WHAT IS A POSTPARTUM DOULA?
Having a baby is an exciting time. There is so much to think about! Most of the advice you will get is to plan well for the birth and buy lots of great baby products. And if you are adopting or on a surrogacy journey the advice is pretty much the same when it comes to caring for the new baby: buying good products is the way to survival. Well, not always. Clever products don’t hold your hand, don’t cook you a nourishing meal, don’t offer encouraging guidance while bathing a baby for the first time, don’t listen to your birth story and offer alternative points of view, and products certainly don’t send you off to a hot bath or some much needed rest.
Enter the Postpartum Doula, a professional support person trained in the needs of the family during those early days and weeks with a new baby. They are knowledgeable about newborn care and experienced in emotional and physical recovery from childbirth. They bring a wealth of evidence-based, reliable information, and empower you to make informed choices and find your own parenting style.
To find out more, VOYA have spoken to Michelle Doherty, a Postpartum Doula from Co. Sligo. She runs Mamogs.ie and is not only an active member of the Doula Association of Ireland (DAI), but she also serves on their management committee as Membership Secretary. We have asked her all about Postpartum Doulas, so read on to learn more!
Who books a postpartum doula?
Mostly anyone who is welcoming a new baby into their family! We work with couples who are expecting, single parents, and those adopting or having a baby through surrogacy. Some plan ahead and book the service before their baby arrives, while others may not anticipate their need for support and book a doula after the baby is here. It’s never too late to ring your local doula.
But what if I have family and friends willing to help when the baby arrives, do I really need a Doula too?
That is up to you. Some people feel fully supported by their circle of loved ones while others swear doula support was vital, even in addition to helpful family and friends! Remember that doulas are experienced professionals, knowledgeable in normal infant behaviour, like baby feeding cues, settling tips, and more, as well as postpartum recovery. That’s why parents in Ireland are more and more looking for a combination of family and doula support.
“As a father, my utmost concern is the wellbeing of my wife and children. Availing of Michelle’s services (of Mamogs) I felt that every aspect of providing care to my wife and our new addition was done to the highest standards. That is something that I feel cannot always be achieved despite all the best of intentions from family and friends.” Jamie, Sligo
How will a Postpartum Doula help me?
Postpartum support is extremely flexible and fully catered to you and your family’s needs. Postpartum Doulas are professionally trained to offer physical, emotional, informational, and practical support. Some examples of what they can do are: light housework (such as tidying the kitchen and doing the laundry), cooking you a nourishing meal, listening to your birth story and helping you debrief, providing breastfeeding assistance, lending/recommending reading materials, taking care of the baby so you can have some time for yourself, answering any questions you might have, and making a cuppa.
“My partner wasn’t convinced; it is not something he would be familiar with, but it didn’t take long for him to realise the benefits. Seeing both mum and baby happy after a hard day of work was well worth it.” Clo, Sligo
Can a Doula still support me during these uncertain times of COVID-19?
Yes, absolutely. Even in ordinary times, doulas observe strict hygiene and are aware of best practices for health and safety; now they also comply with newly issued governmental advice. In addition, most Doulas who are members of the DAI have undertaken COVID-19 training provided by the HSE and WHO. If you still don’t feel ready for in-person support, that’s ok; most doulas offer virtual services. In addition to that, you can currently avail of a free 30-minute virtual consultation with one of the Association’s doulas. Their aim is to provide some respite to new and expectant parents during these hard times. During the consultation, a professional doula can talk you through different options and answer any questions you might have about doula services.
How do I find a Doula in my area?
The doula profession is not regulated in Ireland, so the easiest way to find a qualified Doula in your area is to pop over to the DAI ’s website (www.doula.ie) where you will find lots of information on both Birth and Postpartum Doulas from across Ireland.
Benefits Of Postpartum Doula Support
The most well-known benefits of Postpartum Doula support are significantly lower incidences of postnatal mood disorders (such as depression and anxiety), as a doula helps new parents speak openly about their experiences and process their feelings in a healthy manner; higher rates of successful breastfeeding, as a doula offers guidance and advice while creating a peaceful environment in which the new skill can be learned; better postpartum recovery, as a doula allows you time to rest and attend to self-care; and happier, more confident parents, making use of a doula’s knowledge and access to reliable information! Testimonies really do speak for themselves here and show the benefits of support are huge.
A Postpartum Doula Will:
- Recognise that becoming a parent is an important, life-changing event.
- Offer non-judgmental emotional and physical support during the early days, weeks, or months with a new baby.
- Be dedicated to holding space for postpartum recovery, including rest, physical comfort, and proper nutrition.
- Listen to their clients’ birth story, honouring their experience and often assisting in processing it.
- Provide access to current, evidence-based information facilitating an environment that encourages new parents to discover and develop their own way of parenting.
- Assist with peripheral activities, such as light household chores and organisation, so the birthing person can recover and the family can bond.
- Assist with essential activities, such as newborn care, family adjustment, feeding options, and safe sleep strategies.
- Suggest appropriate referrals if necessary.
- Be present when needed, attending the family for set times where they can provide the most support.
- Respect your privacy and maintain the confidentiality of all details relating to your postnatal period.
A postpartum Doula will NOT:
- Perform clinical tasks.
- Diagnose medical conditions.
- Provide medical care or advice to parent and/or baby.
- Make decisions for or speak to medical personnel on behalf of clients.
- Offer advice or their opinion. They provide access to information so that clients can make their own confident, informed decisions.
- Have any agenda regarding their clients’ birth or parenting choices, acknowledging that this is a personal experience and they are facilitators, not directors.
Find out more about Michelle
Sligo native Michelle Doherty is a Dona International trained Postpartum Doula and a qualified Early Years Educator. Michelle who continues to upskill is also trained in paediatric first aid, peer to peer breastfeeding, pregnancy & infant loss and early feeding, she is also Garda vetted. A mother herself, Michelle has over 20 years of experience supporting and caring for babies, young children, and the family unit.
Find out more about Michelle's work here: www.mamogs.ie