Transcript: Postpartum Doulas – Helping You Get Started on Your Parenting Journey Whilst Easing the Strain

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Postpartum Doulas – Helping You Get Started on Your Parenting Journey Whilst Easing the Strain and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: This is Helen Thompson. Thank you for being here today. If you’ve already subscribed to the show, thank you so much mums, you always are amazing and if you’re here for the first time, make sure you subscribe to the show.

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Today, like in every episode, I’m bringing you an amazing woman, Suzzie Vehrs, who is a doula and childbirth educator, passionate about helping mums have a safe and healthy birth. Suzzie also helps mums after they return home from their birth, supporting them as they start to navigate their way through the world of parenting.

During our chat, you’ll hear Susie talk about how she helps families, why you shouldn’t feel guilty or anxious reaching out for help and why it’s so important to do so. The importance of valuing and looking after yourself and ensuring you are getting the nutrients you need and so much more.

Now let’s meet Susie and get into the interview…

Welcome to First Time Mums Chat, I’m delighted to to be here today. So, can we start Suzzie by you telling us a little about yourself and what you do?

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah, so my name’s Suzzie. I’m a mom to two beautiful girls. They’re nine and five now. They kind of launched me into a new career when I was pregnant with my first, I worked in finance and after I had Hazel, I did a career swap, now I’m a doula and a postpartum doula. So I support people through the labor process, through their birth and then after they land back home, I help them kind of reintegrate into life and take care of them, provide meals and help with laundry and baby care and things like that help ease that transition and that workload that comes with the cute little newborn.

Helen Thompson: So as you help parents with postpartum, what are one of the main things that you find that particularly first time mums suffer from in relation to postpartum when they first come home from giving birth?

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah. I think that newborns they are just so sweet and so special, but it’s really hard to realize how much work that it’s going to take to take care of them. How much of you that it requires to continue to give to them an energy that you have to focus on the newborn just to take care of the basics.

For example, one thing is if you are feeding a baby eight times a day and it takes 30, 40 minutes, close to an hour, you’re feeding a baby 40 hours a week. Any other part of life you would say, oh you’re doing that 40 hours a week, that’s a full time job. I think as new mothers, we just kind of expect that we’ll magically be able to do everything we did before, as well as take on this new workload with newborns and it takes a little while for a family to find balance, teamwork, adjust their expectations, figure out their schedules and their flexibility around their newborn. So for a moment, It seems like a lot of people come home and feel immediately like their head’s underwater with all the work. Then as you get to two or three weeks out and you’re starting to find that you understand your baby a little bit more, then people start to come out of that as well and find a bit more normalcy in life.

Helen Thompson: That’s what you specialise in, in supporting mums to get through that, so they’re less overwhelmed and less stressed and less frustrated. As a mum, it could be your first child, it could be your second or your third child, even if you’ve had a baby before and that baby’s two or three and you have a second one, it can be really overwhelming coming home and thinking, oh my gosh, I’ve got all this to do.

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah, I really like when I can take some of that workload off for moms. One of the things that I do a lot is I do a lot of meal prep for families because the body goes through so much in pregnancy and birth and the baby will take the nourishment it needs, which often leaves moms depleted. So to be able to have those really healthy, nourishing foods, those first few weeks can be very stabilizing and really help moms through the healing process that is part of that first chunk of time when you’re home.

Moms can prepare for that as well. I didn’t have a postpartum doula. At least, I had a birth doula, but I didn’t have any support when I came home. With my second, it really helped to know that it would make a difference the food that I ate and to prepare ahead of time. I know I had a lot of food in the freezer and I had to learn how to say yes when people offered meals or offered support. I know for me that was really hard to accept. I didn’t really understand, I didn’t like being a person that needed help, but I became to appreciate the help that was given.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, mums find it hard to actually ask for help because they believe they can do it all themselves. As a postpartum doula, how would you create a fun, peaceful environment, particularly for the mum with other babies or kids around?

Suzzie Vehrs: Well, one of the great things if you do have a postpartum doula. I know for me, if I show up at 10 a. m. often there’s a handoff there. Some moms really crave closeness with their babies and need time to snuggle and we’ll take care of the the housework. Most moms need a break at some point. It’s okay to need a break and so a lot of times they’ll hand over the baby and if they’re breastfeeding I’ll bring the baby to the mom to feed and then take care of the burping and all the other things. Then once the baby’s settled, then either I put them in a carrier, or if they’re a baby that is okay being laid down. I know different babies have different personalities there. Then we prep some food, we’ll make sure that there’s, like egg bites in the fridge, so every morning for the next week, they have something that has protein and vegetables and that’s easy. A quick grab and go. We’ll make sure they have a couple of dinners for the week. Then if there’s time on top of that, we’ll clean a little bit, fold laundry, put things away.

Usually by the time we’ve cooked a little bit, cleaned a little bit, it’s time for baby to feed again, and then we’ll repeat a feed and then I’ll soothe and settle the baby, and then by the time it’s time for me to go, just getting baby snuggled up with mom and mom can use that time to do anything she wants. Sometimes it’s going to appointments, sometimes it’s going to a pelvic floor physical therapist, or going to get a massage, doing some self care. A lot of times it’s simply sleep. I know it can be hard to sleep during the day, but if you’ve been up all night for consecutive nights, or if you’ve gone multiple nights, only getting two or three hour chunks to really have that time where it’s like, okay, I’m going to get a four hour chunk of sleep and everything else is taken care of in the house. If there is a toddler, they just kind of come along with us and we get less done, but we try to take care of it for them. I would get as much as we can done in the given time.

Helen Thompson: What’s the difference between a doula and a nanny that comes and helps a mum after birth? I’ve often wondered what the actual difference is because a doula, a nanny or a mother craft nurse, or whatever you like to call it, seem to be very similar.

Suzzie Vehrs: I think that there’s also probably a cultural difference because in the United States, we have a gap there. It used to be that doulas only served moms through the birth process. As a doula, that’s where I started with supporting moms through birth and then postpartum, I would check on them and be like, oh, you’re not okay, this transition, it wasn’t smooth for me and it’s wasn’t smooth for you either. A lot of other cultures, I believe in Australia as well, there are people that come and take care of a mother and a baby. In some countries it’s a nurse in some countries they have different names for it.

So a postpartum doula probably has a lot of overlapping supports as a nanny. One of the things that’s different, when we refer to nannies here in the United States they’re long term care. So you might have a nanny for a year, you might have them for two years. They’re very much a part of your family for an extended period of time. Whereas a postpartum doula is somebody that specializes in the first, usually by three months is when we would hand off the family to their more permanent care if they are going to have a nanny or someone like that in the home.

Helen Thompson: Oh, I see, so you work after three months. If they wanted to have a nanny, you’d work with the nanny to pass on anything and support the mother and the children to get to know the nanny a little bit better.

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah.

Helen Thompson: So in the states, are you qualified in any particular way? ‘ I wondered what a doula has to do to get qualified.

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So there are separate certifications to be a birth doula and a postpartum doula. Basically for both of them, you’re reading books, you’re writing papers, you’re passing tests and then you’re working with families and having the families kind of critique you and fill out evaluations on you.

So for me, I started with my birth doula, I didn’t even know that postpartum doulas existed at the time. Then when I started seeing how my moms were doing in the postpartum, I was like, okay, I want to do something to help fill in that gap. So I continued my education and you learn a little bit about lactation, you read various books about nutrition and about different customs to care for mothers. That first six weeks , most cultures, except for ours have very strict protocols for what you can do in that time. It’s really interesting learning about the different cultures, but then thinking about like, okay, how do I bring that knowledge and that importance of treating this fourth trimester, essentially this first period home with a baby differently and make sure that people get support through it. So yes, it is a certification. I suppose though, there are definitely people that do it, that are uncertified and that are probably quite competent because many people can cook a meal and many people can soothe the baby. A lot of the tasks you do, the thing that makes them so difficult as a new mom, is that it’s constant. There’s so many of them, but individually they’re not necessarily so difficult when you have enough hands involved.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and I know some mums go through postpartum depression. So as a doula is there anything you can do to support mums who have got postpartum depression?

Suzzie Vehrs: For moms and dads, actually dads can get postpartum depression as well. Yeah and anxiety, I think it’s more common than we just don’t talk about it. Seeing a therapist is really the best thing to do, which is beyond the scope of a doula. That said, there’s so many physical changes to your body postpartum. So if, if a mom’s having things like baby brain fatigue. A lot of moms get to a place where even though they’re exhausted, they can’t sleep and feeling sensitivity to light and sounds. Or if emotionally you’re feeling a lot of really heavy feelings, even though you’re ecstatic about your baby, some of those things can be related to the fact that you lost so many nutrients during the pregnancy process. So one of the reasons that I’m really passionate about nutrition is because after you have a baby, your hormones change. You’ve gone through this extended period of time where your body has prioritized a healthy baby over a healthy mom.

So it’s very, very important if we’re considering this fourth trimester as a time of healing that we’re restoring our bodies, which means we need whole food proteins, we need healthy fats like egg yolks, and we need a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. If we truly want our bodies to heal, we have to, just like we would tend a garden, right? You can’t just always be taking out of a garden and never give back. We need to do the same for our bodies as well and make sure that we’re rebuilding both with micronutrients and macronutrients.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think nutrition is a key for mums. I know there’s a lot of mums out there who want to look after themselves and want to feed themselves and make sure that they’re safe as well as their babies. I know from talking to mums on the podcast, a lot of them say that they spend a lot of time looking after and feeding their baby, and making sure their other children is okay but their part of the nutrition, they just say they don’t have time to look after themselves because they’re so time poor. As you say, they’re exhausted, they’re tired, they’re frustrated, they’re overwhelmed and they find it hard to take that step to say, well, hang on a moment, I need to take a step back here and take care of me. So that’s part of what you’re passionate about with nutrition, helping mums to make sure that they’ve got something quick and easy that they can just take out of the freezer or take out of the fridge if necessary.

Suzzie Vehrs: I hear a lot of people say, oh, as a mom, you need to fill up your own cup first. When I look at the newborn period, I just wonder how? I know people would say that to me when I had my two and I wondered that a lot. My kids are a little bit older and in school now, and so it’s much different but when they were both little and you have two little kids under your feet and a newborn that you’re up with regularly at night and you’re breastfeeding around the clock, how are you supposed to fill up your own cup? I think the answer is, you’re not supposed to, you are supposed to have people around you that help you, that provide you a meal, that get you outside to go for a walk, they’ll hold the baby so that you can take a shower.

Eventually those routines will come into place and you can get some structure in your life, but it’s not going to happen the day you come home from the hospital. It will take time and that’s okay if we’ve set up time for a mom to be able to be cared for as she’s directing her energy to the little ones.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s a very interesting thing to say because we used to have a village. Parents and families used to have other people to support them, family members. You hear of cultures in Africa. I’m not just particularly saying Africa, but there are a lot of cultures there that have that family support and it’s just naturally there for a mum and a mum has all that support.

Today, mums are just expected to give birth, get on with it and cope but in the 50s and 60s that just didn’t happen. There was always that family support there and I guess that’s where the doulas now come in because families are so busy looking after themselves and grandparents are always very busy or working and they’re just not there in this culture. We’ve lost that village, we’ve lost that support and mums are just not supported as much as they were.

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah. I remember when I was a child, my parents would take me to my grandparents multiple times a week, and my cousins would be there, and we’d have so much fun. It’s not my parents fault that I moved. They moved away when I was a little bit older, but, whereas a child, I might see my grandparents probably 10 or 15 hours a week, my kids see their grandparents once or twice a year. It’s very different and the support there. I remember my parents going to school. I remember, when I look through the baby books, there’s my mom studying, working towards her RN and things like that but I was always with her mom or my dad’s mom.

I was quite close to both my grandparents and it’s true that most families do not have that now. If grandparents want to be helpful, but they are not physically close, a lot of families help provide for postpartum doulas. There’s baby registries that you can actually put postpartum support as a request. So you can group fund it. From extended family and another thing that’s becoming really popular is a lot of employers are starting to provide compensation or reimbursement programs for doulas and postpartum doulas as well, which I think is great because as much as our society has broken apart, some of that has been for job opportunities.

So it’s good to see the companies that are starting to say, okay, we were a part of this break, but we want our employees to be okay and so we’ll make sure they’re taken care of during the sensitive time and invest in them so that they can come back as whole and healthy people when they’re ready.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s great that employers are doing that. I think that’s really supportive because I think that employers need to be able to, especially support mums who want to go back to work but also feel torn going back to work. I’ve spoken to people on the podcast about that. They want to go back to work, but they’re torn because they don’t want to leave their baby behind.

It can be very hard and having somebody like you there, who can help them with that for the first six weeks, or even three months, I think your maternity leave is much shorter than ours here. Having that time just to adjust and give yourself the space to prepare to get ready to do what you need to do and know that there’s somebody there to help you.

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah, and also to have time for that bond to grow. I know with my babies, I always thought that like, Oh, they’d be born and I would immediately feel bonded to them and I would immediately feel different. There were moments when I felt like that, but I also felt like there were times when I looked at them as newborns and I thought, who are you, what are you? Cause I had never been around babies before having my own kids. I hadn’t been around very many newborns and I didn’t realize that it takes time for our bonds and our attachments to grow as well and that every baby is so different. Sometimes I remember very clearly, especially my first time through feeling like I was such a failure as a mom because I would try everything.

My daughter Zoe was not like a scheduled kid. It was very difficult to get her on a schedule. Then I had my daughter, Hazel, and she very much was. You could put her down, sleepy and awake, and she’d go to sleep, whereas Zoe would cry until you picked her up. So it wasn’t until after I had Hazel where I really realized, It’s okay for that love to grow and it will grow and we need that time.

Also part of that reason the bond takes time is because we’re getting to know our babies and we have to have time to understand them. Just like any relationship is dependent on your time together. So it’s nice when moms have support with some of the other tasks so that they can work on that bond and they can build that bond and they can be together and they can be kind of like in a cocoon and that healing time where you just come out of it different and happy and settled. Instead of, I was on the struggle bus for way too long. I like to help get moms to that place of sustainability and happiness and peace with life. As you know, it’s a different journey for each of us. So saying as soon as possible, isn’t maybe the right terms, but taking the steps towards it.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I, I understand that because I teach baby massage and I can relate to that, because sometimes when mums come and do baby massage, they don’t instantly bond with their babies, but as soon as they touch them and give them that skin to skin, even if it’s just doing it on the legs or doing it on the arms, they’re beginning, gradually, to get that magical bond. You see it when mums finally connect with their babies and the babies are smiling at them and they’re smiling back and they’re just enjoying the touch and communication with each other. I find that really, really rewarding if a mum hasn’t been able to bond and connect with their baby and then they come to a class and then you suddenly see the connection and the bond between them both.

That to me is really special and I guess you have that as well.

Suzzie Vehrs: Yeah, I do. I love what you do with baby massage too. Cause that was one of the things that really helped me with my daughter Zoe. She’s nine now, she’s huge, but she’ll still to this day when she has like a hard day, she’ll ask me mom, will you scratch my back or rub my back? It’s really those little things that you build connections with them as newborns. It actually stays with you. It might evolve and change, but, those connections grow and become so special, especially as you see your child growing.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I agree with you. So, thank you so much, Suzzie, for sharing all this. It’s been really interesting hearing. You’ve got a world of experience. So thank you for sharing all that with me. If somebody wants to find out more about you and get in touch with you, how do they go about doing that?

Suzzie Vehrs: You can just find me on Instagram. It’s at or you could email me at

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you, and I’ll put all that in the show notes and I’ve really enjoyed having you here, and thank you for coming on the podcast today. It’s been wonderful hearing all your pearls of wisdom, so thank you.

Suzzie Vehrs: Thank you so much, Helen. I really appreciate it.

Helen Thompson: Thanks mums, you are amazing and I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you hit the subscribe button, because in the next episode I’m chatting with board certified lactation consultant, baby wearing educator, and tummy time method professional, Austin Rees, about tummy time, and how to make it more enjoyable for your little one.