When I first became a doula, I didn't know about many online resources for doulas; I don't know if they were even very common at that point. In terms of my continuing education as a doula, I learned from books, talking with doulas, midwives, and nurses, and of course hands-on from attending births! After taking a couple years' break from serious doula-ing, though, I was getting back into it, looking for more resources, and found a number of doula-related sites and listservs. Then I started reading blogs and discovered an even bigger world of blogs and resources.
In-person networking and sharing are still important, but I have learned so much from online resources that I almost think joining a single doula forum or listserv, at the very least, should be a requirement for being a doula. I am often surprised, in fact, by how little some doulas know about topics that I have seen extensively discussed in various online settings. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our clients to stay current with changes in maternity care practices, new research, and current events in the birth-o-sphere. So much of that is easily available online. And practicing solo, sometimes in hostile or isolated settings, can make it very difficult to generate the kind of community and collegial settings where doulas can share information and learn from each other. I have learned so much, and deepened my thinking, from reading information and debates on testing, interventions, informed consent, the doula's role, and more by participating in listservs and through the many great blogs by doulas, midwives, nurses, and other people interested in and passionate about birth.
That isn't to say every doula should become a blog junkie like me, though! Simply joining your local doula listserv often sends news items and discussion through your inbox, as well as connecting you to the local birth network. Usually those listservs will have "digest" settings so you can get all the messages sent each day packaged together in one e-mail. (I am already drowning in e-mail, so I set all listservs to arrive as digests or my inbox would be out of control!) If you don't have a good local listserv, I recommend Alldoulas.com where you can both connect with local people and interact with doulas from all over the world. I don't go on there very often, but the forums have been friendly, helpful, and a great resource for me when I needed them.
If you DO want to become a blog junkie like me (or just find a few good blogs to follow), I've created a "bundle" of my favorite blogs for those of you who use Google Reader. Click here to easily see and subscribe to all or some.
I should also say that I have also benefited hugely from the online resources available for communication among IBCLCs, specifically Lactnet. Reading about puzzling or complicated cases, the different takes of LCs from around the world on those cases or on issues of ethics and professional responsibility, and learning new tips and tricks has been fantastic and so educational. I sometimes see advice or techniques for situations I've encountered, and I print out them out and keep them on my clipboard at work in case I need them. (For example, I recently had great success with advice for how best to use reverse pressure softening with a very edematous mother.) As a new IBCLC, I know I have a huge amount left to learn and reading Lactnet is like getting to peer over the shoulder of more experienced LCs as they think and work with moms/babies.
What are your favorite doula/birthworker online supports or resources?