I've been curious for a while as to what a Postnatal Doula actually does. I could definitely make a pretty good guess but it's been brilliant to meet Anna and find out the answer from someone who really knows.......
Anna, what is a Postnatal Doula?
Someone who comes in, usually during the first 6 weeks after a baby is born (but it can be at any time), to support the whole family practically and emotionally. Postnatal Doulas are there to empower parents in their new role and 'walk alongside them'. We may give evidenced based information, if asked, in a way that is non judgemental and non directive.
Anna currently charges £15 an hour and you can contact her through her website.
Is a postnatal doula the same as a Maternity Nurse or Mother’s help?
No. Maternity Nurses tend to do longer hours and often live in. They mainly care for the baby; instead of Mum or Dad doing the caring. They don’t usually do housework, laundry and so on. Postnatal Doulas are there to empower parents in their new role; though they are able to care for the baby to let tired mums have a shower or a nap; so that they have the energy to continue to do their great job of caring.
A Mother’s help would often give much more practical help with household tasks and/or older children, rather than baby care.
How do postnatal doulas support a new mum (or Dad) emotionally?
Mainly by providing reassurance and encouragement that they're doing a great job. I am someone they can bounce ideas and questions off. I wouldn't be telling them what to do but I may offer suggestions if asked. One Mum I supported, loved that I was able to give her time to eat lunch with her partner, as couple time for them; it was a small thing, but it meant a lot to her. I spend a lot of time listening and just being there.
What practical tasks have you done?
Anything and everything! From sitting with breastfeeding Mums while they feed, encouraging them and supporting good positioning and latching; to making up
formula bottles; to playing with babies while parents have a break; to laundry; to cooking......whatever needs doing!
What training do Postnatal Doulas have?
I chose to train with Doula UK. I have completed the 'Initial Doula Preparation' course with Doula UK. Doula UK is the leading Doula organisation in the UK. After completing my course work; I worked with an experienced postnatal-doula/mentor before becoming a recognised doula in my own right. This took me 1 year.
What is your background?
I was initially a Primary School Teacher but I wanted something that enabled me to focus even more on babies and children. I became a Family Support Worker in a Children's Centre. I taught Baby Massage and singing classes there too. After my own children were born, I discovered Postnatal Doulas and knew that's what I wanted to do.
Favourite thing about the job
My favourite thing about the job is....doing myself out of a job! I love to see parents growing more confident and skilled by the day until I am not needed.
Least favourite part of the job!
Getting attached to families and then having to saying goodbye 😊! I love when I get updates in the future though.
Can you make a baby sleep through the night?
No! But I can reassure parents about what is normal for their baby’s age and the positive aspects of a little baby waking regularly. They have such tiny tummies, they need to feed frequently for optimal growth and development; regular waking is also protective against SIDS. I can work with parents to give them a break so that they can have the energy needed to continue to give high quality care through the night. I would always help parents with suggestions for soothing their baby and encouraging helpful sleeping habits where possible ie: laying a sleepy, comfortable baby in their crib/cot/pram so they gently drift off by themselves. Also, starting a gentle, simple, bedtime routine when the parents feel ready - this can give a sense of predictability to parents and, eventually, will serve as cues for the baby that it's time to settle down for the night.