What made you want to become a doula and lactation counselor?
I chose to certify as a birth doula after supporting a momma of three through her diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. I provided continuous support for her for 2 1/2 years as she mothered her babies (infancy, 2 years, and 4 years old) and breastfed her newborn for the remainder of her time with them. I was with her and her family when she passed away. I walked away from that experience wanting to offer support to mothers in vulnerable parts of their lives, which is often pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and motherhood in general. I experienced firsthand what it meant to "be" someone's hands and feet and to empower them to walk in their values even when the road became crooked and uncertain. I chose to train as a Lactation Educator and Counselor through UCSD's comprehensive program for healthcare professionals in order to better serve the families that invite me into their lives. I breastfed all four of my children but knew that the greater education would help me to address the complications that I often see as a practitioner.
How long have you been practicing?
I have been practicing as a DONA Certified Birth Doula for over 8 years and as a Lactation Educator and Counselor for almost 5 years.
What is the most important postpartum care advice you would offer?
Prepare for Postpartum! So often mothers prepare for their births, without putting as much thought into what happens after birth. If a mother has a postpartum plan in place that includes blocks of in-home support for the first two weeks after birth, she will have a better opportunity to thrive as a new mom. The support can be the spouse, a family member, or a hired professional, but support that is geared to serve the well-being of the mother through nutritional, rest, and healing support so that the mother can focus on feeding and caring for her newborn is essential. A support person who understands the value of lactation support is a huge bonus!
How do you help moms overcome their birthing fears?
It is important for me to understand what the mother fears and address it. I help the mom to identify her values and prepare accordingly. We talk through what it looks like to self-educate and prepare for a journey that aligns with her personal values. Fear then becomes an afterthought because she feels ready for what is to come. If the direction of her journey takes a course she was not hoping for, I help her to accept the new turn, and walk bravely forward with a new plan.
What advice would you give to a mom beginning her breastfeeding journey?
Prepare and educate yourself. There are so many great books and resources available to mothers. Go into your journey knowing your goals and doing what you can to achieve them. Breastfeeding is hard work and takes commitment and support. It is also very important to surround yourself with like-minded people that will affirm your efforts and cheer you on!
What is one of the most common struggles you see moms go through in their breastfeeding journey?
Lack of confidence accompanied by lack of support would be the greatest struggle that I see mothers walk through. As a professional, I have the experience and training to help a mom out of the struggle and into her own creative rhythm. The struggles are real and they vary depending on type and place of birth, lack of support, anatomy, baby-related reasons, etc. The greatest value of in-home lactation support is that I meet the momma where she is, assess her personal situation, and offer tools, encouragement, and tangible ways to make the journey more biologically friendly for both mother and baby.
Are you familiar with breast massage and have you found it to be a helpful tool?
You can find Dara and her whole team of Doulas on Instagram @joyfulrootsdoulas, or on their website www.sandiegocertifieddoulas.com.