Doula culture is having a moment among millennial moms rejecting the traditional norms of motherhood.
Expecting women and new mothers are looking outside of the western medical field—to Instagram, bloggers, and curated online services—for community, culture, and consumer products that normalize pregnancy, get real about motherhood, and reject a “one-size-fits-all” approach to these life-altering milestones.
Cassandra’s Modern Parents report, published June 2016, writes that millennial parents “want to share what it’s really like to raise children and are publicly admitting their uncertainties and challenges on social media while still sharing the joyous moments.” Furthermore, they are rebelling against the “ceaseless stream of childrearing advice, content, and products” and aligning with brands that support a more “instinctive” approach.
One such brand is Storq, an online destination for modern, no-fuss essentials for pregnancy, nursing, and parenthood, including a sleek and minimal nursing bra, caftan, dress, and carry-all. Unlike its blissed-out or out-of-touch predecessors, Storq sets out to treat new moms and pregnant ladies as human. “We design pieces that look and feel like what you would normally use and wear, because dammit, you are a human being and having kids does not make you a different person,” reads its website.
“It makes sense why pregnant women have evolved wants and needs: we’re having kids at a completely new life stage where we have established identities and are looking for practical solutions,” Storq founder Courtney Klein told Ok Real. “Having your first baby at 20 is a lot different than having your first baby at 30. When I’d discuss this with pregnant women they would say, ‘I just want to feel like myself. I’m already doing this crazy thing, and to hold onto who I am as I make this huge life change would be really empowering.’”
It’s a trend echoed by Erica Chidi Cohen, doula, author, and co-founder of LOOM, a modern pregnancy and parenting hub focused on pre-conception, pregnancy and parenting, coming soon to Los Angeles. “There’s definitely a deeper interest in wellness and in the birth process,” Cohen told JWT Intelligence. “People are realizing they can optimize their birth experience. That there is a way to have—not only more community around their experience, especially as families are spread out and there isn’t this passing down of wisdom—people are looking for education, expertise, and the community component.”
With this shift in mindset has come a resurgence in the popularity of doulas, a growing field of certified (but not medically trained) individuals who provide emotional educational support throughout pregnancy, and midwives. The New York Times called it “at once a manifestation of the growing demand for personal service (the doorman, the yoga teacher, Amazon Prime) and a backlash against the perceived over-medicalization of birth, with its high rates of cesarean sections.” According to PubMed, the number of women opting for midwives over obstetricians is up from just 3% in 1989 to 9% in 2013.
While the existence of doulas and midwives is certainly nothing new, their digital presence and rising prevalence with the millennial mom demographic is a recent phenomenon. This growing minority of women—who have become increasingly leery of modern medicine and its proclivity toward medical intervention during childbirth, in part thanks to Ricki Lake’s eye-opening documentary The Business Of Being Born—are no longer viewing midwifery and the doula community with the same folkloric skepticism of previous generations.
To help women navigate this transformational chapter, popular doula collectives such as NY/LA-based Carriage House Birth, co-founded by Domino Kirke (sister of Girls HBO star Jemima Kirke), have set out to create a “village” of prenatal and postpartum care. With 112K followers on Instagram, Carriage House Birth is part of a growing movement normalizing and destigmatizing breastfeeding, bump positivity, and motherhood with raw, beautiful, and sometimes even primal imagery.
Mother Mag, Well Rounded, and Motherhood Rising are just a handful of the mounting number of online publications and Instagram accounts that revel in the beauty of birth and pregnancy, while speaking candidly about the hardships and realities of loss, breastfeeding, recovery, and postpartum depression. In April alone, cult favorite fashion blog Man Repeller published two doula-centric articles about boosting fertility naturally and why being a doula is “the best job in the world.” And with nearly 70K followers on Instagram, Kat aka Little Bird Doula speaks about the sexualization and shame surrounding breastfeeding.
While the US continues to be one of the only industrialized nations with a rising maternal mortality rate and without paid parental leave, women are taking a closer look at the institutions surrounding pregnancy. Brands should take note from these millennial moms as they redefine motherhood from birth.
Image credit: Storq