What Does a Postpartum Doula Do?
I get asked this question all the time. Birth doulas are becoming more and more visible but there is still a lot of unknown when it comes to postpartum support. It’s hard to answer this question because I do whatever a family needs! So I thought I would take moment to share what I did at my most recent visit with a family.
I arrived in the morning and talked to dad for a bit about some big life decisions that the family is currently making (not exactly baby related but stuff like job offers, home improvements, and when to return to work from parental leave). While we talked I made breakfast for he and his wife. They were both up early to get their three older children off to school but didn’t take the time to eat anything yet.
Their baby started to stir so dad woke up his wife (to breastfeed) who was conked out after a night of nearly no sleep. While she was getting herself together I changed their baby (who inevitable also peed all over herself mid diaper change). I helped mom with breastfeeding and took a few moments to check in with her and see how she was doing. After I made sure she had some water and a snack, I went to finish making breakfast.
Mom put their baby back down to sleep after nursing and came to eat breakfast with her husband. It was a simple, balanced, colorful meal. I gave them some time to eat together in peace while I unloaded the dishwasher from the night before and then started reloading it again.
After the kitchen was cleaned up, I sat down with the two of them and discussed what needed to be done and how I could help during my visit. We agreed that meal planning would be most helpful! The problem was that they were both so exhausted they didn’t even know what to make. I quickly suggested some dinner dishes and easy breakfast items for them and their children. I focused on meals that would utilize items I already saw in their cabinets and the refrigerator. We came up with a list of additional ingredients and I started making banana bread while mom went back to bed and dad went out to run some errands and pick up a few groceries.
Banana bread was in the oven when dad returned with the grocieres . I unpacked the bags he bought and got to work making two quiches for breakfast and a lentil soup for dinner. As I was looking for an ingredient in the cabinet my desire to organize took over and I took their snacks out and organized it all so that it fit better. I wasn’t asked to do this but it was an item on the never-ending-list-of-things-to-do-when-you-have-four-children that I checked off for them.
I was just cleaning up the kitchen when mom woke up from her nap and it was time to feed the baby again. I changed their baby while mom had some banana bread. While she nursed we talked about family, returning to work, what we wish for our children, and how to slowly create a stash of pumped milk so that she could get more sleep at night. We also watched Beachfront Bargain Hunt and commented on all the gorgeous homes and locations!
So what did I do for this family? On the surface it looks like I cooked some food, which is very valuable, but that’s not all I did. I was attune to what everyone in the family needed and tried to meet those needs in a non-intrusive way. I talked through some issues that were weighing on each of their minds and supported them in creating nutritious meals for their family. It was bothering them that they hadn’t cooked in a while so this was bigger than just a dinner and some breakfast. And the most important part, they didn’t really have to ask for anything. I figured out what needed to be done and did it. Thats what makes me a doula and not a babysitter or a chef.
I look forward to supporting you and being a part of your journey!
Sleep Deprivation… A Right of Passage?
A close friend of mine was recently at a moms group with her second baby. Many of the moms were first time moms and she told me of one particular mom who was asking for advice on how to get her newborn baby to sleep a little bit longer. The mom seeking advice said that she and her husband were losing it because they weren’t getting any sleep with their baby waking up every two hours to eat. My friend thought to herself “welcome to motherhood.”
This got me thinking of the many sleepless nights my wife and I spent with our son. He was on a strict schedule to eat every two hours. It would take us about an hour to finish getting enough food in him (he was very sleepy and underweight) and then I had to follow up with 20 more minutes of pumping. So by the time I got back into bed I would have about 40 minutes before having to start all over again. It was brutal.
My thoughts around this are why don’t we tell expectant parents about this sleep deprivation? We all go through it but I very rarely meet a parent who fully understood what it would be like until they were smack in the middle of it. I know firsthand that a lack of sleep can really impact your life and I don’t think that we should just accept it as a new reality!
So how much sleep do you really need? I don’t have an exact answer for you but what I can say is that a full sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes and not every sleep cycle is a full cycle. We generally complete numerous sleep cycles in a night. Of course newborns will disrupt the ideal sleep schedule but there are ways to make sure that everyone gets what they need. For example, there is evidence that a solid nap in the middle of the day can be extremely beneficial and is sometimes even better for a recharge than sleeping a full 8 or 9 hours at night.
And what are the potential results of sleep deprivation? The following is a quote from SleepHealth.org outlining some of the issues that may arise from a lack of sleep, “Some sleep research suggests that inadequate healthy sleep can lead to weight gain and is a factor in the national obesity crisis. Lack of sleep muddies clarity of thought. The sleep stage known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is believed to play a role in the mental processing of the experiences of the day just past and the organization of memory. With too little REM sleep, memory may suffer. If prolonged, inadequate healthy sleep may be a precursor to cardiovascular disease. And even in the short term, the sleep deficit that results from too little sleep leads inexorably to daytime drowsiness, a potential killer to anyone operating heavy machinery or driving an automobile.”
If the cute little babies can sleep peacefully like this and grow into amazing humans then their parents should sleep too!
My hope is that we will have a shift where expectant parents will know how much attention their babies will need in a 24-hour period. Then parents will also know what they, as parents, will need, and perhaps they can then setup a support network. However, many families don’t live near their relatives and they feel like they lack the “village” that others have. This is where I come in! As your postpartum doula, I will provide time for you to get some quality rest and peace of mind. Contact me now to learn more about how I can help!
If you Google this question you will come across a number of articles… I’m going to break it down into four major differences to give you a better understanding of what I do as a postpartum doula!
Bringing a new baby home can be overwhelming! As your postpartum doula, I will support your entire family in your home in whatever capacity is most needed. I can answer questions on newborn care, help with the first bath, answer questions on feeding your baby, assist you in wearing your infant in a newborn carrier, take care of your infant while you nap or shower, prepare meals, run errands for you or with you, and perform some light housekeeping such as laundry and cleaning baby bottles.... plus so much more!
Even if you have TONS of family support, doula support is incredibly valuable. Both you and your partner will receive evidence based education (if you want it) and non-judgmental support, which will allow you to gain confidence in your new roles! I’d like to take a minute to point out that I do a lot of listening. I recently worked with a family facing some pretty intense breast-feeding struggles… there were nights of crying, phone calls of desperation, and also moments of shear joy. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen. As this family’s postpartum doula I also scheduled a late night visit with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I spoke with the family about options, relayed that info to the consultant, and ultimately scheduled this visit, which proved to be a total game changer for the family.
As for overnight support, I can be the sole caretaker of your baby overnight, or, if the birth mother is breastfeeding, I can stay in a separate room with your baby and bring your baby to you when he/she needs to nurse. Then I will burp, diaper, soothe, etc. your baby so that you can get right back to sleep!
Now what is the role of a baby nurse? A baby nurse’s focus is on your newborn, not on you, your partner, or other siblings. She may be a wonderful individual and have the best of intentions – fabulous with your baby – but she will not personally call up an IBCLC and get you a last minute appointment, nor will she be available by phone for your questions.
Who actually comes to your house?:
If you hire me, then you will see me at your doorstep. Most baby nurses are a part of large agencies and you often will not know ahead of time who your baby nurse will be.
I have worked with families for as little as two weeks and as long as four months. For some families I have only provided support during the day, others only nights, and others a combo of the two! My number of contracted hours has varied a great deal as well. Some families need support every day and some only one day a week. The bottom line is that I offer extreme flexibility as a postpartum doula!
A baby nurse requires a set schedule. Furthermore, if you are hiring a baby nurse for overnight support, she will require a set schedule that doesn’t change from week to week. I, on the other hand, may be there the night before a busy day and then return later in the week to accompany you during your little angel’s pediatrician appointment.
My services cost more than that of a baby nurse. Why? By offering you such a flexible schedule I am limited in the number of families I can work with. Furthermore, I am available by phone and email throughout the day and even night for last minute questions and those moments where you just need reassurance that you are an amazing parent!
So what’s the take home? Well of course I want you to hire me as your postpartum doula. I am flexible, compassionate, a good listener, and resourceful. I have also recently added a package to my services that includes just overnight support at a slightly reduced rate.
Hopefully I’ve given you enough information to make the best choice for you, your baby, and your family. All the best with your new little one!
Click here to get more information on the postpartum support services I offer!