Updated October 26, 2023
If you are expecting a baby soon, you may be wondering, is a postpartum doula worth it?
You are certainly not alone in wondering if using the services of a postpartum doula is something you should consider or what the pros and cons of a postpartum doula are.
We are going to explain what a postpartum doula does and discuss the pros and cons of hiring a postpartum doula.
This is a topic that Doug and I have wanted to write about for a long time!
We started hearing about postpartum doulas in the Boston area probably about six years ago.
We had both seen birth doulas in the labor and delivery unit for many years, though their popularity and visibility have certainly grown a lot in the last few years too.
As an OB/GYN and RN, we were excited to see that new moms had the option to hire a postpartum doula who would be there to help them after the birth of their baby.
It isn’t a topic without some controversy and hiring a doula isn’t going to be the right or even an option for everyone.
But in this post, we will help you understand more about what a postpartum doula does for new moms after they come home from the hospital.
Is a postpartum doula worth it? Pros and Cons of Hiring a Doula
First things first, we need to define what a doula is.
According to DONA, a doula is a trained professional who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman before, during, and shortly after Labor and Delivery.
The Doula is there to make sure that the laboring and postpartum woman has the best experience possible.
Postpartum Doulas: How can a doula help you?
Care for mom and baby after birth and at home after discharge.
Every new mother should have access to a postpartum doula after giving birth.
In a perfect world…right?
When we first heard about postpartum doulas in the Boston area, many were also Mother-baby RNs, who were working as postpartum doulas on their days off.
So we had to find out what a postpartum doula does for new parents?
Many new parents hire an after-birth doula for overnight care.
The doula comes for 8 to 12 hours and takes care of your baby so you can get some much-needed sleep.
If you are nursing they bring the baby to you so you can nurse.
Then they take the baby back, change the baby, and put the baby back to sleep.
You can go back to sleep.
Sleep that you really need to help heal postpartum.
Enough sleep is also necessary for proper breast milk production.
Postpartum doulas can be hired to come during the day and help you with the baby or give you a chance to rest.
They can assist with family bonding and help older siblings adjust to the new baby.
Having the proper postpartum help can be critical in helping you and your baby be successful at breastfeeding.
Struggling with milk supply issues isn’t uncommon. Two major causes of low milk supply are lack of sleep and dehydration in the new mom.
If your baby was formula fed they would feed the baby and take care of the baby all night so that you could sleep.
Pros of hiring a Postpartum Doula:
Pro #1: More sleep and rest for the new mom.
Sleep deprivation is normal for new parents, but lack of proper sleep for a new mom can slow healing, cause breast milk supply issues, and be a factor in postpartum depression and anxiety.
Many new moms simply don’t have someone that can assist them at home after they give birth.
They are an excellent support person if you will be giving birth in a BFHI certified hospital.
They call themselves “baby-friendly”, but they have closed their nurseries and many offer little help to new moms (even after a c-section).
A postpartum doula would be a Godsend if your partner or family member couldn’t stay with you and assist you with the baby in the hospital.
Pro #2: A postpartum doula has special training in the postpartum period.
They can help a new mom learn how to calm a fussy baby, teach proper swaddling, diapering, bathing, help with breastfeeding issues, and many offer advice for self-care for new moms to aid in faster recovery.
Many doulas are also certified, lactation consultants.
A properly trained postpartum doula can observe and ask you how you are doing.
If you are breastfeeding, is breastfeeding going OK? Do you feel you are getting enough sleep? Have you had any complications and have you contacted her doctor?
They are there to care for you.
Here are the postpartum essentials you’ll want to have ready at home for your postpartum recovery.
This is part 2 of our series on postpartum recovery essentials. In this article, we talk about the things you’ll want and need to make your postpartum recovery easier. This post contains affiliate links. You can read our affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of this post.
Pro #3: They can help the partner of the new mom understand the postpartum period.
They can teach the partner proper techniques for swaddling, diapering, bathing, and feeding their new baby.
They can help both you and your partner understand the changes that new parenthood introduces into your relationship and how to stay connected as a couple.
This is so important and easily overlooked during the postpartum period. As new parents, you are exhausted and it is easy to become overwhelmed and irritable.
Your postpartum doula will be there with your family to smooth out your transition into parenthood.
Pro #4: A doula is there to support your choices and is a non-judgemental person that you should feel free to discuss your struggles and wins with.
They are not therapists but, they can and should be a safe place for you to discuss your frustrations and struggles with new parenthood.
They should be able to provide you the names of outside resources if it is beyond their scope or direct you to contact your doctor.
Pro #5: Postpartum doulas can help new moms deal with relatives who believe they know the right way for you to raise your baby.
They can help you navigate and set boundaries with grandparents and well-meaning friends, which is often hard enough to do when you are not completely overwhelmed by this tiny human that basically needs you 24/7.
Pro #6: Many postpartum doulas will do light housework, help with food prep and meals, and may even supply you with recipes or healthy snacks.
These recipes and snacks are designed to improve your milk supply (if you are breastfeeding) or to help you build your energy back up.
Hopefully laying out these pros of hiring a postpartum doula makes answering “Should I hire a postpartum doula?” a little bit easier.
We do want to talk about a few potential cons of hiring a postpartum doula that we have across in our own research.
Cons of hiring a postpartum doula:
Con #1: Postpartum doulas are expensive.
They range from $35-$50 an hour and usually have a set rate for overnights of around $300-$350. The costs are going to vary regionally, but our research found $35-$50 an hour to be the most common rate quoted.
This cost is not usually covered by insurance. But be sure to check with your insurance provider.
They may be willing to reimburse you for some of the costs.
Some families find they only need a postpartum doula 2 days a week for the first month.
That is an option to consider if having a postpartum doula come for several hours a day, 5 days a week, for a full 3 months is not in the budget.
We would suggest interviewing several postpartum doulas in your area. Prices and services will vary widely.
In some areas of the country, we noted that postpartum doulas don’t seem to offer overnight care, preferring to refer their clients to night nurses.
Con #2: You and your doula may seem like a perfect fit but after you have your baby you may not be a good match.
A postpartum doula is there to support you, not overrule you. Things should be done your way, you should not feel judged or belittled, and you should always feel safe.
As a new mom, you are at your most vulnerable. That is not an exaggeration. The same is true for all mammals who deliver live young and care for them for months or years.
If you feel uncomfortable, you can terminate the services of your postpartum doula at any time.
Using a service like doulamatch.com could be very helpful in making sure you find the right doula for your family.
Con #3: Your doula may not provide the services you expect or paid for.
The article linked above is an important read for any expectant parents considering hiring a postpartum doula.
There is a chance your postpartum doula may not show up or that the care they provide you may not meet your expectations.
It is important to take the same amount of care in hiring a doula, as you did with your choosing a pediatrician or choosing your OB/GYN or Midwife.
If your post-baby doula uses backup doulas to cover for them, make sure you meet them as well.
Make sure you understand the services being offered and what you are paying for.
As a mother who had an emergency C-section, I would have loved to have a postpartum doula.
I was pretty miserable when I came home.
I feel postpartum doulas are a wonderful option for new moms.
If they provide the services and care they agreed to.
We believe new mothers are often not supported appropriately during the postpartum period.
A lot of young couples don’t have a close family that can come to assist them.
That is very difficult. Lack of postpartum support contributes to breast milk supply issues, sleep deprivation, postpartum anxiety, and depression.
If they do have family close by, most of the time when family comes by it is to see the baby.
It isn’t unusual for Mom to be expected to be up and about and to be the entertainment committee for guests.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to come to see the new baby. New babies are adorable!
But you should never show up to just see the baby and not plan on doing something for the new mother.
I think the best baby shower gift you could give a pregnant friend or family member or the best gift you could give a new mom would be for several people to get together and pay for a postpartum doula to come and help the new mom, even if it’s just a couple of nights a week for the first month.
Lack of sleep and lack of physical and emotional support contributes to both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
New moms have high rates of postpartum depression, anxiety, problems with breastfeeding, and they’re exhausted.
Most only have six weeks of maternity leave (if they even have 6 weeks).
This is why we believe postpartum doulas are worth it.
The pros and benefits of hiring a postpartum doula outweigh the few potential cons.