What's a Postpartum Doula?
Support after birth can make a world of difference
- Postpartum doulas can do a variety of tasks to help with postpartum recovery and newborn care.
- Depending on the doula and their services, they can tailor their services to your specific needs.
- Some doulas provide extra services, such as lactation help, for an additional fee.
Most parents would agree: the fourth trimester, or the 3 months after childbirth is often the hardest. Bringing a new baby home can be a lot to juggle for even the most experienced parents. Exhaustion, new routines, plus the physical and mental toll of childbirth can make the transition difficult. These are all areas where a postpartum doula can help provide support.
Many people have heard of doulas in the context of prenatal care, labor, and birth. While many doulas provide support in these areas, others specialize in caring for families after birth. Depending on your needs, hiring a postpartum doula can help ease the transition and offer the support you and baby need to thrive.
Why is postpartum support important?
There are a variety of physical, emotional, and mental changes that happen during and after pregnancy. The physical effort of labor can leave new parents extremely exhausted, and recovery is complicated by a newborn’s feeding and sleep schedule. Hormonal changes often cause mood swings, sometimes called “the baby blues.” Feelings of isolation, disconnection, and anxiety are very common in new parents. Postpartum depression affects 1 in 8 new birthing parents, and postpartum anxiety is also relatively common, especially for those without a strong support group in place.
Feelings of isolation, disconnection, and anxiety are very common in new parents.
Along with support from friends and family, postpartum doulas can play a key role in recovery. They are trained to provide both physical and emotional support, along with resources and information that can help new parents navigate their child’s first weeks and months with less stress.
What does a postpartum doula do?
It’s hard to list out everything postpartum doulas can do, because each doula’s range of services are unique. The key thing, though, is that postpartum doulas can offer help in just about any way you and your baby might need.
Here are some examples of what a postpartum doula might do:
Provide childcare for the baby or older children
One of the hardest parts about being a new parent is time – there simply isn’t enough of it! Whether you have older children or not, finding time to eat, sleep, shower, or simply sit down can be almost impossible with a newborn. Postpartum doulas can step in to take care of the baby while you sleep, shower, or rest. Some postpartum doulas also watch older children while you want to focus on the baby.
Help with housework
In the same vein, some doulas will do light housework such as washing dishes, folding laundry, or vacuuming. And while doulas are not maids, help with small tasks around the home can add up! Especially for parents recovering from cesarean births who can’t lift heavy things or bend over too much, a doula can be incredibly helpful.
Bring food to aid your recovery
Some postpartum doulas also do light cooking and meal prep. They might provide general meals for the whole family. Some also will make specialized foods and supplements to support postpartum recovery, such as energy-dense gummies.
Provide healing balms, herbs, creams, oils, etc.
While doulas are not doctors, they are trained in postpartum pain management and wellness. They often provide the birthing parent with healing ointments and creams to aid in recovery.
While the science is inconclusive, some people believe eating the placenta can help regulate their hormones post-birth. Many doulas offer placenta encapsulation services (such as in pill form) and will deliver them to your home. Be sure to check in with your doula about any contraindications for placenta consumption before hiring them for this service.
Postpartum doulas can answer many common questions about childcare, postpartum recovery, mental health, nutrition, and more.
From postpartum massage to yoga, acupressure, and belly binding, many postpartum doulas offer physical therapy services for the birthing parent.
Consolidate information and resources
First-time (and even second, third, or fourth-time!) parents often feel overwhelmed by the amount of questions they have about caring for a baby. Postpartum doulas can answer many common questions about childcare, postpartum recovery, mental health, nutrition, and more. They can also connect you with other resources and professionals that can provide you with another layer of information and community.
Help with chest/breastfeeding
Many postpartum doulas are also lactation consultants. They can help you navigate the ins-and-outs of nursing, or provide support if your newborn is struggling to latch or your milk production is low. Depending on your doula’s packages and rates, these services may be an extra fee.
Is a postpartum doula right for me?
The great thing about hiring a postpartum doula is that they will almost always be able to tailor the services they provide to cater to you and your baby’s unique needs. Still, not everyone may need a doula.
A couple things you may want to consider:
- Every doula sets their own rates. They may charge hourly or offer specific “packages” for a certain number of visits and services. They also all have their own specialities. Before making the choice to hire one, it’s important to do your research and interview any potential doulas to make sure they’re a good fit for your needs.
- For some, what a doula can offer is very similar to what a friend or family member can offer. If you already have a good support network, you may feel like you have all the help you need. Still, it can be helpful to know about some of the more unique postpartum services offered through various doulas.
At the end of the day, every postpartum doula is different, and every new parent and family will have different needs. As you navigate the world postpartum, you might consider adding a postpartum doula to your birth team. Support after birth is critical, and everyone deserves to be cared for. When everyone wants to coo over your baby, find someone who’s there to pay attention to you.