What Is a Postpartum Doula?

A postpartum doula is a professional trained to work with a new mother through the period after birth. The postpartum period, sometimes called the fourth trimester, is the first 6 weeks after the birth of your baby. A birth doula supports you during labor and delivery, but a postpartum doula lends a hand and offers knowledge and support once you bring your baby home.

Some certified birth doulas are also certified postpartum doulas. They can work with you and your family through the birthing and postpartum process. Others specialize in either the birthing process or the postpartum period. 

What Does a Postpartum Doula Do?

A postpartum doula's responsibilities change each day based on your and your family's needs. Their role has its roots in a philosophy of women supporting other women during childbirth and parenting. A postpartum doula gives you physical and emotional support after the birth of your baby. Many doulas use evidence-based information in their approach. 

Typical postpartum doula support might include.

  • Offering breastfeeding knowledge, support, and assistance
  • Helping with newborn care, such as diaper changes, naps, and feedings
  • Providing resources to related services, such as birthing classes or a lactation consultant
  • Helping your family learn and become comfortable with baby soothing and bonding methods
  • Caring for the baby so parents can take a nap, shower, or eat a meal
  • Helping with mom's post-birth comfort measures 
  • Offering physical support as mom recovers from a cesarean delivery
  • Making breakfast, lunch, dinner, or healthy snacks
  • Keeping mom hydrated and comfortable
  • Playing with older children and helping with bedtime and naptime
  • Taking care of light household cleaning, such as dishes, tidying up, and laundry

Who Needs a Postpartum Doula?

Often, so much focus is on preparing for labor and birth that when a new baby comes home, parents can feel like they've been thrown into the deep end. Support from a postpartum doula can help ease the transition for first-time parents and for those growing to a family with other children.

You might want a postpartum doula's help during the first few days after coming home with your new baby. Or you might hire doulas for multiple days of the week for the first several weeks. Some postpartum doulas specialize in overnight care. Research shows that parents who get support during the postpartum period benefit in several ways: 

  • They feel more cared-for and secure in their new roles.
  • They adapt more easily to shifting family dynamics.
  • They have more success when it comes to breastfeeding.
  • Their self-confidence is higher.
  • There’s a lower risk of postpartum depression.
  • There are fewer incidents of abuse within the family.

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How Can I Find a Postpartum Doula?

Many doula certification groups have directories of certified doulas that you can search by location. Check out Doulas of North America International, also known as DONA International, or Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).

If you live in or near a major city, there may be local groups or collectives that have doulas working together and that can help you find the right one for your needs. Local childbirth classes, La Leche League groups, or parenting support groups may help you with resources for finding a postpartum doula. 

If you're on a budget, consider looking for a doula who's still finishing the certification process. They may offer their services at a discount as they work to get the experience needed to become certified. 

What Should I Look for in a Postpartum Doula?

When interviewing postpartum doulas, check their qualifications. If you have more considerations, such as if you are expecting twins or triplets, let them know. 

Ask if there are any extra services the doula provides. For example, some doulas are trained in massage therapy for mom or baby. 

Make sure the postpartum doula is a good fit personality-wise, since you'll spend a lot of time together. You can ask them things like.

  • How long have you been a postpartum doula?
  • How many families have you worked with?
  • Are you certified through a doula training organization?
  • Do you have any testimonials from past clients or references I can speak to?
  • Are there minimum or maximum hours you're able to work at one time? 
  • What's your favorite part of being a postpartum doula? 
  • What are your rates? Do you offer any package deals?
  • How soon can you begin after the birth?
  • How do you schedule to ensure support if the baby is born before or after their due date?
  • Do you have experience supporting families with older siblings in the home?
  • Are there any standard services you don't provide or extra services that you offer?
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Sources

SOURCES: 

CAPPA: "Certified Postpartum Doula."

DONA: "Position Paper: The Postpartum Doula's Role in Maternity Care."

Midwifery: "Postpartum Doulas: Motivations and Perceptions of Practice." 

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