How To: Choose A Back-Up Doula

I always joke that you should be as picky with your Back-Up Doula/Business Partner, as you are about your Life Partner/Spouse and to not be afraid to date, take a break, break-up entirely, or stay together forever… LOL but honestly, that’s pretty valid!

You want to seriously know their values, their experience, their comfort zone, their training and capabilities, availability, financial requirements, childcare situation, what supplies they bring to the table, and more!

Can you genuinely work together without conflict? Would you want this individual at YOUR birth? Would you feel comfortable at theirs?

Taylor’s sweet back-up doula, Hope, when they attended a birth together in 2019

When choosing a back-up doula to take on a client, or clients, of yours, you need to discuss and agree in several areas.

  • Fee that will be provided in the event that one of you back up the other (does it change whether the back up is there 2 hours or 24 hours?)
    Tip: I firmly believe that 30-50% of the birth fee is fair, especially if you provided a few prenatal appointments and intend to follow up postpartum, but also have to consider how the back-up doula has to be on-call and attend the birth, which genuinely is a lot of work. It is much easier if you collect the full payment from the client prior to birth, and pay the back-up doula yourself, so there is no confusion between the client, you and the back-up.
  • What circumstances you can call them in (any and all, preferably, because emergencies get weird)
  • What their availability timeframe will be (36 weeks to 42 weeks, or a slimmer timeframe? Weekends only? Weekdays only?)
  • How quickly can they get to a birth? Where is their home-base (where they live)?
  • What can they bring to a birth? What if they do not have the same tools in their bag that your client prefers?
  • What experience/training do they have? Is it pretty equivalent to yours? If not, how can you ensure they do?
    Tip: I prefer to attend a birth or two with my back-ups before relying on them AS a back-up, so I can see their style, if they are honest about their availability, their energy in a birth space, and more. If it takes them 2 hours to get there when they live 20 minutes away, they seem confused or intimidated in the birth space, this does not necessarily mean that they are completely written off, but it does mean we need to have a new discussion on realistic expectations, needs, and how we can address their energy and how to improve. You have to be able to have open communication.
  • Do they have a friendly face, demeanor, and energy in general? If you were interviewing for a doula for your birth, would you hire them? You definitely do not want your clients feeling disappointed in the services your back-up doula provided because then they will feel disappointed in YOU and your business, and will be less likely to recommend you, and hire you in the future.

A Back-Up Doula is a Must Have

ALWAYS discuss the possibility of a back-up with your clients, even if you see no way that it could happen. Your clients need to have their contact information, business information, and potentially even an option to meet them – just in case! If you got struck by lightning, got into a severe car accident, or had a serious family emergency, you would want the comfort of knowing your back-up doula had everything covered and your clients would not be left feeling alone.

Whomever you hire, remember you are not stuck with them forever if they are absolutely terrible and do not be afraid to break it off if the relationship stinks, because your clients are a priority! Interview and meet with several different people as potential back-up doulas.

Some doula businesses even run on a two-doula method, where two doulas attend prenatal appointments, births, and postpartum together, or they alternate attendance. There are also doula agencies that clients may receive one of several different doulas. If this is something you are interested in, you should definitely explore it for your business, they are cool models of business!

Three of our Doula students supporting each other!