Can you imagine sitting on your couch breastfeeding your new baby while someone is cooking you a nourishing meal in your kitchen? They will even clean up, make you a cup of tea and then offer you a massage or take the baby so you can have a nap. Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not. This very real person is called a postpartum doula. Their job is primarily to nourish you as a mother while you nourish your baby.

A postpartum doula is often a mother herself – she has been there before and knows exactly what new parenthood is like. She is someone who can listen to you about your day, help you understand your baby and give you confidence as you find your way as a new mum. Even if motherhood is not new to you, this person can help you find your way with a new baby and a toddler at your feet.

While the role of a postpartum doula seems surprisingly new in our society, it is actually very similar to the support women all over the world have received from the other women in their families for thousands of years.

So many cultures still practice this amazing period of nurturing and nourishment for their new mums today. However, often in our Western society this role has been passed to spouses and romantic partners. While these people do an amazing job of supporting their baby’s mamas and being involved with the upbringing of the baby, they regularly have to return to work shortly after the birth of their baby – leaving mum at home alone to learn the ropes and often adding another pressure to the partner’s already full-time workload.

With the prevalence of postnatal mood disorders for both mothers and fathers in our society becoming shockingly high, the importance of a postpartum doula is becoming recognised as a necessary role in the health of our communities.

A postpartum doula passionately believes it takes a village to raise a child, and they are here to help you find your village. While in home support is the primary role of the postpartum doula, they providemany different services and have lots of information to help you thrive along the way.

Where to begin?
By starting your journey with a post-birth planning class where, in a small group, you will be guided through honest conversations about the postpartum period and get a better understanding of the realistic expectations of life with a newborn. You will learn how you can create a supported environment for yourself and will leave with many other tips and tricks to take with you on your journey. Whether you have lots of support, or no support, come along to a planning class and if you can, bring your partner.

These classes are about making a practical plan for both of you, on how to best use the support you do have, while exploring alternatives to filling any gaps. More support is available as you settle into your life as a new mum. Many mothers experience a huge identity shift in the first 12 months after giving birth. You may glide into motherhood like it was always your path, or you may trip, stumble and fall, struggling to find your way. Either way, finding time to reflect on this journey and your own thoughts, feelings and emotions can be a challenge. Mothers circles (which are different from a typical mothers group) are a place where you can join with other mums to explore these new feelings and emotions. One attendee has described the motherhood circle as “group therapy for those who think they don’t need therapy”.

Essentially, the role of a postpartum doula is really to create a space where she is no longer needed – she will provide you with nurture and nourishment, so you can do the same for your baby, all while helping you learn the skills you need to thrive in your new role as a mother.

Beyond Birth Doula offers Essential Post-Birth Planning Classes and Motherhood Matters Circles in Newcastle and Port Stephens. If you are expecting a baby, do yourself a favour and book in for a class before your baby’s arrival. For information on upcoming events check the events tab on Facebook at @beyondbirthdoulaaustralia

When I tell people what I do, often their first response is: “I wish I knew about you when I had my babies, I needed you in my life”. Of course, I love hearing this! But what baffles me is that so many mothers think that they won’t need or don’t deserve the services of a postpartum doula – until it is too late. They struggle through those early weeks feeling like motherhood is a job they should tackle independently. Motherhood has always been something to be shared with other women and, as a mother of four, I have always found it easier and more enjoyable when surrounded by other mothers.

Jenna Affleck