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Postpartum doulas are the support system all new mothers need

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When we look back through history it is rare to find cultures where a mother's extended family and community did not support her during the perinatal period, but the modern emphasis on independence and individualism has changed that.

Many of us do not have a built-in social support network to help us in those difficult days of early motherhood. A new mom in 2019 may find her close relatives live on the other side of the country, and she doesn't know her neighbor's names. Or, she may be surrounded by people who would love to support her—but simply don't have the experience or time to be of service to her.

This is why we need more postpartum doulas and why more women should have access to them.

Like birth doulas, who help a mother during birth, postpartum doulas aim to empower and support mothers during a vulnerable time in their lives.

They are part lactation consultant, part baby-whisperer, part parenting coach and part therapist, and they can help new parents feel less alone and more confident as their lives change so drastically. But getting a postpartum doula to help you through the fourth trimester can be expensive. As Today recently reported, in America, the cost of hiring a doula "varies from state to state and most people pay out of pocket." It can be thousands of dollars, a cost too high for many families.

But in America and other western nations where mothers no longer have that built-in community, women are hoping to make doula services more accessible, and suggest we need to stop acting like hiring a doula is akin to hiring a housekeeper and incorporate the service into health care funding. "It seems like a luxury, but for many cultures it [postnatal care] was just a necessity, and I think we need to start looking at it like that too," Shelley McClure, a postnatal doula and educator in Australia tells ABC News.

One of McClure's clients, Taycee-Lee Jones, decided to pay for a postpartum doula after welcoming her fourth baby. Paying McClure to help her wasn't a luxury. It was what she needed to do to survive as her partner had to go back to work quickly. "We don't have that support that we used to have from our community. We don't have sisters and aunties all coming to provide that support," she says. "Shelley as a postpartum doula, came around, brought food, did my dishes, gave me a foot rub, checked in with how I was doing," she explains, suggesting that the kind of in-home care she received from Shelley could help prevent postpartum depression and should be standard.

Shannon Sproule, a postpartum doula with Full Circle Birth Collective in Edmonton, Canada, agrees. She tells Global News her packages start at $120 for one four-hour session of in-home postpartum care. She recognizes that not everyone can afford that, and believed the future of postpartum care needs to include access to doulas through public programs.

"I think as the medical community starts to awaken to the idea that this is a really vulnerable time for parents and we need to support them better and more frequently during the 12 weeks postpartum, it will become more accessible," Sproule explains.

Access to postpartum doulas in America by state

If postpartum doulas are seen as a luxurious out-of-pocket expense in countries like Australia and Canada (both of which have universal healthcare schemes) can American parents hope to see these practitioners become more accessible?

Actually, yes. Some parts of America have seen real momentum when it comes to giving more women access to doulas.

This is really good news because research shows that the women who would most benefit from having a doula are often those who can least afford it. Oregon and Minnesota already permit Medicaid coverage for doula services, New York has a pilot program in action, Milwaukee is planning to provide doulas to 100 vulnerable new mothers and a bill has been submitted in Rhode Island to get the ball rolling in that state.

"Doula services are needed more than ever given that the experience of childbirth in the U.S. is increasingly lonely and medicalized," Helen Kim, a perinatal psychiatrist and director of the Mother-Baby Program at Hennepin County Medical Center told the Star Tribune. "In our current system, with more isolated families, distant extended families, and more fragmented communities, pregnant and postpartum mothers and fathers can easily feel isolated and overwhelmed with the task of caring for their baby."

The Dutch model of postpartum care

In America (and other western nations including Canada and Australia) most women who have one are paying out of pocket for postpartum doulas, but in the Netherlands, a remarkably similar service—with the added benefit of medical expertise—is standard, and as Quartz reports, costs families just over $5 USD per hour as the rest is covered by health insurance.

In the Netherlands parents aren't visited by a postpartum doula, but a kraamverzorgster, or home maternity nurse who comes by for a few hours each day for up to 10 days after the baby's birth. These nurses help parents with the basics of babies: feeding, changing, swaddling and bathing, but they can also help mom with lactation issues, screen for depression and do things like bring over food and do a load of laundry.

"All parents deserve support to get through that difficult first week," Linda Leijdekker, a Dutch pediatric nurse who specializes in child development tells Quartz.

American women are creating change

As the New York Times reports, back in America activists are changing mothers' lives by providing postpartum doula care at low or no cost. Doula collectives are popping up across America to connect low-income families and women of color to invaluable support in the most vulnerable season of life.

But these postpartum services are often provided by other low-income women who are basically volunteering their time, and as Collier Meyerson reports for New York Magazine, even when American doulas are being paid through programs like the ones in New York or Minnesota, they're often not being paid a living wage.

Bottom line: Mothers need postpartum care. It's not a luxury, and it also can't be provided at the expense of other working women. Our society has evolved in a way that removed mothers' support systems and now we have to figure out a way to build a new one.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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News

Can pregnancy be contagious among friends? Science says yes, and so do some staff at a hospital in Maine where nine nurses from the Labor & Delivery Unit were all expecting at the same time, and now they are all mamas.

About 5 months ago, after one of the nurses posted a photo of 8 of the 9 mamas-to-be the sweet pic quickly went viral.

Soon local news stations picked up the story of the baby boom on the L&D unit at Maine Medical Center.



"It's really nice coming to work and seeing other people who are just as pregnant and watching their bellies pop and just talking about these experiences that we are going through together," one of the nurses, Amanda Spear, told WMTW.

"I feel like every other day we would come into work and it would be like, 'someone else is pregnant,'" Spear told NBC.

Another of the nurses, Erin Grenier, said that with every pregnancy announcement the staff got more and more excited for each other.

Nurse Brittney Verville couldn't believe the photo she posted to Facebook before resting up for the night shift got thousands of likes and shares. "When we woke up we're like, 'oh my gosh I think we're viral,'" she told NBC.

Now, the mamas are going viral again, as a picture of the babies is blowing up, even making it to CNN.

The youngest is 3 weeks old and the oldest is 3½ months. The mamas are already getting them together for playdates. The photographer who snapped the viral pic, Carly Murray, told CNN she hopes one say these kiddos understand how important the work their mamas do is.

Congrats to the nurse of the Maine Medical Center Labor and Delivery Unit! 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published March 26, 2019. It has been updated.]

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News

In the last couple of years Prince Harry has had more eyes on him than ever before, and the beaming new dad has been showing the world that red hair can look really good.

While Prince Harry has taken some ribbing for his hair over the years, it's pretty clear that the former Meghan Markle loves him dearly (red hair and all) and everyone is wondering if baby Archie will be a ginger, too. It looks like Harry's genes are pretty strong.

Several media outlets are reporting that baby Archie appears to have reddish hair, but only time will truly tell if that peach fuzz turns into real read hair.

Is baby Archie really a redhead? 

Photographs of baby Archie seem to suggest his hair does have a reddish hue, and it is totally possible for a couple to have a redheaded baby even if one of them isn't a ginger.

"Even when we can't always see red hair, many people still carry the genes," says Professor Mark Elgar, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Melbourne.

"Recessive genes can stay hidden for a long time, which is why brown-eyed parents can have blue eyed child, just as brown-haired parents can have a redheaded baby," says Professor Elgar.

According to Elgar, this is why reports of redheads with blue eyes (like Prince Harry) "going extinct" are exaggerated. "It does not look like the traits will disappear due to dilution of either the redhead or the blue-eyed genes from the human population."

The ginger genes 

So, if the Duchess has the gene for red hair, baby Archie may share Prince Harry's hair hue. According to USA Today, John H. McDonald, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Delaware put the chances of a redheaded baby for the couple at about 10%.

In fact, there's a chance that any baby—even those with two non-redhead parents—can be a redhead. Recessive genes can pop up seemingly out of nowhere, surprising parents.

While the internet is getting very excited about the possibility that baby Archie is a ginger, we know no matter what his hair eventually looks like (he dies;t have a lot of it right now) his mama will love him as much as she loves his father.

Here's to the redheads. 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published November 5, 2018. It has been updated.]

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