Birth + Night Doula + Mom/Parents Community

We are new to Berkeley Parents Network and really excited to join this community. We are looking for a birth doula, but also interested in night support post birth. Does anyone have any experience working with the same person for both? We are lucky to live in an area where there are so many doula services out there- it is a tad hard to wrap my head around it all. With that said, I would love to hear from this community on:

- Have any of you worked with a birth doula that also then supported you at night for 2-4 weeks following birth? If so, any recommendations? 

- Any advice on how to navigate the doula world? Or is it really just a rabbit hole of research? 

- Any recommendations on what birthing classes my husband and I should take? Looking to build my mom community, learn about childbirth/CPR, and lean all the 'fun' childbirth things I don't know, but need to know :)  {Loving Arms orThen Comes Baby?}

I know you are all busy people, so thank you in advance for your help.

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I was asking these questions about 2 years ago and got some great support here on BPN, so I thought I'd chime in quickly with my experience (active toddler, permitting). :-)

I worked with an incredible birth doula, but she is now in school to become a midwife (bummer, we are expecting #2 now)!  I was going down the rabbit hole of online research, but on a whim, went to the free Doula event at Then Comes Baby.  That was such a good choice. They weren't "sales-y" in their approach, and they took it more as a time to educate us about what a doula does and doesn't do.  Plus, an eye-opener for me, the roles of the various people involved in a hospital birth (we were at Alta Bates) and the difference between midwives and OBs.  We met several lovely doulas there and chose the one that felt like the right vibe, that both me and my husband felt we could work with if the S#** hit the fan, so to speak.  Going there was SO MUCH easier than what I did (digging through the interwebs) and my only regret is that I wasn't referred there sooner. They still do it and I am going to go back to that event since my doula isn't available now and I am expecting again!

From that event, I decided to give Then Comes Baby a shot and took their prenatal yoga with Torrey (she's awesome), then I joined the 4-week birth class with Anna (another gem), and the Breastfeeding class (I forget the teachers name, but I learned a lot).  Between the yoga classes and the birth class, I really found that "mom" community you were talking about.  And, two+ years later, that's what is still going strong.  We were pretty new to Oakland when we got pregnant, and making friends there was the real game changer, for both me and my (kinda busy/ distracted/ shy) husband.

The East Bay is awesome and has much to offer on this front. I found it a bit dizzying, honestly, for my first baby. I also heard nice things about Loving Arms, but their birth class was longer than we had time for at the time with our commutes and busy pre-baby prep.  I'm sure they're great, though! 

We took our birth class at Birthways in Berkeley and are still friends with all the other couples 2 full years later (just went through the string of 2-year-old birthday parties :)). We found the class to be very personal and in-depth while providing a decent balance of outlining both "traditional" modern birth and "natural" birth options. We watched videos of a C-section, epidural birth, water birth, home birth, etc. While the information the instructor provided was *slightly* biased toward assumptions of parents wanting a less-interventionist birth (making sure we knew we could decline eyedrops & Vitamin K shot, discussing risks of epidural, etc.), we never felt like she was trying to push us one way or the other in our birth experience.

We found our doulas at a Birthways "Meet the Doula" event, which I would highly recommend (it's basically doula speed-dating :)) We ended up working with Shoshana Friedman-Hawk and Lori Jaffe for our birth; they are a team who both attend prenatal and postpartum visits and then trade off on "on-call" weeks for births (all doulas have backups b/c it is impossible for 1 person to be on-call constantly -- their arrangement means that you will never have a stranger show up at your birth). Lori was the one who attended our daughter's very LONG birth (induction resulting in multiple days of labor) and she was great; coaching my husband about when he needed to take a break/nap, rubbing my back during back labor, and even taking some really beautiful pictures immediately after the birth.

I know Lori also does postpartum work, including overnight work, though we didn't take advantage of that particular service. But I cannot recommend her highly enough as a birth doula, so I'm sure she is wonderful with postpartum as well!

Happy to provide more info if needed -- feel free to PM me.

I would recommend evaluating if a night doula is really the right fit for you.  If you are breastfeeding, and won't be supplementing with formula at night, I frankly don't think it would help.  Most of my moms group has discussed that this is an alluring concept - someone else can feed and hold and rock baby so you can get a couple 4-hour stretches! - but if you are nursing, and you're trying to build your supply, you will still be getting your sleep in one-hour chunks between 45-min feeding sessions and 15 minutes to fall back asleep, then lather-rinse-repeat.   That said, our son would only sleep on our chests for his first 3.5 weeks of life, so we did fly out my mom, and she took a couple 'holding' shifts between 2.00 - 6.00am so we could both sleep for the hour the baby slept.  Keep in mind that you'll be paying $80/hour with 4-hour minimums to spend 2 of those 4 hours nursing and holding your baby yourself.   If you are lucky to have a baby with a big stomach who is a big eater & good sleeper, you can potentially be on a "Babywise" 3-hour schedule earlier on, and have baby sleeping 4-hour stretches at night, in which case having a night doula take the middle of the night feeding with formula might give you 6 or 7 uninterrupted hours of sleep - which could be amazing.  But you won't know if this is your baby until he or she is born.  So I would recommend doing a little diligence and potentially interviewing folks, but not committing yourself to a huge financial cost until you know if this service will actually meet your needs.   In our case, paying for a relative's flight and hotel for a week a month for the first 3 months (lined up with the difficult 'wonder weeks') was a fraction of the cost of a doula and more helpful.  The first 6-8 weeks are incredibly difficult and sleep-deprived, and extra hands are invaluable, but given the tremendous cost of a night doula, you should evaluate if the benefit is actually significant enough to justify the cost!

As a doula myself, I have very high standards haha. Tabitha Ames was my doula for both babies, and I can't recommend her enough. ( I'm happy to get on the phone and share my experiences with her. She also offers childbirth and breastfeeding education.

As far as navigating the doula world, there are SO MANY doulas now! Which is great, because that means there is a doula that will be a good fit for every family. Word of mouth, yelp, and even checking with your OB or Pediatrician for names they've heard or worked with is a good way to start. 

Just wanted to chime in on the cost of a night doula, as I saw a reply that quoted $80 per hour for night doula services, which is either a mistake or an outlier doula who charges way more than average. I used several night doulas when my kids were born in 2014 and 2017, and the fees ranged from a low of $27 per hour to a high of $40 per hour. All we're certified postpartum doulas. I've never heard of a night doula charging $80 per hour, although I suppose they're out there. Certainly would be unusual though. 

I found the night doulas I used to be absolutely invaluable. My kids needed a lot of soothing to go back to sleep between feedings and I literally would not have slept at all for the first few months if I'd had to do a 45 minute feeding every two hours, plus an hour of bouncing/rocking, then maybe 15 minutes when I could put the baby down and close my eyes before the next feeding. After the first two weeks when my milk supply was well established and the babies were confirmed to be gaining weight well, I started pumping a bottle of milk for the doula to give so I could skip a whole feeding and actually sleep a six hour stretch. I don't know how anyone does it without help unless they have a super easy baby or very committed family members who are themselves willing to give up a lot of sleep.