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Tips for New Moms: What is a Postpartum Doula?

By Kristen Kardos

DONA International explains a doula as follows;

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.


The primary role of the postpartum doula is to mother the mother.  How does she do that?  The doula will listen to the mother as she shares her birth story, her struggles with motherhood, her concerns, and her joys.  She will assist the mother with light housework, meal preparations, infant care, keeping siblings entertained, and even social tasks like communicating with friends & family as appropriate.  A large part of her role is to educate the mother (and father).  The doula wants to help increase the mother’s confidence, nurture the entire family, and allow the parents to feel comfortable in their new roles.  As a DONA trained post partum doula myself, I think it’s important that a post partum doula offers significant emotional support while taking care of daily tasks that may seem overwhelming.  Whether it is helping with laundry, preparing light meals, allowing the mom to nap while the infant is cared for, teaching the mother how to swaddle, wear, or care for her new baby, the doula needs to be attentive to the specific needs of each mom.  At the end of the day, the mother should feel stronger and well cared for.

The training of a post partum doula may vary depending on whether or not they are certified (and through which program they trained) and what their work experience may be.  Through the DONA certification program, post partum doulas must complete a training of 27 hours of more, attend breast feeding workshops, read several books about childbirth and family support, maintain infant/adult cpr and first aid certification, work with three families (or more) and have them complete evaluations, write about their work experience, create a master list of local resources, and have professional references from within the community.  It’s important to note that the DONA certification process is extensive and offers a lot of insight for training doulas to fully comprehend the variety of experiences they may encounter as well as the ways in which they can be most valuable for a family.

Is a doula right for you?  Only you can answer that.  However, knowing that a professional is available for hire provides some comfort.  You need not do this alone.  If you don’t have family in the area who can help you (or even if you do!), you may want to consider meeting with a few doulas to see who might be a good fit for your family.  You can begin talking with doulas while you are pregnant or you may realize that you could benefit from this kind of support after the baby has arrived.  Either way, know that if you hire a trained doula she will be there to support you and your family, to provide education and referrals as needed, and to help you increase your self-confidence as you find your way through new motherhood.

Kristen Kardos, MA Ed., and Kathy McGuigan, MSW, the co-founders of RI New Moms Connection, provide affordable, accessible pregnancy and new mom groups throughout Rhode Island. In “Tips for New Moms” they share their knowledge, resources, and helpful ideas for moms just beginning their journey into parenthood or moms who may need a little refresher.

Editor’s Note: Although “Tips for New Moms” is written with the new mom in mind–to support women in their journey through motherhood–it is certainly not the authors’ intention to exclude dads. Every new parent will find their tips, resources, and insights helpful. I invite all moms and dads to share ideas on how they manage their new role as a parent with Kidoinfo in the comments below.

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  • I couldn’t agree more… For my second child, my birth doula, Danielle Cavallacci, was absolutely wonderful both before and during the labor. But when I look back to the time after he was born, man, I really, really wish I had called someone. My husband even told me to! I was completely post-partum, my older child was a nightmare, and the little guy was so colicky.

  • great article kristen!

    i had wonderful birth doulas at both of my births, and they also provided some post-partum follow-up/care, but looking back i really wish i had hired a post-partum doula as well…especially for my second baby.

  • i did not have the foresight to see how helpful a postpartum doula would be, but realized after the birth that i was intensely overwhelmed. i hired leah decesare who was so compassionate, knowledgable, and helpful. she helped me learn soothing techniques for baby and encouraged me through my rocky adventures with breastfeeding. i highly recommend her!

  • Since my family is several states away, I had always wanted to try a postpartum doula with my babies. I was so happy to have an opportunity to try one with my third child! The extra support was invaluable!