New York Times article: If Only Everyone Had a Postpartum Doula

New York Times  STYLE:

If Only Everyone Had a Postpartum Doula   d77943ac05-f189d2b99c-88465121

When a baby comes, friends and families don’t always know how to help.

By Zoe Greenberg

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 3, 2018, on Page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: Everyone Should Have a Postpartum Doula


New parenthood — during which ordinary people find themselves abruptly responsible for a brand-new and sometimes famished, inconsolable being — is famously harrowing.

It’s good to have supportive family and friends during this time. But increasingly, parents are turning to postpartum doulas, as well.

Unlike birth doulas, who assist mothers during pregnancy and childbirth, postpartum doulas step in when the baby is already born, and throughout the first six weeks after birth. They teach the supposedly natural but actually quite difficult to master skills of soothing, bathing and breast-feeding infants, without any personal baggage.

There is no one agency that certifies all postpartum doulas, but between 2012 and 2017, DONA International, the oldest doula certification program in the country originally known as the Doulas of North America, accredited 37 percent more postpartum practitioners. The number of certified postpartum doulas at the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA), another well-established program, has doubled since 2008.

Meema Spadola was certified by DONA in 2006 and practicesin the New York City area. With cropped black hair and pink-framed glasses, Ms. Spadola, 48, is a modern Mary Poppins: a combination friend, teacher and spirit guide with a price tag of $50 to $70 an hour.

One sunlit afternoon, she mounted the red brick steps of a new client’s house in Brooklyn, armed with a stretch of black fabric for “babywearing” (like a sling for your infant) and a recipe for high-protein nursing snacks affectionately known as “boobie bites.” (recipe and nutritional facts following article)  The client, Shannon Gillen Lipinski, a 37-year-old choreographer, had become a mother just 8 days earlier.

Upon entrance, it became clear that Ms. Gillen Lipinski’s home had been recently transformed. A tarp taped over the front window blocked the day’s bright light. Empty plastic pumping bottles were waiting to be filled; a giant gray birthing ball rolled aimlessly; and the closet was stuffed with tiny onesies covered in bunnies, strawberries and polka dots.

The eight-day-old at the heart of it all, Sasha, was mercifully sleeping, wrapped against Ms. Spadola’s chest, but everyone knew the peace was tenuous. And too soon it was time for Ms. Spadola to teach Ms. Gillen Lipinski swaddling, which meant she had to risk waking the baby and eliciting cries.

“This is so scary,” Ms. Gillen Lipinski said, her voice breaking.

“We’re being very daring,” Ms. Spadola said, laying out a pink blanket inside the crib.

Ms. Gillen Lipinski had committed to choreographing a show in Los Angeles that started in several weeks. With the rehearsal deadline looming — and Sasha prone to crying through the night — Ms. Gillen Lipinski was exhausted. She was trying to learn how to breast-feed and pump milk and calm her infant when she herself was in a panic, but nothing seemed to be going smoothly.

“We always thought we’d have two,” said Ms. Gillen Lipinski. But, she said, perhaps swayed by the three hours of sleep she got the night before, “we just completed our family.”

“It will not always be like this,” Ms. Spadola reassured her, expertly folding the pink blanket over itself to create a tight cocoon around Sasha, while simultaneously patting the baby’s chest and firmly whispering “Shh.” Sasha opened her eyes, yawned and squirmed.

New parents Shannon Gillen Lipinski and Tom Lipinski with their postpartum doula, Meema Spadola, left, and 8-day-old Sasha.CreditAndre D. Wagner for The New York Times

“Ack,” she gurgled, before falling back asleep.

Postpartum doulas like Ms. Spadola fill a void in the U.S. healthcare system. There’s no national healthcare program for new mothers here the way there is in many other countries, despite growing evidence of the postpartum period’s importance in the health of both babies and their mothers.

Medical providers and policymakers have already recognized that birth doulas improve such health outcomes. Two states, Minnesota and Oregon, now include birth doula services in their Medicaid coverage, and in the spring of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a pilot program to expand Medicaid coverage for doulas in New York. The idea of hiring such doulas has gotten a lot more mainstream.

Still, even as postpartum doulas multiply, the care they provide remains largely unsubsidized and expensive. (The majority of Ms. Spadola’s clients are white, upper middle class and can pay out of pocket, though she does offer a sliding scale.) And though the care aims to be non-judgmental, it often comes along with white, middle-class assumptions about parenting, said Christine Morton, the author of the book “Birth Ambassadors,” which chronicles the rise of doulas in the United States.

Some birth activists and nonprofits are working to change that, and to make postpartum doula care more democratic and widespread. Ancient Song Doula Services in Brooklyn, a low-cost doula collective for women who couldn’t otherwise afford one, is one such place. The majority of the organization’s clients are women of color, and more than half of the doulas are low-income themselves, volunteering to help other women through labor and after birth. The collective is fighting abysmal maternal mortality rates among black and brown women, in addition to well-founded fears among women of color, said Chanel Porchia-Albert, its founder.

“A lot of times women of color won’t express what they’re going through, or seek out help, because they don’t want to be criminalized for the choices they make,” Ms. Porchia-Albert said, adding that a black woman might fear losing custody of her children if she admits to being overwhelmed or exhausted.

One client, Aisha Crawford, 33, wanted to be prepared for anything that might come up when she gave birth, so, six months pregnant, she arrived at Ancient Song to get matched with a postpartum doula free-of-charge. She took a seat in the intake room, a comfortable space outfitted with yoga pillows and a baby crib, and explained her situation to the intake coordinator. She and the father of the baby had a fine relationship, and she wanted him to be involved when the baby arrived. But she wasn’t sure she could depend on him.

“I don’t want to say I’m scared to have the baby by myself, but just in case, I need someone there with me,” Ms. Crawford said.

Like other workers who provide intimate care, postpartum doulas become experts at navigating the delicate and the unsaid: a pregnant woman’s hopes, family expectations, nerves and the relationship between a baby’s parents. They are advocates for their clients not just to doctors and nurses, but also to family members, who have their own ideas about how things should be done.

Ms. Crawford said her parents were initially wary of her pregnancy, because she was still legally married to a different man, who would not sign divorce papers. Berenice Kernizan, Ancient Song’s intake coordinator, nodded empathetically.

“I’m sure as soon as the baby comes, they’re going to forget all about that,” she said. “The way they nag you is the way they show you that they love you.”

Shifting on the couch, Ms. Crawford said she was a little nervous about much of what lay ahead: the months of pregnancy, the hours of labor, and, perhaps most daunting of all, the day the baby would come home with her, delicate and perfect and in need of so much.

“We’re just there to be like that sister-friend,” Ms. Kernizan reassured her. “Guiding you through the whole experience.”

Boobie Bites – Energy Lactation No Bake cookies


I double the recipe as its THAT good. I took this from Pinterest to calculate the calories. Hope everyone enjoys them as much as I do!

Minutes to Prepare: 10   Minutes to Prepare: 15   Number of Servings: 60



1 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter or other nut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup of honey
1/2 tablespoon Brewer’s Yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips



  1. Combine the dry ingredients first: oatmeal, coconut, chocolate chips, Brewer’s Yeast, and flax seed.
    2. Add the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla and turn your mixer on low (or stir together).
    3. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour.Serving Size: 1 inch ballNumber of Servings: 60

Recipe submitted by SparkPeople user JOLOVE22.

Nutritional Info

  • Servings Per Recipe: 60
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 71.6
  • Total Fat: 4.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 32.3 mg
  • Total Carbs: 7.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 2.1 g







Traveling with a Newborn…..

As summer arrives we all think about how best to spend our time.  If your extended family is in another state you are probably considering a trip to see them.  Often it is easier for you and baby to make the trip than relatives with young children, aged grandmas, etc.  Traveling with a newborn is simple.  Until baby is independently mobile you can get around quite easily!

Things to remember:

  1.  Plan ahead for items you don’t want to carry around with you.  Even though you might be able to save a little money, trying to carry all the disposable diapers you will need on vacation is inconvenient, to say the least.  Go on line, find your favorite businesses close to where you will be staying, and plan to purchase cumbersome necessities there.  This will make your trip so much more manageable.  Pack your diaper bag with the day’s necessities and pick up the extra diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, etc, when you arrive.  Or, if it is convenient, have items shipped directly from the manufacturer to your destination.  Relatives can simply put your boxes aside until your arrival.
  2. I find that leaving an ‘active list’ on my kitchen counter, one I can add to when I pass by, helps me remember everything I need to bring along.  It usually takes me a few days to realize everything belonging on the list.  Having it out and easy to reach helps me not forget anything.
  3. If you will be staying in a rented facility ie. hotel, AirBNB, or condo think about what you will need for baby there.  Request a crib, bassinet, high chair, etc. to be in your facility when you arrive.  It is best for baby to have an individual sleeping possibility.  If you are co-sleeping at home of course continue to do so.  Arranging for a separate bed for baby will allow you to put her down for naps in a smaller safe place.   I encourage you to bring your own linens.  Standard crib sheets are small and very transportable.  As will be bassinet or playpen linens.  Often a king sized pillow case can fill this need.  Just cover the mini mattress.  This will give you the assurance that your baby is using clean laundered items.
  4. Most often it is not possible or convenient to take everything with you that you have at home.  Be discriminating.  Decide what is most important to you and take it along.  Check with relatives to see if items can be borrowed on their end.
  5. Usually there are laundry facilities available.  You can wash what you have brought and reuse it while away from home.  This cuts down on what you need to bring.
  6. Most hotels will have agencies providing babysitters, lists of pediatricians, and pharmacies close by.  They are vetted and should be reliable.  If you know you will be needing these while away, do a google search and find some of your own.  Check on Yelp for reviews on each.  Ask your pediatrician if she knows of these services at your destination.

There are many ways to prepare for your vacation.  Spending a little time before you go will make things so much easier once you arrive.  Also, keep your plans on your phone or computer for the next time you go away.  No need to reinvent the wheel every time you go!

Have a wonderful vacation!!!  You and your family have earned it!



Entertaining the Family

Your baby has arrived!  You are on your way home from the hospital and everyone you know wants to meet you at home!!!  What do you say?  This is a big issue!  I encourage you to talk about it during your pregnancy.  Talk with daddy, your friends and family.  Have a clear understanding of the atmosphere you want to set up in your home.

True story:  I worked with a family who had just delivered their first child.  They had been home for a day or two.  I arrived for my evening shift only to find the house filled with people and a three year old running around the house with a dog on a leash.  It was bedlam!  Her family had arrived: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and pets!!!  The next morning mommy had an emotional meltdown.  She did not think she could continue breastfeeding and she was beside herself.  Over the next few days she began to feel better and things settled down.  Daddy shared when his nephew was born he had been told “no visitors for a week”.  It had seemed strange to him, but after this incident he completely understood.  Coming home from the hospital and establishing the atmosphere you want in your home has major implications.  Peace is important.  Mommy needs to be comfortable with baby and her home.

“No visitors for a week” may be more than you need, but it is a great place to begin.  Or, “one visitor a day” for a while.  Until baby has arrived no invitations should be made.  For a myriad of reasons mom could be recovering from surgery or baby could have had to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Allowing time to recover and get your footing is important.  Also, just feeling comfortable with life is a big deal.

I encourage families to set daddy up as the gatekeeper.  Allow him to decide how many guests should come and when.  If he is not up for the challenge enlist daytime help, grandma, aunt, uncle, or friend.  Mommy can not be responsible for this one.   She needs to be protected and considered vulnerable at this time.  She will feel pressured to say “yes” to visitors when she shouldn’t.  Care for her!!

Encourage relatives who will come from long distances to wait a few weeks.  This gives your new family time to adjust to the unforeseen challenges.  Remember, you are setting up your ‘New Normal’.  It is exciting and wonderful and you will be doing it on less sleep than you are accustomed to after a delivery and perhaps time in the hospital.  Allow yourself the time you will need to adjust.

With one coming delivery a dad asked whether or not he should take everything he needed for several days to the hospital or could he plan on coming home to get what he needed.  I encouraged him to take what he thought he would need with him.  Due to the unpredictable events surrounding births, one does not know ahead of time.  Better to be safe than sorry.  His wife had a planned Cesarean Section.  She had minor complications and spent a night in the ICU.  Baby was early and had minor complications and was in the NICU.  Daddy was going from one unit to the other caring for his family.  Going home for anything was not an option.  He was grateful to have prepared accordingly!

What is the saying:  Hope for the best and plan for everything?  Prepare yourself for as much as possible.  Babies come early.  Be ready for your delivery a month in advance.  Have your bag packed, make arrangements for your dog, have the nursery set up.  This will set you up well incase something you are not planning for happens.  Most births come off without a hitch, but better to be ready.  Have someone you have asked ahead of time to be there in case the unforeseen happens.  Make a list of what needs to happen at home:  bring in mail, water the potted plants, feed the dog and the fish, etc………………….  This will relieve you of having to think of these things at the last minute when you are dealing with far more important issues.

I am a planner.  Thinking ahead is how I am put together.  This is easy for me.  If this is not how you think I encourage you to enlist the help of others who do.  Having these things planned for ahead of time will bring you incredible peace.  Fewer things to have to consider in a hurry.

A professional doula will help you consider what needs to be arranged.  Her training and experience will provide wonderful council for you.  Most doulas will consult for a fee.  Even just a few hours with someone trained in these matters will help you avoid many pitfalls and plan for the future.

Best Wishes in this exciting time in your life!!!