What is the role of a Postpartum Doula?
If you are interested in learning why a family might choose to have the support of a doula, please read this paper by DONA International as it eloquently describes the role that a Postpartum Doula plays in the home after the birth of a baby (or babies).
“By mothering the mother, the doula enables the new mother to recover from pregnancy and birth and focus her energy on bonding with her new baby.”
Postpartum Doulas “mother the mother” by attending to her physical and emotional needs while sharing techniques that promote bonding with her baby. Ideally, the mother and baby (and father too!) are able to stay in bed together for as long as possible after the birth. This is often referred to as a “babymoon” and it helps to promote the development of a healthy attachment between the parents and their new baby. A doula can help you enjoy your “babymoon” by providing a helping hand around the house; assisting with meals, errands, light cleaning, sibling care, etc. If it is not possible to stay in bed after the birth, a doula can offer suggestions of other ways to promote attachment, such as skin-to-skin contact and babywearing.
“Doulas are trained in postpartum adjustment, newborn characteristics, care, feeding and development and the promotion of parent-infant bonding.”
Why hire a Postpartum Doula?
You may be wondering about the benefits of hiring a Postpartum Doula. Research has shown that when a new mother is supported during the early postpartum period (first 12 weeks after birth), she experiences:
- “greater breastfeeding success (3-10)”
- “greater self-confidence (11-15)”
- “less postpartum depression (16-21)”
- “a lower incidence of abuse (22-24)”
Furthermore, simply having a compassionate companion in the home, who will listen with an open heart, can be an enormous comfort for an isolated mother. Postpartum doulas focus on the new mother and baby, but also provide support for the entire family, including the partner, siblings, pets, grandparents and extended family.
“partners and other family members benefit from concrete instruction and role modeling on how to support a woman during the weeks after birth”
A postpartum doula will graciously model appropriate infant care techniques so the family can feel more confident in their abilities to care for their newborn. Sometimes family members, especially partners, can feel left out of infant care, especially if the mother is breastfeeding, and can benefit greatly from advice on how to support and care for the new mother. It is important that the partner sees themselves as a vital part of the care team and a doula can help to achieve this.
“Research tells us that support for and from the partner can have a significant impact on the partner’s own experience as well as the emotional adjustment of the mother. (3, 8, 17-21, 31-36)”
Here are some other top reasons why families decide to hire a Postpartum Doula:
1. To ease the overwhelm of infant care
- Even if you have been around infants before, caring for a newborn 24 hours a day while recovering from pregnancy and birth can be exhausting. With the addition of sleep deprivation and postpartum hormone swings, even the simplest tasks can seem daunting. New families have found great comfort in a having a nurturing and competent helping hand to assist in newborn care.
2. To provide emotional support to the entire family
- Offers a safe space for expressing thoughts and feelings associated with newborn
- Listens with an open heart while new parents sift through their new emotions
- Lends a non-judgemental ear while mother processes her birth story
3. To help parents make informed decisions on behave of their infant
- Although a doula does not provide any medical advice, she can help parents sift through the infinite amount of information available and guide them towards evidence-based research on the topic at hand.
4. To provide quality referrals to trusted resources
- Services can range from parent support groups, play groups and diapering services to lactation consultants, care providers and professional practitioners.
- It can be overwhelming to search for the support you need when there are so many providers in your area. When you hire a postpartum doula, you gain access to her professional network of qualified practitioners.
5. To provide respite to parents in the early weeks, in order to allow for rest and self-care
- In the first few days home from the hospital, it can be challenging to juggle caring for a newborn – feeding, changing, soothing, bathing, etc. – while also eating well, resting and allowing time for self-care. While a doula’s main objective is to educate and empower the parents to care for their babies independently, a doula can provide short periods of infant care to allow parents to sleep, shower or perform other self-care tasks.
- Self care is vital for the recovering mother. At first, a doula will provide respite to allow mother this time, however as she recovers, the focus will shift to developing techniques for how the mother can care for her baby while simultaneously caring for herself.