Despite an ever-growing number of families using doulas during childbirth and postpartum, there are still many misconceptions about what doulas are and their role in pregnancy, birth and beyond. Read on to get the answer to one of the most common questions about doulas: what do postpartum doulas do?
Postpartum doula care
Postpartum doulas can help you adjust to your family’s “new normal” and guide you through the changes that occur when welcoming a new baby or babies into your life. Regardless of how your baby arrives – via surrogate, adoption, vaginal or cesarean birth – a postpartum doula can help you acclimate to life with your newborn.
A postpartum doula provides many services to their clients, but their main goal is to help nurture the entire family unit as they transition into life with a new baby. This can and will look different for every family. Some will only need short term care in the first days after coming home, while others will benefit from on-going postpartum doula care for months after birth. Postpartum doulas work day and/or night shifts, some are independent, while others work with an agency, a collective or in partnership and there are even some midwifery groups that have postpartum doulas on staff.
What do postpartum doulas do? Postpartum doulas provide:
- Encouragement to follow your instincts when it comes to caring for your baby
- Compassionate, non-judgmental emotional support and space to process your birth experience and the new experiences you face once home
- Guidance and assistance with newborn care, such as swaddling, soothing, diapering and bathing.
- Education on normal infant behavior and development
- Baby care so that parents can take a nap, shower, eat or just have some much needed time to themselves
- Feeding support, including helping to identify baby’s hunger cues, guidance on positioning and proper latch, paced bottle feeding and recognizing when baby is getting enough milk
- Guidance on postpartum recovery and ways to facilitate healing
- Sibling care and integration such as playing and reading with your older child while you bond with your new baby, or holding and soothing the baby so that you can connect with your older child
- Light housekeeping (washing dishes, laundry) and household organization
- Light meal preparation to provide the family with nourishing food
Postpartum doulas recognize that planning with a new baby can change from week to week, so they often schedule a week out versus having a set schedule, although, if that works for your family, they are usually happy to schedule that way, too. Their goal is to make your life easier, allowing you to spend more time bonding and getting to know your new little one.
Doulas providing postpartum doula care have a deep understanding of what is “normal” and what is “beyond the scope of normal” when it comes to post–birth recovery, infant feeding, and general baby wellness. When something is beyond the scope of normal, the postpartum doula encourages the client to contact their medical provider or other qualified professionals for help and continues to support them as they navigate the issue.
A collaborative piece, written for PDX Birth with the doulas of Brave Birth Doula Care.