What is the difference between a Baby Nurse and a Postpartum Doula? A Baby Nurse cares for your baby while a Postpartum Doula cares for your whole family.
A Baby Nurse is a "non-clinical newborn care specialist with extensive hands-on baby infant experience." A Baby Nurse will change diapers, feed your baby or bring baby to you for feedings, organize your nursery, bathe and care for your baby. A Baby Nurse will also do the baby's laundry.
A Postpartum Doula cares for the whole family. (The mother is the primary focus because that is the best way to insure baby's optimal health and development.) A Postpartum Doula does all the baby care things a Baby Nurse does...And, she'll do YOUR laundry, make meals for your whole family, spend time with your other children, do your dishes, help you heal more quickly and be a source of positive support. Whether you are a first time parent, recovering from birth trauma, facing feeding challenges, or just wanting an objective third party to help without emotional politicking every parenting choice you're making, a Postpartum Doula will help.
The Postpartum Doula strives to help you master baby care with confidence, rather than taking it over for you. However, she'll also care for your baby so you can rest, nap, shower, or have a break. Most Postpartum Doulas do not stay alone with your baby. If this is an important factor for you, be sure to ask ahead of time!
Baby Nurses and Postpartum Doulas are both fields without consistent regulation. It is important to ask about individual training, experience and CPR certification.
Have questions? Please ask! Feel free to comment with your Postpartum Doula or Baby Nurse experience.
Labor Doulas help you during the labor and birthing process. Postpartum Doulas help you after. One is not more important than the other. Which may be more helpful depends on the individual circumstances and people involved. Utilizing both may offer the greatest benefit.
Labor Doulas usually begin meeting with expecting parents months before the birth. They'll establish a relationship and build a birth plan. Once labor begins, the Labor Doula provides continuous support--physical, emotional and informational. She'll help you recognize the various stages of labor, keep you calm, show you positions and techniques to ease your pain, and help you immediately after the birth. Most Labor Doulas do a Postpartum Visit as well, to recap the birth, see how you're adjusting and often give Birth Stories or pictures.
Postpartum Doulas often meet with expecting parents before the birth. (Or, after the birth, when parents are suddenly overwhelmed!) Postpartum Doulas provide physical, emotional and informational support after the birth. They'll help you recognize normal stages of Postpartum Recovery, Newborn Development and Breastfeeding. Postpartum Doulas show you techniques to keep you comfortable and speed healing while you are recovering. They'll guide you in newborn care (bathing, feeding, soothing, etc.) if you're a new mom, or care for your other children if you're not a new mom. They'll help with laundry, dishes and food preparation so you can rest.
Postpartum is not as clearly defined as Labor....Most women will not be in labor for more than 24 hours. Postpartum Recovery is at least 6 weeks, but Postpartum Adjustment can take 3-4 months or more--especially when adequate support is lacking. It's important to have an advocate during your journey. Each Doula has their unique place in a complete birth and recovery plan.
Patholigically independent. Stubbornly insisting on finding my own way. Will power got me through every life struggle....until my first baby was born.
I read voraciously about pregnancy and birth. But NOTHING about Postpartum. I had cared for babies most of my life. How different could it be?
I projected my normal, healthy, pre-pregnant self into every future scenario. I had no idea how I would feel while recovering from childbirth, breastfeeding, and caring for my precious newborn....so suddenly finding myself there was a deep shock.
I was brought to my knees. No matter what I did, I was unable to get it together. I was so emotionally raw and physically tired, I didn't trust myself to say what I truly and desperately needed: HELP! What few resources I had were so focused on the baby, it seemed overwhelming to try to explain why I needed to eat, drink or help with laundry.
My daughter was 18 months old when I read about a "Postpartum Doula." This was EVERYTHING I wished I could have had--someone to gently guide me through the dark night of my soul.... to help me realize that it is impossible to care for your baby if you are not meeting your most basic needs....someone to remind me that, as overwhelming as it is in the moment, it wouldn't always feel like this.
So I became the change I most wanted to see. Truly understanding Postpartum as a separate and distinct life transition, I felt relief. I was not flawed. I was completely unprepared. I didn't realize the impact of not having any support. (Here's a list of lcoal support groups.)
Ultimately, I'm truly grateful for my experience. I learned the hard way, but those pains brought me to one of the greatest joys in my life--being able to help families with new babies.
Postpartum Doula, Breastfeeding Counselor, Mother of Three.