Building Bridges

The Art of Referring as a Doula

Two doulas sharing referral information and networking.

Doulas play a pivotal role in the journey of childbirth and postpartum support, often becoming the primary source for a plethora of information. While our expertise is invaluable, it’s essential to recognize when a client’s needs extend beyond our scope. Referring to other professionals can optimize care, ensuring clients receive the specialized guidance they deserve. Moreover, referrals can solidify your position in the birth community, fostering symbiotic relationships with various professionals. Here’s a guide to the “why”, “how”, and “when” of making effective referrals.

1. Why Referrals Matter

  • Serve Clients Holistically: Every person’s journey is unique, and while we offer vast support, there are instances where a client might benefit from specialized knowledge. By referring them to the right professional, you’re ensuring they receive the best possible care.
  • Build Goodwill: Referrals are a two-way street. By referring clients to other professionals, you not only help those individuals but also promote a culture of collaboration and mutual support within the birth community.
  • Enhance Professional Standing: Consistently making thoughtful, appropriate referrals can bolster your reputation as a knowledgeable and resourceful doula.

2. How to Make Effective Referrals

  • Know Your Network: Regularly interact with childbirth educators, lactation consultants, and other doulas. Familiarize yourself with their specialties and approaches.
  • Open the Conversation: Before making a referral, discuss it with your client. Understand their needs and comfort level, ensuring the referral is a good fit.
  • Provide Multiple Options: Instead of referring to just one professional, consider offering several choices, allowing clients to choose someone they resonate with.
  • Follow Up: After the referral, check-in with your client. Their feedback can offer insights, helping refine future referrals.

3. Tracing Back Referrals

To build and maintain strong professional relationships, it’s pivotal to know who is referring clients to you.

  • Ask and Document: Every time a new client reaches out, make it a practice to ask where they heard about you. Maintain a log with details to identify patterns and strong referral sources.
  • Express Gratitude: It’s crucial to acknowledge the professionals who refer clients to you. A simple ‘thank you’ email can work wonders, or consider periodic gifts or gestures of appreciation.

4. Nurturing Referral Relationships

  • Regular Check-Ins: Periodically touch base with your referral network. This keeps the relationship fresh and offers opportunities for mutual updates.
  • Year-end Tokens of Appreciation: Sending small thank you gifts or cards during the holiday season is a warm gesture to express gratitude and cement your relationship. I like to send these around the Thanksgiving holiday and also tie it to Small Business Saturday.
  • Referral Reciprocity: While it’s not about tit-for-tat, it’s good practice to keep an eye out for opportunities where you can refer clients to those who’ve referred clients to you.

The world of birthing and postpartum care is vast. By embracing the spirit of community and collaboration, doulas can not only enhance the care they offer but also foster deep, meaningful connections with professionals across the spectrum. As the adage goes, “It takes a village.” In our context, it takes a united community to ensure every birthing journey is supported in the best way possible.


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