Mamas Want To Feed Their Babies

Seven thousand and thirty.7030. Seven ZERO THREE ZERO. 

That’s an important number.  The number of days my oldest child lived under my roof until he moved to his first college apartment just a few short weeks ago. Full disclosure, we are lucky to live in a city that has three great colleges, so he didn’t have to go far, he’s a 27-minute drive from home, to be exact.

But as you can imagine, this move has forced us to reflect back on the early days, months, and years of parenting.

As we were planning and packing and moving, my husband and I started to talk about what kinds of things our dear son would need in his first apartment. The essentials, clothes, bedding, towels, rugs, shower curtains, dishes, kitchenware, you name it, we collected it.

And then there was food. 

At first, my husband was thinking that we would give our son his budget, and he’d buy his own groceries from the start…but…

Mamas like to feed their babies. 

An early feeding session with our oldest, the one who made me a mama.

I shared with my partner of 20 years, that I had the desire to help our kiddo stock up before the big move (and give him the grocery money too).  I spent the evening cooking freezer-friendly meals and making a list. By the next day, I had a dining room full of groceries before lunch hour (bought by none other than dad, himself).

You see, daddies want to feed their babies too. 

Lunch date with our college-age son about two weeks after the big move.

It may seem like the idea of feeding a college-age student is way off from the idea of feeding an infant child, but at the end of the day, we want our offspring taken care of, no matter if they are a few hours old or senior citizens.

Did you see this news story for this year old mama who wanted to take care of her baby? She moved into the same retirement home as her 80-year-old son, so she could look after him. How heartwarming.

For many, it starts with pregnancy and birth…and it never goes away. For a lot of parents, especially in the early days, “taking care” of an infant is internally measured against the ability to successfully feed the baby. Time and time again, I see parents with feelings of accomplishment when their babies are well fed, and feelings of defeat when faced with feeding challenges. Mamas and daddies want to feed their babies.

Okay, so, what’s the connection here to our work as birth professionals?

Today, with great excitement, I want to discuss the recent accreditation of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital as a Baby-Friendly Hospital. What is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), and what does it mean, you ask?

It means a lot, a whole lot.

According to the Baby-Friendly website, “The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or safely feed with formula, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.”

As a labor doula, childbirth educator, and lactation counselor, I have been working with birthing families in this facility since 2003, and in that time I have seen a major shift in the way that providers care for new families.

From moving away from the newborn nursery (separating moms and babies for hours at a time), towards routine skin to skin after birth and “rooming in” to keep moms and babies together, (a Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice); we’ve seen a BIG change in policy and practice!

In becoming baby-friendly, facilities must educate, promote, and adhere to the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding, AND agree to the International Code of Marketing Substitutes to Breast-Milk.

The Ten Steps are endorsed and promoted by maternal and child health authorities in the United States, including, the AAP, AAFP, ACNM, ACOG, The CDC, The Surgeon General and more.  Adherence to the code of marketing is a big commitment, as it has a significant financial impact for hospitals.

Becoming baby-friendly is a commitment of time, resources, continuing education, and it’s an investment of MONEY. This investment will lead to more support to new families as they transition to parenthood.

Baby-Friendly hospitals support practices that are more, well, friendly {read: healthier} for babies.

The benefits of breastfeeding are well studied and documented.  We know it’s healthy, safe, and has the potential to save lives. Take for instance the almost 20% lower rate of childhood leukemia for the baby who’s breastfed for six months, or the lower rate of sudden unexpected infant death (SUIDS, formerly SIDS) for the breastfed baby.

At the end of the day, the BFHI supports breastfeeding as well as a more family-centered approach to the transition to parenthood, which will absolutely lead toward better health for moms and babies.  While breastfeeding support is a cornerstone of the BFHI, many other baby-friendly practices come along with it.

More skin to skin time, delayed cord separation,  and delayed newborn bath are a few we see being implemented as standard care. It’s a mind-shift, from the days of checklists and getting things done quickly after a newborn arrives, to understanding the importance of The Magical Hour after birth, and honoring the transition a baby and family make from living in utero to in the world around us.

Baby-friendly accreditation is another step in the right direction and shows that our hospital has made great strides to shift with the times, and ultimately support better and better care for families. 

The accreditation is something to be proud of, as it shows families and the birth community that the hospital is committed to healthy, safe, practices for new families.

Successful feeding is not only essential for a healthy baby, but for many, it makes a difference in the emotional health of the family.

I am grateful for those who made this shift happen. It means that we as a birthing community have an eye on the future, and in collaboration, we can make big changes for the betterment of maternal and infant health.

To the TMH lactation department, the nursing staff, the midwives, the doctors,  and admins and others, thank you for your part in making birth better for families in Tallahassee.



you are making a difference for families in our community.

Well Done, My Friends.

Thank you.

And to my own college-age child now living on your own, wanna come over for dinner?  

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

Melissa Harley, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), CLC, LCCE, FACCE is an advanced certified birth doula, approved birth doula trainer, lactation counselor, and certified childbirth educator.  She is the owner of Capital City Doula Services (CCDS) and this blog.   While working as a doula led her to the childbirth profession, mentoring families and professionals is one of her greatest joys.  To contact Melissa, please visit our contact us page.


Jumping back in…

Hello blog world…its been a while.

Have you ever had the same task on your to-do list…. every. single. week? And, every single week you move it to the next week because it didn’t get crossed off as complete?

Last year was such a big year as I managed several very large projects. Sometimes I managed my heavy load easily and with grace, and other times I fell flat on my face. It was a year of immense learning both in skills and in spirit.  I was pushed to the limit of what I thought I could do, and then some more.  It was a year of collaboration, and working with others in new and fun ways.  It was a year of late nights and early mornings… and at the end of the day, the experience taught me a few things about myself and the world around me.

The increased responsibilities taught me how to manage my schedule a bit better.

As the load increased and the tasks began to pile up, I sometimes felt like I couldn’t keep up.  Out of pure desperation for a bit more order, I started making long lists on paper so that I could scratch them off as they were completed. That led meTo Do List to find a paper planner that I could use as a place to also keep tasks on a weekly calendar. For the first time in a very long while, I gave up the convenience of digital planning and went back to the good ole faithful- pen and paper.  After a lot of searching and exploring (thank you“plan with me” YouTubers of the world) the more expensive planners like the popular Erin Condren or Plum Paper, I landed on a great planner from target which is a spin off from The Day Designer by Whitney English. I LOVE this planner. It has place for monthly and weekly and lines that I can put tasks on. It worked out SO well. This year for 2017, I’m using a combo of my paper planner and a bullet journal. I know the new bujo lifestyle is going to take my planning, organizing, mostly orderly self- up a notch!   It’s amazing how much writing things down on paper helps you stay organized even more so than just using digital schedulers.


The missteps taught me that everyone (even the type A perfectionist in me) makes mistakes, and that there’s peace in seeking forgiveness, and moving on.

Messing up is hard.  It’s even harder when it involves others you care about, but at the end of the day, there is peace in owning up to the wrong, seeking forgiveness, and letting go.  It’s a process that can take a long while, but the calm that comes when you let go is worth the journey to get there.

The collaboration reminded me that working together often takes a project from good to great.

For some folks collaboration can sometimes be a bit of an inner struggle (*raises hand*). Vacillating between working in collaboration and taking ownership to get the job done, is a challenge.  But every single time I worked to collaborate this past year, what I was working on was taken to the next level. Others make us better.  A few times I had to quell that little voice in my head that wanted to take it personally if my work wasn’t just perfect as is, but with that at bay WE were able to do great things together, project after project.  This taught me how amazing it is to work with others, in teams, with common goals and how shared success feels together.  It was bonding, was fulfilling, it was amazing to fully embrace true collaboration.

The late nights and the early Mornings taught me that there are limits to what I can do, and there are limits to what I should do in order to be healthy.

The physical sacrifices of the year were immense, and now that I’ve pushed through it, I can look back and see that I should have had some healthier boundaries.  I gained weight, stopped exercising, and sat on my computer far more than I should have.  So recently, I’ve started to take back my health- mind, body, and spirit.  I’m allowing myself to close the computer at times, making scheduled time for exercise and working to get my plank to look something like the image below.  I’ve also changed my eating habits.   The reduction in sugar and carbs led to a massive migraine, but nfitness training athletic sporty woman doing plank exercise in gym or yoga class concept exercising workout aerobicow that we’re through that, I can feel the difference all-around!   For my overall health, this year I commit to 1) exercising regularly, 2) eating well most of the time, and 3) protecting family time and weekends OFF. I might even read a book.

It feels so good to indulge in a deep breath and to take time for me and those I love.

So here we are, a year later, several life lessons learned, and the word “blog” still on the task list. 

It was a sacrifice and a bit of an act of commitment to move the task forward, week after week and to not get rid of it for good.  The sacrifices experienced including the pause of keeping the blog going in exchange for the lessons of the year, helped me stretch and grow as a person, as a woman, as a wife and mother,  as a doula, as a trainer, as a leader…and guess what was here waiting patiently and quietly on me just to jump back in.

Scratching the word “blog” off my task list this week and it feels so good. I wonder, what are you scratching off your to-do task list this year?

Now off for a long soak in the tub.

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

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Melissa Harley, CD/BDT(DONA), LCCE is a certified birth doula, approved birth doula trainer, and certified childbirth childbirth educator.  She is the owner of Capital City Doula Services (CCDS) and this blog.   While working as a doula led her to the childbirth profession, mentoring  families and professionals  is one of her greatest joys.  To contact Melissa, please visit our contact us page.



DONA Intl 2016 Doula Trainers Retreat; Let there be CAKE!

By: Melissa Harley

Dona RetreatLate January was filled with fellow DONA International doula trainers at the 2016 DONA Trainers Retreat in Clearwater, Florida! And all I can say is, the last several weeks have filled my doula trainer cup! Almost 50 DONA trainers (both birth and postpartum) gathered to learn, grow, and support one another. From the late night pillow talk to the morning coffee chats, the relationships formed at this event were exceptional!  Collectively, we are an amazing bunch!

The event kicked off with a champagne reception to celebrate our first retreat, the work that we do, and each other! The feeling in the room was light and celebratory and many expressed joy and awe about being together.

Most meaningful to me during the first evening of the retreat was the big group circle time where we were able to come together and honor each other for all kinds of things- distance traveled, years training, leadership roles, and our roles within in this amazing organization.

During our circle time we were also able to hear from trainers as they shared a few heartfelt stories about our founders(Annie Kennedy, John Kennell(late) Marshall Klaus, Phyllis Klaus, and Penny Simkin)  from funny to inspiring, what a gift the founders have given to our profession by their vision, guidance, love and support!  It was really neat to see the different perspectives and hear from my colleagues as to how the founders touched their lives.   There was even a bit of levity as we heard not only touching stories about the impact of each founder, but also some fun tid bits about them as well! I’m always so impressed with the warmth and approach-ability of our founders, their teaching spirits and their humble quest for learning.


Melissa Harley and fellow DONA Intl Trainer Wendy Scharp participating in the pushing position activity!

Day two was filled with speakers, conversation, collaboration, learning, and sharing. We started the day hearing from Patty Brennan, author of The Doula Business Guide, moved into Innovating Education with Sharon Muza and ended the day with Amy Gilliland’s workshop on curriculum writing for advanced doula workshops. As you can see in these photos, I had such fun with fellow trainer Wendy Scharp from Portland, Oregon as we went through Sharon’s activity on facilitating a learning activity around positions for pushing!


Melissa Harley and Wendy Scharp, can you tell we’re having fun!


In-between speakers we had lots of casual conversation about our work as DONA International doula trainers, our organization, maternity care, and the work of the doula in today’s society.

Saturday afternoon brought on our celebratory CAKES! 5 decadent cakes were awaiting our break-time and they were delicious! If you know me, you know that I feel that EVERY celebration deserves CAKE! And we were celebrating, after all, we were celebrating being together, being trainers and BEING DONA! There were hugs, tears and of course lots of laughter! It was a wonderful way to take a moment and celebrate the great things happening with DONA International. Saturday was a great day, from learning as professionals to growing in relationship with one another, it was SO good!    I was even honored to sit on a panel among these skilled trainers to discuss how we mentor doulas beyond the workshop.


DONA International Trainers Mentoring Panel- (left to right), Jesse Remer, Penny Lyon, Ann Pollack, Melissa Harley, Sheri Deveny

 The afternoon ended  with an opportunity for me to sit down and talk with our DONA International president- HeatherGail Lovejoy, and our founders (Annie, Penny, & Phyllis); where we were able to share a bit, and hear a bit. I’m calling it a Key Life Doula Moment as it was truly a precious conversation and I will hold it near and dear along my journey as part of the DONA International family. It was magical!

Day three met us with a wonderful breakfast spread and more conversation that led into our learning sessions with Jessica English and Kyndal May. The sessions were extremely educational and eye-opening. We were able to put some terms to trends we’re seeing in the doula world, and we were able to strategize ways to better communicate and to further the mission and vision of DONA International.

As the retreat came to an end, our founders, Annie Kennedy, Phyllis Klaus, and Penny Simkin shared a bit from their perspectives. Annie led us in a time of sharing of what was meaningful to us, Phyllis and Penny shared from their hearts, and at the end of it all, Penny herself declared 2016 “The year of the doula!” You can imagine the cheers in the room as we all agreed we ARE in an amazing place and headed into uncharted waters of more and more families receiving the support of a doula in birth and postpartum.
On a side note, after the closing of the retreat I got to do something really fun, take a selfie with one of my mentors, Penny Simkin. The last photo I have of Penny and I together would have been in 2007 just after she and Kathy McGrath led us through 4 days of how to become a DONA International trainer! It was a bit of a full circle moment as I was reflecting on my current involvement on our DONA International Board of Directors in the role of Marketing and Public Relations Director!

I was so deeply touched by the retreat, it was a lovely time of fellowship with other trainers and was exceedingly meaningful to see the leaders in our industry come together. The excitement in the room and on social media during and after the event was such a treat. As a member of the planning committee, hearing from others in attendance as to how the retreat spoke to them and helped them feel valued is such a gift. And, speaking of the committee, let me just say, they rock!  It was a successful event that would not have taken place without a tremendous amount of teamwork, and it was wonderful to watch it all come together!

All in all, I’m just in awe.   There are such great things in store for this organization, fellow members, doulas, and for families, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us all.

My doula trainer spirit is refreshed and my cup filleth over, I am honored to walk in the midst of this moment. #weareDONA

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

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