Postpartum and Breastfeeding

Co-Founder of Alliance of Moms and Doula, Danika Charity, Shares Her Advice and Self Care Recipes for New Mothers

Paula James-Martinez

Co-Founder of Alliance of Moms and Doula, Danika Charity, Shares Her Advice and Self Care Recipes for New Mothers

Danika is the co-founder of Maker Milk, a brand new plant-based milk start-up, and the  LA-based non-profit Alliance of Moms. She is also a doula, educator, functional health coach, and mother of two. 

She became a doula shortly after the birth of her first child, primarily to support teen  mothers, like her own mother, who could greatly benefit from the support of a caring,  empathetic, knowledgeable birth partner. She started a program connecting pregnant foster youth to volunteer doulas and around the same time formed the Alliance of Moms with four other mom friends. Alliance of Moms is a community of LA mothers whose  mission is to support pregnant and parenting teens in the foster care system through  education, wellness programming, holistic solutions, and critical interventions needed  for them and their families to heal and thrive. 

Danika's newest venture, Maker Milk, is a mission-driven brand poised to revolutionize  the way we drink plant-based milk, making it healthier for people and our planet. They  have created a more nutritionally balanced oat milk powder that also carries a much  smaller environmental footprint than other plant-based milks. 

Needed: Tell me a little about your work as a doula?  

Danika: Birth has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a  large extended family and my mother was one of 7. Most of them were single teen mothers who started having kids around 16, 17 years of age. I have a lot of  cousins and I remember being woken in the middle of the night on many  occasions with news of another aunt going into labor. I sat outside many a  birthing room throughout my childhood and was in the room to see my cousin  being born when I was 12.

Birth had always felt very normal to me and something I had always looked forward to.

When I got pregnant with my son a friend introduced me to the work of Ina May Gaskin and another introduced me to her doula, Ana Paula Markel, who also became my doula. I was very lucky to have a smooth and easy pregnancy and birth experience. I felt healthy,  prepared, and supported. 

A few months after my son was born I joined a mommy and me group organized but the women who would later become my Alliance of Moms co-founders, including my good friend Kelly Zajfen, who invited me to join the group. Through them I learned about the work of the Alliance for Children's Rights and their Pregnant and Parenting Teen program. This program was designed specifically  to provide pregnant and parenting foster youth with any resources, support, or counsel and they may need as they navigate pregnancy and motherhood inside the foster care system. Being the daughter of a teenage mom, who had lived in  a home for single moms shortly after I was born, I felt an overwhelming desire to  support these young women as they transitioned into motherhood. When I  looked back on my pregnancy and how supported I felt and how empowering it  was to have learned all the things I had learned about my body and the being  growing inside me, I knew this experience was available to me not only because  I had all my essential needs met, but I had the support of a loving partner, a  knowledgeable nurturing doula, and an expert care provider, all things that most  of these young moms didn’t have, things that my own mother didn’t have. She caught a bus to the hospital when she was pregnant with me to get induced and  caught a taxi home, alone.  I became a doula to work with these moms and other moms like my mother. 

I took Ana Paula's doula training and immediately started trying to work out how  we could support this population of teens. I sat down with the women who  headed up the pregnant and parenting teens program at The Alliance for Children’s Rights and asked them if they thought their clients would be  interested in the services a doula had to offer then I built out a program with a  volunteer doula organization, The Joy in Birthing Foundation. We worked on  some handouts, explaining what a doula was and how they can help, and  together we started matching doulas with expecting moms. Almost every teen  who was asked if she wanted a doula said yes. We ran trauma-informed care  training for our doulas and eventually started offering doula training to foster  youth who, after being supported by a doula, wanted to become doulas  themselves. 

Creating this program and supporting these young women as they became mothers, inside a system that all too often doesn’t serve them, is some of the most meaningful work I have done.  

While I was getting this program up and running we were also starting to build  Alliance of Moms. We created the organization to further support the work of the  Alliance for Children’s Rights. What started as a backyard fundraiser turned into  a membership-based organization consisting of hundreds of LA moms who are passionate about creating a community for these young moms. Our members are donors and volunteers. We hold educational events focused on early child development, parenting, nutrition, self-care and other topics we know are relevant to our moms - programming that can help them build positive futures for themselves and their children. 

How did you become interested in nutrition? How was Maker born? 

In the years after becoming a doula and founding the Alliance of Moms while caring for young children.

I hit a breaking point. I was averaging 3-5 hours of broken sleep per night, working incessantly, and my health deteriorated rapidly.

Despite being a well-researched nutrition enthusiast, I subsisted on sugar, refined carbs, and fried foods, abandoning self-care practices. Like exercise and meditation - all the things I knew would make me feel better but for which I couldn’t seem to make the time.

Realizing something needed to change, I began making space for myself and  slowly started to change the habits I knew were contributing to my poor health  at the time. I started getting my diet back on track as well as my meditation  practice, as sleep was largely out of my control, and exercise was difficult with  so little rest. 

Having also cut back on my workload at the time, I was able to take a deep dive into functional medicine, something I’d always been interested in. I had been seeing an integrative doctor since a few years before I became pregnant and  had a fairly basic understanding of how our lifestyle choices directly affected our  health and how we needed to look beyond symptoms, to the root cause. I  wanted to deepen my knowledge base so I could serve my clients better,  helping them to take a more holistic approach to their health during pregnancy  and into motherhood. Upon completing my year-long health coach training, I  built out my doula packages and started working with individual clients, as well  as companies like Doen, offering individual coaching sessions with their  employees along with group wellness sessions with teams. I love group  coaching and I love sitting in a group. Some of the most powerful work happens  when people sit together, listen, and share their stories. We are more the same  than we are different and too often we forget this; we forget our shared  humanity. I continued this work throughout the pandemic, even after my family relocated to New Zealand, where I was born, and where decided to root down for a couple of years. It was shortly after landing there that I met my current co founder. We both had non-profit backgrounds and were passionate about helping families and children find wellness inside broken systems that often  didn’t support their well-being. Within a year of meeting we were working on our newest venture, Maker. 

I had been working to help individuals and groups find wellness through nutrition and other lifestyle changes. My co-founder, Clarissa, had just built a campaign  to get lunches into school in NZ, a campaign that got her recognized by the  Obama Foundation as an emerging leader in the Pacific. As two people who  spend a lot of time thinking about what we put in our bodies and what we feed  our families, we grew tired of our seemingly healthy and climate-friendly choices contributing to poor health for so many, and the worsening climate crisis. Milk is  a staple and people drink it every day. But most dairy alternatives are lacking in  key nutrients like protein, and almost all oat milk is nutritionally imbalanced,  leading to significant blood sugar spikes, which we know contributes to myriad  health issues. Our milk is also in powdered form which significantly reduces the  emissions associated with its shipping and eliminates the need for bulky, hard to-recycle packaging that eventually ends up in landfills and in our oceans. We  formulated our milk in our kitchens, from the best ingredients available. I’m so  proud of what we’ve created. Building a milk company is unlike anything I’ve  ever done. The learning curve has been steep and the workload feels  overwhelming at times but to birth something into the world that you know will  make a positive impact on people's health and the health of the planet - to have  an idea, then take all the steps, small and crazy, to get that product into bags  and peoples homes - it’s wild and amazing and endlessly rewarding. 

Needed: Advice for new mothers who are feeling overwhelmed.  

Danika: It's normal to feel overwhelmed. If the moments feel too hard, when it’s all too  big and so much feels beyond your control, when you find it difficult to see your  way through it all, focus on the small things. How can you bring your attention  in? Narrow the focus to one thing. Maybe it’s your breath or your baby’s, maybe  it’s their tiny little feet or fingers, or the fuzzy hair on their head, how they smell.  Notice how small they are. How soft their skin is. In moments when it’s hard, this  can help. Can you just see what is in front of you and be present to this moment?  

It’s also so important to find a community of moms. Branching out can be a challenge for some, but it’s a beautiful opportunity to make new friends who  share the transformative experience of early motherhood in common with you. I  still remember the first time I sat in a breastfeeding support group with a bunch  of other new mothers I had never met. We were all in the newborn fog together,  and I cried. I felt at home. Being with these other women and their breastfeeding  littles normalized everything I’d been feeling. Just to know that I wasn’t alone in  it was all I needed. Yes, the information helped, but just being in a room with  women who were going through what I was going through, helped so much more. 

In the early going, breastfeeding issues so often contribute to a sense of overwhelm and inadequacy. If you’re breastfeeding and you have any issues at  all, get support early. Most issues can be resolved with some small adjustments.  It’s also normal for it to be a little difficult in the beginning and when the latch is off or things just aren’t working, it can really affect how the first few days and weeks feel for you. 

More than anything, I’ve found that letting go of the pressure to be a certain  way, or do things perfectly has been huge. Motherhood is messy. It’s an exercise in acceptance, among many other things. Be ok with not having all the answers. And be gentle with yourself. And remember, everything changes, things get easier in some ways, harder in others, phases come and go but if you have a supportive community who can ride the waves with you, and you can give yourself a break, you will be ok.

Danika's Favorite Recipes for New Moms

I love feeding new moms. I focus on foods that are high in energy, nutrient dense and easy to digest. Foods that aid in healing.

Here are some of my favorite recipes.


Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time varies approx 45min
Serves 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons ghee or avocado oil 
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp Cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Ground pepper
  • Pinch asafetida
  • 1 cup aged basmati rice
  • 1 cup fresh mung dhal, soaked overnight
  • 7-9 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan rock salt
  • Choice of veggies. Carrots, butternut squash, spinach etc


  • Heat ghee in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Gently sauté garlic
  • and ginger in the ghee/oil until soft.
  • Add spices and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
  • Stir dhal into the ghee mixture and add 7 cups of water 
  • Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
  • Add rice and veggies and bring back to boil. Reduce heat again and
  • simmer, stirring occasionally for another 20-25 minutes. If it is too think
  • you can add more water.
  • Once ready, serve immediately with yogurt, cilantro and lemon to taste.

Mung Bean Crepes

Prep Time - 5 min
Servings - 4


  • 2 C of Mung Beans
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Ginger and other spices like turmeric and cumin optional.


  • Soak mung beans overnight (12 hrs). Drain and then blend with about 1C
  • water and salt. Batter should be thick but easy enough to spread around a
  • pan. I use olive oil or avocado oil and cook them about a minute each side.
  • Serve with eggs, avocado, greens, sauerkraut.

Lentil Soup

Prep Time - 20 min
Servings - 6-8


  • 2 C green or French lentils, soaked for at least 1 hr Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder 1 red bell pepper 3 carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup pureed tomato (optional)
  • 8-10 C vegetable broth (or a combination of veggie and chicken or beef broth).


  • Saute onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery in olive oil for 5-7 minutes. Add spices and garlic and saute for another couple of minutes. Add lentils, tomato paste, puree and broth and cook for 30-40 minutes until lentils are cooked.

Chia Seed Pudding

Prep Time - 5 min (4 hrs to set)
Servings - 4


  • 1/2 Cup Chia Seeds
  • 1.5 Cup Combo of PLant Based Milk (Maker:) and Coconut Milk or Yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey (optional - can totally do without)


  • Mix in a jar or container and stir every 20 min for first hour. Let set for at least
  • 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Serve with berries.
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Paula James-Martinez, Filmmaker and Editorial Director

Paula James Martinez is a writer, filmmaker, and women's health advocate. She is the director and producer of the documentary Born Free, which investigates the truth about birth and maternal health America. Sits on the boards of non-profit organization "The Mother Lovers" and "4Kira4Moms" to raise awareness of the US maternal health crisis, and co-hosts the parenting podcast "Scruunchy."