What does a night doula do?

Working as a doula for nearly nine years, I’ve seen every side of this work. I began my career working almost entirely as a birth doula. I felt compelled to support pregnant people and their families through all the twists and turns that pregnancy and birth had to offer.

While I still do plenty of births and love them just as much, something I find myself doing more and more of is overnight postpartum work.

Overnight support or “night doulaing” is an incredibly rewarding part of my career.

But when I talk about this work, I’m often faced with the question “What does a night doula do?”.

Well, I’m here to tell you!

As I sit here typing this blog, the babies are fast asleep beside me. I expect that sometime through the course of typing this they will be ready for their next feed. I have bottles prepared and ready, diapers placed out neatly with fresh sleepers, and some cut apples on the table beside me to help me keep my energy up through the night.

When I first arrived this evening, the family was ready for bed. Nights with tiny twins are exhausting! No one has been doing much sleeping here. With one parent having to go to work and the other getting the older child off to school in the morning before taking care of the twins all day, rest is crucial.

The babies had just been fed so I sent the parents to bed and got right to the dishes. Washing and sterilizing a day or two worth of bottles for twins is a time-consuming task. When the bottles were sterilized, I carefully measured out the milk for my first overnight feeding and placed the prepared bottles in warm water to heat up. Next I was on to the laundry. One wet load of baby laundry in the dryer and just on schedule the babies began to fuss.

This is where I shine. Scooping up the babies one after the other and swiftly changing them and getting them set up to feed. One little-one in the crook of my arm and the other resting against a feeding pillow in front of me I feed the babies their bottles. I spend the next hour or so rocking and bouncing the babies back to sleep. One by one they fuss, wake and I bounce them to sleep again, until finally they are sleeping soundly.

Between feeds, I wash and sterilize the bottles again, empty the dishwasher and put away the day’s dishes. When the babies aren’t quite ready to be left to sleep, I sit by them with a book or my computer and patiently watch their little bellies rise and fall or rock them in the glider chair.

As morning rolls around, I’ll watch the sun creep in from the tiny crack between the blackout curtains. I’ll press the button on the coffee maker, feed the little ones one last time, tidy the nursery and pass the baton to the well-rested family for another day.

I hop in my car and drive home knowing this family is running with full batteries today.

It may seem simple, and sometimes it is (and sometimes it’s not). I get to go home now and crawl into bed for a long sleep before another night of supporting families.

Some families hire me for one night only, others hire me five nights a week for the first several months of their baby’s life. Needs are so different for every family and I’m happy to figure that out with you.

Now, I’m off to get some Zzzs so I can run on full batteries too.