‘Full pandemic mama’ becomes full spectrum doula

Allysa Singer was, as she describes, a “full pandemic mama.” Singer became pregnant with her first child in the winter of 2019. As she became aware of the threats and the consequences of COVID-19, she started researching her options and her rights in the delivery room she’d find herself in August 2020.

What started as personal preparation– How many support people would she be allowed? Would she be allowed a support person at all? What restrictions would she encounter? How could she advocate for herself? What were her options?–  propelled her into a world of birth support and autonomy advocacy.

“I was just dumbfounded by the disparities that exist in maternal health,” Singer begins.

In 2020, Alabama, where Singer and her family live, had the third-highest Maternal Mortality Rate in the nation, at 36.4 per 100,000 live births.

BIPOC families suffer from massive disparities in maternal and infant deaths. In a recent piece, Childbirth Is Deadlier for Black Families Even When They’re Rich, Expansive Study Finds, Tiffany L. Green, an economist focused on public health and obstetrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is quoted: “It’s not race, it’s racism…The data are quite clear that this isn’t about biology. This is about the environments where we live, where we work, where we play, where we sleep.”

Still, unlike so many of her peers, Singer reports having had an amazing birth experience.

Inundated by birth horror stories, she decided to change care at 27 weeks in hopes that she would be better supported in her choices at a different institution.

Here, she was allowed a doula and support person to accompany her during her birth.

“Not a lot of women had that luxury,” Singer comments.

Knowing well that birth support is a right and not a luxury, she started her own doula practice in December 2021. 

Singer shares that she experienced severe postpartum depression, but she was able to divert and ultimately reshape this energy into her doula work.

“My doula training was the lifeboat that saved me from drowning in my PPD,” she says.

And now her practice, Faith to Fruition, has become the lifeboat for many of the birthing people Singer supports.

She shares: “I don’t believe that a birther’s desire to have more children should be dictated by their birthing experience. I have heard so many stories from people who had one kid but say, ‘I would never do this again because my experience was so traumatic.’ One of my biggest missions and goals is to support birthers to feel empowered in their process; not as bystanders of their process.”

Singer also holds a full time position as an industrial psychologist where she channels her advocacy work, pushing for organizational change and understanding of proper maternal support.

In fact, as part of a public speaking course for a training curriculum, Singer presented on why it’s important to support breastfeeding. She reports that her audience of roughly 25 was engaged, especially as she pointed out the absurdities of infant feeding culture in our country: How would you feel if I asked you to eat your meal in the bathroom? How would you like to eat with a blanket tossed over your head? for instance.

Singer also points out the “insanely amazing public health outcomes” breastfeeding affords.

If 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance). [Bartick, Reinhold, 2010]

“Not only is there a personal investment, there is a public investment and value to understanding the larger implications,” Singer comments. “As a taxpayer, [breastfeeding] impacts you; as someone who utilizes our healthcare system, [breastfeeding] impacts you.”

With the recent passing of the PUMP Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act coming soon, Singer says “We still have a long way to go.”

Organizational policy doesn’t support motherhood; instead it fuels detached parenting which goes against nature, Singer goes on.

“Mothers feel the brunt of that more than ever,” she says.  “[We aren’t] supported to be able to care for our children the way that we want to.”

Singer says she sees it as her mission as an organizational psychologist to encourage change that supports parenthood, so that women don’t feel threatened to care for their children the way that they want to. This means ensuring that women are provided with ample space to pump their milk while away from their babies and empowering them to approach HR when there aren’t appropriate accommodations.

“Outside forces shouldn’t be able to dictate how you care for and feed your child. The end of one’s breastfeeding journey should be a personal decision.”

She continues, “It’s amazing that legislation is catching up. The thing that I fear with any law, there are still people behind those laws that have to enforce them and carry them out. Education and garnishing an understanding of what this looks like is a key component to implementation. The people behind those policies have to make them successful, but this is  moving things into a very good direction, and I hope that more changes to legislation follow suit, especially with paid parental leave. It’s a catalyst for change; I am hopeful but cautiously optimistic.”

Singer says she owes her personal success continuing to breastfeed her two-and-a-half year old to Chocolate Milk Mommies, where she now serves as a board member.

Through Chocolate Milk Mommies, Singer started a subcommittee to focus on education for individuals within the breastfeeder’s support system.

“The people in the village need to be supportive. When you don’t know better, you can’t do better,” she explains.

Singer recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) as part of Chocolate Milk Mommies’ mission to best support their constituents and as a way to benefit her doula clients with more well-rounded support.

“I really loved the training because I already thought that our bodies are amazing, but learning more science was great. I would text my friends the ‘Boobie Fact of the Day’,” Singer shares. “[The science] allows me to really appreciate my journey that much more and how impactful I’m being with my daughter.”

You can follow Singer’s work here and here.

Health coaching organization focuses on breastfeeding

52368633_scaled_173x216Have you ever met someone for the first time but felt like you’ve known that person all your life? A while back, I had the pleasure of speaking with founder and executive director of Femtique Associates Incorporated Judith Beaulieu, RN, BSN, MIS, CHC, RYI and I instantly fell in love. Her bubbly manner is so inviting; I could have chatted with her for hours like with an old friend.

Beaulieu’s organization provides health coaching for women with a special focus on breastfeeding support. It secured its articles of incorporation in July 2011.

I am astonished by Beaulieu’s capacity to understand and appreciate the needs of mothers and babies; she doesn’t have any children of her own.


Beaulieu says her ideas for Femtique are never-ending so she keeps a journal nearby for jotting down her 3 a.m. visions.

“How can we increase breastfeeding rates through awareness?” Beaulieu asks herself. “Well, I got this idea that we could commission an artist that would put a picture to what breastfeeding looks like. In today’s society you don’t really see it.”

'Hearts Full Of Hope' by Katie Berggren
‘Hearts Full Of Hope’ by Katie Berggren

Beaulieu became acquainted with motherhood artist Katie Berggren after browsing her images online and later through a project with the Pennsylvania Breastfeeding Coalition. Beaulieu serves on its grant committee.

“She took to the idea like a duck takes to water,” Beaulieu says of Berggren. Soon after Berggren created Hearts Full Of Hope.

Berggren says it was hard not to feel motivated about “the opportunity to create a piece that would speak of Femtique’s urge to educate mothers and the community as to the value of breastfeeding at least through the child’s first 6 months”. She says the image for Hearts Full Of Hope materialized almost immediately.

Beaulieu plans to dedicate the commissioned, promotional, original painting to Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin for her dedication to breastfeeding. The painting will also be sold as prints and charms to raise money to fund Pennsylvania nurses’ Certified Lactation Counselor training.

“My hope is that Hearts Full Of Hope can help to serve as a visual vehicle for Judith on her journey,” Berggren says. “An image that can help to get a message across when there isn’t time or space for words.”

Femtique also offers quilted art, Baby Fats’ Quarter Quilts, as another form of fundraising.

In the late 18th century, quilting was a creative conduit for the stifled voices of women. Quilts served to tell and exhibit the stories of their makers.

To Beaulieu, the quilt perfectly parallels the important bond created between mother and infant during skin-to-skin contact.

“We need to put those hugs and skin to skin positions back into our lives instead of putting babies in strollers and handing them bottles,” Beaulieu says. “We need our babies to be with us.”

Goals to satisfy

Eventually, Beaulieu would like all Femtique associates certified as lactation counselors. She explains that health coaches with nursing backgrounds and professional lactation certifications allow for a holistic experience for the client.

She uses the example of a mother who undergoes cesarean section also needing breastfeeding support and explains that she will benefit from a caretaker with multifaceted training.

Through Berggren’s artwork and other fundraising endeavors, Beaulieu plans to sponsor as many nurses’ CLC trainings as funds offer.

“Nurses just don’t have the money to pay for the credentialing,” she says. “When they are ready to leave the clinical setting and go to community work, the job change just doesn’t afford them the extra credentials.”

Beaulieu explains that Femtique’s clients seek help for a variety of reasons, but she says continued breastfeeding support is of popular concern.

She emphasizes the importance of creating safe, public areas for women to breastfeed their babies.

Beaulieu recalls an outing to a Barnes and Noble cafe with a colleague a couple of years ago. A group of mothers engaged in a book discussion while nursing their children. Her uncomfortable co-worker suggested they sit elsewhere so not to disturb the nursing mothers.

Looking back on the situation, Beaulieu called Barnes and Noble to ask what kind of protection they provide for nursing moms. The store manager cited discreet nooks and crannies between shelves where mothers are welcome to nurse their children.

“It’s one small little goal just for that one big need,” Beaulieu says of creating public areas for breastfeeding dyads.

Beaulieu Yoga and Health Coach Studio
Beaulieu Yoga and Health Coach Studio

Of Beaulieu’s other goals is the creation of a yoga camp for teenage girls. She hopes it will allow them to bring awareness to their bodies. She says teens need some kind of outlet so unwanted pregnancies can be reduced.

“It’s so obvious that yoga is the craze,” Beaulieu says. “But no studio is like Beaulieu Yoga and Health Coach Studio because it is run and overseen by a nurse.”

And instead of her instructors simply looking to make a living, Beaulieu says Femtique associates are looking to make a difference in the world.

Femtique backs the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). Supporting the initiative is a great way to “put those hugs back into our lives” as Beaulieu suggests.

A change in health services

Beaulieu feels a change in the health care paradigm.

“I would like to align our services with the reform bill so that we will be in the forefront of healthcare,” she says. “We will be able to get people to stay healthy.”

Technology and prescription drugs, rise in chronic diseases and administrative costs drove United States’ health care spending close to $2.6 trillion in 2010. [Retrieved from http://www.kaiseredu.org/issue-modules/us-health-care-costs/background-brief.aspx]

“The writing is on the wall,” Beaulieu says. “”There is not going to be money for hospital care. Everyone knows something has to be done differently.”

She suggests a preventative approach and what better way than to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

“We’ve got to make noise and I think this is the way to do it,” Beaulieu says. “We need the world to be more friendly to our children so they can grow up healthy.”