Here it is! Blog article number 1. Numero uno. Primo. I conceptualized this article about four years ago, and here it is! I sure hope it doesn’t take me as long to write the next article! Happy reading!
Help After Baby (HAB) Series – Part One – Postpartum Doulas!
Postpartum doula, baby nurse, night nurse, night nanny, nanny, newborn care specialist, mother’s helper, babysitter, home-visit nurse, family member, friend, and a partridge in a pear tree! So many names and professions able to help during the postpartum period, but how do you know which is best for you? In this three-part blog series, Help After Baby, I’ll explain postpartum doulas, then I’ll explain other paid helpers you may encounter when searching for postpartum support, and I’ll close up the series on family/friends/unpaid support options during those early days, weeks, and months.
I figure the best way to start a blog from a postpartum doula is to explain what a postpartum doula is and what we do.
Quick side-bar note here about me and what I foresee will be my blogging style…I am an Army spouse, Veteran, and Army Reserve Soldier and have been service-connected for nearly half of my life (holy cow!). As such, much of my communication resembles my military lifestyle. Hooah? Now, on with the show and jump right in to military references.
Darn near every piece of equipment the Army pays for comes with a Technical Manual (TM for short). This is the same thing as a User’s Manual or Owner’s Manual or Operator’s Manual. These TMs most often include sections titled General Information, Equipment Description, Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS – be on the lookout for a future blog with this title!), Operation Under Usual Conditions, Operations Under Unusual Conditions, Troubleshooting, Components Of The End Item/Major Item, and the Expendable/Durable Supplies and Materials List. They are handy references and, in times of strife, they can really help! They often include installation or set-up instructions, and almost always tell you what to do when certain indicators are present.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if newborns came with Technical Manuals too? Enter the postpartum doula!
DONA International defines a postpartum doula as “a supportive advisor and helper, professionally trained to provide postpartum support to the mother and her family.” DONA’s position on the role of the postpartum doula is that the “doula’s support is intended to fill the gaps left by our customary postpartum practices, which usually include only medical procedures, occasional checkups, and the purchase of baby-related paraphernalia. The doula’s education, quiet support, and guidance are a manifestation of the traditional postpartum support that our society is missing. Doulas are trained in postpartum adjustment, newborn characteristics, care, feeding, and the development and promotion of parent-infant bonding. They are experienced in supporting families through their postpartum experience.”
The American Pregnancy Association states that “A postpartum doula provides evidenced based information on things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother–baby bonding, infant soothing, and basic newborn care.”
Childbirth And Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) explains that “postpartum doulas are knowledgeable professionals who assist families during the critical period immediately after the birth of their baby. They “mother the mother” and offer physical, emotional and informational support to the family as well as practical help.
ProDoula describes a postpartum doula as someone who “brings her experience, companionship and emotional support to parents and their newborns while providing physical, educational, and non-judgmental support. Her primary focus is on the mother’s recovery from birth and the baby’s adjustment to life on the outside. The doula is well-versed in breast and bottle feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, sleep guidance, infant soothing and general coping skills. Additionally, she assists with meal preparation, light housework and the general needs of the family during the postpartum period and beyond.”
Finally, Birth Arts International describes a postpartum doula as “a trained professional that provides physical, emotional, and spiritual, support and guidance to a new mother and the rest of the family. The postpartum doula is a reference point, assistant and resource for the family in the postpartum period. In addition, the Postpartum Doula will also provide breastfeeding support, light household chores, nurture and advice where the family has questions about newborn care and support other members of the family.”
I used these five definitions and descriptions of postpartum doulas, plus my own experiences, to derive my own elevator pitch when asked…what is a postpartum doula?
I am a trained professional and I support families with newborns throughout the fourth trimester. I help mother the mother and support all members of the family during the transition. I provide companionship and emotional support to parents while providing physical, educational, and non-judgmental support. I provide evidence-based information on topics such as postpartum adjustment, maternal recovery, breast and bottle feeding, newborn care and behavior, mother-baby bonding, infant soothing, and sleep guidance, to list a few. I am a reference point, assistant, and resource for the family throughout the postpartum period. I am the missing manual.
This definition covers the broad concepts that postpartum doulas offer. Yet, there are so many more detailed ways we support families with newborns.
- Feeding support (breastfeeding help, expressed milk feedings/pumping support, bottle)
- Newborn care (diapering, bathing, umbilical cord, circumcision, special needs)
- Maternal support (physical assistance, emotional support, incision/tear care, companionship)
- Paternal support (ways to help, emotional support)
- Newborn calming/soothing techniques, help with baby's sleep, bonding/attachment tips, babywearing support
- Sibling support and integration
- Meal preparation, household organization, light cleaning
- Household task assistance - run errands, grocery shopping, walk dog
As long as newborns continue to arrive without Technical Manuals, I’m confident that postpartum doulas will remain a vital and valuable resource for all families with newborns.
Join me on part two of Help After Baby (HAB) Series – Potential Postpartum Support Employees! Until then…
Kari Haravitch PCD(DONA)