What does a postpartum doula do?
Such a great question that we get asked a lot. So, let's delve into what a postpartum doula does for people.
Postpartum is that time (lifelong, really), after the birth of our baby, The fourth trimester, as we often like to call it. A time when a new family eases into their new roles and everyone settles into the new life that was created by those roles.
Postpartum is a time of healing. A time of nourishment, love, and bonding. It's about creating a space where everyone can safely familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. It’s a time, in many cultures, where the new mom is completely surrounded by her elders and is nourished, for months, learning how to ease into their new role as parent.
Unfortunately, in American society, postpartum is a period that we give new parents to heal, be nourished, and bond with their baby in such a small time frame (often times 8 weeks is the top amount people get away from work), that many new parents are left frazzled, feeling alone, and that they’re failing because everything hasn’t come together as smoothly as the baby ads make it seem. This is where having a postpartum doula can drastically change all that.
A postpartum doula will come to you, sometimes on the same day that you come home with your baby, and help you settle in. We’ll help you learn all the new things your baby is doing and why they’re doing them, such as suckling on their hand when they’re hungry (giving you cues that it’s time to eat), wiggling their body through some gas bubbles or wanting to be swaddled and held by you, the only safe spot they know. We can provide you with evidence-based information on things from feeding your baby, emotional and physical recovery from birth, and coping skills for new parents.
We help you with feeding your baby, whether that’s by your body or a bottle. We help you settle your baby after they’ve eaten, and we give you plenty of space to rest, heal, and breathe. We’re throwing in a load of laundry or folding one that’s already done. We’re tidying up your kitchen or vacuuming your living room. We’re prepping meals for you and freezing them for easy access when we’re not around. We’re listening to your worries, concerns, and fears about this new thing called parenthood. Most of all, we’re nurturing your whole family as you settle into your new norm, with this new human, who’s learning just as much as you are.
The facts speak for themselves. Studies show that mothers who have postpartum doulas have less postpartum mood disorders, such as Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, and are more successful in their breastfeeding journeys. Parents who feel supported and cared for during this time have a better time adapting to their new roles with a baby and have more confidence in themselves. While parents benefit from education about newborns long before the baby is even born, having someone there to help with hands-on learning of soothing their baby, feeding, and bonding/attachment can significantly affect their partner’s mental well-being, also, as well as help them form a greater bonding in their new roles together.
Doulas are trained to understand what new babies, and new parents, really need. From soothing to feeding support, from typical newborn behavior to what a person’s body goes through after labor and delivery, from how to get good rest with a newborn to bonding with your baby and your partner. If there’s one thing that should be added to every baby registry, that every friend and family should be getting their expecting friends, it is postpartum doula support.
***citations on studies for postpartum doula support
Tarkka, M., Paunonen, M., & Laippala, P. (1998). What contributes to breastfeeding success after childbirth in a maternity ward in Finland? Birth, 25(3), 175-81.
Forman, R.D., et al. (1990). The forty-day rest period and infant feeding practices among Negev Bedouin Arab women in Israel. Medical Anthropology, 12(2), 207-16.
Klaus, M. H., Kennell, J. H., & Klaus, P. H. (2002). The Doula Book. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
MacArthur, C., et al. (2002). Effects of redesigned community postnatal care on women's health 4 months after birth: A cluster randomized control study. Lancet, 359(9304), 378.
Ray, K., & Hodnett, E. (n.d.). Caregiver support for postpartum depression. Retrieved 2001 from Cochrane Database Syst Rev.