What is a Postpartum Doula?

There’s no class that can tell every new parent what their postpartum period will look like. But if you’ve spent time with any new families you will un-doubtedly get a picture of a 24 hour ride, filled with disrupted routines and broken sleep. Many will confess to the challenges of having a shifting dynamics between partners in regards to household duties and time management. Even fewer new parents will admit that baby’s are like casinos; day and night look very similar. The new responsibility of being a parent can be simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.

It’s worth taking a moment to meditate on the fact that new moms do not become new moms by the wave of a wand but through giving birth. Going through labor and delivery (vaginally or surgically) is a lot of work and moms will physically feel that work in the days after.  In the first week postpartum women will experience multiple hormonal shifts, engorged breasts, and moderate to heavy bleeding. On top of the physical and hormonal changes mom is experiencing there is also a new baby in the home to care for and so begins the “fourth” trimester.

Many couples have support through family and friends and more times than not this is enough to sustain them. But sometimes the best friend is one who brings you food, tells you how beautiful your baby is and leaves. Sometimes the best family member is the one who admits it’s been 30+ years since they took care of a new baby and don’t remember a thing. Over the course of the next few weeks, new families need to find their own rhythm for taking care of their baby.

Enter the postpartum doula. A postpartum doulas role is to help a family get on their feet in the early weeks or months postpartum. This can look very differently depending on an individual family’s needs. The practical thing a postpartum doula helps with is meal preparation, laundry, cleaning up, and assembling the many gadgets and toys you’ve acquired. But the true worth of hiring a postpartum doula is in her ability to help you and your partner become the expert on your baby.

To gain confidence it is nice to have a postpartum doula available to ask newborn care questions to, screen for breastfeeding challenges, and help mom with self-care for her postpartum recovery. PP doulas are also able to help mom find the appropriate resources if they suspect postpartum depression. In a household with more than one child a PP doulas can spend time with the baby so mom can spend quality time with a sibling or vice versa. PP doulas can share local resources and refer you information you may have questions about. Many postpartum doulas are good listeners and while this may seem silly to you now, it can be nice to have a non-judgmental ear to share your birth story with, or your fears and expectations about becoming a parent. Having another set of hands in your home also means there is someone who can hold your baby while you eat, shower and nap. If your partner is still at home then it is also an opportunity for you to spend quality time together.

There are also postpartum doulas that support women over night. These doulas can offer parenting tips and strategies, help with breastfeeding, take over baby care so mom can stay in bed to nurse, bring snacks and beverages and prepare pump supplies and bottles for the next day.

Baby’s are like casinos, day and night are the same and their needs need to be met throughout this ongoing 24 hour period. I once had a client call me to say she began to take bets if she could get something done in her home by a certain time. When she failed to brush her teeth by 7pm she realized her days and nights were busier than she could have ever imagined.

It’s not surprising that many postpartum doulas in the course of doing their work themselves out a job. What might seem unmanageable on day 2 becomes smooth sailing on day 20 and before you know it, just like that, the fourth trimester ends.

By Shara Frederick Sharafrederick.com Postpartum Doula