Most new parents will tell you that navigating through those first few days after bringing home a new baby is anything but easy! Even for the most experienced parents, bringing home a new baby means changing routines, dividing time and just trying to figure out how to juggle it all.
Some people hire a private labor coach, or doula, to assist during childbirth. Similarly, there are doulas that specialize in helping families after the baby’s born, easing the burdens of daily life so you can concentrate on your baby.
Postpartum doulas don’t have medical degrees but rather are trained or experienced in providing care during the first days or weeks after childbirth. They’ll do all sorts of things to help ease your transition to new parenthood — from caring for you and your baby and offering breastfeeding advice, to cooking, babysitting, running errands, and even doing light housework.
If mom had a cesarean delivery or any other birth complications, it can make the transition to home even more challenging. The problem that many families run into is finding the help they need to support them through these first few weeks.
This is where the help of a postpartum doula can be just the answer that these parents are looking for. Postpartum doulas assist families who are bringing home a new baby, whether that is through birth or adoption.
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.
A postpartum doula is there to help a new family in those first days and weeks after bringing home a new baby. Research shows that moms, dads and babies have an easier time with this transition if a good support team is in place.
The postpartum doula offers many services to her clients, but her main goals are to help “mother the mother” and nurture the entire family as they transition into life with a newborn. This would include doing things to help mom and dad feel more confident in their roles, sharing education on family adjustment, and tending to the unique needs of a new mother.
A postpartum doula works with each family individually to find out its particular needs.
Some of the duties that a postpartum doula will perform include:
- Breastfeeding support
- Help with the emotional and physical recovery after birth
- Light housekeeping so that mom does not feel so overwhelmed
- Running errands
- Assistance with newborn care such as diapering, bathing, feeding and comforting
- Light meal preparation
- Baby soothing techniques
- Sibling care
- Referrals to local resources such as parenting classes, pediatricians, lactation consultants, and support groups
Most postpartum doulas provide service for a family anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks after bringing home a new baby. Families may have the doula work 1-3 days a week or as many as 5 days a week.
Postpartum doulas often offer nighttime service to help the family transition more smoothly into the challenges of nighttime parenting. Each doula offers different services, so it’s important that each family decide what its needs are and find a doula who can meet those needs.
The price of postpartum doula services vary dependent on what part of the country you live in, what type of service you need (day or night time) and the skill level of the doula. Postpartum doulas usually charge by the hour and usually require a minimum amount of hours of service.
The range of costs could be anywhere from $15 to 50 an hour. Some doulas offer discounts if you book them for a certain amount of hours, if you pay in advance or if they are a newly trained postpartum doula. More and more families are asking for postpartum doula service as a shower or baby gift from family and friends.
This is especially helpful for new families who have little or no family support nearby. Postpartum doula service may also be paid for using money from a family’s flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) depending on what the guidelines are for their particular plan.
The postpartum doula’s role is to support everyone in the family, including mom, dad, siblings, and baby. Unlike a baby nurse, whose sole focus is the new baby, the postpartum doula is there to support mom through the postpartum period and to help the family as a whole.
Postpartum doulas have been around for quite awhile, but have just recently become more popular. There are a few organizations that certify postpartum doulas and provide referrals to their doulas. Most childbirth educators, birth doulas and parenting support groups also will have referrals to local postpartum doulas.
Once you have the names of prospective doulas, you may want to ask some of the following questions to make sure you find one who suits you. Keep in mind that she’ll be providing personal services around your home, so you should feel comfortable with her as a person. You may want to interview more than one person.
Questions for prospective doulas:
- What training or experience have you had?
- What is your fee and what services does it cover? (Be sure to find out exactly what she will and won’t do. For example, if you’re expecting her to cook or help with an older child, make sure that is included.)
- What happens if I give birth earlier (or later) than expected? Is your schedule flexible, and if not, can you refer me to another doula if need be?
- Can you provide references from other families you’ve worked for? (And be sure to check those references!)
Maybe you don’t have a willing mother or other relative ready to pitch in after you have your baby. Or maybe you’d simply prefer to use a doula’s services instead of, or in addition to, a relative’s help. Either way, if you can afford to hire someone, you will find the help of a good doula invaluable. Even if your mate is eager to take over household duties while you recover, letting someone else do some of the work allows the two of you precious time with your baby and with each other.