The other night at prenatal yoga, my teacher, classmate and I talked birth and breastfeeding. (Of course we did!) I was appalled and saddened to hear their stories and the tragic stories of their friends that they shared. My heart stays heavy remembering their experiences; what an impact they’ve had on me. I wonder what kind of influence those stories might have had if I were a first time mom; if I didn’t have the positive birth experience I had to show me what becoming a mom can really be like.
Horror stories seem to be the norm. Doesn’t it seem like most pregnant moms are welcomed into motherhood with stories of fear, shame and defeat?
I love Katie Bankston’s CMA, CLC story because it demonstrates the power of positive birth and breastfeeding experiences.
Bankston was attending phlebotomy class one day when she overheard a conversation between a mature student with grown children and a pregnant peer.
She remembers the mature student talking about how wonderful breastfeeding is and how it helps your uterus contract back to pre-pregnancy size.
Up until this point, Bankston reports that she didn’t even know what breastfeeding was. She says it was well before she even thought about having children of her own.
Bankston is now the mother of a preschooler and a toddler.
Throughout her prenatal care and the birth of her first son, Bankston developed a strong relationship with her nurse.
“She was my support system when my family was hundreds of miles away,” she says. “She saved me. Had I not had her support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have talked to my doctor about my depression during my pregnancy.”
Bankston’s nurse also served as her breastfeeding advocate.
“This is where I was inspired to become ‘that support’ for someone else,” she says.
Not long after Bankston’s first son was born, she moved back to her hometown. During this time, Bankston’s little brother was born.
“My first lactation ‘client’ was my mother, who had not nursed me or my brother,” Bankston says. “I encouraged her to nurse my second brother. After a rocky start she went on to nurse him until he was three years old.”
Bankston currently works full time as a Certified Lactation Counselor and a Certified Medical Assistant in an OBGYN practice.
Recalling her Lactation Counselor Training, Bankston says the most valuable thing she learned was how people receive information differently. She says it has helped her to understand that her interactions with each mother will be unique, and that she will have to adapt to address each mother’s concerns in different ways.
Bankston also acknowledges the importance of helping a mother take ownership of her relationship with her baby.
Bankston and her colleagues serve the entire Big Bend area of Tallahassee, Fla. at the OBGYN practice. Their practice delivers between 1,500 and 2,000 babies a year; about half of the babies born each year in the area. The hospital is currently working toward Baby-Friendly designation.
“I get the chance to see a lot of different families with different backgrounds,” Bankston says. “It’s amazing.”
Bankston is the only lactation counselor within her practice.
“It’s a good start,” she comments. “I would love for them to one day have more CLCs.”
Bankston is confident in the breastfeeding support an OBGYN clinic can offer to mothers.
“We’ve developed this relationship over their entire pregnancy,” she explains. “Sometimes an obstetric office is the first time these women are learning what their body is capable of.”
Bankston recently attended the 2016 International Breastfeeding Conference.
“It was amazing. I want to see and do everything now!” she exclaims. “I can’t wait to go next year.”
Specifically, Bankston was struck by Dr. Cristiano Boccolini’s, PhD, M.S. presentations and his discussion of Brazil’s Breastfeeding Friendly Primary Care Initiative (IUBAAM.)
“I’d love for something like that to be here,” she says.
Bankston is working to apply for a grant that would allow physicians and nursing staff to become better educated about lactation and breastfeeding support.
“I want to make it easier for obstetric offices to implement lactation education into their care,” she says.
Some of Bankston’s other goals include starting a non-profit for further lactation education and advocacy research in the prenatal and postpartum settings, finishing her DONA postpartum doula certification, and becoming a midwife.
Bankston has also been in touch with the IT department at the OBGYN office so that she can begin to track their breastfeeding outcomes.
“The IT guys tells me about computers,” Bankston begins. “And I tell him about areolas and montgomery gland secretion. He finds it fascinating.”
Check out Bankston’s blog at http://lovecraftedlactation.com/.