Top Ten List to be a Successful Doula

If you’re a new Doula just out of training, here’s a list of tips to get you started.

10.  COMFORT ~ Quality shoes dedicated to attending births. Check out what other care professionals wear for comfort.  Comfortable stretchable stain resistant clothing dedicated to wearing while attending births. Not scrubs but something nice that’s cleaned, pressed and ready for action when the call comes in to support a family. Dress in layers. Depending on where you’re supporting a family, the environment can be very, very warm or even chilly.

9.  SUPPORT ~ A trusted support system of birth professionals. You’ll burn out quickly without the shoulders and ears of another birth professional. There will be times you will desperately need advice and many times when you’ll need a sounding board. Attending births, you’ll witness wonderful miracles but you’ll also sometimes see unkind acts toward yourself or the families you support. You want this person(s) to understand why you won’t share names and keep the families you serve, confidential. Be that support person for them, in trade.

8.  SUPPLIES ~ A “Birth Bag”.  Not the things you’ll use to comfort mother, but one containing the things you’ll want for your own comfort. Basic personal hygiene kit toothbrush/deodorant/hair brush and hair ties/bands. On the go food items, something for muscle/head aches, cell phone charger and an extra set of clothing in case you need them. You aren’t a *real* Doula until you’ve been soaked good an proper in a surprise breaking of the water. (It’s not a matter of if, but when!)  As a Doula, you may be away from home for 24+ hours and having comfort items of your own can make a big difference!

7. CHILDCARE ~ If you have children of your own, a childcare provider *on call*.  Babies don’t come on our schedule so we need a personal childcare provider we can trust and we need to keep that provider happy! Pay her/him well and add bonuses when you get them.

6. HOMEFRONT SUPPORT ~ If you are involved in a relationship, an understanding, flexible partner makes your life so much easier.  Someone at home with broad shoulders who has “got your back”.  Your partner needs to be alright with the fact that you may need to beg out of personal plans at the last minute.  A sense of humor and maturity is a must! You’ll miss family barbecues, your children’s recitals, sports and plays, Holidays, birthdays and you will even get calls in the middle of the night during those “intimate moments”.  A supportive partner can make or break you.

5. TRANSPORTATION ~ If you don’t live in a big city with great bus service, you’re going to want your own car. Not a shared family car. It doesn’t have to be new or even great looking. It does need to be reliable! Your clients should never hear that you’ll be able to come to them when you “can” but that you’ll be there as soon as they need you.

4. PROFESSIONAL APPEARANCE ~ Even if you’re attending a home birth and you know the family is like-minded to your personal style, remember there’s always the outside chance you may have to transfer to hospital. Consider what others may see. Suggestive or political “sayings” across the t-shirt, low cut pants that show off your backside as you bend and stoop, multiple facial piercings, chipped polish,  excessive (even natural) scents; can be a bit much for the typical hospital staff to take. You want those first 8 seconds when snap judgements are made, to be positive ones. Put your best foot forward and the next time they see you at that particular hospital, they’ll already know you to be a professional.

3. INTEGRITY ~  If you interview and are hired by a family who based on *you*,  want *you* to be their Doula, keep your word. Don’t request on social media for a “back up” to take your place because you want to go camping or hiking or some other “out of area” activity. You agree to put this family on your schedule and only use a back up for true emergencies. Schedule fun and stick to it just like you do your Doula dates. There’s no reason you can’t have vacations or special days if you schedule them ahead of time and don’t schedule labor support clients in that same time period.

2. NON-BIASED ACCEPTANCE ~ Adopt a personal creed of non-judgmental support. Use and re-use the tried and true mantra of Doulas all over the world, “It’s not my birth”  Repeat this in your head as you support the family in whatever decisions they make during the labor and birth.  You may have interviewed and been hired by a woman who told you she wanted,  “A non-medicated birth using water and position changing as her comfort measure.”  Be prepared to understand when she drastically veers off her birth plan and requests a surgical birth because she wants to choose the birth day of her baby or the mother who decides upon an epidural for her vaginal birth because her best friend shared,  “It’s the safest way for baby.”  Repeat, repeat in your head…”It’s not my birth”. Smile, go over benefits and risks but in the end, support her in her decisions regarding her birth.

And the number 1 Top tool to be a successful DOULA…………..

“EXPERIENCE!”  A Doula training with an organization like, CAPPA or DONA can never be underestimated. You’ll learn and *practice* the different ways women choose to birth and the methods to support those women.
Get out and experience all types of birth. Attend them for free just to get your foot in the door. Offer to “shadow” a more experienced birth professional as she attends births and get feedback so you learn from the experience.
Attend homebirths, birth center births, unmedicated hospital births, epidural supported hospital births and even surgical births. All these families need support and in the beginning, you need them just as much.  Time and experience will shape you into a sought after Doula in your community.