A study by Penn School of Nursing found that doulas can improve the likelihood mothers will breastfeed their newborn child.
The study, published in The Journal of Perinatal Education, examined published data on doulas and breastfeeding initiation and identified six areas in which doulas can help breastfeeding mothers, including lactation training and care outside the hospital setting, Penn Today reported.
The study was conducted by professor of perinatal nursing and manager of the lactation program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Diane Spatz and Nursing senior and Hillman Scholar Stephanie Acquaye. Although there have been previous studies on doulas and breastfeeding, none of them synthesized the information, Spatz told Penn Today.
Acquaye told Penn Today the study results show the importance of doulas to maternal health, especially for Black mothers.
“This work further highlights that doulas are a tool to improve maternal health outcomes, something we’re increasingly focusing on in the U.S., especially for Black and African American mothers who have lower rates of breastfeeding,” Acquaye said.
Spatz recently co-authored a study that found Black mothers initiate breastfeeding at lower rates than the general population in the United States.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers initiate breastfeeding for at least the first six months.
Acquaye became a doula during her sophomore year with the Philadelphia Alliance for Labor Support, a network of doulas in Philadelphia. During training, Acquaye learned that doulas not only offer support during birth, but also help during the immediate postpartum period, Penn Today reported.
In the future, Acquaye will study racial disparities in breastfeeding rates, particularly among Black mothers who breastfeed for more than a year, Penn Today reported. Acquaye told Penn Today she believes these findings are important for the future of doula services and postpartum health.
“It gives us evidence in hand, yet another reason, why doula services are important,” Acquaye said. “It’s also a policy call to action to see an increase in coverage of and access to these kinds of services.”