Postpartum Doula? What? Why? And How to Become One.
Randy: So Debbie, you came into doula work in I think, sort of a unique way. Why don’t you share a little bit about how you came to be a doula.
Debbie: Well I met this woman who was working at the hospital as a labor and delivery nurse and was leaving to become a labor doula. And I thought, What is a labor doula? And she explained what a labor doula did and that she would support families through birth and I was fascinated and knew right away that was something that I really wanted to do. So I did as much research as I could right away and then jumped in with both feet. And we decided to open Northeast Doulas together, with that other woman. We decided to open Northeast Doulas and then we quickly realized that we would need to offer another service in order to make being a labor doula a viable business.
Debbie: That’s when I found out about postpartum doulas. A lot of people are confused about the difference between a postpartum doula and a baby nurse. A lot of people only associate the word doula with labor doulas and not often with postpartum doulas.
Randy: I think you’re right. A lot of people who are having babies and even people in the birth world don’t really understand what a postpartum doula is. When they think about ‘what does a woman need after she has a baby’ they think about newborn care specialists, baby nurses, night nannies. And there is this whole world of postpartum care which is all inclusive of family. Focusing on the mothers recovery from birth, the baby’s adjustment to life on the outside of a woman’s body. There is some newborn care stuff in that but talk a little bit about what that looks like and the difference between what having a baby nurse is from having a postpartum doula after a baby comes.
Debbie: Sure. Prior to becoming a doula myself I was a professional nanny. So I came into work as a postpartum doula having experience with childcare. I had worked for several families over the course of many years. I was taking care of brand new babies, toddlers, I was taking care of school-aged children.
Randy: You did live in nanny care, right?
Debbie: I did. So I felt like I could incorporate all of the different families I had worked with and combine that with my postpartum doula work.
Randy: So talk a little bit about the differences. What it looks like to have a baby nurse in the home and what it looks like to have a postpartum doula.
Debbie: Well, one of the interesting things was, as a nanny one of the families when they had a new baby did hire a baby nurse to come in. And I really got to understand what that role was and I didn’t like it. I found that I never saw the baby, that the baby was always tucked away with the baby nurse and the mom was needing to request to see her own child. It wasn’t until after she left that she saw the freedom that she had away from the baby nurse added to my support as their nanny.
Randy: Can you imagine having to say ‘the freedom’ of being able to bond with your own child.
Debbie: Right, exactly. Although she was able to rest at night she didn’t get to breastfeed and bond with the baby as much as she would have if the baby weren’t tucked away with the baby nurse.
Randy: So now talk about what a postpartum doula does in that same scenario
Debbie: One of the big differences is that postpartum doulas don’t typically work as live in care where baby nurses often live with them for a period of time. That is certainly an option as a postpartum doula more typically you would see a doula come in for a daytime shift. Where they might be able to help get the day started. If there are siblings involved, help getting them ready for school, help the mom to sleep in and fixing breakfast, tidying the house and getting it ready for a kickass day. You might find in the afternoon you might find a postpartum doula assisting the mom through just being tired, and maybe needing some extra support with breast feeding as her milk supply tends to go lower in the evening.
Randy: Don’t forget about too that witching hour where your partner is coming home from work, the other kids are starting to get restless, you have to get dinner together, you have a new baby. And then the baby impacted by that so the baby is extra fussy usually from 4:30 in the afternoon to 7:00 in the evening.
Debbie: The calmness that somebody who is not stuck in that environment all day can really bring a calming sense to not only the baby but the mother as well.
Randy: I think they get the impression that we are these baby magicians of the baby whisperers and thats really not what we are. What we are is actually the mommy whisperer. We have the ability to just bring calm and peace to the woman. As new moms we think ‘something is going to happen that I can’t handle’. And I think the baby responds to that and there is this back and forth between the mom and the baby and like. Then we come in as postpartum doulas and we are like ‘We got this!’
Debbie: It brings such peace to the mom which then in turn brings peace to the baby.
Randy: What’s another reason someone would want to hire a postpartum doula?
Debbie: To help them over night. Again, what would separate a postpartum doula from a baby nurse is that the postpartum doula can just come in for a period of time during the overnight. To settle down the day, find out how the day was with the baby, get the mom settled, get her a snack, have her enjoy some time with her family or partner and then ultimately get the rest that she needs and deserves. And during that time I would help comfort the baby and get the baby in a good sleeping position and then when the baby wakes up for a feed, gently wake up the mom and either bring the baby to her or bring her to me to breastfeed the baby and then the mom gets to go right back to bed.
Randy: Imagine having someone with you all night long for feeding. When I was a new mom, I found that everything was fine as long as the sun was out. As long as it was daylight we were fine. Then as soon as it got dark out the doctors office closed, there was no one to call and all of a sudden there is a red bump on the baby that wasn’t there when the sun was out. So to know that the comfort of someone coming who was an expert, who I could draw some peace from would have been brilliant.
Debbie: And not to mention, when you are sleeping and you wake up at 2:00am to feed the baby and you’re sitting in the rocking chair feeding the baby and you’re looking outside feeling like you are the only person alive at this time of night.
Randy: I’m going to say too, there is another part of postpartum work that most people consider and most people don’t think about. And for me it is probably the thing that drove me to be a postpartum doula more than any other one thing. It was always about attunement, it was always about that connection and being that calm, relaxed person that provided a judgment-free space for a woman to find herself as a mother. I personally have worked over thousands of hours myself as a postpartum doula and knowing that that woman could come to me feeling like you don’t measure up, and seeing images of women breastfeeding babies that look so beautiful and then feeling like a giant piece of shit with a huge boob that is going to suffocate your baby. Being that person that a woman feels safe enough to open up to and really release some of those feelings and then be able to help her through dialogue and try to normalize some of those things. And the resources that we gather and have as postpartum doulas. Many women have shared with me some stories about postpartum depression. Where they didn’t feel comfortable opening up about postpartum depression to anybody else aside from me as their doula.
Debbie: What you just said is EXACTLY the reason someone would want to become a postpartum doula.
Randy: People who focus on being a birth doula feel like that is really their spot and I hear a lot of people say all the time ‘I just want to be a birth doula, postpartum is not for me’. And I think it is because they associate postpartum with babysitting and doing laundry and that has never been the case for me. I always felt like my role as a postpartum doula is equally important and connecting as my role as a birth doula.
So if you’re sitting on the fence and you’re wondering what the postpartum world looks like and what it might look like to become a postpartum doula give us a call at ProDoula (914)4003494 or visit us on the web at prodoula.com
Have a great day!
Video editing by: Yellow Jacket Social Co.