As a postpartum doula and childbirth educator, a large part of my job is helping parents learn to care for their babies, and themselves, independently.
Parents often want to know how long they will need postpartum doula care. I say book enough time to feel like you are maintaining a happy medium of your old life and new one. If you would like to keep up your previous lifestyle, book for longer, and vice versa.
What works for each family varies, but some examples of postpartum doula care schedules are as follows:
If one parent works and one stays at home, the family would have doula support on workdays.
When both partners are home everyday, they would hire help for every other day to have time off to recuperate.
Families with twins will want help daily, and ideally nightly, until sleep settles into a predictable and consistent pattern.
When there is a toddler in the family who isn’t yet in school, have a daytime nanny dedicated to ensuring this child has care and attention and a postpartum doula for the new baby.
A family with a live-in nanny who works during the day, may choose to hire night help and weekend support as well.
Some families have support every night, even 24/7 care, up to a year and beyond.
It’s easy to focus on baby clothes and a nursery when planning for your baby to come home, but be sure to consider the following:
Whether breast or bottle-fed, most newborns eat 8-12 times in a 24-hour period, which translates to every 2-3 hours. Sometimes they cluster feed every hour and this doesn’t include time for diaper changes, cuddling and soothing to sleep. This leaves many new parents with very little time to themselves for daily tasks or even to eat and shower. Often, parental self-care is the first thing to go out the window when a new baby arrives.
Take an inventory of your life as it is now and determine how much time you spend per week sending emails, going to the gym or seeing your acupuncturist. What is the least amount of sleep you need per night to feel somewhat rested? I always recommend my families double their housekeepers schedule too. You won’t be sorry. Having a clean house will make you feel more sane when you are sleep deprived and soothing a crying baby.
Consider how to ensure you will eat good meals everyday. Extra calories and nutrients are necessary to recover from birth and breastfeed. If you have family and friends nearby, they can prepare meals, like soup or casseroles, you can warm as needed. I also recommend looking into a meal delivery service. Many will deliver lunch and dinner, and some will deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert and snacks!
If you’re going the do-it-yourself route with baby, do a little research on local doula websites and bookmark your favorite ones. Then if you decide you want a doula at the last-minute, you have somewhere to start. Many postpartum doulas are flexible about scheduling and willing to work a day here or there.
The best thing overall is to explore your options early and determine the care best suited for your family. If you know you absolutely will want doula care for an extended time, book in advance. This gives you time to meet doulas in person, choose one and get to know them before the baby comes!