Overnight Care FAQ
Do you support breastfeeding at night?
Many prospective clients believe we will “take the baby” and bottle-feed them at night, which we are happy to do with bottle-fed babies if it allows the parents to recover after birth or during challenging times. However, your goals are our goals, and if breastfeeding is your goal, we will do everything in our power to help you have success. This includes bringing your baby to you to feed at night, supporting you with information and encouragement at 3 am when things are frustrating, and helping you with pumping and storing milk if you want others to bottle-feed while continuing to breastfeed. Our goal is for breastfeeding moms to do as much or as little as they want at night, while we fill in any remaining gaps so she can go right back to sleep. So you might wake up to breastfeed for 30 min or so, but we will burp, change, swaddle and soothe your baby back to sleep, even if that means holding or walking them all night. Some moms never leave their bed during night shifts (except to use the bathroom) and feed their babies several times as well as have several meals or snacks!
Are you Baby Nurses?
No, we are not RN’s, and although we possess similar skills to traditional “Baby Nurses” (women who care for babies at night or round the clock but are not necessarily nurses), a postpartum doula’s primary role is to care for the mother, baby or babies, partner, and practical things around the house--in that order—and not just the baby. Postpartum doulas offer the same type care during the day that they do at night, only in a quieter way that promotes sleep for babies and parents so they can begin to sync up daytimes and night times. Daytime doulas educate and support around baby care and breastfeeding, and doulas do the same thing at night—at least when parents are requesting it (and not while they are sleeping!) Sometimes parents stay up much of the time to pick our brains, and other times they use doula time for deep sleep, as they trust that we have it covered and that our magical elves will help them get things done at night to make their days more peaceful as well.
Do you sleep?
Nighttime doulas are not sleeping when the baby sleeps, but up helping out the family doing quiet activities and monitoring babies, sometimes strategizing what will work best for a new sleep setup, sometimes problem solving. Some of the activities we do other than tending to babies or parents are dishes or laundry, tidying the baby’s room or changing area, making food (if it doesn’t disturb family members) and researching resources for the family. Do we rest? Yes. There are times when babies are peacefully sleeping and all the chores are done that we do sit down and close our eyes.
Do we need a guest room or bed for the doula?
No, we do not need a guest space because we are not your guests. We are there to serve your family, and a couch or recliner is plenty for a quick rest near the baby when all is done. Each family decides what would be the most helpful for them, and of course babies come first, so if baby is having a challenging night, less will get done, and there will be no resting for the doula. We just prefer to rest a bit so our commute home is safer for everyone on the road, as eyes that have been up all night are sometimes not as sharp as eyes that have closed for a bit.
Wait, you cook???
Yes, we do! We can make something as basic as peanut butter toast at midnight to oatmeal or frittata for breakfast, or even put something in the crock pot for later in the day. We chop up fruits and veggies that are languishing on the counter or fridge and will serve them to you right in bed with some protein or bring you a cup of hot soup or tea. If you are craving something, let us know! Some of our doulas are extensive food preparers, and some will take requests but don’t have a huge menu they offer. If food preparation is important to you, please let us know so we can pick a doula that fits your needs! Breakfast in bed is a popular request (sometimes at 4 am when moms are starving) so make sure to have a quick conversation with your doula before you get some sleep, so we know what you would most like and we can be working on it.
Will the doula follow our direction and wishes with our baby?
Here is something we know well; THIS IS YOUR BABY. And we trust you to make the right choices for your kid(s)! We are there to help if you want our help, to offer evidence-based info and ideas that other parents have found success with. But we are far more invested in your ideas for this baby, as we want you to learn to recognize and trust your own instincts (you know—those things that will let you know when your ‘babies” are sneaking out at night when they are teenagers.) Most of us have already had our babies (or we dream about having our babies if we haven’t yet) but we are not here to parent your babies. We respect your right to parent how you see fit, and we will gladly support whatever you choose, unless we feel there is a safety issue, which we will tell you about gently with continued faith in your instincts--and this is almost never an issue. Parents love their babies more than anyone else possibly could, so we know what you want for your baby is the best for your family. We might have ideas about what would be practical or what we have seen work for other families, but we won’t judge your choices or try to get you to see our perspective to change your mind.
Your baby, your home, your choices.
How long can we keep you?
One of the most common requests we get is to move in and stay forever! Although we can be so valuable in the early days when you are exhausted and learning so much about your baby and your new roles as parents, believe us; it will not feel like this forever. You will learn more about your baby every day, your baby will grow and change in needs and abilities, and you will sleep through the night again! We see most families needing overnight support for the first 6-8 weeks, or more like 8-12 weeks with twins or triplets. Sometimes we can stay a bit longer if there are extenuating circumstances, or if we are not booked with brand new babies and you just need a bit more care to get back on your feet (with difficult recoveries, multiples, or postpartum depression this can be a common request). But believe it or not, suddenly your baby will make huge strides and you will look at each other one morning and say, “We got this!”
There are no penalties for not using doula care this long either; many families need just a night or two to recover and then prefer to use the daytime service. We want you to have the perfect level of care; enough for you to feel supported, but not extra people in your home all the time to get in the way of you bonding and having wonderful memories with your babies.
Do you sleep train babies?
This is a loaded question. Do we help babies sleep well at night? Yes, absolutely. Do we help with practices that encourage longer stretches of sleep as babies grow and develop and seem ready? Yes. Do we take a 6-8 week old baby and try to make them sleep through the night with no feedings? NO. We support baby’s developmental process and also parent’s needs for rest, but we won’t force your baby onto a plan that doesn’t support his or her nutritional needs or will sabotage the breastfeeding relationship. We will help your baby distinguish night from day with darker room lighting, white noise use, using soft voices and less stimulation at night so they can learn that nights are for resting and days are for playtime. We will help establish sleep routines that make your process more efficient at night, and allow for smoother transitions between sleep and wake times, and we certainly will problem solve with babies who “don’t sleep” (as many parents describe their babies) so we can find solutions for everyone’s health. But we are not there to sleep train your babies onto a strict program that doesn’t support bonding between parents and children.
Can we just have overnight care or do we need some day time doula service too?
We recommend that you have a few day time visits mixed into your overnight care, but you get to decide what is best for your needs and budget. The reason we encourage the day time visits are multifaceted, but primarily we want you to have time to problem solve with your whole brain. With some sleep under you belt, you are much more likely to be creative at problem solving, but when you are exhausted and your body says "SLEEP!" you are not going to come up with your best work.
We also like to teach families some of our tricks during the day to get through fussy times, manage more than one baby or child, and somehow get yourself fed and together again. This is much easier to learn during the day.
Finally, if you are a napper (or if you have learned to nap with the onset of parenthood) then you can save a lot by having doulas there during the day for a 4-6 hour stint instead of an 8 hour overnight. During that time we can help do the practical things needed, cover some teaching time, problem solve, and give you an extended nap that can help the nights go more smoothly when you are on your own.