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The Role of a Postpartum Doula: What She Does and Doesn’t Do… For the Record!

Let’s just begin by saying that every doula is a little different but, basically, these are the elements of the role that you can expect most doulas to take on.

TIP: Clarify at the beginning of your contract with your doula what services ARE and what are NOT included, as part of their role. That way, everyone is on the same page, from day 1.

Postpartum doula defined

What exactly is a postpartum doula? They are people you can hire to help you through the first days and weeks after your baby is born. It’s a different role from that of a birthing doula and an ‘in hospital’ doula. Let’s break it down:

  • Birthing doula — is with you before you give birth, providing support and education, and in the delivery room, providing physical support during the entire birth process.
  • In Hospital doula — is with you during the hours / days after you give birth and remain in the hospital. These days, hospital cost cutting and quick discharges for uncomplicated births has meant that nurseries are a thing of the past. While we can all agree that Mom and baby need time together right away, with skin-to-skin contact and feeding, Mom might also need a little rest or want to take a shower. If it was a long labor, a little break would be welcome, to say nothing of the support that a doula can provide in hospital with things like latching, holding baby, changing baby and so on. For first time parents, particularly those without family nearby, this can be a lifesaver.
  • Postpartum doula — is, as noted above, with you at home in the days and even weeks that follow the birth and your return home.

Why is a postpartum doula important to a new mom?

Particularly for moms who experience uncomplicated births, the norm these days is to get you up and discharged within 12-24 hours but even the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 24 hours. Less than that leaves women at risk for postpartum complications, including excessive bleeding.

With that in mind, having some help at home is a blessing for so many new parents. And it’s not just first time parents that will benefit from engaging a postpartum doula. After all, finding time for siblings can be very difficult when there is a newborn in the house. And not everyone has family who live close by, who can lend a hand.

For those parents who do have family close by, a postpartum doula can still be helpful. After all, it’s been a few decades since your mother-in-law gave birth, and the way things are done have changed. Having someone who will help you with your baby care decisions without judgment or guilt is worth every penny!

What can a postpartum doula help with?

A lot of the support a postpartum doula provides is in education, helping new moms understand things like:

  • Making sure mom gets enough to eat and is drinking plenty of water.
  • Discussing the amount of bleeding (lochia) that is normal and what’s not.
  • Discussing any other warning signs of complications that would necessitate immediate medical attention.
  • Reinforcing the importance of getting rest.
  • Discussing routines, including sleep routines, for baby (not for right away!)
  • Educating mom on her own care, such as the care of her episiotomy, if she had one.
  • Talking about feeding baby, latching, burping and the like.
  • Talking about baby and everything from bathing to diapering and all stops in between; answering questions that might be worrying mom and dad!

Other tasks might include:

  • Caring for the infant, so that mom can get some of that rest I mentioned!
  • Light housekeeping and meal prep.
  • Caring for siblings in the home.

A great way to view the role of the postpartum doula is to be a support pillar for mom. The doula isn’t going to run out and do errands for mom but she will be there to support mom’s needs with regards to caring for her newborn. In the fog of those first few sleepless days and weeks, a postpartum doula can be a real lifesaver, helping mom (and dad) not to worry as much over every little thing, so that they can really take the time to appreciate and bond with their new baby.

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