What is a Doula?
The word ‘doula’, comes from a Greek word meaning, ‘woman servant or caregiver’. This has evolved to describe a woman who gives support and help to another woman during pregnancy, birth and in the postnatal period. Doulas provide emotional, practical and informational support.
Birth doulas provide continuous support through pregnancy, labour and birth and the immediate postnatal time.
Postnatal doulas usually start working with a family in the first few weeks after birth. Sometimes postnatal doulas are booked antenatally or after a baby is born when a family feels that they would benefit from some more support.
The tasks a postnatal doula can do vary greatly and one of the benefits of having a postnatal doula is that they are there to support the whole family, not carry out a specific task, so they do what is needed (within reason!)
How do postnatal doulas differ from maternity nurses and mother’s-helps?
Maternity nurses differ in that they usually provide around the clock baby care and advice about feeding, bathing, sleeping, clothing, establishing routines and physically performing all of these tasks as required. They often live with the family.
A postnatal doula is not there to take care of the baby for you. Instead she is there to ‘walk alongside you’, offering suggestions about all of the above, supporting and empowering you to be the parent that you want to be. Generally, a postnatal doula will not work as many hours as a maternity nurse.
Mother’s-helps entertain older children and help out with household tasks, particularly those that relate to babies and children in the household.
A postnatal doula is available to support practically so a family can feel on top of household management and can concentrate on being with their baby, as well as providing practical and emotional support to families with a new baby. Postnatal doulas can build confidence in empowering couples to observe and understand their baby and trust in their parenting instincts.