Monday, January 7, 2013

What is a Postpartum Doula?

Postpartum doulas can help ease the transition to parenthood by helping you move toward confident independence and enjoyment in parenting your newborn.

Woman with helper holds baby.

If you’re a first-time parent with little experience caring for a newborn, you’re likely approaching new parenthood with a mix of excitement and anxiety. Did you know that a postpartum doula can help ease the transition to parenthood? Her primary goal is to help you move toward confident independence and enjoyment in parenting your newborn.

Postpartum doulas are trained in providing support after your child’s birth, offering information on newborn care, breast-feeding and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. They will often help parents learn techniques, but also provide nurturing support and a non-judgmental listening ear — a crucial skill because the multitude of changes that come with the arrival of a new baby can be disorienting and exhausting.

Often a postpartum doula is in the home for four or more hours in a shift, several times a week in the early postpartum time, although schedules are based on individual needs. In that time she may make a meal, provide support around breastfeeding, care for the baby (or babies!) while the parents get a nap, listen to parental concerns and help to strategize solutions, and maybe even get in a load of laundry and some dishes cleaned. Doulas can also provide referral for more advanced support for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, breastfeeding, support groups and much more.

Ideally you should hire your postpartum doula prior to the birth of your baby, but many people don’t know they will need this support until afterward. To find a postpartum doula that’s right for you, try these resources: DONA.orgNAPSDoulas.org and DoulaMatch.net. Expect to pay $15-$35 per hour.

Doulas generally provide a no cost, no obligation interview to get to know each other and see if she can provide the time and support you are looking for.

— By Melinda Ferguson, CD(DONA), PCD(DONA), PDT(DONA), CBE,CLE, birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation educator and faculty member at Bastyr University’s Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations.

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