What Does a Postpartum Doula Do?

Postpartum doulas play an important role in the health and emotional well-being of a mother and her newborn during the postpartum period. The postpartum period refers to the first few weeks after childbirth.  Postpartum doulas can stay with the mother up to a few months depending on her needs to ensure that both mom and baby are happy and healthy.

Most postpartum doulas are birth doulas that have stayed with the mother through her pregnancy and labor and are now supporting her after her childbirth. Her job involves the entire family and includes education, physical support, and emotional support.

Benefits of a Postpartum Doula

A postpartum doula offers many physical and mental benefits to the woman that she serves.  She is nonjudgmental coach that assists her client as she learns to take care of her baby.  She is there to give gentle reminders as the mother is often tired and busy.  She gives the mother time to bond with her newborn by taking on small daily tasks.

Having a postpartum doula has been shown to lower risk of postpartum issues such as anxiety, body pains, and depression.  It also leads to a higher success rate of breastfeeding for the baby and a shorter recovery period for the mother.

What a Postpartum Doula Do for the Mother

One of the most important aspect of a postpartum doula’s job is to nurture a mother’s self-confidence, self-worth, empower her to grow as a parent in taking care of her baby.  She does this by assuring the mother, listening to her needs, and providing evidence-based advice.  The list of services she provides varies with the mother’s needs and values, but typically she does these things as part of her job:

  • Provides information on lactation and breastfeeding such as proper breastfeeding positions, how to increase milk production, how to properly store milk, and common breastfeeding challenges
  • Relieves the mother’s stress, anxiety, and muscle aches through comfort measures such as massages or aromatherapy
  • Performs small daily tasks such as laundry and dishwashing so that the mother can recharge her energy and spend quality time to bond with her newborn
  • Reminds her client to stay hydrated and bring awareness to her nutritional needs during the postpartum period
  • Demonstrate soothing techniques for when the baby is in distress
  • Educate the mother on newborn care techniques
  • Coaches the mother on how to interpret and respond to a baby’s needs
  • A postpartum doula does NOT diagnose medical conditions, perform medical examinations, or prescribe medications

What a Postpartum Doula Does for the Newborn

A postpartum doula tends to the newborn’s needs while educating the mother on how to care for her newborn baby.  Newborns require proper diapering, bathing, and swaddling.  A postpartum doula provides these services for the baby so that the mother is empowered when she becomes fully independent to do these things for her baby.

Along with essential newborn care, a postpartum doula also gives evidence-based advice on newborn sleeping and waking patterns and engages with her client on what to do with sleeping issues. Allergies and other safety concerns are also part of the conversation in order to ensure a happy and healthy baby.

What Does a Postpartum Doula Do for the Family?

A newborn introduces an entirely new family dynamic which will take time for the entire family to get used to.  A postpartum doula eases the rest of the family into their roles as father and sibling to the newborn baby.  She must keep in mind that the transition will not be smooth for everyone and the emotional needs of the entire family must be taken into account.  Much as she encourages bonding between the infant and mother, she also encourages the whole family to bond with their new addition. She eases fears and worries of the new parents and provides education in newborn care so that everyone can pitch in to help.

How Is a Postpartum Doula Different From a Baby Nurse or Nanny?

A postpartum doula and a baby nurse or nanny share many duties, however, there are some important differences.  First, baby nurses only focus on taking care of the newborn while postpartum doulas serve both the mother and baby.  Baby nurses and nannies are not responsible for providing physical and emotional comfort for the mother.  Second, postpartum doulas educate the mother on newborn topics such as breastfeeding and baby safety.  Lastly, baby nurses do not provide services which are tailored to the family’s needs such as easing siblings into their new roles as big brothers or big sisters. A postpartum doula’s role is much more encompassing and holistic than that of a baby nurse or nanny.