There are an estimated 300 billion stars in our galaxy. The collective twinkle of the thousands of stars visible to the human eye makes the night sky magnificent. But in a seemingly infinite galaxy, there are stars that always stand out. Polaris for example is famous for virtually standing still in the night sky. It serves as a celestial navigator in our endless sky.
Our Milky Way is made up of thousands of luminous stars working to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. Like our night sky, the beauty of Our Milky Way is the collective, brilliant energy of all lactation professionals working toward a common goal. However, like Polaris our celestial guide, there are certain lactation professionals that serve to inspire upcoming lactation stars.
Dr. Audrey J. Naylor, MD is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont. Her distinguished career and humorist approach are both something to look up to.
While studying in San Diego, Naylor completed a clowning course with the local clown club.
“Somehow, when you get into clown make-up with a red nose it changes who you are!” she exclaims. “I have always carried a red nose with me. You never know when it will be useful.”
That clown nose is something remembered by lactivists everywhere, like Ryan Comfort of Milk for Thought.
With a lifetime interest in illness prevention, Naylor says she was quickly convinced of the power of breastfeeding after only attending a few hours of a breastfeeding seminar in 1976.
“Neither medical school nor pediatric residency taught me anything about breastfeeding,” Naylor says. Since then, Naylor has completed Healthy Children’s Certified Lactation Counselor training and agrees that there is always something more to learn.
On a mission to educate physicians and maternity care facilities around the world improve breastfeeding practice, Naylor and her colleague Ruth Wester founded Wellstart International in the 1980s.
In 15 years, Wellstart has educated 655 professionals from 55 countries including the U.S.
“They all did something significant,” Naylor says of the Wellstart Associates.
Stressing the importance of collaboration between professionals, Naylor explains that the Wellstart program’s design brings multidisciplinary teams of healthcare providers together including obstetricians, pediatricians, family practitioners, nurses, nurse midwives and nutritionists.
While collaboration isn’t always easy, it’s essential when it comes to serving mothers and babies.
Naylor offers this advice to beginning lactation professionals on how to work with medical clinicians in the care of breastfeeding moms and babies: “Know that the medical clinicians are very interested in the wellbeing of the patient,” she says. “Many know nothing about lactation and breastfeeding but can’t admit it.”
Naylor suggests staff review Wellstart International Self-Study Modules Level I. She says this approach does not offend the medical clinician’s lack of basic knowledge.
Through its trainings and other involvement in the medical community, Wellstart has “changed the care given to mother-baby pairs in hundreds of hospitals, modified curriculum in a significant number of professional training programs, contributed to hundreds of thousands of secondary training events and contributed to the global expertise regarding lactation management.” [Retrieved from: http://www.wellstart.org/about.html]
Naylor’s activity in many groundbreaking breastfeeding events is equally inspiring.
She was present at the Innocenti Declaration, a WHO/UNICEF policymakers’ meeting that declared specific actions to be taken to protect, promote and support breastfeeding around the world.
She attended the 1984 Surgeon General’s Workshop on Breastfeeding and Human Lactation which described several infant feeding recommendations for our nation and resulted in various breastfeeding promotion activities.
She was also involved in the founding of the United States Breastfeeding Committee. After conducting an intensive needs assessment of breastfeeding activities in the U.S., the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA) and Healthy Children Project convened to satisfy one of the four operational targets set by the Innocenti Declaration “to establish a multi-sectoral national breastfeeding committee composed of representatives from relevant government departments, non-governmental organizations, and health professional associations in every country.” [Retreived from: http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/AboutUs/History/tabid/62/Default.aspx]
At the August 2010 meeting of the US Breastfeeding Committee, Colonel Roseanne Warner of the US Air Force awarded a coin to Dr. Naylor on behalf of Aviano Air Force Base in Italy in recognition of her ceaseless efforts to protect, promote and support of breastfeeding.
Among the many landmark events Naylor has been involved in, she’s unable to pinpoint one in which has influenced her most deeply.
“They have all had their place in the work that I have done,” she says.