we get asked what doulas should wear to births and interviews at every training. The great news (or not so great news depending on your perspective) is that there is no one best answer....but lots of good ones.
It's not the prom. Doulas don't need to coordinate their outfits with their clients or with anyone else who might be at the birth, but like prom - doulas do care what we wear. So for fun we asked our BEST doulas what they wear to births and interviews and why. Here are some of their replies:
What Doulas Wear to Births
"I wear yoga pants and a doula t-shirt" said Breanna Vision.
Rebekah Lewis said "I wear funky colored scrub pants so I'm not confused with nursing staff and a doula t-shirt. I love how handy all the pockets on the pants are. The most important apparel item for me though is comfortable, supportive shoes! Lots of standing on hard floors!"
Many other doulas mentioned comfort too. "For me, it's important to be able to move comfortably during birth. Leggings, t-shirts, and hoodies are my top choice'" mentioned Erin Swart.
However, many more wanted practical. Breanna says "I like to wear yoga pants and a shirt that identifies me as doula. For me, yoga pants offer the comfort and flexibility of scrubs, while not making me look like medical staff." Several doulas did express concerns about wearing scrubs and looking like medical staff vs. looking like a doula. The consensus is that scrub pants are totally fine but perhaps use caution wearing a scrub shirt.
Best Doula Brooke Harrison has a nursing baby and brings a breast pump with her to births. She said, " As a pumping mom, I wear a very flowy shirt to births so I can pump without drawing a ton of attention to what I'm doing." As you can see, a doula's outfit may be determined by her own self care needs too.
One tip practiced by Angel is to wear clothing that has lots of pockets. "I have my name and title embroidered on a hoodie that has double pockets for easy glove storage (learned at BEST Doula training!), a doula t-shirt, yoga pants that are high waisted for comfort and movement and comfortable sneakers that are easy to clean."
Our best advice for what to wear to a birth? Wear layers. Nobody wants to see your undergarments at a birth and hospitals get COLD. Beyond that, we say to each his own. We have doula-ed in high heels and evening gowns and rain boots and jeans (Though neither of those outfits was planned. Come to training, we'll tell you the full story!). As doulas, we can do what we are good at improvising when need be but it also may make being on call easier if your "uniform" is packed.
We Have to Talk Shoes
Perhaps the second most common question in doula-dom is "What shoes do your wear to births???" Once again, the answers are varied. Everyone wants comfortable shoes but what makes a shoe comfortable is not agreed science. Many doulas wear shoes designed for nurses like Clarks. Others wear tennis shoes or even crocks.
So what is the right answer? Experiment and find a pair of shoes you love. I (Maria) have had the same pair of shoes for 10 years that I wear to every hospital birth I attend. (I have included a picture so you can see what I wear!) I am often recognized by my shoes instead of my face - because goodness knows my face at 2 am after a long birth often looks very different than my face at 10 am showing up for an induction after a good night's sleep. We recommend close toes shoes that clean easily. You just never know when you might have to wash amniotic fluid off your shoes. How many jobs can say that!
What Do Doulas Wear to Interviews?
Whatever they want is the answer! We suggest clean clothes that fit but beyond that, your clothing is a part of your brand and also a part of your personality. We suggest that your clothing at interviews have the same vibe as your branding. If your website is modern and funky and you show up for an interview in a laced up collar - it will confuse your potential client. Here are some other thoughts from our doulas:
Erin says, "I like to wear something that shows my personality. I'm pretty casual, so jeans and a doula shirt or other nice shirt....and my signature sandals that I wear everywhere." Breanna says "I like to wear jeans/capris (depending on season) and either a doula shirt, or a nice top. I don't want to be too dressed up, we will be getting to know another well so I want to give more of a buddy vibe vs a business interview vibe."
Angel gives even more description."I wear my Best Doula shirt, comfortable pants, and shoes. Hair is usually tied back. I want them to get a feel for me and who I am, not be distracted by what I'm wearing. I wear the Doula shirt because it's easy to spot me anywhere and I am usually meeting strangers for interviews."
The theme of meeting strangers and making recognition easy came up a lot. "I like wearing a doula shirt to interviews with nice jeans. I want to be somewhat obvious to spot so there aren't any awkward 'are you the pregnant lady I'm here to meet?' conversations." says Rebekah. Brooke continues, "For interviews, I wear a nice shirt and jeans. I always let them know what I'll be wearing in advance so they recognize me and it's not awkward."
It seems most of our doulas prefer casual wear for interviews but I know many others that dress up a bit more for interviews wearing skirts and dresses. Go ahead and dress up if that is your style and if that is what will appeal to your perspective clients. Do you want to know my big piece of advice that matters more than what you wear to an interview? Make sure your nails are clean. Seriously, no one is going to hire the doula with dirt under nails at the interview.
So there you go - the complete guide to what to wear for doulas.
Who wore it well - YOU DID!