Expectant mothers are always receiving advice from other mothers about everything to do with parenting and babies – whether they’ve asked for it or not. All the mothers in their lives love to share their dramatic stories of childbirth or retell their worst Mom Fail Moments. But the one topic that gets avoided in these conversations is the subject of postpartum depression. The reason for this may relate to the feelings of guilt that a mother feels when her Baby Blues rob her of the joys of motherhood.
Postpartum depression can affect 1 out of every 8 women in the first few months after childbirth. A lot of new mothers may not even realize they have it because it is often associated with a severe, crippling melancholy that keeps women bedridden and unable to care for their baby. While this is an extreme version of postpartum depression, the most common characteristics are much simpler and can include feelings of sadness, sudden crying, lack of energy, and loneliness.
The hardest part about postpartum depression is talking about it and asking for help. Every new mother can use an extra set of hands, even more so if they are suffering from the Baby Blues. A postpartum doula can assist in caring for the baby, allowing the mother ample time to rest and heal. Sometimes even simple things such as diaper changes and bath times can seem overwhelming to a new mother. The postpartum doula can take on these small tasks so that the mother is free to focus on enjoying quiet time with her baby.
Helping the mother to understand the emotional and physical healing that must take place after childbirth is of utmost importance. A postpartum doula can aid in finding solutions to combat any signs of postpartum that arise as the mother adjusts to the new situation.
Nurturing the mother is another important role of a postpartum doula. Oftentimes, new mothers can overlook their own needs because they are focusing on the baby. This can be especially true for those who are struggling with postpartum depression. A postpartum doula takes care of the mother by ensuring she is eating proper meals, drinking enough water, and getting plenty of rest. She is also able to advise the mother in regards to specific personal care that may be necessary due to the nature of labour and delivery. For example, if the mother had a caesarean or an episiotomy, a postpartum doula can make certain she is following the proper steps in the healing process and answer any questions she may have.
Aside from hands-on care, a doula is also a fountain of knowledge. They can guide the mother in regards to feeding the baby, basic newborn care, and mother-to-infant bonding. The goal of a postpartum doula is to nurture the entire family as they adjust to having a new member in the household. Though the mother is coping with out-of-control hormones and a physical recovery process that can seem never-ending, she is not the only one in the house who has had a change in roles. A new father or other parent, can be equally overwhelmed as they try to help the mother and searches for ways to support her during bouts of depression. Siblings will struggle to find their place, too, now that they must share the attention with the new baby. A postpartum doula can help smooth over these adjustments as she guides family members into feeling secure in their new familial roles.
A postpartum doula can also address the households’ more practical needs. New mothers can be expected to let the housework pile up as they struggle to regain their balance in a world with baby. A postpartum doula can help with the housework and errands, as well as prepare meals and assist in caring for older siblings. Completing these mundane chores can help the mother feel relaxed in her home, relieving any lingering feelings of stress associated with disorganization or clutter.
Most families hire a postpartum doula for a couple of days a week to help during the first few weeks of parenthood. Others have a doula available for up to five days and may require their assistance a little longer.
Another type of postpartum doula is referred to as a night doula. The role of the night doula is just as it sounds – to perform the duties of a postpartum doula throughout the night. This can mean bringing the baby to the mother for midnight feedings, thus allowing the mother to stay undisturbed in bed. If the baby is formula-fed, a night doula may give the baby its bottle on her own and allow the mother to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Aside from feedings, a night doula is typically in charge of the newborn’s basic needs throughout the night. Changing diapers, replacing bedding if baby spits up, comforting the baby and lulling back to sleep are all tasks a night doula would take care of while the parents sleep.
One of the most difficult tasks with an infant can be developing a healthy sleep routine for both baby and parent. It is common for a newborn’s sleep patterns to be erratic throughout the night, but as baby gets older, a sleep schedule is the key to a healthy, happy baby. If the sleep routine hasn’t improved by the time baby is four months old, a night doula might be in order. A night doula can help sleep train the baby, guiding it towards a more consistent sleep routine that will give both mother and baby the rest they deserve.
Postpartum depression looks and feels different on every mother, but the one thing that remains the same is that it is not something to be ignored. With the options of hiring a postpartum doula or a night doula, a mother can rest assured that her baby and family are being well taken care of while she does what she needs to in order to make a full and happy recovery.