Welcome to the wonderful world of postnatal doulas, where support and care extend beyond the daylight hours, ensuring that you and your newborn can rest peacefully during those crucial overnight hours. While overnight postpartum doulas have at times been criticized (see our response here), we think they are absolutely worth their weight in gold!  If you are a new parent or expecting, you might be wondering what an overnight postnatal or postpartum doula does and how their services can help make your transition into parenthood smoother. In this blog, we’ll discuss the role of an overnight doula, how they can assist you during those nighttime hours, typical hours and costs, and even explore options for those concerned about the expense.

The Overnight Postnatal Doula: A Guardian of Nighttime Peace

First, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a postnatal doula? A doula is a trained and compassionate person who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to new parents. They offer assistance during the postnatal period, or the time after birth, helping parents navigate the challenges and joys of early parenthood.

Tasks and activities vary depending on individual doula preference, but these are some things most overnight postnatal doulas offer:

  • Nighttime Care: An overnight doula steps in during those long and sometimes sleepless nights, allowing you to get the rest you desperately need. They can take care of the baby’s nighttime feedings, diaper changes, and soothing, so you can catch up on some much-needed sleep. Alternatively they can do all of the in between things, like preparing for feedings, changing diapers, and cleaning up so you and baby still have time together.

  • Support and Guidance: Doulas are not just baby whisperers; they’re also there to support you emotionally and provide guidance. They listen to your concerns, offer infant care tips, and help you navigate the challenges of early parenthood.

  • Encouragement and Reassurance: Being a new parent can be overwhelming, especially at night. Overnight doulas provide encouragement and reassurance, helping you build confidence in your parenting abilities. Having an extra person at night can also ease the isolation some parents and especially those body feeding or pumping can feel in those wee hours.

  • Light Household Tasks: While their primary focus is on the baby and parents, doulas may also help with light household tasks like baby laundry, tidying up, or preparing snacks for the night.

Typical Hours and Costs

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

Now, let’s talk about the practicalities. Overnight doula services typically involve a doula coming to your home during the evening hours and staying through the night to provide support.

Here’s what you can expect:

Most overnight doula shifts start around 9 PM and end around 6 AM, although this can vary depending on your specific needs and the doula’s availability.

You can schedule overnight doula support on specific nights that work for you, whether it’s a few nights a week or on an as-needed basis.

The hourly rate for an overnight doula can vary widely based on location, experience, and specific services offered.

On average, you can expect to pay between $30 to $60 per hour. Some doulas may offer package deals for a set number of overnight shifts, which can be more cost-effective than hourly rates.

Why the Cost of Postnatal Doulas Can Be Prohibitive

While the support of an overnight doula can be invaluable, it’s essential to acknowledge that the cost can be prohibitive for some families.

The expenses of pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood can add up quickly.

However, there are strategies to make this support more accessible:

  • Ask for Funds Towards an Overnight Doula Instead of Clothes and Toys: When friends and family ask what you need for your new arrival, consider suggesting that they contribute towards an overnight doula service instead of purchasing traditional baby gifts. This not only helps offset the cost but also provides you with the precious gift of rest and support. If you are within 20 miles of the Edmonds, WA area, you can add one of our postnatal/postpartum shifts here.
  • Search for Sliding Scale or Pro Bono Doula Services: Don’t hesitate to explore sliding scale or pro bono doula services. Some doulas offer reduced rates or even volunteer their services to families in need. Reach out to local doula organizations or online communities to find resources in your area.
  • Save During Your Pregnancy: While planning for the arrival of your baby, consider budgeting and saving for postnatal support, including overnight doula services. Putting aside a little each month during your pregnancy can help you cover the cost when the time comes.
  • Ask family and friends: You can also consider asking family and friends for this kind of support. Some friend groups will do this for whoever just had a baby. It can feel hard to ask for help sometimes, but this is a great way to lean on your community and support each other.

Setting Yourself Up for Success at Night

Now, let’s discuss strategies for setting yourself up for success at night if you don’t have access to overnight doula services. While doulas can be incredibly helpful, there are steps you can take to ensure more restful nights:

Sleep When the Baby Sleeps:

This age-old advice remains golden. Whenever possible, when your baby takes a nap during the day, use that time to catch up on your own sleep. This can help mitigate the effects of nighttime awakenings.

Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment:

Make your bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible. Consider blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and a comfortable mattress to maximize your chances of restorative sleep.

Team Up with Your Partner or Support Person:

If you have a partner or another support person in your life, take shifts with them. This way, you can alternate nighttime responsibilities and share the load. You should aim for each person to get 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. This is hugely protective from postpartum depression.

Limit Screen Time Before Bed:

Avoid screens before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from devices can interfere with your sleep quality. Instead, opt for relaxing activities like reading or gentle stretching.

Stay in bed for as long as possible:

In that newborn stage, you’ll likely have a sleepy baby. If you can, stay in bed in the morning hours for longer. Maybe you used to be up and around by 7, but if you haven’t gotten enough nighttime sleep, stretch your time in bed later in the day. Wake up to tend to the baby and then go back to sleep.

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

Reach Out for Help:

Don’t hesitate to seek help from friends and family. They may be willing to take on some nighttime baby duties, allowing you to get more sleep.

An overnight postnatal doula can be a lifeline during those challenging early weeks of parenthood, providing the support and rest you need to thrive. While the cost may be a concern for some, there are creative ways to make these services more accessible.

Whether you opt for overnight doula support or develop your nighttime strategies, remember that the journey into parenthood can be challenging and seeking support is a sign of strength and wisdom. Here’s to restful nights and joyful days with your new arrival!

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