What is a postpartum doula anyway?

What is a postpartum doula anyway?

Article written by Heather Bradley, Founder of Pittsburgh Doula Network

Five days and nights into motherhood, you’re sore and exhausted, and friends and family have gone home. The adventure — and the questions — of parenthood have just begun. Where can you turn for immediate answers and loving, confidence-building support from an experienced caregiver, allowing you to get some sleep and bond with your baby?

Since 2000, Pittsburgh Doula Network has been the Pittsburgh area’s premier source of postpartum doula care. Along the way, this network of nurturing professional caregivers has helped hundreds of families, both first-time parents just getting the hang of it, and those welcoming subsequent children, who also need to recover, get to know their new baby, and adjust to new family dynamics with siblings who continue to need their care.

A doula is an experienced natural caregiver who specializes in easing the family’s transition after a baby is born, with continuous physical, informational and emotional support: part newborn care specialist, part voice of experience, and part facilitator for the brand-new emotional growth experience of parenthood, in all its forms.

The support of a postpartum doula alleviates anxiety as parents learn the basics of baby care, discover baby cues, and learn to manage sleep for both parents and baby, as a nursing mother and baby both figure out breastfeeding, and as mothers recover physically from birth. A postpartum doula can also help parents evaluate when to be patient with challenges, and when to seek professional help. Her knowledgeable companionship and practical household support allows new parents to make the most of their time together, cushion the intense emotions of the postpartum period, and focus on their new baby.

In a busy time when many grandparents and extended family members also work or can’t be nearby, the availability of this kind of specialized support is more important than ever.  

PDN doulas provide a full spectrum of care during the daytime, which can include light housekeeping and meal preparation. They can also provide overnight support, with focus primarily on newborn care. A typical doula shift is four to eight hours during the day, and eight to ten at night. With package options for comfort and skill building, as well as ease of gift giving, PDN doulas are the customizable, in-home solution to ease a newborn family’s transition.

PDN Director Heather Bradley — a practicing doula for over 20 years herself — believes that hiring an experienced doula in those critical first few days and nights ensures a family’s comfort, competency, and confidence with their newborn, equipping them with safe and comfortable practices in several key areas of newborn care.

PDN’s roster of doulas includes women who are former nurses or who hold individual certifications and specializations, including:

  • Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
  • Lactation Counselor (CLC, CLEC)
  • Certified Lamaze Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and
  • Certified Hypnobirthing Educator (HBCE)
  • Certified Birth Doula (CD- DONA)
  • Certified Postpartum Doula (CPD- DONA)
  • DONA and ProDoula Trained Postpartum Doulas
  • Masters Degree in Infant Mental Health Counseling Psychology (MSIMHCP)  
  • Registered Circle of Security- Parents Facilitator
  • Certified Kangaroo Care provider
  • Certified Yoga Instructor
  • Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach

Highlighted benefits of PDN postpartum doulas are:

Breastfeeding coaching

With early, in-home support from a doula who is either a lactation consultant or an experienced breastfeeding mother with training in lactation support, new nursing mothers and babies can better navigate common early challenges and get off to a positive start. Her guidance and reassuring presence helps them to form a strong latch and boosts a new nursing mother’s comfort and confidence, minimizing the incidence of issues such as clogged ducts, mastitis, sore nipples, and other feeding difficulties that can quickly develop into unwanted challenges to breastfeeding during the early days of mothering.

Sleep management and mental health awareness: Postpartum doula support is also an important preventative measure against postpartum depression. This is particularly important in the first few weeks, or during periods of colic or other nighttime challenges. With a warm hug, listening ear, and watchful eye, a doula helps to relieve the isolation, anxiety, and sleep deprivation that contribute to mental health issues, and encourages family dynamics that surround a mother with support. Her valuable insight can also help families recognize when normal “baby blues” crosses over into something more serious and potentially dangerous.

An extra watchful eye on baby and postpartum recovery : Postpartum doulas can help new parents to be mindful of warning signs for other postpartum concerns, including excess bleeding or discharge in the new mother, and fever, dehydration, or lack of sleep or nutrition in mom or baby. Even experienced moms can benefit from a resourceful second opinion, from someone who has seen it all before.

In short, doula services relieve the stresses of the most intense period in the life of a new family, in a way that shapes the mother-child connection and provides a strong introduction to parenting.

Whether you’re welcoming your first baby, your third, or even your tenth, doula visits are an ideal gift or addition to your registry!

To learn more about Pittsburgh Doula Network, contact Founder Heather Bradley at (412) 901-9568 or pittsburghdoulanetwork@gmail.com.

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