A Night in the Life of a Postpartum Doula | What to Expect
My overnight shift begins at 9pm. It's a Sunday night, and it's been a couple of days since my last visit with my clients.
I let myself into their home, greet the family and their excited dog, put my things down and wash my hands. The family is trying to finish cleaning up after dinner, but their 5 week old is beginning to fuss. I tell dad not to worry about the dishes - I'll have time for them. He looks relieved because he has a busy week at work including travel and wanted to get prepared for the next day.
I go to the baby and get her changed into a fresh diaper while her mom gets comfortable before nursing. After mom and baby are settled in, I get mom a glass of water and her phone charger. I ask them how their weekend went, how they've been sleeping the last few nights, and if they have any special tasks for me to do that night. She lets me know their is laundry to do and asks for some tips on traveling with a newborn.
She also mentions feeling overwhelmed during the week when it's just her and the baby, so we schedule a few daytime shifts and I offer to prep some healthy, ready-made breakfasts and lunches for the week during tonight's shift.
Mom decides that she would like to maximize sleep for the night and asks that I bottle feed the baby for the next feeding, so she can pump and go back to sleep. I get her pump parts and bottles ready so she can bring them up to her room. I also start the tea kettle and make each parent a cup of bedtime tea.
When mom and baby are finished breastfeeding, I get the baby swaddled and back to sleep in her dock-a-tot and then I help mom bring the tea and pump parts up to their bedroom.
By now, it's about 10:30 and I know I have about 3 hours until their little one will be up for a bottle. I get started on laundry, and then head to the kitchen to tidy up. I load the dishes into the dishwasher and wipe the counters down. I decide to get started on some meal prep for the week.
During the baby's stretch of sleep, I get a ton done.
I season some chicken breasts and get them in the oven. Next, I wash and chop vegetables and roast them. While the chicken and veggies are cooking, I cook some brown rice and hard boil a half dozen eggs.
I also make a batch my favorite postpartum doula specialty - blueberry scones (that are freezer friendly!).
When all the food is cooked, I package it up into containers and organize it in the fridge and freezer. I also leave a note on the counter of what I made.
The baby begins to stir for her feeding just as I'm finishing in the kitchen, so I warm the bottle and change the baby's diaper. I settle on to the sofa and feed the baby. When she's finished, I get her resettled for another stretch of sleep and then head upstairs to get the laundry.
By the time my shift ends at 6am, I've prepped some easy breakfasts and lunches for the next couple of days (and left behind a clean kitchen!), washed and folded baby laundry, and...
...best of all, was able to let this baby girl's parents get some much needed quality sleep so they can start their week rested and ready to go.
Cait Sobotka is a birth and postpartum doula, placenta encapsulator, childbirth educator, and office manager at Chicago Birth & Baby.