Doula, it’s a word many people are becoming familiar with, but how does a postpartum doula support a new family?
Many people understand what a labor doula does. They have a friend who has used one. They understand that labor doulas support women through labor. They might have some misconceptions about fundamental beliefs that all doulas have – we don’t all wear patchouli (I don’t even know what it smells like?), we don’t stand in front of the door to stop you from being wheeled to the OR if the baby needs to be delivered by cesarean, most of us even shave our armpits – but the majority of people DO understand that we are valuable during labor and delivery for emotional, educational and physical support.
But what does a postpartum doula do? What does her support look like?
The short answer is that it looks different for every family. We here at Stars & Stripes Doulas believe that our support should be crafted to fit the needs of the family. We have been known to put together IKEA dressers during a shift or play with the pooch in the back yard to ensure that even the furry children get attention!
Here are some of our most popular tasks that our doulas are requested to do during a postpartum shift:
Cooking – We are not gourmet chefs but many of us enjoy cooking and are quite good at cooking. We can look in your fridge, see what you have on hand and create a delicious meal for the family. If you are thinking “We just had a baby, we don’t have any useful ingredients in the house!”, don’t worry – We can drop by the grocery store for you and pick up your essentials as part of our shift!
Infant Care—We might be some of the best baby snugglers you have ever met! We are often tasked with caring for a newborn with or without the parents at the house. Sometimes our clients want to sneak out for coffee or brunch to reconnect as a couple since the time alone has been scarce since they became a family. We also help with infant care while the mother rests, does self-care things such as a shower or treats herself to a massage. Our support doesn’t just stop with physically caring for the baby, but also helping parents to navigate the many choices and decisions that being a new parent faces.
Light Housekeeping—Have laundry that needs to be washed, folded and put away? No Problem! Need the dishes done in the sink because eating usually involves standing in the pantry door reaching for something one-handed because you can’t do anything without a baby nursing. That usually leaves a mountain of dishes in the sink waiting until ‘tomorrow’ when you will have more time to yourself.
Emotional Support— Sometimes postpartum support looks like being a friend to the client. Sometimes we go to the client’s house and listen while they work through a difficult birth or a difficult transition into motherhood. We have clients who spend time showing us their newest baby gear or how all of their hard work that they put into the nursery to make it just right. Maybe the new mom just needs to hear that she is doing everything perfectly!
Educational Support– Though it was already touched on with infant care, we are the experts in choices during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period. We are able to support your choices regarding whether or not your son is circumcised, breast or bottle feeding, cloth or disposable diapers or any other parenting choice you make or other situations you may face during what we call “the 4th trimester”.
We offer that support that is helpful and useful and we do the tasks in the way in which you request. We understand that you don’t have family close by and maybe you’re new to the area so you haven’t gotten a chance to make meaningful friends to help come do these tasks. When your mother who desperately wants to come visit asks what she can do to help from 12 states away, tell her to hire you a Stars & Stripes Doula!
Written by: Melanie Binversie
Owner | Lead Doula of Stars and Stripes Doulas of Washington DC