The Postpartum Doula’s Role in Maternity Care: A DONA International Position Paper

Role of the Doula

In traditional societies women and men grow up around birth, breastfeeding, infants and children. After giving birth, women are surrounded by caring family members who have a great deal of experience and wisdom to offer. This kind of help is rarely available to new parents internationally. The doula’s support is intended to fill the gaps left by our customary postpartum practices, which usually include only medical procedures, occasional checkups and the purchase of baby-related paraphernalia. The doula’s education, quiet support and guidance are a manifestation of the traditional postpartum support that our society is missing.

Doulas are trained in postpartum adjustment, newborn characteristics, care, feeding and development, and the promotion of parent-infant bonding. They are experienced in supporting families through their postpartum experience. Coming into the home during the fourth trimester following birth, the doula’s role is to provide education, non-judgmental support and companionship, and to assist with newborn care and family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tasks. Postpartum doulas offer evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and can make appropriate referrals when necessary.

The doula can serve as a “buffer” for new parents, who receive a great deal of unsolicited and possibly outdated advice. The doula can help friends and family members to foster and support the parenting decisions of the new parents. By modeling a deep respect for the wisdom and decision making abilities of the new parents, she makes clear that supporting them in their own choices will have the best possible results.

By dedicating herself to the family in this way, the doula validates and enhances the parents’ intuitive ability to nurture and encourages them to develop and implement their own parenting style.

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