My name is Pam Jamieson. I started working at Catawba Animal Clinic twelve years ago as Dr. Platt’s veterinary technician. I have worked as the hospital administrative assistant for the majority of that time with a focus on inventory and computer support. After the birth of my daughter, I pursued my interest in supporting women during childbirth and am now also a CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association) trained and certified labor doula.
You may be asking yourself the question, what is a doula? Doula is a greek word that means “a woman who serves.” A doula provides expecting families with prenatal information, physical and emotional support during labor and the birth of their baby. Studies have shown that having the continuous support of a doula decreases the use of Pitocin during labor, decreases use of pain medication, decreases risk of cesarean section and increases satisfaction with the birth experience. What does a doula do? A doula provides information before labor begins to help a woman prepare, to know what the stages of labor are like and how they may feel. A doula does not perform clinical tasks. During labor, I help the mother and father by suggesting positions or comfort measures. I like to use the metaphor that birth is like climbing a mountain in that it is a challenging journey, both physically and mentally, and a doula is like a sherpa, a trail guide that is familiar with the landscape and able to help if there is a storm or obstacle along the path. It is an honor for me to work with new families and help them navigate the first steps of their journey into parenthood. I am grateful for the ability to follow my passion for birth work and continue to work with my Catawba family to help pets in the area.
I recently attend the 2014 CAPPA annual conference in Charlotte, NC. I was excited that one of the speakers combined my love for dogs and babies. Jennifer Shryock, founder of Family Paws Family Education, presented tips for success with dogs, babies and new family dynamics. Jennifer, a certified dog behavior consultant specializing in dog and baby/toddler safety, is a mother of four children and her family has fostered over 70 rescue dogs and many cats over the last nine years. Family Paws works to educate parents and families to set them up for success before a baby is brought home using educational webinars and training consultations if the family has any challenges in the transition from pet parenting to parenting with pets.
Dogs will be curious about a new baby so having that expectation is helpful. The first time the dog is introduced to the new baby does not have to be a formal event and physical contact is not even necessary. It is best to prioritize the needs of each family member. Some dogs will be flexible and adapt quickly to a growing family. Some, however, may benefit from boarding somewhere for a few days while mom can recover from birth and establish breastfeeding. The dog will want to reconnect with mom so making time for that is important. While an initial introduction to the baby is good, the focus should be on building a positive long term relationship.
Another important theme in her presentation was paying attention to a dog’s body language, subtle signs used to tell us when they start to feel stressed. These are important to be aware of when family dynamics change with the arrival of a new baby or when that baby becomes mobile during the toddler stage. Signs of stress may include looking away and avoiding eye contact, licking lips and yawning. If you see these signs or the dog is overexcited around the baby or toddler or you are feeling stressed, wait for a calmer time to interact. Interactions will be more successful when all participants are feeling calm and comfortable.
Some safety tips for dogs and babies include inviting the dog to interact but not forcing it, reminding your dog what you want them to do but not scolding them for being curious, restricting unsupervised access to the nursery and including the dog in a safe way so they do not feel isolated from the family. Never leave a baby unsupervised with a pet. Isolating the dog or dramatic changes in how you interact with your dog can result in stress which may lead to negative attention seeking behaviors over time.
Jennifer gave an example of a dog dropping a tennis ball on the couch for a game of fetch being a common activity you engaged in while pregnant. Once the baby is home and a soggy tennis ball is dropped on the couch beside you, the dog expects you to throw it like you did before the baby came home and may be confused or upset if you don’t participate in the game. Acknowledging the needs of every family member in a positive way is a helpful way to make the transition from pet parenting to parenting with a pet.
For more information visit, familypaws.com
If you have any questions concerning labor doulas, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org