While doulas are becoming a more common addition to an expectant families birth or postpartum plan, many still aren’t quite sure what a doula actually does. Below is a brief overview of the ways Birth and Postpartum Doulas help the families they work with.
We recommend families start interviewing Birth Doulas during the second trimester of pregnancy. It can take a few weeks to line up interviews to find the perfect doula fit. Once hired, your doula is available to you for any questions you may have over email, phone or text. You can also expect:
Pre-birth: during the third trimester, your doula will schedule prenatal meetings. These are valuable sessions to help plan for the day of birth. Your doula will review any childbirth education classes you may have taken and answer any questions you might have. She’ll also help you make a few logistical plans for the day of birth. We never know exactly how labor will unfold, however having a few different plans for how labor may start can be particularly helpful.
Your doula will also help you practice different comfort measures for labor. This may be a combination of movements, breathing techniques, guided imagery, hypnosis, massage techniques and more. She’ll help your partner be prepared for when labor starts, with some guidance on helping you during early labor when contractions are mild.
Day of: on the day of your birth your doula will be on call and ready to meet you when you need support. She can meet you either at your home or hospital, whichever works best depending on how your labor is progressing. Your doula is your guide- she’ll help you manage contractions by coaching you through breathing and comfort techniques. She’ll encourage you every step of the way. For your partner, she’ll help normalize the experience and be a reassuring presence.
At the hospital, your doula will help you settle in and be as comfortable as possible. She’ll help you dialog with medical staff and make sure you have all the information you need to make decisions should they arise. If an epidural is requested, doulas have lots of techniques to help clients rest in different positions to help facilitate the baby’s decent into the birth canal.
Every step of the way during your labor, your doula is there for you and your partner, whether it’s gathering supplies, getting you a drink of water, or offering a massage.
Following the birth of your baby, your doula will help you with the first latch, get you settled in with a high protein snack, take some family photos if you’d like, and help you be as comfortable as possible for those early bonding hours.
Postpartum: after you’re settled in at home, your Birth Doula will return within the first one to two weeks after the birth to have a postpartum check in session. This is a wonderful time to recap the birth experience together. This is also a good time to trouble shoot any lactation, newborn care or postpartum healing questions that may have come up. Your doula will be able to direct you to community resources if they’re needed.
Preparing for the postpartum period, aka “the fourth trimester” is incredibly important for the whole family unit. You’ll never regret setting yourself up with help so you can rest and focus on feeding your baby during those early weeks and months.
Postpartum Doulas are available to assist families either during the day or overnight. Daytime doulas spend a lot of their time focusing on guidance and education for the new family. This might include assisting with breastfeeding and latching, teaching newborn care such as bathing, swaddling, and soothing techniques.
In addition to baby care, the postpartum doula can also run errands, prepare meals, tidy up the home, and attend to things that help the day move forward for the household. Your postpartum doula is your guide- she’ll help you develop and strengthen your parenting confidence so that when she’s not there, you feel secure with your baby.
Overnight doulas are typically hired so new parents can get as much sleep as possible. For moms who are breastfeeding, the postpartum doula can provide support during nighttime feedings if needed. Although mom will need to wake to breastfeed, the doula handles all the diaper changes, swaddling and soothing so mom can get some much needed rest in between feeds. She can also make you a middle of the night snack, and have breakfast ready for you in the morning.
Postpartum doulas typically work with families anywhere from the first 2-3 weeks following the birth, all the way up to the first 5-6 months depending on the family’s needs. We recommend families interview postpartum doulas in the third trimester of pregnancy, though many clients hire postpartum help after the baby is born.
What’s the difference between a Baby Nurse and Postpartum Doula?
We are often asked what’s the difference between a baby nurse (also called a night nanny, or night nurse) and a postpartum doula. This is a great question, as the services offered are quite different.
A baby nurse is hired to care exclusively for the baby, while a postpartum doula provides care for the entire family. For example, a baby nurse is in charge of feeding, bathing, and diapering the newborn during her time with a family. A postpartum doula on the other hand, “mothers” the mother, so the parents take care of the newborn, while the doula takes care of the parents. If the parents need a break, a nap or shower, the doula is more than happy to care for the baby.
A baby nurse typically lives with a family for a duration of time, while a postpartum doula comes for her shift and doesn’t live with the family. Depending on sleeping arrangements this can be a big consideration for some families. Postpartum doulas have additional training in breastfeeding support. Depending on a family’s feeding preferences, this can be particularly helpful in those early weeks when breastfeeding is getting established.
If you’d like to learn more about birth and postpartum doula services, or have questions about your particular situation, feel free to reach out to Baby Caravan: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Baby Caravan
Baby Caravan provides holistic support for families, from pregnancy through returning to work postpartum. Founded in 2014, Baby Caravan’s mission is to provide families in New York City with exceptional birth and postpartum knowledge, guidance and resources through our network of professional Birth & Postpartum Doulas. We connect families with vetted doulas, to best meet their needs during this special, yet challenging time. In addition to doula services, Baby Caravan coaches moms returning to work following maternity leave to help smooth the transition back to work.