by Kathryn Orr, CD(DONA), LCCE
Are you wondering if you need postpartum doula support? Or if you should gift it to your sister, daughter, friend? Or maybe, what the heck is a postpartum doula? People often aren’t sure where the lines are drawn between birth doula care and postpartum doula care. So here I’ll outline four overarching ways that postpartum doulas care for families during the postpartum time (right after birth until about 3 months postpartum).
A postpartum doula is trained to care for mamas during the postpartum time, physically and emotionally.
Those of us who are also birth doulas have detailed knowledge of the physical healing process that takes place after birth, whether vaginal or cesarean. We can answer questions, recommend natural ways to enhance healing, and provide resources. Our training also includes breastfeeding support, so we can address common concerns about breast and nipple care. We’ll also assist with making sure you have access to nutritious food, whether that means answering questions, providing recipes, grocery shopping, or preparing meals.
A postpartum doula will also care for her client emotionally. We are trained in signs and symptoms of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and we work hard to make sure our clients are aware of them as well. We’re always there to provide a listening ear for whatever is on your mind. Postpartum can be an intense time, and a friendly listener never hurts.
Postpartum doulas love babies; it’s our job, and for many of us, it’s our passion as well. We are delighted to hold your baby so you can shower, sleep, or take a walk in peace.
We can also answer questions about the maze of baby options: Which baby carrier should I choose? How does this Moby wrap work? How do I give my tiny baby a bath? How do I file her nails? Is my mother in law right when she says I’m nursing my baby too much? Etc.! Your doula should be able to present you with the whole spectrum of options so you can choose what’s right for your family.
We’re also a resource for feeding support. We can address common breastfeeding concerns, and formula feeding concerns. We’ll provide referrals to specialists if needed – we have a network of wonderful birth professionals in our community so we know who will take good care of you!
Your postpartum doula can handle the household tasks that you would normally handle. But when you have a new baby, that’s your full-time job. It’s amazing how one tiny baby (let alone two babies!) can take up 24 hours a day with her constant needs. Your doula will help you with: meal preparation, laundry, light tidying and organizing, emptying the dishwasher, running errands, and more. That way you can rest and snuggle your baby.
I think this is the most unique aspect of the postpartum doula’s role. No one else in your postpartum life supports you in this way. Your doula has a deep knowledge base about all things postpartum, but she’s not emotionally involved in your life. She won’t give you her opinions or judge the choices you make. She’ll listen to you as much as you need, and share options and resources when appropriate. For many new parents, this is a huge relief! Especially if it’s your first time, it helps so much to hear, “You’re doing just fine.”
Kathryn Orr is a birth and postpartum doula and a Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educator. She is expecting her first little one this summer. Read more about Kathryn at MotherBaby Doula Services.