Written by Janine Moore
The birth of a new child is an exciting and emotional time for families. However, in the traditional United States cultural these families do not always have the postpartum support they need to succeed. Therefore, it is vital that doulas offer this valuable postpartum support for the mother, the infant, and the partner in postpartum families.
First, postpartum support is invaluable for mothers. Women in the traditional U.S. culture often only have their hospital stay of a few days to have social support as their postpartum support. However, having postpartum in-home support can positively affect the entire postpartum period for a mother. This is shown by a report published by the Perinatal Education Department of Indiana Hospital-Pennsylvania, which said “confidence [of new mothers] does grow and is facilitated by having trustworthy people to reach out to or fall back on when you need them” (http://www.postpartum.net/build-support.html). Furthermore, this same report showed that new mothers need the most social support in the following areas: emotional support, social network support, esteem support, tangible support, and information support (http://www.postpartum.net/build-support.html). All of these areas are ones that a trained doula helps with, as illustrated by a doula acting as a parenting coach; tangibly helping with household tasks; and providing informative referrals for families. This valuable support can be provided by a doula when family and friends are unable, or unwilling, to provide this non-judgmental, active support. Additionally, when reading the evidence-based research found through DONA’s website, their research also show that women who have this support have “fewer instance of depression, better success with breastfeeding, and better self-confidence” (www.dona.org).
Next, postpartum support is invaluable for infants. Studies such as the new one by the State of World’s Mothers, show that what is good for the mother is good for the child (www.cnn.org). Therefore, helping parents to bond with infants will allow for more quality and quantity care from parents. This will in turn prompt better child development. Another valuable suggestion a doula can make is kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact, between parent and child. A recent study reported in Infants and Young Children magazine said kangaroo care can regulate body temperature for infants, cause babies to sleep deeper and longer, and allow better bonding between infant and parents (Feldman 145-161). Encouraging parents to explore this kind of child care, and perhaps modeling kangaroo care, is another example of valuable postpartum support doulas can offer.
Lastly, postpartum support is invaluable for partners. According to the largest-non-religious-new-dad network, Boot Camp for New Dads, many partners often feel they lack the skills necessary for successful parenting (http://bcnd.org/public/index.htm). True postpartum support will show the partner ways he or she can concretely help: by sharing in the wonder of the new baby and the development of the newborn; by preparing nutritious meals; by running a warm bath for mother and using the time to practice kangaroo care with the infant. These partners often have questions but no one to ask them of. True postpartum support recognizes the partners’ need for more information and modeling of comforting skills and options. For many partners, this postpartum support can cause the postpartum experience to be less frustrating and more rewarding.
Therefore, postpartum support is invaluable for the entire family. In addition to supporting individual members of the family as outlined above, the household unit is supported by referring the family to other sources of information. Postpartum support is most valuable because it helps families to identify tools for success, as well as where to look for future tools when the postpartum period has past. While the traditional United States cultural has not supported postpartum families well, caring doulas are working to change this by providing invaluable postpartum support.
Boot Camp for New Dads. “Childbirth Educator Resource Center.” Accessed 16 May 2006 http://bcnd.org/public/index.htm.
Feldman, Ruth. “Mother-Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact (Kangaroo Care).” Infants & Young Children 17 (2004): 145-161.
“Position Paper.” Postpartum Doulas Support Families. Doula Organization of North America International. 2002. Accessed 20 Feb. 2006 http://www.dona.org/publications/position_paper_postpartum.php.
“U.S. Has Second Worst Newborn Death Rate In Modern World, Report Says.” Cable Network News. 2006. Accessed 10 May 2006 http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/parenting/05/08/mothers.index/index.html.
White, Carolyn. “Support for New Mothers”. Postpartum Support International. 27 April 2006. Accessed 16 May 2006 http://www.postpartum.net/build-support.html.