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What even is a postpartum doula?

Updated: Apr 26, 2023


You just had your baby.

This is the most joyous, exhausting, beautiful and overwhelming time of your life. You look at your phone to check the time. It's 3 am, your body is aching and baby is crying. You tell yourself "if only I had a little help". The sun rises, but you haven't slept a wink. You call a friend, a sibling, a parent to come and give you a hand.

This person arrives to lend you a hand and before you know're acting as a host on top of a newly postpartum parent who just wants to eat, shower, nap and check off bathing baby for the first time even though just the thought brings on a burst of anxiety. Your well-meaning guest leaves and as the door shuts, you let out a sigh of relief and say "there must be another way."

You grab your phone, open up the browser and scroll through the internet trying to find solutions and come across postpartum doula support. You find yourself immediately searching: "What is a postpartum doula?"

A postpartum doula is a trained support person that educates, uplifts and nurtures you and the entire family after the baby is born. Which includes but is not limited to:

  • postpartum plannng

  • newborn care expertise

  • infant feeding (lactation and formula) support

  • overnight newborn care

  • light housekeeping

  • belly birth care

  • emotional support

  • evidence-based resources (topics like diapering, feeding, circumcisions, etc)

  • trauma-informed care

  • culturally aware support

  • meal preparation

  • gentle sleep strategies

  • older sibling and partner support

  • referrals to local resources

You read a bunch of articles and decide to take the plunge and set up a consultation with a local postpartum doula. Y'all have an interview, mesh super well and feel really good about hiring this person to bridge the gap of support you need and finally catching up on some rest and self-care.

The sun sets and there is a knock on the door. Your postpartum doula has arrived for an overnight shift. They walk in, find the kitchen and wash their hands. They notice the bottles in the sink and get straight to washing the bottles. They prompt you and ask about your birth. You sit down and talk about everything. You feel seen and a weight lift when you wrap up your birth and are never met with the "at least your baby is healthy" statement.

The baby, laying in the bassinet in the living room stirs awake and your doula is immediately reaching out their arms to hold your baby. You are assured that your baby is in great hands. You say goodnight to your sweet babe, go to take a nice shower and let out a deep breath. You crawl into bed and drift off to sleep.

Throughout the night, laundry was folded and put away. Bottles were washed, sanitized and organized. You expressed how daunting it has been to find time to assemble that one baby gadget and find it out together and tucked in the corner of the living room. There are stocked diapers and wipes in the various areas of the house you find yourself changing diapers in. The ingredients for dinner that day are chopped and seasoned waiting in the fridge to be cooked, there is a nourishing stew on the stove waiting for you to devour and support the physiological postpartum shift in digestion. The diaper pail and dishwasher are already empty. If you nurse or pump, you had a companion in the middle of the night to help with troubleshooting or to keep you company and make sure you have a drink and snack nearby.

When your doula is about to leave, you may or may not wake up to their exit. You're sent a log of when your baby ate and how much if bottle fed, their overnight diaper output and notes filled with tips, advice, local and online resources for topics brought up when talking with your doula and affirming words that y'all are doing amazing during such a momentous transition.

One thing you will always discover when you rise is that a good portion of the to-do list on your mind has already been done and you can fill the time with whatever it is you want to do. Whether it is to bond with your baby and/or your other children, read a chapter in your book, binge a show, go on a walk, connect with your partner, or even just sit still and enjoy the slowness and sacredness that the fourth trimester brings.

Your options for support are bountiful when you hire a doula that takes care of the gears in the background which in turn help your family run smoother, happier and vibrantly on a day-to-day basis whether you need daytime, evening or overnight support.

As a postpartum doula, one of the best things I personally experience with all my families is that when our time draws to an end--the anxious, exhausted and overwhelmed parents that I had first met weeks before have blossomed into well-rested, confident parents who have experienced that the postpartum period can be a joyous one...

Sometimes, you just need a doula to get there.

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