Amber Valentine, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, IBCLC, a Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in swallowing and swallowing disorders at Baptist Health Lexington in Kentucky, will present “Difficulties with Latch from the Infant’s Perspective” at the upcoming 23rd International Breastfeeding Conference.
Valentine says the idea behind her presentation is to consider many perspectives and to focus on collaborative, teamwork to help mom and baby couplets be successful at breastfeeding.
Since grad school, Valentine has been interested in pediatric feeding, but it wasn’t until she starting working more often in the NICU that she directed her energy to breastfeeding. The birth of her first son sparked her interest in breastfeeding even more.
It was also after the birth of her first son that she completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course in 2012.
“I was actually nursing my second child when I was taking this course and it was astounding how much I learned,” she says. “Even after practicing infant feeding therapy for years and nursing two children, I was amazed. It really set me on a path of diligence to spread the word about breastfeeding.”
Valentine also works to inspire her colleagues in speech-language pathology on how they can impact breastfeeding with their unique skill set. She and her colleagues are currently designing a screen that will flag infants who may be having difficulty breastfeeding and would benefit from an early SLP consult for further evaluation.
“I hope to continue …to encourage other therapists to become involved in their areas to continue making breastfeeding more successful,” she says.
Valentine is also working toward the Certified Neonatal Therapy (CNT) certification through the National Association of Neonatal Therapists (NANT) and serves on a committee for the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA).
“It has been such a privilege to expand my knowledge and participation on an area that is so near and dear to me,” says Valentine.
When Valentine first started practicing, she noticed a trend that assumed mother and baby couplets with special needs “just wouldn’t be able to breastfeed.”
“However, I have seen quite the opposite,” Valentine reports. “With a good interdisciplinary team, it is very possible and extremely beneficial for these infants to be successful nursers.”
It is essential for infants with special needs, premature infants, and sick babies to receive human milk, she adds.
Valentine recalls the mother of an infant with Down Syndrome who was determined to breastfeed. She remembers the baby struggling to bottle-feed in the NICU “because she couldn’t feed well on a scheduled feeding cycle.”
The mother committed to establishing a milk supply by coming to the NICU very often to feed her baby, Valentine continues.
“The mom and baby were discharged from the NICU fully breastfeeding with no supplementation,” she reports. “That mom was ecstatic to have achieved her goal and to have given her daughter the best gift she felt like she could have given her.”
Valentine says she hopes to continue to see breastfeeding become the positive social norm as well as see people supporting families’ decisions and lifestyles in general.
“It is very hard to be successful in anything when you feel negativity from areas around you,” she explains. “If we spent more time encouraging each other, this may be an easier hill to climb.”
Register for the International Breastfeeding Conference here!