What exactly is a postpartum doula? Most people are becoming more familiar with the idea of having a doula with them at their birth. Whilst its not exactly mainstream, there is a greater cultural understanding that this might be a helpful thing to do, but fewer people are familiar with the concept of a postpartum doula.
All the support you have ever wanted
A postpartum doula is everything you have ever wanted after you have a baby! She is the glue that helps a new mother bring together and consolidate all her thoughts, emotions, questions, joy, and hopes and helps her transform them into confident mothering.
Birth is an incredible transformative episode in any person’s life. It is a physically and emotionally demanding experience and people need to be cared for and minded afterwards. They also need good support in order to care for their baby and sometimes to care for other children in the family. New mothers also benefit from companionship and the opportunity to chat with someone about all the many thoughts questions and emotions that arise during the postpartum period.
If a mother plans to breastfeed then she benefits from the consistent support and advice of a postnatal doula who will help ensure that breastfeeding gets off to a good start.
Many mothers have incredibly positive birth experiences, but many mothers in Ireland do not. Having a postpartum doula there to debrief with can be incredibly helpful and supportive and can help a new mother to gather her thoughts and contextualise how her birth went and how to get support if she needs it.
If a mother has had a caesarean birth then she may need extra support to help with her physical recovery and sometimes her emotional recovery depending on what led to the caesarean birth.
Most mothers are now discharged from hospital on day three postpartum; the exact day that their hormones undergo a huge readjustment, and for many mothers this can present as “the baby blues”. Having a doula waiting to support you at home can help you overcome this small potential hiccup on the road to motherhood.
Evidenced based information
Mothers also benefit from the evidenced based information that doulas can offer them in the postpartum period with respect to baby care, sleeping arrangements feeding and family life.
Practical supports most postpartum doulas offer
1. Provides continuous emotional and physical support and comfort measures and someone to talk to and check in with during those first few days and weeks.
This may take the form of glasses of water, foot massages, bringing you up a meal, holding the baby whilst you have a shower, talking over the birth experience, postnatal exercises, chatting about baby names, offering you the evidence for episiotomy or scar healing and much more. As a homeopath I also offer mothers homeopathic remedies to help them re balance emotionally and physically.
2. Offers evidenced based support for infant feeding.
For most mothers this will be providing breastfeeding support. For example I have supported thousands of mothers in breastfeeding their babies and in navigating common breastfeeding challenges. Most mothers who are having a hospital birth are discharged on day 2/3 just as their milk is coming in, which means that breastfeeding is not yet established, so its a great asset especially for a first time mother or for mothers who have experienced breastfeeding challenges on previous babies to have a knowledgeable breastfeeding counsellor with them on a daily basis and on the end of a phone.
3. Offer help and evidenced based support with baby sleep patterns and locations.
Where your baby sleeps makes a big difference to the amount of sleep the whole family gets so its vitally important to ensure that sleep for everyone is maximised, and that safe sleep options are practised.
4. Be another pair of hands.
Sometimes its great to be able to leave baby in a safe pair of hands whilst you eat or have a shower or grab a quick well deserved rest or bath. Alternatively if you have older children a postpartum doula can help you with parenting them and ensuring they feel special whilst you breastfeed your baby. Sometimes it might help to have someone do some light housework, sort out some laundry or pop up to the shops to pick up a few supplies or make you a light meal and ensure that you have water next to your bed. Its also nice to have someone run you a bath and fluff up your pillows and make up a fresh bed.
5. Be available to listen and hear you.
Sometimes recovering from birth means having someone there to listen and talk things through with; someone who understands how important it is to be listened to and who understands our birth culture in Ireland. Postpartum doulas are there to listen and to make sure that your story of becoming a mother is heard and validated. I have listened to many thousands of birth stories and know and understand the value of each one to the person who tells it.
6. Offer referral advice when it is needed.
Sometimes babies may have a tongue tie which needs to be diagnosed by a lactation consultant, or perhaps there is a need to see a specialist midwife or nurse. Your postpartum doula can point you in the right direction. For example, I have a wide range of links within the birth and postpartum community from Lactation consultants to baby wearing specialists to physical and emotional therapists.
7. Offers support on baby wearing
Wearing your baby ensures that your baby is close to you and that you learn to understand your baby’s rhythms and it also ensures that your baby stays warm and snug. It means that you or your partner can easily soothe your baby to sleep and it enables you to do things around the house as you have two hands free. It can also mean that you have two free hands to play with other children!. It means that your baby is easy to carry in different types of terrain and it also ensures that you do not have to try to put your baby down. A postpartum doula can offer independent information and support on what type of baby carriers might suit you and where to purchase them and get more detailed support. I wore all three of my babies and so have lots of experience in baby wearing with many varieties of sling wraps, soft structured carriers and ring slings.
8. Offer help and advice on nappies
There are a lot of nappies on the market. Most people assume that the only types available are what they might find in their local supermarket. however, there are a lot of nappy options available; disposable, orgnaic disopsable, non bleached disposable, non bleached compostable, re usable and also no nappies at all! Your postpartum doula will help you work out which nappies might suit you and your baby at the start of your journey together and where you might source them and also what types of nappies might suit your baby as they move out of the newborn phase.
9. Offer more specialised help.
For example when a mother has a premature baby, twins or multiples or when she has had a cesarean birth a mother may need extra specialised support from a doula. For example if her baby is still in the NICU in the hospital whilst she has been released home she may need support with expressing milk for her baby and with the emotional upheaval of not being with her new baby. Postpartum doulas also help when there has been a loss, whether it has been a stillbirth or a miscarriage. I have helped many mothers with twins (and am god mother to four!), and supported many others through loss and separation.
10. Homeopathic support for physical and emotional healing
In addition to all of the above, as a registered licenced homeopath I am able to offer new mothers the opportunity to heal both physically and emotionally using the gentle action of homeopathy. Homeopathy is completely safe for mother and baby and can be used to soothe the symptoms of bruising, cuts, grazes, after pains, mastitis, engorgement and cracked nipples. It can also help with the emotional symptoms of feeling overwhelmed, disappointed or even violated after giving birth. I also offer a placenta encapsulation service more information here.
An age old world wide tradition of women supporting women
In other cultures women are generally cared for within their home by their female relatives and friends. In many cultures this babymoon separates the mother and the father so that the mother can be relieved of all her household duties and be cared for and minded. This period usually goes on for a substantial period and may last up to 40 days.
In Ireland we have lost the tradition of minding new mothers, of supporting them and of honouring all that they have done to grow and birth a baby, having a postpartum doula with you enables you to reclaim that special time in your life. This can make a particular difference to those women who are far away from friends or family and who would otherwise be mostly alone in the early weeks of motherhood.
My goal for you
The goal of a postpartum doula is to help you feel supported and well after you have had a baby, enabling to go on to enjoy the adventure of parenting which lies ahead