Finding Room in the Budget for a Doula

So, you've decided you would love to have a doula because you know how great the benefits are, but how will you afford it? Having a baby can be so expensive! First, there is the stuff. Everything that your friends have told you need to put on a gift registry. From swings, to sheets to cribs to diapers. There is a lot of GEAR to get. It's really hard to know what is really necessary, and for each family "necessary" is different. Then, there is everything you want to do in preparation for the delivery. Childbirth education, pre-natal yoga, the babymoon. Depending on what your goals for labor and delivery are, the cost of these items really vary. Unfortunately, some families have to decide how much they want to spend on the actual birth, based on what their particular insurance will cover. Some families choose to pay out of pocket for a birthing center or home birth because they feel it will be a better environment for their birth experience. Thankfully, most pumps are now covered by insurance, but nursing bras and tanks, bags for breast milk and all of the various items to make nursing more comfortable are not. All of this (and more-- I didn't even bring up childcare for those who go back to work--) can get really expensive. So how can an expectant family really afford a doula?

  • This seems over-simplified, but try to figure out what you ACTUALLY need before throwing it on your registry or going out to buy a bunch stuff. Newborns are really very simple. They need mom, a way to feed, a safe sleeping surface, clean butts, and clothes or some other way to stay warm. I'm not saying I didn't get anything else, or that you shouldn't, but I have heard from so many parents that in hindsight they would not have gotten so much STUFF when welcoming their first child to the world. If you buy 10 Dr. Browns bottles, and later discover that your baby will only drink from an Avent bottle, that was wasted money that you spent at the forefront. This is true of diaper brand, wipes, pacifiers and toys. You just don't know what you or your baby will prefer until he is here. Ask a mom friend whose parenting style you respect to cull through your registry. She can help you decide what is necessary. There is plenty of time after the baby is born to stock up on stuff you will actually use, and spreading out the expenses can be easier on your budget.
  • Speaking of the registry, use your registry to pay for doula services! There are some registries that allow you to add anything from any store to the list. I've heard good things from This allows others to pay for a service which can benefit your labor and delivery. This only works if your doula has an online store, but talk to her about it. Many website hosts allow doulas to add this feature, and she may need to just investigate it.
  • Buy used. There are so many nice baby and kid-focused consignment shops out there. Even if you need to spend an afternoon driving a distance, you will save so much money buying used items for your baby. From baby bathtubs (which you don't need right away, we bathed our infant in the tub that we got from the hospital for a long time, and now we use it as our dog's water bowl!) to swings, to toys to clothes. Target is wonderful, but why pay full price for something you will just use for a few months? One of my favorite places is called Once Upon a Child.
  • Ask your doula for a payment plan. If she doesn't already have this plan written into her contract, for the right client (you!), she may decide to shift her policy. As with any big purchase that we know is really worth it, it can often be easier to pay little by little than all at once.
  • Hire a doula who is trained but still working towards certification.  Most doula certification organizations begin with an in-person, hands-on training, and then allow a certain amount of time for the trained doulas to meet all of the certification requirements. This almost always includes an extensive reading list, observations of birth education and breastfeeding courses, and the attendance as the doula of record at a certain number of births. Doulas who are still working toward certification will often charge a lower fee than other doulas in the area until they are certified. Remember that the number of attended births is not the biggest indication of whether a doula will work well with you. During the free consultation that most doulas offer, really try to use your gut to determine how well you get along. Giving birth is such a personal time, and you really want your doula to be someone who you LIKE, who you would want to grab coffee (or a margarita) with. The doula you jive with the most, may have the least amount of experience. But she's still trained to give you judgement free support, she's still has a wealth of knowledge, and she still will be focused ONLY on you and your partner making sure you are laboring as comfortably as possible.

So, you've seen the research and you know that hiring a doula can really benefit you and baby during labor. You want to add it into the budget. Sit down with your partner, talk through your options. You will be surprised at the solutions you can come to by tweaking your baby budget to adjust for what really matters!


Lori Nigrosh