The Postpartum Doula and the New Family

by Demaris Rae Bruce, CMT, CPD (NAPCS)

The new mother in todayís world is often left at home alone with her baby within days of the birth, tired, bewildered and confused, and totally unprepared for the reality of life after baby. She may find herself having to tend to her daily activities (cook, laundress, and chauffeur) as though she had not just given birth. Many new mothers rely on the assistance of a family member or friend during this time, for the needs of her family will go on. If she does not have the support of other female relatives, the burden of caring for her family remains on her shoulders unless she and her family seek out the services of a postpartum doula.

A postpartum doula can be a wonderful helper and friend for a new mother as well as her family. An experienced companion, she assists the new mother with her recover from the birth experience: perhaps steeping herbal teas, preparing a favorite meal or making a warm poultice. Her role is to "mother the new mother;" she might rub the motherís shoulders or give her a foot massage, facilitate rest periods and encourage her to drink plenty of fluids. Nurturing care is the code of the postpartum doula, and she offers this first to the new mother. The doula takes care of the motherís postpartum needs so that the mother will be available to meet her new babyís needs. The doula provides much needed support for mother to facilitate bonding with the baby.

The doula also helps the new parents by demonstrating practical newborn care and by supporting the feeding method the mother has chosen to use. Doulas work side by side with the mother and other family members to help them learn diapering and dressing techniques, bathing routines and other infant care skills. The doula can offer new parents information on cord an circumcision care, newborn characteristics and baby skin conditions. Doulas can be very helpful in supporting a new motherís breastfeeding efforts and can offer valuable information on positioning, latching on and how to tell if baby is getting enough. They are familiar with the various types and brands of infant formula and can instruct parents on proper preparation and bottle sterilization methods.

Doulas are especially helpful to the new father as he takes on the paternal role and learns how to care for his baby. By carefully demonstrating appropriate ways to care for baby, doulas work to build confidence and help the father to overcome his fears in holding and caring for his child.

By mixing all this information and support for the parents with good olí fun and games for the older kids, postpartum doulas offer some much needed attention for children with a new baby brother or sister in the house. Doulas can create fun times for siblings as well as facilitate quality time with Mom and Dad. The postpartum doula supports the growing family by helping the siblings through their own adjustment process.

One are where the postpartum doula is always appreciated is in the kitchen. Many postpartum doulas are excellent cooks and love to prepare delicious food for Mom and family. Doulas can take the load off other family members by grocery shopping, planning and preparing easy meals for the entire family. And kitchen clean up is a breeze when your doula does it!

Postpartum doulas also offer practical household assistance to the entire family. This usually consists of anything Mom would be doing for her family if she were not busy with a new baby. It can include picking up Dadís suit at the cleaners or taking Junior to Little League practice. Doulas also help Mom and Baby get to any necessary doctor appointments.

More and more of todayís new mothers seek out the assistance of a doula when baby arrives. This allows Mom a better opportunity to rest and recover from the birth, to learn how to successfully breastfeed, and to bond with her baby. It also allows Mom to remove herself from the family duty roster without guilt, knowing that her familyís needs are being tended to. By retaining the services of a doula, mothers are planning ahead to meet the postpartum needs of the whole family.


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