New Mums Need Support
@ Retreat You Mornington
What is a Post-Natal Doula?
A post-natal doula supports a mum with a newborn any way she feels she needs to be
supported during those precious weeks post-birth. Having this support is meant to enable
newborn mums to have a much calmer transition into motherhood. Post-natal doulas are
employed to fill a very sensitive role at a particular moment in time that has been largely
lost in the Western culture.
History demonstrates many examples where women proactively supported other women
post childbirth. This is definitely a phenomenon which unfortunately shows to have been
forgotten about in our culture as we seem to be more isolated as a family unit.
The average mother will have her baby in hospital, be discharged a day or so afterwards and
go home with this latest edition to the family, expected to know what to do and how to
cope. It is not hard to understand how many, especially first-time mums, can feel way out of
Part of being a post-natal doula, is having a passion and belief in ‘mothering the mother’
whilst she is recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. When a mother is being mothered
by a post-natal doula, she is likely to remain calmer. By being calmer, oxytocins levels (the
feel good hormone), are elevated and she is much more able to cope with the demands and
transition into becoming a mum. Previously, this sort of role was fulfilled by a female
relative, friend or midwife.
Why hire a Post-Natal Doula?
Newborn mums are just as vulnerable as a newborn baby, as they are healing from having
given birth. The birth may have been a good or bad experience, however more often than
not; mothers don’t start their motherhood journey as they would have wished to. What is
now often referred to as the ‘fourth trimester’ the few months post-partum are just as
important as the pregnancy itself.
Generally, newborn mums are bombarded with visitors who want to meet the baby;
therefore, they have very little time to recover from birth and bond properly with their
baby. Some may also feel the need or expectation to ‘appear’ that they have recovered
quickly, bouncing back into everyday life, household chores and outings much quicker than
necessary or before they have properly healed and adjusted to their new role.
When a woman gives birth, she needs to be supported and nourished so that she can be
there to learn what her baby needs (as each baby is different) and so that she can help her
baby thrive. With all the focus on the birth and the baby, mums are often left with little or
no support, aside from a few visits from the Maternal Child Health Nurse.
As a newborn mum, many do not want to ask for help as they feel it is a sign of weakness or
as though they should be able to ‘handle things’ on their own.
This is a sad shortcoming of
the Western world, as in many other cultures the newborn mother has a village of support
around her. For example, in many parts of Asia and India, after giving birth, the mother is
encouraged to stay in bed for up to 40 days in order to fully recover from childbirth. During
this time, her mother, mother in law or other female relatives will come to the house to
take care of the new mother, doing all of the household chores, cooking and cleaning, so
that she has all the time to just focus on her newborn and to rest and recover.
Without the right support, most newborn mums will suffer in silence. They can often feel
confused, alone, isolated, stressed, anxious, a failure, guilty, depressed, emotional, afraid
and may not know who to turn to. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to Post Natal
Depression (PND), a common disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 7 mothers in Australia.
PND may occur between one month and up to one year after giving birth and it is different
from the ‘baby blues’ that most women experience in the first few days post-partum. If you
think you, or someone you know, might be showing signs of PND, it is really important to
seek help from a healthcare professional who can diagnose and if necessary, suggest an
appropriate treatment plan.
Babies are very intuitive and can often feel if their mother is feeling stressed or not coping,
which can then lead to an unsettled baby. This is where a post-natal doula can be helpful
and having her support from the early days, makes being a newborn mother a much more
enjoyable and less stressful time.
Post-natal doulas can offer support and in-home care in the following ways:
*Mini massages, reiki and foot baths
*Teach Self-breast massage which helps to keep the milk flowing and assists in avoiding engorged breasts and mastitis
*Offer suggestions with the baby to help with their sleep, settling, feeding etc.
*Support the mother in their choices for their baby
*Help the mother with the baby when required e.g. holding, bathing, changing, settling and
*Allow rest time for mum while her body is recovering, especially as she may not be getting
much sleep at night
*Run errands, help with the shopping and prepare nourishing meals (nutritious meals are
vital to support the body’s recovery and help with milk production)
*Support for the siblings i.e. play with them, help with homework or take them to the park
*Whatever is required by the mother with regards to supporting her recovery and bonding
with her baby
*Support for the partner if required, which may include a birth debrief and what their new
*Debrief of the birth with mum (this is often not done and can lead to ongoing mental
health issues for the mother if overlooked, as some mums have quite a traumatic birth
experience, hence it is very important)
*Support with breast/bottle feeding
*Making sure the mum drinks, eats, rests and does something small for herself regularly e.g.
takes a bath, goes for a walk or even something as simple as painting her toenails
*Help the mum and partner feel more confident in handling the baby, which can include
getting the baby in and out of the car, bathing or swaddling
*Share evidence-based information and resources with the parents about basic baby care
*Help build a village of support for the mother
How does it work if a Post-Natal Doula is employed?
Generally, the doula will meet at your home in the last few weeks of your pregnancy or in
the first few days of becoming a newborn mum. They will then go through a list of things
that they feel are important to you and will uncover where/when you think you will need
support. From that list, a package is then tailored to ensure you get the support you feel you
After you have had your initial post-natal doula visit, they then make themselves
contactable any time of the day, should you have any concerns regarding yourself or your
baby. After each visit the hope is that you will feel a little more relaxed, rested, and
connected with your baby, listened to and supported. A happy and supported mum is able
to be more available and present for her newborn in those crucial first few days, weeks and
months. Essentially every visit is designed to give you the rest you need when raising a newborn.
This helps to increase and maintain your Oxycontin levels; those feel good hormones and
hopefully instill you with greater confidence. With this confidence, you should then be better
equipped to find your own way, follow your intuition, trust your instincts and learn all about
your new beautiful baby.
What is the cost of a Post-Natal Doula?
Note: Prices may vary per practitioner
A post-natal doula generally works in a block of 3 hours but can stay longer if required.
Post-natal doulas usually work anytime during the day and packages can be tailored to suit
An added option to recovery is post-natal massage. Most of the time a Doula is qualified to
do this and it is a beautiful way to support a woman’s post-partum body in its healing
process, helping to release aches, pains and stress held in her body. Massage will also
facilitate the release of oxytocins, which assists in bonding with your newborn.
The belief that a newborn mother needs to be mothered just as much as a newborn needs
to be mothered, stems from the notion that when a baby is born, so too is a mother! It is
vital to learn to embrace the whole ‘new’ person (yes even that baby brain!) that the
mother has become and to ‘let go’ of the person that they once were. This can be hard to
do, but once you make that transition into motherhood and accept the process of change,
then being a mum can be a lot more enjoyable.
If you'd like more information on our Post Natal Doula Service please contact:
Marisa was trained by Dial a Doula Australia and registered with the Doula association of Australia.
Photo by: danielle.b Photography