What is a postpartum doula, how do they differ from a baby nurse, and how can they help you prepare for a new addition to the family? We sat down with maternal healthcare expert and the founder of boober, Jada Shapiro to answer these questions and more.
This article is 1 of a 3 part series discussing postpartum doula care, mental health, and breastfeeding & lactation support. Skip to the bottom to watch the full interview.
What is a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula is a person who is trained to take care of not only the baby after birth but also the birthing parent: the mother, the father, the family, and the whole structure. A postpartum doula helps new parents transition into parenthood. They help with anything from teaching baby care, babywearing, working on lactation, feeding you, caring for you, and going to the pediatrician with you. They help you get out the door the first time you have to leave the house – which seems really easy, but for anybody who’s actually had a baby, they know it’s quite hard. They pack up your bag and figure out what you need for that outing to get you to the pediatrician. Postpartum doulas really are all about baby care and you care, so they combine the best of both worlds.
Our goal as postpartum doulas is to have you feel super confident in baby care by the time we leave – unless you want us to do everything, postpartum doulas can do it all. We tend to teach, for example, if you’re a first-time parent and have never diapered a baby or bathed a baby, we’ll show you how to do umbilical cord care.
Postpartum doulas are experts on babies and the kind of healing and recovery care that a new mom or new parent really needs as they move through that transition. A lot of people aren’t familiar with the term doula or postpartum doula; translated from Greek, it means a person who serves. It’s not really the correct definition, but it’s the translation that has come into being. When you bring a postpartum doula into your home or work with them virtually, it’s almost like you’re re-creating that village – the family member that you would have had in the past who’s not only knowledgeable about babies and recovery, but is a caring person with whom you can sit and process the experience of becoming a parent. You can really talk about that with them.
Postpartum doulas can come virtually or in-person (when/where safe). Virtually you can hire someone for as little as one hour, although many parents will purchase several hours so that their postpartum doula can drop in virtually throughout the day. In person, postpartum doulas come to your home on average for a four or eight-hour shift in a day. They also provide overnight care, which is something many people don’t realize. Postpartum doulas can really do it all! They can come whenever you need to help you for just a few hours when you need support in that way, or they can come for two months and work with you regularly. They aim to work themselves out of a job so that by the time they’re getting ready to leave, you’re feeling much more confident in parenting, caring for the baby, wearing the baby, feeding the baby, and all of that. They want you to feel like, “Yeah, I’ve got this!”.
What is the difference between a baby nurse and a doula?
A baby nurse tends to work with families with a sole focus on the baby: They do baby care, diaper the baby, and change the baby. They can be particularly supportive if you are bottle feeding. Most baby nurses are not specially trained in lactation or breastfeeding support, so if you are planning to exclusively breastfeed and work with a baby nurse, you want to ask about their lactation training, be fairly confident that you’ve got it down, or bring in a lactation consultant to work with the baby nurse (which can also work really well).
The main difference between a baby nurse and a doula is that a postpartum doula is more about baby and you care. They care for both the baby and the family, and they are trained in how to care for the newborn and the recovering birth parent. That is a bit of the difference between a baby nurse and postpartum doula.
With baby nurses, you definitely need to have space for them to sleep and provide them with food and break time. Whereas a postpartum doula is all about, “How can I help transition you to parenthood? I’ll just find myself a spot on the couch.” If you’re hiring them overnight, you should have somewhere for them to sleep, but they usually don’t need or require their own room in the same way; they tend to flow more with how they’ll engage with the environment and can help with everything as you transition to parenthood.
How can a postpartum doula help when you are adding to your family?
Preparing to have your second or third baby is really different from preparing to have your first. If you’re starting to think about having another child in your home, you might ask yourself how to make the transition more seamless so that you can get support for yourself and your new baby, but also be sure your older child(ren) are cared for and integrated into this transition, as well. Postpartum doulas are wonderful for people having their second or third babies. They can feed you and your older children so you can focus on the baby. They can play with or involve your older children in baby care. They can hold, change, swaddle, soothe and burp your baby at times so you can give a few moments to your older children. They can listen and help you process your birth or sit with you as you process what it’s like to have expanded your family. A postpartum doula is there for you in whatever way helps you transition to growing your family, whether virtually or in-person.
Watch the full interview with Jada Shapiro here!
Jada Shapiro is a maternal healthcare expert and the founder of boober, a marketplace which quickly connects expectant & new parents to virtual and in-person, on-demand pregnancy to postpartum care providers and online classes. She specializes in pregnancy, birth and postpartum and is a birth/postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, birth photographer, and mother.