meeting Room #4. Please RSVP by March 22nd – if the number of attendees crosses a certain threshold I will likely move the screening downstairs to a larger space. You can RSVP in the comments or by sending me an email at

If you’re curious about what doulas do or would like to see it in action on the (somewhat) big screen, this is the perfect opportunity. Myself and likely some other Toronto-area doulas will be on-hand to chat after the screening.

Babies welcome!

For more information on the film and its creators, please visit the One World Birth website.

Hope to see you on March 28th!

Another Client Testimonial

I don’t post every client testimonial, but when I get one that truly touches me I just can’t resist. All of my clients are special to me and their births will never leave my memory or my heart, but this birth was exceptional in many ways and I feel so proud to have been a part of it. One of my proudest moments ever came when this client said to me, two days postpartum, “I just never knew, until this birth, that I was so strong.”

Here is what she wrote:

My experience with Heather as my doula was soo amazing and I am so grateful to have found her and that she was able to be with me during the birth of my son. Heather provided me with all physical, emotional and moral support i needed during my last stages of pregnancy and labour, more so that i was going through a VERY rough time before i met her. She supported me 100% with all of the decisions i made. Her support was made available by the Public Health Dietitian, and it was a priceless support but she was there with me EVERY STEP OF THE WAY and helping me WHOLE HEARTEDLY..She was always available to answer any questions or concerns I had and she would answer those questions right away ,which kept me from being stressed out during my pregnancy and labour. She was Always POSITIVE!  She was there with me THROUGH OUT my labour. Going through the pains was not easy AT ALL, But with her by my side was such a BLESSING! She really helped my labour pass easier by giving me ideas about which positions to get into and by helping me focus on breathing and staying calm. She knew exactly how to manage each pain i had. When I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, she helped me believe I was strong and I could get through it and that my body was designed for that! Indeed my labour was much different and amazing than I had imagine. Heather is such an amazing, accessible, warm hearted, loving, great listener and compassionate doula and i couldnt imagine going through all of this without her there by my side.Even after i had the baby she has kept in contact with me TILL NOW incase i have any questions. I feel like i didn’t just have a Doula, Its like i have a new friend too who has helped me so much with everything. I have never felt alone with her by my side. Indeed she was a God sent…



Doula Say Relax – Part 2 of 2

In addition to learning to relax your body and quiet your mind prenatally so that those skills will be ready-at-hand when labour begins, there is another aspect of relaxation, or maybe comfort, that is more intellectual in nature. Becoming comfortable with the realities of labour, getting to know terminology and feeling good about your ability to get information and use it productively will make you feel more at ease as labour progresses. If you don’t have a certain degree of comfort with the practical side of things, you’ll be less likely to be able to let go and allow your relaxation techniques do their thing. Continue reading

Doula Say Relax – Part 1 of 2

Relaxation is an important part of birth preparation, but that statement may not be as self-explanatory as it seems. In truth, there are a variety of things that I could be referring to that are all equally important in terms of prenatal life as well as preparing for labour itself.

Continue reading

A Little Weekend Reading: Part Two (a.k.a. ‘Sunday’)

Loved this article on essential oils for pregnancy, birth and postpartum. It’s nice to see such good information collected in such a useful and concise way. I will be relying on this resource a lot. Always be careful with herbs! Check with your HCP and an herbalist before using (especially during pregnancy when you have to watch out for herbs that may stimulate the uterus, i.e. cause contractions).

A case in point related to an earlier post from this week. Women need solid, evidence-backed information on risks and benefits before they can make informed decisions. Since that information is clearly not coming from HCPs in a startling number of cases, it is vital that we seek it out through other means – take childbirth education classes and hire a doula!

This post from a daddy blog had me chuckling. Loved the doula shout out and the invention of the term “ultradoula”, not to mention the clever title. While I’m not in agreement that partners are “beyond useless”, I’m going to assume that the author was being self-deprecating and facetious, which I’m totally in favour of.

A Little Weekend Reading

Here is what I’ve been reading this morning… This is one I’d read before – a meta analysis of studies on the risks and benefits of epidurals. The recent findings in the Canadian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology about how little most women know about this popular choice (among other options) had me wanting to review the data that’s out there. Another re-read – this is one that I recommend my clients share with their HCPs if they are hoping for hot compresses during delivery to reduce perineal tears. The evidence is very strong in favour of this practice. An intact perineum is a happy perineum. (NB: you may need to create a log-in to view this article) This article represents a major shift in thinking with regard to Caesarean vs. vaginal deliveries for small for gestational age babies. In addition to the value of the study itself, this also highlights the need for continuing research and continuing education and study of current research by health-care practitioners. for baby-led weaning! This is a great article on why breastfed babies are less prone to obesity later in life. Often what we see as signs of “contentedness” in formula-fed babies are really the signs that a baby is being over-fed with difficult to digest food. If you’ve ever eaten too much gooey mac n’ cheese, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a  “food coma”. Sure, you’ll sleep through the night and won’t be likely to go looking for a snack at 2am, but does that mean it’s a healthy choice? Just because it’s always a fun (?) read…I especially love Thoughtful Thursdays, for the bit of balance they provide.

Who’s got your back?

I just read a wonderful post from Birth Without Fear (possibly the best name for a birth blog I can imagine!) about switching providers if your midwife or OB is not respectful or supportive of your choices.

This is something that I advocate for a lot. If you encounter resistance from your HCP during your pregnancy, even on minor points, I think that it is always worthwhile for you to consider finding someone else. Having someone that you know you can depend on to attend your birth is one of the fundamental aspects of birthing in an empowered way so that you can walk away from the experience feeling confident, proud and supported, rather than potentially ignored, humiliated and abused. There are many options open to women who are going to be giving birth – what is right for you may not be right for someone else, but only you can decide what is right for you and only when you are properly informed and supported can you make that decision (see my earlier post on informed decision making). No matter what you choose in terms of location, medications or lack thereof, interventions, comfort measures, etc., there are some things that are fundamental for every birthing woman: you must be somewhere that you feel safe, you must not be made to fear or mistrust your body and you must be surrounded by people who are caring, compassionate, respectful and supportive of you and your choices.

If your doctor or midwife can’t support the choices that you have made during the prenatal stage, she won’t be able to properly support you and respect your decisions during labour and birth either. What’s worse, is that you will be in less of a position to negotiate and could be more easily pressured or swayed to go against your own wishes. The stress of feeling that you aren’t being listened to or that you’re having to fight for your rights to be respected can have adverse affects on the very process of birth. Continue reading

Informed Decision Making

I woke up to this article from Brio Birth this morning. It’s a smart, concise piece on informed choice and how we can bring it to bear on our pregnancies, labours and births. The prenatal series I’m teaching (starting tonight!) at the Centre for Social Innovation will help my students make choices based on clear understandings of both risks and benefits. Sometimes doctors make good suggestions, sometimes they make bad ones and sometimes, what might be a good suggestion for one person might not be right for another. Individualized care means way more than just “getting consent”.


Check out the Brio Birth article here!