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Studies have found that many women plan on breastfeeding their babies but their reality falls short of their expectations. A 2012 study published in Pediatrics states, “…Authors found 85 percent of mothers who planned to exclusively breast-feed intended to do so for three months or longer. However, only 32.4 percent of mothers exclusively breast-fed for as long as they intended.”

This discrepancy between breastfeeding goals and reality can cause disappointment and emotional pain. What can help women achieve their breastfeeding goals?

Doulas can be a powerful force in helping women have not only an incredible birth experience, but a breastfeeding one as well. Here are three reasons your birth doula should have lactation training.

1. The doula provides continuous care.

Because a birth doula provides continuity of care throughout the pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum she can do amazing work supporting and helping women reach their personal breastfeeding goals and aligning desire with reality.

Courtney Smith, a Dallas area doula says,

“While I’ve breastfed each of my older children into toddlerhood (and am still nursing a baby), there is always more to learn. I am so grateful for the breastfeeding intensive that is included in Birth Boot Camp DOULA training. I learned so much about how to help moms identify breastfeeding “red flags” and overcome common hurdles. I want to set my clients up for success, so they can enjoy a healthy breastfeeding relationship with their babies.”

When a family hires a doula, they meet with her prenatally, they call her when they go into labor, and they work hard to bring the baby into the world in a triumphant birth. After the birth, the doula stays for a bit to support mom in another transition- the one from pregnant and birthing woman to breastfeeding mother. This continuous care and the presence of a friendly, trusted face, is incredibly helpful.

2. The doula is there for the first latch.

Often, a doula is the only continual presence, besides the partner, through this entire process. The doula is there for the first latch and first breastfeeding session. Then, after the birth, the doula will meet with the family for a postpartum visit to check in and see how things are progressing along and how mom is doing emotionally. If the doula has lactation training, she can help make sure mom gets off to a good start. Many breastfeeding struggles can be avoided if good, solid knowledge is given in the very beginning.

These numerous points of contact, as well as the strong relationship that a doula builds with her clients, make them ideal to help with lactation support.

3. A doula can refer out to local professionals.

But the role of doula doesn’t have to be as THE lactation expert for that mom (although some doulas do have considerable lactation knowledge) but just expert enough to recognize and refer out for problems. This is because the doula is often the most intimately and immediately connected person to the birthing woman.

Part of good doula lactation training is recognizing when you don’t know what to do and being connected with appropriate local breastfeeding resources and experts for your clients. This is key to helping women reach their breastfeeding goals.

The strong relationship that a doula builds with her clients also helps them know they have someone they can trust and feel comfortable calling if they need help. Simply not knowing who to contact or how to access resources is a huge barrier to breastfeeding success. Doulas help overcome this.

Having some basic lactation skills is an imperative part of every doulas skill set and a must have element of your doula training. Birth Boot Camp Doula training includes advanced lactation training by Mellanie Sheppard, IBCLC. She loves working with doulas because she recognizes what a powerful force they can be.

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Doulas can help improve not just birth, but the first days of parenting and breastfeeding. Success in meeting these important goals has an impact not just on the lifelong health of the infant and mother, but on her feelings of joy and confidence as she begins parenting.

Interested in becoming a doula? Start your training today!