CLCs bring diversity of experience to lactation field

Healthy Children Project has welcomed doulas, nurses, physicians, midwives, WIC counselors, social workers, occupational and speech language therapists, to name a few, to its Lactation Counselor Training Course. A pediatric practice dental assistant, state legislators, a bartender and a children’s consignment shop owner are also among those who have taken the course.

The diversity of experience that CLCs bring to the lactation field benefits families and communities.

This week, the spotlight turns to Lucy Vest, CLC, an HR recruiter and former Program Director for Mom2Mom KMC (2012-2014.)

Vest assembles furniture for the new Lactation Room sponsored by M2M KMC at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Mom2Mom Global Executive Director Amy Smolinski, MA, ALC, CLC calls Vest the “driving force” for Mom2Mom KMC.

“I still remember when we interviewed her for the newly-formed Mom2Mom KMC board,” Smolinski begins. “We were completely blown away that someone with her business acumen and managerial expertise would volunteer her time for our tiny little breastfeeding organization.”

Vest was drawn to Mom2Mom KMC because she’s a “busy, sociable, career-oriented person.”

“I can’t stand being at home with nothing to challenge my brain; that’s why I first applied to join M2M KMC’s Board of Directors,” she explains.  “I wanted something outside of just being a mom that would give me back my sense of self and achievement that I need.”

Military life can be hard, lonely and isolating too, Vest says.

She birthed her daughter while her husband was deployed. Her family lives in the UK.

“I had no mom friends and I had no reason to get out and about during the day so I looked up local mom and baby activities,” she says.

Vest announces prize winners at the Big Latch On 2014
Photo credit, Laura Karoline Photography

She says she felt Mom2Mom KMC might offer an experience where she’d immediately share common ground with others, so she attended a meeting. Her first experience wasn’t what she’d expected.

“I hated it because no one talked to me!” she recalls her first meeting.

Even so, Vest went on to become finance director and then program director for the organization.  

“Not only did [Lucy] prove herself a deeply compassionate and competent lactation counselor, but she brought her business skills to our grassroots support group and grew it into a thriving organization that revolutionized our community to the idea that breastfeeding is simply the normal way to feed babies,” Smolinski applauds her.

Vest first worked to smooth minor issues and concerns by implementing small, gentle changes with the help of the incumbent board.

“You can’t just take over an established organization and rip it to pieces expecting everyone to be on board and support you,” Vest explains.

They changed their meeting format from every other week table meetings to weekly breastfeeding cafes with sweet treats and hot drinks.

“Exactly what every breastfeeding mother wants!” Vest exclaims.

Most importantly, Vest encouraged board members to be welcoming and socialize with everyone in the room.

Photo credit, Laura Karoline Photography

“The team at large really focused on being…inclusive,” Vest explains. “Everything a vulnerable, nervous, first-time attendee needs when faced with an intimidating group of women.”

The organization’s formal Facebook page became a private group, which could reach the whole community, not just those who came to breastfeeding cafes.

During the time Vest began directing, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) hosted the Lactation Counselor Training Course.

“So we had a lot of newly qualified people in the community to support our team disseminating good, research-based evidence and information rather than old wives tales that are often thrown about freely in place of hard facts,” she says.

Vest and her team worked to develop relationships with other local parental support military programs and LRMC departments like the NICU.

“[We] raised our profile slowly but surely within the community,” she explains.

Vest’s interpersonal skills came of good use anytime the organization needed volunteers.  Smolinski shares this memory: “[Lucy] would take a clipboard around at breastfeeding cafes and ask people one on one to sign up to volunteer for our next activity.  No one could say no to her!”

Vest explains it this way: “No one tends to put their hand up and volunteer for anything, especially helping to man booths at the Big Latch On, or staff tables at membership drives so I’d go around with my clipboard and a list of duties and ask people face-to-face to help out. It’s an awful lot harder to say no to someone when they’re stood in front of you waiting for an answer.”

She goes on to explain that blanket posts on social media are routinely ignored, so a personal approach is always far more successful.

Vest instigated a simple budget for the organization: a monthly, quarterly and annual Profit and Loss management tool.

“We worked strategically; smarter, rather than harder, in our fundraising efforts,” Vest explains.  

Two years ago, Vest moved away from Kaiserslautern Military Community, so she’s no longer involved with M2M KMC. Still in Germany though, she became an admin on a local military, new baby Facebook group and provides home visits as a CLC,  mostly for friends and friends of friends.

She’s also back in her old career field, something she waited six years for.
“I truly am thrilled to be doing the day-job again, but I hugely attribute the maintenance and expansion of my business skill-set to my time with M2M KMC,” Vest says.

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