Welcome to another Motherhood Chat Unfiltered here on the blog! We love the opportunity to share raw and real motherhood stories to help bring encouragement and support on your journey! Today we're sharing our conversation with Demetria and her journey as a lactation counselor! Grab a cup of tea and enjoy the read!
What led you to become a lactation counselor?
I love this question! It is so interesting - I don't feel like there was a specific situation that made me say I want to be a Lactation Counselor. It was more there was a series of events. So for starters, I have a passion for education in the community. While working on my Master of Public Health, I was part of a project to help a hospital on the track to become Baby Friendly, the designation for breastfeeding friendly hospitals. With this, I learned so much about breastfeeding and how to support it.
Fast forward to having my son - I saw multiple lactation specialists and they all told me something different, and nothing really helped. This led to confusion and frustration for me so I started to research myself. I looked for resources online about getting a good latch and practiced with my son every hour! Then finally, it worked well and didn't hurt. Move ahead a little more, my best friend had her baby and had all the problems. She saw a few lactation consultants and it was not progressing. She was miserable. At this point I reached out to the person who was my partner in the Baby Friendly hospital project and an IBCLC, and she agreed to a semi-virtual session with my best friend that I got to witness. By the end of it, she had me and my best friend feeling like we were Super Women. She acknowledged ALL the things done and all the struggles my friend went through and provided simple, but journey changing tips to my friend! I got to witness the transformation of her journey and that was great! I started trying to talk to people about their journey similar to how she did, praising them for how far they came, asking questions and actually listening, and more praise. One day, I was in a mom group and someone asked about the pathway to become a Certified Lactation Counselor. I looked it up and knew instantly, this is what I got my MPH to do. This is what all of those experiences have been shaping. I signed up instantly and started classes!
Tell us about your own breastfeeding journey?
My journey wasn't too bad. I struggled in the beginning to have a good latch. It hurt and I knew it wasn't supposed to. I saw multiple lactation specialists and it didn't help. I worked on it myself through extensive research and practice. The light switch flipped and suddenly it was great! Then, at 2 months my son was nursing and moving awkwardly and I felt something sharp. I looked in his mouth and he had 2 teeth appearing. Suddenly my head was filled with questions - do I have to stop nursing? Why does my 2 month old have teeth? What if he bites? Thankfully, it wasn't too bad initially. He was so young he really had no idea what was going on in his mouth. The teeth continued. He got 1 additional tooth per month after that until 6 months when he got 3 more. (My son had all of his baby teeth, molars included, on his first birthday) He started biting more often. I started bleeding and had something new to research and troubleshoot. Mom groups suggested I just pump or wean completely. I again was determined to just figure it out. I worked on how to respond to the bite at each age and tailored our situation - the feeding position, the feeding times, and my treatment of my bleeding nipples to whatever made sense at the time. If that meant I pump more in a session while covering my nipple in breast milk in hopes to heal quickly from the bite, I did it. By 12 months, the occasional biting and bleeding subsided and we were smooth sailing. I also hit my goal!!! I decided I was ok with weaning at that point but we would continue with the don't offer don't refuse style of weaning. Our last session was around 22.5 months. :)
What advice would you give to a mom beginning her breastfeeding journey?
Ask for help - If this means letting someone else cook, clean, or hold the baby so you can nap - do it! People will offer, take them up on it! You are the only one that can provide your milk so get help where you can so that you don't quickly burn out. Additionally, get help from a professional if it's not going well. If something feels off or you think something is wrong, it likely is. Don’t suffer in silence - seek help quickly to prevent avoidable damage. This journey isn’t always easy so take it one session at a time.
What is one of the most common struggles you see moms go through in their breastfeeding journey?
Outside of latch issues, one of the most common struggles I see is knowing when to feed! Feeding cues are so important but most moms only know crying as a cue and are told to feed your baby every 3 hours. At the 3 hour mark, the baby may be starving and clenching / in a hurry to latch, too tired to eat due to exhaustion from crying, or it's so far apart that the supply is not adequate. It’s easier to practice a latch or to keep calm, a baby that is not starving. When the baby is screaming, it’s too late and everything is harder when feeding.
Are you familiar with breast massage? Have you found it to be a helpful tool?
Yes!! This is such a helpful tool in helping to relieve stubborn clogs and helps to get the milk flowing! As an added bonus, for the most part, it also feels good!