There are a couple of comments I hear quite regularly which prompted me to write this blog.
This first one is parents coming out of the first trimester or a few months on saying ‘I really wish we had a doula’ or ‘One thing I would do differently would be to have a doula’.
The second is when I tell someone what I do. Maybe they are well past the baby stage but they’ve been there and remember it. ‘Where were you when I had my babies?!’.
The reality is when we are preparing for baby, particularly the first baby we really have no idea. I think most parents-to-be expect there to be tiredness, sleepless nights, lots of feeds and nappy changes but you really can’t prepare for the relentless exhaustion, the anxiety, the questions, the doubts and the total lack of time to do anything else.
Often we have the idealised view of our new little family, partner is off work for a few weeks, the grandparents will be popping by and new mum will be able to relax and snuggle baby. Sometimes that absolutely happens but for lots of new families the reality is we need more people around than just the partner. If you have awesome parents who can help this makes a massive difference but think really carefully about what help they will offer and how their presence impacts on the house (this applies to any visitors).
Of course we can all struggle through those early days with minimal outside help. Millions of families do it. But what if you could make this phase easier, you calmer and better rested, feel more confident about what you are doing and not spend hours on google wondering if you broke your baby? It is what happens all over the world as communities come together to support the new mum but unfortunately it isn't what tends to happen in the UK.
A postnatal doula is a trained professional who will come into your home to offer support to you. They are experienced in supporting new families and will come with lots of different skills depending on their interests. Usually doulas are very passionate about what they do and are always learning, CPD is very important to us. Although there is no registration for doulas many are trained (occasionally not as there is no requirement) and there are places like Doula UK who run a mentoring scheme for new doulas so you can be sure they are experienced and competent. When you are looking for a doula you can also check out things like insurance and DBS if you want to.
So what do we do?
Well every job and every family is different. Your doula is there to support you in the way you need. I am not coming into your home and taking over or telling you what to do.
Most visits start with a catch up. What has been happening since we last met, what questions have cropped up? A drink and a chat to get us settled, maybe while baby feeds or sleeps. I don’t want to tell you how to parent but I will listen and hold space while you talk through your concerns or options and figure out what is right for you. If you need more information I can signpost you to reliable resources to find out more. It is really easy to find yourself overwhelmed, and having a doula around can really reduce the stress levels.
I can help you with feeding your baby. If you are breastfeeding I have lots of knowledge and experience to help you get things off to a good start and I can point you in the right direction if you need more specialised help. If you are combi feeding or bottle feeding and want someone to do a feed or two I am more than happy to do that and can help you out with cleaning and sterilising bottles, pumps etc.
Newborns need holding a lot. Most babies will sleep so much better in someone’s arms and it is really normal for them to fall asleep after a feed. All that sucking is calming and tiring and if you breastfeed there are hormones in the milk that make them sleepy. For some families my role is to do bits around the house while you hold your baby. I am happy with some light housework – wiping surfaces, laundry, tidying etc. For others I hold baby while mum potters about getting bits done (I am not offended if you think I won’t do it right!!).
I really try and prioritise rest in every visit. Sometimes this is a lovely nap but it could also be some quiet time resting on your bed, reading or scrolling, maybe time for an unhurried shower or bath. Whatever you need it to be, I can care for your baby while you get some space to rest and aid your recovery.
With all that time sat with a baby you might need someone to help out with the drinks and snacks and I am there for you! I can fix you some food if that is what you want or even prepare something for later.
If there are siblings around you might be worried about how to keep them engaged while you are spending so much time with the new baby and I can help here too. It is totally up to you what you need and it might change day by day. If you want to have some uninterrupted time with older ones I can look after the baby, or if you need them amused because your baby really needs you then I can spend some time with them.
If you are anxious about getting out and about with your baby I can come too! Whether you have an appointment you aren’t sure you can cope with or you just need a walk in the park we can do that together and then if baby needs a feed or cries we can manage it together.
A postnatal doula is there to support you and make life easier as you recover from pregnancy and birth and make the transition to your new role whether it is your first baby or your family is growing more. There are other professionals who can support you postnatally but a doula’s first priority is you, whatever that looks like.
Yes a doula will cost money, we generally work on an hourly rate but it truly is an investment that can make a huge difference for those early months. Knowing you have someone you can talk to without judgement, a reliable source of information, will encourage you and be the extra pair of hands – all of which will take the pressure off giving you time and space to recover and adjust. Amongst other benefits, a postnatal doula reduces your chance of postnatal depression and increases the success rate of breastfeeding.
Although doulas can be available at short notice if you want to wait until baby arrives and see how it goes, it is worth planning ahead and having a chance to speak to a few doulas first so you can find someone you connect with and make some plans for after baby arrives.
If you want to talk about how I can support please get in touch. I can work around Harrow, some of Hertfordshire, Hillingdon and Greater London. If you are further away I also offer virtual support, by phone or message.