What’s a Postpartum Doula and How Do They Help New Moms?

Could a postpartum doula be part of your fourth-trimester plan?

By: Amanda Mushro

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Photo by: Thanasis Zovoilis

Thanasis Zovoilis

When it comes to prenatal care, a mom-to-be has a lot of options and professionals who can support her during those nine months. For some moms, hiring a doula (a professional labor assistant) is a great fit and gives them a constant supporter during the entire process. However, what happens once the baby is born? Who is there to help mom and dad during the next stage? It really does feel like you’re handed a baby and told "Best of luck!" Here’s where a postpartum doula comes in.

Many new parents are turning to postpartum doulas to help during these first few months of their baby’s lives. While a labor and delivery doula can help support a woman through her pregnancy and the birth of her baby, a postpartum doula takes on a different role.

The postpartum period, which has become known as the fourth trimester, is a learning period for parents and for babies. During this time a postpartum doula can help with a variety of needs:

  • Assisting mom by giving advice and support during those difficult early days of breastfeeding
  • Offering tips to parents about baby care and bonding with baby
  • Teaching new parents how to soothe their baby
  • Making sure mom is comfortable and taking care of herself after delivery
  • Taking over late-night feedings so parents can rest
  • Caring for the baby by feeding, changing, and putting them down for naps
  • Cleaning and disinfecting bottles and pumping supplies
  • Making meals and snacks
  • Cleaning the house
  • Playing with and caring for older siblings

Postpartum doulas can offer help to everyone in the house, but they do not offer medical advice or care and they don’t speak for mom or baby to medical professionals.

The International Doula Institute reports that most doulas charge between $35.00 and $65.00 per hour in larger cities and between $25.00 and $35.00 in smaller areas. Some doulas will work part-time, but others will take on shifts during the nights or weekends.

Check with your insurance because you may be able to pay for postpartum doula services with money from your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), depending on your particular plan.

The amount of time a doula works with a family varies on the family's needs. While some have a doula for a couple of weeks, others use their services for the first few months.

For new parents who do not have family around to help them after the birth of their baby, a postpartum doula can be a game-changer. Also, if one parent has to return to work immediately, mom has just given birth to multiples, or mom is concerned with postpartum depression or anxiety, the added support of a doula can really help mom and baby.

To find a postpartum doula, start by asking your doctor or midwife for recommendations. There may be local agencies in your area that contract doulas. You can also search sites like DONA International, the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).

Once you find a postpartum doula, you’ll want to interview them to find out more about their training, their schedule, and what other services they offer to figure out if they are a good fit for your family.

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