As a relatively new Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Dr. Karin Cadwell, Executive Director of the Healthy Children Project (HCP). HCP trained me for my CLC exam back in November 2011 and the organization has trained thousands of other lactation care providers.
Dr. Cadwell was so engaging in our chat, I could have listened to her insight all day.
She told me that breastfeeding support should not mirror car salesmanship. Today it’s hard not to know that Babies Were Born to Breastfeed thanks to advertising initiatives like i want a strong baby and Beating the Booby Traps. But simply touting benefits isn’t going to help moms in need or increase breastfeeding duration rates.
Dr. Cadwell says.
A Democratic Mindset
She says that breastfeeding support should not be based on the ability to pay outrageous prices for it or because one’s healthcare provider just happens to be interested in breastfeeding.
“I have a more democratic point of view,” she explains.
A Challenge to Overcome
Dr. Cadwell stresses the importance of collaboration.
“The next challenge for breastfeeding advocates is to leave our pioneering spirits behind and work as colleagues,” she says. “We’re passed that part of our history where people don’t believe in the benefits of breastfeeding.”
Dr. Cadwell recalls a recent plane ride where she reviewed her notes for an upcoming lecture. Catching a glimpse of the breasts across her computer screen, the man next to her curiously questioned her profession.
After she explained, Dr. Cadwell says the man proceeded to list at least 25 advantages of breastfeeding.
“We have to catch up to that,” Dr. Cadwell says of what is becoming common knowledge.
The Missing Piece
Decades ago in the 1970s, there was a massive growth in independent, consumer-based breastfeeding information. Around this time, Dr. Cadwell was working as a nursing mothers’ counselor and eventually a trainer for the Childbirth Education Association of Greater Philadelphia (CEAGP). But because CEAGP objectives were so consumer focused, education was not offered to healthcare providers.
“It seemed to me that was a missing piece,” Dr. Cadwell says.
Eventually, Health Education Associates, Inc. (HEA) decided to sponsor breastfeeding workshops for nurses and doctors and did so for almost 20 years. In 1992, after HEA downsized to only a publishing company, Healthy Children Project, Inc. was born.
Education to Help Families
She describes the CLC course as transformational learning. She cites students reporting learning about the magnificent functions of their bodies and reconstructing the way they think of themselves as women in the world. (She sums up my experience perfectly).
Sometimes nurses don’t enroll in the course by choice but end up getting hooked, Dr. Cadwell explains.
“That’s the best experience of all,” she says.
Healthy Children faculty members and colleagues have been working alongside the Egyptian Lactation Consultant Association and the Egyptian Ministry of Health to rejuvenate the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) for over 10 years.
Egypt was one of the first countries to establish BFHI in their public hospitals. Alas, with no sustainability built into the system, Baby Friendly practice began to fail. Healthy Children and its colleagues worked with UNICEF to develop a national survey by visiting almost all of Egypt’s 27 governorates. The national survey helped to come up with a sustainability plan.
Research for the Masses
Healthy Children Project also designs and implements collaborative investigations to solve breastfeeding dilemmas.“Our research focus is very practice oriented,” Dr. Cadwell explains. “It aims to question the basic tenets of what we do.”
While it’s sometimes easier to focus on microcosm issues, Dr. Cadwell says, “We really work to focus on the things where most people can be helped.”
She cites reasons behind why women get sore nipples and how to most effectively implement skin to skin.
Changing peoples’ practices through research will gradually allow mothers and babies effortless breastfeeding experiences.”We don’t have to be aggressive,” Dr. Cadwell says.
At the end of October, Dr. Cadwell and several of her colleagues spoke at the Normal Labour and Birth Conference at Hangzhou Normal University in Hangzhou, China.
The conference offered a wonderful opportunity to share and to learn from those working to optimize birth and breastfeeding outcomes all around the world.
Dr. Cadwell, Kristin Stewart and Cindy Turner-Maffei spoke on developing effective teaching programs for healthcare professionals and parents to assist in uninterrupted skin- to- skin implementation. Drs. Anna Blair and Kajsa Brimdyr addressed their findings in newborn tongue behavior as it relates to epidural fentanyl exposure during labor, and Dr. Blair presented a poster on sore nipple research conducted in Latvia.