Third Coast Birth - New Mother / New Baby Care

Services in a nutshell

We’re an inclusive, non-judgmental, and evidence-based birth and baby support team, ready to help you cut through the noise (and side-eye) of so many opinions and offer true support during one of life’s greatest transitions. While everyone else is asking to hold the baby, it’s our job to also hold you.

More about us

The transition from hospital to living room, from pregnant to newborn parent, is a tender and joyous time. It can also be a tumultuous one, full of questions (is that color normal?), frustrations, loneliness and pure exhaustion. When everyone else is clamoring to hold the baby, our team can hold and support you (and the baby!).

Postpartum + Overnight Doulas

Daytime support perfectly tailored to your needs, whether that means answering postpartum healing questions, assisting with breastfeeding basics or making a home-cooked meal while you enjoy a shower. Or overnight support that will tenderly care for your baby (and prep your household for the day ahead) while you recharge with sleep

Virtual Postpartum Support

Whether you prefer video calls, texting or talking by phone, our team can help ease the transition from pregnancy to new parenthood by connecting you to the right resources, answering your questions, offering emotional support and even ticking errands off your to-do list.

Lactation & Feeding Support

We support parents who are breastfeeding, chestfeeding, bottle-feeding and pumping. And our team of lactation specialists and feeding experts is here to help you nourish your little one, whether that means improving a latch or answering formula questions.

Lauren Franzen, IBCLC is currently available to provide customizable, in-person, virtual, or group consultations

In-Home or Virtual Private Lactation Consultations

In-home consultations are an opportunity to get detailed support, information, and assessment from an IBCLC, whether you are just starting out on your breast or chestfeeding journey or hoping to address specific issues along the way. Visits typically last 1-2 hours and include a general health history for both parent and infant and an assessment of current health, anatomy, feeding position, and latch. A hospital-grade infant scale will be used to assess milk transfer by doing pre- and post-feed weights. The IBCLC will thoroughly discuss your feeding goals and concerns and make a written plan of care for moving toward those goals. Unlimited phone and text support post-visit is included in this pricing. The IBCLC is additionally able to report and communicate with your care providers upon request. Click below to submit an inquiry and receive a response from Lauren within 48 hours.

Weekly Drop-in Lactation Clinic

Third Coast Birth & Baby’s weekly drop-in lactation clinic is a space to check in with an IBCLC about general breastfeeding problems such as latch, weight gain, supply, pain or soreness, transitioning to work, or other persistent feeding-related issues. There will be an infant scale available for pre- and post-feed weight checks.

Please note: the drop-in clinic is not intended for complex feeding issues.

Please complete the IBCLC inquiry form if you’d like a private consultation with Lauren.

Our Team

Margarita Valbuena, Co-founder, Director of Community Programs

Margarita (she/her) brings to Third Coast Birth & Baby her extensive book smarts about childhood development, attachment and rearing—as well as the hands-on, hard-won insights that come from mothering two kids of her own and working as a child development specialist for over 16 years. She loves bringing parents together, answering their questions and—most of all—helping them to trust their own parenting instincts. Behind the scenes, Margarita manages all the systems and paperwork that help our studio run so seamlessly and give our parents such peace of mind that the details are dealt with.

Margarita, her two revolutionary kids, plus her two Catcade cats are enjoying their new life near her family in Michigan after 16 years in Chicago.

Cait Sobotka, Co-founder, Director of Postpartum Programs

Cait Sobotka (she/her) has supported hundreds of families through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period since she began working as a doula in 2013. As proactive as she is easy-going, Cait is a master of anticipating the needs of expectant and new moms

As a mother of three and former nanny, Cait understands the needs of new parents and strives to make the transition to parenthood smooth and positive experience for you. Equally motivated as she is easy going, Cait is highly attuned to your family’s needs and can help you make a solid plan for your postpartum time. Cait manages our postpartum support and placenta encapsulation services.

Shawna Mertens, Co-founder, Director of Prenatal Programs

Shawna (she/her) has been supporting families in the transition into parenthood since 2014. She works directly with families and providers to further our mission. She manages our prenatal programs, teaches group and private childbirth education classes and provides exceptional, compassionate labor support to our clients as a birth doula.

Shawna’s emphasis on education and physiology empowers clients to feel confident and calm. Clients often describe Shawna’s presence as soothing, reassuring, and peaceful.

Outside of birth work Shawna enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her family.

Becca Hammond, Postpartum Doula

Becca (she/her) is fortunate to have come from a large family and growing up she always found herself eager to take on the care of her many young family members. As a new, young mother she quickly found that there was a lack of guidance, support and accurate information for new parents during this profound life transition. Many years later, a dear friend told her about the role of a postpartum doula and she knew this role was a perfect fit. Becca’s decade of experience as a beloved nanny gives her an understanding of the unique needs of every individual family she serves. She hopes to add more to her list of skills and expertise in time. Becca is LGBTQ+ affirming and passionate about reproductive and birth justice. She resides in Northwest Chicago with her husband and daughter. In her spare time, Becca enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends and practicing many different forms of self-care.

Giov Penze, Postpartum Doula

Giov (she/her) is a postpartum doula who believes that one of the most important things you can do for a family is offer support and a listening ear. Bringing home a newborn is a transformative experience and Giov wants to empower families to make informed decisions that fit their family dynamic.
Families describe Giov as empathetic, thoughtful, organized, calm, and patient. She loves to cook and bake, especially meals that give energy to the family in a time of so many changes. She goes above and beyond to assist her families, and is proactive with their needs. She consistently cultivates a peaceful environment for the family, and assists them wherever they need.
When she’s not working Giov is chasing around her son, enjoying workouts at Feast Fitness, and long walks around Andersonville with her husband and son.

Heather Bethune, Postpartum Doula

Heather has always loved caring for infants and babies, growing up the oldest of nine children, and being continually fascinated by the intelligence of little humans. She brings a lot of intuitive wisdom and calm confidence into every home she has been privileged to be a caregiver in.
Her own experience as a mother solidified and broadened her passion for reproductive justice in recent years, bringing her into doula work as an expression of her vision for a world where mothers and babies are always thriving.
She lives with her partner and children in Wicker Park and enjoys long walks, riding her bike everywhere, and time at the city parks with her family and friends.

Jennie Meyer, Postpartum Doula

As a former elementary school educator and current LLL breastfeeding support leader, and current IBCLC, Jennie is highly experienced in working with new mothers and their families to meet the needs of their little ones. She lives on the NW side of Chicago with her husband and two children. Jennie enjoys watching her children learn and grow, and spending time with friends over a cup of tea (or alone with a good book!)

Kara Alexander, Postpartum Doula

Kara is a Newborn Care Specialist, CAPPA trained postpartum doula and lactation educator, certificated childbirth educator and baby wearing educator. She has twenty years of experience caring for children. She has worked in a daycare and twelve years as a nanny mainly working with infants and toddlers. Throughout her career she has focused on supporting families in the first year of life. She enjoys creating a loving environment, giving non-judgmental support, guidance, and leaving families feeling confident on their journey through parenthood. Kara is dedicated to meeting the needs of each unique family and each baby.

Lauren Franzen, Postpartum Doula & IBCLC

Lauren (she/her) found a way to merge her education in social work and her love for birth work. After being inspired by Ina May Gaskin, and with the encouragement of a student midwife friend, she began her certification process. Lauren has worked as a doula & social worker for teen moms, as a volunteer doula, and also as a private, independent doula. She feels honored to be able to witness the immense uniqueness of each mama’s journey to meeting her baby. Lauren also provides in-home, individualized lactation guidance and support.

Ruth Hoekwater, Postpartum Doula

Ruth is a mother of 3 and grandmother to 4 and has been married to my husband John for over 40 years. In that time she has lived abroad and built homes for Habitat for Humanity, fostered children who traveled internationally for life-saving surgeries and opened and managed a community coffee shop that was first of its kind in her neighborhood for almost 13 years. She is a nurturer and nannied 2 of her grandchildren from birth to school age.

A natural people-person, Ruth loves meeting new clients and learning their stories in order to support them as best as she can. In her spare time she is avid reader and loves spending time out in nature as much as possible, especially with her grandchildren.

Tara Keller, Postpartum Doula

Tara grew up as the middle child in a large family and remembers her own twin brothers being born. Taking care of babies and their families has always been a natural fit for her and her passion for working with new families was ignited after becoming a mother herself. Tara brings a sense of calm to the uncertainties of life with a new baby. She lives the western suburbs and enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.


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