Integrity is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days. I hear it a lot, but I wanted to find the actual definition, so here it is from Merriam-Webster: "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness."
So what does that mean in the birth world? Is that us? What does morality have to do with supporting new parents?
I think anyone who owns a business needs to be honest and ethical, and we live into that. Our goal, always, is to give our clients and our community the absolute best we have to offer for what we feel is a fair value. I know it sounds like a sales pitch, but these are conversations that Lindsay and I actually have on the regular. We also feel strongly that we deserve to be paid for our time and skill and that the families we support deserve to have the best of us. We know that the families we support are at a vulnerable and important time of their lives, and they deserve honesty and trustworthiness from anyone who works for them.
One thing that's come up a lot lately in various conversations is the things we don't do, and who gets to offer what services to new families. You already know what we do offer (I hope!): premium childbirth and breastfeeding preparation, stellar birth doula support, comprehensive evidence-based lactation support, and thoughtful postpartum doula support to families on Cape Cod, the South Shore, and in Boston. We offer these things because they are areas that we know about. We are certified childbirth educators and doulas. I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, the gold standard in breastfeeding care. Lindsay is a seasoned RN-BSN, and although she doesn't play the role of a nurse these days, her training informs her care. I have a background as a professional educator, which informs our birth curriculum and our teaching style. Lindsay is a CAPPA-certified labor doula with years of experience. We do this work because we love it, and because we love it, we are constantly motivated to learn more and improve our services.
What we don't do is advertise services that we're not qualified to be offering. We offer breastfeeding support because we have a staff member who is thoroughly trained and qualified to do that. We offer birth support because we have spent thousands of hours training and practicing this work. We don't offer sleep consulting or training services, because we don't have the training or motivation to do that. We also believe that it's normal and important for babies to wake up and feed at night so that they can protect their nursing parent's milk supply and get their caloric and emotional needs met. Yes, even though it's rough for parents. That's why we support them in other ways so that they can cope with meeting their babies' needs.
We don't advertise postpartum depression screenings because we aren't qualified to diagnose postpartum mood disorders. But what we will do is keep a close eye out for anything that our considerable experience and training tells us might be a red flag, and suggest reaching out to an appropriately qualified care provider for help. We will support you through it, but within our scope of practice.
It can be really confusing for new parents to know who is the right person to ask for specific kinds of help. I know when I was struggling with breastfeeding, I wish someone had told me that my pediatrician and OB were not the right people to ask for breastfeeding help. What I needed was an experienced IBCLC, and when I finally found one it was a game-changer for me and my babies. I remember being so severely sleep deprived and asking anyone and everyone for sleep advice (don't do this, by the way; it doesn't end well). It turns out that what I really needed was someone to listen and validate me, to support me through having two high-needs babies and help me prioritize sleep in a healthy way. I needed a postpartum doula.
So whatever you need, whoever you are hiring to support you, please make sure that they have the chops to do it properly. This means asking about their certifications and training, asking questions about their experience, and evaluating carefully to decide what you are comfortable with. I think a lot of people are nervous to ask these questions because it maybe feels impolite, but I can promise you that any professional worth their salt will be happy to answer your questions. The most important thing to us is that you get the help you need, regardless of whether that means us or not.
Liz Libby is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, a Certified Lactation Counselor, and a CAPPA-certified childbirth educator. She lives in Brewster, MA with her three wild boys, canine sidekick, and her partner. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org.