What is a Postpartum Doula and Why You Might Need One

If you’re pregnant or planning to have a baby, you’ve probably heard of a doula. A birth doula is a trained professional who provides emotional and physical support to a birthing person during labor and delivery. But have you heard of a postpartum doula? A postpartum doula is a trained, certified professional who comes to the home to help care for the birthing person mentally, emotionally, and physically while they learn how to care for their new baby.

Similar to the role that a labor doula plays, postpartum doulas don’t do anything medical related to physical support. Still, they are equipped with the skills to know when things are red flags and when to refer out if a physical/medical issue arises. These professionals provide families with information and support on topics such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, and coping skills for new parents.

What Does a Postpartum Doula Do?

A postpartum doula provides a wide range of services to support new parents during the first few weeks or months after birth. Here are some of the things a postpartum doula might do:

  • Help with infant feeding, whether chestfeeding, bottle feeding, pumping, or a hybrid
  • Show you the ropes of how to give a baby their first bath, how to set up baby care stations around the home, how to swaddle, and baby soothing tips
  • Help with errand-running, light housework such as help with the laundry or dishes, and meal prep
  • Help assimilate older siblings into the experience of having a newborn in the home
  • Provide emotional support and a listening ear without judgment or criticism
  • Hold the baby while the birthing person takes a nap or a long shower
  • Provide up-to-date, evidence-based knowledge as well as practical, hands-on support for you and your loved ones to know how best to care for your baby

Why Might You Need a Postpartum Doula?

The postpartum period can be a challenging time for new parents. You’re adjusting to life with a brand new baby, recovering from childbirth, and coping with sleep deprivation, all at the same time as trying to figure out the way to take care of your baby. A postpartum doula can provide the help you want to make this transition as seamless as possible.

Here are a few reasons you would possibly consider hiring a postpartum doula:

  • You may not have a circle of relatives or friends nearby that will help you after you give birth
  • You have older children who need your care and need more hands to help you recover 
  • You feel like you need someone to speak to who is aware of what you are going through
  • You’re struggling with breastfeeding or want assistance with bottle feeding or pumping
  • You’re not positive on ways to soothe your infant or are having problems getting them to sleep
  • You need to make certain you are taking care of yourself as well as your infant

How to Find a Postpartum Doula

If you’re interested in hiring a postpartum doula, it’s advised to start your search sometime in the second trimester of pregnancy and interview a few doulas before making your final selection. By starting the process this early, you give yourself time to look into the various options available to you in your area and get a feel for what you might want or need postpartum.

There’s no right or wrong way to go through the postpartum experience and whatever needs or desires you have that you feel will make the transition go smoothly are valid and worthy of being respected by whatever doula you choose.

No one is meant to parent alone, even those who choose the solo parenting route. We all need a little help sometimes and it can come in the form of hired help like a postpartum doula or however you see fit. Our society has come a long way in understanding the importance of birth doulas, but we still have a ways to go in fully grasping the concept of postpartum doula support.

Seen across many cultures around the world, having a postpartum doula as part of your experience accounts for having a trusted guide along the way to hold space for you. At the same time, you navigate life in your new body, with your new baby, figuring out what your new normal is going to look like. These doulas offer a supportive listening ear without judgment or criticism and often become a trusted sounding board and shoulder to cry on in the earliest weeks after birth. 

If you’re interested in getting support from a postpartum doula, you can search online to find one in your local community, ask your birth doula, your provider, or friends and family!

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