In our culture the word "postpartum" often leads to confusion, having become synonymous with the diagnosis of postpartum depression. However, postpartum is a when and not a what. That is to say, postpartum simply refers to the time after a birthing parent gives birth.
A postpartum doula, then, is a professional who has training and experience supporting families in the days, weeks, and even months after baby's birth. While different doulas define their postpartum services differently, many (including myself) consider their postpartum doula services applicable to anytime in the first year after baby's birth - as the complications from birth and challenges of parenthood don't stop at a certain number of weeks. A postpartum doula supports you as you heal from birth, gain confidence in your parenting, and meet the ebb and flow of life transitions with a new baby.
As I've written about elsewhere, our current culture seems to turn the postpartum period into a race back to "normal," lauding those who "bounce back" with praise. But, as traditional cultures demonstrate, there exists much value in treating the time after baby with care - nourishing and supporting the birth parent as well as encouraging and supporting the rest of the family.
What services do postpartum doulas offer?
Each doula defines her terms of service a bit differently, so it is worthwhile to meet with and interview several doulas to find the perfect fit for your family's needs, including daytime and/or overnight support.
While the specifics of support may vary, you can expect your postpartum doula to help you meet your needs for rest and tend to baby with confidence. This may include assistance with meal preparation, light housework, connections to resources, informational support, infant feeding support for breast and/or bottle, babywearing tutorials, and a nonjudgmental, empathetic ear to listen as you process your birth and this leap into motherhood.
You doula may also bring additional training into her work including breastfeeding support, infant sleep education, massage, and more.
While you can hire a doula at any point, reaching out to interview prenatally will give you the time to find the perfect fit and guarantee your spot on your doula's calendar. As with a birth doula, a postpartum doula doesn't guarantee a specific postpartum experience, but having the support you need to rest and heal can help you feel more empowered and cared for in the transition into parenthood.
What are the benefits of hiring a postpartum doula?
When you hire a postpartum doula prenatally, you can go into birth confident that you will have the support you need to rest and recover from birth.
If this is your first baby, you'll likely have lots of questions about whether or not baby's eating and sleeping habits are normal. Having an experienced doula can provide lots of reassurance about biologically normal infant behavior, especially in the 4th trimester when babies have an intense need to stay close to caregivers.
If this is your second or more baby, the whole family - siblings included - will undergo a shift as baby comes home. Your postpartum doula can help you manage your busy household or carve out some special time with older siblings.
If you choose to hire a doula for overnight support, your doula can help you maximize rest while meeting your feeding goals - handling diaper changes and additional soothing needs so you can rest as much as possible.
As with a birth doula, the nonjudgmental support of a postpartum doula - feeling heard and understood - can make all the difference in how you experience the challenges and joys of life postpartum. And, should you need additional support outside a doula's scope of practice to navigate those challenges, your doula will be ready with recommendations to trusted providers so you can get the support you need right away.
Looking for support in the days and weeks after baby arrives? Meet our member doulas who offer postpartum services at our next Meet the Doulas event or reach out to any of our postpartum doulas to schedule a consultation.
The Doulas of Iowa City blog contains guest posts by Doulas of Iowa City member businesses. We are excited to share with you about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities and to help you connect to fabulous local resources.