Have you considered becoming a doula, but you’re not sure how to get started on this rewarding career path? Are you yearning to support other women as they welcome their baby into the world? Or perhaps it’s the postpartum period that you feel you have a passion for?
Becoming a doula isn’t as difficult as you might expect. It takes four easy steps, and then you can make an income while maintaining the work-life balance that suits your lifestyle and your family. If this is your calling, you should jump on this opportunity and get started in your new career as a doula right away.
What is a doula?
Before we look at how to become a doula, you’ll want to know exactly what one is. Maybe you’re just beginning to explore the career and are still a little unclear about what a doula does. The word doula (pronounced ‘doo-la’) refers to someone who ‘mothers the mother.’ Their role is to provide physical and emotional support to a woman (and her partner) before, during, and after childbirth.
Step 1: Decide what type of doula you’d like to be
Essentially there are two types of doulas:
1. A Birth Doula
DONA International (Doulas of North America) explains how doulas fit into the birth team:
“Women have complex needs during childbirth. In addition to the safety of modern obstetrical care, and the love and the companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement, and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences. The role of the birth doula encompasses the non-clinical aspects of care during childbirth.”
Women may choose to have a birth doula before and during a home birth, at a birth center, or a hospital, but always in conjunction with qualified medical professionals and never as the sole birth attendant.
2. A Postpartum Doula
According to the International Doula Institute:
“Postpartum doulas help moms as they go through the transition of adding a new baby to the family. As a doula, your goal is to mother the new mother. We provide education, guidance, support, encouragement and of course, practical support. Our tasks include things such as educating basic baby care, normal newborn behavior, normal newborn appearance, breastfeeding support, after-birth postpartum recovery for mom, nutrition for mom, and so much more. Then we also provide practical support, laundry, dishes, light housework, meal preparation, errands, and everyone’s favorite, infant care.”
Some doulas perform both roles, but postpartum doulas are particularly in demand because the support for new mothers has reduced in modern society. New moms are often without the traditional village of days gone by. They’re often living without family nearby, or their own parents may even be too busy or working themselves.
(There is a third type of doula, which is an end of life doula, but we won't go into that in this article.)
Step 2: Decide if you have what it takes to be a doula
What characteristics does a doula need? A doula must:
- Be a great listener
- Have a love and joy for babies and mothers
- Be caring and nurturing
- Be calm and focused
- Be respectful and non-judgemental
- Be able to work alongside medical professionals
Aside from having given birth and being a mother yourself (although this is definitely not a prerequisite), your past work history could contribute to being a successful doula. A background in careers such as teaching, social work, nannying, nursing, or early childhood education will benefit you in your journey to becoming a doula. You’re never too young or too old to become a doula!
Step 3: Train to become a doula
Once you’ve decided what kind of doula you would like to be and you feel that you meet the criteria to be an amazing doula, you need to become certified. The doula training industry is well established in many parts of the world, and there are many course providers. Do your research into the course that aligns with your values and meets the requirements in your location.
Most courses are delivered online that you can study at your own pace. That means that you can often complete the course in as little as a month, but you might prefer to study while your child naps or in the evenings, so it can take longer. You have up to a year to finish for most courses. The material is developed in conjunction with midwives, psychologists, dieticians, pediatricians, social workers, lactation consultants, and neonatologists.
As part of your training, you will be given reading material and may be expected to attend several births, write reports and assignments, attend pre and postnatal classes, and complete an exam. Your role as a doula is never to give medical advice or offer medical examinations. You will also need to undergo criminal background checks, working with children clearances, submit professional and personal references, and become certified in CPR and first aid.
You’re probably wondering how much a doula program costs. It depends on the type of doula you want to be and how extensive the training is, but the tuition fees will usually be between $1,000-$4,000.
How much does a doula make?
You will easily make back your tuition fees once you’re a certified doula. Birth doulas make an average of between $600-$1,200 per birth client and $2,000-$6,000 per postpartum client. Your rate will depend on your years of experience, additional skills, the demand in your area, and the packages you offer.
If you choose to be a birth doula, it might only work for you to attend one or two births per month if you have children of your own. Keep in mind that you may need emergency childcare for your kids if you’re suddenly required to be present at the birth at any hour of the day or night.
A postpartum doula career, on the other hand, maybe easier to fit around a family of your own plus any other commitments. You might be able to provide support in the evenings, on weekends, or during school hours if you have school-aged kids.
Step 4: Startup your doula business
Once you have completed the necessary training, the exciting part of starting your business as a doula starts!
Check out these useful posts to get you on your way:
- How to Get More Business Clients and Customers
- How to Build a Website For Your Home Business
- How to Create Your Marketing Plan and Essentials to Include
If you decide to follow your dream of becoming a doula, know that you’ll be choosing a career path that will have a profound impact on another person. You’ll be providing a source of comfort, support, and encouragement in a time that another woman needs it the most.
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Kara Wilson is a magazine editor, freelance writer, and a work-at-home Australian mama to two young children. You can find a variety of her articles in publications worldwide, but her favorite topic is parenting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience in early childhood, holds a degree in Psychology, is a trained sleep specialist, and has completed a plethora of courses and workshops surrounding early childhood development and health. Aside from her family and writing, her other biggest loves are cooking, nutrition, traveling, and of course, reading.