What is a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula is a trained professional who provides non-medical, emotional, physical and educational support to families welcoming home a new baby.
- An Internet search or social media
- Referrals from friends who’ve used a postpartum doula
- Calling a doula organization to find a doula in your area
- Asking your midwife, obstetrician, pediatrician, childbirth educator or lactation consultant for referrals
Should one hire a postpartum doula?
Yes, absolutely! Postpartum doula support enhances all postpartum experiences.
For first time parents, a postpartum doula is a solid resource to guide them through every step of welcoming their baby home.
Even for parents who are confident with newborn care, second time parents and those who have been around babies, the presence of a doula provides educational support. Having a doula also provides reassurance, as well as, tips for recovery from birth and breastfeeding support.
When parents experience a challenging postpartum journey due to a traumatic birth or pregnancy complications, a doula with that specialty will guide the family. Doulas employ the method of physical in-home support to ensure all family members are well rested and draw wisdom from educational resources while providing emotional reassurance.
How long should one hire a doula?
Postpartum Doulas typically provide care from birth through 12 weeks.
Some believe it’s beautiful for families welcoming a new baby to have support during this time; I would agree.
This is what I tell my friends…
The first 3 days at home with a new baby comes with a lot of new experiences and many families find postnatal support eases the transition into parenthood.
Having immediate access to support for questions like:
- The best way to diaper around the umbilical cord stump
- How to tell if the baby needs another burp
- How to best position a baby to latch for nursing
- How to mix formula
- What herbs to use in your sitz bath
These are just a few of the questions a doula in close proximity may answer for a family in search of answers.
The first two weeks is a wonderful time to have care because it’s a time of fluctuating hormones, feedings, finding your rhythm as a family and infant growth spurts.
The first 6 weeks, considered the traditional postpartum period, is a magical time to have doula support. Due to the ups and downs of being a new parent, coupled with intermittent sleep, feeding, birth recovery and newborn care; doulas educate the family in the best way to build the consistency and predictability necessary for everyone to feel good, confident and well rested.
The first 12 weeks covers the entire fourth trimester. Having a doula for the entirety of the first 3 months following the birth of a new baby, enables a family to have the time and support to create their new normal. It gives one enough time for trial and error around sleep, routines and parenting ideas. Our baby’s sleep and feeding patterns will be considerably more predictable by this time. On average, they say it takes around a year for a mother to recover physically and emotionally from childbirth, around the end of the fourth trimester, mothers’ are on their way towards this milestone and with the support of their doula, they’re able to find mother’s groups and other resources to support them onward.
Should one hire a postpartum doula to work days or nights?
A daytime doula usually provides support from 4-8 hours per day. Daytime doula support often includes nourishing meals, processing the birth experience, lactation counseling and helping the family establish and implement a rhythm.
Night doulas usually work 8 hours per night and some offer care up to 12 hours per night and in some instances 24-hour care. Overnight doula support offers almost everything daytime doula support does, along with on-site sleep support and education in the best way to manage nights with a baby.
What are the services a postpartum doula may provide?
Postpartum doulas are independent contractors, these are some of the services many doulas provide:
- Belly binding
- Virtual support
- Parenting guidance
- Lactation education
- Birth story processing
- Support finding your community
- Assisting with post-birth recovery
- Postpartum meal planning and preparation
- Pumping instruction, milk storage and organization
- Educating families about infant sleep and sleep conditioning
- Helping mother and baby with feedings, both breast and bottle
- Demonstrating newborn care techniques: diapering, bathing, dressing, swaddling and soothing an infant
- Teaching families about the Ayurvedic postpartum tradition of 40 days or six weeks of rest for bonding and healing after childbirth
- Referrals to other care providers: lactation consultants, postnatal massage therapists, placenta encapsalators, carseat technicians, etcetera
A Note on Virtual Support:
Virtual doula support offers the same level of care and personalized education a family receives in-person. We are able to support families all over the world thanks to technology and raised awareness about the benefits of doula care.
Per a clients’ preference, we are able to communicate via phone, text, and email, FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp and Skype, to name a few. We are adept at creating a warm supportive experience over the phone and meeting face to face via video puts us, essentially, right in your living room.
During these virtual visits, we get to know you and your family. We listen, answer questions and offer recommendations; in the same manner we would if we were there in person. We may demonstrate how to swaddle a baby, advise on breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, or suggest to you which diaper wipes are the best for sensitive skin or which pacifier is the most popular.
How are postpartum doulas trained?
Postpartum doulas are trained through on the job mentorship from a more experienced doula or midwife, professional workshops or online classes led by a doula or birth organization and on the job training.
What is postpartum doula certification?
Certification occurs by choosing any number of well-known and respected organizations offering a certification in the birthing community.
After completing the training and assignments required for certification, the doula also agrees to work within the postpartum scope of practice as defined by that particular organization.
There is one organization known for issuing lifetime certification, although most organizations provide certification for 3-4 years and you may renew it by completing approved continuing education classes relating to your field.
Should one hire a ‘certified’ postpartum doula?
I am currently certified as a postpartum doula and when I hired a doula for myself, I chose someone who was not certified. She is a mother of 3 who had over 20 years experience supporting families. I felt relaxed in her presence; she listened to my desires and goals for birth and postpartum and patiently answered all of my questions. She now delivers babies as a midwife.
That being said, humbly, I believe it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. Welcoming a baby is a special time in one’s life and it’s important to have support from someone who is experienced and trained on the topics and areas of concern to your family.
How does a postpartum doula differ from other newborn care providers?
A doula is trained to mother the mother or parent so they may mother their baby. We are just as much present for the parent as we are for the baby. We support and educate the entire family.
Whereas, a Newborn Care Specialist, traditionally referred to as a Baby Nurse or Night Nurse, though they’re not medical professionals, are trained to care for newborns. They often provide nightly care for 10-12 hours per night, 7 days per week and many live-in the home. They often work towards sleep training the baby by the time they move on to the next family at 3-4 months.
Please keep in mind these are only ‘monikers.’
Many postpartum doulas are experts in newborn care and sleep conditioning and there are newborn care specialists who equally nurture the new parent just as much as they care for the new baby.
When you interview, focus on what you require from postpartum care and ensure the care provider you hire is proficient in meeting your families’ needs.
A note on the term ‘Baby Nurse or Night Nurse.’
Most caregivers who utilize these titles outside a hospital, medical practice or doctors’ office are not medical professionals. Licensed nurses have completed required education, clinical training and passed a national examination.
I invite you to check your state’s Board of Nursing to verify if your caregiver is licensed to practice within your state. Most states have an online verification system, just type in their name and it gives the credentials.
What questions should one ask a postpartum doula before scheduling an interview?
- Are you available during my due date?
- What is your training or experience?
- Do you support clients in my area?
- Do you offer day or night support?
- What is your area of expertise?
- Are you CPR certified?
- What are your rates?
Things to think about when you meet your doula face-to-face or on video chat:
- Are they listening?
- Are you being heard?
- Do you feel seen?
- Do I feel comfortable with this person?
- Do they have experience or training in the areas that are of particular importance to my family?
Other things to consider:
- If you’re planning to breastfeed, you may want to consider someone with experience supporting nursing mothers
- If you’re interested in Ayurvedic postpartum, you may want to consider someone trained in food preparation and rituals around the first forty days
- For families who’ve had a baby in the NICU, you may want to consider someone with experience in that area
- For families welcoming twins or multiples, here you may want to consider someone who has knowledge caring for two babies at one time
Are you getting the idea? Focus on your priorities and main concerns.
There are so many wonderful and experienced postpartum doulas available; it is absolutely possible to find a doula that is the best match for your family.
How to Make Sure You Hire What You Desire
- These are a few common scenarios I’ve heard from my clients …
- They hired a great person who was recommended by their friend. The person is doing an incredible job caring for their baby, except they have lots of questions about newborn care and really want to learn how to actively care for their baby and the person working for them isn’t answering questions or teaching them
- Things have been going great, but they were planning to leave the house for a couple of hours to run errands and their caregiver said “it’s outside of my scope of practice to be left alone in the house with the baby”
- Or…they popped into the nursery at night and their baby was asleep in their bassinet and they were surprised to find the caregiver sleeping as well. In the morning they asked them about it and they said, “I rest when the baby is sleeping”
There isn’t a bad guy in any of these scenarios, what these demonstrate is a breakdown in communication or unmet expectations. Meaning, both parties, the caregiver and the family entered into unclear agreements.
How does one avoid this prevalent hiring pickle?
One way to ensure you’ve communicated effectively is to ask the postpartum doula for a list of services included in their support and find out if there is anything excluded from services as well.
When a postpartum doula shares the support included with postnatal care, they’re speaking from the experience of their past clients and their niche.
If you don’t see what you desire on the service list, inquire about it; every case is unique, every opinion valued to offer the highest level of support and care.
How much does a postpartum doula charge?
Postpartum doula rates vary. The hourly rate depends on a number of things: experience, training, services desired, overtime, weekends and location; just to name a few. The price ranges from $0 to $100 or more depending on if you hire an intern or experienced professional. Additionally, highly sought after doulas sometimes command higher rates due to supply and demand.
What to do before choosing someone?
- Interview at least 2-3 doulas. You may love the first doula you interview, but it doesn’t hurt to see the competition or what’s available.
- As a suggestion, prior to booking the doula of your choice, speak or email with some of their references, either past clients or professional colleagues.
- Ensure you understand the terms of the service agreement: Start date, end date, cancellation policy, scheduling and payment.
- Ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you feel that doula care would benefit your postpartum journey. Whether you’re interested in booking me or simply seeking guidance in selecting your ideal support team, I am here to help. Take the first step by contacting me directly today.
Good luck and enjoy this special time in your life!