Are doulas an expensive luxury?

By Sophie Brigstocke

Over at The Naked Doula where we did an Instagram takeover recently, we asked people to share the myths they had heard about doulas, The most common by far were: 
 
Doulas are expensive
and 
Doulas are a luxury, not available to most people
 

Given that we talk about the power of language a great deal on our doula courses I really want to dive into that word ‘luxury’. 
 
When I was pregnant for the first time the only person I knew who had recently had a baby was my sister-in-law.  When I reached out to her she starting telling me all about the ‘kit’ I needed.  She shared with me the brand of buggy she had and without much further thought or investigation I put a large proportion of our budget towards this all-singing and dancing system.  The car seat clipped on to the frame, it had a Moses basket-style fitting and a more adaptable seat for older babies/toddlers.  Whilst it was perfect for my sister-in-law and her lifestyle in a different country where she had a lot of space, it sat in my narrow hallway, getting in the way, gathering dust.  And, my baby hated being in it!  What a massive waste of money.  
 
No-one thought to talk to me about what new parents really need.  No-one discussed additional emotional and practical support once my Mum (thank God for her help in the first week) went home.  What a difference it would have made to those early days and weeks. My partner and I were exhausted and frazzled.  I just didn’t have that person to check in with, be open and vulnerable with, to share the “should my baby …” questions with.  Perhaps I could have discovered the benefits of wearing my baby far sooner, relieving me from the relentless carrying, rocking and trying to settle my baby, which left me feeling inadequate. Maybe they might have helped me to understand my baby’s needs so much better. I was so clueless, relying on what books and advice I was given, albeit from well-meaning individuals. 

There certainly was very little opportunity to “enjoy those first precious few weeks” as people kept telling me.  As a profoundly sleep-deprived new mum with a very fractious baby I am not ashamed to admit I sometimes harboured really unkind thoughts towards the ‘it’s all golden rainbows, unicorns and fairy dust when you first have a baby’ brigade.  
 
When did we become so focussed on materialistic items rather than emotional needs?  Marketing has so much to answer for, especially when we are sold quick fixes to solve all our parenting needs.  
 
Here’s my vision!

  • Every pregnant woman and person creates a postnatal plan using evidence-based information about babies’ needs and considering each of the parents’ needs, expectations and feelings 
  • People be made aware of cultural traditions where the fourth trimester is honoured, observed and respected
  • Friends, family members and colleagues come together (maybe at a baby shower, mother blessing or pre-birth gathering) to consider how they will best support the new family, guided by the parents-to-be, their vision and their needs
  • Anyone who wants to give a gift puts money towards doula support to be used whenever the parents feel they need it.  

In summary, what value can we put on being well supported in the early days of being a parent?  When you consider that someone who is better rested, supported around their feeding choices, given nourishing food, listened to and validated, given some domestic support is likely to do far better in terms of physical recovery, bonding and connection with their baby, and experience better mental health, it seems like a no-brainer to me.  Perhaps we should all be telling the world that doulas are valuable, rather than a luxury?  I, for one, really want to continue to bust the ‘luxury’ myth and make doulas available to anyone who wants or needs that kind of support. 

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If you are interested in training as a doula, visit Nurturing Birth’s doula training website for more information.

If you want to find a doula in your local area, search in the Nurturing Birth Directory.