‘Accessing the Milky Way’ scholarship recipient advances equitable care


Lovett nurses her 4 month old at a family reunion.

Crystal Lovett, RN, CLS loves telling her breastfeeding stories. The first one goes like this:

My breastfeeding story began February 13, 2006, the day my son was born at WomenCare BirthCenter in Hurricane, W.Va.  Due to possible aspiration of meconium in my amniotic fluid, he was transferred to the hospital where he spent his first week of life.  I expressed breast milk using a hospital-grade breast pump in addition to attempting to feed him at the breast.  After spending the first couple of nights in the hospital with him, the staff urged me to go home and rest.  Though leaving the hospital without him is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, I went home, rested, and continued pumping around the clock to provide him with as much breast milk as possible.  We had some difficulty getting a good latch during his hospital stay and thankfully had the opportunity to work with a lactation professional before he was discharged home.  We ended up having a 15-month breastfeeding journey!

Years later, on March 22, 2019, Lovett gave birth to her daughter at 35 weeks by an unplanned cesarean section. She continues recounting her journey: 

The evening of her birth remains a blur as it took several hours for the medications I received during surgery to wear off.  Though she weighed 4 lbs 15 oz, had an initial low blood sugar, and low body temperature, she did not require a stay in the NICU and we were able to room together the majority of our time there.  I attempted nursing for each feeding before supplementing with formula and pumped after each feeding.  We had some difficulty with latching in the beginning resulting in lots of pain on my end.  We were fortunate to see the lactation consultant before discharge and she showed us some helpful techniques, including how to use a supplemental nursing system (SNS), so that my daughter could receive her supplement while nursing at the breast.  The lactation consultant was the first person to identify a possible tongue restriction, which was diagnosed and revised, along with an upper lip tie, at two weeks of age.  We went back to see the lactation consultant for three outpatient visits.  Eventually, with much work and continuous support, my daughter and I got the hang of breastfeeding.  We were able to stop supplementing around day five and she was back to birth weight by one week!  Now here we are at 22 months still going strong.

Lovett takes a work selfie on dress down day, 3 months postpartum.

From a young age, Lovett says she knew she wanted to make her career in maternal child health, but it was after receiving “such amazing support” from hospital lactation specialists that she zeroed in on wanting to help families navigate new parenthood. 

COVID-19 has challenged Lovett’s newest role as a WIC Peer Counselor, but she says she’s part of a supportive team that has helped her learn the ropes. While the majority of their work is currently done remotely, Lovett reports that they have been able to see some clients in-person with proper PPE and cleaning and sanitizing procedures to ensure a safe experience for everyone. WIC clients have been encouraged to use a lactation support app which offers 24/7 support complete with video chat capabilities.

“I love talking with participants, listening to their stories, providing prenatal breastfeeding education, and counseling for concerns and questions,” Lovett says.   

Her accomplishments have been honored in her feature in the Future of Nursing WV’s Courage to Care Campaign.  She plans to participate as an Ambassador RN and work with the Diversity Team at Future of Nursing West Virginia. 

As an Accessing the Milky Way Scholarship recipient, Lovett completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) last month. 

Not only [will] this help broaden my knowledge base and in turn better equip me to help families, but it…also provide[d] me with a portion of the 90 lactation specific education hours required to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant,” Lovett explains. 

Lovett will sit for the September 2021 IBCLC exam.

Mocha Milk in the Mountains, Lovett’s developing business, was born out of her passion to help families and focuses on families of color through pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding/chestfeeding, and beyond. 

Lovett poses in celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week 2020.

“My hope for our community is that all families, regardless or race, ethnicity, or gender, will receive the equitable care and support needed to have healthy and safe pregnancies, deliveries, and parenting experiences,” Lovett says.  

She continues,  “This care includes not only the medical aspect, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the families.  Our need for this support does not go away in the midst of a pandemic; therefore, now more than ever it is important to reach our communities…Our communities need us and I look forward to being one of hopefully many that help normalize breastfeeding in our culture and lead us to better outcomes for families.”

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