Ever wondered what a night time doula does? Many families ask us about nighttime doula care, curious about it but kind of apprehensive. The first thing I tell them is that night time doula care is just like day time doula care: the doula does whatever is most important to the mom. Many times that involves a mom getting as much sleep as possible while still feeding her baby (or babies), but other times it involves hanging out with the parents for hours, answering questions and trouble shooting breastfeeding (or formula feeding) challenges. Doulas make food for the parents, do leftover dinner dishes, wash bottles or pump parts, and do laundry. Sometimes they cook all night long, in between helping with feeding the baby. If everything is done and babies are peaceful, sometimes we rest. (It helps makes the drive home safer and our eyes more attuned to the babies if we can close them for a few minutes.)The key to remember is that doulas are there to serve, and that we care for babies in addition to caring for parents, but we don't take over the parenting duties. The babies belong to the parents, and the doula only fills the gaps that remain after family and friends have done their helping (and usually they don't offer night shifts!). Tonight I have been with triplets, so things have been a bit different. These babies drink formula, so I have made 3 batches of that tonight, making up 3 sets of bottles for the night and 6 sets for the day. Yep, that's 27 bottles. (And I miscounted and actually made 30. Oops.) I have washed, sterilized, and set out 39 bottles to dry: 30 that I washed and made up, and 9 that I used and rewashed.
I have folded one load of laundry and washed, dried, and folded a second.
I was able to chat with both parents about their extreme fatigue and what great helpers they have had in their lives so far. We trouble shot a bit, discussing long term sleep habit for their babies, and I tried to give them a little ray of hope about what was coming in the next few weeks and months.
And I have cuddled, snuggled, fed, burped, changed and re-swaddled 3 babies all night long. And enjoyed it. But I am tired, and I will truly enjoy heading back home to my bed for a few uninterrupted hours of deep sleep.
I won't have to do too many of these per week, but I do call it a privilege to support families in this intimate role of being present at night when the world seems most scary and fragile. It is my joy, and worth being tired for.
Every night is a little different, and I am happy to say that ABC has a diverse team of doulas who support families during everything from difficult recovery after a hard birth, sleep deprivation, and babies on separate nighttime schedules, to moms with postpartum depression or anxiety, even supporting moms while dads/partners are traveling out of town.
Just like any other kind of doula care, overnights are a flexible time of non judgemental support. And they can make a big difference. (Did you know that healthy sleep in the first weeks of recovery helps to diminish postpartum depression and anxiety?)
Still wondering what a night doula does? Ask away. We are happy to tell you more.