I’ve heard it said that life coaches get into their line of work because they are teaching the things that they themselves need. People in wellness landed there because of an illness. Yoga teachers teach yoga because they are the most stressed of us all! Could it be that I love postpartum doula work because it is the exact thing I needed as a new mom? Probably yes.
Postpartum doulas are the unicorns of the birth world that I had never heard of until after my own kids were grown. And that is incredibly unfortunate, because I certainly could have used one! When I think back to my younger self, the empowering and beautiful birth experience I had with Isabelle, I remember how depleted I suddenly felt in those postpartum months. Sure, I had put some meals in the freezer and asked my husband to pick up a few extra chores, but I was missing a key ingredient in the healthy new mama soup- I had forgotten that the new mother too, needs to be mothered. And I didn’t ask for help or even know I needed it. So what happened? A predictable mess of frazzled nerves, meltdowns and a general feeling of being stretched way too thin. We aren’t meant to navigate these waters alone, and although we are lacking the social structure of a tribe-like support system for a new family, we have other options. Enter the postpartum doula!
So what is a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula is a trained professional who specializes in the months after giving birth. They are an expert in caring for your newborn, creating structures and rhythms for you to build on as you see fit, and they can help you with things like breastfeeding, swaddling, sleeping, etc. Essentially this is a person who comes into your home to fill in any gaps so you can enjoy this fragile and new time. This can look different for every family and what the needs are in any given week or day.
Why do I need a postpartum doula when I can hire a nanny?
There is a big difference between a postpartum doula and a newborn nanny. A nanny can be a wonderful part of your team for strictly taking care of your child or children, and that gives you the space to do the things that you need to do. But a postpartum doula will be filling a different role, and the focus is on the entire family as a unit. While a nanny has their focus on baby, a doula will be looking to you as the birthing person and your needs (mothering the mother or birthing body), the partner and other adults in the house and what their needs may be, and even the other children. The postpartum doula role is about helping all of you to acclimate to this new member of your family, all of your new roles in the family unit, and setting you up for success so you can feel empowered and peaceful about the process. We might do that by cooking and meal prepping, light cleaning, supporting you in your feeding journey whether that be breast or bottle, helping you with sleep, or maybe running you a hot bath while we process your birth experience together. A postpartum doula’s first question when they walk in the door should be “What do you need today?”
Okay, so what does a postpartum do?
This is a great question! And it can be hard to fit into an elevator speech because a postpartum doula can wear so many different hats and do so many things for your family. It is a little bit like staring at a wall of candy in a candy store.. too many options! It is hard to imagine ahead of time how a shift will go with your doula, but it should look something like this.
Your doula will show up to your home sometime after your little nugget is born. If she is me, she will likely show up with presents and a big bag of tricks that includes herbs, teas, baby carriers and various baby gear. She will ask you how you are feeling. How have your nights been? When was the last time you had a good meal or drank water? How is feeding your baby going? Do you need support in any kind of baby care?
Your doula will touch base and start to assess what it is that she thinks you need. She will pick up clues by watching you and your partner and noticing if there are any major changes made to your home since before the baby was born. Then she will ask what your goals are for her shift and together you will come up with some intentions.
From there, it might look like running a bath for you to soak in with your baby while your doula picks up the living room. Or maybe it is a foot massage while giving newborn advice and breastfeeding support. Very often I help families come up with a “weekly rhythm” that we then write down together to help them plan ahead for success. I am also a chef and a yoga teacher, so I like to bring in some meditation to our time together, breathing and connecting as a family, and making sure to leave something in the kitchen for you to enjoy once I’ve left.
As you can see, it is hard to create a solid definition of what a postpartum doula does because she does it all. She is your friend and a professional. An expert and a guide. A space holder and warm hug.
I know you’ve heard the old saying, You can’t pour from an empty cup. Well she is there to fill your cup.
You can check out this post here that might give you some ideas of what to ask your postpartum to do for you if you need some ideas!
Great! When do I hire a postpartum doula and how do I pick one?
Ideally, hiring your team before the baby is born is a really smart way to go. You want to feel completely comfortable with your doula because she will be coming into one of the most vulnerable times of your life. That being said, there is never any “wrong” time to hire a postpartum doula. Very often families reach out to doulas after they are a few weeks in and realize they need more help than they thought!
You can find doulas through google searches, local doula chapters and recommendations from other birth professionals in your area. Set up consultations and phone calls with several doulas in your area, and at the risk of sounding cheesy, choose with your heart. Pick the doula who is trained, but put most of your focus on how well you click and less on their credentials. As I said, this person is going to be in your space in a beautiful and vulnerable time, and you want to feel completely comfortable.
I hope this gives you a better idea of what a postpartum doula does, what their role is in your postpartum experience and what to expect when hiring one. If you want to check for my availability, please feel free to contact me here!