This week is World Doula Week, an annual time to recognize and celebrate the work that doulas do for families during pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood. This year's theme is "Doulas Help Make It Happen," which means that doulas are there to support, inform, encourage, and facilitate the beginnings of happy and healthy families everywhere.
We wanted to join in on the celebration and tie into this year's theme with specific information on defining the what and the how of "doulas make it happen." What do they help make happen? And how do they do it? Let's take a look:
Doulas provide direct physical, emotional, and mental support during labor, birth, and postpartum. A doula can support you directly, on her own, and/or enhance the support provided by your partner, your labor nurse, and your care provider by filling in the gaps and providing tips on how to support you best. A doula also provides support by giving quality, reputable resources during pregnancy leading up to your birth.
Doulas provide physical and emotional comfort. Physically, a doula can provide hands-on comfort techniques during birth (if that's your preference). A doula also helps guide partners and other birth support persons to provide comfort in ways that best help a laboring person. A doula comes to your birth with many ideas and tools to find comfort during labor, whether it's short, long, or somewhere in-between, including massage, hydration, heat or cold, music, scents, position change tips, and more. Comfort from a doula comes in other ways, too. Emotionally, a doula knows how to sit with and "hold space" for your emotions, helping you find comfort through difficult or unsettling emotions that often happen throughout pregnancy and birth.
Doulas a trained to encourage and teach you to hold your baby skin to skin in the moments and hour after birth, as well as in the postpartum period, which is not only beneficial for baby's health, but helps make bonding and attachment more likely. Doulas also provide verbal reassurance to let parents know that they've got this -- they know their baby best and can confidently care for baby.
Doulas help get breastfeeding off to a good start and provide the resources needed to keep it going. In the minutes and hours after birth, a labor doula will help guide the breastfeeding parent to initiate the first feed; provide tips for latch, and baby and parent's positioning; and help parents identify signs baby is swallowing and breastfeeding well. Doulas also are well connected with local lactation consultants and can point you in the direction of a trusted resource should you need help at anytime during your breastfeeding journey.
Hiring a doula can make big, positive differences for parents throughout their birth and parenting journey. You can learn more about doulas, including what to expect from a doula during birth and how to afford a doula, in the many past posts we've shared about doulas.