Bringing home a newborn baby, or babies if you’re blessed with more than one precious babe, is one of the most exciting and yet stressful time in a parent’s journey, most especially if this is the first child. Now if you haven’t yet brought home a little one, you might be wondering what could be so stressful about bringing home this precious, adorable baby??? Well after working with hundreds of postpartum families, many of which were first time parents, I can honestly say there are many reasons for parents to feel this way.
In North America specifically, like in many other first world countries, we have lost our village, and COVID-19 has made this modern trend even worse, If you ever heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? you might already have an idea of what this might mean in regards to raising children. This expressions is actually an African proverb that meant that a child should be a shared responsibility of the community, and therefore all members of that community should help raise and guide them. What this meant was that mothers, grandparents, aunts, sisters, cousins, etc. would come into the home and help out their relative when a new baby arrived. These family members would not only help comfort the labouring person during birth, but also be there during the postpartum period to help with cooking, cleaning, caring for older siblings, feeding the new parent, and anything else that might be needed during this unique and special time in their family. This afforded the new parents the opportunity to rest and only focus on their own self care and meeting the needs of their infants, In today’s society new parents are sent home 24 hrs. later to learn about caring for their baby, learning who they are, and managing sleep depravation and breastfeeding challenges all on their own with little to no guidance from family or medical providers. This is where the overnight doula is most essential and can really make the world of difference for most families without that support network.
The top 10 reasons our clients have hired an overnight doula to support them during their postpartum journeys are:
10. Meal Preparation: Cooking when you’re tired can be one of the most exhausting tasks, but yet one that is crucial to health and recovery. Some clients prepare meals in advance while others have meal trains organized, but one way our doulas can help, is to wash, peel, cut and prepare ingredients for tomorrow’s meals. This small detail can make your day go more smoothly and ensure everyone in the household is eating properly during this time of adjustment.
9. Help with Light Chores: The word doula originates from the Greek word “woman’s servant” and doulas are truly there to serve and mother the mother. Doulas will take away the tedious daily chores, as to help free up the day for more baby bonding and feeds. Doulas are a bit limited with what they can help with at night since we usually try to be as quiet as possible during our shifts, however doing a few dishes, emptying the dishwasher or helping with the never ending loads of newborn clothes (it really is amazing how such small people can make so many dirty clothes) is just enough to help make the next day that much easier for the parents.
8. Understanding Early, Mid & Late Cues: Newborns all have similar reactions and can be easily read and understood if you know what to look for. A doula can help teach parents what cues look like and how to respond to them in a timely manner. Reading cues on time will help make meeting their needs that much simpler.
7. Sterilizing Bottles & Pumping Equipment: Most parents will have bottles and pumping equipment in use on a daily basis, regardless of their infant feeding preferences. What this means is that all those parts will need to be disassembled, washed in warm water, and finally sterilized before each and every use for the first 3 months. In that most babies eat 8 to 12 times a day, you can imagine that these items can add up quickly. Having an overnight doula take on this job can make your mornings run much smoother and allow time for all those things that new parents should be focusing on such as sleep, food, self care and bonding time with their little ones.
6. Bathing: Giving baby a bath in those first few days is always top of mind with many couples. They worry about how to hold the baby when they’re wet and slippery, where they should start, what temperature the water should be at, how often they should bathe their baby, and the list goes on. The truth of the matter is bathing is not only a great way to setup early bedtime routines with your newborn, they are also great at helping babies relax and feel tired and sleepy, and the best part is, bath time isn’t as difficult as it might seem. A doula can be there to demonstrate and or supervise those first baths at home. Doulas will patiently take the time to go over the whole process, and help show you how being prepared and organized in your approach can take the stress away and make bath time sooooo much fun.
5. Creating Positive Sleep Associations: Newborn sleep is much different than adult sleep, but there are ways parents can help positively encourage healthy and age-appropriate routines to help ease the transition to sleep. Doulas will have all the tips to help create these routines from early on, so that babies can go down easily and sleep more effectively and for longer stretches of time as they get older.
4. Swaddling: The use of swaddles has really taken off with the SIDS awareness campaigns, but very few of our clients have actually being instructed on how to do this adequately. “My baby hates the swaddle” is one of the most common statements I hear from our clients, and 9 times out of 10, it has more to do with the effectiveness of the swaddling than the preference of the baby. The overnight doula is skilled in swaddling and will help teach parents how to get that swaddle on right so they can maximize their rest and sleep while abiding by the infant sleep safety protocols.
3. The 5 S’s: There are some techniques that have been developed over the years by medical professionals to help soothe fussy babies and help them to sleep more efficiently. One of these professional is Dr. Harvey Karp, an American Pediatrician, the author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and the creator of the SNOO bassinet Smart Sleep. In his book he talks about his method called the 5 S’s and how it works to positively settle and support babies back to sleep. A trained doula will be proficient in using these techniques and will help parents master them in turn.
2. Breastfeeding Support: Breastfeeding, although a natural, instinctual activity, is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges facing MOST parents. Due to the lack of “our village” coupled with the large propaganda of formula during the 1940s and 50s, our society is seeing an intergenerational gap of knowledge in regards to breastfeeding. How to increase supply?, how long feeds should last?, is the baby latching correctly?, is baby getting enough breastmilk?, are all very common questions amongst parents with newborns. An overnight doula will be there to help answer all of those questions and many more that might come up, especially during the night when breastfeeding challenges often rear their ugly heads,
1. SLEEP!!!! Sleep is at the top of this list because it is hands down the #1 reason most families hire an overnight doula. The exhaustion that new parents are faced with is comparable to nothing else. Parents are physically and emotionally exhausted from the labour and birth, have been in the hospital for what seems like an eternity, probably haven’t slept in days, are doing feeds on demand every 2-3 hrs., and to make matters worse the birthing parent is sore and or recovering from stitches and in some cases even surgery. Having an overnight doula there to help feed and care for the baby at night while parents get some good, solid sleep is without a doubt the most amazing thing a new parent can ask for. To be able to relinquish the responsibility of tending to the newborn to another adult, a professional trained one at that, is the difference between resting and staying alert and sleeping deeply and soundly without worry.
BONUS!!!! And if these 10 reasons weren’t already enough, it’s important to mention that CANADIAN families can use their overnight doula receipts towards their income tax. All overnight care in CANADA qualifies under childcare and can therefore be used as a tax deduction.
If you’re expecting a baby and want to help ease your transition into parenthood, hiring an overnight doula can make the difference between feeling stressed and anxious or feeling supported and rested. Most doulas, collectives and agencies are offering free virtual consults, making the interviewing process faster and more convenient than ever before. Demand for overnight doulas is high in 2021, so setting up consultations early will help guarantee that you find the right doula for you and your family.