How A Postpartum Doula Can Support Your Breastfeeding Journey

Guest Writer on the blog: Sherri Phillips is the Founder of Baby Helping Hands located in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. She is an insured Certified Postpartum Doula and Registered Early Childhood Educator.
 Sherri Phillips postpartum doula and founder of Baby Helping Hands

What is a Postpartum Doula?

Postpartum Doulas are non-medical professionals who provide emotional, physical, informational, and practical support tailored to the needs of families with single or multiple babies. Doulas share their knowledge and community connections related to birth recovery, feeding, baby care and family wellbeing. Postpartum services are available in-person or virtual. 


Emotional Support

Doulas provide guidance, reassurance, and encouragement. As you and your baby are learning how to feed you may experience emotional challenges and need a non-judgemental and empathic listener. Together you can discuss your birth experience, how you envisioned this feeding journey, past feeding experiences if applicable and what support you need for your mental health.

Understanding the difference between baby blues, postpartum anxiety and depression and other mental health helps me collaborate with clients to create a relaxing environment for both feeding and pumping. For example, dim lights, warm or cool cloth, comfortable chair, pillows, snacks, water, and breathing techniques. 


Informational and Physical Support 

If you need clarification about your breastfeeding journey, doulas provide qualified and evidence-based resources, explanations, and demonstrations. Topics may include,

* Anatomy of the breast/chest and how your body works to produce and deliver milk to your baby.

* Latch Positioning 

* Positioning of your body to prevent discomfort. 

* Feeding positions and discussing what might work best due to your birth experience or baby’s health.

* Postpartum changes occurring in your body that can affect your breastfeeding.

* Comfort measures for example, how to do hand expressions, tips for engorgement, sore nipples, and blocked ducts. If conditions do not resolve or other conditions occur, this is when you will need a health care provider's advice.


Supplemental Feeding

Be prepared just in case you need to supplement your milk by other means than your body. Doulas have knowledge about multiple feeding methods. Some of my clients have needed to provide human milk by bottle and/or feeding tubes while others have given both human milk and formula. 

If pumping, doulas provide information on the types of pumps, finding the correct flange size, choosing bottles and nipples, plus, how to prepare, store and feed with a bottle.

Practical Support 

In the beginning months you are feeding baby around the clock. Keeping up with pre-baby chores may be a challenge. Some postpartum doulas help with light household chores like keeping rooms tidy, the kitchen clean, doing laundry or the occasional vacuuming.

Nutrition also plays a vital role with birth recovery, feeding, and adjusting to life with baby. Ask your doula if they can make you postpartum meals that will replenish your body as it recovers from birth and support your breastfeeding journey.


Every Child Is Unique  

Here are some concerns and questions I have heard related to infant feeding:

* How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

* My baby keeps falling asleep while feeding, why?

* Is my milk coming out too fast for my baby?

* My baby seems uncomfortable when feeding.

* Why can’t I get my baby to burp?

* Is my baby cluster feeding?

Guidance is provided on the above topics plus resources for other concerns for example burping positions, jaundice, tongue tied, or torticollis. Also, I discuss baby’s temperament, child development both mental and physical because these can impact your feeding journey. 

Siblings are adjusting to life with baby too. There are ways to interact with them when feeding, for example, feed where they can cuddle, read, or play beside or near you. I suggest placing a basket of books and toys by the bedroom feeding chair. This gives you a chance to observe, talk and bond. Let others like doulas care for baby while you have alone time with them. 


Build Your Community of Support

Remember there are a variety of individuals within your community to support your feeding journey. Tell them what you need and how they can help. Find other parents with similar feeding experiences to share and connect with. 

Our children grow up fast. Be supported during this special feeding time!

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