Certified HUG Teacher Discovers the Magic of Sharing a Baby's Behavior

Elizabeth Allen is a doula, childbirth and lactation educator in Olathe, Kansas. Though an experienced birth and early parenting professional for years, HUG Your Baby training offered her new skills and techniques to educate and support the parents she serves.

As part of my CAPPA Teen Childbirth Educator training, I took part 1 of the HUG curriculum and immediately realized I wanted to become a Certified HIG Your Baby Teacher.  I hoped that by adding the HUG approach to my private classes and meetings with my doula clients, I would help better prepare expecting parents for their exciting, but somewhat nerve-wracking, journey into parenthood.  

 Out of the over seven years of being a professional doula, Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Breastfeeding Educator, I have witnessed countless women abandon their breastfeeding goals due to their lack of knowledge regarding their newborn's behavior and development, as well as the erroneous notion that they have an inadequate milk supply. Throughout the years, I have found myself becoming frustrated with my personal lack of knowledge in newborn behavior and development, particularly as it relates to the areas of calming a fussy baby, encouraging healthy sleep habits, and achieving personal breastfeeding goals. For years I would work with women to encourage and uplift them, but I felt as if I was lacking education, until I found HUG Your Baby.

 Recently I had the privilege of working with a lovely family as their Birth Doula. During a postpartum follow-up visit we discussed her frustration with her baby’s inability to sleep on her back and in her bassinet. After asking the mother a few questions and listening to her elaborate on the situation, I began to explain her baby’s different states and zones. I explained that if she would put her baby down in the bassinet while her baby was in the light sleep state, she would teach her baby to transition from light to deep sleep on her own, which is a fundamental part of healthy sleep habits. My client informed me that she was unaware of the positive affect this could have on her baby and was eager to learn more.

 I continued to explain that correctly swaddling her baby would help to lessen her baby’s startle reflex and help to provide security, which would, in turn, encourage baby to fall asleep on her own and stay asleep more easily. We then reviewed how to swaddle her baby safely so as not to cause negative side effects such as overheating or hip dysplasia. I also explained that by checking her baby’s stomach or back, she would have a better idea of her baby’s body temperature than she would get from checking her forehead or hands, which could actually feel chilly even if her baby was too warm.  

 After discussing her baby's zones I explained the different states a baby experiences and what they may look like in her baby.  I then talked about SOS's and what to do to calm her baby during an SOS, delay an SOS, or completely stop the SOS before it happens.  My client explained that her baby almost always sends out an SOS by becoming very fussy, arching her back, and turning her head away from the stimuli. She mentioned this usually occurs when her baby is signaling her need to eat. I recommended monitoring her baby during breastfeeding to note any pauses in baby’s nursing, which would indicate swallowing and to make sure her baby has a good latch and nurses well before putting her to bed. We reviewed the components of a good latch as well as how to use breast compression to encourage baby to eat better, especially when sleepy at the breast.

 The last thing we discussed was the importance of recognizing that her baby is a highly intelligent human being with legitimate physical and emotional needs. I demonstrated how to speak to her baby in a singsong voice and then asked her to try holding and talking to her baby the way I had during my demonstration. When my client held her baby and gently spoke to her I broadcasted how amazing it was that her newborn was examining her mother’s face and attempting to mimic her mother’s facial expressions. I also mentioned how wonderful it was that her baby reached out to her mother’s face and made a little coo to communicate her love to her mother. My client then made a vital connection, which was when her husband is home from work, her baby strives to turn her head and body to follow her father’s voice and figure, as he moves about the house. She told me her husband loves to hold their baby, but sometimes feels less important than she since he is not able to provide nourishment through breastfeeding. I explained and demonstrated that he can play with their baby by shaking a rattle in front of baby’s face and waiting to see if baby will follow the rattle and his voice.

 One week later I followed up with my client and learned that her baby was sleeping better and nursing more efficiently, and that she and her husband were both getting more sleep. I also learned that her husband had been playing with their baby more regularly too. The HUG Your Baby approach worked wonders for them and has opened my eyes to the truly miraculous life of the newborn. I am thrilled I have the privilege to share this information with new and expecting families and I am excited to utilize this new knowledge to help facilitate a deeper bond between mother, partner, and child. Thank you for such a wonderful program!