Remember the adagio, it takes a village to raise a child? Well, only one hundred years ago new moms were surrounded by a village that not only helped with the new baby, but that was a very effective baby-care school. Just by living in your village you learned about parenting, breastfeeding, diapering and calming a fussy baby. Today many moms have never seen a woman breastfeed, never seen a baby's diaper changed, or a baby swaddled and put to sleep. We often live far from our mothers and relatives and are left on our own.

Today many new parents take baby-care classes practicing changing diapers, or the perfect latch-on with a perfectly still plastic doll. Yet, things are quite different the first day back from the hospital or birthing center once the squiggly and vociferous bundle of joy is in you hands. As I said about the birth doula, a postpartum doula is a surrogate mother "without the baggage" and truly indispensable for the fist few weeks following the birth.

So what does a postpartum doula really do? Here is a typical case scenario

I meet the parents hopefully before the baby is born, and help them plan the first few weeks after the birth. If I am the birth doula as well, I usually meet them about 24 to 48 hours after they have come home with the baby depending on what type of birth they had. I might meet a mother who has gone through a cesarean earlier then one that has had a vaginal delivery. I usually suggest 4 to 5 hours a day for the first week, or two days a week for two weeks. It really depends on the situation. My goal is to teach both parents how to care for their baby, have them try things out on their own, before I come back and help them improve upon what they have learned.

I do not come to "take over the baby," I simply place myself in a "supervising" position while breastfeeding takes place, during baby's first bath, diaper changing and most importantly, while both mommy and daddy learn how to sooth their crying baby. As a Lactation Educator I work on any challenges with early latch on, feeding positions and/or help the mommy pump milk if she needs to bring milk to an hospitalized child. I show her how to take care of her breasts to prevent engorgement, and any other problems that may arise. I provide information on ways to increase and regulate her milk supply, and help her be patient with her self and the newborn. Breastfeeding is not as easy and "natural" as one might think.

I am dedicated to taking care of the mother and sometimes the father too, rather then simply focusing on the baby. I help them create a gentle schedule ( I do believe in feeding on demand, yet at times a fussy baby does not want to nurse as much as he may needs to be held and shushed to sleep). I show the new parents how to read their baby's subtle cues and learn how to play with her mimicking games. I am there to ensure mom can take a shower, a relaxing nap, and being a good Italian mama myself, I cook up a good evening meal for the family, and make sure mom has plenty of healthy snacks and fluids during the time I am there. When mommy and baby are tucked in, I care for the baby's nursery, do whatever laundry needs to be done, load or unload the dishwasher, tidy up the papers that are lying around, and make a grocery shopping list.

I also make sure I spend time with mom recounting the birthing experience, talking to her about her new role, her fears, preoccupations, and any concerns she might have. I might rub her shoulders and help her release some of the tension she has accumulated during the night, while I continue suggesting ways to manage her nights with the baby. I show dad how to burp the baby between feeding so he can bond with the baby too. I teach them how to care for the belly button. I might discuss with them the latest information I have learned about vaccination, or weaning, or homeopathy and bring some baby care videos for them to view (like "the happiest baby on the block" by Dr. Karp, or "the amazing talents of the new born"). I also reassure them that is perfectly normal for them to forget everything I said today, but that their memory will slowly but surely return, as I will.

While I work for the new parents I am always available on the telephone to answer questions. Once breastfeeding is well established, I offer to do some nights when I can do a breast milk bottle feeding and allow the parents to rest a bit, or even later on allowing the parents to go out on a date. Sometimes I am even happy to travel with the couple if they need me. But, my goal is to help the parents be independent and empower them to learn from me and finally manage on their own.

It is such an honor to be asked to be present at the birth of a baby and to care for the child afterwards. Because of my prenatal contact with mom the baby knows my voice and a bond is established.

And you know, It takes a baby to raise a village too!

Author's Bio: 

Giuditta Tornetta is a birth and post-partum doula, a lactation educator, and a hypnotherapist. Her self-hypnosis CD Joyful Birth has helped hundreds of women experience a natural and stress free birthing experience, nationwide. She has a private practice in Los Angeles, California. She can be reached through her website at or by calling 310-435-6054