Breastfeeding babies exclusively for the first six months of life improves infant survival and long term health.1-4 Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as babies only receiving mother’s milk:1 no other liquids or food for sustenance. If 90% of all infants in the United States were exclusively breastfed there would be a health cost savings between $3.6 billion3 and $13 billion5 dollars per year. The risk of infectious diseases6 and sudden infant death syndrome5 are reduced through exclusive breastfeeding. Women receive long term health benefits from exclusive breastfeeding reducing the risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.1 Although exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization1,3,6 only about 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed at six months in the United States.3
Families with new babies need assistance from an individual trained and knowledgeable about breastfeeding to overcome the challenges they may encounter in the first days and weeks breastfeeding. Increasingly women receive help to breastfeed in the hospital, and breastfeeding initiation rates are as high as 80% in many American hospitals,1,7 however it is when women return home after giving birth that breastfeeding problems often occur. Having breastfeeding support after being discharged from the hospital is a critical strategy to facilitate breastfeeding success.6 Women that received peer support during postpartum were 15 more times likely to breastfeed exclusively.8 Also, women who received the care of a doula for labor were more likely to both initiate and exclusively breastfeed for a greater length of time.1,3,8,9
A doula is trained to give physical and emotional support to pregnant women and their families. Trained and certified doulas are knowledgeable about childbirth and can serve as advocates for families; however, doulas don’t provide medical care. Doulas continuously remain by a woman’s side through labor to help her cope with contractions using breathing, relaxation, massage, and other techniques. Doulas also provide care to families in their homes during postpartum. An increasing number of studies show that doula care improves birth outcomes for mothers and their babies.1,9
In order to increase breastfeeding rates a holistic approach is imperative. Historically, women have received care by female relatives1 or midwives during postpartum who assisted them with breastfeeding. In the past women had built in postpartum support and were not left on their own to figure out how to nurse their babies. Outcomes from recent studies show that combining elements from the history of postpartum care such as support at home,1,2,4,10-12 guidance from individuals trained and experienced with breastfeeding,4,8,10,13 and emotional understanding from someone they can relate to increases breastfeeding rates.1,10 This level of support would holistically help women successfully nurse, and is in strong contrast to the breastfeeding assistance families receive today. Based on these concerns the doula breastfeeding specialist curriculum has been developed to train professionals to provide in-home continuous breastfeeding support.
Professionals will complete the certification program which includes an online course specifically designed to teach the necessary skills for work as a Doula Breastfeeding Specialist. Childbirth Professionals International (CPI) is the organization administering the Doula Breastfeeding Specialist program. CPI is an independent organization that provides training courses specifically for health professionals that care for pregnant women and their families.
- Lauwers, J. & Swisher, A. (2016). Counseling the nursing mother (6th ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett.
- Aksu, H., Küçük, M., & Düzgün, G. (2011). The effect of postnatal breastfeeding education/support offered at home 3 days after delivery on breastfeeding duration and knowledge: a randomized trial. Journal Of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 24(2), 354-361. doi:10.3109/14767058.2010.497569
- Cross-Barnet, C., Augustyn, M., Gross, S., Resnik, A., & Paige, D. (2012). Long-Term Breastfeeding Support: Failing Mothers in Need. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 16(9), 1926-1932. doi:10.1007/s10995-011-0939-x
- Mannan, I., Rahman, S. M., Sania, A., Seraji, H. R., Arifeen, S. E., Winch, P. J., & … Baqui, A. (2008). Can early postpartum home visits by trained community health workers improve breastfeeding of newborns?. Journal Of Perinatology, 28(9), 632-640. doi:10.1038/jp.2008.64
- Johnson, A., Kirk, R., Rooks, A., & Muzik, M. (2016). Enhancing Breastfeeding Through Healthcare Support: Results from a Focus Group Study of African American Mothers. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 2092-102. doi:10.1007/s10995-016-2085-y
- Hongo, H., Nanishi, K., Shibanuma, A., & Jimba, M. (2015). Is Baby-Friendly Breastfeeding Support in Maternity Hospitals Associated with Breastfeeding Satisfaction Among Japanese Mothers?. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 19(6), 1252-1262. doi:10.1007/s10995-014-1631-8
- Flood, J. L. (2017). Breastfeeding Supports and Services in Rural Hawaii: Perspectives of Community Healthcare Workers. Nursing Research & Practice, 1-14. doi:10.1155/2017/6041462
- Kaunonen, M., Hannula, L., & Tarkka, M. (2012). A systematic review of peer support interventions for breastfeeding. Journal Of Clinical Nursing, 21(13/14), 1943-1954. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2012.04071.x
- Van Zandt, S. E., Kim, S., & Erickson, A. (2016). Nursing Student Birth Doulas’ Influence On the Childbearing Outcomes of Vulnerable Populations. Journal Of Community Health Nursing, 33(3), 128-138. doi:10.1080/07370016.2016.1191869
- Nankunda, J., Tumwine, J. K., Nankabirwa, V., & Tylleskär, T. (2010). “She would sit with me”: mothers’ experiences of individual peer support for exclusive breastfeeding in Uganda. International Breastfeeding Journal, 516-28. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-5-16
- Ridgway, L., Cramer, R., Mclachlan, H. L., Forster, D. A., Cullinane, M., Shafiei, T., & Amir, L. H. (2016). Breastfeeding Support in the Early Postpartum: Content of Home Visits in the SILC Trial. Birth: Issues In Perinatal Care, 43(4), 303-312. doi:10.1111/birt.12241
- Rozga, M., Benton, P., Kerver, J., & Olson, B. (2016). An Integrated Model of Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Support is Feasible and Associated with Improved Exclusive Breastfeeding. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 20(12), 2589-2598. doi:10.1007/s10995-016-2086-x
- Thomson, G., Balaam, M., & Hymers, K. (2015). Building social capital through breastfeeding peer support: insights from an evaluation of a voluntary breastfeeding peer support service in North-West England. International Breastfeeding Journal, 10(1), 1-14. doi:10.1186/s13006-015-0039-4
- Torres, J. M. (2013). Breast milk and labour support: lactation consultants’ and doulas’ strategies for navigating the medical context of maternity care. Sociology Of Health & Illness, 35(6), 924-938. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12010
- Youens, K., Chisnell, D., & Marks-Maran, D. (2014). Mother-to-mother breastfeeding peer support: The Breast Buddies project. British Journal Of Midwifery, 22(1), 35-43.
- Pollard, M. (2011). Evidence-based care for breastfeeding mothers (1st ed.). London: Routledge.