I might hear “I want to be a doula” as often as I hear “I want to be a knitter”. I am both a knitter and a doula in Regina and I think the two acts have quite a bit in common. Some people are just born to doula and some people are just born to knit. Others need to be taught. They will say, “I want to learn to be a doula” or “I want to learn to knit”. Guess what? Depending on where you live, there is relatively easy access to trainings and teaching for both. I have taken both doula training and knitting classes. This is why I think knitting is like doula’ing.
Knitting classes are relatively short. They are meant to teach you basics and get you going, some even construct one particular item, like a hat or a shawl. At the end of the class you have learnt some basic knitting steps and completed a simple item. Doula training is also short & teaches you the basics of birth, some coping strategies and some ideas for your clients; mostly with one type of birth in mind, unmedicated vaginal birth.
Quite a number of people enrol in doula training but can’t seem to get themselves off the ground and into the role as a doula at birth. They might be able to attend a birth or two of friends or family, maybe an acquaintance. After those initial "hot" leads, it isn't so easy to get much more opportunity or experience. Many struggle getting paid for the work they are doing & the time they are committing to.
Lots of people take knitting classes, but never pick up their needles after the initial items made in a group setting are done. Now, I know most people don't learn to knit so they can make a profit, but if they did they are hard pressed to get people to pay them for their time knitting. Both knitters and doulas get stuck here.
You took a class or a training.
What happens if you want to make another knitted item after knitting class? You likely need to read and perform a pattern that is entirely new to you. You need to evaluate if you have the skills to perform that pattern. If you can do it, that is fabulous, off you go knitting. If you don’t have the skills, you have to obtain them somehow. Or alternatively, you have to pass up the project.
What happens if a new doula meets a situation she didn’t come across in doula training? She also has to evaluate if she has the skills to navigate the situation. If she does, she moves along supporting the family. If she doesn’t she will need to obtain them. Or refer to someone else. Sometimes neither happens and both the doula and the client are stuck.
Potential knitting projects are unlimited, just as much so as the different kinds of births a doula will witness. To be honest, I feel a weekend of training or a few hours of knitting with a skilled instructor is not enough to prepare us for everything we might desire to knit or might see and need to support our client through as a doula. We need to understand our limitations of knitting skills just as much as a limitations to our doula capacity.
Doula’ing also gets treated like a hobby, as knitting would be considered. I think there are a few reasons for this. If we were doing doula “right” then we wouldn't be churning over doulas like butter, because sometimes this is how it feels. We see many new doulas trained every year and very few stay practicing year to year, and we lose just as many "old" ones in the next 2-3 years from when they trained. We really have no more doulas now than we did 7 years ago when I trained, we haven't changed anything in the community to enhance birth & increase the desire to have a doula. It is treated like a hobby which does nothing to enhance our professionalism or create a bigger interest in doula to the larger community. There are many reasons why this is, but compare it to knitting again. In order to advance my skill to different projects outside the knitting class I took, I needed more support to continue growing my skills, and I had to seek that out after the class, sometimes in the middle of a project & sometimes before I started a new one. The reality is that many people in my knitting class set the needles down and never returned to knitting after the initial projects because they didn’t know how to get more skills, didn’t know who or where to turn to, or didn’t have the resources (time, money, etc) to do so.
How to convert being a doula from a hobby to a business?
If people want to move from hobbyist doula to business doula there is also a huge amount of skills needed to be able to this, too. Again, some people come to those skills naturally, some have to learn it and others frankly pay someone to handle business stuff for them. But lots of what we need to do to move from hobbyist to business doula is looking at how we are "doing" doula, what skills we need to improve upon and how to get good client outcomes. Birth is unpredictable - that is the only sure thing about birth. But that doesn’t mean birth just happens to people and they should just roll with what may be. Birth can be a positive experience for everyone. It is time to doula differently. I am up for the challenge to connect to my clients, identify their needs & equip them with the tools they need to meet those needs because Your Birth Experience matters. Just like learning to knit more than basics by advancing my knitting skills and performing the same stitches over and over until I got the beautiful outcome I wanted consistently, I have advanced my doula skills to do similar steps and processes with clients to make sure I understand my clients needs, I am able to perform the necessary steps to meet those needs and consistently get good client outcomes. This isn't to say people and birth are processes and a systems, because I do not believe this is the case, I believe all people are births are unique. Rather what I am saying is that by using systems and processes, I can get to know people and their desires for their unique birth experience.
If you would like to chat about your desires for your birth, consider booking a complimentary consult.
YOUR BIRTH, YOUR BABY, YOUR EXPERIENCE
Your Birth Experience is designed to connect YOU with all your childbirth options in a unique way. You won’t find a program like this anywhere else. It is comprehensive yet personalized to you.
In Your Birth Experience, there is CONNECTION to each expecting family, IDENTIFICATION of their individual needs, resulting in families being EQUIPPED to achieve their unique birth experience.
As I am sure you are finding, pregnancy is a busy time, and most of us already lead full busy lives. Trying to get to 6-12 weeks worth of classes can be a challenge, or simply put, undesirable to many people. Some people don't like large classes, don't have the attention span for hours and hours of lectures and videos. Some people like intimate groups where they already know or can get to know other people.
I am pleased to offer Your Birth Experience, for all those reasons, and more. I am also happy to offer the program in a variety of formats based on individuals needs and desires.
In group classes, set for 2 hours each over the span of 3 classes (can also be offered in a one day format). I also offer, 5 hour private classes, which can be scheduled in one or two sessions. These would take place in your home & can be scheduled when it works best for YOU!
All of the options include:
Your Birth Experience Class is $225 & includes the Your Birth Experience Parent Guide.
Your Birth Experience Parent Guide is available book to work through on your own. $65
For more information see Your Birth Experience.
Very few days of my previous career stick with me like the one I am about to share. At the time, I didn’t realize to what extent that day would change my opinion and outlook on many things.
A couple brought their very ill young infant to the emergency room. I was called down to do blood work which was standard procedure. After having a difficult time drawing the blood I returned to the lab to run the tests & analyze the results, hoping to shed some light on why this infant was so ill.
Some of the initial tests gave results that led to further testing. One of these further tests was a “blood smear”, where we smear blood onto a slide and look at it under a microscope. As I was looking at the smear, I started to think that something was wrong with my equipment or my reagents; something was greatly wrong. My blood smear looked like something I had never seen before. I made a new slide and the same thing happened. I changed all the reagents that could be contributing to the bizarre results. each test gave the same outcome. I needed to accept that this was how this child's smear was. This told me why he was so ill. The baby’s treatment continued. Testing continued. My shift ended.
I returned the next evening still thinking about this infant and wondering if we had any more answers. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard and couldn’t believe it when I heard it; the infant has passed away, and the cause of death was malnutrition. He had been fed Coffee Mate and water in place of infant formula. I asked myself, as you may be asking yourself, how does this happen?
It turns out it happened, because the family became dependent on the food bank for food, including infant formula. When there was a shortage of infant formula, the parents decided to substitute with Coffee Mate and water. Some will say that it was because they were illiterate and didn’t know the difference. Some would say it was because it resembled infant formula. Some will say it’s because a milk-like product equals milk-like product.
This experience stays with me, and I reflect on and react to the action of infant formula being distributed at the food bank. Food security is a basic need, and, for an infant, it’s one of the few things they need and they need often.
How does formula get to the food bank? Often the samples that are sent to new parents end up there. Women who choose to -and successfully- breastfeed then have these cans and bottles of formula sitting in their homes in dark cupboards, on top of the fridge, and other out of the way places. They know they will never use it, but the idea of letting it go to waste or ending up in the garbage isn’t something they want. They think about all the moms who have less than they do, less support to breastfed and use the food bank - and think that if they take it there, they can help a mom. Moms who need the food bank go there, they say that formula is available, and they take it. That helps the family budget. Formula is expensive and is likely a large part of the financial stress of the family. What’s wrong with that? The samples don’t come consistently and frequently enough to sustain the food bank supply. There will be times when the food bank doesn’t have a supply of formula but the mothers are assuming it will be available so the income gets budgeted to other items. Now, the food bank has no formula, and the family has no money. They still need to feed the baby.
In my ideal dream world, the supports these families would receive would be breastfeeding support as well as prenatal and postnatal education. Breastmilk is virtually free. With even suboptimal nutrition, mothers still produce a perfect, free food for their infants. Infants can be sustained for a significant amount of time on just breastmilk.. The recommendation from WHO and CPA is 6 months exclusively and then continued to two years or beyond, with the introduction of solids at around 6 months. In the event of a food crisis, a mother could sustain her infant for the better part of its first year through breastfeeding alone.
The support aspect would be important for that to happen. These mothers also need the education. Many of them believe that without an optimal diet, their breastmilk isn’t good for their baby and that formula is better. All mothers want the best for their babies. They need to be taught that they’re what’s best for their babies. They also need to be taught what normal infant behaviour is. If they don’t understand normal infant behaviour , they may feel like they’re starving their baby. Without access to infant formula, they would likely plug along and make it work. With formula being free and on the shelf at the food bank, however, they may grab it and feed that to the baby. Many of us know, when we start supplementing, we can quickly lose that breastfeeding relationship. The food bank may continue to have formula or they may not and we end up in situation like the above. How do we feed the baby in this situation?
The staff at the food bank could use some education on breastfeeding and formula feeding. Many of them may still hold the belief that mothers with a low-quality diet shouldn't breastfeed, that it isn’t good for them or their baby. When formula is available, they may encourage that to a mother who’s breastfeeding because of this belief.
Don't get me wrong here; the issue isn’t the people donating the formula to the food bank. They have good intentions and likely don’t realize the damage that can be done. The issue here is that this is exactly one of the things the formula companies want to happen. They want their products in the hands of the vulnerable new mother and father. This is why they send packages out, and they do it in the manner of “Breastfeeding is best; however when the time comes, introduce formula”. If the time comes to introduce it and continue with it, you will buy the kind that was free and came with coupons and other swag items like a backpack or change mat. It’s all marketing. How free do you think all that stuff was to produce and mail out? Not free at all; in fact, it’s in the high price of the formula. Let’s look at what formula is and why it costs so much. Those sending it out are a business and they need to make a profit. After all the free packages they give away, they need to increase the cost of formula drastically to make a profit. They’re so profitable, in fact, that not only are they giving parents free stuff, they buy the names and contact info of parents from the likes of maternity stores and giving all kinds of free stuff to hospitals and doctors’ offices. When a family legitimately needs formula, it’s so drastically overpriced that it creates hardships for them.
What do I suggest we do with the free samples? I suggest they be returned to the stores where they came from with a note explaining why it’s being returned. Imagine if just a small percentage of moms did this. Would the stores start to think twice about their partnerships if they had a large number of packages to deal with?
Another option is return to sender. I don't think this would have near the impact as the above option, but it would show them that you don’t want their products.
As far as the moms who need the additional supports and are at higher risk of needing to use formula, there’s a better way to help those mothers feed their babies safely and reliably.
This should go without saying, but the need to say it is always there. This isn’t about formula vs breast milk, nor about a mother’s choice to breastfeed or not. This is about an infant’s right to quality nutrition and food security, one of the basic hierarchical needs of the human race and a primary building block of children's futures. Breastfeeding can almost always guarantee an infant and child can be sustained.