Looking for a role that will allow you to use your skills in a way that’ll provide help to a new mum, in the earliest days of her child’s life? If you love children and have a calm, caring demeanor, becoming a doula could be a great choice for you. You’ll be fulfilling a caring role, temporarily becoming part of a family. You’ll have the satisfaction that you regularly help a new mum out at the end of every day, too.
Here, we’ll think about what it might mean to become a doula, discuss how doulas work, and think about some alternative roles if you don’t think that this route is quite right for you.
Doulas exist to provide support to mothers whilst they are pregnant, during the birth, and sometimes afterwards as they ease into motherhood. They are purely a support function, and might perform different tasks depending on the needs of the family or expectant mother.
This support might be practical or emotional, and could include some or all of the following tasks:
- Attending antenatal appointments with the expectant parent or parents
- Supporting during the birth, including helping with breathing exercises and providing reassurance
- Discussing any issues that arose during or after the birth, and providing emotional support if needed
- Help with feeding the newborn, if needed
- Helping around the house, for example with older children or with the cooking or cleaning
- Providing support during breastfeeding
You can find out more about doulas via Doula UK.
There is a huge amount of variety with this job, as of course the help a new mum might need will vary between different families and circumstances. Some families will need a doula to provide emotional and practical support up to the birth, but not afterwards. Others might hire a doula specifically to be on call in the days running up to the birth, during it, and immediately afterwards. Others might only need help after their baby is born, as they get used to being parents or start to manage looking after more than one child.
As a doula, you might decide that your skills are best suited to focusing on just one of these areas. If that’s the case, you should make this clear when you speak to potential clients.
It’s important to know that a doula does not need any medical training. This is not a clinical role, but purely a supportive one. Doulas are primarily there to give support to a mother before, after or during the birth. They work alongside health professionals like midwives and doctors, rather than in place of them. They cannot provide clinical advice, but they can help a mother to seek out answers from qualified professionals if needed.
As we’ve established, the tasks that a doula might be required to carry out and the time that they might be needed for will vary hugely.
In most cases, though, the doula will have a couple of meetings with the parent/parents or the family before they are hired. This will give the parents-to-be a chance to discuss their needs, and the doula to let them know whether or not they will be able to accommodate them.
If the doula is hired, the work going forward is likely to be on a relatively informal basis. It is of course up to the doula whether they want to ensure that a contract is put in place to guarantee a certain amount of hours. You should come to a decision on pay, and on what level of support you will be required to give. If this needs to change later, or if the parents feel that they need you for longer than they had originally thought, you can discuss this when the time comes.
If you are going to be present at the birth, or providing practical support such as looking after older children whilst the new addition is born, you are likely to go “on call” some time before the due date. This might be a couple of days, depending on what the parent or parents decide.
There is no set route to becoming a doula. Some clients might feel that a woman with extensive childcare experience, or with a few children of her own, will be qualified enough. Others might prefer that you have undergone a course so that you can prove your credentials. There is no legal requirement to call yourself a doula, though.
Doula UK has a list of approved doula courses on its website. Courses tend to cost a few hundred pounds, and are likely to last between three and five days. They take place across the country, so hopefully there will be one close to you. Some are now offering socially distant doula training too, which is likely to come in useful. See the full list here.
If you don’t think that being a doula is right for you, there are lots of other ways that you can help a new mum out. Here are just a few of them:
Becoming a nanny
Want to look after babies or older children, becoming part of the family for a few years? Becoming a nanny might be the right thing for you. Your role might also include cooking and cleaning, aside from childcare.
Becoming a childminder
Childminders tend to work in their own homes, looking after a few babies or children at once. This might be a role for you if you have childcare experience and are recently retired, so are available for the school run etc.
Becoming a nursery nurse
Want to look after babies in a more formal setting? You’ll need a childcare qualification to become a nursery nurse, which you should be able to acquire via your local technical college.
Becoming a midwife
If you want to take more of an active role in the clinical side of childbirth, you could become a midwife. You’ll need to go to uni to train in midwifery, so this will be a big time commitment – but you’ll end up with one of the most rewarding jobs that there is.
Have you had experience with a doula, or are you one yourself? We’d love to hear your story. Let us know over on the forums.