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 and the mother or birther is acclimating to life post-pregnancy.
No matter the length of time you enlist their support, a postpartum doula bridges the gap between familial/community support and medical professionals, A postnatal doula can offer significant assistance and personalized guidance in several areas of focus to help your journey into parenthood feel safer, more comfortable, and less isolating. Some areas in which I help families include: breastfeeding/chestfeeding/bottlefeeding the newborn;, baby care such as swaddling, diaper changes, temperature checks, and education on how to keep baby safe while sleeping; promotion of health and wellness in the new parents (this might look like suggestions around nutrition and body care, but could also mean subbing in for parents while they nap and get restorative time together as a couple); extensive emotional support--because babies and the postpartum period bring ALL the feelings.
There are also many practical or logistical ways a postpartum doula can support a newborn family! For instance, sometimes a client in Irvine needs a prescription picked up near Hoag Newport, but have their hands full with a busy baby feeding schedule and a family visit that day. I'm happy to pop out to the pharmacy and save the family a trip with baby in tow during a time when everyone is sleep deprived. I've also meal prepped hundreds of times and even grocery shop as a postpartum doula. Maybe it's just one missing ingredient for dinner, or maybe the thought of cramming in a grocery trip between the first pediatrician visits and the lactation consultant appointment feels utterly daunting. Part of my job as a postpartum doula is to help families in and around Orange County figure out what their immediate needs are-and then to meet those needs wherever possible.
Benefits of Postpartum Doula Support
1. Physical Support: Postpartum doulas offer hands-on support to new parents in caring for their newborn. They help with tasks such as diapering, feeding, burping, and bathing the baby. They can also help the person recovering from birth, such as preparing nutritious meals and snacks, reminders for showers and bathroom breaks, recommendations for body care and hygiene products, and more.
2. Emotional Support: Postpartum doulas are trained to offer emotional support to new parents. And some go a step further and seek out education and certifications to facilitate trauma-informed dialogue in the home between partners and for the mother to process their birth experiences. They help new parents navigate the emotional roller coaster of becoming a parent and can provide a listening ear and compassionate support. They can also offer tips for coping with feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, and more-and some are even ready to do a basic screening for perinatal mood disorders. In my practice, it's common for clients to reach out between in-person visits via text and calls for moral support, advice, and Q&As.
3. Infant Feeding Support: Many postpartum doulas can help new parents with all things feeding baby. This can include getting into comfortable positions and using props like feeding pillows for breastfeeding and chestfeeding. It could mean helping baby secure a healthy latch that doesn't hurt the parent. It often looks like navigating supplementing with formula or milk in a bottle. And it usually involves a lot of encouragement around feeding baby regularly, figuring out if baby is still hungry, and prevention of excess spit-up. Postpartum doulas can also provide information and referrals to support feeding challenges and help new parents make informed decisions about their feeding choices. It should be noted that not all postpartum doulas have specialized lactation counselor training, so if this is important to your family ask how your postpartum doula can support your goals!
4. Sibling Care (including pets!): Many postpartum doulas also offer support for older siblings and the furry siblings of the household. They can help everyone adjust to the presence of a newborn and help parents manage sibling dynamics during the postpartum period. I've hung out with older siblings while parents focused on baby's needs during a feeding. Sometimes we're helping the older sibling understand why baby's needs are important at that moment and offering coping techniques in real-time to avoid aggression or feelings of parental loss in children. I walk dogs, feed cats, let the tortoise out to play, and have even checked on the chickens in the backyard.
5. House Management: As mentioned above, postpartum doulas can and do help new parents with household tasks such as meal preparation, laundry, and light housekeeping. They can also help new parents organize the altered space that once housed fewer humans. Nursery organization is a regularly activity in my practice as a postpartum doula. As is clearing off the counter tops and taking out the trash to help declutter a space for peace of mind among parents.
6. Resource Management: If you're pregnant or expecting a child, you likely already know there are a LOT of opinions out there. Online, in books, from well-meaning familiars in your life, advice comes from all over and sometimes (maybe always) can feel overstimulating or confusing. What's the best car seat for your vehicle? Which books are most helpful to prep for a newborn? How do I reconcile the opinions of the hospital staff compared to the pediatrician's? Tongue tie what? I've been in the perinatal field for over 10 years now and the one constant is that the world of newborn care, infant feeding, and parenting in general is ever-evolving. No one way is the right way, so how does a new parent suss out what's right for them at any given time? As a postpartum doula, it's part of my job to know the trends, understand the research, and have quality information on-hand for my client families. I help families find providers in alignment with their goals. I send articles that are vetted by me for evidence-based information. I listen to what's going on in the parent's life and mind, hold space for all the moving pieces, and then lay out potential pathways for the parents to choose from based on their values and goals for the family. Less sifting through the internet, less judgment for the choices you make for your child and family. More time enjoying that new baby smell!
What Real Clients Say About Postpartum Doula Care
Amanda is the only person I trust for newborn postpartum doula care. Her knowledge and expertise is extensive all while being non judge mental to each personal parenting decision. I have used her and her recommendations for my son and if I offer you the opportunity for quality newborn care then this is my only recommendation. I have worked with others that were good but always fall back to Amanda. There are not enough words to express how comfortable, confident and joyful she truly is to have providing such professional support.their home to better accommodate their new family member. ~Jennifer N. from Irvine, CA
100% the best decision my husband and I made without knowing it at the time. Amanda is one of a kind special. She is well-read, educated, experienced, kind, considerate, punctual, gentle, positive, respectful, honest and everything you could ask for in a support person at one of the most vulnerable, special times in a mother's life.
Amanda was with us postpartum, and I will forever cherish and be grateful for the time she spent with our family. As new parents, we knew "nothing". Literally, nothing. And having a baby during a pandemic meant family and close friends were kept at a distance to keep our baby as safe as possible. She made up for all of that!
Amanda was on time with a smile and ready to set goals everyday. Her support set us up for success. She answered every new mom question with evidence-based research and a smile. Not once did she make us feel like we were doing something wrong or silly for asking a question others may know. She offered support while NEVER imposing on us as new parents.
I have a love for this woman that she may never know the extent of. I value her knowledge and would recommend her to any family who might need her expertise. She was born for this role and executes it to the fullest. Thank you Amanda. :) again and again!
~Sarah J. from Orange County, CA
A couple months after the baby's birth, I needed to have surgery and was told I would be in the hospital anywhere from 1 to 3 nights. I reached out to Amanda right away for postpartum doula help. She was a Godsend! From working with me on how to best handle the situation to supporting my ideas (i.e. using paced bottle feeding to help get baby back to breast) and giving excellent suggestions (i.e. buying extra pump parts to ensure sterilization during my hospital stay), to going with the flow as things changed at the last minute (ugh!).
I was so comfortable with her with the baby, with her helping me pump, etc. She made me comfortable enough to get the sleep I desperately needed to recover and followed up with us afterward to see how I was feeling, as well as the whole family (who all got sick after my surgery). I cannot say enough about how much Amanda did to make what could have been a very difficult situation go smoothly and seamlessly. She is a truly good, caring person, a calming force in stressful situations, a phenomenal doula, and just plain wonderful in every way! I highly highly recommend her! My only complaint? She can't be here with me 24/7 for the next 18 years. ~Bree V. from Mission Viejo, CA
The postpartum period can be a challenging, yet awe-inspiring time for new parents, and having a postpartum doula can help get things started on a smooth note. Postpartum doulas in Southern California offer physical, emotional, and informational support to new parents and help them navigate the weird, exciting, and surprising moments of the postpartum period. If you're an expecting parent, consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you adjust to your new role and new reality. By offering support in a variety of areas, a postpartum doula can help you feel more confident and capable with your newborn, and can greatly improve the postpartum experience for the whole family unit.
Click here to learn more about the offerings of postpartum doula Amanda Cagle in the Orange County and LA area, including financial planning info and scheduling considerations!
About the author: Amanda Cagle is the owner of Your Birth Team, a full-service perinatal education and support practice. She serves Orange County, Long Beach, and some surrounding areas of Southern California and has been a doula since 2011. Amanda provides compassionate, evidence-based care to families of all types and offers extensive financial aid to families who qualify for Medi-Cal, SNAP benefits, TANF or WIC. Amanda is also a birth and documentary family photographer. Her images are denoted with a Vitae Studios watermark.