While it can be incredibly comforting to have someone who is there just to support you at your birth, many new parents know that the insecurity and anxiety doesn't stop with a baby's birth.
Is this cry normal? Should he poo more often? What can I do to sooth her when she's cranky? What is the best bathing technique for newborns? These and other questions plague many new moms and dads. Even seasoned parents have their doubts during the newborn stage, and they might simply like a bit of extra support. Where are you going to find that support? Some new parents ask relatives (like a mom or sister) to stay with them for a while right after the birth of a new baby. This can be a wonderful experience. It can also be a nightmare. These people, who came to help you, might turn into dreaded guests who expect cooking to be done for them, or who want to spend as much time with your baby as possible.
Enter the postpartum doula
A postpartum doula can be a wonderful solution. Postpartum doulas, like birth doulas, are there to support you. They can provide information about latching techniques, bottle feeding, infant soothing, diapering, or your own physical postpartum recovery. They can also help you with meal preparation, your older children, or watch your baby so you can grab a shower. It's important to realize that a postpartum doula isn't the same thing as a baby nurse or a health visitor. She's not there to check that your baby is putting on weight, or that the cord stump is healing nicely (though she can do those things).
Rather, a postpartum doula is there to offer support to you as a new parent. A postpartum doula can make those first few weeks with your new baby a lot more pleasant, in other words. The care a doula provides is individual. Some are there specifically to "mother the mother"; to make your job easier and to make sure you get the rest you need. They can be particularly helpful to moms who had a difficult birth, a cesarean section, or multiple babies. Worrying about the cooking and cleaning is not nice when you feel exhausted and your body aches, after all. That newborn period is so special, and you would prefer to look back on it with fondness rather than just recalling how stressful the whole thing was.
Other postpartum doulas have specific skills that could help you find your way as a new mom. They could know all about breastfeeding, teach you how to use slings or baby massage, or help your older children adjust to the new baby. Every doula is unique, and it's important to look for one that has the skills you're looking for. Since you're going to spend time with her right after you have a baby, liking the doula is also pretty essential. Generally, postpartum doulas can come anywhere from a few days to a whole month. They might come for an hour or so, or stay much longer depending on the level of support you would like. They may come every day, every working day, or only a few days a week. In the United States, postpartum doulas tend to charge between $10 and $15 an hour.
In some cases, they are covered by health savings accounts (HSA) or flexible spending accounts (FSA). You might even get a postpartum doula as a baby shower gift if you are lucky. You'll find a postrpartum doula by asking your midwife, childbirth educator, birth doula or friends. You can also Google postpartum doulas in your area, and your family doctor might know some too.