What led you to become an IBCLC?
What led me to become an IBCLC was a host of many things. My mom is definitely a breastfeeding advocate. She breastfed my sisters and me, so from a young age I knew I wanted to breastfeed my kids as well. When I went off to college I started really researching breastfeeding and got in contact with the founder of the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition. She introduced me to so many different people and allowed me to shadow her at state breastfeeding coalition meetings as well as WIC breastfeeding classes. I knew I wanted to work toward becoming certified, but it seemed unattainable at the time, so I gave up for a few years. Fast forward a few years, I gave birth to my first baby. My love for breastfeeding and support grew inside me again, so here I am.
Tell us about your own breastfeeding journey?
My own breastfeeding journey was definitely a struggle in the beginning. My first son was 9 lbs 2 oz when he was born and I still vividly remember a pediatrician telling me, “Oh, he’s a big boy. Just your breast milk probably isn’t enough for him.” Those words are crushing for a mama. You think “Wow, have I been starving my baby?” or the typical thought for a first time mom is “I don’t have enough milk” to sustain this baby. The self doubt eats at you. We went back to the pediatrician to find he was now below 10% of his birth weight so she told me I had to supplement with formula for him. I still remember how heartbroken I was, but I knew I wanted what was best for my baby. When you are trying to be an exclusive breastfeeding mama, formula is a downhill battle. I didn’t have the education at the time to know that every bottle of formula I gave, I needed to pump or hand express so my own supply wouldn’t decrease. We finally got into a good routine and eventually I got him down to 1 bottle of formula per day. My 2nd baby was much, much better. I was educated. I was already a Certified Lactation Counselor and on my way to becoming an IBCLC. I had a much smoother breastfeeding journey.
What advice would you give to a mom beginning her breastfeeding journey?
The best advice I have for a mom beginning her breastfeeding journey is EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION. Oh, and support. The more you know about breastfeeding, the better off you will be. You will be more confident which is vital. Support is my 2nd piece of advice. Find your village and lean on them when you are feeling overwhelmed.
What is one of the most common struggles you see moms go through in their breastfeeding journey?
The most common struggle I see is the mindset of “not having enough milk” when they actually do have enough. I find that they base their milk supply on bottle fed babies. They see a baby down 3 oz and they pumped out 2 oz so now they think they don’t have enough. How much milk you actually produce isn’t based on how much you pumped in a 15 min session. I encourage all moms and their partner or support person to attend an antenatal class either face to face or online. Knowledge is power! Being open and honest, and encouraging moms to talk about their concerns and previous experiences enables others to offer words of reassurance and support.
Are you familiar with breast massage? Have you found it to be a helpful tool?
I am familiar with breast massage. It is a very helpful tool. Moms often don’t realize just how powerful touch is. Breast massage can actually help produce oxytocin which helps release milk.
You can follow Sierra on Instagram at @lovemelamama and you can schedule a consult with her at her website www.lovemelamama.com.