ARTICLES . . .
Doulas - by Leah DeCesare, PCD(DONA), CD(DONA), CEE, ICPE, CLC
What are the blocks that make a healthy family? The foundation of a strong family begins at birth. Moms who own their birth, receive nurturing care in the early weeks and who feel empowered by their entry into motherhood are on the path to confident parenting.
It’s a gift to give a family a healthy start with early parenting support. There is a shift in our culture in which Dads have become parents in full partnership with Moms, in general, the days of the removed, uninvolved Dad-solely-as-bread-winner are past.
Yet, during this transition, we have positioned Dads as the main support system for new mothers both in the delivery room and in bringing baby home. Dads who also have only attended perhaps a birth or two and who may or may never have parented an infant, just like Mom, are now expected to be birth coach and postpartum support. Dads, too, are becoming parents and have questions and uncertainty. It’s unfair to put the full burden of postpartum support on new Dads, whether their first or fifth child.
Families in our society often live far apart, yes, even Rhode Islanders can live away from family, which leaves new parents to figure things out much on their own with perhaps a visit from distant parents for a few days or weeks. The need for support extends beyond that, and the expertise of a doula can be truly valuable.
Doulas can guide parents through early parenting decisions, can help point them to local resources such as lactation consultants, new mom’s groups and postpartum depression counselors. Having a doula to mother the new mother and family can not only fill the gap when family is far, but even with grandparents nearby, a doula can offer current information on baby care, up-to-date studies on everything from co-sleeping to pacifiers to swaddling.
A doula, both as labor support and in-home after the baby is born, can help reduce postpartum mood disorders, increase breastfeeding success and build parent’s confidence in caring for their child(ren). A doula provides in-home early parenting education in a non-judgmental way that allows parents to find and develop their own, individual parenting style.
Much of parenting is, in fact, a learned skill. It is not a sign of weakness, but of strength, to reach out to professionals to help guide and teach you in the early days and months of parenthood. Doulas work with families flexibly a few days a week for the first few months of a baby’s life and assist with emotional support, infant soothing skills and baby care such as helping parents through that first slippery bath at home. Postpartum doulas also do light household tidying and organization so families can feel some order amidst the chaos a new baby brings.
Doulas can be hired as gifts for new parents and can provide a smooth transition into empowered parenthood giving families a healthy start whose benefits last for years to come.
Leah DeCesare is a DONA certified birth and postpartum doula as well as a certified childbirth educator, postnatal educator and Certified Lactation Counselor.