Why a doula is your BFF (BreastFeeding Friend)


“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”  – John H. Kennell, MD

Doulas (trained support people for childbirth and postpartum) are associated with some great things:  shorter labors, less interventions, fewer c-sections, and a more positive birth experience overall.

But did you know that having a doula can help you meet your breastfeeding goals, too?  I’m happy to share just some of the evidence on how doulas can help you beat the Booby Traps.™

Can’t afford a doula?  Read on for some suggestions on finding a low cost or volunteer doula, and also for some evidence that having a trained close family member or friend can make a difference in your breastfeeding success.

Studies showing that doulas are your BFF:

A 2009 randomized controlled trial in a California hospital assigned mothers either standard care during labor or the addition of support from a doula.  Mothers with doula care also got two home visits from a doula.  Here’s what they found:

  • Mothers who had doulas were less likely to experience a delay in their milk coming in.
  • 68% of women receiving doula care and 54% of women receiving standard care were breastfeeding at 6 weeks.
  • For women with a “prenatal stressor” (history of substance abuse, tobacco use during pregnancy, depression or anxiety disorder, chronic health condition, pregnancy-induced, hypertension, gestational diabetes, or other serious pregnancy complications) mothers who had doulas were more than twice as likely to be breastfeeding at 6 weeks.

A 2009 study on the effect of doulas (called “Birth Sisters” in this hospital) on exclusive breastfeeding at a Massachusetts Baby Friendly Hospital found that mothers who had a Birth Sister had higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding, delayed their first formula feedings, and fed less formula overall.

What if a close friend of family member is trained as your doula?  A 2007 randomized controlled-trial found that when a mom’s close female friend or relative was “minimally trained” as a doula and supported her, she was more likely to initiate breastfeeding.

What special magic do doulas have that results in better breastfeeding outcomes?

This is an interesting question.  Is it that doulas actually support mothers in breastfeeding (by providing encouragement and practical help), or is it that they help mothers have births that are more supportive of breastfeeding?

The authors of the California study I mentioned above looked at this question and point out that in one randomized controlled trial, “the doulas did not provide any direct assistance with breastfeeding, yet by 6 weeks postpartum the intervention group was signi¢cantly more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding: 51.4% versus 29.3%.”

Can’t afford to hire a doula?

I asked Ananda Lowe, co-author of The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Should Know, to offer some suggestions for moms who can’t afford to hire a doula.  She writes:

Most doulas-in-training offer a reduced fee until they are certified.  A trainee has enough education in birth to be a valuable presence at a woman’s labor.  Contact the national doula organizations to find a trainee or an experienced doula, at www.cappa.net, www.dona.org, www.ictcmidwives.org, and www.tolabor.com.

Otherwise, ask a friend who had a positive birth experience or a natural childbirth to be at your birth.  Our culture thinks of birth as a private event between a woman and her mate, but hospitals are full of staff who are strangers.  In past eras, it was a woman’s experienced female friends who guided her through birth.  I strongly encourage women to bring a friend or two to their labor.  Birth is such an intense experience, and hospital procedures can seem so overwhelming, that it is probably asking too much of a pregnant woman and her mate to get through labor alone.

Did you have a doula for your birth?  Would you recommend it?







Brought to you by PumpEase & Posh Pads!

7 thoughts on “Why a doula is your BFF (BreastFeeding Friend)

  1. As a postpartum doula, a LOT of what I end up doing for mothers is helping to encourage breastfeeding success. I’m also a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), as are quite a few doulas, so that’s one credential that may signal a doula who is likely to be a huge help with breastfeeding.

    I do want to note that while there are doulas out there who work at a lower cost (and there are some organizations, such as Everyday Miracles in Minnesota), doula work is hard work, and it would be wonderful if it was an expense that parents worked into their budget. Instead of spending a large amount of money on a crib, consider hiring a doula to help you at the birth and/or postpartum. If family members want to chip in somehow, ask for a gift certificate for postpartum help. Put it on your baby shower registry. It makes a HUGE amount of difference for your peace of mind to have strong support in labor and after birth.


  2. I had a labor doula and she was AMAZING! I could not have had the great natural birth that I did without her. She stayed for 2 hours after birth and helped me get breastfeeding started. She also visited me at home a week later to check in on us and gave me lots of resources.
    I do agree with Tiffany’s point – doulas are worth the money and might be something parents want to budget for. I was comparing hospital costs for labor and the postpartum stay and mine were very low ($100) compared to others which were in the thousands. However when I factor in the cost of our doula ($900) and our Bradley childbirth class ($250), our costs are more in line with theirs. And I am sure glad my money went towards those things instead of interventions, procedures, and medications i didnt need!


  3. I had a doula and it was the best money I ever spent! I met with her on two occasions while I was pregnant and spoke with her on the phone after each prenatal appointment and anytime I had any concerns. I was able to achieve a completely natural child birth, and she also helped me get the baby to the breast within the first hour after birth. It was her policy to stay with the mother for however long it takes to get the baby to the breast, even if that means 5, 10, 12, etc, hours post partum. She then visited me the next day i’n the hospital to check on us, and I met with her for lunch a week later. She also was available for any support for the first two weeks PP, and in my case she said I could call anytime. I fully recommend having a doula!! If I have more babies, I will definitely have one again. Compared to the birth of my first daughter, the second one was so much better, with no disappointments 🙂


  4. Thanks ladies for this post! As a birth doula, I see so many booby traps not only during the first hour of life but also during the hospital stay! I have been so discouraged lately by how many of my clients have been booby trapped by the hospital staff. Please PLEASE continue to share with moms ALL the things they can do to help get breastfeeding off to a good start! Here are some examples: 1) Keep the baby with you skin on skin at least until the baby has had a good breastfeed. This means delay the baby being weighed and measured. 2) Let the staff know you do not want your baby to be suctioned by that little blue blub. See Linda Smith’s Book http://www.amazon.com/Impact-Birthing-Practices-Breastfeeding-Second/dp/0763763748 for more research. DELAY the bath on the first day!!. The bath makes the baby cold and tired!! Watch your baby for hunger signs not the clock!

    Sorry for my rambling. I just wish all moms knew there are things they can do to protect their babies from being booby trapped!!!!


  5. Sounds awesome to me! I hired a doula for our first birth and while my husband was a bit skeptical about using one, he went with it. In hindsight, he said he felt it was the best investment in our pregnancy and childbirth. He said he was able to relax and be in the moment with me since we had a skilled expert there who was trained and very accustomed to what happens during birth.

    Research also shows that the benefits for a woman in labor having a doula include:
    -decreased chance of a C-Section, forceps delivery or vacuum assisted birth.
    -less likely to use pain medications.
    -slightly shorter labors.
    -more likely to give birth spontaneously (baby gives off hormone starting labor).
    -more likely to be satisfied with their birth experience.

    Here’s an interview with a doula who explains exactly what she does. Very helpful info! http://yourbabybooty.com/interviews/is-a-doula-worth-the-money-jenna-anderson/


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