What does a postpartum doula do?

When people learn that I am a postpartum doula, I usually get one of two response.

1) "Wow, I wish I had someone like you around when my baby was born!"


2) "So, um, what IS that?"

I've written about what a postpartum doula is over here, but I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about what a postpartum doula does.

Close up shot of a baby's hand grasping an adult's pinky finger.

Wondering what you can expect when working with a postpartum doula? A typical shift looks something like this:

First thing's first - after washing my hands, I take some time to talk with the parents and get a feel for how they are and what their goals are for the day. How are they feeling? What’s on their agenda for the day (for example: nap. shower, get outside, practicing baby wearing, attend to household tasks) How did sleep go the previous night? How is feeding going today? And together we make a plan for how I’m going to spend my time with them.

I like to think of the plan in three ways:

- Education

- Support

- Helpful Hands

Number one - education. There is so much to learn about babies. They don’t come with manuals, and the learning curve can be steep. I don't take care of the baby for the parents, but rather I help parents learn how *they* can take care of the baby.

Working side by side with the parents, we walk through a variety of baby care activities. These can include things like:

  • bathing the baby,

  • practicing baby-wearing,

  • talking about sleep cycles and what to expect naps and nights to look like,

  • learning about breastfeeding/pumping/bottle feeding or any combination thereof,

  • how to run errands with a newborn and how to pack for the unexpected,

  • examining newborn behavior and how that will change over the coming months,

  • creating daily and nightly rhythms and routines,

  • “reading” baby’s signs and cries,

  • trying out a variety of calming and soothing techniques, including swaddling

Number two - supporting new parents where they’re at. Being a new parent is emotionally and mentally exhausting, and often new parents don’t have a person to turn to where they can vent their fears, frustrations and worries. I’m that person.

We’ll talk about things like:

  • ways to deal with sibling rivalry or regression,

  • how to maintain open communication with their spouse,

  • managing ever-evolving relationships with extended family members,

  • scoping out local support or new moms’ groups,

  • how to keep perspective in the midst of what feels like never-ending chaos,

  • ways to cope when they’re feeling overwhelmed

  • local resources

And number three - I've got a set of helpful hands. Between caring for a newborn and managing the rest of life, new parents have so much on their hands. Dishes pile up. Laundry waits. I've got the extra hands that can easily help with those sorts of chores.

I’m always happy to help with things like:

  • washing or sterilizing pump or bottle parts

  • washing/folding/putting away baby’s laundry

  • emptying the dishwasher

  • prepping healthy snacks and meals for the family

  • caring for the baby so the parents can nap or shower or attend to other household needs

And finally, the end of a shift I try to make sure I’m leaving the family in a good place, with all tasks wrapped up. If the family needs referrals for other local providers, I help them find that match. Together we make a plan for my next time with them. And hopefully I leave them feeling rested, relieved and supported.

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