Friday, December 4, 2015

Just Eat the Monkey: Keeping it Simple in Birth and Breastfeeding

Guest post by MotherWit Doula Megan Tolbert

Doulas in a group tend to get kind of chatty. And in my neck of the woods, doula chatter swings from the ridiculous to the sublime in the blink of an eye.

One late afternoon, a smack* of doulas was sitting around my living room, enjoying a glass of wine in preparation for our evening reservation at a local spa. Naturally the conversation turned to how we would survive stranded on a desert island.

I'd tame a monkey, and teach it to breastfeed. I'd relactate, and survive off my own breastmilk!” declared one enterprising doula.

Lengthy, heated discussion followed about how one would tame this alleged monkey (it would have to be a baby monkey, it was decided), how long the relactation process would take (given the fact that the doula in question had not breastfed for eight years or more at that time), and whether the caloric expenditure involved in producing the breastmilk would be worthwhile in the first place.

Meanwhile, deep into a second glass of wine, I had an epiphany.

You GUYS. Why are you breastfeeding this monkey, when you could be EATING it?”

We all have a tendency to overcomplicate things sometimes. I see it done during birth in hospital settings, where a C-section can be proposed before even considering a simple solution, like changing positions to help baby descend.

I see it with new (and sometimes experienced) doulas in some of the Facebook groups I belong to, frantically listing all the things they've done so far to “fix” a clients long early labour—only to be reminded that maybe the best thing they could do right now is get their clients to sleep, and just leave them alone for a while.

I see it with new parents when I visit them postpartum, frazzled and exhausted, baby fussy and demanding—they've forgotten the first thing they ever learned in hospital about newborn care: Skin to skin. So back to bed we go, pillows placed just so, dress down mama and baby, and just....breathe. And suddenly this breastfeeding thing doesn't seem so challenging.

Going back to basics oftentimes gets the job done. Occam's Razor is a vital principle in my work as a doula, one I have to remind myself of over and over: The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

In birth, in parenthood, in life: Keep it simple. And for goodness sake, stop breastfeeding that monkey and just eat the darned thing!

* “Smack” is the unofficial collective noun for a group of doulas, like a murder of crows, a pride of lions, or an exaltation of larks.