Working as a Postpartum Doula is one of the greatest passions of my life! I have been so fortunate to support many moms around the country with education on how to care for their precious, new bundle of joy! Even as a seasoned doula, I am constantly still learning from my families. Creating a safe and strong channel of communication is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned during my career. Whether you are a new or veteran doula, I wanted to share three valuable tips to keep in mind when it comes to creating sound dialogue with your families.
Tip #1 Listen to Your Listening Skills
Working as a doula is all about providing continuous emotional and physical support to mothers, babies and their families. The best way to do this is by carefully listening to the personal goals they share. I ask you: Do you listen to the mother’s words or are you busy formulating a quick response in your head? It’s critical to stay focused on communication and free of all distractions. Also, never assume you know what her goals are without having complete conversation first. Be sure to tune in to both her verbal and non-verbal communication. This will ensure that you both are on the same page when it comes to sharing techniques and resources with her.
Recently I had an incident with a mother where I was solely listening to her words without tuning in to her non-verbals and body language. So, I heard her, but I hadn’t actually heard what she was saying. As we discussed her breastfeeding plan, I could see that she was very excited, but we hadn’t properly connected the dots in our communication. This recent experience was a wonderful teachable moment for me, as I reviewed her situation and sought more information from the mother. I went back and politely asked the mother to restate what she wanted to ensure that I knew the best way to support her and her baby.
Tip #2 Set Aside Your Opinions
As a doula, we strive to abide by a mother’s wishes and remove all judgement when it comes to providing the mother with emotional and physical support. Adjusting to a new baby and providing everything they need is not always an easy task. So, it’s vital to make their journey as painless as possible for your families. Don’t make assumptions or inject your own opinions when it comes to providing support. For instance, when it comes to discussing a feeding plan for a new infant, never assume the mother prefers breastfeeding over JUST using a breast pump. Always collect all of the information first.
I realize it may be challenging to withhold all judgement and personal feelings on a mother’s decisions, but doing this will better ensure that the mother has a positive experience working with you. I always strive to serve as a mother’s advocate and ensure her time with me is as stress-free as possible.
Tip #3 Monitor Your Dialogue
One of the greatest aspects of my job, is providing value and improving the support new moms are receiving. In order to do this, I always aim to monitor my dialogue with mothers and their families. Dialogue is the exchange of information and ideas between two or more people. When I am mindful with my dialogue, I am carefully gauging how and when I’m speaking to my parents. Good dialogue gives a voice to everyone and validates their desires. It’s also critically important to monitor dialogue with dads so they are informed and engaged in the experience with their babies.
Monitoring my dialogue means I am evaluating my:
- Speaking Tone
- Timing of Communication
- Body Language
- Their Reactions
- Their Emotional State
Every family is different and may require a different approach to providing support. I mentally review what I’ve already said to my parents to help me better understand their feelings and perspective. For example, I stop and ask myself: Should we inquire deeper for clarity, paraphrase a communication, or provide a new idea for a mother to consider. These tactics may help create a greater sense of understanding and connection between us.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to gently share ground rules with mothers and their families as well. This ensures everyone collectively understands your role and intention as their doula. It’s a great way to avoid confrontations or debates over your care.
Focusing on the Goal
Again, as postpartum doulas, our priority is to educate, support and nurture. Remembering to listen, setting aside your opinions and monitoring your dialogue. All three of these will help you to focus on your families’ goals! When I am visiting the homes of my families, I make sure they feel safe when they are confiding in me and my services. Remember that they are counting on us at one of the most vulnerable times in their life. Creating a safe zone of communication will only build trust and comfort as you work together!
CPD, CLE®, CAPPA Faculty
Prinscilla Moore is a wife, mother of 4 beautiful girls, and grandmother. Her enthusiasm in childbirth and maternal health was sparked by her own birth experiences and outcomes. She started her journey with CAPPA in 2012 taking the Labor Doula and Postpartum Doula training programs and found that assisting women in the postpartum period was where her true passion lies. In 2013, she attended the CLE® training and that furthered her knowledge as a Doula and began teaching classes to educate parents on baby care needs and building confidence as they welcome their new baby. Since forming Delighted to Doula Educational Birth Services, she has been working with families throughout Michigan and Los Angeles, CA. Training professionals to become Certified Lactation Educators™ through CAPPA just proves how dedicated she is in helping families understand the importance of childbirth and how breastfeeding impacts the growth process of infants. She can be found at www.delightedtodoula.com.