When I was pregnant with my daughter, my mom wanted to gift me the services of a postpartum doula. I was hesitant at first. Wouldn’t I be able to manage the care of my child? Also, wouldn’t a physical gift like a car seat or stroller be more useful?
After speaking with friends who had experience and getting a little more pressure from my own mom, I accepted the gift. And turns out, it was one of the best gifts I could have been given for those first few weeks as a new mother. I know I’m very fortunate to have been given this gift, as the service can be quite expensive. Though it might not be in everyone’s budget, it’s important to understand what types of help you can look for as a new mom, because all mothers deserve help.
What Is a Postpartum Doula?
If you’re not sure whether you should hire a postpartum doula or don’t even know what one is, here’s a little background. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a postpartum doula provides “evidence-based information on things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother-baby bonding, infant soothing, and basic newborn care.”
Simply put, a postpartum doula can be a shoulder to lean on from the comfort of your own home. While yes, you can call your pediatrician and visit the doctor’s office for lactation appointments after your baby is born, during the first few weeks of motherhood, it’s amazing to have care and support without having to leave your house.
A postpartum doula is really there to ‘mother the mother’ and to help you transition into your new mom role with confidence.
A postpartum doula can help you give your baby their first bath, help with breastfeeding positioning, can answer what seems like your endless stream of questions (like, “Is this really what their belly button should look like?” I think I asked that question every day for a week), and can even do things like prepare meals for you or do light cleaning around the house.
You can also hire what some call a baby nurse or night nurse. The main difference between these services and a postpartum doula is that those services are more baby-focused, whereas a postpartum doula is really there to “mother the mother” and to help you transition into your new mom role with confidence.
Daytime Versus Nighttime Sessions?
You can often hire postpartum doulas on an hourly basis or a daily basis and can choose between daytime and nighttime help. Obviously budget can dictate a lot, so if you’re working with a limited budget, consider what parts of motherhood you think you’ll need the most assistance with. Is it allowing you to get more sleep, or is it with practical tasks like figuring out how to swaddle or calm a crying baby?
I did a mix of the two, some daytime and some nighttime hours. I also had one visit when I was nine months pregnant. During this visit, our doula looked at how our house was set up, checked our gear, and gave my husband and me advice to prepare in those final few weeks.
As for the visits after the baby was born, during the daytime visits, I was able to ask all of my questions and had a trusted source to help me do whatever was going on that day. And for the nighttime service, our doula basically allowed my husband and me to sleep. She’d take the baby and rock her and hold her. Then when it was time for the baby to nurse, she’d bring the baby to me in bed, I’d feed her, and then she’d take the baby right back, allowing me to sleep.
I would look forward to the overnight sessions for days in advance, knowing I’d get more than an hour of sleep at a time. At first, I thought I’d be worried to hand my baby over to a practical stranger, but I hired a doula I trusted and realized she knew far more about baby care than I did. After all, she’d been doing this for over 20 years, and I had been a mother for a couple of days.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Postpartum Doula?
Depending on the service you use and how much experience they have, the cost of a postpartum doula can vary widely. According to the American Pregnancy Association, expect costs to be somewhere between $15 and $50 an hour. Some companies will provide price breaks if you book a specific package.
At around $35 an hour for my postpartum doula, this service was expensive. I was lucky to be gifted this service, but in hindsight, I would have paid for this myself. The first few weeks of parenthood are overwhelming and exhausting and having daytime and nighttime support made a huge difference for me mentally and physically. Before motherhood, I’d say paying $35 an hour for me to sleep seems ridiculous. After having a newborn, I’d say it was money well spent.
Honestly, for some sessions, the doula and I simply sat with the baby and had little chats. Again, $35 an hour to sit and speak with someone seems expensive, but that sort of support and guidance is indeed priceless for a new mom. I now understand why my mom and my friends urged me to accept help.
If you are interested in hiring a postpartum doula but are concerned about cost, consider hiring them for a limited amount of hours to start, and consider spreading the hours out over the course of a few weeks. You may be able to hire a doula for 1-3 hours at a time and even though it’s not a lot of time, it can still be incredibly helpful. Or you may find it more valuable to save visits until you initially find your footing, figure out what questions you want to ask, and learn what tasks you need help with—or when you really need those moments of (somewhat) uninterrupted sleep.
How Do I Find a Postpartum Doula?
While a postpartum doula is expensive and isn’t feasible for everyone cost-wise, if it is something you can afford or if you have friends and family that want to gift this to you, I think it is very much worth it. You can even add hours with a postpartum doula to some registries; a gift your loved ones may be eager to give to you. If you’re a first-time mom or if you live far from family and need extra support, it’s a great gift to ask for.
If you are considering a postpartum doula but are still on the fence, while you’re still pregnant, ask around for recommendations in your area. Interview a handful of doulas and find one you feel comfortable with, who you trust, and who you would want in your home during the very vulnerable days or weeks following birth. You’ll also want to think about the qualities you’re looking for: do you want a calm, soothing presence or someone who’s more chatty and energetic? Even if you’re still undecided, it’s good to do the interview process early, so when your baby does arrive if you decide you do want the help, you’ll have a list ready to call.
It’s OK to Need Help
At first, I was hesitant to accept help, thinking I could and should be able to take care of my baby all by myself. I think some women may not publicly share they have help, and it may seem like they can do everything on their own. Seeing them “doing it all” can make you feel less competent if you want or need help.
But truly, everyone needs help in some form. Wanting or needing help does not make you weak and certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t a good mother. Having help, whether from a postpartum doula or friends and family, isn’t a weakness; it’s something we all need and deserve, especially when we just brought a new person into this world.