How Postpartum Doula Care Can Ease the Transition Into Parenthood
Welcoming a new baby into the family is a beautiful thing. It also happens to be one of the most humbling experiences in a human's life course. During the postpartum period, parents need all the help and support they can get to care for themselves and their new bundle of joy with as little strife as possible.
Historical Support for New Moms & Parents
Prior to industrialization, the postpartum period for birthing people was considered a critical time for rest and recovery. Those who birthed babies were expected to have time to heal, bond with their newborn, and learn how to care for their child. During this period, women were typically cared for by their community and family members, who provided practical, emotional, and social support. In many cultures around the world, this period is known as "lying-in" or "confinement," and it typically lasted for 40 or more days after birth. Postpartum people were expected to stay in bed and avoid any strenuous activities to allow for the uterus, vagina, and perineum to completely heal. This postpartum period also allowed the mother's body to recover from childbirth and establish a healthy feeding routine from the outset. Most importantly, it was a time for new parents to bond with their babies and adjust to their new roles as caregivers for another generation.
During a traditional postpartum period, one was not expected to perform any household chores or care for other children at all. Instead, family and community members would provide practical support by bringing meals, doing the housekeeping and maintenance of the home, and providing childcare for siblings. Emotional support was also an important part of the postpartum care, and women were often surrounded by experienced and wise folks who provided companionship, comfort, and encouragement along the way. This companionship was such a built-in part of the postpartum experience, that it was not uncommon for a neighbor, friend, or family member to feed the newborn from their body if they had milk available because of a recent-enough birth themselves.
It's important to note here that people who gave birth in earlier times were commonly supported by midwives in their own homes or at community centers close to home or within their village. Midwives provided medical care and health guidance during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, but were also THE go-to resource for traditional healing practices, herbal remedy creation, postnatal massage, breastfeeding, and other healing practices that could help folks recover from childbirth. The way our current healthcare system in Orange County is set up does not allow for this type of relationship between any healthcare provider, but especially not when working with busy practices that include multiple midwives or OB/GYNs.
The modern lifestyle has made it difficult for many new parents to access the level of support families with new babies have always needed. Most of my postpartum doula clients live away from immediate and extended family and don't have a truly solid support system nearby. Moreover, demands of work and the fast-paced world we
live in make it challenging for new parents to balance their new role with external obligations. Even with a decent amount of support for things like errands or meal prep, daily tasks such as feeding the family, showering, and getting enough rest can feel impossible. Add all that to the fact that we don't know all our neighborhood/community people who have had babies in the recent past and it's a perfect storm for new parents to feel lost and under water pretty quickly. This nationwide lack of support and rest has been shown in research to contribute to postpartum depression, anxiety, and other health problems in the birther-along with higher levels of stress and dissatisfaction among parents long term.
Today, postpartum doulas in Orange County and surrounding areas of Southern California aim to provide a level of care and support to new parents and mothers as was historically provided by their communities, families, and their traditional midwives. A lot of roles to fill for one person? Absolutely. But it is real! With the right postpartum doula match, a family with a new baby and recovering birth can feel surrounding by support from the outset.
What is a Postpartum Doula?
A postpartum doula is an experienced professional who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to new parents during the postpartum period. Here in Southern California, most postpartum doulas are part of a wholly separate profession from midwives, newborn nannies, and night nurses (though there are many postpartum doulas who cross over into nanny work or overnight care too).
Your postpartum period could be defined as a doctor might see it-the first six weeks where your body is healing and changing rapidly to meet the demands of caring for and feeding a newborn. Or it could be that you need support for the entire "fourth trimester," a term commonly used to describe the first three months after baby is born where both the baby an