When I gave birth to our baby boy more than seven months ago, I had an idea of how a newborn would transform our lives. That idea included support from three different family members plus my husband, providing coverage for the first four or five weeks of Gabriel’s life. We also hoped to have my husband home for the majority of the two weeks he would have off work.
The reality fell far short. I gave birth early on a Tuesday morning, and had been admitted the night before. We didn’t leave the hospital until Thursday, which meant that nearly half of my husband’s time off was used up in the hospital. After he went back to work, my mom came down during the day for four days. Family circumstances and lack of vacation schedules made it impossible to get any other help.
We didn’t know there was more support available. If you’re pregnant, or shopping for baby shower gifts for a pregnant friend or family member, you’ll want to look into Postpartum Doulas.
What Is A Postpartum Doula?
Most of you reading are probably aware of doulas. Doulas are women who are experienced moms and received additional training and certification to help you and your partner through childbirth. Whether it’s your first baby or you’re a veteran mom, doulas can be a great resource for childbirth.
Postpartum Doulas provide that much-needed but often neglected support after your baby is born. Postpartum doulas ease the transition of a new baby with a variety of services and support.
The scope of a postpartum doula changes with each family she works with, but typically includes hands-on assistance with the baby, breastfeeding support, household chores, errands, meals, and helping other family members adjust to the baby, too. And – this could be the best part – they do night shifts, too.
Can you imagine? Having a trusted, experienced friend by your side – day or night – in the first weeks of becoming a new mom? And you get to pick who that person is? Mind. Blown.
We had no idea postpartum doulas were even a thing when we gave birth to Gabriel. Admittedly, it took me weeks to become confident and comfortable with my baby for long stretches of time. Gabriel was colicky for several weeks, hardly slept, and despite nursing successfully, it took awhile to truly bond with him. I was beyond exhausted and still healing from an episiotomy. Keeping up with normal household chores was overwhelming. If I could’ve hired someone to make those early days easier, you bet I would’ve.
Pittsburgh Postpartum Doulas
In Pittsburgh, there are three main organizations offering postpartum doula services:
Pittsburgh Doula Network (PDN) is the only one specializing in postpartum doulas. (Their sister organization, Birth Doulas of Pittsburgh, specializes in birth and labor doulas.) PDN was founded in 2000. The goal of their postpartum doulas is to work themselves out of a job. They’re in clients’ homes, side-by-side, to make the adjustment easier. In addition to the basic scope of services I talked about earlier, PDN also provides private childbirth services, lactation support, and bereavement services. Their doulas carry certifications in lactation, yoga, Lamaze, Kangaroo Care, and nutrition. Each doula they employ is also certified in infant CPR, has Act 33/34 child clearances, and is insured. Extra peace of mind!
According to Director Heather Bradley, “We adore babies and love watching women become mothers and men become fathers. The work is very fulfilling and we are honored to be of service to new families, trusting us to come into their homes at this very special time and serve them.”
I remember after Gabriel was born, my husband made me breakfast and lunch every day. I sat on the couch with the baby or napped, and he took care of the meals, laundry, and other chores, plus changed pretty much all the diapers that first week. My mom did the same when she came down. When they left, so did my support. Suddenly, I didn’t have time to make breakfast, let alone eat it. The dishes always piled up. I tried to nap when Gabriel did, but it was hard.
If you’ll find yourself in a similar scenario, and you live within 30 miles of Pittsburgh, you’re in luck: now that you know about postpartum doulas, you can hire one!
Pricing details are on each organization’s website. PDN has straight hourly rates plus three packages (and gift certificates – perfect for baby showers!). Their daytime rate is $25/hr (four-hour minimum) plus one-time fees to get started. Nighttime rates are still $25/hr but require at least eight hours. A 90-minute lactation support session is $120.
Heather says that the average engagement lasts six to eight weeks, although as long as you adhere to the minimum hourly requirement, you can hire your postpartum doula for as little time as you need. They often keep in touch with their clients and community and develop long-lasting friendships: “Pittsburgh is such a small town. My teenagers frequently meet friends or have classmates that were former babies I took care of!”
Choosing a Postpartum Doula
You’ll want to make sure the doula you hire is a good fit for your family, since she’ll be in your home and spending a lot of one-on-one time with you and your baby. DONA International has a great guide to help you find the perfect doula.
As Heather pointed out, “You are going to get lots of different advice and most of it is correct, but you just have to select which works best for you.” A postpartum doula can help you figure out what works for you, your baby, and your family.
Having a baby is such an amazing experience, but it’s also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Even with a strong support system, which I have, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. And sometimes, your family and friends don’t always know what you want, and you might be uncomfortable asking for it (“I see you brought me food, but can you just leave it on the porch so I can go back to sleep?” or “Thanks for visiting! See that pile of dishes?”).
Postpartum doulas fill that gap. Lucky for us in Pittsburgh, we’ve got great resources, like PDN.
Have you ever used a postpartum doula? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments!
Look for the Pittsburgh Doula Network team at Bloom, Pittsburgh Moms Blog’s signature event for new and expectant moms on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at Allegheny Health Network’s Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion.