Childcare Tips for Doulas

Childcare Tips for Doulas
Cincinnati Doula + Birth Photographer


I've found that one of the most common factors that prevent people from becoming a doula is the overwhelm of working out childcare. Birth is unpredictable, and doesn't usually happen on anyone's time except for the baby's. 

I'm the mother of four homeschooled children, right now they are ages 7, 3, 2 and 1, and I've been in the birth arena for many years now. I'm grateful for my husband's career that is not only accommodating and flexible, but offers paid days off from work. But I understand that not everyone has that option, and it's totally fair to worry about how you'll find someone you trust that will be on-call to watch your children.

But sometimes we, especially mothers, stand in our own way. It's probably generations of the patriarchy conditioning us to believe our passions and callings aren't as important to pursue as our male counterparts, but still... we do sometimes stand in our own way. Birth work isn't the only on-call occupation, families from all over are making on-call careers work. If you have a burning in your soul to become a doula, I'm positive you'll find a childcare situation that gives you the availably to head out the door when your client comes calling. 

Write out your family's weekly schedule. By writing it down, you'll get it out of your own head and logically see what days and times you truly need childcare - which may be less often than you believe. Is your partner home overnight and weekends? Is your partner home by 5pm during the week? Do your children go to school? While not everyone has a partner, writing out schedules does help to see exactly when you'd need childcare.

Fill in the gaps: 

- Extended family. I know it seems obvious, but extended family is a great option for last minute childcare. Do you have a family member who is retired, or stays at home with their children? 

- On-call retainer fee. Pay for a nanny's on-call time, even when when they aren't physically watching your children. Being on-call is difficult for anyone, so paying someone to be on-call for your family is very fair. I've seen doulas pay their nanny a fixed monthly retainer fee for being available to offer last minute services, and others pay a guaranteed 80 hours a month at $10 an hour.

- Another doula. Trade childcare with another doula, they already understand how to work on-call, and know how difficult it is to find childcare so swapping services is a great way for everyone to feel supported and sustainable. 

- Nanny share. Not all doulas would like to swap childcare, but many are also struggling with finding solid childcare. Get a couple doulas together to pay for a nanny's on-call salary together. 

- Au Pair. I know of a few doulas who've hired an Au Pair who receive a weekly stipend from the doula. This is actually an option that even I have looked into in the past, and it may surprise you with how affordable this option can be - especially when you're charging your worth. 

This definitely isn't an extensive list of options, there are so many unique ways to make this work. If your career is on-call, how do you find quality childcare for your children on your unpredictable schedule? 

What's in my Doula + Birth Photographer bag?

What's in my Doula + Birth Photographer Bag?
Cincinnati Doula + Birth Photographer


While I don't know the exact number of births I've attended, I've supported an average of five birth clients a month for many years as a Cincinnati birth photographer and doula. In the beginning of my role as a doula and birth photographer, I found myself overcompensating my lack of confidence by stuffing my bag full of unnecessary gadgets. There was once a time when I brought three bags with me to birth, full of items that rarely were used. But as my knowledge and trust in the physiological birth process grew, and my experience gave me some confidence, I've found my doula bag has gotten smaller and smaller. I know now that mothers have the ability to birth their babies on their own, and they truly don't need anything other than their primal mind (except when birth becomes a medical event, but the items required are then from a medical team). I imagine that many doulas have gone through similar situations with their bags of "tricks", too.

If you're just starting your journey as a doula, please trust yourself, and trust birth. Your client doesn't need tennis balls or massage sticks, they want you.

You, birth companion, are already enough.
Your encouragement. 
Your constant support.
Your companionship. 
Your love.

But birth work comes with long hours, and we can find ourselves in positions that are uncomfortable and tiring, so there are items that can relieve some of the strain. Instead of the three doula bags I used to carry around, I now use a medium size camera backpack. It has a hard bottom case and a top pouch. And that's it. I don't even bring a purse anymore. I know it's a  smaller load than many doulas, but it works great for me and my clients. I often get asked exactly what I bring to births, so here are my necessities: 

doula bagdoula bagdoula bag (1).png

For clients:
flame-less candles
birth affirmations
massage oil
clary sage essential oil (to encourage contractions)
lavender essential oil (to relax birthing person)
peppermint essential oil (to ease nausea)
birthing shawl

For myself:
wallet (always sure I have cash)
extra pair of glasses (can't see without them)
gluten free snacks (I have Celiac Disease)
water bottle
deodorant (who wants a smelly doula?)
sweater (dress in layers, sometimes rooms are cold but can quickly become pretty warm due to stages of labor)
small blanket (again, sometimes it's cold in those rooms and it's nice to have something comfortable to wrap around my shoulders)

And as a birth photographer, this is the gear that I absolutely can't go without: 
Canon 5D III
Sigma 35 1.4
Canon 40 - 70
Canon 50 1.8
Canon Speedlite 600EX II - RT
Yongnuo Speedlite YN 600EX - RT TT (backup in the event of an emergency)
backup batteries for camera
rechargeable batteries for both speedlites
4 SD cards

Most of my backpack carries the camera gear, but other than that - it's really just materials that facilitate a calming birth environment for the client, and personal items for myself.

Remember though, you are enough. Nothing brought into the birth room will be more important than your trust in their birth journey (unless, again, birth becomes a medical event but that's out of your role anyways).

Evidence Based Birth® Professional Member | Cincinnati + Dayton Doula, Emily Frigo

Evidence Based Birth® Professional Member Cincinnati + Dayton Doula, Emily Frigo 


Founded by Rebecca Dekker, a nurse with her PhD, Evidence Based Birth® is an online childbirth resource that informs expecting parents and birth practitioners to understand the latest, proven, evidence based birth practices. 

As an Evidence Based Birth® Professional Member, I study through continuing education contact hours, educational courses, monthly training sessions, and more. I use printer-friendly PDFs of the full-length EBB articles with clients, because I want you feel truly knowledgeable with the choices you're making for your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Rebecca says it perfectly, "I want to help put accurate, evidence based info into the hands of families just like yours, so that you can make informed, empowered choices and have the positive birth you deserve!"

With me as your doula, you can feel confident that I'm providing you with non-biased, trusted, and current evidence-based information. I help you tackle the hot topics you care about, like breech babies, PROM, failure to progress, and more.

Head to Evidence Based Birth® to take a crash course on what Evidence Based care exactly is, and to receive free 1 page PDFs.  https://evidencebasedbirth.com/resources-for-parents/