A Typical Postpartum Doula Shift
When I tell people that I am a postpartum doula, many people ask me what exactly I do each day when I start to work with a new family that has just had a baby.I tend to work in 4-5 hour shifts. When I first arrive, I spend some time checking in with mom to see what questions have come up since we last spoke, hear how the night went, etc. Then I set up her to snuggle with baby while I fetch her a fresh glass of water and a meal or snack. I’ll also throw in a load of laundry at this point to get that going. Then, I ask mom what she needs most that day. The answers are usually either sleep, shower, or get out of the house. Based on what she is most needing, we take it from there.
If it is time for the baby to eat and baby is breastfeeding, I can help with assessing baby’s latch since I am a certified lactation counselor. I also answer any other breastfeeding questions and any other concerns or just continue to chat with mom. If baby is bottle feeding, I can take care of the feeding so mom can take a break.
Sometimes a new mom is feeling overwhelmed by visitors and company or household chores and just wants some quiet time alone with her baby. So I’ll tuck her into bed with her baby, make sure she has water, a healthy snack, her phone, etc. Then I’m off to tidy up the house, wash the dishes, empty the dishwasher, and fold the laundry. It’s amazing how much laundry one little baby can create!
Other days, a new mom is feeling exhausted and needs the chance to know she is “off duty” and can go take a nice long, deep nap. The sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby is no joke, and new moms and dads need to take every opportunity that they can to rest. While mom naps, I play with baby if s/he is awake or swaddle the baby up for a nap and get to work on the household chores. By this time, that load of laundry is ready to be switched to the dryer and I can fold whatever may be already done in the dryer. I also make sure all the diaper changing stations are stocked with diapers, and wipes.
If there is an older sibling, I spend time with him/her playing games and enlisting their “help” in caring for mom and baby. Toddlers are often very eager to help and are able to fetch diapers and burp cloths. A postpartum doula’s services are even more valuable to a family welcoming a second or third baby as mom can’t “nap when the baby naps” unless someone else is there to watch the older brother or sister as well.
I’m there to offer non-judgmental support and screen for any potential problems. I do not teach certain parenting styles or tell parents what to do. I listen to their concerns and help them find their own style, offering gentle tips and suggestions when necessary. It is my intention to work myself out of a job. I give parents some hands on help so they can recover from birth and get some quality rest and meals. All while offering the tools they need to settle into parenthood.
Of course, every day is different and every new family is different and I adjust to meet their needs. Sometimes there are issues with breastfeeding that we work on, or helping the baby to sleep in longer stretches, or helping an older sibling transition to the change. I truly view my work and time with a new family as sacred. And, I love to see mom’s face when she awakes from her nap or emerges from the shower to see her house in order and her children content.
Having a new baby is a big transition. I help new families make it an enjoyable and easy transition. This is a time to be treasured and looked back upon with contentment. It is not a time to struggle in isolation with a fussy baby, sleep deprivation, or breastfeeding problems. New moms deserve to feel nurtured and supported during this time and it is my pleasure to provide this service!