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Postpartum Doulas Help Fill Support Gap for Milwaukee Families


From Lamaze classes, prenatal yoga and constant doctors appointments, there is plenty of care available for the mother and baby before the birth. However, when it comes to support after the baby is born, there are very few resources for new parents.

All care seems to stop after you leave the hospital with a new baby in tow.

"I'd searched for Milwaukee postpartum help and I couldn't find anything," says Ann Woelfel. "The next day I had an appointment with my son's pediatrician and she was the first person who asked me after the birth how I'm doing. They ask you a few questions, but they don't really have the resources to help you."

Often all pediatrician offices can do to help address the needs of the mother postpartum is to send them back to their obstetrician, which typically leads to prescriptions or a referral to a specialist.

It was this lack of support and resources that led Woelfel to create Nurturing the Nest, a Milwaukee company that provides postpartum support to new parents.

"When I couldn't find (help) in Milwaukee, I started looking for what there was in other cities and came to find that there was this role of a postpartum doula," explains Woelfel.

Doulas are a common resource for expecting parents to use leading up to the birth, but a doula that can help families postpartum is less common. A postpartum doula's role for families, whether it is to help with their first or third child, is to offer physical, emotional and spiritual support for the mother and rest of the family. This can range in duties from breastfeeding support and light household maintenance to instructing the mother and other family members in the care of a newborn.

Woelfel says that she wanted to make this company to "fill the gap" in care and make the transition period easier for parents, and mothers in particular, during their recovery periods.

In addition to postpartum doulas, Nurturing the Nest also emphasizes the importance of all family members getting proper sleep - something that can be quite difficult, especially for families with multiple children.

"Families just don't even know what to do when they're so tired; and in the United States, we do not value healthy sleep," says sleep coach Maureen Kasdorf.

Despite living in a culture where there is value in healthy eating and exercise, the importance of sleep is not as critical. According to Kasdorf, lack of sleep contributes to poor school performance, increases risks of accidents and obesity rates in children.

"If we put a proper emphasis on healthy sleep habits then we would have perhaps healthier families," she states.

Another factor that contributes to stress is social media. Too often, mothers add additional stress to their lives when they compare themselves to others online.

"We always have to coach people in saying, 'Don't compare your behind-the-curtain to their front stage performance,'" says Woelfel.

Both Woelfel and Kasdorf encourage all parents to simply "ask for help." Without help and support from a postpartum doula or even a community of other parents, the well-being of all family members can be at risk.

"We try to keep the barriers down so that we can be (the help) for one another," says Kasdorf.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.