So… What Exactly Does a Postpartum Doula Do?

I hear this question at least once a week. Given that I didn’t even know what a postpartum doula was when my daughter was born, I’m not surprised! I enjoy answering questions and helping educate people about the importance of postpartum support! Here are some other questions I am often asked.

postpartum doula

Isn’t a postpartum doula just like a baby nurse or a nanny?
No, however they are sometimes similar.  As a postpartum doula, I may provide some child care, but it is not my main role. I don’t take over caring for the baby, but I do help parents with baby duties as needed. This can include changing diapers, rocking to sleep, feeding baby a bottle, or holding baby. Baby holding is one of the biggest perks!

Why would anybody pay for that?!
Well, that depends on the family and their situation. Maybe they don’t have much local support, because friends and family live far away. Sometimes the mom is single, or her partner had to go back to work right away. Maybe her partner is in the military or works away from home for extended periods. And, possibly, they just want someone there who has experience with the postpartum period and knows what kinds of things may be important to them in that time.

Will a postpartum doula clean my house for me?
No, that is not a postpartum doula’s job. If that is what you are looking for, you should probably hire someone to clean your house. What I will do, however, is ask what household tasks would be most helpful for me to complete, and then do those. I will wash and put away your laundry, I will wash your dishes or unload the dishwasher, I will wipe down your counters and table. I will sweep, take out the trash, and walk the dog. But if you are expecting someone to polish your floors and scrub the bathroom inch by inch… you will be disappointed.

postpartum doula

How do you know what types of things the family needs?
This answer varies, depending on my recent clients. I will always come in and wash my hands, and check in with the family – How are things going? How do you feel? Is there anything new going on? What are you struggling with currently? How can I be of the most help today?

Sometimes, clients will give me a list of things they would like me to do. This is awesome! I love knowing exactly what they are expecting that day. Other times, I will hear them say something during our conversations that shows me what could be helpful to them. Maybe it’s along the lines of “We have so much laundry to get done, and we can’t seem to get to it. It’s really making me anxious!” or “The doctor said I should be supplementing with my pumped milk after every feed, but I don’t know the best way to do that. Do you have any ideas?”

There are also times when I come in and my client is resting, or wants to take a bath, and I take a look around and figure out on my own what needs to be done. For example, I might come in and think “Hmm, looks like the garbage is full and there are dishes that could go in the dishwasher. I see that the baby’s laundry basket is full, I’ll go throw that in first. And the cat is out of food, let me go grab some more for her.”

What does a normal day look like for you?
Lately, my day has looked a bit like this: Arrive, wash hands and check in. Get parents water, coffee, or a meal/snack if they need it. Chat for a while about how things have gone since I saw them last. Ask if they need anything else.

Work on any skills they would like help with, such as swaddling, giving baby a bath, syringe feeding, breastfeeding positioning, etc. Listen to the parents talk about their concerns and joys – are they sleeping at night? How is breastfeeding going? Do they want to work through their birth story again? What about their physical recovery, how do they feel?

Grab any dishes, diapers, or dirty laundry that I see and put it in the proper place. Start a load of laundry, hand wash dishes or load the dishwasher. Give the pets some attention, food, or a walk. Check in with parents again. Hold the baby so the parents or mom can shower, rest, or use the bathroom.  Sweep the floors, switch the laundry, put clothes away, wipe down the counters. Smile at baby snuggled up sleeping on mama.

Check in with parents again before I leave. Have a conversation about anything I can do for them, such as resources, information about local professionals or websites, lending them a book, etc. Set a schedule for the next week if we haven’t already. Make sure that I have checked in with both parents, and anyone else who is around. Say bye to baby… and think about how much I love what I do!

As you can see, a postpartum doula is so much more than a nanny or a housekeeper! I am focused on the family as a whole, and promoting happiness and health for everyone. I do my best to listen to what the parents need, and then help them attain that. And yes, sometimes I get to hold cute babies.

Contact me to learn more about how a postpartum doula can help you!

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