Meet Melinda Ferguson
Seattle Postpartum Doula
A note from Emily Fontes, Owner of Puget Sound Placenta:
Having been active in the Seattle birth community for over 14 years, I’m proud to have made many amazing connections with local family support professionals. This blog series gives me a chance to introduce you to providers that I know and trust. I met Melinda more than five years ago and have always been impressed with her soothing demeanor. She has helped hundreds of families as both a postpartum and birth doula. Her business, Calm & Confident Doula Care serves families throughout Greater Seattle & the Eastside. Enjoy this interview with Melinda and be sure to check out their website: calmconfidentdoula.com
How did you get started as a postpartum doula? What attracted you to the job?
When my second son was born I was looking to make a career change. I had a fabulous birth doula and really appreciated that doulas could make a significant difference in people’s lives. I went on to have an incredibly miserable postpartum and that built a huge empathy in me for people struggling in that time.
What are the best ways for moms to prepare for postpartum while they are still pregnant?
Lining up support makes a difference. Think about who can you call on that will help with day to day running of the house, who knows about breastfeeding and can help, who can help at nighttime. It’s hard to appreciate how significantly ones’ life changes with the addition of a newborn. Very few parents have a conversation with each other about expectations. What does it mean to you to be a good mother or a good father? What are you expecting of your partner as a parent?
I know there is a lot of confusion about the difference between postpartum doulas, baby nurses and nannies. Can you help clarify the different job roles?
Yes! Postpartum doulas are focused on the mother primarily, but really the parents. Our role is to help parents find their confidence in caring for their child, so we help them learn how to read their baby’s cues, feeding, sleep, etc. We also watch out for and educate around perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) and do lots of listening and validation around the big emotions of the postpartum time. Along the way a postpartum doula will often do light household activities, like dishes, meal prep, laundry, errands and such. Baby nurses and nannies are focused on the child care. They may do some of the household support, but are not generally focused on PMADs, lactation and newborn education.
How do you support parents in their decisions regarding sensitive parenting choices such as circumcision or vaccination?
First, I learn about what the parents want from me, acceptance of a choice that’s already been made? Information on making a choice? I can provide evidence based information, or listening and validation for a difficult choice. It’s not my job to convince them what decision they should make.
When it comes to breastfeeding mothers, how does a postpartum doula help facilitate that relationship while still allowing mom some rest?
I can help them assess how well breastfeeding is going and make suggestions for improvements in positioning or logistics, or referrals to a lactation consultant when there are problems. When I work with a mother who is doing a lot of pumping and bottle feeding due to weight gain concerns– I am quite busy with washing pump parts, helping with feeds and generally supporting the mom getting as much rest as possible by taking anything off her plate that can be done by someone else. While I’m doing all that, I’m talking with the partner or other support people about how they can help out too.
What suggestions do you give your clients for how to handle visitors in the first few weeks after birth?
First, all visitors must be healthy and wash their hands upon arrival.
Second, please encourage them to come only if they are going to be helpful — bringing food, doing household chores, playing with the toddler, etc. Try to think about which visitors would be good for which tasks and let your people know in advance about your expectations. Third, please do not miss an opportunity for self care (sleep, shower, eating) because you were busy being the hostess.
Along with that, what do you think is the best way for parents to dodge unsolicited advice from well meaning family or friends (or strangers)?
I think context is important here. Your grandmother wants the best for you and your baby too! She may have some ideas you haven’t thought of, or have dismissed. Thank her for her concern and interest. If the advice doesn’t resonate with you, file it away, times change and it might be useful later. Also, consider the knowledge level of the person providing the advice – does the grocery store clerk really have expertise about vaccination schedules?
I know you have recently transitioned to running a doula agency. What are the most important questions for families to ask before choosing which postpartum doula to hire?
Does the doula have the skills to help with the aspects of support you are most interested in? If you have a history of depression and want your doula to help you avoid that, ask her what she know about postpartum depression and how to prevent it. As always, open ended questions are the most insightful. It’s not always about the exact words, but rather the approach. Trust your gut. Does the doula feel like someone who will be non-judgmental, helpful and comfortable to be around? I do believe training and certification represent a level of professionalism and commitment that you may or may not get with someone who hasn’t taken those steps.
As a long time postpartum doula trainer what qualities do you think make for an excellent postpartum doula?
Good listening skills, a solid understanding of the postpartum time (physically, emotionally, newborn behavior, breastfeeding) these all come in the doula training but some folks have more than others when they walk in the classroom, and a big heart. Every doula who’s good at this work really loves helping people in the transition to parenthood, look for that passion in your doula.
Interested in Postpartum Doula Care?
Contact Calm and Confident Doula Care
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