Recently I was asked by a mom of a newborn and toddler what exactly is it I do as a postpartum doula. The conversation made me think this would be a good time to do a blog post! While I list what I do here on my website, I thought I’d write about what I’ve specifically provided for different clients, because everyone’s needs are different, and I tailor my services to their needs.
I recently served a couple who had their first baby. They did not have a lot of family living nearby, but saw the benefits of mom taking it easy after birth, like moms do in other cultures. When I would visit their home, I didn’t actually spend a lot of time with mom, who had created her own little nest for her and their baby upstairs in their home. If she and baby weren’t resting when I arrived, I would check in with them to see if she needed any help or a drink or snack. Then I would spend the majority of my time in the kitchen, where I cooked meals: I would make recipes we had agreed upon before my arrival, and often more than one, so that there were both meals and snacks available to mom and dad. I would also then clean the kitchen, I often cleaned the upstairs washroom, and I would take out the garbage and recycling when I left. During one visit, I cleaned out the fridge and threw away any condiments that had expired (I joked to my husband that in the three years we’ve lived in our current home, I’ve never done that!). Over the course of my visits, I helped with breastfeeding, bathing the baby, sterilizing breast pump and bottle parts, and I put together a Mamaroo.
Another client I served gave birth to her second baby, who arrived earlier than expected (aside from being early, baby was and is healthy and continues to do well!). While I normally visit clients once a week, she and her family had more immediate needs in a shorter time period, so we made arrangements for me to do multiple visits during a week. On my first visit, my main task was to rearrange the living room furniture to accommodate a bed so mom wouldn’t have to go upstairs. During another visit, I picked up groceries and a prescription for mom. (Kind of funny story here: she gave me her card to pay, and when I went to tap it, it didn’t work. Since I didn’t know her pin, I pulled out my debit card. The clerk was looking at me strangely, asking, “You don’t want to try your pin?” Um, no, I don’t….!) During another visit, I played with her toddler and organized all of the new baby’s clothes and folded and put away laundry. I probably did other household tasks I don’t recall: I always try to take out the garbage when I leave and to leave the home tidier than when I arrived, even if it’s just something small like wiping down counters or picking up toys.
This mom had support: her husband is extremely helpful in that he does a lot of the cooking and laundry. Her mother was also visiting for an extended period of time. After my first visit, mom texted me to say she could just feel the relief in her partner and her mother. During one of my visits, the grandma called me an angel. I was touched beyond belief! Sometimes I wonder how much I am helping people, but help comes in many forms, and you can never have too much support. Everyone needs a break at some point and having a new baby is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining on everyone to some degree.
Here is another scenario: mom and dad are having their second baby, and they know from their first experience that they would like some additional help for mom, who suffered from postpartum depression. I met with them in advance of baby being born, and we actually talked through and developed a postpartum plan. I really recommend this. As the dad said, it helped keep him accountable for what he said he would do, but it also meant mom couldn’t get upset with him if he wasn’t doing another task. It puts mom and dad on the same page, and it provides them with resources ahead of time so if mom is having a bad day after baby comes, there is no scrambling for help: resources and numbers to call are listed in the plan.
My visits with this family are different each time. I have sat with mom and listened to her share her birth story; I have held her newborn so she could take her older child and one of their dogs for a walk, so she could take a blissfully hot shower and do her hair, so she could take her eldest trick-or-treating, or so she could run an errand child-free; I have showed her how to use her wrap (I can show you from my own experience as a mama, but like this mom, you can always bring in someone who is certified for more help and to try different carriers!); I have done laundry; I have cleaned the bathroom; I have played with the older child.
For both of the two previous moms I’ve mentioned, I brought them different teas to help with breastfeeding. And even though I may only see a client once a week, I am in constant touch with them if they need and want it: I try to balance being helpful without being a pest! I am always available for questions. I find mom evidence-based articles when she does have questions, I point her to more resources if she needs them, but most importantly, I am a non-judgemental ear when she needs someone to listen and to reassure her that she is not alone and that she is doing a great job. Family is a great support, but a postpartum doula is great because I have no ties to your family, I’m not part of the family dynamic, so there is no baggage or opinion there. I also don’t give unsolicited advice and frankly try to give little advice: instead I try to offer support and resources so mom can make the decision best for her.
So what I do a postpartum doula really varies, depending on what mom needs. We work that out in advance of baby being born, or if baby surprises us and comes earlier than expected, we go with the flow and plan in advance of each visit!
If postpartum support is something you or a friend or family could benefit from (postpartum support would make a great baby shower gift!), please get in touch. I would love to hear from you and hear how I could best serve you and your family. Every woman can benefit from some form of postpartum care and support.