Officially, Lactation Professionals go by a handful of different titles. IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor), Lactation Educator, and Lactation Specialist are a few of the most common titles you’ll come across in the US. Unofficially, it gets a bit more colorful. Lactivists, Nipple Nazis, Breastopo, and Anti-formula Freaks are a few of my favorite, not so endearing terms for what I have chosen as a profession. When people find out what I do, I typically get one of two responses.
A. they have no idea what the heck I am it is I’m saying. Or
B. the awkward “oh…..” followed by a quick change of subjects or a defensive list of reasons their breastfeeding relationships didn’t work out – as if it’s any of my business in the first place.
While I can’t speak for all Lactation Professionals, I would like to share a few of MY personal confessions in hopes of shedding some light on what prompts us to do what we do and help you understand us a little better.
1. I am a person.
And, and mother just like you. I grew up and the more I learned about lactation, literally the anatomy and physiology of the lactation process, the more fascinated I became. There you have it, I am fascinated by our bodies, our breasts, and how interaction with our infants either helps or hinders the lactation process. The truth is if I weren’t still paying off my first bachelor’s degree I would go back to school to become an endocrinologist because I think the role of hormones in our body is incredible – specifically, you guessed it, in the part of human lactation. So I became a CLC.
2. I genuinely want to help people.
I am not an anti-formula fanatic who decided to spend time, money, and energy to single-handedly take down the formula industry by bullying one struggling mother at a time. I am a giver and educator by nature and was blown away as an expectant mom by the amount of misguiding and old advice new and expecting mothers receive about breastfeeding. I pride myself on being a source of trustworthy information and support for the moms who are interested in it.
3. I developed a nursing aversion with my second child.
True story. I had to wean my breast obsessed daughter Cold. Turkey. …before she was emotionally ready. Which is something that still causes a pang in my heart. Our nursing relationship was becoming a hindrance to my ability to nurture and enjoy my baby. To the point that I wanted to avoid her and her attempts to nurse made my skin crawl. So I stopped, just like that, and we were better because of it.
4. I’m not judging you or your breasts.
My nipples look like dinner plates, too. I assure you, I have seen droopier, more crooked, more engorged breasts and injured nipples to be thinking any more about yours then what information your breasts/nipples might give me about how to help you best. Assessing your anatomy helps me, and that’s all. Most importantly, I am not judging your skills as a mother. I respect that you are the expert for your baby and respect your ability to mother your child as you see fit. Refer to #3.
5. I am not a miracle worker.
Man, can breastfeeding be hard sometimes! I am often going one step at a time, right along with you. In many cases, we don’t completely solve breastfeeding challenges with one visit. There may be follow-up visits, referrals to other care providers (Occupational Therapists, Chiropractors, Pediatricians, etc.), and ongoing phone and text counseling before you fully get baby into a rhythm. It takes work, patience, and persistence – most of which is on you. I will cheer you on and support you with information and resources every step of the way but ultimately you are the only one who can see it through, and you have to want to.
6. It’s OK if you don’t want to breastfeed.
Or if you had no intentions of breastfeeding – you just have to tell me. My ultimate goal is to support your goals, but you have to be forthcoming about what those goals are. Whether you want to wean by six weeks and return to work, exclusively pump, combo feed, or want to know what formula to use to only formula feed, I want to help you. My entire care plan for you will be dependent on what your goals are, and if they change during our relationship, you need to trust I won’t judge you when they do change (Refer to #3). Most importantly, please let me know if our relationship is no longer serving you because when you drop off the map or avoid me, I worry about you and your baby.
Lastly, when you assume I am a Nipple Nazi (or anything of the like) it feels unfair. There are poor performing professionals across all industries. If you encounter a Lactation Professional who does not respect and support you, I encourage you to seek a second opinion. Check with friends for recommendations, and always follow your gut. You are the expert for your baby, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they aren’t the person for you.
This post wasn’t written to solicit business, but to truly tell you Meagan’s personal opinions on lactation support.