Meet Jen Levinson. Postpartum Doula, Lactation Counselor, and the person I wish I knew about when I was pregnant with my son. Have no idea what a postpartum doula is or why you would want to hire one? Let Jen fill you in on what she does and why it’s so beneficial to new moms. What is a Postpartum Doula?
You might have heard of birth doulas who help moms labor through their births. Postpartum doulas help moms learn about their babies and how to be parents after birth. During that postpartum period, I provide emotional, informational, and practical support. When moms are recovering from the birth experience, I help them care for the baby’s needs. I make the distinction that a baby nurse takes care of the baby, but I’m there to take care of the baby and you, the mom. I also provide lactation support when the mom is breastfeeding.
I can assist with cooking and light housekeeping, such as dishes and laundry. This period enables mom and baby to bond, while I mind the other stuff. And if an older sibling is involved, I might, for example, play a game with that child, allowing the mom time to feed the baby. For a mom who cannot drive due to a C-section, I provide transportation to a doctor or the grocery store. If it’s pertaining to the family needs, I’m there to help!
Why You Need One
The postpartum period can be extremely overwhelming and filled with anxiety. With a postpartum doula, you have someone there to help walk you through how to take care of your baby in a step-by-step way. All the uncertainty about how to take care of your baby and the second-guessing when you become a parent is gone. Now you have someone there with you!
Postpartum doulas help keep you on track with feedings and doctors’ appointments. I like to call it a side-by-side buddy or companion. Together we can participate in the learning process and figure out what type of parent you want to be. All this helps lessen anxiety and depression and reassures that you aren’t alone, nor the only person this is happening to. Postpartum doulas are also there to give moms space to learn on their own. We aren’t there every hour of the day. When we leave, the moms try to do it on their own, and then we come back to help and check in. We help them learn to do it on their own but with some extra guidance.
When to Hire
Most moms I have worked with know in advance they want a doula and hire me between six and nine months into the pregnancy. Still,l there are many clients who call right after they have the baby.
Why Didn’t I Know About This?
Most doulas are not typically introduced to expecting women through their OBs or midwives; we are not well known as a resource – or to moms who are adopting. When you’re pregnant, you call an OB or midwife who you’re primarily talking to. If they do not ask what your support system looks like, then how would you know to inquire? If a woman is in a group who knows someone that used a doula or is a holistic person, she might be more familiar with us.
Family Care Doulas
Family Care Doulas is the name of my practice, located in the New York Hudson Valley area. I am certified both as a postpartum doula and lactation counselor. Typically, I do not work with more than two clients at a time, the exception being a lactation-only mom. This ensures you get all the attention you need. My coverage area is Westchester, Rockland, and Fairfield counties. On average, I work with moms from two weeks up to the first month after birth. There are many clients, though, who retain me for longer periods, even up to six months! I know my job is done when the mom feels confident, and then it’s time to separate. This is a rewarding yet sad time, as relationships are developed with the moms I support.
Finding Your Postpartum Doula
Make sure it’s the right fit when you hire a postpartum doula. A mom and her doula need to be a good match. One doula might be better suited for you than another. If you are outside my practice area, I will refer you to a postpartum doula who can help you. I will assist with searching the Hudson Valley Birth Network. You can also start by calling your pediatricians, OBs, or midwives. Another good place to explore is Doulas of North America (DONA). Find postpartum doulas in your area by typing in your state.
Asking the Right Questions
The main questions to ask are: What are your fees? Are you certified? What is your typical length of stay, specifically, how many hours and days a week? It’s also a good idea to ask for referrals from families the doulas have worked for; that can make you feel more comfortable. The minimum time to retain my services is three hours a day, two or three days a week. This is typical for what most moms want. The hours are gauged and assessed in the first week or two, based on needs. You will find many doulas require you to sign on for a particular number of hours up front, but that is not how I practice. How will you know what you need before the baby comes?
On Becoming a Postpartum Doula
When I had my oldest, I went through a postpartum period; it wasn’t depression but a horrible first month. When my son turned two, my husband wanted me to go back to work. At the time I wasn't planning to, so I thought I would become a postpartum doula and pay it forward! I’m currently the vice president of the Hudson Valley Birth Network, and that has helped my network grow, in addition to word of mouth and referrals.
If you are thinking about becoming a postpartum doula, you should get certified. I received my certification from Doulas of North America (DONA). It is a process of training, reading books, logging in a required number of hours doing role play, and bonding with other doulas in the program. I found it also helpful to be a mom.
Supporting Moms with Postpartum Depression
I’ve had several moms with postpartum depression. Some I cared for were already on medication, so I served in an after-care capacity. There was one mom I worked with who could not leave her home. We focused on being able to just go outside the house. Others needed my help with learning how we go to the food store or for a walk. Sometimes the signs of depression just creep in, and I am trained to recognize the red flags. It is not within a doula’s scope of practice to treat postpartum depression. The difference with these moms versus moms not suffering from postpartum depression is knowing when to suggest referral to a therapist, while I’m helping them with their babies.
Advice for New Moms
Get educated. Get informed. Be empowered. Line up your support team ahead of time. It’s not just about the birth; it’s also about after the birth. I reassure my clients all the time that this is just temporary. Every step in the beginning is a temporary phase. I assure them that "this too shall pass."
BIO: Jen Levinson is a Certified Postpartum Doula through DONA International (Doulas of North America), a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), and Vice President of Hudson Valley Birth Network. It is her goal to provide new mothers with the confidence and support they need to feel comfortable in developing their parenting style. Over the past eight years Jen has supported dozens of families through this life-changing experience and has provided the highest caliber of support and resources needed in order to enjoy their postpartum period. Read more about Jen.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for postpartum hourly support fees or lactation support fees. Hospital visits are also available.