What does a postpartum doula actually do for new parents?
Here is a typical work day in the life of a postpartum doula...
I arrive and we discuss how things are going with mom, baby, and the rest of the family. Sometimes my clients will have a list of questions or things they need done. A list is great so I can prioritize my time and help them as much as possible.
One of the things I love best about my job is that it is constantly changing. In the early days new mothers often need breastfeeding support and information. As time goes on they may need soothing strategies and help to support a good sleeper.
If mom is tired and needs a nap, I make sure she has eaten and baby has nursed (if breastfeeding) then suggest she go sleep. I make sure baby has burped and doesn't need a diaper change. I like to use the Moby Wrap to wrap baby up safely to me so I can get chores done around the house. Babies love being in a wrap, and babywearing significantly lowers the amount babies cry every day so I'm helping the family for later, too.
I usually start with laundry so I can get a load or two done in the three hours I typically spend at a clients' home. I like to leave their home more put together than when I arrive. Sometimes I'll make dinner so no one in the family has to cook that evening. I make sure the kitchen is tidy.
If dad is around I like to check in on how he is doing. What are his thoughts about this new baby? Does he need me to show him any baby soothing techniques or baby care basics? Does he need to eat or rest? A lot of times, having me there to be with mom allows dad to take care of tasks he wants to complete. This could be grocery shopping, finishing up unpacking baby gear (which I also help with), going out to exercise, catching up on work, doing work from home, etc. New mothers tend to have more focus on them, but dads need support too. I find it very rewarding to show a new father a soothing technique one day, and then the next visit I hear from mom how baby was upset and dad calmed him/her like a pro.
When mom wakes up she often will take a bath or shower. Or I may wake her to nurse her hungry baby and leave to let her rest some more. Most new mothers like to discuss how things are going to get a feel that things are on the right track. How many diapers has baby soiled or wet? How is nursing going? How is she healing? I have a lot of suggestions in these and many more areas to help her feel like things are going well. If baby has any issues she is concerned about I can help her decide who to call to help - her pediatrician, an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), a chiropractor, etc. Postpartum doulas have great resources to pass on to clients so they don't have to spend precious time searching.
If there are other children at home I like to play games, and spend time with them. It depends how old they are, of course, but we practice being gentle with baby by using dolls, read books, etc. After having a new baby sometimes what a mother really enjoys is some quality, uninterrupted time with her older child or children. I love being able to give families this time together.
Before I leave I make sure everything is cleaner and calmer than when I arrived. If there were questions I may write down the plan we worked out or go over it verbally. We talk about my next visit and I go home. I make sure I only spend the time with families when they need me. That means I may work only twice with a family, or several times a week for several weeks, or I may only overnight support instead of during the day.
As you can see from this brief description of a typical day I offer many services to families with a new baby at home. You could hire a chef, a cleaning service, a laundry service, a babysitter, etc. But even with all those people at your house you won't have the expertise in care for mom and the evidence-based newborn care I provide.
Postpartum doulas are women who care for families after they have a baby. Consider how important it is to have someone available to help you through this time. I suggest that you find out about some postpartum doulas who work in your area so if you find yourself needing the services they provide you have a phone number or e-mail available to contact one.
I love to talk about what I do and share with expecting and seasoned parents. Feel free to comment or connect with me in one of the many ways listed below.
Read my last blog post 10 Tips for New Grandparents.
You can e-mail me with questions/comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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My website is www.theafterbabylady.com and explains more about the classes and services I provide.