A Birth Doula describes a person who provides information, emotional and physical support for a woman during pregnancy, labor and birth. At every birth you support, your role will be slightly different, depending on the needs of your client. For some women your role will be one of loving support and comfort. For another it will be assisting her to empower herself and advocate for her own choices. For another woman it will be to provide information. Most women you work with will want a combination of different things from their doula.
Generally, you’ll perform the following, depending on what your client’s looking for: massage, relaxation, and other comfort measures, information on options available, some childbirth education, a listening ear, reassurance and encouragement. You might also help a mother to develop skills that enable her to communicate more effectively with her caregivers, understand research related to different interventions, and build her decision-making skills.
A postpartum or postnatal doula helps the mother in caring for her baby and in running the household. You might be employed by families who have just welcomed their first baby or who are adding to their growing family. You might be employed to help with twins or even triplets. You might work with one family for several months or for just a few weeks to help ease their load. You might work overnight to enable the parents to get some much needed rest or you might work during the daytimes.
Depending on what the mother needs, you’ll support her in a number of ways. You can assist the new mother with breastfeeding, help care for and play with older children, help the mother find ways to organize her home so it better suits her needs, prepare healthy snacks and family meals, provide an extra set of hands for the new baby so the mother can rest and recover, help her with comforting or bathing the baby, or carrying out some household tasks like washing and light housekeeping. As you guide parents through those early days with their new baby, you’ll help them to find what works best for them and support them in finding their own parenting style.
Childbirth educators, or antenatal teachers, may run a variety of classes to suit the needs of your clients. You might offer childbirth classes for expecting parents, early pregnancy classes, pre-conception classes, classes specially designed for teens, siblings, fathers-to-be, single parents or mothers planning a VBAC, a cesarean, an epidural or who might be experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. You can also teach parenting classes or breastfeeding classes.
As a childbirth educator you can determine the format of the classes that work best for you and your clients while pursuing opportunities in your local area. Childbirth International will help you by providing sample curricula for teaching your classes while you also have the freedom to teach the content that best benefits your clients in the style and format that works for you. You’ll learn how to teach classes that are interactive and fun, focusing on adult teaching techniques throughout your training.
A breastfeeding or lactation counselor helps women who want to breastfeed. You may be working with a mother in late pregnancy to teach her the basics and identify potential problems. You may be working with mothers who are just getting started with their newborns and are experiencing difficulties or with mothers who have older babies or children.
As a breastfeeding counselor you are likely to encounter a range of challenges and difficulties that might include positioning problems, nipple or breast pain, thrush, engorgement, mastitis, or low supply or oversupply. You might be working with mothers who want help with weaning, who are returning to work, whose baby is hospitalized or who would like to continue breastfeeding through a pregnancy and after the new baby arrives.
There are large differences in how much birth professionals earn. It depends on where you live, the women you are supporting, and the package of support that you provide. The following amounts are based on a birth professional working in a city in a developed country. Birth professionals living in remote areas or developing countries may have very different payment schedules.
As a general guideline a birth doula who provides 2 prenatal visits, support during labor and birth, and 2 postpartum visits could expect to earn between US$600 and US$1,200. If the women you’re working with are of low income or experiencing financial difficulties, you might charge a lower rate or offer alternative forms of payment, such as reduced fees, sliding scale or barter of services.
Postpartum doulas generally charge an hourly rate of between $15-$45 an hour. If you’re working overnight with a family, or providing support for older siblings or twins, you might charge a higher fee.
Childbirth educators usually charge around $150-$750 for a full course. If you’re providing private classes, or specialist classes, you might be charging more.
A breastfeeding counselor will typically charge per consultation which may range from $50-$100 per hour. If you’re providing long term breastfeeding support for a mother you might offer a package fee for a fixed number of hours.
When you first start you might be concerned about how you’re going to find your clients. Formulating a plan of how you’re going to advertise and promote your business starts you off on the right foot. The Business of Birth module, included in all our courses, provides a thorough understanding of establishing and building a business. If you live in an area where women haven’t heard of doulas or childbirth classes, your first step is going to be to publicize the role and importance of a doula or childbirth educator within your own community. Woman might like the idea of having someone else to assist them during labor, but have no idea about how to find that person. It’s hard to explain, but clients seem to find you when the time is right, or when you’re ready to start taking them on. This seems odd, but somehow, the clients appear when you feel prepared enough to begin working with them. This has been the case for all our students to date, whether they’re living in New York City, or an African town!
You are your own best advertisement. Tell everyone you meet what it is that you do. Remember that every person you meet could know someone who’s pregnant, or have a pregnant partner, daughter, sister or friend, or be planning a pregnancy themselves in the future. Focus on promoting the role of a doula, childbirth educator or breastfeeding counselor. Most people you meet will never have heard of a doula, or have thought about one for themselves. The first impression you make could be the difference between getting a client and not! In addition, your trainers are available on discussion forums for additional ideas that are unique to your situation.
Not at all! You can complete all your training through Childbirth International with your trainer’s support, using your written student manuals, and the student website. We believe you need time to absorb the amount of information and develop the skills you need to be really great at what you do.
Our written study guides walk you through the techniques available to help the women you will work with. The discussion groups provide you with a peer support network to explore different issues related to your work, and provide you with support from other students, graduates and trainers.
Your trainer will provide feedback on all the work you submit, supporting you no matter how long it takes to complete your course. Most of the hands on skills that a birth professional learns are built over time and with experience. Every woman you work with will have different needs and preferences. As part of a worldwide network of birth and postpartum doulas, childbirth educators and breastfeeding counselors you’ll be able to access ideas, tips and strategies for helping you in your work and in building your business. In addition to the Childbirth International training, trainers in your area may offer study days. These are a complement to the training course and focus on some of the hands on skills and topics that can be beneficial to learn in a face to face environment.
If you’d like more direct support, our trainers are also available for private mentoring. You can choose the number of hours of mentoring that you’d like and your mentor will contact you via Skype to answer all your questions and guide you through any challenges you are experiencing.