I remember the first time I needed to call a postpartum doula for a birth doula family I was working with. The new parent was a single mother and overwhelmed by a 2-3 day old baby who seemed to just want to cry. The mother's breasts were hot and engorged, making it difficult for her hungry screaming baby to latch on. Tears streamed down her face and she looked at me helplessly. I gave her a forced smile, picked up her wailing baby and lead her into her bathroom to draw a warm bath. As she soaked I soothed her baby and quickly text a postpartum doula and lactation consultant I worked with. She arrived just as I was helping the mother dry off. I watched as the postpartum doula expertly helped the mother express some breast milk to spoon feed the baby and got to work helping the new mother.
When I came for my second prenatal a few days later my client was a new person. She was confident, happy and nursing, though still difficultly. She'd already attended her first Le Leche League meeting and planned to go back. Her transformation was astounding and it was in that moment that I realized that my job as a birth doula was only one part of the journey. A Postpartum Doula is a necessary ally for all pregnant people and new parents in the 4th Trimester, the time after baby is born.
I never wanted to have that "holy shit, now what?!" moment again and decided to train at the Simkin Center at Bastyr University as a Postpartum Doula to help bridge the gap between pregnancy and parenthood.
Now that my training is complete and I'm working towards certification I want to empower all new parents to seek the care of a postpartum doula.
Your postpartum doula is not a nanny or babysitter, your postpartum doula is an extra set of helping hands for the entire family. The role of a postpartum doula is to help new parents navigate the transition from being pregnant to becoming parents to a new baby. A postpartum doula helps to reassure new parents in their decisions around feeding and sleep. A postpartum doula helps new parents understand their new baby better by teaching them how to speak to a tiny human that speaks a different language than the parent. A postpartum doula helps keep new parents organized and provides support with light household tasks like meal making and grocery shopping. A postpartum doula has your best interests in mind; making sure new parents are staying hydrated, eating, sleeping and is watchful for signs of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. A postpartum doula's role is to help new parents get their sea legs and to eventually leave when new parents are feeling more confident in their new role as parents.
I will be starting to take postpartum doula clients in September and would love to talk to you about ways in which I can support your new family.
I remember my first tough postpartum visit like it was yesterday even though it was three years ago. It was one of my first births and it went beautifully. The mother labored at home all day and when we arrived at the hospital she was 10 cm dilated! She pushed out her baby girl and had skin-to-skin right away. It all went according to plan.
So when I arrived to her apartment two days later I wasn't prepared for what I encountered. Her little one was wailing in her bassinet and the mama's face was streaked with her own tears.
"My breasts!" she exclaimed and threw open her shirt. They were large, bright red and painfully engorged. I wracked my new doula brain for what to do; we got her little one settled down and latched on, but it was at that moment that I realized that the entire birth process tends to be focused on labor and birth and not so much on the postpartum period.
We found that Mama an amazing Le Leche League Lactation Consultant and she nursed her Little One until she was almost 2. Since then I have been suggesting that all of my doula clients come up with a solid Postpartum Plan. These plans can include specific thing like rules for visiting the new family after the baby is born, a chores check lists guests can help with, and creating a meal train plan. I also encourage clients to create a list of resources including lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, new parent groups and more.
Your Postpartum Plan, like your Birth Plan, should be as specific and as personalized as possible. Think of everything you could need to make your transition into parenthood easier. Having a plan can take some of the surprise out of those first few weeks.
I saw this post on Facebook today and felt a sense of relief. I like to remind my Mamas and partners to be wary of the numbers set by medical teams. 40 weeks of pregnancy, Due Dates, postpartum healing times are all varied based on the individual woman. Women aren't machines that come with manuals, as we all know. Still, like everything, it's a good idea to talk to your provider before starting or changing any physical activity before, during and after your pregnancy.
Written by Lorraine Scapens
Do you really need to wait 6 weeks until you can exercise or until you have had your postnatal check up by your GP?
Why is it that a 6 week waiting time to exercise is still actively promoted to women when there is no reason to wait this long? You actually get weaker the longer post-birth you wait to exercise.
I don’t want you to be misled as I know what you may be thinking……”So soon after I have given birth, are you mad? There is no way I’m rushing back into an exercise program, I don’t feel up to it!"
I’m not suggesting you start doing chin ups and walking lunges around the lounge or going hard in an aerobics class. Instead, I am advising easy rehabilitation exercises, which can promote recovery. Waiting will actually prolong it!
The first 6 weeks after birth are an intense time for any mum, experienced or not. New mums can put a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything right, it can be a very stressful time but the right kind of exercise can help with this.
5 Benefits of Specific Postnatal Exercise:
1: Faster Recovery Post Birth:
If you don’t exercise soon after birth, muscles stay weak for a much longer time period. This limits how quickly your body can recover. The longer you leave the weak connections the harder it is for the nervous system to re-connect.
2: Reduced Pain- Especially in the Lower Back and Hip Areas:
When the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles have been significantly stretched in pregnancy they become much weaker. The weakening of these important core stabilizers will lead the nervous system to rely on the muscles in the lower back instead. This is why this area often aches.
Strengthening these core muscles quickly will improve functional strength, allowing you to be able to lift and carry your baby with less pain.
3: Improved Posture
Your posture changes during your pregnancy. As your baby grows it places many demands on the muscular and skeletal system. Exercise will help to address postural muscle imbalances which may have caused pain during pregnancy. Poor posture will also prevent healing of abdominal muscle separation, known as diastasis recti (see below).
Re-posted from Gloria Lemay Birth Blog
After the Birth, what a family needs
Posted on October 28, 2008 by gloria
This is a cross-post of a cross post originally posted in 2001, but you know what? It's still relevant. I've changed the language so that it's more inclusive of the varieties of family structure and added a few more of my own needs at the end. Did I forget anything? What did you really need when your baby came home?
“Let me know if I can help you in any way when the baby is born.” … “Just let me know if you need a hand.” … “Anything I can do, just give me a call.”
Most pregnant women get these statements from friends and family but shy away from making requests when they are up to their ears in dirty laundry, unmade beds, dust bunnies and counter tops crowded with dirty dishes. The myth of “I’m fine, I’m doing great, new motherhood is wonderful, I can cope and my partner is the Rock of Gibraltar” is pervasive in postpartum land. If you’re too shy to ask for help and make straight requests of people, I suggest sending the following list out to your friends and family. These are the things I have found to be missing in every house with a new baby. It’s actually easy and fun for outsiders to remedy these problems for the new parents but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what’s wanted and needed…
1. Buy us toilet paper, milk and beautiful whole grain bread.
2. Buy us a new garbage can with a swing top lid and 6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____).
3. Make us a big supper salad with feta cheese, black Kalamata olives, toasted almonds, organic green crispy things and a nice homemade dressing on the side. Drop it off and leave right away. Or, buy us frozen lasagna, garlic bread, a bag of salad, a big jug of juice, and maybe some cookies to have for dessert. Drop it off and leave right away.
4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while I have a hot shower, put me to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there’s no laundry to fold yet, do some.
5. Come over at l0 a.m., make me eggs, toast and a 1/2 grapefruit. Clean my fridge and throw out everything you are in doubt about. Don’t ask me about anything; just use your best judgment.
6. Put a sign on my door saying “Dear Friends and Family, Mom and baby need extra rest right now. Please come back in 7 days but phone first. All donations of casserole dinners would be most welcome. Thank you for caring about this family.”
7. Come over in your work clothes and vacuum and dust my house and then leave quietly. It’s tiring for me to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew my soul to get some rest knowing I will wake up to clean, organized space.
8. Take my older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo or Science World and feed them healthy food.
9. Come over and give my partner a two hour break so they can go to a coffee shop, pub, hockey rink or some other r & r that will delight them. Fold more laundry.
10. Make me a giant pot of vegetable soup and clean the kitchen completely afterwards. Take a big garbage bag and empty every trash basket in the house and reline with fresh bags.
Kavanah Doula Edits
11. Bring some groceries and put them away where you think they should go.
12. Change the cat litter boxes, walk the dog, feed the turtle. Be sure to give our animals a little extra love.
13. Go into our bathroom and make sure there's toilet paper and fresh towels
These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members don’t know what they can do that won’t be an intrusion. They also can’t devote 40 hours to supporting you but they would be thrilled to devote 4 hours. If you let 10 people help you out for 4 hours, you will have the 40 hours of rested, adult support you really need with a newborn in the house. There’s magic in the little prayer “I need help.”
First posted online August 2001
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.