I’ve been a certified DONA postpartum doula for more than 20 years and this is the one question I always receive from expecting parents. It’s a question I wish I knew to ask when I was pregnant “What is the difference between Baby nurse and doula?”
I now know firsthand as a mother one of the reasons why I became a postpartum doula, what it feels like to have a baby nurse in your home when you feel so vulnerable and don’t know how to care for a baby, but I did not realise the baby nurse is not trained or knowledgeable about helping me with breastfeeding and not able to be supportive, it was not her job to teach me the day to day care of my newborn, I felt left out caring for my baby, she would sit and rock my baby all day as my husband and I longed to care for our baby, we had to ask permission from the baby nurse to touch my child.
From my experience as a mother, it was not hard to be drawn to doula work to help make the transition for other parents smoother and help them feel supported as they learn.
Some detail about the different jobs: Let’s start with the philosophical difference and training between a doula and a baby nurse. A certified “Postpartum Doula” came about to support breastfeeding and the transition to parenthood. So, all certified postpartum doulas have the training to help families that want to breastfeed unlike the baby nurse, that is not her job or her training, (naturally, doulas are also supportive and great with helpful tips on bottle-feeding or pumping).
My agency postpartum doulas are supportive, non-judgemental and knowledgeable professionals helping families find their own voice and style of caring for their baby.
Parenthood is a major life transition and postpartum doulas are trained to notice if the adjustment period is more overwhelming than normal and be available to listen with an open heart and knowledgeable ear. We can address concerns if needed and know all the community referrals for mental health resources or parent support groups.
The doula is different because we are there to promote the parents bonding with their baby learning how to understand your babies cues for feeding and sleeping, this is done with the doulas’ guidance, though her knowledge and training in developmental newborn milestones of newborns.
Doulas are there to address the needs for the whole family, so our role is one of the mentors, assistant, teacher, nurturer and helps with the siblings and family transition. That is not the responsibility or job of a baby nurse, and this makes the difference when you’re feeling vulnerable and recovering from the birth and learning about your baby.
Doulas differ greatly from baby nurses as they are not there solely to tend to the baby’s needs but to support, encourage and teach a family how to care for their own newborn (yes, we adore babies and will care for your baby while you shower, take a nap or need to go out).
A postpartum doula is a quiet practical non-judgmental presence in your home someone not there to take over physically leaving parents empty handed longing to care and understand their baby. A baby nurse’s job and role is to exclusively take care of the baby’s needs, feeds the baby, sleeps with the baby at night.
A doula takes care of you so you can care for your baby!
Doula Care Postpartum doulas know how to empower parents helping them learn to trust their own instincts and teaching them how they can meet their baby’s needs independently.
Postpartum Doulas have a saying “we want to work our way out of a job”. That means our job as a doula has been done well with a family when we are not needed and you’re feeling reassured as new parents and built-up your confidence able to care for your own baby.
Doulas are also flexible in our role and changes as needed for different families. The doulas with my agency besides being certified postpartum doula and certified lactation counselors, they have backgrounds and training as childbirth educators, lactation counselors, as Le Leche league leaders, massage therapists, yoga instructors involved in the birth community.
We understand new parenthood as experienced seasoned parents ourselves
Because families are busy bonding with their baby the doula is accommodating and helpful around the house; a doula will take care of necessary tasks for the family such as laundry, errands, tidying up and cook nourishing foods!