Tuesday, April 27, 2021

What do postpartum parents want? Part 4

I often ask friends who are new parents what is/would have been most helpful after they've welcomed a new baby. Here's what some of them said! As a postnatal doula, these are the kinds of services I can provide, but you can also use this list to plan ahead, to think about how you might use a doula's services, and to answer friends and family when they ask "How can I help?"

See parts onetwo, and three 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?
  • Provide moral support, keep the baby happy between feedings so parents can rest, help prepare healthy meals, provide reassurance and advice -- especially for first time parents.

  • Someone to help with my 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 year-olds after this baby is born would be great!

  • Lactation support.

  • Food was huge for me, more so after each birth! Laundry and kid-entertaining, too.

  • Massage, clean house, change bed sheets, meals and meal planning. Getting a herbal bath ready.

  • Nobody does anything for me after having more than one . . . I guess they figure I can handle it by now or something -- but when my dad died, and everybody was showing up with food, somebody else showed up with a grocery sack full of paper towels, toilet paper, a loaf of bread, gallon of milk -- you know, the stuff that you HAVE to run to the store for, but who wants to go to the store? That's what I always need, because my partner has to go back to work right after, so I'm home w/a new baby and out of toilet paper or whatever. OH! And my mom came over every day at 10 am so I could poop and shower. That was AWESOME.

  • The most important for me was help with breastfeeding in the first few days after I gave birth.

  • I wish someone had been more forceful about making me lie down for naps and send company home. It was hard for me to do that and my husband is pretty quiet and I seemed like I was doing so well (I was doing pretty well) that people didn't really think of it for me... and I had a hard time doing it myself. But I was tired.

  • I was completely exhausted. My own mother was telling me I shouldn't be "just" lying around in bed 3 days postpartum. I think new parents (or old parents haha) need guidance and someone to tell them it's ok to just lie in bed and work on breastfeeding. I think a lot of people who were working before having the baby also can feel guilty about being at home during maternity leave, and think they have to get tons of housework done plus take care of the baby. So having someone to help with that eases that feeling.

  • I wish someone who knew about lactation would have suggested I feed more. I had tremendous pain when we first started so I did the bare minimum, which I believe left my baby fussy and hungry, which in turn made it harder to feed the next time. It got better when I saw a lactation consultant, but a doula with lactation training could have helped, too. I had no idea what was normal and what was not. I wish I would have known about side lying nursing, for example. I also wish someone would have helped me with the baby carrier so there wasn't such a learning curve. And then on top of all that, I wish I'd had someone to clean my kitchen and wash my favorite clothes that I was wearing over and over. That would have been so great.

  • I had a doula come over for about 4 hours a week. She was efficient, and she was always on the move. She was great at prioritizing what needed to be done when, so that everything on my list was accomplished. She asked questions when she didn't know things. She brought her own baby carriers for me to try out, or for her to use with my baby. 

    With my next baby, I mostly had them focus on the baby and dinner-making rather than me making a list of tasks for them. I requested specific recipes and that worked out well. 

  • Honestly, the thing I remember the most is that while we were in the hospital having our baby, my family deep cleaned our whole house -- it was amazing. Not suggesting that a postpartum doula clean the whole house, but a doula could tidy up, or a family could clean or coordinate a service to do so. Even just to run a load of laundry, put sheets on the bed, and clean up the kitchen -- so often people leave the house in a hurry!

  • Laundry and grocery shopping was definitely the most useful thing. We had my mum & dad for that, but they traveled 3000 miles for it so a doula would have been cheaper! In retrospect it would have been nice to have someone with us on the ride home from hospital -- that was scary and stressful.

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)