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Woof! Nothing grinds my gears more than “mother” shaming. No matter how you choose to be pregnant, birth, or parent, someone out there will be ready to tell you that you are doing it wrong.

Beyond the basic lack of gender neutral language (not all birthing parents are mothers and some babies have two mothers), this take against postpartum overnight doulas lacks the understanding that doulas can provide invaluable support to families to help important bonds between baby and parents.

Here is the Text of what is shared in the slide show:

Slide#1 – “Unpopular opinion: Overnight postpartum doulas hurt the mother baby dyad.

Slide#2 – The care of overnight postpartum doulas is predicated largely upon the separation of motherbaby. Slide#3 – “Mom needs her sleep” therefore the baby’s biological need to be near the mother is neglected and the baby must rely on someone else at night time – typically a near stranger.

Slide#4 – Overnight postpartum doulas are most often utilized in the first few weeks of newborn life as parents adjust – these happen to be the most important weeks for breast milk supply + regulation.

Slide#5 – This also happens to be one of the largest transitions a baby will ever go through – no longer sleeping in mom’s belly but sleeping outside of the womb. A time where a baby yearns for maternal comfort and proximity.

Slide#6 – Postpartum mothers need support that does not rely on the separation of the mother and baby.”

Original Post is From: @radicallyrebekah (*Punctuation added for clarity)

Postpartum doulas bring a wealth of knowledge

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a baby being cradled with a parent's hand on their head with a very light pink background with peach water color circles and gold glitter accents

Postpartum doulas bring a wealth of knowledge to the families that they serve. Postpartum doulas can help families with baby feeding- chestfeeding, bottle, or combo-feeding.

This can mean that they will take over feedings to give the families more sleep or that they will bring the baby to the nursing parent(s) when the baby wakes to eat.

This can be such a huge help. Families can get the extra sleep they desperately need, while the doula can still help with establishing milk supply. And yes, this can all happen overnight. 

Addressing Maternal Well-being

The quote implies that overnight postpartum doulas focus solely on the birthing parent’s need for rest, neglecting the baby’s need for closeness.

However, one must recognize that well-rested parents are better equipped to provide the care and nurturing environment that the baby requires.

In the early weeks of postpartum life, sleep deprivation can lead to heightened stress levels, decreased milk supply, and difficulty in coping with the demands of a newborn. 

Lack of rest is a major cause of postpartum depression (Lewis, 2018). Having a well-rested attentive caregiver is integral to baby growth and development. 

Overnight postpartum doulas offer parents the chance to get a good night’s sleep, which is crucial for their physical and emotional well-being.

By ensuring that parents are well-rested, doulas indirectly contribute to the baby’s well-being by promoting healthier, more attentive, and emotionally stable parents.

Supporting Chest-feeding

Chest-feeding is a cornerstone of early infant care, and it is indeed essential to address any concerns that may hinder this process. Critics argue that overnight doulas may disrupt chest-feeding by taking over nighttime care, removing the baby from the lactating parent. However, the reality is quite the opposite.

Experienced overnight doulas are often trained in lactation support. They can assist birthing parents with proper positioning, latching techniques, and addressing any chest-feeding difficulties. This hands-on guidance can actually improve chest-feeding outcomes during the crucial early weeks when establishing a good latch and milk supply is paramount.

Also, it’s important to note that not all parents can or want to chest-feed. Some parents may prefer to formula feed or pump. Both are also great options! Overnight doulas can help with getting pumping parts ready, storing pumped milk, cleaning up afterwards, and feeding babies when they wake.

Your doula will support you in a number of ways

Offering Emotional Support

The transition into parenthood is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods in a person’s life.

It is not uncommon for new parents to experience feelings of isolation, anxiety, or postpartum depression. Overnight postpartum doulas can be a valuable source of emotional support during these vulnerable moments.

By providing a listening ear, offering practical advice, and ensuring that parents feel heard and understood, doulas contribute to a healthier and happier postpartum experience.

This emotional support can strengthen the bond between the gestational parent  and baby, rather than hinder it.

Facilitating Better Sleep Patterns

Sleep is crucial for both infants and parents. While the quote suggests that overnight doulas interfere with the baby’s need for maternal comfort, they can actually help establish healthy sleep patterns.

Doulas can employ gentle sleep teaching techniques that encourage babies to sleep for longer stretches at night, ultimately benefiting both parent and child.

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a mother and father cradling each other and a newborn on the father's shoulder with a beige background with green water color circle and gold glitter accents

Overnight Postpartum Doulas are Your Village . . .

Where’s the Village? 

Unfortunately, many new parents  have moved away from families or no longer keep ties with their  own birth families. Roles that previously would have been played by grandmothers, mothers, or aunts are now left unfilled and leave parents to do things alone. Overnight postpartum doulas can fill in this gap. To a new baby, anyone is a “stranger”, even a grandmother. But a caring and soothing care provider can still be a loving person to a baby. 

Overnight postpartum doulas play a valuable role in supporting parents and babies during the challenging early weeks of postpartum life. While it is essential to ensure that the dyad remains connected, doulas can enhance this connection by addressing the birthing parent’s physical and emotional needs, supporting chestfeeding, promoting healthy sleep patterns, and being part of the village. Rather than hurting the dyad, skilled and caring overnight postpartum doulas can be instrumental in nurturing it. 

Sources

Lewis, B. A., Gjerdingen, D., Schuver, K., Avery, M., & Marcus, B. H. (2018). The effect of sleep pattern changes on postpartum depressive symptoms. BMC women’s health, 18(1), 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-017-0496-6

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