Whether you’re expecting, planning to adopt, or already have a newborn, a postpartum doula can offer vital support. Here’s everything you need to know.
The first few months following birth are a critical time for a newly expanded family, meant for bonding and adjusting to being together. It sounds beautiful—and it is—but there’s a lot to manage in order to care for your baby and for yourself, not to mention any other dependents. Luckily, there’s someone to help. Enter your postpartum doula.
What Is a Postpartum Doula?
A postpartum doula is a particularly invaluable companion and resource for a new mother, tending to physical and emotional needs in the first few weeks and months after birth.
In addition to helping new parents develop confidence with everything from feeding and soothing to bathing and changing a newborn, a postpartum doula is a supportive and affirming presence. Whether you are expecting to give birth, planning to adopt, or have a newborn there with you now, a postpartum doula can offer help if you need it.
What’s the Difference Between a Birth Doula, a Postpartum Doula, and a Baby Nurse?
- A birth doula focuses on helping mom through labor and delivery, but does often stay with you for a few hours following birth to help address baby’s needs.
- A postpartum doula is a more longterm solution for new moms. They are also concerned with the wellbeing of the entire family, offering support and assistance to each member of the household.
- A baby nurse is focused strictly on the needs of the baby, mainly feeding, diapering, and rocking to sleep.
Postpartum Doula Services: What Does a Postpartum Doula Do?
You and your postpartum doula will strategize together to develop a plan to support you in the weeks and months after baby arrives. The scope of a postpartum doula’s role can include a range of items, including:
- Newborn care: Assistance with bathing, infant-soothing, diapering.
- Breastfeeding support: Encouragement, assistance with positioning, pumping, and importantly, assessing when a referral to a lactation consultant is appropriate.
- Overnights: Help with feeding, changing, and soothing to give parents time to sleep.
- Light housekeeping: Meal preparation, folding baby’s laundry, running errands.
- Education: Providing resources and information about reading feeding cues, soothing techniques, and newborn care. A postpartum doula can often serve as a resource on topics like babywearing, too.
- Maternal care: Fostering emotional wellbeing and physical recovery.
- Sibling care: Childcare for older children and strategies for peacefully introducing a new sibling.
- Referrals: Providing referrals to local pediatricians, new parent and breastfeeding groups, classes, and therapists as needed.
Above all, your postpartum doula will work with you and your family to create a harmonious environment. They’ll also help develop systems that ensure you are able to bond with your baby and tend to your own needs for rest, hydration, and nutrition.
Benefits of a Postpartum Doula
Parents today have a lot to juggle. A strong support system, which can include a postpartum doula, helps new parents adjust with a sense of ease. Indeed, the benefits of having a postpartum doula are many:
- Improved confidence: A postpartum doula provides a special kind of hands-on training in how to understand and care for a newborn.
- Greater breastfeeding success: According to the AAFP, a proactive, supportive presence increases breastfeeding success.
- Improved familial relationships: Mothers who feel a lack of support are at greater risk of postpartum depression, which studies show negatively affects marital relationships. A postpartum doula can help relieve stress by providing extra support, as well as screen for postpartum depression and make appropriate referrals for treatment when needed.
- Better support systems: Especially helpful for new parents without family nearby, a postpartum doula can ensure a smooth transition, providing an extra set of hands, evidence-based information, and local referrals.
- Professional relationship: Even if you have friends or family members nearby who can help, a postpartum doula is a great option, because they are a paid professional. You don’t have to worry about providing meals or making a guest comfortable—a postpartum doula is there to strictly help you.
Where Can I Find a Postpartum Doula Near Me?
- Professional organizations: There are a few organizations that offer training and certification for postpartum doulas, including DONA International and CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association). They can provide referrals to member doulas.
- Other birthing professionals: Your midwife, obstetrician, or childbirth educator may also be able to recommend local doulas.
- Local support networks: Local parenting magazines, niche groups like La Leche League, or private Facebook groups for new parents are another great resource.
Postpartum Doula Cost
Typically a postpartum doula charges an hourly rate, which varies greatly depending on your geographical location. A range of $20-$50 per hour is most common.
Many postpartum doulas will have a professional contract for you to review and sign. Some may ask you to commit to a minimum number of hours. You will find doulas have a range of experience levels and fees. You should interview several people to find the right fit for your family and your style.
Finding the Right Postpartum Doula
Your doula will likely spend a number of hours in your home during a very sensitive time. You should not feel pressured to make a quick decision in choosing someone.
Here is a list of questions to help guide your interviews:
- When did you complete your training as a postpartum doula?
- Are you certified through an organization like DONA or CAPPA?
- How many years of experience do you have?
- How many clients have you worked with?
- Can you describe your style and approach to working with families?
- Could you provide contact information for references?
- What are your rates? Do you have a contract I could review?
- What is your availability like during the weeks/months following my due date?
What Other Natural Mamas Say About Postpartum Doulas
“My doula was so sweet. She gave me a hug and told me that it was totally normal and natural for a mom to feel overwhelmed sometimes. My daughter is now 13, but I still think of that moment of advice, often!” — Jen
“4th trimester was by far the hardest part for me, and Ill be forever grateful for the help I had during that time. To have someone reassure me that everything I went through was normal, having a personal nurse for recovery, and just being able to have someone to vent to made my experience so much better! It’s a very exciting, amazing, but lonely time. Having a professional around will make your life so much better and help your transition to motherhood that much easier.” — Amy
“[My postpartum doula] gave me more confidence. We also didn’t have a lot of help, so it was worth every penny to learn from here about soothing techniques.” — Rachel
“[Our postpartum doula] helped us identify a tongue tie issue by suggesting we take our son to the pediatrician to have him weighed when he was crying for 30-45 minutes when we were trying to get him to sleep at 3 weeks old. She also cooked for me and was a great sounding board. I found myself getting frustrated with her at times, but I think I may have felt that way with anyone who was giving me advice, so I was glad I could deflect that frustration into my relationship with the doula (where I wouldn’t express it and it wouldn’t be personal) versus feeling frustration toward my mom or mother-in-law. This way, family was able to just enjoy the baby and each other.” — Ashley
Appointments. Feedings. Diapers. And, oh yeah, time to take care of yourself. It might feel like a lot, but the fourth trimester truly can be a sacred time. Creating a support system for your family that includes the help of a postpartum doula can make all the difference.