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Where Moms With No Village Are Turning for Postpartum Support

Photograph by Twenty20

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what if you don’t have a village or your village sucks? Can you hire one instead? Not really, but you can hire a postpartum doula to fill the that role in your life—and more moms are choosing to work with one to adjust to the stressful and sometimes scary period of time as a brand new parent, according to The Washington Post.

Dona.org, the website for the leading doula certifying organization, defines a doula as “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”

What makes a postpartum doula different than a birth doula? A birth doula provides support through the birthing process by doing things like giving tips on breathing techniques, physical positions for comfort and to help labor progress. They're also there to help a family feel emotionally supported.

A postpartum doula picks up where a birth doula leaves off. They're there to help the family, baby and mother in the first few weeks after childbirth. They can provide help with breastfeeding, bottle-feeding and understanding newborn behavior. They can also help with light housework such as meal prep, dishes and baby’s laundry. And, if you desperately need a shower or a nap, they can tend to the baby while you have a moment to tend to yourself.

Where can you find a postpartum doula? Asking your birthing coach, OB-GYN or midwife if they can recommend someone is a great place to start. You can also look online at dona.org or doulamatch.net.

Keep in mind that doulas are not medical professionals and are therefore unlicensed and unregulated, so be sure to ask any prospective postpartum doulas for references as well as what organization certified them and what was required of them to earn certification. Follow up by calling references and checking out the certifying organization's website.

When should you start looking for a postpartum doula? The sooner the better, preferably by the beginning of the third trimester so that you can rest assured that there will be someone there to support you after the baby is born. However, you can get a postpartum doula even after the baby is born.

How much does it cost? According to The Washington Post, a “typical four-hour visit” will run you between $140 to $160. That breaks down to between $30 and $40 an hour. Insurance does not cover the cost of postpartum doulas, so this is an expense you would have to plan to pay out of pocket, use FSA or HSA money—or ask for it as a baby shower gift.

How long will you need a postpartum doula? Of course, that depends on the needs of each family. Ellie Hirsh of Tampa, Florida, hired a doula because she and her husband didn’t have any family living close by. The first week after Hirsh gave birth, the doula came by just about every day for three to four hours. The next week it was for a few hours every other day. "By week three, it was just a few hours," she told Parents.

"But I have a village ..." Even if you have family or friends who are more than happy to help out during the first few weeks after you’ve given birth, you could still benefit from having a postpartum doula. The doula’s sole purpose is to be there to provide informed support. Friends and family may not be up to date on current best practices, and family members (read: your mom or mother-in-law) can get awfully defensive when you ask them to do things your way instead of their way.

So, should you get a postpartum doula? It’s up to you and certainly dependent on your financial circumstances, but if it is something that you can afford and want to do, don’t let shame stand in your way. Shame of not being able to do everything yourself. Shame because of what others might think. Shame because you happen to live in a country where home visits after birth aren’t the norm.

In the Netherlands, where health care professionals check in on moms and babies in their actual homes as opposed to only during office visits, there are lower rates of postpartum mood disorders, higher rates of breastfeeding and better maternal and infant health.

Until we reestablish the villages that are supposed to help us raise our children, at least there is an option out there for those who can afford it.

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