Just like any other service, you have choices when it comes to who you choose for childbirth education, doula care, lactation support, and placenta encapsulation. And we LOVE that our community has options, especially since historically the Pensacola area has not had as many birth options as other places. This is why we brought BEST Doula Training to town in February--and eleven new doulas entered the community as a result!
We get a lot of questions about what makes BTC different--and why we might be the right choice for a family's birth team. Obviously, a personal connection can't be created through a blog post, but we'd like to share a few things that we feel make us different from other options, and knowing those differences might help YOU narrow down which options are right for YOUR birth!
"I am beyond pleased with the services that Belly to Cradle provides! From start to finish, I have had such an amazing experience with their team and would recommend them to anyone! -Heather
When you hire one BTC team member--you're automatically hiring an entire TEAM of birth professionals. We take our clients seriously, and cooperate to provide each client with whatever support they need. If you’re taking our childbirth classes, you’ll have access to more than one instructor who are familiar with our area options, but who will provide unbiased information. If you’re a doula client, this means that you are GUARANTEED that one (or more) doulas will be by your side for as long as you need, whenever you need. Our lower priced On-Call doula care option provides you with access to FIVE doulas for the same price some companies charge for one!
This dedication to teamwork also means that one of our IBCLCs will touch bases with you and be available to answer questions or schedule a visit with you after your baby is born. As a postpartum client, questions or concerns that go beyond your postpartum care provider's range of knowledge will be fielded by one of the experienced doulas. Utilizing a single service still means you're OUR client. This gives you the option of starting out with one service and expanding to other services later if you discover you love the care you're receiving.
"I loved the care I got from all four doulas who had a hand in my delivery...yep, that’s right, four! In case you were wondering what happens when the doula you hired is unavailable during your delivery, trust me, you’ll be covered and very well taken care of!! - Susan
It's no secret that birth services can be pricey--but with BTC you get what you pay for! By setting our prices a little higher than you might pay elsewhere, we are able to sustainably provide undivided attention to fewer clients within a more condensed service area--which means more time and attention for YOU! We have doulas on-call 24/7, 365--the moment you sign your contract we are on call for you immediately. If you were to go into labor at 27, 35, or 42 weeks, we will be there. And there is no time limit for your care once you need labor support. While we may encourage you to labor on your own as long as your are able (to save the good stuff for when you really need it), as soon as you indicate you need your doula's support, she will head to you and stay with you as long as you need her.
While some doulas may have a time limit on this continuous support before charging you more, we believe the last thing you need is to have to watch the clock in labor. As a result, your doula might be with you at your birth for 4 hours or 24 hours--your baby will decide that for us! If your labor is unusually long, no worries. Your doula has the ability to bring in a relief doula for a few hours to provide you with fresh support while she recharges, at no additional expense to you. On average, our doulas spend over 24 hours providing the combination of your prenatal, birth and postpartum support. This doesn't include the innumerable on-call hours waiting patiently for your phone call.
If you've chosen Essential Doula Care, your doula will make every effort to attend your birth--which includes making sure that her own family and personal obligations are taken care of well in advance so that she can focus on YOU when you need it. This may mean that your doula drops everything, cancels appointments, postpones plans, or doesn't commit to certain things so that she come to you in labor. Your birth becomes our personal priority once you hire us. And rest assured that if something unexpected prevents your doula from attending your birth, that your care will be taken over by someone as amazing as she is! This doesn't just apply to our doulas--our IBCLCs are always available, making last minute appointments because we understand that feeding your baby is one of the most important, and also one of the most overwhelming, things about your postpartum experience. Working as a cohesive team means that every single one of our clients receives timely, continuous, consistent care--whatever it takes to make you feel special and well cared for.
"I still text her to this day if I’m nervous or have questions about anything baby related. She has been there for me for far longer than I actually hired her for, and I’m deeply grateful for her big patient heart. If you’re considering hiring a doula, but nervous to invest the money, just know it really becomes priceless with all of the support, knowledge, love & guidance that you get." - Fallon
Talking about prices--who wants to contact a company just to find out what their prices are?! We love to save prospective clients time, so we aren't afraid of being transparent about our prices so that you can decide right away if we are a good fit from a financial standpoint. And our transparency doesn't end with our pricing. We have always prided ourselves on clarity regarding our philosophy, services, and service abilities. This means that we commit to uncovering your expectations for the services you’ll receive early in the relationship, being clear about what your money is paying for, and what to expect from whichever team member you hire. We also love sharing what’s going on with BTC with the community! What you find on our website and Facebook page is the most up-to-date information possible.
Your Birth is one of the most important events of your life—and having long-lasting relationships should be a natural extension of this amazing time in your life. BTC provides you with a ready-made community of trusted care providers and resources in addition to the ACTUAL community we’ve built for all of our clients. This includes our vibrant, active Facebook group and our regular Mom-Tot Playgroup. Whichever team member you work with will also be in touch from time to time to check in and see how you’re doing! The end of your contractual arrangement doesn’t mean your relationship with BTC is over—not by a long shot!
" As a first-time mom, their knowledge and support helped me handle my anxiety and get through pregnancy/labor along with the early days of breastfeeding. The mom support group on Facebook has given me resources to figure out this newborn stage and connect with local moms." - Ashley
Anyone who has ever given birth can attest that the grueling transformation that takes place during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum is undeniably one of the biggest, most intense experiences of their lives. But so many clients ask, "What is labor like? What does it feel like?" As someone who has given birth four times, how do I adequately explain it? What can I compare to the sensations of opening and releasing, of expansion and contraction? How do I describe the feeling of being overwhelmed while being in control, the idea of working alone while surrounded by a circle of supporters?
Birth is just like a marathon
I adopted this description a couple of years ago after realizing how many similarities birth and marathons have in common. I only loved this comparison more when a University of Michigan study came out this year that declared that giving birth can actually be harder than running a marathon. But what does running a marathon and giving birth really have in common (especially for those of us who aren't exactly, ahem, running types)? Discovering what actual marathon runners have to say about running and applying their wisdom to birth was quite enlightening.
"You should run your first marathon for the right reasons, because you'll never be the same person again. You must want to do it, not do it because your boss did it or your spouse did it." - Bill Wenmark, running coach
There is no way you could catch me running a marathon because I WANT to. In fact, I absolutely DO NOT want to run a marathon. Ever. COULD I run a marathon? I have no doubt I could--but it would not be my most glorious memory ever. In a lot of ways, birth is dependent on personal desire. Not just IF you want to do it (cuz you kinda have to if you've got a bun in the oven) but how you want to go about doing it. Now let me be clear--we aren't just talking about natural birth, although personal desire is the number one motivating factor in having an intentional natural birth. But you cannot go into birth expecting to do it a certain way just because someone you know did it, or you perceive it to be the way you should do it, or the way someone else wants you to do it. One big difference between a marathon and birth is this: there are no winners or losers, no failure, no shortcoming in birth. But finding the best way for you to run your marathon the way you want to will drive you to finish the act of giving birth when the going gets tough--which it almost certainly will.
"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible." - John Hanc, running writer
Ever seen the episode of How I Met Your Mother when Marshall is training for the New York Marathon? He reads all these running books, and one of the things he learns to do is to repeat positive affirmations to himself (in the mirror) on a daily basis. Well guess who else can benefit from doing this?? Pregnant women! Part of my work as a childbirth educator is to help eliminate the culture of fear surrounding birth; to help women build their sense of strength and confidence in their ability to birth their babies however they choose. This involves not only creating a positive state of mind regarding birth, but also eliminating negative voices implying failure, fear, or harm. Is a marathon a scary event to be avoided?? No! (Well, for me it might be.)
"Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow." - Mary R. Wittenberg, former president, New York Road Runners Club
Who can literally jump off their couch and run a marathon without any physical preparation? The answer: no one (except for Barney, if you watch that marathon episode of How I Met Your Mother). Just like a marathon, birth requires physical preparation. Pregnant women should be exercising no less than they were prior to pregnancy, which involves a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. And just like a runner prepares for a marathon, a pregnant woman should prepare for labor by eating lots and lots of protein (the body needs long-lasting fuel that will build the growing muscle mass in her and her baby's body) in the months leading up to labor--aiming for 100 grams a day. And then, just like the night before a big run, she should switch to carb loading during labor--carbohydrates will provide fast, short bursts of easy-to-use fuel which is exactly what the body needs during intense physical exercise!
"I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart." - Mike Fanelli, running club coach
Funny, isn't it, that labor is broken into thirds too--early labor, where there's plenty of time to think and be aware, active labor, that requires more concentration, and transition that involves a total surrender to the process. "If you feel bad at 10 miles, you're in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you're normal. If you don't feel bad at 26 miles, you're abnormal," Rob de Castella, the winner of the 1983 World Marathon Championships said. Huh. Sounds about right. One of the most common mantras we use during birth is to take one contraction at a time--don't think about how many you have left or how long this could last. Do the one you have to do right now. How interesting that Ryan Hall, a U.S. Olympic marathoner thinks the same thing about running a marathon: "I don't think about the miles that are coming down the road, I don't think about the mile I'm on right now, I don't think about the miles I've already covered. I think about what I'm doing right now, just being lost in the moment."
The Pain is Productive
"At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill." - Unknown
I couldn't tell you the number of times a mom has looked at me and said, "This hurts so bad I just don't think I can do this anymore!" There are only two things (that I can think of!) that are painful but NOT inherently harmful to our bodies: birth and exercise. Just like working out, birth is creating a change in muscular structures that have to exert significant effort to create that change. In fact, the pain of labor is credited in large part to the emission of lactic acid--the chemical that builds up in the muscles when they are tightened and released over and over. Ever been super sore the day after working out? Yup--just like labor, the pain comes from the lactic acid build up in the muscles. And just like a marathon runner experiences the oxytocin and endorphin high of running across that finish line, the incredible feeling of relief after giving birth is what makes people do it again!
"The thirst you feel in your throat and lungs will be gone minutes after the race is over. The pain in your legs within days, but the glory of your finish will last forever." - Unknown
"There isn't a trophy for giving birth!" Um, excuse me?? I have heard this statement specifically made about natural childbirth ("there's no special reward for giving birth naturally!") but I beg to differ. First, it's much more complex than getting a reward if you go without meds, and no reward if you don't--remember when I said there is no failure or losing in childbirth?? That must mean that EVERYBODY wins!! At the end of birth, you have just accomplished an incredible feat of nature, no matter how you go about accomplishing it. And the relief you get from finally being DONE after the long months of building a baby, and finally having your baby in your arms and out of your body is your trophy. Plus, the nice rush of endorphin-producing oxytocin you get is pretty awesome too. Although with that relief is often a convincing declaration, "I'm NEVER doing this again!" (Even though you'll gradually forget the pain, and your ovaries will start to quiver every time you see a baby.) After winning her first New York Marathon Grete Waltz declared, "I'm never going to run this again." And then she went on to run and win eight more.
So the bottom line is...if you are giving birth, you are basically an extreme athlete, no matter how you go about it. And just like any other athlete, you need a coach! And luckily, that's what we are here for. We're the ones who will get you a cool washcloth to wipe the sweat off your face, we are your water stop, the ones reminding you that you can do it from the sidelines, the team car rolling along next to you in case you need more help. Please let us know if there is any way we can help support you as you train, prepare for, and run your birth marathon!
Let's say you recently had a baby and started breastfeeding because it's something you have always wanted to accomplish, or maybe it's something you just wanted to try out and fell in love with the bonding experience it creates with you and baby. But maybe you've started to face challenges, or are just unsure whether everything is on the right track--well, that's where we come in!
But why does a 1.5-2 hour visit cost so much? Right now, an initial home visit with Belly to Cradle costs $125 (for around 90 minutes) and a repeat home visit (around 60 minutes) costs $75. In the office, you’ll pay $100 for that 1.5-2 hour initial visit, or $50 for a follow-up. Or, if you have an older baby, have already seen an IBCLC, or just need a weight check, we have some appointment times specifically designed for these scenarios, too. For a full list, check out our website here.
Initially this may seem like a lot to spend, especially with all the other baby-related costs you have to be concerned about, and we understand that! It’s tough to ask a family who may be struggling with breastfeeding to pay to get help -- we wish we could do this work for free! And who REALLY wants to discuss money?? It's safe to say that most, if not all, lactation consultants are in this business, not for the money, but simply to help moms and families have the best postpartum they possibly can, while helping babies eat! But, the time we spend with you at your consult is actually the tip of the iceberg.
But why is the initial visit the most expensive? Typically, we will spend on average 4 to 5 hours on each of those initial visits. We start by talking with you to figure out scheduling and what's going on with mom and baby, or by reviewing your submitted intake form and researching your concerns so we’re exceptionally prepared when you walk through our door (or we walk through yours!). Our goal is to make the most of our time together, so we try to get the formalities out of the way before we even meet you.
A home visit is a wonderful asset to your postpartum--not having to pack up the baby gear and the baby while wondering how you'll survive yet another appointment, being able to have a lactation professional help you breastfeed in your favorite chair--hey, you don't even have to get dressed or look "presentable"! We LOVE providing this service because of how many needs it meet in the days immediately following birth. The cost is higher in this setting though, because of the time spent driving to and from your home.
After the initial appointment, we generally spend about an hour charting (we are required to keep charts since IBCLCs are classified as medical professionals) because we like to spend the full appointment focused on the family and that beautiful baby, not staring at a screen. And, after any appointment with us, you now have 2 weeks of unlimited text, email or phone calls to ask any questions, get support or address any concerns you may have. That means you sometimes receive an additional hour or more of our time and attention -- and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We know you may not be able to remember everything we talked about in person, and you may have more questions or an ongoing difficulty we can continue to help with. This is yet another part of our care that we love to provide!
We are not of the opinion that breastfeeding is "best" for every family--some families benefit so much from reassessing their infant feeding goals and choosing alternative feeding methods (such as pumped breastmilk in bottles or formula). BUT breastfeeding is very important to many families, and since it is the biological norm, many more families are choosing breastfeeding after learning more about it and gaining support as they start out. And, some families are choosing feeding with breastmilk after assessing not only the health benefits but also the cost comparison with formula.
Breastfeeding is free! Yes, you can buy nursing bras, nursing clothes, boppys, breast pumps, etc. But none of that is NEEDED to breastfeed. However, to formula feed it's on average $1,733.75 for the first year to buy just the formula; that's enough money to take your family to Disney! When broken down, formula can be as cheap as 9 cents per ounce up to 31 cents an ounce (depending on what brand and type you choose). That cost does not include bottles or the potential increased costs of healthcare for those babies who don’t receive breastmilk. (And all of this doesn't even include the time spent preparing & cleaning bottles, or the money/time spent on obtaining sterile water for safe formula prep.)
We want your breastfeeding care to be affordable, of course. So here are some ways to keep it that way:
We are here for you no matter what you choose--from how you feed to your baby, to who you see for your lactation care. Let us know how we can support YOU!
I was due June 14, 2017, bur Conner Oakley Smith was following in his big brother's footsteps by making himself comfortable and staying in mommy's tummy as long as possible. This was my second pregnancy, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was going extremely well and was very similar to my first... healthy all around with some heartburn being the main thing I could complain about. My weight gain and energy levels were soooo much better this pregnancy though, and I have my new healthy lifestyle to thank for that. As my due date came and went I found myself surprisingly at peace with the fact that I was still pregnant. I had already mentally prepared myself the entire pregnancy in case I went past my due date again, so the pressure of baby not arriving yet wasn't there as badly as it was with our first son Trever. The day before my due date and the day after, I decided to try acupuncture with Paul at Joint Venture Chiropractic to help my body prep for delivery. I found it to be very relaxing even though I hate needles!
On Friday, June 16th, we went in for an ultrasound to see how Conner's overall health and growth were doing. He was absolutely perfect and there was no reason for concern. That evening, Dan's parents watched Trever so we could go on one last movie date to the theater. During the movie I was having a lot of discomfort, some contractions, but nothing to make me think a hospital trip was in the near future, although that night I didn't sleep very well. I was having a lot of discomfort in my lower back and Conner was extremely active, kicking & punching, as if to say he wanted out!
I woke up Saturday morning, June 17th, and just felt... different. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it felt like something was going to happen soon. I made all three of us a delicious pancake breakfast & while sitting down to eat it Dan decided to text my mom to see if she would be willing to watch Trever while we ran some errands. He could tell I wasn't comfortable and felt it would be best if we ran errands without having to also take care of our toddler. While out running errands my contractions were occurring every 5-7 minutes apart, but never got so intense that I couldn't continue walking or talking. We decided to eat lunch at Sam's Club and that's when I had my first very strong contraction... it was very intense and definitely felt like what I remember contractions feeling like in the early parts of my labor with Trever.
We went home where I proceeded to clean my whole kitchen and do the dishes. I was texting our doula, Amber, this whole time and she suggested I lay down and relax because she felt I was having a baby that night even though I l had my doubts! After an hour of laying on the couch while watching TV, I started to have more and more contractions but they weren't staying as consistent as I would have liked. Amber sent me the link to how to do the Mile's Circuit (a variety of positions to put your body in to position baby for birth). I did the first position for 30 minutes and my contractions began to get strong but were still 5 minutes apart. For the next half hour I did the second position and that's when my contractions got to the point where I had to breathe carefully through them. I have a very high pain tolerance so the contractions weren't painful at this point, just "intense".
After Dan made us a delicious dinner, we went on a walk. We brought our dog Kota along, and almost instantly I was having contractions every 90 seconds to 2 minutes apart! It was now that I finally realized that we were going to need to head to the hospital soon. I was doubting myself before that but now it became all too real. I managed to take a hot shower when we got back to the house despite having contractions every 2 minutes. After my inlaws came by to pick up Kota to take to their house, we drove over to my parents house to bring Trever's overnight bag and give him kisses & hugs. This was the last time I was going to see my baby boy before he became a big brother and I was emotional over it!
Our drive to the hospital was only 15 minutes so I called the hospital to let them know we were on our way and would like a room with a tub. When we arrived they were all ready for us and brought us straight to our room. After 20 minutes of monitoring baby and myself, I received a saline lock in my arm just in case I needed any fluids. I was checked and it was determined that I was 6cm dilated and 100% effaced!!! Conner was still in 0 station so we needed to get up and move around to help him drop. We were than given the okay to walk the halls. With each contraction I would stop, hold myself against the wall, and slightly squat to help Conner get into the ideal birthing position. When we got back to the room around 9pm I received a wireless monitoring system with bluetooth connection so I could get into the tub. In the tub I was still having some slight back labor but with each contraction I was able to relieve the pressure from the weightlessness of the water.
Soon I was starting to feel a lot of pressure down yonder with each contraction, so Amber & Dan felt it was best for me to get out of the tub. Upon standing up, I began to shake uncontrollably and have contraction after contraction right on top of each other! I was in transition!! They quickly helped me dry off and walk to my bed... stopping to breath with each contraction. When I got into bed, the nurse instantly put me into the fire hydrant position (imagine me on my side with my left leg up in a stirrup as if I were a dog about to pee on a fire hydrant haha). The nurse checked me at 10:10pm and I was now 9cm dilated which was probably a conservative guess because she couldn't feel my cervix and baby's head was very very low! They told me the doctor was on her way and that I needed to wait to push. My doctor, Dr. Erika Schneider, was not on duty that weekend so instead I had Dr. Tracey Doyle as my on-call doctor rushing to the hospital. Later I found out she was stopped by a train at one point and was able to get around it in record time somehow!
Within a few minutes of being in this position my water broke. I remember a huge relief of pressure but also a sense of panic when it broke because I instantly felt like I could start pushing but the doctor wasn't there yet! With each contraction coming one on top of another, there were times I almost forgot how to breathe because I was too focused on the sensation of the need to push. Amber & Dan massaged my back and legs and towards the end Dan got into champion coach mode, got in my face, and had me breathe exactly like him. We had three different types of breaths that while doing them, physically made it impossible for me to push. Dan was amazing!!!! He kept me encouraged and repeatedly told me how incredible I was and that he was so proud of me! I was about to have another baby y'all!!!
At roughly 10:34pm, the doctor walked in and asked me if I was ready to push... YES, I was definitely ready! They had me hold my legs and on the first push I was a little hesitant because I was in shock that everything progressed this quickly and I was actually able to start pushing! Three pushes later at 10:41pm, I felt the ring of fire and Conner made his appearance! I did it!! I had gone into labor on my own and had another successful unmedicated birth and it was seriously the best experience I could have asked for!
After an hour of skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, and a successful first feeding, they weighed him in at 8lb 11.2oz and 19.5 inches long. He was perfect! After I birthed the placenta, I once again had Amber save it to be dehydrated down into capsules to take as a postpartum recovery supplement. Since it was so late, only my parents were able to come to the hospital that night to meet the new little addition. The next day was Father's Day and what an unforgettable Father's Day it was! I am so thankful for my amazing supportive #birthsquad, Dan & our doula Amber! Also, so thankful to God for his protection and sense of peace during the entire pregnancy, labor & delivery.
Welcome to the world Conner!
Really? Another class? After the childbirth education classes and the infant care classes, and books, and webinars on the interwebs, all in preparation to give birth, there's yet ANOTHER class that needs to be taken? In the words of a YouTube visionary, "Ain't Nobody Got Time For That." Well...we respectfully request to disagree. Why?
After the breathing, and the contractions, and the pushing--then what? The average mom will spend 5-8 hours a day feeding her baby. Yup. Like a full time job. That means that in the first 6 months of your baby's life, you will spend around 1,000 hours--that's ONE THOUSAND HOURS--feeding your baby. So why wouldn't you take a class on something you're about to spend up to 40 hours a week doing? Well, let's talk about why you would take a breastfeeding class.
You get to establish a relationship with breastfeeding professional who can then provide support after baby comes, if you need it. Reaching out for assistance after baby comes can be daunting, overwhelming, or even intimidating, especially if the people you need are strangers. Get the niceties out of the way before baby arrives, in class! A familiar face always makes things easier. And during class, you'll learn how to identify reasons why you would need more support after baby comes, so you'll have an action plan in place if you face challenges.
You get to build the breastfeeding knowledge of your support network so that your partner/auntie/grandpa/sister can better help you. We encourage you to bring your whole posse to our breastfeeding class! Whoever is going to be hanging out with you to help after baby arrives should have the same information you do--not only so they know the whys behind what you're doing with breastfeeding, but also so that they can remind you if you forget something. Sleep deprivation, hormones, and all the newness of the postpartum can give you the infamous Mommy Brain, and having someone to remind you of what you learned in class can be absolutely priceless!
You get to learn the NUMBER ONE thing you need to do to get breastfeeding off to a great start and how a lot of families (unknowingly) mess it up. Even if you don't recall anything else from class, you will leave knowing THIS one thing. We would tell you this one thing is but we have to save some of our secrets for class!!
"Learn the NUMBER ONE thing you need to do to get breastfeeding off to a great start and how a lot of families (unknowingly) mess it up."
You get learn what a truly good latch looks and feels like. Since this may be your first time breastfeeding, you may not know what to look for when it comes to your baby's latch right after birth. Or maybe your last baby didn't have such a great latch and you're trying to improve on it this time. Having your family there too will help them be able to see whether or not baby has a good latch--especially since it can be hard to get baby latched on well the first few times with only two arms.
You get to practice coordinating breastfeeding holds through the use of our weighted dolls. While this may seem sort of strange at first (or even a little creepy--darned little eyes that open and close), it can actually be a real eye-opener (pun intended) to position a doll that weighs close to what your own baby will weigh. Just don't look the doll in the eye.
Join us as we start our very own breastfeeding class, Belly to Breastfeeding, which will be available every month, starting July 6!
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