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!
Astrid Hufnagel is a Birth and Postpartum Doula living in Montclair, NJ and serving the following counties in Northern NJ: Essex, Union, Morris, Passaic, Bergen, Hudson, Somerset and Middlesex