the benefits of having a postpartum doula
i am in the midst of working a postpartum gig with a family who just had their baby in early december. they hired me to work nights towards the end of their pregnancy knowing it was wise to have some assistance. like most families, they weren't sure exactly how much support they would need, so we began with a week commitment.
i think most people wonder why they would need to hire someone to come into their home and help take care of their baby. we live in a society devised of nuclear families. unlike many people around the world who live near most of their extended family or in a tight community, we americans are expected to fend for ourselves and do it all on our own. we are independent culturally, and to ask for help seems weak or unnecessary.
being pregnant is one scenario. for the most part, your body takes care of itself. you don't have to tell your brain how to make a baby or take care of it in the womb. your baby is safe and receives all of the nutrients she needs. there is no cry at 3 am to make you wonder what to do.
once outside the womb, all of this changes. now you have a tiny, helpless life in your hands, and crying is it's most frequent form of communication. in school we are taught many skills, however few of us are taught how to care for a newborn. and even though most couples engage in childbirth preparation, few enroll in a newborn care class.
so why have a postpartum doula? why not. why not set your family up right from the beginning? a postpartum doula will be in your home with you. after you give birth, you and your partner will most likely be exhausted. life around you will continue on, so meals, laundry, bills, errands, etc. will still need to happen. having another set of hands who are educated, confident, caring and kind will bring you the positive upliftment you will need to carry on.
a postpartum doula will help you organize your baby's nursery. she will educate you throughout the day or night any time you have a question or concern. she can show you skills such as how to soothe your baby, how to change your baby, or how to bathe your baby.
and most importantly her presence allows for you to have more rest. you can lay down for a nap, and know confidently that your baby is in good hands while you rest. postpartum doulas are there to run errands, do light housecleaning, and other organizing.
if you are breastfeeding a doula can help in many ways. she can assist with positioning and your latch. she can suggest ways to deal with engorgement and discomfort. she is educated in breastfeeding and is able to help with many uncertainties. and she knows when an issue is out of her scope, and who to call for help.
at the end of the day, none of us know how we will give birth. no matter how much we prepare for our natural home birth or expect a safe vaginal delivery in the hospital, we just don't know what journey nature will gift us to meet our baby. having a postpartum doula lined up to meet us at home the day we arrive from the hospital can be a huge relief.
when selecting a postpartum doula, i suggest you follow your gut instinct. pick someone who is well educated, trained and/or experienced. however, at the end of the day, select someone you feel good around. she will be in your intimate space and you want to feel safe and secure in her presence.
here is what most postpartum doulas offer:
• Support for the mother so that she may restore and replenish her strength
• Light massage and other relaxation techniques for mom
• Breastfeeding support and education
• More sleep and personal time
• Postpartum depression prevention and care
• Infant care skills and education in newborn characteristics
• Coping mechanisms
• Assisting with older siblings
• Healthy and wholesome meals to nourish the body
• Washing baby’s laundry
• Light housekeeping
• Running errands
• Screening phone calls and visitors
• Assistance in redefining new familial relationships
• Appropriate referrals