1. Better births=better breastfeeding. This is something that is clearly borne out in research, and is well understood in the breastfeeding expert community, but is not often talked about. Even minimally trained doulas have been shown in studies to shorten labor, reduce anesthesia, reduce the need for instrumental delivery, reduce Cesarean delivery, and improve APGAR scores (Campbell 2006, Montgomery & Hale 2012). This translates into babies that are less drugged, less traumatized, and more able to breastfeed right from the beginning. Many mothers who have Cesarean or even traumatic deliveries go on to breastfeed their babies, but the easier the start the easier the journey.
2. Getting the help you need. With my first birth, I was surprised to find that the labor and delivery nurses didn't seem to know how to help me with breastfeeding and two of them gave me conflicting advice. I have since learned that nurses normally have little training in breastfeeding initiation or problems. They also have many patients to look after medically, so having a dedicated person right there with you in the first hours to help with breastfeeding if you need it is wonderful. Even if the hospital has a lactation consultant, they may not have one available on weekends or nights. We all know babies aren't only born on weekdays, so your doula can often offer help until the lactation consultant comes on duty.
3. Doulas often have training in breastfeeding. Not all doulas have gone through the certification process, and all certifications are different. Many doulas have done at least some reading or training on breastfeeding. I know that Birth Boot Camp Doulas that I was certified with had detailed in-person training from an IBCLC (lactation consultant) on some of the more complicated breastfeeding issues. Some, like me, have gone through additional training in order to help mothers and understand the breastfeeding process. This would be something to ask about when interviewing a doula. "What kind of training have you had in breastfeeding and in what ways could you help me?"
4. Ongoing support for the postpartum period. Most doulas provide a home visit or answers to questions for at least a few weeks after the birth. Often, breastfeeding problems crop up after the first few days when you've already been discharged from the hospital or birth center. It can bring real peace of mind to know you can get an answer to your questions from someone who already knows you. Most issues new moms deal with are common and your doula will probably be able to help you. If not, she can provide referrals to doctors or lactation consultants who are friendly to breastfeeding moms.