Lactation counselor training changes PA’s life

Credit: Wrought Iron Photography

Tia L. Oliveri, MMS, PA-C, CLC maintains a long and admirable list of accomplishments: first generation college graduate, mother of two, committed volunteer, bilingual, former member of the Wake Forest University Cultural Diversity Committee, former Guilford County Health Department Maternity Services care provider and Catawba County Health Department Women’s health provider, to name a few.

Most recently, Oliveri completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course after what might be considered a twist of fate due to time and money constraints. Completing the CLC course ultimately helped her land her newest position as a physician’s assistant in San Antonio.

“Becoming a lactation professional is changing my life,” Oliveri says.

During a time of transition, Oliveri networked with Brian the Birth Guy who encouraged her to pursue The Lactation Counselor Training Course and connected her to the practice she’s with today. Oliveri’s approach is patient-centered.

“I want patients to know their experience is all about them,” she says.

Oliveri’s passions for maternal child health “kind of happened by accident,” she says.

“I worked in the ER…and men wouldn’t deal with the female issues,” Oliveri recalls a chauvinistic environment. Eventually, she was asked to work as a contractor for a health department in a poor town where she was the only health care provider. Oliveri remembers seeing 36 patients a day without a doctor.

It was an “exhausting” experience for Oliveri, and there are things she says she “can’t unsee,” like female circumcision.

Oliveri saw it her mission to serve the underserved; she sat at the hospital with a Patient of Color so that she was certain a provider would see her.

“I was thrown into [the work] and didn’t have a lot of help,” Oliveri says. Later, a midwife mentored Oliveri.

Especially while serving a refugee population, the CenteringPregnancy model proved to be an effective method in her practice. Oliveri points out that CenteringPregnancy offers a tribe to those who don’t otherwise have a support system and allows women to ask relevant questions. She notes that in this population, many of the women had never seen a doctor, so breastfeeding became ever-important as it increased their own and their babies’ survival rates. CenteringPregnancy offered a space for the expectant mothers to ask questions about breastfeeding as well as milk sharing and wet nursing, practices often present in refugee populations.

In her personal life, Oliveri endured breastfeeding challenges due to lack of proper support after the birth of her first child.

“I had a job that told me to pump in the bathroom,” Oliveri recalls. Her breastfeeding relationship with her son ended when he was six weeks old.

“I was super depressed,” Oliveri says.

When her daughter was born years later, “she breastfed like a champ and gained a lot of weight.”

At only two weeks old though, her daughter contracted severe bronchiolitis, a lung infection that causes inflammation and congestion in the bronchioles of the lung. The congestion made it challenging for her daughter to breastfeed.

Oliveri feeds her daughter her expressed milk during their hospital stay.
Credit: Wrought Iron Photography

At one point, “she turned blue at home,” Oliveri says. They rushed to the hospital where she found herself, two weeks postpartum, forced into the health care provider role. Oliveri fashioned maxi pads from baby diapers. During her daughter’s hospital stay, Oliveri dedicated to pumping. Despite the severity of her daughter’s illness, the doctor was impressed with her resolve and attributed her resilience to Oliveri’s milk. Today, her daughter is a thriving one-year-old.

Credit: Jamilla Walker of the Labor Ladies

Although Oliveri weaned her daughter months ago, she reports relactating during her recent CLC training.

“I felt a let down during the videos,” she says. Later, she says she discovered the mature milk. Oliveri not only found herself relactating during her CLC course, she led a belly dance to the “When you counsel” song in a 1950s Lucille Ball inspired dress. It is this effervescent energy, confidence and unwavering wherewithal that is sure to score Oliveri more on her list of accomplishments.

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