Many families consider having a postpartum doula support after the birth of a new baby, but many are not quite sure how that looks within the privacy of their family home. In addition to day support, a popular choice among our families is to have their doula provide some overnight support. Today, Emerald Doula co-owner and Postpartum Expert, Suzanne Lee gives you a glimpse into what those wee hours look like, from your doula's perspective.
10:00 p.m.: I arrive at your home. I quietly knock on the door or text a family member that I have arrived. Some families leave a light on and a door unlocked so I can help myself inside without causing any interruption.
10:05 to 10:15 p.m. I greet you and any still-awake family members, and catch up on how your day went, your baby's (or babies') eating schedule for the day (it can change day-to-day, so we do this at the start of each visit), your baby's last meal, their last nap and I spend a little time learning about anything that needs to be done during the night. Tonight, the list includes washing bottles, sterilizing pump parts and folding a basket of laundry.
11:00 p.m. After this feeding, I'll burp your baby, and do a diaper change. I'll wash Baby’s hands and feet with a warm washcloth. As I change them into pajamas for the night, I'll have a little conversation with your little one while they protests. Then it's time to swaddle and cuddle up and sing back down to sleep for the next cycle.
2:00 a.m. Time for the next feeding, this time by bottle so you are able to maximize your own sleeping time. Baby spits up on their pajamas, so we'll do a diaper change and put on fresh clothes. This feeding, your baby seems a bit fussier this time so a bit of rocking and singing helps soothe them quietly. Baby drifts off to sleep and is back down again. At this point, I'll bring in the breast pump, a glass of water and a snack so you can pump in bed and go back to sleep.
(For breastfeeding parents, we would bring your baby directly to you for the feeding, minimizing your awake time as much as possible. For bottle feeding parents, your doula would take over all feedings for your baby, and you (and your partner) both can sleep for a solid chunk of time.)
3:00 a.m. Baby comes up out of sleep and cannot settle back in. We re-swaddle, cuddle up and rock for a bit. I notice a few sleepy baby smiles and make a note of it in the night log that I keep. We'll use this log as a way to help you feel engaged with what your baby is doing all night. We also note resources for our local moms and parents groups, in case you wanted start attending to one.
5:00 to 6:00 a.m. I feed Baby for the last time, burp and change their diaper. Re-swaddle and back to sleep for a couple more hours (hopefully!). I'll wash up any final bottles, tidy up the kitchen and lay out the folded laundry for the family. I'll even bring in a bit of breakfast in bed for you (we make a mean breakfast sandwich and hot cup of coffee). I'll write up any final notes in our log on how the night went and quietly sneak out of the front door.
Overnight doula care is a type of support that we love to give to families. It helps you focus on your own recovery from birth, and allows your entire family to rest. In the meantime we, your doulas, take care of your newborn (and your household if there's time!). It's not just a luxury, it's an important part of your postpartum planning. For families with multiples, it's a critical part of those early days and weeks.