The Journey Begins

I am 31 years old.

I am a wife and a mother.

And I think I have finally decided what I want to be when I grow up!

After two degrees and five years of teaching, I think I would like to be a lactation consultant. Unfortunately, this is not a career path that is set up for easy entry. Perhaps for health professionals there is a brightly lit path leading the way. But for stay-at-home-moms with a passion for breastfeeding, teaching, and helping others, I am stumbling through the dark woods to find a way to make this dream a reality.

Let’s start at the beginning. When Tristan was born on April 13, 2008, it was within the first hour of his life that I brought him to my breast. I was filled with nervous anticipation and excitement. As natural as breastfeeding is, the “technique” really doesn’t come all that naturally to many women. I remember holding his tiny body up to my chest and then looking up at my midwife with wondering eyes and asking, “What do I do?”

A few quick lessons from some patient midwives and a little suck training, and we were off. Nineteen months later, our breastfeeding relationship continues to be enjoyed by both of us. We are the lucky ones.

I know it is not always so easy. There are barriers to breastfeeding (lack of information being a huge one) that make it very difficult for some women to establish a positive breastfeeding relationship, and out of exasperation, they turn to formula.

While some women choose not to breastfeed, I would like to be part of the solution for those who choose to breastfeed but are having difficulty for one reason or another.

Enter the lactation consultant.

Lactation Consultants must be certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.  There are three possible pathways. Pathway 1 is strictly for use by healthcare professionals. Pathways 2 and 3 open up the possibility to regular people like myself.

Ideally, I would embark on pathway 2, which consists of a one year degree at an accredited institution. I love school! The problem? The only school in Canada which offers this program is Jack Newman’s school… in Toronto. Considering my family makes our home in Ottawa, this is not an option for me.

This leaves me with pathway 3. There is an academic component to this pathway, which I can do online or perhaps at Ottawa U in the nursing faculty, but the majority of the work comes from practicum hours. The final step to becoming a lactation consultant is to write the qualifying exam put  forth by the IBLCE.  On Pathway 3, I must complete 500 practicum hours in the five years prior to writing the exam.

THAT is an abundance of hours and will take a lot of hard work on the parts of both myself and the lucky consultant who agrees to work with me. So my challenge now lies in finding a mentor who is willing to guide me along my path and supervise me through my 500 practice hours working with lactating mothers.

On a mission, I set out to find a lactation consultant in Ottawa who would be willing to help me. Coached by my business minded husband Luc Levesque, I emailed a very popular consultant in Ottawa. I explained who I was, what I was hoping to achieve and offered to take her out to lunch so that I could “pick her brain” for more information.

I was elated when I received a reply in my inbox, and then gutted when I read the discouraging words. I was basically told that the pathway on which I wanted to embark was far too difficult and there really was no point in trying.  This woman wrote these discouraging words to me and then declined my offer for lunch – she was too  busy.

Thankfully, Andrea Levesque does not give up so easily. I wrote to other lactation consultants in the city and have been amazed by the amount of support that I have received. Many of the women at  Ottawa Valley Lactation Consultants have reached out to me with open arms, more than happy to help me get started on my path.

Starting in January, I will be happily shadowing Beth McMillan at her drop in clinic so that I can get a real feel for the work that a lactation consultant does. Thank you, Beth!

Oh. And she said she’d love to have lunch with me. 🙂

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