If you are reading this I assume, like many, you want to know what a postpartum doula does and better yet, why can't you just have your mom or family member help you out once the baby arrives?
These are valid questions and hopefully I can shed some light.
Let's start with what postpartum doulas actually do. Postpartum doulas support families anytime within the first year of having a baby. Starting, most often, during the first few weeks -4 months after the baby is born. This support is tailored to each individual family's needs, and the support changes as the needs change-- sometimes with each visit! Some examples of what a day with a doula looks like can be found here , here and here.
A postpartum doula is hired and contracted for a certain amount of hours. These hours can be spent during the day or some doulas even come to your house overnight to give you and your partner a peaceful and deep night's sleep. Depending on how the baby is fed, in the early days an overnight doula would feed the baby or bring the baby to you and then take the baby back to his room to sleep. The doula would make sure the baby stays safe and content, all while you sleep! In the early weeks, when feedings happen often, a couple of hours of restorative sleep can do wonders for the next day.
Daytime hours are spent doing things like:
- helping with older children,
- holding the baby while you nap or take some time for yourself
- providing non-judgmental, emotional support and a listening ear
- providing lactation support and resources as needed
- helping to navigate the inevitable advice given by friends and family
- supporting the choices you make for your family
A postpartum doula could essentially be hired to manage the house while you rest and bond with your baby, all while keeping you fed and hydrated.
But wait, why can't your mom do all of this? Or an experienced friend or family member?
Maybe they can! And that is absolutely wonderful if you have that type of support. But just for kicks, let's consider a few reasons why one might hire a doula:
1. It Takes a Village and Most of Us Don't Live in One.
Sometimes I wonder about how mothers back in the day lived without letting their kids watch a TV show once and while. Now, I definitely ere on the more conservative side when it comes to screen time, but sometimes, I feel like I NEED to stick a 2 hour movie on so that I can do some work or clean the house in peace! I also used to wonder how many women can have 4, 5, 6, 12 (!!) kids, until one day I looked around at my filthy walls (I know, I know, do people really take note of their walls and feel like they need to be cleaned? I do, apparently) and I just had to clean them. I got out a sponge and a bucket of soapy water. Suddenly I had attracted my troops! The kids were here to play and that's when it hit me. THIS is why people have a lot of children.
A lot of children = a lot of helpers. ;)
I realized two things. First, things have changed. Our society has changed. Most women have to work and when they are home, they are living in houses where they are isolated to just their immediate family. This can either make one mind numbingly bored or extremely stressed to work, care for the children and the house on their own. Second, I began to think about my own travels to countries like Haiti and Greece, where village life is still very much alive and the village kids and families are at each other's disposal. There's no need for TV: when kids can roam freely, parents don't have to entertain them.
Better yet, there's always someone around to lend a hand.
So what does this have to do with postpartum care? It has everything to go with postpartum care!
You are coming home from the hospital and you need to rest. You need to be able to nurse, sleep, snuggle and enjoy these moments. Maybe you have older children who can't wait to see you and spend time with you, your partner and the new baby. You don't need to be doing dishes, you don't need to be making food (but you do need to be eating food!) and you don't need to be worrying about laundry. You could benefit from some sleep, a nutritious meal, maybe a shower or a bath and your body needs to recover.
Maybe your partner can help with this for a little while and maybe your friends and family can come over and help too. But we don't live in a village. Much of our support doesn't live close by. If they do, they have to work and care for families of their own. This type of help makes a lovely and refreshing visit, of course, but is it sustainable? Does it feel helpful and secure?
A postpartum doula is trained in this type of support and is with you ONLY for that very reason: to support you and your family well and they stay with you for as long as you need to feel safe and confident.
2. When We Know Better, We Do Better
We have an overwhelming amount of information coming at us. We want what's best for our families and we are part of a generation of people who will not just do what the generations before us did if it doesn't seem best. We research, we observe, we learn and we try to do better. A postpartum doula can help you navigate information found on google by providing current and evidence based research specific to each of your concerns. A doula can also remind you to tap into your own intuition regardless of outside information; encouraging you, that YOU and YOUR PARTNER know what is best for you baby. A doula doesn't judge. A doula supports, listens and provides the space for you to make the decisions you know are best. This can be especially valuable when it feels as if you are swimming upstream.
3. A Doula Knows the Reality of Postpartum Depression (PPD)
I almost didn't list this as a reason why a postpartum doula is beneficial, but then I thought to myself. NO. With one in seven women dealing with some kind of mood or anxiety disorder, it needs to be said. PPD is a very real issue that mothers face every day. It can be scary. It can be overwhelming. It can feel like it will never end. But it can and it will. There is so much support and help available. It does not have to be something to fear.
A postpartum doula is trained in helping mothers to decompress and process their pregnancy and birth. Postpartum doulas welcome all emotions and provide a safe place to be real and raw. A doula can tell the difference between (and help the partner tell) what are normal hormonal changes and what seems as if mom could use a bit more support. She can give referrals to specialists who can help navigate the sometimes, very dark, places of postpartum depression and help find a way out.
So, there you have it!
Hopefully I have provided a bit more information as to what a postpartum doula does and how you can benefit from hiring one. If you are here in Rhode Island, I would love to chat with you more about this wonderful service. Feel free to reach out with any questions or just to say hi!