Featuring, Jillian Christofferson, birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, and mother of two, living in Brooklyn, NY.
Meet , the first feature of our new interview series, Let Your Nature Thrive. In this series we're connecting with experts and advocates from all walks of life to help us explore what happens when you let nature do its thing — on our skin, on our planet, and in our lives. We knew Jillian was the perfect person to kick the series off with: a birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, mother of two, and long-time CRUDE user — Jillian shares our passion for all things soap-free, nature, and microbiome. In this interview, Jillian shares her take on the importance of the microbiome at birth and beyond, and give some tips for birthing and working with doulas. Enjoy!
CRUDE: Why is it important for microbes to be passed from mother to baby?
JILL: In my opinion, the microbiome is the most important thing that is given little-to-no consideration in the process of birth. As a baby passes through the birth canal, it is exposed to a wide range of safe bacteria, which goes in its' mouth, nose, and eyes. Exposure to that bacteria, along with a coating of colostrum, initiates the growth of a healthy microbiome in their intestines. The more we learn about gut health, and it’s impact on our overall health, the more we begin to realize how crucial this initiation is.
CRUDE: Why is using soap-free products important for newborns?
JILL: Say you do consider this, and your baby is born healthy and comes out coated in all that great bacteria, or you have a cesarean birth and request seeding (an available option where collected vaginal bacteria is wiped on baby’s face after delivery), then 6 hours later, a nurse comes in with a bottle of Johnson & Johnson and kills all that bacteria — before it ever has a chance to establish itself. In hospitals, it’s done because your baby is considered a biohazard (covered in bodily fluid) until they are bathed. At home, we do it cause we think we’re supposed to. That iconic yellow bottle of soap is not only antibacterial and full of unnecessarily harsh detergents, it’s also packed with tons of synthetic chemicals. You are stopping a perfect system dead in its tracks. The vernix that many babies are born with serves as a natural moisturizer and antibacterial barrier, but detergents wipe it out — creating the need for you to now buy lotion to hydrate skin that has just been stripped of its natural moisture.
It’s all pretty insane when you start to think about it. I can’t stress enough that newborns aren’t dirty. As a mom, I totally understand the desire to have a sweet smelling baby, and obviously you are dealing with a tiny person that hasn’t figured out how to avoid dribbling milk into their neck rolls, but detergents aren’t the answer. With a detergent-free cleanser like WASH, you get to have a healthy baby that doesn’t smell like sour milk.
CRUDE: In your experience working as a doula, what are three important things parents should know more about?
JILL: In my experience as a doula, I wish all birthing people and their families knew these 3 things:
What a healthy body is capable of. I am a firm believer that education is freedom. Birth is not a mystery, and knowing what your body can (and will) do, helps you have confidence in that process, and aids in eliminating fear from that experience.
What your options are. If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. In my capacity as a doula, I don’t have an agenda about the decisions a family should make regarding their birth. Every birthing person needs to choose an experience that feels right and safe for them and their baby.
What an evidence based decision is. Unfortunately, in America, healthcare is not set up to provide you with the most current practices supported by science. I am in no way anti-doctor or anti-hospital. I’m so grateful for the lifesaving practices and procedures available to us, but statistically speaking, most women won’t need them. Hospitals are built for sick people, not healthy pregnant women, doing something their body is made to do. We are overwhelming obstetricians and nursing staff with patients that don’t require their specific expertise, and forgetting that they are subject to hospital regulations, which may not demand evidenced based practices. That’s why we need to be educated, in order to be our own informed advocates.
CRUDE: What are the 3 most common misconceptions about doulas?JILL:
We deliver babies. Doulas aren’t medical practitioners, we are consistent birth support. That means that unlike any other practitioner you’ll see during your pre and postnatal care, we are with you before, throughout, and after your birth.
We’re all hippies, who only attend unmedicated home births. While some doulas specialize — most, myself included, will attend any types of birth. I approach hospital, home, and birth center births, all with the same sincere intention to hold space for, and assist my clients in making a smooth transition through birth. Everyone deserves the best possible experience, no matter how they choose to birth.
That doulas take the place of a partner. If a partner isn’t present, a Doula can certainly attend to fill that support role, but it is never our intention to displace anyone in that position. You’ll often find me nudging partners into more helpful roles, because I think it means more to have them step up, and show up for the birthing person, then it does for me to. Being close with someone you love promotes the flow of oxytocin, which is crucial in the progress of birth. Doulas also support the needs of the partner during birth. It’s really difficult to watch someone you love be in pain, and not know what to do about it.
CRUDE: How do you use CRUDE on yourself and your children?
JILL: I use all the CRUDE products, but WASH has to be my favorite, and the one I’m most passionate about. I started using it when I was searching for a detergent-free wash that wouldn’t irritate my son’s eczema. Once I was using it on him, I started wondering why I wasn’t using it on myself, and it just rolled into everyone in my family using it. I put so much effort into supporting the health of my family through food, physical exercise, enriching experiences and necessary medical attention, that it was a natural extension to consider the health of their skin and it’s impact on so many other facets of health.
CRUDE: Why do you choose CRUDE for your family? Can you describe Golden's first bath? How long did you wait to bathe and what was your thought process around that? Anything else you'd like to share or think moms should know?
JILL: Before the birth of my first son, I started researching everything relating to my options and the healthiest choices I could make for both him and I. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole of research on antibacterial products, and what we know about the human microbiome. My husband and I decided that it made sense to wait a month to wash our son with soap. Antibacterial soap is great at eliminating bad bacteria, but it’s indiscriminate in its killing, and therefore does serious damage to crucial good bacteria. There wasn’t a great detergent-free cleanser option at the time, so having WASH, five years later, for the birth of my second son, made a huge difference. We still waited several weeks to give him his first bath, but this time we were able to avoid detergents completely.
CRUDE: For us, the "let your nature thrive" philosophy applies to more than just skincare and the microbiome. We also think about it in relation to how we express and celebrate the diverse nature in all of us individually (and how that can create homeostasis when we come together). What's one way you let your unique nature thrive? How do you support your family in expressing their nature?
JILL: I didn’t put much thought into letting my nature thrive, until I had a kid. Sure, I wore weird clothes, and tried out every hair color I could, but I didn’t realize the importance of gifting the world all I had to offer. My son was this incredible person straight out the gate. As his parent, it’s so easy to see that there’s no one like him, and what a benefit his unique nature is, to everyone he comes in contact with. Having children made me rethink what I have to offer, by seeing myself through the lens of my own parents. When we try to see ourselves through the eyes of someone who loves us, it’s easier to recognize our unique qualities, and the ways those qualities can benefit those around us.
Right now I’m working on making art that I’m proud of. My sister is an incredible painter, my husband is an unbelievably talented designer, and I have countless artist friends with keen eyes, and successful careers. It’s always been easier for me to embrace my ability to master a skill, than to embrace a medium, as away to communicate my unique point of view. It’s easy to tell myself that I’m not as talented as all those wonderful artists who surround me, but I want my boys to see that the effort to be true to yourself, is far more important than the outcome.