Amber Schwickerath, CLC dreams of working in a maternity hospital so that she can provide early breastfeeding support to new mothers.
Schwickerath realized her passion for helping moms and babies early in her journey as a mother after enduring many common breastfeeding barriers.
“My birth plan did not go as I wanted,” she says. “I had an unexpected c-section after 38 hours of labor.”
While her now two-year-old son Jaxon was in the NICU, medical staff gave him formula. They also provided Schwickerath with a nipple shield.
“I knew I wouldn’t want to take that everywhere with us,” she remembers. “We worked all night that night to latch without it and the next day we didn’t need it.”
Jaxon was later diagnosed with a tongue and tip lie eventually corrected by a pediatric dentist.
Over the course of a year, Schwickerath overcame mastitis eight times.
“It was not fun, but no matter what we face we want to give our babies what is best for them,” Schwickerath says of breastfeeding. “I knew it was what was best, so I just kept pushing on.”
At 18 months old, Jaxon self-weaned much to Schwickerath’s dismay.
“Before I knew it, our journey had ended,” she says. “It was very, very sad.”
Although Schwickerath’s breastfeeding journey is over, she has made it possible for other babies to receive human milk.
“I have donated over 1,000 ounces to moms [and babies] in need,” she reports.
What’s more, Schwickerath actively participates in several breastfeeding groups like Breast Friends (run by one of Schwickerath’s support people Sonni Martzahn, RN, IBCLC) and the Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition.
Schwickerath is co-chair of the North Central Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition, the statewide administrator for Iowa’s Nationwide Nurse-In (NWNI), and the nationwide administrator for Iowa, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Indiana. Schwickerath volunteers her time to all of these organizations.
Laura Delmonico founded the NWNI in 2014 in an effort to unite “supporters of breastfeeding everywhere” and “to work towards our common goal: a society in which breastfeeding is celebrated and not shamed!”
Back in April, Schwickerath organized and participated in Iowa’s Nurse-In where participants were asked to cover-up by a Statehouse worker who was concerned that children might see them breastfeeding, Schwickerath reports. She says she remained calm and politely explained their mission with the support of her friends Megan Fairholm and Destiny Nelson. Schwickerath recalls being surprised by the media attention the encounter elicited.
An Iowa Department of Administrative Services spokesperson eventually issued an apology that read in part, “The Iowa Department of Administrative Services apologizes for asking women who were breastfeeding in the Iowa Capitol to cover up during a special rally today. The department recognizes it is legal to breastfeed in public places and was in error in asking the women involved to cover up while breastfeeding during the event.”
Despite confrontation during the 2016 Iowa NWNI, Schwickerath says she is already planning for and looking forward to the 2017 nurse-in.
Find out how to get involved with the Nationwide Nurse-In here.