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Navigating Lactation While Working as a Doula

Picture of Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH, AdvCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH, AdvCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Today we’re tackling a unique convergence of our personal and professional worlds – lactating while practicing as a doula. We navigate the ebbs and flows of motherhood with our clients, yet when it’s our turn to step into the lactation journey alongside our duties as doulas, things can get a tad complicated.

For doulas who are also lactating, you’re striving to create harmony between your personal needs and the invaluable work you do for your clients. You’re handling on-call hours, balancing energy levels, and arranging feeding times, all while making sure you offer unwavering support to your clients. It may feel like an intricate ballet, but with a bit of planning, it is completely manageable. In this post, we’ll delve into the issues faced by lactating doulas, offer practical strategies, and share resources to help you find the right equilibrium.


The doula profession is nothing, if not unpredictable. Calls can come unannounced, and labor can vary from a matter of minutes to a span of several days. This unpredictability adds an extra layer of complexity for lactating doulas. 


Balancing time between a baby’s frequent feeding schedule and the on-call nature of doula work is a prime challenge. Lactation takes considerable time, and newborns typically require feeding every two to three hours. 


Breastfeeding/chestfeeding, just like doula work, is physically demanding. Nurturing yourself with proper nutrition, rest, and self-care is crucial to meet the demands of both roles.


Providing emotional support to your clients while managing your own postpartum emotional swings can be a complex task. The stress of professional obligations combined with hormonal changes and the emotional journey of lactating can be quite challenging.


Maintaining professionalism as a lactating doula involves careful planning around pumping schedules, milk storage, and ensuring your personal needs do not interfere with your professional responsibilities.

With these challenges in mind, let’s move onto some practical strategies that can help you manage your dual roles. Each hospital may offer different amenities, so take the time to familiarize yourself with what’s available. Some hospitals might have a lactation room open to employees and NICU parents, as one doula discovered.

Practical Advice from Doulas Have Been There

Having a manual hand pump or knowledge of hand expression can be a lifesaver, ensuring you can remove milk wherever you are. Open communication about your need to pump with your clients can make taking the necessary time for yourself a lot easier. One doula shared that she always asked for the location of the lactation room upon arrival and added a snack/nursing break every 4 hours to her contract. 

Bringing a cooler to births is another practical tip, especially if you cannot store your milk at the hospital. Dress comfortably so you can pump discreetly if needed, like under an oversized hoodie or in your car if it’s early in the birth, suggested a busy doula.

Hydration and nutrition are non-negotiable – keep water and snacks handy. If you struggle with pumping or hand expression, consider alternate arrangements. One doula had her baby brought to her during births as her husband worked from home. 

Hands-free pumps can also be beneficial, allowing you to multitask. Bringing your own cooler with ice and bags, along with your pump and charger, is another must-do, as some hospitals do not allow milk storage. 

In the end, remember to be candid about your needs to express milk with your clients. It helps normalize the importance of taking time to pump at work. It’s a challenging journey, but with proper preparation and a supportive community, it can be an empowering and fulfilling experience. 

Remember, being a lactating parent doesn’t make you any less of a successful doula. Instead, it adds a new dimension to your understanding of the mothers you assist. This dual journey gives you the unique advantage of empathizing with your clients on a deeper level, enriching the support you provide, and strengthening your connection with them.

By normalizing the needs of lactating doulas, we can create a more understanding and accommodating environment for everyone involved. Stay tuned for more tips, resources, and personal experiences shared by other lactating doulas that will help you navigate this dual journey successfully.

So let’s embrace the challenge together. Let’s demystify the idea that being a lactating parent and a dedicated doula are incompatible roles. With the right resources, a supportive community, and the heart of a doula, we can indeed do it all. 

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Do you have advice or want more information? Check out what the community is saying about lactation and doulas.