Starting Out

Frequently Asked Questions on Starting Out

If you are just starting out in the birth and lactation professional world, you might have some questions about the role of each professional, how much can be earned, and how you would find clients.

What is a Doula?

Birth Doulas

A Birth Doula describes a person who provides information, emotional and physical support for a client 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, your role will be one of loving support and comfort. For another it will be assisting them to empower themselves and advocate for their own choices. For another client, it will be to provide information. Most people 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 client to develop skills that enable them to communicate more effectively with their caregivers, understand research related to different interventions, and build their decision-making skills.

Postpartum Doulas

A postpartum or postnatal doula helps a client in caring for their 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 your client needs, you’ll support them in a number of ways. You can assist the new parent with breast/chest feeding, help care for and play with older children, help them find ways to organize their home so it better suits their needs, prepare healthy snacks and family meals, provide an extra set of hands for the new baby so the client can rest and recover, help them 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.

What is a Childbirth Educator?

Childbirth educators, or antenatal teachers, may run a variety of classes to suit the needs of their clients. You might offer childbirth classes for expecting parents, early pregnancy classes, pre-conception classes, classes specially designed for teens, siblings, partners, single parents or people planning a VBAC, a cesarean, an epidural or who might be experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. You can also teach parenting classes or breast/chest feeding 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 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.

What is a Lactation Counselor?

A lactation counselor helps clients who wants to breast/chest feed or feed their baby human milk. A lactation counselor may also be referred to as a Breastfeeding Counselor or a Lactation Specialist. You may be working with a client in late pregnancy to teach them the basics and understand potential problems. You may be working with clients who are just getting started with their newborns and are experiencing difficulties or with those who have older babies or children.

As a lactation 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 clients who want help with weaning, who are returning to work, whose baby is hospitalized or who would like to continue feeding through a pregnancy and after the new baby arrives.

How much can I earn?

There are large differences in how much birth professionals earn. It depends on where you live, the clients you are supporting, and the package of support that you provide. The following amounts are based on a birth and lactation professional working in a city in a developed country. Birth and lactation professionals living in remote areas or developing countries may have very different payment schedules.

As a general guideline a birth doula who provides two prenatal visits, support during labor and birth, and two postpartum visits could expect to earn between US$600 and US$1,200. If the clients 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 lactation counselor will typically charge per consultation which may range from $50-$100 per hour. If you’re providing long term support for a client you might offer a package fee for a fixed number of hours.

Where can I find clients when I am starting out?

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 certification courses, provides a thorough understanding of establishing and building a business. If you live in an area where people 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. People might like the idea of having someone else to assist them during labor, but have no idea about how to find someone. 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 lactation 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.

Do I need to attend a workshop?

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 clients 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 and lactation professional learns are built over time and with experience. Every client you work with will have different needs and preferences. As part of a worldwide network of birth and postpartum doulas, childbirth educators, and lactation 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 (or similar) to answer all your questions and guide you through any challenges you are experiencing.