I was recently discussing what I do as a postpartum doula with a (childless) male friend. His first response was, "Is there a market for that?" Ignoring the gaping, open mouths of the other parents surrounding him ('cause, you know, they get it), I diplomatically responded with the easiest answer, "Yes! Of course!" I went on to explain that we live in an area full of families that are perfect for postpartum support. People settle in my area from all over the country, or even from abroad, for school or work. And once these families welcome their first baby, many find themselves far from the much-needed support of family and friends. A first-time mom without a village will have to make her own.
And this is why a postpartum doula is so valuable - I am there to help build that village. In the early weeks, when mom is struggling to establish breastfeeding, I am there to educate, refer, and support. When dad has no idea why baby is crying so much in the evening, I am there to teach normal newborn behavior and help with soothing techniques. When mom needs a shower and several hours of uninterrupted sleep, I am there to hold the baby and encourage her to meet her needs. When a family needs a healthy, home-cooked meal and a refrigerator full of food, I am there to run errands, help with meal planning, and actually get the food from the stove to the table. I even provide an extra set of hands to hold the baby, so mom and dad can actually eat it.
As I explained all of this to my friend, it dawned on me that, while some families may struggle more than others in those first few weeks depending on their level of support, the valuable services of a postpartum doula are not just for one particular type of family. Just as birth doulas work to educate the population that they are for ALL women - women having un-medicated births, women having medicated births, cesarean births, or VBACs - it is my job to raise awareness that postpartum doulas are for ALL families. A postpartum doula is not just for a first-time mom with no support. A postpartum doula is for moms with one baby or with many. She is for moms who have no support or moms who have lots of support. There is no particular family that a postpartum doula is right for. Instead, a postpartum doula is right for EVERY family.
What about a mom who has her mother/grandmother/sister/best friend/dog walker there to help with the baby? Would this kind of mom benefit from a postpartum doula? I say, "Of course!" It's great to have so many helping hands, and there's no such thing as too much support, but I guarantee you that a postpartum doula can still fill a role in this mom's postpartum recovery period that these other people do not. Maybe the new mother is hoping to breastfeed but her support person never has or breastfed many years ago. A postpartum doula will be fantastic for providing evidence-based, non-judgmental support and encouragement for this mom. As a postpartum doula, I often teach moms different breastfeeding positions, answer questions about newborn feeding patterns, and give helpful tips. I also connect moms with trusted, local referrals and resources when breastfeeding troubles fall outside the range of normal. I provide the same helpful education and support when it comes to basic newborn development, mom's postpartum recovery, or other topics like babywearing, pumping, or swaddling. Regardless of how many family and friends the new parents have, a postpartum doula still provides valuable support and education, all while getting a meal on the table and throwing in a load of laundry. This leaves more time for grandmom to hold the baby and for mom to rest and recover.
How about moms who are having their second, third, or fourth (or more - bless you, mama)? These moms already know what it's like to have a newborn, so would they benefit from a postpartum doula? Once again, I say, "Of course!" Any time a family adds a new baby - first or last - there is a big transition for everyone. Mom and Dad may know plenty about basic newborn care (or they may be surprised how much they've forgotten once they're actually back in the trenches), but they may not know what it's like to juggle a newborn and an older child. A postpartum doula is trained to help with sibling adjustment and provide tips and advice for easing the older child(ren)'s transition. I love giving older siblings dedicated one-on-one play time while mom nurses the baby. It's fun to get down on the carpet and play Legos, but it's also important to make sure that the older child still feels secure and knows his needs will be met. I also love holding the new baby, so Mom and Dad can really focus on their other children and assure them that despite the changes, the unconditional love is still there. With several children in the house, it is wonderful to have a postpartum doula keep up with household tasks, run errands, or prepare dinner. Mom may be a veteran parent, but she still needs time to recover from labor and delivery, and that's why I'm there.
I've also spoken with women who say that the services of a postpartum doula sound wonderful, but they assume that they cannot afford the help. Could a postpartum doula be right for this family? By now you should know what I'm going to say. I say, "Of course!" It's never too early to plan for doula support, if the family truly wants it. If a family started saving $25 a week as soon as they got that first positive pregnancy result, by the time the baby arrived, they could cover quite a few days of postpartum doula support. Doula hours also make great gifts. Many families decide that instead of building a massive baby registry, they would rather add doula hours to it instead. The support of a postpartum doula makes a wonderful gift, and is something that friends and family, especially those that live far away, can give to expecting parents. Once again, every family who wants a postpartum doula is right for one.
So, what kind of family needs a postpartum doula? They are for the new and experienced parent alike. They are for the family far from their support village or the family with relatives close by. Postpartum doula hours can be purchased by the family themselves or gifted to them by others. Bottom line: a postpartum doula is for EVERY family. Because all families - no matter what their situation - deserve to be supported and encouraged. All mothers need time to recover from labor and bond with their newborn. All mothers need to be mothered. And that's why I'm there - for everyone.