Why you should hire a doula after birth!
You may have heard of a postpartum doula (a doula for after birth) but don’t know exactly what that means. Before I began looking into the training, I didn’t either. What I found listed on websites was a confusing jumble of options. As it turns out, that is just because this profession is very versatile. We're going to help clarify the role and benefits today.
First, what is a postpartum doula and how is that different from a birth doula?
According to DONA International Position Paper, a postpartum doula helps families in “the fourth trimester”, the time after birth until 12 weeks postpartum. We specialize in “educating and supporting parents and providing breastfeeding support, emotional support, resources, and any necessary referral information”. We also help with infant care and household tasks. This is different from a birth doula, who helps a family prepare for and go through labor and birth. Some postpartum doulas are also birth doulas (like us), but the training and certification is different. A postpartum doula is also different from a baby nurse, whose sole focus is on infant care (not parent/family support).
How important is postpartum support? Does it make a difference in outcomes for families?
Yes! The evidence shows parents who feel supported and cared for are more skilled at adapting to the changes of postpartum period. Studies have shown that new parents have better postpartum adjustment in societies where they are cared for by others for a specific period of time. Postpartum support increases your chance of breastfeeding success, greater self-confidence, less postpartum depression, and a lower incidence of abuse. (In case you would like to read more, the studies that show these are all included in the DONA paper linked above.)
In days past, most people were intimately involved in raising children from numerous families. Most young people would have helped with babies, home births, and care of new parents for extended periods of time. New parents would have extensive knowledge about and experience with breastfeeding and postpartum recovery. They would have a support system in place to help with this monumental transition. But, we simply don’t live in a society where these things are still the norm.
Yet we still expect new parents to have all the skills of infant care and to use those skills while recovering from birth. Add in the sleep deprivation, sporadic meals, physical discomforts, and frequent visitors of the first few weeks and it is obvious that this is an unreasonable expectation.
These expectations can lead to feelings of isolation or inadequacy, which makes this time of transition even more difficult!
How can postpartum doulas help?
Postpartum doulas “facilitate the transition to parenthood by supplying reliable and factual information, reassurance, and hands on support with children and household organization”. We want you to feel cared for and confident. We lessen the burden on you so you can focus on what matters most – yourself and your family.
The ways postpartum doulas help depends on your preferences and needs but here are the basics. We provide a safe space for questions or concerns. We are trained in comfort measures, reliable, evidence-based information, and referral techniques to get you answers to your concerns. We don’t have an agenda we push – we help you develop a feeding, parenting, and sleeping system that works for your family. We can help with sibling adjustment. We help with light housework and meal preparation so you can focus on recovering and bonding as a family.
I have friends and family coming into town after the baby is born, do I really need a postpartum doula?
Strong support from family and friends is invaluable and should always be welcomed. But let’s be real; we often have unreasonable expectations from our support people, too.
Family and friends may have years of experience with children, but this experience may be from years ago. Birth and parenting are full of trends & recommendations that are ever-changing. Outdated and non-evidenced based practices may undermine your preferences or even inadvertently put your child in danger. Consider these two examples:
When we were babies, it was recommended to place babies on their stomach to sleep to prevent choking on spit up. However, tummy sleeping has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is no longer recommended. Your support person may not know all babies should be placed on their back to sleep.
Consider carseats. They weren’t required until almost the 1980s and those were very different from the car seats required today. Does your support person feel confident with using or installing a modern car seat safely or even checking for a good fit?
You may choose to parent very differently from your friends and family.
For example, you plan to exclusively breastfeed, but your family & friends have always used formula or you plan to have your baby sleep in a crib but your family & friends have always co-slept with their babies. You may feel unsupported or pressured to quit something you care about.
A postpartum doula can help! Many friends and family members desperately want to help but are unsure how. Doulas provide a role-model for support people on ways they can help the new parents. We are up-to-date on modern recommendations and requirements. We will help you wade through out-dated and, often, unsolicited advice. We can help you find non-judgmental resources to share with your support people. We also have techniques to help new siblings adjust and help with household tasks so that your family can spend time enjoying you and your new baby.
Last but definitely not least, your family members may be unsure when you may benefit from help from a professional.
Doulas are non-medical professionals but are trained in normal postpartum recovery. We can help identify when your recovery becomes complicated and refer you to lactation consultants, doctors, support groups, and counselors, if needed.
Okay, so you definitely want a postpartum doula, but aren’t doulas expensive?
Often, yes – we are trying to both answer a calling and make a living. DONA International’s Vision is “A doula for every woman who wants one”. With this in mind, many doulas offer some way to cut costs. Some doulas offer gift certificates so friends and family can donate to help financially. We do this and recommended you ask for these for your baby shower presents to help with the cost! Some doulas offer a discounted price or sliding scale for low-income families. We offer a discount for clients using WIC. Others will decrease their price if you buy multiple services. For example, we offer a discount if you buy both birth doula and postpartum doula services. We also offer a military discount. We are happy to answer any questions you have about out current options at firstname.lastname@example.org or (865)315-8548.
Although not usually covered by your insurance, some insurance companies will pay a portion or allow you to pay for your postpartum doula out of a health or flexible savings account. Contact your health insurance provider for more information about your specific situation.
Bottom Line: With all this information in mind, we urge you to consider carefully the benefits and options to offset the cost before you write off having a postpartum doula off as a luxury you can’t afford.
What do you think? Did you learn anything new about postpartum support or doulas by reading this blog? Did you have a postpartum doula after your last birth or will you have one for your next one? What experience have you had with postpartum doulas/friends who have had doulas?