As a postpartum doula, your visits will all be unique. Afterall, no two families are alike, and needs will vary visit to visit. However, there are some basic tips to help ensure a positive postpartum doula visit for each client, each time.
On one hand, it is helpful to think about how you felt most supported in your postpartum period or another vulnerable time in your life. On the other hand, it is important to never assume what you find helpful is helpful for others.
As a professional doula, using your scope of practice and training, you can follow these top tips for a great postpartum doula visit:
When Possible, Know What Support Clients Need Before a Postpartum Doula Visit
One of the easiest ways to anticipate a client’s needs is to utilize an intake questionnaire. As an experienced doula, I have always found having clients rate their needs in order of importance very helpful. Each family will have varying priorities.
For example, one of the questions on our intake questionnaire is:
During our postpartum visits the following are most important to me (put an X for anything you do
not think you will need assistance with)
___ Breastfeeding Support
___ Infant Care
___ Household assistance/Meal help
___ Sibling Care
___ Emotional Support
___ Parenting Education
By having them rate what is most important to them, you can go in knowing what to focus on. Certainly, it’s great if you can tackle everything, but we know that is not always possible.
If a parent is very interested in breastfeeding support but you focus more on household assistance than lactation support, they might be disappointed in a visit. On the flip side, if a parent is experienced with breastfeeding and is simply navigating early feeds, focusing too much on that support rather than perhaps sibling support could be frustrating.
People might not always ask for what they want. By having them prioritize things beforehand can help things run smoother.
Always Check In at The Start of a Postpartum Doula Visit
While the questionnaire before services begin is helpful, we know that we cannot fully anticipate how early postpartum will go. What was a priority during the first couple visits may no longer be a priority after the first week or so.
When you first arrive, whether for a day or night shift, always take a moment to check in. Ask how things have been going. Find out what is a priority for them during that shift. See if they need any reassurance, education, or referrals to other professionals.
Never assume that what worked one visit is exactly what a client will want the next visit. Clear questions and communication is key to a positive postpartum doula visit.
Be Sure Clients Understand Your Scope of Practice
As a postpartum doula, it is important clients are fully aware of your scope of practice and the services you provide. If there are any misunderstandings, a client could inadvertently be disappointed in the support you’ve provided.
For example, as postpartum doulas, we provide household assistance and meal support. However, we are not house cleaners nor chefs. It is important that clients understand what you mean by household assistance.
Each doula has unique definitions of what they consider household assistance. Be sure you are clear with clients about what that looks like for you. One example might be you wash pump parts, bottles, and will unload a dishwasher if the baby is settled. However, you do not clean all the dishes after a meet the baby party.
You might switch a load of laundry, organize baby’s clothes, but you are not deep cleaning a master bedroom closet.
For meal support, you might reheat a meal, help organize a meal, but unless you offer additional services, you are not a personal chef focused on creating three meals a day to order.
Whatever services you are comfortable offering, that fall within your scope of practice, just be sure the client understands it.
Be Empathetic and Hold Space During a Postpartum Doula Visit
As a doula, you are keenly aware of the vulnerability many feel in the postpartum period. Not only are parents experiencing a major life change, but they are also experiencing major hormone fluctuations. Add that to lack of sleep, family or societal pressures, and the unpredictable nature of birth and postpartum, and all the empathy is vital.
Many people want to visit to see the baby. Grandma, Cousin Sally, and bestie Brenda all have varying opinions on how to best feed baby.
A postpartum doula focused on the new parent’s wellbeing and holding space in a non-judgmental way is often a massive breath of fresh air.
Always be sure to provide non-judgmental support. Be a listening ear and a kind voice during a very vulnerable time.