When people hear the word “doula” (if they even know what a doula is — most don’t) they immediately think of a birth doula since that is the most well known type of doula. They don’t necessarily think of a postpartum doula. Sometimes when women hear the word “postpartum” they think it’s the type of depression women experience after having a baby.

We asked the wonderful Nina Bassett from Bassett Baby Planning in Houston aka The Baby Chick to correct the misconceptions, answer some common questions, and explain why postpartum doula care is something that she feels every women needs (if budget permits), especially when having multiples.

What does ‘postpartum’ mean?

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Postpartum is the 12-week (3 month) period of time after the birth of your babies when your body is recovering. This time is also referred to as the “fourth trimester”. Just like there is an antepartum/ prenatal period that lasts for 40-weeks, there is also a postpartum/ postnatal period that lasts for 12-weeks after the birth of your babies.

What is a postpartum doula?

A postpartum doula provides evidenced based information on things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother–baby bonding, infant soothing, basic newborn care, and more. A postpartum doula is there to help a new family in those first days and weeks after bringing home your new babies. Research shows that moms, dads and babies have an easier time with this transition if a good support team is in place.

What does a postpartum doula do?

What a postpartum doula does changes from day to day, as the needs of the family change. Postpartum doulas do whatever a mother needs to best enjoy and care for her babies. A large part of their role is education.

Visits usually last 4+ hours and start by debriefing the couple to identify areas that need attention. Every visit usually is centered around a set of priorities. In the early weeks, it’s mostly centered around the mother’s recovery and breastfeeding while the later weeks include outings and taking care of household responsibilities. Here are examples of what a postpartum doula does during her visits:

  • Providing support for the emotional adjustment to parenthood
  • Support and assistance with breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding, including information about pumping
  • Assistance with latch and positioning while breastfeeding while teaching the partner how to support the breastfeeding mother
  • Helping you and your partner understand your babies’ cues
  • Soothing the babies – helping with gassy and colicky babies and offering coping techniques
  • Demonstration on newborn care, such as diapering, bathing, trimming nails, swaddling and babywearing
  • Assisting with the care of older siblings and helping them adjust to the new family members
  • Providing support with pet adjustment
  • Light housekeeping such as dishes, running errands and grocery shopping
  • Small meal preparation for the mother and family members
  • Providing resources and referrals within your community
  • Nonjudgmental support for the mother’s family
  • Organization of the home and nursery
  • Babies’ laundry
  • Screening for postpartum mood disorders
  • Creating a nurturing and quiet environment for the family
  • Care for the babies when the mother and her partner want to shower, nap, or spend some special time with their other children or with each other
  • Hands-on education for infant care and mother care
  • Preparing/cleaning pump supplies or bottles
  • Offering support in the mother’s physical recovery after childbirth
  • Helping the mother process the birth experience

What is the difference between a postpartum doula and a baby nurse or nanny?

The role of a postpartum doula is to help a woman through her postpartum period and to nurture the family. Unlike a baby nurse, a doula’s focus is not solely on the babies, but on fostering independence for the entire family by placing a priority on teaching (baby care, breastfeeding support) and assistance around the home. A baby nurse and a nanny come into the home and solely take care of the children. Baby nurses and nannies do not work as educators or care for the entire family, they are childcare for your babies.

A doula is as available to the partner and older children as to the mother and the babies. Treating the family as a unit that is connected and always changing enables doulas to do their job: nurture the family.

How long does a postpartum doula spend with a family?

Doula support can last anywhere from one or two visits to many visits each week for more than three months.

What hours can you expect a doula to work?

Some doulas work fulltime, with 9am to 5pm shifts. Others work four-hour shifts during the day or after school shifts until the partner or another family member gets home. Some doulas work evenings from around 6pm until bedtime, 10pm, and some work overnight from 10pm to 6am (usually no less than 8-hour shifts for overnight care). Some doulas work every day, some only work one or a few shifts per week. It all depends on the family’s needs.

 

What is a postpartum doula’s goal?

The goal of a postpartum doula is to nurture the parents into their new roles. As they experience success and their knowledge and self-confidence grow, their needs for professional support should diminish.

How does a doula nurture parents into their roles?

Self-confidence has a tremendous impact on a person’s ability to approach any task, and parenting is no different. Trained and certified doulas are taught to always consider parents’ feelings and always build confidence whenever possible. Doulas accomplish this through praise, acceptance and a non-judgmental approach. In addition, the doula will teach parents strategies and skills that will improve their ability to bond with their babies. Calm babies who are growing well will help parents feel more confident in their skills.

Do doulas help mothers deal with postpartum depression?

Unlike therapists or psychiatrists, doulas do not treat postpartum depression. However, they will help by creating a safe place for the mother emotionally. The doula will provide a cushioning effect by accepting the mother within each stage that she passes through. They relieve some of the pressure on the new mother by helping her move into her new responsibilities gradually. By mothering the mother, doulas make sure that the mother feels nurtured and cared for, as well as making sure she is eating well and getting enough sleep. (Having a postpartum doula helps reduce the chances of women experiencing postpartum depression.) In addition, trained and certified postpartum doulas help clients prepare themselves for parenthood, maximizing support and rest. These doulas will help their clients to screen themselves for PPDs and will make referrals to appropriate clinicians or support groups as needed.

Do doulas teach a particular parenting approach?

No. Doulas are educated to support a mothers’ parenting approach. She will be able to give you the different options that you can choose from as a parent, but allows you to choose the best method for you and your babies without judgment. Doulas are good listeners and encourage mothers to develop their own philosophies.

How do postpartum doulas work with a mother’s husband/partner?

A doula respects the partner’s role and input, and teaches concrete skills that will help the partner nurture the babies and mother. The doula will share evidence-based information with the partner that shows how his or her role in the early weeks will have a dramatic positive effect on the family.

How can I find a postpartum doula in my area?

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You can use DONA International’s online doula locator, or DoulaMatch’s website.

Did you use a postpartum doula after you had your Twins? Do you think you would hire a doula? Share with us in the comments below!

Are you a NEW or EXPECTING Parent of Multiples? Click here to explore Twin Love Concierge’s renowned pre and postnatal services for Twins, Triplets and more!