As for my educational background, I earned a BA in Psychology from Duke University and an MS in Public Health from the University of Colorado. I draw actively upon both fields for my practice. And from my experience I know that compassionate listening and guidance based on that listening is key to effective lactation consulting.
I’ve supported mothers and babies in lactation as a volunteer for a breastfeeding support group since 2003. Since 2008 I have been an IBCLC (an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), certified through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Before working with a lactation professional, it's a good idea to know who's who. Though there are lots of different initials a lactation professional may have after her name, the IBCLC credential is the top-notch, highest-level credential and the only one who is truly certified to work clinically with breastfeeding women. IBCLC certification requires a bit of course work and at least one thousand hours of real-world training before a person can even qualify to take the board exam. One week of classroom training without any hands-on work is all that is required for a frequently found certification such as a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor/Consultant). (Know your breastfeeding helper: see here and here, and to find out whether your lactation helper is an IBCLC see here.)
I have also trained in holistic lactation methods, which allow me to draw on gentle yet effective tools such as nutrition and herbs. Additionally, I am a Holistic Health Coach, certified through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
Not only was breastfeeding wonderful for bonding, it turned out to be essential for nutrition. Once my older son was old enough to begin to eat solid food it was clear that he had problems with eating — big problems. As other babies ate food with curiosity and gusto, my son refused almost everything (or spit it all up when he did eat). This went on for many, many months as occupational therapists and oral-motor experts tried to figure out what was wrong. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened if my son wasn’t breastfeeding. As you might imagine, breastfeeding became near and dear to us both. Breastfeeding is what kept him going and grounded me back into feeling tenderness during times when I felt alone, isolated and stressed. It took a while but my son did eventually thrive. This experience sealed it for me: I decided to apply my background and become a lactation consultant. And along the way I learned more about breastfeeding and nutrition than I ever could have imagined.
What a difference breastfeeding made in the connection with and nutrition for my children. My gratitude is what led me to work with other moms in lactation.
I feel honored to support breastfeeding mothers, especially when a mother realizes it's okay to open up about her pain, her fear and her joy. I love the relief she feels when she knows that I understand her goals and needs and can help her achieve success. And it’s amazing when mothers say they’ve begun to enjoy breastfeeding and start to feel confident in themselves.
I am the mother of two amazing sons who have shaped me into who I am today, both personally and professionally. It’s hard to believe but before my older son was born over 18 years ago, I didn’t give much thought to breastfeeding. But luckily I experienced a rush of unexpected and intense intimacy and love for him. It was completely life changing. I felt the same crazy love for my younger son too. I can’t say for sure that the close relationships I still share with both of my sons had their roots in breastfeeding. But I can say that breastfeeding set the stage for the trust, connection and joy between us that continues to grow as they get older.
Establishing good health and nutrition is a journey that begins with and continues beyond breastfeeding. It’s why I integrate nutrition into some consults, when applicable and for mothers who are interested. I also offer nutrition health coaching for starting solids and helping toddlers and preschoolers develop healthy habits. Over the long run, baby steps make a difference toward change.