Change: a barrier and a blessing

Our power went out last week. It was an annoyance at worst, really, but almost threw me into a tizzy. The lights went out around dinner time, stayed dark through kids’ bedtime and still through my ‘me time’ when I typically write and work out. 

Working out has become a priority in my schedule, so when the power outage stopped me from hopping on my beloved stationary bike, I thought I’d lose it, but I surprised myself. Instead, I lit some candles and enjoyed a 45 minute yoga practice.  I reflected on the initial anxiety that started bubbling up inside when the universe sent a tiny dose of change my way. It dissipated, and I found myself refreshed by and appreciating the deviation from normal. I got to thinking about how I’ve the resources, resilience and the privilege to embrace change no matter its magnitude. 

When the electricity goes out in other places on the globe, people have to fight for their lives, not just shuffle around their evening plans. When the electricity goes out in a small, rural hospital in Uganda, for instance, hospital staff sometimes use the light emitted by their phones to repair tears from childbirth, to check for complete placentas and other procedures, as we reported last year on Our Milky Way.  

Photo by Peter Ivey-Hansen on Unsplash

Lights out at our house not only illuminated our privilege but brought the opportunity for a shift in perspective and to reflect on the idea that the only constant is change

This theory jives well with something Cindy Turner-Maffei, MA, ALC, IBCLC wrote last week in a popular guest post: “Maintaining evidence-based is a never-ending process requiring not only ongoing uptake of new information, but also ongoing monitoring and evaluation of practice.”

As in any field, change is inevitable in maternal child health and only when we acknowledge and accept that, can we best serve families. 

Mothers’ milk is the perfect symbol of dynamic force; it changes at a cellular level during and from feed to feed, and over the course of lactation. 

In the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, developmental changes occur rapidly. What happens during this time sets the foundation for a lifetime to come.  

With these high stakes, maternal child health caregivers take on the crucial task of supporting best practice for the healthiest outcomes which often means grappling with change on a personal and professional level. 

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) offers a platform to do just that, but as Vergie Hughes’, RN, MS, IBCLC, FILCA points out in The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in US Hospitals, “often the problems [implementing BFHI] center on resistance to change well-established policy and procedures”. 

Almost all Our Milky Way participants interviewed about their involvement with BFHI have described this resistance to change as one of the biggest barriers to achieving best practice. 

Hughes wrote a Lactation Education Resources blog post, Making Changes, which acknowledges that change pushes us out of our comfort-zones and suggests ways of becoming “un-stuck”.  

One of my favorite suggestions on embracing change comes from Katherine Russell Rich who writes:Silence your inner know-it-all.” 

“If you’re so smart that you can’t rethink your positions, all your IQ points won’t do you much good when your life is turned upside down,” Russell Rich goes on.

Giving attention to the way we respond to change and subsequently, the way we interact with mothers, allows us to be active participants in affecting the health of individuals and communities.

“The context of people’s lives determine their health, and so blaming individuals for having poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate,” the World Health Organization (WHO) states. “Individuals are unlikely to be able to directly control many of the determinants of health.”

And yet, we as individuals have the power to be catalysts of positive change. 

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