After you earn your doula certification, keep an open mind when working with families from different cultural backgrounds. You’ll all benefit.
On the heels of the Center for Disease Control’s Breastfeeding Report Card 2016, Romper published an article about breastfeeding around the world. The article summarized breastfeeding practices from six different cultures. Specifically, it reviewed rates of breastfeeding initiation and the percentage of babies that continue to be exclusively breastfed. Additionally, it investigated how some widely held practices and beliefs of each culture may influence these statistics.
For example, in India and Sierra Leone, colostrum (the nutrient-dense milk that’s produced in the first few days after birth) is considered to be dirty, or even poisonous. There’s also a long-standing belief in Sierra Leone that breastmilk is also not enough food for baby. The rate for babies that are exclusively breastfed are in India and Sierra Leone were on the lower end at 46% and 11%, respectively.
In contrast, breastfeeding is common and widely accepted in Peru. Mothers are able to nurse their babies in public without the fear of being shamed. Similarly, Norway’s generous maternity leave and high percentage of “baby-friendly” hospitals have likely led to the country’s high rate of breastfeeding success.
This article illustrates an important point:
If you’re not taking someone’s cultural beliefs into consideration, you’re not looking at the whole picture.
An early assignments in our doula certification program asks students to interview people from two cultures different from their own. During the interview, the students are prompted to ask how cultural beliefs shaped their interviewees birth and postpartum experiences. Often, there is a direct link between the interviewees cultural beliefs, whether practical or traditional, and how they choose to raise to birth and parent their children.
After receiving your doula certification, this will be important to keep in mind. If you’re working with a families whose cultural beliefs differ from yours, take time to understand why they do the things the way they do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen carefully.
Often, you will find that your clients will have as much to teach you as have to teach them.