A doula is a new mom’s BFF—breastfeeding friend. Why and how? Breastfeeding consultant and doula Leilani Wilde shared her insights at a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition general meeting.
A doula is a woman experienced in birth and/or postpartum care who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to the mother before, during, and after the birth.
A birth doula can play an important role in supporting mothers during labor, delivery, and initial breastfeeding at hospital, birth centers, or at home births. When a brand-new baby is placed on a new mom’s breast shortly after the birth, it’s often hard for the mom to believe that she really has anything to feed the baby. The baby often doesn’t latch on right away, either. Having a doula there can be a wonderful reassurance that there was nothing strange about mom and baby both being unsure how to get started.
“As a birth doula, my job is to reduce moms’ pain and offer comforting measures and support to them,” said Wilde. A doula has a lot to do at birth: eliminating stress and keeping moms relaxed; reducing the likelihood of interventions; supporting dads; helping new parents understand what the postpartum journey is like.
Wilde shard one technique that she often uses when providing one-on-one support throughout labor: acupressure points. “When assisting moms through labor, acupressure points can be used to help facilitate labor and help avoid interventions.”
Once the baby arrives, a doula promotes on demand breastfeeding by assisting and observing mom and baby. First help mom recognize baby’s feeding cues, and then encourage frequent skin-to-skin that regulate body temperature and help baby seek out the nipple.
“Doulas never leave their side until the baby gets feed,” said Wilde. When a breastfeeding attempt failed, doula assures mom, supports her, and comforts her.
When breastfeeding finally happens—“The first latch is always magical!” said Wilde. Now the doula’s job is to teach mom how to recognize a good latch. Wilde pointed out that while doulas are not educated to the level as lactation consultants, they are trained and know the breastfeeding basics. They should also be able to recognize red flags indicating further evaluation, intervention, and possible referral.
Families may benefit from referral to a postpartum doula, this is especially true for new parents. Day one after giving birth is often a chaos—nurses are telling the mom things, doctors are telling the mom things, family members are telling the mom things—the mother may heard a lot information about breastfeeding but not absorbing them. In this case a postpartum doula can answer all the questions that families may have.
Imagine a young couple looking down on their precious newborn. Baby is here! Now what?
Now the doula steps in, teaches parents the opportunities to feed, the needs of the baby, and supports the family with encouragements, gives them the current information.
New moms don’t always have their moms or their in-laws nearby to help them. Doulas can “mother” the new mother by helping with the chores so the new moms can rest, or by empowering them so they can succeed and lean to trust their own natural instincts.
Even when new moms do have their moms or in-laws nearby, there is still a role for the doula. The grandmas may aren’t as current as the new parents would like them to be when it comes to taking care of the new baby. The new mother may getting a lot of education but not enough support from her in-laws. “Just listen,” said Wilde. “Moms always need someone to that is non-judgmental talk to.”
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng.