Interviewed by Emily Freehling
Parents have nine months to prepare for the transformational experience of bringing home a new baby, but those first few weeks home with baby can be challenging, even for experienced parents. Especially at a time when social distancing is encouraged, grandparents may want to keep their distance and support groups and classes aren’t meeting, new mothers can feel isolated and overwhelmed. A Mother’s Perspective Doula Services has been empowering women during the prenatal, birth and postpartum phases of life for years Many families are not aware that bringing on a postpartum doula is an option that can allow them to get more sleep, get help with some of the most frustrating challenges newborns present and truly enjoy those first few snuggly weeks with baby. As our October Expert, A Mother’s Perspective’s Alyse O’Steen, a certified postpartum doula, answers questions about how she helps women and families navigate life with a newborn.
Q: What is a postpartum doula?
Alyse O’Steen: It’s a person who is available to help guide families through this new and beautiful, yet challenging, chapter in their lives. Whether it’s bringing home a first-time baby or expanding their family, a doula is there to assist with everything from sleep training to navigating constipation and reflux issues to setting up the stroller for that first walk with baby.
Q: How did you decide to become a postpartum doula?
Alyse: I have five children under 7. I am a military spouse, and my husband was not around when we had our kids. I did everything by myself, because we didn’t have family around. I have seen a lot and done a lot. I have a passion for postpartum women because it is not a talked-about time in your life. There are so many things that go on when you hit postpartum, so many hormones that may affect the way you feel, and so much to do to care for a new baby. I wanted to be there to remind women that they are OK, they can do this, and I am going to help them. It really is a beautiful time and I want them to be able to embrace that beauty.
Q: Why do women seek out a postpartum doula?
Alyse: Often it’s when they don’t have family nearby to help, or a support network to help. We are that extra set of hands, but we also provide knowledge that comes from our training and our experience. That can be especially helpful for first-time mothers. A lot of families also come to us to help with nights. Helping a new mom get sleep can do so much to make this time easier.
Q: How can you help new mothers get sleep?
Alyse: It’s very common for postpartum doulas to work night shifts. I am there overnight to take care of baby and make sure mom and dad can take care of themselves by getting rest. Sleep is so important to mental and physical health. When you are not sleeping, you are going to be crankier, more short-fused, you might get angrier at baby and it can affect your milk supply when you are breastfeeding. I am also a pre- and post-natal fitness specialist, and lack of sleep can affect weight gain and overall recovery from childbirth. It sounds selfish, but you need that rest. If we empty our cup completely, how can we serve this baby?
Q: How is a postpartum doula different from a night nurse?
Alyse: With a doula, it’s not just about care for baby. I am also there to provide emotional support for mom and make sure she is OK. I am not a medical professional, so I can’t give medical advice, but I ask mom how she is feeling. If she had a C-section, how is she healing? I can suggest things she should bring up with her doctor. It’s checking in with mom, answering her questions, letting her cry when she wants to cry. Making mom feel human is really important. And in addition, I’m there to do anything and everything for baby. If I’m working a night shift, I can also do some light household work such as cleaning bottles, pump parts, baby laundry. I am not a house cleaner, chef or maid, but I’m there to do anything related to baby to make life easier during this time.
Q: Do I need to line up a postpartum doula before I give birth?
Alyse: That’s not necessary. If you are in that newborn period, you are not sleeping and you need some help, that is a perfect time to visit our website at mothersperspective.com and click the button to schedule a consultation. But you can also engage with us before baby is born. We offer pre-natal and birth doula assistance, as well as private childbirth education classes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved many of our consultations to virtual formats, but we are still providing in-person services, and our contracts can stipulate mask-wearing and other safety procedures to keep your family safe and healthy. We are a network of certified doulas who can assist parents with a wide variety of needs related to childbirth, and we are here to talk to you whenever you feel you need that assistance. We really are a one-stop shop for moms during this chapter in their lives.
Q: What else would you want more women to know about the postpartum period?
Alyse: I wish more people knew that nobody is the same, and you shouldn’t compare your experience to those of others. It’s OK to ask for help. Help is good. We are here to assist you and you won’t need us forever—we are just giving you the tools to enjoy this beautiful time in your life.
To learn more, visit mothersperspective.com.