Tina, your compassion for women’s wellness and the support you offer is so important in all stages of motherhood. What led you to this path of pre/postnatal care as a postpartum doula, certified breastfeeding counselor and yoga instructor?
Thank you. Frankly, it was because of my own experience in pregnancy, postpartum and parenting that led me to this work. I became pregnant a month after receiving my 200 hour yoga teacher certification and then received my prenatal yoga teacher certification while I was in my first trimester and found the prenatal yoga training to be completely fascinating and profound.
I started teaching prenatal yoga almost immediately while pregnant and realized how much I wanted to help other women during this vulnerable yet blossoming time. I then gave birth to my daughter and found that I felt quite isolated and overwhelmed and that I was just barely getting through it on my own. Later on, I took a postpartum yoga teacher training and my instructor, Beth Donnelly Caban, said to the class, “if you became a postpartum doula you could offer postpartum yoga in your visits.” A lightbulb went off and I realized that I really wanted to help postpartum women one-on-one. It felt like an organic extension to teaching prenatal yoga and my own experience as a new mom.
Soon after, I trained to be a postpartum doula and then added the breastfeeding certification, because really, that is the piece that usually needs the most attention in the beginning. Several years ago, I was asked by Amy Quinn Suplina, the owner of Bend and Bloom Yoga, where I teach, to facilitate the New Moms Support Groups.
The experience of facilitating the moms groups led me to train to be a New Parent Educator because I see a real need to prepare parents for the realities of the postpartum period and to open a supportive dialogue between parents before the baby arrives.
This emphasis on the 4th Trimester and why it’s critical to understand for both mother and baby is simply not talked about enough. Putting the focus on postpartum support, preparation and awareness is often overlooked in our society. Why do you think that is and how can support like yours help change the narrative moving forward?
Yes, I agree that the 4th trimester is not talked about enough. In our country, there is basically no support for new parents. There is no comparison to the kind of care that, for example, European countries provide for the postpartum mother. In France, new mothers receive 20 in-home postpartum visits from their midwife as well as pelvic floor physical therapy and paid maternal leave. Women in the UK get 52 weeks of paid maternity leave and partners receive 26 weeks. In the US, women have one postpartum appointment with their OB and that’s it. They basically have to fend for themselves. And although maternity and paternity leaves are getting longer, you can’t compare them with those of other countries.
Through my offering, Postpartum Planning: A Workshop for Pregnant and Postpartum Parents, I’m hoping to educate parents so that they can more easily navigate the challenges in those early days after the baby is born, when there is little sleep and potentially a steep learning curve. The workshop is open to pregnant and postpartum parents so that there can be a dialogue about the expectations and realities of the postpartum period.
What a great resource! We plan for and understand how the baby will be taken care of, but an important question you raise is “who will be taking care of you (the mother)?” I love that you remind your clients of this crucial part of entering parenthood – the mother’s health and overall well-being. When helping a mother and her partner prepare for her recovery postpartum in your workshop, what questions do you ask to initiate this realm of thought?
It’s like the instructions on an airplane when the oxygen masks are deployed, the parent puts theirs on first and then they help the child put their mask on. The postpartum period is steered not only by the baby’s health, but particularly the mother’s. It’s so important that mom thrives! How is the family going to achieve that? Who will be there for them? What kind of net of support can they construct so that they can thrive as a unit?
And what do you recommend they do before birth to ensure they’ll get the support needed post birth?
Devise a postpartum plan. Consider hiring a postpartum doula, whose role is to be near the mother. Consider who else will be there, family, friends, neighbors? Really consider who will be helpful and non-judgmental in this situation. Have an IBCLC’s (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant’s) info in case they are needed. Prepare for having no time or energy to cook. There are many things!
I couldn’t agree more – especially with food preparation – so important. If you had to choose only one piece of advice to give a woman postpartum, what would it be?
Go with your gut. Don’t let other people’s advice make you feel like you are doing things the wrong way. There are many ways to parent, make choices that suit your family.
As a CBC (Certified Breastfeeding Counselor) you are able to offer lactation support as well, which is often necessary immediately following birth. What do you find is the most common struggle for mother and baby during the early days of feeding?
Latch issues and low milk supply.
And when do you recommend a woman reach out to you for support? When she feels she’s struggling or can seeing you prenatally act as a preventative measure for women planning to breastfeed?
I would recommend going to a preparing for breastfeeding class, reading up on it and learning about the mechanics of breastfeeding through videos. I have seen that women often have more success if they understand generally how it works and what to look out for in advance of trying it. Once baby is born, it’s important to get help soon after the family is home from the hospital (if they had a hospital birth), to check that baby is transferring milk well.
We have all heard that exercise is important both during and after pregnancy, but why is yoga specifically so beneficial for new and expecting moms?
Pre and postnatal yoga facilitates easing of aches and pains while building strength and access to breath. It also prepares the mind and body for the challenges of labor and postpartum. Additionally, it allows mothers to move at their own pace, taking into account their fluctuating symptoms and helping them to hone an innate awareness about their changing bodies.
Bend + Bloom is such a wonderful resource for this, offering pre and postnatal classes all throughout the week. What other ways are they bringing community together and what type of workshops can we expect in the upcoming months?
In terms of building community, The New Mom Support Groups, which run as 6-week sessions, do just that. There are groups that met a few years ago, who are still in touch and celebrating first and second birthdays of their children.
I will also be offering Postpartum Planning: A Workshop for Pregnant and Postpartum Parents soon (the date isn’t on the web site yet).
Additionally, the seemingly encyclopedic Lena De Gloma teaches Childbirth Ed intensive weekends and Holistic Newborn Care & Breastfeeding workshops every few months.
Yoga For Birth with Lara Kohn-Thompson, who is one of the founders of the perinatal program at Bend + Bloom and is so amazing, is also offered every few months. These workshops and their details can be found here.
Lastly, how can a new mom or mom-to-be seeking physical or emotional support leading up to or after birth reach you?