There is no greater life change than becoming a mother. The physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy, labor and birth end with vulnerable ,dependent newborn to care for. The adjustments required for the new family can be very complex. Not having sleep, hormonal changes, breastfeeding difficulties and unrealistic expectations leave many new mothers and partners feeling overwhelmed in their new role.
Currently, in our society, there is a gap in postpartum support. Women typically only see the pediatrician during the first six weeks, and the focus tends to be only on medical concerns regarding the newborn. Frequently, partners need to return to work rather quickly, grandparents live far away, and often work full time. Very often mothers lack the confidence needed to smoothly transition into their new role. While information is readily available online, there is too much conflicting information which can overwhelm new mothers.
Research and evidence has shown that women who receive support postpartum support have greater breastfeeding success, greater self confidence, lower postpartum depression and a lower incidence of abuse than those who do not have support. Having postpartum support represents a significant health benefit that should afforded to every new family.
Coming to assist the mother during the “fourth trimester” in the home, brings a different type of care to families. Listening to mothers, and families, answering their questions, offering non-judgmental support, providing tips about breastfeeding , providing education and assisting with other children in the family all help the mother feel more secure, less stressed and more relaxed, which can all help the mother bond with her baby. By nurturing and listening, postpartum doulas help in the processing of the new role of a mother. By providing reassurance of a mother’s intuitive abilities, postpartum doulas help mother navigate and gain confidence as a mother. When a mother feels this type of support, she will learn her own parenting style and feel more confident implementing it.
Postpartum doulas bring evidence-based information on normal physical and emotional birth recovery, infant care, breastfeeding ,parent-child bonding and coping skills to the new family. This is important when there is conflicting information by well meaning friends and family. When a situation falls outside of what appears normal, postpartum doulas refer to to outside medical practitioners, thereby allowing mothers to get help earlier before problems begin to escalate-whether it is a lactation consultant, psychologist or counselor or support group.
The role of the postpartum doula is to nurture the mother and the family, hear what she is saying, support her needs, offer an extra hand, do chores in the home, model behavior for mothers and family members, offer referrals for outside assistance and provides emotional and practical support to the mother. The fourth trimester is a delicate, special time. During this time, the mother and family who are well supported, relaxed and confident have a better chance of transitioning more easily than the mother and family who is left to face this process without any real hands-on support.