How to provide great postpartum support
As birth doulas we provide two types of postpartum support. That immediate support right after the delivery and most of us also provide at least one in-home visit as part of our package. We’re going to discuss the in-home support we provide as birth doulas, but I’d also like to share some thoughts around continued postpartum support for those of us who offer bigger postpartum packages, and for postpartum doulas specifically.
Processing the birth
As a birth doula, one of the main goals of our postpartum visit is to process the birth. Depending on how things went and how soon after birth our visit takes place, our client may have varying degrees of ability to really discuss and process the birth experience. Regardless, we can review our client’s memories of the birth and take the opportunity to plant seeds of accomplishment and show their strength and resilience in dealing with whatever took place. This is an opportunity to share some notes so we can be sure our client’s memory is both accurate and positive. Remember our goal is always to ensure that they have as positive a memory as possible, so all of our feedback should be with that in mind.
Depending on how things went, clients may need therapy from a professional at a later time, when they’re better able to deal with their feelings around their experience.
Answering questions and providing resources
Of course, part of our visit will revolve around some baby care/behaviour questions and perhaps around our clients’ physical recovery. Do your best with that based on your own knowledge and scope and always defer back to the care provider when in doubt. Another thing that is helpful is to keep a list for yourself of things you can send in a follow-up email. Providing resources and referrals is a great way to ensure our clients have continued support and the help they need (it takes a village).
If you’re a postpartum doula or a birth doula who provides a bit more postpartum support, here’s my list of goals for every shift:
Always ASSESS (questions and observations) before you ASSIST (do, say, suggest)
- Start with a check-in: I like to start by seeing how things have been going and asking my client how I can help them best that day
- Prioritize: asking clients to prioritize what matters most to them. I’ve realized by working with hundreds of clients over the years that one client may need their dishes done but doesn’t care about the general chaos going on in the rest of the house, while some people need clean floors but don’t stress about dishes.
- Always bring a wrap. I always bring a wrap so if my client is needing a nap, I can put baby in the wrap and still do everything else to help get chores done
- Goals: my typical goals for a day shift include dishes and kitchen (put away clean dishes, wash dirty dishes), sweep the floor, do a couple loads of laundry, and make a meal. I find I can almost always get that done in a 4-5 hour shift, even with twins!
Cooking can be tricky whether or not you cook in general. If you do, you may find clients have different spices than what you’re used to, and if you don’t cook, you may feel intimidated about what to make.
It’s always best to ask your client what they’d like you to do. Sometimes they have very specific things their families like and will be very clear about how they’d like you to cook. Some clients just ask for help with meal prep so they can do it themselves more easily later. I have a few recipes that almost everyone likes that I will often make if my client doesn’t specify what they want me to do. If you don’t cook often, try a few things at home so you become comfortable with what to do and how to get it done. In today’s day and age there are so many great recipe websites that can help guide you as well. Most people are just happy to not have to make it themselves! If you have a great recipe that is easy and nutrition, feel free to link to it in the comments below!
One of the most important parts of supporting families postpartum is to remember the doula spirit of non-judgment and compassionate care. Remember a tired person can be a grumpy person. As Penny and Phyllis always say “you won’t always understand why a woman behaves the way she does, but she has a darn good reason”. Remember that just like we support whatever our clients plan for their birth, so do we support however they choose to parent their babies. If ever you see behaviour or parenting decisions you don’t agree with, it’s not your place to try and ‘sway’ a client to another behaviour. Instead, offer education and support WHEN REQUESTED, but then simply provide support in whatever way will help them best in their transition to parenthood.
Good luck my lovely doulas.
#WorldDoulaDomination #PostpartumDoulas #DoulaGoals
About the Author
Stefanie is a visionary in the childbirth field. She leads the Discover Birth organization providing a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a board member with the Association of Ontario Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International, and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities. She is a DONA-approved Birth Doula Trainer, runs an Approved Program for Lamaze International and runs two doula agencies Discover Birth and The Nesting Place.
Stefanie is the founder of The Birth Doula Program at the Scarborough Hospital.
Stefanie is a contributing author in the best selling Power of Women United and the book Bearing Witness: Childbirth Stories Told by Doulas. She is a regular contributing writer and blogger, and has done many interviews online and for TV/radio.
Before becoming a doula, Stefanie worked in corporate intelligence, helping large companies keep abreast of their markets and competitors. She now works to bring some of those same skills to the doula profession, helping it grow and prosper, along with its many doula members.