You probably think of a doula as someone who supports women and their partners during childbirth. You may also be familiar with postpartum doulas—experienced professionals who support new moms and dads after a baby is born. But have you ever heard of a sibling doula? Older siblings’ lives change dramatically when a baby is born. Sibling doulas do what birth and postpartum doulas do, but with a focus on the needs of older siblings whose parents are bringing a new life into the world. If you are expecting a baby and you already have an older child or children, here are five reasons to hire a sibling doula for your birth:
1. Sibling doulas understand kids.
Sibling doulas see pregnancy and birth through the eyes of a child. When I arrive for a sibling doula shift, my attention is tuned first and foremost to the child or children preparing for the birth of a new sibling. I know they need me to be calm, nurturing, friendly, and in charge. Kids are smart little people, and they’re highly sensitive to the emotional world of adults. Sibling doulas balance kids’ need to feel safe and secure in their routines with their need to process emotions in developmentally appropriate ways. Depending on the age of the child, this could look like observing and talking about the baby’s room or clothes, drawing a picture of the new baby or a picture for mom and dad, or talking earnestly about their expectations, hopes, and fears. Sibling doulas can also recommend age-appropriate books about becoming an older sibling.
2. Sibling doulas understand parents.
We’re there for your kids, but we’re also there for you. As a sibling doula, I understand that the question of who will care for your kids while you give birth is far more than logistical—it’s highly emotional, too. My job is to help you navigate those emotions, becoming a bridge between you and your older children while you focus on birthing your newest addition. This looks different for different families. Sibling doulas are experts at reading parents’ cues and adjusting their communication as we go.
3. Sibling doulas understand birth.
We know birth is unpredictable and we organize ourselves accordingly. As a sibling doula, I’ve had shifts that are six hours long and shifts that are 36 hours long. When we show up, we start the routine and we don’t stop until a parent, family member, or other caregiver is ready to come and take over. We have a few tricks up our sleeve, too! While playing at home might work for a few hours, a special outing or activity might be exactly what everyone needs if Mom and Dad have been at the hospital since yesterday morning. As doulas, we know how to hang on for the long haul, and we come prepared.
4. Sibling doulas can stick around.
Most sibling doulas also work as postpartum doulas. Because one of the main things families need when they bring home a new baby is help with older children, it can be helpful to hire a postpartum doula who already knows your children and has spent time in your home. One of my favorite parts of sibling doula work is coming back for a postpartum shift, seeing kids I’ve grown to love, and helping the entire family unit adjust to its new shape and size.
5. You deserve a sibling doula.
The birth of your children is something you’ll never forget. Whether you are birthing at a hospital, at a birth center, or at home, you deserve to be physically and emotionally free to focus on the hard work you are doing to bring a new life into the world. A sibling doula will seamlessly integrate into your family, helping your children stay calm in their routine, process what’s happening, and feel special. And when you reunite, you’ll all be better positioned to thrive as a new, expanded family.