DONA International as an organization has been training birth doulas since their inception in 1992. The philosophy of “a doula for everyone who wants one” resonates with so many people starting their journey. You can read more about the history of the organization here, and more about what makes DONA special here. DONA is the reason that I first met Robin, who has been training new birth doulas for a long time, and I personally connected with not just the mission of DONA, but also the approach to professional birth work and the focus on learning the evidence-based way to help birthing families.

If you would like to read more about the process of becoming a certified birth doula through DONA International, here is a link to a PDF of their overview of it. I will say that while it may seem like a whole bunch of steps, breaking it down into bite size chunks is helpful. Robin even created a Trello board for anyone working on the process to use, so check that out if you think that might help you. Being a certified birth doula is more than just paying your dues to keep the organization going. Maintaining certification shows your clients and the other professionals you work with that you are serious about being a birth professional and that you take continuing education courses to keep improving your skills and knowledge.

As someone who personally could not wait to devour every single book I could get my hands on about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, I was also really excited about the reading list. In fact, I was so excited that I finished all the required reading before I even went to my training; I might be a bit of an overachiever too. (It was completely unnecessary to have done that by the way.) While reading 7 books and 2 position papers might sound a little bit intimidating, I promise that you will absolutely learn important things from these books for your birth doula practice, and each group focuses on some aspect of doula work that will help you be better prepared and more focused in your practice and business. You also don’t have to purchase all of the books for your certification; you can check your local library to see if they are available. In her post about the DONA Postpartum Reading List, Robin covered a few strategies for picking which books to read too, so you may want to check that advice out too.

So without further ado, here it is presented with some affiliate links:

Required Birth Doula Reading for DONA Certification

Group 1 – Read at least ONE of the following:

The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth (A Merloyd Lawrence Book) (2013, or later)

Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-Emergence of Woman-Supported Birth in America by Christine H. Morton with Elaine G. Clift (2014, or later)

Group 2 – Read at least ONE of the following:

The New Pregnancy & Childbirth: Choices and Challenges by Sheila Kitzinger (2011, or later)

Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: the Complete Guide by Penny Simkin, April Bolding, Ann Keppler, and Janelle Durham (2010, or later)

The Mother of All Pregnancy Books: an All-Canadian Guide to Conception, Birth and Everything in Between by Ann Douglas (2012, or later)

The Simple Guide to Having a Baby: a Step-by-Step Illustrated Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Janet Whalley, Penny Simkin and Ann Keppler (2012, or later)

Group 3 – Read at least ONE of the following: 

Optimal Care in Childbirth: the Case for a Physiologic Approach by Henci Goer and Amy Romano (2012, or later)

An Easier Childbirth: a Mother’s Guide to Birthing Normally by Gayle Peterson (2008, or later)

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin (2008, or later)

Natural Hospital Birth: the Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel (2011, or later)

Group 4 – Read at least ONE of the following:

Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (2010, or later)

Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding: the Canadian Expert Offers the Most Up-to-Date Advice on Every Aspect of Breastfeeding by Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman (2015, or later)

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West and Teresa Pitman (2010, or later)

The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins (2015, or later)

Group 5 – Read at least ONE of the following:

This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman and Valerie Davis Raskin (2013, or later)

The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (2005, or later)

Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth by Walker Karraa (2014, or later)

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide by Pacific Postpartum Support (2014, or later)

Group 6 – Read at least ONE of the following:

The Doula Business Guide: Creating a Successful Mother Baby Business by Patty Brennan (2014, or later) (Note: While not a part of the required reading, they also have a companion workbook.)

Doula Programs: How to Start and Run a Private or Hospital-Based Program with Success! by Paulina Perez with Deaun Thelen (2010, or later)

The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox (2014, or later)

Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals by Tori O’Neal-McElrath (2013, or later)

You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself by Harry Beckwith and Christine Clifford (2011, or later)

Worth Every Penny: Build a Business That Thrills Your Customers and Still Charge What You’re Worth by Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck (2012, or later)

Body of Work: Finding The Thread That Binds Your Story Together by Pamela Slim (2013, or later)


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