written by: Katie Vinopal, LD, CPPD (ABG), Labor Doula and Postpartum Doula
Having a baby is a time of massive change. In the past, our ancestors lived in villages collaborating in the effort to raise a family. Mothers breastfeeding each other’s children when a new mother just can’t stand another cluster feed, or just needs to recover from her delivery. Women surrounded by their mothers, aunts, and cousins empowered by their birth experiences. Luxuries our developing country doesn’t even realize they don’t have until it’s too late. This is where Doulas come into play. We saw a need for stronger support of new families, and began infiltrating the birth industry. The purpose of this blog is to give you tips on how to use your postpartum Doula.
How do we reach the individuals in our community that have been groomed for independence since adolescence? I can attest to demanding my independence since I was a toddler. Thanks to my education, I was given some pretty handy tools in never needing the help of my parents when it came to making decisions for my body. Women especially earn the badge of body awareness at an early stage in adolescence. So, when we assume a space in our life when our body is no longer ours, how can we educate ourselves for this change, without allowing the information to stress us out?
Motherhood comes with a lot of baggage, not to mention the parcels we have picked up in our developing years. We learn how to process our shortcomings, and use those experiences to our advantage. Inviting a brand new tiny life into yours can stir up all sorts of emotions. A lot of the mothers I have worked with mention a mother’s guilt. Your surges of emotion become so much more physical as a new mother; having an objective presence reminding you to give yourself grace can be a huge part of your care. Becoming a mother means letting go of certain things that don’t fit. Often those things were points of satisfaction, maybe even things that we identify as validating to our roles as an individual. Having someone in your home to help with baby can trigger feelings of guilt, particularly since you don’t have the same energy levels you did before in order to be as independent as you once were. The sooner you let go of those feelings of lacking, the sooner you can establish an appreciation for the village around you. Some cultures don’t even allow mothers to leave the bed until baby’s belly button is fully healed. That can take up to 4-5 weeks. Imagine all the skills you can establish through an extended recovery time with just you and baby.
Consider the hours in which you plan to have the Doula in your home. Postpartum Doulas can be hired for daytime work or nighttime work. The hours in which you have the Doula in your home will dictate some of the responsibilities of the Doula. Both styles of care offer support with feeds, sleep schedules, newborn safety, and self-care. Daytime care offers more space for hands on teaching and interaction. Nighttime care is about lengthening time between feeds and teaching baby proper sleeping habits. A Doula will be a solid example in how to care for baby. It is important to note that a Doula will be observant of your preferences and spend the time illuminating solutions that fit your home. Doulas can offer suggestions on how to safely co-sleep with your newborn, and are always happy to take baby and snuggle with them so you can get a solid nap. Often, a Doula will offer guidance to partner while mom sleeps. They can continue to normalize the process for partner, and encourage their participation in mom’s recovery and baby’s first weeks of being home. Maybe you haven’t gotten around to organizing something in the nursery; a Doula can help tighten up any loose ends you may had forgotten.
One of my favorite things I do as a Doula is research specific topics for my clients. Google is an incredible entity we have at our disposal, but it doesn’t have the ability to narrow down the subject for a new mommy with cracked nipples covered in spit up with a crying baby and an over-supply of breastmilk… see the picture I’m painting here? Not only can Doulas research a topic and its latest developments, but they can also dig into their bag of experiences with previous families and help normalize your concerns and help establish a plan that can help you adjust a little better to these struggles.
Perhaps you have hired a Doula for postpartum, and now your home thinking, “Hey this isn’t that bad…” and all you want to do is cozy up in bed with baby. How does a Doula fit in this picture? In this case, a Doula would be the best in facilitating these wishes. A Doula will offer a multitude of services within your home as simple as folding and putting away laundry. Don’t feel as though you are discounting a Doula’s presence by asking them to do house work, they are there to make sure that you are comfortable in your home and in your new role in motherhood. Any Doula will lay out boundaries before being hired, find someone you feel comfortable with, someone you feel you can have a conversation with. Sometimes a Doula will suffice as someone to just witness your transformation while your partner has to step away. I’ll often have mamas asking about my life, what I did the night before, what my plans are moving forward. This not only gives them an escape from feeding schedules and poopy diapers, it also builds and strengthens your relationship with your Doula.
Growing families can also benefit from a postpartum Doula. Doulas practice care of the family, not just mother and baby. When older siblings are involved, a Doula can either spend the time with older siblings, or assist in the care for baby so the parents have the time to spend with big brother or sister. A Doula can also tag along on family outings helping facilitate feedings, diaper changes, and keeping an eye on other siblings. Doulas can facilitate a nurturing environment that allows for the time and space for family discussion, helping shape perspective for each family member.
What can we take from this blog, and what is important to remember when seeking outside help with your family. Have patience for the process and give yourself some grace. Establishing and growing a family is no easy task. Your ability to let go of old responsibilities will only enhance your ability to take on the new responsibilities as a parent. Be honest with yourself: the more we voice our distaste for certain parts of the process, the more we can establish solutions that fit your individual style of care. Talk with your Doula, listen to their observations, and ask questions. Your road to parenthood may not be perfect, but rest assured a Doula can facilitate the smoothest ride possible.