Never Stop Learning: The Vital Role of Continuing Education for Doulas

In the ever-evolving world of childbirth, doulas stand as comforting guides and expert hands to help families through the incredible journey of bringing life into the world. Though to remain competent and compassionate caregivers, we must never stop learning. The field of childbirth, encompasses areas such as doula support, childbirth education, lactation training, and birth practices, is in constant flux. This article explores why continuing education is not just beneficial but essential for every doula, childbirth educator, and birth worker.

The Value of Staying Up-to-date

With the ever-changing science around birth and postpartum care, staying current is more than just a professional responsibility; it’s a commitment to providing the best possible care. It’s not just about learning new techniques but understanding the latest research, policies, and cultural sensitivities that directly affect our practice and the families we serve. In a field where trust and confidence are paramount, doulas who are well-educated and informed can truly make a difference with their knowledge and advocacy skills.

My Experience with Evolving Lactation Understanding

I remember a time, early in my career, when I thought I had understood everything there was to know about lactation. But science is never stagnant, and neither is our learning.

As research evolved, new insights into lactation were revealed, and I soon found myself reevaluating what I thought I knew. When I did my CLC training after having been a childbirth educator and doula for over a decade, my eyes were opened to the new research and science. The complexity of lactation, its deep connection with perinatal and infant health, and the importance of a more nuanced approach require continuous learning for something as simple as the structure of the breast. This humbling experience reminded me that even in areas where we feel proficient, there is always room for growth.

Earning Credits: The Necessity for Recertification in Various Fields

Continuing education credits are not just a bureaucratic requirement. They are a professional and ethical commitment to uphold the highest standards in our practice. Recertification in various fields like doula work, lactation training, childbirth education, and midwifery ensures that we are not only knowledgeable but also aligned with the best practices and the latest scientific advancements. It can also enhance our ability to find new clients by creating new offerings for varied services – think of it as a way to stand out as a doula in your community when you have specialized knowledge.

The Fluid Nature of Scientific Knowledge

One of the beauties of science is its fluidity, its constant questioning, and refining. What we may consider a standard practice today might be replaced by a more efficient or compassionate approach tomorrow. As doulas, we must be adaptable, curious, and always willing to learn. It’s this fluid nature of knowledge that keeps our practice vibrant, empathetic, and truly beneficial for the families we support. 

In over 30 years of practice as a doula, here are just some of the changes I’ve seen:

  • The episiotomy rate plummet from around 95+%
  • Golden hour is nearly standard  for vaginal births compared to the 4-hour mandatory healthy newborn stays in the nursery
  • More family-centered care for cesarean births

Ways to Pursue Continuing Education

There are countless ways to continue growing and learning in our field. Attending conferences from certifying organizations (e.g. DONA, Lamaze, CAPPA, ICEA, etc.), enrolling in specialized courses (e.g. TENS, birth planning), seeking mentorship, and exploring new fields within pregnancy and birth can keep our practice fresh and our minds sharp – like adding new services such as birth photography, postpartum doula, lactation, etc. Opportunities abound for those who are eager to learn, and the rewards, both personal and professional, are immense.

Encourage a Continuous Learning Mindset

The journey of a doula is one filled with love, compassion, and never-ending curiosity. Continuing education is not a mere obligation but a celebration of our commitment to growing, learning, and serving our clients with the utmost expertise. Let us never become complacent, for the path of learning is as beautiful and intricate as the very lives we help bring into the world. Remember, in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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