Transcript: How Can a Postpartum Doula Help First Time Mums?

Many of the mums I speak with feel scared, alone and overwhelmed when it comes to caring for their newborns.

There’s so much going on and it can quickly become exhausting.

Yes, they’ve got access to medical professionals and midwives but who can they turn to for non-medical help?

This is where the role of a postpartum doula begins, providing mums with that crucial essential emotional, physical and mental support that they need.

I wanted to find out more about the whole world of doulas and I was thrilled to speak with Erin Carroll-Manning. Erin’s business Gentle Giraffes helps moms recover from childbirth, manage household chores as well as anything else helpful in their postpartum recovery.

Helen Thompson: Hi Erin and welcome to first time mums chat. I’m really excited to have you here and can you tell us a bit more about what you’re passionate about and what inspired you to start your business called Gentle Giraffes?

Erin Carroll-Manning: Hi Helen, thank you so much for having me, I’m super excited to be here as one of your guests. So what, what am I super passionate about? I’m actually super passionate about bringing joy to families, especially to new families or first-time parents. Because of being in the private childcare industry for so long and having families have babies while I was there, I saw that they really needed something more than what they were getting and that’s kind of like what inspired me to start it, but the more that I got into it, the more that I’ve learned. There’s so much more than just feeding a baby and putting the baby back to sleep when you do overnights. And I tend to bring more of a well-rounded full spectrum, holistic kind of side to what I do for families.

So we don’t just feed the babies and put them back to bed. We troubleshoot what’s going on. We learn what the baby is telling us. The baby talks to us more so than people realize. It could be through their physical actions. It could be through their vocal actions you know, or somewhere or other.

They definitely talk to us and we need to learn what they’re telling us too, because it makes it so much easier for the families to know what their baby’s needs are. For instance, like I just had a client the other night, we talked about how she thought that the baby was needing to feed a little bit earlier than before and the more that we troubleshooted, the more we talked about it, the more. I said, well, I’m not so sure the baby was actually hungry. I think the baby was uncomfortable and in pain and we’ve got some digestive stuff kind of going on. And so those are the things that we kind of talk with her about. And the more that we talked about it, the more that she was like, oh my goodness yeah I do see that the baby’s got cradle cap. She’s starting to spit up more these things too. So we troublehooted it and since she started to take out some foods, things have been so much better for the baby. So again, that’s kind of like what I want to bring to the parents. Like I said, joy and education and in a calm, happy family.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, you have a similar philosophy to me because that’s partly why I started First Time Mum’s Chat for that reason because of my childcare background, and also because of my baby massage background it sort of went well together. So yeah, I totally get that because I know a lot of moms don’t quite know what’s going on and having somebody like you is great because it helps them to guide them through without necessarily having to seek medical advice. I think that’s really important, but having somebody else there, who they can talk to other than their partner is I think it’s really good.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Oh, absolutely. I totally agree with you. And there’s obviously a phenomenal place for medical care, but as I was explaining to this client and I do to other clients because of what I was seeing and It probably would have been the doctor would have just said the baby’s fine because there’s no, no serious medical issues that were happening.

So I told her it was more like a holistic functional medicine kind of practice or, or a doctor would find something like that more so than like a medical medical doctor. So I try to bring in both sides of this is what you really want to go to medical for. This is what you want to kind of troubleshoot with other things like what she’s eating, you know, let’s bring in an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or maybe a therapist or let’s get more tummy time or something like that, kind of going on with them.

Helen Thompson: So what is the actual difference from a doula to a midwife? I mean, I know they’re both similar, but yet one’s medically trained and one isn’t. Is that correct?

Erin Carroll-Manning: Correct, well, so, so a midwife is as medical and they help deliver the baby. Whereas we here in the U S have a birth doula and a postpartum doula. So the birth doula works kind of hand in hand supporting and advocating for the birth parents and the non-birth parent while they’re in labor and delivery while the midwife is the medical, they really do the medical stuff. So like the birth doula does the emotional, physical you know, mental kind of support for the family. Sometimes some of them will do we’ll do a sibling care while they’re there. Some of them will do, will help them move physically to be able to move to a different position when they’re in labor.

That’s what a birth doula does. And then also we have postpartum doulas who are, again, they are the emotional, physical, and mental support to the family, mainly to, to the birthing parent or the mother. What we kind of say is the mother, the mother. But they also manage the household.

They do like the laundry and they make some healthy meals and make sure the birthing parents have been hydrated and eating well. They give basic tips. They talk sometimes about breastfeeding and those kinds of things too. And then we also have an R and R so that’s kind of like the difference of the word doula compared to midwife, but then in our country too, we also have a and I’m in the U S for your, for your listeners. We have what is called a newborn care specialist, which is basically all about the newborn. So we bring that kind of level of care that is the physical and the mental support to, to the baby and educating the parents on the baby.

Like I was telling you about earlier, but also a lot of times you bring in sleep, we bring in, what is, if parents want to go to formula, what is the best formula? Is that right? Safe, sleep, all these different things that we, we bring into play with the families as well. So those are kind of like what we have for our private family and baby care for, for pregnancy and labor and delivery and postpartum.

Helen Thompson: I guess the doula needs to have some kind of training too. I know a midwife has a lot of training. Is that right?

Erin Carroll-Manning: Absolutely yeah. So there’s trainings for both birth doula and postpartum doulas. Absolutely. And then there’s ongoing trainings and you have to get just because you take your training, doesn’t mean that you’re certified. You have to follow up and do read all these things and take some classes, more classes and stuff like that, to be able to be certified.

And each certification or association has their own protocols of what they want people to follow. So although it’s all the same kind of information, they have things that tailor to their association.

Helen Thompson: That’s what I thought, because when I met you and I started talking to you about the doula, I had no idea what it was and then I did my own research and I realized that people are actually asking for doulas now in Australia.

Erin Carroll-Manning: It’s really great. It’s something where like, as you know, you’re a massage therapist. I have a massage instructor under my belt. Being a doula here can really help with that. Especially when we come in for day support, teaching the families on how to do it for themselves because as you know, it’s really great with bonding. It’s really great for, for calming and soothing, especially around the digestive system. There’s so many wonderful benefits for, for the baby with it.

So as a doula, that’s one of the things that we can come in if we have that training as well and teach the families that too for ongoing for when we’re not there.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. That’s good. Because I know that a lot of moms need that extra support that they don’t have and knowing that they’ve got that support, I think is it’s really good.

So, I don’t know if you’re qualified to talk about it, but you know, when babies are breastfeeding and they have issues with latching onto the mom’s breast, do you have any tips or advice on that because I know a lot of first-time moms have that problem and they find latching really hard.

Erin Carroll-Manning: So I’m a firm believer in always having an IBCLC come in within the first days of, of delivery. Regardless if you feel like there’s issues or not.

It’s best to get baseline it’s best to get an expert in there to be able to give you tips, be able to give you other alternatives for holding for all sorts of different things, different ways to latch the baby. They also will. Our IBCLCs here also do an oral assessment to see if, how the, how the suck is if there’s any restrictions and that kind of stuff too regardless.

And they also Like your medical background of how you delivered, because that really plays a part in when your milk is going to come in. If you’re in gorge, which can be really hard to latch and all sorts of different things too. So I really highly recommend my clients always having one come in with them the first couple of days.

Now, if they don’t have one in there. Yes, I do have some background. Not only just in some training. Not a ton, but I have that. And my experience and also being in learning from other IBCLCs, that latching is obviously the hardest thing, there’s many reasons why it’s really hard for babies to latch. It could be that they can’t smell the milk or taste the milk at, at that point yet.

So they’re like trying to figure out if they’re even in the right spot. And a lot of times I’ve been able to put a little syringe if they’ve pumped, or if there is a little bit of formula a little bit of a syringe on the nipple and sometimes that really helps them latch really fast. There’s also other reasons, like I said, there could be some restrictions that are going on in what we call we have tongue ties and lip ties here, which really keeps the tongue down at the bottom of the mouth. It doesn’t allow it to properly move kind of like a snake or a wave the way it’s supposed to be able to suck that nipple in to the back of the throat to be able to get a good, solid latch. And same if they have a lip tie too, a lip tie is like a little pendulum. It’s like a little thick white thing. That’s like string that holds your lip to your gums.

Yeah. So that’s the same thing with for tongue ties, but it’s one under the tongue. It’s a pendulum it’s really a kind of a thick, rubber band kind of thing, or a band that keeps the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. So even with latching and if you have a lip tie, the lip, doesn’t flange out the way it’s supposed to, to be able to grab the grab the whole entire breast.

So, yeah, so that could make it really hard to latch too, there’s all sorts of different things that goes on. Like I’ve had a client recently where there’s a tongue tie and the baby was actually using their cheeks to suck. Yeah. Not even their jaw, their jaw wasn’t really moving because the tongue tie was so restricted of the jaw and the neck muscles and stuff.

And so for him to get the latch, which, and this was even with a bottle, which is a lot easier too. He was using his cheek muscles. So he got tired really fast. Yeah. You know, I mean, strong cheek muscles don’t get me wrong, but you want the jaw to be able to do it because then they’re not in pain, they’re able to feed more efficient. They can breastfeed better all that kind of stuff too.

Helen Thompson: They’re probably not getting enough milk, doing it that way as well.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Exactly, exactly because they’re not able to suck properly to be able to do what they are, are functionally supposed or optimally functionally supposed to do.

So there’s a lot of things when it comes to latch that people may not actually think about too. So that’s why I feel it’s best to always have an IBCLC come in and, and not just once, but like a couple of times, I know at least here, a lot of our insurances are starting to pay for it more and more.

It’s a really wonderful tool and another, another support system and this is what a doula can do and this is what a newborn care specialist can do. They can suggest to bring these people in to be able to give them more support.

So I have a list of resources for my clients around all of this different stuff, to be able to help them , depending on what we see that the baby needs and what the parents choose to do.

Helen Thompson: Is it IBCLC that you said?

Erin Carroll-Manning: Yep, it’s IBCLC, which is international board certified lactation counselor.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. Okay.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Some of them work in hospitals too, so that, you know, your lactation consultants or counselors might be in the hospital, but a lot of ours work privately too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you have ones that work privately.

Helen Thompson: No, I think it was my second or third podcast I spoke to a midwife and she said that she was a lactation consultant as well. So yes, I think we do have them.

Erin Carroll-Manning: It’s just another tool under your belt to know that it’s there to be able to help you with your, with, with the journey that you want to go to.

I mean, I’ve had clients who just want to go straight to formula and that’s their choice. And that’s fine, we have all that information for that too, but it’s also great to have an IBCLC on hand for the parent’s breastfeeding journey so that they don’t get frustrated right away, because this is, as we know, it’s very emotional and mental and physical to breastfeed, and a lot of women because they’re exhausted and their body has just given birth and grown a baby for nine months is depleted of so much stuff that it’s really hard for them to be able to push through sometimes over those humps that can happen with breastfeeding.

Helen Thompson: Yes they really want to breastfeed and they get very emotional because they can’t and they get very upset. So having, having those tips, I think is very good because I know you can also use nipple shields, can’t you?

Erin Carroll-Manning: You can use nipples shield and they’re a great tool, however, what I have found, and I’ve not done any research on this, but in my personal experience over the last several years. If you’re coming home with a nipple shield, there’s a functional issue happening. And, and personally I’ve had some clients who have just wanted to use the nipple shield. And again, that’s their choice, but I like to get to the root cause what’s going on because if there’s a functional issue, we’re not, we’re not working at optimal functionality at this point and there’s other things that might be affected by it down the road.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and if you have that nipple shield, you may not pick that up. So…

Erin Carroll-Manning: Exactly, exactly. Like there’s like, there’s other things too, like that I happened like you know, babies with reflux or babies who are grunting, a lot of times they’ll be like, elevate their crib or their bassinet or something.

And I’m like, well, yeah, but that takes away the noise, but that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still happening and we want to get to the root cause of it. We don’t want to ruin their esophagus or their tummy, could there be a digestive issue? Like let’s kind of figure out what’s going on with that.

So there’s all these like little things that help people, but they mask actually the problem or they mask future issues that could happen down the road.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s the same with a lot of things with the digestion, and I can definitely relate to that .

And it’s, I think the main thing was breastfeeding is to encourage your mom as much as possible and not to what’s the word, not to degrade them, not to sort of say well you can’t breastfeed go onto formula because that’s the last thing that, that’s the last thing a mum would want, if they really want to breastfeed. It’s a matter of gently helping them and supporting them and encouraging them rather than telling them they’re doing it wrong. As your saying having that support where they can have somebody there to actually help them through the process. And if it really doesn’t work after a while, okay, go on to formula but I know a lot of moms want to breastfeed and they’re told that they can’t because their nipples not the right shape or not the right size.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Yeah, it’s really sad.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. I’ve, I’ve heard a lot of moms saying that and they’re quite capable of breastfeeding they just need that support behind them and that’s, I guess, where, where you come in or a doula comes in. So

Erin Carroll-Manning: Yeah, exactly. Just to even give, like sometimes just changing the position, like a little tweak can make a huge difference and you know, they don’t know that. And a lot of times you know, something, something as small as that, or something as small as, oh, just, just keep drinking a little bit more water can really, you know, change, change the amount of milk supply that they get into. Not that, not that it will happen with everyone.

But you know, I mean, these are just, again, the reasons why having an expert come in and support them and, and, and there is tons of support out there for women and new moms. You know, really dig deep and look for it because there’s a lot of stuff out there and they can find what works best for them too.

Helen Thompson: Mm. No, that I think, which I think is great. There’s a lot of stuff out there for moms they’ve just got to find it and why I started this podcast because I want to try and talk to people like you, who’ve got that information and we can pass it on to those moms, so they know where to look and Facebook is great, but there are times when actually talking to other parents on Facebook it’s great but I think there are times when you really need to talk to somebody like you who have got the knowledge and experience face-to-face, it’s really valuable.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Oh, I agree with you. I’m very much in person. I do support people virtually, but I am, let’s do in-person hands-on, especially when you’re coming with a baby or, you know, a mom that might have possibly, you know, the fine line of postpartum depression or something like that. It’s really, really helpful to have that in-person support, who is not emotionally attached to the, to the family or to the baby too, that can bring that outside expert support for them.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. I definitely agree with you there. So is there anything else that you want to mention on anything that we’ve discussed that I haven’t asked you? Is there anything that you particularly like to add?

Erin Carroll-Manning: No, I think I’ve, given enough information on what we’ve talked about too.

I, I just wanna, you know, reiterate to, to the new moms that are out there, there is a ton of support. You definitely, really have to look and, and yes ask your friends who are pregnant or who have given birth, especially if it’s their second one. Some information too, where can they find the help for them as well?

Cause usually the second time moms around, they have more information than obviously the first time moms. But also ask your OB (obstetrician/gynecologist), ask , if you have a midwife ask all sorts of places where you can find information and obviously Google, Google stuff, like, you know birth doula, postpartum doula, or newborn care specialist you know, or overnight support or you know, breastfeeding or lactation or again, you know, IBC, LC. Those are, those are really key words to be able to Google, to find the stuff that you might be looking for and as early as possible. So I’m sure you’ll have some listeners who were pregnant at this point, too, but as soon as soon as possible is better to be able to get that support team and everything under your belt and family is phenomenal to be able to come in to, but we also have to know their strengths and weaknesses and make sure because again, you know hiring expert help really, that is not emotionally attached, can really be a strong support system for the whole family.

Our insurance companies are starting to pick up more and more of the birth doula or postpartum doula support systems too. A lot of insurance companies will pay for a pump too for three months. So they’re, they’re starting to pick up more and more of this stuff to be able to support the families a lot more.

Our private companies are starting to give more maternity leave. They’re seeing it, not just for the, for the birthing parent, but also for, you know, the, the partner as well and it’s a whole family thing. I also am a firm believer, especially with the type of support that I give. We’re actually helping the entire family.

Not only that, but the companies, when they go back to work my clients when I’m with them, because of everything that I do, the babies are usually sleeping 8 to 12 hours by the time 12 to 16 weeks rolls around, which is typically when we go back to work. So you have a baby that’s sleeping that much 99% of the time, maybe 95% of the time and the parents are getting that much sleep. So they’re rested, they’re less stressed, they’re able to handle, you know, going to work and dealing with all this stuff as a parent more better just because they are rested and less stress and all that kind of stuff too.

So I like to say that what we do is really helping our society as a whole, not just the unit the family unit.

Helen Thompson: I’ve been reading a lot recently and talking to a lot of moms recently about co-sleeping and a lot of them are saying when my baby was really small, we co-slept, they slept in the bed and they’re trying to now get the baby to sleep in a cot and they’re finding it really, really hard to do. Have you got any sort of tips on that, because you mentioned sleeping, so I thought I’d, I thought I’d quickly add that one in before we finished.

Erin Carroll-Manning: So swaddle very tightly, like, especially up here in their arms, have a sound machine that is on what you would think like this loud is like a vacuum for them and how.

Yeah, white noise. Yup. And dark, dark, literally you think about being in the womb for nine months, it’s pitch dark and there there’s no light. So the room being like that for when they’re sleeping and so that’s at night and during their naps and that’s going to really help be able to get them on their back and sleeping, sleeping soundly.

A pacifier really helps too, but also these are things that we troubleshoot a lot of times. I see if babies for more of a consistent period, aren’t being able to sleep on their back, there’s some sort of digestion issue going on, or they need to burp or something happening and those again are things that we troubleshoot to be able to help them sleep better.

Helen Thompson: I read something on Facebook a couple of days ago, about a mom and I thought it was a great idea. She had a scarf or something that she went to sleep with and it smelt like mum and so when the baby was getting to sleep, when they transitioned from the bed to the cot, that’s what she gave him and she said the baby slept really well because they have that sense of mum being next to them, although mum wasn’t next to them because they had that scarf .

You know, a comforter that smelt like mom, they said it was brilliant.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Yeah, that is definitely something that has been known to happen. However, here in the U S we keep safe sleep guidelines, it’s nothing in the crib. So like, Yeah, that’s not something, but I have been known and some other people I know too, is that sleep with the crib fitted sheet before you put it on. So the baby gets that smell too. So there’s nothing in the crib. So that can help as well. Some other people say, oh, put a heating pad on it beforehand to get it a little bit warm. I’m a little nervous about that because you don’t know how hot it can get. To my touch it might be different than what it is to the baby’s touch. You know, something like that too, but honestly I don’t ever see an issue really, unless there is some sort of underlying deeper issue going on digestive wise or something else. Babies don’t have a big problem sleeping on their backs in general.

Helen Thompson: That gives me some wonderful tips, thank you so much for that. And just before you go, what would be your tip that you’d give to a first-time mom who was struggling with latching or breastfeeding? What would be your top tip for a first time mom who was struggling with that?

Erin Carroll-Manning: Research, an IBCLC, just Google an IBCLC in your area and get somebody in with, with that ASAP really fast.

I would just Google and get a private one or find what we call like breastfeeding banks or or groups, or what have you find a group where you can go to be able to have one, an expert there who’s helping with like five or six other women, plus it will help you be able to, you know, talk about some of the stuff that’s going on, that, that maybe other people in your life can’t relate to.

Helen Thompson: Thank you very much, Erin. I’ve really enjoyed having this chat with you, it’s been great. And if somebody wanted to get in touch with you, how would they do that?

Erin Carroll-Manning: Yeah, so they can check out our website at or they can email me directly at, but they can check out our Instagram, which is Gentle Giraffes newborn care and our Facebook page, which is Gentle Giraffes, newborn care and family services for tips and other resources and stuff too, that we post on there.

Helen Thompson: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Erin, it’s been a pleasure having you and I learned a lot from you too. So thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.

Erin Carroll-Manning: Yes. Thank you so much, Helen. Me too.

I really enjoyed talking with Erin, who shared some great information about the whole world of postpartum doulas. It seems to me that doulas are a must, to help often over stressed mums with the beginnings of their journey into parenthood.

I’ve included a link in the show notes to Erin’s Gentle Giraffes website as well as links to her Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube channel.

These can be accessed at