What's the Difference Between a Postpartum Doula and Your Well-Meaning Aunt?

Written by: Janel Duffy
Posted: March 02, 2022
There’s bound to be one family member, let’s say it’s your well meaning aunt, who has been promising since you announced your pregnancy that she’ll be around “for anything you need” after your baby is born. It can be hard to refuse this special kind of offer. (And in no way is this an attempt to make you refuse your well-meaning aunt’s desire to help)... But if your family member sees that you’re registering for a postpartum doula and dismisses it with a quick “Ahh you don’t need that, your aunt is retired and she’s excited to help you!” – here are some of the differences between your well meaning aunt and a postpartum doula.

A postpartum doula isn’t just some lady who loves babies that comes to help clean the house after a mom gives birth. 

She’s someone who has been educated and certified through an accredited program to know how to care for a postpartum mom, help care for a newborn baby, help care for the other members of the family (including pets), as well as help care for the home. 

Your well-meaning aunt might be wonderful, and we love to see family members who are eager to help, but sometimes it’s hard for family members to take off the “just-in my opinion” hat, and strictly wear the “helper” hat.

Postpartum doulas work under a confidentiality agreement, so she won’t be bringing up any meltdowns, frustrations, or feelings of uncertainty at your next family holiday party. Because a postpartum doula is being paid for her services, you’ll probably have an easier time delegating and asking for exactly what you want when you want it, rather than your aunt who might assume she knows best for you and your baby. 

Postpartum doulas are trained to identify infant feeding issues as well as postpartum mood disorders and can offer tools and resources to help, whereas your well meaning aunt might just list the things your older cousin did when she was a couple days postpartum. There’s a big difference between being a postpartum doula's expertise and you aunt who might say something like: “Well, I raised 5 babies I know what I’m doing”.

With your postpartum doula you’ll never be made to feel like you have to host or entertain. You can leave the house a mess, dishes in the sink, piles of laundry stacked, and your postpartum doula won’t bat an eye and will instead swiftly help to tidy your space while you rest. It can be hard to have family over and not feel obligated to offer them food, drink, or to have the house in order. 

When you hire a postpartum doula, you’ve got the freedom to change your mind about your needs without worrying about hurting feelings or asking too much. You might hire your doula with the intention to keep up with dishes and help with night time feedings, but instead you may realize that what you actually need help with is meal prep and laundry.

Your well meaning aunt might be coming in with some expectations that she’ll get a chance to bond with your baby while you sleep or shower, and may not hide her disappointment well when what you really want your aunt to do is fold your towels the right way. Although doulas have experience in newborn care, there is never an obligation or expectation that your postpartum doula needs to handle, hold, or even touch your new baby. That’s always up to you. 

Postpartum doulas do all the tasks of a well meaning aunt but without any drama, without any extra personal feelings involved, and never will your postpartum doula be offended if during the middle of a visit you look at her and say “Okay, please go home now I’m good!”


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Category: Gift Givers , Fourth Trimester
Tags: new mom , new mom advice , support system , postpartum support , postpartum doula

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