Ask the Experts: Postpartum doulas

Some friends have talked about hiring a postpartum doula, but I’m not really sure what that is or how one might help. Can you fill me in?

A: Just as a birth doula stays by your side during the course of labor and delivery, a postpartum doula stays by your side as you establish this new life with baby. Postpartum doulas are trained professionals who provide emotional, physical and educational guidance to a mother and her family. The physical and emotional recovery from birth can be difficult and overwhelming, especially in the first six weeks. A doula can provide unbiased, nonjudgmental support as you decide on parenting choices that best fit the needs of your baby.

Imagine you are just leaving the hospital with your newborn and heading home, but you feel anxious about the new journey into parenthood. A postpartum doula can be present from the moment you arrive home. She will be there to listen to your concerns, answer your questions and help you completely focus on bonding with your baby. Postpartum doulas can be there to support families during various shifts—whether during the day, overnight or for 24-hour care.

Your postpartum doula can be extremely useful when you’re faced with the early challenges of breastfeeding. She can also provide you with recommendations on a variety of baby products. She’s trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of baby blues and postpartum depression, and she can advise you on what is common during your emotional recovery or suggest resources if you need some additional help.

Postpartum doula support may include newborn care, breastfeeding assistance, bottle-feeding, babywearing education, baby-soothing techniques, sibling care, postpartum recovery, light housekeeping, light meal preparation, assisting with errands and more. Postpartum doulas can help all types of mothers with all types of birth experiences, and they can also be supportive to adoptive families or families with multiples. A postpartum doula works with each family individually to meet its particular needs.

Mari Leckel, director of family support at Acelleron Maternal Health & Wellness in North Andover, Massachusetts


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