By Charlotte (@raising_with_instinct)
In more recent years you may have heard the term ‘postpartum doula’ being used in reference to birth or the arrival of a new baby – but what actually is one? We chatted to Charlotte Harris, a mother of one and a birth and postpartum doula. We wanted to know exactly what the role involves, the benefits and costs of hiring one and why a postpartum doula might work for you if you’ve got a baby on the way.
Charlotte supports mothers as a birth and postpartum doula in south west London and Surrey and you can find her at Raising with Instinct.
What is a postpartum doula?
The period of time following the birth of your baby can be incredibly intense – the first few months are very special, but they can also be very tough. You are healing, growing and learning so much about this new person and your new role as a parent and your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb.
Traditionally, this is when you would have called on your ‘village’; the community around you to hold you whilst you experience this huge transition. They would cook for you, pass on their experiences and knowledge of having a newborn, take care of you and remove all of the normal day-to-day stresses so that you can focus on yourself and your new baby.
However, in modern day life this village seems pretty hard to come by!
This is where a postpartum doula can step in – it is our job to provide this support and allow you the space you need to adjust to your new normal. We are trained to nurture and care for the whole family. We place the mother or birthing person at the centre of our support.
What this support looks like is completely up to you!
What can a postpartum doula do for you?
Every doula has their own way of working with clients, and each brings a different style of support with their own experience and expertise (which is why finding the right doula for you is so important!)
It’s really hard to list all of the things we can offer but as a fairly good attempt:
Emotional support – holding space for you and your partner to chat about anything that may be on your minds, and if you’d like, talking through how you are feeling about your birth and postpartum recovery.
Practical support – doing anything to help you care for your newborn, including light housework, running errands, and looking after your new baby so that you can rest.
Supporting you in feeding your baby – many doulas have additional training to help with breastfeeding and infant feeding support.
Meal planning and preparation – food is important, and whether you’re after comfort food or nutritious dense meals to aid recovery, we can help with this.
Babywearing support – showing you how to use slings and baby carriers to keep your baby close whilst also having your hands free.
Postpartum massage – supporting you to love, respect and nurture your postpartum body.
Signposting to local services – a huge part of our role as a doula is knowing who else in your local area can help, whether that’s other professionals, feeding support groups, new parent meet-ups etc.
Do postpartum doulas have qualifications/training?
Many doulas (myself included!) feel strongly that they have always been a doula – many of the qualities needed to support families through transition and change cannot be taught but instead exist in someone’s makeup; intuition, observation, empathy, compassion and the passion to nurture and support.
That being said, most doulas will also have done some form of training. Whether that is a doula course, of which there are many, or separate courses that are relevant to supporting a family in the postpartum.
It is up to you to decide how important it is to you that your doula has ‘formal’ qualifications, and this may influence how you then find the right person to support and work with you.
How much does a postpartum doula cost?
Each doula will decide their own hourly rate and this will depend on a few factors – geography, their experience and what is included in the fee they charge.
A good estimate is between £10 – £35 per hour depending on postcode and individual.
Many doulas will offer a number of different packages made up of a set number of hours and perhaps some specific support such as meal preparation, a babywearing consultation or a postpartum massage.
The best way to find out more about cost and what is on offer is by having a look at a doula’s website and booking in a call with them.
Most doulas are willing to be very flexible with their support, and also how they are paid, so if you find a doula you think you would like to work with but are worried about whether you can afford their services, please chat to them!
How do you find a postpartum doula?
There are a number of ways to find a postpartum doula. Googling doulas in your area is probably a great place to start!
It is likely your search will bring up some individuals’ websites for you to browse, but also a number of ‘doula directories’. These are membership organisations that doulas can choose to join and they often have set criteria for training that members need to meet – so for those that would like their doula to have had accredited training, these are also a good place to look.
Finally, let’s not forget about social media – many doulas now have a presence online and it can be a great way to get a feel for a postpartum doula and their style and forms of support.
A quick message on IG can be enough to kick start a wonderful new relationship. And the biggest tip is to talk to as many doulas as you can until you feel a connection; we are, after all, blessed with the privilege of standing by your side at your most vulnerable time.
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