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What is a postpartum doula?

You’ve probably heard of a birth doula, but have you heard of a postpartum doula?

A postpartum doula, as I like to put it, is a magical unicorn. I mean, we come and help out with baby, take care of Mom, and make sure that all is well at your home. It is pretty magical (and the whole unicorn thing just kinda sounds good alongside it).

Why have one?

Basically, a postpartum doula is there to “mother the mother”. The postpartum period is a really, really, REALLY hard one-you’re navigating hormones while learning how to take care of your baby while dealing with the physical aftermath of birth.

This is not something that any person should have to deal with alone. Ever. Even when there is a partner(s) available to help out they’re often dealing with the same “newness” themselves and are also depleted and overwhelmed. Having a postpartum doula come in can alleviate the pressure for both/all parents and allow them to get some rest.

Your postpartum doula will be able to refer you to community programs and provide you with resources. They are also keenly aware of what the symptoms of Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety look like in parents and can offer assistance in finding professional help if need be.

What will they do?

Every family has their own unique list of needs. What might work for one family might not work for another. This is a conversation that your postpartum doula and your family need to have to ensure that you’re getting the most of having your postpartum doula there.

Some of the tasks that your postpartum doula might do are:

-newborn care support (diapering, burping, bathing, etc.)

-breastfeeding support

-assist with household organization for ease of transition into life with a newborn

-light housekeeping

-emotional support and mental health check-ins for parents

-help with older siblings transitioning to having a baby sibling

-care for baby while parent(s) nap, involve themselves in self care, or step out of the home

-provide resources for local community services

-meal prep, planning, and/or grocery shopping

-light pet care

Who needs a postpartum doula?

Do you need a postpartum doula for when your baby arrives? Find out exactly what a postpartum doula does and if you need one!

EVERYONE!

It doesn’t matter if this is your first baby or 14th baby (actually, a postpartum doula is highly recommended in both of these situations)! Vaginal birth or cesarean birth. Parents with twins. Parents who have adopted.

Everyone who has a newborn can benefit immensely from having a postpartum doula come to their home.

Folks who are lacking familial or partner support, are trying to maintain a business during their postpartum period, have had traumatic births or experiences, are having breastfeeding struggles, or are at high risk for Postpartum mood disorders can potentially benefit most from having postpartum doula services.

What education is required?

In order to be considered a Postpartum doula, you have to take a course through an accredited Doula agency. For example, I took my course through DONA as theirs were the values that I most related with and felt most comfortable advocating.

Within this course a postpartum doula will learn about:

Breastfeeding-how to help a new parent establish a breastfeeding relationship with their child, the physiological responses that occur in the body while a milk supply is being established, breastfeeding positions, the hormones that contribute to various aspects of breastfeeding, potential challenges that can arise with breastfeeding and how to problem solve to create a positive and effective breastfeeding relationship between parent and child.

Birth- what is entailed in each form of birth and how to best help in the recovery of the birthing person, what is normal healing, what is abnormal, and when to suggest seeing a doctor. (**Postpartum doulas DO NOT administer any medical tasks nor do they offer medical advice or make diagnoses. They are aware of what is typical but will always encourage you to see your midwife or doctor if you are concerned).

Newborn care-bathing, differences between types/brands of diapers, diapering, bottle feeding, differences between baby carriers, soothing techniques, teaching strategies for new parents, developmental milestone awareness, burping, getting baby dressed, newborn characteristics.

Emotional support-listening to new parents as they divulge their struggles, assess new parents for postpartum mood disorders, encouraging new parents to rest, understanding what needs to be done without being asked to do it (i.e. making meals, getting groceries, light housekeeping), nurturing new parents, providing resources that could be beneficial for the parents.

Family dynamics-introducing baby to older siblings, helping older siblings adjust to their new role, walking pets, feeding pets.

Professionalism-providing care with no judgment or personal bias, maintaining confidentiality with each client, not offering medical advice, respecting the needs and requests of the parent(s), accepting various family dynamics, communicating effectively with clients so that everyone benefits from the interaction between family and postpartum doula.

Questions to ask

Your search for your postpartum doula should begin while you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy to ensure that you have found someone to begin right away when baby arrives.

You can do a quick Google search to find out what postpartum doulas are available in your area. Check their websites to see if you might be able to establish a connection with them, and then consider asking these questions that are recommended by DONA:

-What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization.)

-Have you had a criminal background check, a recent TB test, current CPT certification?

-Tell me about your experience as a postpartum doula.

-What is your philosophy about parenting supporting women and their families during postpartum?

-May we meet to discuss our postpartum needs and the role you will play in supporting us in the postpartum period?

-What different types of services do you offer?

-May we call you with postpartum questions or concerns before the birth?

-When do your services begin after birth?

-What is your experience in breastfeeding support?

-Do you work with one or more back up doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet them?

-What are your fee and refund policies?

These are all reasonable questions to ask your potential postpartum doula. You may also ask:

-How far are you willing to travel (if you live outside of their service area) and will there be a travel fee?

-What is your general availability?

-Do you offer a night service? What are the fees for that?

The postpartum period is a very intimate one and you will be at your most vulnerable. If you have an interview with a potential postpartum doula and decide that they’re not for you don’t feel bad about kindly declining their services and continuing on your search.

Hiring a postpartum doula is a very personal endeavor. It takes time and energy to find someone that you feel will fit in best with your family in this postpartum period. Often times, postpartum doulas will offer introductory meetings free of charge so make sure you take them up on that. While it’s possible to get a feel for someone via text it’s worthwhile to meet up and see if you jive together in person!

Do you have experience with a postpartum doula aiding you when you welcomed your baby? I’d love to hear about how your experience went.