Menu

Postpartum doulas are the support system all new mothers need

But paying for one is a challenge for most.

Postpartum doulas are the support system all new mothers need

When we look back through history it is rare to find cultures where a mother's extended family and community did not support her during the perinatal period, but the modern emphasis on independence and individualism has changed that.

Many of us do not have a built-in social support network to help us in those difficult days of early motherhood. A new mom in 2019 may find her close relatives live on the other side of the country, and she doesn't know her neighbor's names. Or, she may be surrounded by people who would love to support her—but simply don't have the experience or time to be of service to her.

This is why we need more postpartum doulas and why more women should have access to them.

Like birth doulas, who help a mother during birth, postpartum doulas aim to empower and support mothers during a vulnerable time in their lives.

They are part lactation consultant, part baby-whisperer, part parenting coach and part therapist, and they can help new parents feel less alone and more confident as their lives change so drastically. But getting a postpartum doula to help you through the fourth trimester can be expensive. As Today recently reported, in America, the cost of hiring a doula "varies from state to state and most people pay out of pocket." It can be thousands of dollars, a cost too high for many families.

But in America and other western nations where mothers no longer have that built-in community, women are hoping to make doula services more accessible, and suggest we need to stop acting like hiring a doula is akin to hiring a housekeeper and incorporate the service into health care funding. "It seems like a luxury, but for many cultures it [postnatal care] was just a necessity, and I think we need to start looking at it like that too," Shelley McClure, a postnatal doula and educator in Australia tells ABC News.

One of McClure's clients, Taycee-Lee Jones, decided to pay for a postpartum doula after welcoming her fourth baby. Paying McClure to help her wasn't a luxury. It was what she needed to do to survive as her partner had to go back to work quickly. "We don't have that support that we used to have from our community. We don't have sisters and aunties all coming to provide that support," she says. "Shelley as a postpartum doula, came around, brought food, did my dishes, gave me a foot rub, checked in with how I was doing," she explains, suggesting that the kind of in-home care she received from Shelley could help prevent postpartum depression and should be standard.

Shannon Sproule, a postpartum doula with Full Circle Birth Collective in Edmonton, Canada, agrees. She tells Global News her packages start at $120 for one four-hour session of in-home postpartum care. She recognizes that not everyone can afford that, and believed the future of postpartum care needs to include access to doulas through public programs.

"I think as the medical community starts to awaken to the idea that this is a really vulnerable time for parents and we need to support them better and more frequently during the 12 weeks postpartum, it will become more accessible," Sproule explains.

Access to postpartum doulas in America by state

If postpartum doulas are seen as a luxurious out-of-pocket expense in countries like Australia and Canada (both of which have universal healthcare schemes) can American parents hope to see these practitioners become more accessible?

Actually, yes. Some parts of America have seen real momentum when it comes to giving more women access to doulas.

This is really good news because research shows that the women who would most benefit from having a doula are often those who can least afford it. Oregon and Minnesota already permit Medicaid coverage for doula services, New York has a pilot program in action, Milwaukee is planning to provide doulas to 100 vulnerable new mothers and a bill has been submitted in Rhode Island to get the ball rolling in that state.

"Doula services are needed more than ever given that the experience of childbirth in the U.S. is increasingly lonely and medicalized," Helen Kim, a perinatal psychiatrist and director of the Mother-Baby Program at Hennepin County Medical Center told the Star Tribune. "In our current system, with more isolated families, distant extended families, and more fragmented communities, pregnant and postpartum mothers and fathers can easily feel isolated and overwhelmed with the task of caring for their baby."

The Dutch model of postpartum care

In America (and other western nations including Canada and Australia) most women who have one are paying out of pocket for postpartum doulas, but in the Netherlands, a remarkably similar service—with the added benefit of medical expertise—is standard, and as Quartz reports, costs families just over $5 USD per hour as the rest is covered by health insurance.

In the Netherlands parents aren't visited by a postpartum doula, but a kraamverzorgster, or home maternity nurse who comes by for a few hours each day for up to 10 days after the baby's birth. These nurses help parents with the basics of babies: feeding, changing, swaddling and bathing, but they can also help mom with lactation issues, screen for depression and do things like bring over food and do a load of laundry.

"All parents deserve support to get through that difficult first week," Linda Leijdekker, a Dutch pediatric nurse who specializes in child development tells Quartz.

American women are creating change

As the New York Times reports, back in America activists are changing mothers' lives by providing postpartum doula care at low or no cost. Doula collectives are popping up across America to connect low-income families and women of color to invaluable support in the most vulnerable season of life.

But these postpartum services are often provided by other low-income women who are basically volunteering their time, and as Collier Meyerson reports for New York Magazine, even when American doulas are being paid through programs like the ones in New York or Minnesota, they're often not being paid a living wage.

Bottom line: Mothers need postpartum care. It's not a luxury, and it also can't be provided at the expense of other working women. Our society has evolved in a way that removed mothers' support systems and now we have to figure out a way to build a new one.

You might also like:





10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Keep reading Show less
Our Partners

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less
Life