Postpartum Doulas & Recovery: Why You Need One & Everything You Need To Know
The postpartum period is a major transition for moms, whether it’s your first or fifth birth. Postpartum recovery can take time, and you might still be getting the hang of caring for your new baby. It’s also a vulnerable period for your mental health. (1)
A postpartum doula, certified to assist with postpartum care, can help you recover from your birth experience and help reduce the risks of mental health issues. (1)
Studies show that breastfeeding support by a partner, postpartum night doula, or other members of your care team helps prevent sleep disruption, one of the most common reasons why new moms are prone to PPD (postpartum depression) and baby blues. (1)
LA-based birth and postpartum doula, Jill Magoffin, explains that:
“There is so much focus on pregnancy and birth that postpartum care is sometimes put to the side and not thought about until the family is home from their birth.
The shift from just being adults to becoming parents is one of the most significant transitions a person can go through.
Postpartum support and more importantly, a plan is so important to help you physically and emotionally get through this beautiful yet extremely trying time in your lives.
Doulas help to facilitate that plan as well as ensure that that care is implemented to help the family, as well as lower rates of PPD and/or PPA (postpartum anxiety).” (2)
What are the other roles your postpartum doula plays? Do night doulas sleep? How much does it cost to hire a doula, and are they worth your money? You can learn more about them below.
What Does A Postpartum Doula Do?
Your postpartum doula provides emotional, physical, and even informational support for you, your partner, and your baby.
While they’re also trained in infant care, their primary focus is caring for postpartum moms, dads, and even the entire family to help everyone adjust to life with a newborn baby.
Some of the most common postpartum doula duties are:
- Emotional support for postpartum recovery
- Physical support, especially if you had a cesarean or difficult delivery
- Promote mother-baby bonding
- Infant feeding
- Infant soothing
- Basic newborn care (such as infant bathing and diapering)
- Light meal preparation
- Run errands
- Care for older children
- Providing referrals to parenting classes, a lactation consultant for breastfeeding support, and other forms of support groups
- Light housekeeping (doing the dishes, laundry, or tidying up) so that you won’t be overwhelmed with many chores
- Make sure that you’re comfortable and hydrated
Benefits Of Having A Postpartum Doula
Here’s a first-hand account from our editor-in-chief, Osmara Aryal, on her experience of postpartum care after the birth of her first child:
“I can’t stress enough how comforting it was to have night and day support by an experienced professional. It was definitely a big investment so we really thought a lot about it beforehand.
As first-time parents, we had no idea what we were doing when we brought our daughter home.
We didn’t have any family in town so without our doula, we’d be lost.
She answered our questions and helped us get into a routine. I was able to get breastfeeding support, nourishing meals, and much-needed sleep, especially those first few critical days.
Nurturing the mother while nurturing the family – that’s the summary of what a good postpartum doula can do.”
Mental Health Support
They can be a key person to have in your support network. You get to rest with a peaceful mind, knowing that your baby is in the hands of a professional trained for infant care. This can ease your stress and help you recover better.
Doulas help relieve some of the pressure you might feel as a new mother by letting you move into your responsibilities gradually. They also make sure you feel cared for, eat well, and get enough sleep.
Studies suggest that moms with a postpartum doula may be less likely to have postpartum depression at 6-12 weeks after giving birth than moms who received standard care. Getting support with tasks like feeding your baby so you can sleep might be one of the reasons for the reduced PPD risks. (1)(3)
Do Doulas Help New Moms Deal With Postpartum Depression?
Yes. They can offer emotional support by listening, creating a safe place for the new mom to relax, and helping first-time parents transition to their new roles of being a mom or dad.
However, doulas aren’t trained or certified to treat postpartum depression.
Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are crucial for mental health issues. Certified postpartum doulas are trained to help identify early signs of depression and suggest referrals to clinicians or support groups, so you get the help you need as soon as possible. (4)
Studies show that new moms who have a postpartum doula may be more likely to have success in breastfeeding than moms who receive standard care. (3)(5)
Guide For New Parents
Postpartum doula care isn’t meant to replace parents’ care. Instead, doulas help new parents transition to new roles.
Although they also provide sibling and infant care, these are tasks they do so you can rest. The main goal is caring for you. Getting enough sleep helps speed up postpartum recovery and reduces your risks of PPD. (1)(3)
With expert help, new moms and dads can also infant care skills faster. They can also train you to identify your newborn baby’s needs and understand how they communicate, translating to less crying.
They’re also trained to empower parents by making you feel more confident in your skills and improving your ability to bond with your baby.
Do Doulas Train You To A Particular Parenting Approach?
No. Postpartum doulas support your parenting approach and encourage you to develop your own philosophies. You can ask them for advice, but you get to pick the approach you want to follow.
How Do Postpartum Doulas Work With Your Partner?
Your postpartum doula helps you and your partner transition into parenthood with effective infant care skills. They can teach your partner these skills (such as diaper changing, bathing, swaddling, and babywearing) so they can help in caring for your baby.
Do You Need A Postpartum Doula?
Whether you had an easy or hard birth, caring for your new baby can be challenging and time-consuming. Your postpartum doula helps you make a smooth transition to parenthood, especially if you’re first-time or new parents who don’t have families nearby who can help.
Parents With Older Children
Getting some rest can be extra challenging when there are also older siblings to care for. Your postpartum doula can also supervise your older children, prepare some light meals, and help them adapt to having a new baby in the family.
Parents With Multiples
One baby can already be a handful, but having multiples is truly challenging. So, getting a postpartum doula lets you have an extra pair of hands to help out.
How Long Do You Need Postpartum Doula?
Most postpartum doulas provide care service up to the end of the postpartum period (around six weeks). But you might only need one for a few days, just until you’ve adjusted to life with your new baby.
Postpartum Doula Work Hours
Your doula’s work hours vary depending on what you need.
Sample work hours:
- Fulltime (9-to-5 shift)
- Part-time (3-5 hours per day)
- After-school shift (1-3 hours per day) until your partner gets home
- Evening shift (6 pm to bedtime, around 9-10 pm)
You can hire doulas for every day of the week or just for the days you need help. It’s really up to you. Although you’re likely to have more than one doula if you need daily support.
What Does An Overnight Postpartum Doula Do?
Most overnight postpartum doulas focus on infant care so that you can sleep without interruptions. They change diapers, soothe your baby, or feed them.
They can help with bottle feeding your newborn baby with previously pumped breastmilk or infant formula.
If you prefer breastfeeding, your doula brings the baby to your side during feeding time, then soothes your baby back to sleep in their room until the next feed.
Do Postpartum Doulas Sleep?
This can depend on your arrangement, but postpartum doulas can also take a nap or rest while your baby sleeps.
How Much Does A Doula Cost?
The price of postpartum doula services varies depending on your location, their skill level or experience, and the services you need (e.g., daytime or overnight doula).
However, doulas typically charge by the hour and require a minimum number of service hours.
Location is a big factor. For example, doulas in the Bay Area, San Francisco, might charge around $35-$45 per hour, but rates can go up to as high as $65 per hour in New York.
Does Insurance Cover A Doula?
Some insurance companies now cover payment for postpartum doula services. New families can also pay using your HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible spending account).
However, because not all insurance companies cover doula payments, you can directly ask them to be sure.
Some doulas also offer sliding scale options, with rates varying according to what you can afford. Some community organizations also offer volunteer doula services or grants.
Are Postpartum Doulas Worth It?
It depends on your needs and your budget. These service providers can be costly, but they undergo doula training and certification to be adept in caring for you and your family members. Considering the many benefits of having a postpartum doula, many families consider them worth their money.
Postpartum Doula Vs. Birth Doula
However, some birth doulas are also certified postpartum doulas. They can help care for you from the prenatal (pregnancy to due date or birth) to the postpartum period, also called the fourth trimester (from birth to six months or beyond).
Postpartum Doula Vs. Baby Nurse Or Night Nurse
The nanny or baby nurse’s primary focus is your new baby, while your postpartum doula’s role is to support you and other family members adjust to life with your new baby.