Benefits of Having a Postpartum Doula–Guest Post

Hello and Happy September!  It is wonderful to be back on this thread again after taking the summer off to manage some family circumstances.  Since then, I have jumped back into the saddle of life and am happy to say that things are on an amazingly positive path.  Thanks so much to everyone for your words of support and kindness, they have meant more than you know.  Now, back to the business of mommy-hood, life and dancing through it all 🙂

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Benefits of Having A Postpartum Doula–Guest Post

In many cultures, mothers naturally have a doula built into their tribe of support, who is considered a vital person during the transition period.  That (unfortunately) isn’t considered the norm in this part of the world, but it can be for those who need and want it–and it is available! For this month’s post, I am honored to host Emily Flynn, a local childbirth educator and postpartum doula, as a guest writer.  Thank you Emily for lending us your expertise and services on this topic!

This article was originally published in October 2013 in Natural Child Magazine:

Why hire a postpartum doula?

The postpartum period is typically defined as the first 3-4 months of a newborn’s life. It is a wonderful, but challenging period for everyone involved. Mama is healing and regardless of how smoothly the birth went, her body has a great deal of adjusting to do during this time. Not to mention that there is a new and needy little person in her life to care for as she recovers.

Where family and friends are irreplaceable parts of the postpartum adjustment period, there are some real advantages to hiring a doula to aid in this transition. Doulas are hired to help, not just to visit with the growing family. This can have some real advantages, especially for the new mother, who shouldn’t feel obligated to entertain the doula, or even be awake during the session. A postpartum doula can hold baby while mama gets some much needed rest, time to herself, take a shower, run errands, etc.

A doula is also there to help the family care for baby in the way that best meets their individual needs, without injecting personal bias or potentially negative advice. In the instance of things like baby wearing, co-sleeping, pacifiers, sleep training, and other topics that often trigger strong opinions, a doula helps guide the parents in making informed decisions and eventually following through with them without judgement. Finding a postpartum doula who is comfortable with the decisions you are making is therefore essential, so make sure to be up front in your interviews.

If you are choosing to breastfeed baby, a doula can be an essential component in your support team. Though breastfeeding is a fundamentally mammalian trait, that doesn’t mean it’s always a walk in the park. Additionally, many of us weren’t breastfed ourselves because of cultural trends present in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations, so finding immediate family help in the traditional sense may prove difficult. Postpartum doulas and lactation consultants are helping to close this generation gap by supporting more and more mothers in breastfeeding successfully for as long as they choose (the WHO recommends at least 6 months), something that can then be passed along to friends, family members, and future generations. There is a range in breastfeeding expertise amongst postpartum doulas, but all have some training in assisting women in breastfeeding–including pumping, some common complications, emotional support, and in where to turn when issues go beyond their knowledge.

One great function of a birth or postpartum doula is in her connection to the wider community of practitioners who work with families in the childbearing year. Doulas tend to be great networkers out of passion and necessity and often maintain personal connections to providers such as massage therapists, chiropractors, herbalists, pediatricians, nutritionists, Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors, cranial sacral therapists, and counselors who work specifically with postpartum disorders. It can be a great help for a tired and maybe frustrated new mama to have those resources already scouted out by way of her doula, and may help get her in the door sooner–or at all.

In our largely individualistic society, the first few months of a baby’s life can be severely isolating for a new mother. Many women report having issues of anxiety and depression that may not meet the standards of chemical disorder as we’d normally define it, but that are very real and very worth instituting cultural shifts. Postpartum doulas are trained to help screen for these mood issues and both help ease them through compassionate support, and potentially catch the early warning signs of a transition into (or the ongoing presence of) a more serious disorder. Partners may not see these things as blatantly as a doula because he or she is likely experiencing a number of intense and valid emotional and physical shifts as well. Family members may miss the warning signs because mama is putting her best face forward when company is around. The mother should be at ease around her doula and be able to confide in her any feelings she may be experiencing as a result of this intense transitional period, which will ultimately aid her in getting any help she needs.

This is not to make the postpartum period seem scary. In most cases, it is a deeply rewarding and magical period in a woman’s life. Still, it is a tremendous amount of work caring for an entirely dependent new being and should not fall on the shoulders of a mother alone. Hiring an impartial, well trained, caring doula can help make this transitional time go as beautifully as possible.

If you hired a doula to attend your birth, talk to her about possibly extending her services into the postpartum period. Some birth doulas are trained as postpartum doulas as well, others will know of doulas in the area who specialize in postpartum care. As with birth doulas, postpartum doulas come with a range in backgrounds and expertise and offer different services and differing rates. Some do nighttime care, some won’t work with formula feeding families, some don’t do housekeeping, some will cook large meals, some care for older siblings, some have added knowledge of herbs or are also lactation consultants. Make sure to do some research and interview a couple of doulas before making your decision so that you find the right fit for you.

“My husband and I have been using Emily as our postpartum doula and it has been amazing!  I wish I knew about her from the beginning and didn’t choose to white knuckle it through the first few weeks and months…I have been able to feel like myself again by having her help me out…Set aside the money in advance and just do it, you will be glad you did!” —First time mama who was dealing with some breastfeeding and sleeping issues.

Emily Flynn is a birth and postpartum doula and childbirth educator here in Durango. You can find out more about her services and classes at www.durangodoula.com or on Facebook under Durango Doula and Childbirth Education and meet her in person at the monthly Meet the Doula and Midwives Nights.

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