What is a postpartum doula?
I love love love being outside -- fresh air and sunshine are great for everyone! It's fun to go to playgrounds and just hang out.
OK, now that we’re all on the same page!
Are you still pregnant? Or have you had your baby/babies and need help NOW?
If you have more time to plan, a good first step is to do some internet research. Start at doulamatch.net – you enter your zip code and EDD (estimated date of delivery) and get all the “matching” doulas in your area. You can see what typical rates are and work it into your budget (and/or request funds for it in your baby registry!).
Are you having a planned C-section? Do you have older children at home?
These are both excellent reasons to plan for additional help.
Do you have any other postpartum help available?
Some families are blessed with nearby, young yet retired grandmothers who love babies and are thrilled to help. Other families are new in town and don’t know a soul – and relatives who want to be involved but can’t take a long time off work. Others are raising a baby without any help from a partner for a variety of reasons.
All this will affect how long you’d want to hire a doula for and when (maybe the first day you’re home from the hospital? Or Sunday nights when you go back to work?). But, hiring a postpartum doula is never a bad idea, no matter however much help you have lined up!
The postpartum doula knows what to do and just does it, she makes sure you are all fed and watered and clean and rested, she’s happy to offer newborn care advice if asked and is free with compliments on what a great job you’re doing (because you are). I could go on.
So, briefly, what are your choices?
Overnight care: A lifesaver for multiple babies and hard-working families. Not cheap (around here it costs around $35/hour with an 8-hour minimum) it is nevertheless a popular option for families who can afford it. Even for families with less money to throw around, a good night’s sleep is priceless – I know I would have paid good money for eight hours in a row when my older son was a can't-put-him-down infant!
Breastfeeding mothers will either provide bottles of expressed milk or formula, or the doula takes the baby to her when it’s time to nurse. Usually, mom will text when they’re finished and the doula takes over with diapers and swaddling and sleeping. Some doulas also do quiet household chores (like laundry) overnight or set up the kitchen for breakfast.
Daytime care: In Chicago, costs for this range from $25-$30/hour, usually with a set minimum of about four hours. In this type of work (my favorite!) the doula “mothers” the new family by keeping up with bothersome daily chores (laundry, dishes, picking up); making sure everyone eats; making sure everyone is as clean as they want to be and gets some downtime; is typically a nice person who loves babies and has lots of experience and wisdom to share; is a warm and friendly visitor who you trust with your baby while you take a shower (or go to Target).
When I describe this service to parents, no matter how old their kids are, their eyes get big and they say, “Oh, I wish I had had one of those.” Believe me, we all do.
(Next in Part Two: Choosing your doula and questions to ask)