A traditional childbirth doula is retained by the parents-to-be and focuses entirely on the mother during labor and childbirth, offering essential and continual support during what can be an intense experience. Other childbirth personnel come and go, but the doula stays as needed, and can be a warm and calming presence for the laboring mom. After the baby is born and mom is in recovery, the doula’s job is usually over — but some also offer postpartum doula services. What is that all about?
The role of a postpartum doula is a little more open than that of a birth doula. The postpartum doula comes to the new mother’s house and works where she is needed, according to her needs and the needs of her family. Not only can she provide direct support for the mother and her family, she can also tend to housework while the new parents get to know their baby. She’s flexible and knows when to jump in and when to back away.
After a baby is born, the focus of everyone around the mother often shifts to the baby, which can leave the new mom feeling lonely or unsupported. A postpartum doula can help mother the new mom by making sure she is fed and has plenty of water, and can be on hand to help fetch needed supplies or run interference if the new mom needs to rest.
Postpartum doulas are often used for placenta services if Mom has that desire. “I used a postpartum doula for placenta medicine services (encapsulation),” said Rebecca, mother of four. “She was going to make me a placenta smoothie, but I chickened out. She also made me placenta prints and dehydrated the umbilical cord in the shape of a heart as a keepsake. She was wonderful.”
If you don’t have a lactation consultant within easy reach, having a postpartum doula in the early days can be valuable for the nursing mom. “She encapsulated my placenta and helped me through my initial difficulties with breastfeeding,” shared Tiffany, mom of one. “I thank her for the fact that we are still nursing 15 months later.”
Postpartum doulas can serve as a sounding board for the new mother and can really help her work through her thoughts and feelings during those early weeks with a new little one. Kalya, who has served as a postpartum doula, says that the role requires more patience than a birth doula. “I use a non-judgmental approach to help parents gain their footing, helping them through the hardest few days and weeks in parenthood,” she explained. “We offer emotional 'cushions' to help fight off postpartum depression. We keep the space, doing what needs to be done after a child is born.”
Both a birth doula and a postpartum doula are worth their weight in gold (or perhaps breast milk?), and the support they provide is unlike any you’ll find anywhere else. If you’ve chosen to hire one, know that it’s money well spent so you can recover from birth and get to know your baby in peace and solitude. Your postpartum doula may become a lifelong friend, as Tiffany discovered. She happily said, “She's one the first people I go to when I'm really stumped about an issue with Sage, still.”
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