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 also earned a certificate of completion in Maternal Mental Health from Postpartum Support International. I draw actively on these fields for my practice. And from my experience I know that compassionate listening and support based on that listening is key to effective lactation consulting.
Not all lactation specialists, or those who have the title "lactation consultant," have the same qualifications, knowledge and training. I've supported mothers and babies since 2003 when I began as a volunteer for a breastfeeding support group. Since 2008, when I founded Nourish Lactation Consulting, I have been an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). The IBCLC credential is the top-notch, highest-level credential for clinical lactation work. Only one week of classroom training without any hands-on work is what's required for the frequently found CLC certification (Certified Lactation Consultant/ Counselor). As well, insurance companies may not cover lactation support from a CLC. To find out whether a breastfeeding helper is an IBCLC, see here.
I've also had additional coursework to help babies who have had revisions of tongue, lip and/or buccals (cheeks) learn (or relearn) to latch and use their mouths more effectively. This relearning is essential after releasing a tongue tie or lip tie.
Last, I have also trained in holistic lactation methods, which allow me to draw on gentle yet effective tools such as nutrition and herbs. I am a Holistic Health Coach, certified through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. 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.
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, stressed and dismal. It took a while but my son did eventually thrive. This experience sealed it for me: I decided to apply my background to 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 we can work together to help her achieve success. And it’s amazing when mothers say they’ve begun to enjoy breastfeeding and start to feel confident in themselves. It's really important to me to help breastfeeding mothers feel relieved to be on a path toward easier breastfeeding.
For education, see below. I am the mother of two amazing sons who have shaped me into who I am today, both personally and professionally. Though it’s hard for me to believe, before my older son was born more than 21 years ago, I didn’t give much thought to breastfeeding. But through breastfeeding 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.