For Julie Six, owner of The Birth Haven, postpartum doulas were an unwritten offering in the past. Postpartum services weren’t publicized as heavily as their birth doulas were. But when clients had their babies, the birth doulas would often see the families struggle to adjust to life with a newborn.
“I’ve always known there is a component missing when you leave the hospital,” she said. Enter in, postpartum doulas.
The doulas offer day shifts, night shifts, or 24-hour live-in support. The day shifts are flexible to the needs of the family. Doulas do not offer medical care or advice, but can support the family in most any other way they need it.
“This is for families who want sleep, who don’t have as much time for older siblings, who have pets that need to be walked, light household chores, transportation for siblings, breastfeeding support,” Six said.
During night shifts, families only need a couch where the doula can sleep while the baby sleeps. Whether a mother is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the doula will wake up to help the baby eat and get back to sleep so mom and dad can rest.
Even if a mother has family nearby to pitch in, Six said a doula can be beneficial because they are an unbiased source of help. Postpartum doulas should be prepared to accommodate all kinds of parenting philosophies.
“Maybe your family is totally against your plan, they come in with this bias of the way they did things,” she said. “A postpartum doula comes in and asks how you want to do things and let’s make a plan.”
Six said a postpartum doula can be a crucial intervention for postpartum depression. Many mothers don’t notice the signs, or they are too ashamed to ask for help.
“We’re a frontline defense against postpartum depression,” she said. “Many moms don’t know what to look for, but we can recognize what’s normal and what’s not and get help.”
Jenna Poppe and her husband decided to hire a postpartum doula after the birth of their second child. With her first baby, she struggled for months before realizing she was experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety.
“We needed someone to take care of me and help keep up with the house so we could take care of our children,” Poppe said. “Family can help with some things, but there are things I wasn’t comfortable asking family to do that a doula is there to help with.”
Poppe knew they needed help, but she didn’t have an exact list of needs. This turned out to be no problem for the doulas.
“We had no idea what it would be like and what we would need,” she said. “The doulas would see a need and fill that need. They didn’t make me manage or tell them what to do, which can be another task and source of stress.”
Poppe said she hopes all mothers make self-care a priority, although it can be hard when the new baby has all your focus. She said the doulas allowed her to focus on recovery, and they filled in the gaps.
“They were truly a gift and relief,” she said. “And as the weeks went by, what we needed from them changed and they continued to be flexible and just as important to our family and my recovery.”
There is no time or age limit for the services, but Six said most families need the most help in the first six weeks. Packages are available where parents can choose what schedule they need, or parents can purchase a la carte. It’s not unusual for parents to hire a doula so they can get one night of good sleep.
Without regulated parental leave, many families get overwhelmed as they try to adjust to a new baby without support to ease the transition. Six hopes postpartum doulas can change that mindset of “fend for yourself,” and instead instill a cultural norm of allowing others in to help.
“New motherhood can be very guilt-inducing,” Six said. “Women have babies and are expected to jump back into normal life. We need to sit back and be okay asking for help.”
The Birth Haven is located at 2891 Richmond Road. Learn more at www.thebirthhaven.com.