Over the last few years, there has been a steady rise in the number of postpartum doulas offering their services to the postpartum community in Oregon – especially in the Portland Metro area. But even though there are more postpartum doulas serving clients in Oregon than ever before, postpartum doulas are still relative newcomers to the professional marketplace – both in Oregon and across the nation. And because this is true, there are still many women who are not familiar with postpartum doulas or the services they offer.
What is a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula is a woman who specializes in providing in-home postpartum care to new mothers. Postpartum care typically includes newborn care, breastfeeding support and instruction, information on available resources and help with various household tasks. Many new mothers find that the challenges of having a newborn are more than they anticipated and they appreciate some extra help. Postpartum doulas specialize in newborn care, but the ultimate goal of a postpartum doula is not only to care for the newborn(s), but to help the new mother to mother her baby more effectively. A postpartum doula will typically come in right after the return home from the hospital stay and provide care for the mother, baby and household during the “settling in” time. Sometimes a postpartum doula will come after the new father returns to work and the mother is alone with her baby for the first few weeks. Ultimately it is the needs of the new mother that will determine what type of postpartum assistance is needed and for how long.
Finding a postpartum doula
If you’re like many women when they first hear about postpartum doulas, you’re probably thinking, “That sounds great, but how do I find a good, experienced doula?” With so many postpartum doulas offering their services in Oregon, all with different levels of experience, training and certification, not to mention different personalities and convictions, it can be intimidating if not overwhelming trying to find a postpartum doula that is just right for you. The postpartum period can be stressful enough without the added pressure of having to select a qualified postpartum care provider. Below are a few tips and some additional information that, hopefully, will help make your search for a postpartum doula a stress-free and productive experience.
Training and Certification:
Most postpartum doulas will attend a postpartum training before offering their services to the general public. Typical postpartum training workshops are 16-30 hours long, and cover a broad range of postpartum topics. There are several national and local doula organizations that offer postpartum trainings for women who want to become postpartum doulas. The two biggest national doula organizations are CAPPA (www.cappa.net) and DONA (www.dona.org). Each of these organizations has a listing of doulas certified with them on their website. As a starting point in your search for a postpartum doula, you should make sure that any doula you are considering has attended a postpartum workshop. Becoming trained is only the first step in becoming a certified doula.
To become certified a doula must not only provide proof of training, but also proof of experience (with several client evaluations). She must also prove her knowledge in the field, by passing a comprehensive test and/or performing lengthy research on postpartum topics. In addition, to become certified a doula must be both CPR and First Aid certified for newborns. By becoming certified, a doula is making herself accountable to a community of her colleagues, which gives her more credibility in the eyes of the medical, corporate and insurance communities as well as potential clients. Certified doulas will usually list the name of the association(s) or organization(s) through which they received their certification after their name.
Ideally, you will want to find a postpartum doula with direct postpartum experience. But there are several things to consider when asking a potential postpartum doula about her experience. First, determine when the doula’s experience was. If her only postpartum experience was several years ago, there’s a good chance some of her knowledge is out-of-date. As in most fields, new research findings are always surfacing in the postpartum world, often changing or replacing old knowledge. In addition to recent experience, an ideal postpartum doula will be regularly taking part in some type of continuing education opportunities, such as reading new books, attending conferences and/or workshops, and participating in forum-type groups with other doulas. Another thing to consider when it comes to a doula’s experience is the unique circumstances of her previous clientele. For example, a doula who worked several years with one family that had a single newborn and no siblings will not have the same experience as a doula who worked the same amount of time with several different families with singletons and siblings, or a doula who has worked with families with multiples. If possible, try to find a doula who has experience with situations very similar to your own. If that cannot be achieved, try to choose a doula with a broad range of experience over several years.
Another thing to consider as you search for a postpartum doula is her personality and convictions. A doula might look and sound great on a web-site or brochure and have all the qualifications and experience you are looking for, but still not be a match for your family because of her personality. For this reason, always ask, at the very least, for a phone interview with any doula you are considering. Some doulas will even offer prenatal interviews in person, which is even better, as it will give you a chance to meet and interact with the doula personally to see first if she will be a good “fit” for you and your family. Even if a potential doula or doula service company does not advertise a free interview/consultation it never hurts to ask if such an interview is possible.
As a rule, most postpartum doulas offer fairly similar services. These services will typically include: breastfeeding support and instruction, newborn care, soothing skills, meal preparation, resource information and various household chores. But some services are not offered by all doulas – such as overnight care. If there are certain services in particular that you are looking for, be sure to ask potential doulas specifically about those services. Another thing to consider is how much time you think you might want. For example, if you know that you will want both day and night care for several days a week, you will probably need to find a group of doulas who work together, such as a doula service company, since a single doula would not be able to meet such a need alone.
Where to look:
So, now that you’re armed with all these tips on finding great postpartum doula care, where and how do you actually go about looking for this service? There are actually many great resources available for finding a postpartum doula, especially in the Portland, Oregon metro area. One of the best places to look is the online – a simple search for a postpartum doula in your area will usually give you plenty of options to choose from. Another great place to look is among your own family and friends. You may already know someone who has had experience with postpartum doulas and can help steer you in the right direction. Also consider local moms’ groups – another great way to get a personal referral. You can often find advertisements for doulas in local publications that cater to postpartum mothers (Such as Metro Parent magazine in the Portland area).
The postpartum period is one of the most rewarding and special times in a mother’s life. But it can also be a trying time, both emotionally and physically. Postpartum doulas offer a wonderful and valuable service to those families who are able to take advantage of this service, and Portland Oregon is fortunate to have a large community of postpartum doulas. If you are now, or are soon to be in the postpartum period, hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what postpartum doulas are and how to go about finding one that will be prove to be a great fit for your unique situation.
Copyright 2012, ABC Doula Service