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Doulas and Dads (Or “What’s in it for me?”)

By The Welcome Baby Care Doulas

postpartum supportIn our work as postpartum doulas, our primary goal is to support the mother. We troubleshoot lactation concerns, keep her hydrated, prepare her meals, massage her feet, monitor her mood, tuck her into bed, keep her house running, wear her baby while she showers, lift her spirits, calm her fears, guard her bedroom door from well-meaning neighbors and in-laws so that she may heal and rest.

This is our job and our mission and our joy—to mother the mother.

But what of dads? Do doulas help men recover—now now, don’t laugh—from pregnancy and childbirth? Do we bring him snacks and massage his feet? If we support the whole family, does Dad get some of this TLC? Not exactly.

Of course we don’t massage Dad’s feet. That would be weird. And inappropriate. And…weird. The reason doula-care works is that there is a natural closeness, understanding, and instinctive caregiving between women. Although they are rumored to exist, the male doula is rare. See, it goes both ways. The contemporary use of the word doula as a childbirth and postpartum caregiver comes from the Greek word which means “female servant.” This is ancient, proven woman to woman support.

And yet, we do help dads. Of course we do. We do anything that will bring the mother to the best state of health. A strong partner better supports the new mother. A rested, well-supported mother is able to better care for her newborn. The new family is a whole and—naturally—we treat it as such.

Dad benefits from the doula-done laundry, the dinner prep, the errands run, and the light housework. If he has already gone back to work, this is a Godsend. Less on his plate means more time with the new mom and baby—less stress, more time to appreciate the miracles, milestones, and moments.

It’s not our practice to have long heart-to-heart talks with Dad as we do with the new mama, but we do answer his baby care, post-birth questions. We encourage him to bond with baby; we teach him our favorite soothing tricks. We certainly don’t leave him out and we make sure that he feels comfortable with a doula in his home. As with Mama, we tell Dad that he’s doing a great job and remind him that it’s hard for everyone. He benefits from our cheerleading too, it’s just not as in-depth.

The most important way that we support new fathers, of course, is simply by doing what we do best—supporting moms. By caring for the love of his life/the mother of his child, we give him peace of mind. He doesn’t have to come up with the all the answers or fumble through every hormonal freak out (she might be freaking out about him, after all, and sometimes it is better for everyone if we handle it). Exhausted and overwhelmed and back to work much sooner than Mom (usually), he is able to relax and focus, knowing that his newly expanded family is in good hands.

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