What is a postpartum doula?
You’ve no doubt heard of a birth doula, but what about a postpartum doula? Hiring one is a new option in the world of birth work, but the job isn’t new at all.
A postpartum doula fills the space that a community of women used to fill for new families.
I became interested in becoming a postpartum doula after the birth of my third child. My husband had been deployed throughout my pregnancy and birth and returned the week after our daughter was born. My mother has unknowingly filled the role of postpartum doula for me after each of my children’s births. My older children were born within a two hour drive of my mother, so she has always been there the first week after they were born to help me with the transition to motherhood. She cooks for me, cleans for me, holds the baby while I shower, and sits and listens when I need to talk about my experience and weave my birth story. It is this care and work that inspired me. When my husband joined the military, we didn’t have a plan for a third child; that is just where our journey led us. But, as I struggled with the postpartum period and a third newborn plus being away from my family, I realized that I could be the person to help families similar to mine transition.
I began to study and train, and when my daughter was a year old, I began working as a postpartum doula.
How do I help you after baby is born?
Beginning soon after birth, I come to your home and help you in any way that you need. I do light cleaning, cook nourishing foods, and give you a chance to shower and feel human again after spending months growing your baby. New mothers can be overwhelmed by how much work having a newborn is on top of trying to heal yourself. Your body looks different, it hurts everywhere, you’re sleep deprived, and there is this new person that you can’t bear to look away from because they are just so darn cute. And beyond that, you’re learning a whole new way of being. Even if this is your second, fourth, sixth child, it’s different every time and there are always things you don’t know you need until someone helps you with them.
Just like with birth doula work, postpartum doula work is mother-focused. We study and focus on local resources for moms, and help them with the work that goes into motherhood. I love working with people like Lindsay, who can help get you and your baby into a sleep schedule that works for you. And as a postpartum doula, it is my job to find these people to refer to you.
There are a few ways that a postpartum doula will work with you. When I come into a client’s house, I like to sit down, ask how their day is going, and put together a list with them of things they would like to get done. Think of a postpartum doula as a teammate. We can take over the things you’d like to get done but can’t because you are trapped by a nursing baby. A lot of times, the list looks like this:
And that’s it! Then it is my job to help facilitate those things. I hold the baby while mom showers, I get mom and baby settled watching TV while I start a load of laundry and maybe fold some towels, and then I get dinner prepped so Mom can cook it quickly, or I get something going in the crock pot.
A lot of postpartum doulas also do overnight shifts. This is when a doula shows up around 9 or 10 at night, gets a list from mom (most of the time it’s laundry), and then Mom and Dad go to bed and the doula does baby care, bringing baby to Mom when he’s hungry, then whisking baby away again so Mom can go back to sleep. Around 5:30 or 6, the doula makes coffee and some breakfast and brings baby in to a well-rested family. This is a great option in the first few weeks after recovering from childbirth, though I always like to make sure we transition out of this situation slowly, so that Mom and Dad can work out their sleeping schedule without relying too much on doula to do all the work.
I generally work with families for 4-6 weeks, just long enough to get them over the hump of new parenthood. By 4-6 weeks, we can usually get on some form of a schedule that works for them. Postpartum doulas can be a very helpful part of your birth team, and the postpartum period is often overlooked by pregnant families. I always encourage you to prepare for your postpartum as intensely as you prepare for your birth. There are people there to help you, you just have to look for them.
Mary is a Labor, Birth & Postpartum Doula and Childbirth Educator. As a mother of three, she understands the challenges associated with transitioning from pregnancy to motherhood, and is dedicated to making that transition as seamless as possible for her clients! Being a military spouse makes her deeply familiar with being apart from a familiar support system, which creates the need for mothers to have a self-built village. She brings a calm, relaxed, non-judgmental attitude to pregnancy, labor, and the first few challenging weeks after baby is born. Mary lives with her husband and children outside of St. Louis, and serves families in St. Clair County and the greater St. Louis area.