So What's In The Bag...?

During consultations about doula services, some common questions include things like:

  • What do you actually *do* at the birth?...
  • When do we call you?...
  • What is your relationship like with the hospital staff?...

Those are all good questions, and we’ll answer them in a separate blog post.  But another common one is “What do you bring with you?” Although there are a couple of things that will be unique to each doula, our team prides itself on having a variety of tools in our toolbox – I mean, doula bag – for conquering labor and birth!


Have you experienced or heard of “back labor”? If you have had it, you know how terrible it can be. Back labor is caused when the baby is in a posterior position and their head is putting pressure on the tailbone. Unlike contractions, the discomfort of back labor doesn’t come and go. It’s constant. And in some cases can be excruciating. This is where a TENS Unit comes into play….A TENS Unit is a small electronic device that runs off a single 9-volt battery with 4 wires that attach to leads that are placed on the lower back, in a square around the area of discomfort. Small electronic pulses are sent through the device and in essence, they “disrupt” the pain signals going up the spine to the brain. While it doesn’t take away all of the discomfort, it can make it manageable enough that your doula can work with you to get into positions that may encourage the baby into a better position within the pelvis and alleviate the issue altogether. The intensity of the current is controlled by the laboring woman, so you can turn it up or down to your liking. All of our doulas are trained in the use of TENS and we carry them with us to all births. As part of our paperwork process, we ask that you obtain consent from your physician or midwife for the use of the TENS, as there are some contraindications to its use.


Smell has a powerful impact to incite a physical and emotional response. Typical fragrances like lavender can be soothing and relaxing, while others like sweet orange and lemongrass can be energizing. Scents help set the stage for the environment and mood you are looking to achieve. Most of our doulas carry a minimum of 5-6 different scents that can be used in a variety of ways including being massaged into pressure points or diffused into the room.


A what? Robozo refers to a type of cloth as well as the technique they are used for. Essentially, it’s a long scarf that can be used to reduce the pressure the baby is causing in a certain area, encourage a better position from baby, alleviate hip and lower back pain, hold the weight of the laboring woman, for counter force during pushing, and many other options. While any cloth can work with these techniques, a slightly stretchy yet sturdy material tends to work best.

The Birth Vision

The Birth Vision, or Birth Plan are all of the preferences the family has identified as important to them during labor, the birth and postpartum period. We always bring record of those plans as well as your basic health history and any notes we’ve taken during our prenatal visits together. We can share them with the birth team if necessary, but most often, we refer to them on the way to the birth and a couple of times during the birth to ensure that everything is on track.


Similar to the olfactory benefits of scents, music or sounds can also help create an auditory environment that supports your vision for your labor. While we encourage all families to prepare some music that they prefer, we also have subscriptions to music services so we can put on some tunes to affect the mood. Sometimes it’s soothing nature sounds to help you relax, sometimes it’s 80’s cardio jams to energize the room and keep your spirits up. It’s not uncommon for a mom to completely escape into the music which improves relaxation, connection to baby, reduces muscle tension and mentally prepares her for the birth. About 5 years ago, I was with a mother who was slightly apprehensive about the pushing phase, causing her to lose focus on her labor. We put on some music that really speaks to her that let her focus her energy and settle her mind. Literally within minutes, she was holding her baby with tears of joy streaming down her face.

Tennis Ball

A tennis ball or stress ball is a very simple tool that we use in labor. You can squeeze it, roll it on mom’s back, have her roll her feet across it, bounce it to relieve nervous energy…They are such a simple device that can have a soothing or distracting effect. You’ll never catch me without several different stress balls in my bag!

Mints and Gum

If mom’s feeling nauseous or has had an upset stomach, sometimes a mint can help calm her stomach. Likewise, gum can be a pleasant distraction and way to relieve nervous energy.

Hand Sanitizer

This one's pretty self explanatory.

Absorbent Pads

We tuck a couple of these in our bags in case mom’s water has broken before we all leave for the hospital or to place in the car on the way to the hospital to avoid messy clean ups later.


Labors can be long – sustenance is key! Simple, easy to eat snacks like almonds, dried fruit, fresh fruit and crackers can usually be found in my bag. I always have extras in case the other individuals supporting mom need some. In a case where the laboring woman is refraining from eating out of choice or by request of her medical providers, I will take a small break to use the restroom and have a quick snack so I can continue to support mom at 100%.

Extra Clothes

Births can be messy. I learned my lesson several years back when I was sitting on a bed, comforting a laboring woman when her water broke. I was grateful to have had a spare pair of pants in my car….now I have a full change of clothes in my bag!

Personal Items

We like to keep a little pack of personal items in our bags so we can stay fresh and focused during a labor. Some of my favorites include Whisps toothbrushes (small disposable toothbrushes pre-filled with toothpaste), hair ties, a comb/brush, deodorant, contact solution and backup glasses, tissues.

Reference Cards

Most times, births go pretty "text book", but sometimes there's a unique scenario that we may not encounter as often. For these situations, we often have some note cards, books or other reference materials that may give us some less-often used techniques to employ during your labor. They can also be a good tool when we seem to have tried *everything* and need some new ideas to help a stalled labor or a stubbornly malpositioned baby.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what you can expect from our birth bags. They are always evolving, though, as we frequently add new tricks and tools based on new techniques that we've learned or trade secrets our doula friends share with us! 

Nursing After Breast Surgery

Can you think of any celebs off the top of your head who have successfully breastfed after breast surgery? Angelina Jolie, Julie Bowen, and Kourtney Kardashian have all nursed their babies after breast surgeries. Many women who have had breast augmentation or reduction surgery aren't aware that they are still capable of breastfeeding if they would like to.

Experts say it has a lot to do with the condition of the breast tissue prior to surgery and the surgical techniques used. You can talk to your surgeon about preserving as much milk producing glands as possible, prior to surgery. If you had surgery in the past and didn't consider breastfeeding at that time, don't fret, you may still be able to nurse your baby.

Research shows you may have decreased milk supply with your first nursling, but better supply with subsequent babies. Luckily, there are many ways to help increase your supply in those early days. Any breast milk your baby receives is tremendously beneficial.

If you are determined to breastfeed after breast surgery, talk to your doula, care provider and a lactation consultant prior to giving birth. They can help set you up for nursing success when your baby comes. Be knowledgeable and prepared. You can find more information about breastfeeding after breast surgeries at and

Ooops, I Missed Your Birth, My Bad!

     Hiring a labor doula, while very beneficial, is a luxury not a necessity. You are paying for a service to enhance your birth experience and you expect a professional to provide this service. So what happens when your doula doesn't make it in time? Babies are unpredictable and can come without warning, so choosing a doula that is in close proximity to where you plan on birthing is vital to ensuring you receive the support you expect. Even in cases where baby is born rapidly and mom may have not needed hours of labor support a birth doula will be there to help ease the anxiety of a fast labor.  Birth doulas will come to you ASAP at whatever location baby was delivered, either it be at your desired location or a different location like your home,  another hospital or someplace even more unexpected.  They will keep you and your family informed and engaged with your medical staff during that time of confusion and fear.   

            The labor doulas of The Growing Place all live right here in the Lehigh Valley. It’s our goal to never have a doula farther than 15 minutes from any hospital in the Leigh Valley. Labor can go from 0 to “WOW this is intense where is my doula?” in a matter of minutes.  Your doula team stays in constant contact with you as you labor and when you decide you are ready for hands on support, we can be there quickly.

            Many doulas may travel up to 2 hours to support a mom in labor, but not The Growing Place. When you call, we are prepared and ready to support you, regardless of where you are in the Lehigh Valley. We match you with the labor doula team that will not only be able to connect with you professionally but who are close to your birthing facility, geographically. If your doula does not live within 30 minutes of your home or birthing facility, you may want to rethink hiring them, it could mean not being fully supported during your labor and birth.


Pregnancy Sucks (Sometimes) - and How to Make It Suck Less

Yup- you read that right. Pregnancy Sucks. Sometimes. Some lucky women sail through pregnancy and the only symptom is their growing belly. But for some women, it seems like a constant barrage of every single pregnancy symptom imaginable.  Although they are commonplace, some of these discomforts can be difficult to relieve, and believe it or not, the old wives tales for how to avoid them don't always work (shocker!), so we've put together a list of some natural remedies. If any of them persist, or if your intuition is telling you that there's something more going on, contact your care provider!

Morning Sickness:

  1. Magnesium oil in the bath or magnesium supplements orally
  2. A quality prenatal vitamin (such as this)
  3. Cod liver oil supplement
  4. Raw carrots instead of crackers-they help clear excess estrogen from the body
  5. Ginger tea or candies
  6. Gelatin that doesn't gel to add to smoothies or tea
  7. Avoid sugar and limit grains

Swollen limbs:

  1. Avoid salty foods
  2. Elevate your feet For 15-20 minutes several times a day
  3. Put your feet under cold running water for several minutes or soak
  4. Add a few spoonfuls of Coriander Seeds or Barley to boiling water and drink like tea
  5. Avoid alcohol, soda and coffee 

Heart Burn:

  1. Aloe Vera juice
  2. Papaya enzyme tablets
  3. Marshmallow root tea
  4. Modify your diet to avoid heartburn causing foods
  5. Slippery Elm lozenges

Difficulty Sleeping:

  1. Stop drinking liquids about 2-3 hrs before bed to minimize bathroom visits
  2. No electronics in the bedroom (cell phone, tablet, e-reader, etc). The blue light cast by these devices can disrupt sleep patterns. If you need a soft light, salt lamps work well and are beautiful to boot!
  3. Use a body or pregnancy pillow to get yourself comfortable
  4. Go to bed earlier - it seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes other pregnancy symptoms like restlessness, twitchy legs, insomnia happen in the earlier hours of the morning
  5. Practice relaxation techniques - progressive relaxation from head to toe, meditation, quiet music, guided meditation (ask us for recommendations if you're looking for ones specific to pregnancy and birth!)
  6. Massage, exercise and lotion your legs before getting into bed. We have a particular fondness for the Yoga Birth Method yoga flow because it's designed for women with growing bellies and is gentle and relaxing enough to do before bed.


9 Reasons to hire a Growing Place Doula

If you're considering the support of a doula for your pregnancy and birth, we've outlined some of the qualities that make us the perfect choice for families in the Lehigh Valley. If you'd like to schedule a no-pressure consultation to talk about your birth vision and how we can help you achieve it, please contact us! We look forward to serving your family.

1.      PROFESSIONALISM: You will always be greeted with the utmost level of professionalism in our dedicated office space that focuses solely on the health and wellness of women and families. We have spent years perfecting our practice to ensure that every family has a positive experience, and this includes everything from our welcome packet to automated appointment reminders and 24-hour a day on call services.

2.      TRAINING: All doulas at The Growing Place have been thoroughly trained through both national certifying organizations as well as our own rigorous internal training program.  We also partake in continuing education to make sure we are up to date on all relevant topics. Our doulas have special training to support families experiencing a pregnancy loss or stillbirth; twins, triplets and high-order multiples; cesarean birth or VBAC; high-risk pregnancy; out of hospital birth; premature birth; special-needs babies and special family circumstances.

3.      RESOURCES: Preparing for birth can feel like an arduous task of read this, study this, learn that. We’ve done the leg work for you. We have a private portal for clients with the latest evidence-based research on nearly all topics birth-related. Want to know the latest stats on Vitamin K shots, or why some people consider delayed cord clamping? We’ve got that covered. We also have a large assortment of books and videos in our lending library, which is available to all of our clients at no charge.

4.      RELATIONSHIPS: We have worked with nearly every obstetric and midwifery practice in the Lehigh Valley, and come highly recommended by hospitals, doctors, nurses and of course the families that have used our services. Because of our extensive professional network and the sheer hours we have spent in this line of work, we are prepared to help you decide on a birth location and care provider that most closely match your goals.

5.      OUR DUAL-CARE MODEL: Every family that we work with gets two doulas. Twice the knowledge, twice the training, twice the personal and professional experiences. It also means that we have been able to find appropriate work-life balance, which is difficult to do when you’re on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a solo practice. Because we don’t burn out, we have many years of experience, compared with many doulas nationally who leave the profession after 2-3 years.

6.      BACK UP, BACK UP and more BACK UP: Our extensive team of doulas means that God forbid your doula gets in a car accident or has the flu or is at another birth, there is always someone to be there with you. If it’s a temporary delay (such as finishing up at another birth), your doula will join you as soon as possible. If it’s something more severe like illness or a family emergency, your backup doula will remain with you throughout your labor, with access to all of your prenatal notes and birth plan to support you just as your planned doula would.

7.      EXTENSION OF CARE: We do a whole lot more than just doulaing birthing families. We have postpartum doulas who help families adjust to life with a new baby, or assist mothers who have had a difficult pregnancy and birth to recover while still caring for their baby. We have a Lactaction Consultant, a Placenta Specialist, a Childbirth Educator, Yoga Instructors and Belly Binding Experts. There’s also a whole-family chiropractor that shares our office and specializes in prenatal and infant care. Having everything under one roof means it’s familiar to you, and easy for us to coordinate your care plan among all of these professionals.

8.      FLEXIBILITY: We have 6 different pre-planned packages that meet the needs of most of our clients (including some specifically for planned cesareans!), but we also customize our packages to include exactly the services that meet your needs and fit your family budget.

9.      JUDGEMENT FREE APPROACH: Some people prefer epidurals. Some people want to hang in the tub. Some want to go to the hospital at the first sign of labor, and other prefer to stick it out at home for a while. We have no preconceived notions about what birth should look like, other than knowing it should look like what you want it to look like. We spend a good deal of time talking through your vision for your birth, and help you prepare for things you may not have considered. And when the big day comes, we are happy to guide you through any unexpected changes to the game plan.

Now that you've gotten to know about us, schedule a quick consultation with us so we can get to know you! 

No-Bake Lactation Bites

            If you know me, you know I can't cook much of anything. My baking isn't much better. So when I tried this recipe for the first time I was skeptical. Most people wouldn't have any issue just mixing ingredients together, but I'm not most people!

            These bites are so addicting and easy to make. 10 minutes is all you need. You can substitute honey or agave for the sugar and coconut oil for butter if you'd like a slightly healthier option, but nursing burns a lot of calories. This recipe makes about 48 bites.

            Don't be afraid to experiment by adding some other ingredients. In the picture here, you can see I've added some dark chocolate chips. You could throw in some dried fruit. If you're having big supply issues, you could break open a couple of capsules of fenugreek and mix that in. The sky is the limit with this one! 


·2 1/2 cups rolled oats (I use GF oats)

·1/2 cup crushed raw almonds (sliced almonds crushed in your hand work well)

·1/2 cup ground flax seed

·4-6 tablespoons brewer's yeast* (don't skip this: it's super great for milk supply and a mood booster!)

·1 teaspoon cinnamon

·1 cup sugar

·1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter/coconut oil

·1/2 cup of milk

·1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

·1/2 cup almond butter (peanut butter works as well)

·1 tablespoon vanilla extract


1. Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper

2. In a large bowl combine oats, almonds, flax, yeast, and cinnamon

3. In a sauce pan combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 2 minutes

4. Remove pan from heat and add almond butter and vanilla

5. Pour chocolate mixture into oat mixture and stir until well combined

6. Spoon your cookies onto the baking sheets and allow to cool

7. Store cookies in the fridge and snack at will. They also freeze great

Mix up a batch, share them with a nursing mama, and of course, show us your final results!

Did you hear who is encapsulating their placenta?

            Placenta encapsulating celebrity mommas are making headlines left and right these days. But what about us normal folks? Who of us is taking placenta capsules? You may be surprised at the “types” of mothers that are choosing placenta encapsulation for their postpartum wellbeing.

            The preconceptions about placenta encapsulation are that it is only for granola making, hippie earth mothers. And the person preparing the placenta must be just as crunchy and out there! Well I am here to debunk those myths. I am a dental hygienist turned doula and placenta specialist. I've always loved science and appreciate modern medicine. I also believe our bodies have the ability to heal themselves with very minimal intervention.

            If I have a head ache, I'm going to drink water and eat something before I go running for the ibuprofen. If you can correct small imbalances in your body by taking a capsule of your own powdered placenta instead of a prescription drug that may affect your new baby, would you?

            In my experience as a placenta specialist, I've served moms who do fit the above stereotype, however most of them don't fall into that category at all. Many are either trying to avoid an issue they've had in a previous postpartum period, such as low milk supply, iron deficiency or baby blues. Others are thinking long term and what something to help with PMS symptoms when their cycle returns or to help balance hormones when menopause hits. I’ve encapsulated for families that really run the gamut – marathon runners, lawyers, stay at home moms, nurses, teachers – there really isn’t one specific category that all of them fall in to!

         Whatever your reasons are for considering placenta encapsulation, just remember: there are plenty of moms just like you doing it and raving about the results!

         In the comments section, tell us what your number 1 reason is for considering encapsulation!

Only Lazy People Need a Postpartum Doula

          What’s so hard about having a newborn? It eats and sleeps and really isn’t that much work. Especially if this is your first- it’s not like you have anything else to do, and everything you need to know can be found in a book. HA! If only it were that simple!

          Many new moms have a big trepidation about asking for and accepting help after they bring their baby home. They don't want to seem lazy or needy, but letting their body heal and bonding with their baby are very important to building their confidence as a mother. Friends and family can be great, but that’s not an option for every family, and even if you are blessed to have helping hands all around you, it may not be what you need at the time you need it. That’s where a postpartum doula comes in.

            I had my children 2 ½ years apart. My daughter was old enough to get me a diaper for the baby if I asked her to, so I thought transitioning from 1 to 2 would be a breeze: oh boy I was wrong! It never failed that they would both want or need me at the same moment and I couldn't do two things at once. I felt terrible ignoring one to take care of the other. I was overwhelmed and I didn't know where to turn. When my husband was home in the evening, everything was smooth as silk, but that was only about 1/3 of my day!

            My mom had my brother and I 18 months apart and was a single mother soon after that: she had no sympathy for my complaints. I felt so judged when I talked to her about my daily struggles. That was when a friend told me about postpartum doulas. She had hired one after bringing her twins home and raved about the experience. I was hesitant at first, but decided to go ahead and hire a postpartum doula anyway.  There’s something to be said for non-biased, compassionate care that addresses a mom’s emotional, physical and psychological needs as she transitions into motherhood.

            I'm so glad I hired a postpartum doula for those first few tough weeks after we came home from the hospital. She was a great companion and helping hand. She listened when I needed to vent, and made suggestions about how to better the situation. I was able to shower alone with no one yelling or crying for my attention. She went with me to the grocery store, which was terrifying to do alone. I tell all my pregnant friends why they need a postpartum doula as well-it saved my sanity and made me a better mom!

What is a Postpartum Doula?

            Postpartum doulas assist families who are bringing home a new baby. They facilitate family bonding and adaptation through education, companionship and nonjudgmental support. They help with newborn care, meal preparation and light household tidying.

What affects family bonding and adaptation?

·         Parental fatigue

·         Previous experience with a newborn

·         Parental expectations of a newborn

·         Knowledge of and confidence in providing for newborn needs

·         Temperament of a newborn

·         Temperament of parents

·         Age of parents

·         Available support system

·         Unexpected events


Who would benefit from a postpartum doula?

·         Every mom bringing home a new baby, even in cases of adoption or surrogacy

·         Families looking for a smoother transition during the postpartum period

·         First time mothers who need additional support transitioning into motherhood

·         Families with multiples

·         Families with limited or no family and friend support

·         Families with older children for new sibling transition

·         Women recovering from cesarean, complicated birth or prolonged bed rest during pregnancy

          The nice thing about most postpartum doulas is their ability to tailor what they do to suit their client’s needs. For some people, it’s more hands on and tactical – positioning support for breastfeeding, assisting with bathing the baby, preparing meals for mom, helping siblings with the transition to big brother or big sister. For others, it’s more emotional support—reassuring mom that she’s tending to baby properly, allowing her to go through the hormonal rollercoaster after birth, answering questions about caring for herself with a newborn. When you meet with a postpartum doula, talk about our expectations for how she can best help you and have an open dialog about what types of support will be best for your family.

            The most important thing you can do after bringing home a new baby is bonding, recovering and enjoying, and the support of a postpartum doula is meant to allow you to do just that! It’s not lazy, it’s smart.


Did your dog lick my placenta?

Are you the type of person who is extra sweet to your waitress because you fear what will happen if you aren't?! Have you considered having your placenta encapsulated but you're hesitant to commit because you can't ensure the process is up to your standards? Then, my dear, you are in the right place!

Most encapsulation specialists have a dedicated work space within their own home for preparation, but not me. I don't ever bring another persons internal organs into my home. What if I turn my back and my dog chews on it or my husband thinks its dinner and digs in? NO WAY! I only prepare placentas in your home.

Let me tell you why:

  • You (or a family member) bring your placenta home from the hospital-- you have peace of mind that you won't be ingesting anyone else's placenta mistakenly!
  • You have the option to watch and ask questions during the process
  • Although my sanitation practices meet all food handlers safety guidelines, your body is used to the microorganisms living in your home. Therefore, it is less risk of contamination when the placenta is being prepared in your space. This ensures your safety!

My favorite part of preparing your placenta in your home is the interaction. Even the most uninterested, squeamish dads/family members inevitably end up in the kitchen with me at some point, asking questions and taking it all in! If this level on control appeals to you, then give us a call!

Welcoming Dr. Genevieve Mercier, D.C.

We are pleased to announce that beginning in September, The Growing Place will become home to Premier Chiropractic and Dr. Genevieve Mercier. We are thrilled at this addition to our family and are certain Genevieve's passion for serving women and children will benefit our community and the families we serve!

Dr. Genevieve Mercier graduated from Parker University in Dallas, Texas with her Doctorate of Chiropractic and BS in Health and Wellness. Premier Chiropractic sets itself apart by focusing on Neuro-Spinal Correction. She has a passion for prenatal care and pediatrics. Dr. Mercier is certified in Webster's Technique from the ICPA, has additional training in prenatal and pediatric care through the ICPA, and is a proud partner of the American Pregnancy Association. She is looking forward to opening her new practice in Emmaus on September 8th and to serve her new community.

To learn more about Dr. Mercier or to schedule an appointment, visit her website at!


A couple of weeks ago we welcomed our first class for Zumbini. What's that, you ask? It's an interactive class for infants and their parents that combines upbeat music, dancing and tactile play for the little ones. We welcomed 21 families on that first day with babes ranging from 6 weeks to 3 years old. Nikki - a local and respected Zumba instructor who recently expanded her portfolio to include Zumbini, the newest rage in mom-and-me classes - opens and closes each class with song that names each child. You should see some of their faces light up when she gets to them and they hear their own names! It was 45 minutes of non-stop fun that included everyone getting a turn with drums and maracas and colorful scarves. Check out some of the photos below. 

Interested in joining the fun? Check out our Events page for upcoming classes.

Click on the pictures to scroll through.