What is a Postpartum Doula?
Postpartum Doula, Infant Care Specialist, Baby Nurse, Night Nurse...these are terms you've probably heard in passing from other moms you know. Either they had one or wish they would have had one. Basically, these terms are used to describe a professional that has come to help in your home during the postpartum period. There are many ways you can utilize a postpartum doula. Some doulas do strictly overnight care while others provide only daytime help or live-in care.
Overnight care is super helpful so you can get a full night's sleep while the postpartum doula cares for your newborn throughout the entire night. A typical night shift is 10PM-7AM, so you can rest assured that you're going to get a nice chunk of uninterrupted sleep. If you're breast feeding, the postpartum doula can bring your baby to you for the feedings so you don't even have to leave your bed. Or you can have pumped milk or formula for those night shifts so you can fully rest.
Daytime doulas have an array of tasks they can complete, but this is based on each doula's preferences. This is something you should discuss during the interview process. For me, personally, baby and mama care comes first. This includes preparing light meals for the mother and making sure she stays hydrated and gets to nap throughout my shift while I take complete care of the baby. Other duties that I include, with time permitting, are loading/unloading the dishwasher, cleaning bottles/breast pump supplies, baby laundry, kitchen cleanup and light household chores. Care for other siblings can also be negotiated, generally for an extra fee per hour. Being able to rest and have a little time to yourself during the day is essential for healing. You can even set up a spa treatment or hair appointment for yourself and get out of the house while your newborn is in the hands of a loving doula.
Live-in doulas are the ultimate luxury if you can afford to hire one! They are a life saver for every mama, but especially for those mamas who have had a c-section. C-sections make it very difficult to get around, so imagine having a "baby fairy" there to wait on you and help you care for your new little one. Typically live-in doulas will stay for a week or longer and work 18-20 hours per each 24 hour shift. At what time and how they use their breaks each day is determined between you and them, but typically they will use the break time to catch up on much needed sleep. My personal live-in service consists of up to one full week of care with 20 hours on and 4 hours off, giving you a full overnight shift from 10PM-7AM and taking the other "off" hours as breaks during the daytime, which I use for sleeping. Much like a daytime doula, a live-in doula has similar duties of baby and mama care first, then other household things that you can work out together as part of the contract.
How much are these types of services? Depending on how long you want to use someone, you're potentially looking at several thousand dollars. You can expect a doula's hourly rate to range anywhere from $25-$50 and live-in rate from $400-$700 per day (2023). Length of time for hire also varies with the average being 4 weeks to 4 months of help.
If you're thinking of starting a family, I highly suggest setting aside a little nest egg for a doula. It is money well spent for your peace of mind and easing the transition of coming home with your baby. Their knowledge, care and expertise is something you will value for years to come and you may even feel like they become a little part of your family. Interview several people or agencies before choosing who you feel is the right fit for your family.