What can a postpartum doula do for you?
You are about to become a new mother. Or rather, you are about to meet the baby you are already mothering, whose presence is highly anticipated. You have yourself prepared for the birth – you’ve done the antenatal classes, have your hospital bag ready and have a heavenly selection of tiny onesies just waiting to receive your beautiful baby. Have you prepared for the afterbirth, though? Not the nurturing physical afterbirth - the placenta - but the actual process of adapting your and possibly your partner’s life for the arrival of this little bundle of joy?
So many times as a postpartum doula, we hear the words ‘I wish I had known about postpartum doulas’. It is normal that as a new mother, we don’t necessarily understand all the challenges we will face once we become postpartum – when the baby has been born. We hear about the challenges we might face from our friends and family, but nothing can quite prepare us for this journey into parenthood. We can, however, be prepared for when these challenges arrive, by putting ourselves in the optimal position to overcome these challenges; we can be guided through those initial days and weeks by a postpartum doula. Research has shown that there are eleven ‘domains of care’ that mothers benefit from by having a postpartum doula.
-Emotional Support: For several weeks after the birth, you can expect to be tired, hormonal and possibly under stress while trying to adapt to the demands of a new baby. Postpartum doulas offer reassurance, experienced evidence-based knowledge, and positive, warm support. Having such support may drastically reduce the risk of postnatal depression which affects 7000 mothers every year. In addition, having postpartum emotional support is proven to reduce your stress levels, promote oxytocin and help you produce more milk if you are breastfeeding!
-Physical Comfort: Whether vaginal or Caesarean, you will most likely be in some discomfort after the birth. A postpartum doula will reduce your discomfort by giving you practical assistance and advice.
Self-Care: As a new mother it is easy to feel overwhelmed with so much to do. Your postpartum doula will help you get into a stable and comfortable routine, and remind you to eat, help you stay hydrated, help you get some sleep or take that long-desired shower.
Infant Care: Sleeping, breastfeeding, bathing, changing, dealing with reflux and colic, your postpartum doula is there for you through it all. If you plan on breastfeeding, your doula can help you with getting the latch right, finding comfortable feeding positions, adjusting to your baby’s needs and help with recognising signs of hunger. Learn evidence based techniques to help soothe baby, and deal with common infant issues such as colic.
-Information: No matter what books you’ve read, there’s nothing like a trained postpartum doula to give you information as you need it. When your hands are so full it’s hard to even pick up your mobile phone, you need experienced, evidence-based, professional information you can rely on.
-Advocacy: A new mother is so busy looking out for her child, but who looks after the mother? While you may have deep partner support, if your partner works all day, you might find that you need someone to advocate for you. Even just a gentle reminder or helping hand to remind you to look after yourself and your needs. From doctor’s appointments and checkups to visitors, having someone who puts you first when you are too tired or stressed to think straight can make all the difference.
-Referral: If you need the next level of professional support, you needn’t have to scour forums and internet articles. Your postpartum doula can assist in referring you to the right professional, fast.
-Partner Support: Let the postpartum doula help support the dad or partner on how to handle baby while you are catching up on some much needed sleep. Often as mothers we feel we have to learn to look after the baby and teach our partners too. Your postpartum doula will ensure that your partner is fully up to speed on how to feed, change, hold and care for your infant.
-Support Mum/Dad with Infant: More than the practical issues of infant care, support with the infant means adjusting your life to this tiny beautiful being. Learn how to relax with baby, address any anxieties and settle into life as a parent.
-Sibling Care: If this is not your first baby, or your baby has a sibling, you may find it hard to juggle everything at once. Your postpartum doula can assist in providing care for the sibling while you focus on your new arrival. In addition, receive tips and techniques on helping the sibling to bond with the new baby while also maintaining your own bond with all your children.
-Household Organisation: Mounting anxiety can begin for a mother when it seems hard to cope with ‘the household’ while caring for a new baby. Your postpartum doula will help you with your organisation, assist in getting over the initial few weeks after the birth and work out a routine designed to you and your family's needs.
So who wouldn't want a Postpartum Doula??
A postpartum doula “mothers the mother”, providing companionship, non-judgmental support and evidence-based information, along with very practical support. The doula nurtures the mother so she can better nurture her baby and helps the family adjust to their “new normal”.
She offers soothing methods and coping skills, enabling parents to build their confidence and connect with their new babies. Now, what new mother wouldn't appreciate the gift of a Postpartum Doula!
Written by Clare Collins, Midwife, IBCLC,Postpartum Doula, & Infant Massage Instructor. Owner of Breastfeeding Cork and Independent Doula Contractor with DoulaCare Ireland.