The program provides evidence-based instruction and is tailored to experienced lactation professionals and newcomers to the field. Graduates “have a strong foundation of research, evidence and skills and will be qualified to professionally counsel expectant mothers and mothers of young infants about best practices for the care and feeding of the young infant.” [retrieved from: http://www.myunion.edu/Academics/BachelorsPrograms/MaternalChildHealthLactationConsulting.aspx] While Dr. Turner says she saw a lot of potential in the program, there was a need for change in organizational structure.That’s when she appointed Healthy Children Project, Inc. (HCP) faculty member Dr. Anna Blair as department chair. Dr. Turner says she wanted to create a powerful synergy between UI&U and HCP.Dr. Blair has overseen, revamped and revised the Maternal-Child Health curriculum as needed.
“It has made all the difference in the world,” Dr. Turner says.
Integrating academics and recruitment activities and creating positive interaction between staff and inquiring students have also been at the forefront of Dr. Turner’s work.
She admits she’s not fond of the paper shuffling which her duties often entail. She says she prefers digging into the majors and engaging in training like the CLC course.
“I can go back to the office with knowledge that I didn’t have and understand how to better support the program,” Dr. Turner explains.
The Maternal-Child Health program combines on-site and distance learning. It also integrates theory and practice.
“It’s a really good example of providing the benefits of a hybrid learning environment,” Dr. Turner explains.
Sensationalism sells. When The Steve Harvey Show covered “extreme” parenting practices back in September, he fueled a fire that burns basic biology.
I cringed at his misunderstanding of the “baby-led way.” Doesn’t he know that baby-led weaning (BLW) is perfectly normal, effective, and so easy?! It made introducing food to my daughter Willow a total blast.
Gill Rapley is a former midwife and health visitor, international authority on BLW and co-author of several books including Baby-Led Weaning and her latest release Baby-Led Breastfeedingwhich I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to help adapt for an American audience. Rapley says that there is always going to be a strong reaction to breastfeeding in the media because of the influence of formula companies.
She adds, “The media’s portrayal of baby-led weaning is consistently bad.”
BLW is a method of allowing children to feed themselves complementary foods when weaning begins.
Finding a balance
Often times, media’s discussion ceases to be exciting if it’s not alarmist. Rapley suggests “playing it down” and “sneaking in under the radar” in order to normalize BLW as well as breastfeeding.
She notes that The Steve Harvey Show did not present a balanced discussion because the moms supporting BLW weren’t given a chance to speak.
“They went into it excited about the chance to spread the word about baby-led weaning and they ended up like rabbits in the headlights,” she says. “Every question they were asked was phrased in a negative way, so that they were forced to be on the defensive and they weren’t given time to respond fully to any one question.”
With the hopes that any news is good news, Rapley anticipates some viewers were prompted to do their own research.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that BLW encourages children to:
• choose a healthy diet with a wide variety of foods
• control his or her own appetite
• chew earlier which may improve facial development and speech
• become more dexterous
• improve hand-eye coordination
“Baby-led weaning generally encourages independence,” Rapley explains. “There is nothing to suggest that spoon feeding will improve any of these areas.”
“The idea that we do feeding to a child is what we need to get our heads around,” she says.
Rapley admits that developing research around BLW is difficult because optimally, longitudinal studies should be considered. Randomized control tests will not work.
“It’s not ethical, but also you can’t randomly assign a parent to practice BLW or not,” she says. “It’s something they commit to or not.”
As with studies concerning breastfeeding and formula feeding, there is a host of other socioeconomic factors when considering BLW.
BLW is not different or extreme. In fact, Rapley explains that parents practice BLW all of the time; they just don’t put a name to it.
When the World Health Organization changed its recommendation to introduce complementary food from four months to six months, the need for pureed foods diminished because at this stage most babies are developmentally ready for finger foods.
“Baby-led weaning is going to become the normal on its own through word of mouth,” Rapley suggests.
However, she foresees a unique challenge to be faced by American parents.
“Families in the U.K. rarely see a pediatrician,” she explains. “I imagine families in the U.S. having a more difficult time normalizing baby-led weaning because of the pediatric lobby they have to fight against.”
Breastfeeding challenges and solutions
But it seems no matter where a family resides, they are plagued with unnecessary breastfeeding battles.
By eliminating breastfeeding related horror stories, Rapley says she believes women will gradually understand the normalcy of breastfeeding and realize that there is no reason not to do it.
She and co-author Tracey Murkett see Baby-Led Breastfeeding as a mother’s handbook to sit alongside the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). Rapley also suggests it as a reference for healthcare professionals.
Baby-Led Breastfeeding focuses on following baby’s instincts to ensure effortless feeding. Still, Rapley and Murkett are not quick to dismiss formula.
“We didn’t want to alienate any group of readers,” Rapley explains. “We did not want to overtly support formula feeding but wanted to manage to support moms who choose it.”
“Boobie, boobie,” my 16-month-old Willow insists I nurse her beloved doll as she hoists my breast toward its mouth.
“Boobie, boobie,” she reaches down my mother’s and grandmother’s shirts when mine aren’t in sight.
“Boobie, boobie,” she squeals each morning as I groggily stir from slumber.
Infant and young childrens’ admiration for breasts is hilarious at times but also signifies something greater: their natural inclination to survive.
That said, the people who dedicate themselves to mothers’ and children’s breastfeeding journeys, the ones who help advance the field of human lactation and the ones who help families achieve the healthiest starts for their children, should be celebrated.
“The CLC training is really great because you find a very diverse group that offers breastfeeding support in many different ways,” Pigur says. “It gave me insight and passion for breastfeeding.”
For instance, healthy newborns naturally crawl to the mothers’ breast after birth to nurse when immediately placed skin to skin without interference.
“When I saw the breast crawl video, it was an ‘aha!’ moment for me,” Pigur says.
She says she realized that often healthcare is not focused on moms’ and babies’ needs but more so on what is normal for health care providers. After her CLC training, Pigur says she realized maternal infant care sometimes needs to be “hands off.”
Comprehensive care model
Although Pigur suggests a hands-off approach at time, the services that MCC provides are very involved.
“It’s a very different perspective when you go into the home of the clients,” Pigur explains. She says that home visits provide a unique opportunity to involve the whole family in breastfeeding education and support.
To encourage breastfeeding from the start, MCC integrates breastfeeding education into its pregnancy programs.
MCC is currently engaged in a pilot project that sends doulas also certified as lactation counselors to areas of the community with very low breastfeeding rates.
“The program really provides comprehensive support,” Pigur says.
Eventually, MCC plans to expand services to a larger area.
MCC’s Breastfeeding Friendly Philadelphia Campaign (BFPC) launched in 2010 to support employers and healthcare facilities in their efforts to implement breastfeeding support.
To further breastfeeding support, many Philadelphia business owners have pledged their businesses Breastfeeding-Friendly by placing a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” decal in their windows. BFPC asks that business owners train employees to accommodate breastfeeding patrons. Find a list of Breastfeeding-Friendly employers and businesses here.
When BFPC was in its infancy, Pigur says that it was difficult to get the conversation going about breastfeeding.
“You have to find the right people that are open to talk,” she says.
Attention: If you had your doubts about women doing it all, I’ve found one who can. She’s a mother of four all under the age of four and simultaneously, she is saving the world.
She talks about her accomplishments as though they’re effortless, like her benevolence is a simple expectation.
In Fall 2008 this wonder woman I speak of, Chanel Porchia-Albert, founded Ancient Song Doula Services (ASDS), a social profit organization offering free and low cost doula services mainly to teens and women of color residing in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx.
History behind services
Here’s the organization’s start up story: Porchia-Albert, a broker at the time, walked through a birth expo on her way home through Union Square. Not intending to have children at this point in her life, she gathered information to pass onto pregnant friends and acquaintances. She stuck the information in a tupperware bin where it sat for two years until she became pregnant with her eldest son. Having saved the birth expo’s handouts, she was able to find a doula and midwife to assist her in her son’s home birth.
Porchia-Albert says it was a lovely experience. She says her family tells her she sang an ancient-sounding song throughout her labor, one women have been singing for years, which is, by the way, where the name of her organization comes from.
However lovely, Porchia-Albert was concerned about the many women who cannot afford a birthing experience like hers. Novice, New York City doulas can charge between $600 and $2,000 Porchia-Albert says.
So she put out a call on a listserv reporting she would host a doula service and a great group of women showed up she says.
Since then, ASDS has been working to lower the U.S. infant and maternal mortality rate through educating and empowering women in their birthing experiences.
Empowerment through knowledge
Wondering exactly what empowerment means to Porchia-Albert, I ask.
“Knowing the cause and effect of your actions, continuing your search for information and making logical decisions based on that information,” she answers.
Porchia-Albert says that because her doulas volunteer, some come and some go.
“But the volunteers do more than volunteering,” she says.
Strength in community
She calls it community building.
“We live in a society where you are expected to be an individual, but community is something that is needed as well,” she explains.
In an increasingly technological world, Porchia-Albert says online communities are great for sharing resources but adds that things like Facebook groups should be supplemented with women physically coming together.
ASDS tries to offer their doulas a stipend as certain births can occur over days. But even when they aren’t paid for their services, Porchia-Albert says some doulas use their own money to supply families with what they need.
In fact, Porchia-Albert recounts a time she stocked a family’s refrigerator and scrubbed their bathroom to prepare for a birth.
If that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is.
“We made it work. They just needed a little help and a little guidance,” she says gently.
ASDS does more than a “little.”
Doula services are always free for 12 to 19 year olds.
“No matter what,” Porchia-Albert concludes.
Beyond 19 years of age, doula fees are income based.
A variety of doula services including grief, pregnancy loss, labor and postpartum are offered through ASDS.
ASDS works to support teens’ health and well being. The organization is not involved in any pregnancy prevention projects. Instead, they educate teens and women in general about their bodies so they can make informed choices about sexual activity and reproduction.
“It’s the responsibility of the women who do know to share that information,” Porchia-Albert explains.
Additionally, Porchia-Albert developed a labor and postpartum certification which primarily focuses on women of color but also advocates for reproductive justice in general. The certification is an eight week course offering in depth training on medical aspects of birth but also cultural competency for easier transition into actual practice.
Porchia-Albert explains, “sometimes we…do [doula] training and then think, now what?”
She says this certification really demonstrates how to go out and do the work.
ASDS extends services to Ethiopian Women’s Prison. At the end of the year, they donate a barrel of leftover, previously donated clothes to the mothers and children born during their incarceration.
“Why do women of color and their babies continue to die even in our world of scientific advancement?” Porchia-Albert asks almost angrily. “It’s either a disconnect with the system or an environmental issue that causes us to be affected in ways that other moms aren’t.”
Continuing her mission to empower women and more importantly, save their lives, Porchia-Albert created Doulas for Change which hosts discussions and webinars that address cultural and spiritual beliefs in relation to birth.
It’s a “think-outside-of-the-box” doula training.
“Not every woman is the same and not every technique is going to work the same for each of us,” Porchia-Albert suggests so cogently.
She explains that racism affects what access colored women have to pregnancy, birthing and mothering resources.
She notes, “This is about all races coming together and just making it work.”
CLC training makes a difference
When asked about becoming certified as a Lactation Counselor, Porchia-Albert says her training allows her to offer even more guidance concerning breastfeeding’s importance.
“I’m able to really talk to women of color more in depth about what it means to breastfeed as opposed to allowing women to fall into the saturated, preconceived ideas of what the journey of motherhood entails,” she says.
Porchia-Albert explains this told journey like this: get pregnant, go into the hospital, listen to what they tell you, get excited about getting free stuff (like formula), bottle feed.
Porchia-Albert doesn’t have a particular aversion to artificial feeding, but she says that it shouldn’t be a first option. Her CLC training has allowed her to talk about the risks of formula feeding and help women realize the long term effects artificial feeding can have on herself and her baby she says.
CLC training has offered Porchia-Albert a certain consciousness concerning consumerism as well.
“Boy, everything is based on being a consumer,” she sighs. “As women, we have been blessed with being able to feed our babies without needing extra tools.”
Porchia-Albert agrees that there is a place for infant paraphernalia. For example, nipple shields might assist a baby born prematurely.
But for the new mom who walks into Target completely overwhelmed and spends hundreds of dollars on stuff just because it’s being marketed to her and she thinks she needs it…Porchia-Albert chuckles at this scenario.
She makes clear the distinction between the things we need and the things we think we need.
“All you need are breast pads so you don’t leak all over,” she jokes.
Consider the client
When working with clients, Porchia-Albert remembers to consider each unique situation.
“You can’t tell someone to buy a $300 pump when they don’t have the means to do so,” she says. “It isn’t their reality.”
Another important thing that she reminds us is that “it doesn’t cost anyone anything to ask a question.”
So I continue on my search for her knowledge.
Opposition and realism
While ASDS has helped 107 women and counting since its founding, why do so many others oppose traditional birthing options?
Fear and lack of knowledge Porchia-Albert answers.
“Our vision of birth is what we see on TV,” she says.
We joke about the ridiculous portrayals on networks like TLC and agree that things like women not knowing they are pregnant is ridiculous. Because of this television eruption of water breaking, huffing and puffing, writhing and epidural-ing, Porchia-Albert has been asked if she’s in a cult and has been called things like Granola Mom because her experiences don’t resemble those on A Baby Story.
I wondered what her opinion is on the trend of elective c-sections and the occasional tummy tuck immediately after delivery.
“When people have the money to do things, they do it just because they have the money,” she responds. “They don’t understand what they’re putting their bodies through.”
However if women make conscious decisions and are willing to deal with the ramifications of an elective surgery, she supports that choice.
But she adds, “When you do that and it influences a community and they think they have to live up to a lifestyle and can’t; they are seen as less than. No one should be made to felt inadequate.”
Porchia-Albert suggests obstetricians receive co-training with midwives so they better appreciate what the “natural” birth model looks like and so that they can make educated decisions about their patients.
Porchia-Albert tells me about a book called Sacred Woman by Queen Afua. It’s about women getting in tune with ourselves.
“Our wombs bring forth life so we should cherish them, love them, talk to them. Ask her: How are you doing today? If you’re good, I’m good!” Porchia-Albert playfully role plays.
I wonder, why shouldn’t we when men talk to their penises? Our life bearing organs deserve that kind of respect and attention too!
Plagued is our society with quibbles damning nearly every parenting choice. We know them all too well which is why it’s so refreshing to encounter a system that empowers all women in their journeys as mothers.
It’s called Baby2Breast (B2B), an in-home breastfeeding support service founded about nine months ago by Tiffany Taylor MS, CCC-SLP, CLC and Stephanie Levenston MS, CCC-SLP, CLC, CD. Since its founding, B2B founders have made significant changes to the business’ platform based on feedback received from current and potential affiliates.
B2B is the first national organization to provide a platform that supports lactation professionals and mothers alike.
Taylor and Levenston were my first interviewees for Our Milky Way. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and their readiness to answer any question I had. They were willing to share their knowledge in its entirety. They were patient with me (and my daughter in the background who grew increasingly irritated with me throughout the interview.)
Taylor and Levenston call B2B “business in a box.” They are equally as accommodating with their affiliates as they were with me.
Lactation professionals listed on the B2B directory receive access to the materials necessary to begin or expand a private practice.
photos and videos to use during in-home visits
handouts for mothers
template letters for physicians, hospitals and medical staff
invoices for services rendered
and a Breastfeeding Report
Provision of these materials allow lactation specialists to spend more time with moms and babies in need.
Taylor says their model quells concerns professionals might have about starting or expanding a private practice because she and Levenston take the prep work and research out of running a business.
A personalized business venture
Taylor and Levenston explain that B2B affiliates can personalize their business as desired, regulating their ideal client flow.
Affiliates include the following information on the directory:
Rate for service
Typical response time to a visit request
Location for services
Payment is collected at the time of service and affiliates retain 100 percent of the fee.
“Our affiliates are what makes B2B successful and we have a fantastic group of women who are highly committed to making a positive impact on our country’s breastfeeding rates and on the individual journeys of the mothers with whom they work,” Levenston says.
All affiliates are required to offer in-home services.
B2B founders feel strongly that the most effective environment for the assessment of current skills and the carryover of new skills is in a mother’s most natural environment.
“There are tremendous amounts of research indicating that the most reliable and comfortable environment in which to provide any intervention service is in the client’s home,” Levenston states.
Of B2B’s many services, affiliates, with the client’s permission, collaborate and correspond with other medical professionals such as OB/GYNs, midwives and pediatricians to ensure consistent support to mom and baby.
Taylor and Levenston say that when the mother is made the focus of the care model, it builds confidence in her own experience. In other words, the goal is for mothers to not become dependent upon an affiliate. Instead, women become empowered through working with the specialists.
The least invasive way to achieve the end result will always be the best result, they add.
Reviving the field
Both founders agree that this type of platform has been needed for years.
“Often we would meet someone long after their breastfeeding journey has ended and their common phrase was: ‘where were you when I needed breastfeeding help?’” Levenston comments.
The duo, both with speech language pathology backgrounds specializing in infant feeding disorders, took this as an opportunity long in the making to offer a platform which is easy to access for both mothers and lactation support professionals seeking to connect with them in an appropriate, timely and convenient manner.
If B2B specialists feel technologically competent, intervention through Skype is offered. Taylor and Levenston claim some clients prefer the virtual experience and agree it adds another level of timeliness.
Come one, come all
B2B accepts a variety of credentials to increase its outreach to moms and babies.
“Certainly there are some individuals that may feel threatened or opposed to our perspective that a number of credentials are qualified to provide lactation support to breastfeeding dyads,” Levenston says.
“But we do not view others’ perspective as a difficulty; rather we see it as a call to action to reach out in sisterhood to the many women who are committed to making a difference in the field of lactation support,” she continues.
“The true difficulty is experienced by the mother who needs support but does not know where to find it or cannot locate someone in her immediate area to provide her with the option of a home visit in a time sensitive manner,” Levenston concludes.
“The women they send to do the training are funny and witty,” she says. “The information is so dense but they kept us engaged and laughing. That is a gift and a talent not everyone has.”
The transition from training to actual implementation in practice was natural and easy, the duo says in accordance. Because CLC training focuses on providing evidence based practice, current information and counseling and listening skills to assist mothers in their feeding goals, these ideals fell into direct alignment with what B2B founders believe as professionals.
“We ultimately believe it is a woman’s choice to determine what is right for her and her baby,” Levenston says. “We believe that the majority of women will opt to breastfeed if they are provided with current, unbiased information regarding the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks involved in formula feeding and if they know they will have the support they need when they encounter a challenge.”
For the future
The directory also includes providers qualified for complex case consultations like families dealing with prematurity, genetic disorders, medical issues and physiological feeding challenges like cleft lip and/or palate, tongue tie, etc. The hope is that mothers will have an easier time finding the right fit for their specific needs through the directory.
Lactation support professionals interested in learning more about listing their services on the Baby2Breast directory or referring prospective clients can learn more at www.baby2breast.com.