See parts one and two for more responses.
Q. What kind of support did you need or want from a postnatal doula or other postnatal helper, if you had one? What kind of support would you hope for if you were to hire one in the future?
Cook me breakfast!
I didn't have a postpartum doula, but I would have paid anything just to take a daily shower that lasted more than two minutes, and to do some light cooking and light housework while I breastfed baby. Having a newborn baby at home is the worst time to be drowning in dust and unswept floors.
Just sit and listen and talk. What a new mother needs more then anything is someone to listen to her, especially to help her process her birth, and someone to give her positive feedback.
I wanted time for a shower and to get other things done, so my doula held the baby while I did that.
I needed emotional support and just the company of another person.
My postpartum doula was awesome. The most useful things she did were to talk to me, be there for me, help me feel what I am doing and thinking and feeling is 'normal' and on the right track, and to model some good, practical techniques (like swaddling) for me. She also cooked a huge vat of lentil soup that kept us going for days. She rocks!
After I had my baby, I loved helpers cooking for me, watching my older kids so I could nurse/sleep in peace, and cleaning my kitchen.
I'd love a doula to help with placenta encapsulation or recipes for eating it.
I had a doula. It was great to be able to talk with someone who understands what I was going through, helping me round the house and picking my older kids up from school once a week. I also got great lactation advice from her.
Talk and debrief about my birth experience, be a shoulder to cry on, assist with breastfeeding, wash the dishes, wash clothes, vacuum, cook, tell visitors to leave or come later if I'm resting, organize appointments, tidy up, entertain older children for a short time...
I would have liked some actual help around the house -- dishes, laundry, cooking, holding baby so i can poop, etc. I wanted someone I could express my overwhelming feelings to, someone who would console me or tell me it would get better or do something concrete to help the immediate situation.
I only had a labor doula. I was lucky enough to stay with family. My MIL and my mom provided all the meals and my hubby was really great. He went back to work after 1 week, though, so that was hard. I do wish I had had someone warn me what it was going to be like after having the baby. I was in shock. I guess I should have used my common sense, but it never occurred to me that I was going feel like I had been run over by an eighteen wheeler. I wish I had had someone who had good natural remedies for the pain and swelling. My husband did a great job making my baths for me, helping me get dressed, bringing me ice packs or anything I needed, watching the baby so I could nap or bathe. He even helped with getting the baby to latch! Had he not been there, and also for the days after he went back to work it would have been great to have a postnatal doula to help with those things. I can imagine needing help with the older kids too, if there are any.
I desperately needed someone to tell me I was doing fine and to stop panicking... And to distract me while I was breastfeeding.
Preparing food and clean up afterwards is most important to me... Is 6 months TOO postpartum to hire one?? LOL.
We had our babies at home, and the doula came the next day and raised the bar for my husband, who does not cook, as to what a meal for a woman who has had and is nourishing a baby should look like...no, not cereal and rice milk AGAIN. She brought and prepared in my kitchen grilled salmon, wild rice with toasted almonds, sautéed spinach. She then massaged my back and shoulders so I could relax, cleaned the whole kitchen, took out the trash, folded the laundry and quietly left us to truly rest. Very professional financial arrangements. She was an ANGEL! The world needs more like her!
Bonus: A postpartum doula speaks! What does she think her clients need and want?
In my work as a postpartum doula, I offer light housework and cooking as part of the package. I like to help parents grocery shop for lots of fresh veggies, then cook a big pot of some all-in-one dish like veggie-spaghetti and freeze it for them in portion-sized containers, so they have several weeks of go-to food that's healthy, organic, homemade, and has the nutrients that a birth parent especially needs, like added iron and fiber and things like that.
I figure my job is also to make sure that parents and baby are healthy and bonding. The house needs to be clean (but not spotless). There needs to be plenty of clean laundry and good food available, and basic supplies. I usually teach various swaddling tricks, help my client get a good latch, etc. I have connections with so many people who can troubleshoot feeding or other issues that I can get an answer fast for any problem.
Most importantly of all, I constantly reassure the new parents that they are doing all right. New parents may worry about everything, from the size of the diaper to the state of the cord stump. Those little details are usually really flexible, but it takes awhile for parents to learn how to trust their instincts, and I just keep helping them see that they're doing great -- asking them what their guts are telling them, and reinforcing their own instincts (which are usually right on).
When I leave, I want parents to be totally empowered. They're all caught up with chores, they have plenty of good meals available, and they have eased into life with the new baby. They feel confident in their abilities to make decisions, and they have learned to trust that little voice that says, "This is what my baby and I need right now."
I will be asking more postpartum doulas to share their favorite ways to help families. Look for that in a future post.
Postnatal families deserve support! Discussions like this make me excited about offering my services to another family soon. The shape of a particular client's need informs and shapes my work, so I am always learning and growing as a caregiver. What would help look like to you?
(Quotes above have been edited for clarity and to preserve anonymity)