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What is a Postnatal Doula? How every new mother can feel more supported by building her ‘village’

They say ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and that can begin from birth. Experiencing those first few days, weeks and months with a new baby can be a rollercoaster - highs and lows of all sorts that you perhaps weren’t expecting. You’re a new mother with all your energy and resources focused on mothering, and you could do with a little love, support and mothering yourself to help you through…that’s where a postnatal doula can be there to support you, so you can be the best mum you can be.

Recently I worked with a beautiful family in Sussex, who had not long welcomed their third baby into the family. With two older children needing help to get ready for school in the mornings, a father who needed to commute to work and a mother wanting to give all her children her love and attention (but being a little outnumbered), they called me for Postnatal Doula support to add to their family team to make it all a little more manageable. Afterwards, the family gave me this lovely feedback:

“Gabrielle was such an important addition to our ‘village’ and made the world of difference to our transition into third time parents and a family of five”

I love this idea - that we built a temporary ‘village’ together. For me, this epitomises what a Postnatal Doula is - they are part of your village. They bring you support, love and care in the early days of being a mother. When you are learning how to mother your new baby, when you are adjusting to all the changes this new phase brings, and when you may need the strength of a community around you to navigate this new, unchartered territory. They are there to offer you emotional, practical and informational support.

Some new mothers are lucky enough to have a wonderful support system around them after they’ve given birth, perhaps their mother, sister or friends and their partner. But many are often miles away from family or close friends, and don’t have people next door that they feel comfortable enough with to ask them for help in a new and vulnerable chapter.

From my experience, all postnatal doula clients want and need slightly different things, which is one of the reasons I love it. It is so varied and I get to support women in such a variety of ways. But all client work I do as a Postnatal Doula, there is a level of tenderness and intimacy that I feel privileged to step into. I am invited into peoples home's, family's and heart's and I aim to hold those precious things with love and care.

You may be considering seeking extra support for your upcoming postnatal period, you may be in your postnatal period already and wanting some help, or you have just heard the term and wondered what a Postnatal Doula is, so let me tell you more how they can help.

How can a Postnatal Doula support you

Practical Support

There is plenty of practical support that a Postnatal Doula will usually be there to offer.

  • Time to rest: sleep and rest for new parents can be challenging. A Postnatal Doula can be on hand to hold your baby whilst you sleep or take a shower, knowing that your baby is well cared for by someone you trust.

  • Food and nourishment: many Postnatal Doula’s will prepare nutritious food for you whilst in your home, perhaps even whilst carrying your baby in the sling, so that you can be fully nourished. Or you might just want someone to make you a nice hot cuppa!

  • Nourishing your nest: a Postnatal Doula can help with some light work around the home to help you feel calmer in your home and nest with your newborn. They may help with the washing up, emptying the dishwasher or the laundry. Or it may be that your doula takes your baby for a walk whilst you have space to do those jobs around the house that have been driving you crazy!

Informational Support

The first weeks of motherhood can be a huge learning curve, where your baby (or your body) does all sorts of things that you maybe weren’t expecting or prepared for. A Postnatal Doula is experienced and knowledgeable about newborns, women’s postnatal health and has a rich local network of postnatal practitioners. Your doula should be able to offer you information in the moment or signpost you to relevant information, such as:

  • Breastfeeding support

  • Post-birth (including caesarean-section) care

  • Baby development info

  • Infant sleep

  • Postnatal massage/bodywork

  • Pelvic health support

  • And more!

Emotional Support

In my view, this is probably the most valuable part of having a Postnatal Doula by your side after having a baby. They are a constant presence of care, warmth and reassurance.

  • Be seen and heard: A Postnatal Doula is great at listening. Everyone has moments in their parenting journey when it is hard, especially when you are a mother for the first time. Having someone who really listens, without judgement or expectation, can make all the difference for getting through that day or week.

  • You have a cheerleader: A Postnatal Doula may also offer reassurance, encouragement or some gentle guidance if there is a particular area that is challenging, such as breastfeeding or sleep.

  • Holding you as you heal: You may also be recovering from a difficult birth experience that still needs processing, which a Postnatal Doula may be happy to help you talk through, and signpost (if necessary) where you may find some deeper therapeutic support.

Overall a Postnatal Doula is there to support you to feel the best you can feel, to feel confident, calm and as strong as you can, and to be the best mama you can be to your new baby (and family). They are there to be your mother, your sister, your grandmother and your friend. They are there to support you and your family with love, care and tenderness, so that your village continues to go from strength-to-strength.

Please get in touch if you are seeking Postnatal Doula support in Lewes, Brighton or East Sussex, I would love to be part of your village.

For more information on Postnatal Doulas go to Doula UK

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