One of the most common questions we receive from applicants is “What’s the difference between a Newborn Care Specialist and a Postpartum Doula?” Both are excellent career choices with substantial overlap in roles and responsibilities, so the best way to analyze the difference is to evaluate the job analysis domain group associated with each profession.

The International Certified Newborn Care Specialist (ICNCS) certification is based upon the following 10 domains:

  1. General Newborn Care
  2. Swaddling
  3. Lactation Education
  4. Feeding
  5. Soothing-Sleep Conditioning
  6. House Related Tasks/Cleaning/Prepping
  7. Multiples Care
  8. Preemie Care
  9. Business Building
  10. Newborn Parent Education

In comparison, the domains associated with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) Postpartum Doula certification are as follows:

  1. Emotional support
  2. Physical comfort
  3. Self-care
  4. Infant care
  5. Informational support
  6. Advocacy
  7. Referrals
  8. Partner/father support
  9. Support mother/father with infant
  10. Support mother/father with sibling(s)
  11. Household organization

Both professions provide an excellent baseline for in-home newborn care, but the primary difference appears to be newborn care specialist training focuses more on caring for the newborn, while postpartum doula training provides more of a focus on support to the parents. Of the 10 domains listed for the Newborn Care International ICNCS certification, 7 of the domains (70%) were directly related to caring for the newborn or newborns. In contrast, the ICEA Postpartum doula certification only has one (9%) directly related to newborn care.

This is the first in our three part series comparing the profession of Newborn Care Specialist with that of a Postpartum Doula. While these two careers are often confused and conflated, we’re highlighting the differences to emphasize the importance of cross-training and cross-community communication. We hope this increased understanding of the different career paths enables caregivers to expand their skillset and ultimately, do a better job supporting newborns and their families.