Congratulations, you’ve spent the best part of a year (give or take) growing your beautiful bub, and now they’re finally here. You’ve been sent home with your little bundle, and life is suddenly full of cuddles, coos, cute baby feet and a gazillion photos of your newborn taking up all your Iphone storage. It’s also a full blown, nappy filled tornado of change while you yourself are likely still healing, and adjusting to the fact that you’re now responsible for a tiny new human. Enter the postpartum doula.
First things first. What’s a postpartum doula? We sat down with Mazz, postpartum doula, fellow mum, small business owner and founder of The Bond Wellbeing to chat all things postpartum - in her words, the highs, the lows, the motherhood flows. The kind of girl I wish I’d had in my corner when my daughter was born - Mazz is the woman that has your back (and front for that matter) as you glide into your new role as parent.
Where did the idea from The Bond Wellbeing come from?
My eyes were opened to the world of postpartum care when I had my daughter over four years ago in London. I read The First Forty Days by Helen Ou and my mind was blown by how traditional cultures have been supporting mothers to rest, recover and reintegrate into society for thousands of years. I'd never heard anything about this! As a woman living away from home and about to enter the fourth trimester I saw a distinct lack of support and in fact, life after the birth was barely mentioned by the medical team.
I had my parents fly over to London and stay for a month after my daughter was born. I enlisted my mum's help to cook me lots of nourishing postpartum foods and to help me enjoy a very slow few weeks to get my head around breastfeeding and focus on bonding with my daughter. I had a great start to motherhood applying the principles of traditional postpartum care and the seed of an idea for The Bond Wellbeing was born. It still felt like a bit of a pipe dream at that stage and it wasn't until I was back in Sydney and had my son that I started training to become a Postpartum Doula and Infant Massage Instructor.
I honestly believe that bonding is the most important aspect of the fourth trimester. My services are in place to ensure a mum has the time, space and energy to be enveloped by the oxytocin love bubble and to soak up the precious first moments laying the foundations for her lifelong relationship with her child.
I've heard of a doula in the lead up to and during the birth process, but haven’t really heard much around postpartum doula support. Can you tell us more?
Yes, when you hear the word 'doula', birth doulas are top of mind but there are more postpartum doulas popping up now. Mothers are starting to realise that birth is not the finish line but just the starting line of motherhood. With the rates of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety at one in five and consistently on the rise, there is a growing need for more education and support for Mums and their families postpartum.
Ideally, I start working with my clients in pregnancy so we can prepare them for their postpartum by talking through what to expect, setting up and activating their village of support, and educating them on my postpartum pillars of rest, nourishment, support, self-care and bonding. I can't stress how much value there is in being intentional about your postpartum vision and identifying challenges that might stand in the way of that vision before you get there.
Once the baby is born my in-home postpartum care visits begin and how they unfold depends on what is going on for the Mum. I have a buffet of services that I can provide and I help the Mum's pick and choose based on what they need on that given day. I provide emotional support, breastfeeding support and practical help around the home. Cooking is central to my visits and I always leave my clients with a hearty and delicious meal and snack to keep them going.
Some of the things that my Mums love are a healing foot soak and food rub, deep and uninterrupted listening so they can fully debrief on whatever is going on for them and process what they are experiencing, learning baby massage, time to rest and nap while I watch the baby and connecting them with my ever-growing network of holistic practitioners.
Was it your own journey into motherhood that inspired you to explore this space, or has it been something you’ve always naturally been interested in?
I'm a Psych undergrad and have always been curious about people - what makes us tick, how we can change, how we can thrive and specifically women's health. I've been deep diving into these topics mostly for myself but now I love that I can bring this wisdom to my community and the clients that I support.
I've experienced all sorts of challenges on my motherhood journey from fertility struggles, becoming a mother on the opposite side of the world to my family, postpartum after a loss, postpartum during a pandemic, postpartum with another little person at home to care for and everything in between.
I'm a living example of matrescence in action. Once I became a mother my thinking changed from 'me' to 'we'. I became more motivated than ever to have a positive impact in my community in an area that I'm so passionate about.
Thinking about your experience, what’s been your proudest moment in this space so far?
This whole experience has been a series of little steps forward from when the seed of an idea was first planted over 4 years ago. When I look back, I'd say my proudest moment would be allowing myself the opportunity to dream about this career change and taking action by signing up to train as a Postpartum Doula with Newborn Mothers.
I also can’t not mention the feeling I get after every in-home visit with a mum and baby. Walking away knowing that I've been of value to them in such a vulnerable and yet transformative time in their lives pretty quickly fills me with pride.
What is your favourite thing about being a doula?
My favourite thing has to be witnessing each mum blossom in confidence over time in their new role as a Mum, or Mum again. I see myself as their cheerleader and companion helping them to get to a point where they feel empowered to mother in their own way. This takes time and isn't always a straight forwards path but with the right encouragement I believe we can all get there. It's incredibly fulfilling to be a part of this amazing rite of passage for each woman.
We’re always told it “takes a village” how would we go about building this village?
I'm always conscious that the phrase 'it takes a village' could be a bit triggering for some. In reality we live in increasingly isolated nuclear families often away from our family and friends. We don't always feel part of a village or even know how to ask for help.
If there is ever a time in your life to question the value our society places on independence it's when you bring a baby home. We really weren't designed to do this alone.
The very first step is to sit down with your partner and list out all of the things that you will need help with to enable you to have an extended period of rest and recovery. You then start to map out who you can enlist to support you. Think of people in your personal network, professionals (that could range from health professionals to cleaners) and then your community. The hard part for some can be actually asking for help. When I work with my clients we look at what their own personal barriers might be around asking for and receiving help and find ways that feel comfortable for them.
You’ve talked about pillars of rest, support, nutrition, self care and bonding. Can you talk us through these?
- Rest - pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are monumental tasks for the human body. Rest is needed to help you heal and rebuild your strength. Unfortunately, this all comes at a time when sleep can be very hard to come by for obvious reasons. That's why you need support to help you achieve as must rest as possible whenever you can. A good rule of thumb is 5 days in bed, 5 days in bed and 5 days around the bed after childbirth.
- Support - often when we come to have children we are hyper independent and highly competent adults. But, no matter who you are, when you become a parent you can be easily floored by the relentless nature of meeting a tiny humans needs. You may not be used to needing support from others but this is a time to lean into that discomfort and ask and accept support from your modern-day village.
- Nourishment - postpartum is the most nutritionally expensive time in a woman's whole life! Our bodies are incredible and will optimse nutrients to your baby via the placenta in pregnancy and via breastmilk once they are born to ensure it has all of the vital nutrients for your baby. If you're not replenishing these nutrients you can very quickly become depleted. Think nutrient-dense whole foods with plenty of protein, fresh fruit & vegetables nuts and seeds. Traditional postpartum foods are typically warm, oily and easily digestible comfort foods. Postpartum nutrition powerhouses include bone broth, salmon, porridge, dhal and freshly cooked greens with warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, fennel seeds and turmeric.
- Self-care - I like to think of self care as a way of preserving your precious energy sources. The needs of a newborn are so demanding it can be very hard to factor in self care to ensure your own needs are met and your energy is restored. This is definitely a topic to discuss with your partner and support team before the baby comes. Think about scheduled moments of self-care each week like 10mins of gentle yoga and breathing each day, tea with a friend, a long bath, acupuncture, a massage etc and micro-moments that come as and when you feel you need it like a cup of tea, self-massage, a few deep breaths, stepping outside, an uplifting song, a shower. If you can list out what you know will make you feel good while you're still pregnant and share that with your partner you can be on the same page about what you need and how you will get it once the baby arrives.
- Bonding - I actually see this one as the overarching theme supported by all of the postpartum pillars. With the pillars in place, your will have the time, space and capacity to focus on developing your growing bond with your baby. Your bond may feel immediate or it may slowly grow over time. It's made up tiny moments and two-way interactions with your baby as you get to know each other, and how to care for your unique child.
I’d also urge you to check out any postpartum traditions that might be unique to your own cultural background. Chat to the women in your family or community and ask them how they approached their postpartum period and if there were any specific foods or rituals they incorporated. It’s such a special way for family and community wisdom to be passed on.
What’s your go to postpartum trick to best support ourselves after having a baby?
I believe the practice of self-compassion is what every mother needs in their toolbox. We can be our own worst critic and when the pressures of modern motherhood set in the inner critic can become really loud. That has certainly been my experience.
Self-compassion is a daily practice and doesn't always come easily. I like to apply the three steps developed by self-compassion master Kristen Neff:
- Being mindful of when you're struggling or being particularly unkind to yourself
- Acknowledging that everyone feels this way sometimes, struggling is a common experience of humanity.
- Offering yourself some kindness - it might be words of encouragement (think about what you'd say to a friend in a similar situation) or taking the time for a micro-moment of self-care.Who needs a postpartum doula?
I believe everyone deserves deep care and support in the postpartum period. I work with mothers who want to feel empowered, supported and connected in their fourth trimester and beyond. Who doesn't want that?
What surprised you the most about motherhood?
I don't think I could have possibly prepared for how much it would change me in a positive way. Don't get me wrong, change doesn't always come easily but I've found that through the challenges and with the right support from others around me, I've found the greatest self-growth.
Has becoming a mother changed your approach to work?
Big time. It prompted a career change! It really helped me to get perspective on what I stand for, what matters most to me and what kind of balance I want to strike between work and home life. What I struggle with is wanting to devote as much time as possible to my business but also wanting to be a very present mother in children's life, especially when they are still so young. I'm so aware of how quickly this time with them will pass! I need to accept that business growth may be slower at times because I'm also prioritising my days spent with them right now. That is my own personal choice and I like to think I'm playing a long game with my business and the relationship with my children.
What’s your best mum hack?
Scheduled non-negotiable time to yourself every week. Each Saturday morning I get a few hours to do whatever I want - a sleep-in, a walk around the park, coffee and brunch, a yoga class. My husband and I gift each other this time out each week and it really helps me to reconnect to myself and come back more present and available to my family.
Okay, consider us sold. Where can we find out more about your services?