March 2024

Postpartum Doulas Help New Families

Sometimes there’s one miraculous moment of postpartum doula care that seems like a turning point in a new parent’s confidence. But more often it’s a series of small, almost imperceptible moments that together lighten the load; allowing everyone to take a breath, get their perspective back and continue learning how to be in tune with their new baby.

Postpartum doulas are available to new families for a few hours, days, or weeks. Experienced with feeding support, they can offer encouragement through helpful tips and techniques that have been successful for many other families. They keep an eye out for situations that may seem beyond normal new baby transitions. While not a clinician a postpartum doula might be able to point out a possible problem brewing, so it can be attended to earlier rather than later.

What every experienced parent knows, but most expectant parents don’t yet understand, is the intensity of the postpartum period. A postpartum doula can help get that shower in today instead of tomorrow – and during the shower, maybe they’ll quickly change the sheets. Once tucked back in bed with the newborn in arms, the doula might give the bathroom a quick wipe, empty the garbage and throw out that vase of dead flowers on the counter.

A postpartum doula’s duties incorporate what’s important to each family. Making sure a new parent gets something nourishing to eat during the day and that there is a plan for dinner. Getting siblings ready for school or dance class. Entertaining the littles so the new parent might catch a quick nap with the newborn. Some tired parents might appreciate reminders such as: it’s the first of the month, are there bills they don’t want to forget about or that there is a pediatrician appointment tomorrow. Anything that reduces the pressures of the real world for a few minutes.

Folding clothes, helping make the shopping list, and demonstrating effective burping techniques are all staples of postpartum doula care, but the real gift is the sense of calm that comes with a postpartum doula, and lingers long after they leave for the day.

The first few weeks with a newborn are intense – there is no doubt about that. But the intensity should be a mix, with moments of bliss and bonding for the whole family that are unmatched and can be missed if they are overshadowed by ongoing anxiety, exhaustion, and stress. Those at risk for postpartum depression may especially benefit from the support of doula.

So, how might you add one more expense into the price of pregnancy and birth? Look into postpartum doula care as soon as possible in the pregnancy. Get an idea of prices and packages, and then budget for it. Some insurance, including Medi-Cal, cover doula care now. Doulas are just now getting registered for payment so it may take some investigating to see how the program will work. Some families build a little nest egg toward postpartum doula care by putting some cash into a doula envelope every month during the pregnancy. Sharing the postpartum doula’s information on your shower registry allows people to contribute either to the family directly, to a friend who is coordinating the postpartum doula gift, or to the selected doula via a gift certificate found on some doula websites.

Postpartum doulas aren’t aiming to replace supportive family and friends, but instead augment that care. Not everyone has family or friends ready and able to spend several weeks providing help with cooking, laundry, and baby care for a new family. In fact, many families are miles apart, if not in distance, then in temperament when it comes to planning for supportive care after birth.

Postpartum doulas have skills, time and – most importantly – an air of calm confidence when it comes to being with new families. They don’t take over baby care; instead, they model, teach, and encourage parenting skills while helping to keep the household functioning.

The gift of a postpartum doula helps prioritize people over things. Babies grow so fast and there are hundreds of beautiful, gently used baby outfits available for pennies on the dollar. But the value of a postpartum doula, especially for a first baby, can’t be matched.

By Laura Maxson

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