Young mothers who are assisted by a doula — a woman who helps with the delivery and after-delivery care — are more likely to breastfeed and have positive relationships with their babies, according to new research from the University of Chicago. Doulas are especially helpful to young mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Follow-up interviews and observations of disadvantaged young women who received help from a community doula demonstrated that mothers showed more positive emotions and were more encouraging of their four-month-old infants’ learning than were 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 than were infants in the comparison group 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 the study, researchers recruited 248 mostly low-income African American women. Half of the participants were given 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 discussed pregnancy, health, childbirth preparation, and bonding. They were present at the delivery and discussed child development during postpartum visits.
The findings showed that 64 percent of mothers with a doula decided to breastfed, compared with 50 percent of the mothers in the control group. The moms with doulas were also nearly twice as likely to continue breastfeeding longer than six weeks.
“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 the journal Pediatrics. The findings also showed that the mothers were less likely to introduce solid food to their babies earlier than was recommended.
“Throughout their time together, doulas focus on helping the mother understand the meaning of her baby’s behavior and see 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.
Source: University of Chicago