Professional Postpartum Care

from Parenting magazine, October 1993

There's nothing like the first few sleep-deprived days at  home with a newbornto make a mom want a little mothering of her own. But what if Grandma lives 1,000 miles away?

A growing number of families are finding that a welcome alternative to a grandmother's help is a professional postpartum caregiver, or doula (from the greek word meaning "a woman who serves women"). "We give support to the mom so she can devote her energy to the baby," says Debra Pascali, the vice president of the National Association of Postpartum Care Services (NAPCS). According to Pascali, who operates Motherlove in New Jersey, similar services are popping up across the country...

Families who have enlisted postpartum support, particularly those with small children, credit their doulas with easing the strain that a new baby places on the household. Unlike traditional perambulator-pushing baby nurses, doulas help in  a number of ways, but they don't take over the hands-on baby duties... "We cook, clean, launder, run errands--whatever needs to be done to keep the household running smoothly," says Mindy Zlotnick, co-owner of The Fourth Trimester...

Doulas are also  prepared to offer information on a number of parenting and baby-care issues. To be certified by NAPCS, a doula must have minimum of two days' training covering such subjects as breastfeeding, postpartum adjustment, family dynamics, hygiene, and nutrition; she must then pass an exam administered by the association. Once certified, she is required to attend quarterly workshops on postpartum related issues. And should anything crop up on the job that a doula can't handle alone, she can refer new parents to support groups, lactation consultants, and medical professionals.

Typically, families employ a doula for a week or two after delivery, for about four hours a day....

Some new mothers who have been pampered by doulas claim that professional caregivers are even more helpful than Grandma, partly because it's easier to place demands on someone who is being paid. "In some ways, it was better than having my mother here," says Nancy Eiseman,  who turned to DoulaCare in Eastpointe, MI, after the birth of her second child. " The woman we hired saw what needed to be done... and then did it. She turned what could have been a difficult couple of weeks into an enjoyable time."

by Wendy  L. Haaf