In traditional societies, women and men grow up around birth, breastfeeding, infants and children. After giving birth, women are surrounded for weeks or months by caring family members who have a great deal of experience and wisdom to offer. The community supports and cares for the new mother while she recovers from her birth and transitions into her new role as a mother. This kind of help is rarely available to new parents in many societies today. Often times new moms are left on their own after a week or two when their partner must return to work, and may not yet have had adequate time to build the confidence needed to forge ahead on the journey alone.
The birth of a baby has a long-‐lasting impact on the physical and mental health of the mother, baby and family. The way in which the individual members of the family transition into a new unit have a long-‐lasting impact on their physical and emotional health.
Enter the postpartum doula. A doula’s job is to ‘mother the mother’. She will quietly blend into your family and encourage mom and dad as they find their way, encouraging, supporting, and guiding them on their journey as new parents.
The role of the doula will vary, as it is completely dependent on the needs of each family. The support she offers may include breastfeeding, teaching about newborn care, screening for postpartum mood changes, providing community resources and referrals to other professionals, helping to establish routines to make the transition to life with a newborn easier. She may offer to do light housekeeping, baby laundry, or preparing nutritious meals. She may spend time with older siblings, or care for baby so mom can spend time with siblings. Maybe she will care for baby so mom can take a coveted nap or shower.
Some doulas will have other areas of expertise as well, perhaps in massage therapy, reflexology, aromatherapy, or sleep consulting. Night doulas will come to the home at bedtime and provide support through the night, encouraging appropriate feeding schedules or supporting on-‐demand feeding. Night doulas will take on all baby care (except breastfeeding) in order to optimize sleep for mom to help avoid excessive sleep deprivation. Mom may need a companion to attend doctor’s appointments, or somebody to make her a cup of tea and just chat with her.
A doula is all of these things or just a few of these things. The job description is flexible and as varied as the families that benefit from the support. The doula's support is intended to fill the gaps left by our current postpartum traditions, which usually include only medical procedures, occasional checkups and the purchase of baby-‐related paraphernalia. The doula's education, quiet support and guidance are a manifestation of traditional postpartum support that many cultures are missing.
LeeAnne Hamilton CMCSC, CLD, CPD,CBEd
Mia Bella Mamma Birth Services & Goodnight SleepyHead Family Sleep Solutions