What is a Postpartum Doula? One part Mary Poppins, and always helpful.
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What is a Postpartum Doula? Part Educator, Part Nanny, Part Mary Poppins

What is a Postpartum Doula? Part Educator, Part Nanny, Part Mary Poppins

What is a Postpartum Doula? A person whose job it is to help you manage your new life with your new baby.

You’ve been reading all of the articles about what to get for your new baby, and trying your best to prepare for postpartum. One of the things you might have read about is a postpartum doula! But what is a postpartum doula? And what can they do to help you and your family?

So, what do you do, exactly?

When I say we’re like Mary Poppins I mean in it!  I will roll into your house with baby carriers, swaddles, sleep hacks, feeding tips, and ways to fart your baby. Yes, most babies need some help farting. Then I’ll teach you those things while throwing in some laundry, washing the dishes, and organizing the house.  As a postpartum doula my goal is to leave you feeling more confident and at peace in your home with your baby. That may look different for different families so let me elaborate.

family A: a two-week-old baby who is fussy at night

The Problem: These first-time parents haven’t slept more than an hour at a time in over a week. Their baby is fussy and cries throughout the night, but she sleeps great during the day!

The Doula’s Role: This family needs sleep above all else. My focus is on teaching baby the difference between night and day and helping the parents create good sleep cues. We’ll work on having effective feeding sessions and appropriate awake windows for a newborn. The result should be elongated night sleep and a healthy daily routine for everyone.

Family B: An 8-Day-Old baby who feeds constantly, but isn’t gaining weight

The Problem: First-time parents often struggle with breastfeeding, and a baby that isn’t gaining weight needs some help. This couple has a brand new baby who is on the breast constantly, but isn’t back up to birth weight. The mom is exhausted and her nipples are sore, and the dad doesn’t know how to help. 

The Doula’s RoleFor this family, ALL of the focus will be on breastfeeding. We want to make sure that feeding is comfortable for both mom and baby, and that baby is getting the nutrition that they need. To start, we’ll help you create a great latch. Then, we’ll hone in on good, effective feeds that are 30 minutes or less. In between feeding sessions, we’ll work on baby hunger and sleep cues, and on soothing techniques. In the end we should have a well-fed baby, a mom who gets longer breaks in between feeding, and a more confident dad who knows how to soothe and comfort his baby.

Family C: a 5-day-old newborn and his 2-year-old brother

The Problem: The family knows how to deal with one crying baby, but two is harder! Their newborn is restless and fussy in the evenings, and his big brother feels left out. This results in some epic meltdowns and tantrums around bedtime. The parents feel torn and don’t know which child to focus on.

The Doula’s Role: This family mainly needs a third pair of hands who can handle a crying newborn. I’ll take care of soothing and settling the baby so that the parents can spend some uninterrupted time with their 2-year-old. This will help soothe his abandonment anxieties for a little while so that we can figure out a bedtime routine that works for a family of four. 

Family d: parents of three are drowing in laundry and dirty dishes

The Problem: These third-time parents have got things with the kids down to a science. But, their house is filling up with half-folded laundry, dirty bottles and pump parts, and toddler socks. Plus they could really use a nap!

The Doula’s RoleThe focus for this family is more broad, and will mainly be housekeeping. Before I leave the laundry will be clean and folded, the dishes will be done and put away, and things will feel less chaotic. Plus, I’ll spend some time on “kid duty” so that the parents can take a much needed rest. 

Family E: New Mom is emotionally overwhelmed 

The Problem: This first-time mom had a difficult delivery and is struggling to balance healing with learning how to take care of a newborn. She is emotionally overwhelmed, cries several times a day, and doesn’t think that she’s capable of taking care of her baby.

The Doula’s Role: The first thing for this mom will be a big hug. Because parenting is hard, and it’s hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For this family, the focus of our postpartum sessions will be to emotionally process the birth experience while building the mom’s confidence. We’ll help find ways to ease the pain she’s still in and talk about her transition to motherhood. She can ask as many questions as she needs to and we’ll break down infant care into more manageable steps. In the end, we’ll leave her less anxious and more confident in her ability to be a mother.

There are a million other iterations – we’ve seen them all!

At the end of the day, our goal as postpartum doulas is to give you whatever you need. We want to walk away knowing that your routine and home are more organized, your family is sleeping better, and you’re feeling confident in your parenting skills. Sometimes that takes just one 4-hour session, and sometimes it takes a couple months of work! Every family is so different and I love finding a way to help them all. 

If you’re in the Pittsburgh area and you want us to help you postpartum, get in touch with us today!

Emily Christian-Michaels

pronouns: she/her/hers

About the Author:

Emily has been a birth and postpartum doula in Pittsburgh, PA ever since the birth of her first son, Ellington. Her birth experience didn’t go according to plan, but she had the support that she needed to make hard choices for herself and her baby. After that, she wanted to be able to bring the same empowerment that she felt to other birthing people. 

For Emily, pregnancy and birth are life changing experiences regardless of the type of birth you wish to have. The journey of self-discovery and determination it takes to grow a baby, prepare for a baby and then birth that baby is incomparable to any other life experience. She believes that education and support are the keys to having a satisfying and empowering labor and delivery experience and is eager to help you along your own journey.

Emily lives in the community of Bellevue with her husband Sam, three kids (Ellington, Bowie, and Joni), her dog Didion, a couple chickens, and cats, Harper and Truman. In addition to being a doula and childbirth educator, Emily is a dog trainer and owner of a local fitness studio, Joy in Movement.

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