What is a Postpartum Doula?Apr 05, 2023
Many of us spend a lot of time preparing for pregnancy, labour, and birth but we tend to neglect putting equal care into preparing for the postpartum period. This creates certain challenges, especially considering the postpartum period is relatively much longer and requires taking care of your newborn and yourself. This is where a postpartum doula can help!
We are lucky to have Brittany Porter, Postpartum Doula and founder of Birth & Beyond, join Dr. Alicia to discuss the different roles of postpartum doulas, what they can do for you, your family, when to contact one, and much more!
NOTE: Apologies for the bad quality sound for about 20 seconds, from min 1:41 to 2:00! It clears up for the rest of the episode.
The Why | Postpartum Doulas: Rooted in Community
The postpartum period is ideally a time where your community comes together in support. But often in our modern, western society, the pressure is placed on mothers to take it all on themselves - to meet the needs of the baby, recover from the musculoskeletal injury that is childbirth, manage a potentially shifting relationship with a partner, deal with hormonal changes, maneuver the challenges of breastfeeding, and so much more! Community and family ideally come together to support birthers during this vulnerable time, aiding not just the newborn babies, but mother’s themselves - however, for many of us, that support just isn’t available or viewed as necessary in the same way. This is where postpartum doulas step in! They are available to help you support your baby, but almost more importantly, to relieve some of your life stressors so you are in a better position to support your baby yourself.
The What | What Can a Postpartum Doula Do For You?
Having defined why postpartum doulas can be an essential part of your postpartum community, here is how they can concretely help! As Brittany explains to us, not all postpartum doulas provide the same services, leaning into their own natural strengths and skills. Considering what specific things you’d like support with is an important part of the process in choosing someone that is right for you. Generally, postpartum doulas can provide:
- Nourishment: providing nourishing meals, preparing snacks, picking up groceries. All tasks that can feel monumental during the postpartum period, but are essential to keeping you healthy and energized.
- Physical Wellness Support: depending on the doula, many can provide support for your body postpartum such as healing breathing techniques, movement support, and alternative movement strategies when performing frequent, challenging tasks, such as getting out of bed or chestfeeding.
- Mental Wellness Support: providing emotional support can be as simple as listening and being a non-judgemental sounding board for new mothers. A place where you can talk about your feelings, help establish boundaries, and adjust to your new identity. It can also be a way to role model to a partner or support person what ideal support might look like.
- Household & Logistical Support: Many postpartum doulas can step-in wherever is necessary. That might include tidying your home, doing laundry, looking after the other children for a while, or just holding your baby so you can rest or take a nap. Some doulas provide overnight support to care for baby while you are getting a good night’s sleep, but not all. Check in with your doula to ensure they provide overnight service, if this is something you’d like!
- Newborn Support: doulas can often help with baby basics, such as soothing techniques, feeding, babywearing, etc.
It is important to note that postpartum doulas are not medical professionals (though some might be - just ask!) and are not equipped to provide medical advice. They usually offer support to the birther from birth to about three months postpartum.
The Who | Who Needs a Postpartum Doula?
As we mentioned above, we believe that everyone can benefit from a little extra support and community in the postpartum period, in whatever way suits you most. But you may benefit even more greatly if you fall under one of the following categories:
- Solo parents
- Parents whose partner is away for an extended period of time, or returning back to work
- Parents in recovery, mentally or physically
- Individuals struggling with mental health prior to baby who may be worried about their ability to cope and could use some extra support.
- Individuals now struggling with their mental health during the postpartum period.
- Birthers with scheduled C-Sections: you never know how recovery will go, and a little extra support could be useful, especially to help hold baby in those early days.
- Multiple other young children in the home.
The When | When Should I Reach Out to a Postpartum Doula?
Often people wait until the baby is born - and they are deeply overwhelmed or stressed - to reach out to a postpartum doula. While that is certainly an option, consider contacting one while you’re still pregnant! That gives postpartum doula’s such as Brittany the opportunity to get to know you and your needs beforehand, and establish a bit of a plan in advance.
How | How Do I Get On Board!?
Unfortunately at this time in Canada, postpartum doula services are not covered by medical benefits or insurance. Costs run approximately $35 per hour for their services. However, there are several community outreach programs and collectives that may be able to provide support at a sliding scale.
Reach out to Brittany Porter at her website or Birth and Beyond to learn more about her services, as well as the many collectives she is a part of such as The Nesting Doula Collective which offers doula services to Black, Indigenous and People of Color through a pay-it-forward model and community support, as well as The Doulas Aboriginal Family Grant Program.
Or find a postpartum doula through DoulaMatch or Doulas International!
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