babywearing specialist

In the Spotlight: Ashley Mullen, Doula

We have a special place in our hearts for this month's spotlight feature... not only because she's an indispensable member of our team, but because prior to becoming a doula, she was first, a DOC client. Orange County, we're delighted to introduce you to Ashley Mullen!

I (Lauren) first met Ashley in high school. She was a new freshman member of the sorority I was president of (yes, high school sororities are a thing in Long Beach... don't ask me why!) so we got to spend a decent amount of time in each other's company. Fast forward many years when I went to a consult with Ashley (not knowing it was her) where we became reacquainted and where I was hired as her doula. 

Let me tell you something about this woman: She is one of the strongest people I know. Not only did she handle her birth like a freaking rockstar, she managed the many challenges of the 4th trimester with grace and humor. She'll tell you herself, she got everything thrown at her once her baby arrived and it was not an easy journey. But she found her way through the darkness and in doing so became inspired to become a doula and help other new moms through similar challenges. 

Ashley is an incredible teacher, not only in her Babywearing 101 class but at in-home postpartum visits as well. She's well-versed in baby gear, has extensive knowledge of breastfeeding and babywearing and has such compassion and empathy for new parents. Her organization and insight will help you prepare your home, your nursery, and yourself for the days, weeks & months after birth. Believe me when I say that you want her on your postpartum team

We are super excited to share her light and passion for postpartum work with you in this months "In The Spotlight!"

Happy Mom, Happy Baby // Babywearing Series

Welcome back to our Babywearing Blog Series in honor of International BabyWearing Week! So far I've covered how to get started… if you’re new to babywearing and interested in a quick introduction to the types of carriers and how to find resources in your community, I recommend reading that first.

It should come as no surprise that we at the Doulas of Orange County support anything that promotes a happy and healthy mother and baby. The mother and baby are a unit, even after they’ve been physically disconnected at birth. They rely on each other for many things in the 4th trimester and beyond. Which is why we believe babywearing is such a wonderful asset to your family.

photo:  TOPHER DELANCY

Today I want to touch on a few of those benefits specifically related to bonding and attachment.

Happy Baby, Happy Mama

It's true, babies who are worn and kept close are statistically happier babies. In a study published in the journal “Pediatrics”, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 51 percent during evening hours!

Babies spend these moments close to mom in "quiet alertness"... they are calm and aware, absorbing and learning from their surroundings. "In the kangaroo carry, baby has a 180-degree view of her environment and is able to scan her world. She learns to choose, picking out what she wishes to look at and shutting out what she doesn’t. This ability to make choices enhances learning."  - www.askdrsears.com

Researchers have also reported that worn babies show enhanced visual and auditory alertness. You can imagine how having a calm and happy baby can directly influence the overall physical and mental health of the mom. Mom and baby are connected. When baby is happy, mom is happy… and vice versa.

Healthy Baby

"Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not." - Babywearing International

Bill and Martha Sears note that babywearing stimulates the infant’s vestibular system, the parts of the inner ear that work like levels or sensors to control the body’s sense of balance. The stimulation "helps babies breathe and grow better, regulates their physiology, and improves motor development". This applies to both full-term and premature babies. I find this tremendously fascinating!

Creates a Womb-Like Experience

Baby is nice and snug, feeling mother (or father/caregiver) close, their rhythmic breathing & melodic heartbeat create a soothing environment.

This familiar rhythm, imprinted on baby’s mind from while in the womb, now reappears in the “outside womb” and calms and relaxes baby. Again, reinforcing this closeness, comfort, and connection; which is essential in helping a baby to thrive.

Increases Bonding

Babywearing makes “Kangaroo Care” (skin-to-skin) effortless. And it is not just for the mamas! In fact, babywearing is especially beneficial for fathers, doulas, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitter, or any loved one for that matter, to help increase the bond between adult and baby.

There is much evidence-based research available which shows how powerful skin-to-skin time is. The philosophy of nine months in the womb and nines months out encourages recreating the womb-like experience as much as possible. This simple act of physical closeness can result in baby's regulation of body temperature, oxygen saturation levels, and respiratory and heart rates. Not to mention it elevates mom’s oxytocin which helps combat postpartum depression and can increase her milk supply.

There is an incredible amount of research that supports the benefits of bonding and healthy attachment in the first year of life. The needs of the baby are met easily and comfortably while being carried or worn by a loved one. But what happens when life’s other needs start to interfere? How can we cope when our baby needs our constant love and attention? Next up in our series we’ll talk about the joys and benefits of babywearing while creating a hands-free lifestyle! 

Get Started With BabyWearing 101

Welcome to our first post in our series celebrating International Babywearing Week! In the words of Dr. William and Martha Sears, "Baby wearing does good things for babies, and it makes life easier for mothers." It's really quite simple as that!

So... where to start?

There are endless styles and types of carriers available to parents. It can definitely be overwhelming trying to choose the right one for you and making the financial investment. We recommend borrowing one from a friend or checking out your local babywearing lending library, they will have many to choose from!

When learning how to safely wear your baby carrier, don't underestimate the power of YouTube video tutorials or better yet, sign up for our Babywearing 101 workshop held every other month in Irvine.

Four Steps to Get Started Baby Wearing

1. Prepare Prenatally

We recommend an in-person class for hands on education and a chance to touch and feel all of the carriers before your little one arrives. Our workshop includes safety tips, the opportunity to see each carrier being worn and an optional add-on that allows you time with instructor & babywearing specialist, Ashley Mullen for hands on help!

2. Decide on the type(s) of Carrier to buy

Knit wraps are made of stretchy cotton or bamboo and geared towards 0-6 months of age depending on baby’s size and weight. Most can accommodate a baby up to 30lbs, but parents usually find them most comfortable during the newborn stage. Wraps are a wonderful addition to your babywearing stash because they allow for a very snug fit and are an easy way to get in skin-to-skin bonding during the 4th trimester. Some popular brands are Moby, Boba and Baby K’tan.  

Soft Structured Carriers distribute weight evenly to the hips and can be worn in a myriad of ways including facing inward on the front, back carry and hip carry. Some soft structured carriers (or SSCs) are set up to be worn with baby facing out in an ergonomic position such as the Ergobaby 360 model. SSCs are a very user friendly carrier with thick padded shoulder straps, a wide seat, buckle waist strap and a hood for sleeping and nursing on the go.  Some popular brands are ErgoBaby, Tula and Beco.

Ring Slings are a simple carrier that are quick and easy to use once you get the hang of it. They are made from one piece of fabric (typically linen, cotton, or silk) with two rings. The ring sling hangs like a sash over one shoulder and you tighten the fabric through the rings to create an appropriately tight and supportive fit around your baby. These are great for the newborn stage and like many of the other carriers can grow with your baby into toddlerhood. We adore the Sakura Bloom and Wildbird ring slings.

Woven wraps are extremely versatile and offer a wide variety of different carries for your baby from the newborn stage until 45-50 lbs. Machine or handwoven wraps provide a breathable and strong seat for your little one and come in an endless assortment of designs and colors. Since the wrap conforms perfectly to the wearer and baby, they are a perfect choice for both petite and plus size parents. The standard sizes come in 2-8.  Take a look at Kanthabae, Girasol and Risaroo wraps to get started.

There are also Mei Tei’s, Water Slings and External Frame Hiking Carriers available. All carriers have a learning curve and every parent/baby duo is different. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you learn. It will get easier and before you know it you’ll be wearing your baby like a pro!

3. Connect with other parents

Find a local or online group to connect with other babywearing families in your community. It’s a great way to meet other parents, gain insight on carriers and find your village. Babywearing LA aghas chapters all over Sourthern California, including a chapter in Orange County with meet ups often scheduled at local parks throughout the month. Babywearing International also has various groups and lending libraries.

4. Get Guidance from an Expert:

All of DOC's Postpartum Doulas are well-versed in the basics of babywearing and can help parents try on carriers and make sure baby is in a safe position and both are comfortable during your in-home care shifts.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post Happy Mom, Happy Baby about how babywearing encourages bonding, assists in soothing and promotes more skin-to-skin contact.