The Value of Postpartum Support

What does Postpartum really mean?  Is the work of postpartum completed in six weeks?  Two months?  Five months?  Is there a “right” time to have mastered your new role as parent or your new role as parent of two, three, twins?

Postpartum, the time period often defined as the time it takes for the uterus to contract (involute) back to it’s prepregnancy size or six weeks, really lasts much longer and involves so much more than the physical restoration of the uterus. 

The disparity between expectations and the reality of a newborn can leave parents feeling out of control of their lives. Even with appropriate expectations, for example, adding a second or third child to the family, the time intensive requirements of caring for a newborn can clearly be challenging. 

Before the addition of a baby to your family, you have control over how you spend your time in working, leisure, sleeping, self-caretaking and other activities.  It is hard to anticipate how dramatically that will change after your baby arrives and hard to imagine just how overwhelming that can be to new parents.

A day in the life of caring for a newborn consists of:

  • at least five hours feeding your baby
  • about two hours changing diapers and clothing and bathing your baby
  • about four hours rocking, comforting and walking with your baby
  • about two hours admiring, cuddling and “playing” with your baby

All of which totals about 13 hours before Mom or Dad have showered, eaten a bite of food or slept a wink.  Parents need support and help after the birth of a baby.

The disparity between expectations and the reality of a newborn can leave parents feeling out of control of their lives. Even with appropriate expectations, for example, adding a second or third child to the family, the time intensive requirements of caring for a newborn can clearly be challenging. 

New parents need to be nurtured and cared for themselves in order to best able to care for their newborns.  The help from grandparents, sisters, neighbors and friends is a valuable support system for new parents.  In our generation and culture of families spread far apart, grandparents who may still be working and neighbors and friends who are busy with their own commitments, it is easy to see a gap in this support.

Postpartum doulas can help bridge the gap and help get new families off to a confident start.  Postpartum doulas main focus is on nurturing mothers, fathers and babies.  Emotional support, breastfeeding guidance, tips on physical comfort measures, practical household help (such as laundry, tidying, meal preparation and sibling care) as well as teaching parents basic soothing techniques and infant care are all part of a postpartum doula’s care.  The doula supports the family in a non-judgmental, gentle way helping them to feel confident in their new roles.

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