Book review by Lynsey Montgomery
Nurturing the Family, a Doula’s Guide to Supporting New Parents by Jacqueline Kelleher is available from Praeclarus Press in the US, or local bookstores/Amazon in your own country.
When I first saw “Nurturing the family, a doula’s guide to supporting new parents” on offer for review I just knew this is exactly what I had been looking for in a book to hopefully help me gain a better understanding of how to support parents postnatally.
This book is like a mini mentor – I say ‘mini’ mentor because really there is no substitute for actual mentoring whether virtual or in person but it is so valuable to have for those in between sessions and really walks you through the different scenarios that a postnatal doula may come across. The book is split into chapters with different topics within each one. It covers everything from ‘Why we need doulas’ to delving into topics that I wouldn’t know a lot about in the ‘On the support needs of families: other voices’
Coming from a childcare based background, working directly with families in their homes as a nanny, I have a fair understanding of what support a family need in their parenting journey – how to nurture the family. However, being quite new to doula work I was a bit unsure of how exactly I transition from Nanny type support to Postnatal Doula support. This book really helped!
I found “Nurturing the Family, A Doula’s Guide to Supporting New Parents” to be very well written. It is in an easy to read and understand format. I was hooked from the very first page! It is absolutely a must read for any new doulas, especially those who come from a caring profession and are transitioning to doula work. It’s an invaluable tool to have in your bookcase. There are so many lightbulb moments throughout the book!
What I found was that it really highlights just how much doulas can benefit families. I loved the acronym N.E.A.R. (CH2 pg15) which stands for Nurture Educate Assess Refer with the titles explained in short paragraphs further down the page. I haven’t come across this particular one before but it really stood out because it’s so easy to remember:
Nurture highlights how important it is to Nurture both our clients and others who are supporting our clients. ‘Nurturing’ means that we are providing a calm presence, giving our clients our full attention and acceptance but not taking over from them.
We Educate in a way that is not directive; more guiding doula clients to find their own way, and showing them what options there might be. For example, if we wear their baby in a carrier to carry out a task, this shows the parents that there are alternative ways of keeping baby calm, with that precious physical contact, while doing something else at the same time.
Assessing is something every person does all the time, for instance assessing where to cross a road safely, or assessing whether a person seems friendly and easy to talk to. Doulas become very aware of this. Being present in the moment when we are with a client, our focus is with them and the situation we are there to support them with. We assess whatever seems to be the most important thing for each client, at each point in time. In turn, this helps us to identify how we might be able to make a difference.
Referring for a doula is knowing when things fall outside of our scope of knowledge or practice. We can then signpost to particular specialists/professionals for that particular issue. Referrals can also include book recommendations, websites, resources for community and companionship and so on.
I loved the section on ‘How to juggle doula work and life’. This resonated with me because I had only ever heard of postnatal doulas who do daytime support. I had often wondered if doing evening postnatal doula work was a thing. In this section that question that I had had running in the back of my mind was answered. I was very glad because I do know from supporting families through nanny work that the early evening until the parents’ bedtime can be a tricky time, especially in the newborn phase, so it made me very happy to see that option explained and how it’s not really common but it is doable.
I want to briefly talk about the chapter ‘On the support needs of families: other voices’ this was so enlightening for me as it talks about and explains how to help families who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. What I learned from this chapter is that while this acronym is not completely inclusive, it does recognise that there are different types of families.
This part of the book really eased a lot of my fears and worries about coming across a family who relate to this part of the community as I just didn’t know where to start to educate myself on how to support them. I was very worried that I might offend people due to lacking the knowledge of appropriate language and terms. This chapter was so educational and really broke down all the terms into paragraphs of explanations, how to chat to a family who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and what not to say/what’s not relevant to ask at an interview/meeting with a potential client.
For example, how an LGBTQ+ family chooses to feed their baby can sometimes be especially challenging compared to straight/cis families. The woman or person who is pregnant (if they are part of the family) may choose to breastfeed or chestfeed, but the non-birth parent or parents may also want to try induced lactation. This can be very positive, but there are times when this may not work out, no matter how well supported they are, and how long they have tried to induce lactation for. This could bring up some emotional issues for the non-lactating parent so it’s very important that we have the correct resources available to signpost a client to. I hadn’t really thought about this part of doula work before as I hadn’t even thought about how nurturing the family, whatever the family is, so this was definitely enlightening and educational.
I highly recommend “Nurturing the Family, a doula’s guide to supporting new parents” for the new doulas coming through. My copy is well loved already! It definitely helps with any kind of query that you might have regarding boundaries as a doula, or what services to provide within your time with the family, or how to transition doula work into your life if you are still working full time like me.
You can find doula Lynsey Montgomery on her Nurturing Birth Directory profile
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