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Rubber Boobs & Bouncing Babes: A Call to Action

orange county doula

Those who know me probably won’t be surprised to learn that I forwent the parties, camping trips, and out-of-town extravaganzas this Memorial Day weekend and instead opted to do doula-y stuffs. A consultation, postpartum visit, & placenta processing later, my weekend felt very productive. The highlight of the 3 preceding days was a first for me, though. I’ve had a heart for volunteering since my first checkers game with a senior citizen in middle school, and try to give back a little of my time each week if possible. Therefore, I was really happy when my schedule aligned with a volunteer need by DASC (Doulas Association of Southern California).

So, I put on a dress, packed up some handouts & business cards, and headed out bright and early Saturday morning to woman a booth at the La Leche League Conference in Newport Beach, CA. I figured I’d be getting the word out about what DASC does and how it relates to the breastfeeding community. Little did I know that I’d be spending most of the day luring passersby in with “stress boobs” & sharing about what doulas are, what we do, and how families who want to breastfeed can benefit by hiring doulas. You see, while I know that most of America (and the greater world) haven’t yet heard of doulas and that we’re still a relatively low-profile group of professionals, I wasn’t prepared for the idea that other birth workers and baby-related professionals wouldn’t have a clear understanding of our role.

amanda cagle

Most doulas in my community have an extensive resource list of professionals to refer our clients to. This list contains the contact info for pediatricians, lactation consultants, midwives, babywearing gurus, placenta encapsulation specialists, birthing centers and a host of agencies and businesses that cater specifically to pregnant and growing families. We know our people, and that’s partially why clients hire us--to sort through the crazy number of providers that parents have to choose from in order to find good matches for their families.

To prove this fact, I can name three providers on my list that I saw or spoke to on Saturday. Firstly, Dr. Kenneth Akey, a pediatrician Mary & I adore for his natural approach to healthy lifestyles and parenting techniques. Next, I saw Michelle Frias-Rodriguez, who is a babywearing enthusiast/extraordinaire. Finally, I had the pleasure of speaking with a doula-turned-midwife in Orange County, Susan Scott Gill, LM, CPM. Sue & her midwife partner, Karen Pecora, LM, are well known for their VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) & water births.

My point here is that I knew a ton of faces and names that I came upon that morning. And for those I didn’t know individually, I knew of the organization or agency they were with (La Leche League leaders, WIC peer counselors, etc.). So, I just assumed that even though many I encountered didn’t know me individually, they would know what a doula is in general terms. But that wasn't the case at all. Of the dozens of people I had the pleasure of interacting with, I’d estimate that 40-50% didn’t know what a doula was or does. And of those that did know what doulas do, many weren’t really aware of how to actually find a doula if they came across someone who did asked about it.

This saddened me immensely; though I’m more than happy to explain what I do, how doulas work, and how to go about searching for a doula, I kept thinking about all the families who seek out support in the pre- and post-natal periods, whether from books, online articles, videos, advice from friends and family, or in-person lactation education classes. I wondered to myself how many thousands (millions?) of families don't meet their goals because the plan of action they had prenatally didn’t pan out once their babies were born. How many mothers invited lactation consultants into their homes for 1-2 hour visits only to find that they couldn’t effectively put the advice given into practice because life got in the way? How many partners were at a loss as to how to help mothers breastfeed because they had never seen anyone demonstrate supporting a breastfeeding session? For most families who haven’t grown up around breastfeeding, it is an awkward, slow-going, and patience-trying endeavor in the beginning (and sometimes throughout the whole breastfeeding relationship with a child). This is where doulas fit in perfectly!


*SO. MUCH. BABYWEARING. Huntington Beach based doula,

Alicia Garrett and her happy son modeled for me!*

Doulas at births are able to calm a new mother’s fears when she thinks she doesn’t have any milk; even though she keeps hearing this funny word “colostrum” all over the place, she may never see a drop of liquid come from her body in the first day. The labor/birth doula’s role is fluid and ever-changing depending on the family, but they generally have an arsenal of soothing words & research, a calm presence, and a helping hand to push pillows underneath babies and readjust beds so that a new mother has the best possible chance of being successful right from the start. Oh, and there’s also the whole idea that women who have gentler, less traumatic birth experiences are more likely to breastfeed than others. Well, that’s the doula’s whole goal in her work: help women have the birthing experiences they want, and when that’s not possible, help them adjust to the changes so they’re not fearful, regretful, resentful, etc.