Lactation Guidance- What’s in a Name? Pt IV
Originally posted July 7, 2011
So what’s a professional lactation guide or a mother needing lactation assistance to do? If we can’t necessarily trust the initials behind the name to guarantee excellent lactation care, how DO we find competent assistance?
1. Open your mind to the different types of professional lactation guidance that is available in your area:
For Lactation Guides: Take time to survey the other professionals in your area. Are there CLCs, IBCLCs, CLEs/CBEs near you? Why not take some time to understand just what services these professionals are offering and to whom. What can each woman actually do? What service does each professional offer? How is this service the same or different from what you do? Please abandon unsupported ideas that assert that some types of lactation guides are better than others. Be willing to consider that perhaps the letters behind a name don’t matter as much as the heart and mind behind the letters.
Some time ago, I was working as a postpartum doula.Understanding that my scope of practice did not include lactation assessment or intervention, I waited with a client for her IBCLC to come for a home visit. I was happily anticipating seeing a trusted professional come in and assess the situation and, with a few minor adjustments of the motherbaby’s latching techniques, fix the difficulties the pair was having. I wanted to hear the IBCLC’s instructions so I could assist the client as she carried out the intervention plan.
Imagine my dismay when the IBCLC came in, asked briefly how nursing was going and then told the mother- with a grimace on her face- that it was really going to take a lot of work to nurse her baby and did she really want to go through all that? The young mother nodded her understanding- of course, breastfeeding was too difficult and wasn’t going to work for her. The trusted IBCLC completely sabotaged that dyad’s nursing relationship but the mother believed what the nurse told her because, after all, the IBCLC is the breastfeeding expert…
It had been only a few months previous to that sad day that I met a young woman who had been to five- FIVE- different IBCLCs who had been unable to help her nurse her son without pain. She finally found relief when she located a CLC who was able to ‘speak her language’ and show her what needed to be done in a way she could understand. It was the good training and many, many years of experience that the CLC had under her belt that allowed her to offer a different perspective, a new idea that helped salvage the at-risk nursing relationship.
Is this a novel idea? Let’s be brave and consider that maybe other types of professionals have something valuable to offer the women in our community.
For Mothers: The initials DO matter- a bit. Using the initials is a great way to begin your search for lactation assistance. Do a search of your area to see what kind of lactation professionals are serving locally. You can start by doing a simple Google search for an IBCLC or CLC in your area. If you are unable to find specific lactation guides, contact your local Le Leche League chapter http://www.lllusa.org or contact local midwives or maternity floors in local hospitals. These resources will be able to point you toward lactation professionals who may be able to help you.
2. Interview and plan how you will work with the lactation guide:
For Lactation Guides: Meet and get to know the other professional lactation guides. Take sometime to understand others’ history, passion and training. Think of ways you all can complement one another’s services. Remember, there are not nearly enough lactation guides in the US. We need every single trained professional who is willing and ready to work to help women and babies breastfeed successfully. As you and the other professionals in your area begin finding ways to work together, perhaps you can also develop ways to hone one another’s skills- would it be possible to do a quarterly case review together? Can you organize workshops where the more experienced professionals- regardless of initials- offer tips and techniques to the less experienced? Can you ask those who have traveled to conferences to share what was gleaned from those fabulous resources? In short- can you find a way to enrich one another so the level of lactation guidance expertise in your area is heightened and mothers and babies reap the benefits?
For Mothers: Interview several lactation guides even before you have your baby if possible. I believe that every pregnant woman should be searching for a lactation professional the same way she looks for a pediatrician. Just as you may need the expertise of a pediatrician immediately after birth, you may also need a lactation guide. Trying to identify the person best able to help you with lactation difficulties may be more difficult when you are recovering from childbirth, have shifting hormones coursing through your veins and are caring for a newborn. The immediate postpartum period is a very vulnerable and emotional time for most women- it is better to have your professional assistance in place before you ever need her.
Some lactation guides offer free initial consults. Take these professionals up on their offer and do a thorough interview. Ask about training, experience, special skills, pricing, call availability, consult location (will she come to you or do you have to go see her?), does she refer to other professionals if necessary?- this is all important information. But more important than anything is that you feel comfortable with her and that she believes in your ability to breastfeed. Although some mothers have completely smooth sailing when it comes to breastfeeding, many mothers have a learning curve they have to go through before nursing becomes second nature. Don’t be discouraged if you have sore nipples or just can’t seem to get the baby to latch- you are both learning a new skill and it will take some time and some help to be sure these small hiccups don’t become major issues.
3. Spread the news:
For Lactation Guides: When you have begun building bridges between lactation guidance fields,share the news. Go to your professional associations and share how working collaboratively enriches professionals and better serves mothers and babies.Write letters, write articles, speak up and talk about how you are doing more,are doing better by refusing to draw elitist lines in the sand. Talk about how your simple choice to respect the training and experience of others is empowering all varieties of lactation professionals to serve the women in your community. Be proud that you have overcome the old,old story of one flavor of professional seeking to eradicate all competition while women and babies pay the price. Model your lactation guidance community for others- be the leaders you truly are.
For Mothers: Talk to anyone who is willing to listen about how your lactation guide helped you and your baby breastfeed. Sharing your experience is the best way to encourage other moms to reach out for help or to make contacts before experiencing difficulties. Talk to other mothers, but also talk to lactation professionals.Hearing that a CLC encouraged your breastfeeding relationship or that she was able to offer skilled assistance to solve a nursing problem is a great way to help others become aware of the efficacy of various lactation guides.
We so need to improve the emotional and physical health of this nation’s mothers and babies and better rates of breastfeeding duration is one key way we can do so. We need all kinds of lactation professionals working together to create a network of skilled breastfeeding assistance to serve the motherbabies of this country. There aren’t enough of us as it is- let’s not marginalize whole types of professionals simply because their training was different than ours. Let’s instead embrace, encourage and enrich one another so we can get on with doing the work we’ve been called to- serving mothers,serving babies, and seeing healthy, bonded families as a result.