During our nine-plus months of pregnancy, we’re often so consumed by what will happen on baby’s birth-day that we can forget to plan for the aftermath. But no matter how much thought you put into your birth plan, the big event has a finite end-time, and then--hello--you’ve got a baby!
While a birth doula can be there to support you during the big day, a postpartum doula is there to support you for the many days after. From physical challenges like breastfeeding, balancing and even keeping your house clean, to emotional issues both big and small, a postpartum doula is all about helping you in your new life as a mother.
The experts at Baby Caravan are well-versed at handling this postpartum period--their very concept, in fact, is to help women in all aspects of their journey through motherhood: pregnancy, birth, postpartum and re-entering the workforce. The crew--London King, Jennifer Mayer and Emily Crocker--call themselves a “mobile unit of baby workers in NYC” and offer a continuity of care. Crocker, who is the postpartum doula of the trio, explains: “There are so many changes that happen, having consistent and reliable support is priceless.”
Below, Crocker breaks down the role of postpartum doula, and helps make the case for why this type of support is so critical for a new mom.
How is a postpartum doula different than a birth doula?
Some doulas do postpartum and birth work, but the qualifications are different. A postpartum doula has experience working with new families, helping with breastfeeding, identifying a baby’s sleeping and eating patterns, and running a household. This can be so helpful to a new family who is simply struggling to sleep and feed themselves.
Respond to this: I didn't really want a birth doula. Why would I want a postpartum doula?
I think the concept of a doula has been slightly misunderstood over the years. What a doula simply does is provide a mother and her partner with much needed support during a very complicated, emotional and wonderful time in their lives--regardless of how they are choosing to birth. People associate doulas with home births or natural births, and our mission at Baby Caravan is to assist women in any type of birth they choose.
A postpartum doula is support in the same way, but just for a different time. Often a woman is given resources for her birth and for her pregnancy, but after birth so many women struggle with their new lives as a mother. If she’s having trouble breastfeeding, she can reach out to a lactation consultant who will visit for a few hours, but the postpartum life is much bigger than that--it can last as long as three months, or even a year. There are a lot of emotions, a lot fears, and a lot of hormones, guilt and regret associated with this period in a woman’s life. This can hit a woman like a ton of bricks, and support is the best way to combat all of these feelings. That is what postpartum doulas do. They support the mother while she supports her baby.
How does a postpartum doula complement the birthing team while providing something different than a birth doula?
We work as a team. If a woman is looking for a postpartum doula, I will come in during one of my partner’s prenatal visits and start going over breastfeeding prep and baby prep. I help them decide what items they may still need for the baby, and what is totally unnecessary. I am in touch with my Baby Caravan partner who’s doing the birth, and we make a plan with the mother after the baby arrives as to when she would like me to come in.
Often family comes in for the first few days after the baby is born. I like to come after family has visited and the house has calmed down. At this time, we get down to the nitty gritty: we process her birth, take a look at her sleeping situation, I observe her latch and make recommendations for breastfeeding, and give her time to rest.
The reasons we keep the birth and postpartum doula work separate is because they are both very specialized and we are all passionate about our roles. I couldn’t do what my partners do in birth. They have seen over 300 births and have so much experience in that realm. On the other hand, I have two boys under four and just finished breastfeeding my little one last month, so I have these fresh experiences I can pull from when it comes to postpartum. I know all the new products, even the new methods of feeding and sleeping. Working in a team, like Baby Caravan where everyone has their specialty, provides our clients with the utmost level of support.
Does the postpartum doula provide any baby or family care? How is she different than a baby nurse?
What I explained above is much different from a baby nurse. A baby nurse will help only with baby care. As a postpartum doula, I support women, I relate to them as a mother myself and give them confidence so that they can care for their baby. I do this by helping with all types of breastfeeding and sleeping questions, but also figuring out how to help her care for herself.
Walk us through what you do when you visit a new mom.
In the beginning, we sit and process her birth story. This is such an important part because a good amount of women don’t have the birth they dreamed of, and they need to work through lots of different feelings so that they can begin to move on and mother their new babies. Of course there are also women who had the birth they wanted and they want to really get into it. Processing birth is one of my favorite parts about being a doula.
After that, I help women exit the house for the first time and sit in a coffee shop and breastfeed in public (It doesn’t sound like much to most people but it’s a big deal as a new, and sometimes insecure mother). I help woman with ideas on how to partner with their partner and how to prepare emotionally and physically to return to work. We talk about how and when to start exercising and having sex (this is also a big deal for a lot of woman).
All of these things I have experienced myself, and I know how big of a deal they are. Our Baby Caravan clients benefit from tricks I’ve learned by failing myself. It really is priceless.
How does a postpartum doula balance emotional and physical care?
Physical care and emotional care go hand in hand. Helping a woman into the shower or letting her sleep and knowing her baby is in the arms of an experienced mother/professional can change her entire emotional existence. She can get a solid two-hour nap and start to feel normal and more confident, which can lift the mood of the entire family.
What's a typical schedule like? Can a mom hire a postpartum doula for a single visit? What time period is recommended? And what are typical costs?
We have different packages that range from four hours to 16 hours. Our rates are between $40 and $60/hour depending on where you are located and how many hours you are looking for. I usually come to woman’s house in 3-4 hour appointments scheduled Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. after their partner has returned back to work. This is the chunk of the day when women are often struggling by themselves.
Image courtesy of Baby Caravan.