Recently someone asked me how many years it takes to get into postpartum doula work. Guess what? The answer is hours and days, not years! Because this is a lay profession, not a medical one, there are actually NO PREREQUISITES! Anyone who is comfortable with babies and supporting families is qualified.
So who would make a great doula? Here is my personal top 5 after almost 15 years of being a doula, running a doula agency, training doulas and hiring doulas for our business.
1. First and foremost, someone with heart of compassion and empathy. If you can feel for your clients, you are more likely to connect to them in a heartfelt way, and it will both make them feel validated and endear you to the family.
Those who are hardened to the concerns of new mothers might make great caregivers for babies, but they rarely make wonderful doulas who are mothering the mother. You have to have a gentleness to approach this work of fragile new moms and tiny new babies, sensitive new dads and grandparents with the best of intentions.
2. Anyone who is visiting a family in their home would need to be able to bring a sense of calm and tranquility and not add to the inevitable stress, including with the pets and older children in the household.
3. And just as importantly, you have to be someone who can leave your own judgement behind when you are caring for a family. We all have bias and judgement; this is not something anyone is free of. The key is to be able to switch it off when serving a family so that you can help them tap into their own instincts and what their heart tells them.
If you feel very passionately about a certain topic, you have to either be able to set it aside while you serve families, or you need to only serve families that you agree with on this topic (and make it clear in your marketing materials so families know what you are not willing to compromise on).
4. One key I have seen over the years is the ability to read people, either with body language, vocal tone, or other cues. Reading our babies is a skill that most mothers (and many fathers) develop in order to meet the needs of their beloved children. However some people are better able to read an adult situation or others’ children, and others find it more difficult.
The doulas I have seen that have get the best reviews with families are women who can read a situation and understand quickly how to approach it in the most gentle and honoring way, while still being incredibly helpful. There is a way to be a fly on the wall and not disruptive, but doulas also need to be able to step in and help where needed, even when the situation is tenuous and people aren’t communicating well.
5. One last thing you need is time and flexibility! If you don’t have time to serve families, you likely can’t be of much help. If you can’t be flexible to their needs and timing, it will be more difficult for you to be able to serve them well or often enough to make an impact.
Have all the talents and skills needed to care for brand new families? Then all you need is a weekend course to start the process! Yes, you will need to complete many more steps in order to get certified (and I recommend that you do!) but to start, you need one weekend.
My foundational trainings are 20 hours of instruction (10 hours each day) and you walk away a trained professional. Certification can take 3 months to 2 years, depending on how fast you work at it. The qualifications for certification for my program (CAPPA) are here: http://www.cappa.net/postpartum-doula.
If you want to attend one of my workshops, the current schedule and pricing details are here: http://abcdoula.com/postpartum-doula-trainings/.
But, wait...you still have more questions?
Don't I need to have babies myself?
Don't I need breastfeeding training ahead of time?
How about being a grandma; am I too old to become a doula?
What if I am a younger nanny? Would I still qualify?
Nope, nope, nope, and yes!
The biggest thing I want you to know is that doulas are generally born nurturers. Age matters less than nurturing ability. I rarely have to train people how to care; I only offer the workshop to outline the role and scope, and give some of the finer points both of family care and doula work.
I can’t really teach people how to care. That is just a gift that some get in greater amounts. If you have it, you just might be a doula that doesn’t know it yet!
Let’s talk about getting you started!