Overnight Postpartum Doula Support: Podcast Episode #110
Kristin Revere chats with Kay Vorce, postpartum and sleep consultant at Gold Coast Doulas about the benefits of overnight postpartum doula support! They also discuss the difference between the terms night nurse, newborn care specialist, night nanny and postpartum doula.
Hello! This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am chatting with Kay Vorce, who is another Kristin. We actually have three Kristins on the Gold Coast team, and Kay decided to give herself a nickname. She’s actually Kristin! Welcome!
Hey, thanks so much for having me on!
Happy to have you hear, Kay! I would love to start by having you give our listeners a bit of insight into your professional background before you became a sleep consultant with Gold Coast Doulas and an overnight postpartum doula with us.
Yeah, absolutely. Happy to share. My journey with this field of mom and baby and with baby care started when I had my son who’s now almost five. He was just a really difficult sleeper. I was very sleep deprived. I was basically miserable. It was starting to affect my relationships and my family. And I come from a rehab background. I was trained in traumatic brain injury rehab. So I’m really used to looking at goals and what it’s going to take to achieve those goals. When someone told me about a sleep consultant, I was like, oh, my gosh, I need one of those ASAP! And I hired one, and I worked with her. I started to kind of see some parallels between what I would do in rehab and then when I was working with the sleep consultant, what she was doing with me.
And I thought, you know what? I think that I could become a sleep consultant, and I think I would be good at it. So I was certified, and the rest is basically history. I started working with clients right off the bat. I have a knack for it, I can humbly tell you. And from there, I started to notice that by the time a client got to me, they were pretty much already at their wits’ end. When I was asking them to start this sleep plan, and they basically had no reserves, I started to think, wow. I see this need for someone to be in the home. I see this need for someone to be there, helping parents build up some reserves in order to even get over the hump of what it will take to get their baby sleeping in healthier patterns.
With Gold Coast, you guys being so awesome and having this kind of full menu of services, I am now able to do both. So I work with tired families doing consultations for sleep, and then I’m also helping out as a postpartum doula in the home, which honestly is just something that I really love to do, and it’s such a necessary field.
It is, and that’s our topic for today’s conversation: overnight postpartum doula support. One thing to mention with our four sleep consultants that we have, including yourself: there is a pause period before you start consulting, and certainly the postpartum doulas can do some sleep shaping and the newborn care specialists on our team, but you don’t do sleep consulting with a newborn, where our postpartum doulas can start in the hospital or day one getting home.
Yeah, exactly. No, that’s a really good point. Thanks for bringing that up. There’s sleep shaping, and then there’s the “sleep training,” or what I would call sleep teaching, because that’s really what we’re doing is we’re teaching your baby a new way to sleep. But the sleep teaching or the sleep training doesn’t really get the green light until about 16 weeks or after in terms of any kind of formal sleep training. Prior to that, it is all sleep shaping: building healthy routines, healthy sleep habits. And that is something that a postpartum doula is trained on to do. It’s a really nice kind of seamless transition that we can make by helping parents in the home with sleep shaping, sleep routines. And then if needed, moving into a little bit more of a formal sleep training when they’re old enough to actually learn the skills to sleep more independently.
Love it. So walk us through a typical night as an overnight postpartum doula and infant care specialist.
Great question. It really looks different for every single client because every single client has different needs. A typical night might be – and I’ll just maybe think of a recent client that I’ve had in the last year. A typical night might look like, night one, I come in. Parents are overwhelmed. Brand new baby at home. Whether it’s their first baby or they have toddler or preschool siblings – either way, it’s just overwhelming. And so when I show up at their home, it’s basically just give me the download on what’s been happening since you’ve been home. Maybe they’ve had baby a couple nights on their own, and maybe it’s their first night home. So there’s so many nuances to how it all starts, but basically what I do is I go in and I just say, what do you need from me? Like, what do you need? Do you need a couple of hours of sleep? And maybe you’re working on breastfeeding, and I can bring baby to you in a couple of hours. We can feed baby; you can feed baby, I can help with latching, basic latching. Those kinds of things, and then you give baby back to me and I burp and resettle and get baby back to sleep.
Or maybe mom is formula feeding, and I can do all of the infant care overnight, and mom and dad can just sleep or tend to their other child, something like that. It looks a little bit different for overnight care for every family. Sometimes I have a lot of interaction with Mom and Dad overnight, and sometimes I have very little interaction. It really does depend on the client need.
Yeah. At Gold Coast, our minimum overnight shift is eight hours, but we certainly have clients who want ten or twelve hours of sleep, so we’re pretty flexible. And you work sometimes with a family as the only doula in their home, and then because we have a large team, some of our clients want help seven days and seven nights a week. We have a good portion of our team working seamlessly with a family. So explain what that might look like.
Yeah, I really feel like this is what sets Gold Coast Doulas apart is that we are really good at continuity of care. If you are a tired mom and you want support five, six, seven nights a week, like Kristin said, we have the capability to provide that with multiple doulas. One, two, sometimes three overnight doulas, as well as different day doulas. But we’re really good at communicating behind the scenes with each other, and we also have systems in place that allow us to share information. In a client’s home, we keep a journal that we can keep notes in that is fully accessible to the client, as well as the doula coming in, to read what happened exactly the night before. Maybe the feeds went up from 35 to 45 mLs overnight. These are just really important things to know. Let’s say that one doula has this great burping technique that’s specific for this particular baby that works really well. That’s all being shared with each other. So we’re able to really come in night by night, day by day, and pick up the ball seamlessly. And that just provides a level of peace for these moms and dads and families who really just want trusted care, and that we are going to continually move your baby forward as they grow and change so much in those first couple of months.
Yeah. And you love working with twins. At Gold Coast, we work with twins and triplets. What does it look like to support twins overnight?
Yeah, love twins. Twins are just a whole other ballgame. Obviously, you have two babies, but you really do need to have some tools in your toolbelt to just make sure that you have really good systems in place for how you’re going to provide care overnight. So it might look like tandem feeding when babies are able to have a tandem feed. Can we start working on getting babies eating overnight at the same time so that way when Mom and Dad have their first night alone, we can show them some tips to work on cutting these feeds down from 90 minutes to feed both babies back to back. Here’s how we can start doing a tandem feed. From there, we can kind of help guide parents. You’ve got Baby A who can probably do six hours, and Baby B can only do three, so when is the right time to let Baby A keep sleeping, to only feed Baby B? There’s just a lot of different nuances to twins. It comes with experience of systems, how to care for them, how to quickly soothe them, how to burp one while the other one is still eating. We’re great at that at Gold Coast, and we have a couple of twin experts on our team, too, which really sets us apart.
It does, for sure. And some doulas prefer to work with one doula, and that’s totally okay. I’m glad that we have quite a few twin experts and triplet experts on our team.
Let’s talk about the average amount of nights per week a client would work with you for and how long of a stretch, and then we can get into some variations of that.
Absolutely. Probably three to four times a week is a good amount, and it doesn’t have to be that many, but I find that three times a week is just a really nice rhythm starting out. As we have just talked about, it can be up to seven nights a week. These are clients who just might need that additional level of support for various reasons. Maybe they have a demanding job they need to get back to sooner than later. Maybe their husband is traveling, and they have no help overnight. But by and large, three to four nights is a great starting point. It gives some respite for additional sleep but it also allows mom and dad to just experience baby a little bit overnight, too. It’s just a really nice balance.
And then in terms of duration of support, we do provide postpartum doula support up through the first year. So we can help out with – and sometimes in the beginning, I’m there a lot, and then as time goes by, I can help with mom or dad’s back to work transition. And then maybe after that, it is coming in and just providing some respite or some overnight support for a parent who’s traveling out of town. It can really look like lots of different things, but I personally love to work with clients for the first three months, through typically if there’s a working mom, helping mom get back to work. I find that’s a really good rhythm for what I do.
Yes, I would agree. And it does vary based on need. Again, your typical client, they either are planning for postpartum support in pregnancy and then want that help right away, or they’re so sleep deprived, and a friend tells them about newborn care specialists, overnight doulas, and then they call us, saying I wish I knew about you before, and I need you tonight. We can fill that need because we have a big team.
Absolutely. And yeah, you’re so right. We do have – I mean, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “Oh, my gosh, I wish I would have known about you sooner!” Because it’s true. Sometimes it’s that moms are networking with each other, and someone has heard of a postpartum doula and overnight doula and tells their friend, hey, listen, I don’t know if you know that Gold Coast Doulas provides overnight support. And then, yes, we come in and we’re right there, ready. We can be there the day that you call. We can have a qualified doula at your home, ready to provide much needed overnight care.
Yeah. And certainly awareness is spreading about postpartum doulas in general. I feel like birth doulas are finally becoming quite well known and popular, but there’s still a lot of education about what we do that would be different from, say, a night nanny or the former term “baby nurse” that is now newborn care specialist. So let’s get into a bit about the differences in training and education and our specialty.
Yes, definitely. Yeah, I am a certified postpartum and infant care doula. So what that means is that I’m specifically trained outside of what your nanny can do. I’m specifically trained in, first of all, like we already said, baby sleep shaping, baby routines, all things infant care. We don’t dive in terms of infant care as much as a newborn care specialist. They are aptly named. They truly are a newborn care specialist, and I am an infant care doula.
Also, with the postpartum part of my title, basically, that means that I’m trained on how to mother the mother. I am trained on how to give our clients the most satisfying postpartum period possible. Whereas a newborn care specialist is going to have most of their focus on the baby, and a postpartum infant care doula, which is why I love what I do, is I do both. I’m able to come in and mother the mother, and then I’m also able to provide that vital infant care support.
Yes, exactly. And I happen to be both a postpartum doula and a newborn care specialist, a graduate from Newborn Care Solutions. In our training, it’s not medical, but it covers a lot of conditions that babies have to be able to give referrals, and it is that training focused on caring for baby, and a lot of overnight work, a lot of travel work, a lot of live-in contracts. So it’s nice that we have a mix of overnight postpartum doulas, as well as newborn care specialists who can give customized support based on what each client wants. But as you mentioned, feeding support; recovery support; the emotional support and recognizing any sort of mood disorders and postpartum depression signs and being able to talk through that and give resources, as well.
Absolutely. Most of our culture now is very aware of things like postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression. And those are all things that I, when I come into your home, I am looking, and I want to make sure that mamas are okay and that mamas know that they have me, and I am not judgmental. You know, you cannot shock me with everything that you’re going through and during your postpartum period. And I think that’s a big relief for moms who, even their best friends, they sometimes don’t feel comfortable talking about the things that I get into with mamas, and especially that maybe they don’t feel comfortable talking with their mom or their mother-in-law because they might feel like they’re going to get judged. Well, a postpartum doula, we are not going to judge you. We are trained in screening. We’re going to give you resources and referrals. And again, we want you to have a satisfying postpartum period. It does not need to be a sleep deprived, miserable stupor. It really doesn’t. I think that is our biggest challenge in this field, just continuing to get the word out on how vital this is.
Exactly. There’s so much education that is needed, and the support is so important. I know with inflation and prices increasing, you really have to be intentional with your budget, but many of our clients are being gifted postpartum support by friends and family members, or they’re using their health savings or flex spending. I’m thrilled to see so many employers adding doulas to their benefits and programs like Carrot Fertility to make it easier to pay for the support that is so necessary.
Yeah, it’s about time, you know? I mean, here in America, we don’t have the greatest maternity leave benefits for our moms, and then couples with sometimes just budgeting constraints, there can be some barriers to overcome in getting this care. So yeah, I definitely agree. And as we’ve said, it doesn’t need to be four times a week for three months. There’s definitely – even coming in for a week or two right at the beginning and just helping some of the physical healing, to get by and get past that physical healing, and then maybe they have a little bit more reserves to tackle some of the more sleepless nights. Really, any kind of care that you can get in those vital early days, it’s just not going to be wasted money. It’s just not. I’ve never, ever heard from a client that they felt like it was wasted money. I totally agree with you; I’m so glad that we’re seeing insurance benefits taking this, and that more people are understanding what we do.
Yeah. Unfortunately, general insurance does not cover it, but some of these add-on maternity benefits are, so I’m very thankful for that. As you said with starting whenever that support is needed, or pausing and then calling us – I do find, and I’m thankful for this, as well, that paternity leaves have been extended for many of our clients, which is great. For some of our clients who are on a budget, they will wait until the partner goes back to work and may have us for daytime support initially versus those longer stretches, and then once the partner goes back and needs to be at the top of the game to get back efficiency-wise at work, then we will come in for multiple overnights during weekdays, or some families, again, want us seven nights a week. And then there are those clients where the mom is the one who wants to be refreshed and has a very demanding career. We work with medical professionals and CEOs and management level executives who need to get back to peak performance, as well, so it’s not just their partner.
Yeah, absolutely, and it is really nice in the early days when mom and dad are both there and they’re tag teaming and they can help with keeping each other rested. But as we know, that doesn’t go on forever, so yes, that’s a good strategy, and a strategy that a lot of parents do is like, okay, we’re feeling like we can tackle the first eight weeks with maybe my mom coming and then my husband is going to be here and we’re going to do this. But then when that changes and we need to be a little bit more on, like you said, and we really just can’t be sleep deprived, or frankly, the emotional impact of sleep deprivation. So sometimes we do come in later and we are able to provide that overnight support when both parents are already back to work. There’s nothing that says that we need to be there right from the beginning after birth. It really does look unique for everyone. You know, that’s how we started this conversation. I think it being unique for everyone – just give us a call. We’ll talk through what’s going to be the best. I mean, this is what we do. We can help guide what’s going to be the most beneficial support.
Exactly. And I have found since I’ve talked to all of our potential clients who call in or email to Gold Coast – I find very few grandparents willing to take those overnight shifts, and I honestly don’t blame them. So they’re often able to help during the day, whether they’re traveling in for a week or two or live nearby, but it’s really hard on them to do overnights. And also, so much has changed with feeding and safe sleep. We keep up to date on all recalls and are able to do some education for grandparents who are caregiving during the day with our grandparents class.
Absolutely, and there’s really just no price on your peace of mind. I know that sometimes if you have someone in your home, I think back to the early days. I have a 15-year-old now, and I think back to my mom helping out overnight; bless her heart. I couldn’t even sleep because I was nervous that my mom wasn’t going to be able to do it. Even though she was there, like you said, just the peace of mind of knowing that you have a professional in your home and knowing that they know about babies and they know what baby is going to need and they know about safe sleep and they know about all those things – it is different, and our clients have that peace of mind where they can actually rest and know that their baby is in good hands.
And similar with daytime nannies, we’re able to communicate and talk about the napping schedule and try to get the whole family aligned if there are other caregivers in the house during the day that we’re not actually seeing. We’re able to show them the logs, keep in touch, find out how napping is going, and have as seamless a transition as possible.
Absolutely. That is the goal.
Any other tips or topics that we didn’t mention related to overnight postpartum and newborn care?
Yeah, I think the biggest takeaway to overnight care is that a lot of us moms, we’re pull up our bootstraps kind of gals. We’re so used to kind of getting it done. We’re going to do it, and we’re going to be okay. It’s not going to last, and we’re going to do it, and we’re going to tough it out. But I would just encourage all of us moms in solidarity to say that we really can’t do everything on our own, and it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help. And sleep deprivation does not make anything better. It only makes things harder. And so by preventing that from the get go, or by asking for help when it gets really bad, you just won’t regret it. I think the key takeaway is that you’re worth it. And it is a good thing to get help where you need it.
Absolutely. My final takeaway is that, again, that term, postpartum doula, isn’t my favorite because so many people think that you only need a postpartum or infant care doula if you’re suffering from postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorders because that term, “I had postpartum,” instead of the range of time after having your baby, it’s used to refer to postpartum depression. So I often have casual conversations in public about postpartum doulas, and I hear, “Oh, I had postpartum,” or, “I didn’t need one because I wasn’t struggling mentally,” so there’s some of that to overcome in our industry.
Yeah. That term postpartum is now synonymous with, like you said, the different postpartum ailments that can happen with your emotions and hormones crashing after the postpartum period. But yes, the term postpartum just simply means that period after you had a baby. So there is a bit of terms and terminology and education to overcome with the term postpartum doula, but yes, the terms overnight doula, like you already said; baby nurse, things like that – those are all terms that people are already familiar with, and so whatever kind of helps people to understand the spectrum of what we do, I think, is helpful.
Exactly. And I’ll often use postnatal support to clarify the difference. Well, thank you for all of your information and insight. We are so thankful to have you on Team Gold Coast, Kay.
Well, thanks, Kristin. I appreciate being able to talk about what I do. I love it, and yeah, if anybody would like to get in touch with me personally, I would love to chat.
Yes, and we are on so many social media channels. You can find us at Gold Coast Doulas. We’re on Instagram and Facebook. We have a Pinterest page, and we’re on YouTube and trying to be more active on YouTube. You’ve got some videos on there that are big hits. Of course, people can hire you if they live in West Michigan. We also have overnight support in northern Michigan and southwest Michigan, but you focus more on clients in Grand Rapids, as well as some of those lakeshore communities.
Yes. We have a large team of doulas. I think every single one of them is amazing. Yes, get in touch with us if you live along the gold coast. Visit us on our social channel or our website, and give us a call.