A postpartum doula is a professional trained in childbirth and early parenthood. They provide emotional, physical, and informational support for families during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Here’s everything you need to know about what they do!
A couple of decades ago, the concept of a postpartum doula was right up there with oat milk: something only the privileged or woo-woo dared to try. Since then, as ideas around a baby’s early development along with the importance of both maternal and paternal leave evolve, the role of the postpartum doula has been pulled into focus.
“Babies are very immature compared to other mammals, so they go through a lot of development during this time (the first three months),” explains the birth and postpartum doula, Samantha Gunn. “If you compare a 12-week-old baby with a newborn, you’ll see what I mean. Many of the issues (colic, reflux, feeding issues, some sleeping issues) that are commonly encountered with infants have settled by this time, and so babies are often more settled after this period.”
Samantha has been helping parents navigate this tricky stage for five years. Now a mum of four teenagers, she talks to us about what led her to follow this path and explains exactly what using the services of a postpartum doula means for you.
What made you want to become a postpartum doula?
My own birth and postpartum experiences! I had doulas when I had my own children and the support I received during my birth and postpartum made a huge difference to me and my family.
Our society is more fragmented than ever and becoming parents is a profound and tender time. There is a gap to be filled for families in terms of support, connection, and knowledge – and I love being part of that.
How does what you do differ from a birth doula or midwife?
In general, midwives are responsible for your medical care, while doulas are emotional and practical support. Obviously, there is a little overlap since midwives are generally very caring, but this isn’t the focus of their job. Not many women in Australia have access to continuity of care with a midwife so they can end up seeing different midwives during their pregnancy, birth, and postnatal period.
A doula can provide some continuity and can often spend more time with you than a midwife is able to, which allows us to form a trusting relationship with the family during this time.
What sort of services do postpartum doulas offer?
There is a range! Universally, a doula offers what I call ’emotional and practical support and it should meet the needs of the family on any given day. This can look different depending on the doula – and there can be additional services depending on her training.
For example, a doula might:
- care for the baby while the parents have a rest or a shower
- do some light housework
- make a meal
- offer feeding support
- help the parents understand the baby’s cues
- provide a listening ear and reassurance
Some doulas also offer services like massage and belly binding.
What does a typical day look like?
I don’t have a typical day and that’s something that I love about my work. I might be busy with appointments all day or not have any, and if I’m with clients, those visits will look different depending on the needs of the family at the time.
Sometimes it’s a conversation in the form of connection, debriefing, and processing, or it’s more practical support in the form of helping the parents to rest and creating some order within the home. But either way, my clients are always fed because that’s my love language!
I’m not a fan of telling parents how to do things, I always say that I can probably show you three different ways to approach anything, and you decide what suits your family. By encouraging parents to lean into their intuition they will have increased trust in their choices when we are no longer working together.
What do parents need to know about the fourth trimester?
This phrase refers to the three months after you give birth. Not everyone has heard of it but every parent goes through it! It’s a time of big changes for both you and your baby. For parents, everyone’s experience will vary but there are some universal truths around this time.
Birth depletes us so it is important to rest, stay warm and eat well in the early weeks and months after birth. And prepare for emotional changes! Becoming parents means that our emotional capacity increases and we are more primed for connection during this time. So not only are we changing internally, but our relationships with other people change too – especially our relationship with our partner …
Here is what you need to know about postpartum doulas. What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below!