The doula breastfeeding specialist (DBS) certification program was designed to combine the ongoing continuous emotional and physical supportive elements of doula care with breastfeeding techniques and knowledge. The program trains childbirth professionals to provide hospital and in-home breastfeeding support during the first weeks of a newborn’s life, when exclusive breastfeeding is most at risk. The DBS would fill the the current gap in available breastfeeding support services. Women during the early postpartum period are not always able to conveniently leave home and go to an office appointment to obtain breastfeeding help. Although some lactation consultants may make home visits to assist moms having difficulty breastfeeding, the appointments are often two hours or less, which is not always enough time to overcome issues. Women may feel hopeful during an appointment, but then struggle with the next feeding at home and get discouraged. Additionally, breastfeeding challenges commonly happen in the middle of the night and during the early mornings, when most breastfeeding professionals or lactation consultants are unavailable.
Doula breastfeeding specialists would support women similarly as doulas who attend births. They would work on-call and be available whenever a breastfeeding mom was in need. The DBS just like a doula would provide blocks of continuous time to assist a family and mother with breastfeeding. They would help the mother and baby feeding by feeding until things improved, and the mother felt more confident. This would be intensive support. However, as one study with the beginning title “She would sit with me” pointed out, moms with new babies gain confidence, receive empowerment, and benefit from having breastfeeding support from a trained individual that provides lengthy in home visits.¹
- 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
DBS Certification Requirements
There are four steps to complete certification as a doula breastfeeding specialist:
1. Submit proof of current doula certification with any organization; or complete the Childbirth Professionals International (CPI) Doula Program (click)
The intent of this requirement is to provide verification that the DBS has acquired the support skills of doula care. The comfort and coping strategies used by doulas for pregnancy through postpartum will be key to guiding families to become adept at breastfeeding.
3. Complete required reading:
- Counseling the Nursing Mother, sixth edition by Lauwers and Swisher
- Your Guide to Breastfeeding, by US Department Office of Women’s Health
- Breastfeeding Handbook, by Newfoundland and Labrador
4. Document 40 hours of breastfeeding support
Program participants must assist families with breastfeeding providing a minimum of 40 hours of support as part of the steps to complete certification. These hours should include a minimum of two different families or mothers and babies. Participants will track support hours using the online documentation form. This requirement gives students the opportunity to practice their breastfeeding support skills and experience varied situations assisting families.
DBS Program Completion
Participants will earn the Doula Breastfeeding Specialist certification once they have completed the program requirements. This certification will expire after four years. At which time they should renew certification by submitting 10 contact hours specifically related to breastfeeding/lactation to demonstrate they have maintained and/or increased their breastfeeding knowledge and skills.