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Is a Postpartum Doula Right for You?

Postpartum doulas provide physical, practical and emotional support to new moms at home. Do you need one?

You've just had a baby and spent a few days in the hospital under the care of doctors and nurses -- now it's time to take your bundle of joy home. That first night home for many moms, both new and seasoned alike, can be a bit scary. For those moms of new little ones without close family nearby to lend a helping hand or take care of a new older brother or sister, the stress can be even greater. Hiring a postpartum doula may just be the solution.

What Is a Postpartum Doula?
Marcy Sauter, a DONA International certified postpartum doula of Rest Assured postpartum doula care and lactation consultant services, says that her job is to mother the mother. "We want the mother to be comfortable and taken care of so she can focus on her baby," Sauter explains.

"The doula is someone who offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support," says Barbara Heid, a DONA certified postpartum doula. "By mothering the mother, she allows the mom to mother the baby, which helps the whole family make that transition to life with baby or babies," she adds. According to Heid, postpartum doulas are "specifically trained to help care and support a family during the fourth trimester," the period of time after the baby is born.

Do You Need One?
For many new moms, the support provided by postpartum doulas is essential in order to transition to life with a new baby at home. "We live in a society where we don't have a lot of family support," Heid says. "In past generations, there was more of a village where people lived close by and helped each other out, but that's not so true in our country today." If you don't have family in the area or haven't had time to build up your social community after a recent move, you might be grateful for the extra help.

Doulas also help moms with the emotional transition that comes with bringing a new baby home. They are there to validate the emotional challenges that may arise and allow the mom to rest a little more, which can take the edge off of the emotional vulnerability.

According to Heid, doulas can provide new moms with baby caring skills as well as provide support with breastfeeding issues. Sauter adds that postpartrum doulas can help moms with practical household duties such as putting in a load of laundry or taking the dog for a walk, to even taking care of an older sibling.

However, it's important to remember that doulas do not have medical degrees. Both Sauter and Heid say doulas are not able to diagnose or treat medical conditions, but can advise or suggest a new mom to seek medical advice if necessary.

How to Hire a Doula
Ready to take the plunge? First, decide how long you'd like to hire a doula for. The amount of time a doula stays with a family can vary -- sometimes it can be just one visit and other times it can span the course of a few months. While the rate of a postpartum doula varies depending on where you live, generally speaking it can cost anywhere from $25 to $35 per hour.

To find help in your area, DONA International allows mothers to search for certified doulas by location. Or try DoulaMatch, which allows users to search for a doula based on location. The search engine has a variety of profiles, including information about how long a doula has been practicing.

Hiring a doula might be one of the best choices you make for yourself after your baby is born.

Rochelle Stewart Rubino is a freelance writer from the Boston area who writes about her experiences with motherhood over at Entering Mommyhood.

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