Although more and more people have heard of the word “doula” and have some idea of what a doula does, it seems to me that the vast majority of parents I talk to still have no idea that postpartum doulas exist. I’ve found that a critical part of spreading the word about what doulas do is explaining what doulas don’t do. So, in the interest of setting the record straight, here are 5 common misconceptions I’ve heard. I know there are plenty more, so post the myths you’ve heard about postpartum doulas as a comment below!
1. A postpartum doula will tell you how you should be parenting.
This is actually the opposite of what a postpartum doula does! We don’t tell you how you “should” do anything, but rather recognize your own ways of parenting and help you feel confident to parent your own way. Sure, we can answer questions about different parenting styles and theories and of course we will let you know if something you are doing is unsafe or dangerous to your child, but we profoundly understand that your relationship with your child is unique and thus requires a unique style of parenting.
2. Postpartum doulas are militant about breastfeeding.
In reality, postpartum doulas support parents however they decide to feed their baby. We recognize that infant feeding is not only about getting the best food to your baby, but also about what method works for the family as a whole. I have worked with moms who exclusively breastfeed, moms who exclusively pump, parents who lovingly feed their baby with formula or with donor milk, and parents who do a combination of all of the above. As a person committed to sharing evidence-based information with families, I will answer any questions parents have about breastfeeding and provide information as needed, but my education does not come with judgment and I help families figure out the best way for them to feed their baby.
3. A postpartum doula will replace my partner/mother/mother-in-law/sister/best friend.
Just as birth doulas do not replace the partner during labor, postpartum doulas are not meant to replace anyone, but rather to provide a different kind of help and support that comes from emotional distance. For example, when my daughter was a newborn my husband and I had just moved and were living with my parents for a few months. I get along great with my mom and I totally appreciated her support, but her help sometimes came with comparisons to her own experiences and often more attention was given to her first granddaughter than to her daughter who was quietly suffering from breast infections and sleeplessness. I’m sure that a postpartum doula would have helped me find a lactation consultant and encouraged me to get help rather than just commenting, “that’s weird, I don’t remember having any problems when I was breastfeeding.”
4. Postpartum doulas are only for first-time parents with a newborn.
Sure, a first-time mom will absolutely benefit from doula help because she is learning how to be a parent and it may be the first time she has ever held or bathed or clothed or fed a baby. But parents who are caring for an infant (or three!) while also trying to maintain some semblance of a “normal” routine for their other children may need even more support! After all, no two babies are alike and there is a learning curve with every new baby—whether he is the first or the sixth. To learn more about how a postpartum doula can help families with older babies, read this post.
5. Having a postpartum doula around will keep you from bonding with your baby.
Our role is to foster that bond, not disrupt it! As a doula, there are some work days that I don’t hold a baby at all because mom and baby are cuddling in bed or baby’s favorite spot is in dad’s front pack. Those days I am not really focusing on the baby, but rather on what I can do to make life simpler for the family as they develop a relationship with their newborn. This statement is the bottom line, as I see it. After all, what’s most important to me is that when I stop working for a family the parents have a greater sense of confidence, a closer bond with their child or children, and that they feel that, despite the challenges of parenthood, they are thriving as parents rather than simply trying to survive day to day.
Nova Doula Services provides postpartum support, specializing in infant feeding education and help, care after a cesarean, and back-to-work consultations for breastfeeding moms. For more information, visit our services and packages page or contact us to set up a personalized care plan for your family! And for moms or soon-to-be moms looking for lactation support, book one of our lactation consults before Feb 1 for a 10% discount during our Hibernation Sale!
Thank you to Thomas & Thomas Photography for the gorgeous family photos. <3