Are you? It’s ok to admit it. We’re all human and we all just love to be able to help; to have the key that unlocks a problem or be the bearer of good news. Most of us would admit to liking it just a little bit when a client says:
If it weren’t for you….
So it’s hardly surprising that when we visit our client and her 4 day old baby, the blood is pouring from her nipples and her baby looks like a vampire, that we have a deep and primitive drive to fix it. And fix it quickly.
You anxiously search through your memory banks…mother’s posture? Baby’s position? Footstools? Pillows? You feel under so much pressure as this poor woman looks up at you with tears in her eyes.
In a flash, an idea comes. You ring your local Breastfeeding Counsellor. You know her, she’s lovely, and friendly and accessible. She answers the phone and listens intently. She gives you some nuggets of wisdom, some practical suggestions. She talks you down from the anxious place you were in.
You pass on the suggestions to your client. The ball of tension in both your stomachs begins to dissolve.
If it weren’t for you….
But, just for a minute, I’d like to invite you to think about how that Breastfeeding Counsellor feels.
- Frustration that she wasn’t able to talk to the mother, get a full picture, take a history and make sure she hadn’t missed anything.
- Just a little bit of irritation that she had just given YOU free advice to benefit YOUR business.
- A teensy bit of fear that what you pass on might get lost in translation and the mum might not get the correct information.
- Maybe a passing grumpy feeling that you used her to get all the glory. Yes, petty…but she’s human too, right?
- Anger at the knowledge that, despite everything doulas say about mothers being empowered, instead of signposting your client and then being able to praise her for her strength and wisdom to reach out to help, you did it for her, disempowering her in the process.
- Worry that, should that mother need help again, in the future, once you’re not on the scene, she may be less inclined to get in touch.
As a doula mentor and breastfeeding counsellor, I’m gently reminding all you doulas out there:
Signposting is your superpower
Use it well and use it wisely. And glory and fulfillment shall still be thine!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m passionate about the unique contribution doulas make to breastfeeding. We are there, alongside, building deep and trusting relationships with our clients. Just being there, holding the space, believing in her make an enormous difference. Many doulas are also very knowledgeable about breastfeeding. It’s all good.
So what am I really suggesting here as ‘best practice’? Well, first, build your signposts. Remember, signposting is your super-power. Where are your local drop-ins? Do you know all the helpline numbers? Do you have them on you, at all times?
Second, hand the power firmly over to your client. It’s always a good idea for a mother to speak to a Breastfeeding Counsellor or Lactation Consultant directly. I would say this even if you ARE a breastfeeding counsellor. If at all possible, TWO supportive relationships are better than one. I signpost my clients to the drop-in group regularly, for loads of good reasons, not least getting a fresh perspective from one of my gorgeous colleagues.
Third, if you are offering breastfeeding support as part of your doula package, consider if your clients would be better served if you had more training under your belt. There are lots of avenues for self-development in this area, not all of them expensive. Talk to your mentor and keep an eye on Doulaing magazine and our online forums for educational opportunities. You’re welcome to contact me for a guiding chat through your options.
Thanks for listening, you lot. As ever, I write with love in my heart for all doulas everywhere. You’re all awesomely learning and growing and loving your clients.