Becoming a mother is an immensely transformative event which requires nurturing, time and support. This is most dramatic after the first child is born, but happens in some sense again with each birth. For this, a postpartum doula offers: A safe space for mama to be and become, a listening ear, competence through education and wisdom, and confidence through genuine respect, admiration and affirmation.
Taking a newborn home can be intimidating, even for the most experienced, Just the thought of one little life being totally dependant on you is remarkably stunning. For this, a postpartum doula can offer newborn care support, courage through education, affirmation of parental instincts, and connection to resources. A doula is that consistent someone to check-in, who provides tools for the season, without any friction or judgement.
Breastfeeding challenges can be overwhelming. While it is totally natural and somewhat instinctive, it requires learning, patience, sometimes gritty dedication and of course, practical help. For this, a postpartum doula can bring a wealth of knowledge regarding breastfeeding, attentive eyes and ears, helping hands, tools to relieve stress, as well as connection to professional breastfeeding resources. We are there to walk the mother through breastfeeding struggles, troubleshooting with the help of education and professional connections while remaining unattached to an outcome — We would just as easily help the mother introduce formula if that’s what she wanted.
Postpartum Depression and anxiety disorders are a risk for every mother and father bringing home a new baby. Stressing about this with no outlet can only make matters worse. Having a postpartum doula can provide that outlet for your baby blues, feelings of inadequacy, worries or concerns. We can provide an extra set of eyes and ears, offering reassurance as well as connection to professional counseling services as needed. Postpartum doulas can be a pillar of strength, encouragement and non-judgemental clarity when dealing with mental and emotional struggles postpartum. Offering help in other areas, especially practical support, or to just “be there” providing companionship and a breather from parental duties as needed is key to buffering symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety.
Appointments following the arrival of new baby can be many and feel intrusive to the postpartum sanctuary. Those first few weeks of pediatric appointments provide many firsts for baby and new parents and can bring up serious concerns. Postpartum doulas can accompany the family to appointments for moral support, to remind parents of any questions they have, and to help explain things, and to discuss post-appointment feelings. We can help families prepare for appointments and then process the topics discussed therein. Besides offering moral support, we are always there for logistics.. Help with transportation, child-care, getting things done at home so that they are ready for mama and baby when they return, and even with navigating insurance or financial aid.
While pregnant, and even more-so once the baby is born, a mother feels a dramatic shift in concern for baby over herself. It might not be explicit, or bothersome, but having someone dedicated to the mother’s well-being is essential. Many times, a husband can fill this role, but note that the father’s life is changing as well and they could use someone to check-in on them from time to time. A postpartum doula can offer welcome relief from the pressures of being mama all day every day. Postpartum doulas make it a point to remind women of who they are, what hey love, who they were and are becoming. They give postpartum women a place to be themselves, play their favorite tunes, cook their favorite meals, and breath fresh air. As a postpartum doula I color and craft with these women, pray and laugh with them, serve their favorite tea and draw baths with their favorite aromas. In a sense, a postpartum doula mothers women while they learn to mother their babies — all the while not taking anything from grandma! Whatever that looks like will only depend on the postpartum family’s wishes.
Fathers take a backseat to mama and baby postpartum, and not for nothing! However, let’s not forget that they are going through a life-changing event as well and would absolutely benefit from a postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas are there to show new dads how to help their partners through matresence (becoming mother), but can also encourage them in their fatherhood. We listen to their thoughts, concerns and the things that cause them stress. A break to catch up on lost sleep, a helping hand with the kids and household responsibilities to spend some time as husband and wife. Postpartum doulas can meet father’s concerns with education on family dynamics, marriage after children, newborn care, child care and other topics, Connections to financial resources, family counseling, or men’s groups may also be welcome aid to new fathers. 😊
Households can use an extra set of hands while parents focus on bonding, nurturing, and loving new baby. Settling into new family dynamics can take up as much mental space as preparing for birth. Letting some household chores fall to another’s hands for awhile can provide the space for parents to breath, bond, and create the family life they envision.
Of course the health and well-being of the family is important to doulas. Nutrition and exercise play key roles in this, as well as resource referral. Preparing nutritious meals, and/or setting up a meal train, and sharing information from nutritionists or offering a list of local professional resources are all ways postpartum doulas support women. Taking a daily stroll with mothers and providing resources for gentle postpartum exercise including connections to personal trainers specializing in work with postpartum women are all ways a doula can support healthy exercise.
The nursery is typically done before the baby comes home, but is also another aspect where a postpartum doula can help with some expertise. Helping to organize the nursery and home for easy baby care with functionality and style according to your personality and dreams is something many doulas have come to understand quite well. Intelligently designing nurseries in a way that appeases the eyes of parents and their new baby, bringing a sense of peaceful joy and soothing love while providing ease of use and quick access to daily essentials is something I love to do. Having organized infant rooms in daycares, and nurseries in homes, I am well versed in functionality, and have studied the effects of color, and just enough design to encourage play and promote sleep. Even if you know exactly how you’d like everything, a postpartum doula can offer helping hands with this – (even before the big birth-day)! It’s always a good idea to meet with your postpartum doula once or twice before the birth anyway. Helping with the nursery is a great way to do that! From organizing baby clothes, to building nursery furniture, a postpartum doula will be there.
Securing child-care for your infant within the first two-three months home is another full-time job. Child-care providers that meet your specific philosophical, educational, safety, and wellness standards for your child can seem few and far between, especially for infant-toddler care. A postpartum doula can certainly help you through this process. As an early childhood professional myself, I am well versed in child-care/education centers, home-based group and family options as well as nanny/au-pair care. I will be right there to help navigate the process and even weigh in on candidates, if asked.
Postpartum doulas can be a resource for newborn-infant growth and development topics. Coming with a wealth of education from my personal background in Early Childhood Education, I take this seriously, while encouraging families to seek help from their pediatrician and connecting them to early intervention specialists as appropriate.
Some postpartum doulas also help with bereavement in the case of infant loss. I plan to provide this at no cost to families who have hired me for birth or postpartum care. In this arena, a postpartum doula would first help with resource connection for proper bereavement counseling. I would then make an appointment to come like I would for a normal postpartum visit and just sit with mama, helping to heal, organize, and work through this reality of postpartum without a baby. A woman who has gone through miscarriage/stillbirth, has held her child in her womb and now must heal in all the ways. A postpartum doula can still be a tremendous support during this time and we will not abandon a mother whose child could not come home with her as hoped.
As you can see, the list of ways a postpartum doula is there for women and perinatal families is rich and can expand with each client’s particular desires. In the Netherlands, there is government funded postpartum care. There, home maternity nurses do many of the same things a postpartum doula can do except that they are regulated by the medical model. Clearly the Netherlands sees this type of postpartum care as basic, something every mother should have. Maybe one day America will too, until then, we are here, at your service and as you wish!