Back in July, I had big plans for my World Breastfeeding Week Project and was all set to blog the breastfeeding sessions I did.. then I had a baby.. and then I was pretty sick.. so the blog posts were put on hold but I am SO excited to share them with you over the next week..Up first is an amazing meet up that I had with a dear friend of mine.
Enough good things cannot be said about Frances. She has helped me in birth and now in breastfeeding. She is also an amazing and inspiring photographer that documents mommas breastfeeding in public spaces. (See her fb page The Doula Mommy for awesome photography, great recipes, and birth and breastfeeding-related content, and more!)
Last summer, we met at Jeni’s for some milky photos and ice cream and I wanted to share what she had to say about breastfeeding and what it means to be a CLC.
What is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)?
A CLC is a breastfeeding support counselor trained through the Acadamey of Lactation Policy and Practice. CLC's attend 40 hours of breastfeeding education and take a written and practical exam to be earn the credentials of CLC, which must be maintained with continuing education. CLC's are able to counsel breastfeeding individuals up to the point of making diagnoses. We are able to resolve about 75% of the issues we encounter, and the rest we can refer up to an IBCLC.
What is the most rewarding part about being a CLC?
Breastfeeding is an amazing time in a new mom's life, but it can feel isolating, intimidating, and sometimes it can be difficult or challenging without proper support. When I was a new mom, I had a lot of trouble and wanted to give up, especially at 2am, and I'm ashamed to admit I never asked for help! When my friends began their own breastfeeding journeys, I loved being a force of support for them, which led me down the path of becoming a birth worker. As a doula, I get to prepare my clients for the very FIRST breastfeed, that magical hour after birth, bonding with their squishy baby, watching them find their way to the breast and latch on. It is moments like this, seeing the confidence swell in a new mom, or getting messages like "I would have given up without you," that are the most rewarding aspects of my work.
What are the most common things that CLCs can help new moms with?
We can help a new mom prenatally by teaching her how to prepare for and be excited about breastfeeding, dispel the fears, worries, and myths that have been passed down to her, teach her what to expect from the magical moment baby is placed skin to skin after birth, and how to get help if the need arises. Many of us offer home visits once baby arrives to help settle into a good breastfeeding routine, which is often the #1 issue with breastfeeding. We also asses and correct latch, observe adequate breastfeeding in the baby, reassure what's normal, and give a new mom confidence! We can even correct some issues over the phone, including in the middle of the night when a mom is so frustrated she wants to quit! We also provide additional resources when needed.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you see about breastfeeding?
The best way to increase breastmilk production is to increase breastfeeding, simple as that! It's supply and demand, put more demand on the system by emptying the breast more often, and the body responds by making more milk. Women are very quick to seek galactagogues, or substances that purportedly increase milk production, when a milk-production problem arises, rather than seek out the support of a counselor/consultant. Some women are taught they must consume these foods in order to breastfeed at all. Many of these substances are completely unproven (brewers yeast, oatmeal, lactation cookies, etc), but others can actually increase milk production. However, if the inherent problem is a bad latch, anatomical issues, insufficient emptying of the breast, or routine problems, then a true galactagogue may actually cause much more harm than good, including plugged ducts, engorgement, and mastitis.
One of my favorites is "pump and dump" after drinking alcohol, that seems to never go away! The truth is, alcohol is not stored in breastmilk; it remains in breastmilk just as it does in your blood stream. Pumping after drinking a glass of wine, and then dumping out that liquid gold, does not remove any traces of alcohol from your milk (or bloodstream!), so don't do it! If you'd like to enjoy an adult beverage, first feed your baby, have a small glass of wine or beer, then by the time baby is ready to nurse again, you're good! Many lactation officials suggest, if you feel safe to drive, then it's safe to nurse. Always partake responsibly, of course!
Lastly, newborn babies want to nurse ALL THE TIME, even as often as every hour. This is normal, and does not mean you aren't making enough milk. This is a common frustration in new moms: they feel baby isn't getting enough milk because they are constantly nursing. Babies often snack and comfort nurse all day long in the beginning, it's part of their development into this great big world. Don't worry if your baby always wants to be latched, this is normal, and it does pass!
What is the ONE piece of advice you would give a new mom that would like to breastfeed?
If you would like to breastfeed, then you will! Trust and believe in your body, and be reminded of the women around the world that have breastfed their babies throughout human history, many of whom live in the most extreme conditions of the earth without access to special gadgets and gear. True problems are rare, many women breastfeed easily and without the need for extra help. Surround yourself with a positive, supportive tribe, seek support and ask questions, and then share your tribal knowledge with the next new mom in your tribe.
Do you mind sharing some of your favorite resources for breastfeeding moms?
Dr. Jack Newman La Leche League International
How can someone find a local CLC?
You can search for local CLCs on the ALPP website, https://www.alpp.org/search. Also, many CLCs offer support via out-patient clinics, breastfeeding support groups, WIC, birth centers, pediatrician offices, and more. I also always recommend word of mouth, ask your friends (or your doula!) where they got support when they needed it. Establishing those resources prenatally will increase the likelihood that you'll seek them out if you need support postpartum.