What is a Postpartum Doula?

When you have a new baby (or babies!) things can be overwhelming on many fronts. If it’s your first child, you have questions about everything from diapers to feeding to playgroups. If you’ve already done the newborn thing once or twice, you need help juggling your myriad responsibilities to your growing family and busy home. And no matter how many kids you have, you need some SLEEP! A doula can help with ALL of that. We are knowledgeable and experienced with all aspects of newborn care, and if we don’t know something, we know someone who does! We can help with household tasks like those mountains of baby laundry, care for the baby while you shower or nap, entertain and care for older children, and run interference with well-meaning visitors when you just need some space.  A postpartum doula does pretty much anything you need done to make the transition of a newborn easier. We support the bonding process of all family members to the new baby. We lighten your load so you can focus on your new arrival, and help everything run smoothly.

Are you one of those doulas who value breastfeeding above all other types of feeding?

Absolutely not! While I think breastfeeding/chestfeeding is great I think bottle feeding and formula feeding are pretty great too. Whatever YOU want, as a parent, whatever will make you happy, is what I am all about. I have seen happy, healthy, AMAZING kids turn out left and right no matter how or what they were fed. Do I think breastfeeding is cool? Sure. Am I going to support you and encourage you and be your cheerleader, especially through those first few tough weeks? You betcha. But I also think formula is pretty freaking great too. There is no way I will push you to do anything, look down on you, or make you feel guilty. There is no “all or nothing” when it comes to parenting, really.

What's the difference between a Doula and a Baby Nurse?

A lot of people are familiar with “baby nurses” (also known as newborn nannies or night nurses) – women who also come to your home to help out when a new baby is born. The biggest difference is that a baby nurse’s primary responsibility is always to care for the baby, usually away from the parents and family. A doula or Newborn Care Specialist supports the WHOLE FAMILY in whatever way is necessary – sometimes this means baby care, especially on an overnight – but it usually means helping with other household tasks to support the bonding process, and educating and assisting the parents. A doula is able to do everything a baby nurse does, and much more!

A baby nurse will also usually come and stay with the family full-time for 2 weeks to a month and take the baby around the clock, while a doula comes in for a shift agreed upon with the family based on their individual needs, and is happy to work flexibly with the family for several months and beyond.

There is also a big difference in the level of training and credentialing. A postpartum doula or Newborn Care Specialist is usually trained and certified by a respected organization. “Baby nurses” are rarely licensed nurses and rarely professionally trained. There is no intensive certification process for a “baby nurse”. Many are not up to date on current safety recommendations and best practices for newborns, either.

I'm having my second/third/fourth/eighth baby, so I already know how to change diapers. How can you help me?

One word: OVERNIGHTS. Getting sleep is SO important when you need to be on all day for your older kid(s). No more sleeping when the baby sleeps, because that’s your special time with the big one. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a full night’s rest?

We have expertise and experience with all ages, so we can work together on introducing the new sibling seamlessly, finding ways to balance your parenting time and energy, and releasing guilt and anxiety over dividing yourself between two children. Also, no two kids are built alike, and siblings seem to be the most different – I can help you get to know and understand your new baby’s personality and rhythms for a smooth transition to parenting a completely new little soul.

I adopted my baby/babies - do I need a doula?

Congratulations! Yes, you can benefit from postpartum help just as much as a mom who has given birth. Just because you are on your feet doesn’t mean you don’t need sleep, a rest, a break, someone to help out around the house, and of course – Bonding!! It’s just as important in adoptive families. New parents have the same questions, no matter how the baby got there, and I’m here to answer them. Also, frequently, adoptive parents are taken by surprise when they get the call to come to pick up their baby – there’s no due date or scheduled c-section. Having someone on hand to call from the hotel or step in right away when you return home can be HUGE.

When and how often would you come?

That’s completely up to you. We offer several levels of care, from 4+ hour daytime shifts to overnights, to 24/7 live-in, which we’ll decide before your baby arrives. Most families start with a lot of help and then gradually taper off as Mom recovers and everyone gets settled into life with a baby.

When your new arrival comes, we are at the ready to swoop in and start helping, so you don’t even have to worry about it! Just give me a heads up when the whole exciting birth process begins (or when you finally see that sweet little face!) and we’ll start planning your first visit.

If your little angels are already here and you need some support right-this-very-moment, I am happy to set up an ASAP visit. Once we get you a cup of tea and a few moments of relaxation, we can figure out what your long-term needs are.

What parenting philosophy do you follow?

In a word: Yours! I offer non-judgmental, non-dogmatic support for whatever style of parenting works for you. If you have questions, or want to explore your options for a particular question – for example, cloth vs. disposable diapers – I am happy to discuss and share my knowledge and experiences, but I don’t try to push anything on you. In my years doing this kind of work, I have pretty much seen it all, and I know the BEST parenting philosophy is to do what works for your family! The secret to happy, healthy babies is happy, healthy moms and dads.

My Mother / Sister / Mother-in-law / aunt / best friend / hairdresser is coming to stay with me when the baby is born. Do I still need a Doula?

Lucky you! It’s great to have lots of family support with a new arrival. And yes, a doula would still be extremely helpful, sometimes even more so. Well-meaning visitors often think the best way to help a new parent is to “take the baby” so they can rest, relax, or even do housework (eek!). While the occasional break is nice, new parents WANT to be with their babies while someone else does the other stuff!

I often tell my clients to let me be the “bad guy” when it comes to their extended family. “No, sorry, Sister-in-Law, as much as I’d love to have you come over and judge me right now, my doula says I need to take it easy today.” or I’ll tell guests, “Thanks so much for stopping by. Mom and baby are going to take a nap now, but you’re welcome to stay and fold this basket of laundry” while you shrug apologetically?

Also, a doula is educated in a wide variety of the latest and proven ways of doing things – this ain’t yo’ mama’s postpartum experience! So while it is nice to have advice from other parents who have had babies, their experience may be very different from yours. Sometimes you are so bombarded with what you “should” be doing or how your baby “should” be that you become completely overwhelmed and confused. A doula can help you sort it all out to make the best choices for your family, and back you up when family members question your decisions.

My husband/partner is taking two weeks off work when the baby is born. Do I need a Doula?

Yes! A doula supports the new father as well! Often, household tasks and care for older children fall to dad while mom is bonding with the new baby, so the doula sharing that responsibility for a while is a huge help! Also, brand new dads have just as many questions as moms, and want to know they are doing the right thing. The doula can educate and reassure both parents. Especially when mom is breastfeeding exclusively, Dad can feel a bit left out and unsure. The doula can help to include Dad and increase his confidence with baby care tasks like bathing, babywearing, changing, etc.

I will never forget being at a client’s home, fielding a panicked phone call from a dad at Babies R’ Us, trying to find the right size diapers for his newborn. Mom had no idea what to tell him, so I walked him through the process of finding the right brand and size.

And let’s not forget the all-important parents’ alone time, with or without the baby! The doula can help both parents navigate the new world of parenthood, ease burdens, and make the experience more enjoyable for the whole family.

I thought Doulas attended births! (ok so not a question as much as an exclamation, but still! It is frequently exclaimed!)

BIRTH doulas attend births, that’s absolutely right! Both types focus on CARE for the new mother, but the delivery method is very different. Birth doulas work through the labor and delivery, and for a short time after. The postpartum doula then steps in to support the family for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Many doulas are both birth and postpartum, but they are very different specialties.

Postpartum...doesn't that mean depression?

Technically postpartum just means “after birth”, so Postpartum Depression happens after a baby is born, and a postpartum doula works after a baby is born.

However, doulas can be EXTREMELY helpful in cases of PPD or suspected PPD – providing referrals for services and support groups, being there to listen, helping out with tasks she might find overwhelming. And of course, letting her get some sleep! Study after study has shown that the best way to prevent PPD is with a good support system, and a doula can be a key member of that system.

Wow! Is there anything a Doula DOESN'T do?

Well, yes. While we do many, many things, postpartum doulas are not medical professionals. We do not check or assess the medical status of the mother or the baby, though we are happy to make referrals if we or the parents have a concern.

Also, while doulas are happy to help with household tasks such as baby laundry, dishes, unpacking and organizing baby gear, etc, most will not do heavy cleaning.

Really, it is up to the individual doula what she is willing to do, though versatility is the name of the game!

Are all Doulas, Lactation Consultants?

Though postpartum doulas are well-trained in breastfeeding basics such as initiation, latch, and fixing common problems, to be an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) one goes through many more hours of education and training. Many doulas have both qualifications, but not all are Lactation Consultant’s. If we’re not LC’s ourselves though, we usually work closely with them and are happy to make referrals if it’s necessary.

Do you accept or work with benefits programs?

YES! We do work with benefits programs and providers. Check out all of the details and submit your information to start the process.

I love you but I don't live in your area! Can we still work together?

Oh yes! There are two ways we can still work together, even if you’re outside of NJ/NYC/Philadelphia. We can do a distance package, where we work together over Skype, the phone, email, and texting. If that’s not enough and you want that face-to-face, hands-on support, a doula can travel to you, based on our availabiity. Best to book these well in advance!

Still have questions?

Head on over to my contact page and shoot me a quick message

Contact me...