My role as a postpartum doula.
Our very own Jamie Platt, BSN, RN, CLC, CPST shares her personal insights on what it’s like to be a postpartum doula.
What is the role of a postpartum doula? What does it look like, and how might a doula support the breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby? A postpartum doula can take care of mom, baby, and the entire family. Sometimes mom needs emotional support, help around the house, or even just a nap! I’ve taken care of baby while mom takes a nice hot shower or has one-on-one time with older siblings. We’re also able to prepare meals and run errands. We help with newborn care; we serve a variety of moms from different cultural backgrounds and some families need help with bathing, breastfeeding, and diaper changes. Some of our doulas have had additional training regarding the care of multiples, or have multiples themselves!
I have completed special training in perinatal mood & anxiety disorders so that I am able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a variety of mood disorders. It’s important that mom receives help if she needs it, and the general Grand Rapids area has great resources that include therapists and community support groups. In fact, we have one of the few Mother Baby programs in the entire nation, which provides a day program where mom can bring baby with her while she receives treatment. It is critical that we recognize when a mom needs help, that we support her, and in turn reduce the stigma of postpartum mood & anxiety disorders. Postpartum doulas are right there in family’s homes and can be a direct source of help and information.
Doulas also provide overnight support, which can be so great for moms (and partners)! The entire family can get the sleep they need and mom can still breastfeed baby through the night. I like to think that when I show up to a family’s home at night, I am well rested and mom may be feeling tired- but when I leave in the morning, I leave with bags under my eyes and mom looks and feels like a goddess when she wakes up. That is my goal!
I also want to acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding while still respecting the needs of mom, which may include formula feeding. As a postpartum doula I provide nonjudgmental support, and I help mom reach the goals SHE wants – not me. I recently completed my Certified Lactation Counseling (or CLC) training. The CDC considers both CLC’s and IBCLC’s as professional lactation supporters.
So why is breastfeeding so difficult that mothers need help? Well, our culture has unrealistic expectations of what the newborn period is like. The fastest drop-off in breastfeeding rates occur in the first 10 days after hospital discharge. The main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is because they believe they don’t make enough milk, the baby won’t latch, and/or mom has sore or painful breasts. Breastfeeding rates drop again when mom has to return to work or school between 8-12 weeks. It is so important that as a community we support mothers who want to breastfeed. As doulas, we can help mom gain the confidence she needs, give basic breastfeeding information, and make appropriate referrals if needed. Gold Coast Doulas offers lactation support through our IBCLC, Shira Johnson, who makes home visits. Gold Coast also has other doulas who have other breastfeeding-specific training, like the CLC training. We know that breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both mom and baby, so it’s time that we start normalizing it, and again, support all moms regardless of their feeding choice.