What Do Postpartum Doulas Do? Why They May Be Even More Valuable Than A Birth Doula!
Updated: Jan 29
"I'm just now learning about Birth Doulas, and now you mean to tell me there's such a thing as Postpartum Doulas?" Yes, my friend. Yes I do. And before you ask if you should choose between a Birth Doula and a Postpartum Doula, the answer is- you shouldn't. If you don't have to choose, don't. A Doula for both will prove to be a vital part of feeling confident, heard, supported, and cared for. Additionally, the overwhelming amount of statistics from research, surveys, and personal testimony show an increase in positive medical, and mental health outcomes when a family has a Doula. (Whew. What a mouthful.)
HOWEVER, there are many reasons why a Postpartum Doula may be a more impactful part of your support team than a birth Doula; if you did have to choose. Here are THREE reasons why:
1. BIRTH IS SO TEMPORARY- POSTPARTUM IS NOT
Despite what you might be feeling during labor or birth, it doesn't in fact...last forever. Three days. Three days is the longest I've personally watched (or heard) of a labor/birth taking to complete. While technically speaking- we are always "postpartum", the immediate postpartum period is usually referred to as the "fourth trimester" or the first 12 weeks after birth. Many people also continue describing themselves as "immediately postpartum" for 12 months after birth. It does take 9 months to grow the baby after-all. Why wouldn't it take at least 9 months to recover? During this time, women go through incredible transformation in their hormones, their physical and emotional recovery, and just about every single aspect in between.
In an instant, our thought patterns can change.
"What if I get into a car accident with the baby in the car?"
"Is the baby breathing?"
"Is this even normal?"
"Does everyone struggle as much as I am?"
"Maybe I made a mistake. Was I ready for this?"
During this time, it's hard not to feel alone. Isolated. Full of doubt. Maybe your postpartum period does not include depression, or anxiety. Does that mean that you feel 100% confident in reading your newborn's cues? How about your own cues? When is the last time you had the freedom and permission to listen to your own cues and eat a hot meal without interruption? Or even a nap?
Think about all of the support that's given during birth, right? If you give birth in a hospital, there are several nurses, your midwife or doctor, your partner, perhaps a birth Doula, maybe a photographer, the anesthesia team on standby, more nurses to care for your baby. The list is endless. So why do we think that mothers don't need the same level of support once that same baby comes home? Do their needs, pain level, fears, feeding intervals, number of bowel movements, hygiene, and emotions no longer matter?
The whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice is garbage by the way. As much as I'd like to say you should, I know after three babies of my own that it's not that easy (especially after your first baby). But the reason why you might not be able to sleep when your baby does matters. Is it because you're anxious about what might happen to your baby? Is it because the pile of dishes that are forming their own mountain colony in the sink won't let you? Is it because you have older children that need your attention and care too?
No matter what the reason might be, a Postpartum Doula can be the answer!
So you're anxious about what might happen to your baby? Your Doula will allow you to talk, vent, and tell her all about your anxious thoughts without any judgement or shame. Then, you and her can come up with a plan for that day so that you can rest. Maybe that means you keep the baby monitor so you can hear that she's taking care of your baby well. Maybe that means you don't have the baby monitor so that every little noise doesn't make you anxious.
The house chores are driving you nuts- not letting you feel like you can rest?
No problem. Your Doula can tackle those light household chores during your shift that feel like a 200lb weight to you. Can you imagine waking up from a 2 hour nap with your sweet baby to find neatly folded baby clothes in a basket and a hot meal waiting for you? You can have exactly that with a Postpartum Doula.
Would you rest if you could, but have older children at home with you?
Rest easy. Your Doula is an expert in playing with your kids while managing your newborn. Baby-wearing to the rescue! [For a more detailed description of what a daytime or overnight Postpartum Doula shift may look like like for your family, send us a message here]
2. BIRTH SIMPLY STARTS THE TRANSFORMATION TO MOTHERHOOD; POSTPARTUM LAYS THE FRAMEWORK TO PARENTING
Birth is the wedding; postpartum is your marriage. Cliche? Perhaps. But a perfect analogy, nonetheless. Think about how much time, money and energy you invested into your wedding day. What if i replaced the words "wedding day" with "birth". There's the childbirth classes, the books, the blogs, the friends' stories, the google research, and everything in between.
Now what if I asked you how much preparation you put into your marriage (postpartum)? Have you taken classes? Read the same number of books? My guess is- probably not. Or if you have, you're preparing for "what to expect" from the baby; rather than for yourself.
There's a very good chance that you have no idea what your parenting philosophy is. There's a decent chance you didn't even realize there was such a thing as a "parenting philosophy". Attachment parenting? Scheduled parenting? Where do you lie?
Being able to identify your beliefs you hold as a parent (some you may not even know that you hold) and understand why certain things trigger your anxiety, or make you feel doubts, makes you a better, more confident parent. It just does. Your Postpartum Doula is there to validate you, reassure you, and ask you questions to get you to this point. Thus lies "the framework to parenting".
3. PEOPLE GIVE YOU THE MOST ATTENTION AND CARE DURING BIRTH, AND THEN FORGET ABOUT YOU ONCE YOU'VE BEEN HOME. IT JUST MAKES SENSE- MOTHER THE MOTHER
If you've had a baby before, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, this is an unfortunate fact. Maybe its the sheer tiny size of these babies. Perhaps it's the adorable coos and famous newborn smell that does it, but somehow the focus shifts from you to your baby; and it happens in an instant.
To go from 9 months of questions (many very much unsolicited), to a minimal amount of questions about how you're doing or feeling can feel very isolating. Did you know that suicide, and drug use is among the leading causes of death in the first 12 months after childbirth?
From personal experience, and years of Doula work, this is a recipe for disaster. You grew this baby. You are this baby's food source (that goes for you too formula moms). You are what your baby depends on for each and every need that they have. So who is meeting your needs?
Your Postpartum Doula cares about your needs first and foremost (with your baby's needs taking a very close second priority). So before they ask you about your baby, they will ask you when the last time you ate was. When was the last time you took a bath, or pooped, or slept? Doesn't that sound amazing? This type of support is attainable to you. You deserve it. The village mentality is fading, and we want to be your village. We were not meant to mother alone.