I always knew I would breastfeed my children (that's what they're there for, right?), but I had no idea how much I would love it nor how long I would do it!
Given the two-hour separation immediately following my daughter Anya's birth and zero hospital lactation support ("shove her on" is not support), I got that little girl onto my breast with ease and continued for six months of exclusivity. (We went on to breastfeed for another one and a half years when I weaned her.) I didn't realize how lucky I was while many of my new mom friends struggled with breastfeeding in one way or another. I read as much as I could, attended La Leche League meetings, and became an informed supporter.
Fast forward to 2009. The 40-hour Certified Lactation Counselor class was being offered in the next state over, so I decided to go for it. Thirty-six weeks pregnant with Asher, I took the class and passed the exam. Then, shortly after Asher was born, my certificate arrived in the mail. I was a CLC!
Despite being a lactation counselor, I ended up with a painful, bloody nipple after two days. My La Leche League Leader, Emily, talked me through a better latch, and things improved! I went on to breastfeed this boy for four and a half years!
Since Anya was a baby, I considered becoming an IBCLC, but at the time, the process required 2,500 clinical hours which was untenable for our family. Years later, they changed the requirements to 500 clinical hours, so I decided I would take the required classes one at a time to become an IBCLC. When I was laid off from my job as a digital marketing manager and editor of the giggle blog (now defunct because the company went out of business), I decided to pursue becoming an IBCLC full-time.
On Halloween 2015, after fulfilling the eight college-level courses in health sciences, 90 hours of didactic lactation education, 500 clinical hours, and a four-hour boards exam, I received the news that I passed the exam. I was now an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant!
Since 2015, I have worked in three New Jersey hospitals for over six years, helping new families learn about lactation and latch their babies. I have also been in private practice as well. I estimate I have helped over a thousand families, give or take a few hundred.
In 2019, I decided I wanted to help even more families and enrolled in a Master of Public Health program in the Community Health Education track. In May 2022, I was awarded my degree from Montclair State University. I am proud to now be an MPH AND an IBCLC.
Do I wish everyone breast/chestfed exclusively? Without a doubt, yes. An enormous body of research shows that it is what is biologically best for both the baby and the lactating parent. The reality is that this isn't what every family wants, and that's OKAY! The reality is that our society does not value parents or children. Our economy is based on every adult working full-time until they cannot work anymore. Most parents initiate breast/chestfeeding but do not even make it to the six months of exclusive human milk feeding, as recommended by all major health organizations.
Therefore, as an IBCLC, I see my role as helping families reach their lactation goals, whether it's exclusive breast/chestfeeding, exclusive pumping, combination feeding, or weaning. I've counseled mothers in increasing their supply, decreasing their supply, and ceasing breastfeeding.