I’ve written about this in the past but this one, written by Jackie Christopher, describes a postpartum doula and her role in the new family’s life perfectly.
Though birth doulas and midwives are becoming a standard fixture in the delivery room, a lot of you pregnant and new parents are still curious about postpartum doulas and their role in the new baby season. Read on to learn what a postpartum doula is all about.
Let’s Start at Ground Zero, Here. Explain Postpartum Doula.
A “woman who serves,” a “mother to the mother,” a “baby-whisperer.” In the simplest terms, a postpartum doula is a professionally-trained woman who is hired to come into the home and support moms and dads in the first days, weeks, and sometimes months, immediately following delivery or adoption. The word “doula” comes from the Greek and means “a woman who serves.” But more than a servant, the postpartum doula is a nurturer, because babies aren’t the only ones who need help adjusting to this new world. The work they do is as varied as the families they serve.
What Exactly Does a Postpartum Doula Do?
Postpartum doulas are trained to serve you. They specialize in lactation assistance, baby monitoring, newborn basics and bonding, nutrition, safety, infant development, soothing techniques, healing practices, and also postpartum adjustment—their radar is honed to scope out postpartum mood disorders, and other emotional and physical changes that are bound to accompany the post-delivery days and weeks.
They are educators, caregivers, guides, and friends, assisting not only mom, but the whole family—Dad, grandparents, and siblings too.
Says one professional doula,
As a postpartum doula, I support new mothers in the month or so after birth. I cook, fold laundry, make tea, bake muffins. I give foot massages and hugs. I keep visitors in line and I keep Mama from writing thank-you notes if there are dark circles under her eyes. I offer to do it for her. It’ll be our little secret.
I am CPR-certified and overeducated on all things newborn. I know the signs of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, birth trauma, and mastitis. I know how to achieve a good latch at the breast, I can make a bottle with one hand, and I know several tricks for soothing fussy babies.
I honor birth stories, I shoulder anger, I dissolve guilt and fear. I do not judge and I do not try to do things my way. I teach, but I don’t give advice unless asked. I am a humble servant, I am a secret keeper, I am a baby burper. I am a mother to the mother.**
But I Have Lots of Family in the Area—Do I Need a Doula?
The answer to that question probably depends on your family and the level of support and care they offer you. Not everyone has a mother they can trust to come over, pitch in and help out—without the added commentary on how she’d do it differently if she were you. One of the things new parents most appreciate about doulas is the complete lack of pretense—the doula is there to help you and support you in doing what you are doing, not to change it up and impose her system. Because your doula doesn’t have an emotional investment in the way you desire to parent your newborn, she’s a help to the process, rather than a hurdle.
But doulas aren’t just for women with especially vocal mothers and mothers-in-law. Maybe you’d rather let mom do the fun grandma things like helping to entertain your visitors and taking care of siblings, and then let your doula handle the night shift. Doulas don’t usurp the role of family members in supporting a mother at this special time—rather they are advocates, making sure mom’s needs get handled in the midst of the new baby hubbub. Said one doula, “The best thing I can do is to be quietly present. To take care of “things”, while mom is learning her new role.”
We’ve Already Had One (or more) Baby(ies) and We Muddled Through All Right on Our Own—Do We Need a Doula for Babies Two, Three, Four…?
The key phrase in that question is “muddled through.” The priority of a doula isn’t muddling through, it’s that mom, dad, and baby would thrive and flourish because they’re rested, well-fed, and well-supported in an environment that is tidy, orderly, and calm. “Thriving and flourishing,” or “muddling through” and “just making it”—you decide.
Though postpartum doulas are especially beneficial in the case of first-time births, multiples, and preemies, mothers at any stage of their childbearing journey will benefit from the always-at-your-side support of her doula.
If you have more questions about postpartum doulas and what they do, or you have your own doula story to share, put it in the comments section—we want to get the conversation going among moms and dads—What do you want to know about PP doulas? How did a PP doula change your experience of bringing home baby?