Postpartum Doula Care
For many cultures, the first 4-12 weeks after birth is considered a highly sensitive time for mothers and babies. This "laying in" period is celebrated and honored as a time for deep rest, healing, rejuvenation, and inner expansion. Birth is treated as a sacred initiation, a rite of passage, signifying a major transition in a woman's life. The family enters this new realm together. In supportive birth cultures, a new mother is surrounded by people to care for her as she learns to care for her baby. The mother's family and friends provide her with food, house keeping, care for other children, and advice about infant care. She is encouraged to abstain from chores, food preparation, cleaning, and even hosting guests, so she can retreat within and focus on herself and her baby. She is taught how to nurse, and given encouragement and support when difficulties arise. She is cared for and nurtured by the whole community.
Simple, easily digestible foods and herbal drinks are prepared to aid in healing and recovery, boost immunity, and improve milk supply. In India, it is traditional to give a new mother warm oil massages daily to soothe her nervous system, facilitate healing, and promote integration. Through the intense process of birth, the mother's system is often weakened and depleted. After summoning surprising power and strength to birth her baby, the mother is now as delicate as her newborn at this time.
Here in the West, we stress the importance of prenatal healthcare and focus on the healthy delivery of the baby, but postpartum care for mothers is often overlooked and undervalued. Many parents feel overwhelmed and alone those first months after the birth of a baby. The Mother may be recovering from the shock of a difficult or even traumatic delivery and is most certainly experiencing an overwhelming demand on her physical, mental, and emotional systems. If not consciously attended to, she is at risk of becoming exhausted and depleted, which can cause numerous challenges for her and her baby. 1 in 7 mothers in America experience Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Among lower socioeconomic groups in the USA, those figures are closer to 1 in 4 women, which is among the highest in the world. Thousands of women, struggling to meet their baby's needs, their partner's needs, their families needs, and their own needs, feel they are failing at Motherhood, when the reality is that they were never meant to do it alone.
Often in our modern American culture, after a supportive pregnancy, new parents are sent home on their own and expected to “figure it out.” If they're lucky, a grandparent, sibling, or friend can stay for a week or two, bringing whatever knowledge and skills they might have to help. Some families have no support at all. They may find themselves alone, overwhelmed, exhausted and struggling. For those who don’t have a close network of friends or family nearby for support, a Postpartum Doula can be crucial.
A Postpardum Doula can:
- Provide education, assistance, and reassurance in the early days of parenting.
- Respect each family's individual beliefs and unique parenting philosophies.
- Support the Mother's physical and emotional recovery from childbirth.
- Encourage the new mother to rest so she can heal and focus on her baby.
- Mother the Mother so she can be the best mother she can be.
- Offer non-judgemental, evidence-based education on breastfeeding, infant soothing techniques, and sleep.
- Nurture the new Mom's mothering skills.
- Provide nourishing food and drink.
- Assist with household chores, such as laundry, sweeping, and other light housekeeping.
- Debrief about the birth and and check in about the experiences and feelings the new parents are having.
- Provide non-medicalized support and companionship.
- Assist with sibling adjustment.
- Support the father or co-parent.
- Assist with household or nursery organization.
- Hold baby so Mama can take a shower or a nap.
- Make necessary referrals, if the mother, or someone in her family, is experiencing a physical or mental health problem.
- Share coping skills.
- Help the family deal with other issues related to the postpartum period.
With adequate help, new parents can focus entirely on recuperating from the birth and adjusting to life with a newborn. These practices of Mothering the Mother have been shown to significantly decrease difficulties with lactation, colic, depression, anxiety, weight loss, energy, and hormone regulation. Even if families are able to arrange for one or several relatives and/or friends to come to help out, advice given may not always based on current, evidence-based best practices, but rather current fads, or what “worked for them.”
In India there is a saying that the first 40 days of life will impact the next 40 years of life. Creating a supportive, healing environment for new mothers and allowing the baby to have the best possible opportunity for successful breastfeeding and bonding will set up the entire family for physical and emotional health for years to come.
It is my hope that all parents can have this kind of nurturing environment with their babies. Arranging postpartum care may require a financial investment, but it as an investment in your health, your child’s wellbeing, and indeed the health and wellbeing of your entire family. Forty days of rest and care in the midst of busy and stressful lives may seem challenging. Some moms need to return to work or have other children to care for. Regardless of the circumstances, I encourage parents to ask for and be willing to receive the help needed for effective healing and bonding. These first weeks are a precious and fleeting time like none other. It is one of the most momentous and vulnerable times in the life of anyone who brings a child into this world, and a sensitive and irreplaceable period of bonding with a new baby.
To arrange for postpartum care, please contact me to discuss options. It would be my honor to provide the care you need and very much deserve!