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Gentle Beginnings Doula and Lactation Services

Shannon Hochhalter
DONA Certified Birth Doula and Certified Lactation Consultant

"Birth is powerful, let it empower you" 

Serving both the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula County

Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are a uniquely beautiful, powerful, and yet challenging time in a woman's life. Each woman's experience and needs are unique to her and her family's own personal situation. Personalized care and support during this time has an immense influence on how she perceives herself and her birthing experience. How a woman is cared for at this time can empower her throughout her life, and can help her find her own inner strength. It is vital that each woman is heard, valued, respected, and honored. Gentle Beginnings Doula and Lactation Services proudly provides doula services to both the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, and Missoula County. Whether you are planning on a home birth, a hospital birth (through Community Medical Center, St. Pats, or Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital), or a birth center birth through The Birth Center, Gentle Beginnings provides excellent care in any birth setting. From in labor comfort measures, to providing evidence based prenatal information, and postpartum breastfeeding support, Gentle Beginnings is there with you every step of the way offering support, referrals, and resources to help you make the best choices for your family. As a DONA Certified Birth Doula I have undergone extensive, thorough, and quality training, read (and continue to read) many educational books on birth and breastfeeding, have taken many classes on childbirth, supported clients professionally, stay up to date with CEU's and have attained the honor of being Certified through DONA International. DONA is world's leading Doula Certifying Organization, and assures you that I have competent and quality training and education assuring that you will be well supported. I am also a Certified Lactation Counselor. This Certification has given me the training and tools to be able to offer families the educated, caring, support they both need and deserve in order to achieve their breastfeeding goals. 

About Me

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Hello! I am Shannon Hochhalter, I am married to the love of my life, am the mother of four beautiful children, am a Certified Birth Doula through DONA International as well as a Licensed Lactation Consultant with AALP. When I am not at births, you can find me spending time with my four energetic children and my wonderful husband. I also enjoy riding horses (I was a horse trainer, riding instructor, and competitor before I discovered doula work), hiking, biking, skiing, running, volunteering within the birth community, and serving within my church. I attended Rocky Mountain College and the University of Montana for a business degree before I had children and felt the calling to birth work. After I had experienced how empowering and deeply satisfying birth could be, I knew I wanted other women to experience the empowerment and satisfaction that birth can offer. As a result, I decided to start on my educational journey to becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). I am now working on my BSN through the University of Montana on my way to become a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife). The path to becoming a CNM is a long educational journey and I just couldn't wait until I was a CNM to help people. I knew that there just had to be something that I could do to help birthing families before being a provider, and that's when I found out about doulas! Doula work fit in perfectly with my lifestyle and educational and personal goals and was something I could do to stay involved in the birthing community, and was a way for me to be able to help birthing families have fulfilling births!  My passion for empowering women through birth and breastfeeding continues to grow with each passing day! I am always continuing my education through books, by attending birth workshops (I just attended the Spinning Babies Workshop here in Missoula  in February of 2020) , being a professional member of Evidence Based Birth as well as DONA International, networking with other doulas, volunteering with the Missoula Baby Bistro as well as the Bitterroot Breastfeeding Coalition, and by following online educational resources and completing continuing education courses. One of my favorite things about being a doula is seeing other women have positive and empowering births and successful breastfeeding journeys as they define it. I also love to help women educate and inform themselves, and learn to advocate for themselves. I also love providing families with evidence based, relevant, non biased, and up to date information. It is so rewarding to see families educate themselves and learn about their options. As a doula I offer families the compassionate and supportive care that they so deserve and need regardless of the mode of birth. I have experience supported all modes of birth, including un-medicated, medicated, and caesarean birth. I  find each birth to be uniquely beautiful and empowering! As a Certified Lactation Counselor, I desire for families to have an equally satisfying and empowering  breastfeeding experience as well. No matter how a family chooses to feed their baby, I am here to help them achieve their feeding goals!  As a DONA Certified Doula, and a Lactation consultant you will be equipped with professional, personalized, caring, and supportive service every step of the way! No matter what your goals are, together we can help make birth and breastfeeding an empowering and satisfying experience for you and your family!

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What are the Benefits of a Doula?

Many studies have been done on the value and benefits of doulas for the birthing person as well as the baby and their partner! To quote Dr.John H. Kennell, "if a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” Here are just a few benefits you can look forward to when hiring a doula:

  • Shortened duration of labor

  • Better birth satisfaction

  • Decreased pain perception in labor 

  • Less use of pain relief medication during labor

  • Lower rates of medical interventions (including cesearean sections)

  • Higher Apgar scores for newborn

  • Increased breastfeeding success

  • Increased mother and baby bonding

  • Doulas can help partners know how to support the birthing person during labor and can take an active role in supporting her.

  • Doulas also provide a break for partners without leaving the birthing person alone should they need to rest, to get some food or simply need a break!

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