You’ve just given birth, now what? Maybe you took the newborn class, maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter because either way, life as you know it has turned upside down and inside out. Leaky nipples and all, you have to figure out what to do with this tiny human. That’s what postpartum doulas are for, and here are 3 major ways they can help. Because even in this independence prized world, you will need help, and there is no shame in that!
- To figure out breastfeeding. One of the primary ways postpartum doulas help new parents is by providing lactation support. In fact, the term doula was originally coined in Greece to refer to the women who attended new mothers at home after giving birth as a standard of care, specifically to support them with breastfeeding.Nowadays, most postpartum doulas are also certified lactation counselors.Yodas of the postpartum experience, doulas know that with a little education and non-judgmental support, the path to breastfeeding can be successful for most mother-babies. Often times, all it takes is a small adjustment to smooth out the learning curve. It certainly helps to have someone around who believes in you, not just the voice in your head telling you how terrible you are at this and you’ll never get it!
- To smooth out the learning curve. Beyond lactation, the work of postpartum doulas eases the unnerving transition from feeling like you swear you once knew something about something, to feeling like you know nothing about anything! Granted, as new parents, there’s a ridiculous amount to learn. Learning to understand your baby’s cues is one of the big ones. Hunger, tiredness, gassiness. Each one is discernible, but it helps to have an experienced care provider around to help you translate until you become fluent in your baby’s mother tongue.Learning what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to your newborn can also feel amazingly reassuring when you’re feeling so unsure about everything. The number one job of a postpartum doula is to be a source of education and reassurance, says Ruth Callahan, a DONA certified postpartum doula and founder of the postpartum doula agency Doula Care in NYC. You'll actually start to see what's going well and just how much you're getting right!
- To empower you as a mother. Wait, you thought they were going to do it for you? Postpartum doulas are of course there to lighten the load and fill in the gaps. They’ll always offer an extra pair of hands for holding your baby so you can shower or take a nap. They’ll change diapers, give a bottle, tidy up your space and even cook for you. But more than taking over your duties by doing everything for you, they’ll help you learn how to troubleshoot and master those duties yourself!How to swaddle your baby, wear your baby, soothe your baby? How to do all three at once? Postpartum doulas are trained in the old adage “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Postpartum doulas empower their clients to feel the confidence, competence, and self-assurance you get when you learn how to do something for yourself. They are purveyors of the belief that you can do it, a more than welcome notion when you’re a new parent!Understandably, the first weeks and months with a newborn can feel overwhelming. You’ve not only just given birth to a baby, but you are continuing to give birth to yourself as a parent. Most people would never imagine giving birth without a care provider around. Postpartum doulas are more like midwives in this way. With infinite patience and compassion, they are there, catching and welcoming you as you enter parenthood. I think every new parent deserves one.
Photography, courtesy of Doula Care.