By now, you may have heard about birth doulas and why you absolutely must have one at your birth. But do you know what a postpartum doula is? Some might argue that a postpartum doula is even more essential than a birth doula.

But what exactly does a postpartum doula do?

Really, it depends on your unique needs after giving birth. A first time mom bringing home her baby will have a very different set of needs than a mom bring home her 3rd or 4th baby.

Your pregnancy and delivery will also determine what kind of help you need after giving birth. Moms who have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes may need closer monitoring following labor and delivery. Moms who had a cesarean or tearing may need extra help with cooking and chores so that they can stay off of their feet.

Regardless of your needs a postpartum doula can help you in the following ways:

1. Listen to and help you process your birth story.

2. Talk through and help you process fears you might have surrounding your postpartum recovery.

3. Recognize risks and signs of postpartum depression and make referrals for mental health support.

4. Coach you on how to ask for and accept help. Help you find your voice to say “no” to support that is not aligned with your goals.

5. Recognize normal physical recovery. Make referrals when necessary.

6. Go with you to your postpartum check-up and hold your baby so you can get the most out of your visit.

7. Go with you on your first outing with your baby so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or alone.

8. Hold your baby so you can take a nap, a shower, a walk, read a book, journal or whatever self-care you need.

9. Bring you food and drink so you can stay in bed with your baby.

10. Help organize all of the baby stuff you have.

11. Help set up a safe sleep space in your or your baby’s room.

12. Help set up a breastfeeding space so you have all of your nursing essentials at your fingertips.

13. Provide hands on breastfeeding help and education.

14. Support your breastfeeding goals without judgment.

15. Provide evidenced based education on other feeding methods like feeding your baby pumped milk or even using formula, if that is your choice.

16.  Model how to hold, bathe, dress, swaddle and calm your baby so you can feel confident in your new skills.

17. Help navigate through all of the baby gear to help you find what works for you and your family without the hassle.

18. Show you how to wear your baby for even closer snuggles and skin to skin bonding.

19. Process your placenta for alternative healing, at your request.

20. Help with some household chores so you can focus on your recovery, breastfeeding and bonding.

21. Run errands for you so that you can rest and recover.

22. Pick up groceries so you can focus on your baby.

23. Prepare freezer meals or prep veggies and fruits for nourishing meals and snacks that support postpartum recovery.

24. Show you how to wrap your postpartum belly for extra support as your body adjusts to not being pregnant.

25. Work with dad, grandparents and other caregivers to strengthen your baby’s village.

Now, don’t you agree that everyone becoming a new parent deserves THAT level of care and support after bring their new baby home?

Postpartum doulas are an amazing addition to a new mom’s support network.Now that you know just some of the things a postpartum doula can do its time to think about how a postpartum doula can benefit you specifically.

A great place to start is to think about 2 or 3 of the biggest struggles you anticipate facing after birth. Jot down your answers on this free worksheet. You can use it later on to start a postpartum plan or as a guide when interviewing postpartum doulas.

Next, think about 2 or 3 (or more!) people in your current village that you can count on to support you through each struggle.

Third, write how they can specifically help you face this challenge.

Do you have enough coverage? You may or may not. But the reality is postpartum is more than 2 or 3 issues that arise and then go away. You are constantly experimenting and adapting to your baby.

The early days after your baby is born might seem great but you will also be vulnerable, raw and evolving.

Think about somethings you feel you might need help with but not feel so comfortable asking a family member or friend to do.

If you are not so sure about who you can rely on, it may be time to consider broadening your postpartum support network. Luckily, there are lots of caring professionals ready to help you out in real, practical ways after giving birth. You deserve it!