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What is a Postpartum Doula?

6 August 2015  |  Admin

What is a Postpartum Doula?

I hear you all saying to your screen “what in the world is a doula?” Well 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.

Definition of doula in English:
A woman who gives support, help, and advice to another woman during pregnancy and during and after the birth:

So what exactly does a Postpartum Doula do? 
Well the text books say a postpartum doula:
 Offers education, companionship and non-judgmental support during the fourth trimester, first few weeks/months with your new baby.
   Assists with new born care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying.
  Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.

Basically the way I see my work is that I help the family ease into the transition of parenthood. Finding their new ‘normal’ or balance. Each family I work with is unique and I tailor my services to their specific needs and desires. I adore babies! Always have, always will :)

I think it is amazing watching the dynamics of a family change and grow when a new baby arrives, and I am honoured to be part of that journey with a new family unit. It is such an intimate time in their lives, and I sincerely thank each and every family for inviting me into their home, to enter their bubble and share in the awe of watching this new little person discover the outside world, one experience at a time.

I encourage each parent to truly connect with their baby, to get to know them as a person with an individual and unique personality, needs and behaviour. This will help the parent to truly savour their fourth trimester.

In the famous words of Dr Seuss “A person’s a person, no matter how small”

Who is Jen Crawford?

A bit of background on me…..I am a 28 year old mum to two fun loving boys. I live in North Dublin with my partner Paul and our boys Seth and Leon. I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I dreamed of holding my new born and feeling complete. From the second I became a mother, I knew that was my calling in life. This is who I was meant to be.

So when I was asked to volunteer for a charity that supports Ireland’s tiniest babies, I didn’t have to think too hard about it before I jumped right in. I have been a Director and the Breastfeeding Coordinator for the charity Irish Premature Babies (IPB) for almost 3 years now. This has given me an intimate insight into the struggles many new parents face.

Working with some of the most vulnerable babies in Ireland has really opened my eyes to the strength new parents have. I have watched hundreds of them grow from an overwhelmed parent in total shock to speaking all the medical lingo and working the monitors in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) like a pro. Many of these families will stay in my heart for as long as I live – their love, devotion and determination for their baby/babies and their superhuman strength is something I aspire to.

During my time working with IPB, I have also attended many hospital workshops, meetings and action plans. I have met with health care professionals from all walks of life and gained a great understanding of hospital policies and practice surrounding birth and early parenthood. I saw first-hand the great medical care families receive but the emotional side was severely lacking. My passion was ignited from this time and I looked into things I could do to pave the way of change.

I decided to become an Antenatal Teacher (to hold classes for expectant parents where we discuss pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.) but I wanted to find a course where parents were empowered and thought about informed decision making. This would leave them confident in their choices and ability to birth their baby. I found the perfect course with Cuidiu, Irish Childbirth Trust. I began my training in 2014 and will be out on my own in the Spring of 2017. These classes are parent led and will be independent of all hospitals. I am also training as a voluntary breastfeeding counsellor with Cuidiu, Irish Childbirth Trust. This is a free service where counsellors volunteer their time in order to support breast feeding mothers in their community. I have made some great friends during these courses and look forward to each day with them.

So I felt content that I would have the knowledge to encourage and support expectant parents, but what about creating a link with those wonderful new babies?

How do you become a doula?

Earlier this year I decided to train as a postnatal doula. I have loved every second, immersing myself in all things baby. Hearing about powerful stories of birth and strength. Learning from the knowledge of all the doulas who have come before, drawing on their wisdom and experience.  I went for international training with DONA  and to be honest I am still on a high from both the training and positive energy from the fellow doulas.

I am also a member of the Doula Association of Ireland (DAI), who are celebrating 10 years in Ireland this September! The DAI have some amazing women in their organisation, from all different walks of life. There are many birth doulas who have such passion for their clients and who give their heart and soul to ensure each family achieves the birth they want. I would highly recommend any expectant mother to make some phone calls and find out the support these wonderful women offer. The DAI also has other postpartum doulas, who like myself just blossom around new life 

Having so many contacts in many diverse areas to do with birth and early parenthood allows me to stay up to date with local policies and practices. It also gives me great support as I have many strong women to draw upon if I am struggling with something. They are a fountain of knowledge and I adore each and every one of them for keeping my excitement and passion about birth and early parenting alive. 

So why do I have such a passion for my work and what do I hope to achieve?

 I am a woman on a mission to instil confidence in new parents, one family at a time. During pregnancy we are all guilty of throwing ourselves into books about pregnancy, birth and parenting. We often find ourselves in information overload! There is so many different styles of parenting, that we are flooded with conflicting advice. Each ‘expert’ has a different theory on sleep, infant feeding and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of parenting. What I want parents to understand is they are the experts for their individual and unique little baby. They know what their baby likes, even before they meet them. So many pregnant women speak about, “oh baby loves rock music as he kicks like crazy”. Or “baby gets the hiccups if I eat a curry”. Mothers are tuned into their baby’s every move, to their active times and sleepy times – so why do they lose all confidence when their new baby is born? 

The truth is, from the minute they are handed their baby mums and dads are bombarded with information. Everyone wants to give their two cents, even health care professionals. But each of these people, even the so called experts, can only give advice based off their own life experience (be it personal or professional). They can give generalisations on things to try but only you will know if it will work for your baby.

When I work with families one of the first things I tell them is to install a huge filter in their brain because they will get so much information and advice from well-meaning people, including me! They need to learn to take the bits that ring true to their family and ditch the rest. Let your heart, or gut instinct take over. Do what feels right for you and your family, at this moment in time.

Working with a postpartum doula gives you the access to knowledge on a vast array of subjects to do with self-care, baby care, family adjustment, reliable resources for different therapies or appropriate health care professionals. This will allow your family to explain exactly what you are looking for, and then sit back and filter the information given to you by your doula. You can say ‘that’s not for us’ and move onto the next thing without wasting time doing mad google searches! 

I like to explain my role as “mothering the mother”, of course their partners are not forgotten and I work closely with the whole family. I pass down all the parenting ‘hacks’ that have been handed down for generations from family members. Somehow we have lost our village of support. Many of our own mothers, or aunties did not breastfeed or they were taught to have baby on a strict routine, allow their baby to cry it out if they wouldn’t stick to it. We now know these are not the best choices for our babies for developmental, emotional and physical growth, but the knowledge has been lost along the way and new parents often feel overwhelmed and abandoned. 

New parents need this support to flourish in their role. You can find this in your community, your neighbours, your friends, mother and baby groups, peer support groups. A doula will not only offer you compassion, advice and support, she will also encourage you to build your own village of supporters.  This need for love and support has always been known, the Dali Lama once said;

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
― Dalai Lama

I understand people see hiring a doula as a luxury but if this support is not easily accessable to you from your family or friends then I feel a doula is a valuable investment. Many parents spend thousands on the latest gadgets and designer buggies. If you invest a tiny portion of this money on a postpartum doula you will gain more than support. You will feel valued, informed and heard. You can begin your parenting journey with joy and confidence, knowing there is always someone there to listen and help you navigate your way to success!
If you would like to know more please visit my website or my Facebook page Dublin Doula Jen 

Dublin Doula Jen – “Mothering the mother”, helping your family to
thrive during the postpartum period not just survive!