When I tell people that I am a postpartum doula, I often hear, “You must have the hardest job in the world working with depressed moms every single day!” Then I spend a few moments explaining exactly what the word means and what I do.
Merriam-Webster.com defines the word postpartum as: 1. occurring in or being the period following parturition<postpartum depression> 2. : being in or used in the postpartum period <postpartum mothers>
For almost 10 years I have been fortunate and honored to work with new families during the postpartum time. I love my work and I love knowing I have an impact during such a precious time in a family's life. But what exactly is a Postpartum Doula and how does it differ from other maternity care providers like midwives, labor doulas, baby nurses, and night nannies?
Let's first explore what the other providers do and then speak to the role of the postpartum doula.
Obstetricians and Midwives are medical care providers who specialize in the medical needs of pregnant and laboring women who also provide medical care after birth. Obstetricians are the most used medical care providers for women during pregnancy and labor. In the U.S. Only about 8% of births are attended by Certified Nurse Midwives(according to the College of Nurse Midwives statistics for 2012.http://www.midwife.org/CNM/CM-attended-Birth-Statistics)
Labor Doulas are non medical care providers. The offer informational, hands-on physical, and emotional support to women during pregnancy and birth, as well as resources for after birth. They often do one or two short visits with the couple after the baby is born to answer basic questions, but they usually don't have the extensive background and knowledge to provide on-going postpartum care.
Baby nurses and Night Nannies (usually not actually nurses at all) provide hands-on care to the baby after birth- caring for baby's diapers, bottles, soothing baby, helping him sleep, etc. The role of the Baby Nurse is to provide all the care for baby so the mother and father can get rest and gradually shift into parenting without worrying too much about the intricacies of learning to care for a baby in the first few weeks.
The Postpartum Doula is the missing link in our current maternity care practices. The Doula doesn't provide any medical care but like a labor or birth doula- provides informational, physical and emotional support and resources for the new mom, baby, and family. Her goal is to foster confidence in the new parents while compassionately answering questions, providing guidance, and helping them get their needs for rest and nourishment met...all without taking over the care of the baby. Many parents WANT to learn to care for their baby in the days and weeks after birth but have lots of questions. The Doula's knowledge and experience of normal newborn development and typical postpartum recovery provides a sense of comfort and ease to the new parents and entire extended family because they know that when questions arise, there is someone there to help them find answers.
When a baby is born, we expect that we will know how to care for our baby- that we will be immediately born as parents. The reality is that sometimes it takes a few weeks to feel comfortable in your new role. A confident parent isn't always born at the same time as a baby, so it can be very important to have someone there to ease that gap and to give the parents time to recover from birth and get used to caring for themselves and a new little one.
I love my job supporting new families. Watching the look of wonder and excitement on a dad's face as he gives his baby the first bath, or seeing the aha! moment on mom's face when baby finally latches at the breast, or noticing the look of sweet relief on grandma’s face when she leaves to go back to her own home knowing there is someone there to help out...all of these things make my heart sing. I've done a good job when couples feel nurtured, cared for, and confident as they embark on new parenthood.Consider hiring a postpartum doula to help after your baby is born! Contact me for more information!