How to hire a postpartum doula (part 2)

OK, now you are convinced that hiring a postpartum doula is the right thing to do (and you’re right!).

[or if you're just jumping in, read Part 1 first!]

One decision to make is whether you want to hire an individual doula, or find a doula through an agency.  There are pros and cons to both of these choices.

Going through an agency might be (should be!) easier for the consumer because they have a business structure in place. They also have a reputation to keep and are more likely to ensure their doulas are insured and have safety certifications. On the other hand, agencies may want to substitute your favorite doula with another if yours is needed elsewhere. You might pay more per hour for your doula. And you might need to be very precise about the number of hours you want for a contract.

Ask if your postpartum doula is also a birth doula and, if so, if she has any births scheduled during your time together and how her being “on-call” will be handled. Are you okay with missing a day or a night if needed, even at the last minute? Would you want a substitute doula instead?

How does your doula handle sick days?

Does your doula carry liability insurance? Many postpartum doulas do – and it’s affordable and important.

 Still pregnant? This is the best time to find a postpartum doula!

Still pregnant? This is the best time to find a postpartum doula!

Can your doula provide a background check?

Is your doula currently certified in Adult and Infant CPR?

What is the doula’s experience level as a postpartum doula? Has she served in other caretaking positions and, if so, what has she learned? Has she been trained and/or certified by a doula organization specifically for postpartum care? Does she have other certifications (such as IBCLC or Happiest Baby on the Block) that will address other specific aspects of your care?

Can you speak with a former client? Is your doula “plugged in” to the local birth community and can she make referrals for therapists specializing in postpartum mood disorders?

-or- a store to buy cloth diapers?

-or- someplace to go and make new mom friends?

Finally, two slightly sticky subjects: agency pay and contracts.

How much is your doula being paid for her work? How much of that $30/hour does she realize? Is she paid less than half of that amount, or another percentage? I think it’s important that people choosing this work make a living wage. Most doulas (whether self-employed or working through an agency) are independent contractors and must pay their own taxes at the end of the year.

What about the number of hours you need? This is so important for the doula’s side of the equation because she needs to plan her life, too. With the nature of babies, demand for service goes in peaks and valleys. For a doula, knowing that she’ll work with one client for three weeks in September and then be ready to start with a new client expecting a baby in early October makes doula life a little more settled.

On the other hand, for parents-to-be, it can be awfully difficult to predict how much help you’ll need – or not need! I’ve certainly been involved in situations where families had many hours left on their contracts and no real need for the help. On the flip side, sometimes families are desperate for more doula care and want to extend their contract but there’s just no one available.

What to do? I think it is a sticky business model that hasn’t been solved just yet! What does this mean to you, the parent? I think these are good questions to ask and discuss with your doula provider, whoever s/he may be.  As an old boss of mine used to say, “It’s all just information.” Learn all you can and then make the beset decision for you and your family!

Has this post been helpful? What have I forgotten? What have your experiences been with hiring a postpartum doula? Thanks for reading!