Breastfeeding: Can having a doula help?

Breastfeeding is the normal continuation of pregnancy. It is a physiological process provided by nature. Sometimes it can be difficult and ongoing support before, during and after pregnancy can be very useful. Studies have also shown that success is more likely with the support of spouses, peers and health professionals. The presence and continued support of a doula during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period also contributes to breastfeeding success.

Results from a combined study * shows that the presence of a doula reduces the number of interventions and contributes holistically to improve breastfeeding. Here are some statistics:

  •  In general, women have an easier, smoother delivery when a doula is present
  • A 50% decrease in the rate of caesarean section
  • A reduction of 25% of the total working hours
  • A 60% decrease in the use of an epidural
  • A 40% decrease in the use of synthetic hormones (Pitocin, Syntocinon)
  • A 30% reduction in the use of forceps
  • Improved breastfeeding
  • Decreased postpartum depression

The presence of a doula during pregnancy will help you better prepare for your childbirth and breastfeeding. During prenatal classes, the doula gives a lot of information to help you make informed choices. Her reassuring presence during childbirth and postnatal support can make the difference.

Today we know that medical interventions have an impact on the course of lactation. For example, an epidural has the effect of reducing the alert status of newborns and their sucking reflex and rooting. According to Michel Odent **, attachment may take longer to settle in.  In mothers who underwent a caesarean, secretion of oxytocin and prolactin is lessened and lactation takes longer to arrive. The pitocin given in postpartum care may also delay lactation and decrease milk production. It is clear that the reduction of obstetric interventions has a direct impact on breastfeeding.

Support before, during and after childbirth is the best non-pharmacological means to reduce pain and obstetrical interventions. Support promotes attachment parenting, reduces stress and anxiety and increases self-esteem and sense of parental competence. The right support also increases the duration of breastfeeding. The presence of a doula can be a major asset, not just in the success of your breastfeeding, but also in your overall experience of birth.

Community organizations also offer support by providing access to a breastfeeding peer counselor. They are dedicated volunteers who will support you. The support of your spouse is important and your friends and extended family desirable. Support can also come from a nurse, a lactation consultant or a doula. The important thing is to prepare yourself and especially good surround you.

Happy Nursing!


France Pomminville                                                                                                                                                                 Certified Birth Companion                                                                                                              


*Klaus, Marshall H., John Kennel et Phyllis Klaus. Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing House, 1993

**L’amour scientifié –les mécanismes de l’amour, Michel Odent, Éditions Jouvence 2001. Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding – Protecting the mother and Baby Continuum, Mary Kroeger, 2004.

Thumbnail photo credit: Sandra Morin

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