During pregnancy, we are always gearing up towards the big event: the birth of our new baby.
We have so much support beforehand, and the help of lovely doctors and nurses during labor. But after the birth, often we can feel as though that support system disappears, and we're left alone to deal with all of the overwhelming emotions that come with meeting our new baby.
That's where postpartum doulas come in. A postpartum doula offers emotional and mental support for new parents in the delicate early weeks after giving birth. From helping out around the house and with older siblings to sharing knowledge on feeding and sleeping for your baby, a postpartum doula might just be the support you didn't know you needed. Before the birth, take a look at our guide to being 32 weeks pregnant, and find out all about the [36 week ultrasound] here too.
What Is A Postpartum Doula?
If you've heard the term 'doula' before, it was most likely referring to birth doulas. Postpartum doulas are a little rarer, and take on a slightly different role. Instead of helping and supporting you before and during the birth of your child, a postpartum doula will offer support and information during the postpartum period.
In the past, many women would come together when someone gave birth to a baby, to support the parents by sharing their wisdom, time, and energy while the new mom was recovering from the birth. This could be any amount of time from a week to three months, or even longer if the parents needed it. In most parts of society, this tradition has sadly been all but lost, which is where the services of birth doulas and postpartum doulas come in. They are able to give some of the support that our ancestors had on hand and truly care for a new mom in this overwhelming and exhausting time.
The actual role of a postpartum doula can vary from person to person. It will be as much about their specialist doula services as it will be about what new moms need in the weeks after childbirth. From giving information on breastfeeding to making health capsules from the placenta and supporting the mental health of new parents, the role is as varied as they come.
For a new mom that is struggling with breastfeeding, a postpartum doula could be an amazing help with navigating feeding. A leading cause of postpartum depression is an inability to breastfeed your child, so your postpartum doula can truly be a vital support for some moms throughout this period.
As a new mother who has a history of postpartum or regular depression, a child with special needs, extra stress, or a weak support network, you could be at risk of developing postpartum depression in the postpartum period. You might find that a postpartum doula can offer emotional support that is greatly needed at this time.
People often get confused about the difference between a postpartum nurse and a postpartum doula. A nurse's main goal is to look after and take care of a baby, whereas a doula's main priority is to look after the emotional health of the mother.
Usually, a postpartum doula will assist families for three months after the birth of their new infant, which is the time period that is dubbed the 'fourth trimester', because it's often forgotten when thinking about the stages of pregnancy, but can be the most difficult one for a lot of us.
The length of time you might choose to hire a doula for after the birth of your baby can vary dramatically though, it is most important that you get the support you need for the time that you need it, which could be one week or three years: it is really up to you. Some people even choose to work with a doula once their baby is a little bit older and they are clearer about the needs of their family.
How Can A Postpartum Doula Help You?
The support that postpartum doulas can provide is massively varied, usually without any set tasks. They can support families with practical advice and information, physical tasks, and emotional support.
When you give birth it can feel overwhelming to know what information to listen to, with lots of conflicting and often outdated ideas from different sources. A postpartum doula should become a main form of support for a new mom, and many will guide new moms to focus on self-care. They are trained in understanding postpartum mood and can be helpful when you are feeling unexpected emotions and exhaustion, by coaching you on how to feel better and also being alert to any signs that something more worrying may be going on and helping you contact the relevant support networks before things get out of hand.
If you don't have family living close by or that are willing to come and help with your newborn, then doulas can be a wonderful option to support and assist you at this tiring time. Equally, it may feel overwhelming or stressful for family members to help out if they don't share your ideas and views on bringing up your baby. Some people prefer to hire a doula because they have professional knowledge and understanding, but are equally there to support you in how you wish to raise your baby, and won't try to force you to do anything that you don't feel comfortable with.
For a new mother who doesn't feel like she has the emotional support of parents or other women who have gone through birth and postpartum, a postpartum doula might be a welcome addition to your post-birth household. They will be able to answer any questions and offer support that is often much needed. Postpartum doulas are specialists in all kinds of newborn information, and lots of new parents find comfort in being able to ask their postpartum doula about breastfeeding, postpartum healing, and bonding with your new baby. Your postpartum doula won't act as a baby nurse, and will not be someone who can offer you medical advice, but they will be able to guide you to the relevant professionals that can help you with whatever worries you might have. A nanny or baby nurse can help with your physical needs with your new baby.
As well as helping the mother in the months after childbirth, postpartum doulas can also be great supports to partners to help them understand their role when looking after the baby, and how they can support with feeding and post-pregnancy healing. You might want to hire a postpartum doula to help navigate the relationship between older siblings and a new baby, as often it can be an emotional time for members of the family that don't get as much focus. Your doula can help children to adjust to their newborn sibling and prepare for how things might change in the house from now on.
A doula may also help you by doing light housework to give you time to focus on your newborn. You may also like your postpartum doula to make healthy and nutritious meals for you when you are healing. It is completely up to you whether these are things you want your doula to help with in your family, and it is important to discuss expectations with prospective doulas so everyone is clear. You may want to ask your doula to do the school run, look after older siblings so you can nap, or keep the house clean and tidy. Equally, you may find that it is more important for your doula to provide advice and support to you when you are with your baby, and these things won't matter as much to you.
It is a good idea to work out what services you would like from your doula, as many postpartum doulas have different specialisms and can offer you many different kinds of support. If you are feeling like the concept of breastfeeding feels overwhelming, it could be helpful to look for a doula with that specialism, or if you are worried you may suffer from postnatal depression and anxiety, it might be useful to get in touch with one who has experience in helping women with similar struggles.
Finding A Doula
If you feel like a doula could help your family, then there are a few places you can start looking for postpartum doulas in your area. Why not take to Google to find a site for parents to browse postpartum doulas and try to find one that's a good fit?
There are many different companies that offer postpartum doula training in the U.S., though you don't necessarily need to have a postpartum doula certification to become a postpartum doula. If you're looking for a certified doula, you can also ask your doctor to put you in touch with postpartum doula services in your area. Or you may want to Google the doula training services local to you and you'll find lists of certified doulas to get in touch with.
The duties of a postpartum doula vary massively based on what you require, which means the cost is also something that varies. In cities, you can look to pay between $35 and $70 per hour for a doula, and in smaller areas, anything from $20 to $40. If you would like your doula to be available at weekends and for overnight stays, this will often affect the price you pay. Choosing a doula from an agency instead of hiring them directly might mean that you pay a little bit more because part of your payment will go to the agency. If you find a doula that you have your heart set on, whose cost is a little bit out of your budget, don't be afraid to ask for their sliding scale options and see what they may offer for families of lower income. Ultimately, the decision of whether the cost of a postpartum doula is worth it lies solely with your family and your needs.
You might also want to look into third-party insurance and your personal insurance plan to check if some of a doula's services could be covered. Some insurance companies will cover the costs of hiring postpartum doulas for families. For parents of a newborn who aren't covered and can't afford the costs of hiring a doula, there are charities and volunteer doulas that can help too.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at what to do if you have [chills during pregnancy] or our article about [di di twins]?
The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.