The Postnatal Doula Supporting Fourth Stage

Written by Renee Adair

I got a phone call from a client on a Saturday afternoon while at a café with my partner recently, an inconsolable new mummy on the other end. “I didn’t think it was going to be so hard, I’m so tired and overwhelmed, he is not sleeping, so I’m not sleeping…………Crying, feeling helpless and with a rumble of guilt in her voice, she states “I even thought about chucking him out the window last night’! 

Listening to her for next 30 minutes, I validated her feelings and thoughts, I offered words of encouragement, gave her permission to howl and made sure she had support that evening. We soon had a good laugh and she felt more able to get on with the job of parenting, feeling somewhat lighter.  

I had seen this new mummy twice since the birth and we had had lots of phone contact. She had had a great birth experience but like so many women today was finding the immediate post partum period extremely challenging. 

I believe that the forth stage, which doesn’t get a great rap is the postnatal period from birth to six weeks. Traditionally in our culture, this time has unfortunately gained a negative and difficult cogitation.  A lot of us don’t have family close by and partners often don’t get to spend more than a couple of weeks at home post the birth. So much is happening from a physical, mental and physiologically point of view, for both mother and child.

The role of the Doula is as individual as her clients both during the labour and post the birth. Of course there are guidelines but essentially our main aim is to build confidence by mothering the mother…….So that women can birth their babies with strength and courage and in the postnatal phase we can make the transition into parenthood a little simpler and more enjoyable.  

The role of the postnatal Doula begins the moment the bubba is born and is placed on mum’s chest. Holding the space for the new mother and partner to see, hear, touch and smell their baby. Slowing down the sometimes-rushed process in a hospital of weighing and dressing the baby. And at home, working in conjunction with the midwife to welcome the baby slowly and allow him or her to unfold. 

Postnatal visits from your Doula can occur at any time post the birth and there is flexibility here according to how the birth has been and if there is extended family support or not. And doula support can last any where from a couple of visits to regular visits two to three times a week for up to two - three months.

 

Repeated studies undertaken in the US - Klaus, Kennel and Klaus have shown that by hiring a post natal doula women experience the following:

  • Improved breastfeeding outcomes

  • Decreased incidence of postpartum depression

  • Greater maternal satisfaction

  • Better mother-infant interaction/bonding

  • A post natal doula may offer a list of services with essentially the main aim to enable the mother and/or parents to readjust too and enjoy and concentrate on their new baby.

  • Be a sounding board for fears and feelings

  • Do light house duties

  • Offer breast/bottle feeding information and support

  • Offer placental encapsulation

  • Offer cups of tea ☺

  • Be ‘on call’ by phone 24hr/7 for a designated time post the birth

  • Have a list of relevant resources and refer on when needed 

  • Educate and assist siblings 

  • Create a support/food roster if wanted or needed

  • Refer mum/parents to a post natal support group

  • Build self confidence 

  • Prepare or bring a meal

  • Share strategies 

  • Share sleep and settling skills 

And the list can go on...

 

Post natal doulas vary from nannies in that a doula will focus more on the mother and other immediate family, allowing the mother to nurture her own baby. 

A nanny service would take the baby and tend to it.  We treat the family as a unit and praise all involved; we share relevant information and validate feelings from a non-judgmental place. 

The postnatal period is one that needs to be honored more in our culture. Traditionally, for centuries women supporting other women In the post natal period meant they could concentrate on learning the rhythm of their new baby and gain their strength to move into motherhood post the birth with confidence and joy.

We need to remember women are soft, vulnerable and often overwhelmed at this time. 

According to Beyond Blue post natal depression figures in Australia now hovers around16%. That is a big number!

There are may varied reasons for this, including unexpected labour and birth experiences and outcomes, the fact that our society has complicated breastfeeding like we have labour and birth and a lack of post natal support. Many mothers feel isolated and partners feel inadequate to support their wives/partners at this time of great change. 

Having a postnatal doula to help facilitate a smoother transition into parenthood is a great idea! Lets be gentle with our new mums and mother them so they can nurture and mother their new baby. 

Support is unconditional. It is listening.... not judging, not telling your own story. Support is not offering advice... it is offering a handkerchief, a touch, a hug...caring. We are here to help women discover what they are feeling... not to make the feelings go away. We are here to help a woman identify her options... not to tell her which options to choose. We are here to discuss steps with a woman... not to take the steps for her. We are here to help a woman discover her own strength... not to rescue her and leave her still vulnerable. We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself... not to take that responsibility for her. We are here to help a woman learn to choose... not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices.

~Anonymous~

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