New research shows the real benefits of having a doula by mum’s side before, during and after birth.
Mothers are more likely to breastfeed and have positive relationships with their babies when they have another woman “mothering” them in the delivery room. This is according to new research at the University of Chicago on the value of doulas. Doulas are women who help with deliveries and early care for mothers and babies.
“…women who received help from a doula demonstrated more positive emotions and were more encouraging of their four-month-old infants’ learning than similar women who did not receive the help,” said Sydney Hans, the Samuel Deutsch Professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. “In addition, infants whose mothers had been assigned to the doula intervention were less likely to have long periods of distress,” added Hans, lead author of two recently published scientific studies that are the first to look at the value of the work of community doulas.
For this research, the team enrolled 248 mostly low-income African American women. Half received normal prenatal care, and the other half received weekly visits from doulas from before birth to three months after birth. During their visits, the doulas, who received 10 weeks of training, discussed pregnancy, health, childbirth preparation and bonding. They were present at the child’s birth and discussed child development during follow-up visits.
In examining breastfeeding, Hans’ article, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that 64% of mothers who were assisted by a doula breastfed, compared with 50% of the mothers in the control group. The mothers with doulas were also nearly twice as likely to continue breastfeeding longer than six weeks. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce infections and childhood obesity.
“The doulas were present in the first moments after the birth to encourage mothers to put the infant to breast and to help the infants latch,” Hans wrote in his Pediatrics article, ‘Breastfeeding and Complementary Food: Randomized Trial of Community Doula Home Visiting’. The study also showed that these women were less likely to introduce solid food earlier than recommended for their babies.
“Throughout their time together, doulas focus on helping the mother understand the meaning of her baby’s behaviour and seeing things from her baby’s perspective. The doulas always model gentle handling of the baby, and provide guidance to the mothers on responding effectively to the baby’s cues,” Hans wrote.