What Is a Postpartum Doula?
My first exposure to postpartum doula services was when my second daughter was born. We had a 22 month old and a newborn, so my girlfriend was nice enough to tell me about the lifesaving powers of a postpartum doula! She was invaluable to me during that transition into being a mom of TWO! And not just any two… two in diapers… two breastfeeding… two in need of their mom All. The. Time. Those first few weeks (ok, months) were overwhelming to say the least. Our doula was such an enormous help.
What Does a Postpartum Doula Do?
Let me give you a snap shot into a morning with our doula. She would:
– Arrive as my husband was leaving for work
– Make sure I had eaten breakfast
– Switch or fold laundry, unload the dishwasher, and/or sweep the kitchen
– Play with my oldest while I breastfed the new baby
– Show me some tandem nursing positions when my oldest decided she wanted to nurse too
– Go with me to the grocery store for my first attempt at shopping with two babies
– Go with me to Tumble Bugs and hold the baby so I could spend some quality time with my toddler
– Talk to me! (Any new mom can tell you how lonely it can be when you are home with a baby all day and have no adults to converse with)
Can Doulas Help at Night?
Fast forward a few years and I am now a Postpartum Doula myself! I love supporting new families in this way. Something I offer now, that I did not know about when I had my girls, is overnight care (for the record, HAD I known about this service I would have used it and LOVED it!) Sometimes clients use a combination of day time and night time help, but sometimes they can manage day times on their own if they can Just. Get. Some. Sleep. Sleep is so important in general, but especially when your body is recovering from birth, recovering from surgery, or making breastmilk. A Postpartum Doula can be so helpful in the night time hours for exhausted parents.
What Does a Doula do at Night?
Some of the things I do in the middle of the night for clients:
– Mix formula and prep bottles for the following day
– Bring mom fresh water and a snack when she gets up to breastfeed
– Wash pump parts and bottles if mom is pumping
– Take care of the changing, burping, and settling back to sleep of the baby so mom can go right back to sleep after she breastfeeds
– Do baby laundry
– Give baby a bottle in the night so the parent(s) can get a solid chunk of sleep
– Keep mom company while she breastfeeds/pumps (it’s amazing how many scary questions creep into a new mom’s mind at 2am)
Does Raising a Newborn Have to be so Hard?
I’ll be honest with you. I did not picture myself as a postpartum doula when I became a birth doula years ago. Actually, after I explained what I’d be doing at a postpartum shift (changing diapers, getting up with baby to feed them in the middle of the night, etc.) my daughter looked at me like I was stupid and said “Ummm… Isn’t that exactly why you don’t want to have more kids?!”
Of course, it’s different when it’s not your own baby. When you know things now that you didn’t know then (how to get babies to sleep longer stretches perhaps?) When you can be the calm presence in the room because you know it’s all going to work out. When you can go home and catch up on sleep after a night up with a baby. We only do the best we can with the information we have at the time right? Well, let me tell you, I have so much more information (and perspective!) than when I was raising my babies.
I know we hear so much about babies thriving, but what I love about postpartum work is watching parents thrive. (Obviously it is important that babies get the care they need, however it is equally important that parents are well cared for.)
Not just survive.
Not barely-make-it-through, ragged, exhausted, and second guessing every choice they’ve made.
No, when you experience the support of a postpartum doula, you can make it through those first weeks well-rested, well-fed, and unconditionally supported in your parenting choices.