Archive for the ‘Lactation Consulting’ Category

A Bit More Than a Shadow….

January 14, 2010

Today I had my first day shadowing a lactation consultant. I was looking forward to seeing the consultants in action and to getting an idea of what they do all day.

I anticipated that I would spend the day being a fly on the wall.  I appreciated Gisele and Sonya allowing me to come into their clinic, but assumed that a spectator was all that I would be.

Luckily for me, Gisele and Sonya expected me to do far more than just sit back and watch the action. I was asked to greet the mothers and have them complete the appropriate form. I was shown how to use the scale and had to weigh each baby before and after their nursing session. The youngest baby that I weighed was just three days old!

It was a great afternoon which I think gave me a good idea of what a lactation consultant does during a breastfeeding clinic. Seven mothers (and one father) came in during the two hours with children ranging from three days to 18 months. I was really surprised by the variety of issues that the mothers presented and by the plethora of knowledge and strategies that the consultants offered. I saw a baby with a possible tongue tie. A few mothers were having difficulty getting a good latch with their babies which was causing them physical pain (and not allowing their babies to extract milk efficiently).

The most interesting thing I saw was a supplementary feeding system. A mother was having difficulty getting her milk to flow (letdown) and the baby was getting frustrated. A very thin tube was placed in a bottle of breastmilk and the other end was slid into the babies mouth along the mother’s nipple once she was latched. This way, the breast was still being stimulated to produce milk because of the baby’s sucking, and the baby was getting lots of milk between the tube and the breast. This system ensured there was no concern with moving the baby from bottle to breast (which can sometimes create difficulty getting the baby to go back to the breast).

I look forward to learning more about breastfeeding mothers and babies and how to help them to more thoroughly enjoy the beautiful relationship that nursing offers.

My First Call!

January 8, 2010

This afternoon I received an email that confirmed to me that I am finally on the right career path. I often receive questions regarding infancy and breastfeeding from girlfriends with newborns. They know that I am interested in all-things-baby and have done tonnes of reading and of course have experience with my own son. I feel validated to have had a query from a stranger!  My journey continues….

A friend of a friend sent me a message requesting breastfeeding help. She is new mother to a sweet 13 day old boy, and is not finding breastfeeding to be the joy she had hoped it would be. Experiencing difficulty obtaining a correct latch, the mother’s nipples have become increasingly sore. Along with wearing on her body, this frustration is also wearing on her mind. She expressed to me that she felt like “a pathetic mother” for having to substitute with formula because she couldn’t stand the pain.

That statement was heartbreaking to me. It is the fact that so many women feel so badly about themselves and their breastfeeding journey that makes me want to pursue this career. Breastfeeding should not be painful. Babies instinctually know how to nurse, but as mothers, sometimes we need some direction on how to create a proper latch. The latch does not always come easily, and mothers need not feel badly about requiring help. In fact, the simple act of asking for help shows that they only want the best for themselves and their babies!

This frustrated mother asked if I would do a house call and go to help her. Oh, to be able to jump in my car and head over there as a real live certified lactation consultant – what a dream!  In the meantime, I have referred her to someone much more qualified than I. I wish her all the best!


While she is waiting for the lactation consultant to arrive, I suggested a short internet video clip which is great at demonstrating a proper latch. For any moms out there in cyberland looking for a great breastfeeding video, I highly recommend this one:

Another Step Closer

January 5, 2010

I am thankful for some giving lactation consultants in Ottawa who are happy to share their craft with me. Next Wednesday I will be attending a breastfeeding clinic at a local Early Years Centre where I can begin to get  a real idea of the daily life of a lactation consultant. I am so exited to really start experiencing and learning more about this career!

The Journey Begins

December 2, 2009

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. 🙂