When I had my son a few years ago, I knew a little about what labor doulas do, but I hadn’t heard of a postpartum doula until I met Allison Hicks.
Like most new moms, I went to my postpartum doctor appointments (and my doctors were great and supportive), but I didn’t know that I could get one-on-one in-home support that went beyond lactation consulting. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Allison Hicks and learn more about her life as a postpartum doula and pediatric sleep consultant.
In all honesty, my husband and my parents were wonderfully supportive during the first difficult months of motherhood. However, not everyone has that support, whether they are a single parent or live far away from family. Furthermore, some moms require more assistance after labor and delivery, especially after a traumatic birth or a c-section. Being a parent is hard – and being a new parent is especially challenging. Allison’s goal is to make the transition from the hospital to the home and beyond easier for everyone.
Allison’s work centers around rest. She’s a firm believer that, “Good rest creates good rest.”
Her work as a sleep consultant came about because of her postpartum work with clients. As a postpartum doula with over 20 years of experience, certified training, and education, Allison is exactly who you need when you have just had a baby. She cares for the physical and emotional well-being of her clients in what she calls the “4th trimester” – this includes helping baby get to sleep and doing all sorts of household tasks so that mom can rest, too.
According to Allison, lowering cortisol levels for everyone in the family is key to a happy and well-rested home. Cortisol is a hormone that our body produces naturally when we are stressed, and we all know how stressful being a parent can be, particularly during your child’s infancy. I remember the first few months with my son seemed to pass so slowly; I was away from work and he was my one and only priority, so everything in my life was built around his needs. I remember feeling shocked that the rest of my life didn’t slow down one bit. Entire days passed and my husband would come home to find me in the same place he had left me: on the couch, unshowered, hair disheveled, surrounded by dirty burp cloths and empty food packages. I’m sure there were dirty dishes and laundry to be done, but those tasks honestly never entered my mind.
My entire life in those first months revolved around my son’s needs, but I was hurting, too. Recovering from labor is no joke.
Allison believes that “Birth needs more respect and healing time,” and that’s exactly what she can provide if you welcome her into your home. She can help you do the things that have to be done, the things you have no energy to do. Her postpartum work could include helping with meal prep, doing a load of laundry, walking the dog, getting the older kids off the bus, and most importantly, holding the baby so that you can get what you need: a break, a meal, a nap, or a shower.
Allison’s work starts with an intake questionnaire which she administers. She asks in-depth questions to learn about your family life, your personal preferences, and your needs going forward. It’s important to note here that Allison can help with things that go beyond the “4th trimester,” as well. If you have a toddler who’s struggling with potty training or bedtime routines, or a little one who is having trouble giving up their pacifier, she offers a wealth of information and research to help your entire family through those tough times. She wants to help parents pinpoint what they need, even if it’s something you are embarrassed to ask for. For example, maybe your toddler enjoys more screen time than you’d like to admit, and you’re not sure how to break the habit.
Allison can help. She does in-home visits, as well as consultations via FaceTime. She even offers free 15 minute consultations, and while she is located in Burlington, Vermont, she can counsel clients remotely worldwide.
When Allison and I met, she told me all about the process of making changes in her clients’ families. She believes wholeheartedly that any unhelpful practice we rely on can be fixed. There are things that we do as parents (and as people), compromises that we make, to get us to the next phase. Allison looks at those compromises, considers our goals, and designs a plan of action. In addition to having a wealth of knowledge about American-style parenting, she is also well-versed in parenting techniques from many other countries, including Australia and Denmark, where she is from. In Denmark, she has experienced family births, postpartum recovery and support, and parenting in the Danish style, which is realistic and very pragmatic. Coupled with her background in biology, childhood development, women’s health advocacy, and the science of sleep, Allison is well-equipped to offer parenting advice.
Many parents come to Allison in desperate need of rest – rest for their little ones and rest for themselves.
Part of her sleep consulting involves learning about the family’s daily routine and understanding the natural cues that babies and toddlers give. A big part of her work, though, lies in training parents to manage some of the stress of parenting. This involves teaching them about what to expect from their little ones, as well as giving advice on making communication stronger within their marriage or family support system.
Regardless of the topic of conversation, it’s clear to me that Allison’s advice comes from a place of caring.
Her overarching goal is to help clients achieve “hygge,” a Danish concept that involves feelings of overall wellness and contentment with one’s life. Her goal is to help families feel joyous moments, and the connections, intimacy, and contentment that come along with those moments.
As parents, we are constantly bombarded with parenting advice from all sides – online, in print, on social media, and from friends and family members who have, “Been there, done that.” There are many books on the market that offer sleep solutions for new parents and their babies, and lots of people swear by the advice in those books. Reading about different parenting perspectives is a great way to learn about one’s own parenting preferences, but the one thing missing in a book is the personal touch. The personal touch is what sets Allison’s work apart from the sleep formula books and the parenting articles we read at 3am when we’re up nursing the baby and exhausted. I’ve read articles and books about sleep schedules before, but none of the authors know me or my family and our needs and routines. Since sitting down and chatting with Allison about my son and the recent events in our family life, my husband and I have made some changes to our son’s bedtime routine and the whole family has been sleeping better (and longer).
Allison understands the struggles that parents face, especially new moms, and works to compassionately support parents in reaching their family and relationship goals.
She has seen women and parents at their most vulnerable – overwhelmed by the tasks of parenting while keeping a household and personal relationships together. She offers solutions that support slow, gentle change; it’s not a quick fix solution, but more like training on a new way of life for parents.
After sitting with Allison for just a short time, I can tell that she knows her stuff. She’s down-to-earth, realistic, non-judgmental, and truly wants to help families find rest and happiness. When it comes to the 4th trimester, Allison wants moms to, “Take all the help they can get.” The whole, “It takes a village” idea is no joke. We need help when we are new parents: help taking care of our little ones and help taking care of ourselves. Parenting is hard work, and Allison can provide you with the tools and strategies for navigating this new world.