28 October 2008

Becoming a Lactation Counselor

I decided that since I already had so many roles (pun intended) on my plate that another couldn't hurt.

I first got interested in birth work after the difficult time I had breastfeeding my first baby. I realized that there was no one available to come at my call to help me. There is only one fully trained lacation consultant (LC) in the whole country, Meena. (I didn't know about her at the time). She is so busy working at the only baby-friendly hospital and doing lactation work with other hospitals while also helping to enforce the WHO standards of forumla marketing.

Meena really encouraged me to consider going into lactation work as there was a great need for it and I had come to love working with breastfeeding women while working as a doula and childbirth educator. I enjoyed my training with Childbirth Int'l and was so excited to hear they were about to begin a certified lactation counselor course in October. I enrolled quickly to get an "early bird" discount on top of a graduate discount. I knew that my doula/CBE training was good for breastfeeding education and wanted something way more in depth. While the training will not be as in depth as a LC that is IBCLE trained, this is a close second I believe. This will focus some on education and a lot more on solving breastfeeding problems.

I began the course two weeks ago and I am so impressed. Right now I'm working through anatomy and physiology of breastfeeding. The breastfeeding COUNSELOR part is fascinating, and just by browsing what I will be studying, I know that the counseling skills will be a huge asset to my midwifery and doula services. A lot of what I do with women now is counseling. Sometimes it's just listening to birth stories. Other times it's helping to build a birth plan, explain information to a worried father, debunk baby-sleep myths, and more. What I also already like about the course is that all of the books I need to read and about 75% of the assignments can also be used for my midwifery education so I'm not having to do double the work!

Of course I can't know everything about every topic, though I wish I did. I now have a growing list of people that I can refer to when I know it's a situation that I can't handle. Breastfeeding problems that I can't solve go to Meena. If it's someone in need of major psychological help, depression, marital, etc problems, I have a Christian counseling group that I can refer to. (They're actually the parents of two of my former students!) The BAMBI group here also has support groups for everything from PPD to breast cancer to SIDS.

One of the requirements for certification is to support a minimum of eight women for a minimum of 3 hours each. Since enrolling, I got my first phonecall needing help with breastfeeding just this week. The baby was born 5 weeks early and I had JUST read the section on breastfeeding preemies which was so helpful! Breastfeeding counseling is going to be great for my family because it will be hours that I can schedule more easily than births that just happen when they happen. Will I earn money from this? Not very much, but I just love the satisfaction of helping a mother work through her breastfeeding problems or to establish breastfeeding with a newborn.

So how did I work through my problems of breastfeeding my firstborn? Well I suffered horribly for seven weeks. I suspected it was a latch problem as I heard "clicking" when she nursed. The nurse at the hospital had said she was doing fine before we were discharged. At the 4 week checkup, our pediatrician (supposedly trained in lactation) said, "oh she's just a noisy eater." Never mind that the baby was puking up her whole entire meal three times a day, my nipples were raw, and every second of nursing hurt. I went to a BAMBI meeting (similar to La Leche League) and that day, a woman from Canada was visiting. She just happend to be a LLL leader and said that maybe she could help. She took the time that no one else had bothered to do for me. She watched me breastfeed for over an hour, checked the positioning, the baby's mouth, and the latch. What I could not see over my engorged breasts was a baby that was sucking in her bottom lip! After correcting the latch and training the baby to open her mouth to latch and keep the lip down, breastfeeding was painless within 24 hours. No more puking because she wasn't swallowing in so much air.

I don't know the name of the woman who helped me, but she forever changed my views on breastfeeding. I learned that babies need to learn how to breastfeed as much as the mother does. I learned that women need the support immediately and not weeks later, as that's when most women give up. I was ready to quit a week later if breastfeeding was still not working. 6 to 8 weeks had been my goal anyway at the time. Wow so much has changed in my breastfeeding goals! My daughter was breastfed to 19 months. My son was breastfed to 19 months, weaned during the rest of my twin pregnancy, and unweaned shortly after their birth. He is still breastfed at over 3 years old. My twins are 15 months old and have never had a drop of formula or even a bottle! Nursing them has been a huge challenge and reward.

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5 Comments:

At 3:31 AM, Blogger rcsnickers said...

hmmmm.. . sounds like you can handle a full plate. Gonna add another baby to this plate? :) Go for it!!!

You are going to be one well informed trained midwife, doula, educator mama!

 
At 5:04 AM, Blogger Kim said...

How wonderful - I loved reading your post - we need more women like you to offer support!
I've tried to do what I can on my website to encourage moms of twins to breastfeed their babies through stories and photos:)
I'd love if you'd add yours!
Kim

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger Ruth Ann said...

You'll be a blessing to many!! I only wish you could have helped me with my breastfeeding woes. :)

 
At 1:22 AM, Blogger Laura said...

I think that's great, Erin! Ella had a hard time w/nursing at first too. Glad we both worked through that! And glad you'll be able to help others so that they can experience the joys of breastfeeding.

 
At 6:06 AM, Blogger Emily said...

You are filling a real need! Wish I'd gotten help with Benjamin earlier...it would have made the first few weeks much less painful! Eventually he figured it out on his own, but how great would it be to have breastfeeding support for EVERY mom right away.

 

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