What does a Doula do?

This is a question often asked.

In the UK, Doulas are becoming more and more popular, for various reasons.

Each Doula works slightly differently. Even within Snowdrop Doula we have Doulas with different expertise.

Basic Doula training usually contains:

Basic birth physiology
Listening skills

Breastfeeding knowledge.

Debriefing own experience

With Snowdrop Doula our Doulas are training in additional skills such as:
First aid adults, babies and children

UNICEF BFI training
Infant feeding support
Counselling and listening skills Smoking cessation
Domestic violence
Knowledge of obstetric emergencies.
With constant supervision and continuous professional development

So what do Doulas do.
• Support,
• Listen,
• Empower,
• Non judgemental,
• Private antenatal class,
• Help offload
• Help you to know your options
• Support choices
• Birth support,
• Infant feeding,
• Relationships expectation support
• Help you to manage expectations,
• Massage
•Postnatal support (from holding baby whilst you shower to helping with food prep)
• Mental health support

What Doulas don’t do.

• Birth or deliver babies (Mums do that)

• Diagnose
• Advise
• Medical checks

Our Doulas are all mothers (and a grandma) who have various experiences of birth, their own and others. They have additional training around pregnancy, birth and infant feeding.

Some describe as “the wise woman that would’ve been in the village helping all the pregnant women”.

We’ve even had a dad explain Doulas as “an insurance policy”, “someone there that you may not need but is good to have for the moments of not so calm.”

So, what do Doulas do? Lots of things. Be there for YOU!

Newborn Feeding Cues

We are constantly told from a very young age that babies communicate by crying only. It is true that crying is their way of communicating with us. However, crying is a LATE feeding cue. This means that baby has been communicating with us for a while in another way and we have missed these cues.

(c) Snowdrop Doula Comnunity Interest Company
(c) Snowdrop Doula Comnunity Interest Company

The video on this blog shows us early newborn feeding cues. Note the following cues as you watch it.

  • Eyes open,
  • Alert
  • Fidgeting
  • Hands to mouth
  • Lip licking
  • Lip smacking
  • Making noise
  • Sticking tongue out.

Of course your baby may not display all of these and may even have a few of their own. Each bay is an individual and finding their cues may take time to learn in the early weeks. This list are the common cues that we know of.

Click here to view video

Saying things such as “If your baby is crying you’ve not listened to them.” Can be quite a difficult thing to hear. Our modern lifestyles mean that we aren’t often close/attached to our babies and perhaps we were once. As you will note from the video the baby has only communicated for a few minutes all of the cues above. That’s only the amount of time to make a cup of tea, or attend to another child. The baby here doesn’t cry in the video but by the time he was out to the breast, shortly after, he was beginning to cry. Our lifestyles mean we are often busy so may miss all these cues.

So what can we do?

It is noted in tribes where mothers carry their babies and have open access to the breast that the babies rarely cry. These mothers keep their babies extremely close whilst they go about their day to day business. They note when baby is awake and offer breast immediately. Again this may not always be practical for us to do long term but in the early days/weeks if we stay close we can learn so much from our baby and our baby learns us.

There are lots of schools of thought that having a ‘babymoon’ for a few weeks after can help with this. This is where a woman stays with her baby constantly (ok, maybe not 24/7 but mostly) for at least 2 weeks, most of it in bed. They learn so much and breastfeeding rates improve and postnatal depression rates lower. Even if this is not possible it’s important to note that being aware of your babies cues can help with breastfeeding. If you’ve ever tried to feed a crying baby (either by breast or bottle) you will know how difficult it can be. I know when I am upset and have been crying or even if I am crying, I don’t want to eat. I suppose this could be the same for a baby.

Babies do cry and if you’re baby cries you shouldn’t feel bad. Maybe think if you have missed something? How could you do things differently next time? Did they tell you before the cry they are hungry? Are they crying because they are hungry?

Here are a few phrases we often hear. Now you know the early feeding cues, what do these phrases mean to you?

 “She is so worked up she won’t latch on”

“He’s crying so he must be hungry”

“She’s not crying so she mustn’t be hungry yet”

“When they tell you they’re hungry he’s too old to be breastfed”

From birth babies tell you they are hungry. Chances are that if baby is awake, baby wants milk.


Video and Blog by:

Michelle Bromley – Snowdrop Doula Community Interest Company





The Gentle Sleep Book by Sarah Ockwell Smith – Book Review

I must admit, I am not a fan of “parenting guides”, especially sleep training books so I was quite tentative in reading this book. I was thinking “oh no! not another one!”

Imagine my surprise to find this book is nothing like any other “parenting guide”.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith provides the reader with recent research and evidence as to why

The Gentle Sleep book - Sarah Ockwell Smith
The Gentle Sleep book – Sarah Ockwell Smith


babies and children sleep in certain ways. This information alone could help a sleep deprived parent see things in a different way and help their family. Lightbulbs went off in my head as I read the research. As a doula I hear many stories and get asked many questions about “why won’t my baby sleep?” my answer is usually because his/her instincts are telling him/her to wake often and he/she needs you after being in your womb for 9 months. This book delves deeper into why this is so and the milestones in a babies sleep development. When you read this information it all suddenly becomes clear as to why babies sleep a certain way and why we adults struggle with this.

Trusting our instincts is something I often tell parents. “What does your gut tell you?” often this goes against all the parenting guides out there. Within The Gentle Sleep Book it talks of trusting instincts. I like this. Sarah Ockwell-Smith does give a routine but it isn’t prescriptive at all and she tells the reader to take only what you want. NO cry it out here! Simply how to move with your baby’s natural rhythm to get the best for you and your family.

 “A mother doesn’t have to be perfect:in fact Winnicott says it is her imperfections that allow the child to become independent. she just has to be ‘good enough’.” Sarah Ockwell-Smith – The Gentle Sleep Book

This book will be one I recommend to people as its non-prescriptive and different to anything else about baby/child sleep. Finally a truly gentle sleep book!

I haven’t read anything else by Sarah Ockwell-Smith but I think I may now find copies and read.


Review by

Michelle Bromley – Snowdrop Doula Community Interest Company

My first birth experience

This was first written some years ago as part of my Nurturing Birth course as i began my doula journey. I am copying it straight here for you all to read. Reading it back myself now i realise how much I have learnt in my journey and although I feel a little bit sad at some things I know that I made the right decisions at that time. I did find the experience empowering and had a positive experience although i may have moaned about it afterwards. I would not write it quite the same these days but this is how I remembered it then. Life is a journey.

Here you go…..

“My first child was born in 2005 naturally in hospital. I was 20 years old. I had a straight forward pregnancy with no sickness and the odd strange craving. Throughout the pregnancy I watched birth programs and read pregnancy and baby magazines. On reflection these are full of formula adverts and scare stories of birth. I knew I wanted a natural birth with little drugs and interventions. I went into labour on my due date and 15 hours labour I bought my wonderful son into the world. I used gas and air for most of the labour and also used a TENS machine and a bath. I did begin to ask for pethidine as I felt I could no longer cope. The midwife however seemed to take her time as she later said she believed in my capabilities and I am really grateful for her doing that as I would have possibly felt disappointed in myself if I had had the drug. My waters were broken (not sure on timings anymore) as I was becoming tired and I wasn’t dilating much. I was more than happy with this at that time. The midwife I had throughout the labour had to leave as her shift had finished and she had to get her own children. The student stayed.  I got a new midwife who I wasn’t keen on, although it could have been my hormones (transition) and the amount of Gas and air I had inhaled. She was very stern on me laying off the G&A but I really didn’t want too. On reflection she had a point. Once I was ready to push I led on my back with feet up on another students hip. I was advised to be more upright as pushing wasn’t doing much. I was also screaming, which they advised me to focus energy elsewhere. I remember wanting to tell them where to shove there ideas. However I did calm the screaming and focus but i stayed on my back. Within 3 pushes my son was born. He was then placed on me, but not skin to skin, whilst the placenta was delivered. I had made the decision to have the syntocin injection. He wasn’t encouraged to breastfeed and I remember I had had a bath etc. before he was placed to breast.

I hadn’t come across many babies at this point so I felt lost. Instinct seemed to kick in overwhelmingly and I seemed to know what to do. Breastfeeding was somewhat of a problem to us. He had swallowed a lot of fluid so wasn’t really taking much at first and I felt it painful. The midwives wanted to see him feed but I struggled. The midwives tried to help but they were very hands on so I ended up going home none the wiser. I was getting up every 2 hours day and night to feed him and as I was told in the hospital those 10 minutes feeding is good I was putting him down after 10 minutes. Which I now know is not good practise. My nipples became very sore and cracked and the advice I received from health professionals was that he was gaining weight and the latch looked good. This left me feeling as I must just be me and still walking every 2 hours made me feel as though he was a hungry baby and I couldn’t satisfy him. One night I had a breakthrough and he slept 5 hour straight. I boasted to the midwife and was told that this was bad and I should wake him every four hours. I was back to feeling bad.  Eventually at 3-4 weeks I mentioned to my health visitor that I was really struggling and I wanted to move to formula and she showed me how to make up formula safely. I remember I did not receive breastfeeding support at this point. I also note that I felt that formula was a natural progression and that it was weird to breastfeed older babies. I realise now that this was due to media and some peer influences.


I ended up with severe post natal depression after the birth of my eldest and was determined to not go through it again with any other children so I began to research more. This inevitably led me to come across the relation of lack of breastfeeding and post natal depression. “

My home birth story

Birth of H 23/04/2013

Photography click click bang photography, copyright snowdrop doula CIC
Photography click click bang photography, copyright snowdrop doula CIC

The pregnancy was a complete shock. I thought my family was complete with the two children I already had. I was in a new relationship and we definitely were not planning to have any children between us.
The universe had another idea and I fell pregnant. As soon as we found out I knew the baby was sent for a reason. I believe everything happens for a reason.
I immediately looked into hiring an independent midwife and doula. I couldn’t afford either. I knew immediately that this baby would be born at home and I wouldn’t be induced unless medically necessary. I felt prepared and not scared.
The scan from the hospital out my dates back 2whole weeks. Which I felt gave me breathing time for NHS induction protocol to kick in.
By my dates (i feel ovulation) 40 weeks came and went. By the scan date, 40 weeks came and went. I wasn’t worried I knew things would happen when they should.
On the Monday 22nd April 2013 (43 weeks exactly by my dates) we had a normal day, big 2 at school then we ate and relaxed. We had made some play dough over the Easter holidays so we all played with that making allsorts of things. We had a mini competition, between me and Roger, over who can make the best Yoda. Whilst playing I’d started to feel uncomfy and a need to move about. I had bad SPD and on crutches since about 16weeks so this wasn’t easy. I had been getting the twinges on and off over the previous week so said it’s probably nothing and to see what happens. I said let’s wait for the “flush out” if my body expels then perhaps it’s more. Expecting nothing.
An hour or so later I needed the toilet and yep “flushed out”. Lightbulb went and I knew things were shifting. The surges seem to becoming regularly and with each one I felt a need to go inward. Yet I knew it wasn’t strong enough yet.
Bedtime came for the big 2 and I took them up to bed and tucked them in. I rarely do this as they like to sort themselves out. Somehow I knew this time to do it and cherish the last moments with them before another baby. I said to them, “I think you’ll have a baby brother by the time you wake up so get some sleep.” They were soon asleep which was unusual. As soon as they were in bed things started to become stronger and faster. Almost immediately to the point I went into my bedroom straight away to breathe and go inward. I listened to my body, I felt liberated.
I shouted R (my “boyfriend”) to come upstairs. I didn’t want to time things but I think I was doubting I was actually doing this again so we downloaded a “contraction timer” app and they were very regular. I said perhaps we should phone the midwife, knowing that my previous labour was very fast and the midwives may have to journey from Yorkshire.
They agreed to send midwife over as they knew I was in labour.
Midwife arrived about 45 minutes later by this time I definitely knew I was in labour. The surges felt painful but I was breathing them through and switching off. I think I was finally admitting I was pregnant and another baby was coming. Everything ran through my head and some instinct kicked in. Once I accepted what was happening I thought right let’s do this! Something clicked and I trusted myself and my body more than I’ve ever done before or since. (I really must trust myself) Instincts are a powerful thing and I now know this.
I bounced on the gym ball and rocked bak and forth during the surges. Remembering everything I know about switching off and listening to my body I went further and further inward.
The midwife, Lynn, came in nice and calmly mid surge and said hi to R, winked at me and simply observed. YES! I’d got a good one!
Once things subsided I came back “in the room” gently to talk to her. She introduced herself, asked questions about what I wanted to happen. She asked about me and we chatted about doulas. R was back and forth with buckets of water filling the birth pool up. Took him almost 2 hrs in the end.
My chats with the midwife gradually got shorter and shorter and she and I knew to stop chatting and allow me to move inward.
She asked me if I wanted to be examined. I was curious and ready to ask so consented. 2cm. I didn’t think much of it as I know cervix can dilate quickly and I know mine definitely can. She had also asked if she should do a little sweep too. I said yes, knowing it could get things moving and it was now midnight.
I have no idea if it was that or it did something psychologically but I did feel something change and turn up a gear then.
We called my parents to come and keep an eye on the big 2 so we could concentrate on me and new baby. I was conscious that I was naked but for a blanket I had over my shoulders and that my parents hadn’t seen me naked since childhood and specifically conscious that R and my parents were there. They didn’t seem to be phased by this though. They arrived soon after and quietly arrived, as if they just “knew”. My mum signalled in between contractions that she’d brought food for PN and sorted into freezer and fridge for me. They asked if they should just go upstairs and I said yes. Apparently they put tv on low and sat on my bed.

The pool was now full and R had been rubbing my lower back (seems to be my thing in labour) for quite a while now. I thought about getting in the pool but thought, ” hmm I feel comfy enough doing what I’m doing” and the thought of getting a contraction with one leg in one leg out put me off. I decided to not get in.

Labour continued and I moved on to my knees on the settee with my face planted into a pillow on the back of the settee. R continued to rub my back. My mum quietly came up and down stairs and just sat quietly watching in the corner. We hadn’t previously discussed this but had said that in my previous labour her rubbing my back didn’t have the same effect as my then partner did. Thinking now I must somehow connect with the father of the baby during labour. Her being there in the corner this time felt quietly empowering. She seemed calm and just a “mother/ women” energy. Something quiet ancient and primal. She has since said that it was an empowering experience for her too.

I began howling and growling, swore a little too, but was inward and imagining thing moving and opening. My dad, who was upstairs throughout, said my sounds were very different to those my mum made and were very animalistic and primal.

As things were getting closer I felt an urge to kiss R and he felt it to. He said there was something quite attractive about it all. (This is a man who never wanted children, let alone watch a birth!) we had a “moment” as I felt baby descend. This I can only describe as semi orgasmic, I didn’t notice anyone else in the room at this point. A 2nd midwife had arrived by this point, who i knew from antenatal appointments. She was now checking heartbeat quietly through contractions. I didn’t mind this and when I felt uncomfortable a couple of times she stopped.

So baby descended. I hardly pushed. Waters now popped. (First time this has happened naturally in my births) Gotta love fetal ejection reflex. I had a panicky moment which I think was me actually realising I was having a baby in next minute and requested gas and air for the first time. The mw went to retrieve from her car. I had one slight puff, which was definitely a psychological thing and baby came out!

I felt the familiar “flop” feeling and he’d landed on the settee. 4:13am on 23rd April 2013 H was born on my settee. Weighing 8lb9oz, he wasn’t weighed for over an hour.

Newborn with skin to skin.  Copyright Michelle Bromley, Snowdrop Doula
Newborn with skin to skin.
Copyright Michelle Bromley, Snowdrop Doula

I turned over and picked him up and immediate he reached for the breast and we stayed there for ages! I don’t know how long. My parents were upstairs by this point and apparently my mum turned to my dad the moment baby was born and said, “oh he’s here, let’s see if we can see.” My dad replied, “how do you know?” She said, “I just do!”. Amazing! They were slowly peeking down stairs (open stair case) not long after. They were again quietly in background. The moment felt wonderful and magical and very healing and cleansing even though I had NO idea I needed healing/cleansing. Wonderful!

I do know that I was in that position for over an hour as we waited just over an hour for the placenta to emerge. I opted for the injection after the hour as I was knackered and just wanted to
go to bed. I had a drink of water and some biscuits R had made the day before and went off to bed. I will never forget the experience. Amazing, magical, wonderful. I truly felt like a goddess for months afterwards, the high wouldn’t leave and when I think about it I still smile and feel all tingly!
I am Woman, Hear me Roar!!

Delivering babies or birthing babies?

image-1Are babies delivered or do women birth them?

This subject has been on my mind for a while so I thought it’d be a subject to blog about.

We often hear or read birth stories and the word “delivery” is almost always in there somewhere. “I delivered my baby…”. “Midwife x/ doctor y delivered my baby”. To me, and many other doulas/ birth workers the word just doesn’t sound correct.

Copyright Michelle Bromley, snowdrop doulaSo what does the word mean and why doesn’t it feel right?

The dictionary definition of “deliver” does mention, “The act of giving birth to a child”. Although overall the definition does talk of the handing over of goods.


(Plural) -eries

  1.  the act of giving birth to a child   ⇒ she had an easy delivery
    1. the act of delivering or distributing goods, mail, etc.
    2. something that is delivered
    3. (as modifier)   ⇒ a delivery service
  2. manner or style of utterance, esp in public speaking or recitation   ⇒ the chairman had a clear delivery
  3. the act of giving or transferring or the state of being given or transferred
  4. the act of rescuing or state of being rescued; liberation
  5. (sport)an actual or symbolic handing over of property, a deed, etc
    1. the act or manner of bowling or throwing a ball
    2. the ball so delivered   ⇒ a fast delivery
  6. the discharge rate of a compressor or pump
  7. (in South Africa) the supply of basic services to communities deprived under apartheid


Delivery is associated with goods. We take a delivery of goods we have ordered from somewhere. Do we order our babies to be delivered by a third party? Like a good from eBay?

Who is this third party?

With sentences such as, “thank you to my midwife X who delivered my baby” we are constantly seeing women giving over their baby’s birth to the midwife or doctor. A third party is delivering their baby. Through this the process of birth and transformation of a woman to a mother gets somewhat lost as women constantly believe that someone else “delivered” their baby.

Is it a case of language and communication?

Language in everyday life is so important and especially important surrounding birth. As a birth worker it is essential to empower women to have responsibility of their experience and empower them however the birth turns so they feel in some control. It is proven that if a woman feels empowered and in control then she will have a positive experience of birth. If a women is believing that a midwife delivered  her baby rather than her birthing her baby herself then we let her to give over an extremely important part of her life to someone she may never meet again. She gives over the responsibility of her birth and transformation. She never owns it. As birth workers we know the importance of a mother needing to own the birth and her baby. Some (perhaps me included) would say that if women can’t own their birth then how can we expect them to own the “product” of that birth (i.e. the baby) fully and easily? We see in the animal world that if there is any intervention in the birth then the mother rejects the baby. Can we relate this to a human being allowed to believe someone else “delivered” her baby as allowing a third party intervention?

How about we all birth our babies?

The word birth conjures up allsorts of thoughts and feelings. Of magic, wonder and owe to orgasmic to fear, pain, hurt, blood and possibly horror. So many different and opposite feelings. However, birth should be and can be a positive experience.


  1. the process of bearing young; parturition; childbirth related adjective natal
  2. the act or fact of being born; nativity
  3. the coming into existence of something; origin
  4. ancestry; lineage   ⇒ of high birth
  5. noble ancestry   ⇒ a man of birth
  6. natural or inherited talent   ⇒ an artist by birth
  7. (archaic) the offspring or young born at a particular time or of a particular mother
  8. See give birth

Verb (transitive)


  1. to bear or bring forth (a child) 

I think the last sentence in the definition of “birth” speaks volumes. “To bear or bring forth”. Can a third party do this easily? I say not. What about, “the coming into existence”? This is more spiritual, positive and magical. A woman has to do something here to bring a child into existence. This word doesn’t allow for a third party to take full responsibility. Unlike the word “delivery” which immediately conjures up images of a third party help necessary.

Women will recall the fine details of the birth of their children forever. When we let women say, “The midwife who delivered my baby” it can make the lady feel somewhat detached from their experience for their whole lives. To empower women and mothers and therefore future generations surely we need to give them their births back? Let them own it.

Even when intervention is necessary is possible to give women ownership of their bodies and birth of their child? I would say yes, this is especially important, so they don’t feel like they have failed. They have still birthed their baby, albeit with help. It’s important to empower the woman to call the shots and own what is happening.

So, are babies delivered or do women birth babies?

Can we rethink the language we may use and how we respond to those comments?

Let’s empower women and mothers.

A personal reflection!

So here I am feeling all reflective.

Big birthday this year (30, yes I know it’s not old) and my first born (G) turns 9 this week. Within the last year I have also had a baby with a new man! Something I never envisaged happening 2 years ago.
Baby (H) was born at home and was an exceptionally magical and powerful experience. This has brought me all reflective as 9 years ago my mindset was very much “everyone should birth in hospital. These stupid home birthers are putting their and their babies lives at risk!” Fast forward 9 years and that view has disappeared completely.
I have overcome lots of hurdles over the last 9 years. A bad bout of postnatal depression after G’s birth and then 3 years, and a daughter (N) later I split with their father and we were up and down with our relationship for years later. About 2.5 years ago we finally decided that it wasn’t to be and everything was split amicably. Not long after the new man (R) walked into my life. I REALLY wasn’t looking for a new relationship and tried to avoid my feelings for a lot of months. Luckily (or unluckily maybe ;)) he persisted and within 6 months I found myself pregnant! I can’t begin to tell you how much of a shock this was to the system! It truly seems as though H was sent for a reason and he never ceases to prove this to me.
So my views have changed. With G I breasted him for 3 weeks not knowing what was normal patterns and I believed that formula is necessary at some point and those who feed babies longer than a few months were “bizarre” and “only doing it for themselves”. H Will breast feed as long as he wants. It would seem I have gone from trusting everyone and everything, formula feeding, hospital birth on my back doing as I was told, vaccinating, medicating. To home birthing, home educating, breast feeding, doula, questioning everyone and everything, not/delaying vaccination and using alternative things. Some say I’ve turned hippy!
It’s taken a lot of strength and soul searching to reach these changes but I can now say I am trusting my instincts and feel so much better.
I always tell people to trust their instincts as they are never wrong! No matter what choices we make we always make decisions as we see fit at the time. I have no regrets as after all life is just a journey.

Thought for the day!

When we see programs about animals birthing the humans are always hands off. They say this is because if they become involved then complications will arise and the mother may not bond and either the mother or baby (or both) may die. I suppose it is worth noting they don’t have due dates too “she will birth when she is ready, instinct knows what to do”

These animals are all mammals that give birth to a live young, with a placenta. 

Humans are too mammals that give birth to live young, with a placenta. However a complete different approach is used. It is very much hands on with us. We have due dates given which are very rarely correct and often lead to interventions and problems. It’s almost as if “she will birth when we say so.” No acknowledgement of instinct is made. 

Perhaps we can learn from animals? Take charge of our instincts.

Welcome to our blog

Welcome to our written blog. If you click the Doula Place heading or clock here you will also find our podcast. 

Here you will find rumblings, musings and thoughts on all things pregnancy, labour, birth, postnatal and parenting. We will blog about things of interest that we come across. You can even ask us to write a post on a specific thing, as long as it’s connected to pregnancy, birth or parenting. We hope you find things of an interest. 🙂

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