Expert Advice: What is a Postpartum Doula?

 

What IS a postpartum doula?

A postpartum doula is similar to a birth doula in that she is there to support the mother in non-clinical, reassuring ways. Whereas the birth doula is there to assist during childbirth, the postpartum doula is for the equally tough stuff—when you return home with your baby. She is trained in newborn care and breastfeeding, so that’s part of her focus - helping to get feeding off to a good start and reassuring you by answering the many questions new parents have. Typically she’ll begin with babycare basics, then branch into more complex areas of newborn care—soothing, sleep issues, getting around, and helping parents interpret behavior. She can also assist with household chores, make a meal, tidy-up, and even set up a sitz-bath for perineal relief.

 

Does she help ease depression?

The term “post partum” is Latin for “after birth” yet it has been so often linked with the word “depression” in the media that people use the terms synonymously. So, no, a postpartum doula is not there to cure a postpartum mood disorder, but studies show that having support and reassurance after giving birth does make for happier, less anxious moms.

 

What makes a postpartum doula different from a baby nurse?

The basic difference is how a doula versus a baby nurse have been trained...it’s a philosophical difference too. Baby nurses are great for tending to babies solely; postpartum doulas are there to “mother the mother” as well. They tend to mom and baby as a unit, plus fold in partner support, so the whole family begins to find their footholds in new parenting. 

 

Some new parents can only count on limited help from the new grandparents. Most are unable to stay for weeks on end and even if they can, many grandmothers are not equipped to teach their daughters how to breastfeed. Family members often want to help by holding the baby, but for a new mom that can be frustrating since that is the fun part. They often need more structured and educational support. 

 

Why would someone consider hiring a postpartum doula?

A postpartum doula is there with the knowledge and experience, and can really make the first few weeks of parenthood much less stressful.  Some families want that emotional support, and other families have reasons based on mother's health, particularly after a cesarean section, or because the mom might be at risk for a postpartum mood disorder. The postpartum doula puts a more holistic twist on the traditional baby nurse, by giving a more encompassing and multi-layered form of support.

 

Jayne Freeman, also known locally as "Mamarama", has been working with pregnant families for over eight years in and around Jersey City, where she has lived for 15 years. She is a certified childbirth educator, breastfeeding counselor, and postpartum doula. You can visit her website for more information about Jayne and her services

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