Friday, September 22, 2006

Do I Need a Postpartum Doula?

Do I Need A Postpartum Doula?
By Kathy Ardekani

Do I need a Postpartum Doula? This is an intriguing question yet you must first know what a Postpartum Doula is and does. The definition I am using to explain the Postpartum Doula is taken from the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Associations (CAPPA) position paper on evidence-based postpartum doula care. It states “Postpartum Doulas are knowledgeable professionals who assist families during the critical period immediately after the birth of their baby. They “mother the mother” and offer physical, emotional and informational support, as well as supplying practical help. The Doula’s expertise in mother and baby care enables her to assist with postpartum comfort measures, breastfeeding support, non-judgmental guidance in infant care techniques, information on normal postpartum restoration and family emotional assistance through this major transition.”

Envision yourself and your partner the day you are discharged from the hospital with a new baby, most new parents feel overwhelmed. What are you thinking and feeling? I have had several parents say to me, “I can’t believe they let me take a baby home without any training.” Another favorite saying, usually from dads, is; “I had more training to get my drivers license.” New parents are often left to their own devise. Their parents are not always able to assist them, or understand their needs. Parents often do not live near their own parents or their parents are unable to help and they are “on their own” to learn how to care for a new baby. The Doula steps right in from day one to assist the family and create a smooth family transition.

Now you know what a postpartum doula is and of her role, but how do you find one. Word of mouth is good, you may have a friend or relative that has used a doula) If you are unsure where to find a Doula, talking to your friends, family members, and co-workers is a good starting point. You probably know someone that used a Doula. It is always nice to get a Doula via recommendation. You can also look for a Doula in your area by searching the web. The website I recommend is CAPPA is a professional organization that trains, certifies and supports Doula’s.

Once you locate the name and number of a couple of Doula’s you will want to talk to each on the phone and then in person. You should look for a Doula at least a couple of months before your estimated due date; and sign a contract so you are sure to have a Doula when you need one. I always tell families they want to make sure they “click” with their Doula. A Doula is going to spend a lot of time with you the first week or so of being a new parent. She becomes intimately involved in your life. You have to feel safe and very comfortable with her. Not only do you as mom need to feel safe but your partner should as well. Dads should always be a part of the interviewing process so they too are sure to understand the role of the Doula as well as to ensure he will feel comfortable with the Doula you hire!

Here are some questions to ask when interviewing a postpartum doula.:
■ Are you insured?
■ Do you have back-up in case of illness?
■ How long have you been working as a Doula?
■ Are you certified and if so through which organization?
■ Do you have child-abuse and criminal record clearances?
■ Do you have references that I may call?
■ Do you have a job description that I can see?
■ Do you have experience with?? (fill in the blank with whatever your main concern is).
■ What do you charge per hour?

Have a list of questions ready but be willing to be flexible and let the conversation flow easily. Take notes during the interview and review them afterward to help you in making your final Doula selection.

Great! You have hired a Doula, signed a contract and are excited to have her all lined up for the important coming home event. Now, you think to yourself, what can I ask a Doula to do? The Doula will have gone over a Postpartum Doula job description with you prior to you hiring her. You should have a contract, in hand, that outlines what a Doula is and is not able to do for you. Doula’s are not healthcare practitioners and may offer no medical advice. To ensure you use your Doula to the fullest it is always a good idea to make a list of what you need help with, prior to each Doula visit. New parents are often very sleep deprived and can’t think clearly so writing things down will help.

I have found that for new parents the number one concern is how to get the baby to breastfeed? Second to that is almost always, mom feels like she doesn’t have enough milk to feed her baby. Doulas are well trained and happy to help with breastfeeding questions and concerns. I have a Masters in Social Work and find that I use a lot of my counseling skills as a Doula. I spend a good part of each visit helping moms through the emotional ups and downs that a new baby and changing hormones bring. It is not a waste of time for you or the Doula to spend time reviewing your birth and postpartum experiences. She can help you. You are not bothering a Doula if you ask her twenty times to assist you with getting the baby latched on or to reassure you that you are in fact making enough milk for your baby!

Second to helping you with feeding a baby is, helping you learn to care for your newborn. Doula’s will teach you how to change a diaper, how to wash diapers, if you are using cloth diapers, how to hold and burp a baby, how to give a bath, take a temperature, how to calm and soothe your baby.

Next in the role of a Doula is to “mother the mother”. Doula’s want to make sure mom is eating, drinking (drinking enough fluids is especially important if you are nursing), sleeping and taking care of yourself. It is very difficult for you to be a good mom if your basic needs are not being met. The Doula will prepare a healthy meal for you and keep the non-caffeinated drinks coming.

Finally, while you take a nap the Doula will rock your baby, fold baby laundry, or run errands that you may need done. Doulas are not housekeepers or cooks but they do keep the nursery organized, wash baby laundry, or change and wash the mom’s bed linens. The Doula’s job is to help ease your path into parenting!

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