Postpartum Doula Discovers the Magic of The HUG!

Heather Smith is a Postpartum Doula in Cary North Carolina. She describes her introduction to, and experiences with, becoming a Certified HUG Teacher.

I first heard about HUG Your Baby from Marcia Thuermer, who also instructed the DONA Postpartum Doula workshop I attended.  Marcia spoke very highly of Jan Tedder and the HUG Your Baby approach to teaching new parents about their new bundle (or bundles!) of joy.  After hearing testimonies from parents who used the HUG, I had to get in on this!

My first experience sharing the HUG was with a close friend (also a first time mother of a 2 week old preemie).  "Mason" was born at 37 weeks (mom was induced and received an epidural and IV pain medication).  When Mason was born, his latch was not sufficient enough for successful breastfeeding, but Susie and her husband had taken several breastfeeding classes before Mason was born and were adamant he would be a success story.  Mason had to stay in the NICU for a few days for monitoring so Susie was not able to practice breastfeeding with him as much as she would have liked to.  But Susie pumped and saved all of her precious liquid gold for that little fellow for when she was not able to breastfeed.  

When Mason was discharged, his latch had improved and Susie's milk had come in.  They were ready for "normalcy..."
When I arrived to meet Mason for the first time, he was crying.  Susie was already so exhausted from the labor/delivery and visiting Mason in the NICU; she was almost at her wit's end.  She cried too, saying that the absolutely wonderful nurses and lactation consultants had provided so much support and education in the area of breastfeeding that she forgot to ask about anything else...like what to do when he won't stop crying!  

I gave her a big hug, then I gave her another kind of hug...  I told Susie about what "normal" crying was like for newborns around 1 week old (Mason had now reached his due date and his adjusted age was 1 week old) and that typically babies cry for 2-2.5 hours the first two weeks.  I suggested that Susie (and her husband Phil) try to keep track of how long Mason cried for over the course of the next 24 hour period, and when he cried.  They were certain he was crying over 6 hours a day for no clear reason at all.  When I came back two days later, we were all amazed.  Mason had only cried for a total of 2 hours throughout a 24 hour period...Susie couldn't believe what the chart said!  Susie and Phil also made notes of when Mason cried.  It seemed that Mason cried when Phil tried to "play" or interact with him.  Of course, Phil was worried that Mason didn't like him.  And Susie was also starting to doubt her idea of the breastfeeding success story as she was having a really hard time waking him up to breastfeed.  

I was excited to tell them there were answers to their concerns, that being HUG Your Baby.  I explained to them about the three zones (resting, ready and rebooting) and demonstrated what they looked like.  Luckily enough, Mason was able to help demonstrate the rebooting zone for us!  While Mason was in the rebooting zone I asked Susie to quietly speak to him in her loving motherly voice.  Mason was still upset.  I told Susie that sometimes babies need a little more help and showed her what she needed to "do."  I held little Mason's arms to his chest and he started to settle.  The sighs of relief were evident across the room.  Mason's movements started to become more controlled as well as his breathing.  Phil then spoke to Mason in a calm soft voice...and Mason looked at him!  Phil said that was the first time Mason ever did that!  Susie and Phil were overjoyed and were instant believers in the HUG.  As I could tell both parents were enthralled with what they were able to do for Mason, I stepped out. 

My next visit was a few days later and I remembered Susie was having a little bit of a hard time with breastfeeding as Mason was a "sleepy" baby.  I arrived when Mason had been asleep for about 20 minutes (his last feeding was about 2 hours before).  Susie was pretty set in her feeding schedule of every 2 hours and wanted to wake Mason up to breastfeed.  Before she attempted to wake this sweet sleeping baby, I quickly went over the active/light and still/deep sleep cycles.  Mason was very still and quiet; I told Susie he was in the deep sleep cycle and babies are very hard to wake during this time.  I also told her that typically babies will transition to the active sleep cycle 30-60 minutes after falling asleep (newborn babies fall asleep and enter the deep sleep cycle first).  We waited a few more minutes and watched as Mason started to stir and make a few grunts.  She then picked him, gently unswaddled him and got him in her favorite breastfeeding position.  She couldn't believe it, he was cooperating and breastfeeding well!  Susie realized she had been trying to wake him up to breastfeed when he was still in deep sleep. 

My next visit I plan to go over what do to when Mason appears to be "waking up" after a short nap and it is not time to eat.